Antiaol, bmango and mskathy own me. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. But I own Subward.


Our Lives Unbound, Chapter 31: Our Give and Take (Part 2)

As I make my way out onto the patio, I find myself thinking about routines and rituals. For years, I marked my life out in them: the sound of an alarm and the aroma of coffee, the lonely nights spent wanting and the feel of needy flesh inside my hand. Even in these happy months since Bella found me, there have been rituals - actions that demarcate the person I am and what is expected of me. Standing there in the waning light, my fingertips instinctively search out my collar beneath the broadcloth of my shirt, remembering how my lover becomes my Mistress by placing her love against my skin and showing her ownership to anyone who can see.

With my other hand, I accept the cigar that my father passes to me, remembering a whole series of nights just like this one. It is a sign of manhood and of entry into a circle I do not wish to be a part of.

And unlike my Mistress , my father does not ask me if this is who I want to be.

As ever, I hesitate, the cigar feeling strange in my hand, the scent already nauseating as the others cut and light and puff. At the sound of my name, I look up to see Emmett passing me the cutter, and I stare at for a moment before looking up at him.

"Actually," I begin, already beginning to hold the cigar toward my father, "I think I'll p-p-p…p-pass tonight."

"Don't be ridiculous," my father says dismissively.

"Nnnno, thanks."

To my surprise, my father takes the cigar, but then before I can say another word, he's grabbed the cutter, too, and snipped the head off expertly, passing it back to me even as I am still shaking my head.

"Just put the damned thing in your mouth already."

Yellow.

I remember a similar request, and I remember my words. And I wish my interactions with my family were as safe as the ones I have with my Mistress - that my words would be as loudly heard.

"Nnnno, thank you," I repeat, my hands in fists at my side.

"Do you know how much these things cost? It's ruined once you cut it."

I stare back at my father, but I do not move. "Then you p-probably shouldn't have c-c-cut it."

My brother's laughter interrupts us, diffusing the tension incrementally. He lifts his own cigar to his mouth and inhales deeply before puffing out and gesturing, the glowing end becoming an extension of his hand. "Ed does have a point, you know."

I am rendered mute by my father's sudden proximity as he steps toward me, shoving the cigar into my shirt pocket before moving away again, turning to the side and smoking. More descriptively, he's fuming.

And while it still makes me feel worthless and small, the terror does not bloom in my heart this time. In fact, it takes everything I have not to laugh out loud as I stare at him, realizing for perhaps the very first time, that there's nothing he can do to me.

That there's no reason he should have that power over me.

That he doesn't. Not unless I give it to him.

One small, slightly cracked-sounding chuckle does escape my lips as I step backward, leaning against the house and letting my hand drift once more to my neck. This time, I do not hesitate, loosening my tie and undoing the top two buttons of my shirt until my fingers tangle with leather. Until I feel like myself again.

With the metal oval of my collar grasped tightly between my forefinger and my thumb, I breathe in deeply, filling my lungs for the first time in hours, it seems, and look up to find my father's gaze fixed intently on my hand as he lifts the cigar once more to his mouth.

"Is it that girl?" he asks. Even at his tone, I don't shirk. I don't have to.

"Exc-cuse me?"

"She won't let you smoke, right?"

Curling my fingers more tightly, I feel the Chinese character pressing against my palm and hear the irony that's lurking just beneath my words as I insist, "She d-doesn't tell me what I can and c-c-can't do. I just d-don't wwwant to."

My father shakes his head and snorts.

Beside him, Father Arnold blows out a thick plume of smoke before spitting over the railing in a practiced motion he's clearly done a hundred times before. "Good for you, Edward," he says, nodding at me. "Nasty habit, really."

"You know, you're really going to have your work cut out for you with that one," my father says, interrupting. "You're as bad as your brother, in that respect."

Of course I am.

Lord knows I've never been as good as him.

"With Bella?" I ask. There's something shaky to my hands, but it's not the instability or weakness it would usually be. It's anger. It's me, ready to protect what's mine and what I love.

