Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.

Chapter 28

Edward laid on his bed, repeatedly tossing a small rubber ball into the air and catching it again as it fell back towards him. He was furious, hurt, confused, guilty… On the surface, he was really just furious at Bella for trying to control him and what he knew; it was wrong of her, there was no going around that. He hated it when Hearing people thought it was up to them to decide what he should or should not know. It always felt like they were trying to show that they knew better than him, but they never did.

Beyond that fury, however, he was very upset and conflicted about what had just happened. He had idealized Bella completely, almost forgetting that she was Hearing, not Deaf like him, and that she could not truly understand him. Tanya had told him so many times, back when they lived in the East Coast, that Hearing/Deaf couples could not work, because the Hearing person would never be able to understand the Deaf one, and he had always waved away the concern, thinking that that was just an excuse people used when their relationships didn't work. But now… now he could begin to see how that might be true.

However, Bella really did try, and she was so good about trying to understand him. If things were any other way, he would have understood that she simply could not understand how he felt about something like not hearing when people insulted him. Not that that bothered him tremendously; he was used to people making rude comments about him. What upset him was that people were making comments to Bella, about him and her, and she had not told him. Bella, whose life had gone so wrong for so long, did not deserve to have anyone treat her like he knew Hearing teenagers could treat Deaf ones, particularly not when it was because of him. And, most importantly, she should not be keeping it to herself, bearing the brunt of it while he went about his life, oblivious, unable to protect her in any way from it all.

And that, he realized, was the reason he had gotten so very upset. Yes, he would have gotten upset at Bella and he might even have said a few rude things to her , if she had been not telling him about people, say, calling him a freak, or some of her friends generally teasing her about holding hands with him, for instance. But the sheer fury that had overcome him was based upon the helplessness he had felt in that situation, and the horrifying thought that Bella was being bullied because of him and she had tried to shield him from it, while it was he that should be protecting her, not the other way around. He felt… emasculated and useless because of his lack of hearing and Bella's attitude towards the entire situation, and that was why he had lashed out at her in such a way.

He closed his eyes as he remembered his words to her and her face afterwards. He had hurt her. In fact, at the time, it had been his intention to hurt her. Anything that would have made him feel slightly in control. Looking back at it all now, however, he felt completely rotten and furious at himself. Bella hadn't deserved his horrible words, his insulting her, and, most importantly, his cold and harsh "Well, fuck you, I'm done playing for you." Just his memory of her face upon those words broke his heart.

He tossed the ball again, this time more forcefully. So forcefully, in fact, that it hit the ceiling, bounced off, and fell back to quickly for him to grab it. It hit him on the head, and he finally sat up, rubbing at it, annoyed. Just then, his door opened, revealing Alice's worried face.

Are you ok? She asked tentatively, stepping cautiously into his room.

Yes, I just don't know how strong I truly am, I guess, he tried to joke. His morose face belied any humor, though.

I meant after that scene at school, Alice stated, sitting at his desk.

Edward grimaced, looking down at his lap for a few seconds, unsure how to answer. I'm not alright, exactly. I… Well, I've calmed down, at least. He paused. I feel like a jerk. I am a jerk, in fact. I can't believe I blew up at Bella like that.

She was playing filter for you, Alice signed, your being angry was understandable. But… she looked uncomfortable, you went overboard. You really hurt her. She paused again, unsure of whether she should continue or not. She took a deep breath and decided he deserved to know. She broke down. Kind of froze up, crying. Emmett had to take her home. I don't think she even noticed any of it. She just cried, without making a sound.

Edward closed his eyes, clenching his fists and grinding his teeth. After all his promises about taking care of her and her being able to trust on him, it had only taken a week of their dating for him to break her. He was so entirely disgusted by himself. I'm an asshole.

Alice didn't disagree. The pair sat, wordlessly, for a few minutes. Finally Alice began signing again. You need to talk to her. You need to apologize, ask for her forgiveness, and make it up to her.

Do I? he asked. Wouldn't it just be better for her if I left it like that? Left her alone, so people would stop calling her names and mocking her. She doesn't deserve that, and it's all my fault. And I just demonstrated that I am particularly good at hurting her, so I should probably stay away.

SHUT UP! signed Alice vigorously. You are being ridiculous and cowardly. Yes, you are very good at hurting her. But you are also so very, very good at making her happy. Doesn't she deserve that? You just don't want to apologize; you are scared. And I understand that, but you need to get over yourself. She's going to get teased one way or another, she is in high school. It happens. You, however, can make her happy. And she deserves to be happy. So get over yourself, stop moping, and go talk to her.

Edward stared at his sister in complete shock. It had been a while since he had been on the receiving end of such a tirade, and he was not at all used to her siding with somebody else when there was the slightest possibility his being upset had been caused by something to do with his being Deaf; she usually went up in arms over the slightest offense against him, trying to protect him even when he himself hadn't taken offense. It was… refreshing to see the situation reversed. And very revealing of her emotions.

You really like Bella, don't you? he asked.

She is becoming my best friend, Alice replied calmly, and she is one of the kindest people I've ever met. She smiled wistfully. She kind of reminds me of mom, in a way. And, besides, even if I didn't like her, personally… she means the world to Jasper.

Edward said nothing for a few seconds, thinking over what she was saying and what she was not saying. You really like Jasper, he finally stated.

Yes. I… I feel like we're an old married couple at times, and then at other times I find myself completely wondering whether I'm just reading him wrong and he's just humoring me or something. It's stressful. But I enjoy every second I spend with him. And I, at least, want more.

Does his relationship with Bella ever bother you? the sureness of his signs made Alice rather sure that he had thought about this question a lot before daring to ask it. She smiled.

