Disclaimer: I do not own any part of this story. It all belongs to the wonderful Stephenie Meyer. Thank you for inspiring me! Most dialogue is from Chapter 27 in Eclipse.
The extract of poetry is from John Donne's Sweetest Love, I Do Not Go
Author's Note: Here's the next one folks! And I have to say I've been dying to write this from the beginning. What can I say? I'm a sucker for angst! I hope you like it and I'm really eager to see what you all have to say about it… Please review and leave me your thoughts. They make me very happy.
Thank you to Subtlynice for being an awesome beta as usual!
I stared into the lush, green forest from my bedroom window not really seeing anything. So much had happened in the few short hours that we had left the battle site that I couldn't believe it was still the same day. I couldn't feel physical tiredness but my mind was nearly at a breaking point. It had certainly been an emotionally exhausting day.
I felt a pang as my mind returned to Bella. If I was feeling drained there was no saying how difficult this was for her. For the thousandth time I hated myself for having to put her though this ordeal. The agonizing decision she had to make, the horror of having an army after her, the terror of having to see her best friend, a man she loved nearly die... all my fault. My Bella was strong though. She looked shaky around the edges and I knew it wouldn't be long before she completely fell apart but inside I was blown away by her strength to even attempt handing all that she had.
I did not deserve this woman.
I was restless not knowing how she was. I knew she was at La Push this very moment. I couldn't find it in myself to grudge her this particular visit. If I didn't know that she would inevitably go there, I would have suggested it myself.
I just... wanted to be near her to take away the hurt when she told Jacob her decision. I knew it wasn't easy for her. I knew this would break her heart. And I wanted to be there to hold her together.
But even I knew it would be a mistake to be there.
I had to let her do this on her own. They both needed the closure. And it would be the epitome of selfish if I were to rub it in Jacob's face at this moment that she was with me. That she was mine.
As unbelievably relieved I was that she chose me, that she saw me worthy of bestowing her love upon despite the other choice that was so readily available to her, I looked at it not with crowing triumph, but with awed solemnity. This was not a game, it never had been one and Bella was not a prize we were both competing for. She was a woman we were both in love with, a woman we both sought after and whom we had dedicated our hearts and lives to. I was tired of fighting like an immature child.
Something had changed in the aftermath of Bella's kiss with Jacob. Perhaps it was that I had taken for granted the fact that until that point she had only loved me. Jacob Black was an irritating distraction until then with only the threat of being a rival. But there, on that mountain he had morphed into the rival. The rival I knew was a well matched one.
Knowing that she loved him too, made him look different in my eyes. It was not logical, I knew and the more rational reaction would have been to be jealous out of my mind and physically harm him for laying a hand on my love. But I simply could not hate what she loved. With that I had finally made peace. In his eyes I saw nothing but the same desperate love I harboured for Bella. It was something I understood and on a certain level I wished he did not have to endure heartache as severe as this. For I knew what it was like to love her and then lose her. I didn't wish that on anyone.
Leaning my head on the cool glass of my room, I thought back to when I accompanied Carlisle to La Push to tend to Jacob. It had been difficult. Though I had accompanied my father on some of his rounds at hospitals when I was studying medicine and had seen and heard countless thoughts of pain through my own eyes as well as those who were feeling it, watching Jacob's contorted face and agonized shrieks had been hard. I felt a strange kinship with him – perhaps of all that we had shared and all that we had been through together – and I couldn't help the surge of worry I felt when I saw his broken body. I had been anxiously scanning Carlisle's thoughts and trying to see with what I knew if he would be truly all right. It had only been after we left that I realized how concerned I had been.
I knew it wasn't simply because I knew Bella was worrying herself to death over his condition. It was something other than that...
Alice's troubled voice roused me out of my reverie in an instant as the image that I had been expecting for the last hour swam through my mind.
Bella, hunched over the steering wheel in her truck, sobbing as if her heart would break...
With a barely coherent word of thanks to my sister I was out of the front door and making my way towards the Quileute boundary in seconds.
I pulled the door open and slipped into the passenger seat, pulling her shaking body into my arms. She held onto me and rested her head on my chest, not once stopping her sobs.
I said not a word. I knew she needed my silence. Though I physically ached to see her hurting like this I kept my mouth shut.
After what seemed like an age she whimpered Charlie's name. I knew she was telling me she needed to get home. I looked at her dubiously.
"Are you really ready to go home?" She looked a mess and I wasn't sure if she could handle pretending she was fine around her father. I would call Alice and ask her to fabricate whatever she had to if Bella wanted to stay at my house for the night.
"N-N-No," she stammered. "I'm not r-r-ready. But this – I need – this won't s-s-stop soon and I-I- just need to g-g-get home. T-T-Take me home Edward, p-p-please."
