The Best Things in Life Are Unexpected
Synopsis: On the eve before the fight with the newborns and Victoria, Edward and Bella finally sit down and discuss her reluctance to marry him and how her friendship with Jacob is harming their relationship. An Eclipse "should-have-been" and beyond. E&B.
*Heads Up* I know some of you all out there in fandom don't like "baby" stories, so I thought I'd drop in a warning ahead of time so you don't get wrapped up in the story and then find out it's something you despise. I tend to write quasi-canon stories in which Edward and Bella have a baby. I don't write it in the typical Stephenie Meyer way—I like to twist it up into something else—but if that isn't your thing, I understand. :)
Disclaimer: The Twilight Saga belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Co. No copyright infringement is intended. Text indicated with a (*) is excerpted from the Eclipse movie. This disclaimer stands for the entire story.
A/N: Many thanks to Katmom for beta'ing this chapter, she's the best - really! :) I'd like to thank Twilightmomoftwo for agreeing to help me with the translations on this story. She didn't have to do it, but she's just awesome like that!
"Isabella Swan? I promise to love you forever—for every single day of eternity. Will you marry me?"*
I stared at Edward, where he waited on bended knee before me, my breath caught in my throat.
Many times Edward had implored me to marry him. In my bedroom just after we had returned from Volterra. In our meadow. A whispered plea in the night as I feigned sleep. Once as he kissed my neck, the words murmured so low I could barely hear it.
And now, as he waited statue still and humbled before me.
After a long moment, Edward sighed and broke eye contact with me as his head bowed in defeat. His beautiful topaz eyes darkened with tangible pain, disappointment was clear in their fathomless depths.
Why did I keep doing this? Why did I keep hurting him this way?
I fell to my knees beside him and rested my heated face against his neck. "Please…please don't be mad…"
He lifted his head and pulled back from me slightly. I held his troubled gaze. "Why, Bella?"
I licked my lips as I prepared to list all of the practical reasons that didn't matter at all—people's perceptions, my mother, modern tradition… "I—"
"Is it Jacob?" he asked quietly, his voice cracking as he spoke my best friend's name.
"Jacob? No! I—"
"Bella, I can't go on wondering any longer. I need the truth. Is it him? Is he the reason why?"
I reached out and cupped his jaw, my thumb playing over the dimple in his chin. "No, Edward, it's not Jake. It's never been and never will be Jake." I watched him carefully, willing him to see the sincerity in my eyes.
He sighed, tangible relief in the suspiration, but there was something else there, too. Something troubling.
"Is it me?"
"Edward!" I exclaimed, horrified. I threw my arms around him and burrowed into his reluctant embrace, shaking my head against his neck.
"I know I'm not…like you are…human. That I'm so selfish for asking you to give your life to a monster. That I can't give you what he can. That I'm not good enough—"
"Stop! You stop right there. Don't you—just don't!"
"It's not you. You are everything. You are so beyond everything I could possibly want."
"It's me, all right? It's me."
"I don't understand."
"I'm afraid," I whispered, my voice breaking with tears. "I want to. You don't know how much I want to say yes. My heart screams it every time you ask, every time I see the need in your eyes, but I'm terrified." I shuddered. "You have to understand. Marriage…it reminds me of all of my fears. My parents' marriage didn't last. When I hear that word, I automatically think divorce. I think of my mother fleeing from my father, and then I think about you leaving me. What we have now is safe in a way."
He gasped, his entire countenance pained.
He gently grasped my jaw, interrupting my apology, and turned my face toward his so I could meet his gaze. "I'll never leave you again."
"I want to believe, but you've been so distant."
He sighed. "Not because I wanted to be."
"Then why? You hardly touch me or kiss me anymore. It's almost as if you're afraid to touch me."
"Because, damn it, you keep leaving me and clinging to…him!"
My mouth fell open in shock. "But—but—"
Edward stood abruptly and began to pace the room. "You have to understand I don't want you to do anything with me you will regret when you realize he's what you want!"
"When I realize…? I don't want Jacob that way. I never have," I said, leaping to my feet.
"Every time, Bella, every time you incite me to hope, you shoot me down! And I couldn't, I wouldn't be able to bear living with the knowledge you regret me. Or us…"
"Do you know why I go to Jacob?"
