Yes, I know it's been ages. No excuses, really. Just hope you all enjoy what I've got for you here!
DISCLAIMER - You all know the score. Yada yada yada, Edward will only be mine if I kidnap him and even then I would be liable to sueing. Soooo. :S
Read on, my brave warriors!
Edward wrapped an arm around my shoulders, pulling me to him under the safe, translucent light of the curtains barring the carriage windows, and pressed a kiss to the top of my head, slowly drifting them down to my jaw; I closed my eyes, pained.
"You will miss this?" he asked, misinterpreting my closed eyes and stiff demeanour.
My gaze was heavy as I looked at him – I tried not to betray the infinite sorrow I felt for both of us as I smiled half-heartedly, bending down and picking up my hat, shrugging off his arm. I placed it gently on top of my hair, fixing it steady, and then locked his confused eyes with mine.
"I will miss it all."
I turned away, shifting to the edge of the seat, wrapping my arms around myself and directing my eyes away from him; I could feel his gaze boring into my back, but I did not look round. I could not look round. There was nothing he could say to make this better, nothing I could do to save us now.
Everything was unravelling at the seams, just like before, I was not sure if I could survive it this time.
I fidgeted all the way home, alternating between putting as much distance between Edward and I as possible and curling up as close to him as I could, trying hard not to cry nor press my fingers against my curving abdomen. Of course, I did not blame either of them – the love I felt for the baby growing inside me was almost too much to bear, especially because I did not know for sure if Edward would accept him or her, or if it would even be safe enough to keep it. I had already decided within the first five minutes that, if I must, I would give my child to Edward's parents to look after, and visit whenever I could, whatever Edward's decision was.
The thought that Edward might leave me because of all this was one that was literally unthinkable.
He would not. He could not. I knew it was his, without a shadow of a doubt – I knew what it took to create a child, and Henry and I had not been intimate in that way for at least four months. I had spent a lot of time over the past four years checking my body for signs, learning everything I could about pregnancy signs so that I would be prepared if it should happen, and I knew that my size meant I was at most two months along. Once I thought about it, I could pinpoint the week in which it happened: the week before everyone got sick. Really, I should have guessed when I started throwing up in the mornings…it was the only thing that had changed.
Whether Edward would believe me was a different story. He had always been very trusting of me, but this was an issue that could have serious consequences if I was wrong. I was not wrong, but Edward might not believe me easily.
The thought of losing him led me to accept his offer of intimacy on our second night in an inn, when before I had turned over and feigned sleep, too afraid and too sad to let him in. He was confused, and anxious, my mood swinging so quickly from one extreme to another, but if he questioned me I was not willing to answer. When I threw myself over him, driven by the way the candlelight reflected off his face, tearing at his shirt strings, he did not complain, however. He knew me well enough that I would tell him eventually. Just not now. Not when he did not need to know.
The last leg of our journey was completed in silence, not for Edward's own lack of trying – he nudged me, smiled at me, even tried joking with me in order to coax a smile off my face, but it was no use. I sat there and battled with myself, wishing I could turn to him and confess everything, but unsure whether it was the right time or whether I could bear to endure his reaction.
Poor Edward lapsed into silence to match mine after a while when I refused to dignify his attempts to cheer me up. I felt terrible, and wrapped my arms around myself – even that gesture felt like I was making my condition incredibly obvious, and I had to turn away from him and force myself to stare blindly at the slowly familiarising countryside around us. The sky darkened as we approached the house, looming into view as we drove over the crest of one of the surrounding hills, and Edward surprised me at this point by taking my hand, forcing me to look at him.
"Bella," he said, seriously, "I know something is wrong, and if you do not want to tell me, then…I suppose that is your decision, but I wish that you could tell me." I only looked at him, feeling sadder than ever that it was me who was the cause of the hurt and confusion in his face – I began to open my mouth, intending to apologise profusely even though he would not know what for, but Edward shushed me, putting a finger to my lips. "I do not care about that, Bella. I just wished to say that these last two months with you have been…unimaginably wonderful. It's ending now, and I do not know when we will next be together as we were, but I would not trade the time we had for the world." He smiled at me, and my heart both melted and broke at the same time. My poor, good Edward. What could he have done to deserve someone like me?
