Chapter 1: Prologue
Edward touches her gently, so softly. She's never experienced anything like it. And the way he says her name – all four syllables – is reverent. She can't believe he's only been with a woman once before. The almost imperceptible brush of his hand along her body as their lips connect is unbearable. She sighs. His fingers find her soft folds. . .
As he slips inside of her it is not heated, not rushed . . . just smooth and gentle . . . a continuation of the tender passion that has grown between them. There is no abrupt change of pace, just pure bliss as he moves within her and a deep warmth blossoms between them. He caresses her cheek as he looks tenderly into her eyes. This feels meant to be. For both of them.
As he takes her to the precipice, her climax is gentle too . . . she had no idea it could be like this as her warm wetness engulfs him. He moans into her neck as he holds her tight, holding himself back until she finishes . . . and as she comes down he fills her with his own warmth. They lay shaking in each other's arms when it is over.
But Edward's not just shaking from the climax. Tentatively he looks up at her, fear swimming in his chocolate brown eyes. "Isabella? Are you alive?"
"Yes, Edward, I survived," she says and tries not to chuckle. She knows that's a serious question. It's why she is here.
Chapter 2: Part One
"Are you ready for your next assignment?"
"Absolutely," Isabella answers with a nod, stepping into the misty room with the Archangel.
They approach the window onto the world – the one that can go forward or backward.
"This man is your assignment," the Archangel says and with a sweep of his hands the past is revealed to her. They stand together and watch Edward Nygma as he was shortly after the death of his first love, Kristen Kringle.
He reverently holds a pair of glasses in his hands. Hers.
His friend lies convalescing on his bed.
". . . that's all I have left now. Memories," his friend had said to him. "And they are like daggers in my heart."
"Not forever," Edward had answered, picking up the pair of glasses and showing them to him. "These were Miss Kringle's. It's all I have left to remember her by. But when I look at these I don't feel sadness anymore. I feel gratitude. And do you know why?"
"Gratitude?" Isabella's brows knit together as she looks at the Archangel. "For what?"
Edward tells his friend, "For some men, love is a source of strength, but for you and I it will always be our most crippling weakness. We are better off unencumbered."
"No," Isabella whispers in protest. "That's not true."
Edward tells his friend that his own dear mother had been his weakness. Isabella gasps in horror and puts a hand to her mouth. What a cruel thing to say to a friend who is so obviously in mourning.
"A man with nothing that he loves is a man that cannot be bargained, cannot be betrayed, a man that answers to no one but himself. And that is the man I see before me. A free man."
Isabella touches her hand to the window onto the world, cupping Edward's stone-cold face, frozen in time. "Oh, this poor man. He's in so much pain . . . He's become so cold."
"It's how he was able to rationalize his grief back then. He lives in logic. He needed to a way to justify being alone after Kristen."
"But love isn't logical."
"You'll be teaching him that."
Isabella nods. "This was a while ago. Is he still like this?"
"Not exactly," says the Archangel. "He's got a bit of a stumbling block that you'll be tasked with helping him to surmount. He's stuck there."
"Show me," Isabella says.
"You'll need to help him to heal from here," the Archangel says and waves his hand over the window onto the world one more time, pulling up the near future.
Edward is breathing heavily in front of a bathroom mirror as he whispers to himself. "It's just a pair of glasses."
Suddenly he sees Kristen Kringle in the mirror and startles. She taunts him. "I thought you would have been used to seeing people in mirrors."
He puts a hand up to block her. "You're just in my head."
"Like that makes a difference."
"Wait," Isabella says and turns to the Archangel. "This is the one with dissociative identity disorder?"
"Yes, but he's only got one identity right now – he's integrated. And we need him to stay that way."
"Nothing too traumatic."
"I hear you. I'm here to help him heal, remember? He'll be less likely to dissociate under pressure going forward if I do my job right."
"Exactly," the Archangel nods. "He can be dangerous when an alter emerges."
They turn their attention back to the window onto the world and watch as Edward tells Kristen that she and Isabella are somewhat different. Isabella nods, this will need to take place during her assignment. She'll need to figure out how to get him here.
"Well, I'm dead . . . and she's alive," Kristen says, pointing out a not so subtle difference between herself and Isabella.
Edward looks horrified.
"But how long will that last? Until you . . . " Kristen grabs at her neck and starts choking herself.
"I would never hurt Isabella," he says firmly.
"Bet you would have said the same thing about me. Face it, Ed. You're a killer. It's only a matter of time before –"
He rips open the medicine cabinet so he can no longer see the mirror and spins around to sit on the sink, weakened, horrified at the prospect of killing yet another woman that he loves. He shakes as he removes his glasses and pinches his nose.
Isabella resists the strong the urge to reach out to the window onto the world and touch him once again. Instead, she just whispers, "Poor baby."
"You see why he needs our help?"
"Yes," Isabella says firmly. No one should suffer this way. "Send me in."
Chapter 3: Part Two
As Isabella prepares to go through the spirit window and enter into Edward's life, she clutches her books in one hand and checks her light blonde hair with the other, making sure every strand is in place. She is wearing Kristen's face but her hair is her own – she had insisted. Besides, in this situation a one hundred percent replica of Edward's first love would likely backfire. It could startle him, scare him off, or at the very least seem too unbelievable. And Edward seems to be all about logic. That just wouldn't do.
She takes a deep breath and goes through, emerging on the other side of the neon sign that is the spirit window in Gotham. And he's standing right there . . .
That wasn't supposed to happen. Heart racing, she ducks behind a row of wine bottles before he can see her. That's never happened before . . . She usually has some time to get situated before finding her assignment. Odd.
She watches Edward carefully through the shelving in the store where he's taking his time selecting a wine, thoroughly examining each choice. She smiles, knowing just how to introduce herself now. Stepping out from behind the shelving and into his row she says to him, "Impossible to pick the perfect bottle, isn't it?"
He answers without looking at her until he mentions wine pairings . . . As his head turns towards her, he has the response she had been expecting.
"Miss Kringle?" He looks so confused.
"No, oh no. My name's Isabella. I'm sorry to bother you. I don't usually talk to people. There's just something about you." And there is. My, he's handsome in person. Much more so than she had expected. Her heart feels a little funny just looking at him.
"No. No, please. There's no need to apologize. You ju -" he gulps. "You remind me of someone I used to know. A long time ago."
As he looks down at the bottle in his hand and takes a deep breath to calm himself, Isabella knows it's time to make her move. She steps forward with a riddle . . . something she knows without a doubt that he is eternally fascinated by. . . and he solves it without missing a beat. Then, he smiles and introduces himself.
"I'm Edward. Edward Nygma."
Her work has begun.
