Chapter 13

Title: Only Human (13/27) Author: Amethyst Jackson Rating: M/NC-17 Category: Drama, Angst, Romance Pairing: Edward/Bella Summary: A wish sends Bella back in time to Chicago, 1918, and to a human Edward. Disclaimer: All this genius belongs to Stephanie Meyer. I’m just having a little fun.

A/N: This started out as kind of a fluff chapter, but it turned into one of the most pivotal chapters in the story. It’s a little longer than usual, and I hope it was worth the wait. I really enjoyed writing it.

The following days passed quickly and quietly. July bled into August with little fanfare. I didn’t run into Norman again, much to my relief – I wasn’t sure if he’d given up or if he just hadn’t had opportunity to harass me. These days, I only left the house with Edward for little things. There were no more big parties, and I had no reason to go out on my own. We never spoke of our changing relationship, but it was always there in the casual touches and countless hours we spent together. A part of me wanted more; another part was happy to be near him without constantly worrying. August 3rd was proving to be the hottest day of the year thus far. I was in the parlor, where all the windows were thrown open, reading. Elizabeth was nowhere to be found; I supposed she was finding her own relief from the heat. I was completely unsurprised when Edward wandered in, sleeves up to his elbows, with a miserable expression. He flopped onto the sofa with me, letting his legs dangle over the armrest and dropping his head into my lap. I looked down at his pained expression with amusement. “It’s really not that bad, Edward,” I said, marking my page before I set the book aside. “It is!” he groaned, closing his eyes. I was fascinated by the sweat beading at his temples…my Edward wasn’t capable of sweating, I assumed. This one made it look…sexy. “What do you propose I do about it?” I asked, amused. “I don’t know,” he mumbled, thinking on it. His eyes snapped open a moment later, surprising me. “Come swimming with me!” I blinked. “Swimming? Where?” “Outside the city,” he said eagerly, sitting up so fast he should have been dizzy. “We have a vacation house – we haven’t gone this year because my father’s been too busy with work – and there’s a wonderful creek on the property; it’s perfect for swimming.” The idea was appealing. I was sweaty all over – long skirts were such a bother – and the thought of cool water was almost irresistible. “I don’t have anything to wear,” I pointed out, though I knew I would lose this battle. “And how will we get there?” Edward rolled his eyes. “I’ll hire a horse and buggy. And we’ll swim in our skivvies. No one will see us, and I swear, I’ll be the perfect gentleman. Come on, Bella…please?”

My brain was reeling, vacillating between thoughts of the damage I could do with a horse and just what would happen to my thin underwear once they got wet, but all that broke through were his hopeful eyes. “Oh, all right. I’ll go.” He practically glowed with his triumph. “Wait here!” he exclaimed. I returned to my book, knowing full well that Edward’s calm demeanor could hide a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm underneath. Who knew what he was doing now? Five minutes and three pages later, he returned with a loaded bag over his shoulder. I quirked an eyebrow. “What’s all that?” “Food, towels,” he grinned, “You know, supplies. You ready to go?” I followed him dubiously – I still wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, but I never could refuse Edward something he wanted. We went several torturously warm blocks to a large set of stables. The sight of all the horses and different carriages was perplexing to me – the archaic car had been within the range of things I understood, but this? I don’t know why I was so surprised. Cars were still relatively new to this time, of course, and only the wealthy would be able to afford that kind of transportation. Still, it was a surreal experience to have Edward help me into the open carriage and join me after paying the owner. Edward directed the horses out of the stables and onto the street with perfect ease; of course, Edward was a perfect driver, no matter the vehicle. It was certainly a relief to get out of the city. As the houses grew further apart and the brick roads turned to dirt, the open wind of the fields was much more apparent, and incredibly pleasant. “Does it get this hot in Washington?” Edward asked, his mood clearly improved from earlier. “No,” I smiled, suddenly missing the cool dampness of home, “The sun isn’t out enough. It rains too much.” “Sounds dreary,” Edward commented. “I used to think so, too,” I laughed, remembering my unhappy childhood visits. “But it grows on you.” “You miss it, don’t you?” he said, casting an appraising eye on my expression. I framed my answer carefully. “I miss the life I had, before my parents died.” Before I went back in time. “I miss having a home and a family. But my geographical location isn’t so important to me.”

