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Story Notes:
One-Shot

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizablecharacters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Theoriginal characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is inno way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any mediafranchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Twilighted Beta; shabbyapple

Author's Chapter Notes:
I have no idea where all this angst came from, but I'm going to bet that it has something to do with the fact that I have never in my life been so invested in a fictional character's mortality (read: if Edward doesn't bite her, I'm going to repeatedly punch the nearest soft object).

Not revelation-‘tis-that waits

But our unfurnished eyes

-Emily Dickinson

 

She waits for an epiphany.

 

Lying in the cool grass, staring at the clouds and the growing glow of the moon, she tries desperately to open her mind to revelation.

 

Surely, the fact that she will die in a few short hours is reason enough for some sort of breakthrough, a profound insight into the meaning of life, the purpose of things.

 

She closes her eyes.

 

Nothing.

 

Opens them again.

 

Still nothing.

 

She puts her arm beneath her head; perhaps a casual, relaxed position might be more conducive to thoughts of a deeper nature.

 

Still nothing. Just him.

 

Her thoughts can go no deeper than the topaz pools in his eyes.

 

As if on cue, she feels his lips brush her ear.

 

“I wonder if I will ever truly know what you’re thinking.”

 

She feels his smile as he nuzzles her neck, but she knows without looking that this smile does not reach his eyes.

 

He has been silent for most of the day, brooding over what he can only refer to as “her decision” and the action it will soon—too soon—require him to take. He has tried to hide his struggle from her, smiling whenever her eyes catch his, but he must look away when her eyebrows knit together, refusing to accept his pretenses.

 

She always did know him better than anyone else.

 

It was her idea to come to the meadow. She found him while he was hiding in the kitchen (a silly place to hide, now that he thinks about it, as he could have no real excuse for being there). He held onto her arms as they snaked around his waist and could only nod his head when she asked to watch the stars come out.

 

But he knows better, too, and though she is at present staring at the sky, her eyes are not searching for constellations.

 

She is giving him the chance to say goodbye.

 

She turns to look at him and is surprised to find him already watching her. He can’t help but notice how much she has changed since the wedding—and its subsequent events. She seems older. She always seemed older, of course, but now there is a strange new confidence in her face, as if she’s hiding a secret that nobody else in the world knows.

 

Except for him.

 

She decides that she can not look at him when she speaks. She doesn’t trust herself to with stand the torment his eyes have been unable to hide, the fear of her impending suffering and the regret he’s so sure will follow. Watching him try to mask his aversion is worse than knowing it’s still there.

 

“Are you afraid?”

 

He chooses not to look at her when he responds, attempting to shield her from the fear he knows he is terrible at hiding—his last,pathetic attempt to protect her from something, anything.

 

“Yes.”

 

“I don’t want you to be afraid.”

 

It escapes neither of them that these very same words were spoken in this very same place, though the roles have decidedly changed since then.

 

Now he is the frightened lamb, taking shelter in the arms of the woman who in the past few weeks has become his lioness: the proud,unyielding caretaker.

 

He shudders. In three days she will have eyes and teeth to match.

 

He takes her hand and brings it to his mouth, tracing her knuckles with his lips. She caresses his cheek, rubbing her thumb beneath his beautiful, troubled eyes. He turns his head to kiss her palm, but stops when hesees the silvery crescent-shaped scar seared into her skin so very long ago.

 

She watches him look at her scar, watches his face turn from recollection to disgust to fear—his old friend as of late. She frowns at his reaction and brings his eyes to her own.

 

“I love this scar.”

 

He blinks at her in surprise before gaining his usual pretentious bearings.

 

“Of all the scars you’ve accumulated in your lifetime, your favorite is the one you received from a monster’s teeth tearing your flesh?”

 

“Yes, it is.”

 

“Don’t be absurd, Bella.”

 

He turns his head away from her, partly in an effort to end the conversation, but mostly because he can not allow himself to look into the only eyes that see right through him. All he wants—all he has ever wanted—is for her to be happy, and he knows his acceptance would make her happiest.

 

But he can not give it. And he cannot bear to see her disappointment.

 

Her tiny fingers dig into his icy skin and she again forceshis eyes back to hers. He could turn away if he really wanted to, of course,but he is too exhausted from fighting the war within himself to begin yet another battle with her.

 

He stares into the brown pools he has already burned into his memory, and marvels at their newfound ferocity. He can’t remember a time when she looked so determined, and he adds this expression to the list of things he will miss when she is no longer the soft, warm creature lying next to him.

 

When she speaks, she tries to sound gentle.

