A/N: I managed to knock out half a chapter on my book before allowing Edward and Bella to demand my attention. Yeah me for having self control!

Also, I'm not sure how much longer I'm going to take this particular fic. I have an idea for Bella's power, but I'm not sure I could do it justice. Thoughts? Opinions if I should continue? If I do, there won't be much of a plot, sadly.

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.

Choices

Chapter 5: Second Hand

EPOV

Tick … tick …. tick ….. tick.

Each time the second hand on my wristwatch moves the sound gets further apart. Each passing second is immensely longer than the previous. An eternity passes between heartbeats. Bella's heartbeats.

I shifted my arms ever so slightly, trying not to disturb the unconscious Bella, to look at the sleek silver band on my arm. Hopefully hours had passed since I did the unthinkable: drank from the most glorious creature to ever walk on the face of this planet. My Bella. The one person I had vowed to never drink from. I had broken my own vow.

The hour hand hadn't moved. Matter of fact, the minute hand had barely moved either.

Only a few minutes had passed, though those few minutes had felt like an eternity. Seeing her eyes closed and the obvious pain she was feeling coursing through her weak body.

My sensitive touch could feel each ripple that flew through her. Each nerve that was firing. Each muscle that contracted pulsed and tightened unwillingly.

For barely having a concept of temperature myself, her body felt like it was on fire to me. Not the kind of fire I relished, the kind that my own body kindled in her, but the kind that was only those of our kind had ever felt. I wanted to cover every inch of her skin with my own in an attempt to ease her suffering. My icy touch would be her relief.

But I couldn't move from her, even an inch. I couldn't ease my grip on her for anything. I wanted to take her pain away with everything in me. She didn't deserve this kind of suffering. Nobody this perfect did. Perfection has a steep cost though, one that Bella was currently paying. But the price that Bella was paying was nothing in comparison to the price I was paying.

I was watching the woman who I loved more than any other thing I'd ever loved in my entire existence suffer for me. How could I let her do this for me? How could I be so selfish as to ask this glorious creature to give up her life? I wasn't worth this. I had condemned her to an eternity of darkness in my own greedy need to not be parted with her. To keep her close to me she would be forced to feed on living creatures to sustain herself. I had plucked an angel from the clouds of heaven and driven her straight to depths of hell.

Without a doubt, I knew I would suffer for this. There would be repercussions. The gods simply didn't let sin like this go; it couldn't be washed away or swept under the rug. They would never blame Bella for this, for she was too innocent to know what she was asking for. No, I would shoulder all the blame. I had to. I would shield her from any blowback from this most selfish need I had.

Bella whimpered in my arms and her brows knit together in obvious pain. This was unbearable. Unthinkable. Unendurable.

I couldn't help the sobs that racked my body. They came without me looking for them. I've never been one to wish to cry, but right now at this moment all I wanted to do was shed even a single tear at this torture I was suffering. To be able to express even the slightest bit of my own pain would be a gift.

But alas, I was afforded no such gift. This was part of my punishment.

Tick … tick …. tick ….. tick.

That damn watch again. There it was again reminding me how slowly time was moving now that I actually wanted it to speed up. No, I wanted it to fly by.

As vampires we lose sense of time. Not having to sleep impairs how one detects the flow of time. Day blends into night and back into day again without fail. Calendars lose all meaning when you have an eternity of them to sort through. Only Rosalie tortured herself by keeping them, crossing off each day in a bright red pen as if to remind herself what she lost. Another day gone, another day dawns until the end of time, she'd think as the pen fell across the day's square.

An eternity of days always seemed like such a daunting task before Bella. My Bella. Since her shining light came into the darkness of my life an eternity of days didn't seem like enough time. There simply wasn't enough time for her.

Bella suddenly began to thrash against me, her arms wildly waving trying to claw at her own skin.

"Ssssssh, Bella. You can't do that. You'll only hurt yourself more," I whispered in her ear.

