She snorted.

"Hey, do you know what you call a blonde with a brain?" I asked, and then continued on the same breath, "a golden retriever."

"I've heard that one, too," she said, no longer smiling.

"I'll keep trying," I promised, and then I dug in.

She made a disgusted face and rolled her eyes. Then she sat in one of the armchairs and started flicking through channels on the big TV so fast that there was no way she could really be surfing for something to watch.

The food was good, even with the vampire stink in the air. I was getting really used to that. Huh. Not something I'd been wanting to do, exactly...

When I was finished - though I was considering licking the bowl, just to give Rosalie something to complain about - I felt Bella's cold fingers pulling softly through my hair. She patted it down against the back of my neck.

"Time for a haircut, huh?"

"You're getting a little shaggy," she said. "Maybe - "

"Let me guess, someone around here used to cut hair in a salon in Paris?"

She chuckled. "Probably."

"No thanks," I said before she could really offer. "I'm good for a few more weeks."

Which made me wonder how long she was good for. I tried to think of a polite way to ask.

"So... urn... what's the, er, date? You know, the due date for the little monster."

She smacked the back of my head with about as much force as a drifting feather, but didn't answer.

"I'm serious," I told her. "I want to know how long I'm gonna have to be here." How long you're gonna be here, I added in my head. I turned to look at her then. Her eyes were thoughtful; the stress line was there between her brows again.

"I don't know," she murmured. "Not exactly. Obviously, we're not going with the nine-month model here, and we can't get an ultrasound, so Carlisle is guesstimating from how big I am. Normal people are supposed to be about forty centimeters here" - she ran her finger right down the middle of her bulging stomach - "when the baby is fully grown. One centimeter for every week. I was thirty this morning, and I've been gaining about two centimeters a day, sometimes more___"

Two weeks to a day, the days flying by. Her life speeding by in fast-forward. How many days did that give her, if she was counting to forty? Four? It took me a minute to figure out how to swallow.

"You okay?" she asked.

I nodded, not really sure how my voice would come out.

Edward's face was turned away from us as he listened to my thoughts, but I could see his reflection in the glass

wall. He was the burning man again.

Funny how having a deadline made it harder to think about leaving, or having her leave. I was glad Seth'd brought that up, so I knew they were staying here. It would be intolerable, wondering if they were about to go, to take away one or two or three of those four days. My four days.

Also funny how, even knowing that it was almost over, the hold she had on me only got harder to break. Almost like it was related to her expanding belly - as if by getting bigger, she was gaining gravitational force.

For a minute I tried to look at her from a distance, to separate myself from the pull. I knew it wasn't my imagination that my need for her was stronger than ever. Why was that? Because she was dying? Or knowing that even if she didn't, still - best case scenario - she'd be changing into something else that I wouldn't know or understand?

She ran her finger across my cheekbone, and my skin was wet where she touched it.

"It's going to be okay," she sort of crooned. It didn't matter that the words meant nothing. She said it the way people sang those senseless nursery rhymes to kids. Rock-a-bye, baby.

"Right," I muttered.

She curled against my arm, resting her head on my shoulder. "I didn't think you would come. Seth said you would, and so did Edward, but I didn't believe them."

"Why not?" I asked gruffly.

"You're not happy here. But you came anyway."

"You wanted me here."

"I know. But you didn't have to come, because it's not fair for me to want you here. I would have understood."

It was quiet for a minute. Edward'd put his face back together. He looked at the TV as Rosalie went on flipping through the channels. She was into the six hundreds. I wondered how long it would take to get back to the beginning.

"Thank you for coming," Bella whispered.

"Can I ask you something?" I asked.

"Of course."

Edward didn't look like he was paying attention to us at all, but he knew what I was about to ask, so he didn't fool me.

"Why do you want me here? Seth could keep you warm, and he's probably easier to be around, happy little punk. But when walk in the door, you smile like I'm your favorite person in the world."

"You're one of them."

"That sucks, you know."

"Yeah." She sighed. "Sorry."

"Why, though? You didn't answer that."

Edward was looking away again, like he was staring out the windows. His face was blank in the reflection.

"It feels... complete when you're here, Jacob. Like all my family is together. I mean, I guess that's what it's

like - I've never had a big family before now. It's nice." She smiled for half a second. "But it's just not whole unless you're here."

"I'll never be part of your family, Bella."

I could have been. I would have been good there. But that was just a distant future that died long before it had a chance to live.

"You've always been a part of my family," she disagreed.

My teeth made a grinding sound. 'That's a crap answer."

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