One-shot. Happens during New Moon. Bella never became friends with Jacob. She spends almost everynight in her room crying. Well, one night Edward comes back and hears Bella singing a song about how much his leaving has hurt her. Then thee rest is exactly like New Moon. Minus the Volturi. Disclaimer: I own nothing (including Edward! ) Stephenie Meyer owns it all. Song: Shania Twain- It only hurts when I'm breathing. (Awesome song)

EPOV

I'm on my way, was what I was thinking. I was running through Washington, on my way to see Bella. I know I said that I would stay out of her life, but I just can't do it. I need and love her too much.

I stopped running. Only because I saw my Bella's house come into view. I saw a light on in her Bedroom. That's, odd. It's like 4 am. Why would she be up this late?

I continued running and scaled her house. I looked into her window and saw my angel crying, writing something down. She looked up then, and the look on her face broke my heart. Her face held pain, anger, and…love? I guess she has moved on, I thought sullenly.

I shouldn't have come here. It was a mistake.

I was about to leave, but I heard her angelic voice start to sing.

Hope life's been good to you
since you've been gone
I'm doin' fine now--I've finally moved on
It's not so bad--I'm not that sad

I'm not surprised just how well I survived
I'm over the worst, and I feel so alive
I can't complain--I'm free again

And it only hurts when I'm breathing
My heart only breaks when it's beating
My dreams only die when I'm dreaming
So, I hold my breath--to forget

Don't think I'm lyin' 'round cryin' at night
There's no need to worry, I'm really all right
I've never looked back--as a matter of fact

And it only hurts when I'm breathing
My heart only breaks when it's beating
My dreams only die when I'm dreaming

So, I hold my breath--to forget

It only hurts when I breathe

Mmm, no, I've never looked back--
as a matter fact

And it only hurts when I'm breathing
My heart only breaks when it's beating
My dreams only die when I'm dreaming
So, I hold my breath--to forget


Hurts when I'm breathing
Breaks when it's beating
Die when I'm dreaming
It only hurts when I breathe
(AN: If none of you get the song, the verses are sarcastic and the chorus' bring out the truth about how she feels.)

By the end, she was sobbing, and holding her head in her hands. "Edward," I heard her mutter, while I froze thinking that she saw me. "Why, why did you leave me?" Oh God! The song was about me and how much pain I had caused her.

I jumped through the window, without thinking, and sat on her bed, pulling her into my arms.

She curled up to my chest, throwing her arms around my neck, holding on for dear life. I held onto her, with my face buried in her hair, breathing in her scent.

When she finally quieted down, she looked up, and when she did she pulled away, her eyes full of shock and wonder.

"Edward?" she mumbled in disbelief. Before she could give me a chance to respond, she closed her eyes, making them tightly shut. When she opened her eyes again, my face was just inches from hers.

"Did I frighten you?" I asked quietly.

"Oh, crap," she croaked, her voice thick from sobbing.

"What's wrong?" I asked anxious to hear what she would say.

"I'm dead, right?" Ah, she thought she was in hell. "I did drown. Crap, crap, crap! This is gonna kill Charlie."

I looked at her with a puzzled and angry expression. Why did she think she drowned? Was she doing something reckless? "You're not dead." I said.

"Then why am I not waking up?" Great, she thought that I didn't come back after all. She didn't believe that I would ever return. She really must not have realized that I still loved her.

"You are awake, Bella."

"Sure, sure. That's what you want me to think. And then it will be worse when I do wake up. If I wake up, which I won't, because I'm dead. This is awful. Poor Charlie. And Renee and Jake…" Jake? Jake was now included in the list of important people in her life. What did this mean? Did she move on after all, as I had intended? I decided to play along with her charade instead of thinking of such things.

"I can see where you might confuse me with a nightmare. But I can't imagine what you could have done to wind up in hell. Did you commit any murders while I was away?"

She grimaced. "Obviously not. If I was in hell, you wouldn't be with me."

I sighed. How could she say that? If I did have a soul, and if I were dead, my soul would be in hell.I rolled my eyes. Bella could be so silly sometimes. I decided to try to force her back into her slumber. "Maybe you should go to sleep. You're not coherent."

Bella looked back at me and said, "I don't wanna go to sleep. What time is it?"

"It's just after…" I looked at the clock, "5 o'clock in the morning."

"Charlie?"

"Sleeping," I said.

