A/N: Thank you to everyone who reviewed the last chapter. Some of you made me laugh, others almost made me cry… I loved each and every one I received, and I'm so grateful you've taken the time to give me feedback. It truly means a lot to me.
V… Sweetness… You know I adore you. This story wouldn't be the same without your input; I swear you should be the one writing this sometimes.
Found my way back in the dark tonight; couldn't wake up not right next to you.
I'd trade in forever to just hear you say the sound of my name
The Truth About Heaven – Armor For Sheep
I turned at the sound of Bella's voice, and smiled despite myself as I watched her climb across the bed towards me.
"You're meant to be sleeping," I chided softly. Bella shrugged, then reached out for my hands as she carefully shifted to the edge of the bed, preparing to stand up.
"Baby…" She wasn't supposed to be standing, but I didn't really have it in me to stop her. She deserved a moment of freedom after what she'd managed to achieve earlier in the evening, and who was I to take that from her?
She had done an incredible job suturing Emmett's wound closed; she'd finished in a matter of minutes without even flinching at the sound of Emmett's groans of pain. I had been worried when she first started, half expecting her to revert back to how she'd been in the car, but my girl had remained strong, and despite her obvious exhaustion, she'd stayed alert and calm while the four of us had eaten dinner before settling down for the night.
She had been reluctant at first, wanting to stay awake for the first 'watch' duty with me, but had eventually climbed into bed at my insistence. That had been over an hour ago now, and she clearly hadn't been able to fall asleep yet.
"I can't sleep without you there," she murmured as she tucked herself against my chest, balancing on one leg to try and give her thigh a break.
With a heavy sigh, I wrapped my arms around her and kissed the top of her head, thanking whatever deities that may have been up there for giving me my Bella back, even if it was only for a while. I needed her strength to keep me from breaking down into a panic at the thought of what we were facing.
"Someone needs to keep watch," I reminded her. "And Emmett needs Rosalie, so…"
"I need you," she whispered, gazing up at me. I felt my chest tighten at her words.
"Baby…" I exhaled a shaky breath, bringing my hand up to stroke her cheek. Her eyes fluttered closed as she leaned into my touch.
"I just…" She swallowed audibly. "I'm not sure how long this is gonna last. The fear is… It's right under the surface, threatening to swallow me back up, and if I… If I go to sleep, in the morning I might wake up unable to speak again, and… I hate this, Edward."
"I know, baby," I breathed, kissing her forehead. "I know."
"I feel like a child." She pulled me closer and rested her head on my chest again with a heavy sigh. "In the medical centre, everyone was walking on eggshells around me, and I… I had nothing else to focus on but the pain and the fear and… If I even start to think about where I am or what happened earlier today, I'm gonna break, and the only thing keeping me from that is you.
"Bella…" I pressed my lips to her hair, holding her tightly to me.
"I love you," she whispered, turning in my arms and burying her face in my neck. "I'm sorry I can't… that I don't… I want to say it, but the fear just…"
She groaned softly, clenching her hands into fists against my t-shirt.
"I know you don't understand it." She let out a bitter laugh. "I don't understand it. I just know that I can't speak. I need to stay quiet, because if I don't something bad is gonna happen and…"
"Hey," I breathed, pulling back form her touch and cupping her cheeks in my hands, forcing her to look into my eyes. "You don't have to explain it to me, baby."
"I do," she whimpered. "Because otherwise you'll think that I don't…"
"Love me?" My eyes widened in horror. "Baby, no… No… I don't think you don't love me just because you can't say it! I know you love me."
I placed my hand on her stomach, willing her to believe me. "You fought for us, baby. You kept Little B safe… you stayed quiet so I would be safe, and you wouldn't have done that if you didn't love me. I can see it in your eyes. You don't need to say it."
"But I want to." Tears welled in her eyes. "I want to talk to you, baby, but I… I…"
She swallowed hard.
"When they… When I was… When they had me?" She sounded so small in that moment… so fragile. "I didn't let myself speak, because I knew I'd say too much and they'd find you, and now… Now I can't speak because part of me still thinks that I'm going to wake up and find that this is all an amazing dream, and I'm still there and Alec and Jane are…"
"Shhh," I soothed, pulling her back into my arms and holding her tightly. "This is not a dream, sweetheart. This is real. And I love you. You know that, don't you?"
