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Dancing In The Street

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Rosalie hadn’t had a peaceful morning since she first owned her own cell phone. When her alarm woke her in the mornings, so did the multitude of social media platforms she used; all filled with people trying to talk to her.

Her mother, the woman who stuck sticky notes in Rosalie’s yearbooks to remind her of all the friends she had ever had, told her it was the price of being popular. Rosalie only half-agreed. What most people called popular, she called noticeable. Popular didn’t really apply; she knew full well not a lot of her school liked her; most of them might think she was a rich bitch or snobby. But most of the school thought about her, because she was worth noticing.

She was just about to have breakfast with her eight-year-old brother Kenneth, when her phone rang. It was Alice, she was worth interrupting breakfast, unlike the droves blowing up her messages who could easily be ignored. She sent an apologetic grimace to her mother, who was adding blueberries and banana to their slow-cooked oats. But her mother just smiled and nodded her assent.

“Morning bae.” Rosalie said, leaning over to give her mother a kiss on the cheek when she set down her food.

“Yes!” Alice answered, sounding a little flustered, “Listen, look, I know it’s silly to wear my coach backpack today, right,” she said frantically, “like it’s too good for school, but-”

“No way,” Rosalie said loudly, getting Kenneth’s attention, and she stroked her fingers over his soft forehead. Alice was one of the sweetest and intuitive girls she knew; and one of the rare few she got along with. “You wear your coach, and I’m bringing my prada backpack!” She declared, and heard her mother laugh softly.

“Oh, yay! Okay!” Alice cheered, and there was a rustling sound for a moment. “Oh and Jasper just got up so he’ll be at yours in like 20 minutes!” She added hastily. Rosalie glanced over to where her mother leant against the marble counter, hands wrapped around a large mug of tea.

“Of course,” Rosalie replied and hung up. She met her mother’s expectant gaze. “It’s not wasteful to wear nice things, is it?” She asked, smiling a little.

Hija,” Her mother walked over and petted her cheek. “I don’t pick out presents for you just so you keep them holed up in your room!” She said, smiling affectionately at her beautiful daughter and laughed when she leapt up to give her mother a kiss.

Rosalie was in an excellent mood as she washed and dressed for the day. She was reapplying her sightly plum lipstick in the entrance mirror when her mother was on the phone.

Rosalie glanced over and saw her mom looking slightly wistful or something. “What’s up?” She asked, dabbing her finger against her matte lip.

Her mother smiled and puts her hands on her shoulders, squeezing lightly. “Your father just isn’t making it to dinner, that’s all, darling.” Rosalie didn’t scowl, but she did brush her mother’s hands away, muttering about her shirt. They didn’t say anything else until Rosalie had opened the front door. “Have a good day, baby.” Her mother called after her, but she didn’t feel like responding.

-

Alice was eating toast with her Aldactone and trying to keep her plate away from her maine coon-cross, Persnickety. She knew she had to reawaken her brother, who enjoyed sleeping until she jumped onto his back, and then falling back to sleep after she left the room.

Alice was preoccupied, because the note from their father said he wasn’t going to be home for dinner. That meant he’d order food from Parc Katya; which meant salted caramel crepe cake!

She was shooing Pernickety towards his own bowl, of very premium cat chow, when her phone dinged yet again. She glanced at it and muffled her own squeal. It was her boyfriend! She didn’t like getting bugged by her friend’s snapchat stories or facebook messages so early in the morning, but a text from her boyfriend was very much okay.

Morning sweetheart hope you slept well. Heading out now should be at yours in 45.

She knew that was the truth. From picking up Rosalie from her apartment to getting Emmett from the bus stop, her boyfriend was punctual. Then when he got here everyone would inevitably have to wait for Edward to finally get ready, but they always got to school on time.

<3 <3 Okay baby!! <3 <3

She texted back, but didn’t expect and wouldn’t approve of getting a response as he was driving. He drove an old Thunderbird coup that Rosalie helped him keep well-maintained, and always made it a habit of opening the door for her.

Alice went up to her room to pick out her outfit for the day. It was one of her favourite parts of the day. Maybe it sounded frivolous and girly, but she liked clothes. She liked staying up late to watch live streams of Paris Fashion Week, she liked collecting books by couture designers, and judging the celebrities who didn’t stay on theme for the Met Gala.

She had an internal crisis over whether she should bring her new backpack, but one quick call to Rosalie had solved that problem. Rose was the most beautiful girl Alice had ever seen in real life, and had the wonderful personality to match. Except when she was acting tough, which was nearly always, and then she kind of reminded Alice of a pitbull.

She mentioned Jasper’s text before she hung up, though, which brought her focus right back to him. She thought he’d been acting strange lately, and she hoped he wasn’t too stressed. He could be a high-strung boy, and she really liked winding him down.

She sighed to herself as she wandered back downstairs after her shower, very content to continue dreaming of her darling, when she cried out as Pernickety took the last bite of her cold toast before she made it back to her plate.

“You’re spoilt and cheeky!” She told him, and marched straight to Edward’s room to complain.

--
Edward loved his sister, probably all the more because they were adopted. He felt much bigger and stronger than her when they were both four years old, when she was scared and lonely. The subsequent feelings of protectiveness had never diminished.

Not even when she jumped on his back for the second time this morning. A very undignified grunt was squeezed out of him as she bounced off.

“Edward! Persnickety took my toast! And get up! You’ll make us late!” She yelled, and dragged the covers from him. She smelt like blueberries and perkiness and it made him sick.

“Some people respect boundaries and privacy and personal space …” He grumbled as he heaved himself up, and shooed her to the exit.

“And some people get up on time!” She said as he closed the door in her face. He sighed and leant against the wood.

His mind was very preoccupied, and it wouldn’t do to have the world’s biggest busybody start pestering him, which was unfortunate since he lived with her.

His mind was preoccupied by one thing; Jacob Black. He was an indigenous boy and one of the youth liaisons that his father was coordinating with for a children’s vaccination program on a reservation somewhere north. Edward had met him a week ago and now he was in love. Jacob, or Jake, had a literally sunny disposition, he was friendly, nice, funny and beautiful. So very beautiful. Edward felt hideous, skinny and grumpy in comparison, until Jacob smiled and Edward always, without fail, lost his train of thought.

Edward also lost his train of thought when Alice decided to start pounding on the door. “Hurry up! You won’t be able to eat breakfast!” She yelled, as though he ever did, before thumping down the stairs.

With a groan, he tottered over to his bed and flopped back down.

-

Emmett always got up early. It was a habit since he was a kid, and always wanted to see his father off before he went to work. But now his dad was a site manager, and they had money, and Emmett didn’t need to be up at the asscrack of dawn to say goodbye. To be fair, with four other kids still in the house, it was hard to sleep in with the racket.

But Emmett loved his giant family; he didn’t get a lot of supervision, but he didn’t feel at all neglected. His parents knew the best thing a teenager could have was the space to make their own decisions. It was a lesson learned through his three older siblings.

But he was never one to let a good opportunity go to waste, and nearly always went on a jog in the mornings, with the trusty family St Bernard, Miss Larry, before he had to eat and catch the bus.

Emmett was also very glad he didn’t have to beg for the jeep to get to school anymore.

“You think I’m going to let you drive a half hour to and from school, just to have my car parked in at your school all day? Teenagers could do Moses knows what to it, and just so you can skip a bus ride? Boy!” His dad always said. But with all public transport, it quickly became a forty-minute bus ride, followed by another half-hour bus ride and nearly always made him late.

Now, thanks to one very good friend, he just had to bus it into the city and Jasper was there to pick him up, with a very beautiful, special lady too.

Rosalie was a knock-out, and rather tall, almost the same height of Jasper and taller than Edward. They weren’t really anything, yet; but she danced with him at parties because he was 6”5’ and sat on his lap if they had to squish up in the car. Emmett made her feel petite, he supposed, and she was so gorgeous that he was more than happy to oblige. Lately they had taken to making out at parties. Some of the guys on the team gave him shit about it because she had a high-profile thing with some dude in college, but Emmett didn’t need to know the details to know it ended badly.

He made it back in time for a quick shower and a longer breakfast, and heading off after scrubbing the plates and leaving the utensils for one of his little siblings. It was one of the perks of being the oldest kid still at home.

--

Rosalie and Jasper were in the parking lot of the Manhattan Centre; which was just a café that attempted to appeal to businessmen, while only being frequented by hipsters. It was across the road from where Emmett’s usual bus stop was, and it was their favourite coffee shop.

Jasper had treated Rosalie to a coffee, while teasing Paul, their favorite barista.

“Come on, Paul!” Jasper groaned, slumping over the counter. “At this rate we’ll grow old and die here!” He claimed. Paul ignored him in favour of filling their order. It was their usual, four iced coffees for anyone, except Alice who had an iced tea.

“Don’t you care about our education?” Rosalie simpered, batting her lashes. She liked fake-flirting with him because he kept sticking up a photo of his girlfriend’s growing foetus right on the coffee machine. Jasper was ready to see a baby picture hanging up there already.

“No.” Paul grunted, and then immediately passed over their order, and they trotted off while he shooed them out of the store.

Rosalie all but flounced across the road to his car, which she loved more than her silver Rover, because her father had bought it for her so she wouldn’t make her own car from scratch, like she had wanted. Rosalie was looking over his paint job with as much focus as Edward usually had for books.

“It’s not fading yet,” she clicked her tongue, considering, “but I’d rather you kept her undercover.” She added heavily.

Jasper rolled his eyes. Unlike Rosalie’s apartment building, where there was underground valet parking and an infinity pool; Jasper’s building was filled with 20-something douches who were all founding a start-up or currently power-brokering a fortune 500 company, or so they acted. Mostly they just seemed to smoke weed to piss off their parents. They were the ones that paid for spaces in the leaky parking lot, not him.

“Stop gendering my car, it’ll be fine as is.” He replied dryly. He and Rosalie had an extremely good understanding of each other, but for her tendency to err on the side of controlling. It was a constant source of amusement to see her up against Alice’s whimsical sense of leniency.

Thinking of his girlfriend did not send his insides into the usual mush, but made him stomach tighten. He was partially worried about them lately. They’d been dating for more than a year now, and he was getting hung up on the little things. He knew this, but when you focus on small things, they just multiply and multiply ….

He fiddles with the beanie on his head; it was red and nearly as long as he was; Alice had made it for him because she knew he only owned one scarf, which was really thin. So he wrapped the end around his neck and didn’t let anyone else touch it.

Rosalie came to lean against the fencing of the parking lot with him, her eyes studying his expression. “What’s up? You have your thinking face on.” She said, reaching out and pinching his chin. Her nails were long, but they were square and didn’t hurt, so he let her. “Don’t do that, it’s not cute.” She tells him, the sarcasm heavy in her tone.

“What? Think?” He smiles, but she doesn’t really respond. She knew how to wait him out better than most. “… It’s nothing.” He says instead. He wasn’t going to bring up his relationship troubles with her right now. He wasn’t stupid, this was a conversation to have with the other half of this.

Rosalie released his chin with a huffy kind of grunt that she wouldn’t make in front of other people. “Don’t do that either!” She snapped. He didn’t reply, and she knew she wouldn’t get anything out of him about it this morning.

Jasper texted his little lady that they were waiting on Emmett, and smiled as he got a string of hearts in reply. His smile dimmed as he stared at his home screen; a picture of her taking a dorky selfie. He’d found it after a daytrip date.

He threw his phone onto the driver seat through the open window, ignoring the multitudes of other messages from friends. He was being so bugged it looked like his phone would vibrate right off the seat. Rosalie’s phone was the same, but she was actually actively replying to people. Jasper though in a way, for all her prickly bravado, she was nicer than he was.

Jasper heard a deep, familiar laugh, and glanced around Rosalie to see Emmett waving at them. He waved back, very glad the big friendly giant was here to soak up Rosalie’s attention. “Hey, look at these two blonde bombshells!” He whistled, and Rosalie clicked her tongue at him, looking annoyed.

Jasper watched as she kissed both of his dimpled cheeks, and held out his half-full cup as Emmett came up and clapped his shoulder.

“You want the rest of my coffee?” Jasper asked, and in exchange, he took Emmett’s backpack to throw it into the trunk.

“I’d love to share cooties, gimme.” Emmett took the cup, and made sure to open the back door for Rosalie to get in before climbing into the passenger seat himself. Rosalie climbed in primly, as this was the only way she was willing to relinquish front seat, and Emmett needed the leg room.

Jasper started the car and pulled out of the parking lot.

“The quicker we get to the doc’s, the quicker we can rag on Edward.” Emmett said, and they laughed at the idea of further impeding the morning of their perpetually-sleeping friend.

Jasper’s Walkman mp3 was plugged into the car’s radio, and Emmett was messing with it while typing on his phone.

“Boy, pick one and don’t distract me,” Jasper told him sternly, referring to both the music choice or whether he was going to be on his phone. He didn’t even hold hands with Alice while he was driving, as much as she wanted him too; he drove stick and needed both hands.

Emmett pouts, his curly hair ruffled by the wind. “But dad, I need to talk to my friends and chose a banger!” He whined. He’d already moved onto his own coffee, he was a big guy and there was a lot of blood that needed to be pumped with caffeine.

Jasper grinned and Rosalie clicked her tongue while sipping her latte. “I said pick one, young man.” He said, and Emmett fell back against the seat with an easy laugh.

--

Alice was up and bouncing when she heard Jasper’s car in the driveway, and, ready now that she changed her estradiol patch, and nearly threw herself out of the door.

Jasper was just stepping out of the car before she tackled him. It would be much more effective if she hadn’t been five-foot-nothing, and if Jasper’s reflexes were any slower.

He caught her into a hug and gave her a tender, if polite, kiss. Alice felt as warm and tingly from her hair follicles to her toe tips. Everything about her boyfriend made her so happy, and he rests his forehead against hers for a few moments.

“Good morning!” She chirped, and he nodded as he took her bag and put in the trunk. It was one of his rules; larger bags went into the back. She followed him behind the car and gave him another kiss. And then another.

She rearranges his beanie when he tilts his head down for her. It was red and four feet long, tapering into a tip; to double as a scarf, and she’d made it for him last month. She’d teased him for not washing it for three days after he’d got mustard on the end, but he’d told her that for the first few days it still smelt like her and she couldn’t tease him any longer.

Jasper opens the door for her, and Alice climbed into the back seat and gave Emmett a quick one-armed hug in the small space, before cuddling in next to Rosalie.

“Girl, you need to warn me if you’re going to bring out the Prada a-line skirt!” Rosalie admonishes her after kissing her hello.

Alice knew Rosalie probably only appreciated the brand name, it made her laugh and slaps the taller girl on the thigh. “I told you the Veronica Beard mid-rise!” She gloats about the jeans she had on, smiling as Rosalie pet her cheek nicely. Jasper didn’t get back in the car, and Alice could see he had his eyes on the front door.

Edward had yet to make his supermodel entrance, and Alice rolled her eyes.

“Just like every morning ….” She said, and turned her attention onto more important things. Rosalie had the cute YSL moto jacket on.

“Babe, what top have you got on under that little sweater. What colour is that, rust?” Rosalie asked, and pinched the hem of Alice’s sweater to inspect its hue.

Alice lifted it up and showed off the burgundy high-neck sleeveless top underneath. “So cute, someone’s ready for autumn!” Rosalie teases.

Emmett flung himself over to the driver-side and slammed on the horn.

“Edward!” He yelled, “Get your ass out here now!” He hollered, and slumped back in his seat. “Before they start comparing boots …” He grumbled.

“Oh! I love your knee-highs, Rosie!” Alice gushed, and stuck her tongue out at Emmett when he groans. Rosalie tacked on her approval for Alice’s heeled Chelsea’s before Edward finally came out of the front door.

They gave him a round of applause as he climbed in the back, putting Alice in the middle, and he almost immediately slumped against the window and fell asleep, an apple limp in his hand.

“Ready or not,” Jasper muttered, and purposefully grinded the gears to wake Edward back up, making all of them gasp in unison, before laughing.

--

Bella felt like a creepy nerd, sitting around, waiting for the library to open. But her dad had gotten up early, which woke her up, and now she was just sitting with Jessica, wishing they had friends that got up more than an hour before school.

That wasn’t true, Angela was always an early-riser, because she had to take the train in, and was currently texting her about a cute dog that was in the same train car.

Jessica gasped, and grabbed Bella’s arm.

“They’re coming now!” She squealed, and Bella blushed at her friend’s obvious antics.

Bella couldn’t help staring a little along with Jessica. Her long-time crush, and current crush of at least half the girls in school, had just arrived. The old car pulled into the parking lot, effortlessly reversing into a spot. The car stopped and the trunk popped open.

Bella watched as the driver-side passenger door opened, and Edward Cullen stepped out.

He was wearing a grey pea coat and dark slacks, and Bella told herself not to swoon simply because he didn’t wear his jeans halfway down his legs, though she had yet to see him in jeans, and she did take careful inventory of him. She barely registered the driver and passenger doors opened. Jasper Whitlock and Emmett McCathy stepped out and immediately went to help the two girls out of the car.

Edward went straight to the trunk and began pulling out bags. Jessica was keeping up with ensemble choices like this was the red carpet, or she was having a very specific type of stroke.

“Oh my god, Alice’s dark orange sweater and black skirt look so cute, black pantyhose always look so grown up, she’s so thin.” Jessica whispered. “Damn, Rosalie always wears the best shit, she dresses like everyday is a HBO show except she’s the only one in designer.” Jessica added. “Also, why is it that Edward just … walks like that? I mean, it’s really a strut but he pulls it off.” She mused.

“Jessica, any louder and they’ll hear you.” Bella muttered, which wasn’t true as they were quite far away from the parking lot.

“I can’t believe they get helped out of the car like that! So lucky!” Jess whined, as Alice Cullen was gently pulled up by her boyfriend, and Rosalie Hale primly brushed herself off as Emmett McCarty, a footballer of some type, let go of her hand. None of Bella’s friends-that-were-boys were half so gentlemanly.

“Hey, Emmett’s duffle coat is kinda cute, he looks like he’s a long shore fisherman.” Jessica said. “Is Jasper’s jacket actually from a park ranger? I mean it looks weirdly like, authentic.” She added.

Emmett was swathed in the dust-brown coat, but Bella could see the Timberlands accented by the rolled-up ankles of his jeans. He followed behind Rosalie, grinning with his hands in his pockets.

Jasper held himself very well, Bella always straightened her back when she saw him, and this time was no exception. He looked almost kitschy, in a large green vintage-looking jacket, and black docs. What was comical was the large red beanie he wore. It was a slouch beanie, or would be, if the end wasn’t so very long enough that he wore it as a scarf. Bella admired how unique it was.

Jessica seemed to take her feigned nonchalance to heart, though, and loudly moved onto the dumb videos Mike had posted on snapchat about how the set-up for his party tonight was going.

 

They made up the entirety of the popular group, in a way.

Rosalie was the most popular girl in school, undisputed. She was gorgeous, wealthy and proportioned in a way that made any other pubescent girl want to crawl under a rock. You couldn’t really say she was a bitch, partly due to the social ostracization such blasphemy would cause, but also because she didn’t even need to be mean; simply no acknowledgement from Rosalie Hale felt like ice-cold rejection.

It would be disingenuous to call Alice Cullen ‘second-most-popular’ when compared to Rosalie, because you couldn’t really compare them. She was short and rail-thin and really, very pretty. She reminded Bella of Clara Bow, an old silent actress. Nothing about Alice could ever be called ‘awkward’, not the way she dressed, or moved, or acted. She just had that quality that made you want her to like you. It was easy to tell Rosalie and she were best friends, in a way that made any girl want to be in the place of either one of them.

Like all queen bees, there was a posse. Jennifer Ford was the type of popular you could call a bitch, she was from Los Angeles, as she liked to constantly remind everyone and drove a Beemer. Katie Marshall’s mother worked in advertising, partnering with several designer labels, and literally didn’t talk to anyone unless they were worth knowing. Katie just shut up and stayed on her phone, or simply said good-bye. Bella learnt that the bizarre way when she was in a group project with her, and she would only speak to Lee Stephens while they were all sitting there. Samantha Wells made no waves until sixth grade, when she came back after summer with a completely new outfit and look; her mother had made a lot of money when one of her online games went viral.

As soon as Jasper Whitlock came sauntering in from Texas, he was undeniable cool. He had an awesome vintage car, his style was unique and because he was so attractive it looked good on him instead of weird, he even made his black nail polish look stylish. But his personality was like a magnet. He was rakishly friendly to anyone who spoke to him. Bella had never actually known someone who was as ‘charismatic’, which was the word you used to describe important historical figures, not the boy that talked his way out of a tardy slip for gym. With him elevated the likes of alternative Austin Marks, and otherwise quiet and singular D.J Garrett.

Emmett McCarty was a familiar type of popular; he was handsome, loud, friendly and exceedingly excellent at sports. He was the tallest boy in their grade and had the upside-down triangle shape of an action-movie star. But he had a kind of wild, devil-may-care attitude that made him leader of the jocks. He even bumped the football captain Lee Stephens down to second-in-command, and leading Rob Sawyer and Connor Chijindu.

Seeing Emmett and Rosalie flirting was like watching a romantic teen movie, a la Clueless, a sleeper hit with A-list stars ‘before they were famous’, with an obvious teen target demographic except the actors were too beautiful and it pulled you out of the story.

Then there was Edward Cullen. He was heart-melting and room-stopping beautiful. He played piano, and even won a few awards that ended up in the school paper. He liked reading, and was once lectured for hiding a copy of A Room With A View inside his biology book to read in class. Bella loved that he'd read such a gorgeously romantic book. He was the reason the after-party trips to Fourth’s were so tempting, like his presence was the reason the popular group looked so appealing. If their school had a written ‘Hot Or Not’ list, all these people were hot, and Edward was fire.

He was the reason Bella and Jessica staked out the parking lot if they had time in the mornings; the five of them climbing out of the car. Jasper always parked in the teacher’s section – next to Clapp who was a car fan and seemed to be fond of his vehicle.

In a stroke of insanity at the last party she went to, Bella snuck into the bathroom and wrote Mrs Edward Cullen on the mirror in lipstick. Everyone accused the current Edward Watch; Jessica Stanley, June Richardson, but Bella had felt sneaky and silly with that one little harmless secret, and for all her musings on being out-of-place, or ‘too old’ to be a teenager, she had left that party feeling like she cracked the code of puberty.

Chapter Text

Jasper slipped over to the door just after Edward opened the trunk of his car to fish out everyone’s bags, and he helped Alice out before closing the door and locking his car up.

He kept a hold of her hand as they walked into school, and lagged behind, letting the others walk in front of them.

“Honey,” he says, smiling as Alice’s beams up at him, “you don’t have the paint the theatre kid’s sets after school today, right?” He asks. She shook her head and swung their joined hands a little.

“Why?” She asks him, smiling nicely.

“I wanna go somewhere after school, talk to you.” He says, and she nods happily, rubbing her thumb along the back of his hand, sending sparks shooting through their touch and tugging him down for a quick kiss. He accepts, and refuses to let her see how glum he felt.

--

Bella watched Jasper Whitlock talking to some people in the hallway. She was surprised finding them this close to the library, and wasn’t sure if she wasn’t too nervous to walk past them.

Jasper was speaking to Austin Marks; who smoked and everyone sort of wrote-off as a ‘bad egg’ like they were in an after-school special. Plus everyone labelled him a freak after he yelled at a girl for wearing a bindi to school in fifth grade.

But after Jasper started talking to him, it turned out he was aiming to become a tattoo artist. It made him cool enough to be included in the coveted, premium trips to Fourth’s after parties.

They were with Samantha Wells, who was dating the footballer Lee Stephens, and she was as pretty as Zendaya or Karrueche Tran. She also had an amazing singing voice, and Bella heard that her doing a karaoke rendition of a Rihannah song was a tradition on Fourth’s Outings.

Those that were popular went to Fourth’s. A group of normal people tried to go and start some sort of anti-establishment movement, but it wasn’t the same. Popular people had fun at Fourth’s; taking up the groups of tables at the back and laughing, chatting and all together revelling in the feeling of exclusiveness.

Bella took a deep breath and scurried past them.

“... that Newton guy tonight?” Austin asks. Bella forced herself to walk a little slower as she heard Mike’s name. Mike had been planning a party for a month now, and invited anyone in their grade who would listen to him. Bella kind of assumed it would be the usual suspects; but if Austin, who was only middlingly popular, had heard of it, Mike’s party might actually become a hot spot.

Samantha Wells clicked her tongue. “It’s like a thirty-minute drive.” She said, flicking a few of her braids over her shoulder.

Jasper shrugs and says casually, “Rose might badger us into going.”

Bella enters the library with her knees weak at the idea of her and Edward Cullen attending the same party.

--

After Jasper had taken the park next to Coach’s car, they meandered off from each other until their shared lunch period. They usually staked out Edward and Emmett’s lockers, because they’d been placed right next to each other, but Edward wanted to use the piano, Alice wanted to go to the art room, and Emmett had practise, so there was little point.

Lunch was a strict age hierarchy. Their year had monopoly on the south side of the cafeteria, with the long, wide wall of windows overlooking the street. Their friends usually sat right up against the windows, some of the girls made it a point to scare off anyone who tried to take their seats.

Alice waved to Ashley Dowling, who waves back enthusiastically; she was a really eager type of person, and Alice didn’t have any friends that had so much energy.

Emmett is already sitting at their usual table, next to the other footballers, and Alice wiggles her fingers at Sammy sitting next to her boyfriend.

She lined up for the build-your-own-sandwich bar, which was a little pricy but really yummy, when Edward loped up beside her.

“How much money did dad give you for lunch today?” He asked her, and she told him twenty dollars. Their dad felt guilty about working so much and not being able to give them home-cooked meals; like either of his loving children would trust him near a stove. “Left mine on the counter in the kitchen.” Edward muttered, frowning.

“Well I didn’t!” Alice said with a grin, pulling out a twenty dollar note with a flourish. Edward clicked his tongue and snatched it from her. She knew he’d be in too much of a hurry for anything other than a coffee before they left. Edward usually had a coffee at home and a coffee in the car.

“Little miss know-it-all, aren’t you?” He teased her, and pushed her a little as the line stated moving. Alice made her usual chicken salad on ciabatta, and Edward got pumpernickel with cucumber and avocado. Like always, Alice told him that it was gross and, like always, he told her to keep moving if she wanted to live.

She did keep moving, even faster than without the silly threat because her boyfriend was already sitting with Emmett.

Jasper hated queuing in the cafeteria, and in exchange for the rides to school, Emmett usually bought an abundance of fries to share. Jasper was eating them now as Alice sits next to him and kisses his cheek.

“I missed you,” he told her quietly, and she wholeheartedly agreed.

“I would like to remind you both that you saw each other four and a half hours ago.” Edward said drolly, but Alice told him to go read a book.

Rosalie strode up to their usual table, and gave them all cheek-kisses, except for Emmett, who she carefully draped herself over, like they were a back-to-school catalogue feature. She had a chicken cheese lettuce on rye and a pear, which she told Jasper to take.

She looks at Edward sharply, and he knows she’s about to get extremely demanding. “There’s a party at Burton’s, are we going?” She asks. It’s obvious she won’t be happy unless she hears a yes; meaning Emmett was going.

Edward was, as always, opposed to most things that Rosalie wanted. “I don’t even know who that is.” He said, and Alice thought that might be true; Edward’s night-owl tendencies left him sleep-deprived most days, which meant he didn’t pay a lot of attention to a lot of things outside his interest.

Emmett seemed to brighten up at the idea of some heavy petting he assumed a party would entail, and by the way Rosalie was fiddling with his shirt collar, he didn’t seem to be wrong. Alice was really supportive of the thing that was happening between them.

Jasper seemed unimpressed, crunching on the pear. “His name’s Newton and he never empties the bins.” He says heavily. “It’s just a trash pile of red cups and napkins.” He adds, as though he worried about waste disposal at a party. Usually he was worried about taking a sip of everything before Alice drank it; just in case. He was really cute about it.

“We never go anywhere,” Alice insists, which wasn’t true, “we should go!” She loved parties; she loved dressing up beforehand, she loved dancing, she loved going to Fourth’s afterwards. Fourth’s on Fifth Avenue was the diner that her dad used to take her and Edward to, when they were little and still settling into the idea of being a family. She was proud to have introduced it to much success to all their friends.

“Alright, fine.” Edward said, rolling his eyes and his admission of defeat made Rosalie grin.

“Get ready at yours?” Emmett asked, lifting his chin at the skinny boy. Edward nodded.

Rosalie tilted her chin, deep in business-mode, “We’ll all meet there,” she decided, “Edward can drive us there.” She added.

“Yes ma’am,” Said Jasper, giving her a half-salute. She kicked at him under the table. “Alice and I are going to Richard’s Square this afternoon,” He added, and Alice leaned back into his hand as it came to rest on the back of her neck.

“Well Edward, did you want to go to the new music store that opened on Fifth?” Rosalie asked. Everyone else at the table groaned. They all loved music but Rosalie and Edward made it a competition. They’d buy the same album, and spend the next week at each other’s throats over favourite song, best song, which songs worked as a coherent set, which one should have been left as a single ….

Alice did not want to have to deal with that, especially since sometimes other people at school who listened to the album chose sides.

“You can’t listen to whatever you buy until the weekend!” She declared, and even made them both pinkie-swear.

--

Jasper got too nervous, and was skulking away, having a smoke while Alice went to the bathroom. It had started out normal enough; Alice shopped for clothes, both for him and her, and then they lost each other for forty minutes in the two-story bookstore across the road. Alice knew he was gearing up to talk to her, though, because when she came out of the bathroom, she kissed him without complaining about the smell of smoke. He hated that his nerves made her nervous.

They were sat at the food court now, with a few trays, and he’d been chewing on the straw in his cup, people-watching.

“What did you want to talk about?” Alice asks him. He looks at her, at her big brown eyes, sweet little smile and the way she was sitting leaning forward, gentle butting up against his space. She looked eager and goodly and he felt his throat stick together.

I think I love you more than you could ever love me. Because I’ve told you everything about my old life, all I’ve done and suffered for. But you’ve never once told me about yours.

He couldn’t tell her that, because what was the point. It was no failing on her part, no kind of neglect or slight. He understood her reservations, but he was so desperate to be the exception. He felt like a colossal black hole threatening to swallow her up, and she didn’t know any better.

“I just … I needed you to know I might be busy with work soon and we might not be able to spend a lot of time together.” He muttered like a coward.

Alice nodded emphatically. “I know, I just worry about you! It’s not like I want you to call me every night or anything.” She said, but immediately grinned. “But that was a lie and I want a phone call every night.” She added, and he could have melted. Alice had never been embarrassed or ashamed of her love for him; she was proud of him, and of being with him.

He was drowning in his love for her. “I want to call you every night.” He responded, because he couldn’t look into her big brown eyes and try to play it cool.

It made her smile, before reaching over to poke him a little. “Now what did you really want to tell me?” She asked, her eyes still gentle, but serious.

Jasper wasn’t surprised that she, like always, knew something was wrong. “I’m not saying this out of any insecurity, darl, I promise.” He said slowly, “I just think … I feel like you could be more honest with me.” He didn’t wince as he said it, but it was a near thing.

Alice’s smile didn’t slip, but her gaze started to roam around them, and he could tell he’d panicked her a little, and it made him feel awful. “… I never lie to you, are you saying I do?” She asked quietly.

“I’m saying we both know the types of things you keep from me.” He said, trying to make her understand that he wasn’t saying this to accuse her. He still loved her, he even felt like if he ever put his feelings for her into words, they’d call him insane, lock him up and throw away the key.

Alice looked a little angry then, frowning and slapping her hands down onto the table. “I trust you the most!” She said, “I confide in you all the time, you know I do.” She added quickly, sounding hurt.

Jasper drew her little hands into his, and she settled slightly. “It’s not like I think you’re lying to me,” he tried to soothe her, “but you don’t tell me about who you used to be.” He added seriously.

Alice may be uncomfortable, but she couldn’t outright deny what he was saying. It was just that they were at a stalemate; neither of them would articulate the exact subject she never spoke to him about. But her eyes were quickly getting shinier, and when her lip trembled, he cracked.

“I don’t want to force you. I just want you to trust me.” He could see the upset on her face quickly morphing to anger and he felt his stomach roil. He hated that he’d done this, and he doesn’t fight when she pulls her hands into her lap. “Hey, I’m sorry. We shouldn’t talk about this.”

Alice nodded slightly. “… Okay. Can you take me home?”

--

Alice was extremely upset now. She went straight to her room, stoutly ignoring Edward’s question from the kitchen. She flopped onto her back on her bed, after she flipped a certain picture frame on her side table face-down.

Her boyfriend didn’t understand her! He’d kept talking like she didn’t trust him or she lied to him, and she didn’t know if she could fix it. This was frustrating and awful, and she couldn’t find the courage to say anything to him in the car.

She was sure she hadn’t done anything to cause this line of questioning.

… Had she? This was where her awful memory troubled her. Surely she’d remember something that would have prompted him to ask? She was lying on her bed, processing, and Pernickety had just jumped up to comfort her when her phone buzzed. She immediately stopped doing that and looked at her messages.

Hey honey. I feel terrible about this afternoon. Don’t like fighting w u. I love u so much.

She didn’t feel like replying, and dropped her phone off the bed. She didn’t even think this was a fight until now. Her stomach felt gurgly and even Pernickety messaging his claws firmly into her abdomen didn’t help the pain.

She sighed obnoxiously loud, which made her feel better a little. She could very easily get mad at him right now. He knew this wasn’t something he should be bringing up with her – her own father had told him not to do so when they had started dating! Jasper had dropped the subject and focused on being the best boyfriend ever.

And Alice was so glad for it, but now Jasper had to act like she didn’t love him enough to tell him everything. He was picking at this all over again, and she didn’t deserve it!

Jasper knew this made her uncomfortable; he knew she wasn’t ready. Alice didn’t understand why he was trying to pressure her about this. He’d already prodded when they started dating, but he’d backed off and she thought he understood.

It was enough to make tears spring to her eyes. Hadn’t she given him so much of herself, so willingly, already? She’d had her first time with him; he was the only boy she’d ever been with, her first everything, and she knew Jasper had dated other girls, and he was so charming and lots of girls in their school flirted with him, and mistook his extroverted tactile nature for reciprocation. But Alice never distrusted him, or thought he was hiding something from her, when she was the one who saw how people reacted to him.

Plus earlier that day she’d found a nasty note written in the toilet stall.

Alice Cullen Always Clingy

She once told Rosalie at their exclusive all-girl two-people stay-out-Edward sleepover that she felt kind of clingy when it came to their friends; she loved all of them so much, she considered Emmett her brother as well and Rosalie was like a sister to her. Rose had aww’d and gave her a big hug and assured her that she loved her even more than a sister because she chose her. So seeing such a message picked at Alice’s old wound, and made her day extra terrible.

--

Jasper had picked Rosalie up and driven to their usual spot. It was a small diner called ‘Fourth’s’ that they usually ended up in drunk for burgers and shakes. She’d texted complaining that Edward had left her at Fifth, the street that the diner was on, in retaliation for something she’d said that he’d over-reacted to.

He didn’t really want to stay at Fourth’s for long since they were going to end up here plastered later tonight. He nodded to Jacob Black, a boy he saw around the Cullen house for some community project, as he gave them their peanut butter cookies to go.

Jasper drove to Rosalie’s, so she could ‘prep’ for the party. Meaning he would have to go to his own apartment with her and let her pick something she’d claim Alice would like, and thinking about his girlfriend just made him frustrated all over again.

Rosalie munched on her cookie and scrolled through her phone, which was also playing music through the aux cable from his radio. “Why’s Alice so upset?” She asked. “She’s said nothing about my camel cable-knit jumper-dress that I posted on IG just now. Emmett sent me a bunch of heart-eye emotes though.” She smirked a little, which would have worried Jasper if he trusted her any less. “What’d you two talk about?” She asked.

“What are you doing to Emmett anyway?” Jasper asks instead, and Rosalie eyes flash dangerously. She always got her hackles up over anything to do with boys. Jasper wasn’t in that category, neither was Edward, for different reasons, but Emmett was a boy, and Rosalie was very willing to not talk about it.

“You made a mistake.” She told him instead. Jasper knew he did, but he also knew Rosalie was shooting in the dark because Alice wouldn’t have told her anything in barely the hour they’d been apart.

He also knew that Rosalie was too damn stubborn for her own good, and he’d feel better if he told someone anyway. “I pushed her when I shouldn’t have … I wanted her to tell me everything.” He said.

It wasn’t as though he felt stiffed, even if Alice knew everything about him. That he was emancipated from She Who Was Not To Be Named, and the foster care system, and all his life in Texas. But Alice had him – owned his entire soul; he gladly put it right in the palm of her hand. And she kept things from him.

Rosalie, though, rolls her eyes and tosses her hair against the passenger seat. She was so beautiful, and Jasper loved her, platonically, very much, but if she began to sprout nonsense about Alice and his relationship he was gonna leave her on the sidewalk like Edward did. He was embarrassed about the words he’d already spoken; he really valued privacy. He wanted to have a bubble of Alice and himself and no one else was allowed in.

“You say that so dramatically; you’re not the only one she keeps things from.” Rosalie said, and Jasper was pleased that she still agreed with him. “Don’t underestimate her; you’re her first love, after all.” She simpered, something dark in her eyes, but she wasn’t necessarily mocking him. Her mind was no doubt on that college guy from last year.

“I know,” Jasper said instead. He thrived under the pressure of being Alice’s first everything; or at least he thought he did, “I know she’s just scared, and not of me. I just want her to trust me with it; we’ve been dating since middle school.” He added. He knew he could wait for her, he’d wait forever if he had to. He loved just loving her, it was enough. But it still felt like a wall, when all he wanted was no barriers or hang ups between them.

He drove into the underground parking lot of Rosalie’s building, waving away the valet, who recognised him, or his licence plate, and left them be.

“You know she’ll tell one day. But for today, you better be extra nice to her.” Rosalie said, almost sounding threatening as she led them to the elevators after he locked up.

--

Rosalie and Jasper made it to the Cullen house just as Carlisle was leaving. Dr Cullen smiled largely at them both, and gave them fatherly embraces. Rosalie’s relationship with her father was strained, due to extenuating circumstances, and Jasper’s emancipation from foster care didn’t leave him with one, so they made very nice with him.

Rosalie liked being sweet to Carlisle, as though her father would be so invested that he’d notice another father-figure in her life now. Jasper just liked a paternal touch every now and again, and he tells them both warmly to enjoy themselves responsibly at the Newton’s house, before he leaves with a honk of his horn.

They walked in, and Alice ushered Rosalie upstairs with just a fleeting kiss to her boyfriend, and he didn’t want to bother her, so he went to bother Edward.

Edward sat in the longue, with his precious baby grand. He was scribbling at the stand, but they were words, not the usual music notes.

“You look like a dad going to his boss’ barbeque.” Jasper told him in greeting, and Edward didn’t look down at his pale slacks and dark blue button-up, he stuffed the book he was using into his backpack, though.

“You look homeless,” Edward replies lightly. “Also you’ll need to speak with Alice before we go.” He added heavily, and the finality of his tone irked Jasper, but he didn’t disagree. Alice might have mentioned something to her brother, but wouldn’t have been specific. The Cullen siblings were only eight months apart and very close; but Jasper and Edward didn’t get along for nearly the same reasons that he and Alice did.

Emmett came last, getting dropped off by Connor Chijindu after practise, who lived in the same direction, and grinned at them all. “My men!” He said loudly, flopping onto a couch. “I need a dark spirit!” He called while planted into the couch cushions.

Carlisle was a good father, but he wasn’t a fool, after Jasper’s rudimentary lock-picking skills left the liquor cabinet lock looking demented, he just told them not to bother filling the bottles back up with water, and nothing too expensive, and not too much.

Jasper hummed and made generous jacks-n-cokes, and handed them out. Edward took his with barely a pause; though he usually made some comment about wanting red wine, his thoughts were on his sister.

Edward stayed out of the relationship; Alice was his sister, and Jasper was his friend for the most part, and he certainly wasn’t going to end up as the middle man. But she’d been moping since Jasper quietly dropped her off and that was four hours ago.

-

Alice pulled out the short silver velvet slip and chunky black heels and Rosalie gave an appreciative nod, as though Alice didn’t dress her half the time. Rosalie had come in her school clothes, but she had a denim high waisted mid-thigh skirt and striped boat-neck long sleeve crop with her, and her favourite pair of slippers, in case she stayed the night. Alice already kept a few of her Peter Alexander suits, and a toothbrush for her in her ensuite. Emmett had a similar arrangement in Edward’s room, and no one talked about the third toothbrush Alice kept her Jasper.

There was a buzz on the vanity, and Rosalie asks Alice to check her phone for her while she changes.

Alice swipes the pattern and reads her message aloud. “Jennifer is talking to you; wants to know if you’re coming to Mike’s party.” Alice says, and types in a reply; she knew how Rosalie’s texted different people. “Yes indeedy – is she coming to Fourth’s?” Alice asks, putting the finishing touches on her eyebrows.

Rosalie shrugs; she honestly didn’t care who else went to Fourth’s, they were going. “She will if she knows what’s good for her.” Rosalie calls out from the bathroom and Alice giggles.

Rosalie really loved the Cullen home; large, open and airy and yet perfectly lived in for three people. She was impressed that both children got their own attached bathrooms; Rosalie did too and she preferred sleepovers with girls who had private bathrooms.

“That Laura girl and Rob aren’t coming, he said he wanted to take her somewhere else or whatever.” Rosalie added with an eyeroll. “Plus he always orders that garlic shit that stinks. D.J Garret said he can take people in his car.”

“I think her name’s Lauren.” Alice said absently, eyes on her phone.

D.J. Garrett was Jasper’s friend. Rosalie was glad that Jasper had brought him into the group; it turned out his father worked with hers, and his dad usually stayed in an apartment in Port Angeles. So now D.J Garret’s house was a regular new spot for smaller, more private parties, that didn’t need to end up at Fourth’s, since everyone who went to the diner was already there.

Alice flopped on the bed and pulled up her sheer glitter socks that accented her shoes. “Katie keeps saying Rob was on the outs with the boys, what was with that?” She asks Rosalie, while holding up a tube of pale lip gloss and dark purple lip stain questioningly.

“Definitely the stain.” Rosalie tells her as she begins to lightly curl her hair. “Rob said something shit to Lee; so if Lee gets sick of him, I’m more than happy to do the same.” Rosalie said with a shrug, Emmett had told her when they were necking in the library at the start of the week. She didn’t know what it was about Emmett, but they were extremely physically compatible, even if they hadn’t gone past communal groping.

“Katie just said her dad might not let her go to Fourth’s.” Alice added, running her fingers through her hair with a touch of product with her eyes downcast on her phone.

Rosalie shrugs. “I might vouch for her.” She said airily, knowing Katie’s dad thought she was a good influence, but it depended on whether or not Katie annoyed her tonight. Rosalie was uncomfortably reminded that Katie almost dated Emmett in junior year, until her grandmother died that summer, and their thing cooled when she came back into town after the funeral.

There was a knock, and Jasper pokes his head in.

“Didn’t say I was decent,” Rosalie mutters as he carried two drinks into the room.

“Vodka orange. When are you ever?” He replies, handing her the glass.

He goes up to Alice, who was playing with her phone, and Rosalie shakes out her curls, spritzes a little of Alice’s Marc Jacob’s perfume, before strutting out of the room to leave them to it. She still had to spruce Emmett anyway.

Jasper sits beside the bed and lifts the drink into her eyeline. She takes it and takes a slow sip.

He tilts his head back onto the mattress and sighs. Glancing over to her, he raises his eyebrows. Are we alright?

Alice smiles slightly, and the knot in their chests loosen just a little. She reaches out her tiny hand and rests it on his cheek. “I love you.” She tells him seriously.

Jasper reaches over to her bedside table, and flips up the photo she’d smacked down earlier. It’s of a boy in a black suit, smiling only a little, with a little pink clip in his hair. He glances at it, and then back to her.

“I never doubted.” He replied, and their noses touch, their foreheads pressed together, and for a moment they just breathe.

--

Emmett’s glad when Jasper and Alice come downstairs. They both look a lot happier, and he can tell their talk went well. But he’s a little sorry to see them so soon; Rosalie sat right next to him, and leaned against his shoulder as she scrolled through her phone. He liked how close she was comfortable getting with him, and even put an arm around her without her backing off. Rosalie usually enforced her personal space, outside of shoving matches with Edward, Alice cuddling into her, and Jasper whispering in her ear; but she came to him specially, and he liked it.

Currently he was busy with Lee Stephens’ texts. He was explaining that Rob had said something shitty about his dad’s accent, and Emmett was ready to drop the guy himself.

“Thank god Rob’s not coming to Fourth’s.” Emmett said, and Rosalie hummed with agreement. It was so casual and intimate a response, Emmett found himself grinning silly. But he was embarrassed that just one dumb little hum made him that happy. He decided then and there to ask her on a date on Cupid Day, that would be a proper reason to be happy.

Edward groaned when he saw his sister walk down and got off the piano bench like an old man from his rocker.

Finally, you’re all making me sick,” Edward told them, and Emmett laughed in his prim face. Edward jangled the car keys, and they all pulled on coats and jackets; Alice dashed upstairs for her lipstick, and they piled into Edward’s Volvo. Emmett got front seat – leg room – and Rosalie sat in the middle, leaning forward to mess with the radio.

It didn’t escape Emmett’s attention that Alice and Jasper didn’t sit together, but neither of them seemed upset, so he wasn’t going to say anything.

Chapter Text

Bella came to the party with Angela, both dressed in sweaters and jeans, and Jessica who made a big deal about the empire-waist, floor-length skirt she’d picked out last weekend.

They go inside, and Bella feels the usual skin-crawl of being stuck in a house with so many teenagers. She swears she had the constitution of an eighty-year-old grandma who was kind of mean to anyone but the grandkids.

Jessica squeals in dismay almost immediately. “Katie’s dress is short! Oh, Lauren’s the only one in a longer skirt, and it’s a waterfall skirt anyway!” Jessica said, looking extremely upset. “I completely messed up my outfit!” She insists.

Angela soothes her as they inspect the amount of people in the house. This was the biggest turn-out Mike’s ever had. “No one is judging you by the length of your skirt. You look really nice, and we’re here to have fun, remember?” Angela prompts, and smiles encouragingly as Jessica reluctantly nods.

“Hi Angie,” It was Alice Cullen herself, her short hair fluffed stylishly and her attire kind of vampy with dark lipstick. Angela and Alice both religiously had art together since the start of high school.

It reminded Bella that popularity was a strange thing; Angela was technically only one-degree removed from such an elite social standing, but something about her didn’t make boys ask her out and random girls come smiling up to her like they were friends. Bella thought it was because she was so kind and respectful, but Angela told her it was due to the fact that she was too timid and too tall.

“You don’t mind if I take candids, do you?” Angela said, holding up the ever-present camera around her neck. Alice laughs, such a nice laugh, and shakes her head. “You look really pretty today, Alice.” Angela added, and Alice’s expression became quite bashful as she thanked her. Bella was kind of struck that she was watching two genuinely nice girls interact. It was very pure; surprising too, since Alice seemed to exclusively hang out with awful girls and Rosalie.

Jessica jumps in quickly, though, to second Angela’s opinion. “Rosalie’s skirt is so cute.” She adds eagerly.

Alice nods with a smile, “It’s easy to look cute in Cavalli!” She adds brightly. Jessica nearly gasps in excitement, but the brand name means nothing to Bella, and she peels off a little. She glances behind her to see Alice waving and walking off anyway.

She feels out of place as she walks through Mike’s house. She’s been here for a few group movie nights, but it looks different packed with people she only knew by association to their school.

“If I knew Newton’s house was so nice, I wouldn’t have called him Burt for so long,” Jennifer Ford says, laughing in her tight jeans and loose top, shaking her long straightened honey-brown hair behind her. Bella tells herself not to be relieved just because one of the popular girls was wearing jeans too; she was the meanest one and not even the most popular. Plus Bella had a suspicion that Jennifer had purposefully hit her with her racket during badminton last week, regardless of Bella’s own clumsiness.

“Lauren knew.” Katie Marshall giggled with a knowing smirk. Her red hair twisted into a stylish bun, and her black wrap dress making her seem a little too adult for a high school party.

Lauren Mallory, who Bella almost called a friend until she dumped Tyler Crowley for Rob Sawyer, who was on the football team and a definite bitchy step-up. Lauren flushed, fidgeting with her pretty light blue waterfall skirt, and white halter top.

“... I barely remember, guys ….” She muttered, and they laughed.

Then Rosalie showed up, and it was like magic when they all snapped to attention. Jennifer and Katie converge around Rosalie when she enters, along with Lauren. They gush over her slightly curled hair, her brown ankle boots and her cute fluffy leopard-print overcoat when she hangs it up. Rosalie was gorgeous, and somehow dressed the simplest while looking the best. She was stunning; she made Katie’s mouth look too wide and Lauren’s nose too big and Jennifer’s face look rounded and chubby, all because that was how their features differed from hers. Her hair fell in blonde waves and she smiled and gave them all air kisses.

“Rosie! We missed you!” Jennifer said, taking her left side.

“This house is surprisingly nice, right?” Katie asked, taking up her right side, which left Lauren crowding in awkwardly, which gave Bella a vicious stab of pleasure.

“Did you want a drink? I could get Tyler to make you something,” Lauren offered, before quickly stopping herself at the mention of her ex. But Rosalie accepted, and Lauren went to the kitchen dutifully.

Miffed, Bella followed her, and found the host as well.

“Everyone just showed up,” Mike bemoaned, “and my trash is already full!” He gave Bella a one-armed hug as she entered and gestured helplessly to his bulging trash.

Bella shrugged. “You have arms, and trashcans outside,” she told him helpfully.

“… like the party, Lauren?” It was Tyler, obviously trying to make nice as he poured a vodka orange for her. She looked impatient, and didn’t look him in the eye.

“Could you hurry? I told Rosalie Hale I’d get this for her?” Lauren prompted, as though the name-dropping would make a drink appear faster.

Bella frowned at her mean brush-off, and Tyler looked equally as pleased.

“For her highness,” he said sarcastically, and Bella wasn’t sure if he was talking about Lauren or Rosalie. But Lauren took the drink and left without saying anything else. Bella petted Tyler’s shoulder as he looked after her, but he looked disgusted.

“Waste of fourteen months anyway.” He declared, and handed Bella something she knew wasn’t just coke. She took it and said she’d see them later, and made her way back into the longue.

The music was solid, and Bella wasn’t surprised that known audiophile Eric Yorkie was messing with the laptop plugged in. She was surprised, however, that Edward Cullen was next to him, talking.

She felt her heart in her mouth, and tried to calm herself while walking over to join them. She notes how Edward leans against the wall with his hands in his pockets, not looking at all slouched and squished like Eric did in front of the computer.

She desperately hopes that she doesn’t look creepy coming to stand on Eric’s other side. “… Depends, do you play?” Eric asks Edward.

“Not at all!” Edward said with a smile that made Bella’s heart muddle into her shoes. “I could never get the chipmunk cheeks right for it.” He added and Bella almost died hearing Edward Cullen say the word ‘chipmunk’.

“Well, clarinet’s not for the faint of heart.” Eric replied, and turned to Bella with a welcoming grin, which Bella was extremely grateful for. It wasn’t weird to say hi to a friend talking with your secret crush at a party. “Bells! Girls with you?” Eric asks her. Bella nods her head, and takes a sip of her drink, letting the warm alcohol mix prep her throat for talking with Edward Cullen.

But before she could say anything, Edward looked to the other side of the room, and raises a hand. “I’m being summoned.” He said, pushing off the wall and walking in the direction of Rosalie Hale as Eric nodded.

Bella took his place against the wall, biting her lip as she imagined the body heat from his shoulder warming her own. “What was Edward Cullen talking to you about?” She said quietly, trying her best to be casual.

“Just music stuff; he’s not a professional band geek like yours truly,” Eric explains airily, “but he practises in the music room so sometimes he joins rehearsal.” Eric straightens up, obviously pleased with his crafted playlist, and doesn’t notice Bella’s intense curiosity.

She had a long-running fact-finding mission revolving around Edward Cullen. She knew he played piano, he drove a Volvo, his dad was a doctor, he and Alice were adopted. Everyone knew that. But she picked up on little things and catalogued them away; he liked cucumber and avocado sandwiches, he rarely ate fries, he never chewed gum. He never wore jeans, or shorts, or t-shirts, and he liked loafers and oxfords. Once, Bella drove to Port Angeles, and watched him play in a piano competition. He won second place and all his usual gang were there. She’d felt furtive, like a spy, watching those beautiful people cheer loudly for him.

“… I didn’t know he played with the band.” She manages to say faintly, she felt thrilled every time she found out new things about him, and she knew she was fighting off a blush.

Eric was oblivious to her internal reaction. “Only sometimes, do you know him?” Eric asked, but immediately rolled his eyes at his own question. “Well, of course you know of him, who doesn’t ….” He muttered to himself. “You wanna see if we can peer-pressure Mike into actually taking out the trash?” He asks, and she nodded, following him back to the kitchen.

--

Alice was finishing off her second jack-and-coke while Jennifer was talking to a girl Alice didn’t know. The girl was probably drunker than Alice was, though, because she seemed to be listening too intensely for such an inane conversation. “So Samantha is going to be late, which kind of means we’ll be stuck with Katie and what she’s wearing …” Jennifer and Sammy got along well because Jenny’s dad was from Saudi Arabia and Sammy’s parents were African Muslims.

But Alice nodded, “She told me she’ll text when she’s close, her dad’s dropping her off.” Alice said, before pointing at the grey star on Jennifer’s shirt. “Is that top Stella McCartney?” She asks.

Yes,” Jennifer preens, jumping right in front of Alice to show off, “and I love it, thank you.”

“Edward!” At her brother’s name, Alice sees Rosalie waving him over. “Find Emmett for me?” Rosalie said, and while it sounded like a question, nothing about her expression made it seem like an offer.

Edward rolls his eyes, leaning his chin right on top of Alice’s head; which he knew always annoyed her and was definitely flattening her hair. “what’s the magic word?” He prompted.

“Fajitas at Fouth’s.” Rosalie replied, and with a laugh he went.

“I’m probably going to get the cheese fries,” Katie spoke up, but no one answered her directly. “Just hope it doesn’t make my new nails greasy.”

Alice wanted to dance, and she didn’t really care about Katie going to get her nails done at a new parlour that had just opened. One of her all-time favourite new songs came on, and Alice jumped at the chance.

“Rosie, let’s dance!” Alice said, and Rosalie assented, taking one of her hands and let Alice pull her forwards. The rest of the girls immediately followed suit, which Alice did like, but it wouldn’t have mattered to her if they had wanted to keep talking.

With a flourish, she leant over Rosalie’s hand with a grand bow, smiling on her knuckles. Rose smiled and spun Alice once before they actually got down to dancing.

Alice was as lost in the music as always, smiling as Rosalie kept time with her, and she shook off all her cares of the day and moved.

--

Emmett was with his boys, who were his teammates, in the basement. Newton had a pool table, and Emmett wasn’t too bad at it. They had their usual bet on; whoever missed sinking a ball needed to pony up the same amount of money as the number; whoever sunk it got the cash. Which meant you could aim to sink the eighth ball; but you didn’t want to miss.

Lee was winning though, the wily bastard. Connor was coming last, and Rob and himself were fighting for second and third. Emmett had so far had to put down 17 dollars, and if he didn’t win at least half back he was gonna sulk, so hard. But Lee seemed to be using the game as an olive branch, of sorts, that Rob was eagerly taking, talking about needing alone time with Lauren-something.

“Shut up,” Lee said finally. It was like a magic phrase.

Oh my god, I can’t believe you told him to shut up,” The rest of the boys shot back immediately. It was a stupid joke from forever ago. Emmet had told Alice to shut up once when she was ranting, and she jumped from her chair and screamed ‘oh my god, I can’t believe you told me to shut up!’ and for some reason it was so funny that whenever anyone said it, they’d echo her words from back then.

His men, Edward and Jasper, were upstairs somewhere. He kind of wished Jasper would wander down; he could take Emmett’s place. Jasper was wicked at pool, and darts, and most card games. Emmett had never known a guy who was such a calm embodiment of cool. Lee Stephens almost was, but that might just have been due to him being black and sporty in a small town; it was like winning twice.

“Remind me not to speak with band geeks just to try and change the music. It’s not worth it.” Edward’s voice from behind him made him grin. Edward was worse at pool than he was.

“Wanna play, Eddie? Cheer you up?” Emmett offered, but Edward only gives him a look and pointedly leans back against the wall. “Suit yourself,” he said with a shrug.

Rob Sawyer shot, and missed the fifth, slapping down the note with a curse while they laughed. Emmett wasn’t as pleased; the game was half-way and even if he sunk his round; he only had a chance at winning like six dollars back. He lined up anyway, and sunk fifth, making Rob punch him on the arm.

Emmett clicked his tongue, and took the money.

“Did you want me to get Jasper to play for you?” Edward called out behind him.

“Please!” Emmett almost snapped in desperation, and then laughed at himself.

--

Bella had walked in after lugging a bag of trash to the curb with Mike, and was at the sink while Jessica leant next to her when June Richardson showed up.

“Jennifer Ford and Alice were totally talking to me about Samantha Wells.” She said, looking over-joyed. Bella was kind of embarrassed for her reaction. Jessica, who was only watching Bella wash her hands because she thought her skirt was too long, rolled her eyes.

“She doesn’t like you,” Jessica said instantly, as though Jennifer liked anyone on the Not List. Jessica probably wasn’t referring to Alice because that would be beneath her. It would be beneath Alice, that was. “What did they say?” She demanded.

June looked pissed at Jessica’s reaction, but she was obviously too excited to deny her. “That Samantha was coming by later. She’ll probably go to Fourth’s with them, right?” She asked.

Jessica wrinkled her nose. “That’s all she said to you?” She asked, unimpressed. “How do you know she was even talking to you, she might as well have been recording a message on her phone.” June kind of deflated in response, and Bella sighed.

“What did Alice say to you?” Bella asked, placating. Jessica was in a temper over her own outfit, and Bella felt like how stressed soccer moms did when one child’s bad mood would inevitably spread to the other. But Jennifer looked embarrassed and didn’t answer straight away. Bella forced herself not to sigh again; because Alice was Edward’s sister, the Edward Watch were kind of scared to interact with her, lest she realise they kind of stalked her brother. “You can tell me.” She added encouragingly.

“Well … she didn’t. Say anything to me. She was standing next to Jennifer.” June muttered begrudgingly, and Jessica snorted into her cup.

“Why would Jennifer even talk to you?” Jessica continued, in her own little world. “It’s a week before Valentine’s and we only just got the rose delivery sorted out!” Jessica snaps, referring to her place on the Event Planning committee, were she finally got a spot on after Samantha stepped down to focus on her schoolwork. Though everyone knew it was because she had started dating Lee Stephens and didn’t need to maintain her position anymore, since she was the girlfriend of a popular boy and kept the interrelationships strong.

It was funny, because Lauren was now on the committee after dating Rob, meaning she probably had to grovel pretty hard to try and secure her spot. It was a trial, no doubt, since Jessica hated Lauren both for dumping Tyler, who Jessica had grown up with, and getting a leg up on her. Jessica had been on the committee a year longer, and worked the hardest, so Jessica was sure that Katie and Jennifer tolerated her the most.

“Doesn’t that mean their entire forced acquaintance with you is done until the day of?” June shoots back. June had vied for the position too, but she’d lost all hope when she accidentally sneezed on Katie during Home Economics.

Jessica mumbles something into her drink, and Bella took pity on her and led her to Tyler to get another drink. She didn’t ask her why she was so desperate for those bitchy girls to like her, or demand why Angela and she weren’t enough

Jessica wanted what June wanted, what Lauren wanted and maybe nearly had, what Bella told herself she didn’t want but understood. She wanted to be special and noticed and feel superior to her cohorts, because puberty is embarrassing and tiringly mundane, yet you felt very acutely different from anyone you were before.

--

Rosalie smiled as Alice danced. The bow and spin was their usual tradition, and while Katie gave Jennifer a spin after, it didn’t have the same effect. While the girls made a loose circle, everyone could tell Rose and Alice were dancing together. Rose knew she was the closest to Alice’s grace and timing, and they looked much better dancing as a pair; it was exclusive.

What wasn’t was the increased number of people who had been milling about, suddenly joining them on the dance floor. The curse of being noticeable was being worthy of imitation.

Alice and Rosalie didn’t click immediately; Rosalie was very dominant, which Alice respected, but after a few months they were closer than Alice had ever been with a girl-friend. Now they were best friends, and all the shiny-haired girls Rosalie used to go shopping with felt replaced until Alice made friends with them too. But they hadn’t even been replaced, because none of them had ever been as close to Rose as she was.

Rosalie knew full well Alice was the best dancer, and she certainly wasn’t going to leave her getting trampled by other dumb teens. Grinning, Rosalie picks up Alice from under her arms and lifts her onto the coffee table. It was a low table, lower than normal, and had been cleared off mostly. Rosalie laughs and steps up next to Alice as the tiny girl made cute grabby-hands at her, and they danced the two of them on the table, elevated from the rest.

“Come on!” Katie shouted, laughing quickly as she realised how peeved she sounded when she noticed what Rosalie had done. Rosalie just shrugs with one shoulder because Katie was the one that decided to dress like they were going to a wine and cheese dinner.

“Shut up!” Rosalie shot back, with a smile of questionable humor.

Oh my god, I can’t believe you told her to shut up!” Alice, Jennifer and Katie yelled back in response, before they all collapsed into laughter.

Jennifer, though, had matched the occasion, and Alice had recognised and acknowledged her Stella McCartney top. So Rosalie pulled her up to dance with them, and the table was too full for a fourth, which worked out perfectly, since the only other girl was Lauren, and she was too new for any merit but could bitch to Rob if they wilfully excluded her.

They danced and it wasn’t a song Rosalie knew, something very nice but indie, and Alice looked very cool mouthing along to the words like she genuinely enjoyed the song. After that song played, Alice hopped down at the same time Rosalie more sedately stepped down, and Jennifer jumped down after them in a hurry. They laughed as a recent pop hit played, with a cheesy remix.

Katie was placated when Rosalie danced back-to-back with her and they both sang the chorus out loud, and the next song was one that Alice loved playing while in the car, which got her excited.

“It’s our song!” Alice said to Rosalie, and they both laughed and danced together again. Rosalie genuinely loved dancing with Alice; she was much shorter and nimble, and she smiled like dancing with friends made her happy.

--

Jasper was watching Alice dance while speaking to Austin and D.J. Garrett. He was immensely glad for girls like Katie and Jennifer, who froze out anyone who tried to dance with them. Jasper wasn’t worried Alice would dance with another guy though; he trusted her. Plus she was so damn agile anyone except for Rosalie looked too tall and gawky moving next to her.

Whenever he met Alice’s eye he gave her a smile, and she was returning them with added warmth each time. He felt settled now he knew they just needed this to blow over with time; it certainly wasn’t enough to shake them. A night ending with greasy Fourth specials would cheer her back up. Next to him, Austin was venting about his little brother’s need to collect the junkiest machines, when Edward came up to them.

“Hey, Emmett’s playing pool. Wanna bail him out?” Edward offered. Jasper smirked, and excused himself, following Edward down a hall. “Rosalie might have told me to find him, but I’ve forgotten to give him the message.” He added airily, and Jasper laughed.

It was an on-going game between those two; Rosalie was stubborn and liked control, while Edward always thought he knew best and was quite straitlaced himself. They went head-to-head more often than not; and while Jasper and Rose were much closer, Edward was Alice’s brother, so he tried to avoid choosing sides.

Edward trailed Jasper downstairs and Emmett almost tackled them both.

“Avenge me!” He wailed. Jasper took the cue and tutted. He lined up and sunk one ball, the second, and the first for good measure. “I love you. Let’s run away together.” Emmett said, grabbing his shoulders. The grip made him uncomfortable, but the words made him laugh as Jasper shrugged him off.

Connor nudged Sawyer, who was texting. “Rob, you got a pool-playing app on there? Your turn!” He snapped. Rob nudged him back and made a flourish of sending his text, primly putting his phone into his jeans pocket, and picking up his cue.

Lee frowned. “You’re taking Lauren out, not to Fourth’s, right?” He asked. Jasper could read the clear uninvite from here, though he didn’t know the cause. Emmett’s mouth was a thin line too.

“Yeah, we need some alone time.” Rob said, grinding his hips suggestively and didn’t seem to notice the brush-off. Jasper fought rolling his eyes, and simply ignored him.

Edward didn’t follow suit. “Gross, I’m going back up.” He said heavily, and paused on the stairs. “Oh, Emmett, Rosalie wanted me to get you.” He added lightly, and Jasper chuckled.

Emmett’s head snapped up, face scrunched. “Why didn’t you tell me that the first time you were down here!” He yelled at Edward’s legs as the boy climbed the stairs.

“Sorry, I got bored.” He called out as he left, not sounding sorry at all. Emmett shook his fist at the stairs indignantly.

--

Alice was five drinks in when Samantha showed up, corkscrew curls in a high ponytail and wearing an off-the-shoulder blouse with a waterfall skirt.

“Someone showed up to a teenage party!” Jennifer called, bumping Katie’s hip with her own jokingly, and gave her a warm hug. Alice hugged her too, and Katie squeezed her arm while Rosalie gave her a cheek-kiss. She only waved politely at the remaining girl.

“Sorry I’m late,” Sammy said with a pout, and Alice shook her head.

“I love your skirt, babe,” Rosalie told her, giving the wavy black material an approving tug.

“We match!” Lauren said in a rush. Sammy inclined her head to Rosalie, but didn’t respond to Lauren as she looked around the room, asking the group where her boyfriend, the football Captain, was.

“Lee's downstairs with Rob and the other boys,” Lauren jumped in eagerly. “Jasper’s beating them at pool; Rob told me.” She added, waving her phone. Alice had thought it was rude of her to text while the group had been talking. But she guessed she’d been talking to Jennifer mostly, and Rosalie to Katie, leaving Lauren to just nod along, though it still reeked of impoliteness to Alice.

Sammy held her elbow out to Alice. “Come with,” Sammy said and Alice took her arm with a happy nod to find their boyfriends.

“I’ll come too!” Lauren said quickly, but she followed a step too late and ended up walking behind them.

“No need.” Rosalie called out, and the basement door burst open.

The footballers poured out, Jasper skittering to the side, while Lee crowed victory.

Alice hopped over to Jasper and gave him a kiss. Rosalie walked up to them as well, sneering as Rob immediately began to stick his tongue down Lauren’s throat; his hand groping her boob a stark contrast against her white top.

“Emmett won ten dollars.” Jasper told her, and Alice knew that meant he’d played for the big lug. Rosalie flicked her hair over her shoulder, looking annoyed.

“I told Edward to bring him up here.” She said, scowling deeply. Alice giggled; another grudge match between Rosalie and Edward.

“Sam’s here, good, Lee’s been in a mood.” Emmett said, arms wrapping around Rosalie’s waist from behind. She looked about ready to wriggle out of his arms until he pouts at her. “Sorry I didn’t come find you!” He said, “Edward’s a bad messenger.” He adds, and rubs a ten dollar note in his fingers. “Milkshakes are on me tonight!” He declared.

Edward found his way over then. “I’ll have a small shake.” He piped up, and unlike Katie’s awkward fries comment, Emmett actually nodded and waved the note under his nose, which Edward batted away. “Are we going to Fourth’s yet?” He asked.

--

The party was breaking up, and Jessica had Angela and Bella stay behind under the guise of helping Mike clean up, but her version of cleaning seemed to involve holding a broom at the doorway and watching like a hawk who went to Fourth’s.

Katie looked crushed. “Dad said no.” She said, dejected. Alice petted her shoulder and promised not to get the cheese fries and save them for when they all went.

Samantha, Lee, Connor, Austin and Jennifer were squeezing into Jennifer’s Beemer, while Edward was taking Rosalie, Jasper, Alice and Emmett in his Volvo.

Lauren hung off Rob’s arm in a way that was obviously annoying him. Bella remembered she used to pull Tyler in a similar way, though he was a lot more patient. “Can’t we go too, babe?” She whined, “D.J said he was taking people!” She added hastily.

D.J. Garrett shook his head in response. “Nah, I’m beat,” he said, “I’m heading out people!” He slapped Austin and Jasper on the back, and Connor pulled him into a swaying hug. Then he actually drove away, after turning down a spot at Fourth’s. Bella was shocked, though not as shocked as Jess, who was actually gaping.

Rob yanked his arm back and pushed Lauren towards his own sedan. “Come on, I said I wanted to take you somewhere else,” He said, frowning, and Jessica laughed loud enough for Lauren to shoot her a glare as Rob said goodbye to his team.

--

At Fourth’s Alice sat on her boyfriend’s lap while she caught up with Sammy, who was still pink-cheeked from belting out the words to Umbrella before they all sat down.

Jasper was preoccupied with talking Austin out of upping his ear gauges.

“They got so gross last time, man,” Jasper reminded him.

Emmett and Lee were loudly bragging about coming first and second in the pool pool.

“Jasper played for you, cheater!” Connor yelled. Jasper flashed him a grin.

“That means I came first at cheating at pool!” Emmett yelled, and they erupted into laughter. Connor got shouted a meal by Lee, for coming fourth at Fourth’s.

Rosalie and Jennifer were talking with their heads close together, while Edward held a court of his own, reading a book he brought it from his car and ignoring everyone to wind down for the night. Conner and Rob played napkin football, and it was an altogether nice way to wind down from the night. The atmosphere was languid and mellow, and Alice took a moment to soak it in. It had been a good night tonight. Lee and Samantha cuddled on the opposite side of the booth from Alice, and Alice noted that Edward was reading and purposefully angled away from where Rosalie and Emmett were making out.

She looked at Jasper and leaned over to kiss his cheek.

“One day I'll tell you everything.” She told him quietly. He nodded in response and gave her one more kiss before she leaned back again. She felt weird over public displays of affection, and he respected that.

--

Bella felt embarrassed going to Fourth’s the day after Mike’s party. Nevermind that she was going in the middle of the day on a Saturday, and for a legitimate reason. It was just so engrained in her that Fourth’s was for That Group, she had to force herself not to feel like a poseur when she went in.

It was why she wasn’t as happy as she should have been for her best friend Jacob Black, who was currently working there. It was his first job ever, and he enjoyed having the extra cash to spend.

That was why she was going, to meet up with him at the end of his shift.

“Hey Bella, want a milkshake? It’s warm because I messed up and used the steamed milk from making coffees.” Jacob said cheerfully, plonking the paper cup in front of her. She took it with a laugh, and he went around the back to hang his apron and grab his bag.

They dawdled down the street; Jacob mused over going into the new music store, but Bella told him not to blow his pay in one trip. He would too; Jacob loved cars and music and his dad, sometimes in that order.

“Hey, when’s that vaccination thing?” Bella asked.

Jacob was helping his dad organise an immunisation effort at his reservation and they didn’t talk about why he didn’t live there anymore. Bella didn’t consider herself an activist at all; but she shared Jacob’s social awareness posts online and didn’t let anyone say racist things about Indigenous Americans. She could do that because she was so far down the Not List, she had a type of immunity, because she couldn’t sink any lower without being noticed, socially.

“Next month,” Jacob grunted, yanking out his ponytail and letting his long hair fall. “Feel like it’s been ages coming though.” He added heavily.

“Well, you’ve been working really hard for like five months!” Bella told him, and he rolled his eyes at her praise, but he looked pleased.

