Since this is just a short story, Victoria has bigger fish to fry and won't appear.

Major thanks to withthevamps for being the mastah beta, and jfly for reminding me about post-coital snuggling.

In the airport gift shop, Alice holds a sterling silver necklace up for Bella to admire.

"You know, they say that Judas was the first vampire," Alice murmurs.

Bella mindlessly pokes the amethyst pendant dangling from the chain. "I thought it was Lilith."

"That's why vampires were thought to be allergic to silver. The Romans paid Judas in silver when he gave up Jesus."

They are leaving Italy after rescuing Edward from suicide. At first, Bella felt amazed, grateful. Triumphant. Now, she just feels cold.

"I don't get it though," Alice says, tossing the necklace onto the table. "If Judas likes silver, wouldn't vampires like it, too?"

Alice speaks distractedly. She's making small talk for Bella's sake. In her mind, Alice is in Washington. She's thinking about the viscosity of elk blood and the way young fern fronds unfurl as they grow.

"Well, Judas eventually regretted what he did," Bella says, inspecting a rack of postcards. "He killed himself after giving up Jesus. The silver was a reminder of his evil. Even evil things can feel-"

"Sorry," Edward interjects. "But we need to hurry. The plane is boarding." He waits at the entrance of the gift shop, tapping a magazine against his arm.

He's good at acting human, she notices. The nervous ticks appear effortless. She wonders if he appeared this human to her before he left.

What was he like before?

Cliff diving. Werewolves. Laurent. Adrenaline has stretched her nerves. Like a rubber band that's been tooled with too many times, the next pluck could snap it. Edward notices: her eyes don't open as wide as they once did.

The world looks different to her now.

"It's okay to be mad at me," he tells her on the plane, tracing his thumb around her knuckles.

"Why, thank you."

"I only meant... I want you to let it out. I deserve it."

What does Edward deserve?

To keep herself from responding, she tears open a package of peanuts and dumps them on her tongue.

Several weeks pass. They settle into Forks, amid whispers and wonderings. On many separate occasions, Edward explains why he left, rubbing soothing circles into Bella's back.

She listens. Understands. She loves him. Her heart hurts with love.

At first, Bella eats her lunches with Angela, in a hidden corner of the cafeteria. She's reluctant to be on display at Edward's side. After all, Edward left her. Her ego is bruised, and she's not ready to give him a public vote of confidence.

"So, what do people say?" she asks Angela. "About me and him. Getting back together."

Mining for gossip feels cheap. But Edward knows what people are thinking about them and won't tell her. The disparity makes her angry.

Angela fingers the felt roses arranged in the plastic vase at the center of their table. "Um."

"I mean, just why do they think I took him back? After he left me and all…"

Eyes narrowing, Angela levels her gaze at Bella. "You really want to hear?"

"I… yes."

"Well, it's nothing bad… Mostly they think any girl would take him back. He's supposedly perfect. Could get away with murder."

Bella smirks at the vitriol seething from her friend. "What do you think?"



Scowling, Angela knocks a salt shaker over and pushes the grains into a pile, then notches the mound with the nail of her forefinger. "I think he's not that hot… sorry."

That is not the answer Bella expects.

"Oh, well, err. Explain?"

"No, I don't mean it as an insult. Don't get me wrong. I just think it's weird how they talk about him." She checked Bella's face to gauge her level of interest, and continues. "Like he's art. They wax poetic about his jaw. He's just a guy…"

Bella's head drops on the table top, and she bites her lip to stop the manic giggles working up her throat. This would probably not be the appropriate moment to laugh.

Just a guy. Amazing.

"But wait," Bella says, her head still on the table. "People do talk about him a lot. How does that make him 'not that hot'?"

Suddenly uncomfortable with topic, Angela scratches at her neck. She regrets having started this conversation. "What do you mean?"

Bella raises her head. "You said 'I think he's not that hot'. I was just wondering…"

This, Bella thinks desperately, might be nice. Seeing Edward as not-Adonis. As just a guy.

Angela senses Bella's stress, and so goes against her phlegmatic nature. "Well," Angela begins, cheeks flushing with embarrassment, "I think Edward is too perfect. Being completely beautiful all the time, every day… it's almost creepy."

