Author's Note: I never really planned to write this scene as an entire chapter. I thought that the end of the last chapter would be a good place to leave it. However, based on some of the comments I've received, I feared someone might start to get a lynching mob together if I didn't give you a bit more. Enjoy.
Disclaimer: Twilight, New Moon, and all the events and characters contained therein are the intellectual property of the original author, Stephenie Meyer. This work is meant as a tribute to hers and no copyright infringement is intended.Chapter Eight – Reunion
Bella was still posed exactly as I had left her, kneeling on the soft grass and looking at her hands in her lap. She was talking quietly under her breath, but with my enhanced senses I could hear her clearly.
"Poor Charlie. He's going to have to have me committed now, and that's going to kill him. I've completely lost my mind. What's the last thing that I'm sure was real?" On and on she babbled, oblivious to my presence.
I took a tentative step closer, not wanting to frighten her. I spoke her name quietly, just loud enough for her to hear. "Bella, are you all right?"
She froze and went silent, but she did not look up. "Edward?" Her tone was a mixture of terror and wild hope. Her heartbeat sped up to a point where I wondered if I should worry.
"Bella, I'm here. Please, look up." I longed to see her eyes, to know if she wanted me to come nearer.
"No. This is a dream, Edward. If I look up, you'll be gone." She thought I was a nightmare. I deserved that. After all, I had been pushing her to believe she was hearing voices for the past several weeks. Small wonder that she doubted her sanity.
I continued across the grass, purposely rustling the grass as I approached so she would know I was coming, until I was only an arm's length away from her kneeling form. "You're not having a nightmare, Bella. I'm actually here this time."
Slowly, she raised her face to look up at me. Wonder, disbelief, confusion, and longing chased each other across her expressive features. "You're a very good hallucination," she whispered.
I couldn't resist. I pulled her to her feet and wrapped my arms around her, inhaling her wonderful essence. For once, there was no trouble at all quelling the sudden increase in my thirst. There were other things that I wanted more. "Could a hallucination do this?" I whispered in her ear, my lips brushing against her skin. I slowly traced along her spine with my hand. "Or this?"
Bella was stiff in my embrace for a moment and then she relaxed, trembling, into my chest. No, not trembling. I craned my head back so I could see her face. She was crying silently, uncontrollably, into my ruined shirt. What had I done now?
"Edward, it was horrible. Laurent was going to kill me, and then I saw you, but you left, and then this huge wolf came and…" her voice was swallowed by a huge sob, and she burrowed her face more deeply against me. It wasn't my fault. I sighed in relief and leaned my cheek lightly against her hair. I held her more tightly in my arms, wishing I could take her fear away.
"Hush, Bella. I'm here, and you're safe. It's all right now, I promise you." I soothed her as if she were a child, rocking her gently from side to side. I tried to quell my craving to kiss her, touch her in different ways. Now was not the time. I contented myself with stroking her hair, her back, and her arms. I leaned closer and breathed her in. This was heaven enough. The emptiness that had tormented me for months was healed, gone as if it had never been. In fact, I felt as though my heart was so full it could burst.
We stood like that for several minutes before Bella's sobs began to lessen. I could see her making an effort to regain control, a new fear dawning in her eyes. She pushed back from me slightly so she could speak.
"If I'm not dreaming or hallucinating, and I'm not dead…. am I dead?" she looked up at me questioningly, and I shook my head. I could have laughed, if her close brush with death today had not made me want to cry with relief instead. She made a puzzled face and continued, "Then what are you doing here?"
Pain gripped me, and I felt my chest tighten. Could I have gotten it wrong? "You don't want me here?" I started to pull away from her embrace.
"No!" she gasped out. Her hands gripped claw-like at my sleeves. "I mean you… left," she cringed at the memory, and I tightened my arms around her. "Why are you here, now?"
This was going to be difficult. How could I ever explain to her? Would she forgive me? I gently pushed Bella an arm's length away from me, and with gentle pressure on her shoulders, lowered us both to a cross-legged position, our knees touching as we faced each other. I slid my hands slowly down her arms, and was momentarily distracted by her delicate shiver. Her skin was warm and soft beneath my touch. She was magical. I entwined my fingers with hers, needing to maintain contact.
"Alice had a vision, Bella. She knew that Laurent was going to come after you and I… I couldn't let that happen." I paused, waiting for her reaction.
She looked down, hiding something from me. "So, when will you leave again?" Her fingers started to move slowly against mine, as if she craved to touch me as much as I did her.
"I'm not leaving you." I spoke the words slowly, clearly. "Ever."
"But… you said… I thought…." I could see the pain behind her eyes as she glanced up at me. She couldn't even speak the words. I was desperate to make her understand, to make that pain go away.
"I owe you an apology, Bella. I lied to you. I knew that you wouldn't let me go, wouldn't move on, unless I made you believe that I was doing the same. I lied to you when I told you I didn't love you. I lied to you when I said that I didn't want you with me. If my soul were not already condemned, those lies would be enough to doom me. I love you, Bella."
The fear in her eyes was gone, replaced by disbelief and a glimmer of hope. She gazed, rapt, at my face as I continued.
"My life without you was empty, meaningless. I couldn't be around my family, or anyone else. I couldn't enjoy the things that I used to enjoy; everything reminded me of you. All I could do was lie there and pray that the agony would end, knowing it wouldn't. All I wanted was to come back to you and beg you to forgive me. The only thing that could possibly keep me from doing that is the knowledge that by staying away, I was ensuring that you would be safe.
"Bella, you have to believe that I left you because I thought it was best for you. The only thing I will ever want is you, and that will never change." I leaned forward until my face was a fraction of an inch from hers. I knew this was unfair, that I was taking away her chance of making a clear and rational decision. But the truth was, I was going to use every trick I had to gain an advantage, unfair or not. "Please, Bella. Believe me. I love you."