“I haven’t been doing much. Just delivering papers and calling people and stuff.” He said, but she could see he was trying not to smile. “Did I tell you about the doctor we got to work pro bono?” He asked with a cheeky grin growing on his face. “His son is so into me.” He added, almost cackling.

Bella shoved his shoulder, but smiled too. Jacob was comfortable with his bisexuality, but it was with Bella that he was the most comfortable around. She was the only one who met his ex-boyfriend from up in Alaska, after all. All anyone else knew was the girlfriend he lost his virginity to when he was fourteen.

“Well I’m glad you’re getting back on the horse.” She said, and she was. The ex-boyfriend in Alaska did a number on him. Jacob’s grin dimmed a little, and he shrugged.

“Won’t. He’s a white guy, you know my rule.” He replied tersely. Bella nodded quickly, and they walked in an uncomfortable silence for a while. Jacob didn’t date non-natives; he claimed it was the only thing his mother ever taught him, which probably wasn’t true because she died when he was four and Bella knew she taught him to whistle.

Jake shook himself out of his mood, though and grinned. “But enough about me, what’s been going on with you?” He asked.

Bella shrugged. Working at Mike’s parent’s store, school, reading. “Absolutely nothing and you know it.” She told him archly.

Jacob laughed a little, and not in a mean way. “What about that guy?” he prompted, nudging her. Bella flushed, and that made Jacob laugh again.

‘That guy’ was the very original codename for Edward Cullen because she refused to tell Jacob who he was. She was extremely embarrassed about it; but she’d mentioned her crush to Jake around the time Jessica and June fell out over who would deliver his roses to him in middle school. She’d been under the stupid impression that Jake might let it slip to Jessica, and she would hate Bella too. It made sense at 14, but now it had been so long, she didn’t really want to bother naming him.

So for now, she was as tight-lipped as ever. “He has no clue I see him as more than a friend.” She told him airily. She might have also lied about how well they knew each other, it didn’t hurt, Jacob already got his GED and he didn’t really pay attention to much that she said about school. Plus it made the whole thing way less creepy; Jacob was really able to ground her, and remind her that there was a life out of being a nobody in high school.

“He’s an idiot then. I keep telling you; marry Newton, demand no pre-nup, and then sell the store after you split.” Jacob said, patiently, and there’s a pause before they both loose it. Mike was a constant joke between them, because the first time he met Jacob, he thought Bella owed money for pot.

Jacob nudged her shoulder though, and nodded to the movie theatre. “Are we seeing Wonder Woman or not? You were literally about to walk right past it.” He added, and they both laughed.

Chapter Text

Alice was in her favourite class, with her favourite people in that class, in her favourite building in the school. Ms Platt’s art’s class, to be exact. Next to the other two people that made up the 'Triple A's. Alice felt special, being in ‘Ms Platt’s Triple A’s’ with Angela Weber, a photographer, and Ashley Dowling, who loved collages and black ink.

It wasn’t like Ms Platt treated any of the other students worse; but they’d been the most creatively-inclined and she looked up contests and chances for them to show their talents. Really, they were just teacher's pets when it came to this class, but Alice wasn't ashamed.

Ashley had been keeping a long-running commentary on what Alice had missed on last night’s Project Runway, Ashley seemed obsessed with the show, and Alice didn’t have the heart to tell her she didn’t find it appealing. Ashley was the type of person who was always turned on, like she was those little yappy dogs that were physically quivering.

It was unkind, but Alice found it unnerving, and Katie had once mentioned it seemed really desperate. Usually Ashley tried to make plans for after school; but Alice knew Rosalie would get mad if she accepted, because she knew Alice was kind of a doormat about stuff like that, so she would try and decline as nicely as possible.

Plus Rosalie was possessive about a lot of things; friends, her personal space, her time. She was quite introverted; only really enjoying time with a small group of people she really knew. It was one of the things Alice loved about her. But for all her guarded nature, as soon as she warmed up to someone, she was generous and supportive.

“So, Alice,” Angela’s soft voice broke through her thoughts. “I got some pictures developed from the party, and I chose a few for you,” Angela told her. “I hope you don’t mind.” She added apologetically.

Alice beamed. Angela actually did this at a school dance last year; the nice girl had given her several pictures she’d taken of her and her friends. She was so touched that Angela was so thoughtful.

“I would love them!” She told her, and Angela handed her an envelope. Alice grabbed them out quickly, looking at each one with a little ‘aww’. She vaguely heard Ashley ask about a party, but she was too engrossed in looking at the pictures to pay much attention.

One was of Jennifer, Rosalie and her dancing on the coffee table. Another was her kiss when Jasper won ten dollars at pool. One of Edward and his chin on her head. Another was Emmett slapping Jasper on the back, holding a pool cue. One of them all walking away from the party, backs to the camera, Jasper’s jacket around her shoulders.

“… Thank you, Angela.” Alice told her sincerely. “Looking at these pictures reminds me of how much I love my friends.” She added. Angela ducked her head in embarrassment, but she seemed just as pleased with Alice’s reaction.

“So I was thinking of getting sushi this afternoon, did you girls want to come?” Ashley asked, and for a moment Alice thinks the poor girl’s eye twitches.

She could imagine Rosalie nagging her about not letting herself get pressured into saying ‘yes’, so she shook her head, trying to look sad.

“I’m sorry, I can’t. My honey and I have a thing after-school.” She said, which was true, in a way. She had to take Persnickety to the groomers.

--

Their grade was taking a trip into the private museum of some dead rich guy of some historical significance. The ‘museum’ was the deceased's private home, and he just happened to be a hoarder of tasteful, refined things. Plus it was in the school budget and got the students out of class at the time of the year when they got antsy.

Bella felt dorky. Jessica as always was having her specific minor seizure.

“Rosalie’s crepe sleeveless duster is cute, it pairs well with her white sweater and jeans, plus her tan wide-brimmed hat just ties it all together.

Alice’s hat is so cute, it looks like a crown beanie, you know? And her navy coat is so vintage!” As she kept this bizarre running commentary, Bella slowly edged them both discreetly further from the group.

“Jasper’s leather jacket looks great,” Jessica’s babbling continued, “plus he’s wearing that funky scarf like he’s from Brooklyn.”

Bella squinted at his attire with some confusion. “It’s a Palestinian keffiyeh, I don’t know what it has to do with Brooklyn-”

“His combat boots really suit him! Emmett’s bomber jacket looks cute, I like the patches! And Edward just always looks really nice ….” Jessica’s voice trailed off as she realised how close they were to the group, but she leaned over to continue whispering in Bella’s ear. Bella had to smile a little at her determination.

“His peacoat looks nice and I like that he’s not the type of boy to wear low-slung jeans all the time, and his shoes are practical but nice.” She hissed, and Bella felt her face flush at the mention of him, and a small irrational flare of jealously. Jessica was the first to have a crush, but she shared a seat with him in bio! That should count for something, surely!

The teacher called them all into the bus, and Bella glanced back at their group. She was intensely glad that the low-slung jeans-wearing boys they knew all piled into the very back row, and with Mike, Tyler and Eric out of the way, Angela was nice enough to mutter an apology to Bella as Jessica ushered them to the row in front of the boys.

Bella grinned and shrugged at the girls, and ignored Mike, who waved Bella to the row across from the girls.

She scooted her way into Edward’s line of sight, as he sat behind Jasper and his sister, and in front of Emmett and Rosalie.

“Hi Edward, I was wondering ….?” She mentioned to the empty space next to him. He looked surprised, and gorgeous, and nodded his assent. Bella glanced back in time to see Jessica gasping in shock and Angela primly mimed taking her apology back.

She didn’t contribute much to the conversation, but pretended to read as they spoke around her. Alice attempted to initiate small talk, but Bella knew she herself wouldn’t be able to say anything interesting, and let it peter off.

 

Emmett was defending himself admirably.

He was leaning against the window at his seat with Rose as he spoke. “I’m not saying this to brag-”

“No, saying you’re the strongest out of all of us isn’t bragging, it’s a fact. Continuing on that vein is a brag.” Edward informed him, trying not to smirk, as he twisted his head to speak to them behind him. He was a little stiffer with the new company sitting next to him, but she was blowing them off with a book and hadn’t told them to keep it down yet.

“No one was arguing with you Em,” Jasper agreed, he had an arm around his girl, the other propped on the handhold on top of his seat and was sitting with his back to the aisle to look behind him.

“I was just saying that Ed is faster and Jazz is more agile.” Alice said in a placating way. She’d opted for sitting on her knees and gripping the back of her chair, sitting directly backwards.

“Different strokes.” Emmett grumbled. “I can rip a phonebook in half.” He added, laying one arm over the back of Edward’s seat and one carefully behind Rosalie.

“We know,” Rosalie rolled her eyes, but she was resting on one shoulder to face him entirely, though she was checking the shape of her nails, so he just smiled with his dimples and moved on.

--

Bella had climbed off the bus and went back to Angela and Jessica, and giggled over being brave enough to ask to sit next to Edward.

“You have to sit next to him again on the ride back!” Jessica declared, and they laughed so loud that Edward cast a glance in their direction, and Bella was so embarrassed that there was a chance he overheard them that she avoided his group the entire time they were in the museum.

Their guided tour was a half hour of the teacher reminding students not to touch anything, and to write their answers down on the sheet that was handed out, and no, they couldn’t lean against anything when they were writing that was why they all had clipboards. Finally, it broke up, and they could meander around the house for some time while only semi-supervised.

Then the tour guide found a used condom in the trash. Due to the size of the house and the amount of staff on location, the museum was closed for their school trip. So it was just the students in the house.

“Who had sex in here?” Jasper wondered aloud, looking genuinely a little alarmed. Alice could attest to the fact that he was no prude, but he was a bit of an old-fashioned gentlemen. Plus it kind of grossed him out that he might have sat on a ‘used’ chair or couch. He looked to his strongest suspect. “Rose?” He asked archly.

She flicked her hair and it whipped him in the face. “I am a lady,” She sneered.

He began to smile at that. “Well then I’m all out of leads.” He said, shrugging easily.

“I was the only person you accused!” She snapped, and the group broke out into laughter. Bella joined in awkwardly, but while Alice gave her a small friendly nod, she was quickly distracted as Emmett babbling pointed out that he could hardly pee next to someone else, let alone anything else.

“Performance anxiety.” Edward said sagely, and they laughed again.

They climbed on the bus while Emmett commented that it was an impressive feat, as the house was so full.

“Minute man.” Rosalie shot back instantly and got a chuckle.

“So it was you, Emmett!” Alice yelled and they all broke out into more laughter. The laughter subsided as the girl from before, who hadn’t said anything to them in the house, sat again next to Edward without prompting, but pulled out her book again twice as quickly. Jasper cocked his head to the side quizzically, but Edward didn't seem to mind or even notice the seatmate, so no one really cared.

Every currently dating couple was loudly accused and just as loudly defended themselves in a bizarre pubescent mock-trail but with none of the rules. Until the teacher informed them all that a detention would be issued if the inappropriate conversation didn’t stop, though regardless they all deserved a detention anyway for the incident in question. Under the threat of the hilarious protective sex tool causing them to lose a lunch in the future, the students were much quieter the entire way back to school. But many phones were out, no doubt texts were being set to everyone in school about the new shocking drama. The ruckus started up again as everyone climbed off the bus, and Alice huffed as they headed back to Jasper’s car.

“I’m offended!” She told them all, “no-one even thought it could have been us, babe!” She said to her boyfriend, who would much rather the floor swallow him up right now.

“I’m okay with that.” He told her bluntly.

“Tweetie,” Emmett said in an exaggerated whisper, “you have to be sexually active to have sex.” He explained slowly.

“And who says we’re not!?” Alice shot back, tugging at Jasper’s arm.

“Please don’t implicate me.” He said lowly, but seriously. He never blushed or else it certainly never showed, but he looked to be in intense pain.

“I say you’re not.” Edward said heavily, his big brother instincts flaring up again.

Rosalie laughed. “That’s right, Ed, last teenage virgins in the great U-S-of-A.” She said sweetly, petting both Alice and Edward on the head. Edward only nodded with absolute certainty.

Alice opened her mouth to argue, but must have taken both Edward’s and Jasper’s facial expressions into account, as she sighed. “… Look, you’re my brother and I love you … so okay.” She told him. Edward heartedly thanked her, but glowered at Jasper, who didn’t meet his gaze.

“Plus look at you.” Emmett continued, gesturing to all of Alice. “Rose, now she’s sexy.” He said, grinning with all his dimples at her, and looking very pleased when she blew him a kiss. “You don’t look like you aged past twelve, and you’re as flat as an A4 sheet of paper, which is probably coincidentally your bra size.” He said. He’d been working on that one since Alice had latched onto calling him a minute-man on the bus.

Edward gave a dramatic gasp and looked Alice over. “Oh my god, he’s right,” Edward said, “I remember you at 12, and it was this, now.” He continued, chuckling as he pointed to her.

“I wish I knew you at 12.” Jasper said quietly to his girlfriend, who gave him a sharp peck on the cheek. Only sharp because Emmett’s comment was hurtful and made her really mad, but she genuinely thought her boyfriend was sweet. Even though she would have hated if Jasper had known her at 12.

Then she rounded on Edward. “First of all,” she held up a finger in his face, “you’re wrong, I’ve grown two inches since I was 12, and second of all,” the she turned to Emmett, now holding up two fingers, “I went from a training bra to a real bra in that time and third of all,” she held up three fingers and used one to poke Emmett’s chin, which is what she could reach, “how do you know my cup size!?” She demanded. The group broke out into laughter again and the hurts were brushed aside with teenage carefulness.

“How do you know her cup size?” Jasper asked.

“How do you?” Emmett shot back. At that Jasper started and shot Edward a quick, very tellingly guilty look.

“I don’t,” he said quickly, “I don’t even know how to count? What?” Alice giggled and ignored the dark look sent to her from her brother.

“Because I was just delivering a sick burn that was surprisingly accurate!” Emmett continued, hands raised innocently in his own defence.

“I deserve to be implicated in the Great Condom Discovery of 2017!” Alice continued, and Edward snapped at her not to give it a name. “Right babe!?” She implored, and Jasper winced.

“Maybe if I die I can get out of this conversation.” Jasper said to no-one, looking away from the pixie that latched onto his arm.

“I’m a very sexual being!” Alice insisted heatedly.

“I could walk into oncoming traffic.” Jasper casually suggested as he ignored her.

Rosalie snorting at the idea. “No one’s peeling out of the carpark dangerously enough.” She pointed out drily, and Jasper mutters about teenagers not living up to their expectations.

“Oh ew,” Emmett wrinkled his nose and tried not to laugh, “look tweets, I think we can all agree that no one wants you to say that again.” He said to Alice. “It’s just … gross.” The rest of the group agreed loudly, and slightly whiny on Edward’s part, and Alice scowled.

“Babe, you think I’m sexy, right?” Alice asked Jasper, looking up at him with her big brown eyes.

“No he doesn’t!” Edward snapped, looking a little red in the face.

“Darlin',” Jasper cooed, “I would rather jump into the sewer and find the ninja turtles than answer that question, right here, with these people. Or ever.”

“We’re continuing this conversation on the ride home.” Alice said simply.

“Then I’m walking.” Edward snapped.

Emmett raised his hand with a grin. “I’ll join you.” He told him, and Rosalie agreed to as well. And then Jasper also offered to walk with them, and Rosalie slapped him upside the head for even implying to abandon his beautiful car, and Alice slapped him straight after for implicitly abandoning his girlfriend.

--

Jasper actually took Alice home alone, as the others all agreed that the best thing for them was a refreshing walk, and to go to the mall and shop without Alice’s precocious nature getting in the way.

Alice was pleased as punch to get her boyfriend and his car all to herself, but told them all to go climb a tree anyway. Jasper was happy for the exact same reasons, and perhaps that Alice was still talking to him after their less-than-stella conversation last week.

Jasper suggested just driving around for a while, and she agreed, fiddling with the music as she did so. Her dad was a big music fan, and while he didn’t pass down his genetics to them, his audiophilia carried firmly. Alice preferred a few more indie songs, mostly because the idea of supporting up and coming talent pleased her, but her favourite artist will always be Edward and his piano.

She glanced at her watch, but she kind of already knew the time. “Babe, you wanna come to my house?” She offered sweetly. He nodded absently, but glanced down when Alice skimmed her fingers over the hand he had on the gearstick.

He met her gaze with a larger smile. “We going to be keeping Persnickety company?” He asked lightly.

“No, he’s off to the groomers,” Alice reminded him, “and you know I don’t let him in the room when we’re having sex.” She added, and he laughed.

--

The next morning, Alice was screaming bloody murder as she chased Persnickety around the house.

“Come back here, asshole!” She yelled, panic written all over her face as she bolted down the stairs after the quick asshole in particular. “You give that back!” She panted.

Edward was hunched over the kitchen counter, sipping coffee, freshly awake at noon on a Saturday.

“Too noisy,” he compassionately grunted, and she shrieked as the cat primly jumped straight into her father’s lap, something chomped in his maw.

Smiling, and looking amused to be interrupted from last-minute paperwork before an irregularly late start to work, he petted Pernickety’s head and shoved his fingers in the cat’s mouth, fishing out the object with no fuss.

“Calm down sweetheart,” he said simply, while Alice gaped, her entire face bright red and horrified. “Here’s your … condom.” He choked, and immediately dropped the plastic dome onto the floor.

Edward spat his coffee over the counter and threw his mug into the sink as he slid to the floor, desperately trying to muffle his gurgling laughter.

Alice forced herself to take one step, and then another, and then bolted to the shiny foil square and shoved it into her pocket, standing in front of her father wordlessly.

He didn’t seem to have any words either. Edward sat on the kitchen floor, spluttering, while Alice looked out the window and tried not to cry.

With a gusty sigh, her father dropped Pernickety on the floor and gathered up his paperwork, not meeting her gaze.

“Well, kids, I’m off to work. Edward, wipe up the coffee please.” He said, and left the kitchen and went upstairs.

Alice ran her hands through her short hair and squatted on the floor, mouth open in a silent scream.

Coughing, Edward popped back up, just to collapse back into howling laughter.

He’d caught sight of Jasper’s Thunderbird coming up the drive.

--

Jasper was a little embarrassed over how he felt about Carlisle Cullen, who was literally the father he never had. He really wanted the man to like him, and he trusted him the most out of all the adults he knew; which, granted, wasn’t a lot of trust, but still.

But today, waving at the man, he paused, because Carlisle didn’t wave back, just stopped and looked at him strangely, before hurrying to his car.

He watched the man go, raising a hand again in a confused greeting, but no car honk in return. It perturbed him, and he trudged up the drive.

He went through the side patio doors, that led from the stone outdoor oven to the kitchen, and found Edward sitting cross-legged on the floor, chuckling wetly. There was a splattering of what was probably coffee all over the counter.

His girlfriend was crouched down, like she had a sudden migraine, except she didn’t look necessarily in pain. “Your dad’s acting weird.” He told Edward was he walked past him, and knelt before Alice.

She muttered something unintelligible, and Jasper leaned closer. “What’s wrong, honey?” He asked quietly, worried over her behaviour.

“He got a condom out of Persnickety’s mouth.” She said, her eyes wide and disturbed. Jasper took a split second to process, before he jolted upwards and attempted to race out the door, climb into his car, and drive to Canada with a new identity.

Except Alice caught his foot and he was forced to kind of hop until he could right himself again. “I am not dealing with this on my own!” She declared fiercely.

“You’re right,” Edward piped up breathlessly, wiping his eyes, “you should share this problem with more people.” He managed to get out before collapsing into laughter again.

Jasper sneered at him and even Alice glared. “You be quiet – oh Rosalie!” Alice yelled, and pulled out her phone and was dialling at the speed of light.

“Does she need to know? I don’t even like Edward knowing.” Jasper said, looking pained. This was so embarrassing; it was like a nightmare except Jasper’s nightmares never involved Alice; her dream-presence had no business being in his hell-scape.

“Shh, I’m working on it,” Alice told him, and Jasper was left staring at the floor, almost wishing this wasn’t his life. But he loved Alice, and he loved being intimate with her, so really, he just wished that this exact scenario wasn’t currently happening.

--

Carlisle Cullen sat in front of five teenagers, who he cared about very much, and he wished for a wife. To help raise his two children and for his own partner and companion in life, of course. But also, just to have someone else to do this with.

“So … what Persnickety was eating this morning …” He hedges awkwardly, “… was left here by Rosalie.” He said, laying eyes on the girl.

After Rosalie had come to him once at work, on a truly awful night, the doctorly part of him was very pleased that the girl was sexually and consensually active. The more paternal part of him, who knew her as a person as his daughter’s best friend, was extremely displeased.

“Yes.” Rosalie said, tossing her head proudly. “Is that a problem?” She asked archly.

Carlisle nodded slowly. “Yes, it’s really not sanitary for your things or good for the cat.” He replied, and she settled slightly, no doubt understanding that he knew what she’d been through and he wasn’t about to judge her. He might not be happy about it, but these kid’s decisions weren’t going to be hinged on his pleasure.

Alice nodded hurriedly too. “Yep! Rose left it accidentally, sorry dad.” She said quickly.

Carlisle wasn’t sure whether to believe her or not. Alice had lied about and for and to the father she had had before him, a lifetime ago, and he certainly didn’t want her to start that with him. Carlisle wasn’t Alice’s birth father, Carlisle was her real father, and he slept better at night for it.

“So why is Emmett here?” Carlisle asked, looking over the carefully-calm Edward and a very quiet Jasper, to watch Emmett trying to stuff most of three orange slices in his mouth.

The boy managed to swallow it down in one go. “Well, Edward texted me that I should come over and then I came here and now I’m here.” He informed Carlisle. Alice clicked her tongue, obviously annoyed, and Edward’s only slip was a small quirk of his lips. He was a good big brother, but it seemed he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share.

“Tell your parents where you are.” Carlisle told him, and Emmett immediately began to laugh in surprise, as though he’d forgotten it was seven at night and he even had parents. But he obligingly pulled out his phone to message them. Carlisle learnt to remind him the second time he answered his phone, only to be screamed at in Yinglish about stealing other people’s children.

“It’s for … with him,” Rosalie nearly hissed, looking at Carlisle while inclining her head towards Emmett, who wasn't paying attention as he dicked around on his phone.

“I don’t know how I feel about you two having sex in my house.” Carlisle said, mostly to himself, but Edward choked down a chuckle regardless. Carlisle didn’t even have sex in his own house, but he wasn’t going to depress himself over it now.

He looked at Jasper, and he didn’t want to seem suspicious, and he wasn’t really. But the usually precocious boy had yet to speak a word to him unprompted, and he was a little suspicious. He knew that if his daughter was having sex with her boyfriend, he’d rather she not keep secrets. Really, he knew it was normal; they were seventeen and had been dating for over a year now. He didn’t want her to think she couldn’t tell him things because he’d get angry at her. Carlisle thought Jasper was a good boy; very self-sufficient, polite and friendly.

“Alright,” He said finally, standing up from the table where Alice had collected them all for a ‘family meeting’, which also included three children he hadn’t adopted. “It’s the same with anything else; I don’t want to see any of you hurt,” he glanced at Rosalie, “or reckless.” He added, looking at Emmett.

“It’s not a shameful thing at all …” he continued carefully, “so long as you make good choices. I do trust you to make good choices.” He added with finality, he’d honestly run out of things to say, and he wasn’t sure if he was giving them a lecture or channelling his father and delivering a sermon, but he was done.

“Thanks dad,” Alice said quietly. Carlisle nodded, because she’d confirmed his hunch. Maybe one little white lie from his daughter was alright. She had friends loyal enough to be complicit, and he did trust her. He trusted her choice with Jasper, and he trusted Jasper too. The only thing he didn’t trust was Persnickety and how many hours Edward claimed to have slept at night.

“I bought my pyjamas in case we were having a sleepover.” Emmett piped up with a grin that was both cheeky and beseeching.

Carlisle was working tonight, he had about three hours until he had to leave the house; being the head of the scalpel jockeys didn’t leave him with a lot of leisure time. He wouldn’t mind reading, or listening to Edward practise or simply falling dead asleep. But he looked at the five teenagers and their imploring looks and nodded.

“So long as you all sleep in the lounge room, and no fighting.” He said as they cheered. He watched them scurry off, to call parents and get bags out of cars, and felt a sudden dislike for people who complained about raising teenagers. Maybe he was too lenient; letting underage drinking and teenage sexual activity happen under his roof, but these were capable young people who, to an extent, confided in and trusted him.

--

So far, Alice was a cooking genius, and all anyone else was doing was assisting her. She might also be smug because her dad wasn’t mad at her, but that was another matter.

“Alice, if you put a hole in the dessert pizza, I swear to Moses!” Emmett yelled, trying to bat her hands away from curling some peanut M&Ms into the crust.

“I’m working!” She argued, batting back at his hands. Jasper and Rosalie were blending up milkshakes; they were debating whether salted caramel could feasibly be table salt and caramel essence.

“How do you judge the salt to caramel ratio?” Jasper countered, and Rosalie flicked his forehead, making him laugh in surprise.

“I think if we preheat the oven at a higher temperature and then, when the pizza’s in, we turn it down …. Wait, that’s not right ….” Edward was muttering as he flicked through the cookbook, trying to rely on the recipe even though the rest of the group abandoned it at the third step. Rosalie insisted she knew better than the book since they’d stopped following the recipe, but Edward was only one to stick to the rules.

“Oh – I love this song!” Rosalie yelled, as Lionel Ritchie’s Dancing On The Ceiling started to play. They all threw up a cheer, and after a very dorky, very fun dance break, they threw the pizza in the oven and retired into the longue, where they watched fifteen minutes of Drop Dead Gorgeous, before Jasper’s phone timer went off and they scrambled to get to the pizza.

“So,” Rosalie said, her mouth stringy with melted marshmallows, “doc definitely knows you’re having sex now.” She said.

Edward choked on a jellybean and Emmett had the decency to laugh into his hand instead of making them all see the food in his mouth.

Alice nods, a little sadly. She wasn’t ashamed of what she did with Jasper; she loved him and she loved every way they were together. But she was afraid it might make things weird between her and her dad.

But, she reminded herself sternly, her dad wasn’t like Rosalie’s dad. He didn’t get weird when Alice started wearing training bras and buying lip-gloss. Even though he could justifiably be even more weirded out. Alice’s dad wouldn’t treat her badly because she wanted to be as close to her boyfriend as she could. It just meant that it was another sign she was growing out of being his little girl.

“Good,” it was Jasper then, which was surprising. He even looked a little relieved. “I don’t like lying to honest men.” He added in the face of everyone’s surprise. Alice leaned against him and agreed.

Emmett grinned, “so I guess me and Rosie weren’t that believable.” The big man stuck his tongue out teasingly at Rosalie, who flipped him off.

“Baby, believe me, I’d blow your mind and you know it.” She shot back, and they laughed, but Alice seemed to focus more on her pizza, Jasper was flicking through his phone and Edward plucked at a loose thread on his cardigan to avoid the two.

Emmett’s gaze flicked down to the table, and his grin slipped a bit. Rosalie caught on to the shift in atmosphere, and flicked the rest of her pizza onto the oven tray again.

“I’m bored, let’s watch something.” She added, and sauntered out of the room.

Chapter Text

The Events Committee had really hit a home run this time. They were having a school-funded dance, of whose funds did not cover a bouncer to lift drinks and other substances. It was going to be wild.

Today, Edward didn’t care about that, though. Today, Edward wanted to finish his work. Nothing school-related, thank god, but he had a recital and planned on wowing with an original. This certain piece he’d been working on for months and with one certain person in mind.

For right now, though, he was late to school, as always, and Emmett was beeping out the tune to god knows what. Edward could hear his so-called friends singing along in some muffled cheer that was driving him crazy. He flew through his routine and was on time, technically by his standards. He chugged a coffee from the Nespresso machine, as usual, in anticipation for the iced coffee that better be waiting for him in the car. He stuck an apple in his mouth to eat later too.

“Here she is! Our Miss American Teen Princess! Look at her, doesn’t she look fine!” They were yelling in a jumbled sing-along; Emmett sticking his head out the window and pressing on the horn from the passenger side, with Jasper not yet in the car, to ensure that Edward put his bag in the truck and slammed it closed. Like he’d forget the same routine every damn morning.

“I hate you all,” he greeted them with as Jasper re-started the engine, and they were laughing so loud Edward couldn’t even hear and then appropriately judge whatever song Emmett had picked. He slumped against the window, feeling his eyes getting heavier.

Only to give a shout when something slimy touched his cheek.

Alice held up his iced coffee with a grin. “Forgot something!” She trilled. Rosalie snorted, and yet didn’t even look up from her phone, the talented girl.

Edward took the cup huffily, and muttered, “I always do.”

--

Jessica had actually woken Bella up by leaning on the horn of her white Mercury at half-past six in the morning. Bella was still mad at her about it, even if it was lunch.

Jessica claimed she was deep into some ret-con mission that no-one else could help her with; mostly because Angela lived too far away, she didn’t like June Richardson, and Lauren was still a back-stabber. Or so Jessica claims, because Rob Sawyer flirted with her a week before he hooked up with Lauren, which meant Jessica firmly believed she could have very well have been in Lauren’s shoes.

Bella doubted it, Lauren was two cup sizes bigger than her and Rob Sawyer was nothing but a generically-handsome slut.

Now they were drinking the watery crap from the school canteen and not-reading their open English textbooks at the closest table to the Ideal Windows you could get if you were nobody.

The Ideal Windows was just three in the centre of the wide curved side of the cafeteria. It was directly in front of the best three tables in the entire room. One table was for the jocks and the guys, one for the Girls, and one was where Edward usually sat reading, with Emmett and Jasper facing one table and Alice and Rosalie the other.

Katie, Rob and Jennifer usually staked them out first thing at lunch and scared off anyone who tried to sit there.

They could hear what was being said without being too noticeable, usually. Bella had gotten the hot lunch; lasagne today, and she was pretty glad she did, it was so drizzly out. Jessica had a very sad-looking sandwich from the build-your-own bar, because that’s all the popular group ate. It was only Acceptable to eat the sandwiches, or get fries or a slice of whatever pie was the special from the counter.

Bella could see the appeal of the sandwich bar; the ingredients were fresher because it was actually run by a small local company, not a government-based program. It was also extremely pricy, so Bella avoided it usually.

Jessica wasn’t even eating, either, she was staring intently at Bella, which was very creepy, to avoid breaking her neck craning to look behind her.

Due to the school dance, which had been spearheaded by Jessica herself, having unfortunate ‘budgeting issues’, the school hadn’t covered hiring a few guys to check bags at the door. Which meant the teachers would have to do it. Which meant all the kids would try and either get through the door with Coach Clapp, who hated the school dances and just scowled at you before letting you in, or Mr. Molina, who seemed iffy about personal space, always just grimacing and poking gingerly into your bag before waving you inside.

The entire student body was going to be hammered in the ‘concert hall’. The concert hall was donated by ‘former students’, which meant the cashed-up trust-fund babies that usually went to this school. It was a very modern venue hall; meant as a place to hold the graduations and awards ceremonies, instead of having to pay for an outside location.

This was the first seasonal dance being held in it, though, and Jessica had pulled out all the stops. Bella was pretty proud of her, and glad Jessica’s nail-biting stress habits hadn’t reared their ugly head when she was around.

What Jessica was most proud of, though, was the message she’d been sent.

Jennifer Ford:

Hey, Jessie! We wanted to thank you so much for your hard work these past few weeks! It’s so awesome the way you budgeted the party, don’t even let Principal Greene bother you! I’m so excited to see what you’re going to do next! <333

Jessica had shown everyone, Mike, Eric, Angela, Tyler, June, Ben Chaney and Bella. Bella didn’t see the big deal; it sounded kind of like a boss complimenting their employee, instead of a few slack members of an Events Committee fobbing off all the work on one girl. Especially since Jessica was solely scolded for messing up the budget, though the teachers were under the impression it was an accident. Plus, it was weird only Jennifer thanked her and not Katie as well, and even Lauren, who actually knew Jessica.

“Katie didn’t thank you because you don’t own a Gucci handbag,” Tyler said, laughing into his soda when Bella voiced her opinion on the matter.

“Name one other brand name.” Jessica told him, but he shook his head and grinned around the straw in his drink.

“No-one else thanked you because Katie literally is the biggest snob in the world, and Lauren’s just a bitch,” Mike spoke up.

“I heard that Katie and Austin Marks were hanging out, but I hope that’s not true.” Eric added with some venom. Eric tried to act as though occasionally handing out sheet music to Edward meant he was relatively tolerated by the popular group and therefore above this weird cylindrical power-grab. It wasn’t true though, because he continually mentioned the Diwali celebration that Austin Marks invited him to in sixth grade.

“They’ll hear you!” Angela hissed, her ears already pink.

Angela had an inane fear that the person you spoke badly about would hear you, which would be just desserts because you weren’t supposed to speak badly of people. Mike and Tyler began mimicking her concerns in a silly, high-pitched tone, and she tried to fling a meatball at them. They claimed to like her new moxie, and started to fold napkins into paper airplanes to retaliate.

Bella calmed when the topic moved on; even Jessica was pointing out how terribly a napkin would fly, and suggested they use the paper in their binders. It was like always, they all started whispering over the popular kids, before their conversation morphed into something more mundane, like obviously their world didn’t revolve around kids who couldn’t care less about them.

“… The party’s gonna be great! Well done, Katie!” Samantha Wells said, beaming. Bella felt her stomach clench; it was Jessica’s work.

“I can’t believe this even happened.” Jasper said, a laugh in his voice.

“This school is so lax, I love it!” Alice cheered.

Bella actually had to roll her eyes at that. Of course, they thought the school was lax, or even that most of the student body were nice or friendly. Maybe they didn’t even realise they were popular.

Bella remembered waiting for Angela to finish playing teacher’s pet for Ms Platt last year, and eaves-dropping a little.

“It’s great that this school doesn’t even have a dumb popularity contest,” Alice had said airily to Angela, “like everyone has their own friend group and all, but no one’s seen as better than anyone else.” She had added. Bella had to hide her face in her hands to stop from laughing out loud at the time. But being popular meant either you knew and didn’t care, and didn’t know and still didn’t care.

It was them who parked next to Coach Clapp, or yelled out in class. They got away with it because they were popular, and they were popular because they got away with it.

--

Edward heard Alice thumping up the stairs for god-knows-why, and yelled at her to shut up.

“I can’t believe you just told me to shut up!” She yelled back, laughter in her voice. It was weird that the first time Alice ever yelled at Emmett was commemorated with those friends of theirs.

Edward sighed as his phone dinged. Apparently, he was to be hounded from all sides today. Rosalie was trying to muscle in on his me-time.

If we don’t go to this I’ll kill you. She messaged him very eloquently. Frankly, Edward was surprised she even wanted to go. School dances were of no interest to him, it sounded boring and tacky.

Alice was, however, a firm believer that if she could dance there, it was worth going. Which meant Jasper was in, and Rosalie’s threats meant Emmett was in. Which, of course, meant Edward was in because the majority of his friends were assholes that wanted to be sociable.

You win this time, but I’ll get mine.

Edward texted her. She sent a string of rainbow hearts back in reply, like Alice would, but instead of coming off as so happy she couldn’t articulate it in the written form, it was just mocking. Edward didn’t even care how ominous he sounded; if Rosalie was suddenly struck down by the plague, well …

Edward frowned at his own train of thought. He didn’t like joking about people dying from illnesses. He felt he should at least acknowledge the way his parents died, even if he didn’t remember them.

“Almost ready for the dance, big bro?” It was Alice, beaming at him.

He inclined his head. “Sure.”

“Just kidding!” Alice laughed, and grabbed his arm, tugging. “Not letting you wear tan slacks to a dance! Come on, let Auntie Alice dress you!” Alice cooed, and Edward smiled despite her dig at his own outfit choice. ‘Auntie Alice’ was a dress-up character that Alice had made-up when they were five; not strangers anymore, but only friends and not yet siblings.

She’d totter about with a blanket as a dress or a shawl, with an ugly mashed hat on, and primly ask Edward if he needed Auntie to buy him new underwear, if the pairs that he had now had holes in them.

--

At the dance, Alice’s feet already hurt from all the dancing, and she loved it.

Rosalie wore an off-the-shoulder bodycon dress. It accentuated every shimmy of her shoulders. Alice wore a shiny gold shift with capped sleeves.

Samantha had kept it simple with a lacy light pink skater dress, Katie had a maroon long-sleeved pencil dress and Jennifer wore an olive spaghetti-strapped halter-dress. Samantha had suggested that everyone wear cocktail-length dresses. They would end up in Bin Soo’s for happy hour, because D.J Garret’s parents were childhood friends with the owner and would let them drink.

Lee, and Austin smuggled in an impressive couple of bottles of spirits between them, but it was really Rob who took the cake, his smuggling took the form of a large overcoat and presents.

He gave out engraved flasks for them all, with leather covers. The metal flasks said their full names, and the leather were playful jokes.

Alice’s said, tweetie the tiny dancer, and she loved it. Jasper already put half of its contents in her drinks, so she really loved everything right now.

She loved the decorations in the concert hall; she loved that even though it was so crowded, she wasn’t being squished by all the taller humans, she loved that all her friends were here!

She danced with Rosalie mostly, but a slower song comes crackling through the speakers, and Alice feels a tap on her shoulder.

“Dance with me.” Jasper said, hand outstretched. He didn’t need to ask, because Alice would always say yes. She took his hand and he gave her knuckles a kiss before pulling her closer. “Are you happy?” He asked softly.

Alice nods, smiling up at him as they swayed. They weren’t the best at slow-dances; Alice loved music you could really move to, and Jasper had gotten very good at keeping up. But also, Alice always ended up forgetting to move her feet at all; she just wanted to stare into Jasper’s sweet blue eyes forever.

--

While a slow song played, Rosalie peeled off from the group and met Emmett’s gaze.

With a tilt of her head, he made his way over to her.

“You wanna dance?” He asked her, obviously trying to seduce her with his dimples. She shook her head, and said she was tired and wanted to sit. So he sat at the table where all their bags were piled up, and she sat on his lap.

“We’ll get in trouble,” Emmett told her, though he was grinning, but she mostly knew what he was saying through the rumbling in his chest. Rosalie shrugged and pressed her nose into his temple. She didn’t want to think about what a bunch of teachers would chide them about. She wanted to smell his cologne; and stroke her fingers over his slight stubble.

With this song filling up the room, and feeling his body warmth, Rosalie sighed. “Emmett, I don’t know what I’m doing with you.” She admitted to him quietly. It was easier to say in the dark, away from prying eye. “I know I can’t be with you right now, not really. But I know I don’t want to see you with anyone else.” She told him.

Emmett just smiled, so easily. “That’s okay!” He said brightly. “Rosa, this is me giving you time. I’ll wait, you’re worth it.” He told her, dimpling at her like he knew what it did to her.

Rosalie kissed him then, sucking on his plump bottom lip, then coming up for air, before leaning back down and kissing him again. His hands curled over her; one sliding across her shoulders, the other her hip. She was immensely grateful none of the teachers tried to stop her, because she didn’t know if she could.

--

Edward watched his sister and Jasper dance so slowly they were barely moving; they kept getting distracted by each other, and like always they were going to end up just standing there in a full-body hug in about 35 seconds, like this was their last night together before he was deployed. It was ridiculous. Stephens and Wells were dancing together, too and the others had fallen into conversation or picked a partner somewhere else around the room

No-one sat at the table they’d put all their bags and coats on, because Rosalie and Emmett were currently making out heavily. Edward hoped one of them passed out due to oxygen deprivation.

He sat alone; he didn’t like any of his friend’s friends enough to stand with them, he sat on the edge of the stage instead. He was alone, and usually it didn’t irk him. He was a teenager, he knew he had time to find a love, he never felt the need to fill his personal space with someone else. But now his thoughts were full of Jacob Black so constantly; he’d never had an infatuation before, it was so jarring. It jump-started the process; it made him realise sometimes he was alone, and valued it, and sometimes he was just lonely. He hated that he could tell the difference now.

He sighed with relief when the slow song ended, and Alice disengaged from Jasper to float up towards him. She was quite a bit drunk; her cheeks flushed.

“Edward, are you sad?” She asked when she came up to him, a little crease in between her eyebrows. “Jasper said you looked sad.” She added.

Edward shrugged. “I’m just tired.” He said instead, which was true pretty much all the time; he hadn’t slept before midnight in Lord knows how many years. The slow song had ended though, so he was cheering up again.

The next song was intolerable, and Edward felt a headache coming on due to how much he disliked it. He was scowling heavily when Emmett came grinning up to them; pale pink smudged around his mouth. “Having fun, kiddies?” He asked.

Jasper was expertly balancing five cups and a wad of napkins. “You’re wearing most of Rosie’s lipstick.” Jasper told him, stuffing the napkins down Emmett’s collar. He left the fifth drink for Rosalie on the stage next to Edward.

The big man only grinned harder, taking a napkin and rubbing at the waxy colour with pride. “I know, that’s why she went to freshen up in the bathroom.” He said cheekily. Edward could tell everyone else was in a good mood; and they were only congregating around him because they knew him well enough to know when he was a little morose.

He would never admit to being touched over how much his friends cared about his grumpy moods; there wasn’t enough alcohol in the world to make him as warm and fuzzy as his sister to could get. Looking at Alice now, he nodded at her. “Go join her,” He said, though it was more of a suggestion. While Emmett and Jasper would respect the manly rule of not talking about your feelings; Alice was much more likely to pry and pout.

Alice knew when she was being dismissed, though, so with a quick peck on the cheek from Jasper, she allowed herself to be shooed to the ladies’ room, taking Rosalie’s cup with her.

Jasper and Emmett leant on either side of him; Jasper had his arms crossed, and Emmett had the rim of his cup between his teeth as he tucked his hands behind his head.

“It’s not been a bad night.” Emmett said, with no little amount of satisfaction in his tone. It was easy to see why he’d said that; no need to look any further than the colour still smeared around his mouth.

“No, it hasn’t.” Jasper agreed quietly, Alice’s purse tucked under his own arm.

Edward was even beginning to enjoy watching the revelry of the student body, when one of Jasper’s friends skidded up to them, his brown face flushed with excitement.

“You guys, we gotta skedaddle!” He said, trying to hold in his laughter and failing. Jasper caught him by the arm, and was grinning too.

“What did you do, Marks!?” Emmett demanded enthusiastically.

“Mr Mason may have just found one of my blunts?” Austin suggested with a shrug, “We gotta move before they shut down the doors and start searching.” He said. Edward winced; one of the guys had given him a flask with an engraving in leather saying ‘tickle the ivories, maestro’.

“We must exeunt, pursued by a bear.” Edward agreed, quoting Emmett’s engraved flask, hopping off the stage.

With a laugh, Jasper offered to help round up the troops with him, and so did Emmett, cackling in the face of danger as they went.

“Code 420, gents!” Emmett yelled, barrelling in between Connor and D.J Garret with a mad grin. They bolted into action, stumbling over themselves and each other, and dashing past and through other students to collect their things. Edward snagged Alice and Rosalie’s coats, and threw his own to Emmett to carry.

The girls suddenly burst from the bathroom, giggling and trying their best to bolt in their heels. Emmett wrapped a hand around Rosalie’s waist, laughing as he pulled them both into a sprint. Alice grabbed Jasper’s hand and he helped pull her forward.

Their stupid escape plan was beginning to make even Edward laugh, even though they’d be in some deep trouble if they were caught with their flasks. He leapt over a chair to keep on Jasper’s heels, and heard more than one shout of indignation as they fled.

“To Bin Soo!” Lee Stephens declared in some sort of demented war cry, as they all starting booking it for the emergency exit.

--

Bella tutted like a mother hen when Rob Sawyer shouldered past Tyler while howling with laughter.

Tyler looked furious as he brushed off Bella’s steadying hand. “God, I hate that guy!” He snapped, and Bella didn’t point out that Rob doubtfully shoved him because he was Lauren’s ex, but because he was so far beneath their notice. It felt mean to say, but they all were, it wasn’t surprising.

“Are they leaving?” Jessica asked, looking devastated. Indeed, the popular kids were throwing on coats in a rush and shouting with laughter. Bella almost stamped her foot; she knew Jessica had put a lot of effort into making this dance cool enough for their appearance.

Plus, she had been gearing up to stand next to Edward as he was leaning on the stage all through the slow dance song. She’d been walking up to them when Austin Marks darted past her and said something that drove them all away.

The music faded away, and Mr Varner was clearing his throat into the microphone. It crackled, and there was a wave of protest from the students. His voice sounded disembodied in the room, like God was a middle-aged Puerto Rican this entire time. “Attention, attention. Everyone, we have found some contraband items in the toilet’s this evening.” He said sternly, and a groan went up. Jessica squeaked with dismay, “I wasn’t joking, we’re doing bag searches. You were all warned.” There was a louder unhappy murmur slowly growing, but Bella only rolled her eyes.

She took Tyler’s bottle of whiskey from his coat pocket and rolled it under the table while she collected everyone’s things under the guise of helping the teacher rifle through it. Perks of being a boring teenager meant adults never suspected her of being interesting enough to break the rules.

Bella cast a look at the emergency fire doors that those kids had vanished through. She kind of knew, as probably most people did, that they were most likely the guilty party.

“Where’s Rob?” A panicked voice shrieked. It was Lauren, looking extremely bewildered. Bella blinked; she had kind of assumed that Lauren had left with the others.

“He already left, Mallory.” Jessica snapped. Jessica was only talking to her because Lauren had worn a floor-length summer dress when Rosalie, Alice and co. hadn’t. She was taking it as a victory.

Bella winced; by Lauren’s suddenly furious gaze, it was obvious that her boyfriend had just ditched her.

“Serves her right,” Tyler said, but he didn’t seem very smug about it.

--

They burst from the concert hall, choking on their laughter. Emmett had driven them in his trusty Jeep, and agreed to meet them at Bin Soo’s. Jennifer was taking Samantha, Lee, and Rob, while D.J Garret was taking Connor, Katie and Austin in his unfortunate Corolla.

They piled into the Jeep, breathless with laughter.

“We made it!” Alice cheered, giggling as she cuddles up to Jasper in the back.

“I want that ice cream bao.” Emmett said, drumming his fingers restlessly against the steering wheel.

“Oh, we probably weren’t the only idiots to bring drink, but we probably bought the most.” Jasper said, chuckling. Edward didn’t doubt that they’d be some students who would be reprimanded for bringing something they shouldn’t, but it was a risk everyone took.

Rosalie and Alice were rolling their shoulders to the silly pop song they had chosen from Rosalie’s phone, and Edward leant his head against the front window seat. Jasper had been relegated to the middle, but he didn’t seem to mind because he was watching Alice affectionately as she danced in her seat.

“Do we have to go to Bin Soo?” Edward asked quietly. He felt the usual pull one of his moods got him in. It made him too tired to do anything, but too keyed up to sleep. Plus, Bin Soo was one of the take-out places dad loved to phone in for them. It felt weird actually going to the restaurant.

Jasper gave him a side-long look, which could usually come off asshole-ish, but Edward could tell he was trying to gauge how depressed Edward was getting. “Don’t be sulky.” He said steadily.

“You know the only people I tolerate are right in this car.” He muttered, gazing out into the dark night. Though that wasn’t true; there was one boy on his mind that he more than tolerated.

They were passing darkened shop fronts and streetlights and he thought it would be a nice night for a walk, not going to a noisy restaurant.

“High school is about making friends, Mr. Sullen Cullen!” Emmett sang, but he was watching Edward too, his gaze kinder than the use of that stupid nick-name. With several siblings, Emmett learn to get along in a busy enclosed space by refusing to hold a grudge and giving people the time they needed.

Edward frowned at the bare mention of ‘friends’. He didn’t even consider the people in this car as his friends; they were all his family, even if only Alice shared his last name. “I don’t need any other ones.” He said.

“Aw,” Rosalie said, her voice mocking, as always to cover any hint of softness. “Eddie’s starting to feel his fourth drink! We know what that means!” She said, laughing. The others laughed too, and even Edward smiled. Alice usually always got gooey on her fourth drink, and, even though Edward swore it wasn’t true up and down, sometimes he might show the same characteristics, if only occasionally.

“Shut up.” He said lightly.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe you just told her to shut up!”

They laughed a little, and fell into a beat of silence. The song had changed to some cover of the Police.

“Hey,” Emmett said, eyes on his phone. The car had been quiet enough that the word got everyone’s attention. “Apparently Rob’s only just now realised that he left his girl back at the hall.”

They all fell into even louder laughter, and Alice had to roll down the window because her eyes were watering so badly, and Jasper was leaning against Rosalie because he was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. Emmett’s face had turned almost entirely red, and Rosalie kept claiming he’d have to pull over if they didn’t cut it out.

--

Emmett had Rosalie pinning him against the side of his jeep as they made out. It was as awesome as it usually was, with his fingers running through her long gold hair, and her hips rolling against his.

Edward was hanging half-out of the back of the car, sprawled on his back, a water bottle pressed against his temple. The rest of their extended circle had already stumbled off home; but Emmett had decided that sticking his tongue down Rosalie’s throat was more important than Edward’s well-being. Edward groaned slightly against his almost-there hangover. Everyone else had drank much more than him, so he was the first to start sobering up.

Alice and Jasper were still eating rice cake sticks and generally being mushy and in love. It was making Edward sick, though, at the moment, so was everything else.

“Um, hey.” A very familiar voice said, slightly uncertain. Edward cracked an eye open, and then shot up so fast he made his headache worse. Jacob Black was standing in front of him. He was wearing sweatpants and beat-up sneakers with the heels squished flat and no socks. He held a plastic bag and his phone in one hand. He was the most beautiful thing Edward had ever seen.

He begins to smile. “Jacob Black,” he says, then realises he probably looked as drunk as he was. He ran a self-conscious hand through his hair, and winced when his temples throbbed, “oh, urg.” He muttered, trying to pinch both his cheeks both to help him look any less white, and to prove that he wasn’t dreaming up the boy of his dreams right now.

Jacob smiles a little and Edward’s whole heart trembles. “Primping won’t help,” Jacob told him, “you still look like shit.”

Edward knew his drunken flush was now just a blush, and eyed Jake as he continued to smile. “Gee, thanks.” He muttered, struggling a little to try and sit up. But he gives up; obviously fate was setting him up to look like a complete idiot in front of a boy who was just so incredibly beautiful.

Jake, though, Edward may be projecting, may look a little charmed at his drunken incompetence. Edward hears the rustle of his plastic bag, when suddenly there’s a weight against the back of his neck, and Jake’s brown hand comes up to grip the roof frame.

“You look like you had fun.” Jake says, and pressed the inside of his elbow further against Edward’s nape. “Here, relax your neck.” He offers, and Edward carefully does so. His head is now cradled in Jake’s arm, which is much more comfortable than the side of the Jeep’s bed. Edward looks up at Jake’s softly smiling face.

Edward used to, and occasionally still does, eavesdrop on his father’s conversations with Billy Black. Usually, it’s boring logistics about how many staff were needed for a day-long vaccination program, and what type of funding they could apply for. But, Edward had picked up on some titbits which he kept close to his chest. Jake had moved up here within the last eight months; he’d gotten his GED last month, his older sister was having a baby.

Edward found himself smiling sleepily up at the boy’s face. “I’m glad you’re here, Jake.” Edward said softly, yawning a little.

Jake looked askance, and shifted a little. “You’re drunk, and it’s late.” He replied softly, and suddenly, Jake’s hand was on his scalp, pushing him up a little. Slightly electrified by the touch, Edward sat up willingly, and Jake took a step back. “I should go.” He says, with a slightly uptilt of his chin, and he was already walking away as Edward stared after him.

“I’m in love.” He said, to no one in particular, and no one in particular answered.

Chapter Text

Bella was dreading today. It was Valentine’s Day, which meant hell and then some. Valentine’s Day at their school meant a five-dollar donation to send roses to a friend or a partner or whatever. It was a popularity contest, like everything, and Bella was sucked into the madness like every year.

Jessica loved helping to set up the Valentine’s Day roses. She was on the committee, including the likes of Katie Marshall and Jennifer Ford, and this year, Lauren Mallory, that choose the charity to give the donations too, and what distributors would sell them for cheap, and which underclassmen would get the coveted spot to hand them out.

Handing out the Valentine’s Day roses was a step to being popular; Katie and Jennifer got their start there. Jessica had applied and even sent an application in for Bella without telling her, but was thankfully too late. Girls like Rosalie and Alice didn’t have to, of course, they had already been making waves.

And, of course, they got the most roses. Most of them were from Edward; every year since they started school Rosalie and Alice got 12 roses from him. It would be cringe for anyone else to get flowers from their own brother, but maybe because it was Alice receiving them, or Edward giving them, it just made them both look good. Rosalie always got the most flowers, Alice actually had a noticeable dip after going steady with Jasper, who’d specially requested from the committee to give an order for five snapdragons for her, but she was hardly last place, and last year had evened out to the normal 30’s.

But those girls rarely carried their roses for the whole day; carrying that amount made them wilt and droop, after all. Ms Platt, arguably the most popular teacher in school, agreed to store their roses in her office, but did not extend the invitation lightly. It was why Jessica was so scarce the day of Valentine’s; she went to Ms Platt’s office to supervise the underlings counting the roses, and was able to speak with the girls about their half-day total number by lunch.

Plus, unless you were one of the popular girls, you wanted to prove you had at least some friends, so unless you were on top, carrying no roses was like a permanent black mark.

Bella did the same as she did every year; one for Jess, one for Angela, one of a couple few more friends and she saved one to give to her mom after school. She usually got around ten, and gave out the same amount. Mike, Tyler and Eric were nice enough to send her a few, as well as other classmates like June Richardson and Ben Chaney. Jessica nearly went broke, like every year, sending roses to all the people she desperately wanted to befriend.

--

It was Cupid Day. Alice was elated. Her excellent boyfriend got her a huge sunflower, with a matching necklace. Rosalie got her a rose and Emmett had given her two roses, and Edward had given her a dozen red roses. In fact, she’s gotten at least one rose from all her friends.

Rosalie had also gotten a rose from Alice, a rose from Jasper, three roses from Emmett and a dozen red roses from Edward. As well as a multitude of roses from others who’s cards she didn’t keep and hang in her locker.

As always, Edward bought two dozen red roses from that stupid event committee three months in advance, and all but shoved them at the girls, task done. He liked making a statement and that statement was; he would do the bare minimum and nothing more. Which wasn’t necessarily true, because Jacob Black was walking through the school with a mismatch of several flowers. And Edward would gladly eat glass if it meant those flowers were for him, as stupid as he knew the notion was.

Edward shushed Emmett immediately, who was trying to cajole everyone into coming to the game on Friday – everyone being himself and Jasper, who was leaning against Edward’s locker like a nuisance.

“Um hey, you’re the doc’s son, right?” Jacob asked, spotting him and walking over.

Edward prayed to god he didn’t get hard in his slacks or his voice broke or anything embarrassing. “That’s right.” He replied steadily.

Jacob nodded, and doesn’t miss the way Edward eyes the flowers he’s carrying. “Yeah, got a delivery to make, my friend, she’s probably the same age as you.” Edward frowned at the mention of some girl, and how it brought him out of the thoughts currently swirling around his head. Namely, that Jacob Black was also carrying a motorcycle helmet. Did Jacob Black ride a motorcycle? Edward couldn’t even let himself dwell on such a thought in public.

He tried not to overly glare when he replied. “Well I hope she likes them.” He knew he sounded short, but frankly, Jacob Black carrying flowers for some girl wasn’t going to put him in the best of moods.

“Yeah, so … I’m gonna go find her, then.” He shrugs and gives a parting uptilt of his chin that looked so cool Edward felt a tingling in the tips of his fingers.

Edward blew out a long sigh when he left. “… He’s so beautiful my entire mouth just filled with saliva.” He muttered.

Jasper carefully refused to react, but Emmett laughed while wrinkling his nose. “That’s not the best out-loud thought.” He said, dimpling at Edward and showing yet again just how adorable he was. Fondly, Edward reached out and twisted his finger around one of the big man’s curly locks and tugged him down until they were nose to nose.

“If I see them kissing today I’m going to throw myself off the damn roof.” He said with a tight smile, and Emmett had the curtesy to wince sympathetically, or because his hair was being pulled. At Jasper’s calm prompting Edward released him and scowled as Alice came trotting up.

She stood on her tip-toes to give Jasper a warm kiss and grinned widely at Edward. “How ya go, big bro!” She said cheerfully. Edward didn’t want to turn on his sister, but Alice was the one that interacted with people. Out of the two of them, he would have expected her to know if Jacob Black was going to be visiting their school.

He frowned at her as she fiddled with a stupidly huge sunflower. “Who is Jacob Black giving flowers to?” He asked sharply, though the question was aimed at everyone.

Alice shrugged a little, leaning against Jasper as he hugged her from behind. “Who is that?” She replied carelessly, before ignoring him. “Thank you for my flower, baby.” She added sweetly as Jasper kissed the top of her head. Edward rolled his eyes and ignored them.

Rosalie swanned up to them, already burdened with more roses than Edward had given her. She was followed by her usual posse, and Edward ignored them as they stayed behind her chatting amongst themselves.

He needed to find out who Jacob was giving those flowers too.

He could ask one of Rosalie’s shiny-haired lackeys. They would hunt this girl down for him, probably as long as he didn’t call them lackeys to their faces. But he didn’t actually like people, even if they were friends of his friends. Really the only people he tolerated were his father, Emmett, Jasper, Rose and of course Alice. Though he would make one big exception for Jacob Black.

Rosalie was sighing and in general acting like a brat. “It’s Cupid Day on a Friday, and we have no plans,” She said heavily.

Emmett laughed at her. “You don’t know who has plans.” He said, a twinkle in his eye.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rosalie asked him sharply, pulling away from him slightly.

“Shut up.” Edward told her, having spotted Jacob walking back empty-handed.

“Oh my god, I can’t believe you told her to shut up,” Emmett and Jasper said mockingly, but Edward completely ignored them.

Rosalie, though, gave him a shove that made him stumble as he brushed past her towards Jake, and he was grateful to every deity that Jacob saw him only after he’d righted himself. “Jacob, find her?” He asked.

“Yeah,” Jacob nodded, shifting the helmet under his arm, “better head out, though, because I don’t go here.” He added with a smile that made Edward’s knees a little shaky.

“I don’t mean to keep you.” Edward said quickly, “I hope she likes the flowers.” He adds weakly.

“Yeah, she did. Be seeing you.” Jacob nods, and lopes off down the hall. Edward knows he’s staring after him, but he can’t even make himself care.

--

Emmett was talking to Rosalie about the pre-game dinner the team was setting up, while she was twirling one of his curly locks absently with her finger. Rosalie did the cheer thing and it didn’t stick; though Sammy Wells still did. Rosalie’s mind was occupied, though; Emmett had implied he had plans today, on Cupid Day of all days. But the group had gone off on a tangent and she hadn’t been able to come back to it naturally.

“I hope we forget to tell Rob.” Emmett tells her quietly.

She looks back at him with a toss of her golden hair, and he gets a wave of jasmine in his face. “What’s up?” She asks him.

Emmett didn’t know if he wanted to blurt stuff out with so many people around, as most of their friends had turned up. But he just shrugs and goes full-barrel. “Keeps making Hitler jokes.” He said.

“God,” Lee looks like he was the beginnings of pissed, “he doesn’t know your dad’s jewish?” He asked, and Emmett shrugged. It wasn’t too obvious, but his dad came to all his games and wore the star around his neck and he was Silas McCarty.

Connor looks confused. “I thought he was Scottish.” He said.

“My grandparents are.” Emmett shrugged, thinking about the tartan they had hanging up like a flag over the living room entrance. “I don’t know.” He shrugged, not wanting to continue the subject. He could feel Rosalie’s attention still on him, though. He was hyper-aware of her like that.

He could have kicked himself; this was just a stupid thing to bring up. His only original goal for today was to ask her out; not complain about his dumb teammates.

--

Edward, though, looked extremely dark when he came back from drooling good-bye to the boy he was in love with.

“Excellent.” He muttered with venom, which Rosalie found intensely amusing. “Who was the girl who received his flowers?” He asked briskly. Rosalie had no clue who that was the first time he’d asked, and it was obvious by their loose shrugs neither Jasper or Emmett had a clue either. But apparently this girl was part of the puzzle that would bring Jacob to Edward, to probably get sucked off or something.

“I know her.” It was Lauren who had spoken, but Rosalie waved Edward away when he looked towards her. He seemed too preoccupied to be miffed about the dismissal, and left without a fuss.

Lauren was unfortunately trying to wiggle her way in through Rosalie’s side; making sure to be at Katie’s beck and call in particular. So it was Rosalie’s job to keep her just on the surface, because Rob was on very thin ice, and Lauren had a pug nose and once said she didn’t find Selena or Beyoncé ‘classically beautiful’ and Rosalie didn’t need to keep a plain girl near her to remind her that she wasn’t.

Edward leaves her to it, no doubt thinking about Jacob and several of his body parts, and Jasper could tell she didn’t need sweet Alice to see this, and takes Emmett with them too as they leave. She feels Emmett’s fingers gentle down her spine as he leaves.

She barely glances at Lauren, who, despite the long pause, seemed unfoundedly smug and proud to know a nobody that Edward mentioned once. She shared A Look with Jennifer, who comes up to her right side, crossing her arms and quirks the corner of her lip up just so. Their eyes land on Katie to deliver the finishing blow.

Katie didn’t choose between Lauren or Rosalie. She sneers openly at Lauren, whose face had slipped into something more terrified, and shoos her away.

“Then what are you waiting for? Go get her.” She all but snarls, and Lauren nearly flees to do as she’s told.

“She looked so full of herself.” Katie declared immediately. “Like, fuck, sorry I didn’t memorise the school year book? I have a life?” Katie said sarcastically. Rosalie was relatively sure they had no clue who Jacob Black was, or who Lauren was going and fetching. But she knew they weren’t going to wait around for her and find out.

Plus, Rosalie was still annoyed that he’d ditched her without a ride home when they went to the record store last time; so she didn’t particularly care if Edward found out about Jacob’s girlfriend or whoever she was.

They walked down the hall to escort Rosalie to her A.P Spanish class, and Katie tosses her hair just enough to accentuate her defined red ringlets; shoved into a loose bun with a pen sticking out of it.

Rosalie decides then to forgive the faux par she’s committed at the last party with her overly mature get-up; she’d looked like a mom taking her kids to a function. But Katie was dressing better and acting better lately.

“Love your hair, babe,” Rosalie told Katie, who beams in response. They were ready to rip Lauren’s throat out over three little words because Rosalie made it obvious she didn’t like it.

“Do you think she was trying to judge us for not knowing everybody?” Jennifer said, inspecting the curled ends of her own hair while they walked. “That was so rude,” She added heavily.

“Let’s not even bother about it, baes.” Rosalie said, and the other two nodded quickly, giving her air kisses as she stopped in front of the doorway to her class. “Jennifer, could you take my roses to yours in that art room?” She asked Jennifer sweetly, and she takes them with a smile. Their conversation blocked half her class from entering, but no one said anything, because, really, who would dare?

It was excellent when they secured the art teacher’s room for holding their roses two years back. It meant they walked out of school at the end of the day with their bouquets still looking fresh and pristine.

--

Alice was in art class, doodling sunflowers. She was really excited today; her boyfriend gave her such a thoughtful present, and her brother had a crush, and it was Cupid Day! She sat next to Angela and Ashley, like usual, and decided this called for a collage of flowers.

 “Hey, Alice,” it was Angela, smiling at her, “that sunflower you got was really pretty.” She said softly. Alice beamed, loving any reference to her present. She didn’t have it on her right now, Ms Platt agreed to let the girls hold their roses in her office; which was good because they got very annoying. Plus, during lunch a girl from the committee would usually tell her how many she currently had being dropped off at the art room, which was very convenient.

“Thanks!” She told her brightly. “Your rose is pretty too, from a boy?” She said, slightly teasing and hoping to get a yes, because it was Valentine’s and everyone should have a date!

But Angela shook her head, fingering the petal of one of the three roses on her desk, though she didn’t look unhappy about it. “Nothing so fun, my friend gets me one every year.” She explained. “I got her one too.” She added.

“That’s so nice!” Alice nods, a little absently because she was still sketching. She loved sending Rose her rose; she had wanted to send one to the other girls, but Rosalie told her she wanted it to be just their thing, even though Sammy, Jennifer and Katie sent them roses every year. But Alice knew better than to argue with Rose about this stuff, and she didn’t want to ruin Cupid Day fighting.

--

Jenny: Vote Mallory off the island?

Kate: Aye!!!

Sammy: Aye

Katie:
Hey D.J Garret, wanted 2 talk 2 you about what Emmett said about Rob this morning. I think it’s that girl he’s dating. She was the same girl who wore that bindi that upset Austin back in fifth grade. I really think we can get through 2 him about how inappropriate that stuff is if he isn’t always trying to impress her. Maybe the girls could talk 2 him ??

D.J Garret:
thanx don’t worry bout it Lee said hed deal w it

When Lauren got dumped by Rob Sawyer on Valentine’s day, it immediately cemented her social status as a loser. It have been a rollercoaster three months for her; from regular nobody, to almost popular, to known dud. She cried in the bathroom all day, and called Rob seven times.

Angela spent lunch talking to her through the bathroom door, Jessica claimed she was too busy to do anything to help, and Bella went to the library to ignore her.

Lauren was not her favourite person right now and unlike Angela, Bella wasn’t nice enough to soothe her anyway.

Just this morning, Lauren had marched up to her in the library and physically dragged her out of the building. Jessica had come back from the bathroom and left Bella a very angry message about leaving her backpack unattended.

“What do you think you’re doing!?” Bella yelled, actually kind of scared because Lauren’s nails were hurting her.

Lauren had a wild look in her eyes, and stops walking, but doesn’t let up on Bella’s arm.

“That guy gives you flowers, right?” She demands, and Bella thinks she might have seen a little spit fly out of her mouth.

Confused and wary, Bella only nods jerkily once. Jacob had come into school that morning with some posies for her; they had been his mother’s favourite flowers. Bella’s mother usually pressed them into a book every year.

Lauren’s eyes were mean, and she just yanked her towards the main building again. “Rosalie Hale wanted me to come and get you! Just hurry up!”

Bella was kind of dumbstruck; how could Rosalie Hale know who she was? Was this a good thing? Probably not; maybe Bella had accidently insulted her and she about to get slapped down.

Bella was dragged all the way to the It Lockers; where Edward, Connor and Emmett’s lockers all lined up and where the crowd were usually loafing just before morning bell. It was also deserted. “… There’s no one here.” Bella pointed out unnecessarily.

Bella was extremely annoyed and was hoping this was some sort of dumb prank. Maybe Lauren had to make Bella stand here and wait to test her Bitch Resilience. In which case Bella could write her a glowing recommendation.

But Bella looked at Lauren and regretted it. Lauren actually looked like she was about to cry; she looked kind of panicked. “They were here just before!” Lauren’s voice broke, as though a bunch of girls not being in the hall three minutes before the bell was an absolute nightmare. Bella hoped going from a nobody to popular didn’t actually make you unhinged. “Hang on, I’ll message Katie Marshall.” Lauren said, tapping away furiously on her phone.

“Do you always have to say their full names? It’s creepy.” Bella told her curtly, but was ignored.

She looked at Lauren closely. Back when they were in the same friend group, Lauren almost seemed to want to emulate Rosalie. She got her nails done at the same place Rosalie went to; saved up her entire paycheck for it. She cut her hair in the same style. And from such a distance it had seemed almost understandable; you usually wanted to be like someone you admired. But now Lauren stood in the same circle as Rosalie, and paled in comparison. Bella almost wanted to tell her she might have had more success if she’d left her eyebrow piercing in and kept her coffin-shaped nails. But that might not have been true; what did Bella know?

Lauren’s hair fell over her face like a curtain. “… She’s not replying.” She said quietly. “Forget it. I have to call Rob anyway. Just leave me alone.” She said, and Bella was too angry to acknowledge how her voice broke when she turned and walked away.

“You dragged me here!” Bella pointed out, and the morning bell rang, and Bella had to book it to the library and get chewed out by Jessica as they bolted to homeroom. Bella was pretty sure Lauren had been lying for some prank, but it had backfired.

well Lauren flew too close to the sun lol

Mike’s message seemed rife with pleasure. Bella was texting him about the nail marks left on her arm while she waited for Angela to finish art class. She always stayed behind to help the teacher clean up, it was a little embarrassing, even though Alice Cullen did the same thing, and Bella would usually see her wave to Angela before swanning away. Mike seemed to find the whole thing hilarious, at least for Tyler’s sake.

--

Rosalie and Alice were sharing a slice of peach cobbler in the cafeteria, their plastic forks casually stabbing for the same piece and resulting in a small cutlery fight.

“So, isn’t there a Cupid celebration you and Jasper are planning?” Rosalie asked, though she already suspected the affirmative.

Alice grinned, as she did with any mention of her boyfriend, and gave a happy shrug. “He’s taking me driving today; to help me practice.” Alice explained, and to Rosalie, as well as most people, a driving lesson didn’t seem so very romantic. But that was how Jasper and Alice were, private and comfortable; it wouldn’t surprise Rosalie if they moved in together straight after high school. “We’ll end up somewhere.” She added confidently, a twinkle in her eye.

Rosalie had been the first to kiss a boy and get to third base, but Alice had had sex first. Not that Alice knew, the girl was usually crazy intuitive, so Rosalie was struck dumb when she’d come to her at the end of last year to ask whether it was appropriate for the girl to bring condoms, or lube, or if it was too slutty.

She wasn’t hurt that Alice assumed she’d already had sex; she had teased her a fair bit over Jasper, her first boyfriend ever. So she nodded sagely as Alice admitted to feeling sore, a good sort of sore, for the first few days after, and how she had to keep a few pairs of undergarments at Jasper’s apartment after having to go back home commando one afternoon.

Plus, when she did have sex with Royce the first time, it wasn’t as though Alice acted flippantly. She had made just a big deal out of it too; congratulating her and demanding details. Rosalie felt her fingers tremble just a little bit remembering how much she lied to the starry-eyed girl, because Alice was the type of girl you could describe as ‘moon-struck’ over life itself. But it didn’t hold up; her recollection of the night ended up with her crying in Alice’s bathroom while the girl ran her a hot bath, and they had a two-person, all-exclusive, stay-out-Edward sleepover, and Alice never spoke about Royce again.

While Rosalie gladly lied to Katie and Jennifer about her wonderful college boyfriend over the next two months, she’d only ever spoken to Alice about him once after that night; to tell her they’d broken up. Alice’s smile had been so wobbly, and Rosalie loved her for the sheer relief in her voice when she’d answered simply ‘Good.’.

“So, do you and Emmett have plans?” Alice asked, grinning again.

Rosalie clicked her tongue and couldn’t look at her cheeky gaze. “No, don’t ask again.” She said with a bit of a laugh, her tone was light but she meant it. She didn’t want to think about Emmett right now, and the fact that he may very well have plans and she didn’t know what they were. He’d even gotten her an extra flower this year, which hadn’t gone unnoticed.

--

Alice’s car lesson had gone as well as expected; she wasn’t allowed to have the radio too loud, and Jasper kept her from the main roads.

Cupid Day was making her think back on their relationship. Jasper moved up from Texas, a true Southern gentleman; he even called all the teachers ‘sir’ and ‘ma’am’ or ‘miss’ and still managed to sound personable. The few months they just danced around each other, Alice had felt more than a little terrified.

