22. Good Morning, Forks
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, but I did write the words below. Got it? Good.
Having driven through the night, we arrived at my parents' not too long after dawn. I had expected the house to be silent at that hour, but I had barely stepped out of the car when my mother appeared at the front door. The early morning light glinted off her hair as she stood there, watching the four of us come up the walk.
"I'm so glad you're home," she whispered in my ear as soon as I was close enough to embrace. I could hear the tears in her voice as she pulled away blinking. "Bella, dear, so nice to see you again. And this must be Rosalie and Emmett?"
Bella nodded at my mom, her expression unreadable as Esme threw her arms around her.
"No one else is up yet," Mom explained as she ushered us all into the house. "Alice and Jasper just got in last night, and your father..." She took a deep breath, offering a smile that was just a tad too bright. "Your father just got back from a shift at the hospital a few hours ago. If you all want to get a few hours sleep, I can fix up a big breakfast for everyone later. Edward told me you were planning to drive straight through. I'm sure you're all exhausted."
I smiled in spite of myself. She was just how I remembered her growing up, fussing over me and my friends like a mother hen. I wanted to ask what she was doing up so early, especially when everyone else was sleep, but I knew it wasn't the time.
"Edward, your room is pretty much how you left it," Mom broke into my thoughts. I blinked my eyes a few times, doing my best to pay attention. It had been so long since I had been home; the least I could do was listen to her for five minutes. "I put some new sheets on the bed. I made up the guest room for Rosalie and Emmett. How about I come wake you up in a few hours?"
"Yeah, Mom, we just need to get our bags. I'm going to just show Bella and Rose where the rooms are, and Emmett and I will come back down."
"Oh, because Bella and I can't carry our own bags," Rosalie shot back, a scowl on her face. I opened my mouth to shoot back a retort, but Emmett beat me to it.
"Babe, you're exhausted and Edward's trying to be nice. Let's just say thank you and be happy we're not sleeping on the couch like we do at your mom's." The words were clearly a rebuke, but with his wide grin and calm voice, Emmett managed to both scold and appease his girlfriend all at once. I watched in wonder as Rosalie sighed, grabbing his hand and offering my mom a tiny smile.
"Thank you, Mrs. Cullen. I'm sorry, it's just..."
"I'm sure you've had a long few days, dear. It's perfectly fine. A shower and some sleep will do everyone some good. Oh, and Esme is fine." Mom waved me up the stairs with a smile for my friends, turning toward the kitchen. "Go on, Edward, before everyone wakes up and you lose your chance for some shut eye."
"Your mom is awesome," Emmett told me as she walked away. "And, dude, this house is huge."
"Emmett!" Rosalie glared at him, daggers shooting from her eyes. "Don't be rude." She turned to me, an apologetic look on her face. "Edward, I'm sorry. I really am exhausted."
"Me too." I gestured up the stairs, grabbing Bella's arm. Other than greeting my mom, she hadn't said two words. "C'mon, the guest room is on the second floor, next to Alice's room. You guys have your own bathroom, so you don't have to share with my sister or anything. Knowing Mom, there's stacks of towels and anything else you need, so help yourselves. My room is up on the third floor if you need us," I explained as I came to a stop at the guest room door. I pointed back down the hall to where the stairs continued up. "There's only two rooms up there, mine and the music room, and mine's the only one with the door. Emmett, I'm just going to bring Bella up and we can go grab the bags, okay?"
"Yeah, man, that's fine." Emmett smiled at both of us, giving Rosalie a gentle nudge into the guest room. "And hey, thanks. I know you didn't have to..."
"Don't mention it." I waved him off, taking a deep breath as I started back down the hall. Bella trailed behind me, still silent. I wanted to say something to her, anything to get her to talk to me, but I was too caught up in my own emotions. I hadn't been back to my parents' since the fight that had led to years of silence, but now here I was. Coming home would have been overwhelming no matter when it had happened, but now, with the added stress of James, and Bella's emotional state, it was almost too much.
My bedroom looked exactly as it had the last time I had been there. The plate glass windows overlooked the backyard and beyond that to the stream and forest I had played in as a kid. The comforter on the bed was the same green one I had picked out in high school, and the stacks of music were untouched on the built-in shelves. My black leather couch was still pushed to one corner, and the closet door stood open to reveal piles of neatly folded clothes. If not for the lack of dust, I would have assumed my parents hadn't even opened the door since I'd gone back to New York.
