Sick

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. This story is copyright © 2012 Celestial Nightfall. All rights reserved.

I came up with this idea last Saturday, when I was dying in bed, sick. (It's a weird way to put it - "dying in bed" - but, that's how I phrase things, so, oh well! :] )

But, ignore me, as I shall shut up now, so that you may read. :)

"Bells! You have to wake up, or else you will be late for school!" the girl heard Charlie say from downstairs.

Bella gave a little groan of protest, but tried sit herself up anyways. However, she slumped back down as soon as she felt the room spin.

Her minor groan turned into a moan. The room felt congested and uncomfortably hot to her, and coughs erupted from her throat, almost ripping through her chest. A layer of sweat covered her face.

It all dawned upon her so ruthlessly, hitting her like a wrecking ball - or less dramatically, realization hit her so suddenly.

She was sick.

No.

But she couldn't miss school. She couldn't bring herself to be absent for only one day.

Because Edward Cullen was going to be there.

How pathetic she thought it was.

But she knew her restless mind wouldn't be assured until she'd see him in the cafeteria – or at least somewhere in the school, so that her day could pass by smoothly.

She tried to be as quick as possible, without worsening her condition and changed into her favorite sweatpants and hoodie. The sounds of her rushed footsteps down the stairs resonated through the barren house.

Bella glanced at the clock, her eyes widening when she say she was running late.

It won't kill me if I don't take the medicine now . . . I'll just take it when I come back from school, she thought to herself, grabbing her backpack from the corner of the living room, and reaching into her pocket to grasp her keys.

.

Bella took a bite of pizza, but grimaced at the horrible taste, resisting the urge to spit it back up. Instead, she swallowed without finish chewing the rest of it, and stood up, flushing more than she already had from being sick when she felt eyes roam to her.

"Don't judge. It tastes awful; even water tastes awful to me," she croaked.

"Don't speak!" some hissed in response and Bella mouthed a quick sorry. When Bella spoke in her first class, she realized that her voice was completely off, almost sounding like a choke. Teachers and students had advised her not to speak, so Bella was obeying with reluctance.

"Edward Cullen is staring at you again," Jessica giggled besides her, while she let out a troubled groan. Angela Webber's brow furrowed.

"What's wrong?" she whispered in concern.

Bella quickly grabbed her notebook and a pen, flipping to a blank page before ripping it out and jotting furiously on the paper, her hand shaking slightly.

She says he stares at me every single lunch we have.

Angela frowned.

Because he does. Isn't that a good thing? she wrote back, respecting her privacy by not voicing her concern out loud - which Bella was immensely grateful for.

How is that a good thing if he hates me? I honestly can't put up with his mood swings - they are giving me a whiplash. I'm not going to bother with him and just ignore him. You see how he shuns me in Biology, don't you?

She snorted.

He hates everyone - or at least ignores them; but, you're different. He seems to be obsessed with you. And you never know, maybe his mood swings have nothing to do with you!

Or maybe they do.

Stop being so negative. Maybe he likes you - you know what they say about guys who are mean to girls!

Bella sighed.

I highly doubt it.

I don't mean to pry, but what about you? Do you like him? (Feel free to ignore this question if I am invading your privacy)

She tried to write her response, which were lies, but ended up crossing out a few before writing the truth.

I don't know. I can't understand what's happening myself.

"Don't worry about it," Angela whispered. "Things are bound to get complicated, but in the end, it will work out."

Bella smiled genuinely at her. "Thank you," she mouthed, taking the notebook page and crumpling the paper and tossing it into her backpack.

.

Mr. Banner had begun his lesson, when Angela and Bella arrived into class.

"You're both late," he accused, narrowing his eyes into slits.

Bella opened her mouth, ready to speak, but Angela shot her a glare that made her close her jaw.

"We're sorry, Mr. Banner," she started, "but, Bella is sick and while we were walking here from lunch, she felt a bit faint and so, we stopped for a few minutes. Oh, and she won't be able to talk today, since she is at risk of losing her voice - temporary, of course. So, if she passes notes around . . . ." She grinned impishly at her little hidden joke as Bella flushed.

His eyes softened, understanding. "Alright, then. Take your seats, and catch up on the notes you missed from your partner."

Bella sighed, reaching into her backpack to retrieve her notebook; but, her eyes widened, realizing, while scouring through her bag, that the crumpled up sheet of paper, which sidetracked Bella and Angela passed around at lunch and wrote each other messages was gone.

But she was sidetracked when she felt the room begin to spin.

