A/N- Sadly, I do not own Twilight. All reviews are appreciated, even the sucky ones. Peace and love.
I stood as still as I could, not wanting to miss anything. Even if I was merely an observer, I wouldn't give up a chance to watch the collective perfection of the Cullens at play. Especially now. Now that the decision had been made, I had to soak in as much of them as I possibly could. I would soon be a Cullen myself. I would soon be expected to live, to hunt, to play with them, and I couldn't help but think that forgiveness would be much more difficult to come by when I could no longer blame my imperfections on being human.
Alice was up to bat. I studied her sculpted arms, as her white hands tensed around the slender wood. Looking down at my own arm, I tried to mimic her strength by flexing. Nothing. She bounced her knees and swayed slightly, readying herself for the force that Carlisle was about to heave at her.
Through the silent outfield, Emmett yelled, "Everybody move in!" which was followed by a booming laughter that scattered across the field.
Carlisle raised his hands and cupped the ball in front of him, as Alice quietly snickered. "Bring it on," she sang smoothly.
I didn't see anything else before I heard the loud CRACK of the bat that seemed to warm the dark gray sky. And Alice had turned into a racing blur. That's something I knew I could definitely get used to as a vampire. Actually being able to see all that was going on around me. I smiled at the thought.
Alice came to a sudden but gentle halt beside me. I half expected her to be panting, but that was just the human in me again.
"They should know better," she whispered with a small smirk. I knew the rest of the Cullens had heard this, because Emmett laughed once again, the field below us trembling .
Then, as if Emmett's howling laugh had loosened them from their clouds, I felt a few drops of rain hit my warm skin. I looked down at my arms to find the drops pooling together and rolling off. Alice and Esme both looked over at me once they realized the rain had begun.
"We should get you a coat," Esme worried, as her motherly instincts took over.
Edward, who was now up to bat, looked back to me at hearing Esme's concern. But I smiled shyly and politely insisted that I didn't need one, that it wasn't raining hard enough yet. I was tired of always being the one to put a kink in the Cullens' armor, so to speak. It was always me. As I spoke, a cool whip of air wound around me, causing me to shiver. I took a step back in hopes that Alice hadn't noticed my humanness.
Another loud CRACK, and Edward was a white fog through the slowly steadying rain. I laughed to myself at all the other humans who probably heard rattling thunder in the skies rather than a game of baseball amongst vampires. How lucky I was to be given the chance to know the difference. And though it was silly of me, I sometimes found myself wondering what the point was to the Cullens playing baseball like this. They rarely didn't hit home runs; where was the fun in always being too good? Another wind swooped under my hair and caused me to shudder.
I turned away from the field and noticed a big, smooth rock that I'd overlooked when we first got there. It was off to the side of the field behind Esme and Alice. I decided that I would attempt to climb it. Being human, I learned that the only way to take your mind off of something (in this case, the rain), was to focus it on something else.
I turned to make sure both Edward and Alice (but especially Edward) weren't watching. If they saw me trying to climb a rock, they'd, for sure, freak out and worry until my feet were safely planted on the earth. Even if the rock did only come up to about my waist. They would argue that I was rarely sturdy on solid ground; what made me think I could safely climb a rock?
Edward was, somehow, up to bat again, and Alice was chatting with Esme, so I took my chance. Walking around behind the rock, I placed my hands and knees on it. I guess I'd forgotten the rain, because I could feel the water sink through my jeans and bleed onto my knees. I was proud that my plan of forgetting had already worked so well. Slowly crawling to the top of it only took me a few more seconds. The tricky part was trying to stand.
I planted my right shoe just to the side of me. Then my left. I was now squatting and praised myself for doing such a thing on my own. I tried to strengthen my knees which would hopefully allow me to stand, but another loud CRACK immediately echoed throughout the field which terrified me, causing me to slip. I guess I let out a squeal because the next thing I knew, Alice was holding my arms, my back wet and resting just against the front of the rock. Edward and Carlisle both rushed towards me at a speed I was incapable of deciphering.
