AHHH I'm sorry it's late! I got super drunk yesterday for the first time in over a year with old friends, here it is!

Let me know what you think!

INVITATIONS

In my dream it was very dark, what dim light there was seemed to be radiating from Edward's skin. I couldn't see his face, just his back as he walked away from me, leaving me in the blackness. No matter how fast I ran, I couldn't catch up to him; no matter how loud I called, he never turned.

Troubled, I woke in the middle of the night and couldn't sleep again for what seemed like a very long time. After that, he was in my dreams nearly every night, but always on the periphery, never within reach.

The month that followed the accident was uneasy, tense, and, at first, embarrassing. To my dismay, I found myself the center of attention for the rest of that week. Tyler Crowley was impossible, following me around, obsessed with making amends to me somehow. The constant scrutiny made my skin crawl, and I started bringing my earplugs and tangle, if he kept this up I was going to need a way to de-escalate my sensory load.

I tried to convince him what I wanted more than anything else was for him to forget all about it—especially since nothing had actually happened to me—but he remained insistent. He followed me between classes and sat at our now-crowded cafe table. Mike and Eric were even less friendly toward him than they were to each other, which meant he was probably also joining the fanclub.

No one seemed concerned about Edward, though I explained over and over that he was the hero—how he had pulled me out of the way and had nearly been crushed, too. I tried to be convincing. Jessica, Angela, Mike, Eric, and everyone else always commented that they hadn't even seen him there till the van was pulled away. I wondered to myself why no one else had seen him standing so far away, before he was suddenly, impossibly saving my life. With chagrin, I realized the probable cause—no one else was as aware of Edward as I always was. No one else watched him the way I did. But the scientist in me had perked, and I was desperate to figure out at least...something that explained what I saw.

Edward was never surrounded by crowds of curious bystanders eager for his firsthand account. People avoided him as usual. The Cullens and the Hales stuck together on campus as always, talking only among themselves. None of them, especially Edward, glanced my way anymore. When he sat next to me in class, as far from me as the table would allow, he seemed totally unaware of my presence. And in a lecture, he'd move to the other side of the room, if he showed at all.

Only now and then, when he was put beside me and his fists would suddenly ball up—skin stretched even whiter over the bones—I did wonder if he wasn't quite as oblivious as he appeared. He was regretting his actions that saved me, I couldn't come up with another conclusion. He was probably certain I was going to start some cryptic blog or something, but if he was saving lives...I couldn't think of a reason to go back on my word.

I wanted very much to talk to him, and the day after the accident I tried. The last time I'd seen him, outside the ER, we'd both been so furious. I was still upset that he'd tried to gaslight my memory to keep me quiet, even though I was keeping my part of the bargain flawlessly.

But, overnight, the heat of my anger and confusion faded into awed gratitude. He was already seated when I got to our lab table, looking straight ahead. I sat down, expecting him to turn toward me. He showed no sign that he realized I was there.

"Hello, Edward," I said pleasantly, to show him I was going to behave myself. He turned his head a fraction toward me without meeting my gaze, nodded once, and then looked the other way. And that was the last contact I'd had with him, though he was there, a foot away from me, at least once a week.

I watched him sometimes, unable to stop myself—from a distance, though, in the cafe or courtyards. I watched as his golden eyes grew perceptibly darker day by day. But in class I gave no more notice that he existed than he showed toward me, I was so anxious that I would make a wrong move, say the wrong thing. Constantly boiling conversations and possible attempts at instigating contact in my head with continuous failure.

I was absolutely baffled. And the dreams continued. Despite my outright lies, the tenor of my emails alerted my Mom to my depression and confusion, and she called a few times, worried. I tried to convince her it was just the weather that had me down. I was honestly starting to just accept that this bizarre, impossible man chose to use his impossible time to prevent my death. Unfortunately the mystery still wriggled in the back of my head like a maggot.

Mike, at least, was pleased by the obvious coolness between me and my lab partner. I could see he'd been worried that Edward's daring rescue might have impressed me, given me some kind of hero-worship complex, and he was relieved that it seemed to have the opposite effect. He grew more confident, sitting on the edge of my table to talk before Biology class started, ignoring Edward as completely as he ignored us. His flirting even became obvious enough that I noticed it, and I wondered how many different ways I could say "I'm not interested" before he got the picture.

The snow washed away for good after that one dangerously icy day. Mike was disappointed he'd never gotten to stage his snowball fight, but pleased that the bar crawl would be possible. The rain continued heavily, though, and the days passed. Jessica made me aware of another event looming on the horizon—she called the first Tuesday of October to ask my permission to invite Mike to the massive Halloween party at the Phi-Gamma-Delta Fraternity house in two weeks.