Bella's hand shot up immediately as soon as she felt her stomach clench in knots, and feeling the bile rise up her throat.

"Yes, Miss Swan?"

Bella frowned, realizing that she would be chastised if she spoke a word. She pointed towards the door, and rubbed her hands together, trying to depict the idea of washing her hands in the bathroom.

Mr. Banner's brow furrowed, emphasizing the forming crease in his forehead. "I don't under -"

"Oh!" yelled Mike Newton. "I think she is saying that she needs some lotion from the nurse because the skin on her hands is dry. Eczema, I believe it is called." He grinned proudly, winking at Bella, as Angela gave Bella an apologetic glance.

What. The. Hell.

She hadn't realized that she was murmuring the words to herself, until she heard her neighbor muffling a quiet chuckle. Bella exhaled sharply, before proceeding to do a classic face-palm. Suddenly, she flushed self-consciously. She knew she didn't have eczema, but did her hands look that dry?

She subtly glanced at them, sighing in relief when she realized that it was only Mike Newton being stupid.

"Mr. Newton, please! This is no time for jokes!"

"Sorry," Mike mumbled.

"Edward?" He had called, when Edward raised his hand.

The boy next to her sighed. "She wishes to be excused, so that she may go to the lavatory."

"Bella?" Mr. Banner said, waiting for her confirming nod. "Go ahead," he endorsed, when she finally did.

She turned to give Edward a smile in gratitude, but he whipped his head back to the board, giving a curt nod to acknowledge her thanks.

All Bella could do in that moment to keep herself from doing something rash, was to proceed out the door.

But she didn't know that thirst scorched down Edward's throat - tightening his muscles and filling his mouth with venom - and he closed my eyes, trying to concentrate through the desire for her blood that raged inside him. The monster was stronger than before. The monster was rejoicing. He embraced this dual future that gave him an even, fifty-fifty chance at what he craved so viciously.

She didn't know that the remorse and the guilt burned with the thirst, and, if he'd had the ability to produce tears, they would have filled his eyes now.

.

More than a month had passed, and every day it got harder. That made no sense to him - he kept waiting to get over it, to have it get easier. This must be what Alice had meant when she'd predicted that he would not be able to stay away from the girl. She had seen the escalation of the pain. But he could handle pain.

He would not destroy Bella's future. If he was destined to love her, then wasn't avoiding her the very least he could do?

Avoiding her was about the limit of what Edward could bear, though. He could pretend to ignore her, and never look her way. He could pretend that she was of no interest to him.

But that was the extent, just pretense and not reality.

Edward still hung on every breath she took, every word she said.

He lumped his torments into four categories.

The first two were familiar. Her scent and her silence. Or, rather - to take the responsibility on himself where it belonged - his thirst and his curiosity.

The thirst was the most primal of his torments. It was his habit now to simply not breathe at all in Biology. Of course, there were always the exceptions - when he had to answer a question or something of the sort, and he would need his breath to speak. Each time he tasted the air around the girl, it was the same as the first day - fire and need and brutal violence desperate to break free. It was hard to cling even slightly to reason or restraint in those moments. And, just like that first day, the monster in him would roar, so close to the surface . . .

The curiosity was the most constant of his torments. The question was never out of his mind: What is she thinking now?

When he heard her quietly sigh. When she twisted a lock of hair absently around her finger. When she threw her books down with more force than usual. When she rushed to class late. When she tapped her foot impatiently against the floor. Each movement caught in his peripheral vision was a maddening mystery. When she spoke to the other human students, he analyzed her every word and tone. Was she speaking her thoughts, or what she thought she should say? It often sounded to him like she was trying to say what her audience expected, and this reminded him of his family and their daily life of illusion - they were better at it than she was. Unless he was wrong about that, just imagining things. Why would she have to play a role? She was one of them - a human teenager.

Mike Newton was the most surprising of his torments.

Who would have ever dreamed that such a generic, boring mortal could be so infuriating? To be fair, he should have felt some gratitude to the annoying boy; more than the others, he kept the girl talking. Edward learned so much about her through these conversations - he was still compiling his list - but, contrarily, Mike's assistance with this project only aggravated him more. Edward didn't want Mike to be the one that unlocked her secrets. He wanted to do that.

It helped that he never noticed her small revelations, her little slips. He knew nothing about her. Mike'd created a Bella in his head that didn't exist - a girl just as generic as he was. He hadn't observed the unselfishness and bravery that set her apart from other humans; he didn't hear the abnormal maturity of her spoken thoughts. He didn't perceive that when she spoke of her mother, she sounded like a parent speaking of a child rather than the other way around - loving, indulgent, slightly amused, and fiercely protective. He didn't hear the patience in her voice when she feigned interest in his rambling stories, and didn't guess at the kindness behind that patience.