She nodded. "I do."
As she snuggled against my chest, I carefully shifted us towards the window, leaning against the wall so I could support her better.
"What changed?" I murmured softly once we were comfortable, trying to keep my tone light.
"Before, in the car… You were barely with me; your focus was on something else. But then… You were responsive again. You sutured Emmett's leg. Perfectly." I kissed the top of her head. "What changed?"
"I don't know," she whispered. "When he was shot, I… It was like I was suddenly back in that tunnel, and I was just waiting for them to get us, but then… When I saw you trying to clean him up, this… instinct to try and…"
She trailed off with a soft laugh.
"What?" I wondered, frowning. Bella gazed up at me after a moment, a small smile on her face.
"It was a maternal instinct," she murmured. "To protect him and keep him safe. I knew that I could help him, and that… overrode everything else."
I smiled back at her. "You're becoming a Mama Bear."
She laughed softly. "I hope so."
"What do you mean?" I frowned. "You already are."
"No," she mumbled. "I'm not. I… I love my son beyond words, but once Boss Man started sending me out and Pixie was looking after him?" She shook her head. I knew she was referring to Jake and Alice; it was something which caused her deep pain. "I distanced myself a little. I let her be his Mama Bear, because I couldn't always be there for him, and I… I want to be that for him. And for our baby."
"Picket fence," I murmured.
She laughed again, the sound light and genuine. Fuck, I'd missed hearing her laugh.
Our lips met then. Just a soft, chaste kiss, but it spoke more than words could. I sighed contentedly as she leaned against me again, both our gazes fixed out the window. No movement. No changes. No threats.
"Bella?" I said softly after a short while had passed. The question had been on my mind for hours; I had to ask her.
"How did you know what to do?"
She stiffened, and for a moment, I wondered if maybe I'd finally caused that switch to flip, condemning her to silence once more. But then she curled her hand into a first against my t-shirt and exhaled a shaky breath.
"My dad," she mumbled. "He had a gash in his arm when he came home one night, and showed me how to sew it back up. Said it would be important one day." She sighed. "I was fourteen."
I squeezed her gently, letting my hand run up and down her back to comfort her. Words wouldn't be of any use to her; she just needed my touch while she handled the memories.
"Will you come and lie with me?" she whispered after a few minutes, suddenly sounding drained.
"Of course," I murmured. She smiled gratefully, then turned to start moving back to the bed. "Here, let me."
I bent forward slightly and started to wrap her arm round my shoulders, then hissed in a breath.
I clamped my eyes shut, willing the pain in my shoulder to go away.
"Oh, my God," she mumbled. "Your shoulder. Shit."
"Fine? Don't lie to me, Edward," she warned, gazing into my eyes as she ran her hands down my chest to grip the hem of my t-shirt. "Don't hide this from me. I can handle it."
She carefully pulled up the t-shirt, gliding her hands up my chest as she did so. I sucked in a breath at her touch and tried to focus on her instead of the pain.
Once my good arm was free of the fabric, she guided the t-shirt over my head and slid it down my other arm, making sure she didn't jostle my shoulder in the process.
"Oh, Edward," she breathed, gently running her fingertips along my shoulder and tracing the still-pink scar from the surgery.
"It doesn't usually hurt, but I think I just over-used it," I told her softly. She frowned, so I clarified for her. "I held my own weight up when we were… you know… and then helping Emmett and carrying you after that… I guess I haven't quite got my full strength back yet."
"They performed surgery on me when I, uh…" I'd forgotten she didn't know the full story yet. "When I got back, and I was supposed to be going to physio, but I…"
"Stayed with me instead," she supplied.
"Yeah," I mumbled.
She sighed, then leaned forwards and pressed her lips to my shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," I murmured, knowing she was apologizing out of sympathy; she probably felt it was her fault I was shot in the first place. "I'll be okay, baby."
She nodded, then smiled sadly before turning and carefully hopping to the end of the bed. She climbed on, taking care not to put pressure on her bad leg, then shifted up towards the pillows and pulled the sheets to one side so I could join her.
