Disclaimer: I still don't own Twilight. No matter how many stories I write.
This is the last actual chapter, with just the epilogue to go. Told you I wouldn't drag it out for too long :)
Chapter 4: Always Be My Baby
There's a knock on the door, followed by Bella's soft voice asking me if I'm doing okay.
I know I've spent too long in here, trying to clean myself up a little and make myself a little more presentable, but I'm also avoiding the sight of her here, in what used to be our apartment. It's too surreal. It's too raw.
I'm too hungover.
I brace my hands on either side of the sink and then raise my head to take a look at myself.
It's not pretty.
My eyes are bloodshot and below them are dark purple shadows that make it seem like I haven't slept in weeks.
I suppose the truth is that I haven't.
My skin has an awful grey sheen to it, and even though I've now brushed my teeth three times I can still feel a disgusting film on them.
I splash some cold water on my face, hoping that it might help a little, and then, after patting it dry, I open the door.
Bella is standing there with this haunted look on her face, and all I want to do is fix it. Fix her, fix me, fix us. I want things to be back the way they were - actually no. I want us both to be happy, and I want us to be together.
Is that too much to ask?
After neither of us say anything for a few long minutes, Bella decides to speak up.
"I wanted a chance to talk, Edward." The tone of her voice does not bode well for me, but I'm just glad that she's here. As strange as it is to see her in this setting, the ache that it brings to my chest cannot be denied. I've missed her, so much, and at this point I think I'll take what I can get.
I nod, wincing at the pain that small movement brings me, and then motion towards the living room. I take a seat on the couch, and she sits on the seat furthest away from me. I wince for an entirely different reason.
"Edward," we both start speaking at the same time and the incongruity of our relationship astounds me. How did we get here? We're so far from where we used to be - we used to be able to finish each others sentences.
"How did we get here?" Bella asks me, and I almost have to stifle a smile. She's thinking the exact same thing I am, and maybe not all is lost.
"I think it started when I stifled you and instead of talking to me about it you fled to the other side of the country to a man named Ben."
Bella visibly recoils and I know I shouldn't have said that. That's a veritable bastardisation of events and I was wrong, but I'm not really in the right frame of mind to be having this conversation.
"Ben isn't..." Bella protests, before shaking her head. "It's not like that," she says simply, leaving no room for argument. And I believe her. If there's anything Bella is bad at it's deceiving people, something that reassures me greatly. Jasper explained it to me last night, but I didn't believe it until I heard it from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
"I'm sorry," I say. "I shouldn't have said that. I shouldn't have said that last night either..." I trail off and shake my head at myself. "It seems I have a lot to apologise for," I mutter, but in the silence of the apartment she hears me.
"I think we both do."
The conversation is stilted, and it's so hard. It's ripping away at my chest until I feel like I can't breathe for how stifling it is.
I wonder if this is how Bella felt before she left.
If it is, I can't really blame her for running as fast as she could.
Bella inhales a sharp breath, and her voice cracks on her next words. "I'm so sorry, Edward. And I miss you. I want you to know that."
I raise my head from where I'd been studiously observing the rug, settling on her face. Her eyes are welled up and she's looking at me with such sincerity that it breaks my heart all over again. "I'm so glad to hear that," I say honestly. "I have missed you," I swallow hard so that I can get my next words out. "So much." They come out as barely a whisper, and then I'm fighting tears.
We both sit there for a moment, trying to regain composure. I recover first.
"I think we need to have an honest conversation," I say, possibly stating the obvious, but it needed to be said. "No hiding or lying about feelings because it might hurt the other person." Bella nods, but the grave look on her face makes me feel like we might need a little time to acclimate.
"Do you want to go get some food first? I'm not sure we should be doing this just yet."
She looks wary for a moment, and I can see the wheels turning as she weighs her options. They seem to weigh in my favour though, as she nods and stands up. "Lunch would be good." She says it definitively, but I'm not sure who she's trying to convince, me or herself.
"Good," I echo, before standing to grab my wallet and keys. "Let's go."
We walk in silence to this small cafe on the corner of the street, someplace we visited often before, but, as if agreed upon, we walk past it to find neutral ground.
We certainly don't need reminders of the past. This is painful enough.
We reach an anonymous all-American looking diner and step inside, the fluorescent lighting hurting my eyes. I squint at the room as we choose a booth, sliding in along the ripped vinyl. The diner is worn, and slightly run down, but still has that homey feel.
This should be fine. We each order from the waitress, an older woman with a deeply lines face and voice which belies her sixty-a-day habit. When she's gone, silence settles over the table.
"So," I say, scrabbling for something, any topic, that will help break the ice. We don't need anything heavy, just some small talk for now will do.
