Age of Edward Contest

My pen name: harperpitt

Title: Love is the Best Medicine

Type of Edward: WWII Edward

Beta: dellaterra

Category: Literotica

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.

ooo

Edward Cullen lit a cigarette and returned to the crime novel he had been reading. He loved crime novels, but this one failed to catch his interest, and he found it hard to concentrate.

"Edward?" his mother called from the door leading to the garden. "Will you join us for tea?" She smiled encouragingly. She was constantly telling him to spend more time in the fresh air, and though Edward loved his mother dearly, and knew that she meant well, he would sometimes get tired of her attempts to coax him out of the shell he had been hiding in for… well, months now. He had been discharged from the hospital in January, and it now was April.

It was actually a beautiful day, but Edward knew that no amount of sunshine would mend either his leg or his mind.

Still, he stubbed out his cigarette, grabbed his crutch and slowly made his way outside. He had stopped using two crutches a week ago, and his father Carlisle, who was also his attending physician, supported him in his attempts to regain his mobility. Edward gritted his teeth as he traversed the garden. Even with the help of medication, his injured leg tended to hurt more than he wanted to show anyone. Still, he was glad to be out of that despicable wheelchair.

In the garden, his mother and sister were chatting animatedly with Mrs. Daniel and her daughter.

"Edward!" Mrs. Daniel beamed at him, while her daughter flashed him a bright smile.

"Good to see you, Mrs. Daniel," he nodded, "and you, Tanya."

"You look so much better than the last time we saw you," the older woman gushed. "The country air must be doing you good."

"I believe it's rather my mother's and sister's nursing," Edward smiled, and threw his sister a glance as he sat down next to her.

If Rosalie noticed that it was painful for him to do so, she didn't let on.

"As if I were able to do much, with the little one taking up all my energy," she smiled, patting her swollen belly. She was expecting in a couple of weeks.

In a way, Edward was glad that she would at least have this memory of Emmett, although he had mixed feelings when he thought about how hard it might be for her to see the reminder of her husband every time she looked at her child. He, on the other hand, was reminded of the guilt and the nightmare that Emmett's violent death meant for him. Rosalie was still dressed in black, and Edward knew that the remarkable strength she showed was just as much of a façade as his own smiles and efforts.

For months, he had been living in his shell, uncaring whether it rained or snowed.

"I was wondering," he said, joining the ladies' conversation. "Do the Clearwaters still own that little bookshop on Palace Road? "

"Yes," replied Mrs. Daniel, "but they took in some help. Susan has been ill so much of the time since Seth …"

She cleared her throat, aware that the Cullens had suffered a similar loss with Rosalie's husband, who had not come back from Salerno either.

Only Edward had returned, damaged and broken, but returned he had.

There was a small, awkward silence.

"She's from Birmingham," Tanya said, unaware of any embarrassment. Her eyes went big when the others looked at her in confusion. "The help, I mean. This girl, she's from Birmingham. Apparently, her father was an air raid warden, who was killed in a bombing, and she came to live with the Clearwaters. Henry is her uncle."

"Oh, that's terrible. The poor girl," Esme said softly. "This is such a waste of lives…" Her eyes watered slightly. "I wish it would stop."

"Mum." Edward gave her hand a little squeeze.

"I'm sorry…" Esme daintily dabbed at her eyes and quickly recovered. "Would anyone like some more of this sponge cake? Mrs. Stanley gave me the recipe. No eggs are needed, and with the margarine Edward brought yesterday, I think it's rather nice."

"It's lovely, Mum," Edward assured her as he took another piece of the pastry.

Their guests stayed for another half-hour. Tanya kept batting her eyelashes at Edward and made him promise to come over to see her one of these days.

"Gosh, what a dreadful person," Rosalie murmured as her brother returned to the garden after saying good-bye. Edward chuckled good-naturedly.

"I just can't stand the way she tries to flirt with you. It's so obvious what she wants."

"Oh yes," Edward said, lighting a cigarette. "And what would that be? My limp body?" His tone was harsher than he had intended, and he swiftly grabbed Rosalie's hand. "I'm sorry, Ro. I don't mean to be so bitter all the time."

"I know." Rosalie's blue eyes held a mixture of sadness and understanding. If anyone could relate to Edward's sentiment, it was his sister. It made him admire her all the more for her courage. Rosalie, it appeared, had never once thought about giving in, or giving up. Her chin held high, she looked fate in the eye. Edward would sometimes tease her, saying that she was leading a double existence: By day, she was Rosalie McCarty; by night, she enchanted the armed forces under her stage name of Vera Lynn.

"Oh dear," Rosalie sighed, a frown creasing her forehead.

"What is it?" Edward asked anxiously. Since everything that had happened, he tended to be very protective, especially of his sister and unborn niece or nephew. He or she was all that Emmett had bequeathed to his wife – and to his best friend and brother-in-law.

"It's nothing, Teddy." Rosalie knew that the use of his childhood nickname would distract him. "He's just kicking mighty hard." She kept insisting that she was going to have a little boy, and Edward believed her.

An hour later, when Dr. Carlisle Cullen had returned from his office, they ate a supper of vegetable pastries with their parents. Esme was growing carrots and beetroot in the corner of the garden that previously had held her beloved rose bushes. The government was also recommending that households keep livestock, such as rabbits and hens, in their gardens, but there, Carlisle Cullen, a practising vegetarian, had drawn a line. He would not eat a bunny.

Later, they listened to the news on the wireless. Prime Minister Churchill's words were uplifting, but the news was grim.

Edward turned in early. He lay back on his bed, smoking and trying to immerse himself in his novel. He fell asleep into his usual uneasy dreams, which were filled with fire and noise and the horrible smell of blood and smoke.

ooo

The next day was sunny and warm and Edward decided to take a walk, since the exercise was bound to do him good. He didn't even notice the direction in which he was walking, until he found himself in front of the shop with the weathered blue sign for Clearwater's Books. Before he knew it, the little bell above the door announced his presence. He felt clumsy as he moved forward with the help of his crutch. Every step reminded him of the guilt that never

left him for a minute.

He let his eyes wander over the rows of books. Edward had been an avid reader since childhood, and the love of the written word was one of the reasons that had driven him to study English literature at Oxford's Magdalen College and become a journalist.

"Oh, blimey!" a female voice called out from somewhere in the back of the shop. It sounded so frustrated and at the same time comical, that Edward smiled.

Moments later, a dishevelled-looking brunette appeared from the storage room. She was balancing a large box in her arms, almost staggering from the weight. She was also muttering swear words under her breath.

"Here, miss," Edward said out of customary chivalry. "Let me give you a hand." He limped over to her, leaned his crutch against a bookshelf, and took the box from her. "Good Lord," he exclaimed, "This must weigh a ton!"

"Thank you," the girl sighed with relief. "It does."

Edward's leg hurt abominably now that he was without the support of his crutch, but he carried the box over and set it down next to the till. He placed his hand on the edge of the counter to steady himself, involuntarily flinching from the pain that seemed to stab his leg.

The girl noticed, her eyes widening.

"Oh no, you shouldn't have…" She swiftly moved behind him. "Here," she said, handing him his crutch.

"Thanks," Edward mumbled, embarrassed at his display of weakness. He should have taken another dose of his painkillers before he left, he thought.

"I'm so sorry. Can I get you a cup of tea?"