"Of course," he shoots back. "A woman like that or like your brother's wife. Trying to bring them to heel - "

"To what?" My voice is almost a screech, and it startles even me with its intensity.

It does not give my father pause. "A man needs to show a woman who's boss if he's ever going to have any peace - "

"Who the ffffffffffffffff-fuck are you to decide what a m-man is?"

For fear of breaking it, I let go of my collar, feeling the now-warm oval hit my chest just as the side of my fist meets the brick behind me. It is a dull throb of pain shooting up through my arm.

It is silence descending over us all as my father's face turns crimson.

But I'm not done.

Pulling the cigar from my pocket, I cast it at the ground and turn, lifting my arm to rake my hand through my hair. "I don't have to be the sssame k-kind of man that you are. I don't. And I wwwon't ever b-be. I d-don't want a wwwwoman to heel, whatever that m-m-means. I wwwant one who's strong and b-b-beautiful and who llloves me. Just the way I am."

"How - " my father starts, but I'm not listening.

"Ffffather Arnold," I say curtly, nodding at him. "I'm sssorry to have seen you again like this." I turn to my brother and meet his wide eyes, appreciating that his smile is even wider. "Emmett, I'll c-call you."

Without another word, I turn, hearing my father's sputtering even as I pull the glass door closed behind me and storm through the house.

As I walk, I think of all the things I'd wanted to do here. The childhood bedroom I'd wanted to show Bella - the one I'd wanted to kiss her in. The parts of myself I'd wanted her to see.

But I think it's more important to show my father who I am instead.

At the entryway into the kitchen, I am a vibrating line of energy, high on excitement and terrified of the storm I may have left in my wake, but I don't care. Rosalie is the first to look up, pausing mid-sentence in the story she'd been reading to her child, and in the silence that follows, I find all eyes turned to me. It begins to dawn on me just slightly what I've done, but I'm still seeing too much red to think.

And through that haze of red, all I can see is Bella.

She takes in my appearance with shocked eyes, her arms still elbow-deep in dishwater, and I can see her lips parting, so many questions on her tongue that none of them can push through.

"I'm sssorry," I stammer out, looking only at her. "We need to g-go."

"Edward…" My mother's voice is thin and wavering. She is so slight I'd barely seen her, her back to the pantry and a dishtowel in her hands. And her expression is so disappointed it almost cracks my heart.

Almost.

I shake my head and move toward her. Not waiting for a cue, I place my hands on Mother's shoulders and press my lips to her forehead, dropping my arms to clasp her hands in mine. "I'll c-call you. I promise."

I will. For her sake, I will.

"B-bella?"

"Of course," Bella answers, grabbing another towel from the handle of the stove. "Rosalie … "

"It's fine," my sister-in-law says, rising, her child in her arms. Something about her voice calls my attention, and I am surprised to find her focused on me. "Did you finally tell that old coot off?"

My throat is dry as I acknowledge it. "I … I think I d-did."

"Good for you," she offers.

I nod, still looking at her as Bella's hand entwines with mine. It is such a strange thing to think my sister-in-law, whom I have always feared, honestly understands. Stuttering slightly less now, I say my goodbyes quickly, already hearing the back door opening. I do not wish to be caught running.

But that doesn't mean that I am not going to.

Bella and I are already in the entryway, my hands shaking, adrenaline still coursing through me as I hold her jacket and help her slip it on when I hear my father railing at my mother, and I hear him approaching. Still, I do not pause.

"Edward."

Hearing his voice from just down the hall, I fumble through putting on my own coat, my hand reaching for the doorknob as he approaches, his footfalls echoing against the tile.

"Edward. Don't you dare walk out that door without - "

"Don't you," I seethe. I spare my father just one glance as I yank the door open and wait for Bella to step through. "D-don't you dare." I pause and catch my breath before I meet his eyes again, managing just, "Goodbye." Only as I am saying it do I realize I'm enacting the scene I'd always pictured when I'd envisioned how our parting should have been.

