Category: Angst - Romance (Fluff)
Summary: Set during the missing months at the beginning of New Moon. AU – Edward can't stay away.
Warnings: Cavities possible.
Disclaimer: All belongs to Stephenie Meyer, who astounds me with her awesomeness.
Notes: Thanks to jacyevans for being an absolute doll and reassuring me every step of the way.
The longing was overwhelming, almost overpowering, as I watched her from the trees. She trudged through the snow from her truck to the house, miserable as always in the cold weather. The dark blue scarf wrapped tightly around her neck, up to her ears, almost masked her scent…almost, but not quite. The lush sweetness seemed less potent somehow than it had when I'd left three months ago…as if her essence had dimmed.
I moved closer, hiding under the window after she went inside. I watched her take off her boots, swaying clumsily in the process, followed by her coat, gloves, and that long blue scarf that provided scant protection against the real dangers of the world. She took a book out of her backpack, that battered old copy of Jane Austen's works, before tossing the bag onto the floor as well.
I should never have come back. Seeing her and being able to do nothing only made the emptiness inside gnaw at me harder, begging for the sustenance that was so near – not her blood, but her – her laugh, her blush, her smile. To hear her voice…to touch her skin. I fought desperately against the need, knowing I had lost my chance…knowing I had never had a chance. I should never have given in to my feelings for her to begin with. A demon had no right to touch an angel; I could only taint her.
But I couldn't look away now, not when my eyes had been yearning for the sight of her ever since that awful day when I'd left her in the forest, shocked and wounded.
My eyes drank in her every move as she went into the kitchen. She pulled down a mug and filled it with water; she popped it in the microwave and reached into another cabinet for a tea bag. Even though Bella was easily the clumsiest girl alive, her movements were still beautiful…simple, direct, unassuming. Graceful, in their own way.
She prepared her tea, and I darted to the living room window as she crossed the hallway again. Her movements were slower than I remembered, less enthusiastic…she'd had so much life before. But maybe she was tired, or depressed by the weather…I shouldn't make the assumption that my subconscious was nagging me to make, that she was missing me as much as I was missing her. I shouldn't want that. She should be happy without me; that was the best I could do for her.
I should have kept to what I was doing, tracking Victoria…but I'd followed her to the south, where the sun shone too brightly and the weather barely changed for December…there was no snow or ice, the trees were still full and green…and it was wrong, so incredibly wrong to be in that place with its unchanging seasons without Bella, when I knew I ought to be with her under the protective grey skies of Forks, helping her through the snow. The need to see her had become an obsession – I had to know how she was, if she was happy…and so I'd come, and now I stood spying on her from the window like the lovesick creature I was.
Bella tucked herself into the corner of the sofa, sipping her tea and wincing as it burnt her tongue. She picked up her battered old collection of Jane Austen novels and began to read, but slammed it shut after only a minute. She tossed it onto the floor – I'd never seen such irreverence toward a book from her – and buried her head in her hands.
I was shocked to see the tears in her eyes when she lifted her head, making her brown irises shine deeper and clearer than ever. She shuddered and I heard the strangled, choked whisper loud and clear before she curled into herself on her side, as if in physical pain.
That was not the way my name was supposed to sound on her lips – it wasn't warm or happy or even longing. It was a broken, tortured plea…it was despair, and the sound sliced through me.
She wasn't happy; she was in pain – I knew that pain, felt it devouring me from within – and I was the cause of her pain.
I could not possibly walk away again; I couldn't stand passively at the window and watch her body tremble with the pain. Maybe that was the right thing to do – maybe this ache of hers was only temporary, and she would recover in time, and be happier without me in the end…but I couldn't bear to find out. Enough was enough – for both of us.
In a silent instant, I was through the door and at her side. I hesitated a moment, kneeling before her. Her hands covered her face and her knees were drawn up to her chest. Should I do this? Would she even forgive me, or had I hurt her too much? Maybe seeing me would only make things worse.
But I couldn't be this close to her and do nothing. Not after too many months apart.
"Bella?" I said softly, trying not to startle her. A sound like a whimper escaped her throat and she tensed all over, unmoving.
"Don't," she muttered to herself, pressing her hands tighter to her face. "Don't dream of him. It'll only hurt worse."
I winced as the guilt stabbed at me. "Bella," I said again, reaching for one of her wrists, "You're not dreaming."
She started like panicked animal then, eyes flying wide open as she drew away from me, cringing into the back of the couch. "Oh, god," she groaned. "I've gone crazy."
I stared back at her incredulously. Was it so hard for her to believe I'd come back? "No, Bella, it's me, I'm here. You're not crazy."
