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The Inconstant Moon: Part 2

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Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

 

Author's note : I've tried, where possible, to avoid duplicating what is covered in Breaking Dawn. There is some duplication, but mostly I've tried to explore the nooks and crannies she didn't. Obviously, Jacob's rape of Bella in part 1, has aftershocks that are explored in part 2.

 

I’d told myself that the bruises were shadows, that the blush was the flush of the warm room. That the marks were anything but bleeding sheltered by her porcelain skin. That I would never hurt her.

Dawn was making it harder to tell myself this story.

I stayed in bed with her until the growing light wouldn’t allow me to deny what I’d done. Slowly, I eased myself away, knowing the heat would wake her soon enough. Misery clawed at me, and guilt, my constant companion, squeezed my heart.

What had I been thinking? It was bad enough that I’d agreed to it—let my own desires speak against my better judgement. But—ugh, the enthusiasm I’d had, that I’d allowed—I could have killed her. I could have broken her like Jacob did—and here I stopped myself. I actually might have. Time would yet tell. A shudder took my spine. I would have to wait, and see if she would tell me.

Oh God, would she tell me?

I sniffed carefully, but couldn’t scent any open wounds. Good, at least there was that.

The sunlight was making her stir. I could see her toes wriggling under the sheets, her legs scissoring lightly. She rolled over, sighing, and the backs of her legs were visible. I gasped. Pale bruises ran up them, a set of ugly ladder rungs. The shadows on her upper arms had darkened. The image of her after Jacob’s attack swam, unbidden into my thoughts. The bruises were in the some of the same places.

I moved to the other side of the bed. The sunlight left nothing to the imagination. I could see the beginnings of small bruises on the front of her thighs. If I could have retched, I would have. I was worse than Jacob. I’d seen her broken and bruised, held her hand through it, and done just as much as her rapist had—on our wedding night.

The moment after found me at the back of the house, standing on the deck, trying to take in air that did not smell of Bella. The dusk of the jasmine was too much. It flooded me, and my floral scented memories of Bella mingled with it. She was everywhere all at once, drowning me. And then I heard her.

“Edward?” she called, her voice rang with a sharp edge to it. She was distressed. Of course, I thought. Of course she is. Another man she trusted has hurt her. On her wedding night. You idiot!

“Edward?” she called again, this time the edge was distinct, and growing.

“I’m here,” I said softly, appearing beside her.

“Where were you?” she asked, the hurt barely concerned.

“Just outside. I...how are you?” I stopped, abruptly.

“Fine,” she said, “why?” she asked, looking confused.

“How...bad, is it?” I managed to get out.

“What? What do you mean ‘how bad is it’? Is what bad?”

“The...bruises,” it choked out of me, “the...are you bleeding?” I said, fearful I’d missed it, not able to hide the edges of my panic.

“No!” She said, her eyebrows squeezed together, becoming exasperated. “I’m just fine—what are you talking about?” She was angry now.

I shook my head, and reached out, oh so gingerly to take her arm. I traced my fingers over the bruises, resting my hand to show that it matched the pattern there.

“It’s nothing,” she said, poking it firmly, still keeping the sheet over her. “I bruise really easily.” She looked back at me, her eyebrows angled down in disapproval at what she was seeing. “I’ve had workouts that hurt more than this the next day.” She made a little “tch” sound, and swung her legs off the bed.

“Your legs, Bella,” I said. And this time, she realized.

She looked down.

“Oh,” it came out, pained.

I reached her before she stumbled.

“No,” she said, pulling away. I felt the remains of my heart shrivel, burnt, the ashes flying away in the wind her exit made.

I didn’t deserve her. At all. Had she realized that?

I deserved this pain. I had left her—broken her far more than had ever merited her returning to me. To be abused, I reminded myself. As hurt and betrayed as Jacob had left her. I got up, turning myself around, reviewing the wreckage I had caused. I stiffened as I heard her leave the bathroom, and and then forced myself to relax, at least visibly. She didn’t need me worked up. I needed to take care of her.

“Can I make you something to eat?” I asked quietly.

“Sure,” she said, averting her eyes when I turned around. She’d wrapped herself in a long robe, and was tying it together tightly. Laying my hand on her arm, she flinched, and jumped back.

