Entry #48 - AU

Truly Anonymous Twilight O/S PP Contest

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Title: From Darkness Comes Light

Picture Prompt Number: 15

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Rating: M

Word Count (minus A/N and Header): 7, 023

Summary (250 characters or less, including spaces and punctuation): Fate teaches Edward the meaning of loneliness, but someone else has other plans.

Warning and Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the world of Twilight. The characters are only being used for the purpose of telling this tale.

There will be mentions of character death in the story below.

From Darkness Comes Light

My life had been reduced to a series of routines.

I woke up in the morning, took a shower, made sure to eat and then went to school, ate lunch, took walks, came home, had dinner, and then went to bed. Rinse, lather, and fucking repeat. I hadn't always been that way. Once upon a time, I had a life, had friends, and couldn't wait to see what the next day would bring.

All it took was one moment, one tiny decision, to bring my world to a halt. I was supposed to be the one who watched out for her, yet, I failed. I didn't stop her, because I believed the lie that she should make her own choices—that she was in control of her own life.

I'd been so wrong, and it had cost me so much. The guilt from my inaction ate away at me, until there was nothing left. I had become the shell of the person I'd once been.

The sound of a twig snapping pulled me from my thoughts. Just a little further, I told myself.

Opening the gate, I walked into the only place where I'd been able to find comfort the past couple of years. The sight of the manicured lawn and worn pathways made the ache lessen, and I felt like I could breathe again.

Sitting down in front of the large, polished stone, I reached up and traced the letters and numbers carved into its face. I'd never forget the information left for the world to know who she was, but having some kind of contact with her, if only in my mind, helped me.

"Hello, Alice."

I knew she couldn't hear me, but when I'd sit in the cemetery, I'd talk to her anyway. It was my way of making it up to her for all the times I'd pushed her away and told her I was busy. Even if it was too late, I owed it to her.

I pulled a folded up piece of paper out of my pocket and smoothed it out on the bottom of the stone. "So, I got an acceptance letter today. It's from Dartmouth. Can you believe it?"

Closing my eyes, I laid my forehead against the stone. "Damn it, Alice. I miss you."

A breeze caressed my skin and ruffled my hair as a tear slid down my face. Sometimes, I swore I felt her there, but I usually just told myself I was stupid and shook it off. It was wishful thinking—I'd convinced myself—because I wanted my sister around.

I sat there, talking about nothing and everything until the sky went dark. I didn't want to go home, but I knew I had to. Kissing my palm and placing it against the headstone, I got up and started toward my car.

Pulling into the driveway, I saw that my parents were home. I opened the door and prepared myself to walk inside. It was getting harder and harder everyday to be around them. College seemed like the only option for me to get away from their judgmental stares. But, then again, it'd take me from the only thing that brought me peace. The cemetery. I didn't know what I was going to do.

My parents didn't even look up when I entered the kitchen. It was the same routine I'd lived for the past two years. I'd take them screaming at me, telling me I was a worthless human being. Or even saying they wished that I'd been the one who died…again. The silent treatment was the worst form of punishment they could have ever come up with.

I walked over to the fridge and pulled out some leftovers to heat up, startling when I heard my father's voice.

"You shouldn't stay out so late," he said, never taking his eyes off of the newspaper he was reading. "Graduation is just a few months away. You don't want to blow it by going out and goofing off all night."

I fought the urge to tell him exactly where I'd been. My father wouldn't have understood. In his mind, I had caused Alice's death and should bear the burden of the guilt for the rest of my life.

I turned toward the microwave and placed the food inside, turning it on. As I stood there and waited, I tried to keep my father's words the night she died out of my mind.

~.~.~.~

My eyes darted back and forth, trying to find my parents. After Mom had called and told me that Alice had been in an accident, I'd made Tyler drive me to the hospital. I'd told her to not get in that fucking car with Mike. Did she listen? No. Alice never listened, because she was too busy trying to act like she was an adult.

I was going to beat the hell out of Mike Newton when I saw him again. Putting my sister at risk was not okay with me. I'd told her he'd been drinking. Alice, being the stubborn girl she was, insisted he was fine to drive.

I finally found my mother, sitting on one of those hard as fuck plastic chairs in the waiting room. Her eyes were red-rimmed and puffy, and she was twisting a tissue between her fingers absentmindedly. When I called out to her, she looked up and started crying. I rushed over and embraced her tight.

