I made my way to my English class in a daze. I didn't even realize when I first walked in that class had already started.
"Thank you for joining us, Miss Swan," Prof. Mason said in a disparaging tone.
I flushed and hurried to my seat to yank out my laptop, trying to ignore the other eyes in the lecture hall.
It wasn't till class ended that I realized Mike wasn't sitting in his usual seat next to me. I felt a twinge of guilt. But he and Eric both met me at the door as usual, so I figured I wasn't totally unforgiven.
Mike seemed to become more himself as we walked, gaining enthusiasm as he talked about the weather report for this weekend. The rain was supposed to take a minor break, and so maybe his bar crawl would be possible. I tried to sound eager, to make up for disappointing him yesterday. It was hard; rain or no rain, it would still only be in the high forties, if we were lucky.
The rest of the morning passed in a blur. It was difficult to believe that I hadn't just imagined what Edward had said, and the way his eyes had looked. Maybe it was just a very convincing dream that I'd confused with reality. I was still reeling at this hot and cold game he seemed to be playing.
So I was impatient and frightened as Jessica and I walked across Campus to the Commissary. I wanted to see his face, to see if he'd gone back to the cold, indifferent person I'd known for the last several weeks. Or if I'd really heard what I thought I'd heard this morning. Jessica babbled on and on about her costume plans — Lauren had asked the other boy and they were all going together —completely unaware of my inattention.
"Edward Cullen is staring at you again," Jessica said, finally breaking through my abstraction with his name.
My head snapped up. I followed her gaze to see Edward, smiling crookedly, staring at me. He was leaning against the wall beside the entrance to the building, and he stood straight as he saw me. Once he'd caught my eye, he raised one hand and motioned with his index finger for me to join him. As I stared in disbelief, he winked.
"Does he mean you?" Jessica asked with obvious astonishment in her voice.
"Maybe he needs help with his Bio lab..," I muttered for her benefit, just as shocked.
I could feel her staring after me as I walked towards him, readjusting my bag on my shoulder.
"Uh...hey?" I tried, cocking an eyebrow at him, confused about his seemingly sparkling mood.
"Would you want to grab coffee with me? since I know when your next class is." He asked, smiling.
I blinked, waiting for the punchline.
His smile dropped.
"Oh, I thought you would be between classes for a while, am I wrong?" His brow furrowed a little, and I noted with utter confusion that his eyes were once again, sunflower gold.
"Oh, uh I am…" I glanced back at Jessica, and made a face when I saw Angela and Becca beside her now too, the three of them staring at me like wildlife observers. Angela narrowed her eyes at me, and I had a feeling if I didn't agree she'd do it for me.
"Yeah, sure, let's grab coffee." I shrugged, a little nervous. I tried not to mumble, tugging on my necklace.
His smile returned with gusto.
"C'mon, I have a great place in mind, we can walk there."
He stepped forward in the proper direction, leading me forward. I glanced back at the girls one more time, utterly confused. I could swear, out of the corner of my eye, I saw him look back at someone too.
He walked beside me, leading us along the rain darkened sidewalk. The wet brown and red leaves that built up along the edges of the grass and buildings gave off a musty if not familiar smell, and the sounds of cars and people around us milling between lecture halls and the coffee cart filled the space I wasn't sure how to.
He was still smiling. Perhaps this wasn't a trap?
He seemed to be waiting for me to say something.
"This is different," I finally managed.
"Well…" He paused, and then the rest of the words followed in a rush.
"I decided as long as I was going to hell, I might as well do it thoroughly."
I waited for him to say something that made sense. The seconds ticked by and the moment was filled by the sounds of our boots softly padding along the wet pavement.
"You know I don't have any idea what you're talking about," I eventually pointed out.
"I know." He smiled again, and then he changed the subject. "I think your friends are angry with me for stealing you."
"They're probably more confused than anything, I'm sure they'll live." I already felt the buzzing of my phone in my pocket.
"I may not give you back, though," he said with a wicked glint in his eyes.
My thighs clenched, I swallowed dryly.
He laughed. "You look worried."
"No," I said, but, ridiculously, my voice broke. "Surprised, actually… what brought all this on?"
