A/N: I am replacing the old text as I have gone in and fixed some spelling and grammar. I hope I haven't caused any confusion!
Bella has been fragile since our return from Italy and for the past few days I've done nothing but hold her and reassure her that I do not plan to leave again. I never plan to leave her, I can't, until a time when she asks me to I will be with her. Nothing will take me away from her again, I regret leaving her every minute of the day, the pain I caused her is unforgiveable. There are some things I need to know about our time apart, things that I heard hints of and worry about. I don't want to upset her right now so I have been waiting until she is in a better place mentally before I can talk with hr about it.
Today is the day however, I can't wait any longer, I need to know how she was when I left her. I knew that it would be difficult for her at first, but eventually I thought she would forget me, that she would move on. I can't help but think how much better it would be for her if I was never in her life, if I hadn't met her, never put her in danger. But it's too late for these thoughts now, I knew that I loved her the moment I saw her, her mind a total blank to me. I often wondered if it was the same for her, whether she knew instantly that we were made for one another. What I do know is that I had underestimated the depth of her feelings for me.
I pull up to her house and sit in the car for a few moments to brace myself. I can hear him waiting inside, Charlie barely tolerates me now, and I know what he's going to be thinking about as soon as he sees me. Images of Bella right after I left, the empty shell she became in the months I was away from her. It is so difficult for me to see in his mind, to him I am the horrid man who broke her heart, broke her very being, and I didn't deserve to be in her life anymore. I know he's right, I don't deserve to be here with her, and I deserve every second of suffering the image of her from that time playing in his mind brings me.
I take a breath and let it slowly out, breathing was no longer a necessity for me but I did it out of habit, an effort to appear more human than I really was. With my resolve to get through Charlie's silent accusations firmed up I open the car door and stride to the house noting that there is another car parked in front. I reach the door and knock twice, Bella appears almost instantly pulling the door in towards her and grinning at me, relief to see me flooding her face. I hate myself for making her doubt that I am coming back, for thinking that I could leave her. I will spend the rest of her life making it up to her, but I know it will never be completely enough.
She leads to me the kitchen and I quickly see who the other cars belong to, sitting at the table with her father are two men from the reservation, one I recognize as Jacob Black and the other is familiar looking for unknown to me. The people who live on the reservation dislike my entire family, I imagine that if they know what happened they like me even less.
"Edward" Charlie glares over at me, attempting to keep a polite façade for Bella's sake, knowing that if he runs me off he runs her off with me.
"Good to see you Charlie" a smile forms on my lips instinctively though I don't feel much warmth towards him at the moment. I turn my head to look at Jacob and the other man, raising an eyebrow inquisitively.
"This here" he points to Jacob "is Jacob Black. And this" he points to the other man "is Sam Uley. They're visiting from the reservation."
Sam's thoughts hit me first and hardest. I can't believe he came back here after what he did. Why would she ever forgive him and take him back? She should be furious with him; she should want to hurt him as badly as he hurt her. I cringe and know he is right. Then he thinks of something worse, an image from his of the night I left her in the woods.
'Bella, Bella!' we've been out searching for hours and there hasn't been any sight of her and I know I need to change to find her scent, but the danger of being discovered is great. Finally I run in the direction opposite the other searchers and can feel the heat rising in me, my muscle beginning to tighten and in a moment I am in my wolf form. Quickly I get to work, standing as still as possible not to disturb the air I breathe in deeply and catch a whiff of her off to the East. I walk towards the smell and follow her trail for a few miles. She made it so far from the house that I wonder if she ever intended to stop.
Her scent is very strong now, and I stop to change back to my human form as I know she must be close by. 'Bella? Are you over here? Bella!" I call her name while I walk around the area, her scent penetrating even my human nose. Suddenly I see something, some fabric lying in the grass and moss nearby and I approach slowly, not wanting to startle her. At first I think she's dead as she stares up at the sky with glassed over eyes and she doesn't move an inch. I kneel down beside her and get closer to her body, getting ready to pick her up and I see her chest moving very slowly up and down.
She's alive, relief floods my entire body for a moment as I erase the thoughts of having to face Charlie if I brought her back dead. "Bella, are you OK?" I ask her. I know she can hear me because she flinches slightly but she doesn't respond to me or acknowledge that I am talking to her at all. "Can you get up?" I tug at her arm but it falls limply back to the ground. "OK…well hold on tight I've got you." I push my arms under her body and stand with her in them. She stares at me blankly, as if there were nothing behind her eyes but she says nothing and doesn't respond in any way.
It will haunt me forever, the look in her eye. It was like she was dead even though she was still breathing, her heart still beating loudly in her chest. The look in her eyes doesn't change as I carry her back to the house and she doesn't move at all. Her will to keep going to gone, I can see that as plain as day. She no longer has something to live for and has given up. I don't know what could have caused such a reaction in her, something awful for sure.
