Title: A Madman's Mercy (Ch 14)

Authors: Amethyst Jackson and Jacyevans

Rating: M/NC-17

Category: Angst, Drama

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Summary: New Moon AU - After leaving Bella, Edward gradually loses control of his ability. When he is led to believe that she is dead, Edward cracks, leaving Bella as the only one who can pick up the pieces.

Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Stephenie Meyer. We're just playing in her sandbox.

Chapter 14

Edward and I stood on the dock waiting for Alice and Jasper to arrive. I was trying to brace myself for Alice's inevitable interrogation, but my thoughts continuously returned to the shower we'd just left and the water running in rivulets down Edward's body. I glanced over at him to find him already looking back at me. Edward smiled and held out his hand, which I took gladly.

"You don't have to tell her anything if you don't want to," Edward said, squeezing my hand. I looked down at our intertwined fingers; his hand was so much larger than mine.

"I think I want to talk to her about some of it. Is that okay?" I asked, meeting his eyes. I didn't want to violate his privacy...perhaps he didn't want Alice to know what we'd been doing.

"Of course it's okay." His thumb rubbed my hand reassuringly. "I'm glad you feel like you can talk to Alice. You should have someone you can talk to about...well, everything."

"Thank you," I said. More and more lately, it became clear to me that Edward was always thinking of me – my needs, my wants, the things I didn't even realize I needed or wanted – and I wondered just how oblivious I'd been not to notice before. It was also humbling. As much as I'd loved him as a human, I was more convinced than ever that I'd never deserved him. I'd been so wrapped up in my own view of our relationship, what I believed to be the correct view, that I'd never spent much time considering his side of things.

I still knew I'd been right – wanting him to change me, wanting forever – but I should have spent more time listening to him, looking at things from his perspective. And I would now.

"Are you going to be all right today? You struggled last time with…the noise."

He shrugged. "Alice can be quite loud in her own mind, but I can handle it. And Jasper is always easy to be around – when he wants to be, anyway."

I smiled at that. "What happens if you really, really piss Jasper off?"

He winced. "If he's out-of-control angry, everyone gets a little irritable. If he's in control, he'll make you miserable. Literally."

"Note to self – do not make Jasper angry. Will not like Jasper when angry."

I smiled to myself when he chuckled. I loved making him laugh. "Will you go to hunt on the mainland again?"

"Probably. I don't want to deplete the wildlife population on the island to the point where you have to go too long between feedings."

"Don't worry about me," I insisted. "I don't want you suffering because you have to wait to go to the mainland."

"That's the thing, Bella. I'm used to going a while without feeding – the pain isn't as bad for me as it would be for you if you had to go several weeks right now."

"If you say so." I squeezed his hand to let him know I appreciated the sentiment. "Where are they, anyway? I've never known Alice to be anything less than perfectly punctual."

Edward's lips twitched. "They're almost here – I can hear them. Jasper stalled her. He was worried we wouldn't be…presentable in time, based on his experience with newborn vampires. Alice has the boat at full speed trying to get here, though."

"You can hear the boat?" I couldn't hear anything but the usual sounds of the ocean before us and the forest behind us. Maybe I was defective.

"Not the boat. Their thoughts."

My head swiveled toward him. "Wow. I didn't realize just how far away you could hear people. You can't hear the mainland from here, can you?"

He shook his head. "No, not at all. I can only hear Alice and Jasper from so far away because their minds are very familiar to me."

"Hmm." I leaned against his shoulder, not satisfied with merely holding his hand. "It must get exhausting hearing everyone around you. Trying to process all that information…trying to protect their privacy."

Edward pressed his cheek against the top of my head. "It can be difficult, yes."

"Difficult," I snorted. Despite the understatement, I could hear the near century of struggle in his voice. At that moment, I resolved to work a thousand times harder on my own gift. I couldn't give Edward much, but maybe I could give him a reprieve from the voices, even beyond the point when he regained control of his ability.

