Genre: Twilight - Angst/Hurt/Comfort
Details: AH, AU, OOC
Summary: "Edward and Bella have dark pasts that leave them severely emotionally scarred, with nightmares that force them to stay awake. They meet and begin to form a bond during the night hours. AH, Highly OOC, Rated M for dark themes. No rape, no cutting. BxE"
Post Word Count: 8,604
A/N: PastichePen beta'd and EzRocksAngel held my hand. Please remember their awesomeness and talent when voting in the Bellies? Thanks to all my chat pals who provided me with feedback and support in my chaotic times. Love you all. Sorry for the wait, pretty ladies.
The sounds of a purposeless and soothing jazz number floated through the lobby of Dr. Carmen’s office. It was fairly early, the sun’s rays still shining intensely through the large window beside the entrance. I rubbed at my eyes with the sleeves of my hoodie and grimaced, my leg bobbing up and down. The wait was excruciating. I strained my ears to hear something, longed for x-ray vision, or some kind of superhuman hearing, but I caught nothing. Not a murmur or muffled voice. Just the generic jazz music.
I felt trapped inside The Weather Channel’s local forecast.
I tugged at my sleeves and lolled my head back, my restlessness seeming to annoy the blond receptionist. Fuck her. She spent way too much time reading gossip magazines. The plastic chairs, curved and modern and designed for comfort, made my bones ache. My eyes fixed to the knob of her door, willing it to open and for Edward to emerge, smiling.
Dr. Carmen had not let me join them when Edward and I came in that morning. I’d actually sat myself on the sofa in her office beside him, expecting to be present during their discussion. But Dr. Carmen had walked in and promptly kicked me out. Some crap about "honesty being easier between two" and "three being a crowd."
I’d been rather upset about her dismissal, looking to Edward for support, but instead, I found him to be just… accepting.
Maybe he had wanted to speak to her alone all along.
I couldn’t locate the source of my anxiety over the meeting. I was worried about Edward disliking Carmen, of this fear I was certain. There was nothing I wanted more than his full support, and that was already shaky at best. I felt as though their conversation this morning would shape his impression of therapy in general. I had more reasons than my own to hope he emerged with a positive one.
Conversely, I wanted Carmen to like Edward. I feared that she would see something in him that would force her to discourage our relationship. Already over the past week, she had offered more relationship advice than I could stomach at times. She wanted me to, "Chill out, and let it happen," and "Find out what he's looking for before I 'jumped the gun.'" (She'd winked with that one.) She wanted us to "Build the kind of trust and comfort that made us admit to gross and horrible things," and "Look out for 'number-one' before I let 'number-two' make us a 'three.'" Whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. She wanted me to learn from our "Many, many, many screw-ups during our time swimming in the river of de'Nile," and use that wisdom to "'Get' what a relationship is really meant to be." She wanted me to "Be open, even if it makes me look like a sappy, girly moron," and give him time to "Adjust to Cullen life, and the overload of estrogen in his once testosterone-filled household."
She wanted me to be "Patient."
Fuck patience. I thought bitterly.
Patience was obviously necessary, but living with Edward wasn’t nearly as glamorous as I’d once dreamed. There was this invisible wall separating us that was only dropped in private, and even then, only partially. I wondered how long I’d be forced to tap on it before that wall would finally fall and we could be "us" again. I couldn’t decide who was even responsible for its presence. I was probably still a little skeptical about the depth of Edward's commitment, but he had his own reservations, whatever they were. How wrong was it of me to just want everything to be perfect for once? I filed this question away for a later discussion with Carmen or Carlisle, or even Edward if the time was right.
This last week had been awkward to say the least. Edward and I had put our reconnecting on hold for his return to school. He’d been swamped with all of the make-up assignments and had agreed to let me help but only after a very long argument. Thus, we’d wake up, get dressed in separate bedrooms, go downstairs and eat with Alice, Esme, and Carlisle, and I’d ride to school with Alice while he’d pick up Jasper. When we’d arrive, Alice and I would part ways while Edward walked me to class. It was mostly as it had been before, with minor deviations.
Our first morning back, I'd decided that I didn’t want his electric hum soothing me as we entered the school. He’d appeared a little hurt when I’d first shrugged him off, but I couldn’t not. I hadn’t wanted him believing that his touch was my motivation for being at his side. I walked with Edward because I enjoyed his company, not because I needed his calming effect.
It’d been difficult to deny myself and sacrifice what could have so easily made every experience pleasurable, but I’d done it. Edward had been worried about my recovery. He'd feared it would make my desire for him dissipate because I’d no longer need him. If I could show him that I didn’t need him now, then maybe he’d understand that I was with him because he was kind and understanding and funny and beautiful and loyal and the sensations of his fingers against my flesh were only one reason in a long list of what made my desire for Edward so permanent. When I'd told him how much it'd meant to me to do it on my own, he'd understood somewhat, and it had shown in his small grin of encouragement. But I knew it bothered him, and in turn, that bothered me.
All in all, our interactions had grown benign—which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. It wasn’t like the connection had dimmed. It was just being… controlled.
Well… until Friday, I smirked absently, recalling what had happened after I’d returned from boxing with Alice.
