Title: My Brother's Best Friend
Rating: PG-13/M for some mature content and very mild language. I will mark other chapters with more mature adult content with the appropriate rating in the future.
Genre: Romance; AU; All-Human
URL (if not posted here):
Characters/Pairings: Bella/Edward; other cannon pairings
Short summary: Seven years have passed since Edward and Bella last saw each other. They grew up as children and even became good friends. Once they entered high school, Edward became distant and eventually severed all ties with her. Confused and hurt, Bella moved on with her life in Seattle. Through it all, Bella had her older brother Emmett to get past the estrangement. Now, with Edward's imminent return to Seattle to help out with his sister Alice's wedding, Bella can't help wondering what drove away her brother's best friend all those years ago.
Any warnings: None
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Stephanie Meyer.
Author's Note: Special thanks to the fabulous spotzle for beta-ing my story. If you haven't read her story, A Matter of Convenience, go now!
Chapter 1 "Only the Beginning"
Deepening shadows gather splendor as day is done
Fingers of night will soon surrender the setting sun
I count the moments darling till you're here with me
Together at last at twilight time
"Twilight Time" by The Platters
This was Bella's favorite time of day. She slowed her jog to a brisk walk and watched the sun go down in the horizon. The light played a dazzling effect on the lake. A cool breeze gently blew over the water, causing a ripple of purple, blue, and pink waves. She could also smell the faint scent of pine from the trees surrounding the area.
It was a near idyllic scene until her iPod Shuffle played "Twilight Time" by The Platters.
She swore to herself and almost pressed the shuffle button when she saw an elderly couple stroll by her hand in hand. She was a sucker for old married people.
Bella let the song play, allowing memories of him invade her thoughts. She stopped walking and stood at the edge of the path to stare out onto Green Lake. She only thought of him in passing now a days, but with his imminent return tomorrow, he was in her thoughts with more frequency than she liked.
When the sun finally set and the evening settled in, Bella finished her run on Green Lake's path and continued on her way home.
She reached Linden Avenue and eventually the townhouse she shared with her older brother Emmett. The neighborhood wasn't the most affluent in Seattle, but it was still nice. Bella wanted to attend the University of Washington, but her dad and brother did not like the idea of her moving out on her own.
Bella, Emmett, Edward, and Alice had known each other since they were children. Their families became close friends. Apparently, the Cullens dabbled in real estate and when Dr. Carlisle heard of Bella's circumstances, he spoke to Charlie about a rental he had near the university and if Bella needed a place to stay, the place was hers.
Charlie was reluctant at first. He was the sheriff of Forks. He felt there were people who were more deserving of such generosity and he knew the Cullens would be losing money by allowing Bella to stay in the townhouse.
After a lot of negotiating, it was decided there would be a break on the rent, but that Emmett would also live with Bella and help pay part of it. Charlie was quite firm on the idea that Emmett move in with Bella because, although she was staying in a place he had no qualms about, Charlie did not like the idea of her living by herself.
At the time, Bella did not have a problem with it. She loved her older brother Emmett. Of course he tested her patience and humor numerous times like an older brother should, but she genuinely got along with Emmett.
Seven years later, living with your older brother no longer held its charms. When she really thought about it, she only had her self to blame. When she was a teenager, she idolized Emmett. Everyone did. In high school, he was popular, one of the best linemen on the football team, and all the girls wanted to be his girlfriend.
Well, either Emmett or him.
She let out a short breath.
She could now think of his name without any heightened emotions.
Emmett and Edward were the guys who girls woke up in the morning to go to school for. With just one of them, high school would've been a girl's dream come true. With both Emmett and Edward high school was a daily test of skills and physical prowess that girls would stumble over each other to witness.
Competitive was an understatement, but neither Emmett or Edward took it seriously. They always looked for ways to one up the other, but at the end of the day, one was ready to congratulate the other without hesitation.
They complemented each other as well. Emmett played linemen and Edward played quarterback. If they played basketball, Edward would be point guard and Emmett would be center. Emmett was solid and intimidating and Edward was lean and fit. Emmett would sometimes get caught in a confrontation, but Edward would be there to diffuse it.
