Friends to Lovers Contest

Title: 4500 Miles

Summary: A one-sided love that has blossomed over the years. A crush sparked by a naked man running. This is a story about two students finding a home in each other, 4500 miles apart.

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Rating: M

Prompt used: 29. The One with the Proposal

Word count: 14864

Disclaimer: The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.


4500 Miles

BPOV

It's a hundred and fifteen yards in length and seventy-four in width. Three hundred and seventy-eight yards is its perimeter.

The distance I'll have to run.

It's not too bad, I guess. It's only about a quarter mile. It'll take about five minutes...and become the most humiliating five minutes of my life.

I'm not one to be self-conscious about my body. It's a body; everyone has one. It's not perfect, nor does it resemble a skinny runway model's, but it does its job quite efficiently, and I'm happy with it. Even now, when I have to run a quarter mile—gulp—completely naked, I still don't regret my body, its cushiness or its pale tone. I just wish I hadn't been so lazy and worked out at least once a week.

Okay, I'll stop lying to myself. I'm fat and now... oh, God. This is going to be mortifying. Why the fuck did I agree to this?! What kind of person makes a bet like this?! But wait, Emmett. That pervy jackass. Ugh.

"Oy, Swan, time's a-wastin'! Strip for me, baby!" Emmett, the arsehole hollers from right behind me. I huff. Drunk idiot. Let's get this over with. I begin to take my jacket off...in my head. I need to find a way out of this. Come on, Swan, think fast.

"Bella?" I jump as a pair of arms grabs my shoulders.

"What?" I whip around so fast I almost break Edward's nose. It would've been his fault since he was standing so close. Sneaky son of a bitch.

"I'll do it. You're obviously uncomfortable with the idea, and that's the last thing I want you to be." He smiles at me, his eyes kind. He gets those from his father, Carlisle Cullen (a.k.a. DILF of the century.) He also gets his nose, height and ridiculously long eyelashes from DILFy. I mean seriously, us girls lump tubes of mascara on those tiny hairs for length and volume, but the guys are born with long, perfectly curled lashes. Hmph.

"Ummm, Bella?"

I blink. I think he said something again. Dammit, I should really stop zoning out. "Huh?"

He leans forward with a devilish glint in his eyes. "I said if I do it, you owe me something."

I narrow my eyes in suspicion. "Something?"

"Yes, something. I don't even know what yet, but I promise it won't be as ridiculous as this."

Should I trust him? Well, he's Edward. I'm 99.99% sure I'm better off making a deal with Edward than Emmett. It's not like it's my soul on the line. So as much as I don't like backing down, I nod because there's no way in Hell I'm running naked around a soccer field...or worse, getting naked in front of Emmett.

Edward smiles again, and I'm distracted by his pearly white teeth. Did I mention Carlisle is a dentist? Lucky bastard. Edward stumbles slightly as he walks backward (which he really shouldn't be doing with two bottles of beer inside him), and I watch as he sweet-talks Emmett into letting him run instead of me. Actually, I'm pretty sure he's threatening the behemoth by the look his face...or maybe it's blackmail because one simply does not threaten Emmett McCarty. I don't know what the hell he said, though I would love to know, but seconds later, Edward Cullen is stripping.

I watch with slight fascination as he removes his jacket and button-down in one smooth motion and pulls his gray t-shirt over his head. I may or may not be ogling his side muscles. I mean, I know he works out, but I've never imagined that he looks this good. He should be a goddamn model, not a doctor.

Edward catches my stare and winks. Cocky fucker.

I reply by sticking my tongue out and turning my back to him like a mature adult. I hear him unzip his pants, and I'm tempted to take a peek. I've overheard Jess fawning over his cock (she's his ex-girlfriend), and I'm pretty sure one of these days, she's going to build a shrine for it. Now you can see why I must know. Thankfully, Emmett, being his ignorant, drunk self, starts hollering for his Rosy, and I pretend to look back at him in annoyance while peeking at Edward's naked form.

Alright, I want to make it clear Edward is my FRIEND, and there's no way in hell he'll actually be interested in my fat ass, before I (this is a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, people) agree with Jessica Stanley. Hell, I'll probably help build the fucking shrine because he is quite well-hung. I mean, it's not a monstrosity or something, just average...when he's not even hard.

I try to keep the blood from rushing to my face, because I'm not a nun, but with the thoughts that are involuntarily running through my head about my FRIEND, I'm not exactly going to heaven. I know he was never the lanky nerdy boy, but I never expected this. This has forced me to consider why he doesn't have women flocking around him. He should. Maybe he's gay and never told me? Nah, he's too...straight for that. I never really got the gay vibe from him. Besides, from what I gathered, Edward wasn't always this nice. I'm sure he was never cruel, but I remember Jessica mentioning that he was a loner of sorts. That is quite believable considering Emmett, Rose and I are his only close friends. Edward talks easily, but he only hangs out with a few. He's always had this charm about him...as if he can never do anything wrong, but he never takes advantage of that. No, I've always been grateful to Emmett and Rose, who keep him grounded in that regard.

Speaking of the Devil, Rose calls me over to sit next to her on the bleachers. Emmett's near the track, whistle and timer in hand.

"What's with the stopwatch?" I nudge Rose.

She shrugs. "They made another bet."

I roll my eyes. I'm never making a bet again in my life.

I watch in fascination and gratitude as Edward crouches down, his lean, muscular body ready to sprint, while Emmett counts down. Exactly at 'one', Edward shoots forward (I have also mentioned that he's on the track team, yes?). I'm quite surprised Emmett doesn't have his phone out, recording the whole thing, but I shouldn't give him any ideas. I turn back to see Edward on the far side of the track. He's already halfway done. Grrrrr...

I half-watch him as he finishes the round, flying past Emmett, because you know, normal people don't ogle at their friend's naked body. But apparently, I fail to be discreet enough as Rose nudges me with her elbow and winks.

I, of course, blush. Damn blush.

EPOV

Bella is late, which is unusual. Bella is the most punctual person I know. It isn't unusual for her to be somewhere fifteen minutes early. Class starts in just a few minutes, though, and English is her favorite. I swear that girl reads more than my mum, and that's saying something.

Maybe I should have called this morning and made sure she was okay? Yesterday was sort of crazy. She might be hung over. I knew I should have told Emmett beforehand to watch his mouth. I know how Bella handles embarrassment, and Emmett loves to embarrass people.

I could have killed him when he bet her to streak across the football field. Of course, Bella wouldn't back down either. It is one of the things I love about her.

Oh, yes. I, Edward Cullen, love Bella Swan, my best friend. Of course, she doesn't notice. I'm just her friend. I've tried everything to change her mind, but it just hasn't worked.

Anyway, I had to threaten Emmett that I would tell Rosalie about the porn he keeps hidden if he made Bella go through with it. Bella is just so insecure over her body. Something that would make her feel worse about it would happen over my dead body.

It makes the fact that she isn't here yet all the more worrying. Maybe last night affected her more than she let on? Maybe she was mad at me for stepping in? That wouldn't surprise me.

I manage to convince myself this is the case and work myself into a mess about it when I finally see her walk through the door. She sinks into the seat on my right and grins.

My god, how does she keep getting even more beautiful? It's been less than six hours since the last time I saw her, but she looks even more beautiful. Her long, mahogany hair is glossy and frames her angelic face. Her cheeks are slightly pink, and her lips turn up in a smile. I catch myself staring and shake myself before I can start drooling.

"Hey." My voice squeaks, and then I blush. Why did my voice have to do that? "I mean, hello. Good morning. Ya have a good night's sleep?"

She giggles, and it's music to my ears. "Morning. I slept like a rock. I knew better than to drink that much."

"Aye, you've been living here for a year and a half, babe. I would have thought you could handle your drink by now."

She opens her mouth to deliver her comeback, but she never gets a chance to say it. At that moment the professor chooses to start class. Bella winks and turns her attention to the front. Fucking English. I'm not even allowed to pass notes to her during class.

I try to pay attention. I really do, but English is just not a subject that interests me. Zoology or Biology and I'm all over it. English, not so much.

So, I go to one of my favorite pastimes—watching Bella. I don't do it often, because I don't want to make her uncomfortable, but sometimes I just like to watch her. She is endlessly fascinating to me. When she's completely focused on something, she chews on her pen, and when she's frustrated, her eyes crinkle around the edges as she tries to think around it. I just can't get over her.

English class is one of the safest places to do this because she's always focused on the professor, so I'm a little shocked when I slide my eyes over to her to find she's studying me and chewing on her pen.

