One Shot: Twelve, Seventeen, Twenty-One (Oh, I've loved you all along)

October 6th, 2000 (12 years old)

"Bella? What's wrong?" he asked, confusion tingeing each word even as he tried to sit up. I practically threw myself across his room and onto the bed next to him, latching on against his shirt and sobbing into his warm body. His hands tentatively circled until one rested on the back of my head and the other was moving soothingly over my shoulders, my head pillowed on a bicep and my knees curled up between the rest of our bodies.

"Bella?" he asked, more alarmed—his voice had moved out of a whisper now, though it was still past dark and we had both gone to bed ages ago.

"She left," I whimpered. "Renee left. She's gone."

He stopped breathing for a moment before sighing heavily. "I'm sorry, Bella. I'm so sorry."

I breathed in the smell of my best friend and attempted to calm down my hyperventilation, each pass of his palm over my back helping more than anything else could. My breath shuddered out of me a few minutes later, and I relaxed against his arm; he was warm against the side of my wet face, though his short sleeve was now soaked through with my tears. I wondered if tears stained.

"Edward?" I whispered.

"Yeah, Bella?" he whispered back.

"Where do you think she went?" I asked, tightening my fist in his shirt.

He was frowning when I looked up at him, green eyes full of swirling clouds of thought like the sky above Forks. "I don't know. Does she like big cities?"

I thought about it, watching a passing car's headlights pass over his ceiling before disappearing and leaving us in the dark again. "She hated Forks," I volunteered, frowning as I tried to think. "Probably a big city would be the opposite, and somewhere warm and sunny because she hated the rain and the cold."

He nodded. "Probably. Do you think she's coming back?"

"Not this time," I answered quietly. "She left me."

The boy tightened his arms around me and pressed his face against my hair. "I'll never leave you, Bella," he said quietly.

I looked up at him as seriously as a twelve year old could. "You promise?" I checked, biting my tongue and feeling my foot start to jiggle nervously.

He smiled at me. "I promise. Now go to sleep and I'll set my alarm early so you can go back home. Why did Chief even let you out?"

"He's already asleep, and Alice was up, so I made her open the door for me."

He laughed silently, and I joined in, wiping the last tears off of my face and sitting up. "Can I have a pillow?"

Edward handed me my favorite pillow from his stockpile, got up to raid the hall closet for three comforters to make me a bed, and waited with the light on for me to finish splashing my face before I crept back into his room and laid on his floor.

"Hey, Edward?"

"Yeah, Bella?"

"Good night."

"'Night, Bella."


November 8th, 2005 (17 years old)

"Goddamn it!"

I jumped and closed my book as I heard Edward slam the door. Alice dropped her pen and glared toward the noise her brother made to disrupt our 'study session'—Read: pre-shopping trip. Tomorrow would be hell.

I gnawed my bottom lip and shoved my books away before standing up. Alice groaned and tried to snag my jeans, but I dodged her. "Edward?" I yelled questioningly.

His footsteps on the stairs were an obvious pinpoint of his location. I ran toward the family room and slipped on a rug, thudding into a wall and just managing not to cuss loudly. His bedroom door followed the fate of the front door, and I winced as I started up the dark stairs as quickly as I could manage without falling flat on my face, wishing I had turned on the light at the bottom. It was almost dark now, a fact I hadn't noticed during my time with Alice.

Still biting my lip, I knocked tentatively on his door and jumped when something hit it in response. Annoyed now, I sighed and pushed it open, barely dodging another pillow. I looked from the fluffy thing in the hall and back toward Edward—he was laying on his bed in the dark, arms crossed, glaring at me defiantly. His eyes were rimmed in red.

"Edward, throwing things won't help," I said cautiously, closing the door softly behind me and crossing the room to sit on the edge of his mattress.

He snorted. "Sorry," he snapped.

I sighed again and stared at him expectantly. Edward huffed and avoided my gaze for a few minutes of awkward silence before finally relaxing and scooting over to allow me room, still frowning. I lay down next to him and crossed my arms under my chin, waiting for it.

"Damn it, Bella!" he finally burst out. "I'm so fucking tired of this place! It's Hell on earth, and I'm sick of it. It's the same damn thing every fucking day. Same boring ass people, same sleepy schedule. It's so fucking monotonous that I'm amazed we're all still alive and not bored to death!" he ranted.