In the middle of it all, Bella was their mediator.
If there was ever a question of who threw the ball further or who had the best lay up, Bella was consulted.
When they were children, Bella took her role seriously. But as they got older and their antics became ridiculous, Bella would just pick someone just to end the stupidity.
She could now think of their childhood experiences with a wistful fondness for simpler times. But the latter part of their friendship in high school? She could not help looking back at that period with a sense of regret and sadness.
She had been in love with Edward nearly her whole life. If she fell and scraped her knee, Emmett would tell her to get up and walk it off. Edward would tend to the scrape and make sure she was alright. She figured he was so considerate because of his younger sister Alice, but the fact was that Edward was truly a good person.
Edward made it so easy to fall in love with him.
Emmett looked out for her, but Edward protected her. She and Edward had become close, but somewhere in their relationship things had changed.
Emmett and Edward had already graduated by the time Bella was a senior. Although Emmett and Edward no longer attended Forks High School, their reputations were legendary. It didn't help that on the weekends, Emmett and Edward would visit home from college and on Fridays every girl in school would try to make plans with her in the hopes that Emmett and Edward would be remotely part of their plans. Thus, providing hope in the hearts of every high school girl that they might have a chance.
Thinking back on that made Bella want to gag.
If she really was honest, it started when she was a junior and Emmett and Edward were seniors. She and Edward were still close, but she felt him drifting away from her. At the time, she just attributed it to him getting ready to go away for college.
When Emmett and Edward left for the University of Washington in Seattle, they kept in touch with her, but Bella felt whenever Edward talked to her, he was guarded.
In her senior year, when she decided she was also going to attend the University of Washington, Edward transferred at the semester to Berkeley. A nobel laureate in Medicine became a resident professor at Berkeley and Edward seized the opportunity to go.
The news of his transfer cut her so deep. A part of her suspected that he did not want to be friends with her anymore, and the fact that he was switching to another school before she even started confirmed her suspicions.
Only she had no idea why Edward's feelings toward her changed so drastically. She racked her brain, trying to figure out what she might have done to drive him away, but nothing came to mind. She tried talking to Emmett about it. At first, he assured her that she had nothing to do with Edward's decision to switch schools. But when Bella persisted, Emmett told her to drop it. He told her that Edward was ready for a change and that she should be happy for him.
She had not seen Edward for seven years. She heard news about him through Emmett and Alice, but whenever he visited, she was out of town visiting their mom and her husband Phil in Florida. It dawned on her that he timed his visits to coincide with her visits to Florida.
Bella tried to keep in touch with him, but eventually he stopped returning her calls and emails. Emmett would say that he'd been really busy, that she can't expect him to phone or e-mail all the time.
Sometimes Bella wished she could just beat the crap out of Emmett, who had the sensitivity level of an ottoman. Without Edward there to buffer Emmett's obtuse personality, she really had felt hurt. Then she realized that Emmett was like Charlie and learned to take Emmett's comments with a barrel of salt. Bella also learned to dish it out as good as he gave it. This seemed to improve their relationship, but it was a recent revelation and Bella was still adjusting to always being on the offense with Emmett.
Now, after seven years of no contact, Edward was arriving tomorrow. She clarified with Emmett that the date was correct and Emmett assured her that it was correct. Edward was visiting while she would be in the same state.
Her first reaction was to leave. A part of her wanted him to know what it felt like to have someone leave the state as if you had the plague, but she was not a vindictive person. If anything, she was curious as to why he was coming back.
She talked to Alice about it briefly and it turned out that since Alice was getting married soon, she wanted her brother to be a part of all the wedding preparations.
It was dark now. The sky was dotted with stars and the street lights flickered on. She slowed her pace and stopped in front of the townhouse she shared with Emmett. Their unit was on the corner. It was two stories with brown siding and stone details on the porch. Bella jogged to the back of the house and walked on the back porch.