We sat there for hours in that waiting room…waiting for my father to come out and tell us what was going on. He was an ER doctor, so I knew he would be back there with her. It was comforting to know Alice wouldn't have to go through it alone.

Mom and I both jumped up when he came through those double doors. His face was like stone, but his fists were curled around a clipboard. He walked over to us and pulled my mother to him when he reached her. It was only then that the mask slipped away a fraction, and I could see the pain he was hiding. The sight made me tear up and almost brought me to my knees, because I knew then that something wasn't right.

He released my mother and looked right at me. "Where were you?"

I froze, not understanding what he was saying. "What do you mean 'where was I'? I was at the party. The same party as Alice."

He took two swift steps, grabbing me by my shirt collar and slamming me up against the wall. My mother pulled at his arm, but he refused to release me. "I hope it was worth it, Edward. Your sister is dead because you were more worried about having fun than watching out for her. This is your fault, and, as long as I live, I will never forgive you for this."

~.~.~.~

I pulled my plate out of the microwave and went to the breakfast bar, ignoring him. Since the night he'd blamed me, neither of us had done more than lash out at one another…only speaking a few civil words to each other in between. I didn't see the point, anyway. He didn't really want to strike up a conversation with me. What he wanted was a reason to level an attack and make me feel even more worthless than I already did.

I ate quickly, keeping my eyes on my plate. As I put it in the sink, my father cleared his throat. "I asked you a question, Edward. I expect an answer."

I gripped the side of the sink, hard, trying to rein in my anger. "No, what you want is to play another round of 'let's make Edward feel like shit'. I'm not falling for it, though. Yes, I killed Alice. Now, can we just move on with our lives?"

I ran upstairs to my room and slammed my door shut before he could answer.

~.~.~.~

I kept my head down on the way to my next period. People had stopped trying to look me in the eye or even talk to me after I'd pushed them away following Alice's death. It was better that way. I didn't need to drag anyone else into the personal hell I'd found myself in. None of them were responsible for the destruction of a vibrant, young life cut too short by a selfish older brother, so it was only fair I was alone.

Sitting down in my seat in the back of the room, I glanced at the blackboard and then out the window. A feminine laugh pulled me away from it, and my breath caught.

Bella Swan.

She walked into the room, flanked by Jessica and Angela, laughing about something. Her eyes suddenly met mine, and I looked down, unable to return her gaze.

We used to be such good friends, and I'd even had a crush on her. She was one of the best people I'd ever known, and the only person who'd never tried to use Alice to get to me. Being two years younger than I, people tended to ignore Alice and her bouncy personality, thinking she was weird. Not Bella. She included Alice whenever she could, even when I'd wished it had been just her and me. But I'd pushed her away like I'd pushed away everyone else. I just didn't know how to deal with everyone, and deal with myself, at the same time. Bella had tried harder than anyone to get through to me, and I didn't blame her for giving up after a while. Alice had adored Bella, and I didn't deserve to bask in her presence when my sister couldn't.

Not that resisting Bella's offer of friendship had been easy. Whenever she entered a room, it was like an invisible hand turned my head so I could look at her. And then she would give me that look – that patented Bella look – telling me that she was there for me even if I didn't want her to be.

I got through the rest of the day and bolted out the door as soon as the bell sounded for the last time. It was raining, but I had a rain coat in my car for days like this one. On my way to the cemetery, I stopped by the florist. I did this once a week so there were always flowers on Alice's grave. She'd loved them in life, always filling a crystal bowl she'd found at a garage sale with flower heads floating around in water.

The sunflowers caught my eye as soon as I entered the shop. They seemed out of place between all the other flowers that weren't as bright and cheerful. Exactly like my sister had been when placed in any group of people. I bought the flowers and drove to the cemetery, feeling almost anxious to get there. Alice hadn't liked people being late, and it always took a little extra time when I stopped for flowers.

It made me think of the one session I'd had to endure with the school counselor about six months after Alice had died. I had been skipping class a lot, and when I had been present, I hadn't been paying attention. My grades had been slipping, and after I'd punched and gone off on some idiot who'd said something about Alice, I'd found myself in the principal's office. He'd been sympathetic and offered me a chance to get things back on course without involving my parents. The session with the counselor had been one of two conditions, the other being that if I hadn't improved my behavior and my grades in two weeks, then he was contacting my parents.

