Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all its recognizable characters - I own the plot alone.
This will be earning its M Rating.
Pairings: Bella/Edward and Bella/Jasper. No slash and no cousin on cousin action whatsoever.
I stepped off the plane at SeaTac and straight into the arms of my dad. Breathing in the scent and feel of flannel and peppermint gum, I allowed myself to truly breathe for the first time in a year.
Every Summer I went to stay with my dad in Washington. As had been tradition ever since I could remember, dad would load up his jeep with camping and fishing gear and would pick me up from Seattle airport, ready for a month spent in the Washington Cascades - on a branch of the Skykomish River called Goblin Creek.
Dad fished all day while I swam in the creek that bordered our self-made camp site and climbed as many trees as I could get my hands on. I waited on bated breath for every Summer I got to spend up in the mountains, and this year was no different, bar one thing. Dad had a girlfriend, and she was coming with us. Now I had no problem with my dad dating, I had encouraged it at times. But there was just no way I could see one of the older women in Forks even managing to cope with living without showers or toilets for a full month, and the prospect of one of these women ruining my summer by demanding amenities or just not fully appreciating our time in the Cascades had my hands shaking and anger boiling through my body. Dad had assured me that she was well equipped to handle the trip, and I had no reason to doubt him.
Another point of contempt was that dad's girlfriend Alyson was bringing her son and nephew along for the ride. One was my age and the other was a few years older from what I could remember. Dad threw my carry on backpack over his shoulder and I slung my messenger bag over mine as we made our way through the airport to the parking lot - chattering about inane work and school stories from our year apart. We broke free into the humid heat of Seattle and were immediately accosted by a medium-height woman with piercing blue eyes and a kind smile. This must be the girlfriend. Dad made his way through the basic introductions and I barely spotted two heads of copper and blond hair over her shoulder before Alyson enveloped me in a warm hug, sunshine and strawberries dominant in her clean smell. She drawled a quiet greeting into my ear and drew her arms back to her sides, fixing me with a blinding smile. Biggest shock of the summer so far? I already liked my dad's girlfriend. I wasn't so sure about her son and nephew, however.
I'd always gotten on well enough with people my age but there had always been that disconnect - I was always a little less put together, a little too happy to be on my own, just a little bit wilder, more organic than my classmates. I was roiling rapids and mossy trees, and they were the hard packed desert of Arizona and just so put together that I was always kept at arms length lest I rot their carefully constructed gardens. I was the forest and they were the desert. It was simple but no less hurtful. I was seen as the messy and unrestrained girl whose dark hair and darker eyes were the antithesis of what Phoenix High stood for. The girls in my year had treated me with utter disdain until their male counterparts had gotten it into their head that it would be totally rad to bang the Washington girl - twig thin and dirty featured, and as one boy had described me "an exotic fuck - so fuckin' wild in the sack I bet" - which was when I started receiving invitations to almost every drunken bash that ever happened. I capitalized on the attention, exploring my way through most of the boys in my year in an attempt to find somewhere that I actually fit - that one last defining moment that would cement me in Phoenix forever. It never happened. I still longed for my home state and they still kept me at a distance when it suited them.
Phoenix girls are bleached and bubble gum pink, and my long tangled hair had been in the hands of too many boys who wanted to have the bragging right of deflowering the one aspect of Phoenix High that didn't quite fit. Despite their efforts, I'd retained that one last defense against being completely sucked into the blinding light of my city. I was a virgin, and had made it my life goal to never give it up to someone who thought they could own me. I wanted to be wild and uncontrolled - and once I was free of Arizona , I would be.
Like millions of other teenage girls, I was desperate to be free of my town. We weren't special or unique - we just wanted something that we perceived as better and chose to believe that made us superior. I wasn't better, I wasn't broken - I was just an immature girl who thought she was better than what she had, and tried to prove it. That was what I always liked about my Washington summers, they grounded me beyond belief and reminded me that I wasn't fucking special - I just thought I was.
"Bella, these are my two boys - Jasper and Edward. Jasper is my son and young Edward is his cousin," Alyson's voice spurred me into action and I raised my head high to meet the two boys who I would be spending the summer with. Understatement of the Summer so far? The word boys.
These were not boys at all. They were smoking steaming heat, threatening to burn my cheeks and take the voice from my throat. I drew in a breath to calm my nerves and settle my stomach and focused on the less threatening of the two, the young teenager who would be none other than Edward.