I finally settle on asking about New York. "How was the Big Apple?"
This simple question brings the first smile i've seen all day to Bella's face, a genuine grin settles across her face and I can't help but smile in return. Clearly, no matter what happened between us, New York was definitely a good thing for her.
"You have no idea. I mean, Seattle is a large city, but there's nothing like New York. It's exhausting, but it's also exhilarating," she says, the words dripping off her tongue in her honeyed voice. I'd missed her voice, the way it seems to caress the words that flow out of her mouth. When we were back in high school we used to read to each other to try and study. It usually ended in something that was decidedly not revision, but those moments of peace with just her voice floating through the air are some of my more treasured memories.
We ate the rest of our meal chatting about inconsequential things. It reminded me of when we first started dating; we'd been friends for a long time but the new step in our relationship caused us to discover new things about each other. We'd go to all night diners and stay up for hours just talking. I remember thinking that Bella had such a passion for life, and only now am I seeing that it was diminished.
She seems to have that spark again.
I must have just been smiling like a goof at her, because she set down her knife and fork and dabbed at her mouth. "What, do I have something on my face?"
I laugh at that and shake my head, Bella is nothing if not an incredibly neat eater. "No... I just missed this. Remember that all-night diner on Sycamore?"
Nostalgia fills her eyes and she looks downcast for a moment, studying her plate. When she looks back up at me, her smile is melancholy.
I sense that maybe it's time for our talk, so I finish up quickly, getting the bill and opting to catch a cab back to the apartment so as to get there as quickly as possible. It's probably more than a little wasteful, but I'd rather spend a little money to get there and talk than spend the entire walk back tense and wondering.
We get back to the apartment and immediately take our seats, the same ones as before we left. The air is less thick now, and I feel like I can think more clearly, but there's still a certain tension crackling between us.
"So..." I start, trying to break the silence.
Bella laughs nervously. "I'm not sure where we start," she admits, looking down at her hands. She's doing that thing she does when she's nervous, interlocking her fingers and then separating them, only to bring them together again.
I hate that I make her nervous.
I figure I probably have to take the lead, seeing as she took the first step in even coming here after I was so awful to her last night, so I simply state for her to start at the beginning. "When did you start feeling... like you weren't happy."
Bella's eyes snap sharply to mine. "I was happy, Edward. Don't doubt that. I just wasn't... content. There's a difference." I nod, wanting to understand, but not fully comprehending the difference between the two.
"I'm not sure I understand," I admit. I just need her to talk to me, talk me through this. I need to understand. We used to be so in sync, and I hate that it's come to a point where I can't tell what she's thinking. That she was able to hide something so big from me.
Bella takes a deep breath. "I guess... I felt like I was stuck. Stuck in this life that I didn't exactly plan for. I mean, I love you-" I stop her there, because I'm so astonished.
"You do?" There's more hurt in my voice than I would have liked, but it does the trick.
Her entire body softens, sinking into itself. "Of course I do, Edward. An all-consuming love like that doesn't just go away. I didn't leave because I stopped loving you, I left because I didn't want to start resenting you."
Bella shakes her head, probably at my visible wince. "That didn't come out right."
Her reticence makes me angry. "No, you did mean it. And fine, it hurt me a little, but that's what got us here in the first place. You, being afraid to talk to me, of hurting me. Just say what you mean, Bella. I'm a big boy. I can handle it."
My words are a little harsher than I intended, but isn't that why we're here? Complete, brutal honesty.
Tell the truth.
Only then can we have a chance of salvaging this.
"Fine," Bella says, a new fire in her eyes. "You want to know how I was feeling? Trapped. Suffocated. I was working that shitty waitressing job to pay the bills so that you could spend twenty hours out of the house and away from me. That's what I felt like."
She had jumped up at this point and was pacing back and forth. I exploded off the couch at her words.
"You felt like I trapped you? Bella, we talked about it. It was only for a little while..." She interrupted me.
"No, it was only for a little while when you were in medical school. Then you graduated and decided to go back for more, and fine, I understand that it took you a while to discover what your dream was, but why does that mean that I have to be put on hold?"
"You never said anything!" I argue. "You should have said something. I would have been supportive-" she interrupted me again.
"Would you, Edward? Because before you seemed to think that photography was frivolous and unimportant. Certainly not as dignified as being a doctor. How could I come to you and explain what I wanted when what I wanted was seen as less than in your eyes?"
I couldn't even get mad at her for talking over me, because one, she had a point, and two, this was a new side to Bella that I hadn't seen before. We'd never had a fight like this, and she'd certainly never spoken up like this.
I was proud of her, even if I was still angry at her.
