A/N: Thank you to my beta, SweetDulcinea, and to my pre-readers. They know who they are, and they know the depth of my love and appreciation for them.

PLEASE NOTE: This is a sensitive topic. This story is about edgeplay, we're really skating the edge this time, and this chapter is NOT sexy. It is not intended to titillate or excite you. It is intended to tell another piece of the puzzle in the journey of this Edward and this Bella.

I apologize if you were looking forward to more of their dirty times together. I waffled about posting this or not posting it, and in the end, I decided to post it. I hope, after reading, you can understand why. I declared this to be a oneshot and have already extended it, so for now, I will simply say that I may or may not continue their journey. This takes me to a very dark place in my head, and I find it difficult to write at times. I appreciate your patience and understanding.

I own nothing related to the Twilight series, simply my own words. No copyright infringement is intended.

"I can't do that," he says.

He's adamant. I can tell that swaying him will be difficult, but I see a flicker of something that makes me think it's not a completely lost cause.

"Why not?" I ask.

The couch is somehow hard and unyielding beneath me, when every time before, it's been a plush spot of relaxation and comfort. I shift, trying to find a different position and some small softness against my skin to balance the hardness inside my body.

Edward also shifts in his place, and I can see the discomfort on his face.

"I don't want to," he says. "I don't want to hurt you like that. Degrade you like that."

I laugh at this response.

"Edward, surely you've hurt me in other ways? Degraded me, as well?"

"It's different," he argues. "Those were done under certain conditions, and in love."

"Love?" I snort. "And, this is a very specific condition and circumstance. We will have clear boundaries and pre-agreed limits. I'm not asking for anything outside of or different from what we've already done."

"That's not true," he whispers. "It's very different, and you know why."

The look he has on his face explains everything, and he's right, I do know why. But that exact reason is why I want it, why I will argue again that I need him to do this for me. Even as he retreats from the discussion, I know his mind is still working on it, still processing it and trying to find a way to give it to me. Because, as much as I know I need it, I suspect Edward knows I need it even more.

Our playtime falls into a lull; routine, if you will, after this conversation. Bondage, sensation, orgasm (his, not mine). Lather, rinse, repeat. Edward's distance bothers me, because it doesn't just creep into the times when we play, it creeps into everything. His eyes lose their vibrancy, his voice lacks the passion he typically speaks with, and his body is limp and saggy.

It begins to weigh on me, that my life, my baggage, has this extended affect on him as well.

I find myself acting out, provoking him, and thus, receiving more punishments. We get stuck in this cycle, and we're both ramping it up higher and higher – his frustration with my behavior mounting, and my own need to feel pain, to be actually punished for my past, my present, everything. The need to feel it lick and sear my skin, hurt and bruise me, brand my heart and let the tears that I am so incapable of shedding during the day fall like rain in the darkness of our space together.

Finally, one night, it snaps. I don't know who whispers it first, or if anyone even says anything at all, but we're both done. My body and mind are exhausted, near broken, and my spirit is clinging by a thin thread.

I lay on the bench heaving and gasping for breath between my sobs. I can't even bring myself to look up at him, to check on him, to care. I'm so lost in my head, so so lost.

For several minutes, all I can think is breathe.

Focusing on those seven letters allows my brain to slowly return to semi-normal function, and I realize that I have no idea why we stopped. I didn't safeword, and now that I'm sifting through and replaying the events in my head, I don't recall Edward saying anything.

I lift my head and look for him. When I find him in the corner, his back edged all the way to where the walls meet, I'm not sure what to think. It takes a few more minutes for me to compose my own thoughts and realize that in this moment, he might need me more than I need him.

Thankfully, I'm not bound to anything, so I stand and walk to him. His head is in his hands, resting against his knees, which are pulled tightly to his chest. I don't know what to say, don't know how to approach him, or this discussion.