Edward shook his head and tried a smile. For the first time since he had entered the shop, he really looked at the girl in front of him, and it made his smile genuine.

She was lovely. Huge dark eyes dominated a pale, heart-shaped face, which was surrounded by brown curls that ended just below her shoulders. She was dressed in a simple grey blouse and a woollen skirt, but it showed her slim figure. What mesmerized Edward though was her smile. It was a warm, sincere smile, seeming to come directly from the heart.

"Excuse me," he said. "I didn't get a chance to introduce myself properly. I'm Edward Cullen."

"I know," the girl said, and then, bit her lip. "I'm sorry," she stammered. "I mean, I know of you, because… "

"I see."

Edward looked down and studied his shoes. The idea that people talked about him made him deeply uncomfortable. What would they say? "That's the chap who managed to save himself, but not his brother-in-law?"

"Yes," the girl said. "I used to read your articles religiously. You're a brilliant writer. I loved the one about the decoding machine."

Edward looked up in surprise.

"You did?"

She nodded vigorously, her brown curls bobbing up and down. They had a trace of chestnut, he noticed.

"Why, thank you." He smiled again. He had not smiled this much in a long time. "And who is giving me such high praise?"

"Oh dear, I'm so sorry!" Stepping forward, she offered him her hand. "I'm Bella. Bella Swan."

ooo

An hour later, they were still talking, their conversation covering everything from the books they enjoyed, to films they had seen, to their mutual dislike for anything made with the egg powder that had been introduced when real eggs were rationed several years ago.

Edward was enchanted by Bella, who was the most cheerful and lively girl he had ever met. She was intelligent, and funny, two qualities Edward admired in a woman. She was also so beautiful it did something to his insides. The way she smiled at him made his heart feel light.

"Char?" Bella offered him another cup of tea.

"Thanks. We're lucky that milk powder isn't quite so disgusting as egg powder," he smiled, offering her a cigarette, then taking one for himself.

"Thank you," she said in a soft voice. Her hand closed lightly around his as Edward lit the cigarette for her. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second, and there was something between them, a feeling of electricity, that made Edward dizzy, and it was nothing like the dizziness he was accustomed to from his injury.

"So, the Clearwaters are your aunt and uncle?"

"Yes," Bella nodded. "I'm so glad they took me in after…" She swallowed. "After Father died."

"I'm sorry," Edward said softly.

"Thank you." Bella took a deep drag of her cigarette. They were both silent for a few moments, but despite the subject, the atmosphere wasn't awkward at all.

"It was during an air raid," Bella said after a while, her voice low and soft. "I went to live with my mother's family in Birmingham until early this year. I just felt so useless, and I wanted to contribute in some way, however small, to the war effort."

A wistful smile graced her lips, and it touched Edward's heart.

"Now I help at Bromley Hospital," she said, and Edward could tell she was proud.

"What do you do?" he asked.

"I bring the patients food, or I just talk to them. There's this old Jewish gentleman, Aron, who escaped from Berlin. He's blind, so I read to him. But I also dress wounds."

"You do?"

"At first I thought I wouldn't be able to do it, because the smell of blood always makes me queasy, but I manage."

Edward looked at her and frowned.

"I know," she added. "Everyone tells me that you cannot actually smell blood, but you can."

"Yes," Edward murmured. "Yes, you can."

Once again, he remembered that day, those moments forever etched into his mind.

Smoke, and screams, and noise, so much noise, and the smell of blood.

"Look," Bella's voice drew him out of his brooding. "What are you doing tonight? My friend Alice and I are going to the pub. Won't you join us?"

Edward swallowed. For months, he had been telling himself, and everyone else, that he wasn't ready to rejoin the normal world, but something about Bella told him it might be worth trying.

"Yes," he said. "Yes, I'd love to."

ooo

Bella burst into the room she and Alice were sharing in the Clearwaters' home. Her friend had come with her from Birmingham, and Bella's relatives had gladly accepted her as a house guest. She was sitting on the bed, busily mixing a concoction that was supposed to be a substitute for lipstick.

"Allie! Allie!" Bella threw herself on the bed next to the young woman.

"Careful, Bella!" Alice cried out, holding onto the bowl with her ingredients. She looked up. "What's the matter with you, anyway?" She eyed Bella from huge and very clear blue eyes. "I haven't seen you so happy in donkey's years."

"Allie, I met him."

"Who? Winston Churchill?"

"Him, Allie, him." Bella dropped her head to her friend's shoulder and heaved a deep and dreamy sigh. "Come on, it's you who keeps telling me that I'll know when I meet him."

"I do," Alice nodded severely, as she returned to stirring her mixture. "Just as much as I knew that James was not the one. So let me have a look at this bloke, yes?"

"And you will. You're going to," Bella babbled excitedly. "We're meeting him tonight."

"We are? Alice raised one thin black eyebrow.

"At the pub. Oh, please say you'll come!"

"With that plonk they sell as beer these days?"

Alice grinned, and Bella knew she would come.

ooo

Bella was nervous as they made their way into the busy pub. She had been agonizing over her choice of clothes, which, with rationing, was limited. She had finally decided on a simple blue woollen dress and the string of pearls she had inherited from her mother. Alice had insisted she put on some of the freshly made red lip colour and mascara.

Her eyes roamed the bar. Benjamin, the owner, and his wife Angela were busily serving their thirsty customers, the jukebox playing a gay Glenn Miler tune. The air was thick with smoke and laughter, and in a corner of the room, a couple of G.I.s and their girls were dancing.

"There he is!" Bella grabbed her friend's arm and almost cut off the blood flow.

"Ow! Bugger!" Alice hissed at Bella, but when she followed her friend's gaze, she fell silent.

As if he'd heard them, Edward slowly turned around from his slightly secluded spot at the side of the bar.

He looked even more gorgeous than Bella remembered. His sharp jawline, the chiselled nose and plump lips, the thick and slightly unruly bronze hair, and above all, his vibrant green eyes. He was smoking a cigarette and leaning on his crutch, wearing

a crooked and irresistible smile and bending his head in greeting as the girls made their way toward him.

"You must be Edward!" Alice squealed before anyone else could say anything. "Hello, I'm Alice Whitlock."

"Hello, Alice." Edward took the hand she was offering him. "It's a pleasure to meet you. I'm Edward." His eyes sought out Bella's after he and Alice had shaken hands.

Bella had been feeling this… buzz ever since they had met earlier in the day, and it was now stronger than ever. Edward did something to her, and it was more powerful than anything she'd ever felt before.

He was unlike any other man she'd ever known. He was soft-spoken and gentle, almost shy, funny in a disarmingly self-deprecating way, and possessed one of the most brilliant minds she'd ever encountered. He also had something unbelievably sad about him, and, although she didn't really know him yet, Bella was sure that his crutch and the dark shadow that sometimes fell across his face had a lot to do with that.

ooo

An hour later, Bella's buzz was still caused by Edward, while Alice's could be attributed entirely to the consumption of three pints of beer. They had taken a small table by the window looking out on Elmfield Road, and two friends of Bella and Alice's, Kate and Garrett, had joined them. Alice was getting melancholic and talked about how much she was missing her husband, while Bella and Edward were in quiet conversation. Once again, it seemed as if they had known each other forever. They chatted about everything and nothing, and every once in a while, when lighting Bella's cigarette, or reaching for his glass, Edward's hand would touch hers, and each time their skin touched, it brought a warm shudder to Edward's heart.