Through her conversations with Mike, Edward was able to add the most important quality to his list, the most revealing of them all, as simple as it was rare. Bella was good.

All the other things added up to that whole - kind and self-effacing and unselfish and loving and brave - she was good through and through.

These helpful discoveries did not warm Edward to the boy, however. The possessive way Mike viewed Bella - as if she were an acquisition to be made - provoked him almost as much as Mike's crude fantasies about her.

Mike was becoming more confident of her, too, as the time passed, for she seemed to prefer him over those he considered his rivals - Tyler Crowley, Eric Yorkie, and even, sporadically, Edward. Mike would routinely sit on her side of her and Edward's table before class began, chattering at her, encouraged by her smiles. Just polite smiles, Edward told himself. All the same, he frequently amused myself by imagining backhanding Mike across the room and into the far wall . . .

It probably wouldn't injure him fatally . . .

Mike didn't often think of Edward as a rival. After the accident, he'd worried that Bella and Edward would bond from the shared experience, but obviously the opposite had resulted. Back then, Mike had still been bothered that he'd singled Bella out over her peers for attention. But now, Edward ignored her just as thoroughly as the others, and he grew complacent.

What was she thinking now? Did she welcome Mike's attention?

And, finally, the last of Edward's torments, the most painful: Bella's indifference. As he ignored her, she ignored him. She never tried to speak to him again. For all Edward knew, she never thought about him at all.

This might have driven him mad - or even broken his resolution to change the future - except that she sometimes stared at him like she had before. Edward didn't see it for himself, as he could not allow himself to look at her, but Alice always warned them when she was about to stare; the others were still wary of the girl's problematic knowledge.

It eased some of the pain that she gazed at him from across a distance, every now and then. Of course, she could just be wondering what kind of a freak Edward was.

"Bella's going to stare at Edward in a minute. Look normal," Alice had said one Tuesday in March, and the others were careful to fidget and shift their weight like humans; absolute stillness was a marker of their kind.

He had paid attention to how often she looked his direction. It pleased him, though it should not, that the frequency did not decline as the time passed. He didn't know what it meant, but it made him feel better.

Alice sighed. I wish . . . .

"Stay out of it, Alice," Edward had said under his breath. "It's not going to happen."

She pouted. Alice was anxious to form her envisioned friendship with Bella. In a strange way, she missed the girl she didn't know.

I'll admit, you're better than I thought. You've got the future all snarled up and senseless again. I hope you're happy.

"It makes plenty of sense to me."

She snorted delicately.

He tried to shut her out, too impatient for conversation. He wasn't in a very good mood - tenser than he let any of them see. Only Jasper was aware of how tightly wound he was, feeling the stress emanate out of Edward with his unique ability to both sense and influence the moods of others. Jasper didn't understand the reasons behind the moods, though, and - since Edward was constantly in a foul mood these days - he disregarded it.

The thoughts he had gathered from her peers revolved with concern or jealously for her - she was slightly ill, and had not eaten anything. Edward had stared at his tray filled with food, wishing that he could give it to her himself. She needed energy in her body.

Edward had turned to read Bella's face himself, for the first time in more than a month. It was a sharp relief to allow himself this, like a gasp of air to long-submerged human lungs.

Her eyes were closed, and her hands pressed against the sides of her face. Her shoulders curved inward defensively. She shook her head ever so slightly, as if she were trying to push some thought from her mind. Her cheeks were flushed a delicate red.

Frustrating. Fascinating.

Mr. Banner's voice pulled her from her reverie, and her had eyes slowly opened. She had looked at him immediately, perhaps sensing his gaze. She had stared up into his eyes with the same bewildered expression that had haunted him for so long.

Edward had not felt the remorse or the guilt or the rage in that second. He had known they would come again, and come soon, but for this one moment he rode a strange, jittery high. As if he had triumphed, rather than lost.

She had not look away, though he had stared with inappropriate intensity, trying vainly to read her thoughts through her liquid brown eyes.

Bella wanted to be excused, since she had not been feeling well.

Edward could have see the reflection of his own eyes, and he had saw that they were black with thirst. It had been nearly two weeks since his hunting trip; this was not the safest day for his will to crumble. But the blackness did not seem to frighten her. She still did not look away, and a soft, devastatingly appealing pink began to color her skin.