My legs bend, and on auto-pilot, I sit next to him. Our bodies have a sliver of space between them, and I'm afraid to touch him. I'm afraid that if I do, he'll look up at me and I will see all of the damage and sadness projected back at me. That's the very last thing I want, so I sit and I wait.

Our breathing begins to sync and I can tell he's shifted through several moods. The emotion seems to roll off him, and I can sense when he's gone from sadness to anger to resolve.

"I want to help you," he begins. "I just don't know if I can. I don't know if I can go there in my head. How do I do that and not become that person?"

For once, I don't have an answer. He's asked the one question I haven't. I really want to answer him, though. I stumble, muttering and stuttering a few words, then realize it's useless.

"I don't know. I didn't think of that," I confess. "But we're both different people in the confines of what we do together, in that way. You're not that person; you're just doing something I've asked you to do. Do you know what I mean?"

He's quiet and thoughtful, and I can't help but watch him. He's so beautiful, even in this pained state. I want to hold him in my arms and comfort him, this man giving me these gifts over and over. I want to remind him of all he's done for me, for us, and how much I worship him. Mostly, I want him to hear me, to really understand me, and to trust that these things I've asked of him are possible without permanent harm between us.

"I guess..." He pauses and takes a deep breath. "I guess when you put it that way, it makes sense. The act, not the person. This is what you want?"


"You think it's going to help you?" he asks. "I mean, really help? Why won't it just make things worse?"

Ah, the million dollar question. I've asked myself this so many times, I've lost track of the count. I've also talked to several other submissives and some slaves, and we've had some group discussions about the dynamic of people in these roleplay situations.

"It might, I can't lie Edward. I might be all wrong, and it might make things exponentially worse in my head, but I have a hunch that it won't. I've been through enough, thought about it enough, and the way I think we could work it would be different enough, but still similar, you know?" I ramble, trying to find the one thing I can think of that would convince him. "I think I need to experience that complete loss of control with someone I trust, someone that will take it from me, but that I know, absolutely know isn't harming me."

As he speaks, he turns his face to mine. "How do you want it to be different?" He looks curious, and I'm thankful that it's still on the table for discussion.

"For one," I begin, "I want to know when and where it will happen. I want to know exactly what you'll do, and I don't want a safeword."

Edward shakes his head. "No way. I don't care if you don't intend to use it, there is absolutely no fucking way I will do this without a safeword."

"Okay," I say. There's no point in arguing – safeword or not, I won't use it. If it makes him feel better, it's one thing I can concede.

"I agree that you should know when and where, but I don't know if knowing everything I have planned will help you. Won't that take you out of the moment?" he asks. "I also don't know how I will react until I'm in the moment, and I want to be able to be flexible. I don't want to agree to something that I can't do and then we'll both be out of the scene and it'll be useless."

We talk, negotiating and bartering, for hours. Finally, we agree on terms. We agree on a date several weeks in the future, but decide that leaving the exact time and location to Edward is best. He's right, in a lot of ways, that I don't want to know too many details. I will worry and it will spin in my brain on an endless loop, and this is supposed to be a soothing experience for me. Well, as soothing as it can be.

The weeks pass slowly. Time has taken on new meaning to me, and I can see Edward lighten, which surprises me. We talk more about what's coming up, and even though I feel prepared, I know there's no way I can ever really be prepared for what we've agreed to do.

I don't sleep at all the night before. I doze here and there, but mostly, I worry. I worry that I'm not making the right choice. I worry that this will push Edward too far. I'm worried that it will push me too far, and that I'll be irrevocably broken after.

I worry so much.

Thankfully, I don't have to work. In fact, I've taken off the beginning of the next week, as has Edward, in an attempt to pre-plan enough aftercare. Who can really predict what will be "enough" though? I try as much as I can to be calm, but ready. Edward and I have texted back and forth like any normal day. His words seem to soothe me and reaffirm that he's okay with things. I know he's come to a point where he can see the necessity of this day, the importance and weight of it, and that makes me glad. I know he planned it so far ahead so that he'd have time to get his head in the right spot, and it's one of the things I love about him – he wouldn't have agreed if he hadn't been able to think he could execute it perfectly, and had the faith required in both of us.

