A/N Sm owns twilight.
"What can I do, Edward?"
"Fuck!" With a groan, Edward bolted from the bed and stumbled into the bathroom. Bella winced at the heaving, coughing and spluttering sounds echoing through the open door and clutched her own stomach. Nausea rolled around her abdomen like a washing machine stuck on spin cycle, but she swallowed it down, thankfully over the worst. She shuddered at the memory of herself in the same state Edward was still in.
They'd spent the last two days holed up in his apartment upon returning from their trip to Forks. Too tired from their long trip to cook, they had ordered take out from a new place across the street from Edward's.
After devouring their meal, they'd stumbled into bed, exhausted, and Bella fell into a deep, dreamless slumber.
A sharp pain in her stomach at 3am had awoken her with a jolt, and she'd barely made it to the bathroom in time to empty the contents of her stomach.
The next morning, Edward followed suit, and they took turns throughout the day in the bathroom, before collapsing back into bed, pale and weak from suspected food poisoning.
Bella was relieved to be over the worst of it, her stomach having been a little more settled over the last twelve hours. Edward had unfortunately indulged in the extra shrimp curry, something Bella refused to touch. All of the food must have been bad for Bella to be sick as well, but it seemed to be lasting longer with Edward.
The flushing of the toilet and running of water signalled that Edward was finished, and a quick glance at the clock told Bella it was time to get up. With a sigh, she climbed out of bed and padded into the bathroom. Even pale and drawn, with dark shadows around his bright green eyes, Edward was still beautiful, long and lean in front of the mirror scrubbing his teeth. Shirtless, in just chequered flannel pyjama pants that sat low on his hips, Bella was mesmerized by the stunning man before her.
She stepped behind him, wrapping her hands around his chest and pressing her cheek to his back. She could hear the rhythmic tattoo of his heart speed up at the contact, and she smiled as Edward rested his free hand over hers.
"Don't, I'm gross," he mumbled through a mouthful of toothpaste, before leaning over the sink and rinsing the foam away. Bella pouted as he pulled away, but her smile quickly returned when he pulled her into her into his arms and buried his face in her hair.
"I don't care, I'm gross too."
Edward chuckled and kissed her forehead. "You feel better?"
She sighed. "Yeah, much better. I should probably get back to work today."
Edward squeezed her tighter. "I don't want you to go. Stay."
"Edward…" Bella trailed off as Edward's hands moved slowly down her back towards her butt, and she gasped as he pressed their bodies closer together. She felt uneasy about taking anymore time off work, having already taken time off for the trip to Forks, and then having to take sick days. She really should go back now that she was feeling a little better, but she wanted nothing more than to stay in the little bubble they had created in the last few days.
"Come on, Bella. One more day won't hurt. You work so hard, baby."
"I know but…" Her words were halted again as she realized Edward was right. She did work damn hard, and it had been a rough week.
Bella smiled. "But nothing. One more day won't hurt."
Edward pulled her by the hand back into the bedroom, where they tumbled into bed, cocooned around each other. It didn't take long before they were both sound asleep.
Some time later, Bella woke, feeling more rested than she had in months. As she lay in the silence of Edward's room, watching the steady rise and fall of his chest, listening to his sound, peaceful breathing, she ruminated on the days past.
Despite how mad she'd been at Edward for his fight with Jacob, she couldn't stay angry with him after his heartfelt confessions of love and possessiveness. If she was honest with herself, she was kind of jealous that Edward had been the one to beat Jacob Black to a pulp.
Not that she would ever have had the guts to punch Jacob, but she knew there'd be a sick satisfaction that would come with doing something she should have done the night she'd caught him cheating on her.
But she refused to let her mind go there. She'd wasted too much precious time, energy and thought on Jacob Black, and it was enough.
Clearly, it was enough for Jacob too. Bella was more than a little surprised to see him in the hotel lobby the day after the fight, his face bruised and swollen, his eyes tinged with pain and regret.
Edward had practically growled at the sight of him, but Jacob had held his hands up in surrender, insisting he wasn't here to fight.
Bella had listened, mouth agape as Jacob began his apologetic spiel, filled with meaningless words and thoughtless excuses. He finally finished with an insistence that he wasn't going to press charges against Edward, because he knew that he'd gotten no less than he deserved.
Bella had no words. There was nothing left to say to the man who had broken her heart and crushed her self-esteem, and his apology was like dirt under her shoe. She didn't need it nor did she want it, and she'd made a decision there and then that she was well and truly over Jacob Black and everything that he represented.
Bella smiled to herself as she remembered the amazing sense of relief as she and Edward had stepped out of the hotel and into their hire car. She was floating, weightless, on clouds as white as the February snow as they boarded the plane, and the feeling continued, despite her tiredness, until they landed back in Chicago.
She was happy.
Her smile spread wider across her face as she felt Edward's hand tighten across her hip as he let out a long shuddering breath.
"Mmm… you awake?" His voice was a rasped whisper as his finger toyed with her belly button.
She giggled at his teasing touch. "Yes. We slept the morning away. How are you feeling?"