She shook her head. "But I must be. You don't have any reason to come back. And I shouldn't be doing this…I shouldn't imagine you here…."
The tone of her voice sent a stab of agony through me. I'd known, that day in the forest, that she'd believed my lie…but I'd never meant to be this convincing, never thought she could ever have so little assurance of my love for her that she would sooner believe herself to be crazy than think I'd come back for her.
"Oh, God, Bella, forgive me," I said, catching her hands in mine before she could pull away. "I never meant to hurt you this much; I didn't know…and I didn't realize how hard it would be to live without you. Otherwise I never could have done it…heaven help me, Bella, I lied to you. I let you believe I didn't want you, because I needed you to have the safe, normal human life you deserved."
She looked at me as if I'd sprouted a second head. "But…but I'd told you a hundred times that my life meant nothing without you."
I laughed bitterly. "And I'd told you a hundred times that I loved you. We'll believe what we want to believe, won't we?"
"I still don't understand," she said, shaking her head, looking down, away from my face. "Why did you come back?"
"I told you, Bella," I said, examining the fresh scratches on her hands before I looked up to her face once more. She was paler than I'd ever seen her, with bags under her eyes from sleepless nights; she could almost pass for a vampire. "I didn't realize how hard it would be to live without you – it was agony, every minute of it. With every day, the ache grew worse, and everything I did, everywhere I went made me think of you, somehow. I was in Texas two days ago, and it was too sunny and warm; all I could think about was being back here, with you, listening to you complain about the snow. I couldn't take it anymore…I had to come back, just to see your face…to know what you were doing, to see if you were happy. And then I saw you crying."
She had tears in her eyes now as she frowned down at me. "You should have talked to me, Edward…I could have told you that I would die without you…and I did, in the worst way."
"I'm so sorry. I thought you would be happy – I thought you would be safe. I suppose I should have known better, especially about that last part." I held up her scratched hands. "Did you fall?"
She nodded. I sighed. "And I wasn't there to catch you."
Suddenly she let out a sound between a laugh and a sob, and I looked up again to find her smiling. "You're really here," she whispered, reaching out to touch my face. The warm brush of her fingertips healed something inside me that I'd thought was broken beyond repair.
"Yes," I said, holding her hand where it was, too reluctant to give up the warmth so soon. "And I always will be, I swear to you. No matter what happens."
"So…you weren't…you didn't get bored with me?" she asked uncertainly, her eyes dark with insecurities. I hated myself all over again for what I'd done; a creature like Bella should never doubt herself.
I pushed myself up onto the sofa beside her and turned her face to mine. "No, Bella, I was never bored with you. How could I be? You are my soul…there's no reason in my life without you; nothing has any meaning when you're not there."
There were tears in her eyes again as I gathered her against me, but they were accompanied now by a soft smile. I let the sight wash over me as she rested her head against my shoulder. Her warmth penetrated deeply, beyond the mere physical; I knew I could never be whole without this again.
She sighed, her breath a loving caress against my cold skin. "I kept waiting for it to get easier…to stop missing you so much. But I never did," she said, her fingers gripping the coat I had yet to take off.
"Believe me, Bella, I know." I would have said more, but my cell phone chirped insistently at me, and I recognized Alice's ringtone.
I flipped the phone open impatiently. "Hello, Alice."
"I just wanted to say congratulations. And say hello to Bella for me," she said. I could hear her grin through the phone.
"Seen something, have you?" I asked. I glanced down to Bella, who was listening intently.
"Oh, I've seen a lot of things in the past few minutes. But you can see them for yourself when we get there. Esme started packing as soon as I told her."
"You're coming back to Forks?" I asked, outwardly calm but inwardly pleased. I'd loved our life in Forks, and I knew the others had as well; Rosalie had never quite forgiven me for making them all leave.
Alice snorted, a very unladylike, unvampirelike sound. "Of course we are. A senior in high school living in Forks all by himself with his family supposedly in LA would look a little odd, don't you think?"
I smiled. "See you soon, then."
"Yes, you will," Alice said certainly, and then added wickedly, "Have fun with Charlie."
I blinked and glanced at the clock as Alice hung up. Charlie would be on his way home now. Bella hadn't noticed; she was still smiling broadly up at me.
"The rest of your family is coming back?" she asked hopefully. "All of them?"
I nodded. "Alice saw. She told them. And speaking of…Charlie will be home soon."
Bella tensed. "He's…sort of mad at you, you know."
"He should be," I said, remorse still roiling around inside me. "I deserve it, Bella. You should be angry with me."
