Twilight Post Secret Challenge

Number of Secret Chosen: Secret #3:

Pen-name: XXX

Beta: XXX

Title: Compromise

Word Count: 5,429

Rating: T

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Summary: New Moon AU. Edward leaves Bella in the woods after breaking up with her, but even as he tries to stay away, his heart is telling him that which his mind is refusing to accept. Finally, he gives in to his heart's desire and turns back. This is a wish my inner fangirl had made when I first read through the Saga.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer. The original plot is the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.


Compromise

Edward stood on the edge of the cliff, staring into space and seeing nothing. His eyes could see nothing but the broken expression on Bella's face as he told the worst lie of his life. He had never felt more like a monster than he did in the moment he broke her heart. And he did not doubt that for a moment—he did break her heart. A treasure that had been given to him on a silver platter, a treasure that he did nothing to deserve and everything to be undeserving was offered to him, and he just threw it away.

He couldn't do it. He couldn't leave her.

I had to. I owe her that much.

He could, would, stick to his decision, no matter how much it hurt him, as long as he believed that this was what was best for her. He would live the rest of his existence in complete darkness if it meant that the only light in his life would have a light of her own. He knew that as soon as she left this world, he would do everything to join her. He could not live without her in the world, but he would force himself to live without her by his side. He would make this sacrifice because he loved her enough to let her go.

He loved her enough to leave her.

He loved her.

I love her.

His legs were suddenly carrying him in a direction that his heart was leading, his mind empty of thoughts. He didn't even notice he was moving until the blur before his eyes disappeared and he was faced with both the most wonderful and the most terrible sight he had ever seen in his long years of existence.

Bella, his Bella, was lying on the forest ground, curled into a ball, mumbling, "He's gone."

He couldn't do it. It could not have been more than a few hours since he had left—the sun was still up in the sky—and it was already more than he could bear.

Suddenly, he could hear Carlisle's voice speaking the words his father had told him when he announced his decision.

"Strength is not the absence of fear, Edward, and while I will not fight you over this decision, for you are old enough to make it, allow me to tell you that I do not think you are correct in making it. Think this through carefully, my son. There are things that cannot be mended once they are broken."

He dropped to his knees, his eyes staring at the curled figure lying not three hundred yards away from him, a distance that he could sprint within a sixteenth of a second and yet felt light years away.

What have I done?

His phone buzzed, and he answered it with an automatic move.

"It's not too late, Edward," Alice spoke softly on the other side of the line. "You would have to have a long talk about this with Bella, but you can still mend this."

"Alice..." His voice was hoarse as though he had been screaming for days. "I don't..."

"No more excuses, Edward," Alice said curtly. "Fix this. Now." She paused for a moment and then added in a very cold voice, "I didn't know you to be a coward, brother, but you are proving me wrong this very moment."

The line went dead, and once again Edward felt like a cad. He had not only hurt more than just himself in his decision—a decision that seemed more selfish and foolish with each passing second—buthe had hurt his sister, his brothers, his father, his mother, and worse of all, he had hurt the only person who had always seen him as a man rather than a monster.

His phone buzzed again, this time with a text.

It's time to find the courage that I know you have, Alice wrote.

He could almost bring himself to loosen the grimace on his face. At least Alice still believed in me.

Edward stood up and flashed to Bella's side, gathering her in his arms and murmuring, "I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry, my Bella."

~.O.~

"You...don't...want me?"

"No."

Bella didn't know how long she had stood frozen in her place after Edward had left, but she knew that she needed to try to follow. It couldn't have happened; she had to have been dreaming, hallucinating. She must have been having the worst nightmare yet because she could never accept that the words she had heard were even remotely true.

Hours after chasing ghosts in the woods, of falling and getting up only to fall again, of gaining countless new scratches and scrapes on her hands and knees, she could no longer tell what was physical pain and what was pain coming from her heart. There was too much pain, too much hurt. She no longer saw the forest or the bushes. Her ears could no longer hear the rustling of leaves beneath her feet. She was numb.