"Are you sure you don't mind… you weren't planning to ask him?" she persisted when I told her I didn't mind in the least.

"No, Jess, I'm happy just hanging out," I assured her. However far dancing, pulsing lights and sound, plus alcohol was outside of my comfort zone.

"Ok, I'm gonna do this, I can ask him!" Her attempt to convince me was halfhearted, I think she was still trying to convince herself.

"You got this Jess, I know you do, any guy would be lucky if you picked him," I encouraged. The next day, I was surprised that Jessica wasn't her usual gushing self in Trig and History, not even a new tweet. She was silent as she walked by my side between classes, and I was afraid to ask her why. If Mike had turned her down, I was the last person she would want to tell. My fears were strengthened during lunch when Jessica sat as far from Mike as possible, chatting animatedly with Eric. Mike was unusually quiet. Mike was still quiet as he walked me to class, the uncomfortable look on his face a bad sign. But he didn't broach the subject until I was in my seat and he was perched on my desk. As always, I was electrically aware of Edward sitting close enough to touch, as distant as if he were merely an invention of my imagination. But today he felt...different. It was like the air around him was vibrating; he was so tense, almost statue still. Mike's voice pulled me from my mental observation.

"So," Mike said, looking at the floor, "Jessica asked me to the Halloween party."

"That's great." I made my voice bright and enthusiastic. "You'll have a lot of fun with Jessica."

"Well…" He floundered as he examined my smile, clearly not happy with my response.

"I told her I had to think about it."

"...Why would you do that?" I let disapproval color my tone, though I was relieved he hadn't given her an absolute no. His face was bright red as he looked down again. Pity shook my resolve.

"I was wondering if… well, if you were gonna be going with anyone." I paused for a moment, hating the wave of guilt that swept through me. But I saw, from the corner of my eye, Edward's head cock slightly in my direction.

"Mike, bro, I think you should tell her yes," I said.

"Did someone already ask you?" Did Edward notice how Mike's eyes flickered in his direction? I'd say yes, because I swore I just heard him growl.

I was starting to panic, thinking about Jessica's face this morning, plus whatever the hell was going on with Mr. Incredible beside me. My brain was absolutely useless when it came to shit like this, and it was taking me longer than it should have to respond.

Come on, do something!

"Uh, yea, I already have a date."

Not THAT you fucking moron!

"What, who?" Mike demanded. I was frantically searching my brain for something to follow that up with.

Edward was frozen again. I glanced to my side, his knuckles were tight again.

"Uh, a friend of mine from Spokane, you don't know him-" I waved it off like it wasn't important, desperate for this entire interaction to end.

"Oh…I mean that's a long drive, are you sure you don't wanna-"

"Sorry, no," I interrupted. "So you shouldn't make Jess wait any longer—it's rude."

"Yeah... you're right," he mumbled, and turned, dejected, to walk back to his seat. I closed my eyes and pressed my fingers to my temples, trying to push the guilt and sympathy out of my head, I hated putting people in the friendzone, I always felt terrible.

Not only that, but now I'd gotten myself into an even bigger mess by lying about having a date. Prof. Banner began the lecture. I sighed and reached into my bag to dig out my tangle. I had just started twirling the soothing plastic around my fingers when I actually looked up, and froze again.

Edward was staring at me curiously, that same, familiar edge of frustration even more distinct now in the inky black. But also... Anxiety? I stared back, surprised, expecting him to look quickly away. But instead he continued to gaze with probing intensity into my eyes. There was no question of me looking away. My hands started to shake.

He finally looked down, and shook his head minutely. I swore I saw a smirk tug at his lip before he turned away, focusing again on the lecture. I looked down at my laptop as soon as his eyes released me, trying to find my place in my notes. Cowardly as ever, I shifted my hair over my right shoulder to hide my face.

I couldn't believe the rush of emotion pulsing through me—just because he'd happened to look at me for the first time in a half-dozen weeks. I couldn't allow him to have this level of influence over me. It was pathetic. More than pathetic, it was unhealthy.

I tried very hard not to be aware of him for the rest of the hour, and, since that was impossible, at least not to let him know that I was aware of him. When the bell rang at last, I turned my back to him to gather my things, expecting him to leave immediately as usual.

"...You really are a terrible liar, you know." His voice shouldn't have been so familiar to me, as if I'd known the sound of it all my life rather than for just a few weeks. I turned slowly, unwillingly. I didn't want to look at his too-perfect face, hearing his small smirk. My expression was wary when I finally turned to him; his expression was curious, but closed. He didn't say anything.

