Disclaimer: SM owns characters, I own plot. ©IsaKassees 2010

I got done early, so...

I drove down the highway as fast as the roads and weather would allow, but the rain was pounding something fierce, making my windshield wipers work overtime. A quick glance down at my cell – still no service.

Not that she was very likely to answer anyway.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

Freshman year – thirteenth grade. Classes weren't easy, per se, just basic. We could work with each other on a lot of the homework, with the exception of Jasper's physics labs, Bella's creative writing essays, and my music theory analyses. None of us were completely one-hundred percent sure what we wanted to be, but we had an idea. She lucked out with a part-time job in the campus library and I stayed busy with my internship while we both took a full load of classes.

Jasper and Alice traded off weekends on driving to see each other, so every other weekend, I either got to watch my girlfriend giggle with her best friend on the couch over pizza and Monty Python marathons, or I got her all to myself.

Life was win – win.

Or at least it was win after one minor nuclear fallout occurred because Jasper and I were 'filthy, disgusting sloths that have another thing coming if we think she'll be cleaning up after our pig asses for the next four years.'

The next morning there was a daily chores list on the fridge, and we've been good ever since.

I bought her some flowers anyway.

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

Twenty minutes out of Forks, the rain was still pouring in buckets, but I finally had a signal.

"Pick up, pick up, pick up," I murmured as the phone rang and rang and rang.

"Hi, you've reached Bella Swan. I'm not available right now, but please leave me a message, unless you're Edward Cullen. If you're Edward Cullen, please fuck off."

I groaned, ending the call and tossing my cell onto the passenger seat. I understood what she thought had happened. But she couldn't have been more wrong. She had to listen to me.

After fifteen years, I wasn't going anywhere without a fight.

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

Sophomore year – the year things got harder, made us work for it. Jasper had to pretty much disappear into his studies during the week if he wanted to get to spend any time with Alice on the weekend. I had to attend performances in the area to analyze and write reports on, Bella had to do the same thing with plays and writing seminars. Between that, work, and our regular classes, I woke up one day to a cold bed and realized that we hadn't slept together in almost a month.

Getting up and walking through the apartment to the kitchen, I smiled sadly at the plate of muffins Bella left out for Jasper and I, trying to remember the last time I had done something like that for her. When did we fall into this rut? How did I bring us out of it?

It didn't look like I was going to Statistics today. I had a new project to work on.

And it was pretty easy to figure out how we fell into this rut after looking over our schedules. Because it was hard not to, if I didn't make a conscious effort to take advantage of every over-lapse we could get during the week. By the time Bella made it home that evening, I'd made sure Jasper would be in his room for the rest of the night, the kitchen was clean, dinner was made, and I just needed to see what she thought of my ideas.

"Edward?" she asked, her eyes wide as she clicked through the various spreadsheets and other programs I had used to input our information and discern the most effective timetable.


"You…wow, baby. You went to a lot of trouble for this. I…It feels like the year you got a job just to talk to me. Thank you."

"Do you…does it sound good? I've missed you, kitten."

"I've missed you so much, too. And this sounds great, but…this Powerpoint thing…is that a pie graph?" she pointed, her bottom lip sucked into her mouth.


"For sex?"

She looked at me for the first time, and I couldn't tell if she was disgusted or amused.

"Um…yeah. See, this part shows times during the week when we have the most ti-"

"Edward?" she interrupted, closing the laptop.


"Would you rather explain the sexytime, or go have the sexytime?"

I tossed her over my shoulder and ran to the bedroom.

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

I reached Forks and drove straight to the tree line, hoping beyond hope that she might have come here, even though she had no clue I had followed her to Washington. If Jasper hadn't convinced Alice to listen to me, I'd still be at home ripping my hair out without knowing she'd cashed in our Christmas ticket early.

I ran through the rain to our tree, terrified I might find her there, terrified I wouldn't.

No dice.

Climbing back into my car, I shook my now-drenched arms out as I started up the ignition again and gunned it down the street to head to her house. As I passed the police station, I almost cried in relief when I saw Charlie's cruiser in the parking lot. It would be hard enough to convince Bella not to kill me on sight.

I flew into her driveway, throwing the car into park behind another one with the same rental sticker on the bumper as mine.

Looking up, I saw it.

Her light was on. She was there.

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

Junior year – the year that tested us the most. It wasn't the busy schedules; it wasn't the increased work as Bella became officially declared B.A. English Lit and I became officially declared B.A. Music Theory with a Minor in Performance.

No. Time was something precious that we grabbed a hold of every chance we got, and we shared everything.