What is she thinking now? was the only thing that had registered his mind, as she had walked out the door.

Miss Swan hasn't been back for a long time, the teacher wondered, interrupting his reminiscing. Is she alright? Maybe I should send a student to see if she went to the nurse's office. Miss Webber did mention that she was ill.

"Will someone go and check if Miss Swan is at the nurse? It has been around 10-15 minutes since she left," he murmured the last part.

Mike Newton's arm raised up high, eager for anything that involved Bella.

"No, Mr. Newton. Not after that little, offensive joke."

Mike frowned, slumping back in his seat after bringing his hand down.

"Mr. Cullen, since you were the only one who figured out what Miss Swan was trying to convey earlier, I think it would be better if you went."

"Alright, Mr. Banner," he said, arising from his seat fluidly, secretly pleased by Mike Newton's obvious jealously.

Edward sighed wistfully as he walked, thinking about Bella - her smile, her beautiful blush, her chocolate brown eyes, and every other feature of hers that he loved.

And how he had managed to stay away from it all.

Or attempted to.

She was so selfless, thoughtful, and he loved that, despite how he - more like the monster within him - had hated her for having the most floral, most delectable scent of blood.

And she was a mystery to him -

Edward stopped his thoughts abruptly upon detecting the heartbeat of the human. His legs pushed him towards the direction of the source, and he finally saw her.

She was breathing in and out deeply, leaning against the wall for support. Her eyes were closed, and her fingers rubbed soothing circles on her temple.

"Bella!" Edward shouted in concern, grabbing her hand when she started to fall back.

There was no change in her lifeless face when he yelled her name.

His whole body went colder than ice.

Then the vampire could hear her heart beating and her even breath. As he watched, she squeezed her eyes more tightly shut. That eased some of his panic.

Thrilled and terrified, half-grateful to and half-aggrieved by the predicament which made touching her a necessity, Edward gently lifted Bella, bending down and curling his arms around the back of her knees and lifting her up from the sidewalk and held her in his arms, touching only her clothes, keeping as much distance between their bodies as possible. He treated her like she was as delicate as glass - though to him, she was close to being so.

He was striding forward in the same movement, in a hurry to have her safe - farther away from himself, the monster, in other words.

Her eyes popped open, astonished. "Put me down," she ordered in a weak voice - embarrassed again, he guessed from her expression. She didn't like to show weakness; that explained her stubbornness and her somewhat hostile behavior towards him.

This behavior had disappointed him, but he could hardly expect otherwise. The way he had treated her since the accident was inexcusable.

She squealed in surprise, thrashing against his arms, though it hurt her weak, fragile body to do so, as he walked to the office. He tried to calm her in order to stop her from squirming, for it mixed her scent with the air, the monster aching for his presence to be acknowledged.

Ms. Cope jumped, startled. "Oh, my," she gasped as she examined the ashen girl in my arms.

"She fainted in Biology," Edward explained, before her imagination could get too out of hand.

Ms. Cope hurried to open the door to the nurse's office. Bella's eyes were open again, watching her. He heard the elderly nurse's internal astonishment as he laid the girl carefully on the one shabby bed. As soon as Bella was out of his arms, he put the width of the room between them. His body was too excited, too eager, his muscles tense and the venom flowing. She was so warm and fragrant.

"Just lie down for a minute, honey," Mrs. Hammond said. Then her focus diverted towards Edward. "You can go back to class now."

Edward looked her straight in the eye and lied with perfect confidence. "I'm supposed to stay with her."

Hmm. I wonder . . . oh well. Mrs. Hammond nodded.

It worked just fine on her. Why did Bella have to be so difficult?

The nurse had taken Bella's temperature, declaring that she had a fever, and possible symptoms of the flu, and that she should go to her doctor as soon as she could. Edward hid his smile, more than happy to take her to his father. Her already red cheeks flamed a bit more at his offer, shaking her head politely. The nurse had said that she wasn't able to play in gym, and suggested that she would go home; but, she frowned upon closer inspection.

"She doesn't seem to be in any condition to drive herself home. Edward, sweetie, if you don't mind dropping her home; and I'm sure that since you wish to follow your father's footsteps, it would be great practice for you, if you'd take care of her - it's only a measly fever, after all. I'm sure your father has taught you well. I'll tell Mrs. Cope to give you permission to be excused."

Edward gave her an easy smile. "Of course. It's not a problem at all."

"Excellent." She clapped her hands together once and Edward smiled at her kind thoughts of match-making.

