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Twilight A World Without Sound

1. Playground
"Why the hell did you say that about him!" I yelled at the little punk as I threw him against the chain link fence. "Hey woah!" he cried. "Is this about the retard thing? 'Cause, c'mon, he is slow, you can't deny it - " I cut him off by kicking him in the stomach; not too hard, but hard enough to leave a bruise. His breath wheezed out in a quick 'woosh'. He clutched his stomach, clenched his teeth, squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and slowly slid down the fence, till he was slumped over on the ground. "He's not stupid," I told him coldly. "He's deaf. And he's about ten times smarter than you are obviously, because you should've known I wasn't going to let you make fun of my best friend like that. You don't even know him, you jerk." "'Best friend'," he breathed mockingly through his still clenched teeth, as he stared up at me in pain and loathing. "Yeah right. I've seen you; you're always all over him, you slut." I didn't hit him this time. I just shrugged it off and walked away toward Edward's house. I didn't mind too much what he said or thought about me; I knew it wasn't true, and my own honor I didn't really care enough to fight for or defend. Edward, howeverwas a different matter. Ever since we met when we were five, we'd been best friends. I'd always been patient; and he needed a patient friend, something no other five year old was. Growing up is hard, but it's even harder when you're trying to understand the world but everyone in it is talking andyou just can't hear it. He'd had to learn sign language, but as he was very smart he accomplished it (flawlessly, I added fondly in my head). But not enough people knew it to make things easier for him. His teachers, his family, and me. But other kidsthey didn't know it, and it was hard for many to understand that he just couldn't hear them. It had seemed impossibleas a result, many had thought he was slow. But that was when we were children, and it infuriated me that even now, at the age of eighteen and nearing the end of senior year in high school, some people were still that stupid and ignorant. I myself had learned sign language for him, sometimes with him, because I've always loved him. Edward's my best friend. Wellit was hard to admit to myself sometimes, but honestly, over the years my love for him had surpassed friendship. It encompassed everything; he was my light, he was my world. It surrounded him. Sometimes it seemed like he felt the same way, but I couldn't be sure. Anyway, sign language wasn't the only thing I'd learned because of him. I was also a black belt in karate, (pretty cool, right?). I'd asked my mom to enroll me when I was very young, because I wanted to protect Edward from the meanness of people, even back then. He didn't know that was why I'd learned karate. I just told him it was fun. He had merely laughed then and shook his head, amused; he was a gentile person. Fighting wasn't him. He probably could if he wanted to; but he found no reason to do so.

Edward was definitely the better of us two. I glanced at my watch and saw that it was almost four o'clock. School had let out almost an hour ago. Usually, Edward and I either went to my house or his together to do our homework and then hang out. But today, I'd told him I had some business to take care of first. I didn't tell him what it was. I doubt he'd be approving. Thankfully, he didn't ask, because it was hard to lie to him. I mean, I didn't really think he needed me to save him; just the opposite, because I always thought him so much stronger and better than I. But I had a defensive, protective side when it came to him. I just couldn't help it. I guess that develops when you love someone a lot. You don't want them to get hurt; and even if people's nastiness didn't hurt him, it most certainly hurt me. He deserved so much better than that I pulled out the spare key from under the Cullen's welcome mat and stepped in the house. This was practically my second home; I no longer had to knock, really. "Hey Esme!" I called out cheerfully as I passed the kitchen. "Oh, Bella!" Esme said to me. "I made cookies just now. Want one? They're ho-ot" she said in a sing-song voice, making it very inviting. "And how exactly am I supposed to resist that?" I asked, in mock outrage as I walked into the kitchen. It quickly turned to me smiling at her though, as I took one of the cookies from her outstretched hand and bit into it. "Mmmit's edible!" "Oh hush!" she laughed, literally kicking me in the butt out of the kitchen. I giggled as I headed toward Edward's room on the third floor. "Thanks for the cookie!" Edward's door was slightly ajar. It usually was, but even when it was closed, it was never locked. That would be dangerous in an emergency. I slipped inside and saw the beautiful man sitting on his huge bed, back turned toward the door as he bent over his homework, always the studious student, especially now that exams were coming up. I bounced on his bed hard to alert him to my presence, but before he could turn around I threw my arms around his neck, leaning my head over his shoulder to grin at him. His answering smile was beautiful and angelic. "Bella," he said. It still almost brought my eyes to water to hear him say my name. He only could say a small amount of words - just his name, his families.and mine. I had no ideahow very, very hard exactly it must've been for him to learn to speak the small amounts of words he could. For months, I'd had to sit with him and slowly pronounce my name, letting him see my tongue's movements, and nodding or shaking my head if the sound he made was right. But he wanted to learn my name, he had told me, though it was so very difficult And he did. I loved him even more after that; that he would care enough to go through the whole frustrating exercise. Almost done with homework?, I signed, and he turned to look from my face to my hands in front of him.

He nodded quickly and smiled, before turning to me again with a more serious look in his eye. So, where'd you go? Ah, crap. I just shrugged and prayed he would let it go, letting my arms around him fall as I turned to drag my backpack onto the bed. When I turned back around he was looking skeptical, but he didn't sign the question again. He knew me well enough, I suppose, to understand I wasn't going to answer. I felt slightly uncomfortable; sometimes it felt like he could read my mind and see right through me; like he knew exactly what I'd been doing. I changed the subject hurriedly. Hey you, can you help me with this Calculus? You're a lot better at it than I am. He grinned cheekily and slid over so our sides were touching. My heart sped up as usual, but I showed no outward signs, and that was good. I pulled my notebook over our adjoined knees and he started helping me. You surpass my math teacher by far; she just rambles on and on, I can never understand her. I don't even think she's talking about math most of the time. He chuckled, and I reveled in it. It was one of the view times I ever got to hear his melodic voice. That, or you're just not paying attention, you goober. I stuck my tongue out at him and rolled my eyes, turning back to my homework. Thanks, I signed, a sour look on my face. He smiled brilliantly, and hugged me tightly then, laying his head against my hair in a silent joking plea for forgiveness. I shook my head. No, no, I won't forgive you. I couldn't see his face, so he didn't see it coming. But suddenly his hands were at my ribs and I was flat on my back, shrieking with laughter. "Ahhhh! Stop, Edward, stop!" I screamed, gasping for air. He couldn't hear me, but he could get the message. He stopped then, and pulled back, smiling innocently at me as my laughter subsided. But for a brief moment, as I looked over, I saw his normally happy, peaceful expression darken with something akin to deep sorrow andregret? What? Edward, what? He looked at me broodingly a second before looking out the window instead. I wish I could hear you laugh. I'm sure it's pretty. I sighed and sat up, placing my hand on his cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned forward till our foreheads were touching. I shut my eyes too. We stayed like that for a little while, before I felt Edward's breath sigh against my face and he pulled away.

Thank you, "Bella,"you can always make me feel better. I smiled sadly and rubbed his arm. He flashed me a quick crooked grin, though it didn't quite reach his eyes, and he turned back to his homework to finish it up. I scooted over and rested my head on his shoulder as he worked. I closed my eyes and a memory overtook me.

"Hey you!" A five year old girl in a yellow sundress, specifically picked for her first day of school, bounced over to a cute little boy with bronze hair, sitting alone in the corner of the playground. "I haven't seen you yet! What teacher do you have!" He looked up at her, eyes drawn together in confusion, but he didn't speak. "Why are sitting here alone? Come on, come play with me!" Again, there was no answer, no sign that he had heard her other than the fact that he was paying attention to the cheerful little girl. Slowly, he put his hand up to his ear, and shook his head. The girls brow wrinkled in confusion this time. "What?" He pointed to his ear again, and shook his head. The girl copied him, and asked, "What, you can't hear?" He didn't answer, not positive whether she'd gotten it right or not, and just continued to look up at her. She shrugged. "Well oh well. Let's go play with the tetherball! C'mon!" This time, she reached down and grabbed his hands, yanking him up and dragging him after her.

I didn't know then that that moment was the seal for our everlasting friendship. I looked over at Edward's face. He was looking at me from the corner of his eyes questioningly. I knew what he was silently asking. Just thinking about the day we met. You remember? He looked out the window and thought back. As he did, a smile slowly formed on his face until he was positively glowing. It took my breath away. Of course. That was one of the best moments of my entire life. I smiled up at him and hugged him tightly. He reciprocated the action. I don't know what I would've done if I hadn't met you, "Bella,". I reached up and kissed his cheek.

Me too, Edward, me too.



My dreams were pleasant as usual, because they all centered around Edward. How couldn'tthe dream be good? We were alone somewhere, maybe on the lake that was nearby in our "little" city of Phoenix, and he was holding me. It was night time, but the moonlight shown bright, illuminating his perfect skin. Honestly, just with the holding part and sitting somewhere, I could've believed this was real. Except that his mouth was running soft, burning trails up and down my neck, and he was...talking. Whispering, really. Sweet, sweet delectable words in my ears. I felt a little guilty, trying to perfect his "imperfections" when he was more than fine to me the way he was. But oh well, I hadn't quite mastered the art of controlling my unconscious night time excursions. The only real problem was that there was this little buzzing going on around us; louder than a mosquito, and ten times more annoying. It would start, then when I would swat around the place, it would stop for a few minutes. And then it just kept buzzing. Shut up!, I just wanted to scream, but didn't want to distract Edward, who seemed perfectly at ease. That is until someone yanked the covers out from under me, and almost sent me toppling to the floor. "Ahh!" I yelped, and reached out for something. A strong pair of arms caught me before my face could become too well acquainted with the carpet. I looked up into the eyes of my alarm clock and savior, knowing who it was because he always came over in the mornings and made sure I was awake in time for school. I smiled at him as he set me on my feet. Do you think one day you can get up to the sound of your alarm clock, instead of waiting for me to do it? I laughed and looked over to my alarm, whose snooze button was going off, yet again. That's what the noise in my dream was, I guessed. I reached over and turned it all the way off, refraining from hitting snooze again. I smiled up at Edward. Why would I when I know you'll just come over and dump me unceremoniously on the floor? I wouldn't give that up for the world. Edward laughed out loud, throwing his head back. I relished the sight of his strong, lean neck, the tendons standing out as they strained against the skin taut from his head leaning back. The sunlight coming through the thin orange curtains over my window made his skin glow warmly, differently than the moonlight in my dream. I smiled softly, taking in his majestic beauty. He sobered up after a few moments and looked down at me, still grinning. Get ready. You know where I'll be. Yup. Devouring the food in my kitchen, as per usual. But since I didn't have a car, only borrowing Renee's when I could, I owed him his breakfast for giving me rides everywhere in his shiny silver Volvo.

I took a quick shower and pulled on some dark blue jeans, and a long v-neck black blouse. It was long-sleeved, and it curved over my butt, but it was really thin so I couldn't get hot, and very comfortable. It was my favorite article of clothing, aside from all the shirts I'd stolen from Edward over the years, and especially the black jacket he'd given me. He'd owned it when we were much, much younger, so it sorta, kinda, (not really), fit me now. I didn't get to wear it often outside though, because it was just too hot in Arizona. Inside the safety and solitude of my own room, however, was a completely different story. I was brushing my hair as I walked downstairs, before pulling it back in a low, messy twist at the nape of my neck. I walked into the kitchen with my messenger bag and saw Edward sitting there, chewing on an apple. Always so healthy, I signed, smiling. I, however, am going for the totally delicious, totally sugar-filled, totally bad for me Lucky Charms. I'm not always healthy, he grinned. But when I am, just remember it's really your fault. You put the habit in me. I rolled my eyes. I didn't put anything in you. It was your choice. He just smiled benignly at me while I ate. I chewed the cereal slowly, recalling when we both - well, just me, really - had to have good eating habits; but he adjusted to them too, anyway.

A twelve year old girl sat glumly in the dentist's office, grimacing and wincing frequently in reaction the pain in her mouth. The young boy next to her, who had waited in the waiting room for all of the two hours that the procedure had taken, scooted his chair even closer - if it were at all possible - and squeezed her hand tighter, rubbing his thumb over it gently. She looked up at him unhappily, her new braces feeling awkward and painful scratching against her mouth. He smiled at her, and leaned over to give her a hug. Her mother leaned over and gave her another one too. "It'll be okay, sweetie," Renee whispered. "We just got to wait for the dentist to give us a bit more information, and then we can leave." The little girl immediately looked over at her friend, whose brow was puckered in confusion and aggravation at himself as he watched the girl's mother's mouth move. She extracted her hand from his a second and signed what her mother had said for him. Renee sighed, completely entranced and dumbfounded by this complex relationship that had been going on for about seven years now. The dentist walked in then, and the young girl cringed into her friend's side, gripping his hand tighter. He squeezed it comfortingly in response, and rubbed her shoulder. "Hello, Bella," said the dentist, smiling at her. She stared wearily back. He chuckled and continued, "I'm sure you just want to get out of here as soon as possible, all the patients do..." He allowed himself another small chuckle, but stopped, confused, as he saw the little girl's hands moving furiously fast, signing everything he was saying to the boy next to her. His eyes slid back and forth between them a few times as her hands became still again when she was done. "Your brother?" asked Dr. Agala doubtfully. She shook her head. "My best friend," she said simply, as Renee said, "Her best friend," at the same time. The girl looked over at the confused again boy and signed, Just saying you're my best friend ever, buddy, and not my brother, she grinned. He smiled back at her, happy. But how

many times had she wished he was her brother when they were younger? Now, though, she was eternally grateful he wasn't. It would have been wrong to fall in love with him then. "Yes, well, erm," Dr. Agala cleared his throat and began again, "Just a few things you need to be aware of Bella. While you have your braces, you're going to have to be really careful about what you eat. I'm sure you don't want to hear this, but it pretty much entails no hard candies, no taffies, no caramel...well, really no candy at all, and keep the sweets to an absolute minimum, being sure to brush well immediately after. No hard food, gum, no popcorn, and if you chew on ice, that's out too. Don't bite in to whole apples, or any kind of whole fruit you have to chomp into; make sure to cut it up into bite size pieces. Here's why..." He pulled out a little pamphlet from his desk and showed her pictures of what could result if she broke the rules. Horrified as she was by this information, she signed it all to her friend regardless, then met his eyes. They were wide, and full of horror, just like her own. You can't have candy! he signed, terrified. Helplessness was mirrored on both their faces. Renee pursed her lips as she looked down at the pictures of damaged braces. "Rest assured," she told the dentist, "She won't be eating anything she's not supposed to." The girl gulped, and the two friends were now clutching both their hands to each other frantically, as they tried to grasp on to some kind of happiness and justice in the world. "But MOM!" the girl exploded as they exited the orthodontist's office a little while later, signing everything to her friend immediately, habitually; and finding her new braces to be most cumbersome as she talked. "All my friends who have had braces ate all that stuff, and nothing ever happened! They just worry too much!" "Bella," said Renee warningly. "I don't care what your friends did. That was up to their parents. You, however, are my daughter, and I'm already paying 4,000 dollars for these braces; I'm not adding to that because you don't feel like going without gum for two years." "And anything else that's good in this world!" she wailed, while the bronze haired boy nodded fervently beside her. "Bella," Renee repeated in her rarely used stern voice, and the girl sighed, knowing she had lost. Later on, when they driven to the girl's house - the boy was staying a while longer yet Renee went to take a shower, and the boy pulled the girl over into the kitchen, made her sit in a chair, and let out a gust of air, as if he were about to declare something very, very serious. The girl looked up at him tersely, awaiting whatever he was about to sign. "Bella," he started, pronouncing her name slowly. I just want you to know...that if you can't eat anything good for the next two years...then I'm not either. We can suffer together. The brown haired girl gasped, her big brown eyes widening. Oh Edward, she signed, You don't have to do that. Not for me. He grinned at her. Too bad. Because I am. Sighing again, the girl stood up and hugged him tightly. Enough was said in that gesture; her gratitude and love. No other words were needed...or signs, as it were.

I felt my shoulder being tapped, and I blinked, realizing I was sitting in Edward's car, parked in student parking at school. I looked over at Edward's handsome, angelic, grinning face.

You in there, sleepy head? I shrugged. Not really. I think I dozed off. Just remembering when I had braces...I shuddered. Ugh, I don't know how you stood me. I looked so stupid, and dorkier than normal, if that's at all possible. I felt Edward's finger under my chin, coaxing it up. I raised my head and looked into his impossibly gentle, beautiful, sparkling green eyes. He smiled slightly, though looking perfectly serious, and removed his hand to sign, Are you kidding me? You looked so cute with braces. He hesitated, and continued. You always look cute. Or gorgeous. Or beautiful. It varies. But never bad. That's impossible, for you. I blushed like mad, but continued holding his gaze. His stare increased in intensity as the moments passed, and from my peripheral vision I saw his hand raise slightly, as if he were going to extend it to me. But then he just turned around and quickly opened his door, getting out and walking around to open mine. I sighed. The day passed fairly quickly. Most of my classes were pretty boring, especially now that we were just reviewing. The only fun ones were the ones I had with Alice, which was history, English, and math. I didn't have any with Edward, because he had to take special classes with a teacher who knew sign language. It wasn't remedial or anything like that...it was the same level as me: advanced. He just needed a teacher he could actually...you know, understand. There was only one other deaf person in the school, and they made up that class of two. The only time I ever got to see Edward was in between passing periods when he walked me to class, and at lunch, where the three of us sat together. Last year had been even more fun, because their older brother, Emmett was here. But he was in college now, along with his long-term girlfriend, Rosalie Hale, and her brother - Alice's long-term boyfriend - Jasper Hale, both of whom had also sat with us last year. Alice rarely drove with us to school because Jasper would pick her up and drop her off before going off to the nearby university he, Emmett, and Rosalie attended. I figured it was very convenient to get a few before and after school make-out sessions that way, as well as hang out time. The two couples tried going out as often as possible too, which is why I rarely saw Emmett anymore, or Alice, except at school. It'd all be much easier once summer began, and we could all attend the same school again in the fall. So how was your day? Edward signed after he had helped me into the car, then sat down himself. Any immediate questions he wanted to ask had to be done before we left, because he could hardly do it while driving. And though, 'how was your day', was usually a throw away conversation starter, it wasn't with Edward. He was honestly concerned, and wanted to know. Boring, I signed. As usual. Nothing new to report really. How about you? Anything happen to you today after lunch? He shook his head, smiling. Not that I'm aware of. Good. I turned the radio on as we drove to my house. He was about the only person who ever let me even think about touching the radio, but as he couldn't hear it, it would've just been downright greedy to not let me pick a channel. I had a feeling though, that even if he could hear, he'd still let me put it on any station I wanted. I didn't sing as I heard a few familiar songs, though I wanted to; I was very aware of the wistful, depressed look that would darken Edward's usually cheerful eyes if he saw me singing, wishing he could hear it, as he had told me numerous times.

When we walked inside, I waved toward the kitchen as permission for him to get his eat on, before I waved down the hall to where my work-out room was, letting him know that's where I'd be. I don't know why I continued to do this; he wouldn't go to the kitchen, he'd just follow me. First though, I had to go change into my stretchy aerobic pants, but I could leave my black top on, because it was fine for working out. I left him in the guest room which Renee had deemed my work-out room, and bounced to my bedroom, pulling on my clothes. After how much the lessons for karate had accumulated over the years, when I graduated as a black belt Renee told me I had damn well better practice almost every day, and prove to her that all her money and time hadn't gone to waste. I promised, and was only too happy to oblige. I had to practice, stay in talent with the martial arts, for whenever I needed to violently stand up for Edward. Secretly, of course. I hopped back to the room where Renee had put down "wooden" (or imitation, as it's so much cheaper) floors, and hung a punching bag. I had been really touched when my usually flighty mother had shown such thoughtfulness, and I still appreciated it more than I could express to her, except by using it everyday. Edward was sitting against one of the walls, study guide for math already balanced on his knee. He glanced up and smiled slightly when he saw me, raising his head all the way. I wasn't sure why he liked watching me practice, since he had made it very clear that he thought me learning karate had been a waste of my time. Every time I asked him, though, he would never give me a straight answer. I sighed and rolled my neck, getting the kinks out of it, and started my stretching exercises, trying to ignore my audience, as usual. Also as usual, though, it was quite easy to sink into the familiar movements and forget that someone was watching me. I started with stretching my sides, putting my legs an even distance apart and reaching one arm over my head pulling straight to the side, not forward. I was rewarded with the familiar tight stretch going from my arms, to my sides, to the back of my knees. I pulled a bit, stretching it more, before switching to the other side. Then my arms. I pulled my arm to the side of my face, grabbing my upper arm and pulling it closer. Again, I did this with the other side. To stretch my back a bit, I did a quick tight back bend, and came back up slowly. And now for the leg exercises. Keeping my feet that same even distance apart, I bent down, keeping my legs straight, and touched the floor with the flat of my palms, and holding it. I was snapped back into reality when I heard Edward groan softly, and then saw his feet walking toward to door; probably to the kitchen or somewhere else. I sighed. He did this sometimes, and I figured it was just because it was boring to watch me stretch. Still, it made me sad when he left, especially knowing it was my fault. But I meanc'mon, it's not like I made him come in herebut the thought still didn't quite erase the guilt. After my stretches, I practiced a few stances, and went a few rounds with my punching bag, working on my hand jabs and roundhouse kicks. Finally, about an hour later, I was done. I walked into the kitchen, covered in sweat and gasping for breath. Edward looked up as I stomped over to the fridge to get a glass water. When I turned back around, he was still staring, mouth slightly agape. Meeting my gaze, he quickly ducked his head back to his nearly-finished review.

I sighed. I could try to fool myself and pretend that he thought I looked good right now, but I couldn't deny the truth. I knew I was a mess. It was a mark of our friendship that he never made a comment on my 'after-work-out' condition. I sat down across from him, gulping my water down quickly, and wiping my forehead of the sweat and long tendrils of hair plastered there. When I looked back up, Edward was staring at me again. I stared back, silently daring him to make one wise crack. Suddenly, he flashed me a small grin. You'd better take a shower. We're going somewhere tonight. Oh, we are, are we? Not, 'Bella, do you want to go do something?' Just, we are? He rolled his eyes exasperatedly. Cut the sarcasm a bit please. If you don't want to go, by all means stay. I scowled at him. Oh, hush, you know I'm gonna go. Where are we going? He flashed me my favorite, breath-taking crooked smile. You'll see.

3.Cake Mix
What am I supposed to wear, Edward? I signed exasperatedly, turning away from my recently upturned closet, to where Edward was sitting on my bed, an extremely amused smile lighting his face. Would you like me to pick for you? I rolled my head back in annoyance. I guess you're going to have to! Because I have no idea where we're going and you won't tell me! So how am I supposed to know how to dress? Alright then, come with me. What? I signed, a flat look on my face, and didn't budge when he lightly took hold of my elbow and tried to drag me out into the hall. Well, "Alice," has it of course. My mouth fell open and my jaw locked as I took a step back from him, completely furious. Edward. Cullen. Are you telling me you had an outfit the whole damn time, and you just sat there and watched me completely wreck my closet! He looked down and grinned sheepishly. Sorry, he signed, letting out a nervous chuckle. I'll help you clean it up later. Forgive me? I glowered at him and didn't sign anything as I stomped out of my room, to the front door, and into the passenger seat of the S60R. His face was on full pleading mode when he got in, the expression truly heart wrenching. I looked out my window, refusing to look at him for fear of giving in. I felt his hand under my chin though, turning my face toward his. I didn't really have a choice; the only way he could talk to me was if I could see his hands.

I'm really sorry, he pleaded, his archangel face full of such believable regret, though I knew it was just there to turn the odds in his favor for my forgiveness. That was mean of me, but you're just so adorable when you're frustrated. My cheeks burned, as they always did with his compliments. So that's how he was going to play this: with flattery. Damn him - it was working. I rolled my eyes and half-shrugged. Does that mean I'm forgiven? I scowled, but nodded, looking out the window. When I glanced over he was smirking triumphantly, and then we were speeding toward his house. It just wasn't justice. How did he always win? His house loomed into view, and he helped me out, holding my hand, when we had parked. I expected that to be the end of it, but then he pulled me in for a hug. I really am sorry about your closet, he signed when he pulled back. I'll help clean up. Swear. I sighed. It's fine Edward. I'm not really mad. He grinned crookedly, and pulled me toward him for another quick hug, dropping a kiss on the top of my head, before dragging me into the house. Go find, "Alice,", he signed, while I go get ready too. I nodded, and bounded past him to the second floor, where Alice's lair resided. I pushed open her door when I got there without knocking, and was rewarded with the sight of her standing on her bed, singing quietly but exuberantly into her hairbrush, occasionally doing some air guitar to the song she was listening to, and sometimes jumping around wildly. I smirked, and leaned against the door, awaiting the moment she beheld me. Mid-verse she turned toward the door, and her smile and dancing immediately dropped, her arms falling straight to her sides. "How long have you been standing there?" she asked flatly. "Long enough, my friend," I grinned. "But please. As if you haven't found me in enough embarrassing situations." "Exactly!" she exploded, throwing her tiny arms up into the air. "I see you! I usually see these things coming. I'm not supposed to get caught." "Well you're not psychic Alice," I told her soothingly, "So stop acting like it." I shoved off of the door frame and walked toward her. "Now, Edward tells me there is some sort of outfit that you have for me, which is what I'm going to have to wear tonight to an oh so secret occasion." Alice smiled radiantly all of the sudden. "Oh Bella, trust me, you'll love it. I think it'll be fun for you two. Anyway, follow me to the Closet of Wonders. Let's see if we can dredge up that carefully handpicked dress." "Dress?" I asked flatly, stopping dead.

She rolled her eyes. "Get over it; you'll like it. It's very 80s chic. And not the tacky part of the 80s either, the good part." "I can hardly wait," I commented dryly, as I followed her into the Monstrously Outrageously Unnecessary Humongous "Chamber of Secrets", as I so fondly like to refer to her closet as. "Into the mouth of the mouse it is, I guess." Mouse was how I pronounced my nickname for her closet, which shortened is MOUHCS. I had decided that it could be pronounced like mouse, and it was now Alice's and mine's inside joke. It quite confounded people sometimes when Alice and I walked out in public and they caught snippets of our conversation; they couldn't understand a context where shoes could possibly be hidden in a hidden corner of a mouse. It made me giggle. Alice started flicking through her million articles of clothing, while I just leaned on one leg near her, completely apprehensive. "Ah! Here it is!" she finally exclaimed triumphantly. "Good thing too or Edward would've killed me if I had lost it; he actually helped pick it out, if you can believe it." She turned around and held up a black dress. "Tada!" Alright, so it actually was pretty cute. It was a short dress, and I had a feeling it would only go a little past mid-thigh. The skirt waspoofy? I guessed the word was. Almost poofy, but not as lame as that word usually entails. It had a nice bodice top, covered in thin lace with a delicate flower pattern on it. I actually really liked it; not that I would admit that, of course. I was supposed to be a jeans/shorts only girl. (Pic on profile) "'Kay, strip," Alice ordered, gazing at me sternly. "Yes sir, Sergeant," I muttered, taking off my clothes. "It's General," she sighed, and I looked up at inquisitively, removing my jeans. "Jasper and I were playing this Civil War game on his Xbox, and he got to be a Major, but I was only promoted to General!" She jutted out her quavering lower lip, in full pout mode. I stared at her. "UhAlice? A general far outranks a major, just to let you know." Her eyes widened and her mouth dropped. "Really!" She abruptly became furious. "That lying bastard!" she seethed. "He told me he won!" I laughed out loud, completely and utterly amused not only at her reaction, but also at the mental image of her chewing him out about that later. Alice yanked the dress over my head roughly, still pissed at her revelation. She zipped the back up and shoved me toward her full length mirror. "Observe it, love it," she growled, glaring at the wall. Perhaps I should've waited to tell her that Jasper lied to her about him winning until after I was out of the lion's den. Shaking my head, I looked into the mirror. I actually looked pretty presentable, I thought. Nothing extraordinary, but at least the dress fit. And I'd been right, the dress only came to mid-thigh. Alice dragged me out into her room and glanced at the clock. "Oh hey, it's almost seven!" she exclaimed. "Get going, Edward's going to be waiting for you." "Alright," I said distractedly, my mind wandering off to the possibilities of where we were going and what we were doing that would require this dress, but was brought back into reality by Alice's shriek after I'd taken only a few steps. "Wait!" she cried. "No wait! Wait right here!"

She dashed back into her closet hurriedly and was out before I could blink. "Forgot something in the mouse," she grinned, something held behind her back. I eyed her suspiciously as she approached, before she whipped a fedora hat from behind her back and slammed it down onto my head. "There!" she said happily. "Outfit complete! Now get going, you crazy kid." I rolled my eyes. "Thanks Alice," I said, before walking out. I hopped down the stairs, and saw Edward leaning against a wall, waiting for me. My jaw almost dropped, but I kept it in check just in time for him to look up at me and smile. He was looking illegally dashing in casual black slacks, a white button-up, and a black vest. You look great, he signed, an enthusiastic gleam lighting his eyes. Not too shabby yourself, I signed back, grinning lightly. Biggest. Understatement. Of the year. Seated in his Volvo, I saw that the sun was starting to go down. Not quite sunset yet, but almost. The sky was stained pink, orange, and baby blue, with dashes of purple. It was breathtaking. Still not going to tell me where we're going? I asked as he started the car up. He grinned cheekily and shook his head. I sighed, but I wasn't disappointed, because I hadn't expected him to tell me anyway. Edward and his surprises

A brown haired girl of fifteen years of age walked glumly home from her part-time job as a receptionist, a very lucky job offer for someone that young. To just list a few reasons why she wasn't exactly in the best of moods, one could start with the fact that a few of the clients calling today to make appointments were extremely impatient and rude; talking far too loud into the receiver, yelling their complaints, sighing exasperatedly - loudly, and all those other enjoyable things annoying people do on phones. Then there was the fact that tomorrow was her dreaded birthday, where gifts and attention were most likely inevitable, unless people actually listened to her this year. And then there was that slight annoying detail of her best friend being too busy with something to come walk her home. She sighed. She knew she shouldn't be so greedy with his time, always expecting him to be there 24/7. But he always was, so it was hard not to expect him all the time. Her feet took her to the Cullen household out of habit, because that was where she usually went after school or work. She hesitated outside the door, though. What if he was still busy with whatever he was doing? Oh well; she could handle being told to go to her real home. Maybe. She opened the door and walked in. At first, everything was silent; no one seemed to be home. She listened for Alice's loud music playing through the house as a sign that she was there, or Emmett's video games being played on the television in the den. Carlisle was still at the hospital, working, she knew, and Esme was off discussing renovations with some client's home.

She was about to just go home when she heard a loud "Argh!" come from the kitchen. She recognized the rarely used voice immediately, and ran over to the kitchen, prepared for any emergency. She stopped dead when she hit the doorway though. There was cake mix everywhere. On the walls, counters, floors, and a bit on the high ceiling too. And then there was Edward, completely covered in it, looking dumbfounded as he stood at the island with an electric mixer and a bowl in his hand. She couldn't help it; she burst out laughing. She doubled over, and had to hold onto the door frame for support. Glancing up through her eyes swimming with tears, she saw her best friend wiping the mix off of his face, a very annoyed expression on his scowling face, and his face burning bright pink. "Oh, Edward," she giggled, walking forward. Observing the mess, she stood next to him and regarded the mixer, guessing it had just been on really high a few minutes ago. She shook her head, still giggling. That's what you get for disobeying my direct orders and trying to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, she signed, an amused expression on her face. It's fate's way of telling you to drop it. He rolled his eyes, still scowling, face still aflame with embarrassment. He glared at the counter, and she finally realized how stupid he must feel right now. She touched his arm. Oh c'mon Edward, I'm laughing at the situation, not at you. You have to see the humor in this predicament. Grudgingly, he grinned slightly, and wrapped his arms around her after hers had already gone around his waist. Spotting some chocolate cake mix still on his chin, she reached up and scooped it onto her finger, before bringing it into her mouth. Well, it would've been a good cake, she joked, before looking into Edward's face. His held the strangest expression as he stared at her; she wasn't even sure how to describe it. But it immediately sobered her up. Finally, Edward pulled away. Help me clean this up? he plead, crooked smile plastered on his face. Before Esme gets home? She laughed, and together they started scrubbing.

We were at the boardwalk near the lake. The boardwalk was always a fun place; always something to do here. But I knew we had come for something specific. It was only after we'd gotten out and Edward had started leading me toward a big crowd of people dancing and jazz music playing that it finally clicked. I stopped, and smacked his arm. He merely looked at me with wide, innocent doe eyes. Don't even look at me like that mister, I signed, my expression menacing, What the hell! You know I can't dance, and you can't even hear the music! His eyes tightened fractionally, and I immediately regretted my signs, but then he was smiling and the tightness was gone before I could apologize. Oh c'mon, "Bella,", you're always saying you want to work on your rhythm. Here's your chance. You can help keep me on rhythm, too.

I shook my head sadly, letting it drop. I can't Edward! And you have natural rhythm anyway, so you'll be much better than I am; plus you watch TV so you know what to do. But I can't lead, I can't dance, and I don't even have an excuse. "Bella," he said softly, but I didn't look at him, still staring at the ground. "Bella," he repeated, a little more firm this time. His hand was under my chin and he was gently turning my face up off the ground. You'll be fine. I'll look stupid. Who cares? I just want you to have fun. And despite what you think, I'll sure as hell be looking just as stupid as you think you will, because at least you've got beat on your side. I shook my head again, but it was in defeat, and I was smiling as only Edward could make me. Fine. We can look stupid together, I guess, but you're going to regret this. I doubt that. He grinned. And there's no one else I'd rather make a fool out of myself with. I couldn't help but to laugh, and proceeded to let him drag me over to the dance floor. So, Miss Hearing Intact, lead me. I stood unsure for a moment, before I took his hands and started dancing awkwardly to the upswing music. I felt really stupid at first, but as time went on I started getting better, and Edward started leading me, once he realized what dance I was trying to doAnd plus we just started copying the people around us. It actually was pretty fun. Laughing, hands together, we jumped back from each other, before pushing towards the other again, then swinging around. See! You got it, Edward signed excitedly, letting go of me briefly, a big smile on his face. He took my hands again, and picked me up off the ground and twirling. I let out a shriek of surprise and laughter, and giggled when he put me down and the song ended. Edward didn't realize it, obviously, and was about to continue but I stopped him. Hey, it's a slow song now. That dancing isn't called for now. I grinned, and turned around, prepared to walk elsewhere and get a drink, since I wasn't sure whether he would want to slow dance with me. It was a bit intimate, and as desperately as I wished we were together, we weren't, and I didn't want to put him in an awkward position. Strong arms wrapped around my waist and pulled me back into a hard chest. And where do you think you're going? he signed, his hands in front of me. I couldn't see his face, and I didn't answer. I just started swaying with him, closing my eyes. I felt his chin drop to my shoulder, and he exhaled a soft breath. I sunk my back into him, wishing that this wasn't just a slow dance between friends. I sighed, and let my head fall back on Edward's shoulders, listening to the lyrics of the peaceful, almost sad song, that definitely wasn't jazz. The colors of the rainbow, so pretty in the sky, Are also on the faces of people passing by. I see friends shaking hands, saying, "How do you do?" They're really saying, "II love you."

The song was almost over when Edward's chin left my shoulder. I felt a stab of disappointment, until I felt his warm breath on my neck. My breathing increased pace, wonderingit almost seemed like he was about to kiss it. He felt close. But the song ended then, and the show was over, and the crowd started breaking up. We got shoved accidentally by a group of people, and Edward's sturdiness was the only thing that kept us on our feet. Regardless, whatever moment that may or may not have happened, it was over now. I wanted to flick the people off, but it wasn't really their fault. I felt Edward take my hand, and I turned around to face him. Thirsty, he asked? He was smiling, but his eyes weren't as lit up as they could be. I wondered if it was because of us getting shoved or something else. It was so hard to tell with him sometimes. A little, I signed back. But let's just go back home. He tilted his head, his smile shrewd. Not specific enough. My house or yours? I rolled my eyes. Same thing, really. Yours. I'm spending the night, I already told Renee earlier that I was. He laughed out loud as we started walking back down the boardwalk to his car. By all means, "Bella,", invite yourself to my home whenever you feel like. No need to ask the people that actually do live there. Fine, I'll go to my house then. Or not. I don't want you to go. Thanks. I smiled up at him. Thanks for tonight. Really. As much as I hate to admit it, I actually had a good time. Yeah, I know. I'm pretty good at guessing what you'll like. I wanted to slap myself to get my mind back from where it began to wander at that statement. But if only we could apply that to a different situation You okay? he signed, concerned at my conflicted expression as he helped me into the Volvo. I flashed him a tight grin and a double thumbs up. He chuckled and rolled his eyes, getting into the driver's seat. I sighed. If only he knew. We started speeding off toward his house then. But I was already home; home was wherever he was.

Edward pulled me into house when we got there, around eight thirty, and dragged me to the kitchen. Hungry? I giggled, as he started digging into the fridge. I'm a guy, what do you expect? I'm always hungry. What do you want to eat? I shrugged, not exactly ravenous. As Edward made himself a sandwich, I went into the cabinet and pulled out a cup, then got some cool, refreshing ice water.

I leaned on the island casually next to Edward, and started to sign something. He stopped what he was doing, and took in my hands. Thank god sandwiches don't require electric mixers, right? Is that why you're making it? Hard to get it to explode all over the kitchen. His jaw tightened while his lips pressed together, annoyed. He drew himself up slowly to his full height and glared down at me. I bit my lip to hold back the laughter threatening to explode out of my mouth. Go away, he signed, You're not welcome here, you tiny annoying thing. Though he was irritated at the unwelcome memory, he still meant it as teasing outrage between friends. But I still grinned at him, and turned away, starting to bound out of the kitchen and to the stairs. "Bella!" he called out behind me, but I didn't stop. I'd meant to leave anyway so I go get changed in Alice's room. I could hear his frustrated groan from where I'd left him and considered going back and telling him I hadn't really taken him seriously, but changed my mind. I'd let him know later if he was still hung up about it. I barged into Alice's room again, like earlier, and found her with a phone in her hand. "Hey Bella," she said. "Thought I heard you come in. Sit down; I have to make a quick call and cancel some plans." I crawled next to her on her big bed, and sat, curious. She pressed her fingers to her lips set in an annoyed line, I noticed - and pressed talk, bringing the receiver up to her ear. "Hello," she said into the phone, and I could hear a strain of forced politeness color her tone. Suddenly, I smirked. I had an idea of what was about to go down...and was so glad I was here to witness it. "Is Jasper there? Thank you." She was silent for a moment, before I heard a short buzzing sound from the phone; Jasper greeting her, unawares, no doubt. "Hello, dear," she said menacingly, the politeness completely vanished. I put my fist in my mouth to stop from laughing out loud. "I was just like to inform you that I was recently informed on a slight detail in the inner mechanics of the military. Do you have any guess as to what I was told? Hmm?" There was the buzzing sound again, longer this time. Although it also sounded like it was stuttering. A small giggle escaped me. "Bullshit!" she suddenly exploded, and I jumped. "Do not even give me that you jackass, you play that god damn game everyday, so don't tell me you didn't know, and were mistaken!" The buzzing began again but she cut it off. "Yeah? Yeah? Mhmm. Really. I totally believe you. Not. I could've felt so good if you hadn't liedto me, and made me believe I didn't do well! My self-esteem was crushed Jasper Whitlock Hale! I thought you cared about me more than that!" I didn't honestly believe she was that torn up about it, but Alice didn't like to do things halfway. "Okay. Right. Well you're 'uninformed' ass can go see that damn movie yourself, you liar! Can not even believe you," she fumed. "Would it have been so hard to just admit that I won? That I beat you on my first try, even though you've played that game everyday for years? I just don't understand how that could have wounded your ego Jasper. Bit beyond me, really."

She was silent for a few moments, before she gasped in shock, a wounded expression twisting her features. "What do you mean I'm being a sarcastic drama queen! That's it Jasper. First, you lie to me. And now, you insult me. Way to go. Don't bother coming over. I've got Bella to comfort me for now, since she was the good friend that told me about your 'mistake'." My mouth dropped, and I shook my head furiously, slicing the air in front of my neck frantically, telling her to drop it. But it was already too late. She hung up without saying good-bye, then sat there for a short moment. Suddenly, she burst out laughing. "Oh!...I do so love messing with him," she giggled, grinning. "His reactions when he thinks I'm really angry are always so hilarious...and usually pleasurable too." She winked suggestively at me, and threw back her head again, her laughter all silver and wind chimes. "What?" she finally demanded after she'd sobered up, noticing my glare. "WHY did you tell him it was me who told you!" I exploded. "Now he'll be after my blood." She rolled her eyes. "He's not going to attack you Bella. And don't act scared next time you see him, for gods sakes! He'll just pick up on that, you know, and use it to his advantage to really intimidate you." I shook my head and jumped off her bed, heading toward her closet. "Hey, are my pajamas still on the second to the bottom drawer in the upper left corner of the mouse?" I paused, then added, "You know, where I have to head northwest for a bit, before doubling back east around Shoes Mountain?" She let the ribbing about the size of her closet slide, and asked, "What? You're staying the night?" "Yeah." "Give me a moment," she said, and picked up the phone again, hitting a button and putting it to her ear. "Jazzy? Jaz? Honey? Baby? Yeah, I changed my mind. Get me out of here!" "ALICE!" She smirked at me. "Yeah, see you in a little bit. Love you, bye." She hung up and looked at me innocently. "What?" "Why don't you want to be here?" I demanded, turning towards her completely and putting my hands on my hips. She rolled her eyes and explained exasperatedly, "Because Bella. You and Edward are torture to be around; staring at each other with goo goo eyes and too scared to act on it. Honestly, you guys are two sexual eruptions waiting to happen, and I sure don't want to be here when you both explode." I smacked my hand to my forehead and pulled down. "We're not having this discussion again, Alice," I said flatly. "You don't know he feels like that." She opened her mouth furiously, but then closed it, shaking her head. "Fine Bella. Fine. I'm not going to bother arguing with you, oh Ruler of the Idiocy Corner. You'll realize it soon enough," she muttered, and I saw her smirk slightly. My curiosity ignited. "What? Alice, what?"

"Hmm?" she asked, looking up with the doe eyes she and Edward were so good at. "What do you mean what? Why is there anything? There's nothing." "Right," I said skeptically. "Keep your secrets then." I went into the mouse and changed, hanging up the dress and hat carefully. When I was at home, I liked to wear sweats to bed. But whenever I tried that here, Alice...well, to put it nicely, she liked to inflict injury upon my person. So I pulled on the smooth silk blue shorts she'd gotten for me, and a black cami. Alice followed me in, and started fixing up her appearance quickly. She was already dressed, and her make-up was done. Which let me know she was never really going to cancel with Jasper. We chatted for a few minutes before the doorbell rang downstairs. "Damn. He's fast," I blinked, surprised. "He sure is," Alice said slyly, winking at me. I laughed, and shoved her. "Ew! TMI Alice!" She smiled and danced out the door and down the stairs. I walked slowly down, not wanting a confrontation with Jasper at the moment. But - just my luck - he was still there. "Hey Bella," he said, giving me a tight grin as I passed the door, heading toward the other half of the living room, as we called it, that was separated by a wall. He put two fingers to his eyes and then pointed them at me. He did that a few times quickly, glaring. "Uh...have a nice night?" I muttered hesitantly, face turning red, and scuttled out of the room quickly. I could hear his quiet chuckles and then the front door closing. I breathed a sigh of relief. I walked in and saw Edward at his piano. He was sitting at the bench, fingers poised over the keys, but was staring off at the wall, unmoving. Ah, Edward and his piano...and pianist fingers... I sat down next to him and smiled. Gonna play something? He looked at me, startled. Sure...I guess. What do you want me to play? I shrugged. How about that new composition? He nodded and began playing. His long fingers moved languidly over the keys, and I tried not to think about what else those fingers could do. The melody elicited by his minstrations was beautiful, and though I'd heard it a few times, I was still in awe of our own personal Beethoven...a hope that those who were deaf could still make beautiful music. I remembered when he first began learning the piano...

Mom! the little boy of seven exploded when Esme walked through the door. Mom! I watched this video in music class today and I realized that I really want to learn piano! Can I, can I, can I, can I, please? The little girl hopped off the couch where she'd been sitting next to him and sidled over to him, smiling up at her second mother. "I think he'd be good, Esme! He could do it, I know he can."

Esme stared down at us, her expression torn. I...don't know...she signed slowly. Edward that's...going to be really hard. I'm not sure...if you could do it. He looked at her, his face completely broken. He nodded, and let his chin drop to his chest. The little girl put her arm around his shoulders, rubbing his arm. Esme sighed, and lifted up Edward's head with her finger. Fine, we'll give it a try, okay? His cute little face lit up and he smiled and shook his emphatically. He turned and picked up the girl's hands, and together they jumped up and down in excitement, pleased with their victory. Esme made the appointment that day, and ordered a private tutor to come and teach her son at their house. The baby grand piano had always been there, since it'd been an inheritance from Carlisle's parents when they'd passed away, and Carlisle had inherited their loads of cash, among other thing; like the piano. The tutor came the next day, and the little girl sat on a chair near the piano bench, where the boy sat, wriggling impatiently; eager to learn, as always. The tutor was a lady in her 40s, and had a strict but kind aura about her. Esme led her inside the house and over to the piano. The lady sat down on the bench next to Edward and smiled. "Hello," she said pleasantly. "And what's your name?" Edward looked over at his mother, who'd sat down in a seat nearby. She quickly signed what the tutor had asked. "Huh?" the lady asked, taken aback. "What...is... he deaf, m'am?" Esme nodded, an instinctive defensiveness tightening her eyes. "He is. I'm here to translate." "But..." said the lady, flabbergasted, "But this quite impossible! If he can not hear the music, he will never be able to play right. M'am, I'm sorry, but I think you're wasting your money. I don't think he'll be able to do it." And even though she'd said almost the exact same thing before, Esme was abruptly furious. The boy looked from his tutor, to his mother, to Bella in confusion, but not even she was paying attention to him, her mouth gaping open in fury at the woman's bold accusations. "Really?" Esme snapped, getting to her feet while her eyes glinted dangerously. "Then you don't know my son, and please don't even act like it's impossible for him to learn because he's deaf, or do you need to catch up on your history? I'm sorry, but have you never heard of Beethoven? I'm a little concerned with your competency as a piano teacher in that case " And she continued ranting and storming in that manner for a good long while. The boy was completely frustrated. His friend wasn't signing things for him like she usually did. She wasn't even looking at him! He was angry, and aggravated, at not knowing what was going on. Impatient, he punched her in the arm to get her attention. She gasped, and looked at him, hurt and shocked. Her arm didn't hurt really; but even though he was a little boy, and they were always rambunctious, he'd never been violent or rough toward her before. His narrowed eyes widened then, and he stared in horror at her arm. I'm sorry! he signed frantically. Bella, I'm so sorry! I wasn't thinking, I didn't mean to hurt you... It's okay, it doesn't hurt, she reassured him, rubbing her arm slightly. His expression was still guilt-ridden though, and she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. Really, I'm fine.

His cheek burned where she had kissed him, and he looked down, embarrassed, as little boys often are at displays of affection from the opposite gender. But Esme was done shouting at that point. Edward, she signed to him, her expression menacing as the tutor left the house, completely indignant and furious, That's it! You're going to learn piano if it's the last thing I ever do! Thankfully, it wasn't.

I slept in Alice's room whenever I spent the night. But I didn't often stay there. It was a new moon outside the windows, and completely dark in her room. I sank into the sheets, her sleeping form peaceful in contrast to my restless one. From the room next to hers, I could hear Emmett's loud snoring. I smiled slightly. Edward was lucky in one aspect; at least he didn't have to listen to that. I sighed and tossed again. I felt Alice kick me. "Stop moving Bella," she mumbled sleepily, and then began snoring lightly again. I sighed again. Great. I couldn't get comfortable here - I never could, not knowing that Edward was close, but not close enough. I kicked the covers off me, and slipped out the door and into the hallway. Though I was practically blind in the complete darkness, I found my way to Edward's room easily. I could find it no matter what, I was so used to the route. Silently, I cracked open his closed door, and slipped inside. He was still awake, shockingly, though it was one in the morning. But it was a Friday night...well, Saturday morning, so there was no school to get up early for. He was sitting up in bed, with a lamp on, reading. He glanced up from his book, and gave a small jump, surprised. But it quickly relaxed in a grin. Knew you'd be coming soon. You can never just fall asleep in Alice's room, can you? Do you want me to? Nah. He opened his arms, and I gratefully crawled onto his bed and into them. He placed his book on his bedside table and turned the lamp off. I turned on my side, and he wrapped an arm around my waist, pulling me against his chest. I sighed, and relaxed. His body was warm next to mine, and comfortingly so. I wrapped the sheet closer to me, and closed my eyes, feeling myself slipping closer to dreamland, faster than I ever could when I was alone. I felt him drop a soft kiss on top of my head. Keeping my eyes closed, I whispered, "I love you, Edward..." into the darkness. But he couldn't hear me.

When I woke up in the morning, I could still feel Edward's arms tight around me. Smiling with the warmth and feel of them, I turned over into his chest. He was still asleep, and I took him in. I had trained myself to wake up earlier than him on weekends - kind of ironic, since I should've started that habit for school, but why, when Edward would wake me up? - just so I could watch him sleep. His face was smooth, even

more peaceful than when he was awake. His pale skin seemed to sparkle in the light coming through the window, looking irresistibly soft to the touch. His long lashes cast shadows over his cheeks, and he snored very lightly, his mouth open in a tiny little 'o' as breath swooped in and out of his lungs. His normally messy hair was suffering even more from bed head, the bronze locks wild and everywhere, falling over his forehead, and the side of his cheeks, and scattering themselves all over his pillow. His jaw was strong, and his cheekbones refined. He was beautiful. Unable to restrain myself, I slowly leaned forward, and barely brushed my lips to his. I would never press harder - I would never steal his first kiss from him, if I wasn't his choice. Even if I longed for my first kiss to be with him. My lips scarcely touched his - his teasing me with the promise of a smooth silky caress. I pulled away and sighed, before detangling myself from his embrace. It was rather hard - his arms tightened themselves around me in his sleep, and he whimpered softly, his brow creasing. I smiled and stroked his cheek gently, and his arms loosened in response. I wriggled out of them, and left to get dressed. Esme and Carlisle were already in the kitchen when I went down to get breakfast. They were both cooking, Esme making pancakes and Carlisle making bacon. Or at least, he was supposed to be, it looked like. Right now, though, he just had his arms around Esme's waist, his chin resting on her shoulder as she cooked, a small smile on her face. The position reminded me of how Edward held me while we slow danced yesterday. But it was very easy to see the eternal love radiating from these two. "Hey guys," I smiled, coming in and sitting down. Carlisle and Esme turned their heads around to see which of the kids I was and, after dropping a quick kiss on her shoulder, Carlisle moved to finish the bacon. "Hello, Bella," Carlisle said, grinning. "Been a while since I've seen you, kid. These late hours have some drawbacks. And, of course, I know you missed me wifey," he said, turning and winking at me. "Oh, shut up Carlisle, I don't like you," I snapped, scowling, putting my head down as they both laughed at me. I should've been used to it though. It was my fault. But, in my defense, I was too young to understand how it would haunt me.

The little five year old brown-haired girl, and her bronze-haired friend had been friends since the beginning of kindergarten, and it had been a few months since then. By mutual agreement, they had decided to take the next step in their relationship. "Mommy!" said the little girl when Renee picked her up from school. "Could I go over to Edward's house to play? It'll be really fun, and his parents said okay!" "Sure," she smiled. "I'll come with you. It'll be nice to finally meet his parents." "Cool!" she squealed. Her mom, her best friend, and her best friend's parents all in the same place. To a five year old, what better comfort could there be? But it would turn out that Alice and Emmett wouldn't be there either, since they'd made play dates with the Hales' across the street, who'd just moved in. On Saturday morning, the time arranged by phone call between the two parents, Renee and her daughter arrived at the large house where the Cullens' resided. Esme was the one who opened the door, and Bella, her excitement turning into shyness, said hello quietly. "Hello dear," Esme said warmly. "So pleased to finally meet you." She turned to Renee and held out her hand. "And pleased to meet you too finally," she smiled, and Renee smiled back. That was the beginning of another friendship right there. "Edward and his father are in the kitchen," she continued. "You can follow me."