Bella reached for the key under the mat and unlocked the door. Then she replaced the key and walked in. Bella took out her earbuds and walked to the sub zero fridge. She took out a bottle of water, turned the cap, and before it touched her lips, she heard Emmett call from the front of the house.
"Bella? What took you so long?"
She rolled her eyes and took a swig from her water bottle.
"Bell?" He called out.
She swallowed and said, "Yeah. I'm here. I'm just getting some water."
"Did you forget your cell phone?"
"Then why didn't you answer?"
Bella finished off another gulp from her water bottle before answering. "It was off."
"Off?" She thought she heard a few choice swears before he said, "What if something happened? What if I needed to get a hold of you?"
Bella put the cap back on her water bottle and walked to the front of the house. She walked down the hall, passing the dining room, making her way toward the living room. "What's the emergency? Let me guess. You couldn't find the remote again? I swear, Emmett. If you misplaced the remote again, I will shove it up your-" She stopped mid-sentence when she saw that Emmett was not alone.
"What the hell is he doing here?" She narrowed her eyes at Emmett before she turned to look at their guest.
"Nice, Bell. You couldn't say hi like a normal person." Emmett gave Bella a warning look.
"You said he wouldn't be here until tomorrow." She absently tried tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, but she forgot it was in a ponytail. Suddenly, she was conscious of the fact that she had just come back from running and probably looked like a sweaty pile of-
"He came a day early. Is there a crime for coming home a day early?" This time Emmett took a step forward and looked at Bella with an almost pleading look.
Before she could say anything else, Edward said, "Hi, Bella."
His voice hadn't changed and neither did it's effect on her. She felt her shoulders relax and she unclenched her fist. After a moment, she said, "Hi, Edward."
Emmett let out a deep sigh. He was never really good at hiding his feelings.
She had spared Edward the briefest glances when she greeted him. She refused to look at him. Bella knew if she did, she'd be lost. She did not want to give him that kind of power over her. Instead, she focused her attention on the cap of her water bottle as if it had the meaning of life etched on it somewhere.
Emmett said, "Edward was finished with work sooner than he anticipated and decided to take an earlier flight. He just got in."
Bella now read the label of her water bottle as if her life depended on her knowing that the water from her bottle came from the purest mountain spring in Tibet.
"I picked him up." Emmett added. He looked at Edward who was looking at Bella who was looking down at her water bottle. Emmett cleared his throat.
Bella took in a short breath before she looked up and was surprised to see that Edward was looking at her so intently. She licked her lips before she said, "How was your flight?"
Edward's eyes widened for a moment at being addressed by Bella. "I-It was fine."
She nodded. "Well, I'm sure you two have a lot of catching up to do." She turned to walk up the stairs to go to her room.
Emmett said, "We're going to Black's for some food and drinks."
Bella turned to face Emmett and said, "I hope you guys have a good time."
Emmett took a step forward. "When I said we, I meant all three of us."
"I'm not hungry." Her stomach betrayed her and let out a growl.
"Look, you guys go on without me. I just got back and I'd have to shower and change and that could take some time."
Emmett picked up his coat from the banister. "That's a good idea. We'll go on ahead. I'll order something for you and you can meet us there when you're done getting ready."
"Emmett." Bella grounded out.
"Be there in twenty minutes."
"I've got a paper to write!"
"You've always got papers to write."
"Yeah. And they take time."
"You were going to eat anyway." He slipped on his coat.
She was going to tell him what he could eat when Emmett stepped forward and said, "Bella." In a low voice, he added, "Please."
She knew it was pretty serious if he was begging her. She crossed her arms and said, "Fine."
He gave her a wide grin and he said, "Good. See you in a few."
Bella ran up the stairs and they heard her door slam.
Emmett walked to the front door and Edward followed.
When they were on the sidewalk, Edward said, "Are you sure this is a good idea?"
Emmett shrugged. "It'll be fine." They got into his truck.
"I don't know," Edward said. "She looked really mad"
Emmett turned the key and his truck rumbled. "That's not mad."