He turned to the secretary. Hopefully Bella was paying attention to this, he thought sardonically. This was how a human was supposed to respond.

"Ms. Cope?" Edward asked, using his persuasive voice again.

Her eyelashes fluttered, and her heart sped up. Too young, get a hold of yourself!

That was interesting. When Shelly Cope's pulse quickened, it was because she found Edward physically attractive, not because she was frightened. He was used to that around human females . . . yet he hadn't considered that explanation for Bella's racing heart.

Edward rather liked that. Too much, in fact. He smiled, and Mrs. Cope's breathing got louder.

Mrs. Cope had to swallow loudly before she answered. "Yes, dear, Mrs. Hammond informed me of the situation; do you need to be excused, too, Edward?"

"No, I have Mrs. Goff, she won't mind."

He wasn't paying much attention to her now. He was exploring this new possibility.

Hmm, he thought, liking to believe that Bella found him attractive like other humans did, but when did Bella ever have the same reactions as other humans? He shouldn't get my hopes up.

"Okay, it's all taken care of. You feel better, Bella."

He helped Bella up to her feet, taking her to his car, promising her that her truck will be brought to her safely at home.

"What's you problem?" she finally mumbled, when they were walking towards the parking lot. "One minute you give me the cold shoulder and then the second I'm suddenly in your arms - what am I supposed make out of that!" She continued when he didn't address her problem. "Edward, let go of me," she protested weakly, as he carried her in his arms again.

"Shh . . . don't talk - it will make your voice worse than it already is," was all he said in response, not only silencing her with his words but his tender expression. He set her down into the passenger seat of his Volvo, stroking her hair softly. He inhaled deeply, mumbling something incoherent to not only her, but to himself as well.

"Put on your seatbelt," he ordered.

She locked the seatbelt into place, jumping slightly at the sound it made. That little sound made her jump, yet she did not flinch as he tore through the town.

Edward took a deep breath, letting her scent scorch down his throat.

It was quiet for a moment.

He warred with himself, trying to be what he should be. What he couldn't be. Would she want to be away from him because of that?

He started the car and took her back. Every inch closer he got to her house, the harder it was to hold on to his purpose.

Would the monster within ever be satiated?

He could feel her eyes on him. She seemed oddly relaxed. Her delicate eyelids fluttered slowly, dropping wearily.

No. He wasn't giving up. Not yet. He wanted her too much to surrender.

But, Bella deserved better than a killer, his mind fought against his heart.

He'd spent seven decades trying to be something other than that - anything other than a killer. Those years of effort could never make him worthy of the girl sitting beside him.

And yet, he felt that if he returned to that life - the life of a killer - for even one night, he would surely put her out of his reach forever.

Edward was trying to be good enough for her. It was an impossible goal. He would keep trying.

He inhaled carefully through his nose.

Potent.

He clutched the steering wheel tighter. The rain made her smell better. He wouldn't have thought that was possible. Stupidly, he was suddenly imaging how she would taste - yet was trying to swallow against the burn in his throat.

When they had arrived, he realized that he had made yet another gaffe. He'd been too distracted to remember to ask her where her house was.

No, he then thought, this wouldn't be suspicious in such a small town, with her father a public figure . . .

Bella had showed him where she had kept the spare key - he had scoffed upon seeing it, under the eave, claiming that anyone could find it very easily - because Edward had refused to let her strain herself by reaching for it in her jeans pocket. He carried her up to her room, setting her on the bed. Edward then walked over to the window, inspecting the view of the forest given. His eyes then drifted down to the windowsill, noticing the foil covering the pills.

A new, unopened pack.

"I didn't take my medicine because I was running late," she groused weakly, when she noticed him holding up the foil and observing it in question.

The pack fell from his hand and dropped down with an eerie scraping sound. "Will you stop overusing your voice, or should I come over there and make you?" he demanded, his eyes flashing in anger. "Don't strain your vocal cords, Isabella, unless you intend to lose your voice!"

Bella bit her lip, crossing her arms around her chest. Tears sprung to her eyes, both of sadness and fury, and leaked down her cheeks. She tried to subtly wipe them, but a cool, gentle finger beat her to it, wiping the moisture away.

"I'm sorry," his soft voice spoke, "I didn't mean to upset you."

She used all of her willpower to stop herself from looking up at him. "It's fine," she mumbled.

"Shh, Bella." He groaned, but then paused, his eyes suddenly filling with shame and regret as his expression morphed to horror. "I didn't scare you, did I? I'm so sorry, Bella, I didn't mean to . . ."