"So… why are you here?"

"Do you want me to leave?" my heart broken, thinking about leaving her again for any amount of time was painful.

"No!!" she said, a little too loudly. "What I meant is why did you comeback?" I stayed silent, so she asked a different question.

"So, What have you been doing, up until three days ago?"

I looked at Bella warily - I was hoping that this question would come up much later, if anything - and I said, "Nothing terribly exciting."

Bella's face turned into a grimace. "Of course not."

"Why are you making that face?"

"Well…If you were, after all, just a dream, that's exactly the kind of thing you would say. My imagination must be used up."

I sighed. Might as well tell her part of the truth, if anything. "If I tell you, will you finally believe you're not having a nightmare?"

"Nightmare!" She repeated. "Maybe…If you tell me."

"I was," How did I put this? "…hunting."

Bella grimaced again. "Is that the best you can do? That definitely doesn't prove I'm awake."

"I wasn't hunting for food…I was actually trying my hand at…tracking. I'm not very good at it."

"What were you tracking?"

"Nothing of consequence." Just your new stalker.

"I don't understand." Of course you didn't, I thought.

With much internal deliberation, I finally decided to tell her everything. "I-" I changed my mind. I took a deep breath and took a different route. "I owe you an apology. No, of course I owe you much, much more than that. But you have to know that I had no idea. I didn't realize the mess I was leaving behind. I thought it was safe for you here. So safe. I had no idea that Victoria," that wretched, wretched, excuse for a vampire, "…would come back. I'll admit, when I saw her that one time, I was paying much more attention to James's thoughts. But I just didn't see that she had this kind of response in her. That she even had such a tie to him. I think I realize why now - she was so sure of him, the thought of him failing never occurred to her. It was her overconfidence that clouded her feelings about him - that kept me from seeing the depth of the, the bond there." I realized that I had started speaking a bit rapidly, but I decided to keep on. If I didn't say it now, I wouldn't say it.

"Not that there's any excuse for what I left you to face. When I heard you say Jacob…" I said his name bitterly, "when I realized that you had put your life in the hands of werewolves, immature, volatile, the worst thing out there besides Victoria herself… Please know that I had no idea of any of this. I feel sick, sick to my core, even now, when I can feel you safe in my arms… I am the most miserable excuse for-"

Bella interrupted me then, "Stop," she murmured. "Edward, you can't take responsibility for the things that happen to me here. None, of it is your fault, it's just part of how life is for me."

"Bella, I came back, because I realized that I want – no need- you in my life. You must realize, that leaving you was the most stupid, ridiculous thing I have ever done. I knew that there would never be a way for us to be together without me constantly putting you in harms way. And no matter how much I would like for you to become a vampire-cringe- I will not take away your soul, your chance at a real life." I muttered. "I'm always making a mistake with our relationship. Mistake after mistake. I'll never criticize Romeo again."

"But… I still don't understand." She said, confused.

I looked at her for a long moment. Had she forgotten? "Don't you remember anything I told you before?"

"I remember everything that you told me." The look on her face told me that she was only thinking about the day in the forest - the day that I told her I didn't love her.

I touched her lower lip, wanting to kiss her, but holding myself from it because I had to make her understand first. "Bell, you seem to be under a misapprehension. I thought I'd explained it clearly before. Bella, I can't live in a world where you don't exist."

"I am…confused."

I looked deeply into her eyes, beckoning her to understand what I was trying to say. "I'm a good liar, Bella, I have to be."

Bella froze. She took it wrongly. Did she really believe that I was talking about all the months before I left? How could she? Then she gasped.

I tried to make her understand. I felt as if I were digging a hole. "Let me finish! I'm a good liar, but still, for you to believe me so quickly. That was…excruciating." Bella still sat there - frozen. "When we were in the forest, when I was telling you goodbye-" She didn't say anything, so I continued. "You weren't going to let go. I could see that. I didn't want to do it- it felt like it would kill me to do it, but I knew that if I couldn't convince you that I didn't love you anymore, it would just take you that much longer to get on with your life. I hoped that, if you thought I'd moved on, so would you."

"A clean break," Bella whispered.

"Exactly. But I never imagined it would be so easy to do! I thought it would be next to impossible - that you would be so sure of the truth that I would have to lie through my teeth for hours to even plant the seed of doubt in your head. I lied, and I'm so sorry - sorry because I hurt you, sorry because it was a worthless effort. Sorry that I couldn't protect you from what I am. I lied to save you, and it didn't work. I'm sorry." I paused, waiting for her to reply, but she still seemed frozen. I once again continued my rant.

