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Third Person POV

Edward didn't understand the expression going across Bella's face. As her hand went to her side slowly, it seemed her brown eyes could not get any wider with horror and confusion. She was very obviously hurt by what he said. She quickly looked down from his eyes.

"I'm sorry," he said with urgency, taking a step forward to her. He would have liked to be the one in pain in place of her. He would do most anything to make sure Bella was never hurt. Now, he was the one who caused it.

Even as he apologized, Bella stared down at her worn out shoes, not sure what to do with herself. She loved him, and because she made one stupid mistake -well, a few awful blunders -she would lose the best friend she'd had for so long.

"Bella, please look at me," he said, his voice quietly begging her to do so.

She finally did, but he didn't like the sight as much as he usually did. Her eyes were brimming with tears, seeming about ready to burst.

"Bella..." He wasn't sure where to start with this. He had to say it, of course, but he had no idea how to go about doing so. Would he simply throw the L word out at her, seeing if she would catch it and return the favor? Should he wait on telling her any of it, holding off on a deep, dark secret he had since he was eight and realized Bella was the one and only girl in the whole wide world with no cooties?

He tried to do what he thought was right, and so, he simply spoke from his heart, which essentially was hers in the first place.

"It's not that easy to be friends with you," he smiled sadly. "It's hard to be with you, to see you all the time, and knowing that this isn't what I want. I'm your best friend, but I don't know how much longer I can keep up with this charade."

A tear finally escaped from its duck on Bella's face. "You don't like me. Is that it?" she said quietly. "I knew you couldn't like me." She knew she wasn't good enough to be with him. Every once in awhile, she even thought she wasn't honorable enough to share the same space as him. It wasn't a self loathing characteristic as much as it was a hopeless reality to her; she could never be with him, and she knew it. It was just hard to hear him finally say it to her face.

"Like you?" He eyed her curiously. He sighed. "I suppose I don't like you. Not the way you think." He laid a hand on her cheek, wiping away the tear. "People don't like others who consume their every thought, their every being, who become intertwined with who they are. People don't like others who they imagine growing old with, hoping they'd stay with them through life."

She was confused. "I don't understand," she said quietly. He said he didn't like her. Hadn't she heard that admitted from his lips? If that were so, why had he been just describing what sounded to her as a confession? "You don't like me?"

He smiled, one of those heart breaking gorgeous ones the average person -including Bella -couldn't help but stare at. He spoke so softly, she had to lean towards him to better hear the words that escaped without warning. "Isabella, I love you."

Her heart did not skip a beat, like most girls. Her heart very simply stopped moving.

He wasn't sure what to do now that he had finally said it. He looked down at her face, the confused expression coming back to her face.

"What?" she managed to say to him. She had to make sure she heard correctly.

"I love you, Bella."

So she had heard him right. But something had to be wrong with the statement. Maybe he felt sorry for her. Yes, she decided, pity could drive someone to lie like that. Edward was only human, and as compassionate as he had always been, he would go at any lengths to help someone, even if her were lying.

But the way he was looking at her, the way his green eyes were practically imprinting on her soul and heart, she had the impression that he was being more honest with her than he ever had.

But he wasn't in love with her, Bella concluded. He just loved her. That was all. Love could be classified into so many different categories. Surely even she was in one of his.

"Like a friend, right?" she said finally.

He shook his head and chuckled nervously. "No, not a friend. That's the whole problem."

"Like a sister, then?"

"Alice and Emmett love you like that. I love you. I'm in love with you, Bella. I have been since we were kids. You're my secret crush I've had for so long, too long. We're 17 years old. It's about time I fess up to it."

He didn't know what to make of her silence. Maybe she was stunned. He thought he had tried to ease it on her as best he could manage. He was put into even more confusion when more tears started to flow down her face and some landing on his own hand, where it was still laying on her cheek.

Maybe he should not have said anything.

"You love me?" she asked him, her voice cracking twice.


"But you... I..." She couldn't finish her sentences and tried to wipe her eyes as best she could with her sleeve, brushing his hand away from her face gently.

He sighed and pulled her into a protective embrace, his arms wrapping around her body as her tears dampened his shirt.

"This can't be possible," he heard her mumble.

"Why is it so impossible?" She didn't believe him. That must have meant she cared about the fact, even just a little bit. Maybe even...

"You can't love me."

He pulled her back and looked down at her face. "How could I not fall for you? You mean everything to me. If anything happened to you, I don't know what I would do with myself. I guess that's part of the reason I didn't want you to go out with Jacob."

"He's a good guy, Edward. That fight was years ago because you two couldn't stand each other."

He chuckled. "We couldn't stand to share you. That's why we couldn't stand each other. I wanted you all to myself, and I guess Jacob felt the same." He suddenly shook his head. "No. Not the same. No one cares about you like I do. I know that has to be true."

Bella almost laughed. It sounded so familiar to her friends' new stories on finding love. Rosalie told her that Emmett said no one could love her like he did. Alice said that no one could care for Jasper like she did. Now, Edward was saying the same thing to her.