The way in which I'd attacked him really was unforgivable. The delicious smudge of brown batter right below his jaw was begging for the attention, and my tongue had longed to grant it. He met me halfway as I flew at him, wrapping his fingers around my waist and drawing me closer as our lips met. I was praying as I parted my lips that he’d really kiss me for once, and I was rewarded in full when his tongue plunged into my mouth. Every bit of air escaped my lungs, my eyes rolled back, my knees went weak, birds sang, clouds parted, the distant melody of “hallelujah” could be heard—all of that clichéd crap that just basically meant, your tongue rocks my freaking world.
Edward - t-shirt + cake batter x (boxing + endorphins) = horny Bella.
It’s an elementary equation.
But it had been too much. The trickle had gone from a drip to a rushing cascade in mere seconds, and we’d been unprepared for the intensity of it. Truthfully, I probably would have humped him on the kitchen counter, and this only served to prove how irrational my state of mind was.
We weren’t there yet. Even a complete moron like me could see that. He’d just given up on his mother, losing the only blood tie he had in this world, and I was only just beginning the fight against my condition and accepting how very slow and difficult that might be. Edward and I were fragile and delicate. It might have taken me a long time, but I was finally beginning to appreciate the responsibility of our many burdens. I had to give them the attention and respect they deserved if I was ever going to get better.
With this thought, my mood sank impossibly lower, and I frowned at my worn sleeve cuffs. The evidence of the last year in Forks was apparent in the fraying of its dark fabric. I furrowed my brows as I inspected it and pondered buying a new one, but that didn’t seem right.
Before I could let my mind wander far enough to completely distract me, I heard a curious noise coming from her office. My spine straightened. It was like… a muffled murmur in a deep voice. Definitely Edward. I furtively slid my chair closer to the door, my eyes fixed on the magazine-absorbed receptionist. I settled a couple feet from the door, my ears straining in the direction of the dark wood.
Then there was nothing but silence.
It was downright eerie. I gnawed at my lip and began absently bouncing the heel of my foot once again. My eyes remained focused on the knob as I battled to hear anything further. The soothing jazz number finally ended, transitioning to a new song with a static silence.
That’s when I heard it.
An entirely undeniable, “Who the fuck do you think are?” came billowing from the room in the form of Edward’s enraged voice.
I flinched so abruptly that the legs of my chair squeaked on the linoleum.
The receptionist didn’t even appear phased as she licked her fingertip and turned a page.
I was still processing the new occurrence when the door suddenly swung open. Every muscle in my body tensed as Edward emerged, brows pulled together and nostrils flared. He clutched his jacket in his hand, his fingers curled into it in a shaking fist as his eyes searched for me. When his furious gaze landed on mine, I blanched, swallowing loudly, but then, something about my expression made his own face soften infinitesimally.
He held his hand out, palm up, to me and implored, “Can we leave?” He was visibly trying to reign in his anger, his eyes fixed to mine as his fingers flexed into the leather.
I took his hand without hesitation, and it was warm and gentle as his fingers laced with mine. I caught Carmen’s eyes and small grin as we passed her door.
She called after us, “I’ll see you soon, Edward!”
His steps were hasty and loud against the floor as he called loud enough to make a scene, “Fuck you very much!”
Across from me, Edward propped his elbow against the back of his booth seat, glowering out the window mutely. He'd insisted on taking me to breakfast, though I couldn't fathom why. He was clearly not in the mood to go out anywhere.
The ride here from Carmen's office had been anything but uneventful. Two cars in front of us had turned without signaling. This produced a number of expletives and Edward's raging tirade on what he referred to as "The Forks Turn Signal Massacre," for which he'd personally volunteered himself to manage the protest. The shoving of various turn-signal-levers up asses was mentioned with frequency. Then, when we'd arrived at the diner, the man exiting had failed to hold the door open for me. Edward had managed to restrain any direct dialog with him, but I was fairly certain, had I not been present, there would have been an interesting exchange of words. When we ordered our food, the waitress's lack of necessity to write down our orders had peeved him and resulted in his promise to "seriously lose his shit if she fucked our order up."
His attitude was stressing me the hell out. I ground my teeth and pressed my lips together and let him work through his frustrations before I said something to make it worse. And I really hoped that he was working through his frustrations as he sat there, flicking his fingers as his arm hung off the booth. I worried sometimes that he wasn't sure how to do that anymore. Before, he'd smoke a cigarette or take it out on Emmett or just avoid people all together. He didn't have any of those luxuries anymore. Now he just had to let everyone see it and learn to let things go.
Letting things go was not Edward's forte.
When our food arrived, he narrowed his eyes at the plates and did a mental checklist of everything we'd asked for: French toast for me with powdered sugar and a side of bacon, and ham and eggs for him, scrambled with cheese. I suppressed an eye roll when he asked a little tersely for our napkin dispenser to be re-filled. The waitress didn't seem at all bothered by his attitude and quickly accommodated his every request. I reasoned that she probably dealt with assholes a little too often for her own good.
We ate in complete silence. Not companionable or comfortable, but uneasy and stifling. The air between us was so charged with his frustrated tension that it was infectious. I almost snapped at the waitress myself when she asked to refill our drinks for the fourth time. Eventually, I'd lost my appetite and had begun prodding at my toast disinterestedly.
