Disclaimer: Twilight? Not mine. If it was, I would have more time for writing and less time working.

THANK YOUS—Jess: Haters gonna hate. DarlingSaila: I love you forever. LondonStew: Penny! Don't worry, we will find betas for PTB haha! EVERYONE: Thank you for your unrelenting patience. I love and cherish you all.

-x-

WARNING: NOT BETA'D.

-x-

The Slowest Burn

That awkward moment when… your dad thinks he did you a favor.

Ch. 36: The Ever-Changing Spectrum of a Lie

"Are you even listening to me?" Rosalie snaps from her end of the world on the phone. "Bella Swan!" She grows irritated with my lack of attention.

I release a deep sigh and roll my eyes. "Yes, I'm listening." I'm completely lying when I say this—I'm so not listening to a damn word she's saying to me.

I'm too busy looking at pictures on my camera. Ever since I got it from my parents I can't stop using it. It's like I want to be able to remember every single moment I have left in Forks. Mostly I can't stop taking pictures of Edward on my camera. He's the most photogenic person I have ever met. Seriously, the boy cannot take a bad picture to save his life.

"What about Amy?" Rose's voice cuts through my thoughts.

I wrinkle my nose. "No."

She groans impatiently. We've been back and forth for who knows how long. With a sigh, I set down my camera so I can pick up my phone and take her off speaker. She's such a crab apple lately.

"What about Angelica?" I suggest.

She snorts very unladylike—which is all the time now—and ignores me when I tell her as much. "I'm not naming my child after that evil brat from Rugrats, Bella!"

I gasp in mock-horror. "How dare you! Angelica was awesome! In fact, Angelica was you at that age, I bet."

She mimics me in an annoying tone and I try not to laugh at her so she's not encouraged to continue. Even though she is actually funny. Damn her.

"So how are things with you and Roy?" I change the subject.

Rose grows quiet. "Uh, good actually… really good. Surprisingly good—oh my God, he did something didn't he? I knew it! I knew he was a no good dirty liar!"

"Whoa!" I shout in total shock. "Ease up there Dr. Banner, don't Hulk out on me okay? Roy hasn't done anything to make you worry. He's been too busy with his new job and watching his mom's new boyfriend like a hawk."

"So he's doing good at Raley's? Like, he hasn't tried to steal anything or use the docking area as a drug exchange?" She asks seriously.

I hate whatever Royce has done in the past to make her so doubtful of him. He really is trying right now to win back Rosalie's full trust. I was under the impression that things were going good and headed for great. Apparently, I was a little off on the mark.

"No, Rosalie. Royce is not using the shipping dock as a drug exchange. It's a supermarket, not Harlem!" I groan. "Pregnancy has made you so paranoid."

"No, it's made me more aware. It's not just me anymore, Bella, it's me and my daughter. So whatever Royce is up to I need to be one hundred percent sure he's not going to let her down." She admits in the most vulnerable voice I've ever heard her use.

I bite my lip to keep from blurting out that he won't disappoint her down and to trust him, but she's right. Given Royce's track record, she needs to be as cautious as she can. I have faith he will never let her down again, but until Rosalie sees it, too, it doesn't matter what anyone says.

"Well, I have your back no matter what." I say to her truthfully. "But for the record? Royce is doing great at the supermarket. Edward and Jake go there and tease him sometimes, it's so cute."

"Just Edward and Jake?" Rosalie asks in a tone that says she knows I'm a lying liar who lies.

"Okay, okay! Yes. I went there and teased him, too. But it was so fun, Rose! Like, this one time? We hid all of the KY Jelly and then Edward grabbed the intercom and paged Royce to restock it!" I fall over onto my bed in giggles. "And… and then when he—"

"Got into his car after his shift he found all the missing KY Jelly stashed in his backseat." She finishes without amusement.

Okay, so I guess the teasing has gotten a little out hand. It started out with small things like switching around sale tags and trailing pieces of Double Bubble up and down the store aisles. Then Edward started having Royce paged for price checks on weird and embarrassing items. Jake moved certain items around so that Royce had to find and replace them.

But when Seth found out? He wanted to play, too. So he took all the condoms and placed them in the baby isle and put baby items in place of the empty condom shelf. Royce was reprimanded for that and since then we've promised to leave him alone.

"So did you hear about the boys giving Royce's mom's new boyfriend 'the talk'?" I snort and shake my head.

Rose laughs. "Oh, you mean interrogation?"