I know the look in her big, endless brown eyes. That's speculation. I watch as her gaze seems to wander from my neck, down my arms, and to my waist. It takes everything in me to keep from giggling when she suddenly blushes tomato red. What in God's name is she thinking about?

Before I can look away, her eyes catch mine. For one tense, beautiful moment, we're caught in a bubble where just the two of us exist. I swear there's desire in her gaze. Her tongue comes out and wets her bottom lip. I want to tug that lip between my teeth. That would make her moan, and then I would swallow it with a kiss while my fingers tug down the cups of her bra…

I'm shocked out of my fantasy when Bella flicks her dark curtain of hair over her shoulder, effectively obscuring my view of her face. Shit. I probably made her uncomfortable. On top of that, my jeans are now uncomfortably tight. I discreetly adjust myself and make a show of turning back to the front where the professor is droning on and on. I push my reading glasses up my nose and glance at Bella out of the corner of my eye. I swear I see her looking at me as well.

I have no idea what to say to her when class is over. I don't want her to get defensive, but at the same time, I feel like I need to say something. Just to clear the air, right? It's not every day you have a sexually explicit fantasy about your best friend in the middle of class, after all.

"Did you pay attention at all?" are the first words out of her mouth. They're sharp, but there's a teasing air about them as well. I figure she must not be too mad at me.

And then that look enters her eyes—like she wants to eat me or something. Her tongue makes an appearance again, and I have to stifle a groan. I'm sure I couldn't stand up without giving her an eyeful. Hold it together, Edward.

She coughs and averts her gaze. I hate that I may have embarrassed her, but I have no idea how to stop it. This thing, where she keeps checking me out, is new, and I have no idea what's going on. It's strange.

I struggle to remember what she's asked, where we are, what class I have next, and that I can't pin her against the desk and snog her senseless. "I did too pay attention. It was just too borin'."

"He was discussing the cultural ramifications of Bronte's… you know what? Never mind."

"Oi, if it doesn't have dragons and knights with kick ass swords, I don't really care." I grin just to show I don't mind she's such a book nerd.

"You should broaden your horizons," she snarks while I follow her out into the hall. "A little poetry might do you some good."

"Eh! I've read poetry."

"Oh yeah? What?"

"Beowulf."

She rolls her eyes, and I have to grin. She may not understand my love for all things medieval fantasy, but I love her anyway.

"I'll see you at lunch."

I nod and start walking down the hall toward my next class. I can't escape the feeling that I'm being watched, though. I turn around to find Bella staring wide-eyed at me.

"Did you just check out my arse?"

She turns tomato red and mutters, "Arse," before walking the other way. I hate to embarrass her, but I love the way her cheeks turn red.


I tap my pen restlessly against my notebook, too distracted by Bella to focus on schoolwork. She acted so weird this morning. She had never checked me out before. I mean, I'm not bad looking. I work out and stuff, but it's not something I worry about. Bella had certainly never seemed to notice.

Until this morning, that is. She couldn't seem to look away. I had never seen her blush so much either.

Still, I have no idea what might have created the change or what it meant. Last night, she had seemed fine. When I walked her home, just like every night, she hadn't seemed any different than she usually did.

Wait. The bet. Streaking across the football field. Was that it? She had seen me in the buff? That was all it took? I should have stripped in front of her a year ago then.

Still, that doesn't mean she likes me. She just thought I looked good. I can't get my hopes up. It's just an infatuation. She'll get over it. Not that I want her to, of course, but that's the truth. I can't expect too much from it.

At that moment, the waitress places my sandwich in front of me. I thank her with a smile, just like my mum taught me. Esme Cullen would die if she ever found out that I was anything but polite.

I pull my reading glasses off my nose and pick at my food. I have to do something about Bella. I love her, but she doesn't seem to return the feeling. I can't pine after her my whole life. Not to mention, it is getting in the way of school work. Something has to give and soon.

Bella's like a drug. I miss her when she's not here. I think about her all the time. I'm only truly happy when she's here. There's something seriously wrong with me.

I snap back into reality when Bella sinks into the seat across from me like she belongs there...which I suppose she does. I'm supposed to meet her after all.

The waitress comes by to take Bella's order while I contemplate how to go about this.

"Look, I'm sorry about Emmett," I say when I have her attention. "Last night. He just forgets sometimes that we're not all as competitive as he is."

Her cheeks turn pink again as she waves me off. "Not a big deal. I knew what I was getting into. I should be thanking you for covering for me."

"Don't mention it."

"What did you tell Emmett to convince him to let you do it?"

"I told him I would tell Rosalie where he hides his porn."

Bella giggles, and my heart flutters in my chest. I love seeing her happy. I want to make her make that sound every day.

Then it happens again. There are three buttons of my shirt undone, and she's staring at the patch of chest it reveals. Her tongue peeks out to wet her lips, and her eyes go dark. I try to tell myself that she's not turned on, although that's not what her gaze is telling my dick. Down boy.

"Bella, my eyes are up here."

Her eyes go wide as they jolt up to mine. I can't help smirking at her. It's so rare to see her flustered. Bella's as cool as a pickle. It's not every day that something gets under her skin. I have no idea what's going on in that fascinating mind of hers.

"You've got some drool right about here, love."

"Jackass." Her grin tells me I'm forgiven, though.

"So." She's acting all awkward again, so I figure it's time to move the conversation along. "You wanna come over tonight? I'm gonna kick Emmett's ass at ESO. Should be fun."

Elder Scrolls Online is my favorite MMO, and Emmett sucks. It's fun to infuriate him, and after last night, he deserves it.

"Okay, fine. But I have to try to get some school work done to."

As always she comes over and doesn't get any work done. She watches excitedly while I pound the shit out of Emmett on ESO. And just like the rest of the day, I catch her watching me. The real me, not my onscreen avatar. I have no idea what's going on with her, but I'm going to find out.

BPOV

I couldn't stop watching him yesterday. He's just so...gorgeous. I mean, I'd love to have sex with him, but that's not at all what this is. I think...I think I might like him. I think I might have been liking him for longer than I thought. I remember when I first came to Scotland; I was infatuated with him. He was good-looking, goofy, nice, and he had the most wonderful accent. But I thought that my crush faded away as I hung out with him more. I guess I was wrong.

Ah, fucking hell. I feel like a fucking teenager again.

Fuck.

I turn the shower dial up until searing water burns my skin, and I'm completely surrounded with thick fog. I like it like this. I'm shut off from the world. It allows me to think. And boy, do I need to think.

I should probably just ask him out. This is the 21st century, and girls do that. We could meet somewhere quasi-casual and just hang out. Maybe sushi? Rose was talking about this kick-ass place where they make the meal right in front of you.

Wait, what if he's allergic to fish?

Ugh! This dating business is a pain in the behind. Okay, plan A: sushi, plan B: …

Fuck.

Maybe I'll just have him pick. Besides, I'm pretty sure he's not allergic to fish.

Now... how do I ask him?

I obviously cannot just be like, 'yo, man, let's go get some dinner together'. That would just be wrong. Yeah, no, but I can hardly go all Romeo-Juliet on him. Should I just...tell him I like him and I'd like to give this relationship thing a try? He's obviously not going to bite my head off (he's too nice for that), and even if he doesn't see me like that, we're pretty solid right now. We could still be friends after. I mean, it might be a bit awkward at first, but I'm sure we'll get through...right?

I sigh and turn the shower off. Drying myself, I rub lotion all over my body before pulling my workout clothes on. Whipping my hair into a high ponytail, I pick up my iPod from my room, a water bottle and keys from the kitchen. I stop at the door to put on my Nikes and I'm off for my run...with Edward.

I'm so dead.


I honestly don't think he suspects anything.

He's been acting completely normal this entire time. He hasn't even teased me for "drooling over him"...which I've admittedly done more times than I can count. Oh, give me a break. The man's in shorts and a t-shirt, and he's sweating. Not like a pig—that'd be gross—but that sexy, barely-there sweat that's making me want to jump him.

Did I mention he smells fantastic? Of course I can't go sniff him, but every once in a while, Aeolus will take mercy upon me, and the breeze will blow past him to me. He's the perfect mixture of deodorant, sweat, and him.

Yes, I realize I sound like a pathetic, love-struck teenager. I can't exactly control my thoughts. Sue me.

To my credit, I've managed to not jump him or even try to kiss him or do anything remotely awkward in the past seventeen minutes. That's got to count for something, yes? I should just get it over with. Just ask him and damn the consequences.

