Stephenie Meyer owns these characters, but Edward in My Head is mine and nobody else's.
Many thanks to my beta Lezlee and to my pre-readers, ChloeCougar and Malianani.


Playlist Pick:
All I Want is You – U2


STALEMATE

"I don't want us to be apart, ever again," my Bella told me that night.

"And we never will be," I vowed naively, never dreaming she'd ask for the one thing I couldn't ever give her.

"I want to be with you forever . . . I want to be like you."

I'd hoped against hope that she'd never say those words to me. But she clasped my hand to her cheek and I knew she was so very earnest. A gift! She thought that immortality was a gift! She may as well have twisted a dagger into my heart.

Necessity had made me into a very good actor, but it was impossible to keep my true feelings from her for long. She already sensed I was struggling. She drew back a little.

"What's wrong?"

I freed my hand and placed hers in her lap. Deliberately, I folded them together, taking a deep breath to help myself gather courage.

"Bella, you're very tired."

My voice was cold—an iteration of living stone—but when I looked up it was clear she saw straight through my stern façade. Just like she always did.

She made a scornful face. "I am not."

It would be futile to attempt to convince her otherwise, but I had to try. "Yes, you-" She just crossed her arms and looked away with an angry exhale.

"Please, love," I entreated, patting the pillow. "Come and lie down. This isn't the time to talk about it."

"What better time is there?" She clasped the rings of her new necklace between her fingers and held it out to me.

"Oh, Bella . . . " I didn't know what to say.

When she'd asked if the gift meant that my family accepted her, I hadn't denied it. But she'd drawn a long bow by assuming it signified we'd someday make her one of us. Or had she? I hadn't meant to mislead her. I'd given her the necklace because I loved her.

Did Alice know this was going to happen? Probably, I thought resentfully. But she'd bought the necklace anyway. Why did she insist on forcing the issue? What point was she trying to prove? Because no matter how many times Bella and I discussed her becoming a vampire, it degenerated into the same, circular argument. I just wanted to put an end to it.

I sighed deeply. "It's not going to happen, Bella. It can't."

Her eyelids fluttered and I prayed that the tears brimming underneath wouldn't start falling. They were more potent than her kisses and I didn't stand a chance against them.

They didn't fall—not yet. But I knew they soon would. Jesus Christ. I'd told her how hard it was. She knew all about the pain. The burning. The unrelenting, eternal thirst. Hadn't my warnings been enough? Why would she still want to go through with it? As if I needed to ask.

"But, I love you. I just want to be with you. Always."

"And I love you. More than anything. You're the very best part of my life." I wanted her to know how much I meant that. She was my life.

"Oh, so are you. God Edward, I can't imagine life without you anymore. And I don't want to." She pounded her fist against her heart in emphasis. I just think we need to be equal . . . to love each other, don't you?"

If I admitted it to myself, there was a part of me that agreed with her. Lord knows I'd imagined her as an immortal. It was hard to believe that perfection could be improved upon, but yes I did want to experience making love with a partner who was in every way my equal. But for her to lose her life just for that . .

"You're perfect as you are," I said. "I don't want you to change."

"I'm clumsy. And weak."

"You're beautiful and intelligent, and completely selfless. You are more courageous than anyone I've ever met."

She scowled, unconvinced. "But I'm getting older, every day. I won't always . . . be this attractive to you."

How could she even say that? "Your spirit is what I love most about you. That will always be the same."

"Even when I'm old and grey, and I've lost my marbles?" Now she was just being ridiculous. I glared at her. "And I won't be around forever."

No, she wouldn't. I bit back the wave of pain that rose at her comment. "My love for you will never change." I managed to sound stubborn when I said that. Barely.

"I don't understand."

"I'll remember every moment I spend with you as long as I exist, and that happiness will last me forever." The first part of that statement was true, but forever was a relative term. My world would become bleak and meaningless when she died. I knew I wouldn't be able to go on afterwards.

