TITLE: Branded

SUMMARY: Bella Swan is "damaged goods", or so she thinks. Running from her past, she meets Emmett McCarty. Can he save her from herself, and from the demons of her past?

PAIRING: Bella/Emmett

WARNING: Smut, and some angst. Rape, self-harm.



A/N: I already have a Bella/Emmett story like this, but hey, it's a good subject to write. Anyway, I'm not going to lie, this is pretty heavy stuff. Of course there will be a smut scene, but you have to get through a LOT of angst and heavy material first.


So this is New York. It's big, it's noisy and above all, it is different from Phoenix, and far from it. Too far to go back, even if I wanted to. The skyscraper residence hall looms above me. I have to report to the front desk. There's already somebody leaning on the counter, chatting to the receptionist. According to the slip of paper I'm clutching, her name should be Esme Cullen. I hope the student finishes soon. I don't want to have to be sociable. I t's the reason I begged (and paid extra) for a single room. I need to be alone. Nobody would actually want to know me. And I need to be alone, because you can't share a room when you're me, and when you cry yourself to sleep every night.

"Can I help you?" Somewhere in the midst of my dreaming, the student at the counter has disappeared. Only the lady with the caramel hair is there, looking at me. I wonder what she sees. It's been three weeks, but the bruises are yellowed and still visible. She looks mildly concerned, and I don't blame her. I'm as pale as a sheet, dark circles under my eyes and the bruises stand out. Thank god for high necks.

"Are you Esme Cullen?"

"Yes. What is it dear?"

"My name's Bella Swan. I was told to check in here. I'm the new girl." The new girl. The curiosity. The freak. It's March. We're half-way through the term, and I am the new girl from Arizona, who moved here with very little explanation. Which is how it will stay. I've practiced the lie so many times, it's believable. A lot of money was involved, because new girls in the middle of the semester do not normally get single rooms. Thank God for Charlie, who is ridiculously rich and agreed to fork out as much as needed, if it got me away from Arizona and Phoenix.

"Of course. You're in Room 80, floor 4. Do you need a hand with luggage?"

"No." I didn't bring much. I wanted to shop as much as possible here, because even my clothes reminded me of it. I've got two suitcases. Little ones.

The room is small but neat. A bed, a desk, a wardrobe, chest of drawers and a little bathroom off to the side. That's good. That's all I needed. Perhaps tonight, the nightmares won't come. Perhaps a new place will help me. I unpack slowly, putting my clothes mostly in the wardrobe. Only my underwear and my night things go in the chest. And the box goes in the bottom drawer.

But not even a new place can help keep me from waking up screaming.


English Literature first thing. My mouth tastes like I don't know what. The room for three is a mess. Man, we need to do some serious tidying up. Although at the moment, there's only two of us. I wake up Edward. He's got a Criminal Psychology class now.

"Edward, get the hell out of bed. You got class, wake up." I tip him onto the floor and he leaps up like he's been shot.

"Aw, Emmett, c'mon!"

"Where's Jazz?"

"I don't know. With Alice, maybe?"

"I do have a life outside Alice, you know." He's standing in the doorway, looking at us both.

"Yeah, sure dude, whatever you say." I head for the bathroom. As I shower, I wonder vaguely who the chick in the entrance hall was yesterday. She looked ill. Like really ill. She was dead pale, dark circles like she hadn't had a good nights sleep in ages and bruises. Lots of bruises. Big shapeless sweater and jeans. Looked really nervous - like a rabbit faced with a fox. But then I shrug her off. She's not my business.

When she stumbles into my English Lit class and says something which is clearly an apology to the teacher, I get a proper look at her. She doesn't just look ill, she looks dead. The lecturer sends her to sit by me, because it's the only open seat in the room, right on the aisle. She trips as she gets to me and I catch her before she falls headlong into my lap. But she looks terrified and pulls herself out of my grip immediately. Her hair is down, and swirls around her face. She's obviously trying to hide the bruises. Maybe she just fell. She stumbled twice on the way out, so she's clearly clumsy. She didn't say a word all class, and sat on the furthest edge of her seat, clearly trying to put as much distance between us as possible. She was as tense as anything all lesson, holding herself very coiled and tight. The second the bell went she shot out of her seat and headed for the door. It was like she was afraid of me.

