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Be Still My Heart

Summary:
Edward is exceptionally happy to be engaged, and yet he remains conflicted about his feelings, his nature, and the future.


Notes:


1. Chapter 1

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3722   Review this Chapter

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Be Still My Heart

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Bella had accepted. She was going to marry him, was going to be his wife.

His wife.

Careful not to wake the object of his affection, Edward lay utterly still upon the gilded bedcovers. Eyes closed, he listened to the perfect harmony of those two words as they rang inside his head. In a small march of days the news could ring out to the far corners of the world – that is, if Bella would allow it – and he could not contain his joy.

Edward mentally skipped backward to the moment they’d reached his room and she’d slid toward the middle of the bed, then let his thoughts glide forward again in a slow replay. It was rare that he chose to relive any moments of his existence, but this had been an extraordinary night.

He grinned as if the shadows on the ceiling were congratulating him. She’d thrown him a few curves – and in more ways than one – yet it all worked out so much better than he’d have dared imagine. Bella might not like to hear the words out loud, but like it or not, they were engaged.

The formal change in their status meant, among many things, that Jasper now owed Emmett a thousand dollars. However, Edward had no plans to tell Bella that sordid detail...

A breathless laugh shook him, and he quickly surveyed his love’s upturned face to make sure he hadn’t disturbed her. Bella had fallen asleep against him, one arm draped across his waist, the other wedged between them. The hand that held his had gone slack some time ago and he carefully slipped free of her grasp, sliding his fingers down along her wrist.

His happiness faltered as he touched the rough bit of wood. He’d managed to forget it existed. Resisting the reflex to bare his teeth, Edward ignored both the mongrel’s totem and the ugly way it made him feel, and gently inched the bracelet around to find the heart-shaped diamond on the other side.

Remembering her reaction to his gift, his smile returned. “Good practice for you, too,” he’d told her slyly, knowing it hadn’t been her first opportunity. She obviously never realized he’d started their evening together by practicing something else – that, lost in a kiss, he had carried her over the threshold before saying, “Welcome home.” Edward laughed again. He’d been wanting to try it on, to see how husband would feel, and it fit so perfectly Bella hadn’t even noticed.

The easy success of his newlywed drill had given him too much confidence. He’d been thinking he was getting better at reading her, at interpreting the signals from the thoughts he couldn’t hear, but he’d been so far off the mark tonight it was embarrassing. Her reluctance to speak, the flight of her heart, the heated blush on her beautiful skin...

How could he have been so blind? Here he’d been the one playing husband, and yet when she wanted him to behave like one he hadn’t understood.

It wasn’t his mistake alone. Bella hadn’t understood what she was playing at either, or she wouldn’t have pushed him.

“Then don’t refuse,” Edward whispered, forcing her desperate words through his scorched throat as the slow replay of his memory continued. The sensation of her soft lips, her warm body molded against his, her trembling fingers unfastening the buttons of his shirt...

The poison began to crawl through his veins with renewed rage. “Just purely physically – I will always be thirsty, more than anything else.” Bella stated the facts perfectly, but failed to apply the principle. She had too much faith in him to realize that her pleading passion, her unqualified trust in his self-control, was like Lucifer’s whisper at his ear.

Edward tipped his head back on the pillow and swallowed the pooling venom before he choked.

He wanted her too much...wanted her love, her body, her future, her blood. It was as if she’d been fashioned out of his every desire, woven from needs that were more than a century in the making. Edward had no illusions: he was at the same time a desperate man in love and a violent monster, and he was pushing their luck as surely as he had pushed his ring on her finger tonight.

He had no right. No right at all. Nevertheless, he would soon have the responsibility...

His wife.

Edward rolled the diamond charm between his fingers once more, his thoughts turning darker. “My heart is just as silent,” he’d told her. Literally, yes, but in the figurative sense, nothing was further from the truth. His transcendent heart, the one Carlisle always wanted him to listen to, was as full of feeling as any living man’s.

And he would never admit to it, but there was something more to Carlisle’s suggestion. Like the post-war amputees he’d studied in medical school, Edward had begun to imagine strange feelings in his chest lately...the vague beating of a “phantom heart” he knew wasn’t there. Maybe he was simply losing his mind.

Either way, in this quiet gloom a metaphor seemed inadequate; the stillness within his chest was a perverse companion to the rush of life inside the girl he held in his arms.

By contrast, the sound of Bella’s heart filled the room. It was like an irresistible musical refrain...a song he couldn’t get out of his head. It drove him mad, and caused him so much pain, yet still, somehow, listening to its rhythm was his only measure of comfort.

There was no making sense of it.

He closed his eyes again, his lips finding their way to her warm brow. She was a dangerous habit, but he was beyond any hope of rehabilitation and her blood was a relentless siren. Edward inhaled deeply, as he often did in secret, and allowed the intoxicating scent to fuel his fantasies, both sacred and profane.

