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It's All Right
During their seven months of separation, he'd been as good as dead inside – frozen into a state of permanent despair. Under the glare of the harsh fluorescent lights of the reception area, Edward pressed Bella's body against him to quiet her hysterics and felt the frost that had hardened round his heart begin to melt. "It's all right... shh, Bella... You're safe," he soothed. He felt like the worst sort of liar – a bargain had just been made to end her life and he was telling her she was safe. He struggled against the urge to add for now to his words of reassurance.
Once Bella had calmed, they spoke of Gianna and her precarious position as receptionist for the clandestine world of the Volturi. When Edward said that she wanted to join them, Bella looked appalled. "How can she want that?" she whispered. "How can she watch all those people file through to that hideous room and want to be a part of that?"
Oh, Bella. With her words, all of his calm was gone and the frost began to creep back into him. He felt his face twist involuntarily as he processed Bella's words. In that horrible room, when Aro and Caius had threatened them with death, a part of him, the most loathsome and selfish part of him, had been so very happy to hear Bella beg him to, "mean it – please." He'd allowed himself to think that she still wanted him, wanted a life (or whatever this was) with him. Though the better part of him still was actively looking for the loophole in Alice's agreement, that miserable part of him remained tempted to give in to the Volturi's demand to change Bella; to keep her. Clearly, though, her most recent contact with "real vampires" had helped her change her mind. She no longer wanted to be like him.
He tried to tell himself that he was glad for this, glad that she had come to her senses and no longer wanted to be a part of his world. Obviously, she'd simply come along with Alice as living proof that she hadn't died; she was simply doing his family a kindness by keeping him from killing himself. Once she was safely back home, she'd continue to move on – just as he'd intended. This is what you want for her, he reminded himself. You will get her out of this trouble, for her sake, because it is right, because... But his noble self denial was interrupted as Bella flung herself at him and wept his name.
"Is it really sick for me to be happy right now?" she murmured into his chest. Oh, Bella. Contentment and calm started to creep back into him and he leaned, once again, into her warmth and scent. He held her closer and tighter than he knew he should, but his happiness simply overwhelmed his wisdom at that moment. She still wanted him! But the fact that she couldn't seem to stop weeping unnerved him, sending him scrambling for some way to reassure her. That she was even in this place, exposed to the shocking reality of his world (soon to be her world unless he could find that damn loophole) was entirely his fault.
"We have lots of reasons to be happy... We're alive... and together," he whispered. To be together again, when he had thought her dead and gone and the world bereft of hope and meaning, made all other considerations inconsequential.
Bella, her warmth, her breath, her life was here right now, in his arms, ending his long, cold, lonely winter. He couldn't stop himself from looking at her and touching her and breathing her in over and over. This, the simple fact of being with Bella, was more than he could truly process. He feared that if he lost physical contact with her for even one moment, she would vanish as she had done so many times in his daydreams. The feel of her skin under his fingers, the silk of her hair, the push of her pulse, the bouquet of her scent -- these were real, these were Bella. He was determined: this time there would be no leaving. He would see this through until the end, whatever that would be.
He kept her on his lap in that ridiculous waiting room for the rest of the time they waited to be released. He had never been a particularly patient vampire, but he didn't mind waiting this time. He wanted to leave, certainly; he was still concerned about their freedom, undoubtedly; but what he wanted, needed was here, in his arms. He was amazed to find that his thirst, always so keen when Bella was near, was barely even an issue. He felt less like a vampire tempted by his ultimate prey, and so much more like a man reunited with his lost lover. The future was uncertain and worrying, but he simply couldn't make himself be concerned for the moment.
He kept her in his arms in the car, on the plane... he could not get enough of her sunlike warmth. It seemed like years since she'd been there, where she belonged.
He stayed quiet on the plane, hoping she would sleep. His heart was so full that even if she had wanted to talk, even if she had peppered him with unexpected questions as she so often did, he wasn't sure he could have forced himself to speak for long. Words weren't adequate. Just looking, touching, breathing her in was enough. More than enough, actually.
Putting her in her bed at her house and having to separate himself from her under Charlie's wrathful gaze had been agony. Slipping back into her room and curling up against her warmth while she slept for fourteen hours had been bliss. Darling, he'd murmured over and over as she slept and talked and worried and dreamed, I will never leave you again. It's all right.