Her legs gave way beneath her on the next tree-root that her foot had stumbled over, and once she was down, all she could do was curl into a ball and pray.

Pray that something would bring an end to her pain.

Pray that somehow the numbness that had spread through her body would reach her chest.

Pray that this was a nightmare and that soon she would wake up in his arms.

It was cold, and some part of her was aware that she was shaking, but her mind was deep in the dark abysses of emptiness. Things like cold, wet, physical pain, and comfort were no longer important.

Bella did not know how much time had passed before a voice invaded her thoughts. At first, she had only noticed a hum of words that made no sense, but then she began to focus on the hum. It was his voice.

Maybe this was a dream after all?

Slowly, the hum grew louder, and the feeling of cold intensified, but it was accompanied by the best scent in the world.

Edward.

Her mind could conjure up his voice; it could fool her into believing that the cold she was sensing was his arms around her—after all, it had done so in her dreams before—but she had never been able to imagine his scent. Was it possible that her mind had finally cracked and was able to bring his scent from her memories into the forefront of her thoughts?

"I'm so sorry, Bella," Edward whispered over and over again, holding onto Bella like a drowning man, for that was exactly what he was, a man who would drown in darkness and despair without her. "I wish I could take it all back." As if knowing that she had finally heard him, he pleaded, "Bella, please, my love, please open those beautiful eyes for me."

He knew that she was cold; he knew that he should take her back to her home, but he couldn't make his body move. He needed her to open her eyes. He needed to hear her speak his name and tell him that she would forgive him for being such a coward.

He wanted to kiss her, to cover her face with soft kisses, but he knew he had no right to, not until she granted it once again.

And she might never will, you idiot. His inner voice was harsh, but Edward knew that it was right. She might not forgive him. He had done the worst thing he could do, sans biting her; he broke the most precious gift she had ever offered him, and he did it in the cruelest way possible.

What on earth was I thinking?

He wanted to kick himself, or maybe have Emmett do it for him. Edward should have known better. Looking back, he could see all of the mistakes he had made so clearly. He could almost hear Carlisle telling him that truly loving someone means being there when things are hard, not when thing are easy.

And when were things ever easy for the two of us?

It was growing dark, and Edward knew that he needed to get Bella off the cold ground and into some fresh, warm clothes, but he couldn't move just yet. No matter how much he talked to her, she wouldn't open her eyes. It was as though she couldn't feel, see, hear, or sense him at all.

He was going out of his mind when a sudden idea came to him.

It's worth a shot, he thought as he began humming her lullaby. He began repeating it when, suddenly, the music changed in his mind and took a new turn. He hummed the new segment as the notes to the tune formed in his mind.

Edward was eloquent in several languages, but he found that he expressed his emotions best through music, so it came as no surprise that he was trying to apologize to his beloved through her lullaby.

He had been hoping that she would open her eyes, talk to him, but instead, he heard her breathing even out and her heart rate slowing down. She fell asleep in his arms.

Gently picking her up, Edward ran as fast as he could to his house, making plans as he ran. He had no doubt that Alice had seen his decision to run back to Bella as soon as he made it, and he hoped that she would ask the family to come back.

As he set Bella down on the black leather couch in his room, he realized that he would have to leave her again if only to leave a note for her father so that he wouldn't worry about her. His relationship with Charlie had already been shaky enough without adding his daughter's disappearance to the mix.

His phone vibrated in his pocket.

Leave Charlie to me. There's a warm blanket in the linen closet for Bella. The family is on their way.

He could have kissed Alice when he read that text message, and decided that he would have to do something special for his sister.

I prefer Jasper's kisses, but I LOVE the second idea.

Edward felt the ghost of a smile appear on his face. Alice's joie de vivre was exactly what he needed at that point. If she was happy, it meant that things would work out.