"Like a mannequin," Bella mutters.

Bella doesn't agree, exactly. Perfect men don't have Edward's hellacious black eyes. But she understands her friend's point.

Across the cafeteria, Edward listens to the girls' conversations. 'Like a mannequin' certainly stung his pride.

In his pocket, he grips his mother's wedding ring.

He wants to give it to her some day. It feels presumptuous to carry it around, but having the wedding ring and Bella in the same room makes him indescribably happy, so he has taken to carrying it.

Inevitably, Bella acts more affectionate. Lets herself be dazzled, because it's really too stressful to resist.

During lunch, she divides her time between her human friends and the Cullen table. One day, Tyler brushes his hand over her breast as he passes her a bottle of lemonade. She wraps her arms over her chest and glances at Edward. Alice clasps him by his wrist, trying to fasten him to his seat.

It occurs to her that she could never cheat on Edward. Even if someone desirable enough existed, Edward would see the act in the boy's mind. She knew she would never cheat- but the realization that she never could still startles her.

The lunch bell sounds and Edward appears at her side.

"Are you alright?" he asks, frowning deeply at Tyler.

"Yes, I am fine. It's okay."

"You know that wasn't accidental."

"Edward, if you want me to have human experiences, then I will have to get harassed by human boys. It's very innocuous."

"I heard his thoughts. I should be outraged."

She sighed. "A human boyfriend-" Edward cringes, to Bella's annoyance. "-wouldn't know that it was intentional. He might get suspicious, but he would have to shrug it off."

Tyler was just fantasizing about duplicating with Bella the things he witnessed his mother doing with her boyfriends. They live in a small trailer on the outskirts of town, and Tyler frequently walks in on her trysts. His mother sometimes asks him to fetch glasses of water for them while she is in bed with her lover.

Edward doesn't protest Tyler's urges. Some boys feature Bella in very pleasant and interesting fantasies, as far as boys' fantasies go. He protests the nature of Tyler's thoughts.

"So what do I do?" he mutters. "I see what I see. I can't help getting mad."

"Let it go." She squeezes his hand. "But you can't let things go with other people… unless you are able to let things go with yourself. You are the soundboard for the way you treat people."

The tennis shoes make a terrible knocking in Charlie's dryer. Bella stands in front of a shelf of half-empty paint cans, folding threadbare towels and stacking them on top of the washer. Sitting cross-legged at her feet, Edward pokes a rat trap that has been licked clean of its peanut butter.

His siblings would have laughed had they seen him studying the mundane item so closely. When he is with Bella, the familiar becomes interesting. Her presence illuminates everything, and he views the world with a renewed perspective. After a moment, Edward has memorized the trap's simple mechanism.

"I can make this go by quicker, if you want," he suggests for the third time.

She shakes her head. "Sod off. It's my bloody way of contributing."

"I will destroy Carlisle for downloading the BBC."

"Stupid yank."

Edward cocks his head, watching her work with her faint smile on his lips.

"Oh, I need to run to the bathroom," Bella says.

His mother had been a first generation Irish Catholic. Very few outside the family knew about this vulgar heritage.

During his rebellious years, he studied Catholicism. It was a guilty pleasure. He told himself to make a clean break with his humanity. That studying religion wouldn't help.

He wouldn't listen. In the end, Catholic guilt drove him back to Carlisle, like the prodigal son.

In his studies, he read of a saint, Thérèse de Lisieux. Catholicism's Canon of Saints was cluttered with martyrdoms and heroic acts. Meanwhile, Sister Thérèse attained heaven "The Little Way"; through small, consistent acts of devotion. By clearing the convent of its cobwebs faithfully. Joyfully.

It's my way of contributing, he replays in his head.

Bella is no Thérèse de Lisieux. Her willfulness precludes that. But she is humble. She will walk "The Little Way" for those she loves.

When she returns, a startled laugh escapes her mouth and her fingers fly to her lips. All the towels have been folded and rolled into origami animals. Three terry cloth swans perch on the ironing board. An Egyptian cotton beagle teeters on a paint can.

