Make Me Laugh Contest Entry

Title: The Maybe Vampire

Pen Name: archy12

Picture Prompt Chosen: 48

Rating: M

Disclaimer: SM owns everything Twilight. No copyright infringement intended.

My heartfelt thanks to TeamAllTwilight, who pre-read this story and encouraged me to send it to the contest.


"Alice, I am in love!"

Alice raised an eloquent eyebrow at her cousin. Edward, having spent full eighteen years with her, could read her eyebrows very well. This one, where the left one was raised a quarter of an inch at an angle of about sixty degrees, meant—"So, what's new?"

"No, you don't understand," he stressed, bouncing a little on the hard plastic seat. Cherry Street Market was the largest and most popular dining room on the campus of Seattle University. Both Alice and Edward were students there, in the freshman year. After graduation, Alice planned to go into fashion designing, while Edward wanted to be an architect like his father. Edward Masen Sr was a well-known architect with his own firm—The Masen-Cullen Architects—based in Port Angeles. Elizabeth, Edward's mother, was sister to Esme Cullen, mother to Alice and Emmett. While Edward and Alice were the same age, being only a few months apart, Emmett was a senior at the same university and confident of becoming the best builder in the whole of Washington State.

Carlisle Cullen was Edward Sr's partner. They had designed their houses and got them constructed side-by-side on a quiet, shady street near Lake Crescent at the same time, before Edward and Alice were born. As a result, the cousins were thick as thieves and shared everything, hence this outburst from Edward.

He immediately realized that he had made a mistake when Alice's other eyebrow rose to join the first one, exactly at the same angle as the first one. This sent across the message—"Oh, I don't understand?"—along with the beginning of a warning bell. A mere acquaintance might have plowed ahead into the mire, but Edward backtracked quickly, before the loss of life or limb.

"No, no, not like that," he hastened to explain, waving his hands excitedly and smacking the behind of a passing waitress in the process. She turned to scold him as he looked up in horror, but smiled and cut his apology short when she noticed his angelic face and black-rimmed glasses.

"Oh, you are such a cutie, aren't you?" she cooed even as Edward's face took the hue of a ripe tomato. When she ruffled his neat, short hair, he actually cringed and looked pleadingly at Alice. "Would you like to take me out, handsome?" continued the waitress whose nametag read Jessica. She bent and pushed her rather impressive bosom in Edward's face, and he nearly tumbled over as he skittered backwards along with his chair, trying to avoid her rack. Alice laughed obnoxiously, but took pity upon him and poked Jessica's back in an effort to distract her.

"It was an honest mistake, Jessica," she explained, then added because she had a kind heart and could not stand the disappointment in the girl's face. "I am sure he would like to take you out some time, just not today, okay? Now, can we get on with our conversation, please? It seems my brother has a confession to make."

Jessica departed, slightly mollified, and Alice turned her attention to Edward, who had his pocket comb out and was trying to arrange his hair into its customary orderliness. She shook her head, amused.

"Seriously Edward, a comb? Who carries that nowadays? And what is this obsession with your hair? Just let it be sometimes!"

Edward pocketed his comb and patted his hair to make sure it was even. "You know I don't like my hair being tousled…but that's not important right now." He began to wave his hands again but thought better of it and tucked them in the pockets of his coat. "Alice, what I meant was—I am really, truly, desperately in love. This time it's the forever kind. I swear on…on the plan of the first building I am going to design."

He looked so earnest that Alice could not help reconsidering. It was true that Edward had spent his high school years falling in and out of love with one or other of his classmates. However, he had always been too shy to approach them and declare his feelings, so it was only Alice who had been privy to the effusions of longing from the lovesick boy. He had a set pattern too.

First came the fulsome praise of the girl in question—her doe-eyes, her lustrous hair, her mellifluous voice, her sexy manner of walking—everything was equated to a beauty queen or a movie star; there was no girl in the whole universe whose beauty could match hers. She was the kindest, sweetest, most intelligent girl ever, and Edward would be sure she had given him some sort of sign of being interested in him. Alice knew that at least a couple of them had actually done so, but then Edward would begin to have doubts. He wasn't good enough for her; there was no way a girl that beautiful would like his mousy personality, and so on. Finally, after an internal debate ranging from a week to a month, he would give up the case as hopeless and swear not to fall for any girl. Until he did, and then it started all over again.

After having been the witness of many such cycles, Alice was understandably doubtful of Edward's announcement. But then, he had sweared upon the plan of the first building he would design—and that was not something to be taken lightly. So she heaved a sigh and got ready to listen to him.

"All right, who is she?"

Edward glanced around as if checking for eavesdroppers and looked nervous. Alice heaved another sigh.

"You called me here to tell me all about this girl, right?"

Edward nodded.

"So tell me. Or if you think the whole school is trying to hear your secret, we can go into my dorm and—"

"No, no, we can't go there," Edward exclaimed, looking so panicked that Alice raised her hands in a 'chill, dude' gesture. He dropped his voice to a whisper. "She is there."

Alice frowned. "Who is where? You are not making any sense, Edward." Then her eyes widened in horror. "You are not talking of Lauren, my roommate, are you? I hate her! I swear I will kill you if—"

Edward didn't even hear the later part of her statement. His expression had transformed into a love-struck one. "She—Isabella Swan—is in your dorm, on the same floor even. How can you not know her?"

"Oh." Everything clicked together in Alice's head. "You mean Bella. Yes, she is in the room next to me, although I don't know her all that well. So she is your latest crush." She recalled something else and narrowed her eyes. "So that's why you have been coming over so frequently: and I thought you wanted to see me all the time. When did you become so sly, Edward?"