I closed the door behind us as I pulled Bella into the room, wrapping my arms around her from behind. I followed her gaze, the open windows letting the familiar scent of rain invade my senses. It was so quiet out here that I could hear the rushing water of the creek across the grass.
"There's a bathroom up here if you want to shower when I come back up with your clothes," I murmured in her hair. "There's shades for all these windows, too, so we'll be able to sleep."
"I can't believe you grew up here," she finally said softly. She turned around in my arms, her tiny body swimming in my NYU sweatshirt. Her eyes had dark circles under them, and her hair was snarled from the days in the car. I didn't care. The look in her eyes made her perfect. "I feel like...like I suddenly just get so much more about you, and I haven't even seen Forks."
"Don't worry, you will. In about ten minutes next time we leave the house," I joked, pressing a light kiss to her forehead as I released my grip. "I'll be right back, okay?"
She nodded absently, turning to the shelves as I left the room. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her run her fingers along the spines of the books there, her expression one of wonder.
Emmett and I made quick work of the bags, moving quietly through the silent house. When I returned, I found Bella curled up on my couch, her arms folded and her eyes closed. Thinking her asleep, I gingerly stepped across the room and gathered her in my arms to bring to bed, but her eyes popped open as I slid one arm under her legs.
"I'm awake," she said groggily, but she didn't push me away when I picked her up anyway.
"You're barely keeping your eyes open."
"I know...but I want to shower first. We've been in that car for days. I feel disgusting."
"I love you, but I can feel the grease in my hair. Shower."
"Okay, okay," I relented, setting her to her feet. I gestured to her bag, propped up next to mine. "I'm sure Mom put stuff in the shower for us, but if you want your own..."
"I just want some hot water and to not feel like my face is an oil slick."
I sighed, shaking my head at her and pulling her toward the bathroom door. Sure enough, not only was my own soap and shampoo sitting neatly on the shelf in the shower, but some sort of girly body wash was there too. Men's soap definitely didn't come in purple.
"There's towels in here," I explained, opening the door to the narrow linen closet and pulling out a few. "Looks like Mom's got you covered with the shower stuff. I'll just be..."
"Stay," she insisted as I turned away. "Stay with me, Edward."
"Bella..." I wanted nothing more than to stay with her, but we were both exhausted, and I knew for a fact I was completely overwhelmed. Being back in Forks, in this house, with her...
She tugged the sweatshirt over her head, letting it drop to the floor before reaching for me. She had my T-shirt halfway off before I even registered what was going on. "Please, just stay. I...need you. You need me. We'll deal with everything else later."
Her hands rested on my hips as her eyes sought mine imploringly. I gazed down, looking for some hint as to what Bella was really feeling behind her soft words. All I saw was the truth in her words, the love I needed looking back up at me. Barely breaking her gaze, I reached behind me, turning the water on.
Leaning down, I pressed my lips to hers, holding her to me though the kiss was chaste. I could never fairly say there was a moment I didn't desire Bella, but that wasn't my motive as I slowly undressed her. I just needed to be close to her, and as her fingers gently ran over my skin, it seemed to me she felt the same.
When our clothes had all fallen to the floor, I pulled Bella with me under the spray, groaning at the sensation of hot, clean water falling over my body. Bella smiled up at me through her wet eyelashes, pushing my hair back as the water ran over her hands. "See?" she teased, pushing onto the tips of her toes to kiss me. "Three days without a shower is too long."
"Mmm..." I mumbled, pulling her closer and bending to kiss her again. Desire may not have prompted me to accept her offer, but the sight of her body and the heat of the steam were pushing my thoughts rapidly in that direction. It had been so long since we had been together like that, and I suddenly wanted her as badly as I had the first time.
But this wasn't like the first time. I couldn't take her like I had then; I had to let her give herself to me. I broke our kiss, reaching behind her for the shampoo, something floral scented. Bella closed her eyes as I began to work it into her long hair, a hum of contentment escaping her lips as I held her to my chest to rinse it all back out. The conditioner came next, turning her hair silky under my touch. Bella repeated my motions once her hair was clean, her body tight against mine as she stretched to work the shampoo through my hair.
We were both breathing heavily by the time the body wash and soap had been rinsed away. Bella wrapped her arms around my neck, pressing the entire length of her body to mine and ghosting kisses along my shoulder. I reached shakily for the water, quickly turning it off before I lost all control of myself. "Not here," I told her, my voice low and throaty. "Bella, I've missed you..."
