A/N - As always, my sincerest thanks go out to Andrea and Sue. They worked incredibly quickly, which means you get another update this week. I love them both, so much.

I made a playlist for this chapter and thought I would share it:

Mess I Made – Parachute; Ghost – Pachute; Miracle – Vertical Horizon; Innocence – Avril Lavigne; Check Yes Juliet – We the Kings; Shake it – Metro Station; Arms – Christina Perri; Come on, Get Higher – Matt Nathanson; The Man Who Can't Be Moved – The Script; Seventeen Forever – Metro Station; Never Gonna Leave This Bed – Maroon Five.

This is a special posting, I will not update twice often. The baby demands too much of my attention for that. Silly baby.

All recognizable characters and quotes belong to Stephenie Meyer; I'm simply playing around with New Moon.

I don't think a recap is necessary but in the last chapter: Edward and Bella argued. Charlie gave Edward a friendly warning and a little advice. Edward apologized to Jasper and we learned that things...I mean people, are changing down in La Push.




Sometimes you just have to take the leap and build your wings on the way down.

- Kobi Yamada




I walked out of the trendy boutique Alice had dragged Angela and myself into, the mid-December wind whipping my hair into my face. The bitter chill was just another reminder of how close we were to the holidays.

I had been dumbstruck a couple of days ago when Angela mentioned that she needed to finish her Christmas shopping. I hadn't given Christmas or Christmas shopping a single thought. I did have a few good excuses for it though.

I'm sorry, but I have psychotic vampire who's thirsting for revenge and plotting my demise. I'm trying to figure out a way to survive and it's just a time-consuming thing.

I'm sorry, my vampire soul-mate suddenly and unexpectedly returned to my life. I've been a little occupied with that.

I'm sorry, I just learned about treaties and legends that are completely true resulting in an apparent reemergence of Werewolves in our tiny town. I'm just a teensy bit busy trying to not freak out.

I couldn't use any of them, but they were good. Really, I considered myself lucky that I wasn't locked up in a mental hospital. The fact that I had overlooked the rapidly approaching holiday hadn't disturbed me all that much, what bothered me was the way Alice perked up at the news. The evil sprite claimed that she had yet to do any shopping as well and Angela, being sweet as always, suggested a day trip to Seattle so we could all get it done.

It was just the cherry on top of two very odd weeks.

I had been excited to see Edward that Sunday. I knew he was trying to respect my boundaries and I had appreciated it, but I had also missed him. So when he came over, even though Jake and his dad were there, I was happy. I thought we might get the chance to talk.

We did talk, but it wasn't what I was expecting. After Billy's outburst, Edward had just frozen wide-eyed. It had taken me shaking his arm to bring his attention back to me and I was shocked to see naked panic written on his face. I'd asked what was wrong and he stared at me hard for several moments before sighing and telling me everything.

The legend Jake had told me all those months ago was true. Completely true. Not just about the Cold Ones, but about the tribe itself. Apparently, they really could change into super-sized wolves and at least two boys had already gone through the transformation.

Edward had apologized profusely, brushing his fingers down my cheek much like he used to before everything happened and saying he had to talk to Carlisle immediately. I had been disappointed but obviously understood. I mean, werewolves that have one purpose and that purpose is to destroy you? Yeah, I understood.

After Edward left and a lot of awkward tension throughout dinner, I'd excused myself. It had been a long weekend and I just wanted to sleep. Why I was surprised by Edward waiting outside my house the next morning, I'm not sure. I guess I had thought it would take more time to get re-enrolled for school, but no, he was there waiting for me.

And that started a fire in the local gossip mill. Everyone watched us and hid whispers behind their hands. Edward flinched at least a million times over the first couple days. I could only imagine what my classmate's thoughts reflected. I had been a walking zombie while the Cullens were gone, only barely speaking when directly spoken to.

The only good thing that had come from the past two weeks was better communication between Edward and me. He'd tell me when something he heard or saw in others' thoughts affected him greatly and I'd explain what had happened if I could. He was more open, even playful at times and I loved every second of it. I was still guarded of course, not fully believing that it wouldn't all change in the blink of an eye, but it was nice all the same.

Well, until now.

I knew that on some level, I was being unfair. I just couldn't get past Alice's betrayal. I wanted to and had in some ways, but it still hurt so badly. She didn't give up though. On their first day back at Forks High, Alice waited by the front doors for me. She held a large spiced cider and apple muffin while wearing a timid smile. When I had looked at her askance, she just shrugged and said she thought it would be a nice way to start the day. She had become my shadow during school, following me around like an eager puppy. She was always there, ready for whatever I was willing to give. I knew she just wanted our easy friendship back, but I just couldn't offer it yet.

