Summary: "You could tell me about your ten best nights. I'm curious." Were you curious too? While Bella sleeps on Isle Esme, Edward reflects on their time together. Find out which memories are his favorites!
Author's Note: Usual disclaimer to Stephenie and usual thanks to Juliejuliejulie and Edward-Bella-Harry-Ginny!
"All of my best nights have happened since I met you." Eclipse, page 511
I had often reflected that myths about vampires usually grew from a grain of truth. Before I met Bella I was largely nocturnal. Daytime was frequently downtime, either because I had to avoid exposure in the sun or because I had to put my body through the motions of being a model student. Nighttime was a chance to run and hunt and play, without obligations and without much chance of being spotted. But meeting my love had transformed my life completely. Now my days were full of Bella— talking to her, kissing her as much as possible, just looking at her if that was all circumstances permitted— and I spent my nights cradling her in my arms while she slept.
It wouldn't be for long. We hadn't chosen a date, but I knew the time was short. My determination not to make love to her again until she was immortal probably had something to do with her eagerness. I didn't want to think about my guilt and my reservations, not now. It was pointless to fret about something I couldn't change. Instead, I was determined to savor this fleeting experience. I wouldn't be with her like this again. Soon, perhaps in a matter of days or weeks, we'd be perpetually awake together, and we'd have other ways to spend our nights. That prospect was more electrifying than a lightning storm, but I couldn't deny that I'd miss this. Being with Bella through the night was a delightful privilege. I held her close and basked in her warmth. I was enveloped in her ambrosial scent. I marked the passage of time by the hypnotizing sounds of her breathing and heartbeat. And occasionally I caught a precious glimpse of her thoughts as she spoke in her sleep.
All this would change when she changed. That single unguarded window into her mind would be closed to me. How would I cope with losing my treasured spyhole into Bella's thoughts? I'd have to observe her even more closely. Was it possible that in making her more like me, her transformation would dissolve that mental barrier? I'd have complete access. I'd know her mind and her body, everything that was Bella. It was a tantalizing possibility. But would she be troubled by my possessing her so completely? People naturally expected their thoughts to be private. I knew my family didn't enjoy my unavoidable intrusion. But for some reason beyond my reckoning, she had always been willing to give herself to me entirely. I'm here, which roughly translated, means I would rather die than stay away from you. She invited me in….
Don't be afraid. We belong together. My thoughts returned, as they never failed to, to the first night of our honeymoon. I still castigated myself for the harm I'd caused her. The bruises were fading from her skin but there was no chance that my awareness of my crime would dim. Her forgiveness didn't erase my fault. Still, until I realized what I'd so carelessly done, it had been perfect. Everything we did felt so good, and more than that, it felt so necessary, as vital as blood and light and music.
It surely wasn't possible for anyone to be more knowledgeable before his first time, but I didn't realize how much I didn't know. I thought I knew what to expect, but nothing I'd glimpsed in anyone's mind had been comparable, because it was Bella and me. Her cries of passion, her pounding heart, her racing blood, her warm, soft body and roving, clutching hands, her hot breath on my skin had sent me spiraling into a new, transcendent realm. Beyond the captivating physical sensations, it was an emotional revelation. I thought I knew Bella. But I hadn't known her fully until I saw her and felt her so ardent and exposed, in a way nobody else ever had or would. I had told Bella I loved her a thousand times, and she showed her feelings for me a thousand ways. But the extreme, unprecedented pleasure our bodies could generate made our connection real like nothing before. I had begun to think that maybe I was more than a monster. Moving passionately with Bella, giving and taking the overwhelming fulfillment made me realize that I wasn't designed only for hunting and killing. My body had another purpose, a better purpose, something wholly wonderful and joyous. It had been by far the best night of my existence.
And what were the others? I smiled as I lightly stroked Bella's hair. Many nights I'd amused myself with contemplating and comparing my memories. I was a lucky man to have so many spectacular moments to consider. My brief time with Bella had been packed with soaring highs, each launching me to fresh levels of happiness I'd never thought possible. For sheer emotional intensity… well, it was a difficult call. Several nights were in the running for second place. I had to include the night that changed everything. The one that sent both of our destinies swerving onto the paths that had finally brought us here to this bed, thousands of miles away from where we started, as husband and wife on the verge of an eternal union.
We'd come a long way since the first time I'd been by her side while she slept. That night, of course, I didn't presume to touch her. For many minutes I didn't even dare to breathe. But I was transfixed, then as now, by the sight of my sleeping beauty. And when I heard my name on her lips! It was like an incantation. I was completely in thrall to her. I was bound to obey her command, and she'd asked me to stay. Somehow I, the most unsuitable person in the world, was the one she wanted. Stay. Don't go. I don't want you to leave. Do you swear you won't leave me? That night I had recognized that my heart was hers. I could drag my body away but I couldn't break the spell. The yearning for her drew me inexorably back.