"I feel tons better. We needed the rest, Bella. It was a rough couple of days."
"Hush. No more of that. It's in the past, over and done with. I don't want to re-hash this."
"I know, baby. Do you feel better?"
"Sure, I feel great now, my stomach has settled completely."
Edward frowned. "I didn't mean the food poisoning, Bella. I meant… you know, everything. The trip to Forks, seeing Jacob, going to your dad's grave… Did you get what you needed?"
"You know what? I really did. I feel lighter, somehow."
Edward kissed her forehead and smiled. "I'm glad, baby."
"There's still a lot I have to deal with in my sessions with Victoria." Bella paused, aware of the fact that she still had issues like her view of her body, her obsessive tendencies towards diet and exercise, and her lack of self-esteem to work through. Just because she was in a stable relationship with Edward now didn't mean her problems would go away overnight. Sure, she felt happier than she had in years, but she didn't want to be that girl whose identity was in her relationship. She didn't want to be the girl who relied on a man to make her happy.
The truth was, she'd survived okay by herself all this time, albeit living a shell of an
existence. But she'd survived, that was the main thing. Of that, she was rather proud.
She didn't need Edward.
She wanted him, she craved him, she thought about him all the time. But when it came down to it, if he was taken away from her or left her, she would survive all over again.
"Hey… where'd you go?" Edward nuzzled her neck with his nose as his hand moved lower down her abdomen. She gasped at the sensation of the rough pad of his finger against her smooth skin.
"Sorry. I was just thinking."
"About?" His hand dipped below the elastic of her underwear as her trailed kisses down her jaw.
"You. Us." Bella laid her hand on top of Edward's under the sheet and stilled his movement. "Everything. All the shit with Jacob. He broke my heart, he shattered my confidence. I cried so many tears over that boy. He was my best friend too, ya know? When we broke up I was more devastated to have lost my best friend. All our plans, hopes and dreams. It was like another death. I didn't think I would survive it."
Edward sighed. "I thought you didn't want to re-hash this?" Hearing Jacob's name still made his blood boil.
"I don't. I'm trying to tell you something. You need to know how it was for me. So you can understand how I feel now."
"Now… since I met you. I've never felt more alive, Edward. I didn't feel for Jacob anywhere near as strong as I feel for you." Bella paused, biting her lip, searching for the right words. "Edward, I've lived through some of the darkest days of my life. And you know what? I'd go through it all again if it meant being with you. I'd go through it a hundred more times if it meant being with you. What I'm trying to say is…"
The silence could have stretched for three seconds, or a million years, but for Edward it was torture.
"I love you, Edward."
In the following weeks, Bella and Edward's blissful bubble was burst with a sharp jab as the reality of every day life kicked in again. Having spent so much time together over Christmas, being snowed in together in January, and their trip together in February, they had grown accustomed to being together almost 24/7. Neither of them enjoyed being back at work, their clashing schedules making it hard to spend time together.
March gave way to a huge caseload for Bella, which meant long hours and even longer weekends. Edward was away for most of the month with Jasper and his band, working on promoting their first album and organizing their tour. The recent deal Edward had cut with his uncle's record company had propelled the band faster than anyone had anticipated, and when Edward was in town, most of his evenings were spent in the recording studio.
Despite existing like ships in the night, with fast and furious love making in the dead of night and half asleep kisses to the forehead at the crack of dawn, Bella could not find it in herself to be frustrated at the lack of time with her lover. She thrived on being challenged in her job, and her position within the firm was going from strength to strength as she successfully juggled her workload.
She simply treasured what little time they had together, and they seemed to have come to a mutual understanding that while it wasn't ideal, it wouldn't always be like this.
As she strode down the hall of the plush office suites toward Tony Masen's office for her next meeting, her phone buzzed in her hand, and she swiped the screen to read the text message.
Just checked in, my flight gets in at 8pm. I can't wait to see you. I love you, E xo
There was no hiding her stupid grin as she tapped out a quick reply, before pocketing her phone and raising her hand to knock on Tony's door. Her hand halted mid-air when she noticed the door was slightly ajar, and she pushed the door open and peeked her head around.
"Tony?" The office was empty and quiet, and she shrugged, letting herself in and leaving the door open behind her, and she had done so many times. Tony Masen, excellent lawyer that he was, had poor time-keeping skills and was always running late to meetings.
Bella sat down at the chair across from his desk and waited, letting her eyes drift over the framed certificates on the wall. She fidgeted in her seat, resisting the urge to take out her phone again and re-read all of Edward's text messages. She chewed at a rag nail and picked at imaginary lint on her skirt, before getting up and pacing around the office, finally settling on staring out of the huge floor to ceiling windows, enjoying the view of the Chicago skyline.
Her phone buzzed in her pocket, and she smiled, expecting another message from Edward. She rolled her eyes when she saw a message from Tony, telling her he was on his way. Bella smiled as she thought about her boss. They had developed a great working relationship, and despite her initial trepidation around him when she'd first started working there, she'd come to admire and respect the man with an almost God-like reverence. Silly, she knew, but the ambitious side of Bella was like a sponge, soaking up every word that came out of his mouth. Office gossip had been just that—gossip—as far as Bella could tell, and she had found absolutely no proof that the rumours of him being a sleaze were true.
