"GOOGLE IT" - GOOGLEWARD CHALLENGE ENTRY

Title: A Modern Fairy Tale

Pen Name(s): AnaG

Summary: Unexpectedly, Edward finds himself connected to the woman of his dreams through the world he's most familiar with – his books. Will their connection transcend the pages? Can the dream translate into reality?

Word Count: 8566

~*~

A/N: First of all, Pippapear is my muse, creative editor, soft yet firm shoulder to lean on and good friend. I'll never thank her enough for being as amazing as she is.

This story was born from my desire of creating a different Geekward and using Google in a slightly different way. I hope you all enjoy it!

~*~

Edward

The words on the page before me fade away as something disturbs my concentration. My eyebrows scrunching, I search for who is causing the noise - my eyes don't have to travel far.

Are you fucking kidding me? Answering a phone inside the library?

Livid, I get up and approach the teenage girl; as soon as she seems me, she holds up one finger as if asking for me to wait.

A few tables away, somebody snorts.

"Excuse me," I try to whisper, but it comes out as a hiss, "this is a library. If you want to answer your calls, take it outside."

The girl just rolls her eyes and gets up to leave, talking animatedly on the small piece of plastic and metal that probably means the world to her. I move to put away the books she was using, shaking my head at the absurdity. If a librarian had ever scolded me like that, I'd be mortified.

I adjust my glasses, a chronic habit I can't seem to lose, even though this new pair doesn't fall off the bridge of my nose as the last one did.

The dark rimmed glasses offer me a world in focus; and I'm not vain enough to put that aside for aesthetics.

Indeed, there would be very little I would chose over books; my family, of course. My PhD. But not much else.

I thought this would be an easy fit - working part time at the library while taking classes and finishing my doctorate. But the hours I end up spending here are the worst of my day.

The place I've come to respect and love is everything but loved and respected.

Most people come here to chat online, to read magazines, or, reluctantly, flip the pages they need for some project. And I'm asked, more often than I'd like, if there's an abridged version, a summary, an easier way of getting through it.

No one takes up a classic. No one asks me for real advice - on a good book, something that can change the way you wake up in the morning and go about your whole life.

Well, almost no one.

There's a - young woman? Doesn't sound adequate, but she is - that often comes here to get lost among the books. She never takes any of them home, but sometimes she'll stop mid-reading and type on her laptop (if you could call that pre-historic Compaq with half a working keyboard and pixels the size of Scotland a laptop) for a few minutes.

It would seem she is working on something - but the subject matters of her reading choices are so utterly different, I can't imagine what could possibly pull them together.

She's always quiet. Always silently polite. I gave up on trying to put her books away - she does it herself. It's against policy, but it seems she knows these shelves better than me.

I get in at four; most days, she's already here. And more often than not she's one of the last to leave, at eight, as I close the place down.

Today, she seems worn, haggard, but still gives me a sympathetic smile as she sees me coming from putting back the brat's books. I smile in return, briefly.

We've never spoken a word to each other, odd as it may seem, but we've had several conversations just like this one.

"Sorry about that."

"Comes with the territory."

I want to ask her what she thinks about Andrew Davidson and whether or not she's read anything by Neil Gaiman, but how inappropriate is it for me to break the silence?

I'm the one who is supposed to be good at keeping quiet.

So I do, day after day, and nothing changes.

Today was busy - or as busy as it gets. I have a lot of cleaning up to do, a menial task I actually don't mind. I know I've read some passage about how putting a book back on its shelf was like putting a child to bed, but, annoyingly enough, I can't remember who wrote it.

To my shock, as I go back to the ground floor open area, I find every chair empty; she must have left sooner than usual.

Maybe dinner with friends. A movie. A date.

I miss the smile she'd give me as a goodnight, and even as I think this, I notice her table wasn't cleared.

Strewn around, the volumes she chose earlier scream at me: something is wrong! She left in a hurry!

But what am I supposed to do? I know nothing of her but little quirks I'd come to notice, and, of course, her reading habits. I don't even know her name.

Tired and somewhat distraught, I gather the books - that somehow feel hers - and find that she must have been in a hurry, indeed. Her small laptop is closed but still running; it's easy to miss, almost the same size as The End of Mr Y.

I know the right thing is for me to do is store it and make sure she gets it back tomorrow. But the thought of letting the battery die for no reason seems... callous. So, before I can really think this through and come to the conclusion that it's a bad idea, I find myself opening up the laptop.

The screen comes to life in a blur of green; then it shifts back to, supposedly, the last thing she was looking at before leaving.

Thank God she's trusting enough not to set up a password.

It's a Google Docs document.

I know I shouldn't read it - I've crossed the line already - but the first line registers before I know it.

Once upon a time...

I feel my lips twitch against my will. It's that beginning that you can't but love; it's the start of a good story, a bad story, and everything else in between.