Kneeling next to Bella's sleeping form, he couldn't stop his fingers from gently threading through the tresses of her hair. He began humming the lullaby again, continuing it with the new segment. He hoped that, somehow, she could hear him even in her slumber.

~.O.~

Bella was in the meadow again, their meadow. It was slightly cloudy, but there was enough warmth around, and she didn't feel cold. Lying on a picnic blanket and looking up at the sky, searching for different shapes in the clouds, she felt happy.

Everything seemed perfect, but in an instant, the pleasant dream turned into a nightmare. It only took one thought, one name to cause a shift in the dream. Nothing had changed, the sky was still cloudy, the meadow was still beautiful, but there was one thing she realized was missing.

Edward.

The other half of her soul was missing.

Edward. Edward. Edward.

His name started as a sigh, but then it turned into a buzzing sound, and it grew louder and louder until it became a roar in her ears.

Edward. Edward. Edward.

It was screaming in her ears, causing her heart to beat faster, her breathing to shorten, and her fear to spike.

"Edward!" Bella screamed and shot up, panting heavily.

"Bella..."

It was no more than a sigh, but she had heard it, and she turned to look at Edward kneeling next to her, his eyes filled with so many emotions they were unreadable.

"Edward?" Her eyes widened with shock and relief. She threw herself in his arms, bursting into tears. "You're here. You didn't leave."

Edward felt his heart breaking all over again. She thinks it was all a dream.

He held her tightly, afraid to let her go because he knew that she might not let him hold her again once he had told her that he did leave, that he did hurt her, even after promising that he never would.

At first, Bella didn't notice the desperation with which he was holding her, thinking that it was her own need to assure herself of his presence, but then, when her breathing began to lighten and her heart stopped racing, she realized that it wasn't just her own emotions involved in the hug. Edward seemed just as desperate to assure himself of her presence.

Memories flooded her mind, and the flood of tears renewed, flowing in rivers over her pale cheeks. She pulled back, not wanting to, but the brutal words he had used resonated in her mind so loudly that she couldn't keep holding on to him. He doesn't want me.

Edward—interpreting her actions as rejection—felt another twist of the knife that was permanently lunged in his heart as soon as she back away, and the coldness set in once he was no longer touching her. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, took a deep breath to fill his lungs with her scent, and opened them again to look at her.

Bella wouldn't meet his eyes. She couldn't. She knew that she would only find the cold detachment that she had seen in them when he left her in the forest.

Wait, where am I? Bella looked around her, confused to find herself in Edward's room, on his couch, with a blanket pooled around her waist, partially covering her body.

"What...what is going on here?" she asked, blinking several times and resisting the temptation to pinch herself if only to make sure that this was not another dream. "You..." As much as it hurt her, she needed to say the words. "You left."

"I did, and I am so very sorry," Edward said, wishing that he could see into her eyes, but not daring to touch her again. "I..." He didn't know where to start. "I lied, Bella," he said. Seeing her head snap up and her eyes fill with terror, he quickly continued, "Not a word of truth had passed my lips since the moment we walked inside the forest today, and I can never express how sorry I am for this."

Bella stared at him, speechless.

"Telling you that I didn't want you..." His face grimaced. "It was the worst kind of blasphemy. There is nothing I want more than you, nothing in this world that I need more than your smile."

His eyes were pleading her to believe him. Tears that had only barely been held back were now flowing freely down her cheeks.

"Why?" she whispered.

"I have no better answer to you than I was afraid," he confessed.

"Afraid?" She chuckled bitterly. "You're indestructible! What do you have to fear?"

"I may be indestructible, but you are not."

"That's mendable," she murmured under her breath.

Edward decided to let it rest for the time being. "If something were ever to happen to you, it would have destroyed me just as much as burning me to ashes would have done. I have told you this before, Bella, you are my life. But how could you believe me so easily? I can see it in your eyes that you truly believed that I didn't love you. How, Bella? After all the times that I told you that I do, how could you?" He did not mean to ask her that, especially not in the accusing tone that it had turned out to be, but he just couldn't understand it.