A distant rumble reached my ears, and I focused my eyes on the horizon. I knew the sound of that engine. It took another couple minutes for the boat to come in sight, a small shape on the water. Even so, my vampire eyes could clearly make out Alice at the wheel waving at us, with Jasper seated next to her, smiling fondly at her exuberance.

I glanced at Edward, and it was impossible to miss the tension in his face, a tightening around the eyes, a stiffness in his smile.

"I'm fine," he said, catching my look. "Alice is very excited today. It'll be better once she calms down. And they both have a lot of…questions for us."

"Both of them?" I expected an inquisition from Alice, but Jasper never seemed like the nosy type.

"Don't worry. Jasper's not going to ask you anything directly. He has his own way of getting answers."

I could just imagine.

We stood quietly as the boat came into the small harbor formed by the island. As soon as they were docked at the short pier, Alice came bounding toward us, arms outstretched.

She hugged us both together, her head nestled between ours, and I had a flashback to my early childhood when I still dared to dream that my parents might be together again – how it would be to know they were together and all was right with the world.

Apparently, Alice had similar feelings.

"You both look…so much better," she said, pulling away with a little sigh. I glanced at Edward, and his expression made my lips twitch.

"Thanks, Alice," I said. "Were we looking that bad before?"

She shrugged, and Jasper approached behind her, offering us a relaxed grin.

"You were both kind of a mess for a while," Alice said, and I had to acknowledge that. I was the one who'd been jumping off cliffs, after all.

Jasper arched an eyebrow. "In more ways than one. The mood on this island has vastly improved, I must say."

I smiled, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edward smiling, too. There was so much smiling all around that it was starting to feel like too much – like it might snap if I wasn't careful.

"Okay, Bella, I can't take it anymore," Alice declared, grabbing me by the arm. "It's time for girl talk. Boys, behave yourselves."

"Yes, ma'am," Jasper said, and I managed to squeeze Edward's hand before I was dragged away from him. The loss of that simple touch became a pang in my chest, and I was grateful that I would have years on this island to get my fill of him.

Alice took me across the island to a more secluded beach. I'd seen it on my explorations but never spent much time there. Someone in years past had made a makeshift fire-pit with sections of a tree trunk as seating. She tugged me to sit and I did so a little too immediately, causing the wood beneath me to crack.

"Nice," Alice chuckled.

"Hey! Take it easy, I'm still new at this," I shot back. Breaking things was actually something of a rarity for me, but of course it would happen now that I had a new audience.

"I know. It's a little too easy to forget, actually. You're so…calm. Most newborns are like…well, have you ever seen a human on meth?"

My eyes widened. "That bad?"

Alice nodded. "Frenetic, irrational, violent – a perfect storm of instability. And the fact that they're too strong to be controlled just exacerbates things exponentially."

I looked down at my hands in my lap, contemplative. "Why do you think I'm not like that?"

"Who knows? Maybe it's because you haven't really been exposed to a live human; maybe you're just special. I'm guessing it's the latter."

"Maybe," I said, unconvinced.

Alice shook her head and sat up straighter. "Never mind that now. We have something much more important to talk about."

I waited for a blush that never came.

"Well?" Alice demanded. "Last time we talked, you were kind of unsure. Then last night…I don't need the gory details. There are things a girl never wants to know about her brother. But I am curious as to how things are going."

"After you called the first time, we talked…I'm starting to understand better. And we're moving forward. But the day after was kind of…intense."

An arched eyebrow was Alice's response, and I shook my head. "Not that kind of intense. Everything was just so sudden and I kind of had a meltdown where I managed to drop my shield so Edward could hear my thoughts…and he asked me to show him what it was like for me when he left."

"Oh boy." I smiled wryly; Alice could guess how he'd reacted.

"Yeah. He was…upset. But after he apologized again, he decided to make sure I'd never have any reason to doubt his feelings for me again…and since then, things have been more the good kind of intense."

Alice grinned at that, but her deep-gold eyes remained serious. "I've never really apologized to you for what happened, have I?"

"It wasn't your fault," I said automatically.

"No, but I should have done more. I should have told you what he intended to do. I owed you that, and I failed you."