Then Jasper came and Alice felt a pull towards him like nothing she’d ever felt before. She’d never dated or even casually spoken to a lot of boys before, but he was so nice, and he was interested in her right back. He’d made friends with people so quickly, too, flitting from group to group. Rosalie was one of his first friends, and rumours about them dating flew immediately, but died down after he started driving Alice home after school.

They started going steady almost immediately, and Rosalie, Emmett and Edward formed a tight-knit group by the start of high school.

“Okay, hun, now remember what we talked about before, you should go a little under the speed limit.” Jasper said. Though he had a very hands-off approach to teaching, Alice had already taken a few professional lessons too. It was just time for her to take the test a second time; the first time she failed because she forgot to indicate on a turn.

“Edward said even if dad showed tonight, he and Rose would cover for me.” Alice told him, smiling a little. “That means I can stay the night.”

Jasper had to clear his throat and look away, slightly embarrassed over how eager he found himself. “You must think I’m stupidly male.” He muttered.

“It’s Cupid Day, not stupid day, darling.” Alice purred, and reached over to squeeze his knee. He hissed a little, and batted her hand away.

“Hands on the wheel, please.” He said back, but there was a smile in his voice.

--

Rosalie was home, for once, and already regretted it. She was alone; her mother was taking Kenneth to football practise, and the apartment was too large. Though Rosalie wasn’t lonely; she had her nerves to keep her company.

Pacing her kitchen, she looked down at her phone, chickened out, and kept pacing.

Bored. What are you doing?

She typed out, but didn’t send it. She knew she acted pretty spoilt when it came to Emmett; she didn’t like it when he was far away, or when he turned his back on her, so she didn’t let him. But if she was going to ask him out, she would have to be nice about it.

If your plans include a girl I’ll never forgive you.

Well, Rosalie couldn’t send that; even though it was true, it was much too intense. Plus she didn’t really care if he had other plans that didn’t include a girl; because Rosalie was going to have a date on Cupid Day, if she wanted a date on Cupid Day.

We’re going to Parc Katya at 7:30 pm. Just you and me, and it’s a date and I’m paying and you’re driving.

Short and to the point. Much more her style … if she was completely insane.

Maybe she should call him instead …. She gave a short, startled scream when her phone buzzed and dropped it on the floor.

Shaking her head at her own ridiculousness, she gingerly picked it up off the floor.

U busy right now?

It was Emmett, and Rosalie felt a spike of fear in her chest.

No @ home. Still in city limits?

Nope but heading to yours now for our date.

Oh NO. No, no, no …. Rosalie scrolled up a touch through their conversation. She’d sent the last fucking message. Rosalie stood there in shock, and tried to figure out if she should back out, for pride’s sake. This wasn’t going the way she planned at all.

We should split the bill at least since I’m on the bus pretty angel

She read the message, and sighed a little. Well, what was done was done. She wanted to go on a date with Emmett, and now she was. Rosalie began to smile, even though this was a bit of a mess. She was going on a date with Emmett!

Fine.

--

Emmett had almost tackled his dad to the ground to beg for the jeep that night.

Rosalie just asked him out! He had to get back to the city ASAP!

Dad just laughed him off, saying that if he was going to be too busy to babysit for his parent’s date-night, he could get to his own by bus.

So Emmett grabbed his best pair of pants, the ones Edward got him for his last birthday for any of his recitals he went to, and a nice shirt, and his dad’s favourite sweater because he didn’t let him borrow the car.

He took the bus and texted Rosalie from here, and stood, grinning like an idiot. He had a date with Rosa. He was going to ask her out for Cupid Day, and he actually forgot. He forgot a lot of things when he was with her, when she smiled he forgot his own name.

He pretty much raced to Rosalie’s high-rise. He waved to the concierge and straightened himself out. It was far from seven-thirty; he had his good clothes in his duffle.

When Rosalie opened the door, she was in a pair of sweatpants, and a hoodie he was relatively sure he had left at Jasper’s last month.

“Hey,” She said, moving to the side and letting him in.

“Hey,” He replied, trying to tamper down on his giddiness. She wasn’t exactly smiling, but she looked glad enough to see him.

He tromped inside and glanced around. It was quieter than normal in the sedated home.

“Where’s mom?” He asked.

“At Ken’s practise. We’re alone,” She said over her shoulder. She was poking around in the fridge. “You want something small to eat now until Katya’s?” She offered.

He dropped his bag and shrugged. “I’m fine with whatever.”

Rosalie closed the door with a pitcher of pink lemonade; her mother’s favourite, and grabbed up some glasses. They both headed towards the couch and the plasma. “You’re in a good mood.” She noted and she seemed pleased with it herself.

“I have every reason to be.” He answered, and they cuddled on the couch for the rest of the afternoon.

--

That night, Rosalie wanted to get ready early, and told Emmett his slacks needed ironing before they left. She set up the iron and the board, and went to do her make-up before heating it up.

So she was surprised when she came back, hair still pinned in a messy bun, and saw that Emmett had actually ironed it himself.

He noticed her surprise. “What? You think with nine siblings my mom was on hand all the time? Ironing pants are my speciality!” He said, grinning and showing off his newly straight slacks.

Rose covered her mouth with her hand to hide her laughter. “What? Emmett asked, his voice wary and shrewd.

“You have yourself 80’s creases!” She said, and couldn’t stop her laughter from escaping. He glanced down at them and began laughing himself.

Rosalie sat in a black dress with lace edging. It was pretty much a replica of the cocktail dress in Pretty Woman and Rosalie’s mother had given it to her as a hand-me-down. She was just curling her hair in the bathroom mirror. Emmett was hanging on the doorway, watching her.

It made her a little more nervous. “I don’t get ready faster with supervision.” She snapped.

Emmett glanced at his watch, and shrugged. They were pretty much on time, even early. “I just wanna look at you.” He said, his tone cheeky but his face looked sincere. She didn’t exactly preen, but she wasn’t unhappy that was what he wanted

Chapter Text

Edward and Jasper sat in the bleachers for gym. Unlike Emmett, who loved participating in sports, Edward wasn’t fond of sports, preferring jogging for exercise, and Jasper loathed participation. It was the pacer test, meaning that both Edward and Jasper strolled until they were struck out. They both did the bare minimum to stay in ‘AP gym’ with Emmett at the boy’s own insistence. Mostly because the only other gym period was for the truly athletically-challenged.

Edward was wearing his black-and-white Adidas outfit, and eyed some future military-bound specimen in the school uniform. Edward loathed the uniform; it was ugly and not mandatory. Only the truly obnoxious wore it, mostly sane people preferred the black-and-white name-brand standard.

Jasper was on his phone, while also listening to music on his Walkman, while Edward was reading The Monk: A Romance.

Jasper nudged Edward with his elbow, who pretended not to notice. “Are we going to that party tonight?” Jasper asks him. Edward looks over at him, studiously not rolling his eyes at the pair of girls sitting two benches down that giggle when they hear Jasper’s twang.

Edward gives Jasper a dry look, letting his book hang limp in his hand to meet the other boy’s gaze. “We go out every weekend,” he complains, “how is it we go out every weekend?” He asks lightly.

It was always the same; Alice would be super-charged perkiness, as though she just wanted to dance, and revel in being a normal girl. Jasper would prop up a wall and watch her, acting as though he could stand the crowds. Emmett would either knock something over or shove one of his lackeys who would bump into something and knock it over. Rosalie would be her sparkling, bitchy self, reminding all the peons that normal people should feel bad for not being her. It gave off the illusion that they were above it all and in control. Edward would be stuck listening to music he didn’t like and waiting for everyone else to decide when to go home.

Jasper seemed amused. “You know those people we eat lunch with?” He asks, his teasing tone implying he was about to answer his own question. “Those are called ‘friends’, or in your case, ‘people I eat a sandwich near whose names I don’t remember’.” Jasper informed him with a grin.

Edward shrugged. He didn’t care about these people; it was just high school. He knew the names of the people who would stand the test of time. “Maybe so.” He agreed easily, flicking his book back open. “I’m not going.” He adds. Rosalie could bitch all she wanted; he was staying at home.

Jasper’s sky-blue eyes flicked down to the screen of his phone. “Hm, Rosalie says Jacob Black might show.” He muttered.

Edward sighed through his nose, mentally preparing himself for the hour wind down he’d need at Fourths’ tonight. “…. I’m not going happily.” He amends.

“When do you ever,” Jasper snorts, and smiles when Edward gives him a hard nudge in return.

"Whitlock! Cullen! Will you be joining us down here anytime soon?" Coach Clapp asked with a yell that almost rattled the windows.

Jasper hummed loudly in thought, and glanced to Edward, who was very particularly putting his bookmark firmly into the place, before considering following the order.

"Well, alright, coach," Edward decided affirmatively, getting up and strolling down the bleachers. "But just because we missed you." He added, while Jasper laughed behind him.

-

Alice was drinking on the couch in the living room. She was wearing her Boohoo halter-neck dress with pom trim, and trying not to spill her vodka orange on it. Mostly because she was too lazy to sit up to drink.

Rosalie came sauntering in, wearing a Hollister striped cami dress and typing on her phone, drink in the other.

“Do we hate someone?” Rosalie asks her.

Alice shrugs. “You probably do.” She says with a sigh. “Are you ever going to tell me how Cupid Day went for you?” She asks the girl.

Alice had tried to surprise Rosalie with a late-night offer to get Taco Bell, but she’d been sent straight to voice-mail. She wouldn’t have thought anything of it, except Jasper had said Rosalie had been complaining about having no plans. Rosalie had dodged the question when Alice asked, and Jasper hadn’t been able to get anything out of her either.

“No.” Rosalie replies simply.

Alice studies her friend for a moment, but, as usual, Rosalie was in Ice Queen mode at the first sign of an attack. When really all Alice had planned to do was whine at her until she caved. But Alice knew pushing her with her hackles up would back-fire on both of them. “Can we leave yet?” She asks the girl instead.

Rosalie scoffs and nods up the stairs. “Ask your brother,” she quips.

Alice frowns, a little confused. Edward had accosted both the boys as soon as they walked in; which Alice had pouted at because she had wanted to cuddle with her boyfriend.

She hopped up and went up the stairs to investigate. While her big bro dug his heels in at the idea of leaving the house; but he was usually the first out the door due to his erring towards the side of a night owl.

“I’m being serious.” Edward’s voice sounded frustrated while Jasper and Emmett chuckled. Alice stuck her head in and saw the two boys sitting on Edward’s bed, while Edward held up light and dark blue button up shirts in the same, boring style. “Which one?” He asks.

“Oh!” Alice gasps in surprise and excitement. “We’re dressing you?” She asks eagerly. She loved dressing people.

Edward jerks his gaze to her, and scowls. “No! Not you!” He snaps. Alice shrugs, unperturbed by his refusal, and skips in to sit in Jasper’s lap.

Edward clicks his tongue when she ignored him, but they both know he’d not surprised. “Tell her,” Edward says, eyes on Jasper.

Alice turns a little to look at her boyfriend, who grins winningly. “Baby,” he starts, voice soft and cajoling, “your brother thinks you have control issues when it comes to dressing your loved ones.” He tells her.

“You’re a mini dictator!” Emmett shouts in agreement, laughing to himself. Alice crosses her arms and frowns heavily. She felt this was all very rude.

“But everyone trusts my sense of style.” Alice whines, beginning to pout. Jasper nods with agreement as his hands started skimming up and down her upper-arms soothingly, and she leans against him. At her boyfriend’s tacit confirmation, she turns a cold look onto Edward, who looks slightly flustered.

“Don’t nod now!” Edward snaps at him, “you agreed with me before!” He argues.

“Snitch.” Jasper mutters, before squeezing Alice into a hug. “Honey, you don’t even want to choose between those.” He tells her, gesturing to the boring shirts Edward was holding. Alice tilts her head to the side in grudging agreement; because both the shirts Edward was holding were also ugly.

No,” she mutters, “because he should wear the Cucinelli’s silk-cotton knit shirt with his matching wool-cashmere-”

Edward held up a hand, a long-suffering expression on his face. “Plaid pants, you’re right.” He intones. Before Alice could bug him into admitting his defeat, he clicks his fingers sharply and points to the door. “Get out.” He snaps. Alice all but dances out the room, taking her smug victory with her.

“Hey, now!” Emmett says with an insulted frown. “Agreeing with her makes her stronger! You cannot be trusted in the intervention!” He argues.

Edward shoots him a look. “I meant all of you, unless you planned on watching me change.” He tells them.

“Nah, if I was into skinny pale nerds I’d take loser-gym.” Emmett tells him and Jasper dodges his jostling arm as they stumble out of the room.

-

The party was at D.J Garrett’s house, and Rosalie was in her element. Only the most acceptable type of people were there; no one too obscure and everyone that wanted her approval. She was thriving.

She found Jasper boxed into a corner by three vapid juniors. They must have been either very cool or hooking up with someone older who was very cool.

“Um, we wanted to let you know, we think your accent is really sexy.” One of them said, causing all of them to giggle.

Jasper makes a show of squinting at one of them. “Are you even old enough to be out this late?” He asks, his tone derisively, and in their dismay, he pushes through them and heads straight to Rosalie. “Little baby stalkers.” He mutters.

That gets Rosalie’s attention. “What’s that?” She asks him.

Jasper shrugs with one shoulder. “Those girls are odd ducks, they stand next to my locker in the afternoon just to say goodbye to me.” He explains, and then shakes his head. “I don’t want to talk about it.” He adds.

Rosalie scoffs. Both Alice and Jasper had an annoying habit of downplaying their troubles. It was just extra work for Rosalie to unpack them. “I’ll have them dealt with.” She assures him.

Jasper laughs. “You make it sound like you’ll murder them.” He teased, and shoves her away when she leers menacingly.

Suddenly, Rosalie swears as Edward storms up to them until he was nose-to-nose with her, and had trodden on her shoes.

“Jacob Black isn’t here.” Edward growls.

Rosalie claps a hand over her mouth, eyes wide. She may have been trying to imply she was shocked, but almost immediately, her shoulders started to shake with laughter.

“I forgot I told you that!” She hisses to Jasper and started to laugh outright.

That was being kind; since it had been Alice’s idea to inform Edward about the guest list. It was a bid to keep Edwards’s usual bemoaning about socialising to a minimum tonight. Jasper had implemented it, he’d thought it had been a bit of a harmless fib and a genius one at that so he credited Rosie instead. Jasper also began to laugh, and they were soon leaning against each other, as Edward scowls fiercely at them both.

“I’ll get you for this.” He promises, but it only makes them laugh harder.

Alice came skipping up then, grinning from ear-to-ear, her face tellingly flushed from alcohol. Jasper tucks her into his side, ignoring or not noticing the slightly darker look from her doting older brother.

“I had Em play really nice! Promise!” Alice chirped to them, her finger making an ‘X’ over her left boob.

Rosalie squinted and frowned. “With what now?” She asked her.

“Jake!” Alice declared, beaming at her brother. “He said he’d even stay to have a drink!” She added. Jasper hid his own surprise with ease, that his lie was turning not to not be a lie after all.

Edward’s eyes flashed, and he grasped his sister by her skinny shoulders, elbowing Jasper out of the way and giving her a shake. “Where?” He hissed.

Alice didn’t seem to mind the manhandling, pointing happily out the back door.

Edward stalked off in that direction, shooting both blondes a final parting glare.

“Why’s he fussy?” Alice asked nicely. “I told you to tell him Jake would show!” She added, her hands clasping over one of Jasper’s and tugging him towards the door. Before Rosalie could slither away, Jasper catches her around the middle and drags her along too.

Jasper smirked. “You know he hates it when you’re right.” Jasper told her.

The three of them made it to a small cramped porch, where, indeed, one Jacob Black sat on a sagging couch with Emmett, Edward hovering in a truly spectacular performance of nonchalance.

Emmett grins at them all as they trudge over, and Rosalie sits on his knee. “What brings you to this neck of the woods, man?” Emmett asks Jacob.

Jacob shrugs with one shoulder, while Jasper prods Edward in the middle of his back in an attempt to remind him to act normal. “An errand, that’s all.” Jacob muttered, tipping his cup and head far back to drain it. “I should head out soon, I don’t go here.” He adds, chuckling a little. A mystery was Jacob’s presence at their school; and who he knew there. It was obvious he knew enough of the student body to recognise it as their high school party, after all.

Edward seemed alarmed at the prospect of Jake leaving, so Jasper jumped in, pulling out his dingy deck of cards. “Why not play a card game first?” He offered with a bright smile. “You like rummy?”

“I guess I could play.” Jacob agreed, and Alice clapped form where she was parched on the arm of a splintering chair.

“You should!” Edward agreed, too loudly and too quickly. “We could use the entertainment.” He added, casting an almost accusingly sharp look at all of them. They all piped up languidly with their obliging agreement

So, they settled around the table and Jasper dealt the cards.

-

The game had been fine; mechanical, though. Edward was sure he would be mildly furious for his friend’s sudden lethargy as they played the game but offered little conversation. If they didn’t help Jake realise such a beautiful boy would very much benefit from considering people like them friends, than how was Edward to seduce him after the initial friendliness?

Right now, they were all acting as tired and quiet as he usually did and it wasn’t appreciated. Edward was concentrating on the results of the game of rummy. He wasn’t acutely aware of how Jacob’s thigh pressed against his as they both sat at the stained and beaten table circled by equally abused porch furniture.

Jasper was counting up the cards, Alice was all but dozing on the chair while Rosalie and Emmett were swapping a cup of something and Jacob looked at Edward. It was easy for him to tell due to how hard Edward was not concentrating on Jake with his peripheral vision.

Jacob was even leaning towards him. Edward noticed that while his jacket smelt of cigarette smoke, his breath was orangey. “I forgot to mention last time; I'm glad you guys got home safe after that night.” He says quietly, probably to not distract Jasper from counting, and not just to cause Edward’s heart to skip a beat.

“You remember that.” Edward stated, uneasy and embarrassed. He really hated himself the morning after that party, and not just his raging hangover. He hadn't wanted to bring it up on Valentine's Day; seeing Jake holding flowers for someone and thinking about how his head had rested against the other boy's arm. He assumed it wouldn't be brought up again. He focused on looking as casual as possible, as he cautiously laid his forearm out against Jake's, as though he was avoiding resting his arm against the cards Jasper was flicking through.

“Well I was sober.” Jacob reminded him, his brown eyes twinkling. Edward noticed how soft and kindly Jacob’s brown eyes were. He never really thought about eye colours before; Emmett and Alice had brown eyes. But he liked Jacob’s best.

“Hm, Alice wins.” Jasper informs them, smiling with fondness as Alice stirs and gives a sleepy smile. “We’ll all pretend to be surprised, darlin’.” He told her.

Jacob sighs, in a rather satisfied way, and brushes his hands off. “That was fun.” He said, and seemed cheerful enough to mean it. “You’ll have to hop up, I have places to be.” He added, eyes on Edward.

Edward scrambles to his feet. “Of course. Thanks for coming, and, well, staying.” Edward told him, praying he sounded just an iota of normal. By the strange look Emmett sent him, he did not accomplish this.

Jake, though, just shrugs again. “Nothing better to do, really.” He told him, and the remaining four all chorused a goodbye, while Jake waves to them all. “I’ll see you around, alright?” Jake asked, and Edward agreed, holding out a hand to shake. Jake looked at the offered hand in amusement and did not take it, and for that moment Edward wanted to rip his own arm off and throw it into the trees.

Instead, Jake opened his arms a little. “Come here.” He says, and Edward obligingly nearly falls into the tight, but only fleeting hug Jake gives him. Jake steps back, smiling, and heads into the house, instead of out as his departing implies.

“… Jacob Black hugged me.” Edward managed to say quietly.

“I’m tired, let’s go home.” Rosalie informs him flagrantly.

“For once!” Edward snaps, and that makes the other four laugh.

Chapter Text

For Jessica’s birthday, she’d asked Angela for one thing; invite Alice Cullen, and her brother, to the party at the beach they were having.. Bella did not like Angela’s task at all.

“It’s not fair, Jess,” Bella told her, with Angela on her other side. “Angela and Alice aren’t even really friends.” She said, also she felt as though they were pressuring Angela to use the one feeble connection she had with the popular group, their shared art class, to try and weasel their way in. Or Jess’ way in, in any case.

Angela, though, seems hurt by Bella’s words. “Well we get along.” She said, sounding a little flustered.

Bella’s realises how dickish she sounds, and glares as Jessica raises her eyebrows expectantly. “Yeah, but ….” Bella wasn’t sure how to articulate exactly how she felt about it. Jessica seemed hungry for the top, as though she was ready to leave Bella, Mike, Eric and everyone in the dust if those people so much as looked at her.

But at the same time she didn’t really blame Jessica. It’s not as though Bella wouldn’t kind of feel the same way.  “We’re your friends.” She muttered lamely. Jessica sighed, and glanced away, as though she almost understood what Bella meant.

Angela seemed sympathetic too. “I don’t mind, really. So Jess wants a couple more people to come, it’s her birthday! It doesn’t hurt to ask, anyway.” She said, placatingly. Bella didn’t argue, since it was really something Angela was doing for Jess, and didn’t involve her.

Jessica nodded, validated. “Exactly! It’s not like it’s the end of the world if they don’t come, but maybe they will!” She said intently. For a moment, Bella felt extremely disgusted about the whole idea of popularity, but she just sighed and let it go

 Bella oversaw tying everyone’s beach equipment into the back of her truck, which Jake had already agreed to help with even though he was taking his own little red Rabbit and meeting them later on. He’d even gone to one of his co-worker’s houses last night to ask to switch shifts to make it out to the beach.

--

For the first time in as long as Alice remembered, Edward was actually awake before she was able to burst through the door.

“Alice, I can hear you coming and under no circumstances are you to come in!” He yelled, and Alice obligingly released the doorknob.

“Why? What happened! Do you have a girl in there!?” Alice squealed, and banged on the door to no avail.

“Go away!” Was all Edward replied with, and Alice was forced to eat breakfast with no back up to defend her meal from Pernickety.

--

Edward had a wet dream. Edward had a wet dream about Jacob Black. It was actually kind of beautiful; it was night, and he was playing the baby grand in the sitting room. Jacob came in, looking mysterious and smouldering, and did him up against the picture window.

Thankfully, this all happened before Hurricane Alice came in and saw his soiled sheets.

But he’d need some careful manoeuvring. It was a school day, which meant he had to strip his bed, and his underwear, sneak it down to the laundry, and somehow get it into the dryer and back in his room before Alice noticed. Because if his sister, or even worse, their father, found a load full of nothing but his bedsheets and a pair of underwear, they’d know exactly what had happened. Frankly, anyone would.

--

The ride to school was relatively normal; Jasper’s Thunderbird, four iced coffees and an iced tea, and Emmett had brought bagels for them all for breakfast.

They converged at Edward and Emmett’s lockers, and Alice was checking Rosalie’s teeth for sesame seeds when Samantha and Jennifer joined them.

“Sweethearts!” Jennifer said, hugging Alice and giving Rosalie an air-kiss near her cheek. The only touch she tolerated. “Did you get a call from that Lauren girl?” She asked, her mouth curled into a sneer.

Rosalie shook her head, looking confused and slightly offended; which was her usual reaction for anything that dared to confuse her. “Who?” She asked.

Alice squeezed her arm. “You called her Laura.” She prompted her, before turning back to Jennifer. “No, why?” She asked back.

Jennifer flicked her thick brown hair and looked disgusted. “She called me crying on Saturday, I didn’t even know she had my number, stalker.”

“Creepy.” Samantha agreed, not looking up from her phone. Rosalie didn’t seem interested enough to reply but Alice felt a little sorry for her. They were all in the same friend group as Rob, it was obvious whose side they’d be on in the break up. And there were more graceful ways to handle getting dumped. “Oh, Katie just messaged me.” She said suddenly, hitting Jennifer on the arm like she hadn’t already been paying attention. “Lauren is currently talking to her.”

“I don’t care about this girl.” Rosalie reminded them sharply. She liked her boundaries, and the boundaries of her associates were very important to her. Alice rubbed the arm Rosalie had loped through hers in a teasingly soothing way.

“Is Katie going to be okay?” Alice asked, getting a weird look from Jennifer, “I don’t think Mallory is dangerous or anything, it’s just weird behaviour.” She added quickly, but for some reason both Rosalie and Jennifer laughed.

“It’s gross.” Samantha corrected her firmly. “Never mind, she’s coming.” She waved behind them, and Katie came bustling up towards them. Samantha had told Alice that since the weirdly adult wrap dress Katie had worn to the party, Katie now snapchatted her each morning outfit ideas. Alice had to say there was an improvement.

“Baes!” Katie gasped, pointing over her shoulder. “I was accosted just then.”

“We heard! Spill!” Jennifer said in a rush. Rosalie clicked her tongue, and there was a momentarily pause in Katie, as she gauged whether to continue or not. Alice almost laughed; these girls were much more perceptive than her, she always kept bowling on regardless. But Rosalie didn’t verbally forbid her, so Katie continued.

“It turns out Lauren wanted me to send on her apology!” Katie said with heavy distain in her tone. “To you, Alice!”

Alice scrunched up her nose in confusion, and Rosalie snapped to attention, as always on the defence. “What did she do?” She demanded.

“She wrote that Alice was a hanger-on, on the bathroom wall.” Katie supplied dutifully.

“Oh …” Alice slipped away from Rosalie and cross her arms over her chest. ‘Alice Cullen Always Clingy’ “that was her, huh?” She asked, and her knew her voice sounded thick, but she desperately didn’t want Jasper, who was talking with Austin, to notice and get worried about her.

“What a fucking idiot.” Rosalie growled immediately. “Alice knows full well we’re her riot girl gang.” She added with a smirk, slinging on arm around her shoulders.

Alice smiles, and Katie nods like her head was screwed on loose.

“That’s right!” Samantha says, pumping a fist up in the air. Jennifer gave Alice’s hand an encouraging squeeze as she smiled sweetly.

“She just thinks Rob dumped her because she put out too quickly.” Katie added flippantly.

“Ew,” Jennifer said, but her eyes landed on Samantha’s carefully closed-off expression. They knew she’d slept with Lee a few times before Rosalie made him get a clue and ask her out. “What a slut-shamer,” she added quickly, “not like there’s a wrong or a right time!”

Rosalie scoffed, “Can we not discuss this?” She asked, in a way that signalled that it wasn’t a question. So the subject was dropped.

Alice’s insides still felt funny. She didn’t even know Lauren until recently and she didn’t know what she’d done to deserve such a mean thing written about her. She was pulled out of her funk by a small sound behind her.

“Um, hey, Alice.” Alice glanced over the arm Rosalie still had around her, and saw Angela Weber. The girl was tall and as quiet as ever.

Alice didn’t really feel chatty considering the revelation, but she gave her a nod. “Angie, good morning.” She replied.

“Thanks!” Angela said happily, but she seemed to realise it was the wrong energy and quietened again. She seemed even more shy than usual. “… Um, I wanted to ask if you were busy Sunday?” She asked, “Because, um, well, it’s like so not a big deal-”

Jennifer blew air through her teeth in a rude way. “So hurry up and talk.” She said sharply. Alice frowned, because she liked Angela and thought that was a bit bitchy. Angela looked stricken too, which admittedly wasn’t hard to do, but Alice slipped out of Rosalie’s arm to face her fully so she knew she had Alice’s attention.

Angela took a deep breath, and Alice was getting a little bit of second-hand embarrassment at the girl’s obvious nerves. Alice knew she was probably just sore about the bathroom graffiti. “… My friend’s having a party, at the beach, on Sunday?” She prompted.

“Who?” Samantha asked, and even she had an obvious attitude in her voice. Alice reached behind her and hit her gently on the thigh to discouraged her, but Samantha just patted her butt in reply and it just came of as silly.

“Jessica Stanley?” She prompted. No one gave a response and Alice couldn’t if she wanted to, she didn’t know who that was. “You’re all welcome to come.” She added, her face very red.

Alice was almost intrigued enough to want to go, but she thought Angela was acting not at all like herself, and it put her off. Plus she had a thing about who saw her in a bathing suit.

She didn’t get a chance to say anything, though, before Jennifer speaks up. “No, we can’t. We’re going to the Richard’s Square Slam Sale that day.” She explained curtly. Katie nodded, though she was way too shy to actually breathe a word at anyone who wasn’t already her friend.

Alice gasps though. She loved the Richard’s Square Slam Sale and she certainly loved it too much to not use the full proper title. Anything less would be disrespectful. “Oh, that’s Sunday? I thought it was Saturday!” She exclaimed, cursing her own poor memory. She clapped with glee. “Oh, I’m so excited.” She looked at the other Triple-A apologetically, but she honestly couldn’t be expected to miss out. “Sorry Angela.” She said.

Angela nods, “That’s okay …” she paused, “you couldn’t make it after?” She asked hesitantly, but Alice was already shaking her head. There were traditions to uphold that day; they never finished until the late afternoon and it was very exhausting.

Jennifer actually scoffs, which Alice thought was way harsh, because obviously no-one else would know their routine. “Maybe you’ve never been to the Richard’s Square Slam Sales, but they are sacred to us.” She explained.

“Hey!” Alice said, trying to placate them. “We never go to the beach! It sounds fun!” She argued. It didn’t mean she wanted to go to the beach, because obviously they had the Richard’s Square Slam Sale, but they shouldn’t be mean about it.

Angela, though, unfortunately seems to take her words as encouragement. “I mean, we might have a bonfire at night or something.” She added eagerly.

Alice fiddled with the necklace Jasper had given her, and weighed her options. She didn’t want Angela to think she didn’t like her by not going, but she couldn’t go! Richard’s Square Slam Sales were her favourite! But Angela might be disappointed ….

“Really?” Rosalie asked, and the fact that she spoke drew everyone’s attention. Aside from Katie, Rosalie didn’t like speaking to people she wasn’t friends with because it annoyed her. So she rarely bothered, after all, important people rarely spoke for themselves.

“Is the bonfire to comfort your friend Lauren?” She said with a sneer, and drew Alice back from Angela towards them again. Alice knew Rosalie realised she might say yes to make everyone happy; she was reminding Alice that if she said yes she wouldn’t be happy.

The name made Alice freeze. Angela and a girl like Lauren couldn’t be friends; that girl smiled and made nice to Alice, even though she wrote those awful words!

“Since she got dumped and all …” Jennifer said, with an exaggerated pout, “I thought it was you talking to her while she was in the bathroom.” She added. Alice’s stomach churned; was Angela talking to her while she was writing those words?

Angela looked worried, even, and shook her head. “Well I did, but the party’s no-”

“Sorry Angela, we’re busy.” Alice said with finality. Angela’s face fell, but it was Alice who was disappointed. “Excuse us.” She added, but none of her girls moved, and Angela understood that meant she had to leave, and she fled so fast Alice thought she seemed guilty.

Katie and Jennifer immediately fell into outrage.

“Who the hell did she think she was!” Jennifer demanded.

“I’m sorry, but I don’t think I’ve seen her, like, in a day in my life!” Katie declared. “We don’t even know her – what a freak!” She added.

Alice flinched. She hated the word ‘freak’, and Angela was her classmate, even if right now Alice wasn’t sure if she was her friend. “Too bad we can’t go,” she said pointedly, “a party is what I need!” She added, and Katie and Jennifer seemed to understand that she didn’t want them continuing along that vein. She didn’t really want to think about Angela at all.

“Who’s driving on Sunday?” She asked, cheering herself up with the thought of her new wardrobe.

At that, Samantha giggled. “No-one, the sale is on Saturday, babe.” She said, and Jennifer and Katie laughed too.

That surprised Alice. “So we can go to the party?” She asked, not that she wanted to. But she was a little confused; these girls loved parties, what was stopping them?

No, Alice, they’re friends with that complete whore.” Rosalie cut in, her tone brooking no argument. “We won’t let you.” She added softly, and a little teasing. Alice felt herself smiling at her friend’s protectiveness.

“I need to dance this away!” She argued again, grinning. She definitely wasn’t going to try and disagree with Rosalie, but that’s not what she was aiming for. “I like the beach.” She added.

“So we’ll have our own beach party, bae!” Jennifer declared, and Alice grinned as her hedging worked. Even Rosalie laughed at her obvious ploy. “We’ll pick out swimsuits on Saturday and go up that beach on the cove!” She continued, and they all grinned. Up the coast there stood a bunch of summer vacation homes, perpetually empty. They backed onto some truly glorious cliffs and the prettiest part of the beach, too.

“I love that place!” Katie agreed, and Sammy jumped on the phone to check with her mom.

“Boys!” Rosalie snapped, and Alice met Jasper’s gaze. Immediately, while the rest of the boy’s paid attention to Rose, he frowned a little, and Alice knew he could tell she was still slightly upset.

“Beach party on Sunday!” There was a super loud cheer, and Alice laughed as two students actually turned to walk down the hall to avoid the commotion. She loved her friends.

--

Alice was going shopping on Sunday, and Bella felt some pity for Jessica, who looked like someone had kicked her puppy.

Angela seemed extremely uncomfortable to have done it, though, and Bella was more concerned about her than Jessica. “Maybe we can go shopping at Richard’s Square before the party and run into them!” Jessica suggested, but her voice was more of a whine.

“Jess, we can’t afford Richard’s Square.” Bella pointed out. It was true; Richard’s Square held all the brand names and specialty stores. Jessica would know; she worked at the frozen yoghurt stand there.

“Right … so we don’t buy anything!” Jessica said, her voice a little more triumphant.

“Jess, the parking there is terrible unless you can afford valet,” Bella said calmly, “everyone is super-rich and all the sales staff are jerks.” She added when Jessica shot her an offended look. “Retail staff.”

“Sorry, Jess.” Angela said quietly. “That Jennifer girl was extra bitchy too.” She added, and Bella frowned, Angela rarely swore or spoke badly of anyone. Bella reached over to rub a hand down Angela’s arm, and she gave her a tiny smile.

“It’s fine,” Jessica sighed, oblivious to Angela’s distress, and Bella’s rising ire, “you probably tried your best.”

--

Alice was a lot more chipper on Saturday, for the Richard’s Square Slam Sale. Like, always, Alice fished out her debit card; the one connected to the bank account that was set up to hold a thousand dollars for emergencies always, deposited straight from her dad’s account. Edward had one too, he used it mostly for lunch at school when he forgot his cash.

Alice used it mostly for clothes, which annoyed her dad. But she was a pretty good student, and she kept her room almost neat, so he usually just teased her that her long-awaited growth spurt would put those clothes straight in the charity bin.

After finding out about the author of those nasty words, Alice’s school week hadn’t been too bad. A vicious part of her was glad, because a string of bad luck followed Lauren for that week, something the girls were more than happy to update her on. Part of her certainly felt bad for the girl, straight after a break up and all. But Rosalie was there to primly remind her that Alice hadn’t done anything to incur such a mean statement on the wall, and this was karma getting even.

But that didn’t even matter now. Now, Alice was going to the Richard’s Square Slam Sale. It happened at the start of every season, and summer meant the new swimsuits and sundresses and sandals!

She loved taking Rosalie to these sales; she was gorgeous and didn’t have a necessarily bad sense of style. But until Alice came along, she dressed a lot like her mother, which was ridiculous because Rosalie’s mother was tall and willowy, with none of her daughter’s jaw-dropping curves. The only thing she passed down to Rosalie was her Brazilian heritage and her height.

Katie sense of taste was awful, it was an in-joke, and Jennifer always leaned towards the more risqué style, but Samantha was awesome. Samantha Wells was the only girl in school Alice would maybe trust to dress her.

It was such a silly hang up, but Alice didn’t like spending time with people if she didn’t like their outfits. It wasn’t as though it needed to be brand name or expensive. Connor Chijindu’s party attire were exclusively Ralph polo shirts and Armani slacks, which was why Alice didn’t look at him directly at gatherings.

But it was like if someone didn’t like the smell of strawberries, such as Edward, and had to sit next to a person who used strawberry shampoo. It wouldn’t be enjoyable, it would bug them; and it was the same thing for Alice.

But she had full reign over the Richard’s Square Slam Sale. The girls asked for her approval, and she was giddy every time they trusted her opinion, and a little drunk with power. It was easy too, because Rosalie’s dad was a majority share-holder of whatever company made up Centre Management.

It meant they were able to have their purchases carried to the car, and the valet was free. Plus, Rosalie had a credit card and no spending limit. She was also incredibly generous; she paid for at least half of Jennifer and Katie’s wardrobes during the sale. She claimed that it was because she was a stuck-up bitch that needed her girls dressed a certain way, but they all knew it was because she wanted them all to have fun and not worry about money.

Samantha dropped out of the Event Committee after she started dating Lee, and while finding her replacement, Katie once told Alice that in class, a girl called Jude Richards has the audacity to call Rosalie ‘spoilt’. “She may as well have sneezed in my face, I was that disgusted with her.” Katie had said. Alice wasn’t sure if it was true, since Katie was so incredibly shy during class time.

No-one who really knew Rosalie could call her spoilt. She was fiercely protective and loyal to a fault; she was introverted and loved her routines. She had a strained relationship with her parents after Royce, and it was why she was extra-nice to Alice’s dad lately.

There was a beeping sound, and Alice nearly flung herself downstairs.

Rosalie leaned on the horn of her silver Range Rover, a huge silver beast that Alice loved because the first time Jasper kissed her they’d been riding in the backseat together. Rosalie only ever sat passenger in Jasper’s Thunderbird, or the backseat of Emmett or Edward’s cars. She refused to be driven by anyone else, including Alice.

“Baby!” Rosalie called, grinning. Alice waved and skipped to the driver’s side door to give her a proper hug before climbing in the passenger seat.

Edward shuffled onto the porch, still in his pyjamas and with no intention changing clothes.

“Are you sure you only need sunscreen?” Alice called out to him.

Edward rolled his eyes. “Yes, look at me I’m so white.” He said, raising his arms away from him for inspection. Alice and Rosalie both laughed. He waved at them as she tore down the drive. Rosalie drove hard and fast; she claimed her silver beast could go head-to-head with a bullet train and come out victorious.

Rosalie and Alice were getting brunch before picking up the rest of the girls. They argued between the Manhattan Centre and Jimmy’s Diner, but in the end the Manhattan Centre won out.

They greeted Paul and tromped off up to the second floor, where it was more eatery-based. Alice ordered the Mini Munchies; fresh mixed berries over with dusted whipped cream and triangles of waffles to scoop with. Rosalie ordered the breakfast tart.

“So, how are you?” Rosalie asked. Alice didn’t grimace, but she almost did. Everyone had been walking around on eggshells with her this week. She’d re-read the note in the bathroom and all of a sudden, Rosalie slammed open the door and saw her red-rimmed eyes.

She’d gone over to Jasper’s that afternoon, and she’d confided in him what had happened after they’d made love. He’d made her feel better in several ways, but it still kind of stung. Edward didn’t bother with the subject, mostly because when he tried to bring it up, he’d done it in front of their father, and Alice had to flee to her room for the sheer embarrassment of it all. She hadn’t let him make a second attempt.

“Some girl wrote something silly about me, I don’t mind!” Alice told her firmly.

“You do.” Rosalie said, “Jasper double-checked I was taking you out today.” She added, and it annoyed Alice that he’d said anything. They both loathed anything too public about their relationship; they’d even told the Events Committee to take them out of ‘Cutest Couple’ for the last end-of-year dance. If he had said something to Rosalie then he was worried.

“He doesn’t want to abandon you.” Rosalie added lightly. Rosalie knew they liked being private, but Jasper and Rose were really close so when he was too busy he relied on her.

Alice understood, but it bugged her. “He has to work, he never neglects me.” She muttered, giving a tight smile to the waiter that puts down their food. Neither of them start eating. “How’s Emmett’s work going?” She tried. Emmett worked in the office with his dad, but she knew Rosalie occasionally drove all the way out to the logging forest to rescue him from boredom and his clip-on tie.

“No, we’re not talking about him.” Rosalie advised, shooting that straight down as Alice glumly rolled a blueberry around her plate. “Alice, everyone can tell you’re bothered by it.” She said softly. Alice fidgeted in her seat, and was struck by how much Rosalie cared, the girl who was impatient when speaking to classmates that she wasn’t close to, or even barely tolerated having to speak to teachers, was trying to drag this out of her. And she’d win, Rosalie was really stubborn.

“… It’s kind of true.” Alice admitted with a sigh. Rose didn’t scoff, but she rolled her eyes. She didn’t need to verbally deny it to disagree. “Well, when our group is mostly us I feel like I belong.” She explained, “But Emmett’s got his teammates, and Jasper’s got D.J Garret and Austin and you have Katie, Sammy and Jennifer. Because they were all your friends first before they were mine!” She said, knowing she was getting worked up and wishing Jasper were here, cupping the back of her neck and leaning their foreheads together so they could breathe.

Edward claimed he was in the exact same position; but unlike Alice, he had less abandonment issues and preferred their group of five. It wasn’t that Alice didn’t, but she carried her silly, childhood hurts with her, even when she wished she didn’t. “I’m afraid and I know it’s dumb, because it’s not like when I was little.” She muttered.

“So? Alice, we’ve all told you this, time and time again.” Rosalie said. Alice nodded, because they really had, her friends were so patient to soothe her insecurities. “Those girls are important to me, sure, but you’re my girl. Emmett probably likes you better than all his sisters for not sharing a bathroom with you, and Jasper is so irrevocably in love with you, you can’t doubt that.” She said, her voice soft. Alice nodded, especially to the last part. Maybe it was being adopted and still having vague memories of a birth family that didn’t love you enough, because when it came to platonic relationships, Alice got desperate. She knew she did.

Her love for Jasper was the only one that had never really felt shaken, even when he pried into her past, she knew he only wanted to prove that they had a future. She knew, as sure as the sun rose, no-one loved Jasper Whitlock more than she did. Which was a tall order to fill, because that boy was damn lovable.

“You’re right, I know it’s silly to be upset by it.” Alice said. She really did feel better, Rosalie was extremely no-nonsense and to the point. It was hard to argue with her because she never let up, and she was her best friend. “And I love all of you ….” She cooed exaggeratedly.

Rosalie laughed, her messy topknot jiggling on her head. “You’re giving me a toothache.” She said, picking up her own fork with relish. “Eat your food.”

--

Edward was so looking forward to tomorrow. It meant he had to leave his comfy bed, get dressed, talk to people … urg. He’d probably bail too, if Alice were feeling any better. Something about the girl’s bathroom and someone writing in it had upset her, and he knew if he didn’t come to the beach, he’d feel guilty for not helping cheer her up.

But he didn’t wanna go, he was like Anakin Skywalker, he hated when sand got into places and he hated the stinging, itchy seawater and he hated-

The doorbell, currently being used. He really hated that doorbell.

Groaning, hoping he wasn’t about to put forth so much effort just to sign for one of Alice’s new dress models that she’d gone on about last month, Edward slumped downstairs.

He opened the door, and had a wild urge to slam his head through a window.

Jacob Black was standing there. Jacob Black was standing at his door, with a Fourth’s apron thrown over his shoulder; it was a very distinct blue hue. And Edward hadn’t even brushed his teeth yet, and it was half-past eleven and he hadn’t changed out of his pyjamas.

Edward knew he’d been staring stupidly for a second too long. “Jacob?” He asked.

“Yeah, Billy’s son?” The boy prompted, as though Edward could ever forget who he was. “Your dad’s doing the vaccinations?” He continued, his voice searching for some recognition.

“I know.” Edward replied, mentally shaking himself. “Um, you work at Fourth’s?” He asked, pointing to the apron.

“Yeah, first job,” Jacob said, smiling a little with a nod, “it’s pretty alright. You know the place?”

“Yes, I go there very often,” Edward said, almost laughing. Jacob worked at Fourth’s! This was great! Or maybe it was awful. Depended on how the wait staff felt about their late-night drunken feed runs. “I never see you there though ….” He added, uncertainly. He would kick himself if he missed Jacob somewhere around the establishment.

Jake shrugged. “I dunno, I guess I’d have my shifts when you’re at school.” He said, unperturbed. Edward, though, realised that meant that Jake didn’t go to school, at least full-time. It made him intensely curious, as the more he found out about Jake, the more he wanted to know. “Look, I just came from work and I want to shower,” Jacob said, shrugging a shoulder like it was giving him some sort of pain. Edward was extremely concerned, as well as distracted by the thought of Jacob in the shower, “but I forgot I told my dad I’d give these to the doc.” Jacob said, holding up a Manilla folder. “Do you mind?” He asked with a cute grimace.

“Yeah,” Edward nodded, and he took the folders, purposefully not lingering on the brush of their fingers. He was not that desperate, yet. “I’ll make sure he gets them. You would look really nice in that apron.” Edward said, rubbing the back of his neck, but he froze when his own words registered with him. He heard them echoing in his ears; and kind of wanted to die.

Jacob, though, only laughed a little. “Thanks, I do.” He said with a wink, before waving and jogging back to his tiny red car. “Later, man.”

Edward wanted to die, but he wasn’t sure if it was complete humiliation over talking about Jacob’s apron, of all things, or because Jacob Black just winked at him.

--

Alice was over-the-moon. After their brunch, they’d picked up the rest of the girls, and had gotten ready to spend some dough. She made an impressive hole in her emergency money, and even if this was the year her dad actually got angry at her, she was too pleased to care. They’d all gotten new swimsuits, and hers were very cute.

She’d gotten an embroidered botanical bikini from Stella McCartney, and Rosalie had gotten a truly adorable one-piece D&G halter-neck.

Rosalie had dropped the others girl off; the last thing they’d organised was that everyone else was either going in Jennifer’s Beemer or Rob’s Skoda sedan tomorrow. She gave Alice a kiss good-bye from the car and told her to give Edward a dead-arm for her. She declines coming inside; she said she wanted to get home and take selfies in her new suit, maybe send some to Emmett.

Edward was lying face-down on the floor in the living room when Alice walked in.

“What’s a go, big bro?” She asked. Edward was both five months older and a foot taller than her.

He shifted, and glanced up at her, looking slightly dazed. “Jacob Black was here ….” He muttered and pulled himself to his feet to glance at his watch, “four hours ago. Wow, no wonder I’m hungry.” He muttered. Alice laughed in delight; Edward got to see his crush! It was what he needed to put him in a good mood for their party.

Alice didn’t squeal though, eyeing him speculatively. “You have not been lying on the floor for four hours.” She said. He certainly wouldn’t have been able to stay still for that long unless he was asleep, and Alice didn’t even think he’d ever slept for four hours at a time.

“Feels like it.” Edward shrugged, walking past her and into the kitchen. “Better have gotten my sunscreen.” He added. Alice had completely forgotten; though she wasn’t going to tell him that.

--

Rosalie, though, was happy for herself. She’d washed her hands of Lauren, and heard that Lee chewed out Rob so bad he teared up a little, and apologized to Emmett, which put him in more than a good mood. She found herself really enjoying when Emmett was happy; he smiled with those adorable dimples of his, and before she knew it she was smiling back.

She was revelling in this Thing with Emmett; she’d never felt anything like it before. Sure, she had gone out on dates; Connor Chijindu had been her first make-out session, and … Royce had been her first first.

But with Emmett, none of that mattered. She had felt really grown up on Roy’s arm, like she could hold her own with a bunch of college frat guys. He was so mature to her, it looked and sounded really good to date an older guy, who bought her a necklace and paid for fancy dinners. She thought that was love … she knew now that it wasn’t.

She regretted thinking about that relationship, because it was starting to make her feel nauseous.

Emmett was different; she felt him near her like the sun shining on her skin, warm and constant. She loved touching him; keeping a hand on his shoulder, or brushing non-existent wrinkles out of his shirt. She loved that she could wear heels because he was taller than her. Her height never necessarily bothered her; it certainly wasn’t something that made her seem unfeminine; she’d been ‘feminine’ since she developed at eleven.

Rosalie really loved kissing him; sliding her hands through those glorious curls and pressing herself against Emmett’s hard body. She loved poking his killer dimples with her pinky, and how he always paid her special attention; watching her take a seat at the table, opening the car door for her, making sure to comment on her new nail colour. He was sweet, cheerful and mischievous, and he looked at her with his heart in his eyes.

She was really only brave enough to kiss him at social gatherings; it was safer, in public. She hated herself a little for thinking that, but she was scared. After Royce … she didn’t know if she was comfortable being alone with him. It wasn’t fair to Emmett, who never pushed, it just took a laugh or stepping away to cool things down. But lately … she really wanted more.

She didn’t want to see him talking with other girls, except Alice of course. But Rosalie wanted him exclusively all to herself. Luckily, being noticeable meant everyone already knew they were a Thing, and that Rosalie could easily make any girl who stepped out of line pay. She never really felt this kind of insecurity, worrying that he’d move on if she wanted to take it slow. Some boys had in the past, but she’d never liked them enough for it to worry her, with her pride and popularity, it only ever reflected badly on them anyway.

She’d never actually felt this aroused by a guy before, it was new and kind of thrilling, but like most new things, she felt the need to hide from it. It’s why she was the way she was; she nearly always hated new things; new people, new places, new trends. Her defences were up until she could decide whether she liked the new thing.

She didn’t even acknowledge her little brother Kenneth until he was one and a half. She found comfort in routines; whether it was getting her nails done with her mother the first Saturday of the month, or getting picked up by Jasper before school to get their usual order at the Manhattan Centre, or going to Fourth’s after a party, with the same group of people.

So having deep, genuine feelings for a boy? Terrifying; she had thought it was love with Roy, but it was just a stupid feeling of superiority, and didn’t her pride take a fall?

Chapter Text

It was beach day, Rosalie drove them all in the silver beast, and the boys were relegated to back. Alice always got passenger seat in the silver beast; Rosalie said her car was a matriarchal hierarchy, and the beast was so big Emmett didn’t need the leg room. Which meant no control over the tunes, and screaming at Rosalie when she used her rear-view mirror to reapply her lippy.

“Rosalie, please don’t kill us. I know murderous impulses are as familiar to you as bitching, but you must resist.” Edward insisted to her.

I believe in you, babe,” Emmett said pointedly, leaning forward and twirling a lock of Rosalie’s hair around his finger. She had tied it back into a half-knot to drive and it spilled out behind the driver’s seat like gold.

“I don’t.” Jasper piped up.

But they made it to the beach in one piece. They hopped out of the car, and had a fight over who was carrying what.

“I don’t wanna carry the floaties!” Alice protested. She was always stuck carrying them, and their rubber seams always scratched her.

“I’ll carry them, hun.” Jasper said instantly, already carrying three beach chairs and the outside rug. Edward was in charge of the esky and Emmett had two of the other chairs, the umbrella and the table.

“Alice, you do this every time!” Edward snapped.

“Well, I hate it every time!” She shot back.

“Now, now, no fighting please.” Rosalie said and because she drove, she only had to carry the towels and miscellaneous supplies.

The Cullen pair fell silent, until Alice suddenly laughed.

“Rosie, your phone!” She yelled, dumping the floaties and running back to the silver beast.

Rosalie frowns, but glances through her bag and sighs. No phone. She uses her beeper to unlock the car, and Alice jumps half-way in to unplug it from the car stereo, where it had been charging.

She came skipping back while the group waited for her. With a grin and a ‘catch!’, she tossed Rosalie’s phone to her beau.

Rosie grunted, but only scowled, as Jasper’s reflexes were very good, and he caught it easily. With a cheeky grin at Rosalie, Jasper held up the phone, but did not place it in her outstretched hand.

His wrist flicked upwards, and it made a perfect arc over her head, where she was too stubborn to make a grab for it, and Emmett dropped the chairs to catch it.

He didn’t really fumble with it, but let the chairs fall to the ground. With a wide beam, he tucked a thumb under the waistband of his shorts.

He tugged it open, and Rosalie knows she won’t forgive him if he makes this a ploy to fish around in his crotch.

Instead, he swipes on her phone, and aims it down. There’s the shutter-clicking sound as Emmett most likely takes the blurriest dick-pic known to man. Jasper muffles his laughter with his hand. Edward scoffs and rolls his eyes and Alice bursts into giggles.

“Great, thanks,” Rosalie snaps, snatching the phone and storming away from them.

“Come on, babe! It’s only a joke!” Emmett calls out after her, and picks up the chairs. Jasper and Edward fall into step next to him, but Alice shoves past them to run after Rosalie.

The rest of the gang joined them, and the next half hour was dedicated to setting up. With two umbrellas and Samantha’s marquee they were all able to leave their things in the shade and go for a swim.

Emmett had Rose on his shoulders, and Jasper had Alice and they were locked in a fierce battle. Until Edward waded over and kicked out Jasper’s leg. Then they meandered off for their own amusement. Emmett and Edward had a breath-holding competition, but Edward won because Rosalie dove down and licked Emmett’s forehead, which made him laugh and choke. It was his punishment for taking the world’s worst dick-pic with her phone.

Sooner rather than later, Rosalie got sick of the water and headed back. She’d bought the Corn King and the Spring Queen to read just two days ago.

She’d only just started when Alice sat down beside her. “Rosie, are you mad about your phone?” Alice asked.

Rosalie frowned. “No.” She replied shortly. She wasn’t; she trusted them with her things and didn’t really care. “It’s just that Emmett’s never sent me pictures like that ….” She muttered. Which was true; she’d sent him two pictures modelling off her new swimsuit. But all she got in return were a string of emoji hearts, which would probably have been Alice’s reaction too, so it didn’t mean anything.

Alice laughed and slapped her shoulder. “Oh, he wouldn’t do something like that to you!” She assured her, and Rosalie sighed at the point missed.

“Well I want him to!” She snapped. Alice blinked, looking surprised, no doubt at the idea of needing to see the body of the boy she liked before being with him. “… It’s stupid, I don’t want to talk about it.” She added, picking up her book again. Alice left her be, pulling out her sketchpad and starting on some new designs.

Rosalie was extremely embarrassed by it all. She did want intimate pictures of Emmett; she wanted to know what he looked like behind the safety of her phone screen before she had to see it in person. And … she was curious. She was interested, and now all she had was a picture of the inside mesh of his swim shorts.

But this was how Alice and she differed. Alice was happy enough holding hands and stealing quick kisses and remaining relatively low-key in public. She felt much more comfortable behind closed doors and in private with Jasper. But Rosalie was terrified; she needed the audience, she needed the distance that public coupling regulated.

--

The footballers had started up a game of volleyball, except no-one completely remembered the rules, and it seemed to be just a way for them to yell ‘Spike!’ while eating sand. Music was blaring, and Alice and Rosalie were taking dumb selfie with Emmett’s phone, because they didn’t want to get sand in their own.

Ladies,” Emmett called, plucking his phone from Rosalie’s grasp with a grin.

The ride here had been interesting; Alice had gotten front seat, which she nearly always did in Rosalie’s silver beast, but Emmett had pulled himself forward by the headrest of the driver’s seat, and Rosalie would casually reach up and pet his hand during the trip.

Jasper, who had been wondering off to collect shells, came back and dumped a small pile next to the girls.

“Who’s dancing with me?” Jasper asked, his eyes on Alice. Alice loved that none of the boys she knew thought dancing was too beneath them, Jasper especially. He knew she loved dancing, and sometimes when she went to his apartment, they’d slow-dance together, just the two of them.

So Alice immediately jumped up into his arms with a shout. This was no slow-dance song, they had a bunch of popular pop remixes, and dancing to those were fun.

Emmett bounded over to join them, grabbing up Alice under her arms and spinning her so her legs flew out in front of her as she screamed.

He let her go with a laugh and she was flung at Jasper, who caught her in a tangle of limbs and went down with her, spraying sand everywhere. Alice laughed and Jasper wiped the sand from her nose. Rosalie heaved them both up, and Jasper took her in a silly jig while Alice brushed herself off.

“C’mon Edward! Dance with mommy!” Emmett called, and began making peppy cha-cha movements. Even Edward claimed that even if he couldn’t dance, he’d still dance, and walked forward obligingly, laughing as Alice grabbed him from behind as Emmett pelvic-thrusted in front of him.

Soon, everyone was dancing, and Katie was pulled into doing some hilarious Bollywood dance moves with Austin. Jennifer tried to start a dabke with Connor and Rob, but none of the other boys had her timing and ended up stepping on each other’s feet.

They all ended up jumping on the beat, shouting the last chorus of the song and pressing into each other in a sandy, wet group hug.

--

Rosalie’s silver beast ran out of gas on the way home, and they all flipped off the cheering jerks in Jennifer’s Beemer as they screamed past them, blaring the horn. At least Rob slowed his sedan to shout out if they were good, before driving off after he got the affirmative.

Emmett pumped, because he wanted to show Rosalie he could do that or something, while Edward went inside to pay, and carefully select the roadtrip snacks.

Jasper popped the trunk of the hatchback and he and Alice were lying in the back, kissing a little. Jasper leaned over her, propped up on his elbows, grinning every time they came up for air.

“This was a good day,” Alice sighed. It really was; she’d just had a wonderful party with all her friends, and now she was having a kiss with her boyfriend. Which she didn't get embarrassed about doing because they were tucked away in the silver beast and the only car in the lot.

Jasper kissed her cheek and chuckled into her temple. “I’m glad you’re happy, honey.” He says softly.

She pulled herself to a sitting position to wrap her arms around his shoulder and rub their noses together. “You make me happy.” She replied.

“Good.” He murmured, and trailed kisses down her neck. Alice shivered, and planned to ask Rosalie to drop her off at Jasper’s apartment. She was happily engaging in some heavy petting in the back of the car, due to the fact that the parking lot was so empty.

Jasper pulled her into another kiss, and she opened one eye to check for Edward coming out of the store. “Mm – hey,” she spotted someone, and pulled away. “It’s Jacob Black!” She declared.

Jacob was pulling up in a very tiny red car, and Alice wanted to go and see him. “C’mon!” She hopped out of the car and tugged Jasper’s wrist. He obediently followed her as she waved. “Hello, Jake!” She called cheerfully. He was pumping gas and glanced up with surprise when she called.

“Hey, doc’s daughter.” He said, nodding, and nodding to Jasper’s behind her. “Peanut butter cookies to go,” he said to Jasper. That made Alice laugh; every time Jasper went to Fourth’s he’d get peanut butter cookies. Jake would know; Jasper told her about his day shifts, “you’re wearing more of her lipstick than she is.” Jake told him.

Alice glanced at her boyfriend’s face, and his jaw was indeed stained a little purple. “It’s just coloured zinc.” Alice correctly him absently. She’d spotted Edward through the gas station window and a plan was forming in her mind. Oh, Edward was going to owe her big time! “Hey, listen … umm,” Alice leaned past Jasper to see Emmett pulling the nozzle out of the car, and grabbed her boyfriend’s arm again, “it was good seeing you! I have to go now!” She called, and raced back to the silver beast.

“… Okay, bye.” Jake’s voice was faint and relatively unbothered, so Alice didn’t worry about being rude.

Alice dragged Jasper back to the car, and whispered furiously to Emmett, who was hanging up the gas nozzle.

Rosalie, who was making a new playlist in the driver’s seat and ignoring everyone, grunted as Jasper ran over to tell her what was going on.

Edward paid for the gas when Emmett gave him a thumbs-up from the car, and the snacks he’d chosen.

“Um, hey man?” The cashier called him when he turned to walk out, eyes on the bag of food. Edward looked at her, who pointed to where Rosalie’s silver beast … had been parked, as it sped out of the station.

“Sons of bitches!” Edward screamed, panic filling his chest at the idea of just being abandoned this far out of town. This joke was too much, even for Rosalie!

“Dude, language.” A familiar voice said behind him.

He spun around and damn near swallowed his own tongue. “Jacob!” Edward squeaked. He cleared his throat as Jake inclined his head in greeting. “My … um, friends left me here.” He muttered, waving vaguely to the silver beast’s tire tracks.

Jake smiled a little, though it wasn’t unkind. “Yeah, saw it … your sister said hi to me.” He added, and nodded to the cashier. “Shout my gas and I’ll give you a ride?” He offered.

Edward nodded, trying to curb his enthusiasm. “Okay, we can have my snacks.” He said, holding up the plastic bag. He probably concerned the poor cashier with how much he was grinning.

Jake thanked him for the gas with another extremely cute smile and waved Edward inside his little Rabbit, closing the door behind him. They pulled out of the gas station with Edward telling him all of the candy he’d bought.

They were on the road for a few minutes when Edward decided conversation was in order. “So … what were you doing so far out of the city?” He asked.

Jake shrugged. “Beach day with some people, it was kind of dumb but whatever.” He was actually smiling, though, which led Edward to believe he rather enjoyed himself. It made Edward embarrassingly happy, that Jacob seemed to have had a good day.

“I was just at a beach party too,” Edward added, “my sister’s been sad lately, so ….” He waved his hand vaguely and Jacob nodded, though his eyes were responsibly on the road.

At first, Edward was acutely aware that he shouldn’t miss his chance. He needed to be on, funny, interesting, engaging, charming, handsome – whatever! He had this twenty-odd minute car ride to make something happen! Unlike that stupid party where everyone had been too tired to prove that Jake would definitely want to spend more time around them, and more importantly, Edward.

But the swimming and dancing and socialising had made him tired, and Jacob admitted he was beat too, and they sat in silence for most of the trip. Edward didn’t really know if he chalked it up to the ridiculous amount of puppy-love, but he didn’t think it was a waste.

The silence was nice, companionable, and the music wasn’t too shit. Jacob had good taste, something Edward noted with relish. All his friends loved music in different ways; Rosalie loved antagonising him, Alice had very small-name, independent bias, Emmett always sang songs he learnt at the synagogue, or even better, mid-western folk songs. Jasper even had a dinky old Mp3 Walkman, which he needed because his phone would run out of space if he kept his eclectic music tastes on there.

Edward found himself just watching Jacob quietly, the way he drove; easy but not lazy, he even waited until they hit stop signs and red lights to dig around in the snack bag or ask Edward to pick something to eat. His hair was drying from the seawater, but it didn’t look stringy on him; just casually mussed and kind of sexy. Edward understood why other, more heterosexual teenage boys wanted to see girls at the beach; the look long hair got from the sea spray was very alluring. He liked watching as Jacob’s fingers on the wheel tapped out the rhythm of the song on the radio, and sometimes Jacob hummed along with the chorus.

He didn’t want to stop looking at him, hungrily taking in every detail and he certainly never wanted a reason to get out of the car. But he was beginning to recognise his area, and it depressed him.

Jacob dropped him off on the corner of his street at his own insistence. Edward wasn’t going to give his asshole friends the satisfaction of seeing him with Jake. Jacob didn’t seem concerned, it was only late dusk, the sun setting over the neighbourhood.

“See ya, Edward!” Jacob said, grinning a little. Edward probably said some parting words as well, but he’d never remember what they were. All he could think about was the beautiful brown boy, smiling at him. The sun set behind Jake in a dusky glow, soft and gentle while he said Edward’s name for the first time.

--

While Edward was all but floating back home, Jake was driving towards Bella’s house. She was getting dinner ready and having a close but carefully vague talk with her mother. Even Jake could tell that Bella’s recently tight-lipped conversations were worrying Renee, but Jake didn’t have a mom so he liked over-sharing with his old elementary school teacher.

“I’m late!” Jacob declared, all but kicking open the door and not knocking as he walked inside. But both women had identical delighted smiles when they saw him. Bella was messing around in the kitchen; intent on not letting her mother force them to eat her cooking. Her hair was still stiff from the water earlier. “I was busy, with a boy,” He continued, laughing at the end.

Oh, tell me everything!” Renee declared with excitement; she didn’t know about the Alaskan boy, but she knew a broken heart when she saw one, so she was extra sweet to him.

“Just drove him home.” Jacob piped up; it hadn’t been anything, really. Well, it had been sort of funny when his sister threw herself into that huge range rover and drove off.

“I was wondering where you ended up,” Bella told him, beginning to smile, “ignore the texts I sent you then.” She added, which only made Jacob pull out his phone and turn it on again.

He read them with a laugh. In between asking him where he was; Bella had messaged him saying that if he was getting axe-murdered he couldn’t come crying to her about it. They fell into gossiping about the party they had just been to, and Renee excused herself to call boyfriend. Jacob didn’t miss that Bella rolled her eyes, hard, but he wasn’t going to say anything.

“So, I’m renegotiating my stance … on dating.” He said carefully when their silly gossip session died down.

Bella blinked, before grinning. “Oh, this is the guy’s son that’s obsessed with you!” She said suddenly, looking excited.

Jacob laughed, and nodded. “Yeah, the man giving the vaccinations.” He agreed. It was fun going to Doctor Cullen’s house; Edward was there a lot, and his entire face went red when he saw Jacob. “… I don’t hate the guy.” He admitted quietly. He’d been aware of being stared at so intently on the drive home, but it didn’t make him feel awkward. It was nice, being paid such close attention, Jacob found himself liking it.

“I think you should go for it. I mean, his father is helping with the reservation, right?” Bella asked. His dating preferences were a little of a sore spot between them, but she’d been careful not to let it show too much.

Jacob nodded, slowly. Doctor Cullen was also crazy rich, though, and while Edward could be cute, with those green bedroom eyes, he was also the biggest WASP Jacob had ever met. Jacob had to weigh his options carefully, dating white people was a little different from just being friends with them, it was like you were more invested, so if they said bigoted shit, it hurt much more.

Jacob was getting good at shutting up Bella’s friends, and they were all kind of nervous around him so they didn’t fight him or argue or anything like that. But who knew what Edward had been taught? Who knew how much energy Jacob would have to invest to show him otherwise, which he’d actually be obligated to invest if he was his boyfriend.

“I like how I feel around him ….” Jacob said carefully. Bella sat down on the kitchen counter, and he sat on a stool next to her. “He cares about me, it’s nice.” He added.

Bella nodded with understanding. “Hey, you know I’d help, right? I wouldn’t let him insult you accidentally.” She said, nodding a little. Her genuine concern cheered Jacob right up, and he nodded.

“Yeah, let’s talk about it later though.”

Renee raised both her hands in defeat. “Oh, don’t want to talk with mommy here, I get it!” She claimed, laughing as Jacob faked protesting, before agreeing with her. “Well, I have boyfriend to talk to!” She all but cooed, waving them off as she climbed upstairs.

Bella actually grunted in disgust after her mother left. Jacob pouted at her.

“Still think the guy’s just an elaborate cat-fisher because you haven’t met him yet?” He asked, his voice sickly sweet. He thought it was weird the way Bela treated her own mother, and more than a little condescending. But he wasn’t one to talk about a kid’s proper relationship with their mom; he hadn’t had one himself for a very long time.

Bella scowled at his light mockery. “Jake! She’s been dating him for three months!” Bella said, her voice fretful and angry. “Either she hasn’t told him she has a daughter, which, ouch, or he’s nefarious!” She argued, raising her voice over Jacob’s laughter.

“Well, Bella, apart from full-out stalking your own mother, you’re going to have to trust her.” Jacob told her, reaching over and ruffling Bella’s wet hair. She flipped him off irritably, and went back to fixing up dinner. Bella’s relationship with her mother was weird; she was in charge of a lot of things around the house that Jake couldn’t see a normal adult entrusting to a teenager; like bookkeeping and tax forms. It was weird, but Jake loved them both, so he didn’t question it.

Chapter Text

That Monday, Jessica was crushed. She followed a lot of the popular girls on Instagram, and found out they’d had a beach party the same day as hers.

“More people showed to up to yours, though,” Mike tried to comfort her. But it was no use. Because the right kind of people didn’t show up to hers.

“Why is it I only find out about these parties the next day!?” Jessica agonised, but Bella knew that Jessica really knew why. They weren’t part of that crowd, and so they never heard about these types of things until they’d already happened. “I would have cancelled mine for this one!” She added intensely. Bella also didn’t need to remind her that Jessica had a snowball’s chance in hell at being invited to it.

“Jesus, Jess, we all had a good time!” Tyler snorted, but Angela looked really uncomfortable. Jessica slumped over in defeat as the boys joshed her, and Bella pulled Angela to the side.

“Hey, is everything alright?” Bella asked softly.

Angela looked at her with her eyes that had no lashes, and sighed. “It’s my fault.” Angela said quietly, “They hated Lauren after she got dumped on Valentine’s Day … I spent that whole lunch talking to her in the bathroom, so they thought we were friends.” Angela told her.

Bella was blown away; mostly by Angela’s assumption that her kind-heartedness could ever result in their friend’s misery. “Angela! Don’t blame yourself!” Bella said fiercely. They all knew Jessica would bounce back from this in no time, that in the end, she had a good party with all her friends. “Look, they’re just bitches, alright?” Bella prompted, smiling.

Angela shook her head quickly. “Alice isn’t; she’s really nice.” Angela insisted, and Bella didn’t argue because Angela was the one in art, not her. “I think she found out that Lauren wrote she was clingy on the bathroom wall.” Angela explained quietly.

Frankly, Bella was surprised. If the popular kids threw an opposite party just because Lauren might at one point have been associated with them, and four little words did this? Bella wondered what it was like to be able to have such thin skin. One mean thing said about one of the Untouchable kids meant this kind of reparation? It was so over-the-top, though, Bella guessed, maybe this was to set an example.

Bella was also surprised that the person who wrote ‘Alice Cullen Always Clingy’ had been Lauren, of all people. Plus it wasn’t even that much of an insult, it certainly didn’t make any sense. It was more applicable to Katie, Jennifer, even Samantha; but Alice had that draw to her. When she skipped past, you watched her go; a girl like Alice didn’t need the popular crowd to remain popular, she achieved that all on her own.

Lauren did that? But she was so ….” Bella didn’t want to finish her sentence; desperate to be accepted. Because frankly, who wouldn’t be?

She didn’t even need to finish it though, because Angela was already nodding. “Yeah, she told me that’s why Katie hated her.” Angela said. Lauren had also taken today off, and Bella didn’t blame her.

Lauren seemed to particularly hounded by her recent dumping. Someone had written ‘started from the bottom now we’re here’ on a trashcan, and dumped the entire contents of her locker inside it. Someone else had taken all the hair out of her brush and made a super gross voodoo doll, and hung it on Rob’s locker.

Rob had made a big deal of threatening to get a restraining order, despite the fact that Lauren swore she didn’t do it. Bella knew her well enough to believe her, too.

But in the end, Bella felt bad for Tyler. She’d noticed him texting more, and a quick peek had told her he’d been texting Lauren long comforting messages. It made her hackles rise, knowing how much effort he was putting in to make the girl that tossed him over feel better. “Katie hates Lauren because Rosalie had forgotten she exists.” Bella reminded her. Which was true; Katie didn’t talk to anyone who wasn’t introduced to her through another of the popular crowd. She’d actually gotten in trouble for partnered projects because of it.

Angela nodded, but she still seemed sad. “Yeah … hey, you have free, right?” Angela asked, and Bella nodded her confirmation. “I kind of don’t want to go to art today.” She said quietly.

Bella felt a stab of pity for Angela; the girl was obviously put in a bad position. She was on warm terms with Alice, it must suck knowing they had lied about shopping and thrown a completely different party. Angela and Bella took Bella’s free to go to the bathroom Lauren had written those stupid words.

With a marker and an embarrassed but determined expression, Angela took a pen to those words.

Alice Cullen, Always Cute

--

Alice sat in art class, and for once she was not her usual amount of content. She wanted to be in a good mood too; because there was a party happening in a closed-down store front and she had the cutest pair of boots to break in. But Angela didn’t show up to class, but Alice had noted her presence in the halls that day.

She must hate her for the beach party. Alice wasn’t stupid; she was mad that one of Esme’s Triple-A students would be friends with Lauren. It had felt like a betrayal. So everyone went to the beach with her, instead of another party. She felt guilty, though, maybe Angela had a good reason to be friends with Lauren, maybe she didn’t even know about the graffiti!

Alice felt tears well up at her own hopelessness. Four dumb words on a wall did all this. She just wanted everything back to normal. She tugged on Esme’s sleeve as she walked past.

