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Immortal Beloved

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The whole next week was hellishly tense.

Ana didn't come home for three full days and didn't call me until Tuesday night. She was in Toronto, and she had managed to chase James all that way until she lost him again. She sounded calm and sure that he wouldn't be a problem, but if I knew anything about trackers like James, it was that he would not give up until he had his prey.

Edward didn't hear from Jacob in the least bit, and had made three more attempts to see him at his home. Each time he didn't get an answer; not even Billy, Jacob's father, seemed to be home. I could see the toll the stress of not knowing of his friend's fate put on Edward. Every day at school, he looked like he hadn't gotten any sleep, with dark circles under his bleary eyes. His fingernails reduced to chewed-up bloody messes. He couldn't focus on the lectures in biology class, and could barely keep on topic during our study time together.

He asked me for more information every day, but I could only tell him what Ana told me. If James had gotten to Jacob already, she would know, and I tried to reassure Edward that Jacob was all right. Even still, as the week dragged on with no word from the boy, I began to wonder if Ana had withheld some details from me. Had James caught Jacob already? Is that why she was able to get rid of him?

Edward and I hadn't spoken much about my being a vampire, and much to my surprise, he didn't really treat me any different. That could be because his mind was centered on one thing, however, and I wondered if he'd even stopped to think much about anything else.

On Friday morning, I saw him drive up into the parking lot just as I was. This was odd, because Edward always arrived to school several minutes earlier than I did. I parked next to his car and peered at him through the window. He looked quite undead himself, and with the way he stared at the steering wheel, unmoving, I wondered if he'd fallen asleep with his eyes open.

I got out of my car and tapped on his window. He was slow to react, first looking up from the steering wheel to me, then down at the controls on his door for a moment before the window rolled down. “Good morning, Edward,” I said cautiously, struck by how inflamed the whites of his eyes were. I was certain he hadn't slept a wink since Sunday, and worried for his well-being.

“Hey,” he said, lifting a hand to rub at his eyes. Without the obscuring tint of the window in the way, I could see that his gray t-shirt was wrinkled, as if he'd slept in it and hadn't changed, and that his blue jacket had been haphazardly thrown about his shoulders. He ran a hand through his messy, uncombed hair, stifling a yawn. His movements were sluggish, and I knew he wouldn't learn a single thing that day at school.

I glanced around quickly. As always, Edward had parked on the far end of the lot, and the bell for class to start was about to ring any minute now. Most of the children were preemptively making their way to the school, and there wasn't anyone nearby. “Sorry, Edward,” I said to him, then reached in and lifted him up and out of his seat.

He tensed up and tried to fight me, but in his lethargic state, he couldn’t manage much resistance. I maneuvered his large body over the gear shift and into the passenger seat, a tricky thing to do in the low car. “What are you doing?” he demanded in slurry speech as I sat down in the driver’s seat, warmed by his body.

“Taking you home,” I said, turning the car on.

“Driving my car?” He sounded exasperated, and he even huffed and sighed.

I rolled my eyes. “You're in no shape to be driving,” I told him, rolling up the window and locking the doors. “I'm surprised you didn't fall asleep at the wheel getting here.”

“I'm fine,” he insisted. “I'm a little fatigued, but-”

“You're more than just a little fatigued,” I interrupted him, meeting his eyes. “When was the last time you slept?”

He shrugged. “Do you even know how to drive standard transmission?” he asked with another sigh.

“I was born before cars were invented,” I reminded him. “I was driving what you know to be manual transmission way before you were even conceived.”

He folded his arms across his chest. “The immortal would have to have an attitude about it.”

The casual utterance of “immortal” from a human's lips was surreal. I reminded myself that he was exhausted and probably barely aware of what he was saying. I drove home, being careful with Edward's precious vehicle. I kept my eyes on the road, drove at a decent pace and even parked with careful grace in my driveway.

“Not even a scratch on the paint,” I said, looking at him, only to find him slumped against the window, his eyes closed. His breathing was quiet and even: he had fallen asleep.

I frowned, not wanting to wake him up, but not wanting to leave him out in the car, either. Of course, carrying him was no big deal, but if any neighbor saw me lifting such a heavy boy when any girl my age and build should not be able to, then I may have a thorny situation on my hands. Our exposure had already been threatened; I didn't need that to happen again.

I dashed inside to see if Ana was home. She'd been gone more often this past week since she returned home, roaming the woods around Forks for signs of James. I was glad to have found her in the kitchen, her fangs deep in a bag of blood. She looked at me in surprise and raised her eyebrows questioningly.

