*A/N I do not own Twilight. I only own my own OCs. Story contains spoilers for the books and the movies.

It was, as was usually the case in Washington, a foggy morning with grey clouds covering the sky like a bleak blanket. Not even a hint of the morning sun greeted her as Niki drove onto the asphalt off the highway and easily slid her beat-up Honda into an empty spot in the school parking lot. It was the first time in years that she'd not had to fight for a space; but then, it was much earlier than she was used to coming to school. It had certainly been interesting trying to get ready on time and Niki had ended up yelling goodbye to her father as she grabbed toast and half flew out the door.

But, Niki had promised them she would be there to meet them in the morning and she made it to school with a minute to spare on their agreed-upon time. The new girls were already there, of course, probably too nervous to wait around at home. That, or Bella was still as much a nut about keeping the time as she had been as a child. They were the only other people in the lot although that wasn't the only reason Niki recognized them. Their new truck had been her father's for years after all.

Sliding out of her car, Niki hurried over to the truck's cab. Electric blue eyes darted over and met hers, and Niki grinned while the other girl relaxed and broke into a relieved smile. She murmured over to her side and chocolate brown eyes turned to look at Niki at the same time that Mia opened her door for Niki.

"Morning, Mia. Bella." Niki greeted cheerfully while Mia slid out of the truck.

"Hi." Mia grinned, looking visibly less nervous than she had before. "You're early."

"I'm very early. I don't think I've ever been to school this early before." Niki answered as Bella exited the truck too and joined them on the other side.

"Hi, Nicole." Bella greeted quietly.

"Call me Niki - everyone does." Niki gestured at the school.

"Come on, I'll show you guys to your lockers and then to your classes."

The other two girls nodded and followed Niki, Bella taking very careful steps as though afraid of her own feet. And, if Niki remembered correctly, Bella was right to fear them. It was funny, really, how little her childhood friends had changed over the years. Bella was still so serious, her dark brown hair falling in natural soft curls with absolutely no effort put into them. Chocolate brown eyes identical to Charlie Swan stared out of a thin face and they appeared to be too mature for Bella's age as they stared out at the world with a strange seriousness not typical for a girl her age. Even her thin lips appeared to rest naturally in a serious, straight line. Niki knew from experience they would often change into a grimace or an embarrassed smile when Bella's clumsiness kicked in, before falling back into the natural straight line.

Bella's twin sister, Mia, appeared to have thankfully outgrown her own clumsiness (perhaps because hers hadn't been as debilitating as Bella's was) as she walked perfectly normally beside Niki. That wasn't the only difference between the sisters however. While Mia had the same thin face and brown hair as her older sister, Mia's blue eyes were exactly like her mother's in not just colour but the way they sparkled with her good humour and bold personality. Her thin lips also seemed to be permanently tilted into a small smile like a young child's and Niki knew from experience that Mia easily laughed aloud unlike Bella. Even their way of dress was completely different with Bella choosing to wear jeans and a loose brown hoodie while Mia had dressed up in a red sweater under her coat and knee-high boots that were doing a good job protecting her from puddles and gave her an extra inch over her twin.

The only thing the two girls shared (that Niki knew of) was their dislike of the rain and the cold, something Niki related to. Despite the differences, however, the twins had always been close and it was evident this hadn't changed as they showed visible relief when Niki pointed out their new lockers for them.

"Since you guys are new, you guys are at the end here, right next to each other. Mia, yours is the top one and Bella, yours is the bottom one."

"Is it alphabetical?" Bella wondered in her soft voice. Niki had noticed that Bella was very quiet as a kid and it didn't seem like that had changed; another difference from Mia, who was naturally much more sociable and talkative.

Niki nodded.

"Yeah, it is. Amelia and Isabella Swan. Easy to find, and this building is in the middle of all the classroom buildings so it shouldn't be hard to find your way back here." Niki gestured at the doors to one side of the building. "Oh, and that's the cafeteria-"

"It's so easy even you could find it, Niki." Mia teased and Niki made a face.

"So I got us lost one time, it was ten years ago already..."

"It was definitely not just one time, Nik." Mia laughed.

Niki took on an expression of long-suffering, which she only managed to hold onto for a second before she reverted back to her usual cheer as she asked, "Anyway, what are your first classes?"