I had to use the entirety of my strength to restrain her, but even with that she still managed to inflict a few scratches on herself. Nothing like previous cuts she'd sustained, but each one of the red marks that now clung to her skin cut me deep. Much deeper than any of her other injuries ever had. No, not even the wounds that vile tracker had inflicted upon her. These scratches were much worse. I was the source of these new brands. The cause of her present suffering.

I couldn't do this. I wouldn't last three days. I wasn't strong enough. Me, Edward Cullen. With all my immense strength, there was no way I would ever be strong enough for her. Strong enough to endure this infinite torture.

"Please, Edward," Bella's voice was so low, so weak I almost missed it.

"Yes, love?" I brought my lips close to her ear in the hope that she could hear me through her pain.

"Voice … your voice … makes … it … better," each word came out broken, with grimaces between them.

I pulled her tighter, not caring about hurting her. Bella wouldn't feel my steel grasp through the pain within her body. I brought my lips even closer to her ear, this time resting them upon the still supple flesh there.

For hours I let my voice flow over her, soothing her creased brow. I spoke of everything imaginable. Her childhood in Phoenix from what she had told me those early days in our relationship. Charlie and everything he'd done for her in two years. Our first encounters together. The meadow. Our wedding and honeymoon. Baseball games my family played. Places I'd traveled. Dammit, I even began to recount tales of all the times I'd gone through school to her. Anything to keep talking.

My lips flew faster than any human would understand so that the words almost blended together in a constant stream of sound. Each time her pulse would quicken and her breathing accelerate from the intense pain ripples, I'd only speak louder and hold her tighter. I was her distraction from her own body.

She needed it. But I needed it too. Her distractions were my own. When I was so focused on her and the relief my voice brought to her, my own suffering took a backseat. The interminable ticking of the clock almost disappeared, just leaving me holding Bella in my arms.

I had drawn the curtains over the glass wall, knowing that the slow creep of the sun across the sky during the day and the moon at night would only add to the illusion of time slowing down. The day slid by laboriously behind those thick curtains. It went excruciatingly slow.

Never once did I look at the actual hour hand on my watch, only the second hand. I couldn't take the hours all at once, but the second hand I could manage. Each second that ticked off meant a second closer to the end to this hell.

Tick … tick …. tick ….. tick.

My steel arms rocked her quaking body back and forth like a baby. My Bella. This angel was quaking for me. For my suffering.

Edward, I know you can hear me. I can only imagine what you're going through, but you have to remember, this is Bella's choice. She wanted this, dear. Everything will work out. Esme's soothing voice floated through my head. I shook it, not wanting to accept what she was saying.

There was no way Bella would have willingly gone into this if she knew how painful this would be. I couldn't believe that. She wasn't the masochist; I was. And this was the most masochistic thing I'd ever done, bar none.

I felt so weak, so helpless, at not being able to help her. To soothe her. There was nothing I could do for her other than hold her tight and keep her close. Oh, god, how I wanted to help her. If I could go through this all over again instead of her I would in a heartbeat, no matter how much pain I would feel. Not even a second thought. I would pay an infinite sum of money to take this away from her and put it on my shoulders. Give anything.

My beautiful Bella wrinkled her face and bit her lip hard, probably keeping a scream in. She was so strong, so much stronger than me. So committed was she to her vow not to scream that even now, even through the strongest surges of pain, she held to it. So far she had emitted nothing more than gasps, though those were just as hurtful to me as the loudest screams she could muster would ever be.

The little patch of gauze that Carlisle had taped over my bite mark on her neck was beginning to peel off. Gently, I used my delicate fingers to strip the cloth from her glorious skin. Already it was beginning to heal in response to my venom flooding through her system, but it was still there. A sign of my weakness. My fingers grazed over the soft crescent shape that would forever be imprinted on her skin. For all eternity she would be branded as mine, but even that thrilling thought did little to comfort me.

