Author's Note: Sorry if there are more typos in this chapter than usual, but I wanted to get it out as soon as possible to all the wonderful reviewers who have been waiting so patiently for it. Thanks for reading, guys!
The last week seemed like a distant blur. I remembered things in vague images and phrases, unable to actually remember whole conversations. I remembered the sound of Alice crying and the feeling of Emmett dutifully cleaning and rebandaging my wound. I remembered Jasper helping me sit up and forcing me to drink and eat, and I remembered Rosalie coming and going constantly, caring for the others as they cared for me. Most of my memories were of talking to Bella. I could remember her soft, sweet voice and her gentle, caring words. I could almost feel her fingers stroking my hair or brushing softly against my cheek. But I was feverish and sick, and after 'waking up', I had no idea if those memories were memories at all, or if they were just dreams.
It certainly wasn't a far stretch to say that I dreamed of a girl like Bella.
After that morning when my fever broke, I wanted desperately to ask her what had happened. I needed to hear her either confirm or deny for me, because I had no idea what the truth was. I was set on telling her how I felt now that I was actually in the right mind to do so, but she avoided me like the plague. When I asked to talk to her alone, she refused and made herself busy with other things so that she wouldn't have to be alone with me. When she sat next to me, it felt like she was cringing away. And when I reached over to hold her hand after her shock of seeing Alice drenched in blood, she pulled it away after only a few moments.
Alice was busy with her projects, the main one being Jasper, so I couldn't seem to peg her down long enough to ask her what was going on with Bella. Although I'd always felt a little bit uncomfortable around Rosalie, I ended up going to her for advice. At first she was all business and wasn't exactly willing to discuss Bella's personal feelings, but after a while she opened up to me a little bit. She was actually a lot nicer than I had given her credit for, and I felt guilty for judging her before. She helped me constantly that first day, and she assured me that Bella had at least some sort of feelings for me. By the way she was acting, I worried that those assurances were only meant to make me feel better.
More than a week passed by, and I slowly got stronger and stronger. I was able to walk on my own with the walking stick that Alice and Jasper had made for me, and Rosalie went for a walk with me every day so that I could strengthen my leg. On those walks we gathered fruit and discussed Bella.
"Have you noticed that lately she's been spending a lot more time with Emmett?" I asked Rosalie one day. She didn't slow her steady stride, but her expression darkened.
"Have they?" she asked curtly, her voice sharp. I frowned.
"I think so, yes.""Well, I suppose there isn't really much choice on this island. Her selection is kind of limited."
That was true, I supposed, but it still didn't sit right with me. We walked for a bit in silence.
"I mean, I know he's your brother," said Rosalie, picking up the conversation again. Apparently she had been still thinking about it too. "but he's not exactly the sharpest tool in the shed, is he? Bella could do much better. I really doubt that there's anything going on there."
My frown deepened, because Emmett wasn't stupid at all. My brother was smart and good looking and funny. I knew lots of women that would go for him in a heart beat. Her attempt at assurance didn't assure me at all. If anything it had me worrying even more.
"I just need to talk to her." I said, kicking a rock away from the little path we were starting to wear through the jungle's underbrush. "But she won't be alone with me for even two minutes! What am I doing wrong? You're her friend- has she said anything to you?"
Rosalie gave me a sharp look. "Yes, she's my friend. And if she told me something in confidence, it would stay that way."
I didn't say anything in response to that because I admired it even when I simultaneously hated it. It was just so unfair! I just needed to be able to speak to her, and somehow the girl managed to be busy all the time on a deserted island when there were only five other people to be around.
Rosalie sighed and I snapped from my reverie, looking over at her. She looked weary, and it made absolute sense. She seemed to never put her guard down. All that effort to be strong all the time had to be tiring. Why did she feel like she had to constantly be perfect? She was intimidating enough- when she was trying to be tough she was downright frightening. Not that I'd tell her that. I could only imagine what her response would be.
"Look, Bella hasn't said a single word to me about it either way." she admitted, and I felt my heart plummet a little bit. I began to get the feeling that all the 'memories' I'd had of Bella saying kind, wonderful, comforting things to me hadn't been memories at all, but merely delusions. And now that I'd woken up and focused all of my intensity on getting her to talk to me alone, I'd frightened away a person who didn't reciprocate my feelings at all. No wonder she was avoiding me like the plague- she didn't like me and I was making her feel uncomfortable. I began to regret all at once all the significant glances I'd angled at her, all the times I had reached for her hand. I'd made a fool of myself. My shoulders drooped inwardly and I inhaled softly with a feeling of despair.
