Remember, my outtakes are not beta'd so please excuse any mistakes. :)

Please forgive Edward, he's new to this whole relationship thing. He doesn't know how to handle his emotions. I hope you can forgive his irrational behavior. He's so dorky and sweet. It's not his fault ;)

This starts with the email on Christmas Day.

The Cards Are Stacked Against Me

EPOV

I stared at the email. Surely she didn't mean…

Nahh.

I quickly typed up an email back to her.

Bella,

Don't play games with me. It's Christmas, you shouldn't tease on Christmas. :(

Are you enjoying your time in the sleepy town of Forks?

I miss you terribly.

Edward

She responded, telling me she wasn't teasing, so I immediately called her.

"Hello, Edward." I could hear the smile in her voice.

Over the next few minutes we spoke. She assured me she was ready, but I wasn't sure, so I asked her a few questions and made promises of how I'd wait for her.

But then she blew me away. She admitted to me that she actually dreamed of my penis. My ego went up at least ten notches then and there. I was certain that every male in the entire history of the world wanted his woman to dream of his manhood.

Reluctantly, I admitted to her that I had done the same thing. Of course, I didn't go into details. I was sure she didn't want to know all of the ways I had dreamed of taking her. I was mortified to even think the things I had dreamed. Of course, that didn't mean that every morning after waking up to those dreams, I didn't have to go… er, relieve some tension. I was disgusted with myself the whole time my hand was wrapped around my erection and I was imagining Bella in very degrading positions. I'd bang my head against the shower wall to keep from calling out her name when I reached my climax.

Yeah, she doesn't need to know just how perverted you are…

I told her my plans – plans that, yes, I had made ages ago, during one of my… er, relief sessions. She snorted and I realized that it probably sounded very forward, so I became instantly nervous. She admitted that she loved the ideas, so we ended the call in order for me to make the plans.

It didn't take much time to make the reservations – thanks to Pop's black Visa card. I quickly forwarded her the details and then started another search. A private, special search.

I wanted to make sure that our night was as comfortable as possible for her. I knew that it was going to be difficult for her already, but I was also fairly certain I could find ways to make it easier.

I spent the next hour researching and mentally taking notes and compiling a list of things to pick up at the store – again, also mentally.

oOo

I was waiting in the terminal for her plane to land. I paced so much that an elderly man placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "She must really be special. You have darn near walked a hole into the floor here." He chuckled and patted my back before he walked away.

They announced her flight, and I immediately ran in the right direction. I saw her as soon as she entered the room. It was as if the sea of people parted and the way to my promised land was opened before me.

When she reached me, I wrapped my arms around her and attacked her lips with my own.

"Mmm, I missed you, Umbella. So freaking much." I lifted her and spun in a circle causing her to giggle and squeal. Setting her down, I grabbed her face with both hands and kissed her again passionately. She grabbed the front of my jacket and pulled me closer to her, moaning against my lips, and arching her back, pressing her chest to mine.

Chuckling, I pulled away and whispered, "Maybe we should, um…get out of the middle of this crowd before we get carried away?"

She gasped and blushed. I loved it when she blushed; she was so adorable. "I forgot. I was oblivious to our surroundings for a minute." She giggled.

The taxi ride back to the dorms was spent with her in my arms as I twisted a lock of her hair around my finger and occasionally stole kisses between our conversations.

"I don't want to leave you. I just got you back." I pouted and hugged her outside of her dorm.

She giggled and said, "You act like we were apart for months or something. And besides, we'll be together again in less than twenty hours." She smiled bashfully.

I kissed her on the nose and grinned. "I know, but I still don't want to leave." I wrapped my arms tightly around her waist and kissed her passionately.

oOo

Ma always said, "A watched pot never boils," and I had never been proven that very phrase until New Year's Eve. Because it was that day that I stared at the clock, willing it to move faster, but it seemed to move slower than ever before.

I was to pick up Bella at eight-thirty, and I didn't want to seem anxious, even though anxious was an understatement for how I was feeling, so I wanted to make sure not to be early.

So when I knocked on her door at eight-twenty-nine, I was put out by the fact that she didn't answer right away. I waited. I knocked again.