"They are so stupid. I can't believe Jake went, too. He's supposed to be the level headed one. The voice of reason!" I shout. "But no, instead he was the one instigating things. That poor guy, I can't even begin to think what they must have threatened him with." I roll my eyes.

"Bodily harm, damaged property, sabotaged social life…" Rosalie lets the sentence die.

"It's kinda cute in a way." I shrug as I think about how much they all must care about Royce's family in order to be so protective.

"Kinda, but not really." She cuts into my mental conversation and exhales audibly.

I frown at her tone. "No, I guess not. Time to grow up and act like adults, right?"

She chuckles softly. "Speaking of acting like an adult, do you have everything set for Nationals?"

"Yep," I answer right away.

"And you told Edward?" She questions hesitantly.

"Yep." My lips pulls back into a smile.

"Wow, really? And he's okay with it?" Her lack of belief makes me chuckle.

"I know right? Who would have thought Edward could be so understanding." I can't stop grinning at the thought of my beautiful boyfriend being so mature. He's so different from when I first met him. More controlled and patient—things I never thought I'd say when describing him.

"It works out perfectly, actually. His mom lives in Seattle, so we'll just go see her during the day before the event starts. It'll be cutting it a little close, but I know we can do both." I assure her.

"Oh, that is such a relief." She exhales a long breath. "So now all you have to do is tell him about Vassar."

My heart lodges in my throat in a hard hiccup that chokes me and leaves me sputtering. She knows not to bring up this subject with me right now, at least not until after Nationals. I have three days before I have to mail my acceptance letter to meet the deadline.

I hate that there is a small part of me that doesn't want to send it. It wants to stay here in Forks, or in La Push with Edward. It's a nagging buzz in my ear, a twinge in my tummy, a pressure in my chest…

"Yeah," I reply absently as I rise from my bed and move to my dresser where I've had my letter sitting for weeks. It's stamped and ready to go—I just can't seem to let it go.

"Jesus, Bell. It's not like you're going to break up just because you're going to college. If he loves you that much he'll be happy for you. Stop allowing him to dictate your life." Rosalie's voice raises in annoyance.

"He's not!" I shout and whirl around to pace around my room.

"I don't want to fight with you. I swear if I say the slightest thing about Cullen you freak the fuck out. I'm not attacking your boyfriend, Bella." Her gruff response has me on the guard. "I know what he means to you and all I am saying is to step back and think about the big picture. You know what I see when I think of it? I see you in college."

I hate how right she is, I do get defensive over Edward for the smallest of things.

"Just mail the damn letter, Bella. Deal with everything later, look into apartments. Show him that this isn't the end and that there are options. Include him in them so that he knows." She suggests and it helps to make me feel a bit better. "In fact, you know what you should do? I mean, it's a total coin flip whether it's a good idea or not, but…"

"Tell me." I demand on pins and needles.

"Talk to Carlisle. Who knows best how to break news like this to Edward than he does?" She's really starting to come across as my own personal Yoda. "When is the deadline for letters anyway? You better just send it now."

I groan and walk back to my dresser. "I have three more days, but…"

"Bella?" Rosalie asks when my silence goes on for too long.

My eyes are glued to the top of my dresser, blood building and pushing behind my ears. My body tenses up as my head starts to shake side to side in total disbelief. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. This isn't happening. I repeat over and over to myself inside my head. But the tears still collect and brim over to slide down my face, and the trembling is now full blown panic.

Please don't let what I think happened be true. I pray to whoever will listen and grant me this one wish.

"Oh, fuck," I whisper in defeat.

"Bella, what's wrong?" Now I have Rosalie worried.

"It's gone." I croak and slowly back away from the clear tabletop.

Please no, please no.

I am such a fucking IDIOT!

"What's gone? Bella, you're scaring me." Her voice breaks.

My heart hammers away behind my ribs like a fast beating drum. It's gone. I feel like I need to vomit. Saliva gathers in my mouth. I dart for the starts and almost fall on my way down. "Dad!" I scream with my phone still pressed to my ear while Rosalie continues to shout at me.

"Dad!" I call out again.

He comes skidding around the corner from the kitchen, his cup of what looks like juice spilling and dripping down his arm. "What's going on?" His first instinct is to pull me close and look around the room for danger.

"Were you in my room today?" I stare up at him with so much hope that he takes a step back from me in surprise.

"I put your clean clothes on your bed this morning, why?" His brows furrow together so close that for just a moment they resemble that of a caterpillar.

