A/N Written anonymously for The Canon Tours New Moon Round. Thank you to everyone who read and reviewed and voted in the contest.

Beta'd by SaritaDreaming. Special thanks to her as well for coming up with the title. :)

The Divide

. . . . . .

I wake up feeling sick and tired, bad dreams clinging to me like a second skin. My eighteenth birthday, and all I can think is...one year older than Edward.

I find out the shower is a good place to cry. If you tip your head right up into the spray of cold water, you can avoid swollen eyes and tear tracks that would otherwise betray a pity party. A little Visine after the fact, and the false smile I plaster on my face before going down for breakfast looks pretty authentic, even to me.

Charlie's chipper at least, excited about the camera he bought me and teasing about gray hairs. I smile and make nice, gushing a little about the gift I expressly asked him not to buy. I do like the camera, but presents just remind me of the one thing I want more than anything else in the world. Too bad immortality can't be bought at a store.

I make an effort to choke down a Poptart until three bites in it sticks in my throat making me cough till my eyes water. So much for the Visine. Giving up on any attempt to eat, I tidy the kitchen while I wait for Edward, attempting to put my bad mood off to the side. He already knows I'm not happy about turning eighteen—no sense rubbing it in by taking it out on him.

He's quiet in the car on the way to school, his hands a blur on the gearshift, looking elegant and perfect. I, on the other hand, am a twitching, inelegant mess. I fidget with the ragged straps of my book bag and the untied shoelace of my left shoe that's wet from the puddle I inadvertently walked through. My fingers find a spot of dry skin on my neck that itches from rubbing against the twisted collar of my sweater. I don't scratch, refraining from shedding skin cells on the immaculate seat.

My bad mood grows with the nagging itch and the cloud cover. Intermittent droplets of rain spatter down on the windshield. Edward turns on the wipers and they squeak across glass that isn't wet enough to ensure a smooth glide. My nerves stutter uncomfortably under my skin with each swipe. I almost welcome the sight of Forks High School when we finally arrive, if for no other reason than it will get me out of this car and give me something to think about besides being one year older than Edward.

As soon as he parks, I practically lunge for the door, though I barely get it open before his hand on my wrist stops me.

"Bella, wait."

Forcing myself to turn back, I arrange my expression into something I hope looks neutral. I don't close the door, and I keep one foot on the wet pavement.

Edward sighs, and the corner of his mouth quirks up at the edges. The backs of his knuckles briefly touch my cheek, dragging down my skin softly before dropping into his lap.

"You're unhappy today." He states the obvious, a frown replacing the barely there smile.

"I'm fine," I tell him, forcing my lips up even though I doubt it looks authentic. My body starts to ache thanks to the twisted position I have it in, so I get out of the car without letting him finish whatever it was he wanted to say. The plan is to head quickly for the school doors and the group of students lingering outside. I know he won't say anything about my birthday or my mood in a crowd of noisy teenagers who still haven't gotten past the novelty of our...togetherness. Unfortunately, my inherent clumsiness defeats the idea of a quick getaway. The straps of my book bag get caught up in the seat belt, jerking me backwards and forcing me to stop and untangle myself.

I feel Edward behind me even before his hands reach out and accomplish what I was only further messing up. My bag slides easily out of the seatbelt's grasp and into his. He places it on top of the car before he turns me around. A cold finger slips under my chin and nudges my head up so I have to meet his gaze. This time, the smile he wears is genuine.

"What is it about birthdays that you reject so vehemently?"

"It's not birthdays in general. Just mine. Just this one. And don't ask; you already know why."

"It's only one year, Bella," he replies softly.

"Is it just one year, Edward?" The sharpness in my tone sounds confrontational, and I regret it instantly.

To his credit, Edward's smile doesn't slip, though it does lose some of its power.

"I'm sorry," I say with a loud exhale. "I guess I just don't feel like...celebrating." I try to pull away, but Edward's hands grip my waist, tugging me closer. With a low laugh he kisses the top of my head, and I can't help but sink into him. He's all hard, cold angles and perfect scent, the decadent leather of his coat blending with that indefinable something that he claims is just lure for prey. Whatever it is, it buffs out the edges of my misery and makes me melt. I snuggle closer, pressing my face to his chest as though I can block out the world, and with it, our reality. Human and immortal and the impasse we cannot seem to breach.

"Can't we just pretend this is an ordinary day?" I ask, my tone wheedling as my fingers clutch fabric that probably costs more than my entire wardrobe.

"No, we can't," he answers, the lingering smile I can't see with my eyes affecting his pronunciation. "Bella, your birthday is definitely something to celebrate."

I make a sound somewhere between an exasperated laugh and a far-from-appealing snort. There are no musical bells in my laughter—one more reminder of all that he is compared to all that I'm not. Still, I tip my head up and don't turn away when he lowers his to kiss me. My fingers clench harder around the fabric of his shirt, probably wrinkling it in the process, though I don't care, and I don't think he does, either.

It's a slow kiss—careful as always—yet deeper than he normally allows. The taste and feel of him makes me forget where we are and the fact that most likely we're being stared at. When Edward finally pulls away, I'm disoriented, and the fog of my bad mood is definitely lifting. His thumb brushes lightly over the dampness of my bottom lip, prolonging the little fire darts of electricity I feel whenever we touch. With an exhale that isn't necessary and a hard swallow I know is, Edward puts a little space between us. His eyes seem darker than they were before, and a new insecurity flutters over me. Is he affected as much as I am by the kiss, or is it only that being so close to me is making him thirsty?

Before I can ask, he pushes my hair over my shoulder and says, "Alice will be here in a moment. I'm afraid she—even more than me—is not going to allow you to wiggle your way out of birthday festivities."

"Edward, no. You promised. No gifts, no big deal, just a quiet day." The lingering feeling of unease left over from all the bad dreams grows at the prospect of whirlwind Alice and her idea of "birthday festivities." Out of the corner of my eye, I catch Alice's car entering the parking lot on the far west side.

"Relax, Bella. Alice hasn't gone overboard; I promise. But you have to understand, my family hasn't celebrated a birthday in decades. Please be reasonable," he adds quietly, dropping his head till our foreheads touch, breathing his breath in my face. "They're looking forward to it."

He doesn't play fair, not with the breathing or the added kiss he delivers with the plea he knows I can't refuse.

"What do you mean by they?" I ask in trepidation, even as he turns me to face Alice who is practically skipping through the parking lot towards me.

"All of us. Even Emmett and Rose came back from their trip early to be here," Alice declares happily as soon as her barely human paced skipping brings her to us. "Happy birthday, Bella." I'm swept up into her small embrace, the air rushing from my lungs with the force of her over-exuberance.