They leave the wine shop together, Edward having offered to walk her home. "You mentioned you are new to Gotham. What brings you to town?"
Isabella holds up the books that she'd carried with her through the spirit window, about to tell her tale.
"Oh my, I didn't even notice," Edward says apologetically, ever the gentleman. "Can I help you carry those?"
Isabella almost blushes at his old-fashioned manners. She so rarely encounters that. She smiles in assent.
"You'll want to be careful with those." She says as he gently takes them from her. "Not only are they antiquarian books, they're why I'm here. In Gotham."
"Yes. I plan to use them to negotiate a position for myself at the Gotham Public Library." She leans into him conspiratorially. "You see, these are the only books of their kind with information on Gotham's founding families. They include genealogical records going back hundreds of years. It turns out that some of the families were descended from kings and conquerors as expected, but others were descended from lost civilizations, their records marred by those who had oppressed them. The only copy to be found of those records are in those very books."
"Yes. They are of great historical significance and I really do think the Public Library will understand the value of having them archived here. In Gotham."
"And with the books come me. They can't have one without the other," Isabella states firmly. "Do you know how long I've waited for this chance? To be a librarian at such an esteemed institution? It would be a dream come true for me to work at the main branch downtown."
Edward smiles and stops walking, placing his hands on her shoulders. They are in front of the stoop to her place. "Your plan is solid, Isabella. I have every confidence that you'll become Gotham Public Library's newest librarian."
"Thank you, Edward." She smiles softly. He has such faith in her.
Absently, as if he doesn't quite realize what he's doing, he touches a lock of her pale hair that has come loose and he tucks it back into her updo. Every strand in place. The way she likes it. The way he likes it.
"You aren't her," he says lowly. His voice is gravelly with emotion. "And yet . . ."
"And yet?" she whispers.
"Your face. I can't help but wonder . . ."
"If the universe is trying to tell me something." He gulps. There is a brief pause before he says solemnly, "I really enjoy your company, Isabella."
"And I yours." It is the truth.
A heavy, serious silence that isn't quite awkward descends upon them. The hands that were on her shoulders, trail down to her elbows.
And then a car honks.
They break apart with a little laugh. . .
And end up sitting on her stoop until well past sunrise talking about anything and everything.
Chapter 4: Part Three
It had been sheer agony to part from Edward once they had both realized it was six am and each of them had places to be that morning. Isabella had found herself absolutely fascinated by him. His fastidiousness, his attention to detail, his ability to think ahead, anticipate, and plan for the best outcome drew her in. No wonder he was the Mayor of Gotham's chief of staff. No doubt he had helped his friend rise to power. Oswald Cobblepot had come a long way from recovering on Edward Nygma's couch following the death of his mother.
Edward had told her that she was beautiful - and Isabella knew it wasn't just because she was wearing Kristen's face. Throughout the night he would compulsively touch her hair, tucking away any stray strand that would inadvertently get caught up in a small breeze and put it back right where it belonged. He had been absolutely fascinated by it - the only part of her true self that was showing. And it had made her so happy. She had genuinely meant it when she told him that those hours - those twelve hours that they had spent talking together on the stoop - had been the best of her life.
After Edward leaves that morning, Isabella checks in with her new landlady, gets her keys, signs a proper month-to-month lease, and lets herself into her furnished apartment. It's completely furnished and then some. Heaven had already gotten the place all decked out for her and her clothing and other items have been completely unpacked.
"I thought you were going to show last night," the landlady says.
"I had been planning to. Sorry about the delay."
"Nice looking man."
"Out on the stoop with you this morning."
Isabella blushes, remembering Edward coming back to kiss her before he left. "Yes, sorry about that."
"No worries." The hefty middle aged lady crosses her arms and sizes her up. "Moving a little fast, aren't you though, dear? You just got into town."
"The heart keeps its own time."
"If you say so." The woman just shakes her head. "But I must say, you've got a really nice family. Moving all of your things in ahead of time and unpacking for you like that. Real angels."
"Yes they are."
Isabella closes the door on her landlady and prepares herself to land a job at the Gotham Public Library.
Her heart races as she mounts the steps of the main branch of the Gotham Public Library, the antiquarian books that she had come through the spirit window with in hand. The Gotham Public Library's main branch is world class - she can feel her dreams within reach.
For most assignments, Isabella has easily been able to land work in as an archivist or librarian for her day job. Her attention to detail rivals Edwards, her inborn curiosity about the way the world works has lead her to hone her research skills, and she has accumulated extensive experience over the years. But as she gawks at the marble walls, ceiling, and floors that make up the main entrance of Gotham's most prestigious library, its sheer grandeur makes her a touch insecure.
"May I help you?" a woman at the information desk asks.
Isabella thinks about how much she wants this and Edward's confidence in her. She squares her shoulders, steels her nerves, and walks up to the desk with purpose. "Yes."
Getting hired had been easier than expected and Isabella had been put to work right away in one of the oldest parts of the library, where books and other reference material are still indexed with cards. How appropriate - it's where the books she had brought with her were going to end up. It's very solitary work and she finds her mind wandering . . .
She thinks back to her first kiss with Edward.
At first she thought he had forgotten. He had placed a hand on her leg after she had told him the long and convoluted story about how breaking her tibia many years ago had lead to her love and fascination with books. It had thrilled her to have his hand there. She had been certain that he was going to make a move. But then they had been interrupted by a paper girl flinging that morning's issue at them, reminding them of the time. The moment had been lost and Edward had stood up to go. He made it halfway down the stoop before he remembered.
Isabella's heart had leapt as he turned around and came back to her, placing his hands on her elbows gently. And when he leaned into kiss her, his nose had brushed hers softly. Their first kiss had been quick and chaste, but it had been wonderful. Throughout the day, she finds herself pausing in her tasks, bringing her fingers to her lips, and remembering the moment over and over again.
She's been so distracted that morning. . . eventually she comes to the realization that she is falling really hard. This has never happened on assignment before. Ever. Edward is different.
Over her lunch break, she finds herself doing the silliest thing. She had stumbled upon some ancient colored pencils and a pair of scissors. All that had been missing was a piece of paper . . . and that was easily found.
"Is that your boyfriend?" one of the other librarians asks her when she sees what Isabella has made.
Isabella smiles. "Yes."
It wasn't true. But it would be.
Isabella looks down at the four little paper dolls on the desk . . . Isabella & Edward & Isabella & Edward . . . all holding hands. She had drawn a gigantic heart smack dab in the middle of the chest of the two dolls that represented her because just thinking about Edward made her heart swell. . .
"What are you, twelve?" the other librarian asks with a snort.
Isabella chuckles. "I might as well be for how he makes me feel."
"Young love," the other librarian says with more than a touch of bitterness lacing her sarcasm. "I should get me some of that."
