"So are you and Edward doing anything fun this weekend," my mother tried to sound casual over the phone, but I could hear the curiosity burning behind her words.

"Actually, I'm spending some quality time with Charlie this weekend, since it's his birthday on Sunday, " I pivoted, hoping to evade the line of questioning that would certainly lead to much more awkward inquiries.

Renée gasped, "It is, isn't it? Isn't it my job to be reminding you of these things?" She chuckled self-deprecatingly. "You're going to make such a great mom someday. A very long time from now!" she hastily qualified. "I'm much too young to be a grandma!"

I was glad, for once, that Edward wasn't here to overhear this conversation. If he had, it would almost certainly have brought about another round of brooding and self-loathing. Edward hated that he could never give me children.

To be honest, I had never really given much thought to having kids until it had become an impossibility. If an eternity with Edward meant that motherhood wasn't in the cards for me, then that was a fate that I would gleefully and gratefully accept, without regret. He would always be enough for me. And, as I reminded him whenever the subject infrequently came up, we could always "adopt" as Carlisle and Esme had. The reminder didn't do much to assuage his guilt.

I sighed, exasperated. "Mother, I'm hanging up now."

"Spoken like a true teenager! I should talk to you about sex more often!" Renée teased. "Bye, baby. Love you. Talk soon."

"Bye, Mom. Love you, too."

As I ended the call, the barest of breezes passed through my room, and I knew that when I turned to face the window, Edward would be there. It was 7:30, and as was our routine, I had just finished dinner with Charlie, cleaned up the kitchen, and retired to my room to "finish homework." Charlie had gone back to the station on "on official police duty."

On a Friday night, that usually meant a poker game with his deputies; however, not before quietly disabling my truck, which I might've been mad about if it weren't for the fact that Edward snuck into my room every night.

"Look what the bat dragged in," I beamed at him.

Needing to be closer to my otherworldly angel, I took the two steps toward him and closed the distance. As if acting of their own accord, my arms reached up to encircle the stone column of his neck. He returned my embrace, burying his face in my hair and inhaling deeply.

Edward sighed, content. "It never gets any easier being away from you."

"Change me already, and then you'll never have to," I retorted. Not sure exactly why I was pushing his buttons already, but sometimes he made it too easy, and my inner bratty 18-year old couldn't resist.

"Don't start with that," he growled. "Not before you've even kissed me hello." Edward kissed me once, twice, and had my heart racing wildly in my chest for an uncharacteristically long and languid third kiss. For once, I was the one to pull away so I could catch my breath.

"So can I 'start with that' after I've kissed you hello?" I smiled mischievously and quirked an eyebrow at him.

Edward glared at me darkly. "If you are going to continue to provoke me, there are other things I could be doing right now you know." He turned his body back toward the window.

I threw my arms around his waist as if my frail human arms could somehow stop him if he were determined to go. "No! Don't leave. I'll be good. I promise!"

His eyes softened at something he heard in my voice. "Of course I'll stay, love. I didn't mean it. Wild horses couldn't drag me away from you."

The atmosphere in the room changed, and I immediately regretted all my earlier snark for the anxious look that now twisted his beautiful face.

"Not ever again," Edward amended with a tortured whisper. He kissed me softly on the forehead and stroked my arms that still clung to his waist.

Feeling like a complete jerk for instigating the angst, I went into damage control mode. Without releasing my hold on him, I tilted my head upward to look at him and rested my chin on his granite chest.

"Hey now, none of that! You're forgiven. We don't have to go there. I get it. You left me to protect me. You left me because you love me, not because you didn't. It would've been a perfectly noble thing to do for somebody less mental than me." I rolled my eyes at my own weakness.

After a short pause, I said, "If you think about it, it kinda makes us even."

"Explain that, please," he asked tersely, probably wishing for the millionth time that he could read my mind.

"Well, when I gave Alice and Jasper the slip at the airport and went to face James alone," Edward scowled at the memory but didn't interrupt, "well, my plan was about as ill-conceived and nearly-fatal as your decision to leave me was. So, all in all, I'd say we're even!" I smiled up at him, trying to convey all of the unconditional love I felt for him.

Edward considered that. Taking my face between his wintry hands, he lightly grazed my cheekbones with the pads of his thumbs.

"I think we had it backward before, love. I'm one stupid lion, and you are a very masochistic little lamb," he mused quietly and kissed the tip of my nose. His deliciously sweet breath whirled in my face, dazzling me.

"At the risk of infuriating myself any further tonight, and only since we're talking about it now, may I ask you one more question about that time? It's something I've always wondered about...and then we can move on to more pleasant topics."