He found himself more open with her than he'd been in a long time, telling her about his parents and his sister, and how Rose had eaten an entire jar of jam the other day. It made Bella giggle, and in, turn, he laughed as well. He hadn't laughed so much in months.

Someone turned on a song by the Andrew Sisters, and Kate and Garrett jumped up to dance. Alice blinked her eyes and sighed.

"Oh, how I wish my Jasper were here… He's such a lovely dancer."

Bella smiled indulgently and patted her friend's hand, but Alice smiled drunkenly.

"That doesn't mean you shouldn't be dancing. No need to stay with me." She made a shooing gesture in the direction of the impromptu dance floor. "You two go and enjoy yourselves!"

Bella rolled her eyes. Apparently, Alice had completely forgotten about Edward's crutch.

She tried not to look at him in case he was embarrassed, when Alice insisted again.

"Really, Edward. Dance with Bella. Don't worry about me. I'll be alright…" She scrunched up her nose. "Oh dear." She was looking slightly green as she got up, muttering "Going to the lavvy," as she went.

"I'm sorry," Bella said softly. "She isn't normally that insensitive."

"It's okay." Edward's voice was low.

There was a small silence, and Bella stared down at the table, toying with a box of matches. Her cheeks were pink and she looked very contrite. Impulsively, Edward reached for her hand. It was small and soft in his, and the sensation made his stomach do funny things.

Bella looked up at him through long black lashes. Her large, dark eyes held nothing but warmth and honesty.

"If it weren't for this thing," Edward said, eyeing his crutch and then looking back at her, "I would dance with you all night, Bella."

ooo

The way home took the three longer than it normally would have, due to the fact that Alice was stopping every few feet and holding detailed monologues about her spouse. She had her arm wrapped around Bella's waist but still managed to stumble every now and then.

"You have to meet my Jazzy, Edward," she told him for the fifth time. "You would love him. I love him…"

Edward and Bella shared amused looks.

"Is she talking about an actual person?" Edward mouthed.

Bella nodded. "Her husband's in Burma," she whispered.

"Husband," Alice sighed as they turned into Harwood Avenue.

It was a mellow night, quiet and peaceful. No sirens sounded off under the silvery half-moon. The air smelled of lilacs and grass, and it was hard to imagine that a brutal and merciless war was raging.

"This is us," Bella said as they stopped in front of a Victorian terraced house.

"Yes," Alice hiccupped. "Nighty-night, Edward…"

With surprising dexterity, she opened the front door and staggered inside, leaving Edward and Bella to themselves.

"Thank you for this lovely evening." Edward longed to touch her hand again, but he didn't dare to this time, somehow afraid that she wouldn't want him to.

"I'm sorry about Allie," Bella said. "She's…"

Edward shook his head. "She's funny. Really, I haven't enjoyed myself this much in a long time."

"Neither have I."

Bella smiled at him, and Edward's heart beat faster as he tried to find the right words. Luckily, they were rather easy.

"Can… can I see you again, Bella?"

ooo

Edward woke with a start. He was sweating so heavily that his pyjamas were damp. It had been another horrible dream he barely could remember. All he knew was that it had been filled with blood and panic and smoke. And the noise, the terrifying noise, of sirens and cries, and Emmett's face, caked with blood, and his eyes as he made Edward promise to take care of Rosalie.

His heart was beating erratically and his leg hurt so much that it was hard to even think clearly. That was very likely what had been causing the dream in the first place. His father had explained to him the intricate relationship between the mind and the body, and he had told Edward that his reactions were completely normal, given the circumstances.

It would probably take Edward a long time to overcome the trauma he had suffered. If he ever would.

Groaning, Edward left his bed and limped into the tiny adjoining bathroom. He shook two pills out of their container and washed them down with a glass of tap water. It would make his mind even groggier, but he didn't care; he welcomed it even.

ooo

"Oh, look!" Bella whispered excitedly, her hand on Edward's arm. Her eyes shimmered in the reflection from the big screen as Edward looked at her. Even after two weeks and twice as many dates, he could not get accustomed to her liveliness and lightness. She worked like a tonic on him.

"The little elephant is such a darling!"

Edward could feel her warm breath on his ear, and it made the hair at the back of his neck stand up.

They were watching Walt Disney's Dumbo, and Bella's reactions were enchanting. Edward had been watching her surreptitiously, and his heart kept doing little flips.

Bella made him happy.

He swallowed thickly, and finally plucked up the courage to take her hand in his. It felt so right. The little squeeze with which Bella responded was all he had wished for over the last two days, which had been spent obsessing over her. He hadn't been able to sleep, or eat, completely overwhelmed by the intensity of his feelings for her.

Later, when he walked her home, Bella slipped her arm through his and they laughed a lot as they recounted their favourite moments of the film. The night air was warm, it being the first week of June, and Bella looked lovelier than ever in her simple green cotton dress.

"Thank you for a wonderful evening," Edward murmured as they stood in front of her house. A lonely bird chirped somewhere, having forgotten it was time to sleep. The house was dark, and the faint light of a couple of street lamps cast a yellow glow on them.

"Thank you." Bella stepped a little closer to Edward, and she grabbed the hand that was not holding his crutch.

"Bella, I…" He swallowed again, and then simply followed his instinct.

He kissed her.

ooo

Bella's whole body responded to Edward's proximity, and the moment their lips met, it was as if everything just fell into place.

It was right.

His soft, warm lips moved with hers, caressing and incredibly tender, and his arm wrapped around her waist so he could pull her even closer. It was the sweetest kiss she'd ever received, slow and perfect. Bella drifted away on a wave of bliss, relishing every single sensation, from the way Edward's hair felt beneath her fingers to the clean, amber scent of his skin.

"Bella," he whispered against her lips, melting his breath with hers.

She sighed, her fingers exploring the back of his neck, the rim of his ear and his jaw. Murmuring her name again, Edward captured her mouth once more, only this time, it was more heated, and Bella's heartbeat accelerated when she felt the tip of his tongue brush over her upper lip in a wordless question.

Her response was eager and immediate, and seconds later, they were drowning in each other, tongues and lips sliding and sucking and nibbling and teasing, giving and taking.

They shared soft hums, gentle touches, fervent and impatient sighs, and Bella imagined that her heart was trying to fly out of her chest because it felt so full and yet so light.

"Bella," he whispered again. "Bella." He nipped at her lip. "Is this really happening?" She could feel him swallow. He buried his face in her hair, his lips moving against her neck as he murmured. "Please tell me this isn't a dream… You're… beautiful… wonderful…"

Her hands entangled in his hair, which was soft as silk, his scalp warm under her fingertips.

"It's real, Edward. You're beautiful." She kissed his ear. "You're wonderful."

"I'm not." He parted slightly from her so they could look at each other. "But you make me feel like I am." He put a tiny kiss on her lips. "So sweet…" Another kiss followed. "Irresistible…" He nibbled on her lower lip. "Will you meet me tomorrow?"

"Yes," she sighed into his mouth. "Yes, I will."

ooo

Minutes, or hours later, when they had finally managed to part, Bella fell into bed with a huge and happy smile on her face, her lips swollen and her heart tingly.

