Disclaimer: Edward, Bella and the rest belong to Stephenie Meyer. I'm just playing.
A/N: A birthday gift for Enamors. Feedback is always greatly appreciated, and in this case, reviewers get Edward at their mercy all night long ;).
Sometimes when he lies and stares at Bella's ceiling, Edward thinks he can see her face in the shadows.
Tonight she's smiling that same coy smile she wore before she kissed him goodnight, and he closes his eyes to make the shadows disappear so he can focus on the memory. He can still feel her lips against his, the soft persistence of them, the way they made sensation pool in his stomach and send waves right through his body. He can feel her fingers too, not where they are on his shoulder but where they were, tracing eager patterns underneath his shirt.
His skin tingles.
It's not sense memory, it's cell memory, like every fragment of him that she touches is more alive than the rest, and the feeling lingers, like it does every night, and makes the wait for dawn feel like a glimpse of forever.
He rolls the word around in his head until it doesn't sound like a word anymore, more a collection of ideas that aren't connected to anything, least of all the girl asleep next to him who says that's what she wants from him.
Forever. For ever. Forever.
Even for someone like him it's an abstract concept, but before he met her it was all very simple. Forever was a sentence, and a hundred years felt simultaneously like the flicker of an eyelid and an endless yawning gap in the history of existence. Forever was a lot of things but mostly irrelevant; now it's anything but, and feels like its something he has to understand because she wants him to promise it.
He can perfectly recall every second he's spent with her. He can see every detail, remember everything as if he lived it a thousand times, not once. He wonders if that's forever, if perpetual recollection is the same thing as eternity.
He asked Tanya about it once, sitting on the side of a mountain and watching the sun slowly tickle people awake. He asked her what a thousand years felt like, if the first century was the tough one and after that he'd get accustomed to the way time trickled and rushed at the same time, the way a day sometimes felt like a year and a year sometimes felt like a day.
She told him that forever was flexible, that one minute it was as expansive as a mountain to an ant, that the next it was nothing.
Then she told him that he should take up a hobby and give up his philosophical musings, that if he didn't he'd be the first vampire in history to get worry lines.
He smiles at the thought but even before Bella it was a compulsion to poke at things, the same way he'd poked at bruises as a child, just to see how much they hurt.
He stares at the ceiling.
Yesterday there was a spider in the corner and he watched it draw itself a web, and he loses ten seconds trying to remember which species it was.
Bella shifts, pulls herself closer to him and captures his full attention without uttering a word. Sometimes he's amazed that she can sleep with him so close, knowing what he is. She trusts him with everything, with her body, with her heart, with the things that neither of them can see. It's beguiling and reckless at the same time, and her words dance in his head: if you stay, I don't need heaven.
He'd promised it to her then, but had he known what it meant?
Forever. For ever. 4eva.
He sees it carved into a tree, different names scratched out, replaced and encased by a badly-drawn heart. He wonders if forever is always like that, there in the moment and then gone, and then he wonders what his family would say if he asked them what forever should look like.
Emmett would laugh and be disparaging, Carlisle would consider and Jasper would quote. Esme would soothe, Alice would assure, and Rosalie –
Rosalie would think of flowers on a grave.
He moves a little so he can watch Bella sleeping, takes his time about picking out the details of her face because there's no reason not to.
He wonders if Rosalie gets it better than anyone, that human forever is something entirely different, something to scratch into trees and add to a platitude on a headstone, but his forever –
He wonders if Tanya was right, that forever is flexible and therefore different for everyone, that it bends and ebbs and flows around the person creating it. He wonders if Bella's thinking of flowers and graves when she says that's all she's asking for, and he's not sure she can mean more than that, not without standing on the edge of the yawning gap of time and realising the true depth of it.
Bella's breathing hitches and he tenses.
For all she's survived he always half-expects every breath to be her last, and the wait until she pulls fresh air into her lungs seems as if it will be endless. After four perfectly ordinary breaths he releases the anxiety in his stomach, then pushes her hair back from her face.
She gets most of the letters in the right place, and he smiles.
"Go back to sleep."
"Shh. Sorry I woke you."
She takes a mumbling breath and stretches a little beneath the duvet, blinks until she finds his face in the dark.
"You look serious."
"Don't I always?"
"What were you thinking about?"
He shifts down on the bed so he can look her in the eye, traces patterns on her hairline with the very tips of his fingers.
"It's always you. Whatever I'm thinking you're always in there somewhere."
"You need a hobby."
He laughs and she smiles at him shyly, inches closer, letting her fingers wander up to his neck. His insides flutter, mould themselves around some new and yet ancient feeling, and he knows he should let her sleep, that ludicrous and incongruous with his thoughts as it is, they have school tomorrow. He can't help it though, because he always wants to know what she thinks.
"What kind of hobby?"
"Knitting, maybe?" she says. "Although you'd have to hide the needles from me or I might trip and accidentally stake you."
He laughs again and then his lips find hers, almost of their own accord, and hers press wonderfully insistently back. Her hair is warm underneath his fingers and her kiss makes him think that maybe it's all very simple, that he should focus on wanting her and this. He traces patterns on her side with his fingertips, revelling in the way she responds, the clutch of her fingers on his shoulder, the way her body can't seem to get close enough to his.
After a moment the world comes undone and unravels in a spiral, and time dissolves, rearranges itself so that all he can feel is her, and at once it's eternity and over far too quickly.
When he moves away she's breathless, and he wonders if he'll ever understand it or get used to it, this thing that they do to each other with nothing but their bodies, hands and lips.
"Now go to sleep, Bella."
She sighs but it's amused, and after a token murmur of protest she settles into the crook of his neck.
He counts her breath against his skin, listens to her slowly drop away, feels consciousness drain out of her until she's just a warm, comforting presence on his arm.
He stares at the ceiling.
Sometimes he thinks her face in the shadows is a substitute for a dream.
Forever. For ever. 4eva.
The spider and the ceiling are as clueless as he is when it comes to fathoming what on earth it means. He doesn't know whether forever is a badly-carved heart, a moment, a headstone, or a sentence. He's not sure if it really is an abstract concept, or if it's every detail of every second with her, woven together into their own private, perpetual eternity.
He thinks about what will happen when she wakes up, that she'll shift in his arms and make him forget everything. He imagines the weight of her body and the promise of her fingers and the way she sighs when –
He watches the light as it crawls across the room, and thinks that whatever forever is, it can't possibly feel as long as the space between two kisses.