A/N: Sorry for any confusion. I had trouble posting this soooo you might have gotten it twice.
Dedication: To Kim Rathbone! I hope it's still your birthday mon ami
Bella was absolutely uncertain about her decision to let Edward in. She had an urge to clamp her hands over her ears and not listen to anything until the world decided to make sense again. She was just so tired of everything being so shocking and confusing.
At what point would she be able to find normal again?
How easy it would be to just curl up in a ball and try not to deal with anything.
However lost she was, though, Bella wasn't stupid. The world was not going to wait for her to be ready to handle the reality she'd been thrown into.
Besides. Edward looked so pathetic, not unlike a wounded puppy whimpering in the rain. She knew she probably didn't look much different. Her eyes were sore from her crying jag, and she was sure she must have looked just as disheveled, if not more so.
She sat on the couch, keeping her eyes down, watching his feet as he closed the door and approached her slowly.
"Bella -" he began.
"Shut up," she snapped.
Carefully, she looked up, finding that he was standing before her with his head bowed, biting his lip pensively. He looked so like a child being scolded that her heart softened, and she reminded herself that he was the same man who'd been so patient and caring these last few weeks.
Sighing, she spoke softly, her voice scratchy. "I want you to answer me. Yes or no. Nothing else." Smaller bits of information were better. It was a tactic she'd learned in therapy: don't try to look at the whole picture all at once, but bits and pieces at a time. The world felt so out of her control that she needed to be able to exert dominion over something.
He owed her that much, at least, that she could have say over how much she wanted to know.
Looking up, he opened his mouth. She tilted her head, her expression a warning, and he shut it again, nodding once.
So many questions... For a long minute, she didn't know where to begin. She thought back to the e-mail she'd found, the hint that Jacob knew she didn't want to be where he was. "Were we... Did Jacob know about us?" she asked, unable to look at him.
Edward's answer was soft. "Yes."
She swallowed down the lump in her throat, remembering clearly James's implication. "I guess I did cheat on him," she mumbled, not knowing how to feel anything but numb.
"No! Y -"
She still didn't want to hear details. Not yet. "Shut. Up," she commanded, her voice stronger. His mouth immediately snapped closed.
Breathing in deeply, she thought her words over carefully before she spoke. It felt like a pathetic question to ask, but she needed to know. "Do you love me?"
"God, yes," he answered instantly.
The fervent tone of his voice startled her, and Bella found herself holding her breath as she let those words permeate her mind. She analyzed this little factoid, comparing it with what she knew for certain.
All the glances, the way he looked at her sometimes like she was precious. All the little touches - his fingers caressing her cheek, brushing her arm... the way he never hesitated to squeeze her hand. When he slipped and called her sweetheart. All the times she tilted her head up, wondering why she expected a kiss... her body knew what she couldn't remember.
He loved her.
She couldn't doubt it.
Her breath stuttered, and a broken piece of her mind fell into place with a satisfying click.
"And I love you?" she whispered, her breath stuttering.
His lips pressed together, and she thought she glimpsed a deep pain in his eyes before he looked away. "You did, yes," he said quietly.
Biting her lip, Bella felt her throat get tight, her heart twisting.
Hadn't she thought once that maybe it was good that Jacob wasn't around, still in love with her when she had no memory of loving him?
She closed her eyes, wondering how often she'd hurt Edward without knowing. No matter how betrayed she felt, how out of sorts, she didn't want to think of him in that kind of pain.
Tears eked out from under her eyelids, and she didn't try to wipe them away. "The b-baby?" she stumbled. She needed to hear him say it.
"Yes," he answered.
"You know for sure?"
"I have no doubts," he answered carefully.
Bella let out a long breath, opening her eyes. Edward was watching her with concern and... love etched on his features. Seeming uncertain, he took a step toward her.
Quickly, Bella moved backward, pressing herself into the corner of the couch and holding her hand out to stop his forward motion.
"Bella," he murmured, the word coming out as a plea.
She shook her head, sniffling, trying to sort her chaotic emotions. It was amazing how intensely she wanted his arms around her. For these long weeks, he'd been her anchor, and she badly wanted to lean on him to get through this.
She couldn't - not when it was him she was confused about.
He loved her, she couldn't deny that fact. She saw it in the way he was looking at her now. She could no longer dismiss her thoughts as idle schoolgirl fantasies. It wasn't her imagination; he really did look on her with longing and adoration.