Edward looked sheepish. "I did want to see you, but—what else could I do, Alice? She has a few classes with us, but it's not enough for me. I want to be near her, even though she might be in a different room, separated by a wall. I feel like my heart beats for her since I saw her the first time. Sometimes I get to see her walking about—it is a divine sight!" He ended his declaration with a return to the earlier, dreamy gaze into nothing.

Alice cleared her throat to invite his attention back to her. "Edward, I would love you to have a proper girlfriend, you know I would. But you have to make up your mind. It won't be any use if I introduce you to her and after a week or two you start ignoring her suddenly, because of your usual doubts. So I will ask you once and only once—and think before you answer—are you sure of your feelings?"

Edward looked hurt. "Of course I am sure, Alice. Before this, I have never wanted to do anything about my feelings, have I? But this time I want to know her—everything about her, ask her if she would date me, maybe move in together next year…"

Alice raised her hand in surrender. "All right, I get it. I will talk with her, tell you her likes and dislikes and then introduce the two of you—if she is not dating anybody right now. And now, we have a class to go to, so let's move."

Edward's dreamy gaze returned. "Bella is in that class with us," he murmured. Alice shook her head and got up to leave, nudging him to do the same.

-TMV-

Alice was a friendly, resourceful girl, so it was not difficult for her to have a few chats with Bella and gather all the required information. It was all quite simple, really. Bella Swan was from a nondescript logging town called Forks, half an hour away from Port Angeles. Her father, Charles Swan, was the police chief there, and her mother, Renee, was a nursery school teacher. As far as Alice could garner, she had had a normal middle class upbringing, with nothing unusual ever happening. Her parents had provided her with the required necessities of life but definitely not any luxuries, having saved hard for her college fund. As a result her tuition fee was covered, and so was her housing. She worked part-time at a bookstore in the campus area to take care of her other expenses. She wanted to major in Creative Writing and earn her living as a features writer in a newspaper or an online publication.

Edward's face lit up when Alice informed him of Bella's birthplace. "That's practically a neighbour to PA. I am surprised we haven't met before. She must have come to PA some time or other!"

Alice rolled her eyes and reminded him that PA was a town, not a hamlet. Then she became a little grave.

"Edward," she said rather abruptly but not unkindly, "I think you should forget about dating her."

Edward's face fell faster than Dow Jones on a bad day on the Wall Street.

"You think she is too good for me." He muttered sullenly, and banged his head on his desk. Alice had decided to share her wisdom with him in his room, to prevent any more episodes of hand-waving and accidental-bottom-smacking. Looking at him now, she was glad she did.

"This desk is too hard," complained Edward, rubbing his forehead and glaring at the said desk as if it had deliberately chosen that particular hardness of wood to annoy him. Alice's lips twitched, but she resisted the urge to laugh.

"Listen to me, Edward," she went on evenly, "you are a good guy—intelligent, funny, and considerate. Any girl would be lucky to have you as a boyfriend. Hell, I am like your sister and even I am aware of your good looks. Seriously, all those girls you liked at school? They would have been glad to date you, if only you had tried. Don't underrate yourself, please."

Edward smiled at her gratefully. "Really? You think so?"

"Definitely," Alice affirmed, "I am only doubtful because Bella…well, she seems a little odd."

"Odd? What do you mean by odd?" he asked curiously.

"She kept on yapping about vampires when I asked about her favourite books and movies—you know, to find out if you had anything in common there. I mean, she reads a lot, of course, what with her choice of career and all, but it seems to me that she is obsessed with them. More than once she told me that she was in love with a vampire from some series—I have forgotten his name, Edmund or something. That is why she never tried to date somebody—'a human', as she put it. Apparently she finds boys wanting, compared to her vampire hero."

"What a stupid name—Edmund," Edward remarked, thinking that his name was a much better one. However, if this girl was serious in her views, the task of winning her over was an almost impossible one. He banged his head on the desk once again and winced. "Damn."

"Still as hard as before?" asked Alice helpfully. Edward scowled at her but then started to laugh. However, he soon reverted to his former look of doom-and-gloom.

"Is this God's idea of a joke?" he asked rhetorically, rubbing his face with both hands. "Finally I fall in love with a girl for whom I am willing to do anything, and she doesn't even want a human being!"

"Maybe you should try anyway?" suggested Alice doubtfully, but Edward shook his head.

"What's the use? She will never even give me a chance, will she? Urgh, why wasn't I born a vampire?"

Alice, who was momentarily distracted by a copy of 'Vogue' on one of the beds and had picked it up, commented absently, "Vampires aren't born, they are created." She thumbed through the glossy pages, admiring the dresses of various designers been modelled by the cream of the modelling profession. "Since when did you begin reading 'Vogue', Edward?"

"It belongs to my roommate, Jasper. It's a little disturbing, how interested he is in women's clothes," replied Edward hurriedly, wanting to go back to the topic in hand. "But what did you mean by saying that vampires are created? How is that done?"

Alice looked up, startled with the seriousness of his tone. "Edward, don't go doing anything stupid like getting yourself bitten by vampire bats or anything, okay? Vampires don't exist, period. If you wait a bit, I am sure Bella will get over it, and then you will have your chance. Have some patience, all right?"

"I wasn't going to do anything like that," grumbled Edward. "I just want to know what she thinks about them, what she knows of them, that's all. How did you come to have this fact in your knowledge, by the way?"

"Oh, Bella mentioned something about the hero being born in early twentieth century and being converted into a vampire when he was about to die from influenza," mumbled Alice, staring at something in the magazine. "Listen Edward, I want to meet this Jasper guy. He sounds exactly my type. When will he be back?"