"Fine, I concede that I was a bit of a pompous ass, but if you'd sat me down and explained it to me, in detail, told me how important it was to you, then of course I would have been supportive. Was there reason to believe that I wouldn't be, if I knew how important it was to you?" My voice got considerably softer towards the end, as I stilled and sank back down onto the couch. Bella followed, sitting next to me now instead of across from me.
"I was scared. Scared I wasn't good enough, scared to even try. So I stayed quiet."
Her words were little more than a whisper, her vulnerability on full display.
I took her hand in between mine, glad for the little reprieve from shouting. "Bella, I love you, so much. But I'm also angry at you, for leaving and not giving me a chance to be there for you. I wish things could have been different.
Fire sparks in her eyes again and she pulls her hand back. Her eyes flash cold steel and I almost physically recoil. "You were the one that gave me the ultimatum, Edward. You were the one that ended things."
Frustrated. I push my hand through my hair, tugging at it. "I didn't mean it. I was angry, hurt. Of course I didn't want things to be over. I still don't," I say, pulling her hand back in between mine and pleading with her with my eyes. "Please, say there's still a chance for us."
I can see her resolve soften, and then her eyes flood with love and she gives me that look, that look of utter adoration, and I've missed it so much that I can feel a lump form in my throat.
"Of course there's a chance, Edward. You're all I've ever wanted."
I shake my head at her lie. "Don't lie to me, don't hide from me. You wanted photography, too."
Bella shook her head, stroking my hand. "Not necessarily. What I was more upset about was that you were never home. I was constantly missing you, and I was so unhappy because you weren't there. But you never seemed like you were missing out. You seemed fine with the distance."
I shook my head, cupping her cheek in my hand, stroking my thumb along her cheekbone.
"I missed you. Maybe not as much as I did once I realised you were actually gone, and I know now that I took you for granted. But I did miss you." Bella closes her eyes and sinks into my hand, exhaling shakily. A tear escapes from underneath her eyelids and runs down her cheek a little before I wipe it away. I kiss the path it made and then her nose, craving the intimacy.
I come to rest millimeters away from her lips, her sweet breath fanning out over my face. I want to kiss her so badly, but I want her to want to. I want her to make the first move.
She whimpers a little, my name forming on her lips, and then, ever so gently, she brushes them against mine.
That's all the proof I need.
I kiss her softly at first, tentatively. I don't wan to scare her off, but it's so good and so right that it's hard to maintain control.
Apparently it is for Bella as well, as she deepens the kiss, sliding her tongue along the inside of my lip before slipping it into my mouth.
God, I've missed this. I've missed her.
My hand moves without my permission to tangle in her hair, angling her so that I can kiss her deeper, more.
I would never get enough. Her hands come up, one to the back of my neck, pulling me even closer, the other to my side, fisting in my shirt. Our kisses take on a desperate, needy edge, and before long we're panting into each others' mouths. I pull back, suddenly aware of what we're doing.
"Bella..." I pant, trying to gather my thoughts. "What are we doing?"
"I don't know, but I really don't want to stop," she says, bringing her lips back to mine. "Just... be with me, Edward. Please. I've missed you so much."
How can I argue with that?
I grab her hand and lead the way to the bedroom, pulling her into my arms once we get there. Kissing her softly, I let her take the lead from here, because I'm afraid to go too fast.
Bella takes the hint, deepening the kiss and then reaching down to pull my t-shirt over my head. We undress each other slowly, each new piece of skin being reverently stroked or kissed until we are both naked on the bed.
I feel like we're discovering each other anew.
She lies beneath me, laid out like some magnificent prize and I can't help but stare at her, spread out for me. I can't remember the last time we made love, but I have no doubt in my mind that that is exactly what this is going to be.
Cradled in the cage of my arms, she brings her hands up underneath them to hold onto my back, urging me to move with her hips. Her eyes tell me she's ready, so with no further ado, I slide into her wet heat.
We both groan at our union, and I take a moment to adjust to the feeling of being inside of her again.
Bella squeezes my back, tells me to take my time. We have all day. I kiss a path down her neck to her collarbone and then the valley between her breasts, a path I have taken many times before, but feel as though I am taking for the first time.
She tastes the same.
I begin to rock my hips, slowly pulling out, before pushing back into, deep, so deep that she cries out. I can feel her soul.
She hooks a leg around me, trying to gain some leverage, pull me in deeper, and I know just what she wants, so i lift her a little, changing the angle so that my pubic bone pushes against her clit with every thrust.
She moans in pleasure, grappling for something to hold on to. My pace quickens, wanting her to come first, needing her to get there before me. And I'm already so close.
