A/N: I can't believe it... LAST CHAPTER! It's dragged on for thirty chapters and I think the drama's getting to most of you, so here it is - the ending.
I'd like to apologize for the errors in the timeline. I have a lot more filler chapters for character development that I opted out of posting. The original timeline between their meeting and the chapter in which Edward runs from her at the club was three years and then another two years until the last chapter. However, I felt all the chapters weren't absolutely necessary and were mostly fluff, so I didn't post them. I'm sorry I didn't go back and correct the dates.
Without further ado - the last installment:
"You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you had just been dumped by the love of your life."
I whirled around to see Emmett standing in the doorway.
"Shit, Em', how the hell did you get in here?"
"Your front door was unlocked. I knocked and you didn't answer, so I figured you wouldn't mind. Anyway, good thing I know that you and Bella were never intimate and were nothing better than friends connected at the hip."
"I still can't believe she's gone."
"Jeeze, Ed, and you wonder why you had relationship issues. If you cared for any of your girlfriends half as much as this girl you might actually keep a relationship for awhile."
"Bella's not some girl, Emmett," I snapped, standing up from my chair and pacing the room. "I don't even understand why she left. One minute she's crying and drunk of all things and the next she's gone."
"Are we talking about the same Bella? Because the Bella I know doesn't get drunk and she never cries."
"She has the occasional drink, but never enough to lose control of her emotions. And it's ironic that the only time I have seen her cry was when I met her and when I last saw her." I forced a laugh. "And they were both my doing."
"Well, what did she say when she left?" Emmett pried.
I shook my head, not wanting to go into the details of our complex relationship that he didn't understand. "I comforted her and when I woke up she was gone."
"Whow, hold up there. You comforted her? Edward, tell me you didn't."
"It's not what you think."
"Edward, I know you and I know how you comfort women."
"Bella's not any woman!"
"Oh, god, Edward. You actually fell for her."
I exhaled hard and turned away. I couldn't lie to him and he knew it, especially since I couldn't lie to myself any longer.
"Edward, how long?"
I didn't answer, I stared at my room and reflected back to the first night I had her here… in my apartment… in my bed.
"Since I first laid eyes on her. I never felt like that when just seeing anyone. She captivated me, tantalized me. I screwed up."
"Why didn't you ever do anything about it? Why didn't you ever tell her?"
I turned to face him again. "I screwed up, alright. I messed up the whole night and then ran after her tell her the truth. She knew, but she wasn't ready to hear anything and I'm pretty sure she was scared shitless of me, which she had every right. I had to make it up with her somehow and the thought of just leaving her behind me just wasn't an option. She settled on friends… reluctantly though. I don't think either of us expected it to go as far as it did."
Emmett was quiet behind me, not that I was paying attention to his reaction. My mind was flashing through the events of our progressing relationship – the close calls I had in taking it past friendship and the agony I had to go through in order to distant my heart, but not myself.
"How did you screw up?"
"Edward, how did you guys meet? I know that story about finding her at a club and meeting the next day for coffee is bullshit."
"I slept with her alright! I fucking got her drunk off her ass and dragged her home! I stole her virginity, alright?!"
I took a breath and collapsed on the bed, burying my head in my hands. "I didn't know she was eighteen. I danced with her and bought her a few drinks, no where near enough to get her drunk. She'd never had alcohol before and she was such a cheap drunk. The way she danced… I couldn't get enough of her. I had to have her." I trailed off, remembering her body grinding against mine and her hands running all over my body.
I felt the bed dip as Emmett sat next to me. He didn't say anything for a long time and I wondered if he was waiting for me to continue. I had nothing left to indulge; I had said too much already, breaking the pact with Bella and blurting our secret.
"Man, I've never seen you so broken up over a girl before, Edward," Emmett said softly after what seemed like an hour of silence.
I stood up and ran both my hands through my hair. "I love her, Em'. I always have. All those women were just attempts to prove to myself I wasn't."
Pain ripped through my dead heart in a new wave and I was overcome with a sudden anger at myself. I fisted my hair until my scalp hurt and suddenly kicked the nearest thing which happened to be my bedside table. My foot connected with the leg and it instantly snapped causing the table to collapse and everything on it go crashing to the floor.
"And I fucked it up. I fucking scared her away and she won't even speak to me!"
I paced back and forth. "How did I become such a fuck up? I grab at all the shit that comes near me and the one good thing that comes into my life I let it go."
"Edward, if you asking me for my advice, I'd tell you to call her."