“You’re not hungry,” Edward observed in a questioning voice. When I raised my gaze to him he was staring at his plate, stabbing at his ham as his eyes tightened. “You didn’t eat much last night,” he accused, dropping his fork and raising his eyes to mine.
Curving a brow, I asked, “Just how much did I eat?”
Without pause he answered, “Half of an enchilada and two bites of rice,” and took a hard pull from his straw.
I simply stared blankly at him, my fork impaled through my two pieces of toast. “Well, I wasn’t aware someone had been keeping track of my caloric intake,” I replied dryly.
He rolled his eyes, quirking one side of his cheek upward. “You said you’d take care of yourself. Excuse the fuck out of me for caring.” He diverted his gaze to his plate once again, his eyes now impossibly more irritated.
“This won’t work,” I murmured, dropping my fork and pressing my back against the booth with a sigh.
Sparing me a brief glance, he huffed, “What won’t work?”
“This!” I snapped, waving my hand back and forth between us. Instead of looking me in the eye, he rigidly turned to the window at his side, glaring out of it unseeingly as the muscles of his jaw tightened. “Are you going to tell me what happened this morning or just spend an indefinite amount of time in a crappy mood?” I asked.
He rolled his eyes again, but didn’t meet my gaze. “I’m not in a crappy mood,” he responded brusquely, propping his elbow on the table and running his fingers through his hair.
I simply waited, watching as the edges of his eyes crinkled as they squinted against the sun.
Finally, his eyes swept over the table and fixed on my own. I raised my eyebrows skeptically. The slight softening of his features indicated his defeat. “Okay,” he grumbled, retrieving his fork. “I’m in a shitty mood. Sorry,” he admitted, sparing me a brief, almost apologetic glance.
I inhaled a deep breath, trying to abate my own frustration because it would only feed his. “It’s okay,” I finally assured, tucking my hair behind my ear.
But his face fell as he protested, “No, it’s not,” and pushed his plate of food to my side of the table with a drawn clank. Before I could question him, he rose stiffly from the booth and walked to my side, sliding in next to me. He snaked his arm around my waist and pulled me close, pressing a quick, hard kiss to my temple. “I’m a dick,” he berated as he scowled at the table.
Settling into his still-rigid side, I gazed at him and considered arguing. Of course, with Edward that was pointless, so instead, I just cut to the chase and asked, “What happened?” I knew it wasn’t any of my business, and Carmen’s office was a verbal sanctuary of sorts, but my curiosity was gnawing at me mercilessly. I knew what Edward had planned to discuss with her. I’d have to be stupid not to.
We were progressing in our emotional relationship. We still had little moments like these—small, insignificant quarrels I'm certain every couple has. But they were fleeting and rarely made my confidence in us waver. There were other, seemingly insignificant but wholly telling moments, though.
He'd save me from tripping over curbs without thought, like second nature. He always knew which book to pull out for me in the evenings when we weren't yet tired enough to go to bed. He let me have the fluffier pillow, and I knew he wore that wife beater because he wanted to be closer to me. In return, I took onions out of every single recipe because he hated them. If I saw his iPod lying around somewhere, I'd put it on his dresser because he always lost that damned thing. I spent two whole days talking Esme down from remodeling the third floor because I knew how much he enjoyed routine and familiarity. He knew whenever I wore the brown sweater that was a little too tight to tell me how nice I looked, because it made me self-conscious. I knew that sometimes he liked to use his touch to ease my anxiety because it made him feel valuable, and I'd eventually let him.
We were synced in the oddest ways, but it worked. Every day brought the promise of a new lesson, a new piece of knowledge about the other, which we added to our growing stockpile. As a couple, Edward and I were a certainty. It went without saying. Our love would only grow with time. It was definite. Our emotional relationship was a lot like planning an elaborate, Italian dinner: we might spend our morning screwing up batch after batch of pasta, but come six, we'd have it ready, because we'd start over until we got it right.
Our physical relationship, however…
His jaw tensed as he evaded my eyes, staring at his eggs and prodding them with a tine of his fork. The curves of his lips were pressed into a thin line, and the hair framing his face accentuated the shadows of his scowl.
His refusal to answer, mingled with his mood was dismaying, and I could feel my own face fall. “Is it that bad?” I asked, looking down into my lap and fingering the frayed ends of my sleeves.
Obviously, my condition was a huge obstacle — for us both. It shouldn’t have bothered me since I’d come to terms with my physical limitations before I even knew Edward was returning to me. Yet it did bother me. Our previous carelessness in regards to our sexual relationship had been stupid, but undeniably satisfying—regardless of our failures. But I refused to be reckless once again. If Dr. Carmen discouraged a sexual relationship, I would follow her advice.
Damn it all to hell...
“Don't fucking start that shit, Bella. Not now,” he begged in a frustrated voice, his fingers shoving themselves into the mess of his hair. He closed his eyes and clenched his teeth. "You blame yourself for fucking everything, and trust me —" He chuckled bitterly, shaking his head. " —t his one is all me." His throat lurched with a quick swallow and he leaned away from me, narrowing his eyes at nothing in particular.
“What?” I asked, confused.
