Cave Kisses 05




V. Rust

The only time Bella had been on a plane before this was when she was traveling to Italy, ostensibly to save Edward.

“Can you see that?” Tony asked, looking out over her shoulder.  “That’s the polar icecap.”

She pressed her face up against the window like a small child and looked out the aircraft window, the swirl of white clouds beneath her.  She could feel Tony pressed up behind her, his arm still in a sling, but now he had the undeniable smell of man about him that had been covered with dust and sweat before.

“The lawyers are on it?” she asked as she pulled away from the window.

Tony didn’t even blink at the change of subject.  “I was very harsh over the telephone,” he told her.

She looked over her shoulder at him and saw that he had his faux-serious expression.

“Very serious,” he told her.  “Very Mr. Stark of Stark Industries.”

Bella laughed a little.  “Are you ever serious, Tony?”

“I am,” he told her, pulling her up against him with his one good arm, “when terrorists are taking away my wife.”

She nodded and looked back out the window.  “Tony,” she began, uncertain how to bring it up.  “I’m not really—I don’t wear heels or make up—”

“I like you with grime in your hair,” he teased, leaning down to take in a breath of her army issued shampoo.

“Did you just smell me?” she asked, incredulous.

“Difficult not to.  Your roommate favors strawberry and vanilla.”  He wriggled his nose just to make a point.

She tried not to smile, but it was a close thing.  “As I was saying, maybe we should just get married in Forks.  Have the lawyers continue to battle out the validity of our marriage, but do it for Charlie.  He was crying over the phone—I didn’t know how to tell him that not only was I was alive, but I was married—”

“Are you saying, Mrs. Stark,” Tony asked her, “you want to go down to La Push Beach and cliff dive after we’ve said our vows?”

“There are worse ways we could do it,” she told him, “and it would be less of a legal battle.  No one could say we weren’t devoted to this marriage if we immediately renewed our vows.”

Tony looked thoughtful for a moment.  “Rhodey’s here.  You’ll have Jacob Black and your dad.  I suppose that’s all we need, isn’t it, sweetheart?”

“Exactly what I was thinking,” she agreed, reaching up and touching the side of his beard, that was now sculpted and fashionable, instead of some furry fuzzy mess it had become.  “You and Charlie are going to hate each other.”

“I will charm your dad,” he promised her.  “You did—eventually—tell him you were married, though, right?”

“Eventually,” she promised.  Bella hadn’t told Renée.  That was beyond her.  Eventually, Renee would want a fluffy white wedding, but only after her initial reaction.  Renée would think Bella was throwing her life away and then would probably think that Tony was more her type than Bella’s.  Bella didn’t like to call her mother a flirt, but she was certainly—friendly—with men.  How she and Charlie ever got together was a mystery to Bella.

Port Angeles airport was too small for the air carrier to land, so Bella and Tony disembarked in Seattle.  The Airforce made Tony sit in a wheelchair, much to his annoyance, but Bella pushed him down to the airstrip to where her father was waiting, gruff, awkward, with hands in his pockets, in full uniform with cruiser waiting.

“Bells,” he breathed, when she got within striking distance, and he reached out and pulled her into a long hug.  “I thought I’d lost you—when I found that note—” He touched her blonde hair.  “I’d hardly recognize you if I didn’t know you were my Bells.”

“I’m sorry,” she breathed.  “I thought I’d be gone for a night—I never thought—”  Tears began slipping out of her eyes and he only pulled her closer.

Then, just as suddenly, he pulled away and held her at arm’s length, “Don’t you ever do that to me again, Isabella Swan.  I didn’t know if you were dead or alive for two and a half months!  You can’t just go running off with the Cullens because you feel like it!  I know I always had a soft spot for Alice, but they are no good for you—Look what Edwin did to you last October, leaving you in the woods, and now not even properly looking after you when they fly you halfway around the world.  Dr. Cullen didn’t even have the decency to call me when you were kidnapped!”

Bella stood there, taking it, knowing that Charlie had to get this all out.  “I know,” she said when he seemed to be out of things to say.  “I was stupid.”

“Stupid doesn’t even cover it, Bells!”

“I was reckless,” she tried, looking her father dead in the eyes.  “I know I was.  I was always reckless when it came to Edward.”

“—fucking bastard.  Should string him up and leave him for the bears,” Charlie was muttering under his breath.

“But I changed my mind,” she told Charlie sincerely, ignoring his mutterings.  “When I got to Italy, I changed my mind.  That’s how it happened.  I hesitated.  I was thinking—Edward doesn’t deserve all this attention I give him—I was thinking that I didn’t want him anymore—and that’s when I was snatched off the street.”

