Breakdown

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A/N One last short chapter, because it felt just a little bit incomplete somehow.


Chapter 3 Finally Whole

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I don't want to wake up. My head feels thick, and a dull throbbing headache only adds to the desire to just roll over and go back to sleep. It isn't going to happen. I'm already too awake. I shift restlessly under the covers, feeling oddly disjointed and…naked?

The entire night comes rushing back at me all at once, and I instantly freeze. I remember all of it, every raw second.

The shower, the crying, the way I fell utterly and completely apart. Edward's arms around me, holding me naked while I sobbed like an insane woman in his lap—his pleas, his promises, his sadness, his touch.

I force my eyes open and he's there, leaning against the wall by my window. Dressed in nothing more than a pair of jeans hanging low on his hips, the button unfastened, he's too gorgeous to bear.

I sit up slowly, mindful of my aching head and even more mindful of the sheet that I'm clutching around me. In contrast to his perfect self, I instinctively know I must look like hell. My mouth feels full of cotton, and my hair spills around me in a riot of curls and tangles. The feel of it brushing against my bare shoulders and back makes me feel even more naked and oddly vulnerable.

I know he realizes I'm awake, but he doesn't turn away from the window. I take advantage of the moment to run my fingers through my hair in a ridiculous attempt at taming the mess.

"Good morning, Bella," he finally murmurs, turning slowly to face me. Something in his eyes and his expression as he looks at me, tells me that maybe I don't look as bad as I think I do. His familiar half-smile is warm, an approving glint in his eyes.

Not knowing what to do with that thought, I scoot to the edge of the bed, kicking the rest of the covers to the floor while still clinging to the sheet. By the time I get my feet under me, he's already across the room at the side of the bed, no doubt wanting to prevent me from falling on my face. In fact, I do stumble a bit as the sheet tangles around my legs. I blush furiously as his hands wrap around my upper arms, steadying me.

"Careful, love." His tone is kind, patient, but mine isn't when I reply.

"Yeah, I know, I'm a klutz." An idiot, a weak crybaby, a burden. I don't say my thoughts out loud, but I can think of plenty of adjectives that would describe how I feel about myself today, none of them flattering.

"You're adorable."

"You're biased."

He chuckles. He places his fingers beneath my chin, applying gentle yet firm pressure, lifting my head. I drink in the sight of him all the way up. His bare feet, his jean clad thighs, the undone button low on his abs, the thin trail of hair across an otherwise smooth, hard expanse of skin. Higher still, to the planes of his chest, the column of his throat and finally his impossibly handsome face and expressive eyes.

"Will you never see yourself clearly?" He's smiling, though his tone is slightly exasperated.

I don't want to fight so I shrug and try to step around him. He stays directly in my path.

"Bella, we should talk about last night."

I nod and bite my lip, not sure I agree at all but knowing it's unavoidable. Edward will not let what happened last night go without talking about it, and even I know we need to clear the air.

"Okay, I just need…a human minute."

He steps away, allowing me to pass. In my hurry to get away from all this awkwardness, I forget to even grab clothes. My reflection in the bathroom mirror is surprisingly reassuring, still just me. The reflection of the shower behind me is anything except reassuring however, as I remember the way Edward found me. I'm not sure which is worse, the embarrassment, or the disappointing realization that the first time Edward saw me naked wasn't even remotely sexy.

I take care of necessities, wash my face and hands with more force than needed and brush my teeth twice. My hair looks like a lost cause and my hairbrush is in the other room, so I give up and quit stalling. Thankfully my robe is still on the floor. I pull it on, grateful not to have to stumble back into the room still wrapped in a sheet.

Edward is sitting on my bed, leaning against the headboard, looking like every girl's fantasy. A new flood of images from last night leaves me blushing and fidgety. I snag my brush from my desk and purposely sit on the end of the bed where I don't have to look directly at him. I begin trying to work some of the worst of the snarls out, and nervously wait for him to begin.

He obviously senses my reluctance, and I hear him sigh heavily, a sound usually synonymous with the sentence: 'Please be reasonable, Bella.' He doesn't say it though, and I'm extremely glad for the reprieve.

