Welcome to Jin Novels dot com   Click to listen highlighted text! Welcome to Jin Novels dot com

Midnight Sun (27. Deadlock)

Warm, sweeping, glorious, relief, the most powerful emotion that had hit me in days, more forceful than my anger, my agony…my pain, rushed over me. This emotion was so full of an alleviation and ease that all of the anguish and distress was leaving my body as I saw the emotions in Bella's eyes again. At the sight, I realized that I never truly appreciated her beauty. My eyes looked up as I silently prayed to whatever entity that kept her alive, letting them know how devoutly thankful I truly am. Looking back at her, the deep depths, the windows to her soul, continued to move in quick irregular motions as she reached up to pull the oxygen tube from her nose.

"No, you don't." I reached over to stop her hand.

My chin was resting only inches from her face when her eyes finally met mine. She was disorientated.

"Edward?" Her voice was hoarse, drained, like she was fatally wounded. A tiny pucker formed between her brows. She tried to focus on my face. "Oh, Edward, I'm so sorry!"

She was sorry? What did she need to be sorry for?

"Shhhh." I attempted to stop her insanity. "Everything's all right now." I tried to speak bracing words of comfort. She needn't be so anxious with her frail body being in such a broken state.

"What happened?" Her words were slurred slightly, almost like she was drunk.

Memories of the events that happened that fateful morning, which brought her to this place, rushed across my mind. My stomach bubbled with a sickening acid.

"I was almost too late. I could have been too late," I whispered, torment lacing each syllable.

"I was so stupid, Edward. I thought he had my mom."

Of course, she would try to put the blame on herself.

"He tricked us all," I said, trying to ease her mind. She really should be resting.

"I need to call Charlie and my mom," worry was present in her eyes…always worried about someone else, anyone else, but herself.

"Alice called them. Ren��e is here — well, here in the hospital. She's getting something to eat right now."

"She's here?" She tried to sit up, her body swaying slightly. I couldn't let her hurt herself anymore so I lightly pushed her back down onto the pillows.

"She'll be back soon," I promised. "And you need to stay still."

"But what did you tell her?" Her voice was panicked. "Why did you tell her I'm here?" Even in her drugged stupor, she was still trying to protect our secret. Without effort, my love radiated out of me along with the agony that rippled through me at the thought of what actually happened just those two days ago.

"You fell down two flights of stairs and through a window." You were tortured by a vicious vampire and I was nearly too late. "You have to admit, it could happen." I tried to lighten the mood with this small joke.

She sighed at my bad humor and I could see her wince slightly at the pain it caused. Her eyes finally left mine to roam over her broken and mangled body.

"How bad am I?" She asked, curious.

This time I sighed. The damage was extensive.

"You have a broken leg, four broken ribs, some cracks in your skull, bruises covering every inch of your skin, and you've lost a lot of blood. They gave you a few transfusions. I didn't like it — it made you smell all wrong for a while." I took in a deep breath at the luxurious scent that now filled the small room, letting it sting my throat with the pleasurable burning sensation.

"That must have been a nice change for you," she half smiled.

She had it all wrong though. To imagine her without the palatable scent was almost unbearable, like I had drank all the goodness from her body and it was being replaced by some cheap imitation.

"No, I like how you smell."

"How did you do it?" Her voice was strained. I knew what she was asking.

Many memories stirred from that horrible morning. Blood was coming out of her in torrents, flooding the floor. The blood…how did I stop? I remembered the pleasure and the pain that consumed my body at just the mere thought of her warm blood in my mouth, my burning throat with the accompanied obsessive longing finally being quenched. The thought tore at every nerve in my body. The disgust I felt didn't stop me though; I still brought her wrist to my mouth and drank from her. Even when she yanked around in my grasp, thrusting against my hold, screaming, I didn't let go. I didn't even know how I did it.

"I'm not sure," there was the tiniest quiver in my voice.

Gently, I lifted her hand which was wrapped in white gauze, examining it carefully. Along with the ache that seared deep inside me, there was this new indication of what I was. A monster. A creature that should have no part in this angel's life.

Lightly caressing her hand I shivered at this sick souvenir that would always be on her wrist which made my dead heart shatter. The wires that connected her to all the monitors were just another vivid reminder on top of everything else at how fragile and breakable she was. Each passing second felt like borrowed time.

I sighed. "It was impossible… to stop," my voice was low, a whisper. But I did stop; I was able to keep her alive. "Impossible. But I did." My eyes met hers, a smile creeping up my face; a great rush of affection washing over me. "I must love you."

"Don't I taste as good as I smell?" She returned my smile.

The satisfaction…the gratifyingly warm blood in my mouth �C it was beyond delicious. It coursed through my body, sweeter than life.

"Even better — better than I'd imagined."

"I'm sorry," she apologized.

She was…sorry? Again, what was with the apologies? If it wasn't for my stupidity in the first place she wouldn't have even been in the situation to have her blood sucked by me, of all creatures. I looked up to the ceiling in exasperation before returning my gaze to her.

"Of all the things to apologize for."

"What should I apologize for?"

For a moment I was lost in desperate speculation, thoughts consuming my mind momentarily. Only one thing came to mind. "For very nearly taking yourself away from me forever."

If her life had ended that day…I shuddered…I too, would have died.

"I'm sorry," she apologized again.

"I know why you did it. It was still irrational, of course. You should have waited for me, you should have told me."