But sharing everything? It meant that when her partner in World Lit started asking her out?

She told me.

She told me he was a flirt, she told me she wasn't interested, and she told me that she couldn't do anything about it, because he wasn't crossing a line and their final project was responsible for almost half her grade in the class.

We'd both been asked out by other people over the years, but it was always easily dealt with, always something we could laugh about later. Because it usually only took one rejection for someone to go away.

But this fucker wasn't going anywhere 'til the end of the semester. And every time I picked Bella up from the library, we'd be as polite as could be to each other until Bella's back was turned. And then he'd give me that look, that fucking look that meant, I want your girl.

Which left me anxious. And angry. And increasingly irrational.

Which left her defensive. And irritated. And infuriatingly rational.

"You're late," I accused, the second she stepped through the door.

"Hello to you, too," she waved, dropping her bag down with a thud. "My day was fine, thanks for asking. How was yours?"

I set my jaw, not in the mood. It was past eight-thirty, and she'd said eight. She looked at my face and sighed, shaking her head and looking away.

"We came across a reference for a rare edition that needed checking out. It took us a long time to track it down and then go through it. We just…lost track of time," she shrugged apologetically.

"That happens a lot with him, it seems," I muttered bitterly. She walked over to the kitchen table and took a seat across from me.

"That's not fair," she argued. "We were working, not hanging out. It's for my gra-"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. For your grade. For you, it's just a project. But he wants you, and he's not going to stop 'til he gets you."

"Okay, first of all, stop making me sound like a Happy Meal toy. Second of all, you make it sound like it's an inevitability that he'll get me. That's not happening. He asks me out every Tuesday and Thursday, and every Tuesday and Thursday, I say no. And then I come home to you. Grumpy, grouchy you," she smiled, trying to snap me out of my mood as she reached her hand across the table for me to take.

I slipped my hand into hers, sighing heavily.

"I don't know what it is about him, Bella," I admitted quietly. "I just see a guy that's better looking, has more in common with you than I do, and he's fucking relentless."

"He's annoying is what he is," she huffed. "He doesn't know me at all, Edward, and I don't know him. The only thing that we have in common is our major and he is not better looking than you. I…God! Don't you know how gorgeous you are to me?"

I shook my head stubbornly, trying to pull my hand back, but she wouldn't let me. Holding firm, she tugged at me until I would meet her eyes. My chest tightened, curling in on itself.

"Don't shut me out like that. Talk this out with me. He's…Edward, I don't know what his game is. I don't know if I'm the game, or a challenge, or if he genuinely thinks he likes me, but I don't care. Chances are, he's just never been told 'no' before. And the thing is, is that I don't have any choice but to tell him 'no'. Because my heart's not mine to give.

"I'm yours, boy."

At once, my chest expanded, as if I'd just taken my first breath. Her eyes were fiercely determined, begging me to believe her, to let this go. I tugged her hand to get her to stand and then pulled her into my lap, crushing her to me.

"Mine," I whispered.

"Yours," she whispered back. "But only if you're mine, too."

"Always. Always yours, girl."

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

I knocked on the door to no avail.

"Bella! C'mon! Please just open the door. Give me five minutes and I can explain everything, I swear it."

Cursing, I kicked the door once before checking the old floorboard in the porch. Cursing again, I stomped it back into place. Nothing. I tried every window and door, all of them locked, curtains closed.

"Bella. I know you're in there," I shouted, trying to be heard over the rain pounding down on the roof above me. If I thought she could hear me clearly enough, I'd just explain it all through the fucking door. Running to the side of the house, I yelled up to her window. "Bella, please!"


My eyes locked on the tree of doom, my old nemesis and partner in crime.

"We meet again," I grunted, hoisting myself up the first branch.

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

Senior year – the year that everything was falling into place. We were set up to apply for our Master's as soon as we graduated. Jasper would be completing his at UCLA, since that was where Alice hoped to work after graduation. Bella and I would still be living together, but I didn't want it to be as just boyfriend and girlfriend anymore. I didn't care if we drove to Vegas for the weekend and got married at a drive-thru chapel by Elvis or waited until we were done with school.

I just wanted my ring on her finger.

And not just any ring. That ring. The one we saw in a little antiques shop one day when we were walking around together, the one that made her eyes light up for a split-second before she tried to mask it and just keep walking. She didn't want me to see, because I had purposefully dodged any discussions about marriage and engagement for the last few months. I wanted to throw her off the trail and catch her completely off guard. Take her completely by surprise and sweep her off her feet.