“What’s up, Alice?” Esme asked. Alice smiled as her dear teacher’s expression morphed into one of concern at her red-rimmed eyes. “Everything okay?” Esme asked. Alice had once said that Esme was as pretty as Snow White and even sweeter-natured.

“Yes, I gotta pee!” She hissed, and Esme gave her the hall pass with no fuss.

Alice scurried back the hall, and actually went into a bathroom so as to not be suspicious. She took out her phone; she rarely texted in class, because she wouldn’t desecrate her own sacred space like that.

Angie isn’t in art babe

Don’t fret hon this aint ur fault. Love u so much. Please dont cry.

Alice sniffled a little, but she felt better with the reminder that her boyfriend knew her this well. She pressed her phone to her lips and just breathed for a moment. Even if her favourite class was a little weird right now, she could do this.

Alice tucked her phone back into her pocket and glanced around, hoping no-one thought she was smelling her phone or something weird. But the bathroom was empty, for which Alice was grateful.

Oh. With a sinking stomach, Alice realised she was in the bathroom that started this all. She wanted to flee, but she was going to be brave.

She slammed open the stall the words were in. She was going to scrape from off with her bare nails, or scribbled over them, or something.

Alice Cullen Always Cute

And she even recognised the handwriting, she’d seen it plenty of times, sitting next to Angela as they took down Esme’s notes on shading and proportions. She was so touched, she could have cried.

--

Jasper glanced at his phone again for the umpteenth time during metal-shop. D.J. Garret didn’t bother asking why; he was busy making a rat trap from scratch. But Alice’s text had him worried; he hated the idea of his darling being upset over a nobody. Ultimately, Jasper’s didn’t really care for anyone but her.

He was annoyed too; that someone who didn’t matter was affecting her so negatively. “Hey, you think any of the guys would have gone to that other beach party?” He asked, though most of him already knew the answer.

“Maybe,” D.J Garret shrugged, before beginning to smile, “dude, it’s the girls who wouldn’t have gone. So why would anyone else?” He asked rhetorically. Jasper smirked and nodded; Rosalie’s horde did look good in swimsuits.

Austin, though, looked at Jasper slyly. “Your girl was the one that didn’t want to go anyway; no-one else would bother.” He replied, and Jasper nodded in agreement. His little pixie was like a flame to a moth; absolutely fuckin’ dazzling.

More than that; Alice was irresistible, it wasn’t herself that she ever lost confidence with, just the authenticity in the relationships she had with people. She feared she read too much into friendships or grew too attached too quickly. As though she was projecting a future bond that hadn’t happened yet. It was an inane fear; anyone would want to be her friend. She was lucky Rosalie kept such a close eye out for her. Alice was so very trusting, she could easily be led astray.

“Maybe you snapped her up too quick when you first got here.” Austin continued. “But she’s one of those leader-of-the-pack types.” He added with a smile that wasn’t kind or mean. Jasper just nodded again absently.

“Yeah, I know, why’d you think I snapped her up?” Jasper asked with a cunning grin, and prodded D.J Garret’s trap for emphasis. The other two laughed as it obediently snapped shut. He was lying; but they certainly didn’t know that.

“The beach party’s old news, are we going to that party in Rob’s other mom’s closed store?” D.J. Garret asked.

Austin frowns, “you mean the store front she rents out? I would think Rob wouldn’t be allowed to fuck around in there.” He says with a laugh.

“We don’t need to know if he specifically asked for permission.” Jasper pointed out, and all three boys chuckled in agreement.

He’d made friends with Rosalie at about the same time as Austin and D.J Garret. He met Alice through her; and then all of a sudden, she was all he could think about. He was obsessed. It didn’t escape his notice the kind of company she kept; pretty, wealthy, confident that they could get away with anything.

He promised himself he’d be much more authentic this time around. He wore the clothes he liked because no-one could stop him; he didn’t just laugh at shitty jokes just because a popular kid said it. Didn’t his fake act get him into trouble before? Acting like top-shit got him She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named; and that bit him on the ass and then some.

But he played it up all over again; buddied up to those dumbass footballers who scoffed at his nail polish until he beat them at pool. At least in them he found Emmett, a real friend. He smiled and played nice for Rosalie’s loyal court, he even made sure Edward trusted him. Because he wanted Alice in a way he’d never wanted anything before; it felt like validation when she returned his feelings. It was as easy as his last school; popularity only really came to those who largely didn’t care, who said yes to every plan and outing, who were good-looking or rich enough.

It was worth it, in the end. He can easily stand the others now, because whenever he held out his hand Alice skipped right over and took it.

--

Alice was impassioned as they walked through the front door after school that day. Emmett went in first, almost choking with laughter as Alice stomped in after him.

Impervious to Emmett’s exaggerated cutting-throat motions, Alice continued to rage. " Susan B Anthony was a racist pig and she can choke on my-!”  Carlisle sat with a few men at the dining table, all of them looking at the unruly teenagers. “… Hi dad.” Alice muttered sheepishly, flushing a little.

“Honey, I hate to break it to you, but you don’t pose much of a choking hazard.” Jasper drawled as he strolled in after her. His expression goes from amused to horrified extremely quickly as he lays eyes on her father and one of Carlisle’s guests gives a chuckle.

“Gross,” Edward muttered, but flushes red himself when he realises who his father’s guests were. William Black and his son Jacob. The very boy he had a rather pleasant dream about last night.

“Hello Jake,” Edward mumbled. The boy gave him a nod, and Emmett began to shake with suppressed laughter. No one else could contain themselves either, and began to slowly lose their shit.

“None of you have children,” Carlisle muttered, mostly to himself, “you are children, you’re all like my own children … so you have no idea how deeply upsetting that conversation was for me.” He said quietly, though he seemed more exasperated than irritated. They all laughed harder.

--

Rosalie was sitting at the Cullen coffee table, doing some inane homework, which had been understandably put off in favour of the party, while occasionally shooting Jasper annoyed looks. He sent her annoyed looks in response, because they were both extremely annoyed.

As soon as they’d stumbled away from laughing at Doctor Cullen (and Rosalie was again struck by how much she trusted the adult male) Edward had demanded they all go no further than the lounge room, across from the kitchen, in order for him to hear one Jacob Black, and see him leaving.

This crush was ridiculous, in Rosalie’s opinion. It had been almost half a year already, and Edward had yet to say more than three words to the boy.

But Alice whole-heartedly supported him, and Emmett thought this was the funniest development ever, he claimed it was the first time since Edward’s balls dropped that the boy had had some hormones.

So Edward was feigning the worst act of casualness she’d ever seen, glancing at the kitchen whenever he heard the young man’s voice.

“This is pathetic,” she hissed to Alice, who was also doing work across from her.

They all got relatively good grades; Edward and Rosalie were fast learners, and Alice actually studied quite hard; Jasper was a kind of natural scholar, he genuinely enjoyed learning, though rarely anything in the school syllabus, but Emmett’s attitude was reflected in his grades which were the poor side of average.

Alice looked up from her textbook, though, and shrugged happily.

“It’s cute!” She argued, “He’d do the same silly things for us!” She added, which Rosalie begrudgingly admitted was true. Edward was pretty loyal; it probably came from the fact that he honestly didn’t want to put in the energy to make new friends.

Even the rest of the group he was lukewarm towards; Rosalie knew he constantly forgot Katie and Jennifer’s names. Luckily, Edward was good-looking and polite, and most importantly noticeable, so no-one minded that he kept to himself.

“We should be getting ready for Rob’s party,” Emmett sighed, but grinned almost immediately after as Edward’s clicked his tongue.

Rosalie agreed, though, she didn’t want to sit here so Edward could drool over some boy, who, honestly, was almost better-looking than Edward was. Next to him, Edward did just look like another white guy with a clean look and clear skin. But she couldn’t go up to Alice’s room, either, because Alice wanted to supervise her brother’s interaction with Jacob, if it occurred. Really she just wanted to spy on him.

Emmett was lying on the couch, and throwing a tennis ball into the air and catching it. Rosalie watched him, enjoying the way his arms flexed and how there was a little crease in between his eyebrows. He saw her looking, and she didn’t look away because it didn’t embarrass her that he caught her. He grins though, and tosses the ball up while not breaking eye contact, except he doesn’t catch it coming back down and it bounces off his shoulder and over towards Jasper. It made her smirk, but Emmett just laughed a little at himself.

Jasper picked it up and threw it over to Edward, who wasn’t paying attention. It brained him on the side of the head just as there was shuffling in the hallway. Rosalie had to clap down on her laughter, and even kindly Alice cringed with a big grin; but Emmett let out a loud jovial laugh that made Rosalie’s ears burn.

Jacob and his father walked to the door, being shown out by Carlisle, and Jacob had glanced their way just in time to see the ball bounce off Edward.

Edward stumbled as he stood, mostly due to the ball, and gave them all a vicious glare as he rubbed his head.

“You alright, man?” Jacob asked, looking hardly concerned.

It was extremely enjoyable to watch Edward’s face turn that exact shade of pink. “Um, yeah, my friends are jerks.” He said, and even to Rosalie his voice sounded funny.

“Same.” Jacob said, strolling inside the room. He walked over to Edward’s piano, where a notebook he’d recently been constantly scribbling in was lying. He picked up the pen that lay with it and, with a flourish, clearly wrote down his mobile number.

“Tell you what, if they ditch you on the side of the road again, you can tell me and I’ll come pick you up.” He offered with a very handsome smile.

Emmett chuckled very quietly and Alice’s eyes went wide with excitement but Rosalie was a little offended. They left him with good intentions at a gas station, not like they wanted him to get axe-murdered in the woods somewhere. It had all been Alice’s sneaky plan anyway.

Edward, though, smiled from ear-to-ear, and with a wobbly voice he agreed. Jacob nodded and gave them all one wave before thanking Carlisle and leaving.

Carlisle turned towards them all, looking amused. He hadn’t seen what had happened as he had been speaking to Jacob’s father. “Everyone’s in a very funny mood today, aren’t they?” He asked them, and they all ended up laughing in agreement, with one exception.

“I can’t believe you people!” Edward exploded, picking up the ball and throwing it back at Jasper full-force. Jasper was ready for it, though, and cushioned it against his stomach with a grunt.

“Edward, gentle!” Carlisle chided him, tugging on his ratty slippers. One strange thing about Carlisle; he went to hospital for his shift in his Outside Slippers.

“They’re trying to ruin my life!” He claimed accusingly, and that just made Alice snort while she laughed too. “Right in front of Jacob-buh!” Edward cut himself off with a weird choke, because he realised his father was still in the room.

Carlisle raised an eyebrow, and their laughter died off. Edward had never really come out to his father; it wasn’t really out of any fear or mistrust, but Edward had also never really been interested in dating and hadn’t seen the point. But no one wanted their parents to know their teenage fancies.

“Right in front of Jacob Black, dear?” Carlisle prompted, beginning to smile. “Well, maybe if you’re lucky he thought it was amusing.” He said, obviously trying to make him feel better. But Edward flushed even darker and Jasper was biting his tongue to stop from laughing, and Emmett was hunched in on himself with his shoulders tellingly shaking.

“… Thanks, dad.” Edward muttered grudgingly, looking not at all comforted. Carlisle didn’t seem to mind, and just grabbed his keys.

“I’m going to be home sometime in the morning. I’m leaving the delivery money and Jasper’s gas money – so I don’t want you using it all.” Carlisle said sternly. Carlisle was an awful cook and always ordered food from one of four places.

 Parc Katya, an extremely high-end restaurant that was a favourite of Rosalie’s own mother, Bin Soo; the Korean place that had only recently been noticed by the in-crowd at their school, Jimmy’s, a multi-generational family-owned diner that Carlisle knew personally and the Manhattan Centre.

Rosalie loved eating at the Cullen house; their group sleepovers were always just the five of them. So she could eat whatever she wanted without anyone bugging her about ‘how she could eat anything and it all just went to her tits’. Or even better, getting a lecture on portion control by her mother.

Carlisle also didn’t need to know that his thoughtfully placed gas money would be used to take them all to a party later tonight. Sometimes it was better to leave the man in the dark.

Carlisle came over to give Edward’s still-flushed and now sulking face a kiss, and gave one to Alice too. He also kissed Emmett’s curls, and the line Jasper parted his hair. He came over and leaned down to make a smacking sound a few inches from Rosalie’s own cheek too.

He made a habit of saying good-bye like this ever since he came home early one night when Edward and Alice forgot to tell him they were having a sleepover. They’d even forgotten that they hadn’t told him, and he actually burst into laughter when they all obliviously gave him the same muted ‘hey’ when they saw him, as though it was so natural for them to be in his house without notice. Since then, he usually claimed ‘five dependents, only two adopted’. Rosalie secretly liked it, though she’d rather die than admit it. Ever since she entered high school, her own father had kind of kept a strange distance from her.

“I’m going now – be good!” He said, and they all yelled good-bye. Now that he was gone; Edward got up from his piano and headed out of the room, the book with Jacob’s number crushed to his chest. He usually dicked around behind his closed door for an hour before coming out to be social again. Emmett always made a few masturbation jokes, but they knew the introvert just needed a second to recharge from school.

Before he made it out of the room, though, he turned on his heel and looked at them all, eyes wide.

“Jacob Black gave me his number!” He yelled triumphantly. They all stared at him, and Alice gave a happy, if hesitantly confused nod. “I just needed to say it out loud so I know it was real.” He added casually, and went upstairs, unperturbed by their laughter.

“Let’s get ready to go!” Alice whined after her giggles had petered off.

--

Bella had made nicoise salad for her mother, herself and Jake, as he was staying for dinner. Right now, he was trying to cajole her into coming to a party with him. “Goofy, say you’ll come with.” He whined, a pout on his face. Jake had been invited to a recently-closed storefront that was having a good-bye celebration. One of the ex-employees was dating a Fourth’s busboy, and were going to sit around and drink. Bella wasn’t interested.

“No, Jake!” Bella said with a sigh. She had a project and an assignment due one the day after the next. “It’s a bunch of friends of your friends, and I’m already in my pyjamas.” She pointed out, gesturing to her ratty sweatpants. “You’ll have fun without me, I know it.” She added airily.

Jake clicked his tongue and crossed his arms. “I mean, duh,” he said, before trying to pin her with a puppy-dog look, “but come on!” He fluttered his eyelashes at her. Bella laughed, and gave him a shove.

Jake stuck out his tongue and heaved a big sigh. He was always up for anything; it was the type of energy he had, but Bella was a lot less out-going. She had already planned her night. Watching the new episode of Scandal was the highlight.

Jake was making a big deal out of pouting as he huffed over to the sink to start washing up. “Oh, just scrape the plate,” Bella told him, waving her hand dismissively, “I’ll wash up.”

Jake pressed a hand to his heart, and leaned over to give her a big smacking kiss on the forehead. “Such a good, goofy girl.” He crooned, and Bella swatted him away. He tromps over to the front door. “Okay! I’m heading out!” He announces, and she tells him to get home safe.

Bella watched the Rabbit’s taillights fade down the street, and sighed to herself. She felt maternal when it came to Jake, even though she tried not to. He didn’t have a mother, but that didn’t mean he needed a replacement.

--

They climbed out of the car in one of those “up-and-coming” neighborhoods that were slowly being filled with juice bars and cold brew coffeeshops. Slowly, but not yet, it seemed. Edward eyed the street with distaste. “This is stupid.” He announces. “It looks like we could get stabbed here.” He added.

Jasper grins and slings an arm around the boy’s neck. “Lighten up, Eddie.” He suggests, “I heard Jacob Black might be here.”

“I fell for that once.” Edward snapped, bristling and shoving the boy’s arm off him. “Never again,” He vows. He’d found out Jasper had told him of Jake’s presence under the impression that he was lying. Plus he was mad they had all been, in his opinion, almost offensively boring.

Emmett bumped Edward from the other side, grinning. “Yeah, besides, he’s already gotten his fix!” He teased. Edward rolled his eyes and didn’t bother commenting on Jake’s afternoon visit at the house.

Even Alice wanted to join in on ribbing him. “In fact, he could even text Jake and ask if he’s going to this party!” She suggested, followed by a peal of giggles. Edward didn’t let the gentle teasing annoy him. He was actually still in a good mood. It never occurred to him how great it felt getting the number of a handsome boy.

There were three boys hanging around a red car outside of the shop. “Come on,” one of the boys said, “Jake, stick around!”

“Nah!” The voice got Edward’s attention. In was indeed Jacob Black, hanging out of his red car and sneering. “It’s a bunch of spoilt white kids who don’t even need to be worried if the cops catch them with a baggie.” He said. “I’m ghost, bitches!” He yelled, squealing down the street, while the boys jumped out of the way and booed.

Edward gaped after the car, eyes wide with shock. “… That was Jacob Black.” He managed in a whisper.

Rosalie watched his exit with much more disgust. “If the hottest person had left the party, then it’ll die in like three minutes.” She informed them. Alice groaned exaggeratedly, but began to nod in agreement.

Emmett, though, seemed intent on getting them inside. “No,” he counters sternly, “because the hottest person hasn’t even stepped into the party!” He declared, waving at Rosalie, and then sidling up to her to skim his hands down her hips. “Come on, baby.” He muttered.

Rosalie avoided his puppy-dog eyes and sighed. “… Fine. We should probably make an appearance.” She agreed quietly.

“My girl!” Emmett declared, and when Rosalie stepped out of his grasp, he instead grabbed Edward around the neck, physically yanking him out of his pining as he gazed down the street.

His girl?” Jasper muttered, his tone quizzical but light, leaning down at Alice as she cuddles into his arm.

“His ‘girl’?” She piped up, eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“Lay off.” Rosalie snaps at them both. “Come on, Edward, you can try and find out who Jacob Black knew at this thing.” She told him, and Edward snapped to attention at the new, innovative idea.

They went into the party and almost immediately split off. Edward heard several shouts as he walked, slipping past a few people and trying to find the drinks table. When he did, he looked around, and everyone had peeled off. His mood was instantly soured, and he poured himself a vodka orange and seeked a quiet place to dick around on his phone.

Jasper had ended up propping up a wall with Rosalie. They watched their normal group, as well as a few strangers, not-dance to Dessa and Rag’n’Bone Man. “What was that before?” Jasper asked, head tilting just so to where Emmett was slapping Sawyer on the arm repeatedly.

Rosalie bit the rim of her cup and took her time replying. “Emmett was my date on Cupid’s Day.” She admitted quietly. Jasper sucks in a sharp breath of air, eyes wide, and Rosalie instantly growls. “What? Can’t I also have a life?” She hisses.

Jasper’s expression smooths out, which in turn seems to soothe Rosalie. “… Proud of you.” He said quietly.

“Thanks.” Rosalie inclines her head, before tipping her head back sharply and draining her cup. “Keep her reigned in.” Rose said when she smiles as Alice trots up to them both.

“No promises,” Jasper mutters, and shakes his head as Rosalie leaves after flicking Alice on the forehead.

Emmett was trying to interrogate their host for Edward’s sake, as the boy had ended up coming to stand next to him. “So, Rob, who are they?” Emmett asked.

Emmett was referring to the small group of newcomers who were mostly hanging with each other. They weren’t from school, and therefore immediately stood out. It was easy to tell they weren’t from school, only two of them were white, after all.

Rob was leaning heavily on the wall as he spoke, eyes slightly glazed. “Oh, this was a family fish grill, but they didn’t want to renew the lease.” He said, waving his cup vaguely. “I invited the old employees, though! And some turned up!” He announced with happy pride. A few of the guys started laughing, which sobered Rob a little. “They’re kind of … rough.” He supplied unhelpfully.

Stephens looked less than pleased. “Why don’t you just say ghetto?” He asked sharply.

Rob’s face crumpled with drunken sincerity. “I didn’t mean it like that!”

Emmett ignores them and turns to Edward. “You wanna see which one knows Jacob?” He asked brightly. It made sense that it would be them; since they were the only newcomers.

Edward had wrapped his arms around himself, and shakes his head. “No, they’re leaving anyway. Not that I care.” He said, looking annoyed. The ex-employees were indeed making their exit, simply meandering out the door.

“Without even saying good-bye.” Rob lamented, though they hadn’t really been mingling between the two groups in the first place.

Alice was currently hopping in little circles around her beau, which was the best Jasper could do to keep her reigned in. “Emmett and Rosalie!” She cheered, grinning madly. “Finally, baby I’m so happy!” She announced.

Jasper was as usual extremely glad she was pleased, and inclined his head amicably. “I know, honey, it’s just like you always said.” He told her, but his next words were in a careful tone. “Don’t get too excited, though, it’s only a date.”

“So?” Alice shrugged, pausing in her dancing to snuggle herself under his lightly stubbled chin. “I knew I loved you even before our first date!” She said brightly, content in her conviction.

Jasper beamed with all his teeth.  “Me too.” He replied softly.

Chapter Text

Edward sat in his usual seat, his back to the huge annoying windows, with Alice on one side and Emmett on the other. He was currently trying to read and ignore everyone. Everyone was irritating him, and it’d been three days and Jacob hadn’t texted him. He was already fuming about missing him at the party.

Not that Edward was waiting for Jake to make the first move; Edward had texted him first and got no reply.

It had taken him almost the whole revelry to craft; hey Jake. Thought I saw you at the party tonight. Had a good time?

Edward thought it was a cool, casual starter to a conversation that may well lead eventually to true love. But three days; and nothing.

He was fuming and sad and disappointed. So when his phone dinged, he only gave it a cursory glance. But when he saw it, he grabbed up his phone so fast he knocked a few of Emmett’s fries to the floor, ignoring the boy’s protests.

Hey sorry was out of credit just friend me on fb man.

Edward stared at his phone and frowned.

“If a guy tells you to add him as a friend him on facebook, how long is a not-creepy time to do it? In, like, an hour?” He asked the group.

“You’re thinking too hard about it,” Jasper told him, which was an extremely rude and accurate thing to say. As though Jasper ever thought about anything; if he thought through his actions he’d probably had realised he’d been stalking Alice the first few weeks he’d moved here, all those years ago. He was just lucky Alice delighted in his attention.

“I don’t understand the problem.” Rosalie replied, turning to her own phone and blanking Edward. Of course, a beautiful girl wouldn’t need to follow any protocols; boys just flocked to her, much to her own displeasure.

Alice read the texts over his shoulder and shrugged, chewing the straw of her juice. “Just do it now, he’s probably doing something and is too busy to find your name himself.” She said.

“You are the only one being remotely helpful,” Edward told her, and opened facebook on his phone to friend Jake, which was conveniently the last page he’d been on.

He’d regularly stalk through the public pictures available on Jacob Black’s page; one of a child version of him and his dad cheesing in suits, one of a skinny tween Jake with a group of brown boys on a cloudy beach in swimwear and recent one of him on a couch, sticking his tongue out at the camera and holding up a piece of paper that looked a little like a sonogram.

He friended him, and stared at his phone for the rest of lunch. But Jacob didn’t respond and it really frustrated him. Alice gave him a sympathetic pet on the shoulder as he headed to his last class of the day; biology.

Edward kept his phone on his desk, inconspicuous among his stationary and books, and periodically glanced at the notifications throughout the class. Still nothing.

He was in a stormy mood when he stalked to Jasper’s stupid ugly car. He was the first one there though and ended up fuming by himself until Jasper arrived.

The boy strolled over to him, tossing his keys to Edward to open the trunk himself. “This is literally the worst day of my life.” He declared, and Jasper shrugged.

“That says nothing, you’ve lived a pretty easy life.” He replied mildly. “Wait – what about the day you were orphaned?” He asked.

Edward shrugged. “I just went from day care to dad’s house instead of my parent’s, I was thirteen months old I didn’t know what was happening.” He said tersely. Jasper nodded, mostly to himself, and tossed both of their bags into the trunk, shutting it and then sitting on it. Edward joined him, leaning on the bumper with a sigh.

“I hate waiting,” he said softly. Jasper snorts, and thumbs over to where Emmett was ambling over, yelling goodbye to his teammates for the day.

“Well, everyone’s nearly here, so get over it.” Jasper replied, even though they both knew that’s not what Edward was hating waiting for.

They both stepped up when Emmett came and slammed his bag into the trunk after Jasper pops it open.

Emmett glanced at Edward’s sour expression, and grins a little. “Poor Eddie-boy,” he coos, and Edward bats his hand away before he could try and pinch Edward’s cheek. “This is the first time he’s had some hormones, I’m almost mad about it.” Emmett continued to Jasper, who throws back his head to laugh.

Edward frowns. “This isn’t a first for me; if I didn’t have hormones there’d be no way I’d watch you boys practise in those shapely capris.” He said, teasingly leering forward at him. Emmett just opens his mouth and sticks out his tongue, and Edward can see his tonsils.

“I’ll let Rob know,” Emmett piped up, his expression cheeky, “you’d be the most attractive person ever to be interested in him!” He called as they all climbed into the car. Edward slammed the door to the backseat and crossed his arms over his chest.

Please, don’t even joke.” He said with heavy disgust. “I have standards.” That made them all crack-up.

There was a vague buzzing, and Edward groped in his breast pocket for his phone, but came up empty. He felt a jolt of panic, and glared at Jasper.

“My phone’s still in my bag!” He snapped. Jasper laughed and threw him the keys. Muttering darkly, he stalked back behind the vehicle and opened it up. He was about to rifle through his bag, when a black Prada bag was dropped onto his hands.

“Thanks, Eddie,” Rosalie said absently, slipping into the car before he could retaliate. He clicked his tongue and eventually dug out his phone.

He checked the notifications and grinned. Jake had accepted his request! Triumphant, he closed the trunk and elbowed Rosalie forcefully until she scooted all the way to the other side of the car and let Edward take the middle.

“Good news, I take it?” Rosalie asked archly, grunting unattractively as he gave her one last shove as he threw the keys back at Jasper.

“Perhaps, not that it’s any of your concern.” Edward said airily. There was a thumping on the rear window, and Edward glanced back to see Alice waving. Jasper popped the trunk and she blew him a kiss after she dumped her bag.

She bounded into the car and took in Edward’s smug expression with glee. “Jake accepted your friend request!” Alice cheered, and he leant back with a sigh.

“This is barely anything to celebrate.” Emmett reminded them all, while choosing the first Michael Jackson song he heard. “We’ll throw him a party when the boy sucks his d-”

Edward leaned forward and grabbed Emmett’s head, shoving him downward. Emmett laughed, and Jasper snapped at everyone to calm down while he was driving.

They hadn’t actually made it out of the parking lot, though, there was a queue, which Rosalie was not happy about.

Emmett was loudly complaining about someone called Richard. “It’s that Jesus freak, I don’t really mind them-”

“Hence your use of the word ‘freak’,” Alice butted in testily. She always hated that word.

“But she’s like ‘Jesus is white and he was seen in Milwaukee!’” Jasper said in a sarcastic tone, leading Edward to believe whoever this person probably wasn’t called Richard. “Like, okay, once I took a half-bottle of Nyquil at lunch before I remembered I had an appointment, so I followed it with three large coffees, and I saw St. Maurice fighting the devil in a Krispy Kreme parking lot at three in the afternoon.” He said. “Reality is subjective, is all.”

“Yeah, your reality would have been.” Rosalie said heavily, sounding slightly incredulous. “Please tell me you didn’t drive to that doughnut shop!” She added.

“Wow, Saint Maurice,” Edward said mockingly, glancing up from the message he was crafting to smirk at Jasper in the rear-view mirror. “What was he like?”

“He was black and beautiful, man.” Jasper answered him, before glancing to Rosalie. “Krispy Kreme sells more than just doughnuts, babe.” He said casually.

“You did drive there.” She sighed heavily, as though her ‘look both ways before you run a stop sign’ type of driving was any better than Jasper probably had been on a dangerous mixture of cold medicine and caffeine.

Hey Jake, how’re you today? God, that better sound normal for a facebook message.

“Who’s holding up the line?” Rosalie asked, craning her neck to get into Edward’s personal space, and look out the front window. Her intrusive fat head was making him clutch his phone to his chest for privacy.

“Looks like some guys from our grade. Hurry up!” Emmett yelled out the window, and shoved himself back in with a startled laugh when Jasper shoves him.

“If they key my car tomorrow, you’re paying for it!” He snapped.

 --

Bella was startled when she heard the yell, and damn near dropped her bookbag before she could climb into Tyler’s van. It was Emmett McCarty, half-hanging out of Jasper’s Thunderbird.

“Get in quick!” Jessica snapped, and Bella scurried inside and slid the door closed. Tyler peeled out of the parking lot, and Bella glanced behind them, eyes on the car.

Edward Cullen had to be in that car, it was his usual ride, after all. Bella felt her stomach swoop at the idea that her tardiness might have annoyed him too.

While the others laughed over getting heckled waiting for her, Bella pulled out her phone after it buzzed

Goofy two-shoooes … booored

It was Jake, and Bella found herself grinning. He’d been in a pretty good mood lately, which always cheered her up too. As always, because she didn’t reply straight away, he called her.

“Hey, guess what?” He said instead of ‘hello’.

“No.” Bella replied, trying to close her bag again while the van lent into a turn.

“The son of the vaccination dude?” Jacob prompted, sounding pleased. “Keeps on messaging me! What a stalker.” He said with relish. Bella laughed, and made a note to look up who exactly this guy was. Jacob seemed to be very amused by him.

“You sound very threatened by it.” Bella said sarcastically, finally managing to toss her bag under her seat. She really liked how much Jake was enjoying a boy having a crush on him. She felt a little iffy about how Jake wasn’t making it clear whether he reciprocated or not; but she trusted him. Even if he teased this boy a little, ultimately, Jake would never string anyone along. “Having fun?” She asked him.

“Hell yeah I am!” Jacob cheered with a laugh. “He’s asking me how I am, what I’m doing ….”

“This sounds like a normal conversation to me.” Bella said and rolled her eyes as Jake agreed with her. She pointed to her phone while sharing a look with Jess and mouthing ‘Jake’ at her. Jessica, who had actually hung out with her and Jake the most, grinned and mouthed back ‘say hi from me’.

“Jake, Jess said hi but I gotta go.” Bella said, “I’m in Tyler’s van so I need both hands to cling for dear life.” Jacob laughed and hang up, while Tyler shot her a look through the rear-view mirror.

“Rude!” The driver snapped. Jess laughed as she clung to Bella and begged him in a dramatic wail to watch the road.

--

The next day, Alice decided she’d go on a fact-finding mission. She even wore her own Outside Slippers; which she usually saved for test days or when she was feeling unwell. Her dad thought they were hilarious, they even kicked each other’s slippers before he left for work. Edward was actually up and awake for the first time in three years, and snorted at their interaction as he was kissed goodbye.

“Love that guy,” Alice said with satisfaction as their father left.

“You two are stupid.” Edward retorted, before looking down at his buzzing phone with a sweet smile.

Alice looked him up and down shrewdly. “What are you doing?” She asked.

Edward didn’t even stop typing on his phone. “Messaging the man of my dreams.” He replied bluntly. Alice giggles; that Jacob Black had him hook, line and sinker. “What are you doing?” he shot back, eyes on her slippers.

Alice puffed out her chest. “I’m going to find out how Rosie and Em’s Cupid Day date went!” She declared.

Edward was not impressed. “Good luck with that.” He snorted. She whined his name at his unenthusiastic response. He looked up to raise an eyebrow at her. “What? You know as well as I do how it probably went; uncomfortable and yet deeply invested in their gross sexual tension,” he explained with an airy sigh, “and Rosie skittered away and nothing was resolved. You know how they are.” He said firmly. Alice huffed, even if it were true. Poor Rosie got in way over her head with that evil, older boy, and Emmett was taking it as slow as she needed!

“Don’t be mean!” Alice chides him. “You know how they could be!” She counters, and for all their distance, Emmett and Rosalie had moments so sweet it made Edward roll his eyes dramatically. They knew they were attracted to each other. They needed encouragement! A push!

“No, you think you know their potential,” Edward shot back, “and I know I don’t care.” He hopped off the kitchen island stool and stepped past her, heading to his room. Alice followed him persistently.

“You can’t be mean to me today!” Alice all but whined. “You can’t be mean and smitten, it’s probably bad luck!” She argues, pointing to his phone. Edward scoffs at her. “I was nice to everyone until Jasper and I started up!” She added.

Edward stopped in his doorway. “No, you were just too busy being constantly on the phone with him.” Edward said, holding up with own phone with a shake for emphasis. “You’re also always nice.” He added, his tone mocking.

Thank you.” Alice replied curtly, and he closes the door in her face.

--

Rosalie had come in the silver beast with Jasper and Emmett. In a true changing of the stars, Edward had gotten up early enough that he was driving Alice into school.

Right now, she was standing around Emmett’s locker, with Samantha, Katie and Jennifer. “I have no clue why I’m getting the flak here!” Jennifer argued, her voice pitched high with resentment. Her long thick hair was pulled into half-space buns, which looked very Sailor Moon. She paired it with a pair of black jeans and a Tory Burch Ardmore sweater.

“Of course you are!” Samantha shot back. “Like you even care about freshies!” She teased her. She had her hair in pigtails tied low and loose. She was wearing a light pink long-sleeved turtleneck with a patterned white skirt.

“Like I was saying, there is a protocol!” Katie piped up. She was wearing a cropped grey sweater with light blue jeans. Her red curls hanging free around her shoulders. “It’s only the start of the year! If they pass the mark; we can maybe let them do stuff for us. But that’s after a deliberation period of at least half a year!”

Samantha ended up bursting into laughter. “These rules are so convoluted!” She said.

“Rosie!” Alice called, as though that was code for the girls to stop their bitching. They couldn’t really drop this all on sweet Alice, after all. Unlike Rosalie, who had a head for these things. It wasn’t hard to accumulate the kinds of people she wanted in her life.

Jennifer’s mother was a movie producer, and the girl was still smarting over uprooting her life after her parent’s divorce. But then Rosalie was there, a noted, local girl that showed her she didn’t have to lose her normal social standing just because this was a different state. Katie wasn’t hard to add, either. She was mousey and easily placated; she made a vicious guard-dog, too, so it really only took Rosalie one shopping trip to show Katie the prettier side of school-life. Samantha was a surprise catch; after her mother struck nerd-gold, she showed a completely new side of herself, and all Rosalie had to do was whack Lee Stephens over the head, and Samantha sat right down with the others.

Rosalie knew she was noticeable, she just didn’t care. She was good-looking and her dad had money, it was as stagnant and predictable as the moon rising every night. It wasn’t hard to ensure her spot as the leader, she was, after all, quite bossy.  Alice, though, was another story. Rosalie knew she could discard the other girls, but Alice was special. She was the type of girl who didn't care that she was noticeable; which just made her even more appealing. Rosalie put Jasper through some hoops for that girl; but she ultimately knew she had to approve, her and Jasper were the same type of animal, after all.

But today, Rosalie eyed Alice with some suspicion. The girl obviously wanted something from her; she kept looking at her and smiling, with that look in her eye that said, ‘I’ll get what I want or it’ll make me sad and Jasper will send weird death-vibes at you’. She came skipping up in her Outside Slippers, fuzzy pink things shaped like kittens.

“Let’s go to the Manhattan Centre tonight, babies!” Alice declared. The Manhanttan Centre took on a difference appearance at night; it had a staple dinner and the hors d'oeuvre menu made it popular with cashed-up couples in their thirties. Usually, they’d only go to get the beef wellington take away.

“Nice,” Emmett agreed immediately. “I miss Paul.” He added with insincerity and a sigh.

“You saw him this morning.” Jasper reminded him. He threw an arm over Alice’s shoulders and pulled her close to him. “What are you planning?” He whispers to her.

“Stuff and things,” Alice replies cheerfully.

-

They were in gym, or free period for Sammy and Jenny, but since Alice, Rose and Katie had gym they bugged Coach Clapp into letting them join. Alice liked gym well enough; she wasn’t so good with more technical games; but she was quick and she could get around the other players. Volleyball wasn’t her style, but basketball and baseball were fine.

She also liked the unofficial student dress code. No-one but the dorkier jocks and future jarheads wore the school gym uniform, because it wasn’t required. But for the rest of the student body; it had to be black, white or grey, and it should be brand name. Sometimes, though, Alice just wore something from Tory Sports, but Edward and Rosalie especially had attitude about it. They actually liked following the unspoken rules so Alice usually did too, to placate them.

They were stretching; which Alice usually just lay down and went into a deep bow pose until her feet were back on the ground beside her ears. She did gymnastics until she was twelve and she liked to stay limber. “So, Sammy, how’d your Cupid Day plans go?” Alice asked her, trying to look sly. It came off as a little coy, if that.

Sammy was stretching out too, mostly her quads. “Well, Lee took me to Bin Soo’s for dinner and we were going to Parc Katya’s for dessert, but the line was so long, we just got milkshakes at Fourth’s!” She laughed at the memory, and Alice smiled. But personally, she didn’t see the appeal of going to all the places they normally went.

“That sounds so sweet!” Katie said with a sigh. “It sucks being single on Cupid Day! Right, Rob?” She yelled, but he was on the other side of the gym and couldn’t hear her, though she laughed anyway. Rob was with Emmett and Lee, and unlike the other seven of their teammates, they wore the black-and-white standard.

“Well,” Alice said quietly, “I think it’s cute. Right, Rosie?” She asked with a grin. Rosalie did not play sports; though she and her mother usually used the gym in their apartment complex. Rosalie eyed her with some suspicion, before nodding just a little.

“Right.” She said quietly. Alice regarded her for a minute, and Rosalie just gave a slight shake of her head. Alice releases her feet and flops back onto the floor with a sigh. Looks like gym was a bust.

--

Edward drove up to the Manhattan Centre, with only beef wellington on his mind. So he was very surprised to see a familiar red car in the parking lot.

“Jacob …?” He asked softly, Alice already climbing out of the car’s passenger side. But Jasper was in the back, and he’d heard him.

“You have that boy on the brain, even now?” Jasper asked, looking amused, before he followed his gaze and grunted a little. “Oh it is him.” He muttered, climbing out of the car while adding that he wasn’t dealing with this.

Edward scrambled out of the driver’s side, locked the door and raced over to the red car and the boy climbing inside.

“Jake!” He called out, and the boy glances up. His head is tied into a loose ponytail and he was wearing nothing but a singlet, sweatpants and some beat up runners. Edward had never seen him in something so casual; it was kind of exciting.

“Oh, hey Edward.” Jacob said, smiling just a little. “What’re you doing here?”

“Getting some food, you?” Edward asked, for some reason feeling more out of breath than a brisk jog to the other side of the parking lot would warrant. Jacob held up a bag with the Manhattan Centre’s logo on it. “So … you like the food here?” He asked, and almost kicked himself for the stupid question.

Jake just seemed amused, though, and nodded. “Sure. Hey, I gotta get going, don’t want it getting cold.” He said, tossing the bag into the car. “See ya.” He added, waving and climbing inside. Edward waved when Jacob pulled out of the park, and drove off.

Edward looked back, and saw four very annoying people looking at him.

“Go get the food!” He shouted, and Emmett and Alice ran straight to the back entrance, laughing, while Jasper followed at a more sedate pace. Rosalie, as she was wont to do, performed her best impression of an oak tree, staying rooted to the spot until he walked to her.

She looked disgusted. “That boy’s toying with you.” She told him, so matter-of-factly that it irked him.

Rosalie had barely any insight into the budding relationship between Jake and himself. She was just projecting. “Don’t be such a man-hater.” He told her, trying to keep his tone light as he walked to the back entrance after the rest of their group.

She keeps pace beside him, “You’re not subtle; he knows you like him.” She told him. Edward actually thought that was true; Jake seemed to regard him with a lot of calm and a little amusement. Like he could tell how deeply Edward had fallen for him, and was enjoying the attention.

“If that’s the case, I’ll just move the timeline up a little.” Edward replied. He, of course, wanted Jacob to enjoy his feelings; it certainly meant he wasn’t disgusted by them.

Rosalie raised an eyebrow as he opened the door for her to walk in. “That confident?” She asked.

“Unlike you.” Edward shot back. Her dancing around Emmett was even making Alice impatient, at this point. “Jake’s a good person; he honestly is.” He continued. “He may know my feelings, and he may not return them, but he’s not being malicious.” He said with conviction. Jake was sweet, and Edward couldn’t believe he was being toyed with.

Rosalie snorted and strutted through the door, as though the faith in his voice repelled her. He grits his teeth and walks into the restaurant, knowing full well he was right.

--

Rosalie confronted Alice when they were brushing their teeth in Alice’s bathroom. The boys were dicking around in Edward’s room, which seemed to involve a lot of grief for the host, as they could hear thumps and Edward’s loud disapproval.

“What do you want, Alice?” Rosalie asked after she’d flossed. “You’ve been giving me eyes all day.” She added.

Alice looked at her with her already large brown eyes widening. “No, I haven’t! You know I only have eyes for Jasper!” Alice argued, and gave a laugh that Rosalie did not smile at. For a moment, Alice doesn’t seem to be willing to talk, but, like always, she admits defeat with a sigh. “… I wanna know how your date with Emmett went.” She said, pouting up at her.

Rosalie rolled her eyes. She was pleasantly surprised that none of their friends had given her a hard time over the date; even though only Edward, Jasper and Alice knew about it. It had been a nice date; but she wasn’t willing to have a little chat about it. There was something much too fragile starting for Rosalie to entrust it with anyone right now.

“Top secret, bae.” Rosalie replied tersely, moving onto brushing her hair and steadfastly only looking at herself in the mirror. Alice looked like she wanted to protest, but kicked at her own fluffy white bathmat dejectedly.

Fine.” She said with feeling. But she couldn’t pry; she herself was quite private about her time with her boy. She had to respect the idea that the usually ever blunt Rosalie might want to do the same this time.

Chapter Text

Jake had come over with his father, to go over a few piles of paperwork. Edward waited nicely in the lounge room. But he certainly wasn’t going to wait alone so he made everyone come downstairs from the rumpus room to wait with him.

Jacob actually popped his head in to say hi, and Edward hurried over to him to take his chance.

“Jake!” Edward said with a grin. “Just the man I wanted to see; there’s a party at a guy’s house, this weekend, would you be interested?” He asked, forcing himself not to wipe his sweaty palms on his slacks.

Jacob gave him an odd look. “No.” He said. Edward swallowed the lump in his throat and tried not to react as though he was actually dying inside. Jacob looks away as he speaks, “If my friend Bella goes I suppose I’d have to.”

Edward grinned, “You have to,” he insisted, “What’s her last name?” He asked.

“Swan, Bella Swan, she’d probably be in your grade.” He supplied with a shrug. “I gave her those flowers one time, you saw me.” He added. Edward’s eyes flew open, and he shot Rosalie a heavy glare, no doubt just now remembering she’d promised to find her and hadn't followed through.

Rosalie shrugs as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth. “You both have to come, I’ll talk it over with her.” Edward says to Jacob.

“Alright, tell her to text me with whatever ends up.” Jacob gave Edward a nod, “See ya.” He said, giving Edward a pat on the shoulder and walked off.

He almost floated back to his people, promising himself to never bathe his left shoulder again. “What guy?” Alice asked, chipper as ever, “What party?”

And Edward’s world came crashing down around his ears. He’d just lied to make it seem more interesting, a party sounded better than ‘I want to kiss you until one of us dies’ or anything else that Edward had been thinking. “… I don’t know.” He said faintly, and now he wanted to die again.

“You’re a flaming mess, Edward, literally.” Rosalie told him sharply. Then she pulled out her phone to make a call. “Hey, Lee, it's Rose. Did D.J Garret say he was having a party this weekend?” She asked sweetly.

Edward could kiss her; she was probably definitely doing this to have a public petting session with Emmett because she was too scared to make a move on him in private, but she was also helping him. Which was way more important, because he had to impress the love of his life.

“Did he?” Emmett asks in response, feigning ignorance. “Oh fuckin’ thank god. D.J Garret has that sweet pool table.” He said, grinning. Edward almost sighed with relief as Emmett grinned cheekily. It wasn’t a question that his own not-flesh-and-blood sister Alice would help him concoct this plan, and by extension Jasper, so he could easily make a party happen.

Jasper grinned. “I’m pretty sure he mentioned a party.” Jasper said, pulling out his phone and giving Edward a wink. “Let me talk to him.” He added as though it wasn’t obvious he was trying not to laugh in Edward’s face; Edward’s increasing happiness was so evident.

--

The next day, Edward had a lot of things to figure out. Chiefly, he had to get Jacob to a party. He had to create a party, that he’d already been invited to. And he had to find some girl called Stella Swain.

Emmett liked this idea. Eddie boy needed to get some, and he never wanted anyone, so some dude? Would be great for him! Plus Emmett really liked D.J Garret’s house, it was empty and there was actually a framed picture of little Rosalie at one of her dad’s work events.

They were hanging out at their lockers with a few of their cohort, deep in preparation. “Who’s coming?” Connor asked eagerly.

“Just us,” Katie said quickly, and unquestionably, “let’s keep it small. Just the guys that go to Fourth’s.” She added, and Emmett agreed. It was fun hanging out in a huge party, but they were planning this off-the-cuff and it wouldn’t be fair to swamp D.J Garret with people.

Rosalie was leaning forward, deep in the planning process, and either allowed or hadn’t noticed Emmett’s arm around her waist. He felt good, boyfriend-y, like this.

Jasper’s laugh brings the group to the attention of D.J Garret, strolling towards them. “I heard we were having a totally planned party at my house.” He says in a humorous tone, in lieu of a greeting and they all throw up a cheer.

“Thank you for inviting us, D.J Garret!” Alice said in a sing-song voice.

“Fine.” He inclined his head, “It’ll have to be after seven, though.” He says sternly.

--

Rosalie grins and tries not to laugh. She knew D.J Garret just well enough to know he wasn’t at all bothered by an impromptu party. Being noticeable had its perks.

“We didn’t plan on coming any sooner.” Edward told him with a smile. D.J Garret looked surprised, probably because that was the first time Edward had spoken to him directly. He wasn’t exactly the conversational type, Edward. So seeing him walk up to a truly gorgeous young man and make up a party just to invite him? Hilarious.

“Could some of the girls go over to decorate?” Rosalie asks D.J Garret. He inclines his head again, but asks them that it wasn’t too many. “Just Jessica and Katie.” Rosalie assured him, and both her girls jumped at the chance to theme the party and help organise it. They didn’t see it as flunky work, which it was because Rosalie didn’t decorate parties, she only hosted or attended them. Alice loved decorating parties though, and Rosalie had to occasionally reign her in so she didn’t do too much manual work.

Now she had to find Stella Swain.

--

Jasper gave Alice a kiss as he left her to her art class and her beloved teacher, and slouched off to metalwork.

Jasper’s conversation with D.J over the phone this morning had played out like this:

“Mornin’ man,”

“Yeah.”

“Guess who’s hosting a party tonight.”

“… George Michael in heaven.”

“Nah, try you.”

“Oh yeah?”

“We’re young, gotta celebrate.”

“I have work tonight … til 7.”

“No one would be caught dead turning up sooner.”

“Yeah.”

And so, D.J Garret was throwing a party. Well, his dad’s money was mostly; Garret made Jennifer call a grocery delivery service for the maid to pack away that day. And had entrusted the spare key to his house to her to decorate a half-hour before.

In metalwork, D.J Garret usually made most of Jasper’s project when the teacher wasn’t looking, mostly because Jasper was very jumpy around things that had rotating blades or that awful screeching sound of metal on metal. Dae-Jun’s father was a banker, but his mother was a pretty well-known engineer, in engineering circles in Soeul. Alice was east Asian too, on her birth mother’s side, but she never brought it up.

Jasper liked D.J Garret for many reasons; because he had long, straight waist-length hair and always dressed in back with round glasses; like Korean-American gothic Harry Potter. But mostly because his parents were rarely home, and Jasper could relate to having very little parental influence in his life.

Austin was extremely amused with how the whole thing had played out.

“A guy is late to school because his little sister insists on washing the coconut oil out of her hair and you’ve already brewed up a party.” Austin says, and he almost sounds impressed.

Jasper shrugs, “don’t look at me, it was all Rose.” He said.

Which wasn’t true, since D.J Garret was probably only going along with this because Jasper wasn’t going to tell anyone that he actually worked at Fourth’s. His dad was trying to teach him the meaning of money, which ended up with him working as a dishwasher and in return getting unlimited access to his dad’s credit cards. No-one would care, Jasper’s almost certain, but D.J Garret was sensitive about it; when Jasper had seen him coming out of the kitchen once, he almost dropped the entire stack of plates he’d been carrying in.

He’d dragged Jasper outside and begged him not to tell anyone. Jasper had wholeheartedly assured him he wouldn’t, but may have used it to convince him to throw his first party. Jasper had did it because Alice had mentioned that she preferred more intimate house parties that didn’t involve the entire grade showing up. They hadn’t been dating yet, but it was the drive home from that initial party they’d shared their first kiss.

He wasn’t sure why D.J Garret was even bothered by his workplace. Jacob Black worked there too, and Edward was half in love with him already. If anything, it gave him an advantage.

But Jasper liked secrets, he had quite a few of his own.

--

Alice sat in art class, doodling a little. She wasn’t necessarily paying no attention, but she also couldn’t in all fairness claim to be listening. There was still remnants of awkwardness between her and Angela, so Ashley's constant chatting was an excellent way to ignore it.

“Hey Alice, I like your necklace.” Angela said quietly. “It reminds me of the sunflower your boyfriend got you on Valentine’s Day.”

Alice didn’t look at her, but nods her head. “Thank you, that’s why he got it for me.” She told her. Alice steeled herself, and looked at the taller girl. “Sorry I couldn’t come to that party of yours.” She added.

“That’s okay, I just wanted you to know, um, that it’s okay.” Angela said awkwardly.

Alice grimaced a little in sympathy; it really was a lame position for them both. “Are you staying late to help Esme pack up?” She asked. It was an olive branch, of sorts. Plus, they were two of only three girls who called Ms Platt by her first name.

Angela nodded a little, biting her lip. “Of course!” She said. “I’ll just text my friend Bella about staying later ….” She muttered to herself as she dug around her backpack.

After a moment, the name registers. “Wait - Bella?” She asks, and Angela nods her head. She felt a jolt of excitement, remembering one of the pieces of the puzzle that would lead Edward’s true love to him. “Hey, um, I think I know her boyfriend.” Alice said, trying her best to feign being casual.

Angela shook her head. “She doesn’t have one.” She said, confirming Alice’s hunch, besides, a boyfriend would have known to buy her the school roses.

But Alice shakes her head lightly, pretending to think. “I saw a boy gave her flowers on Cupid Day.” She prompted.

Angela smiles with recognition. “Her best friend, Jacob.” She told Alice. “She leaves those ones in her locker, because they aren’t for charity like the school ones.” She added. Alice agrees that it’s appropriate, and grins down at her paper as her mind whirls with plans.

--

“Bella!”  She looked up at Angela’s voice, glad to be getting to lunch at a reasonable hour this time. The sandwich bar was empty after the first thirty minutes because that was What Was Eaten. But what Bella saw made her make a weird gurgling noise that embarrassed her later.

She saw Angela, slightly red-faced, waving at her, and Alice Cullen almost skipping along next to her. Usually all she saw was a glimpse of Alice as she glided off to the cafeteria, but now the girl was looking right at her.

“Bella!” Angela said again, sounding out of breath though she hadn’t been walking at all fast. “Alice Cullen wanted to talk to you.” She said, looking pleased.

“Thanks Angela.” Alice said, her musical voice cheerful. Angela nodded hesitantly, but flushed when she realised Alice was waiting for her. Even Bella desperately wanted her to leave, because Alice Cullen wanted to talk to just her.

 Angela looked at Bella, as though gauging whether she would be safe from a not-quite-five-feet girl, before awkwardly waving and saying she’d go find the gang.

After Angela left, Bella was staring down at Alice Cullen, and was too scared to say a thing. It probably would have been dumb like ‘you’re prettier than Lucy Liu’ or ‘oh my god, can I just say I love your outfit’. “Hi, I wanted to talk about your friend Jacob Black.” Alice said, smiling prettily.

Out of anything at all Alice could have said to her, she was not expecting that. “… Um, okay?” Bella can barely get the words out, but she could thankfully just make out over the rushing in her ears that her tone sounded normal.

Alice rocked on her heels for a moment, her huge brown eyes looking off to the side. Bella was sure anyone less popular wouldn’t take so much time to talk; but Alice commanded her attention and made her eager to wait. “Well, I wanted to invite you both to a party!” She said finally. “It’s my friend’s party, D.J Garret’s. Would you guys wanna join?” She asked. If Alice were Katie or Jennifer, she would have thought this was some sort of corny bullying tactic. Alice Cullen inviting her to a party was about as possible as Rosalie Hale even talking to her, but one of those things was happening.

Bella tried to casually wipe her sweaty palms by making it look like she was pulling up her jeans. “It sounds interesting, yeah, we’ll be there.” She said numbly. She prayed that she sounded casual.

Alice actually clapped her hands, and when she did it she made it look cute, not childish. “Oh yay! I better let you get back to lunch. See you there!” She waved, and almost skipped off to the cafeteria.

Bella had a sneaking suspicion that she’d died and gone to heaven.

She fumbled for her phone, and rang Jacob.

“Hello!” He yelled after a few rings.

Bella was grinning so hard her cheeks hurt. “Jake, listen, I know you don’t really like hanging out with kids from my school but I’ve been invited to a party and you have to come with me.” She said instead of a greeting.

A sigh crackled down the line. “Why can’t Jessica go with you?” He whined. Bella’s excitement wasn’t dimmed by his lack of enthusiasm; Jacob wasn’t overly fond of her school, or it’s students, he thought they were rich snobs. Bella shuddered at the idea of taking Jessica with her, the thought alone made her cringe. “Why me?”

“Because they asked for you!” Bella said, and that’s what really blew her away – how on earth they even knew Jacob. But hey, that was a topic of conversation she could start at the party.

Though, Jacob rocked up to her school often enough, and was certainly more than friendly enough. He occasionally tried to make friends with anyone walking past when he was bored. Maybe one of those friends had been the likes of Austin Marks, or Samantha Wells. Jacob’s precocious nature usually embarrassed her, but right now, she loved him for it.

“Oh, wait,” Jacob said, his voice back to normal for the moment, “this morning this guy mentioned something to me – aw, but if you wanna go, then we’ll go ….” He said, the whine back.

“I love you!” Bella declared, and he laughed, agreeing to pick her up after school before hanging up. 

She sucked in a deep breath and forced herself not to do a happy dance, because that wasn’t her style. Her phone dinged, and dimly, as though she was far away, she looked down at it. It was her mother.

Hey sweetie, leave tonight free, I want you to meet boyfriend! <3

--

Edward was sweating through his shirt and he was wearing jeans.

Jasper looked him up and down, with a hand covering his hand so he didn’t laugh in the other boy’s face. Edward was also wearing a sleeveless top and a button-up that was unbuttoned, and the poor boy had never looked so uncomfortable.

“Are you trying to convince him you’re a normal teenager who has friends and goes to parties?” He asked, his voice choked. Edward flushed in embarrassment, which was a very loud and clear yes, and Jasper let just one chuckle escape. “Yeah, the jeans say that, really proud of you man.” He muttered, and strode out of the room, immediately after which the sound of loud Southern-accented cackling dominated the entire upstairs of the Cullen house.

Alice glanced at her closed door as she heard her boyfriend laughing. Rosalie, who’s hair she was curling, snapped her fingers to get her attention.

“Hello? Hair burning?” Rosalie prompted, and Alice released the lock with a giggle. Alice was really excited to meet Jacob Black in a proper, casual setting. So far, saying hi while he sat with their dads and talked about a community project was not a conductive way to chat and get to know him.

Her brother was in love, and he’d never been in love before, and Alice was just so happy for him. She finished with Rosalie’s hair, and Rosalie ruffled her fingers through it, breaking up the structure and leaving it in soft waves.

Rosalie brushed off her blouse; her velvet maroon crop top with matching skirt. They’d both gone with dark colours this evening.

Alice was wearing a truly adorable embroidered chiffon silk sleeveless cocktail dress and holding up a pale gloss and dark purple lipstick. She smiled; another tradition was her picking Alice’s lippy for the night. She nodded to the gloss, and Alice smiled.

Alice was sipping from the drink Jasper had left them, and staring at where her cat stretched out on her rug. She seemed to sense that Rosalie was thinking, and glanced up at her only when Rosalie asked her to hand her a drink.

“Hey, we all want your brother to get some okay? But I don’t wanna see you abandoning me for that girl he made you find, chinita.” Rosalie said, and she wasn’t really joking.

Alice nodded with an easy laugh, and that’s why Rosalie loved her, the tiny girl really balanced out her bitchiness. But occasionally, with some of the other girls, her sweet nature led them to act even meaner to make up for it. Which could be extremely entertaining, like when predators fought on nature documentaries.

Currently, Katie was trying to concoct a way for this Stella Swain to need to leave the party early, which Rosalie had been told by Samantha, ‘just to let her know’. Since Jacob Black, the new love of Edward’s life, was their real target, Rosalie didn’t really care about the girl or what happened to her.

--

Bella was slumped into the passenger seat of Jacob’s custom Rabbit, and trying not to cry.

“Mom’s finally having me meet boyfriend – tonight.” Bella groaned into the dashboard she’d face-planted into. “Fuck, my life couldn’t get any worse.” She muttered.

“Hey, I thought you’d be happy!” Jake argues. He seemed less than bothered about being second-hand invited to a party with her cohort, but he didn’t get it. Bella looked up at him and gave a whimper. “… You really wanna go to this, huh?” Jacob asked her.

Bella groaned again. “Yes!” She said with feeling. When she’d come to lunch, still on her high, Jessica had all but yanked her out of it, Angela had told her about Alice, and she wanted details. Bella knew her hungry, social-ladder-climbing friend would leap at the chance to embarrass them both at a popular kid’s party, and refused to tell her anything. It had made Jess upset and angry, and Bella ended up walking away from the table to eat in the library. So far, the only person from her normal group that had spoken to her since was Angela, apologising for bringing it up. It had been a rude reminder to Bella; she was the newest person in their friend group; Jessica could actually oust her easily; Angela was too soft-hearted and easily led, and the boys didn’t mind Bella; but Jess had bigger tits and flirted more.

She had then felt incredibly guilty about thinking so badly of her friends, and spent the rest of the day in a funk.

Bella glances out the window, staring into the slowly-emptying parking lot at school. Jake hated wasting time lining up, so they were just blasting music from Bella’s phone and waiting. “Jessica got really dramatic about it and I just know these people would like me if I just – nothing.” Bella cut herself off from her own babbling. Jacob wouldn’t understand, he was such a bright and out-going person. He didn’t go to their school, he wouldn’t understand how much of a loser Bella felt like at times.

Jake, though, did seem to grasp something. “Damn, you never get this neurotic about teen stuff.” He said, thinking back on how Bella usually disparaged everything about high school; the parties, the dances, most school functions. “Are you finally Benjamin Buttoning into puberty?” Jacob joked, grinning a little in mounting excitement. Bella guessed she was; growing out of her elderly womanly ways and finally caring about some party she couldn’t go to. She smiled a little hesitantly and gave him a nod. “Okay, Bella, we have to go.” He said forcefully.

Bella shrugged and sighed. “But … mom’s dinner ….”

“No offence, Bella, but you are such a goofy two-shoes.” Jacob said with a laugh. He was referencing a dumb lisp he had when they were snot-nosed kids; he lost both his two front baby teeth at the same time. He’d called her that and they’d laughed for the entire weekend. “Your mother is way too lax with parenting, and it just meant you set your own boundaries, and you’re too harsh on yourself. There’ll be other times for you to meet boyfriend. Give yourself one little rebellion!”

Bella looked at Jake. Jake, who, in a way, was a better child than she was. Jake revered his father; he didn’t resent being his carer at times when the cane wasn’t enough to support Billy. Most children respected and looked up to their parents. Bella didn’t; she loved her mother to bits, but there were just one too many times in her life that she didn’t trust Renee. Over time, it had exasperated and annoyed her, and when Bella was particularly stressed, she even resented her mother’s more hare-brained moments. But she was responsible. Bella was so responsible! She had to take charge and it didn’t give her any chance to be reckless herself!

“… Yes. Yes!” Bella yelled, slamming her hand down on the dashboard for emphasis. “Okay, we go to mine, I’ll get ready, and I’ll leave mom, like, a note.” Bella said while her nerves fluttered with growing excitement. Let her be the flighty one for once, it’s been seventeen years in the making.

Jacob threw back his head and laughed. “Bella! My girl!” He cheered.

Jacob and Bella both came bursting into the Swan residence, Jacob catching Bella as she clipped her hip against the kitchen island, which she did about every second time she walked through her front door.

Renee wasn’t home yet, and if they timed this right, she would be coming home to an empty house and an equally empty apologetic note.

Bella was giggling as Jacob swiped the vodka from the top shelf. He mixed it with orange juice, and they both swore no more than two cups. They were taking Bella’s truck, though, so Jake made his a little looser.

He’d already dressed for the party, his second-best pair of jeans, a pair of Nike’s and a plain black muscle tee. Luckily, he’d left his favourite leather jacket at Bella’s last time he was there.

Bella worried a little over what to wear, and Jake did his best to help. He threw her shoes with the skinniest heel at the door for her to put on later, and was trying to physically climb into her wardrobe. With a triumphant ‘ah-hah!’ he pulled out a short, fire-engine red number.

Bella laughed. “I’m not wearing that! Jess said she didn’t want to go into Red Balls by herself, so she bought me that because it was on sale!” She exclaimed. It was the weirdest thing she owned.

Jacob took it off the hanger and started shaking it out. “It’s so slutty, he’s gonna know exactly what you’re about! Awoo-awoo!” He howled like a dog and threw the dress at her head.

“You shut it!” Bella shot back, laughing while pulling the dress off her face.

Jacob grinned into his cup, but frowns when he hears something familiar.

“Damn, how long until you’re ready?” He asked, looking out her window.

Bella frowns, holding up the dress. “Gotta give me a second to put some clothes on?” She suggests sarcastically.

Jacob grimaces and nods down. “Your mom is early, for once.” He said, and begins to shoo her. “I’ll stall.” Bella sighs and walks out the room, straight into the bathroom.

Jacob heads downstairs to see Renee.

“Hello, sweetheart!” Renee says when she sees him, stepping on her toes to give him a kiss on the cheek. “You staying for boyfriend dinner?” She asked, looking excited. Jacob didn’t dwell on the fact that the woman was obviously excited to introduce her boyfriend to her darling daughter, because if he did he might feel bad about their imminent escape.

“Not a chance,” Jacob replied with a grin, “I’ve been invited to a party on the rich side of town.” He added, smoothing a hand down his shirt and putting his nose in the air.

Renee nods, replying sagely that he was ‘moving up in the world’ while she put away groceries. Despite her protests, Jacob knows her kitchen and puts away all the items for the shelves. It was easier to distract her by being helpful anyway.

Renee goes to the cup he leaves on the counter and takes a sniff. “Jake, you’re being a good boy, aren’t you?” She asks sternly. Jacob shrugs a little, and takes the cup back while bumping his hip to hers. “Well, a little bit in the house is okay.” She says, her voice already lightening up.

Jacob rolls his eyes into his drink; Renee was so very lucky Bella was boring and responsible and not a slutty, drunken delinquent.

Speaking of, Bella slips downstairs, holding her black stiletto heels, and a small white handbag. She glances at where Renee was facing the sink, to where Jacob was slowly backing out of the room, towards the front door.

They were edging, softly and slowly to freedom, when Renee hears the thump of Bella bumping her side again. “Oh Bella!” She grinned, and Jacob sighed. “You’re looking very grown-up, tonight.” She said, eyeing the very short red dress with an evaluating gaze.

Bella cringed a little, and waved her pair of heels at her. “Hi mom … bye mom.” She added, and Jacob wrenched open the door and leapt from the doorway to the bottom of the porch steps in a silly attempt to get away quicker.

Renee abandoned the shopping to follow them to the door. “What?” She asked, dismayed. “But boyfriend dinner!” She argued.

Bella threw her hand over to her truck. “I’m Jake’s ride to the party!” She shot back. “He’s been drinking, he can’t drive!” She added heavily.

Renee started shaking her head. “Wait-”

“I’ll be back late tonight!” Bella yelled. “Love you!” She shot over his shoulder, and her and Jake ran down the drive, jumped into her trusty truck, and drove off while her mother stood unhappily in the doorway.

Chapter Text

Bella was at the party, and she immediately regretted her bright red dress. All the girls were wearing darker colours. She also made a note to apologise to Jessica for not being more sympathetic to her skirt problem at Mike’s party. It seemed silly on the surface, but it was just another reminder of how out-of-place she looked.

Jacob was unaffected, though, but actually began to grin at the host.

“D.J Garret!” He called, and the boy in question immediately slapped him on the back. Bella sighed in relief; Jacob was invited because he knew D.J Garret, who was telling them to enjoy the party while he said he had a poker game to get back to. That must have been the guy that he’d spoken to in the morning.

“How do you know him?” Bella hissed as they walked from the fancy entryway to an equally fancy rumpus room. It was huge, and the ceiling was almost worryingly high, Bella didn’t really want to look like a rube craning her neck up; but she couldn’t see the roof even in her peripheral vision.

“From work,” Jacob replied. Bella was surprised; she hadn’t wanted to ask, but she had thought Jacob was too young to get the late-night shift and end up bussing tables at a Fourth’s after-party. She frowned with her disapproval; his managers should be more considerate of Jacob’s age.

D.J Garret’s house was very spacious, and dark, and the entirety of the popular group either stood or sat and chatted while music Bella didn’t recognise was playing. The TV was on, just showing some trembling circles that wobbled in time with the music, adding some extra light.

The poker game was to the side; in it were Jasper, Austin, Jennifer and D.J Garret. But there were also a few people at the pool table, and there was also a foosball table and a treadmill. Bella noted that she couldn’t see Edward anywhere.

“Hello, Jacob!” It was Alice, beaming in her little navy dress. Bella smiles, and hopes her hair doesn’t look stupid; she tried to curl it a little before they left. Alice always looked so sleek with her little pixie cut. “You two made it!” She said with satisfaction.

“Thanks for inviting us.” Jacob said, inclining his head towards her.

“Your jacket looks very cool.” Alice told him, and looked at Bella with a smile. “Let’s get drinks.” She told her, and Bella nodded, letting the girl lead her to the bar. It was a real bar, with stools and top-shelf liquor.

Bella was nodding as Alice explained that she’d picked Jasper’s outfit; the jeans that she’d sewn a little heart into the waistline, a long-sleeved black shirt and a military-style jacket with iron-on patches about UFOs and Goin’ Fishing.

She tried to listen as Alice spoke about clothes, but she kept trying to see Edward out of her peripheral vision.

“What do you think?” Alice asked her, and she blinked in surprised. She hadn’t actually been paying attention.

“Sorry, what was that?” She asked stupidly, but Alice only giggled and waved her away.

“Alice, I need you.” It was Rosalie, in a dark red velvet two-piece dress, her hand out-stretched towards the smaller girl.

Alice smiles at her, and excuses herself as they make their way towards the pool table.

--

Alice was exhausted. Jacob and his friend had only just arrived and already she was having to play nursemaid. Stella wasn’t the best conversationalist, and she’d worn a red one-shoulder dress, which accentuated her terrible posture, all hunched in on herself. Alice didn’t like one-strap dresses on girls with bad posture, and she was a little annoyed about it. But, she was working on being less of a control-freak, so she simply didn’t acknowledge the girl from the neck-down.

So after peeling Stella away from Jacob, she took her to the bar to distract her. But she wasn’t being very fun, and Alice could tell when someone wasn’t listening to her. She was glad Rosalie pulled her away.

“Is Edward so boring that he can’t keep a boy interested on his own?” Rosalie asked her. Alice giggled and shrugged, and glanced at the pool table. They had the same bet going as always.

Alice hoped Emmett lost tonight, though, because he was wearing his long-sleeved grey Henley with the olive pants that she hated. They were so tight and silly and Emmett always complained about the marks they left on him.

“I don’t want Stella to interrupt them!” Alice hissed with a giggle. Edward had Jacob in a dark corner and they were currently laughing. It was going well.

Her heart sank as she saw Stella heading over to Jacob. “Why must she hang onto her friend?” Alice whined, even the good song on right now wasn’t improving her mood. Rosalie laughed while Alice sucked in a deep breath, before squaring her shoulders.

“Hey!” Alice called to her, skipping over and pointing to the roof, where several speakers were placed. “Let’s dance!” She said eagerly. She took Bella’s elbow and whisked her into the centre of the room. “Rosie!” She called, and made grabby hands at her as the blonde obligingly stepped forward.

--

Edward was not lying in wait for Jacob, or hiding behind Emmett until the boy arrived. It didn’t matter that he only slipped over to Jake after Alice had pulled that ever-important friend to the bar.

“Hey, Jake,” He said, smiling. Jake looked at him and grinned with a nod. “Drink?” He asked, holding the two jack-n-cokes he had. Jacob took the one Edward had already sipped and had a long swallow.

Edward prayed no one in this room realised, and tucked one hand under his other arm to stop his trembling. For some reason, knowing his mouth had been on the same cup was doing something to him.

“So, should I introduce you?” Edward offered. Jacob told him it sounded good, and Edward waved him towards the poker table.

“You know Jasper,” Edward said, and Jasper, playing nice, leaned over to shake his hand.

“You came!” The boy said with a smile, which turned into a sly smirk at Edward. He ignored the dig; because Jasper knew Edward could only vaguely remember these people’s names. Jasper pointed from his left to his right. “Austin, Jenny, D.J Garret – our esteemed host!” He said with a flourish. Jacob nodded and gave them all a wave. After he waved, he settled the hand on Edward’s shoulder, leaning a bit closer to the table to smile at them all.

“This is Jake; he’s Edward’s friend.” Jasper said. They all waved back, and Edward peeled them off towards the pool table, careful to stay close to Jacob’s side. But, thankfully, Jacob didn’t drop his grip, and it was making Edward’s entire shoulder tingle pleasantly.

“These are the guys, Emmett, Jake’s here.” Edward said, tugging on Emmett’s sleeve a little. The big dude grins and slaps Jacob on the back.

“My man! Meet Rob, Katie, Lee, Sammy, and Connor!” He said, and Jacob nodded to them all. Edward was already bored of the introductions, though, and he wanted Jake all to himself now. He excused them, and pulled Jacob towards the wall.

“So, I’m really glad you came.” Edward said, leaning next to the other boy. They were facing each other, and Jacob had his sole attention.

Jake smiled, and nodded. “Yeah, me too. Your friends seem nice.” He adds.

“Well you don’t know them yet, so I’ll let that slide.” Edward teased him, and Jacob laughed in response, and if Edward’s insides weren’t already melted into his shoes, that sound would have done it for him. “I’d love for you to get to know them, though.” Edward continued, “Maybe some other time.” He said, hoping it wasn’t too weird that he was already hedging for another meet-up.

Jake just smiled. “I’d rather get to know more about you.” He said quietly, rising his eyebrows. Edward tried to gauge if his own smile was too wide and creepy, but it was hard. This was amazing, Jacob Black was flirting with him. “Come outside with me, I wanna smoke.” He said, nodding to the patio doors, where a generous balcony area shouldered the surrounding woods.

Edward nodded, and held up his empty cup. “Refills, first?” He offered, and took the cup Jake offered back to the bar.

He mixed new jacks-n-cokes and grinned to himself. This was going perfectly; god, Jacob looked good in that bad-ass jacket. “Edward! Hello.” Edward glanced at the girl who bumped into his shoulder. It was Jacob’s friend, who Alice promised to keep occupied.