"He's your brother, Alice. I don't blame you for doing what he asked."

"Maybe you should. I knew what Edward was doing was wrong, and I owed it to him as much as to you to prevent it. I tried to tell him, but he wasn't in any frame of mind to listen. And Jasper was such a mess at that time…I let it happen because I figured he would come to his senses quickly. Maybe I wasn't looking hard enough, but I didn't see what it would do to him, and I didn't see what it would do to you in the long term."

"You did the best you could. I'm starting to think maybe it's all for the best that it happened this way. I mean, if Edward had come back to me on his own, he still would have wanted to keep me human. And if I hadn't seen what happened when Edward thought I was dead, I'd have a harder time believing the truth than I already do."

"Is it still so hard for you to believe?"Alice asked sadly.

"It's Edward. A part of me will always think he's too good to be true."

Alice smiled at that.

"It's not very feminist, is it? I should be thinking that of course Edward would want me, of course I deserve all that and more…but he deserves the best, too."

"Well, he has it," Alice said, giving my arm a squeeze. "So, your shield. You're making progress, then?"

"Sort of." I kicked at the sand around my feet. "That first time, it dropped completely, but I have to work really hard to push it away now. Sometimes I can keep it up long enough to share a memory with Edward, but usually it just…snaps right back automatically."

"Hmm." Alice looked out to the water. "You said it just dropped when you had your meltdown. Are there any other times when it's easier?"

I bit my lip, and it gave me away.

"Tell me," Alice said with a nudge to my side. "Maybe I can help."

"Well," I fiddled with the hem of my shirt, "It slips sometimes without my noticing when Edward and I are…um…"

"Ohh. That makes sense."

I shot her a skeptical glance. "It does?"

Alice nodded. "It sounds to me like you have an easier time when your guard is down. When you're in the middle of a really emotional moment, you allow yourself to be vulnerable. And those other times…well, let's just say you're opening yourself up to Edward a bit more than usual."

I winced at the innuendo. "Alice."

"Bella, you're going to have to get used to the idea that in this family, there is no privacy. With a mind-reader, an empath and a psychic in one house, added to the fact that we all have exceptional hearing, everyone always knows everyone else's business."

"Does it ever make you crazy?" I wondered. I didn't know how I would handle everyone knowing what went on between Edward and me. Just the thought of Carlisle or Esme overhearing us made me cringe.

"Sometimes, but the lack of privacy makes us all pretty respectful of each other. We try not to listen or see things we shouldn't, and we don't bring it up. Well, save Emmett. He can be a loud-mouth."

"No, really?" I deadpanned.

"Shocking, I know." Alice's eyes lost focus for a moment, seeing something far beyond me sitting beside her. "The boys will be back in about an hour. Want to show me around the island before they get here? I've never really explored it before."

"Sounds great."

By the time Jasper and Edward returned, Alice and I were lying out on the beach in front of the house, taking in the sun. I managed not to look up when I heard the boat pulling in, but when I heard footsteps in the sand, I couldn't keep from pushing up on my elbows and looking for Edward. His warm smile took me back to a time when our relationship was new…and I realized it still felt new. Maybe it always would.

Edward sank to the ground beside me and before I could wonder whether I should lean over and kiss him like I wanted, his lips were on mine. The pressure of his mouth probably seemed chaste to Alice and Jasper, but I could feel the urgency that lay beneath.

He'd missed me. I smiled against his lips, glad I wasn't the only one who didn't care for separation.

"Get a room, you two," Jasper teased. We broke apart and I ducked my head, embarrassed, but Edward reached past me to shove at Jasper's shoulder.

"Last I checked, we had a whole island," he retorted.

"So sorry," Jasper said in a tone that was distinctly not sorry.

"Speaking of the island," Alice piped up, "Esme and Carlisle are on their way down to Rio. They would have been down sooner, but Carlisle had to square things away at Cornell. Esme's just dying to see you both. You know how she worries."

Edward winced. "Yes, I know very well."

"I'd like to see Esme and Carlisle," I said, glancing at Edward. He didn't seem perturbed by the notion.