Now Edward - I could see myself actually getting along with at some point this summer. He was tall, understated boyish beauty and thin wiry muscles topped with a messy pile of copper toned hair that must have been packet dye, because there was no way anyone actually had that color hair naturally. It was pulled back high from his head, standing up at crazy angles and barely moving in the light breeze, looking freshly tugged and ruffled. Unless he was in the business of airport quickies with his cousin, it was likely the product of careful styling by his own hand. Khakis and a baggy navy tee - I looked forward to seeing him try and keep up his carefully cultivated messy appearance without any amenities. He greeted me with a handshake and a grin, bright green eyes set off by too white teeth and a thin fingered hand that was warm, strong and sweat-sticky. Boy hand. This was something I was used to, and something that I could control. He introduced himself quickly and quietly - still smiling - and I followed suit. Edward wasn't a threat, Edward was my age and too nice to even realize that excluding me was an option. I had already gained a friend for the Summer, I could tell. One that wouldn't give a damn about my messy hair or dirty fingernails - Edward was far too pretty to ever consider the likes of me.
Directed by my dad, he scooped up my duffel bag and loped back to the jeep, jamming the luggage into the only tiny space available in the back seat, taking up the spot where I had figured I would be sitting for the trip - as Charlie's girlfriend obviously got passenger seat privileges. Unless she was driving up with Edward and Jasper?
As if thinking the latter's name summoned him, a shoe scuffing the ground alerted me to the presence of Alyson's son.
This... Would be Jasper. If Edward was toothy smiles and friendly boy, Jasper was filthy smirks and terrifying man. Instantly intimidated within 3 seconds of seeing him, I was already dreading the summer ahead with him around the campsite. Messy blond mop and honey tanned skin set off by icy blue eyes. Tight shirt and tighter jeans, a hint of faded ink disappearing into the neck of his white tee. He was spinning a key chain around his index finger, and offered me a simple nod in greeting. I smiled weakly, and tried to pull my tiny shorts down over my hideously scrawny legs, suddenly feeling immensely awkward and out of place. He raised an eyebrow and amusement sparked in his eyes, his lips twisting into a weird impersonation of a smile. He was laughing at me. Go figure. This was probably the last place on Earth that he wanted to be - a summer camping trip with his mom and her new boyfriend, with his possible future kid sister-in-law, and I was probably the last 16 year old in the universe that he wanted to be around. Phoenix girls may be bleached and bubble gum pink but that was what guys like Jasper wanted. He wasn't a Phoenix boy entranced by something different - he was a Washington man who had no time for messy haired, skinny little girls. Luckily, this Summer wasn't about romance. It was about letting go and having what seemed like the entire forest to myself for a month. I could ignore Jasper.
Edward shuffled back up beside his cousin and stuck his hands in the pockets of his shorts, I pulled at mine one last time before standing up straight and waiting for the Chief to issue his instructions, as per usual - he did not disappoint.
"Bells, you'll be riding up with Jasper and Edward this time. Alyson and I will take the jeep - you kids can follow and Bella knows the way to the site once you're on the NF-65. That alright with you, Bells?"
"Sure dad," I agreed easily - internally terrified at a 3 hour car ride with the intimidating Jasper, "are we heading up the same way as usual?" After getting dad's assent, I followed the two boys back to what must have been Jasper's car - a monstrous black and shiny truck - which was parked behind the jeep. Edward hung back a little and tapped my arm with his, the ever-present grin still gracing his face.
"Tough break, huh? Don't worry about it, we'll try and make it fun for you," with a wink and a flourish, he whipped the door to the passenger side open and I slid over the bench seat to the middle. Apparently it would be close quarters for the next 3 hours. Edward didn't bother me so much as the disinterested Jasper who had just deposited himself behind the wheel and slammed his door closed. His younger cousin was already beside me and gently shutting his own door, so I buckled up and prepared for a silent and awkward drive to my favorite place in the world. Jasper pulled out behind Charlie and we began the slow crawl out of the airport parking lot. Edward was flicking through a stack of discs and Jasper had his eyes on the procession of cars ahead of us, so I fished my iPod out of my pocket and prepared to completely zone for the rest of the drive.
I'd only gotten four songs into my travel play list when I was startled into awareness by Edward tugging an ear bud out of my ear. Happy to be getting even a tiny bit of recognition on this drive, I smiled at him easily.
"What's up, Bella? We not good enough for you?" He softened the jab with an offered piece of gum which I took happily. Bad breath would be the absolute worst being this close to two other people, and traveling always made my mouth sticky. Jasper had his eyes on the road still, but also had the window open and a cigarette between his lips. I couldn't see the jeep anymore so we'd either gone ahead or fallen behind, and at the speed Jasper was driving I was guessing it was the former.