It's the promise, curiosity's crooked finger beckoning me in.

I groan, glancing at the empty, gloomy space around me.

I might never talk to her... but at least I'll put an end to the speculative thoughts about what she keeps typing.

"One upon a time, a princess waited at the top of a tower. She waited for what felt like years - but every day must have held the hope of Spring, the flash of Summer, Autumnal disappointment and Winter's death in one single breath.

She waited for something to change, for someone to come. A knight in shining armor, perhaps? Not truly. Would it matter if there was rust on his armor? If the sword in his hands was actually a plow? If he had nothing but ratty clothes on his back and warm words in his heart?

Of course it wouldn't matter. She would love him still.

But the who, the what, doesn't come, and the princess keeps herself locked inside the tower of her own construction. Make no mistake, there is no dragon; no one guards the doors that keep her from fleeing this suspended state of existence.

But how to flee?

How to feel, how to breathe this air around her - this air that speaks not of promise, not of love, not of beauty, but of crude, harsh and void reality?

Her books seem much more real.

At first, they were but spice to her living hours; soon they became the only spice at all. Later - such a harsh blow! - she could finally see they had become her life. That in words brought forth by others she could find ultimate grief, ultimate joy, and embody souls and minds she'd never imagined.

Reality doesn't come close to it, indeed.

But reading her books takes only a portion of her time; reality is still all around her, and, much to her dismay, she is, herself, real. She needs to feed herself, to clothe herself - a job. And as her sick and saddened soul brushes up against these too-big portions of reality, it becomes a little sicker, a little more sad.

I know how it feels - I wish I had the power to free her! - but it is, naturally, beyond my grasp.

For I am the princess, locked inside the tower by my own volition, and everyday the hopes for rescue become just a little smaller."

I lean back on my chair, startled, impressed. She writes well - assuming she wrote this, and I surely hope that was the case.

But I'm also crushed to read her words. Her small story, her subtle journey from the "long ago" and "a princess" to the now, to herself.

Princess, why must you wait?

Is it possible to feel so detached from her life, and so connected with her books?

I scoff.

Of course it is. Or I wouldn't be the one my mother still needs to send clothes to because I can't even notice when mine are long past needing replacement; I wouldn't be the socially inept guy working at the library.

Suddenly, I realize her metaphoric tower applies to me just as well. And I wonder - more than free her, give her wings, words and company - if we could at least share the loneliness?

That makes absolutely no sense.

I cringe at myself for what feels like violating her most inner thoughts, for taking a look inside her mind through what she wrote. But, even as I do so, another part of me is taking note of what can be done.

I've never registered for an account myself, or I'd share the document...

And what, you idiot? Admit to going through her laptop? You can get arrested for that.

But something tells me Princess wouldn't hate me for reaching out. Reading this without her permission was bad, but ignoring her... plea, for the lack of a better word, would be asinine of me.

Telling myself that over and over, I reach for my pda and open my pre-defined browser. Half a minute later, I have an account.

SilentKnight.

I argue that, though I'm in no way a knight, she specified that it didn't matter; silence is such a definable trait, such a big part of myself, that I can't resist but add it.

Returning to her laptop, I send myself a sharing request so I can view this document - and edit.

I'm so wired and high on the fact that I've broken some sort of rule aside from the speed limit that I finally reach the breaking point of my nerves; I lock her laptop, turned off, inside one of the drawers and turn off the lights.

I need to get home.

I need to write to Princess.

~*~

Bella

I shouldn't have gotten as worked up as I did reading a book; but, of course, I'm me, and books seem to be the only thing worth getting worked up about.

The star crossed romance stretched itself over the yellowish paper, mingled with poetry in the form of Physics and Philosophy. I couldn't help but keep turning the pages - but the anguish took shape as I kept making it too personal. I loved, I suffered, I was very nearly insane, right alongside the character.

Only to find that, quite embarrassingly, I was crying in reality, as well.

The lines seem to be blurring more and more; sometimes I wonder, on the train home from the library, if standing in the rain would turn me into a puddle of soggy paper and runny ink.

I couldn't face the librarian that usually stays with me until closing hours with a runny nose and puffy eyes; he probably hates me for keeping him there until closing hours as frequently as I do (which must be the reason for him not talking to me, even if he does answer my smiles with his own); I needn't add crazy to the offense.

I'd seen him reading The End of Mr Y a few weeks ago; I waited a respectful amount of time before snatching it away and embarking on its journey. I don't know what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn't it; I'd imagined him a lover of something along the lines of Ian Fleming, Daniel Silva, maybe even Dan Brown. Certainly not something as passionate, as all-encompassing, shockingly intelligent as the book I haven't finished reading yet.

I have nothing but suppositions to go on when it comes to the tall man with green eyes hidden behind glasses; we never talked.