"That's it? Did you take anything?" My voice cracks.

His eyes bore down into mine as if searching for clues to explain my current behavior. He's slowly slipping into cop-mode and with every twitch of his mustache, my heart thumps harder. Dad raises a hand to rub at his chin with narrowed eyes that suddenly widen as an epiphany hits him.

"Oh, yeah!" He replies animatedly. "I mailed that letter that was on your desk when I went out earlier today. Looked important." He nods as if explaining something to me that I don't already know. "Don't worry 'bout it, kid." He pats my shoulder. "Dad's got you covered." With a wink, he leaves me to go back to his chair in the living room.

"Oh, shit." Comes Rosalie's breathless curse.

I barely make it to the kitchen before slumping at the table in a catatonic state. That letter has been sitting there for weeks, why now? Why did my dad choose now to mail it? I start to rub my chest as the pressure pushes hard enough to make me wheeze.

"This makes no difference, Bella." Rosalie—ever the best fucking friend—starts to say things to calm me down. "You were going to send it anyway, now you don't have to. You're going to sit down and talk it out with Edward, make plans for the future. Make him feel included."

My head bops up and down without speaking. She's right, nothing has changed. It was going to be sent out anyway, this changes nothing. Everything is perfectly fine.

"Rose?" I whisper into my phone.

"Yeah, sweetie?" she replies softly.

I gulp and run my hand through my hair. "I wish you were here."

"Me, too," she says.

-x-

I keep checking my phone for a reply from Carlisle while I sit at my desk in English class that afternoon. I texted him last night asking to meet up. It's time he and Edward work things out, especially since we'll be meeting up with his mother next week. The closer we get to the date, the more I know Edward wishes he could talk to Carlisle. I don't want any more surprises to happen, so if Carlisle knows anything, he needs to say it now.

"Kebi and Hunter… Swan and Whitlock… Cheney and Pe—"

"Um, excuse me." My hand flies up into the air.

Ms. Calderon's brow arches in acknowledgement. "Yes, Ms. Swan?"

My arm slowly comes back down as every head in class turns in my direction. "What are you calling our names out for?" My cheeks flush from embarrassment for being caught not paying attention in class. I look and feel like a total dumb ass right now.

Instead of answering me, she keeps calling out names and I'm left sitting here with my mouth agape in shock. How rude! Luckily, Chelsea leans over in her desk to tell me that we're partnering up for a class assignment on the reading we had for homework last night.

Guess who didn't do the reading? Ugh.

"All right, that's it. Are there any questions about the assignment before you pair off?" Mrs. Calderon's eyes purposely ignore my section of the room.

Screw that. My arm is back up with my hand swinging in the air for attention.

"Ms. Swan." Her voice is that of pure annoyance.

"Yeah, could I possibly get a partner who is not a complete douchebag?" I cross my arms over my chest.

Oh, yes. I went there.

The class laughs at my comment, Mrs. Calderon—does not.

"Request denied, Ms. Swan. If there are no other relevant questions…" Her hands wave out for us to disassemble into groups of two.

I make my way over to where Jasper sits in the corner of the room and grab the nearest empty desk to drag it in front of his. The legs scratch the floor ear-splittingly loud and I want to cringe so bad, but I refuse. Slamming my book down—The Great Gatsby— I glare at him and then sit.

We sit in silence until Ms. Calderon gives us our assignment sheets and a stern look that says, "Don't fuck with me." According to the worksheet, we're supposed to write a short essay about a scene or symbol provided to us. So when I see "The Green Light" in bold at the top of the paper, I know I'm screwed. I know this because a) I haven't been keeping up with the reading, b) I haven't watched the movie yet, and c) Jasper won't stop staring at me and I'm pretty sure he has no intention of participating in this assignment.

So again, I'm screwed.

Okay, I clear my throat and straighten my shoulders. I can do this, it's not like I've never read the spark notes for this damn book. Because I have—every time we have a chapter test coming up I devote myself to that website. But now we're almost finished with the book and I'm two chapters behind. Edward helped me last time I had to write a one paged synopsis on what I'd read so far. It frustrated him to no end that I wouldn't take him seriously. I couldn't help it, he looked so damn adorable reading to me and pausing to explain what was going on.

That night I realized that he's independently smart. When left on his own he can focus and open his mind to whatever it is he's doing. But put him in a group and he's instantly distracted and uninterested. It makes me wonder what kind of student he could be if not for the flaw he has when it comes to his self-worth.

