-Val POV-

"You're kidding me, right?"

I looked up from Fang's laptop at Leah, who looked just about ready to die of laughter. I shot her a glare, but she just let out a chuckle. I growled lowly, but went back to my Google search. Leah came over and threw herself onto the bed beside me. She looked at the screen- a Google search for "How to Learn Sign Language"- and then shook her head.

"Val, eventually, you're going to have to talk to us." I furrowed my eyebrows and shook my head frantically. Talking would just prompt Demon to attempt to kiss me again, claiming that I talked too much. If there was ever something that I didn't want to happen besides immediate death or being captured by Itex, then it was Demon kissing me again. I wasn't going to let Demon get any more chances to kiss me than he'd already gotten. Which was two too many.

So if that meant that I had to learn sign language to keep him from being able to use the excuse that he was "shutting me up" to kiss me, then so be it.

Leah shook her head, and then shut the laptop. I opened my mouth to yell at her, but then shut it just as quickly, glaring. Leah, you're not allowed to try to sabotage me.

Leah grinned at me like she was getting ready to eat me. "I'm going to ignore anything that you say to me mentally. You HAVE to talk to me. I've done this with Seth since he was four." I glared at her and tried to take back the computer. She grabbed it and leapt off the bed, stuffing it behind her back as she sat against the wall.

I fought the urge to face-palm. You know, with the way we treat that thing, it's sort of amazing that it hasn't completely fallen apart yet.

"So you want to tell me why you haven't been talking to anyone since two days ago?" Leah said, absently playing with a hole in her jeans. She looked up, and I wondered if she could feel my killer intent from across the room. She raised her eyebrow in question. "If you don't say anything, then I'm just going to start listing all the possible reasons I can think of, got it?"

It's entirely Demon's fault! I sent to her, but she didn't even look like she'd acknowledged me. It seemed that Leah was more stubborn than I'd first thought. Which sort of sucked, considering I'd just told her what was wrong and then she went and said, "Ok, so you're training to become a mime."

I gave her a "Are you effing kidding me?" look, which evidently she could read perfectly well since she shrugged her shoulders and said, "Well you didn't say otherwise." I hate her so much.

I crossed my arms, refusing to give Demon an opportunity to come in and kiss me again. Because knowing him, he probably would find some way to twist my words so that he could kiss me again. Which would mean that my lips would start to tingle again. And they had only stopped tingling two hours ago, so I couldn't just let him come and kiss me again otherwise I'd be sitting for another 2 days waiting for my lips to stop tingling like some seriously effed up spidey-senses.

And plus, you know, the fact that best friends like us weren't supposed to kiss each other, otherwise bad things would happen. Like "THE END OF THE WORLD"-type bad things. So that was a giant "NO" to both Demon's devious/ affectionate nature, and Leah's terrible plan to attempt to trick me.

"You and Fang have a bet going to see who can be the most silent for the longest time," Leah threw out another idea. I face-palmed again, and I shook my head. I haven't even seen Fang… or Max, for that matter…EW. DON'T WANNA KNOW.

Leah looked closely at my face, and then decided, "I don't want to know what just went through your head. Ok, so…" Then Leah sighed, as though she was the one being put in the awkward situation. "Well, I wanted to save this for much later, but I can't think of anything else: Demon kissed you so hard that you lost your voice."

My eyes went wide, and I lunged across the room, slapping both hands over her mouth. "SHUT UP!" I yelled at her, and then, realizing that I'd broken my vow of silence, I slapped both hands over my mouth. I looked over at the door, and hoped to God that Demon wasn't about to come through it. "He'll say that I can't keep my mouth shut, and then he'll do it again… Oh, God…"

Leah looked at me like I was crazy and not fearing for my life at the moment. "Val, you're acting even more paranoid than you were before. And why can't I say that you two kissed?"

I slammed both hands over her mouth again, and hissed very slowly, "If you want to see the light of day again, and if you don't want me to die of mono, then SHUT UP."

I leapt off of Leah's lap and double-checked to make sure that Demon wasn't maniacally laughing/ on his way to give me more mono. Putting her closer to the door in case Demon decided that he wanted to bust the door down and I needed a diversion, I told Leah everything. "He wants to kill me. He wants to make me die of mono. Leah, he thinks that I talk too much, and now he wants to kill me because I didn't want to talk to him. That makes no sense. Someone tell him that makes no sense, and then tell him that he can't kiss me again. In whatever order floats your boat. Just whatever order makes his lips stay far, far away."

Leah looked at me, then at the door. Then, horrible person that she is, she started to laugh at me. "Wait, so all of this is because-" she snorted, "-Demon kissed you?" She bit down on her fist to keep from laughing out loud.

I hissed at her. "It's not funny. I'm going to DIE." Leah couldn't contain herself anymore and started to laugh like nobody's business. I growled lowly at her. "Fine. I see how it is. You just want me to die of mono, don't you? You're a terrible person. Go burn in a lake." Slore.

Leah, five minutes later when she'd finally gotten a hold of herself, looked at me and asked, "Why do you keep saying that you have mono? You obviously can't get mono. You're dead."

I looked at her like she was stupid. Which, as far as I was concerned, since she didn't understand the situation, she was. "Well obviously, that doesn't matter, since my lips are still tingling from when he… um, yeah."

Leah looked at me, blinked, and then started to crack up again. Through her laughter, she managed to start asking me, "You have no—"

I interrupted her in the middle of her very unhelpful laugh attack. "What do you mean you were stalling when you guessed?" Leah chuckled for a little bit longer, and since she wasn't getting over her laugh attack any faster, I smacked her upside the head. "SHUT UP. YOU AREN'T HELPING ME WHEN YOU LAUGH."

Leah stopped laughing abruptly and rubbed the side of her head, growling at me. "Oi, no hitting when I'm enjoying your pain. Now, what was the question?"