"I'm all for having the headphones out if you're actually going to talk to me," I responded, unwrapping the gum and chewing on it quickly. Edward laughed quietly and threw an arm out his window to rest on the side of the truck.
"What do you wanna talk about, Bella?" He countered, hitting the power switch on the stereo. Wailing guitars and heavy drum tracks filled the cab, unrecognizable to me. I studied his profile as inconspicuously as I could. He was a pretty boy, fine featured but with a strong jaw line and boy stubble. The kind of boy that had the power to make girls weep, but I could already tell that he was the opposite of that kind of boy. He was nice, and it would be good to have someone my age around for the Summer.
"For starters, how'd you and Jasper get dragged along for this?" I questioned, splitting my attention between the two. Edward dragged a hand through his hair - so it was self inflicted - and Jasper smiled and flicked the butt of his cigarette out his window before speaking in a slow drawl that tugged at my stomach.
"Voluntary exile, kid. Like I'd let my mom disappear into the middle of fuckin' nowhere with a random dude that owns multiple guns and hunting knives for a month? No sir. And Eddie here ain't got nothin' better to do anyway, so I figured he could tag along. What better way to bond with my little cousin, eh?" He finished, reaching an arm over my head to ruffle Edward's already messy hair. 'Eddie' pushed his hand away and kicked his feet up on the dashboard.
"Come on Jazz," he whined, pulling a small tin out of his pocket and settling back into his seat, "We don't know anyone in Forks yet Bella, Jazz and his mom moved up here recently and I'm staying with them for the Summer, I live in Chicago with my parents. How does Phoenix treat you? I wont lie, Jazz and I thought you'd have a little bit more of a tan happening, but the pale look suits you"
Pushing off my shoes and curling my legs up beneath me, I offered them both a smile.
"I'm a freak of nature, the sun just can't get to my pasty skin. I've tried all I can but I still look dead - I've learned to work with it over the years," I replied - interrupted by a scoff from Jasper. I hummed inquisitively and he shook his head. Edward explained with a laugh and a poke to my knee.
"He's pretty much done with the whole tanned and weathered look - you're a nice change of scenery. And it's not pasty so much as see-through," he picked up my arm and studied my wrist, "Ew, I think I can see your veins". I snatched my arm back and elbowed him lightly.
"Shut it, pretty boy," Edward ignored me and opened up his little tin to reveal 3 perfectly rolled joints. Like most other teenagers I'd well and truly had my experience with weed. It inevitably came out at every party and I'd sampled more than enough to know it still wouldn't make me like any of my classmates. But I was already starting to like Edward and Jasper's company, and if they wanted to get high and experience the wilderness I was more than happy to join them, I'd already had the creeping feeling that Charlie wasn't going to be all that present this Summer.
So when Edward lit up and took a deep drag of the joint before offering it to me, I accepted it readily. I'd like to say I surprised and impressed the boys by taking a hit like a champ, but I coughed as was expected and timidly offered it to Jasper. He switched his other hand to the wheel and put the joint delicately between his lips. I watched unashamedly as he pulled heavily and it steadily smoldered down to almost nothing before he passed it back to me. I took one more small hit without choking too much and Edward finished it off. I'd always had an extremely low tolerance when it came to weed, so I stretched my legs out and sat back in my seat while my head swam lazily. Edward prodded my foot with his and I turned my head to face him. The goofy smile was back on his face in full force and his crazy hair was whipping in the wind.
"What would the Chief say, Bellerina?" He asked, picking up my hand and playing absently with my fingers. My hand looked like a toddlers' next to his and made me feel even more like a kid.
"He'd probably kill you first and then move onto me," I answered, bringing my legs back in to curl underneath me as I turned to fully face Edward, my hand still captured in his. He blew air out of his nose in a silent laugh and I hesitantly leaned back to get comfortable. My back was just barely touching Jasper's shoulder and I hoped he wouldn't be too pissed off, as it was super comfortable. I really wanted to just outright lean back on him while I chatted with Edward, but I knew it probably wouldn't be well received. I turned my attention back to Edward and we continued talking about whatever random things crossed through our minds, so it startled me when Jasper grabbed my shoulder and pushed me back against his side.
"Stop hovering there like a fuckwit," he laughed, and bumped me with the shoulder that I was now leaning on. I butted my head back against his shoulder and laughed with him. Edward turned the dial on the volume and whatever mix they'd made for the trip filled the car. I leaned heavily on Jasper and stretched my legs out to hit the opposite corner of the cab, up on the dashboard and resting on Edward's bare ankles and settled in for a long drive.