I should.


My mind keeps replaying that moment. Yes, it was a "moment". His face had been so close to mine, our bodies practically glued to each other. I could've easily kissed him. I should've kissed him...but I didn't.

Fuck my life.

For those of you wondering what the hell I'm talking about, I got lost this morning in the woods near our trail, and since my dear mother scarred me as a child at Six Flags, I'd been seconds from having a panic attack when Edward found me. Yes, very sexy.

Anyway, I suppose I should just stick to the original plan then. Coffee, question, date night.

It's simple. Simple enough I won't screw it up.

I lock my bike to the stand and head inside the coffee shop. I haven't been here in a while—too many exams to hang out with Edward.

Edward.

The flutters in my stomach act up again when I see a messy red-head in the corner. Okay, Bella, you can do this. Just act normal. Be casual. Finish the work first so you can leave if he rejects you. Let's do this shit.

I take a deep breath and walk toward him. I've done this a million times...in my head. It's going to be all right. It's just Edward. By the time I near our table, the waitress is already taking the order. I buy the same thing every time, so I watch as Edward rattles off the meals and smiles at her.

I freeze.

I watch in slight disbelief and a shitload of pain as she casually touches his shoulder while talking to him. He keeps smiling at her, nodding, joking...flirting. I've seen him in action before. A small order that's supposed to take barely a minute turns into a conversation in front of me. She doesn't leave until she notices a new customer sitting at one of her tables.

Holy fuck, this hurts.

I guess that answers my question.

I swallow the lump forming in my throat and seriously consider just walking out. I can't see him now. I can't let him see me like this. I back up, only to hit a chair, causing Edward to look up. He smiles at me...the same smile he used on the waitress-bitch.

I feel bile rising up my throat, and I know I can't stay.

Without even looking at him, I rush out the door. Project be damned. I struggle with my bike lock through my blurred vision and shaking hands. Honestly, why did I ever even consider it? I'm obviously not his type. He goes for skinny blonde girls who know what they're doing. I'm the complete opposite. I can't believe I even thought I had a chance.

The restaurant door slams open, and I know it's Edward. Of course it is. It's just like him to come check up on me. Fucking chivalrous bastard. I finally slide the key into the lock and twist it.

"Bells?" He's getting closer. I can hear his fucking footsteps. How pathetic is it that I can identify his footsteps out of all the others on the sidewalk? I throw my leg over the seat and push off.

"Bella!" I pedal faster. I know he'll try to catch up. I know him. Better than anyone.

I mutter a soft 'fuck' and wipe away my tears. I promised Charlie I'd never cry for a boy after the Jake-fiasco, and I intend to keep that promise. I zip down the sidewalk, almost hitting a few people but not caring. I need to get home. I need to cocoon myself in my bed and figure out what the next step is because this feeling inside of me...it's not going away, and I don't know what to do with it.

For the first time after arriving in Scotland, I want to go home.

I keep scrubbing at my cheeks because the fucking tears won't fucking stop coming. I know enough about me to know that I won't really be able to stop it until I stop caring, and that isn't going to happen. Edward means the world to me. I don't want to lose him.

But this isn't about what I want, because I can never have him. He's not mine to take. He never was.

I push the bike through the apartment doors and lock it up inside the bike room. I drop off the keys at the front desk before running upstairs. The promise of warmth and comfort calls to me, and God knows I need it.

I should sleep.

Yes, sleep sounds fucking fantastic right now. Forget about everything and sleep. That's one plan that will never fail.

I run up the stairs and into my hallway...and trip over air when I see Edward sitting opposite to my door. I somehow manage to stay upright. He turns at the sound of my clumsy footsteps.

"W-what are you doing h-here?" I manage to splutter out. He gives me a look-over and frowns at me.

"I can't come see my best friend after she ran away crying for no apparent reason?"

I scoff. No apparent reason, my ass. "How'd you get here before me?" I'm not ready to talk to him. I don't even know what I'm feeling or what I'm going to do about it. I need a plan, dammit.

"I have a car," he answers flatly. "Are you gonna tell me what's up?"

Avoid. "Nothing."

"Really?" He gets up from his comfy-ass spot and intrudes my personal space. I wish I minded.

Lie. "I'm PMSing."

"So?" Right. I forgot that he practically lived with Rose growing up. He's immune to the PMS excuse. Fuck. Think, Bella. Think.

"Don't think so hard, eh. You'll give yourself an aneurysm." Oh, hell. He's pissed. What should I do? What. Should. I. Do?

Of course, me being the completely functional-under-pressure human being that I am, I blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. "I don't think we should be friends anymore." WHAT? NO! I didn't mean that.

Edward tilts his head to the side in confusion. "What do you mean?" He grabs my hands and intertwines them like I had this morning. I shiver at the current that passes through us. "Why can't we be friends, Bella? I thought you liked me."

Oh, baby, you have no idea.

"I do..." I trail off, unable to tell him the truth, fear of rejection stifling me.

"But we can't be friends?"

I sigh, slightly annoyed. I don't want to think. I want to sleep. "Nope."

"Why?"

"Because I'm a delusional, paranoid idiot, and you're smart."

It's almost comical how high Edward's eyebrows go. He blinks at me a few times, and I can almost see the gears in his head trying to decode my words. "That has nothing to do with anything!"

"I don't care, Edward. I'm just—I'm done with you, your whore friends, your fucking inability to think." Okay, that's a bit harsh, but I can't take it back now.

His eyes narrow, and he grabs my upper arms, pulling forward. I almost flinch at the anger in his eyes. "Where the hell is this comin' from? You never had a problem with it before." It takes a minute to work through his accent. Yes, his accent gets more prominent when he's emotional. Yes, that does things to me even though I don't particularly want it to right now.

"That's 'cause you can't see." Me. What's right in front of you. Who you're holding so close to you.

"See what?" He lets me go with a huff, his hands going to tug at his hair instead. "All I see is you!"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

He sighs as if to calm himself before looking at me. He has this resigned look about his face that makes me scared. "I'm not the one who's blind, Isabella."

"I don't understand."

He cups my face, his sad eyes trained on my soul. "I can't not be your friend, Isabella. I'm too selfish to let you go."

Before I can understand what's happening, his lips are on mine, tender and hesitant. He tilts his head a bit to get closer, his warm breath gently puffing on my skin. The kiss is...so much more than I ever expected. The kiss...holy fucking shit, he's KISSING me!

I surprise myself when I manage to not jump him. Instead, I slip a hand around his neck, pulling him closer. A muffled squeak of surprise comes from him, and he pulls back.

His startling green eyes are wide, and I can see a million questions in them. Questions I don't want to answer right now, because I'd much rather be kissing him. I grab him by his jacket and tug him closer until my lips can touch his, and the euphoria returns.

I slide my fingers along his taut shoulder muscles, trying to tell him that it's okay, that I want this. He seems to understand as his muscles relax under my touch. Before I know it, I'm against the wall, and he's kissing me fully. Our bodies are tightly pressed together. I can feel him everywhere. His touch, his heat, his scent...I soak it all in. I wrap myself around him, and I know I'll never want to let him go.

I feel...giddy. So happy. Like a kid in a candy store.

I am in love. With my best friend. The man who walked into my life a mere eighteen months ago and turned it upside down, juggled with it until it was perfect. Before he was perfect in my eyes, and now, he is mine.

EPOV

This is awesome. Whatever I expected, it wasn't this. Somewhere in the back of my mind I know we still have a project to do, and it isn't going to do itself. I just don't care. I can't keep my lips off of Bella's skin.

She giggles as I pull her back against my chest and begin peppering her neck with kisses. She's fumbling with her key, and I know I'm part of the problem. I can't bring myself to feel bad about that. I'm giddy, flying, happy. Bella loves me. She loves me, and I love her. She's in my arms, she's with me, and she's going to be with me for the foreseeable future. There's not a big enough word for what I'm feeling. I feel like my heart is going to beat right out of my chest.

"Edward." Bella giggles, though I think she's trying to sound stern. I can only smile. She's so right in my arms, and she's so warm. "I need to get this door open, and you're distracting me."

I should let her go so she can open the door and I can get her inside. I just can't wait any longer. I grab her waist, spin her around, and pin her to the door. I'm just able to catch the shocked, excited look on her face before I'm kissing her like my life depends on it.