Rose and I headed back to camp in silence, and she seemed as wrapped up in her thoughts as I was. I made a mental note to ask her what she was thinking about later, but at the moment I was too depressed about my own predicament to be anything other than utterly self-centered. I held back a branch and let Rosalie pass under it before I followed after into our camp. I looked up to see that Emmett and Bella were perched on the fallen log. Bella looked up at me with wide brown eyes and I couldn't make out the meaning of her expression. Her opulent eyes widened further when Emmett took hold of her hand. She looked at Emmett, bearing a surprised expression, and he smiled serenely back at her. I heard Rose emit an unladylike snort of derision and she stormed past them toward the beach.
"What's blondie's problem?" asked Emmett, smirking. He looked completely pleased with himself, and for the first time in my life I wanted to punch my own brother in his tan, smiling, handsome face.
"Why don't you go ask Rosalie yourself?" I asked, my voice sharp as glass. "I need to talk to Bella anyway."
Bella jolted up as if an electric current had passed through the log. She tugged her hand out of Emmett's and looked oddly startled, with a deer-in-headlights expression on her face that was still almost as pale as when we had arrived.
"I told Alice I'd meet her at the spring." said Bella. "I can't talk right now."
And she practically ran into the jungle, tripping over a tree root and almost falling. She caught herself at the last second, scrambled to get up, and didn't slow down. Emmett raised his eyebrows at me and grinned.
"What did you want to talk to Bells about?" he asked good naturedly.
Bells? He was calling her Bells now? When had they gotten on a nick-name basis?
"That's between me and Bella." I told him coldly. "It's none of your business."
He didn't seem overly bothered by my surly attitude and merely shrugged. "Whatever. Suit yourself."
He lazily stood from the log, stretched languidly, and pulled his shirt over his head and tossed it in the sand.
"I'm going to go find Blondie." he said, and I gave a curt nod, wondering vaguely why that required him to take his shirt off. I rolled my eyes at his back as he sauntered toward the beach, oozing self-confidence.
"Hey, Edward!" called Alice, coming out of the trees with Jasper following a few steps behind. My sister beamed at me and Jasper nodded. I looked at her in confusion.
"Aren't you supposed to be meeting Bella at the spring?" I asked. She frowned and looked over her shoulder at Jasper. He shrugged. She turned back to me.
"No, I don't think so. Why?"
I sighed and let my tired body drop into the sand. "Oh, no reason." I said, rubbing my temples as the beginnings of a headache began to throb in my skull like the dull beating of a drum. "I just realized that Bella wants absolutely nothing to do with me and I have no idea why."
I opened my eyes and saw Alice and Jasper having a silent, meaningful conversation with each other. Alice's lips were tight and Jasper was shaking his head. I had no idea what they were saying, but they sure looked like they understood each other. For some reason their little link annoyed me a little. Alice and Jasper weren't even a couple, not really, and already they had that deep of a connection. They could speak to each other wordlessly. Hell, I couldn't even speak to Bella with the whole English language in my arsenal.
"Didn't you two get off to a bad start?" asked Jasper curiously, and Alice frowned at him.
"That doesn't matter, Jazz. They're past that. Besides, they're soul mates."
Jasper and I both frowned in confusion.
Alice nodded, her black spiky hair bobbing around her heart-shaped face and fluffier than usual from all the humidity. "Oh, yes. Of course. Neither of you realizes it yet, but you're meant to be together."
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. "And you know this because…?"
Alice sighed at me and put her hand on her hip, which she cocked out to the side. "Edward, I just know!" she said, as if that made any sense at all. I could feel Jasper's sympathy, but I could tell he wasn't going to argue with Alice's insane logic either. I was in this one alone.
"Maybe you should tell her that." I suggested, and I know I sounded just like a moody teenager. I was sulking, and Edward Cullen never sulked. It just wasn't who I was, and yet here I was…. sulking. Alice plopped down into the sand next to me and put her arm around my shoulders, leaning her cheek against my shoulder. She looked up at me with liquid hazel eyes that were thoughtful and intense.
