A/N: Sorry for the epic wait, RL reared its ugly head this last week or two (or three. Or…month. Yeah…), and I actually had to do some work on my Master's project and write/hand in a giant literature review. I know, WTF right? How rude. I have a fic to write.

Anyway, Sleepers, Awake by Feisty Y. Beden (the fic I recced last time and has since completely owned me) is now complete. No better time to read it. Bring your hanky(ies). Link under my favs.

Rec of the week: 'Flaming Desire' by Mamma4ever. Two words: Hot. Firemen. Need I say more? I didn't think so. She even has an original character. His name is Dick. He's my favourite, and he will be yours too. Link also under my favs.

A little warning, I just recently wrote a one-shot in present tense, and it's oddly difficult to get out of that once you've done it. So I apologize if I accidentally switch tenses at any part. You can check out my o/s on my profile, it's for the Slash Backslash Contest (please?).

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight or its characters. But I DO own this little tale.


Chapter 12: Lovers

EPOV

Ok, I'm walking into a house full of vampires…

There were several severely fucked up things about this situation. The one that came to mind first was that I was doing so willingly. Still stunned from Bella's immediate forgiveness and blunt honesty about her…situation, I didn't even have time to consider what I was doing.

And so there I was, on the doorstep, about to walk in the back door. And I wasn't even a little bit frightened. Mainly because I was with Bella, and I had her cold hand in mine.

It's a strange feeling for the mere presence of someone to completely pacify you. All these years, I thought that was the way things were with Jazz. And they were – and still are – to a certain extent.

But this thing with Bella was so different, so new…so amazing.

When we entered the living room, we were met with four more…people like Bella and Alice.

Can't even say the word inside your head? Pansy…

I was nervous, but not for obvious reasons. Sure, they could kill me. But more than that, this was Bella's adopted family, and oddly enough I wanted their approval.

Jesus, it's like I'm meeting the parents of my new girlfriend…is that what she is? Is that what this is?

We were introduced, and I did a double take followed by an embarrassing but uncontrollable jaw-drop.

Dr. Cullen?!

My doctor…the man who stitched me up…who washed my bloody elbow…was a…a…

A fucking vampire?!

After the large bear of a man, Emmett, explained their dietary restrictions to us, I definitely relaxed. And Carlisle's wife had this sweetness about her that put me completely at ease. The blonde girl, Rosalie, did not seem thrilled with our presence, and left the room after a hurried introduction without a backward glance. I saw that Jasper couldn't seem to take his eyes off of her. She, admittedly, was extremely attractive, but I just smiled to myself and looked over to take in the sight of Bella again. She was extraordinary.

I saw her snicker at Alice's attempt to regain Jasper's attention, and then promptly glance over to me. She seemed surprise to find me watching her and not drooling over Rosalie. I decided to reassure her.

"I prefer brunettes," I whispered into her ear. I saw her shudder at my words and smiled, a little proud of myself.

Carlisle and Esme took their leave, and just like that we were left to ourselves in the enormous living room.

Man, this 'live forever' deal must give you plenty of time to earn buttloads of money…

We took seats on the couch and, after having to shut Jazz up a few times so they could actually talk, we heard the story of how the girls were changed, and how they met.

Bella was born in 1911…Jesus, she's almost 100 years old…

Her entire story made me angry. I frequently squeezed her hand to show her my concern, though I knew there wasn't a damn thing I could do about any of it.

Bella showed us her scar, the only reminder of her change and her long-extinguished human life. My hand moved of its own volition, tracing the silver crescent on her wrist and eliciting a sigh from Bella when my skin touched hers.

When she told us what Riley had done to her, and the pain she'd been in during her change, I wanted to rip out his throat. How dare he touch her, how dare he cause her pain?

It also made me think about the change itself.

Why was it so painful? What did it feel like? And…why did I care so much?

Bella finished her tale and Alice picked it up. The rest of their story stunned me.

Alice can see the future? How is that even possible?

And…fuck, they killed people?

Even though the last thought was momentarily chilling, at the same time I couldn't bring myself to care. They made the valiant effort to change their ways, and that's what mattered now.

Then Jazz mentioned that Bella could read minds.

Bella could read minds? Shit, how had I missed that part? Oh Christ, was she reading mine right now? Had she been the whole time? What do I do about this? Um…hi Bella. Can you…can you hear me? This is ridiculous, I must sound like a blithering idiot…

My rambling thoughts were cut off abruptly when Bella admitted that she couldn't hear me. That it was frustrating and a respite at the same time, but she had no idea why I was an exception to her ability.

