Entry for "The Cherry Exchange 2010"

Title: Forever and Ever
Penname: theladyingrey42
Rating: M
Word Count: 14,945

Summary: Edward has been Bella's best friend since kindergarten, and so far he's made good on his promise to always do everything with her. But now that they're older, she finds herself wanting more. Can "forever" as just friends be enough? For The Cherry Exchange

A/N: Thanks to antiaol and bmango. As always, Twilight is the property of Stephanie Meyer.


- 1996 -

"I don't want you to come."

Bella watched as her best friend's features twisted up into a slight grimace as he spoke, her tiny heart cracking in her chest at the sound of the words. For long moments, the two children stood, squared off and staring at each other across the yard. Each wore a grim expression, but just beneath surface, there were tell-tale signs that each was close to cracking.

Unwilling to accept what she was hearing, Bella seized upon the small hints of shakiness in Edward's hands and jaw. "You don't … want me?"

It wasn't possible he really meant it, was it? She and Edward did everything together. Since the very first time they'd met in Mrs. Platt's kindergarten class four years ago, they had been inseparable. Sure, the other boys had been making fun of Edward for hanging out with a girl all the time now that they were in fourth grade, but that didn't matter, right?

As if he could hear her, Edward's hands curled up in the too-long sleeves of his hand-me-down coat, and his mouth shifted into a line that spoke of resolve. Too loudly, he shouted, "No! I don't want you to come play because you're a stupid, yucky girl!" Before the words were even completely out of his mouth, Edward was taking off and running across the street toward the park where they had always used to play together.

There, just across the boundary of the asphalt, he traded slightly sniffly high-fives with the other boys who were waiting for him. Bella felt her jaw drop as they all sneered at her in turn, welcoming Edward into their fold. As she stared dumb-founded after them, one of the Volturi boys turned to glare at her, taunting an insult that she couldn't even hear over her own rasping breaths and the beginning of what she was sure were going to turn into choking sobs.

His expression was so mean. So callous.

And it was at that moment that Bella decided she wasn't going to let those awful boys see her cry. Even if her best friend in the entire world had abandoned her, she was going to show them she was strong. She wasn't a stupid girl.

"Oh, yeah?" she taunted, yelling as loudly as she could. "Yeah? Well I don't want to play your stupid games anyway. You're a bunch of … nasty … gross … boys!"

Without even looking back to see how badly her words had wounded her ex-best friend, Bella whipped around and began stumbling back toward her house. Only, by that time, she was crying so hard that she couldn't see, and she ended up tripping over the root of a tree.

All she could hear as she felt her hands scrape against the dirt was the sound of laughter.

And it was at that point that she decided to curl up into a ball on the ground and just stay there until somebody found her.

That night, after a hot bath, a warm supper and a series of awkward, stuttered questions and reassurances from her father, Bella skulked up to her room. Throwing herself on her bed, she covered her eyes and sniffled. She didn't want to think about Edward or his betrayal or how her whole stomach twisted into knots at the memory of how he'd looked, walking away from her, but it was impossible not to. There wasn't a corner of her room or her life that he hadn't touched. From the Polaroid photos of the two of them on her ninth birthday to the action figure he had accidentally left there this afternoon to the window, cracked open as it was in spite of the chill.

The window.

Bella sat up straight and stared at the inch of space between the sill and the pane. It was right about now that Edward would usually climb up the ladder to their tree house and shove that window the rest of the way open. But there was no sign of him.

Shivering slightly, Bella considered for a moment. If he came, she wouldn't talk to him. Not at all. She wouldn't even acknowledge him. It would be as if he didn't exist - as if he had never existed and never made this hole in her chest.

Not that he would come.

She knew, deep down, that he wouldn't.

After all, he'd said he didn't want to be her friend anymore.

With a huff, Bella lay back down, curling up the way she had beneath the tree in the yard, with her back to the room and her hot face just inches from the wall. Staring forward at the crayon picture Edward had drawn for her just the other day, she let herself give in again to sniffling and thinking.

Who would she sit next to on the bus next week? Who would she trade lunches with and read comics with? Already, Bella could feel the hot shame of being the lonely kid who had to play by herself at recess. She could imagine what it would be like to watch Edward and the other boys running around near the jungle gym, wrestling and laughing.

She could hear their laughter and picture exactly how much they would all make fun of her for her uncool status from this day on.

At just that moment, when she had completely given up hope, the tell-tale sound of the window opening reached her ears, and she felt a cold blast of air swirling through the room. Automatically, Bella's hand came up to wipe the wet streams of tears from her eyes, her spine straightening. But she didn't sit up and she most definitely did not look at him.

She wouldn't.

After all, he was probably just here for his stuff.

The treacherous thought made her sniffle loudly into her pillow. At the sound, she froze, and she was pretty sure that Edward had frozen, too. The whole room was silent and still, until Bella shivered with a harsh chill and a growing certainty that her best friend really had broken up with her and that he would be going soon.

But then there was a flurry of movement so fast that Bella couldn't even keep track of what had happened. Seemingly all at once, the window slid closed and Edward crossed the room, and then he was on the bed with her - which he never did - hugging her and burying his face against her shoulder.

"Crap, crap, crap , are you crying? Don't cry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so dumb. Please don't cry. Please?"

Stunned, Bella's eyes widened, her tears slaking off immediately at the feel of wetness and hot breath and cold cheeks through her pajama top. She turned and swiped her hand across her eyes again, facing the boy she'd just resigned herself to never speaking to again. Only, when she met his eyes, they were scared and sad and damp.

And they were green. They were so, so green.

"Edward?" she sniffled. "What are you doing here? I thought - "

"I lied. All of it. I was so dumb. Please say you'll still be my best friend even though I'm an idiot. Please?"

Bella searched her friend's face, feeling skeptical until she took in his trembling lip. She wanted to forgive him right away, but she held herself in check. "But I thought I was a stupid girl. Don't you want to hang out with the boys anymore?"

Edward shook his head fiercely. "No. No way. You could never be stupid, and I don't think girls are bad. Not really. Especially not you."

Bella sucked in a deep breath, trying to maintain an expression of indifference, but she couldn't. The tiniest of smiles began to crack through, playing out across her lips. "Really?"

Edward's glassy eyes shone with hope, his mouth beginning to tilt up into a matching grin. "Of course really. You're my best friend, Bella. Forever and ever."

"Even if the boys make fun of you?"

"No matter what."

Sharing twin expressions of unguarded happiness, the two children regarded each other in silence until they each simultaneously realized just how close together they were. On a bed. Edward jerked his arm away from Bella's waist with marked speed, and Bella backed up until her spine was flush with the wall.

But then they both laughed. They knew this kind of closeness was frowned upon, but neither of them entirely knew why. As they lay there, looking at each other and smiling but not touching, Bella remarked to herself that it really didn't seem that bad. That it was … nice to lie like that. That having Edward so close was warm and comforting.

With a tentative glance at her friend and with her lip between her teeth, Bella reached across the space between them and grabbed Edward's hand. He stiffened, and she wondered for a moment that what she had done was wrong, but then he relaxed. They were just Bella and Edward after all. Just two best friends holding hands.

Feeling the warmth of Edward's palm against her own, Bella felt all of her doubts about their friendship floating away. Try as she might, though, she couldn't seem to let go of the terrible things that he had said.

"You were a real jerk today," she finally said, frowning and staring at his hand.

His voice, when he spoke, was sad, and his eyes full of apologies. "I know. I said I was sorry."

"I know you did, and I forgive you. But I was really, really, really mad at you."

Edward gulped. "Okay." His forehead was all scrunched up, like he was trying to come up with the right thing to say. "If it helps, I felt bad about it, like, five seconds after I said it. Hanging out with the boys wasn't any fun at all. All I kept thinking was how I wished you were there."

"Yeah?" Bella asked, her eyes brightening.

"Of course. Everything's more fun when you're around. You're my best friend." He paused and thought some more. "I didn't even play for long. I felt so bad for making you mad that I just wanted to go home, so I let Ari kill me."

Speaking too loudly, Bella popped up on her elbow, her wide eyes staring down at him. "You what?"

"Shhh!" The two of them froze as they heard a noise downstairs, and for a minute Bella was racing through ways to get Edward hidden away in her closet or under her bed in case her dad came in to check on her. For a few minutes they both stayed tense, listening carefully and all but holding their breaths, each clinging unconsciously to the other's hand. Finally, Edward let out a long, low exhale and smiled again.