"What? Are you speaking to me again?" I finally asked, an unintentional note of petulance in my voice. I sucked on the inside of my cheek, squeezing my laptop. His lips twitched, fighting a smile.

"No, not really," he admitted. I closed my eyes and inhaled slowly through my nose, aware that I was gritting my teeth. He waited.

"Then what do you want, Edward?" I asked, keeping my eyes closed; it was easier to talk to him coherently that way, and hide the strike of annoyance, or was it rejection? I stuffed my laptop in my bag, zipping it shut.

"I'm sorry." He sounded sincere. "I'm being very rude, I know. But it's better this way, really." I opened my eyes. His face was very serious.

"I don't know what you mean," I said, my voice guarded.

"It's better if we're not friends," he explained. "Trust me." My eyes narrowed. I'd heard that before.

"Sure, okay, like you've trusted me through all of this," I hissed through my teeth. "You could have just let me get squished if it was such a massive deal to keep shit quiet." I kept my voice low, nearly a whisper.

I was having a very shitty morning and he was

not.

Helping.

I almost said something when I watched his eyes, which I realized had lightened from the flat black they had been a moment ago, suddenly once again were inky. Was the light playing tricks on me?

He was astonished. He stared at me in disbelief. When he finally spoke, he almost sounded mad.

"You think I regret saving your life?"

"I can't think of why else you'd be acting like this," I shrugged.

"You don't know anything." He was definitely mad, that growling sound had come back, and I felt a flicker of...something, spike up my back, my hackles raising. But I shook it off, determined not to be made the fool.

"Yeah! That's the problem!" I turned my head sharply away from him, clenching my jaw against all the wild accusations I wanted to hurl at him. I gathered my books together, then stood and walked to the door. I meant to sweep dramatically out of the room, but of course I caught the toe of my boot on the door jamb and dropped my books. I stood there for a moment, thinking about leaving them. Then I sighed and bent to pick them up. He was there; he'd already stacked them into a pile. He handed them to me, his face hard.

"Thank you," I said icily. His eyes narrowed.

"You're welcome," he retorted. I straightened up swiftly, turned away from him again, and stalked off to the Rec building without a second glance.

Jess and Angela had coaxed me into a game of pick up basketball, Angela being sweet enough to explain the rules. Her girlfriend, Becca, was taller than some of the guys and loved playing. Today I was worse than usual because my head was so filled with everything that had happened this morning. First my shit lie, then Edward suddenly finding interest in me again, literally just to tell me that he didn't want to be friends with me. Okay, thanks, I may be autistic but not talking to me for a month made it pretty clear.

I tried to concentrate on my feet, but he kept creeping back into my thoughts just when I really needed my balance. It was a relief to leave for class. Once the day was over I almost ran to the truck; there were just so many people I wanted to avoid. The truck had suffered only minimal damage in the accident. I'd had to replace the taillights, and if I'd had a real paint job, I would have touched that up. Tyler's parents had to sell their van for parts. I almost had a stroke when I rounded the corner and saw a tall, dark figure leaning against the side of my truck. Then I realized it was just Eric. I started walking again.

"Hey, Eric," I called.

"Hi, Bella."

"What's up?" I said as I was unlocking the door. I wasn't paying attention to the uncomfortable edge in his voice, so his next words took me by surprise. "Uh, I was just wondering… if you would go to the Halloween party coming up with me….y'know, like a date?" His voice broke on the last word. "Wait, what? With me?" I was too startled to be diplomatic.

"Well, yeah," he admitted, shamefaced. I recovered my composure and tried to make my smile warm.

"Thank you, uh, but I'm already...going with someone."

"Oh," he mumbled. "Well, maybe next time."

"Sure," I agreed, and then bit my lip. I wouldn't want him to take that too literally. He slouched off, back toward the school. I heard a low chuckle. Edward was walking past the front of my truck, looking straight forward, his lips pressed together.

I yanked the door open and jumped inside, slamming it loudly behind me. I revved the engine deafeningly and reversed out into the aisle. Edward was in his car already, two spaces down, sliding out smoothly in front of me, cutting me off. He stopped there—to wait for his family; I could see the four of them walking this way, but still by the cafeteria.

I considered taking out the rear of his shiny Audi, but there were too many witnesses.

I looked in my rearview mirror. A line was beginning to form. Directly behind me, Tyler Crowley was in his recently acquired used Buick, waving. I was too aggravated to acknowledge him. While I was sitting there, looking everywhere but at the car in front of me, I heard a knock on my passenger side window. I looked over; it was Tyler. I glanced back in my rearview mirror, confused. His car was still running, the door left open. I leaned across the cab to crank the window down. It was stiff. I got it halfway down, then gave up.