That night, I was an uninvited visitor. She didn't even know I was there. Unless… I knew external stimuli could slip into dreams. Maybe she'd caught my scent in the air. Could it be? I'd always assumed that she just happened to be dreaming about me. But what if my presence that night had prompted the words that led to my presence in her life ever since and evermore? Had we been calling each other, pulling each other closer, with scent and gaze and touch and sound? That momentum had finally culminated here in a complete union of body and spirit. Surely that was the second best night of my life.
Another night had been an essential precursor to my current joy and contentment: the night she accepted my proposal. I'll give you what you want. I'll marry you. The abruptness of her capitulation had shocked me. I wasn't sure she'd ever agree. I'd planned to be patient and understanding. I'd reason with her, gradually wear down her resistance. I thought I'd at least be required to ask very nicely. Her acquiescence had been like fireworks piercing the dark sky, an unanticipated glory. I was shaken, unmoored, giddy, desperate to accede to her wishes, unable to tell right from wrong or prudence from insanity. The only thing that seemed clear was that I couldn't refuse her anything. Exaltation expanded into all the space inside me as I kissed her. And when I saw my ring on her hand, the token of my claim and her promise and my triumph over everything that should have prevented this moment, it felt like my heart would explode with pride and happiness.
My fourth best night was another occasion of being blindsided by joy. The previous night, I had thought her dead, gone where I had no hope of finding her. I sought only to leave this sterile world, this barren planet of dust and vapor, never believing I could join her. But that night, flying back from Italy, we were miraculously reunited. With my angel alive, I didn't want any other heaven. I didn't know how long we'd be together. She'd come to try to save me, perhaps out of obligation, perhaps out of friendship with Alice. She was so guarded and quiet. Naturally, she'd been horrified by my world. Our time together would doubtless be brief. Still, until the flight landed, until we literally came back to earth, she was mine again. My mind, which I had once considered so nimble and active, was unable to progress beyond a handful of simple thoughts: She's here. She's alive. She's safe. She's here. She's alive…. I couldn't even speak. I could only feel the joy and wonder.
Just knowing she was alive meant everything. I was amazed, relieved and grateful. It was clear from Alice's report that death had nearly claimed her more than once during my wretched absence. I knew I didn't deserve anything more. But the very next night… The ecstasy I felt when I discovered that she still loved me was like slaking a deep thirst. She'd been faithful despite my faithlessness. She had never stopped loving me. I had tried to maintain I could manage without her love, but when I realized that I still had it, that notion was exposed as a ridiculous pretense. I needed her love so much. The last time I'd kissed her, the night of her birthday, I was kissing her goodbye. I'd known it even though I'd been unable to speak my cruel intentions. Had she replayed that kiss as many times as I had? This night, this kiss filled me with the same glorious, exciting, ravishing feeling, but it was entirely different, because it was a homecoming kiss. I was where I belonged, the only place I wanted to be. I was never leaving again.
The next night on my list also took place in Bella's room. It had been a day like no other. We'd been alone together. I'd displayed my sparkling skin, my supernatural speed and strength. I'd confessed my powerful, shameful attraction to her blood. And I'd shown her my heart. My devotion, my confusion, my determination to be disciplined and gentle and honest and worthy of her company. Her reaction had thrilled me to the core. We were both afraid, both fearing disaster, rejection, regret, but we were both compelled to push past the trepidation in order to touch and share and be close.
She asked me to stay. But if she hadn't, I would have sneaked in as usual. There were so many intense moments for her to process. I had to hear her unconscious declarations. I knew that during her waking hours my gaze and my voice and my scent kept her enchanted. Maybe while she was sleeping she'd snap out of it. Her natural instincts would kick in. Maybe everything that had fascinated her in the meadow would dissolve and she'd be left with a nightmare. That would make sense, I lectured myself. It had to happen sooner or later. It would be for the best. But if I truly believed that, why did I feel a such a thrill when she spoke? Edward… I love you, Edward. The exhilaration and terror were like being a twig tumbling over the edge of the world into a waterfall. I'd never imagined hearing those words from anyone outside my family, from a human, from the only girl I could ever care for. It was sheer bliss.
It would probably surprise Bella to know how much I cherished the next night I considered. The night after we'd finished Victoria. The night after she'd rejected Jacob. For hours she had sobbed in my arms. I didn't know a person could weep that many tears. Finally, thankfully, she collapsed into restless sleep. How could that night mean so much to me? It didn't really make sense. I just knew that that night was like no other. It was a gift. It was special because it was awful. Every moment that I held her I feared— I nearly expected— would be the last. Surely she was regretting her choice. Surely she would push me away. And I'd go, because Bella should have whatever she wanted. If this was the end, if at any moment my right to touch her, my opportunity to be with her was to be rescinded, these final minutes with my love were infinitely precious.
In the meantime, every moment that I held her, I felt profoundly grateful that she wasn't alone with her agony, that she had sought comfort with me. When I had cavalierly chosen to devastate her for her own good, I had forced her to suffer on her own. I hadn't left her anything to hang onto: not my picture, not my family, not the truth. This pain must be similar. Although it had been her decision this time, the connection with someone she cared deeply for had been broken. But this time, she had someone to turn to. She wanted my company on her terrible journey. I could never fix all I'd done wrong, all the harm I'd inflicted, but there was something I could do for her. I could be there. Strange as it might seem, it was one of the best nights of my life.