"I told you — I got tired of trying to stay away from you. So I'm giving up." He was still smiling, but his ocher eyes were serious.
"Giving up?" I repeated in confusion.
"Yes — giving up trying to be good. I'm just going to do what I want now, and let the chips fall where they may." His smile faltered slightly, a hard edge to the way he looked at me that had my hair standing on end. However, I couldn't identify if it was fear or...arousal.
"So it's...bad...to be going for coffee? Are you skipping a class or something? I'm lost." I could have sworn he also had off around this time of the day, I always saw him in the commissary around this time with at least a couple of his siblings. He looked at me in surprise for just a moment before he sighed and laughed.
"Honestly, I'm pretty lost myself. I keep mentioning too much."
"Uh...Don't worry — I don't understand any of it," I said wryly.
"I'm counting on that."
We approached a busy, warm looking coffee house. The soft golden light of the inside spilling out onto the wet cement and greenery around it was an interesting contrast to the otherwise grey light of the day.
He walked up to the front door, pushing it open with a jingle of a small bell and holding it for me.
The inside was stylish and modern, White simple shapes complimented by natural wooden textures in light walnut and shelves of plants and soft looking cushions. Geometric construction of the shelving on the outside walls made them art pieces as well as functional, and hanging, industrial style white pendant lights in different complementary shapes gave off that warm, low incandescent light.
The smell of the coffee was rich and inviting, and I could also smell fresh baked goods underneath it, making my mouth water.
"This place is so cool!" I gushed before I could stop myself, bouncing and shaking my hands up and down happily. I froze, grabbing my right hand with my left to prevent the overzealous stim, feeling ice go down my back knowing he saw me. I glanced at him, and was a little relieved. He was smiling at me still, but not in a teasing way. His eyes were warm and,...delighted.
"I'm glad you approve. It's a favorite study spot of mine, would you like something to eat too? I swear it's my treat."
I narrowed my eyes at him, adjusting my bag.
"Nah, I can get my own stuff, I'd be buying my own lunch anyway. C'mon."
We walked to the counter, and I got myself a warm Pain au Chocolat and a macchiato. Edward only got a small cup of black coffee, but the guy behind the counter struck up familiar conversation as he rung him up.
He nodded to me then, and his lips were still in an easy smile.
"I have a favorite spot in here, in the back." I followed him to a small, cozy looking nook against the back corner. It was framed by several potted ferns that made up almost a wall between it and the other seats in the cafe. It felt very private, safe and warm.
I sat down across from him, sipping my macchiato as he sipped his coffee, setting my bag beside me.
"Okay...So, in plain English, are we...friends now?"
"Friends…" he mused, dubious.
"Or not…?," I muttered, frustrated.
He grinned. "Well, we can try, I suppose. But I'm warning you now that I'm not a good friend for you."
Behind his smile, the warning was real.
"You say that a lot," I noted, trying to ignore the sudden trembling in my stomach and keep my voice even.
"Yes, because you're not listening to me. I'm still waiting for you to believe it. If you're smart, you'll avoid me."
"I think you've made your opinion on the subject of my intellect clear, too, sir." I muttered, My eyes narrowed.
He grinned, and my hackles raised again.
"So, you are tired of being good, which means you want to be my friend. And if I want to be your friend, I'm not smart?" I struggled to sum up the confusing exchange.
"That sounds about right."
I looked down at my hands wrapped around my coffee cup, not sure what to do now.
"What are you thinking?" he asked curiously.
I looked up into his deep gold eyes, became befuddled, and, as usual, blurted out the truth.
"I'm trying to figure out what you are. What you want from me."
His jaw tightened, but he kept his smile in place with some effort.
"Are you having any luck with that?" he asked in an offhand tone.
"Not too much," I admitted.
He chuckled. "What are your theories?"
I flushed. I had been vacillating during the last month between aliens and mutants. There was no way I was going to own up to that.
"Won't you tell me?" he asked, tilting his head to one side with a shockingly tempting smile.
I shook my head. "Too embarrassing."
"That's really frustrating, you know," he complained.
"No," I disagreed quickly, my eyes narrowing, "I can't imagine why that would be frustrating at all —just because someone refuses to tell you what they're thinking, even if all the while they're making cryptic, edgy little remarks specifically designed to keep you up at night. Now, why would that be frustrating?"