“Sorry.” I muttered.

“It’s OK,” she said quietly, letting the corners of her mouth curl up slightly. I was not reassured.

In the kitchen, I tried to lose the swirl of guilt and remorse in busyness. Pulling butter, bread, bacon, eggs, and juice out of the fridge, I clicked on the gas. It hissed and sparked, and my hand warmed over the frying pan, as I checked for the browning point. I let the sounds of cooking fill the emptiness that creaked from our silent conversation. She waited at the breakfast bar, watching me, resting her chin on both hands. She looked relaxed, but I didn’t let myself wonder what she was thinking.

The time moved too quickly, and I was soon setting a plate of food in front of her. Laying both my hands on the counter, I looked up at her, rocking back and forth on the heels of my feet. “Do you want me to stay here, or go outside while you eat?”

“Stay! Of course. Why would you ask that?” she said through a bite of food, hand hovering over her mouth.

“I seem to be bothering you with everything I do,” gesturing to the arm where I’d touched.

“No, it was just...I’m wearing a robe.”

A robe? I thought. Why would that matter?

“When...Jacob—” she stuttered out.

“Ah,” I said, and swallowed nothing, feeling air disappear down my throat. I waited, mute, watching her eat. To my great surprise, she did—clearing her plate, and asking if there was more. I served her the few remainders, and watched her eye the counter for something else. I popped more bread into the toaster, and buttered it liberally.

“Mmm,” she said, “this tastes amazing. What do they put in the butter down here?”

“Heat,” I said, “and a lack of sleep.” I gave her a small smile.

She beamed in return. “There’s my vampire,” she said.

I couldn’t help but smile more.

Her lunge didn’t surprise me physically, but her impulsiveness did. I had to catch her to make sure she didn’t collide painfully with me. She pressed her lips to mine, taking advantage of my arms holding her off me. She leveraged her feet up onto the stool, and pushed herself over the bar to curl around me. I could hear things clattering to the floor. Carefully, ever so carefully, I gently, and firmly disentangled her. I could feel the hard strain of her muscles, trying to cling to me, and hoped I wasn’t hurting her.

“Bella!” I said through clenched teeth. She smiled, and jumped again, letting our momentum carry us to a stop at the fridge. Her lips were almost at mine. “NO!” I said, louder than I meant to be, and pushed her away. “We can’t, not without me...hurting you.” I could feel my face collapsing on itself, as I thought about the bruises I’d left her with. “I’d be no better than Jacob if I did that to you again.”

Her breath hissed in at that. She dropped herself to the floor.

“No!” She said. “Don’t you dare say that about yourself. Ever!” The scowl that walked her face was all out of proportion against her soft curves. Almost comical. I knew better than to laugh. My Bella, my sweet, angelic Bella. Brave, but fragile. The sun, briefly obscured by a cloud, sliced into the room, highlighting the light cover of her skin; the veins were a laced patchwork beneath its fragile cover. I rested my hand gently on her back, and the other on her shoulder.

“We can’t, Bella. We tried,” and here I swallowed nothingness again, “and I hurt you. And I’m afraid you’re telling me it’s nothing so you don’t hurt my feelings.” I let this sink in, before adding, “your record isn’t good on that front.”

She shoved herself away, and paced the room, huffing in large breaths. She paused at the room’s centre post, leaning her hands against it, head down, breathing in deeply.

“Bella?” I asked tentatively.

“Not now,” she growled. “I’m really, really angry right now.” She walked into the bedroom and slammed the door.

I waited, for a long time, and eventually, she emerged. In a bikini. I kept my face still, as I took stock of the bruises I hadn’t yet seen. They were everywhere .

“I’m going swimming,” she said, sighing. “Can you help me put sunscreen on my back?” Her mouth was a grim line.

“Sure,” I said quietly, rubbing it on as lightly as I could, trying not to press into the bruises, watching her movement for any sign of discomfort. She was still, and didn’t flinch in the slightest as my hands moved across her back. My body and mind warred over how to respond to the touch of her flesh. I clamped down on my desire, and forced myself to look at the bruises, recalling the horror of Jacob’s memories. Take that , I hissed at my desire. See what you’ve done to her .