The sun sets and my anxiety grows. Did he forget? Did he change his mind? Reality TV has taken over in the living room, and I haven't bothered to get out of my pajamas. I fall asleep with my tank top twisted, the legs of my sleep pants riding up, but I can't even be bothered to care, I'm so exhausted.

I'm startled awake – being lifted, carried, not kindly, somewhere. I can't see. I can barely breathe, already, my chest so tight with anticipation.

"Edward?" I ask, frantic.

Nothing. Not a sound from his throat, no confirmation, no denial.

Emptiness overtakes me. Suddenly, my fight instinct kicks in, and I'm scratching, clawing, hitting, biting. I'm doing whatever I can to get out of this, my brain simply terrified. I remind myself that I asked for this, but it's no use – it doesn't matter, because right now, my brain isn't in this moment. My brain is stuck back then. The last time this happened. The last time I felt this truly out of control.

I can tell he's struggling, and my body lands somewhere. I try as hard as I can to figure out where I am. Am I outside? Inside? There's hard ground beneath me, but it could be floor. My panic simply escalates. My body moves, jerks, and I reach out and fight harder. I can feel that I'm hurting him, but I don't care. I need this. I need to hurt him, the man that hurt me so deeply.

My hands are taken out of my control, somehow, somewhere. I have no time to focus on them or what he's done with them, until I feel something cold against my chest. The rip of the fabric screams in my ears, and I feel so exposed. Humiliated. Empty. Open. Lost.

I stop fighting. There's no point, and I know it. I want to live, want to see another day, want to see my family, and to do that, I know I have to give in.

In my head, I'm chanting that if I give him this, he'll let me go. He's promised several times, the man in my head, and I believe him for some reason. It's my only choice, my only hope.

From my mouth, I realize, I'm screaming. It's so loud my throat hurts and my ears ache, but I can't stop. Fabric invades, and again, I'm stifled.

I can hear him so clearly, right in my ear, his disgustingly throaty voice, as he tells me to be quiet. He reminds me that he'll let me go, just as soon as he's done. I don't want to see my family die, do I? He asks, and the pain at that thought ripples through me. I would do anything to spare my family – anything.

So I do.

I lay there in my body, but not, and I let him fuck me. I let him bruise me, body and soul, and I let him take what hasn't been given, ever, to anyone.

My tears soak the covering on my eyes. My screams become sobs. My body is pliant and my brain is transported back all those years.

Briefly, I wonder if I will get stuck in this moment, in this pain. I wonder if this was a dangerous game to play with myself, trying to rewrite this memory, replay and rewrite this history. The pain takes me back under, however, and I can't think about anything but what he's doing to my body.

Hours, minutes, seconds, I have no idea, no way to mark time anymore, pass, and I realize I'm alone. I'm out of tears, out of voice to scream, out of everything. Empty, again.

The usual things I do to control myself in this place inside my brain come back to me. I breathe deeply, I wiggle my fingers, I try to move my legs. The pain is so intense, inside and out, and I feel as though I've been ripped in two. Even though I know it's a memory, I know Edward has not harmed me in this same way, to the same extent, the physical pain rolls over me.

I drift between the reality and the memory, body and brain fighting together and against each other, waging a war of decision. When I'm in the reality, I can tell my body is not nearly as harmed as it was back then, and for a brief moment, I'm angry at Edward. I expected this experience to wipe the previous, like writing on a whiteboard, but there is nothing that can do that. Nothing.

The reality of one memory not being able to overtake another hits, and my tears begin anew. Languishing, my head flops to the side, and I am lost again in memory. Trying to find myself wherever he's left me, attempting to figure out where I am, how to get home, how to cover this all up. Pretend. Be okay.