But I digress.

Okay. The Green Light. I outline the bold letters with my pen over and over again while I struggle to figure out how to start this damn assignment. I can do this, I'm in the top ten percent of my graduating class—I dropped from the top 5 when I started dating Edward. I should probably care about that, but I don't. Not really.

The.

Green.

Light…

Pencil poised above the paper, I touch down and write the first thing that comes to mind.

The green light is what Gatsby associates with Daisy as it is situated at the East Egg dock where she resides on the opposite end of his West Egg lawn…

Okay, wait. That was bad. I spin my pencil around and scrub the eraser against what I've just written. Pieces of the rubber-end litter across the desk and smudge my words away into almost nothing. All that is left is a light remnant of what once was.

"I'm sorry," Jasper speaks out unexpectedly.

I pause my pencil where it sits at the beginning of a sentence and keep my head down and eyes glued to the lead tip of my ridiculously expensive mechanical pencil. "For what?" I respond as if uninterested in what he has to say. As I wait for his reply, I start to rewrite my previous thoughts on that stupid green light Gatsby is so obsessed with.

But apparently Jasper has lost his damn mind, because as soon as I start writing, he snatches the paper from right out underneath me. The pencil slides a dark lines across the white sheet as he does so and when I look up at him it's murderous.

"My parents are in the middle of a divorce." His voice is strained, eyes red with dark circles, and hair in an uncharacteristic disarray.

I want to feel bad for him—I do feel bad. But why is he telling me this? I force my gaze elsewhere so that I don't see how closely he watches me for a reaction. My bottom lip immediately gets sucked between my teeth for chewing and my leg starts to bounce, my knee hitting the underside of my desk repeatedly.

"They've been fighting over everything lately and they keep trying to make me pick sides." He sighs and slants in his chair. "My dad is borderline blackmailing me, saying that when the divorce is final he will have most of the family income and if I choose my mother, how do I expect to pay for college?"

Wow. I blink over at him in surprise. "That sucks."

He snorts and shakes his head as he gazes out the window. "That's not even half of it. My dad cheated. With his assistant."

"Ouch." I cringe.

He turns to look at me. "His assistant was a fucking dude, Bella."

Holy shit.

"Wow." I whisper in complete shock.

"I've just…" He leans forward with his elbows on the desktop and his hands in his hair. "I've been going out of my mind dealing with this and…" His head rolls up to look at me with soft eyes. "I'm really sorry for that day in the Snack Shack. I don't know why I said it, even when Alice said things to me I knew she was lying. But I was so mad at everything because it just seemed like it was one thing after another. You dumped me. I didn't get into Notre Dame. My parents… and I broke off my friendship with Alice."

"Why are you telling me all of this, Jasper?" I ask him as politely as possible.

He shrugs and looks down at the desk. "Because…" His chest lifts with a deep inhale and depresses slowly as he exhales through his nose. "I really want to be friends with you again, Bella. I… miss you."

I pull away and slump in my chair, unable to respond. What do I even say after something like that? Edward would never go for it, and I wouldn't want him talking to an ex. Then again, being Jasper's friend isn't a marriage proposal. It's smiles in the hallway, a lift of a hand if we see each other in public, a friendly face at a party…

"I still care about you, Bella." I know he wants me to look at him, but I can't. "I'm not saying that to make you feel guilty or conflicted. It's just how I feel. I would rather be your friend than nothing at all. Just friends, I swear. I respect you enough to never try anything past friendship with you while you're dating Cullen."

I nod my head, but don't comment on the careful structure of that last sentence. We sit in silence until the bell rings and everyone is up and scooting desks back where they belong. On my way out the door, he stops me with a gentle hand on my wrist.

"Hey, by the way? I did get accepted to NYU. I know that's one of the schools you applied to. Did you get into all of them?" He sticks his hands into his pockets and regards me with shy sincerity.

But I choke on my answer.

"Don't tell me you didn't get into any." He rolls his eyes. "You're too damn smart not to."

"I don't know yet." I bite my lip and turn away to walk outside class.

His eyes widen. "What? No way, letters went out—"

"I got into Vassar, okay?" I huff as if he's just made me reveal my inner most embarrassing secret.

"That's great, Bella! You're first choice!" He steps forward as if he wants to hug me but pulls back at the last second. "Uh, congratulations."

I force a smile. "Thanks."

