Bella rushes toward her friend, but the pace is slowed by the height of her heels. From the distance she sees his car arrive in the valet. He's leaving—not that she's surprised. His words were pretty clear: I have to get out of here. She doesn't blame him. No one wants to stick around as their stepfather publicly belittles them. She thought, at the very least, if he were going somewhere, he might take her too.
Her own words from earlier in the evening echo inside her head. She had been so definite. But the car ride to the benefit seems so long ago, and so much has happened since that it's almost impossible to reconcile the way she feels with how she felt. He withheld information. Almost humiliated her in front of her coworkers, his family. Now it seems that Edward himself is no stranger to humiliation. She can't help but feel sympathy for him and sorry for the way she acted.
Does she want anything to do with him?
He turns around at the exact moment she says his name, and the conflict etched onto his face is obvious. Almost immediately it morphs into relief. Edward smiles, though only momentarily, and Bella realizes she finds a lot of comfort in that smile. It's the only thing recognizable in a city so far from home. Before she met Edward, she had been so lonely. The feeling isn't fun, and it isn't anything she's in a rush to repeat.
"Seriously?" she scoffs. "What, were you just going to leave me here?"
He sighs, running a shaky hand through his hair. "I'm sorry." It's better than saying nothing.
"You should be," she warns.
Edward opens the passenger door for Bella and guides her into the car. Shutting it with a firm slam, he walks around to the driver's side and climbs inside. The atmosphere around them is a mixture of tension and relief. On one hand the night is over, but what measures as success for Bella also serves as failure for Edward. At least they're alone. Together. It means something, even if there is still much left for them to work through.
"I was coming back for you," he ventures carefully, his voice hushed.
"I believe you." She's feeling sympathetic. She doesn't want to fight. "Just... don't worry about it, okay?"
The two are quiet for a few seconds, with Edward focusing all of his attention on the road ahead. He isn't sure how to begin or what to say. Luckily Bella takes the lead.
"Jesus Christ. No offense, Edward, but your family is crazy."
He can't help but smile again. There's no argument there. "Do you see now why I don't want anything to do with them?"
"I do," Bella says. "I mean, what the fuck? It's a miracle you and Alice are actually normal."
He side eyes her. "Are you sure about that?"
"Maybe not." Bella teases, "You do live in a cardboard box."
Edward laughs. It's just what they need to loosen the tension. "I thought the benefit itself was great, though."
He's deflecting. Talking about the benefit is safe. Deciding to tell Bella about his family is one thing. Forcing the words to come out is another entirely.
"Think so? I ran into Jacob on the way out. He said he wasn't feeling well. I hope it isn't food poisoning."
"Serves him right." The smirk on Edward's face is mischievous.
He raises an eyebrow. "Should I be?"
"Not at all," Bella assures her friend. "On second thought, I hope he does have food poisoning. He deserves it for shorting me on my overtime last week."
As Edward takes the highway toward Bella's apartment, the two continue to engage in conversation, though the subjects are nothing substantial. It's mostly small talk about the benefit and the finite details only Bella cares to notice. They're tip-toeing around the issue at hand. Bella doesn't want to bring up Edward's family again. She doesn't demand answers or press for information. The ball is in Edward's court. She wants him to want to tell her.
He doesn't. By the time they arrive back at Bella's apartment complex, the conversation has died and the air around them is quiet again. Things are tense as Edward shuts off the ignition, and Bella looks at him strangely when he opens his door to get out. Not wanting to fight is one thing, but surely he doesn't think she's letting him off the hook that easy.
"I'll walk you up." He doesn't leave it open for negotiation.
She carries her heels and trudges up the stairs to the second floor with Edward following closely behind. He sticks his hands in his pockets and keeps his head down, having been to her apartment so many times that he blindly knows the way. He's calculating. Time is running out. One wrong move and everything will be over. It's a wonder Bella has even let him come this far.
She stops at her front door, fidgeting momentarily with the key. The lock sticks. She's complained to the landlord for weeks to no avail. Once the doorknob finally turns freely, she looks up from it to meet his eyes.
"Edward?" Bella asks after a few seconds of silence.
Ever so slightly, he's shaking. His nerves are shot—the benefit proved to be too much. Tears well in his eyes, but he doesn't cry. He's fighting it. Fighting hard to keep the emotions at bay. His arm finds its way around her waist, and the other caresses her back. He pulls her in for a close hug, resting his forehead on her shoulder.
She doesn't resist, knowing he needs this, and lets herself be whatever he needs.
He lifts his head and presses his lips to hers for a kiss. He moves slow and sensual. It encompasses all of the emotion and desperation Edward feels; all of the things he wants to say but doesn't know how. As they stand in the hallway with lips locked and tongues swirling, neither makes a move to progress or pull away. It's only a matter of time before Edward's mood begins to shift. Emotion is replaced with instinct, and lust takes over. For Edward, it's the most natural reaction. Intimacy through sex is easy, especially with Bella. Intimate conversations, on the other hand, are much harder.
Bella, sensing the shift in his mood, pulls away. She knows better.
"Come inside," she whispers, grabbing him by the hand and leading the way. "We need to talk"
"My dad died when I was five."
They're in the living room now. Bella has changed from her dress into something much more comfortable. A t-shirt hangs low on her body. It shows less skin than Edward would prefer, but at least it's his shirt, or it was before Bella stole it. His jacket hangs off the side of the couch. He fidgets with his already loose tie, having already undone the top few buttons on his shirt.
"Wow." Bella sits next to him on the couch, wineglass in hand. "Five is such a young age to lose a parent. I mean, not that there's ever a good time."