Maybe I'll work up the courage to ask him if he enjoyed The End of Mr Y.

The fact that I forgot my laptop at the library after leaving in tears only made me feel like a certifiable idiot when I got home to find it missing. It would be just my luck to lose all the work I'd stored in there.

The day after, I almost cringe as I enter the two story building. Last year, the upstairs was closed off for a couple of months for a remodel. Steel shelves now hold up the volumes, awkwardly trying to seem pertinent in the modern, sleek space, overpowered by shiny new computers.

I don't like it.

But I do like Angela, the librarian that usually works on the top floor; we talk a little about new acquisitions, and sometimes she'll point me in the right direction when I'm needing a specific kind of book (read - something along the lines of a pick me up).

As I come in, she comes up to me, my laptop under her arm.

"Bella," she whispers, "you airhead..."

We grin at each other - you're not really allowed to laugh inside of a library, though I've done my fair share of snorting - and she hands me my piece of worthless technology. I thank her with an invitation for coffee, wishing we could invite the other librarian along.

A few feet away, his eyebrows scrunched up, he's bent over a list, a harsh kink of strain to his spine, hard at work already though his shift doesn't start for another hour.

Bidding Angela goodbye - a tad too late, as she walked away while I ogled her co-worker - I make my way to an empty table and pull it open.

Maybe today I'll find the heart to actually continue one of the many stories I'm currently working on.

But, as I check my documents, I notice something.

The little tale I typed yesterday, as all the frustration and pent up emotion came to the surface shows up as edited last by...

SilentKnight? Who is he?

Alarmed, I open the document, thinking some sort of virus must have... But no, I never click on any of those annoying ads... How could it...

Under my own words, I find a completely new addition, and catch myself reading it before anything else registers.

"Princess, why must you wait?

I, too, have spent countless hours I'll forever cherish bent over books of every shape and form. And how could I not surrender to this world - this world that gives as much as it takes, that imprisons as much as it frees?

In the world we both walk in, I'm but a shadow. You wouldn't see me if you looked; I'm that invisible. That silent - by requirement, but also by choice.

I wish I could be the knight to break you out of your unkept tower, but I'll admit - shamefully as it might be - to finding some joy in a cell-mate.

Maybe we can build a bridge between us in this world, the world we feel as if we truly belong to - a bridge of words and nothing more, if you so chose - and shorten and sweeten those pieces of reality that we can't seem to avoid.

Please accept my apologies for prying; it was never my intention. A spark of good will - of not wanting your laptop's battery to die for no reason - led me to create this account I now use and to reveal myself as an offender and potential friend. And if you do shun me - as the unwanted house guest I am - I'll understand and accept it, of course.

If you decide otherwise, a window to your tower will suffice."

I'm rendered speechless.

Not speechless - that doesn't cover it - it's almost as if my mind's voice is completely silent and all these little echoes start to find their way within it:

Who is this man?

How did he...

Why did he...

And, of course, my personal favorite:

I can't believe someone actually read my childish outburst! Where's that hole for me to lie in? And never, ever come out again...

Except to write him back?

It's not as if I'm not even slightly disturbed at the fact that someone went through my computer - but his explanation makes sense. He found it on, and in the process of shutting it down... he read my little tale. It happens.

Why are you already painting him as a good Samaritan?

I recognize this voice; it's my better judgment. And even if I'm not naive enough to just overlook the whole prying thing entirely, his words assure me, somehow. If he was some sleazy idiot, he'd ask for us to meet, or offer to rescue me out of that tower and into his arms.

The thought makes me shudder.

But he didn't. He showed me - with a sensitivity I have yet to have seen in any real man - that he, too, lives in a world of his own choosing as much as he possibly can. He asked for nothing more than words, if I would agree to it.

What harm can there be?

~*~

Edward

I thought carefully about how to get the laptop back to her; for me to do it myself would have definitely been a mistake. She'd put two and two together too easily and I'm not that great of an actor. If there's one personality trait I don't possess at all - it's the ability of being smooth.

Arriving early, I put my simple plan in motion; I hadn't expected Angela to know her, but, as soon as I start describing Princess, a smile forms on my co-worker's face. Every suspicion my sudden request arises is quickly crushed.

Though I can't make out their whispered conversation, I catch a glimpse of them talking as she comes in, and I have to physically stop myself from staring at her, feigning interest on attendance stats instead.

I try to keep myself busy with some paperwork for a few minutes while watching her in my peripheral vision; I'm a tad nervous, even if I don't believe she'll write me back.

Why would she? I came across as a creepy jerk and, quite possibly, not very manly at all. Some knight.

But then I can see her open her laptop.

It's her eyes that give away everything - the surprise, the suspicion... And, then, to my wonder, she smiles.

I've made Princess smile, and it's worth the risk, even if she doesn't answer.