Chapter 5: Part Four
He approaches Isabella at work later that afternoon. Oswald Cobblepot. The mayor. Edward's friend.
He claims he is interested in doing some research on Gotham's first families for the Founder's Dinner. "My chief of staff suggested I might come here. I think you might know him."
"Yes, I know Edward. We just met. But . . ." She doesn't know why she feels like opening up to this man. Perhaps it is because she feels some familiarity with him from all the time she spent researching Edward's life prior to this assignment. Or perhaps it is because she knows he is Edward's friend. She continues breathily, ". . . I feel like I've known him my whole life."
And that's when it hits her. She really does feel that way. Suddenly, she feels a little weak.
Oswald says, "How romantic."
"Oh, listen to me blathering on. You wanted a book." Time to focus on her job, not Edward for once. This was getting ridiculous. She turns away to look for what he wants.
"I'm so glad you appreciate Ed."
What? She turns back around and notices him staring at the paper dolls she had made over the lunch hour, her heart's desire displayed for all the world to see in colored pencil.
Oh, how embarrassing. They really had just met. Oswald must think she's unhinged. She hurriedly grabs the dolls, folds them up, and hides them from view between the pages of a book.
But then Oswald drops a bombshell . . . and it's not the content of the words falling from his lips that are shocking. Isabella already knows that Edward had been locked away for the murder of his first love, Kristen Kringle. Intimately. What is shocking is Oswald's betrayal of his friend. Isabella had not been expecting that.
She plays along, feigning innocence, but becomes overwhelmed at one point and walks away from him, pretending to find a book she needs to work with. But Oswald will not let it go. He walks over to her and makes it very clear just how much she looks like Kristen Kringle, down to having the same swan-like neck. Isabella raises a hand and places it near her own neck, suddenly feeling threatened. Kristen had been strangled.
"Ed loves the neck!" Oswald exclaims in a mockingly jovial tone. Then he takes the book she has in her hands – it has nothing to do with Gotham's first families – and walks out.
Wow. She had no idea just how sick Edward's best friend was. Poor thing.
Isabella takes her time carefully selecting what to wear for her date that evening with Edward at the Mayor's mansion. She wants to wear something subdued . . . but her entire wardrobe is subdued, so that doesn't exactly narrow it down. She frowns. She tends to wear many high-necked dresses and tops but after her conversation with Oswald that afternoon she's leaning towards something that would expose her neck. She's curious about how Edward might react to that. Would seeing her neck – which was exactly like Kristen's - be as traumatic as Oswald's theatrics that afternoon seemed to imply?
If so, would that move Edward closer to where she needs him to be?
She chooses a black dress with a sweetheart neckline and sighs. This is all moving so fast . . .
Isabella arrives at the door of the Mayor's mansion promptly at eight. Edward greets her himself and ushers her in. He is deliciously handsome in an impeccable forest green suit.
"May I?" he asks, offering to remove her coat.
He stands behind her and dips his head towards hers, close enough so that the strands of her updo must be tickling his nose. She can feel his breath on her ear as he begins to lift the collar of her coat from her neck. Such close proximity causes a delightful tingle to trail down her spine. Once her coat is off, she turns around to face him.
He draws in a quick breath, looking like a deer caught in the headlights.
"Edward? What's wrong?"
He fumbles with the coat in his hands for a moment before looking at her neck and then looking back up at her face and saying, "Uh, nothing. It's just you look -"
"I look like her," Isabella says. "Your Miss Kringle."
He turns away nervously and quickly hangs her coat in the coat closet. That small gesture having allowed him to gather his composure, he turns back to her and says matter-of-factly, "Isabella, I haven't told you about her -"
"No." But Oswald had had no qualms in telling her plenty.
"But I – I think I need to. Before we – Before I – Before this goes too far."
"Please, take a seat." Edward gestures over to a table laden with various wine flasks. A hearty fire roars behind it.
Isabella places her purse on the dark wood, pulls out a chair and turns it around. Calmly, she sits down to face him, to listen to his side of the story. But Edward is anything but calm. He paces nervously as he tells her the story she already knows . . . yet this time the tale is punctuated with his sorrow, his remorse. It is heartbreaking, but she needs to hear it. And he needs to tell it.
". . . So, while I did kill my girlfriend who does look rather similar to you - it was not out of malice or intent - it was an accident that I deeply regret."
When he has finally finished pouring his heart out Isabella says, "Edward, I know what you did."
Shocked, he asks, "You do?"
She tells him that she had spent the afternoon reading every article she could find about him. She doesn't mention that she had done extensive research in heaven before she had come down as well.
"You know what I did and yet you still came on this date anyway?" His voice nearly breaks.
Isabella can tell he doesn't feel worthy of love and it brings a tear to her eye. "Well. . ."
"That's not logical," he says, reflexively denying the possibility. . .
"Love isn't logical," she says firmly, standing up. Because that's what this is. Love. She barely knows him, but she knows what this is. She needs to explain it to him.
"I've lived my whole life inside the pages of books . . ."
And up in heaven.
"And the other men I've dated . . ."
The other assignments I've had . . .
". . . they didn't compare to the lovers I spent my life with. Anthony. Cleopatra. Romeo and Juliet. Othello and Desdemona."
"All of them died," Edward says with an odd smile.
The best romantic heroes do . . .
"Edward, you're the first to measure up." Isabella tries to hold back her tears as the truth hits her hard from just saying the words . . . "You're the one I've been waiting for."
"You're not scared of me?" He smiles, almost unbelieving.
"Of course I am," she answers. This is terrifying. She takes his hand and places it on her chest. "Can you feel how fast my heart's beating?"
He gulps, glancing at their hands resting together on her chest before looking back at her face. After the briefest of moments, he takes her in his arms . . . and accepts it. All of it.
Their lips meet in a gentle but blazing kiss.
Chapter 6: Part Five
She's finally getting around to adding the antiquarian books she had brought with her to the library's collection. It had been a whirlwind week, what with her blooming romance with Edward and all . . .
"Wipe that dreamy smile off of your face."
"Oh sorry." My, this one co-worker of hers is unpleasant. Isabella nervously tucks a strand of hair that wasn't even out of place behind her ear. "What did you want?"
"I know it's last minute, but the head librarian wants you to go to the Librarian's Conference this weekend in my stead."
Isabella brings a hand to her chest and asks incredulously, "Me?"
"Yeah, you." Her co-worker crosses her arms and pouts. "The new girl. The new golden girl."
"Did she say why?"
"Something about a panel with a focus on antiquarian books. She wants you to talk about the new ones you've brought to our collection. You know, the ones with historical and genealogical information on Gotham's founding families."