A year and a half, I've wanted to do this. The very first time I met her, the very first minute she walked into my life, I wanted to kiss her. I want to hold her for hours and kiss her, make love to her, talk to her. I want to spend every minute of the day with her. I want to never let her go. No, it's more than want. It's pure need. I need to be with her.

I sink into her soft, warm body and lose track of time. The only thing that exists is her and me and the door I have her pressed against.

She moans into my mouth. I feel her hands fist the back of my shirt to pull me tighter still. I thought there wasn't a way to get closer, but here I am anyway. I don't want to stop kissing her, but my lungs are beginning to burn. That's not a good thing, is it?

It's Bella who grabs the short hair at the base of my neck and pulls me back. Her swollen lips part as she gasps. Again, I can't bear to keep my mouth off of her. I begin kissing and sucking on the graceful column of her throat. I don't care about breathing. I just can't bear to let her go. I've waited far too long to get her here. I'm making up for lost time.

"Edward," she moans, and her hands twist into my hair. I can't get over the feeling. Her smaller fingers are tangled into my hair, pulling and tugging. "Edward, we should really go inside."

"Why?" I smirk while leaning my forehead on her shoulder.

Bella giggles again, and it sounds like music to my ears. "We should really not flash the neighbors, and I don't want to wear my shirt any longer."

"Open the door."

She fumbles as she unlocks the door. I'm sure slipping my hand under her shirt to touch her warm, creamy skin doesn't help her, but I'm beyond caring. Let the neighbors call the fucking cops if they want to. Her breathing becomes erratic as I trace her skin along the bottom of her bra. My lips find a permanent dwelling on her neck. I lick and bite every inch of skin on her neck until it turns a shade of rose.

By that time, thankfully, Bella flings open the door, and I shove her inside, locking it behind us. Her low moans in my ear spur me on to push her back into the door.

Her hands push me away, and I stare as she reaches for the hem of her dark shirt. I watch, mesmerized, as she peels away the fabric inch by agonizing inch. Beautiful. She is simply beautiful.

She looks at me with a frown, and I know what she wants. I pull my shirt over my head in one move. Her eyes rake over my form with appreciation, and I smirk at her. Goddamn, I love the way that purple satin bra sets off her pale skin. Her skin is smooth like silk, and I can't keep my hands off her. I hear her groan and feel her begin to shake as I lazily run my hands up her sides. From the waistband of her skirt to the strap of her bra, I trace every curve. I want to learn how those lines move. I want to know what makes her feel good.

Her chest begins to heave, pushing her breasts up into my chest as my lips find a sweet spot on the base of her neck. In a moment of pure indulgence, I suck a piece of her sweet skin between my teeth. Her gasp as I bite down gently is enough to tell me she likes it. When it's followed by a breathy moan and her leg hooking around my hip, I know that I've found the on button.

"You like that." I swivel my hips into her, and the friction against my jeans is almost unbearable. I'm not ready yet to release her, so I remain there, pinning her to the door like a butterfly stuck in my web. I'm not sure what's gotten into me. I'm not usually like this, but she brings everything out in me. Whether it's hot and spicy or warm and passionate, I want everything with her. I want it all. I want every inch of skin and every muttered oath. I want her smiles, her laughs, and even her tears. More than want, it's a pure need.

I lift my lips and kiss the breath out of her. Her fingers are tangled in my hair, and they pull sharply. It should hurt, and it does, but I also groan as the electricity shoots down my spine. I grind into her. She whimpers around my lips, and it's still not enough. I'm sure nothing ever will be.

I rip my lips away from hers, sucking air into my burning lungs. My hands hold her cheeks, which are bright red, and I stare, awestruck, into her eyes. I'm beginning to feel a little unbalanced, crazy even.

"Bella," I moan, unable to look away. My dick wants me to move, to thrust. However, I remain still, lost in the depth of her eyes. "Bella, I need you. I need you so much, it's making me crazy. I just don't know what to do with you."

She smiles, and I feel her fingers on my neck. I pull one to my lips to kiss her palm. I don't know why I do that. It just seems like the thing to do. Her beautiful, mocha eyes twinkle, and I fight the urge to sigh. I really need to get this show on the road before I turn into a total girl.

It takes us a while to make it back to her room. We're too busy kissing, touching, and giggling to go very fast. By the time I'm pushing her back onto the bed, I've lost my pants, and she's lost her skirt and bra. As I crawl over her, I drop my mouth to her breast, my lips pressing to every inch of exposed flesh. She squirms under me, her fingers tracing circles on the back of my shoulders. She's giggling by the time my lips wrap around one nipple.

I could feast on her tits for hours. I promise myself I will one day, but there are other things to be done right now. I lick the underside of her breast before traveling farther down. My tongue delves into her belly button, and a giggle comes back. "Edward, that tickles."

I only grin before going farther. She's wearing purple boy shorts. They are delightfully Bella. Simple, cute, and practical. I use my teeth to tug on the waistband.

Bella hisses and pulls on my hair, causing my dick to jump. Damn, that's hot.

I look up to her flushed face and tangled hair. Her chest is heaving, and her nipples are hard. I feel my mouth go dry. What have I done to deserve this?

"Edward, we don't have time. I need you, now."

I have never moved faster. I climb back over her and fuse our lips. I struggle to keep from crushing her under my weight, but I love the feeling of her body under my own. Her breasts are crushed against my chest, and my pelvis is settled in the cradle on her thighs. I feel Bella's fingers gently scrape up my spine. With a grunt, I thrust against her covered folds. She moans, ripping her lips away from mine.

Wanting—no, again, it's a need—to be closer. I reach and slide her leg over my hip, locking her ankles behind my back. I rock my hips, drawing erotic mews from her lips. I slip my arms behind her shoulders, holding her to me. I have no idea how I'm ever going to let her go. Why can't we just stay in this bed for the rest of our lives?

I don't know how long we're like that before Bella is pushing at my shoulders. "Edward. Edward, please." She moans as I hit a sensitive spot. "Can't take any more. Stop teasing me!"

I chuckle as she weakly shoves at my chest. The pout on her face is adorable. I just have to kiss it off. What else am I supposed to do?

She pushes harder, though and even starts trying to use her knees to get me off. "You are insistent."

"I'm horny. Now fuck me." She grabs a pillow and proceeds to hit me with it. Her giggle is magical, though. I have never heard better music. I couldn't help but join her in it. My heart is pounding in my chest and not just because she's all but naked underneath me. I can't get over the way she makes me feel. Her smile, her laugh, the feisty gleam in her eyes that made her hit me with a pillow, they're all things I love about her. How can this beautiful creature want me?

I shake my head. That's a thought for another time. I have work to do. Namely, fucking the brains out of Bella Swan. "Your wish, my command, princess."

The next few minutes are a scramble as we shed the last of our clothing. Fortunately it's not long until I'm back between her legs. With two fingers, I gently brush her folds. "My god, you're wet." I groan.

"That's what I've been trying to tell you." She sighs and arches as my finger enters her. I have to struggle to breathe for a moment.

And like that, it's just not enough. I need to be inside her, making love to her. Fuck. I have to pinch myself to make sure this is real.

"What was that?" Bella giggles again, reaches her arms around my neck and pulls me down on top of her.

"I was pinching myself." I line myself up and stifle a groan.

"Why?" Her hips thrust up, making her impatience clear.

"Because I'm having trouble believing this is real. I've loved you for a long time, Bella."

"I love you, Edward."

With the magic words, I slide inside her with one long, slow thrust. She's tight. My god, she's tight. I have to squeeze my eyes shut to hold myself together. I dreamed of this, and it wasn't this good. I can't hold myself together. She's everywhere, under me, around me, before me. She feels so good. I groan and bury my nose in her hair.

"Well, thank you. You feel good too, but I need you to move please?"

I didn't realize I said all that out loud. Right, moving, how do I do that?

"Edward, I'm not kidding. Move or I flip you over so I'm on top."

I pull back and slam into her, drawing a startled cry from her lips. I like that sound, so I do it again and again. Bella's fingers twist back into my hair, and I kiss her. I drown in her and the things she makes me feel. My heart thunders in my ears. I swear I can feel hers, and it's the same beat. How does this one, beautiful girl make me feel so much? I can't contain it. She's my everything. What had I ever done without her?

We move together, rhythm matching rhythm, sometimes fast and sharp and other times slow and passionate. Neither is better than the other. They're both too perfect for words.

I slam into her, struggling to not come. The way she feels, it's unbelievable. "Bella," I moan. "How close are you? I can't... I can't... I need."

