A/N: Sorry that this chapter took so long - I had a 2 month intermission of overseas backpacking :P You guys are awesome for coming back and reading :-)
In case you've forgotten, we're at the start of Eclipse ch.21. Bella has agreed to marry Edward, Edward has agreed to make love to Bella, Bella has fallen asleep, and now she is waking up. To quote: "The sun was bright outside the window-wall when I woke, with small clouds scuttling too quickly across the sky. The wind rocked the treetops till the whole forest looked as if it was going to shake apart." What happened when Bella awoke, while the trees shook themselves to pieces? If you're new to the story, I hope you enjoy all three chapters!
There's one more chapter to go on this, so please review with comments, criticism or encouragement! Thanks all :-D
Disclaimer: Twilight (particularly the brief quote above) belongs to Stephenie Meyer.
I sat cross-legged on the couch. Thus far, the morning had been…awkward. Well. The first hour of the morning had been fine. The ring had been safely hidden away before sleep, the sun was shining and I was cool and safe and happy in Edward's arms. He didn't often hold me all night—he worried that I'd wake, or freeze, or be uncomfortable in his stone arms—stupid vampire. So when the familiar feel of his marble chest, the firm, cold weight of his arms remained while my head tried to wake me, logic argued that I must still be sleeping. My eyes creaked open to his improbably pale cheeks, sparkling faintly in the sun through the window, and I tried sleepily to blink the dream away. When I blinked into his impossibly burning eyes, liquid topaz and toffee and bronze and too soft and too excited and too full of the same fierce joy that they had been the night before, I was sure I was not yet awake. He reached down to brush the mussed hair from my face and slowly, carefully rested his forehead against mine. The trails where his fingertips moved were cool—tingling—burning. And as I realized the tiredness of my eyes, the slowly creeping sense of things I shouldn't be thinking and, much more pressing, the blood rushing to the surface of my skin and the electric shivers of everything he touched, it occurred to me that these things probably meant this was real. I blinked. Edward was still there, skin smooth and soothing against my face, one hand stroking slowly, ridiculously seductive down my neck. My whole body burned. Sleep was not coming back. His eyes locked on mine. I found myself unable to blink a second time.
"Good morning," he whispered, deliberate and soft, and I heard his grin though I was too close to see it. My voice was stuck in my throat. I smiled shakily and knew I didn't really want to tear my eyes from his nearly as much as I should have. Then his lips were on mine, and it didn't matter that this was unusual for him so early in the morning, because there was nothing else I wanted in the world. I relaxed against the excess of pillows, Edward's arms still holding me gently. This was…easy. Right. Good. I was too tired and too only half-awake to push his newly extended boundaries, and he was too ecstatic to stay still and slow and peaceful long, and for once, for one beautiful minute it felt like we were moving exactly the same, two halves of the complete kiss, soft and deep and eager and more passionate than I had once dreamed I could feel. Hot and cool and without questions and loaded with desire and anticipation…
And then at last I was fully awake, and I froze despite myself as the night before came rushing back to me consciously and in full. For all of half a millisecond I allowed myself to hope he hadn't noticed. I allowed myself the instant until his lips stilled and there were inches between us once more. And then I stopped dreaming, and knew he had. Of course. He was having difficulty frowning, but the concern…fear was there in his eyes. The uncertain line of his lips wavered, smiling nervously, frowning at my unconvincing attempt at a grin. "Bella?"
I took a deep breath. Calm, I urged myself. His scent helped. I breathed it in again. It's okay. You're here with Edward. He loves you. He wants you. He's going to stay with you forever. That's all that matters. My breathing felt heavy, constricted. Everything's okay, I repeated in my mind. My voice was still stuck in my throat. I forced myself to keep my eyes on Edward's chin as I self-consciously—compulsively—fingered where Elizabeth Mason's ring – Edward's ring – had rested the night before. My ring. The thought made my breath catch painfully in my throat. Rested was not the right word for the ring. I wasn't sure of the right one. 'Weighed' felt like a more appropriate description. Shouted. With the way it sparkled, shouting was what the ring would do best. It was beautiful—undeniably so. I just wished it didn't come with the 'handbook on denying sordid rumours about your overly flashy engagement ring'. I pushed the word 'engagement' to a far corner of my mind before it could stop me breathing altogether. I could only imagine what stories Lauren would spread if she saw the jewels. I could hear her voice, whispering eagerly in Jessica's ear—"did you hear, she got pregnant, and threatened to tell unless he married her and bought her off with diamonds. He's probably paying her to keep quiet, too. What a slut."
I couldn't help the irrational terror, part fear, part fury that shuddered skin to bones at that thought. I shouldn't be afraid of Lauren Mallory or any of the rest of them, I knew that, but the thought of the whispers, of mutterings overheard on street corners, of the mothers of the ex-seniors gossiping in the Thriftway…I couldn't stand it. Even imagining it made my cheeks burn and tears of anger prick in the backs of my eyes.
I was only half-aware, numbly so as his hands slid beneath my shoulders and deftly raised me to sit against plush gold cushions. I wondered whether I really was asleep. The nervous, panicked heat in my cheeks forcibly subsided as his bloodless fingers traced across my cheekbones, drawing out the warmth, sending my blood retreating deep within.
"Are you alright, love?"
I hesitated a moment before nodding stiffly. He brushed my hair back over my shoulders, still frowning. "Speak to me, love. Please, Bella."
I opened and closed my mouth twice without effect.
His eyes were caught between frustration and fear, and I tried to think of something to say. And to remember how to speak. My lungs felt empty.
