Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. No copyright infringement is intended.
Thank you hugs to Snarkymuch for beta'ing and Gredelina1 for pre-reading. Also to Mary-Alice-Brandon-Cullen for being my sounding board.
For all my wonderful I'm Only Sleeping readers, welcome back. For any new readers… well you are going to be very confused. I recommend you go and read I'm Only Sleeping first.
Chapter One — I Fall in Love With You Everyday
I stood at the window and watched as Bella and Emmett wrestled in the snow. Jasper was leaning against a tree watching them. His expression serene as he absorbed their gleeful emotions.
I could hear their laughter through the glass, and the sound warmed my heart.
She's so happy. I had heard Carlisle approach, but hadn't been able to tear my eyes away from the vision in front of me to greet him.
And so are you.
"I am." I felt almost drunk on the feeling of having her with me again. It felt too easy though, I had put her and the family through so much. I couldn't help but think there was going to be some great karmic price.
"What is worrying you?" he asked.
I had been with Carlisle long enough for him to know when I was hiding something, so there was no point keeping up my pretence.
"I am worried that it is too much. That something is going to happen to destroy it. I'm scared I am going to lose her again," I admitted.
He truly did. Thoughts of the months I had missed flashed through his mind, each time they thought they had lost her, only for her to prove them wrong time and time again. He had more faith than I did.
"She came back, Edward. Look at her out there, she's is so happy. Allow yourself to relax and enjoy this time. She isn't going anywhere. You have to trust her." He tried to conceal his next thought but it slipped through. Just as she must learn to trust you.
I knew he was right, Bella had been open with her love and happiness, but she didn't truly allow herself to relax with me. It was as if she was saving a piece of her heart, scared that one day be it would be all she had left. With the rest of the family there was no holding back, the bonds that had formed while I was gone were stronger than ever. Especially Jasper.
I fought back the jealousy I felt at thoughts of him, but I was not entirely successful. They had a connection I didn't fully understand. I knew that it was not remotely romantic, but their closeness was difficult to handle. Especially as I was the one that had forced its creation. Had I not left Bella would never have been hurt. She would not have been forced to rely on Jasper for everything, and she would be completely mine.
It was petty and selfish of me to begrudge Jasper the part of her that was only his, but I couldn't help it.
I heard a peal of laughter and looked out of the window to see Emmett spinning around in a circle while Bella clung to his back, covering his eyes.
"What are we doing?" Rosalie asked, joining Carlisle and I at the window. "Oh, Bella watching."
'Bella watching' had become something of a family joke in the two weeks since her return. I was not the only one that indulged in it; there was barely a minute of the day that she was not with at least one of us.
"Look at that big lug," Rosalie said fondly, watching her husband attempt to dislodge Bella from his back. "I swear, whenever the two of them get together, they regress to the mental age of toddlers."
"I think it's sweet." Esme came to join us, slipping an arm around Carlisle's waist. He pressed a kiss to her head and pulled her close to him. "It's nice to see her enjoying herself."
Like Carlisle, images of a desperately ill Bella flashed across her mind. It made my heart twist to see these, but I did not shy away from them. I couldn't fully appreciate what they had all suffered with her as I had not been there; these glimpses were the only chance I had of understanding.
Alice slipped out of the front door, and Jasper greeted her with a smile. He wrapped his arms around her waist, and together they watched Bella and Emmett play. It was a perfect moment of peace, and I did as Carlisle advised; I allowed myself to relax and enjoy it.
With a bellowed roar, Emmett was downed by Bella's shield. He spat a mouthful of snow as she sat on his back.
"Take a picture, Jazz. I want to keep this moment for posterity."
"Afraid I forgot my camera, Bella. not to worry though, I'm sure you'll be doing the same thing again tomorrow."
"I got it," Alice said jubilantly, pulling a camera from her pocket.
Emmett growled in feigned annoyance.