"But how could you believe me? After all the thousand times I've told you I love you, how could you let one word break your faith in me? I could see it in our eyes, that you honestly believed that I didn't want you anymore. The most absurd, ridiculous concept - as if there were any way that I could exist without needing you!" By this time, I was unsure if Bella had become catatonic, so I shook her shoulder again. "Bella, really, what were you thinking?"

Bella started crying. "I knew it, I knew I was dead."

So she didn't believe me.

"You're impossible. How can I put this so that you'll believe me? You're not dead. I'm here, and I love you. I have always loved you, and I will always love you. I was thinking of you, seeing your face in my mind, every second that I was away. When I told you that I didn't want you, it was the very blackest kind of blasphemy."

Bella shook her head, still crying. "You don't believe me, do you?" I whispered. How could my Bella, my star, my reason for being, not believe me? "Why can you believe the lie, but not the truth?"

"It never made sense for you to love me. I always knew that."

I looked at her, determined to find some way to make her believe that she was awake. I looked at her quivering lips again, and decided to kiss her. "I'll prove you're alive." I took her face between my hands, and leaned forward.

I was about to touch her lips with mine when I heard her whisper, "Please don't."

I stopped abruptly, and said, "Why not?"

"When you leave again, it's going to be hard enough without this, too."

I looked at her incredulously. It all made sense now - but I wanted clarification. "Earlier, when I would touch you, you were so…hesitant, so careful, and yet still the same. I need to know why. Is it because I'm too late? Because I've hurt you too much? Because if you have moved on, as I meant for you to? That would be…" unbearable, terrible, horrible, but - "…quite fair. I won't contest your decision. So don't try to spare my feelings, please - just tell me now whether or not you can still love me, after everything I've done to you. Can you?"

She looked at me incredulously now. "What kind of an idiotic question is that?"

"Just answer it. Please."

Bella pouted, then her face turned darkly to me. "The way I feel about you will never change. Of course I love you - and there's nothing you can do about it!"

"That's all I needed to hear." With that, I kissed her. It was the most heavenly thing that I had experienced in months. Surprisingly, I did not have to use nearly as much effort as I had to earlier. Bella's blood was still just as appealing, but I had no real compulsion to kill her. At least, not as much as before.

After we had finished, I casually said, "By the way, I'm not leaving you," then added, "I'm not going anywhere. Not without you. I only left you in the first place because I wanted you to have a chance at a normal, happy, human life. I could see what I was doing to you - keeping you constantly on the edge of danger, taking you away from the world you belonged in, risking you life every moment I was with you. So I had to try. I had to do something, and it seemed like leaving was the only way. If I hadn't thought you would be better off, I could have never made myself leave. I'm much too selfish. Only you could be more important than what I wanted…what I needed. What I want and need is to be with you, and I know I'll never be strong enough to leave again. I have too many excuses to stay - thank heaven for that! It seems you can't be safe, no matter how many miles I put between us."

"Don't promise me anything."

I was surprised. Could Bella still be unconvinced? "You think I'm lying to you now?"

"No - not lying. You could mean it…now. But what about tomorrow, when you think about all the reasons you left in the first place? Or next month, when Jasper takes a snap at me?"

I flinched - outwardly and inwardly - all the memories of the last seven months came back to me. It was horrible.

Bella went on. "It isn't as if you hadn't thought the first decision through, is it? You'll end up doing what you think is right."

I thought about it briefly, and said, "I'm not as strong as you give me credit for. Right and wrong have ceased to mean much to me; I was coming back anyway. Before Rosalie told me the news, I was already past trying to live through one week at a time, or even one day. I was fighting to make it through a single hour. It was only a matter of time - and not much of it - before I showed up at your window and begged you to take me back. I'd be happy to beg now, if you'd like that." I was willing to do anything to have my Bella completely back.

Bella grimaced, "Be serious, please."

"Oh, I am," I glared at her. I had been going at this for quite a while, and she was having far too much trouble believing me. "Will you please try to hear what I'm telling you? Will you let me attempt to explain what you mean to me?" As if I hadn't been doing that already.