I feel her hand slip between us. Her cries become sharper and less intelligible until she finally shatters around me. I grunt, slamming into her one last time before the waves overtake us and we drown in the pleasure.

I manage to roll off her before I crush her. I struggle to breathe, but there is an earth-shattering smile on my face. I finally got it. Everything I wanted. And it feels good.

BPOV

"Are you nervous?" Edward whispers. He's so close. Everything about him invites me closer.

"No. Why?" I whisper back. We're seated in a cab on our way to see Rose and Emmett at 'Eclipse', one of the new bars in town.

"I dunno. We've kinda disappeared this last week. They're gonna give us shit."

I snort. "As if they have the right. Have you seen them lately?"

"Mmm... good point." The son of a bitch curls his palm around my thigh. I gasp. "Edward!"

"What?" He looks at me, a teasing grin on his face, his hand moving upward.

"We're in public," I whisper, praying to God the cabbie doesn't notice.

"So? I can't kiss my girlfriend in public now?"

He leans in, lightly brushing his lips against mine like I'm a bubble. It takes everything in me to not throw myself on him. Even then, I don't how I resist him. I force myself to remain frozen as he molds his lips around mine. He pulls my bottom lip into his mouth, teasing me, taunting me. I curl up my fingers into a ball, my nails digging into my palms, but he doesn't freaking stop. His hands move up the sides of my body, leaving a trail of hellfire, and into my hair. I want to push away and apologize to the cabbie, but I know if I move, I'm gone.

"Isabella." It's that whisper, one brimming with want and promise, that shoots a cannon through my crumbling wall. I'm on his lap within seconds, his arms tight around me, mine cupping his face. I rock against the growing bulge in his pants, and he jerks slightly. Fuck, we should just go home. There's no way we'll stop now.

I gasp in surprise as the car slams to a stop.

"We're here, kids." That's the cabbie. Oh, my God. Kill me now. I bury my face into Edward's shoulder as he chuckles. He shoves at me lightly, and I scramble out of the car.

"Thanks for the ride, Mark." Edward hands Mark some cash. Mark winks and pulls away.

"You're beautiful when you blush." Edward leans in to give me a little peck on my lips. I swat him away.

"How could you do that? That was rude..and embarrassing. Oh, my God. The guy probably thinks we are horndogs or something!" I feel the blood pooling back into my cheeks as a few passersby turn to look at me in surprise.

Shit.

"Bella." I can hear it in his voice. He's gonna try to placate me and tell me everything's okay. I know I'm acting a bit irrationally, especially since I'll probably never see that cabbie ever again in my life, but still...ugh! "Bella,look at me."

I huff before turning to him. His head is tilted down, his hands shoved in his pockets, his shoulders sagging. "I'm sorry. I...I don't know what got into me." He bites his lip while looking up at me through aforementioned ridiculously long eyelashes. "I promise...I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. It's just that...I, uh, I'm having a hard time keeping my hands off you. Especially in that." He gives me a once-over before running his fingers through his messy hair "...you're beautiful. So beautiful and sexy." He shoves his hand back into his pocket.

I laugh. "You're cute when you're flustered, you know that?"

Edward grins, evidently glad to be out of the doghouse. "I love you, sweetheart."

"I love you, too." I stand on my tiptoes to kiss him. I can't exactly blame him when I'm having the same trouble. Edward is...downright sinful in his dark jeans and black button-down. Those jeans were made for my man, and I may or may not have squeezed his ass as we walked into 'Eclipse'.

Though it's a new bar, it has an old-time feel to it, like a speakeasy or something. You almost expect flappers to be hanging around the bar. Edward goes to buy us drinks while I find Rose and Emmett. They're hidden in a dimly lit corner, thankfully not sucking face for once.

"Hey, guys." I announce my arrival just in case they were doing something under the table. It wouldn't be the first time, and I doubt it'll be the last.

Rose looks up from her spot on Emmett's shoulder. "What's shakin', babes?"

"Nothing much."

Emmett looks at me, incredulous.

"What?"

"So...you weren't slobbering all over my best friend a few minutes ago?" Shit, I didn't realize they had been there.

"Oh, we were there, honey, throughout the whole thing." Rose winks at me.

Evidently, I spoke my thoughts. Shit. Where's Edward when I need him?

Speak of the devil...

"Hey, babe. Here's your beer." Edward materializes behind me and kisses me on the cheek before sliding into the booth next to me, all nonchalant. Fucker.

"So...when did you and Bells get together?" There's no beating around the bush with Rose.

Edward looks at me questioningly.

"They saw us outside." Guess the cat's out of the bag. It's quite a relief, to be honest. I wasn't exactly nervous, but...

It doesn't matter now. They know.

"Um, a few days ago. It was... It just sorta happened." Edward shrugs and puts an arm around me, pulling me close. He takes a sip while we wait for the bombardment of questions to begin.

What we didn't expect was for Emmett to grin in victory as Rose hands him a twenty.

"You bet on us?!" I'm not mad...just a bit peeved.

Rose glares at me. "Excuse me for thinking that you'd keep your legs closed for a few more days!"

"Bitch." I stick my tongue out at her like a mature adult before snuggling into Edward.

She simply rolls her eyes at me before looking at Edward. "How could you not tell me?!"

Edward grins slyly, tightening his hold on my shoulder. "We, uh, we were a little busy."

While Emmett wolf-whistles, I blush and try to make myself disappear

.

EPOV

The last few months have been heaven. There are times when I can't breathe. I had no idea I could love anyone like I love her. She is the first thing I think about in the morning, usually by rolling over and kissing her awake, and I usually fall asleep curled up around her.

My Bella is unbreakable. She's soft, warm, and caring. She's witty and refuses to let me get away with my shit. I love the way her eyes crinkle when she laughs and the way they darken when she gets mad. I don't feel right until she's next to me.

Over the Christmas holiday, I took her home to Lairg. She loved The Highlands and seeing my parents again. I know it's still two years before we graduate, but I'm hopeful I can convince her to stay in Scotland with me. If she wants to move back to America, I don't know what I'll do.

In order to chase off the sudden melancholy I lean down to kiss her forehead. She smells like highland heather and her fruity shampoo. It chases away my morose thoughts, and I sink back into the couch.

"What's that for?" she murmurs, never taking her eyes of the TV.

"'Cause I want to kiss someone, and you're the closest person available." I can't help grinning.

"So, what happens when you want to kiss someone, and I'm not close?" She gasps theatrically and lifts her head from my chest. "Have you been kiss cheating on me?"

"You'd be surprised how well Emmett kisses."

She giggles and swats my chest. It's good to see her so animated. I haven't seen her much lately at all. She has been completely overwhelmed with school work. Take into account my trips home to see my mum and it meant I had spent far too little time with her. When she had called, telling me I could spend the night, I jumped at the chance. I don't even care that I haven't made it further than the living room.

Bella nestles herself against my side, and I turn back to my textbook. I have a biology exam coming up, and I have to pass.

"I meant to ask. How's your mother doing?"

"She's alright. The trips to and from Iverness are making her tired, and the chemo's making her sick. They're optimistic about her chances though."

My mother has been diagnosed with breast cancer. They caught it early, and is expected to make a full recovery, but its still a little nerve wracking for Dad and me. It's why I've been going home so often.

Bella's arms squeeze my waist, and I feel a contented glow settle through my body. She's so warm and caring. My heart feels too big for my chest.

"How are you doing?" Her soft voice surprises me, but I can't help smiling. She's worried about me.

"I'm all right. Still kinda nervous. I know she's probably gonna be okay, but there's also the chance she won't. I know it sounds stupid-I'm a grown man- but she's my mum."

Bella pushes herself up off my chest so our faces are level and brushes our lips together. It's not just one kiss. It's a series of small kisses. It has only been a matter of minutes since the last time I kissed her, but I can't help getting lost in this one. Bella knows exactly what to do to reassure me. God, I love this woman.

"I'll have to stop kissing Emmett." I gasp against her lips. "You're much better."

"Don't you forget it." She giggles, and I reach for her side. Tickling is good punishment. Her laughter fills the room and drowns out the sound of the TV. My heart beats out of my chest, and my throat closes up. Why am I being so emotional? It's embarrassing.

I wouldn't have changed it for anything though. I need her. There is no way around it. She's everything to me.

Finally she curls back against my chest and turns off the TV. "Read to me?" she asks sweetly.

"What?" I glance to the school work I've been working on. "You want to listen to my Advanced Biology textbook?"