"Phew!" he whispered. "That was close." Then, grinning, he mumbled, "You're wicked loud."

Bella huffed and rolled her eyes, but it was mostly for show. She knew that he was right. "Well, forgive me for being upset. I mean, really, Edward. You can't go running off and letting Ari kill you every time I'm not around."

"Whatever. It was just a stupid game."


"Well, it doesn't matter, anyway," Edward said, still speaking quietly and looking up into his best friend's eyes. "From now on, you're coming with me, no matter what."

She bit her lip. "We stick together? Forever and ever?"

He nodded, and with the hand that wasn't sweatily clutching hers, he reached out a single pinky. Smiling, Bella interlinked it with her own.

Speaking solemnly, Edward swore, simply, "Forever and ever."


- 2004 -

"Of course I want you to come with me! How many times do I have to tell you?"

Sitting cross-legged on her bed, Bella Swan was watching Edward Cullen agitatedly shooting monsters on the screen of her computer. Between the tone of his voice and the way his fingers twitched, she could tell that he was getting irritated.

"I don't know," she sighed in a huff. "I just … I mean, I think Tanya wants to go out with you this time. Like, alone." As she spoke, Bella could feel a hot blush spreading across her cheeks, and she lowered her head, pretending to concentrate on the geometry proof she was nominally working on.

Over the last eight years since Edward had sworn to always include her, he had stayed remarkably true to his promise. They were still the best of friends, and they still did everything together. But now they were seventeen, and Edward didn't seem to get that things had changed around them.

That they had changed.

When he failed to respond to her comment about Tanya, Bella nervously looked up, ducking out from behind the protective curtain of her hair. As she did so, though, she caught a glimpse of both of their reflections in the mirror, and the image made her heart sink.

She could never forget just how much they had each changed, especially in the past year or two, but it was still painful to have it thrown in her face. While she was still the same plain, mousy girl she had always been - medium height, medium build and less-than-medium curves - Edward had turned into something altogether too beautiful. The brilliant green eyes he'd always had had become deeper and more soulful, his jaw sharpening and his lean body filling out; the wild red hair of his youth had deepened into a warm, coppery brown. Just looking at him, Bella felt a pain in her chest, knowing someone like him would never see her as more than the awkward girl that she had always been.

She knew that she was doomed to always be close to him but never close enough to make the little hole in her heart with his name on it ever feel whole.

Edward's voice pierced through her thoughts. "What makes you think I want to hang out with Tanya alone?" Pausing the video game, Edward turned to look at her. "Well?" he asked.

Bella could feel herself blushing all over again, but it was only partly from embarrassment. Part of it was the result of the way her chest was squeezing her heart, knowing what she had to say.

"Most boys..." she began, but then stopped. Staring back down at her math homework, she shook her head slightly. "Most people in our grade are going out on dates. With people. You know, alone."


The heat of his gaze stayed trained on her, but Bella couldn't bring herself to lift her head. If she looked into his eyes, she knew that she would give away everything she really wanted.

Everything she was currently trying to give away.

She was his best friend after all. And friends didn't hold each other back - no matter how desperately they wanted to hold on to what they had.

"So. Instead of going out with girls like Tanya, you sit around playing video games with me." She sucked in a deep breath. "You shouldn't be turning her down because of me."

A warm touch nudged her chin up, and Bella had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep a traitor tear from slipping out of the corner of her eye. When she met Edward's gaze, she saw in it all the things she always did. The affection. The caring. The unwavering loyalty.

And she cursed herself all over again for always wanting more.

Brushing his hand away from her face and feeling her heart clench at the removal of the touch she wanted so badly, Bella fought for composure. She opened her mouth to speak, fully intending to urge him again to finally take advantage of all the opportunities he had for female company.

After all, she just wanted him to be happy.

He managed to speak first, though. "But what if I don't want to go on dates with anyone but …" Trailing off, Edward swallowed hard and screwed up his eyes and began again. "What if I don't want to go out without you?"

There was something in his expression that Bella recognized again, she was sure, only she couldn't quite figure out what it was. The air between them was hot, for all that it was cold outside, and for a moment Bella's breath seemed to draw up short, something tight clenching painfully inside her chest.

Tearing her eyes away from his, she inhaled forcefully, and then, even though it hurt her terribly, she summoned all her strength to let him go. "I think you should go out with Tanya. Like she wants you to. Alone."

Bella could feel him staring at her, like he was looking for something to betray the sacrifice she was making. Wistful longing was already stabbing through her heart, and she began to panic, knowing that if he didn't respond soon, she would take it all back. That she would tell him he should go out with her. That, improbable and impossible as it seemed, he should love her and want her.

He should want her the way she wanted him.

The way he never would.

Finally, the tension of the moment broke, and Bella gasped in relief when she felt him get up out of her computer chair and step away. A minute later, the window was sliding open, and Bella realized a moment too late that he was already moving through it.

And it was another moment later still, as the window slid back closed, that she realized that, for the first time in years, he had really left without saying goodbye.

For the next week, Edward didn't talk to Bella. He didn't climb in through her open window at night. He didn't call her. And he didn't put his arms around her and hold her face to his chest and beg her not to cry.

Midway through the week, while getting changed for gym class, Bella overheard the popular girls as they compared notes and plans for the weekend. Bella always got dressed in the very last row of lockers, embarrassed that her figure was apparently going to stay boyish for her entire life and mortified that her dad didn't seem to understand why she wanted to spend good money on nice bras when she scarcely needed to wear one at all.

"I can't believe you finally got Edward Cullen to go out with you." One of them giggled, and Bella felt her whole body flush. She had to sit, her head falling into her hands at the knowledge of what the girls were talking about.

"Right, I mean, you've been chasing him for how long now, Tanya?"

A voice Bella recognized as Tanya's broke in, snapping, "I do not chase after anyone, Irina. I was just trying to help him understand that he could do better."

"How did you get him to finally dump the geek anyway?"

Bella couldn't breathe.

"Easy. Apparently they weren't ever even dating."

"But he was always - "

Tanya interrupted. "Like I said, he just had to realize that he was first class material, and that it was time to stop sitting back in coach. All the boy needs is guiding hand."

"More like a hand job."

Fighting tears, Bella wrestled her shoes on and grabbed her bag. While she didn't want to walk past all those girls, she couldn't sit there and listen to them for a minute longer.

As she passed their row of lockers, an unnatural silence fell over the room, but it only lasted until Bella pulled open the door.

Behind her, she heard the hushed voices begin again.

"Coach? Really? I think they'd have to ship that hot mess cargo."

"Regardless," Tanya's voice said, echoing through the locker room as Bella let the door fall closed. "I'm going to introduce Edward Cullen to the mile high club."

The night of Edward and Tanya's date, Bella sat in her room. For a while, she tried writing in her journal to calm herself down, but all she ended up with was ten tear-soaked pages, all filled with Edward's name and a list of every emotion from hate to love.

And yet, as much as she hated how she felt, she couldn't really bring herself to hate Edward. After all, she was the one who had told him to do this. She was the one to push him away.

She just hadn't realized how much she would miss him.

When journaling didn't help, she played sad music and jumped around her room, silently screaming along with the singer until her dad knocked and asked her to please turn that racket down. She thought about going downstairs and watching TV for a while, but she couldn't face her father. After a while, she decided to just give up and go to sleep.

For the longest time, she lay there in the dark, sniffling and sobbing and thinking about all the good times she had had with her best friend. She thought of that time he'd picked her up and twirled her a few weeks ago, her hair flying as she had spun and her cheeks flushed and her breath gone. She remembered the feel of his warm chest beneath her hands as he had finally set her down, her head so dizzy she could barely stand.

She thought about how it felt to lie on this bed, facing in opposite directions and working on their homework, feeling the tingling rush every time their arms and legs brushed.

Finally, after an hour of tossing and turning and sulking, she managed to fall asleep, but every dream starred Edward. At first, she dreamed that he was finally holding her, his hand reaching to tip her face back, his lips descending toward hers. But then there was laughter, and he was standing on the opposite side of the room from her, his arms wrapped so snugly around Tanya. And she was alone.

With a chill running up and down her spine, Bella jolted awake and sat straight up in her bed, looking around the room expectantly.

Only to settle on the fact that the window was open wide.

Her heart leapt into her lungs, along with a shrill scream as a hand touched her shoulder, turning her until she was looking into the most beautiful green eyes in the world.