“And Alice just let that happen,” Charlie sighed, clearly defeated.  “Not even a damn courtesy call.”  He glanced down at his feet, having ignored Tony this entire time, but now he looked over at him.  “And this is the young man you brought back from your travels?”

“This is Tony,” Bella stated as Tony fluidly stood from his wheelchair, left hand held out in greeting. 

Charlie looked at him gruffly but took his left hand in a firm handshake.  “My little girl says you protected her—protected her…” he paused, clearly not wanting to say it, “virginity.”

“Yes, sir,” Tony said seriously.  “As soon as Bells was brought in as a prisoner, she became my responsibility.”

“You have a house?” Charlie asked.

“My main residence is in Malibu.”

“I know you have a job.  You’re all over the interweb.”

Internet, Bella mouthed, but didn’t bother to correct her father.

Charlie was looking at Tony skeptically.  “I read the news articles.”

“Don’t believe the press,” Tony said.  Then, changed his mind.  “It all changed when I met Isabella.  A man doesn’t go through something like that and come out the same on the other end.”

Charlie was still looking over Tony, at his dark suit and blue shirt, his crisp tie.  “No,” he agreed.  “You see some things on the job.”  He motioned with his head toward the cruiser and Bella saw that an army corporal had already packed their meager belongings into the trunk.  “There’s a missing teenager from Port Angeles.  Riley Biers. I don’t want you going anywhere alone, Bells.”

Bella looked at him for a moment and didn’t even bother fighting the request.  “Of course, Charlie,” she agreed.  After being held prisoner in Afghanistan for nearly two months, she would have been surprised if Charlie hadn’t been overprotective.

“You call your mom?” Charlie asked after he ushered Bella into the front seat, Tony in the back where people who were arrested were usually kept.

“Briefly,” Bella agreed.  “I didn’t tell her about Tony.”

Charlie grunted.  “Didn’t want her to go off the handle?”

Bella rolled her eyes.  “You know what she’s like.”

“Well, Jessica,” Charlie told her, “wanted to hold a party for you.  I convinced her not to.  Couldn’t convince Jacob Black not to.  The whole tribe wants to welcome you home.  There’s a firepit tomorrow night that both you—and your husband, I guess—are invited to.”

Ah, the wolfpack.  Tony knew nothing about the Cullens other than their name, and certainly nothing about vampires, werewolves, or the tribe.  She didn’t know how to tell him.  She didn’t know if he would believe her.  Would he think she was some stupid teenager?  That she’d read too many teen romance novels?

It had all seemed so trivial when they were locked together in a cave in the desert. 

Now, it all came rushing back to her.

“We were thinking,” Bella began carefully, “that we’d like to renew our vows here.”

The car screeched to a halt and Tony looked over at her with his eyes wide.

“There’s a bit of a difficulty with the legality of our marriage given that it was conducted by an Afghani imam with the only witnesses being terrorists,” Tony explained from the back.

Charlie threw a dirty look over his shoulder and refocused his attention on Bella.  “You don’t want to go back to high school?  Repeat your senior year?  Go to college?”  The car started up again, fortunately they hadn’t been on a major highway, and Bella looked over at her dad carefully.

“Dad, I’m married,” she said carefully.  “I’ll go back to high school in Malibu—go to college—somewhere.”

“Teen marriages don’t last,” Charlie said with conviction.  His and Renée’s marriage, certainly, had barely lasted.

Bella took a deep breath.  “I’m not pregnant, Charlie.”

“No,” he agreed, throwing a look over his shoulder again at Tony.  “You’re not.”

The cruiser fell into silence for a couple of miles, before Charlie broke it again.  “Something small that the press won’t get wind of?”

“Exactly!” Tony told him.

“Maybe on La Push beach.  We got married in the desert the first time.  We’re both beach people, anyway.”

Charlie sighed out.  “Billy Black can legally perform a ceremony if it’s on La Push land.”

Bella’s eyes blew open.  “That’s just absolutely perfect, Charlie!  We wouldn’t have to tell anyone that we’re renewing our vows or making it legal.  Only that we’re married!—and we can go slip off in a week and make it all good and proper for the U.S. Government.”

Sighing once again, Charlie muttered, “I’ll invite Billy over tonight.  We’ll see how fast we can get you lovebirds hitched.”

The rest of the ride was long but pleasant.  Bella was used to long rides.  There had been that ride over several nights with Carlisle and the flight to Germany for medical treatment once she was cleared by the Embassy.  The landmarks began to seem familiar to Bella and she couldn’t even stop the smile spreading over her face when a large banner hung over the road, just as they entered Forks, reading, “Welcome Home, Bella!”

