*Author's Note* Much love to all the reviewers out there! Sorry for the delay with this chapter. Without trying to sound like a sob story, this week has been hard. I came back from the beach to find out that my dad has a girlfriend. It's only been three months since my mom died, and admittedly, I've not been handling it well. This bit of news didn't help. I'm still very much jobless and my dad's new hobby is spending time with someone else, so instead of working on the story while I moped around the house, I spent the past week organizing my music and creating Emo-Edward worthy playlists to listen to.

If you use iTunes and your music collection is missing track information, then you must check out a program called TuneUp. Perfect for all those OCD/chronic-alphabetizers like me with 100+GB of mislabeled music just begging to be fixed (full version of TuneUp does cost money though, sorry).

With that being said, you can blame my whiny-ass music for the wait and for the Emo-Edward of this chapter.

Characters are Stephenie's, music is in my profile (which I've also updated with a rambling description about me), and I still love reviews/favs/alerts very much!

--------

Disarm you with a smile

And leave you like they left me here

To wither in denial

The bitterness of one who's left alone

Ooh, the years burn

Smashing Pumpkins - Disarm

--------

I had two options to consider:

Option One: Some higher being was rewarding me.

For what? Being a jackass? Not likely.

Option Two: Swan was fucking pissed at me.

That's more like it.

She hadn't said a word to me in the past 24 hours. And after carefully weighing the options, I had come to the inevitable conclusion that Swan was indeed pissed off at me. Thursday's commute home came and went silently, as did the drive Friday morning. And our break time together had been equally quiet as she gnawed on her tuna, her eyes shooting daggers at me from under her lashes. Hauling her back to her house Friday afternoon was proceeding in the same manner. Completely fucking silent.

To be quite honest, I didn't know how much more I could take. I was having a sort of conflict of interests. I hated listening to her spew her word vomit everywhere, but I hated the silent tension even more, amplified by the fact that her mind was silent too. I didn't feel bad being a dick to her when she was being a bitch to me, and calling her names unprovoked seemed very ungentlemanly of me. Not to mention, it broke the deal we made. I could only call her a bitch if she deserved it. And to deserve it, I needed her snappy and bitter and hateful. I needed her to talk to me.

As we pulled out of the hospital parking lot, I looked over at Swan, who was staring out the window, arms crossed, her scowl reflected in the glass. I cleared my throat, trying to get her attention. The only movement she made was to further ingrain the scowl into her mouth until her cheeks actually quivered. Looking at her through the reflection, I was reminded of the old wives' tale where holding an ugly expression for too long can cause your face to freeze that way. That could very well be her problem.

She was still ignoring me. And still scowling. And still quiet. And I was quickly losing my mind.

Gloves off, Cullen. Come out swinging.

"Jealous, much?" My tone was condescending and arrogant. Exactly the kind of thing that would set her off.

She whipped her face around and gave me a disgusted look. Well, it had gotten her attention at least.

"Are you asking if I'm jealous that you're a Manwhore? Or are you asking if I'm jealous of the woman you used as a sperm dumpster?" She practically spat the words at me. "Either way, the answer is a big fat no."

Yep, definitely pissed.

"I have needs." I scoffed back at her, though secretly I was pleased with myself for coaxing her to fight with me.

"You could just use your hand like everybody else."

I cocked an eyebrow at her. "Including you?"

"Duh." She rolled her eyes like it was nothing and turned her face back to the window.

I really hadn't expected her to answer that. Once again, she threw me off my game and I was left desperately wishing I could infiltrate her mind. Just a glimpse into her thought process would be fascinating.

"Well, maybe now you'll shut the hell up about all this gay shit." I said, regrouping my focus. She turned to look at me again, her scowl slowly seeming to disappear.

"Is that what this is all about?" She was looking up at me from under her lashes, her tone noticeably softer, less biting. "I was just messing around, you know. You shouldn't feel the need to prove yourself to me."

"Huh?"

Really showing your intellect lately, Cullen.

"I was just teasing you, I know you're not gay. Though I wouldn't care if you were." She shrugged nonchalantly like we were having the most common of conversations.

"But...you made me think about kissing a dude!" She had seemed so adamant that she had been right, it really didn't seem possible that it had all just been one big joke. But then again, things never really were what they seemed when it came to Swan.

"It's no big deal. I've thought about kissing girls, it doesn't make me a lesbian."

Say what?

I could feel the same strain on my pants that I had felt the day before during our porn conversation. And just like that time, I attributed my erection to the topic of our conversation only. And once again, I found myself shifting my legs to hide it from Swan. I didn't want her to get the wrong impression that I was interested in her or anything.

