I was in Bella's room in less than a second, waiting for her to follow shortly

A simple one-shot from Edward's point of view, that first night in Bella's room after the day at the meadow.

Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters, I just have fun with them from time to time! They all belong to Stephenie Meyer.

A Human Minute

"My hands longing to touch you

But I can barely breathe

Starry eyes that make me melt

Right in front of me

Lost in this world

I get lost in your eyes

And when the lights go down

That is where I'll be found"

-"Lost", Anouk

I was in Bella's room in less than a second, waiting for her to follow shortly. I entered into the darkness and did not bother to turn on the light—it was unnecessary for me; I can see perfectly without much light. I kept my footsteps silent as I crossed the small room. I did not worry about Charlie hearing me, but I took extra precautions for Bella's sake. Knowing her, she was downstairs trying her best to keep her heart rate in check while she attempted to carry on a normal conversation with her father.

I had no doubt she knew that I would be waiting for her—after all, I had told her that I come to her room every night to watch her sleep, and why should tonight be any different? This instance, however, felt new and different in an exhilarating way. She knew that I was here; she knew that I was always here, and she was surprisingly all right with it. Not just all right with it, I mentally corrected myself—she was actually happy about it. It was a far more interesting reaction than I could have dreamed of.

Her reactions unnerve me; thrill me. She surprises me every day, in ways that make my inability to read her thoughts maddening. This moment was no different, as I made my way to sit on her bed and wait for her to come to me. For all the times I had been here, I had certainly never been in such close proximity to her bed. It was softer than I thought it would be, more comfortable. I bounced softly on the mattress, evaluating its firmness before I shifted my legs onto it and reclined back into the pillows. I sighed deeply, comfortably placing my hands behind my head and noting that my feet extended beyond the mattress. Perfectly still, I kept waiting.

I allowed my thoughts to drift back over the course of the day, still shocked at the outcome. My decision to be selfish and take Bella for myself still haunted me, and yet her inexplicable pull to me made it difficult to rescind it. She wanted me, too. My initial fear and worry was that her proximity to me put her in constant danger, because her blood certainly sang to me more than any other I had come across in nearly a century. I was not sure I could trust myself around her, but today proved that I could get used to her irresistible scent—the same scent that radiated from her bed and her pillows, directly into my predatory nose. I had been around her all day, however, so I had become relatively used to it. The desensitization was comforting, but only just. No matter how much of my human instincts were coming back, I could not completely ignore my monstrous instincts without significant effort. My attempt at kissing her earlier had gone horribly awry amidst the immense pleasure I felt. Her warmth, her breath, and her tempting blush made her irresistible to me as a man, and I could not help myself. She deserves a real relationship, which should include the physical aspects. Though I was yet unsure of the degree of that physical relationship, I thought that I could at least give the most basic of moves a try. Before I even had time to enjoy myself, her instantaneous reaction forced me to back away to recompose myself. We would have to work on that, I mused.

Before I could delve into deeper thought, a piece of the conversation from the kitchen alerted my senses.

"None of the boys in town your type, eh?" There was interest laced in his question, but he sounded as if he was trying to keep a level head. My ears focused without strain on Bella's reply:

"No, none of the boys have caught my eye yet." Her heartbeat was palpable from where I lay, and I heard it skip a beat as she attempted to blithely pass over the word "boys." I smiled to myself, impressed by her choice of words. She clearly was not ready to inform Charlie about us—something else we would have to work on.

"I thought maybe that Mike Newton…you said he was friendly," Charlie suggested. I felt the surge of that unfamiliar emotion rage within me. Jealousy was completely new to me, and therefore I could not suppress it as I had trained myself with other emotions. I think what made it worse was that a guy like Mike Newton—stupid, boring, encroaching Mike Newton—would be so much better for Bella. So much safer. He could give her a life I was unable to—the life that I wish I could give her.

"See you in the morning, Dad," I heard Bella say. The conversation was over, I knew that soon she would be with me. I felt my smile return. My smile widened as she crept into the room, closing the door loudly and then dashing over to the window. She still hadn't noticed me as she threw the window open and leaned out, whispering my name.

I laughed softly. "Yes?"