I knew she was trying. I understood that. Hell, when Alice saw the small grimace I couldn't hide at her exuberant acceptance of Angela's invitation she had pulled me aside and quietly offered to have something come up. The forlorn look on her face had tugged at something in my stomach. I couldn't tell her not to come and figured it couldn't be all that bad.

I had been wrong. Alice jumped at the chance to play best friends again and it grated on my nerves.

The entire drive to Seattle she had tried to engage me in conversation, offering advice on gifts for everyone she could think of. I'd listened half-heartedly and murmured an occasional agreement, silently thanking Angela when she picked up on my reluctance and asked Alice for her opinion on what she should get Ben. When we arrived in Seattle, Alice immediately pulled us toward the trendiest shops she could find. I followed without complaint, but after two hours of 'oohing and ahhing' over things that didn't remotely interest me, I'd had enough.

The cold temperature wasn't inviting in the least, but I needed a break. I slowly made my way down the crowded sidewalk, occasionally looking into the shops I passed. I knew what I wanted to buy for Charlie and Renee, but was lost when it came to Edward. He had everything, and if there was something that he wanted, he could easily purchase it for himself rather than wait to have it gifted to him.

Several blocks from where I left Alice and Angela, a little antique shop caught my eye. The warm air inside was a welcome respite as was the lack of holiday shoppers. I looked around for a bit, my hopes falling when nothing grabbed my attention. I made my way back out into the frigid weather, my mood souring even further. I continued in the opposite direction of the boutique, not ready to go back yet.

I had just decided to duck into a café for something warm to drink, when a noise from the alley caught me off guard. I turned, my pulse quickening when the memory of another alley in another place came to mind, to find a young girl digging through a dumpster. I watched her while trying to calm myself and felt my heart drop into my stomach when she pulled a half-eaten sandwich out and took a bite. My feet propelled me towards her, as if they had a mind of their own. She looked up and dropped the sandwich when she noticed my approach. Shock ran through me as I noticed how young she was; she couldn't have been older than sixteen.

I held up my hands when she started backing away.

"I didn't mean to scare you." I kept my voice soft, afraid that she would run away.

"What do you want?" she asked, her panicked eyes bouncing around the alleyway as though she was looking for an escape route. "I wasn't bothering anything!"

I felt a pang in my chest at her pleading tone. My troubles seemed really petty at that moment and I shook my head at myself, attempting to smile at the girl reassuringly.

"I know you weren't. I just…well, I saw you…looking for…" I nodded towards the dumpster, not wanting to embarrass or offend her.

"Yeah," she whispered while looking down at her feet, her pale, dirty cheeks coloring in a blush that reminded me of myself. "I have to eat somehow."

Sudden tears clouded my vision, my heart breaking for her.

"I was just going to get something to drink in there," I pointed in the direction of the café. "Would you like to join me?" I wracked my mind furiously, trying to think of a way to help her. I knew I could call Charlie, but something told me this girl wouldn't want to talk to Chief Swan.

"Really?" Her voice was so hopeful that I found myself swallowing back a sob.

"Really." I nodded, motioning her closer. "I'm Bella, by the way."

"Bree. I'm Bree," she murmured, following me out of the alley.

It hadn't even been five minutes before Alice burst through the café doors, her eyes searching the crowd frantically until they landed on me. She made her way over to us with Angela following closely behind her. I took a sip of my hot chocolate and motioned for Bree to keep eating when they arrived at our table. The poor girl looked like she wanted to run, especially when Alice began to speak.

"Thank God, Bella. I was so worried that we wouldn't find you," Alice said, her eyes bouncing nervously around the small restaurant. I looked at her with no small amount of shock; I hadn't sent her a text knowing that she could see where I'd be. "Oh, who's your friend? I'm Alice," she asked cheerfully before giving me a peculiar look.

"This is Bree," I murmured, confused.

"Hi," Bree mumbled around a bite of her sandwich, keeping her eyes downcast. Alice smiled at her gently while Angela said hello and then excused herself to get something to drink. After another poignant look from Alice, I excused myself as well.

"I need to talk to Alice really quick," I whispered to Bree. "Don't leave, okay?" At her nod, I turned to Alice and followed her to the restroom. "What's going on?" I demanded, crossing my arms across my chest.