"Oops," she cries, letting me go so I can refill my lungs. "Sorry, Bella. But look! I come bearing gifts!" She spins around to take a package out of Jasper's arms that looks more exquisitely wrapped than anything the most seasoned mall Christmas elf could produce. Jasper is smiling, too, which is a rarity for him. His soft "Happy Birthday, Bella,"nearly gets lost in all the other noises around us.

"Alice, I said no gifts," I tell her in exasperation, wishing I could refuse yet knowing I can't. Not when she's smiling that way at me.

"Oh, Bella. You can't have a birthday without..." Her mischievously dancing eyes suddenly turn flat, her happy expression fading out as quickly as the twinkle. Expressionless, she stares past me, focused on nothing and no one. Before I can even think to be concerned, Edward mutters something under his breath that I might have thought was a curse word if I didn't know him better. I turn to look at him, watching as his fingers pinch the bridge of his nose while his nostrils flare. My attention is torn back to Alice as she cries out a sharp "No," stamping her foot on the wet pavement with a sound too loud to be accredited to her tiny feet. I half expect a crack to appear, though I don't get a chance to witness it if it does.

Without warning, I'm surrounded by Jessica, Mike, Angela, and Tyler who somehow manage to get in between me and Alice. Edward, obviously refusing to budge, snakes an arm around my waist and pulls me into his side. I think I hear a hiss.

"Bella, Happy Birthday!" It's an excited chorus, and I can't quite make out who is saying what as it gets repeated a half dozen times. Jessica links her arm through mine—the one that's not pinned to Edward—and Angela gives me an awkward one-armed hug.

"Okay, whoa, you guys," I say with a slight laugh that's more embarrassed and overwhelmed than amused. "It's just a birthday..."

"It's not just a birthday, Bella," Angela interrupts, smiling. "It's your eighteenth birthday, and that's special."

"Exactly," Mike adds with a drawl that speaks volumes about how obvious he thinks Angela's statement is. "And for that exact reason, it's time to paaarrrtay!"

"We've got it all arranged, Bella, and it's going to be a blast. Oh, my gosh, I'm so excited." Jessica is nearly vibrating as she pulls on my arm, trying to get me to move with her. The warning bell has rung, or I think it has, because the other students are heading inside. I dig my feet into the slick pavement as much as I can and refuse to move.

"What are you guys talking about?" I look to Alice for help, but she's frowning and looking at Edward in silent apology.

"What we are talking about, Bella, is the party of the year, tonight, in honour of you and the eighteen years you've graced this earth." Tyler, always one for a dramatic flair, does an odd half bow, sweeping his arm out like he's just removed a top hat.

Jessica bounces beside me, jerking more on my arm which is starting to feel a little bruised. "We've planned everything out already, Bella, so you can't be a spoil sport and back out. Money has been spent, cake has been ordered..."

"More importantly," Mike interrupts, winking at me like I'm in on some joke, "a keg has been ordered."

"Hell yeah!" Tyler yells before high-fiving Mike. The sound of their hands meeting just above my head makes me flinch slightly.

"You planned a party? For me?" I look at Edward, half expecting him to smile and admit to being a part of this, but his expression is stoic and hard, his jaw clenched so tight the line of bones look sharp. He's still staring at Alice who, for the first time ever, looks a little stunned and confused.

"Yes, Bella. God! Pay attention." Jessica gives up on pulling me forward and throws her hands up in exasperation. "Tonight, eight o'clock, La Push beach. Bonfire, music, food..."

"Beer!" Tyler and Mike shout it together, then laugh, patting each other on the back with loud, overly aggressive thumps that sound painful. I watch them walk away towards the school, still a little lost but catching on fast.

Angela rolls her eyes at them while Jessica huffs, affronted at being cut off again. I hear her mutter 'idiots' before she grabs my arm for a second time.

"Never mind them," she says. "Just be at La Push by eight. Oh, my gosh, Bella, we're going to have so much fun. Do you want me to pick you up or...?" she trails off on her own this time, looking at Edward uncertainly. He says nothing, just returns the look, his expression still hard and closed off. I feel her arm jump a little against mine, like she's nervous. "Well, you guys are invited, of course," she tells him, laughing but pulling away from me a bit.

"Are we then," Edward replies, his tone dark and not at all questioning.

"Absolutely," Angela replies in place of Jess who suddenly seems to find her shoes interesting. She's given up touching me at all now, shoving her hands in her coat pockets like she's cold, though the day is actually quite mild. "I'm sorry we didn't invite you guys sooner," Angela continues, her tone apologetic and sincere. "But we really wanted it to be a surprise." Angela shrugs a little, trying to smile at Alice who has stopped frowning and now just looks unhappy.

"Not that we think you guys couldn't keep a secret...or anything," she adds, biting her lip and looking like she wishes she hadn't said what she had.

I make an attempt to speak, aware that I sound breathless and nervous, yet unable to stop it. "Ang, Jess, I'm so sorry. I already have...plans...I can't..."

Jessica gains back her courage after my stuttered attempt to make excuses. I start wondering how much Jake had to do with this as she spins herself to face me. I feel dizzy and blink at her as she scowls.

"Oh, no you don't, Bella Swan. We went to a lot of trouble, and just this once would it kill you to spend time with us? Or are we not your friends, too?"

"Jess, don't. We knew this might not work. We should have asked first." Angela attempts to intervene, but Jess ignores her. Her sometimes pretty face is blotchy as she crosses her arms over her chest, purposely not looking at Edward while still keeping a healthy distance.

"It was a surprise," she bites out, casting a scalding glance at Angela who promptly goes quiet. "You can't tell people about a surprise. It kind of ruins the whole point of it!" Jessica turns back to me, her eyes snapping fire, though I don't fail to notice she takes another step back when Edward shifts slightly, pulling me closer to him. His grip is a little too tight. I'll probably bruise.

"Bella, whatever your plans are cancel them." Jess's voice suddenly softens and turns cajoling instead. "Please, Bella? It'll be so much fun. And it's not like whoever you had plans with can't come. Invite anyone you want, okay?"

I feel guilt spike hard in my chest. Ever since Edward and I became a...couple—for lack of a better word—I've really been neglecting everyone else. Still, this isn't right, either. The Cullens aren't welcome at La Push, and I can't just abandon them. Maybe I could just go for an hour or two then meet Edward at his house later? I glance nervously at him and find he's looking at me, a frown marring the otherwise smooth perfection of his face. I bite my lip and hum an okay before I can really think about it.

"But just for a little while, Jess, I really do have other plans. I'm sorry," I hurry to add.