But so much still didn't make sense.
Fearing the answer, Bella had to close her eyes again as she asked the next question. "Did you... not tell me because of the baby?"
His breath left him in a huff. "No!" he cried, the word strangled. "No, I would never do that. Bella, please. Let me -"
"No," she interrupted. "I don't want to hear any explanations right now." Her system was skirting dangerously close to overload. It was a lot to process, almost more than she could believe.
"What do you want?" Edward asked, and she could hear the edge of frustration in his voice. She knew she wasn't being entirely fair to him, not letting him explain how things had gotten so out of hand; how the truth of their relationship had gotten lost amidst the shambles of her life only to reappear at the worst possible moment.
But none of this had been fair to her. Nothing for had been easy since she'd awaken.
How much she wanted to give in to the romantic idea that swam tantalizingly before her eyes. It would take nothing at all to stand and go to him, or let him come to her, as it was so obvious he'd wanted to since she opened the door. If she threw herself at him right then, he would wrap his arms around her, and she might feel safe for once.
It was a nice dream, but it wasn't reality. Just because he loved her and now she knew that, didn't mean they were free to ride happily into the sunset.
She tried to reason through what she was feeling, searching for an honest answer to his question.
What did she want? She wanted to know what her world would have looked like right then if all this had never happened. She wanted for Jacob to not be dead and for the complications of her world to be the mundane sort that anyone might face. She wanted to know how she - and Edward - might have dealt with a clearly unplanned pregnancy if they were just two people in love. Wasn't that enough drama for anyone?
Mentally, she amended her bitter thoughts.
What did she want that she could reasonably have?
Dropping her hand to her stomach, Bella tentatively allowed herself to truly consider what he'd confirmed.
From the very beginning, finding herself pregnant had been, far and away, the most jarring, utterly terrifying experience. She may have been able to handle the staggering truth that eight years of her life had gone missing. She could come to terms with her best friend's death. But the pregnancy at first had been more than she could withstand.
She could not remember sharing her body with anyone.
Since then, she'd had time to accept that she lived by different rules as an adult than she had as a teenager. She was coming to understand the differences between the two parts of her, and that had helped, she thought, in accepting that the woman she'd become was about to be a mother.
Still, it was startling to be told she'd been part of a relationship the way toddlers are informed of the realities of their world, how they should speak, dress, and act.
Now she'd been told - a great deal less gently than she would have preferred - that she'd had not one but two relationships.
Try as she might these last few weeks, Bella could not bring herself to accept the picture of the reality she'd been presented. She'd grudgingly begun to understand the baby was hers, but couldn't make her mind fully grasp the concept that it was part Jacob as well.
Carefully, she tried again, aligning her thoughts to consider Edward as the other half of the child.
Her heartbeat picked up, the pressure around her chest lightening considerably. Automatically, her mind went to the picture Edward had forwarded to her when his nephew was born. How beatific and wonderfully wide his grin had been as he looked at the tiny baby whose features bore a strong similarity to his own.
She'd wanted that picture to be hers.
With a start, Bella realized that it wasn't so far-fetched a wish. The baby was Edward's, and someday soon, she would get to see him hold their child in his arms, grinning foolishly at the tiny being they'd created together.
It didn't feel so out of place.
Still, it was not a perfect fit, not such a snug connection as realizing that he loved her. She had proof of his love - had seen it in action and not known what to call it until he said the words. That he was the father of her child was a puzzle missing just enough pieces that it wasn't quite a cohesive image yet, not something solid enough for her to be at peace with the knowledge.
There was a missing link, she realized.
She understood the beginning of relationships. She wasn't so completely clueless that she couldn't see what was happening between them. She'd felt the spark of attraction, even given in to it long enough to kiss him. After she'd calmed down that day, she realized that he'd kissed her back.
And obviously, she was well aware of the end result of that kind of attraction. She'd heard her baby's heartbeat and knew that there was a life rapidly developing beneath her skin.
It was the bridge between those two points that she was missing.
What did she want?
"I want you to show me how this baby was conceived."
She hadn't meant to speak the words out loud, but her lips moved as the thought struck her. She clapped a hand over her mouth, realizing what she'd just asked for. Her cheeks flushed a furious red, and her heart flew into a gallop. Automatically, she opened her mouth to take back the words.
Then she shut it again, realizing that, better or worse, it was true.