"She won't take my calls."
"Go to her then."
"I don't know where she is. I even tried the uni to find where she transferred to, but she didn't send out any transcripts."
"Edward, I know where she is."
I tripped over my own feet and stared, agape, at my brother. I grabbed onto the collar of his shirt and pulled him to a stand.
"Why didn't you fucking tell me where she is? Where is she?!"
The stronger man grabbed my hands and yanked me off of him, smoothing his now wrinkled shirt and staring at my like I was insane.
"You need to lay off a little, Edward."
"I know," I replied, rubbing my face. "But you can see why I've been trying to drink myself to a coma."
"I'll tell you where she is, but you've gotta straighten yourself out, man. You can't go see her in this state."
"Have you seen her?"
"And how is she?"
"Yeah?" I asked, needing to know if she was really better off without me.
Emmett sighed and headed toward the bedroom door. "No. She hasn't left the house since she got there. I'd say she's worse of than you, but at least she's not turning to booze to drown her worries." He stopped and put a hand to the doorjam. "She loves you, Ed. I think you were too concerned with trying to repress your own to have ever seen it, but she was smitten with you from the start. All of us knew it. You really put her down with Tanya and being away so long. I came here to punch you for hurting her so badly, but seeing that you are torturing yourself, I'll save myself the trouble. I hope you'll do the right thing."
She looked horrible. Her hair was greasy and unwashed, pulled back into a messy ponytail. Her overly baggy clothes were wrinkled and riddled with stains, as if she hadn't changed in a few days. Most importantly and prominently were the circles under her bloodshot, swollen eyes, which proved she hadn't been sleeping, instead spending that time crying into her pillow.
Or Emmett's shoulder.
It pained me to know that she no longer turned to me for the comfort she needed. The pain hit me even stronger when I realized I was the cause of those tears.
"Bella," I whispered, stepping forward to run my finger under those beautiful eyes.
She closed her eyes shortly before turning away from my touch, a shiver snaking down her spine. "What are you doing here?"
"You couldn't think that I would really stay away did you?"
She leaned against the doorway as though she didn't have the strength to hold herself up on her own anymore.
"Look at yourself, Bella. You look horrible."
Her hard laughter didn't reach her eyes, which opened to stare at me coldly. "Leave it to you to make me feel so good about myself."
"You can't do this to yourself. You won't survive."
"I don't plan on it."
"If you would listen to me, you'll see this is all for nothing!" I begged.
"I've listened to you for three years! Three years! Look where it's gotten me!"
"If you're upset about your current predicament," I growled, "then you should have listened to me all those years ago when I told you to leave."
She set her mouth in a hard line, her eyes narrowing at me. "You always have to be right, don't you?"
"No, Bella! I'm never right! Not about you! I thought I could give you what you wanted, what you said you needed from me! I was lonely, empty before I met you. I fell in love with you, but I thought we could never be together because of who we are, so I settled for your company, convincing myself that it was enough. It pained me to keep my hands away from you almost as much as it did to stay away from you completely. It was what you wanted from me, and I would do anything, anything to make you happy. Don't you see, Bella? I'll be whatever you want me to be; my love for you is that deep. If you ask me to leave, I'll leave and you'll never have to see me again; it'll be as if I never existed."
The words cut through me. Giving her the possibility hurt me. I knew that I wouldn't stay completely away. Just far enough so I wouldn't affect her life any longer. I would keep her safe and when she was old, happily married with the children she's always dreamed of, I would leave for Italy and rid the world of my pitiful existence.
I knew as soon as the words left my mouth that it would be her choice of me. I knew that my love for her wasn't enough. I could never be with her. We were meant to be, but the world had gotten in the way.
I fell to my knees at her feet, my knees cracking the cement doorstep where I stood, unable to cross the barrier to her.
"I love you that much, Bella. Say the word and I'll be gone, but tell me the truth. I just need to know if those words you said to me the other night were true."
Tears streamed from her eyes and she righted herself up from the doorframe. "Don't go," she whispered.
I swallowed thickly. "I'm right here."
I didn't want to interpret her words the way my heart wanted to. I would stay for as long as she wanted me to stay – a few minutes, hours, days… But I wouldn't get my hopes up until I heard it from her lips.
She cried harder, and more carefully dropped to her knees, using the doorway to ease her down, so she was looking eye to eye with me. "I love you, Edward. Please don't leave me!"