I crossed my arms and glared at her. "What did you mean when you said that you were stalling when you guessed? Because I know that I never said anything to you before today."

Leah smirked at me, and then I really saw the resemblance between her and Seth. "Well, even though you flew through here like a bat out of hell, I could smell Demon on you, and your hands were over your mouth. Then, an hour later, Demon comes in looking half-like he wants to rip his own head off, but he couldn't stop smiling. Kind of like Iggy when he says something perverted and then gets hit for it, but worse. And then he went and played with Kami for a bit and didn't go after you, so I sort of assumed that you guys weren't going to talk about it."

I guess my horrified look was enough to prompt her that the last thing I wanted was for anyone to know that he'd kissed me, because she half-smirked and then shook her head. "Val, you really have no idea what you're doing, do you?"

She was obviously not understanding this because her mind was still off in happy couple land with Jake. I was gonna have to remind myself to do something about that in the future. "What? Leah, God, how the hell are you not understanding this? I know perfectly well what I'm doing. I am going to beat him within an inch of his life, and then rip his lips off his face-"

"Val, you're not terrified at all. I can't smell a bit of fear on you."

-Leah POV-

Wow, I'm an *idiot*. Val's face was painfully blank, and I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck start to rise. Her fingers flared outwards, and then curled back in. I slid my feet under me, easing into a crouch, and then all of a sudden, Jasper burst through the door. Val snapped out of whatever funk she was in and turned to face him abruptly. "Shut the door! And what the hell are you doing here?"

Jasper raised an eyebrow, still looking between Val and I. "Preventing a murder."

Val yelled at him again. "CLOSE THE DOOR!" Then, she took a deep breath, and I could see the angry aura surrounding her. She turned to me, her eyes flashing black before they lightened to dark gold. She pushed her finger into my face. "Listen. You don't get to tell me how I feel or not. If I fucking say that I'm terrified, then you don't have the fucking right to try and tell me that I don't really know what I'm talking about, got it?" I raised an eyebrow, because this conversation sounded eerily similar...

Jasper was leaning against the door, his arms in his pockets and practically psychoanalyzing Val. I snorted. "Jasper, if you stare at her any longer, Alice is gonna kill you."

Jasper smiled a little, but didn't say much of anything. I sniffed the air quietly, and I tried to hold back a smirk. She still wasn't terrified, and from the look on Jasper's face, he didn't believe that she was really all that scared either.

One of us must have slipped in our thoughts, because the next thing that I knew, Val had let out a large growl that made her sound like some sort of mountain-lion/ banshee thing and stormed out of the room. I looked at Jasper, and even though the concentrated leech scent was a bit stronger now that Val had left the room, I chuckled. Jasper let out a chuckle in response, and then quietly said, "Just for the record, this is what's really happening." After he said that, I was hit with a lot of emotions. Some of them being discomfort, embarrassment, anger, happiness that was bordering on glee, a little bit of what I was pretty sure was love, and then all of a sudden I was hit with the intense urge to make out with Jake.

I got up and laughed. "Oh, this is going to be a fantastic fireworks show."

I walked out of the bedroom to look for Jake, since I had left him pretty abruptly to go in search of Valerie. What I got was a face full of Valerie's back. "Oi, chicky. Move your angry, angst-ridden ass from-"

"How did you even find us again, sweetheart? Not that I really care at this point, but honestly, this is just fantastic!" Isabella was gushing as she wrapped her arms around Nessie. Edward was smiling so wide that if he were in a clown costume I would have beaten him with a stick, and behind him by the couch Jacob and Seth were staring. Ella had evidently gone out, probably to talk with Nudge and Angel. Nessie was hugging her mother and spluttering out some crap about her lovely Aunt Rose sending her an email to tell her where they were had been. I swallowed, and Val stiffened in front of me. Nessie looked up from Isabella's shoulder and smiled happily at us. "Hi Valerie, Uncle Jasper, Leah." I nodded my head in acknowledgement, but didn't say anything. Jacob let out a sigh and ran his hands down his face. In my head, Valerie whispered, So you both talked about it, huh?

Abruptly, I turned around and pushed past Jasper. If I didn't get out of there, I was going to explode. I managed to strip off my shirt and pants and get to the roof before I exploded, and Valerie was three steps behind me. I let out a small growl and clenched my teeth together, shaking my head back and forth. I'm such a fucking idiot.

Valerie put a hand on my head after she dropped down next to me and pushed it down onto her lap. I let her, and she started to stroke my fur. I let out a sigh and got comfortable. Val was still kind of angry from the Jasper confrontation, and I could feel that when she tugged through my fur, but I didn't say anything.

Funnily enough, Val was the one to start the conversation. Told you so.

I growled, and tried to take a bite out of her leg, because Valerie still had little to no appreciation for the word "tact", but she moved her leg out of the way in time. Valerie, please. This isn't the time for you to go bragging how right you were, ok?

She shrugged, and I kept my head down. Then incredibly flippantly, she asked, "Do you want me to kill him for you?"

I shrugged. Honestly, I don't know.

She was quiet for a second, and then her hand stilled on my back. "So, let me get this straight. You told me that you two had handled it when I asked you before, but then it turns out that you were just sort of "going with the flow" and no one actually said what would happen if she came back. These are the words that are coming out of your mouth. And then when I asked you, you got pissed at me for interrupting and possibly encroaching on Relationship Territory, with capitals. So now, very intelligent friend of mine, what the hell am I supposed to do to remedy this situation? Seeing as you evidently didn't have half the mental capacity to plan when you were off playing the wolf version of House with Jacob."

I leapt off of her with a snarl. Evidently, Valerie was obviously not the person to go to when you had relationship issues, since she pretty much poured salt on the wound. I GET IT, OK? I get that I screwed up, but you have no right to come in and tell me 'I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO' when you have the most unhealthy romantic relationship with Demon! So you tell me what the hell you're planning on doing with that, because I really don't think that you're in any bloody position to tell me anything regarding my relationship with Jacob at the moment!