Hesitantly, she looked at Edward, seeing his mouth had dropped open in surprise. He was blinking rapidly, his heavy brows furrowed and the look on his face suggesting he found the words she'd spoken nonsensical.
"I..." he began, but couldn't seem to continue. "You... Well... What?"
She smiled. She couldn't help it. Edward's bewilderment was endearing.
Looking back down at her lap, Bella sighed heavily, searching for the right thing to say. She hated how utterly embarrassed she felt.
But that had been one of the frustrations of her life, as silly as it was. How often had she felt both shy and foolish for being shocked at the casual way adults spoke of sex? It was ridiculous. She was pregnant! She found she wanted the first hand experience that was indicative of her condition.
Beyond that, though...
Seeming to recover from his shock, Edward slowly shuffled forward, one step at a time, as if he was waiting for her to stop him again. She didn't, though she felt a thousand times more jumpy the closer he got. She resisted the urge to squirm and fidget as he sat gingerly at the other end of the couch.
"Bella..." he began and swallowed hard before he could continue. "I don't know if I understand. You... Just a minute ago, you seemed repulsed by the thought of me even being near you."
She blew out a sharp breath. "I'm not repulsed," she said quickly. "It's not disgust. It's just... all of this... it's so hard to think, and when you touch me, when you're near me you..." She huffed, feeling frustrated, as if she were trying to communicate in a language she only had rudimentary knowledge of at best. "You have an effect on me. You always have."
He tilted his head, his expression confused. "What do you mean?"
She groaned, covering her face with her hands. "Oh, God. This is so embarrassing," she muttered. "Look... I've kind of had a crush on you pretty much since I saw you in high school," she blurted, feeling utterly juvenile.
Surprisingly, his lips quirked. "Um... Yeah, I knew that. You told me that before."
Bella rolled her eyes. "Of course," she huffed, a little disgruntled. "Anyway, I thought that was why..." She swallowed, reminding herself not to be such a coward. Logically, it didn't make sense. This man had seen her naked, for heaven's sake. "I thought that was why I was having these... thoughts."
Why couldn't he read her mind?
"I guess you could call them fantasies," she mumbled, looking down at her lap again. "They're glimpses - flashes of moments. They're so completely sensory, but..." Again she chuffed, searching for the right way to explain the inexplicable things she felt.
"When I think back to last week when we... when I k-kissed you," she tripped over her words, "that is a very concrete memory. I know it happened. It's real.
"These glimpses... they're more like an impression. They aren't solid at all, but very fleeting," she explained.
"What I want more than anything is for some part of my life to make sense - real, stable sense," she said, and she could hear the ache in her own voice. She didn't often let herself think about things that seemed impossible to grasp.
Cupping her little bump, she found the courage to look up at him again. "I want to know how this happened. I want the things I'm missing that brought us here." She let that hang between them for a moment before she sighed. "Am I making any sense?"
"Well... yes and no," Edward said, his voice gentle. "I understand your logic. You've been trying to rewrite things you knew before. But this... this isn't like relearning how to use the dishwasher, Bella. When you have sex, it should be for the right reasons."
"What's right to you, or what's right to me? We're going to have a baby, Edward. I'm going to be someone's mother whether I'm ready for it or not. I'd like the experience to at least feel like, I don't know, this was my choice?"
He blew out a long breath, scrubbing his hands over his face, obviously deep in thought. She watched as his hands tangled in his hair, and he tugged.
A thought occurred to her that felt like a punch to the gut. "Unless... I mean, if you don't want me now..." she said, her voice losing what volume it had.
Edward's head snapped up, and he barked a laugh. "Oh, Bella. It's not that. It's not that at all."
"I know I'm different," she hedged.
His chest rose and fell slowly for a few beats before he moved, scooting closer to her on the couch. So carefully, he reached for her, giving her the chance to protest before he cupped her face in his hands. "You are still Bella," he said, his voice as soft as the look in his eyes. He sighed, his breath hot against her face, and rested his forehead against hers.
For long moments that felt like eons, there was only the sound of their breathing. When he didn't let her go, Bella tentatively rested her hands against his waist.. She closed her eyes, letting her nerves fade into the background so she could concentrate on the way it felt for him to touch her like this.
She was revelling, she realized.
It wasn't confusing or wrong.
And she wanted more.
Wrapping her mind around his words - that he loved her, that he wanted her - she found the courage to tilt her head forward, pressing a tiny kiss - just a brush of her lips against his - to this mouth. "Tell me," she whispered.