I gazed at her for a moment before smiling and climbing in beside her, pulling the sheets up around us in a protective cocoon as she rolled onto her side to face away from me. I shifted closer to her, curving my body around hers, then slipped my hand under her top to rest against her stomach and smiled when she shuddered.
"I love you," I whispered, dropping a kiss to her neck and barely managing to stifle a groan as she pushed her hips back against mine in response.
"I love you, too," she breathed, then exhaled a heavy sigh before letting her body melt against mine.
Before long, her breathing evened out and her eyes fell shut, and I felt a pang of dread in my stomach.
Please, please don't let me lose this. I need her like this; whole, happier, responsive. Please don't let sleep claim that part of her. I beg you. Please.
"You were meant to wake me up an hour ago."
I shrugged, but didn't move from my spot beside the window.
Ever since I'd finally forced myself to leave Bella's side and get back to playing watchman, I'd been standing in the same spot by the window, watching over everything as closely as possible. My temporary break hadn't cost us our security, but that didn't stop me from feeling guilty about it, so I'd decided to lengthen my shift a bit to make up for it.
Despite my best attempts at figuring something out, I still hadn't been able to come up with a safe place we could drive to after leaving the motel. It wasn't wise to stay in one place for too long, and without Agency help, we had no way of getting to a safe house. I'd toyed with the idea of going to Seattle and staying with Alice, Jasper and Jake, but quickly crossed it off the list. They'd have been moved immediately.
The Volturi owned a lot of places in Seattle anyway, but that was really the only place in Washington where they were present. I didn't know of all the 'bunkers' they owned, of course, but I did know that most of them were either in Illinois, Nevada, or New York State. They had associates and employees who would protect them there, and the authorities were so under their thumb, nobody would be looking for them, despite claiming otherwise.
But if we could get a direct line to Carlisle…
Phone lines could be tapped. Calls could be tracked.
Carlisle himself may even be the rat.
That particular thought made me feel sick. He was, after all, the man who had chosen the surgeons who worked on Bella. He'd kept his cards closed to his chest this whole time… Who knew what kind of hand he was holding.
"Come on." Rosalie's voice broke my thoughts, and I heard her shifting on the bed. "Switch."
"I'm fine," I told her quietly, shaking my head.
"No, you're not," she countered. "When was the last time you slept?"
Rosalie sighed and I felt her warm hand press against my shoulder. "Edward, you're running on empty."
"I'm used to it."
"So? That just makes it worse," she replied softly. "Bella needs you. All of you. And you can't give that if you're running round half asleep all the time."
I closed my eyes. She was right, of course, but sleeping just seemed like an empty exercise when I could be actively keeping guard.
"She's been moving around an awful lot," Rose continued. "Even in her sleep, she knows you're not there."
I'd noticed that too. During the course of the night, I'd been tempted to go back over to her because she looked like she was on the brink of a nightmare, but each time I began to move towards her, she had sighed and rolled over, her expression becoming more peaceful.
"Edward…" Rose sighed sadly, taking the gun from my hands. "Sleep."
I hesitated for a moment, then finally nodded.
"Alright," I murmured. "If you stand here, you get a good view of the lot and, uh… If anything happens…"
"I'll wake you up," she promised.
Rosalie smiled, then traded places with me, instantly seeming more alert and focused. With a soft sigh, I quietly moved towards the bed, removing my belt so Bella would be more comfortable; it would dig in if she pressed against me otherwise.
Trying not to make the bed shift too much, I carefully took off my shoes before climbing in behind Bella, bringing the sheets over us both and sighing as warmth spread through my body. The second I was close enough to touch her, Bella moaned softly and shifted back against me, her body sensing mine even in sleep. After a few moments, she sleepily looked over her shoulder at me, blinking to try and adjust to the darkness of the room.
"Go back to sleep, baby," I murmured, shifting closer and sliding my arm round her waist. Bella smiled weakly, then rolled onto her back and wrapped her arms around me, guiding my head to her chest and letting her fingers run through my hair. I exhaled a long, content sigh, feeling the tension in my body melt away. Somehow, she always knew exactly what I needed.
Unable to fight the exhaustion any longer, I finally let my eyes drift shut…
I groaned, nuzzling my face against the soft warmth that was beneath it.
A quiet laugh made the warmth vibrate under my cheek, and I felt fingers run through my hair.
