Okay. It's been forever. I am very sorry with no real excuse other than the craze of graduating and finding a new job. Below is a new apology-fuelled chapter that I hope you all enjoy. It was kind of difficult to get back into the rhythm of writing Nora's mind but, let's be honest, she's blunt and unapologetically herself so it didn't take long to remember.

Hope you all enjoy! I'll try and do another chapter soon - I really do want to finish this - but I can't make promises on a time frame.

Also you're either going to love or hate me for this chapter. (Choose love not hate!)

Thanks, Guest, for pointing out the error! I wrote this at 4am so it's probably got a lot of embarrassing grammatical errors!


30

There Goes the Fear, Doves


The sun had finally settled behind the clouds and the sky was gloomy and grey once more. It wasn't particularly surprising; Forks wasn't known for its delightful climate. But she'd hoped it would last a little longer anyway. Now, with all the grey, it felt like the clearing they lay in was a bit more lifeless than before. And her giddy mood from moments ago was already beginning to fade back into a familiar angry sadness.

Nora didn't like being sad. She wasn't made to be a broody teenager; that was Edward Sullen's thing. And when she was sad, it was incredibly irritating and served to rankle her temper. Ever since, well, everything happened, she'd been walking a fine line between angry snark and brooding misery. Neither were healthy. She knew that, she really did. But still - as soon as Edward gave her his usual sympathetic look, she knew she was going to hate the words coming out of his mouth.

Surprise, surprise: she was right.

"So," said Edward in his usual I-am-smug-because-I-am-superior-in-all-things tone, "do you want to talk about what happened today?"

Nora had several options here. She could be the mature young woman she aspired to be and tell him the truth. She could ask to talk about it later, ultimately revealing her fear of having to open up. Or she could evade the entire situation like crazy.

Let's be real: there was only one option she would ever consider taking.

"How come you don't sparkle all the time?" she asked with a straight face, changing the subject with all the grace of a bull in a china shop. "If it's because of the sun's rays, you'd think general daylight would affect it, wouldn't it?"

Edward gave her the flat stare she deserved. He clearly disliked having to ignore her anger-fuelled day but, come on, they had so many emotional conversations these days. She just wanted to hang out with her friend. Her ancient, sparkly, cold, telepathic friend.

Please, she asked him. Can we just be hang out for a bit and not have another dramatic, emotion-fuelled discussion?

Something in his expression softened and he sighed. "It does affect us," he eventually replied, reluctance painting every word.

Nora mentally thanked him but then paused, thinking over his words. "Wait - what?"

Edward looked at her until she realised he was actually doing as requested, making her feel mildly sheepish, and then continued in a bland lecturing tone. He'd make a brilliant teacher, she thought, all indifferent yet interesting.

"Human instinct is to shy away from us, yes? But it's also human nature to distance yourself from anything unnatural. On one hand, that comes out as fear. Most people are afraid of us without even realising it and assume their reaction is out of intimidation, hence the common jealousy and interest in who we are. But it can also come out as complete ignorance. Your instinct doesn't want to know, doesn't want to see something that goes against nature. So when faced with the truth of how inhuman we are, how unnatural we are, you subconsciously refuse to see it. You see the death in our features and pretend it's from exhaustion, you see our eyes and - for the most part - pretend they're a normal colour. And because we only glow faintly in natural light, as opposed to the obvious sparkling in direct exposure to the sun, your mind denies it and simply sees us as you want us to be."

She stared at him in surprise. Oddly, Nora wasn't offended by the assumption that her mind forced her into ignorance over his true state of being. Instead, a rampant curiosity built and she couldn't help but ask, "Will I ever see it then? Now that you've told me it's there?"

Her friend looked uncomfortable and a small part of her felt guilty for forcing him to talk about the very part of himself he hated. But the other larger part really wanted to know.

Edward clearly heard all of her thought pattern and visibly steeled himself. He held out his arm in her direction and gave a wry smile. "Look at it," he said pointedly. "Actually focus on my arm knowing what you should be seeing."

Nora squinted at him and then the arm. At first, it just looked the way it always had: pale as snow and super unblemished. But, she swallowed tightly, the more she looked, knowing that he wasn't like her at all, the more she started to notice a very, very faint, glow. It was as if he were a nightlight with nearly-dead batteries. But now that she'd seen it - she glanced up at his face in surprise - she couldn't seem to unsee it.

"Holy shit," she muttered, wide eyed. It wasn't too eye catching but he definitely had a glow. Or perhaps an aura was a better description as though she were seeing his powers manifest as an energy that emanated from his skin. Cool.