I moved forward and threw my arms around him, pressing my face into his shoulder, drawing comfort from his warmth and solidness – he hugged me back as the carriage rolled to a stop, pulling away and smiling at me, rubbing his thumb across my cheek. "I love you," he told me, and I shook my head, reaching up to twist my fingers through his.
"I love you too."
Edward led me inside with all the formality of a man who I did not know, his hold on my hand brief and fleeting. As we entered the house, the clacking of my heels against the marble floor jarring and strange after so much time in Alice's small townhouse, my husband greeted us at the main staircase. "Henry!" I cried, in genuine delight – it was marvellous to see him well again. Edward stepped back into the shadows as I hurried forward, meaning to hug him: then I restrained myself, suddenly remember that he was my husband, not my lover. He stood there, very formal in his dark tailcoat and formal shirt, tied together with his characteristic red cloth, his hair brushed and neatly tied back. Too long had I dallied in a world where social convention had no role to play. Carefully, I spread my skirts and bowed my head, reverting back into being a Duchess again. Cool, calm, collected. Dignity at all times, Bells.
Henry smiled approvingly, taking my hand and kissing it, his calm, happy expression genuine. He really was a good man. "I trust you had a restful stay with your sister, my love?"
"Oh, yes, of course," I smiled, "It was wonderful to see her. And your Mr Cullen was a most courteous and loyal companion. I felt very safe with him."
"Good." Henry smiled at Edward, who stepped forward next to me and bowed, hands behind his back.
"Cullen. Thank you for taking care of my wife." Just for appearances sake I stepped forward and turned, so I was standing next to my husband, and smiled at him instead of Edward, "I felt much the happier for her being gone. What happened here was so…messy. I hate for her to be caught up in all that. But, of course, everything is fine now." He smiled at me, "And we are happy to have you both returned to us."
I smiled back for him, half genuine, "And we are glad to be returned."
Edward nodded, then cleared his throat, avoiding my gaze. "May I be excused, your Grace? I would go and find my partner and see if he is well."
"Of course," Henry replied, grinning at him, "Though you need not fear. I have taken good care of your partner, just as you have taken good care of mine." Edward's gaze flicked up, flashed across mine, and I blushed whilst he looked away.
"Your graces," Edward bowed formally, then was gone, his coattails flapping behind him as he made his exit – I stared after him, biting my lip, wishing I could follow, but my husband had other ideas.
"Come," Henry said, taking my arm, "Everyone is waiting to greet you." I winced inwardly, putting a slight hand to my stomach, aware that I could not cite tiredness and escape, not after neglecting my husband for so long. I sighed, then put on a brave face as Henry led me up the stairs through to the ballroom, where I was met with a crowd of well-wishers, all of whom wished to talk to me, ask about my stay in London, who I met and where I went. Of course I had little to tell, given that I spent two months with only my sister, Edward and Jasper, instead of making the social rounds like everything thought I must have.
After a while the music started, and I spotted Edward on the piano with Emmett at his side on his violin – I sighed, closing my eyes tight shut against some silly tears, and before I knew it I was standing next to Rosalie.
"Rosalie," I pulled her aside, "Rose, I have something I need to talk to you about."
"What is it?" she asked; I bit my lip, very aware of the eyes and ears around me belonging to people who were well-practised in the art of eavesdropping, especially on me. I took her arm and shook my head at her.
"Not here." She nodded, used to this – I often dragged her away like this to talk about private things only she was allowed hear – and took my arm.
"We can go to my room," she said firmly, linking my elbow in hers. I smiled at her, gladdened in her understanding, and let her lead the way, both of us slipping out the door without anybody noticing. We walked in silence to her room, our shoes clicking softly on the parquet floor; I imagined I could almost hear her thinking, hear the stars whispering to me from the sky, as they had on all those nights when I lay alone in bed and wondered what Edward was doing, and whether he was thinking of me.
