A/N This is a short story based on the idea of Bella dealing with some unresolved pain and trust issues after the experience of Edward leaving her in NM. It takes place a few weeks before their wedding.
Can Edward help her believe in him like she used to?
Rated M for citrus content.
** This story is not beta'd. Please forgive any minor errors and feel free to point out big ones.
. . . . . . .
. . . . . . .
Chapter 1 - Falling Apart
. . . . . .
It's odd how the worst moments can begin at the most ordinary of times. One minute you're immersed in the mundane chore of washing your hair, and the next you're headed for a breakdown of epic proportions. On hindsight, I realize I should have seen this coming. In my defense, though, I've gotten so good at hiding these particular skeletons at the back of my closet, I'd almost forgotten they existed. I should have known better. Some feelings just can't be buried, especially the unresolved kind…
. . . . . .
Sliding from the shower, I wrap myself in a soft blue cotton bathrobe, desperately seeking some kind of comfort. I've been trying to convince myself I can hold it together all day, and for a little while I actually thought it might work. That is until the moment I step into my room, and for a split second I expect Edward to be there, waiting for me. Of course he isn't, and suddenly all the emotions I've been battling this past week begin to get the best of me.
Damn it, Bella, get a freaking grip. My harsh admonishment means nothing, and self doubts spin through my thoughts, mocking me. He's been gone less than two days, and I am already falling apart at the seams and hating myself more and more for my pathetic insecurities.
I force myself to look around the room – really look – and I take in the half packed boxes and packing supplies, reminding myself that my emotions are off-kilter. I have no reason to feel the way I do. The engagement ring on my left hand catching and refracting even the dim late afternoon light is more than proof if I need it. And it would seem that I do.
Edward will be back from his hunting trip with his brothers in one more day.
Yes, he will. I forcefully ignore my subconscious demons. Grabbing my hairbrush, I yank it through my hair with such force that the pain alone should snap me out of this self-projected misery—except it doesn't. I've struggled through this gloom more than once since Edward left me in the woods that one awful day, though I thought I was getting a better handle on it; especially now with our wedding only three weeks away. Yet here I am, once again, wallowing in my doubts and fears and letting them consume me from the inside out.
I try again to focus on the boxes, mentally sorting the items inside while I glance around the room, trying in vain to think rationally. I am moving out, moving on, finally starting a new life with the love of my existence—so what the hell is wrong with me?
He left me.
It was a long time ago. He made a mistake, and I've forgiven him.
"Yes." I say the word out loud, adamantly, because it's true. But the emptiness comes crashing down around me anyway, and I'm powerless beneath it.
It wasn't Edward's fault. He only wanted to protect me, to give me a chance at what he ridiculously called a normal human life. As if anything in my life could ever be normal after he touched it. However understandable his reasons may have been, his leaving left a wound so deep that even today, with the weight of his promise heavy on my finger, I can't seem to escape my fears.
Edward believes in forever. His marriage proposal, his promise to change me, to love me for eternity, should have healed that wound. Yet here I am, falling back into that black pit of despair, terrified in spite of it.
Marriage doesn't mean forever. I know that better than some, but where is my faith? My faith in Edward, my faith in myself? I thought I had it in spades lately, so where is it when I need it the most?
I can feel my arms rising, encircling my chest, hugging myself, trying to keep the emptiness contained in a move so familiar I can hardly it. The echoes of our past return with a vengeance. Edward is the only antidote, but he isn't here.
He'll be back.
But what if he doesn't come back?
You don't know that. He could change his mind. He could leave.
Just like before...
I move slowly, as though in a trance, back to the bathroom. Turning the shower back on, I somehow manage to remove the robe with fingers gone numb from clutching the fabric so tightly.
I forgave him.
Did you, really?
I trust him.
Do you, really?
I stand under the spray, and give in to my pain. The vortex or the past sucks me down and away from all the rational beliefs I've surrounded myself with since Italy and the near miss of losing...everything. There is no way to fight it; I've lost the will. I have one last rational thought before it consumes me entirely.
Thank God Charlie isn't home today.
And then I'm gone, drawn back into the swirl of best forgotten memories and the sickening ache of uncertainty. Sobbing, I sink to the bottom of the tub, curling in on myself, rocking, hurting, angry, lost…
Time doesn't heal all wounds.