His voice was strained. "Calm down, please love. Your heart is racing."
His thumb rested on my bottom lip, pressing gently. I tried to focus on that.
"Your breathing is too shallow, Bella."
I took a deep breath through my nose, not wanting him to stop touching my lips.
He smiled unhappily. "Don't be afraid, love. You're safe."
His words were slow, soothing—the way you speak to a hysterical person. I wondered what I looked like.
"You have nothing to worry about. I'm here. Just tell me what's wrong, and I'll fix it. Please, Bella."
His thumb stroked along to the junction of my lips, and panicking was suddenly much harder. I took another deep breath through my nose. My throat felt thick and raw. "I'm fine." My voice sounded much like my throat felt. I coughed. He traced my jaw with his fingertips and it tensed almost painfully then loosened blissfully as I shivered in pleasure. He brushed my cheek with the back of his hand and grinned just a little at my easy reactions. It didn't last. "You weren't a minute ago."
It wasn't accusing, just…true. I refused to cringe. He waited. I knew Edward's limited patience for answers wouldn't last long. I allowed myself one long moment to consider. Could I change my mind? Of course. Edward would never try to force me into anything. Then…did I want to change my mind? I had no qualms about spending forever with Edward. I had no qualms about committing myself eternally, exclusively, unbreakably to him. I had no problems with the actual…marriage bit, as such. Then…the wedding. Yes. And the word. The title. The associations. How my friends would look at me. What people would say. How it would hurt Renee. And how…how it was still getting married. How Charlie still sat in Forks and remembered the time before marriage destroyed the only love he ever wanted. I bit my lip and immediately regretted it.
Impatient. Frustrated. Afraid.
I hated myself for the fear in his voice. I needed an answer. We weren't like Renee and Charlie. I had already stayed in Forks for Edward. And he had already come back here for me. It would take more than a stupid wedding to come between us – it would take an imploding universe to come between us. Was it worth the whispers and the sidelong glances, the disparaging stares and the attention of a whole stupid town to know just once before I changed and we changed and everything changed that for one night, Edward and I had wanted exactly the same? That he had wanted me and I had wanted him more than anything and that we could be two parts indistinguishable and one part all the same and not know the difference? Yes. Yes. No question. Kissing this morning, when what he'd had to give had satisfied me, and what I could do had been right for him – inseparable, asking nothing, wills indistinguishable – I wanted that. I wanted it completely. I wanted it to take us both over. I wanted to be Edward and for him to be me. I wanted the lines to blur. The rest of the world meant nothing.
And was it worth the hurt I'd cause Renee and Charlie, if it was the only way to avoid hurting Edward more? Without a moment's doubt. Without a question. I had seen the joy on his face last night. I had seen it burning in his eyes this morning. That was worth everything. I couldn't take that away. I couldn't replace that with pain. I couldn't tear him apart.
I didn't realise he was speaking until a moment after he'd begun.
Huh? I struggled to focus.
"Would you like some water?"
When had he fetched water?
"Say something, Bella. Please."
I opened my mouth again. What was I going to say? He stroked my palm, clearly distressed. "Anything, love. Please, just don't sit there…"
What was I doing? I knew Edward wasn't good at waiting. I knew everything about Edward—everything that mattered. And deep down, I knew that he knew everything about me. He loved me. And I loved him more than anything. And at some point before I turned nineteen, we were going to be married.
Simple as that.
And that was all he needed to know.
I considered half a second longer, breathed in, and lied. "Last night, I had a nightmare about when you left me. It just…it came back to me…I overreacted. I'm sorry I worried you."
He raised an eyebrow. His frown deepened. That ancient, tragic sadness made his voice heavy. "You've never been a good liar, Bella."
I mentally slapped myself. Well done Bella. Think of something else…
His finger under my chin made me jump and I frantically avoided his eyes. He watched me carefully. Consideringly. His eyes widened.
I shook my head firmly. Too firmly, I knew as soon as I'd done it. And then, his arms had tightened around me, and his eyes were pouring magic into mine.
"And I thought that your capacity for rational response had been exhausted."
I could feel the breath of his words faint on my mouth. Taste the scented air.
"It's natural to be afraid, love." He leaned in to brush his lips against mine, too briefly for me to respond. His eyes made it impossible to doubt him. I didn't breathe. "I promise I will not let anything happen to you. I will not leave your side. Not now, not this weekend, not ever. I will not let you out of my sight until every one of these newborns and whoever leads them is destroyed. No one, nothing is ever going to hurt you again. Soon, this battle will be over and all we'll have left will be forever to belong to each other."
I sucked in air as his touch on my throat reminded me to breathe. And though I wasn't afraid for myself, not with Edward by my side, I preferred that lie to filling his eyes with pain at the truth of what I'd been thinking. So I buried my face in his chest before he could see the lie in my eyes, and nodded silently until I knew he wouldn't hear it in my voice. Because there was one thing that would always be true in my voice. "I love you."
And the smile of his lips against my hair soothed the doubts and fears and deep-set oppositions in my heart. That conditioning had been made for human life. Those rules of common sense and waiting and reason had not been drawn for immortal perfection. Those 'too young's had not taken account of forever. Those doubts had not taken into account Edward and me.
"I love you, my Bella."
His words were velvet against my brow. Somehow, everything would be alright. This weekend, the two days of danger before us, would be past, the wedding would be such a non-event it would barely count as a wedding, and we would be okay. I would be okay. I smiled into his neck, stronger with his arms around me. "Forever."