Rosalie sat me down on her bed after closing and locking the door, and then sat down beside me, fixing me with a stern gaze. "Now, Bella," Rosalie said, seriously, "Tell me what is wrong."
I took a deep breath, fixed my eyes on hers so I would not falter, and told her the truth. If I could not tell Rose, then there was no one I could trust with this information. And I was about to burst with it. "I am with child, Rosalie," I told her plainly, not surprised by how her blue eyes widened, "Edward's child."
"What?" Rosalie was never one to be shocked for long – her expression immediately turned business-like. "Are you sure?"
I nodded, "Absolutely."
She gave me a look. "Is that absolutely a wishful one, or a certain one?"
I smiled nervously, "Rosalie, trust me, I would know if it was not his. Henry has not come to my bed in months, though he knows so little of children I am sure he would believe it is his…look how far grown I am, and tell me how many months you would give the child." Rosalie frowned, but came forward, pressing her hands to my abdomen – she had three sisters, all of whom had had children before she married for the first time, and I knew she had spent many months caring for them and learning from them through their pregnancies. I could trust her judgment, I was sure of it.
"Two months," she said after a minute, stepping back with a worried frown, "Though I cannot completely be sure through your corset…maybe two weeks more? Two months seems too little."
"Damn," I murmured, hating that she had confirmed my fears, "I was so hoping it might be within the time frame of London. Then he could be absolutely sure."
"You have not told him?" Rosalie said, sounding surprised – I shrugged helplessly.
"How could I, Rose? How could I entrust him with the knowledge that I am with a child that I cannot absolutely prove is his? Henry did not visit me in the weeks before that, but still…oh, Rose, what shall I do?" I got up at this point, restless, pacing backwards and forwards whilst Rosalie watched me. "How could I tell him the truth when the truth may not be enough? Edward trusts me, but I am afraid that this will eat at him until he cannot bear it and does something stupid."
Rosalie thought for a minute whilst I stood there, distracting myself gazing down at my abdomen, wondering at how much I loved the being growing inside already. Her or she had caused me so much strife, and still I was strangely excited in a way I never had been before. With Henry, the idea of having children simply felt as an extra key that he could use to lock me down, to keep me with him…but the idea of having children with Edward was totally different. The knowledge that part of it was Edward was thrilling – I had never felt closer to him than I did now. My family was becoming a reality…albeit unorthodoxly, but when had my life ever been orthodox?
"Bella," Rosalie said then, catching my attention, "I think…I am afraid…you may have to lie to him."
"What?" I had not been expecting that, "Why?"
"I do not think that it will be enough."
"Then what will be enough?"
"You must tell him anything, Bella," she told me, "Anything at all to make him believe it is his."
I gazed at her, agonised, "Will he not believe me if I tell him I am sure?"
Rosalie shook her head, "You know how men are, Bella. You were right, even …even the smallest chance the child is not his will prey upon his mind, and you must convince the Duke that it is his as well. Such a performance may make Edward doubt himself. Doubt you." I wrapped my arms around myself, folding into her dressing table chair, my heart growing cold, and she sighed, putting out a hand to touch my shoulder. "Tell him anything," she repeated, "Do whatever you must if you wish to spare him any doubt."
I sighed, "I hate to lie to him."
"At this point, Bells," Rosalie said sadly, "There is nothing else you can do."
"Would you like me to stay, my wife?"
I shook my head at once at my husband who was standing in my doorway, my hands tightening into fists in my bedsheets. "Oh, no!" He frowned, and I heard what that must have sounded like, and at once softened my tone. "The journey has wearied me much, my husband. I do not think I could stay awake for you."
"Oh." His expression barely faltered – I'd already suspected he had other plans for tonight. "Well, then," he bowed, "Goodnight, my lady. I hope you sleep well."
