Hey Guys. I meant to have this up last night, but got the headache of all headaches and ended up spending most of the last 24 hours in bed. I'm feeling a little better now, and hope this was worth the wait. ;)


Recompense...

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The deep ache in his chest stirs him to action. He reaches out and gently turns her face towards him. An apology swims in his eyes though he can't quite force the words from his too-tight throat. He knows they would never be enough.

Yet, even as he struggles with the right way to comfort her, she comes to his rescue. She accepts his touch and shifts his hand to cradle her face. He exhales heavily, sagging in relief. Despite the tight quarters of the car, he manages to get one arm behind her back and pulls her closer to him. She comes willingly and leans over the space between their seats as he cradles her to his chest, tucking her head beneath his chin.

"Isabella..."

Her name on his lips causes her to inhale a ragged breath and push herself further into his embrace. Her hands find the material of his shirt again and fist it tightly. She breathes him in as he murmurs her name once more and strokes her hair. He can feel her begin to relax at the same time the warmth of her breath begins to seep through the fabric of his shirt, but it somehow seems wrong to him that he should gain such comfort from her proximity.

"I don't deserve your forgiveness," he mutters. "I've always guessed that. Now I know it."

She shakes her head. "No."

"Yes. I deserve your anger. I deserve more than your anger."

"No, you don't."

"Yes, I do. I could give you a thousand reasons why I do."

She shakes her head again and begins to cry anew.

He lays his cheek against her hair. "God, Bella. I'm sorry. Please don't cry, sweetheart. Please? I'd rather you stay angry with me."

"I can't be," she says, mid sob. "I just... I can't."

He kisses the top of her head and moves one hand beneath her hair to rub her neck soothingly. "Yes, you can, and you should. Be angry at me. Be anything at me—hate me—just don't cry over me."

Her chin tips up until her nose is just beneath his and her watery eyes are able to meet his gaze. "I c–could never hate you." She takes a stuttered breath, trying to calm herself. "I h–hated what you did... to yourself, and to us, but I never hated you."

He shakes his head to disagree again, but her fingers somehow find his cheek again and she stops him by wiping away moisture he didn't even know was there.

She smiles weakly. "Don't you see? I was only ever angry and hurt because I love you."

His breath catches and his expression turns incredulous.

"I do," she whispers, her eyes earnest. "I love you and it would have killed me to lose you like that."

He lowers his forehead to hers. "Isabella..."

She strokes his cheek, then cups it and runs her thumb over the slight stubble of his jaw. The feel of her so close, her words still ringing in his ears and her breath washing over him, is almost more than he can bear. Still, he remains motionless, not wanting to take advantage.

But then her fingers slide up into his hair.

And her nose nudges his invitingly.

And her lips ghost over his. Once, and then twice.

And then he's lost in a kiss that's both his undoing and his salvation all in one.

~(~)~