I didn't bother to explain my absence from school yet. “I need your help getting Edward inside,” I told her. “He's asleep in his car and I don't want to wake him.” She rolled her eyes, and I sighed. “Look, I can't just carry him in myself! It would look odd, don't you think?”

She nodded and sucked down the last of the blood on the bag. “I know,” she said after she pulled it from her teeth. “But why is he asleep? With the two of you in the car alone together, you should be-”

“Ana!” I interrupted her, shaking my head. “This is hardly the time for that!” I turned and rushed back out to Edward, very aware of how cold the air was. The snow had left Forks, but the temperatures could still be dangerous to humans if left out in it for too long. I opened Edward’s door carefully, knowing that he was slumped against it, and steadied him so that he wouldn't fall.

Ana walked up behind me and looked him over, shaking her head. “The things you bring home, Belle,” she said with a grin.

“Just help me, please,” I said, letting my annoyance be heard in my tone. “And make it look real. He is heavy, after all.”

“Now that's just mean,” she said lightly.

We each took one of his shoulders and eased him out of the car. Pretending to struggle with Edward's weight, we slowly made our way up the walk and into the house. Once inside, Ana slung him over her shoulder like a rag doll, and I cringed. “Don't be so rough with him!” I hissed.

“Don't worry, Belle,” she said with a wave of her hand. “He's still asleep, and he's fine. I won't damage any goods.”

With a groan, I walked out to lock up Edward's car quickly. I glanced at the houses surrounding mine, wondering if anyone had seen our little display or if the feigned struggle was just a waste of time. Living amongst humans was harder than it needed to be.

-

Edward slept for twelve straight hours. As the time dragged on, I was ever the more grateful that he had made it to school before he fell into unconsciousness. I could just see his sleek sedan crumpled up against a metal pole with Edward's broken body inside, crashed because he fell asleep at the wheel. The thought made my chest hurt.

Ana, in her infinite wisdom, had laid Edward on my futon to sleep. I would have thought he'd have been more comfortable on Ana's bed, but at the same time, he was so deep into sleep that it may not have mattered. Ana had hinted at the two of us curling up on my futon together, but it wasn't exactly big, and Edward wasn't exactly small. I'd have to pretty much lay on him.

...Maybe that's what Ana meant.

At one point while I waited for Edward to rise, his phone rang. I was sitting at my desk, reading one of Sherlock Holmes' adventures, when I heard a faint buzzing coming from Edward's jacket pocket. He didn't even stir, so I reached over and pulled the device out of its holding, intending to silence it. The name on the caller ID, however, had me answering the call without thinking. “Jacob, where have you been?” I asked urgently.

“Who is this?” he demanded with more force than I'd heard from him before. His voice sounded lower, gravelly, and almost foreign.

“Bella,” I answered, and he made an angry snorting sound.

“Put Edward on the phone. Now.”

“No, he's asleep.”

“What did you do to him?”

“Nothing!” I sighed, annoyed at Jacob's attitude. “He hasn't gotten any sleep this past week because you disappeared off the face of the earth. You didn't answer his calls or anything, and he's been worried sick. I just got him to go to sleep a few hours ago, and there's no way I'm waking him up until he's fully rested.” I heard Jacob's heavy breathing on the other end, but he didn't say anything. “In the meantime,” I went on, “you can tell me what you've been up to.”

“I can't,” he stated. “You can tell me why one of your kind is after me.”

“How should I know?” I responded, letting my exasperation through more in my tone. “I guess because you smell delicious to him.”

He huffed, actually huffed, like some kind of…wolf. “Look, when Edward wakes up, have him call me. As soon as possible.” With those words, the call ended, and I put Edward's phone down.

I had no idea what was going on with Jacob, but I did know that I didn't like how he sounded one bit. The sound of his voice alone made me feel nervous, and his attitude towards me just angered me, especially the more I thought about it. I sincerely hoped he hadn't intended to speak to Edward like that, after all the worrying Edward had gone through this week. If that were the case, I’d have a thing or two to say to Jacob myself.

When Edward at last awoke, I was in the kitchen, drinking blood from a glass. I had decided to go that route in case this very event happened and I needed to get upstairs quickly. Drinking straight from the bag carried the downside that one had to wait until the bag was empty to pull one's teeth from it, or else one would have a big, bloody mess on one's hands.