I saw her eyes blur slightly, dazzled by my scent and my nearness. And then I kissed her. First with the very slightest pressure, and then more intensely as I felt her respond. I disentangled my hands from hers and touched her face, her neck, her arms... whatever I could. I was frantic for the feel of her skin against mine. It had been too long. I moved my lips to her eyes, her cheeks, her chin, and her neck, whispering her precious name between gentle kisses. And most miraculous of all, she was doing the same. Her hands were tangled in my hair, then they were stroking my neck and my back. She moved closer to press her body against mine.
When I feared I could stand no more, I gently pushed her face away, leaning my forehead against hers as we gasped in unison. She still had the same incredible power over me. When I first met her, I would have thought nothing could compare to my desire for her blood, but my desire for her was infinitely greater.
"You love me," her voice was a reverent whisper.
I smiled as I remembered my own reaction to that realization. "Truly, I do."
"Oh, Edward!" she cried, and launched herself at me, bowling me over backwards. I laughed with pure delight as I landed on my back in the grass, with Bella stretched out on top of me. She rested her head on my chest, one hand entwined with mine, the other reaching up to caress my neck. I couldn't seem to stop touching her. I ran my fingers through her hair, kissed her forehead, and traced her spine over and over. I waited, content. I knew there would be more questions. There always was, with Bella.
She did not disappoint me. Her wandering hand found the bloodless wound in my shoulder, which had started to heal over but was still gruesome to look at. She jerked her head back and examined me. "What happened to you?"
"Laurent wasn't willing to give you up without a struggle. At least we had that one thing in common." I kept my tone as light as I could; I really did not want to tell her about what I had had to do to Laurent.
She was resting her weight on her elbows, gazing at my face as though she couldn't bear to stop. I didn't mind. I may have been able to see her for the past few weeks, but it was entirely different to see her looking at me this way. I never wanted it to end.
Something was bothering her, I could see it in her eyes. Her voice was carefully casual when she finally asked. "Edward, how long have you been in Forks?"
If I could have blushed, I would have. "A while," I hedged.
Her eyes narrowed; she could smell the blood in the water now. "How long is 'a while', exactly?"
"Something close to… two months." The last two words I said quietly, hoping she would miss them.
No such luck. "Two months! What have you been doing all that time?" Her tone was outraged, but I could see a smile flickering around her lips.
Might as well come clean. "I've been following you, Bella. Watching you. I'm sorry, but I had to make sure you were safe."
Her eyes lit up as though she had just figured something out. "You were there the night that I went to the movies with Jessica! You spoke to me…. it really was you I heard, right?"
"I knew it!" she crowed triumphantly. "I knew I wasn't going crazy!"
Without warning, she bent her face down and pressed her lips to mine. I didn't even think, I just responded. I tangled my hand in her hair and pulled her closer, deepening the kiss just short of the point of danger. I could feel her body pressed down the length of mine, and her warmth was intoxicating.
As suddenly as Bella had attacked me, she drew back, her eyes wide at some new realization.
"But if you've been here all this time…. why didn't you ever tell me?"
This was the part I had been dreading. I still had no idea how to explain it to her. "Bella, when I got here… I never planned to let you know that I was here. I thought you would be better off without me. I thought you would forget me and move on. It's been killing me, watching you with Jacob, but I..."
She cut me off, her eyes flashing. "Edward. Anthony. Cullen. Jake is a friend, and that is all he will ever be to me. I know he feels more, and knowing you, you've been torturing yourself with that. But just because he feels that way does not mean I do.
"I wish you could understand the way I see you," she said sadly. "You are the best thing that ever happened to me and even though it hurt me to remember, I would rather have died than forget you."
"What a pair we make," I said ruefully. And we were, truly. Each too convinced of our own inferiority to see how much we were loved. It was just a little too ironic.
"As long as we are a pair, that's all that matters," she spoke firmly. "I love you, Edward Cullen, and nothing will ever change that, not even you."
The wonder of it all struck me anew, and I leapt to my feet, pulling her along with me. I grabbed her waist and lifted her, spinning her through the air over my head. Her hair flung outwards as she threw her head back in joy. I knew I would always remember this moment, photo-perfect: Bella, warm and vibrant, silhouetted against the cold steel-gray of the cloudy sky. I set her down gently.
"I love you, too, Isabella Swan." I kissed her forehead and her eyes closed, the smile still on her face.
Looking at that smile, I knew that the woman standing before me represented everything I would ever want from my future. There were problems facing us that we needed to deal with, certainly. Victoria was still out there, and there were the werewolves to consider as well. I was sure the argument about whether or not to change Bella would give me a share of misery as well. Strangely enough, though, it was the prospect of trying to get back into Charlie's good graces that intimidated me the most. But just at that moment, I knew that Bella and I would be together, and nothing else seemed to matter.
I pulled my cell phone from my pocket. Bella's eyebrows drew together in confusion. "There's someone I need to talk to for just a moment," I explained.
I punched the numbers into the phone and waited. I heard the line go live as the person on the other end picked up.
"Alice, you'll never guess…" I started, but was interrupted by her excited, incoherent shrieking. Bella grinned widely as she recognized the voice. "… Then again, maybe you will."
Author's Note: I know some of you believed Bella was going to give Edward a tougher time than this. I hoped she might too. He's been driving me crazy with what an idiot he can be. But she just won't do it, sorry.
And that's it. The end. Not exactly a 'happily ever after' but those are boring anyway. I have to say I'm sorry to see this story end. I've enjoyed the writing process very much. Thanks so much to everyone who's read and reviewed, because without you this story might not have made it. Keep an eye out… I'm enjoying this whole writing thing, so I may take another go at it sometime.