"Oh my god, Edward! This is amazing! How on Earth…"

"Esme taught us how," he explains, resting his chin on her shoulder.

"Us? All of you?"

"Yes. If one of us learns something that's not too complicated, we'll usually teach it to each other." He curls an arm around her waist. "Eternity's a long time; especially when you can't sleep."

Sometimes, she yearns for Jacob. Edward makes it clear that he doesn't want her around young werewolves. She wants to rebel against him, to take a stand. The thought of her young friend makes her happy.

And then there was that time they almost kissed…

Sometimes, she wonders about what-could-have-been. Could it have been love?

She watches the couples at high school. Jessica regales her with tales of love triangles and fist fights, and eventually she decides that she would make a fool out of herself if she continues to entertain thoughts of what-could-have-been. She decides she couldn't have loved Jacob. If she became friends with him on the first day of school, and not during a dire time of her life, she would have written off his overeager doting in the same way she wrote off Mike Newton.

On the way home from seeing a movie in Port Angeles, Edward and Bella approach a mangled car bowed around a redwood on the side of the road. Three ambulances and a half dozen police cars ring the wreck, and the Volvo must mount the shoulder in order to pass the scene. The red and blue rays from cruisers stream through Edward's windshield, filling his car in epileptic lights.

"Two sets of skid marks. Another car ran them off the road. Hit-and-run. No survivors," Edward says, reading an officer's mind. He presses his foot on the gas, accelerating beyond the orgy of human blood.

She turns around in her seat, staring at the wreck. A small black head rests against the passenger windshield, like the child is only taking a nap during a long road trip.

Bella realizes it's morbid to rubberneck, but, well, she is dating a dead man.

And she's not sure what compels her to ask the next question. Maybe it's the sight of the dead African-American family. Maybe it's the racially charged movie they just saw in Port Angeles.

"Did you kill black people?" Bella blurts.

A pause follows. "Excuse me?"

"I just... wonder sometimes. Like, Emmett was pissy about all those kids who missed school on Yom Kippur. Emmett never notices anything about kids at school, but he noticed that. It must be hard, living through a century where things have changed so dramatically, and you have to act like forward-thinking teenagers."


"So, you killed black people..."

"Of course," he snaps. "And white people. I murdered a couple of Asian men, too."

"I mean, like..." Bella rubs her temples. Her Edward is cutting her sideways glances, looking at her with anxious eyes. She feels stupid for launching into this conversation with the bravado of a cowboy. But having started it, she must proceed. "You attacked criminals, murderers. Did you ever use racial profiling in deciding what neighborhoods to hunt in?"

Edward wants to lie.

He's told her he's killed, but that was necessary to protect her from the vampire-monster. But this is a different monster, and hiding it from her is the only way to protect her from it.

It surprises him when he is reluctant to lie. All he needs to say is, Of course not. I killed bad guys indiscriminately.

Too many seconds pass, and his window for lying has closed.

"I was young," he mutters.

After he drops her off, he kills many things. Any animal in his path, any little toad.

Following that night, Edward won't lie next to Bella while she sleeps. He cuddles her until she's dozing, and then he slinks out of her bed. When Bella first realizes this, she wonders about it. Then she feels oddly okay with the fact. He is still there with her, watching from the wicker rocker. Once, she wakes up in the morning while he is flashing out the window. He leaves so quickly, the school papers fly around her desk, gusting into a little tornado in his wake.

"It's okay," she tells him, over and over, day in, day out. "I never thought you were exactly infallible. I understand that you came from a time that I don't understand."

"How much will you tolerate?" he asks. "How much can you forgive?"

She flinches. He sounds disappointed with her, though he holds her hand and presses his lips to her palm.

"Edward, stop… you're okay… you're better now… you're okay…"

He shakes his head, but the more he hears it from the mouth of his love, the more he believes it. Before he left, Bella didn't feel the need to assure him. Why would Adonis need to be assured? Intellectually, she knew he was a "monster". But after being hunted by Laurent, Victoria, James; after seeing Heidi herd a crowd of humans into the bowels of Volterra for slaughter; after hearing Edward admit to flaws of a more human nature- she understands that he needs to be assured.