. . . . . .
It couldn't have been more than half an hour. The water is cool but not yet cold when it happens. The sensation of hands on my skin, and the odd dizzying feeling of movement that doesn't come from my own volition, is followed just as quickly by the rush of air across my body.
He moves with that peculiar form of inhuman speed and grace that seems to defy logic, leaving me – the ever weak human – gasping and stunned. Snatching the comforter from my bed, he wraps it around me. I'm sitting on his lap, curled around him in the rocking chair, before my realization that he is truly here is even complete.
An odd keening sound further penetrates the fog in my head. It takes a minute to realize the noise is coming from me. I clamp my lips shut tightly to contain the sound, and as it lessens I become more aware of him. His cool breath brushes my cheek and my hair as he kisses me softly, murmuring over and over again.
"Shh, Bella, hush, love, it's okay, it's okay…"
Endlessly, until finally it breaks through. My hands fist in the soaking wet material of his shirt, and I'm soothed by the sweetness of his breath, the sound of his voice. His body is always statue hard and cool, but there is a tension now that is so strong it gives me the impression that if it were possible for him, he'd be trembling.
My breath breaks on a harsh sob, and he groans, sounding completely frantic. His hands clutch me tighter to him, pressing the blanket closer, pressing me closer to his body.
"Bella, please, sweetheart, hush. I'm here, don't cry anymore, love." He continues to rock us, somehow managing to keep a smooth rhythm despite his emotions and mine. All along, he continues murmuring nonsensical things, telling me over and over again how much he loves me, how sorry he is.
Coming back into myself slowly, I realize several things at once. The first is that his clothing is wet from my body. The second is that he really is here, somehow back more than a day early. And the third, that aside from the blanket, I am completely and utterly naked in his arms.
Sniffling, still reeling from the force of my breakdown, I try to sort these things into order of importance and fail miserably. Maybe if it weren't for the blanket I'd feel differently, but right now the only thing that really matters is that he's here, holding me tighter than I've ever felt him hold me before.
"Edward?" My voice is hoarse from crying. Somehow I manage to stutter out his name and lift my face to his. The late afternoon light has completely faded, and the room is in shadows dispelled only slightly by the small glow of a bedside lamp too far away to let me really see his face.
"Yes, love. I'm here."
The sound of his voice, coupled with the familiar shape of his shadowy features, sends more hot tears scalding down my cheeks. He groans, brushing feverishly at them with his icy fingers.
"Oh, Bella," he sighs. "What have I done to you?"
I shake my head quickly. "No, it's not you, it's me. I'm sorry I …" A hot rush of humiliation makes me stop talking. Having him see me like this is my worst nightmare.
"No!" His reply is quietly spoken yet fierce. "Do not apologize or try to take this on yourself." He growls with a low tight sound that clearly conveys his frustration. "I will not have you defending me, protecting me any longer, Bella. It ends now."
I try to sit up so I can better see his face, then I remember my nakedness and quickly press back against him, blushing furiously. There are so many things about my being naked in Edward's lap that need to be addressed, but I push that aside and try once again to speak.
"Hush, love, please." He pinches the bridge of his nose and closes his eyes as I subside, deciding to do as he asks.
I squirm a bit to get more comfortable, snuggling against him with a watery sigh. I'm drained and suddenly, desperately, tired. It feels so good to be in his arms, to feel that all is right again in my world, that I really can't find the will to fight. So I sit and wait, feeling my eyes grow heavy.
Despite his wet clothes and cool body, I feel warm and safe like I'm in a cocoon. I wonder if maybe I'm dreaming. The thought has me startling abruptly in fear, and I study his familiar features for reassurance. The room is growing darker with the fading daylight, but my eyes have adjusted somewhat. His expression looks intense as his eyes rake over my face, which must be a mess. Slowly his fingers trace my features.
"How did you get here; how did you know?" I need to hear his voice, though really I know the answer before he even replies.
Of course Alice. His sister, my best friend, and the one person in this world I cannot hide anything from. Her powers—her psychic ability to see the future—are somehow both a blessing and a curse. The thought that she witnessed this before it even happened spins my emotions back into a tangle. More tears pool in my eyes. Lowering my gaze, I blink rapidly, though nothing helps and they fall free, stinging my salt irritated cheeks. I love Alice like a sister, but there are some things I wish she couldn't see. My humiliation adds a new suffocating layer to my already overwrought mind.