I'd started improving the next day. Whatever happened, I didn't need my parents involved. And even through the hazy veil of grief, it was clear to me that school could prove to be the distraction I needed. Instead of using drugs or alcohol as an escape, I could bury my head in the books.

The counselor had said some of the same things that I'd already figured out on my own, only she'd been a condescending bitch about it. She'd said that Alice wouldn't have wanted me to throw away my education. What the hell did that woman know about what Alice would have wanted? She'd never even talked to my sister. She was right, of course, but that didn't give her the right to spit out clichés about someone she'd never known. I'd made the mistake of telling her that I went to the cemetery every day, to which she'd said that I should be careful not to center my life around my dead sister and to look toward the living instead. Bitch. What the hell did she know? After that, I hadn't said a word. She'd lectured me for half an hour, and that had been it, thankfully.

I was nearing Alice's grave when I saw that there was someone there. I quickly hid behind a tree. I'd never run into my parents at the cemetery, and I wasn't about to start. It wasn't my mom or dad, though. It was Bella.

She was kneeling, and I could see her lips moving. I couldn't hear what she was saying, but I felt uncomfortable about intruding, so I took a few steps back and stood behind a tree a little further back. I tried to look away, but like always, it was like an invisible hand was turning my head in her direction. Bella's hand was on the stone, and her wet hair hung down, plastered to her skull. I watched as she placed something next to the bouquet of flowers I'd brought last week, and I wondered what it was.

I stood in the chilly rain and watched her until she kissed her palm and pressed it against the stone. I stared and had to suppress a gasp. It was exactly the same thing I always did. Bella stood up, looked at the grave for a moment, and then started walking in my direction. Pulling the hat on my rain coat further down over my forehead, I hid behind the tree the best I could.

When she had passed the tree, and I was sure I was in the clear, I stepped out from behind the tree just in time to see her turn back and look at me. Fuck. A few seconds passed where I couldn't look away, and then my cell phone beeped in my pocket. That in itself was enough to make me look down as I fished it out of my pocket. I only carried it around because I didn't wear a watch and because I liked killing time between classes by playing games on it. I hadn't received a text message in months.

The text was from Bella. You can come out now, it read. Great. She'd known I was hiding. When I looked up again, she'd disappeared, and a moment later I heard a car start and drive away.

Pocketing my phone again, I went over to Alice's grave. The rain had almost stopped, and when I returned after throwing the old flowers in the garbage can and started arranging the new ones, a ray of sun broke through the clouds.

"Hi, Alice," I said softly, looking up at the sunbeam and could almost see her smile. I took the rainbow appearing above the trees over by the church as her greeting back at me. It was probably all in my head, but I didn't feel so alone when I imagined that my sister was present.

I talked to her for a while, trying to work though my college dilemma. "I just wish you were here so you could come with me," I said, sighing. "There is nothing I wish more than that you were here. If I could just go back and change things…I shouldn't have let you leave with him. I'll never forgive myself for it. No one else will either, and it's okay because I deserve that."

I stayed at the cemetery until it started raining again. Then I dragged myself home to an empty house. Since my parents preferred not talking to me, my mom had put up a calendar on the fridge where she wrote down wherever they were going. They spent more and more nights out. I didn't mind. I made a couple of sandwiches and went up to my room to do my homework. When that was taken care of, I watched some TV, but found myself distracted. I looked at the text from Bella several times. Was she mad that I'd been hiding? And why hadn't she called me out on it in person instead of in a text?

It had been a long time since I'd worried about other people and their actions. Or more accurately, it had been a long time since I'd put myself in a situation where I'd had to worry about anyone. I didn't like it. I appreciated that Bella had visited Alice's grave, but other than that, it had nothing to do with me. It wouldn't have been polite to interrupt Bella while she'd been talking to Alice anyway, so what was I supposed to do except stay back? And so what if I'd stayed back behind a tree? I sighed and put my phone away. I was just going to go to sleep.

The next day, Bella cornered me at lunch. She hadn't done that in a long time, and I'd thought that hiding my face in a book and shutting out the world by listening to music on my iPod would forever keep the world at bay during that long lunch hour. But when Bella sat down across from me, I knew that she wouldn't just go away. I'd never seen such determination on her face before.

"I had a dream about Alice last night," she said, looking directly at me.

I heard her clearly over the music, and although I didn't want to, I turned off my iPod and pulled the buds out of my ears.

"I said, I had a dream about Alice last night," she repeated, probably assuming that I hadn't heard the first time.