Spring fever was definitely in action for Bella's clique.

"But being protective isn't a good excuse. I was just jealous that you'd actually found someone to be with besides me. That's why I went with Rosalie. I guess I used her, which wasn't right, either. Not that it ever felt right." He took he hands in his slowly, their fingers entwining with each others. He stared at their hands as he said, "Only you could drive me to insanity like this."

"Edward," she said quietly, "I'm sorry."

He looked back up at her face, displaying a small grin. "You've been apologizing like crazy already. What is it now?"

"I guess I'm sorry I hurt you. With Jacob and everything. I mean, I know I was angry and all but it was mostly because I was angry with myself, not you..." She couldn't bring herself to continue and admit the true reason for her behavior a few days ago.

He squeezed her hand in reassurance.

She took a shaky breath "I can't imagine being good enough for you."

There was a silent pause, until Edward finally said in shock, "What?" He seemed almost angry at her at that moment, although he didn't mean for it to come across in that way.

"W-well," she stuttered, taken aback by his tone, "you don't treat me like a real person, like an equal. I'm like a little breakable figurine no one else can touch, like I'm not even a person. I mean, I guess you think I'm not worthy. I can sort of understand that. You're an amazing person, and you could do so much better than me. If not with Rosalie or Tanya, then maybe Lauren or Jessica or-"

She was taken out of her reverie due to Edward quickly putting a hand in either side of her face, forcing her to look him in the eye.

"Don't you ever day that again." He said it softly almost growling at her.

"Say what?"

"Say you're not good enough for me. Do you honestly think that you're not worthy to be with me? That Jessica and Lauren are better than you? Bella, no one could ever be you. You're it for me."

"But I'm not pretty."

He chuckled. "You're beautiful."

Her face seemed to light a fire. "And the blush only makes it better," he snickered.

She ignored his comment. "But I can't walk two feet without tripping over air."

"And I hope I'm always there to catch you. "

She smiled softly. "You usually are. "

"I'm sorry if I don't seem to treat you right. I disdn't realize me being so overprotective would make you think that I didn't care about you. I just never want you hurt. I'll be there to make sure it never happens. If you let me, at least." He whispered the last part.

She was good enough. She was his equal. He was overprotective of her, but only because he cared so much for her. He was jealous of Jacob. He had accepted her apology and forgiven her, even though she couldn't quite understand how. And he loved her. There seemed to be only one thing missing from their cliché moment:

Her answer.

She gave it, in a way she could manage without tripping over her words, without getting side tracked by him staring at her, listening to her rant.

Isabella Swan laid her hands on Edward Cullen's shoulders, pushing herself onto her toes, so that her lips made their descent onto his.

Electricity pulsed rapidly through both their bodies. In one moment, his hands had left her face and went to wrap one on her waist and the other on the back of her neck, pulling her as close to him as he dared. Their lips gave each other the kiss, the release, the understanding they both seemed to need. The passion of their exchanged kisses seemed to be enough to set both their hearts on a fiery course.

When they finally pulled away, Edward set his forehead against Bella's, a sheepish grin on her face, along with a dull pink color that flushed her whole body. "So, you'll let me?" he finally asked, his voice hoarse.

She had forgotten their earlier conversation. "Let you what?" she asked breathless.

"Let me be there for you. Make sure you never get hurt."

"You did that before all this. What'll be the difference now?"

"Now, I want it to be official. I want to be the only one who'll protect you like that. The only one who can touch you like this." He held her tight against him. "The only one who can kiss you like that," he whispered.

This was as close he would get to asking her the blunt question "Will you be my girlfriend?" as he could get to.

Warmth flooded her senses once more as she sighed in content. "Oh, Edward," she said softly, kissing his lips chastely, "I love you so much. I always have, I always will."

"That's all I need, then," he said onto her lips, giving her a more passionate, more confident kiss than before. The first they shared was one out of desperation for her to understand what she meant to him. Now that he knew that she cared just as much, he kissed her lips almost as a seal that this was what he had been waiting for, and the finale he so desperately wanted.

No, not a finale, he thought. This is just the beginning.

A student walking by alerted them to their current setting, and they all but unwillingly realized they were currently at school, in the hallway, as they had been for the past fifteen or so minutes.

"Maybe we should spread the good news," Edward smiled. He let go of her and walked away from her to the cafeteria doors.

He turned around seeing that Bella hadn't left her previous position in the hall and stared at him, not completely ready to face everyone yet. Edward held out his hand for her. A smile going across her face, she walked quickly to set his hand in hers, as it always should stay.

"Time to face the world," she smiled up at him.

Before opening the doors, before facing the eyes of their peers, before the laughter and excitement from their friends would impact them... Before all of this was to take place, Edward stole a kiss upon Bella's cheek, and said happily, "My world is standing right next to me, and what a beautiful world it is."

Ta da! The end of a wonderful journey!! Unless readers beg for an epilogue with an idea handy, the story is over. Thank you so much for all the great reviews and encouragement on my very first fanfic!