Holding onto her mother's hand, the little girl followed her friend's mother into the large home, and into the kitchen. Her jaw almost dropped. Sitting on a chair next to where Edward stood, brushing his hair, was the most gorgeous man she had ever seen. His blond locks were semi-short and messy, like Edward's. His eyes were a clear, beautiful blue, and he had a charming air and smile. His body wasn't too bad either. The little girl bit back a giggle, and her awe. Glancing up, the blond man stood and beamed on sight of the girl and her mother. He walked forward with his hand extended toward Renee. "Carlisle," he said, grinning. "You must be Renee." "Pleased to meet you," Renee said, smiling back. Carlisle leaned down towards the girl. "And you must be Bella," he said warmly, reaching out to shake her hand too. She took it with surprise, blushing. No adult had ever shook her hand before, and his were big and warm and dry and comforting. She fell in love in that moment. "You're really cute," she blurted out. Carlisle looked at her, shocked for a moment, before letting a deep laugh, putting his hands on his knees. Edward sidled up, an annoyed look on his face. What'd she say? he signed to her mother, since Bella was still learning sign language, and hadn't mastered it yet. Esme just shook her head. You probably don't want to know, she giggled. Renee had slapped her hand to her forehead, choking back a laugh. "Alright Bella, that's enough. Why don't you go play with Edward before you embarrass yourself some more." "I'm not embarrassed," she said, her brow wrinkling in confusion as she looked up at her mother. What was so wrong with telling the gorgeous Carlisle that he was? Renee shook her head, a smile on her face. "One dayyou will be. Run along now." Esme signed to her son to take the girl to the backyard, and he grabbed her hand, pulling her along with him, confused, and annoyed because of it. "I'm sorry about that," Bella heard Renee laugh as they walked away. All she heard in response was the laughter of the angel and God called Carlisle. What happened? Edward demanded when they got to the backyard. Bella could read sign language better than she could use it, so he wasn't worried about her not understanding. Your dad Bella paused, struggling to remember what to do. Finally, she just made a heart with her hands and smiled a big cheesy grin. Edward looked horrified. You like my dad! he signed. She nodded, beaming. Edward's nose wrinkled in disgust. Bella ignored this and looked to the sky, her eyes twinkling, and her hands clasped next to her face. He's dreamy Edward smacked his forehead. Ew.

But by the end of the day, the girl knew what she had to do. It was the only logical course of action. When Renee told her it was time to finally go, Bella marched right on past her to Carlisle with a determined air. All the adults watched her curiously, while Edward glared in a corner, already knowing how she was about to proceed. Bella stopped in front of the doctor and took a deep breath. She knew how to do what needed to be done. She'd seen it on movies. Sliding down on one knee, she looked up at Carlisle. "I don't have a ring, but I love you with all my heart. Will you marry me?"

"Will you ever let me live that down?" I muttered toward the table. Esme and Carlisle just grinned at each other, and then me. "Nope," they said together. I groaned. I felt a strong, warm hand on my shoulder and I looked up. Edward was there, grinning down at me. You okay? No, I signed, disgruntled. Just losing some more of my rapidly dwindling pile of dignity. I felt him look up to his parents for a moment, before he chuckled, the movement making his hand on my shoulder shake. They'd obviously just told him what happened. He squeezed my shoulder and I looked up into his smirking face. Do you remember me telling you back then not to do it? My jaw clenched and I pushed back from the table, forcing him to quickly jump back for fear of squashing his foot, and stomped out of the kitchen and into the den, maybe to watch TV or something; I didn't know, just to get away from them. Their laughter echoed around the house. To my surprise, Emmett was in the den, playing his PS3. I hadn't seen him in a while, since he spent most of his time either at the university, or with Rose. "Oh, hey Em," I said, walking over to plop down beside him on the couch. "Bella!" he said enthusiastically, though never tearing his eyes from his racing car on the screen. "Was that laughter I heard directed towards you, by any chance?" I rolled my eyes. "Of course. Who else do people laugh at around here when you're not around?" He threw a playful punch in my direction, but I easily dodged it because next second his hand was back on the remote control. In the same moment, I felt a weight beside me. Turning, there was Edward, an apologetic, sheepish smile on his face. Sorry about that, he signed, putting an arm around my shoulder. I tried not to shiver with delight. It's just too tempting to make fun of you for that. "Hey, Bella," Emmett started in a sly tone, not signing what he was saying. A bad sign; it meant it was directed to me, and for me, only. "You know what Eddykins would love? Feel him up - he's practically silently begging you to do it." "Emmett!" I shouted in outrage.

"Emmett, behave," I heard Esme call, hearing my yell. Edward poked me. What'd he say? I rolled my eyes at him. Nothing, he's just being stupid, as usual. "I resent that," Emmett informed me, finally putting his control down and looking at me with a calm expression. Next moment he grinned wickedly, probably determined to say more to embarass me, before "Food!" Carlisle called. "Woot!" Emmett exclaimed happily, throwing his fist in the air, and jumping over the back of the couch, all attacks on me forgotten. I'm guessing that means it's breakfast time right? Edward signed, eyeing Emmett's enthusiastic departure. I nodded, and we went to go eat.

Monday morning dawned bright, sunny, and early. Edward came over, as usual, and kicked me out of my bed, and into a semi-conscious state. In my usual daze, I showered, dressed and otherwise got ready. On the drive to school, I put my head back on the headrest behind me, and closed my eyes. I was even more tired than usual, because last night Edward had snuck over to my house in the middle of the night, as he did sometimes, claiming he couldn't sleep. After that, I'd spent my time just watching him dream, instead of doing it myself; the moon had been out and the way it shone on the planes in his face was just too tempting to ignore. He left a few hours before I had to get up, though, and that was about all the sleep I got. He tapped me awake when we got to school, and we separated to our different classes, to start our boring day. We met up again at lunch time, and Edward went to get food for me, him, and Alice. I went over to sit at our usual table, and sat across from the pixie girl in question. "So, is Jasper still mad at me?" I asked tiredly, when I sat down, leaning on my elbows. "Oh please," she said, rolling her eyes. "He got over that about two seconds after we started ki -." She broke off, looking over my shoulder. I did too, wearily. Mike Newton was walking over to us, a smile on his handsome face. I groaned silently. I knew what was coming. "Brace yourself," Alice muttered to me. "Hey Bella!" said Mike cheerfully, sitting down in Edward's usual seat. I frowned at that. "How are you today?" "Tired," I told him. He grimaced. "That sucks. I hate that." He paused. "SoI was wonderingyou know, maybe when you're recovered from your exhaustionif you'd like to, I dunno, go see a movie with me or something? I overheard you saying you were looking forward to Sweeney Todd."

I sighed. I never went to the movies, except with my mother. If Edward couldn't go, because he couldn't hear it, obviously, and it wasn't a movie with subtitles, then I felt no inclination to go either. I could wait till it came out on pay per view or DVD. Plus, I didn't date. They weren't Edward. "I don't think so Mike," I said slowly, trying not to hurt his feelings. "I just don't feel like going out. Exams are coming up soon and all, and I really need to study." "Oh," his face fell for a moment before brightening back up. "Well, do you want to come over and study with me, maybe?" "I already have a study partner," I told him tersely, as I saw with trepidation Edward approach behind his shoulder. His eyes were narrowed at Mike's blond head. He cleared his throat when he came up, and Mike turned. Edward looked pointedly at the seat. "Oh, right, sorry," Mike muttered, his face flushing pink, as he hurriedly got up. Edward nodded to him, his smile tight, and not reaching his eyes. Mike shot one last disappointed look at me that immediately made me feel guilty, and then he was gone. Edward set the tray down with perhaps more force than was necessary. What was that about? he signed to me, eyes still narrowed and trained at the table. "No, no, it's fine, I'm not here," I heard Alice mutter, and I shot her a look. She held her hands up in surrender and sighed. "Fine, I'll be quiet. I see how it is. Even though no one's directed conversation towards me in the last five minutes." I ignored her complaints, looking over at Edward, who was staring at me intensely, awaiting an answer. Mike was justI waved in a 'you know' fashion. Edward just crossed his arms and raised his eyebrows. I grimaced and continued. He justyou knowasked me out. I shrugged. No big deal. And what'd you say? I could see him looking at my shoulder now, a casual look of polite interest on his face, as if my answer didn't matter. His eyes were tight still. I told him no, obviously. Didn't you see the guilt look he gave me? He shrugged. Wasn't paying all that much attention to him, to be honest. He stopped signing after that, and didn't eat anything. He was looking broodingly at the table the entire time. I sighed, and ended up not eating much either, just having a water. Alice just rolled her eyes at the both of us, and I knew what she was thinking. She happily ate her lunch, seeming amused by the fact that we weren't touching any of it. By the time I got in Edward's car at the end of the day, he still had on the same dark expression as he had at lunch. He went to start the transmission, but I put my hand over his, stopping him. He looked up at me frowning, his eyes weary. Edward, what's wrong? Nothing. He went to start the car again, but I took the keys out of his hand. He wasn't expecting that, so it wasn't as hard as it would've been otherwise. I tucked the keys in my pocket and then looked back up at his shocked face steadily.

Liar. Tell me. His breath blew out in an angry gust and he leaned his head back on his seat. I told you, nothing. You're making something out of nothing. Now give me my damn keys back: now. I was taken aback. Edward was never impolite with me. I was frozen with hurt and shock as he reached over and grabbed the tip of the keys jutting from my pocket, pulling them out swiftly, and starting the engine. His knuckles were white as he drove us to my house. I looked down at my lap, stung. I don't know what I did to make him so angry. I gulped, and to my horror, my eyes filled with tears as we pulled to a stop at my home. I heard him take a deep breath and look over at me. The next second, I felt my chin being yanked up where he could see me. His eyes widened with horror. Are you crying? I'm sorry! I didn't meanI didn'tI'm sorry about how I acted back there. I shouldn't have been such an asshole to you. His thumb wiped away an escaped tear. "Bella" he said. I'm sorry. He leaned forward and kissed my forehead. I'm sorry. I shrugged. It's my fault. I shouldn't have pried. It's not your fault, he signed, his expression aggravated. You were right. There isn't exactly 'nothing' wrong. I looked at him, my eyes perfectly dry now, and waited. He sighed, and leaned back, his hand dropping from my face. It feels like I'm holding you back, he started, looking straight forward, his eyes tight again. You should be able to go out and have fun with any guy you want, because, don't lie, I know they ask you out all the time. But I think you're scared of how I would feel if you did and I don't want you to be. I want you to beable to do whatever you want. Be whole. He shrugged. I know that's hard to be around me. I'm not exactly the easiest person to be a friend to. You always had to change things to make things easier for me. And you wouldn't have to change anything if you hung around other guys once in a while. But I noticed his hands clenched into fists at that. I smacked the back of his head: hard, as I often did when he started acting like this. He grimaced and looked at me. Edward, stop being stupid, I signed impatiently. I enjoy being around you. I don't enjoy being around them. I don't care what you think I need in my life, I don't like them. Therefore, stop trying to push them on me. You're perfectly fine to me, and I like spending my time with you and your family. Are you saying you want me gone more? Is that what this is? A subtle hint that perhaps I should butt out of your life a bit? He shook his head furiously, his eyes wide with horror. No! I don't want that. At all. I just want you to be happy. I am happy, Edward. It hurts that you don't believe that. He took a deep breath and ran his hand through his tousled bronze hair. Alright...that's good thenSuddenly, he smiled his crooked grin and the tightness in his eyes was gone. He was the Edward I knew again. Because I really don't like Newton. I couldn't help but to laugh. And I know you're waiting for my dad to realize his love for you, too. My smile vanished, and I smacked his chuckling form.

I scowled as I tapped my pen on my desk, barely paying attention to Ms. Portico as she reviewed a chapter in quantum relativity by showing the applications of derivatives again, for those who didn't understand it after the first ten times. I was spending the night at the Cullens' house again on this beautiful Thursday. I didn't actually mind going over to their house; I did it all the time, why would I have anything against it? It was really just the reason I was seeking sanctuary at their home that had me edgy. Renee had met another guy yesterday at her temporary pottery class. Apparently, he was single, good-looking, strong, sensitive, kind, and every other nice adjective you could find. Just like the guy before him, and the guy before him. And she'd invited him over for 'dinner' tonight. I'd learned a long time ago that I should get out of the house the night any male visitor came for 'dinner'. Renee never actually said what this invitation really meant out loud, though she knew I knew. But maybe she was holding on to the vain idea that perhaps I was still slightly nave in my knowledge of what 'dinner' entailed. Which, of course, wasn't the case. Or maybe she was embarrassed. She never actually kicked me out either. I was free to stay if I wanted. But why the hell would I? I mean, I didn't begrudge her her nighttime pleasures. I didn't think any less of her for it at all. She was a woman, and she had needs, and I knew how she got lonely sometimes. It was perfectly natural for a single woman of her age to want some bedtime company occasionally; perfectly reasonable, and understandable. I just wished that she'd take into consideration more who was in the house, and how thin our walls really were. That wasn't the worst part of it all either, just the excuse I gave on the outside. Truth was that I worried about her constantly during these particular nights, so much so that I couldn't even get to sleep. I remember with perfect clarity the first time it happened.

The girl with deep brown eyes was sixteen now, and currently doing her homework at the kitchen table with her best bronze-haired friend. Neither of them looked up when the front door opened and closed, and Renee walked in; though, for different reasons. "Hey kids!" she said brightly when she walked into the kitchen, shrugging off her jacket. Normally in Phoenix, you could get away with just a sweater in December, but it was particularly chilly this winter. The dark brown haired girl still hadn't removed the black jacket her friend had given her, but it wasn't exactly because she was cold: something she would never admit. The girl tapped her friend on his hand, since he hadn't yet noticed Renee's presence, and nodded at her. His mouth opened in a little 'o' of surprise, but then he quickly smiled and waved at Renee. She smiled and waved back before turning to her daughter again. "Hey Bella, would you mind getting the chicken out of the freezer and setting it to defrost? Thanks sweetie." "Sure, Mom," she said, getting up. "You cooking tonight, I guess?" "Mhmm! We're having a guest."

The chicken almost slipped from the teen's fingers, but she quickly righted her grip and set the chicken breasts on a plate, and placed that in the microwave, turning the knobs to the appropriate settings and times. "What guest?" she asked, trying to seem casually as she regarded the revolving chicken in the microwave. "Oh," Renee said, and though she too was trying to seem casual, her voice was about an octave higher than normal; the girl knew her mother well enough to know it was out of embarrassment. "You know. Just this guy I met at the gym. He was really nice, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to get to know him a little better over dinner." "Right," the girl responded, her voice sounding strange even to her. She didn't like where this was going. She felt a tap on her shoulder and looked over to find an inquisitive Edward, his head cocked to the side in a silent question. The teenage girl sighed and quickly signed that her mom was bringing over a guy friend to eat with them. His expression immediately turn sympathetic as she finished. They both glanced over to Renee, and saw her back as she dug around in the fridge. Edward turned back and signed, You gonna be okay? She just shrugged. Sure. Bella didn't touch her food as her mom and the man she'd brought over ate and laughed together. She just stared at it, feeling out of place, awkward, and brooding. "And then - if you'll believe it - he actually told his boss what he'd done!" "No!" Renee gasped, giggling. She reached her hand across the table and took the man's hand, eyes only for him. It's like I'm not even here, Bella thought. She swallowed thickly and muttered quietly, "I have to do some homework. I'll be in my room." The only response she got was a distracted, "Okay, sweetheart," from her mother, and a glancing nod from the guy. She got up, resisting the urge to slam her chair into the table, and walked to her room. She shut her door and then leaned against it in the dark. Slowly, she slid down to the floor, hugging her knees, and tried to ignore the laughter coming from her mother and the man she did not know. "Uhnnnuhnnoh god" Bella clenched her teeth together hard as she glared at her shadow-danced ceiling. It was a quiet night; only better for hearing the moans coming from the room down the hall, that had been going on for a few hours now. She heard the man groaning her mother's name - loudly - then, and resisted the temptation to roll over and scream all of hell's fury into her pillow. And perhaps punch a mirror. Or Renee's door. Or, even better, the guy. Breathing in sharply, she kicked the thin sheet that was twisted all around her off, and got up, pulling on a pair of jeans over her pajama shorts, and Edward's black jacket over her tank top. Fuming, she pulled on her generic converse's and opened her window quietly, hopping the two or three feet to the ground. She turned around and shut her window softly, making sure it was still unlocked.

It was a cold night. It had to be 54 degrees, at least. She pulled the jacket tighter around her as she hit the sidewalk, letting her feet pound the well-worn pavement, and getting lost in it. She didn't know where she was going on this cold, lonely, silent night. Not a soul was out, that she could see, except for the moon. It shone brightly, illuminating everything, and showing that there was nothing to see, except the buildings and occasional vegetation. She shivered, angry, as she glared at the ground, before coming to an abrupt stop. At her shoes was a driveway she recognized. Looking up slowly, she saw that her feet had brought her to the Cullens' house. She glanced down at her watch. It was nearly one in the morning. Much too late for a house call. But she walked up to the porch anyway, and sat down on the top step. At least she had somewhere she could stop at, for now. She leaned forward, her elbows on her knees, and tried to ignore the stiffness from her freezing face. Suddenly, there was a hand on her shoulder. Clamping a hand to her mouth, Bella tried to stop her scream, whipping around to see who it was. She relaxed and breathed a sigh of deep relief when she saw it was only Edward. She put her hand to her chest this time, and tried to calm her racing heart. Sorry, Edward signed. I didn't mean to scare you. I just had a feeling you might be coming over tonight. The girl felt guilty. Did I keep you awake? He shrugged. I probably would've stayed awake anyway, even if I didn't think you'd come. I don't sleep much at night. Just call me a vampire, I guess. He grinned at her. She returned it half-heartedly, before gazing back off into the moonlit yard. He sighed and grabbed her hand, warming it with his own. Want to tell me about it? Bella started to shake her head, but a lump rose in her throat. She kind of did want to get it out. And who better to talk to, than the one person who knew her better than she knew herself? She took her hand from his reluctantly so she could start. I justI'm so worried. I mean, she doesn't even really know him! And what if she got really caught up in the moment, and he's not wearing protection right now? Is she prepared for the consequences? Is she thinking about that? What if he has some kind of disease? What if he turns out to be a real bastard, and hurts her? She took a deep breath and swallowed, still looking at the porch steps, and summed up the problem in a nutshell. I just don't want her to get hurtand then she acts like I'm not even there. The next thing she knew she felt strong warm arms around her, crushing her to him. She gratefully leaned into his warm body, sobbing on his chest as he just held her.

I didn't eat anything during lunch, my stomach feeling warped. I heard both Edward and Alice sigh, taking in my hunched over form. "Bella," Edward said. I looked up dully. You don't have to worry about her so much. Even if she doesn't always act like it, Renee's an adult, and can take care of herself. Don't you think if something bad were to happen, it would have by now? I jabbed a finger at him. And that is the exact kind of jaded attitude that gets people in serious predicaments, Edward.

He rolled his eyes and took a swig of his drink. Behind him, I saw Lauren Mallory walk by, throwing a scrupulous glance at him. My eyes narrowed. "C'mon, Bella, just eat something," Alice encouraged. "If I do, I'm going to throw up," I informed her. "I have, in no way, shape, or form, an appetite right now." "You're going to get the guidance counselor called on you for being anorexic Bella," she told me. It was my turn to roll my eyes. But something drove Renee and her late night visitor from my mind completely later on.

I glanced at my watch, as I stood in the hallway after the final bell had rung. This is where I always waited for Edward after school, just a hall away from my last class, and a hall away from his. Perfectly proportioned. It was almost three o'clock. The bell had rung nearly fifteen minutes ago. Where was he? Maybe he had to talk to his teacher about something. Maybe something came up that he didn't understand. It was possible. I leaned on one leg, but then switched over to the other one, sighing. I was feeling edgy. Something was off. I didn't like this. I was about to go look for him myself when I heard the sound that made my heart stop. "Bella!" It was coming from his classroom, I could tell, and it was his voice. I didn't think then; I just ran toward the sound of panic. My shoes squeaked on the recently waxed floors, and I almost tripped once; but I pushed my hands along the linoleum, until I found my balance again, running the whole time. I skidded to a halt outside the door a few seconds later. My mouth dropped. There was Lauren Mallory, the girl who had been eyeing Edward at lunch and thought she was all that; the girl that 'everybody wanted'. She had a devious smirk on her face, and her hands were on Edward's thighs, where he was backed into a counter, and slowly moving upwards. Her head was leaning up toward his, her lips inches away. Tiny sounds were coming from his mouth, as if he were trying to say stop but didn't know how, and his eyes were wide as he leaned away. And then he pushed her. I don't think he meant it to be hard, but by the look on his face fear overruled it, and Lauren fell to the floor. It wouldn't have hurt any normal person, but she had always been a drama queen. "Youyou freak!" she screamed, jumping to her feet. "You wait till my boyfriend hears about this!" And then she was leaving, pushing past me. It all happened so fast I hadn't even had enough time to unfreeze myself and move.

Edward was beating himself up in his room half an hour later, when he screeched to a halt outside his house. He was sitting on his chair, gripping his hair in his hands, unless he pulled them away to sign something. She justcornered me after class, when the teacher left. I didn't know what the hell she was saying, but I think she was trying to be seductive. And she kept trying to touch me, and I didn't want her to. But I didn't know how to tell her to stop. I've never felt so violated. I didn't know what else to dobut I shouldn't have reacted like that. I tapped him, and he looked up, his eyes miserable. Edward, it's not your fault, I signed, a gentle look on my face. Inside though, ohI could not wait to get my hands on Malloryher scrawny little neck to be exact. But my signs just made him snap. He pushed himself off his chair angrily, and I jumped back from the ferocity of it. He paced around his room, breathing hard through his nose, running his hands through his hair in frustration, until finally he just let out a roar of fury, and his fist connected with the wall. Repeatedly. I was shocked. I'd never seen him lose control like this. My heart squeezed painfully and ached for him. Especially when I saw the flash of red on his knuckles. I lunged forward, and grabbed his arm, forcing him away from the wall. He wrenched his arm out of my grasp - though more gently than I expected - and stared at me, his eyes wild. Then he started signing, though his hand was bleeding horribly, and it made my head spin slightly. I hate being like this. I hate being me sometimes. Always so helplessso helpless I had to push a girl today, because it was all I could do. I couldn't just tell her to stop like a normal person would. It should never have come to this. I was abruptly furious. I couldn't help it; I grabbed his shirt and shoved him roughly back. The action made him look like he was going to listen to me, at least. Look here Cullen, I began, my face murderously angry. You're not helpless. And it's not your fault. Don't shake your head, or so help me god I'm going to hurt you! I don't devote myself to karate for nothing; I'll use it if I have to. Lauren Mallory is a slut, and she would've kept coming on to you even if you had been able to speak the word 'stop'. Obviously, if your body language wasn't enough, nothing else would've worked either. I don't want you to think like that Edward. You're the best person I know. And you're being silly thinking otherwise. He closed his eyes, and put his fists to them as he slowly sunk to the floor. It's hard, "Bella,"sometimes, it's just so hard. I don't even want to get out bed some days. My heart broke, and wrenched even harder this time, as I looked down at his sunken form. I dropped to my knees, and wrapped my arms around him, as he sobbed his frustrations out on my shoulder. I leaned on his shoulder as well, letting a few tears slip silently down my face. His pain was my pain, and it hurt so much right now. But it was my turn to be strong. How often had he held me while I cried? Almost every time. So, for once, I comforted him as his tears fell, something I hadn't seen in many many years. I'd clean up his busted hand later. I knew right now he just needed someone who cared. His arms wrapped around my waist and held me tightly against him as his sobs slowly faded, and he fell asleep against me.


I glanced at my watch as I stroked Edward's head in my lap, his arms still wrapped around me, just closer to my hips as he had slipped down in his sleep. It was around five thirty. Edward had fallen asleep nearly an hour ago, but I hadn't dared move lest I should wake him up. But I really needed to fix his hand. It had stopped bleeding, but the smell of the congealed blood was doing nothing good for my stomach. I slowly reached around me, and gently unclasped his hands, wriggling backward out of his embrace of comfort. I heard him take in a deep, shuddering breath, and I immediately froze, but it evened back out again soon, and I wriggled the rest of the way out. I stood and walked over to his huge desk, and went to one of the small, bottom drawers. Carlisle being a doctor, he had put a small first aid kit in every single room in the house, lest an emergency should arise. He could get them free at work, so it was no big deal. Wellit's not so much that he could get them for free so much ashe justyou know, took them. But we all kept that little detail on the down low. I opened it carefully, making sure the snap didn't open too loudly, and sat cross legged next to Edward's resting form. I took one of those little wet napkins with pre-soaked alcohol on them and stroked his hand, getting the blood off one little swipe at a time. The damage wasn't so bad now that the blood was gone. It was a few scrapes on three of his knuckles. It would heal within the week, and be completely gone by the next. That was good. I looked up and noted the damage on the wall wasn't too bad either. The goldish paint was still on the wall in the spot he'd punched it, just a little morechalky looking. I took one of those wrap around bandages and bound his knuckles in it, to keep them clean. I tied it on his palm, making sure it would stay. I tugged it, and it felt secure enough, so I was satisfied. I looked at his face. Not even an hour ago, it had been wrenched in pain and hurt and anger and sorrow. My heart tugged just thinking about it. But he was looking perfectly fine now. I took a regular wet cloth from the kit and gently washed his tear-stained cheeks with it. Obviously, I was much too small to carry Edward to his bed, even though we were right at the foot of it. The mental image of it almost made me laugh out loud. I couldn't help but to think 'Mighty Mouse'. I grinned, but then shook the silliness from my thoughts. It must be because I was so exhausted. I went to his bed and took the throw at the end of it, and one of his pillows, and walked back to him. I lifted his head softly, and slid the pillow under it, then took the throw and what do you know - threw it over him. There. Now he looked a lot better than before, and a bit more comfortable. I sighed and turned away, preparing to go get something to drink or whatever so I could let him sleep in peace. I was almost to the door when I heard him speak. "Bella" I spun around, worried that I had woke him. He was still asleep though. Except his brow was creased and his arm was reaching out. I hesitated, debating on whether I should go or not. But then he said my name again and I knew I had no choice but to go curl up next to him as his arms wound around me instinctively.

When I woke up, it was dark. Blinking groggily, I realized I was way too comfortable to be laying on a carpet. I sat up and felt the warm band that was around my waist slip away. I turned and there was Edward, awake, and sitting up with me, visible in the moonlight. Over his shoulder I could see the clock, blinking one in the morning.

He smiled at me gently and reached out to stroke my cheek briefly. Are you still tired? I shook my head, pleased that he seemed to be feeling better. That pleasure increased when he wrapped his arms around me then, hugging me to him tightly. I could feel the silent 'thank you' in this embrace; there was no need for signing it, and he knew that too. It was just how well we knew each other. He pulled away and switched on his lamp. I immediately hissed and threw my hand over my eyes, blinking rapidly. The lamp wasn't very bright at all, but it was compared to the darkness my eyes had adjusted to. Sorry, Edward signed, grimacing. I thought it would make it easier to see signsAnyway, "Bella,", he whispered, aware that it was very late at night. I wanted toapologize, for earlier. I shouldn't have let you see that. I stopped him right there, putting my hands up in a stop motion, before continuing. Edward, please don't apologize for that. If you're hurting, or frustrated, I want you to let me help you. Okay? You help me all the time, and how would you feel if I shut you out? He winced. That's not how I mean it Well that's what you're saying, no matter how you might mean it in your head. I want to help you, and I want you to feelcomfortable with letting your feelings out around me Suddenly I giggled. Sorry, I know that sounds really girly. He nodded. Yeah, my manly pride is what's being wounded here. He grinned. Guys aren't supposed to have feelings. I rolled my eyes. I hope you're smarter than that BS. It's okay to cry. He pursed his lips as though fighting against a smile. I don't exactly think you have the most unbiased opinion, but since you're pretty kick-ass I'll take your word for it. I blushed, and looked off, though I couldn't help the half-embarrassed, half-proud smile that formed at his compliment. Kick-assyeah, I could get used to that. I saw him glance down at his bandaged hand, and one of the corners of his mouth turned down in a shamed frown. Thanks for the hand too, he signed, smiling half-heartedly, though his eyes were filled with guilt. I know how you feel about blood. I shrugged. It was nothing. It's not like you haven't bandaged me up a bazillion and one times. He smiled again, but this time for real, letting it hit his eyes too. That's true.

Edward smacked his forehead as he watched his fellow thirteen year old best friend put on her helmet. Tell me again why you're doing this? She scowled at him. Because I want to. It looks fun. Now are you going to help me learn, or insult me some more on my lack of balance? She watched him shake his head in disbelief but walked over to where she was standing in the park near both their homes, and put his foot on the end of the skateboard, keeping it still as he helped her step on. I already sense a trip to the emergency room on the horizon.

The girl scowled and flicked him off, watching him bite back a laugh as he stepped away from the board. Slowly, taking a deep breath, Bella took one foot off the board and set it on the ground, not liking how the board was already wobbling. But that was just because her leg was shaking with nerves. She pushed forward gently with her foot, and rolled a few inches, but her shoe had left the ground and wasn't on the board either. She felt her precarious balance start to trip, and she jumped off the slim, moving object, and onto her friend's arm before any serious injury could befall her. The skateboard jumped from the pavement a little from her leap and clacked back down, rolling a few more inches. Edward sighed. I haven't done this in a while, but I do remember that the trick is to go faster. It's easier to stay on the more speed you have, ironically. Plushaving both feet on the board helps too. She rolled her eyes, but signed her thanks grudgingly. He walked over and helped her get on the board again, as she kept one foot on the ground to start off this time. She pushed on the ground harder than before, and pushed on the ground again after that, gaining an okay speed. Feeling elated at her success, she attempted putting her foot back on the rough surface of her board, but that was doomed. Her foot was back too far, and it hit the slightly raised end of the moving object, blocking her foot's passage. The moment of one-legged balance was too much, and with a loud cry, she started to fall off the board again. Strong arms grabbed her before she could hit the ground, as the skateboard changed direction and slid off the concrete sidewalk to come to a slow halt in the grass. The girl sighed and hung her head as Edward helped her to a standing position. And even though he'd been discouraging the activity just a few minutes ago, he was now forcing her to look at him. C'mon, don't give up! That was only your second try, and no one gets it first off. She shrugged but smiled slightly, feeling better. She picked up her board out of the grass and set it back down in the direct center of the walk. Three's the charm, right? she signed with a grim smile, before he took her hands and helped her back up on the unstable sports object. He gave her a smile and the thumbs up sign before backing away, getting ready to jog along side her. Taking a deep breath, she let the determination flow through her, thinking of this as another opponent in the arena competitions she used to sometimes take part in when she took karate. She pushed forward again and again, until she was going at a decent speed, the wind blowing through her hair gently. Taking a deep breath, she picked her foot up again, higher, and smiled when it met no resistance, and she set it on her board. She looked over and beamed at Edward, jogging next to her. He beamed back, giving her the thumbs up again. Noticing the rapid decline in speed, Bella took her foot back off and pushed the board forward, no longer afraid. This improved her performance greatly. After a little while, she got better and more comfortable, and started going faster than her friend's comfortable jog. He wasn't too far behind; but far enough to where he couldn't catch her if she should fall. But she wasn't worried now. As long as she just kept riding like this, it'd be fine. What she wasn't expecting was the larger-than-average stick lying in the middle of the sidewalk. And more than that, she wasn't expecting it to do anything.

But as the wheels on her skateboard hit it, it made it come to an abrupt stop, jerking to the side violently. Not remotely prepared for that, Bella could do nothing as she was flung off, landing heavily on her knee and wrist a few feet away. She bit her lip to stop from screaming from the sting coming from all down the side of her body, but couldn't stop the small moan of pain. Edward was there in an instant, his feet pounding faster on the pavement before he dropped down next to her. Are you okay? he signed frantically. Nearly biting her lip off, Bella slowly lifted her limp wrist slightly, pointing to it, and shaking her head. Why didn't I buy those wrist guards? she thought miserably, as her friend gently picked up her wrist so softly she felt no pain, and examined it. I don't think it's broken, but definitely sprained. I'm glad Carlisle's not at work today. He rolled his eyes. So much for a day off though. His eyes roamed down the rest of her, scouting for more damage, before landing on her knee, which she could smell was bleeding. She scrunched up her nose, and breathed through her mouth. Oh, yeah, and anything else besides a helmetshe added in her head. She saw Edward reach behind him and take a big, square band aid from his back pocket. Upon noticing her raised eyebrow, he grinned slightly down at her, signing, I knew I was going to need this. She rolled her eyes, wanting to sign something sarcastic like, Oh, glad you believe in me so much, but couldn't because of her wrist. Edward gently cleaned her scraped knee with a wet cloth he pulled from a package in another one his pockets - Damn, he did come prepared for me, Bella thought in vague surprise - and cleaned her wound, before smoothing the band aid over it. Alright, come on cripple, get on my back and I'll take you to Carlisle, he signed then. She scowled, silently telling him she could walk fine. Not paying the slightest bit of attention, pretending he hadn't read the message in her body language, he scooped her up and threw her on his back, watching out for her wrist. With an annoyed sigh, she wrapped her legs around his waist, and her arms around his neck. And much to her further annoyance, he jumped on the offending skateboard then, and rode like a pro back to his house: her on his back and all.

Neither of us could go back to sleep, so we just sat up watching movies until around five in the morning. Hey, want to go out to breakfast? Edward signed, looking at the clock. Might as well, since we're already up. Smiling, I hopped up to go take a quick shower, and get dressed with the spare clothes I always left over here while Edward took his turn in the bathroom. Where do you want to go? Edward asked as we got in his car half an hour later. I shrugged as he turned the key. The dashboard lit up briefly, and the gauges behind the steering wheel started to go up to the appropriate before the lights turned off, and the needles fell back into place. Edward's mouth dropped open slightly at the same time as his brow furrowed in disbelief as he tried starting the transmission again. The lights went on, the dials went up, and then it all turned off once more.

He groaned, and slumped back in his seat. Great, he signed, a sour look on his face. My car's not working. Just fabulous. I choked back a giggle. Just have Rosalie look over it later, I signed, trying to soothe him. And we can just walk to and fro school for today. It's not that far; and a little walk will do your lazy self some good, I teased, poking his stomach. But from the hardness of his body, I knew that was far from the truth. I don't know when he started secretly working out, but he must have, to have the body he did. Yeahunless you want to skateboard over? he teased back, repressing a grin. I scowled, and went to smack his head, but he just laughed and ducked, hurriedly getting out of his car.

We stopped by Starbucks on the way, since we certainly didn't need an hour and a half to get to school. We sat on the patio outside, and just sipped our mochas' he had bought, feeling peaceful, the calm after the storm. But there was one more little dark cloud on my horizon, and it was bugging me. Glancing at my watch, I saw there was half an hour until school started. Plenty of time, given that luck was on my side. When we started walking again, throwing our empty cups away, I started signing to Edward. Hey, I'll meet you at school, okay? There's something I have to do first. He glanced at the neighborhood we were passing, and his eyes narrowed at me. I kept my expression carefully innocent. "Bella" he said warningly. What? I signed, making my expression innocently confused, tilting my head. Now, I'll see at school. Bye! I didn't give him a chance to answer as I ran off.

5302, 5303, 5304, andah yes. 5305, Pine Avenue. And there she was, her parent's cars gone, getting in her own, her translucent blond hair sparkling in the sun, looking haughty as she set her bag atop her car, digging around for her keys. I walked forward, surprised she hadn't noticed me yet. I stopped a few feet away. "Hey Mallory," I said, my voice gentle, yet dangerous. She gasped and looked up, before her eyes narrowed at the sight of me. "What do you want?" she snarled. "If this is about yesterday - " I cut her off with a calm, "Yes, it is." Then I let my arm draw back, before flinging it forward, punching her square in her arrogant face. I shook my hand lightly as she screamed, shaking out the slight sting. "Don't touch him again," I told her simply, before turning away and heading toward school, feeling satisfied. Especially when she didn't show up to any of her classes that day.

It was only after school that I regretted my actions. Edward and I were walking home in the usual silence, walking close together but not touching. We were just a few blocks from the school, having only been let out ten minutes ago. The road we were on was a back one, and empty, from what I could see. The only buildings were some small corporations, without windows.

That's why I was surprised when I heard a car coming down the street from behind, and even more surprised when it screeched to a stop next to us. Edward and I both paused, turning toward it. My stomach felt funny, like it had yesterday when I'd been waiting for Edward. That same kind of unease, and premonition of something unpleasant. I recognized the car immediately, and wasn't surprised when I saw the athletic body of Tyler Crowley unfold himself from his van. I was surprised when I saw Austin Marks, his friend, get out on the passenger side though. My stomach plummeted and twisted at the same time; Tyler was Lauren's boyfriend. And I could think of only one reason why he would have Austin with him, tracking us down. Edward and I exchanged anxious glances briefly, backing up on the sidewalk. "Hey Bella," said Tyler pleasantly, though his eyes flashed when he looked at Edward. "Glad you're here. I was hoping you could act as translator." "What the hell is this Crowley?" I demanded. "Marks," I acknowledged, nodding at Austin. Tyler took a deep breath. "I don't want you to get involved in this Bella, but I'm not too happy right now." His glance turned to Edward, and he glared. "But what man would like to hear about his girl getting come onto, and when she refused, getting pushed down and barely getting away from her assaulter?" "Oh my god, Tyler!" I shouted exasperatedly, pushing past Edward, who had started edging in front of me protectively, still in the dark as to what the story was, but not unaware of what this was about. "You don't honestly believe that do you?" He looked at me, his eyes dark and angry, Austin standing next to him, arms crossed. "Lauren called last night, and she was in tears. And today, she didn't come to school. What am I supposed to believe, Bella?" I rolled my eyes, but guilt sent acid sloshing in my stomach uncomfortably. This was my fault. "You can believe me. I saw Lauren's attack. And it was an attack alright. Her attacking Edward. Not the other way around. And the reason she's not here todaywell, that's my fault," I shrugged. "Lauren wouldn't do that to me," Tyler said, ignoring the last part, his voice low and angry. I pitied him; it wasn't his fault, and if he wasn't going on false information, I would've agreed with his actions. I felt Edward trying to tug me back, but I yanked out of his grip, standing my ground as the two boys approached closer. "Open your eyes Crowley," I said, my voice just as low and dangerous. "Lauren so would do that to you. You've seen her do it to other guys before you two started dating. Why is it so hard to believe it now?" "Because she loves me," he snarled. "And you're just lying to protecting him, I know it! He probably told you to say all that!" He jabbed an angry finger at Edward. "I always thought you were a decent guy, but I guess not." He turned to me again. "So get out of my way, Bella. I've got to take care of this." "NO!" I shouted, as I saw his arm draw back. I wrenched out of Edward's renewed grasp again, and lunged forward, using a trick I'd learned in the martial arts of using his own weight against him. As his arm flung forward, I hit his knee and grabbed his arm, throwing him backwards. "Argh!" he cried out, nearly stumbling to the ground. Austin made his move then, raising his hands to push me, but he met only air; Edward had grabbed the back of my t-shirt and yanked me into safety, throwing me behind him. I didn't stay there long, not when Tyler and Austin were stalking forward again.

I saw Austin raise his fist this time, directing it at Edward, and I ran forward the few steps, before placing both of my hands on one of Edward's shoulders, using it to brace myself as I jumped up into the air and kicked Austin in the chest, sending him tumbling into the closest building wall, rendering him unconscious. "Bella," Edward growled, obviously not wanting me involved. I shot a glare right back at him, but this was a mistake. Using our distraction, Tyler raised his fist again, and flung it forward. "No.." I breathed, but I was too late to fling myself at Crowley again. I pushed Edward out of the way quickly, his surprise being my advantage, just in time for the fist meant for him to hit the side of my head, sending me sprawling to the ground, the side of my head that had just been punched hitting the sidewalk again, sending resounding waves of pain to rack my body through. I felt darkness start to close in on my eyes. The last thing I saw were two pairs of eyes: one green set wide with horror, and one brown set wide with guilt, before a pale fist - which I had never known to cause great damage as of yet - hit the side of the brown face in an almighty, crashing blow. Darkness took me then to save me from the pain, and I willingly succumbed. (You guys are so lucky I love you enough to not end it right here)

I woke up with a pounding headache, looking into two anxious emerald green eyes. "Bella," he whispered. Are you okay? Please tell me you're okay, he signed, his eyes pleading. I sat up slowly with a groan, feeling an ice pack that was on the side of head slip away. I'm okay, I signed grimly. I've had worse. I realized I was in my bed, at my house. I glanced at my clock, and saw it was only four. Good, I'd only been out for a little while. He'd probably taken me here to avoid bringing all of hell down on us if his family saw us, and of course, Renee wasn't home. "Bella" he whispered again, his voice tortured agonizingly. Suddenly, his face turned murderous. What the hell is wrong with you! Why'd you push me out of the way! You're so stupid, you silly girl! You should've just let me take it! WHY? WHY didn't you? Because I love you, okay! I signed before I'd even thought about it, his fury enticing my own. When I realized what I'd just told him though, I gasped, and his jaw dropped. I looked down, the blood pooling in my cheeks. How could you be so stupid? I berated myself in my head. You've ruined everything! But it didn't feel so ruined when I felt his warm hands grab either side of my face, yanking it upwards. His lips were mere centimeters from my own. "Bella" he whispered, his eyes intense, and his voiceloving?

8.Make Believe
When IIIIIII watch you, wanna do you, right where you're standing, yeah. Right on the foyer, on this dark day, right in plain view, oh yeah.

Of the whole ghetto, the boot-stomped meadows, but we ignore that, yeah. You're lovely baby, this war is crazy, I won't let you down, oh no no no. I won't let them take you, won't let them take you, hell no no oh no. Alive with the Glory of Love by Say Anything "Bella" he whispered, his eyes intense and his voiceloving? I wanted to sign something, maybe ask him how he was feeling right now, but he was so close, and I couldn't think. I didn't get a chance to, either. His lips were on mine then, warm, soft, and gentle, moving with my own. His hands moved to grip the back of my hair carefully, watching the side of my head. But I really couldn't give a flying fuck about my head right now. I gasped into his mouth, overwhelmed with what was happening. All I knew was that he was here, finally kissing me, just like I'd always dreamed. His mouth was against my own, and his body was closebut not close enough. I jumped on him, not disconnecting my mouth from his, and into his lap, my legs on either side of him. My hair fell like a curtain of privacy around us. He moaned softly into my mouth, and fell back on the bed, tugging me along with him so I was lying on top. I didn't stay there long though. As soon as his back hit the mattress, he rolled, pinning me beneath him, but I wasn't complaining. His mouth was anything but gentle now. He was ferocious, kissing my mouth with a furious passion, opening my willing lips with his own. His hands were everywhere, running up and down my sides, my arms, my neck, my face. Everywhere, except the vital places I wanted him to touch so bad it lit my whole body aflame. His tongue snaked out, licking my bottom lip seductively - well, I don't know if that's how he meant it, but it was sure seducing me pretty well. I whimpered and moaned against his lips, arching up and pressing my aching body closer to his, giving him permission to do whatever the hell he wanted. I sure wasn't going to stop him, even if he started doing me right here, right now. He gasped then, and broke away, his breathing erratic. Mine was no better, but I didn't care. I just wanted him to kiss me again. My dreams had never even come close to how amazing it had felt. "Bella" he breathed, putting his forehead to mine and closing his eyes. His warm breath flitting around my face was heavenly. He smiled then, and started laughing. "Ah, Bella" He sat up, tugging me with him and turning me around, so I was sitting in his lap, my back to his chest. Better to see his hands. Wow, he signed, and I could feel him shaking his head behind me. Wow, I disagreed. Doesn't even cover it. He started laughing again, though not at my comment from what I could tell, and I felt confused. What? I asked, worried that I'd done something wrong. Nothing, he signed, and I could feel his lips smiling against my hair. It's just that my plan is ruined now.

What plan? I demanded, startled, but it was hard to feel anything except pleasure then, since his hand had gone back to brush my hair aside, and he was gently sucking on my neck. Well, I had a surprise for you, to confess my love sometime soon. I felt him smile, and I couldn't help but to smile softly too. So he did love me. I'd known it from how he was kissing me, but still, for him tosign it, was something else entirely, making tingles flow up and down my spine; a warmth growing from my fingertips and fanning out. I'm not done yet though. I can still do it when I'm finished, I guess, but I don't think it will have the same 'wow' factor I was going for. He started laughing. I should've started sooner, before you could prove again how much braver you are than I am. I sighed. More like impulsive. It had nothing to do with bravery, more like irrational stupidity. Still, I'm thanking impulsive idiocy right now. I laughed alongside him. And I'm sure whatever your 'surprise' is, it'll still have a wow factor, I assured him. He wowed me on a daily basis anyway. I wanted to close my eyes as I tilted my head to the side, giving him easier access to my neck he was currently giving me a love bite on, but I couldn't, wanting to communicate with him some more. So long as you love me, too. I was surprised at how strong my conviction was, especially since I hadn't even hoped to believe it just this morning. But maybe I'd known it all along, I'd just been denying it myself, refusing to let myself be drawn into the trap of hoping if it was all in vain. His mouth let go of my neck, as his arms wound around me tightly then. "Bella," he said, his voice so warm and caring there was no way I could doubt that he loved me like I loved him. His arms released me to place them in front of us, showing his hands. I do. I really, really do. You have no idea how long I have, and how long I've wanted to tell youWanted you to be mine. I was sick of this, I wanted to see his face. I turned around quickly in his lap, so I was sitting like earlier. I've always been yours, I told him, looking him in the eye, very seriously. I wanted him to understand that. I never have belonged to anyone else, and I never will. His eyes smoldered, and he grinned impishly. Good, because I'm not going to share. Ever. He grasped my chin and pulled my face up to his, kissing me again until I was dizzy. His arms wound around me as he tilted his head to the side, giving me better access to more of his mouth. His fingernails dug into the sides of my back lightly, near to my hips. His tongue flicked out to my lips again, and I moaned loudly. But like before he pulled away, this time looking dazed. I wanted to growl at him, or grab his head and force him to French kiss me. The Mighty Mouse theme song ran through my head again, and I almost giggled. Oh godI was so high right now. High off of him and his breath stealing kisses. God, he groaned, closing his eyes briefly. I can't hear you moaning, but I can feel the vibrations of your lipsHe cracked one eye open anxiously. Wait, that is what you're doing right, and I'm not about to make an ass out of myself by going on an undeserved ego trip? I choked back a laugh and grinned, then slowly leaned forward, pressing my lips against his and moaning loudly, making the vibrations more pronounced for him. He groaned again, and seized my face, kissing me furiously again for the next few minutes. I didn't care, we had so much wasted time to make up for And speaking of time, after he released my lips to gasp for air, something he had said started rolling around my oxygen-deprived brain, and I wanted to giggle. What I was about to say was so childish, but I didn't care. I was elated, I was ecstatic, I was giddy, I was jubilant, I was so much more free than I'd been in a long time, all because of a short little confession. It seemed so unreal. The man I loved loved me back. He really didBecause I knew Edward, and I knew he wasn't lying. How did it get any better than that? I didn't know

if I could take anymore happiness. Like, my body just couldn't handle it. There so much I was almost wishing for something to come knock me down a few inches. Almost. I tapped his head and he lifted it from my shoulder where he'd been resting, a lazy, content grin on his face. It made me smile just looking at it. Something you said beforeI started signing, before deciding how to say it without sounding too much like a five year old. He looked at me inquisitively, waiting patiently as he played with a piece of my hair, his fingers brushing my concealed collarbone occasionally. I tried to ignore that so I could think straight enough to form a sentence, but it was hard because my skin was burning beneath my t-shirt. You said you've loved me for a long time. He nodded quickly then, his smile turning wry and mocking, at himself. I shrugged. All I got to say is I think I could win the length of time. His eyebrows raised and leaned back a little, looking me up and down with a superior look on his face. Really, he signed, his eyes mocking. Try me. I placed my finger on my chin, and thought hard, making sure I was really confident in my answer. I wanted to be honest, because that would make the length more impressive. I knew it was before age ten. I believe the first time I started realizing I loved you was when I waseight, I signed slowly, then nodded. Yeah, I was eight. Edward rolled his eyes and scoffed. Pathetic, he signed, but he was just mocking. Truly pathetic. I so win. Do tell. My eyes narrowed, getting ready to catch a sign of a lie. We had just turned six. It was the first - and only, before this - time we kissed. My eyes widened. What? No we haven'tno, we didn't! You don't remember, he signed, putting a hand to his chest and placing false hurt on his face. I'm hurt. But I understand - you were still madly in love with Carlisle. His nose wrinkled in distaste. You have no idea how jealous that made me. I lost to my own dad. I rolled my eyes. Stop bringing that up. You didn't lose anything. He smirked and looked down at where I was straddling his lap. Obviously. I blushed and looked away, smiling sheepishly. I started to lift myself off - reluctantly - but his hands were on my hips then, practically nailing me down. Oh hells to the no, he signed, releasing me, his face furious. Not when I just got you. You've always had me. Fine then, now that I've realized I have you. I agree, I signed, sighing contently and closing my eyes as I placed my head on his shoulder, feeling complete. The ache from my head was long gone, replaced with the fuzzy feeling of spectacular news. Edward hugged me to him tightly, kissing my neck again in the same spot as earlier. I was so going to have a very noticeable love bite, there was no way around it at this point. But it was from him, so I didn't care.

After a few long moments, my eyes flew open and I gasped, lifting my head up quickly to look at him. Erwell, that's what the plan was. His head was there behind me - as my stupid self should've realized - and the back of mine hit the side of his when I attempted to sit up. It didn't hurt me at all, but I gasped and my eyes widened as I gazed at him in horror, throwing my hands over my mouth, apologizing instantly with my body language. He rubbed his head, and raised his eyebrow, before he just burst out laughing, unable to keep it in. He grabbed the back of my neck and pulled me to him, kissing me quickly. He paused, and then leaned in again, pressing his lips longer to mine. I closed my eyes, tightly gripping his shoulders. Now, what were you going to say before you tried to take me out? he signed when he pulled away smiling, his eye color dark, but his eyes themselves bright. I rubbed my head sheepishly. Just thatI remembered what you were talking about. It's when we were playing Princess and the Dragon, right? He nodded, before he snorted and started shaking his head at the memory. I could understand why.

The little girl's birthday had only been a few weeks ago, and her and her best friend were both six now, and currently playing in the backyard with Edward's father, who had so generously decided to donate part of his day off to play with them - mostly at the constant pleading of the young girl. "So, what are we playing?" he said and signed, for both Bella and Edward. Bella had mastered sign language by now though, since young children are like sponges, absorbing and retaining information quickly. Still, it was just easier. "We're playing make believe!" squealed the little girl excitedly, signing it all to her friend too. "I'm going to be the princess, Edward's going to be the dragon, and you're going to be the prince. You have to save me," she told Carlisle, her expression loving. I don't wanna be the dragon! Edward signed angrily, crossing his arms briefly. I wanna be the prince! Too bad, so sad, Bella signed, not even bothering to look at him after he'd finished signing. You're the dragon. "Now, I'm going to be on the other side of the moat," she told Carlisle, pointing to the opposite side of the sandbox. "You have to get past Edward, and then rescue me. And then you have to kiss me, because that's what prince's do," she inserted slyly. Carlisle resisted the urge to burst out laughing, biting his lip. Esme was watching from the porch, not too far away. "Yeah, make sure to kiss the princess good!" she called, giggling. "You don't want her to be enchanted or anything!" Edward tapped Bella's shoulder furiously, trying to get her to look at him. Sighing, as though she were being put out, she turned slowly to look at him with annoyance. I. Don't. Want. To. Be. The. Dragon. Bella! Why can't I be the prince?

