Summary: Right at the end of Eclipse, before Jacob takes off. Carlisle's on the reservation with Jacob, Edward and Bella sit at the top of the cliff that nearly destroyed them.
Update: I made a few changes and made some things a little clearer.
We sat side by side. The wind wrapped around us. It was not the same, cold, chilling air that had pervaded us earlier; it had lifted in favor of something warmer. It was all the same to me, but I was grateful Bella wasn't cold. The wind made the only noise, her mind as silent to me as it had ever been. I knew, though, judging by her expression, it was far from silent to her. I wondered what she was thinking. I didn't even have to look to her to know what her expression was. Calm. She was calm for the first time in a very, very long time.
I turned to look at her profile. Her knees were drawn up to her chest, but she did not wrap her arms around them protectively. Instead, her arms were draped casually over the top of them. Her lips were set together in a thin line. Her beautiful, deep eyes reflected the horizon, the sun several degrees above sunset still. I could see a faint scattering of small rainbows across her face from the facets of my skin. As if she felt my eyes on her, her brown eyes glanced to me from the corners of her eyes, her face unmoving. The corners of her lips turned up into a smile before her eyes returned back to the sea. She was gorgeous. And she had no idea how important she was to me.
Frustrating. What was she thinking? I'd originally thought I would get used to such a wall between us, but it only proved to trouble me still. I had accepted it, of course, being unable to read her mind. What more could I do?
"What are you thinking?" The familiar phrase slipped past my lips before I checked it. Bella didn't seem to mind. Without taking her eyes from the horizon – or the water, I couldn't tell which – she answered me.
"Lots of things." Naturally. And I wasn't privy to any of them. Not uncensored, anyway. I glanced away from the water and toward the small gathering of houses on the reservation. Even though her voice was calm, I sensed something underneath it. As we lapsed back into silence, I felt panic rising between us. Perhaps it was just me, but I felt a strong urge to continue a conversation Bella seemed unwilling to hold. Desperate to hear her voice, perhaps I thought I could extract her thoughts from it; I started speaking about the first thing I could think of.
"Jacob seems better. Carlisle is thinking about how he should be recovered in no time," I tried lightening the seemingly heavier atmosphere.
"I know. Jacob will be fine. Physically. You'll have to leave the reservation when Carlisle does, won't you?" She turned to look at me for the first time, her wide eyes full of questions I so desperately wanted to hear. At least she was talking, but she wasn't explaining what was hidden in her eyes.
"Probably. Right now, there are no rules. They trust us enough to even be here which is incredible in and of itself. I will not be the one to push that." I paused. There was a question I needed to ask, whether I wanted to hear the answer or not. "Will you be… ...staying with Jacob tonight then?" It was difficult to say. I knew she loved him, and I knew she loved me more. The most important thing in the world to me was Bella's happiness. And even though I was afraid I'd almost lost her today – twice, counting the Volturi intervention – I was willing to give her to Jacob despite wanting her with me at all times. To my surprise, she shook her head. I worried perhaps it was because of me. I wasn't about to let her choose something because of me again. We had all seen how doing it my way had gotten her hurt, broken, or nearly killed. "Bella, if you want to stay, it's not a big deal, I-" The words were choppy as I scrambled to find the right ones. Bella gave me a bemused look before shaking out her lovely mahogany hair.
"Don't worry. He'll be sleeping anyway. I'll come see him tomorrow." I sighed softly. Something in her voice wasn't right. She was tired? Maybe. Or maybe I was missing something obvious. The danger had passed. She was safe. There were no more crazy vampires chasing her… what could possibly be holding her back now? I had to find out what was bothering her.
"Bella?" I learned in close, my lips inches from her ear. I felt her heart stutter and I could smell her blood strengthen its scent; she was blushing. I bit back a smile. Good. At least she still responded to me.
"Y-yes?" Her voice suddenly became whispery and I smiled, planting a kiss on the side of her neck before leaning back. I was so very afraid of what might be causing the slight catch in her emotions.