Jessica's expression morphs back into a happy one, despite what I say. She gives me a bright, gloating smile, then links arms with Angela. "Eight o'clock. Don't be late," she calls over her shoulder as they walk away. I can see the final bell is about to ring by the emptiness of the parking lot but don't make any moves to join them. Instead, I turn back to look at Alice.

"What just happened?"

"My question exactly," Edward says dryly.

Alice shakes her head at us, reaching out to take the present I forgot I was even holding. "I'm sorry. I did not see that coming at all. Everything seemed fine and on track, and then it just wasn't. The entire night I planned has vanished."

Jasper, silent until now, rubs Alice's back, moving to stand in a way that is clearly protective. "You know she can't see...everything, Edward," he says with a veiled glance my way. I wonder about the pause, but before I can focus on it, Edward gives a low growl and looks at me.

"Apparently your friend Jacob Black is partly behind this. He's organized most of the night, including getting Sam Uley to purchase the beer Mike and Tyler are so excited about."

"Jake? But why?"

Edward makes a sound that mixes a growl with a laugh before he suddenly grabs my hand and begins walking towards the school.

"Listen," I say, scurrying a little to keep up with him. "This isn't a big deal. I'll just go for an hour or so, then leave and come to your house. Nothing has to change."

Edward glances at Alice, but she only shrugs, still helplessly blind for some reason.

Tugging on Edward's hand to make him let go or face hurting me if he refuses, I do a dead stop to confront Alice. "Wait! Why can't you see anything? What does that mean?"

Alice looks away, and Edward tugs me back to face him. I'm starting to feel like a pinball, and my bad mood is quickly coming back. "It's nothing to worry about, Bella. I told you before, her gift isn't without flaws."

"I can't see everyone and everything, Bella. Some people I see clearly, others I don't," Alice adds, a little put out sounding, though whether because of my question or her psychic shortcomings, I'm not sure.

"Of course. I'm sorry, Alice. I didn't mean to interrogate you..."

"Second bell is about to ring." She changes the subject with a small smile. "We're going to need late slips to get into class. We better hurry up before Mrs. Cope decides we're too late and tries to mark us absent."

I don't get a chance to ask any more questions before she darts off with Jasper, and Edward leads me inside with long strides that nearly force me to run.

. . . . . .

The day is hellishly long. It drags on until I think I'll scream. I'm either inundated by birthday well wishes and excited people I barely know talking to me about 'my party,' or I'm trying to pluck information from a close-lipped vampire who seems to be avoiding any chance for me to ask questions.

At lunch, I catch him with Alice, their heads bowed together. I swear I hear her say something that sounds like, "I can't see what she's going to do tonight, Edward. She hasn't made up her mind yet and until she does you know I won't..."

They break up as soon as I get close. The next thing I know, we're surrounded once again by Jessica, Angela, Tyler, and Mike, not to mention a bunch of others, who make it impossible for me to do anything but listen to party plans.

I have a headache by the time Edward and I get back to Charlie's after school.

We make our way to the kitchen, where I put the kettle on before turning to face him.

"Are you angry with me?"

He looks up, clearly surprised. "Of course not. Why would you ask such a thing?"

I shrug and bite the corner of my thumb nail. "I don't want to go to this party. I don't want to go to any party." I sound childish, I know, but I can't help it. I'm tired and out of sorts, and all I want is a quiet night in, just me and him.

He gets up from his seat at the shabby kitchen table and comes to stand in front of me. Gently, he pries my thumb away from my teeth. He smiles and shakes his head, his expression warm and a little amused.

"I know you didn't want this, but maybe it's good if you go."

"What? No!"

"Hear me out," he responds patiently, ignoring the less than patient look I give back. "I listened to the thoughts of your friends all day, and while I loathe the idea of you being away from me—on your birthday night of all nights—I can see they went to a lot of trouble to do this."

"Why didn't you see this in their heads before?" I ask, a touch of bitterness making me sound even more childish, especially in comparison to how reasonable he sounds.

Edward shrugs. "They planned all this over the weekend. I was with you all weekend."

I grunt a non-committal reply, and Edward continues where he left off before I interrupted. "As I was saying, they've all gone to a lot of trouble, and I can see I've been a bit selfish. I keep saying I want you to have a human life with human experiences, and yet I keep you to myself and you so rarely see your friends."

"You know I don't care about that," I tell him for the thousandth time. "I want to be with you. It's all I want." Insecurities pile back in on me, and I can feel our unresolved issues hovering over us again. If he'd change me, just make me like him, none of this would matter, but he refuses to even discuss it with me anymore.

As if I need proof that nothing has changed, he puts a finger over my lips to hush me. "It's only one night, Bella. Go have fun with your friends."

I feel rejected, unwanted. I struggle with the feelings as he turns away and goes back to the table. He touches the newspaper Charlie left there, lifting the edges of the pages without really looking at them. His perfect eyebrows pull down in a deep V as he rustles the paper back into a neat pile. He never fidgets, save the few practiced moves he makes now and again to appear human, and I wonder if he's more bothered by this party than he's letting on. His next words seem to add credence to that thought.

"I admit, I don't like you going to La Push. Having you so far away in a place I cannot get to..." I think I see his hands curl into fists. When I blink, I see them open at his sides, making me wonder if I imagined it or if he just forced them back open too quick for me to tell. He looks up at me, his smile light, his eyes gold and relaxed. "Promise me you'll be careful and not do anything reckless like stand too close to the fire or go wandering off somewhere alone."

The unwanted feeling grows, and I bristle, feeling like he's laughing at me. "Oh, of course—because I'm such a klutz I'll probably fall into the ocean and drown..."

He's back in front of me before I can assimilate the movement, making me jump a little.

"Not funny," he says, hands landing on the countertop behind me, caging me in with his arms and an angry look.

"I'm being sarcastic, Edward." I mean to snap the words and sound put out, but it comes out breathless instead. He does that to me every time, disarming me, dazzling me before I can argue or demand answers to questions he doesn't want me to ask.

He drops his head and kisses me, taking his time about it, yet doing such a thorough job I'm panting a little and dizzy by the time he lifts his head. "Just promise me you'll be careful," he demands before I can catch my breath.

Like always, the fight slips out of me, and I nod. He smiles and leans in for a second kiss. The touch of his mouth against mine makes me forget that I feel like we're going in circles, evading the issues that haunt my dreams and make me afraid this will all just vanish.

. . . . . .

