A/N: Katbug86 puts up with this hot mess and me, she is my beta queen.

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight; all of its respective characters belong to SMeyer.

Chapter Thirteen


My body stirred before my mind surfaced fully. Heavy limbs attempted to stretch on their own accord, only I couldn't move, something had me wrapped too tight. Becoming more aware of my confined position, my mind finally caught up to my body, and I tried to pry open my eyes. I could feel my lids press into my brow line, puffy and raw. The sting of the air against the sensitive skin made me shut them immediately.

Slowly, it all came back to me, the realization of my soul bearing stint last night flooding me. I had actually done that. Shit. I was a mess of uncertainty; I didn't know what to make of my emotions. Last night I had reached a pinnacle with Edward - a tipping point, I had to fall one way, and now I would have to deal with the consequences of that fall. He knew everything.

I was a bit shocked that he laid there with me, arm wrapped around my waist tightly. Maybe he just wanted to make sure I didn't run away again so he could tell me exactly what he thought of me. I swallowed hard against my dry throat, thinking of the other ground I'd broken last night by visiting Renee's grave. Drawing in a shaky breath, I fought to keep the tears at bay. I couldn't be a blubbering mess again.

My eyes were not the only thing that felt raw this morning. I was skinned of my protective shelling, my whole being laid bare for Edward - for myself. I felt ugly and undeserving of the person cradling me. The urge to run burned in my legs. I contemplated an easy escape - a way out. I could go back to repressing the thoughts, wallowing in my guilt. I was good at that, comfortable there. Part of me was terrified of a resolution to my issues because I knew that road would be nothing less than agonizing.

Pushing lightly against Edward's arm, I was able to get a little bit of wiggle room, his arm loosening its grip. I slid out from under his slackened hold, tip toeing across the hall and into the bathroom. The door groaned loudly as I shut it, and I cringed. The tile floor was too cold against my feet so I hopped onto the thick bathroom rug, a shiver spindling through my body. A warm shower sounded divine. Avoiding my reflection, I jumped across the evil, icy tile and landed easily on the second rug in front of the shower.

Turning the knobs, I pulled my shirt over my head as the water whined up the pipes before it sputtered thickly from the spout. I wondered when the last time my Dad had the pipes checked was; they were probably on the brink of their demise. I made a mental note to hire a plumber before I left.

Despite the fact that I hardly ever visited my father, there was still my favorite shampoo and body wash stocked in the cabinet. I smiled at the welcoming bottles, he was a quiet one, that Charlie, but you should never under estimate him. I had come to learn that he was always there in the simplest of ways, which in the long run was what mattered most.

Rubbing the creamy soap into my tired, dry skin felt sinful. I was reminded of my time spent at home after I found out about Renee. I didn't want to leave my room, but Charlie was great - he didn't press the issue. He only made sure I was okay and then let me be. In some ways it was the best detox program I could have ever gone through. I stayed in my room, stared at the walls and tortured myself for days, battered my brain with scenarios of what-could-have-beens, and what-ifs.

The lingering physical need to shoot up was only an aid to my torment. More than anything, I felt I deserved the pain, the shaking body, the nausea. At times it was hard to tell exactly which was causing what - my withdrawal from the drugs, or my depression over my mother. But it didn't matter much, I knew I'd earned every last drop, so I submersed in it.

I truly believe I would have driven myself mad … if it weren't for Charlie. He came into my room on the fourth day and forced me out of bed. It was a delicate line he had walked, and he knew not to persist until I absolutely needed it. I was laughing, cackling is a more apt description. That was the last straw for him.

The pain and lack of food in my system were becoming unbearable. And then a thought occurred to me. I could remember the voice in my head clear as day. You're dying, it said. Maybe this is how your mother felt. And with that thought I lost it, any shred of reality I had meekly held onto slipped from my fingers, and I laughed at my pathetic state. "You deserve it," I ground between bitter gaffs. But then Charlie came storming in, ripped me up by the arm. "Enough!" He boomed, pulling me into the bathroom.