She turned quickly, shocked, her hand went to her throat. I could hear her heart stop momentarily, then being beating again with a vengeance, sounding much like a hummingbird. "Oh!" she gasped, sliding slowly down the wall and to the floor. She looked adorable, and I could barely keep my laughter in check.

I apologized, and then allowed myself to sit, deliberately slow so as not to frighten her again. I reached over and picked her up easily, bringing her onto the bed next to me.

"Why don't you sit with me?" I couldn't resist softly touching her hand. "How's the heart?"

"You tell me," she retorted, amused. "I'm sure you hear it better than I do."

She was entirely correct, and I allowed myself a small chuckle. I then exhaled contentedly, sitting with her and listening to her heart slowly slow down to a normal pace. Just as I began to revel in her closeness, she suddenly turned to me.

"Can I have a minute to be human?" Her eyes were dancing, excited yet nervous.

"Certainly," I complied, accentuating my affirmation with a wave of my hand.

Her expression changed; her eyes narrowed and her voice became stern. "Stay," she all but demanded. Once again, I resisted from laughing, as she was obviously trying to take control of the situation.

"Yes, ma'am," I replied, and I exaggeratedly stiffened my muscles and stopped breathing—a feat that I knew she was probably unaware that I could perform. She appeared satisfied and gave me a small smile before she bounced off the bed, grabbing some pajamas off the floor and a bag from her desk. She slipped out the door quietly, closing it behind her. I then heard the bathroom door shut loudly.

A 'human minute.' I smiled to myself, also that moment to notice that I had smiled more that day than any other in recent memory. I assumed that meant a moment to take a shower and brush her teeth, and also to change for bed. One human instinct that had never left me was the instinct of propriety, and I definitely would allow Bella her privacy as far as changing clothes was concerned. Although, spending the night in a young girl's bedroom unbeknownst to her father surely fell into the inappropriate category, but I could afford to be selective when it came to our boundaries. Of course, I would let Bella take the initiative as far as our relationship was concerned; I was determined to remain a gentleman. Of course, her reaction to our kiss this afternoon may serve as an indication of Bella's boundaries, and at some point I realized I would have to clarify how and why we would need to be careful when it came to things like that. I shook my head, once again cursing my fate.

I was fine before Bella walked into my life. I had accepted my lot in life, and then she came and shifted everything. Once I realized that I had the ability to overcome the desire to kill her, I allowed the desire for her to overcome me. I was just now beginning to see the many sacrifices that she would have to make in order to be with me—my brute strength, for example. I had to explain to her that just a simple touch could crush her….something that I was not to excited about admitting. I also realized that by being with her, I would have to come back into the human world that I had so long been separated from. The daily routines of humans that I had long since forgotten because I had no need for them: meals, showers, and the like.

My suspicions of her 'human minute' were confirmed as I heard the shower begin to run in the bathroom. I tried not to let my mind wander to places it should not as Bella took her shower. Unfortunately, however, being a vampire had no power over my ability to be a seventeen-year-old male. I had long since overcome my raging hormones stage, but that did not mean that the thought of Bella in the shower did nothing to my other human instincts.

To distract myself, I got up and walked around Bella's room. It felt different this time, because she knew that I was here. In an odd way, I felt allowed to be here, and that was a liberating feeling. I wandered over to her desk, sifting through a small stack of CD's. I noticed several that we had in common. I was not surprised, however, because my line of intense questioning over the course of the past week had exposed me to many levels of Bella's personal tastes. I then meandered to her bookshelf, squatting down on my knees to the low shelves and examining the books that lined them. I saw many books that I had read, most of them classical literature. The Portrait of Dorian Gray, Jane Eyre, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights…all of which had creases in the binding, indicating their overuse. Bella obviously enjoyed reading the same books repeatedly, something that I did as well. Of course, when you have an eternity, you can afford to read stories enough to the point of memorization. I also noticed the entire works of Jane Austen, another author that I enjoyed—much to Jasper and Emmett's consternation. I always shrugged off their remarks, however. They could not appreciate romantic literature the way I could, because they have been with Alice and Rosalie for decades. While they had their real relationships, I had fictional ones to pass my time—fictional tutors that would, hopefully, give me an advantage in the entirely new situation I had found myself in.