"I'm not exactly sure," Alice mumbled. At my dubious look, she continued. "No, really! I saw that you needed some time alone and were going to take a walk, so I kept shopping. One minute I was looking at a nice cashmere sweater for Esme and the next I see you talking with Bree. But then, I saw a blonde vampire being berated by Victoria for losing one of her army members." She shook her head, looking at me with wide eyes. "His name is Riley. He's her recruiter or something. Bella…" she trailed off.

"What?" I questioned, not understanding. "What is it, Alice?"

"He was going to take Bree."

Two hours later, we were pulling into Port Angeles to meet Carlisle and Esme.

After Alice's revelation, we knew we needed to leave fairly quickly. We had no idea how close Victoria was or if she was close at all. The only problem was Bree. I couldn't leave her behind, especially knowing that she had been marked for an unwilling death by Riley and Victoria.

When we had made our way back to the table, Alice took the lead. She had asked Bree where she was from, and Bree had shrugged saying Seattle. Alice asked where her winter coat was, that it was much too cold outside for the lightweight jacket Bree was wearing. Her answer was that she didn't have one. Angela had watched us all in confusion, until I asked if Bree was still hungry. Her eyes had widened before softening and she offered to get some muffins for all of us, dabbing at her eyes while making her way back to the counter. Alice had moved to the other side of Bree then, murmuring something I couldn't hear.

That was when Bree told us her story.

Her mother had left almost a year before and he father had turned to alcohol as an escape. Bree told us that at first he was just drunk all the time, but that he eventually became angry and violent towards her and blamed Bree for her mother's departure. She told us that she had an aunt in Texas that knew about everything and wanted to help, but neither of them had the money to get Bree down there. After another beating that resulted in several broken ribs, she had run away and been living on the streets ever since.

Luckily, the Cullens cover story of being foster children that had been adopted worked to our advantage. We had both consoled Bree while Alice told her about Carlisle and Esme. She explained how wonderful they were and that she knew they would be willing to help if Bree would let them. With a little reluctance and the promise that she wouldn't be sent back to her father, well that, and a promise that I would call my father if she refused, Bree had agreed. Like I expected, she did not want 'Chief Swan' involved in any capacity. Alice had made a quick call explaining the situation as we made our way back to where we parked, not wanting to remain in Seattle any longer than we had to.

The car ride was mostly silent, our scattered conversations dying off as quickly as they would start. I sat in the back with Bree and the young girl fell asleep on my shoulder. Once again, I found myself thinking about my problems in comparison to hers. Yes, I had some serious shit hanging over my head thanks to Victoria, but so had Bree until I intervened.

I had a home. I had food readily available, anytime I desired it. I had a warm bed to sleep in every night. I had everything a girl could need.

I was loved. By so many people.

Charlie and Renee, of course. Even Phil, awkward as our relationship was, loved me.

Then there was Edward.

God, he loved me so much. I knew that. I had always known that. His love for me had never been our problem. It was his fear then, and my fear now, that had broken us.

Edward's lie and subsequent defection seemed utterly insignificant, as Bree rested against my shoulder. I felt petty. I felt stupid.

Yes, Edward had made a mistake. They all had, but they were trying to rectify them. They were trying to make things right. And I wasn't letting them.

It was a bitter pill to swallow.

Angela had called her parents and asked them to pick her up, so when we pulled into Port Angeles, she had us drop her off at the town square. She begged us to let her know how everything turned out, before murmuring a soft goodbye.

Alice navigated through the busy streets easily.

"They're going to take her to Portland International for her flight," she whispered without me asking.

I looked down at Bree for a moment before meeting her eyes in the rearview mirror.

"Will she be all right?" I questioned quietly, Bree's future weighing heavily on my mind.

Alice was silent for several moments before she smiled. "She'll be more than all right, Bella. She'll be happy, healthy and loved." We both heaved a sigh of relief at that.

A few minutes later, Alice parked by the pier where Carlisle and Esme were waiting. Esme held several colorful bags and I knew without a doubt that they were all for Bree. I nudged the sleeping girl gently, smiling when her dark eyes opened and glanced around blearily.

"We're here," I whispered, as Alice opened her door. Bree caught me off guard by wrapping her arms around my neck and squeezing tightly.

"I will never forget you, Bella. I can't thank you enough." She sniffled softly and I returned her embrace while fighting tears of my own.

It was only three o'clock when Alice and I began the drive back to Forks. We had spent roughly an hour with everyone in Port Angeles, making sure that Bree was comfortable with Carlisle and Esme before we left. The goodbye had been bittersweet, Bree's sobbed thanks breaking all of our hearts. It didn't matter that we told her she didn't need to thank us, that we were only doing what anyone should do. She said we'd saved her life, that she could never show her gratitude properly.

