Disclaimer: Stephanie Meyer owns all.

Rated M for several reasons.

Chapter 48 Pieces of Mind

BPOV

It felt like we were arranging some clandestine activity, which I suppose we were in a way, since I have absolutely no intention of telling anybody about this stupidity.

Anyway, here I am again, out in the mist, amongst the moss covered trees, accompanied by the dreary sound of relentlessly dripping water.

It's a funny thing, life, isn't it?

I feel the same electrifying sense of impending disaster I did last time too, I'm just not sure why.

Not much else is the same though.

I'm older, wiser and a vampire. He took me into the woods last time and this time we're meeting here on my terms. This time I'm the one who is going to get what they want.

I hear him before I smell him, thanks to the cloying mist.

Last time his beauty pierced me through and this time he's . . . . wearing scrubs . . . . the epitome of mature, responsible, sexy, life saving, manhood . . . . for the love of . . . .

A scowl forms on my face as he slows to a walk and comes to halt in front of me. Not quite invading my personal space but definitely pushing the envelope given the circumstances.

The seconds tick by as we regard each other warily.

I don't seem to be able to find my voice yet but I think he can tell by the look on my face that I'm not a happy bunny.

After a full minute of heavily charged silence the best I can manage is . . . .

"You've got some nerve Edward Anthony Masen Cullen."

Apparently that isn't in dispute because he merely nods slightly.

"What do you want from me?"

"I want you to be happy."

"Do I look happy?"

"No."

Silence.

"That's it? You drop this shit on me and that's, it?"

"Didn't you always want me to be honest with you? Give you all the options? Treat you as an equal?"

Pow!

He rubs his jaw lightly and I hide my hand behind my back so I can shake the sting out of it in private. His chin is extremely hard and I seem to have forgotten everything Charlie taught me about punching people and the optimum location of thumbs . . . .

"You're about twenty years too late."

"What if it's not too late?"

"Seriously? Edward? You want to go there?"

Apparently he does. And to my intense surprise, so do I . . . .

"I loved you. I gave you everything of me and you threw it at my feet and stomped it into the dirt. You couldn't even look me in the eye when you lied to me . . . ."

And it all comes out. The hurt, the anger. The crippling blow to my self worth and ability to be happy. The tears. The fruitless searching. The desperation for something, anything, of the Cullens, of him. The missed opportunities. How I often couldn't see the fantastic life I had for the mourning of a life that never existed. How he all but destroyed his own family. How the burning desire to do the right thing doesn't necessarily make you right.

There's so much to spew at him I lurch from hurtful accusation to hurtful accusation like a fox randomly slaughtering chickens.

He probably doesn't love me. His guilt is probably just urging him to the 'right' thing, again.

Isn't he lucky, that someone with better developed testicles than his changed me, so he'd never have to deal with the biggest elephant in our erstwhile relationship?

Is he going to broker a deal with Carlisle? Offer him two mules and a goat for me? Maybe throw in some opera tickets?

Does his inner seventeen year old only think he wants me now because Carlisle's interested?

What could I possibly see in such a selfish child?

Is he happy now that he's fucked things up beyond all recognition and condemned the pair of us to an eternity of regretting that we weren't aboard the SS Bella and Edward when it sailed?

Does he have any idea what being in an actual relationship with an actual woman entails?

Clearly he doesn't because after everything that's happened he wouldn't have pitched up on a beach in the middle of the night and decided to announce that we could be happy together if I'd just give us a chance!

Has he not noticed that I'm old enough to be his Mother? Or was he just waiting for me to mature, like a fine wine?

Is he still so angry with Carlisle that he wants to rub his nose in losing Esme?

Has he no understanding of the term 'too late'?

After an hour of what will probably be my forever most ignominious moment I run out vitriol and flop to the ground like a puppet with its strings cut. Keeping my eyes on my sneakers as he settles onto the wet grass in front of me with a quiet sigh. If he asks me if I'm feeling better for finally getting all that off my chest I will kill him . . . .

Nevertheless I don't resist as he takes my hand and cradles it gently in his, but I do stubbornly refuse to look at him.

"I'm sorry Edward, I didn't mean to be cruel, but can't you see? The whole thing, it's just . . . ."

Massive shrug, frustrated sigh, totally immobile man beside me . . . .

"You have every right to be angry with me."

"I know that." I remind him, earning myself a soft snort.

"Bella, no matter how long I have I know I can never make it up to you, or the others, for the mistakes I made. But somehow, despite everything, we're here now, together. And I'm sorry I can't see that as an eternal penance. Only an opportunity."

"No one is expecting you to wear a hair shirt for the rest of your life, you did what you did with the best of intentions, that isn't what I meant."

He begins to massage my hand and I close my eyes and try to relax.

"Do you think you could still love me?" He asks eventually.

"I don't know." My reply is little more than a whisper but he's not going to have any trouble hearing me. "I mean, I'm pretty sure I'll always care about you, in a way, but I don't know what that means or what good it is now."