Sam looks up at me with eyes that I know blame me for what he found. I deserve the blame, I left her there alone, I should have known she wouldn't just go home after crying for awhile in the woods. She ended up so far from where I'd left her; I wonder how long she had wandered for. From Sam's mind I got the impression it had been overnight that she had been there alone. Her eyes had been raw from the tears, angry rivers of red flowing down her cheeks. Seeing her like that was painful and I looked away from him.
"Nice to meet you two" I held out my hand but both looked away from me quickly, choosing not to shake and I quickly lowered it. I wanted to get out of the house before I saw anything in Jacob's mind that would hurt but I wasn't so lucky.
He should never have come back here. Bella would have eventually moved on. All he is going to do crush her again when he leaves.
I would never do that to her again, I'd never leave her side if that was possible. But no one here trusts me not to do it again, and I can't blame them for that.
The sound of an old beat up vehicle come up the road can be heard and I am curious and look out the window. The most curious site greets me outside. Bella Swan, who I haven't seen in many months, has pulled over outside of the house. I run outside to meet her, "Bella!" I yell enthusiastically as she stands in the rain, unsure of what to do. "What are you doing here?" I am genuinely curious, this visit is a first.
She motions to the back of her truck, "Know anything about motorcycles?" she forces a smile but her eyes, sunken into their sockets, just look blank and deadened.
I take a glance in the bed of the old truck and see two bikes, they are in poor shape and likely not running and glance back up at her. "Not as much as cars but enough." I'd always wanted to have a bike, but a car was my project at the moment.
"Well…I got these two bike." She motions again "I was wondering if you'd…well take a look and see if they can be fixed up. One is for you of course." She shifts uncomfortable in her spot and glances up at me.
I grin widely, loving to have a challenge. "Let's get them into the garage and see what we can do!" I try to be as enthusiastic as possible but Bella's mood is so dark it is hard to know how to act around her.
Inside the garage I have a better chance to observe her and I can see that she is truly not over Cullen. She looks like she has lost a lot of weight as her pale skin looks even paler than the last time I saw her. Her eyes look awful, like she hasn't slept in weeks. The scariest thing is her voice, it is hollow and the light and spark I had heard in it before is gone. She is going through the motions but is not there, this is clear.
I could see what Jacob saw, a pale and skinny Bella with long bags under her eyes, her voice flat and empty of emotion. It is unbearable that I caused her to be like that, it was stupid of me to think that she would move on so quickly. If she had left me and moved elsewhere I would be distraught, my reason for being alive would be gone. I was foolish to think that her feelings were different than mine, I had underestimated them severely and she had paid for my mistake. I don't want to hear these awful things, but I earned them, I have to take them.
"Would it be OK if I took Bella on a short walk Charlie?" My voice is even and pleasant, not revealing the ugly thoughts I hear around me.
Oh a walk. What a great idea. Wonder if he plans to leave her alone to wander in the woods again.
"I don't know about that…" he answers, his face betraying his thoughts.
"Come on Dad… I've been trapped in this house for awhile. We won't go too far." Bella interjects. She wants to get out of this house as much as I do.
Charlie turns to glare at me and I know what's coming, "Edward…bring her back to the house afterward. Understood?"
Bella's mouth falls open slightly registering what he said and the thought process behind it. She opens her mouth to defend me but I am faster. "Of course Charlie. It's what I should have done…" I don't say anymore, it's not necessary.
What an asshole….leaves her in the woods to wander around at night…who does that?
I take Bella by the hand and start to lead her to the door. "Ready?" I ask her and she nods. I sigh in relief and together we walk out of the door and towards the trail in the forest.
"So…are we going anywhere in particular?" Bella glances over at me then back to the space in front of her feet, watching carefully to make sure nothing gets in her way to trip over.
I move closer to her, "Not anywhere specific, just wanted to get out of the house, somewhere we could talk without Charlie skulking around us constantly." This is all true, it is getting tiresome to have to stay in her home where there are so many things we cannot discuss. Charlie knows very little about what happened and where Bella went for three days and I preferred to keep it that way, I know Bella did as well. His hovering was quite annoying, though I could certainly understand it.
"Well thanks for getting me out of there. Things were getting kinda tense with Jake and Sam." She doesn't offer any more detail and I know I will have to press her for the information I want.
We approach a fallen tree and I stop walking and turn her to look at me. "Is right here good or do you really want to hike?" I raise an eyebrow at her and gesture slightly towards the tree.
"Here's fine!" she sits down on the tree with a soft thud and I sit next to her taking her hands in mine.