"Are you sure you still want to be my bride?" The question made me nervous. I knew she had half-heartedly accepted my demands only to meet hers. She didn't really want to get married. She never had. I knew this, and yet I was still forcing it on her in exchange for what she wanted. Was it compromise? Or was I being too cruel? Perhaps it wouldn't be so bad to be with her for forever without her as a wife. The idea hurt, I wanted her more than anything else in the world. I wanted her to be mine. And yet, if it-
"Yes. And, yes, Edward. It's because I want to."
Just like that. Her answer was so quick, so definite; it cut my thoughts off mid-sentence. The way she had read my expression and known what I would ask next gave me great relief. I truly believed that yes, she did want to marry me. The means about it were still uncertain… perhaps I could convince Alice to tone the wedding down a bit.
But. There was something else. If the wedding wasn't what was holding her back, what was? I had to know.
"Is it… what is it? Are you worried about… changing?" Was she worried about her change? Is that why she was stressed? I watched her face closely, hoping for some glimpse of a clue.
She just smiled and turned to look at me, shaking her lovely head again.
"No, Edward. Just as long as you promise not to let me hurt anyone, I've accepted what I'll be as a newborn. Don't let Jasper win the bet," she whispered. I nodded to her.
I reached up to brush a strand of her hair out of her eyes. Her heart stuttered. I smiled, but it didn't last long. There. There in her eyes. It was still there. Something was still holding her back! If it wasn't the wedding, and it wasn't the change, then what was it?
"What are you thinking? Really? Are you… if you're afraid of me, after what you saw with Victoria… then just say so. Or is it something with Jacob? You won't offend me, please just say what you're thinking, don't spare my feelings. I can't-" But Bella didn't let me finish my pathetic speech. She placed a single, warm finger against my lips. It was like my insides ignited.
"Just, stop. It's not any of that. It's…" Did she have any idea how frustrating it was when she did that? I could tell she wanted to answer and was trying to find the words. I let her think, trying to hide the desperate look on my face. I don't think I was very convincing. "It's this. Here. It's kind of nice, isn't it? Werewolves and vampires still getting along? Even after the common enemy was destroyed? You're still allowed to sit here with me at La Push." I started to speak, to point out it was only during Carlisle's house call, but she waved her hand at me, stirring her scent into the air. I inhaled deeply. "Right, I know, only for Carlisle, but still. When would that have happened a month ago?" She shook her head again. "It's funny, in a way. I feel like I've come full circle." Full circle?
"What do you mean?" I asked her. I felt worried worried; her expression had suddenly turned painful.
"The… the last time I was here, I…" Bella's voice cracked, barely a whisper. I couldn't fathom what she was thinking, but waited for her to continue. "I needed a rush." I could feel my eyes widen in surprise. She was talking about when she jumped… "I sat here, stood, rather, staring into the ocean. It was… so stupid and selfish of me then. All I wanted was to hear your voice one more time. And because I was getting better with the motorcycle, it wasn't as dangerous anymore. I didn't hear the voice. Your voice."
She stopped and turned to look at me, a weak smile on her lips. I wanted desperately to take her into my arms and kiss away her troubles. To my surprise, she took my hands into her lap and held them. Bella's lovely brown eyes trailed back out to the ocean as she continued.
"I needed something new. A new terror. What better than jumping off a cliff? Jacob had promised to take me cliff diving anyway." Here, she laughed softly at some joke. I was barely listening, watching her face closely, waiting for any sign of a break. She seemed stable and controlled enough to talk about the very blackest night of my life. The night I thought she had died.
"And then when he wasn't here, and I was so upset and distressed, I needed to forget. Forget everything. And hear your voice." Her eyes closed and she turned her chin up slightly so that the wind rolling off the ocean brushed her hair. Bella had no idea how beautiful she was. "So I jumped. Stupidly. I never once thought about the storm, or about how the ocean was angry beneath the rocks. I never considered the idea that I wouldn't be able to swim to the shore when I surfaced…" Her voice trailed off, growing soft. "And here I am, again. Still doing selfish things, I kept Jacob as a friend, even though it hurt us both, and you too. So I've let that go, and it's time to let go of everything else now. Here I am listening to your voice, again. But I'll admit it's much more beautiful in person." Her eyes stayed on the horizon, her face turned up in a half smile. I could only stare. A few seconds passed, and her lips slipped down again. Her head turned to look at me, a worried expression on her face. "Say something," she said, a little too quickly. Her heart skipped a beat.