The bed dips slightly as he moves in behind me. His legs sliding out around my hips till his feet come to rest on the floor beside mine, cradling me, my back against his chest. Of course the parallels of this action in comparison to last night are not lost on either of us. My body reacts instantly by trembling slightly, and his freezes like a statue. His reaction lasts only a brief few seconds, and then he is chuckling lightly. He presses a soft kiss to my neck, then slips the brush from my non-responsive and still trembling fingers. Carefully, he begins running it through my hair as I take a ragged breath to calm myself.

"You have the most beautiful hair, Bella, have I ever told you that?"

I shake my head, distracted as always by his touch.

"I wanted to tell you that last night, while we were making love. Apparently though, lust and coherency do not go together." He laughs ruefully. I don't miss that he calls it 'making love' despite the fact the full act never happened. Edward is nothing if not a gentleman.

My cheeks burn, my entire body flushes, tingles. He inhales as though he's dragging my scent in and groans softly.

"I wanted to tell you a lot of things last night, Bella. May I tell them to you now?"

My heart can't take this. It flutters wildly, making me breathe too fast. Somehow I manage to nod.

"You have the most beautiful hair…"

"You already said that," I whisper, not trusting my voice at all.

"I'm starting at the beginning, love, don't distract me." He presses a cold kiss against the nape of my neck and then blows against the dampness. Goose bumps break out over my entire body.

He continues as though I never interrupted him, "The most beautiful skin, so soft and warm and yet flawless, like fine, sun-warmed porcelain. The feel of your skin against mine... Bella, you can't imagine how that feels to me."

I think he's wrong, I can imagine. At least I can if it feels anything at all like the way his skin felt against mine. Not that I can tell him that. Not that I could tell him anything right now when he's stolen my ability to breathe.

Brushing my hair to the side, he presses another kiss against my neck. "The curve of your hips, the inside crease of your elbow, the tiny birthmark on the right side of your spine."

His lips move under my ear, and my heart hammers so loud even I can hear it.

"Not one inch of you is less than perfect, less than exquisite." His mouth brushes my ear, and he whispers, "Thank you, for letting me love you."

I want to turn around and throw myself at him, but I force myself to stay very still while I commit every word he's just said to memory. Later, when I'm alone, I will remember each and every detail of this moment. Right now there are still too many other things left unsaid.

He's silent for a long while, and the soft drag of the hairbrush relaxes me. He patiently works out each tangle, never yanking, and I relax even more knowing that this is what he's waiting for.

"Tell me what happened last night, Bella?" His question is softly spoken, coaxing.

Sighing, I try to find the right words. It's on the tip of my tongue to say I'm sorry, instead I swallow the urge. I am sorry, but only because he had to see me that way. I would have kept some of this from him, but it's out now, and I know I need to be honest.

"I don't know, Edward. I guess everything just came crashing down on me at once. The wedding, our future, our past, and I just…"

Fell apart, had a complete mental breakdown, lost my mind.

I shake my head and pull away from him, moving to the window and opening it. The air outside is warm, and a light drizzle has begun to fall. I breathe it in, trying to clear my head. Edward deserves more than a weak answer like, I don't know.

Slowly, turning to face him once again, I opt for simple honesty. "You left me. I loved you. I trusted you."

The expression of pain on his face hurts my heart. I want to stop, to go to him and tell him that it doesn't matter, except I know he'll only see it for the lie it is. The truth is it does matter because forgiving doesn't mean forgetting.

"You broke my heart."

His eyes stay locked on mine, listening. He nods.

"You broke me."

He winces.

I wait.

He stands slowly, and still his eyes never leave mine. Crossing the room, he stands in front of me and touches my face—just a barely there brush of his fingers against my cheek before lowering his arm to his side again.

"I won't do it again." His words are said quietly, yet with a conviction I can feel as he wills me to believe him.

I think he stops breathing.

Smiling, I slide my arms around his waist. Rising on tiptoe, I brush my lips over his, needing him, needing his touch more than air, more than anything. I close my eyes, breathing in his scent as his arms wrap around me. There is little left to say, just two simple words. I say them quietly, yet with conviction, willing him to believe.

"I know."

He exhales, pulling me closer as we put the past behind us and prepare for the future.

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Thanks for reading.

Aleea