At this, I realized maybe she didn't trust me as much as I thought. She shouldn't trust me. Because of me, she was here in this hospital bed, for several days, fighting to regain consciousness.

"You wouldn't have let me go," she explained, like I should have known this.

"No," I replied in a stern tone. "I wouldn't."

She shuddered and then slightly winced. My eyes roamed over her to find the culprit of her obvious pain, my nerves being pulled tighter at her discomfort.

"Bella, what's wrong?" I pleaded

She ignored me, wanting more answers.

"What happened to James?"

James, I growled internally; the enemy being brought to the forefront of my mind.

"After I pulled him off you, Emmett and Jasper took care of him," I said with clenched teeth.

Bella needed me, I knew that, but regardless, jealousy still rippled through me at the thought that it wasn't me who got to pull him apart – it wasn't me who burned him.

Her eyebrow furrowed. "I didn't see Emmett and Jasper there."

"They had to leave the room… there was a lot of blood."

Everyone's actions that night caught me off guard; all of them behaving like there was not a single drop of blood spilled in the building. Luckily, we all have no need for oxygen.

"But you stayed," she stated with a deep fervor, her face smoothing.

"Yes, I stayed."

Obviously, I stayed. She needed me…she would have died. Preventing that was most important.

"And Alice, and Carlisle …" she said in conjecture.

Of course they stayed, too. They consider her part of our family.

"They love you, too, you know."

"Did Alice see the tape?" She asked anxiously.

"Yes," I gritted my teeth. I remembered watching the tape through Alice's mind, the things he did to Bella �C the way he taunted me on the video.

"She was always in the dark, that's why she didn't remember," Bella explained, distracting me.

I nodded. "I know. She understands now," I said darkly.

That was all James did; hurt people and their families, only leaving reminders of his presence.

Bella's hand came up to reach for my face, but the IV stopped her from moving far.

"Ugh." She winced.

My head came up from her pillow, concerned. "What is it?" I asked anxiously, the image of James still in my view �C anger still coursing through me.

"Needles," she explained, looking up like she was going to be sick.

She took several deep breaths. Instantly, the anger left my body as humor replaced it. The absurdity of it all �C she was beaten by a vampire, yet this…needle, of all things, makes her sick.

"Afraid of a needle," I muttered under my breath, shaking my head. "Oh, a sadistic vampire, intent on torturing her to death, sure, no problem, she runs off to meet him. An IV, on the other hand…"

She rolled her eyes.

"Why are you here?" She asked.

Instantly, I felt a chill in my stomach. I just stared at her, surveying her face, confusion sweeping over me. Then, it hit me. Maybe she didn't want me here, which is understandable, but it still made my heart ache, my body shriveled in pain. My eyebrows pulled together as a frown replaced my previous amusement.

"Do you want me to leave?" An obvious grimace appearing on my face.

"No!" She protested as loudly as she could. "No, I meant, why does my mother think you're here? I need to have my story straight before she gets back."

"Oh," I breathed, once again, relief burst through me; understanding replacing confusion. She still wants me here! Happiness swelled inside me like a balloon. "I came to Phoenix to talk some sense into you, to convince you to come back to Forks." I fixed my face, like I was trying to convince her myself, proving this lie was convincing. "You agreed to see me, and you drove out to the hotel where I was staying with Carlisle and Alice — of course I was here with parental supervision," I infused innocently, "but you tripped on the stairs on the way to my room and… well, you know the rest. You don't need to remember any details, though; you have a good excuse to be a little muddled about the finer points."

Looking into her eyes I could see her mental processes whirling around before she spoke.

"There are a few flaws with that story. Like no broken windows," she said matter-of-factly.

"Not really," I chuckled lightly under my breath. "Alice had a little bit too much fun fabricating evidence. It's all been taken care of very convincingly — you could probably sue the hotel if you wanted to. You have nothing to worry about," I assured her, caressing her cheek with the lightest of touches, letting her warmth envelope me. "Your only job now is to heal," I ordered.

I continued to trace my fingers around her magnificent face. Her heart began to jump around wildly, the monitor echoing the erratic palpitations.

"That's going to be embarrassing," she muttered.

This could be more amusing than I realized. Now her heart was beating loudly enough for both of us to hear with all of this equipment magnifying it. I chuckled.

"Hmm, I wonder…"

I leaned in, deliberately trying to hear her reaction; the beeping noise hammered quickly along with her heart before my cold lips even reached her warm ones. Her heart continued to beat a little faster as I slowly moved in for the kiss.

Gently, I reminded myself; placing my lips upon hers, sending a spine tingling sensation through me as she lightly moaned in pleasure. Her heart was racing before it gave a huge bound and then it stopped altogether. Panic hit. I pulled back instantly as the light beeping noise started again. Relief, a feeling that seemed to be recurring over and over today, swept over me.

"It seems that I'm going to have to be even more careful with you than usual," I grimaced.

"I was not finished kissing you," she grumbled. "Don't make me come over there."

Affection gushed up inside me and against my careful stature; a smile crept up my face at her obvious love for me. It was amazing that she still yearned to be with me like I craved to be with her. After everything I had done to her she still wished for a proximity that I was still reluctant to give her; I was filled with a trepidation that I would hurt her, break her, kill her somehow. Despite my thoughts, I still bent down to press my lips lightly to hers. The heat crept up my face and down my veins as it brought warmth to my cold heart.