"Have you told the front office yet?" His eyes are so pure and blue as he stares down at me. "They'll put your name up on the—"

"No!" I shout at him and pull him into a vacant corner of the hall. "You can't tell anyone." I plead.

He blinks in astonishment. "Well, why the hell not?"

"It's… complicated." I kick the toe of my shoe into a crack in the concrete and shrug my shoulders. "Look, can we not talk about this? And please don't tell anyone, all right?"

It's obvious he wants to say more, but thankfully he doesn't. "Okay." He nods as he watches me closely. "If that's what you want."

"Yes." I snap. "That's what I want. I wouldn't have asked if I didn't."

He walks a few steps backward then pauses. "You should be happy, Bella—proud even. Not scared."

"I'm not scared." I scoff at him as if what he's just said is not the complete and utter truth. I'm terrified.

"Well you're not proud, either." He calls me on my bluff.

"There are a lot of things I should be," I say earnest, "but I'm not. So…" I shrug and let the sentence drag.

But he won't let it go. "Come on, Bella. This is a big deal." He closes the gap between us and sets a hand on my shoulder. "Be happy! I'm sure your boyfriend is happy for you, too!"

I let loose a small and bitter laugh. "How does he do that?" I look up into Jasper's eyes and feel the floodgates open without permission. "I haven't even told him yet. He'll take my leaving for college as my leaving him behind. I know he will." My voice cracks. "So how can I be happy about this, huh? Tell me." I draw myself away from his touch and start for my next class.

He hurries to match my speed. "Look, Bella. If he loves you? Then he'll be happy for you. End of story." He walks ahead of me and turns to walk backward so that I have no choice but to look at him. "And for the record? I'm happy for you."

Then he spins around and heads off down the hall, leaving me behind speechless.

-x-

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Royce King Whoever it is that keeps moving the condoms display into the baby isle: you're not funny.

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Makenna Levine So proud of my man for getting into Texas state AND Berkeley! I love you, Jacob Black, no matter where you choose.

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Emmett McCarty FUCK YEAH U-DUB, BABY! You knoooowww!

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Chelsea Salvatore to Bella Swan

Chelsea Salvatore We're submitting pics for a page in the YB for cheerleading if you have anything. Also, we're doing a page for just Rosalie. You know her best, any ideas?

Bella Swan I have some great pics of Rose.

Chelsea Salvatore Yay!

-x-

"Hey babe, it's me again. I know you're out with your boys, but I just wanted to say that I'm coming over tonight. I told dad I'm staying with Makenna. I have to tell you something." I hang up my phone and stare down at it while sitting in my car.

In a restaurant parking lot in Port Angeles.

Carlisle finally texted me back. I tell myself that I'm doing this for Edward, that I'm butting in without being asked because I know how much Carlisle means to him. Even though he won't admit it out loud, which drives me crazy. Why won't he admit he misses Carlisle? Why won't he admit that he needs Carlisle? But most important?

Why hasn't Carlisle himself tried to talk to Edward?

It's that last question that finally gets me out of my car and into the restaurant. It's just an old diner, not that many people are seated so it's easy to spot Carlisle.

He wears a warm smile, but I approach him cautiously regardless. "Hey." I manage to say as I stand in front of the table twiddling my thumbs like a moron.

He gives me a reassuring smile. "Hello, Bella."

I sit—awkwardly.

Then we start to talk—awkwardly.

"How is school?" He clears his throat and pulls from his ice water.

"Fine." I say dragging my finger through the condensation on my own glass of water.

"Cheerleading?" He tries again to engage me.

"Great! Nationals is in a few weeks." I look up at him and fake enthusiasm.

His handsome face is made more alluring when he smiles sincerely. "Decided what college you're going to?"

And right when I think we're making progress. I frown and look down at my water again. "Touchy subject."

"Why is that?" He asks thoughtfully.

I sigh and breathe out my nose in a small snort. "Because the school I want to go to is in on the East Coast?" I don't know why I say this as if it's a question.

"And?" His shrug is so casual it irritates me. "Isn't this the time to spread your wings and try new things?"

Is he fucking with me right now?

I look up at him curiously and try not to scowl. "Not if it means leaving everyone I love behind."

He frowns. "You can't think of it that way, Bella."

"Why? It's true, isn't it?" I lift a shoulder and pick up a menu to look through the desserts.

"No." He shakes his head and sets his arms on top of the table. "Not at all."

"Doesn't matter." I set the menu down and rub at my tired face. "Edward won't see it that way."

