A/N: Oh my goodness, it has taken ages to finish this little piece. Several months, believe it or not. But it's here, so I hope you enjoy it. I'm always happy to know what you think. Happy reading!
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns The Twilight Saga - I'm just playing!
"Don't," she murmurs as I'm about to pull out of her. Her fingers are digging into my shoulders, a wordless protest. Her eyes never leave mine. Her gaze is strangely intent in the dim light.
"I'm not going anywhere," I assure her, and move as gently as I can so I don't hurt her. There's still the slightest frown creasing her forehead. I lean over to place a kiss on her nose, hoping to soften her. Then I pull her against me, as though to prove my point. She cuddles closer with a sigh. Her body feels limp; her heartbeat is soaring. I can't help but smile at the sound. If my heart was still beating, it would have been soaring as well.
"I love you," she whispers, peeking up at me through her tangled hair.
"As I love you," I reply. She places her head against my chest, and I thread my fingers through her hair. It's still damp, partly with sea water, partly with sweat. Something in its texture feels off, but I'm too distracted to place it, or to even care. She will whine about her unkempt appearance in the morning, I think fondly. She won't believe me when I'll say that to me, she looks perfect, but it's true. Never has she seemed more beautiful to me, not even while wearing her wedding gown.
"I told you."
I'm so wrapped up in the sensation of her bare skin against my own that for a moment, her muffled statement puzzles me. "Told me what, sweetheart?"
"We do belong together."
I chuckle at the hint of victory her words carry, and kiss the top of her head. I can sense her exhaustion beginning to sip in simply by the way she is leaning against me. My own weariness wears a different shape, and for a moment, I almost envy her. It has been a while since I have considered the sleeplessness of my kind a burden, but just this once, I wish to be able to sleep, so I could wake up beside her tomorrow.
"This is unfair," she says through a yawn. There's frustration in her voice. "Can't my body just… not act human for one night? I don't want to go to sleep."
And I laugh, because her comment is a perfect contrast to my own reflections.
"How is that funny?"
"Just… be careful what you wish for, Love."
"I wish we could stay like this forever," she admits sheepishly, and pulls herself even closer to me. I nod my agreement, even though she doesn't look up. I tighten my grip around her, and let my finger draw small circles at the small of her back. I can tell the motion is lulling her to sleep. She does everything in her power to resist it, but eventually it overtakes her. Her breathing becomes slower, heavier. It isn't long before she is fast asleep.
I'm relaxing back into the pillows, or what has left of them. I tense a little when this realization dawns on me. Only then it occurs to me that the substance which surrounds us, that is all over Bella's hair and probably mine as well, is soft, fluffy, white feathers. My eyes dart to my left, where Bella has been lying not five minutes earlier. There are more feathers there, spilling out of a puncture mark on the side of a pillowcase, at the exact spot where Bella's shoulder has been.
A chill ripples through me at the thought. In her sleep, she is clinging to me. There's a smile curling on her lips. It's one I am not familiar with; angelic, serene. Three seconds ago it would have made me smile as well. Now all I can think of is the torn pillow, and that it could have been her, and not the pillow, to suffer a similar destiny. I shake the idea away. I refuse to linger on it on the best night of my existence.
And despite the stress and doubts and worries that have accompanied it ever since she has come up with this preposterous idea several months back, there is no doubt in my mind. This is the best night of my existence. I have feared this moment for so long; I have never believed it would be like that, that we could… that I could… Tonight has certainly gone beyond my beliefs, my fears, my fantasies.
I have always believed I loved her so completely. I have always thought it was impossible for me to love her more than I already did, and yet somehow tonight it happened. I'm so happy I think I will burst. I laugh at myself. What a silly, sentimental notion. And so human. This is a whole new side of myself, one I have long forgotten. She has brought it all back onto the surface. Thanks to her, I can see myself as the human I have been, rather than the monster I have believed myself to be for a long while.
The sound of her breathing in synch with the rhythmic sounds of the ocean plays the most perfect of lullabies. As I lay there, engulfed by her heat, everything is so incredibly lucid; her ongoing imploring, my brothers' reaction, and Carlisle's. It all makes sense to me now. All along I have been such a fool. I can't help thinking of all the time we have missed out on because of my resistance. But then again, I don't regret waiting. Our physical union is the final seal on our symbolic union, a knot tied only several days ago. She really is mine now, and I'm hers, for as long as we both shall live. For the first time in my existence, I believe I have a soul, for tonight I have revealed it not only to her, but to myself as well.