"Yeah, 'oh.' So, it's not your skills or your good looks, honey. Just dumb luck." The woman smirked bitterly at her. "Like that man of yours."
"You know all those flowers he sends you?"
Isabella raises an eyebrow.
"That ain't gonna last, hon. Your luck's going to run out."
The vile woman saunters off and Isabella just wants to take a minute to cry, but she is determined not to let her get the best of her. Not at work.
So… where's that book on the Van Dahl's? She wants to study up if she's going to speak on this material in a couple of days and she hasn't even glanced at that one yet.
Kapelput. That name keeps popping up in the book on the Van Dahl's as she makes her way through it. It's an odd name to find there. As far as she knows Van Dahl is a Germanic surname and Kapelput sounds . . .
"Kapelput." Hmmm… said aloud it almost sounds like "Cobblepot."
"Are you talking about Oswald?" Edward asks her as he bends down to kiss her forehead and set some tea beside her chair. They're spending Friday night together. He had assured her that he'd be content just watching her study. She doesn't have time to go to the cinema with him as planned now that she's been asked to attend the conference.
"No . . ." she hesitates. "Well, at least I don't think so."
"Which family is that book about?" he asks.
"The Van Dahl's."
Edward nods. "Oh, that explains it."
"Cobblepot." He takes a seat and says simply, "Oswald's related to the Van Dahl's."
"Really? How?" She turns the book over, then rustles through some pages. "He's not in here and these contain fairly extensive family trees. They've been added to for decades and are quite up-to-date despite their ancient appearance."
"Oswald may just not be listed then because he's the illegitimate son of Elijah Van Dahl."
"That information should be in here regardless. All progeny are listed, including illegitimate ones. These books of mine are quite comprehensive." Isabella scratches her head. "What was Oswald's mother's name?"
"Could it be spelled this way too?" She hands the book over to him, pointing at "Kapelput."
"That looks right." He hands the book back to her. "There is an alternate spelling of Cobblepot and I think that's it. But I'd have to double check."
"Hmmm… Well from what I can tell, the Kapelputs referenced in this book are some kind of aristocratic family and they're mentioned quite often because of their entwined history with the Van Dahl's. But there's no mention of a Gertrud so far."
"I wouldn't expect there to be."
"Oswald told me that his mother worked as a servant for the Van Dahl's – as a cook. So she was far from being an aristocrat."
"Hmm… So, she's not likely to be related to one of these Kapelputs then?"
"Probably not. Elijah and Gertrud's affair was illicit because of her lower station. It's why his parents forbid them from seeing each other."
"But still… the names. It's a strange coincidence."
"And it's a strange coincidence how much you look like Kristen," Edward says and starts to take down her hair.
Isabella puts the book down.
"And how much you don't," he says in a gravelly whisper as his delicate fingers slide through her pale strands.
She looks up at him and accepts his kiss as his fingers trail down her neck and loosen the top button of her blouse.
"Edward," she sighs.
He loosens more buttons as she reaches up to loosen his. They're both methodical in their actions. Careful. They set their clothes aside neatly as they come off. They are so in sync it almost makes her want to cry.
He picks her up, carries her to the bedroom, and lays her gently on the bed before covering her with the full weight of his body. They have made love every night since that first night and she wonders how they are going to handle being apart for two days.
"I'm going to miss you," he says as if reading her mind.
"Me too," she whispers and strokes his cheek. It is smooth. He had just shaved in anticipation of their date that night and it makes her smile. The smell of his aftershave is still clean and strong.
And then he is inside of her and she comes apart at his touch, crying out softly into the night.
Chapter 7: Part Six
Isabella stretches out languidly in bed as a sleeping Edward's arms stay fast about her. She rolls over to face him – to gaze upon him in sleep. He looks so different without his glasses on and with his nose pressed up against the pillow. His hair had stayed neat throughout the night, barely getting mussed at all. He must have used a lot of hair gel. She chuckles quietly.
"Hey, what's so funny?" he asks sleepily, without opening his eyes. Before she can even answer, he has gone back to snoring softly.
She carefully extracts herself from his arms and replaces her body with one of her pillows, which he immediately hugs tightly to himself. Then he buries his face in it, rolls over, and the snoring starts up again. Isabella places a gentle hand on the bare skin of Edward's warm shoulder before leaving for the bathroom.
She turns on the water to the shower and as she waits for it to get warm, she chooses a selection from Vivaldi to listen to. She always starts her day with music.
Spring. Yes, that will do nicely. That particular piece is reminiscent of wedding music to most – perfect for scaring a man off – she should know - it's a tool in her arsenal. Yet, her gut tells her that Edward can handle it. She doesn't mean it as a test for him anyway - she just loves Vivaldi and is in the mood for it this morning. She steps into the shower to the chipper pull of horsehair bows over taut violin strings.
Encased in the glass of the shower, the warm steam that is building is filled with the scent of her shampoo as she applies it to her hair. Soon Edward opens the door to join her and a bit of its floral scent escapes.
"Lilies?" he asks her as he steps in.
"Why yes, Edward. My shampoo is 'Lilies of the Valley.' How did you know?"
"I have an excellent nose," he says and smiles.
He places his hands on her waist and helps her to rise up to her tiptoes in order to reach his fine nose and kiss it. He smiles like a child as she pulls away.
"Turn around." His fingers find their way into her hair as she does. It is still sudsy and heavily scented with her shampoo.
"You do realize that every part of a Lily of the Valley is poisonous, don't you?" Edward says.
"Yes, but they have such an alluring scent . . ."
"That they do," he says breathing in the scent of the air around them deeply as he kneads her scalp.
"Did you know that Lilies of the Valley are the birth flowers of May?" she asks.
"Yes, I did."
"They represent humility, sweetness, and purity," she says succinctly.
"Ah, but do you know what they mean in the language of flowers?" he counters.
"No. Tell me."
Edward turns her around and guides her underneath the showerhead. His fingers are firm but gentle as they glide over her scalp, rinsing it clean. "In the language of flowers, Lilies of the Valley represent a return to happiness."
Isabella smiles as he places a hand on each side of her face, the shampoo now fully rinsed out of her hair. His thumbs trace small circles.
His voice is husky as he says, "It's an appropriate scent for you, Isabella. You have returned me to happiness."
Edward has matters to attend to back at the Mayor's mansion that day so he plans to get fully dressed even before breakfast, but Isabella decides to stay comfortable in her nightgown for a while. She doesn't have anywhere to be until she leaves for the conference later that evening. So, she just dons a robe and sets her hair - drying it and putting it back up into her classic updo all the while sneaking glances of Edward as he shaves.
"What?" he says several times, a bit shyly.
"Nothing," she always answers with an impish grin.
"It's obvious what you're doing," he says.
"Oh?" She wasn't aware that she was doing anything. "What is that?"
