A/N: I really should be working on my book (I haven't written anything for that in almost a week), but Edward and Bella keep knocking on the door to my thoughts, demanding my attention. Maybe if I give them their moment they'll leave me alone long enough to go back.

Note: Goddess divine Stephenie Meyer owns everything. I just borrow the characters. If I owned them, I'd never let Edward come out and play.


Chapter 4: Heartbeat

There was a light knock at the door. Edward growled in it's direction very low.

"Okay, come in," he said a second after.

Slowly the door opened. Carlisle walked in, followed by Alice, then Emmett, Esme, Jasper and finally Rosalie. The whole family was there to see me off, so to speak.

"Bella? I'm ready when you are. Take your time though. We have all the time in the world," Carlisle said smiling warmly. I noticed he was carrying his doctor's bag in his right hand.

I gulped. My heart thudded erratically in my chest not quite in sync with it's normal rhythm. I guess this is what it feels like to know the exact moment when you're going to die, I thought grimly.

I turned to Edward who was facing me on the bed. Before we could start, I need to say something to everyone else without him hearing it.

"Edward?" I said as calmly as my racing heart could manage.

"Yes, Bella?"

"I need to say something to the family in private. In real private, not vampire private."

"Bella…" he sighed. The corners of his eyes fell, belying his unhappiness with this request.

"Edward, it's important to me. I need to do this," I pushed gently.

He took a second to think over what I said before he answered.

"If it's important to you, then it's important to me. I'll be just out of earshot. Alice, will you call me when she's ready?" he said, looking at Alice who was next to Carlisle. She nodded, her eyes wide with emotion that she couldn't release.

Edward shuffled out of the room, looking more like a five year old boy who had been thrown out than the graceful, powerful vampire I knew him to be.

We stood there for a second until Alice nodded her head to tell me he was safely far enough away.

I took a deep breath before saying my piece.

"First, I want to thank you all for everything you've done for me. I wouldn't be here without you, literally. You've given me the greatest thing I could ever hope or dream for. You've given me Edward. I can never repay you for that gift, no matter how hard I try or how many years I spend with you," I choked up and I wiped the traitor tears from my eyes that were threatening to spill over.

Time for another deep breathe. Nobody spoke, instead waiting for me to continue.

"Now I want you all to promise me something. This is very important. If anything goes wrong, anything at all, I need you to promise me that you won't let Edward do anything rash. I know that's a big thing of me to ask, especially considering … last year's events," I winced at the memory but was unwilling to go down that path right now.

"I know he's going to blame himself during these three days. He's going to hate himself for what he's done. He'll rant and rage; he'll pace and probably break things. I know him too well and I know you all do too. But he also needs to understand something. This was my choice. I know there's no going back from this. I know that one false move by him and I'm done for, but I also know that he'll never hurt me more than absolutely necessary. He's too strong for that."

"Emmett, I need to ask you a favor," I said turning my head toward the largest of the Cullens. He nodded.

"Don't let him leave. Bar the door, hold him down, whatever it takes. I won't be able to bear him leaving again. Can you do that for me?" I asked.

"Anything for you, Bells," he said, but I could tell he was trying very hard to not start dry blubbering like a baby. I wanted to give him a hug so badly, but I needed to continue before I could.

"Alice," I turned again. She nodded. "You need to look out for anything. Bad, good, whatever. I'm trusting you with this."

"Bella!" she cried. "I'd do anything for you!"

"Esme," I continued. "I need you to be his mother more than anything right now. He needs your soothing presence during this." Her eyes brimmed with tears I knew would be flowing if she could cry when she nodded.

"Jasper, I know this is going to be the hardest on you of anyone. I won't hold it against you if you need to leave. No, I take that back. I want you to leave. You'll need to be here when I wake up, just in case I do anything … unsavory."

He nodded, face grim. Though we had never been in close physical proximity to each other since our trip to Phoenix, Jasper and I held a special bond. He knew what I was feeling more than anyone, even with the ability to read my emotions.

I turned to Carlisle, the last in my series of requests that I would speak of in front of everybody.

"Carlisle, I know you'll be here through this. Edward's always looked up to you, probably more than you know. Please be his steady hand through this. Be his strength. You know what it's like to turn someone you love so much and I think he'll need that guidance," I said, letting out a whoosh of air when I was done.

Carlisle said, "Anything, Bella."

He moved forward, but I held up my hand to stop him.