"I'm sorry, Tyler, I'm stuck behind Cullen." I was annoyed—obviously the holdup wasn't my fault.

"Oh, I know—I just wanted to ask you something while we're trapped here." He grinned. This could not be happening, three in one goddamn day?

"Would you wanna join me at the Halloween party, or maybe dinner sometime?" he continued.

"I'm going with someone else, Tyler." My voice sounded a little sharp. I had to remember it wasn't his fault that Mike and Eric had already used up my quota of patience for the day.

"I keep my personal schedule pretty full, too."

"Yeah, Mike said that you'd be seeing someone else at the party," he admitted.

"Then why—"

He shrugged. "I was hoping you were just letting him down easy."

So, you have chosen death.

My eyes narrowed.

"Sorry, Tyler," I said, working to hide my irritation. "I really am taken that night."

"That's cool. We still have plenty of parties comin' plus I'll see you at the bar crawl." And before I could respond, he was walking back to his car. I could feel the shock on my face. I looked forward to see Alice, Rosalie, Emmett, and Jasper all sliding into the Audi. In his rearview mirror, Edward's eyes were on me. He was unquestionably shaking with laughter, as if he'd heard every word Tyler had said. My foot itched toward the gas pedal… one little bump wouldn't hurt any of them, just that glossy black paint job.

I revved the engine.

But they were all in, and Edward was speeding away. I drove home slowly, carefully, muttering to myself the whole way. When I got home, I decided to make chicken enchiladas for dinner. It was a long process, and it would keep me busy. While I was simmering the onions and chilies, the phone rang. I was almost afraid to answer it, but it might be Kain or my mom. It was Jessica, and she was jubilant; Mike had caught her after school to accept her invitation. I celebrated with her briefly while I stirred. She had to go, she wanted to call Angela and Lauren to tell them. I suggested—with casual innocence—that Lauren, a standoffish girl who had always ignored me at the lunch table, could ask Tyler; I'd heard he was still available. Jess thought that was a great idea. Now that she was sure of Mike, she actually sounded sincere when she said she felt awesome about going, and was really excited about her costume. I tried to keep her self esteem up, complimenting her ideas. After I hung up, I tried to concentrate on dinner—dicing the chicken especially; I didn't want to take another trip to the emergency room.

But my head was spinning, trying to analyze every word Edward had spoken today. What did he mean, it was better if we weren't friends? Why pipe up for the first time in so long literally just to say that, was it just to make sure I didn't ask him out? My stomach twisted as I considered what he must have meant.

I mean, obviously he was...different, I think. He must see how absorbed I was by him; he must be just trying to make sure I was covering for him. Of course he wasn't interested in me, I thought, I wasn't particularly interesting.

And he was.

Interesting… and infuriating...and mysterious… and a dick…..and beautiful… and possibly able to lift full-sized vans with one hand.

Well, that was fine. Some mysteries didn't need solving, I'd always liked to leave a little magic in the world. That thought made me almost snort, I was notorious for hating vague, unexplained things.

But considering the possibilities of what could be happening…the X-Files theme fell out of my lips before I could stop it, I cringed to myself, shaking my head as though to shake off the idea.

I could leave him alone. I would leave him alone. I would focus on school, get my BA in Bio and Chemistry and find a job somewhere tropical. I focused my thoughts on sunny beaches and palm trees and dead bodies as I finished the enchiladas and put them in the oven.

Kain seemed suspicious when he came home and smelled the green peppers. I couldn't blame him—the closest edible Mexican food was probably in southern California. But he was a guy, even if a pretty twunky guy, so he was brave enough to take the first bite. He seemed to like it, eyebrows raising in surprise and appreciation. It was fun to watch as he slowly began trusting me in the kitchen.

"Kain?" I asked when he was almost done.

"Yeah, Bella?"

"Um, I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to that big Halloween party with the girls at that frat a week from Saturday… if that's okay?" I didn't want to ask permission—it set a bad precedent—but I felt rude, so I tacked it on at the end.

"What, Why?" He sounded surprised, as if he were shocked I'd actually want to go to a party.

"Well, the girls convinced me, and I actually have a costume this year, I thought it might be...fun." I had more money than I was used to having, since, thanks to Kain, I hadn't had to pay for a car. Not that the truck didn't cost me quite a bit in the gas department.

"Are you all going together to stick together? Are you going to watch their drinks?"

"Yes."

"Do you want me to come with you? Oh I'd honestly love to help you with your costume, maybe get you talking to someone cute-" I tried to be crafty as I hid my horror.

"That's all right, Kain, I'm going to spend nearly all night with Angela and Becca."