"You're going to want to give me an inspection when I'm done," he says with a nod of confidence.
"Am I now?"
"Yes," he says with a bright grin and finishes up, splashing the last of the travel-size aftershave he has at her place on his face. "Okay I'm ready. Do your worst."
"Okay Mr. Nygma," Isabella says and steps closer to him. As she trails her fingers down the side of his right cheek she nods and says in mock seriousness, "Smooth."
He stands tall.
Then runs her fingers down his left cheek and nods. "No stubble here either. Good, good."
Then her thumb finds its way down to his chin and then trails back up to his bottom lip. "I think all is in order."
She leaves her thumb there for a moment as they stare into each other's eyes for a bit. Vivaldi is still playing. Spring has made it all the way to Autumn.
"You have exquisite taste in music, Isabella."
"Thank you," she breathes.
"Did you know that The Four Seasons is most commonly played at weddings?"
Yes. She does. Intimately. She blushes - her music hasn't scared him away at all.
He takes her in his arms and kisses her deeply as his hand trails down to her lower back, pulling her in. She grows warm and yearning under his touch. She even moans a little bit, signaling her desire.
Edward breaks away from her and taps the tip of her nose lovingly. "Uh-uh. No time for that. I've got to make us breakfast."
"How are we supposed to play house if I never get any time to play in your kitchen?"
Isabella just smiles and shakes her head, and then gestures toward the kitchen. "Okay, Edward. Knock yourself out."
The heart-shaped omelettes that Edward had made were already laid before her on the table when he asks, "So what does one do at a librarian's conference?"
Of course, he had presented her with the omelettes – surrounded by the carefully placed strawberries and orange juice and coffee cups – after making her solve a simple riddle.
"It would bore you," she answers.
"Nothing that you could say, do, or think could bore me," as he says as he leans down to kiss her.
"In that case, let me read you my schedule," Isabella says. As she reaches into her purse to grab it, she realizes that now is the perfect time. Kristen's glasses are in there. She's been meaning to don them but has just been too caught up in how happy she has been with Edward. Shame on her for being so selfish. She needs to focus on his needs now. The entire reason she is here is so that she can help him heal. And he is in a good place right now. She believes he's ready to confront some of his memories and face his deep-seated fear.
She slips them on nonchalantly.
"Where did those glasses come from?" he asks nervously when he looks up and sees her wearing them.
But she can't tell him that so instead she tells him that they are her backup pair of glasses and that she usually wears contacts. Edward doesn't answer, just stares at her, sitting ramrod straight in his chair. A slight bob of his Adam's apple is the only indication that he's still alive.
"Something wrong?" Isabella asks, noticing that his hands are visibly shaking. Time to push it. "Edward what is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."
She reaches out for his hand and he pulls it away from her grasp just as she makes contact.
He flees to the bathroom.
Isabella slowly takes off Kristen's glasses and bows her head, praying for Edward to get through this. To be strong. She knows what's going on in there. She had already seen everything through the window onto the world before she had even started this assignment.
Nevertheless, her heart aches for him as he goes through this part alone.
Chapter 8: Part Seven
Edward rushes out of the bathroom and makes his way out through her front door so fast she can't even catch him.
Isabella feels terrible. She had been waiting for him outside the bathroom door, planning to talk with him about what had just happened, but before she even knew it he was just . . . gone.
She tries to tell herself that he just needs some time.
. . . But it doesn't take long before she starts to worry. She doesn't think he should be processing what she knows just happened in there – being tormented by his mind's version of Kristen – all by himself. That's why she had come down from heaven in the first place. She was supposed to be helping him work through all of this.
His phone doesn't pick up. Again. "Edward, it's Isabella. Please call me. I'd like to speak to you before I leave for the conference. I'm worried about you."
Isabella still hadn't heard from him by the time she settled in to read more of the Van Dahl family history. She doesn't need to leave for quite a few hours, but she's already dressed and packed for her trip. She believes in being prepared.
She had already read enough of this particular volume – and the others she had brought with her – to be comfortable discussing those antiquarian books at her panel tomorrow – but she hadn't read enough to satisfy her curiosity. There's still more in here to be discovered . . . she just knows it.
It will be a good way to occupy herself– to lessen the focus of her worry over Edward's fragile state of mind. She knows that if she allows herself to think too much about that it will only end up crushing her heart.
She finds the page that contains the lengthy arrest record of Eric Van Dahl – Elijah's father, Oswald's grandfather. He had been arrested many times, but nothing had stuck. The Van Dahl family had influence. She runs her finger down the page. Assault, assault, murder, manslaughter, rape, assault, assault, rape . . .
He sounded like a monster.
She wonders what finally did him in and if justice had been served on Earth. She finds the record. Suicide.
Poor Elijah had been there.
But Oswald's father had no arrest record. Isabella surmises that Elijah had likely been a good man because he hadn't seemed to pick up any of his father's criminal tendencies despite them having had to affect his life. But then, she begins to wonder if Oswald hadn't inherited some of his grandfather's darkness. She knows his hands aren't clean.
As she looks through the marriage records, Isabella isn't surprised to find that Eric Van Dahl had been married to a Kapelput. Maria Kapelput had been born and raised in Hungary before coming overseas to be his bride. But what she does find interesting is that her sister, Miranda had been the accuser in two of her husband's rape arrests.
And Miranda had never lived in Gotham. She had been a citizen of Hungary.
"How awful," Isabella whispers to herself. Miranda must have been attacked by her sister's husband when she had just been visiting and gotten more than she bargained for. One of those arrests had been made shortly after Eric's marriage to Maria. The other sixteen years later.
She finds a picture of the sisters taken the year before Maria had married Eric. In it, they both have beautiful waves of light curly hair and knowing smiles. But one of them looks more impish than the other as they stand there in identical outfits, arms about each other's waists. They are twins. And once again, that's something that Isabella finds unexpected – and it nags at her.
What is it about this family? There's a secret here.
And then she finds another picture of them . . .
Elijah stands proudly beside his mother and his aunt. He makes quite the dapper young man. Isabella doesn't know which sister is which, but she can take a guess. The one that previously had an impish look in her eyes – in her girlhood photo – now stands there vacantly. It's as if her life is already over. That must be Miranda. Why had she ever come back to the Van Dahl estate, the house of horrors that she had been assaulted in all those many years ago?
Isabella finds Miranda's death record. She had died that very year under mysterious circumstances, back in Hungary. Hmmm… could it also have been suicide?
Isabella flips back to the picture of Elijah with the sisters and notices something . . .
There's a young lady in the background. She's standing just outside the kitchen and she's wearing a servant's uniform. She bears a striking resemblance to the twins. In fact, her long hair is exactly the same as theirs, comprised of loose, soft, light curls. And she's sporting the same impish grin that Miranda is now missing.