"It never made sense to me for you to love me," she whispered. "I was always waiting for the other shoe to fall," she shrugged, "and eventually, it did."

Edward was taken aback. How could he have missed this? How could he claim to have perfect vision and yet miss the most obvious details that were staring him in the face?

"Bella?" He waited until she looked up from her lap. "I do love you. Please, wait, don't interrupt me, I need to say this."

"Okay."

"I love you the way you are. You may have a twenty-twenty vision, but when it comes to your own self-esteem, you might as well be blind, and I swear I am not saying this to hurt you."

Bella nodded, biting her lip and trying her best not to be offended.

"You don't see yourself the way I see you. I love everything about you, even what you deem as imperfections." His words were firm and filled with confidence. He knew that he still needed to apologize and to explain why he had left, but this was so much more important. "I love that you are stronger than many vampires I had met in my long existence. I love that you accept people for who they are and not what they are. I love you even when you are being so selfless that you end up hurting yourself. I love you when you wake up in the morning and you think that your hair is messy and your breath isn't fresh. I love you, Isabella Marie Swan. I love the person that you are. Nothing, not a single thing, could ever change that."

She stared at him, amazed and speechless. He had told her that he loved her before, but somehow she had never heard him say things quite like that. For the first time since she had met Edward, she was finally starting to believe what he was telling her.

Encouraged by her reaction, he continued. "I know that you feel unworthy, and I know that there is nothing I can say that would change it at the moment, but you are worthy. It is I who feel I should fall on my knees and thank the gods for allowing me to be in your presence. I am the one who isn't worthy of you."

"If I am not allowed to think that I am unworthy, what makes you think that you are?" Bella asked, smiling.

It was a teary smile, one that did not do more than curve her lips just a little at the corners, but it had reached her eyes, and Edward felt elevated. He nodded. "I am still amazed at how you see me, but I think I am starting to accept that I will never understand it."

"It's the same way that I don't understand how you see me."

He nodded again.

Bella leaned back on the couch and patted the seat next to her, signaling for him to sit. He was quick to oblige.

"Edward?"

"Yes?"

"I want you to tell me the truth, and this time, I want the whole truth, not the edited version that you think I should know. I want everything."

Edward sighed. He had tried to protect her, tried to shield her away, but he was slowly realizing that he was doing neither one of them any favors by hiding things from her. It was hard for him, went against every instinct of his to do anything that might compromise her safety, but hadn't lies proved to be just as dangerous?

Didn't lying bring me to a place where I wanted nothing more than to curl up and die?

He nodded.

Bella looked at him with suspicion, finding it hard to believe that he had agreed so easily, but asked anyway, "Why did you decide to leave me and why did you come back?"

Edward knew that this could be the breaking point, but he had promised her honesty, and he would not go back on his promise. There was too much at stake.

"In a way, I was preparing to leave you since the first moment I saw you. If you remember, I did leave that day."

Bella nodded. "You were gone for a week."

"I was." He nodded. "Do you know what kept me from killing you that day? I was already planning twenty different ways to kill you when I thought of Carlisle. I knew that he would be disappointed in me if I were to kill you. We choose to deny ourselves because we don't want to be monsters, and I was well on my way to becoming one that day. I ran, but while I was away, I decided that I would not let some human girl chase me away from my family, so I came back.

"I came back, and I tried to be your friend, but every time I was near you, I had to fight the desire to kill you. I know that you don't see it that way, but I was—I am—-dangerous. I was fighting tooth and nail to leave you be, to keep you safe from me and my world, but at the same time I was drawn to you. I wanted to be with you more than I wanted your blood, and seeing as I'm a vampire and you are my singer, that is saying a lot." He smiled hesitantly.

Bella nodded, not daring to speak for fear he wouldn't continue if she interrupted.

