AN: For those of you hoping this was an update to Love Is, I apologize. I haven't updated in so long because of life, and because I was doing various other one-shots like this one. But the next chapter is with my beta, so don't loose hope!
For everyone else, thanks for reading! This was written for the heroinexchange over at livejournal. Many thanks to choosetodream for being my beta on this.
Disclaimer: "Twilight" and all related characters belong to Stephenie Meyer.
"I hate calculus," Bella groaned as she let her head fall forward to rest on her crossed arms on the desktop.
I chuckled, "I know, but that won't get you out of this test." Why a teacher was so cruel as to schedule a test directly after Spring Break, I'd never understand. I knew why – he wanted to make sure nothing was lost over the break – but I didn't understand. These were high school seniors. Calculus was the absolute last thing on their minds.
Especially the mind currently so stressed in front of me. Bella had been to hell and back over the Break. No other senior had rushed off to Italy in a life-or-death chase or met with a powerful coven of vampire royalty intent on her death; a missed calculus exam was the least of Bella's worries. If I could have, I would have taken the test for her, but she had arranged to make it up after school, when I wasn't sitting next to her.
So instead, I'd offered to review with her over lunch in the library, where we wouldn't get distracted. She was too nervous to eat, and we both knew I would survive. Earlier attempts at studying at her house had proved…unproductive. At least as far as calculus was concerned; I grinned at the memory.
Charlie had been home, and we were trying to study at the kitchen table, but the game on TV kept distracting Bella, and we relocated to her room.
We probably should have known better, but I don't regret that we didn't.
She'd spread all her notes across her desk and stared at them with fierce determination, but didn't seem to be making any progress. I leaned up against the desk, more interested in her facial expressions as she tried to concentrate than in the symbols scrawled on the loose leaf.
Finally, she'd growled in frustration. "I give up, I'm getting nowhere, and I can't think when you're staring at me like that."
I grinned mischievously, "What if I said that was my objective in staring at you? Getting you to give up."
She scowled. "Then I'd say you need to work on your tutoring methods because I'm not going to learn a thing."
I laughed, "Bella, you just need to relax. You know this material."
"Well I'm sorry if I'm a bit tense. It's been a busy week."
I flinched and she immediately looked repentant. "I'm sorry," she said hurriedly, "I didn't mean it like that."
"No, it has been a busy week." I came around to stand behind her and ran my fingers down from her creamy throat to her wrists, smiling as she shivered beneath my touch. "How can I help you relax?"
"You're doing a pretty good job right there," she mumbled, her eyes falling shut as I began the circuit again.
She sighed in contentment, and I turned her to face me, leaning in close, exhaling as her lips parted ever so slightly to breathe me in.
I brushed my lips against hers with the gentlest pressure, still afraid that she could break or disappear at any moment. She, however, was not afraid of breaking me, and rose to meet the kiss greedily, weaving her hands in my hair.
"Bella, love," I chuckled as I moved to kiss the hollow below her ear, my nose grazing along her jaw line. "You're supposed to be studying. Or relaxing."
"I am," she insisted without sparing a glance at her abandoned work. "Don't stop, I think it's helping. Getting the blood flowing or something." She wasn't entirely coherent, but I understood her general message.
And I was only too happy to obey her request.
Snapping my mind back to the present, I glanced around us; it was unusually quiet. The library was nearly empty, and we sat at a desk near the back where we could have some privacy.
Bella raised her head slightly to look up at me, whispering, "I still can't believe you're back, you know."
Raising an eyebrow and taking one of her hands in mine, I replied, my voice firm, "I'm here, and I'm not going anywhere." A fresh wave of remorse washed over me at the thought of our separation. I knew I still had a long way to go before I could completely convince her that I couldn't leave her again. "What brought that on?"
She shrugged. "It's just weird, having you here again. I never thought I'd see you again, let alone study with you. I missed it."
"Even if we're studying such a despicable subject?" I teased and she grinned shyly. I had never been entirely fond of it either, but any time with her was well spent.
"Even then," she sat back up. "But you are really going to have to help me. If I fail this, graduation might not be as soon as I'd originally planned."
I rolled my eyes; she was exaggerating again. Her grades had been exemplary – one missed test wasn't going to hold her back. I'd gleaned from Charlie's mind that she'd thrown herself into her schoolwork during my absence. It gave her something to distract herself with.
At any rate, neither of us wanted to spend another year at Forks High, if for different reasons. To her, graduation marks the end of her human life and the beginning of the life she so desperately claims she wants. With me, as a vampire. Hopefully, as my wife.
As for me, I'd had more than enough of this dose of teenage drama, which had only increased upon my return.
Our classmates hadn't exactly welcomed my family back with welcome arms. Alice, Jasper, and I had never sought their approval, always opting to be on the outskirts of high school life, but my involvement with Bella had turned that tradition on its head.