Edward didn’t smile again; instead his eyes were serious, and they were speaking volumes. “You know your home can be with us, right?” he said, leaning closer. “You never have to be alone again. I would – “ I placed my hand over his nearest one which held the reins. “Thank you,” I said, cutting off anything he might be ready to say that could take this conversation well out of my comfort zone. “I appreciate that.” I knew my answer didn’t satisfy him, but he didn’t say anything more. We rode in silence, and I looked out across the fields – these were farmed fields, growing high plants that I didn’t recognize. It appeared to be some kind of grain. The golden stalks waved in the wind, and it was incredibly peaceful. Not a soul was around; I imagined it was too hot for many people to stir. It was like floating along in a dream. Edward’s voice shocked me out of my trance. He’d called a command to the two horses, and we made a left turn onto a narrower, tree-lined road. It gave me a heady sense of déjà-vu. “That wasn’t far,” I remarked. The entire journey had taken an hour at most. It would be much shorter with a motorized engine. “My father doesn’t like to be too far from the city. He has some demanding clients that he needs to stay close to.” The trees split off to reveal a wide clearing, surrounded by the woods. In the center of the clearing sat the massive house, a beautiful two-story Victorian, complete with a wrap-around porch. Judging by the number of windows, I would guess that the second story held at least 5 bedrooms. It looked like a place the Cullen’s might have lived…I wonder if Edward had ever realized how little his life had changed. “What do you think?” he asked beside me, taking in my reaction. I smiled. “It’s enchanting,” I smiled. “Do you often have guests here?” “Yes, my mother likes to entertain. Of course, she’d like it better if she had better people to entertain, but beggars can’t be choosers, right?” I shrugged, but he didn’t see – he had already hopped down and was coming around to my side to help me out. He lifted me easily out of the carriage and turned to the horses. I watched with fascination as he easily unhitched them and tied them up to the porch. “There’s a stable in the back still, but I think it’s locked up,” he explained, finishing. “Normally we’d send servants ahead to prepare the place.” I nodded my understanding as if this were all very normal. Edward grabbed the parcel he’d brought along and took me by the hand, leading me around the back of the house.

“The creek is a little ways out, in the woods,” he told me, the excitement in his voice growing. “I swam there all the time as a boy, although not so much of late. It seemed too undignified.” I laughed. “And it’s not too undignified for you now?” He turned to me with his broad, crooked smile. “I don’t mind being undignified with you. I can’t help feeling as though…as though you would accept me unconditionally.” “I would,” I confessed, smiling at his shy glance. “And you would do the same, wouldn’t you?” “Without question,” he replied, leading me carefully through the trees. He was very conscious of the ground beneath us, helping me through any unsure footing and swatting foliage out of the way as we followed the sound of running water. Again, there was the sense of déjà-vu as I remembered another day when Edward had led me through the forests. A sense of foreboding overtook me. This day would be as pivotal to our relationship as that day in the meadow had been. I wouldn’t reveal my secrets – I couldn’t afford to – but I might very well reveal my feelings. And that would change everything. “Here we are,” Edward said as the creek came into view. The sunlight filtered down through the shade of the trees, catching the water in dazzling sparkles and prisms of light. The stream was several feet wide but didn’t appear too deep. Hopefully I would be safe in such shallow water, but I was a marvel when it came to accidents. I glanced over at Edward to find that he’d already unhooked his suspenders and was stripping off his shirt. My brain told me to look away, but my eyes didn’t follow, and he caught me staring. “I’ll keep my back turned until you’re in the water,” he promised, oblivious, as he unbuttoned his pants. I was too numb to speak, so I turned around and started unbuttoning my dress. Edward splashed into the water as I slid it off. I swung it over a tree branch to keep it out of the mud and tentatively turned to the water. This was a bad idea. My chemise and underwear would be fairly transparent once they were wet, and how would Edward react to that? Did I really matter? This was Edward, and I was Bella. The thing building between us was unstoppable; it didn’t care for propriety. I sighed and jumped in after him. The water was shockingly cold for such a hot day, and I was still adjusting as I surfaced, sputtering. Edward was waiting to splash me, flashing an absolutely devilish grin. When I recovered from my surprise, I splashed back, scowling. “That’s not very gentlemanly,” I complained. “You could at least have given me time to recover.” He flicked another stream of water in my direction, laughing. “Being a gentleman all the time isn’t much fun.” Playing in the water with Edward was the easiest, most natural thing in the world. He seemed to delight in tormenting me – grabbing me from under the water, sneaking up on me, chasing my