He swallowed audibly, and his hands drifted down to her neck and rested on her shoulders. "We... We were at my place. We were always at my place."
She kissed him once more, a little firmer this time. "Tell me," she prompted again.
"We were on the couch. We'd been together... technically... for four weeks," he said, and this time, he kissed her, the movement minute.
The word technically distracted her, but only for a second. "We were on the couch?"
His hand slipped down to her waist, his palm coming to the small of her back. His kiss then was much more firm and lingering.
Anything Bella might have been thinking melted away. Again, like when she'd kissed him the week before, her body instinctively took over. She knew the way she fit, tucked up against him. There was no awkwardness in their movements as they shifted, tangling as little kisses began to give way to something more heated.
Maybe it was comfortable, amazing even, because her body still remembered what it was like for him to touch her like this, kiss her like this. It didn't really matter if it was a memory. What was happening was real and wonderful.
Replacing fantasy with reality.
Her arms around his neck, Bella shifted again, realizing with a start that she was almost horizontal on the couch, and Edward's weight was bearing down on her, consuming her.
He seemed to realize what they were doing in that same instant and broke their kiss with a startled gasp. Breathing hard, he held himself above her on one arm, his eyes squeezed shut tight. "Bella... I... we..."
She ran her hands through the hair at the back of his neck. "This is what I want," she said in a whisper. It was completely astounding to her how calm she felt. She was absolutely sanguine in her decision.
He straightened up some, pulling her with him, and cupped her face again, looking into her eyes. His thumbs stroked her cheek. She put her hands over his, matching her smaller fingers along his longer ones. Her heart sped at the look in his eyes. The green was darker, his expression more wild with what could only be lust - want - but also tender with the emotion she now knew to call love.
She saw it when the last semblance of his logical thought left him, and he gave in with a groan.
He kissed her again, and Bella found the atmosphere had shifted. What she felt against her skin and in her bloodstream burned with the intensity of fire but rather than pain, all she felt was a thrill.
Standing, he swept her up into his arms before she could protest. She gave a startled squeal, clinging to his neck as she laughed breathlessly. His smile was gentle as he leaned in to kiss her and carried her to the master bedroom.
"Was that completely necessary?" she asked, matching his smile as he set her down on her rumpled bed.
He drew the pad of his finger down the bridge of her nose. "You wanted to know."
She blushed, feeling pleased and... well, it was impossible not to feel beautiful the way he was looking at her just then. "You're a romantic, aren't you?"
Chuckling lightly, he sat beside her on the bed. "I suppose you could say that," he murmured, though he seemed distracted as he caressed her cheek, trailing his fingers along her neck and shoulders.
Bella's breath stuttered as her heart sped, and her throat got tight.
Was this really happening?
Drawing back slightly, Edward shrugged out of his jacket, his eyes never leaving her.
Shyly, Bella reached forward, tugging his already loosened tie so that it came undone. The slide of the silky fabric against his shirt seemed loud in the room.
He cupped his hand around her neck, nuzzling her nose with the tip of his. "Bella," he whispered, "You're sure you want this with me? After today -"
"I'm sure," she said quickly, before other thoughts about everything that had happened today could permeate the honest goodness of the space they were currently existing in. She was vaguely aware that there was so much more than this hanging over them, but she didn't want to acknowledge it. Not yet.
Resting her hands on his chest, she looked into his eyes as steadily as she could with her heart beating so hard. "I trust you."
Right then, that was what she needed to have this particular experience, to fill in an uncolored facet of the the picture of her life. Whatever else happened after this, she wanted to know this connection between them, wanted to know how their child had been sparked into existence, and she trusted him enough, after all she'd been through with him at her side, to accept him into her body.
He was already part of her.
As if he was on the same wavelength, his hands skirted along the hemline of her shirt, his fingers brushing skin as he dipped beneath the cloth. It tickled, and Bella gasped a little.
When he pressed his palm flat against her belly, she watched as the same gorgeous grin spread across his face as it had the first time - so full of joy and wonder. It was breathtaking, especially considering the new context.
She rested her hand over his. The world had completely dwindled. There was nothing besides this man. It was odd, the sense of belonging. All other things being equal, she was his as she sensed innately that he was hers.
He tilted his head, kissing her with an intense sort of seriousness, a reverence. When he pulled back, his lips did not leave her skin, but peppered her cheek in a line up to her ear before he spoke. "You'll tell me if...?"