"I heard," I replied, not knowing what she expected me to say. I wasn't responsible for her dreams, just as she wasn't responsible for mine.

"It was so real, Edward. I think…" She looked around quickly before focusing back on me. "I think she's trying to tell me something."

"Who?" Bella looking around had made me look around, too. I didn't know what she'd been looking for, but half the cafeteria was staring at us, as aware as me of the fact that I usually never talked to anyone. Bella seemed to be the only one who hadn't gotten the memo.

"Alice, of course!" she said, exasperated.

I looked at her, incredulously. "What? Are you out of your mind?"

She huffed. "No, I'm not. I'm telling you, I've never had a dream like that before. It was so real. She kept pushing me down the street from my house, and she had that smile on her face, you know the smile when she knew something you didn't. I'm telling you, it means something."

"And what could you having a dream about my dead sister possibly mean?" I asked harshly after realizing she was serious.

"I don't know yet," Bella replied, impatiently. "Have you dreamed about her?"

"No. Yes. It's none of your business." Stubbornly, and more shaken than I preferred to admit, I looked back down in my book and hoped that she would go away.

I got my wish, but apparently Bella took our sad excuse of a conversation as a sign that we were now best friends and that I wanted to spend my days chattering with her. She kept having dreams and kept telling me all about them even though I didn't want to hear about them. Okay, I did, but she didn't have to know that. It freaked me out a little that she kept insisting that Alice wanted her to do something.

I wanted to scream at her and ask if she knew how fucking painful it was to sit with her at lunch every day. The old feelings were resurfacing from when I'd been a lot more carefree—when I hadn't had a black mark on my soul—and had loved her. That was a lie. I still loved her, but I didn't deserve her. I was a killer…a monster, and people like me shouldn't ever darken the lives of caring and compassionate individuals like her. But worse than anything was the fact that spending time with Bella again had given me hope – hope that there was light at the end of the tunnel, but hope that, if crushed, would crush me, too.

"The dreams are starting to change again, Edward." Bella ran up to me in the parking lot one morning. It'd been two weeks after she'd thrust herself back into my life. I hummed and pulled my books out of the backseat.

She grabbed my arm and pulled me toward her. Rolling my eyes, I turned around and faced her. "Bella…"

"No, Edward. Listen. Remember when I told you it had switched from her pushing me down the street to her being in a meadow? Well, she's still in the meadow, wearing the short, purple dress. But…she's…she's dancing now. Instead of sitting there and staring at me expectantly, she was twirling and smiling. At first, I thought it meant that she was finally happy…that it's what she's been trying to tell me. But then, she said 'he needs you' and then disappeared into the forest."

Those words punched a hole in my already battered chest. Bella's insistence that Alice was trying to contact her from beyond the grave through dreams was beginning to wear me down. I almost believed it. Hell, I wanted to believe it, to have faith that Alice was not completely gone, and she was somewhere out there, looking out for us all. Hearing that someone—a he—needed her hurt more than I wanted to admit. That statement meant I was going to lose Bella, just like I'd lost everything else that had ever been important to me. And why not? I wanted Bella to be loved, even if I had no right to wish it could be me.

I cleared my throat. "Oh…well. I don't know what to say."

Bella opened her mouth to speak, but her reply was drowned out by the sound of the warning bell. She smiled apologetically and said she'd see me at lunch. With my shoulders slumped and my spirits low, I walked to my first class.

The day crawled at a snail's pace, and I was afraid I'd lose my mind. I'd tried to distract myself with class work, but my mind kept going back to our conversation right before the bell had rung. What did she say? Did she already know who Alice was talking about? And how long would it be before she left me again?

I hated—absolutely hated—that Bella had become another bright spot in my day. Going to the cemetery had been my only solace for so fucking long, and then Bella had come along and made life suck a little less.

No I didn't. I loved it, and it was going to kill me when she stopped talking to me. I'd be truly alone then.

~.~.~.~

"I wish, so much, that you could answer me," I pressed my forehead against the headstone. "Do you remember when you called me out about Bella? You said 'just ask her already, Edward. I can't wait until she's officially my sister'." I laughed through my tears.

Leaning back, I looked down and ran my hand through the grass beside me. "I waited too long, didn't I?"

I closed my eyes and blew out a breath. Pushing myself off the ground, I stood in front of the stone. I kissed my palm and placed it against her name. "I love you, kiddo. I'll see you later."