I used to love Banana Moon Pies but they weren't any good for me either.

"I'm not asking for you to make a long term commitment Bella, I'm just asking for you to give me, us, a chance."

And round we go again . . . .

My Daughter is older than you.

Carlisle.

I'm scared.

This is ridiculous.

What happens when it doesn't work out?

Alright, what happens if it doesn't work out?

This is ridiculous.

Don't even kiss the back of my hand if you want your lips to stay attached to your face.

I'm a newborn, of course I find you attractive, it's not personal I can assure you.

You can't go back and get a 'do over' this isn't a movie.

Carlisle.

Freya.

Have you always been this infuriating?

I don't believe in fate.

Or true love.

Angels only sing at kindergarten recitals and even that's a misnomer unless you're tone deaf.

You'll find a nice vampire, girl, your own age. You won't repeat the mistakes you made before, you're better than that.

You don't know me anymore.

I don't know you.

I'm scared.

"I never wanted to hurt you and I never want to do it again."

Up goes the Mom Brow.

"Alright, I did, once, deliberately. I wanted you to be safe, happy, human. I was ruining your life and probably going to end it. I didn't know what else to do. You wouldn't listen to me. You wouldn't put yourself first. You were so young . . . . Ouch!"

"I'm sorry."

"No you're not." He chuckles, rubbing his jaw, slapped this time.

"You're bringing out the absolute worst in me already."

"No, I'm not. You've never been a doormat Bella and you've always held on tightly to and defended what you believed to be right. It's one of the reasons I knew, back then, that continuing to try and convince you I was a danger to you or that you had options that didn't involve me was never going to work."

"So that makes it alright does it?" I snap, determined to hold onto my ire and my objections with both hands.

"You know it doesn't. What I did wasn't fair to you, but I was scared Bella and I loved you so much."

"Edward." I whine in exasperation. "For the love of god, be reasonable about this . . . ."

And off we go again . . . .

...

No wonder he's not taking me seriously, we've been at this for hours and at some point I've ended up draped over him like a comforter, fighting back the most bizarre urge to purr as he lightly strokes my shoulder.

He's being so stubborn, refusing to see anything but the most idealistic and unrealistic of possibilities.

"We can't do this."

"We can do anything we like."

"What do you want from me Edward?"

"A date."

"A date?" I scoff. "Are you going to find somewhere to take me out to dinner that caters for our 'special diet'? Or are you planning to hold my hair while I puke it up afterwards?"

"Whatever you want."

"Come on, really? We're vampires, how would we even date? It's completely ridiculous. And what would everyone say?"

"Freya will say 'about f'ing, sorry Mom, time'. Rose will roll her eyes, nod, and then scowl at us. Em will give us a lecture on sexual technique, with graphic mimed representations and Jasper won't do anything except smile encouragingly because he's a suck up and wants to marry your Daughter."

"And Carlisle?"

He sighs and stills.

"I don't want to hurt him any more than I have already." He confesses for the second time tonight.

And yet you still want to do this?

Of course I can't bring myself to say that, or anything else for that matter. In fact I'd rather like to take it back. But I can't. The truth is I have no idea how Carlisle would feel about the unlikely and never to be realised concept of Edward and I dating . . . .

"Bella, you were it for me the moment I met you. That's never changed and it isn't going to. And, though I've strived not to be selfish, that's ultimately what I am. You're mine, not his."

Oh, what? Wait now . . . .

I push myself upright, hands on his chest, ready to unleash on him, I knew that something to do with it and I am not a fucking sweater . . . .

"He will never make you as happy as I can. And he will never love you as much as I do."

The conviction in his tone and the fire in his eyes still my mouth if not my insulted brain . . . .

"Don't you think I don't know that he'd be a much better match for you in many ways?"

What the fuck . . . .

He reaches up and gently closes my jaw with his finger, leaving it there as a sort of light reminder to let him finish before I explode . . . .

"I am not, for one moment, suggesting this is any type of competition between he and I, so don't go there again love, please. You're not some elusive prize. And I am well and truly done trying to arrange your life for you. Date me, date Carlisle, date every male in the continental US. All of us at once, or one at a time, if it makes you happy. I don't care. But please don't shut yourself off from everything because of my previous mistakes."

I narrow my eyes and raise the Mom Brow, something I've practised in the mirror for maximum effect, and he withdraws his finger with a quiet chuckle.

"I believed we were monsters. Soulless. Despite our attempts to be better. But I was wrong. My family. Ours. You and Freya, becoming a part of it. Making it better. Healing some of our wounds. If we didn't have souls they wouldn't have done what they did for you and there would have been nothing to heal regardless.

In some ways I've come a long way in what constitutes a short period of time for a vampire.

But in others I haven't moved on since my second time in Forks.

I will always love you . . . . only ever you . . . ."