Bella didn't want to risk getting scolded at for speaking again, so she placed a finger to his lips, shaking her head, while Edward sighed, interlocking his fingers with hers, which were still on his hands.

She closed her eyes, and soon enough, her breathing decreased into a slow, smooth pace, signalling that she was asleep.

Edward tried to move away, but her hand unconsciously gripped tighter; he could have easily removed it, but his dead heart swelled with happiness that he didn't want to let go. So instead, he reached for his phone with his left hand, dialing his father's number; his smile at her sleeping form was blinding when she spoke his name in her sleep.

Her room was small - disorganized but not unclean. There were books piled on the floor beside her bed, their spines facing away from me, and CDs scattered by her inexpensive CD player - the one on top was just a clear jewel case. Stacks of papers surrounded a computer that looked like it belonged in a museum dedicated to obsolete technologies. Shoes dotted the wooden floor.

He wanted very much to go read the titles of her books and CDs, but he'd promised himself that He would keep his distance; instead, he went to sit the old rocking chair in the far corner of the room.

The sheets twisted around her legs on the small bed. As he watched, she twitched restlessly and threw one arm over her head. She did not sleep soundly, at least not today.

Had he really once thought her average-looking? He thought of that first day, and his disgust for the boys who were so immediately intrigued with her. But when he remembered her face in their minds now, he could not understand why he had not found her beautiful immediately. It seemed an obvious thing.

Right now - with her dark hair tangled and wild around her pale face, wearing a threadbare t-shirt with sweatpants, her features relaxed in unconsciousness, her full lips slightly parted - she took his breath away.

Or would have, he thought wryly, if he were breathing.

Did she sense the danger near her?

Edward was repulsed by himself as he watched her toss again. How was he any better than some sick peeping tom? He wasn't any better. He was much, much worse.

He relaxed his fingertips, about to let himself let go of hers and leave. But first he allowed himself one long look at her face.

It was not peaceful. The little furrow was there between her eyebrows, the corners of her lips turned down. Her lips trembled, and then parted.

"Okay, Mom," she muttered.

Bella talked in her sleep.

Curiosity flared, overpowering self-disgust. The lure of those unprotected, unconscious spoken thoughts was impossibly tempting.

She did not speak. Perhaps her dream had ended.

He stared at her face and tried to think of some way to make the future bearable.

Hurting her was not bearable. Did that mean his only choice was to try to leave again?

The others could not argue with him now. His absence would not put anyone in danger. There would be no suspicion, nothing to link anyone's thoughts back to the accident.

Edward wavered as he had this afternoon, and nothing seemed possible.

He could not hope to rival the human boys, whether these specific boys appealed to her or not. He was a monster. How could she see him as anything else? If she knew the truth about , it would frighten and repulse her. Like the intended victim in a horror movie, she would run away, shrieking in terror.

He remembered her first day in biology . . . and knew that this was exactly the right reaction for her to have.

It was foolishness to imagine that if had he been the one to ask her to the silly dance, she would have cancelled her hastily-made plans and agreed to go with me.

He was not the one she was destined to say yes to. It was someone else, someone human and warm. And Edward could not even let himself - someday, when that yes was said - hunt him down and kill him, because she deserved him, whoever he was. She deserved happiness and love with whomever she chose.

He owed it to her to do the right thing now; he could no longer pretend that he was only in danger of loving this girl.

After all, it really didn't matter if he left, because Bella could never see him the way he wished she would. Never see him as someone worthy of love.

Never.

Could a dead, frozen heart break? It felt like his would.

"Edward," Bella said.

He froze, staring at her unopened eyes.

Had she woken, caught him staring at her? She looked asleep, yet her voice had been so clear . . .

She sighed a quiet sigh, and then moved restlessly again, rolling to her side - still fast asleep and dreaming.

"Edward," she mumbled softly.

She was dreaming of him.

Could a dead, frozen heart beat again? It felt like his was about to.

"Stay," she sighed. "Don't go. Please . . . don't go."

She was dreaming of him, and it wasn't even a nightmare. She wanted him to stay with her, there in her dream.

Edward struggled to find words to name the feelings that flooded through him, but he had no words strong enough to hold them.

Love.

When change came for one of them, it was a rare and permanent thing. He had seen it happen with Carlisle, and then a decade later with Rosalie. Love had changed them in an eternal way, a way that never faded. More than eighty years had passed since Carlisle had found Esme, and yet he still looked at her with the incredulous eyes of first love. It would always be that way for them.

It would always be that way for Edward, too. He would always love this fragile human girl, for the rest of his limitless existence.