"Or better," I continued, the pent-up annoyance flowing freely now, "say that person also did a wide range of bizarre things — from saving your life under impossible circumstances one day to treating you like a pariah the next, and he never explained any of that, either, even after he promised. That, also, would be very non-frustrating."
"You've got a bit of a temper, don't you?"
"I don't like it when people aren't clear with their intentions."
We stared at each other, unsmiling.
He glanced over my shoulder, and then, unexpectedly, he snickered.
"Your friends followed us, it seems they think I'm being unpleasant to you — Angela is debating whether or not to come break up our fight." He snickered again.
I swung to look behind me, seeing three familiar heads duck down in a booth at the front of the cafe. I rolled my eyes at them, but felt a pang of love at their protectiveness. I sighed and turned back around to face him, cocking my eyebrow.
"I don't know who you're talking about," I said frostily. "But I'm sure you're wrong, anyway."
"I'm not. I told you, most people are easy to read."
"Except me, of course."
"Yes. Except for you." His mood shifted suddenly; his eyes turned brooding. "I wonder why that is."
I had to look away from the intensity of his stare. I concentrated on pulling off a small piece of my croissant, taking a bite while staring at the table without seeing it.
"Aren't you hungry?" he asked, distracted.
"No." I didn't feel like mentioning that my stomach was already full of butterflies. "You?" I looked at the empty table in front of him.
"No, I'm not hungry." I didn't understand his expression — it looked like he was enjoying some private joke.
"Can you do me a favor?" I asked after a second of hesitation.
He was suddenly wary. "That depends on what you want."
"It's not much," I assured him.
He waited, guarded but curious.
"I just wondered… if you could warn me beforehand the next time you decide to ignore me for my own good. Just so I know it's not something...I did." I looked at my drink as I spoke, tracing the circle of the opening with my pinkie finger. "I'm still incredibly confused about what's happening now."
"That sounds fair." He was pressing his lips together when I looked up.
"Then can I have one answer in return?" he demanded.
"Tell me one theory."
Whoops. "Not that one."
"You didn't qualify, you just promised one answer," he reminded me.
"And you've broken promises yourself," I reminded him back.
"Just one theory — I won't laugh."
"Yes, you will." I was positive about that.
He looked down, and then glanced up at me through his long black lashes, his ocher eyes scorching.
"Please?" he breathed, leaning toward me.
I blinked, my mind going blank. Holy fuck, how did he do that?
"Er, what?" I asked, dazed.
"Please tell me just one little theory." His eyes still smoldered at me.
"Um, well...are you guys...aliens?" Was he a hypnotist, too? Or was I just a hopeless pushover?
"That's not very creative," he scoffed.
"I'm sorry, that's all I've got," I said, miffed.
"You're not even close," he teased.
"No space ship?"
"And no probing?" I waggled my brow at him, trying to contain a smirk.
"None." He laughed back, rolling his eyes at my immaturity.
"I'll have to call Mulder back." I snarked.
"Tinfoil doesn't bother me, either," he chuckled.
"You're not supposed to laugh, remember?"
He struggled to compose his face.
"I'll figure it out eventually," I warned him.
"I wish you wouldn't try." He was serious again.
"...What if I'm...not necessarily here in peace?" He smiled playfully, but his eyes were impenetrable.
"Oh," I said, as several things he'd hinted fell suddenly into place. "...I see."
"Do you?" His face was abruptly severe, as if he were afraid that he'd accidentally said too much.
"You're...dangerous?" I guessed, my pulse quickening as I intuitively realized the truth of my own words.
He was dangerous. He'd been trying to tell me that all along. Nice intuition there Swan.
He just looked at me, eyes full of some emotion I couldn't understand at first, until I recognized it.
"But not bad," I whispered, shaking my head. "No, I don't believe that you're bad."
"You're wrong." His voice was almost inaudible. He looked down, stealing one of the pennies I'd dropped on the table with the rest of my change and then spinning it on its side between his fingers. I stared at him, wondering why I didn't feel afraid. He meant what he was saying — that was obvious. But I just felt frustrated, on edge… and, more than anything else, fascinated. The same way I always felt when I was near him.