Valerie stared at me with yet another blank stare, and then she said very quietly, "Leah, you're crying."

I swiped at my eyes with my paw and laid down on the floor. I just couldn't deal with this anymore. Not again, damnit. Val stared at me for a while longer, and then left me on the roof by myself. I covered my eyes with my paws, and let out a long howl.

-Val POV-

"Oi, Jake. I need to ask you a question," I said, walking into the room and dragging him out by his pants without waiting for a response. Seth, who had been glaring pointedly at his Alpha from the corner of the room, nodded his head in what I took to be approval at me. I slapped a smile onto my face for Nessie's sake, telling her that I'd just be a minute as I dragged Jake away from the conversation.

As soon as I got Jake into the exercise room, I slammed my knee full force into his stomach. He doubled over and groaned loudly as he fell to the floor. I crossed my arms and glared at him. "You're just lucky that I didn't aim a little lower. Now explain to me exactly how the fuck you so royally messed up this shot with Leah."

Jacob let out a growl. "What, you think that I planned to hurt her? What kind of heartless bastard do you think that I am? It's not like I fucking planned for Nessie to come back-"

I snorted. "Yeah, well that's all well and good, but the thing that you need to fix here is that Leah is both pissed and depressed. Sure, maybe you didn't plan to hurt her, but I think that we've learned that you can't plan for shit. And Nessie's here now. So you need to grovel at her feet, swear your undying devotion, something, I don't even fucking care what. Just get Leah happy again, because I preferred it when she wasn't crying over your soon-to-be-sorry ass." I let out a final growl, then turned to walk away, as I was now satisfied with my input into the situation.

Jake, on the other hand, was not anywhere near done, it seemed. He got up from his pretty pathetic floor position, and tried to draw himself to full height without wincing. He was a bit more than half a head taller than me, but I couldn't care less. It just gave me easier access to his shins. "You think that I don't know that I screwed up? I get it, alright? I fucking just lost both my beta and my alpha fema-" His mouth snapped shut, and his fists clenched at his side. Eww, is he blushing?

I didn't want to hear it, and signaled for him to just shut up. "You can shove your fancy wolf titles up your ass as far as I'm concerned. Just get her happy again. Talk this through or something, I don't know. Just do something about this, or I will actively hand your ass to you in a take-out box."

"WILL YOU STOP TALKING? God, Valerie, I had no fucking idea that Nessie was coming back, how much does it take to get that through your head?And I thought that it was PRETTY obvious that we weren't going to be together and that I didn't care about her ROMANTICALLY when Nessie was busy making out with Nahuel-"


"Umm, Jake? Valerie?"

"WHAT?" Jake and I both snapped our heads towards the door, which had evidently opened during our little argument, and saw Nessie standing there with a blush. I let out a growl, and Jake managed to keep his growl in his throat as he clenched his fists and addressed her. "What is it, Nessie?" I rolled my eyes. Yeah. Definitely didn't care at all.

She looked down at her hands and started fiddling with her fingers. I started tapping my foot, and then finally blew up at her. "If you could just hurry this up, Nessie, that'd be great-"

I was cut off by Jake's elbow digging a hole in my side. I turned my glare on him. "What?" He glared at me in return, and I wanted to claw his eyes out if he was all about showing animal dominance all of a sudden. He sighed, then ran his fingers through his hair. "She didn't do anything-"

I snorted. "Well, excuse me if I'm not exactly throw shouting 'Hallelujah' when I see her. I'm just a little pissed on behalf of my friend. And, you know, your girlfriend. But evidently that part doesn't matter to you anymore, does it, Jacob?"

He looked about ready to rip my head off, and I was about ready to rip his arms off, so we were somewhere along the lines of even. "You bi-"

"Actually, that's what I wanted to talk to you both about!" Nessie managed to somehow spit out the words that she'd been chewing on for the past few minutes. I clenched my teeth. Now if only you could say something of use...

"What is it, Nessie?" Jake repeated, and I muttered under my breath. "God, don't even have enough of a brain to think of something different to say, do you, Jake?"

Jake blew up at that point, and I couldn't help feeling that I'd won. "LISTEN, VALERIE-"

"NAHUEL AND I ARE TOGETHER!" I blinked confused at Jake, who evidently had not said those words since he looked confused. I looked over at Nessie, and she started to blush even harder. Oh, come on. Is that all you do?

I crossed my arms. "So... what does that mean to us? Are you turning Jake free, is that what's happening here?"

Nessie looked like she would have loved to run screaming from the room as soon as I opened my mouth. I fixed her with a stare. "Umm... that's not the way I'd, umm, put it, but... basically?" Her voice tipped upwards nervously at the end as I stared at her, and it came out as a question instead of the statement I guess that she wanted it to be. She looked like she wanted me to be done with the questions, but I hadn't finished with her yet.

"So, what, was he your little pet? Is that it? Last time I checked, he was mainly human, Nessie." I kept my voice low and my arms crossed, because if I even moved a little bit, I was going to basically blow everyone in the room sky high.

Nessie's face was slightly pale, but she wasn't choosing to say anything, so I kept talking. "Listen, Nessie. Jake is part human, and he still has a life outside of you. You don't get to just talk down to him and "turn him lose". I don't care if you're his imprint or not: you don't speak to a person that way. You're adult enough now to date someone like Nahuel, you can figure out how to talk to people. Got it?" Nessie didn't say anything else, but her face was the palest I'd ever seen. I took that to mean that she understood, and so I turned to Jake. I had no more patience or time to spend on Nessie.