I check my watch for what feels like the hundredth time, trying not to be obvious about it. The blazing heat from the bonfire feels good, so I perch carefully on the driftwood log that's closest to the source, wrapping my icy feeling fingers a little tighter around my drink so I don't spill it. The pleasant, yeasty smell of beer wafts up from the still full cup, its little cap of foam just starting to settle. I don't really want it, but every time I try to abandon the cup somewhere, someone seems to notice and gets me fresh one. I've given up making excuses and just keep the cup in my hand, taking little sips every now and again to appease people.

The log shifts a bit in the sand, and I look over to see Jake sit down beside me. He holds up his cup, and I tap mine against his obligingly.

"Happy Birthday, Bella." He nudges my shoulder gently with his, and I can't help but notice how much taller he seems since the last time I saw him. His long hair is loose tonight, and the firelight glints off the black strands that frame his face. He grins and takes a big gulp of his drink.

"You shouldn't be drinking, Jake," I tell him, sounding like a mother hen and regretting it instantly.

"Neither should you, technically," he replies, the edges of his mouth turning up into a grin that shows off his strong bone structure. He's a good looking guy who I can easily see will be a very handsome man one day. Maybe someday soon at the rate he's growing.

"Besides," he adds, tipping his cup in my direction to reveal what looks like cola, "I'm sticking strictly to Pepsi."

I'm a little surprised at this, and it must show on my face. "Billy and Sam would kill me if I get drunk, Bella," he laughs. "Especially since I'm responsible for this party. I need to keep a cool head and make sure everyone behaves."

"So all this was your idea?" I've wanted to ask him this all night, but he's been hard to pin down, apparently taking his just mentioned responsibilities seriously.

He laughs again, shaking his head. "Nah, it was your friend Mike's idea. I ran into him in town on Friday night, and he mentioned your birthday, talked about wanting to throw a party. He was thinking of doing it at his house. I just offered the idea of the beach and made some arrangements for a few things."

I look back at the fire and nod, watching the flames devour a wrapper someone just threw in. Jake nudges me again with his shoulder.

"I wish it was my idea, though. Sounds so much more thoughtful and impressive than the truth that I didn't even know it was your birthday."

I shrug and smile without looking at him. "I was trying to keep it low key. Guess I failed," I remark with a look around at the small crowd of people, half of whom I don't even recognize. Music thumps out of a small boom-box on a table filled with food, and a few people are dancing on the other side of the fire. I see Angela and Ben, their bodies moving slowly together in a dance that doesn't match the beat of the fast song currently playing. I smile a little, pleased to see they're getting along so well.

Without thinking, I take another sip of the beer in my hand and grimace a little at the taste. Jake chuckles.

"Go easy. Cullen will have my head if you get all wasted."

I look at him sharply, my eyes narrowing at not just what he said, but how he said it—as if he's annoyed because he was given orders. He doesn't look at me, but studies the crowd with too much attention, like he's avoiding me.

"Do you want to dance?" he asks suddenly.

"No, I don't want to dance. What do you mean Cullen will have your head?" I repeat what he said right down to the tone he said it in.

"I didn't mean anything, Bella."

"Bullshit. Tell me what you meant, Jake."

He laughs again, though this time he sounds a little irritated. "Don't get all worked up..."

"Did you talk to Edward?" I ask, ignoring his effort to calm me.

His shoulders come up in a shrugging motion as he sighs, putting his cup down in the sand and spinning it in circles to wedge it deep enough it won't tip over.

"He called me a few hours ago. It's not a big deal, Bella. He just asked me to keep an eye on you."

"He what?" I can feel my temper igniting like someone just placed one of the burning logs under me. It's bad enough Edward and I are always on such uneven ground with the human/immortal thing. But to have him think I need a babysitter and then ask Jacob, of all people—someone younger than I am—to be that babysitter, makes me furious.

Jacob finally looks back at me. Despite telling me to calm down and that it's not a big deal, I swear he looks a little happy that I'm mad.

"Well, to be honest, I thought it was kind of a condescending thing to do, but in his defence, since he can't be here, I guess he's just worried about you." Jake looks away again. "If you were mine and you were somewhere I wasn't allowed to go, I'd probably be worried, too." He says this last part in a quieter voice, and a blush hits my cheeks as I realize I hear a touch of longing in his tone.

"Right," I snap in reply, choosing to ignore the undertones of what he just said. "Because me looking after myself...well, that's ridiculous."

"Hey, I didn't mean it that way."

Realizing it's not him I'm upset with, I sigh and shake my head, digging my feet into the sand, frustrated. "I know you didn't," I mutter.

Tipping my cup up, I find the beer helps wash away the sudden bad taste in my mouth.

Deciding it won't do to ignore the obvious, I level a small glare on Jake and ask, "So, was that part of the plan? Offer to throw this party here on Quileute land, knowing Edward and his family could never come?"

Jake's bad at hiding his feelings, like me, and his guilty expression says a lot, though he's quick to defend himself.

"Honestly, Bella, I didn't really think of it—not at first. It was kind of a knee jerk reaction. Mike was going on and on about wanting to have a party for you, and well, I just kind of offered. It wasn't until Mike said they wanted to keep this secret from Cullen so the surprise wouldn't be ruined that I realized what I'd done. By then it was too late."

I make a snorting sound that relays I don't fully buy that. He could have backed out right away before plans were finalized, but he didn't.

"Hey," he says with a guilty laugh. "I didn't say it wasn't a bonus; I 'm just saying it wasn't intentional."

"At first," I amend sarcastically, and Jake laughs a little more.

"Look, I'd say I was sorry, but we both know that would be a lie. Just because I don't buy all that cold one, wolf, treaty crap, doesn't mean I'm a fan of your boyfriend, Bella."

"Jake, don't, please."

He sighs and picks his cup up again, staring inside at the contents with a slightly morose look while I take the last drink out of mine, surprised to find it empty after I swallow. The taste must be growing on me.

Jake kicks a little sand and then suddenly stands, tossing his cup and its half full contents into the fire where it hisses and instantly evaporates. The coloured plastic melts and blackens before disappearing almost as fast. He straddles the log, sitting back down so now he's facing me with one of his knees touching mine, the other brushing my hip and backside. It's way too close and way too intimate, but before I can do anything, Jake's hands snag my empty cup and add it to the flames before wrapping around my fingers.

"Jake, don't," I tell him again, attempting to tug my hand free, surprised at how strong he feels and how warm.

"You're freezing, Bella."

"I'm fine."

He looks away from me like he's trying to gather his thoughts, but he doesn't let me go. When he turns his face back, I can see he's determined to say something, whether I want to hear it or not.

"Listen, Bella. I get that you're head-over-heels for this guy. I've seen the way you look at him. I've also seen the way he is with you. It's intense, and he's always there."

He says 'always' with marked emphasis, and I feel a blush ignite as I wonder if somehow he knows that Edward spends every night with me. But he can't. There's no way.