I thought that possibly she was in the shower, though it wasn't like her to be late. Maybe something came up. Her dad might have called? Still, I would think she would have called me or texted me or something.

I waited outside her room, occasionally knocking again, with the hopes of her emerging. Finally, after twenty minutes, I texted her. I listened through the door for her phone, just in case – heaven forbid –she was inside and unconscious or something. I didn't hear the phone, and after ten minutes, with no response, I started to freak out. I knocked on a few doors to see if anyone had heard something distressful or anything.

After I finally asked everyone on her floor, the floor below and above, I realized that she was simply… gone. I had already texted her again with worry, but at this point I had wondered if she stood me up. I texted her once more and this time asked her if she was backing out on me and she could have just told me if so.

However, when I made it back to her room and found Angela, I regretted that text right away.

"She was getting all primped for your date when I left today. She was so excited. And if something happened, I know she would have contacted me… she always does," Angela said, pulling out her phone and typing a quick message.

We talked briefly, both of us contemplating where she could have run off to. I finally decided to walk around campus, even though I thought it would be useless, but at least it would take my mind off things.

I continued to text her every so often, really starting to worry. I finally ended up sitting outside her door at three in the morning with my stomach twisted in knots.

oOo

I texted her one last time at five before my eyes started to cross, unable to keep them opened any longer.

A slamming door startled me awake and I shot up like an arrow. Bella just stood there, shock evident on her face. I jumped to my feet and ran to her, wrapping my arms around her telling her how happy I was that she was okay. I even lifted her off the ground and spun a few times.

I placed her back on her feet, and pulled back to look her in the eye when I realized she had been crying. I started to freak out. Had she been hurt? Had something happened to her dad? I started asking her questions when it hit me like a ton of bricks; she was wearing a very nice dress, as if she had been out on a date, and it was a wrinkled mess. Please, please don't let it be what I think it is…

I asked her where she came from and she suggested we go someplace alone. And then I knew. My world had just fallen apart.

I asked her again and she tried once more to convince me to go somewhere. I started to lose it. I gripped her hips roughly and told her I needed to know where she had been. I demanded.

She was then crying harder and started to apologize and I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, and yet, I didn't want to believe it. I wouldn't accept it. I stepped back, shook my head, trying to get the images out that were invading my mind. "Bella… for God's sake, will you please tell me where you were?"

She slid to her knees and dug the stake deeper into my heart. "At the hotel."

I'm not exactly sure what I said at that point. I pretty much blacked out. I know I said some really harsh things because I can still see the look on her face. I vaguely remember her trying to make excuses. Excuses. Everyone's got excuses. There was no excuse. If she cared for me like she claimed, she would have known if someone else had their lips on her… their hands on her… dammit, what else did he do to her? I couldn't look at her anymore. I couldn't bear to think of my brother doing the things I had dreamed of doing to her. I couldn't handle imagining her enjoying her time with him. Him getting to see her look of ecstasy when she came.

I walked away. I had to get out of there. I had to leave before I said things I didn't mean… or at least, wouldn't mean later when I came to my senses. She stopped me before I opened the door. I wasn't able to leave quick enough. I said things that would hurt her. I said things I could never take back. I watched her heart fall from her chest and land on the floor and instead of comforting her, I smashed it under my feet.

I turned and walked away.

oOo

BANG, BANG, BANG

"I know you're in there, you better open the door! I swear to God I'll kick it down!" I screamed.

I heard the chain slide on the other side of the door.

Mace opened the door, but didn't let me inside, he stepped out with me, closing the door behind him.

"If you think standing out here will make me act more civilized, you have another think coming!"

He looked like hell warmed over. His hair was messier than mine on a bad day. He had dark rings under his eyes and he looked like he'd been… crying?

"I'm not trying to get you to be more civilized, Edward, I just don't want anything in my house broken. I know what you are here for, and you have every right to be, so have at it." His words were slurred and drawn out as if he didn't have enough energy to merely speak.

"Why? Just tell me why."

I wanted to bash his face in. I went over there with every intention of beating him to a pulp, but seeing him already looking defeated made the pacifist in me back off momentarily.