He stares at the ceiling, nodding. "Lung cancer. The man never even smoked a day in his life. Do you know what the odds of that are?"
Bella shakes her head. She has no idea, other than that they're probably very slim.
"He was only twenty-five," Edward continues. "The same age I am now."
"And yet you smoke," Bella mutters.
He ignores her. "My mom met Carlisle when Dad started treatment."
"Were they married?" she asks.
"Mom and Dad? Yes. Did that stop her? No."
"No." Bella grabs Edward's hand. "Are you saying your mom cheated on your dad? When he was sick?"
"He could offer her things Dad couldn't, I guess. They got married two weeks after he died. I wore the same fucking outfit to the wedding as I did to the funeral."
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Any ill feelings Bella already had toward the Cullen family pale in comparison to her opinion now. "That's so fucked up, Edward. I'm so sorry."
"Alice was born seven months later."
"Is she..." Bella doesn't finish the sentence.
"Carlisle's." He pulls his hand back, making it into a tight first. "The fucked up thing about this all is that I've always wondered, you know? Did he know? Was he too sick to care? Or did he want it this way? My dad died without a penny to his name. We were broke, Bella. Until Carlisle swooped in to save the day. So was it better this way? Is everyone happier, better off, because my dad died?" His voice is loud now. He's trembling.
"No!" Bella doesn't know what to say. "I—"
"Sometimes I wonder if Carlisle even tried to save him."
"Sweetheart, that's crazy." And exactly what a man—a boy—struggling to come to terms with his father's death might think.
"Is it?" Edward asks. "Would you put it past him?"
Bella can't answer honestly. No, she wouldn't.
"Every couple I've ever been around is a miserable failure," he says, shifting course. "And people wonder why I'm never getting married. Why I hate relationships."
"Did your dad love your mom?"
"Did he?" Edward asks. "I think he did, but sometimes I wonder if maybe I'm just remembering things the way I want."
"Makes sense," Bella agrees. She runs her fingers through his hair. "My mom left me when I was three. I haven't really heard from her since."
"That's such bullshit," Edward spouts. "What kind of mother just leaves her daughter like that?"
"Not a very good one," she says. "Now my dad's sick, and I don't know what to do. I feel so lost. It's not fair, you know? I don't get why my only good parent has to be the one dying."
Edward is the only person in the world who could possibly understand. "I know," he says.
Silence fills the apartment as Bella crawls onto Edward's lap. There's nothing more to be said. She needs to be close to him, and he needs her in the same way. Bella begins to litter Edward's neck with kisses that trail toward his lips. She undoes the remaining buttons of his shirt one by one, breaking away only long enough to pull the tie over his head. His hands trace a path of their own, starting at the small of her back and working their way lower to her ass. Bella's satin sleep shorts leave little to the imagination.
Her shirt ends up on the floor. He stands without breaking their kiss and walks them to her bedroom just as he has so many times before. This time feels different. He isn't holding back. There's nothing to hide. She knows the man he is, and she accepts him for exactly that.
It's more than he can say about anyone else. The girls he's slept with in the past only cared about the contents of his wallet. Carlisle and Esme's only concern is their image. Bella doesn't care about any of that, only Edward and the way he makes her feel... which, judging from the moans that escape her mouth as he lays her against the mattress, is pretty goddamn good.
"Should've held onto that tie," Edward whispers against her lips. "Could've had some fun."
"Are you insinuating this won't be?" she teases, unzipping his slacks.
He's quick to respond. As soon as she touches his dick, he won't be able to form a coherent thought. "Not at all."
"I want you," she says, sliding his slacks and boxers low.
He groans, bare skin touching the only article of clothing Bella has left.
"These fucking shorts need to go," he mutters.
They're off, along with the rest of Edward's clothes, in a matter of seconds. Skin presses against skin. Bella takes the lead, grabbing Edward's dick and sliding it between her legs.
"Fuck," he hisses. "You have no idea how good that feels."
She has some idea. He thrusts slightly, causing just the tip to enter. Any second now, he expects her to stop him. They've never gone bare before. Hell, Edward has never gone bare, period, but tonight he wants it more than anything.
She meets his thrust with her own.
"Edward," Bella says. He holds his breath, waiting for words of warning. There's no way she hasn't noticed. Could it really slip her mind? Or does she want it too? He doesn't want to ask, for fear that she might say no. One more thrust, he decides, then he'll be a good boy. Do the responsible thing. But one turns into two. Two turn into more, and before he even realizes what's happening, he has to slow down.
He knew going bareback would be intense, but he never expected it to feel like this.
"Are you sure this is okay?" she asks, sensing Edward's hesitance. "We can—"
"No—" The grin on his face lights up the room as he realizes they're on the same page. "This is great. Perfect. I'm just...a little too excited. That's all."
The obvious dawns on Bella. "Oh." She giggles.
He captures her lips with his and very slowly begins to set the pace. The way she feels to him is indescribable. It's like nothing he's ever experienced before, and he knows it will be over all too soon. Fortunately for Edward, though, Bella gets hers. It sends him past the point of no return—the feeling of her walls constricting around him, of fingernails digging into his skin. It's all too much. Edward comes loud and hard without even giving a thought to whether he should pull out or not. He doesn't.
After getting up to take her birth control, Bella crawls back into Edward's arms. He's spent, but she's nowhere near ready to fall asleep. The events from the day replay in her head. Her mind is in overdrive, and as conversations repeat, it occurs to her to ask Edward one last thing.
"Hey, what'd your dad do for a living?"
A barely conscious Edward provides the answer. "He was a musician."
AN: Happy Easter! Or should I say, Hoppy Easter?! Har har ;)