I stayed silent, moving closer and listening as I rested my head on his chest.

"I swear to God, nobody else here wants to leave, to get away, except for me. I want out. I don't want to stay in this fucking tiny town anymore. I'm suffocating. I have things to offer the world and I can't do it from here. I'll be so damn happy when I can finally leave for college. There's nothing holding me here, anyways. Fuck! I hate this place!"

I bit my lip, but remained silent, letting him get it out even as each word stabbed deeper into my tender heart. I swallowed loudly and curled my hand loosely in his shirt, slinging my calf over his knee as if my bodily weight could hold him down.

"Damn it, Bella. What the fuck is wrong with this place? I want to leave so fucking badly!" he whispered tensely, hands balling into fists.

"Where would you go?" I had to swallow twice before I whispered it, sure if I spoke any louder that my voice would give away my pain.

"I don't know, I don't care. Anywhere. Anywhere away from here," he seethed, flexing his fingers a few times.

I shuddered unintentionally, the only sign that escaped me, and he stopped talking right away. I could feel him looking down at me before it finally dawned on him, drawing air into his chest. Warm strong arms encircled me and I trembled against him, squeezing my eyes shut as I heard my younger self ask a similar question about my mother, five years ago.

"Oh, shit, I'm so sorry, honey. You know I don't mean it. I'm sorry. I'm just so pissed off… I'd never leave you. You know that."

"I don't want to hold you back, Edward. You'll resent me if I let you stay," I whispered, holding off tears by blinking fast and looking up.

He sighed. "No, Bella, I could never resent you. You're too important. I'm just an insensitive ass and I don't know what I'm saying. I'm not going anywhere you're not."

I bit my lip and shook my head. "I'm not going to hold you back," I insisted as stubbornly as one who is breaking could.

"Bella, listen to me," he implored, using a hand to move my face to his. He grimaced sadly when he saw the tears lining my eyes. "I want out, I do. But I'm not going to abandon you like your damn mother did."

"You'll leave for college," I pointed out, swiping at my eyes, embarrassed.

Edward sighed and shook his head, lifting a hand to run it through his messy hair in a habit I knew so well that I could always predict its occurrence. "Not without you. When I go, I'm taking you with me. We'll apply to all the same places, we'll pick the college we both get into that's farthest away from here. We'll go together," he promised.

I frowned, trying to remember what was preventing my immediate relief. "Where would we go? And what about Charlie? I can't do the same thing Renee did to him."

"Anywhere, so long as we're together. Your dad knows you're going to college. He knows you have to get out of Forks to be successful. And it's not like we won't visit sometimes," he argued persuasively. "It'll be fine. We'll get out, get away from this place and these people and the memories for a while. And we'll be together, like always."

When he put it like that, it wasn't sounding so bad. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I am. We've only got a year until we apply, so we'd probably better start researching colleges with majors, a location, and a price that suits both of us. How far are you willing to go from home?"

I sighed in relief and moved one hand to his neck, playing with the curls there as we talked it over. By the time it was fully dark, we had agreed to look into colleges that offered English, creative writing, music, and medical programs—the college would obviously be co-ed; it would be best if they allowed co-ed housing too. Somewhere in a bigger city where we could both explore and grow into ourselves while keeping us together.

I yawned and settled against him again, blinking slowly as he rubbed his hand down my back—it was different now. His hand was searing against my skin, even through my shirt, and it seemed so much larger than five years ago.

Still, it was Edward. We were best friends and he wouldn't leave me. And maybe those feelings I had developed over the past five years that were more than friendship might never lead anywhere, but at least we'd be together and happy.

Edward held me silently as I fell asleep next to him. I barely heard him whisper good night before I was completely out.


January 10th, 2009 (21 years old)

I sniffled and swiped at my eyes with a gloved hand while the other struggled with unlocking the door to my suite. A hiccough forced its way through my tight throat, and I sniffled again, holding back another sob. It was already embarrassing enough to be standing out here at four in the morning with disheveled clothing, let alone to actually cry and complete the picture of misery in the walk of shame.

The door finally decided to cooperate, perhaps taking pity on me, and I rushed in, throwing my bag down in the corner and falling back to shut the door, sliding to the floor against it and burying my head in my knees, arms wrapped around myself as I cried.