I tell Jazz and Edward about her in the canteen at lunch. It turns out she's in Edward's creative writing class, and she was fine sitting next to Angela Weber.

"It was really weird. She wouldn't look at me, and she didn't take her eyes off the front all lesson. I swear, if you'd dropped a feather next to that girl, she would have reacted. Every time I shifted, she stiffened. It was like she was afraid of me. And at the start of the lesson, when she came up to sit by me, she tripped, and I caught her, or she would have gone head long. But she pulled herself out of my grip - I didn't even have hold of her that tightly - and looked absolutely petrified." Jazz frowns.

"I saw her earlier, whilst I was walking Alice to class. She's got bruises on her face, right?"

"Yeah, that's her. Pale as a ghost, looks like she hasn't slept in a week."

"Well, she was holding her books in front of her and she was all hunched over them, like she was trying to disappear."

"Maybe she's shy." We hear a clatter in the lunch line, and we see her bending down, looking absolutely mortified, gathering together books and tray. She looks up, and she's bright red and it looks like she's about to start crying. Everybody is staring at her. She goes even redder, thrusts the tray back and bolts for the door. Again, I think of a rabbit in a circle of foxes.

"She can't be just shy." I mutter, almost to myself. Jazz and Edward drop the subject, and start talking baseball. I stay until we're joined by Alice and Rosalie. Alice gives me a hug, just like always, and Rosalie winks. "I'm off, see you guys later."


I want to disappear, right now. Why am I so clumsy? The cafeteria was nothing short of humiliating. I don't even know what happened, but all of a sudden, everything was on the floor and everybody was looking at me. I gathered it all together, hoping against hope that nobody had noticed. But then I looked up, and everyone was staring. The tears are pricking at the backs of my eyes, and I thrust the tray back and bolt for the door.

I go straight up to my room and lock the door behind me. I take the box from the bottom drawer. I lock the bathroom door too.

I draw the blade across the skin of my wrist. I'm crying freely, and my tears mix with the blood flowing into the sink, stinging the new cuts. But I feel lighter. As the blood flows, so does my humiliation in the canteen. I run my wrists under cold water, waiting until they stop bleeding. I put the bandages on. I've become an expert. Not just at hiding the cuts, but dressing them too. It helps. I can forget. The pain writes over the memories, if only for a little while. The pain is black, full of nothing, but reality is red, full of another pain, screams and his face.

The next day in English is worse. My sweater is deliberately too big, too long in the sleeves, in order to hide my wrists. But the boy I sit next to is determined to be sociable. Why is he doing this? I don't even know his name. I don't want him to talk to me.


She looks even paler, if that is even possible. She sits like yesterday, right on the edge of the seat, coiled like a spring. So I decide to talk to her. She's hiding something. Girls don't look so terrified for no reason. And clumsy or not, those bruises do not just come from falling over. Maybe she just needs a friend.

"Hello." I say. Perfect conversation starter. When she doesn't say anything, I decide to carry on regardless. "My names Emmett. What's yours?" She still doesn't answer, and her eyes have taken on a desperate quality. She's scanning the room, almost as if she's searching for something. A way out?

"Miss Swan? Can you tell me the common motif in The Color Purple?" She clears her throat, and her voice is a little rough and quiet. Almost as if she hasn't spoken in some time.

"Betrayal. Pain."

"Very good, Bella, yes." Bella. Her name is Bella. "Ok, for your homework assignment, I want you all to draw a picture of pain." Bella closes her eyes, as if she is suffering. "You have a week. And this time next week, when you hand in your drawings, we'll watch a movie." The bell rings and she bolts, but this time I bolt with her. I catch her up by her locker.

"What do you want Emmett?" Her voice is still rough and cracked, and there are layers and layers of pain in it.

"Just wondering what you're going to draw for pain."

"Red. Red, black and screams." She walks away, shoulders slumped inside the oversized sweater she wears, so long it could be a dress. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

I knock on her door the next day. It's lunch time, and I know for a fact she has creative writing after lunch. I will offer to walk her to class, because by the time we get to the department, it will be time for class. She opens it and looks at me like she doesn't know who I am. Her room is painfully tidy, not a thing out of place, bed perfectly made, no clothes on the floor. Maybe she really is just painfully shy and had OCD. The bruises aren't noticeable.

"Can I help you?"