He cleared his throat, shifting to the side a bit and propping his elbow on the table. With a sharp exhale, he repeated, “It’s me, not you.” His gaze was evasive and anxious as the silence wore on. When he finally caught my bewildered stare, he huffed, rolling his eyes. “She said you're fine, okay? She said that—,” he paused, shifting uncomfortably again, before he whispered under his breath, “—that getting… aroused or what-the-fuck-ever… was like, your hurdle or something.” A hot flush crept up my cheeks as he finished, “If we took it slow and… followed her advice, you could…” he trailed off, waving his hand suggestively, albeit a bit hostilely.
I was a little stunned.
And ironically… aroused.
“Really?” I squeaked, my spine straightening as I pivoted to him.
The sight of my sudden pleasure seemed to make his eyes brighten a bit, but it didn't take long for them to dim again. He faced forward with a blank expression and added, “She said there’s still a lot of shit she wants to cover with you, though.”
“Like what?” I asked, my enthusiasm only wavering infinitesimally.
Puffing out his cheeks, he released a sharp sigh and ruffled his hair. “Shit, Bella. I don't fucking know. Some bullshit about 'intimacy' and 'affection,' and God only knows what else,” he scoffed.
“Intimacy versus affection?” I mused curiously. I never knew what topics to expect, so it came as no surprise that I had to filter through the technical definitions in my mind. I didn’t really see much of a difference between the two and wondered how subjective it was.
Edward’s hand, still wrapped around my waist, squeezed me until I met his gaze. His eyes were searching and had an edge of anxiety to them that I couldn’t explain. “You understand the difference, don’t you?” he asked while tapping his foot against the floor. Slowly, I shook my head, curious as to his opinion on the subject. But at my answer, his foot stilled and a brief flash of anger swept across his features. He locked his jaw and looked away, murmuring sharply, “Just one more thing I fucked up…”
A little piqued, I pivoted my body to him, bending my leg at the knee. “What do you think the difference is?” I asked, because his question had been worded a bit condescendingly. I wasn’t emotionally stunted or anything. I might not have had his level of experience, but he’d basically insinuated my answer was wrong and that he was to blame for it. It made me feel like some impressionable five-year-old, which I most certainly was not.
He turned his head to face me and removed his arm from my waist. "Intimacy is..." he trailed off, furrowing his brows and tugging absently at his napkin on the table. "It's like..." He paused again, closing his mouth and seeming incapable of finishing. He released a frustrated exhale and suddenly leaned into me. He pressed a kiss to my forehead with no apropos. He held his lips there stiffly, his breath warm and tickling the top of my scalp. I let my eyes fall closed and sighed, pleased at the direction this was turning.
Until he pulled away and nodded decisively. “That was affection without intimacy,” he explained, though his voice wasn’t patronizing. It was just matter-o-fact. I didn’t fail to notice that he’d pretty much just admitted to only offering me affection since his return, as little forehead kisses had become annoyingly customary with us.
Before I could mention this thought, however, his lips suddenly crashed to mine. I gasped in surprise as he forced my lips open with his tongue and pressed himself closer. My hands went to his shoulders to steady myself until I realized that he was kissing me, kissing me. I wanted to kiss him back but was unable to keep up with the quick darts and strokes of his tongue. The hard lines of his body were oddly unpliable and tense against mine as I worked to match him. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy the kiss, but it was just so… fierce. It felt greedy and sudden, which wasn't necessarily unenjoyable, but it reminded me of that empty feeling from the day we'd had sex, before he'd left.
I was almost thankful when he yanked himself away after only a few brief seconds. He sucked his bottom lip into his mouth and remained stiffly hovering over me in the booth, one hand bracing him on the back of it. His eyes softened as our eyes met, and he brought his palm to my cheek.
“That was intimacy without affection,” he sighed, eyes darkening. Before I could fully connect the dots, his lips were on mine again, but this time, more gently. He pursed his lips against mine languidly, caressing my heated cheek with the pad of his thumb, and it held none of the frustration or impatience of the prior kiss. He almost seemed... tender.
I returned the kiss with a sigh, and he let me push him back, my fingers finding their way to his hair. When our lips parted, our tongues slid against each other smoothly, ducking back into our mouths and peeking out once again. When he pulled away the final time and settled back into his spot, he didn’t need to explain his last example to me.
I discovered that I much preferred a combination of both, and I’m certain he could sense it in my dazed smile as I cleared my throat and righted myself. ---
That night as I finished washing the dishes from supper, I was flustered and… a little pissed off. Edward’s earlier demonstrations had completely distracted me from my initial question. I wanted to know what had caused his petulance and total rage earlier. On the drive home, I’d asked again but had only been granted a cryptic and terse, “There are some things you just can’t talk to some random fucking stranger about, Bella.”
Well, I could talk to Carmen about anything. In fact, her being a stranger made it somehow easier for me. I’d never see her in anything but that capacity, and I knew my privacy was a responsibility that she took seriously. She would not tell Edward about my treatment.
But I couldn't simply dismiss his discomfort.
