Chapter 23 – All Eternity

We were home for two days and Bella was still silent most of the time. She only spoke when she was with Elizabeth. She wasn't put-out with anyone, just silent. It wasn't like her. She smiled brightly whenever she was with Elizabeth and that was the only time she did smile. I watched her closely for any other changes in her behavior. She was quiet and reserve, the opposite of the woman I married.

I went hunting with Jasper; to whom I confessed my concerns. "I don't know what's wrong. She's been silent since we came back." Jasper shook his head, noticing what I was talking about, "Edward, I'm curious about something. Was she silent soon after her ordeal with Felix?" I thought about it, "Yes, actually." Since I found her, she barely spoke. "Edward, that's it then. She's still shaken up. Bella had to fight for her life, before you got there. Something I'm sure she's never done before. She must have been afraid she wouldn't survive. You said when you found them, Felix was about to break her neck."

How could I be so blind? This showed how much I depended on my ability. "Think about it, she would have to leave you, Elizabeth and the rest of us behind. It's scary for any of us, thinking we have to leave our lives. For Bella, I believe the scariest thing was losing Elizabeth." I stopped in my tracks, my body freezing from this revelation, "Jasper, you're absolutely right. I never considered that."

I ran my fingers through my hair, anxiously contemplating how to make her feel better, "Jasper, do you mind if I went back?" "I'll go with you. We could do this later." Both of us ran back to the house, where we met Alice on the porch, "I'll go with you, Jaz. Edward, she's down by the lake with Elizabeth." "Thanks, Alice," I said, making my way around the house. Bella sitting on the bank and Elizabeth was a few feet away from her. She was running along the surf, like she was in her dreams. Bella was sitting with her arms wrapped around legs, looking at the surface of the water.

"Daddy!" Bella looked back at me. She smiled as I walked over to her, "Bella, we need to talk." She blinked, "What is it?" My hand reached for hers. She placed her hand in mine and stood, "Bella, please be honest with me. Are you all right?" This was the thousandth time I've asked her, but this time I knew the truth. I just needed her to confess it. She looked at me, "Yes, why?" Completely stubborn. "Bella, please, I could tell something's exhaled. You've been so quiet since before we left Volterra."

She looked away from me, trying to hide her face. She stepped away and starting walking towards the water, folding her arms. She didn't say a word. "Bella, please tell me." She turned her head slightly towards me, "It's nothing." That wasn't enough. I walked over to her and held her shoulders, "Yes, it is. I'm worried about you. All of us are."

Elizabeth was between our legs, in the water. Her palms splashed against the surface, laughing. She loved water. Bella looked down as droplets hit her legs, "Sweetie, no." She picked Elizabeth up, still giggling, with the hem of her dress soaking wet, More. Her focus changed to the in her hands. I took a lock of Elizabeth's hair between my fingers. Her hair grew significantly while we were gone. Her ringlets were more dominate in her hair.

"Bella, there is something…." "Elizabeth?" The three of us looked towards the house, as Rosalie came into sight. Edward, I come in peace. I know what you want to talk to Bella about and I didn't think the baby should hear it. I was just going to take her inside. Her looked at me, pleading her surrender. Finally, she was being genuinely kind.

"Honey, your new shoes came in the mail. Do you want to try them on?" Elizabeth beamed, "Uh-huh. Bye, Momma. Bye, Daddy." She leapt out of Bella's arms and went with Rosalie, skipping ahead of her. "Thanks, Rosalie." You're welcome. Just make sure Bella is okay. Bella looked away from Elizabeth, remaining quiet.

I placed my hands on either side of her face, "Bella, something is wrong and I think I know what it is." Her eyes looked up at me, "You do?" It was the first sign of her letting me in, "Your fight with Felix. You were fighting for your life and that's not something that can be easily dealt with." She blinked and tried to get out of my hold, but I wouldn't let her. My hand held the top of her arms, "Bella, I know that was something terrifying to deal with."