"You're okay," she insists, to the point of tedium.

He's starting to become comfortable with the idea. He's starting to wonder if maybe he is okay.

"I try to be a …modern… man for you, but I'm scared."

A pause. Congo drums thump low on the radio.

"….my past…" Edward says. His words sound disjointed. Come in fragments. "The past… wasn't always dignified…. wasn't always romantic…"

Bella is waking up in the middle of the night in her bedroom. At first, she thinks she is dreaming. Edward kneels next to her bed, his elbows on either side of her head. His fingers join to create a steeple over her nose. He smells like loam and iron and salt and musk and the stench stings her nasal passages. He's been hunting.

"I... yes, I know that," she says, her voice thick and slow.

"You can tolerate a vampire, but…. Before I was one, I thought ludicrous things. Just like I was taught to walk and count … play the piano… I was taught that Africans were a different species… didn't entirely fade with human memory…"

Her head turns into her pillow. Something tells her, Listen to this. This is important. Get up. But she recoils at what she is hearing. Barely awake, she knows one thing: it's better to be asleep.

As she drifts off, there's this velvety droning above her, "People had such skewed beliefs. It was the tail end of the Age of Imperialism… There was this thing… … eugenics..."

The next day, Bella researches "eugenics" at her school library. The encyclopedia defined it as a pseudoscience that was most popular in the early half of the twentieth century. It sought to "improve the human genetic pool" through purposeful breeding. Scientific racism, essentially.

"In 1896, many states across the U.S. passed laws that prohibited the 'epileptic, imbecile or feeble-minded' from marrying.

Between 1907 and 1963, the American government forced 64,000 'unfit' individuals to become sterilized under eugenic sterilization. When the Nazi government was tried in Nuremberg, they cited the U.S. as the inspiration for their sterilization program."

Could Edward be disgusted with her for loving him? The only thing more repulsive than a monster was the person infatuated with a monster.

'Unfit' individuals were prevented from marrying…

Did this factor into his hesitancy to become intimate with her? If he viewed himself as an aberration, he wouldn't want to taint a normal human girl with his physicality.

Eventually, Edward finds her seated on the floor between the book shelves, bent over a copy of Mien Kampf.

"You think I am insane, don't you?" she asks. "For loving a dead thing."

"Sometimes I do."

"It must have made it easier... leaving me, not giving me a choice... if you thought I was insane." With a sigh, she slides Hitler's manifesto into place on the shelf and regards the spine for a moment. "I went insane after you left. I heard your voice in my head. So maybe I am sick for loving you?"

He settles down next to her, crossing his legs and laying his hands on his knees, palms facing upward. If he closed his eyes, he would look like he was attaining Nirvana.

"Things like 'sick' and 'healthy'…' right' and 'wrong'," he says. "Those standards almost don't apply to love."

Bella gapes at him. This doesn't sound like her Edward. "You certainly thought you were wrong for being with me after my eighteenth birthday!"

"I became desperate."

"So what if things get desperate again?"

He remembers receiving the phone call from Rose while he was staying in Cartagena, Colombia. He sat on the beach of Bocagrande at twilight, staring at the muddy breakers of the Caribbean. The major port city lacks proper waste disposal, and one must ride a boat for several minutes to see blue. Teen boys played soccer along the shore, and the scents of baking mahi and tuna drifted from sea-side restaurants.

"She's gone, Edward. Alice had a vision. She leapt into the Pacific, in the middle of a damn hurricane…"

A man struggled against his fishing line with a four-foot long eel.

"Love," he whispers, "I believe I would act differently."

"We're going for a hike," Bella announces as they stand on her back porch, facing the moldy Washington jungle.

"I don't know…" Edward says. "Are you going to tell me why you smell like cosmoline?" He pokes her hip and she squirms away.

For a moment she digs into the pocket of her Cardinals starter jacket. She pulls out her father's pistol. "I'm going to shoot something today. 'K?"

Charlie taught her how to fire a gun. Edward knows that Bella can handle herself.