"Bella" I say her name and she looks up into my eyes, her eyes sparkle in the small traces of sunlight that make it through the treetops and I brush a strand of her hair off of her cheek. Her skin is so soft, so warm under my hand. I feel like I could just sit here next to her admiring her forever. "You were saying that things were feeling tense at the house before I came over…I'd like to hear about that. Will you tell me?" I looked into her eyes, giving her the look I knew would make it difficult for her to resist answering me.
"Uh…well…" she stammered for a second and I could see her mind trying to place her thoughts into coherent sentences. "It's just that none of them really wanted you to come over, they would prefer it if you hadn't come back probably." I nod patiently, I know there is more and I don't take my eyes off of her face. "They were…they were talking about you before you came over, not very nice things. They think you're going to leave me again."
I nod calmly, I knew they thought this, but I hoped they would not fill her mind with it as well; it's not as if she didn't worry about this enough on her own. "And what do you think?" I don't change my expression and keep my voice as calm as possible, I want the truth from her, not something to placate me if I sound upset.
"I don't know." She says flatly, her words sting me. "I don't think so, but…" she trails off and looks down to her knees, avoiding my gaze.
"But what?" I press her and use a hand to gently lift her chin up to make her look at me. I can see the tears forming in her eyes and I wish there was a way that I could never have her cry over me again.
"I never would have thought that you could leave me the first time." Her voice is barely above a whisper and I can tell she doesn't really want to tell me this. Even now, after all the pain I have caused her, she doesn't want to cause me any distress, it makes it even harder to think about how I hurt her.
I bow my head slightly, "I barely survived the experience Bella, I should have known it wouldn't work, that we were too intertwined, are lives too closely meshed together." I shake my head, frustrated that no words can possibly describe how I feel to her. "Do you think you will ever truly believe that I would never leave you again?" as if there were some easy way for me to fix this.
"Change me." She answers firmly. "Show me you want me forever, not just for this lifetime." This time she looks right into my eyes, her face serious. I should have known that she would bring this up, but I don't want to get off track.
"Bella…" I don't want to have this discussion now.
She sighs, "I know, I know…my soul."
I nod, "Let's discuss it later Bella, you know you're going to get what you want in the end."
"And it isn't what you want?" she looks surprised at my answer.
"You…forever? Yes I want that very much, I want nothing more than that. I just can't be sure it's the right thing for you." I have wrestled with this for a long time, to take her life from her to keep her with me into eternity.
"Ok…never mind, later than." She forces a smile.
I am not satisfied by how this conversation ended but I decide to move on, there will be plenty of time to talk about her changing later. "Bella, Alice said something interesting to me when we left Italy, something about you becoming such an adrenaline junkie since I left. You mentioned something about it helping you to see me, but I didn't really understand. At the time it didn't seem best to press you, but I am so curious. Can you tell me what that was about?"
She blushed, one of the most adorable things she could do, the pinkness in her cheeks turning to a light red, it was something I would miss when she was like me. "Well…it's probably going to make me sound crazy."
"Crazier than dating a vampire and wanting to become one?" Her idea of crazy has always perplexed me. I thought she was crazy the day I realized she knew what I was and wasn't afraid of me because of it.
She nods, "Yes I think so."
I smile knowing that there isn't anything much more insane than that. "I promise, I won't have you committed because of whatever it is." I stroke her forearm slowly trying to make eye contact with her again.
"I…well…I would do things I know you didn't like on purpose." She let out a nervous chuckle "Things that you would think were foolish and too dangerous." She shook her head, her face full of pain and she took a few deep breaths in. "It was the only way I could see you."
I thought about this for a moment, how could doing something dangerous help her see me? "What do you mean Bella?"
"Let me give you an example… maybe it would be easier." She says, finally meeting my gaze.
"I wish you'd tell me everything, all the examples you can think of."
"Why? It would just hurt you, and I don't want that." Self-sacrificing as always, I would never understand her drive to protect me over herself, except that I have this same drive myself.
"I want to hurt, I want to know, I need to know Bella." I say as forcefully as I can without seeming angry or threatening.
I can see her defense melt and she begins, "OK well the first time it happened I was in Port Angeles with Angela. We'd gone to the movies together, I went because I was trying to appease Charlie by going out with my friends. After the movie we were walking together down the street to a restaurant and across the street from it was a bar. Do you remember that time you saved me from those men?"
"Of course." I could never forget, she came so close to being in major trouble. I had never told her the things that were on their mind and I never would. They were vile things that I found it hard to imagine ever happening to her. Thinking about the incident brought back my anger at the men as if it had just happened.
"Well there were some men outside of the bar and they reminded me of these guys. For some reason I started walking towards them, to get a closer look or I don't know why, I was drawn to them. Out of nowhere I saw you, your face in front of me. You hissed for me to turn around and go back to Angela. It was so vivid, it was so real, I thought you might actually have some way to infiltrate my thoughts and appear to me." She stopped and looked over at me for a reaction.