"Edward." The word was barely a whisper, but I heard it. Bella.
I opened my eyes and lifted my head, grimacing at the bright sunlight flooding through the window and into the motel room. Once my eyes adjusted, I turned my head and saw Bella smiling down at me, her eyes bright and alert.
"Took your time," I heard Emmett mumble, his tone teasing.
"How long was I out?" I rolled onto my back and rubbed my eyes. It felt like I'd only just fallen asleep, but somehow, I still felt better rested than I had in weeks.
"About seven hours," Rosalie replied softly. "We don't have to leave for a while, but we figured we needed a plan first, so…"
"Shit," I muttered. How the fuck had I slept for so long?
Bella rolled over to face me, pressing her hand against my chest. "It's okay. You needed to rest."
I let out a heavy sigh, then nodded. My head felt clearer now than it had last night, but part of me felt guilty again. If anything had happened…
But it didn't.
I lifted Bella's hand to my lips and kissed it softly. She smiled widely, then shifted closer and rested her head on my chest; a complete role reversal from last night.
"Rose, can you help me a sec?"
I glanced over at Emmett, who seemed a lot perkier than he had the night before. He shot me a pointed look, then, with Rosalie's help, moved into the bathroom and shut the door behind them. He was giving us privacy.
I owed him one.
"How's your leg?" I murmured. Bella lifted her head and smiled, resting her chin against my chest as she gazed into my eyes.
"Fine," she teased.
"Have you taken your meds?"
Bella nodded and pressed her lips to my skin, sighing softly as I wrapped my arms around her. I inhaled deeply, letting my eyes flutter shut for a moment.
She was still here. Talking in front of Emmett and Rosalie. More progress.
"You're still talking," I murmured.
"I am," she sighed, nuzzling my neck. "I feel… Calmer. Somehow."
"I'm glad," I breathed as relief sparked in my chest. We would be okay.
Bella pressed an open-mouthed kiss to my neck, then pushed herself higher up my chest to kiss me properly, the tip of her tongue teasing mine. I groaned softly, guiding her on top of me and loving the feel of her weight against me. To be this close with Bella feeling so free… It was incredible.
If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The thought came from nowhere, sending a chill down my spine.
"What's wrong?" Bella mumbled against my lips as my body tensed.
"Nothing," I lied. "I just… Rose and Emmett will be out any second, and I don't want…"
Bella laughed, blushing slightly. "Good point."
Shooting a glance at the bathroom door, Bella shook her head and rolled off me again before sitting up and handing me my t-shirt. I smiled gratefully, then quickly pulled on the t-shirt before grabbing my shoes and putting them on in case we needed to make a quick exit.
I heard Bella shift on the bed and sighed as she kissed my spine, right between my shoulders. I felt like an idiot for letting the thought get to me so much, but something inside me was screaming for me to listen to it. Dread settled in my stomach once again.
"Rose? Em?" I called, gesturing for Bella to come and sit beside me. I needed her close.
After a few seconds, Rosalie and Emmett made their way back into the bedroom and settled on the edge of their bed, facing us.
"Okay," I sighed. "We need a plan."
Emmett nodded in agreement. "Until we know for sure who the rat is, our best bet is to avoid contact with The Agency for as long as possible, so that rules out safe-houses."
"Staying in Washington's safest," I murmured. "The three of you know the area, and if we need to run, Canada's only a few hours away."
"Emmett, if you still have your place in Seattle…" Rosalie began. I shook my head.
"Seattle's a no-go," I told her. "Too many eyes will be on us there."
"Fuck," Emmett muttered.
"We can't keep bouncing around motels, either," I continued. "We can't afford it for a start."
"There must be somewhere we can go," Rosalie sighed. "Olympia, maybe? It's close."
"Too close," Emmett pointed out. "We need to get as far away from Oregon as possible."
"Okay," Rosalie mumbled. "Um… I have an aunt in Everett? I know it's close to Seattle, but…" She closed her eyes, her expression one of resignation. "They know where my family live, so that's a no-go as well."
"Fuck, man, this is-"
The three of us turned to Bella, who lifted her gaze to meet our curious ones.
"We can go to Forks."
"Bells?" Emmett frowned, confused.