Nostrils flaring, he taps his cheek, a faint "hmm" vibrating on his lips. On any other seventeen-year-old, this expression of intense thoughtfulness would look silly.

A minute passes while Bella lets Edward sort himself out.

She remembers when she took the gun out of Charlie's dresser drawer. Beretta 9 mm. Fifteen rounds in each clip. This kills. Her stomach flips. Her breaths sound deeper and stronger in her ears, like they are streaming through a cavernous space. Her hands feel larger with this piece of metal in them.

She imagines adventure seekers and snake charmers and lion tamers. A small smirk twists her mouth. Clumsy Bella Swan: Danger Tamer. Wait- she is dating a vampire. Clumsy Bella Swan: Danger Charmer.

Instantly, she banishes the thought and chastises herself.

"A pistol isn't suitable for hunting," Edward sighs, shaking her from her thoughts. "It doesn't have a long, effective range."

She grins up at him. This is his way of giving in. "I just need to shoot at something."

"Don't you love our furry friends?" he teases.

Bella rolls her eyes. They've started trudging into the woods. He holds trees limbs out of her path as she picks her way over roots and around toadstools. Blackbirds bounce in the canopy above their heads. The air is leaden with the scents of sweet decay and soaked earth.

"You are at a greater disadvantage than us," Edward muses. "We rarely miss our prey. You probably will."

"Well, I asked Charlie for an automatic, so I could just spray the forest until I hit something. He wasn't too into that idea."

"Good man." He lapses into silence, watching Bella and avoiding the ferns in his way as though he's walked this path many times. "Please, make me see why you are doing this."

She shrugs. "I need to find out what's it like to kill something before I become a vampire."

Edward's head swivels toward the sound of gushing water. They wander upon a stream and find a mink on its pebbled bank, tugging the innards from a salmon.

"You can shoot that." He points to the brown rodent. It turns its face toward Bella and brings a paw to scratch its peach nose. There's a white spot on its chin.

"That? It's so small." She shifts uncomfortably from foot to foot, fingering the safety on the 9 mm. "Kinda lame to shoot that."

"Big game flees when they smell us. You have to be able to run after it."


She raises the gun and thinks, I eat meat. People hunt for leisure. I can do this.

The mink wiggles its whiskers at her and winks. It reminds her of Seth's pet ferret.

I let slaughterhouses kill my food. I want to endure bloodlust for eternity. I must do this.

The sound of the gun shot is so loud, it eclipses the realization that she's pulled the trigger. The bullet hits the mink's paw, and it screams, limping into the brush. Bella searches frantically for Edward. The mink is in pain; the mink can't survive with that injury. She needs for Edward to kill it. But Edward has left. His baser instincts were stirred when he realized that Bella was going to shoot. He fled before he was too engaged by the hunt.

She shoots at the bush, again and again, hoping that she hits it. She cries for several minutes into the bark of hemlock. Then she turns toward the bush again.

"Don't," he says behind her. "It crawled a few yards away." He points down the brook. "I killed it."

Bella turns into him, sagging into his arms. "I needed to know… I needed to know what it feels like..." She sobs into his chest.

It's not the same, he wants to tell her. Vampires don't feel bad when they kill an animal.

But he doesn't say this.

A month has passed. Edward sits in the wicker rocker, watching Bella chew the end of her pencil and puzzle over her homework at her bed.

"I don't think I'll bother you about becoming a vampire... for a little while," Bella says.

"And why is that?" He holds a Rubik's cube in his hands and is two moves away from solving it.

"Well, I think I wanted it just so I could be young and pretty with you for a long time." She sneaks a glance at him. "That's not a good reason to have homicidal urges constantly, is it?"

"I thought you wanted to be young and pretty with me forever," Edward corrected. He solves the Rubik's cube and throws it on top of her pile of laundry.

Resting the book on her lap, she looks up at him with a frown. "I remember when I was eight. I tried counting up to a million. I only made it to three hundred and nineteen before I was bored stiff."

"Hmm, yes. You would make a horrid vampire."

Bella tosses her book at him, and he lets it hit him in the head. "I want to be with you. And last year... I was so into you, I forgot about my family. If I were to become a danger to them... well, I need to think it out more."