"So?" Alice murmured sleepily from the bed by the window. "Did he kiss you at last?"

"Mmm…" was Bella's joyous response.

"Well thank God. At least one of us will have a little roll in the hay."

"Alice!" Bella whisper-hissed.

"What? He's a jolly nice chap, and it's clear to see that you're potty about him."

"I am." Bella smiled dreamily.

"See?" Alice turned around in bed, yawned, and pulled the covers over her head.

ooo

When Edward returned to his parents' house on Meadow Avenue, all the lights were on, and he hurried up the few stone steps leading to the front door, cursing his crutch and his leg for the thousandth time.

Esme was just descending the staircase, carrying soiled cloths and a bowl. She looked exhausted, but had a very happy smile on her face.

"Edward! You're back!" Reaching him, she put the things on a chest of drawers and pulled him into a hug. "The baby is here! It's a boy! A healthy little boy!"

"Oh God! Mum… that's wonderful! How's Ro?"

"She's alright. Everything happened so quickly. We phoned the midwife just after nine, and two hours later, the baby was here."

"Can I see her?"

"Just go upstairs, darling." Esme kissed her son's cheek, and her eyes followed him as he made his slow ascent upstairs.

Maybe this new addition to the family, she hoped, would cheer his spirits. Esme wanted nothing more than to see her son well again after that horrible incident had all but sucked his courage out of him.

ooo

"You need to come over and see Toby," Edward said. "He's the sweetest little thing."

"I'd love to."

Bella, who had put her head on Edward's shoulder, looked up at him. She hadn't seen him so carefree before, and it made her glad that the arrival of his nephew, Emmett Tobias McCarty, seemed to have this effect on Edward. She snuggled a little closer into his embrace.

They were sitting on a park bench, enjoying the sun. Well, enjoying the sun, and kissing quite a lot. They had been seeing each other every single day since their first kiss five days ago. Edward came and visited Bella at the bookshop, or he fetched her from the hospital after her shift ended. Nothing felt as good as seeing him waiting by the front door, smoking a cigarette, smiling crookedly as he watched her walk toward him.

He was the most wonderful, but also the most complex man she'd ever met. He had a brilliant mind and was knowledgeable about an endless variety of things. He was enormously well-read, and he enjoyed discussing almost every topic under the sun. He was funny, the subject of his humour often being himself.

He was also a very sensitive person, quickly picking up on other people's moods and needs. The way he spoke about his family, about his deceased brother-in-law, showed his love and devotion, but also the feelings of guilt that were weighing him down. He never spoke about what had happened to Emmett; all that Bella had gotten to know was that they had been involved in an explosion while serving in General Montgomery's Eighth Army's Italian Campaign in Salerno.

"What's going on in that beautiful head?" Edward murmured against her temple, his warm breath making her shudder pleasantly. He entwined their fingers in Bella's lap and kissed her ear.

"Nothing, really," she lied, and turned her face to his so she could kiss him. His lips moulded around hers and she closed her eyes, giving herself up to the sensations his touch caused all over her body, from the roots of her hair to the tips of her toes. Her hands roamed his back while her mouth tasted his, her heart beating erratically as his arms drew her closer, pressing her against him. His body was tall and hard compared to hers, which was smaller and softer in every respect. Her breasts were pressing against his chest, and for a fraction of a second, Bella wondered how his hands would feel on them.

Yes, that was definitely something she wanted to find out.

ooo

Edward was worried.

He lit another cigarette and sat back against the headboard of his bed. The wireless was on and Vera Lynn's voice assured him that there'd be bluebirds over the white cliffs of Dover. He thought he'd lose his mind if he had to listen to that song one more time.

For one thing, he was worried because the government had announced another blackout period. He didn't mind about himself, but he was concerned about Rosalie and Toby. What if they needed to run to a shelter? The baby was so tiny and helpless, and he needed to be fed and diapered all the time. He didn't want Rosalie to have to do this in a crammed shelter.

He also worried about Bella. What if an air raid happened while she was working? She'd be stuck at the hospital's shelter, or, worse yet, would have to help evacuate patients. He didn't want to be parted from her at such a time. She had become his everything, his reason to get up in the morning – that reason he had been missing for so long.

Edward rubbed the back of his neck. His leg was quiet for once after he'd nearly gone bonkers from pain and had taken another two pills.

He could hear his mum pottering around in the kitchen downstairs, singing along with Miss Lynn. Esme was not a very good singer, and Edward, having perfect pitch, cringed a little.

That was another thing taking up his mind. Not his mother's squeaky singing voice, but the fact that, after almost six months, he felt the need to return to his own home. He loved his parents dearly, but he wanted to be his own person again. The flat in Kensington was unharmed, and he longed to get back to his books and his piano, and to the freedom it meant. He also needed to get back to writing, which he had been neglecting ever since… ever since then.

The idea of having Bella over wasn't bad, either.

Edward smiled. He always did when he thought of her. His girlfriend. His beautiful, energetic, lovely smelling girlfriend.

Which brought him back to where he had started worrying.

They were kissing and touching all the time, and he couldn't help but think about going further, imagining it, thinking of her doing the most delicious things with him, to him… And nothing happened. Physically.

Edward hadn't given the subject much consideration since his injury. After two weeks in a military hospital in Torquay, more than three months in London Hospital and another two in bed at his parents' home, the only thing that had mattered was his leg, and that it did not have to be taken off. Sex had been the very last thing on his mind.

Until now.

He had never had problems in that department.

Until now.

ooo

"… Happy birthday tooo youuu!"

Edward chuckled as the small party finished the song and everyone applauded. Bella held out the cake she and Esme had made the day before, and Edward blew out the little candle they'd been able to produce.

"Thank you, love." He kissed Bella's cheek.

Bella smiled up at him. "You're welcome. Happy thirtieth birthday, darling."

"Getting old, huh, Cullen?" Alice giggled.

"Shut up, Tiny."

Edward and Alice had developed a pattern of teasing one another, which Bella found rather endearing. They had grown to like each other, the fact that they were two opposing poles adding some spice to their bantering.

"Happy birthday, dear." His mum gave him a kiss. "May all your wishes come true!"

"Many happy returns of the day, Edward." Carlisle hugged him. "I'm very proud of you, son."

"Thank you." Edward smiled crookedly.

"Here." Esme held out a tray with glasses of champagne. "Your father had this hidden in his office." She gave Carlisle a tender look. "It's the Veuve Cliquot your grandmother Elizabeth gave us for our wedding!"

"Oh, but Mum," Edward protested sweetly.

"Shut up," Esme ordered, and they all clinked their glasses together. "Happy birthday, Edward!"

"Happy birthday, Teddy," Rosalie sneaked up to her brother and put a smacking kiss on his cheek. Little Toby was sleeping peacefully in her arms, oblivious to his uncle's special day.

Bella smiled. Edward's family had been very welcoming, treating her as if she belonged. Esme had chatted with her about making jam and knitting for the forces, and Carlisle had been interested in her work at Bromley Hospital. Rosalie had asked if she wanted to hold Toby, and Bella had, her heart melting as the tiny being in her arms made pouty lips and fell asleep.

After everyone had hugged Edward, they sat down and had cake. Esme had been saving rationing points for weeks and had managed to gather real eggs and a bit of real butter, which she mixed with margarine. She had also saved a month's worth of chocolate, having confiscated Carlisle's too, for the icing. The result was a splendid birthday cake, and in combination with the champagne, the mood was relaxed and cheerful.