"Shh love, anything you want," I said, my heart breaking at her tired and defeated tone. I lifted her onto the passenger seat and switched to drive. She clung to me all the while and I kept my arm wrapped around her.
We pulled up outside her house. She detached herself from me and took a deep breath, roughly wiping her face with her hands. It was fruitless as the tears kept flowing.
"Wait for me upstairs," she mumbled, her tone pleading. As if I would be anywhere else but by her side tonight.
I hugged her close and willed whatever strength I had to flow into her. She would need it.
I scaled her wall and was in her room in an instant. I seated myself on her bed, one ear on the conversation between Charlie and her.
I was worried. While I knew she needed to come to terms with this on her own, I worried if she could take it. She was strong, that was undeniable but could her mind handle so much grief?
My phone suddenly chirped indicating a text message.
She will be fine Edward. Just give her time.
Downstairs I could hear Charlie's panic at the sight of her face. In an instant his mind went to the day, many months ago, when Bella awoke from her stupor and refused to leave Forks with her mother. I cringed as his frantic memory assaulted me.
"I'll be in my room," I heard her say, her voice trembling, the poor facade slipping.
She stumbled into the room moments later, her shaking fingers prying at the bracelet at her wrist.
"No, Bella," I whispered, gently stopping her hands. I knew what she was trying to do. She was trying to wipe every trace of Jacob Black from her life starting with the material ones. But I knew that wasn't the healthy way for her to overcome this. "It's part of who you are."
I pulled her into my arms as she fell apart again. I carried her onto her bed and settled her onto my lap, rocking her back and forth, cradling her in my arms as if she was a child.
It went on and on... The minutes ticked by as the night melted into the early hours of the morning when the world was deathly quiet save for one girl and her shuddering sobs. They never wavered and I could do nothing but hold my love as she shattered in front of me, in my very arms.
At one point I thought I would break apart myself at the violence of her anguish. I clutched her closer to me and rubbed her back while she continued to weep.
Slowly the intensity of her sobs began to diminish and I ran my hand through her hair. I could feel the blood pounding in her head and I knew she must have a raging headache. I pressed my lips to her forehead and gently continued to rock her as the sobs slowly grew less in volume.
I was about to lay her down so she would be in a more comfortable position to sleep when she fisted the front of my shirt and began to wail in earnest again. She shook her head where it was burrowed in my chest almost as if she were trying to rid herself of whatever was tormenting her or as if she were denying something terrible.
This second wave of her frenzied sobs truly scared me. I had never seen her like this and I was afraid she was losing her mind.
"Bella shhh love," I crooned in her ear, hugging her to me as tightly as I dared. "You're going to make yourself ill..."
My pleas fell on deaf ears as she continued to cry and cry.
I honestly felt as if I was going to lose my mind. I could fight any force, supernatural or human but this, this grief, this sheer torture that she was going through I was helpless against. Her every tear was a knife through my heart, each shudder a burn.
When thou sigh'st, thou sigh'st not wind,
But sigh'st my soul away;
When thou weep'st, unkindly kind,
My life's blood doth decay.
If I could take her pain and make it my own I would have done it in a proverbial heartbeat. But I couldn't. Was this my penance for all I had put her through? To listen to her agony, to feel the tremors wrack through her body and feel hopelessly powerless. I would gladly take whatever punishment the Fates had in store for me if only, please God, she would be put out of this suffering.
"Hush my love," I couldn't help saying. "Please… What can I do?"
Her only answer was to drag her hands to the back of my head and fist them in my hair. She moved impossibly closer to me and all but welded her body to mine as my name fell in broken sobs from her lips.
Was she making the right choice? This had been revolving in my mind from the moment I brought her home. If it was causing her this much agony how could it be the right choice? That choice should be one that brought her joy and happiness and this was a far, far cry from it. Should I insist that she return to the arms of Jacob Black? My arms instinctually held her tighter.
Regardless of all I said, she had never shed tears like this in his company, never felt this much misery. No, that prize went to me. Since we met, I was the one to bring doubts to her mind and tears to her eyes. I was not worth it.
Clearly she needed me tonight. But come morning and I would have to ask her, just to make sure, that she knew exactly what she wanted. I could never live with myself I condemned her to a life of eternal pain.
Her grip around my neck was slowly loosening. I bent her backwards slightly, her head cradled in my hand to get a look at her face. Her eyelids were drooping and her breath was hitching as her body forced her to calm down.
I stood, lifting her with me and drew her covers back with one hand before slipping her under the sheets. I was suddenly hit with a sense of déjà vu as I remembered going through these identical motions when I brought her back from our fight training with the wolves. As I had that time, I gently removed her shoes and placed her legs on the bed. I arranged her pillow so she was comfortable and then glanced at her face. Her eyes were swollen and her cheeks a maze of tear tracks.