I heard Bella running down the stairs, and realized that she would return soon. I immediately went back to the bed, repositioning myself in the exact place I sat when she had left. I heard Charlie respond, and then watched Bella come bounding back into the room. She assumed that I hadn't moved an inch, and smiled at me. I smiled back and took in the sight of her.

She stood before me in her pajamas and damp hair, looking just as beautiful as I had ever seen her. She looked comfortable and homey, completely at ease. I could smell her shampoo, the faint scent of strawberry, and I could also smell the cinnamon on her breath, presumably from her toothpaste. I raised my eyebrow and voiced my approval.

She apparently took my approval for sarcasm, and she made a sour face.

"No, it looks good on you," I insisted, eyeing her old t-shirt and sweatpants. She accepted this time with a quiet "Thanks."

She crossed the room to the bed, sitting next to me.

"What was all that for?" I questioned.

"Charlie thinks I'm sneaking out." I knew this, of course—I could hear Charlie's head formulating a plan to disconnect her battery cables so that she couldn't leave. However, I could not know Bella's thoughts on the matter, so I continued my questions.

"Oh. Why?"

"Apparently, I look a little overexcited," she replied. I saw a look of apprehension cross her face, and I could not help but lean forward to examine for myself. I lifted her chin gently, and looked her squarely in the eyes.

"You look very warm, actually," I agreed. I slowly brought my face to her, playing my cool cheek against her warm throat. I felt her stiffen—not out of fear, but out of respect to me. She knew that any sudden movements could provoke my sense of smell, as I had so rudely made her aware of earlier. I could not help but voice my appreciation—both of her polite response and of the warmth I could now feel—by letting out an audible sigh of contentment. I felt her heart quicken, her pulse moving faster in her throat.

"It seems to be…much easier for you, now, to be close to me," she observed. She caught on quickly, to my satisfaction. However, I could not help but continue my explorations, so I drew the conversation out.

"Does it seem that way to you?" I asked as I lightly brushed my face against her chin. I allowed my hand to travel up to her still-damp hair and softly push it back behind her shoulder, giving me better access to her neck. I tried not to focus on the irony of my attraction to her throat and slowly allowed my lips to find a place behind her ear.

"Much, much easier," she continued.

I felt that as long as I did not kiss her lips, perhaps she wouldn't react as strongly as she did this afternoon, so I kept a slow pace and shied away from her face. Not that I didn't enjoy her earlier reaction, but I did not want to bring any complications when they were not necessary. I did not want to, as they say, kill the mood.

"Hmm," I affirmed.

"So I was wondering," she began as I lightly explored her collarbone with my fingers, keeping my face gently at her soft, pulsing throat. This seemed to make her breath catch, and she paused before she could continue.

"Yes?" I goaded her.

"Why is that do you think?" Her voice trembled in the middle of her sentence, and a small suspicion that I was making her uncomfortable began to formulate somewhere in the back of my mind. I ignored it for the moment, unable to tear myself away. I chuckled at her question, feeling her heart accelerate yet again as my breath tickled her throat.

"Mind over matter," I told her truthfully. Suddenly she pulled away from me, apparently confirming my earlier suspicion. I berated myself, ashamed that I had let my actions go to far. I froze, giving her space and continuing to internally punish myself for making her uncomfortable. Once again, I wished I could hear her thoughts. I had to resort to asking.

"Did I do something wrong?"

"No—the opposite." I saw a blush quickly rise to her cheeks. "You're driving me crazy."

That was not the answer I was expecting, and I had to ponder each meaning of the phrase. Was I driving her crazy in a literal sense? She was losing her senses? Or was I irritating her?

Suddenly, my human instincts in regards to physical relationships took over, and I suddenly realized what she meant. I was driving her crazy in a good way. I could not help but be pleased at my apparent knack for something that I had never experienced before.

"Really?" I asked, grinning stupidly and almost wickedly. I felt a satisfying sense of power—but power in a way I had never experienced it before. An enjoyable way that I knew could make Bella happy, could allow her to sense just how much I loved her.

"Would you like a round of applause?" she retorted playfully. Clearly, she recognized my power as well. I smiled again.

"I'm just pleasantly surprised," I explained, pushing down the slight embarrassment of my inexperience. "In the last hundred years or so, I never imagined anything like this. I didn't believe I would ever find someone I wanted to be with…in another way than my brothers and sisters. And then to find, even though it's all new to me, that I'm good at it…at being with you…" I let my voice trail off, knowing that she got the gist.