"Um, I'm Emmett. You're in my English class. We sit by each other."

"Oh…yeah." She looks nervous, and she won't open the door any wider than the security chain will let it go.

"Do you want to walk with me to class?" She shuts the door. I hear the rattle of the chain being taken off, and then she opens it again. She stares at me for a long time.

"Why are you doing this? You're always there. At my locker, in class, and you're always trying to be friendly." She spits the word out like friendly is a poison. "What's it to you what I draw for pain ,or what my name is?!"

"I'm just trying to be nice. I don't know why, but you intrigue me, Bella Swan. You always look so scared. You're like a kitten, or a rabbit, faced with a pack of hungry foxes. What's wrong? Why are you crying?" I ask, in considerable alarm. "Are you hurt? Have you been hurt? Shall I get someone?" I reach out to hug her, feeling desperate to protect her, but she leaps backwards. She looks terrified. Her eyes are huge, too big in her pale face, and she's crying.

"Don't!" she cries, her voice thick with tears, and high pitched with fear. "Don't come near me! Don't touch me!" she slams the door in my face. She's crying really hard now, I can hear her, through the wood. She sounds like she's looking for something. "Where is it, where did I put it?" I hear her open something, and I hear a clatter on the floor. And then theres a thump, and then silence. I get my mobile out and dial.

"Edward, get Carlisle, bring him to Block three, floor four, room 80! There's something seriously wrong with the new girl." I hang up and start hammering on the door. "Bella! Bella! Bella, open this door please, I beg you." To my intense surprise, she rips the door open. She is wild eyes, and nearly hysterical.

"Go away, Emmett! Leave me alone!" She batters at me with everything she has, which incidentally, isn't much. And then I see over her shoulder. There's a blade on the floor. A razor blade. I grab her wrists, intending to stop her attacking me. But she cries out in pain, and I can see by the way she closes her eyes she didn't mean to do it. But she manages to take me by surprise and slams her door again.


He knows, he knows, he knows. The thought screams in my head, and I grab the razor from the floor again. He called me a kitten. That was what Mike called me. He's still banging on the door but I manage to ignore him. But no matter how hard I try, I can't lift the razor to my skin and cut. It's always been so easy, but now, when I really need it, I can't do it. A new voice joins Emmett's outside the door, but I'm just staring at my wrists. The blood from yesterday's cuts is seeping through the bandages. He must have ripped something. I'm bleeding too much, too fast. I'm feeling dizzy. But as the door to my room crashes open, I know I don't want to die.

"Don't let me die." I grab at the front of Emmett's t-shirt as he kneels down beside me. "If I die, he wins. Don't let me die."

"Carlisle! Her wrists!" I don't know why he cares, and I don't care. But he does. There's somebody else standing in the door. But I can't see them. My vision is blurring. "We're not going to let you die Bella. Hold on. Hold on." the blackness swallows me, and Emmett fades out of time, and I drift.

If this is dying, I can handle this. It isn't painful. I can handle death if this is it.


She was unconscious for only a few hours. But I know the image of her lying on the floor with blood seeping through the bandages on her wrists will be burned into my brain until the day I die. They stitched her up, gave her a bit of blood. And then the doctor hauled Carlisle outside, leaving me to stand by her. Carlisle is the campus doctor, Esme's husband, and another father to us all. I could hear them talking.

"She's been doing that for only a few weeks, judging by the age of the oldest scars. And considering that, there is a shocking number of cuts there. Do you know why she's been doing this?"

"She's the new girl. She just moved here from Arizona. I don't know anything about her."

"We can't notify her parents without her permission. She's over eighteen, therefore it is her decision. But when she does wake up, I suggest you send her to see a counsellor at the university. She's clearly got issues."

Yes, she certainly has those. She's so fragile, so small. Or she looks it next to me. I don't know why I insist upon staying. I barely know her. But I am there when she wakes up, because I promised her I wouldn't let her die, and I want her to know I have kept that promise.

BPOVHe's there when I wake up, and in a strange way, I am glad he is.

"Am I dead?"

"No Bella. You're alive. They had to give you some stitches, and some blood, but you'll be fine." He hesitates, and then asks the question I knew he was going to ask. "Bella, when we found you, and you were begging me not to let you die, you said it was because if you died, he'd won. What did you mean?"

"Nothing, Emmett. I didn't mean anything."

