A/N: This is my first story, submitted for the Canon Tour's New Moon Round. It takes place during the very brief interlude between New Moon and Eclipse. Thanks and hugs to my awesome beta, Openhome, who has stellar qualities as a writer and an individual.
Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer; I'm just playing in her dollhouse. Anything that might have some originality belongs to me. Thanks a million, Steph!
I shut my bedroom door, making just the right amount of noise for Charlie to hear. Edward was already lying across my bed, smiling at me like an angel. The peculiar relief of seeing him warmed me all the way through. With an effort, I made my feet go slowly enough for Charlie to hear, and curled up next to Edward's perfect marble form, which reached out to embrace me. We lay together quietly.
"When is Carlisle coming?" I asked finally.
"I was thinking about calling him and telling him to go without me," he said softly. "I can go another time. Tomorrow, or the next day."
I traced the smooth, dark circles under his eyes. "You've got to go," I told him. "When was the last time you hunted?"
Edward shrugged and shifted his eyes away momentarily. "A while," he admitted.
"You're thirsty," I said. "Go." My hand slipped down the side of his face and glided along his alabaster collarbone.
He closed his night-dark eyes. "I don't want to leave you alone."
I thought briefly about several different things I could say, while my thumb brushed the hollow underneath his throat. I don't want you to leave me alone either. If you changed me, you wouldn't have to. But I resolved to be good. "You have to go," I repeated. "You don't have to be gone long. Stay in the park, if you want."
His cold arms gently tightened around my waist. "Having you back in my arms is worth a little thirst. I never thought I'd be here with you again."
If I spent any time thinking about the happiness of hearing those words in his beautiful voice, I was never going to get him to go. But he had to be in pain, and even though it would never go away completely, hunting would help. And this was just part of our life for now … soon, we would never have to be separated. Carlisle had promised.
When the Cullens first returned to Forks, Edward had been afraid to leave me alone for any time at all. When he had finally gone hunting the first time, after I actually pushed him out my window, I spent the entire hour curled up on my bed in the dark, wrapped in my afghan, shivering with cold, with tears silently streaking down my face. It still terrified me when he left, but I had to set that aside.
I put my hands on his arms. "Edward," I said firmly.
He looked down at me, his eyes like shining pools of ink. This was even harder with him looking at me like that.
"Go," I repeated again. "I will be fine. And it hurts me to know you're in pain. Go."
"Carlisle's out there now," he said. I couldn't help it – my heart sank inside me. "You'll be safe?"
"I'll be right here," I promised, with as much cheerfulness as I could. And hopefully, by the time he came back, I'd be in better shape than the first time.
He smiled sadly and trailed one hand along my face, cupping my cheek as I leaned into his caress. "I'll be back before morning," he promised.
"I'll look for you," I sighed. All night.
He kissed me lightly – but not so lightly that I didn't feel the kiss shiver down to my toes – and turned to raise the window quietly. He slipped over and out almost too quickly to see, and I knew that he was gone, running fast so that he could return quickly. I leaned out the window anyway, until I was shivering too fiercely to stay there.
I was pretty sure that I wouldn't be able to sleep right now. It was still early, compared to when I'd been falling asleep lately, and I was really cold for all the wrong reasons. More than anything else, I was already beginning to panic in his absence. I shut the window and picked up a book at random, wrapping myself up in my afghan and my quilt.
Three minutes later, I threw down Wuthering Heights in disgust. While Edward's scent, which lingered on my bedding, helped me relax a little, I couldn't concentrate on the book at all. I was more wide awake than before. Maybe I had just read it too many times.
Still wrapped in my afghan, with Edward's scent for reassurance, I went to my desk, sat down, and dug out my review material for an upcoming math test.
That was even worse. I couldn't concentrate long enough to finish more than one line of review. All the time I had spent disciplining myself to study math over the past year was completely useless when I was worried. Besides, I knew this material.
There was one thing that might keep my mind off missing Edward … and that was thinking about Edward.
There was no one here to hear my heart rate speed up or my breath catch in my throat. And I really needed the distraction. I could feel the familiar panic nibbling at the edges of my mind.
The first time Edward had gone hunting after we came back from Italy, he had slipped back into my room just after midnight. My heart soared when I heard the window slide open, and he was holding me tightly before I heard it close. I clutched myself to him. His fingertips gently followed the trails of my tears, and I felt his cold lips on my eyelids, before he tilted his chin up to let me rest my head against his chest.
"You're back," I squeaked softly against his collarbone, my throat tight with the sobs I hadn't released.
"I wish I had never left," he whispered, agony twisting through his voice. "Nothing is worth a single tear from you."
"I'm just glad you're back," I said softly, and angled my head to kiss his hard, white jaw. "I hate that you're in pain."
He looked down at me, light brown eyes glimmering with flecks of gold. "There isn't any pain that compares to causing you even a moment's distress. If I weren't afraid of losing control, I would never, ever leave you. If I could take back the past seven months at any price, I would."
I flinched, just as I had when he said that to me, nearly two weeks ago. I couldn't help it; I really couldn't stand to think about it. Those endless months …. I stopped myself before I could hyperventilate. Those months were over now. Edward was really, truly back, had been here just a minute ago, and would be back again. Soon. How soon?
I needed to think about something else. Something more encouraging. Something more distracting.