Edward held Bella's hand under the table while Alice and Rosalie chatted about films and fashion, and Alice squealed when she held Toby and he curled his little fingers around her thumb.

Edward unwrapped his presents, which were mundane things mostly. Soap and socks and cigarettes. A bottle of whisky from his cousin Eric. Alice gave him a book.

"Walt Whitman?"

Edward looked at her, his eyes warm and alive.

"He's Jasper's favourite author," Alice explained. "And since you're a writer, I thought…" She trailed off and became unusually quiet.

"Thank you, Alice." Edward bent over and kissed her cheek. As he did so, Alice gave her best friend a wink, and Bella's grin spread from ear to ear.

ooo

"Okay, birthday boy," Bella smiled as she rained kisses all over Edward's face. "This is your present."

"Mmm… Bella… I think I am receiving my present right now…"

After the guests had left, Edward's parents and his sister had retired to their rooms, leaving Bella and Edward deliciously alone. They had been kissing and whispering, happily suspended in their pink bubble.

Edward always felt wonderfully tranquil and secure in Bella's presence. She stopped the horrible memories and replaced them with confidence and trust.

"Here," she whispered, placing a wrapped gift in his hand while she kissed the corner of his mouth. "It's nothing big, but…"

"Bella…" Edward took her face in his hands and stared into her huge dark eyes. "Anything you give me is big, because it's from you." He placed a firm kiss on her lips.

"Open it?"

Edward turned his attention to the present, which was wrapped in green paper that looked a bit like Christmas. It probably was, wartime making it difficult to obtain anything new. He pulled at the worn white silk bow, and gasped once the object came free.

"Bella, darling, this is…"

She watched him, biting on her lip. "It was my father's," she said softly, taking the fountain pen out of its case and placing it between Edward's fingers. "And I really want you to have it. To make a new start, perhaps?"

Edward wrapped her in his arms and pulled her close. He buried his face in her neck, the familiar scent of her hair flooding his whole being.

"Thank you," he whispered, swallowing back tears.

Once again, he wondered how he could ever be the man she deserved, but he knew that he wanted to be.

"Bella?" He sat back so he could look at her, huge dark eyes that were full of trust and warmth staring into his. He took the leap. "I love you, Bella."

Bella's eyes turned moist the moment he said it, and the most beautiful smile spread over her face. She threw her arms around his neck.

"I love you too, Edward! So very, very much!"

ooo

"Bella! Bella!" Alice's excited voice resounded through the house as she ran upstairs and burst into the room. "Look, I got a letter from Jasper!"

She threw herself on Bella's bed, where her friend was sitting with her nose buried in a book.

As Alice proceeded to tell her the details of Jasper's letter, Bella smiled and nodded her head, but her thoughts kept drifting to Edward. He was intending to tell his parents of his plans to move back into his flat in Kensington tonight, and she was hoping that he would phone her soon and tell her how everything had gone.

They had been getting even closer since his birthday three weeks ago, spending every spare minute together. Though she suspected Edward to be in more pain than he'd admit to her – he sometimes flinched when he got up or sat down – she was convinced that moving would help him to return to his life. He had written the editor of The Times a letter in which he asked to be re-employed. Bella was certain that work would be the best therapy for Edward's lingering feelings of guilt.

"He says he might be home for Christmas, Bella." Alice's eyes were moist. "Oh, God, I miss him so much…"

"I'm sure he will be, Allie. It'll be swell."

ooo

On a hot August afternoon, Edward looked around him. Everything was as he remembered it. The furniture was covered in white sheets, and the windows were grey from dust, and electricity had to be put back on, but apart from that, his flat was the same as it had been when he had last seen it over two years ago. It was a nice place, looking out over Holland Park, which currently was being used as a storage field, various tents protecting machinery and hardware.

He made his way to the bedroom. It was empty but for the double bed and the closet. Dust covered the windowsills and the mirror above the chest of drawers.

Edward smiled. He was looking forward to getting back. It would maybe make him feel a little less dependent on others.

He opened one of the greasy windows to let in some air. Bella had promised to help him clean up and get the place neat and pretty. She was always helping him, doing things to make him feel better, and he still wondered what he had ever done to deserve her. She was so perfect, so pure. Edward wanted nothing more than to be the man she deserved, in every respect. Getting back into his own flat was the first step. Getting back into his old job would be the second.

These enterprises were comparatively easy. What worried him was the third point on his list: getting his body to cooperate again.

ooo

"That's wonderful, darling," Bella smiled exuberantly. "When are you going to start?"

"Next month." Edward replied, and kissed her nose. "Marcus was really glad to have me back."

"Of course he was!" Bella ran a hand through his hair. "You're the most brilliant writer he could wish for!"

Edward hummed and kissed a little trail from her cheek to her mouth. "I want to celebrate with you… tonight…"

"You do?" Bella sighed as he gently pulled her lower lip between his. She was getting so much more sensitive to his touch, yearning for him with every fibre of her being. He seemed to have no idea of the effect he had on her. She was continually fantasizing about him, about his long fingers and his broad shoulders, his full lips and his crooked smile. His skin, which smelled like soap and vanilla, and if it was late, felt a little stubbly. There was even something elegant about the way he moved around with the help of his crutch. His legs were so long. Everything about him was longer, taller, broader than her.

"Yes, I do," Edward murmured against her mouth. "And I want to wine and dine you tonight…"

"What?" Bella withdrew slightly and looked at him.

Edward's smile was close to a smirk. He placed another kiss on her lips before he explained himself.

"We are having dinner at the Savoy Hotel."

"No!"

"Oh yes, my love."

ooo

Bella had never seen anything like it. Even with the war and rationing going on, it was the most splendid place she'd ever been to. Large chandeliers hung from the high ceilings, and the walls were decorated with luxurious, silky wallpaper. The tables were set with white linen and silverware, crystal glasses sparkling in the candlelight. The large room was filled with elegantly dressed people, and a small band was playing mellow tunes, almost making them forget about the suffering that surrounded them.

Edward looked more handsome than ever in his tuxedo and black bowtie. A lovely little smile crooked the corner of his mouth as they sat down and a waiter handed them their menus.

"Do you like it?"

"I love it, Edward. I didn't know anything like this still existed!"

Edward stretched out his hand across the table and entwined his fingers with hers. His expression was still warm and contented, if slightly more serious.

"You deserve nothing but the best, my sweet." He pressed his lips to her knuckles, and the simple yet loving gesture sent tingles down Bella's spine.

Edward ordered a bottle of champagne and they clinked their glasses together. Bella enjoyed the bubbly drink, but she couldn't get over the feeling that Edward seemed preoccupied. He kept running his hand through his hair and throwing her strange looks when he thought she didn't notice.

They had venison, which was the most decadent thing either of them had eaten in years. For pudding, they shared some ice cream, which made Bella sigh it was so delicious.

"Are you happy?" Edward asked, cocking his head to one side.

"Yes, darling. Are you?"

Again, he took her hand.