"Oh my . . . ." Isabella breathes. "That's Gertrud. It has to be."
Her thoughts are interrupted by a knock at the door.
It wasn't Edward.
As Isabella lets him in she thinks how odd it is that she had just uncovered something about his family and now here he is on her doorstep. Serendipity? Or something else?
Oswald blusters in and gets to the point. "How shall I put this . . . ? It's over."
"He's not going to see you anymore. Do not try to contact him. That door is closed. Have a nice life."
The words . . . his words . . . are like daggers.
What is happening?
Isabella clutches at her stomach, struggling for breath as tears prick her eyes. Can heartache really be this physically painful?
"Oh my," she says and has to take a seat as she tries to process the unfathomable. Losing Edward.
"That door is closed," Oswald had said.
"It is a shock," Edward's friend agrees as he watches her collapse.
He rattles off a few things that she and Edward have in common, but then proceeds to tell her why they of are no value in this situation.
"Edward is person of exceptional intelligence and imagination. He deserves to be appreciated by someone on his own level. And you, my dear, are simply not." He looks down at her condescendingly. "Best to end things now."
"You're right," Isabella says. "I don't deserve him."
"Glad we agree," says Oswald. "Bye."
"But I'm not going to let him go." Isabella stands up – she has more to say before he leaves. Love conquers all. She has absolute faith in that. She tells Oswald, "He loves me. And I love him. Do you know how rare that is, Mr. Mayor?"
Then she sees it. . . In his uptight, almost frozen posture. Her mouth parts slightly as she recalls how he's been defensive with her ever since the first time they met, despite whatever veneer he's tried to use to hide it. But now she knows his heart. He loves Edward too!
She feels a sympathy for him. And not a whit of jealousy. She understands . . .
And she suddenly understands something else, too.
She tells Oswald, "It was my glasses this morning. They reminded him of Miss Kringle. He's afraid he's going to hurt me like he hurt her."
This is all coming from a place of love. This is how Edward's been processing what happened that morning - he doesn't really want to leave her after all. But Oswald is insistent that they break it off, even calling her an idiot in an attempt to drive home the point.
But no, she's not going to let Edward go that easily.
She tells him, "He has nothing to fear. I'm not going to let him go."
"Very well. Don't say I didn't warn you."
Chapter 9: Part Eight
The Mayor gone, Isabella now stands alone in her living room. She sees Kristen's glasses lying on the ottoman and picks them up. It seems too early, but she realizes she has to force the issue now or face losing Edward to his demons forever. And that's not what she came here for.
She checks the time.
He's not answering his phone, but a letter by courier should get his attention. Given that rush hour is soon upon them, it will take Edward quite some time to get here once he receives it, so she won't be able to leave for her conference on time. But that's okay - that is not why she's here - HE is.
She composes the letter and sends it off.
Her complete transformation into Kristen shouldn't take her that long, but she sets out what she needs for it in the bathroom ahead of time anyway. Now for the long wait . . .
She spies the book on the Van Dahls that she'd been reading. Oh, yes . . .
A theory had been nagging at her – in fact, it seemed clear as day – about a long-lost Van Dahl family secret that she might have uncovered from perusing that book. But she needed more facts to back it up - facts that should be easy enough to find among the public records.
Most surprisingly – and in a way, least surprisingly because it was the lynchpin tying everything together – was the fact that many staff employed at the Van Dahl estate bore the last names of Kapelput and Van Dahl. All but one of them could be accounted for in the family tree of the antiquarian book on the Van Dahls – and all of them were illegitimate. The one that was missing was Gertrud. Why was she special?
Isabella had a theory. Eric's arrest record for the first rape of his sister-in-law, Miranda coincided with the birth of Gertrud Kapelput in Hungary. It was exactly nine months off. And, as expected, according to the public records in Hungary, Gertrud was Miranda's daughter – with no father listed on the birth record.
So, Gertrud was an illegitimate Van Dahl – Eric's daughter. And she was ultimately treated like one – eventually being forced to work as a servant at the estate in her mid-teens. But she was never acknowledged as such.
Isabella then realizes she has just uncovered a deep, dark family secret.
Elijah must have had no idea how closely related he was to Gertrud – his half-sister. Isabella wondered if he even knew she was his cousin. In that picture, Gertrude had already been relegated to the kitchen instead of standing by her mother's side. Had she been a lowly servant back in Hungary, too? The shame of her own mother? Gertrud was certainly the shame of Eric – not even listed among his other illegitimate progeny in the book.
And why had Miranda eventually disposed of Gertrud at the Van Dahl estate? Was it because she knew she was planning to kill herself when she returned to Hungary? Had Eric committed suicide upon the discovery of Oswald's birth? His death had followed shortly thereafter. Had that just been a coincidence?
These were the questions that the records just couldn't answer.
But there was enough here between the antiquarian book and the public records to understand just why Elijah's parents were so dead set against the match, and it wasn't just because of their difference in station. Elijah and Gertrude were half-siblings and genetically even closer seeing as their mothers were twins, sharing the same DNA. It was a miracle Oswald had been born healthy enough to survive.
Isabella picks up the antiquarian book once more, holding it in her hands solemnly, her fingers brushing over the textured leather. This information could destroy Oswald politically. From her conversations with Edward, she knew that the Mayor was still trying to find his place among the elite of Gotham. Any scandal could wreck him. And this information had been so easy to piece together just from perusing this book.
What to do with it . . . ?
Edward lets himself into her home. Isabella's still getting ready - still making herself look exactly like Kristen. She's playing one of Kristen's favorite songs, too. This is going to be hard for him, but it needs to be done.
He calls out to her, concerned that she's going to be late.
"I can be late, Edward." She finishes applying her lipstick – a shade only Kristen would wear. "This is more important."
It most definitely is.
"Oswald. . . the Mayor -" Edward cleared his throat nervously. "He informed me of your position, but believe me, I think our breaking up is for the best."
"No, Edward. It's not. I understand your fear. It comes from a place of love." She steps around the door. "I know you won't hurt me. You never could."
His reaction upon seeing her – dressed like Kristen, made up like Kristen, her hair now exactly like Kristen's, a shade of red, not blonde, pulled up into a ponytail – is as expected.
He even calls her Kristen – holds his hands up in defense. Isabella starts to give him a logical explanation that he can wrap his brain around instead of the truth – that she found old pictures of Kristen and made herself up to look like them, but he makes for the door in a panic.
Isabella stops him, grabs him by the elbows, and spins him back into her living room saying, "No, no, no, no. Look at me. LOOK AT ME."
"You don't know what you're doing," Edward tells her, his voice deep with fear.