It did, at first. After we figured out they weren't siblings, I couldn't understand why he would be so devoted to a girl if he weren't in love with her. I think… if the two had met under different circumstances, and she hadn't needed him so much… they might have fallen in love and become a couple. But Bella didn't need a boyfriend, she needed a family, and Jasper became what she needed, and now there is no going back. Bella is his sister, in his mind. The likeliness of something happening between them is the same as that of something happening between us. She paused for a second, gathering her thoughts. Bella comes first for him right now. Maybe she always will. But… I can't find it in myself to be upset about it, because Bella needs to come first with somebody; she has never had that before. And if Jasper is the one to provide that for her… well, I can't say I'll never be jealous. But I don't think I'll ever truly be upset about it. She glanced at Edward, mischievously, and winked. And besides, I think she might come first for somebody else quite soon, and then I can have Jasper all to myself.

Edward growled mockingly and hit her lightly with his pillow. The twins fell back on the bed, side by side, their laughter shaking the bed underneath them. Edward raised his hands high above them, so that Alice could see him signing. Of course, for that to happen, she has to forgive me for being the biggest dick in the world.

She will, Alice replied, her hands side by side with his, trust me. I have a sixth sense for these things.

The two smiled and then stretched out on the bed again, simply calm and content in each other's presence.

While the Cullen twins bonded in silence, Jasper and Rosalie tried their best to drag at least one word from Bella's mouth. After her shower and her nap, Bella had stayed in her room and had refused to come outside or communicate with anyone, much to the Hales' chagrin.

"Bella, come on, just tell us you're ok and we'll leave you alone," implored Jasper.

"Jasper, really, she's not 'ok,' don't patronize her. She's hurt and angry and upset, obviously. But, really, Bella, just let us know how we can help? We're here for you," Rosalie argued from her resting place, sitting against the door to Bella's room. It was locked.

"Bella, we are worried about you. Please, at least let us in. We won't say another word. We just want to make you feel better."

There was no response, and the Hales simply decided to set up camp outside her door; she would have to open the door at one point or another. Of course, the fact that it was Friday was on Bella's side, as she did not have to go home until Sunday night; she could stay in the room all weekend long without wreaking havoc in her life.

And staying locked up until Sunday evening was looking like quite a good approach. Bella had absolutely no desire to talk with anyone. She only wanted to stay under the covers for the rest of eternity and mope. She felt awful; not worthy of being in the presence of even her quasi family. Edward's words kept running through her head, reminding her that she had hurt him terribly, badly enough that he had walked out on her in front of everyone.

His words had hurt her so badly; his claiming that she was "just another Hearing girl," that she was "playing with the freak to feel special," that she had manipulated him and disrespected him… it broke her heart that he would ever think that about her. She had only wanted to shield him from the meanness of the people who did not understand him. She could not begin to comprehend that he might have wanted her to tell him about the horrid things people were saying about them in the hallways. That would simply be cruel, in her eyes and, much as he might hate her for it, she could not bring herself to be sorry. She would always protect him when she could; why could he not understand that?

She sighed, rolling over in the bed, reminding herself that she was the one who had messed up, not him. She should feel sorry, and she felt all the worse for thinking that she would do it all over again, if given the chance. But, she thought, would he not do the same for her? She could not imagine him relaying an insult addressed at her if she had missed it. He would act like he had not noticed. Or, depending on the situation, he might try to actively defend her, as Jasper had done in the cafeteria. But simply telling her that she had been insulted for absolutely no reason, and then move on? That was wrong. She knew Edward would never do that. So why was he asking it of her?

Once again, she groaned as she rolled over. Why did she keep trying to place part of the blame on him? Obviously, he didn't deserve it; she could not understand why he would have blown up at her as he had otherwise. So why did she feel like she wasn't entirely on the wrong? Was she in the right, at least slightly? The thought hadn't occurred to her before; that she had done something wrong, yes, but that Edward had retaliated with something wrong as well. Maybe… maybe, she thought, she had been idealizing Edward. He had swooped in one day and had done no wrong in her eyes since then. He had been perfect, even though she knew very well that there was no such thing as a perfect individual. So, maybe, just maybe… Edward was just as human and imperfect as her.

Somehow, this revelation made her feel much better about her situation and herself. She was human and she made mistakes, and so did Edward. And so, while he had to forgive her for… well, for upsetting him, she had to forgive him as well, for being so cruel to her. The realization that she had some control in the situation—that she didn't have to grovel for his forgiveness, but that she, too, had to forgive him—instantly relieved her. And, with this change in her attitude, she threw off the bed covers, got off the bed, and opened her bedroom door.

Only to have Jasper and Rosalie literally fall on her feet.

The Hale siblings were shocked but very relieved to see the change upon Bella. She looked more at ease and more confident now. They did not know what had caused it, but they were thankful for whatever it was.

"You look much better, Bella," Jasper pointed out, smiling at her across the kitchen table.

"Thank you. I feel much better now, too," she replied, leaning across the table to serve him some water.

"What happened, exactly? I mean… what changed? You were so beaten up before and now you look so much… lighter," stated Rosalie.

"I just did some thinking. Things aren't particularly good with Edward, I know. He's angry at me and I have to apologize for trying to control things too much. But it's not the end of the world and I'm not an awful person. We will talk about it like adults, and everything should improve. If not…" she drifted off, a frown upon her face, "well, if not, it will be through no fault of mine. And it will hurt and I will be very upset, but I won't feel guilty about it," she stated firmly.

Jasper and Rosalie smiled at her proudly. Little Bella was growing up.