And even over his protests, the slamming of the door behind me seems like the loudest sound in all the world.

#~~#~~#

"Pull over, Edward."

Bella's voice feels like it's floating through a fog, and I just curl my hands more tightly around the steering wheel.

"Pull over."

It's sharper now. Stopped at a traffic light, I turn to look at her and see the gleam in her eyes that reminds me of her demeanor as my Mistress .

"I mean it."

It takes a moment before I can realize I'm shaking and that I remember nothing since I got in the car. With a cold sweat breaking out across my neck, I nod numbly and face forward again, somehow managing to pull into the very same lot where she put her mouth on my body just a few short hours ago. Once the key leaves the ignition, my head falls into my hands, and I am somehow surprised to feel a burst of air when the door opens beside me.

Held inside of Bella's arms, I let it all fall away, obeying instructions to unfasten my seatbelt and step out of the car. There in the empty lot, she wraps her entire self around me, my face pressed deeply to the softness of her hair and neck as I breathe.

All I can do is breathe.

Finally, she pulls away and holds my head between her hands, staring up at me with an expression that is tender and loving and everything I need it to be. "You okay, baby?"

I nod, my smile cracking. "I love you," I croak.

Her lips curl up in relief as she pulls me down to kiss me. "And I love you."

Without another word, I press the keys into her palm. She stares at them briefly but then nods and squeezes my hand, waiting until I pull away to get back into the car.

As she pulls back onto the road, I stare out the windshield and replay every moment of the evening in my mind. Each is more awful than the last, every inch of me a conflict between the heady freedom of speaking up and horror at exactly the same.

Knowing always what I need, Bella drives in silence, her hands both firmly on the wheel. While I always crave her touch, for once I am grateful for my space.

I let her steer. And I let myself think.

#~~#~~#

The first things I notice are the familiar streets drifting by, all neon and brick. My chest is lighter, the buildings and spaces that I know settling one of the many layers of discomfort that have built up around my ears, closing my throat.

"Sweetheart?" Bella's voice is tentative, and I vaguely wonder if she's spoken to me before - if I've been too lost in myself to hear.

"Yeah?" I look at her and marvel as always at how beautiful she is.

A flicker of amusement passes over her face, her eyes darting briefly to mine. "So you are still in there."

I chuckle and let my eyes shift back to the world drifting by.

"I was just wondering where…"

"My place," I answer, too quickly perhaps. Too definitively.

"Um…" She hesitates, but I'm not sure why. "Both of us?"

My eyebrows furrow as I reply, "Of c-course." At her lack of a response, I look back to her, and I endeavor to soften my posture and my tone. "Please?"

I may take nothing for myself. But this I can ask for.

I'm not sure what else I need, but tonight I know that I need her.

My breathing returns to normal when she nods and relaxes and slips her hand over to rest on my knee. I massage her fingers gently, pressing my thumb into the sensitive skin of her palm in a silent apology. I'm sorry for making a scene and for making her leave, sorry for my silence and the heavy cloud of spinning thoughts that have kept me from telling her what I need.

Quietly, I murmur, "Thank you."

"Of course. Anything."

"I know."

Few words pass between us as she parks and hands my keys back to me, our arms wrapping around each others' waists as we make our way to my apartment. Inside, we shed coats and turn on lights, moving slowly but never letting much space emerge between us. There's something about being here - about being safe - and it slowly dawns on me more fully that something monumental has transpired.

I am standing in the doorway between my kitchen and my living room when I finally give voice to it.

My voice is shaky as I breathe, "I t-told off my dad."

Bella turns, her eyes connecting with mine and a broad smile spreading slowly across her face. "You did."

My feet close the space between us before I realize I've told them to, my face hovering mere inches above hers, and I can feel her breathe. "I've never done that before."

"He deserved it."

Even I can hear the wonder as I say, "I know."

"How does it feel?"

