I am still here. Can it get any more ironic than that? Despite my best efforts and my incredibly poor seventeen year old judgment, I have been "rescued" to walk upon the earth for even more years of damnation. What was it she said to me once? "Haven't you heard? Life isn't fair." Oh, if only she knew.

I glance down at her face, nestled against my chest, her eyelids blinking as she fights sleep. My nostrils pull in her wonderful, familiar scent. I brace myself out of habit for my mouth to fill with the usual venom, but for some reason this time it does not happen.

I pause, curious.

And the burn at the back of my throat? Does the burn come?

Not really.

Amazing! I mean, it could still come. Of course it could. It wouldn't take much for the familiar response to take over my body as it has so many times in the past. But right now, as we sit together on this jet headed back through the night to SeaTac, nothing. The monster seems to be napping at the moment.

Interesting.

I wish Bella would nap. I've got voices from all over the plane murmuring in my thoughts, not the least of which is my sister's voice sitting in the row behind us, bright and more than a little smug. She's coordinating outfits that will match with her new yellow turbo, drawing up shopping lists. The other voices are useless to me, while the one I need most in the world to hear is as silent to me as ever. What is Bella thinking? What was she doing in Italy? How can she still cling to me when she has observed and experienced first-hand the brutality and cruelty of what we are? Most important of all, how can she still trust me at all after all I have put her through? What is she doing in my lap besides driving me crazy with undeserved joy and relief?

But true to form, she seems determined not to doze. She withholds from me even that tiny window of her murmurings as she dreams. Sweet, frustrating, fascinating being who is like no one I have ever met. I bend my face down to place my lips against her hair and her heartbeat speeds a little. I smile.

She is so stubborn. Frail, barely past childhood, incredibly vulnerable, and yet she has no hesitation to throw herself into the worst possible danger when Alice asked for help. Like so many things about Bella, this makes absolutely no sense. Her fingers grip into my shirt and I tighten my arm around her shoulders.

I need to take a look at what I have done and what the consequences will be. I need to make some sort of a plan for the future, since it seems I am still going to have one.

In a mockery of St Francis defying his father, I was willing to strip down in the public square. His intention was holy, mine more blasphemous, as befits who I am. But both of us so determined to scandalize to get our own way against the better judgment of our elders. And now I am ashamed, as I should be.

Then suddenly, she was there. Like a bird hitting a window, she slammed into my naked chest, and from that collision tumbled into the hell of our secret world. How? More importantly, why? For Alice? Surely not for me.

Leaving her, as it turns out, was a not any kind of a solution, and I am only beginning to glimpse the outlines of the consequences of my actions in my sister's mind. Yet how could I possibly stay? Even if I can control my own baser urgings, my presence draws the attention of others who feel no such need for control. James, Caius, Aro, even poor blameless Jasper and my own sister Rosalie in her small, vindictive way. I can see from Alice's vision that I will have to deal with Rosalie sooner rather than later. I sigh and shake my head slightly and Bella looks up at me curiously. I smile down at her and she relaxes, her finger stroking the edge of one of my buttons. Her eyelids flutter once, but she fights back the urge to sleep.

Again my lips caress her forehead, and I am content. I am as bonded to her as firmly as Carlisle is to Esme, caught forever in that moment of unexpected sunrise, dumbfounded by her murmurings in her sleep. She cared for me. She asked me to stay. Like the story of the vampire who must be invited in to cross the threshold, I was overjoyed, eager to grant her wish. Even now she clings to me, although I must be careful not to assign too much meaning to that yet.

To be honest, I am clinging to her also. I cannot imagine ever letting her go. Never again. Oh, I am so good at making these eternal sounding promises and then breaking them. Some guardian angel I am. But I honestly don't see how I could survive going through leaving her again, knowing what it would do to her. If she is still alive, then perhaps I can be as well, because she is, and will always be, my life. I inhale deeply, savoring the sweetness of her scent. My fingers twitch, her lullaby playing in my mind. Mia Cantante. Aro had it right.

But what course forward is the responsible one? Everything I touch, it seems, turns to disaster, especially as it affects Bella's life. I couldn't leave well enough alone, I gave in to my weakness, pursued this miraculous relationship and brought her into all this suffering. Now she has caught the attention of the Volturi, as has my dear, unique, and most precious sister. Who knows how all of that will end? My responsibilities are clear enough.

What if…I hear an intake of breath from the seat behind me and check back to see what Alice is seeing. Her voice fills my mind. "Yes, Edward! Do it! Ask her! I can't wait. Oh, that would be perfect. This is so exciting." A cascade of images of Bella in white flood her mind and I retreat hastily from the onslaught of rapidly rearranging orange blossoms and lace around Bella's face and shoulders. Sheesh! I wasn't expecting to be attacked by my sister's enthusiasm for wedding planning.

I do have that ring that belonged to my mother. Carlisle made sure we kept it and so much more in the all the craziness of funeral arrangements and our hasty move. I never saw much point in his actions, but now perhaps I can find a use for it.