A/N: This is just a little glimpse into Edward's brain in late February 1990. I might not have even posted it, but I promised it to my TiaL gals over on facebook, so, well, here you go. It's no walk in the park. I honestly don't think you need this to understand Edward any better, but I used this to get into his head and Chapter 14 just flowed from this point outwards. So, do with this what you will. Hopefully I'll have more cheery out-takes somewhere down the road.
This was totally un-beta'ed. Any mistakes are mine. M
Each day the battle waged. Each day I worked to keep a toehold in the land of the living. Each day I clung to the sane portion of my brain. I knew without a doubt that I wanted Bella in my life forever, yet each day I lost ground, each day was a darker shade of gray.
I felt my energy waning. I felt my illness taking over in the form of irrational moods, anger and unhappiness. Until, finally I began to lose myself to the darkness for days at a time. The only light I could see were those golden times at the end of the day when she'd crawl into my arms and whisper in my ear the words she'd recently written.
I'd sigh and close my eyes and dream that we could make it work.
I'd found a counselor months ago. They'd suggested drugs, which I rejected hands down. They'd suggested talk. They'd suggested that I explain myself to her. I tried. The explanation hurt. How do you tell someone that there's no way around ruining your shared life?
The solution: you just ruin one life; you try to save the other.
I didn't want to destroy what I saw in Bella. She'd blown into my life all beautiful and innocent, smart and poetic, and insightful as fuck. I tried, but I couldn't look away. I loved her in a way that was new to me. I loved helping her. I love listening to her. I loved being in the same room with her and feeding her and watching her sleep.
And, oh my fucking god, I loved fucking her.
She made me breathless. She made me believe in fairy tales. She gave me this youthful hope that I could do anything that I wanted… or almost anything. I could only fight myself for so long. The only thing she wasn't bigger than was the short circuit in my brain that would lead me down the rabbit hole.
Bella deserved better. She was born with a different fate than my mother had been. She was made of stronger stuff. She was the strongest woman I'd ever met, and she wasn't even twenty. She'd move on. She'd fall in love over and over until she'd settle down and find someone that wouldn't throw her down a set of stairs or strand her on a street corner.
The longer we were together though, the more obvious it became. I couldn't be the one that left. I had no problem pushing people away in the past to keep them out of my line of fire, but here I had the person I loved most in the world, the woman that loved me completely and without reservation, and I couldn't let her go. I couldn't keep her safe. She was as vulnerable as she was strong, really. She wouldn't protect herself. She let me in and held me there, and it was my comfort in the darkness. I was selfish. I took.
After all, I was my father's son. I'd watched him pull this with my mother and I hated him for it. I grew up with arguments, tears, disappearances and unexplained injuries. My father could sweep us off our feet, and then, weeks later, he'd lose his job and try to throw my mother in front of oncoming traffic.
I thought of Bella and bit my lip and let the blood run down my throat. I'd let our relationship get away from me. I'd tried and monumentally failed at keeping her at arms length. As if she'd let me.
She was out there right now, in the library, defying me by staying… and by watching MTV, for the love of god. She defied me both by watching Downtown Julie Brown and by loving me. I fucking loved her.
But fuck, now, at nineteen, she'd become the infamous lover of an unstable rock star. She'd been fodder for the tabloids. She'd been maligned and scrutinized and scorned.
My solution? My fucking brilliant way of dealing with the fall-out of inserting myself into Bella's existence: I shut myself away rather than face her. I ignored her. I waited until she was in class to leave my room. I waited for her to find the strength to leave while I collapsed in on myself.
I told myself that it was only a matter of time before she'd bail. I kept myself in check by sleeping through the pain. I didn't touch her, I didn't talk to her, I didn't let myself tear her apart. She'd go. Eventually. I was relieved for her and I was bereft.
Days passed slowly, then quickly, then crawled again. Darkness held me. Alice's calls went unanswered. My single was scheduled for release. It wasn't the single I'd suggested, nor was it the arrangement I'd suggested. It wasn't anything I'd suggested.
You could hear a pin drop.
I focused on.
"Edward?" Bella asked, from somewhere near the bed.
I held my breath. Hadn't I locked the door? I didn't answer. I prayed she'd leave.
"Edward, please. I can't take… not talking."
She wasn't going to leave. She was stubborn, but so was I.
"Talk to Alice, or Rose," I spat.
"I want to talk to you."
"I don't fucking want to converse, Bella."
No, if I were honest, I just wanted to look at her. It had been too long. Days upon days, perhaps weeks. I didn't fucking know. I closed my eyes, willing her to leave. She opened the blinds instead.
"I want lots of light for this," she said in a sing-song voice, mocking me and accusing me all at once.
I groaned. I was an ass. I was leaving her to the wolves. I couldn't face my own life: the mess I'd made of my career, of my friendships, of us: Bella and I.
I couldn't look at her. I wanted to look at her.
"Look at me," she demanded.
"Fuck," I groaned. She'd always been able to see right through me.
I felt the mattress shift underneath me as Bella perched on the edge. I shuddered as her hand sought out my shoulder. Her fingers were small and delicate… lovely. Fucking lovely. Her nails were always chewed to the quick. From the day we'd met she'd always painted them midnight blue or black. The things those fingers wrote… she'd have a life without me. She had so much potential, so much more command of her life and her destiny than I'd ever had.