I put the glass down and dashed upstairs when I heard the creak from my futon. Edward was just sitting up when I walked in, rubbing at his eyes. He looked about himself in confusion until his gaze focused on me. He squinted a little bit. “Bella? Where am I?” he asked thickly.

I walked over to him and handed him a glass of water I had put on my desk some hours ago, at Ana's suggestion. He drank it as I explained, “You're at my place. I brought you here before school started, remember?”

He nodded, looking at me. His eyes were still bleary from sleep, but they weren't red anymore, and the dark circles under his eyes had lightened. I noticed that he smelled a little musky, and realized that, having slept in his thick jacket, he must have been quite warm in his sleep and had sweat a great deal. The scent was nearly overpowering, and I found myself once again on the edge of jumping all over him.

He handed me the empty glass with a quiet “Thanks.” I nodded and set the glass on the floor as I watched him glance about my room. Though now my desk held a stack of books, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as some uncompleted homework, my room remained its same bare self. I felt a bit self-conscious about it, knowing how strange that was compared to humans, but Edward made no comment.

“How do you feel?” I asked him.

“I feel like I slept harder than the dead,” he said. His eyes widened. “Er, sorry,” he said awkwardly.

“You didn't move an inch,” I told him in a light tone. “Not even the dead can claim that.” I wasn't really sure if one could call vampires “undead”, honestly. We didn't feel like corpses – we felt like statues. Technically, though, we weren't living. Living creatures grow and change. Vampires stay as they are, forever. Even corpses changed, though if only to rot.

Not liking this train of thought, I told Edward, “Jacob called.”

He straightened up immediately. “When?” he asked, his hand digging into his pocket for his phone.

“About four hours ago,” I told him, reaching over and picking up his phone from my desk. I handed it to him. “He wasn't too pleased to hear you were asleep.”

Edward nodded, his fingers flying across the touchscreen of his phone. I wondered if he was actually listening. I stood up. “I'll be downstairs,” I told him over my shoulder, figuring he'd want privacy to talk to his friend. He nodded at my words and I left the room.

From the kitchen, however, I could hear his voice clearly. It seemed Jacob answered Edward's call pretty quickly, because Edward's voice floated down to me, demanding to know where Jacob was all week. There was a long pause as Edward listened to Jacob no doubt recounting whatever it was that had so completely taken his time. I sipped at my glass of blood, hardly interested in it. “Oh, Jacob,” Edward said lowly, and then, “I'll come over now.” I stiffened, wondering if I should stop him or let him go. Then I heard him say, “Fine, then I'll see you tomorrow.”

I quickly busied myself with wiping down the counter to appear like I had been engaged the whole time when I heard Edward's heavy footfalls on the stairs. I looked up at him as he entered the kitchen, and saw that his gaze was focused on my half-drunk glass of blood. He stared at the glass for a few seconds before looking at me. I smiled tightly. “How is Jacob?”

“I'm not sure,” he answered, sounding weary. “He wouldn't tell me many details.” The way he avoided meeting my eyes made me think it was Edward who wasn't sharing the full details, but I let it slide. It probably wasn't any of my business.

Then again, vampires were involved; it certainly was my business. But at this moment, I decided to give Edward a break. After all, we both had had a very stressful week. I folded the cloth in my hands neatly, then moved to pour out the blood in my glass. Looking at it, however, reminded me how hungry I was. This reminded me that Edward must be absolutely famished – he hadn't eaten in over twelve hours!

“How about you go sit down and I'll make you something to eat,” I suggested, though wondering what I would make him. We hadn’t really shared any real meals together, and beyond vending machine snacks and trail mix, I had no idea what he usually ate.

Edward raised his eyebrows. “You cook?”

“Well,” I started, glancing around the kitchen. “A bit.”

He smiled a little, and I wondered when the last time I had seen that crooked smile of his had been. Certainly far too long, and I wanted to wrap my arms around him as much as I could and kiss those lips of his. “What year was it that you lasted cooked anything?” he asked.

“Just a few weeks ago, I’ll have you know,” I said. “I boiled some eggs.” His smiled strengthened.

“Well, how about you observe the master?” he asked me.

I stared at him, completely taken off-guard. “You know how to cook?”

“I quite enjoy it, actually,” he said. “I think it shows.” He glanced down at his body, then smiled again. I'm pretty sure I started to feel that weakness in my knees that every heroine in every romance novel feels (I’d gotten my hands on more than a few of those).

I returned his smile. “Show me what you know.”