She was half right, at least.

Alice's voice broke me out of my daze and I pulled my head away from its resting place on the window.

"What? I'm sorry, Alice…I wasn't paying attention," I said while rubbing my tired eyes.

"I asked if you were okay." She cut her eyes to me briefly before returning her attention to the road. I sighed heavily and really thought about her question.

Was I okay? I wasn't entirely sure.

"I think so," I murmured, allowing my head to rest against the cool glass once again.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Her usual cheerful tone was missing. She actually sounded timid.

I groaned when I realized that Alice was afraid of pushing me, afraid that I'd shut her out again. I pulled my head away from the window once again and slammed it into the headrest.

"I feel like an ungrateful bitch," I muttered before shaking my head ruefully. "I mean, I've been acting like the world was coming to an end for months and I've been cold and distant to all of you since you came back…and then…seeing Bree…"

I didn't know how to finish, so I just let my words taper off. Alice was quiet, only drumming her fingers gently against the steering wheel for several minutes. I shifted uneasily in my seat, the silence feeling oppressive.

"I want things to be normal again. I want to be normal again," I finally stated when it became too much for me stand.

Alice sighed, long and slow.

"I can understand that, Bella. But have you really tried?" At my incredulous look she continued, "I'm not trying to piss you off, but Bella, we've all been playing by your rules. Well, I might have pushed them a little, but that's just my personality. We've given you space when you've asked for it, we've taken your anger without a fight because we know we deserve it. We've apologized and we're all trying to make things better, but you seem to holding on to everything…almost like you're using it as a shield or something. I mean, you're keeping us at arm's length and anytime we get too close, you push us away again." I blinked at her, hating that her words were true. I wanted to argue. I wanted to list all the things that they had done which justified my behavior, but that was her point.

I was refusing to face it all. It was easier to be angry. Anger felt good. Without my anger, I was just a hurt and broken girl that needed to be pieced back together. I blinked rapidly trying to fight off the traitorous tears that were swimming in my eyes.

"I don't know how to let it go, Alice," I finally whispered thickly. "I can't just forget about it."

"You don't have to forget it, Bella," she murmured, placing one of her tiny hands on my knee. "You just have to let yourself remember that while we hurt you, we still love you. We'd do anything for you and you know that. You just have to let yourself see it."

When we arrived at my house, I made Alice promise to send Edward over once he returned from his hunting trip. Charlie had an overnight shift and had already left by the time I made it home. I trudged up the stairs and into my room. I felt wound up, but completely drained at the same time. My stomach was in knots, my chest felt tight, and it was like I couldn't get a deep enough breath. I felt like I was balancing on the edge of a cliff, looking down at the unknown, unable to decide whether I would jump or not.

I carelessly tossed my coat into the rocking chair before falling onto my bed face first. After a few moments, I turned my face towards my window.

I guess I should have expected it, after everything my day had brought to the surface.

My eyes focused on the subtle scuff marks marring the otherwise perfect sill and memories flooded my mind. I remembered the first time Edward climbed through it with my knowledge, after we had spent the day in his meadow. After we'd confessed to our feelings. After our first kiss.

I didn't bother trying to fight the tears, letting them fall freely. It felt good to let it out.

Edward had been so carefree that evening. He'd teased me playfully, we'd talked, and then held me until I fell asleep.

I missed that.

I missed his smiles. The wide but slightly crooked grins that only I could bring out.

I missed our late night conversations. The ones where we could be more honest because the darkness made us feel protected and concealed.

I missed the way he'd sing me to sleep. He had a pattern. Hum two bars then kiss the crown of my head. Hum three more bars; kiss my temple. Hum the last bar and whisper 'I love you' into the crook of my neck.

I wasn't always awake to hear it, but I knew he said it just the same.

I missed him. I missed my Edward.

I stuttered through a tearful wail, when it all came crashing down on me. On some level I had already acknowledged that my Edward was patiently waiting for me to come around and hold him close once again. I had let my fear of being hurt take over and push him away just to see if he'd keep coming back. I was playing some ridiculous version of tug-o-war with his heart. I curled in on myself, clutching my knees to my chest while I cried.

I was terrified. My anger was justified and my hurt most certainly ran deep, but we could never share those carefree moments again unless I took a leap of faith.

Bree's face flashed through my mind and I choked on a sob. She had lived through absolute hell and was still strong. I had my heart broken and I had been lied to. There was no comparison and yet I was the one falling apart.

