It was getting tedious. Always listening, eager to pick up even the slightest crumb of information about her. But never being able to glean anything first hand. Always listening to those others, to those children, snatching whatever morsels of trivia that happened to pass through their young, flighty, human minds. If he had been able to see into her head the way he could everyone else's, if he could just hear her thoughts, rather than have to rely on the pitiful scraps he dredged from those pimply-faced youths. It was degrading.

He had tried so hard to stay away from her at first. During the day, at least. At night though...ah, at night. At night he gave in to his cravings, and had spent those otherwise interminable dark hours sitting in her rocking chair, watching her sleep. Since she had been aware of his presence in her bedroom, the rocking chair was forsaken for the sweet torture of holding her in his arms as she slumbered. While she slept, he got closer to hearing her thoughts than at any other time. Her tendency to talk in her sleep made the playing field just that little bit more even. It was the only time that he ever heard her unguarded thoughts, the only time that he was fully aware of her concerns, her worries, her fears. All the information she kept from him during the day, worried that it would make him anxious. The worship that she bestowed upon him, the most undeserving specimen of filth ever to crawl the earth...he didn't understand why she gave her love so unreservedly to him. Her adoration of him made her hesitant to tell him of the concerns she regarded as trivial.

Her worry about her upcoming Calculus test; he had learnt about that via Jessica's quiet satisfaction that, while Bella had the 'unattainable' Edward Cullen, she wouldn't be able to see him, because her free time would be spent studying for the next few weeks. He wished he had not stayed listening to Jessica's thoughts after that. Hearing a vindictive teenage girl's fantasies about stealing the boyfriend of someone she claimed as a friend was bad enough. Even worse was the fact that, ignoring the ludicrous idea that such an attempt would ever be met with anything but scorn, derision and disgust by himself, Bella would be hurt by such a betrayal by a friend. As usual, even the thought of anything hurting Bella made Edward want to physically attack the cause of the potential hurt.

Edward rarely ventured near Mike Newton's mind now. His control had gotten better since Bella's arrival in his life; she calmed him, and his entire being shied away from doing anything that would ever hurt her. Especially since....but no. If he thought about that time when he thought he was doing the best thing for her, leaving her, only for her to break almost beyond repair, saved only by a dog with good timing, then he really would lose control. There were so many breakable things around; humans, cars, the town of Forks. If he allowed himself to wallow too much in the ever-present guilt and grief, everything between Forks and Phoenix would be destroyed in his rage. The thoughts that occupied Newton's mind whenever he thought about Bella inspired the same rage in Edward, but with just the one target. And Bella would be upset if he ground Newton into dust.

He wanted to know all her concerns, all her worries and fears. Edward would drag the moon closer to the earth if Bella wanted him to. There was nothing at all he would hesitate to do for her. Well, there was one thing. She knew his conditions for that. However, with the exception of the destruction of her soul in his selfish pursuit of undeserved happiness, Bella had only to muse aloud that something might be nice, or her life might be a little easier if something specific happened. He knew her distaste for gifts, so expended more effort in making it all appear to be a happy coincidence than in fulfilling her desire in the first place. And therein lay the problem. He could not make her life perfect if he didn't know what she wanted. The Calculus test, for instance. He had taken those tests, and others infinitely more complex, a hundred times. He could, at the very least, help her study, explain things in a way she would understand. Failing that, he could bribe the teacher. But how could he do any of these things if she didn't tell him that was what she needed?

His musing was interrupted by Bella stirring against his chest. He looked down at her, and marvelled again that this exquisite, perfect creature was his. He didn't think he would ever get tired of looking at her.

She stirred again, and her eyes began to flutter open.

'Shhh, my love. Sleep again. There are many hours until the morning. Sleep, my Bella'.

And he began to hum her lullaby.