In the hallway, I could hear a discussion being whispered.

"How long will it take before she wakes up?" Ren��e asked the nurse. Soon, please tell me soon!

"It's up to her, Mrs. Dwyer."

"Well, thanks anyways," she sounded defeated. Edward is still in there I bet �C they have had enough time alone. Who knows what those crazy kids were up to before this accident happened.

I pulled out of our kiss.

"I think I hear your mother," I smiled.

"Don't leave me," she cried irrationally.

Terror was obvious in her deep brown eyes. "I won't," I promised solemnly, and then I smiled serenely. "I'll take a nap."

I jumped from the stiff plastic chair by her side to the turquoise artificial-leather recliner

at the foot of her bed, leaning it all the way back, and closing my eyes. I became a statue.

"Don't forget to breathe," she whispered mockingly. Going along with her humor I took a deep breath, my eyes remained closed.

Ren��e's light echoing footsteps moved towards the door before she lightly pressed against it, causing the door to crack open.

She's awake! Ren��e thought excitedly. Her eyes peeked through the space, hoping to sneak a peek at a possible conversation, eavesdropping before she opened the door all the way to rush towards Bella's open eyes.

"Mom!" Bella croaked out, her voice relieved.

Oh, my baby girl, Ren��e's mind was easing slightly. Through her eyes I could see my still form feigning sleep. Ah, he's asleep…but still here. Her annoyed thoughts became verbal. "He never leaves, does he?" she muttered.

"Mom, I'm so glad to see you!" Bella ignored her mom's spoken thought.

Ren��e's expression cleared, her eyes returning to her daughter. Forget Edward…my baby. My beautiful baby girl. She's awake. Tears flowed down Ren��e's cheeks as she bent down to hug Bella awkwardly.

"Bella, I was so upset!" Ren��e spluttered through her tears and other inarticulate sounds. I should have never, ever let her go to Forks. What was I thinking? I'm such a fool.

"I'm sorry, Mom. But everything's fine now, it's okay," Bella tried to reassure her.

She's sorry? I'm sorry! Everything's not okay. Look at her…all the bruises.

At Ren��e's thoughts, my stomach tightened sickeningly with pain. I felt a pang of unease. The bruises…the broken bones…they were my fault, no one else's. Sick images swam in my head and continued to come at me relentlessly. Every part of me ached with my idiocy �C my ignorance �C at what my clandestine existence ultimately brought to Bella. Thoughts of leaving her echoed through my head, but my love continued to pulse in my heart, my inability to leave her growing stronger. The ongoing battle continued to ensue inside me.

"I'm just glad to finally see your eyes open." Ren��e sat down at the end of Bella's bed.

Her eyes are so sparkly. To think that there was a possibility that they could never open again…she grew sick at the thought, letting it trail off to images of coffins and people dressed in black.

Struggling, I tried to push her images from my mind fiercely. My lurking doubts started resurfacing in my mind. I should leave Bella to her life, stop destroying her future.

"How long have they been closed?" Bella gasped, her mouth forming a little O of horror.

"It's Friday, hon, you've been out for a while."

"Friday?" Her voice was full of stunned disbelief.

The two worst days of my life.

I had to agree with Ren��e's thoughts, except they were the worst two days of my entire existence.

"They had to keep you sedated for a while, honey — you've got a lot of injuries."

"I know," Bella winced.

"You're lucky Dr. Cullen was there. He's such a nice man… very young, though. And he

looks more like a model than a doctor…" If I wasn't married…

"You met Carlisle?" Bella interrupted her fantasy.

"And Edward's sister Alice. She's a lovely girl." The whole family is breath taking. What kind of food are they feeing them?

Only if she knew of the consequences of having our beauty and the blood we drink to continue our deplorable existence.

"She is," Bella agreed sincerely, unstinting devotion, love emitting from Bella's eyes in rays of emotion.

Suddenly I was in Ren��e's vision. Wow, she really does feel strongly for this family. But, what about this boy? He seems to be around much more than the rest.

"You didn't tell me you had such good friends in Forks," Ren��e said suspiciously, turning back to Bella but continuing to steal glances of me over her shoulder.

I wonder what their deal is…

Ren��e was busy stealing another glance over her shoulder when Bella moaned in pain. The lamentation of grief reached Ren��e's ears, her eyes quickly found Bella's. So did mine, flashing open as soon as her mom's attention was no longer on me, panic coursing through me.

"What hurts?" she demanded anxiously, voicing my same concerns. Her thoughts were full of a deep motherly concern, one full of love.

"It's fine," she tried to relieve our tension. "I just have to remember not to move."

Her words eased some of my panic. Closing my eyes again, I focused on her through Ren��e's thoughts.

Never again. She's not going back to Forks. Thank god for Phil's contract. She'll be so excited.

"Where's Phil?" Bella blurted out, almost as if she were reading her mother's mind too.

"Florida– oh, Bella! You'll never guess! Just when we were about to leave, the best

news!"

"Phil got signed?" Bella interjected.

"Yes! How did you guess! The Suns, can you believe it?" She can finally move back home!

Deep down I could feel the hollowing of my insides along with the burning of my heart at the thought of Bella moving away, but it was the best thing she could do. She should leave, graduate high school, college…get married and have kids. Not stay with a vampire who could offer her no future.

"That's great, Mom," she replied in a questioning enthusiasm.