Because your dad is, and that's because I said so. Now go get in the sandbox and prepare to jump out and try to beat Carlisle away. Her eyes turned anxious as she stared unseeingly past Edward. But don't be too hard on him! I don't want him hurt. Edward stared at her, his expression unreadable, before turning to Carlisle. "Carlisle!" he shouted. I want to be the prince! Tell Bella to make you the dragon instead. UmI'm a little scared of her son, to be honest. Bella watched Edward with narrowed eyes, wondering why he was trying to ruin her perfect plan. She was finally going to get to kiss the Angel Carlisle this way, and then he would realize they were meant to be! She just knew he would. And now, her best friend was messing everything up. "Carlisle," she sniffed, throwing herself at him and wrapping her arms around his leg, the highest she could reach. "Tell Edward to stop being mean. He's not playing nice! He won't listen to me!" You're so bossy! Edward signed, his face angry. I don't want to play with you anymore. You're mean. Bella's eyes widened in hurt as he turned away, and she released her grip on Carlisle's leg, running over to Edward and skidding in front of him, her hands in a stop sign. Oh Edward! I'm sorry! Please play She looked down, heartbroken, her eyes filling with tears. She felt a foot lightly pressing down on hers after a few moments, and looked up into Edward's guilty expression. He shrugged. I guess I can be the dragonif you really want. His foot scuffed the ground. And you're not mean either. She sighed, realizing that her plan was going to be shot to hell but figured it was for a good cause. It's fine, you can be the prince. But you better be good at it! she warned. I will kick your butt if you don't rescue me right! He beamed as she sighed and turned to Carlisle, who was smiling gently at the scene that had unfolded before him. "Carlisle you're the dragon," she told him dully. "Go get in the moat. Now." Bella was surprised that she actually had a good time for the next hour or so. With Carlisle being the dragon, she got a very good view. And Edward was surprisingly good at rescuing. Eventually, both of them laughing, they started attacking the good doctor together, pushing him down and conquering and killing him. They high-fived when Carlisle, seemingly weak and dying, surrendered the princess to the prince. Is this the part where I kiss you? he asked her, eyes bright. Yeah, since you did a pretty good job, she signed offhandedly. And because the princess always has to get kissed by a prince. Taking him by surprise, she put her hands on his shoulders, and gave him a big, wet kiss on his lips. "Are okay Carlisle?" she called when she released him, turning around and scampering toward the defeated doctor, not realizing she had left behind a very dazzled Edward, a dazed grin on his face, and his eyes glazed over.

I almost forgot how bossy you were, Edward signed as we walked to the Hales from my house, since it was right across the street from his, to see if Rosalie was there. His arm was around my waist. I smacked my forehead. I can't believe I didn't remember that He patted my shoulder comfortingly as I rapped on the Hales door. Their mother opened the door. "Hello," I said pleasantly to her friendly yet inquisitive gaze. "We were wondering if Rosalie was home today?" Mrs. Hale looked at us apologetically. "No, I'm sorry, not right now. She's at the university with Emmett. However, I think they're coming home sometime today. Maybe you can see her then. I'll let you know, okay?" I nodded. "Alright, thanks Mrs. Hale. Have a nice day!" I called as I turned Edward away. "You too kids!" she called back, shutting the door. Edward rolled his head back. Damn it. I don't like having a broken car. He looked at me, scrutinizing. How do you survive? Knowing you don't have your own transport? He opened the door and we walked in as I rolled my eyes. Easy. I walk. Or call you. We didn't pass any of his family on the way up to his room, though Alice could've been in her room. And Jasper too, for all I knew. Emmett of course was gone, along with his parents. Edward kicked his bedroom door shut the minute he was inside, and looked at me with a diabolical grin, an evil gleam in his eye. You're mine, Swan. I giggled at the cheesy action movie line before he grabbed my waist and started kissing me. He walked forward, forcing me to back up, until the back of my knees hit the bed and fell down on it. He quickly crawled over me, grabbing my face in both his hands has his lips found mine and made me lose my grip on reality. I ran my fingers through his hair repeatedly, disheveling it even more as I arched into him, allowing no space between us. I moaned into his mouth as his tongue went out to lick my bottom lip and hoped this time he'd continue. Three's the charm, right? It always was. His tongue gently opened my lips, as he tilted his head, making it easier. When his tongue touched mine I thought I was going to die, or already had, it felt so good. How long had I dreamt of this? It was heaven, or just like it. I groaned as his tongue and mine danced together, and he pressed his lips harder to mine. He removed his hands from my face and let them slide down my neck, across my shoulders, and to my arms. He ran them to my hands, interlocking his fingers with mine, gently pulling my hands from his hair and down to the silk sheets. Slowly, he slid them up above my head, keeping our fingers intertwined. My breathing was erratic, my chest rising and falling quickly, meeting his. A small noise that came from the doorway made me peek one eye open. From the slightly slanted position we had somehow adjusted into, I could see Emmett, standing in the doorway, his mouth open, and hand still on the doorknob. My eyes widened, and I squeezed Edward's hands tightly, trying to get his attention. I certainly couldn't move my head, as pressed into the bed as it was, and even if I could, I

found the control necessary to do so escape me, even in this dire situationBut he took my squeeze the wrong way, interpreting it as encouragement. His tongue became even more ferocious and dominating in my mouth, and I couldn't help the moan that it forced out of me, or the fact that it made me close my eyes again, to my utter mortification. I wrenched my fingers from Edward's grasp and reluctantly shoved him away. He was confused for a moment as he toppled sideways off, landing on the bed next to me, before he saw Emmett. His face turned red. I looked at Emmett, and saw his dropped jaw slowly turn into a huge grin. I looked over at Edward and saw what Emmett did. His clothes, especially his shirt, were definitely rumpled and in need of some straightening. His hair was more tousled and messed up than usual, sticking up every which way. And even though his face was tomato red, he couldn't seem to wipe off his silly grin. I could only imagine what I looked like. "Ohbrother," Emmett said slowly, his excitement easily seen building in his brightening eyes. He turned and ran from the room, but his voice echoed in the house. "Everyone in the house right now, listen! It happened! It finally happened! What we all knew was inevitable, but were starting to think maybe wasn't inevitableyeah. It happened!" I smacked my forehead and glanced over at Edward. He was looking up at me from under his long lashes sheepishly. We're in for a lot of teasing, aren't we? he signed. I nodded, but then smirked. I grabbed his shirt and pulled him down to start kissing me again.

I woke up to the harsh glare of the early morning Phoenix sun shining through Edward's large window on this Saturday. The golden rays hit the sheets, making them shimmer; even the dark gold shadows caused from the indents and crevices in the twisted sheets. I felt Edward's arm tight around my waist, pressing my back taunt against his chest. His breathing was deep and even, and I figured he was still asleep. I smiled, feeling happy despite the early hour, and turned over to watch Edward dream. "Oh!" He chuckled at my surprised expression, my eyes widening when I saw that he wasn't asleep at all, but watching me. I got over it quickly though and relaxed against him, smiling. I brought my hands up with a little difficulty to wrap around his neck, hugging him briefly. Good morning, I smiled. He chuckled again, hugging me around my waist as he threw a glance over his shoulder. He turned back grinning smugly. He removed his hands to sign, Good lord. I must be doing something right since it's eight in the morning and you're actually smiling. This has to be a first. I scowled, and was going to sign something but he beat me to it. There! That seems a bit more normal. I shoved his shoulder roughly, eliciting a jubilant laugh from him. You could've just said good morning, jerk.

He smirked. Good morning then. The smugness and mocking slid off his face as he looked at me though, his expression morphing to something more intense and loving, his eyes gentle. He leaned forward slowly, and pressed his lips to mine tenderly. I wrapped my arms around his neck again and pressed back just as delicately. It was sweet, and the perfect kiss to start off the day with. It was only when he removed his lips that I realized I was feeling rather less than attractive. It was eight in the morning: my teeth and hair hadn't been brushed, and I needed a shower. Despite this almost fairy tale like turn of events, this was still reality, and stubble grew on my armpits and legs just like it always did. And that wasn't sexy. Unhappily I scooted out of Edward's embrace. His mouth turned down in a frown and his eyebrows creased, silently asking why I was leaving. I pointed toward the hall, indicating I was going to the bathroom. He sighed and got up. You can stay in bed, I told him, confused. There's no point if you're not in it, he signed, then yawned, stretching. His shirt rode up, and his pajama bottoms hung low, allowing me a delicious view of his hip bones. Mouth starting to water, I decided it was best to get out of there before I jumped on him. But unable to resist just a little taste, I jumped over to him and kissed him quickly, before hopping toward Alice's mercifully empty room to get some clothes and then go to take a shower, leaving behind a grinning Edward. After we'd both taken a shower, we walked down the stairs cautiously, keeping to the wall like spies, or thieves. We had neglected to leave his room yesterday, not willing to put up with any teasing. Only Edward had been brave enough to sneak downstairs late at night and grab us something to eat. Luckily, he had met no resistance, but the most dangerous game was about to begin. Alice, Rosalie, Jasper, and Emmett were all sitting at the kitchen table, chatting and eating leisurely. This was a rare occurrence; usually they all had somewhere they went off to. I couldn't help the egocentric, paranoid feeling welling in my stomach that this lapse in the norm was due to them waiting for us. It would be quite easy to walk straight to the front door from the stairs, not even having to go into the kitchen, or even too near it. And that's exactly what I planned on doing. I started to march from the bottom step to the front door, seeing it as though it was a finish line, without looking back. But there was a warm hand grabbing mine then, spinning me around to look at him. Edward took the hand that wasn't holding mine and put it on his hip, raising an eyebrow and giving me a look that told me that we were going into the kitchen whether I liked it or not. I sighed, and slumped my shoulders, defeated. Maybe it was best to get it over with anyway. Edward released my hand and wrapped his arm around my waist, holding me to his side comfortingly. I buried my face in his side and squeezed my eyes shut, refusing to look up as my feet met tile instead of carpet. An immediate silence fell upon the room, and I could feel four pairs of eyes staring at us, though I wasn't going to look up to check. Edward dragged me over to the cabinet and pulled out some Frosted Flakes. Behind me, eyes burned my back, and I wished they'd just say something, because the silence was so much worse. That was probably why Edward was handling this better than I was: all he knew was silence. And then it started.

"So, Bella," Emmett's loud voice rang out. Gulping, I turned very slightly in Edward's grasp to look at him, cringing. Edward glanced at me, and looked over at Emmett, who was eating his cereal casually, his eyes set only on it, an offhand air around him. But I could see a small smirk playing around the edges of his lips, even from his down turned head. I also saw that he wasn't going to sign what he was saying: bad. Bad bad bad bad bad bad. It meant he didn't want to deal with Edward's wrath if he should tell him it too. Which made this situation dire. "Noticed you and Edward are sleeping together already," he remarked, bringing a bite of cereal up to his mouth casually. "Moving pretty fast there sparky, don't you think?" My face turned from it's usual pale to stop sign red in a second flat. It had to be a record. "We're not sleeping together!" I cried out in embarrassment, narrowing my eyes at Emmett, and trying to ignore Alice's, Jasper's, and Rosalie's guffaws. "If I recall, I do believe I saw you asleep next to Edward this morning," Emmett said, his face turning perplexed as he gazed at me. "Yeah, but - " "But what, Bella?" Emmett asked, his brow furrowed in what seemed like real confusion, his head cocked to the side. Suddenly, his eyes widened. "Oh! Now I know what you mean! God, Bella, why are you such a pervert! I'm over here just trying to make an observation and you're over there trying to warp my delicate, innocent mind! Nice one, perv!" My mouth dropped open at his audacity as the three other people at the table roared with laughter, before my jaw locked, my face blazing. I grabbed a bowl and angrily poured my breakfast in it. Edward put his hand on the small of my back, and I glanced up at him. His expression was annoyed, his eyes questioning. I started to lift my hands up to clue him in on what Emmett said, but I dropped them at once. No way was I going to repeat that again. I shook my head at him. His mouth dropped open, and he opened his arms in a gesture that very clearly said, What the hell! I have a right to know! I shrugged, apologetic, and turned away to pour my milk and stand at the island, though finding it rather hard to eat. Three more comments to go through. I heard Edward growl in frustration, and glanced over to see his eyes locked with Emmett's. They stared at each other for a long time, some kind of silent communication going on through the eyes, before Emmett dropped his gaze, eating his cereal quickly. Edward walked over and stood next to me, his back toward the four at the table, but his head turned so he could see them, his expression warning. I sunk into his side, glad I wasn't alone in this. Edward looped one of his fingers in my belt loop and hung it there for comfort, since it was out of sight, and that would spare us some small amount of teasing. Rosalie pursed her lips to fight a smile, but gave up, laughing at her boyfriend. "Well, seriously, congratulations guys," she said, turning to us. "It took you long enough. And you can pass that on to him," she told me. Rose wasn't exactly the most personable person I'd ever met, but we got along okay. We weren't great friends, but I didn't mind her, and I don't think she minded me. Still, it came as a bit of a surprise for her to congratulate us. I nodded quickly, startled, and signed what she said to Edward. He smiled at her and nodded his thanks. Tell her I'm glad at least one person in that relationship is mature, he signed to me.

"Hey!" Emmett cried. He'd raised his eyes from the cereal and was glaring balefully at Edward. I am so mature, Edward. So mature that I don't have to wait thirteen years to tell a girl I'm head over heels for her. I blushed, as Edward looked down at me, sheepish. That was going to take some getting used to, hearing about his affection, but I wasn't complaining. "Well you know," Jasper said, speaking up finally. "I for one think this calls for a little speech." He stood up and cleared his throat, cracking his knuckles and rolling the kinks out his neck. "Alice, if you would like to do the honors of signing it," he nodded to her. She smirked, and held her hands up, rubbing them together diabolically. "Okay, since I'm the oldest, I'm going to take the initiative and go over - for the sake of the newest couple to join our ranks - something my father once told me. You guys might know it. Those little lovebirds might not," he jerked his head in our direction and we scowled, "But it's very important to be aware of. Now," he looked off contemplatively for a moment, trying to hide his smirk. "When a man loves a woman very very much, sometimes certain things occur and it's very important to be aware of what these actions are and the possible consequences that could arise because of them - Argh!" he cried out, stumbling back into his chair and falling on it. "Damn, Bella," Alice said, awed, letting out a low whistle, as Edward leaned on the counter, roaring with laughter along with everyone else. "You've got an arm on you, girl." "Oh, very mature Bella," Jasper growled, sitting up and holding up the offending spoon I had chucked at his head as hard as I could. "Now I've got milk in my hair. Thanks a lot." "Oops. I was actually aiming for your eye." His eye twitched in response, and he glared stony faced at me. I shrugged delicately. Edward snickered. "Alright, I think we got your point sweetie," Alice smiled, rubbing Jasper's arm. He gave her a small, private smile, that made me feel like I was intruding. All I want to know, Alice signed, looking dead in Edward's eyes, a meaningful look in hers. Is how this happened. Turning toward Edward, I saw him shake his head very fractionally side to side, watching Alice. I was confused. I turned back to Alice and saw her nodding. Okay, good. I was confused. Her, then? Edward nodded. What's going on? I signed, everyone looking just as perplexed as I felt at the little silent exchange. Edward rubbed my back. You'll see, eventually. He did a motion with his head then that said, 'Well, actually'. Suddenly he was grinning and I wondered why.

I yawned as I buckled up my seat belt in Edward's Volvo Monday morning. Rosalie had fixed it over the weekend for him. It was something about some plug somewhere in the carI don't know, it got detailed and I couldn't follow. Edward and I had been even more inseparable this weekend - even more than usual, and that was hard to believe. We hadn't told either of our parents yet. Not out of fear, but more like just not knowing how to bring it up. Emmett, mercifully, had kept it to himself, along with everyone else. Still, I thought I'd seen shimmerings of awareness in Carlisle's, Esme's, and Renee's eyes as they caught glances of us briefly over the weekend. At our closeness,

at the way we were always touching now. It was beyond our old occasional hand-holding or brief hugging. Edward's fingers seemed permanently intertwined with my own, and his warm side was all I wanted to lean into. I scooted over in my seat so I was lying against Edward, my head on his side. His arm wrapped around me and I fell into a short nap on the way to school. It was our last official week there as seniors: meaning it was exam week. And two weeks from then would be graduation. Everyone seemed very excited, but I just couldn't get into it. It was only a date to me; I couldn't see it as anything else. I knew it was a huge milestone in our lives, a point where we really start to stand on our own, but my body didn't buy it. It didn't get excited, or antsy awaiting it. Maybe I was just a freak, but oh well. At least I was a calm, level-headed one. You worried about exams? Edward asked me, leaning against a row of lockers in an empty hallway near both of our classes as we waited for the first bell to ring to go to class. I stood directly in front of him, his arms wrapped low on my waist and my hands resting on his chest when we weren't using them to talk. I shook my head. Nope. We've studied enough, and I'm not confused on anything. I shook my head and laughed. Though watch that mean I didn't understand anything at all. He leaned forward, grinning. Do you want me to help you take your mind off it? I bit back a smirk and raised an eyebrow. If you think you can, I challenged. Right idea. He pulled me closer by the belt loops and kissed me thoroughly. I moaned and slid my hands up his chest to around his neck. He kept one arm tight around my lower back and brought his other hand up to cup my cheek as he slid his tongue in my mouth. My hands went up to grip his hair and he flipped us around, pressing me tightly against the lockers with his body, hands on my hips. It was amazing how it felt to have every part of my body lit on fire, prickling my skin in an enticing way. The warning bell rang, signaling six minutes to get to class. I turned my head away, gasping for air, but it didn't deter him. He started kissing all along my jaw, and nuzzled my ear lobe, nipping it with his teeth. Kids started passing us but they paid us no mind; making out in the hallways was an average sight. I touched Edward's cheek as he kissed my neck, re-bruising my partly healed love bite that had stayed hidden all weekend by my hair. He glanced up and I pointed toward the ceiling to indicate the bell had rung, trying to open my eyes all the way when they just wanted to close and let him continue what he was doing. First or second warning bell? he signed, letting go of my hips briefly. Our school was weird. It had the first warning bell telling you to start heading to class, and then another warning bell that told you there was a minute left before you were late. I had always thought it unnecessary, but I didn't now. I held up one finger and he shrugged, before attacking my neck again, and then coming back up to my mouth. I couldn't help it; he was just too good. I relaxed and leaned against the lockers, locking my arms around his waist and letting him kiss me. The second warning bell rang and my eyes flew open in panic. We couldn't be late for exams. I broke away gasping again and pointed toward the ceiling with more urgency, and he backed away from the lockers, pulling me with him. I don't wanna leave you, he told me, his mouth twisting downward.

Me neither, I signed, and he pulled me toward him to kiss me once, twice, three more times quickly. I laughed, unable to help myself, and tried to turn away, but he just peppered my cheek with kisses, smiling. "Go!" I told him, giggling, and pushing him away. He flashed me his crooked smile and reluctantly let go, before we both turned and started running pell-mell toward our classrooms. It was times like these that I wished I'd been brave enough to tell him a long time ago. I almost had, once

The seventeen year old girl sat on the swing in the old playground. The city had built a new one a few years ago; bigger, and the playground was better, so no one went to this one anymore, as barren looking as it was. But the girl liked it. It was a good place to be alone; it was one of her thinking spots. The swing creaked as she sat on it, her feet on the ground, rocking back and forth slowly, barely hard enough to move the chain links. She stared at the ground, her expression hard, her mouth set thin and straight, her eyes dark. She didn't look up as she heard the creak of the swing next to her being sat on, knowing who it was. The only person who knew she even came here ever, to this park, to this swing set, to this place to think. He just sat there for a little while, not trying to get her attention or communicate with her. Just being there, a little bit of comfortable company. Her best friend looked to the clear blue sky, rocking back and forth slightly on his swing too, as he waited for her to acknowledge him; he could talk to her then, and only then. Finally, after many long minutes, she turned her head to look at him. Sowhy'd you come here? What's up? Edward asked, concern in his brow as he turned to her too. She bit her lip, furrowing her brow as she looked off into the dry vast space of the old playground, not looking at him as she signed her question. .Edwardwhat would you do if I died? She looked over at him then to see his face. His eyes were dark and shot with pain, his mouth set in a hard, angry line. I don't know. It's not exactly something I like to think about. Why? His eyes were grim and demanding. The girl shrugged. Just thinkingI was walking in the city today and I saw this guy just collapse, right in the middle of the sidewalk. It was so weird, like he just tripped or something, and you expect him to just get back up and start walking. But he didn't, he was just sprawled thereright there on the ground. Someone called an ambulance immediately, but apparently he was dead before he hit the ground. Heart attack. She shrugged again. Got me thinking a lot about mortality. She looked over at him and saw he was gazing off, his eyes serious, taking in what she had told him. She stared at the ground again. Watching the man collapse, and unknowingly seeing him die as well, had made her realize truly how fast things could change, for the first time. If you kept delaying things, that could mean that you might never get to do them. Anything could happen. Time was precious, and not to be wasted. She decided to just tell him how she felt. She moved her hands slightly, and looked at him. This immediately made her put her hands back on the chain link tightly, her teenage insecurities overruling her recently gained wise insight.

He was still looking off, and so she could study him. The light breeze lifted his bronze locks gently into the air, swirling and almost sparkling in the setting sun, the blood red light bringing out the beauty of the copper in his hair. His pale skin was perfect, not a thing wrong with it, or to be fixed. His eyes were the perfect shape, big but not too big, beautiful but still masculine, his lashes long and thick and the color of his emerald eyes like real jewels. His lips were soft looking and just the right size. His bone structure was perfect, as if he had been carved from a master sculpture. He was too beautiful. He was too perfect. On the inside as well. He couldn't be meant for her. She sighed and looked away again. She was just going to have to take her chance with time and hoped it was good to her. She hated herself as twilight fell around them.

We met up again after school. Because of exams, it was only a half day and we walked to his car together. Edward stopped abruptly then, a few cars away from his own, his grip on my waist halting me as well. I glanced over at him to see what was wrong, and was shocked. His expression was black. His eyes were drawn tight and dark, almost black with fury. His lips were bared over his teeth slightly, and a low snarl was starting in his chest. I'd never seen him look sodangerous. I didn't know he could look like that. I turned forward to see what had twisted his expression, and saw Tyler in front of us, a few feet away, his hands held up in surrender. Still, Edward drew me tighter to his side, taking his arm from his other side to wrap around my waist from the front so he could move his hand to instinctively gently place on the still slightly tender part of my head that had been punched and then slammed into pavement. Tyler's face was apologetic and guilty though, and I knew he meant no harm. I placed my hand over Edward's, trying to calm him down. He glanced at me, and his lips closed together in a hard line. That was the only thing that changed in his dark glare, directed towards the guy in front of us. Tyler winced and moved his hand to rub the back of his awkwardly. "I guess I deserve this," he muttered, before taking a deep breath. "Bella, I just wanted to apologize for Friday. And tell EdwardI apologize to him too. What I did I shouldn't have done. I decided I believe you guys, and I broke up with Lauren." He grimaced. "Not that that's any compensation." "It's alright Tyler," I said quietly. "I forgive you. If you hadn't been going on false information, I would've thought your actions noble." I turned toward Edward, telling him with my eyes that it was okay. But he just shook his head, his fingers flexing over the abused side of my head his hand still rested gingerly on. I turned to Tyler again and saw for the first time the darker coloring on his cheek, an obvious bruise on his already dark skin. I remembered then seeing Edward punch him before I blacked out. I frowned, though I couldn't blame him in the slightest. Tyler took a deep breath again. "Well, that's really all I wanted to say. And uh, congratulations, you two," he told us, looking down at Edward's protective grip on me. "I knew it would happen soon." I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. It seemed everyone in the world knew it was going to happenexcept us two fools. And everyone kept congratulating us like we were engaged or going to have a baby or something. It was weird. Tyler started to walk away, but he stopped and turned his head back. "And Bella? Nice fighting skills. You really kick ass, girl."

To which I smirked proudly. I turned to Edward and snickered. And you said karate was a waste of my time. He rolled his eyes, but his expression lightened up somewhat. I sighed, thinking about how I really needed to go home and practice some, since I hadn't in a few days. Speaking of which

Edward headed toward the work out room as usual, while I went to change. Honestly, nothing much had changed in our routine. At the heart of everything, he was still my best friend: he also just happened to be the love of my life. A very lucky turn of events. He was still the man that was always there for me, that looked out for me, that supported me, that loved me. The only thing that had changed was the physical aspect of our relationship, a new closeness that we shared, and a lack of inhibitions toward physical contact. I changed into my gray aerobic cut offs and a regular black spaghetti strap top. As usual, I bounced back toward my work out room. Edward was leaning against the wall as normal, his arms crossed and eyes dark and focused. I stood in the middle of the room, and stretched my arms above my head, getting into my state of mind that allowed me to ignore my audience. It was a little bit harder than it used to be, because I was so much more aware of him. I sat on the ground, and spread my legs, leaning over to grab one foot and press my torso against my leg, stretching my sides and my leg. The muscles in them strained and stretched, and that was good, a familiar warm burn. I did the same to the other leg, and jumped back up. I went into the normal routine of my stretches, doing my legs, my side stretches, my arm pulls, my back bend. It seemed every time I glanced over at Edward, his eyes were closed. The familiar guilty annoyance crept into my system, knowing that he was bored. I sighed and stomped over to his stiff form. I tapped his shoulder, and he opened his eyes, the normal bright green darker. I glared at him. You know, you can go do something else if you're that bored. His mouth dropped very slightly, and his forehead creased. You think I'm bored? he signed, a look of utter disbelief on his face. Doubt flitted through me. Aren't you? I signed, my face unsure. He shook his head, his face stony. Then why do you always close your eyes, or leave the room? I asked, exasperated, throwing my arms up in the air when I was done signing. You don't know? he asked, his forehead creased in confused disbelief again. It was my turn to shake my head. He rolled his eyes. Then let me show you, exactly why I do those things that seem to annoy you so much. In a movement too quick for me to see, I was pressed against the wall he'd been leaning on previously, my wrists pinned against it by his hands as his lips crashed down onto mine. Maybe I should've been expecting this, but I hadn't. Though I was certainly feeling pretty stupid. He groaned and pressed his hard body against mine, as tightly as he could. Which was pretty tight. I was moaning unrestrainedly, as his tongue dominated mine in my mouth. He brought my hands to clasp around his neck, then returned his own to my body.

He started out low on the side of my thighs, slowly bringing them upward, caressing me through my thin clothes. An impulsive thought shot across my brain and I wondered how this would feel if they were off. His hands continued upward, stroking my sides. When he passed my hips, the tips of his long pianist fingers brushed my butt, and I groaned loudly, pressing myself tighter to him, and feeling something distinctly harder than the rest of him against my abdomen. I was so turned on right now, it wasn't even funny. My head was spinning, and I was hyper aware of everything. It felt like I had the ability to feel the individual particles in the air brush past me, and every single molecule on my body that touched his. He continued his hands journey upward, stroking my ribs through my shirt. Under the line of my breasts though he stopped, hesitating. He broke his mouth away from my own to gasp for air, leaning his forehead on mine. I opened my eyes to look into his unsure ones. I unlocked my arms from around his neck with a little difficulty, since they were currently feeling like jelly from all the attacks on my senses. I reached down to place my hands over the top of his, and slowly slid them up, looking at him. As soon as his hands cupped my breasts, he bit his lip and groaned, closing his eyes. I did too, leaning my head back against the wall to enjoy this. I honestly didn't think we were moving too fast at all. This felt right, this felt natural. Obviously, we had the emotional aspect and attraction of our relationship covered. We'd been working on that for thirteen years. And now we could concentrate on the physical, since we had that many years ofsexual frustration, I guess, to work out now. I didn't think we were going to go farther than this right now, though, which was probably for the best: I was losing my mind as it was. His hands fondled my chest so expertly, that I couldn't help but to wonder if he'd done this before. He dropped his head down to the crook between my shoulder and neck, to bite and kiss it as he worked. I was so glad I'd worn this tank top: the built in shelf bra was thin, and I could feel him better. His thumbs passed over the center of my breasts, and my nipples hardened under my shirt. I thought I should've been embarrassed, but I was gasping and whimpering Edward's name, and my legs were shaking. I wasn't going to be able to stand up much longer. And all I could think about - beside the delicious movements of his hands was the fact that he obviously wanted me. He didn't have to say it, I could tell from how he had kissed me, and how he was touching me. It made me light-headed, to finally figure out the mystery of his groans while I worked out. The thought made me blush. I never expected this. His lips came up to brush over my enflamed cheeks, his breathing ragged. I opened my eyes and watched his lust-filled face as he gazed at my gasping mouth. Suddenly I heard a call from the kitchen. "Hey! Are you kids home?" Renee. Shit. My eyes widened in panic, and Edward saw it. His hands immediately dropped away, and his lustful eyes turned guilty. I quickly realized what he thought. No! I signed hurriedly to him, assuring him it wasn't his fault as he pulled back some. It's just that Renee's home! His eyes widened with mine then, and his hands quickly went to my shirt, straightening it out, and he patted my hair quickly, trying to make it look a little less ruffled. I did the same to him, yanking his shirt straight, and combing his hair into it's normal messy, not I'vebeen-running-my-fingers-through-it-while-we-made-out messy. He quickly took a few hurried steps back and I pushed away from the wall and into my usual spot in the middle of the room. Both of us tried not to look too guilty as Renee popped her head into the doorway.


Rene smiled at us. "Hey guys! I was wondering if you'd be here or at his house. Want a snack? I stopped by a doughnut shop and got some, if you want them." "Sure mom," I agreed, smiling back. I was relieved that she was being her normally flighty self, instead of deciding today to be inconveniently observant. She obviously noticed nothing amiss and I breathed a sigh of relief as Rene disappeared, heading toward the kitchen. I turned back toward Edward and he wiped mock sweat from his forehead exaggeratedly, before grinning crookedly at me. I stifled a giggle. Want a doughnut? I asked him. Among other things. His eyes moved up and down my frame. I rolled my eyes. Pervert. Let's go before you get yourself in trouble. Smiling crookedly again, he grabbed my hand and we walked out toward the kitchen, sitting down in front of the bowl of doughnut holes she'd put out. I grabbed one and popped it in my mouth. "Thanks mom," I said, grinning. "These are good. Krispy Kreme?" Rene nodded, pouring herself some tea. Edward ate one and smiled, giving my mom an exuberant thumbs up. She giggled and nodded her 'your welcome'. Edward turned to me. Do you want to tell her now? I bit my lip. I don't know what to say. He put a finger to his chin thoughtfully. How about this: 'Mom, after years and years of trying to resist him, I have decided that Edward is just too amazing, too perfect, and too straight up sexy to ignore anymore and - ' I laughed out loud, shoving him. He chuckled and shook his head. Joking. Smiling, I glanced up at Rene and saw that she was staring us, brow furrowed, obviously wondering what we were saying. She met my gaze and shook her head, smiling slightly. "I always get so paranoid when you guys do that. I can't help but to wonder if you're having a good laugh at your dear old mom." I grinned. "Nah, we wouldn't do that to you." She rolled her eyes. "I'll be in the living room then. Law & Order's on. Enjoy those," she said, nodding toward the bowl of sweet baked goods. She walked out behind us to the living room. Coward, Edward signed, smirking. It's not that, I told him, I just don't know how to bring it up. It's kind of random. I picked up another glazed doughnut hole and bit into it thoughtfully, looking off as he took my other hand. A bit of the glaze broke off, and stuck to the side of my mouth. I heard Edward chuckle, and before I could lick it off he'd leaned over and kissed the corner of my lips, taking the thin, hardened piece of sugar into his own mouth. He didn't lean back

though; he just kept his face right there near mine, a small sweet smile on his lips as he gazed at me. Finally, I gave up trying to resist and turned my head to press my lips to his softly, closing my eyes. He smiled into the kiss and removed his hand from mine, bringing both up to cup my face tenderly, his thumb brushing over one of my closed eyelids. He tasted so good - on top of his normally sweet, mouth-watering taste, he had a bit of sugar on his lips from the pastry. "I knew it," a familiar voice muttered from behind us. I jumped and broke away from Edward, startled. I whirled around in my seat to see Rene standing there, leaning against the entrance to the kitchen, her arms folded and an eyebrow raised. She didn't look angry or upset though. More amused than anything, I think. "And when, exactly, were you planning on telling me?" she asked, eyebrow still raised, and an amused little smirk playing around the edges of her lips. "I don't know," I muttered, blushing, glancing at Edward. His cheeks were pink too, and he looked up at me from under his lashes sheepishly, his head ducked, a little smile sneaking around the corners of his mouth. "I didn't know how to bring it up." "Yeah, well, I knew it had to happen soon," she murmured, shaking her head. "And, have fun telling Charlie." "Charlie?" I asked, startled, looking up at her. She gave me a disbelieving look. "Oh, right! Graduation." She nodded. "Yup." She glanced between the two of us. "Do his parents know yet?" I shook my head. "At least, I think they don't." I thought a moment. "Maybe we should get on that." I stood up and Edward stood up with me after I took his hand. "Thanks for not flipping out, mom." She shook her head, letting us pass. "No reason to. Everyone's seen this coming for years. I'm just surprised it took this long." I breathed a sigh of relief, and opened the front door, pulling Edward along with me. "Oh, and, Bella?" Rene called. I glanced back. "That back room is for working out not making out." I blushed about ten shades of red and ducked into Edward's side as he shut the door behind us. He wrapped his arm around me comfortingly, though he didn't know exactly what he was comforting, and helped me into the Volvo. What? he asked when he got in too. I ran a hand through my hair, embarrassed. Rene knew something happened in the work room after all. He blushed too. Does she know exactly what? I shook my head. I don't think so, she just called us on making out. I thought for a moment. Which is pretty lucky that she didn't guess anything else. Especially since you're going to have to face Charlie as my boyfriend now. His hands slipped on the keys and they dropped to the floor. I giggled. Great, he signed, sighing. He didn't hate me completely before, but I can only imagine what it's going to be like nowHe's getting here day before the graduation ceremony you said, right? I nodded.

We'd planned this out with Charlie a long time ago, so Edward of course already knew about it. Since it was the summer before college, and I had a lot of preparing to do, moving out and such - the university was a fair distance away from home, way across town, and it was just easier to get my own place, though I'd come back and visit Rene on occasional weekends and stuff, just like Emmett, Rose, and Jasper did - he wasn't going to be staying the two weeks he usually did, but just come the day before graduation and stay a week. I was going to go visit him during winter break though to make it up to him. It used to be that every summer I'd go spend a month with Charlie; but it was too miserable in the rainy, dreary town of Forks, and I missed Edward too much, though we emailed each other every day. So the summer when I was fourteen, my mom and I convinced him to take a two weeks vacation to come down and visit me here. And that was when he met Edward for the first time

The fourteen year old girl sat in the backseat of her mom's car while her mom and dad sat up front. The silence was kind of awkward, mostly because of Rene and Charlie never knowing what to say to each other. "So," Charlie started, clearing his throat. "I'm really interesting in meeting this Edward I've been hearing about nonstop for the last nine years. Why are we going to pick him up again?" Charlie asked Rene, as Bella felt a wave of relief wash over her that he'd gotten over his stage of calling her best friend 'Edwin'. She shrugged. "Because he always comes over, or she goes over there. And currently he thinks that Bella is on a plane to Forks, and she wants to surprise him." They both glanced back at the grinning girl in the backseat, looking very proud of her plan, if not blushing a little at the thought of how her dad would take to her best friend. "Don't ask me, it's just a thing they have I guess." "I hope you're being careful Bella, as I've said before," Charlie said in a warning voice. "I was a teenage boy once too, and they only want one thing." "Dad!" Rene rolled her eyes. "Ignore him Bella. Daughter's are nature's revenge on fathers, so they can worry themselves sick over their girl meeting the exact same kind of guy they used to be." The girl giggled, smirking at her dad's reddening face. "It's true," he muttered gruffly. "But regardless, you can't take chances." They pulled up to the Cullens' house then, and Bella hopped out excitedly, running up to the door and knocking exuberantly. A few moments later the door opened and Esme was there, her kind figure in the door frame. "Oh!" she exclaimed, surprised. "Bella! I thought you were gone, sweetie." She smirked. "Not this summer. My dad came here!" she announced proudly. "Can Edward come over? I want him to meet my dad!" "Oh, um, alright," Esme laughed, before walking into the house to get her glum son that was sulking in the kitchen. She dragged him back to the door, him looking at the ground the whole time, frowning unhappily. Until he looked up. "Bella!" he breathed, such acute relief in his voice you'd think he had been drowning and had just gotten his first gulp of fresh air. He ran the last few steps and snatched her up in a

spine-breaking hug, twirling her around. She laughed, forgetting a minute about her parents watching in the car. You lied! Edward accused when he set her down, the relief and happiness fading into annoyance. She shrugged, smirking. Yeah, I did. My dad came down here this summer! He's in the car. She jerked her head back. Come on! I want you to meet him! Brow furrowed, he allowed himself to be dragged by the hand by the petite girl back to her mom's car. He climbed in the backseat with her, and when she glanced over, the girl could see that he was looking a little nervous, looking up at her dad uneasily. This made her giggle some. Charlie was harmless. He was shy and awkward, and in so many real ways, more like Bella than she was like her mother. She loved her dad; they were two peas in a pod, and they got along great most of the time because they were just so alike. Neither needed to talk, neither was what you would call coordinated, neither was very good in any kind of social situation; but both were strong willed people, very stubborn, and dedicated. There was a particular peace she found around Charlie that she didn't find around Rene. In some ways, Charlie understood her better. And, in his own way, she thought he was pretty cool, as far as dads went. Charlie turned around in his seat and held his hand out to Edward, grasping it firmly, nodding and smiling slightly. He didn't try to speak directly to him, knowing he was deaf hell, he pretty much knew everything about the boy, the way Bella talked endlessly about him on her summer's she spent with him. "I take it you're going to be doing the translating?" Charlie asked, fixing his gaze on his daughter after he let go of Edward's hand. She nodded and so did he, turning around and saying no more the rest of the ride. Edward turned to the girl in the back seat. You're dad doesn't like me. There was no question on his face. It's not that, she answered, hedging. He doesn't trust me. She shook her head, but in resignation, not denial. How do you always guess right? He shrugged. It's usually easy to tell what people are thinking, by body language and stuff. He tapped his ear, his eyes tight, his smile grim. Generally it's all I have to go on. Charlie glanced back at them a lot the rest of the ride, until they made it to Rene's house, and walked in, Edward keeping a respectful distance from Bella behind the two adult's back. The girl frowned; she didn't like the unusual distance, but she could understand where it was coming from. Charlie walked into the kitchen and sat down, and by an unspoken understanding, the two teens followed. Rene rolled her eyes at the scene about to go down, and left to fix up the couch, since that was the only place for him to sleep unless he wanted to bunk on a cot next to his daughter's punching bag. "It's nice to finally meet you, son," Charlie said, after they'd all sat down, looking straight at the girl's friend. She turned to him and signed what he'd said, and Edward signed back to her. Tell him it's an honor to finally meet my best friend in the whole world's dad.

The girl rolled her eyes, seeing that he was going for charm, and edited a little bit. "He says it's an honor to meet you too, and he's glad he got the chance to." "So, you've known my daughter a long time right?" His daughter in question glared at him, her gaze suspicious, but she signed it anyway. Edward nodded at her father, a confused look on his face, though his eyes had a small glint of knowing. "And what, exactly, are your plans concerning her?" "Dad!" she cried, putting her hands on her hips. "We're not dating!" "Really?" he asked, his eyebrow raised. "Coulda fooled me," he muttered under his breath. Edward poked her arm, a questioning look on his face. But she just shook her head. Doesn't matter, it's a stupid question. "Did you ask him?" Charlie asked. "No, that question is ridiculous! We're just friends." "For now," Charlie murmured, shaking his head mockingly. After Edward left a little while later, the time spent being rather awkward with Charlie around, he turned to his daughter. "I think that boy likes you." "I think you're wrong," she blushed, though she wished desperately it was true. "I think I'm right. And remember to be careful, please, because one of the most common rape cases is when the girl is attacked by her 'best friend' because she's unsuspecting, and " "Ch - Dad! Please!" "Please understand what I'm saying, I'm just trying to look out for you," he muttered, his cheeks blazing, like hers. She knew he didn't like discussions concerning dating, boys, sex, rape, or anything to do with attraction at all. So she knew he really was just concerned. "I do think he's a nice boy though, as far as male teenagers go," he added, and Bella smiled, walking over to hug her dad tight around his middle.

It was the first week of June - since seniors got out so much earlier than underclassmen exams were long since over, and it was the day before graduation. I stood at the airport, awaiting my father, with Edward there, his arm around my waist. Rene wasn't here because she was currently at one of her new palates classes, and she had asked us to come pick up Charlie. I was a little nervous, but I didn't think that Charlie would mind too much about Edward and I when he found out. At least, I really hoped he wouldn't. I mean, so far Rene, Carlisle, and Esme had taken it really well. Carlisle and Esme were ecstatic, actually, obviously very happy for both of us; though from what I read between the lines, they obviously knew about Edward's love for me for a long time, and were jubilant for him that it had finally been acted upon. Edward tapped my shoulder then, and I looked up at him. He smiled slightly, and pointed over at Gate 9. Taking a deep breath I looked over too, and saw my dad there, looking awkward as usual as he looked around for us. Well, me. But he'd come to expect Edward there too.

Both of us waved hugely until he spotted us. "Hey Dad," I grinned as he made his way over to where we stood. He shook Edward's hand as usual, and then turned to me. "Hey Bells," he grinned back. "Nervous about tomorrow?" he asked as we walked over to the revolving bag pick up, me in the middle of the two men. Edward was holding my hand, our fingers intertwined, and I'm pretty sure Charlie noticed. I shrugged. "Not really, I think. I'm just ready for it to be over." Charlie shook his head as he grabbed his small bag. "But this is big Bella. This proves you're not my little girl anymore." I rolled my eyes. "I'll always be your little girl," I said sarcastically, quoting the most overused line parents' always said. He reached over to pinch my arm but I side-stepped into Edward's side, and Edward's arm automatically wrapped around my waist. The heat rose in my cheeks as I saw Charlie staring at the action. The ride home was quiet, as it always was. I sat up front with Charlie driving, looking out the window. I glanced back every now and then and Edward was always staring at me. We smiled whenever we caught each other's eyes, and then I would turn back around. Charlie cleared his throat after a couple times of this, but I really wasn't sure if it was because of our actions or if he really needed to. It was hard to tell. "Hey Bella?" Charlie asked seemingly innocently when we got back to the empty house. I turned to him, wary as he set his suitcase down in the doorway. "I'm pretty bushed from the flight. Mind starting dinner please?" "Sure," I agreed cautiously, and started toward the kitchen. Edward made to follow, but Charlie put his hand on his shoulder, and jerked his head toward the living room. I think he was supposed to be trying to look nice and inviting or something, but his smile was way too forced. "C'mon, you can sit with me a bit while Bella makes dinner." Edward couldn't hear him, but he got the message. That was something Edward had told me he liked about my dad; Charlie never really treated him different. Obviously, some allowances needed to made, but he never seemed uncomfortable about his handi-capability (as I happily corrected people when they said 'handicapped'), like some people did; Rene included on occasion. I caught Edward's eye, anxiousness in mine; but he just smiled comfortingly as he let himself be steered away. He'd lost his fear and/or nervousness of Charlie over the years, and was currently taking the news of telling Charlie about us better than I was. It probably wouldn't be so bad; I just couldn't help but to be nervous because Charlie had gotten used to the idea of me single for eighteen years, and I was about to shake his world up. But seriously, I was eighteen. He couldn't exactly get mad at me or anything. Justifiably, that is. I didn't really want to leave Edward alone to face my dad, but I didn't have much choice; that, and I was scared. And Edward wasn't. So...heh. He could deal with it. I pulled out all kinds of cheeses and stuff from the fridge and started mixing them together, to make lasagna, while I put water on to boil for the noodles. It was a favorite of Charlies' though what wasn't - and I decided it'd make a nice welcoming dinner.

After a little while I heard the TV on in the living room, and I breathed a sigh of relief. Everything was alright apparently. I called them in when it was done, and Charlie walked in, looking enthusiastic about food. Rene walked in after and I was surprised; I hadn't heard her come in. I guess she'd just gone and hung out in the living room with the guys. And then came in Edward. But anxiousness went through me when I saw him, instead of the relief and joy I'd expected to feel. His brow was drawn together, and he looked broodingly at the floor, his eyes dark. I knew it couldn't be because Charlie had told him he couldn't see me or anything, or else Charlie would be looking pissed, and he'd be giving me the, 'we need to talk' look. As it was, he was looking pretty happy as he dug into his lasagna with enthusiasm. And Edward didn't look like he was upset, exactly. He just looked like he was thinking hard about something unpleasant. My stomach turned uneasily. Rene and Charlie chatted a bit during dinner, seeming perfectly at ease. I, on the other hand, didn't eat much. I just stared at Edward mostly. He didn't look at me at all, just stared at his food, also not eating. After dinner, I'd had enough. "We're going to go for a walk," I announced suddenly to my parents after they were done eating. I didn't give them a chance to answer as I took Edward's hand and pulled him with me out the front door and to the sidewalk. I wasn't sure where we were going, but I just kept walking. Finally, we hit the old playground. I looked at the closed gate, and shrugged, climbing on it and hopping over. Edward followed me. I don't think he would've dared not to. We walked over to the play set, and I pushed him down on one of the plastic steps that led up to the slides and monkey bars and all those fun things. I stood in front of him, glaring. Alright. Explain. Now. He didn't though for a moment, he just looked up at me. Finally, he opened his arms and I climbed into his lap. If this would get him talking. I sat sideways so I could see his hands and his face without too much strain either way. Is this about Charlie? I asked. His mouth twisted and he shook his head. Not really. He just brought something up. I waited. After a few long moments he sighed. He told me to take good care of you. I waited again. I still wasn't seeing what was wrong. He didn't start again though. Impatient, I signed, And? "Bella," he said slowly. I'm not...I'm not whole. I don't know if I can take care of you as well as I should. As well as you deserve. Life would never exactly be easy around me, as you should know by now, and I stopped him right there, taking his hands in my own and leaning forward to kiss him softly. He responded, at least, his hands tightening around my own. Edward, please don't think like that. You're not incomplete. You're perfect. Even if you don't agree, I think so. Obviously, if I didn't want a life with you around I would've decided that years and years ago. And you've taken care of me my whole life. It's not really all that different now. Oh yeah, he signed, his face sarcastic as he reached up to gingerly brush the side of my head, though it was long since healed. Because I did such a good job. I rolled my eyes. That wasn't your fault. I rushed myself into that fight.

I should've protected you. You were trying, I just wasn't letting you, remember? Besides, you got a punch in. Please stop trying to make excuses for me. It'll only make me more disgusted with myself. I was starting to panic. So what are you saying? You're going to leave; you don't want this? Us? He didn't answer at first, and my heart started to accelerate. My breathing was escalating, coming close to hyperventilation. He couldn't leave me. He couldn't. I would follow him, I would do something He crushed me to his chest then. No. I'm not. I love you too much, and I need you. So long as you're sure about this. My breathing slowed again, going back to normal, and I pulled back to sign, I've always been sure about you. I love you, too. He smiled, and it was his smile; it reached his eyes. The brooding and misery was gone, and he placed his hand behind my head, pulling me to him to kiss me. Uncomfortable in my current position, I quickly threw one of my legs over both of his, straddling him. He placed one of his hands on my lower back and pulled me closer while I wrapped my arms around his neck. His tongue gently pushed apart my lips, and I sighed into his mouth as his tongue met mine. We kissed slowly for a little while, until we had to break away for air. Even then, I just tilted my head to the side and let Edward kiss up and down my jaw and neck. After a little while, I decided to move on to lighter subjects. So, I started casually when Edward took a little break from my skin, though this was something I'd really wanted to know for a while but been slightly too shy to ask it. When we move out of our parents houses soon - you know, moving closer to the university and stuff, do you want to - I mean, are we... I bit my lip, unsure of how to ask this. An amused smile played on his lips, and he leaned in to kiss the corner of my mouth. Yes? I breathed out exasperatedly, blowing the hair out of my face. Are you moving in with me? I don't know why it was so embarrassing to ask, but it was. Probably because I knew that would be stretching our self-control too far...and I doubted we were going to stay 'innocent' long if we did live together. He looked at me, a wry smile on his face. Finally, he shook his head. I tried not to let the disappointment show on my face. Oh... But he was smirking then. You're moving in with me. Relief flooded through me at the same time suspicion did. And what, exactly, is the difference? I pay, of course. My eyes widened. Edward no! C'mon we can go dutch or something, but I can't let you He swooped in and kissed me then, sufficiently cutting me off. Oh yes, you can. And you will, he signed, after he'd pulled back, leaving a very breathless me.

As unhappy as I was about this, I knew I wasn't going to win the argument. Tonight.

Later on, after I'd said - a very pleasurable, I might add - goodnight to Edward, and gone back to my house, I paused in the hallway. He and Charlie had to have talked through writing. I couldn't help but to wonder if they'd thrown it away or not. I snuck into the living room, and saw Charlie snoring away on the couch. And there on the coffee table - ah yes. Bingo! A legal pad, with obvious writing on it. I snatched it up and crept away to my room as quietly as I could. I curled up on my bed, and made myself comfortable before I started to read it. Alright, man to man, no beating around the bush, be honest with me: Are you seeing my daughter now? Yes. I smiled as I imagined my father's face at that. Feels like I've said this before, but what, exactly, are your intentions for her? I held my breath and bit my lip as I started to read his answer. Charlie, I love Bella more than I could possibly ever express. She's everything; she's always been my everything. I can't imagine a world without her in it, and I don't want to because that would kill me. I want to make her happy. I want to give her anything in this world she wants, and no matter what it is, I'm going to try. I love her, and I want to make her feel as amazing and perfect and cherished as she makes me feel. I want her forever. I could never hurt her, if that's what you're worried about. Fine then. Just take care of my baby girl. She's all I have. It ended there, and that was good, because my eyes were filled with tears. I slumped back onto my pillows with my tears streaking silently down my smiling face, as I hugged the legal pad to my chest. I was going to keep that paper forever.

11.Binding Contract
I let out a big breath of accomplishment as I took a step back from the wall, where my final Harry Potter collage poster I'd made a long time ago now hung. It was the last thing needed to complete my new room. Wellour new room, I corrected in my head. Edward and I had moved into this apartment a week ago, and all of our time had been consisting mainly of hauling furniture, buying new ones - Alice enjoyed the shopping with us, but I found it tedious - painting the walls, deciding what to take from mine and Edward's rooms at our parent's houses' to add to our new home, setting everything up, and then determining what we still needed to buy. And finally, finally, with this last addition to my dorktastic obsession, our room - and the rest of our apartment - was at last completed. Edward didn't really have anything to hang up, since his obsessions didn't normally end up in him buying or making posters, collages, drawings, photographs, or anything like that. I, however, was a different story. So he said the walls were mine to do with what I wished.

I looked around the huge bedroom, my eyes lingering on the beautiful man still asleep in bed. It was the same one from his room - at my insistence, we had kept it, instead of getting another one like he wanted; which was just wasteful, since he was already spending way too much. That thought made me frown. To say I didn't like our apartment would be a lie. It was very high-end, not small and dirty and shabby like Rene had always warned me my first apartment would be. It was spacious, and in a great neighborhood a little way away from the university. The walls were thick, the tenant had told us, so we didn't need to worry too much about disturbing our neighbors. We were on the top floor, the fifth one, and had a huge sliding glass door in the spacious living room that led out to a small balcony with a great view of the city. To sum it up in a nutshell, the apartment was huge, and undeniably tasteful. And it was also for all those reasons that I hated the place as much as I loved it. I was furious with Edward when he'd got it for us. I didn't want him paying so much for a place to live, when we could have just fine living conditions elsewhere, even if it wasn't quite soelegant. I hated him just shelling out his money like this. But he'd just waved me and my concerns off, assuring me it was no big deal, he had plenty to spare. And that much was true. Now, when I say Edward's grandparents on Carlisle's side were rich, I mean rich. Like, it was ridiculous how loaded they were. They'd given most their money to their son, but they'd also started an account for their three grandchildren, with a large sum of money set to be added to it every year. I didn't even want to know how much Edward had in it. That, on top of the money that his parents added to his and his siblings' account on top of it despite the generous amount allotted to them alreadyabsurd. Completely, and utterly absurd. But whatever. After all the work we'd done fixing the place to our style and liking, I had no choice but to deal with it. Because, finally, we were done! I really couldn't get over my excitement at that thought. I'd been up for the past half hour, though it was six in the morning, setting up the last of the personal touches to our room, and placing the last of all the little knick-knacks and small items of sentimental value in the final cardboard box in their appropriate places. I had to finish it today, because it was Edward's birthday. And no way were we working. I yawned as I crawled back into Edward's resting arms. The look of slight discomfort vanished immediately from his face, and his arm that was on my side curled and tightened around my shoulders. I placed my head on his chest and threw one of my legs over his own, the only comfortable way to rest when he was on his back and I was on my side. I gazed up at him as he slept. By mutual agreement, a long time ago we'd decided to never actually 'celebrate' each other's birthdays, per say. We were allowed to give each other a gift, but no actual parties or celebrations. Still, despite that, we usually went off and did something special for the other's birthday. We couldn't help ourselves. I closed my eyes with a smile and remembered when we'd made the wavering agreement.