 

“Do you want to know why it’s my favorite?”

 

She wants him to say “yes,” and he does. He can never deny her anything.

 

Obviously.

 

“After it happened and we were in the hospital, you couldn’t believe that you had the strength to pull away, that your desire to keep mesafe was greater than your thirst for my blood.

 

You said you must really love me.”

 

He nods. It’s the only thing he seems capable of doing in her presence.

 

“I wish you could have seen your face when you said it. So many times I had heard you say those words, every time better than the last,but this one was different. It wasn’t the first time you told me you loved me,but it was the first time you said it without hating yourself for it.

 

For that one moment, you believed in yourself as much as I had always believed in you.”

 

She sees his face fall before is lips curve upward.

 

“I’m not sure I can trust your recounting of that memory. As I recall, you had quite a bit of demerol in your system.”

 

His smile grows at the memory of her sweet, lazy kisses, but stops when he also remembers the I.V. cords peeking out from the hospital bedand puncturing her skin, the cast encasing her leg: Bella suffering because of him, his actions, his selfishness. And before he can stop it, the hospital bed has a wrought iron frame and silk sheets and she is writhing in pain—more pain than she will ever know—and it is his own cursed fault all over again.

 

He closes his eyes to keep the guilt from brimming over.

 

“Edward, when you left--”

 

He winces.

 

“Stop it” she says, and her voice is not nearly as gentle asher hands as they find their way to the back of his neck.

 

“When you left, I would stare at this scar, sometimes without even realizing I was doing it. At the time, I think I was just trying to remind myself that you had ever existed at all, but now I realize it was somuch more than that. This scar was a mark, a brand that meant I was forevertied to you, that you would always protect me, that somehow, I would live because of you.

 

It still is.”

 

“But this is not protecting you, Bella. This is killing you.”

 

She waits in silence, knowing precisely what he will saynext.

 

“What if you hate me?”

 

And there they are. Since they arrived, she has been waiting for these, the words that in the past few weeks, she has heard more often than“I love you.” It’s not his fault, really; he tries to ask her when he thinks she isn’t listening. He waits until she’s sleeping and asks her over and over again, pausing only to heave dry sobs against her skin.

 

But he only thinks she’s sleeping.

 

She combs his hair with her fingers and brings her lips to his ear, whispering

 

“I love you Edward Cullen, and I will never regret you making me yours forever.”

 

She has now said these words one hundred and twenty two times in three days.

 

Taking responsibility for their role in “her decision,” the rest of the family has tried every conceivable way to help Edward through it.Emmett challenged Edward to daily wrestling matches “to distract him” until one too many Tiffany lamps were destroyed; Rosalie has been noticeably less scary with several moments bordering on nice; Esme offered encouragement through hugsand reassuring glances, Carlisle through strategically placed vampire lore books with examples of precedent marked by tiny post-its; Jasper radiated asoothing calm throughout the house for 72 consecutive hours until Edward threatened to demolish his civil war chess set; and Alice took a less obvious approach,silently sharing visions that Edward keeps all to himself.

 

But Bella tries to convince him the only way she knows how.

 

She says it again. Perhaps the one hundred and twenty third time will help him to finally understand.

 

“I love you Edward Cullen, and I will never regret you making me yours forever.”

 

He refuses to look at her.

 

But she was never one for giving in easily…or subtlety, for that matter.

 

She climbs on top of his chest, wraps her arms around his face and nuzzles his nose with her own.

 

He closes his eyes. Again.

 

One hundred and twenty four.

 

“I love you Edward Cullen, and I will never regret you making me yours forever.”

 

She whispers the words over and over again, a quiet prayer repeated against his lips so many times she loses count.

 

She’s certain he’s not listening anymore.

 

But she’s wrong.

 

As she speaks, he tightens his hold around her and tries desperately to find the response that will comfort her, that will tell her he is fine now, that he is at peace with “her decision.” But he cannot. He made a promise that the hateful day in the forest would be the last time he ever lied to her.

 

And because he cannot lie, he does not speak.

 

Eventually, she is silent. She moves her face from his and places her ear over his heart. If she is quiet and still and reminds herself that his fear is borne only out of his love, she can almost hear it beating.

 

They lie there beneath new stars, and Bella is finally contentin her inability to have an epiphany.

 

This time, she doesn’t need one. And when she really thinks about it, she’s had enough for a lifetime.

 

Even one that lasts forever.

 

 

 

 

Hours later, after their bodies and fluids have mingled with the softest sheets she has ever felt, she lies beneath him, the fabric sticking to the sweat on her skin, and she knows that the next time she sees the silkycloth, it will be covered in her own blood.