There was no answer, so she looked up again. Edward was staring at a spot on the opposite wall, his eyes slightly unfocussed. There was nothing on that wall, not even a naked girl poster, so this naturally worried Alice. It worried her so much that she shut the magazine in her hands reverently and concentrated on her brother.

"Edward?" she spoke cautiously, waving her hand in front of him. Finally he looked up at her. "What are you thinking so hard about?"

Edward's lips turned up in a crooked smile. "I am going to be Bella's vampire, Alice. I said I will do anything for her, and I mean it. Tell me all about the books she reads."

-TMV-

Alice tried to dissuade Edward, really she did. But she knew all the time that she was fighting a losing battle, because though Edward was an easy-going guy, he was also a determined one, once he had decided to do something. Finally she agreed to help him any way she could.

Both of them did a bit of research. They googled vampires secretly, and Edward read a few books, after covering them with brown paper and labelling them 'Physics' and 'Philosophy'. He didn't want his roommate to think he was weird. As it was, he was having doubts as to how he was going to manage this.

"How can I be cold and hard all the time, Alice?" he asked in desperation as they munched on yummy baked goods at The Bottom Line, a popular café on the campus, one afternoon. Another freshman they had seen around but didn't know well answered from behind them, making then jump.

"Impossible, mate. If you are cold, your stick's gonna shrivel, believe me. Ain't nothing in the world that can make that happen. Plus being hard all the time will make it tough to take a leak, so why do you even want that?"

They stopped discussing their plan in the café after that. Apparently people there had nothing to do but mind others' business and give unasked advice. Edward decided to step up his routine in the gym with more weights so he could at least have a six-pack. As for the coldness, maybe he could tell Bella that he had overcome that with some kind of vampire medicine, so that she would not feel uncomfortable with him.

Then there was the problem of sparkling in the sun, but Alice waved it away. There were different kinds of vampires, and not all of them turned into a disco ball as soon as the sunrays touched them. He would stick to the same explanation for having green eyes instead of golden ones.

"I hope she won't expect me to walk on rooftops and climb tall trees like a monkey," he muttered sullenly. "Why did this Edmund chap have to be such a show-off anyway? Couldn't he be just a regular vampire…hey, Alice, how am I going to manage the blood-drinking part? And the not eating any human food—that will kill me! I have to have my cheeseburger and my apple butterscotch crumb pie!"

Alice thought about it a bit. "You know, Edward, Bella's vampires pretended to be as human as possible so that nobody would suspect them. You can get out of a lot of things by saying that you are trying to be inconspicuous. And that you wouldn't want those Italian vampires to come after Bella in case somebody noticed your showing-off. Similarly, you could say that you just pretend to eat—you don't actually do it. Anyway, you don't always have to eat in front of her."

Edward imagined going hungry on all their dates and sighed heavily. Alice suggested he carry some tomato or pomegranate juice with him to simulate blood, because he detested grape juice.

The biggest problem was of course to introduce Edward to Bella in a manner that would make her think there was something different about him. Alice could hardly say—"Bella, meet Edward. He is a vampire pretending to be human."

By now Edward had introduced Alice to Jasper, and they had become close enough that Alice had divulged to him the details of Edward's fascination with Bella. Though he didn't like sharing the secret at first, Edward realized pretty soon that having Jasper on his side was a big help. He didn't judge, was imaginative and always willing to help a buddy out. Being Alice's brother qualified Edward for this position automatically.

"We have to get Bella attacked," mused Jasper one evening as the three of them sat in the boys' room brainstorming how to achieve 'Making Bella Believe Edward is a Vampire'. Edward and Alice turned to him in horror. Jasper hastened to explain before Edward could punch him in the face. He might not be marble-hard, but his fist could still do a lot of damage. "Listen to me first," he pleaded, "It will be a fake attack. Alice, you have to get her to a secluded place. We will find two guys that would leer at her and pass rude comments etc.; maybe try to grab her. Then you can sweep in and save her in a way that would make her think you are something more than human. She will bug Alice, and Alice will, very reluctantly of course, introduce you to her, after confirming her suspicions. And you will be set!"

Edward's face turned a bit green after this explanation. "Get—get Bella attacked? By two guys?" he choked out. Apparently his brain had stopped receiving the message his ears had been sending him after that. Alice slapped him lightly and asked him to breathe.

"Pretense Edward, pretense!" she reiterated. As he drew in a gigantic breath, a strand of Alice's hair got too close to his nose, resulting in a violent sneeze. Alice immediately jumped a foot back and reprimanded him.

"Vampires don't sneeze, Edward. You must learn to control yourself around Bella." Edward hung his head in despair.

"This is impossible," he groaned. Then he recalled Jasper's suggestion and shook his head. "I am not getting Bella attacked. I can't see her terrified like that. Also," he muttered as his voice dropped, "I can't bear to see anybody touch her like that."

"If you don't do anything the only one touching her will be her own fingers," remarked Alice tartly. Both Edward and Jasper closed their ears and sang la-la-la. But she continued to pester Edward after he had finally removed his hands.

"All right," he agreed when she refused to shut up, "I suppose the idea has merit. But where will we find these two guys? They have to be trustworthy, but somebody Bella will never come across in her life again. That means we can't ask any of our friends or family members—so who is left?"

All of them thought hard. Finally they decided to hire two actors from the local drama company and have them wear masks. Edward's only condition was that they should not touch Bella at all. And of course they would be told that Edward wanted to impress Bella and be her hero—nothing more. Jasper agreed to meet them and set up the attack so they would never see Edward properly, just in case.

