Title: Dusk to Dawn (1/?)
Rating: PG for now.
Genre: Drama/Romance
Characters/Pairings: Edward/Bella, all characters
Summary: Post-New Moon. Bella and Edward deal with Jacob, Victoria, the issue of Bella's transformation, and...whatever else I decide to throw in.
Disclaimer: The whole fabulous world of Forks, WA belongs to Stephenie Meyer and whoever she sells it to. I, unfortunately, am not one of them; just taking it out for a test drive.

Dusk to Dawn

"Wake up, Bella," a familiar voice whispered in my ear, and I cracked my eyes open to the sight of a painfully beautiful face smiling down at me. Blinking, I realized it was still dark.

"What's going on?" I asked groggily.

"I'm going hunting with Alice," he said, stroking my cheek fondly with a cool thumb. "It's been awhile, and Victoria's backed into Canada. It's the safest time for me to be away from you."

I felt my heart sink with disappointment as it did every time Edward went away. "How long?"

"Just a day," he said, grinning as he registered my unhappiness, and I was irked that he took such pleasure in it. "I promise. I'll be back before you can even miss me. Everyone else will still be here, and I'll have them check in on you from time to time." He brushed my currently unruly hair back from my forehead. "If it makes you feel any better, I'll miss you, too."

"If you turned me, you could take me with you," I pointed out innocently.

"I told you I'd turn you if you'd marry me," he reminded me, his now dark eyes glinting as he grinned.

I was tempted to poke him, even if it would do nothing. "Do you really want to marry me, or are you just pushing this because you think I won't agree?"

"Well, if we're going to be together forever, we may as well get married."

I scowled. "You're avoiding the question. You still haven't said you want to be with me forever. I mean, if you don't…you should just tell me."

His fingers brushed my cheek one more as his gaze turned somber. "I do, Bella. I just wish you didn't have to become like me for that to happen."

"There's nothing wrong with you," I argued. "And I don't know why you're fighting this so hard; it's going to happen, whether you're willing to do it or not."

Edward sighed and shook his head. "We'll talk about it when I get back. Alice is waiting for me."

"All right," I said reluctantly, frustrated to again be refused what I wanted and unwilling to part with Edward again.

He held my face still as he leaned in to kiss me. As usual, I was overwhelmed by the feel and scent of him – smooth for all his hardness, and unbearably sweet.

"I'll be back soon," he said, and in a blur he was out the window.

I slumped back against my pillows, contemplating the idea of feigning an illness and whiling away the time until Edward returned in bed, hopefully sleeping through most of it, but I knew Edward wouldn't approve, and Charlie would worry more than he already did, so when dim light seeped in through the window, I forced myself to get out of bed.

I dressed slowly, then went to the bathroom to quickly brush my teeth and pull back my hair. I ate a lonely bowl of cereal – Edward was usually with me for breakfast these days, since Charlie often left before then – and then climbed into my monstrous old truck to drive to school.

I felt rather bad for my truck. It didn't see much action these days, since Edward usually drove me to and from school, unbeknownst to Charlie. I hoped he wouldn't start checking the mileage on it.

The school day was extremely boring. Because he was in most my classes, his empty seat was a constant reminder that I wouldn't see him again today. With Alice and Edward gone, Jasper had stayed home as well, so at lunch I sat with Angela Weber at the end of our old table, somewhat estranged from the others, many of whom were still loathe to acknowledge my existence, especially since the Cullens had come back and I'd become more engrained with them than ever.

Even finishing my last class wasn't the relief it usually was, knowing Edward wouldn't be there to greet me afterward. I climbed wearily into my truck and took my time getting home.

The empty driveway was especially depressing. No stupid, shiny silver Volvo. No irritatingly stubborn vampires.

I was halfway to the porch and getting spattered with the day's third rain shower when a rustling in the trees stopped me in my tracks. It couldn't be Victoria…could it? I'd never stopped to calculate Edward's mileage, but I didn't think even he could get to Canada and back that quickly.

The next rustle sent my heart pounding for an entirely different reason – because it was accompanied by a giant wolf stepping through the greenery and transforming with a shudder into a tall, black-haired boy – Jacob.

"What are you doing here?" I blurted out, which wasn't exactly what I'd been planning to say when I finally saw him again. It had been a few months since he'd brought my motorcycle to Charlie, effectively ruining my life in the meantime and taking away a little more of my time with Edward. I hadn't heard a word from him since, and I hadn't made up my mind whether I was willing to speak to him yet, either.

"He's not with you today," Jacob said, and it sounded more like an evasion than an answer. "Has he left you again?"

His words were like a blow to the gut, and I stepped back a pace, still surprised by his hostility. "No," I said, trying to sound confident. "And he's not going to."

Jacob made a non-committal noise and stepped closer. "I came to make sure you were safe, since he's left you unprotected," Jacob said, scowling.