I grabbed her and pulled her toward me for a passionate kiss. She loved me. She wasn't drunk or asleep or professing her love to another man. It was me. She wanted me.
I kissed her with everything I had in me, trying to show her, the way words couldn't, what she meant to me. She returned the kiss with equal vigor, her hands gripping my cheeks and jaw so I wouldn't pull away – not that the thought would have crossed my mind. I hugged her body into mine with careful strength, my arms wrapped tightly around her frail torso.
I finally released her so she could get air, and I leaned my forehead against hers, keeping our lips only a fraction apart. Her dark brown eyes stared into mine.
"I'll stay with you for the rest of your life. This I promise."
I picked her up and carried her into the house, finally crossing the barrier of our friendship into something more, into what we both have been craving since we set eyes on one another.
I laid her on the bed, crawling in after her and pulled her toward my body.
"Don't let go," she whispered, her fingers pulling at my hair gently.
She rained kisses on my jaw and face, her hands traveling over my torso. My skin became hypersensitive to her touch, and I enjoyed the intense feelings her touch caused. Her hands slid under my shirt and a shutter ran up my spine. I fought the urge to arch my back off the bed at the intensity of it.
"Bella," I groaned, finding my hands and running them down her back to her buttock, pulling her roughly toward me, allowing her to feel the affect she was having on me.
She moaned and ground into me, not surprised at the fruits of her conquest. Her nimble fingers began unbuttoning my shirt. I tried to remain still and let her work, tried to keep my body under control. It was useless, I knew, but I didn't want to stop her.
Her hands pushed apart the sides of the shirt and she bent down to place scattered kisses on my open skin, while her hands drifted down to the button on my khakis.
I grabbed her hands, stilling her movement, and she looked up at me with questioning eyes.
"I won't be able to stop if you go any further."
"I don't want you to."
"Not tonight, Bella."
Her face dropped and she sat back on my legs. "Why?"
I sighed and sat up, stroking the sides of her face with my hands. "What I feel about you is more than physical. I want you to know that. I don't want to give you the wrong impression again."
She smiled softly and placed her hands over mine. "I know, Edward. I was crazy not to see it before, and I should have noticed the pain you were in."
"Bella – "
"I can see now, looking back, your feelings for me all along, I just want to know why you didn't tell me when I confessed mine to you."
"I wanted to, but I wasn't sure if you meant them. With how much you drank I wanted to be sure before I bared my soul to you. I couldn't stand the verbal rejection." I smiled softly before continuing. "I went out in the morning because I had plans on showing you just what you meant to me. I wanted to make you happy. But when I came back, you were gone."
"I thought you had run away. I thought you had given me what I wanted and were afraid of facing me in the morning."
"Never. I would have never done that to you." I leaned forward and placed my lips on hers. It was a soft, chaste kiss, but it held all of the apologies and forgiveness for both of us. I knew that with that kiss those memories would be sealed away, just as those memories from the night we met.
"I love you, Bella."
"I love you more, Edward."
I frowned. "That's not possible."
"Show me otherwise."
"I will spend an eternity – "
"Show me now. Make love to me."
"Bella – "
"I know, Edward. Please. Make love to me."
I realized then that of all the times we had been intimate, I never once showed her what sex was all about. It wasn't a fuck like I had done the past four times I had taken her. I had to not just pleasure her, but show her what she meant to me.
I had never made love before. But I had never loved anyone like I loved Bella.
I pulled her face toward mine and kissed her lingeringly, my lips molding to hers. I leaned back onto the bed, taking her with me and rolling on top of her. Her hands pushed my open shirt over my shoulders and I shrugged it off, leaving her lips to taste the skin along her jaw and throat.
I forced myself to move slowly, although the excitement of having her here and knowing my love for her was hard to overcome. She raised her arms for me and I carefully removed her shirt, stopping as I saw how frail she really was under her overly large clothing.
"I'm sorry. Being without you… knowing you didn't want me… was harder than I anticipated. I didn't want to do anything anymore."
"You'll never be alone again."
A smile crept across her face. "Neither will you."
I leaned down to kiss her with more passion, speeding toward my original intentions. I didn't want to think of her words because I knew they weren't true. My bliss was interrupted with a deep pain inside of me. I would only have Bella for a few decades at best before her mortality took her from me. I didn't want to think about it. I wanted to enjoy her here… now… while she was with me. Enjoy her before she was just a distant memory.
I let my hands drift along her torso, her breasts, anything I could touch. She was here, with me, alive and well, loving me. Our life together was just beginning.