I knew what was going to come next. The borrowed time was lessening. Instantly, I became increasingly nervous.

"And you'll like Jacksonville so much," she jabbered while Bella stared at her vacantly. "I was a little bit worried when Phil started talking about Akron, what with the snow and everything, because you know how I hate the cold, but now Jacksonville! It's always sunny, and the humidity really isn't that bad. We found the cutest house, yellow, with white trim, and a porch just like in an old movie, and this huge oak tree, and it's just a few minutes from the ocean, and you'll have your own bathroom –"

"Wait, Mom!" Bella interrupted. "What are you talking about? I'm not going to Florida. I live in Forks."

My heart, my cold, dead, unbeating heart…I swear, it just started beating again. She wanted to stay in a place she hated, and I knew it was because of me.

What? Maybe she doesn't understand. Ren��e smiled. "But you don't have to anymore, silly," she laughed. "Phil will be able to be around so much more now… we've talked about it a lot, and what I'm going to do is trade off on the away games, half the time with you, half the time with him."

"Mom." Bella hesitated for a second. Automatically I tried to hear her mind, the space between us silent as ever before she spoke. "I want to live in Forks. I'm already settled in at school, and I have a couple of girlfriends" — suddenly I was in Ren��e's vision. It's because of him, I know it. — "and Charlie needs me. He's just all alone up there, and he can't cook at all."

I wasn't sure why, but it was clear that she didn't want to go to Florida with Ren��e, and I was all for that plan. Even though it wasn't a good plan.

Forks…Ren��e's thoughts were babbling inarticulately. "You want to stay in Forks?" She spluttered.

Again, I was in her vision, my face tense with the conversation. This boy…Does she love him, too? Still…Forks. Insane.

"Why?"

"I told you — school, Charlie — " she shrugged "ouch!"

Bella �C how do I comfort her? Her hand fluttered uselessly over Bella's body. Her eyes narrowed in on an un-bandaged spot and patted lightly. Seriously, though �C school? Charlie? I don't believe it.

"Bella, honey, you hate Forks," she stated firmly.

"It's not so bad."

Well, that wasn't the response I was hoping for.

Oh, come on. Ren��e scoffed. Again, I saw my face flash in front of her eyes before she turned back to Bella. "Is it this boy?" she whispered.

Bella opened her mouth and then closed it. What was she thinking?

"He's part of it," Bella finally spoke nonchalantly. "So, have you had a chance to talk with Edward?"

"Yes." He's quite mysterious… "And I want to talk to you about that."

How stupid to even consider someone approving of me for their daughter.

"What about?" Her lips pressed together tightly.

"I think that boy is in love with you," Ren��e alleged, keeping her voice low.

"I think so, too."

Despite the situation we were under, I grinned at the memory of our time in the meadow, the first time I confessed my love for her.

"And how do you feel about him?" She was pushing for details, which means Bella will have to lie. I cringed internally at that thought. She was a horrible liar.

A small gush of air swept in and out of Bella's lungs before she spoke. "I'm pretty crazy about him."

This made me happy. I nearly took her life, yet, she was still 'crazy about' me.

"Well, he seems very nice, and, my goodness, he's incredibly good-looking, but you're so young, Bella…" I was hoping that I wouldn't have to have 'the talk' with her until she was older. She sighed. What was I expecting? She is seventeen after all.

"I know that, Mom. Don't worry about it. It's just a crush."

Crush? Just a crush? Her words burned more than my thirst. Deep down I knew she was perpetrating a farce, but still, just like at her house before we left for Phoenix, the words caught me off guard.

Crush…I can handle that. Then it's not too serious after all. "That's right," she agreed.

Then she sighed and glanced guiltily over her shoulder at the big, round clock on the wall above my head. I need to get home…Phil. He'll be worried if I don't answer the phone.

Seeing the time for myself I was disheartened that my time with her was slowly passing by. Sooner than I'd like, I would have to leave her forever. Was I brave enough? Did I have enough will power…enough strength?

"Do you need to go?" Bella interrupted my reverie.

"Phil's supposed to call in a little while… I didn't know you were going to wake up…"

"No problem, Mom." Bella said indifferently. "I won't be alone."

That's right. I'll be here. She was just so soft and vulnerable. It seemed foolhardy to let her out of my sight, where anything could happen to her. And yet, the worst things that could happen to her would result from being with me. Deep down, I wished that she wasn't better off being away from me.

I bet you won't…not with Edward keeping an eye on you. "I'll be back soon. I've been sleeping here, you know."

"Oh, Mom, you don't have to do that! You can sleep at home — I'll never notice." The words were slurred slightly, the drugged stupor still not completely worn off.

"I was too nervous," she admitted sheepishly. "There's been some crime in the neighborhood, and I don't like being there alone." Her eyes darted to the newspaper next to the bed.

"Crime?" Bella asked, thunderstruck.

It was awful. The building was in ruins. Ren��e was picturing the remains of the ballet studio. "Someone broke into that dance studio around the corner from the house and burned it to the ground — there's nothing left at all! And they left a stolen car right out front. Do you remember when you used to dance there, honey?"

"I remember," her voice quivered slightly under – what I would expect to be �C bad memories.

She looks scared. Maybe I should stay here… "I can stay, baby, if you need me."

"No, Mom, I'll be fine. Edward will be with me."

Edward, again. That could also be a good reason to stay. "I'll be back tonight." I hope he heard that. She glanced at me again as she thought it.