"I fell in love with you. Your life is precious to me like no one else's. When it was my presence in your world that put you in the hospital—"

"It wasn't—"

"It was," he argued. "I may not have been the one to hurt you, but I might as well have been. This is how I felt, Bella."

She nodded. One could hardly help feeling something. She knew and understood that. Emotions were irrational by their very definition.

"Seeing you hurt was terrible, but I was selfish enough to stay when you asked me to." Edward paused for a moment, gathering his thoughts. "Bella, please try to understand that, to me, each day was a struggle between the part of me that insisted you would be safer without me and the part that insisted that I couldn't survive without you in my life. When Jasper tried to attack you..."

"It wasn't his fault," Bella murmured softly but firmly.

"I know. It was mine."

She glanced at his face in surprise, but a moment later, realization was clear in her expression. "Your thirst."

He nodded. "He could handle his own thirst and even the added thirst of everyone else in the room, but you are my singer, and I was caught off guard. Later, I heard that it was like being hit with the worst thirst of his entire existence." Edward hung his head in shame. "I was the reason Jasper tried to attack you, Bella. Once again, I was the reason you were hurt."

Bella couldn't stand the self-loathing and shame that was written all over his face and clearly heard in the tone of his voice. She leaned closer to him and wrapped her arms around his waist.

Edward leaned into the hug, drowning himself in her warmth.

"After that, I could no longer fight it. I had proven that I was the most dangerous element in your life, and I realized that if I wanted you safe, I had to take that element out of the equation," he said into her hair, slightly tightening his hold on her. "I knew that you would never let me go, so I decided to lie. Not one of my brightest moments, I must say."

Bella breathed in his scent, needing that one more confirmation that he had returned.

"As to why I came back, I came back because I couldn't live without you." He pulled back slightly and cupped her face in his hands. "I came back because without you, I could not see anything but a dark, lonely abyss of nothingness. I was standing on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and while in the past I could let the sound of the waves washing to the beach calm me down, I could hear nothing but your voice. I could see nothing but your beautiful eyes looking at me. I did not last more than a few hours without you, and when I came back, I saw that you were in an even worse shape than I was."

Edward couldn't hold himself any longer. The memory of his time after he had left her had re-opened the hole that had been carved into his chest since the moment he had made the decision to leave. He leaned closer to her face and gently touched her lips with his, brushing the warm skin once, twice before allowing himself to press a little harder. He was always aware of her fragileness, but the need to reaffirm himself was too great for him to be as careful as he had been in previous kisses. He let his lips part lightly beneath hers and with great care, allowed her bottom lip between his, sucking on it.

Bella was amazed at the newfound intimacy he had allowed them, but she wasn't about to let the opportunity go to waste. She moaned and took his upper lip into her mouth, moaning again as the wonderful taste that was all Edward washed over her tongue.

He buried his hand in her hair, tilting her head to the side so he could slant his mouth over hers for the most passionate kiss he had ever shared with her. He was still mindful of his teeth and of his strength, but he needed more, and he knew that Bella was all too eager of a partner.

However, soon it was getting to be too much, as it always were with them, and Edward pulled away to allow Bella to catch her breath, as well as to allow himself to gain a bit of his control back.

"Wow," she breathed.

"I agree." He smiled, and for the first time in days, his eyes reflected the happiness he was feeling. "I love you so much, my Bella. I made the mistake of underestimating you once, of underestimating your feelings and your strength, but I promise—never again."

"I want another promise from you, Edward."

"Anything." It was dangerous to give such an answer, but he knew that he was done running. He tried to leave, and even for the few hours that they were apart, he knew that it was the worst mistake of his life. He had to turn around, and he was glad that he hadn't been too late in doing so.

"I want you to keep telling me the truth. From now on, we're partners." She looked into his eyes, hoping to convey with her own how serious she was about this. "I will do my best to work on my self-esteem, but I need to trust you to tell me everything and not try to shield me. My imagination is usually worse than the truth can ever be, so please, no more lying to protect me."