But how to get it as a twelve-dollar-an-hour paid intern? A little more complicated.

I stalked that shop every week, praying every time I passed by that the ring would still be in the window. And on one such day, I got waved inside by an amused, middle-aged woman, who I came to find out was the owner of the shop. We got to talking, and I ended up spilling my guts to her. I told her how Bella and I first met, our relationship over the years, our future plans for school, and that was when I got lucky and hit a home run.

Her daughter was getting married and needed a pianist for two different engagement parties, the rehearsal, wedding and reception.

There was no way that that equaled the value on that ring, but she didn't care. All she wanted, she'd said, was for her daughter to have the wedding of her dreams, and for me to get a chance at my own.

I could have kissed her.

I met her daughter and her fiancé, both really nice people. They listened to me play and hired me on the spot.

The only hard part was keeping it from Bella. I had to meet with the soon-to-be bride to discuss different pieces, practice for the upcoming parties, had to go to the upcoming parties, all while not letting her know. If she'd known I was playing a wedding gig, she'd want to know why, when we were getting really close to graduation and already had a lot of exams and final projects to deal with. And I couldn't exactly tell her it was for the money, so…

I had to lie about a fake project to explain my absences, and I'm a pretty bad liar. Not as bad as Bella, but pretty damn close. So I avoided talking too much about my 'project' with her, because the last thing I needed was stumbling over fake details I'd forgotten about. I didn't like having to be distant to her; I just didn't want her to catch onto my plan.

I played the wedding a few days before graduation, with plans to meet up with the owner this week to pick up the ring and a letter of reference she insisted on giving me in case I ever wanted to do gigs in the future. Admittedly, it was a pretty good way to make easy money.

Bella and I both graduated with honors, with Charlie and my parents flying in to see it and cheer us proudly as we crossed the stage. Their graduation present? The now-used Christmas plane tickets.

I told Bella I had to run a quick errand and ducked out of the apartment early this morning to go meet the owner. I walked down to the corner coffee shop, only to find her daughter waiting for me instead. She just wanted to thank me in person, she'd said, since she didn't get the chance to the night of her wedding. She handed me the reference letter and the little worn velvet box with a beaming smile. On our way out, she tripped on the doorjamb, and I instinctively grabbed her around the waist to keep her from falling. We laughed, she kissed my cheek before walking away, and I turned around to go home.

Only to be met with a ghostly-white, shaking Bella.

I'd barely felt the sting of the slap before she was gone.

I waited at home for a while, calling her over and over, before I thought she wasn't coming back to the apartment. So I set out to go look for her, only to come home later to find she'd slipped in after I left, her suitcase gone, her necklace resting on top of the kitchen table.

I'd hoped she'd just gone to Alice's, and I called both of them relentlessly until Jasper showed up ready to kick my ass. Once I'd explained, he called Alice himself, but she admitted that she'd just dropped Bella off at the airport in San Francisco an hour before.

I was on the next flight out.

'*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*' '*'

"Oh, fuck. I'm gonna die," I groaned, catching the branch above me just as the one below me swayed and I almost lost my footing. Slowly, I made my way up, branches and leaves whipping me in the face as the storm continued to beat down on me.

This was not one of my smartest ideas.

I should've just broken a downstairs window. Because I was apparently going to have to break Bella's as it was closed.

This day just keeps getting better and better.

Gripping the branch above me for dear life, I reached over and knocked on the window, jiggling the handle. I heard a startled yelp from inside.

"Bella! Open the window or I'm breaking it!"

The curtain flew open to reveal her, her fingers fumbling with the lock to push the window open. She backed up immediately as I threw myself inside, just as the aged branch beneath me started to give way. I picked myself up off the floor, confused at first as pieces of paper stuck to my drenched clothes. As I pulled them off of me I took in the mess of her room; there were papers everywhere. I looked down at the one that had been stuck to my arm and read.

Hey Bella!

I miss you so much. Baseball's not as cool without you here to watch…

Looking back up at her, my heart broke at the now-clear vision I had of her face. Her eyes were puffy and red-rimmed, bloodshot and rapidly refilling with tears.

"Please. Just leave," she rasped weakly, her voice trembling.

"No," I said firmly. "Not until you listen to me."

"I want you to leave," she repeated, her chin quivering even as she tried to make her voice strong.

"Give me five minutes. If you still want me gone in five minutes, I'll walk out that door and never bother you again," I promised softly, lifting my hands in surrender.

We stood facing each other in silence as she swallowed heavily and shook slightly. After a moment, she nodded jerkily, moving around me to sit on the edge of her bed. I sat down on the floor in front of her, smiling sadly at the blanket clutched tightly in her hands before looking up to catch her eyes with mine.