“You were missed,” Tony told her with a grin in his voice.

“I told you,” Charlie reminded them, “Jessica Stanley wanted to throw a party.  From what I remember though, you weren’t overly fond of Jessica.”

“Aren’t they all going off to college?” Bella asked.

“In another month,” Charlie acknowledged.  “It’s only July now.”  He turned in his seat slightly again, looking at his rearview to probably catch Tony’s eye.  “You were saying something about a cheeseburger?”

They went to the diner, where of course everyone was looking at them.  It struck Bella how small it was, how cozy but—small.  Everything in Afghanistan, outside of the cave, had been wide and open.  The desert had been endless.  The British camp had stretched for what seemed like miles.  The American military base in Germany was so easy to get lost in.  This, though, this was cramped.

Bella still hadn’t gotten used to knives and forks, having had only a bowl and what could charitably be called a spoon for months on end.  Taking Tony’s lead, however, she ordered a cheeseburger, although she didn’t have an appetite for even half of it.

“Bella Swan,” Peggy said, the owner and lead waitress, “to think we have you back home again with us.”

“Not for long,” she said with a smile.  “This is Tony—my husband.  We’re here to get Charlie’s blessing and then we’re back home to California.”

“You went and got married while you were—away?” she asked in confusion.  The poor lady’s eyes were flitting between Bella and Tony very quickly before shifting over to Charlie, who was sitting there calmly in his uniform.

“Long story,” Tony told her, standing up and offering his left hand.  “Tony Stark.  Pleasure to make your fine acquaintance.”

Tony ended up eating two cheeseburgers.  He probably would have eaten three if Charlie hadn’t looked him up and down grudgingly.  Tony did, however, convince Bella to make an effort at hers and even made at stealing her fries so that she’d steal them back and take a bite of them with ketchup smeared on the end.

“Ketchup, the great American condiment,” Tony expostulated as they left the diner.  “I never did understand mustard myself.  When I’m in France it’s all they’ll give me.”

Charlie adjusted his belt, which conveniently had his gun attached.  “You can’t pay them to bring you ketchup?”

Tony looked thoughtful.  “No,” he told him.  “Surprisingly not at the nicer places.”

Bella giggled a little and walked into the crook of Tony’s arm when he extended his free arm toward her. 

“Stick with me, kid,” he told her.  “I’ll get Pepper to bring ketchup wherever we go.”

Bella could hear Charlie sigh behind them, but she and Tony just walked toward the cruiser.

The house was just as Bella remembered it, only—it seemed more quaint.  Her rusted red truck was outside and she jumped out of the car with a squeal and ran up to it.

“Been taking it out on drives,” Charlie told her, “even though I wasn’t sure you were coming back.”  He sounded sheepish when he told her.  “Could have sold her for a hundred bucks, but I knew that if you left, you would have driven off in her—”  He seemed uncomfortable, and when Bella looked back at her dad, he was shifting back and forth from foot to foot.

“Yeah,” Bella agreed, stroking the rusting red paint.  Tony was coming up, his eyes taking her in with her car.  “If I had really gone I would have taken this old piece of metal with me.”

“Is this your first car?” Tony asked, looking her over appreciatively.  “What type of motor does she have?”

“I don’t know,” Bella answered.  “Jake rebuilt the engine from scratch for me.”

“Good,” he murmured going and opening the hood.  He whistled.  “She’s a real fine lady.  We can upgrade her for you when we get her down to Malibu.”

Bella, at first, didn’t realize what he said, and then—“You’ll let me bring her?”

“Course, sweetheart,” he said with his cocky grin.  “I bet she’s your baby, even though you haven’t said it.  We’ll bring her into the garage and I’ll teach you how to strip her and build her back up.  She’ll be a nice project for you.”

Bella’s voice stuck in her throat at the sheer love she had for this man.  “You never let me fiddle with your tools.”

He looked at her sternly.  “That was live ammunition with no safety conditions in a cave, Bells.  This is an engine with all proper safety conditions and all the tools you’ll ever need.  This beauty isn’t going to blow up in your face.  Well,” he cocked an eyebrow at her, “it might squirt some oil in your hair, but we can fix that with a nice long bath in the Master Suite.”

Charlie cleared his throat.  “I’m right here.”

“Sorry, Chief Swan,” Tony apologized, though he didn’t sound remotely sorry at all.  “I’m just excited to get Isabella home to Malibu.”