I let out a long sigh of gratitude, but understood why it would be a relief to be deaf to at least one person's mind. How overwhelming it must be to be constantly bombarded with the secret thoughts, desires, and fantasies of others…yikes.

I thanked whoever could hear me that she was deaf to my thoughts.

In an effort to change the subject to something less intense, I asked to see the rest of the house. I made sure to hold Bella's hand once more, constantly desperate for any sort of contact with her. The feeling of her skin on mine was euphoric, and I craved it like a drug.

She guided me up to the second floor, pointing out an open door that led to Carlisle's office. I quickly ducked my head inside, noting that he wasn't there, and was completely shocked at what I saw.

Books upon books, housed on shelves upon shelves, took up three of the walls from floor to ceiling. Every inch of shelf space was taken up by hundreds of volumes – some large, some slim, some new, some ancient and nearly crumbling.

I turned my shocked gaze to Bella, who merely looked amused.

"These must have taken decades to collect. Centuries even! Some of these books look hundreds of years old – "

"It did and they are," she said honestly. "Carlisle is well over 300."

She pointed to the final wall that was covered, not with books, but with paintings and tapestries that looked as old as some of the weathered volumes. There were people in them, strange looking and ancient, and I thought I saw someone who looked like Carlisle in what had to be the oldest print.

"That wall is, essentially, Carlisle's history. He hasn't told me the story yet, though, just that there are bits and pieces of his life all over this house."

Apparently my jaw was still hanging open when I turned back to Bella, because she sort of snickered and placed one cool, slender index finger under my chin to close my mouth. I took the chance to grab her hand and entwine my fingers with hers once more. She tugged me gently in the direction of another staircase, leading to the third floor.

"Sorry, this is all just…a lot to take. I mean, Dr. Cullen…my doctor…has been on Earth for more than three centuries…"

I shook my head as the thought continued to baffle me. Bella gave my hand a squeeze and looked at me sadly while leading me through an open door at the end of the hall.

"I'm very surprised by how well you're taking all of this, Edward."

I had to laugh.

"Bella, have you already forgotten my first reaction?"

This time she laughed.

"Ok, ok. But besides your little…freak out, which I still say was warranted…"

I shot her a look that said Don't, I was wrong, let's move on. She sighed, but continued.

"You've only known what we are for a few days, and yet you willingly enter a house full of more of us, and you're told these stories that must seem utterly insane to you, and – "

I stopped in the center of the room and hushed her with my finger against her lips. I couldn't help but notice their hard, smooth texture, like polished marble. I immediately thought of what they would feel like against my own, but quickly snapped out of it. There would be a time for that later…I hoped.

"I've had a week to get used to the idea. Well, I guess there really is no 'getting used' to the idea, since I grew up thinking vampires only existed in stories by Stephen King and movies about Dracula and Nosferatu. But I've accepted that it's the truth. And I mean, you did save my life. What sort of damsel in distress would I be if I wasn't grateful to my rescuer?"

I realized what I'd called myself and quickly cleared my throat and made my voice a bit deeper.

"I mean, you know, whatever the manly version of 'damsel' is…um…anyway…"

She laughed, and the sound made my heart clench. I gazed into her eyes again, no longer disturbed by the strange crimson colour which was now tinged with amber.

"Besides, it doesn't matter to me what you are. Now that I've found you, I don't plan on letting you go. It's almost…painful to be away from you," I paused, noting the stunned look on her face. "I hope that doesn't, you know, freak you out. I know I've only known you a few days but – "

This time, she silenced me. But she didn't do it with her cool, slender finger.

No, she silenced me with her cool, marble lips on mine.

She'd moved so quickly I didn't even have time to close my mouth, and suddenly my bottom lip was trapped between hers and she was kissing me, firmly but gently. She didn't move her mouth at all, didn't use her tongue, didn't even breathe. She just held my lip in place with her own. I closed my eyes and held just as still.

It was devine.

I knew, at that moment, that I would never experience a kiss like this again with anyone else. I also knew that I didn't want to. I wanted to kiss Bella everyday for the rest of my life. I wouldn't care if it was still, chaste kisses each and every time, as long as it was Bella, and as long as it made me feel like this. I felt electrified, like smoke should be coming out of my ears and my hair should be standing more on end than usual and my heart should be visibly thumping out of my chest, like a scene straight out of an old cartoon.