She slaps him and then grabs him by the neck. "I am forcing you to face your fear. You won't hurt me. Even when I look like this."
His head is bowed again, he can't look at her, despite her insistence.
"Edward." She raises his head, but he keeps his eyes closed. She whispers, "Edward."
He finally meets her eyes. She lets out a breath.
Now's the time . . . she needs him to face this.
She grabs hold of his wrist and slowly draws his hand up to her neck. As predicted, he begins to panic a little, whispering, "No, no, no. . ."
But once his hand is on her neck, she gives him an assuring nod.
His face twitches as his hand begins to tighten around it, not wanting to do what he believes he's destined to do, but doing it anyway. However, she knows she can't die before her time. Which comes in handy because she needs to show Edward that he can't kill her.
Once his grip tightens enough, she whispers his name through her throttled throat. His gaze had been so intently focused on his constricting hand, yet now he returns it to her eyes and his grip loosens as relief washes over his face. His hand stays there as his lips crash into hers.
It is the first time that a kiss between them does not retain some level of softness. It is pure, driving passion. She knows where this is going.
As their lips part, she asks, "Should I take the glasses off?"
"Keep 'em on," he says huskily.
Their lips crush together once again, and she jumps up, encircling her legs about him. The both realize that they have way too many clothes on as he carries her to the kitchen and lays her down on the table. They have a burning desire to connect NOW.
His suit, shirt, and tie are removed within seconds, but Isabella grabs the tie out of his hands before it can make its way to the floor. Impishly she says, "We might need that."
He smiles wickedly and shoves up her skirt. He hurriedly pulls her panties down . . . only observing once he gets them down to her strappy-shoed feet that . . . "Kristen didn't have these."
"No, Edward," Isabella purrs as he removes her satiny pink undergarments. "Those are all mine."
She sits up as they hit the floor and undoes his belt buckle all the way. That wicked, twisted smile returns to his face as her legs wrap about him.
"What are you looking at?" she asks almost shyly.
"Your neck," he says lowly with a dangerous glint in his eye.
Her heart flutters. Oh really? Two can play at that game.
She reaches for the tie that she had set aside, not having finished freeing him from his pants just yet. She makes a knot in it at the base of a loose loop, which she puts over his head. As he reaches down and frees himself from his pants, she tightens the knot, pulling it up to his Adam's apple. But not too tight . . .
She pulls him down to her for a searing kiss and as she loosens her grip on the tie and he pulls away, his hand makes it back to her throat. He presses down on it as he shoves himself inside of her. Hard. And deep.
Isabella lets out a gasp of pleasure. And then his fingers constrict.
His cock feels so good pummeling into her, her bare ass stuck to the table, the heels of her shoes crossing over each other behind his back, that she almost doesn't notice how breathless she's getting.
But he does.
"Isabella?" he says worriedly and loosens his grip.
Good. He's going to be okay. Tears come to Isabella's eyes.
"Have I hurt you?"
"No. Don't stop," Isabella manages, although she doesn't have much breath to talk with. "Whatever you do, Edward, don't stop."
And he doesn't. He buries his head in her neck, arms holding her tightly. She digs her nails into his back, crying out now that her throat is released and she can. They're entwined, locked together in a fierce embrace on top of that table.
At one point he flips her over and with a deft motion wraps the tie about her neck. As he enters her from behind, he pulls back on it, but not enough to strangle her. He gives her time to respond, to give in to it, to go where it guides her. She throws her head back in pleasure and he leans over to kiss her. This time the kiss is reminiscent of their softer ones – in harsh contrast to his strong fingers digging into her hip as he pulls her into his cock again and again and again.
Even though he doesn't know it, Edward can't kill her, but he's nowhere in danger of doing that. He's learning just how far he can go . . . and when to stop himself. What happened with Kristen won't be happening again.
As their lips part, Isabella sighs blissfully with the knowledge that she's helped him to overcome this. Her vision begins to lose focus as he reaches around to tease her nipples and finally take her over the edge.
When she's done and panting, he pulls her up and holds her close to him, his hot, slick chest pressed into her back, clasping his arms over her racing heart.
"Isabella?" he asks, breathing heavily into her ear.
"Yes?" she asks breathlessly.
"I love you." He buries his head in her shoulder after he says it.
"I love you too, Edward," she says and reaches up to stroke his hair, damp with sweat. She really does. He's the only man she's ever had such intense feelings for.
There is a long silence before he says quietly into her ear, "I'm never going to hurt you, am I?"
"No, Edward. You can't." She turns around and they are now face to face, kneeling on the kitchen table together, holding hands. "You're not capable of it."
"Kristen was an accident." She touches his cheek tenderly. "That's never going to happen again."
"I don't want to lose you."
"You won't," she reassures him.
He presses her back down onto the table and they continue exploring the pleasures of an unrestrained passion.
Chapter 10: Part Nine
Edward long gone, Isabella gathers the last remaining scattered items she needs for her trip and stumbles upon the Van Dahl book.
What to do with this?
She turns it over and over in her hands nervously. Poor Oswald. It was already no secret that he was the illegitimate son of a Van Dahl – the Van Dahl estate had been bequeathed to him and he was now using it as the Mayor's mansion. But it had just been so easy for her to piece together his twisted lineage from this book and easily available public records – information that really shouldn't see the light of day.
Yet she knows that there would be an interest in this book at the conference – seeing as it was directly related to Gotham's mayor. And there's so much history here . . . about so many others, not just Oswald. It's an important historical record.
The librarian in her wants it preserved. But the angel in her knows it has the power to destroy the life of Edward's best friend.
And she can't let that happen to him.
So, it is with a heavy heart that she finds some kerosene and a trash bin behind her place . . . a final resting spot for the history of the Van Dahls.
Isabella cries as the ancient book goes up in flames, hot tendrils licking at its fine binding. It absolutely breaks her librarian's heart to see a book burn, especially at her own hands. But it has to be done. To protect Oswald.
As Isabella leaves for the conference, she's humming, lost in the memory of how Edward had reacted upon examining the kitchen table and its surroundings after their little tryst that night. "Boy, did we make a mess!"
She chuckles to herself. She can't wait until their scheduled call after her panel Monday morning – she misses him already.
She had never felt so alive before him. Everything had changed since this assignment. The love, the caring – it's not just one way this time. Even though she has been inhabiting Kristen's body, she feels that Edward knows and loves her for who she really is. And he's the only one who ever has.
Wait! The car's not slowing down. There's a train coming.
"Come on, come on, come on," she says frantically as she pumps the brakes, then screams out for help when she realizes that it's futile.
Oh no, is this . . . ?
As the train barrels into her she realizes that yes, it is. Her work is done. She's been called back to heaven.