"Can I speak with Rose in private? You all don't have to leave like Edward, but I do want it to be just her," I said firmly.

Everyone but Rosalie left the room. She stood there awkwardly, as awkwardly as the goddess-like Rosalie could manage.

"Rosalie?" I spoke. I motioned for her to come over to the bed and she sat down next to me. I took her perfect hands in mine.

She looked me in the eye, gold to brown. I'd been thinking about this conversation for a long time and I knew it could possibly be the most important one I had for awhile.

I took a deep breathe again, steadying myself and collecting my thoughts.

"Rose, I know you don't like what I'm about to do. You've made that clear. I know you think I'm throwing everything away. But I need you to realize that I'm not. This is merely another step. This is the path I've chosen for myself. I don't need you to be happy with this, but I do need your approval. Edward needs your approval. He's already going to be tougher on himself than we all think and he doesn't need your angry thoughts to weight him down more than he already will be. He needs this from you, as his sister.

"I know you've always wanted children and that's probably the one thing you miss from being human most of all. And I'm sure at some point in my existence I will too, maybe not immediately, but at some point probably. But the beauty of me choosing this is that we can do this together. We can grieve for what we've lost together and that will make us both stronger. Together, we'll get through anything that comes our way," I said carefully.

Her eyes were wide and I knew what I was saying was sinking in.

"Can you do this, Rose? As my sister?" I asked after a second of silence.

"Oh, Bella!" she exclaimed and threw her arms around my neck. She pulled me for a tight hug, but was careful to not make it too tight.

She pulled away finally, saying, "Bella, you're right. This is your choice, not mine. You've been too good to me when all I've done is be terrible to you. You swept into our lives and changed everything. I reacted violently because I was jealous. I've always wanted to be the center of attention and suddenly you, a human, captured everybody's hearts without even trying. Bella, I'm so sorry! I'll try so hard from now on, I promise. And I promise that no matter what, I'll be here for you. We can do this together. I might not like it just yet, but I approve of your choice. And I promise I'll try."

By this point the tears were flowing freely from my eyes and I fought back loud sobs. I wiped my eyes on the sleeves of my t-shirt, trying to maintain myself. I started to hiccup after a second.

This elicited low giggles from Rosalie which soon erupted in beautiful laughter. I couldn't help but follow her. In that second, all the differences between us were erased. We were just two sisters, one about to go through the biggest change in her life and the other pledging to help in any way she could.

We laughed until our sides hurt, or at least until my side hurt. I doubted very much vampires could laugh that much. Finally, I quieted and a sense of calm washed over me. Maybe Jasper was still around or he wasn't, but I was ready. Now more than ever. I had settled everything I could control and received promises on things I couldn't.

"Can you send him in now?" I said.

Rose nodded and left. I sat, my knees drawn up to my chest and waited.

It was barely a moment before another knock sounded at the door. I didn't have to be a mindreader to know who it was. Edward entered without me having to respond. He carried a pair of athletic shorts in his hand.

"Alice wants you to wear this. It will be much more comfortable than your jeans she says," he said and I heard anguish in his voice, despite his attempts to cover it up. There was no hiding from me; I knew his pain too well.

I took the shorts and undid my jeans. Blushing when I realized Edward was watching me, I turned away even though I knew he was still looking. We may have been husband and wife and been intimate on several occasions, but the embarrassment was still there for me. I hope that didn't carry over after the change. I didn't want to spend an eternity embarrassed to change in front of my husband.

The elastic was barely settled on my hips before I felt Edward's strong, cool arms wrap around my waist from behind. I turned to look him in the face. I looked deep into his light golden eyes, transfixed for a second. This was how he always cheated, by dazzling me.

"Bella, I have to ask you one more time. I know we had our talk this morning, but I need to hear it again to be sure," he said stoically.

I nodded, already knowing what he was going to ask me.

"Are you sure you want to do this? Nobody will think less of you if you change your mind. I promise."

I started, "Edward, my love, I want this more than anything. I love you with every fiber of my being, every cell in my body. If there was some way to do this where I could spare you the grief this will cause you, I would. But I can't. So I just have to hope that you trust me. Because I trust you. More than anybody else in this entire world, past, present or future."

He brought his head down, resting his cool forehead on mine. Our eyes met, barely millimeters apart. I closed mine to savor the moment. Savor his smell. Savor my last breathes and heartbeats.