The silence lasted until I noticed the time.
I jumped to my feet. "We're going to be late."
He looked at his own watch.
"Not if we move now, come on." He dropped the previous conversation quickly, and stood with me, shrugging on his bag. I noticed his coffee had barely been touched as he tossed it in the trash on our way out.
I also threw a glance to the girls, who were still pretending to not be caught, hiding their faces in their hair and looking in every direction but us.
I was going to be interrogated later.
I followed beside him in silence, jogging a little to keep up as we headed to the Laboratory building where our Bio class was meeting today.
I'd been looking forward to this for weeks, and I wasn't going to let Edward Cullen and his weird vibes make me not enjoy it. We were starting a multiple week long study of human cadavers, dissecting and examining them from the inside out. We both parted ways to change into scrubs and mask up, the class meeting inside the incandescent and sterile looking lab room. The chill made my arms spike up with goosebumps, but I couldn't help my eager smile behind my mask as I saw the blue bags laid on long lab tables.
Professor Banner came into the room then, calling the class to order. He held boxes of scalpels and other tools, a TA helping him arrange them onto silver trays and telling him to start passing them around the class.
"Alright, groups of three everyone, and I would remind you to treat the cadavers we have received with the utmost respect. Their donations to science are unparalleled."
I wasn't really focused on who joined my team as I stepped up to one of the tables, but perked when I heard Mike's voice.
"Ah, hey Cullen." The way his voice sneered Edwards surname actually made me bristle a bit.
"Newton." Edward responded, and I swore I could feel electricity between them as they stared one another down. Once again, I heard the oddest growling sound, barely audible, curling from Edward's chest.
"...And Swan." I snarked, breaking them out of their staring contest. "Are you two going to act like adults?" They both had the decency to look a little sheepish, men and their competitive bullshit.
"Alright, we're going to walk through the dissection together, go ahead and unzip the bags." The professor began leading us through the process of opening the bodies, describing the different tissues and tools. Carefully, Edward had taken on the role of opening the rib cage, using a pair of large bolt clippers and snapping each rib at the proper spot to remove the sternum and the center of the ribcage.
It was the first time he wasn't distracting me.
Through the entire process, he had been holding himself close to me, far closer than usual. His hands would brush against mine, his hip against my arm, his hand touching my elbow. Each time, even though these things were no more than a brush, I felt a wild thrill pulse through me. I was hyper aware of my body and his, and I was actually having a hard time concentrating. My heart was hammering in my chest, and my breathing picked up. I could feel the heat of my own face.
Edward reached in, and carefully lifted the large piece of bone, revealing the internal organs. Our donor had been a fit man, very little subcutaneous fat surrounded his organs, he had passed due to a brain hemorrhage according to his documents, something I glanced at as the professor continued.
"I would like you each to document and weigh the organs as you remove them, we will begin with the neck and lungs, start with the trachea, note the thyroid and surrounding cardiac structures."
"Ladies first?" Mike gave me a strange smile, and it took me a moment to realize he was being flirtatious as he offered me a scalpel. I immediately felt a little awkward, dazed as I was by Edward simply existing beside me. I heard the growl again. But it cut off when I cocked my head towards the sound. Edwards' eyes were once again, changed. Jet black set off his pale skin and, without thinking, I reached out just slightly to touch his gloved fingers with my own.
I first thought he'd flinched away, but glancing at him, he seemed to have actually calmed slightly. The tension that had been vibrating off of him just seconds before had dimmed substantially. But, most noticeably…
His eyes were gold again, and they were looking at me.
It took me another second to realize I hadn't responded to Mike, and I snapped my attention back to his, a curl coming loose from my bun and blowing into my face a little.
"Oh, thank you Mike…" I stammered and carefully took the scalpel. Mike's face seemed whiter, in fact, his whole demeanor had changed. He was anxious now, almost...frightened?
I shook off all these weird little feelings to focus on my task, following along with the professor's instructions as I delicately removed the trachea and bronchial tubes, feeling a flush of joy as I did so quite neatly and successfully. I moved to weigh the organ as instructed, and added it to my notes. Everything else fell away as I became engrossed by my task, just bubbling with excitement that I was lucky enough to be a part of this.
