Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, or any of its characters, plotlines or ideas, as they are the property of the great Stephenie Meyer. This story is only for my own enjoyment and the naïve hope that someone might give me a few words of praise on it. However, I do own a Muse CD, a Debussy CD, and two I-Heart-Edward t-shirts (the official and one of my own design) as well as this penname. –grins- I also have a black cat with golden eyes by the name of Edward D. Anthony Masen Cullen III. And a shrine in my locker.

Chapter 1: It Begins

All in all, it had been an average day.

Well, as average as Bella's day ever got.

So maybe it was a moot point.

After all, at the moment she was receiving an excellent back rub from a vampire, while discretely (she hoped) inspecting her mouth for any bits of various green leafy things left in her teeth from the salad he had prepared earlier. I never would have thought that vinegar and… raspberries of all things would actually make something edible… "Just… a little farther down… Ahh…" She smiled in satisfaction as that stubborn vertebrae finally cracked back into alignment once more. It had been bugging her for a few days now. "Remind me—what was the reason in the first place that I needed this adjustment, Edward-dearest?"

He returned her condescending smile over the shoulder he was currently working a knot out of. "Gee, why ever are you asking this one?"

"Oh, me? I was simply curious as to if it had anything to do with letting me fall asleep in the back of your car on Saturday."

The cocky smile remained, but Edward's eyes held no small amount of doubt. "I didn't want to wake you up."

Her reply was mumbled into the sofa. "You are entirely too courteous." It came off flippantly, but Bella couldn't control the bit of sadness that had seeped into her tone. She madly hoped that her masseuse hadn't noticed.

He had. Edward opened his mouth to give a reply, to assure his one and only of her value, only to find himself speechless. He allowed his mouth to close, redirecting his efforts at sorting out the lump of muscle in between her shoulder blades, feeling for the subtle currents of sinew beneath her thin t-shirt. Both attempted to ignore the uncomfortable silence that permeated the room. Both failed.

Bella vaguely wondered why Charlie wasn't home yet. While she just wanted someone, anyone, to break this deathly stillness, it was a rather compromising situation they were in. It wasn't like she wasn't enjoying the backrub; she couldn't remember the last time someone had pampered her like this, and that minute amount of electricity emanating from his hands, and the occasional times where his breath ghosted over her neck…

But somehow the room just seemed colder. Emptier.

Things had just been so… tense… after that last argument; the usual subject, of course.

Maybe it wasn't just sleeping in his car after all that had her uptight.

They were saved from their apprehension several moments later, as Edward's cell phone started vibrating on the far table. He growled slightly as it started spitting out a few shrill strains of Feux d'artifice before reluctantly taking his hands from her back and stalking to the device. Bella absentmindedly sat up and stretched as he slammed the phone to his ear, already talking in rapid whispers to whoever was on the other end, before suddenly going deathly quiet. This is affecting both of us… She took a few hesitant steps towards his turned back, laying a hand gently upon his shoulder. He turned to face her then, his eyes haunted for the briefest moment before getting his expression under control and flipping his phone shut.

"…Bella, I…"

"You're not leaving without me. Not again."

Even the exotic gold of his eyes was somber. He seized her in a fierce embrace, murmuring quiet, passionate, words into her hair. "…Never again. No one will ever hurt you Bella. Never. I won't let them…"

But rather than let her enjoy the moment, or examine what exactly had him so spooked, that traitorous part of her mind just would not let the issue go. I know how I could stay safe… It whispered, the eternal corruption of her days. Bella simply couldn't let it go. Day by day she felt her body getting older, the cells decaying, as the distance between her and Edward grew farther and farther. There had been a time where she felt she knew him better than she knew herself.

Bella had not felt that connection in quite some time.

Sure. On the outside, things had not changed. Edward held her hand, kissed her passionately, teased her, and still enjoyed to pop up randomly and smile that wondrous crooked smile of his when she jumped. He watched her while she slept. He made her and her father dinner. She did her homework at his house. They were inseparable-- Charlie was often surprised when he saw one without the other.

And yet, sometimes she would catch him when he thought she wasn't looking, and the look on his face told her that he felt the same.

That smolder in his eyes was just not quite the same anymore.

It was slowly killing her. Killing him.