"I… don't know what to say." It was the most honest answer I could give. The worry in her eyes softened a bit and she even smiled. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close. Bella seemed content to snuggle to my chest while I stroked her hair absentmindedly. "I love you. And I will forever be haunted by the day I lied to you." I kissed her forehead and felt her heart splutter. I smiled. "I will never again do something 'selflessly' for you. I will be here; I will be yours, for as long as you'll have me." She sighed softly, her arms wrapping around my chest tighter.
"Forever," she murmured. I couldn't help but tilt my head to the sky and smile up at the heavens. I really didn't deserve the second chance. But I wasn't about to let Jacob Black have it for me. Not when she said she wanted me.
"You know… it's funny," she murmured, still curled against me. What could possibly be funny? I glanced down to the sweet-scented bundle in my arms.
"What is…?" I wasn't sure I wanted this answer.
"Everything… everything then was so terrible. I didn't know up from down." I winced. Yes, yes I knew that. Charlie was always thinking about that when I was around. Sometimes I wondered if someone had told him I could read minds… Bella continued and I returned my attention to her murmured words.
"And yet, everything is so much better now. I would've never known what it was like to be without you – or you, I, for that matter. If we hadn't been separated, I might have chosen Jacob Black. Only because I wouldn't have known what it would be like to be without you. But if I hadn't gotten to know him when you left, we would've never become as close as we are now. As much pain as that has caused… it saved us. If I hadn't become Jacob's friend, we wouldn't have had werewolf help. There would be no way for your family not to take any damage without the pack's help. We might all be dead, courtesy Victoria. So… so as painful as it all was, it really worked out for the better, don't you think?" It was hard to disagree with that logic, but I didn't like the idea that my foolish 'selflessness' had actually been good. I was rather dead-set on carrying that guilt with me for a long time. But not Bella, of course not. Of course my angel would see the goodness in it all. I just shook my head, a faint smile on my lips and as I kissed her temple once more.
"You're incredible," I breathed into her ear, delighted that her heart stammered for me again.
We sat like that for a while, letting the wind wrap around us, Bella curled into me while I stroked her arm, enjoying the scent. The scent that no longer held danger. The monster inside of me, always snarling and thrashing, was quiet. It, too, knew the pain of having her life snuffed out. It did not desire that agony any more than the civil side of me did. Perhaps Bella was right. Everything had worked out for the better. That didn't mean I had done a terrible and cruel thing to the woman I loved.
Carlisle would be leaving soon. I would need to go, whether Bella decided to stay or not. I nudged her gently.
"I'll need to leave soon," I whispered softly in her ear. I fought back the smile that sprang to my lips when I felt her heart speed up.
"I need to jump," she murmured. I just stared at her.
"What?" My voice was a soft whisper. Bella lifted her head and glared defiantly at the horizon, her lips pressed together tightly.
"I need to jump," she repeated. What was I missing? Bella pulled away from me, and unwillingly I released her, watching warily as she stood up.
"What are you doing?" Bella turned to face me as she explained.
"Don't you see? Everything has come full circle. You. Me. Jacob. Everything. I'm back where I started, only I have to admit, it's much better this time around. But still. Not breaking the circle is dangerous. I have to break it by not breaking it, somehow. I'm not sure how, but I can't stay afraid. I need to jump. It feels right." The first part made sense. Not the second. How could not breaking something break it? I was still confused.
"Bella, you can't jump. It's dangerous. You don't need to jump, let's go home. Charlie's or my place?" Bella just shook her head, stubborn as ever. What was she thinking? I could not think of a time when I was more frustrated with not being able to hear her thoughts than this moment.
"This is something I need to do, Edward. I need to… to face this. This is what caused everything, my selfishness, both then, and now. I need… I need to jump again." I didn't like this. I didn't want her to jump again. I didn't want her to jump, ever. Maybe it would be healing for both of us, but if she got hurt… Bella was already on her feet, walking towards the edge of the cliff. I had to act now.