"I'll give you a hint, Edward. American girls love the accent. You could read the phone book, and we would fawn over you."

"If I had known that, I would have played a different game to get you to fall in love with me."

"You didn't have to. I would have loved you anyway."

I lean down to kiss the top of her head, then I read. I'm fairly certain this must bore her to death. Who wants to read about the micro degeneration of cells in monkeys anyway? She must be bored. Then again, maybe she's finally asleep.

I'm about to pick her up and carry her to bed when her phone rings. She groans and stands up. "I gotta stop leaving my phone in the kitchen."

My eyes follow her and her cute ass. She turns to wink at me before looking down at her phone. I watch her dark eyebrows draw together, and she looks startled as she lifts her phone to her ear.

"Hello. Yes, this is Bella Swan."

Just a few moments later, all the blood drains from her face, her expression crumbles, and her dark eyes fill with pain. I rush over to her and grab her shoulders to keep her on her feet. Her gaze is unfocused, and I can feel her heart thundering.

Something is wrong.

"Is he okay?" Bella's voice breaks, and I pull her into my arms.

"I'm in Scotland. I won't be there for hours. I don't even know if there's a flight out tonight."

A flight out? What the hell happened?

Bella gives a few more affirmations before hanging up the phone and falling into my embrace. I can feel her shaking and struggling to calm herself.

"Bella, love, what's wrong?" Her breathing is shallow, and I can feel wetness beginning to gather at my neck where she hid her face. I hate not knowing what's wrong. I need to help ease her pain, just do something.

She struggles for a few moments before finally finding enough words to freeze the blood in my veins. "Charlie was on a routine stop, pulled into a gas station, and just happened to be in the middle of a robbery. What kind of luck is that?"

"Is he okay?"

"They're taking him to the hospital. Something about surgery and a punctured lung. I need to go to him, Edward. He's my dad. I can't lose him. He's all I've got."

I shush her as I hear the hysteria beginning to rise. She's right; she needs to go. I would drop everything for my mom. She needs to do this, and, as much as it hurts, she needs me to help her.

My hands cup her face and pull her up to look at me.

"Hey, take a deep breath. It's going to be okay, all right? First thing we gotta do is get you on a plane. You go pack, and I'll get your tickets."

"Edward, I... what about school and you? I can't just go. I've got things to take care of."

It takes everything in me to not smirk. Of course she would think about the reasons she couldn't go. My sweet girl. "It's all right. I'll take care of it. You just worry about you, okay?"

Her dark eyes meet mine. She chews her bottom lip and nods. Then she's gone, moving up the stairs where her room is. I try to ignore the sharp pang through my heart as I reach for the phone.

Twenty minutes later, Bella comes back downstairs. She's carrying two bags and appears much calmer. When she tries to smile, it doesn't reach her eyes.

I hold out her coat so she can slip her arms in. "We've got to go. I got you a flight to New York that leaves in an hour and a half. You'll have to get the connecting flight to Washington from there."

Bella blushes, and I don't understand why. I thought she would be worried about her dad or the trip. Embarrassment isn't something I figure would be on her mind at the moment. I can't fix her worry or her pain, but embarrassment I can at least contend with.

Her wool coat makes it difficult, but I wrap my arms around her waist and hold her there for a heartbeat. "You all right?" I whisper in her ear. "I mean other than the obvious."

Her voice is muffled against my collar, but I catch it all the same. "I just... I can't afford the plane tickets. I didn't even think about it until I got down here. How am I going to get home?"

My heart stutters when she calls Scotland home, but I force it down. I can't think about that. I need to focus on her and what she needs. "Don't worry about it. I've got it covered."

"Edward, you shouldn't."

"Bella, it's fine." I can't help smiling at her. I know it's hardly the time, but she's adorable, and I don't know how long it'll be until I have her in my arms again. "I'm your boyfriend, and it's my job to take care of you. You need to be in America, so I'm going to make that happen."

"You don't have to."

"Yeah, I do." I kiss her lips softly. "Come on. Let's go."

She's silent on the drive to the airport, but her hand grips my thigh like a lifeline. I'm dying to know what she's thinking, but I don't ask. I want to know if she's worried about leaving me, but that feels selfish.

The truth is, I'm terrified. I don't want her to leave. I don't even know how long she'll be gone. My sweaty palms grip the steering wheel until they turn white.

Somehow, I'm able to keep the worry and fear off my face as I help her out of the car. It's the middle of the night, and we're the only ones out here.

I keep my arm around her the whole way through the airport. I know I'll have to let her go at some point, but I'm going to wait until the last minute.

When we pick up her tickets, I almost buy a companion ticket and jump on the plane with her. Bella is still gripping my jacket and leaning heavily on my side. I try to tell myself she needs me with her. In the end, though, I know Bella is strong and will be okay without me. I just don't know if I'll be okay without her.

We wait as long as we can before Bella has to go back to her gate. Finally, she throws her arms around me and holds on like she's never going to see me again. I bury my nose in her hair and inhale her sweet smell. She smells like home.

I kiss the top of her head and try to keep from crying. I'm a man. I don't cry. Even if I'm about to put the love of my life on a plane and send her thousands of miles away from me, I cannot cry. "You be careful, alright?" My voice is still thick, and it sounds very unmanly. "I love you, Bella."

Bella lifts her head. She still looks a little distraught, but the typical Bella toughness is back. That makes me feel a little better. "Edward, I love you too. Part of me really doesn't want to go. I mean, he's my dad. I need to go to him, but I don't want to leave you. That can't be normal."

I smile. "If it's not normal then there must be something wrong with both of us."

To my surprise, she laughs. "Your accent is so thick I can barely understand you."

"Sorry."

"Don't be sorry. I love it. It's sexy."

"Just be careful, okay? Let me know when you get there, even if you have to interrupt me in class or something."

"I will. Just be careful yourself. I'll Skype you too when I get the chance."

I nod and let my fingers trace her face as if it'll help me remember her better. "Come home to me, okay?"

"Always." A one word answer, but in her soft, serious voice, it means everything. She'll come home to me.

So I kiss her. My arms wrap around her back so tightly, I think she might have bruising. Every one of my sensations is filled with her. I want to remember how soft her skin is, the smell of her shampoo, the way her eyes widen when I kiss her. She's beautiful and too good for me. I love her. I don't know how to let her go.

"Bella, I love you." I gasp. "I love you so much. I don't know what I'm going to do with you gone."

"You'll be all right. Just play ESO with Emmett. You'll barely even know I'm gone."

"Never. I'll miss you every minute."

We're quiet for a moment, just drinking each other in before she breaks it. "I've gotta go."

"Yeah. I love you."

"Love you too."

Then she's gone, and I'm left standing in her wake. Why does the world seem so much darker now?

BPOV

I get up to go to the bathroom for the hundredth time. I don't want to pee, but I can't sit still. There're too many things on my brain, I guess. Charlie...Edward, going back home, leaving...home. It hasn't even been that long, but I miss them, my Scottish best friends.

That's ridiculous, isn't it?

I mean, I grew up in Forks. I spent eighteen years of my life in Forks, which is huge compared to the two years I've spent in Scotland, but now...now Scotland is home. It has bike lanes, that corner bakery shop Emmett loves, that little boutique Rose always drags me to. It has the little coffee shop I go to every week to study with Edward. It has Edward, his ridiculously nice parents, who live in a tiny, comfy house and their love. His love. His warmth, his scent, his stupid smartass comments.

I run the back of my hand across my face as I stare at myself in the mirror. I see a tiny, pale, brown-haired girl with mascara and tears running down her face. Her eyes are puffy and red, and her lips quiver.

She looks...frightened and sad.

She looks like she's not ready to face the world to come, because its dangers are far more treacherous than the ones she has learned to deal with. She knows that a loss in this world means that part of her soul will be torn away, leaving her bleeding and alone.

A dry, humorless chuckle rips out of me as I realize the truth of my flowery inner-monologue. The game hasn't even started yet...and I've lost Edward and my home.

Shit. Stop it, Bella. It's not like that.

I wipe my cheeks again, erasing my doubts and alternate universe with it. Edward's not gone...he's just not here, and I'll find him again once I take care of Charlie.

I grab a few napkins and fix my face so it doesn't resemble a clown before returning to my seat. Apparently there is a God because a small bottle of water and a tub of fruit sit on my now-extended tray. I slide into my seat and munch away as I try not to let my mind wander to the fact that pineapples are Edward's favorite fruit.