She exhaled a shaken breath and her teeth chattered. She looked like she wanted to cry, "It was." Her voice was above a whisper, finally confessing her concerns. My hands grazed down to her waist, "What happened in there?" I only knew the story from Felix and Damien's perspective, not Bella's. She was quiet for a long moment, leaning her head against my chest, "I was excited and relieved to see you. I was worried something happened. But I just saw him and I knew what he wanted to do." She shuddered a bit, "I thought he was going to do something far worse, but all he did was attack me, trying to kill me."

My arms tightened around her, remembering the moment Alice called me. Her head rubbed against my shirt, reminding me she was safe. "I had to think about you and Elizabeth to keep fighting him." "What else?" I prompted. She had to get it off her chest. This was weighing on her heart, incapacitating her. I had to have her talk about it. Her face to the side, "The way he stalked me, when his hands clamped down on my throat, being thrown across the room, I was so scared." Her arms tightened and it felt uncomfortable. She still didn't know he own strength. "When he was standing over me, I honestly thought I was going to die."

Her breath hitched in her throat and she turned away from me, with her hand covering her mouth. "Bella?" She was still and silent, but her shoulders were trembling. She was crying. "I felt like I was losing you. I couldn't see you or her in my mind. I was all alone." Her voice was broken and her breathing was erratic. "Bella." I turned her around, taking her back in my arms. It was my turn to confess. I was so happy to see I was wrong and to be home. I felt nothing be relief.

"When Alice called me, I was petrified. I thought I was going to lose you." She put her arms around my waist and sobbed into my chest. Now, I realized how scared I truly was to how my world could have so easily fallen apart. "I couldn't live without you. Even with Elizabeth, I can't survive without you." She looked up at me, "I feel the same way. But you have to promise me, if anything happens to either one of us, we have to stay alive and take care of Elizabeth. She cannot be without either one of her parents." My hand brushed her cheek, my thumb pushing at the corner of her mouth, "I promise, only if you promise to keep yourself out of danger." She smiled, "I'll try."

Bella was now speaking more openly about her ordeal. "I mean, the way he looked at me. I was just nothing more than prey to him, a target. No one has ever looked at me like that." My arm was over her shoulders as we walked along the shore of the lake. "I mean… I mean…" she groaned, "I think I may need therapy." I shrugged, "If it makes you feel better, Alice is a licensed therapist." She laughed out loud, "I may have to go see her."

"Bella," I stopped us and made her look at me, "Please, don't shut me out like that again. Normally, I could hear someone's thoughts to know what was really troubling them, but with you, it's not so easy. I want to be able to speak with you when you're upset. I practically went insane worrying about you." I was very dependent on my ability. With her, it was rendered useless. Maybe that's why I love her, because I had to get to know her. I had to make an effort. She sighed, "I didn't mean to do that. I was just thinking about the whole thing, seeing it over and over in my head. I think I just shut down and the only thing that kept me aware of anything was Elizabeth."

I leaned my forehead to hers, "I understand." Her breath blew out onto my neck, "Please, if I'm ever upset like that again, be patient, just for a little while. I need my time to sort through my thoughts. Is that fair?" We pulled apart to look into each other's eyes, "It's fair." I kissed her, holding her body to mine. When I kissed her, in a way, I wanted to make us one, even more so. We already were, but I still needed Bella. I held her face as I broke our kiss, leaving her breathless.

She smiled, genuinely for the first time. She spoke about her time while I was away, "I was completely bored. It's not like I could sleep my time away." I laughed, "The mission took much longer than I thought. This was a difficult one to catch." She told me about Chelsea being kind to her and confessing it was her who left Bella in my bedroom.

We made our way back to the house, still talking. There was much to catch up on from the past two days. Esme took in Bella's smile, Oh good, she's feeling better. Elizabeth was sitting on the couch between Emmett and Rosalie. "Lizzie, you have no idea what you're talking about. This team can't win." Elizabeth scowled up at him. She climbed up Emmett's arm and perched herself on his head, "I do know what I'm talking about. You'll see, I'm right." She folded her arms on his head and rested her chin. Emmett didn't move while she was on his head.

