A/N: Well, it's short. Too short, considering I've kept you guys waiting, what, six months now? Eight? This chapter and I weren't getting along. My life and I weren't getting along, to be precise. Working on that. Edward's a little OOC, but let me know what you think. Sorry it took so long, I promise I'm not abandoning this fic. Anyway, here goes!

(Oh, and to the 267 reviewers (many of you repeat-reviewers hugs), 98 alert-adders, 107 fav-ers, and for the 55, 557 hits--THANK YOU! You make me smile. Have I told you lately that I love you? starts singing...Ok, on with the story! For real this time!)

Chapter Thirty--Levity

I scowled at the speedometer as the needle, faded from time and sunlight, hovered right around 55—this truck was so slow. Slower than frozen molasses. Slower than Mike Newton when it came to understanding that Bella was off-limits.

And I could still smell the werewolf, his scent mixing with the dusty scent of the interior and Bella's own particular fragrance. The resulting odor was something like that of a wet dog soaked in a freesia-scented shampoo…the mental image brought a smirk to my face. Oh, if only Jacob Black and the rest of his tribe were as easily dealt with as the average canine. Still, they didn't pose a genuine threat—more of an inconvenience.

Charlie's grumbling thoughts caught my attention: "Kid like him, getting the door open like that…how'd he manage it?" My smirk grew a little deeper. Talent, Charlie, pure talent, I thought. He'd looked offended when I had managed to open the door before he had—motivation for me to offer to drive the rusty excuse for a vehicle while he took Bella home in the cruiser. He had seemed relieved: he must not have been looking forward to the inevitable awkward silence that would surely have followed otherwise either. I believed that such a situation would fall under the jurisdiction of the Eighth Amendment—it definitely answered the definition of cruel and unusual.

I hated this truck. It wasn't safe—I could hear it vibrating into pieces all around me. To me, the engine didn't rumble—it wheezed with emphysema. Bella's attachment to the vehicle wasn't anything that I could understand, much as I couldn't understand her attachment to the wolf. I wondered idly what she would think if I pointed out that Carlisle and Esme both prefer wolf to any other item on our vegetarian menu. But I wouldn't do that to her: I might, however, suggest it to Jacob some day…

Ugh, what a horrible smell, a feral stink that I couldn't get out of my nose! My thoughts kept coming back to it, hating the way that it mingled with something so pure as Bella's scent. Rosalie was sure to make me burn my clothes—no detergent would ever get this smell out. Stupid, stupid werewolf….I liked this shirt.

I smiled to myself as I realized how petulant I sounded. Maybe Esme was right—Bella really was bringing out the human teenager in me. Still, after the terror of nearly losing her—something I could never forgive myself for—it was such a relief to be so…happy. Levity had been forgotten before, dismissed, only returning in moments like these, so abnormally normal in a world like mine. It still felt so new, so novel, to be completely and utterly enchanted. It was almost as if I was discovering this new part of myself, a discovery made all the more precious for the fact that Bella was able to share it with me. But there was still a tragedy to it all, and that tragedy was that I was not human. There was only so much time that we could have together… I was not compromising my position, despite her efforts to weasel around it. Bella was going to remain human for as long as I could manage, come hell or high water. My experiences had taught me perseverance, and I was already naturally stubborn. There was a solution. There had to be.

I watched as she fumbled with the cruiser's door latch, a multitude of little futile movements before she managed to swing the door open. Each hesitation, every mistake-- they were all such significant parts of her life. The charming blush, the innocence of her, her soul--she was already to sacrifice them, and for what? For me, for someone who could not give her the life that she deserved. Who was to say that she wouldn't change her mind? Mine was set, and, though I believed she loved me… What if things changed? What, besides vampires themselves, ever did not change? Bella's own parents had married, only to fall apart later. It wasn't uncommon. People seemed to fall out of love almost as easily as they fell in it…

And then she turned to look at me, a wry little smile curling the edges of her mouth as she stepped from the car. My mind cleared, doubts fled, and I suddenly wished to laugh, but smiled instead. She rolled her eyes towards her father as she began to walk towards the front door, giving me an exasperated but loving look. I shook my head, putting the truck into "park" and gathering the groceries in one hand. Bella stopped, waiting for me to reach her side--I threaded my arm around her waist as Charlie ambled ahead of us. She turned her face to mine, nose crinkled in slight amusement. I raised one eyebrow by means of questioning, and she rolled her eyes again. I rolled my own in return--she snorted with laughter and I soon found that I could not hold back a chuckle of my own. Charlie glared over his shoulder at us as he unlocked the front door, sending Bella into a fit of giggles. I smiled, a crooked, lopsided, imperfect smile--of course, the thing she liked about me best.