"Maybe you should just tell her how you feel." she suggested, and I practically growled.
"That's what I've been trying to do!" I told her, frustration evident in my tone and I'm sure by my expression as well. She looked startled and pulled away from me very quickly. I instantly regretted yelling at her, because it wasn't her fault.
"Try to see things from Bella's perspective," said Jasper, taking Emmett's abandoned spot on the fallen log. "We're all marooned on this deserted island, and everyone is tired and hungry, and I'm sure you're all missing your families, right?"
I nodded glumly and felt my guilt intensify because Jasper didn't include himself in that category. He didn't have a family to miss in the first place.
"So she's stressed out and probably at her wit's end, and you go out and nearly get yourself killed and then have us all on pins and needles for over a week worrying that you're going die, and you came pretty damn close, too. Right now, I'm sure Bella has too much on her mind and just can't quite handle you trying to get information out of her, and the last thing she needs is another bomb dropped on her. And that's exactly what would happen if you told her that you were head over heels for her, and you'd probably tell her in completely the wrong way since you're so frustrated. So, just give her a little time, alright?"
This was the most I had heard Jasper say in weeks and I stared at him in surprise. But he was absolutely right, I realized. Everyone, Bella included, was feeling a lot of stress, and everyone was handling things remarkably well, but it didn't mean they weren't suffering for it internally. I missed Carlisle and Esme and my old life too, and the only way I was getting past the grief of that one was just to repress it. Maybe Bella just couldn't handle one more thing right now or all the walls she'd put up to protect herself would come crumbling down. What I needed to do was gain her trust and slowly start getting through all those walls one by one.
"Thanks, Jasper." I sighed, offering him a weak smile of gratitude. Alice hugged me and beamed, then nimbly hopped up. She perched herself right next to Jasper and smiled at him radiantly.
"You are so smart." she grinned, and Jasper turned slightly pink, looking down at his hands. I chuckled softly.
"So this whole thing with Bella and Emmett is in my head? There's not anything going on there?" I asked for clarification, and Alice nodded brightly.
"Of course. I mean, come on. Emmett and Bella? Not in a million years!"
So far, Bella had not warmed very much to my little scheme, but I was working on her. I knew this was the way to get to Rosalie, and it would help Bella in the end too. I was sure that by the end we would all laugh over this. That was, if I could get Bella to hold my hand or something. She wouldn't budge.
When I held her hand in front of Edward and Rosalie, I thought her big brown eyes might pop out of her head. My second thought was that she might slap me in the face and then the little ruse I was working so hard on would be completely blown. But she just staggered away and nearly fell flat on her pretty little face to get away. Rosalie seemed sufficiently irritated, which surely meant that she was jealous, so phase one was going to plan. It was time to test the waters.
I made my way over to where I saw her standing knee-deep in the water. She was in a tiny red bikini and I felt my mouth water at the sight. I grinned and approached her.
"Catching some sun, or do you just enjoy being half naked and making me drool?" I asked, and she turned a frosty glare in my direction. My grin didn't waver.
"I'm tired of getting my clothes soaked every time I want to check the nets." she said coldly, and I shrugged.
"No one ever said you couldn't hit two birds with one stone."
"You're a pig."
I smirked and nodded. "Yeah, so I've heard. Wanna tell me why you're so mad at me?" I asked, kicking off my shoes and walking into the water so that I was beside her. The hem of my ragged shorts got wet, but I didn't care.
"Wanna tell me why you and Bella are suddenly holding hands?" she countered, and I made a mental tally. Team Emmett: 1. Team Rose: 0. So far this was going exactly as I had hoped.
"Bella's a cute girl. Maybe you can put a good word in for me?"
Rosalie's face darkened and she put her hands on my chest and pushed me back. She was way stronger than I'd have ever giver her credit for, and the force of her little shove sent me sailing back into the water. I landed on my butt and my head went under for a second before I came spluttering back up. I held myself up with my hands wedged behind me for balance and coughed up salt water as I stared at her. She did not look pleased and she stomped out of the water.
A rumble of thunder seemed to mirror her expression, and I looked up to see that the sky above was gray and turbulent. A few soft drops landed on my upturned face and I picked myself up to get up out of the water before the rain really started coming down. I hurried in the direction of the camp where Rosalie had gone, and when I got there Rose was moodily poking the fire, now wearing shorts and a tshirt over her bikini, doing her damnedest to keep the fire going in the bleak drizzle from above. Alice and Jasper were collecting more branches for the fire around the perimeter of camp, and Edward and Bella were nowhere to be seen.
