Two Hundred Years of Solitude: Alternate Oneshot to "You Don't Know Me"

A/N: So, I'm getting some feedback about the age issue with regard to "You don't know me". A lot of ideas went into the mix before that story came to mind, but originally, I had a very different story in mind, with absolutely no lemons and 100% angst. I wasn't going to write it, because it kept making me cry just thinking about it, but it wanted to come out anyway, so here it is…. Don't read this. Please.

All Human, All Canon Birthdays. You heard me.

I don't own Twilight. Apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

"Where's your boyfriend?" Mrs. Meyer asked me as I pushed her gently down the hallway.

"Edward? I haven't seen him yet today. Let's go find him, shall we?" she was always teasing me about Edward.

Mrs. Meyer was one of my favorite residents at the Twilight Home. She always had great stories to tell, and was keenly observant. She and Edward, my most favorite resident, had retained sharp minds, and were a pleasure to visit. I was supposed to be the volunteer here, but I have no idea what I'd do without their friendship, especially Edward's. As we progressed to the rec room I thought about Edward.

When I moved to Forks a year ago, I had a hard time making friends. It wasn't so much that people didn't approach me, it was just that I seemed to find small-talk impossible, and there wasn't much else on offer. I was so painfully shy that my guidance counselor suggested I go visit the nursing home to practice speaking to strangers. It seemed like a strange suggestion, but I soon found that I loved it. There was very little small talk in the home. Some of the residents just wanted a smile, and most were happy to talk about themselves or their grandchildren. Sometimes they were sad or afraid, and often confused, but they were rarely shallow.

There's something about being at the end of life that makes most people a little deeper than they were when they were busy with the rush of life. They wanted to tell their best stories- the loveliest distillations of their own biographies. Maybe that's why I loved them so much- talking to the residents of Twilight was like interacting with the books in a library, and I was always at home in a library.

I met Edward at some point during my second visit. I had noticed him on the first, but he was too busy playing chess to talk to me. I had been sitting with Esther, an Alzheimer's patient who had drifted off to sleep when a thought occurred to me that made me very sad. Some of the residents looked so helpless, lost or playful that it was easy for me to imagine them as children.

"Everyone in here is an orphan," I said to myself.

"You're right," said an unfamiliar voice, jolting me out of my reverie. "But you know, some of the best characters in novels are orphans."

Edward was the oldest resident, and the most interesting. He was 107 years old, and still remembered the names and plots belonging to each book I read. He always beat me at chess, and taught me some amazing moves. He had lived through the Spanish Influenza (just barely, he said) and fought in two world wars. After that he had been an attorney in Chicago. He lived for an argument, and he would steer me into debates until I was flushed red and flustered. Then he would smile at me and tell me how I should have argued. He was teaching me more than any of my teachers at Forks High.

I snuck him cookies, and he played the piano for me in the Twilight ballroom. He apologized for having lost most of his skills, but it sounded beautiful to me. He gave me advice, which I always took. Usually it turned out well, except for the one time he gave me dating advice. He had told me I should let Mike Newton take me to the prom, and I did. I had never felt so lonely in all my life as the party throbbed around me and my solitary bubble. I felt like I was in an imaginary fishbowl, unable to really interact with anyone. Mike was nice, but he didn't understand me, not even remotely. I told Mike I had a headache, ditched my heels and ran on bare feet to Edward's window. He held my hand as I cried and told him about my isolation.

"You don't have to go with Mike," he said comfortingly, "I shouldn't give dating advice anyway, I was never any good at it. I just thought it would be nice if you enjoyed being young for once."

"Well I don't," I sobbed, "I think I'm defective."

"No, Bella, no. Don't ever say that. You're just too wonderful for your own good. If I were eighty years younger I'd have a ring on your finger before you could say boo." we both laughed then, but I think he meant it.

If he were eighty years younger I might have let him.

I ended up sleeping in the chair by his bed that night. When I woke up, our hands were still joined, the paper-thin skin of his resting gently against my face.

I pushed Mrs. Meyer through the rec room and the ball room, and finally towards Edward's room. Constance, a very sweet nurse on staff was sitting by Edward's bed. He seemed to be asleep. I was disappointed.

She smiled when she saw me and walked over, taking Mrs. Myer from me.

"Where are you going? I brought you here to see Edward," I asked, confused.

"No, dearie, I brought you here," said Mrs. Meyer. "I've already spoken with Edward. He's been waiting for you."

My throat tightened and I walked to his side. He wasn't asleep at all. He looked calm. He looked so very fragile, and old. He smiled at me, and my breath caught in my throat. Suddenly, I knew what this was all about.

"No, Edward, don't-"

"Bella," he said gently, "I wanted to thank you for this year. I've never been so happy in my life, as to see your beautiful face every day. You've been a joy to me, and a blessing. Don't cry for me. I'm tired. I'm ready to go."

"I'm not ready," I whispered, pleading with him desperately with my eyes.

"I want you to have something," he motioned to a moving box on his nightstand.

I peered in to see a stack of leather journals, a small antique photo album, and a smaller box wrapped in white paper and gold ribbon. On top sat a small card with my name on it.

I took out the photo album and opened it out of curiosity. I had always wondered what Edward had looked like as a young man. I first saw his parents' wedding picture- ghosts from the late 1800's. Next was Edward as a baby on his mother's lap.

Picture after picture of a lovely child growing into a man so beautiful it took my breath away.

"There's more of me in that box than there is in here," he gestured towards his withered body. "You'll take it? Read them?"

His eyes shone brightly at me, the sea-colored remnants of his faded beauty.

I nodded, unable to keep the tears from spilling down my face now.

"Would it be too much to ask for a kiss goodbye?" he pointed at his cheek and tilted it toward me.

I held his hand, and kissed his cheek, marveling at the fragile skin there. He smiled sadly, and seemed to be apologizing to me for something silently. I couldn't have that, so I leaned in again and kissed his closed lips very gently.

"Thank you, Edward, for this year, too. I love you."

He smiled for real this time, wonderingly, and then slipped away.

A/N: It makes my heart sing every time someone leaves a weepy review, so from now on,

every time a reviewer admits to crying, Angel Edward gets to kiss Bella in a dream.