"I promise." His tone was just as serious as hers was. "However, since we are going for honesty, there is something I want you to think about, one more promise that I will ask of you."

Bella stilled, trying to figure out what he was talking about, but she nodded. She knew that she owed him that much. He had made a huge step toward building their relationship in a healthier manner than it had begun, and she was willing to make a huge step as well.

"I want you to promise me that you will think about something." He knew that what he was about to ask would be hard for her to accept, but he was hoping that by introducing her to the idea early, he would receive the answer he was hoping for once he did ask her to decide. "I am only asking for your promise to think about it, okay?"

"I promise." She was starting to worry about what he was going to ask of her, but seeing the smile on his face when she made the promise was worth everything.

Edward took both of her hands in his, his long fingers gently caressing her knuckles. "I want you to consider to, some day," hopefully, soon, "become my wife."

Bella's breath hitched, and she froze. Did he just ask me to...?

Reading the question in her eyes, he said, "Remember, I only ask you to think about it, not to give me an answer right now."

She nodded, still too shocked to speak. She was not expecting him to ask her to think about marrying him, but after giving it a moment's thought, she realized that she should have. He was that boy. In his time, it would have made perfect sense for him to ask for her hand in marriage. In his eyes, it was the way one said 'I love you'.

"Thank you," he breathed, relief filling his entire body.

He smiled so brightly that Bella felt herself smile in return. His happiness was almost palpable.

There is no such thing as a relationship without compromise, he thought, and this time, it is my turn. "I know that this is not a subject that is easy for you to accept, and it means a lot to me that you have agreed to think about it." He paused. He brought one hand to cup her cheek, enjoying the feeling of warmth that had spread tingles from his hand to the rest of his body. "So I want to make you a promise of my own, a promise to think about something that I know you desire just as much as I desire to call you my wife."

Bella's eyes widened again. Could he be willing to talk about changing me?

"I know that you want to be changed, and I know that you are aware of my thoughts in the matter."

"Painfully so," she murmured and instantly winced at the hurt she saw flash across his face. "I'm sorry."

"I have many fears about the matter, and the most prominent one is of you resenting me for changing you once that deed is done, but I promise that I will think about it and that I will share those thoughts with you."

It was a small victory, but it was one Bella had not been expecting to gain. Compromise was the way a relationship worked, and she knew that this one was a huge compromise on Edward's part. "Thank you," she whispered.

She leaned into his chest as he wrapped his arms around her small frame, both sighing happily as their bodies were as close as they could get with their clothes still on. There will be more compromises down the road; they had both realized it.

Bella knew that there was one more thing that she would insist on having, and she also came to understand that as old fashioned as Edward was, he would insist on marrying her first. The idea was filling her with dread—she was only eighteen and not out of high school yet. However, she had time to think about it, and she had Edward's promise to think about changing her.

Edward knew that there would be many challenges ahead of them, challenges that they would have to face together. He was starting to realize that Bella would insist on being changed, and he was well aware that a part of him wished he could bite her at this very moment, if only to make sure that nothing could ever cause her harm. Convincing her to marry him as soon as they graduated was going to be another challenge, but it would be one he would gladly face. He smiled, thinking about the way this day had begun. He had been so wrong, had gone so far, guided by his own fears, but it was not too late to turn around and have everything he had ever wished for—his love, his heart, his soul, all embodied in one small, extraordinary, human girl; his Bella.

"So, is this a private party, or can I get a hug too?" came Alice's cheery question from the doorstep.

"Get over here!" Bella ordered.

Alice pulled both of them into a tight hug, smiling widely. You are going to have a beautiful summer wedding, Edward.


A/N:

Thanks for reading. Please leave a review with your thoughts.

Please check out all the other entries for the Twilight Post Secret Challenge. Voting opens 12/2 through 12/12. Winners will be announced on December 14th.