"Where're Bella and Edward?" I asked, and Rosalie only glared at me coldly before turning her back on me.
"Edward went to go get Bella. She's at the spring." said Alice, and I nodded. I picked up a piece of fruit and started peeling it with my knife, watching Rosalie as she stoked the fire. It was a nice view, I'm not gonna lie.
I clenched an unclenched the hand that had been held in Emmett's about half an hour before. My mind was reeling and I couldn't seem to think straight. I just needed some time to go through my thoughts and sort things out by myself. I found my way to the spring where I'd said I was going to meet Alice. Fortunately, I knew Alice would probably be busy for several more hours in the jungle with Jasper, so my lie would probably never crop up. I sat down on a large boulder that was a few yards away from the deep spot of the spring and peeled my shoes off of my feet. Then I pulled the ponytail-holder out of my hair and let the long, stringy, sweaty locks come down around my shoulders where I combed the tangles out with my fingers. I took of my shorts and tshirt till I was only clad in my bathing suit. After seeing Rosalie strip down to her bathing suit the week before to go into the water, I'd been inspired by her ingenuity and taken to wearing mine too. It was saving us the hassle of wearing wet, heavy, dripping clothes for an hour or two till they dried.
I stepped into the cold, spring water with a sigh and waded in till I was chest deep, then leaned back against a smooth, moss covered rock and closed my eyes. I needed to sort out what in the world I was going to do. Every time I felt like maybe I had the courage to talk to Edward, I'd go up to him and he'd be with Rosalie. They were always together, always smiling and laughing, and I'll admit it. I was jealous. Really jealous. And part of me just wanted him that much more because of it.
I was beginning to see the truth of Emmett's logic. If I felt this jealous when I saw Edward and Rosalie together, and in turn I wanted him to be mine even more, maybe it would work the same way if Edward and Rose saw Emmett and I spending time together. I was worried they'd see right through it, though. I was a terrible actress, and an awful liar. Who would ever believe our little charade?
There was also another fear wiggling around in my mind, and this one I didn't want to even acknowledge. But a part of me was really afraid that if Emmett and I pretended to like each other, that I might actually end up falling for him. This had lots of terrible outcomes that I could foresee. One, he might not like me back, and then I'd be pining after both of the Cullen men on this island and doubly miserable. Two, he might actually like me back (and this chance was a slim one), and then I would be further torn with my emotions. I didn't think anything, not even handsome, funny Emmett, could make me not like Edward, but what if I found that I could have feelings for more than one? I couldn't even handle the things swirling around in my head regarding Edward. I certainly didn't need Emmett's shenanigans messing things up further.
Thunder rumbled and I looked up into the stormy sky that had darkened even though it was only mid-afternoon. Fat, heavy raindrops began to fall down on my upturned face and landed heavily on the water so that I was being splashed from every direction. I sighed and dunked my head, and while under water tried to shake out as much grime and dirt and sand from my hair as possible. I hadn't had the foresight to bring shampoo, but washing it in plain water was better than nothing. I scrubbed my body with my hands and started crawling out of the water.
From my left I heard the crunching of leaves and looked up to see that Edward was approaching me, an exasperated look on his face.
"Bella," he said, frowning at me. Disapproving. "You shouldn't go out by yourself."
I climbed out of the spring and awkwardly tried to hide as much of my bikini-clad body as possible. He stood in the way of my dry clothes, which were getting wetter and wetter by the moment. I wiped the rain from my eyes and looked back at him. He stood stoically in the rainfall as if such mundane things as a thunder storm had no effect on him.
"I thought you were going to meet up with Alice." he said, and I shrugged.
"I guess she forgot." I said, and there was a false note to my voice that I couldn't help. I wished that I could be one of those people who was a good liar.
"Bullshit." spat Edward, and I cringed a little. "Alice is back at camp. Don't lie to me, Bella."
I felt suddenly very guilty, but also very embarrassed about my lack of clothes. He seemed to notice my attire, or lack there of, and I couldn't make out his expression through the rain.
"Erm, Edward?" I asked, pointing behind him. "Could you please hand me my clothes?"