The scream died in her throat as she threw her arms around him. She didn't know what she was doing, and honestly, she half expected him shrug her off, but he didn't. Instead, he sighed in a long, broken exhale and surrounded her in his embrace.

"Edward," she whimpered, but she could hear the ghost of tears in her voice.

He hugged her closer, and the clean, familiar scent of him just made her shake harder.

"Are you crying?" he asked, panicked. "Please don't cry."

And she didn't. She didn't cry, because all she could do was laugh. Eight years might have passed, but in this respect, nothing had changed.

"I'm sorry," Edward whispered.

Bella shook her head but didn't let go. "What for?"

"I don't know... Are you … Did you not want me to go out with Tanya after all?"

Even though she wanted to, Bella couldn't quite bring herself to tell him the truth about that. Instead, she changed the subject. "I just missed you. I haven't seen you in a week."

"I know. I missed you, too. I was just … I had to …"

"It's OK," Bella mumbled, but Edward wouldn't be silenced.

"It's not. I was a jerk. I just had to get some things figured out in my head."

She couldn't look at him. "About us?"

"No. Yes. Kind of."

Bella's chest hurt. All she could think was that he didn't want to be her friend anymore, or that when she'd pushed him away, he had seen how she really felt and realized he needed to let her down gently before she got the wrong idea. Stiffening, she finally found her voice to ask, "What stuff?"

For a few seconds, Edward paused. When he finally answered, his throat sounded tight. "It doesn't matter now."

Bella had to pull away to look at him. In the darkness, it was hard to see the expression on her friend's face, but she could still read the hurt. "Are you sure?"

He forced a smile and ruffled her hair. Her breath caught when his hand lingered a little too long. "Yeah," he agreed. "I'm sure."

With that, he urged her to lie down again, curling up loosely behind her. She was glad he couldn't see her face as she closed her eyes, soaking up the warmth that rose up in her that was entirely separate from his body heat, and pushing down the way it made her heart to pang to know that lying together like this didn't mean as much to him as it did to her.

"So," she finally managed to whisper. "Is Tanya, like, your girlfriend now?"

He hesitated. "I don't know."

"Well, you went on a date, right?"

"Yeah," he said, his voice laced with guilt.

Bella ignored both his tone and the ache in her stomach. "Did you kiss her?"

"I - " He paused, finally croaking, "She kissed me."

Bella's whole body wanted to curl in on itself, but she couldn't let her misery show, physically painful as it was.

"Well, then she's your girlfriend."

The room was quiet for a minute.

"What if I don't want her to be?"

Though her breath quickened, Bella managed to shrug. "Then you'll have to tell her you don't want to go out with her again."

"You're probably right."

This time it was Bella who broke the silence. "Is there someone else you do want to be your girlfriend?"

He hummed noncommittally. "I don't know. Maybe I'm just happy having a girl who happens to be my best friend."

Quietly, she replied, "I like having you as my boy friend, too."

She knew that she didn't have to specify that there was a space between 'boy' and 'friend.' After all, where the two of them were concerned, the space between them had always been clear.

And as far as she could tell, it always would be.

Things mostly went back to normal after that. Edward and Bella started hanging out together at school the way they always had, and he went back to climbing in her window every night.

Only now, some nights, he would come later than usual. Those were the nights he went out on dates. From talking to him, Bella knew that Edward didn't have a steady girlfriend, and that he rarely saw the same girl more than once. She always asked how the date had gone, and he always replied in vague terms that it had been alright. While she wanted to know more, she also didn't know if her heart could handle it, so she never pressed, and he never offered.

And so they continued on as the best of friends. Only, in addition to spaces, there were silences between them now, too.

One night, a few months into their new truce, Edward's voice broke through that silence. Sitting on the other end of her bed, he looked up from his homework and cleared his throat.

"So why don't you go out on dates?" he asked. His eyes didn't quite meet hers, and the entire time, he continued doodling in his notebook.

Bella choked slightly on her soda and spit little splashes of orange across the page. Embarrassed, she reached for some tissues on her nightstand, only to find that Edward was already there, holding them out toward her and dabbing them across her paper. She feebly tried to help, but it was of little use. These were the most difficult times in their friendship for her - the times when he came much too close and she couldn't think. The sight of the stubble he now had across his jaw was too distracting, and the scent of soap and something just a little bit musky made the space between her thighs twist and clench.

Her heart clenched, too.

Placing her hand over his, she tried to get him to stop and move away. When he finally realized what she was doing, he pulled his hands back quickly, as if he'd been burned. Still not looking at her, he returned to the foot of her bed and turned his attention once more to his book.

Bella blinked a few times. She was still thinking about what he had asked her and how to explain that the only person she wanted to date wasn't interested without giving away who that was. When the silence persisted for a few minutes, she started to breathe easier, imagining that she might be off the hook.

She wasn't.

"So?" Edward asked, still looking down.

Inhaling deeply, Bella fought to keep her emotions tightly reigned. Feigning nonchalance, she shrugged. "Nobody's asked me."

"And what if someone did? Would you go?"

She shook her head, blushing severely. "Probably not."


They were both quiet for a little while, and Bella mercifully felt her cheeks begin to cool. She figured that if she could just manage to change the subject and avoid looking at him for the rest of the night, she might survive.

"What about prom?" Edward asked.

Bella swallowed and felt something in her chest twist. The ridiculous dance was still several months away, but she was already dreading it. She knew that everyone was going to be obsessing about it before long, and that her own status as an outcast would just be all the more obvious.

"What about it?" she replied, frowning.

"What if someone asked you to prom?"

For the briefest instant, she imagined what it would be like if Edward asked her to prom. While she wasn't a beauty, she still harbored the occasional princess fantasy, and the idea of showing up in a gown and watching Edward's jaw drop when he finally saw her as more than just the same old awkward girl made her throat tight.

Then reality came crashing back in.

Edward would go to prom with one of the pretty girls. And if Bella had a date, she would be forced to watch it.

There was only so much her heart could take.

She shook her head fiercely. "I don't think anyone will, and even if they do..." She paused. "I mean, it's a lot of money and - "

"What if I asked you?"

Bella's breath caught, her head jerking up.

Sounding slightly panicked, Edward backtracked quickly, coughing and clarifying. "As friends."

Bella looked back down at her hands. His obsession with not doing things without her was incredibly sweet, but she wasn't going to ruin a rite of passage for him. Not like this.

"You'll find a date to prom by May, Edward."

"Maybe not. Apparently I'm getting shot down by my best friend."

There was something strangled about his voice, and Bella felt it pulling at something in her chest. When she dared to glance up at him, she saw that he was tugging at his hair and biting his lip. He always fussed with his hair when he was self-conscious or upset.

"Hey," Bella whispered, but he didn't stop. She huffed slightly, and was about to reach forward and pull his hands away, but she didn't trust herself. "Edward," she said, trying to get his attention. When he failed to respond, she sighed. "If neither of us has a date."

He finally looked up, and Bella's stomach did a little flip to see the earnest expression in his eyes.

"If," she repeated. "If neither of us has a date, I'll go with you."

"Really?" He smiled, his hands falling to his sides. Bella practically swooned. He was so handsome when he smiled.


"Awesome," he said. He directed his attention back down, and for months, that was the last they spoke of prom.

"I can't believe my baby's going to the prom!" Renee squealed.

Bella turned the water on to rinse the pot she was cleaning and rolled her eyes. "I sincerely doubt it, Mom. I'm just Edward's backup plan. I'm sure he'll find a better option. I mean, he still has a month."

Renee moved to stand beside her, leaning against the counter. As was tradition, Bella was visiting her mother for spring break. It was nice to see her, but Bella always left feeling exhausted. Renee spent most of the week quizzing her about her lackluster social life and her nonexistent love life, while Bella took care of all the little things that always seemed to be falling by the wayside in her mother's house. Like the dishes.

It didn't help her mood that it was an entire week away from Edward, either, of course.

"Oh, come on," Renee said, poking her arm. "Cute boy like Edward? If he wanted to find a date by now he would have."

Bella blushed. "I don't know, Mom," she protested, but even she could feel her hopes rising. It was stupid and it was only going to get her heart broken in the end. But still. She hoped. She couldn't help it.

Renee reached over and turned off the water, taking the pot from Bella's hands even though it was still soapy on the bottom.

"Well, I do. And I know that you, young lady, need a dress."