"It feels … " I hesitate, but there is no other word. I am half-laughing as I answer, "It feels amazing."

There is palpable relief as my lips descend upon hers, hungry and needing. Like I could consume her. Like I can't get my hands close enough to her skin.

"And it's all because of you," I breathe between kisses, her taste on my tongue and her air in my lungs, and I want to be closer. I want everything.

"No, you're - "

"It's you," I insist. It is.

It's always been her.

There's that shaky, powerful feeling in my hands as I wrap them around Bella's hips, pulling her to me at the same time that I press forward, pushing myself against her and walking her backwards till she's pressing into the wall. It's a high that's almost as intense as the one I feel when I am on my knees for her, and yet it's something else entirely. I don't want to let go of it.

And I know what I want to do.

With a strange euphoria that makes my head swim, I slide my hands down her hips to grasp her ass, lush and full, lifting her even as I'm kissing her, and she wastes no time in wrapping her legs around my waist. While we are always so in tune when we come together this way, there's something about the way she takes my cues that pushes the buzzing, thrilling feeling in my head and hands even higher. I thrust my hips without hesitation, the pleasure intensified by the way she responds, her groan so loud in my ears and her breath hot.

Still kissing her, sucking hard on her lip, I place my hand on her wrist and lift it to my shoulder, grunting, "Hold on," before I shift her higher against my hips and peel her from the wall. With her body still wrapped around mine, one hand beneath her ass and the other splayed across her back, I stagger toward my bedroom, and I can do this. I know I can.

When my knees finally hit the foot of my bed, I lift one up onto the mattress before dropping us both down onto it, my cock fitted to the space between her legs as I land between them, my hands braced on the bed so that I lean over her. I duck my head to kiss her mouth in an effort to hide the way my arms tremble until I'm lost in her, my hips sliding against her and my tongue tasting her. Holding myself up on just one arm and breathing hard, I let one hand drift down to her thighs, pushing her dress up, and she arches her back, reaching down to grab the hem as together we pull it off of her.

"God, you're beautiful," I groan as I drag my lips from her mouth and down her chin, sliding them wetly over hot skin until I reach her breasts. I tug the cup of her bra down hungrily before sucking white flesh into my mouth, letting her hands guide my head toward her nipple where I tongue and kiss and nip. At each touch, she pushes her hips against me more forcefully, mirroring my own needy thrusts, as she releases her grip on my hair to reach behind her back, unfastening her bra. I rip it from her body as soon as I feel the give in the fabric, my mouth relentless against her skin as I focus only on touch and want.

Feeling her hands at my throat, tugging at my tie, I groan and push myself against her more roughly, chasing a feeling that I think can be the only possible culmination of all this power coursing through my veins. It's adrenaline and sex and control.

And I'm in control.

I feel like I'm in control of myself for the first time in my life.

Bella slips the tie from around my neck, and I wrest it from her, tossing it behind me in the clearest sign that I can think of to show her that tonight has nothing to do with restraint. It's about giving up and giving in, and I am yielding to instincts I never even knew I had as I chase her fingers down my chest, pulling at buttons until I can tug my shirt free from my pants. As she pushes it off my shoulders, I rise up onto my knees and stare down at her, fumbling with my belt and holding her eyes.

I stand to pull my pants and boxers away, kicking off my shoes and stepping out of them before climbing over her again, naked and needing, my cock leaking with the desperate desire to be inside her and to find an outlet for this energy. To take her and to love her. To prove to myself that I'm still really me.

She lifts her knees and slides her thumbs into the waistband of her underwear, dragging them off her legs. Before she even gets them to her knees, I place my hands on the undersides of her thighs, framing her pussy and stroking along the sides of it with my thumbs. I slowly dance my fingers up the length of her sex, pressing deliberately at wet, hot flesh as my arousal throbs to the sound of her breathing. My eyes follow my hands, my mouth slack at the unbearable eroticism of watching my own fingers slide inside her, hot and slick and silky, and knowing how she'll feel wrapped around me.