Even before I can get up off the now freezing ground, my brain has begun to work overtime to fix it, to erase and cover up, and forget. To hide it away in some secret place that cannot be touched, talked about, or felt again.

Except, I've opened it like a gaping wound, and I come back to myself, my real self, lying on the ground, exposed and raw. It's quiet, but I know he's still here. We've agreed that he will wait for me to touch him, to let him know I'm okay, but I don't know that I am yet. I'm still floating and swimming and uncertain.

I'm cold, though, and it's the shiver from my body that provokes my brain to react and respond, wanting so desperately to stay in this moment, in the now, and regroup. One last gasping shudder of breath is sucked through my lungs, and I realize my mouth is clear. There is no gag, there are no bindings, there is no bad man. Not anymore.

Curling onto my side, I draw every part of my body into my center. My arms wrap around my knees and I tuck my chin to my chest. I want to be as small as possible in this moment, because so much is uncertain.

How can Edward love this, love me, at all?

How can anyone sane and rational have requested this? Wanted it?

Breaking our agreement, Edward's hand rests on my shoulder. It's light, and heavy. Perfect, and all wrong. When he says my name, I crack and crumble again. I stay in the moment, but it crushes me. Before I can get too far into my thoughts, Edward has me in his lap. It's warm and soft, and though I can't bring myself to open my eyes yet, his touch holds me together.

"Bella," he says almost so quietly I can't hear, "It's past midnight. I'm going to carry you inside, okay?"

I don't trust my voice to speak words instead of leftover screams, so I nod against his chest. My eyes hurt from being closed so tightly for so long. Colors that long ago exploded behind them at the intensity with which I've got them shut have faded, but they may as well be superglued for all I care. Opening them means I acknowledge this happened, and I'm still not there. Still not ready.

My body seems to vibrate with adrenaline and energy once I'm slightly warmed by what I assume is our house. Edward's hands are on my face, swiping wetness from my cheeks, and smoothing my eyebrows, pressing the muscles in my face and causing them to relax.

Finally, I open my eyes. Carefully at first, blinking and appreciating that there is no harsh light in the room, but then fully. Well, as fully as I can, considering they are certainly swollen. He's a blur, but he's Edward, and he has me in his arms still. He looks haggard, disheveled, upset, but I can't tell if it's aimed more at me, or himself. Perhaps both.

I shift and sit up in his arms, never putting any distance between us, needing him closer, in fact. His arms move around me and again I feel as though he's holding me together. My chin rests on his shoulder and I breathe and think and consider.

"Shower?" I ask. My voice cracks as I speak, hoarse from everything, and tentative.

"Of course."

He carries us both into the stall, and when I'm on my feet again, it's another moment that serves to ground my mind, my thoughts. I'm here. I'm safe. I'm loved.

Throughout the time we spend in the shower, we touch each other, cleaning our bodies together, but we don't speak. I'm not ready, and I'm not sure if he is, either. Such a strange and truly scary place we've been together now, I worry we might never make it back to where we were before. The truth is, I'm not even certain of everything that transpired, so much of the time spent out of my own body and brain, simultaneously protecting myself and reliving. I realize I'll have to ask him to tell me, and that kills me – that I will force him to relive it as well. But I know he will, willingly.

Above all, in this moment, I can feel how much he loves me. Not loves me for my submission, not loves me for my body, or my brain, or any one thing in particular. How much he loves me for everything that I am, flaws and perfections.

When we're in our bed, our safe place, the warmth surrounds me. Edward, our blankets, all of the smells, sounds, and sensations I love.

It will take us weeks to find our footing again. Weeks to rehash the events of that night. Weeks to play safely and comfortably in the confines of our room.

We find our way, together. I find my way to peace in my own head and heart, with Edward's hand in mine. He finds his way to peace with what he's done by seeing me so happy and light, more than he's ever seen, he says. And I believe him, because I feel it.

I truly hope you feel I've handled this subject in the delicate manner which it deserves.