Edward glanced around the room, and nearly rolled his eyes. His sister dear had gotten distracted by the music, and all the girls were dancing in their stupid circle. “My sister isn’t up-staging you with her dancing, is she?” He asked, nodding to Alice. Luckily, Alice caught his eye and waved, but realised who was stalling him.

Edward glanced back and saw Jacob, near the door, looking out into the night, and he was so incredibly beautiful.

“Um, no, not yet.” Jacob’s friend replied, tucking some of her hair behind her ear. Alice was now upon them, and he took a neat step back, not wanting to seem rude but eager to get away.

“Excuse me.” He said as Alice took the girl’s arm. He didn’t wait for the cajoling Alice would do, and strode up to Jacob.

“Your drink,” He said to the boy, and Jacob didn’t take it, instead sliding open the door and nodding him outside first. Edward stepped out, and walked towards the railing in front of them. He glanced back as Jacob closed the door behind them.

“Why there?” Jake asked him, and headed to the small secluded area to the side, away from the eyeline of the windows. Edward smiled and followed him.

Jacob leant his forearms against the railing next to him, both of them looking out towards the woods. He fished out a packet of cigarettes and a box of matches. Edward was amused that he had those and not a lighter, but he did look much cooler lighting up with it.

“You smoke often?” Edward asked him. He didn’t care for smoke usually; so long as no one was actually breathing on him. But he was almost worried; Alice always made Jasper take a mint before kissing her after he smoked. Would Jacob’s breath taste bad? Would it be strange if Edward excused himself to get him a mint? Edward’s own thoughts embarrassed him; he may desperately want to kiss Jacob, but that feeling wasn’t necessarily mutual.

Jacob shook his head as he let out a pillar of smoke into the air above them. “Nah, just socially. It’s a good way to get pretty boys alone.” He said, and looked back to Edward with a sexy smirk. Edward blushed a little, and had to look out to the woods.

It was too dark to see much; just dark shadows against lighter, greyer shadows. Edward didn’t want a repeat of the car ride from the beach; staring creepily at Jacob like he had been. So he tried to keep his eyes on other things instead of the gorgeous boy next to him.

“Here,” Jacob said, pulling Edward’s gaze to him anyway. He had the cigarette offered, butt-end out. Edward made to take it, but Jacob drew back immediately. “Here, I said.” Jake offered the cigarette once more, but much closer to Edward’s face.

Edward knew Jacob could see how he swallowed before leaning in. He took a drag of the cigarette, his lips just brushing Jake's fingers, his own hand curling around Jake’s a little to steady it. He pulled away and looked toward the woods to exhale. He knew with his body was facing Jake, his body language was very obvious. But Edward didn’t step back, he kept one hand balanced on the railing and his other slid from the boy’s hand to the inside of his elbow and rested there.

Now he couldn’t look at Jacob because it was embarrassing, but the boy didn’t seem to mind. “… I’m cold.” Edward muttered, which was an outright lie; it was late summer at a stretch.

But Jacob didn’t call him out on it. He smiled and loped an arm over Edward’s other side, pulling him in so Edward’s back was against the railing, with the other boy’s arms on either side of him. It was a loose hug, and probably not a good enough reason to become half-hard.

Edward couldn’t find it in himself to care though, his hands sliding up Jacob’s back, under his jacket. It was like he was in a trance, and Jacob didn’t have the good sense to stop Edward from leaning over and running his lips over the other boy’s neck.

Jacob did shiver though, and bring his hands together behind Edward’s back, drawing him closer.

Edward curled his fingers into Jacob’s shirt, and began kissing the boy’s neck and the meat between it and his shoulder in earnest. His stomach was a tight ball of heat, and the sound of his own mouth smacking against Jacob’s skin, and how soft his skin felt, how easy it was to suck between his teeth, was making him even harder.

Jacob cleared his throat, and Edward slowly drew himself away. He’d only had three drinks, but he felt languid and drunk.

Jacob’s eyes were dark, and he was smiling so nicely. “Looks like these steps led down to the front.” Jacob said softly, angling his head towards the stairs that led from the patio towards the driveway.

Edward nodded, and bit his lip. “I bought my car.” He said, and even to him his voice sounded different, deeper and heavier with his arousal.

They didn’t say anything as Jacob took Edward’s wrist and led him down the stairs. They didn’t run, they just walked, and the further towards his Volvo Edward walked, the more and more nervous he got. What was about to happen? Would it be too unsexy to ask if they could just talk more? Edward was distracted because he remembered he left their drinks on the railing of the balcony.

Jacob glanced back at him a couple times, and every time Edward lost his train of thought, and couldn’t remember if he was even going to ask a question. Because Jake would glance back with a shy, pleased smile, as though checking Edward was still there, even though he was holding his arm. It made Edward just keep smiling and not wanting to talk, least he ruins the moment.

--

Jacob led them straight to his car, and Edward fumbled a little with his keys before he could press hard enough down on the button to unlock it. He was feeling more and more trepidation, but he didn’t want to say anything because Jake didn’t seem at all nervous. Grinning, Jacob climbed into the car first, before using both hands to tug Edward’s, and he scrambled in after him.

Immediately, Jacob yanked him into a fierce kiss, pressing his mouth into Edward’s. His lips opened, and Edward just barely remembered what a French kiss was, pressing his own tongue into Jacob’s mouth and letting out a little moan. For a first kiss, this was more than excellent.

One of Jacob’s hands slide up his back, bringing his shirt with it and making him shudder with a jolt of panic that made him feel sick, and the other went to the fly of his jeans.

When Jacob unbuttoned his fly, though, Edward jerked himself away.

“I don’t want this,” he said, panic making his voice harsher than he meant it. Jacob yanked his hands back to himself quickly, his eyes a little wide.

“Sorry,” Jake said shortly, his tone surprised. There was a beat of silence, and Edward felt so ashamed. He’d so completely ruined the moment, and now Jacob was looking like he’d rather be anywhere else then with him.

“… We should go back to the party.” Edward said reluctantly. Jacob nodded, not making eye contact with him, and climbed out of the car on the opposite side. Edward dropped out of the car too, and locked up. He half-expected Jacob to be fleeing to get as far away from him as possible, but the boy just scuffed his shoes into the dirt, and looked down, waiting for him.

Edward began to walk back to the house and Jacob walked a step behind him. It was so awkward now, and Edward felt his head start to pound. But he couldn’t just drag Jacob back to his car; he honestly wasn’t ready for how hot and heavy it had gotten in there. It kind of scared him, moving that fast. He didn’t want to move that fast.

When they came back inside, the same way they left, Jacob went to where his friend was standing against the wall. Edward was still a little shaken up, and humiliated, so he didn’t follow him. He went to where Jasper had Alice sitting in his lap, playing crazy eights with a few people.

Alice looks up brightly when he stands next to them, but jumps from Jasper’s lap when she sees his expression.

“What happened?” She hissed quietly. Edward just shook his head. “Did Jake do something?” She asked, looking very worried. Edward dimly wondered what his face must look like.

“No, stop asking.” He said, and Alice knew him well enough to know he was telling the truth, and that he really didn’t want to talk.

But it seemed she was a bit sore over having to play babysitter with Jake’s friend and getting no details in return, because she turned back to Jasper.

Jasper glanced at Edward, who just shook his head. Jasper, though, seemed readier to let it go. He tilted his head to the side. “Kiss for good luck, hun.” He said softly.

Alice leaned down and gave him a small peck, and Edward scoffed loudly.

Alice shot him an annoyed look, her cheeks almost flushed at Edward’s reaction to a hint of PDA, which she usually shied away from.

“Go be sad over there, then,” She said, pushing him towards the couches. She sat back with Jasper, and Edward walked over to where Rosalie was on her phone, piled against two other girls.

Rosalie took one look at Edward’s face and shooed the girls, who went good-naturedly. The red-head asked where he’d been all night, to which Edward told her he’d been just outside.

Their departure left Edward to slump down next to Rosalie. He cast a surly eye to where the football captain and his girlfriend share an armchair near them, kissing heavily. He felt a stab of envy, embarrassment and distain.

He had the decency to make out in private, and here they were, flaunting themselves like hussies. Edward knew he’d never be bold enough to be so affectionate in public, and he hadn’t wanted his first kiss to be in a room full of people anyway. Right now, every happy couple were making him sick.

Rosalie was still on her phone, but Edward could see from here she was just reading Wuthering Heights again. He never could understand how she could tolerate reading on such a tiny screen, or how reading made her so embarrassed she felt the need to hide that she was doing it if she felt the situation would make her appear nerdy.

“You chicken out?” Rosalie asked him as he leaned against her shoulder. None of his friends even knew what he had been planning to do, he hoped no-one spotted him walking out onto the patio with Jake and then when they slunk back inside. He didn’t even know what he had been planning to do.

“Shut up,” He replied, and for once she didn’t echo the words Alice used the first time she had ever yelled at Emmett.

Rosalie just hummed, her hunch confirmed, and rested her head against his too. He didn’t complain about the way that her golden locks tickled his nose, or how he could smell the cheap Moscato she’d been drinking. He was sad, and he’d rather hide behind the girl who was the best at acting tough, than putting on a brave face himself.

--

Bella was embarrassed by herself. Alice had pulled her to dance, and when it was made extremely apparent how bad Bella was at it, even slowed down to try and accommodate her. Rosalie herself even joined them, but it was apparent she wasn’t trying to make a triangle shape; she was only dancing with Alice.

But that only lasted until Rosalie ran out of patience, it seemed, and Alice had been pulled back to dance with the blonde instead.

Bella peeled away, very easily, and spotted Edward at the bar. When she only managed to speak a few words to him, Alice just grabbed her and took her back to the gawky dancing.

Bella only shifted her weight in time with the beat through the chorus of the song before she peeled off again. But this time she couldn’t find Edward anyway, or even Jacob. She stood there, confused, and kind of hoped Alice would pull her back in again so she wouldn’t have to try and wiggle her way back into their twosome for something to do. But Alice didn’t seem as bothered the second time around, and Bella was left standing by herself.

She had gone over to Jasper, who was relatively friendly to everyone and probably her best bet for socialising.

She shouldn’t waste this opportunity, after all, not just anyone ended up at these parties. Bella had realised that she was at the party that no one else would hear about until afterwards. This was her chance, now, and she had to take it.

“Hey, have you seen my friend Jake?” She asked him, nervously.

Jasper glanced up at her from his cards, but shook his head, not unkindly. “Sorry, no. I think Edward was showing him where the bathroom was.” He said, with a small smirk on his lips. Bella got the distinct impression he was laughing at her a little. “I wouldn’t worry about it,” he added, before deciding their conversation was over and playing a hand.

Bella nodded, calmed by his causal assurance and wandered back over to the wall.

The game of pool was finished with a loud cry from the group, and they began to break up. Bella hated the way Connor and Rob gave her a strange look, a muted version of surprise. It was obvious they were surprised she was here, because she certainly wasn’t their friend, but they didn’t care enough to be very interested in her presence. Like she was so far beneath their notice that they were already bored with her.

She felt like a voyeur. The poker game broke up, and Rosalie and Alice settled on the couch, Katie and Jennifer joined them. They were piled together like some model group shot; legs stretched out in front of them, Katie was sitting on Jennifer’s lap while Alice was tucked into Rosalie’s side. They were taking group selfies and making funny faces that still strove to look cute.

Katie wore a dark purple sweetheart necked dress with plenty of tulle, Jennifer wore an olive-green dress with a deep vee peplum with cut-out patterns on the hems, and Samantha wore a black belted shirtdress. They all went to mid-thigh, and made Bella feel skanky.

Another song excited Alice, and she got up to dance. Bella watched as she pulled Rosalie into the centre of the room, and leant over her hand; like a ballet dancer, all grace and poised limbs. Rosalie bowed like a Jane Austen heroine with her dipped head and bended knees, before using their joined hands to twirl Alice into an elegant spin. The girls joined them, and they made a small circle. Even some of the guys, like Austin and Connor, danced with them. Bella noted that these kinds of guys, confident and unafraid of not acting ‘cool’, just seemed all the cooler for their nonchalance.

Bella couldn’t imagine Mike, Eric or Tyler dancing like this, with fist-pumping, and hands chopping the air while they swayed with the music. They were much too aware of themselves and worried about how they’d look. So was Bella, when she thought about it. The only boy she knew with that amount of confidence was Jake; and she still hadn’t seen him.

She had half a mind to go and search for him, but no-one else had left the room yet; except for the en suite bathroom. She wasn’t sure if it was some unspoken faux pa. So she just stood there, too nervous to do anything else.

Bella was just left watching, as Samantha pulled Lee into am armchair to cuddle, as Alice went to her boyfriend as another card game started. Emmett had called a few of the boys that weren’t playing cards over to the foosball table to start a game, and no-one even looked over to her, like she wasn’t even there. She wondered if she looked at her hand right now, if her gaze wouldn’t go straight through her palm.

The patio doors opening caught her attention, and she was surprised, to see Jacob and Edward walk inside. Jacob headed straight over, and leant on the wall next to her.

“Jake!” She exclaimed, her voice heated. “Where were you?” She knew she sounded demanding, but she was feeling lonely and she was surprised that Jacob had been with her secret crush.

“Oh, he just wanted me to see his car.” Jacob said, nodding to Edward’s direction, and shrugged a little. He seemed kind of quiet, but Bella was also feeling quiet in a room full of these people. “Guess the party’s winding down, though.” He added.

Bella watched as Edward fell asleep against Rosalie, and she sighed. She felt like she had been waiting the whole night to start enjoying herself, and it just hadn’t happened yet.

“Guess we should head out.” Bella agreed, downcast. Jacob wrapped an arm around her shoulder, shaking his head.

“No, you really wanted to come. Sorry I’m not being fun,” he said, and his voice was a little sad. Bella looked at him, and frowned. He was acting kind of strangely, she hoped he’d tell her why.

“Don’t worry about it, guess we’re not in a fun-loving mood.” She said. They pushed off the wall together, and Bella couldn’t really place what he wanted.

“I’m going to go chat,” Jacob said, nodding towards D.J Garret. Bella nodded, but she didn’t follow him; she went straight out the door. She wasn’t going to pretend to be regretful about leaving a roomful of people who had spent the last twenty-five minutes completely ignoring her existence. Bella had a copy of Romeo and Juliet waiting for her in the car.

--

Jacob walked up to D.J Garret and the boy grinned at him.

“It’s great you’re here, Jake, Edward should have told me you were coming!” He said, and Jacob was grateful about the guy’s enthusiasm. It made him feel way less awkward to be here after such a point-blank rejection.

“Thanks man,” Jacob said, smiling easily. “We’re definitely hanging out more after this, right?” He asked, slightly teasing. Jacob felt a bit more welcomed with D.J Garret’s happy attitude. Bella was his best friend, but she was extremely introspective and not at all frivolous. Jacob needed some dumb fun to get over his hurt pride.

But D.J Garret nodded dramatically. “Yeah, for sure! If this is happening again, I’ll let you know.” He added with a drunken wink. He nodded to the table. “You wanna play a game?” he offered.

Jake grinned. “Hell yeah.” He agreed, sitting down and waiting to be dealt his cards. He made sure to take the seat with his back to the couch; he didn’t really want to look at Edward right now, it was too shaming.

“Hope my brother didn’t annoy you out there.” Doctor Cullen’s daughter, Alice, spoke up. Her eyes seemed wary, though, and Jacob was embarrassed that she’d noticed they even left the party in the first place.

Jacob shrugged, “I might have been the one that annoyed him.” He said instead, and tried to focus on the game at hand.

-

Edward watched as Jacob laughed and spoke with the group playing cards. He hated that Jacob was still having fun, and he hated himself for it. He’d feel just as awful if Jake was miserable too, or if he left. But he wanted Jacob to be laughing and speaking with him, why did Edward have to ruin everything?

He groaned to himself and squeezed his eyes shut. How did the night go from fantastic to shit so quickly?

Rosalie kissed her teeth and tossed her hair, knocking Edward aside. “Stop whinging!” She told him sternly. “If you don’t like it, do something about it!”

Edward seethed with the very idea of trying to talk to Jacob again. He would literally rather die. “No.” He told her vehemently.

Emmett came ambling up to them now, “Hey, man, what’d you do to the boy?” Emmett said, inclining his head towards Jacob in a way he might have thought was subtle. “He’s making a big deal out of not looking at you.” He said, his expression disapproving.

Edward glared at him irritably. He really didn’t need to know how much Jacob Black didn’t like him right now. He couldn’t tell if Emmett was picking up how much he didn’t want to talk about this. The big guy was prone to rashness, but he could have this moments of perceptiveness. He was giving Rosalie space to come to him, after all.

It seemed Emmett couldn’t tell, or he didn’t care.

“Boy’s got his tail between his legs, Ed.” Emmett continued, crossing his arms and waiting for a reply. He wouldn’t get one. “Fine, work it out amongst yourselves.” He said, shrugging with his hands wide, and flopping down on Rosalie’s other side.

Emmett leaned over and gave her a big smacking kiss on her forehead, and she batted him away, laughing. He was holding that stupid picture frame, like he usually did at this house. It was a group of old white dudes in suits, and two children in front; a D.J Garret who’d obviously just been crying, and a little Rosalie, smiling nicely for the camera.

Edward untangled himself from their fooling around on the couch; which seemed to mostly involve Emmett trying to make a nest out of Rosalie’s hair, and he refused to allow himself to stare at Jake. Edward immediately dropped his eyes, and wandered over to the bar. He needed a drink.

--

The party had died down, and Lee had already taken Samantha home. Jacob was saying good-bye to D.J Garret, who was already drooping for the night. Edward spotted him walking to the red truck he’d came in, and steeled himself, heading over to him before Jake could climb into the car.

“Hey, Jake, were you heading out?” Edward asked, and Jacob inclined his head to the obvious question, but didn’t say anything. “Listen, I wanted to talk to you about … before.” Edward said slowly, trying to fight his own blush. How could he explain without telling Jacob he was virgin? It sounded so very pathetic in his own head.

“I didn’t mean to be so, um, temperamental.” He said delicately. “I wanted to ask you out, at some point, back there.” He added, now feeling the tips of his ears flush. But it was true; Edward wanted to spend more time with Jake; one-on-one, just the two of them. Not in the back of his car, either.

“Well you didn’t.” The finality in Jake’s voice punched a hole in Edward’s chest, and the boy just pulled away and climbed into that shitty old truck. Edward was too devastated to stop him.

-

Emmett was guffawing up a storm, for once the drunkest out of all of them. “Whoo – good night party people!” He yelled out the window, before being pulled back by Jasper. Edward was in the passenger seat, and snapped at him to cut it out. He made Rosalie drive the Volvo, because he was too sad and Alice had fallen asleep against the window.

Jasper cast a side-along glance at Edward. “What’s up your ass?” He asked, a lot cruder now Alice wasn’t listening.

Emmett laughed, “Aside from Jake? Maybe?” He said, and laughed louder. He had drunk a lot tonight, and it showed; his curls were mussed and he was very flushed, his eyes glassy.

Edward shuddered; he couldn’t think of anything, right now, he’d rather talk about less. “We didn’t even do anything.” He muttered.

“Well, there’s always next time.” Jasper said, busy putting his jacket over Alice’s shoulder and missing the outraged look Edward shot him through the mirror.

“I don’t want to talk about this.” He snapped, he was very close to yelling right now. He felt like all the shame and stupid panic he’d felt before was bubbling up; and he was either going to shout, or be sick. All his so-called friends were completely ignoring his boundaries, completely ignoring how much he was hurting right now.

Rosalie’s light laugh grated against his skull. “Come on Edward, group share!” She teased and it pushed him over the edge.

“Oh yeah?” He asked darkly. “Okay, so how did Cupid Day go for you and Emmett? Hm?” He asked, and Rosalie’s face was wiped of all expression. He saw her grip tighten on the wheel, and scoffed. “Still hung up on your ex, Rosie?” He simpered. He turned back to Emmett, who was looking wide-eyed and a little worried. “Still hung up, Em?” He asked.

Jasper came up and gave him a shove to set him back in his seat. “Wow, okay, take a step back, Edward.” He said sternly.

“I said I didn’t want to talk about it.” Edward muttered, slumping against the window with a sigh. The car drove on in a heavy, awkward silence. Except from Rosalie; her silence was angry and offended. She drove straight to her own home and climbed out without pulling the handbrake, snapping that Edward could drive his own sad ass home.

The car kept rolling for a moment and Edward’s shout of alarm woke Alice up, who was still groggy and gave a short scream.

“Enough! Both of you!” Jasper said, jumping out of the car and racing over to the driver’s side. He took over and watched Rosalie disappear down to the parking garage.

Emmett climbed out and jogged after her, and soon Jasper pulled the Volvo back onto the road.

Jasper drove the Cullens to his own apartment, and parked properly outside. He gave Alice a soft kiss goodnight but didn’t say anything to either of them.

Edward was sulky as he moved to the driver’s side, and Alice watched Jasper go sadly in the passenger seat.

“I’m sorry the party didn’t work out, Edward.” She muttered, but he didn’t reply as he drove them home.

--

“Hey, Rosie?” Emmett asked, walking up to where Rosalie was leaning against the silver beast.

“I’ll drive you to the bus.” She said, and fished her own keys out of her little handbag and got in. Emmett followed suit, and they didn’t talk.

Rosalie turns off the car when she makes it to Emmett’s usual bus-stop. He knew the times and his bus was other twenty minutes, if later.

“What are we doing, Rosie?” Emmett asked quietly.

Rosalie had her arms crossed and shrugged with one shoulder. “Whatever we want.” She replied, her tone harsh.

Emmett sighed. “I want to be your boyfriend.” He told her. “I want to take you out, and hold your hand … I wanna do stuff with you, Rosie.”

“Well, good for you.” Rosalie shifted in her seat, and looked very unhappy. “I don’t know what I want.”

Emmett didn’t believe that for a second. Rosalie had a snap-judgement, she wasn’t the type of person to dither or stay on-the-fence about anything. “I know you don’t think I’m dumb, but right now you’re sure treating me like it.” Emmett said firmly. “I know you, Rosie. Tell me what you want.”

“… I want to be with you.” Rosalie said, and it was barely a whisper. Emmett heard her though, and grinned. His smile slipped right off his face, though, when she started to cry. “But Royce hurt me, Emmett, really badly,” she hissed, taking short, gasping breaths, “and I don’t know if I’m healed yet.” Emmett leaned over and embraced her tightly.  “I don’t know if I deserve you.” She breathed into his neck.

“Rosie, you don’t have to be healed to be happy. I wanna make you happy, you deserve to be happy, in fact, being with you would make me happy too.” He said into her hair. They stayed like that for a moment, though she hadn’t really cried more than a little.

She pulled away eventually, but gave him a watery smile, and nodded over to where a bus was pulling up. It wasn’t his, but he could tell she was dismissing him. It made him quite angry. “Now, Rosie, you can’t send me home after that.” He told her sternly. He couldn’t leave her after this, not tonight.

“Well … you’ll have to be quiet,” Rosalie said finally, pulling back onto the road to drive them to her apartment. Emmett nodded solemnly, he was willing to pretend that he had to for all intents and purposes. Neither of them wanted to acknowledge that in the end it didn’t matter; her father wouldn’t be home, and her mother was no doubt two pills deep into sleep.

Rosalie led him to her room, stopping only to peek into her sleeping little brother’s room. Emmett shucked his shoes, belt and shirt, and glanced down at his brown slacks. They were skinny-leg, because he could never sleep in skinny-leg pants, and he had a bad habit of just dropping off on a couch if the party wasn’t planned to end at Fourth’s. Rosalie knew that, but she’d walked into her bathroom, leaving the door open just a crack.

Emmett considered trying to preserve modesty, but honestly, he was tired and he wanted Rosalie to see him semi-nude. Not to start anything, right now, just so she knew what was being offered. “I’m gonna be in my underwear, Rosie.” He called out softly, and there was only the sound of the tap starting to run.

He knew she’d heard him, though, and he peels off his pants, struggling a little over the calf, before he was just in his favourite boxers with cartoon spaceships on them. He grimaced at the pattern, and wished he hadn’t worn them, they were so childish.

He guessed it couldn’t really be helped; Rosalie had actually been there when he’d bought them, after all. So had Alice, she was a tiny dictator in a shopping mall; it was a bad habit.

So he climbed into her bed, and settled with a sigh. Rosie liked using her grandmother’s favourite brand of perfume to spritz over her covers every few days, and it grew on Emmett eventually.

Usually when he was here for the night, though, Alice and Rosalie took the bed. While he, Jasper and Edward took the floor in a heap made up off two heavy winter quilts, a sleeping bag and all the cushions from the couch downstairs. This was the first time he was going to stay the night, just the two of them.

He was nervous, and he felt kind of stupid to even be nervous. He knew Jasper stayed over a lot, just he and Rosalie. But that was different, platonic, because Jasper just got lonely without parents or siblings. But Emmett knew he and Rosie weren’t going to do anything tonight; not with that comment about the college boy looming over them.

It worried him, and he felt really out of his depth. He’d only seen Rosalie cry a handful of times; when her little brother had gotten really sick four years ago and had to go to the hospital, and two years ago, when her dad came to school to tell her that her grandmother had died. Once, he’d walked past Alice comforting her while she cried, but when he’d gone over to give her a hug, Alice had scurried to him and told him to leave. The next day he’d overheard the girls cooing over her break-up, and Emmett thought that was that. She never allowed that guy to be mentioned, and she refused to put up with any reference to him, even now.

Emmett lay there, waiting, until Rosalie left the bathroom, in those fancy silk pyjama suits she liked, though she never wore them anywhere but at home or the Cullen’s house. She turned off the light and climbed into bed. For a moment, they just rested, breathing.

Emmett was on his back, one arm behind his head, and so was Rosalie, until she rolled over, nestling into his shoulder, one hand coming to his other side in a loose hug. He pulled her in more, and kissed the top of her head, but he didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say.

“He was mean, Emmett,” Rosalie whispered into his neck. He forced himself to focus on her sad voice and not on the warmth of her breath. “He really didn’t care about me. I didn’t want to tell anyone, because I thought that was what adult romances were like; it was crying and fighting and … like, suffering, for your love.

“It was stupid and I thought if I told anyone how unhappy I was, that they’d just say I was too childish to deal with a real man, or something. I didn’t even love him, it just made me feel good to be seen with him.” She continued, and laughed, just a little.

“It was actually Jasper and Alice that made me realise how fucked up everything was, and your parents.” Rosalie said. That surprised Emmett, a little. They didn’t hang out at his house, it was too much hassle. He lived the furthest away, his siblings were nearly always underfoot. Rosalie didn’t have nearly as much contact with his parents as Carlisle, for example.

“I thought it was easier for Jasper and Alice, because we’re all teenagers … but they’re making plans, moving in together … Jasper’s not sure about university, but he’ll follow Alice to whatever fashion design program she goes into. They’re ready to make a life together, while Royce was just ….” She took a deep breath, and her hand pressed against the side of Emmett’s neck, while she pressed her face against his shoulder. For a while, she didn’t do anything else, and Emmett’s hold on her tightened. She whimpered, but didn’t tell him to let go.

Her voice was thicker when she spoke next. “And your parents are adults, and they’re still so in love.” She whispered. Emmett nodded to himself; that was true, he didn’t know any other couple married for thirty-five years who were grosser than his. “They have all of you, and they go on dates … god, that’s what I wanted.”

Rosalie pressed up tighter against him, and Emmett’s brain felt foggy and his common-sense was further away than usual. Because she looked at him, so hungrily, with those stunning violet eyes. He just found himself staring right back.

“That’s what I want.” She breathed.

Emmet knew he shouldn’t, but he started to grin despite himself. “Rosie … you can have that.” He said, forcing himself not to laugh at how intense she was. He knew she wouldn’t forgive him if he laughed. “Gorgeous girl, that’s the easy part.” He assured her.

“How can you say that?” She said, and her voice cracked a little. It made his stomach dip awfully, and he smoothed a hand over her head. This girl acted so tough, and in most cases, she was, but this is what made her scared? Saying what she wanted frightened her like this?

Emmett all but cooed at her, “Poor darling; doing what makes babies …” his grip tightened on her, and she made that lovely little whimper again, “choosing to stay in love. Rosalie, that’s never going to be difficult for you.” He said, and she might feel raw and open right now, but he could only smile.

Rosalie’s lips were pressed against his neck, she pulled back with a smacking noise, and he knew it had been a kiss. “Emmett ….”

“Who wouldn’t want this lovely body, getting you pregnant …” Emmett could imagine such a mature, generously proportioned body swelling with life, and it made him groan and bite his lip. Rosalie’s grip tightened when he made that sound, and he rolled them both, wrapping her in his arms below him and when she wrapped her arms and legs around him, he had to bury his face in her hair.

Lying on top of her had him hard as steel, and she could definitely feel it, the way she rolled her hips against his. “Fuck, and being in love with you? Rosie, falling in love with you is one of the easiest things I’ve ever done.” He muttered, and for a minute, he was more than content to just lie on her; he was certain he wanted her naked, and she might want the same from him. Her heels were pressed into his lower back, and kept shifting up and down over the waistband of his underwear.

He was dizzy and they were much too young to be thinking about babies. But she was all scared and worried about a future that was nowhere near endangered, and he needed to get some distance between them. She shifted and gave a little whine, and Emmett was way too drunk to be around her. He pulled up, and grunted when she didn’t let him go and sat up with him.

Baby,” he all but whined, “I gotta go to the bathroom. Can’t be all pressed up against a beautiful woman right now …” He muttered, and she let him go, and he had to ignore the gaze on his back as he went straight to her bathtub and climbed in.

“Goodnight!” He vaguely heard himself saying, before he fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Alice was playing with Pernickety in the living room and watching the yard outside. Sometimes, she wanted to know if Pernickety would like Outside; but dad spent a lot of money making sure he had an enriched inside environment, so he wouldn’t let her take him out and ruin the outside environment.

Carlisle was actually home for once tonight, and he was reading the Thomas Mann book that Edward had just finished last week. Alice could tell he didn’t really like it though, he was just reading it because Edward found some interest in it.

His phone buzzed, and Alice hoped it wasn’t the hospital. It’s not as though she felt neglected by how much her father worked; but she hated how tired and stressed it made him. Her dad getting a night-off was the main reason she would cancel dates with her honey, because she didn’t want her social life to impact how much time they spent together.

Carlisle picked up his phone too absently for it to be a medical thing, though, which relaxed her. “Hello, Cullen residence.” He said.

Edward snorted from where he’d been cocooned in blankets, watching some movie that reeked of the early 2000s. “That’s your cellphone, dad.” He reminded him drolly.

Carlisle sat up straighter, and Alice didn’t miss how his eyes landed on her for a moment. “Jasper? What’s wrong?” He asked, his voice serious.

“Boyfriend!” Alice trilled, jumping up and reaching for the phone. Jasper hadn’t called her, why was her father making that stern face?

But Carlisle only waved her away, “Alice!” He snapped, and she took a step back. Carlisle rarely raised his voice at all, and it gave her a startle.

“Jasper, calm down, dear, tell me what happened.” He said, his voice back to soothing. Alice was consumed with worry; why had her honey called her dad first? “What? You hit someone?” Even Edward gasped at that horrifying question. “… Oh, okay, okay, you hit a cat, okay. Jasper, Jasper it’s okay, you need to breathe, alright?” There was a pause, and Alice’s hands flew to her mouth as her heart leapt to her throat. Jasper needed his car for work! And while she felt a little guilty not thinking of the poor animal first, she hoped he could still drive.

Carlisle though, seemed very in control of the situation. Alice could tell he was serious because he put on his Outside Slippers and grabbed his keys. Alice hurried to get her own things together to go with him; Jasper would need her if he’d had an accident. “Good boy. No, Jasper it’s okay. No, you need to calm down.” Carlisle was still soothing him, and mentioned for Alice to be quicker. Edward had already stuffed his shoes on and was shrugging on his coat. “Of course, I’m coming now – yes, I’ll bring Alice.” He said, and said good-bye before hanging up.

Edward snapped at her not to cry as they all locked up and hurried to the car. But she felt so anxious for her boyfriend; he may be quite mature, but he took things very personally, and she hated to think of him all alone somewhere, looking at some poor mangled cat.

Alice pressed her nose up against the back window, waiting for the first sign of Jasper. They drove to the more residential area of town, outside of their gated community, where it was quieter, and down a service road. He was slower driving down here, and they saw Jasper, leaning hunched against his car with a lantern on the roof that Rosalie had packed in the back for him. Her dad yelled at her for jumping out of the car before he’d completely stopped, but she certainly couldn’t wait.

She all but flew to him, pressing against him, and cupping his face in both her hands. “Baby! Are you okay?” She asked him. “What happened?” He slipped his arms around her, and she could feel the slight tremble in his fingers.

He looked awful, his entire body was rigid and his expression was miserable. “It’s a big black cat, I … I didn’t see it on the road in the dark ….” He muttered, looking both pale and green. “It has a collar, honey, and I just … I’ve killed someone’s cat.” He whispered hoarsely. Alice felt her heart clench, and she couldn’t look at Jasper’s car or the lump behind it. She hugged him tightly around the middle and hid her face in his shirt.

Edward trudged up to him, looking a little peaky himself. “Jasper, this person was stupid enough to let their cat outside at night.” He pointed out, already walking back to Carlisle’s car. “You can’t blame yourself, you’re a good driver.” He added over his shoulder before climbing back in. Alice wasn’t going to snap at him and demand why he had come if he was just going to run away, but it was a close thing.

Carlisle came and petted his shoulder, leading him to his own car and away from the body. “He’s right, dear. You didn’t swerve, which is good because this road is quite dark, and another car may not have been prepared if you stopped. Jasper, this was an irresponsible cat owner,” He said, his voice stern with disapproval, “they decided to let their cat be an outside cat. We don’t do that, do we?” Carlisle looked at Alice, more precisely the back of her head, which she shook in the negative. “Because it’s a big risk to take, and this person has just lost their cat because of it.” Carlisle continued.

Jasper climbed into the back seat with Alice, and she busied herself running her fingers through his hair and hugging him. Edward made a face and climbed back out of the car.

The door was still open, though, and Alice could hear Edward and their father speaking softly. “We should tell the owner.” Edward said quietly.

“I will, Jasper doesn’t deserve to get shouted at for this.” Carlisle said softly.

Edward trudged with his dad to the gross lump behind the car. It’s obvious that after the hit, Jasper had immediately pulled to the side and stopped. The thing was furry and Edward was sure that there was quite a bit of blood.

“Oh god, it’s not good, is it?” Edward asked and he only watched as Carlisle gingerly walked forward and poked around for the tag of the collar. Edward had a pretty strong stomach at times, but now he knew if the wind changed direction and he smelt that, he was going to be sick.

Carlisle was, though, a medical professional, and he did exactly what was needed; he found the tag, with the mobile number and rang. “Hello? May I ask who this is?” He asked. Edward waited by Jasper’s car as Carlisle wondered off to make the call.

“Hello, Esme, my name’s Carlisle and I’ve just um, found your cat.” Carlisle explained, using the same gentle, firm tone he used when talking to the next-of-kin of his patients. “Oh? He ran away?” Carlisle glanced back at Edward, who visibly grimaced. Maybe it was the cat, not the owner, that was irresponsible. Carlisle looked visibly pained to continue. “… I see, that’s awful. Excuse me, I don’t mean to interrupt, it’s just … your cat is dead.” He said, ignoring Edward’s sarcastic ‘smooth, dad’. “I’m sorry, he was obviously hit by a car … um, yes, out on route 78 … oh that’s a street over from you? Alright.” Carlisle hung up, and blew out a sigh.

“Uh-oh.” His son called out.

Carlisle shot him a reproachful look. “Edward, not now.” He told him, and glanced at the mangled corpse. “Oh dear, this isn’t good ….” Carlisle sighed and scrubbed a hand over his face. All his plans were for tonight was take-out and suggesting his son to play some Shubert before going to bed early. Now he was in the same neighbourhood that most of the gun-shot-related injuries came from in the pit.

They stood there for quite a bit, but after some time Carlisle could see a little figure running to them, a torch in hand. “Keep Jasper in the car.” He said to Edward, and jogged a little forward to meet her.

The woman was beautiful; she had a plump face and big, green eyes. Her hair was in a mass of curls on top of her head. Carlisle could only stare; this woman … she was almost familiar ….

“Hi, Carlisle?” She asked, her expression and tone of voice were tight. “I’m Esme Platt, where’s – oh god!” She looked behind him, and saw the cat.

She rushed forward and fell to her knees next to the animal, gasping and a few times her hand reached out, only for her to snatch it back before she touched the creature.

He shook himself out of his stupor to go over to her. “Hello,” he started stupidly, “um, you see-”

But Alice was climbing out of the car, her eyes wide. “Ms. Platt?” She asked, her voice high-pitched but small. “What …” she looked at the cat on the ground and her eyes widened, “no, this was Oliver? Oh no,” Alice’s hands flew to her hand, and she ran towards the woman. “Ms Platt, I swear-”

The woman stood on shaky feet, and Carlisle reach out to steady her, but she took a step towards his daughter before he could. “Alice?” She asked, sounding incredulous. “Oh my – what are you …” her gaze fell to the Thunderbird behind her. Carlisle glanced between the two of them, extremely confused. “This is Whitlock’s car, isn’t it?” She asked quietly.

Jasper had followed Alice outside, and he paled a little at his name. “I-I’m so sorry, ma’am, I didn’t mean to-”

Jasper looked even more devastated than Esme did, his eyes wet and his slightly over-large leather jacket simply looked too big on him. Carlisle wrapped an arm around his shoulders. It was Jasper’s ‘ma’am’ that jogged his memory.

Carlisle could have kicked himself, of course this woman was familiar, she was Alice’s teacher. The art teacher that brought her out of her shell for the first time at school. Carlisle owed this woman more than he could repay for encouraging his daughter’s talent, and now her poor boyfriend had killed her cat.

Esme bursts into tears. “He’s alive!” She choked out, scrabbling at the ground next to the cat, and stroking a finger shakily over the cat's paw.

Carlisle was stunned and quickly joined her. On closer inspection, the cat was just incredibly ugly, and still breathing.

Quickly, Carlisle dialled Persnickety’s vet, begging her to open the clinic and take in a patient.

She agreed, and things moved very quickly. Edward was in charge of driving Jasper’s car to the Cullen home, while everyone would climb into Carlisle’s sensible sedan Mercedes. Carlisle used a blanket from the back of his car to scoop the mangled cat into his arms.

The vet wasn’t too far, and this late at night ensured little traffic. The woman was a no-nonsense type of person, and Oliver the cat was whisked into surgery as soon as possible. It left three children and two adults alone in a cold room with nothing to do but wait.

The pretty woman covered her face with her hands and heaved. Alice fluttered around her nervously, looking near tears herself as she tried to comfort her.

Like most things to do with situations he didn’t like, Edward hang back next to Carlisle and watched quietly.

“You’d be a bad person if you blamed Jasper if the cat dies.”

Carlisle shot Edward a look at his cruel words, but the boy wasn’t in a sulk or fussing; he seemed open, if shrewd.

“… I don’t blame him. It’s a horrible accident.” Esme whispered, she seemed to be slowly pulling herself together in front of her students, and Carlisle reached out to offer her a tissue, clean but crumpled from his pocket. She took it with a thank you, and blew her nose, ducking her head away from them to do so.

“I’m sorry,” Jasper said again feebly. Carlisle squeezed one of his shoulders; the arm Alice had in her grip. Esme gave him a watery smile.

“I don’t blame you, dear.” She repeated calmly. “I’ve seen you reverse-parking a lot of mornings, I can tell you’re a responsible driver. Oliver’s had a few close calls before,” she admitted quietly, “he’s so adventurous ... and it’s good you didn’t try and swerve, you could have overturned your car, that service road is truly awful.” She said, petting his shoulder where Carlisle didn’t have his arm.

Jasper still looked distinctly unhappy, and Carlisle tried to focus on his distress instead of how he notices in the cool room that Esme had hurried so very fast she’d obviously forgotten her brassiere.

Alice, though, was now completely in tears, and it seemed to make Jasper more miserable than the cat.

Miss, your cat ….” She wailed, and Esme stood to pull her into a tight hug. The intimacy shocked Carlisle; Alice was always talking about her art teacher, but Carlisle didn’t think they were so close.

“Now, Alice, Oliver wasn’t at all like Persnickety, he was old and cranky, and this was an accident, you need to take big breaths, okay?” She prompted gently. She seemed to be slipping into a more controlled attitude around the children, even if her eyes were still sad.

“Alice, take Jasper for a walk.” Carlisle said gently. “You’ll do little good fretting over this.”

So now, on one of his rare nights off, he was sitting with his daughter’s favourite teacher, trying not to notice how very attractive she was. The vet, Dr. Singh, came out after three hours, and Carlisle hadn’t been able to move because Edward had fallen asleep on his shoulder.

But Dr Singh only gave them a nod that all was well. Alice cheered and took Jasper’s weight as he sagged with relief. Esme was so happy she shook the doctor’s hand vigorously, and gave Carlisle a wide smile. While Alice was loudly cheering with Esme over her pet's good fortune, Carlisle quietly settled the bill with Dr Singh on Jasper's behalf.

“Oh thank goodness,” Edward muttered, his tone genuinely relieved. “I was getting a neck cramp.” He added quickly, and Carlisle knocked his shoulder with his own. He stood and thanked the vet, who explained that the cat would have to stay for at least three days before she could release him.

Jasper was too shaky to drive his car home, so Edward volunteered to do it, and Carlisle would drop Jasper off in his own car. He also insisted on taking Esme home, to see her to her door. The woman seemed bashful about it, but Alice was also eager to see where her favourite teacher lived.

So both cars pulled up to the home of Esme Platt. Edward could barely drive stick, and Jasper grumbled that he could hear his gears crying out for help from the doctor’s car.

“I guess I’ll have to drop off an awful lot of things to him ….” Esme said as she stood in the doorway of her home. It was late, and Carlisle insisted they couldn’t go inside, even if Alice was wrapped in a hug by Esme to try and get a peek into her home.

“Hey! You hung up my picture from the state contest!” Alice said, smiling. Carlisle tried to glance inside, but he didn’t want to be rude. He remembered the state contest, why couldn’t he recall Esme?

“Yes, of course, I was really proud of you.” Esme said quietly.

The house was small and dark and the weeds were slowly creeping along the side of the lawn. It was obvious the woman loved plants, but was having trouble with the tidiness of the lawn outside of her flower box. Carlisle had noted that she wore no ring, and he was sure no man would allow his yard to stay in such a state.

“I’m really sorry, ma’am.” Jasper tried again. He was still clinging a little to Carlisle, and the doctor was more than happy to comfort him. Jasper’s situation occasionally made him nervous; the poor boy lived by himself for the most part, and his only help was half his rent paid for by government assistance. Carlisle had him over to every holiday, and Alice raided their own kitchen if he needed something, of course, but sometimes he wished he could do more.

Esme, though, just smiles a little. “Jasper, it’s nothing for you to apologize about. This was an accident.” She said softly, and Alice nodded emphatically.

Carlisle glanced at his watch and hissed. It was half-past eleven! “Okay, in the car,” he said briskly, pushing Jasper behind him, “it’s late and you all have school tomorrow.” He reminded them. “And I want either Edward or Rosalie driving for a while, okay?” He said sternly. Jasper looked grateful, it seemed, and Carlisle wondered if gas money was enough when the boy was so relied upon to get his friends to school every day.

Alice untangled herself from the woman with a big smile. “See you tomorrow, Ms Platt!” She chirped, and waved all the way to the car.

Carlisle watched them go fondly. “Thank you for being so understanding, Ms Platt.” He said, feeling sincerely relieved that Jasper hadn’t been given a hard time over something that had obvious made him feel terrible. “Jasper’s really a responsible driver.” He added.

Esme only nods kindly. “I know, Alice told me he was teaching her.” She replied. Carlisle doesn’t allow himself to wonder if Alice ever mentioned him. “And I certainly can’t blame him, he has to be a very independent boy.”

“Exactly!” Carlisle agreed wholeheartedly, and it seemed their concern over him was similar, and similarly embarrassed them both. “Well, um, I hope you have a good night, Esme Platt.” He said quietly.

Esme smiled, and nodded her head shyly. “And you as well, Doctor Cullen.” She responded.

He left her there, and Alice cuddled Jasper in the backseat all the way to his apartment, and Carlisle didn’t complain about feeling like a taxi driver. When they’d dropped him off, with Alice all but tucking him into bed, and were driving back home, Edward was in the passenger side, looking out the window.

“You can’t have a crush on her teacher, dad. It’s weird.” He said, and Carlisle could have slapped his son upside the head.

“I do not.” He hissed, glancing in the backseat, where Alice was currently on her phone, intently still comforting Jasper, no doubt. Thankfully, she hadn't hear her brother's foolishness.

“Do too,” Edward replied with a grin. “Now she’s going to be asking Alice all different kinds of questions about her home life.” He said cheekily.

Carlisle, though, wasn’t going to let himself be bullied by his own son. “Well, Jacob does ask me about you ….” He said heavily, and Edward snapped to attention so fast he was worried the boy was going to pull a muscle.

“What do you mean? What does he say? What kind of questions? Dad!” He whined, because Carlisle couldn’t stop laughing. It was terrible; a poor animal was seriously injured, but all he could think about were how lovely and kind Esme’s green cow-eyes were.

--

The next two weeks, Carlisle received constant updates on the heath of one bedraggled rescue named Oliver. Alice would tell him how his recovery was going, how Ms Platt was vacuuming all the cat hair with none to replace it, how he was taking to being in a cage ….

“Alice, if you keep yammering on about that woman’s cat, I’m going to lose my mind!” Edward finally snapped. “I have my recital this weekend, and if you know what’s good for you, you’ll let me practise in peace!” He continued.

Edward had been a little chipper lately too; usually, an upcoming performance had him anxious and testy. But he was also glancing at his phone more often too, and Carlisle had a childish urge to ask him how Jacob Black was faring lately. But Edward was sensitive, and he wouldn’t react well to such teasing. Carlisle was confident his son would tell him, in his own time.

Alice put her hands on her hips, and Carlisle glanced up from his papers, evaluating whether or not he’d be putting down another sibling spat. He knew he was away a lot, and neither of his children blamed him. He knew they for the most part got along very well. He wondered if it wasn’t his absence that made them so harmonious. “Whatever,” Alice said with attitude, “dad’s never asked me about Ms Platt so often before!” She argued, and Carlisle felt his face flush a little. “You know she’s my favorite!”

He laughed tightly at her words. “I’m not asking about her often, Alice, please!” He said lightly, but he was very embarrassed that she noticed. She turned to him now, looking a little put out, but he didn’t let her make an issue of it. “Now, let Edward practise, please?” He prompted sternly.

Alice sighed and deflated, shooting Edward a look. “Fine.” She muttered, and she went upstairs, leaving Carlisle to studiously be much too engrossed in his paperwork to look at his son’s expression.

Chapter Text

Bella sighed as she walked into the kitchen. She was grounded, for leaving her mother and her plans like that. It had been a full day of awkward, sort of huffy silence, and Bella was starting to feel bad. But she also knew that her mom would crack too; she never made for a good disciplinarian. Bella thought perhaps she’d watched too much Gilmore Girls, except they were vaguely Italian and even when all her grandparents were alive they were never rich.

She could tell it would be soon. Currently, Renee was sitting at the table, painting her toes red and occasionally glancing over at Bella as though she had something to be nervous about. Like lifting her daughter’s punishment.

“Hey, did you want pizza for dinner?” Her mother asked, and Bella could tell she was trying very hard to be casual.

Bella nodded a little. “Sure.” She wouldn’t have minded cooking something, to gain a little extra favor, but she wouldn’t say no to pizza.

Renee clears his throat a little. “… Boyfriend is bringing it over.” She muttered quietly, but there wasn’t any other noise except the new Kesha song her mother liked, playing softly from her laptop. “Pepperoni?” Her mother suggested. Bella ran herself a glass of water and tried to be positive. So, her mother was going to try and introduce her to boyfriend again, this was a good thing.

Except that Renee didn't have the best track record with guys. Bella's father was great; supportive, patient, and importantly moved up to the big city so he could spend time with Bella. But after him came a series of apathetic divorcees and one semi-professional rock climber who had been under the impression Bella was her roommate, not her daughter. It wasn't as though Renee would bring anyone dangerous home, or that Bella would bother getting attached.

“Sure, mom, I'd like to meet him.” Bella said quietly, and Renee hummed happily as she picked up her mobile phone and started texting.

Bella glanced at her mother, and then at her water, and sighed.

“… Can you paint my toes next?” She asked, smiling a little. Renee glanced up and seemed to be evaluating how serious she was. “You're better at it than me.” She added sincerely.

Just like that, her mother’s face spread into a smile, and she patted the seat next to her. Bella went to sit, and laughed a little.

“What?” Renee asked.

“Same colour as my dress last night.” She said quietly. “Sorry I went, I didn’t have that great of a time, if it makes you feel better.” Bella told her.

Renee looks unhappy. “It doesn’t, baby.” She said softly. Bella didn’t think it would anyway; her mother would much rather she be making happy memories of youthful rebellion. Like she did, back in the day.

“Well …” Bella shrugs, thinking back on that night. After she left the house, she just sat in her car, reading. She didn’t allow herself to dwell on the fact that she was finally at a private popular party, and she was outside with her nose in a book.

She didn’t allow herself to think that Jake was probably having more fun than she was because he was more fun to be around. She loved Jacob; he’d been through so much shit, losing his mom, his dad’s deteriorating health, moving under those circumstances …. But he remained chipper, called his dad his best friend, his smile like the sun.

She had teared up a little, in the car, and hadn’t even been able to blame it on being drunk. Of course, Jake was getting along with those people in there; he was just like them, that confidence that teenagers rarely possessed, being so comfortable in themselves. They would be lucky to be his friends.

She had felt so guilty when Jake had finally stepped out of the house, laughing and saying goodbye. She found herself angry at him; if he’d had a good time, then she was the downer if she complained, she was the loser.

But then Edward had stopped him, talked to him, before Jake pulled away and climbed into the car, his faced drawn.

She started the car, and glanced in her rear-view mirror. Edward was already walking back to his group, at his silver Volvo. “Hey, what did Edward say?” She asked quietly. Part of her was dying to know, but part of her held back. It wouldn’t be anything about her, she was only able to speak two sentences to him all night. That disappointed her.

Jacob shrugged. “Who cares?” He all but spat, and Bella was startled by his venom. Jake seemed to realise his own hostility, and flopped back against the seat, sighing. “This party sucked.” He told her in a quieter, sadder voice.

That, Bella could agree with.

In a surprisingly perceptive moment, her mother hugged her a little, pulling her out of her recollections. “Well, I want Jake to meet boyfriend sometime soon too, okay?” She asked, and Bella nodded a little. There were a few things Jake obviously wasn’t telling her, but she knew he would, eventually.

--

Edward piano recital was on a Saturday, and as always, Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper were there as well. Carlisle was surprised at the first time they came along, but he was glad his son had such supportive friends.

Edward got a special commendation for his original piece and he was over the moon, for several reasons. The commendation, and the fact that both Ms Esme Platt and one Jacob Black had been sitting in the audience, watching him perform.

Seeing Jacob made Edward almost dizzy with excitement; though that had something to do with his nerves about his composition, maybe. But at least he wasn’t his dad; Carlisle had chocked on the tea he’d been sipping when Alice spotted Esme and called her over.

“Esme!” Alice called. “You made it!”  She cheered.

Esme came up to them with a cheerful smile. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world, dear!” She said. Carlisle was wiping his face from his tea earlier, and was too busy trying to clear his throat to comment on how pretty her black wrap dress was. “Oh, everyone’s here, aren’t they?” Esme asked, looking cheerfully at Jasper, Rosalie and Emmett.

“Yes, we’re all here to support Edward!” Emmett declared, and began explaining how he even ironed his pants for this, and Jasper repainted his black nails so he wouldn’t look sloppy.

Rosalie nudged Alice, “that’s the same dress Katie wore to Burton’s party.” She whispers, eyes on Esme’s dress.

Alice, who loved a good fashion gossip-fest, nodded seriously. “I know, Miss looks way better in it because she’s a grown up.” She added.

“Well, Katie needs to dress less like a chaperone next time!” Rosalie said, and they both burst into loud laughter, catching the attention of several people in the room.

Edward, on the other hand, was not watching his friend’s antics, he was much too busy trying to act casual as Jake meandered up to him. “Um, hey, thanks for inviting me, man.” Jacob said, smiling nervously. Edward loved that the boy cared enough to even be nervous, and that he looked really good biting his lip like that.

“It’s no problem, thank you so much for coming.” Edward said quickly, “I’m really glad you made it.”

Edward knew he was just on the cusp of babbling. But he was honestly so relieved. After rejecting Jacob in the back of his car at the party, he was convinced that Jacob probably thought he wasn’t interested or something. Edward wanted to explain about his virginal status, at first, but he chickened out, he didn’t want Jacob to think he was some ‘waiting-until-gay-marriage-is-legalized’ type of guy or something.

Jacob glanced around, and shrugged a little. “Sorry I’m under-dressed.” He added. In jeans and a leather jacket, he looked a little more casual than most people here did. Regardless, Edward thought he was the handsomest one here.

“That’s fine!” Edward told him, “You look great.” He added.

Jacob grinned. “Thanks – so do you. Fancy coattails suit you.” He said, reaching out and tugging on Edward’s collar a little. Edward forced himself not to lean into the touch.

“Thank you …” Edward said softly, because Jacob’s hand had come up to rest on his neck. Edward took a step closer to him, and Jacob leaned down, as though they had to be this close to continue speaking. “Did you like it?” Edward asked him.

“Yeah,” Jacob grinned, and Edward felt just a little light-headed. “I’m a classic rock fan, but I don’t have too many complaints.” He said, and gave him a wink.

Edward focused on his truly beautiful face, and steeled himself. “Well, you should, um, tell me the comments that you do have … over dinner, or something.” He suggested, and his lips kind of felt cold nearer the end of his sentence.

Jacob, though, started to smirk. “You askin’ me out, Edward?” He asked, his tone warm and teasing.

Edward nodded, beginning to smile himself. He admitted; “It’s been a long time coming.”

--

Carlisle was very proud of Edward’s accomplishment, he had received a plaque and a sweet little wreath of fabric flowers. Carlisle was planning on hanging it above the wondrously awful clay pig Edward had made in his youth. Edward had spent most of the time after the recital, when everyone was milling about, flirting with Jacob, who seemed very receptive.

Carlisle knew when to give his children a little privacy, though, and the other children were off getting refreshments and trying to spy. It left him speaking with Ms Platt, and frankly, he was glad for the adult company.

“So, I hope my daughter’s doing well, in your classes.” Carlisle said. Mentally, he wanted to kick himself; could he be more mundane? A beautiful woman was standing in front of him and all he could talk about was her profession.

It seems Esme may have thought it a strange thing to say as well, as she gives him an odd look. “Absolutely she is.” She replies shortly. Carlisle realises she may have interpreted it as a slight against her teaching, or just a ridiculous comment to make about Alice’s favourite class.

Esme, though, seemed content to move on. “Edward’s very talented. I see him walking towards the music block quite often, so I’m glad that’s one mystery solved.” She said, glancing about the recital hall. Carlisle smiled at the idea that Esme took stock of what his children got up to, though. It made him unreasonably glad, that she would pay them some special attention.

He realises he may be disturbing her, though, when she frowns at him. “Is there something the matter?” She asked, and he realises he should have responded to her at some point.

“Not at all!” He’s quick to reassure her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t … well,” he felt very flustered, and he knew he couldn’t just say ‘you’re very pretty and I got distracted’. “I just think it’s nice to speak with you outside of parent-teacher conferences.” He settled on, and she smiles with a nod. “I know I get a bit of flak for taking notes.” He added.

It was true; he was so nervous about how his children were fitting in. Since they started middle school, he ended up taking a pad and pen with him to keep track of the teacher’s name, which classes which child was struggling in, and which they were excelling in.

Esme, though, laughs a lovely little laugh. “I’ve always thought it was cute!” She told him, and visibly paused after she’d spoken, becoming a little shier herself. “… You care a lot for your children,” Esme says softly, looking somewhere past Carlisle’s shoulder, “and being able to see Alice truly come into her own as an artist … I’m just honored.” She added softly, fondly.

Carlisle felt his heart skip a beat. This woman cared deeply for his daughter, deeply enough for his son to come to one of his performances. “It’s because of you.” He said, honestly. Taking a step closer to her to convey his honesty. “Please don’t think I’m accusing you of playing favourites, but the special attention you’ve given Alice over the years has bolstered her confidence.” He remembered, what felt like a lifetime ago, the sweet, sad little boy he took into his home, more of a shadow than a person. “We’ve you to thank for that.” He added sincerely.

Esme, though, seemed embarrassed at his strong words. “It was nothing, she always had it in her.” She says, taking a step back. It was when she pulled away that he realised he’d taken her hand with both of his. He felt uncomfortable with his own inappropriate intensity and dropped his grip quickly. “I’ve always meant to ask – are you English?” Esme laughed at herself lightly, her cheeks visibly flushing. “Well, obviously, you are, I just-”

Carlisle put up a hand to cut in. “I moved here after med school.” He explained. “I liked it so much I stayed.” He added with a smile.

“I’m glad you did.” Esme said, and he could feel her breathy chuckle on his chin. “Because, well, Alice and Edward are such wonderful children, of course.”

“Of course.” Carlisle said. “I’m very attracted to you.” He added, and Esme looks shocked, though she was only half as shocked as Carlisle was. He immediately took a large step back from her. He hadn’t meant to say that at all! “I’m sorry. That just slipped out.” He said quickly.

He was so very ashamed of his own behaviour, he turned on his heel and went into the men’s bathroom, to sit on the lid of a toilet and hide until his children were ready to leave.

--

Edward had a hand on the cuff of Jacob’s jacket, and tugged lightly every now and again as they spoke. Jacob didn’t seem to mind, he leaned in close as Edward suggested possible date ideas.

“We could watch a movie?” Edward suggested, “At my house?”

“You wanna Netflix and chill with me?” Jacob asked back cheekily. Edward flushed and couldn’t respond for a moment. He wouldn’t toss that idea out, necessarily.

“Well,” Edward said, clearing his throat, “maybe we could see something at the theatre. After dinner?”

Jacob shrugged easily. “Sure, know anywhere good?” He held up a hand after his question. “And don’t say Fourth’s.” He added, grinning. Edward laughed and ignored the familiar pitter-patter feet coming up behind him.

Hi, guys!” Alice said, smiling. Edward nearly groaned and definitely rolled his eyes. He had hoped Jasper good for one thing; distracting his sister and giving him some peace. Jacob seemed open enough at the disruption, but Edward didn’t look at her as she tugged his sleeve. He hoped when he did it to Jake it wasn’t half so annoying. “Sorry, but I lost dad.” She whispered.

“What?’ He shot back irritably. She was going to break into their amazing flirting for that? “Well, he’s here somewhere.” He shook her off, but she only starting tugging again, and this time he was forced to turn and look at her. “What?” He asked again.

“I forgot my Aldactone.” Alice replied. She looked very uncomfortable and a little shame-faced. Edward grunted in annoyance. Alice rarely forgot her medication, because it was one of her main triggers for dysphoria episodes. Edward knew she must be getting upset right now.

But he was busy, with Jacob. “Can’t one of the others drive you?” He asked, trying his best to keep the whine out of his voice.

She looked up at him through her lashes and pouted. “Please ….” She muttered, her voice small.

Edward knew she trusted all of their friends; she wasn’t closeted except in school, excluding the Principal and Vice-Principal. But her medication was a sore spot for her, unlike her laser hair removal. Both her and Rosalie were in the middle of having their legs done together.

Sighing in defeat, Edward turned to Jacob and smiled brightly. “Jacob, I was wondering if I could call you later? To make a solid plan?” He asked, regretfully, “I have to find my father.” He explained, hoping Jacob hadn’t overheard what Alice had said to him.

Jacob didn’t seem to mind though, he stuffed his hands in his pockets and nodded. “Sure, like, whenever, I’m cool.” He said, his gaze focused on the refreshment table.

Edward, worried that the time lapse may make Jacob change his mind, smiled a little. “I meant sometime later tonight?” He pressed, hoping the clarification would keep up their momentum. “If you’re not busy?” He added.

Jacob blinked, looking a little surprised, “Oh, yeah, sounds good!” Jacob said, looking genuinely pleased, which in turn made Edward’s heart flutter, just a touch. “I should head out, then. I just came to see you.” He added, giving him a wink

“I’m very appreciative.” Edward said with a nod, and Jake pressed his hand, and said good-bye to Alice, and walked out the door. Edward sighed, and looked back at Alice, who very much looked like she had to go potty with her hoppy little dance. “Did you call him?” He asked her, trying to keep himself from being sharp. Alice shook her head. Edward didn’t grumble as he dialled their father, because he was a good brother. “Dad, Alice forgot her pills.” Edward said as soon as Carlisle picked up. “Are you ready to go?” He asked.

Strangely, their father seemed a little too eager to leave, and said that he’d wait at the car. “Okay, weirdo.” Edward said to him, before hanging up. He nodded at Alice. “Let’s go, weirdo.” He said to her.

Thank you, weirdo!” Alice chirped, leaning up and giving his cheek a little kiss, and he brushed her off, but he seemed fonder than when he had to say good-bye to Jake. “I’ll tell everyone!” Alice added.

Esme was standing, looking into her drink like an insect was drowning in it.

"Esme?" Alice asked shyly. She was really glad Ms Platt had come; she loved spending time with her.

"Hello, dear!" Esme replied, and turned to Edward to congratulate him again on his award.

"We have to leave all of a sudden, are you okay getting home?" Alice asked her sweetly.

Esme grins. "I drove myself here, I can drive myself back." She assures her, teasingly, "you're, um, father drove you?" She asks, looking suddenly very interested in her drink again.

"Yes, he usually does." Edward replies, his gaze flicking between Esme's nervous face and her cup.

"Oh, of course! Well, I'll see you all at school!" She says quickly, smiling largely and waving good-bye.

Alice skipped over to where boyfriend was. Jasper’s been worried when she had gotten anxious. She realised she couldn’t take her pills, and that the nearly two-hour drive back home would throw off her schedule if they did the usual dinner here. Jasper didn’t know what had made her so anxious though, and seemed unhappy that Alice insisted on getting her brother instead of telling him. It wasn’t as though he didn’t know her, and she didn’t trust him, but the extent of her hormone regiment just served to remind her how different and harder things were for her. She didn’t want to think about it with him; she wanted only happy, easy things between them.

Jasper watched her come to him, and he pulled her into his arms. The cuddle calmed her a little, and she was really kicking herself over not bringing her patches so they could have a nice dinner together. Edward had even planned on inviting Jacob, and she’d ruined it. “I have to go home.” She told Jasper quietly.

He kissed her forehead. “What’s wrong, hon?” He murmured against her skin.

“It’s nothing!” Alice smiled as she pulled away, and petted his arm reassuringly, even if it obviously didn’t work. “Do you mind going with Rosalie and Em?” She checked.

Jasper shrugged, looking a little put-out. “It’s fine with me.” He replied, and she pulled away to say good-bye to those two, but he took her hand and pulled her back. “Please, I know something’s bothering you.” He added softly.

She looked into his baby blues and ignored the way her heart clenched. Jasper wasn’t a fool, he knew her medication and appointments were something that she didn’t share with anyone but her father, and occasionally her brother. “I’ll tell you later, okay, darling?” She kissed his lips gently, and usually he was happy to get her kisses, but this time when they broke apart, his brow was furrowed.

She didn’t let it bother her; because she would tell him this stuff. One day in the future, she’d rely on him, as he was already her closest confidant. But not today, and not about this. Alice went to Rosalie and wrapped her little arms around Rosie’s truly hour-glass figure. “Guys, I’m really sorry!” She told them. Emmett glanced up from the mini-quiche he was chewing and raised his eyebrows. “I have to go home; we can’t do dinner like normal.” She explained. He could hear Edward and Jasper speaking quietly behind her, and choose not to focus of their conversation. She knew Edward wouldn’t tell her love anything until she was ready.

Aw,” Rosalie said, though like with most of her genuine emotions, she was sarcastic about it. “What’s up?” She asked, her expression shrewd.

Alice shook her head. “Nothing!” She insisted. Emmett’s quiet ‘oh’ meant that they all just realised what this was about. Alice prided herself on being an open, honest person. But this was something she just couldn’t tell them so openly, yet. “Just lemme take a raincheck?” She asked.

Emmett was already nodding sagely, and Rosalie petted the grip Alice had on her waist. “Sure. I’ll get dinner with these losers, and you get to go home.” She said, and Alice tightened her hold. “I’m kidding, bae,” she added softly, returning her hug and leaning down to her ear. “Text me when you get home, okay?” She asked softly, and Alice nodded.

They broke apart, and Emmett pulled her into a hug too, swinging her a little off the ground, which was her favourite and something she needed right now. “Okay!” She said brightly, and gave Jasper one more kiss. “Bye-bye!” She waved, and jogged towards the car park.

“Good going today, man.” Emmett said to Edward, clapping him on the back. Edward nodded with a shrug. “I meant that heavy flirting with Jake, not the piano concert, by the way.” He added, and Edward clicked his tongue as the three of them all laughed at him.

“Shut up. I’m leaving now.” He told them sourly, and Jasper gave a wolf whistle as Emmett made kissy noises at his retreating back. Despite his idiot friends, though, he was ridiculously pleased at his own success as well.

--

Rosalie led Jasper and Emmett out of the concert hall as soon as the Cullens left. The atmosphere was different now, Jasper was displeased, Emmett was relatively indifferent and Rosalie was ambivalent. It was all about the same thing; Alice’s little hidden secret.

“She’ll get her legs done with me, but heaven forbid I ask her about anything else,” Rosalie muttered.

Jasper shot her a look. “Leave her be; you know she’s just preparing herself.” He told her, and Rosalie just shrugged. Rosalie didn’t actually hold Alice’s tight-lipped manner on the subject against her, she was simply proud. Alice knew some very delicate things about her, so she wanted the same. At the same time, she also knew such big secrets were so hard to tell.

Jasper, though, sighed. It was a constant tension in their relationship; Alice was ready for sex, but she wasn’t ready to even speak to him about the doctor’s appointments or her patches. He’d asked several times in the beginning, and it actually took Carlisle taking him aside and asking him not to upset his daughter to stop.

Alice trusted him, Jasper didn’t doubt that. Even if it bruised Rosalie’s pride, Alice would tell him first, when she was ready. He just wished she was ready now, he loathed that there was this big, sensitive thing between them. He hated that Alice was afraid that he could ever be disgusted by her. It just wasn’t possible, and it’s one of the reasons he knew he loved her, more than she loved him. She couldn’t love him as much, with these open secrets between them.

Emmett, though, was largely unaffected. With so many siblings and such a small house, he’d learnt one surprising thing; personal non-physical boundaries. When it came to someone’s situation, Emmett was the epitome of patience. He’d wait for Rosalie to be ready to be with him, and he’ll certainly wait for little Alice to tell them more about her transition process. Emmett may sometimes get too touchy with people too fast; but when it came to their secrets, he knew there were things he couldn’t barge into.

The dinner was fine; Rosalie paid with her father’s credit card, which didn’t brook an argument from either of the boys. Mostly because Rosalie was like a Latina WASP, and mostly because they knew she was extra miffed at her father recently. Rosalie liked to keep hurts close to her chest; and her friends sharing with her was most definitely a one-way, mildly hypocritical street. But in some ways, she was an open book if you knew her long enough. She adored her little brother, and hated anchovies, and if you crossed her she’d most likely want you dead.

Rosalie felt a little better after the food; she had an arm around the necks of both boys, and with her height and heels it wasn’t so hard. They stumbled as a loud, laughing trio to the silver beast, now talking about Edward’s newest development.

“Our boy’s gonna get him some!” Emmett yelled, his twang reminding everyone he had been Tennessee born-and-bred until he was twelve.

“It’s about time, too.” Rosalie huffed, “maybe he’ll lighten the fuck up.” She added.

“Well, this is Eddie we’re talking about, a boyfriend doesn’t 360 most people’s personalities, right?” Jasper asked, with a light laugh. They liked talking shit about Edward; it wasn’t anything they wouldn’t say to his face.

“Not unless you’re Jennifer Ford, no.” Rosalie agreed and giggles to herself. Both Emmett and Jasper dramatically ‘ooh’ at her. “I’m such a bitch.” She agreed, with no small amount of satisfaction.

Chapter Text

Bella and Jacob were eating dip and no chips, because they couldn’t find any in Bella’s kitchen. They just ended up sucking on teaspoons, standing almost shoulder to shoulder, considering the height difference. Bella was currently glaring at the back of Phillip’s head, as Renee and he were watching some baseball game.

“He’s younger than her, by a lot.” She muttered darkly. Bella had not approved of boyfriend at all. Apparently, he had come the day after the party, bearing pizza. Jacob thought it was kind of hilarious. Phil seemed fine, kind of bro-ish, but he liked Renee a lot, and seemed nearly intimidated by the amount of books Bella owned.

Jake honestly wanted to give this situation his full attention, but he was currently texting.

“That your boy?” Bella asked, eyeing him in a surly but curious way. He wasn’t planning on telling her Edward’s not-so-secret identity, mostly because Jake had heard her friend Jessica got super weird about the guy, and also because he loved having a secret. He was usually a very open person, so it was kind of fun.

“That it is.” He said, grinning. “How’s your boy?” He asked, hoping Bella would soon be telling him story of heavy flirting and even heavier petting by the long-awaiting secret crush.

She sighs though, and tries not to grimace. “He’s not mine, he’s oblivious, I’m chicken-shit.” She explained. Jake kind of figured her crush wasn’t ever going anywhere; Bella was never one for action, she was a textbook over-thinker.

Jake gave her a nudge at her moody attitude. “Don’t be like that. You’re just in a funk tonight, aren’t you?” He asked with a simper.

“Yeah, well ….” Bella trailed off, smiling falsely as Phil glanced back at them with a friendly nod, only to look shrewdly back at Jake.

Jacob put down his spoon, getting sick of straight French Onion, and straightened up. “I can’t stay, dad’s made tacos.” He added. Plus Rachel texted him specifically asking him to come home for dinner tonight. She probably had more news on the baby; and Paul was going to go on and on about naming them again.

Bella stomped her foot, looking put out. “You’re leaving me with him!?” She hissed, a strong whine in her voice as she gestured to Phil.

“I’m still supporting you,” Jacob said, giving her a thumbs up and yelling goodbye to the couple on the couch, “emotionally and spiritually.” He added as he opened the door.

“I hate you, go on, traitor.” She said sulkily as he left.

--

Jacob went home with a sigh. He’d been avoiding his dad recently. He knew his relationship with his dad was more candid than most people had. He wasn’t his own parent’s babysitter, like Renee and Bella. But they were close.

Before Jake dropped out of school and Rachel got pregnant, Billy and him had had five years with just the two of them in the house; it had been a real boy’s club. But then Sam had to go behind his back, all because he’s a snooping son-of-a-bitch, and Jake knew he couldn’t stay on the rez.

It still made Jake furious that Sam had the gall to go through his phone when Jake left it at Emily’s house after he had dinner there one night. The man had been vying for a spot on the council, and wanted to seem more ‘youth-minded, interested in the community’ because he was young and green. This somehow involved telling several people about the explicit texts Jake had on his phone from a boy in Alaska, including his mother Alison, and then the rest of town found out.

He’d at first just offered to go and live with Rachel in Washington, but then Rachel moved and then Paul left school for an apprenticeship in the same city and Jake ended up packing to go with him. He didn’t expect his dad to start packing as well.