Over the next few hours I got to know Edward and Jasper pretty well. We chatted lazily and asked each other questions when they came to mind. Edward was just as nice and easy going as I had first thought, and Jasper wasn't as much of a prick as I'd guessed he was. I got along pretty well with both of them, but still couldn't shake the thought that maybe they'd wished 'the Chief' had a proper Phoenix daughter, and I was just a poor substitute. Luckily, I had zero intention of messing around with my father's probably future step son and nephew, so it was a bit easier without the sexual undertone that usually came hand in hand with teenage boys. Neither Edward or Jasper seemed even remotely into me in that way - so we were all happy to just smoke up and hang out with each other.
Edward was 17 and lived in Chicago with his parents. He was into classic rock and was the best swimmer his school had seen in years - taking home the gold in almost every race he entered. His step dad Carlisle was really pushing him to go for a scholarship at Stanford, and join the swim team there, and Edward didn't really have a problem with that as long as he could major in music - his self proclaimed dream was to be an Olympic swimmer and teach piano lessons in his spare time. He was okay with the idea of not achieving his dream, he'd settle for taking nationals if he couldn't have the Olympics. His mother Esme wanted him to stay closer to home, but she was coming to terms with it slowly. He had a 15 year old sister named Alice in high school and a 23 year old brother named Emmett who was already in college. The way he talked about them made me long for a brother or sister that would care for me the way Edward fiercely loved his siblings, as he would obviously do anything for them and not even think twice.
Jasper and his mom had just recently moved to Washington from Flower Mound, Texas - a suburb of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. His parents divorced about a year back and they had only just gotten around to moving out of state, something his mom had wanted to do ever since she left Jasper's dad. They chose Washington on a whim and Jasper picked Forks because the name stood out to him, and the next week they were packed up and driving across the country towards Olympia. He was 20 - and still hadn't done anything with his life beyond graduating high school, a fact he was perfectly content with. He'd been a counter clerk in a hunting, camping and fishing store back in Flower Mound and the closest he'd gotten to that in Washington was the Brown's Outdoor in Port Angeles where he sold tents to hikers coming in from all kinds of places. He didn't have a dream or a goal in life and was happy to just carry on as he was now, eventually wanting to own his own outdoor supplier if everything went right. That was why he was so happy to come on the trip he explained, getting to look after his mom with the added bonus of fishing and hiking? He was all for it.
I gave Edward and Jasper a half-assed description of my life so far, mostly focusing on how much I always looked forward to my Summers in Washington. I told them about my loose fit in Phoenix High and my dreams of one day owning a log cabin far out enough where I could see the stars and never be bothered by anyone unless I willed it so. Jasper laughed at this and likened me to a dryad, which spurred Edward into snatching a handful of crumbled leaves from a passing branch and sprinkling them into my tangled hair - christening me their little 'wood nymph' and ignoring my protests.
It was late afternoon when we started properly winding into the curves of the roads that I recognized so well. It would only be about 20 minutes until we reached the spot on the highway where we would have to leave the cars behind and hike to our camping spot. We all popped some gum and I spritzed myself with some perfume that I found in my messenger bag.
We reached the bridge that crossed across Goblin Creek at around 4 - Jasper shot me a skeptical look when I directed him over onto the shoulder - we had been running along the NF-65 up into the Cascades and had reached a metal bridge that passed over a poor excuse for a river when I told Jasper to pull over, and there was nothing in sight but the river and mass amounts of foliage. As Jasper pulled over to the shoulder I pointed out a small opening in a copse of trees just ahead of us - we crawled over the dead branches and leaves and emerged into a small clearing that was cleared out by Granddad Swan when he first started bringing his son up here, and was expanded upon by dad when he got his chance to show the Cascades to his daughter. Jasper slotted his truck as far over to the right as possible, leaving just enough room for the jeep beside us. Edward and I tumbled out of the car and stretched our legs, while Jasper leaned back against his truck and smoked a cigarette.
It was absolute heaven breathing in the taste and smell of the forest, letting it sweep across my tongue and linger in my mouth. It was fresh, damp wood and it was home. Jasper and Edward didn't laugh when I lay flat down in the fallen leaves, nor did they say a word as I smiled up at the sky and splayed my arms and legs. Edward just lay down beside me and started pointing out shapes in the clouds above us - Jasper disagreeing with him occasionally - "It's not a rabbit you fuckin' douche do they look like ears to you?" - and we only moved from our spots when dad's jeep crunched over the ground half an hour later.
"Get up kids, we've got a good hour hike to go and if I catch one of you not pulling your weight, there'll be hell to pay," was his barked greeting.