The newly fourteen year old girl woke up to the bright stream of sunlight pouring through her window, and the happy smile of her best friend, holding out a wrapped gift to her. She blinked groggily, and slowly sat up, feeling a little less than exuberant. Her friend poked her in the arm with the corner of the gift, trying to get her to take it. She rubbed her eyes slowly to get the sleep out of them, and then turned to glare at her friend. He just smiled benignly back. He sat the gift next to her to sign, Happy birthday!

Feeling relieved that it was Saturday and she didn't have to face a chorus of that same phrase at school, she spared him one last withering glance before turning away from him and slumping back on her pillows. The next thing she knew she was being shaken ferociously by the shoulder. "Argh!" she screamed, before sitting up blinding fast to scramble to the corner of her bed, away from her attacker. Go away Edward! she signed angrily. How many times do I have to tell you? I don't. Want. To. Celebrate. My. Birthday! Now go away and let me sleep until it's tomorrow already. He pursed his lips, annoyed, and put his hand on his hip. With his other hand, he continued to shove his present at her non-grasping hands. You're unbelievable, she signed again, her nostrils flaring. Pissed, she yanked the present from his hands just so he'd stop jabbing her with it. Open it. She crossed her arms. Open it! One condition. He waited. Tell me; am I getting a 'surprise' party from all of you guys today? His face became mysteriously blank, his expression giving nothing away, and yet, everything away because of it. She nodded, annoyed. I thought so. She slumped into her covers, resisting the urge to scream. Why can't you people ever listen to me and just let me be on this stupid day? "Bella." She felt the bed compress near her body and knew he had sat down. His hand was on her head then, patting it softly to get her to look up. Breathing deeply, she did. Today is the day you were born, he told, his face perfectly serious and intense. I love this day more than any other because of that. Why shouldn't I celebrate it? She sat up and sighed, before scooting over and hugging him, leaning her head on his side. Because I hate attention and gifts. Don't you care about what I want? What makes me comfortable? He wrapped an arm around her, bringing it around to the front so she could see that hand too. Of course. But I can't just ignore it. Sorry, but I'm very happy you were born. That's an understatement, but still. He paused. I can understand why you don't like attention, but can I at least be allowed to give you gifts without getting threatened? That's asking rather a lot there buddy. I'm not making any promises. He smiled, and she knew it was because he knew that was as good as an 'okay' as he was going to get. And I'm still going to make you a cake every year, too, just so you know. No, you're still going to try. You've yet to actually succeed. I'm going to get it right one day, I swear. She rolled her eyes. What about you? You throw a fit whenever I try to throw you a party and give you presents and stuff. Little hypocritical, don't you think? He shrugged. It's different.

BS. He let out a frustrated breath. Alright, then how do you want to do this? Keep in mind our families are still going to throw you - and I - a party, no matter what you want. Wellcan you not participate in that planning? I will accept a gift - one! - from you, and that's it. Anything else, and a fit is guaranteed. What about that cake? Well, since you can't actually make one, it doesn't count. So knock yourself out kid. You've already done it once. His mouth twisted, and his nose scrunched. You know, I really don't think that needs to be brought up anymore. Alright, I'll agree to those terms as long as it's a vice versa kind of deal. Agreed. And they pinky-promised it. Those are the most binding. To break it, would be the very blackest kind of blasphemy. And so they didn't well, to an extent.

I looked over at the clock and saw that it was seven. I knew Edward would be waking up at any time now, and I wanted to wake him up in a way I was pretty sure he would enjoy. Unless he was just giving me too big an ego. I sat up carefully so as to not wake him, and jumped over him, straddling his waist lightly, so my skin just brushed his but I didn't put my weight on his unsuspecting body. I leaned over him slowly, and pressed my lips to his, gently applying more force to wake him up. A moment later I heard him hum beneath my mouth and his lips curved upwards, before a hand cupped the back of my head, pulling me closer. His tongue snaked out to touch mine at the same time that his other hand placed itself on the skin of my bare knee, before moving upward. His eyes flew open and he gasped near inaudibly, breaking away from my lips. He sat up slightly, propping himself on his elbows, forcing me to slide into his lap. He turned his head to the side just a little bit, cocking a suspicious eyebrow at me before looking down at my bare legs. His hands lifted the hem of his shirt that came down to my mid-thigh and he peeked under. His head fell back in exasperation and his hand dropped. Damn it, he signed, lifting his head back up to give me an annoyed look. Here I was thinking that you were just wearing one of my shirts. But no, you've got little shorts on. How adorable. I giggled. Bitter much? Oh well, I'll remember it for your next birthday. I was pretty positive we wouldn't be virgins by then. Or, I hoped we wouldn't be. Because honestly, that'd be pathetic. His expression became slightly amused as he sat up fully, readjusting me in his lap. Oh yeah. Today is my birthday, isn't it? He ran his hand over his stubble-ridden cheek. Ew. I feel gross. I need to shave and brush my teeth. I laughed, and leaned forward to kiss his cheek, letting the rough texture of the stubble scratch against the smoothness and softness of my own. I wouldn't tell him it, but I liked the stubble that grew when he hadn't shaved in a while. He wasn't a naturally hairy man, so it didn't grow a lot, or quickly, which was good. But still, I liked it when it came up. It tickled whenever it touched my skin when he kissed me or nuzzled my neck or anything else early morning. But I enjoyed it just as much when he was done shaving, and his face was smooth again.

I'll be making your breakfast then. Come find me in the kitchen when you're done. What do you want? Actually, I'm kind of in the mood for something sweet. How about chocolate sauce all over you? We could start with your stomach, and when I'm done licking that, we could put it on your I smacked him lightly, though I didn't truly mind. I found his lecherous remarks amusing. You know, you were never this perverted when we were friends. He chuckled and ducked his head, staring up at me from under his lashes, looking like a little boy that got caught doing something wrong, but knew he wasn't in trouble. Because I wasn't allowed to be. But I was. So now I've gothe thought for a moment. How old am I? Nineteen? Yeah. Fourteen years worth now of comments like that to go through. He flashed me his crooked grin. You should get used to it. I smiled. I think I can. He smiled back and pulled me forward and started kissing me again, gripping the back of my thigh, as he turned over so I was laying on the bed and he was over me diagonally. It was almost like I was still sitting in his lap, just horizontally now. His hand on my thigh started to creep up, till he was clutching my backside and pushing me against him tightly. I inhaled sharply and threw my head back, my breath coming in wild gasps as he devoured my neck with kisses. I forced my hands to move from where they gripped his hair tightly to his shoulders where I pushed against him. He broke away from my skin to look at me, his eyes dark and his grip on me tightening. His hand on my bottom was really distracting, and I tried my best to ignore it. Edward, I signed, closing my eyes so his wouldn't persuade me to just stay in bed with him all day. I had plans, as insignificant as they were starting to seem with him pressed against me like this. We have to get up. He shook his head in a silent, 'No we don't', and tried to kiss me again. I sighed and pushed against him harder, trying to get him to take me seriously. He complied this time, even if he didn't look too happy about it. He leaned in to kiss me chastely once more before I got off the bed. Make whatever you want. I'll happily eat it. And by the way, I really did enjoy getting woken up like that. You should do it more. Flashing me his crooked grin, he ambled on over to the bathroom and I went to the kitchen to make breakfast. I decided on pancakes, but I'd make them super special. I started heating the frying pan to make sure it was ready when I was, before I took out a bag of frozen berries and a sauce pan. I poured the berries inside it, and put it on another burner set to low to heat them up. That would go really well on the pancakes. Speaking of which I got out the mix and started to make the batter real quick. It didn't take long; just some Bisquick, eggs, and milk, all beat together. The frying pan was sufficiently heated up by then, and I began to make the breakfast food that started out as a dessert in Europe. When I'd made a satisfactory pile, I bit my finger, thinking. Something elsesomething else Of course! Whip cream. But none of that store bought crap that wasn't real whip cream. The home made kind. I got out the ingredients real fast and started to make it, glancing at the clock. I was pretty sure Edward was taking a shower too, so I should have enough time to finish the plating. I felt like I was on Iron Chef, a pretty good show I liked to watch. Andat last. I set his completed breakfast on the table, and took a step back to exam my work proudly. I for one thought it was a masterpiece. There was a stack of three pancakes, with the berries and the juice heated out of them spooned artfully on top of it, a few drops

of juice surrounding the pancakes along with some stray berries scattered around. And at the top, was a dollop of homemade whip cream, ending in a perfect Curly Que. Iwas a genius. "Mmmm," hummed a voice right behind me. Before I could turn around strong arms wrapped around my shoulders, and I felt kisses being dropped on my neck. His cheek was smooth again. That looks great. Thank you. I could think of better things though. His hands were on the top of my thighs then, slowly massaging upward toward my stomach and above. Eat your damn breakfast Cullen. He chuckled and stepped in front of me to sit down in the chair. I sat down next to him, nervous as he took the first bite. But it was unnecessary. He made a big show of smiling and 'mmm'ing it the whole time, making me laugh and roll my eyes. Hey, he said, stopping suddenly. What about you? Aren't you going to eat something? I waved him off. I ate earlier. I've got your present though, I want to give it to you. Oh yeah, I noticed our room actually looks likeyou know, a room now. He addressed the beginning of my sentence first, then he grimaced and his eyes turned hesitant. Alright, let's see the gift. I laughed and leaned over to give him a peck on the lips before I bounded back to our room and dug in the back of the closet where I'd hidden his present. I tripped a little on the way back, but somehow managed to keep my footing and I sat down next to him, miraculously unscathed. I handed it to him. He scooted my chair closer to his, and then me closer, so I was more in his lap than in the chair. He took a deep breath and ripped off the burgundy wrapping paper carefully. Inside was a large, square book, with handsome leather binding. He raised an eyebrow at me, curious. I smiled, encouraging him to open it, though I was feeling a little nervous. He did, and then let out his breath in a sharp 'whoosh'. It was a photo album, filled with pictures of him and I, and occasionally our parents, or his siblings, growing up. His eyes grew wide as he started flipping through the pages slowly. Esme helped me make it, I signed, nervous. Since she had all the pictures and stuff, and she helped me put it in chronological order. I don't know, I justthought you mightlike it. Alright, I was definitely feeling stupid now. Maybe I should've got him something else? "Bella" he breathed then, his voice warm and emotional. He put his hand on the side of my head and brought it closer, pressing his lips to my temple for a few long moments, his eyes never leaving the album. He kissed my temple one more time, and put his hand on my arm, rubbing it, though I think that was more for him than me. He flipped all the way to the end, until he got to the last page, the most recent picture of us, though it was a few months old, before we got together. Still, looking at it, it was hard to tell. I was on his back, my arms tight around his neck, and I'd leaned my head past his shoulders to kiss his cheek. He had his arms under my legs, holding me up, and he had a

huge smile on his face, his cheeks pink as he looked away sheepishly, obviously enjoying it but trying to pretend like he wasn't. It was my favorite picture of us together. Edward grabbed my chin then and turned my head around, cupping my face in both his hands and kissing me soundly. I wrapped my arms around his neck and enjoyed the feel of his lips against mine. He pulled back just a little to sign, Thank youthank you so much. I love it. I just smiled and leaned my head against his, content to stay there for a little while. But the phone rang then and I sat up, annoyed. Edward looked confused, his brow furrowed, and I pointed at the phone hanging on the wall. Obviously unwilling, he let me get up and I walked over to answer it. "Hello?" "Oh hello Bella dear! I was hoping you'd be up by now. Is Edward there?" "Yeah Esme, he is," I said, smiling. "That's wonderful. Could you wish him a happy birthday from his dear old mom and dad? Whom I'm sure he has already forgotten about." I laughed. "I doubt he's forgotten about you that quick. Give it another week. And sure, I'll tell him." "Thank you Bella, honey. I was also wondering if you guys could stop by tomorrow, so we can give him his gift?" "We could stop by today if you want," I told her, surprised. "I'll happily drag him by his ear." She chuckled. "No, it's fine. I'm sure he wants to spend today with you anyway." "Alright thenwe'll be by tomorrow. And he'll be happy about it. I promise." She laughed again. "Okay, have a good day you two. Oh, by the way! How did he like his gift?" I grinned. "I'd say he liked it a whole lot. Thank you for helping me with that." "No problem dear. Any time. Okay, well I'll see you two tomorrow! Have fun." "Thank you, bye," I smiled, and then hung up as I heard dial tone. I turned around to Edward, who had his arms crossed, looking at me expectantly. Your parents say happy birthday, and we're going over there tomorrow so they can give you their present to you. And you're going to be happy about it, I already promised. He did a mock bow in my direction. If you say so, Oh Ruler of Everything. Damn straight. Now come onwe're going somewhere. Why am I scared? I ignored him and left to get dressed, changing in the bathroom. Semi-hesitantly, he went and got dressed too.

When we were both ready I walked over to the foyer, putting on my flip-flops and picking up the back pack I'd packed when I'd gotten up early today, all the supplies we needed in it, so Edward couldn't guess where we were going by seeing what I put inside. Edward slid on his shoes, and took the bag from me immediately. I was about to protest, but he held up his hands to stop me. I'm not going to peek, I swear. But I'm also not going to let you carry it. I rolled my eyes, but decided to not to argue with his chivalry. We headed out the door and to his car. He threw me the keys, though I could tell he wasn't thrilled with riding as a passenger. I grinned, and started the engine, feeling the familiar purr of the Volvo beneath me.

I was pretty sure Edward wasn't too happy about only being able to use two of his senses as I led him blindfolded through the scarce wood. He had only his sense of smell and touch now, and it wasn't telling him much. Which was perfect. I led him carefully over some rocks in the dry heat of Arizona, and that's when I could hear the water. It was close by now. We walked on a little bit more, me grasping Edward's hands firmly - although, not just for his sake, with my clumsy self - and then we were there. I smiled and untied the blindfold from Edward's eyes, tearing it away with a flourish. Ta da! He smiled as he took in the bubbling brook that I'd found with Alice a long time ago, when we'd come camping and decided to go exploring. It turned out better than we expected, with this piece of gold we struck. There was a water fall cascading over a short - though still formidable - outcropping of rock, flowing into the stream. It was no Niagara Falls, but it was still pretty good. The spot we were at, next to the water fall, was roundish, and fairly deep, the water beautifully clear. The perfect place for a private, relaxing swim. Go change, I ordered, fishing out a pair of his swim trunks from the bag, thrusting them at him and then pointing behind a nice, large pile of rocks that looked more like a huge boulder than anything, close to the steep incline that led to the top of the waterfall. I'll go next. He saluted me, amused, and marched over to mock changing room. I giggled. He came back looking sinfully delicious in his black trunks, and I blushed despite myself as I took in his strong, lean calves, his perfectly sculpted bare chest, his toned arms. I bit my lip as I skipped past him with my swimsuit in hand, using all my self-control to keep my hands to myself. There'd be time for that later. I got behind the rock and hurriedly stripped, wanting to see Edward again. I pulled on my blue and white striped bandeau styled top, and then pulled on my matching bikini bottoms, that actually covered my hips, something I could never find and always worried about. But Alice was a shopping fairy - well pixie - and could find anything. And so she did. (Pic on profile) I walked out to find Edward already in the water, floating on his back with his eyes closed and spouting water out of his mouth, hands behind his head. It was quite a sight. Quite a good one. I breathed a laugh and set my clothes on top of the back pack, a safe distance from the water. I was a little self-conscious about him seeing me, but I was trying to ignore that. I mean, he'd seen me in a bikini before obviously. We used to go swimming all the time. But

it had been quite a while since we last had - over a year, I think - and judging by the fact that my old swimsuit no longer fit my bust or my hips right, some things had changed. I carefully stepped into the water, doing my best not to slip on the slick pebbles and rocks. It would be just like me to ruin the day by busting my head open. But I managed to get past the hazardous shore, and waded out to where Edward floated, eyes still closed. Smiling wickedly, a decidedly devious plan in mind, I swam slowly over to him, trying not to disturb the water and give myself away, so I could pounce on him, ducking him under. Biting my lip to resist bursting out laughing - not that it would have mattered anyway - I was just about to jump on him, when suddenly his eyes opened and his hands were on my head, ducking me under instead. I came up spluttering, to meet the sound of his laughter. "Funny Cullen," I muttered angrily, but he couldn't hear me. As hard as I could I swept my arm through the water, splashing him with quite a formidable wave. Now he was the one spluttering, blinking rapidly to get the water from his eyes. When he finished, he looked at me, and his eyes narrowed, a wicked smile spreading across his handsome features. My eyes narrowed warningly in return, and I started to swim backwards and away from him quickly. But it wasn't fast enough, apparently. His body slammed into me from behind, his arms locking around my waist and sending me spiraling under the water again. I twisted in his arms under the cool liquid and met his smiling face, tinted blue under the water. I tried shoving him away, or at least trying to push him under me so I could break the surface first and win this nameless game that way, but it didn't work. Struggling just made him hold me tighter, and his face was so close Somehow, when we emerged from under the water our mouths were attacking the other's furiously. Above the water, I could feel how slick and smooth his body was from it, and mine as well, causing the bare skin that touched to slide together effortlessly, and making my skin light on fire, despite the coolness that we were surrounded by. My legs hooked around his waist, my hands tight on his face as his tongue dominated mine in my mouth, his hands sliding up and down my wet sides. When we broke away, we had to catch our breath for a minute. Edward caught his first, and his hands gripped my waist as he pushed me back some, really looking at me for the first time. He groaned. That looks so good on you. Glad you approve, I smirked, as his hands went back to my skin, his fingertips dancing over my stomach, my chest, my collarbone, my arms. I was shaking slightly at his light touch by the time they came to brush my lips. Thank you for this, he smiled. This is probably the best birthday ever. I grinned sheepishly and looked off, blushing, as he kissed my cheek sweetly. His arms hugged me tightly, and we just held each other for a long time. Until the splash wars began again.

I was feeling very happy and content by the time we got home as twilight fell, our arms wrapped around the others waist and laughing, usually for no other reason other than the fact that we were happy. But what other reason do you need? I blow-dried my hair as soon as we got home, to prevent it from becoming a tangled mess. Edward's hair, of course, was already dry and amazing looking and perfect as usual. We had changed back into our regular clothes and were currently sitting on the floor of the living room. We had a couch, but I hadn't felt like sitting on it, and Edward just followed me. We

leaned our backs against it though, me snuggled in his arms, feeling very at peace with everything. I have a surprise for you, Edward announced suddenly, withdrawing his arms from around me. I raised an eyebrow. On your birthday? He chuckled. Well, it's a surprise that I've been working on for a while now, but only recently finished. You know, the 'wow factor' one? That you assured me it would still have, though I'm kind of late? He grinned. My eyes widened. Oh yes. His surprise to 'confess his love', as he'd put it. I couldn't help my eyes, how they instinctively searched the room quickly, looking for something that wasn't there before. Edward shifted then, moving from his Indian style position, to both his knees. He shifted me as well, so I too was kneeled in front of him. He took both my hands in his and leaned forward slowly, his lips brushing my jaw until they reached my ear. "Bella?" he whispered. "BellaI love you." He leaned back some so he was looking right into my widened eyes, his own soft, gentle and warm. "I love you."

I inhaled a little gasp, my eyes wide. He looked at me, smiling slightly, his eyes loving. My own couldn't help but to water, and I bit my lip. "Edward" I whispered, before I launched myself at him, probably suffocating him with my death grip on his neck, as I tried to resist the urge to sob in the stretch of skin where his neck met shoulder. The force of my attack had knocked him back on his butt, his legs splayed in front of him, but he'd regained his composure and his arms were wrapped tightly around me now. "I love you," he whispered again, and I lifted my head off of his shoulder to grab his face tightly in between my hands, kissing his mouth repeatedly. His hands reached up to brush my tears away with his fingertips. I loved him so much. I wanted to show him that. I wanted him. I was currently straddled in his lap, and I removed my hands from his cheeks to place on his neck, moving slowly upward to grip his hair. I ran my fingers through it, before I brought my hands back down, grazing his skin with my fingernails. He broke away from my mouth for a second to breathe in a little shakily, before he pressed me tighter to him. This made it slightly more difficult as I let my hands glide down to the bottom of his t-shirt, but I managed, and started to lift it up above his head. He broke away again and looked down at me, gripping my wrists to stop their ascent, breathing hard, his eyes dark. I met his gaze evenly. He moved his grip to my waist and pushed me back some, so he could show me his hands. Are you sure? I nodded quickly and leaned forward to kiss his neck, but he pushed me back again, his expression disapproving. "Bella," he said, annoyed. Be serious. I breathed out exasperatedly and dropped my head back for a moment before lifting it back up to match his annoyed expression. Yes, I'm sure Edward. My mouth twisted. Are you?

He looked down, and didn't answer for a few moments. I felt my annoyance slip as horror and panic washed through me, replacing it. I thought he wanted this too. But if so, then why was he having to think about it? Oh noYou don't want me? I signed, looking down too to hide my hurt eyes, my throat tightening instinctively. I felt my shoulders curl protectively, as if it were a shell around me, and my hands fell dejectedly into my lap as rejection hit me like a stone. I wished I could sink into the floor, and never resurface. I'd never felt so stupid in my life, never felt so vulnerable, even in the second when I'd realized I'd told him that I loved him, and been unsure of his reaction The next thing I knew his hands were on my waist, and then I was being thrown unceremoniously over his shoulder as he stood up. "Oof!" I breathed out as my stomach hit his hard shoulder, my torso and arms hanging limply over his back, as his arms gripped my legs to his chest so I didn't fall. "Wha - ?" I asked aloud as he started to walk quickly, bouncing me slightly in my precarious position, before we were in our bedroom and he was kicking the door shut with the back of foot. In a few of his long strides he'd reached the bed and he tossed me down in the center of it, before dropping down too and crawling over me in a flash. I looked up at him, my eyes wide, but not scared or anything like it. More like surprised and kind ofexcited. What surprised me was his face. His mouth was a hard, straight line, his nostrils flared, his eyes near black, his expression furious as a whole. You think I don't want you? he asked, demanding, sitting back on his knees a bit. My mouth twisted and I turned my head to the side, trying to avoid answering the question. His hand was under my chin then, pulling my face back around to look at him. His eyes had softened; they were a lighter color this time. Dark green. But they were still narrowed. Let me show you then, how much I want you. You won't doubt it ever again, I swear you that. He leaned down quickly to graze my jaw with his lips, kissing down to my earlobe which he enveloped in his mouth, sucking it gently. I gasped wildly, gripping his shoulders and arching up to him as passion flooded through me from his words and his mouth's current work. His lips let go of my earlobe then and he pulled back just a little, so his cheek touched mine. He wrapped his arms around my torso tightly and lifted me up to him, where he still hovered some distance over me. He inhaled deeply then. "I love you," he breathed softly into my ear, turning his head to kiss my jaw. I moved my head a little too, sitting up some, my hands bracing me on the bed, letting my lips touch his ear, so he could feel it's movements. "I love you too," I whispered, knowing he'd understand. I felt his cheek lift in a soft smile, and he let his grip go, pushing me gently back onto the bed. He hands held my face as he kissed me, moving his mouth against my own lovingly. I whimpered from the exquisite beauty of his careful movements, and let my hands trail down to the bottom of his shirt. I played with the hem nervously for a second, before I gripped it tightly and lifted it up. Edward broke away from me as I lifted it over his head. He put his arms up to help me and I threw it elsewhere across the room. I gripped his shoulders and pushed him up. Confused, he complied, till he was kneeling. I sat up too, and kneeled in front of him before I started to kiss him again, wrapping my arms around him to press closer to his shirtless frame. I didn't want to be laying down just yet. I wanted to really be able to enjoy him. My fingernails brushed up and down his impressive chest and he groaned, dropping his head to my neck to suck on the flesh there. My hands went to tangle in his hair.

I felt him grinning against my neck then, and I wondered why. My hands loosened and he sat up, an amused smile on his face. What? He shook his head smiling. It feels like I should've set rose petals and candles up or something. As spectacular as I truly believe your decorating is, maybe a more romantic atmosphere should've been something I thought to set up. But I didn't know this was going to happen. I rolled my eyes. This is romantic enough for me; as long as you're here, I'm not paying much attention to anything else. Besides, if you ever set up candles or rose petals anywhere, I'm walking out of the room as fast I walked in. He snickered appreciatively, nodding. Now shut up. You're ruining the moment. He smirked, and slid his hands to the bottom of my t-shirt, pulling it up slowly, making sure his hands slid up my sides. As the shirt neared the bottom of my breasts, he closed his eyes, probably to make it a surprise. At least - I hoped that was why. When he'd gently lifted the shirt over my head and off my arms, he tossed it somewhere along with his shirt and opened his eyes, his hands resting on my hips, looking down at me. I waited nervously, something telling me that asking, "So umwhat do you think?" wouldn't be appropriate for the moment. I hadn't exactly been prepared for this, so my bra was just one of my favorites - a green and pink striped one. I thought it was pretty cute, but I don't know how well it worked for the turn on factor. But after a few short seconds he groaned, putting his hands on my shoulders and shoving me down on my back again. "Oh!" I let out a surprised cry, before he laid his torso down in between my legs, kissing my stomach, and heading upwards. "Oh" This time I moaned it, biting my lip as my fingers tangled in his hair. He bit my stomach lightly time to time between kisses in his journey upwards, making me buck slightly. He seemed to like that. He finally made his way up to my colorful bra and started to kiss and lick the valley between my breasts. I cried out at the feeling of his tongue on my body and moved my hands down to his biceps, clutching tightly and probably leaving indents of my fingernails in his skin. His arms moved around to my back, probably going to unclasp my bra. But of course, he didn't find the clasp back there. He sat up a little, looking perplexed, as he raised an eyebrow at me. I giggled, and moved my hands to the front, where the clasp resided between my breasts. He rolled his eyes, and I could practically hear the sarcastic, 'Of course'. I undid the clasp slowly, and then stopped right before I peeled it off to reveal my bare chest. I looked up at him from under my eyelashes, a sly smile turning up the corners of my mouth. He glowered at me. "Bella," he growled, and I could hear the silent threat that he was about to rip this off me if I didn't hurry up and do it myself. I sat up slightly, and Edward's hand came around to support my back, since he hadn't leaned back far enough for me sit in a position that wouldn't kill my spine. Taking a deep breath, I pulled the bra off me, and shrugged it from my shoulders, throwing it to the floor. I was very aware that Edward's eyes hadn't left my chest that whole time. "Ah, Bella," he groaned softly, and let me drop back down to the bed. He leaned down and kissed the swell of one breast, before his teeth nipped it lightly. His hand came up to cup it from underneath, gently massaging it. I pressed my head back into the pillows hard, biting my lip as his mouth descended on my nipple, sucking it tentatively. I cried out - quite loudly - and buried my hands in his hair. A fire was spreading through me, fanning out wildly, a throbbing ache everywhere. I wanted more.

I glanced down and saw him watching me as his tongue flicked out to my now tight bud. My eyes squeezed shut as I cried out again. He removed the hand that was massaging my other breast then, and slid it up to the center of my neck. I realized his fingers were over my vocal cords; in a manner of speaking, he was trying to 'hear' my screams, probably judging how loud I was by the strength of the vibrations made. His mouth switched over to my other nipple, trailing kisses between and around my breasts on the way; except this time he bit down. I couldn't help the yell of pleasure that exploded out of me, and my hands left his hair to grip my own, completely overcome by the rapid tingling lighting up all my flesh, the burn where his flesh came in contact with my own. "EdwardEdwardEdward" I whimpered. His mouth left my skin and I looked down again to see him looking at my mouth, his hand still resting lightly on my neck. His head was tilted to the side slightly, a strange expression on his face. His eyes were dark. Are you saying my name? he asked, removing his hands from my neck and chest. I nodded, weary, too overcome with all the new sensations to even try to respond with something witty or sarcastic. A smug smile played itself over his lips, and he bent down to start kissing down my stomach again, before getting to my hips where my jeans rested. I sat up then, wanting his jeans off first. My hands reached toward his button, making him sit up some, and I tried to undo it. A little bit harder from this angle, than when you're taking your own off. To mess with me, he held his wrist out, like he was checking a watch. I got the button undone in that second, but then I stopped, annoyed. I smacked his arm hard, though I doubt it hurt him at all. So he thinks he can mess with me, I thought. Well, I can do the same thing. My bra hadn't fallen far, and I leaned over the edge of the bed to retrieve it. "Bella," he laughed, half-frustrated, half-amused. His arms locked around my waist, pulling my bare back against his bare chest. I shivered in delight with the sensation, automatically pressing closer. His hands moved in front of me as he came down to lick the rim of my ear. I'm not going to let you put your clothes back on for a long time, you know. So you might as well not even try. My breathing became harder and I turned in his grip, yanking his zipper down and shoving his jeans to his knees. We fell back against the bed together, and I kicked his pants down to his ankles as he stuck his tongue in my mouth. He handled it from there, shaking the jeans off and throwing them to the floor on the one ankle they still hung on. He braided his hands in my hair as he pressed tightly against him. Something hard pressed against my jean-clad thigh and I squirmed in excitement, feeling it jump in response. I smiled against his mouth, my nails dragging down his back. He broke away, gasping, and crawled back down to my jeans, undoing my button much faster than I'd done his. He closed his eyes again, and slid down my jeans, throwing them to the growing pile of clothes on the floor. It was then that I remembered what underwear I'd put on todayand I really wished that I'd planned this ahead of time. He opened his eyes then, and just stared down at my underwear. He looked up at me, and I could see his lips pressed together tightly, trying to hide his smile and laughter. It didn't work - at all. He started laughing really hard, burying his face in my stomach. My face was red, my mouth twisted, and I sat up, shoving him away from me. That's it. No sex for you.

He chuckled some more, and leaned down to kiss the center of my hips. He looked back at me, and his eyes were loving, his smile amused. "I love you Bella," he laughed, shaking his head. And I absolutely adore your completely non-matching Spongebob underwear. I tried to pretend like I wasn't appeased, crossing my arms and looking off half-heartedly. But I hugged him back when his arms wound around me, my heart warming at his 'I love you'. He kissed the top of my head, running his hand down my back. He lifted my chin up to bend down and kiss me slowly, his other hand resting on my cheek. I placed mine on his chest, arching in to him and letting him lay me slowly down. Still kissing me, his hands slid down to my cartoon underwear, slipping them down my legs. I shoved them the rest of the way down, kicking them off. I brought my feet up to the band of his boxers, pushing them down too. Almost shyly, we pulled away from each other to take in the other one fully. I blushed as I looked at Edward, and all of his perfection. I'd seen him naked once before, but we were like, five then. And he'd umhe'd uhyeah, well, he'd - he'd matured since then, let's just put it like that. I longed to touch him. I reached my hands out to stroke his length, curious as to what it felt like, but his hands gripped my wrists, stopping me. I looked up, surprised. He shook his head, a small smile on his face. Later, he signed, letting go of my wrists. Tonight, you're mine. My breathing started to become ragged again as he went down to the end of my leg, kissing the top of my foot sweetly. He continued trailing kisses up my leg, his lips soft as butterflies as they brushed my skin. I wanted to continue sitting up and watch him, but my arms were shaking from the suspense and pleasure, and I fell back on my pillows, my hands falling on either side of my head, gripping the pillows tightly. His mouth finally made it up to my inner thigh, his hands gently prying my legs open. They fell apart all too willingly as heat flooded my body like lava, a distinct wetness forming in the juncture of my legs. I reached down to touch his head lightly, encouraging him to move forward. I wanted this. I wanted him to kiss me there. Touch me, lick me, fuck meMy thoughts went out of control in my apprehensive aching pleasure. Then his lips were only an inch away from the ones of my true desire. My breath caught, before it started going double-time. My heart was racing, blood pulsing through me, making me feel more alive than I ever had before. I could feel his breath on me, teasing me, torturing me. I gripped his hair tighter. And then he was kissing me down there, his tongue snaking out to push past my opening, tasting me. I screamed, my back arching as my hands clutched the sheets so tightly I'm sure my knuckles were bone white. But all I could think about were his hands on my hips, holding me down, and lighting me on fire where they touched, his tongue inside of me, licking places I'd never even touched before, not one for masturbation. One of his hands moved to start tracing around my opening lightly, making me jerk frantically, needing, needing more. His fingers brushed over me, before they alighted upon my bundle on nerves, and then he was rubbing it with his thumb. It was too much; with his tongue inside my entrance and his finger rubbing my nub, I fell off the side of the cliff I must've been standing on, screaming loudly. "Edward!" I pulled him by the shoulders back over me, grabbing his face and kissing him wildly. I could taste myself on his lips, and it vaguely struck me that I should be shocked at my actions, since I used to imagine it'd be pretty gross. But I was much too far gone for all that, much too aroused. I needed himneeded him inside of me, filling me, completing me

Suddenly I sat up, gasping, pushing Edward back. Damn it. Why hadn't I thought of this before? What? he asked, though I could tell he was still concentrating on my lips, but doing his best to pay attention. I slapped my forehead. We don'thave condoms or anythingI bit my lip. I was on the pill because it helped me with my menstrual cycles, but I didn't want to take my chances. That wasn't always enough, and I didn't want to get pregnant this young. My mind was racing, pondering quickly whether a quick run down to the nearest pharmacy would ruin the mood or not. I looked up at Edward and saw he was blushing, looking off sheepishly. ActuallyHe paused, and rubbed the back of his head, not meeting my eyes. Wedo. My eyes widened, my eyebrows raising, before I crossed my arms, narrowing my eyes. Really? Expecting to get lucky, were we? He tilted his head to the side, a slight smile on his face before he leaned forward quickly to catch me up in a breath-stealing kiss. No, he signed when he pulled back, leaving a gasping me as he grinned. I just wanted to be prepared just in case I got the chance to make love to the most amazing, beautiful, one-of-a-kind - he glanced over the bed at my questionable, mismatched underwear - woman I'll ever meet. And the only one I'll ever love. I blushed, looking down and lifting my shoulders almost to head level, unable to stop my shy smile. Thanks. He leaned forward to kiss the corner of my mouth. It's true. Now, shut up. You're ruining the moment, he mocked. He reached over into the side table and fished around in the bottom drawer, pulling a package out. I laid back on the pillows again as he put on the condom and crawled back over me, placing himself between my open and waiting legs. His eyes probed mine, asking me if I was ready. I nodded, taking a deep breath. He leaned down to kiss me, as his tip entered my opening. He pushed forward slowly, filling and stretching me inch by inch before he reached my barrier. I closed my eyes, afraid of this part. He moved his mouth from mine to whisper in my ear, "I love you Bella. I love you. I love you." He pushed past my virginity swiftly then, then held perfectly still as I cried out in pain, throwing my head back and trying not to cry. I could tell it was killing him to not move; his body was shaking. But he just kissed me, trying to distract my pain, whispering 'I love you' between every kiss. The pain eased, and as it did, pleasure replaced it. He was inside of me. Edward, my everything, was filling me. I'd never felt more whole than I did now, and instinctively I knew I'd feel emptier when he pulled out. I rocked my hips against his, letting him know it was okay to move. He pulled out some, before thrusting back in gently. There was no pain this time, just a cascade of want and need. He started thrusting faster after a little while, at my encouraging. My hips rose to meet his every time, making him fill me deeper. I knew I was screaming much too loudly, but I couldn't pay attention to that when he kept crooning, 'I love you' into my ear the entire time. A fire, more ferocious than any other I'd felt this night or ever, tingled my skin, aching me, making me want it to rage into an inferno so I could feel the bliss of the heat, the explosion. My hands, which had been gripping his arms, shoulders, back, moved down to

his hips, trying to push him into me harder. He got the point, and all his inhibitions dropped as he pounded his length deeper, harder into my core. I screamed as a light began dotting my vision, making me rise above this wave of pleasure I'd been riding on, taking it to the level it needed to be at. I bit his shoulder as his head dropped to mine, his breathing just as ragged and panting as mine as he thrust with everything he had. And it was a lot. With one last powerful rock into me, my world exploded into waves and waves of bright stars, my walls clenching around him, making him come with me. I heard him cry out, and I reveled in the primal ness of it. He went limp then, his arms shaking too much to hold him up. He pulled out slowly, and took off the condom, throwing it into the little garbage can next to the bed. He rolled off me, before pulling me close to his side, his breathing gasping and uneven, his arm holding me tightly. I was panting too, reaching up to brush his hair away that was stuck to his sweaty forehead. His whole body glistened, making him even more achingly beautiful. "I love you Bella," he breathed, leaning down to brush his trembling lips to my forehead. "I love you." His face nuzzled mine and I laughed, too euphoric to hold it in, though it was very tired sounding. I kissed his nose, mouthing 'I love you too'. He smiled and closed his eyes, holding me close. We fell into a content, exhausted sleep.

I woke up, completely tangled up in a very naked, very beautiful man, who was staring at me, smiling. Good morning, he grinned. Have good dreams? I smiled back, blinking the sleep from my eyes tiredly. Not nearly so good as the night I had. He chuckled, and brushed my hair off my face softly, his other hands running up and down my body, brushing the sides of my breasts and my butt. Want to take a shower? We kind of need it. I thought for a moment, not really wanting to get up, before the image of Edward yesterday, slick from the water at the brook swam to the front of my mind. And then, to see all of him that slickI nodded then, smiling, and went to sit up. "Ahh!" I cried out softly, clenching my eyes and laying back down quickly. What? Edward asked, his eyes anxious, as he hovered next to me. I shook my head, swallowing hard. Nothing, it's naturalI'm justsore. Oh. He looked guilty, and I lifted my hand to pull his face toward mine. Edward, nothing you could've done would've avoided this. It's natural. It happens to everyone. He shrugged. Doesn't mean I don't feel bad about you being in pain. Here. Gingerly, he got out of bed, before leaning back over to pick me up gently, bridal style, walking over to the bathroom. I closed my eyes contently, wrapping my arms around his neck as he supported me on his knee real quick, turning on the hot water. He bent down to kiss me as the tub filled, not seeming to mind my weight. I moaned as his tongue danced with mine, and he smiled against my lips.

When the humongous bathtub was properly filled, he gently lowered me down into it. I hissed a little as the heat touched the apex of my legs, but got over in a few moments of adjusting. Edward hopped in lithely after, sitting behind me, and pulled me against his chest. His hands reached out for the shampoo, and he gently massaged it into my hair after wetting it. I hummed lightly and leaned back against him as he did his work. He washed me quite thoroughly, after my hair was done, taking his time, making sure to touch every part of me. When his hand got to my entrance, he paused, before kissing my neck and sliding one finger in. I moaned and pressed hard against him, feeling his arousal on my backside. Needless to saywe didn't get to his parents house for a while

"You're giving us what!" I asked, shocked, as I stared at the plane tickets in Edward's hands. His eyes met mine, just as surprised as my own. I looked back over to Carlisle and Esme, who were merely smiling hugely at us. It's important to see the world, Carlisle signed. It's a beautiful place, enjoy it while you can. And I know you both have always wanted to go to Paris. I was stunned. This was way too muchbut it was trueI had always wanted to go there. But still. Thank you, Edward signed to his parents, his eyes sincere and grateful. This is wonderful you guys. Yes, thank you, I agreed, nodding fervently. I walked over to hug both of them, though I was having an out body moment, and Edward reciprocated the action too. Those are good for the next year, Esme signed. Just choose any time you want to go. We both nodded, as I thought back to when I had first dreamed of this kind of trip.

The little eight year old sat entranced at the Cullens' kitchen table, taking in the pictures of the book she held with wide, amazed eyes. There were beautiful sculptures everywhere, masterpieces even a child could appreciate. Architecture on an old church that she was sure was just like the one in the Disney movie Hunchback of Notre Dame, though she would learn later that it was based on a rather dark book. The city itself was beautiful, and the people looked beautiful too. The Eiffel Tower in one picture was lit up at night, looking stunning. There was so many museums, so much art, so much, so much wonder Her best friend sat across the table from her, drinking his apple juice, and watching her facial expressions. Edward, she finally signed, looking up at him. This is amazing! I've seen it in movies and stuff too, and it's looks so prettyI wanna go! He smiled. Okay. When do you want to go? Children. Practicality and reality does not claim them.

Now? He thought for a moment. Alright. Get on my back. I'll fly you there. She looked at him blankly. You're not Super Man. I was for Halloween. She rolled her eyes before standing up and walking over to him. He hopped off his chair and turned around, so she clamber on to his back. She was a lot smaller than him, so he could do it more or less easily. Alright. Take me to France, Super Man! He laughed and put his arms straight out at his sides, like an airplane, and started to run all over the house, knocking into quite a few things. His siblings and parents, for example, as Bella just laughed. "Woah, where's the fire?" Carlisle called as they rushed past him, pressing himself against a wall to avoid the human airplane and his passenger. "We're going to Paris!" Bella called back over her shoulder, before Edward accidentally ran into Emmett coming around the corner, who, of course, was having none of that, and shoved him against the wall, ignoring the girl on his back. "Oof!" they both exclaimed as they fell to the floor. And so, that trip failed.

I've never been on a flight this long, I signed, disgruntled, leaning against Edward instead of the window - the seat he insisted that I take instead of him. We were five hours in to the eight hour flight from the JFK airport in New York to Charles de Gaulle in Paris. And it's not like this was the only flight we'd taken today - we'd gotten up super early to get aboard the two hour flight from the airport in Phoenix to LaGuardia - a craptastic airport in my opinion - then the bus ride from that to JFK - a much nicer one, actually the airport they shot 'The Terminal' at. It had been a lot of hauling luggage, going through security, long waits in the terminals and other places in the cold, exhaustion and impatience; but it really hadn't been so bad in general Edward had kept me laughing. Me neither. Try to get some more sleep, he suggested. We're getting to Paris in the early morning so we have all day to walk around and see the sights. You don't want to be tired. I shrugged, snuggling into him and my black wool coat I'd thrown over top of me like a blanket more. It was November now, since we'd decided to go during Thanksgiving holidays - we didn't celebrate it anyway, and there would be a hell of a lot less tourists. I can't. It's too hard to sleep on a plane. Edward glanced around then, and just out of curiosity I followed his gaze - of course, we couldn't really see anything. We were smack dab in the middle of the plane, right next to the wing, and we were currently sitting in this private alcove of two seats that had a wall in front and back of us, blocking us from view to most of the passengers. We sat right next to one of the compartments where the flight attendants hung out, and they kept the juice and soda and everything. Currently, they'd gone to hang out somewhere else, since this was where some of them were supposed to sit, and they didn't like us too much now. But it wasn't our fault. We'd gotten to JFK much earlier than our flight called for, and when we

checked in the lady behind the counter had asked us if we wanted better seats, since there were still some open spaces. I didn't understand what was better than first class, (obviously, the only thing Edward would choose), but she showed us the layout of the plane, and how the seats she'd move us to were right next to the wing - the safest part of the plane. Shrugging, we'd agreed, but aside from the fact that the attendants hated our guts, I was glad we'd chosen it. It was better than first class, because it had all the perks of it - except we were completely secluded, so we didn't have to get bumped, or listen to anyone around us snoring or anything like that. It was perfect. He turned back to me and his smile became rather sly. If you don't want to sleep.He let it trail off there suggestively, moving his hand under the coat, and starting to slip under my jeans. I immediately gave him a look that made him stop his hand dead - though not move it, I noticed - and look off all innocently. Yeah, right. We're on a plane, I glared. And I told you I get loud. He removed his hand to sign, But everyone's asleep. I shook my head and signed, Not everyone. Please? His eyes turned begging. We can cover your mouth. You sex addict! Though honestly, he wasn't the only one. I really wanted him to touch me. How is fingering me going to give you pleasure anyway? Trust me - it does. And I'm not the only sex addict honey. It takes two to tango, and you lead half the time. I took a deep breath and bit my lip. Being in a confined space this long was making me slightly crazy - a bit claustrophobic. Not too bad, but I'd never felt that way before so it was giving me more of an edge than it should. I could use something to distract me. I closed my eyes briefly, sinking back into my chair more, before I took his hand and led it down to my jeans again. From my peripheral vision I saw him smile and he leaned forward, his lips kissing my ear. "I love you," he whispered as he slipped a finger inside of me. Automatically, my body convulsed and I threw my head back as Edward gently covered my mouth with his other hand. But that wasn't good enough. I took both my hands and pushed down on his, almost completely muffling my whimpers. Meanwhile, his finger, which quickly escalated to two, and then three, pumped me enticingly. He wasn't going too fast, my jeans being a restriction though they'd slipped down my hips some, but to compensate for that his fingers were more probing, pushing me closer to the edge, quicker. I was breathing hard now, my gasps and moans being muffled in his hand while I closed my eyes, feeling my orgasm pulse through me - not nearly so fierce as when it was him inside, but still, pretty amazing. I let my hands drop and his followed; my breathing was still hard and I could feel strands of my hair sticking to parts of my face. Swallowing, I ran a hand through my hair before glancing over at him. He was smiling slightly, looking at the wall, while he was slowly licking his fingers. I groaned and rolled my head to look out the pitch black window. I couldn't see anything. I glanced down at my watch. Great. That had taken up all of ten minutes. This was taking forever.

About an hour later, where I had dozed off a couple times against Edward, for about ten minutes a piece, we started hitting some bad turbulence, making the plane shake hard. I snapped awake, feeling alert. I didn't think the plane would go down, I wasn't that dramatic, but still. Edward put his arm around me, squeezing my shoulder tightly, pressing me to him. I licked my drying lips and grabbed his other hand hard. A male attendant walked by then with a drink cart and paused, looking at my tight grip. He smiled and looked up at me, before speaking in a French accent. "We're over England now, you veel it? Dose crazay Brits.dey rock ta plane!" He shook his head and started laughing, as I did after a moment of shock before amusement set in, and he walked away.

I blew my hair out of my face as Edward and I walked away from the exchange booth at Charles de Gaulle. We'd already been here over an hour; waiting for luggage, going through customs, washing up real quick in the bathroom - the toilets were a bit different than ours in America; the button was on the floor to flush, which confused me for a little while. We started walking through the airport, trying to find the elusive metro stationlugging our bags. It wouldn't have been so bad if they had carts or anythingas much as Edward hated it, I had to carry the majority of my stuff because we each had a big, heavy suitcase, along with a smaller carry on, and a smaller personal bag - plus my purse/backpack. And like a prayer answered, I suddenly spotted yellow and silver carts, lined up against a nearby wall. Where the hell were they before? Oh well. I dropped my stuff and put a hand on Edward's arm, stopping him. He looked at me inquisitively, an eyebrow raised. I lifted my hand and nodded my head toward the wall, pointing. "Oh!" He let out a huge sigh of relief, his shoulders slumping. Laughing, I watched him walk over and get two, wheeling them back to where I stood, getting glared at and knocked against in my precarious position of the center of the walkway. I was a good deal less frustrated after that, and felt more relaxed as we bought our week long metro passes and finally came upon the beautiful metro station, the lamp post in the center medium tall and elegant, and everything just screaming 'Paris' to me. Or, you know people who actually care about beauty, art, and refinement. Everything that isn't American, essentially. Enjoying Paris so far? Edward asked, smiling, after we'd set our stuff down in front of us, and the train was moving. I grinned. Let's wait till we don't have to haul this stuff around, and we get to our hotel and settled and everything, and then ask me that. He chuckled, and put his arm around me - since it was November, and absolutely freezing, making me glad for my gloves and thick (yet stylish, Alice made sure of that) coat - smiling as he looked out the window. The cars filled up fast, I noticed. Probably because it was a Monday, and most worked in the city. Actually, it was getting jam-packed. I was worried about how the hell we were supposed to get through all these people with our huge luggage, when we finally reached our stop. But there was no need to worry. Our stop was a main metro station, the kind where all the trains go to and stop at, so most got off here, as it was a convenient location. I was glad we were finally in the city - we'd been going by a lot of the suburban and Industrial areas, and it hadn't lookedParisian exactly, and I couldn't help but to wonder where all the beauty

was, all the stuff you see on TV? But now that we were in the heart of it, I had certainly found it. The cobbled streets weren't fun though, cool as they were, as we tried to find our hopelessly lost selves to our hotel, in colder weather than any I'd ever been in before. To make a long story short (too late) - we eventually found it; after asking a priest, a visiting British couple, and a street vender. None of which knew where to get where we were going, but we found it anyway. Avenue Victoria. Hotel Victoria Chatalet. Arrondessement four, I believe. The only thing that pissed me off was that there was a metro station ten god damn steps away from the place we could've gotten off there. But we wouldn't have found it probably. It was an obscure exit. I'd insisted to Edward that we didn't need to get some huge, fancy hotel. Actually, those were a rarity here in the city, since the buildings were old. I'd wanted some place where they spoke English, were nice, and was in a good location. I'd reasoned with him that it shouldn't matter if it was fancy or not - we wouldn't be spending too much time there anyway, right? Also, I had slipped in slyly that maybe if we didn't spend so much on the hotel, then maybe I wouldn't throw as big a fit when he tried to buy me things here. That worked better than my initial argument. So we'd found this. We were technically in the Jewish quartier, but it's so small that it's usually just lumped in with the latin. And it was right next to the river Seine, and the le de la Cit, which housed Notre Dame and all that. It was a very beautiful part of the city, and the people all seemed nice and charming as well. I was becoming happier and happier by the minute that we'd picked this place. Especially once we'd finally gotten up to our room and out of the cold. And then the fun really began.

We're so totally going to get lost , I laughed, though my face was frozen already, and we'd only been out for five minutes, walking toward Notre Dame. Though, thankfully, we were past the Seine, the coldest part because of the wind and the water mixed. Edward rolled his eyes. We'll find our way back, he assured me, his face sarcastic - though that might have been annoyance from the cold. I was going to bite back with some witty comment, but I stopped dead. "Woah," I breathed softly, looking across the courtyard. And there it wasthe cathedral made famous by Victor Hugo, the savior of it. The stone gothic architecture was more amazing in person than it was anywhere else. Disney had done a good job drawing it, but in real life it was even more amazing. It was hard to believe people had actually built this by hand before modern technology. It seemed soimpossible. Especially since, even from here, I could see all the statues and engravings on the cathedral, and not one piece seemed simple or easy to make. I glanced over and saw Edward already had the digital camera out, taking pictures. He sidestepped in front of me, and went to a square of concrete wall being used as benches, and jumped on top of it, getting a better shot of the cathedral. I went to stand next to him, and just admired it. Finally, I waved a hand at him to come on, wanting nothing more than to go see it up close - and get out of the cold.

