A/N: All characters and any reference to Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. This was written as an entry for the November Fan Fiction Contest in the Lion_Lamb community in LJ.
"I know you think you're amusing," he scolded, "but you're not really funny at all." His voice had an all too familiar edge of anger that I was used to hearing when I'd gone too far.
"Oh lighten up," I suggested with a giggle.
"Really Bella, I'm very serious. I don't find them the least bit amusing. You know how I feel on the subject." His eyes reflected a fierce sadness.
I moved to join him on my bed, sitting crossed legged beside him. "Yes," I whispered, "I know how you feel, but since when couldn't you take a joke?"
"It's not a joke Bella. Your mortality, or more specifically the end of it, will never be a joke to me."
"Just one little bite?" I prodded, picking up his arm and gently pressing the plastic fangs I was wearing into his forearm. Wrong move. He ripped his arm from between my hands and before I could even look up he was across the room, glaring bitterly at me, his golden eyes piercing mine. "Sorry," I muttered, knowing I'd gone too far and even more sure there was nothing I could do to bring him back to the calmness I'd just shattered.
"Take it off Bella!" His voice was controlled but his tone was serious.
"But Edward," I protested. "I was only…" He cut me off.
"I said take it off," he insisted. I knew he meant business by the way he held his body, so awkwardly rigid and unnatural, his back pressed against the wall. When he stood that way it was as if the wall held him in place, the only anchor, both physically and emotionally, to keep him in the room, in the situation he clearly did not want to be in.
"Edward, please! I meant it as a joke…just calm down." Even though I understood where his anger came from, the intensity of it made no sense to me. I'd made it clear that I was joking. His inability to relax and joke with me only made me more stubborn, only made me want to hang on to the very thing he wanted me to give up all the more.
"Take it off!" he shouted, his words booming off the walls in a volume I'd never heard him use indoors before. It frightened me and I covered my ears in response. I returned his glower to him but made no attempt to remove the fangs.
"Take-it-off." Each word rolled off his tongue by itself in perfectly enunciated anger.
"There!" I spit the plastic fangs into my hand and threw them at him with as much strength as I had. I knew they wouldn't hurt him but I wished they would as I watched them bounce off his chest and fall to the floor soundlessly.
His jaw was locked and his brow furrowed. I could see the anger burning in his eyes. He seemed to be trying very hard to control himself.
I knew I shouldn't push but I wanted an explanation and I never claimed to have the control he did. I grabbed the hem of my t-shirt and yanked it over my head. "Did you want me to take that off too?" I bullied, knowing full well that's not what he intended.
He was working hard to keep the shock from his face. "Bella, stop," he whispered.
I ignored his plea, pushing myself up to stand and fumbling with the button on my jeans. I couldn't stop the shaking of my hands, couldn't seem to get control of myself or find the off button. Apparently there was no line I wouldn't cross tonight. I unzipped my zipper and forced my jeans down gracelessly, fumbling for balance as my feet pressed into the soft mattress. "There! It's off! It's all off!"
He took one step towards me and then hesitated, some internal struggle freezing him mid step. "Bella put your clothing back on, please."
"No. You said take it off so I did. Or maybe you want it all off?" My tone was icy, the look on my face severe but I'm sure he heard my thudding heart beat as clearly as did. Intuitively my body knew what I was doing even when my brain had no clue.
He bent to pick up my t-shirt and handed it to me, his head turned away. On any other day I would have seen it as Edward being modest but today, in this moment, it stung of rejection. I pulled the t-shirt carelessly from his hands and threw it back at him, dropping to my knees and hanging my head to hide my face from his. I willed the tears to stay in place and not betray my emotions as they always did. I didn't want him to think I couldn't win this fight without playing the damsel in distress.
"Bella, please," he murmured again, the coolness in his tone gone. All I could hear was a gentle pleading, the velvet voice of the man who loved me…and had just rejected me. He put one cool finger under my chin and pulled my face up to meet his gaze. I pulled back from him, still stuck in anger and rejection, averting my eyes. I couldn't stay angry if I looked at him. I wanted him to understand that he couldn't always win.
"No," I insisted, "You are not always right Edward. Things can't always be your way. You need to understand that!" I let my anger get the better of me and impetuously struck out at him with fisted hands. They thudded dully against his chest and his arms were around my waist at once.
"I'm sorry Bella," he breathed, kissing the top of my head softly. "I didn't mean to upset you. You and I will never see eye to eye on this but I do understand your feelings. Now please try to understand mine."
I pulled back from his embrace to look into his eyes, expecting to see sorrow there and instead finding his topaz eyes smouldering. "I'm listening," I prompted.
He closed his eyes and exhaled. "Bella, it would be much easier to speak to you…well it would be less distracting if you were clothed."
"Am I distracting?" I questioned, half amazed and half delighted.
"Very," he agreed, his eyes still closed.
"Edward open your eyes," I requested. I wanted him to look at me. I wanted to see his expressions, to watch his eyes study my body the way I knew he'd seen me do to him. I'd never been in the position to so easily get his reaction to me before and now that it was before me I had never wanted to see what I could do to him, to see what reactions I could bring out in him more in my life.
"You once told me it was a case of mind over matter, that you might not be human but you were still a man. Look at me Edward, and tell me what you see."
His eyes opened reluctantly and it was impossible for him to disguise the unbridled excitement in them. For once I wished I could read his mind so I could hear what he was thinking.
"You have no idea how hard this is for me," he murmured. "For you to be here so…vulnerable…asking me to…expecting me not to…"
I knew I shouldn't enjoy watching Edward stumble for words but there was a poetic justice in it that pleased me. He always left me so incoherent. It was nice to turn the tables on him.
"I'm not asking or expecting anything Edward," I answered blindly. I couldn't be sure of his questions. All I knew is that I wanted him to continue.
"But Bella, you…" He couldn't find the words to speak his thoughts. "I just…" He stopped trying to speak, kneeling on the bed beside me, urging me back onto the mattress gently. I did not fight him.
His hand found my hip and traced the curve of my bone leaving a burning trail of heat behind him. "The shape of your hip…" His voice was barely a whisper. I could see his eyes follow the contours of my hip, committing it to memory.
His fingers trailed down my thigh, lightly stroking the sensitive skin as it moved. I bit my lip to control myself. "You can't imagine what you skin feels like to me…so warm…so silky…so alive," he whispered. His eyes smouldered with desire and erased any trace of rejection that I'd felt.
He repositioned himself between my open legs, pulling my body towards him until I was sitting up. His hands were at my waist. "You're so tiny and delicate. It's as if my hands were made to fit here." He stopped long enough to smile at me with understanding.
"I know," I agreed softly.
"And here," he breathed, his hands sliding around to rest in the hollow of my lower back. A quiet gasp left my throat as the coolness of his skin hit the heat of my back. My hands fisted the sheets as I struggled to control myself.
"You have no idea," he whispered, his lips dropping to my chest. He kissed his way down to the valley of my breasts, his thumb lightly grazing my breast through the satin. "No idea how hard this is, how hard it is to control myself."
"You don't need to control yourself," I offered roughly, almost panting now.
"Yes I do Bella. Yes I do." He kissed his way back up to my face, along my collarbone and back to the hollow behind my ear. He gently pressed his body into mine so I could feel what I had done to him. "Because you see Bella," he whispered. "I am very much a man. And now you've gotten what you want, now you're sure you can do to me what I do to you," he smiled. "So let's not risk your life any more tonight, shall we? I want you as much as you want me. Let's leave it at that."