"OH MY GAWD! Look at you!" Alice squeals before pulling me into a very tight and slightly uncomfortable hug. My hands are trapped at my side, so I can't hug her back. She lets me go after a minute and drags me out of the airport to meet her husband, Jasper, who is waiting by their car.

After the customary hi-nice-to-meet-you and I've-heard-so-much-about-you, Jasper loads my luggage, which is a total of one suitcase (which Alice is still in awe of and peeved about), and I get in the backseat of his Volvo. He seems like a nice guy. I guess. It's quite hard to get a read on him. He's quiet, like dead silent quiet, and unfortunately, something about him puts me on edge. It's the way he moves and speaks sometimes. It's abrupt and slightly cold. I file that away in the ask-Alice-later-as-in-when-we-are-alone box in my head.

But as we make our way to Ali's, one thing becomes very clear. I won't have to worry about Alice at all. It's very obvious Jasper thinks the world of her and will probably take a bullet for her. It's interesting, if nothing else, to see them interact. I've known Alice my entire life, so I can anticipate her every reaction. Somehow, Jasper has also mastered this skill in a few years. If you look close enough, you can almost see him planning out his reaction to her every action. Alice is the same. It's almost like they take turns reassuring the other of something. It's creepy...and fascinating.

This makes me wonder about Jasper's background. I remember Ali telling me that he'd been in Afghanistan for a while. Does that mean his fidgety, abrupt reactions indicate PTSD? It doesn't really matter...until he starts to take it out on Ali. Not that it will happen, but she's been through enough shit already. But I doubt he'll ever hurt a hair on her head, so I force myself to relax. Maybe I'm overreacting, but Ali's my best friend. I don't know what I'll do if something happens to her.

We pull into Ali's house/fairytale cottage, and I snort at the hot pink Bug that's parked in the driveway. I suppose I shouldn't be that surprised. Alice has always known what she wants, and she gets it...no matter how ridiculous it is.

Ali drags me inside as Jasper transfers my suitcase from his Volvo to the Bug. I honestly think Alice missed her calling as a home interior designer. Knowing Alice, though, the place looks like she spent millions on it, and she probably got everything on sale or clearance. Instead, she is taking online and part-time classes to become an accountant while taking care of their baby, Peter. It seems unreal. On one hand, there's me, a twenty-year-old woman working on her psychology major with a boyfriend who is going to become a vet. On the other hand, there's Alice, a twenty-year-old, hyper pixie who's married, has a kid and a house, and a steady job as a receptionist while going to school.

To be honest, I've always thought Alice is secretly a fairy.

This is not to say she doesn't work her ass off, and I suppose the fact that Jasper's a stay-at-home dad helps...and that she has a trust fund the size of Mount Everest. Even then, I know for a fact I wouldn't be able to juggle a million fucking things and come out smiling like she does. My girl is one-of-a-kind.

We sit on a Fanta-orange futon for about twenty minutes and just "catch up" while I resist the urge to steal Jasper's car and drive to the hospital. Apparently, it's been too long since we last talked. I've been way too busy with school, work and Edward. Once the sun has come up to a reasonable height and I've given Peter enough cuddles to last him until I come back to visit, we set out for the hospital in the pink Bug. Did I mention that it has flowers painted on it and bumper stickers that promote world peace? Yeah... I settle further into my seat.

I wanted to go straight to the hospital when I first heard about the news, but Alice had made me promise that I'd come over to her house first. Apparently I have a tendency to "freak the fuck out", and I needed to "chillax" before I gave Charlie a heart attack. As if…

Besides, isn't it normal for a person to freak out a bit when their father, their only living family, gets shot? It shouldn't matter that he's becoming more stable every minute. He still got shot.

I jump out of the car as Alice jerks to a stop in front of the hospital, and the receptionist looks at me once before rattling off my father's room number. I almost forgot what this is like...having everyone know your business. Though Scotland is kind of small, we live in a city. The attitude and atmosphere there is much different than it is in Forks. I squeeze into a full elevator, but no one grumbles because they know. I avoid all eye-contact as the elevator lifts us through the building. Eye contact equals initiation of small talk, something I'm in no mood for. I clasp my palms together and stare at the metal wall above me...until Mrs. Webber smiles at me through the reflections, and I have to avert my eyes again. A ten-second ride should not be this uncomfortable.

I hurriedly trip my way out of the elevator and run down the hall. I've been here so many times I can probably draw the blueprint of the building. Dr. Velthari is standing outside Charlie's door, marking something down, when I turn the corner. He and Charlie grew up together in the area. Charlie stayed while Aro left to attend Harvard University. He'd been beyond ecstatic when Aro returned to Forks with a wife in tow. Saying that Sulpicia and Charlie got along is an understatement. If I remember correctly, it took Cia about one slice of her lasagna to wrap Charlie around her finger and the rest is history...which is why I'm a bit surprised I don't see her anywhere.

"How is he?" I might have yelled from down the hall.

Aro, being the reasonable man he is, waits for me to get closer before leaning in for a hug. "How've you been?" I swat him on the shoulder.

"I'm not important. How's Charlie?"

Aro chuckles. "He's fine just like I said over the phone."

"He's my father. I can hardly be oceans away from him when he's dying."

"He's not dying, Bella."

"He got shot."

"He's the Chief of Police!" Aro whispers, his face incredulous.

I raise an eyebrow at him. "Last time I checked, he's human. Unless you turned him into a vampire while I was gone." It's an on-going joke between us that you'll only understand if you see him. With his jet black hair, white skin, bright red lips and coal-black eyes, he totally looks the part.

He rolls his eyes at me. "You can go see him. Just...try not to trip over anything."

I stick my tongue out at him before slipping into Charlie's room, closing the door behind me. I carefully make my way to his side, trying to keep the hysteria at bay as I process what's in front of me. My rock, my best friend, my savior, my dad...he's so broken. There are tubes and machines everywhere, supporting him, keeping him alive. He's barely breathing. His skin is ashen, his lips chapped. His warm brown eyes are shut close. Aro told me that he woke up a while ago but fell asleep very quickly. I wonder if he'll wake up again. I'm sure he will. They all say he's fine, but seeing him like this, I feel helpless. He looks so fragile. I need to see his eyes.

I need his warmth, his comfort, his protection and support.

He can't die. He just can't. He's my rock. I can never let him go. I slip my palm into his, cringing at the coldness of it as I sit on the bed next to him.

You'll wake up, Dad. You promised me.

EPOV

"Damn it, Eddie. It's my turn on the PS3." Emmett has been complaining for a full hour that I've been playing Skyrim for more than my share, but I'm not listening. I raise my middle finger to him before turning back to the TV screen and cutting some bandit's head off. It's supposed to make me feel better, but it's not doing much good.

I just can't help it. I'm lonely, moody, pissed, and maybe just a little horny. I need my girl home, on the couch next to me, cheering me on and helping me take out Emmett. I sigh and sink further into the cushions.

"Eddie! Come on. You've been on ever since you got back from class. It's my turn."

"Fuck off, Emmett. And stop calling me Eddie. I hate that name."

"Oh, my god. Would you both shut up?!" Rosalie's posh British accent keeps us from continuing. We both know that tone of voice. That's the I'm-about-ten-seconds-away-from-killing-you voice. "Emmett, you have homework you're supposed to be doing. Edward, stop moping around. Bella's been gone for a week. You still talk to her every day, and I'm sure she'll be home soon. Grow up."

Emmett groans, but he knows better than to disagree with his girlfriend. Rosalie has quite a temper, and we both know better than to get in her way. I know we're probably making it hard on her to study and figure I could be a little more considerate. I still can't help flipping Emmett off one more time as he trudges off toward his doom.

I try to get lost again in the world of dragons and monsters, but I find myself distracted. From my position, I'm in the perfect place to watch the table where my friends sit. Emmett keeps flashing these puppy dog eyes at Rose. For a few minutes, she keeps her head down and studiously ignores him. Just like I knew would happen, however, she cracks and grins at him. He mouths, "I love you" at her, and I have to look away.

I miss that. I want Bella to cuddle with and watch a movie or do homework with. I want Bella to sit next to me and yell excitedly while I drop-kick this dragon. I'm lonely, and I want my girl, my best friend, back. Only she's four thousand, five hundred miles away, and I don't know when she's coming back.

I sulk and fight the monsters while trying to not watch the clock. Bella's supposed to be on Skype in five minutes, but the more I watch the clock, the slower time goes.

Finally, the ding rings on my computer, and I almost run back to my room. I'm not even sure that I pause my game, but I don't care by the time I see Bella's singular Hi. I grin like an idiot and settle into the desk chair.