"Um..."

Mia had to dig for her schedule again to check but Bella had apparently already memorized most of hers as she answered promptly. "English in Building 3."

"I have… uh… Calculus. Building 5." Mia added as she found her schedule amongst her papers.

"Oh, great! Mia, you're in my class." Niki informed her. "We can walk together."

"Just don't get us lost." Mia teased and Niki scoffed.

"I've been at this school for over two years now, I can find my way around perfectly fine, thank you very much."

"You've lived in Forks all your life and Billy said you still manage to get lost at times." Bella interjected with a small smile. Niki pointed at the sisters in mock aggravation.

"That's it, I'm not being your guide anymore."

Mia laughed while Bella's smile widened a bit more naturally. Unfortunately, students were starting to enter and almost immediately all eyes turned to the two unfamiliar faces standing to the side of the hallway. Bella's smile dropped at once, a grimace replacing it. Sensing her discomfort, Niki quickly re-engaged the sisters in conversation.

"Bella, your class is two buildings to the right from this one. I can take you if you want?"

"Thanks, but it's fine." Bella declined politely, although she looked a little bit wary of potentially offending Niki with her rejection. But Niki just shrugged easily.

"Sure, sure. It's not hard to miss anyway."

Bella looked a bit awkward as she nodded in response, when Mia suddenly piped up, "Oh, speaking of missing things. I meant to ask yesterday when you and your dad were over, but we didn't really get the time. How are Rachel and Rebecca?"

Niki shrugged again.

"Rachel got a scholarship to Washington State and Rebecca married a Samoan surfer - she lives in Hawaii now. Lucky witch." Niki added, making Mia smile. She knew Niki didn't mean it.

"Married?" Bella repeated, speaking up in her surprise. "Wow."

"Yeah, truthfully we didn't see it coming." Niki admitted. "But, she seems happy."

"You must miss her." Mia commented and Niki shrugged again.

"Sometimes. But she and Rachel weren't really the same after Mom died. Besides, I've still got Jake." Niki grinned as she thought about your younger brother who really wasn't a baby anymore but she just couldn't see him as anything but. She wondered if she ever would.

"How is Jacob?" Mia asked and Niki laughed.

"Same old. He's probably just as unchanged as you two seem to be."

"You're the same too, Niki." Bella answered, and it was clear she not only meant it as a compliment but was relieved by it.

Mia appeared to agree as she added while glancing around as more and more students arrived, every single one of them staring at the Swan sisters with instant recognition despite not knowing them, "It's good we know you, Niki. Why do they have to stare?"

"Well, we don't get much change here in Forks." Niki pointed out. "And at least you two are new in the middle of junior year so it's semi-acceptable to find you unusual. I was a new freshman like everyone else when I first came here but they all stared because I didn't go to prior schooling with them like everyone else did. Or, almost everyone else." She added in an afterthought.

Both Bella and Mia looked curious but the warning bell rang.

"Uh oh." Niki hastily grabbed her own books from her locker and gestured to the other girls. "We'd best get a move on - you two might be forgiven for being late since you're new but I won't be."

The twins quickly followed her as Niki joined the throng of students who were also hastily moving toward their classes. It was obvious that everyone had been so caught up in staring at the new girls, they'd run behind and so the hallways were more packed than they usually were. Niki waved to Bella while Mia gave her sister's hand an encouraging squeeze as they separated and went their own ways. The crowds thankfully thinned as people peeled off into their classrooms and Niki gestured at Mia as she led Mia to Building 5.

"Hey, can I see your schedule?"

Mia handed the paper over and Niki glanced over it.

"Hm, looks like we only have Calculus and gym together."

"Great." Mia sighed as she took back Niki's schedule. "Looks like I'm on my own a lot then, Bella and I barely had any classes together either. Just Spanish, and gym as well."

"We've got gym with Bella?" Niki repeated. When Mia nodded, Niki pretended to moan.

"Oh no! I'll have to call my dad, tell him I loved him and life was great while it lasted before Bella killed me in high school gym."

"It won't be that bad." Mia laughed and Niki eyed her friend skeptically.

"Mia, your sister once tripped over flat ground and sent me tumbling into the pavement where I chipped my tooth, and she was completely unarmed at the time. Can you imagine what'll happen when you give her a basketball? Or worse, a tennis racquet?"