I watched Bella's face, waiting until I had her full attention. I finally began. "Before you, Bella, my life was like a moonless night. Very dark, but there were stars - points of light and reason." Until you became my star… "And then you shot across my sky like a meteor. Suddenly everything was on fire; there was brilliancy, there was beauty. When you were gone, when the meteor had fallen over the horizon, everything went black. Nothing had changed, but my eyes were blinded by the light. I couldn't see the stars anymore. And there was no reason for anything."

"Your eyes will adjust."

They didn't for seven months - how could she expect them to when I had no hope for it? She was being absurd. "That's just the problem - they can't."

"What about your distractions?"

I explained to her that tracking was not even a distraction at all - how I would give in to the horrible feelings I had knowing that she was gone. To my surprise, it was much the same for her.

"So, tracking wasn't a distraction, then?"

"No," I sighed. I didn't want to tell her this, but here it went… "That was never a distraction. It was an obligation."

"What does that mean?"

I then explained about Victoria, and how I had completely missed where she was since I had followed a false lead to Brazil. Bella wasn't happy with my plans of killing Victoria, but she convinced me not to leave again, at least. I made plans, though, to find her one day and kill her.

"Let's not be hasty. Maybe she's not coming back. Jake probably scared her off. There's really no reason to go looking for her. Besides, I've got bigger fears than Victoria."

I thought about what on earth she could be talking about, but then I realized that she did have bigger problems very close to home. "It's true. The werewolves are a problem."

Bella laughed. "I wasn't talking about Jacob. My biggest fear…"

I almost started to tell her how the werewolves were, in fact, dangerous, but I decided to let my curiosity get the best of me. "Really? Then what would be your greatest problem? That would make Victoria's returning for you seem like such an inconsequential matter in comparison?" I had no clue.

She just sat there not speaking. I sighed, realizing that she wouldn't tell me until she was ready.

Bella's eyes widened, suddenly. She seemed terrified of something.

I tried to ease her fears. "You don't have to be afraid. I won't let them hurt you."

"While you're here."

I took my face between my hands again, trying desperately to make her understand. "I will never leave you again."

"But what happens when I turn thirty," She spat the word, "What? You're going to stay, but let me get all old anyway? Right."

She actually still thought I was going to leave her. How absurd. I looked at her with sad eyes. "That's exactly what I'm going to do. What choice have I? I cannot be without you, but I will not destroy your soul."

"Is this really…" Bella paused.

I was too anxious to know what she was about to say. In my impatience, I said, "Yes?"

"But what about when I get so old that people think I'm your mother? Your grandmother?" She flinched.

I kissed every tear on her cheek. "That doesn't mean anything to me," I breathed, taking in her aroma once more, and letting it permeate my being once again, "You will always be the most beautiful thing in my world. Of course…If you outgrew me - if you wanted something more - I would understand that, Bella. I promise I wouldn't stand in your way if you wanted to leave me." However, I would wait on the side, waiting for him to mess up, and then I would take you back if you would have me.

She finally said, "You do realize I'll die eventually, right?"

"I'll follow after as soon as I can."

Bella looked at me and said, "That is seriously…sick."

"Bella, it's the only right way left -" I was hoping that she wouldn't remember that I had just said that right and wrong meant nothing to me…

"Let's just back up for a minute," Oh man, she remembered. "You do remember the Victoria, right?" Or not. " She's gonna come after me and kill me. What? Do you think she is going to forget?"

"No, she won't forget, but…"

"But?"

I grinned. "I have a few plans."

"And these plans - these plans center around me staying human."

How could she want to be a monster, after all that she had seen? I couldn't believe her logic. I responded almost acidly. "Naturally."

Bella took a deep breath and pushed my arms off. I didn't know what she wanted. My best guess was that she was about to kick me out. I decided to suggest it myself before I had to hear it come out of her mouth. "Do you want me to leave?"

"No, I'm leaving."

At five in the morning? "May I ask where you're going?"

"I'm going to your house."

I walked over and grabbed her shoes. After I offered them to her, I inquired as to how she planned on getting there.

"My truck," she responded.

"That will probably wake Charlie."

Bella sighed, "I know. But honestly, I'll be grounded for weeks as it is. How much more trouble can I really get in?"

"None. He'll blame me, when he finds out I've come back, not you." Well, really, she would be grounded, but she would soon be in Charlie's good graces again. I, however, assumed that Charlie would never like me again.