"Give me a moment," I breathed in her ear, even though I knew she was only half conscious, and disappeared for a second returning with a bowl of warm water and a towel. I sat by her side and gently wiped her face and eyes hoping this would ease the discomfort when she eventually woke up. She whimpered as the towel left her face and I was back in the bed with her as soon as I possibly could.
She moulded herself around me, resting her head on my shoulder. I adjusted so that I could place my arm on her back when I noticed she was shivering. Not wanting to chill her, I tried to move away but the hand she had thrown across my midsection tightened.
"Stay..." she whispered.
"I won't leave you, love," I told her.
"You'll be cold."
"Hold me, Edward," she said, fighting her fatigue.
I acquiesced, thinking I would move away so she would warm up once she fell asleep.
"Always love," I said. I would always hold her, support her as long as she wanted me to. "Sleep now..."
I softly hummed her lullaby in her ear as her breathing slowed and regulated. Finally her grip on my shirt loosened as she fell asleep.
I expected her to immediately fall into a deep slumber since she had exhausted herself but her anguished thoughts seemed to have followed her into unconsciousness. She was restless and fidgeted and I crooned soft words of how I would never let her go to help her calm down.
My beautiful Bella... How unfair the world was that it let someone as selfless and giving as she was suffer this way? I brushed her hair away as I gazed into her face. It was gaunt and her eyes were puffy but she was still the most breathtaking being I had ever laid eyes on. She tried countless times to convince me that she was nothing but average but I tried just as hard to make her see otherwise. It was her beautiful heart and mind that gave her an inner radiance that shone through, shedding its light on pitiful creatures like myself to be redeemed.
And yet, as I caressed the apple of her cheeks I couldn't help but notice that she looked so much older than when I first met her. The past year had hardened her. Her idealistic innocence had all but morphed into a more guarded and slightly weary mask of maturity. My idiocy and the chaos of the past few months had taken its toll on her. And I lamented the loss of her simple look on life. She should have still been carefree and making the most of her life like her other friends. Her other human friends. Instead she devoted herself to me...
I kissed her softly so as not to awaken her. My angel needed her rest.
I hoped the morning would bring some peace for her.
She began to stir, her heartbeat telling me that she was beginning to wake. I frowned. Considering how physically and emotionally exhausted she had been this was certainly not enough sleep. Was she going to fall apart again?
I tensed as her doe eyes opened and looked into mine. The haunted look that had entered her face yesterday evening had not left.
"Hey," she said, her voice impossibly hoarse.
I didn't trust the words that would potentially leave my mouth. I braced myself, waiting for it to begin again.
As if she read my mind she answered, "No, I'm fine. That won't happen again."
Why was she making it sound like she did something wrong?
"I'm sorry you had to see that," she said, softly, her eyes casting downwards. "That wasn't fair to you."
Of all the –
I clasped the face I loved so much and forced the words out. I promised myself I would ask.
"Bella are you sure? Did you make the right choice? I've never seen you in so much pain –" my voice broke as images of her broken figure swam in my mind.
Her finger touched my lips and she answered me, firmly. "Yes."
"I don't know," I said. I kissed her finger softly. "If it hurts so much how can it possibly be the right thing for you?"
"Edward, I know who I can't live without."
Surely that wasn't a reason.
"You don't understand," she said. "You may be brave enough or strong enough to live without me, if that's what's best."
This had to be a joke. Did she not know that my life would be empty and that I would be even more of a husk than I was before I met her?
"But I could never be that self-sacrificing. I have to be with you. It's the only way I can live," she continued.
I looked at her, trying to see what she wasn't telling me... I still wasn't sure. She was in agony last night. How could that be right?
"Hand me that book will you?" she asked, pointing over my shoulder.
I looked to see what she was pointing at and my gaze fell on her tattered copy of Wuthering Heights.
"This again?" I asked, as I gave it to her.
"I just wanted to find this one part I remembered... to see how she said it..." She flipped through the pages as I continued to stare at her. "Cathy's a monster, but there were a few things she got right."
She found her page and read off of it.
"If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger."
She raised her gaze to meet mine and placed a hand on my cheek. "I know exactly what she means. And I know who I can't live without," she said, repeating her earlier words.
I understood what she was trying to tell me. And I couldn't help the surge of relief that swelled through me. For all the times that we had shared and the countless ways we had both professed our love for each other, there was something deeper and more intense in this moment. The unspoken promise of commitment and mutual healing embraced us in the aftermath of sorrow and pain.
I took the book from her hand and flung it onto her desk. Placing a hand beneath her back I raised her so she was sitting and wrapped my arms around her waist. I felt my mouth curl into a smile as I gazed at the woman I loved.