My eyes clench closed and my cock twitches, a near-painful spasm of desire pulsing through me to the point where I can scarcely breathe, I want so badly to be inside her. Sliding my hands up to the insides of her thighs, I push them wider and pin them to bed just long enough to fit my hips to hers. With a shuddering breath, I drag the underside of my cock over the deep, flushed flesh of her sex, watching in rapt attention as the bead of fluid at my tip melts into her wetness when I slide the head over her clit. Pulling my hips back, I can feel myself pressing just to her entrance, her pussy yielding, practically welcoming me inside, and at that, I pause.

I swallow hard as I tear my gaze from the sight of my body about to enter hers to stare up at her. And I can swear in that moment, that I have never seen her look at me with so much love.

Releasing her thighs, I drop down onto my elbows with one hand on either side of her head and touch my brow to hers, our noses brushing as I close my eyes to center myself. When I open them again, she is still gazing at me, one hand reaching up to graze my cheek as the other wraps around my back.

"You have to tell me," I whisper unsteadily.

"Tell you what?"

"If I do anything wrong," I manage, drawing my hips back and then pressing forward slightly until just the head of my cock is surrounded by lush heat and that perfect grip of her body. I close my eyes again and drop my head to press my forehead to the mattress, my mouth against her throat as I grunt, "While I'm fucking you."

And then, slowly, powerfully, I thrust.

And I'm home.

"God, yes, baby," Bella breathes. Her legs wrap around me completely, drawing me deeper, and I want to surround her and be surrounded as I begin to push and pull, sliding hot and wet inside of her again and again. Over and over, I bury myself, taking and loving, touching and fucking, and it's good. It's so good.

"You feel incredible," I pant, my cock so deep inside of her and my nerves on fire. I know she feels too good - that I feel too good, and I know I won't last. But I know, too, that it's okay. Grinding my hips against her clit and sucking at her neck, my hand cupping her breast and rolling her nipple between my fingers, I let myself take.

I let myself fuck.

I let myself love.

Finally, everything begins to crest, the sensation too much to keep at bay. As if she knows, Bella drags my lips to hers, kissing me deeply before whispering, "Let go, baby." She grabs my ass and clenches her pussy to squeeze my cock, and it's all I can do just to keep thrusting through it, the pleasure hits me so intensely. My climax is hot and hard and messy, my entire body seizing with the blinding pleasure of emptying myself inside of her, and I bite down hard on the place where her neck meets her shoulder as I pulse and shudder and come.

"Bella," I groan. "Fuck. Bella."

When I can finally open my eyes again, it is to find the most beautiful, shining ones staring back at me, and I kiss her desperately as my body surges with the aftershocks, everything still wildly sensitive as I pull myself back. I don't let the fact that she still has yet to come overwhelm me that way I once might have as I tug her bottom lip with my teeth and rise up onto my hands and knees over her.

Her hand is already reaching to touch between her legs, but I shake my head and pull her wrist away, chuckling and shivering with lingering jolts of pleasure at her frustrated groan. "Patience," I urge her, kissing back down between her breasts and to her navel before sliding down the bed and attacking her pussy with my tongue.

Pushing two fingers and then three inside her, I curl and thrust, licking and sucking at her clit and groaning against her when her fingers thread through my hair. Rather than repulsing me, the evidence of my own orgasm on her flesh just makes me more determined to help her find hers. In the end, it takes less than a minute of working her body with my mouth and hands, one palm firm on her inner thigh to keep her open for me as she guides my head and bucks her hips, the walls of her sex tightening.

"God, that's hot," she moans. "That's so hot, baby."

She has no idea.

There's nothing hotter in the world than making her feel this way.

"I'm … " she pants. "Edward, I'm …"

And I know it's good. It's so good she can't even scream.