"If you have a better idea, I'm all ears."

"Stay here," I said. I hoped that she would go back to sleep. I didn't want her pattern to get off.

"No dice. But you go ahead and make yourself at home."

As she started to walk out the door, I blocked her. She then turned to the window, and I decided that it was too ridiculous to fight her. "Okay, I'll give you a ride."

Bella shrugged. "Either way. But you probably should be there, too."

I was so confused. "And why is that?"

"Because you're extraordinarily opinionated, and I'm sure you'll want a chance to air your views."

"My views on which subject?" I hedged.

"This isn't about you anymore. You're not the center of the universe, you know. If you're going to bring the Volturi down on us over something as stupid as leaving me human, then your family ought to have a say."

I couldn't believe my ears. "A. Say. In. What?"

"My mortality. I'm putting it to a vote."

This was going to be interesting.

Stubborn, stubborn, stubborn.

I really wished I weren't taking Bella to my house right now, but there was nothing I could do. I had helped her onto my back, and now we were running through the damp streets of Forks. I was thinking of the possible reactions of my family when I felt Bella's lips against my neck. "Thank you," I said, "Does that mean you've decided you're awake?"

Bella laughed - something I couldn't hear enough. I had missed that laugh so much. "Not really. More that, either way, I'm not trying to wake up. Not tonight."

That wasn't really what I had wanted to hear. "I'll earn your trust back somehow. If it's my final act," I muttered.

"I trust you, It's me I don't trust."

What on earth did that mean? I slowed to a walk as we arrived in the clearing. I asked her to explain it to me.

"Well, I don't trust myself to be…enough. To deserve you. There's nothing about me that could hold you."

I'd had enough. I took her off of my back and embraced her with as much pressure I could place on her frail body. "Your hold is permanent and unbreakable," you silly girl, "Never doubt that."

My mind drifted back to a few minutes ago, in her bedroom, when she was talking about her problems. "You never did tell me…"

"What?"

"…What your greatest problem is."

Bella looked up at me with an impish grin. She said, "I'll give you one guess," as she reached up to touch the tip of my nose.

Ouch, I thought. "I'm worse than the Volturi. I guess I've earned that." After all I've put you through, I've earned much, much more.

Bella rolled her eyes and said, "The worst that Victoria can do is kill me." I looked at her, confused. Isn't that the worst thing anyone could do? She continued, "You can leave me. The Volturi, Victoria…they're nothing compared to that."

How could she still be thinking I would leave her. All of the feelings that had overtaken me while she was gone returned. Although she was here and they weren't as fierce, they still hurt. They welled up within me, and I doubt my face hid it. Bella looked at me, concerned.

"Don't…Don't be sad."

I looked at her, trying once more to make her understand. "If there was only some way to make you see that I can't leave you." Of course, she was human. She couldn't understand everything so quickly. "Time, I suppose, will be the way to convince you."

Bella smiled - what was she thinking? - and said, "Okay."

As I stood there, I thought of different ways to possibly convince her that I wasn't leaving, but nothing came to mind. She looked over to me again and said, "So - since you're staying. Can I have my stuff back?"

In spite of the agony, I laughed. "Your things were never gone," I told her. "I knew it was wrong, since I promised you peace without reminders. It was stupid and childish, but I wanted to leave something of myself with you. The CD, the pictures, the tickets - they're all under your floorboards."

Bella looked at me incredulously. "Really?" She smiled, then.

I nodded. Her smile made me smile, too. She brought joy into my life - but how could I make her see that I really did love her?

Bella interrupted my thoughts with, "I think - I'm not sure, but I wonder… I think maybe I knew it the whole time."

My mind had drifted so far from the subject that I had forgotten what Bella could have possibly been talking about. "What did you know?"

"Some part of me, my subconscious, maybe, never stopped believing that you still cared whether I lived or died. That's probably why I was hearing the voices."

Voices? What on earth? I decided to verbalize part of my thoughts. "Voices?"

"Well, just one voice. Yours. It's a long story."

Of course there was an explanation for this. She couldn't have been driven crazy while I was away. "I've got time," I said.

"It's pretty pathetic," she said, pausing to see if I said anything, but I wanted to hear a full explanation. "Um… did I tell you I went cliff didving?" she said looking down, guiltily.

"You. Jumped. Off. A. cliff. For. Fun?" I verbalized as calmly as I could. On the inside, I was outraged. Why would she out herself in danger like that? Even after she promised.