“Thank you,” she said quietly. “Want to come with me?” She was careful with her tone, bracing for disappointment.

“Yes,” I forced myself to smile. Keep it light , I told myself. “I’d love to.”

I changed into a swimsuit, and joined her at the beach. She smirked when she saw me.

“You looked better last night,” she said, flicking water at me.

I splashed her back. “So did you,” I replied levelly, recoiling instantly at the bitter taste of my words.

Her smirk disappeared.

Keep it light , I reminded myself. This is her —our honeymoon .

“Want to see the reef?” I asked, hoping my voice was playful, and inviting enough.

“Yeah,” she answered, daring to look up at me. “Isn’t it kind of far, though?” She looked a little worried. “I’m not a great swimmer.”

“No need to be,” I said, reaching to pull her onto my back, “I am.” I was able to smile fully now, and had her at the reef in seconds.

“You’ll see more fish if I’m not too close by,” I said, seeing the far circle of fish around me. “Watch.” I swam away a good fifteen feet, and the fish returned to her, swirling around her toes and legs. She laughed in delight. “I’ll take you snorkelling later,” I said, my own happiness at her joy starting to bubble up from the clench of guilt.

We stayed, me keeping her afloat when she needed to rest, for several hours, and then rested in the shade of the beach. The sun was low when I heard her stomach growl.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, helping her stand, “I’m not feeding you enough.”

“No,” she said, dusting the sand from her legs, “we got up late, and I ate a lot, I’m just off my schedule...and, I can feed myself, you know.”

“I know,” I smiled, “but I like feeding you.”

Wandering into the kitchen, she set her sunglasses on the counter, eyeing the clutter on the floor. I whisked it up and away, and pulled out some strawberries, ice, lime juice, and rum.

“You have plans I don’t know about?” she said, eyeing the alcohol.

I smiled, “No, I just thought you might like a daiquiri—No?”

She shook her head, “No, that’d be great. Just not too strong.”

She sipped it while I put together dinner. “That smells amazing. What is it?” she asked, rubbing her eyes, and stifling a yawn.

“Shrimp-coconut stew,” I said, tossing in the cilantro. It smelled revolting to me, but I was glad it appealed to her sense of smell.

Her stomach was still growling. “The rice will take a bit to cook,” I said, pulling out some tortilla chips and salsa. She ate them all, taking short breaks to sip her drink. I frowned. “You said you weren’t that hungry,” I chided, getting her a glass of water too.

“Didn’t realize I was,” she said, through a mouthful of food. This was followed by a long yawn. “Must be all the sun.”

After watching her devour two servings of dinner, we sat together on the couch to watch a movie. She looked sideways at me. “Are we at least, still allowed to snuggle?” she asked, a distinctly grumpy tone to her voice.

I chuckled and pulled her close in answer, kissing the top of her head. Halfway through the movie, I could feel her body patterns shifting, as she began to fall asleep. I eyed her bikini, still slightly damp from the swim, and sighed. She needed to wear something dry. Moving her to the bed, I inhaled her fragrance, sweeter almost. I must be the warm air, I thought. So humid—her scent must just carry further here.

Carefully, I slipped off her bikini, not waking her, and found the least indecent of the night-clothes Alice had packed. Getting her dressed was harder, and slipping her shirt on, I closed my eyes in defense against the stirring of the desires within. Don’t hurt her, again, I reminded myself. When I opened them again, I forced myself to look long at each of the bruises on her unconcealed flesh. You did that, I said, you. Just like him. Remember that.

I knew I couldn’t just abandon her desires, and leave her unsatisfied. But I didn’t trust myself to touch her, to be near her so intimately, without crossing boundaries that I needed to keep her safe. I’d certainly read enough to know what to do in terms of mechanics, but the restraint needed near such tender flesh. I briefly envisioned trying to speak with Jasper, or, heaven forbid, Emmett, or Carlisle, but the thought of violating Bella’s privacy was so grossly repellant, I dismissed it out of hand. To have the fine balance of control with one’s human mate—and here I heard Rosalie’s recriminations again: This can only end badly for us all . No, I would have to wait, to keep her safe.