"I love you, Mom."

"I love you, too, Bella. Try to be more careful when you walk, honey, I don't want to

lose you." I never realized her clumsiness would come to this though. Seriously �C a coma in the hospital.

I remembered Carlisle looking over Bella's X-ray at the hospital after the van nearly crushed her to death. She had many healed fractures. Trying to suppress laughter, I could stop the grin that spread across my face.

I wonder if that hot boy will be in the room. I heard the nurse's thoughts that checked on Bella yesterday. She came bustling in then to check all of the tubes and wires.

Ren��e watched the nurse for a minute. I better get going. I don't want to miss Phil's phone call. He'll be elated to hear that she is awake finally. She kissed Bella's forehead, patted her gauze-wrapped hand, and left.

The nurse was checking the paper readout on the heart monitor. Hum…I wonder if this is because of him. The nurse pictured my face. He makes my heart do funny things, too. Maybe she is just worried or nervous. I would be if I woke up from a coma, too. "Are you feeling anxious, honey? Your heart rate got a little high there."

After Ren��e left I opened my eyes, watching the nurse interact with Bella, pushing her thoughts from my mind.

"I'm fine," Bella assured the nurse.

I'm sure you are. I'd be fine too if he was at my bed side. "I'll tell your RN that you're awake. She'll be in to see you in a minute."

The nurse turned on her heals and strode quickly out of the room.

It took me less than a second to move to her side, so quickly that she didn't see me move from point A to point B. Instead of her being surprised, her tiny eyebrows rose in humor.

"You stole a car?"

Duh, I wanted to say. Instead I just smiled.

"It was a good car, very fast," I refused to apologize; she didn't seem to mind.

It had to be fast, my only purpose was to get to her as quickly as I could…to save her life before James had the opportunity to take her away from me forever. I was too late, but just in time to barely reverse the effects of the venom that had rushed down her veins.

"How was your nap?" She smirked.

"Interesting."

My mind was wondering, remembering her plea to stay in Forks and her word crush. My eyes narrowed slightly and she noticed the change in my facial features.

"What?"

Honestly, I was happy with her response to stay in Forks, but disappointed all the same because now I had to find the courage to tell her to go, that she would be better off without me in her life. Was I brave enough? Was I that self sacrificing? By the look on her face she had already read too much into my face so I looked down.

"I'm surprised. I thought Florida … and your mother…well; I thought that's what you would want."

The many nights I watched her sleep, as her worries and thoughts were spoken freely, let me know how much she truly cared for her mother. Also, when she talked about Ren��e it was if a parent were talking about a child. Was she just tired of the responsibility of her mother? That was uncharacteristic of her, so probably not the culprit to her reasoning to stay in Forks. The word crush rang through my mind again and so I couldn't be the reason, either.

When I finally looked up she was staring at me uncomprehendingly. "But you'd be stuck inside all day in Florida. You'd only be able to come out at night, just like a real vampire."

A real vampire? What am I, chopped liver? The humor quickly passed. It was time to convince her to go back home…to Florida.

"I would stay in Forks, Bella. Or somewhere like it," I explained." Someplace where I couldn't hurt you anymore."

She stared at me with a blank expression, like she was having trouble processing my words. Was it the drugs? Maybe this conversation should wait until she was more aware and alert. I was just making excuses. Her lips turned down into an unfathomable expression as the monitor magnified her heart beats which were quickly increasing. The beeping nose and the pounding in her chest were reaching a dangerous point, going so fast I was nervous. Her breathing picked up along with her heart. Soon, she was gasping, hyperventilating. Her eyes began to water as her face contorted into a horrible grimace of pain. The soft lines of her face were suddenly sharp and defined. I didn't know what to do, what to say.

That beeping doesn't sound good. I better go check it out. A different nurse came marching into the room. Maybe she had a remedy that I didn't. She looked over the monitors to see that her regular heart beat, and the insane palpitations that were pulsing wildly through her, were not the same. Wow, she looks like she is in a lot of pain. Jeesh, what a tortured face. . "Time for more pain meds, sweetheart?" she asked sweetly, tapping the IV feed.

"No, no," Bella choked out, the pain still clearly in her tone. "I don't need anything."

Of course, she didn't want to seem weak.

"No need to be brave, honey. It's better if you don't get too stressed out; you need to rest." The nurse waited, but she just shook her head.

"Okay," she sighed. "Hit the call button when you're ready."

This better not be his fault or I'm going to kick him out of the room so she can get some rest. The nurse's stare bore into me, like she was trying to burn a hole through my skull before she glanced at the machinery like she was warning me she could hear it. She left the room. I'll be listening.

Ignoring the overly observant nurse I placed my hands on Bella's face to bring her attention back to our conversation. Her eyes were full of moisture, the look in them wild with unease and anxiety. Her heart was still bounding wildly ahead.

"Shhh, Bella, calm down." I tried to soothe her.

"Don't leave me," she begged me, her voice cracking with the pain. Her pupils dilated in terror as her lips trembled uncontrollably.

When she begged like this, how could I deny her anything? All my plans, all my thoughts…every second of deciding to leave her crumbled into little pieces.

"I won't," I promised. "Now relax before I call the nurse back to sedate you."

