"Why the hell did you say that about him!?" I yelled at the little punk as I threw him against the chain link fence.

"Hey woah!" he cried. "Is this about the retard thing? 'Cause, c'mon, he is slow, you can't deny it - "

I cut him off by kicking him in the stomach; not too hard, but hard enough to leave a bruise. His breath wheezed out in a quick 'woosh'. He clutched his stomach, clenched his teeth, squeezed his eyes shut tightly, and slowly slid down the fence, till he was slumped over on the ground.

"He's not stupid," I told him coldly. "He's deaf. And he's about ten times smarter than you are obviously, because you should've known I wasn't going to let you make fun of my best friend like that. You don't even know him, you jerk."

"'Best friend'," he breathed mockingly through his still clenched teeth, as he stared up at me in pain and loathing. "Yeah right. I've seen you; you're always all over him, you slut."

I didn't hit him this time. I just shrugged it off and walked away toward Edward's house. I didn't mind too much what he said or thought about me; I knew it wasn't true, and my own honor I didn't really care enough to fight for or defend. Edward, however…was a different matter.

Ever since we met when we were five, we'd been best friends. I'd always been patient; and he needed a patient friend, something no other five year old was. Growing up is hard, but it's even harder when you're trying to understand the world but everyone in it is talking and…you just can't hear it. He'd had to learn sign language, but as he was very smart he accomplished it (flawlessly, I added fondly in my head).

But not enough people knew it to make things easier for him. His teachers, his family, and me. But other kids…they didn't know it, and it was hard for many to understand that he just couldn't hear them. It had seemed impossible…as a result, many had thought he was slow. But that was when we were children, and it infuriated me that even now, at the age of eighteen and nearing the end of senior year in high school, some people were still that stupid and ignorant.

I myself had learned sign language for him, sometimes with him, because I've always loved him. Edward's my best friend.

Well…it was hard to admit to myself sometimes, but honestly, over the years my love for him had surpassed friendship. It encompassed everything; he was my light, he was my world. It surrounded him. Sometimes it seemed like he felt the same way, but I couldn't be sure.

Anyway, sign language wasn't the only thing I'd learned because of him. I was also a black belt in karate, (pretty cool, right?). I'd asked my mom to enroll me when I was very young, because I wanted to protect Edward from the meanness of people, even back then.

He didn't know that was why I'd learned karate. I just told him it was fun. He had merely laughed then and shook his head, amused; he was a gentile person. Fighting wasn't him. He probably could if he wanted to; but he found no reason to do so.

Edward was definitely the better of us two.

I glanced at my watch and saw that it was almost four o'clock. School had let out almost an hour ago. Usually, Edward and I either went to my house or his together to do our homework and then hang out. But today, I'd told him I had some business to take care of first. I didn't tell him what it was. I doubt he'd be approving. Thankfully, he didn't ask, because it was hard to lie to him.

I mean, I didn't really think he needed me to save him; just the opposite, because I always thought him so much stronger and better than I. But I had a defensive, protective side when it came to him. I just couldn't help it. I guess that develops when you love someone a lot. You don't want them to get hurt; and even if people's nastiness didn't hurt him, it most certainly hurt me. He deserved so much better than that…

I pulled out the spare key from under the Cullen's welcome mat and stepped in the house. This was practically my second home; I no longer had to knock, really.

"Hey Esme!" I called out cheerfully as I passed the kitchen.

"Oh, Bella!" Esme said to me. "I made cookies just now. Want one? They're ho-ot…" she said in a sing-song voice, making it very inviting.

"And how exactly am I supposed to resist that?" I asked, in mock outrage as I walked into the kitchen. It quickly turned to me smiling at her though, as I took one of the cookies from her outstretched hand and bit into it. "Mmm…it's edible!"

"Oh hush!" she laughed, literally kicking me in the butt out of the kitchen. I giggled as I headed toward Edward's room on the third floor.

"Thanks for the cookie!"

Edward's door was slightly ajar. It usually was, but even when it was closed, it was never locked. That would be dangerous in an emergency.

I slipped inside and saw the beautiful man sitting on his huge bed, back turned toward the door as he bent over his homework, always the studious student, especially now that exams were coming up.

I bounced on his bed hard to alert him to my presence, but before he could turn around I threw my arms around his neck, leaning my head over his shoulder to grin at him.

His answering smile was beautiful and angelic.

"Bella," he said.

It still almost brought my eyes to water to hear him say my name. He only could say a small amount of words - just his name, his families….and mine.