"Jake, this imprinting business is pure bull shit. I want you to go and tell your tribe leaders that they can take their imprinting and dance in a bonfire. And then, I want you to go upstairs and get your Alpha female, or whatever. Also, this entire shape-shifter thing is too confusing for me to keep up with. Just go fix yourself. Ok, I'm done." I raised an eyebrow and waited for someone else to say something.

After a few moments of what seemed to be awestruck/terrified silence, Jake didn't disappoint. "You..." he started, then he sort of shook his head and gave a wry smile. "I thought you hated me."

I looked at him sideways for a few seconds, and then said, "Nah, you're irritatingly attached to Leah. I can't really hate you, but I can rant for days on end about everything that you're doing wrong in a way that comes off as sort of loving. So there you go. Now, GO. Both of you!" I threw Jake out of the room by the collar on his shirt and Nessie I just stared at until she got the message. Nessie was the first to disappear, but Jake hung around a while longer to say some parting words.

"You're..." he paused for a second, searching for the next words it seemed, so I decided to help him out.

"Fan-fucking-tastic, I know." He rolled his eyes, and shook his head. Then he said, "You're just such a bitch."

The smile was what threw me as he turned and walked away. I stared after him for a second and shrugged. "...Whatever."

I closed the door behind Jake and sighed loudly. I looked up at the ceiling and muttered, "If there is even a single person looking out for me up there, you will leave me with 15 minutes to myself to celebrate my evident survival of the first part of the biggest family minefield that I've ever been involved in."

Immediately after I said that, I was thrown forwards by the force of the door opening. I had to chuckle. "No one up there really likes me, do they?"

The door slammed again, and I turned around to see Max, looking pretty raggedy. I raised an eyebrow and she avoided my eyes. "I'm not here. You never saw me."

I snickered. "You and Fang need to seriously talk this out. Seriously?" Max's glare let me know: yes, seriously. I shrugged. "I just thought with the amount of times you two have made out, you would have figured out that you were sort of in love with each other by now. Jeez, Max, how slow are you?"

Max's eyes kept dodging mine, and it seemed like she wasn't really all there. I guessed that she was talking to the Voice, who hadn't dropped in for a while, so I tested my theory. "Hey, Max. Does the Voice know if vampires can get hickies?"

Her head snapped my way so quickly that I heard the crack. "WHAT? WHY ARE YOU ASKING?"

I shrugged. "I thought that out of everyone, you would have learned by now, what with Fang's enthusiasm. Guess not."

Max's jaw dropped, and her hand leapt up to cover her neck. "That's- you- what- AGH!" If she had been human, I got the feeling that she probably would have been bright red. Huh. Guess that means I should try harder when I try to be random, shouldn't I, if I'm getting it right on the first try?

I couldn't help myself: I tried for one more. "Max, please tell me that you'll at least try to see the rest of us now, what with Fang's evident neck fetish. I would prefer it if you both came up for air once in a while." I could have sworn that I heard some obnoxious laughter from outside the door, but I brushed it off as irrelevant. Max full out lunged at me, arms ready to claw my eyes out, but I dodged, a bit disappointed. The teasing wasn't exactly fun when Max didn't do her over the top denial bit. I stopped short, thinking about what that would mean for their relationship, and in that time, Max managed to knock me upside the head. "STOP TALKING!"

I waved her off, trying to understand what was happening. "You and Fang are really together, huh?" Well, this was unexpected. I stared at her face, waiting for the answer that was going to feel absolutely surreal. If after all this time, Max was going to finally admit that she and Fang were DATING, this was going to be effing monumenta-

"No." I paused my mental rambling, replayed the syllable in my head, and then my jaw dropped. I looked at her for another moment, then grabbed her chin and pulled her face closer to me. "Ow, what are you do-"

"Shut up!" I cut her off immediately. "I'm checking for signs of drug use."

Max rolled her eyes. "Yes, because I'm obviously using drugs that no one can smell or see me plan to buy in a house full of vampires. That is definitely how that works-"

"I mean, the alternative is that you're just stupid and training to be a professional prostitute, Max. So you've got to tell me which one it is," I said, narrowing my eyes at her and letting go of her chin. Max's eyebrows furrowed as though she had no idea what I was talking about. You had better be lying.

"Wait. Valerie. What the hell are you talking about?" Max looked generally confused, and so, to end this never-ending game of Chicken that Fang and Max had probably been playing since the day that they met, I finally talked to someone who would appreciate both my sarcasm and complete inability to deal with stupid people about a relationship that I could beat some sense into.

I smacked Max upside the head. "You are easily the most clueless person I've ever met. Now, answer the question: are you a prostitute in training?"

Slowly, Max shook her head no, and I clapped my hands together in fake-enthusiasm. "Great, that means that you actually have standards. So, that means, by default, that you and Fang are together. Right?"

Max again shook her head no, and I wanted to strangle her. "Fang and I are definitely not dating. But seriously, Valerie, what the hell are you-"

"Ok, if you and Fang aren't dating, then you are definitely a whore in training. Because I swear, Max, any person with a decent amount of self-respect does not just casually make out with the same person over and over again without calling him or her boyfriend or girlfriend!" I was trying very hard not to just grab her by the shoulders and shake her until some light bulb in her brain that probably should have gone off the first time that she kissed him finally lit. But judging from the look on her face, I figured that would probably make the situation even worse.

The first words out of her mouth after that were, "WE DO NOT MAKE OUT OVER AND OVER AGAIN!"

I rolled my eyes, because she wasn't getting the point. "Max, I don't want to know whether or not you and Fang do more with each other in your little sessions, but I am going to spell something out to you because you are straight dumb when it comes to Fang: you and Fang are dating now. You've made out with him sober more than 5 times, and I know that you are not a slut. There, problem solved for you. Because when it comes to Fang, I don't trust you to make your own decisions anymore. And you obviously have no idea what the hell you're doing."