Edward pulled away and looked out across the clearing, pursing his lips. "I'm sorry if it unsettles you," he said quietly.

It took her a moment to realise that he thought she was going to react badly. Which sort of made sense actually considering her track record. She had freaked out at literally everything she'd discovered so far. But this - this was just another element to what she already knew. It wasn't as shocking and, given her decision to be friends with Edward despite her initial reaction to his vampirism, it didn't scare her either.

"I think it's interesting," she told him honestly. "I get why you think I'm going to lose my head but I'm not this time, I promise."

He let out a gusty sigh and finally looked at her with a sad, tired smile. "I know," he admitted, "it's just - I don't." He sighed in frustration. "It's a difficult concept to grasp about yourself, I suppose, to know that your very skin proves how unnatural you are."

Nora really hated that smile. "Hey, it's pretty cool," she said lightly. "It's like you've got a notice-me-not charm on you, dude. And anything vaguely Harry Potter is always awesome."

"Only you would bring it back to Harry Potter," he said, snorting despite himself. Of course, being the Sullen Cullen, he soon fell serious again. "Sometimes I think you're the best thing to ever happen to me," he admitted quietly.

She didn't say anything. Not out loud. But in her head? She released a nervous whisper. I feel the same way.

They stared at one another and time sort of paused. It wasn't cliched and intense, more… content. Nora felt warm and floaty like she'd been dipped in a hot bath. It was just nice. Familiar.

He was her best friend, of course, but there was an intensity to their friendship that Nora had never experienced before. He felt like he was her partner in, well, life as they knew it. Maybe it had something to do with how many hurdles they overcame together; Nora helping Edward figure out that he was capable of happiness in life and Edward helping Nora figure out that she could be happy again despite how miserable her world had seemed.

She really, really liked Edward Cullen. She'd known for a long time but now it felt right to admit it to herself.

So, idiot that she was, she did something really reckless and stupid and - well, her brain had clearly decided to piss off who knows where. He looked so sad and self-loathing earlier. And then he was giving her his usual look of comfort. And then Nora had admitted something to herself that she had been wilfully ignoring for a long time. So, with all that going on in the background, Nora sort of… reacted. Without thinking. Definitely without thinking.

It's just - she needed to say it out loud. To tell him without being a coward again. To have a tangible response to whatever they were becoming.

She picked up his hand, ignoring the cold, and brought it up to press her lips to his knuckles for a moment before bringing it down to hold it in her lap. She didn't look up at him - even without a functioning brain, she wasn't that crazy - and said quietly, heart racing, the truth of things: "I really, really like you, Edward."

Edward was still as a statue (which, ha, made a lot of creepy sense) and clearly understood what she meant. They were silent for an awkwardly long minute that made Nora realise just how long sixty seconds could actually be.

"Nora," he said eventually in a strange voice. It made her head snap up to look at him. His face was unreadable for the most part but there was something there. Something like… nervousness and hope. She wondered what her own expression looked like.

They stared at each other for long enough that Nora could actually see the awkwardness hovering in the air. There was something tense and anticipatory between them all of a sudden.

Before she could answer, he continued. Apparently, Edward had decided to join the whole 'my brain is currently away from the office, can I take a message?' group.

"I think I want to kiss you," he said with such abruptness that she jolted, and then immediately looked alarmed at his own words.

Nora stared, heart racing and mind generally screaming: !?

What came out, of course, because Nora was incompetent in all ways, was, "Fuck me."

To clarify, she meant to say something less provocative like wow, Edward, that was quite a shock. This was obviously unclear to her friend however who reeled back with the most deer in the headlights look someone who hunted and fed on deer could manage. It almost made her laugh if she wasn't too busy stuttering out an explanation.

"No wait - not like, like that. Jesus! I meant it was a shock! Like, 'Wow, what a shock!'" she babbled, flailing her hands like a manic pigeon. God, she was such a bloody idiot. She'd propositioned her best friend. Right after he'd finished propositioning her.

How was this her life.

Edward, broody little Edward Sullen, burst out laughing. His shoulders shook as he laughed and he actually looked the same age as his body for once. It was bizarre and Nora found herself laughing with him. How emotionally constipated were they? Honestly.

They settled after a moment, breathless and still snorting.

Nora's good mood had returned with a vengeance and with it came utter terror and the mortification of how inept she actually was at anything vaguely resembling feelings. So, she told him so.

"I'm terrible at this, pretty boy," she groaned, weary and confused of her own actions. "I'm not even sure what the bloody hell 'this' is. But whatever it is, we're both clearly useless at it."

Edward's eyes traced over her face for a moment before nodding to himself. "We are."

"What're we doing?"