His eyes, so clear and full of hurt and anger, met mine. He shook his head.
I turned away, unable to face him as I confessed my weakness. "Jacob is simple. He is what he is. I don't have to guess at his motives or desires. You say I shoot you down, but the truth is I go to Jake when I feel rejected by you. I always have. Because for a little while he makes me forget you really don't want me." Everything always came back to the time Edward left—my knee-jerk reaction to his marriage proposals, my fear of his abandonment, my withdrawal to Jake's presence…
"You think I don't want you?" he asked incredulously.
I sighed. "It's like you're two different men, and I don't know who the real Edward is. You cling and then you push me away. You ask me to marry you, but you don't want to change me. Sometimes when you touch me it feels like you want to consume everything about me and other times it's so cool and formal and impersonal. You confuse me with your actions."
He faced the wall abruptly, his fists clenched at his sides. I could hear his teeth grinding together from across the room. I followed him. Now was not the time to let him run.
I tentatively touched the tense flesh between his shoulder blades. First, it was just a brush of my fingertips against the soft fabric of his shirt and then I flattened my hand against his back, letting my fingers trail over the hard flesh and sinews that rippled under my touch.
He sighed, bowing his head. "Constantly I fight myself. I want… I want things that aren't…good for you."
I frowned and stepped around him. "What do you mean?"
He brushed his fingers brushing over my cheek so softly I felt the cold of his skin radiating against me more than the tremulous pressure of his touch. I shivered and he dropped his hand with a despondent huff.
"I want you." His eyes bored into mine, pitch black and naked with lust before they fell closed. "More than I should."
His lips twisted derisively. "Why the whiplash?"
"Yeah." I thought of another time Edward had given me whiplash with his actions. It'd been after we first met and he was trying to protect me from the monster that lived within him. Could the same be true here? Had I really misconstrued his actions so much?
"It takes everything within me to keep from taking you. I'm not strong, Bella. When it's the worst, when I'm at my weakest, I withdraw to protect you…from me. Lest I seduce you and you regret it later."
There it was again, his revelation he thought I would regret being with him. I'd never considered what I perceived as his constant rejection was actually him trying to be noble. How often had I been hurt and rejected at the altar of Edward's selflessness? How could I tell him I would never regret such intimacies between us—that I needed them?
He cupped my face, his cool hands cradling my cheeks, and his head fell slightly and rested against mine. "Don't you know I wish for more? Long for more? Do you think I'm content with chaste kisses and innocent touches? You're my mate. Everything within me cries out for you!"
My heart was pounding and there was a funny feeling building in the pit of my stomach—one I was very familiar with. I caressed the tense line of his jaw. "It's no different for me, Edward. I long for you. Ache. "
He exhaled roughly. "You have to understand the gravity of what you desire. If we…if we take that step, if you accept me as your mate…there's no going back. I'll never let you go. I'll kill any man who touches what's mine. Do you understand? If—if we…and you run to him..." Edward's eyes squeezed shut. "I—I have to know this isn't about curiosity or hormones… I need to know, Bella, because I weaken with my need for you more every day."
"I—I—I didn't—" I stuttered. "I'm sorry. I didn't think. I didn't consider—"
He pressed his lips gently against my forehead, dropping his hands from my face and pulling me closer. "No, love, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have pushed the issue. It's just it's a torment not knowing—more so than knowing at this point."
I buried my face in his chest. I hadn't even considered that in an effort to protect myself I'd actually been robbing myself of the one thing I needed the most. "I'm sorry I gave you cause to doubt me. I'm just…I'm a horrible person."
He pulled back from me in shock. "What? No!"
I cupped his jaw, rubbing the smooth skin of his cheek. "Yes, I am." A tear streaked down my face. "I've been unfair to you and to Jacob."
"What do you mean, Bella?"
I grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the bed. I sat on the soft mattress and he followed suit.
"I just need you to listen, okay?"
"Of course, love."
I swallowed hard and looked away from him, focusing on the black iron railing of the canopy. I knew this was going to be hard for him to hear. "I'm afraid you will hate me after this," I whispered.
Another tear traced down my cheek and he gently wiped it away. "Edward, I need to tell you the story of Bella Swan. I need you to understand who I really am." He didn't speak, so I continued, "I love my mother, but behind the façade of a being a free spirit who couldn't be tied down, she was a bitter and angry woman. At least until Phil. But deep down, she just wanted someone to overcome the obstacles and love her.