"Oh, God," I mumble. "Edward, I'm sorry, please…"
"Bella." His voice holds a warning tone. I stop talking and force myself to look him in the eyes once again, though it hurts to do so. It occurs to me that his being here right now is a physical impossibility given his plans to hunt with Jasper and Emmett miles away. My fear that this is all a dream returns. Will I wake up lying in the bottom of my bathtub shivering cold and alone? The fear has me tied up in knots, so I ignore his warning tone and cling harder to his shirt.
"Edward, how did you get here? How could you…?" Despite my sudden inability to form full, proper sentences, he seems to understand my question. He gives me a wry smile.
"I've always known I was fast, Bella. I just never knew how fast until today." There is a pain in his eyes that I don't yet comprehend.
"What did Alice tell you? Why did you come back so fast?" I'm not certain I really want to know what she saw, but I can't help wanting to know what put that look in his eyes.
Carefully, as though I am made of glass, he brushes more tears from my face. I watch him studying me and trying to choose his words.
"We were tracking a mountain lion. Jasper had the scent, and Emmett and I were right behind him." His expression is tortured. "When my phone went off I knew something was wrong. It hit me like a freight train, Bella. Even before I answered and heard Alice's voice, she was projecting her images at me. He pauses and closes his eyes as I wait, not wanting to rush something that is obviously painful.
"She was on her way here to you. I could hear her running; hear the wind whipping past the phone. His eyes pop back open, and they flare like scorched coals. "She didn't need to say anything, Bella. I could see what she saw, I could hear you crying. She said she's been seeing the possibility of this for weeks, but that it kept changing which is why she didn't tell me sooner. You'd come close to falling apart then find some kind of strength to push it back down…"
"Edward, I'm so…," He doesn't let me finish.
In an instant his mouth is on mine, the force of it so abrupt and hard it almost, almost hurts. He gentles the pressure immediately, his lips moving softly, his tongue slipping along the seam, making me gasp. The second I do, he lets his tongue dip inside and caress mine for a brief moment, before withdrawing and tracing my bottom lip, making it hard to breathe or think. I can taste the residue of my tears - bitter brine next to the honeyed sweetness of his mouth.
"Bella." His voice is a gruff whisper full of pain, and I begin to shake. I want very much to keep it together now, but my emotions are so out of control that I can't seem to keep reins on any of them. It's all too much. I sob against his mouth, hating myself for doing this to him, hating my weakness.
Struggling for some semblance of control, I latch on to our conversation, needing to just keep him talking so he'll stay, so he won't grow tired of my endless clinging and walk out.
"You said Alice was on her way here when you spoke to her?" My question comes out broken, my voice clogged with tears.
"Yes, love." The emotion in his eyes is still unfathomable as he studies my expression. "She came as soon as she saw what was to happen. She was hoping to help you somehow before it went too far, to distract you and buy me some time to get here." He sighs and kisses my tear-stained cheeks with a feather light caress that creates tingles of warmth through my body. "She was too late." His voice turns harsh, and I wonder suddenly if he is angry with her.
"She couldn't have known, Edward." I sit up and turn more towards him, forgetting for a moment my lack of clothing, desperate only to defend Alice. "It came on so fast, I didn't…"
"Shh, sweetheart. I know, I know." The blanket slips, but his eyes remain fastened on mine. My partial exposure means nothing as his gaze continues to search my own.
"Don't be angry with her," I manage to say as still more tears slip away from me. He seems surprised at my plea.
"I'm not angry at Alice, love, quite the opposite. In fact, I am once again in her debt. She sees what I in my arrogance do not."
"I don't understand."
"Listen to me, Bella." He draws in a breath he doesn't need, shutting his eyes briefly, obviously struggling with something. When he opens them again, his expression is so fierce it's almost frightening. For a moment he truly is the dark immortal vampire and not just Edward Cullen my fiancé.
"I know why you are upset. I've known for a while now that you've been struggling, but like a fool I've tried to deny it."
I shake my head, terrified that he might be under some horrible, misguided comprehension, like believing I might be questioning any part of our future.