"I am a little angry that you didn't talk to me…but I was never angry at you for leaving. I always knew you deserved better than me."
Blinking in surprise, I turned her to face me better. "Why on earth would you think that? If anyone deserves better, it's you, Bella, don't you see? I'll never be able to give you all the things you should have, I –"
But she cut me off with a finger to my lips. "Why don't you let me decide what I should have this time? I think that's one thing I might know more about than you."
I sighed and nodded, knowing, as she must have, that it would never be that easy…but I would try, for her, for the hope that I would never see her cry again.
I heard an engine whirring nearer and wheels on the driveway, accompanied by banal thoughts of dinner and basketball.
"Charlie's home," I announced, somehow managing to keep the dread out of my voice.
Bella sighed. "I wish we had more time alone…I don't want to move," she murmured, burrowing her face further into my shoulder. I held her tighter to me, recklessly.
"I should let Charlie say his piece," I replied, much as I wanted to avoid that confrontation, "But even if he kicks me out, I can always go hide in your closet, if need be."
She smiled at that. "And you'll be here tonight?"
"Every night," I promised. "I can't keep myself away from you."
"Good," she said. "I don't want you to – you should stop trying."
The front door opened, followed by Charlie's heavy footsteps in the hallway. "Bella?" he called.
She sat up but didn't move away from me as she probably should have. "In here, Dad."
Charlie entered the living room casually but froze in the doorway, his eyes narrowing as they landed on me.
What the hell does he think he's doing here? The nerve, to show his face after what he did to her. I saw flashes of Bella in his mind – almost catatonic, an empty shell, a darkened window after the lights inside had been turned out. I cringed away from the images, welcoming Charlie's hostility – he wanted me punished, and so did I – I had to pay in some way for what I'd done to her.
"Get out," was his simple command, laced with the kind of hatred that only love and protectiveness could inspire. I knew that hatred well.
"Dad!" Bella cried in protest.
His eyes flickered to hers. "He's not setting foot in this house again, not after what he did to you."
I began to extricate myself from Bella's grasp, ready to appease Charlie, but she jumped up, pushing my hands away.
"No, Dad. He came back for me, and I need him to stay. If you keep him away from me, then I'll leave. I'll only go back to the way I've been otherwise, Dad, don't you see? It's not something I'll ever get over."
I stood behind her, hating to be a cause of conflict between a father and the daughter he loved so much.
"Sir," I said, pressing on in spite of the hostile thoughts thrown my way, "I know I did something unforgivable, and there's no excuse good enough to justify my actions, and no way to undo what's been done, but all I want is to make amends, to make her happy again –"
"And you think you're the one to do that? There are plenty of perfectly nice boys around here that can appreciate Bella and wouldn't take her for granted. She deserves that much."
I saw images of Mike Newton and Jacob Black bubbling up in his head, and I fought down a hot wave of jealousy. "I know she does – I do appreciate her, more than you'll ever know. She's the most amazing person I've ever met, and –"
"And I don't want anyone else," Bella interrupted. Thoughts were still churning in Charlie's mind – he was trying to figure out how to get rid of me still, wondering how he could convince Bella I was wrong for her. If only he knew how hard I'd tried to convince her of the very same thing.
"You and I will talk, Bella. For now, you get out," he said, turning to me again. I pulled away, noting now that Bella's hand was locked in a death-grip on my arm. I pulled her hand off gently.
"I'll be here," I promised in a whisper, smiling at the thought – I would be here, in Forks, at home, with Bella.
"Okay," she acquiesced, most of the panic gone from her eyes. I felt her gaze follow me as I left the room, and heard her breath hitch as I shut the front door behind me.
In seconds, I was through her bedroom window…waiting.
"I missed this," she whispered in the darkness, cocooned safely in my arms. "I missed not dreading going to bed."
"You dreaded it?" I asked, confused by the seriousness and sadness of her tone.
"I had nightmares while you were gone."
My insides writhed unhappily. "I'm so sorry, Bella. You should never have anything but good dreams."
"I will now," she said, snuggling closer, her leg overlapping mine with easy familiarity.
"The nights were the worst for me, while I was away," I told her. "I hated the night before you came long…but then you illuminated it all…my midnight sun. It was even harder to ignore how much I needed you at night, knowing you were here, sleeping, maybe dreaming of someone else. I shouldn't have felt so jealous at the thought; you deserved love. But I did."
"I've never dreamed of anyone but you," she said, looking up at me with absolute honesty in her eyes.
"I won't take your love for granted again," I vowed, and sealed it with a kiss. I'd almost forgotten the warmth of her lips, the softness…almost. I'd remembered enough for it to torment me. Kissing her now was a sweet release, an unburdening, and as she sunk deeper into my embrace, I knew she felt it, too.