"That's how couples usually are, Jake," I tell him, making another attempt to extricate my fingers from his and failing.

"Maybe, maybe not," he replies vaguely. At my exasperated look, he sighs and finally lets go of my hand, leaning away a little. "Just be careful, okay? It doesn't take a genius or a phone call to make me see Cullen has a possessive, jealous streak a mile wide, Bella. You aren't something he owns. Don't let anyone control you or tell you how your life will be. It's a bad road to go down."

I blink at him, wanting to say something in return that defends Edward. Knowing I can't, and not just for the obvious reasons, I mutter something about Jake being wrong.

Don't let anyone control you or tell you how your life will be, echoes through my thoughts. Isn't that what I'm doing in a way? Edward has decided he won't change me. He won't listen to what I want. Lately, he won't even discuss it. In his head, it's set in stone that I will stay human, grow old, and die, all while he stays young, beautiful, and strong. That's my reality right now. And it's not what I want.

Unable to look at Jake with those kinds of thoughts running through my head, I turn away. He squeezes my fingers once, gently, then leans in to kiss my cheek. His lips are incredibly warm, the feeling startling.

"I'm sorry," he says, pulling back again. "I didn't mean to get so heavy on your birthday. Look, just forget what I said, and have a good time, okay?"

I manage a nod as he stands up.

"Want another beer?"

I find myself nodding again. My mouth is dry from the heat of the fire and the scalding emotions running through me—frustration, anger, helplessness—it's making me thirsty.

"Okay, I'll be back." Jake gives my hair a playful tug and smiles. "Cheer up, damn it. You only get one eighteenth birthday," he tells me.

I manage to smile back, but in my mind, I can't help but think—not if I can help it.

. . . . . .

Before I left home, I told Edward I would call him at ten. It's ten thirty now. I haven't called, and I haven't left. I finished my second beer and then my third before Jess brought me a cup filled to the brim with orange juice and vodka. It tasted a lot better than the beer, and I drank the first one so fast Jess laughed at me before she brought me another one.

I guess this is tipsy, I think, as I sway slightly to the music, watching the flames and absentmindedly listening to some girl, whose name I can't remember, tell me all about her college plans.

I'm saved from having to make polite replies by Mike, who is obviously past tipsy, grabbing me by the waist and spinning me around.

"Bella, Bella, Bella," he chants, setting me back on my feet on ground that feels very unsteady. Maybe I'm past tipsy, too. "Happy Birthday."

"You've already said Happy Birthday, Mike. In fact, you've said it a lot," I remind him, smiling a little so I don't sound rude, even though I wish it was midnight already so I could just tell him and everyone else to stop. I take another drink, only to find the cup empty again. Did I really finish it?

"Hey, we need another drink over her for the birthday girl," Mike yells. I think about telling him no, I've probably had enough, but then I see Jake and I remember Edward calling him, telling him to watch after me. When another cup appears in my hand, I don't turn it down. Instead, I take a big gulp and don't even protest when Mike grabs me and gives me an awkward hug.

"I'm glad you came, Bella. It feels like I never see you anymore unless it's at school."

I think about telling him we never really saw each other unless it was at school, but it feels like too much effort for this floaty feeling I have.

"You're always, always, with Cullen now," he adds, a little surly and slurry all at once. My floaty feeling diminishes a little as I think about how much I want to always be with Edward. Just not like this—not like how I am right now, human and aging a little more with every second that passes.

The insecure voice inside of me, that I hear way too often these days, wonders if Edward is against changing me because I'm not truly good enough for someone like him. Not to spend eternity with anyway. Maybe I'm just the 'right now' girl. For a vampire that can technically live forever, time is relative. Right now can easily last my full lifetime I suppose.

"I mean, I get it. I do. That's what people in love do, right?" I realize Mike is still talking and try to get it together enough to listen and participate.

"Right." I'm not entirely sure what I'm agreeing to, but Mike nods, so it must not be anything too outrageous.

"I mean, look at me and Jess. We're doing...good, spending lots of time together..." He trails off like he's lost his train of thought, and I look around for Jess.

"Where is Jess anyway?" I ask, wanting to distract Mike and maybe get him to go away and look for her. I was enjoying my buzz, but Mike is killing it.

In answer, he gestures to a group of people laughing and dancing just a little ways away. Jess has her hand on the arm of a guy I don't know, swaying to the music and laughing a little too loud, smiling a little too wide. Mike takes a gulp of his drink and turns his back on the scene, grinning at me.

"So, Bella. You and Cullen. Who would've guessed that one?" He laughs and his laugh is also a little too loud. I'm a bit drunk, but not so much that I feel comfortable being caught between the two of them while they have some kind of flirting war. I start looking around for Angela as I shrug at Mike, saying something bland in agreement. I should go home, but I know I shouldn't drive. Angela, so far as I can tell, is one of the few sober partiers left, or at least she was the last time I saw her.

I wonder where my bag is. I should probably check to see if Edward called, or at least call him. He's probably getting worried...

"You know, I almost thought Edward was gay before you came along." Again Mike has been talking, and again I'd faded off to my own thoughts. His comment brings me back around, and I blink at him incredulously.

"Really?" I can't not laugh at that.

"Yeah, really," Mike answers, laughing himself. "Look, I'm a secure guy; I can admit Edward is a good-looking dude."

"You can?" I say, giggling now.

"Ab-so-lutely!" he states, grinning.

"Well, good for you."

Mike laughs again. "Seriously though. I wasn't the only one who thought he might be pitching for the team in blue. I mean, every girl at Fork's High, including more than a few of the teachers and staff, have hit on him."

I knew about the students, of course, but the teachers and staff thing makes me widen my eyes while Mike nods at my look.

"Completely true! Even Mrs. Cope goes all googly-eyed around him. It's sick," he declares, though he's still laughing.


"Yeah, tell me about it. Anyway, my point is that until you, I never saw Edward so much as look at a girl. He's always just politely turned down the bolder ones with that look of his."

I don't want to have this conversation, but my filter seems off and the words are out of my mouth before I can stop them. "What look?"

"The look." Mike stares at me like it should be obvious. "Come on, Bella. You know the look. The patented Cullen stare, where he looks at you, seems to rate you in two seconds flat, and then disregards you as unworthy of further attention? That one!"

"Oh," I reply, for lack of a wittier response. Edward does do that. They all do. It's another way to keep people from getting too close to them. I feel like I should say something to defend him, again, but don't know what. I settle for a simple, "He's not really like that, it's just...he's a private person."