"Edward?" Bella called my name, drawing my attention back to the task at hand. "Some help, please?"
I explained the problem to her, guiding her to the right answer without outright telling her – that would get her nowhere. For the rest of the lunch hour, she continued to work, asking occasional questions. She seemed to be getting a grasp on the concepts, and I knew she would do wonderfully on the test.
The bell rang, signaling the end of the period, and I gathered up her books for her, carrying them to the sixth period class we shared.
This was the part of the day I truly despised – facing our classmates. Not all of them had been as forgiving as Bella. In fact, none of them were.
As we walked in, hand in hand, several heads turned, though most turned back to whatever they'd been doing once they saw it was us.
Mike Newton, on the other hand, scowled and studiously avoided looking at us. 'I still can't believe she took him back.'
Neither could I, friend.
We still had a few minutes before the bell rang and Bella spent them pouring over her notes for her test in two hours. I watched, a small smile playing on my lips, amused by the way she'd bite her lip trying to concentrate.
'Look at him, looking at her like that. It's like the past six months didn't even happen.' Mike continued to rant. 'Perhaps I should have tried harder. That Black kid was able to start getting her back to normal, and he wasn't even around the first several months.' Images of just what she looked like those first several months flashed across his mind like a film reel, and I struggled to maintain my composure. Each image of her was like another knife in my gut; the first day she came back to school after I left, eyes red and looking completely and utterly lost. Fast forward a month and the only change was a heavier layer of clothing. Her eyes had lost that spark and had completely glassed over, like she was just a body going through the motions.
I grew more and more tense as the seconds passed, and Bella, observant as she was, noticed. "Are you ok?" she asked, and I was elated to see her eyes warm with concern in place of the deadness in Newton's head.
'And now she's asking how he is?' Mike scoffed. 'He's got to be the luckiest guy in all of history.'
I put a finger to my temple and whispered back to Bella, "Headache."
She narrowed her eyes in confusion for a moment, no doubt wondering if vampires could get headaches, but then comprehension flashed through those beautiful eyes. She glanced around and saw Mike's tense shoulders. "Sorry," she said, understanding what had to be the source of my irritation.
I shook my head, "Don't be. It's nothing I don't deserve."
She looked like she was going to object, but the bell rang and class began. She let it drop, and class passed as any ordinary day. I'd fallen back in the routine easily, since the work was no different than the other dozens of times I'd been a high school senior.
Seventh period passed much the same, this time with hostile thoughts from Ben Cheney, of all people. He was still dating Angela, who'd worried constantly about her friend. And he resented me for it.
I wondered if things would ever return to normal, at the same time knowing it was impossible. And even if it were possible, I wouldn't deserve it.
The time came for me to leave Bella to face her test and I walked her to the door of the classroom. "You'll do wonderfully, don't worry about it," I reassured her, lightly kissing her lips.
"We'll see," she responded nervously. "You'll wait for me?"
"Of course. I'll be back in the library."
I watched her walk away and listened as our teacher gave her instructions. When all I could hear was Bella's pencil scratching across the page, I decided it was time for me to return to the library.
Unfortunately, several other students had the same idea. A group of students I didn't know was clustered around a table near the entryway. They looked up when I entered, and conversation died.
I didn't say anything, simply walked back to the table Bella and I had worked at earlier.
'Edward Cullen's really back then, isn't he?'
'I wonder if that chick he was with took him back. I know I wouldn't have, if I were her. What he did was worse than when Joshua cheated on me.'
'I wonder why he'd move back for the last quarter of school. My parents would have made me graduate first so I wouldn't get off track. Guess the perfect Cullens don't get "off track."'
And on and on. Not one of them felt sympathy for me. I sat, and took it, with a book in front of me, though I didn't really see it. This was a different sort of exile than I was used to. Normally I was the one inflicting it on myself. But this…the harsh bitterness grated on me as I deserved.
They didn't stay much longer, and I was left alone to wait for Bella to finish for the last fifteen minutes or so, if she took the projected hour.
Time was a funny thing. Fifteen minutes wasn't even a blink compared to the time I'd spent on Earth. But I still felt every minute ticking away, the annoying second hand separating me from my love. Seconds were even less than fractions of blinks, and yet the seconds before Bella flung herself at me in Volterra felt like centuries. They still weighed heavy on me, the overwhelming pain impossible to forget.
Eventually, though, fifteen became ten, then five, then she came around the corner to meet me, a smile on her face.
"I take it it went well, then?" I asked as I greeted her with a soft kiss on the cheek.
"Surprisingly so," she answered, winding her arms around my neck, "Your last minute tutoring really helped."
I rested my hands lightly on her waist and brought her close to me. "Anytime."
I was truly and remarkably blessed.