I finally stood, a little shaken. After studying my face, Alice slipped her cool hands from around my wrists. Carlisle kept asking me if I was okay to which I consistently answered with a nod. I could feel the crimson sliding onto my cheeks. Human, once again. I was so embarrassed.
After a moment, Edward wrapped his stone arm around my waist and helped me stumble away from the group. Esme followed close behind. Edward slowly lifted the back of my wet shirt and ran his cool fingers down my bare back. I shivered. He put my shirt back down.
"Sorry," he whispered into my rain-drenched hair.
"It's only a few scratches," I heard him quietly speak to Carlisle. "No blood."
Carlisle nodded, a sheet of relief plastered to his face. Spilling human blood near vampires was a huge no. Even if they could control themselves, there was always the chance of it being too much for them to handle....
"I'll take her back," Edward continued, to which I shot him a fiercely desperate look. The last thing I wanted to do tonight was give up.
"Hey, dont you want to get nice and warm, bundle up in dry clothes?" He made it sound inviting, and I cringed at how he always had a gentle way of coaxing me to do what he wanted me to. His syrupy voice didn't help things on my side, either. But tonight was different; I was on a mission. Tonight I wanted to stay.
"Edward, can't I please just climb the rock and watch?"
Without arguing, he sighed and took my hand, leading me back to the rock, which somehow seemed a lot smaller now. He picked me up and took a giant leap, landing on top of it without so much as a stumble. In my mind, I tried to play my shivering body off as pure excitement.
I wiggled out of his arms as he set me down next to him. I turned away from him with another shiver and tried to concentrate on Jasper who was now up to bat, but a thought threw me off course. Maybe I was going about this all wrong. Maybe the human way to avoid something is to embrace it so fully that it has to refuse you. It was worth a shot, for the sake of being a little less human tonight. Tonight, I decided, I will embrace the rain.
Holding my arms out to my side, I threw my head back and opened my mouth. I had to squint to the keep the drops from stinging my eyes, but the taste of it seemed sweet. Sweet and cool against my hot throat. If I weren't embarrassed by this, I would've admitted that it almost tasted like kissing Edward. But then, as if he could actually read my mind, he broke the silence.
"Bella," he paused. "What exactly are you doing?"
"Catching rain," I answered, my head still thrust back.
He chuckled and shook his head. "You'll catch a cold. That's what you'll catch."
I turned and shot him a scowl which caused him to smile. He pulled me into a tight hug. I normally wouldn't try to refuse such a thing, but I feared that he'd feel me shivering. Which he did before I could escape his touch....
"Bella." His voice sounded worried.
As if on cue, I felt a tickle in my nose. I held a finger up to Edward and turned towards the other side of the rock. He was the last person I wanted to see my human weaknesses.
How ironic. Here I was fighting the human in me, even if only for the night, and as if the world were trying to shove it back in my face, I had to sneeze. You can't get more human than sneezing.
You're human, Bella, I heard in my mind. You'll always be human. Over and over again.
"Heh... HitChew!" The sneeze hitched me forward, almost taunting me off the rock, but Edward caught me with both of his hands by the waist.
He furrowed his dark brow, his lips pursed. "Alright, you're coming with me."
He slung me over his shoulder and onto his back with a quick movement, and before I knew it, we were sliding through the woods. I didn't notice the passing trees or the growth that was forever green. But I could feel the heavy drops of rain hitting me in the face. I burrowed my face into the back of Edward's neck, hoping to escape the pounding.
As soon as we reached the truck, Edward tucked me under the jacket I had left behind and took off down the road. He always drove fast, and tonight was no exception. It was funny, not once had I ever witnessed him getting pulled over. Even if he had gotten pulled over, I'm sure he could easily talk himself out of a ticket. He was good like that.