Edward and I weren’t alike in all respects. I was a private person, but he was a damned fortress. It had taken me almost a year to wiggle myself inside his mind, and even now, I felt like he only showed me what he wanted. Frustrated and defeated, I stood by Esme and dried the dishes, nodding along to her passing comments on the second floor, which was her newest designing challenge. I was already tired by the time we’d finished. I usually spent my evening with Alice and Esme in the living room, but I wasn’t feeling up to it. I didn't even feel up to making the Secretive Sandies I'd been inspired to bake that afternoon.
Edward had gone up to the study with Carlisle as they always did after dinner. Thoughts of Edward’s bed made my limbs feel heavy, and I hoped he wouldn’t mind calling it an early night, considering we’d woken up so early to go see Carmen. It would also give me a chance to really talk to him. At least there, in the bed, I knew his personal wall was flimsier—I felt closer to him in some way. Maybe I'd try asking him again.
With heavy steps, I ascended the stairs and approached Carlisle’s office, ready to take my regular dosage and determine whether or not Edward was tired. When I reached the door, it was cracked open, as always, and their voices floated out dimly into the hallway. What I heard made me stop dead in my tracks.
"... then just out of nowhere, that bitch mindfucked me with her therapy voodoo horseshit, Carlisle." Edward's voice was low, but clear. "It just seemed so... trivial with everything that's happened between then and now, but... but now I'm mindfucked and it's like a constant fucking nagging, you see?" My eyebrows furrowed at his anxious tone and I shifted, leaning against the wall.
Carmen is the mistress of the mindfuck, I thought in agreement, thinking back to my hysterics over the cookie-sheets after my first session with her. I could only imagine what his version of the cookie-sheet was. The possibilities were endless.
Edward continued in a flat whisper, "I just... it seems so fucking masochistic to... you know... and then... feel that again. What if—" he paused and his voice dropped, a foreign vulnerability lacing his murmured, " —what if it hurts like before?"
Carlisle answered immediately, in an appalled voice, “I think if you don’t find out, you’re going to a doctor. End of discussion.”
A million thoughts raced through my head with his words.
It didn’t take long for Edward to respond in a muffled groan, “Not you too.”
“It could be serious,” Carlisle persisted in a concerned tone. “If it’s so bad that you’re scared to try, then maybe you should go anyways.”
There was Edward’s airy huff and then a gentle shifting of fabric. “I’m not scared,” he muttered stiffly.
“Oh?” Carlisle asked dubiously. “So it’s perfectly normal for an eighteen-year-old male to abstain from masturbation for five months, then?”
“Fucking Christ, Carlisle,” Edward hissed under his breath. “Where the fuck did your subtlety and discretion go?”
Carlisle’s sigh sounded exasperated. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Edward.”
Edward snorted and there was a soft thump that sounded much like a chess piece. “For normal people, there’s nothing to be ashamed of. But normal people don’t feel orgasms in the form of searing pain, so I think you can spare me the clinical ‘It’s perfectly natural’ bullshit.”
It was then I knew that Edward had gone to Carlisle for whatever he didn't feel comfortable speaking to Carmen about. It made sense, and though I was glad he chose to speak to anyone at all, I’d never been so confused— so I kept listening. Eavesdropping rather shamelessly for another five minutes taught me everything that I needed to know: Edward’s last orgasm had been with me. It had been painful. Excruciating. He was too embarrassed to go to a doctor and too frightened of feeling it again to determine if it had been nothing more than a fleeting symptom of his lack of sleep and heavy drug use.
I waited for their discussion to shift to something else before walking through the door. Edward’s eyes were downcast as I quickly took my medication. I mumbled something about being tired and quickly left the room, sprinting to the third floor and throwing myself on Edward’s sofa. I pretended to work on my English paper while I sat in silence, but I wasn’t.
I was furious that he'd kept this from me, all this time.
I stared at the paper and my anger grew to a hot, burning pressure behind my eyes. I didn’t even look up from my book when Edward entered the room, closing the door softly behind him. He stood in the middle of the room for what seemed like ages as my eyes fixed on the page. I could see him in my periphery, regarding me and darting his eyes around the room. His gaze seemed conflicted as he just stood there, occasionally raking his fingers through his hair and releasing stuttered breaths, as if he might say something, even though he didn't.
Eventually, I could hear him shifting, his breathing accelerating subtly.
“Uh,” he began, but paused. My teeth were clenched as I darted my eyes to him, taking in his rigid expression as he stared at the bathroom door with a pale face. His lips parted with a quick inhale as he decided with tight eyes, “I’m going to take a shower real quick,” and swallowed visibly. He lowered his head and huffed as he walked to the bathroom, flinging the door open and closing it a little too forcefully.
Edward never showered at night.
My fury grew.
It swelled and pushed at the insides of my ribs until my breaths were erratic and uncontrollable. Edward hadn’t even taken clothes with him, so focused and nervous that he’d probably forgotten. Tears stung at my eyes with every second that I didn’t hear the shower start.
He was in there—stalling.
It took twenty seven minutes for me to hear the sounds of the tap coming on. I slammed my book and threw it onto the leather with a flat "clap." I stood and paced and tugged at my hair and stubbed my toe and growled at the bed and… how dare he?
I felt possessed as I stormed into the bathroom, only belatedly thankful that he didn’t even think to lock the damn thing. Steam had already begun to fog the large mirror as I stared back at myself, nostrils flared and eyes lined with red.