"Shhh." She reached out of the shower for one of the towels I had left on the counter, using it to quickly dry off my chest and arms before knotting it around my waist. She grabbed another towel for herself, stepping out of the shower and pulling me with her.
"I know things have been...difficult," she began, grabbing my hands with hers and twining our fingers.
"You don't have to..."
"I do," she said firmly. "The drive here, I had a lot of time to think about everything. Especially about us. I'm still terrified, Edward. I'm scared of James finding us, especially here, in this beautiful house with your mom, who's obviously so happy to have us here. But more than anything, I realized that us being here is just as hard for you as it is for me. You brought me here to keep me safe, even though this probably wasn't at all the way you wanted to come home. I know I got on your case about trying to save me back at that rest stop, and I don't need saving, but I do need you. I..."
"I love you, too," I cut in gently, cupping her face. I ran one thumb along the line of her cheek, watching as a delicate blush rose up. "We're going to figure this out." I bent to kiss her once again, but the gentleness soon turned to passion as Bella let her towel drop to the floor. I gathered her up in my arms, carrying her back to my bed before gently setting her down.
We made love slowly, unable to get enough of each other. Her hands were everywhere, and I breathed in as much of her as I could. I pressed deeper with each thrust, desperate to be closer to her, our hips touching as she raised her body up to meet mine. Grabbing her hands, I wove my fingers through hers, leaning down to press kisses along her throat as we rocked together. A familiar burn had begun deep in my stomach, and I wanted to slow down, to savor a moment that would be over far too soon. But it had been too long, and Bella's soft moans and tight grip broke through my control. I moved more quickly, breaking my hold on one of her hands to pull one of her legs up, changing the angle to press against the place I knew would bring her undone.
I wanted to urge her on, to beg her to let go, but instead I dropped breathless kiss after breathless kiss on her exposed neck and shoulders. She had to let go on her own. I just hoped that she let go before I did, because I was quickly losing the ability to hold back.
Thankfully, with a deep moan Bella's release took hold of her, her nails digging into my hand. I buried my face in her neck, my groan muffled by the pillow under her head as I came with one final thrust. I let go of her leg, struggling to keep the full weight of my body off her as she wrapped her legs around me to keep me where I was. We were both breathing heavily, words not needed. I pressed kisses anywhere I could reach without moving too much, over her eyes, her cheeks, her lips. I wanted her to feel treasured and loved instead of afraid, even just for those few moments. With the rain-drenched sun streaming in through the massive windows, the deep quiet of the woods surrounding us, we couldn't have been further from my cramped New York apartment.
I didn't even bother to get up to close the shades. We were both so exhausted anyway that the light didn't matter. I was asleep within minutes, and Bella before me.
The shrill ringing of my phone on the nightstand by my head woke me hours later. "Hello?" My voice was thick with sleep, and I hoped whoever was calling had a damn good reason.
"I made brunch if you and Bella want to come down. Alice wanted to come up to get you, but..." My mom trailed off, an embarrassed tone in her voice. "I just thought this would be easier."
"Mom!" I was awake now, and flushed at the realization that my mom had just up and assumed Bella and I would have immediately jumped into having sex. The fact that she wasn't entirely wrong only made me blush all the more. "Are Emmett and Rose down there?"
"Yes, they came down about a half hour ago. Alice has been showing them around."
"Okay, we'll be right down." I hung up the phone and flopped back into the pillows, luxuriating in the comfortable mattress. My bed in Brooklyn had nothing on this one. I could have easily stayed right where I was all day, comfortable and content with Bella beside me. I had hoped that coming to Forks would bring us some peace, and it seemed there was some truth in that as Bella had slept straight through, no nightmares. As her sleepy eyes stared back up at me, they were clear. The puffiness under them had faded, and for the first time in a long time, she looked well rested.
"Mom made brunch," I told her, nuzzling my nose into her hair and breathing deep.
"Mmm, you mean something other than greasy spoon diner food?"
"Don't let Mom hear you even start to compare her food to a diner. She makes this French toast that just melts in your mouth." My stomach rumbled as I thought about the food waiting for us. Bella only laughed, pulling me down for a quick kiss before sliding out of bed.
