Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or any of its characters. They belong to Stephenie Meyers.
Summary: Bella's greatest fear was losing Edward again. Edward agreed to stay with her while his family battled the newborns and Victoria, but now that the threat is gone Bella is burdened with guilt over the knowledge that she asked Edward to choose between staying with her and fighting alongside his family in the battle. She feels she betrayed the Cullens by asking him to do so, bringing back fears of the Cullen leaving her again. It's up to the Cullens to prove to Bella that her place is with them, in their world, in their hearts, for eternity.
From "Eclipse" (Chapter 20 – Compromise – excerpt from page 435)
From "Eclipse" (Chapter 20 – Compromise – excerpt from page 435)
"I was ready to join his family and his world…The next time something came at us, I would be ready. An asset, not a liability. He would never have to make the choice between me and his family again… "
Chapter One: Haunted By the Choices We Make
The air was thick and heavy as the incoming storm rapidly approached the peninsula. Suddenly a strong gust of wind blew through the forest, making branches and trees sway, and a dark figure swiftly made its way through the jet black forest, moving at an inhuman speed, flying past shrubs and branches, no more than a blur.
Edward Cullen was in a rush to get home…home to Bella. Home…that place of refuge, comfort, security, peace, contentment, pure joy. Bella was all these things to him and in the nomadic world where vampires existed home was a rare and precious thing.
It was close to 4:30 a.m. and Bella was asleep in her little bed at her father's house, waiting for Edward's return from his hunting trip. He'd been gone for two long days with his brothers and was anxious to have his Bella back in his arms.
Edward approached the house and quickly climbed up to Bella's window as the storm hit the town. Stepping inside the little room he took a deep breath, acclimating to her sweet scent again. Where once her scent made his throat burn, now her scent made him think of one thing only… home. A feeling of deep contentment spread throughout his body as he gazed upon the delicate figure lying on the small bed, yet her sleep was anything but peaceful tonight. Bella's arms were wrapped around her chest as she tossed and turned, twisting the sheets that were bunched up around her legs. It's the nightmare again, Edward thought. The nightmare that had been haunting her sleep for the past two weeks, the one where Victoria destroyed him, taking him away from her forever.
Edward swiftly made his way to the bed and climbed under the blankets, gently wrapping his arms and body around Bella while softly crooning in her ear, "I'm here, Bella. You're safe. We're all safe. Victoria's gone and she'll never hurt you again." Over and over he repeated these words, and started softly humming her lullaby.
Slowly his words started to take effect and Bella's body started to relax, but then she moaned and started to sob, "They're gone. I'll never be with them again. Carlisle, Esme, I'm so sorry for making him choose…I needed him with me. Please forgive me…please don't leave me too…" Over and over she kept repeating the same words.
Edward pulled his head back quickly, surprised at the words he was hearing. The recurring nightmare was not about Victoria; it was of Bella's fear of losing his family. His beautiful, tender-hearted fiancée felt guilty for putting the safety of her mate over the safety of his family. She felt she had betrayed the Cullens and that they would never forgive her for making Edward choose.
Edward let out a low hiss, frustrated yet again at not being able to hear her thoughts. If he had known, he would have long ago been able to say the words that would have given her comfort.
"Bella, sweetheart, wake up," Edward softly whispered in her ear, over and over again until her sobs started to quiet and her eyes slowly opened.
"Edward, you're back," Bella whispered, wiping the tears from her cheeks as Edward gently tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear and tenderly started kissing her cheeks. A gust of wind shook the house, startling Bella and causing her to instinctively snuggle closer to Edward, seeking the security of his strong arms. He tucked the blanket more securely around her as he drew Bella closer to his chest, content to have her safely enfolded in his protective embrace.
"I couldn't stand being away any longer, so we headed back early. And I'm glad we did. I come back to find you moaning and sobbing in your sleep again." he said. "All this time I thought you were having a nightmare about Victoria, but it's never been about her. Sweetheart, why didn't you tell me you were feeling guilty about my decision to stay with you in the meadow?"
Edward sighed when Bella didn't respond, only looking at him through her eyelashes and biting her lip. "Bella, don't try to deny it. You were pleading for Carlisle and Esme to forgive you and to not leave you."
Bella turned her face towards the wall, away from Edward's intense gaze. "I'm sorry, Edward. I made you choose between me and your family. How could I be so selfish after all they've done for me? I knew it was selfish when I asked you to stay with me, but I couldn't help it. I knew I wouldn't survive if you were taken from me and I was willing to let your family fight without your help. And now, even though Victoria is gone I feel terrible for having made you make that choice."
Edward leaned over and gently turned her face back towards his. "Bella, you will always be my first choice, my first priority. I love you more than anyone or anything in this world. You are my life. I can't live without you, just as you can't live without me. I made the same decision my parents and siblings would have made if the safety of their mate was at risk. You are the choice of my heart, just as you've made me the choice of yours. I swear they do not blame you, nor would they have blamed you if anything had happened to me."
"But, Edward, loyalty is everything to you and your family…" her voice trailing off.
"Yes, love, but the bond between two mates is stronger than all other bonds. They understand that," said Edward. "And you must begin to understand it, too." Edward paused to make sure he had Bella's undivided attention. "Isabella, please trust me when I say to you, I swear we will never leave you again. No matter what happens, you will always be a Cullen and our family will always be there for you."
Bella's face was still sad as she looked up at Edward through her lashes. "I hear what you're trying to tell me, Edward, and deep down inside my heart believes what you're saying, but my mind is having a hard time accepting it."
Edward leaned down and softly kissed her brow. "Then we need to make sure both your mind and heart agree on this: we will never leave you again. You are a Cullen; you belong to us and we belong to you and it's time we prove it to you once and for all." he said.
"What do you mean?" asked Bella, her eyebrows drawn together in confusion.
"All in good time, Bella, all in good time…" replied Edward as he gently pulled her closer to his body and kissed her with all the love and passion he felt for her. All thoughts of Bella's nightmare faded away as she lost herself in his kisses.