“I swear to you, we will try. After you marry me,” he’d vowed. At pace with the coursing venom, intimate images flooded his mind. He imagined how it would be...how her fragile body would take him in, surround him, love him...

Even now he could feel the charge of electricity. He studied her face again. Bella would willingly surrender anything he asked of her, he knew. She wanted to be his forever. Just one slow, sensuous taste and she could be...

He was a fool. He had to stop this, had to stay in control.

Edward turned his head away, raggedly gasping for safer air. When his body had regained some semblance of calm, he carefully and silently slipped from Bella’s side and left the room.

The lights had been left on downstairs and Edward moved through the house, shutting them off as he buttoned his shirt with one hand. He finally went to stand before the large window. Raising his arms, he locked his hands behind his head, still breathing purposefully. The searing pain in his throat had begun to dull enough that he could almost ignore it.

He stared past his silhouette in the glass. The lawn was a thick black carpet stretching away from the house, and an outline of the trees and ferns beyond was just visible in the dim light cast by the moon.

Although the impartial landscape had a soothing effect, Edward’s conscience was restless.

He had willfully painted himself into this corner, confident he could manage. At the rate he was going, however, these twisted bouts of self-torture would soon go beyond his control.

It wasn’t simply that he hated to fail at something, which he did, or hated to admit how perfectly correct Carlisle had been about everything. No. It was far worse than that. His resolve to preserve Bella’s soul was weakening and it made him angry.

It was their first day of Biology class revisited: as tempered by love and the lure of destiny as it might now be, the red-eyed monster was mapping out its selfish plans again. It used every circumstance against him, systematically wearing down his will. And Bella was in league with it.

Divided and confused, Edward instinctively reached out for a steadying hand. Sifting the stream of thoughts in his mind for Carlisle’s voice, it took only a moment to find him.

“It’s his decision, Esme. No one can make it for him.” Carlisle’s thoughts were always so deliberate that Edward was positive the same words had been spoken aloud. “Not even Bella.”

You should be firmer with him, Esme thought. However, she chose to say, “What will he do?”

Edward was not surprised to find himself the subject of their conversation; he often was these days. After all, this decision, and how long he took to make it, affected the entire family. It affected their existence here in Forks, their relationship with the Volturi, the treaty with the Quileute dogs, everything. Bella most of all. Until he committed himself, even Alice couldn’t know for sure and it left them all at sea. Edward felt a pang of guilt.

“I’m not certain,” Carlisle replied. “Whatever he chooses, I know it will be what he believes is right.”

“If he decides not to change her, are you truly willing to do it?”

Esme had her reasons for preferring Carlisle didn’t get involved, but she wouldn’t stop him. She, too, believed Bella’s transformation was for the best. They all did. Rosalie was still jealous and sulking, of course, but Edward was the only real holdout.

“If the time comes and he has not, or will not, then yes, I will.”

“Bella is a dear girl and she loves our Edward unconditionally.” Edward could easily imagine Esme’s kind smile. “I understand his hesitation, but it’s strange that he has resisted this long. It’s what they both want.”

“Yes and no. It is a commitment...a sacrifice none of us has ever made in this way before.” Carlisle hesitated a few moments as he considered how much to say. “I’ve helped him all I can.”

Edward could sense Esme’s love for him and Carlisle both, although she simply said, “I know.”

“Only he can decide if he’s ready to believe.”

Their thoughts turned back to hunting then, and Edward tuned them out. There was no sense in listening to them make a kill or feed; he’d just gotten himself calmed down.

He needed something to fill the void, though, and his own thoughts drifted to what Carlisle had said. I’ve helped him all I can.

Over the years they’d engaged in thousands of existential conversations, applying various epistemological concepts to their endless experiences. Carlisle was always challenging him with new ideas. But none compared to the discussion they’d had after Bella entered his life.

Edward had run away to Denali at first, full of temptation and hate, to think and regain his strength. To recommit to his purpose. It wasn’t until he returned that Carlisle set his mind on fire. Nearly every word of that conversation was burned into his memory. It had changed everything, and set him on this path...

...

“I wanted to kill her, Carlisle. She has the sweetest blood...sweeter than I thought existed. In an instant I was ready to throw away every shred of discipline I’d accumulated these eighty years. That’s why I had to leave. I’ve never felt so...desperate,” said Edward, the burn of shame still vivid.

Carlisle sat behind the mahogany desk in his office, his eyes following Edward as he paced wildly before the gallery of pictures.

But you resisted.

“Barely, and I’m not sure how.”

The mechanics of will and resistance is a subject we’ve discussed many times. I’m more interested in what you think it means.