I was about to retort when a familiar voice did it for me – not the voice that made my heart leap into my throat, not the voice that could make me feel safe in an instant, but welcome just the same.

"He hasn't left her unprotected," said Emmett, stepping out of the trees, followed by Jasper. Even though I wasn't afraid of Jacob, I was relieved to see them, relieved not to be alone with the boy that had once been my best friend as was now completely hostile to me.

As Jasper smiled at me in greeting, a feeling of calm spread through me, and I smiled back in thanks. He winked, and he and Emmett moved to either side of me.

"Thanks, Jacob, really," I said, hoping he'd hear my sincerity, "but I'm safe."

"Safe?" he snorted. "You'll never be safe with a bunch of –"

"I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you," I warned him. "I wish you would see reason. They were human once, too – just like you. It's not their fault they have to drink blood, and it doesn't make them evil anymore than you turning into a wolf makes you evil."

"That doesn't mean they aren't dangerous," Jacob said in a voice so low and angry that it was nearly a growl.

I sighed, feeling defeated. "And you aren't dangerous, Jacob? Should I stay away from you, too?"

He looked stricken, vulnerable, and I knew that now, at least, he was listening, so I pressed on in spite of my guilt. "He loves me, Jacob. I have faith in that."

Jasper and Emmett were now both looking turned away, trying to give us some privacy, although they would have heard the conversation even if they were a hundred yards away.

"I love you," Jacob said in what was almost a petulant tone, and I knew what he really meant was, why him and not me?

I sighed. "I know, Jacob, and I love you, too…but not in the same way I love Edward. I wish…I wish I didn't have to hurt you. But I can't live without him…I was so empty inside when he was gone. Please, please don't make me choose…I want to be your friend, Jacob."

"Bella…I can't. I can't watch you with him and I can't just ignore what he is. I'm sorry."

I felt tears stinging my eyes. "Then I guess that's it, then."

Jacob nodded, head down. "Goodbye, Bella."

And then he walked away.

I stood in shock for a moment, watching him retreat swiftly into the trees and then out of sight. I couldn't believe what had just happened. After everything we'd been through, how could he just throw our friendship away?

My expression must have been grave indeed because Jasper actually touched me, placing a hand on my shoulder – something he normally avoided at all cost. A wave of warmth and peace spread through me, similar to the way I felt whenever I was near Edward, but not nearly as powerful. I smiled weakly.

"Why don't you come back to the house with us for awhile?" Emmett suggested. "Esme has been dying to see you again. She's practically adopted you as a member of the family – at least, she worries over you like one of us."

Just the thought of Esme's motherly nature was a comfort. "That sounds nice."

"All right, then," Emmett said, advancing. "Prepare for a run."

With that brief warning, he slung me over his shoulder and he and Jasper took off at a run. I closed my eyes, having learned by now that watching was a one-way ticket to motion sickness. Emmett was louder than Edward, his feet thumping against the ground under his weight.

Almost as soon as it began, it was over, and Emmett set me down on my feet on the massive porch of their equally massive house. He grinned and held open the door for me. "Ladies first."

I walked inside, feeling immediately comforted by the bright, spacious front room with its comfortable furniture, the large fireplace, and Edward's grand piano. Esme came down the stairs almost immediately, having sensed our arrival. She offered me a wide smile.

"Bella!" As she approached, her smile faded. "Oh, Bella, dear, what's the matter?"

I chuckled dryly. "I'm terribly transparent, aren't I?"

"Less transparent than the rest of us," she said, thinking, as I was, of Edward's mind-reading abilities – a talent that applied to everyone but me. "Come, let's have a chat."

She led me over to a comfortable sofa with fat, squashy cushions. I saw Emmett and Jasper go up the stairs in a flash.

"Now, tell me what's wrong."

Esme made an irresistible confidant. I found myself telling her everything, from how I'd felt when Edward left to my reasons for going to Jacob, to finding out Jacob was a werewolf and up to the present. She listened patiently, interrupting only to comfort or soothe, and when I was done, it felt as though I'd been released from every burden I'd been carrying for the past year.

"To be quite honest, Bella," Esme said, "I was very disappointed in Edward when he made the decision to leave. A love of such magnitude should never be wasted or taken for granted. And I may be a little biased, but I think you two were meant for each other…I think you made the only choice you could today."

I smiled. "I know I did. I'd just hoped I wouldn't have to make a choice at all." I glanced out the window and started. "I need to go. Charlie will be home soon."

"What if I call Charlie and ask his permission for you to stay over for dinner? You could stay until Alice and Edward get back." She paused. "Although, you might get hungry. We don't actually have any food."

I had to laugh at that. "That's all right; I'm not hungry. I would love to stay, though."

Esme went to make the call, and I looked longingly at the door, hoping for Edward's return. The talk with Esme had worked wonders, but only when I could be with Edward again would I truly be able to heal.

To Be Continued