I smiled up at the archway as we walked in. We had gotten our museum passes first thing arriving to Paris, so we could just walk right in. We walked around slowly, going in the square of ground floor allotted for visiting, around the old wooden benches where a service was taking place. I looked up at the ceiling, and smiled again. It was so beautifulbut it was also dimly lit, a fact that was causing Edward to scowl as he took pictures for us. Even using flash - which, shockingly, we were allowed to do - wasn't helping much. He tapped me, and I dropped my head to look over at him. Go pose, he smiled, pointing toward one of the many statues and artifacts set up in alcoves around the walls. Rolling my eyes, but grinning, I went over to stand in front of one, and gave the camera a big cheesy smile, giving it two thumbs up. Chuckling softly, he put it to his eye like he was a real photographer and snapped the picture. I reached my hand out for the camera, motioning my hand in a way to tell him to switch our positions. He chose to go for cheesy too, winking and pointing at the camera like he a super fly movie star or something. I giggled, pressing the button down to capture the moment. So, how do we get to go up to the towers? he signed, after we were almost back around to the doors. We have to go outside, I signed, cringing. The entrance is out there. We were almost to the exit when Edward turned to look at the merchandise and souvenir stand located near the door. He snorted. Yeah, that screams 'cathedral' to me. Real religious. I snickered too before immediately sinking into Edward's side as the freezing air hit us. It was no joke, I'd never been in weather this cold before, and even though my coat was thick I was still shivering. I was glad I was wearing boots though, because it kept the cold that the stones soaked up from leaking in to my feet. We saw a line of people on the side of the building, and started craning our heads, trying to see where the entrance was. Then we realized that was the line to get to the entrance. Fuck. Edward ran a hand over his face. You up for standing out here for a while? I shivered. Well I didn't come all this way for nothing. Come on. We walked on to the end of the line and stood there, leaning against the black wrought iron gate, and holding on to each other. At first his arms were around me from behind, but eventually I just got too cold and I turned into him, snuggling my face in his chest. He buried his face in my hair, his arms tightening around me. I could feel his cold nose on my scalp, and it made me laugh softly. His finger was under my chin then, pulling my face up to his. He smiled slyly a little before pulling his hands away from me to sign, You know, my lips are kind of cold. Help me out here? I giggled, and pushed up on my tip-toes to meet his mouth. I don't care what the hell he said, his mouth was warm, and I greedily moved my lips against his, absorbing the warmth. My hands went to his jacketed arms and I rubbed my hands up and down them. One of his arms locked tightly around me, the other hand coming up to cup my face, warming that frozen cheek. When we broke away a little while later, my cheeks were pink, and it wasn't just from the cold air. I looked up at Edward, and saw he was staring over my shoulder, an eyebrow raised at something. I turned too, his arms still around me, and met the stare of the middle-aged man in front of us in line, staring at us unabashedly. Suddenly, his face broke into a wide smile.

"Hey! You guys from the US?" I nodded slowly, cautiously. "Yeah I thought so. You have that look about you. I am too, you know, but I'm here on business. You know how business travel is though, I had some extra time, so now I'm stopping here to see the sights. My plane doesn't leave for a few days but I got done with my business a day or so ago, so I'm pretty happy. Sucks I couldn't bring a friend, but there you go. I don't mind though, exploring this city has been great! You know, even though I've been here before. So you guys in college, or you out? Watcha doing here? You look old enough to have a job, do you not, or do you work? What do you do?" His questions then were directed to Edward, which was good because I needed a moment to adjust my wideeyed stare. I shook my head to clear it. "Oh, he can't hear," I told the man shortly. Maybe that would dissuade him from further talk. "Oh! That's okay, I can just talk to you then." Wait, what? " - You seen that movie yet? I know it's oldish but it's pretty good. I recommend it to everyone, you know, Will Smith just did such a good job, that man wouldn't give up looking for work to help him and his son, and still sleeping on streets and everything, absolutely heartbreaking, and - " This was insane. This guy talked more than Alice did on the rare occasion she had coffee. And I thought that was scary " - It's just the human phenomenon, you know, the will power, and I can't believe this city, and you know the history is just fantastic, used to be called Gaul you know, do you know what's going on over in America now with our politics? I think they got the right idea over here, though I'm a Republican, but still, I just can't support Bush anymore, to an extent, of course, what are you? And - " Republican? Chatter box? Slight Bush supporter? Alright, tuning him out now. I leaned into Edward's chest, and looked up at him with a wide-eyed 'save me!' expression. He chuckled and signed, Times like this I enjoy being deaf. Makes it easier to ignore the idiots. I scowled, more or less at the fact that the guy was STILL - un-freaking-believably - talking, not even seeming to comprehend neither of us were listening. Still, at least we were almost at the front of the line. Now he was going through the entrance - yes! - and then we were too. I breathed a sigh of relief. Until we walked to the tower steps and he was there waiting for us. Somebody help me. If I should commit murder in a cathedral, I plead provoked so bad no one can blame me. It got easier to ignore him though, as the flights of stairs went on forever, in a tight circle. It was pretty claustrophobic, but it didn't hit me too hard, yet. Still, my breathing was becoming more ragged from the physical exertion. The only plus was the guy finally shut up, since he needed to climb too. The farther up we went though, the more clasutrophobic I got, because people were starting to walk down too, even though there was only two feet of space, and that's probably exaggerating it. I was about ready to curl up and cry, if this didn't end soon. This had better be worth it, Edward signed next to me, breathing slightly harder than usual. I'm getting dizzy. And then we were at the top of the tower. And it was worth it.

The architecture was amazing. The view, fantastic. Even if we had to see it through some wire, put on top of the railing so no one fell offor jumped off. Grabbing Edward's hand, I excitedly pulled him through the narrow walk to the bell tower. I really wanted to see inside. Once there though, I stopped, scowling. What is it? Edward asked, putting his elbow on my shoulder to lean and observe the wooden room. Damn it, I signed, my eye slightly twitching. Why did Disney have to do their research? This looks exactly like the movie, which is making it feel like some stupid ride over at Disney World. That sucks. Let's go look at the rest of this place. I pulled his snickering form back out of the door and started walking some more through the thin walkway close to the edge, taking my time to soak up all the details. I held onto a railing and looked out to the city. A harsh breeze of cold air went by, making my hair flow back. I squinted, taking in the view of the majestic, old city. Edward moved from his spot next to me to behind me, wrapping his arms tight around my form and resting his chin on my head. Beautiful, I signed, smiling, leaning into him as my eyes traced the horizon. I felt him nodding. Yes, you are. His hand moved to cup under my chin, and he pulled my head back some to lean down and kiss me, his bronze hair tickling parts of my face. He'd been trying to convince me that I was beautiful my whole life, and he still was. I didn't really believe it, but I certainly didn't mind him trying to make me. I think the fierce front of it started though back when I was almost fourteen.

The older thirteen year old girl sighed as she took off her gym uniform in front her gym locker, ready to just get dressed and leave the cursed PE area, the worst part of the whole day. Why did middle schoolers, especially eighth graders, need PE anyway? she wondered. Let kids deal with morbid obesity on their own. It wasn't worth it to come out here and humiliate herself in front of everyone all the time. She wished her best friend had this class with her, because she knew he could make her feel less stupid, but of course that'd just be too much good fortune. She pulled on her regular denim shorts and had just reached inside to get her shirt when Heidi Sorn, most popular eighth grade girl by most's standards, walked by, along with her usual posse of Lauren Mallory and Jessica Stanley. Jessica was the only one that Bella had semi-good relations with. They stopped behind her, and she immediately froze in the act of reaching for her shirt; this wasn't good. "Bella?" Heidi asked, her voice confused. Taking a deep breath, the girl stopped before she could get her shirt on and turned slowly around. Heidi's face was looking genuinely perplexed, and the girl wondered what was up. "Yes?" she asked cautiously, trying to keep her voice friendly to avoid any avoidable hostility. "Oh, I was justI didn't know you wore a bra." Suddenly Heidi's confused look vanished, to be replaced by a superior, malicious look. "It seems like a waste of money, which I know isn't something you have a lot of. Might I recommend band-aids instead?"

My face flushed and I looked down as a few of the girls around who had heard laughed. "Yeah, you're kind of a stick Bella," Jessica noted. However, the tone she used made the girl believe she wasn't actually trying to be mean - despite the fact that it was. She was just making an observation - an observation Bella herself made when she looked in the mirror every stupid day. "Yeah," she squeaked softly, turning back to her locker as her shoulders hunched and curled in their natural defensive, shell position. Her eyes filled with tears that she rapidly blinked away as she shoved her shirt on over her skinny body. Thank god that PE was the last class of the day - she could just ask Edward to go to his own house and leave her at hers - alone - to have a good cry, that she definitely wasn't going to do here. "Freak," she heard some people mutter, and giggle. Laughter still was ringing in Bella's ears from the girls around her as the bell rang and she ran out of the locker room. She ran to the pole near the exit gate of the school that Edward and her always waited for the other one at. Bella clutched it tightly, her shoulders still curled in. She only had to wait a few minutes before a familiar, pale hand was on that defensive shoulder, announcing his presence. "Bella?" he asked, his voice sounding confused. Taking a deep breath, Bella plastered a fake smile to her face before turning to face him. Let's go, she signed, turning away again and walking fast. After a moment, she heard his footsteps behind her and knew he was following. They lived pretty close to the middle school - they lived pretty close to all the schools they went to - and were at the girl's house in no time. Hey, I've gotta do something alone, so can you go home today please? I might come over later, she signed to him, before they could start up her walk. Without waiting for an answer, she whirled around and sprinted up to her door, slamming it behind her and rushing to her room. She immediately flung herself on the bed, burying her face in her pillow and started to cry as the girls' cruel - yet true, she thought - words rolled around in her head. "Bella?" The voice was right next to her a few minutes later, and she froze mid-sob, cursing the owner to hell. Without removing her face from the pillow she lifted her clenched hands up to sign, Go away. "Bella." His voice was firmer this time, and she felt the bed compress beside her as he sat. His hand was on her back, rubbing it gently, trying to get her to look up. Sighing, she did, attempting to rub the tears away quickly before he could see. No such luck. What's wrong? he demanded, his face angry, but not at her. What happened? She shrugged. Nothing. Just ...coming to terms with reality. He crossed his arms and raised an eyebrow, unsatisfied. Sighing, she closed her eyes and readjusted her position, resting her back uncomfortably against her wall. She stared off for a minute before shaking her head slowly. Inever mind. "Bella!" I'm not asking anymore. Tell me. His frustration was entirely directed at her now. She breathed deeply, wondering how to put it. Simply, was probably the best. Iam not She swallowed thickly, pausing. Pretty.

Bella looked down at his hand to watch it clench into a fist suddenly. Who told you that? he signed, his mouth a pale, hard line, his nostrils flared, his eyes narrowed. She glanced up at his face, and then back down. She could feel the misery in her own expression. No one had to tell me. I know it's true. She felt her chin being jerked up roughly then, and his face was mere inches away, his furious eyes searching for something in hers. Her heart fluttered at the proximity. "Bella" he said, his voice sad. He pulled back. You're very pretty. More than that. Why don't you believe it? Because it's not true. You're just trying to make me feel better. He rolled his eyes, his nostrils flaring again in annoyance. You're killing me. Just take my word for it. And if not, I guess we can just be ugly together. You're not ugly, she signed, her eyes widening in surprise. You're probably the best-looking guy in school. Or anywhere. He rolled his eyes again. Yeah. Sure. I'm deaf, and a freak. That's not exactly attractive. I'm more of a freak than you are, she said, looking down miserably again. At least you have an excuse. There's just something wrong with me, that can't be explained away. Don't say that. His eyes were pleading. You're perfect. I can't believe you don't see that. She shrugged, looking away, non-believing. His arms were around her then, his lips at her forehead briefly. He rocked her gently as she cried her insecurities on his shoulder, her grip on him tight - her life-line.

We spent the rest of the day just walking around, getting to know our section of the city pretty well. And also, getting to know the metro. It was still a bit confusing, but we were getting the hang of it, and memorizing what stops would take us where. It was pretty cool that Paris had the most efficient metro system anywhere. Plus, the below-ground metro stations were a lot warmer than the above ground air was. That added a lot of factor to our decision to explore it. Edward dragged me back to the hotel when it started getting dark. Why are we back so early? I asked, as we shut the door to our room. Because, there's this club I want us to go to, and we need to get dressed in more appropriate attire for it. My head fell back in exasperation. So we're continuing on with this insane dancing idea? Oh well, it was fun last time. I guess I should trust you. He smiled warmly at me. Exactly. Plus, it's pretty popular. And we need to get the whole Parisian experience, right? I rolled my eyes and started going through my suitcase, looking for something Alice might've packed that would be suitable club attire. And I found it. It was a black mini dress that looked to be made of a soft, comfortable material. Lifting it up, I saw that it was completely off-shoulder, and had buttons on the front of my chest, and on the bottom of the back, over my butt. Along with it were some sheer black tights. I sighed. I hoped it would be warm on the boat, so I didn't have to freeze. (Pic on profile)

What's this place called anyway? I asked, setting my attire down and turning to him. Batofar, he smiled. It's a club on a boat, close to us. It's on the Seine. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was glad it was close. Even with a coat, I was going to freeze with this thing on. Though I couldn't put in on right now, because I needed to do one thing first I walked over to Edward, and sat next to him, laughing slightly. He'd already changed his jeans to something nicer, more designer, and was just pulling on a nice, button up shirt. He looked at me curiously. I smiled at him. Want to do my make-up? He rolled his eyes, but couldn't stop his grin. What, "Alice," isn't here, so you need another "Cullen," to do it? Essentially. He laughed. Well, I'll try, I guess. I should be an expert by now. Remember when Alice used to try to put make-up on me when we were little? I giggled. I wasn't enough, I guess. Though, you look sexy in eyeliner. I winked, and he smirked and pulled me to him for a hot kiss before he started. He was actually pretty good at it. But, he was good at everything. I enjoyed watching his face. His brow was furrowed, his jaw strong and hard looking, his eyes concentrating intensely on his task - the impossible one of trying to perfect me. But he was a work of art. And doing someone's make-up was exactly like painting, just on a face. The art and the artist's positions were switched around. There! He pulled back fifteen minutes later, looking triumphant and satisfied. I hope I didn't make you look like a drag queen. Go check. He put his hand on my butt and pushed me off the bed, toward the direction of the bathroom. I giggled and opened the door, turning on the light to look at his finished work. I smiled at my reflection. He did perfect, just as I knew he would. He'd lined my eyes in black, making them look more liquidy, while putting a light, shimmery silver-blue on my eyelid, subtly making my eyes pop. He'd made my lips a more pronounced shade of my natural pink, and everything else was great too. I walked out and gave him a big thumbs up sign, then made him turn around so I could get dressed. It wasn't a modesty thing - more like, I wanted it to be a surprise. I quickly pulled the tights on, then changed my bra to a black, lacy strapless one. I pulled on the dress after, and looked down at myself, adjusting it accordingly. I stepped over to where Edward stood, back turned, and tapped him. What do you think? I asked when he turned, doing a quick little spin on my foot for him, my arms out to the sides slightly to give him a full view. I watched his eyes darkened, and then he was signing, Never mind. We're staying here. His lips crashed down onto mine as he gripped my hips, pulling me towards him. "Mmm" I moaned into his mouth, clutching tightly to him as his tongue probed my mouth. His hands were wandering up my mini dress, gripping my tight-clad bottom. He picked me up and sat down, straddling me in his lap. He broke away breathing raggedly, his mouth moving to my jaw and my neck, then to my bare shoulders. His hands slid all over my thighs as his mouth descended further, his tongue flicking out beneath the fabric of my dress.

"Edward," I gasped, clutching his hair tightly, throwing my head back as his lips and tongue and teeth worshipped the skin at my chest. With much difficulty, I pulled his head up. We should go, I signed. Plenty of time for that later. He groaned. I glared. It was your idea Edward. He pouted as his hands continued running up and down my body softly, before he stopped. Then again, he started to sign, a devilish grin curling his mouth upwards. You're right. I really want to feel you dancing against me. A lot. I chuckled, though that prospect was just as much of a turn on to me as it was to him. Yeah, maybe I'll give you a lap dance, I teased, getting off of him and straightening out my dress. His eyes darkened again, and he stood up, grabbing my hips tightly and leaning down to softly run burning trails up and down my neck with his mouth. I'll be expecting that, he signed, his face dead serious when he pulled away, and I blushed. That was one of the things I hadn't done yet when it came to our sexual relationship, and I wasn't sure I could. I'd only been kidding anyway. I grabbed my coat and he grabbed his jacket and we left to go to the Botafar.

We've only been here about an hour, and they've already played this song about eight times, I informed Edward, collapsing in the black leather and tabled booth where we'd set our coats upon arriving. People had courtesy here, and no one had taken our seat - or our jackets, thank god. I leaned against Edward's shoulder as he slid in next to me, listening to the song that not only had been played a lot here, but that I'd heard all through the day - in the metro, on the TV in our hotel room, pretty much anywhere that plays music. I mean, I absolutely adored Gwen Stefani, I didn't care what anyone said, I thought she was cool, and 'The Sweet Escape' was a really good songbut damn. I had a feeling I was going to hear it more this week than I ever will in my life again. Apparently she wasn't majorly popular in just Japan. (It's true, when I went - I know it's not the same now but whatever when I went, this was the most popular song.) Well I think we've been doing pretty good so far, despite the odds, Edward signed, leaning in to kiss my neck sweetly, and I giggled as I tilted my head. Dance wise. Veryvery good. His lips lingered on my cheek, near my ear, his sweet warm breath fanning around the rim of it. One of his hands moved to my tight-clad thigh and started stroking it seductively. I moaned softly, squirming and pressing my thighs together tightly to try to stop - or, possibly, ignore - the tingling starting in between them. Dancing with Edward to jazz music had been very fun, and innocent. Club dancing with Edward had been fun in an erotic way, and mind-blowingly sensual. The way it felt to have my body pressed tight against his - the slight frustration of the restricting clothes adding an extra flare and high to the sensation. Moving my hips against his upper thighs, resting my head on his chest as I clutched at the front on his shirt in an effort to remain standing, his chest warm, solid, and there, a safe haven for me to sink into while the rest of his body teased me with the most exquisite type of torture. And then, when he'd flipped me around, his hands going to my hip bones and pressing my back end to him aggressively, dominantly; deliciously. I'd bit my lip and let my head fall back on his shoulder, letting his hands control my body. My arms, of their own desire, had lifted above my head to wrap around his neck, my fingers twisting in his silken bronze hair.

No matter what the music called for, I usually ignored it and a majority of the time we took it slow, grinding against each other at a lusciously agonizing pace. Each movement was deliberate, so we could really feel, adding something more than if we had let our wild instincts take control. Our breathing wasn't fast, but it was heavy and labored, and all the more arousing because it wasn't physical exertion that caused it; our movements were far too careful and slow. It was each other; it was the texture and touch and feeling of every soft sigh, every rub of fabric on fabric, every time his hand left my hip bone to brush the one on my collar, my bare skin lighting aflame at his barely there caress. Every time he bent his head to whisper, "I love you," in my ear, and I'd turned my head to meet his gaze; chocolate meeting jewel, and I'd lost myself a little more in him. Our lips brushed, but never applied any pressure; only the promise of a kiss. The whole thing had felt so good, and I had been afraid to close my eyes for even one second to enjoy it more for fear of missing anything; even if I just stared at the red shadows dancing on his pale skin from the deep, low crimson light that embodied the whole club, enhanced by the dark wood, almost black, that reflected the varying shades of red light; ranging from Alizarin, to Cardinal, to Rust, to Burgundy. "Bella" Edward said then, his voice low and seductive, his lips at my ear now. "Bella," he crooned again, though I was tensed, waiting for whatever he was going to ask of me, that I knew - despite the fact that it probably wasn't a good commitment - that I'd do it. I believethat you owe mea dance. My breath let out in a gust. Oh, right. My joking lap dance that was being taken very seriously by the sex-craving - though, he was in no way starved - man next to me, whom I could deny very little to. "Edward," I whispered, starting to feel a little scared. I don't know if I can do it. I fully believe in you, he assured me. Trust me, I know it'll feel good no matter what, if only for the simple fact that we're touching. Butbut, we're in public! I tried to reason, feeling a little panicky and not at all tempting or seductive. He grabbed my waist then and sat me side saddle on his lap, scooting over in the booth at a remarkably quick pace, until we were completely obscured in the deep blood red shadow against the wall, and I knew - as did he - that we were practically invisible to the outside viewer. I was nervous. I bit my lip and looked down at our laps, my hands folded but fidgeting over mine. My eyes scanned the club quickly, before dropping back down to stare at the third button on Edward's shirt, memorizing the pale, cloudy swirl on the small, light colored piece of plastic, contemplating how I was going to pull this off. You don't have to if you don't want to, Edward told me then, rubbing my back when he was done. He was just too sweet, and understanding toward me. He deserved this. I wanted to do it tooit would've just been a lot easier if I wasn't inexperienced. 'Ah, it can't be that hard,' I reasoned with myself. 'Shouldn't my instincts take over anyway?' I tried to ignore the cynical part of me that was drawling, 'Ah yes. Lap Dances. That favorite age old ritual! Yup, the instincts for that run deep.' Taking in a deep breath I looked into Edward's darkly glittering green eyes - the only reason I could see them being that I was so close - and found the courage there to swing one of my legs over the other side of his lap, holding myself on my knees. I placed my hands on his shoulders, before inching closer, till my crotch was directly over his, the rough denim

making a delicious friction as it brushed the thin material of my sheer tights, and small underwear underneath adding hardly anything. Edward groaned and his hands went to grab my hips, but I held them in my own hands before he could, smiling and shaking my head as I placed his on the leather seat - indicating a new 'no touch' policy. His eyes darkened even more as his nostrils flared, but I could see in his face - and feel, other places - that he was turned on by the prospect. I leaned forward and pressed my lips to his softly, tilting my head, my hands running up and down his arms. His lips moved against mine hungrily, and opening my eyes slightly I could see his hands curled into rigid fists on the black leather, tensed from self-control. Feeling more confident because of that, I slowly lowered myself down so I fully sat all my weight on him, feeling the denim and his shirt pressed very tight between my legs and against my front. I removed my lips from his as we both moaned, and just leaned my forehead against his, closing my eyes. His breath was heavy as it mixed with mine, his strong chest rising and falling against my own, meeting my rhythm perfectly. Swallowing, I began to gyrate my hips on top of him, pressing down. I could feel his arousal beneath my clothed center, and I rocked on top of him, the delicious friction intensifying. Edward let out a low hiss, his head falling back against the seat, and his hands jerking as if to grab me. I wrapped my arms around his neck and let my head drop onto the crook of his neck, my breathing labored. "Edward," I whimpered quietly, just needing to say his name as electricity shot through me from our actions, and the abrasion the clothes presented. I could feel his jeans rubbing my center, and out of pure desire I tilted my hips forward, letting the rough material rub my bundle of nerves, and my breathing changed to a near gasp. At my hips movements, Edward let out a loud groan and, abandoning the rules, grabbed my hips roughly and rocked me faster and harder on top of him. I cried out into his skin, biting down to muffle it. He growled at that, his hands tightening to a point that I knew I'd have light bruises. He lifted himself off of the seat slightly, still pushing me down as hard as he could, and I threw my head back in ecstasy, the feeling and frustration of restricting fabric unbelievable. Lost in my passion, I quickly reached down and unbuttoned his jeans, pulling them down just enough that the denim cleared his manhood. He'd allowed the movement, his eyes dark and wild and full of unbridled desire as he watched me. I settled myself back down on him over his boxers, now feeling more than before and loving it. I grinded down harder on him, swaying my upper body as well for his viewing pleasure as I placed my wrists around his neck, locking my fingers behind his head, my arms straight now from the distance I'd put between our torsos' - though our lower bodies were still locked together and gyrating. "Bella," he growled, watching my little dance through half-lidded eyes. I knew he was getting closer to his release - I knew I was. I wasn't going to last much longer, and I reached down to his hands - bringing them back up to touch my breasts, aching for his loving yet passionate caress. His hands massaged and put the right pressure in the just the right places. He took my nipples between his talented fingers, rolling them around before palming them again, pulling me closer. His mouth met mine, and that was it - the complete overload of senses and sensations. His warm lips melding to my own, his hands caressing a place made for him alone it felt like, and our hidden spots of desire rubbing and grinding and gyrating against the other. It was too much - and my world exploded as I grabbed onto his shoulders and let his mouth muffle my cries. He continued moving, and a few moments later - after it was becoming just too much for me and it felt I'd have to die from the pleasure - he came too, staining his boxers with wet. We broke away gasping, and I sat there on him for a little while, too overcome and limp and relaxed to get up. His arms wound around me, his breath heavy but changing back to normal as he whispered, "I love you," in my ear, kissing and nuzzling my neck.

Finally, I took a deep breath and clambered awkwardly off his lap, collapsing next to him on the seat, leaning on his shoulder, like earlier. Edward lifted his hips slightly to pull his jeans back up. Though it wasn't why I had done it, it seemed like a pretty good idea now - his jeans had no stains on it, which would've been really embarrassing for him. So, was it everything you dreamed of? I teased, letting a finger trail down his chest. And more, he grinned back, before leaning down to kiss me softly. I placed my hand on his cheek gently, and I moved my mouth against his for a few more moments before I broke away. Want a drink? I asked, my smile bright. Drinking age is lower here, you know. Miss Swan, he signed, his face full of teasing outrage, This wouldn't be an elaborate scheme to intoxicate me so you can take full advantage of my lonesome later, is it? I smiled, looking away with mock sheepishness and guilt. Well, I don't know about elaborate scheme, but yeah, essentially. He kissed my cheek. Sure, "love." You can pick, I don't care. I grinned and hopped out of the booth. I saw Edward scoot over to the edge, no doubt so he could watch me. I quickly rearranged my rumpled dress and then walked over to the bar. It was all going pretty well until I started making my way back around the dance floor with the drinks in hand. The pulsing lights and slinking bodies were an interesting sight, and gave it all a slightly unreal feel. But that was cool, I didn't want to exist for just a little while, so long as Edward was there. Suddenly there was an unfamiliar arm slinging itself around my shoulder. I froze, stiffening automatically, clutching the glass bottles in my hands tighter. I slowly turned my head, to look into the face of a man I had never seen before, grinning at me. "Hey gorgeous," the man slurred. Hm. He was American, judging by thr accent. Figures. "You wanna - hic - have some fun?" My lip curled in disgust, as I said, "Um, no thanks." I attempted to pull away then, but his grip tightened. He stared at me, his gaze trying to come back in focus as he wobbled slightly, leaning more on me. "Don't be like that baby. Let's go have some - hic - ...fun." "Yeah, it's called you getting the fuck off me," I muttered before I wrenched out his grasp and started walking hurriedly away. It wasn't fast enough though, apparently, because the next second that same hand was on my shoulder again, except this time it was shoving me roughly around, causing me to stumble a bit. His face was shocking. His eyes were narrowed, his mouth in a furious grimace as his fingernails dug into my shoulder. "Don't...walk away from me...again...understand?" he said, his eyes flashing. He was still wobbling, but I had no doubt he had enough strength in his body to knock me out easily given the chance. He lurched forward then, his hands outstretched to grab my hips. And then there was a great cracking sound coming from his face, as a pale fist smashed into his cheek, effectively knocking off his grip on me and sending him tumbling to the ground. A furious, ripping, feral snarl erupted from beside me, and I whipped my head around to see Edward, his expression blacker than pitch - even blacker than when we'd seen Tyler after the 'incident' - staring down at the dazed, injured man. Edward's arm wound around my waist and then he was tugging me behind him. We had gotten the entirety of our half of the

cabin's attention by now, and they were starting to form a circle around us. Hurriedly, I shoved the drinks into the of the onlookers near me's hands and tried to step up next to Edward, but he kept me back with his hand, his eyes never leaving the guy on the floor struggling to his feet. I frowned deeply. This was ridiculous. I could fight - I didn't need to be defended. And I didn't want Edward hurt - something I think I had proven on numerous occasion, namely the time where I took a huge blow to my head for him. Though, that was probably exactly why he was doing this - to make up for it. The man had staggered to his feet by then, and his expression was dark as he glared at Edward. He stared right back. The man's breathing was heavy, and then he whispered, "Oh, you're going to pay for that one boy." There was moment of stillness, the calm before the storm, before the man lunged. "No!" I cried, as the crowd surged forward, blocking my attempt to jump into the fray. The man's fist came near Edward's face, but it never landed. Edward's hand shot up and he grabbed the fist in his palm, before twisting the arm back violently and punching the guy in the face again, knocking him to his knees. Growling, the guy jumped at Edward's legs, sending him tumbling toward the ground as well, where they rolled around, continuing their fighting. It was hard to see who exactly was getting hurt - and I hoped to anything that Edward wasn't. Cheers and screams and encouragements were coming from everyone as they enjoyed the fight, before finally, Edward stood up, emerging victorious from the nearly unconscious inebriated male on the floor. His breathing was heavy as he stumbled back a few steps, staring down at the guy in triumph and unconcealed loathing. "Edward." The name emerged from my lips in a furious whisper, unable to hold it back. I pushed angrily through the people squishing my sides tightly and rushed up to him, putting my hands on his arms and quickly scanning his body for any noticeable damage. I couldn't see any - yet - and that was good. The fool actually had the nerve to grin down at me, and I just gave him the darkest glower I could muster while relief pumped through me, instinctive and strong. "Hey lad!" came the cry then from an Irish bloke at the bar, with the corresponding accent. "You whipped up quite a fury boy! But the men in arms are a'comin' - might want to run before ya get deported, eh?" "Shit," I whispered, my eyes widening as I looked back at Edward. He immediately seemed to get it, and he grabbed my hand and started running with me through the cheering, parting crowd, back to our booth to grab our jackets and then out of the club and along the river Seine. The cold wind whipping past us was not as frosty as it should've been; not with our flushed bodies, adrenaline pumping through us and increasing our temperature. Edward laughed then against the wind as we ran at breakneck speed away from the scene of the crime - out of shock, disbelief, the thrill of the flight, and from the complete scandal of it all. And even though I was murderously angry with him, for the moment I couldn't help but to join in as we stole away through the night in the City of Lights.

We collapsed against the brick wall of a narrow, shockingly tidy alley a little while later, out of breath. I panted heavily, rubbing my chest as the cold air that had rushed into my mouth as I ran burned and tore up my throat. I tried swallowing, though that too hurt tremendously. Edward was breathing heavy too, putting his arm around my shoulder and resting his head on the corner of it. But I pushed away from him roughly and crawled to crouch in front of him, looking again for bruises. There was none on his face, as it stood.

Are you hurt? I demanded, making it very clear with my facial expression and body language that I was about hurt him if the other guy hadn't done the job. Edward shook his head at me. Really, I signed, my face skeptical and disbelieving. You didn't hit you at all? Edward scowled, looking away. Well, maybe he got in one or two hits, but it's nothing to worry about. Too late. I started worrying a long time ago. I glared at him. Unbutton your shirt, I demanded. I had to check to see if the bruises were there - and how bad they were, exactly. But it's cold! he protested, making no move to obey me. Well, I began, unsympathetic. You should have thought of that before you got in a fucking brawl, you idiot! The next second I was being tugged forcefully into his lap, my face landing near his. His eyes were narrowed, the naturally emerald green darker as his eyes probed mine. The hand that wasn't still gripping my forearm tightly reached up to brush the side of my face lightly; my cheekbones, my nose, my lips, my forehead. His proximity was quickly making my anger die down to a few glowering embers, and I allowed him to lean forward and press his lips to mine softly. "Bella..." he said slowly, releasing me. I couldn't just let that guy get away with what he tried to do. I'll never let any man get away with that. You deserve to be treated better than that, and that kind of disrespect is absolutely unacceptable. Plus - his eyes narrowed again You are mine. No one else gets to touch you...not like I do. I sighed, nodding, and wrapped my arms around his neck, resting my head on his shoulder. To my horror, my throat closed up and a sob ripped through me as I held onto him, the force of it shaking my body. I tried to hide my tears in his jacket, but he was yanking my face up then, his face terrified. What? What is it? I swallowed, shaking my head and rubbing my eyes. Nothing. It's stupid. Just everything catching up to me, I guess. I just...don't want you to get hurt. I bit my lip at my last confession, my eyes welling up with tears again. "Bella..." Edward said, his voice soothing as he kissed my tears, my eyes, my nose. "Bella, Bella, I love you." I'm fine, really, he assured, kissing my trembling lips. Hold me, please, I asked, looking down as a great desire to be comforted overwhelmed me. His arms wound tightly around my frame, and I buried my face in the crook of his neck, closing my eyes and letting myself be consumed by his warm presence, very solid, and real, and whole around me. "I love you," he whispered, kissing my hair as one hand came up to run through it soothingly. This was why I could never stay mad at Edward. Sure, we argued sometimes, but we'd only ever had one full blown fight - and it had been one of the most excruciatingly painful times of my life, that I had no desire to repeat.

The seventeen year old girl hopped into her best friend's car, buckling up quickly and looking out the window briefly as her friend got in the driver's seat. She turned to look at him, her eyes dancing, as he fastened his own safety belt.

Hey, she signed then, a bright smile across her face. Can you just drop me off at home today? This immediately made the boy freeze, his hand on the ignition to start the car; but instead he turned to look at her, an eyebrow raised. Why? he asked. I don't have to tell you why. Just do it. Please. She sighed, unable to deny him anything - she'd never really been able to. I'm just going over to a new friend's house, she told him. You know, that new exchange student from the UK I told you about? Ian? Yeah, well he said that he had some books that could only be gotten exclusively in the UK, and he's going to let me borrow them! She smiled enthusiastically, her eyes shining with excitement at the prospect. Of course, I'm letting him borrow some too. You're going over to a guy's house? he asked, his mouth hardening and brow furrowing. She rolled her eyes. Yeah, so? I go over to your house all the time, Dad. He raised his hands to say something else, but then just dropped them, turning his head to look back out the windshield. He twisted the key and started the car, backing up and speeding away toward her house as usual. He braked and parked when they arrived, and let his hands drop again, staring unseeingly out of the glass in front of him. Bella stared at him a moment before shrugging, and hopping out of the car. As she reached for the doorknob to her house, she turned around to see if he was still in the car, and jumped a little upon discovering he was right behind her, bouncing from foot to foot edgily. Curious, her hand slid from the knob and she turned around to face him fully. He took a deep breath and raised his hands. Are you two going to be alone? he asked then, staring steadfastly at a point over he shoulder. She refrained from rolling her eyes - barely - but scowled. How am I supposed to know? Maybe. Now, are you done acting like my parents? She couldn't believe where he was going with this. He slid his gaze over to meet hers, his tight green eyes meeting her hard brown ones. Why can't you just exchange books at school? This time she didn't stop herself from rolling her eyes. Because that's cumbersome, she signed, her face annoyed, verging on pissed. He took another deep breath. Alright. Let me just say it. There is really only one reason he wants you to go over there. And it's not to 'exchange books'. Her mouth dropped, before she closed it and glared at him. You're unbelievable! You know what, I didn't even ask you. This isn't your business. He scowled at her fiercely, his eyes flashing. Fine then. Whatever. Don't listen to me, and go get raped. See if I care. You'll probably enjoy it anyway. His eyes burned black holes into the cement at their feet as he shoved his hands deep in his pockets. There was a moment where plain shock zapped through Bella's body; disbelief that he had pretty much just called her a whore. But then, anger caught up, and when it did SMACK.

Edward stumbled back slightly, though more from shock than actual force. His eyes widened, before narrowing immediately after, as he rubbed the slight red mark on his cheek where her palm had hit him - hard. She was breathing heavily through her nose, as if she had just run a marathon. Her eyes were narrowed and dangerous and flashing. She shook her head slightly as she breathed out a harsh, sarcastic, humorless laugh. And you know what? It's not even like I can scream at you right now, because you couldn't hear it anyway. And with that she twirled around, refusing to look at his face as fury pumped through her veins. She opened her front door in a flash and slammed it in his face, before she ran to her room and crashed that door shut too. She just stood there for a few long moments, breathing as if winded, before she slowly slid down to the floor. Though it had been far below the belt and she knew it, she hadn't felt sorry for what she'd said until now. But guilt was coursing through her system like ice; along with the tricklings of hurt, pain, sorrow, humiliation, and fury, chewing through her like acid. She buried her face in her arms and allowed herself to cry as her body froze, all plans to go anywhere left quite forgotten. It had been two weeks since they'd last spoken. In the halls, whenever they had to pass each other, they stuck to opposite sides and stared at anything else beside the other one. Bella walked to and from school every day now, and when she got home, she just curled up on her bed, hiding and doing nothing. The anger she had maintained was almost completely gone now, replaced by an aching loneliness. In distancing herself from Edward, she also saw very little of the rest of her friends: the Cullens' and the Hales'. She didn't even see them at lunch, because she hid out in the library now, instead of eating. It would just be too hard to see them all sitting there, and to go sit by herself. And it would cut her even more if no one moved over to sit with her - not even Alice - and she didn't want to have to deal with that if it was the case. But she missed them all terribly. She was becoming more and more desperate, and desolate. At the end of the two weeks, she even had a jacket in her hands, standing at her window at midnight, debating to herself. It'd be easy to sneak over there and apologize and just move on. And then, everything would be alright again, and she wouldn't be a miserable wreck; even Rene didn't want to be around her anymore, so long as she was this 'mopey'. She was just about to open her window, when she decided against it. 'He started this!' she reasoned with herself. 'It's not my fault. I mean, yeah, the comment was pretty harsh, but I wouldn't have said it if he hadn't provoked me. I'm always the one crawling back to himso he can man up and come apologize, or we can just stay like this. I can survive' But surviving was really hard when you weren't complete in yourself. Often, Bella found herself curled up on the ground, gasping for air and trying to breathe without her lungs. She had always known that he was a big part of her, but had never really known the extent until now. Not until the first time she tried to stand up, and fell instead. How does one stand when one of their legs are gone? When half of her mind, her body, her heart... were just gone. Her chest hurt. It was the end of the third week of separation. Bella had just passed Edward in the hall, scuttling faster, and trying not to sneak glances of him from under her eyelashes but finding it impossible. Was he suffering as well? Did he care? Was breathing hard for him too, or were his lungs intact? She figured he wasn't hurting nearly as bad as she. After all, he still had his family and the rest of his friends. She was the only one really alone. She was just passing by two girls at their locker when their conversation unwillingly reached her ears.

"Hey Cindy! I found this cool quote yesterday - and yes, I was supposed to be doing homework but whatever - but I really like it! It reminds me of likeevery break up ever." They shared a laugh. "Alright, what is it?" asked Cindy, and Bella found herself slowing in spite of herself. "Okay." The girl cleared her throat theatrically. "'It's sad when people you know become people you knew. When you can walk past them like they were never a big part of your life. How you used to be able to talk for hours, and nowyou can barely even look at them.' Pretty cool, right?" "Yeah, it was - " But what it was Bella never found out, because she ducked into the nearest girls room then, and finding it mercifully empty, locked herself in a stall, ignoring the late bell that had just rung. She sank to the floor slowly, and sobbed silently, trying to hold herself together in one piece. Thirty days. It had been thirtylongdays. The circles under her eyes were darker than ever, and it wasn't helping that it was one in the morning, and she was still just staring at her ceiling in the dark, like usual. A month. It had been a month since they'd last exchanged words, shared a laugh. No contact, at all. She fretted in the dark, worry and anxiety causing stomach acid to swirl and slosh sickeningly in her stomach. Was this the normal length of a fight? It didn't feel right. What ifwhat if this was permanent? Some kind of unrepairable damage, and her stubbornness had been making it worse? She couldn't, couldn't live without him. But what could she do about herbest friend. Or were they that anymore? Her throat tightened at the possibility. There was a rapping at her window then, and she gasped, jumping and sitting up, staring wide-eyed at her covered window. Slowly, she rose from her twisted sheets and walked over to the window, throwing the orange curtain aside. And there he was. Like a dream, Edward leaned against her window, his eyes filled with regret and shame. They stared at each other a moment before Bella unlatched the window and pushed it up, before crossing her arms. He stayed outside though, understanding that wasn't exactly permission to come in, though you'd think it was. They stared at each other again, as Bella tried to keep up with her stern faade. But it was so hard, when relief and happiness was coursing through her veins, washing away the pain and misery that felt like dirt staining her skin. It was being siphoned away now, though, as the ghost of her other half brushed past her, promising a feeling of wholeness if she let him in. So she did, unfolding her arms, and opening them to him. That was all he needed. He climbed through her window gracefully, and rushed to embrace her like a starving man that was being fed. He buried his face in her hair as she did the same with him, breathing him in and reveling in her new-found lungs. There was no need to say anything - they both understood everything about each other in that moment. All the pain, the misery, the regret. No apologies needed to be spoken when they were already perfectly clear. So they just gripped each other tightly, afraid to let go and feel ripped apart again.

I grabbed Edward's hand and made him stop his ascent as I collapsed on the rocky ground, panting. It was our last day in Paris, and we had come to the outskirts of the city held in a bowl, where the mountains and forests were. Edward wanted to get to the top of where we were soon for some reason, but my lungs were burning. It really wasn't the exertion, since I was pretty fit - it was the cold air, scorching my throat. It was still cold - though warmer than it had been since our arrival - but my body didn't feel it as much, since I was flushed from the exercise. My lungs screamed in protest, however, toward the biting, unforgiving temperature.

Edward sat down next to me, handing me the water bottle that I chugged gratefully before recapping it and handing it back. He smiled at me. Come on, it's just a little farther. We're almost there. You said that an hour ago, I glared, but it was true this time. I could see the top of peak of where we were now. Edward grabbed my hand and we commenced the hiking again - his firm grip needed quite direly since I kept tripping over all the loose rocks and dirt. I glanced over and saw Edward patting his pocket frequently, like he was checking to make sure something was still there. I could understand that - if he lost his wallet, we'd be pretty much completely screwed. We made it to the top, finally, about ten minutes later, and I dropped my small pack to the ground, exhausted. Hungry? Edward asked, sitting down on a blanket he'd pulled out. I gratefully went to sit next to him on it, not feeling like having my butt freeze from the icy ground. I nodded to his question as I snuggled into his side, grateful for the body warmth. It seemed like he'd been warming me up a lot these daysand the way he usually managed it made me wish it was colder in Phoenix. But I didn't want to do that out herenot with the air being as cold as it was, even though it'd be a relief to not have to muffle my screams. He pulled some fruits and cheese and juice from his backpack. I smiled at the little picnic, and picked up some grapes. Want some? I asked him, smiling slyly at him from the corner of my eyes. He grinned back, which I took as an affirmative. I gently pulled him into a laying position, placing his head in my lap. He smiled hugely, liking where this was going, no doubt, as I brought the vine of grapes down to his mouth. He bit one off with his teeth, closing his eyes and bringing his arms up to wrap around my waist. I couldn't help myself from leaning down, and kissing him. My hair fell like a curtain around us as he moved his hands to bury them in it. I set the grapes down so I could grip his cheeks in my hands, as his tongue reached out to touch mine. Now, why'd you want to get up here so fast? I asked, when we broke away a few minutes later. His eyes glanced to the side and he smiled, but quickly covered my eyes before I could. He stood up, still blindfolding me with his hand, and helped me to a standing position, spinning me around and placing one hand on my waist. Then, he removed his hand, wrapping his arms around me and placing his head on my shoulder. I couldn't believe I hadn't seen this view before, but I'd been too wrapped up in Edward I guess. From our height, I could see all of the city panning out before me. You could really see how sunken the city was in it's little bowl of land, and a gray, magical mist hung over the city, permeating it with an even more exaggerated sense of wonder. And it was sunset too, now. I could see it starting. The sun broke through the smoky, thin clouds and shattered the sky with color and beauty. It almost made me heart ache, looking upon such a breath taking sight. Next to me, I could feel Edward take in a deep breath, and his arms tightened with an edge. I turned, curious, and he turned me sideways, stepping in front of me. He took my hand in his and kissed it lightly, breathing deeply again as he stared at his feet. He lookednervous, and he wouldn't meet my gaze. I placed a hand on his cheek, wondering what was up. He met my gaze then, and leaned forward to kiss me quickly, sweetly. He reached his other hand into his pocket.

And then bent down on one knee, his hand still holding mine. I stood, frozen, as he looked up at me from under his long, thick eyelashes, his eyes smoldering from with intensity. Love reverberated through the endless depths of emerald green, the sinking sun making his archangel face even more longingly beautiful. "Bella," he said, opening the small velvet box he'd pulled out to reveal a beautiful ring. "I love you. Marry me?"

Six years later My shoes squeaked as we walked on the polished linoleum, and I gulped, gripping Edward's arm tighter. I looked up at him with anxious eyes, and he smiled peacefully at me in return. He looked so relaxedhow could he be so relaxed! Especially since this was for him. And yet, I was the only one freaking out. Edward stopped me as we reached the plain brown door, though in my eyes it seemed to grow and stretch to a gigantic, ominous size, morphing into a black, evil color. He placed his hands on my shoulders and made me meet his calm, green gaze. "Bella," he stated, his voice serious and soothing. He removed his hands to sign, You need to calm down okay? Nothing's happened yet. This is just an informational meeting. I looked up at him and swallowed thickly, before nodding my head. He didn't buy it. Sighing, Edward drew me against his chest, wrapping his arms around me tightly as he buried his face in my hair, his hands rubbing calming circles on my back. After a few minutes, he pulled away. Better now? he asked. My mouth twisted as I signed back, A little. But nothing's going to help at this point. Edward rolled his eyes, but leaned in and pressed his lips to mine briefly, before breaking away and opening the plain door. "Ah," said the surgeon consult, looking up from his desk when we walked in. "Sit down, sit down. You must be Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, correct?" I nodded, signing everything to Edward habitually, as always. He smiled at the doctor and reached out to shake his hand; I did the same when he was done, sitting down in the standard black chairs in front of the desk apprehensively, hands gripping the knees of my pants tightly for a moment before taking a deep breath and letting them go. "Edward - your husband - is the potential patient, is that right ma'am?" asked the doctor, referring down to a clipboard in front of him. I nodded, but inwardly I rolled my eyes; obviously if I was I would be wondering what he said. Plus, I'm pretty sure as unfeminine as Alice was always scolding me for being, I didn't look like a man. Especially standing next to one. I resisted the urge to shake my head quickly; my bad mood was just coming from my nerves. I needed to calm down. This was just a consult. Nothing was going to happen...yet, as Edward said. The doctor cleared his throat and looked up at us, folding his hands in front of him. He was in a professional state of mind now. "Alright, first of all, do you all know why exactly he - you - can not hear?" he asked, trying to address both of us at once. I shook my head slowly, but Edward nodded when I was done signing. Tell him to explain it to you then.

I glanced back from Edward to the consult and repeated what he'd just said. The doctor nodded. "Okay... There are many different reasons why hearing can go wrong, so many parts that can be messed up in the whole hearing process that will result in a human being becoming deaf. The specific problem your husband has is something that we've recently come up with a solution for, as you know - it's still very new, but we'll get to that part later. Anyway, according to his medical records he was born without hair cells on his organ of corti. I'm sure you learned some of what this means back in school, but, bear with me while I explain again, just to clear up some matters and make sure there are no misunderstandings; or maybe just to refresh your memory. I'll try to keep it simple, since it can get a bit technical." He smiled briefly and looked down at his hands again for a moment, before he brought his eyes back up, starting. "Many people think that the hair cells are vital to our hearing because they themselves catch the vibrations of sound waves. However, this isn't quite correct. The cochlea does that, and it transfers the vibrations to the basilar membrane, which causes the hair cells to vibrate. What they then do, now, is send the electric impulses to the brain. It goes into a bit more detail, but suffice to say from there on the vibrations become sound, and the brain redirects sound into something we can recognize." He laughed. "And if you're not asleep by now" I forced a smile. "No, I got it. Explain the surgery, if you would." I got my hands ready as Dr. Gerandy took a deep breath, and started speaking slowly as he stared at his plaque. "Basically, what the surgery entails is us putting in artificial hair cells in the places they should be. Obviously, this would normally be an extremely expensive surgery, given the amount of time this is going to take - most likely a full twenty-four hours, with surgeons switching in and out. But as it's also new, and we need as many test runs as we can to make sure it works, this will be for free." I'm guessing he thought that the fact that it was free was going to make me completely overlook the fact that he was admitting that my husband, my Edward, was a test dummy. Or at least be a bit more calm about it. He was dead mistaken. "And what exactly are the risks?" I asked sharply, my eyes narrowing. "What are you trying to test won't go wrong?" Edward put a hand on my shoulder, and I glanced over to see that his eyes were stern, telling me to calm down. But there was no way in hell I was until I got some real answers. This was the shit they didn't want us to know about, but I'd be damned if they didn't fully inform us of all the risks I was skeptical about him going into this as it was. "Well" Dr. Gerandy started, slinking back in his chair a bit at my intimidating stare. "The only way it will work is if we also connect the hair cells to the brain, as I stated earlier in my explanation. It's going to require some brain surgery, and as it's still relatively new, it could umwell, we know that the worst that can happen is a self-induced coma, not any mental handicaps or anything. But we don'treally knowhow long the coma would be for. It depends on the person, I suppose." "So" I said quietly, my brow furrowed. "If he went into a coma during surgeryhe might never wake up?" I winced at the possibility, and Edward rubbed my arm. I looked up to meet the doctor's level gaze as he nodded. "Yes."

A drive home was always quiet, but the silence was heavier this time as Edward drove through the dark streets, the sun having set a little while ago. We were both thinking about a decision to whether or not Edward should take the chance presented. I already had my answer: no. And I already had my argument. I just needed to hone it some more. Edward sighed quietly as he took my hand, rubbing his thumb over the top of it as we pulled into the house we had bought a few years ago. Want to order in? I asked as he sat down on the couch. He nodded and squeezed my hand before letting me go and dropping his head on the back of the sofa. I couldn't resist leaning over and kissing his forehead before walking off to find the phone in order to call in for some pizza. I sat down across from Edward cross-legged on the couch when I was done, and we stared at each other. This gaze immediately told me where the conversation was going, and that we both knew where the conversation was going. Still, these things needed to be said. I think you should wait, I started. He sighed and rubbed his face. I disagree. What's the problem with waiting until we know that it works right? Because, that's what everyone is going to think. If they don't get volunteers, then the project will never go anywhere. Plenty of people will participate! And one person - you - isn't going to make a difference! Edward gripped my face tightly in between his hands, looking me in the eye with a very serious gaze. "Bella" he said slowly. I want to do this. I need to do this. My eyes filled with tears as I shook my head back and forth. I was being incredibly selfish and I didn't care. No. No, you don't need to do anything. Edward, what if you went into a coma and never came back out. What am I supposed to do then? I can't live without you. I need you. Isn't that worth anything? His eyes narrowed and the look he gave me was murderous. Had any other man looked at me like that I would have thought he was going to hit me; but I wasn't afraid of Edward. He would never harm me. There was no getting past the fact, though, that my comment had upset him. "Bella," he growled, his face menacing, but I stood my ground and didn't take back my question. He shook his head in disgust and turned away, slumping back into the couch, squinching his eyes shut and pinching the bridge of his nose in between his thumb and index finger. I wrapped my arms around myself and stared at him. Minutes passed where neither of us moved, and every second I grew to hate myself, the distance between us, and the absolute still silence more and more. I swallowed thickly and summoned up my courage, scooting over close enough to touch his shoulder. I'm sorry, I signed when he raised his head to look at me, but he was pulling me into his lap even before I was done. "Bella," he murmured, kissing the hollow beneath my ear softly as I sat with my back to his chest, his arms around me. How could you ask me that? You're worth everything to me. You are everything to me. How can you doubt that?

I shook my head. I know; it was stupid and childish. I'm justreally afraid of this. I bit my lip at my confession and leaned my head into the crook of his neck, trying to resist the overpowering urge to start trembling. Without warning, his hands were on my ribs, his fingers wiggling quickly as he tickled me. I let out a surprised shriek of laughter, and couldn't help the rest of the giggles that tumbled from my mouth, my body automatically twitching and convulsing until I found myself on the floor, gasping for air as Edward's fingers continued their merciless attack on my sensitive skin, kneeling with one leg on either side of my hips. When he finally let up I had tears in my eyes, and I had to take deep breaths for a few long moments. When I finally looked up at Edward kneeling over me, I expected his eyes to be playful like they usually were when he did this; but they were intense and serious instead. Every time you laugh, I want to hear you do it. Every time you speak, I want to hear your voice. Every time you scream or sob or gasp for breath, I long to know what that sounds like. And now I have a chance. I have a chance, "Bella." His eyes were pleading with me to understand, to agree. I would do anything to hear you, and I fully plan on it. But I need your support. You're my wife, and you are my first priority. I won't do this without you. I sighed and looked away. How was I supposed to argue with him when he pleaded with me this way? When it was something he wanted so badly? Could I really tell him no? We don't have to decide tonight, he signed, and then brushed a lock of hair gently out of my face. But I would really love having you on my side. I turned my head to full on glare at him. That was low, and he knew it. But he merely smiled benignly at me, before looking down at our position. His peaceful grin turning sinful, he lowered himself down onto me and proceeded to kiss me in a way that should be illegal, if only because I couldn't think about anything else except his lips on mine and his body pressed tightly to my own. He was trying to distract me from my misery and it was working ridiculously well: damn him. Unfortunately, the pizza man decided to arrive shortly after, effectively drawing a close to what would've been amazing coffee table sex. I sighed as Edward strolled back in with the pizza, the money already having been set out before. I thought that I wanted the cheesy food, but when the smell hit me my stomach rolled, and I told Edward I'd just drink some tea instead. The night was dark and clear outside the kitchen window, and I found myself staring out at it with my newly finished cup of tea in my hands, contemplating what Edward had said about me being top priority, being his wife. It was so strange...even after five years, I couldn't get over how that sounded. On one hand, it sounded really old. But on the other, people get married all the time young, so I'm not sure why that particular concept always came to my mind. But I'd gotten used to it. And I was happy to be Edward's, legally and completely. Not that marriage was binding really - not in this day and age. But Edward found great pride and joy in it, so I knew it meant something, if only to us alone. I remembered our wedding day...and night.