But my fury faltered as I heard Edward’s voice. “Bella?” He was behind the frosted glass, and I could only barely make out his silhouette. Something about the sound of his question, his vulnerability, and the pitch of his voice tugged my heart enough to abate the swelling of my rage.
Mostly, I was just hurt.
“How could you?” I choked, closing the door behind me. He was silent as I walked to the shower and pressed my hand against the glass, water running down it like crystal tears. “How could you keep that from me?” I demanded, though it emerged as insecure and hurt as I likely felt.
I sank onto the lone step by the glass door as he remained wordless. I let the steam envelop me until the ends of my hair began coiling into random frizzes against my head. I watched the wayward sprays of his water hit the glass and slide down slowly.
“You heard me talking to Carlisle, didn’t you?” he accused, yet his voice was strained and echoed oddly against the tile and glass.
“Yes,” I confessed, and after a moment added, “You should have told me.” My anger was returning with every second of his silence. “Why wouldn't you tell me?” I asked, my frustration seeping into my tone with hard inflections. “We’re supposed to work together,” I finished, looking through the glass and seeking his still form.
He eventually released a sigh but remained motionless. “Bella, I can't— ”
"How bad was it, Edward?" I asked worriedly. To say I felt awful would have been an understatement. I'd never fully understood his reaction that day as he'd rocked us back and forth on the edge of his bed. I'd figured he'd just needed some sleep. Never would I have imagined...
"Bad," he offered in a curt voice.
Annoyed at his continued evasion, I prodded, "And you haven't... since?"
I sighed, leaning my head back against the door and fixing my eyes to the curling ends of my hair. "Maybe Carlisle's right," I whispered, swallowing fretfully. "If it's that bad... maybe you should just go to a doctor."
"It's nothing," he scoffed, even though his every word and action contradicted him.
"Then are you going to..." I trailed off, my confidence wavering as my cheeks began growing hot. Realizing how stupid I was being, I rolled my eyes and blurted, "Are you going to jack off, or what?"
I could vaguely discern the shape of his arm, rising as his head fell, his palm covering face. His mutter was a muffled, "God, please kill me..."
"If you want privacy, I can leave," I offered with a huff, frustrated that he refused to even discuss it with me. I now understood his inability to discuss it with a stranger, but I was so far from being one that he should have been able to. Instead, he was standing in there, ashamed and wordless. With every second he refused to speak, my anger burgeoned. The fact that I'd sacrificed my dignity in the past to have a similar conversation about my own inabilities to pleasure myself only made me feel impossibly more irate. Had we always been so off balanced? Furthermore, this new realization the he felt the need to be ashamed made me feel shame about those moments for the first time ever.
My resentment was palpable.
In an irritated tone, he finally began, “Do you have any idea how completely fucking mortifying this —”
He was cut off by the slam of my fist against the glass, the loud rattle amplified by the slick walls.
My voice was incredulous as I interjected, seething, “Mortifying? You're telling me about mortifying?” The room seemed even more silent than before as my breaths escaped in hard puffs. My fists clenched, nails digging into my palm. “Like having my boyfriend spend three months using a 'technique' just to put his hands on my tits? How about losing my virginity to him and having the entire moment ruined because I couldn’t handle a modicum of pain?” When he still remained silent, my head shook, and I began thinking back to those months, against my will. I continued in a disbelieving voice, "Good God, Edward. I couldn't even say the word 'orgasm' to you. You think I was never embarrassed, talking about stupid fucking unicorns all the time?" Astonished, I chuckled, finishing, “I happen to know a thing or two about being completely fucking mortified, thank you.”
I stood then and swept my hair off my neck, stepping off the small platform and walking to the door. My chest ached and bubbled, and it wasn’t fair that I could show him my flaws while he kept his hidden. He had a chance to give that back to me, to show me his, and instead, he chose to deal with it behind closed doors, when I could have easily done the same and saved myself a lot of humiliation. But I was only willing to push him so far. Until he met me in the middle and gave me the chance to accept every part of him, I was stagnant.
My fingers curled around the brass knob, slick with condensation as I turned it and prepared to leave him there alone, scared and worried.
Then I heard a sharp, resounding "click."
I turned slowly to see the shower door cracked open, my fingers sliding off the knob.
The mirror was almost entirely fogged when I finally stood naked in the middle of the bathroom. I looked back at my fuzzied form and wondered why I was suddenly so nervous. I’d taken a shower with Edward before. He’d already seen every part of me, really. Somehow I felt different, though. I was skinnier now, and I knew he hated it, but my new routines at the gym made me appear more toned. I supposed I was even more attractive now than back then. I was happy with the small size of my waist and the firmness of my few curves. I was a thin eighteen-year-old girl with long hair and nice teeth. What could be so awful?
My boobs got smaller when I lost weight, I remembered.
I frowned as I looked down at them. The scars scattered below just felt like an extension of me now. I’d talked to Carmen about them all at length, had divulged my insecurities and how determined I was to hide them. It was all useless. The scars were just as much a part of me as the birthmark on my calf, I eventually realized. I was in no hurry to flaunt them but looking at them didn’t make my stomach turn like it used to.