Charlie grunted.  “I just bet you are,” he muttered as he walked up to the house and unlocked the door.  “Bells, bring in the bags.  Your useless husband is injured.”

Tony sputtered but Bella just leaned forward and kissed him softly before heading back to the cruiser.  Tony was right behind her, grabbing his own bag in his good hand, and they were up the stairs right behind Charlie.

“So,” Charlie was saying as he was turning on the lights.  “There’s fish in the freezer.  If you’re really married, I don’t suppose I can keep you out of Bella’s bedroom.”  He glared at Tony over his shoulder.  “I can arrest you on any charge that comes into my head,” he told Tony seriously.

“Understood,” Tony told him, just as seriously.

“Good.  You keep Bells happy, and we won’t have any problems.”  The words seemed to be pulled from Charlie against his will, but he still said them, making Bella’s heart warm.  “You know the way, of course, Bella.—We’ll get pizza for dinner.”  He came up to Bella and, hesitating, put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed and then walked out the door.

They waited until they heard the cruiser start and watched it drive away through the curtains.

“So, this is your dad’s place?” Tony asked.

“Yes,” Bella agreed.  “It’s been just the two of us for a year.—or a little less.”  She looked around and noticed how disused the house seemed, despite the fact that Charlie had been living here for the two months she had been locked up in a cave.  “Up here.”  Bella led the way up the stairs and turned right at the top of the stairs.  The door of her room was open and she walked in, placing her small bag on the bed.  It was still the same purple comforter and star pillows that Charlie had had a saleslady pick out for her.  The room was just as bare, with an old Windows computer in the corner, the window opened slightly to let in a breeze.

“No pictures?” Tony asked. 

“No,” Bella agreed.  “I never really was one for personalizing.” 

Tony placed his suit bag on the bed, and he walked over to a picture of Bella and Renée on Renée’s wedding day to Phil.  “Your mom?”

“Yeah,” Bella answered, sighing, and taking a seat.  “Phil is a minor league ball player.”

“Any team I know?” Tony asked, setting the photograph down.

Bella shrugged.  “Some team out of Arizona,” she answered honestly.  “Mom took me to a game or two when they first started dating, but I don’t really remember.  I wasn’t paying attention.”  She leaned toward Tony.  “He’s less than ten years older than me.”

Tony’s eyebrows shot up.  “What does Charlie think of that?”

“It’s typical Mom,” Bella answered.  “I honestly have no idea what she’ll make of you when she finds out.”

“Am I too old for her daughter?” he asked carefully.

“Too old?” she answered.  “Too rich?  Too—James Bond?”

At that Tony smirked.  “Does that make you a Bond girl, Mrs. Stark?”

“I hope not,” she answered with a laugh. 

A wind fluttered through the window causing the curtains to shift, and they caught Bella’s attention.  Tony’s eyes followed her gaze.

“Is that the window Edward came through?” he asked gently as he came to sit on the bed, although there was little room with their bags.

Bella had told him about Edward—up to a point.  She had told him how he would come and sneak in through her window and sleep beside her in bed, holding her, but be gone before Charlie came to wake her in the morning.  Bella had cried in the darkness of the cave for her lost first love, and Tony had held her through her tears and wiped them away with the pads of his thumb and the curve of his lips.

She had told him how Edward had broken her heart and left her alone in the woods.  She had recounted how she had shriveled up into herself on the forest floor and had been found by Sam Uley, how she had become a husk of herself, how Jacob had become her world and brought her out of it to a certain extent, but when Alice had come and told her that Edward was going to do something stupid in Italy (Bella hadn’t told him what, she pretended she didn’t know, that she had just gone without knowing) that she had just taken up and left everything she knew for a boy who didn’t love her anymore.

Bella even confessed to Tony how she became a daredevil—because that’s when the shade of Edward would appear to her, begging her not to risk her own life.  The cliff diving, the motorcycle racing, living on the edge—she confessed all of it to Tony, and he had listened and hadn’t judged…

… and Bella fell deeper and deeper in love with Tony.  With him she found acceptance for exactly who she was, a teenager with no direction, no sense of the future, little sense of the past, a girl who was just existing … and Tony had taught her that existing was more than just slipping from moment to moment.  Existing was choosing to take the next breath.  Existing was daring to keep living when all the odds were against her.  Existing was allowing herself to love again even when there was no hope for a future beyond the next minute.

Now they had their future.  It was sprawled out before them, uncertain yet hopeful, and Bella had absolutely no idea what to do with it.

“One moment before you enter the next,” Tony reminded her carefully.

She looked away from the window and marveled at how well Tony knew her.

“Do you want to go over to his house?” Tony asked her.  “We have the afternoon.”