Luring Bella to a place where the attack could be staged proved tricky. They could not choose some place too seedy, for obvious reasons. On the other hand, they didn't want anybody stepping in before Edward could. Finally Alice decided to play it safe and selected a short-cut from their dorm to the library. It was little used, especially during winter evenings, being very poorly lit. Bella wouldn't be able to identify her 'attackers'. Still, they were asked to wear masks. Alice would call her from the library on the pretext of having found some wonderful book that Bella just had to see, and ask her to take the short-cut.

Everything went like a dream. Bella was caught unawares by the two actors, although Edward was dismayed by their being rather short and thin, thinking Bella might just deck them herself. Still, they played their part well enough, taunting her and circling around in a menacing manner. As soon as one of them tried to grab her arm, Edward rushed in, yelling—"Don't touch her!" The startled actor jumped back immediately, but Edward still punched him in the gut, and the poor fellow keeled over. The other guy glared at him and shouted—"Dude, there was no need to kill him! This will cost you extra!"

"I don't care what it costs me," growled Edward, still very much riled up by having the 'Do not touch' clause broken. "Now, scram before you get one too!" He put his arms around Bella, supposedly in a comforting manner, though his heart was ready to jump out of his chest. "Bella, are you okay? They didn't hurt you, did they?"

Bella shook her head, rather overwhelmed by the strange experience. She wasn't terrified or anything, but she liked having the nice-smelling rescuer who had just appeared out of the dark, and pressed herself closer. This created quite a problem for Edward, who realized that one other part of him had joined his heart in being excited, and stepped back hastily even while bending forward so that he could smell her hair. His cold hands touched her neck, making her shiver, but she did not move. It was in this archway-like position that Alice found them a second later, tearing down the path to see how everything had gone.

"Edward, what are you doing?" she piped shrilly, bursting their bubble as their heads snapped up. Bella blinked at Alice as if coming out of a dream.

"You know him, Alice?"

"Of course I know him! Bella, this is my cousin—Edward Masen. He is a freshman too; in fact, we share a few classes."

"Oh," replied Bella sheepishly, "I am sorry I never noticed you before." Under her breath she added that she must have been blind, which pleased Edward very much. "Thank you so much for saving me from those ruffians. Who knows what they might have done if you—hey, how did you suddenly come to be here?" She tilted her head to the right and gazed at him curiously.

"Uh, I heard you," stammered Edward, making up a story quickly. "I was going to the hostel—to visit Alice—and then I heard you and those guys, so I ran here instead." He smiled brilliantly, and Bella lost her thoughts for a moment.

"Wow, you must have super-hearing or something, right? And you must be really fast too! Say, Alice, why did you run here? I thought you were going to wait for me at the library."

"Um, I heard you too, and those two of course, so…"

Bella laughed. "Are you two superhuman or something? Nobody heard me but you two!"

Edward and Alice looked so guilty that Bella immediately reached the conclusion that they were in fact, something other than human. However, she decided not to press it. Instead she suggested that they return to their dorms. As soon as Edward was gone, she told Alice that her cousin was amazing and she sort of liked him. Alice squealed with joy and messaged Edward, who nearly squealed himself, but remembered in time that he was supposed to be a manly, dangerous, mysterious vampire, and squealing conveyed none of these qualities. He contained himself with fist-bumping Jasper, and then both of them jumped up and down on their beds, for that was of course typical vampire behaviour!

Bella asked Alice if she thought maybe Edward could be interested in her, even a teeny-weeny bit. Alice, with seemingly great reluctance, informed her that Edward had noticed her on the very first day, but could not bring himself to approach Bella. He had then taken to wandering around the campus, trying to keep her in his sight. "He has been quite stalker-ish," she said, shaking her head. Bella felt like a bulb had lit over her head.

"Oh, so that's how he came to be there when those guys attacked me, and he already knew my name!" she exclaimed, and then smiled somewhat bashfully. "When he held me, it was like a mild electric current passed through me, like he had a battery attached to him."

Alice hoped Edward had not gone as far as that. With his luck, he would probably electrocute himself on his first date with Bella. Still, she gave Bella a suitably 'oh, wow' expression. Bella immediately asked her if she should wait for Edward to make a move, or ask him for a date. Alice made a face and said, "I don't think Edward is good for you, Bella."

"Why? What is bad about him?" questioned Bella, panicking.

"Oh, nothing really. I didn't say he was bad, just that he was not good for you," stressed Alice. "He is strange—very private, no experience with girls, listens to classical music, doesn't like parties—"

"But he sounds exactly my type then! Alice please, give me his number, please!"

Alice sighed dramatically and complied with her request. As soon as Bella left her room, she quickly texted Edward that Bella might call him. Soon.

Edward and Jasper had calmed down and were lying on their respective beds, speculating on what could happen next. When Edward read the text, he whooped out so loudly that Jasper jumped a foot in the air and fell off his bed. He got up, glaring at Edward, but Edward paid no attention to him. To Jasper's greatest astonishment, Edward got out of his bed and started rearranging everything in the room. Not satisfied with his handiwork, he found a cloth and began to dust every single item around. For a moment Jasper gaped at him, thinking he had gone mad with happiness.

"Hey, what are you—" he began gently, then let out an indignant yell. "You idiot, that is my best shirt from Gap! You can't use it for dusting!"

Edward didn't seem to hear him, so Jasper snatched away his shirt and swatted his head with it. That at least brought Edward to a standstill.

"She is going to call Jasper, she is going to call me!" he said in a hushed whisper, falling on his knees and raising his hands towards heaven. Jasper remained unimpressed.