He wrench the shower on and glared at me in that stern fatherly way that used to make me fall in line so easily. The propensity was still there then, and I shrunk away instinctively. "Take a shower and then come down stairs," he had ordered evenly.

I had no choice but to obey. I stepped under the scolding hot stream and lathered this same body wash against my yellowed and sickly skin, hating myself that much more. I made a decision then - I would accept my life as it were. The pain would always be there, I would never forget, but it was the world I had created for myself. My father had always taught me; you make your bed - you lay in it. So I hung my head and resolved to do just that. I would pay my penance. Only it took me years to figure out exactly what that penance would be.

The water ran cold, and I knew I had been in the shower far too long. I shut off the spouts and reached out for a towel, wrapping it around my body. My heart leapt into my throat when a figured moved behind the shower curtain. I peeked out slowly, squinting through the steam.

"Hey," Edward smiled, palming the back of his neck before averting his eyes. He seemed nervous.

"Uh, hi," I whispered.

"Sorry, I just … I wanted to make sure you were okay. You weren't there when I woke, and … I was worried," he shrugged.

"No, I'm sorry, I didn't want to disturb you, and I guess I just needed a minute." My voice came out raspy, it was apparent I had done my share of crying. "I guess we should talk…"

"Yeah, I'll let you get dressed. I'll just be downstairs," he smiled lightly, before hesitating at the door. Slowly, he turned back to me and placed a gentle kiss against my cheek. He was saying everything would be okay. It was all there in his delicate touch, in his nervousness. He wasn't running screaming away from the mad, mad woman in front of him. He was still there and still cared. I just didn't understand why or how that could have been.

I watched him leave before I collapsed to the floor, my fingers raking through my hair harshly. It was all too much, I didn't know if I could continue on. I just wanted to be numb. I just wanted to float through the rest of my life, going through the motions. Why did he have to stir those feeling inside me - make me feel anything? It was too much. Too much.

All the sensations he drudged up in me, the things I was excited about - the things I knew to be out of my reach… I should have never allowed it. Getting dressed quickly, a new resolve filled me - I had to tell him we couldn't be. I didn't make sense, not for him. He deserved so much more than I had to offer.

I found Edward in the kitchen, staring out the back door at the spot we sat last night by my old swing. My mouth opened to speak, but faltered. I couldn't formulate the right words, so I sat down at the table instead. He didn't move, but I knew he heard me come in. I watched him for a moment, his tall, lean body. His body language was only slightly tense, his hands deep in his pockets. But his shoulders were slumped forward, he looked mostly just tired. I glanced at the clock above the stove, it was only 9:30; we hadn't slept long.

"Edward," I finally began, but he turned to face me before I could continue, and the words dissolved on my tongue.

"Can you just… can I talk first?" He requested softly. I nodded as he took a seat in front of me. "Bella, I know what you're going to say, and I just want to get my points in before you - before you do." Our eyes met and his dug deep into my soul. I could feel him reading me; he understood that I was retreating.

"I listened to you last night and your story - it's nothing short of tragic. It is horrible, and I can understand how you feel the way you do. If I were in your position, God, Bella, I would die. I would have curled into a ball and that would have been the end of me. I know that you hate yourself, and you harbor this intense burden, I get that." Scooting his chair closer to mine, he cupped my fingers in his hand, smoothing them against his palm slowly.

"That being said, I do not blame you." Something in his expression, the light in his eyes, imploring me, it held me there - my ears and heart wide open. "What you have done, how you have carried on amazes me. You are one of the strongest people I have ever met. I know you'll never believe it, and me simply saying these things won't magically make all of your pain go away, but I need to say it. You did not kill your mother." I flinched, my soul recoiling, screaming at me to pull away, stop listening - I'd heard these lies. But I couldn't, I didn't want to.