I smiled, the perfect wife, pretending I knew nothing about where he would go…at least I did not have to pretend to not care. "Goodnight. Sleep well."
He left, and I changed whilst listening to his footsteps echo down the hall, fading into silence. I smiled, satisfied, before slipping my nightgown over my head, pulling out my hair so it tumbled, free and easy, down my shoulders, and settled into my bed to wait for Edward. Even though we had parted uncertainly, I was sure that he would not decide not to come. Luckily, I did not have to wait long.
There was a short knock on the door – two taps – and I called out, "Enter!" That was how we could ensure it was safe. Two taps meant it was him, enter, instead of come in, meant that I was alone.
Edward's head appeared around the doorway, the rest of him stepping in after him. "Good evening," he smiled, closing the door quietly behind him. I smiled back, happy that he was not angry with me – I held out my arms to him, wanting him closer. He stood still for a second, gazing at me, then he grinned and made for the bed at a run, jumping in so I was thrown a little into the air. I giggled as I fell in a heap beside him and he scooped me up, cradling me against his chest: I happily curled up there, my ear against his heart, listening to it beat. He sighed into my hair, kissed my temple. "Are you feeling better?"
"Much," I said, looking up at him, kissing his cheek, "Thank you for being patient with me, Edward."
"Always." He did not press me further, only sighed and settled down with me, and we lay there together in silence for a while – I was just enjoying his company, and he was the first to speak.
"I miss it already."
"Oh." I turned over, when before I had been lying on my back, staring contentedly up at the ceiling; I smiled at him, leaning forward to try to kiss the sadness from his face. "I know." I stroked his cheek gently, propping myself up above him on my elbow whist he slid a hand over my waist, gazing up at me – I was struck as I always was by how beautiful he was, and took advantage of my position by leaning down to kiss him gently. He responded at once, mouth opening on mine, his arms going around me, pulling me down against him. I pushed my fingers into his hair as he rolled, keeping his weight balanced so he did not press down on me too hard, but hard enough that it was as exhilarating as ever.
I was too busy kissing him to notice his hands slipping over my abdomen, probably just passing through – but he was smart, and he felt the way my stomach was curved, less pliable to the touch than it had been before. He knew my body intimately, just as I knew his, and he could tell when something changed. I moaned as he pulled away, unsuspecting of what would come next, and shifted, pushing myself up on my elbows. "Edward…" He was staring at my stomach, his eyes wide, and I took one look at him and knew exactly what he was thinking.
"Bella…" Edward said, only shock on his face, which I supposed was a relief, "Bella…what is this? What is going on? What have you not told me?" His voice was rising with each sentence, louder and louder, and I winced, pressing my fingers against his lips, pleading him into silence with my frightened gaze. Edward hushed, all right, but his hands were still on my belly, exploring the soft roundness with his warm hands – if we had been in any other situation, I would have let myself go to the feeling of him caressing the bump, but now I could not think about that. He looked at me with wide eyes, and I sighed, trying to keep calm for the baby's sake.
"Edward," I started, trying to find the words, "Edward…I…I was going to tell you, but I did not know how to…" He only stared at me, hands still pressed against my abdomen, his expression unfathomable. I tried again, but all I could do was stutter his name, and eventually I said the only thing I could.
"It is yours, Edward."
Something changed in his eyes, and abruptly he threw himself off the bed, walking away and stopping a few feet from me, back turned. I shook my head, terrified that he was going to leave. "Edward…please…come, I would not lie about this. I know this is hard to accept, but…oh, Edward, please. Please don't leave."
"I'm not going to leave!" he said, turning back, "I am just trying to understand why on earth you would keep something like this from me!"