"Your what?" he asked blankly, and then looked behind him. "Oh! You're clothes. Yeah, here." he said, handing them to me. I took them and hastily dressed. The rain was really coming down, and the darkness was hopefully hiding how pink in the face I was.
"Bella, we need to talk."
"I can't right now." I said, and I tried to move past him in the direction of camp. He blocked my path. I sighed and turned around, going in the opposite direction. I had to get away from him.
"Where are you going?" he called to me, and I didn't answer. He limped after me, surprisingly quick for a guy on a make-shift crutch. My guilt intensified over the fact that he might be hurting himself, but I mentally convinced myself that he could stop and turn around any time he wanted.
I hurried further into the woods, and he hurried after me. "Bella, stop this!" he ordered me, and I swung around.
"Fine." I said angrily, my hair wet and dripping across my face. His bronze hair looked as black as Alice's when it was wet and it clung in little tendrils around his pale, handsome face. I caught my breath at the sight of him, trying not to be so transparent. His clothing clung to his body and I could perfectly see the breadth of his strong shoulders, his long, strong arms and lean abdomen. I dropped my eyes, trying not to stare. I could feel his eyes on me and I glanced up at him for only a second to see that his green eyes flashed with some unreadable emotion.
"Bella…" he said, and stopped as if he didn't know what to say. There was a moment of silence and I diligently stared down at the wet, leafy ground. "Is there- Is there something going on between you and Emmett?"
I looked up at him in surprise and didn't know what to say. The cold rain beat down hard and I shivered. He saw my motion and his hard, green eyes softened.
"You're freezing." he stated, and closed the gap between us. He put his arm around my shoulders and pulled me in close to his body where I could feel the body heat radiating off of him in reassuring waves. He pulled me under a large tree where the majestic, leafy branches shielded us from the majority of the falling rain. It beat a soothing tempo around us, and underneath our canopy of leaves, huddled up to Edward, I felt safe and cozy. I closed my eyes and breathed in his scent, then opened them again and looked up at him. He was staring at me wonderingly and I blushed under the intensity of his gaze. At that moment, it felt like we were the only two people in the world. The rain around us blocked out everything else.
"Bella, I need you to tell me." he implored. "Is there something going on between you and Emmett?"
A heavy lump formed in my throat that I couldn't seem to swallow down. I felt like a floundering fish. I was put on the spot and he was asking me a question I hadn't decided the answer to yet. I'd only just been deliberating that very question. Or rather, not so much whether I should be with Emmett or not, but whether I should pretend to be. I had to remember that this involved not only me, but Emmett and Edward and Rosalie. I needed to take everyone into consideration. What happened if I admitted my feelings to him now and I was rejected? What happened if I denied Emmett and he was miserable because he lost his chance with Rose? Could I do that to him?
I looked up at him, struggling. He stroked my cheek and I closed my eyes, leaning my cheek against his palm. He tilted my chin up so that I would have to look him in the eye. I did, and it didn't help me one bit.
"Edward, don't ask me that." I implored to him. His lips parted with an unspoken question. He didn't understand, and I couldn't explain this one to him.
"Don't do this." he said, his voice thick. "Don't keep pushing me away."
His arm tightened around me so that I was pressed against him. I put my hands on his chest, feeling his warmth and the pulse of his heartbeat. It was a steady metronome that beat a much more even tempo than the cascading rain. I looked up into his eyes and they bore into mine as if he was trying to see into my soul. A bolt of lightning crashed in the distance and momentarily illuminated the whole sky. My hands clenched around the fabric of his shirt and I shivered, but it was from his presence, not the cold.
The world around us was black and filled with the white noise of heavy rain. I could only make out the crisp silhouette of his face and the greenness of his eyes. We were both soaking wet and warmed only by the other's body heat, and I found I couldn't seem to look anywhere but at him, and my body refused to pull away even though my mind was screaming for me to protect myself from getting hurt by him. The emotion was too raw to fight, though.
"Edward, I can't-" I said, and my voice caught in my throat so that my words sounded like a plea or a whimper. His eyes hardened and I thought he was going to let go of me, but his arm around me pulled me close against him and his lips came crashing down on mine.
Author's Note: I think the next section will have to be from Edward's point of view to properly get this scene done. What do you guys think? : -)