 

This time it is he who is curled up with his head on her heartbeat, and he has never been more thankful that he can’t produce the tears that would surely give him away.

 

He shakes without realizing it, stopping only when he feels her warm hand tangle in his hair.

 

“It’s time, Edward.”

 

She does not want to push him, but she knows he will never do it without her help. Tonight, she must be stronger than he has ever been.

 

He does not want to do it.

 

He can’t do it.

 

But he will. Because he loves her, and because he promised he would do anything to make her happy.

 

Even this.

 

Even if she hates him for it.

 

He looks up at her angelic face, but still cannot bring himself to meet her gaze, He tries to distract her, to delay the inevitable by kissing her lips, her eyes, her breasts.

 

She cannot deny him this last warm embrace, but she said the same thing about the last one, and the one before that, and the one before that, and though she will never doubt his love for her again, she wonders how he will be able to look at her when her eyes are crimson, then topaz, and neveragain the warm brown he can barely stand to look at now. She must resign herself to the possibility that he will never see her the way he used to.

 

And this is unacceptable.

 

His lips find her neck and she gasps--

 

“I was wrong.”

 

His body recoils as her words reverberate throughout the room, and his thoughts move faster than he ever could.

 

She changed her mind.

 

He cries out as the joy he feels for her change of heart is replaced by a new fear, one that runs deeper than anything he has ever felt,even in the last few weeks, even in his entire life. One by one, Alice’s visions of their immortal life together disappear, giving way to visions he has never seen before.

 

A porcelain Bella, smiling because she is finally graceful enough to dance with her husband is replaced by a paper-skinned woman in a hospital bed whom Edward wouldn’t recognize were it not for the fact that he sees himself lying beside her.

 

Topaz pools winking at him from beneath her fifth graduation cap become the familiar brown eyes of her senior portrait as it stares at him from atop her casket.

 

A bouquet of freesias from another wedding day falls from her hand to his as he stands alone in front of her ancient tombstone, 200 years older and cursing himself for having to keep the last promise he could make to her.

 

No!

Yes. He deserves this. His wretched existence should continue for an eternity with the knowledge that he could only see how right forever would be at the very moment she wrenched it away from him. .

Stop it, Edward!

 

He shakes his head and clenches his eyes shut, desperate to hold on to the memories they will never create. If she is going to change her mind, he should at least be allowed to revel in what might have been.

Look at her!

 

Alice’s voice finally pulls him from his nightmare and he gasps for unneeded air as his frantic eyes look down at Bella, her tear-stained face making him all the more certain of her new decision.

 

Her hand finds his cheek and he awaits the refusal he will not deny her.

 

“I was wrong when I said this scar was my favorite.”

 

He blinks, wide-eyed and confused.

 

She takes her hand from his face and, moving her mahogany hair aside, places it on her neck, her fingers drifting over her pulse point.

 

“This one is.”

 

Her eyes blaze, and her steady heartbeat tells him she is not afraid.

 

She is his. She is ready.

 

And she has never looked more beautiful.

 

He grabs her and feverishly kisses her warm lips, crying out again as the visions return: the hospital room is a ballroom again; the vacant gaze of the portrait becomes the real, smiling girl who will be young forever;and the white bouquet returns to the hand of his beautiful bride as her lips say “I do” one more time. He is swept away into a waterfall of memories already made and those yet to come, and he lets himself drown in them, in her, and the miracle of their happy neverending.

 

And he laughs when he realizes why the visions of her death were so strange to him.

 

Because it was never going to happen.

 

Because it was always supposed to be just like this.

 

His joyous fingers leave bruises in their wake, but she allows it. She cries again, and not because he is as close as he has ever beento breaking her, but because she still believes his rough touch is nothing more than his desperate refusal to relinquish her humanity.

 

She’s wrong, of course.

 

But this isn’t the first time.

 

He slows his assault as her stifled whimpers grow louder.His lips whisper apologies in her ear, but he comforts himself with the fact that this time, her bruises will heal quickly.

 

His hands grow soft as they slide up her body to finally settle on either side of her face.

 

And now, because he isn’t lying, he can finally give her the happiness that she, that he—that both of them—deserve.

 

He looks into her eyes, and it’s like the first time all over again, but better. So much better.

 

And he speaks.

 

“It’s my favorite, too, Bella.”

 

Her breath catches. She knows an epiphany when she sees one.

 

“Do you promise?”

 

“I promise.”

 

And he means it. He always does.

 

So she smiles.

 

Even as his teeth sink into her flesh and the fire ignites.

 

 

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