"Oh, okay." He looked disappointed, sighing with big sad brown eyes.

"Thanks." I smiled at him, ignoring his puppy dog gaze.

The next morning, when I pulled into the parking lot, I deliberately parked as far as possible from the black Audi. I didn't want to put myself in the path of too much temptation and end up owing him a new car. Getting out of the cab, I fumbled with my key and it fell into a puddle at my feet. As I bent to get it, a white hand flashed out and grabbed it before I could. I jerked upright. Edward Cullen was right next to me, leaning casually against my truck.

"How do you do that?" I asked in amazed irritation.

"Do what?" He held my key out as he spoke. As I reached for it, he dropped it into my palm.

"Appear out of thin air."

"Bella, it's not my fault if you are exceptionally unobservant." His voice was quiet as usual—velvet, muted. I scowled at his perfect face and rolled my eyes, brushing past him. So he was bothering me now just to insult me?

"Why the traffic jam last night?" I demanded, still looking away. "And I thought you were supposed to be pretending I don't exist, not finding new ways to insult me.

"That was for Tyler's sake, not mine. I had to give him his chance." He snickered.

"You…" I gasped. I couldn't think of a bad enough word. It felt like the heat of my anger should physically burn him, but he only seemed more amused.

"And I'm not pretending you don't exist," he continued.

"So what exactly are you doing? You save my life, don't talk to me for a month, and then when you do, it's to say you don't want to be friends with me, and that you think I'm an idiot. Why did you save me in the first place if this is all so stressful for you?" His eyes darkened, and he stepped forward. His lips pressed into a hard line, all signs of humor gone. I was confused, normally this kind of behavior from a man would make me nervous, but staring up into his eyes, I only felt that familiar and damnable spike of desire flash up my back. I wanted to challenge him.

"Bella, you are utterly absurd," he said, his low voice cold. My palms tingled—I wanted so badly to hit something. He was lucky there were so many people around.

I watched his eyes on me, narrowing mine, they followed me in an odd way, even when he was angry. Something clicked in my head as I turned from him to stalk back into the building

"Wait," he called. I kept walking, sloshing angrily through the rain. But he was next to me, easily keeping pace. "I'm sorry, that was rude," he said as we walked. I ignored him. "I'm not saying it isn't true," he continued, "but it was rude to say it, anyway."

"Why won't you leave me alone?" I grumbled.

"I wanted to ask you something, but you sidetracked me," he chuckled. He seemed to have recovered his good humor.

"Do you...actually have a date to the halloween party?" He looked like he was fishing.

I turned on my heel to face him, looking up into his face. This felt, distinctly like when Arthur Collins made fun of me in elementary school because he...had a crush on me. "Why?"

"Considering you looked like you were about to have a panic attack when you'd realized you'd said that, I'd wondered if you might need a little help."

I stared up at him silently for a moment, setting my shoulders back and humming, searching his eyes again.

"Okay, Mr. Cullen. What kind of game are you playing exactly? Because I can promise you, you have my attention, but I highly doubt in the way that you want it."

His eyes snapped open wide in shock, blinking at me, all coyness gone from his expression.

"I'm...not playing any games, Ms. Swan." He said it quietly but clearly.

"Then what is it exactly that you want from me?" I responded a little curtly, reaching up to push my hair off of my shoulder. Maybe, just maybe, two could play at this game. Annoying, impossible, asshole-

"Because you very clearly said you did not want to be friends, and now you're following me. What exactly am I missing?"

He stared again, and something seemed to occur to him. Slowly, he took one step closer, leaning over me and looking down into my eyes, casting his shadow over the entirety of me. The spike was bigger now, more intense, and it ended right at the apex of my thighs.

I held my ground, and his gaze.

"It would be more… prudent for you not to...spend too much time with me," he explained.

"But I'm tired of trying to stay away from you, Bella." His eyes were intense and his voice was low. There was something else in his voice that I couldn't place, but that sentence had me reeling, my pulse suddenly racing.

"So? Do you?" he asked, still intense.

"...I don't know how to friendzone guys." I sighed. "No."

He smiled briefly, and then his face became serious.

"You really should stay away from me," he warned. "I'll see you in class." He turned abruptly and walked back the way we'd come.

"What the fuck does that even mean!? Make up your mind!" I yelled after his back, I was...confused but no longer angry. I sighed and muttered under my breath. "Of course I'd be into the edgelord." The plan I'd made last night was officially null and void, and I pinched the bridge of my nose in frustration and anger.

What was with this dude?

Our favorite Edgelord. Bella is starting to notice more about Edward! And call him out on his weirdness.

What do you think is next for these two?