"Er, right. And before that, with the motorcycle-"

"Motorcycle?" I repeated acidly.

"I guess I didn't tell you about that either."

Ah. "No."

"Well, about that…See, I found that…when I was doing something dangerous or stupid…I could remember you more clearly. I could remember how your voice sounded when you were angry. I could hear it, like you were standing right there next to me. Mostly I tried not to think about you, but this didn't hurt so much - like you were protecting me again. Like you didn't want me to be hurt. And well, I wonder if the reason I could hear you so clearly was because, underneath it all, I always knew that you hadn't stopped loving me." Bella's face looked like she was calculating something.

I, too, was calculating. "You…were…risking your life…to hear-"

"Shh. Hold on a second. I think I'm having an epiphany here."

I waited, and watched as her face seemed to have a look of understanding - as if a light bulb had lit directly above her head.

"Oh!"

"Bella?"

"Oh. Okay. I see."

"Your epiphany?" This could be horrifying, but the look on her face tells me otherwise…

"You love me," she said, her own love coming out with those words.

I smiled. Finally, she understood. I hoped it stayed that way. "Truly, I do." I took her face between my hands and kissed her again. When Bella seemed as if she were about to faint, I let go of the kiss. I leaned my forehead against hers, and said, breathing heavily, "You were better at it than I was, you know."

Bella's dazed gaze transformed into a puzzled stare. "Better at what?"

"Surviving." I described the way I had acted when I wasn't tracking. I added, "It was much more pathetic than hearing voices. And, of course, you know I do that, too." Her eyes widened, then she sighed a sigh of relief.

"I only heard one voice," she corrected.

I laughed and then started to lead her toward the house. As if she had a choice, really. No matter what they said, Bella was not changing. "I'm just humoring you with this. It doesn't matter in the slightest what they say."

Bella looked at me and said, "This affects them now, too." I really didn't care. I was staying with her, and she was staying human. I shrugged.

We entered the house, and I said, "Carlisle? Esme? Rosalie? Emmett? Jasper? Alice?"

What is it Edward? -Oh, Bella. "Welcome back, Bella." We've missed your presence in our home. Carlisle smiled and continued, "What can we do for you this morning? I imagine, due to the hour, that this is not a purely social visit?"

Bella nodded. "I'd like to talk to everyone at once, if that's okay. About something important."

"Of course. Why don't we talk in the other room?" Carlisle inquired. What is this all about, Edward? I didn't respond.

We walked into the dining room and sat at the table. Bella was at the head. Esme and the others came in and took seats beside their respective partners. I suddenly felt happy that I now had Bella by my side again, discarding the memory I had only months before when we all sat down to talk together last time.

Carlisle looked over at Bella once everyone was situated. "The floor is yours."

"Well, I'm guessing that Alice has seen this right?"

"Everything," Alice reassured. And Edward, I'm glad you're finally warming up to this. I shot her a warning look.

Bella didn't notice. "And did you tell them all?"

"Yes, I did." she nodded.

"Good," Bella said, obviously happy that she didn't have to retell the entire story. "Then we're all on the same page." She paused and looked around the table. "So, I have a problem. Victoria is still after me and I'm sure that's a bad thing - something to avoid. And so, now, this involves you all. I'm sorry about that. But, if you don't want me, then I'm not going to force myself on you."

An outpour of thoughts bombarded me. They all wanted her to be a part of the family, however, for once, Rosalie was on my side - wanting her to remain human, at least. Esme began to voice her opinion, but Bella stopped her. "Please, let me finish. You all know what I want. And I'm sure you know what Edward thinks, too. I think the only fair way to decide is for everyone to have a vote."

Everyone's thoughts were of changing Bella and how wonderful it sounded to them. I released a low growl of warning. They weren't affected. Bella continued, "Taking into account, then, that I won't put any of you in danger either way, I want you to vote yes or no on the issue of me becoming a vampire."

Bella looked at me and said, "Do you want me to join your family?"

I replied with the first thing that came to mind. "Not that way. You're staying human."

Bella moved on. "Alice?"

"Yes." You'll always be my sister, and now you'll be less breakable!

"Jasper?"

"Yes." Sorry, Edward. I can hardly sit in the same room as her. I'd really like to be able to spend time with her without fighting my instinct to kill her.

"Rosalie?"