"I can't believe this is really happening. That I'm honestly doing this..." the twenty year old girl muttered as she stood facing a three-way mirror and invariably three images of herself, with Alice, Rosalie, Rene, and Esme flitting around in the background. After her soon-to-be husband's romantic - and shocking - proposal, she had agreed without thinking about it, completely blown away that he wanted her as his wife so soon, and he'd learned to speak the words to ask her to be his in the more socially accepted way. After

having had time to think about it, though, she'd informed him that while she had no problem being engaged to him, she didn't actually want to marry at the age of nineteen. After a few discussions, and compromises, they decided to get married at twenty, which was far more reasonable. It had seemed like it would be a long engagement - until they informed the family. The women flitting around behind her had been only too enthusiastic to plan all the nuptials - pretty much without informing the actual partakers in the wedding at all. And suddenly, a year time span didn't seem to be enough. Not with everything they were doing. And after days and days and weeks and weeks of pleading, threatening, and hammering out some more compromises, Bella had been able to talk them all out of the huge, unnecessary - in her opinion, though no one else seemed to agree - over-the-top designs and into something slightly more simple, yet still beautiful and elegant. Like her wedding dress. The ones they'd tried getting her to conform with originally had been her worst nightmare of a wedding dress - big, poofy, and most definitely something she would trip over. The one she was currently staring at with wide, nervous eyes however, was perfect. It was pure white, strapless, taffeta styled dress with a side drape and gorgeous lace bead work on the bodice. It was thin, not anywhere close to poofy, and absolutely gorgeous. (Pic on profile) Bella felt ill in her stomach as she gazed at her reflection. "What if he doesn't like it?" she suddenly whispered, clutching her bouquet tightly to try to still her trembling hands. When she moved her eyes around in the mirror, she could see the women exchanging exasperated glances behind her. "Bella, if I hadn't just worked hours on making your hair immaculate, I would totally hit you upside the head," said Alice, clear annoyance coloring her tone. "You look beautiful, sweetie," said Rene. "And if he doesn't like it, I will personally change his opinion for you," Esme reassured her, and Bella couldn't help but to let out a shaky laugh. The idea of her sweet, gentile almost mother-in-law violently "changing" her son's opinion was an amusing image. "It'll be fine Bella," interjected Rosalie soothingly, as she put her perfectly soft, manicured hands on the brunette's shoulders. "He won't be able to stop the drool enough to even save his tuxedo." Though she was far from relaxed, Bella couldn't help but be slightly more comfortable when a knock came at the door a few minutes later. "Girls?" came the voice of Charlie on the other side of the wood. "It's starting. Is Bella ready?" "As she'll ever be," Alice trilled, and grabbed her friend's hand as she dragged the suddenly frozen girl off of her stool. "I can't do this!" Bella whispered, her eyes widening. "Sure you can!" Alice said brightly, opening the door and shoving her into the arms of her father. "Now go stand where you're supposed to while we take our places." Bella watched her bridesmaids past, all in different styles of dresses, though they were the same shade of blue - the color of Bella's bouquet. She'd also been informed that this would be the same accent color on Edward's tuxedo, so there was a color scheme going on here. Naturally.

When they were out of sight, Bella turned to face her father, taking a deep breath. Charlie's face was tight with emotion as he took her in. "I can't believe you're my same little girl," he said gruffly. "You look so beautiful." "As opposed to every other time that isn't now?" she asked, raising an eyebrow as she tried to force a smile. Charlie's eyes widened. "No! That's not what I mean...ah, forget it. You look good, that's the point. Are you ready?" he suddenly asked, as the cue music came on for them. "I think so," she whispered, linking her arm through her father's and holding him in a vice grip - if she tripped going down the aisle she was running away and never returning. She would change her name, and move to Mexico to live a life of passion; she'd firmly decided on that. She had tripped yesterday during the rehearsal, and that had been embarrassing enough. And with that they walked out of the draped glass doors, to the beautiful courtyard where most non-religious, expensive weddings took place in the city. Everyone stood as they entered, and Bella gulped, her face turning red and her eyes scanning the crowd once quickly before looking down. Why do these steps have to be so damn slow? she thought despairingly. And why is this aisle so long! It hadn't seemed this long yesterday during rehearsal... Taking a deep breath, she decided to look up and meet the eyes of her almost husband. He took her breath away when she did. He looked as nervous as she felt - and probably looked too - but his face and especially his twinkling green eyes were rapturously happy, his archangel face joyous. She gave him a small, nervous smile that clearly communicated to him, 'Oh jeez, this is really awkward'. Her smile widened when she watched him chuckle quietly, keeping her gaze. She found it wasn't long after that until they'd approached the steps to the altar, and Edward stepped down to take her from her father. Before letting go though, Charlie grasped Edward's arm and gave him a stern, warning look before stepping off to the side. Bella giggled as Edward grinned sheepishly, pulling her up to stand in front of Emmett, who had gotten a clerical licence of the Internet just for this occasion. Edward hadn't been too thrilled about it at first, but Bella had so wanted it, and he eventually came around to the idea. It was also easier because they didn't have to go searching for someone who could sign while they spoke. Most of the ceremony was lost to Bella. There were only two things that clearly stood out. The first one, was the vows. And really, Bella couldn't recall her own. But she had memorized Edward's perfectly. "Bella," he'd started nervously, shifting his feet and looking down before lifting his head back up, meeting her eyes seriously and with an overwhelming amount of love in them. I have known you for as long as I can remember. And I don't want to remember a time before you, because I'm afraid that all I'll see is nothing. Because you are...everything. I have nothing without you. I am nothing without you. You make me feel like a man, who just wants to take care of make me whole, and there's nothing I wouldn't do if you asked. And there's nothing that I want more than a whole life with you, to grow old together, to be with you from beginning to end. You know, I used to dream a lot... when we were younger, he continued, smiling slightly. But as I grew up I stopped because...if I have you, then no dream can compare. I hate to dream, because it just spites your perfection. "I love you," he whispered, taking her hand

and kissing her knuckles. "I love you..." With everything that I have. And I always will. I promise that I'll never let you doubt that. With her other hand she had tried to furiously wipe her tears away when he was done, aggravated because she'd sworn to herself that she wouldn't cry. Edward, of course, had made sure to shoot that goal to hell with his sweet, loving words, and it took everything she had to not jump on him and kiss him senseless. She didn't even worry about the audience, most of whom were confused at what was going on. They didn't matter. The second thing, obviously, were the 'I do's' and the kiss. It turned out that Edward had learned yet another phrase for her, courtesy of Alice, and when Emmett had asked him the age old redundant question of if he wanted to take this woman to be his lawfully wedded wife, he had looked right in her eyes and smiled as he said, "I do,", his articulation perfect. Bella whispered hers back, and - before Emmett even gave his permission - Edward put his hands behind Bella's back and pulled her taut against his chest, leaning her back some as they kissed each other with all the love they could show an audience, their mouths opening and closing softly against the others. The reception of course, looked amazing, and Bella was surprised to find that she actually had a good time. She'd been too riled up to do much eating, but feeding Edward the first piece of cake had been fun. Especially when she'd smeared on his face slightly - looking innocent the whole time - and Edward could not retaliate unless he wanted to invoke the wrath of his sister for ruining Bella make-up. The first dance had seemed like it was going to be the worst part of the night. While she and Edward sat at their private table a few minutes before they were supposed to get up, Bella stared at the dance floor as if it were a sadistic murderer, luring her there under false pretenses. Edward, I'm going to fall flat on my face in these heels, she confided anxiously in him, turning to him with panicked eyes. He grinned at her. I know. Which is why I snuck these in here before the ceremony started. But don't tell Alice. He'd lifted up the white table cloth then, to reveal a pair of flat platform flip-flops. They were the same height as her heels so Alice would have no reason to be suspicious, except that she would be much more stable. Bella had resisted the urge to clap her hands together excitedly, but redirected that energy into a deep, rewarding kiss for her new husband, before a tiny little pixie and a tall, blond runway model dragged them to the dance floor. Thankfully, though, it was a slow dance, and all Bella had to do was wrap her arms tightly around her beloved as she closed her eyes, letting herself become lost in him and the lyrics of the song. While you were sleeping, I figured out everything. I was constructed for you: And you were molded for me. Now I feel your name, Coursing through my veins. You shine so bright it's insane. You put the sun...to shame... (Oh) If you need anything, Just say the word, I mean anything. (I really do) When the song ended and a new one began, Bella felt a hand on her shoulder, and turned around to greet the face of her father-in-law. He had a bright smile on his face, and held his hand out; but he was looking at Edward, silently asking permission to steal his bride from him. Edward gave in graciously, grinning and turning around to dance with his mother.

"I'm a bit disappointed Bella," Carlisle sighed a few moments after they started dancing, making sure he had a firm grip on his son's bride; any injury to befall her would not be taken lightly, as he was well aware. Bella's eyes snapped up to his face from her feet, her eyes afraid. "Of what?" she asked, surprised and a bit worried. But Carlisle's reassuring smile relaxed her some. "It's just...I thought you would hold out for me, you know? But here you are, married to another man. That's not very loyal Bella." Reluctantly, she laughed. "Yeah, I suppose this means we're getting a divorce." Carlisle shook his head sadly. "This is going to be hard for me. But I'll deal somehow..." The song ended and he handed Bella back over to an impatient Edward before sweeping Esme back into his arms, giving her a kiss. Bella stood looking at her reflection nervously in the bathroom mirror at the honeymoon suite they were staying at that night before they headed off to London. Honestly, with anyone else, she would've felt like a total whore in this outfit. But it was for Edward, and it was their wedding night, and it wasn't like she parading around in this for all the world to see. Plus, they didn't have to go around acting like the patron saints of Catholic sex, for crying out loud. They didn't have to be modest, or anything like that. As nervous as she was about the outfit, she also felt excitement. About six months prior to the wedding, her and Edward had made a pact to forsake sex until the wedding night, to make it more special. Obviously, a lot of seduction and teasing had gone on in between, but they'd kept to their promise and it had been six...long... months since she'd last felt him moving inside of her. She wanted him so badly she thought she would explode at any moment from the anticipation of what she so heavily desired. She took a deep breath as she examined herself one more time. Her hair, which had been pinned up in curls during the day, was cascading down her back now, the curls still in tact. Her make up was still on as well, except Alice had primped her eyes to be a little bit smokier and seductive before they'd left the reception. And then...there was the outfit, picked out by Rosalie. Oh boy. It was a black, lacy halter baby doll, except it hugged her frame all the way to her hips, where it flared out slightly. It didn't really go down that far - it didn't even reach the bottom of her butt. The only other thing on down there was a black thong hidden behind the lace. The whole outfit was see-through lace, yet it still managed to cover enough to leave something to the imagination. Even her breasts, which were barely covered, still tempted at something more. (Pic on profile) Summoning up her courage, she opened up the bathroom door and shut it quickly, leaning against it. Edward sat on the edge of the bed. His bow tie had been undone and was hanging loosely around his neck, where the first few buttons on his shirt had been undone. His tuxedo jacket was elsewhere already, and he'd been leaning on his elbows which rested heavily atop his knees. At the sudden light spilling from the door though, he had looked up. The room was dimly lit by the light of the moon outside, but they could see perfectly fine, and even from there Bella could watch Edward's eyes darken as he took her in. She watched him as he ran a hand slowly over his face. She blushed and looked up at him from under her eyes as he stared. That's...definitely not Spongebob, he signed at last, before motioning her over with his hand. Slowly, she approached, trying to swing her hips as she did so before coming to a stop in between his knees. She watched his eyes as they followed his hand from her calf to her thigh to her hip, and upwards, running lightly over her sides to where his fingers barely brushed her breasts, up to her shoulder. Slowly, he brought it back down to rest on her waist, before suddenly picking her up and laying her down on the bed as he crawled over her.

I've missed this, she signed with a smile, before closing her eyes and raising her arms above her head as he bent his head to assault her neck and the cleavage already presented to him. He groaned at her words, and wound his arms tightly around her, arching her into him. They took their time - sucking, biting, kissing, licking, touching, caressing, fondling, and loving until they were both so anxious and ready it was painful. It wasn't like everything was new - but it was fresh. Their touches weren't the inexperienced fumblings of first-time lovers, but the interaction of two paramours who knew exactly how to make their flame tick, and planned on doing just that. The constant groans, mewls, moans, growls, and vibrations of cries resonating deep within their chests were precedented occurences that were being honed to perfection with flawless and knowing precision by the other. Their lips moved in sync with each other always, forever eager to connect with the soft flesh of any part of the others skin. Their bodies, quickly slicked down with sweat, slid together exquisitely. And when the moment finally came that Edward positioned himself at her entrance and slipped inside effortlessly, it felt as if surely the pleasure was too much, and they had to die. His tempo started out slow - it would almost always be slow; to start the act out with love and devotion, a silent reassurance of that. But with Bella's nails digging into his back, and her constant arches and reciprocating thrusts, she knew he would not be able to hold on to the gentleness much longer. And he did not disappoint. Soon enough, his thrusts lost their careful rhythm to something much more wild, much more uncontrolled. The wild beast captured inside the body of a sexually frustrated man, dying to claw out and claim the woman as his own. And so she tempted him more, willing him to lose control, and he did, pounding into her fast and hard until she knew not where she begun and he ended, or if this aching level of pleasure even knew an end. But it was too much. She wanted to cry from this feeling of pleasured pain this feeling of being stuck in high place that all at once was not high enough. A delicate balance, a strange bliss. A hand slithered between them that was not her own, and she felt his talented, long fingers rubbing her bundle of nerves, his hips grinding into hers, and that was all she needed. She fell over the edge, screaming his name into his neck, her inner walls contracting repeatedly, milking him as the sudden intense pressure pulled him over as well. They lay there, panting, neither one moving as they stared at the other one. They couldn't do anything else, and they didn't need to either. The moonlight shone in through the window and washed out all faults, leaving only pale, beautiful perfection in it's silver wake.

I gripped onto Edward's waist tightly as he drove to the hospital. I was shaking; I couldn't help it. I was frightened out of my wits. For some reason, I'd agreed to back Edward up in being a test dummy for this surgery, and we were heading to do just that now. I was half tempted - well, a bit more than that honestly - to take my permission back. I was so scared for him. What if this went horribly wrong? I couldn't even think about the joy of what it would mean if this worked out, because I was too paralyzed by my doubts. Are you sure you want to do this? I asked when he parked. He nodded without a moment's hesitation and I sighed. Alright then...let's go. It passed in a blur after that, and I'm sure that if Edward had not been guiding me, I for sure would've lagged behind, perhaps coming to an absolute standstill somewhere where I shouldn't. I wasn't sure if a long time passed or not, I could barely even remember the people I had communicated with, the words exchanged, but in the end I found myself in a surgical room with Edward, the doctor on his way out the door to "give us a minute alone".

Edward sat on the operating table and lifted me up into his lap, brushing a stray hair out of my eye. I looked up at him, hoping to find the courage I would need to sit in that waiting room for twenty-four hours with no idea as to what was going on. I felt my stomach roll, and nausea swept over me. I was so tired all the sudden. So unbelievably exhausted. But I had been for a while now. Are you okay? Edward asked. If you really don't want me to, I won't do this. I told you: you come first. I shook my head. I trust you. I'll stand behind you no matter what. I just want you to come back again, understand me? He smiled slightly, lifting my hand to kiss my palm. Always. "I love you Bella." "I love you too," I whispered, clutching onto him tightly. I felt emotional, like I was about to cry, but I refused to let him see it. He didn't need to be worrying about me right now - he needed to be concentrating on himself. The door opened and a few people in green scrubs walked in. I knew it was time for me to go, and I slowly slid off Edward's lap. I turned around and gave him one more hug, and kissed his lips softly. Be safe, I signed, touching his cheek tenderly. He nodded, and as I turned away I saw something flicker in his eyes. But I couldn't decipher it before he was out of my sight, and I was leaving the place with four walls that would cage my beloved for the next day or so, leaving me behind nothing but a bitter after taste to hold onto.

The waiting room was a horrible place. The walls were supposed to be white, but they were cracked and smudged with filth in some places, that you could only really see if you concentrated on it. Having had nothing else to concentrate on for the past twenty-three and a half hours, I'd become very well acquainted with this room. The chairs were black framed, with the most repulsive upholstery which combined a mix of rough purple, burgundy, and dark green material, that felt like it should be part of a cheap rug. The tiles on the floor were mostly white, with gray and green flakes spotted throughout, creating a random, uncontrolled pattern all across the floor. The grout was thin and dark. I had not slept or closed my eyes once. I was feeling really sick right now, but I couldn't seem to stomach anything for long, and neither could I sleep. My hands clasped and reclasped themselves over and over again. I had tried reading the magazines left on a low, brown coffee table, but it hadn't worked too well. I had stared at the same word for over an hour, and I couldn't even recall what is was now. The whole gang had been here earlier. Alice, Rosalie, Jasper, Emmett, Carlisle, Esme; even Rene. But they all had places they needed to be, and none could sleep in a hospital, so they'd had to return home when the clock had struck one in the morning. It was past that now, but I was still here, awake and unmoving. I heard a shoe squeak, but didn't look up. This sound was no different, no more significant than any of the others that I had come to hear on this day. Not until they squeaked to a halt in front of me. I stared at the polished black shoe, the brown trousers rumpled up around it, and the white lab coat that fell to the mid-calf. Then I slowly looked up. "Mrs. Cullen?" the doctor inquired, looking down at the silver chart he held in his hands. "Y - yes?" I asked, my voice hoarse from lack of use. I tried clearing it quietly.

"We've completed the surgery," he informed me, but his face wasn't happy or relaxed or comforting in any way. My stomach dropped as a cold ice raked it's way through my body, freezing me to the core. I felt like I was treading water as I waited for him to continue. "And?" I urged, my voice a whisper. "Your husband...he's um...he was fine, during most of it, but he... he fell into a comatose state near the end." There was a ringing in my ears, and it felt almost like little pinpricks were stabbing my body all over, like they do when you haven't moved in a while. Except I could barely feel it, what with the dull numbness coursing through me, making me feel limp and heavy. "And... do you know when he'll wake up?" My voice had no hope, because I already knew the answer. "No," said the doctor softly. "And..." He hesitated. "It's if. We don't if he'll wake up." "Oh," I murmured, before my world went black.

Inspiration for this chapter: How time will heal, Make me forget. You promised me. Time will heal, Make me forget. You promised me Love will save us allyeah. The Promise by The Cure When I came to, I immediately glanced at the clock that I knew to be on the wall facing where I could see. And I discovered that I'd only been out a minute. Which was why the response I got was beyond ridiculous, in my opinion. "Ma'am!" asked one doctor, kneeling over me with an anxious, concerned look on his face; the same expression reflected in the two other doctor's faces leaning over me. "Ma'am, are you all right?" "You just told me that the man I love more than life itself is in a coma, and you don't know when he'll wake up," I whispered, shoving the doctor's helping hands away and pushing myself into a sitting position slowly. "How on earth do you expect me to be okay?" "Right," said the doctor, ducking his head. "Well, it's common procedure to make sure that anyone who collapses in the hospital is really okay. If we could get a urine sample, please, then you can go see your husband" I scowled. "That's unnecessary. Just let me see him. And do you have reception here? I have to make a few calls." "Really, Mrs. Cullen," said one of the doctors', and though I could see he was intimidated by me, I could also tell that he wasn't going to back down. "We understand it's probably just the shock, but we're a bit paranoid around here, and it doesn't hurt to take extra precautions." He smiled half-heartedly at me.

I stared. My head was fuzzy, a dull pounding starting. I felt empty, as the knowledge that I really wanted to repress, not just the words, but the undeniable truth and realization, began to dawn on me. I shook my head slightly, needing to keep myself together in order to get through the couple of things I had to handle and do before I could allow myself to break down in my misery. "Okay," I murmured. "Let's make this quick." When I was done I hurried to a window by the wall, the headlights and street lamps being the only light outside as I pulled out my cell phone. My breath was starting to come in sharp gasps as the hollowness spread through me, making me forget that lungs couldn't just disappear. I dialed the number of the people who deserved to know first. "Hello?" came the anxious voice of Esme. She'd told me to call should anything happen. Good or otherwise. I swallowed as I realized that I would be the one crashing her world apart. "Esme," I croaked, my throat closing off on me. I took a deep breath and tried to gain a measure of control that would allow me to be speak the impossible words. "Yes?" Esme asked, a certain undertone of dread seeping into her tone. "Is...is Edward awake?" There was no real hope in her voice, much like my own had been earlier. "No," I whispered. "He's..." I couldn't finish. To say it out loud would make it real. Undeniably certain. There would be no going back, and in that moment I would surely fall to the ground in tears, never to get up until he did. And if that should be never, then so be it. But it didn't need to be said, as I heard my mother-in-law swallow. "We'll be right there," she choked out, and hung up. Slowly, I pressed end to refresh the line, and typed in another number. "Is he awake?" was the first thing out of Alice's mouth when she picked up, not bothering with preliminaries. I put my hand over my eyes, before running it through my hair, blinking up at the ceiling. I inhaled deeply. "No," I breathed out shakily. "Could you call Emmett please? I can't...I can't say this again." "He's in a coma, isn't he?" Alice asked hollowly. My silence was the affirmative, and I heard her intake her own shaky breath this time, before she laughed very slightly, though without humor. "You know, I'm probably overreacting," she laughed tearily. "I bet you he'll be awake by tomorrow, and we'll all feel silly." "I hope so," I breathed, squeezing my eyes shut. "We'll be there soon."

The hallway leading to his room might have been empty; I don't recall passing anyone, though that means little. As it was night, the lights were dimmed, some lights not on at all. I felt like a ghost as I drifted down this darkened path to the room where I would see what would frighten me most. But I had to look; it was better to get past the initial shock now than to break down in front of anybody else, since the rest of my friends and family would be here in less than twenty minutes, no doubt. I hovered outside the room, debating, staying on the side of the door farthest from the big window, the blinds pulled back to allow visitors and doctors alike to check in on patients

without actually entering the room. But I was going to go in. I would not be a coward to him. Not aftereverything. Everything he'd ever done for me. Does for me, I corrected myself quickly, feeling a kind of panic make my heart race. Does. Does. He'll be okay. He will. He'll wake up soon. He promised to come back. He never lies to me. He'll be okay I swallowed thickly and pulled open the door softly, keeping my eyes trained on my feet. I shuffled in, and closed the door, studying my shoes intently. I took careful steps forward until I saw the shiny, metal rounding bars of the medical bed, and a pale hand resting lightly on the edge of the bluish green hospital sheets. My eyes followed that hand up the forearm to the sleeve of a hospital gown, to the sheets pulled up under his arms, to his graceful, strong neck, up to his face. He could've been sleeping. I mean, I knew that that's what he was going to look like. I knew he wouldn't look dead. That's not why this was so scary. I couldn't even really nail the answer down in myself as to why it frightened me. Maybe because I knew the truth. He wasn't really sleeping. He was unconscious. And his dreams just might go on forever. And I would be alone, to hope with every fiber of my being to be able to sink inside his mind with him, instead of watching, close but still too far away in this cold, sterilized room that reeked of my own dread. An IV was attached to his right arm on the opposite side from me, keeping him healthy. A steady beeping came from the heart monitor next to the IV, insuring anyone who might be watching that he was still okay, still alive. Edward I pulled the chair that someone had sat there for visitors closer to the bed. I sat down slowly, even the rustling of my clothes seeming far too loud in this quiet room where the only sound came from our light breathing, and the steady beeping of his heartbeat on the machine. My hand shook as I reached it out to gently brush a lock of hair away that had fallen into his face. His skin was warm as always, his hair silken and smooth beneath my freezing fingertips. My blood seemed to have stopped it's circulation an hour ago. My hand shifted to cup his cheek, my thumb grazing over his pale lavender lid. I lifted my palm up to trace the rest of his face. Normally, when I touched him as he slept, his mouth would lift in an involuntary, subconscious smile. His lips remained the same as they were. "Edward" I whispered, my throat tight. I could feel the tears in my eyes, as I took his hand closest to me and held it tightly in both of my own, leaning over to rest my forehead on it, rocking back and forth slightly. "Wake up soon," I whispered again. "You promised me" "Oh my god" came a voice I recognized behind me. Slowly, I lifted up my head as I turned around to the rushing feet of Esme and Carlisle. "Edward," Esme sobbed, tears falling heavily from her cheeks. She collapsed on her knees next to me, clasping her hands over mine and Edward's. "Oh my baby boyyou're going to be alright. You'll be alright," she whispered. I felt rather than heard Carlisle come stand next to Esme, silent and solemn. I looked over and saw in his eyes too ancient a sadness residing in his face for a man so young. He didn't speak or move as he looked down at the unconscious body of his son. Esme sniffed and wiped her eyes. "How long till he wakes up, you think?" she asked her husband thickly, obviously trying to not remotely think if. "I'm not sure," he said quietly. "...Not soon though, in my professional opinion."

"Notsoon?" she choked. I was beyond speech as I gripped Edward's hand tighter, turning my face from Carlisle's to his. I wondered vaguely if he could hear us. If somehow that would help. The room was starting to shake, and it took me a minute to realize that it was me who was trembling so badly it felt like the world was about to shatter. But Carlisle and Esme didn't notice, all of our gazes held captive to the resting man in front of us, as if our stares would spur him into waking. I wished. I would never blink again. "Edward?" came a high voice behind us, followed by a deeper voice's, "Oh man" Alice, Emmett, Jasper, and Rosalie rushed around to the other side of the bed, all looking down at Edward with varying shades of sadness and shock, as if they expected it to be just one big practical joke, where Edward would suddenly pop open his eyes and sit up, screaming, 'Surprise!' And then we'd all share a good laugh. Suddenly, I just couldn't stand it. The way we were all just surrounding him, looking down solemnly, like he was dead. He was not dead. He was in a coma. And he could come out of that at any moment. And he would. He promised me I contemplated whether I should just leave. What with the heavy silence, my fatigue, my hunger, everything, it was just too much. But I couldn't leave his side. Through sickness and in healthI didn't know what the right course of action was here, or anywhere anymore. I heard foot steps at the open doorway then. "Mrs. Cullen?" came the voice of that doctor before who'd wanted the urine sample. "Yes?" both Esme and I asked shakily, turning around. The doctor looked startled. "Um, you," he said lamely, pointing at me. "We got your test results back. Could you please come out here?" "Test results?" Jasper asked, looking at me with puzzlement. "I fainted earlier," I murmured. "Nothing to worry about, customary procedure" I let it trail off there, since they'd stopped listening after they had ascertained I was okay. Almost gratefully, I got up and walked into the dim hall. "So, I'm not dying or anything right?" I asked dully, leaning against the wall with my arms crossed. "No, but um" the doctor looked down. I stood up straighter, my brow furrowing. There wasn't supposed to be a 'but' here. "What is it?" I asked, feeling a little panicked. "It's okay," he quickly assured me, assessing my frayed nerves. "It's nothing bad. It's just thatyou're pregnant." It took me a moment to really hear that. It went over my head completely for about a minute, before it came back and kicked me hard in the stomach, sufficiently winding me. "Pregnant?" I breathed, slumping against the wall as gravity became too forceful for me to bear on my own. "Yes," he said carefully, eyeing me uncertainly. I gandered he was new. "Are you o - " "Please leave," I whispered, staring at the floor without seeing it. "Just, I need a minute." He nodded, and hurried away gratefully.

My feet started to slide forward on the linoleum, slipping my back down the wall, and I bent my knees as I neared the floor, wrapping my arms around my legs when I was finally sitting. "Pregnant," I whimpered. On top of everything else. It wouldn't be so bad if Edward were awake to help me handle it. But he wasn't. It was really just too much shock, too much information in too short a time period. I couldn't think about it. I would later, maybe, after I'd gotten some sleep. If I could ever find it in me to sleep again. I buried my face in my hands and let my shoulders shake, though I refused to let the tears fall.

I walked back in a little while later, feeling cold, exhausted, overwhelmed, and dead, but a bit more composed. "We're um" Emmett started, swallowing thickly as he looked down at his brother. "We're going to head home," he finished quietly. "Call if anything changes." We all nodded vaguely as he took Rose's hand and left, muttering about how he couldn't take it anymore. I knew how he felt, but I couldn't go home. Not to that empty place. "You two should home too," Carlisle murmured to Alice and Jasper a few minutes later. "Get some sleep. It'll do you no good to stay. You know we'll call you if anything happens." Alice stared at her father, and they exchanged a silent communication with the eyes before Alice nodded sadly and walked slowly to the door, Jasper in tow. I couldn't help but to stare as she crossed the room. I'd never seen Alice walk without looking like a dancer, her footsteps light and carrying an eternal bounce. But they dragged today. The pixie's wings had been clipped. That was almost sadder than anything else that had happened. Almost. Esme continually patted the bed, smoothing the perfectly unwrinkled sheets over and over again, running her hands lightly over his arms, or his hair occasionally. Her eyes never left his face, unless she was ducking her head to wipe her tears away or to blow her nose. I rubbed her back sometimes with my free hand, trying not to cry too. Everyone else was breaking down. I couldn't yet. I had to wait. I had to be strong. If only for now, so everyone else could be weak. But I felt like I was about to crumble too, perhaps farther and harder than any of them. Eventually, Carlisle muttered something about going to get food, and he left. But after twenty minutes, he still wasn't back. "Now where is that man?" Esme murmured, her voice not quite as concerned as it could've been, what with the distraction of her son. I stared at Edward's resting face. His lips were slightly parted as he breathed in and out deeply. That, at least, was some small consolation. "I'll go find him," I muttered, and left the room to search for my father-in-law. I didn't have to go far at all. At the other end of the hall I saw Carlisle sitting in a chair, his head ducked down low, his elbows on his knees. I knew then that he had never gone to get food. I walked over, my footsteps seeming too loud to me. I leaned against the wall next to him and said nothing. He would speak if he needed to. And I had a feeling he would. "I know we'd all already discussed the possibility of this happening," he muttered suddenly. "We all knew. But I don't think any one of us really believed. I think we were all hoping for a miracle." He laughed bitterly. "And nowI don't know if my son will wake up. That was some serious tampering with his head they did. Who knows how it will effect his mind? I don't" He leaned his head down farther this time, and it took me a moment to realize that

he was trying to subtlety wipe away tears. I put my hand on his shoulder and squeezed gently. "He'll come back to us," I said quietly. "He'll be fine. He's always been fine before." Carlisle smiled wryly up at me. "You were against this from the start. Don't expect me to believe that you actually think that." My throat closed off. "I have to believe that," I whispered harshly. "Do you think I could function right now if I didn't? If I thought he'd never wake up again? I certainly wouldn't be here talking with you." Carlisle's head ducked again as he buried his face in his hands. "I'm sorry," he said thickly. "I shouldn't have said that. I'm just" "I know," I said quietly, forgiving him silently as a gray dawn's first rays broke through the windows.

Esme and Carlisle left sometime after that, and I was alone with Edward again, horribly fatigued but thankfully not starving anymore, as I'd gotten something to eat a little while ago. I shut the blinds on the big window, so I didn't have any onlookers. It was still pretty dim in the room, and looking out the window I could see rare storm clouds. It was just one of those days. I walked slowly over to the bedside and stared down at my husband's handsome face. My heart ached, and I longed to be where ever he was. I wondered if he was dreaming. I wondered if he was dreaming of me. It was still and quiet. The whole room seemed muffled and heavy. Very, very gently, I lifted Edward's arm up and crawled carefully on to the bed, molding myself to his side. I laid my head on his shoulder, looking up into his sleeping face. If this were normal sleeping though, his arm would've automatically curled around me, pulling me closer to him and keeping me safe in his warm embrace. His arm was limp in my hand. Tenderly, I wrapped his arm around my shoulders, holding his hand to keep it there as I turned my face into his clothing. This was the last straw. This undeniable proof - he couldn't even hold me. Thick tears finally flowed freely down my face and I squeezed my eyes shut as I curled myself up, pressing closer to him but really trying to retreat inside myself, to find a safe place. But my safe place had always been him. I kept my eyes closed as I took a deep breath, the tears still falling. "Edward?" I whispered, unsure of what to say but having to say something. Something to break the weight of this silence, the strength of this misery, the awfulness of it all. "I wonder if you can hear me," I murmured, wrapping my other arm around his torso and breathing him in. "If it worked. Or if all of this is for nothing. I hope not." I choked a bit but took a deep breath. "I really miss you Edward," I cried softly. "It's only been two days since you were last really here, but every second without you hurts, it always has. And especially, now; now that you're right here. Right underneath my fingertips. I can feel you," I whispered, "But you won't wake up. Please? Please, for me? You promised. You promised you'd come back" "Alice is right," I said quietly. "Maybe we're all just overreacting. So please prove us wrong. Wake up soon. So I'm not breaking apart. I've got news for you"

I bit my lip. If I concentrated, it's like I could almost feel a small kick in my stomach, a tiny body moving. But that was pure imagination. It was too early for that. StillI put my hand over my stomach, and looked up at Edward. "You're going to be a father," I whispered, smiling weakly. "You can't leave me alone nowI need you more than ever. I can't raise a child by myself. Especially not yours" Panic rose in me, the doubts I'd had before roaring high. What if he didn't wake up? Not for years? What was I going to do? I couldn't give the kid up - it was his. I sniffed, wiping my eyes. "And, if you wake up soon, and after you learn how to talk and understand things and everything, we'll be able to make up names, and you can rub my feet when they hurt, and make me weird things at two in the morning" I laughed weakly, though the tears fell faster at that. That laugh seemed to be the breaking point. My mouth twisted and I could keep quiet no longer. My body shook with my heaving sobs as I cried out every fracture that had started in my heart. I was so sick, so tired, so overwhelmed, I couldn't do this. Not alone. And I was. So very, very alone. "I need you Edward," I sobbed, the sound tortured. "I really really do." I hit his chest weakly. "You promised me you'd come back, you jerk!" I wept. "Do it! Please, justopen your eyes. Please, I love you Edward, you've no idea..." I whispered it over and over again as the sobs began to weaken in intensity, and I began to float away, and dream of pleasanter things; and better times.

The nine year old girl sat in her chair at her kitchen table, staring at her best friend who gazed right back. It had started out as just her contemplating what game they should play, and it had turned into a staring contest. She decided to change that. Let's play House, she suggested excitedly, one of her favorite games. She was a fairly bossy child, so what was more fun than playing a mother? A mother was always the top authority. Her green-eyed friend slumped back into his seat, scowling. Again? You don't want to play? she pouted, knowing it would guilt him into just about anything she wanted to do. He groaned, and dropped his head back before lifting it back up to glare at her. Fine, he glared. But I'm not being the dog or cat this time. She beamed. That's alright. You can be my husband. She didn't quite notice how he perked up considerably at that, but was just grateful that he seemed more willing. She jumped out of the chair and ran into her room, her best friend following at his own pace - albeit, a slower, more hesitant one. Ignoring him for now, she began digging through her toy chest for what she would need. "Aha!" she exclaimed excitedly as she held up the plastic "life-like" baby doll triumphantly in her hand. She turned to face Edward, grinning ear from ear. Get the stroller ready, she ordered. We have to take our baby for a walk. It's important for it's health. It? he asked, raising an eyebrow. We didn't get a boy or a girl? She scowled and rolled her eyes. Fine, whatever, it's a girl. I want a boy.

I don't care. Now get the stroller ready! It's going to be too hot for Eve soon. His mouth dropped as he stared at her. Our kid is not named Eve! he signed emphatically. That's stupid. 'Yeah, your face is stupid,' she thought in her head, grimacing at him but otherwise not responding as she searched through her toy chest for another one-piece to put on over the baby. She heard him let out a disgusted groan, but then started setting up the baby doll stroller. She smirked slightly as she unhooked the pink fabric from the plastic finger of her doll, pulling it on over the arm. She always won when it came to names. Ready, Your Highness, Edward signed with a sour expression a few minutes alter, gesturing to the pink, girly stroller. She smiled at him. You're the best husband ever. His cheeks turned pink and he looked away, but he couldn't stop his grin, or his improved mood. Delicately, she set the doll into the seat and buckled it up carefully, making sure the straps weren't twisted, or too tight. She looked up to see Edward watching them, a proud look on his face. She is pretty, he admitted. Must get it from her mother. Bella giggled as she stood up and hugged her friend. Now I know why I married you, she teased, before snapping her fingers. Now push the baby. He gave her a deadpan look, but went behind to the handles and pushed the baby through the house and to the front door. Bella opened it, and they both carefully lifted and adjusted the stroller over the entrance until they reached stable ground, almost as if it was real. But to them, it was. I think we should link arms, Edward commented as they strolled confidently through her small block. Then we look married. Okay, she agreed easily, and slipped her arm through his, checking every so often to make sure the baby wasn't falling sideways or getting too much sun. They walked the block and then started to head back to her house, feeling a little hot in the scorching noon heat. They both worried for the doll's safety. Rene walked out of her bedroom as they were walking in. "Hey, what are you guys up to?" she asked, eyeing the stroller, the doll, and the linked arms. "Oh, we just took our baby for a walk!" Bella answered eagerly. "Eve needed some fresh air, and Edward was really worried about her. He is a father you know," she informed her mother wisely, a knowing air about her. Rene choked back a laugh. "Oh is that right? And you're the mother, I guess?" "Yup," she answered confidently, watching as Edward unstrapped the baby - having nothing else to really do - and cradled it delicately. Bella smiled as she edged in closer, running her fingertips over the engraved grooves on the baby's head that was supposed to resemble hair. Her mother shook her head. "Good luck Edward," she muttered, before walking off.

17.Snow Whites Table

Sunday morning (the day after):

I woke up to the sound of beeping, and Edward's warm, limp arm around me. I felt gross. I had dried, cracking tears on my face, my mouth felt fuzzy, and I was in a sort of haze. Like I shouldn't really be awake right now, or something was wrong, but I didn't know. It was very still, the storm clouds still outside, darkening everything. For the first time, I didn't mind. I didn't want a sunny world. It didn't seem right, or possible, in any way. Why should the sun shine? It's star character was floating somewhere out of reach. Maybe the rain would wash him back down to me. I breathed in deeply through my nose, and slowly sat up, stretching my sore, aching body. Edward's arm fell from my shoulders heavily to drop onto the bed sheets. I stared at him for a few moments, before I carefully took that arm and placed his hand on his stomach, making his position look more natural, instead of so morbid. My nerves were frayed; I didn't know if I could continue seeing him in a pose meant for a casket rather than a bed hospital or otherwise. I wanted to kiss him, but I couldn't. First off, I really did feel gross. My mouth was in no condition, it felt like, to kiss anyone. And second offI didn't know if it was a good idea. To know he wouldn't respond no matter what - if he were just sleeping, I could wake him up with enough pressure. And taking a kiss from an unconscious maneven if he was mine didn't settle for some reason. I couldn't explain it to myself. I just knew I couldn't kiss his lips yet. So I settled for his forehead, leaning over and brushing his hair softly away from the spot with my fingertips, gently pressing my lips to the smooth expanse of skin there. "I'll be back soon," I whispered, and got up to walk out of the room. As much as I didn't want to, I was going to have to go home. I needed a hot shower and a tooth brush desperately. And if it wasn't for that, I wouldn't leave here at all - no matter how much the place was starting to eat away at me. My heart twisted inside it's holes. I stared at the Volvo in the parking lot, the keys jingling in my fidgeting hands as I appraised the car with hooded eyes, my expression carefully blank for the occasional passerby. It was strange to me, to be driving his car, especially without him. Technically, on paper, it was ours now, but he was the one he drove it. I only had a few times, and he had never been very happy then. He always sat in the passenger seat, his breath coming in agitated sighs, eyes always glancing around anxiously, figuring out ways to prevent me from crashing his pride and joy. Not necessarily because I was a bad driver - just because that was the kind of protection he gave this S60R. Not even his wife could be trusted. The thought would've made me laugh at any other time, but I couldn't now. I would be alone this time. But perhaps not. He was always with me, everywhere I went. In my thoughts, in every cell of my body. I did not have to be alone if I so chose to just believe in him. But I could not pretend to feel a warmth that was not there, holding on to me and whispering my name. I could not help this ache. Sighing, I pressed a button on the keypad and unlocked the car, opening the door and settling myself inside. I had to adjust the seats, because Edward's legs were much longer than my own, putting the seat back so far I felt like a little kid pretending they could drive their parent's car. A little kid... I hadn't told anyone yesterday about my recent enlightenment. My knowledge that I was not dragging just myself around; but another entity, another something, too. I wondered how everyone would react when the time was right to tell them. I wondered how Edward would react.

Would he want to be a father? More than likely. Would he want a boy or a girl? Not that it was really up to me what I had, but it was an interesting question none the less; even if I began to feel a bit nauseous. It was a strange reality - not quite awful, but then, I don't think it had quite hit me yet what this meant. What would happen. Glancing down at my still perfectly flat stomach as I stopped at a red light, it was hard to believe there was anything in there except for the few pieces of fruit I had managed to ingest earlier. I pulled into our driveway, already apprehensive. On any other day, it was a warm, inviting looking house. Two floors, classic with a modern twist, nice. A place where I would go work on different articles for various newspapers, magazines, and novel ideas that popped into my head. So far, nothing award winning, but I was getting there. Maybe I'd cook dinner or watch TV. Wait for Edward to get back from the school where he taught deaf children; understandably, that had always been a position he'd wanted to have. Obviously, now he was on temporary leave. But the house seemed to loom over me today, the dark, murderous sky making the house look like it was scowling, daring me to enter into the empty fortress. I had half a mind to listen, and just reverse the Volvo and keep driving. Sighing, I turned the engine off and stepped out, keeping my eyes downcast as I padded up the walkway and to the front door, quickly unlocking it and slipping inside. No lights were on, light gray shadows everywhere caused by the lack of usual sunlight outside. My feet started to drag as I walked to the stairs, trying not to disturb the still silence. It struck me through an errant thought that maybe we should get a pet, just so that something could always be here to keep the house alive. I walked straight into the bathroom adjoining our bedroom without glancing at anything, and especially not the big, warm, soft, inviting bed. Last night had been one of the worst sleeping nights I'd ever had; and not just because hospital beds suck. I didn't want to sleep away from Edward anyway, if I could help it. So I didn't look at it, to make my eyelids resist the urge to droop. It was with some small sort of relief that I brushed my teeth meticulously, more than once. I had always found that brushing my teeth made me feelcleaner, somehow, even if the rest of me was filthy. I could take the grime: just maybe not the fuzz. The first step into the shower wasnot heavenly, exactly, because I couldn't think of anything that would be heavenly right now; except, of course, for one thing. But I felt slightly more human, then before. A bit calmer. Not so hysterical inside. But very broken regardless. I hadn't let everything go at the hospital. I was always very aware of where I was, what was going on, everything giving me a reason to hold some small part of myself together. Here though, in the warped glass cocoon I resided inside of, surrounded by swirling steam that left the tiles spotted with heated droplets - the same ones that ran down all of me, washing away nearly two days worth of clammy sweat and grime - I was free to let go. Which was something very hard for me to do; let go of my inhibitions and release some small part of the misery inside of me without restraint. But my body refused to give me the choice. I braced my palms again the tile and let the shower head rain burning water streams atop my head, mingling and mixing with my shaking sobs, that poured like rivulets down my face, heat and salt on my lips and tongue. It felt like hours before I was done, but it may have been less than that. All I know is that by the time I was done, I had somehow changed my position to sitting on the shower floor, gripping my stomach tightly with my head resting on my knees. The water that rained down on me was cold, but it was a welcome relief because the heat had numbed my skin, making it feel red and swollen.

My stomach rumbled, reminding me of that nutrition was more important for me than it ever been before. But I didn't want to eat. I didn't want to do anything until Edward woke up again. What an inconvenient time to become pregnant. Of course. How had it happened? What night hadn't we used protection? After I'd finished reeling from the news of being pregnant, I had tracked down the doctor quickly and asked him how far along I was. He had told me about two months, so it had to have been some time two months ago I pulled a yogurt, orange juice, and a salad mix along with my favorite Italian dressing from the fridge, contemplating. Anything to think about was a welcome distraction. I was going back soon anyway. I stared blankly at the kitchen table as I put together my salad mechanically at the island, pondering the mystery. It was as I was staring at the smooth counter top that it struck me. "Oh!" My eyes widened, and I smacked my forehead at my obliviousness. "Duh," I muttered, shaking my head, It would make sense. I'd been off the pill for a little while then, too lazy to stop by the pharmacy and get some more. And that night we hadn't really been in any fit condition to remember condoms. I sighed, glaring at the table, though I couldn't seem to summon up any true feelings of regret.

The twenty-five year old girl watched - just because she loved to look at him - as her husband went to the fridge and opened it, while she quickly washed up the dinner dishes. He bent over slightly to rummage, causing the girl to grin to herself, before straightening back up with a Bacardi Raz in hand. He glanced over at her and nodded questioningly to the glass bottle, silently asking if she wanted one also. She rolled her eyes and gave him a mocking look as she finished up the dishes. Please, she said. I don't drink those little sissy girly drinks like you. I prefer real alcoholic beverages. His nose wrinkled up at her as it so often did when she started in on his "girly drinks", and she walked over to the counter next to the fridge, hopping up on it to reach the top of the refrigerator, where they kept their drinks. They didn't drink often. Only on special occasions or the random night like tonight. So they didn't feel guilty about indulging themselves on the rare occasion, because it's not like they were alcoholics. She started pulling down the Jack Daniels whiskey and the lemon lime juice mix when Edward snorted. She turned to look at him with a dignified expression, eyebrow raised. Oh yeah, he signed, his face sarcastic. Whiskey sours. That's less "girly" than what I have, all right. She rolled her eyes at him, hopping down from the cabinet. I'm just getting started, she informed him. Plus, whiskey is more hardcore than Her nose crinkled contemptuously as she narrowed in pointedly on his drink that he'd set on the counter top. That. He reached out to poke her as payback, but, giggling, she jumped out of his reach and rushed around the kitchen, getting out the maraschino cherries, a martini glass, and the cocktail shaker.

Five minutes later they were sitting at the table again, same side, twisted slightly toward each other. Edward eyed the drink in her hand as she sipped it. You know He paused, before grinning sheepishly at her. That looks really good. Make me one please? She let a big, exasperated gust of air, her head falling back in annoyance. You could've just asked earlier! she signed furiously, slamming her drink down, though gently enough to where it didn't all slosh out. He shrugged lightly. I didn't want one earlier. She glared at him a minute, before shaking her head in annoyance and standing up, kicking the leg of his chair hard as she made her way to where she'd left the ingredients. He chuckled behind her. She felt his arms wrap around her waist from behind as she shook the mixer, his lips planting a sweet kiss on her neck. She glanced sideways to see him smiling innocently at her, batting his eyelashes to make her laugh; anything, always, to make her laugh. She rolled her eyes and hit his abdomen with her elbow, but she smiled in spite of herself. Damn him. Over the course of the next hour they sat at the kitchen table, conversing and laughing with each other, sipping the various drinks they made, trying out different combinations as they exploded into peals of laughter at the random jokes and stories the other would tell. By the end of the hour, they were both definitely a little bit more than intoxicated, and their signs became less and less frequent. Bella wasn't quite sure how it happened, but somehow she was in Edward's lap now, his face nuzzling her neck as she ran her hands up and down his arms. His hair smelled really good, and for some reason that was just hilarious. She broke into body-shaking giggles as he sucked on the flesh of her neck. What? he asked, sitting up a bit. He had a carefree smile on his face, and his eyes seemed to be a bit hazy, having a hard time focusing. Hers were more or less the same. She shook her head and just leaned in to kiss his lips. No doubt the result of the liquor, but her mind was suddenly comparing his lips to pillows, and she wanted to bite them. She didn't know herself, but she was laughing, and she wanted him more than ever. You're soft... he signed a little while later, gripping her waist tightly as he dragged his lips across the skin of her chest exposed to him with her tank top. A mischievous idea popped into her mind, and she smiled, lifting herself up from his lap to settle on the table behind them. She raised an eyebrow at him, a smirk on her lips, challenging him for this new change in scenery. He quickly complied, grinning too, as he clambered onto the counter and rested over her, grabbing up her lips with his own in a breath stealing kiss. "OhEdward," she sighed against his mouth, smiling softly at the simple pleasure of just being able to kiss these soft, warm lips that melded to her own like they were made for her, the adoration and love obviously present in the way he handled her. She brought one leg up, rubbing her inner thigh against the outside of his as she hitched it around his hip, bringing the other one up shortly after and pressing down hard, forcing him to put more of his weight on her. He usually tried to support himself, but she loved the solidness, the heaviness of his body leaving no air between them.

"Bella," he groaned, sliding his mouth away from hers to nibble on her neck as he began to slowly rotate and grind his hips against hers, rocking slightly to create more friction. Unable to deal with the cover of clothes keeping them apart, Bella reached down to his shirt and tugged it up. He broke his torso away from her slightly - though still kept their pelvis's connected - and allowed her to take it all the way off, disheveling his bronze hair even more. His hands went to her tank top and he ripped that from her quickly - Bella was glad the tank had come with a built-in bra, so they didn't have another obstacle to go through. She moaned in contentment as their bare chests connected and molded, Edward continuing his grinding as he bit and sucked on her neck. She felt like she would die from the feel of his hot, moist mouth, and the hardness in his pants rubbing his jeans against the thin material of her lounge pants. She lifted her bottom from the table so she could feel him harder, closer to her, and it was this that move that she won. Edward let out a primal growl next to her ear and lifted himself up quickly, reaching down to her pants and ripping them off. Her thin, lacy panties came next, one side ripped before it was discarded. She watched with half-lidded eyes as he fumbled with his belt buckle, before unzipping his pants and throwing them and his boxers off at the same time. It struck her in the back of her hazy mind that the table was going to have to be wiped down with bleach a few times if they ever were going to eat on it again, but then the thought was erased as she felt his tip at her entrance. Another idea replaced it, the feeling that she was forgetting something important, but she just couldn't remember what And then it didn't matter because he was plunging into her fast, no inclination in either of them to take it slow. She cried out a little at the feel of his thick length inside her small, tight space, taking them to levels it seemed impossible for humans to go to - heights that it seemed people would fight wars over, just to feel. He pumped into her fast and hard, his breath coming in heavy pants and mixed groans and growls. Their bodies were quickly slicked down with sweat, and Bella licked his shoulder, enjoying the salty taste as her eyes started to roll back as the pressure in her core tightened like a coil, needing to be sprung. The table was hard and slightly cold against her back, the edge of the table digging into her head. But none of that mattered - it was hardly felt. The only thing that was real was him, all of him, covering her, enveloping her in his essence, making her his. "Bella," he half-moaned, half-growled against her neck, his hands gripping her hips, and that was it. Her thighs tightened around his hips as her world exploded, her body going rigid with the concealed explosion inside of her. She tightened her grip on him, and it pushed him over the edge right after her. He released his seed, a hot rush inside of her that made her eyes flutter back, and then close. This was life at it's highest. Just him and her, floating together, leaving the world and it's worries behind. It was like a fairy tale.

Too bad I had just accepted the poisoned apple.

Tuesday evening of the same week: Beep. Beep. Beep.