"That's why I came to Forks. I thought she deserved a chance to finally get it right, you know? For a long time she distrusted men, expected them to hurt and leave her, so she always made a preemptive strike, short-circuited her happiness out of fear. And it was out of fear and distrust she taught me about men and what to expect from a relationship, pounding into my head the need for variety and experience instead of commitment and marriage.
"In Phoenix, I was nobody, just the mousy girl in the corner. And then I came here… You, Edward, you were everything my mother warned me about, everything I wanted and feared. For the first time, I followed my heart instead of my mind. Though my head warned me to be cautious, told me you would leave eventually, my heart told me to give you everything.
"So I ran headlong, incautious and despite everything my mind was saying, you captured my heart, my mind, everything about me. But that voice was always there, telling me you would leave, that I wasn't enough to hold your interest, that this was a fluke. And when you left, my mind tormented my heart. That idealistic girl was shattered."
More tears pooled in my eyes. Edward sat still before me, unmoving, unblinking as he processed what I was telling him.
Could I tell him about the constant loop of my mother's voice in my head admonishing me not to let a man do that to me again? Could I tell him about how she pulled me aside in Florida and told me she was ashamed I would take Edward back so readily after he had hurt me like that? How she told me she was disappointed because she had raised me not to be weak. Not to need a man…
I was besieged on every side with reminders of my breakdown after Edward left. My desolation was constantly tossed in my face. Jacob, Renee, even Charlie—they wouldn't let me forget.
Not for the first time, I wondered how many of Renee's prejudices and skewed perceptions were influencing my decisions. Somehow I needed to get my mind out of my heart.
"During that time Jake became my safe harbor, the place I ran to when I was alone or afraid, the place I went when I needed protection. He was the only thing holding me together after you left. I—I need him, even now."
"Why, Bella? Why can't you need me instead?"
"Because you left and he didn't," I whispered. "And when I fear I'm losing you all over again, Jacob helps me to forget…"
His eyes widened and he hissed violently. "You expect me to leave again?"
I looked down, biting my lip. "You leave me in little ways every day." Tears filled my eyes. "I know I've pushed you away, given you reason to doubt. It's just there's a big part of me that expects eventually you will—"
Edward reached for me then, his eyes blazing. He gripped my shoulders and gave me a gentle yet fierce shake. "I lied!" he ground out harshly. "You are everything! Everything I love, want, need, desire—"
My lips quivered and I bit my bottom one, my eyes falling closed. "That's what you say, but your actions…"
I heard his teeth grind together and he abruptly released me, jerking his hand roughly through his hair.
"Bella, what can I say? What can I do to change this, make it up to you? Convince you I'm sincere?"
"Just listen. Please just listen," I said so quietly it was silence to my ears.
He nodded stiffly, never shifting his dark and pained eyes from mine. "When you left me, I died. That girl who believed you loved her, who trusted you, she died under the onslaught of the pessimistic, self-destructive version of my mother who lived within me. My world was dark; it was pain, suffering."
"And after I came back?" Edward asked quietly.
"I became the epitome of the girls my mother would ridicule. A weak and needy girl. You turned me into something I hated. I don't know who I am anymore. Everyone has an opinion of who I should be, of how I should act—you, Jake, my mom, my dad, the kids at school. Hell, even Billy Black."
"Who do you want to be?"
That was the question. Who did I want to be? Jake expected me to be his Bella. Rosalie wanted me to be a normal human girl, a mother and a wife. My mom expected me to be strong and independent like her, single and carefree, my heart protected from all harm. And Charlie… He wanted me to be the Bella that hated Edward, punished him for his wrongs. So many outside influences, so many expectations I couldn't fulfill without betraying myself.
And it would be a betrayal of who I was to become any of those Bellas. Who did I want to be?
I glanced at Edward, letting all the expectations and judgments of those in my life drop away. It was the only way I could discover who I was now. I wanted to be his Bella again, but not. Not the same Bella. Not the Bella who lost herself in him, not the Bella who always needed to be rescued.
"I just want to be me," I finally replied. "I just want to be the stumbling, blushing, clumsy girl who is head over heels in love with her vampire. That's who I truly am."