I had always been interested in the human body and all of its functions and systems. I'd been teased as a kid for wanting to know more about how the heart valves and aorta worked than I did the latest cool T.V. show or Disney movie. But right now, I was in my element, and I was entirely focused on the biological marvel in front of me.
We each carefully and quietly removed each organ one by one, noting any discrepancies or oddities down as we saw them, I had carefully laid the stomach out onto a separate small steel table, preparing to empty the stomach contents into a clear glass beaker.
"Ow!" I jolted in surprise at the sound of Mike's cry and subsequent swearing. My eyes fell to where he gripped his hand, and my stomach heaved.
He clutched his wrist, his glove cut open at his palm and heavy, thick red dripped down and pooled underneath the latex. I was frozen, my ears beginning to ring as I vaguely registered Mike running to a sink to run the wound under water. A small commotion surrounding our table.
"Bella, are you all right?" Edward asked. His voice was close to my head, and it sounded alarmed.
"I...I think I need to sit down…" My own voice sounded far away, and I felt myself sway, and the world tilted on its axis.
The next thing I knew, there was yelling, and I was slumped into something hard and fabric covered, my stomach still turning circles inside me.
"Can someone take Bella to the medic, please?" I think that was Banner, but the room was spinning too much for me to tell what was going on.
"Bella?" a different voice called from just above my head.
No! Please let me be imagining that horribly familiar voice. I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to die. Or, at the very least, not to throw up. Oh god please don't fucking throw up.
Mike seemed stressed. "Bella I'm so sorry!"
"Bella." Edward's voice was right beside me. "Can you hear me?"
"No," I groaned. "Go away."
"I'll take her," Edward said. I could hear the smile still in his voice.
"No," Mike protested. "I can do it, I'm going anyway-"
Suddenly the floor disappeared from beneath my feet. My eyes flew open in shock. Edward had scooped me up in his arms, as easily as if I weighed ten pounds instead of a hundred and forty-five.
"Put me down!" Please, please let me not vomit on him. He was walking before I was finished talking.
"Hey!" Mike called, already ten paces behind us.
Edward ignored him. "You look awful," he told me, grinning.
"Put me down!" I moaned. The rocking movement of his walk was not helping. He held me away from his body, gingerly, supporting all my weight with just his arms — it didn't seem to bother him.
"So you faint at the sight of blood?" he asked. This seemed to entertain him.
I didn't answer. I closed my eyes again and fought the nausea with all my strength, clamping my lips together.
"And not even your own blood, guess this explains the Pathology choice." he continued, enjoying himself.
"Only flowing blood." I grumbled, trying not to think about it. I don't know how he opened the door while carrying me, but it was suddenly chilly, so I knew we were outside. I groaned at him, letting my woozy head slump into his shoulder in defeat, closing my eyes. I'd never been carried like this, hell I didn't realize I could be carried like this.
This close to him, I could smell his cologne, at least I thought it was. Lavender, soap, and something so delicately sweet I could have sworn I imagined it. A rumbling had started in his chest, and I remembered I'd heard this before, after the car accident. It almost sounded like...a purr.
Inhuman. A little voice in the back of my head reminded me. I shoved it back.
The sound and smell and sensation soothed me like magic, my whole body relaxing in his arms and my stomach settling. He opened the door to another building carefully, and I lifted my head as the warm air blasted me.
"Oh my," I heard a female voice gasp.
I opened my eyes. The grandmotherly nurse looked up from a novel, astonished, as Edward swung me into the room and placed me gently on the crackly paper that covered the brown vinyl mattress on one of the open cots. Then he moved to stand against the wall beside the bed. His eyes were bright, excited.
"She's just a little faint," he reassured the startled nurse. "The guy coming in cut himself in our dissection lab, she seems to dislike the sight of blood."
The nurse nodded sagely. "There's always one."
He muffled a snicker.
"Just lie down for a minute, honey; it'll pass."
"I know," I sighed. The nausea was already mostly faded.
"Does this happen a lot?" she asked.
"Sometimes," I admitted. Edward coughed to hide another laugh.
"You can go back to class now," she told him.