"What did you do then?" I wish I had that kind of power, to keep an eye on her from a distance, to appear to her when there was danger.
"Well I turned back to Angela and the vision of you went away so I started walking back towards the men. The closer I got the more insistent the vision of you became. Eventually I reached the men and had to go back to Angela, but the glimpse of you, it was amazing."
"You put yourself in danger so your mind would conjure me up?" I was incredulous; I never could have imagined she would react in this way.
She nodded sadly, "Yes… I knew it was a delusion, but it was the first time I had heard your voice in so long, the first time I had seen your face…I couldn't…I couldn't stop and make it go away."
"Oh Bella!" I leaned towards her putting my arm around her shoulders, pulling her closer to me. This was what I needed to hear, but it was so difficult, I don't know if I was trying to comfort myself or her more.
"Don't be sad Edward! After so many months of silence, it was indescribable to have you with me again, to know that I remembered your voice and your face so well, that you weren't totally gone from my mind. You were still there, with me, somehow."
I gave her a small smile, "What else?" I knew that there was more, she had brought herself danger in order to make her mind hallucinate me and I need to know how.
"Well, I tried to imagine you without danger, but it didn't work. The memory of your voice and face were flat and unrealistic, almost forced. So I decided to take up riding a motorcycle." She blushes again. "Because I knew if you were there you wouldn't like it, you wouldn't think it was safe."
I am nodding along with her, "You're right about that. I would have done anything to protect you. Tell me you were at least wearing a helmet?" a vision of Bella lying limp on the ground came to me and I cringed at the thought.
She shook her head. "No…no helmet. It was amazing. I saw you so vividly. You were angry of course but it didn't matter, you were with me again."
"Did you ever crash?"
"Oh yes!" she answered too enthusiastically "A few times, those times you were the most talkative, you were angry at me for doing something so dumb." She paused for a moment and added "It was such a relief to have you back with me in some way."
I close my eyes tightly trying to imagine how she must have felt, how deep her despair must have been for her to describe something as awful as a motorcycle accident in such a happy way. Her mind had gone so far to protect her from the pain of losing it, it broke in such an unexpected way. I opened my eyes and asked the final thing, "The cliff that Alice saw you jumping off of…she said it was for recreation…what was that?"
Bella nodded, "Yes…cliff diving. I had never done it before but I knew you would hate it. You had stopped coming to me while I rode the bike and I didn't want to lose you, I knew that you'd be there with me as I jumped and I was right. As soon as I was up on the cliff you were with me trying to discourage me and get me to stop. But I couldn't and I took the jump. You lectured me the entire way down." She smiled and I felt sick at her pleasure.
"But Alice saw you dying?" this part still didn't make much sense to me.
"I was drowning, I hit the water so hard and a storm was coming so the rip tides were much stronger than I imagined. You were with me then telling me to fight, I would have died happily there with you under the murky water." She sighed "But Jake pulled me out of the water and to the shore."
"Well I will have to thank him for saving you, I can't believe this. You almost died…you were ready to die." I stop to calm myself my mind whirling with this new information.
"I was already dead Edward." Her voice broke as the tears escaped her eyes and flowed freely down her cheeks.
"What do you mean?"
"I might have been breathing and my heart beating, but I was not living. You were and are my life, my soul, my happiness. Once you were gone so was I. I'd never end it myself but if it happened to end, well at least I wouldn't have had to live without you anymore." She put her hands to her face and let out a soft sob.
I sat still by her, pressing her face into my chest, and I could feel the moisture from her tears soaking into my shirt. "Thank you Bella. Thank you for telling me that."
"Are you upset?"
"Not with you…never with you." I can feel her relax next to me. "I don't know how you can ever forgive me for this." I whisper to her.
"I already have."
"But how?" I pull back from her slightly so I can gauge her facial expressions.
"Well… you thought it was best. How was anyone to know that I wouldn't just move on in a few months, even I didn't realize how tightly we were tied together. If you had known would you have left me?"
"No…No I wouldn't have." There is no way I would have purposefully caused her this amount of pain.
"Do you know now?" she pulled her hands from her face and looked back up at me.
"Yes, I understand it now. Before I had no idea you could feel the same about me as I did about you…that I was your life as much as you are mine, that we are two halves of a whole, when separated the half cannot function alone. I am so sorry I didn't realize that, that I hurt you, that I made you do crazy things to get a glimpse of me in your mind." I pause and look at her "Regret doesn't begin to describe how I feel."
"So you'd never do that again to me?" she asks intently.
"How could I do that now that I know? I will never leave you, not until you tell me you want me too."
"I would never want that." She insists.
"Then forever Bella, I am yours forever."
She smiled and snuggled into my chest. "I want it to be your idea of forever, not mine."