Edward felt like a thick-headed student. “It means...it means...nothing beyond the obvious!” he ground out, trying to keep his voice down.

Tell me about her.

He waved his hand impatiently. “She’s insignificant.”

I see. Yes, from the state you’ve been in since you met her, that’s just the word I would have chosen.

The arch of his father’s eyebrow would have been amusing if it weren’t for the implications.

“Dig deeper, Edward,” Carlisle said aloud. That made it more of a command than a request.

He didn’t think he could dig deeper – not without embarrassing himself. Nevertheless, Edward knew he needed help more than he needed his dignity. Resigned to an inquest, he tried to stand in one place.

“She’s just a girl,” he replied, shrugging uncomfortably. “Attractive, I suppose, by human standards. Odd...”

In what way is she odd?

“I...I can’t hear her thoughts. Not one. And–” He sighed.

Go on, Edward.

“Before I caught the scent of her blood,” he said, an excess of venom in his mouth at the mere thought of it, “I had wanted to...I’d felt...a compulsion to protect her.”

For a few moments he was overwhelmed by the surge of ecstatic thoughts in Carlisle’s mind. As they became more organized, Edward became uneasy. He could see the direction their conversation was about to take.

Carlisle was going to drag out his mystical theory again...his belief that as creatures superior to humans – in terms of intellectual capacity, strength, beauty, the ability to move faster than the known limitations of the physical world – they were living a temporal existence between humanity and divinity. That they were some kind of...angel. Fallen angels.

Only his deep respect for his father prevented Edward from scoffing. When it came to these subjects, when they discussed their purpose on earth, the nature of souls, and the pursuit of spiritual perfection, they never agreed.

“What does any of that have to do with Isabella Swan?” he demanded preemptively. “What possible connection could there be?”

Carlisle’s thoughts were very clear now.

Try to set your presumptions aside, just for a moment, and consider the possibility.

“You cannot be serious,” Edward said flatly. He started to pace again, his own thoughts racing. “My eternal companion? How could such a frail, weak human ever–”

I admit it is not easily explained, but your reaction to her cannot be ignored.

“Oh, I assure you I had no intention of ignoring it. I wanted to savor every drop of her blood!”

But that was your second instinct, Edward, the second. Think! The first instinct you had – the one that counts most – was to stand as her protector. Can you not see what it might mean?

Edward shook his head stubbornly. “No, I can’t. It means nothing!”

Nothing?

“I was curious...irritated because I couldn’t listen to her mind.”

I see. And?

“There was nothing but silence...and the hateful thoughts the others had for her,” he said bitterly, remembering the frustration he’d felt at the time.

And it bothered you – those hateful thoughts?

“Yes!” Edward suddenly realized he’d been tricked into a revealing answer. “No,” he amended quickly, but it was too late. His father’s eyebrow was arched again.

It’s all right, Edward. Carlisle smiled at him. This is not a failure.

It certainly felt like one to Edward.

I’m proud of you. It took me two centuries to gain the control and self-awareness you’ve demonstrated with this girl. I never mastered the loneliness, however. If I had, you would not be here today.

“But I am not lonely. Not the way you were. I don’t need a...companion.” It made him feel strange to say the word.

Not lonely in the same way, perhaps, but you’re unfulfilled. Unchallenged. You’ve lacked a purpose worthy of your potential.

“And somehow,” he paused, completely incredulous, “this...Isabella Swan is that purpose?”

That is for you to discover. Listen to your heart, Edward.

“But that’s what you believe?”

You know what I believe.

He did indeed. Carlisle had long held the notion that there were many angels of pestilence, and that vampires were but one kind. He also believed their family represented a beginning...a new order of earthbound, fallen angels who were committed to the reclamation of their souls.

Unlike others of their kind – including the ancient Volturi – they would abstain from human blood. By developing the discipline to live benevolently among their intended prey, they might learn to dedicate their energies to a higher purpose, each according to his gifts: Jasper, an angel of the spirit; Alice, a messenger; Esme, a caretaker; Rosalie, an avenger; Emmett, an angel of war; and Carlisle himself, a guardian.

Carlisle’s theory may have been influenced by doctrine ingrained centuries ago by his Anglican pastor father, but it did arguably explain the facts. Nevertheless, Edward could never reconcile himself to the idea. It was too easy...too hopeful to believe he still had a soul that could be saved.

“We cannot control destiny any more than humans can,” Carlisle said aloud, “although our will can shape it, alter its course. We’ve been given an opportunity to be something more, Edward. To be perfected. You especially.”

Edward found it difficult to look his father in the eye. He couldn’t embrace this vision, couldn’t see himself as one day becoming some kind of righteous destroyer.

“I am grateful for your faith in me, and in my...future, but–” He sighed, wishing he could say something else. “I’m afraid I’ll be a disappointment to you.”