With his hand against her belly, she understood what he was asking. "Yes."
"And if you want to stop, for any reason..."
"Yes," she said again.
That was all he needed to hear.
Edward pressed her back gently so she was lying on the bed and he hovering over her. He went slowly, savoring, as if he too were experiencing each new touch and caress, each exposed inch of her skin and his, for the first time.
"Are you sure you're okay?" he whispered when they were both shirtless. "You're shaking."
"I know," she said with a breathy sigh. "Can't help it."
His smile was gentle, and he traced the line of her lips. "You did then, too, you know," he informed her. "Bella, you're so beautiful."
She knew she must have turned scarlet just then, but a slow grin stretched across her face, almost painful with its width.
When he slid her skirt down her legs, she began to shake in earnest and closed her eyes, willing her trembling to stop. But when his hands came in contact with her cloth covered center, she moaned before she could stop herself, nerves quickly forgotten when emotion hit her in a rush.
Restless, hot desire.
As if her every nerve ending weren't already entirely aware of him, her body seemed to buzz with anticipation, expectation.
Part of her wondered if she should be a more active participant, if that was what was expected. Most of her couldn't care. The sensations he was causing were so sharp to her senses. New experiences were always so vivid, but this... this was a whole other level of awareness. She couldn't have guessed her body was capable of this kind of response. All she could do was experience it.
If he minded, Edward didn't let on. The look on his face wasn't disappointed. Quite the contrary, he looked...
Well, he looked as awed as she felt.
With everything else, she didn't have the room to worry about why.
When he'd discarded her panties he leaned down to kiss her. Bella's hands wandered along the line of his strong back, reveling in his kiss, the feel of his muscles beneath her fingertips, and...
"Oh!" she cried breathlessly when his fingers pushed inside of her.
Maybe it was the heightened sensitivity inherent during pregnancy, maybe he was talented as all the high school boys used to claim they were with their fingers, but what he was doing was... phenomenal.
She didn't even feel ridiculous about the noises he was drawing from her.
And anyway, he was far from quiet. As he kissed her, his voice whined at the back of his throat. "You have no idea what you do to me," he said against her ear.
"More," she whimpered.
Rolling them onto their sides, Edward pulled her body right along his. She found she had no words as he held her close, stroking his hands along her bare back.
Shy, but curious, she reached between them, finding his length. She marveled slightly at the hard-soft, wonderfully warm feel of it in her palms, and she was pleased when Edward gave a little groan.
His legs tangled with hers, spreading her open, and Bella bit her lip.
He reached one hand between them, moving her hand on him, guiding himself to her entrance.
Her heart sped, and Bella rocked her hips, a neediness she didn't know how to name guiding her actions.
She kept her hand around him, feeling as he slid into her since her eyes were closed. She tensed for a moment before she remembered she wasn't really a virgin, she had no hymen to break.
It did hurt - a very little. It was a slight burn as he stretched her - curious, but not too distressing, especially as he distracted her with kisses long her neck and the underside of her chin, titillating her skin with his lips.
When they were joined, he stilled, and they both simply breathed for a moment.
For Bella, it was exactly what she'd been searching for - another snug snick sounded as a broken piece of her mind found its rightful place again. This was the intimacy she didn't know she was craving, the missing connection.
Opening her eyes again, she smiled tenderly, knowing with a rare certainty that this moment, this emotion, could only belong to the man who held her in his arms. She kissed him, rocking her hips, needing to feel him moving inside her.
He rolled again, his whole weight on her as he thrust deep. Bella felt her head tilt back on the pillow, the groans and whimpers he drew from her answered by his own little noises.
He said her name, and she felt claimed.
Perhaps it was that he already knew her body, but the way they moved together, the way he touched her just where she needed, knowing before she did what she wanted, was almost musical in nature. It was like a dance, their bodies lithe and inexplicably graceful together.
The orgasm he educed was much more powerful than any she'd managed to bring herself. The emotion behind it was somehow amplified because she could feel him pulse in her, hear the cry of his pleasure near her ear.
And for those moments, joined and tangled with this man who had somehow become the most important figure in her life, Bella finally felt that she was, for once, on firm, stable ground, and all was right with the world, if only for that very little period of time.
A/N: Again...it would be wise not to assume.
So many thanks to jadedandboring, barburella, mycrookedsmile, and GinnyW who held my hand this chapter. Much, much heart.