A/N: This Post-Eclipse AU is completely written and there are nineteen chapters. Just ask Katmom, who watched over my shoulder in Gdocs while I wrote it. :)
The story's title is from Sara Bareilles' song "Breathe Again" and each of the chapter titles are inspired from her Kaleidoscope Heart album.
My thanks to wolvesnvamps for her Labor Day contest in A Different Forest that gave birth to this plot bunny.
Disclaimer: This is fanfic. You know it. I know it. All things Twilight are the intellectual property of Stephenie Meyer. I'm just messin' with her characters. Feel sorry for 'em.
Chapter 1: All Full of Good Intent
"Come on, tell me. How bad can it be?" Trepidation skittered down her spine, but Bella tried to play it off, lying on their bed in the Cullen home. They hadn't lived there for a while, since they'd been at college and then on a truncated European tour to celebrate Bella earning her first degree (as Marie Masen, because it hadn't been all that long since Isabella Swan had been in some news outlets), but the room was theirs because it held their bed and stored belongings.
The Cullens kept rooms for all their members, even when one or more felt the need to be separate for a while. Or a year. Or a decade.
Edward was all but gasping, reminding his wife of a man about to propose marriage. She didn't remember that too clearly, but Edward did and he had shared with her his concerns about possibly faking a bullet wound...
In retrospect, Bella regarded the terrifying prospect of telling her parents that yes, she was following in their footsteps and getting married young, was not as bad as she made it out to be in her imagination. Charlie never threatened Edward with his service weapon. Renée only went a little ballistic – over the phone – but Edward's rich persuasive techniques won her over.
Renée was not the most sensible of mothers, but she loved her only child. Bella tried to be sensible, and Edward did, too. Edward's rationale that "marriage was the lesser of two commitments" – the greater being changed into a vampire – made all kinds of sense.
"I want you," he had rasped into her ear the day after they had told everyone in both families that yes, they were officially engaged to be married.
And because she was feeling perverse, or teasing, or something, Bella held off on having sex until they were married. Not that they hadn't done other things — a lot of other things — before they consummated their marriage.
"You said you desensitized yourself to my blood," she murmured against his throat one night in her room. "Maybe you should try that for the rest of me."
He inhaled sharply. "I wish I could know what you're thinking, Isabella Swan," he half-growled as her tongue traced a line from his ear to his collarbone.
She laughed, a sultry sound heavy with desire, and he grew more aroused than he could remember having been before. Deliberately, he clenched his fists while keeping her in his arms. She noted that, but did not comment. Instead, she shook her head so that her hair fanned over his chest and shoulder. "No, I don't think you would." Her lips brushed his ear as she continued, "You might break another piece of furniture and I couldn't explain that to Charlie."
Edward had agreed that "desensitization" was probably wise, under the circumstances. The entire Cullen family had teased the engaged couple, but Bella knew that they were actually relieved and pleased.
And when their wedding night came, they stayed in a cozy cottage that was a gift from Esme. "We know you'll feel more comfortable," the lovely woman said with warmth and compassion. "And I know Edward will probably enjoy the slight distance."
The newlywed vampire male grinned, his face alight with such happy good humor that Bella caught her breath. "Oh yes," he answered his notional mother figure. "Absolutely."
"This is good," Bella had told her new husband in a luxurious, post-coital moment on their honeymoon. "I could stay human for a while..."
Edward had leapt at her idea, and they agreed that she would remain human until she turned twenty-one. And then, they had made love until her fragile human body suffered from the sheer excess of pleasure his vampiric body could impart to it.
From their honeymoon to college to getting half-through with a degree in Biology — "Why not?" she had asked Edward when he wondered about her major. "It's where we met, after all!" — Bella had lived a blissful, human life. Surrounded by a supernatural family. She and Edward had a small house and a vibrant sex life. His delight in her humanity helped him to ignore the perpetual fire in his throat. Her delight in feeling so much as a human helped her ignore the small changes to herself that indicated aging.
At one family holiday party, Jasper pulled Bella into a quick embrace. "I cannot begin to tell you what a gift it is to feel so much joy coming from that man right there," he whispered with a nod to Edward. Alice grinned at her mate's side and Bella let out a happy breath.
"I'm glad there was something I could give you, then, that you didn't have already!"
The laugh the family shared was as good as a symphony.
'Oh, Bella. I – it is that bad," Edward muttered. He heard the family clear out of the Montana home, but knew that Jasper and Alice had stayed close by, just in case. Had his sister seen this coming?
Jasper knew something was wrong. He knew what it was too, Edward heard in his thoughts. He had let the matter rest, though. Perhaps the empath understood the inevitability of this revelation.
With a tentative expression, Edward took his wife's hands in his own as they sat on their bed. "I have loved you more than my own life," he began, hardly daring to look into her eyes.
She smiled at him and squeezed his hands. "I know. Me, too. And I loved the trip! I was just sorry we had to cut it short. We didn't even make it to Italy."
He frowned and dropped a quick, nearly frantic kiss on the back of one of her hands.
"It burns!" she had told Edward when she "woke up" from her change. The need to feed had been every bit as violent as the Cullens had warned her. Her hunts had been successful, however, and Edward's face shone on the day her eyes lost all reddish tints and became as golden as the rest of the family's.