I thought about the color his eyes would be when he returned. It depended on how many animals he would hunt tonight. He planned to be back soon … dark honey, then, as if the sun was shining through it, with almost invisible glimmers of lighter shades flickering in and out of existence. The circles under his eyes would be lightened from their present deep bruise to a medium lavender. His bronze hair would be ruffled by the wind of his running, maybe with a pine needle or two in it for me to tease out. His clothes – champagne-colored shirt, washed jeans - would be impeccably neat as always. His smooth skin would be just that tiny bit cooler from being out in the cold.
He would slip through the window more quietly than the breeze, and have his hard arms around me almost before I knew he was there. I hugged myself, keeping myself together until his return. Maybe I should at least pretend I was dozing in bed when he came back, so that he would feel better about leaving me alone, and not feel like I was staying awake, waiting for him to return. I leaned back in my chair, thinking about it.
He might softly touch my cheek, or my neck. Maybe he would rest his lips against my hair. He would not be surprised when I turned towards him and smoothed the tangled bronze hair back from his cool, perfect face.
"I'm back," he'd whisper into my ear.
"Good," I'd answer, and he'd chuckle lightly, closing his beautiful, honeyed eyes as I let my hand trail down his neck and along his collarbone, delicate and unyielding. Would he let me kiss him tonight? It was suddenly harder for me to keep my thoughts straight.
Would I try to kiss him anyway? Yes.
His icy lips would move against mine, so gently, like a counterpoint to my wildly thrumming heartbeat. He wouldn't stop my hands from reaching back around his snow-cold neck and tangling in his hair. When I inevitably stopped to breathe, my heart pounding and my lungs gasping in his heavenly scent, he would kiss my closed eyes, my cheekbones, and loosen my grip on his hair by sliding me up so he could kiss along my jawline and throat, until my breathing slowed and I could kiss his perfect lips again.
His hands would be cool, gently placed, one below my shoulder blades, one against my waist. His fingers would shift subtly as I pressed myself closer to him, craving the reassurance of contact after the loneliness of the night. I felt as if we could somehow become one person sometimes, together like this. I might dare to run my tongue gently along his closed lips. If his scent was dizzying, I wondered how he would taste to me … I felt my toes curl and tense.
His eyes would glimmer like firelight in the dark. I would feel his chest rise and fall against me, his breath in tune with mine. I would run my hands along the breadth of his shoulders, kissing the curve of his neck and ridge of his collarbone, shifting to bring my hands along the sides of his torso. My thumbs and the heels of my hands would press along his chest, until my hands settled at his waist while I kissed his lips again.
His breath would come faster as he would roll back a little, bringing me to lie next to him, one arm pressed between our bodies and one lying against the thin shirt covering his perfect marble chest. This was my cue to be good.
But I didn't need to be good, when it was all in my snug, private mind.
I could smooth out the creases of his shirt, feeling his stone hard body underneath. I could smooth out the sleeves, feeling the play of the muscles as they shifted beneath his silken skin. I could toy with the buttons of his shirt.
"Bella," he'd sigh, frustrated with me. "Bella, my self-control has limits. We've risked your life enough for one night. Please, be good."
I shoved his protest into the back of my head where it belonged. I knew I couldn't do this in reality. But he left me – even though I told him to – and I needed to not think about him possibly deciding to just keeping going.
I could undo the buttons, and slide his shirt back over his strong, broad shoulders. I felt my ankles flex as the balls of my feet pressed into the floor. I had only seen his naked chest once, when we were both at grave risk of death. But even the memory was glorious. I was suddenly hungry to touch him. I pictured myself running both hands over him, absorbing the subtle changes of shading, the responsiveness of his marble skin. How would he react to me kissing him?
I imagined running my hands around and up his back, feeling the strong, smooth muscles there, and my breath hitched in my throat. After I was changed, there would no longer be a reason to stay away from every part of Edward, every touch that I longed for, married or not. I wanted him forever. I wanted to wrap my arms around his waist and, impossibly, imprison him against me, to feel my body press and mold against his.
There was one part of his body that I had never, ever been allowed to touch, with any part of mine.
I thought about sliding my hand to the waistband of his jeans, and looking into his burning eyes as I slowly moved it lower.
I was abruptly startled by a very loud thud. It was immediately followed by a painful sensation in my head. I felt disoriented and opened my eyes.
I was startled by what I saw. Things seemed wrong, out of place and peculiarly angled. Then it moved into focus, and I realized that I was lying on my back, still in my desk chair, on the floor of my room. The pain was coming from the back of my head. I must have tipped back my chair – it wouldn't exactly be the first time. I blushed, even though no one was here to witness my clumsiness.
That was when I heard Charlie's feet running up the stairs. I scrambled up, managing to get off the chair by the time he burst through the door.
He stopped dead as he reoriented his sight from the bed down to the floor. I flushed harder – my face felt as though it was actually on fire. I must have been beet red. Possibly maroon.
Charlie started to grin, and then suppressed it. "Are you all right?" he asked, clearly holding back a chuckle.
"Yeah," I said. "I guess I tipped my chair back while I was reading." I gestured with my hand to where Wuthering Heights lay where I had flung it down earlier. "I was more surprised than anything, I guess."
Charlie was having trouble with his expression. "Do you need anything?"
"No, I'm fine," I said. I picked up my chair and set it down at my desk. "I'll just go to bed."
"Sounds good. Well … goodnight."
Charlie closed the door before letting out a soft snicker that I could hear very clearly. Of course, I was used to listening carefully for very soft voices.
I looked around my room and turned off the light before getting into bed and curling up. Hopefully, I wouldn't get a lump on the back of my head for Edward to ask about.