I walked quickly out of the cemetery. I was too much of a coward to stick around to hear her answer to my question…in case she could give me a sign.

The house was dark when I got home, which meant my parents were out once again. That was fine by me. The day's events had drained me, and I wasn't in the mood to fight. I made myself something to eat and then went upstairs.

I don't know how long I lay in my bed, staring at the ceiling, but the sound of voices brought me back to the present. I couldn't hear the words, only that there was arguing. Curiosity got the best of me, and I got up to investigate.

They got louder as I walked down the steps, and I froze on the landing, out of sight, when I finally caught my father's voice.

"I'm sorry, but I can't do it."

"Why not? How long do you plan on pretending he doesn't exist?" my mother asked, her words biting.

"I know what you're trying to do, and it won't work. I'm not going to feel guilty for not telling Edward it's okay he's the reason Alice is dead. He was there. He could have pulled her out of that car. He could have called us. There are so many things he could have done that night, but he chose not to. Edward has always thought he can do whatever he wants, and he needs to learn there are some things that are just unforgiveable."

I leaned against the wall, not at all surprised that my father was listing off my sins like it was a grocery list.

"I'm just tired, so tired of holding in all this pain. I want to forgive him, but I don't know how. I just want everything to be like it used to."

"I do, too. But it'll never go back to the way it was. You're fighting for something that just isn't worth it."

I could hear my mother crying. "Maybe you're right. Maybe I'm holding onto something I shouldn't be, and I shouldn't forgive what he's done."

I stood pressed against the wall until I could hear their footsteps leading away from me and their voices trailing off. I hadn't noticed, until that moment, I'd been holding onto the possibility that my mother would see reason someday. My father was a lost cause, but my mother had never come right out and said she blamed me. It was painful to learn she was just like him.

Running upstairs, I'd decided I'd had enough. There was no hope for reconciliation with my parents and no reason to stay in that house a second longer. I pulled out a bag and began shoving clothes and other items in it. I'd live in my fucking car before I'd spend another night in that fucking house. I wiped at my face and pulled my sleeping bag out of the closet. I tried to deny how much their words had hurt me as I crept out downstairs.

My parents were nowhere to be found, so I slipped out the front door, careful to shut it quietly. I started up the car, and at that point, I didn't care if they'd heard me or not. I figured they'd be glad to finally be rid of me.

It became clear, after I'd driven around for a while, where I was going to go. It was the same place I always went when the world seemed to be crashing around me. I parked in the grass next to the cemetery, taking out my sleeping back and walking toward Alice's grave.

I laid the sleeping bag lengthwise in front of her gravestone, and, for one crazy and desperate moment, I wanted things to be different, to not have pushed Bella away. For the first time in a long time, I felt like sharing the turmoil raging inside of me with someone who could talk back.

Pushing that thought out of my head—it had happened, and there was nothing I could do to change it—I curled up in my sleeping bag and looked up at the stars. The night was surprisingly clear…but cold. I shivered as I rolled over to try and get some sleep.

My steps quickened as I pushed through the brush. I had to find her. I'd heard her cries moments before, and I had to get there in time.

At the edge of the forest, a few branches stood in my way. Moving them to the side, I walked out of the trees and into Jessica Stanley's living room. I froze in horror, realizing immediately I was back at that fateful party.

I shoved my way through the bodies to where I knew Alice would be. No one noticed, or cared, as I made my way to the front door. Opening it, I saw her standing next to Newton's car, talking to…me. Walking closer, I could hear every word I'd said to her that night and her responses back. I wanted to punch myself, knowing that I hadn't tried that hard, because I hadn't really thought anything bad would happen to her.

She got into the car, and I raced to stop her from leaving. Screaming at Alice to get the fuck out, I reached out to grab the handle, and my hand passed through it. Mike and Alice drove off as I stared at my hand. What the fuck was going on?

I was brought out of my panicking by the sound of the crunching gravel. They were turning onto the main road, and even though it was obvious I couldn't change the course of things, I ran after them anyway.

"Alice, goddamn it! Get out of that car!" My feet pounded on the pavement with each step as I uselessly tried to catch them. It seemed like I was running for hours, yelling for Alice and hoping that, somehow, she'd heard me. That she'd listen to me.