Carlisle leaned back in his chair, his hands folded in a thoughtful pose. You possess the most potential among us. You know the thoughts of humans and our kind alike. You have exceptional strength of will, and perhaps most importantly, you are violently committed to justice. Your destiny is–

“Angel of destruction,” Edward said with an empty laugh. Under his breath he added, “At least I’m likely to be where Isabella Swan is concerned.”

You seem determined to misinterpret the definition.

“I can’t separate myself from the things I’ve done.”

Nor should you try. We have not chosen an easy life, Edward. It’s a process. All I ask is that you carefully consider this turn of events.

“You’re asking me to consider that my eternal companion may be a pathetic girl for whom I momentarily felt pity, then very nearly killed?” he joked, knowing it wasn’t funny. It was too ridiculous to be funny. “Please be serious–”

I am perfectly serious. Carlisle frowned. The spontaneous, unbidden instinct to protect a specific human – particularly an attractive one – is virtually unknown to us, Edward. How would you explain it?

He couldn’t and Carlisle knew it.

Let’s cast it in different terms. You find her physically attractive–

Edward opened his mouth to argue.

By human standards, Carlisle added to avoid the objection, and her blood is the sweetest, the most seductive you’ve encountered in eighty years. And to compound these temptations, her mind is a mystery to you – theoretically a distinct predatory advantage since the absence of her thoughts would allow an absence of distraction and immediate guilt on your part. Correct?

He nodded, wishing he could erase all memory of her.

And yet...she lives.

Feeling strangely powerless, Edward suddenly had nothing to say.

Carlisle appraised him for a few moments, a strange smile on his face. Have you read Swedenborg, Edward? He was a contemporary of mine during the seventeen hundreds.

“I don’t believe so.”

Receiving the answer he obviously expected, Carlisle rose from his leather chair and went to his wall of books. After a brief scan he selected a surprisingly updated paperback from one of the shelves. He tossed the book, entitled Conjugal Love, onto the desk where Edward could reach it.

“You want me to read this?” Edward asked doubtfully.

Just a suggestion. I leave it up to you.

...

“Conjugal love perfects an angel, uniting him with his consort, in consequence whereof he becomes more and more a man, for, as has been said, two married partners are not two but one angel,” Edward whispered, reciting a passage of the Swedenborg book from memory.

He sighed.

Carlisle had certainly known exactly which buttons to push, and once Edward opened his mind to the possibility of a companion...to the idea of love and destiny...of becoming one angel, it hadn’t taken long.

The events in Volterra had changed him too. Through Bella, or his feelings for her, his destiny had been altered, had moved the whole family closer to Carlisle’s mystical vision of their purpose. Edward now found himself in a position he could never have imagined he’d be in: standing between the Volturi, or vampire law, and a living girl.

If Caius or Jane...Demetri...if any of the Volturi...or even Victoria and her brood of newborns tried to take Bella from him, they would witness Carlisle’s righteous angel of destruction, the like of which the world has never seen.

Edward flashed a cruelly brilliant smile then, the change of expression drawing attention to his reflection in the window. His hands were still locked behind his head, and for the first time he noticed that his arms resembled folded wings.

For nearly a minute, his laughter filled the room.

He was on a slippery slope, he knew, but when his thoughts were clear like this, Edward came close to believing that nearly anything was possible...that there was still a chance Bella could be his life, his wife, and his future without sacrificing her soul. That he might be perfected by a spotless marriage...that he and Bella might, in some unearthly way, become one angel.

His wife. Was it a fool’s dream? Probably. Carlisle would tell him to listen to his heart.

He laughed again, but cut it short. Bella had cried out from upstairs.

Before the echo of her voice died, Edward had flown up the stairs and now stood at the edge of the golden bed. Bella was agitated and mumbling but still asleep, although she might not be for much longer if she didn’t calm down.

She seemed to sense he was there; her muffled words began to sound more like his name and a blind hand searched the empty space beside her.

Gliding smoothly between the sheets, Edward reached around for the top cover, then pulled it over her quivering frame. She would sleep better bundled completely away from his cold body, but he could not resist putting his arm around her waist and drawing her against his chest.

Bella’s heart raced at his touch and she instinctively reached for him, pulling herself up by his neck. “Edward...Edward...”

“Yes, I’m here.”

The smell of her blood swirled around him and he deliberately stopped breathing. His throat burned with hell’s fire again.

A faint smile curved her mouth in sleep, and her fingers played in his hair for a few moments before they wandered along his jaw. A single fingertip traced his lips. Despite the thick bedcovers between them, he could feel every curve as she pressed closer.

“Edward...”

He kissed her softly and neither withdrew.

“I love you,” she whispered against his lips.

Although he would not have believed it possible, Edward’s phantom heart skipped a beat.

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