"And you are whirling through the room like a tornado with a towel because—" He raised an eyebrow, reminding Edward of Alice. Evidently Alice had influenced Jasper too much.

"Because we will be on the phone and—" Edward stopped abruptly, unsure what to say. But Jasper had no such problem.

"Is she going to crawl out of the phone and see the room, Edward?"

Edward immediately got lost in the vision of Bella crawling out of the phone, falling straight into his lap. This visual had a very unfortunate effect upon him. Jasper made a disgusted sound.

"Man, not around me! Save it for your vampire-loving, to-be-girlfriend."

"Sorry," muttered Edward sheepishly, willing the problem down. His phone rang, and he jumped on his bed and answered it, almost panting.

"Hello, Edward here."

Bella's sweet voice poured into his ear, mesmerising him. "Hi Edward, this is Bella—Bella Swan. I got your number from Alice. I hope you don't mind?"

Edward struggled to keep his tone even and his manner suave. "Of course I don't mind, Bella. What can I do for you on this beautiful evening?" Jasper snickered at his attempt, but it seemed to work on Bella, for she giggled.

"Oh Edward, you are quite the charmer, aren't you? Listen, would you like to meet me for coffee or something? I would like to thank you better."

Edward was sure he could think many other ways for her to thank him, but of course he could not list them on the phone. So he continued to be as Cary Grant-ish as possible. "And I would like to know you better, lovely Bella. Name the time and place, and I will be there."

This time Jasper guffawed loud enough for Bella to hear him. "Is that you roommate, Edward?" she asked curiously. "Why is he laughing?"

"Oh, yes, that is Jasper, my roommate—he is kind of a jerk." Jasper raised an eyebrow in warning, and Edward backtracked, mouthing 'sorry'. "I mean, he is very nice actually, a great guy, but he is watching some show that I don't like at all." Jasper nodded in approval of this quick amendment. "Don't worry about it; just tell me when and where we can meet."

Bella suggested The Byte, located in the campus itself and offering a wide variety of specialty teas, local and espresso coffee and assorted beverages, as well as sandwiches, salads and soups. Edward immediately agreed and they decided to meet at four pm the next day.

Their first sort-of date was a success. Edward had with him a bottle of pomegranate juice, which he sipped from instead of ordering anything from the counter, claiming he was on a special diet. Bella nodded understandingly, noticing that he did not eat anything either. He insisted on getting Bella her favourite coffee and pie, which turned out to be apple butterscotch crumb, coincidentally. Resisting the urge to dig in proved to be quite a challenge to him, so he just stared longingly at it. Bella concluded that he was looking at her as if he wanted to eat her, and her heart sped up.

When they came out of the café, Edward noticed that a few crumbs clung to Bella's lips. His self-control gone, he leaned towards her and growled that he could not stay away from her any longer. Gulping nervously, Bella admitted that she didn't want him to. The moment she granted him the permission, he dove for her mouth and sucked her lower lip between his own, licking off every tiny particle that remained there. Then he repeated the whole process with the upper lip, making sure that not a single atom of the pie would go wasted. Bella, who had never kissed anybody, was in a daze by the time he finished. And when he let her go and murmured, "Oh Bella, you are delectable," she felt that she was melting like chocolate in the sun.

When Edward gallantly insisted on escorting her to her dorm, she teased him that he had old-world manners. He smiled and answered that perhaps he was born in a time when children were brought up differently.

"I think you are not what you pretend to be," she remarked.

"Perhaps you are right."

"What is your favourite colour?" she asked randomly.

He gazed into her eyes before replying. "Brown, Bella, exactly the shade of your eyes."

Bella was rendered speechless. When he gave her a gentle goodnight kiss at her dorm, she floated up to her room. Of course, Alice just chanced to be wandering in the corridor, and asked her off-handedly if she had seen Edward lately. Bella didn't bother denying it.

"I am in love with him, Alice. He is my soulmate."

For the first time in her life, Alice was at a loss for words. She wondered if she should tell Bella the truth, but really, it was up to Edward. And then Bella asked her a most unexpected question.

"I know Edward is different, Alice, and also that you are not allowed to talk about it. But can you at least tell me if all of you are the same?" She looked at her with so much hope in her eyes that Alice could not deny her. She nodded, and Bella clapped her hands and then did a fist-pump.

"Wow, for years I have been looking for just one, and now a whole family of the cold ones," she whispered the last part, checking for eavesdroppers. Suddenly she frowned as she touched Alice's hand.

"Hey, you are not cold!"

Alice was thankful she had her explanation ready. "Well Bella, you will find many things non-traditional with us. You see, we have been living with humans for a long time now, and have developed many techniques to blend in. One of those is raising our temperature by taking a special medicine, which also makes our complexion look more natural." She tacked on the last part because she was sure that Edward would blush in front of Bella some time or other. Also, with all the juice he was going to have on their dates, his cheeks were bound to become a healthy pink.

Bella was extremely impressed. "That's very smart of you," she approved, "but what about the hardness thing? Is that affected by this medicine?"

Alice was quite sure that Edward was painfully hard around Bella, but she merely answered that yes, the hardness was lessened to a desirable extent. Bella was satisfied and went to her room, and Alice called Edward and reported the conversation to him so that he was prepared. However, she left out Bella's confession about loving Edward. That was something he needed to hear from Bella herself. She did ask how long he intended to continue this charade, to which he answered that he would tell Bella the truth in a month or so. Anyway, Christmas was just around the corner, so they would not be spending too much time together.