"If that's not mad, then what was it?" Edward looked at Emmett.
Emmett placed a finger on his chin. "I'd say it's aggravation with a hint of annoyance."
Edward's brow wrinkled. "Emmett, that's being mad."
Emmett shook his head. "When Bella's mad, elbows are thrown and fists go flying."
Edward's eyes widened. "I don't remember her ever getting that mad before."
Emmett raised a finger. "Ah. But you see, she's been living with me for the past seven years. I'd like to think that she's learned to channel her anger through my guidance."
Edward ran his hand through his hair. "You mean you've pissed her off so many times in the last seven years that she may need anger management classes now?"
"That's not funny. You've been tormenting her for the last seven years."
"I'm her older brother. Could you really expect any less of me?"
Edward pinched the bridge of his nose. "She probably wants to rip my head off."
It was a minute before Emmett said, "No. She doesn't."
Edward looked at Emmett. "Do you want to rip my head off?"
A corner of Emmett's mouth pulled up. "No."
Emmett stopped at the red light and looked at Edward's profile. Emmett was not a man of many words and he did not discuss feelings. At all.
After a moment, Emmett took a chance and said, "I don't know what happened between you and Bella, but it can't be unforgivable."
Edward looked away at the window and at Emmett. He studied Emmett's expression before he said, "I've really missed you guys."
Emmett smiled and the light turned green. He stepped on the gas and the car moved forward. Then he said, "Yeah, well us Swans have that effect on people."
Soon they were at Black's. Emmett pulled into the parking lot and parked his truck. They climbed out of it and walked to the bar.
"Is this place any good?" Edward asked.
"Yeah. Do you remember Jacob Black?"
Edward thought for a minute. "Yeah. He played football for La Push High School. Really good receiver."
"That's the one. This is his dad's bar, but sometimes Jacob helps out."
"What does Jacob do now?"
"He rebuilds classic cars." They found some empty stools at the end of the bar and sat down.
"He didn't play ball in college?"
Emmett shook his head. "His dad is sick and didn't want to leave him."
A tall, dark haired young man behind the bar approached them. "Hey, Emmett. What can I get you and your friend?"
Emmett shook hands with the bartender. "Embry." He turned to Edward and made introductions.
"Wait, Edward Cullen? Weren't you the quarterback for Forks High?"
Edward nodded. "That was a long time ago."
"Do you still play?"
An older gentleman with a salt and pepper colored ponytail at the end of the bar cut in. "Embry, are you going to talk their ears off or get them drinks?"
"Sorry." Embry looked at Emmett. "The usual?"
"And what can I get you?" He asked Edward.
"Whatever Emmett's having is fine."
Embry took out two frosty pints and poured out an amber colored beer from the tap. He served them to Edward and Emmett.
"Is there anything else you guys need?"
Emmett said, "Is the kitchen still open?"
"Bella's coming in a few minutes and she's going to want to have dinner."
At the sound of Bella's name, Embry's eyes lit up which Edward noticed. "Bella's coming in?"
Emmett smiled before he took a sip of his beer.
"I'll let the kitchen know." Embry was off quick.
"Aren't you going to order something for her?" Edward asked.
Emmett shook his head. "They know what she likes."
Edward sipped his beer. Then he said, "I guess you guys come here often."
"Yeah. Bella's friends with Jacob." Emmett took another sip of his beer.
"Oh." Edward looked down at his beer. He tried to remember what Jacob looked like, but he was drawing a blank. How had Bella become friends with him? Were they just friends? Edward looked at Emmett.
Edward waited for Emmett to explain, but his attention was caught by Bella entering the bar. Her face was lightly flushed from her run and her hair was down, but still a little damp from her shower. When she walked toward them, it was like it was happening in slow motion.
"What?" He tore his eyes away from Bella and looked at Emmett.
"I said did you want anything from the kitchen?"
Embry who had been at the other end of the bar, walked over to their side when he saw Bella approach. "Bella!"
She stood behind Emmett and Edward. "Hi, Embry."
"What can I get you?"