Still, her heart continued to thunder along, not relaxing one bit to my words. Great, I was going to give her a heart attack. All my efforts to keep her alive and just the mere thought of my absence would send her over the edge. A second was all it took to change everything: the atmosphere in the room, my mission here, the reason I leaned toward the glorious soul in front of me… What had been for one purpose before was now for another. To stay. To keep her alive. To prevent her heart from exploding with the pain that I was feeling too.

"Bella." I lightly brushed her face apprehensively. "I'm not going anywhere. I'll be right here as long as you need me," I promised.

"Do you swear you won't leave me?" She whispered a small splutter of terror. She was gasping for air as her heart continued to beat out of control, her pulse continuing to reach a danger point.

Her reactions robbed me temporarily of breath. It was oddly disembodying trying to understand her fear, because it was me who couldn't live without her. It shouldn't be the other way around. Before the nurse decides to kick me out of the room I had to calm her down. I took her face between my hands. Her warmth crept up my body slowly as I brought my face only inches from hers before whispering to her, "I swear."

Her breath was filling the air between us. It was very appealing, but in this moment I was too worried about her heart and her breathing. Each second the rhythmic motion of her breath and her heart slowed. I refused to let go of her until she had calmed down. When the monitors had quieted I sighed in relief.

"Better?" I asked, surveying her face.

"Yes," she answered, her voice sounded guarded.

Under my breath I began muttering so low she wouldn't hear me. "Beautiful, insane, overly sensitive girl. What an overreaction." I shook my head.

"Why did you say that?" She whispered.

At first, I didn't know if she actually heard what I had muttered.

"Are you tired of having to save me all the time? Do you want me to go away?"

Again, insane. With increasing desperation I tried to explain to her that I did want her, that it would literally kill me if she went away.

"No, I don't want to be without you, Bella, of course not. Be rational," I added sensibly. "And I have no problem with saving you, either — if it weren't for the fact that I was the one putting you in danger… that I'm the reason that you're here."

"Yes, you are the reason," she interjected with a frown. "The reason I'm here –alive."

I had less resolution than ever.

"Barely." I choked out. "Covered in gauze and plaster and hardly able to move." I stared down at her like it would force her to mend.

"I wasn't referring to my most recent near-death experience," her voice was slightly irritated.

Staring at her, I tried to read her eyes. Yes, I saved her in the past, but that had nothing to do with the present. She was still in this hospital bed because of me. The silence tautened and strained.

She finally spoke. "I was thinking of the others — you can take your pick. If it weren't for you, I would be rotting away in the Forks cemetery." Her voice was like an angry drunken titter from all the drugs in her system.

The memories made me wince several times. The van, Port Angeles…my thoughts trailed off, not wanting to think of where she would be if I wasn't there to intercede on her behalf. Then I realized I had already made my decision. I wasn't going to let her leave. If she did I would follow her, even if she was unaware of it. No matter what, I would watch over her, keep her from harm, for as long as I could justify it. Luckily, I don't see how she would ever not need me to keep her safe. I suddenly found myself wishing that her clumsiness would never go away.

I looked at her gauze covered wrist, my original thoughts surfacing. "That's not the worst part, though," I continued, ignoring her previous words of comfort."Not seeing you there on the floor… crumpled and broken." The words caught in my throat. "Not thinking I was too late. Not even hearing you scream in pain — all those unbearable memories that I'll carry with me for the rest of eternity. No, the very worst was feeling… knowing that I couldn't stop. Believing that I was going to kill you myself," my voice tailed away feebly as the memory of her blood in my mouth, swirling sweetly down my throat, surfaced.

"But you didn't," she pointed out.

"I could have. So easily."

Her breath came a little quicker again. Panic was obvious in her eyes. Did she finally understand that she should fear me?

"Promise me," she whispered.

"What?"

"You know what." She gave me an insolent stare. I was wrong; she didn't fear me, just the opposite.

How can I promise to never leave when I know one day I will have to? Not now, though. I can't leave her now when she needs me. Still, I gazed uncertainly towards her, my eyes automatically tightening. A lurking doubt resurfaced in my mind. She's here because of me. This is my fault. If I stay �C this might happen again. I couldn't have that. I could feel the warmth of her pulse in the air and on my skin. Trying to master myself I realized that my time with her was ticking away. Hearing her voice – an extraordinary tonic, I might add – after the two days of complete and utter silence, settled my thoughts.

"I don't seem to be strong enough to stay away from you, so I suppose that you'll get your way… whether it kills you or not," my tone growing more forlorn with each word.

"Good." She stated firmly. "You told me how you stopped… now I want to know why," she demanded.

"Why?" I repeated warily, I hadn't recovered from the shock of the question.

"Why you did it. Why didn't you just let the venom spread? By now I would be just like you."

Her words fell oddly upon my ears and were an unpleasant surprise. Words I didn't expect to hear come out of her mouth. Where did she learn this? In that precise moment it hit me like a bolt of lightning. Alice. A scathing noise escaped my lips as I thought about this. She was a bit sneakier than I realized. But telling Bella about vampire transformations was crossing the line. I couldn't suppress a shiver of loathing. I could feel my nostrils flaring as my lips grew tighter together. I didn't respond, not knowing if Alice really told her, or if it was another one of those legends she read about and was merely guessing how the conversion worked.

Bella broke the silence. "I'll be the first to admit that I have no experience with relationships, but it just seems logical… a man and woman have to be somewhat equal… as in, one of them can't always be swooping in and saving the other one. They have to save each other equally."