I had no idea…how very, very hard exactly it must've been for him to learn to speak the small amounts of words he could. For months, I'd had to sit with him and slowly pronounce my name, letting him see my tongue's movements, and nodding or shaking my head if the sound he made was right. But he wanted to learn my name, he had told me, though it was so very difficult…

And he did. I loved him even more after that; that he would care enough to go through the whole frustrating exercise.

Almost done with homework?, I signed, and he turned to look from my face to my hands in front of him.

He nodded quickly and smiled, before turning to me again with a more serious look in his eye.

So, where'd you go?

Ah, crap. I just shrugged and prayed he would let it go, letting my arms around him fall as I turned to drag my backpack onto the bed.

When I turned back around he was looking skeptical, but he didn't sign the question again. He knew me well enough, I suppose, to understand I wasn't going to answer. I felt slightly uncomfortable; sometimes it felt like he could read my mind and see right through me; like he knew exactly what I'd been doing. I changed the subject hurriedly.

Hey you, can you help me with this Calculus? You're a lot better at it than I am.

He grinned cheekily and slid over so our sides were touching. My heart sped up as usual, but I showed no outward signs, and that was good. I pulled my notebook over our adjoined knees and he started helping me.

You surpass my math teacher by far; she just rambles on and on, I can never understand her. I don't even think she's talking about math most of the time.

He chuckled, and I reveled in it. It was one of the view times I ever got to hear his melodic voice.

That, or you're just not paying attention, you goober.

I stuck my tongue out at him and rolled my eyes, turning back to my homework.

Thanks, I signed, a sour look on my face.

He smiled brilliantly, and hugged me tightly then, laying his head against my hair in a silent joking plea for forgiveness. I shook my head.

No, no, I won't forgive you.

I couldn't see his face, so he didn't see it coming. But suddenly his hands were at my ribs and I was flat on my back, shrieking with laughter.

"Ahhhh! Stop, Edward, stop!" I screamed, gasping for air. He couldn't hear me, but he could get the message.

He stopped then, and pulled back, smiling innocently at me as my laughter subsided. But for a brief moment, as I looked over, I saw his normally happy, peaceful expression darken with something akin to deep sorrow and…regret?

What? Edward, what?

He looked at me broodingly a second before looking out the window instead.

I wish I could hear you laugh. I'm sure it's pretty.

I sighed and sat up, placing my hand on his cheek. He closed his eyes and leaned forward till our foreheads were touching. I shut my eyes too.

We stayed like that for a little while, before I felt Edward's breath sigh against my face and he pulled away.

Thank you, "Bella,"…you can always make me feel better.

I smiled sadly and rubbed his arm. He flashed me a quick crooked grin, though it didn't quite reach his eyes, and he turned back to his homework to finish it up.

I scooted over and rested my head on his shoulder as he worked. I closed my eyes and a memory overtook me.

"Hey you!"

A five year old girl in a yellow sundress, specifically picked for her first day of school, bounced over to a cute little boy with bronze hair, sitting alone in the corner of the playground.

"I haven't seen you yet! What teacher do you have!?"

He looked up at her, eyes drawn together in confusion, but he didn't speak.

"Why are sitting here alone? Come on, come play with me!"

Again, there was no answer, no sign that he had heard her other than the fact that he was paying attention to the cheerful little girl.

Slowly, he put his hand up to his ear, and shook his head.

The girls brow wrinkled in confusion this time. "What?"

He pointed to his ear again, and shook his head. The girl copied him, and asked, "What, you can't hear?"

He didn't answer, not positive whether she'd gotten it right or not, and just continued to look up at her.

She shrugged. "Well oh well. Let's go play with the tetherball! C'mon!"

This time, she reached down and grabbed his hands, yanking him up and dragging him after her.

I didn't know then that that moment was the seal for our everlasting friendship.

I looked over at Edward's face. He was looking at me from the corner of his eyes questioningly. I knew what he was silently asking.

Just thinking about the day we met. You remember?

He looked out the window and thought back. As he did, a smile slowly formed on his face until he was positively glowing. It took my breath away.

Of course. That was one of the best moments of my entire life.

I smiled up at him and hugged him tightly. He reciprocated the action.

I don't know what I would've done if I hadn't met you, "Bella,".

I reached up and kissed his cheek.

Me too, Edward, me too.

Okay, review please! I've got an outline, and this story isn't going to be too many chapters, but it's a decent length. Review please and lemme know what you think! By the way, this is going to be 'M' later on, just to let you know.

- The Romanticidal Edwardian