"You're good at everything," she clarified.

I did not necessarily agree with her, but I was not ready to give up that small sense of power just yet, so I simply shrugged as if what she said was true. We both laughed quietly.

"But how can it be so easy now?" she continued. "This afternoon…"

I flinched, once again recalling my reaction to her proximity in the meadow, and once again by her truck. "It's not easy," I conceded. "But this afternoon, I was still…undecided. I am sorry about that, it was unforgivable for me to behave so."

"Not unforgivable," she replied. I felt a wave of relief spread through me.

"Thank you. You see," I began, unable to look her in the eye while I made my confession. "I wasn't sure if I was strong enough…" I gently picked up one of her hands and placed it on my face to further emphasize my point. "And while there was still that possibility that I might be…overcome," I took a moment to inhale her scent, again by means of emphasis, and continued "I was…susceptible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would…that I ever could…"

I felt myself begin to break down, and I found myself more vulnerable than I could ever recall being. Here I was, practically declaring myself to Bella, after only a short time of knowing her, after only being close to her for a few days. I could not make myself say the words—that it was a possibility that she could die at my hands.

"So there's no possibility now?" she asked hesitantly, tenderly. I once again found myself shocked at her complete acceptance of my monstrous tendencies.

"Mind over matter," I said again, smiling at her.

"Wow, that was easy," she said. I could not help myself, I threw my head back and laughed.

"Easy for you," I clarified, affectionately touching her nose with my finger. All she had to do was simply be herself, to exist, to make me fall so deeply in love with her that I could not dream of hurting her. Suddenly, I realized that I needed to make sure she still knew that I was dangerous, that I would always be somewhat dangerous.

"I'm trying," I said, and I could hear the strain in my voice. "If it gets to be…too much, I'm fairly sure I'll be able to leave." I knew that I would never want to leave, that I could stay here with her forever, but if I began to lose control, I hoped that I would be able to restrain myself and leave before I actually put her in any danger. She made a disappointed face, and I felt a sick satisfaction in realizing that she wanted me to stay as long as possible, too.

"And it will be harder tomorrow, I've had the scent of you in my head all day, and I've grown amazingly desensitized. If I'm away from you for any length of time, I'll have to start over again. Not quiet from scratch though, I think."

I felt a sense of satisfaction as I explained to her. I felt more at ease with her the more I revealed to her, which was precisely the opposite of how I expected to feel.

"Don't go away, then," she said.

"That suits me," I said, and I felt myself relax a bit after my short speech. "Bring on the shackles," I joked, "I'm your prisoner. However, I made a show of placing her arms in my power, quietly laughing.

"You seem more…optimistic than usual," she said. "I haven't seen you like this before."

Once again, I was surprised by her astute observations. I should become more used to that, I told myself.

"Isn't it supposed to be like this? The glory of first love, and all that. It's incredible isn't it, the difference between reading about something, seeing it in the pictures, and experiencing it?"

"Very different," she replied, nodding. "More forceful than I'd imagined."

No truer words had ever been spoken. Suddenly, I felt the gates break within me, and I began to tell her everything that had been rushing through my head the past few weeks. As we settled more comfortably on the bed, I took her in my arms. I told her about the new emotions she allowed me to experience, from love to jealousy. I told her about how I fell in love with her, and when I made my decision to stop ignoring her. I calmed her jealous tendencies when it came to Rosalie, ensuring her that I never felt like this about anyone before. She once again stunned me by saying that it was unfair that I had to wait nearly a century for her, while she got off easy and did not have to wait.

"You're right," I said. "I should make this harder for you, definitely." I took both of her hands in one of my own, and softly stroked her damp hair with my free hand. I reveled in her closeness for the thousandth time that day, and continued. "You only have to risk your life every second you spend with me, that's surely not much. You only have to turn your back on nature, on humanity…what's that worth?" There was teasing in my tone, but undeniable truth in my words.

"Very little—I don't feel deprived of anything."

"Not yet," I answered, knowing that there was still so much that she could never understand. Before I could go on, however, I heard Charlie's footsteps on the stairs. I heard his thoughts get closer, unsure of whether Bella would be in her room or not. I knew I had to disappear and I did so quickly, before Bella had time to react.