With a deep shuddering breath, I sat up and rubbed my eyes furiously. I battled against little hiccupping sobs, trying desperately to find my strength, when a pair of strong, cold arms wrapped around me.

"Shh, Bella. It's okay, love," Edward crooned, rocking both of us gently. I couldn't fight the pathetic sounding whimper that escaped me as I clutched his arms keeping us locked together. "Alice explained what happened," he murmured close to my ear.

I nodded incapable of words.

"Bree's going to be fine, Bella. We know more about Victoria and how she's getting around Alice's visions. All because of you." He kissed my temple and my next breath came a little easier. "You never cease to amaze me, love."

"I'm so sorry, Edward," I said, turning to face him when his arms loosened.

"For what?" he asked, looking legitimately confused.

I swallowed thickly while he watched me with a small degree of wariness. I had done that to him. I made him second-guess himself.

"For pushing you away? For acting childishly? I don't know. It's just…with everything I saw today, my issues seem…stupid." I shrugged helplessly, knowing I wasn't explaining it right.

Edward's eyes softened as he reached out and brushed his thumb over my cheek.

"Your 'issues' aren't stupid, Bella. You have every right-" I shook my head furiously while grabbing his hands and lacing our fingers together.

"No. No, I don't." I urged him to understand. "I can be hurt and I can be upset, but I have no right to torture you or your family because of it. And that's what I've been doing, even if I didn't realize it. And I'm just…so sorry. God! All day, no…for the past several days, I've been angry that I'd have to spend time with Alice. I told myself that it was because she wouldn't stop pushing, but it wasn't. I was upset because she made me miss what we used to have and I didn't want to forgive her yet." My tears returned. "How horrible is that? Who does that?" Disgust painted my words and I hung my head feeling ashamed.

"I did it," Edward whispered, ducking his head and meeting my eyes. He looked so sad and it made my chest ache. "I pushed everyone away and told them it was their fault. They wouldn't stop thinking about you or they wouldn't leave me alone to wallow in my misery and therefore it was their fault. Bella, everyone reacts similarly," he said, placing a finger under my chin and lifting my head gently. "Our first instinct is always to protect ourselves. You're scared. You don't want to be hurt again. It makes sense."

I shook my head causing more tears to fall down my face and Edward sighed before pulling me onto his lap. I tucked my head under his chin and grasped the fabric of his shirt. We sat like that quietly for a while, before my eyes started to feel heavy and sluggish.

"Edward?" I whispered, playing with one of the buttons on his shirt.

"Hmm?" he responded, a contented sigh ruffling my hair as he did so.

"Stay?" I looked up at him then, wanting him to see that I meant it.

"For as long as you want me," Edward replied with sincerity burning in his golden eyes.

We held each other's gaze for several heartbeats. The love I saw shining there took my breath away. Unable to resist, I leaned in and pressed my lips against his gently. His arms wound around my waist almost immediately, holding on to me tightly as he returned the kiss. I let my hands wander, eventually finding their home in his unruly locks. I could feel Edward's hands flexing around my hips, almost as if he was fighting the urge to pull me even closer. I made the decision for him and tugged him closer by his hair, the whimper that escaped him making my heart flutter and my body heat.

Just when I thought I could take no more, the need to breathe overruling everything else, his lips travelled across my jaw and down my neck.

"I will always want you," I whispered breathlessly, but with as much force as I could. I felt several shudders rip through him at my words while his hands turned to fists in my shirt. His breaths became choppy and rapid, and I dropped several kisses against his temple trying to soothe him like had done for me.

"God, I missed you," Edward sobbed into the space between my shoulder and neck. I kept my arms wrapped around his neck firmly and pulled him down to the bed. Once we were lying down and wrapped up in each other, I gently ran my fingers through his hair. Small trembles shook his frame as he clung to me.

"I missed you too," I murmured softly, nuzzling the top of his head with my cheek. "I love you, Edward. That's never going to change. Even when I'm angry, even when I'm pushing you away…I still love you."

"Forever," he whispered fervently against my skin and I nodded in agreement.


*clears throat* Ah, well, yes. So there's that...

We have kissing folks. Lip to lip contact. Alert the masses.

Happy times dance now?

And to anyone who has read The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner - I simply had to save her. Bree just breaks my heart. I wish I could have saved Deigo as well, but alas he would already be changed and it just wasn't within my power.

Love it? Hate it?

How do you feel when you're sad?

Bella's description - stomach in knots, tight chest, feeling like you can't breathe deeply enough - that's exactly how I feel when I'm heartbroken and forlorn.