As the night moves on, my mind replays its earlier events, every kiss, every touch, every whisper. The millions of ways she has uttered my name, every one of her expressions. For me, this is everything. It doesn't matter what the following day brings. I know I will relive these memories of tonight forever.
I will never admit it to her, but I'm glad she has managed to talk me into having a real honeymoon. If I have only known it will be like this, I would have given in days before that, possibly months before. My mind goes back to the night when she has finally agreed to be my wife. In my mind it has a different ending now. I clutch the sheets in one hand, and don't let go until I hear the soft sound of their ripping beneath my grasp.
This is oddly amusing. For the first time in decades, I'm feeling seventeen. The teenager within me resents my previous wish. He does not want to spend one second on mundane matters such as sleep. It is suddenly easier to understand Bella's aggravation. As I watch her peaceful face, I know he is right, and so is she. There's nothing I want more than to wake her up and lose myself inside her again.
I trace my fingers down her spine and her back flexes at my touch. Goosebumps are quickly forming against her skin; I watch them in fascination. I marvel at every bit of skin exposed to me now, parts of her body that, before tonight, I have seen only in my mind's eye. Clearly my imagination hasn't done her justice. She is more beautiful than any ghostly image I have ever conjured during the endless nights I have watched her sleep. She is as real as the ocean and the moonlight, pressing against me as in defiance to the dangers my kind might bring upon her. I think of what has just happened here between us, and reflect on my brothers' words. It is the greatest thing. As a vampire, I have had my share in all sorts of experiences, but I cannot think of anything quite like this one. I cannot imagine anything better, not even the taste of human blood.
But then she shifts a little, and there's something else there, certain darkness against her skin. Gently, I lift her arm to better observe in the faint light. It's an ugly bruise, one that is still developing. It will turn purple in a few hours. The sight of it shocks me. Slowly, I place my hand against it. Like some twisted Cinderella version, it fits perfectly. As the veil of bliss is slowly evaporating, I'm beginning to see more and more dark blotches, blossoming against her fair skin. I trace them with my fingers with growing horror, trying not to press too hard so the motion doesn't wake her. She's bruised all over, like a broken doll. There are marks on her waist, her shoulders, and I suspect the side of her face – the one that rests against my chest – is harmed as well.
Each and every one of these marks brings the previous image crumbling, and the seventeen year old boy is turned back into the monster I know, the one I have tried in vain to repress. He has always been there, lurking in the shadows, as I have known he would do. When the doubts return, they do so full force. I should never have let her talk me into doing this, luring me with words and promises. I shouldn't have made such promises myself, not when I have been so aware of the consequences. I clench my teeth as I inspect the bruises one by one, each a further proof of what I have suspected all along. I knew I would hurt her and now I have. I don't understand how she can sleep so obliviously. I have never seen her sleeping so calmly. How is it possible she isn't hurting?
But she will be hurting, as soon as she opens her eyes. And then, at the sight of the bruises on her skin, she will finally understand what I have been trying to tell her all along. She would note the danger I have been trying to warn her against from the very moment we met. And she will realize she has been wrong. We do not belong together, not physically, anyway. Not yet.
When I put my arms around her, I do so gently, as though she will break beneath my touch. In a way I almost fear that she might. I'm trying to pluck some feathers out of her hair. This is one sort of damage I can somehow mend. As I do so she smiles and shifts again, wrapping her arms around my neck, pulling herself further up against me. She smells delicious. I'm holding my breath. Her heat weakens me, bringing back those sounds and images I have momentarily forgotten. But then the sight of a bruise against her shoulder blade brings me back to the ground, and I tense.
Knowing I have done this to her is excruciating. I have seen her break, both physically and mentally, far too many times before. Often, I have had my share in her injuries, but never to such an extent. No more, though. I will hurt her no more. It is simply not worth it. As I have already surmised not too long ago, I cannot live in a world where she doesn't exist. I look at my wedding band and think I'm halfway there. Nonetheless, if I don't want to lose her, I'd better start making life by my side safer for her.
And as dawn is slowly breaking on the island, I make a vow. So long as she is human, I will never touch her again.