"Okay, point taken." Mia grinned. "At least we'll have you to help us. You know I'm not really that athletic either."

"That I do know." Niki agreed as they entered the classroom. Everyone immediately stopped talking to stare at Mia, who turned a little pink in embarrassment. Niki gave her a pat on the back.

"Hey, you'll be fine." She said encouragingly before going to her seat while Mia had her permission slip signed by the teacher and waited to be assigned a seat.

Not that it was a surprise where Mia would end up. There was only one open seat in the entire class. Behind Niki… and next to one of the school's hottest but also coldest students. Edward Cullen was boyishly handsome in a way Niki had never seen before in real life and he'd sent many girls' hearts fluttering the first day he and the rest of his stunningly beautiful family had arrived at Forks High. There had already been rumours about them swirling around the town given how infamous their adoptive dad, Dr. Cullen, had become at Forks Hospital. But the Cullen kids' stand-offish air and cold refusal to engage with the other kids at the school quickly moved them into the most admired but arguably least liked kids at the school. Not that they seemed to care at all.

Niki glanced at Edward as she sat in her seat, the first time she had done so that entire year. She was reminded why she never really looked at him despite his obvious beauty when she saw him staring out the window, his back mostly turned to the class, as he was almost always guaranteed to be found sitting before any class. Him and the rest of his family. The novelty of the Cullens had never really worn off given how mysterious they remained but their behaviour had become pretty predictable. Aloof, silent and unapproachable. Still, Niki hoped that Edward would be different with Mia. Niki didn't want her friend having to suffer next to an unfriendly person, especially on her first day at a new school.

She thought she heard Edward sigh behind her, but Niki was distracted as Mia came walking down the aisle quickly. It was evident that she wanted to avoid all the stares and get to her seat as fast as possible. Niki knew exactly when Mia first saw Edward because Mia stopped dead in her tracks just as she reached Niki's desk. Mia's eyes widened in shock as she took in all of Edward's devastatingly handsome features: tousled bronze hair that looked completely natural (unlike many boys' styles where Niki could almost see the copious amounts of wax that was combed in), chiseled jaw, flawless skin and eyes dark as midnight. In fact, the only flaw to his perfect features that Niki had sometimes noticed on Edward (and all the Cullens really) was how tired he always looked with the purple shadows under his dark eyes.

As Niki expected, Mia recovered quickly from her surprise and tentatively sat down beside Edward. Niki glanced over and sent Mia a smile before turning back to the front. Mr. Varner was still waiting for everyone to file in, and Niki was debating turning to chat with Mia when she heard Mia speak.

"Hi."

Niki knew Mia wasn't talking to her. She tried not to be obvious as she listened in on the conversation curiously, hoping Edward would be nice. After all, he had to know how it felt being the new kid. He'd have to be made of stone not to feel some empathy for Mia. Niki thought she heard Edward sigh again but he finally answered in a smooth, velvety voice.

"Hello."

It didn't matter how many times she heard him speak, Niki would never not admire just how rich Edward's voice was. She had only heard him and his sister Alice, who was also in their year, speak a handful of times during classes but every time it was like listening to the most musical bells chime.

"I-I'm Mia Swan." Mia stuttered slightly, clearly thrown by Edward's charm but she carried on bravely.

"I know." There was a beat before he added, "I'm Edward Cullen. My family moved here from Alaska about two years ago."

Niki bit down a smile of relief, just in case Edward saw her. He was still a bit terse but he was far friendlier to Mia than he had been to anyone in the two years since his family arrived in Forks. 'Thank God. Maybe he can also find a friend in Mia.'

"Well, I guess my sister and I are the new students now - any tips on how to handle the masses?" Mia joked lightly, breaking Niki's thoughts.

'I wonder what he'll say? He hasn't exactly handled the masses before. I hope he doesn't suggest just standing quietly to the side like a marble statue.'

Niki was shocked when she heard Edward chuckle a little, a sudden noise that seemed to come from nowhere. Mia hadn't exactly said anything funny, but Edward seemed amused by something as he answered honestly but politely, "I doubt I will be very helpful. Besides, everyone seems more excited about your and your sister's arrival than they were for my siblings and I."

"Oh." Mia sounded embarrassed. "That's probably because my parents' divorce story is still considered pretty scandalous here."