I started to bring my hands up, needing to tangle them in her silky chestnut locks, but suddenly it was as though she'd only just noticed what she was doing. She quickly pulled away with a gasp and I opened my eyes to see her far across the room, covering her mouth with her hand. I felt empty at the loss.

"Edward I – shit. I'm sorry, that was so inappropriate, I didn't even ask if it was ok and – shit. I didn't, I mean, I didn't hurt you, did I?"

I put my hands up in front of me to stop her.

"Bella, no! No, you didn't hurt me! Of course not. And, don't, please don't apologize, because that was…possibly the single greatest kiss I've ever had in my life. You never have to ask. Please, don't ever ask."

I walked towards her, hoping she wouldn't move away, and wrapped my arms around her shoulders, pulling her to my chest in the hope of calming her. It worked. Though she seemed to be holding her breath again, I felt her tension ease under my grip. She slowly and hesitantly wrapped her arms around my waste and held me lightly. I knew she was thinking that she didn't want to hurt me. So I squeezed her, knowing she'd barely feel it, that my strength was nothing compared to hers. I squeezed her so she'd know I wasn't upset, so she'd know how much I'd enjoyed the kiss, and so she'd know just how much she was starting to mean to me. I buried my face in her hair and just inhaled her essence.

She stepped back after a few minutes and I let her, not wanting her to be overwhelmed.

"Bella."

She kept her eyes to the floor.

"Bella, please look at me."

She slowly lifted her gaze to meet mine. I could see the confusion and turmoil in her eyes. I had no idea how to get rid of it.

"Promise me you'll never ask for permission."

I smirked at her, hoping she'd see I was trying to lighten the mood. I watched as her eyes widened and unfocused briefly. Then one corner of her mouth pulled up, and she nodded.

"I won't ask Edward. I promise."

I nodded, hoping this meant she would kiss me often and not hesitate. Then I realized we'd been standing in a room for a while now and I had no idea what it was. I took in my surroundings and was speechless.

"Wow…Bella, is this…is this your room?"

She nodded.

It was an amazing space. Enormous. Walls lined with shelves that just cried out to be filled with literature and music. Beautiful antique furniture. A long black leather couch.

But the most amazing part was the back wall, which was made entirely of glass. It looked straight out into the back yard and the forest and river beyond. I walked over and stood in front of it, admiring the view.

"Man, I would love a room like this…"

I turned back to see that Bella had seated herself on the edge of the bed and was staring at the floor, seemingly lost in thought. I took the spot next to her, the movement of the bed jostling her from her musings.

"Penny for your thoughts?" I asked with a smirk.

She looked up at me and her eyes were sad again.

"I need to tell you something, Edward. And…and I think once I tell you, you'll finally run screaming. You should run screaming…but I need to be honest. You need to know what you're getting yourself involved in if…if you want to be involved with me."

Her shoulders slumped and she focused on the floor again. I grabbed her hand and held it tightly, encouraging her to continue, and scared shitless about what she might say.

"Edward, I'm sure you've figured out by now that vampires have heightened senses. We see, hear, taste, and…smell things much differently than humans. Obviously, you must know that humans smell very appetizing to us…while human food is simply repulsive."

I nodded, having assumed most of it already. Where was she going with this?

"The other day, Emmett told me something interesting that I'd never heard of before. It seems that most, if not all vampires have something called a la tua cantante. It means 'singer'. In other words, it's a human whose blood smells…even sweeter, even more amazing to one specific vampire than any other human does. The blood 'sings' to them, if that makes sense. It's said to be nearly impossible to resist…taking them…once you encounter your singer."

She paused again. I had a bad feeling I knew what she was getting at. She still wouldn't meet my gaze when she continued.

"Edward…the first time I ever encountered your scent, it was that first night you saw me on the balcony. Alice and I had followed the pull to the woods behind your apartment and…your scent came down from your balcony and…it hit me like a ton of bricks. I'd never felt anything, never smelled anything like that in my entire existence. Alice had to physically restrain me, and I completely lost the ability of coherent thought. Edward, what I'm trying to say…is…"

"I'm your singer."

I said it with no emotion, not sure how to feel one way or the other. I saw her nod slowly, sadly. I let out a long, slow breath and tried to gather my thoughts.

So, Bella was attracted to the smell of my blood more than any other human she'd ever met. She was currently trying to wean herself of the human diet and onto the vegetarian diet. And I wanted to be near to her all the time. Suddenly, several things clicked into place.

"This is why you are always hesitant to be near me. Why you always seem to hold your breath when I'm close."

She nodded again.

"I understand if you want to run away, Edward. I wouldn't blame you. In fact, it's the safer option, and…and I wish you would."