I stroke her through it, slowing my hand and tongue as her body tenses and then relaxes, her pussy rhythmically squeezing and then easing. Finally, when her grip on my hair releases, I slide my fingers back and press one more gentle kiss to her clit before collapsing, resting my cheek against her thigh and splaying my hand out across her abdomen.

Looking up at her, I feel our gazes connect. And when her lazy, satiated smile reflects my own, I wonder if it's possible to be happier than I am right now.

#~~#~~#

"So…" Bella begins, stretching and arching her body against mine as we lie there, naked and entwined. "Not that I'm complaining, but can I ask what brought that on?"

I laugh and run my fingers through her hair. "I don't know. I just … wanted to." It's amazing to just be with her like this. It's amazing to feel so free. When she doesn't respond except to kiss my chest, I feel a small pang of worry, though. I remember stories of lovers who took control from her before. "Was it ok-kay? For you?"

"Mmm." She hums seductively and props herself up on her elbow before leaning down to press her lips to mine. "Definitely. It was just different to see you like that. All confident and stuff. It was sexy."

"Really?"

"Really."

Bella swings a leg over my hips to sit astride me, and I lift my hands instinctively, placing one on each side of her waist as she supports herself with her arms braced against my chest. "Just don't think it's going to make me any less excited to get you on your back next time."

Spent as it is, my cock shows signs of life beneath her, and she nips my lip as my body stirs. "Wouldn't dream of it," I breathe. "You know how much I like being under you."

"I do," she says, pausing to kiss me softly. "Just like sometimes I like being under you."

"Sounds like a good match then."

"The best."

We kiss and touch lazily for a few minutes before she slides back down to lie beside me. Her head settles on my shoulder, my arm wrapped around her securely and her fingers slowly tracing circles on my chest. Soothed by her touch, I relax for what might be the first time all day, all the stress and anger gone, but in their wake there is an exhaustion I had not been entirely prepared for.

My eyes are just drifting closed when Bella begins to stir again. There is something about the way she is squirming that makes me blink one eye open. "What?" I ask, snuggling her closer.

"You don't have to talk about it if you don't want, but …" She pauses, and I hum to encourage her, stroking her side. "I'm just wondering what made you snap. With your dad."

My hand stills against her skin as I blink both eyes a few times and try to find words for what happened.

"It's just," she says, continuing. "You put up with him saying such awful things. Hell, I was ready to slap him when he snapped at you about stuttering. But you just shook that all off, and then … "

I sigh and resume touching her, grasping her hand in mine and holding it over my chest. "And then he said sssome things that I couldn't shake off any more."

"About?"

Shrugging, I press my lips to her temple. I almost say, About you, but I don't think that's a road that I should go down. Still wanting to be truthful with her, I take a different but parallel tack. "Ab-bout being a man. About what it means to love a woman."

She gets my meaning regardless. "Oh."

I shift out from under her and turn so I can look into her eyes. With one hand lifting to brush her cheek, I say quietly, "No one can tell me there's anything wrong with the way I love you. Not him. Not anyone. I may d-doubt myself sometimes, but I could never doubt that."

She stares at me levelly before gripping my hand and bringing it to her lips to kiss my knuckles. "Neither could I." She pauses for a moment, thinking, before continuing, "I'd say I was sorry for putting you through all that, but I'm not entirely sure I am. I'm glad I got to meet them. I'm glad I got to see some of where you came from."

"It's okay - "

With a look, she quiets me. "And I think I'm glad that you got to deal with some things. I was worried at first, because you seemed so freaked, but you seem so much lighter now."

"I am," I agree. "I really am. And it was something I needed to d-do."

"Well, for better or worse, I know you did it for me. So thank you."

I accept her thanks by leaning in and kissing her breathlessly. In my head, though, all I can think is, No, Bella.

Thank you.

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A/N: *sniffle* Our boy's come so far.

Probably two weeks for the next chapter. In the meantime, don't forget that to donate to FoxyFics if you want to read the kinky smuttake I wrote for it: foxyfics . blogspot . com

Thanks for reading.