You can always change that . . . the voice of temptation whispered to me. I shook it off; lately, it sounded irritatingly like Alice.

"Oh, Edward. That's so sad."

"It's my choice. And I don't necessarily see it that way."

"What about my choice?"

"Vampirism isn't a lifestyle, Bella! It's not something any of us chose. And I refuse to inflict this condition on you."

She was shocked. "Is that how you see yourself? As a disease?"

Yes. We were exactly that. Our venom spread through the bloodstream like a were parasites, just like the Quileutes said.

She looked away and I could smell the imminent tears. "I wouldn't ask you to do it, you know," she whispered, biting her lip. "I know you . . . couldn't."

I smiled sadly. "My family wouldn't help you either, Bella. They know how I feel and they'd never go against my wishes." Actually, Alice was the only one I'd directly forbidden from doing so. "But you're right: if I was the one to do it, I wouldn't be able to stop myself from killing you. But it doesn't matter which of us does the deed, I won't be responsible for taking your life."

"That's not how I see it. If you let one of the others . . . help . . . we'd be together forever. In love forever. And"—she added craftily—"you wouldn't want to kill me anymore."

"Bella, I've never wanted to kill you. Believe me, if I did, you wouldn't have made it out of class that first day."

She blanched, and I thought that I might finally be getting through to her. I decided to appeal to her sense of reason.

"All right: say it does happen for some reason. Even if you survive—and you might not—there's no guarantee you'll even remember me afterwards. And if you do, you might very well hate me for it."

"I could never hate you. You're the most important thing in my life. How could I ever forget you?"

"Alice doesn't remember anything about her human life."

"I'm willing to take that risk."

"The change will alter you irrevocably. What if you're not the same person?"

"Is that what you're afraid of?"

"It's one thing, yes."

"I don't believe that would happen. I know you're the same person as you were before Carlisle changed you. The same good person."

How could she know that? It was only since I'd met her that I'd started remembering anything more than fragments about Edward Masen. Most of what I knew about him, I'd gleaned from the diaries I'd kept. I'd been little more than a child, then. Incomplete. The same as Bella would be if she was changed now. Forever seventeen.

"Like I said, I'm willing to take the risk," she repeated. She was so young. How could she be so certain? I cursed my inability to hear her thoughts.

"But I'm not . . .It's not just me." I took her hands and squeezed them gently. "There's a bigger picture here that you're not aware of, love. Your friend Jacob told you about our treaty with the Quileutes, didn't he?" She nodded. "It's very specific: we're not allowed to bite humans, whether to kill or transform. To them, it amounts to the same thing, and in that respect I agree." She scowled at that.

"To break the treaty means we'd go to war with them. They'd be no match for us, of course—our strength and speed is superior"—and their spirit warriors had long since died away—"but they'd reveal our existence to the other humans in Forks. That would break vampire law."

"Vampires have laws?" She seemed genuinely surprised.

"Not very many. And only one that's regularly enforced."

"What is it?"

"Can't you guess? We have to keep the existence of our kind a secret. We don't make spectacles of ourselves, and we don't kill indiscriminately. You remember Carlisle's friends in Italy—the Volturi?" She nodded. "Well, they have a police force of sorts whose job it is to ensure that humans don't find out about us . . . Let's just say that they take their job very seriously."

"So, you see, I broke the treaty too. Just like Jacob Black."

"Technically, you didn't. I figured your secret out before you told me." And she had an answer to the dilemma of the treaty as well. "I could leave Forks with you, then—when you move on."

"You'd leave your friends behind? Your parents?" The only reason I entertained her argument was so she could figure out for herself how impossible it was.

"My mother doesn't need me anymore. She has Phil: she'll be alright."

Renée may have been a frivolous person, but I doubted Bella really appreciated the depth of her mother's love. Did any child understand that?

"What about your father?" And suddenly she was much less certain. "It's not like you'd get to say goodbye to him or have any contact afterwards. Could you let him mourn you like that—for the rest of his life? Because it would be safer if he believed you were dead than if he knew what really happened."