Edward planned the next couple of dates carefully. They spent an afternoon in Kerry Park, from where they could admire the panoramic view of the city, with Mt Rainier in the distance, and an evening at a concert both of them enjoyed. Edward was sure to have a snack before the dates so his stomach wouldn't growl at the sight of food. Bella asked him some indirect questions about his vampire existence, but he had the answers prepared, so there was no problem.

"Edward, you don't really need those glasses, do you?"

Luckily, he didn't. They were zero-power glasses he wore just because he liked them. So he answered truthfully that no, he didn't need them. Of course Bella drew her own conclusion.

"I know, you wear them so that you look less dangerous," she whispered. They were strolling in Kerry Park then, and there were other people around, enjoying the crisp, sunny day, a rarity during the month of December. Edward smirked and spoke close to her ear.

"So I look non-dangerous with them?"

"Um, well you still are dangerous, but in a different way—you look too sexy," she said softly, making Edward feel ten feet tall. Feeling bold, he swatted her ass lightly, making her giggle.

"I thought you were brought up with manners?" she questioned archly.

"I was, but your ass is just too tempting—I want to bite it."

Bella's eyes grew huge. "Not my neck?" she clarified.

It took Edward a second to realize what she was asking. "Oh, of course," he stammered, "that is absolutely sinful, but this," he emphasized, squeezing a cheek this time, "is definitely second on my list."

Bella suddenly felt hot and bothered. "You have a list…of where you want to bite me?" she squeaked. A woman nearby overheard her and gave her a jealous look. Bella returned it with a stay-away-from-my-man glare.

"Umm-hmm, I have," he confirmed, giving her earlobe a quick lick, "a whole list of bite-able, lick-able parts. Does that surprise you?" Bella gasped sharply, feeling rather faint. She thought he was even better than her favourite vampire, for he never spoke with his girl in this manner. She held on to his forearm for support, and nodded to herself when she found it sufficiently hard.

Edward had never imagined he could seduce a girl with his words, but something about Bella brought out his dirty-talking prowess. He wanted to do all manner of things with her. However, they were in a public place, and it was only their second date. He would have to be patient.

There was a tricky situation at the concert in Benaroya Hall when Edward excused himself to go the washroom. He had been sipping on juice earlier, when they had stopped for a meal at a fast-food joint, and while Bella had enjoyed a steakburger, he had drooled and drank 'blood'. She had looked at him adoringly and said it was much more civilized than hunting animals, so he had finished the whole bottle. By the time there was a break in the concert, his bladder was killing him. He didn't even think before saying the words and running off.

Bella tried to make some sense of his words, but couldn't think of anything. When he came back, she couldn't help but ask him.

"Edward, I had assumed that you didn't need to, you know, use the loo. Why did you—"

Edward was feeling so relieved at, well, having relieved himself that he just stared at her for a minute. Bella begun to feel uncomfortable, thinking she had broken some kind of vampire rule. Perhaps he had meant it as some sort of code?

"Oh, right," Edward fumbled for an explanation that might work for the future too—he was a smart guy, after all. "You know we try to behave as much like humans as possible, right?" She nodded quickly, glad he wasn't annoyed with her. "Well, with a roommate around it is necessary to take bathroom breaks sometimes, so he wouldn't become suspicious." Bella nodded again, mouthing 'ooh'. Edward continued, "Yeah, so now I have this habit—even if nobody is going to notice, I just…go." He hoped he didn't sound incredibly stupid.

Bella looked awed with his brilliance. "You are just too good at pretending, Edward. I would never have thought of it." She snuggled into his side and sighed as something occurred to her. "Edward, I have to go home for Christmas."

Edward's arm squeezed her shoulders. "I know, and I am going to miss you, Bella. I wish I could see you during the holidays."

Bella sat up a little straighter and whispered almost in his ear. "Edward, will you come to Forks and see me? I really want you to." Her warm breath tickled his skin, mesmerizing him and muddling his thoughts.

"You want me to come and meet your parents? It's a little early I think, but I will be glad to."

He felt Bella's chuckle rather than heard it. "No Edward, I meant come and see me, during the night, through my bedroom window. It would be so thrilling!"

Edward's head snapped up as he turned to look at her. "Isn't your father the chief of police there, Bella? Do you think it would be a good idea to sneak in your home?"

She laughed. "But you can hide yourself in a second—so what's the problem? Dad will never know. Please Edward, it would be so much fun!"

Edward was helpless to resist her pouting. "All right," he sighed, "is your bedroom on the first floor?"

"No," she answered, breaking his only hope, "second floor, but there's a sturdy tree outside my window. You can climb it easily enough. Just don't enter my parents' room by mistake—it's the adjoining one."

Damn, he knew that tree-climbing vampire would get him into trouble one day! "How will I know which room is yours?" he hissed, noticing that the little old lady sitting in front of them was taking great interest in their conversation.

"You can recognise my smell, can't you?" Of course, that was another vampire trait to deal with. Bloody troublemakers, the whole lot of them.

"Not if your window is closed, I can't." Thankfully Bella took it in stride.

"I can't keep it open in this weather; I will die of the cold."

"Oh child, just leave a small light on in your room—that will be enough to guide your young man. Really, today's generation doesn't have any imagination!"

It was the lady who had been listening to them. Evidently, eavesdroppers were everywhere. Bella didn't seem to mind, however, thanking the nosey woman politely and agreeing it was a good idea.

And so Edward agreed to climb a tree and sneak inside the house of the police chief of Forks. He could feel his festive spirit sinking already.

-TMV-

Christmas at the Masen and Cullen houses was a collaborative affair. The families got together for meals as well as gift-opening, and Edward, Alice and Emmet had fun playing on their X-Box and watching movies. It was in the middle of one such game that Elizabeth noticed Edward's phone beeping softly on the kitchen table, where he had left it after a snack. When she noticed Bella's name on the screen, she became extremely curious and decided to talk with her.

