Author's Note: LuvtheCullenboys asked me a couple of times to write Edward's point of view of this scene, and eventually the wheels started turning in my mind...
In case you were wondering, the characters, situation and dialogue are the work of Stephenie Meyer; the rest is the product of my fevered imagination.
It was huge relief to be away from my house and the cacaphony of everyone's mind. They all pictured Bella as a vampire, and reactions ranged from my father's resigned but hopeful acceptance to my sister's smug delight to my mother's infinite satisfaction. Rosalie was the only other one who wasn't pleased at the prospect.
Bella was waiting for me to say something to her about the future she'd just put to a vote. I didn't have anything to say. I yearned to lie down next to her, bury my face in her neck and feel the flames blaze up in my throat, plunge my hands into her hair, kiss her mouth and skin until my lips were hot. I'd endured months of separation from her. I'd suffered days of excruciating agony and despair believing she had taken the life I'd tried to give back to her. I'd experienced hours of tension not knowing whether we'd escape Volterra and then not knowing if I still had a place in her life. It was going to take massive doses of Bella for me to begin to recover from all that.
But I was on a mission. My conscience would not let me satisfy those cravings just yet. I had to earn it first. I paced back and forth. I knew there was no chance I could change her mind tonight. The meeting with my family had only solidified her resolve. I'd barely been able to put them off the few months until graduation. And I'd really lost it. I knew I'd frightened Bella this time, screaming in her face. Emmett and Jasper were furious that I'd smashed their new plasma TV.
Well, they would just have to deal with the fact that the TV was destroyed, and I would just have to deal with the fact that Bella was now dead set— how very apt that expression was— on ending her life. I was going to behave calmly now, no matter what. My way forward was clear: buy time. Time to reason with her. Persuade her. Beg. Plead. Whatever I had to do. Surely I could find a way to convince her. She'd always claimed I could dazzle her into anything. I'd pull out all the stops and ignore any misgivings about exerting undue influence. Her soul was at stake.
"Whatever you're planning, it's not going to work," she informed me. Just hearing her voice was like manna in the wilderness. Of course, when I had left her, I could remember her voice perfectly, every word she had ever said to me, but it was entirely different to be in her presence, to see her, to be immersed in her scent, to hear her express new thoughts and feelings. All delicious proof that, miraculously, she was still here and still with me.
"Shh. I'm thinking." Fortunately I could think of many things at once. I could proceed with my plotting while marveling at the utter incongruity that, having deprived myself of her voice for so long, I was now asking her to be quiet. I wanted to buy time, but what currency did I have to offer? What could I give her in exchange for delaying that final, fateful step? What did she want? I'd never be able to guess.
I lay down on the bed and pulled the blanket away to feast my eyes on my beautiful love.
"If you don't mind, I'd much rather you didn't hide your face. I've lived without it for as long as I can stand. Now…tell me something."
"What?" she asked suspiciously.
"If you could have anything in the world, anything at all, what would it be?"
"You," she replied without hesitation.
I shook my head. That wouldn't do. "Something you don't already have."
I was completely absorbed by her expressions as she pondered. Her brow furrowed in concentration. Her lips pursed slightly. Her eyelids flickered. Her rich brown eyes studied my face. How had I denied myself this beauty? Just gazing at her, seeing her face alive with thoughts, was a profound thrill. Finally she spoke. "I would want…Carlisle not to have to do it. I would want you to change me."
If there was one thing true about Bella, other than the fact that I loved her more than fish loved water, it was that she always surprised me. I should expect it. Nothing should surprise me. And yet, effortlessly, she still surprised me. Out of everything she could ask for, she wanted me and me again. Unbidden, tantalizing thoughts began crowding my mind: fastening my mouth on her neck, giving in to the urge to bite, piercing her skin with my teeth, tasting her blood on my tongue, filling her body with my venom.
She'd be mine. Mine in a way I'd never imagined. Mine in a way that was completely irrevocable. Because people who were married could divorce and remarry. Like Renee. People could have more than one lover in a lifetime, especially a never-ending lifetime. Like Tanya. Or even Emmett. But there was only one transformation, only one person to infuse his essence into a warm, soft, living body, changing it forever, literally leaving his mark. I wanted it.
But decades of practice had made me an expert at controlling my expression. As I'd assured her earlier, I was a good liar. She must not guess that I shared her desire, or I wouldn't be able to wrest anything from her in return. Very well. She'd put something on the table. "What would you be willing to trade for that?"
"Anything," she responded immediately.
I smiled. She hadn't tried to play me. Her request was worth a lot to her, but I couldn't sure precisely how much. I should start high. "Five years?" She looked aghast. "You said anything," I reminded her.
"Yes, but…you'll use the time to find a way out of it." She knew me. I'd never stop trying while she had breath in her body. "I have to strike while the iron is hot. Besides, it's just too dangerous to be human—for me at least." Searing anger flared up in me towards all those who menaced my love. I was determined that Bella's heart would keep beating for as long as possible. But if she were ever to change, it had to be because she really wanted to, not because she was afraid to remain human. I'd laid the groundwork for those fears myself, by leaving her unprotected and by leading her to Volterra. I wouldn't let them rule her. If I couldn't prevent her from becoming a vampire, I vowed that at least she wouldn't do it for the wrong reason. "So, anything but that."
"Isn't it worth anything to you at all?" I wheedled.
"Six months?" she suggested.
An obvious lowball offer. I rolled my eyes. "Not good enough."
"One year, then," she declared. "That's my limit."
"At least give me two."
"No way. Nineteen I'll do. But I'm not going anywhere near twenty. If you're staying in your teens forever, then so am I."