He never objected to this, in fact, he thought it was cute when she rested on his head. "Would you two not fight?" Bella asked. "She started it," Emmett pointed up to Elizabeth, who bit down on his finger. "Elizabeth!" "Sorry, Momma," she looked at us with her large eyes. Bella smiled, "Honey, next time bit harder." Emmett looked up at Bella, almost knocking Elizabeth off his head, "Just because you took on Felix doesn't mean you can speak to me like that." She rolled her eyes, "It kinda does. I mean he was stronger than you." She was taunting him on purpose.

Emmett's eyes widened and Rosalie took Elizabeth in her arms, "No, he is not." Bella folded her arms, "How would you know? I've fought you both and he was a bit of a challenge." She winked at me. Edward, kiss Bella goodbye. Bella was feeling a lot better and it was obvious. Emmett was holding back these past few days, noticing her mood. But now, he was back to himself because she was back to herself.

Emmett charged Bella, who flipped out of the way. They made their way to the backyard, making Esme groan, "Please don't go near the sapling. I just got it." Elizabeth smiled and laughed during the whole fight. Bella ended the brawl by baring her teeth and lowering them to Emmett's neck. "All right! All right, you win!"

Bella threw Emmett down to the ground, "Not much of a challenge." Alice smiled, "Come on, Bella. We need to take you shopping. Besides, Edward promised I would be able to do that with you." Bella looked up at me, then back to Alice, "Ok. Besides, I think you're right. Elizabeth has more clothes than I do. Did you guys just live in the department stores will we were gone?" Rosalie and Elizabeth went with Bella and Alice, while Jasper went with Emmett. Emmett wanted to take on some large animals to boost his ego, "She can't be this strong for much longer. It's been more than six months."

I sat in the living room with Esme and contemplated what I recently endured. "Edward, are you all right?" She moved to sit next to me, putting down her art book. "Esme, I almost lost everything. I've known Bella for only a few months, but I know I can't live without her. She made me promise that if anything happened to her, that I wouldn't hurt myself, so that I would take care of Elizabeth. But she won't need me forever." Esme tugged at my hair, "Edward, you're her father. She's always going to need you. And, don't think that way. You're always going to have Bella."

Carlisle sat with us, "Esme's right. In a short amount of time, you two have gone through so much. You can't focus on the bad things." My head shook, "I guess you're right." Esme took my hand, "Edward, look at what she has already done for you. She got you away from the Guard, married her and made you a father. Though she was mad at you, she's forgiven you. Edward, I already love Bella so much, because she's brought you back to us."

I never liked to think about what my leaving did to Esme. I knew she was hurt, but I shut that part of my life away. "I'm so sorry I turned my back on you." "Edward, you made a decision for your life and we accepted it," Carlisle said, "We weren't entirely happy about it, but we supposed you. We're still family."

Esme smiled encouragingly, "Exactly. We're just happy to have our son back, with his wife and new daughter." Esme reflected on holding Elizabeth for the first time, seeming so long ago. "I'm happy to be back too." I hugged Esme and spoke with them until everyone returned. Elizabeth danced in with a shopping bag of her own, "Hi Daddy." "Nope, you lost the fight, so you take in the bags." "No way!" "Hey, I'm the strongest vampire here, so you have to listen." Low blow, Rosalie lamented. Emmett practically roared as he walked in with Rosalie, Alice and Bella's bags.

Bella was smiling as she came in, trying to hold in her laughter. I stood up and greeted her. Elizabeth leapt into my arms as Bella and I went upstairs. Emmett dropped her bags on the floor, "Rematch tomorrow." He turned to walk out of the room, but Elizabeth tugged at his pant leg. He crouched down and she kissed his cheek and hugged his neck, "Thank you." Damn, I hate when she does that. Emmett was like putty in Elizabeth's tiny, but capable hands.

Bella smiled as she put her away her new clothes. The three of us sat in bed and talked. Soon, Elizabeth fell asleep in our arms and I pressed my lips to Bella's forehead, "I love you." She smiled, "I love you." We kissed and she kissed Elizabeth's hair. We looked down at the small body of our daughter. Bella was my life and Elizabeth was our gift for all eternity.