It seems her knowledge is not as extensive as I first thought. Of course, in movies and books vampires had to bite their victims to turn them. It was easy for her to deduct these things. Instead of getting angry, I folded my arms on the side of her bed and rested my chin on my arms. Still, I will have to have a…talk…with Alice.

I thought about what Bella said though, about saving each other equally. She doesn't realize how much she has saved me, how she pulled me out of the deepest depression that even Jasper has ever seen. My whole family has fallen in love with Bella merely for what her presence has done for me.

"You have saved me," I said quietly, letting her in on my revelation.

"I can't always be Lois Lane," she insisted, ignoring me. "I want to be Superman, too."

Her statements still had me utterly bewildered. She wanted to be a vampire. Of all things in the world that she could ask for, she asks for the one thing I refuse to give. I was unsure of the best way to approach the subject. Bella, I might kill you in the process and you will burn for three days and beg for death before you finally turn into a vampire who never sleeps and is always aching to quench ones thirst. No, that is too much information.

"You don't know what you're asking." I stared at the edge of her pillowcase, afraid she might see my thoughts displayed across my face.

"I think I do."

"Bella, you don't know. I've had almost ninety years to think about this, and I'm still not sure," I tried not to succumb to the rage I felt bubbling under my skin. Why was she pushing this subject?

"Do you wish that Carlisle hadn't saved you?"

"No, I don't wish that." I used to, but now I realize my fate included Bella, and I would have never met her without Carlisle's rash decision to turn me. "But my life was over. I wasn't giving anything up."

"You are my life. You're the only thing it would hurt me to lose," she admitted, not the least bit embarrassed.

No matter how much she pleaded with me, I would never take her soul. It wasn't up for debate.

"I can't do it, Bella. I won't do that to you."

"Why not?" She croaked. "Don't tell me it's too hard! After today, or I guess it was a few days ago… anyway, after that, it should be nothing."

I glared at her. A positively dangerous look crept across my face.

"And the pain?" I asked, curious.

She flinched, obviously remembering the fire that burned through her veins.

"That's my problem," she said coolly. "I can handle it."

Insane.

"It's possible to take bravery to the point where it becomes insanity."

"It's not an issue. Three days. Big deal."

Shock so huge it rooted me to the spot and roughly burst through me. Three days. This was something that could have only been told by another vampire. It wasn't Jasper, he respects other's wishes. Alice, on the other hand…the very nosy, annoying, short vampire that receives visions, has been pressing the 'turn Bella into a vampire' campaign for a while now. I wonder what vision she is seeing now. It must be flickering, I haven't decided how I am going to get even with her for telling Bella about this. Venom was thundering through my veins.

Enough was enough. I didn't want to flat out tell her no. I wanted her to want to be human. Maybe she needed reminders of why she should stay human.

"Charlie?" I asked curtly. "Ren��e?"

A blank silence greeted my words. She was opening and closing her mouth like words wouldn't form. I waited for her response, but obviously, she didn't have one. Did she finally reach her senses?

"Look, that's not an issue either," she finally muttered an obvious lie.

Apparently she hasn't reached her senses.

"Ren��e has always made the choices that work for her — she'd want me to do the same. And Charlie's resilient; he's used to being on his own. I can't take care of them forever. I have my own life to live."

Was she missing the key words here? If she were to stay human she would have a life to live. If she were a vampire, on the other hand, her life would just become this limitless existence that I refused to make her be a part of.

"Exactly," I snapped. "And I won't end it for you." My careful composure was slipping.

"If you're waiting for me to be on my deathbed, I've got news for you! I was just there!"

Lame justification.

"You're going to recover," I reminded her.

She took a deep breath at my words, returning my stare. There was no compromise in her face, and I wasn't budging either.

"No," Bella said slowly. "I'm not."

Anger vanished, fear replaced it. Was something else wrong with her…like cancer? Was she not telling me something? No, her life couldn't be like one of those sad stories you read about. My forehead automatically creased with worry.

"Of course you are. You may have a scar or two…"

"You're wrong," she insisted. "I'm going to die."

No! She was not going to die, she was going to live. I would fight for her, keep her alive. A sense of hopelessness engulfed me. My mind was lost in a desperate speculation. Panic flared within me.

"Really, Bella." Anxiety broke through my voice. "You'll be out of here in a few days. Two weeks at most."

She glared at me like I was an idiot. "I may not die now… but I'm going to die sometime. Every minute of the day, I get closer. And I'm going to get old."

Relief, glorious relief. I frowned at her as her words finally released the tension that built so suddenly. My fingers found my temples as I began to rub them, trying to soothe my troubled mind, closing my eyes.

"That's how it's supposed to happen. How it should happen. How it would have happened if I didn't exist — and I shouldn't exist."

She snorted. I opened my eyes in surprise.

"That's stupid. That's like going to someone who's just won the lottery, taking their money, and saying, 'Look, let's just go back to how things should be. It's better that way.' And I'm not buying it."

She might have made a point if she used something besides the lottery as an example.

"I'm hardly a lottery prize," I growled, anger returning.

"That's right. You're much better," she pointed out.

I rolled my eyes and my lips grew tight. It doesn't matter what else she says, she's wasting her breath. To take her soul would be the last thing on earth I would do. She will stay human. Even if Alice tries to take a bite I will tackle and kill if I must. "Bella, we're not having this discussion anymore. I refuse to damn you to an eternity of night and that's the end of it." Now stop, I added internally.