"So why have you been…"

"You can say the words Emmett. Why don't you just admit you're disgusted with me, and we won't ever talk to each other again, and we'll both be happy?"

"I'm not disgusted Bella. And I'm not going to walk away. Because that won't make me happy. And it won't make you happy either." I want him to go away, just for a little while, just while I think. And in every book and every film, people close their eyes when they want to be left alone. So I turn my head to the wall, and close my eyes. I hear him creep out, and tell somebody outside the door that I'm asleep. He's the first person to bother about me since I left Phoenix. I don't know how to handle him. People normally just dismiss me as a freak, and leave me to be alone. But not Emmett McCarty.


"She's hiding something Edward. Something big and bad."

"It's not our secret to know. Leave it Em. If she wants to talk to you, she will."

"But what if that sort of thing is why she won't talk about it? What if, because everybody just dismissed her as a freak, or if they just said she'll talk if she wants to? What if I'm there for her?"

"Emmett, she's damaged. I was there, remember? The day we found her. I never seen such pain on one persons face. She's hurt, and badly. And not just on the outside. If you say you'll stay, you'll have to stick it out. No matter what."

"I can do that Edward. For her, I can and I will do that." Whoa. Did I seriously just say "for her."? Apparently, I did. Edward raises an eyebrow.

"You love her then?"

"You know I do."

She comes back to school in time to hand in her English homework. She did it in hospital, and it's like she said it would be. Red, black and with little screaming figures everywhere. I ask her, very gently, if she'll show it to me before she hands it in. Whilst we wait for the lecturer, she agrees.

"Only if I can see yours." I hand her the folded piece of A4, and take hers.

"This is good, Bella." But she doesn't answer. She's leaning forward, and her hands are shaking as they hold the piece of paper. My drawing is a drawing of an angel. But her wings and dress are ripped, and she sits in a graveyard. She is crying, and her wrists are cut and bleeding, and there are bruises on her face. And the expression on the angels face is just like hers when I first saw her in the entrance hall. The angel is Bella. And she is dying. She doesn't say anything, just hands back the piece of paper. It's not until the end she does talk to me.

"Is that what I - is that how I was?"


"We never got to watch that video after all." She says, after a pause. Clearly, the subject of the graveyard angel is closed.

"Nah, he said we'll watch it tomorrow."

"Did he say what it was?"

"No. Come and eat with me and you can meet my friends." It's a spontaneous question, and she looks surprised. But then she smiles - just a tiny, tiny smile, but it's still a beautiful one.


I take her tray through the lunch line, and she looks grateful. Probably remembering that first day. I insist on buying her lunch and lead her to my table. They're all there already, and Bella looks around shyly.

"Guys, meet Bella Swan. Bella, that's Alice and Jasper, and that is Rosalie and Edward. If the lovey-dovey stuff gets too much, just kick them - I do."

"Oh, way to introduce us, Emmett." Rosalie says. She smiles up at Bella, who's smiling nervously, clearly unsure about whether to sit down or not. "Take a seat, take a seat. Like the idiot says, I'm Rosalie. Nice to meet you." Alice has left her seat next to Jasper and dances over to Bella. She gives Bella a big hug, and you hear everybody inhale and hold their breath. But Bella seems relaxed in Alice's arms, and even slips her own around Alice. But when Alice releases her and Jasper holds out his hand she regards it as if it's a live cobra. She nods nervously at him, and whispers hi, but she won't take his hand. Edward, warned by what happened to Jazz, just grins and waves.

"Hey, Bella. Emmett has been dying to introduce you."

"He has?" She sounds a little nervous, and slides her eyes sideways.

"Oh, don't worry, he's harmless."

She doesn't join in the conversation much, but she seems happy enough. When the bell goes, she whispers to me.

"Do you have class now?"

"No, I'm free all afternoon."

"Can you walk back to the dorm with me? I need to give you something."

She hands me the box. I know what's in it. But I open it to check.

"Destroy it, Emmett, please. I'll never have the strength, but you can. Bin it, burn it, bury it - I don't care, but please, I beg you, get rid of it."

"Will you tell me what happened to you?"

"The time isn't right now, Emmett. But maybe one day I will. But I can't now. I'm strong enough."