Edward smiled. "I just want you to be you, too. That Bella has captured me utterly. She is my heart, my soul, my mate, my equal in every way that matters."
I stared up at him, begging, hoping against hope and reason and the voice that shouted in my head I should hurt him before he hurts me that he was telling me the truth. Tears welled in my eyes and spilled over as a sob was rent from my throat. I slipped my arms around his neck and clung to him, crying into his shoulder.
Edward's arms tightened about me and one hand stroked over my hair softly. Unceasingly he murmured words of affection and promises of forever in my hair.
After a time I quieted, lying against his neck exhausted and feeling empty as I moved gently to his rhythmic inhalations.
Edward spoke softly, his voice rough with emotion. "In the time of my human life, marriage was a beautiful and sacred thing. It meant I love you. It meant forever." His fingers fiddled with my hair, rubbing it back and forth between his fingertips absently, twisting it and letting it unfurl before he twisted it all over again. "If I had known you then, I would have courted you, won your favor, and swept you off to St. Michaels at the earliest opportunity they had available to join us in matrimony."
"If I was that girl, I would have accepted the moment you worked up the courage to ask me," I replied softly.
"But you're not that girl, are you, Bella?"
I stroked a hand through his hair. "I was. I want to be again."
We held each other in silence, neither speaking nor moving. There was a growing knowledge in my heart and it was blooming bright and strong. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it before.
"When you…?" I paused, biting my lip for a moment. What if what I thought was wrong? What if it was something completely different than I thought?
Edward brushed his thumb gently over my bottom lip, pulling it from my under the abusive press of my teeth. "Just ask me."
I nodded and took a deep breath. "When you asked me to marry you, were you really trying to tell me you loved me and wanted me forever?"
"And when I rejected you…?"
"I thought it was because you had feelings for Jacob that were holding you back."
"Oh, God," I lamented. "You have to know that wasn't it. Not at all." I couldn't let him go on thinking that. Not for one moment longer. "I want you to understand I'm not running to Jake, Edward. I'm running away from that feeling, the fear, the certainty you will leave me again… Jacob made it plain he wanted me during a time when I desperately needed that assurance—"
"When I didn't," Edward finished, frowning.
For the first time, I realized how he must have seen my actions.
"But I don't feel that way about Jacob. I never did. But I selfishly led him on," I whispered, shame filling me.
"Because you were afraid," he observed quietly. "You believed even if I married you, I would leave you eventually. Just like your mother did your father."
"Yes," I said, my voice choked with grief.
"And when I refused to change you in Italy?"
"It confirmed you didn't want me, at least not permanently; therefore, when you proposed, I had no guarantee marrying you would mean the same to you it did to me—no matter how many times you gave me assurances to the contrary."
He sighed. "And then I turned it into a bargaining chip, trying to manipulate you into postponing the change or into saying yes to me." He paused, shaking his head slightly. "I'm such an ass!"
"Perhaps we both are—were…"
I felt his mouth twitch slightly.
"Why didn't you fight for me, Edward? With Jacob, I mean."
"Seriously, love? Because you have to know when it comes to Jacob, I wouldn't mind breaking a leg or four. You have no idea the things he thinks about you."
I grimaced. "Edward! You know that's not what I meant…"
He groaned slightly. "Yes, I did, but you can't fault a vampire for hoping."
"Joking aside, why, Edward?"
"Because he can offer you so many things I can't."
"How can you say that?" I whispered horrified.
"He has a heartbeat. He's alive, flesh and blood. He can protect you just as well as I. You don't have to change to be with him."
"And you don't want me to change," I observed with a sinking feeling. No matter his reassurances, it always came back to this. He didn't want me to be like him. Edward didn't want me forever.
He pulled back from me and stared down into my eyes. "Stop it! Stop thinking I don't want you. You couldn't be more wrong!"
"You aren't the only one who is afraid."
"You fear my change?"
He looked away. "I'm terrified."
"Why? If I'm like you, then—"
"I'm terrified I'll lose control and if I don't, the transformation is indescribably painful. I'm afraid you'll regret it when you realize what it's really like to be a vampire. The bloodlust is a constant torment. To be with me, you have to give up so much—Renee, Charlie, your friends, the ability to have children, sleep, the sun… The list goes on and on. You will be frozen forever at eighteen. You'll always be a child in the eyes of the world. Eternity is longer than you could possibly imagine…"
I stopped and truly thought about what Edward was telling me. It'd be painful, but I knew in my heart it would be worth it, if he wanted me.