"I don't have the answers you want, Eddy boy. I'm a fuck up. We all know this. I fucked up, like always. I deserve whatever you want to throw at me, so I won't even try to stop you."

He wouldn't even look me in the eye. His eyes, from what I could tell, were bloodshot and drooping. He resembled the walking dead.

How was I supposed to fight him when he already looked like he'd been beaten? And if he wouldn't fight back – what kind of resolution was that?

"You're right. You deserve whatever I could throw at you and so much more, but… I'm not gonna stoop to your level, Mace. You can just sit there and wallow in your sorrow. Know that you had to trick her to be with you. Know that she hates herself for what happened. She didn't want to be with you. Now she will live the rest of her life regretting how she lost the one thing most precious to her. And it was all. your. fault. I'm not gonna hit you. Physical pain heals. If you have even the slightest sliver of a heart inside that chest, seeing her life destroyed should hit you where it really hurts. But then again, I said if you have a heart, which after what you pulled, I really wonder about that."

It took everything I had, but I walked away. I didn't hit him. I didn't get any satisfaction in seeing his blood spilled. But, he looked defeated before I got there, so maybe, just maybe, he got his.

oOo

I knew I couldn't sit next to Bella without wanting to talk to her, touch her, kiss her…

So, I stood outside the classroom until I noticed a girl who sat several rows away and I gave her some lame explanation for needing to sit closer to the front of the room. I explained to her who sat beside me and that she could really use a friend right now, something I was sure to be true.

I quickly turned off my phone, knowing that if when she texted me – because I knew she would – I couldn't ignore her, and I would text back. As soon as I opened the door I felt her eyes on me, even though I didn't look in her direction. I went straight to my seat and pulled out my books for distraction. I needed something to keep my eyes away from the place they were automatically drawn to.

I didn't hear a thing that went on in class. I felt like every nerve in my body was drawn to the back of the class. Every noise made, I was sure came from her. Every cough. Every sneeze. Every book shuffle.

As class dismissed, I was stunned when the girl beside me asked if I was related to Alice. We didn't look anything alike. Most people didn't connect us since she now went by her married name. I confirmed that I was related to Alice and as I stood from my seat I asked how she knew her. She explained they shared common interests and I leaned forward as if it were a secret and asked if she was also a Flower Child. She began laughing hysterically, and placed her hand on my forearm.

It didn't feel right. Having someone else touch me in a way that Bella touched me was like playing with fire. It burned. I didn't like it one bit. However, I didn't have much time to reflect on the sensation because I heard a commotion coming from behind me. Bella was screaming at Emmett.

She must have seen what just happened. And that broke my heart. I didn't want her to think our relationship meant so little to me that I would go and find someone else so quickly.

"I'm sorry…" I didn't even know her name.

"Bree," she said smiling.

"I'm sorry, Bree, but I have to go, I'm gonna be late for my next class." It was a bold-faced lie, but I needed to get out of there and…

And what?

"Oh, I understand! I'm actually in a hurry, too. Listen, it was good talking to you. It's nice to meet family of Alice's." She smiled politely and began walking toward the door along side me.

"Speaking of which, how did you know we were related? We look nothing alike," I asked as I held the door opened for her.

"Well, in one of our flowery encounters, she pulled out a photo album and I remember seeing you in it." She started giggling with the 'flowery' reference.

I looked up at that moment to see Bella standing at the end of the hall with Emmett. She looked completely defeated. He put his arm around her and they walked out of the building together.

I waved goodbye to Bree and made my way back to my room so I could sulk in peace.

oOo

Every day was harder than the last. Seeing Bella was excruciating. Seeing her looking like she was on the verge of crying was even worse. After the day Bree first spoke to me, Bella never once looked at me again. She was the last in the room and the first to leave. It broke me in two to watch her suffering. But I just couldn't get past what had happened. I couldn't look in her eyes and know she had given herself completely to my brother. Even if it had been an accident, which I had come to terms with it having been. That was the hardest part. I knew it wasn't her fault

I knew I was being childish in avoiding Bella for so long, but I couldn't be near her without wanting to hold her and the thought of holding her hurt more than I could imagine. I dreamed of it every night, and every night I woke up when she called me Mace… breathlessly, erotically.