He is there at every hour of the day. I can call him at midnight, just to talk to him, because I had a nightmare and I'm crying and scared, thinking every shadow hides him and he'll talk to me, soothing and gentle. Even though I never tell him why I cry, why I'm scared, he'll talk to me anyway. And when I see things that remind me of that night, he's there to sooth me, even though I never let him touch me. But I feel safer around him. Because even though I know it isn't possible for Mike to come after me, I still fear that he is somehow following me, even though I've run. He could always outrun me. Always.

It rains the day we finally get to watch the promised movie in English. I sit by Emmett still, and these days, we're closer. But when the opening of the movie starts to roll, I do something I've never done. I reach out blindly and grasp Emmett's hand. He swivels to look at me. He knows there's something wrong, and badly. I never let him touch me, not ever, and I certainly don't initiate physical contact.


She never touches me. Not ever, but suddenly she's clinging to my hand like it is the only thing that is between her a death. She's staring at the projector screen, face white, eyes huge and she's shaking like a leaf and holding me. She flinches when I brush up against her accidentally, for God's sake. The movie starts playing. The Color Purple. We read the book, now we watch the movie, so why is she so scared? And as soon as the face of the father appears on screen, she is out of her chair and out of the door so fast not even the teacher has time to react. I run after her, the students staring like we've gone mad. But, strangely, the only expression on the teachers face is horror and recognition, like he's remembered something just a fraction too late.

I find her in the park. She's crying and when she hears my footsteps, she shoots to her feet and spins found, coiled again to run. But then she see's its me and she just cries. And for the first time, she lets me hug her.

"Bella, you need to tell me what's wrong."

"Can't you figure it out? Hasn't everything already been said?" She walks away, and when I call after her, she doesn't respond, she doesn't turn around.

I'm walking down a dark path. It's dusk but its night under these trees. I have never been here. It's unfamiliar, but it seems to be a park somewhere. But my feet carry me forward, towards a certain point. But I seem to be flying not running. None of the people walking past me acknowledge me. I realise they can't see me. And then I round a corner and see the mouth of the alley opposite me. I head towards it, unable to stop myself. I stop just before the entrance. It's too dark to see anything. But I can hear a girl sobbing, and a mans voice telling her roughly to shut up. People all around me pass the alley, but they don't stop, they don't look around. The sounds from the alley have stopped, and I hear a door close. And them in in a small hallway. The girl is sobbing again, and the sound worms into my brain, magnifying until all I can hear is her desperate sobs and muffled voice. And then she cries out in pain, and I hear her scream.

"PLEASE! Don't…no…" Her sobs start up again, and I round the small corner and se into a dingy little living room. She is trapped under a man, her legs pinned awkwardly. She can't run. And he's obviously hurting her, and he's laughing as she begs him to stop. I don't need a diagram to tell me what he's doing. I try to shout, but my mouth won't work. Her sobs increase in volume, and he pulls out of her, and turns her to face him. He starts up again, but not before he cracks her across the face. I see her head jerk back, too quickly, and her scream of pain. She will have a bruise of her cheekbone. He finishes off, and she cries, pleading, telling him she won't tell anyone what happened, but he has to let her go, please, please, please. But her grabs her arm and shakes her viciously, and then he cracks her head against the hard wood floor. I hear her cry of pain, I feel her hit the floor with a thud when he lets her go. She curls into the foetal position, trying to make herself disappear. But he picks her up and hits her, hard. He punches her full in the face, calling her a whore and a slut and telling her she doesn't deserve to be loved. She screams that she hasn't betrayed him, that she wouldn't do that, but he doesn't stop hitting. He hits and she hurts and I stand in the doorway, powerless to stop him, unable to move, unable to talk, unable to close my eyes. I want to stop him, to grab him myself and rip him apart, but I can't. I feel so useless. When he gets the knife I scream soundlessly, telling him to stop, telling him that he's a dead man. I think he's going to kill her, but he doesn't. he pins her to the floor and he carves the M into her shoulder. She screams and screams. He kisses her, hits her one last time and leave her lying bleeding in the living room. He walks out the house. She staggers out after him a little while later. She reaches the door, and then stops. The squeal of brakes and the thump is unmistakeable. She's naked, but she doesn't seem to care. She staggers toward the street. The womans shriek of horror when she sees her is full of horror and she points at the man in the road and says he raped her. The police and the ambulances begin to arrive. And a naked, hurt, bleeding Bella sits on the kerb in a blanket, and I reach out to her until I begin to fall.