"Come on, Grizz, smile for the camera," Bella said, patting his rump. He loved Bella's new nickname for him, every time she used it his smile would broaden. Alice took the picture just as he registered the name and it made for a great candid shot.
"Now, Emmett," Bella said seriously. "If I let you up, are you going to behave?"
"I promise," he said innocently.
He crossed his fingers at his side, and I chuckled at the childishness of the gesture. Rosalie was right; they really were like children when they were together.
Emmett clambered to his feet, rubbing his back. "Geez, Bella, I think you broke something."
"Oh, poor, Emmett. Do you need Rose to kiss it better?"
"No, I think I just need to…" He lunged for her, aiming to tackle her to the ground, but she was too fast.
With eerie speed she dropped to the ground and swept his feet out from under him.
"How does she do that?" Rosalie marveled. "She should have lost her newborn strength long ago, especially given how long she went without feeding."
"It's not about strength, watch her leg," Carlisle instructed.
I watched as Emmett charged for another attempt and saw exactly what he meant. Emmett fell a split second before her legs made contact.
"Is he doing it on purpose?" I asked doubtfully. It didn't seem like something Emmett would do, not even for Bella.
"No, it's her shield." Carlisle's tone was marveling. "She uses it like a second skin. I'm not sure she even realizes she is doing it."
Bella had Emmett pinned to the ground again and was now straddling his back. "Do you forfeit?" she asked.
"Never!" he bellowed, jumping to his feet with her still clinging on. It was the exact position she used to cling to me when I would run with her.
She squealed with laughter as he spun again. Then with a bucking movement he dislodged her, and she fell back into a snow drift.
"Hey, Bella, I think we've got an audience."
Her smile was dazzling as she brushed her hair from her face and saw us all at the window. She didn't seem to mind that we were watching her like an exhibit in a zoo, instead she waved happily.
"Edward, come play. I think I've worn Emmett out."
I hurried to her side, unable to deny her anything. "What do you want to do love?"
She looked at me appraisingly. "Hmm, how about we go for a hunt?"
"Sounds perfect." Her eyes were still dark, even though she had hunted every day since her return.
"Awesome, let's go find some bears." Emmett said happily.
My heart sank. I hadn't had any time alone with her since she had found me in the clearing. Each time I had tried, one of the family had found an excuse to tag along. I was sure this time was going to be no different.
"Sorry, Em, not this time. Edward and I are going to have some time alone. You go play with Rose."
My mouth dropped open at Bella's words. She hadn't refused anyone's offer to accompany us before, and I was equal parts elated and nervous about this change. Emmett pouted, but she ignored him and reached for my hand.
We ran together through the trees that bordered our property and into the park. I let her lead the way and she took us toward Mount McKinley. It was quiet enough for us to be able to climb the peak without human notice, but she led me to a spot in the mountains shadow and sat on the ground.
Wondering what she was planning I sat beside her, a clear foot of space between us. She shifted closer and pulled my arm around her shoulders.
"Are you okay, love?" I asked. "I thought you wanted to hunt."
"I do, we can do that later, I wanted to show you this place first."
I looked around; it seemed an unusual place for a sightseeing trip. Even the view of the mountain was obscured by the surrounding ridges.
"It's very… pretty?" I didn't know what else to say. I was sure there was some significance to the place, but I couldn't work it out.
"This is where Tanya found me," she said sadly.
I instinctively pulled her a little closer to me.
I had seen in Tanya's mind the moment she had found Bella and it was not a vision I savored. In a way, it was worse than the memories of her when she was in a coma. To see her human and looking so weak was a shock, but it was nothing compared to seeing a vampire in such condition.
"I'm okay," she said, patting my hand. "I'm not going anywhere."
I wanted to believe her, but doubt still gnawed at me.
"You don't believe me." She wasn't asking, she was stating it as fact. She shifted so she was sitting in my lap and locked eyes with me. "I want to show you something. I know the last time I shared my thoughts it didn't go too well, but will you let me try again?"