"Bella, please, love! I need you to be still and just listen. There are things we've left in the past that need to be brought back up into the light, aren't there?"
He doesn't wait for or seem to even require a response. I shudder slightly, hating with every fibre of my being that I have brought this darkness out in him. He has suffered enough, and I wanted to spare him this side of my weak humanity, this guilt for things he can't change and shouldn't have to.
"I will never forgive myself for what I did to you, and I know that my leaving, even for just the smallest amount of time, now causes you so much anxiety. How can it not knowing you as I do, knowing the damage I did with my stupidity. I've done this, Bella, and yet still you try to hide it, try to protect me, but at what cost?"
I shake my head, sniffling and feeling more and more pathetic.
"Hear me now, Bella, my love, my life. I vow to you, swear to you with everything that I am I will never leave you again. As long as you want me, I'm yours."
I cling to the words, still trembling because some parts of me doubt he can mean what he says. I hate that, but I can't escape this fear no matter how irrational I might believe it to be. Even now, curled in his arms with his sweet breath washing over my skin in ways it never has before, I'm afraid. Even with all his promises, nothing changes. There is a part of me still that can't believe he won't find another reason to leave.
"Bella, you are my life. Please try to understand that without you I cannot exist. You've given back to me the parts of myself that I believed were lost forever. I had no soul, but loving you has meant that I can at least share yours. I had no happiness, no joy, but loving you has brightened my dark existence with every ounce of sunlight denied to me and my kind. You are my sun, Bella Swan, only you, and your light shines on me every second of every day. Can you honestly believe me capable of living without these things, without you?"
Slowly, as though he is afraid to startle me, his hand rises and comes down feather light against my chest, directly over my heart. "Your heart beats for both of us now, and it will keep beating until the day we silence it together in exchange for our eternity."
He lowers his mouth to mine, his cool breath washing over me. "I left and it nearly killed us both. I won't do it again, Bella."
His kiss is soft, but more intense than any other we've shared, and I want so desperately to believe him. Crying out, I arch my entire body closer to him, my hands finally unclenching from his shirt to delve into the silkiness of his hair as I yank him closer, trying to drown my fear in his kisses. Like always, all too soon, he pulls away, his panting breath my only proof that he is at least a little affected by my touch. His eyes are darker, burning into mine, and it's only then that I become fully aware of where his hand is still placed covering my heart, curled around the top of my breast.
My heart begins to pound, and the icy coolness of his fingers sends darts of contradictory warmth spiralling over my skin. The violent shudders that have wracked me slowly stop, only to be replaced by a gentler, somehow more intense trembling that seems to come from my very core.
"Edward." My voice is a throaty whisper, and I lick my lips nervously. My nakedness is no longer an abstract thing, but a base reality that startles me out of my self-doubting misery. "Your hand is on my…"
He smiles, a half grin that doesn't really reach his eyes. "Yes." Simple, straight to the point, and I wait breathlessly, knowing it will only be a second before he removes it. I can't help desperately wish I was in a better frame of mind so I could truly appreciate the way it feels before he moves. A second passes, and then another and another, and still he stays. His eyes remain locked on mine, his expression so intense I wish I could tell what he's thinking.
"I love you, Bella."
I cannot move. My body is coming alive in every nerve, but I cannot move. Need, powerful and heavy, pins me in my place so that I can only whimper in response to his declaration. Everything inside me draws in tight, and I want to scream.
Prove it, prove it now, right now. But I can't speak because if he turns me away, if he says no, again, I will break, and I don't think I can stand another round of whatever this is.
He's still staring, watching, and I know he hates that he can't read my mind. My face, though, is an open book. I watch as understanding suddenly sparks in his eyes. His nostrils flare, and his eyes turn blacker than I have ever seen them, blacker even than the midnight color that marks his thirst.
"Tell me, Bella. Tell me how to prove my words. Tell me what you need to take this pain away." His voice has a raspy, husky quality I've never heard before. He looks...hungry.
You, my body screams. I need you to touch me, show me what you cannot show me with empty words, but my mouth remains closed, and the pain begins to creep back in. I close my eyes to hide it from him, pressing my face back against his neck, choking on tears I refuse to shed more of.
I won't beg.
. . . . . .