I jerk upright to find Jazz and Edward standing over me. It's dawn.

"Emmett, are you alright?" Jazz asks. "You were shouting in your sleep. We couldn't wake you."

"You were shouting at somebody to stop, to stop hurting her. And you threatened murder." Edward adds. He looks at me oddly. "And you shouted Bella's name."

"I was dreaming. I saw it. I saw her. I know what happened. I need to talk to her."

"Emmett, mate, it was just a dream. It wasn't real." Jazz says, looking at me.

"No, it was more than a dream, it was more like a vision." I roll out of bed and pull me jeans on, and a t-shirt.

"Emmett, are you crazy? You can't wake her up yet, it's five am. At least wait until after breakfast."

There's a timid knock on the door at seven. We're all awake. Jazz and Edward are looking at me like I've lost it. Edward gets up to answer it, still in just his boxers. Alice and Rose are standing in the door. Alice has been crying and Rosalie looks pale.

"What is it, what's happened?" Jasper demands, pulling Alice into his arms. Rosalie talks, her face grim and set.

"It's Bella. She tried to hang herself in her room this morning. They've taken her to the hospital."

She's a broken, fallen angel again. Her neck is bruised and swollen, the cuts livid and red against her skin.

"Carlisle! What happened?"

"Bella tried to kill herself. She has been on school suicide watch since she was hospitalized with her wrists. But she managed to evade us. She wasn't there long Emmett," he says, knowing my unspoken question. "No more than five minutes, probably less."

"How did she get past you?"

"She said she needed to go to the bathroom. But we heard her choking. The only time she was up there was the time it took us to kick the door down. Emmett, you must be very calm. She is stable, and she will be alright, I promise you."

"Can I be with her?"

"Yes, by all means."

She's on a ventilator for a week, because she damaged her windpipe. She won't be able to talk when she wakes up, ad she'll probably be scarred for life. But I need to know why now. What led her to do this. She was getting better. She was. I knew it. But when Edward brings me the letter she received the day before she tried to hang herself, I know exactly why she did it.

It's a news article from a paper. It's a picture of Bella, and then a picture of him. The scum who raped her. His name was Mike, Mike Newton. He was hit by a car just after he attacked Bella, and he died, three days later, in a hospital in Phoenix, Arizona. Bella told her story, and waived her right to anonymity to make sure that everybody knew what had happened. But more than one person thought it was a game gone wrong, and that Bella was lying. With Mike dead, there couldn't be trial, and even though the medical report said Bella had been fighting, struggling to get away, still the whispers of lies continued. The article said that Bella had been brave, highlighting her plight, and that her decision to transfer to NYU had nothing to do with the attack. And on the back of the article, somebody has scrawled in black pen "lying bitch".

So Bella ran from more than just memories. She ran from the people who accused her of lying, the people who persecuted her because she suffered. And even now, even though she's travelled across the states, the people who believe she is a liar continue to follow her, with their words and their lies.

It's a week before she wakes up. She can't say a word, but she looks sad. She mimes writing, and I get her pen and paper.

Why are you still here?

"I care about you. Oh, Bella, why did you do it?"

I can't live through this anymore. Have you figured it out yet?

"Yes. Why didn't you tell me?"

Because saying the words made it real. I should be dead Emmett. What more do I have to do to die? He's won, he won when they first started calling me a liar. Let me die!

"Bella, I will not let you die. And he did not win, Bella, but they will if you die. You have to live, you have to keep on fighting, and you have to survive Bella, because you have to fight. Because I love you, Bella Swan. And I'm never ever going to let you go."

Soft touch. But thanks. But I'm not a fighter. I've lost already. I lost the day he branded me. But I'll hang on, if you promise to stay. You won't leave me will you?

"No, baby. I won't leave you. Not ever."

Do you promise me? Because I can't lose you too. I lost my friends after Mike. Some of them thought I was lying, but some of them didn't understand why I couldn't talk to them. They didn't understand. And I lost everybody. I can't lose you too.

"I swear to you Bella Swan. I'm never, ever going to leave you. I can't. I love you."

Thank you. And Emmett?


Love you too.

It's enough. Someday, Bella will trust me completely. And I'm prepared to wait until that happens.