His request took me by surprise. What could it possibly be that he didn't already know?

"Um, sure" I braced myself.

"The day you went...cliff-diving," he began. His golden eyes pierced mine; his hands held my face in an iron grip that kept me from looking away. "I must've watched Alice's vision play a million times in my mind with perfect recall. I guess you could say I was punishing myself," Edward admitted ruefully.

"Edward!" I shrieked, appalled, I couldn't fathom Edward being in so much pain. It hurt too much to think about.

He held up a finger, stopping me from admonishing him for the cruelty that he had shown himself.

"Let me get this out, please, or I may never have the courage to ask you again. The day you jumped, nowhere in Alice's vision did I see you bring a towel or a change of clothes to the beach. Didn't you plan on getting out of the water, Bella? Why didn't you have a towel?" Edward's voice cracked, his eyes desperately searching mine.

The breath I didn't know I'd been holding whooshed out of my chest.

"I don't really have a great answer to that. It all happened so fast, and I wasn't exactly in a healthy state of mind. I can tell you that I definitely wasn't planning to kill myself. But I wasn't really thinking about what would come after that, either. I was just so focused on hearing you again, on feeling like you cared about me, even if it was just a delusion… As dumb as it sounds, I really just didn't think it through."

If Edward could have cried, he would have. His angel face crumpled and his hands dropped to my shoulders.

"Didn't think it through," he repeated incredulously. He looked like he wanted to shake me. "Of all the things to-"

"You don't get to kill yourself over me if I don't get to kill myself over you, Edward, so just zip it!" I spat, crossing my arms over my chest defensively.

Edward's arms fell to his sides, his fists clenched. A dozen emotions flitted across his face before he barked out a hard laugh. "You are utterly absurd, my Bella. Let's just call it a moot point. I'm never going to leave you again so there will never be another reason for all the Shakespearean tragedy."

"Sounds like a plan to me" I replied amicably, relieved that he seemed to have recovered his good humor. I stood on tiptoe for a kiss and he obliged, though it was over too fast.

Edward cleared his throat.

"So, what do you feel like doing this weekend, love? There's a music festival in Port Angeles that we could check out or-"

"Actually," I interrupted, not sure how to broach the idea, "would you mind very much if I asked for a human..weekend? It's Charlie's birthday on Sunday, and I think he'd like to spend some time with me without feeling like a third wheel, not that he'd ever say it."

It was a half-truth, but my best chance at not being caught in a lie.

My request brought Edward up short. I was always the one needing more time with him, not asking for less. He was quiet for a long moment, his brow creased.

"Of course not, love. But-" He was struggling for words, a rare occurrence for him.

"But?" I prodded.

"But...this isn't your roundabout way of asking me for space, is it? I know you'd never want to hurt my feelings, so if-"

"NO!" I cried out, aghast. "No space! It's nothing like that," I assured him emphatically. I was hoping I wouldn't need to give him any other reasons for needing the weekend to myself because the reason that would come next would upset him.

"It's just..it's not like I have all the time in the world to make memories with him, ya know?" I asked as gently as I could. It was a card that I hoped I wouldn't have to play because it hit below the belt. Edward could never say no to me wanting to have normal human experiences, and I very much counted on that.

He looked relieved, but that relief was quickly replaced by anxiety.

"Well, I'm relieved it's not that you don't want me around," he laughed humorlessly while brushing a lock of hair behind my ear, "but I hate that that's why you want to spend time with him. You're barely starting out in life! You shouldn't be planning the end of it like your days are numbered!" His fists were clenched at his sides again.

I sighed. This was not going well. And now I was second-guessing my rationale for not telling him the real reason that I didn't think it was a good idea that I saw him this weekend. Because of pie. Yes, that's right: pie.

The blackberry bushes in the yard were ripe for the picking, and I wanted to make Charlie's favorite triple berry pie as a surprise for his birthday. The problem with that was that blackberry bushes meant thorns, and thorns meant blood.

After everything Edward and I had already been through, there was no doubt in my mind that he would never hurt me (at least not physically-my inner trauma snarked). I knew that with every fiber of my being. All the same, I saw no reason to make him uncomfortable.

But if I told him as much, he'd probably have another one of his guilt-fests about how 'Human girls shouldn't have life and death concerns about going berry-picking with their fiancé, Bella!' his imagined voice thundered in my head. 'This is just another example of how very wrong I am for you.'

If I was being brutally honest with myself, I lied because I didn't need to give him any more reasons to leave me again. I wouldn't give him any more reasons to leave me again.