The library's phone's light starts flashing - as, naturally, it doesn't ring - and I know I have to take this, even if I'm not actually supposed to be in yet. My boss prattles on while I try not to sound bored and rush him. And I can't keep on observing her throughout the conversation, or I won't focus on what needs to be done.

The precious minutes the conversation takes are enough. When I look back, she's not there anymore; the laptop is - open, by her bag - and I assume she's scouting the shelves for a book, if not several.

Did she answer?

Nervous, I log on to check - and there it is. She edited it.

I open the document in a hurry, and scroll down to where the newest entry starts.

"I hardly expected anyone to understand, much less care - much less share! - this world I seem to breathe in much easier than the one I was born into.

And a Knight!

It seems my wait was not in vain, after all; albeit in an unexpected and rather unorthodox way, you did offer me a bridge.

I should wonder who you are - though I assume you were at the library yesterday. I should wonder how old you are, or what you do for a living, but we both know these things are just another part of the reality we're fleeing.

Though I'm not sure if your words will free me or bind me with redoubled strength to the pages we love, consider my window open; I will welcome you in my tower at any time.

Now - the first stepping stone on your path. Have you ever read "Good Omens"?"

I chuckle silently, despite myself; just the day before I'd wondered if she'd read anything by the very same author.

I type my answer quickly, afraid she'll turn back and find me online; from there on, our afternoon is a game of cat and mouse, with me waiting for her to resume the book in her hands before adding yet another few lines.

She's witty in her replies, her list of favorites endless. I suspect there's always something she appreciates in every work she reads, and I know I'll appreciate the process of finding out if it's true.

The following days, turned into weeks, pass in a blur; every aspect of my life and routine becomes just a hiatus between our ever-evolving talk.

And, as these moments gain importance - these messages she leaves for me, that I crave and find myself breathing for - a sense of dread overcomes me as well. The sky is as blue as her sweater, the cherries on my sunday just as dark and red as her lips. My morning only starts with her written greeting; my every evening doesn't end until she bids me goodnight. Everything seems to reshape, to revolve around Princess.

At work, it's harder to be concentrated on what I should be doing; I haven't been nearly as rigid in my demands for absolute quiet as I'd been in the past, and maybe someone noticed. My attention is trained on that one spot of bright warmth in the middle of the room - with a book on her hands and an open laptop.

And for all that I've written her, she has no idea it's me she writes back.

I find myself wondering when I'll start craving more than her words, perfectly aware that it's already begun.

~*~

Bella

This strange, yet effective way of communicating opened a door to a man I didn't knew existed. I knew from the start I'd be fiercely protective of my privacy - if nothing else, for my own safety - but soon discovered there are no dark corners to my Knight's mind.

Our discussions fascinate me to no end; the way he pieces together theories, romances, the shear knowledge this man possesses... Floors me.

Though we never exchange our real names, we gradually start uncovering bits and pieces about ourselves. He is, quite possibly, deeper into this dimension of thoughts and language on paper than I am, but he is still human. Still finding a way to sort through his PhD and finally start a career, dealing with real issues he seems to shrug as we debate Tolkien.

It grows on me - this sweetness towards him, the longing to hold and to touch warm flesh, broad shoulders and taught muscle, and to wrap my tongue around the shell of his ear and whisper on his wet skin about Joanne Harris' Chocolate and Holy Fools, instead of drumming it on the dispassionate pieces of molten plastic of my keyboard.

After returning from an early appointment at the doctor's office, I finally acknowledge there's no time to waste and that nothing ever came out of hesitance. I quietly write him my first message of the day, chewing on my lip all along:

"I hope you slept well last night.

I didn't, tossing and turning on my otherwise empty bed, in my empty room, in this God-forsaken house and building that is much too crowded and yet quiet, missing the hum I can only find in that library and in the short, addictive seconds it takes me to read through your newest addition to our document.

I know we've both agreed on building a bridge of words, but now you're the closest friend I have, possibly the one human being that knows me best. And you don't know my name.

It bothers me, but not as much as never having heard your voice.

I demand nothing - though it hurts me to think of those two little words, «The End», lingering at the bottom of this dialog of ours.

Just know that I'm more than wanting and willing to know more of you, Knight. And share more of myself.

In embracing the sphere we belong to, I found a connection to the other - stronger, by definition, than the fictional ones I am usually so fascinated with. You gave me a link with reality. You opened up a door.

Does it lead anywhere, Knight?

Please, tell me yes or no. Just don't give me silence."

~*~

Edward

I read her message before leaving for the campus and it has me elated and alarmed in equal parts.

She wants to know more about me, as a close friend. Perhaps closer than any other.

That word, friend, pulses red with all the ugliness I put there, and that she surely doesn't mean. But I'll deny her nothing, I couldn't if I tried. Whatever Princess might want, I'll always want more.