This wasn't working. A year was so brief, and she was fixated on her age. As if the change from a one to a two in the ten's place had any significance. It was purely an artifact of our numbering system! In base 8, I was 21 years old. Somehow, I didn't think I could persuade her to look at it that way.
I needed a new approach to make her wait. Some test she had to pass. Some hurdle she had to jump. What would make her hesitate in her headlong rush to damnation? And not just some obstacle I threw in her path. Something meaningful, that really should be done while she was human.
There was something. Something I had always wanted. When it had occurred to me that she would take this step with someone else, the thought had sent a shock wave of emotion through me, as strange as it was powerful. Black fury, desperate longing and savage pain had possessed me all at once. I was jealous, because I wanted to be the one who was everything to her.
"All right. Forget time limits. If you want me to be the one—then you'll just have to meet one condition."
"Condition? What condition?" Her voice was apprehensive.
This was it. She'd confessed what she wanted more than anything. I had to reveal my heart's desire. It probably wasn't the right time to spring this on her. I had meant to wait. And then I had meant to give up that dream along with everything else. But now I had my life back. Like Lazarus, I had returned from the dead. I thought I had lost everything, but what gave joy and purpose to my existence had miraculously been restored to me. We couldn't be apart again. She thought to make that happen by becoming like me. She believed she would keep her soul. She believed I still had mine. If she were really going to take that step, I would bind our souls together, join them the only way I knew how.
"Marry me first."
I had to wait days for her answer. "Okay. What's the punch line?"
The flash of pain told me how much I had hoped. A memory floated up, of a morning little more than a year ago, the first time I'd been there when she woke up. She had jumped into my lap. I'd been prepared for regret, second thoughts, self-consciousness, shyness, hesitation. Not her open-hearted joy at finding me with her. Well, that sort of reaction would have been nice. But she hadn't said no, either. Her obvious resistance to my idea could work in my favor. If she wasn't eager to get married, then she'd postpone her transformation. I'd give her as long as she wanted to think it over. No pressure. Just an offer presented with no urgency. Because every day she deliberated, she was still human.
I heaved a precisely calibrated sigh. "You're wounding my ego, Bella. I just proposed to you, and you think it's a joke."
"Edward, please be serious."
"I am one hundred percent serious."
"Oh, c'mon!" she exclaimed. "I'm only eighteen."
Old enough to give up her humanity, but too young for marriage? Did she really think that argument was going to fly? "Well, I'm nearly a hundred and ten. It's time I settled down."
"Look, marriage isn't exactly that high on my list of priorities, you know? It was sort of the kiss of death for Renee and Charlie."
"Interesting choice of words," I noted.
"You know what I mean."
"Please don't tell me that you're afraid of the commitment."
"That's not it exactly. I'm…afraid of Renee. She has some really intense opinions on getting married before you're thirty."
"Because she'd rather you became one of the eternal damned than get married." If she got what she wanted, she would have to leave Renee behind, anyway. Her concern proved my point: she wasn't ready; she didn't fully understand what lay ahead.
"You think you're joking."
"Bella, if you compare the level of commitment between a marital union as opposed to bartering your soul in exchange for an eternity as a vampire…." I shook my head. Apparently I'd found the key to putting off her plans. "If you're not brave enough to marry me, then—"
"Well," she interrupted. "What if I did? What if I told you to take me to Vegas now? Would I be a vampire in three days?"
I knew she didn't mean it. That certainty didn't prevent the hope and joy exploding in my chest. "Sure. I'll get my car."
"Dammit," she muttered. "I'll give you eighteen months."
"No deal," I said with satisfaction. Any way I looked at it, I was winning. Either she would delay her transformation or she would marry me or both, and I'd be the one to change her. "I like this condition."
"Fine. I'll have Carlisle do it when I graduate."
She was bluffing. I knew it, because now that I'd let my dearest wish blossom from impossible dream to spoken desire, I couldn't give it up. She wouldn't either. Now that she'd thought of it, now that she'd said it, she'd do anything to get it. "If that's what you really want," I said lightly.
"You're impossible. A monster," she accused.
I laughed. "Is that why you won't marry me?" Her face contracted into stubborn opposition. The same adorable resistance I'd melted before. Did I still have the power to tamper with her will? I leaned towards her, staring into her eyes, channeling my overwhelming love and need for her into my gaze. "Please, Bella," I said softly. Her breath caught and her eyes went out of focus. Her heart was beating quickly. It was working. She was under my spell. Abruptly she shook her head, snapping out of it. Oh, well. Maybe this would have gone better if my eyes were lighter. Or if…. "Would this have gone better if I'd had time to get a ring?" My mother's ring on Bella's hand. Longing swelled up in me at the thought, the image. With that ring, I could tie the human part of me, which Bella's love and warmth had brought out of hibernation, to her. And then my venom would make her ageless and immortal. Mine forever. More than I deserved. More than I dreamed.
"No! No rings!" she yelped. Her voice was too loud. Even Charlie couldn't sleep through that.
"Now you've done it," I whispered. Charlie was out of bed and on his way down the hall to check on her. I retreated to the closet. An appropriate hiding place for a monster. A creature who would drink her blood, take her from her family, steal her soul. But she welcomed me. She forgave me. She wanted me. She loved me. I couldn't feel sorry about anything. This was one of the best nights of my life.
Author's Note: Before I began writing, I really didn't know what was in Edward's mind, whether the proposal was mostly a ploy or he was really ready to give up on keeping her human if he could have what he wanted. I gave it a lot of thought, and I feel this makes sense. I hope my story rang true for you! Please review and let me know if you liked it.