Bella had noticed that Tony was a very affectionate man, occasionally patting her on the forearm or squeezing her shoulder in a "job well done" kind of gesture, but when she searched his eyes, she could see nothing but genuine, platonic, professional admiration for her work.
Still, she kept her guard up, because experience had taught her that you never could be too careful.
Bella typed out a quick reply to her boss and returned to the desk to prepare the files for her meeting. When leafing through her own files, glanced around the desk for a pen, and a familiar flash of red caught her eye. Bella looked closer to see a photograph peeking out of a manila folder, and without even thinking, she pulled it out.
Her heart stuttered and ice licked down her spine, making her shiver. All rational thought was pushed aside and she didn't care that it was inappropriate to snoop through her boss' stuff. Her hands moved as if independent from her brain, which was screaming at her to stop, but she couldn't and before she knew it she was leafing through dozens of photographs.
Nausea rolled through her and the images blurred together as she rifled through them as fast as she could, her brain struggling to make sense of it all. Photographs of her and Edward, in the park where they walked their favourite trail with coffee cups in hands, Edward picking her up from the office, Edward outside his own office buildings, Edward leaving his apartment building on foot.
Her heart pounded and she struggled to maintain an even, steady breathing pattern as she pulled papers out of the folder, words like "adoption" and "abandonment" and "father unknown" jumping out at her, but none of it making any sense because she was too shocked and dumbfounded to try and understand any of it.
"Isabella!" Tony Masen's sharp, curt tone made Bella's head snap up and she collapsed into the desk chair, the shock and the fright altogether too much to handle. Tony rushed over to the desk, and a mixture of guilt and reprimand washed over his handsome features.
He was silent for a long moment, his eyes dancing between Bella and the photographs, now strewn across the desk. Bella's knuckles were turning white from the tight grip with which she held on to the paperwork.
"Isabella…" He was silent again, his hands clutching at his hair as he paced the length of the office. There was something oddly familiar about his stance, and the way his jaw clenched like he was resisting the urge to spit his words at her. Bella took stock of the way his eyes, although grey in color, crinkled at the corners the same way Edward's did when he frowned, and the familiar way his lips pursed when deep in thought.
It was like Bella was seeing him for the first time, and she clapped her hand over her mouth as realization dawned on her.
How on earth she could have missed it before, she would never know. But now, watching Tony Masen's long fingers clutch his hair in exasperation and scrub his hand over his face, before rubbing the back of his neck, all while avoiding her murderous glare, the truth was painfully obvious.
Yet she wanted to hear it. She needed hear him say it. "Tony, what the hell is this?"
He let out a resigned sigh. "I can explain everything, Isabella."
He nodded. "Father. Yes. I think so."
"Start talking, Tony. Tell me everything."
He sighed and sat down at the desk across from Bella.
"I knew it on New Years Eve, Bella. He's the double of Elizabeth. When you introduced us, it was like seeing a ghost. I didn't mean for you to find out this way," he said, motioning to the pictures strewn across his desk.
Bella felt her face heat up in embarrassment. "I'm so sorry, Tony. I wasn't intentionally snooping—"
He held a hand up. "It's okay, Bella. I shouldn't have left it lying around for you to find. I was going to tell you, soon. I wanted to know how best to approach Edward about this."
"How do you… I mean… do you know for sure?"
He shrugged. "Of course, without a DNA test, I can't be one hundred per cent certain. But all the pieces of the puzzle fit together."
When Bella said nothing, Tony continued. "After I met him at the party, I got a contact of mine to do some digging around, keep tabs on him. Hence the pictures. I'm so sorry, Bella. You must be a little freaked out. But the pictures are mostly of him, as you can see. I would never invade your privacy like that."
Bella scoffed. "That's okay, just invade my boyfriend's privacy instead!" she spat, rising from her chair and pacing the office.
"I had to be sure first, Bella." Tony's voice was even and calm, and in that moment it reminded her of the same voice that Edward would use to calm her down when she flew off the handle.
"I never knew about him. She never told me." Bella's head snapped up at the sorrow that dripped through his words. Tony was staring out the window, eyes glazed and sad, as if remembering an unhappy memory.
"I… we had a fleeting summer fling—"
Bella felt sick. "Don't, Tony. I changed my mind. You should be telling Edward this, not me. He needs to know the truth."
"Will you get him to see me, Isabella? I don't want to spring it on him. Perhaps you could prepare him?"
"I…" She didn't know what to do with this knowledge. She had no idea how Edward would react to this news, or if he would even want to see the man who fathered him. But the couple had always been honest with each other, and she knew this wasn't something she could keep from him.
"I'll try, Tony. But I can't promise anything."
He nodded, and one corner of his mouth turned up—the same way Edward's did—in that familiar half-smile.
"Thank you, Isabella."
She merely nodded, swallowing the bile that was threatening it's way up her throat, all the while wondering how on earth to tell her boyfriend that her boss was his father.