"Bella, is that you?"

Edward's groggy voice startled me, and I watched in defeat as he padded around the corner, yawning, wearing only the plaid pajama pants I'd got him for Christmas. He wasn't supposed to be here, he'd said he'd be with… I looked at the couch then to see the blond head of his most recent conquest snoring silently.

"She pass out before you could sleep together?" I choked out.

Edward swooped down on me immediately when heard and saw the tears. "Oh, Bella, honey, what happened?" he breathed, picking me up easily. I wrapped my arms around his neck and sobbed into his shoulder and neck, gasping and trying to keep all snot off of his perfect skin.

He settled into the middle of my bed and pulled me onto his lap, rocking me back and forth and quietly taking off my winter clothing as he soothingly shushed me and repeated that it would be okay. My gloves, jacket, and scarf ended up on the floor with my boots, and he hissed when he turned back around and saw my haphazardly buttoned shirt and the alcohol sloshed over my jeans.

"What happened, Bella?" he asked quietly, climbing back up on the bed and pulling me down next to him, warm and solid and just so familiar. I curled into him and he squeezed me tightly, face buried in my hair.

I sniffled and hiccoughed one last time before taking a deep breath. "H-he… we… I mean… I was sick of having no experience!" I finally burst out, renewing my tear ducts supply. Edward sighed and stroked my hair back out of my wet face, his hands warm and gentle as they wiped away my tears.

"We… I mean… he got drunk, I guess," I admitted. "I kind of did it on purpose, you know? I didn't really want to think about what I was doing, but I could feel it was wrong. I kept thinking it would be okay, it was just an experiment and it was high time I lost my virginity. And I mean, I thought he loved me, you know? We've been together for almost a year now."

As always, Edward was listening silently, soothing me as much as he could. "Did you freak out and stop or something? It's nothing to be ashamed of, honey. It wasn't right, obviously."

I started sobbing again and he calmed me once more, now alarmed, green eyes scared in the small source of light of my desk lamp across the room.

"No, I tried to go through with it anyways. I mean… I did go through with it. It hurt," I admitted, hiding my face against him, blushing even now. "But… it wasn't what it was supposed to be. I didn't see stars, I barely felt anything but the pain, and he wouldn't slow down, and he finished first, and I was crying and he told me that I was just being silly and I had to have felt it. He was… grossed out or something," I sniffled, remembering his face. "He got angry when I got up and was holding the sheet over me, and tried to pull me back to him, and I slipped, but got away. I got dressed and he started yelling at me, telling me I was a slut and… and…"

Edward breathed out evenly, and I knew he was absolutely furious.

"He said he didn't love me, that it was just a lie," I finally whispered, my voice cracking even at this low volume. "Edward, I think he broke my heart."

My best friend pulled me closer and let me cry against him. "Honey, I'm so sorry," he said quietly. "I'm so, so sorry. It shouldn't have been like that—it should have been special and glorious and beautiful and perfect, like you. I wish…" He sighed, and I looked up at him with wet eyes, startled to see just as much pain in his gaze as was in mine. "Did he really make you walk home at four in the morning by yourself?"

I sniffled and nodded hesitantly.

"Goddamn it," Edward breathed, holding me even tighter. "Are you okay?"

I shrugged—not emotionally, not mentally. I guess not even physically—the boy popped my cherry and sent me home, after all.

Edward seemed to realize this. "Come on, let's get a bath started for you. It might help with the soreness."

I followed wordlessly into the bathroom and couldn't even find it in myself to be ashamed or embarrassed or annoyed when Edward started undressing me. His hands were gentle and familiar, long elegant fingers making quick work of the buttons on my shirt, pushing it over my shoulders without once letting his glance stray to inappropriate places in respect to me. It was so different from the other man who had undressed me earlier, I couldn't help but notice and wish.

He knelt down in front of me and pulled my leggings down, holding me steady by the hip as I wobbled. He hissed suddenly, and I looked down at him in alarm, a flash of insecure Bella resurfacing. His fingers reached out and softly stroked over my hip where a large purple bruise was already forming—after that, he let his gaze and hands skim over my body with no regards to my blushes. There were more marks on my ribs, my other hip, and my upper arms—nails and fingers and hands and hips and who knew what else spotting my body.