"Edward? All those things aside, do you want me to be like you?" He stiffened with shock, his gaze jerking upward and connecting with my unwavering stare. "Do you want me…forever?" I whispered.
"Yes. God, yes! I want you for every single moment of eternity, but it's so selfish. I shouldn't want—"
I placed a finger over his lips, stilling his words. "I understand the sacrifices. They are many and they will be painful, but if I have you—really have you—then eternity will be a gift, not a curse. Having your love every single day of forever is worth any sacrifice—"
Edward stopped my words with his mouth, his cool hands cradling my cheeks as his lips moved sensuously over mine. I groaned and pushed closer to him, my hands winding through his hair and my lips softening under the demanding pressure of his. He hissed slightly and his mouth opened. His tongue brushed against the fullness of my bottom lip.
He pulled back slightly when I gasped. My tongue came out and slicked over my bottom lip, savoring the lingering essence he'd left there.
He moaned at the sight. "Don't, Bella. I want to devour you right now."
I grinned. "Good devour or bad devour?"
He loomed over me and I leaned back on the bed, resting on my elbows, panting slightly.
His breath sawed out of his chest roughly. This was a side of Edward I had never seen before.
"Good devour. Definitely, good." He brushed a soft kiss against my lip, belying the stark lust in his black eyes. "Mind the teeth," he ordered quietly before swooping in and pressing his lips to mine once more.
His hands wound into my hair, holding me still against him as he ravaged my mouth, sucking my lip between his and sweeping his tongue over where mine had been just seconds before.
He hissed and whispered, "My God, you tasted divine!"
"So do you," I returned before opening my mouth under his again.
Tentatively he touched his tongue to mine, seeking then pulling back slightly. We both moaned, and I fell back against the mattress and he followed me down, pressing his body fully onto mine. I wrapped my arms around his neck and caressed the hair at his nape.
"Mm, more," I whispered. Like so many things with Edward, this was another first.
All too soon, he removed his mouth and trailed soft kisses along my arched neck.
His hand firmly stroked down my side and over my hip to my thigh. Unexpectedly his hand traveled to just above my knee where with a quick yet gentle motion he tugged my legs apart and settled between them. Instinctively I curled my calf around his thigh, trapping his body.
He growled and pushed against me, grinding his pelvis into mine. I gasped and lifted against him, seeking to further the electric sensation his movement caused.
Suddenly he stilled as the haze of instinct and lust dissipated and our intimate position registered with him. He lifted his head, stopping his toe-curling ministrations against my neck, his wide eyes meeting mine. "I'm sorry," he babbled, his dark eyes and somewhat shocked. "I shouldn't have—"
I clutched him against me, knowing he could break my hold, but fruitlessly trying to hold him against me anyway. "Please stay."
He groaned and gently rested his forehead against mine. His burnished hair tickled my face. He held himself slightly away from me, relaxing on his forearms, and his intoxicating breath washed over me with every pant that broke from his lips as he struggled for control.
"Edward?" Warily, he met my gaze. "Not that I'm complaining or anything, but what was that?"
He sighed. "That, Bella, was just a taste of what I struggle every day to keep from doing to you."
"I'm sorry, love, but—"
"I just want to say I think you should let your control slip a little more often."
He shifted slightly and groaned against my neck. "So not helping, Bella."
"I'm not," he replied softly.
He stiffened against me slightly, and I realized what I had called him.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have—"
"No, don't apologize. I like it. Too much."
"Oh," I said simply not knowing what else to say. I don't know why it hadn't occurred to me before this moment he might want me to call him by an endearment like he did me. That he might like it just as much as I did. That it would add intimacy to our relationship. That it would make him feel special.
"You were saying, love?"
I smiled. "I was thinking about something…" He waited patiently for me to continue. "After this thing is done with Victoria"—he winced as I said her name—"let's go somewhere. Just you and me. Maybe we can work on finding 'us' again."
He gently brushed the hair away from my cheek. "I'd like that, Bella."
I smiled up at him and brushed a soft kiss against his lips. "Me, too."
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