The brief sunlight had faded back behind the clouds once again, and though it didn't seem to be raining, a thick fog lay over the forest. It had been nice to see the sun that morning, but this was the Forks that I remembered. Somehow, the gloomy weather only brightened my mood. This was home.
Plus, the sight of Bella's bare flesh and toned legs making their way across the room wasn't so bad either.
She pulled out a pair of yoga pants from her bag, but flashed me a grin after putting on her bra. I watched from the comfort of my bed as she darted into my closet, still stocked with clothes, and emerged a few moments later wearing a T-shirt from a concert I'd gone to in high school. I grinned at the sight, rolling out of bed and pulling on my own clothes. I paused long enough for Bella to pile her hair on top of her head, and then grabbed her hand to lead her down the stairs.
It felt good to be in the house with her. It was like my old life and new life had somehow managed to meet and make friends, against the odds. I knew that downstairs, my sister waited with Jasper and Bella's friends. My mom would be in her element, cooking up a storm for a houseful of people. The only question mark was my father. A frown took over before I could stop it, remembering our stormy reunion in Los Angeles.
"Edward?" Bella had stopped at the top of the stairs. The sound of my family floated up from the kitchen below, and everyone sounded happy.
"It's nothing," I told her, squeezing her hand and squaring my shoulders.
"I'm right here," she whispered in my ear as I continued down the stairs, squeezing back.
In the kitchen, a sight I had never thought to see again waited for me. Mom was in front of the stove, flipping that delicious French toast. A cast iron skillet filled with eggs steamed at her other elbow, while my father leaned against the counter sipping coffee. He smiled at us when we entered, and the last several years suddenly dropped away. I knew this wouldn't be the end of it, but it seemed as though everyone was of the same mind. A few hours of peace would be nice before we had to explain to my parents exactly why we were there.
After a chorus of goodmorningsfrom everyone, Alice went back to chattering away with Rose about Forks and Port Angeles while Emmett and Jasper looked on. Mom handed us each a cup of coffee and sent us to join them with a wave of her hand. She made the usual inquiries on how we had slept, and whether the drive had gone all right. Then came the questions for Emmett and Rose, what did they do for a living, how did Rose like owning her own business, how nice it was of them to join Bella and me for our trip out.
But when the dishes were cleaned and all we had left was our coffees, silence fell. My father cleared his throat, leaning his elbows on the table and exchanging a glance with my mother. "Now, Edward, please don't get us wrong. It's wonderful that you're here, and your friends are always welcome. Bella, it's nice to see you again so soon. But, Edward, your mother and I..."
"Honey, we know you wanted to come visit, but this was just so sudden, and the look on your faces when you got here..."
Bella stiffened next to me, and I met her gaze with the questions in my eyes. How much were we going to tell them? Was it safe to tell them anything? Would they believe us if we lied? If we told the truth?
Rosalie didn't wait for either of us to answer.
"Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, I'm grateful more than you know that you've opened your home to us. I know that Edward and you haven't been on the best terms, but he's been nothing short of amazing for my friend. You should know that before we tell you why we're here."
She paused, and Bella jumped in before Rosalie could go any further. "We should have told you before we came all this way. I should have told Edward at the beginning, but it's just been so..." She took a deep breath, grabbing for my hand under the table. "We came here to hide. There's a man, in my past, and he just got out of prison, and we're pretty sure he knew where I was in New York, Rose too, and I was too scared to think straight, and Edward, he's just been so great about everything..." Her eyes were glassy with tears I knew she didn't want to shed in front of everyone, and her words were coming out too quickly, tumbling on top of each other. I could only watch as expressions of horror took over my parents' faces.
"Bella," my father said gently, reaching across the table to lay his hand over hers. I tried not to show my shock at the action—this was the side of my father I hadn't seen in years. Leave it to Bella to bring it back out in him. "Is this man dangerous? You should call the police."
"The police won't help," I replied bitterly, before Bella could. She shifted nervously in her chair, and I sighed, waiting for her to look at me. I didn't know how much of the story was mine to tell, but I also didn't want my family in the dark.
"It's a really long story," Bella finally said, holding my gaze as she spoke to my parents. "I know Edward's told you about... my mom. He didn't know that this guy, James, he's the one who... he's the one who did it."
As she paused to force air into her lungs, Rosalie took over. "That asshole killed Bella's mom, and then he tried to kill her. Due to an epic failure of the courts, or maybe just some good old fashioned police corruption, the bastard didn't go away nearly as long as he should have. He just got out this week. We started getting weird calls at the bar while you were in LA..."