Taking a deep breath of the hot and steamy air, I decided that Edward and I had proved already how very little scars meant to one another. I rolled my eyes and padded to the shower, holding up my chin as I swung open the door and stepped inside. I closed it behind me with the same "click" and found Edward under the spray, his back to me.
I swallowed as my eyes swept over him, the defined muscles of his back sharp as the water exploded over his flattened hair. It ran down his body in clumsy streams, tracing the smooth line of his spine and curving over the firm roundness of his ass. I watched his muscles tense as I stepped closer, the sounds of my feet smacking against the shower floor. I splayed my palm across his back, and he jerked, the water crashing and falling around his shoulders.
I wrapped my arms around him and rested my cheek on his hot back, letting the water find my flesh as I diverted its path. It ran over us as though we were one body, my breasts crushed to his skin as his back rose and fell with quick breaths. But he didn't move.
"Edward?" I whispered, peeking my head around to see his face. He moved his hand back and flattened his palm against my thigh but remained otherwise motionless, staring anxiously ahead. I asked quietly, ”Should I…?” and let one of my hands wander until I felt soft, wet hair. His breath hitched as my fingers brushed his length, the muscles of his back stiffening against my chest.
"You don't have to," he responded stiffly, placing his hand on my wrist and nudging it away.
I sighed in annoyance, but acquiesced and waited for him to do it himself. His hand remained on my thigh, his thumb rubbing circles into my skin.
And then there was this kind of awkward air. The one that occurs when you want to jack your boyfriend off to find out if it'll hurt him, but he doesn't let you and is too chicken-shit to do it himself. What exactly does one do in this position, I wondered, shifting my feet against the tile.
Well, I did have a new penchant for honesty, didn't I? "Stop being chicken-shit," I finally sighed, even though I was inwardly panicking myself. I wouldn't let him see my own fear of causing him pain yet again. "It'll be like—" I paused, gnawing at my lip. "Like ripping off a band-aid." —that ejaculates...
"I'm not chicken-shit," he insisted, but the tremble of his voice betrayed his nerves.
My eyebrows rose, and I considered pointing out his blatant cowardice but figured that wouldn't help matters any. So instead, I challenged, "Then prove it," and sought him with my hand yet again. I curled my fingers around his length, and his breathing deepened, the fingertips on my thigh twitching. My mind raced with curiosity as his only partially-erect penis began growing inside my palm.
His back rippled with tension, but he didn't push me away.
I turned my head and rested my forehead against the space between his shoulder blades. My hand stroked him slowly from base to tip, calling forth what I remembered from our times before. His breathing accelerated as he pressed his back further into me. I couldn’t tell if he was trying to get closer to my body or farther away from my hand.
I started when I felt his lathered hand wrap around mine, lacing through my fingers. It was trembling. I thought he might force me to stop. Instead he began guiding me along his length, his head falling as he released an uneven, agonized sigh. The transfer of the soap made my hand slide easier against his skin. His shaking fingers tightened around mine, setting my rhythm as his hips began shifting minutely into our palms. He tucked his chin to his chest, and I figured he was watching our fingers sliding over his erection in tandem. Wordlessly instructing me, he twisted our mutual stroke around his tip, and my own breathing began to pick up. My hips shifted with his, never allowing our skin to part as the hot water rushed over us and splashed against our knuckles.
I lifted my face to press a firm kiss against his heaving back, craving the softness of his lips as my fingers explored him. It was then that he finally turned, our skin slick against each other as he released my hand only to replace it once facing me. His idle hand cradled my cheek as I watched his fretful stare rake over my body. He gulped, eyes darting over me nervously as his fingers tightened around mine.
I wasn’t really nervous anymore, being seen like this. The downward hunch of his brows as he slowly resumed our stroking and stared at my chest made his desire for me evident. His thumb caressed my cheek and it was a little more awkward stroking him in this new position, so I pressed myself closer, angling him upward.
When his eyes met mine, I realized he was releasing brief pants, and our hands sped. I couldn’t totally decipher what his eyes held as they fixed to mine, locks of his darkened and wet hair matted to his forehead, but it was troubling. His brows pulled together and he exhaled raggedly, gazing into my eyes with a conflicted stare. He embraced the feeling, bucking his hips, and yet he resisted it, clenching his teeth as his hand moved with an uncertain, mechanical rigidity.
I wrapped my other hand around his neck and pulled his face to mine, offering him an encouraging, chaste kiss. It was difficult to pull him to me, his body so stiffened with tension, so I stood on the tips of my toes and lifted myself to him. His lips were set into a firm line, and it took a moment for him to yield, returning my kiss hesitantly. But then when I tightened my fingers, he groaned against my lips, and the muscles of his jaw constricted.
His pleasure was steadily overcoming his fear.
His hand accelerated once again, the hard biceps in his arms flexing as our bodies began jerking to the movement. I was a little intrigued, wondering if he always went so…. fast? He kept a steady pace as he held his lips to mine, breathing against me raggedly as the water lurched from our flesh with the motions of our arms.