When Bella's plane finally landed in Seattle, it was nearly ten o'clock at night. Bad weather and a missed connection had delayed her by nearly six hours, and as she stumbled through the airport toward baggage claim, she was already dreading how tired she knew she would be the next morning. Clutching the garment bag Renee had insisted she take as a carry-on instead of checking, she trudged toward the baggage carousel, keeping her eyes peeled both for her luggage and her father.

What she was not expecting was the feel of warm hands closing over her eyes.

"Guess who," the low voice beside her ear said.

She didn't have to guess, of course. The way her body reacted told her all she needed to know.

"Edward!" she squealed, nearly dropping the dress in her haste to throw her arms around him. He grunted as she squeezed him, his arms closing around her waist and hugging her close. Too close. Holding on for a beat too long, Bella finally stepped back, and if she hadn't known better, she would have thought there was reluctance to Edward's expression as he retreated, too. She looked around, still expecting her father to appear.

"What on earth are you doing here?" she finally asked. "Where's Dad?"

Edward shrugged. "At work. Your flight was so delayed he was going to miss his shift, so he asked if I'd come get you."

Bella slapped his arm. "You goof. Now you're going to be a mess at school tomorrow, too."

"Whatever." He stepped forward and grabbed her bag, extending the handle and dragging it behind as he turned toward the door. As they began to walk toward the parking lot, he gestured at the bag she was still clutching. "Whatcha got there?"

Bella self-consciously fussed with the bag, thinking about the soft blue fabric and the dress that was so pretty it really did make her feel like a princess. Still, she evaded, not wanting him to feel like he had to take her to the dance just because her mother had insisted on buying her a dress. When he inevitably decided to go with one of the popular girls, she was sure she'd find some other use for it.

Hell, she could probably wear it to his wedding.

"Just something my mom sent back with me."

Edward eyed her skeptically but didn't press. After loading her things into the back of his car, they settled in for the long ride back to Forks. He set up his iPod to play all their favorite songs, and for the first couple of hours, they sang along and caught up on everything that had happened in the previous week. By midnight, though, Bella was fading, and she felt her eyes drift closed.

She didn't even realize she'd fallen asleep until she felt soft pressure on her forehead and then Edward's hand gently shaking her. "Bella, hon. We're here. You're home."

"Mmm, okay," she mumbled, turning unconsciously toward his touch and entwining her fingers with his. When he gulped and ran his other hand through her hair, she finally realized where she was and pulled away with a start. Staring up at him with wild, wide eyes, she scrambled to explain herself, but he was looking at her with so much softness in his gaze that she found the words dying in her throat. "Sorry," she finally managed. "I didn't - "

"It's okay," Edward said quietly, touching her hand one last time. "You needed your sleep."

"But you - "

"I'll be fine," he insisted, smiling before opening the door. Together, they unloaded her things and brought them up to the empty house. Standing awkwardly on the porch, he looked down at her before grazing her cheek and tucking a strand of her hair behind her ear, murmuring, "I'm glad you're home."

Bella blushed. "Me, too," she admitted. Giving in, she reached up and hugged him one more time, but she was surprised to feel him turn his neck and to feel that same soft pressure she had awoken to against her cheek as he kissed her.

"Goodnight," he whispered.

She didn't find her breath until she was inside and he was already gone. Speaking to his tail lights through the front window, she echoed after him, "Goodnight."

The next morning, Bella woke surprisingly energized considering how little sleep she had gotten. Her cheek was still burning, and all night long she had dreamed of saying goodnight to Edward on her porch. Only in the dream, she had turned her neck at the wrong moment and found her mouth pressed to Edward's lips. And then they'd spent the rest of the dream kissing. And doing other things.

As she showered, she let her hands skim a little more consciously across her body, remembering the ways her friend had touched her in her dream. She had touched herself before, of course, exploratory motions of fingers across unmentionable skin. She didn't do it often, though, and when she did, she took great pains not to let herself think of anyone in particular. But this dream had been so vivid, so real, and her mind and senses were both racing.

Just as she was about to give in and move to the swollen skin between her legs, the water began to run cool, and she cursed quietly, knowing she only had another minute before it would be ice cold. Clearly, she had been indulging in her fantasies for too long, and by the time she made it back to her room, she was scrambling, trying to get ready in the hopes of making it to school on time.

As it was, she just barely managed to slide into her seat beside Edward at their lab table before the tardy bell rang. Glancing over at him, they shared a knowing grin. "Up too late?" he whispered with a smirk.

Bella blushed, wondering what he would think if he knew why she was really running so late. "Yeah," she mumbled, hiding slightly behind her hair. "You must be in even worse shape. At least I napped on the way home."

He smirked and turned his attention to the front as their teacher began trying to get the class's attention. "Totally worth it," he whispered.

Bella paused, confused. "What was?"

"Getting to see you."

She was still staring at him when the lights dimmed and the projector began to display the first slide. Something warm was bubbling inside of her, and for a moment, she felt like maybe she had been reading things wrong all along. Between the kiss on her forehead while she was sleeping and the softer one on her cheek as he was leaving, Edward had left her all confused inside, and her mother's hints about his true feelings had left Bella reeling.

At just that moment, the teacher called on her, though, and she was forced to focus, pushing away her idle hopes for later.

But she didn't have to wait long for them to be dashed.

Standing in the back row of lockers, rubbing the still-lingering fatigue from her eyes and the goofy smile from her face, Bella was just getting into her jeans again when she heard Tanya's voice drift across the room.

"Well, today's the big day."

"Yeah?" One of her cronies asked. "You're finally going to ask him to prom?"

"Yup." Tanya had walked over to the big mirror at the end of the room, and Bella could see her applying a slick, red gloss to her lips in the reflection. "Since Cullen apparently can't take a hint."

"You sure do have balls, girl," one of the other girls said, laughing, but Bella wasn't really listening anymore.

Edward was only going to prom with her if he didn't have a date.

And Tanya was going to ask him.

And he would say yes.

That evening, Edward was smiling broadly as he climbed in her window, but his face fell as soon as he took in Bella's. She was sitting on her bed in her most comfortable, least attractive pajamas. This was never a good sign. Sniffling slightly, she turned her eyes up to him and forced a smile, but it was a feeble attempt at best.

"Hey," he murmured as he sat down beside her. "What happened?"

She shook her head and blew her nose, her eyes darting for just a second to her closet. The white garment bag that had held not only her prom dress but also her hopes and dreams had migrated to the very back of the closet where she wouldn't have to look at it anymore. But it didn't matter. She still knew it was there, and that there it would remain. Possibly forever.

"Nothing," she lied. Letting her head fall against his shoulder, she sighed. And then she waited for her best friend to beg her not to as she quietly started to cry.

The days leading up to prom were even worse than Bella had expected. While she remained slightly outside of the main social channels at school, she couldn't help hearing everyone talking about it. The girls in the locker room obsessed endlessly about hair and nails and dresses. Every time Tanya mentioned her dress, Bella had to swallow bile. In her other classes, it wasn't any better. While the guys didn't care much about the dance itself, they were all intently focused on their plans for after prom.

Every time they dropped their voices and started whispering about hotel rooms or the backs of limos, Bella felt herself deflate just a little further. She was increasingly convinced that, by the end of prom night, she would be the only virgin left in Forks. While Edward had never specifically mentioned having had sex, Bella had no illusions that he had abstained, and even if he had, Tanya's descriptions of her plans for the evening left no doubt in Bella's mind.

Though, interestingly, it seemed like Edward was the only one in Forks who wasn't fixated on prom. He never mentioned that Tanya had asked him, and as time wore on, Bella found herself growing angry about that. While she didn't begrudge him the decision to go with Tanya, she thought he could have at least had the decency to confirm that he was off the market after all. Then again, she thought to herself, maybe the invitation had meant so little to him that he had forgotten about Bella having agreed to be his backup plan. And that idea sent her even further into her depression.

When the much-anticipated night finally rolled around, Bella washed her hair and slipped into the much-lamented comfortable pajamas before heading to bed with a pint of ice cream and a book. Her father was on-duty that night, patrolling for drunken revelers menacing the streets of the quiet town, and she had the house to herself and her misery.

So she was understandably surprised when, at about seven o'clock, the doorbell rang.