It was silent until Edward turned the heater up to high. I closed my eyes and embraced the warmth as it surrounded my face. First I had decided to embrace the rain, now the warmth. Ambivalent human, I heard someone whisper. After a few more minutes of silence, I turned to watch Edward through the dark of the night. I could see his face perfectly.
"Are you mad at me?" I asked, my voice sounding small.
He cracked a smile. "Of course not. Why would I be mad?"
I shrugged but refused to say anything, as I felt a tickle slowly building. I closed my eyes and brought my hands to cover my nose and mouth.
"Huh?" I asked through my hands.
"Are you... okay?" I could tell his driving had slowed a bit as he looked over at me.
Nodding, I answered. "Uh-huh." Turning towards the window (to shield my humanness from Edward), I took a deep breath. "HetCHEW!"
"Oh. Bless you."
"Sorry," I squeaked, trying to ready myself for another. "Heh.... HitCHEW!"
"Bless you, Bella."
"Thanks...." I clumsily leaned forward in defeat, resting my head on my arms on the dashboard. I was starting to feel a little dizzy with all of the heat. Not to mention, my sneezing. Without looking, I reached over and started to roll the window down. The sudden cool air caused me to shiver once more.
"Are you too hot?" Edward asked, pressing his slender fingers to my cheek.. There was a hint of worry and confusion in his voice. "You feel warm."
I nodded, "I'm fine, I think. And I'm always warm to you," I reminded him. But another taunting tingle hit my nose.
I brought my head up a bit and plastered my hands back to my face as I had before. My breathing got heavier and on the release, my sneeze was so forceful that it bounced my forehead into the dashboard. "Hih... Hih... HitSHOO!"
"Oh, Bella." He made a quick movement, reaching out his arm to brace me. "Bless you."
"Ouch... ugggh," I moaned, rubbing my forehead, and pressed myself back against the seat. My nose was still tickling.
"You're getting sick," Edward whispered through pursed lips. He slid me close to him, and I pressed my warm face into his neck; fire against ice. "We should have left earlier, I'm sorry. We're almost home," he reassured me.
As we pulled into the driveway, I turned to face Edward and feigned a smile.
"You don't have to stay the night."
"Nonsense," he furrowed his brow.
"Really, I"ll be fine," I pressed. "I promise."
"Bella Swan, since when have you not wanted me to stay the night?" His expression seemed doubtful.
I absently ran my finger down my nose with a sniffle.
He nodded. "I thought so." He reached over me and popped the passenger door open. "I'll see you upstairs," he finalized.
I grumbled and slid out into the cold. Drawing my jacket tighter to me, I headed for the front door. Charlie would, no doubt, be waiting for me on the couch, as he always was. Hopefully I sounded sick enough that he'd leave me to rest in my room for the night.
Opening the door, I tried to sound enthusiastic. Maybe a little too enthusiastic. "Hi, Dad."
"Hey," Charlie answered. "You have fun tonight with the Cullens?"
I nodded with a sniffle and tried to smile.
"Bells, you okay? You sound like you've been crying."
"No, I'm fine, Dad. Just feeling a, a little uh," my voice quieted as my breath began to hitch. At least he'd believe me. "Hih'CHEW...sorry, just a little stuffy."
"Oh," his face dropped. "Are you getting sick?"
I shrugged. "I'll go take some medicine, just in case."
"Good idea. And get some sleep. With any luck, that stuff'll knock you out til the morning."
"Thanks, Dad. Goodnight."
I drifted into the kitchen and acted like I was taking medicine. My night of refusing to be human had failed. If it was at all possible, I was now more human than I'd been earlier in the evening, and taking medicine would surely prove that the night had won, that my humanness had prevailed. I mused to myself, if Edward didn't ever have to take medicine, neither did I.