I had started going to counseling. I didn't want to have the hateful feelings toward Bella that I was having. It wasn't her fault and I knew this. I had a lot of hate for my brother, but not as much as Bella, and I knew that wasn't fair. My therapist and I had come to the conclusion that I had grown to expect as much from Mace, so it was easier for me to forgive him than it was Bella, who I loved. Yes, we had determined that I loved her. I tried to deny it. I tried to fight it. But it wasn't possible. I loved her and nothing could change that. Not my brother or myself. I needed to get past this resentment so that I could move toward forgiving her.

I was given the opportunity a month after the incident. Mace came to my dorm and conceded. He had been crying for sure this time. He didn't even try to hide it. He said I had won. I could have her. He wouldn't fight anymore. He said she belonged to me and he was backing away. He apologized but admitted he didn't expect my forgiveness because he had done the unforgivable.

As he turned to walk away, I called out to him. He stopped, but didn't look at me.

"You're my brother. What you did was wrong, yes, but I will always forgive you. I love you, man." I stepped in front of him and pulled him into a hug. "Thank you. Thank you for stepping down. I don't want to have to compete with you."

He didn't say anything back. He quickly hugged me back and left.

oOo

I continued with my counseling. My therapist and I both agreed that I shouldn't pursue Bella until I was one hundred percent sure I could let bygones be bygones. He had me doing 'assignments' which would let him know if I was at that stage yet. Silly assignments like 'what would you do if…'. I told him that anyone can say what they think they would do, but when the time came, what they actually did would be different. He grinned when he agreed, but he said that my intentions were what would determine how I really felt about Bella.

One day, my resolve was tested. And I failed. I was walking back from the library and I ran into Bree. She asked me about Alice. I made some joke about her being at a Grateful Dead concert. She laughed and I couldn't help but smile. She was just so easy going, it was hard not to enjoy her company. Right at that time, I noticed Bella at out of the corner of my eye.

The testosterone-ridden idiot in me wanted to make her jealous. I don't know why. I had already hurt her and made her think I had moved on. That wasn't good enough. I was an ass. I looked at Bree like I used to look at Bella. It was easy to do. I simply imagined she was Bella. I lifted my hand, and brushed my thumb across her cheek. Her eyes were as big as saucers. I grinned crookedly and told her she had an eyelash on her cheek.

My stupid little plan was ruined because not even thirty seconds later, Bree's boyfriend walked up and wrapped his arm around her waist. She hugged him and then made the introductions. We shook hands and exchanged pleasantries before they walked away together.

I could feel myself blushing in embarrassment. I rubbed the back of my neck, bit my lip and glanced over at Bella to see if she had witnessed the entire exchange.

Yes, yes she did.

And I walked away mortified.

oOo

Every year I went to the Star Trek Convention, and this year I had hoped to bring Bella with me. However, I still hadn't fixed things between us, and I wasn't about to have our first 'date' back together be in the midst of a bunch of crazed lunatic fans. So, I resigned to go alone. Again.

It was time for the questions to the panel. I had no questions to be answered. I had either asked them already or just wasn't feeling up to par to ask them at that time. I was really just sitting there wishing the time would pass so I could go home. I wasn't enjoying the convention even the slightest bit. All I could think about was how much I had wanted to come with Bella.

I was in the middle of one of my daydreams of how I would go about pursuing Bella when the time was right when suddenly I heard her voice. At that moment, I wondered just how delusional I was that I had begun having auditory hallucinations.

My hallucinations even stuttered just like Bella.

"Um… hello, I um… I actually have a bit of an elaborate question, so if you could bear with me, that would be great. In the episode, 'The Enemy Within', Captain Kirk was beamed up as two parts – one evil and one good. No one recognized the animalistic Kirk until he behaved differently. Yeoman even argued with the good Kirk regarding it truly being him who had behaved badly. Even after the captain warns the crew about his evil self, the evil Kirk was able to deceive them once again. So, my question to you is, how easy would it be for a pair of identical twins to deceive someone close to one of them?"

In the midst of the speech, I looked over and sure enough, it was Bella standing at the microphone.

I don't know what came over me, but I jumped up and asked if I could make an argument. I was motioned to go ahead.