Bella was taken aback when Elizabeth introduced herself as Edward's mother, but greeted her politely. Elizabeth confessed that this was the first time a girl had called Edward and asked Bella how she had met him. Then of course she had to ask where Bella lived and what her parents did, followed by an invitation to their home during the vacations, as Fork was just half an hour's drive away from Port Angeles.

"I will show you Edward's baby photos, Bella. He hates them, but he was truly cute!" she cooed, giggling at the thought of bugging Edward in front of his girlfriend.

Bella took a moment to digest this information. Edward had told him that he had been turned at the age of twenty one and found by the Masens after wandering for a few years as a nomad. The Masens had been a couple even before being changed, and nearly forty years of age, but with no children. So they had sort of adopted him, the same way Alice and Emmett had been adopted by the Cullens. Where had Elizabeth got his baby photos from? Then it occurred to her that baby was probably her way of saying 'newborn'.

"Oh, I would love to see his newborn photos, Mrs Masen," Bella assured her, pleased with herself for having figured it out. "Has he changed very much from that time? "

Elizabeth was perplexed by the odd question. "Well yes, he has grown up quite a bit, I would say," she answered, laughing. Bella of course took it another way.

"Of course he must have: he told me that he was quite a handful as a newborn," Bella agreed, chuckling. "It is difficult to imagine that now; he is so cool and composed. I must say I admire you a lot for handling him so well, and for making him the man he is."

Elizabeth was flattered. "Oh, he wasn't that troublesome," she protested. "Anyway, that's part of being a mother." She decided she had been nosey enough. "It was lovely talking with you, dear. I will just—"

"Just one question, Mrs Masen, "Bella began, stopping her from calling out for Edward, "Edward told me that he fed…the natural way before. Was it very difficult to get him used to the bottle?"

"Edward told you that?" asked Elizabeth, thinking that it was a weird topic of conversation this early in a relationship. "No, actually he took to the bottle pretty easily. Okay, I will pass the phone to him, all right?"

Bella wished her a good night, and then Edward was on the phone. They wished each-other before Bella conveyed to him the gist of her conversation with his mother. Edward could only thank the powers above that Bella had not mentioned adoption or blood-drinking.

"Edward, I am really missing you. Why don't you come over and spend the night with me?"

Her husky voice and suggestive words gave him an instant erection. Naturally, he could not think of any reason to deny her request when there was no supply of blood to his brain.

"Of course, Bella, I will be there. You will leave a light on, won't you?"

Bella assured him there would be a string of coloured lights in her room, and that her parents had had quite a bit of wine during the evening meal. They would be in bed by ten, and sleeping heavily by the time he arrived. Edward gave his heartfelt thanks to Bacchus and promised to see her soon.

On his way to the gaming room, Esme waylaid him and made him promise that he would have Bella over soon. Then she made a comment that made no sense to Edward whatsoever.

"I can't believe you two are already discussing breastfeeding versus bottle! Are you thinking of having kids that soon?"

-TMV-

Forks being a small town, Edward had no problem finding the Swans' house. Climbing the tree outside Bella's window proved to be quite another challenge, however. He had never been adept at this particular task, even as a child, and the bitterly cold wind coupled with the beginning of snow meant that the tree trunk was slippery, and Edward's hands were so cold that he had difficulty in holding on to the branches. By the time he pushed up Bella's window and entered the room, he was close to freezing.

The sight in front of him warmed his heart though. Bella had fallen asleep waiting for him, her hair fanning out on the pillow, her arms open in invitation. Her thick duvet beckoned to Edward as much as her arms, a combination of welcoming warmth. Pausing only to take off his shoes, he dived under the duvet and hugged Bella to him, trying to keep his teeth from chattering.

Bella woke up with a start, feeling as if she had suddenly walked into an icebox. When she understood it was Edward, she was quite puzzled. "Why are you so cold?" she asked, running her fingertips on his face. "Did you forget your medicine?"

Edward felt like thumping his forehead somewhere. Why had he started this stupid pretence? Oh right, because she wouldn't have given him the time of the day otherwise.

"Bella darling, it's snowing outside, and my clothes are damp," he answered patiently. It felt good to snuggle with her though.

"Well then take your clothes off," she suggested, "they are making me cold. And you know what they say about body heat." She raised an eyebrow suggestively.

The incentive was more than enough for Edward, who jumped out of bed so quickly that he tripped over his shoes and fell headlong to the floor. The resulting crash was enough even to rouse Charlie, who lumbered to Bella's room in a sort of wine-induced daze.

Edward meanwhile had got to his feet and pulled off his shirt. As he unbuttoned his jeans and prepared to get rid of them, the door burst open and a sleepy Charlie stood there, blinking at the strange scene before him.

"What is going on here?" he slurred.

Edward was frozen with his hands still on the waistband of his jeans, so Bella decided to speak up. And she decided that telling Charlie the truth might be the best, because she was a terrible liar.

"Dad, this is Edward, my boyfriend. He is a vampire. He climbs trees during the night and drinks blood from a bottle, but is quite civilized otherwise. One day he will bite me and make me like him. But you can't tell anybody about him, or the Volturi will come and kill all of us."

Charlie listened to this amazing explanation with the feeling that he was in a bad dream. "I have listened to your vampire stories for too long, Bella," he mumbled. "Now I am seeing one of them standing in your room. I need to go back to sleep."

And he shut the door and shuffled back to his room, leaving them alone.