And then he whimpered as his brows pulled tightly together, and I became scared that it was hurting him. Fortunately, his hand slid from my cheek and grazed the side of my breast, and I realized that he was enjoying it—wanted more, even. I arched my chest to him in offering, silently thankful that we at least had that. His conditioning to my mind and body hadn’t been ruined by his absence.
With a grunt as our hands tightened, he cupped my breast and began kneading it, his lips parting against mine as he gasped wildly. Our lips slipped against each other as the tense jolts of his arms moved his body. He lifted his face and his eyes were dark, hooded with enough lust to evidently distract him from his nervousness. I licked my lips, and though my arm was beginning to burn, I ached to go faster just to revel in his reactions. He stepped closer and watched his fingertips massage the skin of my breasts as our hands bounced between us. His brows pulled together tighter as he flicked his thumb over my nipple, his teeth capturing his bottom lip and forming the drawn "Ffff" of a presumably restrained "Fuck."
He gripped my breast and pulled my upper body to him, dropping his face into my neck. He began planting clumsy and urgent kisses below my ear, his hand no longer trembling as it guided me with quick, sharp thrusts along his length. His voice was husky and strained as he spoke into my skin, “So fucking good...”
I couldn't deny my own arousal as he grunted into my neck and continued massaging my breast. My hips moved and I was panting, rubbing my thighs together as my arm burned with exertion. Without warning, his hand was dropping from my chest and pressing itself into the juncture of my thighs. The feeling of his sudden and eager fingers made me moan, my stomach beginning to coil in that only barely familiar way. My head grew clouded and I gasped as they spread me, forcing themselves deeper and touching all the right things. But I found it difficult to concentrate on his face and breaths as our hands moved, so I grabbed his wrist and returned his palm to my breast.
Though he complied and continued kneading me, he pleaded, "Let me touch you," and opened his mouth against my neck, sucking the flesh as his grip loosened around mine. But I simply ran my free hand through his hair, trying to ease his worry as I kissed the top of his head, because I was smarter than he gave me credit for. By focusing on me, he could forget about himself, and I'd be too distracted to even realize it. I finally understood his reactions to my touching him while he desensitized me all those months ago.
I could feel his legs suddenly tremble as our arms bounced rhythmically, the flesh inside my hand growing impossibly tighter as his erection swelled. I could tell when he was close because his grunt transformed into a keening groan and his hand slid to my shoulder, grasping it in alarm. He raised his face with an abrupt lurch, and his eyes were wide, lust and longing and love laced with utter terror. When I felt his movements faltering, I locked my jaw and sped my strokes, his open-mouthed whimper confirming that he liked it but was chickening-out again.
His forehead fell against mine as he started panting loudly, his hips pushing into our palms involuntarily. I felt him jerk once in my hand. “Shit,” he suddenly hissed.
When I looked at him, his eyes were screwed closed, every muscle in his body going rigid as he locked his jaw and shuddered. I kept my eyes fixed on his expression for any signs of pain, caressing his hair as his erection began pulsing in my hand.
“Holy. Fuck,” he growled breathlessly, his nose wrinkling in a way that I couldn’t determine as either a positive or negative reaction. But then I felt something warm hit my stomach, and his hand was tangling in my hair, pressing me closer as he emitted a long and shrill hiss through his tightly clenched teeth.
Then his hand stilled mine, and I could feel tension dissipate from his body, his chest heaving with loud, erratic breaths. His body slackened as he released my hand and shoulder, only to to snake his arms around my waist and quickly bury his face in my neck.
“Is that… good?” I asked shakily, enveloped by him and still uncertain as I threaded my fingers though his wet hair. It was the first time I realized how very similar pleasure and pain appeared on someone’s face.
He panted into my skin, crushing his chest tighter against mine. “So good," he answered in a fatigued, yet satisfied voice, before amending, "Motherfucking fantastic.”
My smile must have been big enough to split my face when he finally dragged his lips across my skin to my mouth. He brushed the wet hair from my face as he kissed me languidly, sweeping his tongue against mine briefly before parting, only to plant another, soft kiss to my forehead. When he leaned back, he looked so relieved and relaxed that his eyes shone as he gazed back at me. He returned my grin with his own lazy, crooked smile.
Then he dropped his eyes to my chest and curved an eyebrow, lifting a hand to fondle me playfully.
We spent the next hour reacquainting ourselves with intimacy in the foggy shower, lathered hands tracing places that were never forgotten—but definitely missed. Our fingertips massaged scalps, and we granted each other random, soft kisses and brushes of skin. Because intimacy was fine all on its own. As was affection.
But together, the two were perfect.
A/N: Please note WA posting schedule (tentative) below.
Chapter 51, Tarty Charted Motherfuckers: Saturday, July 25.
Chapter 52, Feel-Good Fortune Cookies: Thursday, July 30.
Thanks for reading, you have my love.
TLYDF.com has shirts and great articles from wonderful authors and readers. Congrats to all the Indie nominees. Please remember to vote tomorrow! I'll be at the ComicCon this week, where myself, EzRocksAngel, americnxidiot, manyafandom, psymom, ninapolitan, Bella C'ella, Bethaboo, and tby will all be participating in a TwiFic panel discussion. This is on Saturday at 10am for those attending the CC. See the CC site for more information. Please excuse my lack of response, as I'll be out of town for this.