Suddenly, there's an odd sensation of choking in his throat.

"Thank you," Edward says, too quietly for her to hear.

Something turns in his chest. He watches her braid a piece of her hair, and he wants to smother her with his mouth.

Slowly, he creeps up her bed and dapples kisses up her calf. She squeals in surprise and kicks him in the chest, making him laugh.

This feeling of complete trust has overwhelmed him. It nearly chokes him and makes him want to cry tears of venom. He spends nights in her bed again.

Since when does Bella sit on rooftops?

Fifteen days later, he spies his love sitting on her roof, huddled in a pile of afghan blankets.

When Edward returned to Forks, Bella appeared browbeaten by life. Or by him. But it seems that's not the case any longer.

She waves at him, and then she turns her face to the stars. He climbs the ivy-laced trellis on their western wall and takes his place by her side.

"If you knew someone born handicapped, would you constantly ask them if they need help?"

"It's disabled, not handicapped."

"Would you hover?" Bella continues. "Be restrictive- insist they don't understand their limitations?"

"No. That would be insulting."

"Then consider my humanity a disability. And stop being insulting."

He snaps his head around and glares at her. "Your little metaphor has a dozen flaws. And you shouldn't think of your humanity as a handicap."

Huffing indignantly, she rolls onto his lap, resting her body over his legs. The crescent moon casts little light, but she can still see his eyes darkening. He leans back and braces against his elbows, trying to distance himself from her scent.

"Am I too close?" she asks, squirming in her bundle of blankets.

He tilts his pelvis once, twice. She chews her lip and her eyes slide to his zipper, her nose pointing to his belt loop. His hand slides to her hair. The gesture is meant to be comforting, soft, friendly, but his hand comes down a little too hard and rests a little too heavy. Slowly, infinitesimally, her head sinks down. They both are startled when her brow almost hits his belt buckle.

"If it's truly insulting to you…. Well, I can't have that."

They are in his room a couple of weeks later, laying side-by-side on his black couch. Legs entangled, toes interlocking. She keeps the heater turned up in his room. His eyes are closed, and his nose is buried in her hair.

Bella smiles to herself but says nothing. Shifting her body, she rubs against his groin, and he sighs. He's been increasingly receptive lately. It is a matter of time until he gives in.

"If I am … if we…" he stutters, "It must be on the floor…."

"May I ask why?" she asks, grabbing his hand from between their bodies. She brings his forefinger to her mouth and absentmindedly sucks on the tip.

"Well… I need something … to act…." He snatches his finger away, making her giggle. "I need something to act out on."

"To act out on?"

"Vampires get a little overzealous."

Edward slides her underneath him, grasping the armrest above her head. As he leans down, with heavy-lidded eyes and limp jaw, she jumps up and kisses him on the nose. He growls playfully and tickles her sides. Pitching and wiggling underneath him, she grabs handfuls of his shirt and scrapes her nails against his ribs. He lowers himself onto her, and she sighs happily under his weight. She greets him with her lips.

The sound of ripping fabric wakes her from the kissing.

"What on Earth?" She pushes Edward's –who is laughing- shoulder away and looks at the armrest. Large claw marks streak the Italian leather cloth, and grey stuffing oozes from the rips.

"The bed won't provide enough resistance," he says, running his nose along her jaw. "I'll need something that isn't so easily shredded."

"You just ruined your couch…"

He waves his hand dismissively. "It was an enjoyable demonstration."

"So… You'll be okay with tearing up your floor?"

The thought that he will have to scratch up his own bedroom floor hadn't occurred to him. But it would be rude to sacrifice anyone else's. Several emotions flash over his face: revulsion, annoyance, and then finally, acceptance.

"It will be a pleasing memento," he says, giving her a small kiss. As he pulls away, auburn strands flop over his brow and his mouth flashes a sheepish grin.

As they drive to his house, Edward silently makes Bella a promise.

He will try to "sleep" next to her.

Years ago, before Bella was born, Edward discovered Jasper lying in bed, his eyes closed. Jasper remained inert for seven hours. When Edward asked him about it, Jasper explained that he repeated an Appalachian folk song in his head, over and over, until his mind stilled. Edward dismissed the idea as desperate.