But Billy sold Emily the house, as a ‘no hard feelings’ to Sam, who, granted, probably felt terrible in his silent, already grumpy way. When they got here, they’d ended up meeting Renee Swan in a grocery store; Jacob’s old elementary school teacher.

Now Jake was starting life in a big city, he was going to be an Uncle soon, his dad’s diabetes had him on his cane more, and he had a date.

He had a date tonight and he had to tell his dad. After they’d eaten, of course. Not that he was stalling; but Paul knew Billy hated when he ate most of the food, because the guy never went to get groceries, but all curtesy was out the window on taco night.

So Jake was hoping to slip in the need for go out after dinner after the two of them bitched about Paul for a bit. Except Rach had news on the baby, and she didn’t look at all happy.

“We got the scans, dad, and the baby’s fine, really, there’s just a murmur they want to keep an eye on.” Rachel was explaining quietly. Paul wasn’t even eating that much, and the table was silent and tense.

Billy cleared his throat, shifting a little. “Well, keep an eye on how?” He asked quietly. Jacob looked down, thinking about the last time a dinner had been this awful. Probably two months ago, when their dad offered up the money the family had been saving for the chair he’ll soon need. Dad said he wanted to get a good quality pram for the baby. Rachel had shouted at him so much she’d cried.

“I’ve got another appointment next month.” She replied, and Jake only glanced up from his plate after she put a hand on his arm. “Jake, I was wondering if you could finagle a day off work? Drive me to the clinic?” She asked, smiling a little.

Jacob nodded blankly, and dropped his gaze; this was the third-worst taco night they’d ever had. The first was the first one after mom died, and the second was when Jacob couldn’t eat; he had been in too much pain after a bunch of guys had jumped him after school for being a fag. It hadn’t mattered to them that Jake was bisexual.

Jake couldn’t even taste his food; something bad might be going on with his nephew or niece … he didn’t want to go on a date at all right now. He wanted to go to bed and curl up with his mother’s girlhood doll and sleep.

“Paul should take you.” Billy said, his voice hard with disapproval. Paul even flinched at the mention of his name, as though it jerked him out of his own thoughts.

Rachel’s voice was just as hard as their dad’s. “He’s got a paid trial day with this local cement company, dad. It’s a good thing, the first relevant chance in a year.” She said, which didn’t really need saying. After his internship, Paul hadn’t been hired on by the architecture firm, and was sending his portfolio everywhere while making coffees.

“That’s great, Paul.” Jake said quietly, but he knew it sounded hollow. Billy murmured in agreement but Paul grunted, looking upset.

“I keep telling her I’ll take her.” He insisted, his expression tight. “She won’t let me come.”

“And I keep telling you it’ll be fine! I’ll have my baby brother with me,” She shot back, rubbing Jake’s shoulder and telling him to eat something.

Jacob took a bite of the taco, but he was too depressed to be hungry now and it stuck like glue in his throat. He ignored how very tight Rachel’s grip was on his shoulder, and sighed. He knew he couldn’t just curl into a ball in bed; his sister was going through enough without stressing over him too. He should do something to show that he was confident the baby was fine.

So he put on a big smile and peeled her hand off of him. “Don’t wrinkle my shirt, woman. I have a date tonight,” He said cheerfully.

Rachel looked over-joyed. “A date? That’s so exciting!” She cheered, her voice a little too loud, obviously clinging to the topic to change the atmosphere. It worked, kind of, now his dad was openly glaring with suspicion.

“Boy or girl?” Paul asked with a sly grin. Jake flipped him off and said it was a boy.

“Who is he?” Billy asked heavily. Jacob’s old girlfriend was a girl that Billy couldn’t stand, and his ex-boyfriend, well … Billy never knew him, he just knew the bruises he left.

“Top secret.” Jake replied, openly grinning now, because if he was driving his dad nuts over his love-life, then his dad wouldn’t be focusing on the risk to his first grandkid.

“Where is he taking you?” Rachel asked, batting his hand a little to get his attention.

“To some diner.” Jacob shrugged, he hadn’t been here long enough to hear of some place called ‘Jimmy’s’ but it all sounded fine to him. Edward’s first suggestion had been the Manhattan Centre, but Paul worked there and he would definitely never give him any peace if he found out. Then he had suggested Parc Katya, which was so expensive, Paul, Jacob and Billy saved for ages to take Rachel there for her birthday a few months back.

Paul shook his head, but even he was grinning. “You’re going out to eat!” He said, waving his hand to Jacob’s plate. “You’re eating now, man.” He laughed, and so did Billy.

Yeah, I’m gonna have to try and eat some nasty European food and shit,” Jacob yelled back, and even Rachel started smiling, “I better have something now or I’ll starve!” He said, and spent the rest of the meal playing defence as Paul tried to pick from his plate.

--

Edward was not nervous just because he was finally going on his first real date. With the boy of his wet dreams. He definitely did not want Alice to call everyone over to help him, but, it would be rude to make them leave. They made the drive, after all. So all five of them were lounging in Edward's room, picking apart his outfit.

“I can’t believe I’m seeing you in jeans again, man.” Emmett said, looking touched and wiping a fake-tear from his eye. “You look so normal.” He added, getting chocked up. Which was a lie on several levels; since Emmett’s gaze had stayed fixed on the game on the television and Edward never looked normal.

Alice set down his houndstooth blouson jacket to start fidgeting with his collar. He shrugged her away since he really liked his Versace Medusa shirt and didn’t want her messing with it.

“Okay, so,” Rosalie began, and Edward wished she hadn’t even started, “in case you … just get Edward over this situation …” she said, in a voice that was some mockery on delicate, “I’d like to remind you that this is nothing to be afraid of-”

“Shut up,” Edward told her.

“Oh my god!” Emmett, Jasper and Alice yelled, “I can’t believe you just told her to shut up!”

Rosalie continued regardless, “This is a completely normal teenaged experience-”

“Shut up!” Edward said again, with more heat.

The other three took a deep breath. “Oh my god!”

Don’t start!” Edward snapped at them, and now he was enduring everyone laughing at his nerves. He was ready to kick them all out of the house, including Alice, when he saw the tiny red car. “He’s here – everyone act normal!” He hissed, and, heedless to his own advice, ran down to the front door.

Everyone ran down the stairs along with Edward when Jake knocked. He didn’t seem fazed by the group of sweaty teenagers grinning in the doorway at him.

Jacob smiles right back. “This isn’t a …” he makes a show of counting them, “triple-date or something, is it?” He asked.

No, that’s not –” Edward shoved at Rosalie, who was blocking him from the door, and stumbled out of the doorway and slightly into Jacob, who holds an arm out to steady him. “You can ignore them.” He finishes, shooting Rosie a look.

“We’re here for morale support!” Alice pipes up.

“Oh. I just thought you were here because this is your house.” Jacob replied, and Edward tries not to laugh too hard, basing his own chuckle on the volume of the others. Then he kicks himself for over-thinking his volume when his voice came out weirdly breathy. He already wanted to go home, this was awful.

Jacob nods to his car, and Edward gratefully leads the way to their date, and from his terrible, horrible friends. “Have fun, boys!” Emmett yells after them. “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”

--

Edward was driven in Jake’s adorable little red car, and Jacob had complimented his taste in music after he put on Sweet Child O’ Mine. Edward did not tell him it was because he searched ‘dad rock’ online and this was the first song he recognised.

Jacob looked excellent, and so very handsome. He wore a grey shirt and a denim jacket, with black jeans. His long black hair was loose, and he would shove one hand through his hair, before leaning his elbow on the table and his head against his palm; propping him up and keeping the hair from his eyes. Edward was relieved that he’d taken the extra effort to also dress casually.

Now, though, Jacob offered to share a plate of fries, and Edward thought it was cute and agreed. So far, he was the only one eating them. Jake was sipping on a coke and telling him about how he didn’t ‘get’ vinyl record collectors. “They’re so bulky! Who’s got the space?”

“You’re not hungry?” Edward asked him.

“Oh, sure,” Jacob shrugged, “gonna wait for the movie popcorn you’re buying though.” He said with a grin.

Edward began to smile himself. “Did I agree to that?” He asked, teasing. He’d buy however much popcorn it took to make this a great date. Though, realistically, he knew that really depended less on snacks and more on himself.

“What?” Jake leaned forward. “You don’t wanna pull out all the stops for me? I assure you, I’m worth it.” He added, even as Edward laughed. “I put out even if I’m not on a date.” He said. The reference to the car made Edward stop laughing or looking at Jake altogether. The awkward silence only lasted a few moments, though. “… That was a joke.” Jacob tried.

Edward nodded, mustering up a small smile. “I know … I just wanted to apologise. It’s not as though I wasn’t very interested, because I was, and I still am.” Edward insisted. “It’s just … I like my car, but not as a place to lose my virginity.” He muttered. He almost regretted the last part, but he knew he’d better bring it up at some point.

Jacob, though, looked shocked. “Oh … yeah, sure, we’re just a couple of virgs –” The boy visibly grimaced and made a show of craning his neck to look at the guitar-shaped clock on the wall. “When was the movie, again? We don’t wanna be late!” He said quickly.

Edward, though, laughed in the face of Jake’s obvious panic. “Jake, calm down. I’m not surprised that a beautiful man like you has experience, even if you are a little younger.” He said calmly. And it was true; it didn’t matter to him who Jake had been with before; Edward wanted to be with him now.

Jake for his part seemed to remain uncomfortable. “... I really came off as a slut, huh?” He asked, looking downcast. “I’m sorry.”

Edward reached out and grabbed Jake’s hand, “No, no!” He said strongly, hating the idea that Jake thought he was in the wrong. “I hated that I put us in that position. I’m sorry.” He insisted.

Jake looked back up at him, and he looked determined and serious. “Nah, don’t wanna play this game.” He said. Edward got nervous, not knowing what ‘game’ he was referring too. But Jake’s grip tightened in his and he gave him a tug forward. His face broke out into a sunny smile. “I just wanna watch a movie with a pretty boy.” He added.

-

The movie was great. Well, it probably would have been; Edward couldn't recall even one second of the plot. It was a gun-blazing action movie, and Jacob almost chocked on his popcorn when the Big Bad took his time punching up the Hero. He was laughing so hard he adorably clapped a hand over his mouth.

"That's not what getting winded after a gut-punch is like at all!" Jake sniggered in Edward's ear. The puff of breath and Jake's lips brushing the shell of his ear made the whole side of his skull tingle. It didn't occur to Edward to ask how Jake knew what it was like.

Edward was preoccupied with trying to make a move. He didn’t want to seem too obvious at first, he was a little petrified of showing any public display of affection, and Jake seemed to be the same. Until, that is, Jacob rested his arm over the armrest; palm up and fingers slightly curled. Edward thought, for the first-half of the movie, that it was an odd way to rest your arm. He was even struck with a ridiculous thought that it looked a little like a poised bear trap. But he realised embarrassingly late that Jake was giving him the opportunity to hold his hand.

Which he took, eventually, when he realised that Jake was on this date with the intention to date him. Edward wasn’t really used to this; he used to go on group dates with a girl, and just sit and try and ignore her without being too cruel about it. This was the first date he’d been on with a guy, and a guy he liked.

--

Bella was glancing more and more often to the popular table these days. She was engaging Jessica in discussions about them. Hell, she even started following Alice’s Instagram – the girl’s house looked amazing, lots of open spaces and windows everywhere.

She was snooping into the group now, more than she usually did. Not necessarily because she upped the stalker-meter, but because she was on a mission.

Rachel Black had called her to ask if Jake’s jacket had again ended up in her house, when she off-handedly said she’d check with his boy.

You know about his boy?” Bella had asked.

“Yeah, of course! Who doesn’t, boy is so smitten,” Rachel had said with a light laugh.

But, she’d moved onto telling her about the baby, and by the time they ended the call Bella hadn’t been able to steer the conversation back.

Bella spent that entire day checking Jacob’s social media for anyone out of place; and she’d found something. Jake had added Edward Cullen as a friend on facebook. It was surprising, to her, that they were close enough to warrant it. But, it was a way in, she could easily bring up … something about Jacob … to someone.

Okay, so, Bella wasn’t Jessica, who had weird elaborate plans to talk to someone who obviously didn’t know she existed. Well, they knew Bella existed, they probably just didn’t care. That party was proof enough.

This was just depressing her, plus she had more digging to do. Who was Jake even seeing right now?

Chapter Text

Edward was kind of in some weird, elaborate heaven right now. He and Jake had had a great time at the movies, they even lingered in the Jacob’s car in the parking lot to make out afterwards. And Jake even pulled back now and then, growing more and more teasing, as though double-checking Edward was still okay with it. Now, it had been a week of cute texts and phone calls and once meeting up at the record store across from Fourth’s after Jake’s shift.

It was the weekend now, and Jake didn’t have work. Instead, Jake had stayed the night with Edward. Nothing had happened, even though after their dad left, Alice had Jasper pick her up to give them some privacy. Well, not nothing; there was a lot of making out, and they fell asleep together.

Jake woke up, they’d been watching Calamity Jane together on Edward’s television, and Jake was very impressed that Edward knew all the words to all the songs. Mostly Jake was impressed that he was still interested in such a dork. But he was a dork that would apologise and fast-forward through any scene with Chubby Johnson in it.

But now the screen was black against the wall, and Edward was asleep next to him. He grinned and leaned over and kissed the boy’s nose, like a secret. Edward muttered something and snuggled deeper into the covers.

When Jake straightened back up, he smacked his lips and frowned. He really did need to brush his teeth. After, he was downstairs, getting a drink in the Cullen kitchen, when Alice walks in.

She slips through the patio doors into the breakfast nook and jumps a little when she sees him. “Oh – hi.” She said, before smiling, “Hello!” Her tone cheerier.

“Um, yeah,” Jake said, lifting the half-full glass of water in explanation, “sorry, I just wanted-”

“No, no!” Alice waved him off, smiling and hopping up on one of the kitchen stools. “Don’t mind me! I was at boyfriend’s, but I had to come back.” She explained, and, with some furtive glances around the empty kitchen, dug around in her large shoulder bag, and surreptitiously pulled out a pill bottle that said Aldactone. Jake nodded, but he didn’t know why she couldn’t take the pill at her boyfriend’s, though it didn’t concern him.

“Sure,” he agreed, and nodded to the retreating tail lights glowing through the large kitchen window on the opposite wall. “How is peanut butter cookies to go?” He asked her.

Alice grinned. “He’s good!” She replied, and mentioned to Jake slyly, “… How are you?”

“Fine enough.” Jacob leaned forward, as though he was about to let her in on a secret. “We haven’t done anything, just to keep you updated.” He added in a stage-whisper, giving her a wink.

Alice laughed, waving her hand again. “That’s okay!” She told him. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me anything …” She clarified, her tone serious. “I’m just glad for you both, though, obviously, mostly for my brother.” She added.

Jacob smiled at her sweetness. When he found Paul face-down and bare-assed on her sister’s mattress one morning, he’d wedged his hands underneath it and flipped the entire bed over. She was a much better sibling. “Yeah, you should be.” Jake agreed, already chuckling, “I could do way better!” He added, and burst into muffled laughter, because he really didn’t want to wake Edward. It wasn’t really funny, but waking up from a three-hour nap at eight at night made a lot of things funny.

Alice grinned, her shoulders shaking with her own giggles. “Well, we just won’t tell him that!” She breaks out into laughter after speaking, and there’s a thump from the stairs. Edward pokes his head in, scowling.

“Stop bonding!” He told them both sternly. Jake loses it, while Alice stands on the stool itself and crosses her arms. With a content sigh, Jake manages to control himself, and idly wonders how long Edward had been waiting at the bottom of stairs, since he hadn’t heard him walking down.

“Oh boo!” Alice shouts at Edward, who comes over to tug her off the stool, telling her it was dangerous. Jake admired the solid big-brother moment. “Come and hang out with us!” She cajoled, and Edward took a seat at the stool he’d taken off Alice. Jake pushes his glass to Edward, and he takes it with a quiet thank you. Alice skipped over to lean against the counter on Jake’s side, putting her back to her brother and swiping on her phone.

“You sleep alright?” Jake asked him, and Edward nods, wiping his mouth after draining the glass.

Edward stood and went to the sink for a refill. “Yeah, the kiss you gave me really helped.” He added over his shoulder with a smile. Jacob chuckles a little, and glances down at his bare brown feet, a little embarrassed over getting caught.

Alice waves her phone in Edward’s face. “Rosalie wants to go to Bin Soo for shaved ice!” Alice declared. Jake vaguely remembered the tall blonde with the formidable curves. “Jake, wanna come with?” Alice asked, waving a picture of what looked to Jake like ice cream and not at all like ice shavings.

But Jake shrugs. “Sure, shortie.” He agreed. Alice cheered and said she’d have Rosalie come to get them in her silver beast in half an hour, before hopping upstairs. Edward, though, immediately let out a very large, displeased groan when Jake agreed, and looking unhappily down at his drink. Jake was kind of taken aback by the boy’s reaction.

Jake walked over and nudged his shoulder. “Hey, do you not want me to come?” Jake asked, when Edward rolled his neck limply until he was looking at Jake. “I mean, if you wanna hang out with your sister by yourself, that’s cool.” He added. He also kind of wanted to keep Edward from his family; they would definitely weird him out.

Edward looked very confused. “What?” He asked, before he laughed a little. “No, I just don’t want to go. I hate the outside.” He explained with a grin. A little relieved, Jake allowed himself to be pulled into a hug as Edward dropped his glass in the sink. “Plus, I want to spend time with you.” He added softly.

Jake smiled as he wrapped his own arms around Edward’s neck. Jake’s biceps were more substantial than Edward’s neck, though, the boy didn’t seem to mind being a little squished. “Tone it down, Ed,” Jacob teased him, “people might just think you like me or something.”

Edward gave a very small shrug, and his hands wondered a little lower on Jake’s back. “Definitely or something.”

--

Bella and Jake were sitting on Jake’s front porch, which was one of their Hang-Out Spots. They’d said good-bye to Billy, who was currently working on scholarships for Indigenous Youth in this city.

They were both drinking the cold-brew coffee Renee had created for Bella to bring over to sample. “So … care to share?” She hedged, nudging his shoulder.

Jake was chewing on his straw and had no clue about what she was alluding to. “What?” He asked blankly.

Bella shrugged. “Well, you’ve been a little more tight-lipped about this guy!” She said. Not that he was very transparent about the Alaskan mess, but at least he confided in her.

Jake, though, looked very dour at the moment. “That’s because he’s not treating me like shit.” He replied. “He’s a good guy, I’m happy, y’know?” He said, smiling. Bella did know; Jake was happy. She had to find out who to send the gift basket to!

“Yeah, I can tell.” She agreed quietly. “You know you can even tell me the happy stuff.” She added quietly.

She was there for the hard stuff, the ugly stuff. She sat in the emergency room with him when a guy broke two of Jake’s fingers. She kept her soft, fluffy baby blanket in the car for a month so when they went for a drive and Jake finished crying his heart out, and fell asleep, she could cover him with it. She kept her truck running when Jake finally broke up with the Alaskan boy. They never spoke about how fast he dashed back and how loud the squeal of the tires had been when Bella pulled away from the curb.

Jake, though, shrugged happily. “I’m actually his first,” he admitted with some excitement, “and he’s not really out yet.” He added, his tone apologetic.

Bella crossed her arms and frowned. “I won’t tell! Who would I tell?” Bella asked, “I kept your secret better than Sam Uley did!” She added, but she felt bad about it. Jake told her it was very hard to hold a grudge when the guy was your old babysitter.

Jacob, though, seemed surprised but not upset. “Bella! I really wanna keep this to myself.” He insisted, “Just for now, okay? It’s not like I think talking about it will jinx it …” Jake trailed off here, and gave an embarrassed little laugh, “but I really like this guy, and I think talking about it will jinx it.” He muttered.

For a moment, Bella felt every single day of their age difference with fondness. She began to smile. “Jake-”

Plus, you haven’t given up the identity of your guy!” Jake said quickly, pointing an accusing finger at her. She slapped it away with an eye-roll.

“That’s just a crush!” She pointed out heatedly. Edward Cullen wasn’t even feasible, even she knew it was just imaginary. It wasn’t even about being in his league; it was like he was playing baseball, while she was in a library reading, on the other side of the planet.

 But Jake crossed his arms and didn’t answer. Bella also didn’t answer, and the stalemate continued for all of twenty seconds. “Okay, okay, well,” Bella relented first, “I’m happy for you and you have my full support!” She declared with feeling.

Jake smiled softly, relaxing and letting out a small sigh. “Thanks, goofy two-shoes.”

--

Bella stared at her phone. Jacob was smiling with a paper cup, standing next to Rosalie Hale. It was posted on Alice’s Instagram with the caption ‘Beat the Heat! #binsoo #theybothlovemango’ Bella knew Jake liked mango ice cream, but now Alice Cullen knew Jake liked mango ice cream?

Bella felt a little lost. Jake hadn’t mentioned that he was hanging out with anyone from her school. He certainly didn’t mention that he was hanging out with the most popular people from her school. She didn’t like this feeling at all; the feeling that one of her oldest friends might be moving on from her, or at least keeping stuff that could be vaguely related to her, from her.

She knew she could just call him and ask him, maybe with some pressing he’d tell her. But, there was something about this holding her back. Jacob hated keeping secrets, so why did he keep this one? The boy was one thing, Bella knew she would wait until he was ready to dish.

She didn’t even tell him the name of her crush, after all. Boys weren’t a priority between them; their friendship was the priority.

But the popular gang? This was something else entirely, and it stung.

--

Rosalie was very annoyed. Chiefly, she wanted to meddle in Edward’s newfound love-life, and couldn’t think of a way to do it. She didn’t really know Jake, and while it seemed he was here to stay, Rosalie hadn’t given her opinion yet. Jasper was lounging by her locker; he was the type of boy that looked quite good when he was leaning against things.

“You have control issues, Rosie,” the boy informed her, though he sounded mostly amused. Rosalie only grunts at him, and slams her locker closed, heading over to Edward’s locker, knowing Jasper would follow.

“You know new people need my approval first.” She shot back. Jasper chuckles, and gives a nod. Maybe she was territorial, or just a snob; but her careful screening process kept them all safe. It kept Alice safe from school prejudice, it kept Jasper’s home-life under wraps, and Edward didn’t even spiral into depressive episodes as often; because their social lives were stabilized, thanks to Rosalie.

People scatter out of their way as they walk. Of course they did; neither Jasper or Rosalie acted as though one pimple meant their complete ruin, or were so insipidly self-conscious that it seemed their constant shame was a literal weight around their necks, forcing their heads down. But those were the type of people they passed by now; nobodies and sundry, too damn scared of themselves to make a mark. Sometimes it irritated Rosalie that she even had to wait for some of them to disperse; if they were so desperate to be unnoticed, couldn’t they just fade into the walls already?

While Rosalie could be accused of being an elitist, of marching with her head held high, Jasper’s gait was more like a saunter; he wasn’t afraid to make eye-contact with people, and he wasn’t afraid of what people would think of his polished nails or the huge jacket he wore. While Rosalie’s impatience kept people at bay, Jasper used indifference.

Suddenly, he took her elbow and tugged her back. She glared back at him. “Hang on, I’ve got an idea.” He says, a glint in his eyes.

Rosalie stops as he ambles over to some girls she didn’t care to know, and she swipes her phone to check her messages. Katie was going to be late because she had to hitch a ride with her mother, like Rosalie cared.

She was listening in on what Jasper was doing, though.

“Hey, you were at Mark’s place, right? Jake’s friend?” Jasper asks. Rosalie glances at who he was talking to now; it was the mousey girl that wore the dress Alice hated. She’s standing with two other girls; who all look as though Jasper was holding a check for a million dollars, they were that excited by his presence. The girl, Stella, nods affirmative, and Rosalie drops her gaze back to her phone with disgust on Alice’s behalf. Though the tiny girl never got jealous of others drooling over Jasper; she had no competition. “I was wondering, do you have his snapchat? I keep meaning to ask him and forgetting.” Jasper says, sounding just the right amount of rueful and there’s an agreeable hum.

Glancing up again, this time amused, Rosalie watches Jasper get the boy’s ID with a large grin.

“Thanks, babe.” Jasper tells her, and Rosalie had to muffle her snort. He only used pet names like that when he’d forgotten the person’s name. It was his syrupy sweet Southern bullshitting. Though Rosalie couldn’t blame him; she’d nearly forgotten too.

“Did you want my snapchat too?” One of the girls with Stella pipes up. Jasper blinks, feigning surprise which told Rosalie he was trying to figure out a polite way to say ‘no’.

Rosalie took pity on him and calls him. She keeps her phone the same distance away from her as before, to anyone else she was still just scrolling on her phone. When his phone buzzes, and he holds up an apologetic hand as he turns away to answer.

“Hello? What’s up?” He asks into the phone, already walking back towards Rosalie. “Sorry, girls! Work!” He calls over his shoulder with a grimace, before he walks off with Rosalie. As soon as they turn the corner, Jasper hangs up the call and sighs. “Close one.” He muttered, smiling.

Rosalie shrugs, she was a control freak. She didn’t like the idea of some random looking at dumb pictures of her on her friend’s snapchat story.

“You have to be selective,” Rosalie said in a considering tone, “stranger-danger and all that.” She adds lightly.

Jasper chuckles and rolls his eyes. “I just don’t want to have random girl’s sending me tit pics again.” He said, grimacing. Rosalie shakes her head; Alice really had no competition. “And you just want to make sure you get final say again.” He adds, a knowing glint in his eye. Rosalie doesn’t deny it, just bumps his shoulder when they get to Edward’s locker, so Jasper knocks into the door Edward still had open.

He shoots them both the special deeply offended glare he seemed to save for them. “Can’t you two just fall down a convenient manhole?” He asked, pulling out two more books before slamming his door shut. Jasper shrugs, and makes a show of going through Jake’s snap, only angling his phone towards Rosalie.

She studies each picture; pic of Jacob with a grease smudge on his nose with the Rabbit’s bonnet up, pic of him behind the Fourth’s counter, pouting, pic of him with an older version of himself who was leaning on a cane on the sidewalk somewhere.

“What are you two snickering about? Found some sugar daddy to fleece?” Edward asks them. Rosalie rolls her eyes; Edward constantly claimed that Jasper and herself were dumb blondes who were only destined for trophy-spouse status. Never mind that Rosalie got just as good grades as Edward did, or that Jasper’s were still above-average. Though it was the only time Jasper referred to himself as Edward’s future brother-in-law and it was cute to see Alice get so flustered if she over-heard him.

“Nah, just looking through some snaps from our new friend.” Jasper told him, grinning. Rosalie took Jasper’s phone and added Jake herself, before handing it back.

“Well, stop doing that; the more cronies you acquire, the more names I have to pretend to remember.” Edward snapped. That made them both laugh sarcastically.

“Oh-ho, poor Eddie,” Jasper simpered, “now he has to try and think through that sleep deprivation haze.” He teased.

“You’d think with a doctor for a dad and his own vanity, he’d get his beauty sleep.” Rosalie said, with too much emphasis to be truly conversational. But they all knew they were only pretending to give each other a hard time. Truthfully, Rosalie wouldn’t actually stand for half the shit Edward sprouted if she thought he meant it.

Edward scowls at them both, leaning against his locker with them. “I won’t be accused of vanity by the likes of you.” He shoots back and Jasper ‘oohs’ and flicks his hand like Edward had burnt it.

Chapter Text

“Holy Moses!” Emmett yelled as Lee, Rob and himself jostled each other in front of the door Bella was trying to leave through. “I can’t believe we have to beat this!” Emmett declares. There’s an uproar as they laugh and bolt down the stairs to the quad. Bella steps out and blinks in surprised.

The senior prank had been glorious. They’d left the school drowning in bubbles and hacked the PA system to blast summer party jams.

Emmett had screamed ‘Dance Party’ and all of a sudden, they were all rocking out to Sigella’s Came Here For Love. The football team seemed to mostly be jumping and pumping their fists in the air, classic club-boy, except for Lee Stephens, who had more than an iota of rhythm as Samantha Wells all but leapt into his arms. Emmett, too, seemed more than able to move, as Rosalie jumped onto his back, laughing.

Jasper was pulled forward by Alice, and they were both grinning madly; he even gave her a little spin before pulling her closer to him. Edward looked impossibly adorable doing a little cha-cha as he walked into the bubbles.

Austin and D.J Garret were slouching forward with slight shyness as Jasper beckoned them both. They were overtaken by Katie and Jennifer who, with a squeal, ran in to join.

Bella watched them all chanting along with the chorus, jumping in the foam, and almost rolled her eyes. What was it about being popular looked like so much fun?

A warm laugh pulled her out of her trance watching them and she spun around to see Jacob grinning at her.

“Jacob! What are you doing here?” She exclaimed, but she was pleased to see him, giving him a quick hug. He rarely respected the notion that he sometimes shouldn’t be places; like her school at lunch or behind the counter next to her at the Newton store. ‘We were here first, there’s nowhere in this country I don’t belong’ he once said. Though that was in relation to ‘chilling’ at the Pentagon when he went to his sister’s graduation.

“I was summoned by my boy.” Jacob told her, waving his phone with a cheeky smile. Bella could have kicked herself; for all her promises, she’d yet to find out who exactly Jacob had this fling with. She wanted to genuinely thank the guy; Jacob was so happy.

Right now, Jacob was captivated by the huge swath of bubbles, and actually started clapping.

“Now this is a senior prank!” He declared, bursting into laughter. Bella, as always, felt her own smile spread across her face at the sound of his laugh; it was always so infectious.

“He wanted you to come here for the prank?” She asked him.

Before he could respond, Bella heard a voice that caused her stomach to swoop into her shoes.

“Jake!” Edward was jogging up to them, covered in bubbles. “You made it!”

Jacob pulled away from her, grinning, and walked half-way down the concrete steps that led to the bubbling field. Edward met him on the step below, and grabbed Jake’s elbow.

Jacob nodded with a grin. “Well, I could barely understand that sister of yours …” he began, leaning over so both his forearms rested on Edward’s shoulders, “but looking at this, ‘bubble party bring your dancing shoes’, makes sense.” He added with a grin.

Bella felt her throat stick together, and she couldn’t even think.

Edward nodded with a bright, boyish smile. “She does have a way with words.” He agreed, and stepped back down the stairs, pulling the arm he still had in his grip, “Come on, everyone became very rambunctious when I told them you were coming.” He said, and Jacob allowed himself to be tugged down the steps.

“The people love me.” He said simply, before turning and waving at Bella. “I’ll see you in a bit, goofy two-shoes!” He called, and Bella felt herself numbly raise her hand.

Edward glanced at her, eyes bright and a smile splitting his face. “I might just bring him back, Stella!” He yells, gaze on her for only a moment, before he turns away.

Bella can only watch, as though she was floating somewhere above her body, as Edward pulled Jacob again, and they both started racing for the bubbles. For a dazed moment, she was sure she was dreaming.

She felt Jessica tug on her arm, and it pulled her back to herself. “Oh my god! How could you not tell me that Jake knew Edward Cullen!? You bitch!” Jess yelled, but she was laughing with excitement.

Chapter Text

Angela felt extremely awkward, as she usually did when she sat down first in the very front row of Ms Platt’s Triple A bench in the art room. No other student who took art even liked Ms. Platt’s class as much as she did, except for Ashley Dowling and Alice Cullen. It would have made them irrevocably dorky if Ms. Platt and Alice weren’t already so popular. As usual, no one spoke to Angela, and she just tinkered on her phone until the chair scraped next to her.

Angela didn’t let her heart sink; Ashley was here, that was good, because it was someone to talk to. But it meant that Alice would sit on the end, next to Ashley, instead of in the middle, like usual.

“Hey Angie, how was your morning?” Ashley asked her with a small smile. Angela nodded her head, and Ashley pulls out a few of her tools. “I’m going to the bathroom real quick.” Ashley told her, before trotting off.

Angela feels awful for it, but she carefully rearranges Ashely’s supplies and bag onto the next chair over; so Alice would definitely sit in the middle. She feels embarrassed about it too, but no-one was looking, and in the end, Ashley would still be fine, so long as Alice was still sitting with them.

Speaking of, she heard D.J Garret’s loud good-bye, and glanced at the door, seeing Alice walk past.

Alice stopped a few paces from the door, to get a kiss from her rakishly handsome boyfriend. As though the distance would give them privacy, despite the window they had inevitably stopped next to. Also considering the fact that the whole art class were peeking at them. Ashley had made it back, and hangs awkwardly by the door to wait for Alice.

Angela watches how Alice closes her eyes and proffers her cheek with a happy smile, and how Jasper Whitlock watches her with a tender smile, before leaning down to kiss it. Ashley sighs dreamily, and Angela doesn’t let herself laugh at her. She found it very sweet too.

Alice skips in, and Ashley beams, keeping pace and chattering at light-speed. Alice raises a hand at Angela.

“Good morning, beautiful people!” Alice chirps in her melodic tone, and takes the middle seat. Ashley doesn’t even seem to notice that her things had been moved, or if she does she doesn’t care. She’s busy going into depth about Project Runway. Ashley watched the show religiously; she preferred black-light paintings to fashion design, but Alice was always sketching ideas of wardrobes and using the school sewing machine. So Ashley considered watching the show extremely important; Ben Chaney said once she rearranged their movie date to watch it in Middle School.

It was odd to Angela, that Ashley would prioritize an inane way of keeping a conversation going with Alice over a boyfriend. But Ben told her they’d broken up amicably; and Angela was more than a little glad they had. Ben had the nicest, bluest eyes she’d ever seen. Plus Ashley was actually extremely beautiful; she probably didn’t need to prioritize boys at all. That was something else Angela didn’t understand; Ashley Dowling was ten times as beautiful as Katie Marshall, but she hadn’t even had a date to the Spring Fling dance last year, she just wasn’t an iota as popular.

Alice, though, sat with poised limbs and a graceful smile. Everything about Alice was pretty; her big hazel eyes, her little stature, the way she sneezed like a kitten.

“Well, actually, my friend Rosalie is coming to mine after school, so I can’t, I’m sorry.” Alice told Ashley, who nodded somberly. No doubt she had shot down another offer to hang out at some time outside of art class. Angela knew the rules; Alice was only really on speaking terms with them when they were on Ms Platt’s time.

Angela winced to herself; that sounded mean even in her head. She might have still been a little sore from the beach party disaster. It wasn’t just the party either; Alice’s friends, that bitchy posse, would sneer something just while Angela was within earshot, until she took the hint. Alice would not to permitted to lower her social standing speaking to her. Sometimes, Angela felt kind of bad for the little fae-like girl; to be under Rosalie’s thumb like that must be hard.

Especially since Rosalie Hale had such an aura around her. She was so pretty; sometimes Rosalie came to school without makeup, and the difference was just startling. Her eyebrows were thinner, her nose a little shiny and the shadows on her face a little starker; and that was it. She had smooth, unblemished skin and a great bone structure. She was also incredibly intimidating and very blunt. She spoke out against teachers frequently in class, but hardly even got a simple verbal scolding for it. Being popular came with that type of immunity.

The immunity was probably why Ashley took her constant rejections so easily, only to try again next time. Alice had an aura too, though; as though she was a member of the fairy court, exploring the human world, or something.

“So I told Edward that if Pernickety didn’t have his favorite shrimp toy by tonight, his new toy will be Edward’s computer mouse.” Alice says with a grin.

Ashley laughs much too loudly and seems to realize her volume a little too late. Ashley always got like this around Alice; like she was speaking to a superhero instead of a girl that was more popular than her. Alice sometimes seemed aware of it, she once mentioned to Angela, after she promised not to breathe a word, that she found Ashley ‘a little too excitable sometimes’. She was a little off the mark, but Angela guessed that not caring about being popular probably made you more popular.

-

Emmett was in the lounge room of the Cullen house, while they were gearing up for yet another party. It was as D.J Garret’s, and Edward was actually more tolerant of the idea of having to attend than he normally was.

The presence of Jacob Black seemed to be the catalyst. He was chilling with Emmett on the couch, barely watching a baseball game, while they sipped at their jacks-n-cokes.

He knew Jake worked at Fourth’s now, which was really funny. Edward had divulged the information the way he normally did when it was about Jacob; with too much intensity and when it was just them. But shit hit the fan just a touch when Jasper and Rosalie responded to his revelation with indifference; they already knew he worked there, he usually served them their afternoon PB cookies.

Edward had made a big deal about it; accusing them of deliberating hiding it from him. But, Rosalie had said that the only thing they deliberately hid from him was that they’d both added Jake on snapchat. He’d seemed even angrier then, but he deflated like a balloon when they all laughed. Really, the guy was probably glad that they were so supportive, in their own way. Edward was the least experienced out of all of them; he’d never gone on more than two dates with the same person before Jacob.

“Damn,” Jake said with a sigh, “you guys love having gatherings, don’t you?” He asked.

Emmett shrugged with a smile. Parties were so fun; Emmett hadn’t actually had a quiet weekend since he started highschool. “You not feeling it?” Emmett asked him.

Jake looked at him with a grin, “hell no man, I’m always feeling it!” He declared, and Emmett laughed, immediately demanding a high-five.

Sometimes, Edward’s need for solace clashed with Emmett’s constant source of energy. Alice was more his style; until she ended up all of a sudden slumped dead away on Jasper’s lap like a toddler after a sugar-high. Jasper went along with anything until Alice dropped, then he was immediately uninterested. Rosalie never said no to anything; but she did ignore everything she didn’t want to do and get kind of quiet after midnight. Jake, though, seemed way more his speed. Life was short, after all.

Edward came into the room then, eyes on his book, but he walks straight to Jake and sits on the arm of the couch on his side. Jake shuffles a little to accommodate him. Emmett’s glad Edward was happy now; well, as happy as he usually got, he was a pretty low-key type of guy. Though when Edward was on, he was on! And he seemed much readier lately to ditch the old-man attitude he developed sometime in the middle of last year.

Emmett realizes something. “Hey, how are we all getting to the party?” He asked. When it was the five it them; it was no squeeze in Edward’s Volvo, but with Jake here, something else was bound to have been arranged.

“Jake’s taking me in his car; you’re going with Rosalie.” Edward told him, not looking up from his novel, though his tone brooked no arguments. But Emmett didn’t follow directions well; everyone said so frequently.

“What if I wanna go with you two?” He asked cheekily. Jake laughed a little but glanced at Edward slyly, waiting for him to respond.

Edward glanced up from his book and said sternly; “No room.” Which may have been true in Jake’s compact VW Rabbit, but it made the other two boys laugh anyway.

Emmett watched the game and overlooked the way Jake had a loose grip on Edward’s calf, almost stroking absently.

But he could hear Jasper’s soft reply to something Alice had said excitably, and for a weird moment, even though he was in a house he lived in more than his own, with people as close to him as family, he felt kind of alone.

There was a sharp clicking sound coming from the stairs, and Rosalie strode in. She wore a long dark blue button-up velvet shirt with black leggings. She came up to Emmett and sat between him and Jake, and Emmett settled an arm around her shoulders, while his chest settled quite a bit as well.

-

Edward had taken Jake to another party at D.J Garret’s. He was definitely not making up for the last time he had Jake at a party here, but he was trying to make some better memories.

Currently, Jake was playing pool with a few of the high school football bros. “Jake, I love you man,” The captain said warmly, “but if you sink this ball I’ll give you a dead arm.” He added.

“Try it, bro.” Jake replied and sank the ball easily. He darted across the other side of the table, though, when the boy took a mock-swing at him. “Oh, can’t catch me!” He teased.

“Gentlemen, please!” Emmett yelled, waving his pool cue and almost hitting Alice with it as she skips away. He leaned over the table and lined up his shot. “Witness perfection – fuck.” He said, as the ball bounced and rolled to the other side of the table.

Rob wiped a fake tear from his eye, giving a sniffle. “That was beautiful, dude.” He said, before they all burst into laughter.

Emmett grumbled; “Shut up.”

Oh my god, I can’t believe you just told him to shut up!” The group yelled in response, extra loud thanks to the whiskey shots Connor had handed out before. Jacob even recited the words, though in a bored voice and with an eye-roll. Alice had gladly regaled him with the otherwise unsubstantial story behind the phrase, and he started joining in.

Jake hooked an arm around Edward’s shoulders, who happily allowed himself to be pulled in close.

“Your friends are dorks!” Jacob told him, and Edward laughed with agreement. He wrapped his arms around Jake’s neck and gave him a kiss, but he didn’t want to crane his neck so he just gave his chin a peck.

“I’m glad you’re having fun, babe.” Edward told him.

Jake grinned, “I’d have even more fun if you danced with me.” Jake replied, and began to pull Edward towards where Alice was already dancing on her own on the coffee table.

--

Alice had been dancing on the table, because she loved this song, and because Jasper was watching from where he was propping up a wall, and she didn’t mind dancing both for herself and for him. She felt great; she was wearing her Self Portrait off-the-shoulder playsuit and had had five drinks already.

Then there’s a laugh, and Jake’s picked her off the table and sets her down with him. Edward wraps a lanky around her shoulder and pulls her into a tugging kind of circle but she slips away from him, and Jake mentions to her to come to him.

“What?” She asks him first.

“I’ll give you a toss! Come here!” He replies, grinning. He looks very dashing with his hair loose around his shoulders. He left his jacket at her house, and she could see he was really built; so she nodded with agreement.

Edward tutted, but Alice ignored him and took a few steps back, before running and jumping at Jacob.

Jacob caught her under her arms and threw her up. She screamed a little, and was actually able to reach up and touch the ceiling. She felt like she was flying, and almost groaned with disappointment when gravity began to pull her back down. She wasn’t sure how she was to land, though. Luckily, she fell back feet first and Jake caught her around the middle.

There was a wild cheer, and Alice laughed when she realized the entire party had stopped for their stunt.

Jake set her down and Jasper immediately put his arms around her.

“Scared me for a second there,” he murmured into her scalp as the girls came to exclaim about how awesome she looked, “thought you might not come back down.” He added.

-

Bella sat on her bed, in her pajamas. She was on her laptop and fielding messages from Jessica.

She was going through Alice’s Instagram, again. Jake was featured in an increasing number of photographs. This was evidence in her facebook messages with Jessica; she was also sending pics of him from the other popular kid’s social media.

What is going on?? Can he get us into Fourths?? Jessica messaged, and Bella ignored her for the time being.

Alice had just uploaded a photo. It was of Jake, Emmett and Lee Stephens, in what Bella now knew was D.J Garret’s rumpus room.

First, second and third at pool! The caption read, and the cheeriness irked Bella.

But Bella wasn’t just upset that it was her friend, that didn’t even go to their school, that was hanging with the most popular kids. This afternoon, she’d asked Jake to come to hers for dinner.

Can’t goooofy real life comes at ya fast

Usually, that meant his dad was having him help out as a youth volunteer liaison at the out-reach program; handing out fliers and sticking up posters and whatnot. But he’d blown her off for a party? Bella felt hurt, and she hated that it seemed irrational. He might have told her if she actually asked what he was doing, sure, but he hadn’t just come right out and said it.

Was becoming one of the popular kids making him just as dismissive of her as they were?

Chapter Text

Edward was sitting on Jacob’s porch with him, preparing to defend himself.

“Why does your dad act so rude when I come over?” Edward asked him. “Does he hate me?” Edward felt so awkward whenever Billy was around. Sometimes, the man just didn’t even respond if Edward said something.

Jacob blinked, pulling out one headphone. He’d been listening to music while Edward stroked his hair and read a book. Jake had been enjoying himself until he spoke. “No, he doesn’t really care enough to hate you,” Jacob explained slowly, before smiling a little shyly, “he’s just being stupid and acting grossed out.”

Edward actually jerked back with shock. “Why?” He demanded. “Is he disgusted because we’re together?”

Jacob nodded a little, and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, like, making a show of it too.” He said with attitude, snorting.

Edward felt his gut clench. He was raised in a very protective environment, he knew that. He hadn’t really ever been the subject of homophobia, mostly because he didn’t feel any type of ‘closet’. But also because he had a loyal group of friends, and an extremely supportive father. Edward felt a little lost, especially in the face of Jake’s own aplomb.

Jake was watching him, though, and something must have shown on his face, because the boy scrunched up his face. “… Wait he’s not doing it because you’re a boy; it’s cuz you’re white.” He clarified quickly.

What?” Edward asked, too numb with shock to think.

“Yeah,” Jacob agreed, and waved a hand airily. “Don’t even worry about it, he’s mostly just giving me shit.” He added.

Edward blinked. “How am I not supposed to worry!?” He asked incredulously. “That’s so racist.”

Jake quickly sat up from Edward’s lap, his face, all of a sudden, very stern, a foreign expression on him that Edward had never seen before.

“… No, not really.” It was Billy. He stood in the doorway, leaning heavily on his cane. Jake stuffed his hands in his pockets, all of a sudden surlier with his father here. “I’m supposed to be celebrating my only son with you? I’m supposed to trust you? You owe rent since the Mayflower, homo.” Billy’s tone was venom, and Edward felt his entire body go cold with fear.

But Jake butted in. “Dad! Shut up – go inside, asshole!” Jacob snapped, jumping up to give his dad a fake kick as he limped inside. Edward felt tears prickle in his eyes, and burying his head into his knees in humiliation. He almost flinched as Jacob laughed, laughed, as he shut the door. “Fuck you, I’ll call Auntie Sue, tell her you’re bullying teenagers, damn ….” He muttered, and sat back on the step with a thump and a sigh.

Edward felt like he wanted to throw up, his stomach was in knots. He refused to start sniveling, but his nose was almost about to start dripping.

“What the fuck?” It was Jacob, his breath on Edward’s neck. Edward looked up at him, and saw the surprise on his face. “What are you doing?” Jacob asked, looking at him in confusion. His confusion made Edward even more upset. The upset mixed with his embarrassment and morphed quickly into outrage.

“Did you just hear what your father called me!?” Edward demanded, standing up and glaring fiercely at Jacob.

Jake stood as well, his posture now much more closed off. “Yeah, so?” He asked. “He was joking?” He prompted, like it should have been obvious.

“That wasn’t a joke!” Edward snapped. “I can’t fucking believe you! He just called me a homo!”

Jacob spread out his arms, “Yeah, I remember … and you’re gay.” The boy said, pointing at him. Edward realized there was something fundamentally callous about how Jake was acting, and it appalled him.

“God Jake!” Edward told him, “He’s disgusted with me? I’m the one who should be disgusted with the two of you!” He marched to his car, and Jake didn’t call out, or try and stop him, as he sped back home.

Edward didn’t contact Jake for the rest of the weekend, and it was Tuesday when Jake messaged, to ask if he could come over that night. Edward replied that he was permitted to come at 7, and that was it.

At ten past seven, Jacob stood, surly, at the door. Edward mirrored his unhappy expression. Jasper was giving Alice a driving lesson, and so was their father. He hated that he was alone in the house right now; usually Edward would take full advantage of such an opportunity, but he was still angry.

“What do you want, Jake?” Edward asked gruffly. “I’m not ready to talk.” He added, crossing his arms over his chest. He didn’t want to go into Jake’s obvious internalized homophobia, or how he was so young and obviously in quite an unstable living arrangement.

Jake just shrugged, shoulders hunched and hands in his pockets. “Fine, just gimme back my necklace.” He said quietly.

That wasn’t what Edward was expecting at all. Jake had given him a necklace after they had started getting serious. It was a thin leather strap, with a small diamond-shape of beadwork. Edward loved it, he loved it so much he rarely wore it to school on the off-chance it would be damaged somehow.

“What?” Edward asked him, hating how small his voice sounded. “No. … Jacob I don’t want to break up with you over this. I just need time.” He said, panic bubbling in his gut.

Jacob raised a hand, shaking his head. “That’s not what I said. It was my mother’s.” Jake’s voice was firm and also not. Edward gulped at the mention of his deceased mother, and nodded mutely. He went upstairs and untangled it from where it was draped over his headboard. He carried it downstairs, and placed it in Jake’s outstretched hand.

Jake lingers, though, giving Edward a glare. “… You’re a real dick, you know that?” he asked suddenly, and the anger in Jake’s voice surprised him enough that he kept silent. “You think because my dad called you a homo, you’re allowed to look down on him? He’s in a chair, Ed, literally everyone already looks down on him.” He said, his voice steely.

In the pause, Edward could only shrug.  “It makes me feel bad for you,” Edward said carefully, “that you’d defend him like this.”

Jake scowled openly now, looking even angrier than before. “You pretentious - you don’t know anything!” He yelled, before stalking back to his tiny red car and driving off.

--

Edward was sitting outside of the Manhattan Centre, waiting for Paul Lahote. He didn’t even know their favorite barista was Jacob’s brother-in-law. Until Paul threw out casually as they were leaving one morning, that if Edward hurt his little brother, he’d poison his coffee. It was weird now, knowing that the sonogram picture Paul put up was of Jacob’s upcoming nephew.

Paul was hanging up his apron when he spotted Edward. He seemed almost amused. “Before you accuse me, I didn’t actually poison you; even though you look like complete shit.” Paul told him.

“I wanted to talk to you about Billy.” Edward replied.

Paul’s eyes narrowed, and Edward realized belatedly that Paul was actually very mad at him. It made Edward extremely nervous being led to Paul’s car, as Paul leant against the door. He was too nervous to start the conversation, but Paul didn’t need the help.

“I don’t think I need to tell you how very disrespectful you’ve been to dad.” He said tersely, and Edward shocked at a few things, that Paul called Billy ‘dad’ instead of ‘Billy’ or ‘my father-in-law’, or that Edward had been disrespectful!

“I don’t think I was the one being disrespectful.” Edward argued. “He had no right calling me such a name!”

“What do you think you’re achieving here? What do you think you even know?” Paul asked him tersely instead. “You don’t know how we work, or what our family is like. Frankly, I shouldn’t have to tell you, you have no right knowing.” Paul told him, and it made Edward pause, because Jake didn’t tell him a lot about his family. Sure, he came over to the house quite often, but he’d never had a meal with them, or a very long conversation.

“But this whole thing is upsetting Jake, which is upsetting Rachel. So you’re going to stand there, and shut up.” Paul hissed, and, despite the appalling behavior, Edward complied. “Jacob’s had it rough, okay? He never really came out, but it … came out that he was seeing a boy, and it really hurt Billy’s reputation.”

Edward spluttered. “His rep-

“Shut. Up.” Paul growled darkly. “People thought he was weak, because he didn’t beat the shit out of Jake or throw him out. Jake got so much shit he dropped out of school, and Billy moved them both here, he left the res just to help him. Billy has only ever supported Jake, through everything, and I mean everything. So don’t you dare accuse him of shit.

“Don’t you realize how lucky you have it? Oh no, he called you a mean name, poor you. You think Billy gets to kick up a self-indignant fuss when fuckers at disability services call him a ‘gimp’ to his face? You think I don’t want to pour hot coffee over the customers that ask me how my squaw is doing? You get to have this tantrum because the only thing that may mildly inconvenience your life ever is your sexuality. Lucky you.” Paul snapped.

Edward had already begun the uncomfortable process of realizing this, though. He came from money; his mother’s side were from the Mayflower, and he felt quite attacked when Billy pointed it out. He made it sound like a bad thing, because … to them it might be.

Edward scuffed the toe of his shoe in the dirt. “… I’m allowed to defend myself.”

“Against who? Do you actually think he was attacking you? In what way could he even hurt you? But you hurt Jacob, and what’s more, you could hurt him as badly as you wanted to; no one who cared would be able to stop you.” Paul eyes were dark, and frighteningly desperate, as he pushed off the car and advanced on Edward. He prodded Edward’s chest with his finger as he backed away. “Do you understand? No matter what you do to him, we can’t touch you.”

With that, Edward was left feeling dazed in a strip mall parking lot, while Paul climbed into his car and drove away.

--

ur dad @ hospital

Yeah until morning

Edward knew that meant Jacob was asking to come over tonight, and he was almost physically hurting to see him. He really missed Jake; he even wished he’d stayed at his front door longer, cussing him out while shaking his necklace in his fist. Edward just wanted to be around him; even just in the same room as him, regardless of their fight.

His stomach clenched as he heard the rumbling Rabbit come down the drive, and Alice’s door creak open. She poked her head into his room, looking worried.

“Is that Jake?” She asked quietly. Edward nodded once, and she bit her lip.

“We’re going to talk, I don’t know.” He replied, his voice hushed. The two siblings just looked at each other for a moment, with none of their usual connection. For a pair usually so intuitive, neither of them knew what was going to happen next. For once their airy, open house just felt empty. “I’d rather you stayed in your room.” He told her eventually.

The car door slammed, and Alice nodded her head and left. Jake rapped on the door, and Edward carefully counted out his steps so as not to throw himself down the stairs to open it.

Jacob had his hair in a ponytail, and was wearing a sweat suit under his leather jacket. They didn’t say anything to each other, but Jake did let Edward lean up and kiss the corner of his mouth nervously. Edward almost wished he hadn’t done it, because Jake’s lack of response made everything so awkward. But he needed to touch his boyfriend now, even just a little.

So he slipped his fingers around Jake’s wrist, and pulled him upstairs, into his room. Edward felt better, feeling the tendons of Jacob’s arm in his grip. He almost didn’t want to have the conversation, if they could just have sex instead. But he really knew they needed to talk.

He ushered Jacob into the room and closed the door firmly behind him. Like always, Jacob slumped onto his couch, but instead of flinging himself down, he sat hunched in on himself. Jacob pulled a sweater Edward had left throw over the back into his arms, and twisted it in his fingers.

It hurt Edward to see him like this, usually so sunny and open, and he sat down at Jacob’s feet, to give him space.

Edward’s eyes were on his boyfriend’s thick fingers in his sweater. Jacob’s had long fingers, just a touch shorter than Edward’s, but they weren’t tapered as delicately as his; they were much stronger and quite a bit thicker from hard work.

He remembered spreading his palm over Jake’s to compare them, once when Alice had gone over to Jasper’s, and they were alone in the house. He remembered how perfect it all felt in that silly little moment.

He was so focused on Jake’s hands, he didn’t realize Jacob was crying until the tears splashed onto his thumb.

Looking up, alarmed, Edward stood immediately to gather his boyfriend in his arms, hugging him tightly and all but falling into his lap. Jacob swayed back, and just sniffed as Edward cupped his cheeks in both hands and made him look at his face.

“Y-you can’t hate my dad … you just can’t,” Jacob choked out, and Edward felt every bit of the fourteen months between them; this was just a desperate boy that he loved so much. And this boy might be taller and bigger and physically stronger than him, but Edward was older, and he wanted to soothe him. “He’s my dad, you just can’t hate him!” Jacob insisted.

Edward leaned down to kiss his forehead, and quickly broke away to race to the tissues next to his bed, and hurrying back to wipe down Jacob’s face. He dried Jacob’s eyes, and leant away as Jacob blew his own nose.

“I don’t hate your dad, baby ….” Edward said quietly, and he couldn’t think of anything else to say, so he just cradled Jacob’s head in his arms, rocking them both a little. Jacob’s hand snaked up to rest on his lower back, and the other one stayed wrapped in his sweater.

After a while, Jacob was calm enough to just breathe wetly, so Edward pulled away, a little thrilled when Jacob’s hand momentarily pressed against his back to make him stay. “You want some water?” Edward asked him, keeping his voice soft.

Jacob nodded and Edward gently disentangled himself, leaving the room after smoothing a hand over Jake’s hair.

He left the door slightly ajar, and stopped at the stairs, when Alice carefully squeezed her button nose through her door.

“Okay?” She breathed. Edward shrugged at her, and she closed her door again as he went to fetch the water. He also took an apple and a small bag of chips, in case Jake was hungry too.

Coming back, he saw Jacob had moved from the couch to the bed, sprawled and staring at the ceiling. He bought the sweater with him, clenched in the hand that pillowed his head. He didn’t look as Edward put the stuff down on his bedside table, and sat next to his knee.

“You have a lot of pictures.” Jacob said, and his voice was sad and thick from his earlier tears, but his face wasn’t as agitated as his tone made it seem. Edward glanced at the wall behind his bed. Alice had one too; set up by Carlisle. It was a truly ginormous picture frame backed with white plastic; and Edward and Alice kept a lot of glue-tack stuck to the frames to hang future pictures.

They had started with the official adoption letter, and a few pictures of their birth families. Edward kept the two pictures; one of two flushed young people, his mom holding a swath of blankets that was him while lying in the hospital bed, while his birth father was bent over them. The second one was a more organized photo; they were both dressed nicely, and he looked like a real human; dressed in white at his Christening; with Carlisle standing up next to them.

Now Edward had a lot of photos; mostly featuring an assortment of Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper, Alice and himself, and a few of their larger group of friends. But he’d stuck on the first few with Jacob the day after the pictures were taken, he’d gotten up early to be the first in line to get the film developed; a cheesy group shot in front of D.J Garret’s, one of him and Jacob, the flash on in the night, both laughing in front of Jacob’s car, and one of Jacob and Alice squishing their faces together for a silly selfie.

Alice had thrown out the ones with her father, or ones with the sad-eyed boy, and only kept one of her pregnant mother. Though it was now covered by a Hello Kitty bumper sticker, Edward knew she sometimes carefully peeled it back to look at her.

Jacob sat up to look at the board properly, and yanked one photo down. It had been taken on the day of the senior prank that Edward had invited him to so awkwardly, Edward remembered taking it himself. The hotdog Jacob was eating stuffed in his cheeks as he grinned, covered in bubbles. God, he was still obsessed with that photo, even after five months of dating; he didn’t ever want to look at it without feeling that rush in his fingers and toes.

“I look so ugly,” Jacob said, smiling a little in embarrassment. Edward tried not to show how shocked he felt; he really loved that photo, he never thought that Jake wouldn’t. Jacob flicked the photo onto the bed, face-down, and Edward quickly reached over to snap it up, pulling the edges as though they’d been creased.

“I like it,” Edward told him honestly, pressing the photo to his chest with one hand, while the other pressed against Jake’s knee. “When I took it, you leaned forward, and you put your hand like this.” He said, gripping his knee tighter. “I thought I would never be happier than that.” He admitted softly, and it was embarrassing, but he meant it. “I was wrong.” He added lightly.

Jacob curled closer to him, and put their faces closer together. “You were holding your breath and your face was all red; I thought you were trying not to laugh and shake the camera.” Jacob told him, and then he pressed their lips together.

Kissing Jacob was what Edward thought made people like chocolate. He was never fond of it; he never saw the appeal of eating plain blocks of candy like that. But feeling Jacob’s lips on his, their mouths opening and tongue touching, curling around each other, it made him think of eating chocolate.

Suddenly there was a tug at his chest, which alarmed him, and Jacob broke away. Their parting made such a wet sound, Edward felt his dick twitch a little and his throat stick. He had to swallow once to unstick his throat, and then once more when he realized it was Jake’s saliva he was swallowing.

He didn’t really want to get an erection with his boyfriend right now; because Jake’s face was kind of puffy and he still looked sad.

“I don’t hate your dad, I mean it.” Edward said, and it was true. Billy Black kind of scared him, and made him feel uncomfortable, but he didn’t hate the man. He couldn’t; because Jacob obviously loved his father so much.

Jacob nodded a little, the tugging had been Jacob pinching the photo back, and he was fiddling with it listlessly. “Good, because it’s hard for him, you know. I was the reason for the accident.” He said quietly.

“What are talking about?” Edward asked quietly.

“The one that … killed my mom.” Jacob muttered, leaning away and lying flat on his back. Edward lay next to him, propped on his elbow, the other hand stroking over Jake’s scalp.

“I was mad that she wanted to paint instead of play with me, so I ran away from home. I got far too. But one of my cousins saw me stomping outside and came and got me. She was coming to pick me up.” Jacob said and his voice broke at the end.

Edward shushed him, leaning down and kissing his forehead. “Jacob, Jake … you can’t blame yourself for that, you were a child!” Edward told him sternly.

“I know, and I try not to,” Jacob said, his voice steadier, “but I miss her.”

“I understand.” Edward said quietly. He didn’t, though, not really. He lost his parents when he was a baby; he didn’t remember anything to miss. A vague concept of a maternal figure, perhaps.

“Dad’s never let me feel guilty about it; he always said the last thing mom told him was that she was going to pick me up, and when he heard about the accident he thought I was in the car too. He was just glad I was safe.” Jake explained, his eyes looking wide and beseeching. Edward hated that Jake felt the need to convince him of anything. “He’s always tried to keep me safe, he’s stood up for me, always.” Jacob continued. “Moving us here was the first time he’d ever left Washington and he did it for me.” He said.

Edward nodded. “He really loves you.” He said quietly. Edward felt like an idiot; he was worried about Jake’s home life for naught. Considering this information, Edward had felt like he’d been trying to mask his own discomfort by making assumptions. It was the first time Edward had seen it, but now it was obvious; it was something they shared. They were both beloved sons.

“Yeah …” Jacob agreed, “if you make me choose you won’t like the answer.” He added, though he looked pained to say it.

Edward, though, shook his head. “I won’t, honey, I swear.” He said, and took a deep breath. “I love you, I don’t want you to be upset over this anymore.” He said, his entire body thrumming with nerves.

Jake, though, began to smile. “Thanks, babe.” He said softly. “Are we good?”

“Yeah, we’re good.” Edward said, nodding and leaning down for another kiss.

--

Edward had to actually try to make nice with Billy, to ease Jacob’s worry.

The man was sitting on the couch. Paul was also on the couch, but he was asleep and snoring gently. “Hello Billy, good game?” Edward asked.

Billy glanced up at him, looking slightly disconcerted. “… Jake’s upstairs.” The man said instead of answering.

“I know, I just wanted to say …” Edward took a deep breath and held it. He’d rehearsed this; ‘I wanted you to know I think I’m good for your son. We both have mothers we don’t really remember, and he’ll never have anyone who loves him more than I do’. But that wasn’t true, Edward’s mother was just the old friend of Carlisle that made him sad to think about. And he didn’t love Jacob the most; Billy did. Edward lost his nerve.

“Um, I wanted you to know I’ll have him back by nine, at the latest.” Edward finished lamely.

Billy didn’t even look at him, “oh sure, if he wants.” He waved a hand when Jacob came thumping down the stairs. “Not like I’m worried about him, you look about as dangerous as … well, you.” Billy looked up when Jacob poked his head into the room, grabbing Edward’s arm and tugging, and the man laughed.

“Bye dad!”  Jacob yelled, and like usual, Edward was rushed into the car like the house was on fire.

“So, were you nice?” Jacob asked as Edward drove them to the movies. He’d kept an arm on the shoulder of the driver’s seat, and Edward was very aware of how Jacob’s fingertips grazed his shoulder.

“Sure, found out you don’t have a curfew.” Edward said, and Jacob laughed just like his father. Edward felt triumphant, though, because Billy didn’t think Jacob was in any danger with him. As far as his father was concerned, Jacob was safe with him. It was a good feeling, being trusted, if not liked.

Edward had been shaken by his talk with Paul, because of his parting words. He’d called Bella, and she’d told him very succinctly.

“Edward, think. You’re dad’s a doctor from a really good family. You could murder Jake in the woods and serve three years maximum. That’s what happens; it’s why Jacob had his rule. Quite a few girls from his reservation went missing and once a girl was murdered, and the last person to be seen with her was a white man. They even found his DNA and everything, but he claimed he only raped her, and that she must have died some other way. He got three years, and the girl was the best friend of one of his sisters. Also, it's Bella, my name’s Bella, not Stella.”

Edward looked it up, and Bella sent him a few news articles. It made him really sick to think about, all the murdered and missing women. That night he got even less sleep than he already did. It made him feel like Jacob was fragile; he was so open and out-going, but easily riled up. And Edward could only imagine how worried a father could get.

Jacob was now playing with the collar of Edward’s shirt, which was extremely distracting. Usually, Edward was unshakable behind the wheel; he could drive through Rosalie screwing with the music, while Emmett tried to eat his own body weight in junk food, and Jasper and Alice making eyes at each other in his rearview mirror. But put a beautiful boy next to him and all his concentration flew out the window.

“Cut it out,” Edward advised him, and Jacob obediently sat on his own hands with a grin. “So? No curfew?” He prompted.

He was actually pretty curious. Even with their dad working such long hours; Carlisle usually called around ten on the home phone to say goodnight to both of them. Which meant they’d have to be home to answer it, if they didn’t forward it to one of their phones when they went out. But there was still an expected limit; this was like Emmett and his hippy parents all over again.

Jacob, though, didn’t seem at all bothered by it. “Nah, dad always jokes that he left it up to the rez dogs to raise me.” Jacob said, and then grinned. “And I always come back home!” He added, and Edward chuckled at how adorable he was.

He took Jacob’s arm until he pulled out his hand, and put it back on the corner on his seat.

“Oh, I forgot to tell you!” Jacob said suddenly, and Edward glanced at his grinning face. “I love you too!” He told him cheerfully.

Chapter Text

Rosalie’s father couldn’t make it to parent-teacher night. Well, when could he? She should probably just walk herself down the aisle, the way things were going. It was as though as soon as she sprouted breasts and started bleeding from her privates, he had no clue how to talk to her anymore. If he ever really did. She wasn’t even going to let it bother her; her mother had come, and she got to show Kenneth her classrooms.

The sweet boy was just discovering hair gel but still liked mom. Ken was also too cool to hold her hand through the halls, though he let her put a hand on his back.

Mi amor, don’t take him too far! Mama will go and listen to all the lovely compliments about her baby girl!” Their mother gave them both air kisses, before trotting off. Rosalie smiles at Kenneth.

“You wanna come hang out with my friends?” She asked him. He nodded amicably enough, and she took him towards the venue hall.

-

Emmett had his parents and three of his siblings with him. They were loud, and Sonny had already been whining about something, Sarah ignored everyone with her phone, and Mariam Jr was asleep on dad’s shoulder. He wasn’t happy to be here; his grades were average, like always. It’d just be a bunch of teachers telling his parents he needed to apply himself more. Until Coach would come up and congratulate Silas McCarty on his son’s talent; Silas, who, while always supportive, was not a big football fan. That would be Emmett’s mother, Mariam Sr.

At least he could hang out with Rob and his two moms, they were really cool, his birth mom rode a motorcycle. For half the year that Emmett was fourteen his facebook profile picture was him making a dorky pose on that bike, his dad printed the picture out and framed it.

-

Jasper was supremely embarrassed over even coming to parent-teacher night. It was stupid, he was his own parent-slash-legal-guardian. But Alice had already told him that she’d see him there, so he went. Plus, Carlisle always made a point of going to Jasper’s teachers and asking how he was going. It was kind of nice.

But he hated the stares. It wasn’t as though he kept his living situation top secret; he was honest if anyone asked, and honestly shot down any suggestion to have a house party. People thought because he made his own rules that he had none, which was kind of rude. He had bills to pay and had to clean up after himself. He certainly wasn’t going to clean up after a bunch of brats from his high school.

It was why he never let anyone actually know where he lived. The only people he’d had over were Alice, Rosalie, Emmett and Edward, in order of frequency. Maybe he was being too guarded, but he’d had enough of sharing his space in the foster homes; he was going to set boundaries for as long as he enjoyed it. At this rate, he might get tired of setting his own rules in about … never.

-

This was the first time Carlisle was seeing Alice’s art teacher, Ms Platt, after he told her how attracted to her he was. It was going to be awful, he even put it off as long as possible, by scheduling their meeting last. Alice usually kept him there for at least forty minutes, and Carlisle knew his little smarty-pants was probably catching on to something going on between him and her favorite teacher. Edward muttered about going to annoy Emmett and walked outside, while Alice skipped forward, eager to give Ms Platt a hug.

“Carlisle!” Esme smiled brightly as they sat at the little tables set out. It was one teacher to a table opposite two chairs. “Good to see you again.” She added warmly, and waved her hand. “Sorry about the air conditioning.”

Carlisle shook his head, trying to gauge how polite she was being with any awkwardness he felt. “No need, it’s quite temperate.” He assured her.

Esme looked him up and down for a moment, and Carlisle hoped she didn’t dislike what she saw. “Oh … I see,” her smile took a turn for the amused, “scarves must be a fashion choice, then.” She said, almost giggling.

Carlisle cleared his throat, and touched the scarf at his throat. He did have a fondness for keeping his neck covered. Alice nods cheerfully. “Yep! Dad loves Burberry!” She piped up.

“Alice!” He hissed at her. He didn’t want Ms Platt thinking he was an anti-American snob when it came to brands or something.

“What?” Alice blinked up at him innocently. “She didn’t say you looked bad. Where do you think I got my style from?” She added, waving to her own very nice outfit; a Loro Piana cable-knit sweater dress.

Esme laughed and tapped the table, getting Alice’s attention from her showing off the pockets. “Enough, we need to talk about your progress.” She reminded her, and Alice obediently quietened down. “Carlisle, there’s a contest I wanted Alice to enter,” Esme said to him, her tone very serious, while Alice groaned and flopped back in her chair. Esme eyed her as she added; “but she’s ambivalent, at best.”

“It’s in Chicago.” Alice protested with a little whine, sitting up again. “As in, if I get into the finals, I have to go there.” She said heavily, disgust evident in her voice.

Carlisle raised an eyebrow at her. “Oh? You’re so sure you’ll reach the finals?” Her asked lightly, referring to his daughter’s uncanny predictions. Not that he himself didn’t think she would; she was an extremely talented young woman.

Alice, though, gave a firm shake of her head. “I don’t want to risk it.” She told them stoutly. Usually, forcing his children into anything was not his style; but Esme sighed, obviously disappointed, and Carlisle would hate for Alice to pass up a chance to showcase her work.

“Alice, it looks like a good opportunity.” Carlisle cajoled her gently. “Why don’t you want to try?” He asked. Alice gave him an angry glare, no doubt not used to him pushing a matter ever, and stood up suddenly, flouncing off to the exit. Carlisle was a little stunned at her behavior, and glanced at an equally shocked-looking Esme.

--

Emmett was hanging out with his siblings just outside the venue hall. Well, little Mary was tucked in his arms, sleeping, Sarah was blasting music through her headphones crouched next to him, and Sonny was still with their parents. Edward had joined them all, but he was texting his boy and didn’t want to talk.

“Hey,” Rosalie said, coming with her little brother, Kenny. He gave her a nod, but shrugged his shoulders to mention his sister sleeping. Ken gave him a big grin though, and Emmett grinned back. He liked Ken; Sonny was his only younger brother, and at two and a half he wasn’t very fun. He liked it when younger boys looked up to him; like he did with his brothers, before they all moved away.

“Found y’all. Damn.” Jasper trudged up to them, his usually impeccable posture slumped slightly. No doubt seeing all these parents made him feel weird, but he didn’t seem to want to show it.

“No swearing,” Kenneth told him sternly. Jasper blinked, looking down at the boy and finally smirked at him.

“Nice hair,” He replied, and Ken petted his spiked ‘do self-consciously, leaning slightly more into Rosalie’s side.

“Don’t,” Rosalie cautioned to Jasper, “he’s working on it.” She told him sharply. She was quite protective of her little brother.

Jasper inclines his head and glanced over at Emmett’s sisters. It was no secret that Jasper wasn’t overly fond of children; that is, well-loved well-brought up ones. There wasn’t reprimands for swearing at younger kids in the foster homes, and while he never raised his voice, or even touched them without express permission; he could still be quite blunt and stand-offish. It frightened Emmett’s siblings for sure, and made Ken sort of nervous.

Alice appeared then, scowling heavily and wrapping her arms around Jasper, burying her face into his chest. He put an arm around her and shushed her a little as she gave a groan. Rosalie asked her what was wrong, but she only shook her head.

“Gang’s all here, huh?” Jasper asked, and Emmett gave a nod.