Before she realized I was gone, I was hidden. "Lie down!" I whispered harshly, and she caught on quickly. She turned over and curled up in what I recognized as her normal sleeping position, and began to breathe loudly. I rolled my eyes at her act. It wouldn't fool a child. I stood still as a statue until Charlie came in, saw Bella "asleep" (apparently, it could fool him), and left. After he closed the door behind him, I silently went back to the bed and resumed my comfortable position, putting my arms around Bella.

"You are a terrible actress," I whispered into her ear. "I'd say that career path is out for you."

"Darn it," she said quietly. I could hear her heart beating wildly next to my chest. I did not know if it was from the close call with Charlie, my proximity, or perhaps a mixture of both. To calm her, I began to hum a melody that had been stuck in my head for the past few days. Bella was unaware of my musical abilities, and for some reason I did not want to tell her yet…it hadn't really come up in conversation, anyway. Her presence had inspired me in a way that nothing else had, and a melody had invaded my senses and persisted, practically begging to be written. I had sat at the piano several times over the past week, putting the melody to elaborate chords and swift notes, embellishing it into a beautiful piece. I was rather proud of it, more so than any other compositions I had created over the years. I felt the need to at least expose her to the song that she had inspired.

"Should I sing you to sleep?" I asked.

"Right, like I could sleep with you here."

"You do it all the time," I noted.

"But I didn't know you were here," she stated.

"So, if you don't want to sleep…"

"If I don't want to sleep…?" She trailed off, confused by my slightly suggestive tone. I laughed, once again relishing that small power I had over her.

"What do you want to do then?"

"I'm not sure," she admitted.

"Tell me when you decide," I said. I had all the time in the world. I took the opportunity to explore her yet again, and trailed my nose along her jaw, enjoying her delicious scent.

"I thought you were desensitized," she noted.

"Just because I'm resisting the wine doesn't mean I can't appreciate the bouquet," I said. "You have a very floral smell, like lavender…or freesia. It's mouthwatering," I admitted.

"Yeah, it's an off day when I don't get somebody telling me how edible I smell." Her joke relaxed me a bit, and I laughed.

"I've decided what I want to do. I want to hear more about you."

"Ask me anything," I allowed. I knew that it could go too far at any moment, but I longed for that satisfied feeling that I got whenever I let her in, whenever I opened up to her. She asked me about my lifestyle, my family's choice to refrain from hunting humans. She took in everything with a quiet acceptance, letting me explain as fully as I wanted. She then asked me about my ability to read minds, and I told her about Jasper and Alice's gifts as well. I told her more about my family. Throughout our conversation, I could not resist breathing in her scent, taking her in. I pressed my lips to her hair softly more than once. It was still a struggle, restraining myself, but it was indeed becoming easier. Suddenly I realized that I had stopped talking and she had not asked me anything else. I felt her muscles relaxing beneath my arms.

"Are you ready to sleep?" I asked. "Or do you have any more questions?"

"Only a million or two," she replied.

"We have tomorrow," I reminded her. "And the next day, and the next…" I placed my face near hers yet again, and I could feel her smile at the thought of all that lay ahead of us.

"Are you sure you won't vanish in the morning?" she asked hesitantly. "You are mythical, after all."

"I won't leave you," I told her, hoping she could sense my absolute sincerity. She seemed to.

"One more then, tonight…" she said, and I felt her body temperature rise. She was blushing for some reason, and her muscles were tenser.

"What is it?" The blockage of her thoughts was unbearable.

"No, forget it. I changed my mind."

Not acceptable, that would drive me insane. I decided to try the persuasive and affectionate angle.

"Bella, you can ask me anything." She remained silent. I groaned aloud.

"I keep thinking it will get less frustrating, not hearing your thoughts. But it just gets worse and worse."

"I'm glad you can't read my thoughts. It's bad enough that you eavesdrop on my sleep-talking."

New angle. More persuasive with a slightly pitiful tone. "Please?"

She shook her head. I was running out of angles. I resorted to a small threat. What on earth could she be so afraid to ask me?

"If you don't tell me, I'll just assume it's something much worse than it is," I warned. Then I switched back to pitiful. "Please?"