No matter how it might damage her view of me, it's the only way. I can't come any closer to someone without revealing all the things that, as far as I'm concerned, don't define me. But when it comes to everybody else, do.

I ignore the deep ache along my breast bone and underneath it and write her a response, pouring myself into it and trying to be just as bold as she was, talking of my own, very nearly sleepless night and dreams of long hair beside me on my pillow. I tell her she can ask me anything.

It's only fair, after all; she's taking a tremendous leap of faith, with not knowing nothing about me. I've been cheating all along.

But the five words she replies with don't form a question, and I'm suddenly lost, no steady ground to stand on.

"I want to meet you."

The vertical cursor blinks, black against the blank page, begging me to write something back. I turn it in my mind, weaving my hand through my hair, uncertain and unsettled.

Finally, as soon as I make my peace with my answer, I click save and close the document. It doesn't matter that the initiative was hers - I'm still incredulous that it will happen. Still, I make myself jump to the reality Princess now seems to want me to be a part of.

"I'll be at the back entrance of the library at 8pm, tonight."

I'll conquer my silence for her. Just please, let her come.

The whole day is spent on edge, and my coordinator is looking at me as if I've grown a second head, as I'm positive he's never seen me aloof and completely careless about what I'm writing and doing and progress and deadlines, the same way I pay no attention to the explanation my boss is giving me about something of extreme importance.

At the end of my day, I find calm in some unknown recess of my spine, and walk my way to the back entrance after having accomplished just enough to not get myself fired.

After two moment's thought, I slip into my heavy coat and take off my glasses, storing them in the back pocket of my jeans as I know I won't need them in the very nearly pitch dark, outside. It's a fragility, something I don't want her to see, even if it pains me to admit it. I've been painfully honest about everything else, after all. I make an effort to straighten the back that many hours of reading have bent into a crooked line, and run my hands through the hair I usually don't care about fixing - and deem myself as presentable as I'll ever be.

I recognize the slim outline of her body as I come out, no more than a shadow but so much more real than characters on a virtual page.

"Hi, Princess."

I hear an intake of breath.

Her head snaps up to where I'm standing and, even if I can't really see her as clearly as I wished, I can tell she's smiling.

"Knight... I can't believe it's you."

"You didn't think I'd show up?" I inquire, slightly hurt, but walking towards her, just two steps that make a difference.

"I knew you would. I just... I never thought... Your voice," she finally articulates, in a lower tone, "I never thought I'd love hearing it as much as I just did."

I smile in the dark. I wish she can see it.

Because I don't really care.

I don't need night's cloak to make me invisible - let her see!

Let her see me, and all the cloak I'll ever need will be that beautiful smile, those words of acceptance, of awe - the very same awe I feel when it comes to her.

"It's been hard, not being able to hear yours," I admit, suddenly brave in the armor she gave a simple man. "Why did you want to meet me?"

"Wasn't it mutual?" she hedges, all smiles and teasing.

"Of course it was. But my motives are clear enough; I want to hear yours."

"I wanted your voice. You really shouldn't be as silent as you are, not with a voice like that."

It's the way she says it. I walk another step in her direction; trees to our right, a brick wall to our left. Stars above us light the park where the library is located.

Framed in a dream.

"And your motives aren't that clear."

Still teasing, her words stop me.

"Oh? Aren't they?"

"Tell me."

"You know, I'll start thinking you're making me talk just for the sake of hearing," I smile, leaning against the wall, one leg supporting me. I enjoy the feeling of pressing my shoulder blades against the brick, cold even through layers of fabric. It's distracting me from her hot breath on those dark red lips my mind has lingered so much on. "Why wouldn't I want to meet my Princess? It was driving me mad, not having this experience of being with you. Words are just that... until they leave your lips."

Did I just mention her lips out loud? Shit. I didn't mean to do that, but she's messing with my concentration.

"That's a sacrilege, Knight, for people who loves books as much as we do. And a good author will make you believe you are hearing things."

"No author can mimic this. No one can come close to... capturing the essence of this," I spout, knowing it's true even through this haze of knowing I'm probably coming on too strong and not letting her get to know me like she wants to, without the pressure of my obvious want.

She comes closer, yet another step, and stops a mere foot away.

Then she does something I didn't expect.

Her hand slowly inches up to my face, until she can trace it with her warm fingers, leisurely.

"Seeing me with your hands?" I ask, but it comes out as barely a whisper.

"Looking through the mind's eye," she confirms, and I'm yet again reminded of how much I admire her. "To see a man I didn't knew existed, and that I'm not yet sure wasn't conjured from all my deepest, most secret wants."

My touch can't possibly be as light, as slow as hers, but I still try.

I still try to pace myself, to guard myself as I lean in, her face loosely trapped between my fingers, harsh against porcelain, dying to melt into it.