"Because of the Volturi?"

"I was actually thinking about you. It takes newborn vampires about a year to learn to control the bloodlust. What if you happened to be around your father and you lost control?"

"I had no idea . . . " The tears brimmed over again and began flowing down her cheeks. She didn't try to stop them.

I gathered her in my arms, rubbing away her tears with my thumb. "So you understand why I can't do it."

"Yes." She sniffed. "But it doesn't stop me from wanting you to. Oh Edward, it's just so unfair!" she exclaimed.

"I believe you're the one who pointed out that life isn't always fair."

She gave a mirthless laugh. I could tell she was worn-out.

"Do you want me to leave?"

"No, stay. I'll have bad dreams if you're not here."

Her sleep was fitful and she had bad dreams anyway. I felt guilty that they were because of me, but my mind was made up and nothing would change it. Unfortunately, hers was too.

I left that night, resigned to the fact that this argument would always hang between us, unresolved. As long as she was human, it would inevitably raise its head again. If only something would happen to make her see what was best for her. If only I could stop wanting what was best-and worst for me . . .


Alice was pensive when I went to see her later on. I found her sitting on the limb of an old hemlock that grew outside her bedroom window. She said nothing when I sat down beside her—just shuffled over to give me room. We watched the stars appear briefly and then fade back behind the cloud cover.

"You knew, didn't you?" I never took my eyes off the sky. "You knew she'd ask."

"I knew there was a possibility." She turned to me with a sad smile. "She made up her mind after you kissed. I tried to warn you but . . . you'd turned your phone off."

There was pride in her smile now and it embarrassed me. I'd turned my phone off because I hadn't wanted any interruptions; I knew very well my sister's penchant for eavesdropping on people's intimate moments.

"Surely you must've considered it?" she remarked. I shook my head; it had never even crossed my mind. "Oh, dear."

"Do you still see her as one of us?" I just had to know.

"I see lots of things, brother. The future's always in motion."

"Rosalie will have a field day when she finds out about this." She'd predicted that Bella would demand immortality sooner rather than later, and that it would break my heart.

"I don't plan on saying anything to Rosalie." Alice shot me a determined glare. How I adored my fierce little sister at that moment. "Do you?"

"No," I said.

"So what she doesn't know, she can't use to hurt you. Or Bella. Right?"

"You're right about that." I admitted, relieved.

Turning her face back to the skies, she extended a fist out to me. A brief beam of moonlight lit up her smile as I smacked her fist with my own, and turned my eyes to the heavens as well.


March went out like a lion that year. The storms were particularly intense but once they'd passed, spring took firm hold. And as the days grew longer and milder, my relationship with Bella flourished. We spent lazy Saturdays at our meadow. I loved the delighted look on her face as she'd rush in to the very centre and take stock of the new blooms that had appeared since we'd last been there.

The down side to the improving weather was that my absences from school were becoming more frequent. We coped with the inconvenience as best we could; if nothing else, I could leap through her open window after sundown and stay with her until she was asleep. But those drizzly mornings when the rain set in made me rejoice. Most days I drove her to school, but occasionally I turned up early so we could walk in the rain.

Her father got used to arriving home in the evenings and seeing us together, our heads bent intently over our homework. My rapport with him was awkward but as long as we kept our discussions focused on sports and automobiles we got along very well. In fact, he genuinely seemed to like me.

He suspected our studiousness was probably a little too innocent but he never told her what was on his mind. Occasionally, he'd murmur that she never spent much time with her girlfriends anymore, and I knew he wondered if it was normal for a relationship between two young people to be so intense. Once, when I was in Bella's room, I heard him on the phone with her mother, discussing it. I got the gist of their conversation from his responses.

"I knew she was seeing somebody!" Renée seemed more concerned with the gossip than her daughter's emotional wellbeing. Or perhaps, that's just the way her voice came across in the echo of Charlie's thoughts. "What's he like?"