Carlisle gives a considerable pause and aligns his silverware before distracting himself further with taking a sip from his water. "I think that will depend on how you decide to approach that subject." He relents a minute later.

"I don't want him to think of me as just another person to leave him behind." I feel tears collecting in my eyes. "I want him to go with me, but I know he won't. He's too stubborn. He'll think of only the negative and not the positive."

"Is this why we're here today, Bella?" He asks softly. "Do you need my advice in bringing this up to Edward?"

"No." I shake my head. "I asked you here originally because I want to know what happened between you and Edward. Whatever it was, I'm sure it can be fixed. He misses you so much, Carlisle. You have no idea how much. He doesn't admit it out loud, of course, but I know it."

He shifts uncomfortably and looks toward the exit. I sense he's getting ready to bolt. My mind spins into overdrive and reach over to touch his hand.

"I know your fight has to do with Aro and we both know he can't be trusted. Were you aware that Aro gave Edward his mother's company number? He's set up a meeting with her in a few weeks—but she thinks she's meeting with someone named Royce. Edward was too afraid to say who he really was."

At this Carlisle's head snaps up to stare at me with wide and alert eyes. "He what?"

The hairs on my arms stand up. "What's wrong? Tell me, Carlisle. I need to know what I'm up against. I need to know how to be there for Edward."

Carlisle is very concerned and expresses his opinion as such. "There is a lot of things going on that Edward is completely unaware of. I didn't know the full extent of what was going on until the day I got a call from Aro Volturi telling me Edward was about to be expelled from school."

I sense this is a deep conversation we're about to have and motion for the waitress to mix me a chocolate milkshake and season fries. I skipped lunch earlier today because I was so nervous that Carlisle was going to blow me off. Now that I'm here, I'm so nervous I feel the need to stuff my face until I barf.

"Before you tell me anything else." I hold a hand up. "I just want to say that this conversation today stays between you and me. I don't want Edward to know I met with you. However, I cannot promise that I will not at some point tell him everything that is about to be said. Because he would never forgive me if I withheld any secrets from him." I drink from my water, my mouth is suddenly bone dry. Because I've just completely contradicted myself.

Then Carlisle starts to talk.

And I feel like the world has just cracked open from underneath my feet.

"Wait, stop." I say after a while and slam my hand down between us while I inhale a shaky breath. "Are you saying that Aro has been paying for Edward's bills this entire time? That there is no special emancipation program that helps him with the rent and utilities? That the checks he gets from the state are fabricated because they're actually from Aro fucking Volturi?"

"Bella." He scolds me with a firm shake of his head. "I'm only telling you what I've recently discovered. I've always known that Aro was Edward's Godfather and legal guardian—that he only signed Edward over to the state when he knew I was going to adopt him. I cannot justify or even pretend to understand his reasons for doing what he did. I was always aware that the money behind Edward's "special program" was truthfully from Aro's own pocket. But when Aro Volturi tells you to keep your mouth shut about something, you do it and you do it without question."

I nod my head in agreement. I've never actually met the guy, but he sounds scary as hell.

"I've always wondered why Aro kept Edward at length. On one hand, I see that his life is not something Edward should ever be a part of. However, I don't see why he allowed Edward to bounce from home to home for as long as he did. That was such a tough time for Edward and is the root of his destructive behavior. He trusts absolutely no one because everyone he's ever put his faith into has let him down in one way or another. And it hurts me to say that I let him down by not revealing the truth to him from the beginning." Carlisle's gaze sets down at his clasped hands.

There is a tiny pin prick that pinches inside my heart. I see that I've managed to do exactly what I've been trying so hard not to. I've kept secrets from Edward, even when I promised I wouldn't, even when I looked into his eyes and told him how much I love him. Disgusted with myself, I push my half empty shake away and cover my untouched fries with a napkin.

"It's obvious that Aro cares for Edward, he's never once missed a graduation or any other significant moment in Edward's life. But you can see in his eyes that there is… something between them that prevents either one of them from letting the other in." He runs a hand through his blonde waves after saying this and looks at me kindly.

"I feel the need to explain to you Alice's past behavior, Bella. Because she is a big part of the good that's inside of Edward. When I first met him, he was full of darkness and negativity. It wasn't until I pulled him from that life that he truly started to grow. And Alice was there every step of the way, being to Edward what Royce and Jake could not." Carlisle explains. "Bella, there is something about Alice that you need to know." His pause causes me to regard him cautiously.

I sip from my water just so I have something to do.