That memory reminded me of another time, the fourth night I'd spent in her room. Since the first time I'd ventured through her window, I'd been there every night that I could. I knew it was inappropriate, but I couldn't stay away. I was compelled to look upon her loveliness, to reassure myself of her safety, to dull the keen edge of her piercing scent. I was there to take, to steal the sight of her, her smell, her words. But that fourth night was different. I was able to give her something: I covered her up with a blanket. Such a simple action. Trivial, perhaps, compared to the drama earlier when I'd swooped in to rescue her and the secrets I'd shared about my monstrous nature and my special ability. But what was casual and ordinary for humans was revolutionary for me. For the first time, I allowed myself to think that I could be good for Bella, that I might have something to offer her beyond the dazzling, misleading surface. I had protected her. I had been honest with her. I didn't have body heat like a human boy. I couldn't keep her warm that way. But maybe, despite my limitations, I could take care of her and show her how much I cherished her. She was sleeping more comfortably because I was there. The hope that blossomed inside me was as delicious as the touch of her fingertips had been earlier in the evening. Yes, that had been a wonderful night.
Bella turned in her sleep, rolling away from me. That wouldn't do. I moved to press against her, feeling an exquisite awareness everywhere we were in contact. I could never be close enough. I smiled, remembering the first night we'd spent in my bed. I'd never had any use for a bed, of course. And I still didn't. It was for Bella to sleep in, because I wouldn't require her to spend the night on my couch. Yeah, right. I wasn't fooling myself. Or my brothers and sisters, judging from the smirks on their faces and the rapid change of subject in their minds when they thought of my new furniture. I did have some hopes, but I knew I had a lot of groveling to do before I had any chance of trying out my ideas. I didn't mind that. Her anger was justified, and my remorse was sincere. I could win her forgiveness. Moving her into the bed probably wasn't the best way to start. I should honor her choice to spend the night on the couch. But just like on that other night, I couldn't refrain from doing anything in my power to make her more comfortable.
Despite my care, she awakened. She reached for me, and I anticipated her anger. She could be fierce. She might try to hit me. Surely she'd scramble away and return to the couch, irritated at my presumption. But there was no tension in her touch, only soft welcome. Even while my thoughts remained confused and suspicious, my body had already interpreted the message. My caution and uncertainty had melted instantly. I felt her lips and skin with my fingers and mouth. I thrust my hands in her hair. I pulled her against me and the new closeness made my whole body feel hot, not just the places where we were touching. She was panting, and the sound spurred me to more caresses, more new ways to feel her skin, more intoxicating pressure of her body against mine to make her breath ragged and her heart pound.
It was too much. I couldn't finish what I'd started. I had to disappoint her. But she surprised me again with her generous attitude towards my failures. I like the bed. At the moment, I couldn't imagine any other words I'd rather hear. The bed was a comfortable place for us to be close, and not just physically. In the warm darkness she confessed her desire for me. She usually didn't say such things aloud. I'm going to spontaneously combust. I didn't want her to be uncomfortable, but if she wanted me a tiny fraction of the way I wanted her, she had to be frustrated. Once again, my body had none of the scruples that my mind did. Knowing I could affect her that way made me soar with pride and satisfaction. And she spoke about more than her attraction. She confided Jacob's hurtful words. She admitted her insecurity about other women in my life. The bed seemed to be a magical place where I could do no wrong. She ignored my mistakes and my deficiencies to push herself into my arms, to eagerly return my caresses and respond to my explorations, to open her heart and mind to me. That night surely belonged in my favorites.
It was already light out, and I needed to choose one more night to complete the list. Bella shifted slightly. Her satin skin slid against me, and her silky hair brushed over my chest. "I love you," she murmured. She relaxed again as she nestled close. I smiled. Really, there was no contest. Tonight was my tenth best night. I could recall the past and its highlights, but they were over, finished. The future was always just out of reach, no matter how fast I could run. But I was living in the perfect, present moment: Bella was with me now.
Author's Note: Well, like Bella, I was desperately curious about Edward's ten best nights, but they only had time to discuss four before Jacob had enough of the conversation. The four Bella guessed were the ones I've put third (the engagement), fourth (flying back from Italy), fifth (the following night) and sixth (the night after the meadow). The first morning on Isle Esme, of course, he tells her the previous night was the very best of his existence. So I decided on five other nights and arranged them in order. In the tent he told Bella the engagement was in first place (later displaced by the first night on the island), but I moved it down a notch because I think the very first night he spent in her room was more meaningful.
By the way, I have written separate, more detailed descriptions of some of these nights from Edward's point of view: the night after Italy (Marry Me First), the first night in his new bed (I Like the Bed) and the first night of the honeymoon (chapter one of Paradise Lost).
Now I'm dying to know what YOU think. Do you agree that these nights are Edward's best and do you agree with the order I put them in? Please review and let me know!