"Quiet. Smart, like you'd expect. He's the doctor's kid. Uh, good-looking, I guess."

"Of course," she said. "Oh, she never tells me anything."

"Okay, but is this normal?"

"She's never had a boyfriend before. And she's your daughter, Charlie. Still waters run deep."

That didn't seem to reassure him very much; he continued to fret in silence.

Thank goodness for Alice. Chief Swan adored her. She and Bella were great friends by now and one day she invited herself over after school and introduced herself to him. Of course, he couldn't resist her. Alice was delighted to finally have a real friend to call her own. She'd even sit with us in the cafeteria at lunch from time to time.

"So, I need to ask a favour," Bella announced one Tuesday when Alice was with us.

"What is it?"

"Well, I'm thinking of having some kids over one night next week . . . "

"Like, a party?" Alice was eager.

"A get-together," she said. "My dad's been bugging me to spend more time with my girlfriends—sorry," she added, glancing apologetically at me. "And the only way I can do that these days is if I invite their boyfriends, too." My sweet introvert didn't look as if she enjoyed the prospect very much. "Jess and Mike said they'd come—and Angela and Ben. Tyler and Lauren probably will. But the only day that everyone can make it is next Friday." She frowned, stabbing her fork into a pocket of dry ravioli on her plate. "Problem is, my dad's got a date that night and he won't let me have it then unless there's someone around to chaperone."

"Doesn't he trust you?" Alice asked.

"He trusts me. He's just not sure that the other kids won't invite people he'd rather not have in his home. You know how it is: someone tells two friends, someone else tells two friends . . . In his line of work he's broken up a lot of parties that have gotten out of hand."

I thought he was worried about nothing. As if anyone would misbehave at the home of the chief of police! I had a feeling that a raging party was not his real concern—rather, the raging hormones of unsupervised teenage couples.

"I could be there," Alice volunteered, startling both us. "Your father knows me now—he trusts me. No, no, I'm serious," she insisted, waving off Bella's protests. "Who better to keep an eye on you young whippersnappers that our single and very responsible friend—who happens to be considering a career in law enforcement?"

"You told him that?" I asked.

"I may have let it slip when I introduced myself. What?" she demanded when I smirked at her. "It's a possibility. I have a lot of career options in my future. Let me talk to him," she said, turning to Bella.

"She might be on to something," Bella said. "And, my dad doesn't know about Jasper."

"There you go," Alice said smugly.

"Wow, thank you, Alice." She gave her a shy smile. "You're sure you don't mind?"

On the contrary, she was thrilled. "Not at all. It's not often I get to go to a party."

"A get-together," Bella repeated.

"Of course." She was moving ahead already in full-steam planning mode. "Do you need a hand picking up soda and snacks?"

"I can help with that," I offered.

"Oh, thanks. Actually, we can kill a couple of birds with one stone. I need to do some grocery shopping anyway. I'm uh, going to buy my dad stuff for his dinner date."

"Oh, yes! Alice was all-ears. "Tell me about your dad's date. Who's the lucky lady?" Bella's father had always been adamant about being a terminal bachelor, so this development was rather surprising.

"Her name's Mary. She's an EMT." I knew who she was. Carlisle worked with her at the hospital. Like Charlie, she was in her late forties and divorced. "They've been friendly for a while. Last week, she finally invited him for supper. He said 'yes', provided she let him bring the food."

This was certainly an interesting development: her father had never shown much culinary inclination.

"Wow, he must like her then," Alice mused. Human relationships are just so interesting aren't they, Edward? You just never know what'll happen next. I rolled my eyes.

"What?" Bella asked, looking from one of us to the other, astute as always.

"Nothing."

"I think it's great that your dad's dating, Bella," Alice said warmly.

She shrugged, noncommittally. "He's not the most social guy. I guess it's good that he's trying to get out more." She chuckled. "He must take after me."

"You," I said, squeezing her shoulder, "are perfect, in every way."