"My old house," she murmured as she turned to look at me properly. "Edward, we moved out before my dad joined The Agency; there's no way they'd think to look there."
"How do you know it's not occupied by someone else?" Rosalie asked.
"My dad bought it under an alias," Bella explained. "It was his own… safe-house, I suppose. Nobody but Carlisle could possibly know it was his, and he'd never think to look for us there."
"Forks is only a few hours away," Emmett continued, nodding at Bella. "We can make it there before sundown, check it out…"
"And if something goes wrong? Then what? We're back to square one," I pointed out.
"Edward," Bella murmured, taking my hand and squeezing tightly.
"He has a point," Rosalie said softly. "We need a Plan B, just in case."
"We barely have a Plan A," Emmett reminded her. "If Bella says the house is clear, then-"
"No." I pushed myself to my feet and started pacing, running my hands through my hair as I fought down the panic threatening to overwhelm me again. "No, we can't rely on that. They're everywhere, Emmett. James is trying to hunt us down, there's a leak in The Agency, and for all we know, it could be Carlisle himself spilling our secrets!"
"He wouldn't…" Bella trailed off, frowning. "No, he wouldn't do that to us."
"He was all for leaving you to die in there, Bella," I pointed out. "I don't trust him."
"I do," she replied firmly. "And if you trust me, you'll go with my judgement on this."
I stopped pacing and stared at her for a moment, feeling anger rise inside me.
Guilt-tripping me. I laughed bitterly, shaking my head.
"Edward, no, I…" Bella reached out for me, but I shook my head again. "I didn't mean it like that. I just… Please."
"I need a fucking cigarette," I muttered, feeling my pockets reflexively even though I hadn't lit up once after Bella's return.
Who will it be next time your emotions get too much to handle? Bella?
I pushed Carlisle's words out of my head and headed into the bathroom, closing the door behind me.
I needed two minutes to just chill the fuck out.
You can't keep doing this to yourself, Edward.
I braced my hands against the sink, cursing my shoulder for flaring up yet again, a constant reminder of my failures.
You keep going the way you're going, you won't be able to carry your baby as your arm will be fucked.
"Shut up," I muttered, trying to shaking away the memory of their voices.
My anger wasn't meant for Bella. I was pissed at myself for not being able to protect her; she was always the one coming to my fucking rescue, yet I always seemed to let her down somehow. And now? I was shooting down everyone else's ideas without having any of my own to replace them.
You're a fucking failure.
I closed my eyes.
"Bella, please go back into the bedroom."
"No." I heard her shuffling forwards unsteadily.
I shuddered as her warm hands slipped beneath my shirt from behind and she pressed herself against my back, kissing my shoulder blades.
"I'm sorry," she murmured. "I didn't mean for it to come out like that."
Sighing heavily, I let one of my hands drop to rest against hers through my t-shirt. "I know."
"I wouldn't blame you, you know," she said softly. A little sadly. "If you didn't trust me after…"
"Bella, no. It's not…" I turned round to face her and pulled her against me, hugging her tightly. "I trust you with my life. And Little B's. It's him I don't trust!"
"We have no other choice."
She gazed up at me then, and I was surprised by the strength and fire in her eyes. She knew the risks, and she wouldn't take them unless she truly believed her plan would work; I knew that.
I trusted her.
I trusted her judgement.
But she'd made wrong decisions before.
She'd been willing to sacrifice herself to save me.
And in the process, sacrifice the life of our child.
But she'd fought through torture.
She was strong.
She was smart.
She also hadn't seen or heard my discussions with Carlisle.
I wanted to protect her.
I needed a Plan B.
I wanted to control everything to make sure she was safe.
I wanted, I needed, I wanted.
But what did she need?
What did she want?
Go with my judgement on this.
I swallowed hard.
"The moment anything feels off, we're leaving."
"Alright," Bella murmured, nodding.
"Bella?" I cupped her cheeks in my hands, keeping my gaze fixed on hers. "I mean it. The second any one of us feels like something isn't right, we're getting the hell out of there. Even if you don't agree."
She smiled, then gently pressed a kiss to the palm of my hand. I sighed, feeling the tension in my body lessen slightly at her touch.
"Okay." I lowered my lips to hers, kissing her softly. "Let's go."