Mike eyes me oddly. "Well, whatever. All I know is he definitely never gives you that look." He laughs again, and I get the impression that there is more to what he's saying than is obvious.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," he replies quickly, hands up at my sharp tone. "Just saying he's obviously into you. Which makes him not gay, but I guess you know that." He waggles his eyebrows, grinning like a lecher.

"I'm surprised he's not here," he continues, winking. "I thought you two were inseparable. I sure as heck didn't think he'd let you be at a party with a bunch of other dudes without him." He turns back to me with a smirk. "It's not like you haven't had a few other guys panting after you, too, Swan. Edward seems like the jealous type. I'm pretty sure some of the looks he's cast my way when I'm talking to you, aren't exactly the friendly type if you know what I mean. No offence, Bella, but your boyfriend is one scary dude."

"Whatever, Mike. I think you're exaggerating a little." I take the last drink from my cup and then toss it into the fire. I've had enough, and I need to find Angela and leave before I get confronted by someone else 'anti-Edward.' Despite all my insecurities, I hate being away from him, especially tonight. No matter what our future might hold, I know I want it to be with Edward—as a human or not.

Mike steps in front of me when I start to move away, making me stumble in surprise. He catches my arms to steady me.

"Whoa, careful there," he says, smiling and shaking his head. "Listen, I'm sorry if I pissed you off. I just thought it was weird he's not here with you. I mean, it's your birthday."

"If you must know, Edward had something he had to do, but I'm meeting him later at his house. In fact, I should go find Angela and see if she can drive me. He's probably waiting and getting worried."

"Oh, right, I get it." The wind blowing Mike's hair makes it stick up on the right, adding a weird look to his cocky grin. He leans in conspiratorially and whispers, "Birthday booty-call, right?" Then he laughs and winks. "Go get you some, girlfriend," he quips in a fake high pitched voice, holding up a hand for me to smack.

I stare at him for a minute, shocked, then shake my head. Ignoring his hand, I walk away more determined than ever to find Angela.

. . . . . .

I can't find my bag, and I can't find Angela. I did find another drink, and though I know I don't need it, I sip it anyway while I look for her.

Spying Jess talking to the girl with the big college plans, I head over to see if she knows where Angela is.

"Hey, Jess."

"Bella." She looks up at me and then laughs suddenly. "Are you drunk?"

"No. Well...maybe." I shrug, because how would I know since this is the first time I ever drank anything—well, not including the few sips of wine I had last Christmas... "Have you seen, Angela? I need a ride home."

Jess giggles and rolls her eyes before pointing out into the darkness of the beach to the north. "She and Ben took a blanket down in that direction about half an hour ago. Up to you whether you want to interrupt or not." She giggles some more, and the nameless girl joins her, their snickers making it obvious what must be going on.

"Oh, wow, really?" I ask, unable to keep from laughing even though this news is throwing a big wrench in my plans to get home. "Wow, that's um...fast."

"Fast?" Jess looks at me surprised. "I disagree. Nowadays those two would be considered ancient in the morality department." She leans forward, dropping her voice to a whisper that's too loud to be discreet if that's what she was aiming for. "And what's funnier, I'm pretty sure they're both virgins...oh, wait, guess I should say they were virgins." She bursts out laughing, spilling a little of whatever she's drinking on her hand. She licks it off, still giggling quietly and rolling her eyes.

"I lost my virginity two years ago." The nameless girl supplies this information with her gaze unfocussed, lost in memories, or the amount she drank, or both. "We did it in his little brother's bed."

"What?" Jess shrieks, drawing gazes from all around. "Oh, my God, that's sick."

Nameless girl shrugs and laughs. "We changed the sheets afterwards—no big deal." She focuses a little and looks at Jess. "Why? Haven't you ever done it someplace weird or crazy before?" Her tone is slightly ridiculing, putting Jess on the spot to either declare herself a prude or divulge something she probably shouldn't. I don't know if she's still a virgin, but I decide I don't want to know and start looking around for ride home options.

"Of course, but not some little kid's bed," she snorts. "Mike and I did it in his Dad's car once though."

Grimacing internally at that image, I make another attempt to leave only to be brought up short by Jess grabbing my arm. The same one she nearly mangled in the parking lot this morning.

"What about you and Edward, Bella? Where's the weirdest place you two have ever done it?"

If I was sober, I probably would have found some way to answer that was clever but completely unrevealing of what I consider an extremely personal topic, but I'm not. I end up gaping and blushing and stammering the start of several abandoned sentences that say more than I want. Jess's eyes get way too wide for her face, making her look like a shocked frog.

"Oh, my God. Don't tell me you and Edward haven't gotten horizontal yet, Bella?" She starts laughing hysterically, covering her mouth but not really dampening any of the sound.

"It's not any of your business, Jess."

"Okay, sorry," she replies when I give her a dirty look. "It's just Edward's hot in a scary guy kind of way. And you guys are always together. I just assumed you'd be like normal teenagers." I can hear what's she's not saying—that I'm not normal, and Edward couldn't want me that way. I'm not pretty enough, or special enough for him to have sex with. Or maybe I'm just reading too much into it. Maybe it's just my insecurities or the alcohol...

I bite back a nasty reply and shrug instead, acting like what she said and implied doesn't hurt. "Like I said, Jess, not really any of your business." Spinning on my heel and regretting it a little as the world tips on its axis, I manage to walk away before she can reply. I head for Jake who is the only other person I know for a fact is still sober. I really need to get out of here.

I find him a few minutes later and sigh with relief when he says he can give me a ride home.

I need to be with Edward and try to make sense of us. I need to make sense of us.

. . . . . .

Jake has the heat on high and it makes me drowsy. Or maybe that's all I've had to drink, who knows. Either way, I end up dozing and wake to the sound of him talking. It takes a second to realize it's not to me.

"Don't get all hot under the collar, Cullen. I said I'll meet you at the Res border, didn't I?" There's a short pause. "She's a big girl and it's her birthday; if she wants to drink, she has the right." He sounds irritated, but not overly aggressive. After another minute of listening and a laugh that sounds mocking, he hangs up.

"Was that Edward?" Everything feels fuzzy, and the floaty, pleasant feeling is back.

"Yeah. He's been calling all night to check up on you. I called him to tell him I was bringing you home, and he's insisting on meeting us."

I can't decide if I like that Edward was worried enough he called Jake repeatedly, or if it pisses me off that he thinks I'm so helpless I can't take care of myself. Then I decide it's too much work to decide anything at all. I'd rather just...float.

It seems like I blink and then we're there, at the border where Edward's headlights shine brightly at the side of the road. Jake pulls over, and I get out, unable to hold back a smile as Edward does the same and makes his way to us. He looks so good...