"Things happen in our lives, things we can't always control - no matter how hard we try. If you don't hear anything I say right now, hear this at least. I see you Bella. I. See. You. I see who you really are, and who you hide behind. I can see you now, pulling your heart away from me, I can feel it. But please, please Bella, don't. I know you are sad, I know you have more than enough reason to hate everything in this world, but please don't run away from me."

A tear slid down the side of my cheek, and Edward brushed it away gently, his thumb lingering there. "I want to help you. And whether you want to hear it or not, I need you in my life," he finished softly, for the first time since starting, he dropped his eyes away.

My heart hammered against my chest. It was a despondent beat, not steady in any way, mirroring my mixture of exuberance at his request and terror. "Edward, I… I don't know what to say. This is so painful, to feel, I've been numb for so long …" The words came out choppy, and I found myself gasping lightly for air. He moved to my side, rubbing my back softly.

"Calm down Bella, breathe," he whispered.

"I'm terrified of you," I barely whispered, eyes fixed on the cotton fibers loose at the edge of his collar. "What you do to me, what you make me feel - you overwhelm and consume, and I can't…"

"Bella…" Edward sounded in pain. "Don't…"

"I … I … I love you," I barely choke out before bursting into tears. The words came out of nowhere, and I was taken aback myself; I couldn't imagine how Edward felt. Unable to look at him, I clenched my eyes shut tightly, trying to reign in my sobs. "I'm sorry, I didn't… I shouldn't have said that," I mumbled through my dampening cries.

When I finally got the courage to look at him I was met with an uncertain expression. His eyes were searching my face, just staring. Tears continued to moisten my cheeks but my ragged breathing slowed. I stared back into his eyes, our gazes locked intently. After a moment, my breathing was slow and rhythmic, matching Edward's, but the tears still came, slowly, in fat drops, sliding down my cheeks and collecting at my chin.

Bringing his hand up, he gently wiped them away, closing his eyes when his skin came into contact with mine. My body felt limp, helpless, my arms hanging at my sides, but I couldn't move. Slowly, lashes gave way to that vibrant green, a tear slipping between gliding down his soft cheek. My heart squeezed painfully, thundering unevenly still.

"My sweet, sweet girl, you feel so much. Everything touches you so deeply, you see it differently, but this heart…" his right hand rested lightly over my heart, no doubt he could feel it against his palm. He smiled softly. "It is so strong, so loving, it's beautiful."

His hands moved to cup my face, the tears had stopped, though I shook under his touch. His smile grew as he continued. "You are beautiful. Those words you just said to me are beautiful."

Swallowing hard, I blushed as it made a loud gulping noise. Edward leaned into me, his lips brushing just below my ear. My eyes slid closed, the feel of his delicate kiss fluttering at my skin, unbinding me. "Everything about you is beautiful," he whispered into my neck. "I love your beautiful… and I love you, Bella." I inhaled sharply at his words, my fingers tingling.

"I love you," he repeats.

"I…" my lips wouldn't work, sound was impossible to make, I was tingling all over now.

"I love you," he repeats again.

"Edward… I," I was useless, words failed me.

"It's okay … I love you," he says again, and again, and again, and again - the words etching into the fibers of my skin under his lips. I whimper against him, my hands finally moving as they lace into his hair.

"I love you," a whisper hardly broke across my lips, and I felt his curl against my neck.

"I love you too," he replied simply.

A/N: This chapter was much shorter than my normal chapters, but I couldn't bring myself to add anymore to this. I wanted it to stand out as it is a poignant moment for these two. Also, I have asked before and I believe most of you've noticed the chapter titles are lines from Bob Marley's Redemption Song. This is the first chapter that is not. Again, it just felt right that way, this chapter is a small glimpse of a shift in their lives - especially Bella's. I wanted it to be different. Thanks so much for reading and tolerating my sporadic updates.

Please review, feedback helps me grow! Thx!

xo Buff