Break. Break. Break. My. My. My. Heart. Heart. HearMy tempo-ed mantra was interrupted by the sound of shoes softly hitting the floor as they approached behind me. I looked up from Edward's face, but kept rubbing the top of his hand with my thumb, tightening my grip. It was Carlisle. That was no surprise. Everyone had been popping in and out for the past two days. Sometimes we'd all be here together, and sometimes it was just some of us, and sometimes it was just me. I only went home for showers and new clothes. I kept my tooth brush in my bag. It helped prolong my stay. As much as it killed me to be here, it killed me to be away as well. Especially when I thought about if the situation were reversed. Where did I think Edward would be if I were the one lying here instead? No where else but this chair I rarely left. "Hey," I said quietly, turning back to stare at Edward some more. But inside, my insides were twisting with nerves. I had yet to tell anyone about my pregnancy that I had learned about four days ago. I knew I was going to have to soon. There was no real reason I hadn't told. I just didn't know how to bring it up. It didn't seem to be the appropriate timing. But I was going to have to do it sometime. And I'd rather it be a one on one thing, instead of everybody at once. That'd be too weird. So why not start now? Then maybe my father-in-law could spread the news and I wouldn't have to deal with it. Maybe being an expecting mother was a cool secret you were supposed to covet before you squealed it out to all your family and friends with rapid excitement. And maybe under normal circumstances I would feel inclined to do that. But I didn't feel inclined to do anything right now. Excitement? What is that... I only know sickness now. "Hi," Carlisle said back softly, going to the other side of the bed and pulling up a chair there. I met his eyes briefly for a moment, before I dropped them back to Edward's hand in my own. I took a deep breath. "Carlisle, I -" "Bella, I - " We both paused, and look up at each other in confusion. "What is it?" I asked, something akin to curiosity in my voice. He shook his head. "No, you first." "Just tell me please." He took a deep breath and met my eyes again before averting his gaze and staring at the ceiling. That was strange. My brow furrowed. Carlisle never 'averted his gaze'. That's not what he did. It made me apprehensive for whatever he was going to say. "It's just..." He trailed off and took another deep breath. "I know you're going through a lot right now. And I don't want to scare you anymore than you already are. But... I do think I need to... forewarn you of a possibility that..." "What?" I asked, my voice rising in pitch slightly due to my stress. "Possibility that...?"

He licked his lips. "Sometimes... when people come out of comas, they don't remember anything. Sometimes it's just for a minute, sometimes it's for the rest of their lives, and sometimes it's not at all. I'm just saying... if Edward wa- " "When," I interrupted sharply. "Right." He ducked his head. "When Edward wakes up... you need to have prepared yourself for the possibility of some form of amnesia. It might not happen, remember. But... if it does. You need to know." He shook his head. "Now that that's out of the way, what is it you were going to tell me?" But my head was spinning with his words. I couldn't remember what I was going to say for a minute, and when it came back to me, I was too afraid to speak it. "Oh, nothing," I whispered, squeezing Edward's hand harder.

Week 1. Thursday night: I still hadn't told anyone. Because I still couldn't get Carlisle's words from my head. "Not remember anything," I whispered into Edward's shoulder, from where I rested next to him on the bed, my hand holding his again to keep it wrapped around my shoulder: my routine. Was that really possible? That he wouldn't remember me? Everything? Everything we had gone through, our whole lives... Gone? I could be erased. All that we had. Vanished from his memory. And then me. Pregnant with his child. I could just envision it now, and it made throw up rise in my throat, a feeling so sick I found myself running to the bathroom frequently. Edward would wake up. I would be standing there, expecting him to whisper my name when he blinked his bleary eyes. I would be smiling with dreaded hope, my wishes come true. He had risen. He would look at me, sitting up slowly, and then stare. Just stare. Just collecting himself, I would think. Just collecting himself. And then he would start to sign. The way that people suffering amnesia from comas could still remember how to talk, he would still know his form of communication. I would hold my breath anxiously. Who are you? he would sign, and my heart would plummet. Where am I? His beautiful brow furrowed, his green eyes darting around the room in wary confusion. I'm...I'm your wife, I would sign, my mouth dropped slightly and my eyes wide with shock and disbelieving horror. I could only imagine his expression at that. His widened eyes. His scared questions, asking who he was, let alone me. But I would stay. My resolve would harden, and I would swear to reteach him his life. But could he love me again? Was it only the fact that we had gone through our lives dependent on each other that kept us as strong as we were? Stronger than most.

Five months from then, and I would be swollen, and he would still be trying to learn himself, learn me, even be trying to see if he loved me at all. No real loyalty though, no real love... And I would fall and break. Everything from before would disappear. Maybe I would too. And he would leave, tired of living this life that was supposed to be his, but was no more. Off to start his new life, a clean slate, nothing from the past holding him back. I would be encased in my glass coffin. No, my family, my friends: run off and never try to wake me up again. I don't want to leave this place.

Week 2. Monday: One week. Two days. Still no one knows. Still he does not awake. But I have to tell. I can't let the fear cripple me. No matter what. But who to talk to? The girl sitting on my lap, probably. "Alice," I said quietly, kissing Edward's knuckles. I had managed to pull myself together finally. No matter how bleak the future might be, I would hope for the best, but be aware of the worst. Regardless, he was my future, and I would take whatever was thrown at me as it came. I would be there for him, despite what may happen. I would not leave him. If the worst were to occur, he could leave me and I - hopefully - wouldn't try to stop him, if that's what he really wanted. But I hoped, with every fiber of my being, that he would remember me and it would be okay. "Yeah Bella?" Alice asked, her voice softly miserable. Her arms were around my neck, her head resting on my shoulder as she curled into me. I had my other arm around her waist, the one that wasn't being used to hold Edward's hand. To some people, this would look weird. I didn't give a fuck though. It was a friendly position of comfort. "You're making my leg go to sleep." "I'm needy," she snapped. "And Jasper's at his internship. So you're going to have to make do." I rolled my eyes a little, but rested my head on top of her soft, inky black hair. We both watched the resting angel. "I have to tell you something," I said suddenly, knowing I should get it out before I lost my nerve. Alice stilled a little bit, probably in reaction to my voice. "Yes?" she asked cautiously. "Okay, but you can't tell anyone else yet alright? This between me and you for now. I'm not ready for everyone else to know." Alice gasped and sat up blinding fast, knocking into my face as she jumped up from my lap and spun around to face me, her eyes wide in shock. "Bella..." she said, her voice startled and partly awed. "You're not... are you?" "Not what?" I asked wearily. She was still frozen with wide eyes, her mouth dropped a little. Suddenly, her gray eyes lit up. "Oh Bella!" she cried, flinging her arms around my neck in a death grip. "This so

perfect! Finally, a little bit of light in all this darkness! I'm so happy for you! I'm godmother, right?" "Alice," I said, confused and unnerved by her reaction. "How is this good news. What if Edward doesn't wake up soon? What am I supposed to do with the kid without him? Have you thought of that?" She bit her lip, hesitating. She pulled away and then spoke after a moment. "I don't think that'll happen," she said slowly. "I just have a feeling." "And what if he doesn't remember me?" I whispered. "Do you have a feeling about that, too?" "Yes," she said firmly. "And he will. You're far too important to him for that to go away. I don't think he'd allow anything to erase his memory of you, if nothing else." She snorted. "I'm more worried he won't remember me or anyone else. You're safe, though." I rolled my eyes, and sunk back into my chair, slumping. "Thanks," I said sarcastically. "And remember, just between us, okay?" Theatrically, she mimed zipping her lips and throwing away the key. I half-heartedly tugged up one corner of my mouth. "And sure. You can be godmother."

Week 2. Friday morning: The storm had long since passed, and I was laying against Edward's side as usual, looking out the window. It was dawn, the sun just beginning to break through the city on the horizon. I was used to the feelings inside of me by then. Distraught. Sick. Fatigued. Worried. Defeated. Torn. Hopeless. It was all dull white noise now. I sighed and looked up at Edward again. He was so perfect. His hair, despite the brushings I'd given it, would always be a messy array, falling all over his forehead, tickling his eyelids, brushing his cheeks on the sides sometimes. His skin was pale and beautiful, unmarred. His strong jaw, gentle curve of his nose, his soft looking lips... I had yet to kiss him. I just... I don't know what I feared. Probably his non-reaction. But I was so used to it by now. And that killed me. A random thought passed through my mind and I snorted humorlessly. And with a kiss, the sleeping one would wake. And then the prince and princess would ride off into the sunset, living happily ever after. Yeah right. Stupid fairy tales. But... maybe it was the early hour, but I suddenly wanted to test the theory. I sat up a little and stared at him intently, leaning forward bit by bit, until my lips were inches away from his. I started to close my eyes before I stopped. What I was doing? This was not normal me behavior or thought process at all. When other little girls dreamt of being Disney princesses, I dreamt of being a vampire. When other little girls envisioned perfect happy endings, I fantasized about the perfect magical tragedy. The Brothers Grimm were my only tolerance of fairy tales.

But what else could I do? I didn't truly expect anything. I could only fail at this point, and that would be nothing new. I had an endless supply of poisoned apples to - get this - not only poison my system, but also - lucky me! - make me choke. Still... I closed my eyes again and leaned in the rest of the way. His lips were still as soft and warm as I remembered them. I rested my lips atop his very lightly at first, before slowly applying a bit more pressure, until I was pressing too hard, I knew. Oh, how I missed him... His mouth was unresponsive against mine. With a light gasp I broke away and jumped up, a small tear sliding down my cheek before I wiped it off, beginning to walk toward the door. Now was as good a time as any for breakfast. I gripped the door knob in my hand, and then I heard it. A tiny groan from behind me. Oh my god... I whirled around, my eyes widening, just in time to see Edward's open slowly.

When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness; that is a friend who cares. - Henri Nouwen I froze with my hand on the door knob, the sound of the groan making me gasp and still simultaneously. I whirled around quickly, my mouth dropping open, just in time to see Edward's eyes opening slowly. My own widened in response, a little gasp of air sucking through my dropped lips, and I realized I was still standing frozen in my position. As if in a haze, I took slow steps forward as he blinked deliberately at the ceiling, his eyes never wandering. My breath hitched just a little bit as I approached the bed silently, stopping a few feet away. I was afraid; no, more than that. I was petrified. But I was elated. My heart was hammering so loud, it seemed like an imprint of it should be on my skin, and I had half a mind to check it. This was one of the best, (but best in a strange way), moments of my life. He was awake. And for a second, nothing else mattered. He could forget me, he could still be deaf. Who cared? He was awake. No matter what, he was no longer lost inside his own head, an empty vessel to this world. But soon after that, the worries crept in, chilling and heating my chest in the strangest of sensations that made me want to shake. Would he forget? Could he hear? I swallowed as I watched, and waited in tense anticipation. I watched Edward's face as all these emotions and thoughts attacked my body in the time frame of a few short seconds. He stared at the ceiling, his eye brows pulling together a bit, his mouth parting just the tiniest smidge. His green eyes looked dark and confused as he merely stared at the tiles above his head.

Minutes passed, possibly three or more, though it felt like an eternity, and he continued to just stare. I stared at him too, wondering what was going through his mind, what was keeping him so still. Was it because he forgot everything? Because he was befuddled after coming out of the coma? What was it? I bit my lip, and felt the anxiety in my own eyes. What was going through his mind? I had no idea. I breathed in deeply through my mouth, my nerves giving it a shuddering sound; my first audible noise I'd made since I'd seen my husband open his eyes. My gasps before had been silent in my shock. Edward's brow contracted even more, and then he began to move, as if he were surrounded by glass and was an anemic, afraid to puncture any skin at risk of deadly consequences. His arms drew back, allowing him to sit up slightly, supporting his weight on his forearms. In a tiny movement, so small and quick I barely saw it, his lips curved up at the edges. He didn't look at me still but his brow pulled together again, the almost smile fading, as I watched pensively a few steps away. "Bella" he breathed out, and I couldn't decipher in the sound whether it was a statement or a question. And it didn't matter. BellaOh my god, he'd said my name. My heartbeat quickened it's already frightened pace the second my name escaped his lips, a feeling of elated relief making my legs quake. Oh thank you, thank you, thank you, I chanted silently in my head. I had no idea to whom I spoke, and it didn't matter, I was just so blown away. My brain felt kind of fuzzy with the strength of liberation washing over me over and over again like waves in a hurricane. But despite my inner turmoil bubbling inside, I watched him the whole time; watched as his eyes widened the moment he called to me, looking at the wall in front of him. I opened my mouth to say his name, my foot beginning to step forward to approach him, when the door opened and two pairs of feet came stomping in - loudly. "Oh, good, he's finally awake!" exclaimed the nurse, and for the first time since I'd met her, though she'd come to check on Edward's vitals frequently, I noticed how shrill her voice really was. "Excellent!" said the doctor delightedly, and even to me it seemed to boom in the confined space. "Nurse, I believe we can take him off life support, susceptible to change - " " - If the condition relapses?" "Precisely," confirmed the doctor as the nurse bustled over to a wide-eyed, scared looking Edward, removing the IV needle. I could only stand frozen, immobile in my skin, as I was transported back briefly to the day I'd seen Lauren assault my Edward - that same kind of feeling of being unable to move and just watch helplessly enveloped me again. "Now there's only thing to see: did it work?" He looked at Edward curiously who just stared back, lost and hopeless looking. "Oh, this is so exciting!" squealed the nurse. "I'm so happy for you, darlin'!" "Did it work, son?" asked the doctor, and for the first time he actually lowered his voice, perhaps remembering himself and his profession. But it was too much for Edward; hell, the flurry of movement and sound had been too much for me. He let out a cry of frustration and buried his head in his knees, gripping his hair ruthlessly.

That was it. My fury ignited. Something inside me snapped and I regained my mobility. I stalked forward and grabbed the nurse and the doctor's arms, yanking them back to the other side of the room, beyond caring if I hurt them or not; they were hurting Edward. Everything else was inconsequential. "Is that your answer?" I hissed through my clenched teeth, so low that nobody could hear but them, and then I jabbed my finger toward the door. "Get out!" Perhaps it was the murder in my eyes, but they scurried away without another word, closing the door softly behind them. I glared after them a moment, breathing deep, angry breaths through my nose, a disgusted scowl on my face. I shook my head in revulsion and then willed it away, refocusing my mind on what was important here. Edward sat two steps in front of me, still leaning forward with his head in his knees, his knuckles white from the strength in which he gripped his hair. He was taking in deep, shuddering breaths I could hear now, and my heart broke. I approached and sat on the bed softly. I reached up and stroked his hair tenderly, gently taking his hands and making him slacken his death grip on his hair, holding them and placing them on the bed sheets lightly. I made no noise, and could hear his breaths starting to even out. Slowly, finally, he raised his head to look at me for the first time. So many emotions were scattered across his face and shot through his eyes. Pain, confusion, wonder, awe, gratitude, fear. I smiled at him lovingly when his eyes met mine. "Bella," he croaked, his voice a whisper, and his hands reached for me. I could feel the tears building inside of me, this answer to my dreams, this moment I'd envisioned for so long now, it felt like. And even in the midst of all the unexpected chaos, it was still perfection. I crawled onto his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck tightly and stroking his hair as his arms wound around my frame, burying his face in my neck. I rested my cheek softly upon his head, happy when his grip became stronger, holding me to him tightly, like he'd never let go. And he'd better not. It had been almost two weeks, and in retrospect, yeah, maybe it hadn't been that long. But my sanity could tell you a different story. The waiting was what was hard. The uncertainty. But now he was really hear. His breathing was not the set, even pace of a dreamer. I could feel a rigid ness in him that didn't belong to a sleeping person. I could feel the strength in his arms, the animation in his body. I buried my nose in his hair, breathing him in, stroking it softly and feeling him respond. Sometimes, impulsively it seemed, he would angle his head to kiss my neck before going back to his original position; but most of the time we just stayed like that. I have no idea how long we merely sat there, in that position. Time didn't matter. The only thing that that did was us. Him. Comforting him. Assuring him that, though something had changed inside of him, all was as it should be. He could always find peace in me. I would make sure of it. I had no idea what was going to happen in the future. I didn't know how long it would be before Edward could feel comfortable in a world with sound. And it didn't matter. Because, somehow, we would get through it just fine. Finally, I sat up a bit, causing Edward to do so too. I took a deep breath, and was about to say his name, when he brought a finger up to my mouth, stopping me.

He shook his head. Everything is so confusing right now, he confided, looking down. I have no idea what to call the sounds I'm hearing. No idea what to do. It's overwhelming. I'm still feeling a bit dazed from waking up anyway. And hearing you is something I've wanted my whole life. I would appreciate, hearing you later, when I don't feel this chaotic inside. When it's more special. I could understand that, and I nodded but blushed, still slightly amazed he regarded me so highly. At the thought my heart plummeted. Would he be disappointed with what he heard? His hand cupped my cheek as he took in the sight of my inflamed cheeks. He raised an eyebrow quizzically, but changed his mind, removing his hands to ask, How long have I been out? I feel really heavy. I scowled at him. Almost two weeks, I glared. You had me worried sick. I've been miserable! How do you explain yourself? For the first time, he grinned, the one that stole my breath away. He cupped my cheek again and leaned in to kiss me, but paused, and pulled away. My jaw dropped and he grimaced. I really feel like I need to brush my teeth, so maybe I didn't let him finish as I grabbed his face in my hands and crashed my mouth to his. To hell with his mouth situation. This was so much more important to me. To feel his lips on mine, responding And he did, moving to grip the back of my head in one hand, pressing his lips hard to mine. I tried my best not to moan, determined not to ruin the 'wonder' for him. We broke away, but kept our foreheads pressed together, our hands clasped together between us. I opened my eyes to see him staring at me too. Good. I was probably never going to let him close his eyes again. He could learn to sleep with them open. The door opened behind us and several pairs of feet came rushing in. I whipped my head around as Edward inhaled a little gasp. If it was the same doctors as before, I was going to haul them outside and give them a more colorful piece of my mind. But no. Carlisle, Esme, Alice, Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper came rushing in, before they came to an abrupt halt, staring at Edward. The doctor called, Carlisle signed. But we didn't want to get our hopes too upHe glanced around at the group before breaking into a tentative smile. Do you know who we are Edward? Edward looked serious, his eyes sweeping up and down the row of people before us. I tried shifting off his lap, so he didn't have to crane his head around me, but he refused to let me move away, his grip tightening. He started to nod slowly, before he came to a stop on Alice. His brow furrowed. I know who you all are, he began. Except for her. He nodded toward Alice, and my mouth dropped open a bit in pity, turning to give Alice an apologetic look. Oh my god. I know how I would've reacted if I had been erased from his thoughts. Alice's reaction was much different. Alice's lips puckered in anger and she nodded her head bitterly, her eyes focusing on random objects. "Of course," she said sourly. "Of course I'm the one he doesn't remember. Even though I'm the one who always teaches him his stupid freaking little phrases to woo Bella, and has helped him his whole life, and been a loyal sister, and all that. Fucking great!"

"Language," Esme replied automatically. Edward looked between the two of them. I knew he couldn't understand them past the exaggerated words he could've caught from Alice's lips, but a large smile was slowly unfurling on his face. So that's what you sound like, "EsmeAlice." He snickered a little as everyone else's eyes widened a little, both at the fact that he could hear and the fact that'd he'd been lying before. Alice, especially, as she inhaled a little gasp, before narrowing her eyes, her body beginning to shake. "Oh, you're an ass!" she said and signed at the same time. He smiled, shaking his head, and removed one of his arms from around me to extend to her. Scowling and rolling her eyes, she pranced over anyway and hopped into his lap next to me, hugging him fiercely as she kissed his cheek. Everyone took their turn after that. Coming up and hugging him, signing and speaking their various greetings, comments, and feelings of relief and happiness. That was how we were going to have to teach him. Speaking and signing simultaneously. Later he'd probably start to repeat words after we'd said them, getting a feel for it. When we got home, though maybe not today, or maybe even tomorrow, I'd teach him how to pronounce the alphabet, that way speaking on his own would be a tad bit easier. He knew how things were spelled; though obviously, it was going to be a little more complicated than that. Some words you can't sound out, some things just take memorization. And of course, teaching him how to identify sounds. Pointing them out, teaching normality, trying to describe things without any kind of precedentour work was cut out for us. But there was nothing I wouldn't do. It would be far past worth it.

It was very late when Edward was finally discharged, near one in the morning. I drove home, because he was good, but he wasn't that good. Everything he could hear now, all the little sounds everyone takes for granted, the rustlings, the creaks, was intensified to him. Because his hearing was perfectcompletely unimpaired. It was like a babies, the acutest hearing humans could ever know. The kind of hearing none of the rest of us remember experiencing. It wasn't super human or anything though. Just better. It'd get ruined some as the hair cells degraded bit by tiny bit as life went on, as it did for all of us. No wonder he was so overwhelmed. The surgeons did their job well. If only they could fix that pesky coma problem I found it distinctly ironic though, and I wanted to laugh, that his hearing was now better than anyone else's that we knew. The tables had definitely turned. And everything was perfect in it's imperfection. There was just one last nagging detail that needed to be taken out of the water. I meanI knew I'd have to tell him when we got home. It was his kid after all, he should definitely be aware of it's imminent existence, but damn. Not only does he wake up from a befuddling two weeks of unconsciousness, but then he gets to be hit by all these noises he has no name or place for, a bombarding wave of 'too much'. And then, in the same twenty-four hours, find out that in seven months or so he was going to be a dad? Jeez I gripped Edward's hand harder, and could see from my peripheral vision that he was maintaining his position of his face being held in his other hand. My poor man. For the millionth time I wondered how he would feel about this. How would he react? It was killing me not to know, but I was cringing at the thought of telling him. How does one even go about saying that?

'Hey honey! I know you've had a stressful day and all, but guess what? I'm pregnant! Aren't you excited!' I grimaced. Excited. Right. I smiled a little as I remembered a time when we'd babysat together. Our only us-kids relations.

The sixteen year old girl put on her best smile as she opened the door for her neighbor that lived on the end of the block, and at the little seven year old boy with sandy blond hair which was probably where his name from - holding on to his mother's hand. He'd looked so innocent then. "I really appreciate this Bella," gushed her Mrs. Clemens for the millionth time. "I know this is such short notice, but I really need to go pick up my mother up in Wickenburg. I swear I'll be back by morning, she just broke her leg and all and again I'm so sorry about the short not- " "It's ok," the girl interrupted quickly with a smile. "Really, I'm happy to help. I hope your mom's ok." Mrs. Clemens nodded gratefully, and said thank you one more time, bending down to kiss her son's head. "You behave now," she muttered into his hair. "Bella's being real nice by letting you stay with her, so I expect you to show her respect and courtesy. Am I making myself clear?" "Yes mommy," he'd replied sweetly, smiling up at her. She smiled back briefly, before pushing him toward Bella and rushing toward her car. The girl waved as she pulled away, before stepping back and closing the door. "Hey Sandy," Bella said, leaning on her knees and smiling at him. "Are you hungry?" He shrugged and followed her into the kitchen where Edward waited, eating a bowl of Ramen. Bella rolled her eyes. "If there's any food left" she muttered as she went to put a pan of water on to boil for Shells n' Cheese. "Who are you?" he heard Sandy ask, his voice blunt and unfriendly. Bella sighed. So this was how he was going to act "He's my friend," she said, turning back to the little boy. "He's going to help me watch you." "Where's your mom?" Sandy asked petulantly. She shrugged. "She's staying the night at someone else's house tonight." Bella turned away to hide her pained eyes and scowl behind her hair. When she was composed she looked back to see Sandy sitting on a chair, kicking his legs and looking very bored and put out. She met Edward's gaze over his head, and his face was serious. I don't like this kid, he frowned. He's not all bouncy and nice like most of them are Well I'm grateful for the non-bouncy part, she signed back. But yeah, he's pretty rude. I bet his mom spoils him.

"What are you guys doing?" Sandy demanded, and Bella jumped a little, not realizing he'd been watching. "Oh, it's sign language," she replied automatically. "My friend can't hear, so this is how we talk." "I know what sign language is," he snapped. "I just didn't know what it looked likeyou look silly." He smiled widely at her, and her jaw clenched. "Well, I suppose that's your opinion," she muttered, turning away to pour the shells into the boiling water. If she thought that was the worst of it, she was sorely mistaken. Edward looked near ready to pull his hair out, and Bella wasn't too far behind in how she was feeling either. I'm so sick of this kid! Edward signed, his face murderously angry, and Bella nodded in fervent agreement. He'd been nothing but trouble. Just running around - so much for the non-bouncy theory messing things up, creating huge messes, touching things he shouldn't. When they'd finally thought they'd got him to sit down to watch some TV, he'd popped up and stolen the remote. Currently, he was trying to play a 'hide-and-go-seek' kind of game with them, keeping the remote with him. And he wasn't afraid to play dirty, running at their legs if they came near to catching them, kicking and biting, even playing the crying card if there was no other way out. It was beyond frustrating. Where'd he run off to this time? Bella asked, fuming as she ran an agitated hand through her hair, her teeth clenched, eyes darting around the dining room, trying to catch some sign of him. Edward put his hands up in surrender, his jaw locked. No idea. Do you want me to get a bat? She gave him a look and he answered with a defensive one. What? I know you've been thinking about it too. She started to glare but couldn't quite manage, since he'd been right. She began to grin a little. Do you think we could safely give him some sleeping pills? Who cares about the 'safely' part? She snickered a little, before stopping and pulling herself together as a sandy-haired flash streaked through the hall outside the dining room door. He just ran to my room, she told Edward, her eyes hardening. Follow me, and remember to block him. He's pretty much cornered now. Her best friend nodded and followed behind her stealthily as they crept to her room, the previously closed door thrown wide open. Sandy was standing there, Bella's journal in hand. It wasn't a diary, because she scoffed at those. They were so stupid. Hers was full of short stories and poetry. She froze and felt Edward freeze behind her as Sandy held the journal out in front of him, a pair of big scissors poised, open and waiting, at the top. "Take one step closer and the book gets it," he said, his eyes narrowing. Bella was so angry she couldn't even see straight. She felt Edward put his hands on her shoulders, perhaps sensing her impending lapse in self-control. She breathed in deeply. "What do you want Sandy?" she snarled. "Why are you doing this?"

His eyes narrowed. "I want him to go away!" he cried. "That's what I've been trying to do this whole time! Make him leave!" Bella's eyes widened in shock. She hadn't seen that one coming. "W - why?" she stuttered, trying to wrap her mind around this shocking tidbit of info. "Because" he said petulantly, pouting. He dropped her book and the scissors to the floor and just stood there, with his arms crossed. Behind her, Bella felt Edward start to move forward, but she put a hand on his chest, turning to give him a look that told him to stay put. Hold on, she signed, and moved toward Sandy. "Why?" she asked again, softly, bending down in front of him. "Why do you want him to leave?" Sandy's bottom lip jutted out as he looked up at her through big eyes. "Because he's trying to steal you," he admitted sourly. "You were supposed to be with me today, but he keeps getting in the way." He scowled. Bella blinked in shock. So that was it. He wanted Edward to leave because he was Wow. "Ok" Bella muttered and got up, turning around and walking back to her best friend. So, what's his problem? Edward asked, a frown on his face and an eyebrow raised. Bella tried and failed to suppress a smile. He'she's jealous of you. I think you should come back later, after he's asleep. That's why he's acting out. Edward's mouth dropped a bit, his eyes as shocked as Bella had felt. He closed his mouth quickly and ran a hand over his face. Be by later then. He hugged Bella briefly, catching her by surprise, and grinned when he pulled back, putting two fingers to his eyes and pointing them at Sandy in a 'I'm keeping my eyes on you' movement. Sandy stuck his tongue out, and cheered when Edward left the house. Bella rolled her eyes. He was a little angel after that, helping clean up his messes, eating without complaint, snuggling up to Bella on the couch as they watched TV. Bella shook her head in amusement and confusion repeatedly through the day. She was a bit sad it had taken Edward leaving though to accomplish this peace. She missed him. She put Sandy to bed at eight thirty in her mother's room. Since her mother wasn't home Bella grimaced - at least someone would be getting some use out of it. She leaned against the door frame, looking in at the sleeping child. He wasn't so bad. Bella felt a familiar elbow being placed on one of her shoulders, a weight as he leaned on her. I really don't want kids, after this, Edward signed, sighing and shaking his head in martyrdom, his bronze locks falling in his eyes. Bella giggled. Me neither, she signed, and they went back to the couch to make up the time spent away.

I don't think I should be this tired, Edward signed as we collapsed into bed at home. I slept for so long, and yet, I'm tired again.

Am I allowed to speak yet? I asked, turning toward him. He shook his head, and I nodded. I thought so. But it was going to be so hard keeping my sounds to myself. Regardless, I bent toward him and kissed his lips. He'd brushed his teeth the minute we'd arrived at his insistence, so he could have no complaints now. And of course, he didn't. I tilted my head and opened my mouth as he did the same, snaking his tongue in between my parted lips. I breathed in deeply through my nose, drinking him in, and pressed closer to him, holding myself tightly to his frame. He made up for the rest, his grip like marble. His hand tangled in my hair, as mine stroked his face. I'd missed him so much I'd missed this. When his hand started to travel up and down my body though, I knew we'd have to stop. If he wanted my voice to be a surprise for a better time. I had to tell him now anyway. Edward, I started, breaking away and pushing back a little. I forced a serious expression to my face and he sat up a bit, his look concerned. I bit my lip. I don't really know how to say this, I grimaced, looking down. He coaxed my chin up with his finger, his eyes a bit panicked. It's okay, I assured him. Nothing bad. I think What is it? Just say it, the suspense is killing me. I took a deep breath to steady myself, bracing myself for the impact of telling him. Oh well. It was better just to spit it out, like he'd told me to. No point beating around the bush. I could already feel the wary expression on my face. I'm pregnant, I signed, and then dropped my hands, letting the sentence sit there between us in the air. He just stared at me. No you're not, he signed. It looked automatic. Yes, I really am, I nodded, my mouth contorting. The strangest expression flitted across his features, and he froze for several long moments. I didn't even notice his face turning a little green until he jumped up and ran to the bathroom, the sounds of retching following a few moments later. I sighed.

The strangest expression flitted across his features, and he froze for several long moments. I didn't even notice his face turning a little green until he jumped up and ran to the bathroom, the sounds of retching following a few moments later. I sighed. And also resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I knew I shouldn't. I understood perfectly why he reacted that way. Which is why I honestly wasn't too upset. I slipped off the bed and hurried to the bathroom, dropping down to my knees next to Edward and brushing his hair back as he threw up. My poor man. This was one of the first things he was hearing. And it probably wouldn't be the last time for a while. He was going to have to do this to me soon enough if I started getting morning sickness. I was surprised at how accepting I was already with the idea of being pregnant; how I could think about it without any kind of hesitation, or fear. I had thought that when Edward would wake up, the reality of it would finally crush me. But I felt fine. And I knew it was because

Edward was here. As long as he was, we could get through anything. Difficult or easy, there was a way. I believed that with all my heart. It was over relatively soon, and I rubbed his back as he remained leaning with his head over the bowl, gasping. I stood up real quick to retrieve a wash cloth, and dampen it. Behind me, I heard his breathing start to even out as he sat up, falling back on his bottom, reclining to lean against the sink cabinet next to my legs. I kneeled down next to him and wiped his face of the uncomfortable sheen of sweat that had formed there, being very gentle. He closed his eyes and turned his face toward me with a deep exhalation. I didn't rush anything, any movement. He would communicate when he was ready. When I finally pulled the wash cloth away he opened his eyes, and found mine. He looked tired. Thanks, he signed, his face glum. With a sigh, he heaved himself to his feet and began to brush his teeth. I remained sitting on the floor, rubbing his calf through his jeans. There was something about silence in moments like these that I quite liked. Maybe it was because I had no questions that I wasn't pretty sure I knew the answer to. Maybe because I had become quite accustomed to quiet. Or maybe because I was scared of the things that he had the power to say, that I could never have seen coming. I rushed nothing because there was nothing more I wanted right now than a lack of words. Edward crouched down in front of me, and reached a hand out toward my face, tilting his head in the direction of the bed. I nodded and took his proffered hand to help me up. As I was yanked to my feet though, I stood up too near him, causing me to bump into his chest. Automatically, his strong arms wrapped around me to stop me from stumbling backward and pulled me taut to him. I turned my face up to his hopefully. I thought he was going to kiss me - he began to bend down a little - but he didn't. He straightened up instead and walked back to the adjoined bedroom. He did keep my hand in his tightly though. He flicked off the bathroom switch on the way out, and darkness settled in. A bright moon was outside our window though, so I could still see; which was good, because knowing me, I probably would've bumped into something anyway, regardless of whether or not Edward was holding my hand. He allowed me to crawl into bed first, and I shot an uneasy look at his face as I did. It was surprisingly blank, his eyes dark. Alright, I'd been wrong. I didn't like this silence. It was too heavy, too unnatural, not like it normally was. There was a weight, and I longed for it to be lifted. I rolled to my side and sat with my arms around my knees, watching anxiously as he crawled in, thinking that about now would be the time he would start talking; when he was settled. He sat on the bed softly and laid down, staring at the ceiling for a minute. I held my breath And he shut his eyes and crossed his arms behind his head. My jaw dropped a little at the unexpected move, and I shifted, kneeling closer to him. I was waiting for him to sit up and start talking to me. Minutes went by and nothing happened. Too heavy. Frowning, I tapped him, my stomach churning apprehensively. He actually opened his eyes - at this point, I wasn't even expecting him to do that. I was growing strangely angry and upset. I blamed the hormones.

I sat there for a moment, wondering how to ask what I wanted as he waited for me to say something. Areare you going to talk to me about this? I finally asked, my brow furrowing. He shook his head, face still blank. Not tonight. I'm not sure what my face looked like, but I felt like someone had just slapped my heart. I wonder if that was conveyed on my face. Because whatever was, it obviously worked. His blank faade melted, and he sat up quickly, his face distraught and eyes pleading. Please, he begged. Please, this is too much for one day. I just want to sleep. I didn't mean to make you feel bad. I relaxed a little. That's why you threw up, right? I asked, anxious. Too much at once? He nodded, but I noticed he wouldn't quite meet my eyes. Or maybe it was just too dark for me to tell properly. I'm really sorry, I apologized, ducking my head. I just thought that you should know. He nodded, smiling gently at me. I guess I'd rather know than be left in the dark. I still felt guilty though. I bit my lip and continued to stare at him. With a sigh, he pulled me closer and slowly touched his lips to mine. It seemed like it was supposed to be just a peck, but he couldn't quite make himself pull away. He gripped my face tightly in his hands, and I could feel conflict in the rough way his mouth moved against mine. Tomorrow, I guessed, I would know why.

When I woke up, it was only a few hours later. The clock next to me was blinking six in the am, and Edward wasn't next to me. My breathing quickened. I wanted to call out to him, when I remembered that I couldn't. I swallowed heavily, feeling an irrational wave of abandonment and loneliness hit me. I threw off the covers and got out of bed, planning to scour the house for him. I didn't have to go far. He was in the kitchen, staring, seemingly transfixed, at the coffee pot as it made it's awakening brew. My feet padded softly on the tile as I walked closer to him, and he glanced up sharply, making me jump a little. I'd have to get used to that. I gave him a little wave, but his brow just furrowed and then he was headed towards me, reaching me in just two of his long strides. Edward caught me in his warm embrace. Are you okay? he asked, pulling back to stare at me seriously. I gave him a confused look, nodding, wondering where that had come from. Alrightyou just looked like you were about to cry. I frowned in puzzlement, but could find no better answer than, I woke up, and you weren't there. I got scared. "Bella," he sighed softly, kissing my forehead, and tightening his grip around me. I hugged him back, happy to have him here. I smiled and turned my head to kiss his bare chest, before pulling away. Are you ready to talk now? I asked him.

His peaceful expression immediately turned awry, and he stared at me a moment before sighing, nodding his head. Guess it can't really be held off any longer, he said, a pull to his mouth, as he turned to pour himself a mug of coffee. Thatwasn't a good sign I hurriedly sat down at the kitchen table. I could feel the anxiety in my gaze as I watched him sit in front of me, keeping his eyes downcast. He glanced up at me and took a deep breath. Are you sure about this child? I furrowed my brow, shocked and confused that that was his problem. He was worried about if I wanted it. I smiled at him and nodded, holding his gaze to let him know I was serious. He raised his hands to continue, but then dropped them, obviously thinking something over as he bit his lip. Finally, he raised them again. Are you sure? This wasn't exactly a choice, and I don't want you to regret it Edward I signed, shaking my head and laughing silently to myself. I don't think I could ever regret it. I know children aren't something we've ever really talked about before, and I never thought about it either, but now that I have this unborn person inside me it's likeit just seems right, you know? And I'm actually pretty excited about naming it, and feeling it kick me for the first time, crazy as it sounds. I chuckled silently again, keeping my head down as I thought about it. And sending it off to the first day of school, and grounding it, and rolling my eyes when it becomes an ungrateful teenager I paused, feeling that my eyes were lit up with a very tangible excitement. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that everything I said was true. When had my acceptance of this unborn child turned into adoration? Finally, I looked up into Edward's awestruck expression. And plus it's yours, I signed, gazing at him lovingly. I could never regret that. He breathed in deeply, the air shuddering as it passed through his lips. He reached his arm across the table to grab my hand in his, and bring it to his mouth. Is that it? I asked, concerned. He didn't seem completely appeased, though it wasn't exactly obvious. Like subtle shadows at the edge of a rarely seen place. I could've just been making it up very easily. Damn imagination. He looked up at me and smiled his crooked smile, his green eyes light and sparkling. Yeah. That's it.

Edward winced as he shut his car door, flinging his hand to cover his ear instinctively. I stared anxiously, rushing to his side and fluttering, unaware of what to do to help. Edward opened his clenched eyes ad immediately lowered his hand, wrapping it around my waist. It's okay, "love", he whispered in my ear, kissing my temple. I glared up at him. How is it that you always end up comforting me even if I'm not the one that needs it? He smiled at me, love plain on his face. You help me more than you know, he assured me as he knocked on the door we'd walked up to, and refrained from wincing. I put my hands on my hips, raising an eyebrow. He rolled his eyes at me, but smiled. Esme was the one who opened the door, and she looked at us in surprise. "Bella!" she said and signed, eyes widening. "Edward! Come in!" she beamed.

She hugged her son and then me as we walked in, and Edward pulled away to sign to me, I love how she always says your name first. She just loves me more, I teased. Esme looked between the two of us in confusion. "Why aren't you speaking?" she said to me, but signed for Edward's benefit. I shook my head and threw my hands up into the air. It's a thing, don't worry about it, I told her. It's more than 'a thing', Edward signed, scowling at me. I rolled my eyes at him again, but couldn't stop my adoring grin. We followed Esme into the living room, sitting down on the couch. "So, is there any particular reason you decided to pay a visit to your dear old parents?" she said and signed, as she sat on the love seat across from us. I beamed, nodding. You might want to call Carlisle in here, I told her. But we're going to have to wait a few minutes anyway. Edward and Esme both looked at me in confusion until Edward cottoned on. His eyes widened briefly before he rolled them. I didn't know you were going to make an affair out of it, he said. I frowned. Even after our talk earlier this morning - it was almost dark now anything to do with this pregnancy had been making him grouchy. It was really starting to grate on my nerves. It's easier to tell everyone at once, I signed to him. When I looked back at Esme, I could see her eyeing Edward and I suspiciously. I suspected she'd already caught on to what the news would be, but didn't want to get her hopes too high, possibly. She got up to go find Carlisle - probably in his study - and it was only a few seconds later when a knock came to the door. Edward turned to look at it, and there was obvious shock and awe on his face. This was still all so new to him. I felt my annoyance slipping in spite of myself and I leaned in quickly to kiss him before I bounded toward the door. Alice's black hair was all I could see upon opening it, as she jumped on me first chance made available. The door wasn't even open all the way yet. "I'm so excited!" she squealed. "It'll be cool for them to know!" Over her head, I saw the rest of the gang - Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper - looking very bewildered. I guess that Alice had given them pretty vague answers when I'd called her earlier, asking her to please inform everyone to get over here for an announcement. Rene wasn't coming though because she wasn't even in Phoenix right now. She'd come back for me when Edward was in his coma, but currently she was residing indefinitely with her new baseball playing boyfriend, Phil. I'd have to call her cell phone later. "Go to the living room," she ordered everyone, forcing them to march inside. "You too Jaz," she said warningly as he paused, obviously looking to stay near her. He gave her a look but turned anyway to amble into the living room. "So," Alice whispered excitedly to me, making me lean over sideways so she could speak directly into my ear. "How'd Eddie boy take it?" I frowned, staring at the ground. Alice's eyes widened. "That expressiondoesn't look too hopeful" she said nervously.

I looked up at her, apprehensive. "I don't really know how to explain how he took it - how he's taking it," I confessed. "At first he wouldn't talk to me about it, then he asked if I was ready, and I said yes, and he said okay too, but now he's being really moody. If I didn't know any better, I'd think he's the pregnant one. I don't really know what's up, but he'll just smile and say he's happy when I ask." "Hmm" Alice's expression turned serious as she stared at the floor too. Finally, she just shrugged. "I don't really know what that is either," she said. "But you only told him yesterday, right? I'd wait a little while before you start freaking out and I have to step in and do some damage control." I smirked half-heartedly and shook my head as I turned and walked back to the living room, sitting next to Edward again. It looked like Emmett was trying to talk to him, but he was ignoring him steadfastly. I laced my fingers through his and smiled at him. He did too, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. I turned back to look at everybody else, who were staring at us. Or, me, specifically. "So what's up Bella?" Rosalie asked, leaning into Emmett as he wrapped an arm around her. I glanced over at Alice, who had come to sit next to me on the couch. I wasn't allowed to talk, and this announcement would be better out loud. And I could see Alice pretty much imploding from all her pent up excitement. I caught her eye and motioned to her to have the honors. "Really?" she gasped, her eyes lighting up even more, if that was at all possible. I nodded, grinning. "Woo! Alright guys," Alice said ecstatically. "You guys ready for the news?" "Yeesssss already!" Emmett boomed. "I hate you guys and your 'suspense' tactics." I smirked, and Alice giggled. "Okay" she held her breath a moment, watching with smug satisfaction as everyone leaned forward just a little bit. "Bella...is...pregnant!"

"Wow Bella," Rosalie said for the umpteenth time. "Pregnant. I can't believe it! I'm so happy for you!" She laughed and hugged me again. "I'm totally going to steal your baby. I want one so bad." We were all standing in the kitchen currently, about an hour after Alice had broke the news. It was just us girls. Esme and Alice combined had decided to separate the genders, and so the males remained bonding and talking in the living room. I'd gotten hungry though, along with the rest of the women, so we had congregated here. "Thanks Rose," I said dryly, sipping water. "That's reallycomforting." Everybody giggled. "Do you think it's going to be a boy or a girl?" Alice pondered out loud, dancing on the balls of her feet. I shrugged. "I'm not sure. And I don't know which one I want either. They've both got their pros and cons. A boy would be a cute." I smiled dreamily at the mental picture. "A miniature Edwardaw" Rose wrinkled her nose. "Why would you want a boy? They're annoying. I grew up with brothers, and they're not fun, trust me. They drove my mother insane."

"Well, Emmett was a pretty good child," Esme stated. "Though he's always been a bit of troublemaker but Edward was an angel." "Emphasis on the 'was'," Alice smirked. "Do you guys have any eggs?" I asked suddenly. "I so want an omelet right now." "Sure honey," Esme smiled. "Coming right up." "And so it begins" Rosalie said, her voice mystic. Our conversation began to veer away from baby talk after that, which was a bit of relief. It'd been getting a tad overwhelming. We ended up all having breakfast for dinner, sitting there and chatting. I took myself out of the conversation many times, wondering how Edward was faring. He'd looked pretty uncomfortable when I'd first left. My only hope was that maybe he'd tell his father or brother or friend what was really bothering himsince he didn't seem too inclined to share with me. My thoughts took a mix of anger and sorrow. I snapped back into the conversation when I heard Edward's name. "I think Edward will make an adorable father," Esme said, smiling fondly. "I'll bet he's the type that spoils. He loves to do that to you as it is," she said to me, chuckling. I smiled back at her, though it took more force than before. Esme noticed, but she misinterpreted it. "So" she started, her voice turning maternal. "Are you scared dear? Of parenthood? It's a big responsibility." I actually seriously pondered her question, since I hadn't even asked that to myself yet, really. "I'mnervous," I said slowly. "Ah," Esme smiled. "Don't be. You and my son will make great parents." I looked down, nodding. "Yeah" I murmured. "But no. I'm not afraid. Not at all." I could've said why, but it would've been hokey out loud. Even if he wasn't being the most helpful, right now, Edward had always guided me, helped me overcome my fears. When I was with him, I didn't really have to be scared of anything. He was my protector.

The eleven year old girl sat in the tent, hugging her knees and listening to the sounds of crickets chirping, and twigs snapping in the surrounding, dark woods. She hated camping. She really, really did. The only reason she came was because her best friend had asked her too, and they did everything together. But it was scary out here in the dark. Darkness wasn't a fear she'd conquered yet. And she really had to pee. And the restroom cubicle things were a ways down the little dirt road near their camp, surrounded by black trees and the unknown hidden in impenetrable shadows. Bella's gaze shifted to the dozing body next to her, his young bronze hair hiding his face as he laid on his stomach. Bella scooted closer, hating the impossibly loud noise of the rough canvas rustling. She took the lamp that was near her and turned it to it's very lowest setting. Edward shifted in his sleep and snuggled deeper into his sleeping bag. Putting a hand on his shoulder, Bella began to shove him roughly awake.

"Hmm...hmmm?" Edward hummed as he shot awake, the most adorable, confused, and sleep-ridden expression on his pale face. His eyes switched sporadically to different things before landing on Bella. He rubbed his eyes with the back of his hand, sniffing, and raised an eyebrow at her. I have to go to the bathroom, she signed to him. Will you please come with me? It's really dark. He breathed in deeply and let it out in a gust before throwing the sleeping bag off of him. He nodded at her, his eyes still drooping with sleep as he stood up in a crouch, yawning. I'm sorry, she told him, looking down. He smiled at her. It's fine. Let's go. They unzipped the tent and tripped out of it, Edward holding the lantern. He grabbed Bella's hand, and she was grateful, since she would probably fall more than once on such unstable ground, in the dark no less. Noises came from the shadows, rustlings. The hooting of owls, movement upon the ground, the high pitched buzz of different flying bugs. Bella gulped and sunk into her best friend's side as they walked along the road, seeing many different scary things moving in the corners of her eyes, only to disappear as soon as she turned to stare directly, her heart racing and jumping the whole time. Edward wrapped his arm around her, keeping her secure, and rubbing her arm. Her tiny arms latched onto his thin waist in a death grip, and she knew that there'd be no way she could do this without him here. The dark hid many, many things that could hurt you. The actual probability that something would, though, was lost to her young, eleven year old, fear-ridden mind. To Bella's relief, they reached the bathroom miraculously unscathed. She turned to face Edward in the fluorescent light on the outside of the building. She was feeling a lot more secure, because she could see cars near by. Thanks, she signed, her face fervent. How aren't you scared though? He grinned at her before leaning in to kiss her forehead. If I'm scared, then how am I supposed to take care of you, and guide you through the dark? He smiled at the sky. You actually make me braver.

That wasan ordeal , Edward signed before he collapsed at the kitchen table of our home. Andloud. I didn't sit down, but stood in front of him instead, looking down with my arms crossed. After a few minutes of holding the position, Edward finally glanced up at me. What? he asked, surprised. I pinched the bridge of my nose between my thumb and index finger, releasing an agitated breath. What's going on Edward? I demanded. What's bothering you? And cut the crap of 'nothing', please. He looked up at me in surprise before turning his face downward, his expression darkening. It doesn't matter, he signed. There's nothing I can do now about it anyway.

I put my hand under his chin and roughly yanked it upward, making him meet my furious gaze. What! I signed, making the motion as aggressive as possible. What the fuck is bothering you! For the love of Sexy Jesus, will you just tell me! He stared at me evenly. You don't want to know. My jaw dropped open in shock and anger. If I was speaking I would've been spluttering. Like hell I don't! My brows pulled together angrily. Tell. Me. His jaw locked, but he kept my gaze. Fine, he started, his stare cold. But I warned you. I waited. His eyes shifted to the wall behind me for a few moments before he returned my gaze. I don't think we should have this baby.

Sacrifice still exists everywhere, and everywhere the elect of each generation suffers for the salvation of the rest. Henri Frederic Amiel His eyes shifted to the wall behind me for a few moments before he returned my gaze. I don't think we should have this baby. The world spun a little bit, before righting itself quickly. My stomach churned, and I could do nothing but drop my hand in shock, the weight of denial filling it and making it too heavy to continue holding up. I refused to believe the words that had just been told to me. There was absolutely no way... Surely I'd just read the signs wrong. I mean, one subtle move of the hand placement, one opposite position could change the whole meaning. I'd just read wrong. Yes, that was it. It had to be. But I couldn't really allow myself to give into that dream; my logic was too much for my dreadful wishing. He stared at me, watching my reaction, while I tried to get my mind working again. I closed my jaw and swallowed heavily a few times. I just...I couldn't believe this. Edward had just said that. Edward! He was supposed to be the one I counted on the most, the one who was always by my side, helping me out, supporting me. I could do nothing but ask, ...What? I don't think we should have this baby, he repeated, never taking his eyes from mine. Something flashed through the green, but I was too wrapped around my shock to decipher it. I know what you said, I signed, feeling blank for a moment as I analyzed the reactions of my body. There was something coating my throat, a taste of acid in my mouth. I took me a moment to realize that that was the familiar taste of fury. How dare he. Howdare heeven say that! And especially now? I just don't why, I continued, wishing I could curl my hands into fists and hiss through my teeth. Or how.

My jaw clenched as I waited for what would have to be the best fucking answer that anybody in the world has ever given another person. Anything less would result in a catacalysmic disaster. Maybe I was reacting wrong. Maybe I should be crying right now. But that'd probably come after, if his reason was something stupid, yet still something I couldn't change his mind about. Because, he started, his jaw clenched as well. That kid has a good chance of being fucked up. I rolled my eyes, anger making me juvenile. Yeah, and every other kid on this planet, Edward. What's so different here? He stared at me like I was missing something very obvious. His expression turned sarcastic. Oh, I don't know, he began. Just the fact that the baby has a high chance of being born deaf. Have you even thought about that? Oh. I could feel the shock on my face. It sufficiently washed out all my anger. Because it was a very good reason. No...I hadn't thought about it. Not at all. It hadn't even crossed my mind. I wondered how that was possible, how I had overlooked that fact. I came up with nothing. Something shifted in the dynamic of the arguement; I could feel it, but I ignored it. I didn't even give myself time to think, time for his message to sink in, before I started again. I refused to lose this. I couldn't. So? I asked, but then I dropped my hands. I could've continued: could've said that he had been born deaf and turned out fine; and to an outsider, that would've seemed like a great, agruement-winning answer. But to me though, and to him...that was possibly the most stupid, irrational, ignorant thing I had ever said. Nothing I could follow that with would make it better. Edward's eyes were near black with suppressed fury as he slowly stood up from the table. I had the decency to look ashamed, but I didn't take a step back. I had no reason to be afraid of him. So? he repeated, his mouth a straight, thin line. So? My throat felt tight and constricted, and I kept my arms hanging loosely at my sides as I stared at the floor. That word rang around my head like self-flagellation. He shook his head, in disgust or fury or both, and just left the room, heading in the direction of the bedroom. I did not blame him. If I were him, I couldn't be around me right now either. This is why I should think before I should speak. I am such a fool. Of course, it was now, now that I had hurt him and reminded him of that thin, nearly-transparent-but-still-there wall that had always been between us - between him and everybody else, for that matter that I could see his side.