-Max POV-

I was trying to keep calm as Val was speaking, but there was nothing that was coming out of her mouth that made any sense. Especially the entire "you and Fang are dating now" business. I kind of wanted to just shake her until her head screwed back on properly.

"Val, I know exactly what I'm doing, and Fang and I are not together. I'm not crazy, but we aren't together. Fang doesn't want a relationship; I'm the girl closest in proximity to him that's around his age, so that's why he's-"

"Locked the both of you inside a room for hours on end trying to talk through all the issues that you seem to have with the idea of you two being together? Yeah, he definitely does that when he's horny. Really, Max, I thought that you hated BS," Val had her arms crossed and looked like she was daring me to just say something. And we all know that I don't turn down dares made by people with sarcasm issues.

"I do. Which is why I'm not listening to you until you figure out where the hell your brain went." I raised my chin, waiting for her to answer. I got the feeling that this was going to be a long conversation.

She stared in silence for a few seconds, and then her eyes narrowed. "You think that he kisses you because you're the closest girl to him?" Without even waiting for an answer, Val started cackling. Wonderful to know that I'm so funny.

After a straight 5 seconds of hysterical laughter on her part, Val finally stood back up and said, "Gimme a second." She focused on something that I couldn't see, and then she started grinning. "Alright, here we go," she muttered, and then said, "She really loves hide and seek, doesn't she?

"So, what is this, time 7 that she's run away? She's staying longer, though. A good sign, I guess." Valerie stopped for a second and looked me dead in the eye, waiting for a reaction, I guessed. I shrugged. "Now what am I supposed to be taking from this?"

Valerie's eyes narrowed again, and she kept going, "I just wish she'd fucking give in already... It's been years, and she still just... Well, I guess that's what I fell in love with her for. But she just can't seem to see that... How is she so completely fearless and smart and courageous in everything else but with this she just can't... Get it? And every single fucking time that we get close she just..."

Obviously Val wasn't talking from her own view, since I was pretty sure that she was in love with Demon, not some random girl. I glanced around the room, trying to figure out where the hell she was reading this stuff fro- Holy shit.

Val smirked and finished the thought. "Runs away..."

I clenched my fists at my sides. "Are you out of your fucking mind?"

Val shrugged. "Actually, yes."

I could have sworn that I actually saw red for a minute. I wanted to kill Val. "Stay. Out. Of. His. Mind."

Val raised an eyebrow, and I knew that I didn't want to hear what she had to say next. "Why should I? I mean, you've already projected to him how you felt with the amount of times you ran away. I think that this time, you should get to know how Fang feels-"

"YOU CAN'T JUST READ HIS MIND LIKE THAT! THIS IS FANG WE'RE TALKING ABOUT! IT'S PRIVATE!" I wasn't sure if shouting at Valerie was going to help things any, but it sure as hell made me feel better.

Val's face didn't change. "It's not like he tries to hide it from you, Max. It's pretty damn obvious; he practically projects it every time that he sees you. I'm just repeating what you already know." She added a shrug at the end just to piss me off.

"No, I fucking don't know. And stop shoving Fang in my God-damn face, ok? He's a big boy; he can handle himse-"

I was cut off by the sarcastic laugh that Valerie does when she's pissed at something and wants to piss off someone else. "God, Max, do you hear yourself? NO, HE CAN'T HANDLE HIMSELF! NOT WHEN IT COMES TO YOU, YOU IDIOT! ARE YOU BLIND?"

"NO, I'M NOT BLIND! But you're completely blind to the fact that Fang can handle himself; I've known him all my life, and I think I would have picked up on that by now. Worry about Demon instead of Fang, all right? You're pretty damn blind to that." When in doubt, you shove your opponent's problems back in their face. It usually gets the job done and the subject changed.

Valerie's damn eyebrow finally went down as she started to glare at me. Good, the urge to rip your arms out has gone down a bit. "This isn't about Demon and I. Demon has nothing to do with this, and that issue is not even slightly similar to the soap opera that you and Fang have going on. So you need to shut your damn mouth about that."

"Oh, did I hit a nerve, Val? Hmm, kinda sucks to be on the other end of that, doesn't it? With people trying to tell you all about yourself?" I folded my arms, waiting for what fabulous sarcastic response Val would have to give to that. What are you gonna pull out of your ass this time, sis?

Val glared at me for a little longer, her eyes having gone pitch black, and then she abruptly turned around. "Fine." Wait, what? She didn't look at me as she pulled her iPod out of her pocket and hooked it up to the speakers. "Forget everything that I just said. You evidently don't need it."

I blinked. This wasn't like Valerie even a little bit. But I wasn't about to complain. "Don't worry, I will."

"Good. Now I'm going to just forget about the rest of you for a while, because you give me more stress than I even know what to do with." She started stretching, and then somehow got super in time with Lady Gaga and doing all these weirdly cool dance moves. Since when did she know how to dance?

She shrugged as she did this really intense body roll that I could feel my back creak. "I took a few classes for hip-hop when we were still in Canada. The rest of it is just moderated fighting skills."

I stayed and watched her for a little while longer, and I wasn't exactly sure what I was waiting for but I was pretty sure that she was waiting for something. God, I hate the feeling of impending doom...

Finally, I broke the relative silence. "So..." Did I say that I broke it? I meant that I just awkwardly acknowledged the fact that neither of us knew what to say to each other.

Val stopped the song and then said, "Max, dance with me."

I blinked twice and then shut down that idea immediately. "You're out of your mind. I'm leaving."

Val sort of chuckled. "Max, I don't think you understand. I asked you, but I was really telling you dance with me."

"I don't dance; I flail like a madwoman. We're not doing this, for the sake of my pride and your eyes. If you really loved your eyes, then you wouldn't do this to yourself. Good God, I'll blind you. I have no rhythm." I wasn't about to try this. I was going to sit here and I was going to just ignore everybody until I was sure that Fang had cooled off and I didn't have to avoid him anymore.