"Fuck," Edward muttered, standing up again finally and biting his lip as he met my eyes. "I'm sorry, Bella, but you're going to have to start your own bath, because I've got a murder to commit."

I whimpered and he sighed, gathering me against him. It didn't register that I was hugging him wearing only a bra and panties, only that he was my Edward. He started the hot water for me and sat on the edge of the tub, averting his eyes as I slipped off the remainder of my clothes and dipped into the soapy water—he'd dumped practically a full bottle of bubble bath into it to give me some coverage.

Edward sighed and knelt by the tub, one hand idly drawing shapes in the water he couldn't see. He wouldn't meet my gaze.

Biting my lip, I reached out and put my wet hand under his chin until he looked at me finally. "Are you mad at me?"I whispered.

His green eyes widened exponentially and he was shaking his head wildly before I had removed my hand. "NO! No, fuck no, Bella! Why would I be mad at you? It's true that I want that asshole in the ground, but you… no, I'm not mad at you. I'm furious with myself. If I had… this might not have happened if… I'm sorry. I'm going to get your pajamas for you," he whispered, leaving with a down-turned gaze.

I washed quickly, wincing when I discovered sore spots, and stood to reach for my towel just as Edward walked back in. We both froze—his eyes were wide, my face was on fire. He finally closed his eyes just as I splashed back into a sitting position under the bubbles, hiding everything up to my nose.

"Um… I'll… come find me after you're… decent," he said, setting my clothes down blindly on the counter and walking back out.

He was laying on his bed when I found him again, one hand dragging down his face tiredly. "I'm sorry for waking you up," I whispered, standing in the doorway. "Thank you. Good night."

Edward sighed and I glanced back at him, one hand on the doorpost. He nodded at the spot next to him, and I felt my shoulders slump in relief as I silently crossed the room, thigh high socks padding quietly against the floor. I sat next to him awkwardly before he reached up and gently pulled me down.

This was as familiar as the Converse I'd bought in eighth grade and still wore weekly. So many times it had come to this—Edward and I laying together, comforting and solving our problems. Usually my problems. I was thankful this still hadn't changed, even in the wake of another man taking his place on a bed not two hours ago.


"Yeah?" I whispered, curled up against his side in the fetal position. His voice reverberated through his chest beneath my cheek.

"I'm sorry."

I moved a hand and covered his mouth. "You're not the one who should be sorry. You're not to blame. It's his fault, and my fault. That's it. You stay out of the guilt-party I'm hosting," I tried to joke.

It fell flat, and I sighed as he frowned and removed my hand, keeping it in his. "You didn't let me finish," he accused.

I smiled—a small one, yes, but still a smile. The first since I'd met my ex in the bar earlier—last night? "Okay."

He took a deep breath and looked at our hands, playing with my fingers. "I wanted to say I'm sorry because... that should have been me."

I looked up at him slowly, and he was still avoiding my gaze, a frown etched into his features beside worry and pain and sorrow and guilt. "What do you mean?"

"I mean… this shouldn't have happened like this. You shouldn't be bruised or in pain or crying. We should be sleeping, together. Hell, probably even spooning. But not this. It wasn't supposed to happen like this," he murmured. "I've been ignoring everything for years now. I knew ages ago that it was supposed to be us together, but I've been afraid of ruining our friendship. And now I'm loading this on you after your traumatic night and I feel like an asshole. I'm sorry."

I stared at him in shock, uncomprehending. "You mean…"

"I mean I've loved you since I was sixteen. Consciously loved you, that is. Bella, I loved you long before that." Burning green emeralds impaled me when he looked up at my amazed expression. "Do you understand?"

"No," I answered immediately. "Why all those other girls, then?"

He grimaced. "I don't know. I felt pressured into it and I was sure that you would never look twice at me, so I tried to distract myself… it never really worked. I'd always think of you, whenever and however I was with them. It's the reason as least half of them broke up with me."

"But… but…" I floundered, eyes wide, and had the pleasure of watching a flush rise up his neck to his cheeks. "But I've been hiding it for years!" I finally burst out, sitting up.

He stared up at me in confusion. "What?"

"I said, I've been hiding it for years and now I'm so pissed off," I half-growled. "What the fuck?"