But it's my lips that melt into hers, softness that comes with an incredible amount of restraint, of testing. I taste cherries and powdered sugar on french toast; everything good in life stands before me, in the beautiful, enticing shape of this woman, and I take.

I take her soft lips in brushing kisses that she doesn't refuse, but responds to; the small hand on my jaw travels up to my craned neck, and yet another shot of boldness causes mine to hold the small of her back.

Tighter. Warmer. More.

The embrace makes me lightheaded, but I hold her to me still, shutting down everything that isn't sense so I can thoroughly appreciate it. I kiss her repeatedly, not wanting to let go, breathing with my forehead on hers for a short couple of seconds before diving right in again. Taking more.

She pushes me against the wall, my impatient firecracker, kissing me back more forcefully, maddening in her entrancing way. I could have her there forever.

I could stay against that wall forever and be a happy man, feeding and drinking from that mouth, breathing her breath.

She's the one that has to pull back.

"I need... to catch the last train home," she tells me, disappointment coating every word.

"Will I kiss you tomorrow? See you... tomorrow?" I catch myself, sheepish but honest, and it was worth it to hear her laugh.

"Yes, Knight. Have a good night," she whispers, walking back.

"Yes to which one?" I demand, raising my voice as I see her running shape, rapidly disappearing from my already limited range of sight.

But all I get for an answer is her mirth-filled, ethereal laugh.

~*~

Bella

I'd later look back on that night only to find out that I couldn't remember getting on that train, or walking to my doorstep.

But, for the moment, I cling to the memory of that kiss, the feel of his hands and his lips...

I knew I was falling for Knight well before I ever proposed that meeting, but being with him sealed it.

And his voice... Good God, his voice.

It was rough, liquid velvet, pouring straight over my skin. I'd never heard anything so sensuous; I couldn't believe I'd settled for typed words in the past.

Those would never suffice again.

With a hint of madness, I remembered as I went to bed that I still didn't know his name. But... "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet...".

I vowed I'd ask him the next day.

The morning came, with cruel light that seemed to chase away the shadows I'd lived in the night before. After reassuring myself that it had been real, I went about my routine (with redoubled care, something I couldn't control), diving into work and purposefully leaving my wristwatch home.

Seeing the hours pass would just make me anxious.

We exchange brief messages during the day, little notes meant to reassure each other that there will, indeed, be another night.

Another kiss.

I've never wanted anything more.

In the library, I let my imagination run wild, and pick up on one of my stories, finishing it rather quickly. Then, a spark of thought has me on my feet, chasing the librarian.

There's something I need to keep writing.

Bent over a row of books, deep in concentration, he seems tired but happy, such a contrast to the frowns that he usually carries, and I like the way it suits him.

"Excuse me," I approach him in a whisper, a muted voice at the corner of my brain alerting me to something I can't quite grasp. "Edward, is it?" I ask, happy for having asked Angela his name.

For a good five seconds, he just stares at me, in apparent shock. But then, a frown forms behind his glasses, deforming the well proportioned face I've admired often, and he nods.

"I've read The End of Mr Y," I explain, "and I was really hoping you had something from the same author."

He stares at me for another minute, before, to my surprise, his frown deepens.

Wordlessly, he walks away, and I understand, a second too late, that he's gone to fetch me the book.

Lips pressed tightly together, he silently delivers PopCo, and I needn't check it to know that it's the same author.

"Thank you," I whisper, almost inaudibly even to myself, and he just nods again, curtly.

I was right about him hating me.

Trying to dismiss the feeling of disappointment that the librarian's rude demeanor arose, I start reading the book, but, two chapters in, I don't feel any better.

So I log on, thinking I can share this with Knight; he always has a kind word for me, and this time, I'm sure it's all I need.

But he's beaten me to it.

"I'm sorry, Princess.

I know we've talked about seeing each other again tonight, but I can't. Not tonight, not tomorrow.

I thought that putting on this armor would suffice. That I could be this Knight, deserving of your company, of sharing hours and books and kisses in this tower of ours.

And maybe, within it, I was.

But not outside of it. I'll never be. And I'd rather walk out as a memory of deep exchanges and one much too brief moment of passion than a disappointment, words that couldn't shape themselves into a man you could come to love.

I'll always remember what you taught me, what we talked about. I'll always remember last night.

Let this be the moment when I strap these memories to my chest; I'll gladly carry their comforting weight as I walk - silent once again - to my exile.

Goodbye, Princess."

Ugly panic reaches within my chest, clutching my heart in its grip.

His message, it's there, as clearly as if he's written it.

The End.

Why? What changed, if just a couple of hours ago everything seemed so right?

Shaking, I walk out of the library, going around it to the place where, less than 24hours prior, we'd been, standing against that brick wall.

But now he's gone. And I don't have an address, or a cell phone number. I don't even have a name.