"But you're a vampire now, so none of that matters since you have the grace of somewhere around 50 gazelles," She shot back, then she completely ignored everything that I'd said to her. She pulled me up by the arms as You and I came up on the stereo, and then did something very sexy-looking that I was absolutely positive I was not going to be able to do with my hips anytime soon.

"Val, this is impossible. There is no possible way that someone as un-soulful as me is ever going to be able to- WHY ARE YOUR HANDS THERE?" I had been in the middle of lecturing her when all of a sudden, her hands were on my waist and I nearly bit her. I repeatedly smacked her hands until she let go. "I do not need you man-handling me, all right? I get enough of that from Fang..."

Val rolled her eyes, and surprisingly didn't comment on the Fang thing. "Look, just pretend that you're twirling a hula-hoop. Good God, I'm never going to be able to take you dancing with me..."

"Yes, because I so desperately want to go dancing with you that- wait a second, I'm doing it," I looked down at my hips, which had somehow sucked some of Val's rhythm out of her. Val stood back and smirked. "Told you. Now follow me for a second."

There are several things in my life that I never expected; being able to actually move my hips in an acceptable way was definitely one of them. You know, somewhere after the entire "turning into a vampire" business.

I spent the next fifteen minutes mimicking Val's movements and actually doing a decent job until I heard a, "Well, this is unexpected."

I spun around, and my heart nearly leapt out of my throat. SHIT. "How many times have I told you to stop doing that?" I asked, trying to keep calm about the entire situation.

Fang raised one eyebrow coolly, as if he didn't know what I was talking about. I'm going to shoot him. "Doing what, breathing?" Then, without taking his eyes off of me, he turned his head in Val's direction and said, "Thanks. Got it from here."

The music cut off, and I snapped my head around to watch Val stick her iPod into her pocket and nod at Fang. Under her breath, as she passed me, she chuckled and said, "Let's see who's blind now." My eyes widened when I got her meaning, but at that point, Fang and I were the only ones left in the room. Fuck shit crappity crap damn.

Fang was still standing with his back facing the door, which made it pretty much impossible for me to get past him. There were no air vents in the room for me to crawl through, and there was one window, but Fang was also aware of it as his eyes kept shifting from me to my only chance of escape.

Trying not to panic too much, I took a deep breath and crossed my arms in front of me. I looked him dead in the eyes and tried to get this over with as soon as humanly possible. "What is it, Fang?"

Fang put his hands in his pockets, and my eyes were drawn to the muscles on his arms unconsciously. I caught myself after a few seconds and turned my eyes away sharply, letting out a short exhale. This used to be so much easier before he fucking turned pretty.

How much easier, Max? The Voice chimed in shortly, and before I could tell it off properly, I felt the presence leave my mind, so I was left scowling at the air.

"Wondering when we'll be able to get over this, Max." Fang's voice pierced through the silence of the room, and I knew just from the overly cool tone of his voice that looking into his eyes meant death. Lovely. I have a Chinese cookie in my head, and a hormonally unstable, pissed supermodel ready to make my head explode. I briefly wondered about the supermodel comparison for Fang, but I shook it off. Might as well call 'em like you see 'em.

I brushed my hair out of my eyes, and focused on a spot just above his right shoulder. "Over what, Fang? I don't think that we have anything that we really need to get over."

Fang chuckled darkly. "Of course you'd think that, Max. If the situation involves us and any bit of feelings, you try your hardest to believe there's no problem, even when you're running away."

I sucked in a breath and let it out just as quickly. Deep intakes of breath were weaknesses in front of Fang, and like hell I needed him taking that and running with it. So I clenched my teeth hard and dove headfirst into the offense. "Oh, please, Fang. You're just doing this because I'm not cooperating with the plan."

I dared to look Fang in the eyes again, waiting for his reaction, and the look on his face was not what I expected. If anything, he looked kind of amused. Ok, so that was not a face that I expected to show up when I was talking to him. "And just what, exactly, is my plan, Max?"

I will admit that the almost-smiling was throwing me for a loop, but I kept going, because it was highly likely that Fang was bluffing. "I'm the only girl in the vicinity that knows about everything- the wings, the vampire stuff, the stick up your ass- and hasn't gone running. To you, I'm just here so you don't explode from being a horny teenage boy." I finished off my statement with a glare, and waited for Fang to come up with a retort.

Fang's face went from amused to confused for a split second, then he looked really annoyed. Or, at least, annoyed for Fang. I smirked, glad to have finally got a one-up on Fang. "What, annoyed that I figured you out?"

Fang's head dropped to his chest, and then he groaned. When his head came back up, he still looked annoyed. I mentally patted myself on the back. "No, I'm actually in awe that someone as smart as you can be so incredibly stupid."Excuse me, what?


Fang took two steps closer, and I took two steps back. "You are a complete idiot, you know that? You think that all this is because you're the most convenient thing possible?"

I narrowed my eyes. He somehow thought that he could salvage this, evidently. "Fa-"

"Nope. You're shutting up and you're listening to me for once in your life." He took a deep breath in, and then let it out. I was not going to let his distractions get to me. He ran a hand over his face, and then started trying to explain himself. "Max, you're a complete idiot when it comes to how I feel, all right? If I wanted another girl, I could have done that when we were still alive. Hell, I could do it right now if I wanted to. But I'm not, ok? Because I thought that you would have picked up on the small fact that I sort of like you a lot more than as a casual make-out buddy, but evidently, you're just kind of stupid when it comes to things like that."

As he was lecturing me, I couldn't help but remember what Val had said he'd been thinking earlier: How is she so completely fearless and smart and courageous in everything else but with this she just can't... Get it?

Fang must have noticed the pre-occupied look in my eyes, because he took me by the shoulders and forced my attention back to him. "What are you trying to over-think now?"