downstream. I humored him, because the grin on his face delighted me so much. I wanted to keep him smiling forever. I would, I promised myself. After what felt like hours, we both grew tired of the games and relaxed in the cool water. The sun was no longer directly overhead, starting to drift down toward the tree line. I knew the day would have to end soon, and I didn’t want it to. I could stay in this enchanted spot with Edward for days and never long for anything else. He swam up beside me, and I could tell by the same reluctant look on his face that he’d been having similar thoughts. “We probably shouldn’t stay in much longer,” he said, grasping one of my prune hands. “I wouldn’t want you to catch cold.” “Right,” I sighed. I didn’t think there was much chance of that, but arguing probably wouldn’t do me much good. “We should do this again. It was fun.” Edward’s answering smile was bright. “It was; I haven’t felt so carefree in years.” With a lingering grin for me, he finally turned and clambered out of the stream. I was fascinated by the sight of water streaming down his leanly-muscled back. He turned, and my distraction shifted to the droplets on his chest, following gravity’s intended course down his torso, to the undergarments that clung to his skin…and left absolutely nothing to the imagination… I tore my eyes away, heat searing my face. He pretended not to notice and offered his hand to help me up the slippery bank. I could tell the exact moment when Edward realized just how much of me he could see. His hand tightened around mine and his neck flushed as his eyes skirted down my body. He looked away immediately, but I knew the damage had been done. Unfortunately, his attempts not to look at me distracted him from getting me out of the water safely. My foot gave way against the muddy slope, and I went toppling forward into Edward, taking us both to the ground. We both remained absolutely still while we recovered from the shock, but the growing awareness between us was undeniable. Our chests heaved like some scene from a smutty romance novel, our breathing ragged. I could feel every detail of his body under mine, and I knew he must feel mine, too. There was no way he didn’t feel my nipples hardening against his chest or the placement of my hips over his growing hardness. “Bella…” The sound was strangled, harsh with lack of breath, and it excited me. Abruptly, he flipped us over, pressing me into the grass. I caught the briefest flash of fire in his eyes before his lips crashed down to mine, hot and passionate and frantic. This was a kiss of utter abandon, unrestrained – his tongue and teeth went where they would, ravaging my mouth, bruising my lips with his force. The only thing I could ask for in that moment was that he not stops.

His mouth moved to my neck, suckling, licking up the trails of water there. All the while, his hands wandered over my body – never quite daring enough to cross any lines, but tracing over my curves worshipfully. I wondered if he even noticed that my legs had fallen open or that his hips were rocking incessantly into mine. Regardless, I was desperately turned on, and if I didn’t get some kind of release, I might burst. My fingers tangled in his wet hair and I moaned his name. For some reason, that broke the spell. He jerked away from me as quickly as he’d launched himself upon me. I watched as he shook his head furiously and then buried it in his hands. “I’m sorry, Bella, I can’t,” he said quietly, refusing to look at me. I sat up and arranged myself into something more presentable, feeling the all too familiar disappointment and rejection that I’d known before…before I’d taken that step with Edward in my time. “Why?” I croaked. I had a feeling I knew, but that didn’t ease the ache my body felt for him. His eyes met mine with light flickering through them just like the green canopy above us, imploring me to understand. “I love you too much, Bella. I want to do right by you.” I swallowed heavily. There it was, strewn out between us like the contents of an overturned handbag. How could I refuse to return his offering? I reached out to touch the tense line of his jaw, savoring the tantalizingly smooth skin. “I love you, Edward.” I could feel the strain leave his body as he moved closer, close enough to clutch my hands in his as he shone with hope and excitement. “Say you’ll wait for me, Bella,” he pleaded, allowing no chance of escape. “I’m going to quit school, get a job – I’m going to establish myself so I can take care of you. Say you’ll be there, Bella, please. Say you’ll marry me one day.” I stared at him, stunned by the turn of events and yet completely enamored. Here was that boy again, the one he had told me about – the one who would throw away every plan he’d ever made to secure our future together. I didn’t know what consequences my answer would have, but I knew I had to trust Carlisle’s advice, to have faith – and I knew I could never, ever say the words that would break Edward’s heart. “Yes. Yes, I will marry you one day.” The statement was my one way of telling him the truth – that, though it might be impossible for me to marry him in this time, I would be waiting for him in the future, and I would try my hardest to give him everything he’d ever wanted. With his boyish enthusiasm, he took my face between his hands and kissed me soundly. He grinned from ear to ear as he pulled away. “Oh, Bella. You’ve made me so happy.” “I’m happy, too,” I said honestly; I was happy to see him happy, and I felt convinced that I’d done the right thing.

“Let’s stay here tonight,” he suggested, flopping back into the grass. “My mother knows where we are, and I don’t have to have the horses back until morning.” I couldn’t resist the opportunity to tease him. “I thought you were doing right by me? Being a gentleman?” His expression was at once horrified and scandalized. “I didn’t mean – of course I won’t – “ I laughed and poked him in the side. “Relax, I was just having fun at your expense. I know just how virtuous you are.” Edward blushed, smiling sheepishly. “I’m just not ready to share you with the rest of the world yet.” “Perfectly understandable,” I agreed, lying back beside him. “I never want to share you. Although this really is terribly improper. I wouldn’t want your parents to get the wrong idea.” Edward shook his head, folding my hand in his. “They know better.” We lay in the grass late into the afternoon, letting the sun dry us. Eventually we dressed and went into the empty house, courtesy of the spare key buried in a flower pot. We nibbled at the bundle of food he’d brought with us in perfect contentment, and by the time darkness fell, we were both so tired from the day’s activities and emotions that we collapsed into a bed together. Edward was asleep within seconds, and I remained awake a few minutes longer, listening to his even breathing and his heart beating under my ear. If this was anything close to what my Edward had felt in the face of my humanity, I think I finally understood.

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