"I don't know. Is it making you uncomfortable?"

She looked at him properly. "Yes," she admitted, shrinking a little at the honesty, "but not in a bad way."

He stared at her. They had come back full circle to the same dance they'd been in for the past few weeks. They could carry on in ignorance or they could accept it.

"Do you want to do this?"

Nora could easily say no. Instead, she said, "I think I do, yeah."

"Can I?" he asked, quiet and warm, and he didn't need to say more because Nora knew.

She genuinely considered her answer. Because it would mean something was being set into place between the two of them regardless of how she responded. They were at a fork in the road, in a way, and she was the one actually making the decision.

Usually, Nora ran away. She ran from her feelings and had done so since her father died. It hurt to admit but she knew herself enough to recognise a major flaw. When she'd first moved to Forks, she'd had emotional barriers up reminiscent of Fort Knox and, even now, some of those barriers still remained.

But Edward - Edward was slowly managing to creep through. And despite everything that had been happening, no matter how random and ridiculous her life was becoming, Nora finally wanted to turn and face her fears. She didn't want to run this time. Couldn't.

Sometimes you have to just throw yourself into the crazy unknowns, she decided with a little hysteria.

So, with a shaky breath out, she nodded. "Yes."

And Edward, looking as uncertain as she felt, slowly came into her space, face close enough that she could feel his cool breath. It happened simply: they kissed. It wasn't overly passionate or sickening; a mere press of lips. They held themselves there for a moment. Then, in unison, Nora and Edward relaxed and pressed there lips together once more, rubbing warm against cold. His lips weren't hard like she'd imagined his whole body to be - they were a lot firmer than her own but more like… malleable clay. If such a thing could ever exist.

They pulled apart after another long moment, staring at one another, his eyes meeting hers, and Nora only felt warm.

It was nice. It really was. But it wasn't world-shattering or mind-imploding. Instead, it felt like they had both naturally agreed to step forward into something new together. She didn't suddenly have an overwhelming crush on her vampy best bud. Nora just felt a little closer to him, and perhaps a little more aware of how close they had already become.

"That was…"

"Lovely," Edward breathed out like some romantic heroine from an Austen novel. Bless him.

She was fairly sure she was smiling at nothing. "It was pretty good, yeah."

"Pretty good?"

"Eh. A good seven out of ten, I'd say."

"Sometimes I think you live to hurt me."

"You're doing well with all this teen drama all things considered, granddad."

"Nora?"

She peeked at him out of the corner of her eye. He was grinning at her; the happiest, most vulnerable look she'd ever seen him wear. For the first time since they'd met, Nora actually admired how beautiful he was. She didn't really look at his features or their perfect symmetry. Instead, it was the overwhelming openness of his joy that made her breath hitch. He was doing much the same as her, eyes darting from her lips to her eyes to her cheeks, back and forth, with that same happiness beaming out from him.

She looked at him one last time and took all of it in. She didn't think of her grief or her troubles with her recent incident or Lola or Jon or anything. She thought of Edward and her and them, and felt happy.

But she did eventually pull back. Nora didn't want to stop this moment. Didn't want to ruin it. But she wasn't sappy and needed to make sure they hadn't damaged anything between them.

"We're still us, right?" she said, fiddling with her sleeve. "I - I don't want things to change. And we both just made things a whole lot weirder and more awkward than they already were."

Edward's smile didn't dim but it did soften into something gentler. He knew, she realised. He knew how afraid she was of changing what they had. Of course he did. She didn't think it was because of his telepathy; it was because he was her best friend.

"Nothing changes," he promised solemnly, reaching out to press his fingers to hers on the grass. The same, floaty warmth bloomed in her stomach. "All that happens is that we're a little bit more open about who we are to one another. We're exploring something new together. That's all."

His words settled her nerves but also reminded her of something she had been ignoring. This thing between them had been growing for a while, yes, but Edward wasn't prone to acting on these things any more than she was. Which meant she did need to do minor damage control. He was as likely to flee from his feelings as Nora.

"Don't go into your usual brooding and ditch me over this, pretty boy," she said suddenly, pointing her finger at him in a scolding manner. "If I have to deal with this awkward crap then so do you. Pinkie promise."

He obliged and tucked his cold pinkie around her own. "I won't."

She nodded. "Good. Now... I'm insanely embarrassed and you look like you're high or something so we should probably get going, yeah?"

"Okay." He paused. "Nora?"

"Hm?"

Edward Cullen's smile was shy and a little bit mischievous. "I really, really like you too," he told her.

Of all the thoughts currently racing through her mind, one was prevalent: Jon was going to talk about Nodward even more now.