My feet were heavy as I climbed the stairs. Opening my bedroom door, I saw him sitting motionless in the rocker. I smiled. This is how I found him every night. After I shut the door, he stood and moved to the edge of my twin-sized bed.
"Do you mind if I take... a few minutes to be human?" I grumbled as I gathered my pajamas. I had to roll my eyes at myself. The phrase was a ridiculous one because as of late, I'd wanted to be anything but human. Though Edward knew what this meant.
"Take as long as you like," he grinned. "I'll be right here."
I fled to the end of the hall and shut the bathroom door behind me a little too hard. Immediately peeling my wet clothes off, I started the hot water, hoping that a shower would make me feel better. I stepped in and let it rush over me. After a few minutes under the water, I felt my nose begin to tickle. I shut the water off in disgust at myself.
Taking my time, I brushed my teeth slowly. Any other night I'd be racing to get back to Edward, but if I happened to sneeze in here a few times, that's a few less sneezes that Edward had to see. So, with the tickle still in my nose, I stared at the lights above the mirror. My mouth hung open, as I tried to coax the sneeziness out. Nothing.
Completely frustrated, I finally gave up. I stepped into my tattered tee-shirt and baggy sweatpants, ran a comb through my wet hair, grabbed the box of tissues from the sink (just in case), and headed back to my room.
Edward was sitting where I had left him. After I shut the door, he stood, whipped the comforter off of my bed, and embraced me. He always wrapped me up, as to make sure that his skin didn't touch mine. His skin usually felt cooler to my human touch at night.
After he let go of me, I immediately dropped down onto my bed and laid on my back. I blankly stared up at the ceiling. He slid over top of me and laid down next to me on his side.
"Yeah." I hoped he couldn't hear the involuntary harshness in my voice.
"Is something wrong?"
I shook my head without a word. Suddenly, I felt a tear slide down the side of my face. I couldn't tell if it was from me being so upset or because my eyes were burning with sneezes that refused to come. I tried to blink it away before Edward could notice it.
His cold finger caught the tear, and I rolled over to my side, my back facing him. Right then, I imagined the tear turning to ice on his fingertip. Why could I not turn tears to ice?
As if to answer, I felt my breathing begin to hitch. I pressed my hands to cover my face. "Hih... HitCHEW!"
"Bless you," Edward whispered.
After a few minutes of thick silence, I spoke through my hands which were still covering my nose and mouth. I had to work at controlling my voice to keep it from cracking with emotion. "I'm not mad at you, Edward." I shook my head against my pillow. "I'm not."
"Well, are you feeling alright?"
I nodded, another sneeze beginning to surface. "Huh... Huh... Hh'CHOO!" It caused me to lurch forward, my bed gently squeaking beneath us.
Sniffling, I grabbed a tissue from my nightstand and blew my nose. I filled two tissues with a gurgling mess and dropped them onto the floor. I shuddered at how sick it sounded, at how human it was.
"Bella, it's okay." He ran his fingers through the back of my wet hair causing me to shiver. "Sneezing is normal. Everyone does it."
After his words registered, I shook my head, this time more forcefully. If tears had a voice, they would have sounded like mine. "No, Edward. Everyone doesn't sneeze. You are everyone to me, and you don't sneeze." The tears threatened to choke me. I then realized just how sore my throat was feeling.
"Oh," he answered, realization probably setting in. I feared that he now understood what this was about. He had never wanted me to take being human for granted. In his eyes, he was the only monster here, not me.
Something suddenly snapped inside my chest, and I'd had enough distance between us. I quickly rolled over and pushed my face into his chest, a few tears spilling from my eyes.
"I'm so sorry," I trembled. "I'm really not mad at you."
"Shhh, it's okay," he whispered, wrapping his arms around me and the comforter. But this wasn't enough for me. I wanted to feel him. I had to be as close to him as I possibly could be. As human as it sounded, his touch was the only one that could soothe my heart.