"I'm supposed to stay with her." He said this with such assured authority that — even though she pursed her lips — the nurse didn't argue it further.
"I'll go get you some ice for your forehead, dear," she said to me, and then bustled out of the room.
"You scared me for a minute there," he admitted after a pause. His tone made it sound like he was confessing a humiliating weakness. "I thought you were going to collapse and crack your head open again."
"Ha ha." I still had my eyes closed, but I was feeling more normal every minute.
"Honestly — I've seen corpses with better color. I was concerned that I might have to avenge your death."
"Poor Mike. Has he made it in yet? That cut looked bad."
"He should be here soon," Edward said cheerfully.
"Did I fall into you? I blacked out for a second." I was almost fine now, though the queasiness would probably pass faster if I'd eaten something more than a croissant for lunch. On the other hand, maybe it was lucky my stomach was empty.
"You just tipped over a bit, I caught you."
I heard the door and opened my eyes to see the nurse with a cold compress in her hand.
"Here you go, dear." She laid it across my forehead. "You're looking better," she added.
"I think I'm fine," I said, sitting up. Just a little ringing in my ears, no spinning. The mint green walls stayed where they should.
I could see she was about to make me lie back down, but the door opened just then, another student nurse stuck her head in.
"We've got a bleeder," she warned.
I hopped down to free up the cot, and then Mike slumped through the door, a rag wrapped tightly around his wounded hand, another student, Lee I think, escorted him.
"Oh no," Edward muttered. "Go out to the entrance, Bella."
I spun and caught the door before it closed, darting out of the infirmary. I could feel Edward right behind me.
"You actually listened to me." He was stunned.
"I smelled the blood," I said, wrinkling my nose.
"People can't smell blood," he contradicted.
"Well, I can — that's what makes me sick. It smells like rust… and salt."
He was staring at me with an unfathomable expression.
"What?" I asked.
"You should stay sitting at least, you're still looking rather pale." He goaded, and I growled, but agreed, sitting in one of the 90's print polyester chairs that lined the waiting room. We waited a bit, until I heard a door open to the side of us.
Mike came through, glancing from me to Edward. The look he gave Edward was loathsome, and I saw Edward hide a grin behind his hand. Mike looked back at me, his eyes glum.
"You look better," he accused.
"Just keep your hand in your pocket," I warned him again.
"It's not bleeding anymore," he muttered. "Are you going back to class?"
"Are you kidding? I'd just have to turn around and come back. My stomach can't handle any more today."
"Yeah, I guess…" While he spoke, he flashed another glare toward Edward, who was standing against the cluttered counter, motionless as a sculpture, staring off into space.
"See you," I replied. He looked at me once more, his round face slightly pouting, and then as he walked slowly through the door, his shoulders slumped. A swell of sympathy washed over me. I pondered seeing his disappointed face again, then going to my Entomology class after that, grimacing at the idea of dealing with maggots after all that, my stomach doing a flip.
"Ugh, I still have Entomology after this…"
"I can take care of that." I hadn't noticed Edward moving to my side, but he spoke now in my ear. "Go sit down and look pale," he muttered.
That wasn't a challenge, my recent swoon had left a light sheen of sweat on my face. I sat in one of the creaky folding chairs and rested my head against the wall with my eyes closed.
Fainting spells always exhausted me. I heard Edward speaking softly at the counter.
"Yes?" I hadn't heard her return to her desk.
"Bella has a later class today, and I don't think she feels well enough. Actually, I was thinking I should take her home now. Could you contact her professor so she receives an excused absence? It's Entomology at 6:30." His voice was like melting honey. I could imagine how much more overwhelming his eyes would be.
"Do you need to be excused, too?" The nurse fluttered. Why couldn't I do that?
"No, I have Professor Goff, she won't mind."
"Okay, it's all taken care of. You feel better." she called to me. I nodded weakly, hamming it up just a bit.
"Can you walk, or do you want me to carry you again?" With his back to the nurse, his expression became sarcastic.
I stood carefully, and I was still fine. He held the door for me, his smile polite but his eyes mocking. I walked out into the cold, fine mist that had just begun to fall. It felt nice — the first time I'd enjoyed the constant moisture falling out of the sky — as it washed my face clean of the sticky perspiration.