"And we needed to disappear," I finished, keeping one worried eye on Bella. "Mom, Dad, I'm sorry. We should have told you before just showing up with all this, but we had to get out of New York. I know things have been shitty between us, but..."
No one said a word for a long moment, and when I finally looked up, my mom was crying. "Edward, I'm glad you came to us," she finally said, squeezing my father's hand. "But we have to call the police! You're saying that there's a killer on the loose after Bella, and you don't want to call the police? That's insanity."
"I'm afraid your mother is right, son." My father had on his no-nonsense voice, the one I remembered from when Alice and I had started sneaking out as teenagers. We always got caught, and the lecture always came in that voice. If only our current situation were so simple. "The police in Washington can't possibly have anything to do with all this. They'll help you. I've got a friend I kept in touch with from Dartmouth who joined the FBI. I'm going to call him."
"No! Mr. Cullen, please don't. You don't understand, James is from a powerful family..."
"I promise you, Billy Black is a good man. He'll do what he can, Bella. I don't know who this guy is, but you've got family, too. Does your father know you're here?"
"No. I was afraid... the less he knows, the better."
"I think he'd want to know where you were," my mother gently reprimanded. Her eyes landed on me as she spoke again, "Even when we didn't talk, I knew Edward was in New York. It helped."
"Mom, leave it." I inched my chair closer to Bella's, wrapping one arm around her waist. My sister had yet to say a word, but judging by the way her and Jasper were looking at each other, they were having some kind of silent conversation. Given Alice's usual tendency toward nonstop chatter, her silence bothered me more than I cared to admit. "Maybe it would be better if no one knew I was here? Any of us?"
"I ran into Angela Weber on my way into town last night," Alice broke in. "She knows Jasper and I are here, but I didn't mention you guys. We should be good if you stay out of sight." She shot Bella an apologetic smile. "Sorry, Bella, but you're not missing much. Rose and Emmett aren't known around here, so it should be okay if they go out."
"We'll be fine," I replied, anxiously looking around the table. Bella hadn't completely shot down my dad's idea to call his FBI buddy, and I didn't want to let it show how relieved I was that finally, we were going to get the authorities involved. I wasn't a super hero. I knew damn well if this guy really came for Bella, there was a good chance I wouldn't be able to stop him. And that thought made my blood run cold. I couldn't lose her. I couldn't lose any of the people in this house. "I can take Bella up to Port Angeles, or we can go hiking around here."
"How long were you planning to stay?" my father asked after a pause, meeting my gaze across the table. There was an edge to his tone, and I was about to find out why.
"We... hadn't figured that out yet."
"I see." And there it was—my father was judging me all over again. I had fled New York with no plan other than to get Bella out of there. I didn't know how long we would be gone, or how we would decide when to return. I hadn't thought that far ahead. By the look on his face, my father had figured that out. I inwardly flinched, waiting for the tirade.
It didn't come. He got up from his chair slowly, and for the first time it struck me how much my father had aged. His hair was streaked through with gray, and there was a weariness in the way he moved. "I'm going to go call Billy from my office. I'll let you know what he says. Bella, he's probably going to need to talk to you. Would you come with me, please?"
I stood to go with her, but Bella put one hand to my chest, stopping me. "Edward, it's okay."
Her eyes darted nervously to my family at the table, and then to my waiting father, before coming back to me. "It would be easier if I didn't have to repeat it all in front of you, again," she finally said, so quietly I had to strain to hear her. "Please, Edward..."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," she whispered, her troubled gaze meeting mine. "I'll have to tell him everything, from the start." She paused. "This man, is he... do you know him?"
"He's one of my father's oldest friends. We saw him a lot as kids. He's got a daughter Alice's age. I think we can trust him."
"Okay." She took a deep breath, reached up to kiss my cheek, and walked off behind my father.
AN: First off, yes, I do plan to finish this. No, I don't have an exact time. Things seem to keep popping up. This summer, I was going to finish this. I bought a house instead. Now I've got a new job, never mind grad school and the everyday things that seem to get into everyone's way. So... I'll keep updating as I go along, and I'm happy to have those of you who want to stick around.
Many thanks to my beta for sticking with me and also divine inspiration for all the late night gchat hand-holding. She has an awesome new story she's co-writing (and they actually update regularly, unlike me) called "When the Dust Settles" that I highly recommend.