I flinched automatically. The last time she had opened her mind to me it had been in the throes of her change, and I had been bombarded with the worst moments of her life. To say I was cautious about repeating the experience would be a gross understatement.
"I won't hurt you this time, I promise." She looked at me pleadingly, and I realized just how important it was to her.
"I trust you."
She pressed her hands to my face, and I felt the curious pressure passing over me again. Her mind opened and I gasped. I was looking into darkness so deep I could barely see a foot in front of me. From the shifting of water, I knew she was showing me her memories of coming out of the ocean. I heard my own voice.
'You need to stop now, love. It's time to go home.'
'Home.' Though she hadn't spoken, I heard her sad voice.
She'd said she had immersed herself in the memories, but I hadn't realized how real the illusion was. I watched as she propelled herself to the surface, the sun almost blinding her after so long in the darkness.
My voice directed her through the water and then onto land. I felt the fatigue, the fear that she was never going to find us again. My voice coaxed and encouraged, directing her all the way.
I jolted as the scenery in her memory became familiar; she was approaching the mountain when her strength failed. She curled up in the snow and waited for my voice to come again. She was hoping she could sink back into the memories again, but they didn't come. Tanya came instead. I watched through her eyes as Tanya found her and Bella's desperate plea. "I want to go home."
The thoughts ceased, and she dropped her hands from my face. I looked away from her, unable to meet her eyes. She had suffered all that because of me.
She pulled my face up to look at her. "What's wrong?"
"I hurt you so much. You were so alone; all that time."
"You're seeing the wrong thing. I wasn't alone, you were with me all the time. That is what I was showing you. Even when we were apart, you took care of me; you brought me home again. Don't you see? I won't leave you again, I can't. The only reason I managed before was because I thought I was protecting you. I know better now."
I fell silent seeing her memories again. Focusing on my voice now instead of her pain. She was right; I was there every step of the way. I didn't understand how it happened, but it was my voice leading her.
"You brought me home," she said, finishing my thought for me.
"I'm not going to leave you either. I know I can't prove it to you; I can only show you. But I swear I won't leave you."
She pressed a kiss to my lips, and I deepened it instinctively. Our touches had been fairly chaste since her return, a combination of lingering fear that I would hurt her and the lack of privacy. She tangled her hands in my hair, pulling me closer. I leaned back in the snow, pulling her down with me. All my careful rules from before were redundant; I couldn't hurt her now.
She pulled away from me and curled into my side.
"What's wrong?" I was worried I had misunderstood the signals. It had seemed like she was enjoying it.
"Nothing is wrong, I just think we need to slow down." She saw my stricken expression and hurried to reassure me. "I love you, and I want to be with you, but we have things we need to deal with before we lose ourselves in each other."
Her carefully chosen words had the same effect as a bucket of Ice. I shot to a sitting position. "You said you weren't going to leave me!"
"I'm not, but this is exactly what I am talking about. You are still scared I am going to leave you again, and I am scared you'll leave me. We need to deal with this stuff first, before we can create a life together."
"I think we need to go away together," I said. I had been mulling the idea over for a few days. No matter where we went at home, the family followed. It was understandable, but there was no time for us to be alone.
I hadn't expected this reaction. I thought she would be worried about leaving them all so soon. "You mean it?"
"Duh. They won't be happy about it, but they'll have to deal. Jasper will understand, Alice and Esme… not so much."
I chuckled. "Yeah, you can be the one to tell them. I'll wait at the airport, okay?"
"Airport? Where are you taking me, Mr. Cullen?"
"Well there is a little place I know, but it will involve a bit of sweet talking to get the owner to agree. Not to worry. I don't think she can deny you anything."
"Deny me? Who are we talking about here?"
I lay down in the snow again and pulled her to my side.
"Let me tell you about a place called Isle Esme…"
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