The sight of twisted metal and smoke made me stop short. I was panting and gasping as I walked up, dazed, to the crash site. There was broken glass everywhere, and I noticed the car was wrapped around a tree. A whimpering sound pulled me out of my stupor, and I ran to the wreckage.

Looking into the driver's side window, I could see that Mike was already dead. Just like it had happened that night. I'd never been able to make myself hate him, not even after he'd gotten what he'd probably deserved. The fact that it was my responsibility, and not his, to keep Alice safe from harm made it impossible.

Another sound from the passenger's side caused me to tear my eyes away from him and look toward my sister. She was coughing and staring out the windshield with a blank stare.

"Don't give up, Alice. Please. I'm sorry. So fucking sorry. Just…please don't die." I moved away from the window and tried to find a way into the car. I could hear sirens in the distance. I looked back in to tell Alice that help was coming. Her breaths were coming slower, shallower.

"No, don't you dare!" I screamed at her. Not again. I can't do this again.

"Edward, it's okay. Come back to me."

Bella?

I spun around and looked into the darkness, trying to find her. She was supposed to be sick—the reason she wasn't at the party that night. Yet, she was there, and I couldn't find her.

"Edward!"

My eyes opened, and I shot up, looking around. After a few seconds, I realized it had all been a dream. Trying to even out my breathing, I noticed Bella was kneeling beside me.

"What the…what are you doing here, Bella?"

"Damn it, Edward. Why are you sleeping outside? In the cemetery, no less?"

I turned my head away from her in shame. "It's complicated."

"I almost didn't come, but the dream was so real…I had to make sure. And then I see you sleeping here, thrashing and crying out…just like you did in my nightmare."

I startled and looked at her. "What?"

"Alice…Alice said you needed me, and then I saw you here, crying in your sleep. Oh, Edward. What happened?"

I wiped at my eyes and turned red. I had been crying. Fuck.

"You should go home. You're going to catch hypothermia if you stay here."

"I-I can't." I hung my head, ashamed to admit it.

"Come on." She pulled at my arm, trying to make me stand.

I jerked away from her hold. "What the fuck, Bella? I said I can't go home, and I mean it."

She stood and placed her hands on her hips. "Well, I'm not leaving you out here to freeze to death. So, you're coming home with me."

I snorted. "I don't think so. The chief might kill me if he finds me there. Freezing to death sounds like a better option than getting shot."

Her expression turned frosty. "Don't joke about things like that. Fine. If you're not going to listen to reason, then I guess we'll both be cold."

She started to sit back down on the ground, but I shook my head. "You win. I'm not going to let you sleep outside."

I stood up and grabbed my sleeping bag, stomping off toward my car. I had no idea how she'd found me, but I was pissed that I was just a pity case to her. I was so tired of everyone's pity.

I followed her home behind her beat up truck. The sight reminded me of how Alice used to tease Bella about her vehicle. My sister thought it'd been a travesty that Bella had to drive what she called "a hunk of junk." But Bella loved that thing, and she'd just laugh at Alice.

I wasn't sure where to park, but Bella waved me into the driveway through her side window after she pulled in. I parked behind her and got out at the same time as she exited her own vehicle. I made sure to grab my bag and then walked into the house.

The warmth hit me and made me realize just how cold I was when I crossed the threshold. Shivering, I placed my bag on the couch.

"Edward! You're freezing." Bella grabbed me by the hand and pulled me upstairs. I was too cold and disoriented to protest as she led me into her room and started stripping me down to my boxers. I didn't come back to my senses until I noticed she'd removed her own clothes and then pushed me onto the bed.

"B-Bella? What…?"

"Shut up. Body heat is the fastest way to warm up." She scrambled into the bed and fought with the comforter until we were both covered. I turned on my side and watched Bella do the same, facing me. She wrapped herself around me, and I could feel her body heat seep into my own frozen form. I felt like a fucking leech sucking the very life force from her, but I didn't dare move. Her head was resting in the crook of my neck, and I could feel her hot breath waft across my skin.

As I lay there, and the heat began to slowly return to my extremities, I realized that was the first form of human contact I'd had in two fucking years. My parents treated me like I'd had the plague, and no one else had even tried to console me. I wrapped my arms around her back and pulled her close. The floodgates opened up, and I released all the pain I'd been holding in since my sister had died, letting it come out in a torrent of tears.

I didn't care that Bella had only initiated contact as a way to keep me alive. I needed this, more than I had needed anything in my entire life. I pretended that she felt the same way I did and relished in each soothing word she said.