"It hurts … so hot," Bella whimpered. Soft, faint tears slid down her cheeks from the corner of her eyes. Deftly, my fingers went to wipe them away. I brought my damp fingers up to my face, examining the shiny surface of my skin. I couldn't let these tears, some of Bella's last for all eternity, escape. It was a travesty, a crime. Bringing my fingers to my mouth, I sucked them dry. I took Bella's very essence into my body, not letting any bit of her human self away. Her mortal self.

So sweet her tears were. So beautiful, even though I hated for her to shed them over me. Over what I had done. Over the sin I had committed.

Her pulse slowed, revealing to me that her body was calming at least for the moment. No doubt the pain would resume, but right now she was at ease. The thought of her comfort, even if temporary, made me rejoice.

Could I dare move? Could I dare remove my touch but for one second? To be parted with her skin was painful to me already; this would be extreme torture under these conditions.

Tick … tick …. tick ….. tick.

I had to move. I couldn't take the silence of the room any more. I had to find some way to drown out the ever-present reminder of time moving so slowly. Unwrapping my arms from her, I gently placed her on the bed.

Barely a second passed while I inserted the CD with the one thing I loved more than any sound Bella herself could make. Pressing play on the sound system, the gentle notes of her lullaby flooded the room and I made sure to set it on repeat. The chords reminded me so much of my beautiful Bella that I couldn't help but smile at it. The simple elegance and innocence brought me back to better times, simpler times in our relationship. Before it had become so complicated by my foolish actions. When we were both exploring each other and our limits.

I slid back into bed with Bella before she could miss my touch, once again wrapping my arms around her. She whimpered again, but this one wasn't from pain. It was reunion. Even through the ache she felt, she still responded to me. It was true; her body was indeed created for me and mine the same for her.

I sang along with her lullaby, expertly mimicking each piano chord with my velvety voice. Each time the song would end, I would fill the dead air time by continuously singing so as to not have any break in sound.

Hours went by like this. At some points she gasped. At others she thrashed, but still she never screamed. Not once. Her will was truly remarkable.

Edward? I need to examine her to see how she's doing, Carlisle's thoughts came from outside the bedroom door.

"Okay," I barely responded, but he heard me. Carlisle delicately opened the door, slipping in with barely enough room for his body to pass.

He made his way to the bed where I held my beautiful angel.

I understand what you're going through. I honestly do, he thought gently.

"No, you don't. You couldn't begin to understand." My own voice was pained and harsh. I knew my words hurt him, but I couldn't control myself.

Carlisle only sighed softly before taking Bella's limp hand and taking her pulse. I'm sure he could hear it outside the door, but his doctor's instincts told him to. He paused a brief moment, listening to the soft thud, thud, thud that I could pick out from a crowd.

It's slowing, Edward. And she's growing colder.

I shook my head, unable to accept what he was thinking. I refused to acknowledge these simple truths that I could feel and hear for myself. They were signs of my weakness. My greatest sin.

It won't be long now before her heart stops. You have to prepare yourself for that.

Nodding grimly, I buried my face in Bella's hair. Carlisle left noiselessly, leaving me to my thoughts. The scent of her strawberry shampoo lingered from her last human shower so many hours ago. Inhaling deeply, the perfume filled my senses. I wanted that smell deep in me, almost to my toes. I wanted every cell to be awash with Bella, even more so than it already was. There was no way of telling if she would continue to smell this way after the transformation was complete.

But I knew that even without this glorious bouquet I would still cling to her. Whatever she smelled like, she was my everything. Whatever she was, she was my life. Whatever she felt like, she was my eternity. For the rest of time, there would be no other than her.

Tick … tick …. tick ….. tick.

The music continued, but I could still hear the unholy tick of my watch. In one swift motion, I ripped it from my arm, sending links flying across the room into unknown crevices. What was left in my fingers I deftly crushed into a small lump of metal in my palm. I couldn't deal with the damned thing any longer.

Dammit, Edward! I know what you just did. I had to go to Paris to get that for you! Alice's irritated thoughts hit me.