"I really want to finish my degree now," Bella had told them all at one of the "dining room meetings." She held up a hand when a general protest arose. "I know, I'm young, but I think I'll be all right around humans."
Carlisle nodded slowly. "I think we should give you a few months to desensitize yourself, Bella."
Bella met her husband's eyes and smiled that private smile that intimacy lends to a couple. Jasper snorted and shook his head indulgently at the pair of them. Of course, Bella reflected, he would have picked up on the double entendre inherent in the word... A quick flaring of embarrassment preceded a longer span of amusement. "All right."
To facilitate this, Jasper and Alice had accompanied Edward and Bella on many forays into humanity. Jasper would interpret her emotional reaction to the people they encountered — first in small groups, then they would immerse themselves in a grocery store to be surrounded by distracting, noisome vegetable and deli odors before moving on to larger venues — as Edward read the minds of the others and Alice acted if something heinous would occur in the near future.
"You're fine," Jasper murmured, his hand on her shoulder. Bella gripped Edward's hand and Alice walked behind them all, her mind scanning all possible futures. The seer's subconscious kept her following her mate as they wound through a shopping mall – Bella's final exam, of sorts, before enrolling in college.
"How long are we staying?" Bella whispered in a normative human voice. Whispering drew attention, yes, but she didn't want to draw even more by doing anything inhuman while they were at the mall.
Edward squeezed her fingers and leaned over to kiss the top of her head. "We're going to try for four hours, love. Hold your breath if you have to."
They wandered about, making small purchases from a video game store – Alice and Edward often played those since both of their gifts were somewhat nullified in so doing – and a bookstore.
"Nothing," Jasper insisted when Bella questioned him, "takes the place of a book. I know Emmett likes the e-readers, but a book by itself is a perfect companion. And it doesn't need batteries," he added with a teasing grin at his mate.
Turns out, they all enjoyed their own "perfect companions" in peace in the Food Court. Bella, though, had her awareness extended as the court filled with heartbeats and hot blood.
Blood. Blood. Blood. Thump-thump. Thump-thump.
"Hang on there, Little Sister," Jasper murmured. Edward held one of her hands with feigned casualness. Alice turned pages on her book – Frank Lloyd Wright's designs – absently. Her mind was not on the full-color images before her, but on the possible disasters that could occur if Bella's tension snapped.
Bella kept breathing, reminding herself that the darling boy over there with the gap-toothed smile was not a snack — he was the curly-haired woman's son. The older woman with the tantalizing aroma over there was someone's daughter, too. Certainly. One by one, she assigned humanity to the prey and overcame her instinctive need to drain them all.
Jasper breathed easier when he felt her bloodlust cool. Edward, hearing Jasper's silent assessment, smiled proudly at his wife. Alice blew out a loud breath. "I'm ready for a snack!"
"What, squirrels?" Jasper teased his diminutive lady.
Edward had never been this nervous. This upset. He felt himself near to hyperventilation — absurd for a vampire! His dearest Bella. His salvation. His first love.
And that was the rub, wasn't it?
"Bella... I do apologize for cutting short your — our — celebration. I would only have done so under great duress."
She smiled sweetly into his eyes, but a probing curiosity was being shadowed by a bit of impatience in her gaze. He did not blame her in the least; his behavior had been unconscionable — inexplicable. "And...?" she prompted as he delayed his dreadful revelation yet again.
"College is way easier as a vampire," Bella declared, flinging her school books to the dining table she and Edward used to do homework in their new house.
Her husband chuckled as he slipped his shoes off his feet and enjoyed the texture of the woven area rug with sensitive feet. "It is. I've never majored in French Literature before, so I am actually studying."
"My lab group is coming over tonight," Bella said as she joined him on the sofa. Black leather and colorful throw pillows were the theme of the room. It looked smooth but comfortable. Well-to-do trust fund babies off at school.
Edward sighed a little. "All right. How visible am I?"
She smiled and moved to straddle his lap. "Not naked, but entirely visible."
He flashed a grin. "Not naked? Too bad...I had plans for tonight."
Her eyes darkened as she pressed herself against him. "We don't have to sleep..."
"I know," he rumbled.
Conversation ceased entirely and, when Bella's lab group arrived with awed expressions, they were also amused at their hostess' sex-mussed hair and the way her husband's shirt was only half-tucked into his jeans.
"And... I love you." Edward's face was set, his jaw more granite-like than usual.
"I love you, too. We didn't jump on the earliest jet home because we are in love, sweetheart." When he didn't continue, Bella tugged her hands from his and lifted his head so that they had to have eye contact. "What. Is. It." Humor had waned as she grew physically tense. If she had still been human, her stomach would have been in knots. "Edward. Please." Her only ideas involved the Volturi or maybe those Romanians she had heard about at a family conference once.
"Vampires get married as love-matches. We do. But that isn't the — the ideal."
Ice. She was turning to ice. "We're a love match. You once said – you once thought we were —. We were. We were —." She couldn't push the word out, all of a sudden. A rock in her throat seemed to prevent her.
"I thought we were."
A/N: Still with me? This story is not my usual, but I am not apologizing for it. Just letting you know.
I haven't forgotten about Lights Up. Honest. Benjamin and I are having a sit-down. But this storyline plowed into my brain and I had to deal with it, so I wrote it out to completion. Now I can focus on my other projects. :) Whew!
Looking for twice a week updates with this story. See you in a few!