"I lied about having a second end-of-year project with my advisor," I began, watching warily as her eyes grew hard, but I pushed on. "I was doing a gig for a wedding. The woman you saw today, that was the bride."

She swallowed visibly, clearly confused. Sniffling, she shook her head. "No. You've been disappearing off and on for weeks now, not just for a wedding."

"I know," I agreed. "There were a few other gigs I did for the same couple, and I also had to practice."

"But why couldn't you just tell me?" she asked. "It doesn't make sense…And that woman. I saw her. She kissed you."

"Just on the cheek, after I caught her when she tripped. She met me to thank me and pay me, that's all, Bella. I swear."

"But…you…oh my God, I hit you!" she wailed, dropping her face into her hands as she started to cry again.

"No, baby, it's okay," I whispered, stroking her hair and kissing the top of her head.

She looked up at me, shaking her head violently. "No! It's not okay! How can you say it's okay? I hit you and I wouldn't even listen or open the door and…and…and you had to climb the tree!"

"I don't care about the tree. We go way back," I winked, trying to keep her from crying again. "I had to talk to you."

To my dismay, her face crumpled anyway.

"I didn't even let you try to tell me. I just ran. I saw you, and…"

"Bella. Do you really think I would do that to you?" I asked her seriously.

"No," she answered automatically. She pushed off the bed and began to pace, groaning in frustration. "Aargh! That's why I ran, I was so confused, I didn't understand. Because when I added everything up, it looked like that's what you were doing, but I just couldn't believe you really would. But you're always gone lately, and you were laughing with her and she was so pre-"

"Don't," I stopped her, holding her arms to keep her still. "Just stop. I get it. I do. If it had been me, I would have killed the guy first and asked questions later. But please promise you'll talk to me next time."

She nodded furiously, her eyes full of remorse. "I will. I'm sorry. I just…we don't really talk at all lately, and I could feel you pulling away from me, but I didn't know what to do, and then…"

"Bella," I sighed, shaking my head sadly. "I know. And I'm sorry for that. But stop this now."

"Did I hurt you?" she asked, her eyes searching mine. She raised her hand up slowly to palm my cheek, rubbing the invisible mark.

"What? A weak, little kitten like you?" I joked, choking back a laugh at the look of indignant shock on her face.

"It's not funny!" she shrieked. "I can't believe I hit you! And you…and you…"

"Bella!" I interrupted.

She stopped talking, biting on her lip as she looked back at me worriedly.

"Just c'mere and kiss it better."

She smiled meekly, elevating to her tiptoes to kiss my proffered cheek gently. She started to pull back when I stopped her with my hands on her waist.

"A little bit to the left," I said softly. I felt her lips curl up as she pressed another gentle kiss beneath my eye, and I held her firm. "A little bit down."

She kissed her way down my face until her lips were at the corner of my mouth.

"A little more to the left."

She brushed her lips against mine softly, pecking me with sweet, gentle kisses.

But I didn't fly two hours on an overcrowded flight, drive three hours in a rental car with no traction, and climb the tree of doom in the middle of a fucking monsoon for gentle.

I fisted a hand at the nape of her neck, pressing her to me as I devoured her. The spark lit, clothes began to fly around the room as I steered her to the bed, dropping her onto it and covering her body with my own immediately. With a single thrust, I was home.

The spark was a flame now, the heat searing me as I moved in her with a fierce rhythm. Her moans echoed off the walls in the small room; it filled with the smell of rain and memories and us. I kissed her as the fire grew and grew, until it threatened to consume me.

"I love you. I can only ever love you," I gasped out.

Her eyes flew open and locked with mine.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"No," I panted, taking her mouth again and swallowing her apologies. "Just tell me you love me. And never leave me like that again."

Her eyes filled even as she began to tighten around me, almost bringing me over.

"No. Never," she choked. "I love you. I love you!"

Her cry ended me as I exploded and shattered. Nearly collapsing on top of her, she took over, sliding me up her sweaty body to kiss me between gasps. As I came back down to earth, I could hear her whispering into my mouth.

"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Don't," I breathed. "Just don't. Let it go."

I groaned as I pulled out of her, falling onto my back on the bed and holding her close to me. We lay in silence for a moment as we recovered our breathing, her fingers scratching patterns on my chest.

"I'm sorry," she whispered again.

I chuckled breathlessly, shaking my head as I turned on my side to face her and she did the same.

"Stop apologizing," I ordered gently, but she shook her head.