I'm left with nothing but the ghost of his lips over mine, a sensation that will fade - and, of course, the long registry of our exchange.

As soon as I make it back inside, no longer crying, I leave him a plea - hoping he'll read it, hoping he'll answer.

But not truly expecting the latter.

~*~

Edward

I spent the night tossing in bed, feeling as light as a helium-filled balloon.

For the first time in my life, I was living something special. I was in love with someone who cared for me right back, someone special, someone I wanted to kiss again - so desperately.

I would move my world for her. I would work and live and die for her. And all it took was one kiss.

Going to work was a joyous experience for the first time; I didn't know what time she'd be coming in, but I was certainly hoping she wouldn't mind me stealing a kiss in the dark space between bookshelves. It would certainly make me want to waive my paycheck altogether so I could forget about the brats and the idiots and just kiss her there.

I'm thinking this as I hear her voice.

And I realize - a second too late, a dreadful second too late - that she doesn't fucking recognize me.

That is was too dark, too late, and that the man she kissed yesterday was brave, strong and passionate.

Her Knight doesn't work in a library. He doesn't wear glasses and shy away from overly crowded spaces. He's not socially inadequate.

I'm downright rude as I get her the book she asked for, my heart breaking into jagged shards that cut too deep for me to even fake a smile. I don't talk to her - knowing she'd likely recognize my voice, and I really can't stand the humiliation of seeing the disappointment in her eyes.

I'll nail my own coffin.

I write her my last message while she reads the book, closing the document for what I swear myself to be the last time. To keep my word, I find myself deleting my account.

And silently I continue putting the books away, no longer wishing to know more, to read more. Because every female lead will remind me of the beautiful, knowledgeable woman a few tables away from my desk. Because every broken asshole that can't step up and be the man he needs to be will remind me of myself.

And time passes.

She doesn't try to talk to me again. A part of me wants to know why she's getting thinner and paler, break down and just talk to her.

My silent weeks become a silent month; the weather changes, howling wind now greeting me as I step outside the library, and sometimes she's still the last one out the door, before I close up.

But she starts coming less and less. Staying less and less, when she does.

Until, one week, she doesn't show up at all.

I'm already panicking for not seeing her there - really hoping she's happy, even if it means that she's off in someone else's arms, someone fitting - when Angela comes up to me, that Friday, with a big bag in her hands and a sheepish look on her face that tells me she's about to ask me for some sort of favor.

"Edward, I really need to visit a friend. Would you mind covering for me? She doesn't live far... It would be an hour, maybe two."

"Sure," I answer her, detached about it as with everything else, lately. But then a thought strikes me. "Have you heard from..." Princess "the pretty brunette who used to come here almost everyday? She hasn't shown up in a while."

Ten days. She hasn't shown up in ten days.

"Bella?" she asks me, and I just nod, thinking that must be it. That it's a fitting name. That I wish I knew it sooner. "That's who I'm going to visit. She's been sick, lately, so I'm bringing her some soup."

I jump in my chair, frantic and panicking.

"She's sick?"

Apparently, my reaction is enough to let Angela know my question wasn't entirely out of bored curiosity. She gives me a long, studied look, and it seems as if something is falling into place.

"Yes... Do you want to go see her?"

"I don't know her address," I admit, brokenly. I just found out her name...

"Here," she reels me in, writing it on a piece of paper. "Take the train there, it's the fastest way. You can't miss it. Just take her this and keep her company for a while, okay? I'll keep an eye on the shop for today."

"Thanks, Angela," I breathe, slipping into my coat and sprinting my way to the train station - as fast as the steaming container of soup in my hands allows.

Fifteen minutes, one train ride and one visit to the florist outside the station later, and I'm in front of her house.

It's a beautiful, five story brownstone, with a painted green door framed in baby's breath. It's exactly the kind of place where I imagined her living.

Outside, I ring the bell, nervously.

Without taking off my glasses. Without trying to straighten my posture, or my hair.

Ten seconds later, she opens the door, pale and painfully thin inside her big, white sweater, and smiles, confused, at the soup and flowers in my hands.

I gulp in a breath.

"Hi, Princess."

~*~

Bella

For a moment, I try to process the image in front of me - the cute, but rude librarian bringing me soup and flowers.

But then he talks, and everything falls into place.

"Knight," I rasp out, my voiced gritty with disuse. "My Silent Knight. Of course, now it makes sense. Come in," I smile, entranced as I realize how foolish I was. "I can't believe I didn't recognize you."

What he must have felt! And I could see it in his grimace - that he carried this pain with him.

But he came back for me.

"It doesn't matter," he tells me, out of pain and not dismissal.

"It does matter. I don't know how I didn't see it in the first place... It was so dark, and I just didn't make the connection... Please, come in. Sit down."

He hands me soup - telling me quietly that it's from Angela - and fresh white lilies I'll have to find a vase for later.