He drew back before whispering, "Bella, I'm scared."

"I'm scared too, Edward. But we're in this together. We can be scared together," I responded just as low.

I moved toward this bed and he followed, his arms still wrapped around my waist. I sat down on the edge, before scooting up into the center. He followed and pulled me into his lap. I curled up into his chest, taking steadying breathes to calm my loud heart that I'm sure most of the state of Washington heard at this point. It was impossible to miss.

"Carlisle, we're ready," Edward whispered after a moment.

The door opened and Carlisle entered again. He walked over, set his bag on the nightstand and sorted through it. I knew exactly what he was looking for: the morphine and needle we'd talked about previously. This scared me more than the thought of Edward's razor sharp teeth piercing my skin.

"Calm her down, Edward," Carlisle said, still preparing.

Edward took my chin in his hand and pulled my face to meet his. His lips locked with mine and kissed me, deeper than he ever had. There were no boundaries, no limits on this kiss. There didn't need to be.

His distraction worked well. I barely felt Carlisle take my hand and expertly stick the needle in. I felt the rush of something cool into my blood stream, knowing full well the effects the morphine would have on me. Before I let it consume me, I needed to say one last thing to Edward.

I pulled back, lightheaded from lack of oxygen. I looked him straight in the eyes again through already hazy vision.

"Edward, I love you so much. Please do this for me," I whispered.

"Bella, I love you too. So much," he responded. His chest heaved in small dry sobs.

He kissed me again, more delicately. More passionately. After an all-too-short second, he withdrew his lips. He kept kissing my face; first my forehead, then both my closed eyelids, my nose, then both of my cheeks. Slowly, painfully he drew is lips downward toward my neck. He kept kissing, his lips both numbing me and heating me up. Finally, he settled on the side, he sucked on the skin there.

In some other place, in some other time, I would have laughed at this. He was giving me a hickey, marking me as his own. But now, here on this bed, my limbs were too heavy to move and my mouth felt like it was stuffed with cotton.

After a moment, all sense of myself was drifting away. The morphine was surging, pressing into every corner of my body. It demanded control, control that I was unable to withhold.

The moment Edward's razor sharp teeth pierced my skin, the haze vanished. That second, that instant, I felt everything. It wasn't painful though. It was the most glorious thing I'd ever felt. Tears came to my eyes hard and fast.

I felt him swallow, once, twice, three times. The suction my blood felt was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. It felt absolutely surreal.

Carlisle put his hand on Edward's shoulder from behind him. "Edward," he cautioned.

Edward pulled away, a drop of my blood still on his lips. I reached one suddenly awake finger up to his lips and delicately wiped it away. I looked at it before putting my finger to my own mouth, licking away my blood. I tasted the rust even through the haze.

I was dimly aware of Edward leaning me back onto the bed while he finished the prescribed bites. Wrists and over my heart. I didn't feel these nearly as much as my neck. The morphine was fighting for control of my consciousness, threatening to send me into blackness.

I felt a surge of heat and pain through my body. I gasped a little, barely able to contain it from coming out. It was duller though than when James had bit me. Apparently the morphine was working at least partially.

Another surge. I bit my lip, unwilling to cry out from even the strongest pain. I had to be strong. Edward couldn't see me scream. My pain would only be magnified by his.

"Bella, it's okay. You can scream if it helps," he soothed.

I shook my head limply. I wouldn't give in.

Spasms suddenly wracked my body, twisting and contorting me every which way. Unable to fight against it, I gave in and allowed them to consume me.

Edward's arms tightened around me, attempting to hold me still through the pain. Heat flashed through every part of my body. Every cell felt on fire. Surely my body had been doused in gasoline and thrown into a pit of burning embers. It certainly felt that way.

But I felt another thing. Edward's cool arms, as icy as ever, wrapped around me. His touch quenched the raging fires. He had kept his promise to stay with me, no matter what.

The morphine was surging again. It demanded my attention. There was nothing I could do but relent. I was too weak from pain, fire and ice to stand a chance.

I slid into unconsciousness, only partly aware of Edward's body so very close to me.

He was shaking with violent dry sobs that I knew would last three days.

A/N: Please review. It takes so little time to press the little "Submit Review" button compared to what it takes to read. Five seconds, people.

I know several of you want to see this from Edward's point of view, but I felt it was important for Bella to say her piece. Next chapter though will be his.