"Edward!" she screams out, doubled over as if in physical pain. Tears are racing down her cheeks. No, she can't lose him. Not this soon. This isn't fair. "Edward!"
Other angels race to her side and hold her tight, trying comfort her.
"It's okay, Isabella."
"You're home now."
Isabella screeches back, "I don't want it to be over. I want Edward!"
"There, there," one of them says, cradling her head, stroking her hair. "It will be alright."
"No, it won't." Isabella gulps down big, heavy tears. "I loved him. I LOVED HIM! Do you hear me?"
"She's never been like this," she hears one of the angels in the background whisper to the archangel who sent her down on assignment.
"I know," he responds, perplexed, before bending down to her and holding out a hand to her. "Come with me, Isabella. I think you need to convalesce."
The archangel guides her to a place of rejuvenation - it is filled with big, fluffy, clouds. He lays her down into a space within it just for her to recuperate. "Rest now, dear one. Let your heart heal."
"This is a sad and twisted tale," one of the angels says to the archangel. "I think you need to see."
He shows what he's uncovered to the archangel, who is still worried about Isabella. She's not recovering as she should be. In fact, she hasn't left the place of rejuvenation since she'd first been settled in it and seems to spend all of her time crying or talking to an Edward that isn't there.
The window onto the world opens up to show Oswald Cobblepot ordering a hit on Isabella.
"Wait? You mean Isabella was recalled to heaven by these means?"
"We don't work that way – we have strict extraction protocols." The archangel is utterly shocked. "But yet . . . I thought her assignment was complete. She should have been recalled anyway."
"Well, it was. Her botched extraction is just one of the reasons this case is so odd. And … well, you need to look at this. It gets worse when Edward finds out what his friend did."
The window onto the world scrolls to the near future where Oswald is tied down to Isabella's wrecked car, confessing to Edward that he had ordered her death.
"You should thank me because we both know what would have happened if I hadn't," he tells Edward.
"Yes!" Edwards yells. "I could have lived a life with the woman I loved. I could have been happy."
"No, Ed. You would have killed her."
Edward slaps him across the face. Hard.
"Just like you did the other one," Oswald continues. "You couldn't have helped it. And afterward you would have hated yourself."
"Well, we'll never know, will we?" Edward turns away from him in disappointment.
"I did it for love," Oswald says quietly and Edward spins back around on him.
"I did it because I love you. You should know that."
"Shut up!" Edward yells, grabbing his mouth. "Love is about sacrifice. It's about putting someone else's needs and happiness before your own."
The window onto world goes silent as the archangel contemplates this. All is not lost if Edward still understands love, yet . . .
"Do we have any more from the future to see regards to this matter? I'm afraid Isabella's work may have come unraveled due to a few ill-chosen words from that covetous racketeer."
"The future is muddled."
"Of course . . ."
"But there appears to be a high likelihood of him killing the next woman he falls in love with."
"Ugh." The archangel is disappointed, and shakes his head. "What do we have?"
"Well, it's unclear if he hires someone to kill her – or stabs her himself. But we've got this. . ." He waves his hand over the window onto the world and a faded image comes into view. This future is too far out to be seen clearly.
A raven-haired woman has a hand on Edward's neck and a resigned look on her face as he struggles with something. She says, "Sooner or later you were just going to kill me. It's just what you do."
"Oh no," says the archangel. "That's the last thing he needs to hear."
"It's quite possible," they hear Edward say, and then the two twist about each other within the window onto the world.
"Is that a knife?"
"Hard to tell. The future is so blurry."
They hear a faint, "But you're wrong, Lee," and what looks like the two of them kissing before the future completely fades away.
"These are the parts of the future that are unchangeable?"
"They are the most difficult to alter at this point, yes. Their course is set."
"Hmm…" The archangel needs time to think. What happened here? What went so terribly wrong with Isabella's assignment?
He's bound and determined to find out.
Isabella lies curled up into herself. She can hear Edward play Vivaldi for her. He is curled up too. They are both so sad. Even though they have this connection through music, it is not enough. It is only ethereal.
Yet Isabella clings to it. Every. Single. Note.
It is all she has left of the man she loves. Edward.
The music abruptly stops.
On both sides of the veil.
Oswald has walked in on him, the archangel on her.
"Isabella, we need to talk."
"Yes?" she says, sitting up, instinctively wiping some dried tears from her eyes.
The archangel sits besides her and takes her hand. "Isabella, we made a mistake."
"Yes, in this last assignment of yours. Frankly, I've never seen someone come back so distraught before. So unable to let go."
"Of course, I'm distraught. I love Edward more than I've ever loved anyone in my life."
"I know dear. That's why I looked into it so carefully." He sighs as if he carries a heavy burden.
"What is it?" Isabella asks, a bit of anxiety in her tone.
"We made a mistake. We sent you out – " The silence is deafening as the archangel pauses. "We sent you out to your soulmate and you got extracted anyway."
Isabella gasps and brings a hand to her mouth.
"We don't know quite how it happened though. For some reason we didn't even know Edward was your – " The archangel stops there. "Nor did we –" he sighs heavily and stops again before just saying, "I'm sorry."
"But that means . . . that you have to send me back," she says urgently.
"If Edward and I are meant to be we are meant to be." Isabella is finally animated for the first time in a long time. "This all makes so much sense. Everything's coming together now. Send me back."
"Of course, you can. He's my soulmate. I get to stay with him forever. That's how it works."
"Not in your case, I'm afraid."
"What?" Tears so easily spring to her eyes. She feels like she has an endless well. Why is he stopping this? They made a mistake, they just need to fix it.
"Once your assignment was complete, you were extracted –"
"It was a mistake, yes. But one we cannot rectify."
"Because of how it happened. We didn't –" He interrupts himself. "And, well he's already . . ."
"Already what . . . ?"
"Edward's already seen your corpse."
Shocked, Isabella brings her hands to her cheeks. "No . . ."
The archangel just nods solemnly.
She had still Kristen's red hair that night – she hadn't had time to change it back before she left. Her corpse would have looked just like her. What a horrible thing for him to see. "Oh, poor Edward."
"We just can't do anything to bring you two back together Isabella. I'm so sorry," the archangel says gently, placing a comforting arm around her. "Death has closed that door."
Isabella smells the white lilies as he carries them. Edward's nose had always been so sharp – she can smell them through him. He carries them to her true grave – where she was killed.
Edward stands over the spot and she can hear him speak to her as clear as day.
"The time I knew you feels like a dream and now I'm awake. . . I wish I'd gone on sleeping."
"Me too, Edward."
The scent of lilies between them is overwhelming.
"I will never forget you my love."
"Nor I, you, Edward."
With those words, the tie between their worlds severs and the scent of lilies fades. She will never again hear his voice.