"I'm sorry!" I insisted, still in a hushed tone since there were people sleeping in the rooms around us, gripping the bedsheets in my fingers. "I truly am, Edward, but…I only realised just as we were leaving, and it was all too much to take in. Believe me when I say that I was not holding back from you out of shame – this child is yours, Edward. I am so sure of it. I swear it is." I looked at him, trying to convey in my gaze just how sorry and despairing I was – I could not lose him. Surely he knew that. But the confusion and doubt in his eyes told me that Rosalie was right…there was nothing I could do but lie to him if I wanted him to stay. "Edward," I tried again, attempting to coax him back to me, "Edward, please let me explain."
He shook his head, and my heart twisted painfully. "I do not think I want to, Bella."
That hurt more than I thought it would. In all the time we had been together, Edward had never looked at me as he did now. He had never looked so…betrayed. A lump rose in my throat, and before I knew it I was crying stupidly – I wiped the tears away, angry at my body for betraying me, trying again even though my voice was cracking. "I am sorry I did not tell you," I hiccoughed, the tears flowing faster simply because I could not stop them, "I feel terrible. This child is everything that is good between us…but I was so afraid, Edward. I'm still so…so scared."
Edward looked at me, sitting there in the tangled sheets crying like a little girl, and maybe he felt sorry for me, or maybe I aroused his sympathy, but for whatever reason, he sighed and shook his head at me. "You silly girl," he murmured, before moving forward and climbing back onto the bed, taking me in his arms and letting me rest my head against him.
"It is yours, Edward," I moaned, even as he kissed the top of my head, "I am so sure."
"Shh," he shushed me gently, rocking me slowly and holding me tightly to him; his voice was soft, but I knew him so well, and there was something in it that I knew was doubt, that he was only humouring me. "I know, love; I know."
"I am sure, Edward," I breathed into his chest, my voice breaking again, desperate that he should know – desperate that he should be completely sure of me, as I was. "My size," I felt his muscles contract as I whispered urgently, "Edward, it is hardly noticeable – Rosalie assures me that can only mean the child is a mere two months old and that is only at most." I felt him sigh, and gathered my courage to lean back, to look at him, to fix my eyes on his and free myself of guilt – I was sure. Utterly and completely sure. "Two months ago, you can tell me where we were, Edward." I put a hand to his cheek, breathing deeply, nodding to him, "You can tell me, Edward – you know it as well as I."
"London," he breathed, and when his hand came up to cover mine, our fingers intertwining, I closed my eyes, resting my head against his chest.
"London," I echoed, breathing a sigh of relief – I knew he understood. "Henry was not there in London, was he?"
Edward chuckled a little at my attempt at humour. "Even if he were," he said, stroking my hair gently, "I doubt there would have been any chance of him managing to get into your bed anyway." I did not answer, simply smiled and hugged him tighter, so glad and grateful for him, pushing away the sadness I felt about having to lie to him. Another man could have left me without any explanation...but I had always known Edward would never do that to me. He would let me explain.
When the child was born, he would know for sure, and then I could tell him the truth.
Satisfied, I pushed the thought truly back and settled into his arms, trying to calm myself for the baby's and my own sake, sick of crying and of feeling sad – in any other situation, this would have been a moment of joy for us. It was horrible that it could not be that way now.
"I love you, Edward," I told him, pulling back and smiling, wanting to see his face – he smiled at me too, then his face went blank for a second in the way I knew meant a thought had hit him. He sat still for moment whilst I sat in his lap, waiting for him to speak, and when he did his face broke into a too-wide, uncontrolled smile.
"We are having a child."
"Yes," I laughed tearfully, even as he smiled, his face filled with the joy I had longed to see; he embraced me, almost launching himself at me, throwing us both backwards onto the mattress, his arms tight around me, his kisses in my hair, and I sobbed again against my better judgement. It was just too much to finally filled with the excitement that I felt too. "Oh, Edward," I cried, "I am so happy that you are happy...I was so worried..."
"Happy? No, my love, I am overjoyed!" he kissed me properly then, his voice quick in between kisses. "A family! I never thought I would get to have one…just having you was enough, and now you have given me this?" He laughed, "Bells, you are too good to me."
No guilt, Bells. This had to be done.
"I would say the same thing."
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