"Yes, very. It's you who makes me so happy, Bella. It's you who makes me forget about my leg, and about all the terrible things that happened. It's you." He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing up and down. "Bella, I –"

And that's when the shrill sound of a siren interrupted him, announcing an air raid.

ooo

Londoners had gotten used to the air raids, and evacuation to the shelter happened calmly and swiftly. Not fifteen minutes later, Edward and Bella found themselves sitting side by side on a wooden bench in the midst of sixty or seventy other people. Some had brought their alcoholic beverages with them, and a chap from the orchestra had his violin. There were sleeping bunks by the walls, fully equipped with clean bed sheets and pillows.

"Now I know why they call it the smartest shelter in London," Edward chuckled softly. His smile died when he looked at Bella, who had become very tense, small drops of sweat gathering on her brow.

"Come here." He opened his arms and drew her close. "Don't worry, I bet it'll be over in a jiffy."

She nodded and buried her face in the crook of Edward's neck. They could hear the first series of bombs, muffled by the thick stone walls. It would get quiet, and then start again. Most of their companions remained unruffled, playing card games, chatting or sleeping.

Bella didn't move the entire time, hiding in Edward's arms. Although he hated to see her so terrified, it felt good that for once, he could be there for her, protect her. He kissed the top of her head and ran soothing circles on her back, murmuring comforting words until she actually dozed off. Edward closed his eyes as well. In one corner of the room, people were softly singing "We'll Meet Again."

He inhaled Bella's scent and concentrated on her regular breathing, still murmuring away.

He had been sure before, but now, literally defying death, he knew that nothing could ever keep him from asking her the question he had been meaning to ask when the sirens went off.

ooo

Hours later, the all-clear signal went off and people gathered their belongings and started making their way back upstairs. Bella, who was still sleepy, was nestled into Edward's arm as they stepped out into the darkened street. Fire engines were heading north. The air was still warm, but was less humid. The Strand seemed pretty unharmed. Soldiers were crossing in their vehicles and people were emerging from other shelters. A few bobbies on horseback made their way toward Covent Garden.

"Let's go home," Edward muttered, trying to hail a cab.

"They'll never drive us all the way to Bromley," Bella said tiredly. "It's too far."

"I was thinking of my flat, actually," Edward explained. "It's long after midnight. You can phone your aunt and uncle from there. Do you think it would be alright with them if you stayed the night? I do have a spare room, you know."

"Oh," Bella said. "I suppose so." She bit her lip. She wasn't sure about the implications of Edward's suggestion, but if it brought them closer together, she was happy to go along with it.

A taxi transported them to Knightsbridge, and Edward immediately checked if the telephone was still in order, which it was. Bella called her family, and her aunt Susan, though not exactly happy that her niece planned to stay with Edward overnight, agreed.

The Clearwaters had been acquainted with the Cullens for years, and Susan was aware of the fact that Edward was an eligible, decent young man.

"Are you alright?" Edward asked, sitting down next to Bella on the sofa.

"I am now," Bella replied. "I'm glad you were there. That we were together. That… that we are together."

"So am I," he murmured. Once again, Bella got the impression that he was nervous. "Bella?"

She looked up into clear green eyes, the shape of which had an exotic slant that she adored.

Edward took a deep breath.

"I love you, Bella."

"I know, Edward. I love you too. Very, very much." Moving closer, she kissed him softly.

"And Bella," he mumbled against her lips, drawing back slightly until he could look into her eyes. "I would love nothing more than to get down on one knee, but I don't think that my leg would forgive me, so… I'll have to do it… like this." He swallowed. "Isabella Swan, I love you more than words can express. I want to spend the rest of my life worshipping you, and making sure that you are well and happy. Bella, will you marry me?"

The moment he'd said it, a warm feeling spread from Bella's heart to her stomach, and flooded the rest of her body, trying to burst out of her eyes, where hot tears pricked her. She hadn't realised how badly she had longed for him to say the words.

"Yes!" She laughed as tears poured down her cheeks and she wrapped her arms around Edward's neck. "Yes, yes, yes!"

ooo

Bella pulled her muffler closer around her neck and hurried across the street. It had started snowing early this morning, and she shuddered from the cold as she waited for Edward to let her inside. She climbed the stairs to his flat, jittery in anticipation at the prospect of being in Edward's arms again. Edward, her fiancé of three-and-a-half months. Her future husband.

"Hello, love!" He greeted her with a kiss. "Oh dear, you're icy!" He pulled her into his free arm and kissed her nose. "I made hot cocoa. That'll warm you up."

They snuggled up on his sofa, Edward wrapping a woollen shawl around Bella's shoulders before he twined his arms around her and kissed her ear.

"Mmm," she sighed as Edward's lips teased her earlobe, his warm breath exciting her further.

Her physical experience with men had been limited to that one time with James, and the feelings his touch had evoked were nothing compared to the pleasure and desire Edward instilled in her. He was the perfect gentleman, never going further than decency permitted, but Bella sometimes wished that he would throw virtue out the window.

"Edward," she murmured, slipping her hands underneath his sweater and pulling him with her as she lay back on the sofa. It was exciting to feel his weight on her, to let her fingers roam his broad back. She hooked her leg around his thigh, her heart beating faster as his tongue caressed hers and his hand moved upward on her waist until it was just beneath the swell of her breast.

"Edward… Edward… This… it feels so good…"

"Yes," he whispered, and finally, slid his palm higher until it cupped Bella's breast.

She sighed happily, shuddering when Edward kissed her neck and the very sensitive spot behind her ear. It was heaven and, of their own volition, her fingers started pulling at the hem of his jumper. She had never before experienced the fire that spread through her tummy, and lower.

And then, Edward withdrew slightly and placed a chaste kiss on her lips.

"I love you, Bella," he murmured before he sat up and, in a voice that was much too cheerful, said, "How about that cup of cocoa?"

ooo

Edward had been staring out the window for an hour, smoking and brooding.

He loved Bella; that much was clear. She was the most adorable person he'd ever met. Her lightness was the opposite of his dark. She made him feel serene, permitting him to forget about the guilt that weighed him down.

He wanted nothing more than to be with her. Every day and every night. He had spent many an evening imagining his beautiful girlfriend naked, her luscious curves bare for him to touch. When they kissed, he wanted to go further. He wanted to undress her, and feast on her soft, pale skin. He wanted to kiss the hidden nooks and crannies of her body, to breathe her in, to taste her.

Bella had become his everything, his goddess, and Edward wanted nothing more than to celebrate their connection. He wanted to be her man.

But, aye, that was the rub. Being a man included lots of things, but above all, it meant being able to perform the most basic task. To physically express your emotions. To make love. To make babies eventually, Edward guessed, but that thought was so far ahead he didn't gave it any room.

His leg was healing, but his soul was not. The images of Emmett, dying in his arms, were always present, no matter if Edward was awake or asleep.

He stubbed out his cigarette and lit another one.

Small wonder he couldn't get it up any more. After everything that had happened, he was surprised there was any movement at all below his waistline.

He had tried, of course he had. At first, he thought that it didn't work out of respect for Bella, because the idea of her in a slip, or even in her underwear, seemed discourteous.

When he and Bella had started to kiss all the time, and had gotten closer with every day, things had shifted a little bit. Bella clearly liked and trusted him. She clearly agreed with their physical relationship. So Edward continued to imagine her.

He imagined her all the time. How her hair would be spread over his naked thighs as her head moved up and down…

How her legs would feel, wrapped around his waist as he entered her soft, slick hotness…

How her face would look when she climaxed, flushed and divine.