I really wish that someone would have been there to vote for me. I will try to do what is right, at least. "No." Bella turned toward Emmett, and Rosalie thought, She doesn't understand. "Let me explain. I don't mean that I have any aversion to you as a sister. It's just that…this is not the life I would have chosen for myself. I wish there had been someone there to vote no for me."

Bella turned to Emmett once again.

"Hell, yes!" I'd like to arm wrestle her.

Bella looked over to Esme.

"Yes, of course, Bella. I already think of you as part of the family."

When Bella looked at Carlisle, Carlisle wasn't looking at her - he was looking at me. It's what's right, Edward. I have to vote yes. I was enraged. "Edward," he said.

This couldn't be happening. If Carlisle said it, it was practically law. "No."

"It's the only way that makes sense. You've chosen not to live without her, and that doesn't leave me a choice." Carlisle insisted.

I let go of Bella's hand and walked briskly into the living room. I could hear Carlisle in the dining room telling Bella, "I guess you know my vote."

"Thanks," she mumbled.

I went to the wall and ripped Emmett's new flat screen TV in halves. They had just shipped it in from Korea.

I sat on the couch. I tried to calm myself. Could this really be happening? Had I no control over the say in her soul? Was it already too late to save her from becoming a monster? I was pulled out of my thoughts when I heard Bella say, "Well, Alice, where do you want to do this?"

I stalked back into the dining room, shouting "No! No! NO!" I lost it. The next thing I knew, I was leaning in front of Bella's face shouting. "Are you insane? Have you utterly lost your mind?" She had no idea what she was doing.

He has got to calm down. "Um, Bella, I don't think I'm ready for that. I'll need to prepare…"

"You promised," Bella reminded.

"I know, but…Seriously, Bella! I don't have any idea how not to kill you."

"You can do it. I trust you."

I snarled at Alice. I would almost kill her before she changed Bella, or at least tried to.

Bella looked at Carlisle. "Carlisle?" I knew that if Carlisle agreed, it would be set in stone. I tried something, anything to get her to change her mind. I grabbed her face trying to make her see how I was feeling, at least through my eyes, but she was focused. I held my hand out to Carlisle, but he ignored me.

"I'm able to do it," he said. Edward, it's for the best.

"Sounds good," Bella said.

"Hold on. It doesn't have to be now," I said between my teeth. This was all so surreal.

"There's no reason for it not to be now," she said.

"I can think of a few."

"Of course you can. Now let go of me." I respected her wishes.

"In about two hours, Charlie will be looking for you. I wouldn't put it past him to involve the police."

"All three of them," Bella hedged.

Edward, it worked with Rosalie. We would have to move anyway, what with Bella being a newborn vampire…

I looked at Carlisle and said, "In the interest of remaining inconspicuous, I suggest we put this conversation off, at the very least until Bella finishes high school, and moves out of Charlie's house."

"That's a reasonable request, Bella," Carlisle agreed. Finally.

Bella looked unhappy. "I'll consider it." I relaxed. It seemed as if the worst was over, at least.

I looked at Bella and decided that I needed to get her home before she came up with any more ideas. "I should probably take you home, just in case Charlie wakes up early."

Bella looked over to Carlisle. "After graduation?"

"You have my word," Carlisle promised.

Bella looked over at me and smiled. "Okay. You can take me home."

I rushed Bella out of the house and ran to Bella's house - all the time trying to find a way to postpone the change. I was pacing back and forth across Bella's room while Bella sat on her bed watching me.

I had decided that if I could convince her to go to college for a few years, she would at least have that experience. Above all else, it would buy me a few years to change her mind. I knew that she wouldn't be able to last that long, though. …Possibly a time span?

Bella said, "Whatever you're planning, it's not going to work."

"Shh, I'm thinking."

Bella groaned and then covered her face with her quilt. I rushed to the bed and pulled the cover back so that I could see her. "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.

"If you could have anything in the world, anything at all, what would it be?"

Maybe I would wage this thing with more time.

She looked up at me skeptically. "You."

I shook my head at her. She wasn't thinking correctly. "Not something you don't already have."

She looked away for a moment, and then said, "I would want…Carlisle not to have to do it. I would want you to change me."

"What would you be willing to trade for that?" Time, perhaps?

"Anything."

I smiled. "Five years?"

Bella's heart started racing and she looked terrified. "You said anything," I reminded her.