“Doc doing your interviews?” Emmett asked him instead, though Edward had already told him. Jasper nods once, but gives him a hard look. Emmett knew Jasper really liked that Carlisle made the time to see his teachers, even if the boy got solid grades and didn’t act up in class. But he was kind of embarrassed about it, so he didn’t like the subjects dwelled upon.

“Everyone at mine tonight.” Edward said, not looking up from his phone. Even if he hadn’t asked nicely, Emmett and Jasper agreed.

Rosalie only shrugged, looking out to where the parking lot was. Her eyes seemed to be searching, and Emmett could guess why. Rosalie mother had driven her and her brother, but Emmett hadn’t spotted her father in the crowded hall.

Emmett was tugged out of looking at Rosalie by Sarah, who usually daren’t speak in front of strangers. She leaned into Emmett’s side and asked him to drive her to her friend’s house for a sleep-over, since he was going to one. He told her he was surprised that she could hear what they were saying over her own music.

-

Carlisle was left with Esme, on his own, and didn’t really know what to do. He didn’t really want to excuse himself, and he knew he had to give Alice some space to calm down. He runs a hand through his hair and grimaces. “I’m sorry about her,” he said, “you know she respects you so much ….” He added.

Esme gave him the look that she had before, when asking about Alice’s progress. It was a look that said ‘obviously’. “I do know. It’s not a problem, we’ll work it out.” Esme told him, and Carlisle was again reminded that in some ways, Esme might have more contact with his children than he did. He didn’t know how he felt about that. “Listen, I wanted to talk about the recital ….” She started.

Carlisle had to stop himself from groaning. He cleared his throat instead, “Oh, it was so rude of me to leave like that, I’m sorry.” He said quickly. He hoped if he took to this like he ripped off plasters, perhaps Esme wouldn’t dwell on it.

“That’s okay!” Esme said quickly, and laughed a little, though it seemed to be aimed at herself. “… I left pretty soon after,” she admitted quietly, “I figured if I did you might feel more confident leaving the men’s room.” She added. Carlisle couldn’t articulate how ashamed he was that she noticed where he’d fled to.

He shook his head, “I’m sorry about what I said, as well.” He said, almost wincing at how strained his own voice sounded to him. “It was very inappropriate.” He clarified.

Esme blinked, and looked down at the table. “Well, it’s a shame you’re sorry about it.” She told him. “Because I really liked what you had to say.”

Carlisle was shocked, watching her tuck a strand of hair behind her ear self-consciously. She didn’t say it was a mutual attraction, but right now he focused on how relieving it was that she didn’t resent him, or that he hadn’t made her uncomfortable. He had had stress nightmares about Alice retreating into her shell after her art teacher asked for some space. In the light of this new information, though, he was ashamed to have assumed that Esme would be unprofessional, even in his subconscious.  “Really?” He asked.

Esme nodded, looking pleased but shy. She mentioned to the notebook in his hands. “If I could …” he passed it to her, and she took her pen and flipped to a new page. He watched as she wrote her phone number clearly, and slid the paper back to him. “If you’d like it.” She added softly.

He smiled and ripped the page out, quickly tucking it into his jacket pocket. She smiled at him, and they only parted because a Ms Dowling tapped Carlisle on the shoulder and politely asked if she could please have a consultation about her daughter.

Carlisle was more than a little grateful to her, despite Ms Dowling’s string of apologies for interrupting, because he was certain if she hadn’t, he may never have stopped looking at Esme.

He ended the night speaking to Mariam McCarty, assuring her that her son was not eating him out of house and home. Sometimes, he thought that with so many children, surely the kindly woman didn’t mind letting him keep her son for a time. He also spoke with Gloria Hale, peppering their conversations with enough compliments about her daughter to leave the willowy woman pleased.

In the end, he knew he left these people the same way he always did; with a trust in him to take care of their children.

-

Rose had said goodbye to her mother, Emmett had helped herd his siblings into his parent’s van, and Jasper even drove Emmett with his little sister to her own slumber party. Emmett mentioned that one of his sisters had a crush on Jasper, who muttered about how he hoped he was talking about Mary Jr.

Now, Alice was complaining to Edward and Emmett about how dad kept shooting her disapproving looks in the car about that stupid art contest, and couldn’t Edward defend her? But, Edward was quick to remind her that he didn’t care enough to do that.

Jasper and Rosalie sat on the couch, waiting for Edward to leave the room long enough to them to be strategically caught messing with his piano. They weren’t going to do anything; but he’d be so paranoid it’d bug him for at least a week.

“Hey, sorry your dad didn’t show.” Jasper added as they snuck over to the baby grand as Edward sailed out of the room.

Rosalie kicked off her shoes and crept on her tip-toes. “Sorry you don’t have one.” She muttered. Jasper gave a short exhale of amusement, and shook his head. Always playing offence, she was.

“What are you two doing to my piano!?” Edward roared, marching over and shoving them away. Jasper and Rosalie ran out to the kitchen, and after giving his baby grand a frantic once-over and finding nothing, Edward charged after them. “What did you do!?” He demanded.

Rosalie was leaning against the counter, where Alice and Emmett were eating cookie dough. “Wait – so why do you not want to go to that art thing?” She asked her, completely ignoring Edward’s spluttering.

Alice shrugged, and looked dourly at Edward until he stopped muttering. He huffed, and grabbed a large portion of dough to munch in silence. “… It’s on Jasper’s birthday.” Alice admitted to them. Even Emmett groaned at her reasoning. Jasper felt a little embarrassed, and then pleased, and then slightly guilty. “I want to celebrate it with him!” She argued, Edward scoffed, and wasn’t able to duck the cookie dough she flicked at his head because he was texting.

Jasper smiles, and hops up to hug her from behind. “Well, then I’ll have a Chicago birthday.” He tells her fondly. Emmett groaned again. “What? I saved up some money, I can go with you.” Jasper said.

Edward looked up from his phone. “Everyone! I am inviting Jacob over.” He declared, shoving Jasper in the face for good measure as he walks out of the kitchen. “I don’t want any funny business.” He added up the stairs.

“Edward!” Emmett yelled at him. “Tell him we’re all going to Chicago for Jasper’s birthday!”

Urg, of course we are, disgusting.” Edward’s disembodied voice floated down from the second floor, before his bedroom door slammed.

“I like Chicago, it’s my favorite musical.” Rosalie said, smirking as Jasper rolled his eyes at her. Rosalie detested theatre and musicals and anything remotely related to the annoying drama kids.

Emmett groaned. “It’s sport teams suck!” He argued, “But I’ll go for the art contest.” He added gallantly. Alice blew him a kiss, except Jasper snatched it immediately out of the air and tossed it onto the floor. “Way harsh,” Emmett told him.

Chapter Text

Jessica’s latest attempt at trying to gain some public recognition was a party. She was sure the beach party fiasco was solely Lauren’s fault, after Angela had explained it to her. She was hopeful that if she threw a party and invited the entire grade, the popular kids would make an appearance.

“You guys have to help me!” She beseeched them, grabbing Tyler’s arm for emphasis. “I need to have a super-rage party!”

“Release me, woman!” Tyler declared, tugging away and crossing his arms, though he was grinning. “You know, I think we should consider the fact that your parents would kill you.” He pointed out. Jessica’s parents were very straight-laced; in that they only allowed Bella and Angela to stay the night; no boys, no booze and definitely, no rambunctious parties. Jessica had never even had a childhood birthday party at her house because her parents hated the mess.

“It’ll be worth it.” Jessica vowed solemnly.

Mike laughed and clapped his hands. “Okay, if Jess is willing to look homicide in the face,” he declared with a puppy-dog grin, “we should at least get some streamers.”

Their table now included June Richardson because Jessica had forgiven her in light of Edward’s rumored sexuality, and Ben Chaney, June’s friend, who tried to sit next to Angela every lunch. They erupted into excited cheers and Bella gave a ‘here, here!’ even though she was still trying to read Anna Karena.

Angela, though, looked slightly worried. She touched Bella’s arm, which got her attention and she tucked the book away as a lost cause. “… I don’t have to ask again, right?” She asked quietly. Bella shrugged, and honestly hoped the answer was no. She wasn’t sure, but it seemed Angela and Alice still had a bit of tension from the last party invite.

Jessica, though, had heard her, and slapped a hand on the table. “No, babe.” She answered, and looked right at Bella. “How is Jake doing, lately?” She asked her with a wolfish grin.

Bella felt her stomach fall into her shoes. Jessica was banking on her? Oh, this wouldn’t end well. “… I’ll see what I can do.” She muttered, though, and pulled out her phone dutifully. Jessica clapped and gave her a big hug, but it was Angela’s relaxing shoulders that made Bella glad to do it.

--

Jake was hanging out with Edward; which included napping on the floor while Edward was practicing the piano. Well, Jake was trying to nap; he was actually avoiding doing something for Bella.

Hey, Jake. We haven’t been spending a lot of time together and I totally miss you. You need to come to Jess’ party this Saturday night. Bring everyone, seriously, it’s time for me to meet boy and co. Promise I’ll give my seal of approval.

Jake did want Bella’s approval too. He felt the need to prove to her that Edward was a good, nice boy, and that Jake could be trusted not to pick the shittiest of the shit stains this time around. But, it meant trying to get Edward to bring Barbie, peanut butter cookies to go, shortie and big bear. While Jake liked hanging out with them, for Edward’s sake; Jake was under the suspicion that Bella didn’t like them.

Jake knew Bella didn’t even like the party they were invited too as part of Edward’s ultimate plan to seduce him at D.J Garret’s. And she wasn’t the one that was mildly rejected by a then-virgin; she just didn’t like these people.

So he was grateful, really, that Bella would have them all at a party for his sake. Plus they hadn’t been spending a lot of time together and he missed her too.

Nodding to himself, he sat up and prodded the piano key at the very end a few times, which was the lowest one.

Edward glanced at him, smiling, and dutifully stopped playing. Jake stood from the floor and sat down to join him on the piano bench.

So, I have this thing I definitely want you to do … but it involves leaving your house.” Jake explained with a teasing grin. Edward mock-groaned, and leaned into him, resting his chin on Jake’s shoulder while Jake wrapped his arms around him with a smile. “But, it will get you into another person’s house, which is almost as good.” He added.

“Oh really?” Edward asked lightly, and tipped his head forward to give Jake’s ear a kiss.

“Bella’s friend is having a party; you go to school with both of them.” Jake said, and Edward rolled his eyes. He didn’t need to verbally remind Jake that he honestly didn’t pay that much attention to most of his fellow students. “You’re coming with me, no arguments,” Jake said sternly, “but I was hoping you’d get your friends to come too.”  He explained. Bella wanted to give them a second chance after D.J Garret’s party, and they should be glad that she did.

Edward tipped his head, considering. “Alice would love it, so Jasper will come. I could twist Emmett’s arm, so Rosalie might deign to make an appearance.” Edward muttered to himself.

“Good,” Jake said, “how about D.J Garret and them?” He prompted.

Edward raised his eyebrows. “You sure you’d subject your friends to those party animals? Their house might not come out of it in one piece.” Edward laughed a little, and Jake shrugged, almost dislodging Edward’s perch but not quite.

“I think she can handle it.” Jake replied with confidence, before nudging Edward’s chin off him, so he could face the boy properly for a kiss that wouldn’t twist his own neck.

--

They were sitting at lunch, and Edward was picking fries from Emmett’s tray with Jasper.

Edward looked at Rosalie, who was texting with her shiny-hair posse, and kicked her chair so that she’d turn to look at him, “So Jake wants us at a party to meet his friends.” He told her.

Jasper chuckled, saying in a teasing tone, “You two are getting serious, aren’t you?”

Yes,” Edward answered with no small amount of relish, “so we’re all going. Everyone, and we’re going to make good impressions.” He said sternly, trying to think of ways to be polite to a host. “Bring some bottles and whatnot.” He guessed aloud.

“Hey!” Emmett yelled to the group of rowdy boys, “Party this Saturday!” There was a general cheer, and Edward winced. He needed to go over what ‘good behavior’ was with these idiots.

Rosalie looked at the girl with a dramatic waterfall of brown curls. “Jenny, you should have told me that your fellow Event Committee member was having people over!” The blonde teased her a little. Edward thought the glint in her eyes was too serious, though.

Jenny didn’t seem to pick up on it, laughing a little too lightly. “Sorry, bae! Totally slipped my mind; I’ll drive people!” She offered.

“She doesn’t live far from school,” Katie said, glad to share her knowledge, “but it’s far from Fourth’s.” She added, sounding almost apologetic.

Rosalie shrugged, but Edward remembered Jake once complaining about the ratty kids that blasted pop songs in the middle of the night, and how annoying they were. “No Fourth’s.” He said firmly. That got a couple of weird stares. Which kind of offended him; Fourth’s was the diner his father would take Alice and him to, after his late-night shifts, when they were still doing their best to become a family. It wasn’t even for them. “There’s no need.” He added sternly.

Jasper snorted, and muttered, ‘Jake doesn’t work nights, man’. Which Edward gave him the finger for. Though there was some displeasure, the group agreed; no Fourth’s.

--

Alice had chosen her Amuse Society sparkle slip-dress to wear to Melissa’s party. Rosalie had shown up in her Alexander Wang long-sleeved midi dress with crystal cuffs. They were both wearing the same Marc Jacobs perfume.

“Matching is too cute,” Rosalie said with some repulsion. But Alice only laughed her off; she liked cute. She instead held up a light pink lipstick and a barely tinted gloss. “Lip gloss.” The blonde decided.

“Weird that Edward didn’t want Fourth’s after.” Alice said as she went to her mirror to apply the chosen lippy.

Rosalie shrugged and sipped from the vodka orange Jasper had left for them. “Probably doesn’t want to make Jake uncomfortable.” She said with a sigh.

Alice nodded a little, fixing up her cupid’s bow. “Well, he and D.J Garret probably would get sick of going to work ….” She muttered. She didn’t have a job yet, so she wouldn’t know.

Rosalie blinked. “D.J Garret works at Fourth’s?” She asked, sounding a little incredulous.

Alice hissed, and looked back at her friend guiltily. “Jasper told me; but he made me promise not to tell!” She said, frowning. “I forgot until just now.” She added regretfully.

Rosalie laughs a little. “Babe, I won’t blab. I don’t even care.” She added lightly.

--

Bella felt so awkward being here right now. There were so many people here; it turned out some college school guys had turned up too. Jessica was deep in hostess duties, and had both Mike and Tyler bartending. Bella felt a little lost; she definitely wanted to help, since Jess seemed to be a little more out of her depth each passing minute. But she was also trying to juggle avoiding Jake on top of that.

She’d seen Jake, with Edward tucked under his arm, come in about twenty minutes ago. She was strategically slipping out of the room just before he entered it; and he’d already texted her three times asking about where she was.

She replied with a multitude of excuses; ice run, sponging vomit, cleaning cups. She just couldn’t handle seeing him. She’d done this much for Jessica, and that was it.

--

Rosalie had danced a little with Samantha, but her heart wasn’t into the usual boob-shimmy and hip-bumping. She excused herself, and found D.J Garret, getting flirty with his boyfriend Connor. Rosalie hit Chijindu on the arm repeatedly until he left, and stood with her arms crossed in front of D.J Garret.

D.J Garret looked her up and down, looking more than a little unimpressed. He was, as he usually did, wearing black jeans, and a black t-shirt. He’d paired it with a black beanie over his long, straight hair.

“What?” He asked her blandly. They’d spent a good decade in each other’s company, about five times a year when their fathers brought them to boring company holiday parties to prove they were responsible parents or something. Which frankly, wasn’t true.

Rosalie flicked her hair over her shoulder with a slight tilt of her head. “You work at Fourth’s?” She asked him. If it were true; this may just be the leverage she’d been looking for.

D.J Garret glared suspiciously. “Who told you?” He asked.

Rosalie didn’t consider ratting Alice, and therefore Jasper out. She already knew of a solid scapegoat. “Edward’s guy.” She told him. She knew Jake worked there, and she knew he was very open and happy-go-lucky.

D.J Garret closed his eyes and sighed, leaning his head back against the wall. “Fuck. Yeah,” He said reluctantly, “dad makes me. It was that or an internship at the bank.” He bitterly added.

Rosalie snorts, “That last one sounds easier.”

He opened his eyes in a flash. “Well, sorry I was trying for a little loyalty.” He spat. “Didn’t actually want to be closer to your rapist than I already have to be.” He added with venom.

Rosalie gasps, but immediately tries to hide it. D.J Garret knew; in fact, most of the people who worked at that cursed bank did; but no-one is going up against the boss’ son. Rosalie certainly wasn’t going to have her sophomore year ruined by this information. “Don’t. You won’t breathe a word of that shit to anyone, understand?” She asked darkly. Alice knew, Jasper did too, Edward already guessed and it was really only curly hair and a set of dimples she was terrified of. “You do, I tell everyone about you, dishie.” She added.

D.J Garret seemed more cautious than rightfully scared, though. “Dude deserves to burn, Hale.” He pointed out, as though it needed saying.

Rosalie shook her head, feeling a heavy weight begin to press against her chest. “We’re not having this conversation,” she said, forcing herself to breathe normally. “I’m telling you to behave, and you’re going to.” She growled. D.J Garret raised his hands in a placating move, as though he thought she was losing it, when she was only asking for one simple thing. She was about to tear into him for thinking she was crazy, but then he looked past her shoulder and frowned.

Rosalie whipped around to see what had taken his attention. Alice looked out-of-breath and awfully pale. She came scampering up to Rosalie, and tugged at her hand.

What?” Rosalie asked, concerned and a little annoyed at the tugging.

“Royce’s here.” She whispers.

--

Bella had tried to escape outside, to the porch, to read her book. Unfortunately, it was as though her best friend knew her too well, or something. Jake came out with two drinks in hand, and took a seat next to her. He had the decency to look a little chagrinned. No doubt he’d realized her texts were just stalling tactics. “Hey, sorry I’ve been busy … with my boy,” he muttered. “I shouldn’t have blown you off like I have, you wanted me to help with Phil and I just-”

Bella scoffed at the name. Her mom and new boyfriend were the least of her concerns lately. Phil was fine, Phil was out of the danger zone, Phil hadn’t been keeping secrets. “Jake, that’s not why I’m mad.” She told him. “You’ve been keeping so much shit from me! You’re dating Edward Cullen, for god’s sake!” She shouted.

That was really the crux of the matter. Jake was leading the life she only ever let herself dream about subconsciously. He was doing it effortlessly, without even realizing what a blessing he was receiving.

Jake blinked, and shrugged a little helplessly. “Okay, well, we’re not dating ….” He said, but his tone was more uncertain than he obviously meant it to be.

“We’re not?” Edward’s voice drew both of their attention to the boy as he stood in the doorway. He was holding two drinks, and Bella had a feeling one of them was meant for Jacob. Bella felt her cheeks flush, and Jacob stood up.

He pointed at Edward and scowled. “I’m not dealing with you right now, leave us alone.” He said slowly. Edward lingered just a moment to fully purse his lips, before he turned on his heel and left. Jacob sighed, and turned back to Bella. “Sorry, goofy-”

“It’s Edward!” Bella yelled. The handsomest guy in her school; soft-spoken, boyish and the first love of her life. “You spoke that way to Edward Cullen!” She said again, for emphasis.

Jake threw up his hands, looking angry. “Because this is about us, Bella! Stop trying to change the subject!” He yelled accusingly, “I don’t understand what’s wrong and you need to tell me!” He demanded.

Bella waved an arm over the porch, “It’s everything; it’s always coming to my school and hanging out with those kids and Edward Cullen!” She exclaimed. How could Jake not see it? It was like her fantasy coming true, for him.

Jake frowned, and his brow furrowed.  “Wait, because you don’t like them?” He asked, and, tired, Bella sat heavily back on the step. Jake joined her gingerly. “Bella ….”

“You didn’t tell me you started hanging out with them.” Bella admitted softly. “You didn’t tell me the doctor’s son was Edward, you didn’t even tell me after the senior prank ….” She muttered. She felt left behind. Because Jake’s life wasn’t some perfect vision; he was starting fresh here, and it seemed she was another thing from his old life he was putting behind him.

Jake bowed his head and nodded minutely. “… I know, and I’m sorry. I know you’ve still been helping too, and I wanted to thank you.” He said softly. He reached out, almost tentative for once, his normal exuberance reigned in as he rested his hand on top of hers, and squeezed a little.

Bella looked at him, and sighed. He was filling out like a man, but he was still just a boy. And he was her friend. It wasn’t hard to inform Edward about the murdered and missing women last week. But it didn’t escape her notice that it was effort. Edward was putting in some serious time to try and understand Jake. Because Jake was worth it; he’d been through so much, losing his mum, leaving the rez, his dad’s health – he deserved good things. She wanted good things for him.

She didn’t want things to stay like this between them anymore. She leaned down and rested her forehead on the back of his hand. “I liked him, urg,” Bella groaned, “it was Edward I had a crush on.” She admitted.

There was a short, amused exhale, and Jake cleared his throat. “Bella, he’s been gay, like, the entire time.” The boy replied, with poorly hidden laughter.

“I know!” Bella snapped back. “Don’t you think I’ve realized that!? God, it’s humiliating!” She yelled, but she was fighting her own smile as Jake laughed loudly. She kept babbling, feeling so relieved to be able to talk to him again. “And those people only speak to me because I’m your friend, and did you know they called me ‘Stella’ for literally most of the time!?” She exclaimed.

Jake slapped her on the back, “Aw, baby!” He cooed. “His friends are just weirdos.” He waved them off, but Bella shook her head. It had really rattled her when she’d found out they didn’t know her name.

“They’re the most popular kids in school, Jake.” She says quietly. Because she was seventeen and that meant something. “You waltz in and straight away Edward is just …” Bella lifts her pinky and wraps her other one around it, “while I’ve been a nobody since middle school.” She muttered.

Jake frowned and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. “Are they mean to you?” he asked while giving her an affectionate little shake. “Do they bully you, or something?”

Bella snorted, trying not to smile. “Why? Would you break up with Edward if they did?” She said in a teasing voice.

Jake nodded emphatically. “Yeah! We’re not dating!” He agreed, but his cheer seemed forced. “Bella, you know I’ve had a shit taste in boys since …” Jake pauses, and Bella shakes her head a little. Jake didn’t want to say his name and Bella didn’t want to hear it, “for so long. You stuck by me though, you never pushed me, or gave up on me. You waited until I pulled my head outta my ass and saw him for who he was.” Jake smiled at her softly and a little sadly. “I trust you, goofy.” He says, and he doesn’t add ‘more than I trust myself’ but Bella can hear it anyway. It hurts her that Jake had come out of that relationship with his confidence in himself messed with so much.

Bella cuddles into him a little. “I want you to be happy, Jake.” She told him firmly, and she was glad that as she heard the words, she meant it. “Safe and happy.”

Jake rolled his eyes, but his smile was cheerier. “You sound like my sisters,” he told her, before glancing over his shoulder, back at the party. “…. I should talk to him, huh?” He asked.

Bella nodded. “Yeah, come on,” she stood and held out her hand to him, “let’s head inside.”

--

Jake left Bella with a nice long hug, and chased Edward to where Edward spotted someone in the front yard that made his blood boil. “Hey,” Jake grabbed his arm, grimacing a little. “I wanted to say sorry, about snapping at you before.” He said.

Edward shook his head and brushed Jake’s grip from him. He had to either get outside or find Rosalie and make sure she was okay. “Look, Jake, we definitely need to talk about this,” Edward agreed, walking away from him quickly, “but I can’t right now!”

“Right ….” Jake said quietly, his head bowed a little. Edward felt awful leaving him like this; because he knew Jake hadn’t meant what he’d told his friend. Jake had obviously panicked in the face of his friend’s ire, and Edward wanted him to know that he didn’t hold it against him. Jake had left his jacket in Edward’s room, after all, like a secret promise to him. Jake had even made him his own beaded necklace just two days before; Edward knew he meant something to him.

But Alice had come, very upset, begging Edward to help her get Jasper out of a fight with Rosalie’s ex.

It was some demented face-off. Three college guys; standing against Jasper, Emmett, Lee, Rob and Connor.

Jasper was damn near chomping at the bit to gear up to something, his twang was stronger than normal. Both from his fury and the drink he’d already had. Emmett swayed uncertainly next to him. Emmett was relatively sober, but he’d seen how Rosalie frighteningly shut down behind the eyes as soon as she’d seen the college guys that Jasper had immediately hackled at. Emmett also saw how the ‘leader’, Royce, had stopped just to scoff at her, like he was disgusted. It made Emmett furious; he wasn’t an idiot; this was obviously the ex, and something terrible was going to happen.

“What kind of loser shows up to a high-school party!?” Jasper demanded. It was like his anger stoked the fires in Emmett’s boys; Lee and Rob were a second away from ripping their shirts off, and Connor had drained his beer and held the bottle by the neck menacingly. “Can’t get a fuckin’ age-appropriate invite, pedo?” Jasper growled.

Royce looked Jasper up and down, and found something lacking. “Don’t you fucking start with me, white trash.” He replied. Emmett felt his own anger rising; this jerk-off had no right calling his friend that!

“Fuck off dickhead!” Emmett yelled, while Lee shouted; “No one wants your wrinkled old ass here!”

Alice felt like her hands were shaking too hard to be of any use. She’d give anything for Jasper to take over and help Rosie right now. Alice felt like crying; because Rosalie was staring into space, her lips moving but no sound coming out, and Jasper was screaming just a few feet away. Jennifer was useless, filming the altercation; Katie had ran to the living room to cry to her mother on the phone, and Samantha was almost hysterically shouting at Lee to stop it.

Everyone was focused on some stupid shouting match, and no one was here to help Rosalie! “Rosalie? Rosalie!” Alice called, slapping her cheek gently. Rosalie’s eyes rolled to look at her, but drew away, her gazing unfocused and shiny. “You need to look at me, look at me!” She called, sniffling. Then a familiar face appeared next to them. “Edward, she’s disassociating!” Alice told him, feeling her tears start to pool at her bottom lashes.

Edward had his eyes on the boys, but gave a nod. “Keep talking to her or call her father!” He said, pushing past her and the crowd to get to the boys on the grass. “Emmett, Jasper, guys!” He called, “You cannot start a fight here!” He snarled, and while Rob and Emmett seemed ready to step down, Jasper gave him a furious glare, and Royce seemed to smirk. Edward’s heart sank; Mr King was on the hospital board; Royce knew who he was. Edward watched as Royce muttered something to the man on his left.

The guy laughed, and nodded to Edward with a curled lip; “Better listen to your faggot, boys.”

Edward gritted his teeth, and Connor yelled ‘hey!’ angrily, but Jacob was there, his expression stormy. The hand on Edward’s shoulder pushes him away roughly. Jake points to the guy and snarls; “I’m gonna fuck you up!” Before striding up to him and punching him square in the face.

With a wild roar, Jasper tackles one of the other frat-bros to the ground.

But Jake seems done, he shrugs and stalks off, down the driveway. Edward wants to follow after him, but the football captain and Rob have the largest one between them, in something that involves a lot of wide ‘come at me’ gestures and boyish shoving.

It left Royce staring at the scene, looking ready to flee. He takes half a step back before Emmett’s in front of him.

Emmett immediately has his fists up, and gives a few more-than-solid boxing jabs right to Royce’s face.

Royce hits the ground after one punch, though, looking up at Emmett with terrified eyes.

The guy Jake had hit is shoved repeatedly by Connor, and not given an opening to retaliate, as he slips and lands hard on the ground. As soon as Jake makes it half-way down the path, the guy who’d gotten hit finds it safe enough to shout. “Hey! Come back here, redskin!”

The football captain gives a shout as the college guy struggles up and the shoving resumes. Jake had stopped at the word, but hadn’t turned around yet.

“Jake!” Edward calls out, able to get through now the footballers weren’t circling. He races down to him, but stops dead, as do several other people.

There were police sirens and lights flashing up ahead.

Chapter Text

Jessica had called the cops immediately after Jake threw the first punch, sobbing on the phone to the dispatcher while Angela hugs her, looking frantic.

Bella had watched Austin and D.J Garret have to team up to try and keep Jasper from punching one of the college boys in the face repeatedly, looking scary and out-of-control. Emmett was holding his own with that leader, Roy-something. Rob and Lee had circled the largest, and Connor constantly pushed the last guy after Jake had punched him.

Bella had seen Jake head towards her truck, though, and her flight or fight response kicked in as she races past Rosalie, and Alice, the former of which was staring blankly like she was drugged, while the latter cried in front of her. Bella hunted for her keys, planning on gunning it to her truck and driving off with Jake, when the sirens started.

She dropped her messenger bag, that she had been frantically rummaging through, and sighs heavily.

She goes out to the front lawn, where all the boys had frozen, and everyone at the party watches as the cruiser parks in the drive.

She slipped past Rob, who was standing in front of Lee and Connor, and raises a shy, reluctant hand.

“Hey, dad.” She mutters, raising a hand lamely. “Fancy seeing you here.”

Charlie Swan sighs heavily, and scrubs a hand over his face in a tired way. “How many people from your school?” He asks quietly. Bella shrugs and mentions to the house as a whole. Charlie nods, and ducks his head back inside the car. “Hey, Waylon, most of the kids here are from the good school. You know how it is; just get’em to scatter.”

The speaker on the cruiser screeched to life. “Alright! Party’s over! Stick around and we start booking people!” Waylon’s voice boomed over the microphone. In a rush, everyone started fleeing as fast as they could. Tyler yelled an apology to Jessica as he leapt clear of the fence to dive into Mike’s car.

But while the other three college guys fled, one with a black eye from Jake, another limping, and another with his nose and mouth bleeding heavily, Roy-something stayed.

“I was attacked!” The man said, and with his Manhattan accent, Bella wasn’t surprised; she wanted to punch him. “I want to press charges for assault!” He continued.

Chief Swan, though, gives his ruffled appearance a very unimpressed look. “We’ll take your statement.” He agreed, “Your father would want to know why you were trespassing on a bunch of high-schoolers, wouldn’t he?” He added. Bella was left standing awkwardly with her dad while Roy-or-Rhys came in very close.

“You … I’ll come by the station later,” He says softly. “when you’ve cleared out these brats.” He then left, though his obvious limp does massive damage against his collected speech.

Waylon waved out of the car. “Be seeing you, sir!” He says jauntily. “That bastard knows we might just test a few of those rape kits and get’im, he won’t come.” He added to Bella’s look. She didn’t know how to take that, but turns her attention to Jake, who had slouched up behind her.

“Jake! What’s the meaning of this?” Charlie asked him, sounding genuinely shocked. “You’re a good boy.” He added gently. Charlie grew up with Billy, and was overjoyed that his friend was in the same city as he was once more. It was a strange coincidence; after the divorce and after Charlie’s parents passed on, he transferred to their city to stay in Bella’s life and lost contact with people back home.

Jake shrugged, “Sorry, Charlie.” He replied. He nodded back to the extremely scuffed up lawn. “Those guys were just helping me out. One of them called me a redskin.” He added, grimacing.

“Now, Jake,” Charlie tutted, putting a hand on his shoulder, “you know that’s not the right answer ….”

“Excuse me, officer!” Edward yelled, running up to them from the sidewalk, looking tense and worried. “Those men, they weren’t invited, and Jake was just trying to-”

Jake put up a hand, “Edward, babe, breathe.” Jake told him, putting an arm around Edward’s waist to comfort him. “Charlie, this is the doctor’s kid, for the vaccinations. My guy.” He added with a shrug.

“Oh really?” Charlie asked, looking a little more pleasantly surprised. “Really?” He looked at Bella, who nodded her confirmation. “Well, alright, Cullen, yeah?” He asks, and Edward nods once, uncertainly. “We won’t tell your father, lord knows the man’s got enough to worry about, all those community projects.” Charlie continued, and gave him a wink. Now, Edward seems a little taken aback; as though he expected more. But Charlie’s already surveying the scene, and preparing to leave. “… Jessica’s parents won’t be happy.” He says, eyeing the extremely scuffled lawn and general trash everywhere. Bella winces at the mess.

She glances back at her father. “I’ll tell mom what happened.” She told him. It’d be better coming from her; if Bella used the right words and story flow, she could get Renee much more concerned about Jacob’s feelings than the fact that Bella was at a party that ended in a huge physical fight and her father’s professional presence.

Though Jake seemed to be recovering steadily. Edward had an arm around him, slowly petting his side and murmuring to him. Bella didn’t let her gaze linger on them.

Charlie sighs and smiles a little ruefully. “I know you will.” He replied softly, before clearing his throat a little. “How’s that … guy she’s got?” He asks, scratching the back of his neck in an awful attempt to remaining casual. Even Jake snorts at him, though he ducks his head when Charlie shoots him a look.

Bella shakes her head. She really doesn’t want to talk about Phil with her father. “We shouldn’t do this here,” she tells him, “I have to help clean up.” She added, knowing Jessica still needed a lot of calming down as well. She turned to the two entwined boys. “Edward, can you take Jake home?” She asked him seriously. She wasn’t going to mourn all her wasted Middle School years; she was going to move right on to making sure Edward knew that he better treat her best friend right.

Edward seemed embarrassed to be caught blatantly cuddling and jumps a little at being addressed. “Y-yes!” He nods, quickly, and glances at Charlie nervously. “I can, thank you, Mr Swan.” He said, and Jake waved a little, looking sulkier by the minute. No doubt he imagined the chewing out he’d get when Charlie told his father about tonight.

Charlie, though, just waves them both off. “It’s still officer.” He reminded Edward, before reaching out and petting Jake on the head. “Go on.” He tells them, and Jake leaves after a passing hug to Bella, and Charlie nods her off too.

Bella gives him a hug and waves at his partner Waylon, and heads back inside to help Jessica with damage control.

--

Carlisle had a date. He had the night off, his children were at a party and he had a date with his daughter’s art teacher. The restaurant wasn’t one he’d heard of before, but he was looking forward to finding out. He’d bought a dozen roses and a pack of four gold-wrapped chocolates.

Esme opened the door with a soft smile. “Hello, Carlisle. I’m just ready now, but did you want to come inside and see Oliver?" She offered, stepping to the side. "He’s all healed up.”

“Of course, I’d be delighted.” Carlisle inclined his head, and thanked her for letting him in. He left the flowers and chocolate on her side table, and smiled at the napping ball of spiky black fur. Old Oliver seemed more than content to doze through his mistress trotting up and down the stairs, gathering her shawl, her earrings and her phone.

The cat had healed nicely from his accident, and Carlisle was relieved when Esme assured him that she had taken the cat in with only one eye.

He glanced around the house. It was very well-lived in; Esme seemed to have a fondness for knitted throw blankets and cushions.

“All done!” She declared, smiling largely. She was wearing a pretty, blue dress, with a knitted white shawl and sensible matching heels. Her hair was loose about her shoulders.

“You look lovely.” Carlisle told her sincerely, and Esme smiled, looking bashful, and glanced away. Her gaze landed on his presents, and she gasps.

“You shouldn’t have!” She exclaimed, beaming as she hurried over to pick them up. Carlisle shrugs a little, very glad she enjoyed them. She hurried off to get a vase and fill it with water, and the exclamation woke Oliver.

Stretching and yawning, the black cat looked at Carlisle with his one good eye, very unimpressed, before slinking up the stairs. Carlisle wasn’t bothered by the feline brush-off; it was his owner Carlisle was trying to impress.

“Thank you so much!” Esme says, coming back with the flowers in a purple vase and setting them on her coffee table. “You’re very sweet.” She added, and leaned over to kiss his cheek.

He flushed with surprised, but he was more than pleased. “W-well,” he cleared his throat and offered her his elbow. “Your restaurant awaits!” He said, waiting for her to call goodbye to Oliver and lock up. She thanked him for opening the car door for her.

The drive was slightly stilted; Esme asked what his children were up to tonight, and mentioned she’d heard whisperings of a party when he told her, and that she liked the song on the radio, Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely. It got a little bit quiet until they parked, and Esme thanked him to opening the door for her again.

She just gave a little laugh when he opened the restaurant door for her, and when they were settled at their table, Carlisle offered to choose the wine. She promised she hadn’t the knowledge for it, but asked him to please pick a white wine, as purple lips would clash with her outfit.

“Well, white it is.” He agreed with a laugh, and told the waiter to bring out a moderately-priced Sauvignon Blanc. “So, how did you come across this place, Esme?” he asks her. It was a nice Italian establishment; with all the trimmings. Candlelight, plastic vines climbing the walls, white tablecloths. Soft opera in the background.

“It’s the first restaurant I went to by myself, after my divorce.” Esme told him confidently. That surprised Carlisle, and he found himself eyeing her hand for a tan-line. Esme, though, just smiles. “Thought I’d just slip that in there.” She added with a wink, and holds up her hand; showing it unadorned. Carlisle smiles as well, a little relieved.

“I was annoyed with myself, I was happy being on my own. But I just couldn’t for the life of me find an excuse to go out somewhere.” Esme explains, a little frown playing across her face, but it seems her good-humor couldn’t be dampened for long and she looks into his eyes with a smile.

“It was a Friday, and I decided to get dress up and drive around until I saw somewhere disgustingly romantic, and have a meal by myself. This was the place! I really like it here.” Esme sighs a little, as though pleased with her own little memory.

Carlisle nods, giving the place a second, more appreciative look-over considering this new information. “It does seem nice.” He agreed, and cleared his throat a little before asking; “So … an ex-husband?”

Esme shook her head ruefully. “It’s not really first date material, I promise.” She told him. He’s a little embarrassed at the question himself; it’d been a while since he’d even had a first date, after all. “It’s just been Oliver and I for the past nine years.” She added.

Carlisle was a little surprised, “Really?” He asked, “No-one else?” He didn’t want to pry, but Esme was single, and very pretty, after all.

Esme shrugs a little, unbothered, it seemed, by the question. “Didn’t think it worth the time, until now.” She added, eyes sparkling as she looked at him. The answer made him a little bashful, and he was glad for the waiter coming to pour their wine.

“Well,” Carlisle said, “I feel slightly less out-of-my-depth knowing it’s been a while for us both.” He admitted.

Esme looked surprised now. “Really?” She asked, “The English gentleman with a doctorate hasn’t captured another heart in a while?” She laughed a little.

Carlisle began to grin. “Have I captured yours?” He asked, but Esme took a sip of her wine and didn’t answer. “… With two children entrusted to me, and my job, I could hardly find the time.” He explained after the slightly awkward pause. “It was worth it, I’ve watched them grow into wonderful young people.” He added with pride. He felt his heart swell just thinking of his kids; he did love them both. Or rather, all five of them. By the tender look on Esme’s face, she understood how he felt. Of course, she would, Alice loved chatting, no doubt Esme had received the Cliff Notes version of her life.

“I feel like we shouldn’t allow ourselves to go down this topic; we’d stay on it for a while.” Esme says, and Carlisle nods with agreement.

He liked that he could be his normal, slightly dorky self. At the hospital, he had to be turned on, all the time. Plus, just last week, he feel asleep in the crash room and was woken up by two interns making out like one or both were dying. He’d just clicked his fingers and demanded they leave. Being the hard-ass boss had its perks, after all.

So he was slightly surprised Esme didn’t want to hear him mindlessly gushing about his children. “Really?” Carlisle asked with a teasing smile. “Well, I suppose my daughter must have already mentioned submitting to the contest.” He considers aloud, before nodding and turning to their appetiser menu.

Esme gasps, and leans forward. “What!? No, tell me!” She demands, a smile spreading over her face.

Carlisle waves her off. “I’m taking all five of my children to Chicago if she reaches the finals,” he says heavily, letting his forehead drop into his palm. “Have some compassion.” He adds, fighting his own smile.

“Well,” Esme reached over the table and taking the hand not holding his head in her own. “I’ll be there to help you.” She says.

--

Edward drove Jake’s car all the way to Jasper’s apartment, because Alice told him they’d fled to his place, and Jake told him he didn’t really want to go home tonight.

“Jake,” Edward said softly, the first real thing he’d said outside of mindless comforting shushing by the police cruiser. Edward was still slightly shaken by the police presence; they always made him a little nervous. “You defended my honor tonight.” He told the other boy when he finally looks at him. He knew there was probably much more to it; but Jake only swung after that awful asshole called him a ‘faggot’.

Jake shrugs. “I guess.” He mutters. “Lucky it was Charlie tonight. He’s my dad’s friend from school, they reconnected when we moved here.” Jacob explained when Edward was about to ask. “I feel bad for Jessica, she was really looking forward to this night.” He added, though his tone sounded like he wasn’t thinking about it very hard, staring out the window as he was.

Edward nodded, not about to tell Jake that he thought they had just left the house of a girl called ‘Melissa’. “Well, it was getting pretty out-of-hand.” Edward said. Before he’d gone to find Jake; he fought the crowd of strangers to get to the kitchen and the alcohol. Took him at least ten minutes. “You went to the backyard, but it was rowdy in there.” He added.

Jake looked at him sadly. “Sorry I didn’t say we were dating.” He told him. “I do think we are, if you want to.” He added, his tone was now hopeful, as though Edward’s own chest didn’t feel like it was about to explode.

Edward grinned at him. “Oh, I definitely want to.” He promised, and Jake waited for the first red light until he leaned over and gave him a kiss.

--

Rosalie felt like shit. She’d come to in the car, being driven by Jasper, his bloodied knuckles no doubt ruining her leather wheel cover. He was all but foaming at the mouth, while Emmett sat on one side of her, and Alice the other.

“Rosie!” Alice calls, sounding relieved. “Your eyes aren’t so dilated now.” She told her.

“What …?” Rosalie muttered softly. Her head felt fuzzy and her limbs were so heavy. She was trying to think back, but it had been so long since she’d had one of those out-of-body experiences again ….

“The cops came.” Alice supplied. She glanced between Emmett, staring out of the window, and Jasper’s still amped energy. “Edward demanded that he stay because he wanted to be with Jake.” She added.

“How do you feel?” Emmett’s voice was soft, and he doesn’t turn his head to look at her. Alice thought it was wise; Rosalie might consider them all her family, but she hated the idea of seeming weak in front of them.

“Awful.” Rosalie told him, grouchily. “I want to go home.” Emmett's hand was wrapped around her fingers, firm but not squeezing. It helped ground her quicker than not being touched did.

Alice shook her head. “We’re all staying at Jasper’s.” She told her. “If dad sees Emmet or Jasper’s hands he’ll get really mad.” She said sadly. She’d already texted their dad from her phone that they were having a group sleepover at Jasper’s, after Edward ducked his head into the silver beast to remind her when they’d climbed in, after the cops came.

Rosalie gave a nod, though. “Fine.” She said. Alice thought she felt more comfortable at Jasper’s apartment too; Rosalie spent a lot of time there herself. Jasper pulled into his usual parking spot, since he’d left his own car at the Cullen house, and seemed to have calmed down when he was driving. Alice gave him a bit of a kiss when he let them into the apartment. She was actually kind of angry that the boys had gotten into the fight in the first place; and that Jasper hadn’t helped her with Rosie. He, for his part, looks a little apologetic.

While Emmett sits quietly on the couch, rubbing his fingers over his own reddening knuckles; Jasper puts a saucepan of water on the stove, and pulls out the little tea-for-two Alice had brought over. It was really only her and Rosalie that drank tea anyway, it was certainly the only reason Jasper had a strainer and a box of green tea in his cupboards.

Edward drove Jacob up later, in Jake’s car. No one really said much; though Jasper hunted down a too-big pair of sweatpants for Jake to sleep in.

Jake glanced around the apartment; it was small but suited one person. Studio, with a large chest of drawers acting as a bedroom wall, to separate it from the living room. Everyone planned on squeezing into the living room; except Alice, who was already sitting on Jasper’s bed. Jasper had gone into his matchbox laundry room to hunt around for something for Jake to wear tonight. The room didn’t even have a washer or dryer; it was just a sink, a folding clothes rack and a door to the equally tiny balcony. Emmett, Rosalie and Edward were in the living room arranging somewhere to sleep.

Jake was surprised at how many of Alice’s things he recognized; obviously her perfume, a coat hanging on the door; some of those felt-tip pens artists used. She lived here.

Jake spent a lot of time at the Alaskan boy’s place; but he’d never left his stuff there. Thinking of that asshole makes him sad again, and he clears his throat.

“What’s with the shells?” He asked when Alice looks at him. A string of shells, pretty but too worn to be artfully distressed, hung on a fishing line in a string above the bed.

“Made it for him for his nightmares,” Alice replied with some pride, glancing back at them. She turns back to Jake, though, with a more serious expression. “Don’t tell anyone about Rosalie tonight, please.” She asked. Jake knew what trauma did to a person. Once, Jake remembered his grandmother, who spent her whole childhood in a residential school, when she was still alive, would stare blankly at a cross if she spotted one, and if left to stare at it too long, it would make her so sad she would cry quietly.

Jake wasn’t about to blab, because who cared? He didn’t hang out with the kids at their school. “Wasn’t going to.” He told her, and glanced at the picture Jasper had of himself and Alice smiling, framed on his nightstand. “I’d be more worried about how your boy flipped out tonight, though.” He added. Jake had looked back after he’d thrown that stupid punch, to see the boy sitting on a grown man’s chest, punching him in the face over and over. Unlike the other boys, with their usual pubescent bravado, Jasper had known what he was doing. It was brutal and gross.

Alice, though, just shrugs. “He’s been through a lot,” she said, her voice not defensive, but firm, “he’d do anything to protect his family.” She told him.

Jake frowned. From what he’d seen, some grossly over-age guys had crashed a party, and Jake was really the one who escalated things. “Who needed protecting?” Jake asked. Edward might have been called a fag, but Jake had nipped that in the bud.

“That man was my ex.” Rosalie says from behind him. She’s wearing an over-sized shirt and just her underwear, and doesn’t look Jake in the eye. “He wasn’t nice to me.” She added quietly.

Jake wasn’t particularly enjoying how hunched in on herself the usually flippant blonde was being. Jake also didn’t feel kind enough to care for her tale of woe. “We all have sob stories.” He tells her with a casual shrug. But Alice looks at him, wide-eyed and … worried. Of course, the girl with a boy she made strings of shells for wouldn’t have much to cry about. “Most of us.” He amended, though Alice seemed more concerned than before instead of placated.

Rosalie doesn’t seem at all offended by his unfettered attitude. She flicks her hair over her shoulder. “With the amount that I’m paying for therapy; I’m sufficiently over it. Trust me.” She said heavily.

Jake nodded a little. “Tight.” He replied, and she claimed she needed to brush her teeth, and left.

“I hope you don’t have any more sob stories, Jacob Black.” Alice told him quietly. But the sentiment from this tiny girl with too-big eyes unsettles him.

He shrugs and when Jasper appears at his shoulder with a large swath of something with a drawstring waist, he snatches it quickly. These people might be nice; but they weren’t Bella and they weren’t his dad. “I’ve got plenty of people who hope that, pix.” He told her, and left them to find Edward.

Edward was telling Emmett that he’d need to move the coffee table against the other wall, or someone was liable to put their foot through it in the morning. There was a mess of blankets and pillows piled onto the floor. Jacob came up and wrapped his arms around the boy. It was easy because Edward was about half a foot shorter than him.

Edward leaned into his arms and smiled. “Everything okay?” He asked quietly.

Jacob had a hell of a lecture due by his father soon, and probably some groveling to Jessica, but he nods. “It’ll be fine.” He replies.

Edward mentions for him to pick a spot after Emmett moves the table to his satisfaction. Jacob opts for the too-short couch. He didn’t mind his feet hanging over the edge, and he didn’t really want to be too near whatever Rosalie was feeling, with the weird gaze she had on Emmett.

Edward decided the couch sounded good too, and Jacob is squashed into the back of the couch to accommodate him. He doesn’t mind though; it feels good to have Edward in his arms, breathing into his neck.

Chapter Text

Gooooofy! I left my jacket at my boy’s house can you get it????!!! I neeeed it by 11 I have to drive Raaach. Love u bitch

Bella kind of expected this text. Jake was always leaving his jacket places; he wore it, got too hot, and left it anywhere. Restaurants, the beach, once he left it stuffed underneath Bella’s mattress when they were tipsy at her house. Plus it was a hand-me-down; his mother’s jacket, or, the one she took from Billy when they first started dating. Bella knew Rachel’s appointment today had something worrying to do with her pregnancy, and both of the Black siblings could do with their mother’s favorite jacket today.

Hi Bella this is Edward Cullen. Was wondering if you could go by my home and pick up Jake’s jacket? I’ll text you the address and the gate code.

Bella did not expect this text. It was a given she’d come pick it up, but Edward had texted her just to check? That was amazing. She didn’t want to dwell on why that was amazing; she no longer had a crush on Edward Cullen, because he was dating her best friend, and she wasn’t a skeeze.

So she was stamping right down on those feelings, and focusing on the task at hand, as she drove to the Cullen house for the first time. She was also ignoring how excited that made her, because that would be dorky. She’d already promised herself that she’d move on, and she should stick to it.

She pulled into the gated community with some trepidation. She punched in the code Edward gave her. It was a gated community built on quite a hilly area, probably because all the trees and decorative boulders hid the houses with their huge windows from their neighbors. She was driving uphill a lot. She was surprised by the amount of nature that surrounded everything, it was stunning.

Eventually, she found the Cullen house. It was tucked a bit further away from the others, at the end of its street.  It was really, a very pretty house, all surrounded by trees and rocks.

She pulled up at the curb, not wanting to pull into the driveway and block it or something. It was only just six in the morning, after all, she didn’t know anyone’s schedule. She was climbing out the car, and was too nervous to walk up to the drive, before the door opened. Bella ran to the other side of her car and pulled out her phone, pretending to text in some sort of panic move. She glanced at the house, and stared.

That was the young art teacher, Ms. Platt. She was stepping out the house, with Dr. Cullen. Bella had seen him at the parent-teacher conference.

She tried not to peek, but she couldn’t help staring, as he led her to a small red Mazda, and kissed her good-bye. Bella prayed that they wouldn’t spot her, and she instantly needed to pee.

The man didn’t seem too intent on staying outside, though, he waves at the car as it pulls out, before jogging inside. Bella purposefully kept herself focused on not tripping down the driveway; a path of square blocks of concrete, as she reached the front door. She knocked and waited, and there was a shuffling before the door opens and Dr Cullen pops his head out.

He’s handsome and looks nothing like his children. “Hello?” He asks, and Bella’s thrown for a minute by his English accent. “May I help you?” He prompts.

Bella flushes and nods. “Um, hi, I’m a friend of Edward and I came for a leather jacket in his room.” She told him.

The man looks a little surprised, but then gives her a polite smile. “Oh, well, my children are at a friend’s house,” he explains, and steps aside, “but I’ll show you up.” He offers kindly.

Bella’s a little surprised at that; she’d expected to wait at the door while he fetched it, but she was glad she wouldn’t have to wait in the still-chilly early morning weather.

“Thank you.” She tells him as she steps inside. She doesn’t gasp, but it’s a close thing. The place was beautiful; open and airy. She could see a full peninsula kitchen, with a breakfast nook that led out to some sort of patio. The living room was huge too, and Bella’s gaze rested on the table just near the door; a lopsided clay pig sat on a pile of mail. It was ugly and at stark odds with the lovely modern design of the house.

Bella was pointed up the stairs, taking the called directions into Edward Cullen’s bedroom from his father; who stays at the entrance.

She could so get weird right now. She tried her best, though, not to snoop. She saw a nice bed, two nightstands, a desk with a computer and a built-in wardrobe. One wall was nothing but windows, the other three were made of nothing but books and CDs. She tried not to stare, but it was hard; this was impressive.

As Edward had detailed in a later text than his initial one; Jake’s jacket was slung over the low couch at the foot of the bed. Bella snagged it and straightened up, satisfied. Her eyes landed on the headboard. Specifically, there wasn’t one; but there was a large picture frame, thrifted into a noticeboard.

Bella was focused on a few pictures of Jake she could see there. In the corner, as though trying to be out of sight, a picture of Jake lying on the bed that was in front of her, with no shirt and no necklace.

Bella crept forward to inspect the picture, hoping her eyes were deceiving her. As well as his jacket, Jake kept one more thing of his mothers on him very often; the necklace of the last, unfinished beadwork she’d been making. Unlike the jacket; it was something he rarely took off and never misplaced.

Now, there was a beaded necklace wrapped around Edward’s lamp.

Angry, or suspicious; Bella pulls out her phone and dials his number.

“Hello?” Jake’s voice was thick with sleep, and Bella frowns.

“Where are you?” She asks him. Jake usually woke when Paul did, which was early, and something he complained about frequently.

“Jasper Whit-something’s place. I should head out soon.” He replies, there a murmur, and a shuffling sound. “Edward, shut up.” He replies, almost laughing, and Bella’s blood runs a little cold. Jake just woke up in Jasper’s elusive house and Edward was there?

Bella feels a rush of even more concentrated anger. “Why did I even need to come and get your jacket?” She asks, waving the offending item like he could see what she was doing.

“I’m heading to mine now, can’t you meet me there?” Jake asked, a little whine in his voice. “I’ll buy breakfast.” He adds in a sing-song voice.

Bella’s angry that Jake hadn’t yet noticed that she was angry. “Where’s your necklace?” She asks him harshly.

Her tone makes Jake pause. “… Around my neck?” His tone was uncertain, and Bella scoffs.

“Really? Then what am I looking at?” She demands.

“What? Goof – oh,” Jacob seemed to understand that since she went to get his jacket, he knew where she was. “I made him one. A replica; I let him borrow the real one but I didn’t like it.” Jacob explained.

Bella was relieved that it was just a replica, but shocked and kind of horrified that he’d even loaned Edward the real one. “Jake, Jake.” Bella says heavily. “I never said Edward got my seal of approval.” She said, because this was extremely worrying. Jake never took that necklace off, it meant too much to him, he certainly wouldn’t have just given it to someone else.

Jake seems to realize where her thoughts were heading. “… Oh right.” He says, sounding at least a little ashamed. “No, I know. I won’t do that again.” He swears solemnly.

Bella was up all night, comforting Jessica, helping her erase all evidence of the party. She scrubbed handprints off the walls; she washed and made up Jessica’s parents bed because someone definitely had sex in there, and she was exhausted. She knew Jessica would still get screamed at for the scuffed state the grass in the front yard was left in.

“It’s just …” Bella glances around the room, and feels uncomfortable to be feeling so lost in someone else’s space. “You’re giving a boy your mom’s necklace, you’re punching people ….”

She wants him to say something, to apologize, or argue or something. Because she didn’t know what was happening with him, and he wasn’t telling her anything! The party had ended in such a disaster, she never felt like they’d gotten enough time to get back into a good place.

“Goofy, can you just drop off my jacket?” Jacob asked, and there a noisy rush of static as he sighs, “I’m gonna drive home now, so I’m hanging up.” Bella shoved her phone back into her pocket and stalked back downstairs.

“Did you find what you were looking for?” Dr Cullen asks. Bella jumps; she’d forgotten he was even there. He looks sleep-mussed, sitting at the kitchen island with a cup of coffee. But still so clean and shiny-looking, like a model for fancy men’s pajamas. Bella wondered what it was like to have such a strangely good life; of course, popularity would come to children who lived like this.

“Yes, thanks,” Bella said, flushing a little and waving as he bids her goodbye.

She drives to Jake’s house, and she’s relieved that Jake’s tiny red speedster isn’t parked outside. She knocks, and Paul answers.

He looks stern, which seemed to be more than his usual short-fused temper, his mouth a thin line. “Your dad came and said Jake got in a fight.” He tells her instead of hello, but steps to the side to let her in.

Bella follows him into the living room, and can tell that no-one else is up in the tiny three-bedroom home. Bella keeps wondering what Rachel and Paul were going to do when the baby came; this house was quite crowded as it was.

Bella shook her head. “He threw a punch at a guy that called him names,” Bella corrected him sternly. Though they both knew that was enough for Billy to chew him out, “he didn’t fight.”

Paul shrugs with one shoulder and flops onto the couch. “Still …” he muttered, and looks at her a little confused when she drops Jake’s jacket on the seat next to him and heads for the door. “You’re leaving?” He checks; he’d probably gotten used to making small talk with her in the mornings until Jake yanked her out the door, as was his usual routine.

Bella nods, though, adding over her shoulder; “Tell Rachel I said good luck!” As she hurries down the drive, she doesn’t allow herself to linger long enough on the thought that she was running away.

Chapter Text

Rosalie was the last to wake that morning, which was rare for her. She had a throbbing headache, she was drained, and she was not in the mood for what was happening. The girls had demanded a brunch session to debrief on the insane party last night. She knew she’d have to make an appearance, though, to prove how little the night affected her. Plus Alice had already agreed.

Emmett was staying at Jasper’s for the day, mostly to avoid his parents. He’d told his dad he’d be at the Cullen’s and apparently no-one had picked up when his parents called the house last night. Emmett didn’t seem too worried, though, just annoyed. His parents never made a big deal about where he went if he didn’t explicitly tell them, but if he wasn’t at a place he told them he’d be, they flipped. Edward seemed more intent on hanging around Jake like a shadow, or a dog. Jake was taking it with good patience, even if it was obvious to everyone else that he wanted to be alone.

Jasper had to call in sick from work; one of his knuckles looked purple and swollen. He was already gearing up to talk to Carlisle about it and refusing to let Edward poke at it, reminding him that his dad was the doctor.

“Are you sure you have to tell him?” Alice asked him with a little bit of a whine. “If he knows you’ve been hurt, he’ll get fussy.” She added.

Jasper gave her a regretful look. “I know, but an appointment would be too expensive, and I just need him to check nothing’s broken.” He said softly. Alice nodded, and flopped onto the couch with a sigh.

“I’m staying at yours tonight, Rosalie!” She declared.

Edward sneered at her. “No,” he said sternly, “I wanna go home tonight, and if I’m getting lectured, you’re getting letured too.” He informs her smarmily. No one, though, had any doubt that Carlisle would ask Jasper about his injuries, and Jasper would tell him the truth. He had a weird complex when it came to Carlisle, and unless under Alice’s direct orders, Jasper never lied to the man.

Edward was going through Jasper’s cupboard and making notes about what he needed to stock up on. Edward usually never came here socially; just to drop off groceries and pick up Alice. Jasper and he were probably the only two of their group that only hung out through obligation. Yet Edward still took it upon himself to keep the boy in milk and eggs.

Jacob was taking a phone call outside, something that had woken them all up, those who had been crashed in the living room. Rosalie felt like shit as soon as she opened her eyes, and was surprised to find herself tightly spooned by Emmett. But she couldn’t find it within herself to be angry about it. Now Emmett was eating a mixing-bowl of cereal at the tiny table Jasper had stuffed between the living room and his one-wall kitchen.

She deliberately squeezed by Emmett to get into the kitchen past Edward, and Emmett’s arm caught her around the waist and pulled her back. She trotted over willingly. “Hey,” he said softly, brow furrowed in a way Rosalie would never admit she found cute, “you feel better today?” He asks her. She nods, and leans over to kiss his cheek slowly a few times, making sure to get closer and closer to his mouth, before breaking away completely and making a beeline for the coffee. He just chuckles at her teasing, and she doesn’t let him see her own smile.

Edward scoffs at them both, but perks up when Jake comes back into the apartment.

“Hey, did Stella get your jacket?” Edward asked him casually, already reaching up to tuck some of the boy’s long hair behind his ear.

Jake’s expression is much meaner, though. “Her name’s Bella,” he said heavily, “and she’s coming by mine. I need to get yelled at by my dad and my sister.” He says, glancing around until Rosalie points out where he’d left his keys. “I’m going home, you’ll have to get someone else to drive you.” Jake tells him shortly, and doesn’t bid anyone goodbye as he leaves.

Edward stares at his sudden departure, mouth almost hanging open. Even Emmett winces. “Man, you can’t keep getting your boyfriend’s best friend’s name wrong.” Emmett told him.

Edward turned a dark glare on him. “What would you know?” He hissed.

Emmett shrugs, going back to his food, looking relatively unbothered. With so many siblings, he was more than used to ignoring a bad mood.

Rosalie, though, scowls. “He knows Alice, Sammy, Jenny and Katie, which are more of my friends than you can name.” She snaps. “You want to act like looking at all his post-work-out pics are all that’s required of a good boyfriend.” She tells Edward before he could interrupt her.

“Jasper put in ten times the effort you have, before he asked Alice out. What are you doing for Jake?” Rosalie asked him sharply. She was done with Edward’s simpering, selfish moods. Because getting into that big huff over Jake’s dad calling him names, and Jake starting that fight to defend him; it was all selfish.

The truth settles over everyone uncomfortably. Because no-one defends him; even though they usually worked as a group to keep Rosalie from unleashing her bitch out, (as though the three of them could stop her).

Edward was embarrassed and angry at Rosalie and her blunt, awful words. But he stood there, scowling, unable to come up with one way he’d tried with Jake’s friends. He barely spoke to Paul, even though he was the reason Edward had an iced coffee every school morning. He didn’t talk to Bella unless he explicitly needed something from her, even though they sat right next to each other in Biology. Hell, he never asked Jake about his sister’s pregnancy, despite the fact that Jake told him often how happy he was to be an uncle soon.

“… You’re driving me home before you go to that stupid brunch. Jasper needs to get dropped off too.” Edward growled, and stormed off to use Jasper’s shower. Rosalie just shrugs.

Alice sighs heavily. “Things are getting tense in the ‘burbs today!” She declared.

“We’ll go to yours first, so Jasper can get his hand checked and Edward can write another grievance against me in his burn book.” Rosalie tells Alice decisively, “you can change for the brunch and then come to mine and pick out my outfit for me.” She added. Alice hops back up with a happy squeal at the idea of playing dress-up, and hurries off to change. Jasper follows her, to either distract her or get ready himself.

Emmett was still sitting at the table. “Your friends are my friends.” Emmett told her, frowning a little.

Rosalie had hoped he’d forget the initial comment after her following tirade, but he hadn’t. “Well, I suppose they are,” Rosalie replied coyly, coming to lean against the back of one of the three empty chairs, in a way she knew made her large shirt fall open. His eyes flick down, and she smirks.

But his eyes come back to staring straight into hers. “Right, because we’re just friends, nothing else.” He said, picking up his bowl of cereal and standing up. “I’d certainly know if it were otherwise, right?” He asked casually, walking past her to the sink.

Rosalie didn’t acknowledge the sinking in her stomach, or the way her palms were sweating. She didn’t like what he was saying. “Right ….” She muttered, trying to keep the uncertainty out of her voice.

Emmett washed his bowl out. “I don’t date girls who are too tough to just tell me we’re dating.” He says, his voice much more intense now. Rosalie looks away, over to the front door, which was what she wanted to walk through. She didn’t like this conversation at all.

“That’s all it would take, too,” Emmett says, and his tone is just beginning to sound cheeky. “I’ve never been accused of being a complicated guy.” He adds lightly.

Rosalie glares at him, his joking causing her feeling of nervousness turn to fury in her belly. “No, you’re very simple.” She told him heatedly, “I should get ready to go.” She adds, before taking the chance to shove past Edward into the bathroom as he walked out.

--

Rosalie herded Alice, Jasper and Edward into her silver beast, and firmly ignored Emmett as they drove off.

“He’s gonna eat all my food.” Jasper says, though he doesn’t sound particularly annoyed about it. He might even like the idea of coming home to company after Carlisle gave them all a lecture about the dangers of parties in the upper-lower-middle-class suburbs.

Edward, though, was still angry at Rosalie for pointing out that he was a bad boyfriend, and was slumped tightly against the window in the backseat.

“Babe, couldn’t you at least wait for me to leave before telling dad how you hurt your hand?” Alice asked, pouting.

Jasper nods easily. “Sure,” he agrees, “if he doesn’t ask.” He adds.

Alice sighs and slumps back in her seat. “We’re dead.” She informs them.

Rosalie glances at them all and their glum mood. She loved Carlisle too, of course, but she had her own, shitty dad, and didn’t really need his good opinion half so much. Plus, no-one, none of them, knew that Rosalie had to go to Carlisle once in private, a couple weeks before she broke up with Royce.

Rosalie sighs heavily. “Tell him just who was there.” She announces. The fervid gaze Jasper turns on her in so strong it’s almost furious, and Edward stares at her with a sharp frown.

Alice gasps, her hands covering her mouth, before she pulls them away to speak. “What? But …”

Rosalie waves her away. “Carlisle knows.” She says, irritable that they had to dwell on the subject. “He always has – tell him Jasper reacted because He crashed the party and your dad will understand.” She told them, her voice and hands mercifully steady despite how her insides trembled. “He won’t approve; but he probably won’t ground you.” She added, and Edward shook his head sharply; as though he wanted to deny that their main concern was their dad’s punishment.

No one says anything to her for the rest of the car-ride home. Edward seems as though he was staring out the window to avoid having to be concerned about her. Alice looked at her with wide, wet eyes, but after Rosalie didn’t say anything else, she ducked her head and kept quiet. Jasper, though, had leaned back in his seat, and every time Rosalie glanced in the rear-view mirror, she met his steady gaze.

The silver beast pulls up to the Cullen house in the same silence, and Rosalie slams the car door much too hard. Almost comically, the four of them troop into the house like men condemned.

Carlisle is sitting in his inside slippers, in the breakfast nook, reading a novel Edward had had his nose in last week. He looks up at their arrival, and beams. “Morning, dears!” He says, and stands up to greet them all. He takes in their sullen faces with dismay. “Oh, not a good party?” He asks kindly.

Edward shakes his head. “No, for several reasons.” He replies, grabbing Jasper’s wrist and yanking it up; showing his hand for inspection. Jasper looks annoyed, but seems reluctantly tolerant of his actions.

Carlisle’s eyes go wide, and he immediately looks concerned. “Oh! Jasper,” he tutted, taking the boy’s hand from Edward’s grip and inspecting it, “what happened!?” He demanded, and his voice was almost angry, though mostly worried.

Jasper glances at Rosalie, who tosses her head. She had wanted one of them to say it for her; but it seemed this was something she’d have to do herself, like most things. “… Royce showed up, that’s what happened.” She says. She forces herself not to think back on the last time she’d said his name aloud; in her bed with Emmett.

Carlisle’s expression shifts dramatically through several emotions; worry, upset, anger and finally settles on something stern but not harsh. “… I see, are you alright?” He asks and she gives one short nod, before walking over to the living room without another word. They accept her departure, and Carlisle’s attention returns to Jasper’s hands. “Well, I’ll have a look now, come here.” He tells the boy, ushering him next to the sink. Jasper goes willingly, and Alice follows after them. Edward doesn’t move though, crossing his arms. He was ready to accept any punishment, while claiming it cruel and unruly.

“I don’t need to tell you all I don’t approve of violence.” Is all Carlisle says lightly to his son. Seemingly miffed that his high defence was for naught, Edward takes the seat and the novel that his father had discarded. “Where’s Emmett?” He asks the room mildly.

“At mine.” Jasper supplies readily. “His parents called here and he didn’t answer.” He added. Carlisle makes a hum of understanding, and sighs a little.

Alice’s face scrunched up in a sudden thought. “Where were you last night, dad?” She asks him. “I thought it was your night off?” She prompts. That gets the attention of Edward as well, as he tosses the book back down.

Carlisle looked a little like a deer in headlights, but only for a moment. “Well, I got called in,” he explained hurriedly, eyes dropping back onto Jasper's hand, “you know how it is ….”

Jasper nods, satisfied, but he seems to be the only one who thinks the man is telling the truth. Edward locks eyes with Alice, but neither of them say anything and Carlisle doesn’t notice, his attention still on Jasper’s injuries.

Alice glances at the doorway when the sound of the television comes from the living room, and she steps away from Jasper. “Dad, Rosalie and I have a brunch with the girls!” She calls, “I’m gonna go change!” She adds, walking to where Rosalie sits, her arms crossed tightly over her chest, watching the screen blankly.

But with Alice’s tap on her shoulder, she stands, and Alice leads them both upstairs. Edward puts on a noisy rendition of the same piece he played at his recital, so long ago, and Alice hops into the shower.

Rosalie sits on the bed and ignores the stupid urge she felt to call Emmett. She doesn’t linger on why he spoke to her that way at all, she doesn’t want to think about it. Instead, she forced herself to focus on finishing the short story she had started in Hard Candy, that she’d left in a duffle in Alice’s room.

By the time Alice comes out of the shower, Rosalie is feeling a little more in control.

“You okay, babe?” Alice asks her as she makes a beeline for her ridiculously large walk-in closet.

Rosalie nods absently, though Alice couldn’t see as she’d already walked in.

Alice came sailing out decked in the Haute Hippie off-the-shoulder floral silk dress she’d gotten at the Richard’s Square Slam Sale, holding a sandy cashmere cardigan. She picked out a neutral YSL clutch Edward had bought for Emmett to give her for her birthday last year and her little Cole Haan low-wedge sandals in the same color.

Alice came up to her and held up a light pink or gold lipstick, and Rosalie chose the pink for her. She thanked her nicely, and stuffed it into her bag.

“You picked such a tiny bag. I’ll have to choose a normal size and carry half your stuff.” Rosalie bemoaned; but that was a lie. Rosalie didn’t carry anyone else’s things. Alice just laughs lightly, and shrugs a little; she knew the truth it just didn’t bother her.

“I need to check on my honey!” Alice called and walked out of the room. Rosalie followed her, and found Alice tucked under Jasper’s good arm, as the other one was being wrapped.

“Maybe I should stay with you instead of brunch.” Alice coos. But no one seems at all happy with the suggestion, least of all Jasper. His male pride wouldn’t allow for his girl to see him in any type of pain if she could avoid it.

He nodded to the other overly-defensive person in the room, Rosalie, who looks livid at the idea of being ditched. “Go with Rose, I’m fine.” He tells her lightly. “Me and Emmett will just hang out, play xbox or something.” He adds, and that name makes Rosalie flinch; something she knows Jasper had seen.

“Emmett and I, dear,” Carlisle muttered, focused mostly on dressing the wound.

“No, sorry, you’re not invited.” Jasper replied, smiling when Carlisle glanced up at his face with dull amusement.

Suddenly, the piano keys were smashed randomly, and Edward came marching in. “That’s the song I created for Jacob! I composed it with only him in mind!” Edward declares, his gazed locked on Rosalie.

If he expected her to be moved, he expected her to be in a very different state of mind. “Sure, okay, what’s his sister thinking for baby names?” Rosalie asked him. Some pretty piano piece didn’t mean Edward actually tried to be a constant, real presence in Jake’s life, instead of keeping the boy holed up with his friends, in his home, on his terms. Because Edward was selfish.

Edward growled at her to get out, and stomped up the stairs.

“Edward! Don’t be so emotional!” Carlisle chided him, and tutted at the resounding slamming of his door. “That boy …” He sighed. “Doesn’t one of you want to stay with me to keep me better company?” He asked, but he laughs straight away.

Alice kisses him and Jasper good-bye, and Rosalie does the same. The kiss surprises Carlisle a bit, as Rosalie rarely initiates touches.  She doesn’t stop to see the pity or concern in his expression, as she leaves the house before Alice even ducks out of Jasper’s arm.

-

Rosalie drove them to her apartment, and sighs when she pulls in next to her father’s car.

“Of all days ….” She muttered, and Alice gives her a sympathetic pet on the arm, before hopping out of the car. Alice continually glances at Rosalie as they take the two elevators to the penthouse. Rosalie feels her gut clench tighter the closer they get to her door. This was the most high-quality, luxury apartment tower in the city, with a full gym, heated infinity pool, 24/7 room service and every other amenity. But now, Rosalie detests where she lives.

Her father is sitting at the glass dining room table, his laptop and several papers in front of him. He looks up at the door and smiles at them. Rosalie can’t help but makes comparisons; Carlisle was always pleased to see them, but there was nothing warm in her father’s expression that she could see. Dr Cullen had sat in pajamas, with a cup of tea; but her father was already in his suit and tie business mode. Carlisle was slim and handsome. Her father was rotund and always unbecomingly flushed.