Normally she'd get a lemonade, but she knew she needed something a little stronger. "How about a Fat Tire?"
Embry nodded and reached in the fridge. He took out a tall bottle of beer and popped the cap off.
Since Emmett was sitting at one end of the bar, the other available seat was next to Edward.
And she was pretty sure Emmett made sure of that too.
Embry placed her drink at the empty spot next to Edward. She hesitated before she took her seat.
"Glass?" Embry asked.
Bella waved it off. "No thanks." She took a pull from her beer. It had a bite to it and she felt it sit in her stomach. She needed something to eat or else it was going to go straight to her head.
"Embry, is Leah-"
"Yeah. She's making you something right now."
Bella smiled. "Thanks."
Embry returned her smile with an even bigger one. "No problem."
He lingered there for a minute before he was called away by another patron at the other end of the bar.
"Bella, you got to stop doing that," Emmett said.
"Doing what?" Bella looked over at Emmett, but since Edward was sitting in between them, she ended up looking at Edward. She quickly averted her eyes.
"You know. Driving Embry crazy."
"What? All I ordered was a beer."
"He practically tripped over himself when you smiled at him."
This time Bella leaned over the bar to look at Emmett. "That just means he'll be ready to meet me out back when he's done with his shift."
Edward choked on his beer.
Emmett patted him on his back. "Bella, we don't want to hear about your nasty hook-ups. Obviously it's really traumatizing to some of us."
"Um." Bella pointed to herself. "Pot." Then she pointed at Emmett. "Kettle."
Embry came back with Bella's dinner. "Here you go."
Grilled cheese and tomatoes. Bella couldn't help smiling. "Thank you."
Emmett cleared his throat.
Bella's smile dimmed slightly. "Tell Leah thanks for me."
Embry pretended to polish down the bar next to Bella, but then Leah barked out that there was an order up. "Uh, excuse me." He turned to go pick up the order, but not before tripping and recovering himself before he fell on his face.
Bella kept a straight face, but Emmett let out a small laugh.
"Emmett, will you stop that!" Bella admonished him once Embry was gone.
"You really need to put him out of his misery, Bella."
A corner of Bella's mouth pulled up. "But he's such a good kisser."
Emmett stood up quickly. "I'm going to talk to Billy." He moved with such speed to the other end of the bar which surprised Edward.
They were both quiet for a moment before Edward said, "So you and Embry. . ."
Bella picked up a french fry. "No. I just say stuff like that to make Emmett uncomfortable."
Edward smiled before he took a sip of his beer.
Bella worked on her sandwich and french fries while Edward nursed his beer. The silence was not uncomfortable, but it was tense.
They both started at the same time.
Edward said, "Please. You go ahead."
Bella hesitated before she said, "I'm sorry about earlier."
Edward looked at her with a confused expression.
Bella shifted in her seat. "When you were at the house earlier. I didn't mean to sound so. . . hostile."
Edward shrugged. "To say you were surprised would probably be putting it lightly."
Bella took a long drink from her beer. After a moment, she said, "You could say that." She didn't want to have this conversation right now. Seven years of nothing and then all of a sudden she was sitting next to him having a beer. It was too much to take in at the moment.
She said, "Emmett said that you were here to help with Alice's wedding."
"I just. . . that's kind of weird."
He looked at her. "Why?"
"Why would you want to help with the wedding?"
"Because you're a guy."
He opened his mouth to say something and closed it. After a moment he said, "I don't know exactly what she has planned for me to do."
"Oh." She took a bite of her grilled cheese sandwich and said, "Have you met her fiancé yet?"
He nodded. "I actually introduced them."
"Yeah. I went to school with Jasper in Berkeley."
"I forgot that he went to Berkeley."
"So, is Alice having you help out in the wedding?"
She nodded. "I'm a bridesmaid."
"Oh. That should be fun."
She gave Edward a baleful look.
"No? Not fun." He couldn't help smiling.
She took a long pull from her beer.
"That bad, huh?"