Until tonight's events are less than pleasant, he doesn't want to stew all night while Bella sleeps. They should deal with it in the morning, together.

"Bella, you need to keep your eyes closed." He keeps his voice warm and cautious for her. "Vampires get a little animalistic in the throes of passion. Their brain gets a little unhinged if they lock eyes." He takes a hold of her hand, massaging her palm. As the car rolls to a stop at a crossroads, he brings her wrist to his lips and kisses it. "With all the adrenaline, they sometimes react like a predator seeing an enemy. If they are making love to another vampire, it's okay- but with you…"

"I understand. I'll keep my eyes closed." Bella blushes and clears her throat. "So… when you say that vampires get a little animalistic… is it just with the whole eye thing… or-"

"Not necessarily. It manifests itself in a variety of ways." He glances at her nervously.

"Oh." She pauses, chewing her bottom lip to consider this. "Well, as long as you aren't barbed… down there-"


"What? Cats are! It makes it impossible to get away!"

They laugh briefly, and the moment of levity cuts the sexual tension. Awkwardness creeps in as they see the white house appear in the windshield. Bella realizes how important this first time is for Edward. Bella may be the blushing girl- but he has been a virgin for ninety years. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wonders if he can even perform sexually. He's developed somewhat of a complex about it.

They park before the front door to the Cullen mansion.

"You sure you want to do this… it's not going to be the most romantic first time-"

"Edward, I love you."

He nods and presses his lips to hers, cupping her face tenderly.

Edward hurries her inside. His movements are too quick as he unlocks the door, revealing his superhuman nature. The flick of his wrist and twitch of his fingers take on a strobe light quality. His body embarrasses him; it reveals how eager he is for the night's events. I must get a hold of myself, he thinks. If I take this door off its frame, there's no way I can handle being with her.

When they reach the third story bedroom, all the other vampires have left the house to hunt. Edward would be grateful, but the suggestion of hunting makes his head dizzier. They kiss in the doorway. He draws the kisses out, moving long and languorously… He tries to regain his composure… while Bella rips open the buttons of his shirt.

Suddenly Bella is crawling up the bed of blankets he laid on his floor, gazing at him over her shoulder, her rear pushed up into the air. And the room is so thick with the heady scent of her.

For a moment, he stares, sensing, gorging himself on scene. The bedroom is 96 degrees Fahrenheit. Bella is sweating. Two rivulets of sweat run down her face. Her lips pulse with each beat of her heart.

He kneels behind her and tugs at the edge of her pants. Stretchy material. He pulls and the pants inch down, revealing the top of her beige panties. Oh my.

"Edward?" She glances over her shoulder again and smirks at him. For some reason, she remains on her hands and knees. She's not sure why she froze while on all fours. It's something like being a deer caught in headlights, only she's not really scared.

"Love," he says, "I don't know how much longer I can control-"

The air becomes thicker with the scent of her hormones and lust, and that just does it. Every particle of matter in his body is humming, and he moans and pulls her pants down.

"I don't… I just don't know…" he babbles. He pushes his hand between her legs and rubs, making the scent stronger and stronger until it drowns his taste buds. "I don't know how much longer… I just don't know…"

She yanks her shirt off. His hand stops its caresses and moves away. She can hear the shuffling of clothes as Edward strips behind her, and she pulls her bra over her head.

"Just rip my underwear off," she says.

Bending over to kiss her hip, he complies.

He doesn't know it, but she is blushing at the dirtiness of her words. Again she looks over her shoulder, the turn of her head leading the movement of her body. She wants to lie down underneath him but stops. Their gazes lock and he stops his ministrations on her hip bone. His eyes blacken. Edward moves over her body until he is leaning over her neck. He sniffs. Her knees become weak and her pelvis gets hot.

"You need to keep your eyes closed. Vampires get a little animalistic."

And she accepts it, too eagerly. She backs into him. His mind flies apart as soon as he feels her around him, and his body forgets about the pain girls endure when losing their virginity. He enters fully and quickly, hissing "sorry" with the harsh sibilance of a snake. He can grasp very little right now, but somehow he knows he should apologize. Grunting coarsely, Edward stills, his pelvis trembling against her ass.