Panting, I struggled to crawl out of the comforter and flailed my limbs trying to free them.
"What are you-"
"Please. Just hold me," I whimpered, my voice heavy with desperation for his touch.
"Bella, whoa whoa. Hey, it's okay," he tried to calm me. He carefully helped me out of the comforter and slid himself off the end of the bed. My jaw dropped in terror as I thought he might be leaving me, but I then realized what he was doing.
He grabbed a hooded sweatshirt from my closet and another pair of sweatpants from the dresser. Without a word, he slid the sweatshirt over my raised arms and my head, and he held the pants as I stepped into them. I immediately wrapped my arms around his hard body with a force I'd not known I had. He cradled the back of my head, gently embracing me against his chest.
"Is that good? Or shall I find you more sweats?"
I answered the only way I knew how tonight. I pressed my mouth to his, dough against marble, and a minute later, he sat us both down on the edge of the bed with a smile. He leaned forward and kissed my cheek and then my lips.
As if he sensed a lingering hint of concern in my eyes, he whispered to my face, "It's really okay, Bella."
Out of nowhere, his cool, sweet breath tickled my nose. I quickly turned away from him, my breath accelerating, and pressed my hands to my face. "HapSHOO!" I took a deep breath and again slightly lurched forward, "HupSHOOO!"
"Bless you," he smiled towards me, grabbing a few tissues and handing them to me. As soon as I emptied my nose, I dropped back down to my pillows behind me. Edward followed.
Completely disappointed by the night, I silently decided that I should at least try to get some answers. What else would I have to show for the night, if not a little knowledge?
"Edward, can I ask you a question?"
I coughed and cleared my throat. It was beginning to feel raw. "Why do you play baseball?" I paused, not wanting to sound critical. "Your family. I mean, why play when you all are so perfect at it. Doesn't that sort of take some of the fun out of it?"
He let out a breath from his pursed lips. The scent was engaging. "I can see where one might think that. But. It's more of the freedom. The ability to unleash all of our strength." His voice dropped off and swam to my neck. "Even if it is only against a baseball in some empty field."
I smiled. "I like that answer."
He held his lips just beside my mouth to tease me. "Do you?"
I wanted so much to kiss him, but his breath tickled my nose once more. I quickly lifted my head and drew my pillow from underneath me and held it over my face. I'm surprised Edward didn't think I was trying to suffocate myself.
"HuhCHEW!" Surprised at how strong they were getting, I groaned and lifted the pillow so that I could inhale deeply. Then into the pillow again. "Heh'CHEW!"
After a second, Edward lifted the pillow. "Is it my turn to ask something?" he questioned. He twisted the drawstring of my hoodie around his finger.
"Anything." I hated how congested I sounded.
"Why do you turn away from me when you sneeze?" His voice was calm and curious.
I hesitated for a split second before my nose started to tingle. "Wha- What do you mean?" I whispered, trying to distract him (or myself, I couldn't tell). I pushed myself up onto my elbows and turned toward the nightstand. Not able to cover my mouth, I aimed towards the floor. "HehCHOO!" A deep breath. "HuhCHOO!"
Edward chuckled. "That," he answered. "You did it again."
I sniffled and sighed, my throat feeling scratchy. I laid my head back on the pillow and waited a few seconds.
"I don't want you to see me sneeze."
"What? Why on earth..."
"I know, it's incredibly stupid of me. But it's just annoying. I hate sneezing, especially now, and it makes me feel gross."
He clicked his tongue against his teeth and furrowed his brow. "Especially now."
I nodded with another sigh. "Whenever I sneeze...." I paused. The word, alone, made me shudder. "It just makes me feel even less capable of ever being anything other than, I don't know, other than what I am to you now," I huffed.
"And what are you to me now," he pressed. He knew the answer, but he wanted to hear me say it.
I rolled over on my side to face him, and ran my trembling finger along his perfect, stone arm. "Human," I sighed.