Then, as if she'd realized what she'd said, Mia hastily asked, "You have siblings?"

"I do." Edward didn't supply much more.

"Older or younger?" Mia asked curiously. Niki smiled to herself again. That was the Mia she knew; inquisitive and sweet. Sure, Mia could have a temper and she was definitely the more emotional of the sisters (Bella had once explained Mia got her emotional rollercoasters from their mother) but she also related more with people because of it.

"I have three older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister… although Alice is in the same year as I."

"Five siblings?" Mia sounded shocked; Niki didn't blame her. Her own family had four kids and they were considered to be a large family by most. "What are your siblings doing now?"

Before Edward could respond, however, Mr. Varner called the class to attention. Mia and Edward went quiet, likely focusing on the class and Niki endeavored to do the same. But her mind kept wandering to Edward; she'd had no idea he was so charming with a touch of some old-fashioned manners in the way he spoke. She really hoped he and Mia could become friends, and that the Cullens might be able to finally relax at school like they hadn't at all since they arrived. It had never really sat very well with Niki; they didn't seem to mind but it looked quite lonely to her.

Her thoughts were broken as Mr. Varner called on Mia to stand.

"Please introduce yourself, Amelia."

Niki had to bite back a laugh as she felt Mia's dismay and annoyance like a heat wave against her back. Mia hated being called Amelia and she despised being the centre of attention. In that way, she was similar to Bella - and not unlike Niki herself. Niki had to glance back when Mia finally stumbled through her introduction and she did grin at her friend's murderous glare toward their teacher. Mia caught her and she sent an irate look at Niki, who just grinned and winked back; but she was surprised to see Edward observing them with curious black eyes. Niki shrugged it off as she turned back to the front and instead listened to the rest of the lecture.

At the end of class, Edward bade a polite farewell to Mia and Niki turned to her friend.

"How're you enjoying school so far, Amelia?"

"Oh, shut up." Mia groaned as she scooped up her books. "That was awful."

"Maybe for you." Niki laughed. "What do you have next again?"

"Uh..." Mia had to search for her schedule again. "Government."

"Building 6. I'm in Building 7, come on, I'll walk you." Niki offered.

As they exited the classroom, Niki added, "It was nice to see you getting along with Edward."

"Oh. Yeah, he was nice, I guess." Mia shrugged. Niki shook her head.

"You don't know this but that, in itself, was a miracle." Niki told her friend, who looked puzzled.

"What do you mean?" She asked. "Is he not usually nice?"

"No, just, he's very quiet. Think Bella but moodier." Niki answered and Mia nodded slowly.

"I think I get it. But why do you think he was nice to me, then?"

"Maybe he related to you?" Niki suggested with a shrug as they reached Building 6. "His family were the talk of the town when they arrived two years ago."

"Oh." Understanding crossed her face. "That can't have been easy."

"From what I saw, it wasn't. Which is why it's nice he could be friendly with you." Niki answered before she gestured to the building, making Mia realize she was in front of her next class.

"See you at lunch?" Mia asked hopefully and Niki nodded.

"Sure, sure." She waved Mia off before heading toward the next building.

Advanced Spanish was one of her favourite classes despite the fact that she was in a class full of seniors (their school didn't have an AP program so advanced courses, when allowed which wasn't often, usually meant taking the class with seniors). So Niki was in a good mood as she walked into the classroom - only to deflate a little when she saw the seating chart on the board. How could she have forgotten? Last Friday, a couple of knuckleheaded seniors (cough, Jason Williams and his friends, cough) had gotten so noisy as they 'whispered' throughout class that Mrs. Goff had finally gotten fed up and declared she would assign seats starting Monday. It was now Monday and Niki was not pleased. She'd selected the seat near the front on purpose so she'd be spared some of the more idiotic antics of some of the seniors in her class (cough, Jason Williams, cough). Niki didn't care if he was considered one of the hottest athletes in the school with his blue eyes and dimples, he was about as bright as a brick.

Praying that she at least had been spared from sitting beside the idiot, Niki wasn't sure if she was happy or not to see Jasper Hale's name written beside hers on the board. Sure, he wasn't an idiot like Jason and he was most certainly as good-looking as his brother Edward… but he was possibly even colder than the bronze-haired Cullen. In fact, Niki was positive she'd never even heard him utter a single word despite sharing a Spanish class with him for the whole year.