Bella considered and then nodded.  “I should have the key.”

Tony stood and picked up his bag, going and hanging it in the mostly empty closet.  “You had a key to your teenage boyfriend’s house?”

She shrugged.  “Not that Carlisle and Esme locked it.”

After quickly unpacking her one pair of jeans and spare shirt, they headed back downstairs, and Bella found her wallet—which she had somehow left when she went to Italy—and her keys by the door.

“It’s a good thing Chief Swan drove this beauty around,” Tony remarked as he got into the passenger seat, “otherwise I would be worried if she’d start.”

“My baby always starts,” Bella teased.

She put the key in the ignition and it started up with a groan, and Bella quickly put it in reverse.  The drive through town was a blast from the past, many people stopping when they saw her distinctive car, but Bella ignored everyone as she made her way toward the Cullen house.

“Those aren’t magnetic,” Tony remarked as they came down the driveway and saw the house with all of its windows.

“No,” Bella agreed.  “Esme likes a lot of light.” 

“So do I,” he agreed.  “The Malibu house is made of windows, but they can revert to walls.  JARVIS controls it.”

“Ah, yes,” Bella smiled.  “I’m looking forward to meeting JARVIS.”

“And I’m sure he’s looking forward to meeting you,” Tony responded. 

Bella’s smile widened.

It was easy getting in the house.  The locks hadn’t been changed.  “That’s Edward’s,” Bella told Tony as she pointed to the piano.  “He would play it for me.”

However, they weren’t entirely alone.

“Alice said you would come,” a voice said from up the stairs, and Bella and Tony turned to see Carlisle walking down, purposely making noise as he stepped down the steps.  He was casually dressed in jeans and a button down top.  The day was overcast so his skin wasn’t shimmering in the sunlight, but it was white as marble.  His eyes glittered gold, showing he had hunted recently.  His eyes connected with Bella’s.  “I’m glad to see you made your way home.”

“Tony,” Bella stated carefully, “this is Dr. Carlisle Cullen.  He—ransomed me and is Edward’s father.  Carlisle, my husband, Tony Stark.”

Carlisle walked the rest of the way down the stairs and shook Tony’s hand.  “I’m glad you made it out as well.”

Tony grimaced.  “You caused something of a stir when they took Bella away at gunpoint.”

Carlisle didn’t look remotely apologetic.  “I was worried for her safety.  Edward made me promise.”

“Well,” Tony told him, “as you can see, she’s quite safe and quite married.  Edward doesn’t need to worry anymore.”

Not looking impressed, Carlisle nodded.  “I just wanted to check, Bella, that you were back in the States.  That you were home safe.”

“I am safe,” she agreed.  “How is everyone?”

“Scattered to the wind,” Carlisle answered honestly, “but I’m sure we’ll reconnect.”  His eyes turned to Tony again.  Then he pressed into Bella’s gaze.  “May I speak to you?”

Feeling uncomfortable, given how she had left the jeep in Afghanistan, Bella nonetheless nodded.  Tony glanced at her carefully, but she gave him a small smile.

She walked toward the piano with Carlisle and muttered, “What?”

“If the Volturi find out you know about us—”

“Why would they?” she asked a little tersely.

“I should rephrase.  The Volturi are aware through Edward that you know, but believe you’re dead.  Your husband is an international figure—”


“So,” Carlisle explained carefully.  “Aro Volturi knows what you look like.  They will come for you.  It’s a certainty.  Alice has seen it.”

Bella’s eyes connected with Carlisle.  “Then they can’t find out it’s me, can they?”  A plan began to form in her mind.  “I’m already blonde.”  This she said with a sad smile.  Oh, yes.  The Volturi would know of timid Bella Swan—not Isabella Stark, tall, thin, in love, and blonde.  She could get contacts to change the color of her eyes.  Her face had changed shape with all the weight she had lost in Afghanistan.  She was hardly recognizable now.  She would have to count on that—what would some old stuffy vampires know of change if they hadn’t changed in hundreds of years?  “They’ll never know me.”

Carlisle looked at her doubtfully.

“They won’t be looking for me,” she pushed.  “They won’t see me in my own face, if I’m so changed.”  She glanced back at Tony who had gone to stand by a wall of windows, his shoulders tense despite the fact he was trying to appear relaxed.  Tony would shower her with clothes and his mother’s jewels, she would learn to walk in heels, she would hide herself away for a few years and go to finishing school—not even her own father would recognize her when she reemerged.  Yes, it was possible—and Bella was determined.

The End.




Published by excentrykemuse

Fanfiction artist and self critic.

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