All of those thoughts, and… nothing. Well, not nothing, but not nearly enough to act it out.

Edward had never been a womanizer, but he wasn't inexperienced, either. Not after Victoria Burns had been finished with him.

But he knew, of course, what caused this… problem. After all, he had been reading enough literature on the subject after Carlisle had explained to him how the trauma would be hard to grapple with.

He probably would never be able to give Bella fulfilment.

He had come to know his Bella. She was a sensual woman. How could he ever be her man? How were things supposed to be when they were married?

Edward groaned and buried his face in his hands.

ooo

"I can't believe you two still haven't done it, Bella," Alice muttered. Jasper's short visit over Christmas had boosted her spirits, and she now wanted everyone to be as happily in love as she was with her husband.

"Well, I guess Edward just wants to wait until we're married," Bella tried to reason. "What if something happened?"

Alice snorted. "Bollocks."

"That's easy for you to say. You are married!"

"You don't seriously believe that Jasper and I waited until our wedding night, do you?" Alice rolled her eyes.

"You didn't?" Bella's big round eyes became even bigger and rounder.

"Oh, Bella." Alice kissed her cheek. "You are sweet."

Bella sighed and turned toward the window, watching the snowflakes tumble down. She loved Edward more than anything or anyone in the world, but it felt as if there was a distance growing between them.

ooo

"What can I do for you, Edward?"

Carlisle sat down in his armchair by the fireplace. Esme and Rosalie had gone over to visit Mrs. Stanley, and Edward had asked his father for a private word. He seemed mighty nervous, tapping his fingers on the coffee table as he tried to find the correct words.

"Edward? You know you can tell me anything, don't you?" Carlisle watched his son. Edward had improved so much since he met Bella, becoming more outgoing and much more relaxed. Bella was a wonderful girl too, and Carlisle would be happy to call her his daughter-in-law in a few months.

Edward still was fidgeting, chewing on his lower lip, a habit he had adopted from his fiancée.

"Edward? Is this something about Bella? Is she…"

Edward looked up, his eyes asking Carlisle to continue.

"Is she pregnant?"

"What?" Edward's voice cracked, and he looked genuinely surprised.

"Edward, you wouldn't be the first couple to have conceived out of wedlock. I'm just saying that –"

"No," Edward interrupted him. "No, she's not pregnant. We haven't…" He pinched the bridge of his nose. "We haven't. Yet."

"Oh," Carlisle said. He was surprised. "I would have thought that…"

"No." Edward heaved a big sigh. "Which is actually the reason I wanted to talk to you, Dad. I… I have a problem."

ooo

Edward was relieved when he had told Carlisle the full extent of his difficulties, explaining how he was afraid that he would never get right again with the trauma obviously so deep-rooted that it interfered with the most basic functions of his body.

He hoped that Carlisle would not recommend to him some sort of psychoanalysis, but if he had to, he'd try anything to become the man Bella deserved.

Carlisle was silent for a while, looking into the fireplace.

When he looked up at last, he had his eyebrows knitted together and Edward was expecting the worst.

"Edward, what amount of the medication are you taking on a daily base?"

Edward's frown mirrored his father's.

"I take two pills whenever the pain gets hard to stand," he said.

"And how often does that occur?" Carlisle enquired.

Edward slightly shook his head. "I don't know what you're getting at. On some days, the pain is worse than on others. And I take a couple of pills more."

Carlisle leaned forward in his armchair and looked into his son's eyes.

"That's what I'm talking about, Edward. Those aren't cough drops."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, Edward, that your problem may well be caused by the pills. They don't only affect the parts of your system responsible for the pain, you know."

"You mean…" Edward swallowed.

"Maybe you should try and reduce the dose, Edward. I'll get you something else from the hospital tomorrow, alright?"

"Yes." Edward swallowed, and licked over his very dry lips.

Carlisle smiled at his rather sheepish-looking son. "For someone who graduated first in his year at Oxford," he said, "you're surprisingly daft, Edward."

ooo

Edward gave Bella a little wave as she emerged from the bus. She looked more beautiful than ever, smiling and waving back once she saw him.

"Hello, my love." He wrapped his arms around her. For a couple of weeks, he had made it a habit to walk without the crutch for at least one hour a day. His leg still tended to hurt, and the first few days without the painkillers had been terrible, but Carlisle had provided him with different pills, and Edward, who was determined to try anything to solve his problem, had been very disciplined.

"Hey," Bella smiled and kissed him. "You look very cheerful."

"I am," Edward said. "Why wouldn't I be? I have the most wonderful woman in my arms who will be marrying me, the news from the Continent gets better every day, and I just finished my article on Oliver Lyttelton."

And, he added in his thoughts, for the third time in a row, he had woken this morning with something of a predicament.

"Well, then I suppose I should be very cheerful too, being in the arms of this wonderful man who asked me to marry him." She stood on her tiptoes and kissed him again.

They walked the short distance to Edward's flat, swinging their hands between them. A few birds were chirping, and the air smelled of spring even though it was only early in February. Once they reached Edward's home, which in a few months would become their home, they cuddled up on the sofa, which had become their favourite spot in the whole of London, chatting about this and that and listening to gramophone records.

Ivor Novello was singing his famous "Waltz of My Heart," and Edward was kissing a slow line from Bella's lips to her jaw to her neck, murmuring little nothings. He wanted to drown in her, in her scent, in the silkiness of her hair, the softness of her skin and in her luscious curves.

She was half sitting on his lap, mindful of his bad leg, her smaller body wrapped around his, her fingers fondling his hair, the back of his neck and his shoulders, running up and down his spine while her mouth played with his, lips tugging, tongues sliding and breaths becoming one.

"Bella… darling…" He was breathing heavily as she kissed his chin and the base of his throat, then licked ever so slightly over it. "Oh, God…"

"Edward…" She opened the upper two buttons of his shirt, and Edward's hand sneaked higher up her thigh. He could feel his body react, and though he had been wishing for it, he needed to make sure that this was what Bella wanted, too.

"Sweetheart," he managed to utter. "Will you look at me for a second?"

ooo

Bella tried to regain her breath and to fortify herself for Edward's rejection.

"Yes?" She put a tiny kiss on the corner of his mouth and sighed.

Edward swallowed. "Are… Do you think we should be doing this?"

His beautiful green eyes showed nothing but love and serious concern.

"Edward, I… I respect that you want to wait until we're married," she said. "It's just… Sometimes it's really hard…"

"Wait?" Edward frowned. "You think I want to wait?"

"Um… Yes? Why else would you put a lid on it every time we get a bit more… heated?"

A slow grin spread on Edward's face, and he laughed softly, which wasn't at all the reaction Bella had hoped for, or expected.

"Well, I'm glad you're enjoying yourself," she muttered, starting to disentangle from his arms.

"No! No, Bella, darling, I am sorry!" He captured her lips in a small, sweet kiss. "It's just…"

And then he sighed and got up, and Bella's heart sank.

"Come here, my little siren," Edward growled unexpectedly, lifted her up and carried her into his bedroom.

ooo

Slowly and protectively, they undressed each other, learning one another's body. Tender, languid lips and noses discovered skin and hair and hard and soft places. Curious and impatient hands found sensitive or ticklish spots. Hot breaths mingled while whispers and giggles alternated with sighs and moans.