"Thank you for driving her, Jacob." Edward is polite, and he smells as good as he looks as he slides an arm around my waist and drops a kiss on top of my head. I want to nuzzle into him, then I remember all the other things I feel and pull back instead.

"Sure thing. I'd do anything for Bella; she knows that."

I glance at Edward's face, worried that he'll react badly to Jake's taunt—because that's what it is. Edward doesn't rise to the bait.

"Bella, I'll call you tomorrow and bring your truck back for you. You've got my number if you need anything in the mean time, okay?"

This time I feel Edward react, his normally hard body becoming suddenly rigid, his expression darkening.

"She won't need you, Jacob. I've got her, and I'll take care of her." Edward's tone is outwardly controlled, but I can hear the effort it's taking to maintain it. Despite my buzz, I think it's best if we leave now.

"Thanks for everything, Jake," I say in goodbye, skirting around Edward and heading for his car. My feet hurt, and there's sand in my shoes so I shuck them off. The night air feels good, and I find myself spinning in a small circle before reaching for the passenger door. Jake is saying goodbye, and Edward is already beside me, helping me sit and handing me the shoes I forgot to pick up.

I say thank you and settle into his plush leather seats. The radio is playing something classical. The sound is soft and soothing, so I close my eyes. I think I hear Edward laugh a little when the car starts, and I think I feel his lips brush a kiss over each of my eyelids which suddenly feel very heavy. I even think I hear him say he loves me, but it's hard to be sure...

. . . . . .

Daylight, even overcast gray daylight, is the devil. It pushes against my closed eyelids, burning them, adding pain where there is already more than enough. My head feels like a marching band used it as field, and my mouth feels like I've been chewing sand.

I groan and hear a laugh. Edward.

I peek at him through one eye while vague memories of coming home and being carried up the stairs assault me like the daylight.

"Good morning," Edward greets, his voice too loud. I can't tell if he's doing it on purpose or if it's my perception that's off.

"Not really," I mutter in reply, trying to drag the covers back up over my head. I remember the party and the drinking, Jake dropping me off at the Reservation border, but not much else. I notice I'm still mostly dressed in the same clothes.

Poking my head out, I try again to meet the light. "Did you put me to bed?"


I kick away the blankets and sit up, pushing hair out of my face with another groan. I notice the glass of water and aspirin beside me and grab for it gratefully.

"You may want to drink slowly in case your stomach is unsettled," Edward advises. I ignore him, downing the entire glass greedily. "Or not," he says, shaking his head a little.

"My stomach is fine; my head, on the other hand, is not."

"I hear that's a common complaint in a hangover," he states dryly.

Ignoring him, I slide out of bed, careful of the pounding in my skull, needing a scalding shower.

"Bella, I'd like to talk about last night."

I look at him, wondering what I might have said or done in the time-frame between the party and him putting me to bed. I try to study his face for a clue, feeling the bottom drop out of my stomach. The feeling has nothing at all to do with drinking and everything to do with my fear that one day Edward will simply state he doesn't want me anymore and leave.

"What about?" I ask, feeling my throat try to close around my words. "Did I say something, do something...?"

He gives me a laconic smile. "Well, let's see. You asked me if I knew Angela and Ben were having sex—actually your exact words were 'horizontally bumping and grinding'—but that's not important."

I feel a blush flood my face and groan a little.

"You also stated you were most likely the last virgin over the age of sixteen in Forks and wondered if that mattered since you were obviously going to die a virgin as well." His tone is light, but I can see in his eyes that my thoughtless drunk comments hurt him. I vaguely remember asking him if he planned to buy me sex toys to keep my troublesome human hormones in check before I threw myself on my bed, curling up in a ball with my back to him. The blush grows and I look at him helplessly.

"I'm sorry, Edward. I didn't mean..." I start to say 'any of it,' but stop, because it isn't true. My resolve from last night to finally make sense of this—of us—returns, and I sink back down on the bed. Heat and moisture sting my eyes, though I blink it away. After last night's immaturity, I need to get it together. "I didn't mean to be that way. I was...upset, but I never should have said those things to you."

Edward gets up from the rocking chair and comes over to me. He tips my head up and brushes a kiss across my mouth with a sigh.

"Charlie left early to go fishing. I'll go downstairs and make you some coffee and something light to eat if you'd like to take a minute for yourself. Then perhaps we can talk?"

I bite my lip, stifling my knee jerk reaction to tell him everything is fine and we don't need to talk. Instead, perhaps as a way to make up for how childish I was last night, I nod. "Yeah, talking would be good."

Edward leaves, and I wonder if I can tell him all the things I feel, even knowing I'll be taking the biggest risk of my life because it could force him to walk away forever.

. . . . . .

The shower eases some of the pain in my head. By the time I get back to my room, ironically I feel human again.

Edward has brought toast and coffee on a tray up to my room. He sits on my bed with his back against the headboard, waiting for me.

I settle in the narrow space beside him as he puts the tray over my lap. He folded a paper towel into the shape of a rose and laid it beside the plate. Tears prickle my eyes again, and I blink hard to chase them away as I touch his creation carefully.

"I love you," I tell him, without meeting his eyes, needing to say that first before I say anything else.

He reaches out and turns my face to his. "I love you," he says in reply, his expression serious yet gentle. "Talk to me, Bella. Tell me why you drank so much last night? Why you didn't call and come back to me when you said you would?"

"Will you listen to me if I do?" I can't keep the tremor out of my voice. "Don't shut me down, please. Just...hear me out."

His hand drops from my face and he nods. Something crosses his expression, a flash of pain or something very much like it that he hides quickly. It's so raw I'm stunned, though I don't know how to ask him what it means before he replies that he'll listen.

I take a cautious sip of coffee, trying to organize my thoughts. I give up after only a minute and just speak from my heart.

"I've been thinking a lot about us, about the future—our future." I turn to face him, careful not to upset the tray, grateful when he moves it away to the end of the bed so I can get up on my knees to look at him better. "I know you don't want me to become what you are. I know you want me to have a happy human life, Edward, but it's not what I want."

His golden eyes are clear, and to his credit he doesn't interrupt as I take a deep breath.

"I don't expect you to decide now, but I need you to know, I want to be with you forever, not just for a few decades."

He can't help himself and interjects, "Bella, you have more than a few decades..."

"No, I don't, Edward. What I have is a few more years, then it's all going to go wrong. Don't you understand? I can't be this for much longer." I indicate my body with a wave of my hand, my tone dripping acid. "I'm going to get older, year by year, and I'm going to change. We can pretend for a while. We can go to college and get degrees, and no one will bat an eye—at first. But a year after that, people are going to start noticing our age difference. A few years after that, people will start thinking you're my younger brother. Eventually, they'll think I'm your mother or your aunt, and on it will go. What are you going to do, Edward, when I look like your grandmother?"