“Ah, Rosie, darling. How are you?” He asks lightly; as though he was speaking to a friend, instead of his own daughter.

“I’m well, daddy.” Rosalie replied, in the same, distant tone. “You remember my friend, Alice.” She adds, for her father’s benefit. It was very unlikely that he did.

He inclines his head. “Of course, it’s good to see you again.” He tells Alice, already turning away, back to his papers.

Alice, for her part, looks only slightly nervous in his presence. “You too!” She replies cheerily.

Her father gestures to a rectangular white box on the table, set away from his work. “I have a present for you, Rosie.” He says.

Smiling prettily, Rosalie walks up to the box. It was Belle Fare. She delicately pries the lid off the box, and makes sure to gasp in pleasant surprise. It was the grey layered mink fur coat.

“Daddy!” She squeals, going and hugging him around the shoulders loosely. “I love it, thank you.” She said, fluttering her lashes just so and smiling with her teeth.

“Of course, my love.” He answers, petting her cheek just a little. He waves over to the stairs, his smile still fixed. “I won’t keep you, I’m sure you have plans.” He tells them.

Rosalie ushers Alice upstairs so as not to disturb her father; or more accurately face the full brunt of his almost immediate dismissal.

She doesn’t care; this was the first time she’d seen him in two weeks, but it didn’t matter. It also didn’t matter that just last month her mother had purchased the Alice + Olivia leopard faux-fur long coat. It didn’t matter that her father’s solution to becoming bored with having a daughter was to buy her pretty things and never come home.

Alice doesn’t say anything; climbing onto the cushion of Rosalie’s bay window and looking down at the people below.

“What should I even wear, Alice?” Rosalie asks, almost snapping at her. Rosalie let Alice coordinate her outfits because it was easier, so she certainly didn’t approve of her inattention now.

Alice doesn’t seem to mind the gruff tone, but doesn’t look up. “A pair of your white jeans that make your ass look great, and that halter-neck tank from Rebecca Taylor.” Alice recites dutifully. Rosalie makes a show of flinging half her clothes aside to find the selected items, but she has no audience. Alice is still looking out the window.

Rosalie went and showered, all the while feeling slightly regretful for her attitude. Alice wouldn’t be bothered, she never was, but she didn’t deserve Rosalie’s misplaced ire. She got out of the shower, and let down the mermaid braid Alice put in her hair last afternoon, and it curled nicely around her shoulders.

Rosalie took her time with her make-up; even if it was her normal, neutral look she could do in five minutes. But, she finally stepped out, and Alice was lying on her bed, staring up at the ceiling. Rosalie’s taupe Isabelle Marant booties, and beige Givenchy tote were laid out next to her.

“Thanks,” Rosalie said, throwing her basic things into the bag. “Did you want me to carry any of your stuff?” She asks, slightly awkward.

Alice looks at her then, a corner of her mouth pulling up. “No, unlike you I don’t pack like a girl scout.” She said, and Rosalie smirked back.

“Girl scouts don’t carry half as much Cloé as I do.” She replied.

Alice shrugs, standing up and allowing Rosalie to spritz her with the same perfume she was wearing. “Well, except for that, your outfit is all from your dad.” Alice tells her.

Rosalie freezes, and glances down at herself, as though she wasn’t aware she had a body. But she was always aware, and, she realized Alice was right. Everything had been a gift from her father.

Annoyed, she picks up her YSL moto jacket, which her father hadn’t bought her, and leaves Alice giggling in her wake.

But when they walk back downstairs, her father is gone. The white box signals that he had ever been there. She’s certainly not disappointed that he wasn’t here to see her wearing all his presents, and for a moment she’s disgusted she even allowed Alice to do this.

Alice, for her part, looks a little distressed. “I thought he was still here …” She said simply.

Rosalie shakes out her hair and double-checks her lip gloss in the hallway mirror. Still perfect. “Who cares?” She retorts, and opens the front door. “Let’s go.” She added impatiently.

--

At brunch, the girls take their time with a few group selfies, before sitting and chatting about the night before. Alice evaluated and accessed outfits; a solid ink-spot Tanya Taylor cut-out dress on Jenny, with the blank patent leather buckled Burberry sandals, with Katie’s embroidered linen cropped Johnny Was jumpsuit and Michael Kors brown suede flats, and Sammy’s Jason Wu red floral sleeveless dress was paired nicely with the Eileen Fisher black velvet sneakers.

Jenny was looking at Rosalie as though she had discovered a way to increase your cup size overnight. “I can’t believe you had two boys fight over you!” She gushed, her eyes shiny and wide.

Katie seemed more intent, putting her hand over Rosalie’s. Alice didn’t wince, entirely, at the gesture, the same way Rosalie doesn’t entirely bristle. “When Royce showed up, you got so weird, babe.” The red-haired girl said seriously.

Rosalie flicked her hair over her shoulder and gave a full-body shudder, knocking Katie away by wiping her hands like she’d touched something icky. “Well, you would get weird too!” She argued, almost angry, “I was freaking, baes!” She added, which was the truth.

She knew she had to knock them off her scent, though. So she reached out, grabbing Katie and Sammy’s hands and leaning in closely. “Swear, it was you girls that were the only thing keeping me together.” She said quietly, so they couldn’t doubt her sincerity. Even though they really should; she was lying through her teeth. But Rosalie doesn’t get pushed into saying anything she doesn’t want to.

But they melt at her words, looking at her like she’d just declared that the girls at this table were her family. They coo and promise to always look out for her, and Alice murmurs some agreement too, but her gaze isn’t in it. They sum up the party thusly; atrocious guest list, barely got started, massive waste of time.

Rosalie enjoys the brunch solely because it puts her firmly back in control. Jennifer knew what popularity was. The girl slipped into line easily because being with Rosalie did what her parent’s broken marriage didn’t; it made her feel good, it made her feel on top and powerful. Samantha only needed a limitless credit card to show her true colors; years of being on the outside, of looking at girls like Rosalie but never having the right look to be acknowledged by them. She came straight up from the mass of common folk and being in the elite group; who only hung with the cutest boys, who only appeared at the best parties, gave her everything she ever dreamt. Katie was an easy enough pick; she was like a high-strung bow string, no doubt scared of stepping out of place and losing her spot. She’d been middling semi-noticeable for most of middle school, and being graced into Rosalie’s ranks finally broke her through the mold.

Rosalie liked having these girls backing her up; pretty, loyal and dressed to match. She was meant for this role; to have these girls flanking her as she waltzed through life.

She kissed them all loudly good-bye, and the girls converged around her. Katie hugged her and leaned into her like she thought Rosalie was going to disappear. Sammy had a reverent hold on her hand and Jennifer wouldn’t break eye contact for anything. These girls could genuinely like her, if she gave them the chance. But that was a weakness and it wasn’t a necessity. She bids them goodbye and Alice trots next to her to the car.

Rosalie sighs when she climbs behind the wheel. “That went well.” She decides with a firm nod.

“We going to mine?” Alice asks her, though she must know the answer was yes. Rosalie wouldn’t be going home until she was absolutely sure her father wasn’t there.

-

Alice goes to Jasper as soon as they pull up; he was still there. It made Rosalie nervous … it might mean – Emmett was sitting on the couch, playing a video game.

“Clean bill of health?” Alice asks her boyfriend, who kisses her and nods firmly. “Good!” She tells him. She immediately rounds on Emmett. “Em, what are you doing here?” She asks brightly.

He shrugs, grinning at her, as though dimpling at her would proclaim his innocence. “What? Can’t hang out with my friends?” He asked, spreading his hands wide. The word ‘friends’ makes Rosalie’s stomach clench. Then Emmett gets shot in his game and scowls at the television screen, focusing on it again.

“I went and picked him up.” Jasper confirmed, smiling at Alice as though just her face made him happy. “I wanted to wait here for you.” He added. Alice kissed him sweetly, and scurried up to dump her handbag on her bed and get Edward out of his room.

Jasper’s eyes land on Rosalie. He looks curious now; no doubt Emmett had regaled him about their confrontation in his kitchen. That boy couldn’t keep a secret to save his life.

“How did wooing your loyal followers go, Rose?” Jasper asks her, his tone light, but his gaze serious.

Rosalie shrugs, taking the armchair on the other side of the room. “Those girls woo me, Jasper. I’m just accepting my dues.” She told him.

Alice bounced back down, frowning. “Where’s Edward?” She asked them.

“He went with your dad somewhere ….” Emmett muttered.

Jasper stands and walks to her. “We’re house-sitting.” He says, his low tone bringing out his accent more than usual. “Maybe we should keep Pernickety company.” He adds softly. Alice giggles a little.

Rosalie rolls her eyes, but she’s sincerely hoping Alice won’t take her boyfriend upstairs right now. Not particularly because she didn’t want her best friend to get some, of course, but because she didn’t want to be left with Emmett alone. Plus she didn’t really want to be in her house if Alice was having sex, but she also couldn’t stand going home.

Alice glances at Rosalie, her eyes calculating. Rosalie shook her head minutely. “You and Emmett can house-sit, right?” She asks.

Emmett grunts out a ‘sure’, before he is pulled into some type of high-stakes situation in the game and ignores them. Rosalie scowls, but Jasper meets her gaze steadily.

“Always on the defense, Rosie. Even if no one is taking up the offence.” He says calmly. She flips him off and ignores them both as they go upstairs. The house is airy, but well-built; the sound doesn’t carry as Alice closes the door to her bedroom.

Emmett flops back on the couch, the noisy game cutting off suddenly. Rosalie glances at the black screen, and finally glances at Emmett. He meets her gaze, as though he was waiting for her to look at him.

He shrugs with one shoulder. “I was killing time waiting for you.” He explains, standing up slowly and not moving at all.

Rosalie stands too in case of he was thinking of towering over her, and puts on a feigned expression. “I don’t care,” she tells him.

Emmett looked sad, hurt, even. His shoulders slumped and Rosalie thought right now, she was larger than he was. “Rosie, don’t do this. What am I doing wrong here?” He asks. “What makes it seem so impossible for us to be together?” Rosalie shifts a little on her feet, unable to keep looking into his broad, earnest face.

She wasn’t going to tell him she was afraid. She’d told him too much when she’d drunkenly let him stay in her house, in her bed and then her bathtub. “Did you have Carlisle look at your hand?” She asks him instead, trying to keep her voice steady.

Emmett lets her change the subject. “Nah, I only got a few hits in; barely anything.” He replied, glancing down at his bruises. “My brothers taught me to box, you know that. I’m not Jazz-man, I couldn’t pummel him to a pulp, that would be too gross.” He adds, smiling just a little. He’d smiled like that when he woke her after that night in her tub, quietly telling her he had to go home, kissing her forehead and seeing himself out. It was like a secret; her mother hadn’t found out, her brother none the wiser, her father, as always, not even there.

Too gross. Rosalie looks at Emmett, this big, happy man, who didn’t want to beat a man, because he had nothing to prove. A man who just wanted her. She steps up over to him, and he waits.

“You don't fight very often, do you?” She asks him, but she already knew the answer. Jasper’s outburst last night hadn’t shocked Rosalie; the boy was used to fighting for everything he had, even if own independence. But Emmett, the way he strolled through the halls, and gave and received touches and affection. He was gentle and raised fondly and he didn’t care if he showed it.

“I can handle myself.” Emmett tells her, his eyes intense. “But I don't have to."

Rosalie strokes her fingers over his curly hair, and he watches her do it. She was fighting him because she feared getting hurt again. Emmett wouldn't fight forever, though, she was going to lose him if she kept making him struggle. He had to prove himself against the worst of her memories and her past with someone else, and it wasn’t fair. This wasn't even a fight she'd win if he lost.

She leans up and kisses him, chastely. He accepts it easily, and smiles hopefully just a little. But kissing they’d done, dates they’d done. He just wanted her to say it, in the wake of her own pride that was a hearty feat. But she could do it, and she could be happy to do it. Even if the entire thing was childish; in a world that already treated Rosalie like a woman, maybe that was a good thing. “Alright, you’re all mine. We’re dating and I won’t stand to see you with anyone else.” She told him firmly.

Emmett smiles, showing all his teeth, and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her forward.

“Did that feel good or what?” He asked her, laughing a little. Rosalie smiled, but it wasn’t a very big one; it was still a little embarrassing. She was really pleased, though, she did feel good saying it aloud. Emmett’s still laughing though, nuzzling into the top of her head. She realizes he sounds relieved. She wonders if, for a moment, he was worried she wouldn’t say anything at all.

She nods against his neck and lets him laugh. She lets herself feel happy, not at the expense of anyone else, not because she was superior to anyone else. But because she made Emmett laugh.

--

Edward, had, in fact, gone with his father somewhere.

After Jasper had his hand taken care of, he drove his Thunderbird, thoughtfully left at the Cullen house last night, to his apartment to bring Emmett to see Carlisle for his own bruised knuckles.

Edward was pouting over his role in Jake’s life, and generally moping around the house, when he spotted something. It was on the table next to the front door, partially tucked under the pig Edward made as a ‘welcome home’ present for Alice when she first moved in. It was a long Shepard’s hook earring graced with some blue stone.

He frowned at it; he kind of knew Alice’s taste in jewelry and Rosalie’s, and no other females were in their house. This was more mature than what Alice usually went for, and too cheap to be anything Rosalie would touch.

Edward picked it up, and walked into the kitchen, where his father was rinsing out his stone-cold coffee in the sink.

“Dad?” Edward asks, holding up the earring. “Do you know who’s earring this is?” He squints at the jewelry he holds up for his father’s inspection.

Carlisle drops his mug into the sink with a thankfully-intact thump. “Wh-what? Why on earth would you presume – no, to be perfectly candid, absolutely not.” He splutters, hurrying over to his son and dripping water from his soaking hands unnoticed. He plucks the earring from his son’s fingers. “Now, I’ll take it and put it in lost and found.” He says decisively.

Edward half-chuckled with shocked amusement. “Wait – where?” He asks, incredulous, as Carlisle toes out of his inside slippers and into a worn-out pair of loafers. “Dad, you’re acting weird.” Edward tells him.

“I most certainly am not!” Carlisle tells him sharply, slipping the earring into his pocket as he takes his wallet and keys. “I’m going, on a small errand.” He said, his attempt at casual making his voice sound strained and high. “Make sure Emmett ices his hand.” He adds.

Edward shakes his head, looking very interested now. “No, I’d much rather come with you.” He tells his father, and doesn’t take no for an answer. He marches to his father’s car and waits right at the passenger door.

Edward looks bemused as Carlisle dallies. “What are you hiding?” Edward asks him shrewdly. “You didn’t work last night.” He says casually.

 “Yes, I did!” Carlisle indignantly refuted his son’s claims. “You need to go inside and wait for the boys.” He tells him sternly.

“No,” Edward disagrees lightly, “I called the hospital after the fight!” He says, his tone an ‘ah-ha’ in catching the lie. “They said you weren’t in.” He says smugly.

Carlisle grimaces, and sighs lightly. He really meant to keep the dalliance completely under wraps. But he didn’t like the idea of hiding things from his children. “… Edward, I can’t, that is ….” He clears his throat to stop his own babbling and takes a breath before he continues, “I had a lady-friend over.” He admits steadily.

Edward laughs. “Father! Scandalous!” He crows, clapping his hands.

Carlisle blushes at his son’s obvious amusement. “Edward, please.” He tuts, “I should just return it and, fine, you can come with me.” He relents. He was nervous about more children returning while he tried to convince Edward not to come. “I expect your secrecy on this matter.” He adds seriously.

“Oh sure,” Edward agrees easily, and Carlisle starts his car with a heavy heart. It was a big risk taking his son with him; Esme may have enjoyed last night, but they hadn’t spoken about telling his children, and when she was their teacher, that was a very important topic to bring up. This was her job, and his children’s education, and his daughter’s favorite class.

So when Carlisle pulls up to Esme’s house, and Edward isn’t frowning yet, he’s still a mass of nerves.

“Wait here.” Carlisle tells him, and Edward nods once, a smile still playing on his face.

Carlisle ducks out of the car and goes to knock on the door. Just as it begins to open, he hisses at her to wait.

“What’s wrong?” Esme whispers back, her tone surprised as she peeks at him through the crack in the door.

He smiles fondly at her for a moment at how cute she looked. And then glanced back at the car with a grimace. “My son came along.” He explains apologetically. “You left your earring.” He holds out the little piece of jewelry.

Esme’s eyes brighten as she looks at his outstretched palm. “Oh! I was wondering –” she makes a strange chocking noise as the rest of his sentence registers with her. “Edward’s here!?” She exclaims.

“He may not remember this is your house; it was late that night and he doesn’t really pay attention to details.” Carlisle was quick to assure her. It didn’t seem to do any good.

“Carlisle!” Esme hisses back, and he feels terrible for making her so distressed. Her hand slips out of the door, and he drops her earring onto her palm. “I’ll call you tonight.” Esme says and closes the door firmly.

Carlisle walks back to the car and climbs inside. Edward is now frowning firmly.

“You told her to hide her face, didn’t you?” Edward asks him, his tone put-upon. Carlisle almost smiles with relief; Edward was upset he didn’t get to find out the identity of Carlisle’s lady caller. “You trust me so little.” Edward adds, his expression down-cast.

His father begins to feel guilty at his son’s reaction. “It’s not about trust, dear, it’s about her right to privacy.” He tells the boy firmly. “And mine.” He adds, trying not to smile. “After all, you get to keep Jacob Black and Jasper’s identity from me all the time, don’t you?” He asks. Edward’s ear flush, and his mouth purses slightly strangely with embarrassment. “Or do we just have a raccoon problem?” He guesses aloud. "Constantly scurrying around your rooms, and the patio door ...." He continues casually.

Edward mutters about the raccoons, and keeps his head down for the rest of the drive home.

When Carlisle pulls up, he lets Edward scurry into the house first. Jasper and Rosalie’s cars are in their usual spots, and Carlisle walks into the house just as Jasper was walking down the stairs.

There’s a thump from Alice’s room, and it causes Jasper to flinch tellingly.

“Raccoons,” Carlisle says knowingly, glancing into the living room where Emmett and Rosalie sat on the couch together. They seemed to be talking quite intimately, and happily, and Carlisle honestly hopes they don’t at some point Christian his couch.

He clears his throat, and they both pull away to look at him. Rosalie looks a little gruff, but Emmett is grinning madly.

“I’ll look at your hand now, Emmett,” he says, and mentions for the boy to follow him to the kitchen. Emmett comes to him, with Jasper and Rosalie in tow.

His hand isn’t as nearly damaged as Jasper’s, and Carlisle is glad for it. He loathes the idea of either of the boys fighting Rosalie’s demons; the girl would ultimately have to face them on her own terms, in her own time.

“Looks good,” he says softly, and Edward comes downstairs with Alice, who had changed clothes.

“Emmett, when are you going home and getting yelled at by your parents?” Edward asks him, though his tone is amused. Carlisle grimaces; he knows Emmett’s parents wouldn’t place the blame on him, but he also knew they must have been worried for their slightly careless son.

Emmett scowls and slouches away from Carlisle, propping himself onto the stool next to where Rosalie sits.

“I’ll drive you.” Rosalie tells him, and he even perks up at the offer with a nod.

Alice glanced between them slyly, and gives Jasper a grin that’s not very subtle. He reaches out and uses his good hand to pinch her chin and tug a little, which she slaps away with her nose wrinkled. Carlisle watches them all interact, even Edward leaning against the counter next to Jasper, and smiles fondly.

“It was nice of Jake’s friend to pick up his things this morning.” Carlisle tells Edward. At the mention of his boyfriend’s name, Edward scowls suddenly, and glares at Rosalie. She meets his gaze coolly. Alice rests her forehead against Jasper’s chest, who in turn drops his head to stare at her hair.

Emmett clapped his hands together, standing up quickly. “We should get going, then!” he says, taking Rosalie’s arm and tugging her away from the staring contest. “See ya, stupids!” He yells.

Carlisle waves them off, and his concern shifts to Edward. “What happened?” He asks quietly.

Edward shook his head, and pinched his own earlobe threateningly. Carlisle backs off, a little offended and amused that his son was going to blackmail him to drop it, though he does.

Jasper stays for dinner, easily able to ignore Edward’s sour mood. Carlisle orders pizza for them all, once again wishing he was good enough to cook. He wants to keep the peace though; he pokes at Edward’s foul temper, but the boy doesn’t settle and unwind as he can do sometimes when he was worked up, and it makes for a mostly quiet meal. Carlisle even politely ignores the long kiss Alice keeps the boy for at his car. She comes inside eventually, and surreptitiously reapplies her lip gloss.

“Did you help upset your brother?” Carlisle asks. Rosalie and Edward fought quite often; often enough that usually, it took a few hours apart for the tension to dissipate. Edward usually forgave any hurts with some alone time.

Alice shrugs a little. “I guess we all did because we didn’t defend him.” She says with a sigh. “Rosalie said he was a bad boyfriend because he never tries to make friends with Jake’s friends and talk about Jake’s family.” She explains.

Carlisle tuts a little, but he doesn’t pry; he trusts his children, all five of them, to help each other when it came to the more vulnerable sides of their social lives; he was there if they wanted to come to him for adult support, and on rare occasions they did. Rosalie, after her awful ordeal, Jasper would mention upcoming parent-teacher nights as though Carlisle didn’t already know. Even Emmett would complain of some grievance with his siblings at home to him, rather than burden his parents with their squabbles.

So, it’s a surprise when Alice gives him a nudge. “He’d probably feeling bad because he’s worried it’s true.” She adds, before kissing him good-night.

Carlisle heads up the stairs after he hears Alice’s door close, and knocks on Edward’s.

“Dear? Can I come in?” He asks. There’s a muffled assent, and he opens the door. Edward’s lying on his couch, watching something on his television. “Alice told me what happened.”

Edward rolls his eyes, but doesn’t move as Carlisle sits on his feet a little on the couch. “Well, it doesn’t matter …” Edward mutters, “Rosalie lies all the time, it’s not like Jake said anything to me.”

“Well, maybe he’s hoping he didn’t have to.” Carlisle suggested gently. “It’s important to care about things he cares about. Jacob’s very community-minded, and he seems very close with his father.” Carlisle adds. He knows his son likes being left in peace, he makes a show of being bothered by people’s interruptions. But Billy Black had told Carlisle enough about Jacob to make him a little worried; Edward’s unaffected, but ultimately deep-down caring attitude might not cut it here. “Edward, your friends may have spoilt you a little, you need to remember not everyone’s a mind-reader. Some people need you to be the one asking questions.”

It seemed Carlisle had miscalculated, though, as Edward didn’t seem in the mood for advice. “I don’t need a sermon.” Edward snaps, “His friend saw you kissing Ms Platt.” He says all of this in the same tone that it takes a moment for Carlisle to register his words.

Chapter Text

When he does process his son's words, Carlisle freezes a little. This wasn’t good. “... Is that so.” He says softly. He wants to order Edward to stop prying, to not use his bad mood and this information to hurt Alice, or Esme, or both of them and himself.

But, Edward, doesn’t seem to hold any sort of petty notions. He looks … disappointed. “Alice will be devastated, she might not forgive you.” He says levelly.

Carlisle stand up, and shakes his head. He didn’t have to suffer such a look from his own child. “I think that’s enough.” He walks out of Edward’s room, and closes the door firmly. He lets out a sigh, and gasps when he realizes Alice’s bedroom door was open again. How much had she heard?

Before he can go to her doorway, Alice walks up the stairs. “… Dad, your phone was ringing.” She says, her expression closed off and blank. She holds his mobile out to him. “It’s Esme.” She adds.

Carlisle takes the phone and tries to gauge her expression, but she only looks at him steadily.

He starts to feel guilty, just a touch, and nods quickly.

“Well, thank you dear, I’ll take this,” Carlisle says, his phone already in his hand as he walks into his study and closes the door.

He puts the phone to his ear, Esme’s voice is panicked and almost frightened; “it’s not what you think dear, it’s more as though-”

“Esme?” Carlisle asks, a spike of dread in his chest at her nervous babbling.

“Carlisle!” She says, her tone still high and agitated, “Alice answered, I thought you told her about our date!” She exclaimed.

“No, I haven’t!” Carlisle argues, and grimaces. This was going to be awful. “I didn’t yet, I should say.” He adds guiltily.

Carlisle speaks with her quickly. He hadn’t told Alice, if she knew now there was no helping it, yes, he’d work it out with her.

He hung up and went to Alice’s room. She was throwing things into a duffle bag. It was battered and brown and most likely not hers.

“I’m staying at Jasper’s this weekend.” She told him boldly.

“You aren’t, dear.” Carlisle informs her. She continues packing as though she hadn’t heard him, as he rarely puts his foot down like this. But she wasn’t running to that boy to get out of this conversation. “You are not. We need to talk about this.” He insists, his voice firmer now.

“It’s Esme! It’s my favorite teacher!” Alice rages, and picks up the one picture she kept of the sad-looking boy. “You told her about me!” She screams, high-pitched and furious, and throws the picture at him.

He ducks it, honestly shocked. Alice was never violent. Edward also has to hop out of the way as it skitters across the floor. He’d come out at the yelling. “You think I would betray you like that!?” Carlisle exclaims, “Alice I did not!”

“She was here! She saw the pictures! She could have seen my medicine! You didn’t have any right to bring her here!” Alice accused, tears dripping down her flushed face.

Carlisle feels a spark of shame that morphs into outrage. “This is my house I had every right!” He declares, walking into the doorway. But Alice rushes forward, grabbing her door and slamming it nearly on his toes. “Alice! Open this now!” He yells, slamming his palm against the door. He focuses on her attitude, and his own anger at her disrespect. Not the raising panic in his belly, or the way she was openly sobbing.

Edward’s at his shoulder. “This isn’t working.” He says softly, and Carlisle takes a step back, also ashamed his other child could see his distress right now. Edward’s shoulders are squared, though, and he looks gentle again. “I’ll handle this.” He says confidently. “I might be a shit boyfriend, and even a bad friend, but I’m a good brother.” He says softly. He knocks once on the door. “Alice, I’m coming in.” He says, and she doesn’t answer as he opens the door and slips inside, closing it behind him.

Carlisle goes into the lounge room, and sits on an armchair. He feels more than a little lost. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go at all; one date with a woman and his whole house is shaking in its foundations. He feels responsible, more accurately irresponsible.

He’s pulled out of his wallowing when the doorbell rings. Numbly, he opens the door. “Esme!” He yells, she’s standing there with her slippers still on her feet. “What are you doing here!”

Esme looks distraught, and tries to push past him. “I need to see her!” She says. “She can’t hate me for this!” She insists. He hates seeing her so distraught, he wants more than anything to comfort her. But this wasn’t the time; they were adults in this situation.

Carlisle stands firm, not letting her past the entrance. “Ms Platt! This is inappropriate, you’re not coming into my home!” The force behind his words makes her immediately retreat, looking bewildered and a little hurt. A small part of him feel guilty for doing this; but it’s not her hurt he can focus on now.

“Alice might be close to you, but she’s my daughter. You’re only her teacher, and whether she hates you or not isn’t important.” He says lowly. Esme looks like she wants to argue, she looks angry, but he doesn’t give her time to speak. “Your job is to teach her at school. I’m her father, this is my job.” He gestures back to his house in its entirety. It was his job to keep his children safe, and happy and he was doing poorly.

Esme seems to stop at his words, looking lost and glancing down and hunching in on herself a little. “… You’re right. This was a mistake, I’m sorry.” She says quietly. She looks up with eyes full of tears, but her expression determined. “I’m sorry.” She repeats. Carlisle inclines his head; he was sorry too. Neither of them needed to state that whatever was started to form between them couldn’t continue. It just couldn’t.

“Good-bye, Ms Platt.” He says, his tone gentler this time, both for her sake and for his, and she leaves, a plump little crest-fallen figure down the driveway.

--

"Oh god, she's gonna hate me!" Alice wailed, voice muffled in her pillow. Pernickety screamed from the outside of the door, obviously sensing his mistress' distress and wanting in. Along with the sobs causing Alice's slip of a body to convulse, it was a lot of noise, and Edward was getting a headache.

But the pounding in his temples weren't important right now. He needed his sister in peace. "She won't hate you." He murmurs, dragging his nails rhythmically up and down her spine. He remembered doing this when they were little too; a tiny, hollow thing, asking Edward why his parents weren't coming to pick him up from their months-long sleepover with Carlisle. Edward hadn't understood that Alice's birth father would rather sign away the custody of his eldest child to the doctor that tried to save his first wife's life on the operating table, than admit that he didn't have a son. Certainly, Alice had even less of a clue. Her biological father had had a confused, affection-starved little girl, that wanted to wear lime green tule and pretend to be Silky from the Faraway Tree. Edward knew she did, because he was the Saucepan Man and they went on adventures together.

Alice was still talking, voice numb and empty. "... she'll think I'm disgusting, tell the guidance councillor and they're going to make me change my school records to be a boy." She lists off listlessly, while Edward continues scratching. "Then they'll not let me use the showers with the other girls, and all of them will hate me." She said derisively. Edward almost wanted to snort; Alice was cheerful and kind, not like her brother at all. No one would hate her even if they knew; not with the way so many people clamoured for her attention. "Our school will start having cliques then; those who don't mind a tranny in their school, and those who do." She added bitterly.

"Don't call yourself that." Edward snapped instantly. His therapist, when he'd been a child, always reminded him to practise the same habit with himself and the people he cared about; being self-depreciating often led to full-out berating yourself and hoping people would laugh. "Alice, you need to remember, you don't know if Ms Platt saw anything," he reasoned quietly, "or if she even suspects you if she did - wait, you don't think there are cliques at school?" He asked, bewhildered and thrown off-course when he registered what she'd said.

Alice sniffles and shakes her head into the pillow, essentially wiping her nose all over it. "Well there's not!" She snapped, irritated by his lack of comfort. "Everyone gets along really well. " She muttered, longingly. People argued with Edward and Rosalie's CDs, Ashley Dowling was always really nice. Katie and Jennifer warmed up to Alice straight after they realised she wasn't going anywhere. They respected tenacity.

Edward squinted at her, and bit his lip against his smile. "No they don't, what?" He asked, though he didn't expect a reply. "We have a clique." He pointed out.

Alice frowned, waylaid from her freak-out by this information. "Our friends are a clique?" She muttered questioningly, like it was a revelation. But she just as quickly dismissed the information. "Well, now Ms Platt will tell everyone and it'll ruin everything." She hissed.

Edward grimaced affectionately down at her. "You're so much of an optimist that you think our school doesn't have cliques," he said fondly, "but immediately assume the worst of your favorite teacher?"

"She means too much to me for me to take chances." Alice whined, hiding her puffy round face again. Edward hummed a tune at her consolingly.

Edward could have rolled his eyes at her naivety. Alice was in some ways almost less socialised than he was; she'd been terrified of being discovered at the start of high school; it was simple when it was just the two of them. Then Jasper moved into town and it was all Edward could do to keep the scarred and cracked ex-foster kid away from his sister. Edward was sure putting the boy to any effort would have Jasper write her off as not worth it; but Rosalie had bolstered him, and befriended Alice behind Edward's back. Before he knew it, all of a sudden the most vapid and infamous of their grade, which, albeit, amounted to very little, were assuming his friendship too. He ended up at raucous and exhausting parties, watching a young man repeatedly fall in love with his sister. To make things worse, suddenly he had new friends; Emmett was bumping his shoulder and assuring him they'd head out soon when Edward felt like his ears would start bleeding from the amount of talking of everyone in the room. Because when it came to over-stimulation and large crowds, Emmett came from too big a family to not see the signs.

Jasper had been like a creepy, amused shadow; driving them both home from school so Alice would sit in the front seat and chat to him. Edward began butting heads constantly with Rosalie, involving drawn out, days-long arguments because they both knew the other wasn't going anywhere.

But Alice just saw a new friend in an obdurate young girl and a happy-go-lucky jock, and a first love in a jaded Southerner. The Cullens went from the curious outskirts of their grade to being catapulted right to the centre, and while Alice accepted the change as preordained, in her strange little way; Edward had seen every shift and forethought as it came. Insipid school politics were the reason Edward hadn't wanted to bother with making friends; and while he knew Alice hadn't felt the same way, he justified his decision to keep them both separate because Alice didn't deserve to face pubescent bigotry for being herself.

But, Edward had to admit, even he might have miscalculated. Emmett was the biggest and gentlest thing he knew. For a boy who had known so little love prior, Jasper was more than pleased to give all his heart to Alice, wrapped up in a little bow. For all her hissing, Rosalie was made up of loyalty and stoutness. Alice might not have realised that from an outside perspective, a bunch of teenagers that made a family in each other might seem like a clique.

After a few more minutes, Alice struggles to sit up. "Cover me while I sneak out to Jasper's." She said in the same whine as before.

Edward hummed in the negative before picking up the same song, but Alice only gave a whimper and flopped limply back on the bed. He stayed until she fell asleep, before he snuck out of the door and headed to his own room. A quick check in the master bedroom revealed his father, sleeping with a furrow in his brow. Edward prodded it with his finger to smooth it out, but Carlisle only murmured in a worried fashion and rolled over.

Sighing, he goes to bed, with a sinking feeling that this wasn't something that could be fixed with a good night's sleep.

--

Rosalie, for once in her life, felt … nervous about school. Well, she felt nervous about seeing Emmett today. She barely ate one piece of toast with peanut butter and sliced strawberries, when she’d usually have three or four. But Kenneth didn’t seem to mind devouring everything that she couldn’t.

“Watching your weight, mi amor?” Her mother asked, her tone very approving. Rosalie doesn’t completely roll her eyes, but only just.

Her phone was buzzing, as it usually did. But Rosalie refused to look at it unless it was Alice. Edward’s texts were always ridiculous; ‘u better not b late b/c a kansas house fell on top of u’ or ‘u send that snap of me sneezing 2 jake ill give kenny a cold brew coffee at 6 pm and tell him its chocolate milk’.

But last night he’d sent her; ‘Alice has been crying all night. Dad + Ms Platt. Whatever ur planning 2 do tomorrow dont’. Initially, Rosalie was offended that Edward would think she was going to mess with Alice if she was so upset. But she conceded that she and Edward had been squabbling more often than not lately, so he might think she was just bitchier in general.

But, she realized later, maybe he was trying to ask her to give him a break. She honestly didn’t like feeling like the bad guy, it kind of ruined the high she was on from finally sealing the deal with Emmett.

Thinking of Emmett again only made her nervous, and a little excited. Then she felt stupid over even being nervous or excited. It was all making her very irritated, in the end.

She ended up missing anything from Alice in the morning, and getting a call from Jasper to meet her downstairs.

She finds him looking agitated.

“What happened?” She asked instead of saying hello.

Jasper shrugs. “I don’t know; she didn’t say anything.” He says softly. That gets Rosalie’s attention; Alice usually told Jasper first about anything, especially if it happened at home. Jasper’s takes in her reaction grimly.

There very somber as they go to the Manhattan Centre. Paul doesn’t seem particularly interested; there’s a morning rush. But they still get their coffee in ten minutes, Rosalie yells a ‘thanks, dad!’ while stuffing a five-dollar bill in the tip jar.

Jasper’s quiet as they sit in the car, and Rosalie tries to be mindful of his obvious uneasiness, but she can’t help constantly looking at the bus stop, waiting for Emmett’s bus to pull up. She couldn’t wait to see him; it was just like every morning, except it was entirely different.

“You’re allowed to be excited.” Jasper’s voice broke through her thoughts, and made her jump a little.

He’s looking at her with a fond smile, and the softness makes her bristle, as does the fact that he startled her. “What?” She says, harsher than she meant to.

Jasper just wrinkles his nose at her a little, his smile still in place. For some reason, Rosalie’s chest feels weird when she realizes that it was an expression Alice made too. “This has been a long time coming,” he says quietly, “you can enjoy it.”

She flicks her hair over her shoulder and glances again out the window. Still no sign of the bus. “Who told you.” She mutters, but she knows the answer already.

“Boy can’t keep a secret to save his life.” Jasper replies.

Rosalie isn’t surprised by this information, but the reminder makes her worried, as much as she doesn’t want it too. “I don’t want people … finding out so easily.” She says, worry beginning to gnaw at her gut.

Jasper raised one eyebrow and his smile drops. “Rosalie, you’re the least subtle person I know, and I know Edward.” He says dryly. “Unfortunately, this is only a big deal to us,” he continues, mentioning around his car to the butt imprints from the people who most often sat in it. “After five drinks, you’re welded to that boy.” He laughs. No one outside of this car thought she and Emmett hadn’t been dating; something Rosalie had only recently been conscience of. She wasn’t going to let it make this less special for her.

Rosalie doesn’t appreciate his attitude, or his words. “Well then good,” Rosalie snaps, “I didn’t even want anyone else to care.” She adds. But she kind of did; this was a victory, to her, in a way. It was a sign to everyone that she was healing. Or it would be, if more than a handful of people even knew she’d been hurt.

“That’s the Rosie I know,” Jasper says, his tone, though, becomes a little serious. Rosalie didn’t like that any better than the last thing he said, so she ignores him.

Emmett was already bolting across the road to them. Rosalie climbs out of the car, which proves to be a problem, as Emmett ends up smacking his hand against the edge of the car door as he reached for the handle at the same time.

“Oh! Sorry,” She said, mortified, as Emmett yanks his hand back with a hiss.

“Rosie!” Emmett yells, but his tone is over-joyed and his grin is huge. He pulls her into a tight hug and kisses her nose. Rosalie is a little taken aback by the exuberance, but it feels good, that he was so excited to see her too.

“Good morning,” she tells him, and kisses one of his dimples, and then does it again, just because she could. Emmett loosens the hug a little, and ducks down to stick his head into the car’s open window, keeping an arm around her waist.

“Heard Alice was having a crisis!” He yells, and Rosalie blinks a little. She was worried about Alice too, but she thought they’d be a little more focused on them at least for a moment longer.

But Emmett is holding the door open for her with a grin, and his head nods forward, quick, and he kisses her temple as she climbs into the backseat. Rosalie has to cover her mouth with the tips of her fingers to keep the smile off her face.

It was easier to do as they neared the Cullen residence.

Alice ran up almost before Jasper had fully stopped the car.

“Edward isn’t coming with us he’s going to drive himself!” Alice says in a rush, her face a little flushed. She almost dives into the backseat, pulling her bag in with her.

Jasper winces. “Honey, your-”

“Not today!” She declares heatedly. With a pained hiss, Jasper starts the car again.

“Okay, time out!” Emmett declares, grabbing one iced coffee and yanking Alice’s bag to the front with him. He climbs out of the car with both, and jogs back to the house. Alice gives a very whiny huff and flops down into the backseat.

“What happened?” Rosalie demands, her tone and gaze hungry.

“Dad slept with Ms. Platt.” Alice says in a small, watery voice. Now Rosalie looks closely; she can tell Alice didn’t take it well. Her make up is thicker than normal; her face was very puffy and her eyes almost looked small, as swollen as they were.

Rosalie glances out the window, back to the house. She didn’t think the doctor would stay celibate forever, of course … and it wasn’t hard to see why Edward had specifically invited the young art teacher to his precious recital either ….

Rosalie spots Emmett, handing the coffee to Edward, who was locking up the house. He says something to him, and begins to jog back, still holding Alice’s bag.

Jasper sees him too, popping open the trunk with the lever by the driver’s seat, and Emmett drops Alice’s bag inside.

He climbs back into the car, and lets out a small sigh.

“So, your dad hit it and quit it, huh tweetie?” He asks.

Alice’s angry glare lands on him. “No! Edward said it looked like they really liked each other …” she muttered, “but then he said a mean thing and I don’t want to be in the car with him.” She added, starting to pout now.

“Wait you like Ms. Platt,” Rosalie reminded her, “what’s the downside of her dating your dad?”

“Well!” Alice begins, obviously waiting for someone to ask, “If they get along really well, she won’t just be my teacher, she’ll be, like, this parental unit that could gang up on me with dad! Plus I’d have to share her with Edward!” She argues, and seems to deflate just as quickly. Rosalie rubs her shoulder soothingly.

Jasper glances into the rearview mirror. “Are you okay, honey?” He asks.

Alice frowns deeply, eyes narrowing. “No. There’s pictures of that sad boy … what if she saw them?” Alice whispers, real fear in her voice.

The silence that settles over the car is thick and heavy.

Emmett clear his throat uncomfortably. “Well, um, just say you have a brother!” He suggests, hopeful.

Alice glares. “That’s not going to magically solve shit, Emmett!” She snaps.

Rosalie tuts. “Don’t pick on my boyfriend, he’s trying to help.” She says sternly.

Alice rolls her eyes. “Well – what?” Suddenly, she sits up, staring wide-eyed at Rosalie, who begins to smile. “Oh my god! Oh my god!” She squeals, pulling Rosalie into a tight hug. Rosalie laughs breathily as the air is slowly compressed out of her lungs by the bony embrace.

Alice releases her, only to scoot forward to squish herself into the space between the front seats and slaps Emmett on the chest repeatedly.

“Driving, hon.” Jasper reminds her kindly, and Alice pulls herself back.

“Oh, yay! I needed happy,” Alice says with a sigh of relief. Rosalie felt victorious though; even if she kept her own secrets, there was someone really happy for her progress. Not that she needed it, it just felt nice, cared for.

Emmett all but puffs out his chest with pride, either for finally hearing Rosalie call him her boyfriend, or for at least momentarily cheering Alice up.

“Have a little faith! It’s your business, it’s not like she would spread it around.” Emmett tells her.

Alice deflates a little, worry slipping back into her expression. “You can’t look me in the eye and promise me that.” She says softly. Emmett frowns a little, but no one can say anything to contradict her.

--

It’s an awful morning for breakfast. Edward gets up early; and not for a good morning text from Jacob, which he doesn’t receive. But he spent until midnight comforting Alice; petting her back and shushing her when she sobbed about life not being fair.

Life wasn’t fair; that didn’t need saying. He only had to look so far as his father to know that. Really, Edward felt sorry for his dad, in the morning light. Their father was always attentive; the only thing that took him away from them both was work. No man could live on work and his kids alone. It wasn’t fair for him; they were older now, they’d be on their way to college or anything, and he had the right to go out and date.

Even if he decided to look no further than their own high school. But they were adults, and Alice certainly wasn’t. Why was it that she had the last say about what they did?

Edward came downstairs and found his father and a cup of tea. He’s was nearly always gone before now; Edward guessed he had been hoping to speak with Alice before he had to go to work.

“Morning, dad.” He said softly.

He gets the smallest, saddest little smile in return. “Morning, dear.” Carlisle replied. He glances up the stairs, but turns back to his tea. “… I’ll be late if I don’t leave now. I’ll talk to her tonight.” Carlisle says heavily, and leaves the tea untouched, kissing Edward’s forehead absently as he leaves.

Edward watches after him, and doesn’t look away until his car disappears down the street.

Alice thumps downstairs nearly straight after, and Edward allows himself to be annoyed that she waited until their father had left.

She pulls a peach out of the fruit bowl and shoves half of it in her mouth. “Don’t you think this is enough?” Edward asks, eyes resentfully resting on their father’s untouched tea. “You’ve had your cry, now let it go.” He mutters.

Alice shoots him a dark look and shakes her head in warning. “Don’t start.” She cautions.

But he does. “Do you feel better, manipulating his martyr complex?” He demanded. “You know he’d do anything for us, he always has.” Edward jabs his finger straight into her face. “Why can’t you let him have this?”

Alice glares up at him, and slaps his hand away. “Don’t start!” She snaps, marching up the stairs. “Drive yourself to school, since you’re up.” She adds angrily.

--

All through Elementary school, Alice had barely any friends except her brother Edward, and a long-standing acquaintanceship with the artsy girls who made up Ms Platt’s inner-circle. Ms Platt was one of the youngest teachers, and she was pretty, motivated and genuinely cared.

Alice liked to think Ms Platt liked her best. Alice would stay behind two days a week and help with all kinds of stuff; painting sets for the theatre production and working on her own designs. Ms Platt had been an architect in Ohio, before her baby’s death. Alice felt special knowing about it, and she felt the most connected to her teacher

This was the first time Alice felt so scared in her favorite class. Jasper had to walk her right into the classroom and pull out her chair for her. He stayed for a little, hugging her and reassuring her, but the late-bell rang and she told him to go. For once, Ashley wasn’t talking a mile a minute, and Angela hadn’t even greeted her. They could both tell something was wrong with her, no doubt everyone in the class did too.

Ms Platt walked into the classroom, and began the lesson. She was just as cheery as ever, and didn’t speak to Alice once. Alice couldn’t even raise her head above her sketchpad, she just stared numbly at it until the bell rang.

For a fleeting moment, Angela touches her arm, but Alice only pulls her hands into her lap. She stands and starts to pack her unused things a little later than everyone else. She wasn’t surprised when Esme’s shoes stepped into view next to her bench. “Alice, stay please.” She says softly. This doesn’t surprise her either.

But, a small defiant part of her, the most scared part of all, only lets her pause when all her things are packed. So she could flee at a moment’s notice. “What?” She snaps.

Esme lets out a sigh, and Alice finally glances up. She looked tired, and leans against the nearby bench. “I wanted to apologize. It was unprofessional to …” Esme flounder for a moment, and its obvious neither of them wanted her to say; ‘sleep with your father’. “I want you to know you don’t have to worry about it any longer.” She finishes. Alice didn’t need to be told; she saw her dad’s defeated posture, she’d made Edward drive himself to school after his ‘martyr complex’ comment.

But she already hates herself for acting so spoilt. Alice knew Edward was right; their dad had always looked out for them first, even before himself. “… What do you mean?” She asks, playing dumb because she doesn’t want to think this is her fault.

Esme shakes her head. “Your father and I, it’s not a problem anymore. So, don’t fret, alright?” She asks, smiling hopefully. It makes Alice’s heart clench. “I don’t want you to hate this class because of what I did.” She added softly.

Alice frowns a little. She didn't want it to seem as though her only discomfort was their potential relationship. Primarily, this was about Alice’s relationship with that awfully pitiful little boy. “You didn’t see?” She asks softly.

Esme frowns. “See what?”

“The pictures of the sad boy?” Alice prompts her, getting a little more anxious.

“I don’t …” Esme looks embarrassed now, her cheeks pinking a little as she drops her gaze to the ground. “Alice, I wasn’t looking at anything.” She admits softly.

Alice took a deep breath, and let it out again. If Esme didn’t see it, then Alice wasn’t going to let her past hang over her head like some dark paranoia. Not in her favorite class, with her favorite teacher. “At my house, my dad kept a few pictures of the boy I used to be,” Alice told her.

Her hands were shaky, her voice was shaking, but she continued, “we were a real family before I told him being a boy was wrong for me …” Alice chokes, feeling her tears start rolling down her cheeks. The memories of becoming a family meant so much to them all, she couldn’t stop herself from crying, “so he keeps them to remind us all that we worked really hard to love each other ….” She said, her voice a high wine, and she presses the heels of her hands into her eyes in a desperate bid to calm herself, or hide herself.

“Alice!” Esme exclaimed, and she’s pulled into a tight embrace. Alice doesn’t pull away, but she doesn’t relax. “You’re a wonderful, talented young girl. I care about you very much.” Esme says softly. Alice breathes in her perfume; they're the words she needed to hear, but it doesn’t calm her. 

Her dad was still sad, and she was still in a fight with her brother. What did those pictures even represent, if Alice made them all tip-toe around who she used to be? She gripped tightly onto Esme’s shoulders and shoved her face into the woman’s shoulder. “I thought you’d be disgusted!” Alice sobbed, her hiccups making her throat hurt. “I thought you’d tell the guidance counselor!” She shudders at the thought; because if the faculty found out, so would the students, and if everyone knew …. Alice wasn’t brave enough to finish that thought.

“I won’t tell anyone, Alice, not a soul.” Esme vows, pulling her away and wiping under Alice’s eyes with her fingers.

Alice nods, a little sadly. But she hadn't known that. She had absolutely no clue how Esme would feel about that sad little boy, about who Alice was know. Esme was a visual arts teacher; she didn't talk about transgender topics at all. That's why Alice had been scared; terrified while she packed Jasper's old duffle for his apartment, or when she was sobbing her heart out into her pillow while Edward rubbed her back. The idea of her dad bringing a woman into their lives that might not accept her, of how fast they were all growing up, of the gnawing feeling of resentfulness. These were her favorite adults in the world and she nearly didn’t want to share them, not even with each other.

But that was selfish, and she didn’t want to be selfish. So she sniffs just a little, and pulls away from Ms. Platt just a little. “I don’t think you should break up with my dad.” She says softly.

Esme laughs, just a little, and shakes her head again. “Alice … that’s not for you to worry about.” She says, her tone fond. She reaches up and strokes over Alice’s cheek. “Are we okay? Are you going to actually participate in class next time?” She asks, her tone is teasing now, and it brings out Alice’s own smile.

“Yeah, yeah I will.” She agrees quietly. Alice gives Esme one last, firm hug, before she excuses herself, takes her bag and goes to find her brother.

Edward was in the music room, sitting at the upright piano but writing words, not music notes. She clears her throat before she can make out any individual words, and he immediately stuffs the book into his shirt. He spins around, eyes wide, before visibly relaxing when he looks at her.

“Hey,” she said softly.

He looks slightly wary, before he takes a deep breath. Alice braces herself for another chiding, or even his best impression of their dad trying to be ‘fair but stern’. “Look, I already told Jasper he can’t take you home with him.” Edward begins. “You have to talk to dad, and you don’t have to talk to me, but-”

“I want to talk to you, Edward.” Alice tells him. Her mind was still full of memories, dredged up from long ago. Their whole lives together, Edward had always been there for her. He was a good big brother, and they had a good father and she wanted to be a good sister and daughter in return.

He, though, seems a little thrown off his course. But pleased, as she comes to sit down next to him. “… Well, that’s good.” He says shortly. “Do you want to talk to dad?” He asks, looking a little worried.

Alice shrugs. “I want to go home with Jasper, just for a bit.” She says softly. Edward looks like he wants to argue, but she holds up a hand. “It’s not like I can hide there either.” She points out.

He deflates a little, but in the end, he shrugs. “Fine, but if you don’t come home I’ll just drive over and get you.” He threatens.

“Before that, could you drive Rosie and Emmett home?” Alice asked nicely. Edward groaned and rolled his eyes, but she knew that he would. He was a good big brother, after all.

--

Jasper had driven Alice home, who was in a much better mood now. She sang along with the radio and left him to his own thoughts.

He took her to his apartment, and she busied herself making tea. She was almost stalling having to talk to her father, but she knew she’d do it, eventually. She just wanted to relax and spend time with her honey until then.

But, Jasper seemed to have other things on his mind. “You told her, didn’t you?” He asks softly, leaning over one of the dining table chairs.

“Uh-huh.” Alice replied, not turning around to look at him yet. “I feel so much better now!” She adds.

Jasper, though, looks less than relieved for her. “You can tell me, too.” He says quietly.

The words hang in the air for a moment. “I know.” Alice tells him. She turns to face him now, her face drawn. “… I don’t want to talk about this again, Jasper.”

“Why not?” He asks, looking almost angry, but mostly sad. “Why is it always me confiding in you? It’s always me,” he says, getting more and more worked up as he goes on, “telling you how scared I get about having enough for rent! About how lonely I get here!” His voice drops down to a hushed whisper, “… About what happened to me down South. You know everything.” He mutters, gaze on the floor.

Alice scowls, she marches over to him. “You know everything important!” She argues. “What do you want? A list of my hormones!? All the surgeries I’m planning for!?” She yells.

“Yes!” Jasper says, his voice almost a hiss. “Because they matter to you! It’s all important!”

Alice looks down, her face crumpling. “I only want there to be happy things between us, Jazz.” She says softly, painfully. “This should be easy.” She whispers; she was so tired of fighting everyone.

“Loving you is easy.” Jasper says softly, one hand closing around her wrist gently. “There’s only so much research I can do, Alice. There are some things you’re going to have to tell me.” He says.

Alice doesn’t let him see her panic at the thought that he had looked this up. But her hand clenches into a fist and he can feel the tendons in her wrist.

“Not right now, Jazz, not right now.” Her voice much sharper than he intended. He sighs, and lets her go, he walks past her and heads towards his bed. Worried that he was walking away from her, something he never did, she trots after him. “Please don’t be upset with me! I can’t burden you with this, until I can help you too!” She cries out. He stops then, and she stares at his back for a moment.

“When you tell me things, it’s just venting.” Alice explains, “I can’t help you with anything yet. And you already have so much you have to shoulder.” She reaches out, her hand touching his back. “It’s not like I have some double-life.” She says softly.

He turns back to face her, and pulls her into a tight hug. She sighs shakily into his collarbone. “I have a hormone regiment, I have therapy and cosmetic treatments.” She says, “I love you more than anything.” Those were all facts, to her, and nothing he didn’t already know.

“I love you too.” He says, his arms tightening around her. “I don’t know how I can prove it to you.” His voice sounds sad and strained, and Alice shakes her head.

“You don’t have to. Let me prove it.” Alice says softly, taking his hand and this time, it was her leading him to the bed. He looks just a touch reproachful, but his expression softens, and he trots in after her. Maybe this was a discomfort they’d have until Alice was ready to tell him all the little details, but for now, she would do her best to help them both forget them.

--

When Carlisle gets home, he’s a little surprised at the smell. He’d ordered food in, as he normally did. Pork stir-fry from Parc Katya. But this smelt different.

He walks into the kitchen, and sees both his children sitting on the stool at the counter. He felt gladder than ever to see them both; with the tension in the house last night, he'd felt more than a little stretched thin today at work. It had made him ache for another grown up in the house, another voice of reason. He pushes that thought aside, though, as Edward smiles at him.

“Welcome home, dad.” Edward piped up. Alice keeps her eyes down. “We made dinner.” He shrugs, “Well, we bought a frozen lasagna and put it in the oven.” He pointed to where the oven was indeed on, light and all.

Carlisle is touched by the gesture, and had to clear his throat once to get rid of the lump that welled up before speaking. “… It’s wonderful.” He murmurs softly. “Hello again,” he goes to Edward and kisses his temple. Then he turns to Alice. “Hello dear.” He says carefully.

Alice glances up at him, looking nervous. “Hi dad.” She says. “Um, I talked to Ms Platt today, she said she wouldn’t tell.” Alice rubs the back of her neck. “She didn’t know, it turns out, so, um, I told her.” Alice says, and there’s a sort of strength in her voice now. “I told her.” She repeats.

Carlisle reaches out and wraps an arm around her shoulder, grateful she doesn’t pull away. This was a big step for her; he was proud that she’d made such an important choice on her own terms. “How do you feel?” He asks softly.

“Shaky.” She replies, and smiles a little. He beams back at her, and her smile slips. “Um, and bad. I’m sorry for before.” She adds, looking repentant.

He shakes his head, and leans down to kiss her forehead. He doesn’t stop there; he pulls her off the stool to squeeze her tightly. He hated work today; he felt awful and numb knowing she was so upset with him.

She hugs him back just as tightly, and sighs into his shoulder.

“Come here,” Carlisle says, scuffing the back of Edward’s head and pulling him in too.

Chapter Text

 Edward was chewing on the straw of his iced coffee as they pulled into the parking lot. For once, he got front seat, because Emmett wanted to squish into the back to sit next to Rosalie. Alice was the smallest of them, so somehow they were all tucked in the back safely.

Jasper did, however, continually have to tell Emmett to duck his head so he could reverse park into his usual spot.

"Emmett, down boy!" Jasper barked, with enough lightness in his tone to cause Emmett to only laugh and press his grin into the top of Rosalie's hair. It was gross, and Edward looked back at his phone. He was going through Jake's snapstory about fixing the deep fryer at work. "Shit!" Jasper cursed, something he rarely allowed himself to do, and slammed on the brakes.

Edward's phone shot out of his hand and landed on his feet, and he gave a shout. "What are you doing!?" He demanded to the driver.

Jasper scowled fiercely. "Some asshole is trying to slip into my spot!" He growled, and immediately put the car in park.

"What are you doing?" Edward repeated as Jasper climbs out while telling them all to stay put.

Edward rolled down the window and stuck his head out. An ugly brown van was tail-gating them.

Jasper strolled over, and leaned against the driver door, his expression so thunderous, that even smiling as he was, it just looked like he was a snarling big cat. "Hey - I was just reversing in, and I came first, had my blinker on and everything." Jasper explained pleasantly with his teeth bared. "So if you could just carefully peel yourself off my ass ...." He made a bit of a shooing motion, and stuck his hands in his pockets.

Emmett made a comical gulping sound. "Scared of him." He said, trying for a dark tone but giggling to himself at the end. After all, Jasper would never turn such anger on them

The van started to reverse, and Jasper strolled over as the fake smile melted off of his face and he climbed back inside.

"Already done with the day." Jasper told them, smoothly pulling into his spot and yanking the handbrake again.

Rosalie chuckles. "Surprised you didn't start a fist-fight in the parking lot." She joked.

Jasper gave a big sigh as he opened his door to get out. "When you're emancipated, you go to grown-up jail for that." He said ruefully.

--

In Biology, Bella sat in her seat before most people got there. She felt extra stressed lately; her mom was trying to be a ‘home-maker’ again, which Bella was starting to suspect was thanks to Phil’s firm new presence in their lives. More importantly, it meant Bella had to double down on sitting at the dining room table with her mini fire extinguisher, praying her mother didn’t start another fire. Burt, their local fire chief, did not like Renee when she was cooking. Bella wasn’t even proud she knew the local fire chief by name, since she was a cop’s daughter, and there was a rivalry. Plus she was in Tyler's car when he almost cut off Whitlock's Thunderbird, and that was just social suicide. Jessica had thrown herself to the floor to avoid being seen when Jasper came and told them to back off with such a scary demeanour.

So she didn’t actually notice when Edward sat beside her. He was just beside her, tapping her on the shoulder.

“Good morning,” he says, smiling a little as she jumped nearly a foot in the air. He doesn’t apologize for startling her, or even mention it, and it makes Bella decidedly embarrassed.

“Hi,” she answers shakily. Last time Edward spoke to her, it was an answering text to thank her for mentioning who she had seen kissing his father that morning. But now, he was smiling at her. Not that he completely ignored her; she usually got a soft greeting and a nod while he was reading or on his phone. But now, Edward was facing her, smiling softly and looking actively engaged in speaking with her.

Before now, she decided it would be better for her pride if she waited for him to start the conversation. But this was it, and she was still kind of blanking. "Sorry about Tyler's van." She blurted out, but immediately winced. She should have waited until Edward asked to be sure that he'd known she was in there.

Edward looked surprised, but smiling quickly. "It was no problem." He said pleasantly. “I was wondering if I could sit with you at lunch?” Edward asked, his head tilted slightly – and cutely – to the side.

Bella felt her heart race, but forced herself to nod. “Um yeah, definitely.” She said. Almost simultaneously, she was consumed by nerves. Jessica was going to get so weird.

Edward, though, beamed boyishly, and said; “Excellent!”

The rest of biology passed by in a bit of a blur, mostly with Bella mildly dreading trying to eat the pricey sandwiches at lunch. She’d have to, if Edward Cullen was going to sit at her table. Oh god, Jessica was going to have a conniption.

Edward follows her into the cafeteria, and lines up with her for the sandwich bar and sits right next to her at the table. It kind of depresses Bella when she thinks about how excited this would have made her when she thought Edward was straight. It still excited some small part of her.

She gets one of the cheapest options, turkey that tastes like shoe soles, and some lettuce. Edward gets his usual, not that Bella would ever admit that she knew that. “So, what did Jake do now?” She says conversationally, mostly to distract herself from the lack of change she gets from her twenty-dollar note.

Edward’s nose wrinkles, as though a strange smell wafted past him. “Sorry?” He asks kindly.

“Jacob?” Bella prompts. Edward had never actually spoken to her about anyone or anything else. She was, of course, happy to help. “Jacob Black?”

Edward smiled in amusement now, which was a pretty expression on him. “I remember.” He assures her simply, following a step behind as Bella sits at her normal table; both glad and nervous to be the first one there. “Nothing, really, it was recently pointed out to me that I haven’t made an effort with his friends, but he’s done more than that for me.” Edward told her with some conviction. Bella wasn’t surprised that he was such a considerate boyfriend; he always seemed the type. “So I wanted to rectify it. You don’t mind, do you?” He asks, looking a little surprised, as though he hadn’t banked on it being a concern.

Bella shook her head quickly, glancing at where Jessica had Mike by the arm and was almost charging towards them. “No … you might, though.” She says weakly.

Bella?” Jess asked her, and Bella hoped she was only imagining her friend's right eye twitching.

Bella ducked her head, and braced herself. “Jess, you remember Edward, right?” She asked, unnecessarily but hoping to portray to Edward that Jessica was a stable member of the student body. “Jake’s boyfriend?” She added.

“Absolutely!” Jessica said, sticking out a hand. It was her party that solidified the rumors about Edward and who he was dating, after all. Jess claimed that that alone was worth getting grounded by her parents for the next century. “Hi, Edward.” She said, her tone a little too breathy.

“Hello.” Edward replies cordially, partaking in the vigorous handshake Jess gives him. The rest of the table end up arriving too, not at Jess’ speed, albeit they look a little like Edward might bite them. But he greets everyone, and even Angela by name.

June Richardson stares at Edward like she expected him to vanish in a puff of smoke. A minor hiccup occurred when Tyler asks him how Lauren was doing, but Edward politely denies knowing who that was. This causes Tyler to call him an ‘ass’ under his breath, but Edward had obviously heard him.

Jess kicked Tyler under the table, and she wasn’t subtle. It seemed her new purpose in life was to ensure that Edward thought they were all normal, inviting people, that he could come and sit with every day for the rest of his life.

Edward glances at Bella, and she almost grins like a loon as he mouths ‘help me’ to her as the conversation awkwardly lulls. Mostly because everyone at the table were trying to hang on to Edward’s every word, but he wasn’t much of a talker.

“Jess,” Bella pipes up. “Edward wanted to know if you got in a lot of trouble for the party.” Bela supplied. Edward nods, putting on a very good ‘concerned’ expression.

Jess brightens up at the mention of the awful party. “My parents still claim I’m grounded but,” with triumph, she swings her car keys on her finger, “it’s not really a punishment if I get to keep my Merc!” She declares.

Edward laughs along with everyone else. “That’s good,” Edward told her, and Jess grins with all her teeth.

“Edward?” It was Katie Marshall, looking at him with a bright smile, that turns into something else as she looks at the rest of the table. Jennifer stands beside her, not even bothering to smile. “Got homework or something?” Katie asks lightly.

“No, just eating.” Edward replies simply. “Did you need something, Sadie?” He asks.

Katie gives a high-pitched laugh. “Edward! So silly,” she says, tossing her hair and waving him good-bye. Jennifer leaves as well, no doubt before Edward could misremember her name in front of a bunch of nobodies.

Mike’s already grinning though, and so is Jessica.

“Her name’s Katie,” June supplies helpfully, her eyes almost shining with purpose.

Edward grimaces. “I’m not good with names.” He mutters, though he doesn’t seem embarrassed by his slip, so much as he obviously wanted to get out of speaking to her. Jessica’s still running demented defense, though, quickly distracting June before she could annoy Edward again.

Even though Jessica tried as hard as a small-business owner who wanted a five-star yelp review, Bella knew it was unlikely Edward would make a reappearance at their table. Mostly because, through answering questions and the like, he got only two bites into his sandwich.

Bella was forlorn as Edward threw away most of his lunch as the bell rang. “Sorry, they’re just excited.” She says.

Edward shrugs a little. “It’s fine,” he says casually. “I didn’t do this just to please Jake. Well, I did, but the point was to meet his friends.” Edward says, smiling a little.

Bella feels another stab of guilt. “Yeah, they’re not it.” She says, tone high with nervous shame. He stares at her. “They’re my school-friends, and Jake’s met them, mostly, but they’re not his friends.” Bella clarified.

Now, Edward looks briefly annoyed. “I see,” he says quietly.

Bella feels a flush over her cheeks. “Sorry, I didn’t want to reject you, and your heart’s in the right place!” She reassured him, but Edward now gives her a bit of a blank look; as though she didn’t need to tell him that.

“Look, it’s easier if you sit with me tomorrow at lunch.” Edward says, before wincing. “That is, please sit at the table I usually sit at tomorrow.” He tries again delicately. Bella agrees immediately, and Edward thanks her. She thanks him right back, which seems to confuse and amuse him.

-

Jake comes over that afternoon, with a bag of left-over PB cookies. Jasper’s actually at his own job, though, so Alice offers kindly to eat them in his stead.

Unperturbed, Jake goes to Edward’s room and flops onto his couch.

“Heard you entertained the masses today.” Jake told him casually, rolling onto his back and grinning up at Edward at his desk.

Edward shrugs a little, closing his notebook and walking to stand over Jake’s head. “Well, you’ve met my friends, thought I’d return the favor.” He replied, smiling. He was pleased Bella did tell Jake though. Edward sits with his ass next to Jake's armpit, leaning down and giving him a lingering kiss.

“You don’t have to, you know.” Jake says softly, but he doesn’t seem reproachful, just, if anything, nervous. Edward cocks his head to the side, waiting for him to continue. “It’s just … I don’t want Bella feeling like the only reason you speak to her is because of me.” He admits softly.

Edward frowns in consideration. Honestly; he forgot Bella sat right next to him in biology sometimes; he was too busy tuning out the irritating smell of artificial strawberries. Those were one of his least favorite smells; right up there with wet dog.

“Oh … you would be the only reason we speak.” He tells the boy. Jake had pretty much been the only reason he spoke to Bella up til now, and he didn’t think that would change anytime soon.

“I know,” Jake said with a shrug, “and I want you to be nice to her, but she has her own friends, just like you.” He adds, though his tone is a little teasing.

Edward smiles softly; thinking that he could read between the lines. Jake didn’t want to force him to make an acquaintance, knowing how anti-social he could get. Edward was very flattered by his boyfriend’s concern. “Fine, I’ll just have to use valuable class time to gossip about you with her.” He said heavily, pressing a hand against his chest theatrically.

Hey! Don’t you dare!” Jake growled mockingly, grabbing Edward up with both hands and heaving himself forward, planting a sloppy kiss on the boy’s neck.

Edward laughed, feeling a slight tingle in his belly. Flirtatiously, he wraps both arms around Jake’s neck and presses his lips to his brown ear.

“Well, you’ll have to find some way to distract me from my plans.” He whispers, biting Jake’s earlobe, the stud catching against his teeth just enough to make Jacob grunt as he tugged a little.

--

Bella waited outside the cafeteria a little awkwardly, waiting for Edward to show the next day. He strolled up, eyes sliding right past Bella and not noticing her wave, making her feel a little dorky.

“Edward!” She called out, running up to him with a smile.

“Hmm? … Morning.” Edward said softly, his eyes a little glassy, the dark circles underneath were a little more prominent.

“Um, it’s noon.” Bella points out quietly, though he doesn’t seem to care. “You said we should sit together?” She prompts. She was going to be mortified if he rescinded the invitation now.

“Oh!” Edward looked a little more awake now. “Right, that’s right …” he muttered, suddenly looking a little flushed, “I got distracted. Yeah, I’m gonna grab something to eat.” He told her, nodding towards the sandwich bar.

Bella agreed, and they both lined up with their trays. She felt Jessica’s gaze boring a hole into the back of her skull, but she opted to ignore it. She instead focused on making small talk with Edward. She talked about the biology homework, which Edward calmly agreed also killed him, and about the re-run of Fringe that was on last night, though Edward didn’t really watch television.

Edward led her to the Ideal Windows, and mentioned for her to pull up a chair in sit between him and Emmett McCarty. Emmett doesn’t hear her quiet ‘hello’ which is probably because he’s yelling at Lee over something about practice. Alice sees her, and waves at her happily. Bella waves back and Jasper gives her a cool little salute that involves flicking his first two fingers in her direction.

Rosalie looks straight into her eyes, but doesn’t do anything else, and her carefully blank expression makes Bella so nervous she has to drop her gaze.

Katie’s head snaps up, an ugly look on her face. “What?” She snaps, but quiets when Rosalie’s cool gaze slips over to land on her. “Um, Edward, who’s your friend?” She asks, her tone sweeter, but not her expression.

Edward barely looks at her. “Bella, Jake’s best friend.” He supplies, and that seems to shut Katie up, though she looks awfully unhappy about it.

Sucking up to the boyfriend, huh?” Connor asked cheekily, making an obscene gesture with a plastic spoon and his tongue.

Edward gave him a droll look. “Better than you could.” He replies primly. Bella was a little shocked that Edward would play along; he seemed more old-fashioned and mature than that. Connor hisses, as though delivered a stinging blow.

“He does fine!” D.J Garret declares, as he throws a fry at Edward, who smoothly leans back to dodge it. The table laughs, and Bella carefully chuckles along with them, though she didn’t really find fellatio jokes at all funny.

Rob slumps down loudly on the jock section of the tables, and makes a show of half-collapsing on Jennifer in his turmoil.

Bella, who knew by now she would never warm up to the boy, focuses on her tray and starts to eat her meagre lunch.

“What’s up, dumbfuck?” Emmett asks compassionately. He had his hand resting on Rosalie’s chair next to him, and she was holding his hand, or his fingers, behind her elbow as her arms were crossed casually in front of her chest. Bella wasn’t sure she was supposed to see, though, and looks away.

“My moms are fighting!” Rob yells, his face twisted, though his tone comes across more whingy than concerned. “This is the worst, Lee, can I live at your house tonight?” He whimpers. Lee inclines his head yes. Bella wants to ask Edward about Rob’s home life, but he’s speaking to Alice and she doesn’t want to disturb him.

Rob gives a low whine, resting his head on top of Jennifer’s and splayed with his legs up on the seat next to him. “Feel sad for me.” He tells everybody. Bella thinks privately that he was being quite annoying.

“Aw, I’m so sorry for you.” Jennifer supplies mechanically, eyes fixed on her phone. Her hand reaches up and pets his buzzcut, before dropping back down. “I’m also sorry I just got mustard in your fuzz.” She adds, licking the sauce off her thumb. Rob cries out, hands flying to his scalp, and the table laughs again.

Bella was temporarily enjoying the feeling of sitting at this table; but soon felt a little left-out. Jennifer made it a point to glare at her periodically, Katie had yet to look down from the ceiling with how hard she was turning up her nose at her and Edward was absorbed in his book; A Single Man.

“I haven’t read that yet.” Bella told him. Edward glanced at the novel’s cover, as though surprised it existed, before shrugging with one shoulder.

“It’s fine,” He told her, before setting the book down. Bella knew she should apologize for disturbing him; but she really did want to talk to him. “What do you normally read?”

She told him a few of her more enlightened favorites; Gatsby, On The Road, even Bukowski’s Post Office. But, as she named each title, he seemed more and more reserved.

“… Not a fan of those?” She asks, a little shyly. Politely, Edward shook his head.

“Not at all.” He said, though he seemed a little coy about it. Bella assured him it was okay, and Edward laughed lightly in response. “I know,” he told her.

“Well, um, who are your favorites?” She asks eagerly.

“E. M. Forster, Vidal, Steinbeck when I can stand him. Woolf and Alice Walker, because I’m not an animal, and others.” Edward said vaguely. Bella nodded, but felt a little out-of-her-depth; she hadn’t heard of some of those people, and was a little afraid of looking foolish by asking.

But that is all the conversation she could think up, and Edward returns to his book. Bella ends up eating her whole lunch in the first fifteen minutes, and on her phone calming down Jessica until the bells rings.