"Thanks," I said as he followed me out. "The idea of cutting up maggots right now does not sit well."
"Anytime." He was staring straight forward, squinting into the rain.
"I'm bummed I'll miss the dissections, but after that I know my stomach will be weak.."
"Let's you and I not push poor Mike any further this week. We don't want him to snap." His eyes danced; he was enjoying the idea more than he should. "He absolutely loathes me after that."
"You can't know that." I muttered, preoccupied by the way he'd said "you and I." I liked it more than I should. We went back to the Biology building and changed out of our scrubs, I looked sadly back at our class door, sad I would be missing the rest of this week's dissection, but it wouldn't do me much good if I spent it unconscious.
We were near the parking lot now. I veered left, toward my truck. Something caught my jacket, yanking me back.
"Where do you think you're going?" he asked, outraged. He was gripping a fistful of my jacket in one hand. I was confused.
"I'm going home."
"Didn't you hear me promise to take you safely home? Do you think I'm going to let you drive in your condition?" His voice was still indignant.
"What condition? And what about my truck?" I complained.
"I'll have Alice drop it off after her last class." He was towing me toward his car now, pulling me by my jacket. It was all I could do to keep from falling backward. He'd probably just drag me along anyway if I did.
"Let go!" I insisted. He ignored me. I staggered along sideways across the wet sidewalk until we reached the Audi. Then he finally freed me — I stumbled against the passenger door.
"You are so pushy!" I grumbled.
"It's open," was all he responded. He got in the driver's side.
"I am perfectly capable of driving myself home!" I stood by the car, fuming. It was raining harder now, and I'd never put my hood up, so my hair was dripping down my back.
He lowered the automatic window and leaned toward me across the seat. "Get in, Bella."
I didn't answer. I was mentally calculating my chances of reaching the truck before he could catch me. I had to admit, they weren't good.
"I'll just drag you back," he threatened, guessing my plan.
I tried to maintain what dignity I could as I got into his car. I wasn't very successful — I looked like a half-drowned cat and my boots squeaked.
"This is completely unnecessary," I said stiffly.
He didn't answer. He fiddled with the controls, turning the heater up and the music down. As he pulled out of the parking lot, I was preparing to give him the silent treatment — my face in full pout mode — but then I recognized the music playing, and my curiosity got the better of my intentions.
"Clair de Lune?" I asked, surprised.
"You know Debussy?" He sounded surprised, too.
"Not well," I admitted. "My mother plays a lot of classical music around the house — I only know my favorites."
"It's one of my favorites, too." He stared out through the rain, lost in thought.
I listened to the music, relaxing against the light gray leather seat. It was impossible not to respond to the familiar, soothing melody. The rain blurred everything outside the window into gray and green smudges. I began to realize we were driving very fast; the car moved so steadily, so evenly, though, I didn't feel the speed. Only the town flashing by gave it away.
"What is your mother like?" he asked me suddenly.
I glanced over to see him studying me with curious eyes.
"She looks a lot like me, but she's prettier," I said. He raised his eyebrows. "I have too much of my dad in me. She's more outgoing than I am, and braver. She's really determined and slightly eccentric, and she's a very unpredictable cook. She's my best friend." I stopped. Talking about her was making me depressed.
"How old are you, Bella?" His voice sounded frustrated for some reason I couldn't imagine. He'd stopped the car, and I realized we were at the apartment already. The rain was so heavy that I could barely see the building at all. It was like the car was submerged under a river.
"I'm twenty-one," I responded, a little confused.
"You don't seem twenty-one."
His tone was reproachful; it made me laugh.
"What?" he asked, curious again.
"My mom always says I was born thirty-five years old and that I get more middle-aged every year." I laughed, and then sighed. "Well, someone had to be the adult between my brother and I, with Cass out and my mom and dad at work." I sighed.
"Kain was always finding trouble. He never meant to, but he got dealt a pretty rough hand. Being the gay, chubby black kid." My blood boiled at the memories.
"Did he get into a lot of fights?" He asked, and I barked a little humorless laugh.
"Nah, I did. Kain's too soft to fight back."
He looked at me in surprise. I grinned.