"If you think that's the end, then you don't know me very well," she warned me. "You're not the only vampire I know."

I will stop her by any means. "Alice wouldn't dare," I growled aloud.

"Alice already saw it, didn't she?" She guessed. "That's why the things she says upset you. She knows I'm going to be like you… someday."

Dammit! I slipped up. Bella is just too perceptive. I'm going to have to be doubly careful what I say around her, choosing my words more carefully. It's just so hard in a heated argument.

"She's wrong," I barked angrily. "She also saw you dead, but that didn't happen, either."

"You'll never catch me betting against Alice," she retorted.

We glared at each other for several long minutes. The regular intervals of the machines continued into our silence. Bella's heart was weirdly steady considering the heated discussion we just had. She was lying down but her chin till jutted out, her forehead was creased with thought and her lips pursed. My angry expression cleared at her beauty. It was heard to stay upset with such a glorious creature.

"So where does that leave us?" She wondered.

I chuckled darkly. "I believe it's called an impasse."

She sighed. "Ouch," she muttered.

"How are you feeling?" I asked.

My eyes found the button for the nurse. I wanted to bring my original threat back into play if she didn't behave �C sedation.

"I'm fine," she lied, her pain was breaking through the pretense.

"I don't believe you," I said gently.

"I'm not going back to sleep," she argued, refusing to let anyone think she was weak.

"You need rest. All this arguing isn't good for you."

"So give in," she suggested.

"Nice try."

She wasn't behaving. Time for impulsive action. I reached for the button.

"No!" Her eyes saw my hand reach out.

I ignored her.

"Yes?" the speaker on the wall squawked.

"I think we're ready for more pain medication," I said calmly, ignoring her furious expression.

"I'll send in the nurse."

"I won't take it," she said vehemently.

Pills? Doubtful. I looked toward the sack of fluids hanging beside her bed.

"I don't think they're going to ask you to swallow anything," I smiled ruefully.

The thundering of her heart jumped up into a faster face. Looking into her deep eyes I read the irrational fear. She needs rest, and medication will make the pain go away so she can do just that. It isn't like there are going to be sticking her with needles. I sighed in frustration.

"Bella, you're in pain. You need to relax so you can heal. Why are you being so difficult? They're not going to put any more needles in you now."

"I'm not afraid of the needles," she cried out. "I'm afraid to close my eyes."

It was hard to be frustrated at her when she said those words. Jubilation doused my previous anger. I smiled. She was just worried that I wouldn't be here. Hadn't I made it clear that I wasn't going anywhere? Her thoughts were completely irrational. I took her face in between my hands so she had to look at me.

"I told you I'm not going anywhere. Don't be afraid. As long as it makes you happy, I'll be here."

She smiled back. "You're talking about forever, you know."

Then, I remembered her words to Ren��e.

"Oh, you'll get over it — it's just a crush."

She shook her head in disbelief. "I was shocked when Ren��e swallowed that one. I know you know better."

One day she will outgrow me, though. My worst fear, yet I prayed she was right, that she would want me forever.

"That's the beautiful thing about being human," I whispered. "Things change."

Her eyes narrowed. "Don't hold your breath," she retorted.

I laughed. I could hold my breath forever if I had too, though I would never do it for something as stupid as wanting Bella to leave me. The nurse came into the room brandishing a syringe.

Get out of my way. "Excuse me," she said harshly to me.

I got up and crossed to the end of the small room, leaning against the wall. I folded

My arms and waited. Bella kept her eyes on me, still apprehensive. I met her gaze calmly.

"Here you go, honey." The nurse smiled as she injected the medicine into Bella's IV. "You'll feel better now."

"Thanks," Bella mumbled, unenthusiastic. It didn't take long. Bella's head already began to lull from side to side.

"That ought to do it," the nurse muttered as Bella's eyelids drooped.

The nurse promptly left the room, eyeing me suspiciously.

Even though she was obviously losing consciousness I rushed over to Bella to place my hands on her face, to hold her head still.

"Stay." Bella slurred.

"I will," I promised. "Like I said, as long as it makes you happy…" I hesitated, not long enough for Bella to notice. "As long as it's what's best for you," I added to my statement.

"'S not the same thing," she mumbled more inarticulate words.

Watching her trying to beat off the medication was kind of…hilarious. I laughed.

"Don't worry about that now, Bella. You can argue with me when you wake up."

A cheesy grin spread across her face as her eyes became small slits. '"Kay."

I continued to try and suppress laughter. I was very glad Emmett wasn't here, the jokes would never end. Looking down at my now drunken beauty, I brought my lips to her ear.

"I love you," I whispered.

"Me, too."

"I know," I laughed quietly at my joke, remembering her saying that when I finally sucked the venom out of her wrist and told her I loved her.

Again, I tried to suppress laughter as her head lulled sideways, her lips puckering at a funny angle, facing the opposite direction of my face. I shook my head and brought my lips to hers. "Thanks," she sighed.

"Anytime," I chuckled.

She went limp in the bed, but was still struggling to reach reality.

"Ed..war?" she tried to say my name, but it came out all wrong.

"Yes?" I smiled down at her

"I'm betting on Alice," she mumbled, her words clearer this time.

My humor vanished, a frown replaced my smile. This argument was far from over, but no matter what, our deadlock would remain. I kissed her forehead and sat down next to her to hold her hand until she wakes again.

Click to listen highlighted text!