"Bella!" I jumped to my feet and started to walk toward her. She stopped and turned to face me.
"If it makes you feel better, you can wait below for me. But the water is calm today, I'll be fine." I shook my head. This was a bad idea, but she continued. "I have to let go of this. I have to. And I – I need to jump." She turned her back to me and walked to the edge of the cliff. Slowly, she took in a deep breath and I watched, frozen. Her arms rose slowly from her sides, palms upturned to the heavens. I wasn't thinking any longer, I was only acting. I had grabbed her arm and pulled her back away from the edge.
"Please, Edward, or I'll do this sometime when you're not around to wait for me at the bottom if something goes wrong. Is that what you want?" Staring into her eyes, everything clicked into place. All of her words made sense. And then I was no longer considering them. They meant nothing. Before I could stop myself, I had swept her into an embrace, kissing her lips. Her hot body warmed me, sending bursts of fire through places I thought were frozen eternally. Against all internal want, I leaned back, lifting my lips from hers. It didn't help she tried for more. Holding her back, I chuckled softly.
"Bella, you may jump. I won't stop you, if you must." I nodded. I would grant her this. She was right, the water was calm, and I would wait below for her. Bella smiled and stared up at me with this incredible look in her eyes. In that one instant, I believed I did have a soul; and it was on fire.
"Thank you," she whispered. Turning away, she approached the edge of the cliff and stood facing the water. Bella leaned forward, bending into a crouch. But she didn't move. Bella just stared out at the horizon before uncoiling herself and stepping back onto solid ground. She turned to face me, an unfathomable expression on her face.
"Bella…? Are you okay?"
"I know how to break it, now… Edward… Please, will you jump with me… please?" She smiled shyly, a blush staining her cheeks. "It would break the circle… see?" It made sense. Bella jumping perpetuated the circle. If I jumped with her, together we could break it… by not breaking it. It was so crazy it made sense.
And it was the closure she needed to this horrific time.
"Yes. Because Bella, from now on, you won't ever have to jump alone. I'll always be right here." I felt her hand tighten around mine. Slowly, as one unit, we turned to face the sea.
It didn't matter that I couldn't hear her thoughts. We were connected much deeper than that. We were in too deep to get out now. Without thinking about it, I breathed in when she did, and breathed out with her. In one fluid motion, as if we'd practiced this a thousand times, we leaned forward, my right hand still laced with her left hand. We both leaned into a crouch, and with one dramatic show, we sprang from the edge of the cliff together, perfectly choreographed.
Like a hail of bullets, we fell through the air. It was an amazing high; I could understand why she loved it so. She didn't scream this time. I didn't need to look over to see that she was alright. In that one, beautiful instant, we were so intimately connected, no form of communication could ever surpass what we shared. My heart was beating through Bella's and she was breathing through my lips. Every breath we took was in unison. I knew she wasn't thinking, only feeling, just like me. For one wild instant, I felt that if she were thinking, then this would be the one time I would know exactly what it was. And not because of my gift.
A crash of thunder echoed around the ocean. The clouds low on the horizon rumbled ominously as a bolt of light lit up the sky. Full circle, indeed. The storm was further off, this time, but coming.
The icy water crashed around us. I could feel the start it gave Bella, but it hardly affected me. We both plunged deep underwater, twisting and turning. My other hand quickly found her and within seconds I had thrust her above the surface. I studied her to make sure she was alright, but she only stared back with a satiated expression on her face.
"Thank you," she whispered before leaning up to kiss me softly. "I'm free of all that now. I can move forward. You've saved me again, Edward." Hardly. But I didn't point that out to her.
"You'll never jump alone again, Bella," I promised her. Without another word, we swam to the shore. Carlisle was waiting by the car. Drenched, we hiked toward the car. Our hands had never broken apart since the jump.
I would make good on my promise. Bella never would jump alone again. No matter what sort of cliff it was. She trusted me to change her, and I would make that jump with her. Holding her hand, just as I had now. We would fall together before we would swim to shore together, and never once would the bond between our hands break.