But then again, Niki reflected as she settled into the chair Mrs. Goff had assigned as hers, about halfway down the room and to one side corner, and she began to rifle through her bag for her book and pencil case. Edward had proven he was more than he appeared and could actually be civil. Maybe Jasper would be all right? And if not, well, at least she knew he wouldn't bother her. All the Cullens kept to themselves but none of them were ever anything but polite even if Rosalie Hale often looked like she was seconds away from sneering at something or someone. So really, Jasper couldn't be all that bad-

"Mr. Hale? Mr. Hale, please take a seat, we are about to begin."

Mrs. Goff's voice brought Niki's attention back to the classroom and she glanced toward the front. Only for her eyes to become arrested by a pair of black eyes that were staring right at her. Niki's breath caught and she found herself scanning the golden-haired boy despite herself.

Jasper Hale was tall and muscular. Not like a body-builder the way his brother Emmett was, but his long-sleeved shirt definitely clung to broad shoulders in a way Edward's, who was more lean than his brothers, didn't. Like Edward, however, there was something old-fashioned about Jasper as his honey-blonde locks fell down to his collar in a classic style that Niki had only seen in movies. And like all his family, his face was absolutely flawless. If Aphrodite had a better-looking brother, this boy would be him. With his strong jaw, chiseled cheekbones, full pink lips and those big black eyes, there was nothing about him that wasn't attractive. Except for perhaps the way he was glaring at her like she was either the greatest treat dangling just out of his reach… or like Niki was Hades himself.

Niki shrank slightly in her seat and quickly averted her eyes. For some absurd reason, she felt like she was facing a dangerous animal and needed to avert her gaze to come off as non-threatening. After a few seconds, Niki heard the chair slide smoothly out from the desk beside her. Interestingly, she didn't feel any warmth coming from him as the teenage boy settled into his seat with a grace that seemed completely unfair.

This was about the closest Niki had ever been to any of the Cullens since Freshman year when she'd spent an awkward year sitting beside Edward or Alice in various classes as the new kids at the school. So far, however, she was not loving the experience. She caught sight of Jasper's hand, and the downhearted feeling was cemented by what she saw. The blond's hand was fisted tightly on his thigh under his desk, so tight that his knuckles seemed bone-white on his already extremely pale skin. She glanced at his face again to see his expression was conflicted. His eyes seemed to say he was in pain and his nostrils flared once.

'He always looks like he's in pain.'

Jessica's description of Jasper popped to Niki's mind. She'd never really paid attention, not liking feeling like a stalker or a gossip, but now she wondered if Jessica hadn't hit the nail right on the dead. Jasper looked like it was physical torture to be sitting beside her and Niki had no idea why. She shifted uncomfortably in her seat, wondering if she should say something. But, if anything, that seemed to make Jasper grow even more rigid. She stopped moving and it was in absolute silence that they sat as Mrs. Goff called the class to attention.

He remained silent throughout the entire class, but unlike with Edward or Alice whom Niki had shared classes with before, the silence was heavy. Niki was also hyper-aware of an almost dark tension that seemed to constantly emit off the boy. It put her on edge throughout the hour too, and she would have been relieved when the bell finally rang to signal the end of class if, the instant the bell went off, Jasper hadn't gotten up and glided gracefully but speedily out of the classroom.

As it was, Niki was left to stare after the boy with some shock as Jasper disappeared before most of the class had even put away their things. Feeling rather bewildered and a little offended by the boy's behaviour (what had she ever done to him?), Niki exited the classroom.

The rest of her day was less eventful, although Niki also had an extremely odd encounter with first Edward and then Alice Cullen. Edward was in the same English class as her, and she saw him observing her quickly as she walked into the classroom. It was so fast and casual that she wouldn't have normally noticed… except Edward Cullen never casually observed anyone. None of the Cullens did. But Niki shrugged off the feeling and pushed it out of her mind as she sat down in her seat on the opposite side of the classroom beside quiet Ben Cheney.