Edward found out that Bella's breasts were milky white and tasted like honey. Bella realized that Edward's chest was dusted with bronze hair and that he was very, very sensitive to her touch. They laughed away any awkwardness that occurred, and sank themselves into their experience, feeling closer than they ever had before.

They licked and kissed and tasted and rejoiced.

The sound of Bella's moans was the sweetest music to Edward's ears, and he was swearing to do anything in his power to hear them again and again. While his lips feasted on her divine breasts, Edward's fingers got bolder, and they travelled south, passing the softness of her belly until they reached the crisp curls that covered her most intimate parts. Her murmurs and sighs encouraged him further until he reached her hot, wet sweetness, and he began to please her, tentatively at first, becoming firmer and more assured as Bella's reactions affirmed that he was giving her nothing but joy.

When Bella's hands began their travel as well, Edward had to make a concentrated effort not to explode into her palm. He had been waiting and wanting for so long, and now that the moment had arrived, it felt surreal and too good to be true.

"Bella… darling…" Hot whispers stroked over her skin as Edward rained kisses on her neck and breasts. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," Bella smiled while she caught her breath. "I'm sure."

With that final confirmation, Edward kissed her nose and moved to his side, opening the drawer of his bedside table. Bella heard a crackling sound and Edward was busy doing something, his back to her. She kissed his hot, damp skin and waited for him to turn around, which he did after a few seconds, moving back on top of her.

"What were you doing?" she whispered against his lips, feeling him settle between her thighs.

"Preventing us from becoming a family all too soon," he murmured, lightly licking over her lips.

"Oh…" She frowned, slightly bewildered.

"It's something made from India rubber, love," Edward explained, torn between his desire to be open with Bella and to satisfy his deepest need.

"Oh…" Her frown turned into a smile. "I think I've heard about that…" She pulled his face to hers and placed a sweet, shy kiss on his lips.

Edward responded with a kiss so hot and passionate that Bella forgot all about India rubber and families. Her body wrapped around his, and for the first time ever, she was glad that she had already experienced that unpleasant first time with James, because this time, there would be no pain, although she doubted there could ever be any sort of pain with Edward.

"Are you alright, love?" Edward's eyes were green and heavy, his lips pink and pouty.

"Yes. Yes, please…"

Edward bit his lip to achieve some sort of control. "I love you," he whispered hotly. "I love you…"

With that, he entered her carefully, inching his way into her welcoming warmth. They both moaned at the multitude of sensations overwhelming them, looking into one another's eyes as they truly became one.

Edward began to move slowly, Bella's body moulding around his like the lost piece of a beautiful puzzle. She held his face between her hands and watched him as his thrusts gradually got deeper and faster, and the ball of light inside her belly was threatening to explode and shatter her into a million pieces.

"Bella…" His breath was coming in hard gasps as his moves got more erratic. "I… I…"

"Oh please… Please…"

And with that, she sunk into a cushion of pleasure as stars exploded behind her eyes and Edward buried himself deep inside her, fulfilment washing over him in large, warm waves that made him tremble.

"I love you," he shuddered, lips moving around hers. "I love you…"

Bella clung to him as she gradually stopped shaking, "I love you," she whispered. "I love you…"

ooo

"Now, Mrs. Cullen." Edward smirked as he kissed Bella's hand before he led her to the makeshift dance floor in his parents' garden. "Are you ready?"

"Ready for what?" Bella smiled, wrapping her arms around her husband's neck.

"Everything," he murmured, kissing her softly.

The little band began playing "Waltz of My Heart."

Edward's leg still tended to be a little stiff, but he still waltzed his wife around the garden. She looked breathtakingly beautiful in her long white gown, a white veil attached to her hair with his Grandmother Elizabeth's tiara. His mum had insisted that Bella should wear it when her uncle Henry led her to the altar.

It was a wonderful June day, lilacs blossoming and birds chirping along with the music. Edward and Bella were suspended in their own little bubble, mesmerized and seeing nothing and no one but each other, while their guests began joining in the dance.

Mrs. Daniel elbowed her daughter.

"Tanya, don't scowl. It's very unattractive. Look, that French officer is here, too. Bonjour, Monsieur Laurent!" She waved the little man over, determined to get her daughter married this season.

Susan and Henry Clearwater were smiling and laughing. Though they would miss Bella at their house, they had recently taken in a young G.I. who had been hurt during one of the last V2 attacks. Taking care of Jacob had proven to be therapeutic for Susan after Seth's passing.

Esme and Carlisle swayed with each other, happily watching their only son and his bride. Esme's eyes were shining with joy. "Oh this is a beautiful, blessed day," she sighed against her husband's cheek.

"It is," Carlisle agreed. "Meeting Bella was the best thing that ever happened to him."

"She's brought him to life again…" Esme smiled.

Alice smiled adoringly at her husband as they danced. Major Jasper Whitlock had returned only two weeks prior, and was proudly wearing the Distinguished Service Cross he had received.

"Oh Jazzy," Alice whispered, looking up into his clear blue eyes. "Thank God you're back. Thank God."

"Thank God for this peace," Jasper murmured, kissing her forehead. "Thank God we're able to see the day."

Rosalie was watching from the sidelines, one-year-old Toby on her lap. She was no longer wearing black, having realised that Emmett would want her to live her life, if only for their son's sake. Emmett Tobias McCarty was already the spitting image of his deceased father, his chubby cheeks promoting tiny dimples, his happy giggles a reminder of his father's booming laughter.

Rosalie had never held her brother responsible for Emmett's death. She knew that, on that fateful day in September 1943, Edward had done everything to save her husband, risking his own life to such an extent that it had almost cost him his leg. She was happy to see that Edward had found the woman who would make him happy. If he and Bella were to experience only a glimpse of the perfection and fulfilment she and Emmett had had, things would at least make some sort of sense.

"Hey little man," she smiled at her son, who responded with a toothy grin. She kissed his downy head. "I'm sure that Daddy is watching over us right now, and he's happy." Toby's fluff of hair caught the tear that escaped her eye.

ooo

"Darling, I'm afraid I need to sit down for a second." Edward kissed his wife for the thousandth time today. "I'm sorry. My stupid leg…"

"I wanted to get you alone anyway," Bella replied easily, nuzzling his nose with hers. "We haven't had a moment for ourselves all day."

"We'll be all by ourselves for the next seven days," Edward murmured against her lips, his hot breath teasing her.

They would be leaving for Wales the next morning, staying at a bed and breakfast near Hay-on-Wye.

"And I can't wait to have you all to myself," Bella whispered. "You'll be completely at my mercy, Edward Cullen…"

Edward groaned playfully as he led the way to a secluded spot in his parents' garden, where he and Bella had spent many an hour kissing, talking and dreaming ahead.

They sat down on the little bench surrounded by the two magnolia trees that were in full bloom, exuding their delicious scent.

Edward wrapped his arms around Bella and placed a long sweet kiss on her lips.

"A year and a half ago," he said softly, "I was convinced that I would never really heal. And I'm not just talking about my leg. Then you stepped into my life and made everything better. I love you so much, Bella. So much."

"And I love you," she whispered against his lips before they sank into a long, tender kiss.

Edward knew that Bella's love was powerful, and that she had played the biggest part in mending him. Bella's love was the best medicine.