She sighed as I pulled away, and I smiled, running my thumb across her cheek – soft as silk.
"I don't want to sleep," she said. "I'm afraid I'll wake up and find that this was all a dream."
I pushed away another pang of sadness. "I'll be here," I said again. "I won't break another promise to you, ever." I studied her face, so vulnerable in the moonlight. "You should sleep, Bella; you look so tired…"
"Sing to me?" she asked sleepily. I obliged. I could not refuse her anything.
Well, almost anything.
By the time I went back to our house, everything was back in place, just as it had been this time last year. Esme had even obtained and decorated a Christmas tree. I smiled as she rushed into the main room to meet me.
"Edward!" she cried, enfolding me in one of her hugs, the kind that would have suffocated anyone who needed the breath. "Oh, we've missed you so."
"I'm sorry, Esme," I said. "I'm sorry I wasn't stronger."
She shook her head knowingly. "No one's strong enough to fight love, Edward. I hope you've finally learned that."
I smiled vaguely. "I suppose I have."
I looked up from Esme's shoulder to see Carlisle, Alice, and Jasper behind her. As soon as she released me, Alice bounded over, hugged me quickly, and then pulled back. You've got to see this, she said in my mind.
Her latest vision flashed before me – inside another house, one I had never seen before, a Christmas tree was lit up in full force; it was nighttime. A fire crackled in the brick fireplace, and before the fireplace, I saw myself sitting with Bella. As she turned her head, I saw a flash of gold – her eyes. I shook my head and mentally pulled away from the vision.
Alice was disappointed by my reaction. I didn't have to hear her thoughts to know it – it was written all over her face.
"Nothing has changed in that regard, Alice," I said, shaking my head. "I won't do that to her."
Alice was clearly about to argue, but Esme stopped her. "Now's not the time for that," she said. "He's just gotten back; now is a time to celebrate."
"Emmett and Rosalie?" I asked as Carlisle hugged me next.
"Still traveling," was his response. "It's good to have you home."
"It's good to be home," I said, and they all understood my meaning.
"I don't understand why you're still fighting this," Alice said, following me into my room as I went to change clothes.
"You would really have me do that to her?" I asked, not for the first time. "If you had met Jasper like I had met Bella, would you have changed him?"
"Yes," she said, not for the first time, either, "if that was what he wanted."
I shrugged out of my sweater and replaced it with a new one. "You can say that now. But Bella, she can't know what she wants. She hasn't lived this life; she doesn't know what she'll miss – "
"I think she knows exactly what she'll miss," Alice interrupted. "A lifetime of constantly getting older while you stay exactly the same, having to pretend she's your grandmother when you go out in public – spending half her life in the human world and half in ours. And then, someday, she's going to die, Edward, and what will you do then?"
I swallowed past the instinctive ache at the thought, and deliberated. I hadn't told any of my family about my plans, knowing how they would react. "I'll find a way to follow after."
I felt her go perfectly still, not even breathing, not even thinking. "You can't do that, Edward."
"Well, I'm going to," I said, stepping out of my closet. "It's the only way."
"It's not the only way!" she shouted, furious. "Do you have any idea how ridiculous you're being? Bella wants to be changed, and this family needs you – do you have any idea what it would do to Carlisle and Esme if you killed yourself? Do you think this family could function without you? Who's going to keep Emmett and Jasper in line, or straighten out Rosalie when she's in one of her moods? You – you've been here longer than any of us, even Esme. We don't know how to be a family without you."
I sighed and shook my head, unwilling to be wavered from my course. "You'll figure it out. This is the way it should be."
"No, it's not," said a voice from the doorway, and I spun around, startled. I'd been so absorbed in arguing with Alice that I'd failed to notice her scent, to hear her heartbeat.
"What are you doing here, Bella?" I asked.
"I woke up and you were gone," she said, her hands twisting nervously. "I had to come…to make sure."
"I'm sorry – I should have waited –"
"It's all right," she said quickly, stepping into the room. She smiled at Alice. "It's good to see you again."
Alice hugged her. "We missed you, Bella."
"I missed you, too," she said, smiling fondly. "Could I…have a moment with Edward?"
"Of course," Alice nodded, throwing a sharp glance my way. "Maybe you can talk some sense into him."
Bella offered her a forced smile before turning back to me, stepping further into the room. Just the sight of her was a temptation; I wanted nothing more than to close the distance between us, to feel her solid and alive under my fingertips, but I refrained.