Niki remembered the incident later, however, when she entered Government right before lunch. She was walking with Angela toward their desks when she realized Alice Cullen was staring at her. Flat out staring. Like she had just figured out Niki existed… even though Niki had been sitting in front of Alice all year. And they'd been deskmates for a year in US history back in Freshman year when both of them had been new and didn't know anyone else to sit with. But suddenly, Alice was looking at her like it was her first time seeing her. Niki met Alice's stare curiously at first. The girl was very short and thin in the extreme but it had never looked unnatural like she had starved herself to get that thin - instead, it appeared she was just naturally skinny as her skin retained a healthy if somewhat surreal glow. It also oddly suited the girl, enhancing her already dainty look. Alice was like a fairy and, like the rest of her family, excessively pale but beautiful with her big black eyes contrasting strongly against her unblemished skin despite the purplish shadows under her eyes.

Up until that point, it had all been weird but still fairly normal; and then suddenly, Alice gave Niki a brilliant and winning smile. Angela missed it, having already begun to take her seat, but Niki stopped in her tracks to stare at Alice in confusion. It was more than the fact that Alice was suddenly giving her the time of day, let alone smile at her mere hours after her adoptive brother acted like Niki was the singular most despicable creature on the planet. It was the fact that the smile was peculiarly intimate. Like the kind of smile one would share with a best friend or sister, not a complete stranger.

But what was strangest of all was that it had looked almost like the other girl wanted to say something… only to refrain and just smile widely again. It was decidedly odd but that was all Niki had time to dwell on before Angela asked her what was wrong. Niki looked back at Alice to find Alice's attention fixed dreamily out the window. With a shrug, she settled into class but for the whole hour that followed she couldn't shake off the feeling that someone (and it could only be Alice since there was no one else behind Niki in the class) was staring at her. Only when the bell rang did the feeling go away and Niki watched Alice glide out of the classroom with more than a hint of bewilderment.

"What is it?" Angela asked but Niki shook her head.

"I have no idea." She told her friend truthfully as they stepped out of class together.

Niki had wondered how to find Mia and Bella for lunch but she was lucky as she and Angela crossed paths with the girls and Jessica Stanley on the way to the cafeteria. Jessica appeared to have latched onto Bella, who was likely too nice to push her away. Mia clearly didn't like the brunette much but she refrained from being rude as they all moved to lunch. Niki did notice with amusement that Mia sidled over to her and Angela as soon as she could, however.

After grabbing lunch, Jessica was quick to lead the way over to their regular lunch group. Niki wasn't the least bit surprised - Jessica loved being the centre of attention and she was as fond of being gossip (as long as it was her idea of positive) as she was of spreading it. Knowing how much the curly-haired brunette was basking in the attention the Swan girls were bringing her, Niki let Jessica introduce Bella and Mia to their friends.

Unfortunately for Jess, Eric Yorkie had already noticed their friendship with Niki and he asked the Quileute girl curiously, "How do you know them, Niki?"

Trying not to look at Jess's obvious disappointment and dislike of the attention being taken off of her, Niki answered, "My dad and Chief Swan go way back so we were often together over the summers when Mia and Bella came up to see their dad."

Eric nodded and thankfully, the attention quickly shifted back to Bella and Mia. Although the girls clearly did not like the fact that it did. But Jessica was all too happy to speak up for Bella and Mia, who was being unusually quiet and stuck to Niki like she was a lifeline. Well, perhaps it wasn't so unusual - Mike Newton and Eric were being more than a little obvious as they fought for the new girls' attention although they weren't succeeding. Bella was far too shy to do anything but give awkward smiles while Mia was too busy catching up with Niki herself. Niki did notice her fellow volleyball teammate Lauren giving Bella and Mia dirty looks, but since Lauren was highly prone to jealousy (even more than Jessica), Niki didn't really pay it much attention. Especially when she noticed Tyler trying to engage Mia in conversation. Unfortunately, he'd gone for sports and Mia barely even knew how many people were in a football team let alone how the sport worked.

The guys eventually broke into a childish fight wherein Mike started to playfully wrestle with Tyler while Lauren managed to get Tyler to pay attention to her, when Bella finally spoke in a low whisper to Niki and Jessica.

"Who are they?"

*A/N This story is also linked to my other Twilight story, Mia Cara. It's not required to read that one but there will be cross-over elements. I've been debating this story for a while, but it was only born after I started writing Mia Cara, so here we go. Hope you all enjoy!