"Edward," she cries out, and I know she's there, know that I'm the only one that does this to her.
She's mine, just as I am hers.
Her walls start to clench around me, evidence of her orgasm, and I allow myself to be pulled over the edge, releasing into her with a grunt. She pants and strokes up and down my arms, waiting for me to recover. I can feel myself softening inside of her, but I don't want to pull out. I don't want to be apart from her.
Eventually though, i need to dispose of the condom, so I pull out to throw it in the trash.
We both sigh at the loss of contact.
I quickly get back into bed, pulling her into my arms and stroking a hand up and down her exposed back. She hums quietly and burrows into me, nuzzling her nose against my chest. I was never this much of a cuddler, but now I'm not able to get close enough. It will never be close enough.
But then I'm suddenly hit with this overwhelming sense of vulnerability. And as I'm prone to do when I feel exposed, I make a joke.
"So, when you leave this time, would you mind leaving some money on the counter? I need to restock my bourbon supplies."
I immediately regret the words.
I am a stupid, stupid man.
I can feel her stiffen in my arms considerably, and I cringe at myself. "Too soon?"
Apparently that was also the wrong thing to say, because she immediately jumps off the bed and starts putting her clothes back on. She's wrestling her panties back up her legs and just gets them into place before she starts yelling.
"Are you kidding me, Edward? I mean, I get that that was a joke, but seriously. You think that's appropriate?"
I shake my head, reaching for her, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it, I just... I started to over think and it just came out."
Bella just shakes her head before she starts searching for her bra. She finds it and starts putting it on, muttering under her breath.
I get up, putting on my boxers, "Listen, Bella, I understand that I shouldn't have said that, but I think you're overreacting."
Bella snaps her bra on and glares at me, halting my movement towards her. "Overreacting? Edward! We just-" she starts gasping for breath, big fat tears dripping out of her eyes and it looks like she's having trouble breathing. Her distress jolts me into movement and I start towards her again, but she just holds up a hand, taking big gulps of air to calm herself.
She's still crying when she starts talking again, but seems to be ignoring it. "I... we just did that and then you..." she huffs and takes another deep breath, her hands going around her stomach as if she's trying to hold herself together. She finally calms enough to get some words out and when she does it's a punch to the stomach.
"This is never going to work if you keep on bringing up the past, and I can't, I can't, I can't-" she can't get the words out and I can't just stand here and not comfort her, so I take two long strides over to her. I gather her into my arms and hold her as she sobs, cradling her to me.
I start whispering into her hair, telling her how sorry I am, over and over until she starts to calm.
"I'm sorry, you're right, you're absolutely right. I think... we may still have some things to talk about." Bella nods and sniffs a little burying her face into my chest.
I soothe her, stroking her back, and I think it's working until I can feel her shaking against me. Fearing the worst, I pull back expecting to see her crying again, but instead I see her chuckling lightly.
I must give her a questioning look, because she just gives me a watery smile. "We just look a little ridiculous," she says, shrugging.
I nod and tug her backwards with me until my knees hit the bed and I fall backwards, pulling her down with me until she's straddling my lap. "I'm so sorry," I repeat. "We maybe shouldn't have done that so soon." Bella shakes her head at me.
"No, I'm glad we did. I think we needed that. To reconnect, or something. I just... I want us to be able to discuss it, it's just." She inhales and then lets out a huff of air before ducking her face into my neck and placing a kiss there.
She raises her head again and then looks straight at me, letting me see everything in her eyes. "I just feel so guilty, Edward. If only I'd spoken up sooner, if only I'd told you about the internship..." she trails off and then places her forehead on mine, bringing us so close I can feel her breathing.
"I just don't want to lose any more time with you."
I give a little happy sigh at her words, squeezing her hips tighter. "I don't want to miss any more moments with you." She nods and brings her lips to mine, kissing me sweetly for a few moments, before I reluctantly pull back. I raise a hand to tuck some hair behind her ear, feeling my heart swell with just the sheer proximity of her.
"Please say you'll come back," I ask her, letting my voice reveal the depth of my true emotion.
"If you'll have me," she chokes out, a watery smile gracing her features.
I nod against her forehead, puling her even closer. "Come home."
She breathes shakily and kisses me softly. "I'm not home unless I'm with you," she says, my heart swelling at her words.
"My only home is with you," I reply, and then I pour myself into our kiss.
It's going to take a while, but we'll get there.
I hope that resolved some of the issues for you. It's not perfect, but what relationship is? I'd love to hear your thoughts, comments. Let me know.
The title of this chapter is Always Be My Baby by David Cook (originally sung by Mariah Carey, but I prefer David Cook's rugged good looks... and the way he sings it :) )