"I asked you not to go to the Volturi after I died, for my sake. I thought you'd agreed," Bella began, the horror in her tone evident.
I winced. "Bella…I know it bothers you, but…it's different for me. I've had a longer life than I deserved; I wouldn't be missing out on anything if I…" I couldn't bring myself to say the words, seeing the look on her face. "My life won't end naturally, like yours, and I don't plan to go an eternity without you."
"Then change me!" she shouted, startling me with her anger. "I mean, you want me forever, don't you? You wouldn't be planning to kill yourself if you were waiting to get rid of me, so I can only assume that the problem here is you not trusting me to make my own decisions!"
"Bella," I tried to say in my most soothing tone, but that only angered her more.
"And don't you try to placate me with your vampire…mojo!" she yelled, face thoroughly flushed and angry tears brimming at her eyes. She was still a vision of temptation. "I'm not changing my mind about this, so you had better start changing yours!"
I bristled at the ultimatum. "I won't do that to you, Bella!"
"Then I'll find somebody who will," she veritably snarled as she turned around and stormed out the door, fists clenched and hair flying. I would have laughed if I wasn't so angry. I followed after her at my normal speed, overtaking her in seconds, cutting her off on the stairs.
"Nobody in this house is changing you, Bella," I growled, blocking her passage. She wobbled for an instant, startled, before she righted herself.
"You want to take bets on that?" she said, crossing her arms. "Why don't we see what Alice thinks?"
"Alice has nothing to do with it," I snapped, hearing her approach. I didn't want her to tell Bella about the latest vision.
"Oh, really?" She poked angrily and my chest and then winced in pain. My amusement didn't help any. "This whole family has something to do with it, Edward! Do you think any of them is okay with losing you one day, because of me? Do you think I'm okay with that?"
"It's my choice," I said stubbornly. I couldn't let her sway me with thoughts of my family. Her soul was more important.
"It's mine, too!" she cried, and then decided on a different tactic. "Carlisle!" she called over my shoulder.
I didn't have to turn around to know he was now at the foot of the stairs, and I didn't have to listen to his thoughts to know he'd heard the entirety of our argument. The whole family would know by now of my plans for myself and Bella, and none of them would be happy about it. Carlisle's mind was all disapproval, although his outward demeanor was relaxed and friendly.
"What can I do for you, Bella?" he asked.
"I need you to change me," she said, in spite of my glare, and the stair railing splintered under my fingers.
She winced, but went on. "Edward is thinking only of himself and it isn't fair. I know you wouldn't want anything to happen to him, and I want to become one of you, so I think the decision should be taken out of his hands."
Maybe she has faith enough for the both of you, Edward, said Carlisle's voice in my head. She's not the sort to make a hasty decision.
I turned to face him, meeting his gentle expression with my last bit of resistance. "I swore to protect her from this," I whispered, too low for her to hear, but Carlisle could.
It's her heart that needs protection the most. Give her what she wants; you will come to regret it if you don't.
"All right," I acquiesced, knowing Carlisle would do it if I didn't…and it should be me, if anyone. That was my burden to bear.
I turned back to Bella, and repeated myself. "All right, I'll do it."
Her answering smile was tentative. "Really? You swear? You're not just lying to appease me, are you?"
I sighed as the defeat sunk in. "I told you I wouldn't break another promise to you, didn't I?"
"And are you promising now?" she questioned persistently.
"Yes," I said. It came out breathily, on a puff of air. I couldn't deny her eyes, warm and guileless as they were.
"Thank you," she said, rewarding me with a radiant smile. It was hard for the guilt to stick around with her looking at me like that. "When do we do this?"
Her eagerness soured my mood again. "Not now, that's for certain. The last thing we need is Charlie thinking I came back to kidnap you. It should wait, until graduation at least."
"Well…all right," she agreed. "But soon after. No putting it off."
I shook my head. "You are the most bizarre person I've ever met, you know."
She looked confused, tilting her head at me. "Why is that?"
I looked incredulously at her. "Bella, you do realize that your main goal in life is to endure unimaginable pain in order to be eternally damned, right?"
Bella rolled her eyes and put her arms carefully around my neck, face to face with me since she was up a step. "My goal is to be with you, Edward. You might think that's damnation, but as far as I'm concerned, it's the only heaven I want."
"Well," I sighed, letting her warmth wash over me, "if anyone can save my soul, it's you…so maybe you're on to something."
"You're so ridic –" she started to say, but I cut her off with a kiss. She swayed – dizzily, I would guess – in my arms, and I pulled away, grinning.
"You were saying?"
"You're ridiculous," she gasped, clutching my shoulders for support. "But I forgive you."