Ugh, is this what being nauseated feels like? Alice wondered.

And so it was a few days later that I accompanied Bella to the Thriftway to help her purchase groceries and other supplies. I pushed the cart, following her lead as she went through the items on her list.

"I might as well pick some things up for my dad while we're here," she decided. That was kind of her; Chief Swan was more nervous about his impending date than she knew.

"You can't go wrong with pasta, can you?"

"I suppose not."

I looked around at the unfamiliar and unappetizing products stacked on the shelves. Grocery stores didn't exist when I was human, and from the journals I kept back then, I'd learned that my family employed a maid who shopped at market for us. These days Esme bought groceries every couple of weeks to maintain our human façade. She donated her purchases to a different food bank every few weeks.

I had no interest in the food, of course. Moreover, I was distracted by the way Bella's curls fell back as she reached for a packet on the top shelf, revealing her shapely neck.

"I could have gotten that for you." She just shrugged—she was reading the instructions on the back of the packet. "I think your father's capable of boiling noodles for ten minutes and then testing for 'doneness'."

She said nothing—only swatted me contemptuously with the package before dropping it into the cart.

"What else do you need?" I asked.

"Hm-mm . . . pesto, I think. And some stuff for salad."

"What about dessert?"

"Oh, I don't know. I wanted to pick up some fruit and ice cream, but it's not berry season yet, is it?"

"Not for a couple of months, no." Suddenly, I found myself very much looking forward to the late summer, when the blackberry bushes that grew in the vicinity of our meadow produced their fruit. I imagined the pleasure on Bella's face when I presented her with the berries that I'd picked, and how she'd savour them when I fed them to her.

"I'll get the ice cream anyway," she decided. "Vanilla?"

"I'm under the impression that women like chocolate better."

She grinned. "Yes, they do . . . "

My phone buzzed when we were in line for the checkout.

"Was that Alice?"

"Yes. Everything's all set for tomorrow. We'll come over right after school."

"Wow, she doesn't mess around. What did she say to him?"

Alice's message had been to the point, but I had no doubt Chief Swan must've been putty in her hands. Like the rest of us, she was nothing if not charismatic.

"I'll help you carry that," I said, taking the bag of groceries off the counter.

"I can manage; it's not heavy." Though she demurred, she allowed me to be chivalrous.

We'd just exited the store when a commotion on the sidewalk a few doors down attracted our attention. Or rather, the commotion is what attracted Bella's attention; what I noticed was the sour, mouldy smell. Almost like wet dog. A pack of wet dogs. The boisterous teenagers playing hacky-sack were Quileutes.

I was just thinking that I'd never really paid attention to how big those young men were—some of them were as tall and muscular as Emmett—when one of them called to Bella. His face still wore the soft roundness of childhood and his long hair was tied back in a ponytail.

"Jake!" She was delighted to see her friend, but nevertheless she turned to me with concern.

"It's all right," I assured her. I had as much right to be in Forks as they did. And these young ones wouldn't know who or what I was. Most hadn't bothered to learn the legends about us. Few believed them.

"Do you want to come and meet my friend?" she whispered.

"I'd better not." Even so, I was curious. I wanted to know what she saw in him. "You go ahead. I'll wait for you."

"'Kay." She looked disappointed, but she returned his greeting warmly as she walked towards him. "Hey," she said, pushing her fist into his forearm.

"Hey." He patted her shoulder and glanced over it at me. "Who's your friend?"

"Um, that's Edward. He goes to my school . . . " She did not tell him that I was her boyfriend. It was hurtful, but it was the right thing to do.

Jacob Black peered at me curiously. He gave a sniff and looked for a second as if he'd encountered an unpleasant aroma, but then seemed to dismiss it.

From where I stood, slouched against the wall of the shop-front, I was able to observe my rival openly. There was nothing in Bella's manner that led me to believe she felt anything more than warm friendship for the boy. And he returned her amity, but other feelings simmered beneath that he was barely cognizant of. I knew it wouldn't be long before understood what they were. And when he did, would he act, I wondered? Not if I could help it. He was human—and still a boy. He'd be no match for me.