I watch him, awkwardly surveying the place I call home, that he fits so well into, and finally sitting on my couch. And I wonder how could I have not seen him.

"Why did you end it?" I ask, jumping right through this dance we are supposed to be having around the issue and just breaking the ice sculpture once and for all.

"You can see why," he grimaces, dead serious. "Am I really the man you imagined? The man who you wanted to sweep you off your feet?"

"But you did," I counter.

"Only because we went about everything backwards," Knight - Edward - replies.

"We did go about everything backwards," I agree, coming to sit beside him, "but it doesn't mean anything. I wouldn't have cared... I still don't. I'm just sorry I didn't recognize you with your glasses on."

He gave me a short, nervous laugh.

"Do you want me to take them off?"

"No. Leave them on. I want you to see me as well. Imperfect," I hedge, "and ill. And still hoping you want to be a part of my life. You know, from the very first day you started working at that library, I thought you were extremely handsome."

He gave me a smile that still managed to contain, to express his sadness.

"I couldn't resist opening that laptop. Your constant presence... not knowing what you were writing, it drove me mad," he admitted. "And you've always been perfect, and beautiful. Even now. How are you?"

I sigh.

"On my way to recovery," I tell him, but then decide I need to backtrack and explain. "At least... the doctors are hopeful that I'll beat this."

His green eyes widen behind the rimmed glasses.

"So, it's serious."

It's not a question. I don't answer it, and I can see him, disconcerted and gulping, but eyes never leaving mine.

"I'll be alright, Edward," I assure him. "I'm positive. I'll admit, when I wrote that story... the story that started it all... I was in a bad place. Living through books was simpler and better than having to face my ugly reality. My soul wasn't the only sick and saddened portion of myself," I admit, strained as it might be, "but my mind was clean. You opened up a door... to a world that I still wanted to be a part of. That I still wanted to live in."

Unexpectedly, he laces his fingers with mine, grounding me and comforting me in the simple gesture. His touch on my cheek shouldn't be familiar, and yet, it's the most welcoming feeling in what seems like the longest time.

I close my eyes.

"Thank you for coming back for me."

A second later, I can feel his wet lips on my parched ones, breathing life into them, loving me with gentle touches that grow stronger, firmer, until everything else becomes a blur.

And I know that he's come to stay.

There could be no Knight more fitting, for others would cower away from my broken body and broken spirit, and yet he mended both with love.

The afternoon melts into night; we talk books for hours, and I manage to blush through his accounts of a few he's read since we last spoke. And already my heart beats stronger, my breath comes deeper.

Together, we'll win all battles; even if, at the end of the day, we need to take refuge inside our old tower.

~*~

Edward

I absolutely hate hospitals.

I would hate them even if they hadn't been the background to the worst days of my existence - broken bones as a kid, bruises as a teenager, and chemotherapy with Bella.

I hate it that I have to stand outside, while the doctors get to look out for her and see that she comes out of there alright.

I just want to take her home and read her a book. Make sure she's strong and tuck her in my arms.

It's been thirty hours in the hospital, and I'm going mad.

But finally the doctor, a tall blond fellow, comes out with his scrub cap askew and a smile.

"She's fine. You'll see her in a few minutes."

I thank every entity that's remotely responsible for that, and, of course, the doctor as he disappears through the revolving doors to go help someone else.

After another half an hour, the nurse finally takes me to see her.

She's impossibly small and pink and wrinkly, but she's there, breathing. Such a miracle. I hold her awkwardly, with her stretching in my arms, still unaware of who I am and of how much I love her. How's that even possible? For me to love this creature this much already?

"Hi," I hear, and turn inside the brightly lit room to see a groggy Bella coming to her senses.

"Love," I rasp out, through the ball of emotion stuck in my throat, "she's so beautiful."

We both look down to see our pink daughter stretch yet again in her sleep, with pretty, perfect little fists.

Everyone said it was impossible. Even after a full recovery, Bella's body had been ravaged by drugs and radiation, and the chances of us getting pregnant were next to none.

But we would never give up without a fight.

And here she was - in my arms, sound asleep. Our little miracle.

"You did so well," I hear myself saying. "I'm so proud."

Probably breaking all sorts of rules, I sit next to Bella in bed, so she can see our child in my lap. She sighs, and I can see she's tired, after a long labor, but happy.

"We need to name her, Edward," she insists, yet again. And now, looking at the baby in my arms, I finally know we can come to an understanding.

Not Elizabeth. Not Juliet. Not Ariel.

"I was thinking... What about Sarah?"

"Sarah?" Bella repeats, her whole face lighting up.

"It's Hebrew for Princess," I explain, gently putting the baby between the two of us, trying not to jostle her awake.

"It's perfect," my fiancée whispers, before letting herself slide away to sleep.