"They'll both be relieved to see you doing so well together," Alice said. "Carlisle was frantic before."

"I know," Edward said broodingly. "I heard his thoughts."

I squeezed Edward's hand, hardly able to imagine what he'd suffered. Even through the dull filter of human memory, I could still see him cringing in the corner of that small room in Denali, and it was something I never wanted to see again.

Alice and Jasper left in the evening. I could tell Alice wanted to stay, but Jasper could feel my need to be alone with Edward, or perhaps Edward's need to be alone with me, judging by the way his touches had lingered all afternoon.

We remained in the sand on our backs, watching the stars appear. It still amazed me how much I could see with my new eyes, how the stars had distinct shapes, different colors. I could now tell the difference between the light of stars and the reflections of planets and satellites. And the moon was so very clear, its geography evident from where I sat.

"It's really beautiful," I said, turning my head toward Edward. Of course, he was already looking at me, smiling in a way that left me breathless. I saw the words on his lips and shook my head.

"Don't say it," I warned him. "It's too cheesy."

Edward arched an eyebrow. "Too cheesy to say I find you far more beautiful than some balls of hydrogen out in space?"

"Well, when you put it that way…" I laughed. "More beautiful than a ball of hydrogen. That might be the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me."

He turned onto his side and trailed the back of his hand over my cheek, much as he'd done back when I was first learning what he was. "And if I said I find you more beautiful than anything else in this universe?"

My mouth went dry at the naked adoration in his eyes. "That…would definitely be the sweetest thing anyone's ever said to me."

Edward remained somber. "It's not sweet. 'Sweet' implies that I'm being overly kind. I'm not. I'm simply telling you the truth."

My breath hitched, Edward's scent catching in my throat, and my body tingled with awareness. "I swear, my heart still skips a beat when you say things like that."

He leaned forward until our noses touched. "I hope it always will. I don't know how I could ever do without seeing the look you're giving me right now."

I tilted my head to brush my lips against his, now so soft and pliable under my own. Edward threaded his fingers through my hair and held me to him, deepening the kiss with a sweep of his tongue across my lips. I opened my mouth to him, eager for his sweet, perfect taste, and the warm, wet rasp of his tongue against mine made my arousal flare.

He pulled my bikini-clad body closer and I curled my hand around his side, feeling hard muscle through the thin cotton of his shirt. I fisted my hand in the material and heard it rip. The corner of Edward's mouth lifted in a smile against mine and he pulled back slightly.

"At this rate, I won't have a single scrap of clothing to wear off this island," he teased. I waited to feel pain at the thought of leaving the island, but it never came.

Finally, I wasn't afraid anymore. The future no longer seemed something uncertain or a thing to dread – because I would be with Edward, wherever I went. The realization meant I couldn't care less about Edward's shirts, or lack thereof.

"I'm ready, Edward," I murmured, my words barely intelligible against his kisses.

He pulled back again, his brow furrowed. "Ready?" It brought to mind a night not so long ago when Edward lay in my bed with me for the first time and told me sex would never be possible for us.

"I'll show you," I said as my body buzzed with anticipation. Looking into his eyes, I shoved as hard as I could at my shield and showed him what I wanted tonight.

He stopped breathing, stilled entirely, his lips parted and his eyes darkening with desire at the images – fantasies – I showed him. I could feel the tension in his arms as his grip tightened on my hips.

I gave him flashes – imaginings of his body bare in the moonlight, his shoulders flexing above me, his skin sliding against mine, how it would feel when he pushed inside me the first time –

Edward groaned and pinned me to the ground with his heavy body, his arousal evident as it pressed against my stomach. His hands slid beneath me to hold me against him. I ran my hands over his shoulders and down his back, stopping just shy of his shorts.

"You're ready," he said. I didn't think there could be any question of that now, but I nodded anyway. A slow smile spread across his lips, and my desire flared like embers stoked in a fire.

Edward lowered his head and stopped just shy of kissing me, his lips ghosting against mine as he spoke.

"Oh, Bella. I am so very, very ready."

To Be Continued