"Alice is bi-polar." He lets that sink in before he continues. "She has episodes of severe highs and lows and Edward was the only one who could get her through them. She grew dependent upon him and as a result, she attached herself to him romantically—though I truly believe it's always been one-sided."

Hell yes it has been.

"She's spiraling, Bella. Esme is at a loss and so am I—and I don't even think this is something Edward can truly help with anymore. But I care for both Alice and Edward very deeply, so I am selfishly asking you to please talk with Edward about possibly reconciling with Alice." His words don't plead as much as his eyes do. "I know you've had your differences, but I don't know what to do and it terrifies me. She needs him, I think. Even if it's just as a friend."

I stare at him and even though I am at a complete loss, I do kinda-sorta-not-really-oh-ok-maybe-a-little understand what he means.

"And I never intended to leave or desert Edward, even though my actions may appear that way. Edward is very particular, you have to approach him at the right time or you could ruin everything. He does not forgive easily, and I have just been biding my time before I attempted to talk with him again." I flinch when I feel his hand take mine. "And even if I am ready to forgive him for what he did, it does not mean he may be anywhere near ready to forgive me."

I squeeze his hand before I pull away and when I bring my wallet out to pay for my food he stops me with a look. I don't really have all that much cash so I don't fight him on it when he drops two twenties down and ushers me out to the parking lot. I feel heavy with weight on my shoulders and lead in my tummy. I'm so fucked.

"Any words of advice before we part ways?" I say it as a joke, but I really do want to hear what he might say.

We walk quietly to my car and he opens the driver side door for me to get in, but doesn't shut it behind me just yet. "You love him?"

"Of course!" I shout offended.

He nods as if he knew that would be my answer. "Tell him that, make sure he believes it before you tell him about Vassar. Since Edward has no permanent ties to La Push, encourage him to pursue his own passions in life. I know he can be pessimistic and closed minded when it comes to his future, but if you get him to see the light at the head of the tunnel you'll be just fine, Bella."

"And how do I do that?" My voice waivers.

I watch his lips twitch and his shoulder lift. "That's up to you."

He shuts me into my car and gives me one small wave before walking to his own.

-x-

I have to pee.

Edward's body wrapped around me is hot and sweaty and he smells like a brewery. I was asleep before he got home and awoke to the feel of him undressing me. His sluggish moves and slurred words were a blur as I slowly slipped from sleep to consciousness. Then with a jolt he was in me and nothing mattered but how amazing it felt.

But now, several hours later, I need to pee and the clock says its near five a.m. and I can't move because Edward is sprawled across my torso. His face is pressed into my skin just above my navel and his hands clutch at my sides possessively even in slumber. His breath is hot and his lips open as he inhales and exhales long and steady. He is the most beautiful sight.

But he is pressing into my bladder.

I push and wiggle until I finally slip out from under him and lose my balance in the sheets so that my knees hit the floor hard. I hiss and whine and hobble to the bathroom like a zombie with my arms held out to keep me from running into anything. It's pitch dark and I can't see a damn thing.

I hate that Edward can't sleep if there is even a hint of light anywhere in his line of vision.

I'm washing my hands and it's weird because I feel like I'm forgetting something. Or that I've time jumped. But the warm water is relaxing as I continuously lather my hands with pomegranate scented soap. White suds that looks like tiny little clouds in the palms of my hands. I laugh and rinse them away, watching them swirl down the drain.

I leave the light on so I can see where I'm going on my way back to bed and pause when I step outside the bathroom and into the hall. Something isn't right. I blink and stare around me, turning in a complete circle. Why is his bathroom outside his room?

Whatever. I turn for his room and the hall stretches out in front of me for miles. I rub my hands over my eyes and now the hall has doors lining each side. I just want to go back to sleep. I step forward, dizzy and tired, and open the first door on my right.

It's bright as fuck in there. I raise a hand to shield away the light and hear a baby cry followed by a sweet and familiar voice cooing and singing. Everything stops.

"Rose?" I let my hand drop and blink over at her in confusion.

Dressed in a long white dress, hair pulled back into a braid with wisps of flyaway's falling into her eyes, she stares down at a bundle in her arms lovingly swaying side to side. The baby laughs and Rose grins and looks up at me finally.

"Wanna hold her?" She asks me proudly.

Holy shit. I gasp and feel the air leave my lungs so fast I gasp for breath. The door slams shut on her and then I'm in front of a new door. I don't want to open this one, I'm scared, but it swings open anyway.