I didn't answer him, trying to figure out how the hell to answer a rant like that. Fang took advantage of my silence and kept talking lowly. "Well, now that we've got that all figured out..."

It took about 2 seconds after he pressed his lips to mine again for the God-knows-what time, but my brain finally figured out what was happening outside of my head and I pushed him away. Fang groaned out loud and his eyes bored into mine, searching for... well, something. I felt my stomach flip twice in response. "What now, Max? What else could there possible be for you to sa-"

I waved a hand in front of his face, trying to gather my thoughts. "Shut up. You're making it hard for me to think."

Fang's eyes narrowed, and somewhere under all the annoyance, I could see something that looked like anxiety. Huh, well, whaddaya know? He's actually freaking out a bit, too... "The last time that you thought, you came up with something completely out of left field-"

"SHUT UP! I'm trying to... piece something together, all right?" I managed to run through every single feeling that I'd ever had involving Fang that I'd buried somewhere deep in the back of my mind in a box that was probably labeled "DO NOT OPEN: EMOTIONAL HOT MESS INSIDE" in a matter of seconds, and somehow came to a conclusion. Well, shit. That was unexpected.

When I came back to reality, Fang was still staring at me. I looked all over his face, and suddenly felt the need to look away embarrassed. "I guess I... kinda sorta...um... like you... a bit more than I... um... originally planned..."

There was complete silence as I clenched my fists at my sides as I waited for a reaction from him. I got a bit impatient as I looked stubbornly at his shoulder. "Jeez, did you even hear what I sa-"

I was suddenly pulled into a hug, and I hesitantly put my arms around him too. We stood there hugging- What the fuck is going on?- for a few seconds, then Fang started to chuckle. He murmured into my hair, "That was the most half-assed confession I've ever heard."

I tried to push him away, but only got far enough away that his arms were still around my waist loosely. "Not like you've heard a lot of confessions before, I ho-"

I was cut off again by Fang's lips, and I leaned into the kiss. When we stopped kissing a few minutes later, I smiled a bit, but then frowned.

"You've got to stop interrupting me."

"Yeah, yeah. You know you love it."

Meanwhile, in another room of the apartment...

-Val POV-

"So, we're all cool now?" I asked, looking around at everyone in the room, who nodded at different times. While I was forcing Max and Fang to sort out all of their issues, I had called a meeting between all of the various family members who still weren't talking to Skye and me and answered everyone's questions a lot more calmly than the first time that I'd called a meeting. We'd managed to get everyone's questions answered, and I got some smiles out of Iggy and words out of Nudge for the first time in what seemed like ages.

After my little group therapy session, I slumped back into the chair whose arm I'd been sitting on and stared up at the ceiling. Kami came over and crawled onto my lap, and Mira came over and sat beside me on the floor.

"So you've fixed everything on your list?" She asked, and I turned my head to look at her, wondering how she knew. Anticipating my question, she said, "Leah ranted enough times about you finishing with everything on your checklist that I figured out that you had one. A list, I mean."

Mentally tired, I stroked Kami's hair and nodded. "I've covered everything on the list. I'm officially done. I don't think you understand how tired I am."

"Sorry to add this to your list again, then." Mira and I both looked over at the doorway, and I groaned while Mira chuckled. Demon was leaning against the doorway, looking at Kami and I in the armchair. Mira looked between the two of us and said, "I had a feeling she was lying. Good luck then, Demon." Then she got up and left me alone with the final thing on my list.

Kami had curled up on my stomach, and I positioned myself that she was in between Demon and I. Demon gave me a look that told me that he knew exactly what I was doing, but I ignored it. Hopefully, having Kami between us would make him think twice about messing with me and touching all of this emotional crap again.

We were quiet for a while, and Kami's soft breathing was the only noise for about 15 minutes. Then, Demon started up again. "You ran away."

I rolled my eyes. "Brilliant deduction, Sherlock. Want a cookie?"

His eyes narrowed at me, and then he looked down at Kami, seemingly checking himself. Yes, the plan is working. "You seemed perfectly fine when we were actually kissing. I can't think of any reasons why me ending the kiss should have caused any proble-"

I slapped a hand over his mouth and glared at him. "Do you have to say it out loud?" I whisper shouted, trying not to wake Kami. Demon shrugged, and his other hand came up to take my hand from his mouth. "I thought we were going to lay it all out on the table."

I shook my head frantically. "Only the important information, you idiot. Not everyone in this house needs to know what happened."

Demon nodded, then seemed to think about something for a few minutes. Just when I thought it was over, he said very clearly, "I'm kind of in love with you."

The temperature in the room went up about 15 degrees, and I found myself on the other side of the room with Kami somehow still on the couch. "What the hell was that?" I whisper shouted at him.

He looked completely calm, but I could see the tenseness in his fingers as he stroked Kami's hair. "Well, I know that you like things blunt, so-"

I could tell even now that I was not going to make it through this confrontation alive. "Ok, I'm gone."

Demon was suddenly hanging onto one of my arms, preventing me from leaving. "What's wrong, Haze? All I did was tell you that I'm in love with yo-"

"STOP REPEATING IT!" I almost screeched, but somehow managed to keep at a slightly lower volume. I tried to rationalize my way through the situation. "You're not really in love with me."

Demon rolled his eyes. "Oh, for God's sake..."

I kept going. "You're confusing love and fear. That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. You're not actuall-"

"Val, you don't get to tell me how I feel about you. Besides, I think that I'd know, seeing as I've known for a while now." Demon said calmly, as opposed to me, who was freaking the freak out. "And no matter how many times you deny it, it's not going to disappear."

I tried a different tactic. "You only kissed me to shut me up. If I didn't talk so much, then we wouldn't be in this situation."