"I can't," she argued, her face filled with guilt. "I have to."

"Bella," I sighed.

I watched her face carefully, a slow smile spreading across my own. This wasn't exactly the plan, but after a day like today, it might be impossible for her to be more off the trail than this. Smirking, I reached over and grabbed my pants off the ground, pulling out her necklace from inside my wallet.

"I have been acting kind of funny lately," I admitted, then pretended to change the subject. "You forgot this at home."

I lifted up the necklace, holding the charm in my fist and letting the chain dangle. Her chin trembled as she nodded.

"Thank you," she whispered.

I smiled, letting her move her hair around, wild as it was, to fix the clasp around her neck. Laying it gently on her chest, I remained hovering above her.

"I had this thing that I wanted to get, but I didn't want to tell you. I wanted it to be a surprise. I had all these different ideas," I began, smiling crookedly down at her. "And not one of them had us naked until after."

She furrowed her brow in confusion, but I shook my head and she understood, biting her lip to stay silent.

"At first, I was thinking a cliché fancy dinner, but then I thought, that's not really us. And I can never read the menus at those places anyway. So then on my way here, I was thinking once I talked you down from the ledge, maybe we could go to the tree, where it all began. But it hasn't stopped raining in over four hours, so I think that's out.

"So," I inhaled deeply. "I'm forced to either wait, or - only I'm not the most-"

"Patient person in the world," she finished, smiling up at me, even though she had no idea what I was rambling about.

"I'm really not," I murmured, reaching down to her necklace and lifting it up for her to see. She froze, her eyes wide and unblinking. My heart pounding, I turned the ring slowly. "Breathe, Bella."

She gasped in a sudden breath, exhaling shakily. Her eyes darted between mine and the ring as she waited silently.

"I wish for you to marry me."

Tears leaked out the sides of her eyes as a smile spread across her face. She nodded emphatically, sniffling between laughs.

"Yes. Yes!"

She threw her arms around my neck and I wrapped myself around her, a relieved laugh escaping me as I held her to me as tightly as I could. I rocked us back and forth as she kept saying yes, over and over.

Pulling back, I smoothed her hair away from her face and undid her necklace again, letting the ring fall into my hand. I took her left arm from around my neck and brought her hand between us, holding the ring at the tip of her finger.

"I don't care if it's today, tomorrow, or next year, kitten. I love you."

"I love you, too," she smiled, her eyes bright.

I started to move the ring down her finger, but paused.

"Still yes? You've been a little flighty today," I teased.

She choked out an indignant laugh, pinching my side with her free hand.

"Aah!" I laughed, squirming. "Too soon?"

She threw her head back, laughing, and I slid the ring on. I swallowed thickly at the sight of it on her finger. It was old, and the diamond was small, and I didn't know how many other people had worn it in its long life, but on her…

"It's perfect," she breathed. "Thank you."

"I'm gonna love you forever, girl."

"Even when I'm wrinkly and too old to be a girl anymore?" she whispered, sniffling.

Grinning, I moved over her to start biting kisses down her jaw and throat.

"Bella. Tell me when I'm gonna stop being your boy."

She gasped as I licked a trail up her clavicle, kissing her shoulder and moving down.


I moved up until my face was right in front of hers.

"See? Now stop talking. I'm trying to celebrate my new engagement here."

She pulled my face down to hers, kissing me roughly.

"Fucking Dickward," she mumbled into my neck, nipping at me in punishment. "Stupid boy."

"Your stupid boy," I whispered, slipping inside her and starting to move slowly. "Crazy kitten."

"Your crazy kitten," she moaned back.



I want pinned down

I want unsettled

Rattle cage after cage

Until my blood boils


A/N: The A/N that no one will read! The thank-you A/N! No bother. I write it anyway.

Aleighy is the reason you read the story. From the second I mentioned the idea, she was all over it. It was originally only going to be a oneshot, obviously it became more. She pushed me, and reminded me, and encouraged me, until I had no choice but to write this. I love her, but she really is a slavedriver and a wench of an FF agent. But her and her twittering made this story go boom. She's also really good at banners. ;-)

Fantasy Mother, author of The Deluded and Across the Universes, is like a combination of the cool aunt I love and can talk to about anything, the best friend I can talk to about anything, and the omniscient guide I can talk to about anything, all rolled up into one person. It's a talent.

My biggest and utmost thanks goes to the reviewers, because while I am ridiculously shy and everything-a-phobic, especially the ocean, a nice review goes a long way for my day. And you all were kind enough to gift me with over 3,000 of them.

Thank you for reading my story.

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