Bella smiled happily at Edward. "Well, what do you know? He accepted you so easily!" Then she frowned. "Edward, why didn't you just disappear when he came here? You must have heard him on his way here."

Edward thought quickly. "I wanted him to see me, Bella," he improvised, sitting on the bed and taking her hands in his. "I love you, and I don't care who knows it." Bella's eyes shimmered with tears at his declaration. "However, you should not have burdened him with my secret. Tomorrow you must pretend that this never happened; only then he will be safe."

Bella agreed, Edward took off his jeans, and they spent the next few hours warming each-other up successfully.

-TMV-

Bella's visit to the Masens went without a hitch. Edward had hidden all the albums in the attic, so Elizabeth promised Bella she would show them to her the next time. Perhaps she would visit during the Spring break? Alice had been enlisted to make sure the conversation stayed on safe topics, and Elizabeth was given no opportunity to talk about baby Edward's food or sleeping habits. Alice did tease Edward by looking shocked when Bella ruffled his hair and he just smiled indulgently. She informed Bella that he must love her a lot, since he was usually so particular about his hair.

New year over, they returned to Seattle and their usual routine of classes, punctuated by dates and meetings. When Bella asked if he wanted to sleep with her, Edward admitted he wouldn't be able to let her go after that, so it would be better if they waited until they were living together, which they had planned to do at the beginning of their sophomore year. Bella equated it to his version of getting married, and was satisfied. Until then, there were other ways of making each-other…happy.

Edward, of course, wanted to do more than give her orgasms with his fingers and tongue, which he found himself to be surprisingly adept at, but he also knew that he had to tell her the truth before taking the final step. He explained to her that their present activities would help him acclimatise to their intimacy, so that he would not kill her when they finally went all the way. And every day he promised himself that he would tell her…the next day.

But then the day of reckoning came, without caring if Edward was ready for it or not.

After a class they did not share, Edward had promised Bella to meet her in front of the building that housed the popular Cherry Street Market café, and have lunch together. However, when he arrived there he spied Bella just across the road, so he waved to her. As she waved back and smiled, he saw a car racing towards her with breakneck speed. Bella panicked, not able to decide whether she should step back or run forward. Edward was certain that the car was going to hit her. For a moment he wished that he was a vampire and could jump in front of the car and stop it. Not being one, he did the next best thing and threw himself upon Bella, rolling them to safety. His head struck the pavement rather forcefully, and stars danced in front of his closed eyes. He fainted.

There was a hullabaloo, someone called the emergency, and the paramedics checked both Edward and Bella's vitals before loading them into the ambulance. Edward remained out, but Bella, though shocked, opened her eyes and stared at him, her brain going into overdrive. She would have considered the fainting as another pretense, but she could see that there was a large cut on his forehead and it was bleeding. No vampire, however efficient, could fake that.

While Edward was undergoing a battery of tests to ensure that there was no brain injury, Bella, who had not received as much as a scratch from the incident, was given a clean chit of health. She was soon joined by Alice and Jasper in the waiting room, and then Emmet. Alice had called her aunt and uncle too, and they were on their way. Meanwhile, she was trying very hard not to meet Bella's eyes.

As soon as the doctor informed them that Edward was not in any danger though they would like to keep him overnight for observation, Bella asked him if she could see him. After asking Edward if it was all right with him, she was waved into his room.

Edward's forehead was bandaged and his cheek bruised, but otherwise he seemed okay. He tried to smile at Bella but his eyes held apprehension. He was sure Bella was going to leave him. When she sat down on the bed and stroked his unharmed cheek gently, he felt somewhat hopeful.

"Are you mad at me, Bella?"

Bella shook her head. "Edward, you saved my life, even though it could have cost you yours. How can I be mad at you?"

This time his smile was genuine. "I love you, Bella. Of course I had to save you. My life would have been nothing without you." He took a deep breath and asked, "I lied to you though, so many times. Can you forgive me for them? I am really sorry for that, but I could see no other way of getting close to you."

Bella bent her head and kissed him softly, giving him all the answers necessary. Edward returned her kiss with fervour, his mind at peace. When they broke apart, he chuckled.

"What is it?" asked Bella, smoothing his hair. In return, he gave her a grin she immediately labelled as sexy.

"You know how I always found ways so as to avoid having sex with you, before I told you we should wait until September?"

Bella nodded, curious as to where he was going.

"There was a very valid reason for that—what if you had expected me to recover immediately afterwards? Vampires don't need any time for that, do they? Mine is pretty good, of course, but compared to your Edmund…"

Bella laughed and kissed him again. "I am glad that you are not a vampire, actually. Any day you would have forgotten your 'medicine'," her voice dropped to a whisper, "I would have had an icicle to contend with, inside and outside. I much prefer you human and warm. And hard, of course, even with breaks…"

"You tease," Edward growled, pulling her closer so that she was lying almost on top of him. "Just let me get out of here—I am not going to wait a single day more." And he kissed her deeply, both of them getting lost in it. They did not even notice Edward's parents coming in the room. Elizabeth clapped with delight when she saw them.

"Oh Edward," she addressed her husband who was backing out of the room rather rapidly, his hands covering his eyes. "Didn't I say she was asking about breastfeeding? I knew there was a reason for that. These two will make us grandparents soon!"

Bella, having heard her voice and words, tried to break away from Edward too quickly and he bit her lip accidently. With a yelp she sat up, trying to soothe her bleeding lip with her tongue. Alice, who had entered the room as soon as her uncle had rushed out, rolled her eyes when she saw them.

"Well Bella, "she remarked dryly, "I see that you finally got your vampire!"


End Note: Hope you enjoyed it. Please review! They make me soo happy!