"Val, you and I both know that this was coming since way before the kiss happened, all right? The kiss just made this come a little bit sooner, since I'm pretty sure that some point or another I probably would have kissed you just for the heck of it. Also, you kissed me first, let's just put that out there." Demon looked like he'd thought this entire situation out before- Ha, like you really know me that well, you little cheat...- and I hated that I was now floundering around trying to figure out a way to get out of this terrible, horrid situation.

"Ok, so maybe there were some issues that we needed to sort out before the kiss. Also, I only kissed you then to get us out of a bad situation. We could have been dead!"

Demon rolled his eyes- Stop doing that, God dammit!- and drawled, "Yes, because you absolutely had to kiss me in order to convince the Volturi that you were on their side. That's how that worked. Oh, wait..."

I punched him in the arm and tried to fight back. "Marcus was already onto us! He could see relationships and he thought-" I bit my tongue as I thought over what I was going to say, which would probably only give Demon more fuel against me.

Demon raised an eyebrow. "Marcus thought what?"

I avoided his eyes and muttered, "Nothing. Just...something that I'd seen in his thoughts..."

Demon looked too smug for me to be entirely comfortable. "Something about us being in a romantic relationship?" When he saw my horrified questioning look, he said, "I asked Edward a while back what exactly each of the Volturi could do." Note to self: kill Edward.

I shook my head frantically. When in doubt, deny everything. "No, he didn't see that." Demon didn't look like he believed me for a second, but it didn't matter because I wasn't going to say anything else on the subject. He shrugged, and then he said, "Eh, whatever. It doesn't matter, because you think I'm handsome."

If I'd had anything in my mouth at the moment, I would have done a spit take. "I DO NOT THINK THAT YOU'RE HANDSOME!"

Demon shook his head again, that "I know something you don't" smile that pissed me off still on his face. "That's not what Skye said." Note to self: kill Skye.

I clenched my teeth, and decided that denial was evidently doing nothing for my argument that there was nothing going on between us. "Fine. So hypothetically, I think you're handsome. Then what?"

His smile turned unexpectedly soft, and one of his hands reached out and grabbed mine. "I know that you like me too." HOUSTON. WE HAVE A FUCKING PROBLEM.

I shook my head frantically and tried to remove my hand from Demon's. "Where the hell did you get that idea?"

Demon shrugged, that twinkle that I couldn't really say that I liked but did weird things to my brain in his eyes. "Oh, you know, here and there." He looked down at the floor as if he and it had shared some secret joke that I'd completely missed.

I looked pointedly away from him and tried to keep going, even with his hand now intertwining our fingers. Oh, good God, what cheesy romantic comedy are we in? "Well too bad for you and your "here and there", because we're just best friends. I don't love you."

Demon chuckled at me. "Liar."


Demon waved off my blowing up and turned my face toward him by grabbing my chin. "Look me dead in the eyes and telling me that you don't love me too."

I bit my tongue. "What cheesy romantic comedy are you ripping this off of?"

Demon chuckled, but didn't let go of my face, even as I felt the chills run up and down my spine. Inconsiderate bastard. "Just try and tell me, Haze."

I shut up for a second, then steeled my gaze. "I don't lo-"

"Liar." Demon swooped in and gave me another kiss, this one much sweeter than the other one that we'd had, but I pushed him away all the same. Regardless of how many times my chest feels like it's about to burst open...


"Eh, didn't need to. I knew you were lying. It was in your eyes," Demon said nonchalantly, looking not-too-subtly at my lips. Wiping my mouth quickly, I glared at him. "HAVE YOU BEEN LISTENING TO ANYTHING THAT I'VE BEEN SAYING?"

Demon shrugged. "Yes, but it wasn't like you were making any sense."

I groaned and pulled at my hair. "You are a bloody idiot."

Demon was quiet for a second, and then started again, one hand cupping my neck. "Look, just... give me a chance, all right? We're best friends, so I'll know what's good and what's not. I'm in love with you, and I have no idea what the hell to do with myself. And there's something in me that's telling me that you're it, as stupid and cheesy as it sounds. And if I ever screw up, you can beat me up and tell me "I told you so", ok? Just... try us out?"

I looked onto his eyes, and for some stupid reason, I felt my heart do a stupid little swollen flip. Aw, shit. That's not a good sign. I didn't say anything, and I tried to keep my facial expression from falling apart into the overwhelming sense of glee that was spreading through my body for some reason or another...

...Ok, yeah, so I knew. Shut up, all right?

Before I could say something else, Demon was over by the chair waking Kami up. She rubbed her eyes blearily and then focused in on Demon. "Yes, Daddy?"

Demon picked her up and then asked, "Do you think that Mommy should give Daddy a chance?"

Kami looked between Demon and me a couple of times, and then put her hands on her hips. "Mommy, give Daddy a chance," she said bossily, and I couldn't help but smirk at the two of them.

Demon's face was still looking sort of hopeful, and I couldn't seem to look at him without wanting to smile. Ugh, stupid face. I whispered, "Come here?"

Demon walked over, and I pulled him down by the collar and kissed him full on the lips. I felt my wings flutter a bit, and at the same time Demon smiled into the kiss. Kami cheered, and then we were interrupted by someone's throat clearing. "Ahem?"

Fang and Max were standing in the doorway, holding hands and smirking. "Is this a bad time?"

Demon and I rolled our eyes. I just couldn't stop smiling. "Oh, shut up."

I'm thankful for a lot of things, but I'm incredibly thankful for all of you who stuck through with me to the end of this epic. Dancing with Fire has been my baby for almost 3 years now, and without you all, the readers, I don't know what I would have done. I remember when this story was just a fetus, and now I'm done; it's all grown up. I was thinking of an epilogue, but I don't think that I'm going to go through with it. I feel like this is a good, final note.

I'm crying as I type these words, but I'm glad that I finally finished.

Thanks, you guys.

Peace, love, and endless ink,

~Cinnie xoxo