JPOVThe church looks amazing. Emmett looks nervous and excited at the same time. He's standing at the alter, fiddling nervously with the rose in his button hole, and I am standing next to him. Rosalie and Edward are in the front row, Rosalie carrying her baby bump high and proud. Alice is with Bella. And then the music starts and everyone bar Rose, who has trouble getting up and down in the extremes of her pregnancy, gets to their feet and turns towards the doors. Alice dances down the aisle first, wearing a gold gown, and carrying beautiful white roses. She beams at Emmett, winks at me and steps aside. And then Bella comes in. She's wearing white and carrying red. She smiles shyly at the people in the church who meet her eyes. Emmett's mouth is hanging open, staring dumbstruck at the woman who has agreed to make him the happiest man on Earth. She reaches the alter and conjures up the most breathtaking happy smile for Emmett. She's happy, and that, after all these years of sadness, is all that matters to Emmett.

"We are gathered here today to witness this man and this woman…" The vicar starts his speech but I don't hear him. Bella and Emmett are staring at each other as if they've been in the dark for years and they've just seen the sun. they ooze love. Edward is grinning manically, and Rose is already blubbing. Alice catches me eyes, and looks at me, and smiles softly.

"Emmett McCarty, do you take Isabella Swan to be your lawful wedded wife, in sickness and in health, until death shall do you part?"

"I do." Emmett's voice is so full of love, it nearly makes me laugh. But instead I just smile indulgently at them both.

"Isabella Swan, do you take Emmett McCarty to be your lawful wedded husband in sickness and in health, until death shall do you part?"

"I do." She whispers, shyly.

"I now declare you man and wife. You may kiss the bride." Emmett lifts her veil, and takes her face in his hands like she'll break apart at anything stronger than a feather touch. He leans down, and he kisses her, and the church erupts with applause as Bella puts her arms around his neck and he sweeps her off her feet and kisses her again.


She's beautiful. I remember her standing on the deck of the liner, waving to Alice and Jasper, Edward and Rosalie. Her face was alight with joy, and she was laughing when I came up behind her and slipped my arms around her waist. I kiss her as the fireworks the guys paid the crew to set off exploded. The lights explode and the others scream goodbye and we wave until they're too small to see. I'm taking her on a cruise to the Mediterranean. She will like the sun, because I know she misses it sometimes. I carry her over the threshold of the cabin, and put her down in the middle of the floor.

"I'm going to go take a shower." she whispers, and breezes off to the bathroom. It is our wedding night, and I have never gone beyond lying with her in bed, kissing her softly. Whenever we try to take it further, she has to stop, because it reminds her of him. But I don't judge her for that, and I never force her. I don't care if she never lets me touch her, she has agreed to marry me, and she loves me and that would be enough to last me a life time.

When she opens the bathroom door, I glance up involuntarily. And freeze frame on her. She's wearing only her underwear, and she nods at me.

"I'm ready."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes." I get up, and I kiss her, and then I take her to bed.

We don't have sex - she's far too good for that. We make love, and I caress and kiss every inch of her. I even kiss the ugly M on her shoulder, because that is part of her too. But I want her to stop avoiding it. She cries softly through it, but I know she doesn't want me to stop. I slide inside her slowly, never taking my eyes off her face, knowing that I will have this as her ideal first time, no matter what else has happened. She smiles when I'm inside, and moves her hips first. It's sweet and gentle and slow, just me, her, her wet heat that engulfs me like a glove. And when she comes with me inside her, the look of bliss and peace on her face, and finally in her eyes, that is enough for me. I love her as I ride the waves with her, and she strokes me face and wipes away my tears, telling me that it's alright. I hold her throughout the night, and when we get up in the morning, I think that I have married an angel.

I give her the picture six months later, just as we dock back in New York. Rose and Edward and their little daughter Mary Isabella Alice are waiting - and they scream with delight when they see Bella bump. She's six months pregnant. And they tell us that Alice and Jasper wanted to be here, but Alice went into labour this morning and has just had a baby boy, who they named John Edward. When we wait to visit the proud new parents I give her a folded sheet of A4. It's the same angel, but now her wings and dress are whole, her wrists are unmarked and she is laughing. And she looks happy. She is sitting in a rose garden, her head bent over her bump.

She will always be my angel, and when she kisses me, I know I am the luckiest man alive.