I grabbed her chin gently and forced her to meet my eyes.

"Do you really wish that I'd leave, Bella? Or are you just worried about your restraint?"

I had to know. I had to know if she felt the same way I did, or if my presence was of no consequence. If she truly wanted me gone, I would be. But if not…there was no way I could leave her alone.

She looked at me sadly again, but didn't drop her gaze.

"I…I don't want you to leave. Ever. But sometimes I think it would be easier for both of us if I left. You're only ever in danger around me, Edward, don't you see that? I…ok, I'll admit that the more I'm around you, the easier it is to stay in control. It's like I'm becoming accustomed to your fragrance. But every time I'm away from you, and I lose your scent, it's like that first night all over again when I smell it the next time. I don't – "

"Bella, how do you feel about dirty socks?"

She looked at me like I was insane, but the truth was I had gotten an idea that could make things easier for her. I'd try anything, since I had no intention of leaving her. I took off one of my shoes and removed my sock, then handed it to her.

"I figure, I've been walking around in it all day, so it must, well, reek of me. Maybe if you kept this around you, it would help you stay accustomed to how I smell. Um, and I promise next time I see you, you can have a shirt I wore the day before or something, because, well, this is sort of gross."

She laughed, but held the sock tightly in her fist and looked thoughtful. I could tell she liked my plan, and was willing to try it. She sighed, then laid the sock next to her pillow and reclined back onto the bed, resting on her elbows.

"Tell me about yourself Edward. I feel like I know nothing about you, but you know all about me."

I smiled, glad that we had left the intense conversation behind us for now, and mimicked her position.

We talked for hours about anything and everything. I told her about living in the group home, and how I met Jasper, what our childhood was like. I told her about my parents and how they died, and how close I had come to dying with them. I told her about music, how passionate I was about it, and how I hoped to become a composer and wished I had space for a piano.

She told me more about her travels with Alice, skipping over their meal times. She told me the little she could remember about being human, mostly about her father and how much she cared for him, how she wished she knew how the rest of his life had been. When I asked, she hesitated, but told me what it truly felt like during the change from human to vampire, how it felt like you were burning from the inside out. She told me how it felt to be 'thirsty', that it was totally different to the thirst you feel as a human.

I could see in her eyes that with every new revelation, she expected me to bolt for the door. Why wasn't I? Logic was screaming at me to run, but other feelings were screaming at me to never leave her side again. What did this all mean? Was I seriously considering…becoming like her?

This would need to be pondered at a later date. For now, I needed to focus on this stunning woman in front of me.

Neither of us noticed the late hour until someone quietly knocked on the door. Bella must have heard their thoughts because she quietly murmured, "Come in, Al," and none other than Alice slowly opened the door and came into the room with Jazz at her heels. She seemed rather subdued, and even in the few hours I'd known her I could tell this was not normal Alice.

"Wow, it is late, I didn't even realize."

I looked at Bella, who'd spoken like she was commenting on something that was said, even though no one was talking. I realized Alice must be communicating with her through her thoughts. I briefly wished I could do that with Bella, that we could have secret conversations that no one would hear besides us. Jasper shot me an amused look.

"Edward, you guys…we need to take you home, it's not…um, it's not really safe for you two to stay here, you know, overnight."

I was confused by this, but relented. I was exhausted, and even though I didn't want to leave Bella, I was filled to the brim with hope that I'd see her very soon. I followed her back down to the first floor with Alice and Jasper behind me. I'd have to ask what they got up to when we were back in the seclusion of our apartment. I got the weird feeling that nothing was private in this house.

We went out through the back door and into the yard. I waited for Bella to stop so we could say goodbye, but she continued on to the edge of the forest.

"Bella, what – "

"I said we're taking you home, Edward. The woods aren't safe at night, we're not the only things out there that you should be afraid of."

I shuddered involuntarily, hoping Bella would further explain that at some point. Then I nodded, all too happy to spend more time with her, and started walking into the woods. However, her hand shot out and grabbed my shoulder, preventing me from moving forward. I looked down at her curiously.

"What? I thought we were going home. Why are you stopping?"

Bella smirked at me in a mischievous way.

"It's quicker if we run, you know."

And with that, she grabbed me and slung me onto her back, then took off running through the woods.


A/N: I sort of wanted to punch this chapter in the throat, sorry if it's not up to par. And it's short! I know, I just wanted to get it out ASAP. So whatchu think? Too soon for a kiss? It was just a little one…thoughts?