"Edward," she begged, her face so close to mine.
There she was, and I drew a ragged breath. Her cheeks were pink and full, her eyes were bright, and her thick hair spilled around her shoulders. She was so much healthier than when I'd found her two and a half years ago. I'd helped, and now I was pulling her under. She needed to get away, but it was already happening.
Her cautious smile lit the room.
Eyes open. Eyes focusing. Her fingers brushed my cheek.
"I'm sorry," she whispered.
"What the fuck for?" My voice was rough and unapologetic.
"All this… stuff," she said, clearly impatient with me.
I snorted and shook my head. I rolled onto my back and covered my eyes. "Don't fucking ask for forgiveness when it's not your fucking fault."
She was stronger than that. She should leave.
"Jesus, Edward. Get over yourself, okay?"
"Oh my fucking god, Bella… This shit isn't about me! It's about you. I never wanted this. Never. I never meant for any of this..."
Her hand found my knee, arresting all possibility of speech.
"Just don't make me do it alone, okay?" she asked quietly. "Don't lay here alone. It doesn't have to be this way. It shouldn't be. You're in there; I know it. The same guy that… I know how you feel about me."
The last part came out like a dare. I took it. I glanced at her. She was angry… and scared. She was frightened of me, my room, our lives – what they had become. And she was determined. I wanted to ask her to stop, but I wanted to hear her say it.
Bella looked me in the eye. "You love me," she said in this very calm and determined voice.
She was right. I did. I loved her - possibly from the moment we met, when it was fucking illegal.
She put her hand on her hip and raised her eyebrows, waiting for me to deny it.
"You do. I know you do," Bella insisted. "November 22nd, 1989. You said that you loved me, you selfish prick."
"Not to mention, you let me stay here - over and over and over again. Even now. Even in the middle of this shit-fest. You love me."
Didn't she get it? None of that mattered. I had to make her understand.
"Bella, I'm an asshole. I won't fucking take care of you. I won't fucking listen. I'll just virtually screw with you at every fucking step. I'll ruin the confidence you have. I'll destroy whatever goodness I found inside you. I'll -"
"Are you depressed or are you an egomaniac?" she screamed, stopping my morose train of thought cold. "Do you think you're god? Well, you're not! You're just Edward Cullen. You like berries and weird contemporary music and the beach in the rain. You have a weird mark at the corner of your mouth. You have a little scar on the shaft of your penis… and one day I'm going to fucking find out how it got there!"
"You're in there, Edward. Don't tell me you're not underneath all of this filth and shit."
That's where I had her. That's where Bella was wrong. I stopped hiding underneath my forearm. I let her see my face.
"You're looking at me, Bella. There's nothing else inside. I'm not some goddamned onion where you can peel back a layer and get goodness and light."
"But I still… Fuck it. I love you, Edward! A lot. You're the only person I've ever felt this way about. And I'm not letting go, okay? I'm not. I won't. I can't."
"It's not fair to you," I practically shouted.
"Then get help and make it fair!"
Been there. Done that. No dice. I closed my eyes. And as much as I should have said the words, I couldn't bring myself to actually say that it was hopeless. I didn't want it to be hopeless. I was unforgivable.
"I can't do this alone," she whispered.
"Try to stay with me?"
"I did," I croaked.
I'd never tried harder at anything before in my life. I never tried harder. A voice told me to try harder, but I didn't have the energy. I was scared. I didn't know what I was trying or doing or saying yes or no to… my head swam and it was too light in the room. The sun shined around Bella like a halo… like heaven… and it reminded me of the first time we'd fucked, and suddenly, for the first time in forever, I wanted her again.
My dick stirred, my heart shuddered.
It was so fucking wrong.
Very, very fucking wrong. I was selfish. She'd think it meant I was going to try. I knew I wasn't. I couldn't.
I pulled her face to mine and her tears wet my cheeks.
"I love you," she rasped against my lips. I took her love. I was an asshole. She loved me… the best, most intelligent, most original, most beautiful person I'd ever met. I took her.
I undressed her as she tore at the sheets and tugged at my boxers. I felt her on top of me, sinking onto me, fucking hot and wet and soft and… Bella. Christ.
"Fuck," I mumbled, as I fell, as I spiraled, as she opened for me, as she blossomed despite the suffocating pain that surrounded us. I loved her and I may as well have been cutting her open with a knife.
"I love you," she mumbled.
"I know, baby. I know." I kissed her back as she rocked and cried.
"You love me, you asshole," she insisted. "Say it. Tell me."
"I love you," I agreed. I did. I'd never said truer words. I could give her that: a larger knife to carve out her own heart.
She moved faster, but I tipped her backwards. I climbed on top of her. Her eyes were wide, brown, bottomless… scared. And I fucked, I let her know, I fucked, I told her, I consumed her, I threw all of the bottomless pain into fucking. It's not what she'd asked for… she asked for love… but all I could give was pain. Pain. Drowning in pain… giving it all to the girl that tried to save me. Giving it all to the girl I never wanted to destroy.
"I… I… I, plea -"
Coming. Breathing. An asshole. A fucking asshole. A fucking asshole.