"Heathcliff had his moments too." I said. Bending to whisper in her ear, I fervently repeated the words from memory, "I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!"
As the words left my mouth, I acknowledged how true they were. I was nothing without Bella. Were she to leave me then I would cease to be a recognizable being.
"Yes," she agreed. "That's my point."
"Bella I can't stand for you to be miserable. Maybe..."
"No, Edward," she said, cutting off my suggestion that she possibly could still salvage her friendship with Jacob. "I've made a real mess of things, and I'm going to have to live with that. But I know what I want and what I need... and what I'm going to do now."
"What are we going to do now?"
She smiled and then sighed... Why?
"We are going to see Alice."
A small laugh escaped me. Yes, my sister would be a force to reckon now that she had a wedding to plan.
"Human moment?" she asked me.
"Of course," I said, helping her disentangle herself from me and stand. "I'll wait here."
She kissed the top of my head before gathering what she needed and disappearing into the bathroom.
Wanting something to do to pass the time, I folded her sheets and tidied her bed, smiling as my eye caught the picture of us she had tacked up on her mirror. It was one that had been taken without both our knowledge as we whiled away a summer evening on my porch. Her face was alight with laughter as one of her hands remained tangled in my hair. My face too, was alive and happy, a stark contrast to any photographs that I allowed to be taken of myself before Bella entered my life.
I remembered returning the photographs to her not long after our return from Italy. Though I had revealed that they remained in her bedroom the entire time, Bella had made no move to retrieve them until I had slipped them into her hand before I left her for the evening one day. Her face had remained impassive as she silently took them from me and kissed me goodnight. By the time I returned when she was ready for bed the pictures were already up where they used to be, as if they had never been gone. We never talked about it.
I knew I would always beat myself over the head for leaving her. I knew I was forgiven, I knew in some ways we had learned more about ourselves and each other because of that. But the pain I had brought to her life was something I would never pardon myself for and like I had promised her, I would spend the rest of forever trying to make it up to her.
Speaking of which, I decided that I needed to do something nice for her. A date maybe... I knew she hated the idea of my spending money on her but perhaps I could sweet talk her into the idea of celebrating our engagement. My lips turned up in a smile at the thought. Bella was my fiancée now... And soon I would have the honour of calling her my wife. The idea was so surreal I couldn't wrap my mind around it yet. I was indeed blessed.
Yes, she certainly deserved an evening of being spoiled.
Bella emerged from the bathroom and back into her room, dressed, her wet hair wrapped in a towel. I stepped away to let her finish getting ready, not particularly wanting to leave her side. She smiled up at me and took her brush, unwinding the towel from her hair. Her mahogany tresses fell to her back, the scent of her strawberry shampoo filling the room.
I saw her wince as she attempted to untangle the knots in her hair. I listened and picked out the blood pounding in her head as it had been last night.
"Headache?" I inquired.
She met my eyes in the mirror and shrugged.
"It's not too bad."
I disappeared and was back in her room with a glass of water and Tylenol. Placing it on her bedside table, I moved towards her.
"Let me, love," I said, reaching my hand out for her brush.
She looked up at me in surprise and handed it to me without protest. I gently tugged her to the bed and sat behind her. Reaching for the Tylenol I slipped one into her mouth and handed her the glass of water. She smiled her thanks and swallowed. Her eyes had dark circles underneath them and she looked exhausted. I made a mental note to get her to take a nap later on.
Taking her brush, I slowly ran it through her hair, untangling the knots one by one. Her hair truly was beautiful, thick and wavy, a glorious natural brown. When there were no more knots I still ran the brush gently across her scalp, knowing it would ease some of the tension. She hummed in pleasure and I laid the brush down and replaced it with my hands, tenderly massaging her aching head and neck.
"Mmmm," she said, leaning back against my chest.
"Better?" I asked my hands moving to her arms. I brushed her hair to one side and placed soft kisses all down the arch of her exposed neck.
"Much," she said.
"Thank you," I heard her whisper, after a few more moment of silence.
"For what my love?"
"For staying with me, for looking after me. I really shouldn't have made you stay last night, Edward. I'm sorry."
Ridiculous girl... It was I that needed to be thanking her.
"I would have stayed regardless Bella," I told her, my arms circling her waist. "You don't need to thank me."
She turned so that she was facing me and leaned her head to rest against my chest. "I needed you so much," she said.
"And you'll always have me," I replied, holding her head in my hand. "Always."
"I know," she said. "Just... thank you."
She kissed the spot where there once used to be a beating heart.
I raised her chin to lock gazes with her and smiled.
"I love you," I told her, my words filled with all the adoration I held for her.
"I love you too," she said, returning my smile as our lips met in a sweet kiss of hope.
A/N: Please remember to drop a line and let me know what you think! Edward will repay you by brushing your hair! =D One more chapter go...