The eleven year old girl and her best friend were lounging around his room early one morning, reading the best mystery/horror books - in their young minds - the world could offer: The Goosebumps series. The young girl went through books like water, loving to complete them in the same reading session that she started them in. So it was no surprise that even though they'd only been

laying down, reading, for two hours, she was almost at the end of the story when Esme walked in. Hey you two, she smiled as they both looked up at her curiously, Bella placing Attack of the Jack O'Lanterns carefully in front of her, marking the page. Do you want to go for a picnic today? Her best friend nodded enthusiastically, throwing down The Horror at Camp Jellyjam as he jumped up from the bed, running to his dresser to pull out some real clothes - he hadn't changed from his pajamas, as there had been no real reason to do so. Bella nodded too, far more calmly, and went to her overnight bag to get some real clothes to change into as well. Already, she spent the night over so often an overnight bag was becoming less and less necessary. Esme smiled and left while they got ready to go. The sun was shining brightly in the pale blue sky; gargantuan, fluffy white clouds peppered the blue individually and in huge packs, always leaving a circle of respect around the sun, allowing it to continue it's hot yellow-white glow. It was a sky from a painting - a picture that brings artists to their knees in awe, and their hands to their paint sets faster than the earth can move. Trees spread everywhere; sometimes they were thin, sparse specimens of foliage, and sometimes they were huge, towering oaks. The park was scattered with grassy meadows, but there were always enough trees to surround them with shade. The playground was separate, on more sandy ground. This was a park on the outskirts of town. It wasn't technically a park so much; a lot people did their camping here. But it had a playground, so people considered it both. The grass was thick and lush, and sounds of children's happy cries and laughter rang out in the still morning air. A big smile was etched on Bella's face as she followed Esme, Carlisle, Emmett, Alice, and her best friend to a spare bench in some shade. Oh, how she wished this big, loving family was hers. The most she could do was tag along. Carlisle and Esme sat down as Alice pushed Emmett quickly, yelling "Tag!" and shrieking with laughter as he growled and ran after her. Emmett had only just gotten started with middle school, so playing tag and being seen with his family wasn't mortifying yet. Bella and Edward smiled at each other and chased after them, silently entering the game. Emmett swung around from chasing Alice to Bella, who had run tantalizingly near him, trying to egg him into chasing her. It worked. Bella laughed with delight and started running from the charging, burly boy, only to stumble on a root. The moment of weakness was enough. She got tagged. Emmett punched the air in triumph and quickly called out, "No tag backs!" as he ran off. Their running took them farther and farther away from Carlisle and Esme, and even the other parents and kids were starting to thin out. Bella threw herself at Alice's little form as she streaked passed her, and succeeded in hitting her arm. "Oh man!" Alice wailed, who had so far managed to keep herself from being tagged. Edward laughed out loud at her misery, and she turned on him, snarling. His eyes widened and then he was pelting away from her. But one doesn't mess with a little rage-filled pixie and go unpunished. He never stood a chance. She jumped on him, sending

him tumbling to the ground, before leaping delicately off. "You're it," she said simply, dusting her hands of the situation. Edward caught Bella's eye as he jumped to his feet. His eyes narrowed and he grinned devilishly. Bella gulped. She was his target. Without another thought she turned and started running as fast she could, keeping her eyes on the ground so she wouldn't trip. She hopped over the roots of an oak, and then they were running deeper into wooded area, shade all around them. Glancing over her shoulder once, Bella saw Edward hot on her heels, but none of the others in sight. Maybe they didn't feel like trying to keep up. Bella saw an end to the shade, a bright, sunny light ahead. She didn't get to make it quite that far though as she felt Edward's hand grip her shoulder, finally tagging her. Tired, panting, and defeated, Bella stopped abruptly when he touched her, expecting him to do the same; but he didn't, perhaps not anticipating the action. He ran into her, knocking them, tumbling, to the ground, causing them to yell and laugh, the momentum rolling them into the sunlight. Bella was on top when they stopped, still giggling. She rested her head on his chest a minute, smiling as she listened to his palpitating heart. She raised her eyes to meet his smiling ones briefly, before raising them higher. "Oh!" she gasped, scrambling to her feet, looking around in wide-eyed wonder. Edward stood up too, confused, before turning to stand up and face where she was looking. His eyes widened too. They had stumbled upon a meadow; a gorgeous, dazzling one. The gently swaying grass almost reached their knees, the wind blowing it to make it look like a rippling sea of wheatcolor and jade green. Bella walked slowly out into the center of the perfectly circular meadow, completely amazed. The sunshine coming down was a gorgeous butter-mellow, filling the whole place with sparkling magic and warmth. Wildflowers scattered the clearing, dots of color. Somewhere in the distance, Bella could hear an instrument. Perhaps a flute? It floated on the light breeze and completed the beauty, the sound mixing heavenly with the rustling leaves of the surrounding trees. Overtaken, Bella let out a joyful, carefree laugh and spun around with her arms straight out at her sides, before flopping down onto her back in the grass. She closed her eyes but could see sunshine through her lids. A lullaby came to her that her mother used to hum at night to help her drift to sleep. Bella sang it softly to the wind. You are my sunshine My only sunshine. You make me happy, When skies are gray. You'll never know dear, How much I love you Please don't takemy sun shineaway She opened her eyes again to see Edward staring down at her. A small smile was on her face, but there was none on his. From the angle the sun hit him, the top part of his face was immersed in shadow. Bella breathed in deeply. I wish you could hear the flute that's playing somewhere, she signed impulsively. Only after she was done did chagrin sweep through her. Oh, what a stupid thing to say

He nodded, his young face still dark. Me too, he signed. I wish a lot of things. I wish that I could hear you laugh. And that I could hear you sing. And that I could hear the wind. And that you could talk to me without your hands. And that people didn't pick on me because I can't hear. And that I could be in your classes instead of my different ones. I wish I could go to concerts when we're older, and hear actors on TV. But I can't. And I never will. ...That's life, I guess. Bella's mouth parted in sadness as she sat up, her eyes watering and filled with a want to make him feel better; make it all okay. She reached out for him, but he just shook his head. He backed up out of the clearing and into the darkness under the trees, glaring out at the sunshine.

The dark night surrounded me as I walked on the sidewalk. Yesterday had been a full moon, and so, today, only the stars made any light, expect for the occasional headlight or street lamp. After Edward had gone to the room, I just couldn't follow. I tried sitting back down, but I couldn't. All I could think about were Edward's words from so many years ago. He'd been so youngand filled with such an ancient sadness and insecurity that had aged him; easily seen in some moments more so than others. That was the thought and those were the words that propelled me out the door and to the sidewalk, where I walked to my destination. The place I came to think. The place I would've gone when Edward was in his coma, if I hadn't been so afraid to leave him. I paid the chain-link fence no more mind than I ever had. I swiftly climbed over it, the tips of my feet sticking expertly into the holes, years of experience making it easy to climb to the top and clamber awkwardly to the other side. At least I didn't rip my pants anymore, like I had the first time I'd ever tried this. I sighed. I'd come such a long way. There were mostly rocks and dirt underfoot as I walked through the open field, occasionally brown grass that would crackle satisfyingly at I stepped upon it. I tried doing that as much as possible, loving the sound and the feel. The swing creaked at me as it always did when I sat in it. Perhaps more rusty than it had been years ago, but still stable. I sighed and leaned my head uncomfortably on the thin chain, swinging a little. This placethis place where I sometimes came to when I had to cry. Where I had discussed mortality with Edward, where he had confessed his fears about his 'liability'this was a place of vulnerability. No wonder I had come here. And it was familiar in an unfamiliar time. Briefly, I could remember afternoons long past. The sun was bright, and the wind would blow in my air as I smiled and tried to swing higher. I held onto that feeling for as long as I could before it slipped away into the darkness. I liked the simplicity of it, so much better than what I was feeling now. Confused. Conflicted. Defeated. Insecure. Unsure. Only an hour ago I could have sworn that I would keep this baby no matter what. And now I was hesitating, doubting, rethinking. Where had my hasty, impulsive decisions ever gotten me? It got you Edward, a voice in my mind said, and I remembered that afternoon seven years ago on my bed after I'd gotten my head whammied twice, when I'd impulsively said that I loved him. But then again, even if I hadn't, it would have happened anyway, just at a later date; June 20th maybe

I sighed. I'd given up on determining right or wrong. There was just the world, and all the decisions you made in it. And consequences. Always consequences. Good or bad. But nothing was black and white anymore - had never been, really. But there were just so many more shades of gray than there used to be. The swing creaked next to me, and I gasped, turning my head so fast I got whiplash. I'd been so completely immersed in my thoughts, I'd left this world entirely. I rubbed my neck, grimacing at the pain but relaxing when I saw it was no one out to harm me. I think. By the look on his face, it was hard to tell. You didn't have to leave, he said, glaring. Even in the darkness, I could see his nostrils were flared. I shrugged, looking down. I know I didn't have to. Sorry. He breathed out sharply through his nose, pinching the bridge of it between his thumb and forefinger. Let me rephrase that, he signed. You shouldn't have left. I raised an eyebrow. And why not? He gave me a warning look. Oh, I don't know. He was sure sarcastic tonight. Maybe the fact that you are in a very deserted area. A very dark, deserted area. And you were so out of it, I could've kidnapped you or raped you and left before you even noticed anything happened. I rolled my eyes at his hyperbole, but couldn't ignore the truth of the words. Sorry, I signed again. I didn't mean to piss you off even more. His eyes tightened but he sighed. He reached toward me and I succumbed, standing up and moving to sit on his lap. I wrapped my arms tight around his neck as he wound an arm around my waist, swinging us back and forth a little bit. We were silent a long time, neither one of us communicating. It wasn't uncomfortable though; it rarely was. We were lost in our thoughts. Eventually, Edward stopped the slight rocking and kissed my forehead. I sat up, realizing that I'd been dozing a bit. Not quite dreaming, but reality had felt more glittery and less real. I'm sorry, Edward told me, his expression dark and sad. I'm so sorry. For everything. Edward, I signed back, my eyes pleading. Please don't. That's not helping anything. His hand touched my face lightly, and the look in his eyes was tortured. I should've thought that you'd want this one day. And that I couldn't give it to you. But you can, I pleaded. I wanted to see some way for this to work. We can. If I couldn't think of an if though. I had no idea what I was going to say. Edward shook his head. "Bella," he whispered. I know you've tried to understand me my whole life. And you do know my position, as far as you're able. But you can't really imagine thethe hopelessness, the anger and bitterness you feel when you have a disability. When everything in the world really is different from you, and you think that can't ever change. I wouldn't wish that upon my worst enemylet alone my own child. Could you do that to someone you love?

What about surgery, if worst came to worst? I asked desperately, clinging to anything. Isn't that what you were a test dummy for? He shook his head. You know as well as I do that that was only for healthy adults. Yes, eventually the child could have it, but that would be a whole childhood taken from true normality. My lower lip trembled as a tightness built in my throat. I gripped the front of his shirt in my fists as buried my face in his shoulder. I wanted to scream at him to stop saying those things. I wanted him to say that there was a good, justifiable reason to take the risk. I wanted him to say that having the baby would be a good idea. I wanted to scream that this wasn't fair! Some one change this! It's not fair! More than anythingI wanted him to be wrong. I wanted him to be wrong so badly. But he wasn't. And I knew that. And I also knew that now, I couldn't justify having this baby either.

I had a dream that night. In it, I was lying in bed, feeling distinctly delirious, and out of it. Sick. A little boy sat next to me, holding my hand. I couldn't see him, but instinctively I knew he was my own. I smiled weakly. He was talking to me aboutthings. Books, movies, TVhis voice was distorted, sometimes coming in louder than at other times, and I couldn't tell what it sounded like. His opinions seemed to mirror my own. My own. Little miniature. It made me happy. But he sounded sad when he spoke in his unintelligible voice. "Are you sad?" I began. "Because you won't know these things yourself?" "No." He was quiet. "Because it's hard to experience them. I can't hear." I realized then that we had never actually spoken in our conversation. How strange. And I wondered, truly, by fighting so hard, who was I trying to save here? Myself, or him? Only I would ever really heal. I woke up with silent tears pouring down my face. I didn't know if they had started during my dream or immediately after but I couldn't stop thinking about the dream. Edward, still awake, panicked when he saw me, desperately wiping my face with his thumbs, kissing my tears away. In his eyes, he looked as if he were being burned alive, and that only made my tears come down harder and faster. I'm sorry, he said again, a burning man face in place of his normal one. A sob built up in my throat but I choked it down. I'm so so sorry. I'm sorry. I clung on to him, too tired and overcome to tell him to stop, that it was alright. Because my dream had showed me, made me realize.

I was being incredibly selfish, plain and simple, the only thing that was. I wanted this child for my own desires. So I could have my own family. So that I could have Edward's child. So I could be mother, and have happy moments for myself. But this was so much more than me, and I understand Edward's position perfectly. I couldn't ruin my own child's life like that. Couldn't even risk the possibility. I wished desperately for a black and white world as I made Edward kiss me, distract me. Wished that there could be no gray in this world, just a clearly defined right and wrong. But as he had told me long ago, wishing did nothing. We could only deal with what was there. And that would never change.

One doesn't discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time. - Andre Gide The next morning I awoke early, so much so that it was still dark and there was that brief pause of silence between night and morning where everything just goes quiet. I didn't move, just laid curled into Edward. He was asleep, but I could see that even in his dreams, he was not at peace. His face was contorted, and he released random, pained grunts occasionally. Inadvertently, my hand went down to my stomach to calm myself as I watched him, and the action caused tears to prick at the corners of my eyes, threatening to fall onto my already tear-dried face. I had only known this strange little being for two months, unaware of it for the majority of that, but already I found myself falling deeper and deeper in love with it, though I knew that was dangerous water now. Oh, I'll miss you, little one that I have never known. You must never have existed, but the emptiness will be heavier now. I took a deep breath then, and I wiped my tears away, loosening Edward's grip and climbing out of bed. It hurt right now, but I would heal. We, as changing, moving creatures, always will. I hoped, though hopes and wishes seemed to occupy the same space of 'useless'. I walked into the kitchen but kept the lights off. I stood there in the darkness, waiting for some kind of hunger to ring out, grappling for attention in my mind. But there was not one single thing I could think of that I wanted to eat. Nothing to drink either. The thought of swallowing anything made me sick, and I just went over to sit on the couch in the living room, staring at nothing. I don't think I'd been there long when Edward finally walked out. It was still very dark outside. Glancing at a nearby clock I could see that it was almost six. I turned my head to watch him as he approached and was surprised to see that he was dressed for work. You're going in today? I asked, puzzled. It is Monday, he informed me, sitting down. And I'm off sick leave. I was still dazed. I shook my head. Sorry. I didn't even know what day it was. You didn't get that much sleep though, I noted, eyeing him doubtfully.

He shrugged. I've slept enough lately, I think. But I can stay if you want, he offered, rubbing his thumb over my hand briefly. I doubt they expect me to come back in this early anyway. I shook my head again. No, it's fine. I was just going to go to the clinic, and I wanted to do that alone anyway. He froze next to me. You're getting it done today? His forehead creased. I rose an eyebrow at him. What's waiting going to do? Yes, I'm getting it done today. But He paused, brow still furrowed. I was perplexed. Why was he suddenly trying to stall me? Perhaps he had thought we would plan this ahead of time, set a week early appointment. But I couldn't do that. I couldn't set a date and then just wait around for it. It was now or never. What about Esme and Carlisle? I thought we'd tell them first. It's fair to them, I think, to know, at least. Everybody else can wait though. I nodded. I'll tell them before I go. He was chewing on his tongue, I could see it. Okay. I'll take the day off then. No, that's alright, I assured him. I can do it on my own. He stared at me for several long, heavy moments, his expression unreadable. I glanced at the clock and saw that he was going to have to get going soon. It didn't seem like he was going to add anything else so I stood up and leaned down to kiss his lips. Have a good day, I told him sincerely, hoping that at least he would. Mine sure wasn't going to have any semblance to goodness. Still, I knew he'd be worrying and beating himself up too, so the chances of that were about as slim as my own. His mouth parted and something flashed through his eyes right as I was turning around. I still couldn't decipher what it was as I walked back up the stairs to our room and to the phone. I pulled out the phone book from the bottom of the night stand door after turning on the light and started flipping through it. I was mid-way through the B's when I realized what his expressions had meant. He thought I was excluding him purposefully from these things, that I was already distancing myself from him. That my departing line had been meant as sarcasticbitter, even. That, impossibly, this was the beginning of the end. And that wasn't true at all. I only wanted to do it alone because it really was easier that way, to me. It wasn't even him, personally. I didn't want anyone coming with me today. Esme and Carlisle might be easier if he were there, it's true, but that would mean he would inevitably come to the clinic with me. Somehow, he would manage it. And this was just something a woman has to do on her own. I had to, at least. With a gasp, I jumped off the bed and ran down the stairs, hoping that he was still here so I could tell him to his face that I wasn't mad, and I didn't hate him; not even close. But to my dismay, I saw that he was already gone. The house was very still, and very silent. Dawn was barely beginning to crack, only little bits of blue light reaching inside the darkness of this home. I couldn't really hear outside, and the air began to feel so much heavier than it actually was to my lungs. My hormones started acting up again and I slumped against the wall, pressing my fists to my eyes as tears escaped. I knew I was being dramatic, but I couldn't resist wondering why everything felt like it was falling apart.

I took in a few deep, shuddering breaths and wiped my eyes as I walked back up the stairs, wrapping my arms around myself. The phone book was sitting on the bed as I'd left it, and I sniffed a bit as I finished flipping through the pages to the phone number I needed. I dialed the number and waited a few rings for somebody to pick up. "Hello, this is Camelback Family Planning, how can I help you today?" came a receptionist's voice. "Um, hi," I said glumly. "I need to make an appointment for a umfor today." "M'kay sweetie, what time were you looking for?" I sighed and rubbed my forehead. "Sometime later this morning, possibly. Please." "Alright" she said in the voice of someone scanning through a list on a computer. "Hmm well we don't have any openings for this morning, I'm afraid to say, but we have an appointment for 2:40 if you're interested." I thought about it quickly before nodding. "That'll work." "Name?" "Bella Cullen." "Alright, you're all set. You're appointment is for 2:40. Have a nice day." How ironic. "Yeah, thanks, you too," I said dully, before hanging up. I set the phone down and dropped my face into my hands. What to do now? I glanced up at the bed stand clock and saw that it was barely seven. I didn't really feel like visiting dear old mother and father-in-law yet, since I was dreading it. With a defeated sigh, I slumped against the covers and decided to get a few more hours of sleep.

Blinding light. Surgical masks. Blurred faces. Sharp glints. A pain, far, far below. An androgynous scream, resounding. With a gasp, I sat up, covered in a cold sweat, snapped from my dream. I rubbed my chest frantically as I shook my head violently to rid of the sounds and images. Sleep - it wasn't my best idea. I took a few deep, gulping breaths and wiped my sweaty hair from my eyes. With a hard swallow, I looked over at the time. 10:48. About time to start getting ready to go visit Esme and Carlisle anyway. Good. The shower I took was short, but scalding. Moisture built up on the mirror, and I didn't bother wiping it away to see myself when I stepped out. I just towel dried my hair and threw on jeans and a t-shirt. The day was bright, as usual. It wasn't cloudless, but none of them were dark. I walked along the streets, feeling the dry heat consume me. I usually loved walking everywhere when Edward had tried getting me a car, I had refused. Why did I need a car when everywhere was close enough to walk to? It was the city, after all. And if it was too far, I could just take the bus. He didn't like that too much, but I just shrugged it off. I was starting to reconsider though. I might need a car sometimes, like today. I didn't feel much like walking. The Cullens' house loomed in front of me when I approached in a way that it hadn't since I was very little. I gulped a bit as I started up the sidewalk, eyeing the front door fearfully. Oh, this was going to be hard.

I knocked timidly and stood there, feeling my palms sweat. I couldn't see them being okay with this - Esme especially. But it wasn't their decision. I had to keep telling myself that. The woman in question opened the door, and smiled once she saw me. "Bella!" she said cheerfully. "Come in dear." Oh so hard. I stepped in the door and stood next to her as she closed it. "Where's Edward?" Esme asked conversationally, leading the way into the kitchen, where I could see that she was in the middle of making some kind of pastry. I shrugged. "Work," I said, pulling out a chair and sitting down. This was a bit easier. At least she wasn't looking directly at me. Yet. "Where's Carlisle?" "Same," she laughed, and I resisted the urge to smack myself. Of course, I had forgotten that other people had lives too. "I'm surprised though. I didn't expect Edward to go back so soon." "Me neither," I confided. "Well," she smiled, her eyes twinkling. "Maybe he's trying to get as much practice with kids as he can, eh? Before it's his turn." She beamed to herself as she kneaded dough, and my hands turned to ice. I stuck them in the pockets of my jeans quickly, as if I expected them to start growing icicles, giving me away. "So, is this visit strictly a social call or what? Yesterday you brought such good news. I'm almost scared." She laughed. "I don't know how much more news we can take." I laughed weakly. "YeahWell it's not strictly a social call" She waited patiently while I paused, unsure of how to continue. How does one continue? Like I always had? Just spitting it out? I couldn't really think of any other way to do it. "We" I took a deep breath. "We're notactuallyWell, we decided thatwe're notgoing to ermgoing to keep it," I mumbled. I was afraid to look up at her face, so I just kept my head down-turned, but I could hear that she had stopped mid- what she was doing. "W-why?" she asked, stunned. I swallowed. "Because," I whispered. "There's a high chance that it could end up deaf. And we don't want to do that to it." She walked around and sat in the chair across from my. "Oh honey," she said sadly. "I know you're both concerned, but really, the chance of that isn't all that much higher than it is for anybody else." "But it is higher," I argued quietly. She shook her head. "There's always a risk sweetie," she told me. "Always. The process of making another human being is so delicate, truly it's an act of wonder that there's not as many mistakes as it seems that there should be." I took in a deep breath. "Edward described it to me," I said. "And miracle or not, I don't think that's a risk we can really take. We can really inflict." She sighed, resting her head on her arms. "Well, Lord knows I'll never really know what it's been like to be him," she whispered. "Good life or not, accepting of it or not, I know he's always hated it." She sighed again. "It's not my choice. I know that. But I wouldn't abort

the child. Well couldn't is the more accurate term. But you'll just have to do what you think is right." "I wish there was some kind of test I could take," I whispered. "But nothing's certain until it's already been born." She nodded, and we were quiet for a time. "How did you decide?" I suddenly asked. "To have kids, even with the risk?" She laughed outright out of surprise. "Actually," she said. "We never even thought of any risk. I mean, on my side, my uncle was deaf. And on Carlisle's, hisgrandmother, I believe, was. But it just didn't even seem like something that could effect us. And Emmett was fine. You can't believe how it took us by surprise to have the twins and realize that one of them couldn't hear." "Hmm" she mused. "I've always wondered how that made Alice feel. We all know she helps him a lot, probably would've more if you hadn't filled the position, and I know a good part of it is because she loves him, obviouslybut I always wonder if it's also because she feels guilty." My brow furrowed. "I dunno," I muttered. "I never actually thought of it like that before. She's never said anything, in any case." We were quiet again for a long time before she finally spoke. "When are you getting it done?" she asked hollowly. "Today," I whispered. I glanced at the clock and saw that it was almost two. "In about an hour." "So soon?" she asked, shocked. "Don't you want to wait a little while?" I looked her in the eyes for the first time, and I could feel the sorrow in my own. "How can I wait?" I asked miserably, and I knew she could understand why. She got up and hugged me tightly as I cried.

I jumped off the bus when I arrived at the clinic and took a deep breath, wrapping my arms around myself. Standing in the parking lot, and I could see there was the usual lone protester. I rolled my eyes as she chanted about how unholy this place and all of us were as I walked inside. I could understand people's position on it, I could, but bully for them. They didn't have to get an abortion if they didn't want one. It wasn't really their place to say nobody else couldn't though. Unless they were willing to be personally responsible for every single child getting aborted, and then they could say whatever they wanted, because at least then they were actually doing something. I walked through the doors, and froze. Oh no. The dreaded waiting room, the clinical feel, the sterile air. So much like a hospital. I hated hospitals. They were always places of despair to me. I sighed and trudged up to the counter. "Bella Cullen," I said dully. "I have an appointment." The receptionist scanned a chart real quick and nodded, picking up a clipboard and pushing it toward me. "Fill that out please, and bring it back." I nodded and went to sit down. Slowly, I began filling out the required boxes. I shifted uncomfortably in the stupid waiting room seats. There was a brown, low table in the middle of them, with a few old magazines on it. I don't think that was really going to help anyone here. There were a few other women waiting around dully, and even a man who was no doubt the husband of one of the

women probably getting the procedure done. He was tapping his nails on the side of the chair, and bouncing his foot, checking his watch repeatedly. Ah. I was well aware of those signs of waiting. The air was cold, and odorless. My palms started to sweat, and I shifted again. Feeling listless, I glanced up from filling out the chart and glanced outside the clear panes at the entrance, observing the outside world. As I watched, a kid on a skateboard skated past, a determined look upon his face. A little ways up ahead, there was a bench, and as he was just a few inches from it he leaped up, bounding over it while his skateboard went under. He landed on top of it when it emerged a few seconds later, and though he wobbled a bit, he managed to stay on. He raised his arms in a triumph, letting out what I was sure was a joyful cry if you could hear it. I smiled a little as I remembered my skateboarding practices. I had certainly never gotten so good as that. Edward had been good at it though, when he used to do it. It had always seemed like such a risk to me, but he'd taken bigger ones.

The sixteen year old girl sat at the beach house in California that her best friend's family had rented for a few weeks that summer. She resided on the porch, immersed in the shade in her cut-offs and a spaghetti strap, reading a book. The salty ocean air blew a breeze around her, and she wore a small smile upon her face. Edward sat next to her, bored. She turned her head toward him eventually after his sixth exaggerated sigh. You can go play at the beach with everybody else, you know, she signed annoyed. I'm not forcing you to sit here. He rolled his eyes. I'm not going to leave you, you know that, he signed, before dropping his chin to his fist. "Ugh!" she said exasperatedly, throwing her arms up in the air. Fine! What do you want to do? He considered, placing a finger to his chin thoughtfully. Let's go for a walk. There's lots of cool things around here. Can't wait, she signed sarcastically, setting her book down carefully and shaking out her hair. Let's go. They headed down the steps and took a right, bypassing the beach where the rest of the family laughed and played in the water and on the sand. As they walked, their hands brushed until eventually Edward took her hand in his own gently. The girl blushed, but shook her hair around her face so he wouldn't see her small, happy smile. There was forest of brush and palm trees lining the ocean and they walked through it, following the path. Bella noticed they were starting to go uphill a little bit, and was glad for her friend's steady grip so she didn't fall over anything. The incline started to even out, and stepping away from the palm tree forest, they could see that they had reached cliffs. "Oh" Bella said. Esme wouldn't be very happy if she knew we were here. Edward grinned at her. Well, what she doesn't know won't hurt her. She rolled her eyes. You rebel you.

He smiled as he let her go and started walking toward the edge, looking down at the ocean below. Surprisingly, there weren't any rocks, really. And there was a shore as well. Bella peeked over the edge curiously. You want to go down there? she asked. He looked over at her a minute, before his mouth curled up in her favorite crooked grin. Sure. He stepped toward the edge of the precipice. No you idiot! she signed scathingly, feeling a small under current of panic. That's not what I meant. I meant that we could walk down. But this looks like so much more fun, he grinned. She scowled. Yeah, it's going to be a real freaking fun fest when you're dead. He rolled his eyes. "Bella." Cut the dramatics. It's fine. Besidessometimes you just got to He backed up toward the very verge of the outcropping, and Bella's eyes widened. Take a risk. She watched as he turned around and jumped off the edge.

In this world, there will always be a good reason to not do that which you want. And there will always be a reason why you should. So I guess what it comes down to is choosing the path you can live with. And most of the time, that's determined by what makes you happy. What else do we live for if not self satisfaction? No matter how we might obtain it. I threw the clipboard at the counter as I ran past, but other than that, I made no communication that I was leaving; didn't formally cancel my appointment. I just had to go. I didn't bother with the bus. How many times had I run through the streets of this city? I could do it again. I didn't feel heavy like earlier, or frozen. My limbs stretched like the toned muscles they were, pumping me along the sidewalk faster. The gray-white substance below my feet blurred with my speed, and I felt like I was flying. The effect was ruined when I tripped a couple times, but I kept my pace. Sometimes that was at the risk of innocent bystanders though, if I couldn't swerve fast enough. I got honked at plenty of times as well, for not bothering to pay attention to traffic. I'm sure I was almost hit multiple occasions, but I couldn't bring myself to pay attention. I was focused on one destination. I saw the school approaching and though I was panting, I didn't slow down. On the contrary, I pushed myself faster, hoping that he was still there. I burst through the double doors of the building and flew along the corridors. It struck me after that I should've just checked the parking lot to see if the car was even here, but too late now. I found the right room that belonged to him, and opened it. "Argh!" I cried out, frustrated, as I looked upon the empty room. I slumped against the door frame, breathing heavily, my throat parched. Damn. I looked at the time and saw that it was almost 3:20. He usually stayed after, even to this time, but of course not today. Oh well. I'd just go home then. He'd be there eventually, if he wasn't already. I walked home this time, worn out now. The run had been refreshing though. I'd have to do that again, sometime. It was liberating. When I reached home I bounced through the door, determined. I didn't know what I was going to do, really, if Edward wouldn't come around to my thinking, and I didn't want to think about that too much. But Esme had been wrong. I couldn't do what I thought was right. I had to do what I could live with. And those weren't necessarily synonymous.

This could be a mistake. This could be the worst mistake of my life. But I would take it, regardless. To my relief, Edward sitting there at the kitchen, his elbows resting on his knees. He looked up when I walked in, his eyes wide. His hair looked disheveled, like he'd been running his fingers through it. "Bella," he said hoarsely, standing up. I think we made a mistake. I paused, looking at him, confused. What? He shook his head. I think we made a mistake. I think we should've kept the kid. I think we should've tried. He ran his hand through his hair again, swallowing heavily. I raised an eyebrow, crossing my arms briefly. Well now is a great time to realize that. He swallowed, closing his eyes. I know. I'm sorry. It was just one of my kidsI couldn't leave early enough to stop you. I tried to find you, but you weren't at the clinic...He pressed his eyes into the palm of his hands, leaning against the kitchen counter. Oh, this is all so messed up. I grinned, feeling relief wash through every part of me. I stayed still a moment, enjoying the feeling. I breathed in deep. Not quite, I signed even though he wasn't looking, stepping up to him and removing his hands. He looked at me quizzically, his eyes still dark and troubled. I smiled at him. I didn't get it. He stared at me, his mouth dropped a little. He blinked. Seriously? I gave him a look. No, I'm lying. We stared at each other a few long moments before he finally broke out in the biggest, truest smile I'd seen since he'd awoken from his coma. That's great! he laughed, picking me up and spinning us. I smiled too, and I knew that I'd made the right decision. Are you scared? I asked when he set me down, though still holding me tightly. He breathed out a laugh, shaking his head slightly. Scared? I'm absolutely terrified. This could be the biggest mistake we've ever made. You? Same, I beamed. I couldn't help smiling at him. I felt so much lighter than before, so much happier. This had to be right, if only for that fact. He leaned forward and kissed me soundly, winding a hand into my hair and rubbing my back with his other one. I sighed happily when he broke away. "I love you," I breathed, closing my eyes as I leaned my forehead against his. I gasped then, realizing what I had done, and opened my widened eyes to see his looking similar.

22.Never Ending Stars

I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.

Gilda Radner "I love you," I breathed, closing my eyes as I leaned my forehead against his. I gasped then, realizing what I had done, and opened my widened eyes to see his looking similar. There was a moment of complete stillness where all we did was stare at each other, the shock of the moment keeping us frozen in these seconds. Finally, Edward inhaled a deep, shuddering breath, his eyes still wide as he stared at me. His grip on my waist became even tighter - almost uncomfortably so. I dropped my eyes in disgrace, blood burning in my cheeks. He'd woken up just barely three days agohe was still getting used to sounds. He had asked me to not ruin this for him. And I just did. I knew I didn't deserve it, but I still looked up at him anyway from under my eyelashes, pleading silently for him to forgive me. Only he didn't look angry. On the contrary, he looked awed. "Bella" he whispered, raising a slightly trembling hand to my cheek, caressing it softly. I leaned in to it willingly, though I was still confused. I'm sorry Edward, I signed, leaning back a little. I didn't mean to It was his turn to look confused, before his brow furrowed. He retracted his hand from my face. Don't be. ButI ruined it for you, I signed, still ashamed. He shook his head before he leaned forward, kissing my neck softly. His lips elicited that familiar tingle deep within my chest that spread rapidly throughout my whole body. Not possible, he told me when he pulled away, his eyes gentle, swimming with love. Not at all. How do you say 'perfect'? I was startled for a minute, taking in what he was asking me to do. I bit my lip, feeling shy for some reason. "Oh," I murmured. I took a deep breath and then said it slowly, letting him see how to do it, like so many years ago when I taught him my name. This was easier though. And a lot faster. "Per-fect." He nodded, closing his eyes as he leaned back down to kiss my neck again. I heard him mumbling it under his breath, getting it right. He messed up a few times, trying out the sounds. "Ppah," I felt him shake his head, his lips still working wonders to turn me into a trembling mess, as his hands ran up and down my body slowly. I was remaining on my feet only by grasping onto his shoulders tightly, my nails digging into his skin. "Erfffeh..ct." He finally nodded, satisfied, pulling away my neck. I took in a deep breath, only to have his lips transition over to my face. "You," he whispered, kissing one cheek languidly. "Are" He kissed the other one. I didn't question where he learned it. Probably when the guys were talking the other night. "Perfect." He kissed my lips this time, and I swear I truly did melt. I locked my arms around his neck, the only support I had besides his grip on my waist, and whimpered into his mouth. He inhaled sharply at that, breaking away but not going far, his face only an inch from my own. I opened my eyes to see his own green ones darkening, mouth parted as he breathed heavily.

He pulled back a little bit more to sign, That sound wasHe shook his head, closing his eyes. When he opened them again, they were near black. I'll make you do it again, he promised seriously, and my breath hitched as he crashed his lips onto mine, scooping me up. I wrapped my legs around his waist automatically, tightly securing myself there. His tongue slipped into my mouth, and my hands came up to entangle into his hair, letting him support my weight. "Bedroom," I gasped when he gave me a second to breathe, and pointed upstairs. He got the message, beginning his stumbling, unmindful way to the stairs, as neither of us were willing to stop the ferocious attack on the other's mouth for any amount of time. I have no idea how he managed to get us up the stairs or to the room, but I had long since stopped asking myself how he did half the amazing things he did. It wasn't an easy journey though. There were quite a few walls that got paused at and got pushed up against. I was pressed against the door to our bedroom currently, and I knew it was going to be my duty to get it open. My hand grappled frantically across the wood, looking for the handle as my husband sucked on my neck. With a wild gasp, I finally found it and twisted it open roughly, falling through. Edward kicked it shut when we were inside and strode quickly over to the bed, throwing me down on it. "Bella.." he whispered, brushing his lips all over my face adoringly. "Edward," I moaned back, clutching him tightly, and he groaned. He kissed my swollen lips firmly once before pulling away. "Ahh" I whimpered softly, hating the loss of contact, reaching desperately for him. He smiled, his eyes flashing mischeviously. How do you say 'scream'? My mouth dropped open in shock, and I stared at him, blinking; astonished. He remained kneeling where he was, waiting for me to speak. And that was when it hit me he really expected me to teach him. I blushed furiously. Obviously there'd never been anything close to dirty talk in our relationship. I knew that this wasn't exactly "dirty talk" but still Well? he asked, impatient but amused. I gulped a few times, my face still violently red. I could feel the intense heat on my face and neck. That is so becoming, he grinned. I don't think I mention that enough. Anyway, continue. "S-scream," I mumbled. His smirk became more pronounced. Sorry? I didn't quite catch that. "Scream," I said a bit louder, embarrassment making me belligerent, and I looked him right in the eyes as I said it. He laughed and dropped back down to kneel over me on his hands and knees, his hands on either side of my head, taking my bottom lip into his mouth and sucking. While his mouth was occupied, his moved his hands to make quick work of my t-shirt, lifting it up easily with years of experience behind him. I sat up a bit so he could take it off, and he started trying out the new word under his breath as he unhooked my bra; his strong, muscled back rippling as he bowed over me, his sweet breath fanning warmly over the skin of my chest, his lips brushing it too. My jeans went next while I unbuttoned his shirt, and pushed off his trousers and boxers simultaneously.

It'd been over two weeks since I'd last felt him within me, and my body was craving him: badly. And especially with all the worry and anxiety that the last two weeks had been filled withI needed this. Needed this bliss, this relief, this pleasure. Needed him to make love to me. "Edward," I breathed in a moaning prayer as his lips grazed over my breasts, his tongue flicking out and tasting the soft skin there as his hands massaged them as well. He let out a hum of approval at that, the vibration tantalizing on my skin. I rolled us over, gently pushing him until I was on top this time. I slid down so our faces were level again and I kissed him gently, enjoying the feeling of my naked body pressed against his. His hands roamed all over my shoulders, back, behind, thighs, sides. Anywhere he could reach. Slowly, I started to sit up a little bit so I could begin kissing his chest, laving all the indents with my tongue, enjoying the taste of natural sweetness from his skin, and salt from the light sheen of sweat starting to form. I reached my hand down to stroke his length, and he shuddered, a groan escaping him, but he pulled me back up, rolling us over again. He shook his head as he sat up some. No. I want to hear you. I want to hear every sound you make when I touch you. I blushed, but shivered in excitement. He kissed his way down the center of my chest, nipping lightly along the way, doing the things he already knew that I enjoyed very much. I let out a soft, pleasured cries whenever his teeth met my flesh, and his grip would become tighter on where ever he was touching my body. His lips reached my stomach, and he paused, gliding a soft, gentle hand over it before planting a sweet kiss over my navel. I giggled a little, my stomach automatically lifting a bit. He looked up at me, his mouth parted, his eyes widened in wonder again. His expression softened into a smile. I love that sound, he signed briefly, before continuing on his journey down my body. When he reached the heat between my legs, I was already wet, I could feel it. I was trembling with anticipation, my hands gripping the sheets tightly. He knew I was loud during this particular act. I was already aching and dripping for him and I knew he knew it; I could even smell it, and he was much closer to the source. My leg automatically lifted up and threw itself over his shoulder, his breath even closer to the center of my immediate pleasure and discomfort, and my breathing became even shakier. I swallowed loudly and closed my eyes, expecting to feel him soon, only to suddenly become aware of his head turned to the side, his hair tickling my core, and his soft, gentle lips brushing and lightly sucking the skin of my inner thigh. I almost screamed in frustration, but resisted the urge. "Edward!" I growled instead. That was a loose adverb for it though. It was much more pathetic than a growl could ever be. Pleading. Despite the odds though, I knew I won with that. He groaned in defeat, and then he turned his head. Oh, the wonderful things those lips could do. How they started off the with lightest of butterfly kisses, making me ache more than a body should be able to, practically dying and squirming for a firmer touch. How he made me beg. "Please...Edward..." How our groans came in unison when he did press harder, his tongue penetrating me and making me cry out, bucking against him. How he could elicit uncontrolled noises from my mouth, sounds I couldn't recognize as something I was moaning. "Oh...oh...ahh..." My hips started to rock in time with his movements, and he gripped them, keeping them gentle enough to make his

job easier; my teeth bit the pillows harder as I almost wanted to cry from the absolute pleasure he was giving me. I could feel the pressure building, but it didn't want it topped this way. I wanted him... "Edward...Edward, come...come here..." I panted. I reached down to hold his hands on my hips, eyes still rolling backward from the continued stimulation his mouth was giving me. I gently pulled him up and he understood, following me, breaking away from my center with a low, deep breath. I gripped his face in my hands, kissing him as he positioned himself. His hands stroked my face and shoulders, holding me close as he slipped into me easily; open and waiting. We both let out moaning sighs of contentment, holding still for a moment to enjoy it more. I felt complete...whole. His warm, strong body comfortingly placing just the right amount of weight on my own, the skin of his hips firm but soft between my thighs as I wrapped my legs around him. My hands slid down from his face to gently place where I could reach on his chest. "Bella," he whispered, kissing the hollow beneath my ear as he began to rock into me, my back habitually arching. I moved my hands to grip his shoulders, my nails digging into his shoulders as our breathing became more labored. He wasn't going fast, but his thrusts were sure; deliberate. His hips pressed into mine every time he thrusted forward forcefully; an erotic connection. He started kissing my neck. "You are perfect..." "Uhnnn...I love you," I groaned into his bronze hair, turning my head slightly. His movements started to get faster, his thrusts going deeper. Tiny mewls and moans erupted from my throat, and I wrapped my arms tightly around his neck, burying my face in it. It felt so good. I would never tire of him making love to me. Never. There was no way I could. His arms wound themselves around me, lifting me up closer to him, his thrusts coming harder and faster as a consequence. The slap of skin against skin filled my ears along with the sounds of our ragged breathing, and loud groans. There was that pressure building, so close in the near distance. I started getting louder as he slammed into me. "Bella...scream," he breathed, his mouth going to my ear. "Scream, Bella." His lips trailed along my jaw until he reached my neck, and then he bit down. Hard. And with that, I did scream, throwing my head back. He drove into me roughly once more, and then my world exploded too, more screams being thrown from my mouth as my heart pounded and I released everything for just a split second, clamping down on him and tumbling off the cliff and into the heated water... He was close behind me.

I snuggled deeper into Edward's chest, the small smile on my face still refusing to leave. We'd been staring at each other for quite a while now; neither one willing to move, or even get dressed. We just remained pressed against the other, his hands stroking the sides of my face, sometimes running through my hair. I leaned up quickly and kissed his lips softly, as I'd been doing sporadically for the past...however long we'd been laying here. Over Edward's shoulder, I could see that the sun was beginning to set, which meant that we'd been in here for quite a few hours now. But it didn't feel like it. Edward sighed, smiling, and wrapped his arms around me, pulling me even closer as he rested his forehead against mine. He tilted his head forward and kissed me lovingly, his movements unhurried and caring. His hand ran up and down my back lightly, his teasing touch making tingles erupt on my skin where they met.

"Beautiful," he murmured against my mouth. That was something else he'd made me teach him how to say in the time we'd been laying here. The familiar blush touched my barely cooled face. "Was it everything you thought it'd be?" I eventually asked quietly a few minutes later, saying and signing. I had meant it as teasing, but I think we both knew that I seriously wanted to know. He studied me closely for a moment, before he pressed his lips to mine firmer than before. No, he told me. Because I never thought it could ever be as amazing as that. I giggled softly, bending my head to kiss his neck, swirling my tongue in the hollow at the base of it, above his collar bone. He hummed softly in pleasure, gripping my hair lightly. "Perfect," he breathed. I pulled away and kissed his lips. "So when are we going to go tell Esme and Carlisle that we changed our minds...again?" I laughed, signing it roughly in time to the words. He groaned, rolling his eyes. Later, he said. But I'd rather not think of that right now, if you don't mind. His hands began kneading my hips, and I certainly didn't mind. I hitched my leg around his hip, bringing our lower bodies much closer. My heat pressed very near to him, and we groaned simultaneously. "Edward," I whispered as he grabbed my waist, rolling over on to his back, and bringing me with him. I raised myself on my knees, feeling his tip tease my entrance. I placed my hands on his muscled stomach, bracing myself as I slowly sheathed him with in me. I gasped in complete bliss when I was settled. "I love you..."

"I still can't even believe you guys thought of doing that," Rosalie scowled, leaning back in her chair as she raised the glass of wine to her lips. Her loud, red cocktail dress creased with her movements. "And then this whole thing would've been a tragic affair, and a waste of our time and money." "You're so sweet and understanding, Rose," Emmett smirked, leaning over to kiss her cheek, one hand on her knee. "It's what makes you so gosh darn lovable." "Oh hush," she snapped, smacking his suited arm hard. He just laughed in response, capturing her lips in his own. "Alright, enough of that," Alice said, her eyes narrowed as she looked at them from the corners, her lips pursing as she lifted her own glass of wine to her lips. "You're ruining the mood. We're going to have fun damn it." "That's what she said," Emmett muttered, amused. "Or else?" I asked with a raised eyebrow to Alice, ignoring Emmett's comment entirely. We were getting some strange looks sometimes for how we were all speaking and signing Jasper and Rose excluded, since they weren't exactly proficient with the art - but we ignored them. It was just going to be part of our basic speech now. I started to lift my lemon water to my lips when I suddenly stopped, setting it down. "By the way, I think it's really low of you guys to all order wine when you know I can't have any." My glare transitioned over to Edward. "Especially you. You're supposed to suffer with me." He grinned sheepishly. Well you know, I can't really understand what you're saying...so I guess I missed that memo...

But I signed it too! Yes...well...maybe I just...misinterpreted. He looked away from me as he took a sip of wine, eliciting a laugh from the table. We were at one of the fanciest, most expensive restaurants in town. According to Rose, her and Alice had made reservations the night we'd informed everyone of the pregnancy. It was Friday night now, and this was meant as a celebration of sorts, for being the first ones. Carlisle and Esme had declined coming, understanding that this was a friend thing for us, a night to just relax and have a good time. They'd been very happy - and exponentially relieved, I think - when we'd informed them of our changed decision. Carlisle had jokingly rolled his eyes though, and told us to make up our minds already. But I believe the good doctor was very excited at the prospect of being a grandfather. "But Bella," Jasper said, his smooth voice falsely innocent. "If we didn't get just slightly intoxicated, then nobody would get to have any fun. As it stands now, you're the only one who has to suffer. So that's got to be comforting, right?" He let out a loud laugh as Alice smacked his chest with her arm. "What is with women being so violent now a days?" Jasper asked teasingly, pinching Alice's side. "Love," Edward said softly to me then, while everyone got caught up in their own conversations. Would you like to dance? It was then that my ears perked up to the music, and I stifled a gasp. "It's our song," I said and signed, surprise making my eyes widen. "Well, one of them," I corrected, slightly embarrassed. That was mostly my fault. I couldn't decide which one I wanted to be "the one" at the wedding, and Alice couldn't decide either. So I just picked my top favorites and we put them on the play list randomly. Lullaby, by Spill Canvas got to be first, but there was one more... He smiled at me, his green eyes twinkling past the stray bits of bronze hair falling in front of them. I persuaded the managers to play it especially. Will you dance with me or not? I smiled at him and stood up. There was a reason that this was the most expensive restaurant. Besides the fabulous dcor, right in the middle of the - admittedly - already massive room, was a dance floor for anyone. Edward led the way, holding onto me tightly to make sure I didn't trip and break my neck in these deep navy blue heels Alice had forced me in to. Unfortunately, this wasn't exactly slow dancing, but Edward was good at leading. He twirled us around effortlessly, managing to dodge people without even having to look. I held on to him tightly, though against my will I was enjoying myself. I leaned more into him as I listened to the lyrics. You're just too good to be true, Can't take my eyes off you. You feel like heaven to touch. I want to hold you so much Edward spun me out then, and my ring front, silky navy blue thigh-length dress whirled around me, before he pulled me back in. I landed heavily against his chest as he held me tightly to him. "Beautiful," he told me, one hand running up and down the silk of the dress on my side as he grinned. Have I mentioned that tonight? "Well, maybe once, or twice, or thirty times," I smiled back. In truth, I didn't mind. It made me feel loved. On top of the nice dress, Alice had also curled my hair so that it cascaded across my shoulders and down my back perfectly, like I'd walked straight out of some shampoo commercial. My make-up made my entire face pale, even my lips, which made my

especially smoky eyes pop. Alice definitely never did anything half way, and yet she still found the time outside her miracle working to make herself look amazing in her own purple cocktail dress. It's too crowded in here, Edward said, glancing around swiftly. He wrapped an arm around my waist and held me close as he lead the way to the balcony that the restaurant had, overlooking the sparkling, bright-lit city. It was on the edge of town though, so it was far enough away that we could still see the stars. I placed my hands on the marble railing as Edward wrapped his arms around me from behind, gently kissing my bare shoulder. We both looked up to the sky, staring at the silvery pin pricks of light scattered across the deep blue and vaguely purple universe. I leaned my head back onto Edward's shoulder, sighing contently. I played with his hands clasped on my stomach. "Did you ever think we'd end up here?" I eventually asked, signing as well. "All those years ago?" Well, no, I didn't ever think we'd end up on this balcony, watching the stars and discussing if I ever saw this coming, he teased, and I giggled, elbowing him lightly. But I did hope that we'd end up here. Together. You're all I ever wanted. "You're my best friend," I whispered to him. "Always were, always will be." There were a few moments of content silence while I closed my eyes against his chest, reveling in the perfection of this moment and him, allowing the sweetness of his previous words to wash over me. Eventually, though, I spoke up again. "I'm scared," I confessed to him. "About the future." He leaned down to kiss my cheek softly, hugging me tighter against him. Me too, he said. But you know what? One corner of my mouth pulled down as I tilted my head back to look up at him. "What?" I asked, and I didn't even have to sign it for him to know what I was saying. He smiled my favorite crooked smile, raising his thumb to push the corner of my mouth back up. I think we're going to be just fine. I stared at his peaceful, sure face for a few moments before my own smile broke out. I turned my head back forward to stare out at the city, a different kind of galaxy of pin points of light. "Yeah," I agreed, smiling softly. "Yeah. We'll be just fine."

The newly eighteen year old girl stared solemnly at the small pile of presents she had gotten the previous day, still sitting untouched atop her desk. Birthdays, as a general rule, were horrible affairs, but yesterday had been even worse for some reason. She had a fair guess as to why. It was dark outside now. A full twenty-four hours since her "party". And she was still wracked by the all-consuming, irrational, plaguing fear. Pulling out the familiar black hoodie of Edward's, Bella shrugged it on, and opened her window. Unlike so many other times though, she didn't feel like running away from the house. Instead, she latched on to the lattice on the side of the house, and climbed up to the roof.

This was something she did occasionally, when she wanted to lay down and stare at the purple night sky, just to think when she didn't want to walk far from home. It was a microcosm of her own, a place where she could truly be alone in the midst of the crowds. Or, alone if her best friend didn't know everything about her, and all her "secret" places. You're not in your room, he accused when he climbed over the edge of the roofing an hour later, after she had begun to doze off a little. I come by expecting sleep, and what do I find? Not you, certainly. What's up? He laid down next to her, shifting closer so that there sides touched. He kept his head turned towards her, but she remained staring at the sky when he wasn't communicating. There aren't any stars, she commented. The city lights are chasing them away. I can't see them. Well...that doesn't mean they're not there, her friend told her, his eyes gentle. He began scanning the sky too. A few moments later, he tapped her shoulder excitedly. Hey, look! Over there! He pointed off to her right, where a tiny star was bravely blinking through the blanket of darkness the lights made to cloak the area. Told you. You can always find a star in the sky. Anyway, what's up? Why are you here? Justthinking. Yes, well, normally everyone does that. Or else that would mean we're dead. She turned her head to throw him a scowl. Hilarious. Truly. He sighed, grabbing her hand and running his thumb softly over it for a moment before letting go. Seriously, then. What's bothering you? Bella swallowed as she stared at the sky, wondering whether or not to answer. And wondering how exactly to phrase the answer anyway. He waited seemingly patiently, though his legs twitched every now and again, along with his fingers. I'm an adult now, she finally started a few minutes later. By law at least. And I meanI know it doesn't make any sense, but I'm likereally panicking. I mean, after high school, I'm going to be on my own. And seriously, I'm so afraid. I don't know what to do. I don't know what the future will bring. What if I mess up? What if I don't know what to do? "Bella," Edward murmured, rolling on his side to face her. She did the same thing, her face miserable as she looked up at him imploringly, wishing for some help. Everything's going to be okay, he told her, reaching out a hand to stroke her cheek softly. You are going to be okay. And if you're not, you can always come over and complain to me if you want. He grinned at her, and she returned it. You think you're still going to be in my life 10, 20, 30 years from now? Bella asked hopefully, scooting closer. When am I going to leave? he countered, raising an eyebrow. Hopefullynever, she told him. Never it is then, he smiled, and put his arm around her shoulders. She rested her hand in the crook of his arm, staring up at the sky and concentrating on that lone star he had pointed out earlier.

She could never know what the future would bring. Things might go horribly wrong, or perfectly right, or some strange, natural mix of the two. Regardless, Edward right. Everything would be okay. As long as they had each other.