"I don't care about appearances, Bella; you know that."

"Edward," I cry, frustrated despite my promise to stay calm, losing the war with my tears. "I care. The world you want me to live in will care. I won't be able to have the human life you want when I'll be too afraid to get close to anyone because they might figure out my secret. You'll be unable to hold my hand in public or kiss me unless we're hidden behind locked doors. I'll live a charade that won't be much different than what you live now."

He shakes his head. "It's all part of being with me, Bella. I've never lied to you, never said it would be easy."

"But you make it seem like it's better than changing me, and it isn't! Not for me. Edward, what kind of a human life will I have forever moving and starting over? Making friends only to have to leave them because it's time for you to move on. And when I'm too old or too sick, what then? Because that will happen, Edward."

His eyes close, but I keep going, needing him to hear me. Even if he won't change his mind, I need him to hear me.

"I shouldn't have said the things I did last night, and I'm truly sorry, but even that stuff is true. You want me to stay human, and yet you tell me you don't think we can ever possibly be together in that way. Maybe that doesn't matter to you. Maybe you don't want me..."

Edward covers my mouth with his hand, his eyes flashing. "Don't ever say that. You have to know it isn't true. I do want you, very much, but I won't risk your life."

I pull my head back and push his hand down, shaking. "Don't you see? That makes it worse, Edward. That I'll never know what it feels like to have sex is awful enough, but knowing that by staying human I'm ensuring you will never know either, is worse. I want that with you, Edward. And ten years from now, when I hurt and ache because I've never been touched or made love to, what will that do to us? Think about it!" I demand, all the pain welling up until I want to scream.

Edward watches me as I breathe raggedly, struggling for control. "I have thought about it, Bella. Over and over again, but I can't give you what you want. I can't snuff out your life..."

"But don't you see? You already are!" I let my head drop and don't bother to hide the tears that drip off my face and hit my thighs, wetting the cotton of my sweat pants. "I can't live without you, Edward. Whatever you decide, I'll be here, but this life you want for me, it's not a real life. It's just us, waiting for the inevitable moment when you can't take the charade anymore."

"What does that mean?" he hisses angrily, forcing my chin up.

"It means that I know it's only a matter of time before something happens. Maybe another James, or maybe just something stupid like a paper cut on my finger in front of Jasper on one of his bad days. Sooner or later, something is going to happen that you can't control or protect me from, Edward. You know I'm right!"

His eyes seem to get darker with every word I say until the gold looks molten. Without a word he pulls me to him, hard, pressing his mouth to mine like he's desperate. And maybe he is. God knows I am.

I taste the salt of my tears on his mouth as he lays me down under him, taking the kiss to a place he never has before. His tongue dances across my lips and when I gasp, it darts into my open mouth and strokes over mine. He groans, and I feel it vibrate straight through me. Arching up beneath him, I push tighter against his skin, raking my fingers through his hair.

Suddenly, he takes my hands and pulls me up, lifting my hips till I straddle him, still kissing me all the while. I'm careful and still sane enough to keep my tongue away from his teeth, but it's the only caution I take as he exhales against my mouth with an expression of pained ecstasy.

"I can't lose you." He half snarls, half whimpers. "Not ever, Bella. You are my entire world." His hands move to my back and slide under my shirt. I hear fabric tear and cool air meets my flesh when the shirt suddenly disappears, leaving me in nothing but my bra. He moves his kiss down my neck as I gasp and rock against him. The hard ridge of him slips directly between my legs, and I can't help but cry out when I realize that he truly does want me. His body can't lie. Not like that.

I fumble with the hem of his shirt until he rears back and takes over, tearing it over his head before kissing me again. The skin of his chest is shockingly cold and perfect, because I'm so hot I feel like I'm burning.

My back arches as he drops his head and kisses the skin over my bra. The clasp is at the back, but a snapping sound opens it suddenly at the front, leaving me naked from the waist up. Edward groans again.

"So beautiful, my Bella. You are so damn beautiful."

He seems to shake, and I think if he stops now I'll die. He doesn't. His lips find skin he's never seen or touched, and my entire back bows, my fingers scrabbling over his shoulders for purchase. His arms around my waist keep me close as his tongue and lips touch me. The sensation spirals from the point of contact all the way down between my legs.

"Don't stop," I plead. "Please, don't stop...please..." I rock against him, not on purpose, but merely because my body is screaming for the friction. I hear more fabric tearing. Somehow my sweat pants are gone, and there is nothing between us but the silk of my panties and the thin denim of his well-worn jeans. A second later those are gone also, and nothing is left but flimsy cotton and silk.

Edward's hands find my hips, and his lips move to the other side of my body. He urges me to keep rocking, moving my body against him as he lifts slightly off the mattress, giving us both more. I'm on fire and can't stop the sounds that would be embarrassing if I wasn't so far gone.

"Edward, oh...yes, there...yes." His body lifts a little more, making him hit the most sensitive place on me, sending stars shooting across my tightly closed eyelids. I hear him groan my name again and then it all explodes. Coloured lights behind my eyes, fireworks in my nerve endings, sparks and electricity and endless heat.

Cool wetness seeps through my panties as Edward throws his head back with a snarl. His hands on me stay gentle as his hips buck just a tiny bit harder, coming with me.

I can't breathe, and I don't care. My body falls limply into his, but I know he'll catch me and he does. Edward lays us down, pulling me over him and tucking my head under his chin while his hands stroke my back. My heart hammers hard enough for both of us.

We stay like that for a long time. Long enough I begin to get cold. Edward pulls the blanket up, tucking it around me, for once not insisting we stop touching.

A thousand things flit through my mind, and a dozen times I open my mouth to say something, but nothing seems right. I wonder where this leaves us, and what it all means after so long believing anything like this was impossible.

Finally, I press my face into his neck and whisper very quietly, "Promise me that no matter what happens, even if you decide to keep me human, you won't ever leave me."

Edward turns until I'm on my back. His fingers trace over the side of my face, coming to rest on my unsteady pulse. He looks peaceful.

"I promise no matter what we decide," he answers softly, emphasizing 'we,' "I will never leave you. We'll choose our path together. No matter what our future holds, for however long a time is meant for us, be it decades or eternity, I will always be with you."

His lips find mine again. In the sweetness of his kiss, I begin to trust that we'll find our way through all of this, together, one way or another.

. . . . . .

A/N Just to note, I'm not marking this complete because I would LOVE ;) to write an EPOV of this night. Let me know if you'd be interested in reading that. Thanks.