He gazed at her unconscious face, feeling this love for her settle into every portion of his stone body.

She slept more peacefully now, a slight smile on her lips.

Always watching her, he began to plot.

He loved her, and so he would try to be strong enough to leave her. He knew he wasn't that strong now. He would work on that one. But perhaps he was strong enough to circumvent the future in another way.

Alice had seen only two futures for Bella, and now he understood them both.

Loving her would not keep him from killing her, if he let himself make mistakes.

Yet he could not feel the monster now, could not find him anywhere in himself.

Perhaps love had silenced him forever. If he killed her now, it would not be intentional, only a horrible accident.

He would have to be inordinately careful. He would never, ever be able to let his guard down. He would have to control his every breath. He would have to keep an always cautious distance.

He would not make mistakes.

He finally understood that second future. He'd been baffled by that vision - what could possibly happen to result in Bella becoming a prisoner to this immortal half-life?

Now - devastated by longing for the girl - he could understand how he might, in unforgivable selfishness, ask his father for that favor. Ask him to take away her life and her soul so that Edward could keep her forever.

She deserved better.

But he saw one more future, one thin wire that he might be able to walk, if he could keep his balance.

Could he do it? Be with her and leave her human?

Deliberately, he took a deep breath, and then another, letting her scent rip through him like wildfire. The room was thick with her perfume; her fragrance was layered on every surface. His head swam, but he fought the spinning. He would have to get themed to this, if he were going to attempt any kind of relationship with her. He took another deep, burning breath.

He wanted to laugh at himself - or kick himself. All his plotting and planning was entirely moot if she didn't care for him, too, wasn't it? Her dream could have been about something completely random. He was such an arrogant fool.

Well, it was so much the better for her if she didn't care for him. That wouldn't stop him from pursuing her, but he would give her fair warning as he pursued. He owed her that.

Edward watched her sleeping until her breathing became slightly ragged and increased, and her eyelids fluttering. He quickly placed the sandwich that he had attempted to make beforehand on the dresser as well as the glass of orange juice.

"Good evening," he said, smiling the crooked smile that he recalled inheriting from his biological father.

"Hi," she said, her voice less hoarse than before, as a blush appeared on her less-than-before flushed cheek. In response, Edward moved his hand to caress it.

"How are you feeling now?" he asked, leaning down to allow himself to let his lips touch her forehead.

Bella's breath caught in her throat, and her heartbeat instantly quickened.

He felt slightly rejected as he pulled back, when he felt her body tense. "Forgive me; I know it's a bit forward of me to do this, but checking how warm a person is when they are sick can be more accurate if you use your lips, rather than the back of your hand." And I couldn't help but make use of the opportunity while I was at it, since I am, after all, hopelessly in love with you.

"No, it's fine." Her voice was two octaves higher now. "I'm feeling much better, thank you for asking."

His hand moved to her throat, the pad of thumb rubbing circles along the side of her throat, enjoying the sound of her heartbeat quickening, trying to detect and feel the swollen lymph nodes - he didn't. "You seemed to have recovered tremendously. I'm sure you are free to use your voice now."

Bella smiled slightly, and Edward couldn't help but notice how cute she looked. Her dark hair was somewhat ruffled, sweeping over her eyes a bit, her eyes shining with delight and her cheeks red from seeing him.

She was a vision of perfected beauty.

After making her sit up against the headboard, Edward placed the plate on her lap. She grimaced in response and shook her head stubbornly.

"No, please!" she protested.

"I think you should eat something," he disagreed, setting the glass of orange juice on her bedside table. She needed sugar in her bloodstream - though it smelled sweet enough as it was, he thought wryly.

"Edward," she whined.

Edward took a deep breath, inhaling through his nose, inviting the flames of her wondrous scent to torture him. He leaned in, trying his best to put on his persuasive face on.

"Please?" he murmured softly.

"Stop trying to dazzle me! It's not fair - people don't get what they want the way you do!"

"I dazzle people?" That was an interesting way of phrasing it. Accurate enough for tonight. Edward wondered why the difference . . .

"You haven't noticed?" she asked, still critical. "Do you think everybody gets their way so easily?"

"Do I dazzle you?" He voiced his curiosity impulsively, and then the words were out, and it was too late to recall them.

But before Edward had time to too deeply regret speaking the words aloud she answered,

"Frequently." And her cheeks took on a faint pink glow.

He dazzled her.

His silent heart swelled with a hope more intense than he could ever remember having felt before.