"So buy me a new one!" I growled back. I knew she heard me. "Leave me alone!"

Soft whimpering and gasps came out of Bella, drawing me out of me anger towards Alice. Immediately, my full attention was on her. I resumed the flood of my voice into her ear, alternating between telling her more stories and singing her lullaby.

Each unnecessary breathe I took brought Bella closer to her last. Each thud of her heart came slower, more unevenly. It went agonizing long moments between sounding when finally I heard it.

Bella's last heartbeat.

The sound hung in my ears, and I knew I would remember the tone of it for all eternity. I would spend all of time trying to recreate it, trying to recapture it's resonance and richness.

I had killed her. My poison had driven the life out of this goddess. This angel. My precious Bella.

My body flew from the bed without warning. My fingers clawed at the door, my body wanting to escape this sudden hell. The door held firm, not budging an inch.

"I can't let you do that, little brother," Emmett's rich voice sounded from behind the wood.

"Just let me out! I've killed her, don't you see that? Don't you understand that?" I pleaded with him. My voice was panicked. I had to make him understand, make him see what I'd done. What sins I'd committed in this very unholy act.

"Bella knew this would happen. When she asked for privacy, she made me promise that I wouldn't let you leave, no matter what happened. You have to stay. You have to be strong. For her, Edward. She needs you, now more than ever," the pain in his own voice was evident. Though Emmett didn't love Bella like I did (no one would ever love Bella like I did), Emmett loved Bella in his own special way.

"Emmett! Just let me out!"

"You have to stay, little brother. Please. For Bella."

I sighed in defeat, collapsing to the floor. Bella had known I would lose it. She had known that I would want to escape and do something unthinkable. She was so much stronger than me, so much more insightful.

Wave after wave of silent cries shook me to my very core. Hours past. I stayed in the same position, clinging to the one sound I could hear in my ears. Bella's lullaby. It eclipsed all other sounds possible.

Anger raged through me. But there was only one place I could direct it to. Myself. I had started this all. If I had only been strong enough to resist the pull of her blood that first day in biology. If I had been strong enough to stay away from her, no matter what the pain it caused both of us. If I had enough will power to resist her intoxicating pull.

But I wasn't strong enough. I would never be strong enough for Bella, no matter how hard I tried. She held the key to my very existence. She knew how to crack the tough exterior I had so carefully cultivated for myself in almost a century.

How could someone so fragile have so much strength and power?

This beautiful siren, laying so still on our bed, was my everything. And I had just killed my very reason to be.

Edward, she'll be waking up in 3 minutes and 26 seconds, I heard Alice think. I'm sorry I snapped at you earlier. This hurts me just as much as it does you. I love her too.

Bella? Waking up? Life flickering across her face again?

I jumped off the floor and hurdled myself onto the bed, once again clutching Bella's form to my body. The heartbeat I had valued above all others was noticeably absent, but her body was definitely calmer. Her breathing, now completely unnecessary, was labored. I knew this to be the final stage of transformation.

Once again the seconds couldn't tick fast enough. I began to count them off in my head, slowly inching closer to the time Alice had given me.

Five ….. four …. three … two .. one.

Bella's eyelids flickered, the first sign of her awakening. I immediately grabbed the remote to the stereo and stopped the music, not wanting to overwhelm her newborn sense of hearing.

"Edward?" she whispered. Her voice, glorious before, was now divine. Truly angelic in every way.

I cupped her cheeks in my palms, watching her face.

"I'm right here, Bella. I'm right here," I whispered in return.

Suddenly, she sucked in one large breathe and her eyes flew open.

Bella's gorgeous chocolate brown eyes were blood red, a color that I had thought I would fear.

Whatever color Bella's eyes were, it meant I could see her. It meant that she had come back to me.

Red was suddenly my new favorite color.


A/N: Eeeeeh. I'm not feeling this for some reason. The last chapter came so easily; this one not so much. So I won't hold it against anybody if you say this chapter majorly sucks.

But review anway. Please? Reviews take so little time!