For a minute, she considered ignoring it, but whoever was there was persistent. Finally, she shoved back the covers and set the near-empty pint down on her bedside table before putting on a pair of slippers and wandering downstairs. She figured it was probably one of her dad's deputies, checking in on her, or maybe someone dropping off a flaming pile of poop for her to embarrass herself on.

When she opened the door to find none other than her best friend standing on her front porch, dressed in a tux and holding a corsage, she nearly choked. For a minute, she just stood there, looking him up and down.

God, he looked good. Of course, Edward was always handsome, but all dressed up like that, he was almost too beautiful.

When she had sufficiently recovered from her shock, she blushed and had the presence of mind to look out into the darkness to see if Tanya was getting annoyed, sitting waiting in his car. But the car was empty.

And when she met Edward's eyes, she could only describe them as heart-broken.

"Oh," he muttered, his eyes falling to the porch. "Did you - um, I guess -" He was already backing away toward the steps and away from the door. "Never mind," he said brokenly. "I'll just, um - I'll see you Monday."

Edward was already halfway down the driveway when it fully registered in Bella's brain that he was there for her. To take her to prom.

And that she was dressed in ugly flannel pajamas.

He'd wanted to go with her after all.

She found her voice just as he was unlocking his car. "Wait!" Stumbling down the stairs in her slippers and hissing at the slight mist that was falling from the sky, she ran after him, her heart melting as his shoulders sagged and he turned to face her.

"It's OK, Bella, I should have known you wouldn't - "

"What about Tanya?" Bella blurted out, standing in the dimness, a foot away from him as he reached up to run a hand through his hair.

It was his turn to look confused. "What about her?"

"She asked you to the prom," Bella insisted.


"So we were only going to go to prom together if you didn't find a date."

Edward's whole face seemed to crumple. He shook his head forlornly and placed the corsage on the roof of the car. "I told Tanya no." Peeking up at her without raising his head, he connected his eyes with hers. "I didn't want to go with her. I don't have a date. Well, I thought I did, but..."

A cold, numb realization was dawning, but Bella couldn't actually believe it.

It was impossible.

And yet …

As her eyes blurred with the damp mist and with the burning sting of her own tears, she hugged her arms close to her chest. "Why?" she asked dumbly. "I don't understand."

"Bella," Edward rasped, stepping close. Too close. But he didn't stop. Instead, he lifted a hand to touch her cheek, staring down at her with an expression that was vulnerable and sad. "Bella, the only person I wanted to go with was you."

Her whole cheek burned as the backs of his knuckles brushed over it, and the flames spread down her neck and through her chest. Edward's mouth twisted up into a wistful, broken smile, and it almost looked like he was trying not to cry. "Here," he said roughly, grabbing the corsage and holding it out to her. "You can - it's for you."

Bella opened her hands as he pressed the clam shell box into them. Stunned, she looked down to find a single soft, lilac-colored rose, and her eyes filled.


She looked up just in time to see him opening his car door and beginning to get in. It took a moment for her shock to fade enough for her to do anything, but when she finally found herself possessed enough to react, she reacted with her whole body.

"Wait!" she cried. "Wait!" Without thinking about the consequences, she threw herself at him, pushing the car door out of the way and throwing her arms around his neck.

"Bella, you don't - "

Pulling back slightly, she finally let her hand touch his jaw, feeling the warmth of his skin beneath her fingertips, staring up into the green eyes of the boy she had loved since before she even knew what love was. Inside them, she saw a swirl of emotions, the defeat from a few seconds ago mixing with just the tiniest glimmer of hope, his lip trembling slightly.

She couldn't stop staring at his lips.

"You wanted to go with me," she whispered. For once, it wasn't a question. It was a statement.

He did. He wanted to go with her.

"Silly girl," he murmured, one hand coming up to touch her hair while the other arm wound around her waist, holding her just a little bit closer than he ever had before. "I told you back in fourth grade. Everything's more fun when you're around. I always want you to come with me."

She had to ask. Her heart clenching uncomfortably inside her chest, she breathed. "As a friend?"

His expression crumpled, everything about it going soft as, so tenderly, so earnestly, he said, "However you'll have me."

"What if I don't want to go to prom with you - " Bella started, but before she could finish, Edward's eyes fell, his arm retreating from around her. She couldn't let him go, though. Keeping him close, she continued, "as a friend?"

His gaze flicked up to hers. "You - you want - "

"What if I wanted to go as more than friends?" she choked out, only to be met with the widest, most beautiful smile.

Edward's hand settled on her cheek again, caressing it softly and sending shivers throughout Bella's body. "Then I'd probably be the happiest man in the world."

Bella could feel her own smile growing, all the things she had never dared to really hope for seeming so close at hand. "Really?"

"Yup." He nodded fiercely, his gaze darting from her eyes to her lips and back again in a silent question. Bella could scarcely breathe under the intensity of his stare, and she felt like her knees were going to buckle.

But it was okay, even if they did. She knew Edward would never let her fall.

So slowly, he began to lean down, giving her plenty of chances to stop him, but she only grinned more widely, her breath catching and her lips softening as he finally pressed his so lightly, so softly against hers. She gasped at the slight pressure, reeling, her whole chest almost exploding. It was her first kiss, and it was Edward. And even though it was out in the rain in her pajamas, it was perfect.

It was so, so perfect.

Their second kiss was even better, though. Encouraged by her apparent receptiveness and by the way her arms tightened around his neck, Edward wasted no time in pressing his mouth to hers again, slightly harder this time, his lips parting, and Bella sighed when she tasted his breath, his bottom lip sliding between hers as she opened her mouth to him. She didn't know how long they stood there, only that when he finally pulled away, gasping slightly, his hair was damp and his jacket was beading up with tiny droplets of water from the mist.

Still, neither of them could stop smiling.

"You're getting all wet," Bella murmured, burying her face against his neck.

"So are you." He laughed, kissing all along the side of her face.

She giggled, too, feeling high and weightless. Grabbing his hand, she practically dragged him back to her still-open front door, trying to brush water off his jacket once they were safely inside, but he wasn't having any of that. He took both her hands in his and pressed her into the back of the door, holding her arms up so that their intertwined palms rested just to the side of her head as he captured her lips once more. After a few minutes of increasingly urgent, open-mouthed kisses, she felt the soft, tentative sweep of his tongue against her bottom lip, and she all but melted, inviting him in and letting her own tongue touch his. At the contact, he moaned loudly, stepping in even closer so that his body was flush with hers.

All of his body.


Both their eyes snapped open when they recognized the insistent pressure of something hard against her hip, freezing mid-kiss. It took a second for it to really register for Bella exactly what she was feeling and what it meant, but when it did, she felt her eyes widening, her breath deepening.

He wanted her.

Edward Cullen wanted her.

"Oh, God," she whispered. He was already pulling back by then, but she refused to let him go. With a ferocity she never would have expected from herself, she threaded the fingers of one hand through his hair and placed the other on his hip, pushing back against him and keeping their bodies in full contact.

"Jesus, Bella," he panted as she rubbed up against him. For a minute, he seemed paralyzed, letting her kiss him and hold him but not really moving on his own.

When he finally snapped out of it, though, his reaction was fierce. His hands were suddenly everywhere, grazing her waist and her hip and darting up toward her ribs, one thumb lightly brushing the underside of her breast as he allowed his body to press more fully into hers, grinding tentatively against her and groaning at the pressure.

"I've wanted this for so long," he breathed, his lips moving to her ear and down her neck as he continued to touch her and hold her close. "I've had to stop myself from kissing you so many times."

Bella was almost numb from the way he was touching her, something coiling so tightly inside her. She felt alive and strange and completely out of control as she dragged his mouth back to hers. Speaking quietly against his breath, her hands rough against her scalp, she whispered raggedly, "I love you. I've always - "

It was her turn to freeze, this time. Realization of what she had just said dawned on her, her cheeks flushing and her hands falling, but Edward didn't hesitate at all. If anything, he just kissed her harder, groaning. "Oh, God, I love you, Bella. I love you so much." His lips migrated to her throat again before he pulled away, looking at her squarely and massaging her jaw with his thumb. "I didn't know. I thought - you really -?"

"You love me?" Bella squeaked.

His face softened as he smiled. "Of course. I thought it was so obvious. When you told me to date, I figured you were trying to let me down easy."

"No," she swore. "I thought … I thought I was holding you back. That you weren't dating because of me."

"You were right," he said, beaming. Her heart dropped until he continued, "Of course it was because of you. How could I want to date anyone else when I was in love with you?"