"Bella?" he asked nervously, making to sit up. My hand shot out and kept him down.

"You mean to say that you love me—and have loved me—for five years now?" I asked him.

Edward winced at the dangerous edge to my voice. "Yes."

"You… you… damn it, Edward!" I shouted.

His hand shot up to cover my mouth and I tried to fling myself away from him before his other arm caught me. "Shhh! Bella, calm down. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said anything." The disappointment and fear and sorrow in his voice caught me up for a moment before I groaned.

"You asshole! You should have told me sooner! Then none of this crap would have happened and we'd both be happy and I wouldn't have been crying myself to sleep every time you had some girl over and—"

"You cried yourself to sleep? Oh, shit. God, Bella, what—?"

"No! Damn it, Edward! I love you too, you pansy-assed fuckface!"

He stared up at me, and his lips twitched. We stared at each other warily, and I was aware of how hard I was breathing. Edward, of course, started snickering, then giggling, and then all out laughing at top volume, gasping for air. I glared.

"I'm sorry, Bella, but… that has to be the best declaration of love I've ever heard," he said, wiping tears of mirth off of his face, still chuckling. "It beats mine by far."

My cheeks filled with a traitorous blush, and I avoided looking at him, settling for the wall across the room instead. His hand gently cupped my chin, and I fought him for a moment before giving in, still glaring.

"I'm mad at you," I muttered.

He smiled apologetically—sure, everything was just fine and dandy now, was it? Stupid asshole. "I'm sorry, really. I shouldn't have laughed. Can we still talk about this?"

"No, I want to sleep. Unlike you, I haven't had a wink all night. In fact, I had some very tiring things and I just want to get away from you right now and think this over because it's really freaking me out and I'm just really pissed that you never told me and that I was too chicken-shit to ever tell you either, so we both postponed years of happiness because we're stubborn and stupid and—"

I gasped into his mouth as he leaned forward and cut off the rest of my rambling sentence. His fingers were soft on my cheeks, holding me to him, and my hands were already curling into his hair, around his neck, across his shoulders while the rest of my body melted into his.

He pulled back a moment later, eyes dark and sparkling, and said, "I love you, even when you're yelling at me. I just figured that might work to get you quiet."

I took one of my hands back and pressed it over my lips, shocked. "Did you just… did you just kiss me?"

Edward laughed, even as another rare blush rose up his neck. "Shall I try again so you feel it this time?"

This time, I leaned forward; he met me halfway.

I woke up trapped in his arms as the sun rose across the room, and closed my eyes straight away, snuggling in closer. He smiled, cracked an eye open, and pressed a kiss to my forehead, arms tightening around me. "I love you," he whispered against my hair.

I smiled and rolled my eyes before sighing. "I love you, too," I answered—God, it felt good to finally say it. As ever when something changed in my life, I found myself in his arms, in his bed, and, finally, in his heart. He'd promised he'd never leave me, and I knew it was true, down to my core. Nothing else mattered—not even the blond girl still sleeping it off outside. I wondered how she'd react, and snickered as I drifted off to sleep.



You should all be pleased. I got this idea at approximately 11:32 pm, and it is now exactly 2:00 am as I type this AN. Once again, a quick short one shot. I was actually trying to sleep when it hit me, plotting out in my head. I hurried to scribble an illegible outline down into the nearest notebook (which happened to be my rarely used journal). There were originally more scenes (ages 19 and 23), but then everything just fell together here. So it's done. Unless you want an 'age 82' haha. Not likely.

It's late, I'm dead tired, and I actually have school tomorrow because my October break has (sadly) ended. I have to get up in less three hours now. And it'll take me at least half hour to fall asleep b/c I'm slightly insomniatic (why does my computer refute this word as being real?), though thankfully it's already two. I didn't edit this—my laptop is dying anyways. There were a few things I repeated in each scene, but it was mainly based off of Edward holding her at night and telling the story through that medium.

Well, hope you at least semi-enjoyed. Try and leave me a review, will you? It's been a while since I got feedback. My musical recommendation to you all: Angela Ghost—'Infernos'. I found it while reading Tropic of Virgo (one of my all time favorite completed fics) and fell in love. Now give me a song, please.

Anyways. Good night now, everyone. ;)

~ hyacinth