I stepped to the mic and began, "Can I first just say what an honor it is to meet you guys face to face? I know every single episode by heart. I am one of your biggest fans." The panel thanked me and I then continued, making sure not to look Bella in the eye. "In that episode, the captain was essentially split in two, his good side, and his evil side, therefore, how can any hypothesis be made about identical twins based on this? Identical twins being two separate people?"

Why I was arguing with her – and in public for that matter – I had no idea. I wanted to work things out with her, not make things worse. But I couldn't stop my word vomit.

Luckily, she was so much smarter than I. She had a rebuttal. And it was damn good.

"Okay, I can see the point in this instance, however, there was also the episode, 'What are Little Girls Made Of?' we have a very similar situation, but a bit more complex and more along the lines of twins. In that episode, Nurse Chapel hears her fiancé, Dr. Korby and looks at the captain explaining, 'have you ever been engaged? I know that is Roger'. Once she sees him, she kisses and embraces him and all throughout the episode, she never doubts him once. She is also deceived by the android Captain Kirk, but that isn't as relevant as the deceit by her fiancé. So, again, my question is, in your opinion, how plausible is it for identical twins to trick someone who…" her voice began to shake. "Loves one of them?"

As she said the last four words – the words that knocked the breath out of me – I saw a tear slip down her face. She abruptly turned and began walking away. Not even listening to their answer. Of course, I wasn't listening either.

I couldn't let her leave. Completely disregarding anyone speaking from the panel, I grabbed the mic and said, "Umbella."

She slowly turned to me. Several more tears had gathered with the first one.

I begged her, "Say it again?" I needed to know she really said it and I hadn't just imagined it.

She nearly shouted, "I love you, Edward. Only you. I'm so sorry. But I can't take it back. You are the only man I will ever love. I swear this to you."

She did say it. I hadn't imagined it.

So I confessed that I had loved her from the very beginning. I made my way to her as the room boomed with applause. It was in that moment that I realized our whole confrontation had been witnessed by hundreds of people, and most likely even televised. Oh joy.

But, once I reached her at the back of the room, wrapped my arms around her and kissed her with all the passion in the world… no one else existed. No one else mattered. I didn't care if the whole universe witnessed what just happened. I had my Bella back. All was right in the world.

oOo

We had shared a cab back to campus, hand in hand.

Suddenly she turned to me and asked if we could start over again.

She was just too easy to tease, so I couldn't help myself, and I told her no. She immediately looked crushed, so I ducked down and explained why.

"I can't go back to not touching you again, Bella. I can't go back to being shy and awkward again. Now that I know what it's like to kiss you, touch you, feel you… I can't deny myself that anymore. These last two months have been pure torture. I can't go another day without being able to feel you again."

She wrapped her arms around my neck and sobbed into my shoulder, telling me she loved me and apologizing again.

That night she came clean with more things that had been hidden from me. I wanted to be angry, but I remembered that I had agreed to forgive her of everything. It was over, it was done. It would never happen again, so I would just forget about it.

Besides, the first incident was just as much my fault. Even though she wouldn't let me take any blame for it.

oOo

The next day we were meeting Alice at the coffee shop. I told Bella to head on over and I would place our orders.

I was chatting with the guy standing beside me at the counter when I heard someone shouting, "Don't move!"

The first thing that went through my mind was someone holding up the place, so I froze. I wanted to go to Bella and Alice to protect them, but I had always been told to remain perfectly still if you are in a hostage situation; heroes get shot, and shot people are no good to anyone.

However, I could then hear what was being said and realized it was coming from Mace. And he sounded maniacal.

"NO! There is no talking! He stole her from me! She's mine! She doesn't love him! She loves me! She wants me, not him! He's trying to steal her. Like he did Mom and Dad. He stole them from me. They loved him more than me. He's trying to make Bella do the same thing. She loves ME, not him!"

I quickly started walking in their direction and heard him continue, "Isabella. Can't you see? I'm doing this for you. I know you don't want to hurt him. Now, you don't have to. I love you, and I know you love me, too."

Mace reached down and jerked Bella up by her wrist and I shouted, "Let her go, Mace!" as I ran toward him. But I didn't get very far before I heard a deafening bang and the room went black.