She crushed herself against him, her eyes tearing thinking of all the time they'd lost. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

"Don't be," he whispered. "Everything's perfect now."

They held each other tightly, swaying slightly. There was still so much want in Bella's body, making her feel dizzy as she sank into his arms. Her face was pressed against his neck, and she breathed in deeply. He smelled so good - all clean skin and warmth and just the lightest hint of something musky and … sexy.

Her best friend was so, so sexy.

Under her breath, she moaned at that thought and at the knowledge that he was really here, pressed up against her, his own desire evident against her abdomen, his hands tight on her hips.

And she didn't want to waste any more time.

"Come upstairs," she whispered, pulling away and taking his hand. He gave her a quizzical look, but seemed to catch up quickly, gulping and nodding. With their hands entwined, they started up the stairs, and on some level, it was like any other time they had gone to her room together.

Except tonight, they closed the door.

Sitting down at the edge of her bed, side by side, Bella felt her nerves gathering. She knew Edward wouldn't be expecting anything of her, but she knew what she wanted.

She wanted him. All of him.

Only she didn't know how to tell him what she wanted. Or if he would be as impatient as she was to finally act on so many years of unrequited love.

Laughing breathily, she glanced around the room before letting her eyes settle on the closed window. "Feels like I should make you leave and come back through there," she teased, gesturing.

He chuckled and bent to kiss the place where her shoulder met her neck, placing his hand on her arm and pulling it down so it rested on his thigh. Speaking into her skin, he mumbled, "I'd rather not, if it's all the same to you. Tuxedos are expensive."

An embarrassed flush moved through Bella's body as she tipped her head to the side, shivering at the feeling of the whisper-soft kisses he was placing all along her throat, heading up to her jaw. "I can't believe you did all this. The tux, the flowers... And then that you didn't tell me!"

He made a sour face but didn't stop brushing his lips over her skin. "Well, forgive me if I hoped you would remember agreeing to go with me."

She reached her hand up, rubbing her fingertips against his scalp and relishing in the softness of his hair, damp as it was against her palm. "Of course I remembered," she breathed, gasping slightly when he sucked on the sensitive spot just below her ear. "But isn't it customary to at least tell your date when you're picking her up?"

Laughing, Edward shook his head. "Yeah, that would have been smart, I guess. I was just so nervous to mention it. I thought maybe you hadn't brought it up because you didn't want to go, or …"

"Or because I overheard Tanya saying she was going to ask you and assumed you were unavailable?" With an embarrassed flush, Bella gestured at her nightstand. "I'd gone ahead and made other plans. I had a hot date with both Ben and Jerry."

"Double-timing me, already?" he teased.

Strangely, her heart leaped at the suggestion, absurd as it was. After all, she couldn't cheat on him if she wasn't his girlfriend, right? Letting her tone grow more serious, she pulled him closer, exhaling at how good it felt when his lips closed around her ear. "Never," she whispered. "It's only you for me. It's only ever been you."

His hand settled on her cheek, turning her head as he lifted his, their eyes meeting. As she gazed at him, his whole face grew so soft, and she realized with a pang inside her chest that she knew what that expression really was.

That he was looking at her with love.

And she had no idea how she'd missed it all these years.

"You have no idea what it means to me to hear you say that," he said quietly. "No idea." Even as he was speaking, he was moving to kiss her again, and for long moments, they each gave themselves over to it, letting their mouths move together the way that they had always been meant to.

Somehow, in the rush of finally giving in, Bella found herself falling backwards onto the bed and tugging Edward down with her. He settled in against her, kissing her and letting his hands move up and and down her side, assiduously avoiding all of the places that were forbidden, but Bella shook her head, nudging his hand until it brushed her breast. A soft noise came from his throat as he gasped her name and tentatively reached out to cup her more fully. She pressed back into his touch, encouraging him and pulling slightly at his hip, trying to urge him to lie more on top of her. She wanted to feel his weight and his warmth pressing on her body. She wanted something to make the low ache that had built up inside her go away.

She wanted everything.

"You feel so perfect," he whispered as he ran his thumb over her nipple. She wasn't wearing a bra under her pajamas, and she felt so sensitive beneath his touch, but still, she wanted more. As he leaned over her, she brought her hand up to the first button, undoing it with shaking fingers. She could tell the moment he realized what she was doing because he groaned roughly into her mouth and rolled slightly more to hover over her, the hardness at his hips digging into her thigh. "Bella, we don't - I don't expect..."

"I know," she murmured. "But I want to. If you do."

He winced and squeezed harder at her breast. "Of course I want to," he panted. "Jesus, how could I not? Just … I don't want you to think … you deserve..."

With her hand on his cheek, she pushed him back so she could look at him. Even though it made her incredibly self-conscious to speak her desires so freely, the fire in her body was burning too brightly, and she didn't know if she could control it if her didn't touch her. Immediately. "I want you," she said.

In the silent moment that followed, Bella felt terribly exposed, but she sucked in a breath and waited. For his part, Edward searched her eyes, his hand stilling on her breast. Then, with a gulping exhale, he nodded. "Okay," he whispered. "Just, I don't know how far, and um, I've never … "

He trailed off, looking down her body, and Bella was shocked to find his cheeks flushed.

"Really?" she asked, her voice louder than she meant it to be. She couldn't believe, with all the pretty girls he had gone out with … was it even possible?

"Really," he said, nodding again and looking so adorable with a blush rising to his ears. "I mean I've done, um, some stuff. But only because they wanted to, and I was so mad and I didn't think … I thought you didn't like me like that." His head lifted, his eyes vulnerable again, but they were full of curiosity now, too. "Have you?"

She echoed his blush and shook her head fiercely. "My first kiss was tonight. I've definitely never … I mean … no."

It was his turn to gape. "Really?" His features were melting, his hand so soft as it cupped her cheek. "I wish you'd been my first kiss, too. I always wanted it to be you."

Bella took her lip between her teeth and reached up to brush his hair from his forehead. "Well, we can still be each others' first first."

She sucked in a rough breath as his erection, still pressed against her hip, actually twitched.

"God, Bella," he gasped, lowering his head to press his forehead to her neck. "I want that. I want that so bad." With a voice that was low and gravelly, he whispered right against her ear, "I want you."

The bright, hot spot inside of Bella burned even higher, something clenching deep in her abdomen, and she had to close her eyes. Letting her hand drift down his back, she breathed quietly, "Then have me. Please, Edward. Please."

As his mouth returned to hers, they lost all their words. The only sounds in the room were those of soft moans and gasps and the rustling of fabric as Edward pulled down the sheets and settled both of them in the center of the bed.

Kneeling between her parted thighs, he brought trembling hands up to her neck, slowly beginning to undress her with the most incredible look of reverence in his eyes. With each button that slipped between his fingertips, he brushed the soft skin just beneath, venturing to the bare swells of flesh as he opened her shirt enough to reveal the valley between her breasts. She wanted to be embarrassed, but with the way he was looking at her, his jaw slightly slack and his eyes glazed, she couldn't help but feel beautiful. Cherished.

When he finally finished undoing her shirt, he ran his fingers back up to her collarbone before beginning to push the fabric away and off her arms. A chill spread over her as she lay there, exposed for the first time, her nipples hard and her underwear uncomfortably wet.

Dipping his head, Edward kissed over her flesh, finally taking first one stiff peak into his mouth and then the other as his hand moved over her. "So beautiful," he whispered as he licked and touched and sucked softly at the very tip of each.

Glowing and fumbling, Bella suddenly felt the intense need to see him, too. She tried to undo his bow tie, but it refused to give, and he laughed against her chest with a small choking noise. "Here," he offered as he reached around to unhook it. Letting the tie slip from around his neck, he closed his large, warm hands around hers, helping her to undo the buttons just the way that he had hers. She was the one to push the shirt off his shoulders, though.

His broad, muscular shoulders.

God, he was beautiful.

With a little bit of urging from her, Edward lowered himself, pressing his chest against hers and kissing her mouth. The warmth of so much skin on skin was overwhelming, and when he settled himself against her fully, she moaned unselfconsciously at the jolt of pleasure she felt as his body pressed at the aching place between her thighs.

"Jesus," he groaned as he pushed against her. She could feel all of him, and as they ground increasingly wantonly against each other, she felt a mix of near-paralyzing need and a thin jolt of fear.

Her best friend was big.

Really, really big.