Edward smiled radiantly while lifting up up the first half of the sandwich for her to eat. "Good to know. Now open your mouth."

.

" . . . no signs of flu or even fever . . . "

Dr. Carlisle Cullen brushed the back of his icy hands across Bella's forehead and cheeks. The cold feeling wasn't unbearable, but slightly uncomfortable.

"She's not warm either . . . lymph nodes - "

"I already checked, Carlisle; there's no swelling," Edward interrupted.

"So she is fine now?" Charlie asked anxiously, gripping the edge of his chair tightly, concerned for his daughter's health.

"Yes, yes, she is alright now." He turned to Bella, smiling gently. "Use the weekend to get some rest, Bella, and you will be perfect, alright?" A bit of his long-lost, presumably, English accent slipped through his voice. Dr. Cullen's focus returned to Charlie as Bella yawned. "I think I should take my leave now. Edward?" he called out to his son.

"Coming, Carlisle," he said, never breaking his gaze from Bella.

Bella's blush deepened when she realized her father was staring at them; still, this didn't faze Edward's intense stare at her. His topaz eyes held questions, questions that she couldn't decipher.

"Good-night, Bella. Sleep well." He brought one hand to her cheek, brushing it lightly - she felt tiny jolts jolts of electricity igniting against her skin.

"Good night, Edward." Her voice was soft, and faltered towards the end.

.

Edward stood beside the window, anxiously waiting to see Bella; he finally heard the sound of the bathroom sink's water being turned off, and the sound of the door opening and closing, and she finally entered the small room, dressed in sweatpants and a tattered t-shirt, her hair wrapped in a towel. The scent of strawberries mixing in with permeated the air with an appealing aroma.

Not appealing enough, Edward thought persistently.

"Hello, there," he spoke quietly with a smile.

"Edward?" Her eyes roamed around the room.

Edward quickly sprinted to where she stood, hovering behind her slightly. He chuckled, but when he smelled her delicious blush rushing to her cheeks and her heart soaring, he inquired her state with a concerned, "Are you alright?"

It took her a minute to answer him. Her eyes were slightly unfocused. She looked that way sometimes, when he smiled at her. Was she . . . dazzled?

He would love to believe that.

"Um, yes . . . I'm, er, fi - " She stopped when she saw the glare on his face. Say anything but fine. "I'm . . . um, alright.

"How do you do that?" she asked finally, after she had calmed herself.

"Do what?"

"Appear out of the thin air like that!"

He chuckled. "The window."

Bella's eyes widened in terror. "Edward! What if Charlie comes up here and sees you - ?"

"He won't," Edward assured.

"But how can you say so confidently that - ?"

"Bella," he said slowly, "do you trust me?"

She stood there in silence, her expression thoughtful, as if she could and was thinking about the double meaning of his words.

"Yes."

He was grinning crookedly - it was the smile that always made Bella's breath hitch, he had noticed. Edward's smile widened when he, did in fact, hear her breath hitch again. His hand reached for her hand, while his eyes searched hers, trying to figure out what she was thinking now.

"Stay," was all she murmured, after their few moments of peaceful silence. "Don't leave me."

He smiled gently, pulling her wrist up to his face, their hands still twisted together. His eyes closed as his nose skimmed along the skin there, and he smiled gently without opening them.

Enjoying the bouquet while resisting the wine.

Flames burned at the back of his throat, but he didn't care - he couldn't care at all. If this was the pain he had to go through to be with Bella, so be it.

"Okay," he murmured back, a tender smile replacing his fervent grin. He silently carried Bella to her bed. Her

Edward pressed his lips to her forehead, pulling up the sheets so that it covered her body. "I love you, Bella." The words were spoken so softly, that he was sure that she couldn't hear - but, a part of him wished that she did.

And then he knew that she did, because her heart skipped a beat, then started to increase in a jagged rhythm.

He hoped - though he thought it would go in vain - that one day, each pulse could beat his name.

"What's wrong?"

Her breath filled his nose, and he was reminded why he could not deserve her. After all of this, even with as much as he loved her . . . she still made his mouth water.

"I can't bring myself to stay away from you any longer," he said abruptly, surprising himself with his sudden outburst - he hadn't intended to say that.

Bella smiled slightly, curling her hand tighter around his.

"Then don't."

And those were the only reassuring words he needed then.

Yes, I know, Mike Newton was a bit OOC here, but this is what comes out of my strange little brain, as my friend says. I will be updating Midnight soon, I promise! I'm working on the next chapter right after posting this! :D

Thanks for reading!