And its Jasper waving at me across what looks like a college campus. "Come on!" He shouts as if he's in a hurry. "Class is about to start!" He turns and heads off to where I assume his class is being held. I don't get a chance to respond or even enter the room—it slams shut and there's a new door.

When I open this one I slam it shut immediately afterward and clutch my chest in fright. The fuck is there giant pink vampire bunnies in there for? I hear them start to scratch at the door and sprint down the hall to Edward's room. When I'm there everything is normal again. The hallway is short and practically nonexistent as it usually is. There is no bathroom out here.

Thank, God. I open the door and Edward turns over in bed with half-lidded eyes and an outstretched hand as he calls me back to bed.

But when I step inside the room the bed slides away from me and with every step I take to get closer the farther away he gets. Now I'm running toward him as fast as I can and crying for him as I reach out to nothing.

"Edward!" I scream in a panic.

He acts like nothing is wrong, like I'm playing around and his face grows irritated with me. "Get your ass in this bed, Bella." He shouts back at me.

I take a hesitant step forward and finally he's not moving away from me. I sigh in relief and keep walking until I realize the ground is freezing cold and my toes are sticking to it like ice. I pause curiously and look down to see that the ground is frozen over and cracking beneath me. I can see fish and killer whales swim under my feet as the ice cracks and the floor rumbles.

"Edward!" I call out to him horrified. "Help me!" I beg of him, unable to look away from the glacier I seem to be stuck on.

Finally the ice pops and I start to float away from Edward. I see him finally jump up from the bed and call out to me, but it's too late. It's like there's a boat pulling me away in the opposite direction.

"Edward!" I cry and jerk my feet from the ice where it peels the skin off the bottom of my feel as I struggle to move to the end of the ice to get closer to where Edward is. "Help me!" I shout but he just stands there at the bed and watches me drift away. "Edward, meet me half way!" I beg him.

Why won't he move? Why won't he take even one step toward me? Why isn't he helping me? I start sobbing and begging him to come to me, to meet me halfway at least. But he doesn't and I'm scared if I get too far away I'll never see him again so I jump. I leap off the ice and into the freezing cold water that makes my teeth chatter and my skin tingle and my blood stop flowing through my veins.

"Edward! Edward, please!" I can't breathe, I can barely keep my head above water. The skies are bright with light grey clouds and no sun. "Edward, help me! Meet me halfway!" I scream and scream until I can't move anymore and I start to sink like a rock to the bottom of the ocean.

I wake up gasping and crying and clawing around me as if I'm still trying to swim back to the surface. My body trembles and my lungs burn for air. I can't stop sobbing, even when I feel strong arms pull me against a steel chest and soft warm lips pressing against my face.

"It was just a dream, baby. I'm right here, Bella. It was just a dream." Edward keeps saying into my ear and kissing my face. "It's okay, baby. Breathe. Breathe, Bella. I'm here."

My arms circle his neck as I sob into his chest and crawl into his lap. His words mean nothing because I can barely comprehend them, all I feel are his hands against my back and his mouth at my ear.

"What happened, Bella?" He asks with nervous concern. "Baby, talk to me. Please."

"Just hold me." I sniffle and try to gain control of myself again.

"Of course," he says wrapping me up in his arms and pulling the blankets up over us.

"Tighter," I whisper to him, "tighter… don't let me go until I fall asleep. Please wait until then."

"Babe," he replies worried, "what happened in your dream?" His fingers comb through my hair softly and he rocks me gently until I finally start falling back asleep.

And just before I let my eyes close, I tell him softly, "You wouldn't meet me half way."

-x-

This trail that you're treading

Is one flicked switch awaiting many

The coils, the echoes rattling

I hope the fears are buried beneath my love

My love, love is the everchanging spectrum of a lie

A lie, a lie to hide behind when nothings right

You take form with ink and blood

Can't you see I'm good?

Nothing outside will care enough

Nothing outside will care enough

Nothing outside of you

-x-

AN: This chapter's title (as well as posted lyrics above) refers to the song Everchanging Spectrum of a Lie sung by The Joy Formidable.

TK FIC REC: Dissecting Edward by chynnadoll36.

I will never pull TSB unless FF does.

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IMPORTANT NOTICE!

I am in need of a beta for TSB. If you or anyone you know have beta'd fanfic before and are interested in a trial run with me, shoot me a DM. I'm pretty particular so if it doesn't work out, please don't be offended. Thanks!