Clenching her eyes shut to try to drown out her nerves, she focused on how good it felt to have him pressed so intimately against her. While she still felt some anxiety about the size of his body as it rubbed her, it was easy to lose herself. She had only ever come to the feeling of her own small fingers against her flesh, and the combination of his scent and his weight and his erection was making her dizzy, hurtling toward something she knew would be amazing as she dug her nails into his back.

He made a series of low, growling noises as she dragged her hands down his skin, and she was surprised when he suddenly pulled his hips away. As if anticipating her protest, he shook his head and kissed her mouth again before bringing his hand up to rub between her legs. "You feel too good," he murmured. "I won't last."

Bella glowed with pride at the knowledge that just feeling her was bringing him close to orgasm. As he touched her, she allowed herself to imagine what his face would look like as he came. She wondered if he would say her name.

She wondered what it would feel like to have him come inside her.

Whimpering, she was only dimly aware of his hands coming up to pull her pajama pants down her hips. "Can I?" he asked. Realizing what he was asking, she nodded, inhaling sharply. As he exposed her fully, taking her underwear with him as he slid her pants away, she felt another pang of insecurity, unsure how he would react to this part of her body.

If he was disgusted, he gave no sign. If anything, he looked enthralled, taking in her nakedness for the first time. With a tentative touch, he swept his hands up her thighs, leaning back over to kiss her before beginning to gently probe the soft, wet skin that no one had ever touched before.

Bella nearly shot off the bed with the jolt of pleasure she felt as his fingertip found her clit. "Does that feel good?" he whispered. "I haven't … I don't know how this works, I just …"

Something inside her chest clenched. "You haven't?"

He shook his head fiercely. "Not like this. I mean, I've read a little bit about what to do, but I don't really …"

"You're doing perfect," she assured him. He was. God, he was.

As he touched and probed, she felt herself quickly rocketing toward something deep and hot. Just as she began to really ascend toward the most intense climax of her life, she felt him move a little lower, sliding a finger just inside. It stretched a little, but it was a good stretch, and combined with what he was doing to her higher up on her sex, it pushed her over. Crying out his name and clutching at his shoulder, she came, feeling everything squeezing and her hips arching. Unable to control the sounds coming out of her mouth, she mumbled and groaned and pressed her lips against his skin.

When she was finally more or less coherent again, she opened her eyes to find Edward looking down at her with the strangest expression on his face. Easing up on her over-sensitive flesh, he brought his hand to rest on her abdomen, just above her hip as he kissed her harder than he ever had before. "That was so fucking sexy," he panted against her mouth. "God, the noises you made. I can't - I want you so bad. Please."

A little flutter of nervousness bubbled up through her stomach again, but she pushed it down. Tracing the smooth planes of his body, she swallowed hard before letting her hand rest on the obvious line of his arousal through his tuxedo pants, earning a muffled, broken groan from him. Driven both by curiosity and anxiety, she felt out the full length of him, growing more and more panicked with every pass over his tip.

Edward seemed to sense her hesitation as he slowed their kisses and drew in a few deep, shuddering breaths. "We don't have to," he mumbled. "It's okay, I just … your touch, it feels … it's incredible, Bella. So good."

Summoning all of her determination, Bella pulled his mouth back to hers and began working at his pants. With a few awkward movements, she managed to push them down his hips, leaving him in only his boxers. She snuck a glance down to see the way he tented them and swallowed hard again. "Can I?"

"God, yes."

Together, they slipped the fabric down his thighs to his knees, at which point he kicked his pants and his underwear away, leaving them both naked. Placing her hands on his waist again, Bella couldn't resist taking a look at him, her eyes widening the whole time as they traveled down his body.

She knew Edward had gotten hot over the years.

But wow.

He was really, really hot.

And really, really, really big.

"Shit," she breathed, and he chuckled.

"Not quite the reaction I was hoping for," Edward murmured, still laughing, but it was clear that his voice was strained and tight. "If you don't want - fuck. Bella."

His words were cut off by the sensation of Bella slowly brushing her knuckles along the underside of him. At the slight contact, his hips jerked and his penis bobbed. Emboldened by his reaction, which she took as one of pleasure, Bella ran a finger up to the swollen, purplish head. She could see and feel the slick fluid beading at the tip, and she watched in fascination as it strung out between them when she pulled her finger away before wrapping her hand around the base.

"Oh, God," he rasped, watching just as intently as she did as she slid her fist up the entire length of him, surrounding the head before sliding back down. When she repeated the motion, he grunted hard and began moving his hips in time with her hand. She looked up to find his eyes clenched closed and his jaw tight, his head hanging slightly, accentuating the tendons in his neck.

With his eyes closed, she felt more comfortable staring at his nakedness, and she turned her eyes back to the hot, silky flesh in her hand. She was surprised by how smooth it was and by the veins she could see just beneath the skin. Over and over, she took smooth strokes up and down the length of it, from the tip down to the soft curls of reddish-brown hair. Curious, she released him to slide her hand farther back, touching the equally soft skin of his balls and reveling in the harsh shudder that wracked his body.

"Ung, Bella, if you - I'm not - if you keep going I'm going to … I'm gonna come."

Her sex clenched tightly at the words coming from his mouth, and she felt her breath catch as she realized that it was time. She'd already decided she wanted to be with him this way, and he had said okay. She reluctantly withdrew her hands from him, sliding them up his chest until they rested lightly on his jaw.

"Edward?" she whispered, willing his eyes up to hers.

He sighed shakily, and when he looked up at her, it was with an intense expression on his face, his eyes glazed and so much need written all over his face. "It's okay," he managed, his voice harsh and strained.

"No, I will … I, um, I want you to … I want to make you …" She swallowed before whispering, "come. But I still - I want - if you do, I want to. You know."

His eyes clenched shut again, and he swore under his breath, the tip of his erection just brushing her hip as it bobbed, leaving a thin trail of wetness on her skin. "Of course I want to. I'd have to be crazy not to. But I'm - I'm probably not going to last long. I'm so close and I just know... I've heard..."

Bella slid one hand back down his face to rest over his heart.

"Yeah?" she murmured, urging him on.

"I've heard it's really intense. Your first time. For a guy. And I don't … I don't want to hurt you. Your hand is fine. Hell, your hand is awesome, but if you … if you want. We can. Of course we can."

He was babbling, and Bella couldn't help but laugh just a little. She curled her hand around the back of his neck and pulled him down for a soft kiss. She'd heard that it would hurt, too, and the little bubble of fear sparked inside her again. But she was resolved.

"I want it to be you," she said quietly. "I know it may hurt, but I … If anyone is going to do it, it should be you."

She half expected him to protest further, but instead he just kissed his way to her ear. The feel of his breath, hot and wet, did things to her insides, and she found herself holding him tighter as he spoke. "I want it to be you. It's always been you, for me, Bella. Always."

Bella nodded and sucked in a breath before pulling away just enough to twist to the side, opening up the top drawer in her nightstand and withdrawing the unopened box of condoms tucked beneath her underwear.

Edward let out a shocked chuckle beside her ear. "Do I even want to know?"

Bella cringed, thinking of the awkward conversation she and her mother had had, right before she'd headed back home at the end of spring break. Interestingly enough, it had predicted more or less the exact situation Bella found herself in now, but she was unwilling to dwell on that. Instead, she just shook her head. "No," she said as she clumsily tore open the box before removing one foil square from the row and placing it in Edward's hand. "You definitely do not. Trust me."

"Sounds like a good story," he said huskily before kissing her neck and taking the condom. "Remind me to ask you about it later."

"Not in a million years."

Their banter paused at that point as Edward opened the wrapper and pulled out the latex circle. Moving slightly unsteadily, he examined it in the light before picking a side and slowly rolling it over himself. When he was done, he looked back at Bella with a mixture of lust and wonder in his eyes.

With a level of tenderness she had come to expect, but which still took her breath away, Edward touched her face before whispering with a small smile, "I can't believe we're going to do this."

"Are you okay?" she asked.

He nodded, his eyes raw with emotion. As he settled between her thighs again, his length pressing, hot and hard against her hip, he leaned forward to kiss her lips. "I'm just really happy," he said quietly. "I never thought … I didn't even dream …"

"Shh." With gentle hands, she touched him, sliding the thick head along her flesh and feeling her eyes roll back slightly when it nudged against her clit. Finally, she had him positioned just at her opening, and looked up to find him staring at her with just the same level of devotion he always had.