Hey beautiful. Video chat?

Her reply is the little nodding face.

Within three minutes, her face is filling my screen. Her hair is still in a ponytail and draped across her shoulder. Her eyes are dull, and they look tired and heavy. Her lips twist up in a small smile, and for a moment she looks all right. Then I realize that she's exhausted, and I want to cuddle her. I hate that she's having to go through this alone.

"Hello beautiful." I smile and hope that my words will be enough to make up for the fact that I can't hold her.

She manages a smirk as she rests her head in her hands. "I'm not very beautiful right now. You shouldn't lie."

"I didn't lie." I wink, and I feel my heart constrict as a real smile blossoms on her face. "You'll always be beautiful to me, Bella."

"You're too sweet." She tries to sound tough, but the blush that spreads across her face gives her away. "I miss you."

"I miss you too. How's your dad?"

Bella shrugs a little and sighs. My arms ache to reach out and grab her. God damn it. Why is Washington so far away from Edinburgh? "He's doing better. Still going to be in the hospital for a little while, though. Even when he does get home, he's still going to need a lot of help."

She falls silent and stares everywhere but at the screen. I swear she's trying to hide something. There's a knot developing in my stomach, but I try not to let it show. I give her a few minutes before I ask, "What's going through that beautiful mind of yours, love?"

Her bottom lip makes its way between her teeth, and I exhale a shuddering breath. She has no idea how badly I want to do that, and maybe nibble on her ear and down her throat. I shake my head. Now is not the time for those fantasies. I'll have to take care of that later.

"I just..." she finally begins as I'm starting to drive myself crazy. "I want to come home. I want to get back to you and school, and believe it or not, Emmett and Rosalie. I just really miss you, but I have to be here. I mean, I'm not doing anything helpful right now, but he's going home soon, and he's going to need help when he does. It could be months before I make it back."

I try to keep the horror off my face. She could be gone for months? I want to whine like a child. I want her home now. I want her back in my arms and teasing me for something. I understand that she has to help her father, but I want her too.

I also know I have to be the strong one right now. As much as it sucks, I have to tell her it's okay. It might kill me, but that's my job.

"It's all right, Bella." I'm even more horrified when she starts crying. "No, no, love. Don't cry. Please don't cry. I can't handle it when you cry. It'll be okay. You'll come when it's time, and I'll be right here waiting when you do. I'm not going anywhere. I promise."

She brushes away tears and gives me a watery smile. "I know, but I'm not going anywhere either. That's the problem. I want to be with you, and I'm here instead. I'm sorry. I think I'm just tired."

"Maybe you should go get some sleep." I'm not ready to let her go, but she really does look tired. She's told me before, she's not sleeping well.

"I guess I should." She yawns, and her eyes droop. Why is doing the right thing always hard? "I miss you. Love you."

"I love you too. Sweet dreams, love."

Bella stares softly before turning her monitor off. I sigh when her face goes away and lean back in my seat.

What am I going to do about this?

Every cell in my body screams at me to take care of her. It's my job, my duty. I know she can take care of herself, but I want to help her through this. I love her. I have to do something.

The fact remains, though, that she's there, and I'm here. Distance is my enemy. I want her home.

There's that word again—home. We've both been using that a lot lately. Until Bella, my home had been Loirn and the little house I grew up in in The Highlands. It still holds a special place in my heart, but it's not home. Neither is this flat nor Bella's little house. In a moment of clarity, I realize—Bella is home.

It isn't four walls and a roof. It's her sweet smile and sharp wit. It's her giggle and the way she always cheers me on when we we're playing video games. Bella is home.

I also realize this isn't going to change. I love that girl to death. I need her like I need air in my lungs. That isn't going to change, and I don't want to go through the rest of my life waiting on my girl to come back to me.

No. I need to go get her and keep her forever.

A plan is forming in my head as I pull my phone out of my pocket and dial a number.

"Hey, Dad. Have you got time to come down here this week? I need grand-mum's ring."

BPOV

I try not to let my mind wander as I stuff my face with pasta. So what if he's late for our daily Skype call? People are always late to things. He's probably just running behind schedule or something. Maybe he forgot to go to the grocery store again, and he has to go buy food.

Or maybe he ditched you, an ugly bitch that's stationed in the very back of my mind bellows.

Edward will never do that to me.

Uh huh. Men will always be men, Bella. He's probably late 'cause he was too busy fucking some whore's ass.

I growl at the bitch. Fuck you. Shut up!

You're just pissed 'cause I'm right.

I huff and drown out my nagging conscience by blasting 'Lithium' from Charlie's player. I manage to pull together mac n' cheese (from the box) and dump in marinara sauce to be make it edible. I'm usually a better cook than this, I promise. I just have a few things on my mind, so food, right now, is a necessity, not an indulgence.

Charlie is supposed to be released in five days. According to Aro, he's doing extremely well under the circumstances. Everything should go perfectly, and the chief will be healed in no time. Even with the assurance, I can't help but worry. What-ifs cloud my mind if I don't stop them, and my thoughts go on horrible tangents. But I know it won't be like that. I trust Aro with my father's life.

I place the used dishes in the sink, suddenly fatigued. It's a feeling of exhaustion that descends upon you quickly, drags you down until you give up and give in. It's like the entire week's…load jumps on your shoulder without notice. I cover my mouth as I yawn. I decide to take a quick nap on the couch. It's not like I'm going to get any actual sleep. I make myself comfortable, a throw covering my body, the sofa's arm as a pillow, and fall asleep to the pitter-patter of raindrops on my roof.


I jolt awake after a particularly loud thunder clap before realizing that I'm not strolling the clouds with Zeus. I groan a little as I try to go back to sleep. It was such a nice dream...

DING-DONG

That is not thunder. Holy shit. I grab the nearest weapon—my remote control—and stand down. I flinch when I hear the doorbell ring again.

Who the hell would be outside the chief's house at this ungodly hour?

I glance through the peep-hole before swinging my front door open, disbelief overwhelming me. Edward?

My gorgeous, messy-haired, pale-skinned, scruffy boyfriend from Scotland grins at me. "Sure took you long enough."

"Uh—you, um, I...uhmm...what?" Way to go, Swan.

He grins and pulls me into a tight hug. "I've missed ya so much, babe. It's crazy," he whispers against my shoulder.

"You're here. You're really here. How?" I bury my face in the crook of his neck, my arms tight around him. He's here.

He chuckles. "I got a ride here on a dolphin, love."

His silly words only bring more tears to my eyes. I pull back and glance into the green eyes that I've longed for. "I missed you. There wasn't a day I went without thinking about you." I reach up to press my lips against his, to feel him.

"Me neither. I've realized something in the past few days."

"What?"

"You're my home. Somehow, in the past few months, you've become my life. You mean the world to me, Bella Swan...and I don't want to live without my life for another second."

"I...I-uh..." Genius-Bella strikes again.

My saucer-like eyes widen even further as he sinks...to one knee. "Isabella Swan, I promise to love you forever—every single moment of forever. Will you marry me?"

.

.

.

"Bella?" Somewhere in the back of my mind, in the still coherent part of it, I notice Edward moving...frowning.

"WAIT!" I react without thinking. Edward stops, conflicting emotions on his face, but I can see the hurt seeping into his eyes. "Yes."

"Yes?" He stares at me, and I see in his beaming face how important this moment is for him.

"Yes."

EPOV

She's in my arms, filling them in an instant. On her father's front step, I kiss my new fiancée. The world seems so much better than it did just ten seconds ago. She's mine. I'm hers. That in itself is everything.

"What are we going to do?" There's still a smile on her face, but the worry is evident as well. "I mean, you love Scotland, and, for right now at least, my dad needs me here."

"Shhh." I pepper her face in kisses, a little overwhelmed with how much I love her and how unprepared I am to talk about being apart from her. I'll put it off for as long as possible. "We'll figure it out, Bella. I'll leave Scotland if I have to. It doesn't matter. You're home now, Bella. You're my best friend, my other half. It doesn't matter about anything else. I love you, Bella Swan."

"I love you, Edward Cullen."

We stumble our way into the house, talking about everything and nothing. I know we still have hurdles to tackle, but we'll take care of them later. I'm home, and that's all that matters.


Hosts' note: Please support this author with a review! Remember not to hint at the author's identity, should you happen to know it, as this will lead to disqualification.

Thank you for reading! Voting for the contest opens on November 30th.