The Twilight Twenty-Five
Prompt: Soft
Pen name: nosleep3
Pairing: Edward/Bella
Rating: T
Disclaimer: Twilight and its characters are the property of S. Meyer. Any references to real people are accidental, and references to real places are used fictitiously.

Ten Watermelons

Edward has always done things he'd prefer not to bother with. In the past, this was meant to camouflage his inhuman nature, but for the past four months, the habit has largely become a gesture of love. Not a sacrifice, per se; more of a bargain. He puts up with an inconvenience, a rather tedious chore, or even the very great handicap of moving at a human pace, in exchange for openly enjoying the company and mutual adoration of his first and only love, his human counterpart, his "better half" in all the ways that matter to him. It's July, and all is right with the world, or at least it feels that way, and if he focuses on the girl tugging at his arm, he can almost believe it.

"The thing about watermelons is," Bella says, dragging him to the center display at J & P Produce, "you won't know if they're sweet until you try them."

One of the cons (or pros, depending on how you look at it) of having a relationship with a human is social obligation. No more is Edward relegated to self-imposed pariah status, a position he was actually quite comfortable with, if not a bit resentful of, given his prior lone-wolf status within his family. Now he is in love with a human, and she has human friends, human responsibilities…a life in general. Maybe it's not a normal life—they are much too happy together for this to be normal—but it's as close as Edward has ever felt to a human existence, decades of perfect pretense notwithstanding. Today, this borrowed humanity comes at the cost of braving the mish-mash of fruity scents (thank heaven, there is no raw meat befouling the air!) and forking over seventy-five dollars (pocket change, really) for ten watermelons for the annual Independence Day Picnic at Tillicum Park.

Bella reaches for a particularly large melon, but Edward overtakes her as quickly as publicly possible, raising a curious eyebrow when she asks him to turn it upside down. She frowns, shakes her head minutely, and the offending food is replaced. Edward smiles, lifts a fruit when directed, fills their grocery cart.

"What exactly is your criteria?" he asks, not because he cares about proper watermelon selection, but because he can't remember the last time Bella was so fastidious about anything so mundane, and because her silent thoughts often lead to startling revelations, and because he simply enjoys the sound of her voice. She can't appreciate her own tones, but he hears music there, ever-changing song as her body approaches maturity and the full ripeness of womanhood.

"Most people check for softness by thumping," Bella demonstrates, first slapping the green rind, then rapping it with her knuckles, and finally flicking it with her index finger. "Ridiculous. It tells you nothing. Don't do it."

He doesn't—he'd flick the thirteen-pound fruit clear across the marketplace with his pinkie. Amusing, to be sure, but hardly conducive to blending in.

"Other's say 'look at the stump,'" she continues, pointing out a small circular indentation on one end of the watermelon, her fingertip tracing the edge slowly with a blood-red fingernail. "But the stump's usually gone, obviously."

"Is it the smell?" Edward suggests. He hasn't noticed her deliberately inhaling, but he's been busy thinking of how soft she is, worrying that she'll be disappointed when she finds out the weather will be too sunny for him to attend the daytime portion of the picnic, and listening to the nearby thoughts of the middle-aged store clerk, who, unbeknownst to the rest of the town or to his wife, is bisexual, and is afraid someday he's going to stare at an attractive man like Edward for too long and will be found out and ostracized for his freakish desires. Edward feels a stab of compassion for this man; rather than glaring the human into submission, he simply pretends not to notice the appreciative ogling.

Returning his mind to the conversation at hand, Edward automatically inhales the watermelon—and immediately regrets his carelessness. Flames hotter than tomorrow night's professional-grade pyrotechnics crackle down his throat, urging him to sample the flavor of the ripe, plum-soft human standing beside him.

Stop it, he chides himself. I love her enough to resist. And he really does. He just has to remind himself. Daily.

"Nope," Bella answers, only a second and a half elapsing between Edward's question and her answer. "You have to check the rind's color, on the bottom, where it's not green. That's the part that was sitting on the ground during the growth process. If it's white, it was picked too early, and it will be completely flavorless." She shows him the white bottom of the melon in her hand. "Brown, on the other hand, is overripe, and should be thrown out." Edward swallows back his venom, trying to focus on what Bella is telling him, wondering at the strange way she eyes him, how her hand slides across round fruit. He is surprised when he thinks it through and comes to the conclusion that she's being suggestive.

"Yellow skin is perfect," she informs him with a robust smile and an unneeded, ringing slap to the watermelon, and then he knows for certain that she's being a tease. Sexually, she's always been a puzzle to him. A frank conversation about physical relations always results in embarrassed blushes and stumbling words, but let her near a euphemism, and suddenly her body is emanating an entirely different kind of heat, and she becomes the confident woman who knows what she wants and who she wants it from. Damned if Edward knows how he's able to resist her in those moments, scent and soft flesh and sex and blood and love and eternity a whirlwind in his normally organized, well-regimented head.

"But," Bella whispers demurely, reaching for the tenth and final watermelon, fingers curling beautifully, "you won't really know how sweet it is until you cut it open and taste it."

Edward doesn't lift this watermelon for Bella. Instead, he watches her body move, his eyes tracing every line and curve as she bends and stretches. He frowns when he sees the scar on her hand, its color a perfect match for his own skin, memories of the most vivid, dizzying pleasure of his life racing across his every synapse and neuron, sinful-sweet heaven in warm, lush, liquid form.

Without thinking, he licks his lips with venom-coated tongue and murmurs, "I agree."