He was showing off now, trying to impress Bella in front of the others. He grabbed the hacky-sack and began kicking it behind his back from one heel to the other.

Look at this pretty girl, his smug grin said, for all to see. She's my friend. The shiny new toy.

Mine. Not yours.

It was difficult to watch them joke with one another. I had to turn away and as I did, I became aware of another Quileute youth standing apart from the main group. Sam Uley watched over the other boys like a sentinel. He was older than the rest—more man than boy. And he knew he was being watched, too. He turned deliberately and glared at me with cold, black eyes.

His lip curled in disgust. He never took his eyes off me as he moved to stand protectively in front of his companions. In another moment, Bella would be out my sight. A couple of the other boys instinctively grouped themselves around him in a semi-circle. Closing in. I began to panic. I could do nothing here, not without revealing what I was.

"Bella," I called, low and urgent, but I knew she'd hear.

"Just a sec'." She was distracted—her voice high and bright as she laughed at some comment Jacob had just made.

Sam Uley's head swung around at the sound of my voice, his gaze abjectly hostile. One of the older, bigger boys picked up on his tension and glanced at me too. He looked back at Sam with a question in his eyes.

Filthy motherf- . . . The epithet was in Sam's mind as clearly as if he'd spoken it aloud.

I shook my head, wondering for a split second if I'd heard correctly. But of course, I had. Sam Uley, who Bella said was studying the old ways—and who now took them so seriously he'd begun teaching them at Youth Group—was shaking with rage. The spasms of his body were as clear to me as the violent imagery racing through his mind. Images of death and fear. A pursuit through the woods at night. Was he thinking about the legends—the past? His past? I couldn't make sense of it.

He winced as if the light of the overcast afternoon was suddenly too bright for him to bear, and he seemed to have trouble controlling his breathing.

"Dude, what's up?" the other boy asked, coming over to stand beside him. Abruptly, he stopped and fanned his hand in front of his nose. "Ugh. You have a bath in Old Spice this morning? You stink!"

"It's not me that stinks," Sam growled, and the other boy turned to look in the direction of his hateful gaze.

"Bella," I called again and this time she paid attention. I lifted one of the grocery bags briefly to remind her about the ice cream inside. I didn't want to alarm her.

To my dismay, she tried to wave me over. "Come and meet Jake," she mouthed. I shook my head. "Come on," she encouraged, "it's okay."

I shook my head again and she sighed. "All right; I'm coming."

Don't you touch her! Sam's shout rang out in my head. You have no right!

"Here I am." Bella smiled reassuringly as she came to my side and tried to take one of the bags from me. I snatched it away brusquely, transferring it to my other hand.

"What's up?" she asked.

"We have to go. Now."

"Why? What's the problem?"

I could practically feel the hackles rising on the back of Sam's neck as I took her arm. But he was bound by the treaty, too.

"It's time to leave," I said firmly.

"Okay, okay." Though unimpressed, she followed my lead without a fuss.

I turned and looked back as we rounded the nearby corner. Jacob Black was annoyed that his prize had been taken away. And Sam Uley continued to stare with the same knowing, hostile black glare. As we passed out of his sight, I heard his voice in my head once more:

I know you, Cold One. I know what you are, and I'm not afraid of you.


A/N: So, Bella asked for immortality and Edward refused outright. That wasn't really a surprise, was it? And he's right that this won't be the last time they'll have this argument. In canon, Edward made it clear that he despises what he is and doesn't want Bella to be like him. But I always felt that the boy did protest a little too much. Surely, there was a part of him, deep down, that wanted her to be like him all along? There had to be. Of course, he'd never admit it. What do you think?

And what about that Sam Uley? Something strange is definitely afoot in the Quileute nation. Of course we omniscient readers know. Or do we? The AU plotline thickens...

Thank you for reading.