She imagines a scorpion struck her.

Predator, she thinks. Her legs shake around Edward's thighs. She concentrates on the pain. How it pervades her body. She concentrates on its source; that thick, filling source burrowed deep within her.

The hurt eventually ceases.

Predator. Her mind stumbles over the word. The word makes her wetter. Moaning, she arches her neck around his. Her senses sharpened, she feels every hard line of him, caging her in.

He brings an around her waist and massages the sweep of skin between her hips. Their heads come together, cheek to cheek. As he moves in her, she stays silent, trying to hear the sounds of their straining skins. Noises attempt to escape her throat, but she chokes them down. She wants to flail and claw and cry in joy, but for now she keeps these reactions contained, and they fog her brain and tickle her ribs.

Lucky that she stays silent. Edward needs to concentrate. Venom pools in the back his throat and coats his eyes and she is so beautiful but he really just needs to come. He needs to come, over and over, right here, in her. Images of lions nipping the nape of their mates' necks to hold them still flicker through his brain, and he licks his lips. One of his hands rests on the floor; the fingers curl back and forth, nails scarring the oak wood floors... And Christ, he could explode right now, but he has agonized over this decision too d-damn long to not make it last.

His other hand rubs that sweep of skin between her hips as he rocks. "Bella." With each stroke, her flesh undulates underneath his fingertips. "I can feel myself moving in you..." He pushes into her one last time and cries out.

Bella feels him shake around her as he comes. His hand rattles on the shredded floor.

He yelps as he pulls out. After she slumps onto the floor, he curls up next to her, resting his head on her shoulder.

Eventually, he carries her into bed, and she soon drifts into sleep. He spends the night struggling with Jasper's folk song and succeeds in falling into the trance for several hours. By the time she wakes up, he's been up for forty minutes.

"So what do you think about last night?" she asks.

She strokes her pelvis as she asks, wondering at the previous night's events. When men lose their legs or arms, she hears the limb still itches long after it has been amputated. She still feels filled, still feels like Edward is in her, and she smiles at the fanciful thought.

He smiles, too, though his grin is tinged with embarrassment. "I would prefer if I didn't behave in such a beastly manner."

He dives under the sheets, foraging for her breasts. Her hand falls on the back of his head, moving it so that his mouth finds her nipple. He begins to suck on it and moans appreciatively.

"I wasn't complaining," she sighs. She peeks under the sheet, and he is grinning at her, his head resting against her right boob.

"I noticed," he laughs. "You are full of surprises. But I do intend to work on my manner."

"You do?"

He shrugs and pulls the sheet down to his waist. She delights in seeing him naked. Sunlight filters through the gauzy curtains, and he sparkles with a more sedate light. It doesn't shimmer with the gaudiness of diamonds. It's more tranquil, like silver. She enjoys it. Silver suits him better.

"Good. I was braced for an argument, but since all's well… I'm going back to sleep." She gives him a peck on the nose and fluffs her pillow with an elbow, then dives into the blankets.

Grinning, he lightly runs his hand over her cheek. The heater is no longer set to blisteringly hot, so he can't crowd her. They seem beyond such manipulations now.

He lies down next to her and wonders if he should practice "sleeping" again. His body wants her again and that worries him, because he's not sure how to handle their new physical relationship. For now though, he doesn't want to worry. He only wants to fake sleep next her and pretend he is dreaming. His mother's century-old ring sits in his night stand, already sized. For now, he traces a finger over the hip of the girl lying next to him. Under his breath, he sings the lyrics to Jasper's song.

I know dark clouds will gather round me
I know my way is rough and steep
But beauteous fields lie just before me
Where men redeemed their vigil's keep
I'm going home to see my mother
I'm going there, no more to roam
I'm only going over Jordan
I'm only going over home


Jasper's song is "Wayfaring Stranger", an American folk song older than time with no apparent origin. Johnny Cash does a great cover you can youtube. This story is nothing like my others- it's a different direction.