Bella put her beer on the bar. "Alice is actually not that bad, it's the maid of honor who bothers me."
"What do you mean?"
"She's really bossy and obsesses over stupid details." She lowered her voice. "I think she's a little superficial too."
Edward continued to listen.
"Her name is Rosalie."
Edward's eyebrows shot up.
"You know her?" Bella asked.
He cleared his throat and nodded.
"I think she's Jasper's sister."
"She wants to do all these things for Alice like a bridal shower, a wedding shower, and a bachelorette party. I love Alice, but it's also getting kind of expensive."
"And it seems like Rosalie has expensive tastes."
"If I had a real job and not going to school part time, it wouldn't be a problem."
"Should I talk to Alice about it?"
"God, no!" Bella grabbed Edward's arm. He looked down at her hand on his arm and she quickly let go. She lowered her voice. "Sorry."
"No, it's okay." He gave her a good natured smile.
"Please don't say anything to Alice or Rosalie. I shouldn't have said anything in the first place. I'm such a bad bridesmaid."
"Don't worry about it."
"No, I'm honored that Alice wants me to be in her wedding. I shouldn't be complaining."
"It's okay. You're allowed to vent."
Bella took a deep breath. How was this possible? They hadn't talked for nearly seven years and it felt like they just continued where they left off. All the apprehension and disappointment she felt when Edward arrived seemed to be distant memories now. Bella remembered that he had a talent for drawing her out of her bad moods.
Or maybe it was the beer.
Before Bella could think about it anymore, Emmett came over. "Are you done with dinner, Bella?"
"I'm ready to head out. I'm sure Edward's tired and I've got an early shift tomorrow."
"I'm sorry, Emmett. If I had known, I would've-" Edward said.
Emmett waved him off. "It's not a problem."
Edward took out his wallet.
"It's already taken care of," Emmett said.
They waved good bye to Billy and Embry and headed out the door.
While they made their way to their cars, Emmett said, "So, your girlfriend's name is Rosalie?"
Bella stopped in her tracks.
"Well, I-"Edward looked at Emmett and then at Bella. "It's complicated."
"I heard she's gorgeous." Emmett absently fumbled for his keys in his pocket.
"Um, sure." Edward rubbed the back of his neck and looked down at the ground.
Bella was parked next to them. "I'll see you at home, Emmett."
She hesitated before she said, "Night, Edward."
Edward looked at her before he said, "Night, Bella."
She got in her car and pulled out of her parking space. She left before Emmett and was glad that she'd get home before him. He was taking Edward to the Cullens' house and they lived about ten minutes away. At the very least, she could pretend she was asleep when he got home.
She needed time alone to beat herself up. Of course he'd know Rosalie! She's Jasper's sister. They've probably known each other for a while. Bella did not even want to think about how long they've been dating.
Bella pulled up in front of the townhouse and cut off the engine. She rested her forehead on the steering wheel. So much happened this evening and yet she was sure this was only the beginning. She couldn't believe what an idiot she had been. Bella could not believe that she insulted Edward's girlfriend like that. She should've kept her mouth shut like she had planned. Bella did not even want to think what Edward thought of her now after the remarks she made about his girlfriend.
Bella swiped at the tears that threatened to escape her eyes. She got out of her car and went inside the house. Then she climbed the stairs to her room. Without bothering to turn on the lights, she stripped out of her clothes and found an old t-shirt on her bed.
Bella climbed in and lay for a while in bed, trying to fall asleep and not think about this evening. Unfortunately, under the cover of darkness in her bedroom, her thoughts always strayed to Edward.
In high school, her thoughts would be about all the starry-eyed scenarios a teen-age girl could come up with the boy she had a crush on. But more recently, her feelings were full of regrets and what could've beens. She was hurt and a little angry over the fact that Edward cut himself out of her life. She resented the fact that it was so easy for him to leave without so much as a goodbye.
But what she really hated was that although Edward made it clear that he didn't want anything to do with her, there was a small part of her that always harbored some hope that she'd have a chance to be with him. After tonight, Bella knew there was no hope at all.