"Well…" she began. I inwardly smiled at my imminent victory.

"Yes?" I persisted.

"You said that Rosalie and Emmett will get married soon…is that…marriage…the same as it is for humans?"

Realization dawned on me. That's why she was afraid to ask me. This subject is slightly nerve-wracking for anyone, myself included. I could not keep my laughter hidden.

"Is that what you're getting at?" I asked. She did not reply, she merely shifted her weight uncomfortably.

"Yes, I suppose it is much the same. I told you, most of the human desires are there, just hidden behind more powerful desires."

"Oh," she said meekly. I knew she could not possibly be asking as a way of figuring out our own relationship, it was much too soon for that, so I was not worried by her questioning. We would cross that bridge when we came to it.

"Was there a purpose behind your curiosity?" I questioned.

"Well, I did wonder…about you and me…someday…"

Apparently, we had come to that bridge. I felt myself stiffen automatically, and I knew that my words would pain her just as much as they pained me.

"I don't think that…that…would be possible for us," I said carefully, wishing with every word that it was not the truth.

"Because it would be too hard for you, if I were that…close?" she pressed.

"That's certainly a problem," I agreed. "But that's not what I was thinking of. It's just that you are so soft, so fragile. I have to mind my actions every moment that we're together so that I don't hurt you. I could kill you quite easily, Bella, simply by accident." I softly brought my hand to her cheek. "If I was too hasty…if for one second I wasn't paying enough attention, I could reach out, meaning to touch your face, and crush your skull by mistake. You don't realize how incredibly breakable you are. I can never, never afford to lose any kind of control when I'm with you."

My painful confession was met by silence. This entire time, I had been so selfish in my enjoyment of the release I felt when I opened up to her—I did not stop to think about what she could be thinking. Any one thing could send her running for the hills. Could this speech be the straw that broke the camel's back? Could the impossibility of a natural and pleasuring physical relationship cause her to change her mind? Or was she simply terrified at the detailed description of my strength in comparison to her frailty?

"Are you scared?" I asked her quietly.

She waited a moment before simply answering "No. I'm fine." And from her heart rate, it seemed like she truly was. But something was nagging at me. She had brought up this subject much sooner than I was prepared for…was it because she was expecting that kind of relationship soon? Was she already experienced, and all of these innocent kisses and caresses were old news, just stepping stones to be skipped over?

"I'm curious now, though," I began, trying to keep my voice nonchalant. "Have you ever…?"

I felt her blush immediately, alleviating my fears.

"Of course not. I told you I've never felt like this about anyone before, not even close."

"I know. It's just that I know other people's thoughts. I know love and lust don't always keep the same company."

"They do for me," she clarified. "Now, anyway, that they exist for me at all." I felt another twist of satisfaction when I heard her admit that part of her lusted for me. It made me feel less ashamed of my own lustful trains of thought.

"That's nice," I said finally. "We have that one thing in common, at least." I sighed, feeling the conversation coming to a close.

"Your human instincts…" she started to say. I waited patiently for her to continue. "Well, do you find me attractive, in that way, at all?" If I had blood running through my veins, I surely would have blushed just as easily as she often did. But, as she had been so honest with me, and had taken the initiative to put herself in a vulnerable place, I decided to do the same. I laughed and once again tousled her hair.

"I may not be human, but I am a man," I said matter-of-factly. Suddenly I heard and felt her yawn.

"Ive answered your questions, now you should sleep," I told her.

"I'm not sure if I can."

"Do you want me to leave?" I said, unwillingly.

"No!" she exclaimed.

I laughed and pulled her closer to me, feeling her muscles relax. I began to hum her song yet again, softly in her ear as she fell asleep. I felt her completely fall at ease in my arms, and I felt another bit of satisfaction at her comfort with me—satisfaction alongside slight trepidation.

I still was unsure of what I was doing, of whether or not we were making a monumental mistake. But I had waited all my life and then some for a moment like this—moments that I never got to experience in my human life. As I watched her sleep, taking another "human minute" to do something that I did not need to do, I realized that I would take each day as it came. I swore to myself that I would never put her in danger; that I would never hurt her. I also took that moment to swear to myself that I would give her as many "human minutes" as she needed, as long as I got to experience them with her.