She wondered if he did change her if things could get better, a fact Bella frequently attempted to convince herself of. Or if it really was too late. She knew if she pushed him into it ,as she knew she could, neither would ever be truly satisfied. Edward, for defiling what he viewed to be the ultimate purity. Bella, for the guilt she knew she would feel at his shame, and at the inevitable betrayal of her family and friends. They would never stop wondering what would happen if things had turned out differently. If they had left matters alone. And for that they could never be truly happy.

She knew that was the truth of the matter.

And yet that little voice continued to whisper… as the man she loved more than anything in this world continued to drift away from her by the day.

Edward looked into her eyes, jolting Bella back to reality. "I'll explain things once we get there. Come on."

His silken voice was forceful.

They wouldn't leave each other behind. Not here. Not yet.

The Volvo barreled along the narrow road, the night blurring outside the window, the shadows flickering like so many beasts of chaos in the headlights.

Edward's eyes stared through the windshield grimly. Bella knew that his mind was far from the road stretching beyond the small car. She had known something was wrong as soon as he had picked up that phone.

That deathly stillness still pervaded the car, following them from the living room, slinking in between them over the center console, winding itself around her legs before settling itself in her lap, shooting the girl a satisfied grin before curling into itself.

Something was definitely wrong. So, so, wrong.

The silence gave a cheeky smile when Edward suddenly started muttering to himself, occasionally shooting Bella a glance out of the corner of his eye. She managed to catch a few words. "Flight," was among them. In any connotation, it was enough to send Bella's heart pounding.

Even the blurs that were the normally comforting ancient evergreens lining the road to Edward's house seemed to be leering at her.

She felt like she was being watched.

Edward grasped her hand and gave it a comforting squeeze, until the fear resided somewhat and his mumbling gratefully stopped. He shot her a small smile, but it didn't reach his eyes.

They reached the Cullen's house a mercifully short time later. His white skin was a small streak in the darkness of the fall evening as he unlocked her own door and ran Bella into the house, only setting her down once they reached the safety of the front entryway.

She then chose to remind him of his earlier promise. Admittedly, it was not particularly tactful. But she wasn't about to let him try and handle everything himself again this time. Goodness knows it just worked wonderfully last time. "Edward, what the hell is going on?"

Something was going on. And so soon after that last… incident. She had just gotten her cast off last week. Why? Was there something wrong with her? She recalled something Edward had once said back when they first met. "Don't be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet."

His eyes were somber as he regarded her. Exhaling slightly, he looked away for a moment before finally meeting her eyes. "If I'm right… I might not survive the night. All of us, we're all in grave danger. Bella, I know that you think I'm invincible… and it pains me to say this, but it would be in your best interest to just have no contact with me for awhile. I could find you… If I get back…"

"Edward. We have had this discussion before. Quit being all self-sacrificing and noble. Whoever… whatever has got you so afraid-- they could easily link us together. I'm not leaving, and you're not leaving me. So quit dancing around and tell me what's going on." She allowed herself to sink against his cool chest, taking comfort in the granite arms enveloping her form. How could he be afraid… how could anyone hurt him… if he's just concerned they'll get at me through him… who is this!

"…I love you…" The words were whispered into his skin. If… if he got back… if.

"I love you too. Always, Bella." He pressed a chaste kiss upon her lips, before gathering her into his arms once more and retreating to the upstairs.

She noticed that the steel shutters were obscuring the windows.

A/N: Edward's ringtone is another song I rather like by Debussy. And if you are looking for the same fluffy stories, a narrative of the first few weeks of summer vacation before this moment, then look elsewhere, as that seems to be all that is ever written for Twilight, unfortunately. I have set the tone for their relationship when this story begins, and I'm just going to assume that you know the characters well enough to not bother trying to narrate a picture perfect life leading up to the moment. Deal with it. This is plot, not waff. I write when I see something is lacking, and thus I have taken up my laptop once again.

AND! HATS OFF TO MY AMAZING BETA- STARRINGMEGAN! My fellow Twilight addict, real life best friend, and co-conspirator. She's awesome! -hugs-

Edward wearing girlpants… -drools- Shameless pluggage for my Twilight drabbles, Butterscotch and Chocolate. I solemnly swear to write SOMETHING with Edward in tight pants... -