"I was quite the discipline problem growing up. No one was allowed to take a swing at my brother, or they'd answer to me. I made sure that was a threat worth listening to." I growled, sniffing.
"You are incredibly protective of those you love, hm."
"Some would say recklessly so. But he's doing much better now, disregarding his taste in boyfriends." I laughed. "He has a thing for fuck-boys. But I don't get involved if I can help it, he can fight those battles."
"What, praytell is a "fuck-boy"?" Edward laughed, raising an eyebrow at me. I was surprised he'd never heard the term. I struggled for a definition.
"Like, those douchey, bad-boy, only looking for sex types. Usually emotionally unavailable and a little narcissistic."
"Ah, I see. And you just...let him?" I raised an eyebrow at him.
"You think I could stop him?" I paused for a second. "You know you don't seem much like a junior in college yourself," I noted.
He made a face and changed the subject.
"I wonder," he mused.
"Would he extend the same courtesy to you, do you think? No matter who your choice was?" He was suddenly intent, his eyes searching mine.
"I-I think so," I stuttered. "But, it's a little bit different. He's protective of me in those ways too, I guess."
"No one too scary then," he teased.
I grinned in response. "What do you mean by scary? Body mods, or some wild Frat boy?"
"That's a couple definitions, I suppose."
"What's your definition?"
But he ignored my question and asked me another. "Do you think that I could be scary?" He raised one eyebrow, and the faint trace of a smile lightened his face.
I thought for a moment, wondering whether the truth or a lie would go over better. I decided to go with the truth. "Hmmm… I think you could be, if you wanted to."
"Are you frightened of me now?" The smile vanished, and his heavenly face was suddenly serious.
"No." But I answered too quickly. The smile returned.
"So, now are you going to tell me about your family?" I asked to distract him. "It's got to be a much more interesting story than mine."
He was instantly cautious. "What do you want to know?"
"The Cullens adopted you?" I verified.
I hesitated for a moment. "What happened to your parents?"
"They died many years ago." His tone was matter-of-fact.
"I'm sorry," I mumbled.
"I don't really remember them that clearly. Carlisle and Esme have been my parents for a long time now."
"And you love them." It wasn't a question. It was obvious in the way he spoke of them.
"Yes." He smiled. "I couldn't imagine two better people."
"You're very lucky."
"I know I am."
"And your brother and sister?"
He glanced at the clock on the dashboard.
"My brother and sister, and Jasper and Rosalie for that matter, are going to be quite upset if they have to stand in the rain waiting for me."
"Oh, sorry, I guess you have to go." I didn't want to get out of the car.
"And you probably want your truck back before your brother gets home, so you don't have to tell him about the Biology incident." He grinned at me.
"I'm sure he's already heard. There are no secrets with twitter and snapchat." I sighed, imagining someone Facebook Live-ing my ugly spell.
He laughed, and there was an edge to his laughter, but it faded quickly, he turned to me, hesitating a moment.
"Will you do something for me this weekend?" He looked me straight in the face, utilizing the full power of his burning gold eyes.
I nodded helplessly.
"Don't be offended, but you seem to be one of those people who just attract accidents like a magnet. So… try not to get kidnapped or get run over or anything, all right?" He smiled crookedly.
The helplessness had faded as he spoke. I glared at him.
"I'll see what I can do," I grumbled as I jumped out into the rain. I slammed the door behind me with excessive force.
He was still smiling as he drove away.
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you're enjoying the little changes I've made.
I would like to remind readers that this is meant to be Twilight if it was written today, so there are going to be a LOT of plot similarities between the two. I wanted to let a new audience be Bella this time around, and some of these scenes are just too good to leave out!
As always, a MASSIVE thank you to my proof-readers and Betas, LogLadyJ and Lets-just-be-normal-otakus, they have been wildly instrumental in my efforts to get this story up and making sense.
Check out LogLadyJ's fic, The Journal of Edward Cullen! The second volume was just completed, and it is a riot! I love their Edward and hate him at the same time and it is magical.
Please leave a review! I'm desperate to know what people think of this Bella, what they hope to see happen in THIS version that didn't happen in the original. Please talk to me! (Also it gives me serotonin)