"Yes, but...you'll use the time to find a way out of it. I have to strike while the iron is hot. Besides, it's just too dangerous to be human - for me, at least. So, anything but that."

I tried for a shorter time period. "Three years?"

"No!"

"Isn't it worth anything to you at all?"

"Six months?"

Wow, she was impatient. "Not good enough."

"One year, then. That's my limit."

I was growing tired of bartering her soul, but I persisted. "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." That did sound reasonable, technically, but what was a few small years? I would be with her forever anyway - she was my mate, after all. …But she may not have viewed it that way. I would need to marry her, soon. Why not suggest it?

"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?"

I looked at her. This was it - the defining moment. I spoke slowly. "Marry me first."

Bella stared at me. "Okay. What's the punch line?"

I sighed. "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." …So much for defining moment.

"Oh, c'mon. I'm eighteen. Look, marriage isn't exactly that high on my list of priorities, you know? It was sort the kiss of death for Renee and Charlie."

Ironic. "Interesting choice of words."

Bella sighed. "You know what I mean."

I inhaled her scent - it calmed my nerves. "Please don't tell me that you're afraid of the commitment." If she were planning to spend the rest of her life with me, what was marriage to her?

"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 become one of the eternal damned than get married." The irony was definitely building.

"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… If you're not brave enough to marry me, then -"

Bella interrupted. "Well, what if I did? What if I told you to take me to Vegas now? Would I be a vampire in three days?"

I smiled and decided to call her bluff. "Sure. I'll get my car."

"Dammit," she muttered. "I'll give you eighteen months."

"No deal. I like this condition," I said, grinning.

"Fine. I'll have Carlisle do it when I graduate," Bella pouted.

"If that's what you really want." I made my smile as angelic as possible.

"You're impossible. A monster."

Of course. I chuckled, "Is that why you won't marry me?" I really didn't want to beg, but I decided to, anyway. I think I may have wanted this more than she wanted to be a vampire. "Please, Bella?" Bella shook her head. I thought for a moment, then said, "Would this have gone better if I'd had time to get a ring?"

"No! No rings!" Bella said - too loudly.

Huh, what? Charlie started. He got out of bed.

"Now you've done it," I whispered.

"Oops."

"Charlie's getting up; I'd better leave." Bella's heart started racing and her breathing quickened. I hated to see her like this. "Would it be childish of me to hide in your closet, then?"

"No," she said to my delight. "Stay, please."

I smiled and hid in her closet.

Charlie entered the room and asked Bella what was going on. She told him that my family and me were back in town. To stay. When Charlie said that she wasn't to see me and that I wasn't allowed into his house, Bella threatened to move out. She also convinced Charlie to allow me into his house, to his complete dismay. This was going to be an interesting marriage - for at least a few months.

When Charlie left, I sat in Bella's rocking chair.

She whispered, "Sorry about that."

"It's not as if I don't deserve far worse. Don't start anything with Charlie over me, please," I murmured.

"Don't worry about it," she said as she grabbed her toiletries, "I will start exactly as much as is necessary, and no more than that. Or are you trying to tell me that I have nowhere to go?"

I smiled inwardly at her sarcastic face. "You'd move in with a house full of vampires?"

"That's probably the safest place for someone like me." The irony had to continue. "Besides, if Charlie kicks me out, then there's no need for a graduation deadline, is there?"

I looked at her, bewildered. "So eager for eternal damnation," I muttered.

"You know you don't believe that."

"Oh, don't I?"

"No. You don't."

I started to argue, but Bella cut me off. "If you really believed that you'd lost your soul, you wouldn't have said 'as much as I would like for you to be a vampire', see you do like the idea, you're just afraid I'll regret it. Which I have no idea why you would think that. There's hope in you after all." She smiled triumphantly.

She was right. I couldn't refuse it. I couldn't say a word.

"So let's both just be hopeful, all right? Not that it matters. If you stay, I don't need heaven."

I couldn't believe that it was even a possibility that she would want to be with me for so long. Once she was changed, it was final. And she was willing to do that for me. I felt so loved. I walked over to her slowly, put both hands on her cheeks and stared into her eyes. "Forever," I said - and I meant it.

"That's all I'm asking for," she replied, and I knew she meant it, too. She lifted up on her toes and kissed me. Nothing mattered at that point. I didn't need a heaven or hell - my angel was right here.