My outburst slowed when she cradled my head to her chest and began to rock me back and forth. It had a calming effect on me, and I never wanted it to stop. I squeezed her tighter to me.

Eventually, I was all cried out. I could feel her hands combing through my hair, and I was afraid to let go, thinking whatever spell we were under would break as soon as we parted.

"I'm sorry, Edward. I'm sorry it took me so long."

Her words made me look up at her. "What do you mean?"

"Alice said you needed me, but I had a hard time believing her. You pushed me away, and I thought you hated me."

"I don't hate you. I've never hated you." I confessed, looking into her eyes. "I just didn't know how to deal with it. It was easier to push everyone away."

She nodded. "It hurt me, too, losing her like that. I wanted, so many times, to do something to take your pain away, but I didn't know how. And then you didn't want me around. I figured I was the problem, so I stopped."

I was so ashamed of how I'd acted back then. "I…"

"It's over and done with. I just want you know that I'll be here for you from now on."

I closed my eyes. She couldn't have known how much those words meant to me. "Okay." My voice cracked.

I finally felt like myself, and not a Popsicle, but I couldn't make myself let go of her. Everything I'd ever wanted was right there in my arms, and I wanted to tell her how I felt. But I didn't, because I knew it would change everything, and there was a good chance that admitting my feelings would make her run away.

"There's something else I have to say, or I'm going to go mad."

I pulled myself up so I was face to face with Bella. Her comment made me curious. "Go on."

She chuckled. "Alice has been demanding I spit it out in the last few dreams she's starred in. Last night, she threatened to start singing if I didn't just come out and say it."

I shook my head and smiled, knowing how bad a threat that was. Alice had never been able to carry a tune, and I'd have probably agreed to anything if it had been me.

She slid her leg up mine, curling it around my hip. "I…damn. This is hard." She took a deep breath and stared at me. "I love you, Edward."

"Fuck. I'm dead, aren't I?" I knew it was too good to be true. I buried my head into the pillow and sighed. A sharp smack to the arm made me raise my head. Bella was looking at me with a scowl.

"Ow. What the hell?"

"I tell you I love you, and you think you're dead? Way to make a girl feel special."

"Wait. You mean it?"

"Of course I mean it, you idiot."

A wide grin spread across my face. Pressing my forehead against hers, I stared deep into her eyes. "Promise?" I asked in a small voice.

"Yes. I promise."

"I-I love you, too. I've wanted to tell you for so long, but I couldn't. I don't deserve you."

Another smack landed on my back. "Damn it. Why do you keep hitting me?"

"Because you keep acting stupid. You're not a bad person, Edward. It wasn't your fault. It wasn't anyone's fault. It just happened."

"I think you're the only one who thinks that."

"Well, then everyone else is wrong."

I lay there, holding Bella and trying to wrap my head around the night's events.

"I love you," Bella whispered, lightly brushing her cheek against mine. "I love you. I love you. I love you."

"You have no idea how much I love you. So fucking much."

She smiled and placed a chaste kiss on my lips.

"Do you..." I pulled her closer to me. "Do you really think it was Alice? In your dreams, I mean."

"I do. I think she wanted, on some level, for us to be together."

"Well, I'm glad she did."

We held on to each other like the other would disappear until we fell asleep.

"You guys are so perfect for each other."

I spun around and saw Alice standing before me. She was wearing a short, purple dress, just like Bella had described from her own dreams. Smiling at me, she continued, "Took you long enough, though."

I rubbed the back of my neck. "Yeah, I know."

"Well, just don't fuck it up, or I'm going to haunt your ass. And then I'll be pissed, because I have better things to do than follow you around." She fisted her hands on her hips and scowled.

I laughed. "Okay. I promise. She's everything to me, so I'll do my best."

Alice's face softened. "I know."

"Are you happy, Alice? I mean…"

She shook her head, a slight grin pulled at her lips. "I'm fine, Edward. Really. You need to let me go and live your own life. You have Bella now. Go…be happy. And I'll see you again, someday."

I started to protest but let it die as she turned and began to walk away. I stood there until she'd vanished, and I was left with a sense of peace. Something I'd not felt in a long time.

I woke up and saw it was still dark out. It took me a moment, but I remembered I was with Bella—in her bed. I looked down at her sleeping form and smiled.

"Thanks, Alice," I whispered into the dark, "for everything. I will start living my life and try to be happy."