I shot to my feet and started pulling bags from the back of the jeep, tossing them behind me in a sizeable pile. Luggage, canvas tents, boxes of supplies, and everything in between. I scratched my arm on the steel grating of the portable camp stove and hissed through my teeth. I heard Edward and his low utterance of "pussy" next to me and flung a bag of tent pegs heavily at his stomach. He caught them with a grin and added them to our pile. Jasper was over at his truck pulling out all of the gear he had brought, and by the time 20 minutes had passed we were completely unpacked and ready to begin. As was routine, I started loading myself up with all of the lighter bags - as many on each arm as I could carry - and grabbed the offending camp stove in my arms. Edward looked to be on tent duty, as he'd picked up three sets of tents and was carefully stringing bags of pegs around his neck to carry to the site.
I went to add Jasper's backpack to my haul but he shook his head with a laugh and strapped it over his shoulders with a distinct and muted clinking of bottles. Maybe this Summer was going to be one to truly remember.
Once we were all strapped up with equipment and luggage, dad started leading the way ahead with Alyson at his side. Edward and I followed side by side, kicking out at each other and trying to trip the other up while Jasper brought up the rear.
Dad liked to call our spot 'Swan Creek'. It was what Granddad Swan had named our camping spot and the name had stuck when it was inherited by his son and his granddaughter. It was about an hour and a half hike North from the bridge point, and was almost impossible to get to or from if you didn't know where you were going. The three newcomers clearly were extremely lost, and would no doubt never be able to find their way in or out of the campsite without either of us helping them. I just barely knew the way myself, and didn't like my chances of being able to find my way there or back on my own without dad's help. Luckily, that would never be necessary.
Our path followed the creek North for 45 minutes, which was easy enough to follow. From there, we started weaving into the dense forest, a path that dad knew like the back of his hand. West for 20 minutes and then North West for 15. By that point the canopy above was dense and you were well and truly lost in the Wilderness - the camp site was marked by a huge mossy boulder about 5 minutes out. Once you found the rock, you were basically already there. When I was younger, dad used to pretend that he was lost and would let me find the rock to get us to the site. By 16, I well and truly knew the area from the boulder to the stream on the opposite side like the back of my hand and had no chance of getting lost in that little area.
The hike went fairly quickly. Jasper was steadfast and determined, only breaking his concentration to laugh at a particularly idiotic comment Edward had made, or to poke fun at me for getting my foot stuck under a tree root. Dad and Alyson were leading the pack steadily, and Edward and I were keeping up a steady stream of conversation the entire way. By the time we finally reached the telling boulder I was extremely relieved - my legs and arms were aching and I was fucking starving. We came out into another man made clearing and I immediately dropped what I was carrying and stretched my arms out, trying to shake the strain from them.
'Swan Creek' was a small wooded clearing, dimmed by the canopy overhead and bordered on the West by a small stream, just big enough to swim comfortably in without touching the bottom. Dad had built in a fire pit a few years back, surrounded by felled logs to sit on. This place was the absolute epitome of my happy place, and I could already feel my heart beating slower and the tranquility of the woods seeping into my bones. This was what I waited for every year, to get back into these trees and let myself go for a month. Eating whatever we caught, and bathing in the river - this was where I was undoubtedly happy.
Edward interrupted my reverie by stepping up behind me and tugging on a lock of my hair.
"Back home, little nymph?" He murmured quietly, not spoiling the quiet calm of the clearing.
"Definitely," I whispered, "Doesn't it just feel so amazing?"
With Edward, this boy I had met scarcely four hours ago, I was not afraid of being different or being perceived as that wild, uncontrolled intruder. This was where I felt at home, and he was here with me - along with his aunt and cousin. He hummed his agreement and turned to help unpack the tents. I breathed quietly for a few minutes, mentally planning everything I was going to do in the next four weeks - from swimming every day to fishing for food with Charlie, and roasting the catches on the fire at night. Going to see if my old climbing tree was as big as I remembered and maybe even introducing Edward and Jasper to it. I had expected Alyson's son and nephew to completely disregard me as her boyfriend's scrawny kid - but it seemed like they were genuinely happy to be here, whereas most people their age would rather be back in society for their time away from school or work. Out here I wasn't Isabella, the mysterious and completely touchable entity that stalked the halls of Phoenix High and gave herself up to drunk boys in an attempt to feel wanted - I was myself. I was unrestrained wilderness, I was vines creeping up the trunks of hundred year old trees and I was the bear that tore fish from the water with a gentle paw before ripping them apart with my teeth.
I was home.