"I love you," he whispered softly. Then, with the utmost care, he began to slowly push forward. With every inch that he sank into her body, Bella could feel herself opening, something uncomfortable and just a little bit wrong about it, but it never hurt. Not the way she'd been warned it could.

"Jesus," Edward breathed. "Ohmygodohmygodohmygod." When his body was fully inside of hers, he paused, shaking and breathing hard against her ear. "Christ, Bella, this is … it's so amazing. It's so hot inside you. I can't - I can't even..."

Bella squirmed slightly, waiting for something to feel good, but it didn't. Not really. As he began to withdraw, pulling back just as slowly as he had entered her, there was that same sort of uncomfortable sensation, but as he kept going, thrusting unsteadily in slow, intense movements, it began to get easier. She still wouldn't describe it as good, and she wasn't anywhere close to an orgasm, but she couldn't focus on her own pleasure in that moment.

It was more than enough just to watch Edward taking his.

Moving over her and inside her, Edward's body was a taut string of nerves, his face tense, and his mouth open. Every time he pushed back into her, he made the sexiest noises, little grunts and whimpers, his whole face twisting in pleasure. When she looked down, she could actually see him, appearing and disappearing as his hips met hers again and again.

It suddenly struck her that she was having sex with Edward. Her Edward. The Edward she'd loved since she was thirteen, and maybe even before that. She wasn't a virgin anymore, and it was because Edward was inside her.

Inside her.

Something deep in her heart twisted excruciatingly, the kind of happiness and love that was so profound it hurt - like a person was never meant to feel so much. With a warm sense of connection spreading throughout her body, she wrapped her arms and her legs around him, her ankles crossing behind his thighs, pushing him deeper, and he swore harshly.

"I love you, Edward," she whispered, touching his hair and drifting a hand down to his hip. In response, he thrust harder, his forehead dropping to rest against her temple, his mouth hot against her cheek.

"Oh, no, I … Jesus, I'm - " Edward's words were cut off with a violent trembling, his whole body shaking and shuddering. "Bella, God."

Bella could feel his body inside of hers stilling, and she closed her eyes and her arms around him, stroking at the hair on the back of her neck and basking in a warm glow. In that moment, she felt closer to him than she ever had before, and she never wanted it to end.

It did, though. After a few moments of lying still and breathless within her embrace, Edward seemed to come to himself again, turning and placing soft kisses on her cheek before rising up onto one elbow and staring at her face. With a low, wide smile that spoke of the deepest contentment, he brushed her hair from her eyes.

"That was … Thank you," he whispered reverently.

Bella felt her cheeks growing hot. "For what?" she mumbled.

"For... Just … thank you. I mean, for, um, giving yourself to me. For letting me share that with you." He shrugged and kissed the tip of her nose. "I mean, I knew sex would be amazing, but it was … wow. Just wow."

"Yeah," she agreed, feeling her lips stretch up into a grin.

He looked down, drifting his hand down to her breasts before he seemed to remember himself. With a little grunt, he placed his hand at the base of his softening erection and withdrew from her. Bella looked down, simultaneously fascinated and a little grossed out by the sight of the condom, filled with white goo at the tip.

And streaked with blood.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, suddenly embarrassed. With a start, she began to sit up, not wanting to make any more of a mess of her sheets than she already had. While Edward was dealing with the condom, she grabbed her shirt from the ground and pulled it on. It was long and came to well past her butt, so she figured she was more or less covered. Mumbling something about being right back, she stole a fresh pair of underwear from her drawer and darted out of her room and to the bathroom, where she cleaned herself up the best she could.

On some level, she wondered if she should have been disgusted, but she couldn't seem to stop smiling long enough to think about the messier aspects of sex. All she could think was that she had had sex. With Edward.

She and Edward had had sex.

It wasn't until she was almost back to the room that all her fears and doubts began to come back to her. Edward had told her he loved her repeatedly, and she didn't think he was lying, but she still had no idea what would come next. Could they go from being best friends to boyfriend and girlfriend so easily? Would everything be all awkward and weird between them now? What would their parents and their friends say? What did she want from all of this anyway?

With those questions swimming through her mind endlessly, she pushed open the door, only to find Edward lying on her bed.


And all the questions evaporated when he turned to her wearing the most brilliant, incandescent smile.

She wanted him. She always had and always would. And nothing else mattered.

"Hey, you," he murmured as she got onto the bed beside him and snuggled into his chest. His arms folded right around her, and somehow this wasn't awkward at all. It was perfect. It was amazing.

"Hey," she said, her face near pained from the effort of smiling so much.

"You okay?" he asked as he rubbed her back and pressed his lips to her forehead.

"Yeah. Just, you know. Messy."

He stiffened slightly and squeezed her more tightly. "I'm so sorry. Did it hurt? I saw the blood and I kinda …"

Wanting to talk about anything except her bleeding, she shook her head. "It's fine. It was kind of weird, but it didn't really hurt."

"Weird?" When she looked up, she found his face twisted with concern.

"Like … good weird? Does that make sense? It's kind of hard to explain unless you're a girl."

"Well," he said playfully, "as you can tell, I'm not." He leaned over her slightly so that his half-hard penis touched her thigh. "But as a guy, I can tell you that it was the. Most. Amazing. Thing. Ever." Every word was punctuated with a kiss.



They laid there quietly for a few minutes, and Bella found herself relaxing in a way she hadn't with him in years. She hadn't realized until that moment just how hard it had been, trying to hide how she felt. Now that she didn't have to anymore, she felt … light. Free.



"What happens now?"

Bella shifted, turning until she could see him clearly. "I don't know. What do you want to have happen?"

"Uhn-uh," he chastised her. "No throwing this back to me. I want to know what you want."

She thought about how to respond for a few seconds, knowing what she wanted but not how to explain it. Finally, she decided that the simplest answer was the best. Looking into his eyes and touching his chest, she said, quietly, "Everything."

His answering smile was perfect. "Me, too."


With that sorted out, they rested in each other's arms in happy silence, but soon Bella found her eyes drifting around the room. They settled first on the pile of Edward's tux on the ground and then on the clock. While it seemed like everything had changed since the time he had come to pick her up, in reality only a couple of hours had passed. Bella sat up suddenly, knowing what she wanted to do.

"C'mon," she said, poking him with her elbow as she hopped out of bed.


She was already across the room with her closet doors thrown open by the time Edward managed to drag himself to standing. Looking back over her shoulder, her heart almost stopped in her chest at the sight of him. Blushing, she looked away and reached into her closet, closing her hand around the garment bag whose existence had seemed to be mocking her just a few short hours ago. Unzipping it, she revealed the dress her mother had bought for her, only to see Edward's face light up.

"You still need a date?" she asked cheekily as she began to undo the buttons on her shirt.

Edward finished pulling on his boxers before he crossed the room, standing before her and taking her lips with his own.

"Nope," he murmured. "Not any more. Not ever again."

By the time they pulled up in front of the Lodge, the party was in full swing. Edward walked around the car to open the door for Bella, offering her his hand as she rose. She took it happily, stumbling slightly in the heels her mother had insisted she wear when he drew her against his body without warning, kissing her mouth and then her nose.

"You ready?" he asked.

She nodded, leaning into him. With his hand wrapped possessively around her hip, they made their way into the prom, ignoring the stares that followed them the entire way. When they passed a particularly flabbergasted Tanya, who happened to be dancing with an incredibly drunk, disheveled-looking boy Bella didn't recognize, Bella didn't spare the girl a second glance. She didn't need to. Not with Edward at her side.

Moving toward a corner of the dance floor, Edward pulled her in close and settled into a slow, rocking motion.

"Thanks for coming with me," he murmured, staring down at her. "You really do look beautiful."

She smoothed his lapel with her hand, admiring the way the pale purple rose sat against her wrist. "You look pretty handsome yourself."

They danced without speaking for a few minutes, and they were both relieved when the music faded out into another slow song. With his arms still wrapped tightly around her, Edward settled his chin on top of her head.

"So," he began, clearing his throat. "Does this … are things going to change between us now?"

"I guess so," she replied. "But not really. It doesn't change how I feel about you."

"Me neither," he agreed. After thinking for a moment, he offered tentatively, "Still best friends?"

She smiled against his chest. "Forever and ever."

His relief was palpable as he lifted his chin and tilted her head back. Placing his lips to hers, he echoed quietly, "Forever and ever."