She seems pretty open about her sexuality, maybe she'd get turned on knowing you are too...

Shut up!

I shot her a sideways glance. She was biting her lip and I had noticed it was her nervous habit.

Fuckhot.

SHUT UP!

The time was soon approaching that I would have to engage in a very heated conversation with my inner voices about why it's inappropriate to think sexy thoughts about "the thing I hate" aka Swan. I regained control and smirked down at her, bringing the cocky edge back to my voice.

"But there's a difference. That's hot."

She rolled her eyes.

"Ugh. Double standard. You thought it was disgusting when I was talking about guys."

"I will concede the fact that there is indeed a double standard. A very hot double standard."

She bit her lip again, contemplating.

Still fuckhot.

"So, did you just kinda call me hot?" She tilted her head to the side and just a hint of a blush crossed her cheekbones.

I replayed my words and grimaced.

"Inadvertently."

"I'll take it."

"Quit stealing compliments, woman." I muttered, slightly embarrassed by my poor word choice. "Compliment thief."

She giggled and the blush deepened. If I didn't know any better, I'd think she was actually having fun talking to me.

"You're fun to play with, Edward. Well, at least when you're not being a disgusting Manwhore."

Ok, so maybe she is enjoying our twisted little conversation. No harm in me having a little fun with her too.

"I can be really fun to play with." I wagged my eyebrows suggestively at her.

"You're so gross."

"Not really the reaction that gets me going, Swan." I said sarcastically. I saw her house up ahead and felt just the slightest bit of disappointment that I'd soon be saying goodbye to her.

No, Cullen, that's your dick talking. It hates saying goodbye to any potential piece of ass.

"Oh. Edward. Yes. Please take me now. Oh baby. Oh baby." She deadpanned.

"Well if you insist." I hastily pulled the car into her driveway, put it into park, and started to unbutton my pants.

"What are you doing!" She squealed.

"What?" I asked, playing dumb, though the hint of a smile was visible at the corners of my mouth.

"I said you're fun when you're NOT being a Manwhore. That was the opposite of me asking you to screw me."

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little voice wished she would. The smile that had been threatening to escape had finally found it's way out and I giggled at the terrified look on her face.

Wait.

WTF.

I giggled?

Please tell me she didn't catch that.

The pseudo look of horror on her face was replaced by her own broad smile.

She caught it.

"I like this smile a lot better than the fake ones you give your mom." She practically whispered.

Damage control, stat.

I quickly erased all traces of the smile from my lips.

"I don't smile." I said through gritted teeth, refusing to open my mouth any more for fear that my lips may betray me again. She waited, curious. "I smirk. There is a difference."

She nodded her head.

"You're right, there is a difference. And that," She brought a warm finger up and lightly jabbed me in the cheek where the corner of my mouth had committed treason just moments before, "Was most definitely a smile."

I swear she let her finger linger on my cheek for longer than necessary before she made a move to get out of the car, pausing as she opened the door as if she had something pressing to say.

"Yes...?" I humored her, completely mesmerized by where her thoughts could be taking her now.

"Are you going to the party tonight at Lauren's?" She asked shyly.

I snorted. She didn't get it.

"Its that a no?"

"That's a hell no."

"Why not?"

"Are you kidding me?"

She shook her head.

"After that little stunt you pulled last weekend, I doubt I'll be able to show my face again." My light mood had taken a dramatic plunge back into the angst ridden ravine it was accustomed to dwelling in.

She sighed and gave me an exasperated look. "It can't be that bad."

"Are you deaf?" I was incredulous. "Did you not hear them laughing at me afterward? My entire reputation was ruined!"

"Such a pity." Her voice reeked of sarcasm.

"Excuse me?" I growled.

"So your illustrious player reputation, you know, the one of you screwing anybody halfway attractive and then ditching them with no dignity, no respectable goodbye, was ruined. Big fucking loss there!" She was angry but not livid like I had seen her before. Almost like instead of shouting at me, she was trying to actually explain something to me. "For once, just once, other people had the last laugh when it was truly deserved and yet you still have the audacity to play the victim. You're an arrogant, self-centered, jackass who thinks everyone should cater to your needs because you're rich, and beautiful, and charming. Get over yourself."

Her speech done with, she sat practically gasping for air in the passenger seat, the door still hanging halfway open. I took in everything she said, my mind repeatedly getting caught up on one simple word.

"Did you just call me beautiful?" My tone wasn't sarcastic, or arrogant, or condescending. It was hopeful.

Now it was her turn to replay her words. Her mouth moved slightly as she repeated her sentence back under her breath and her blush crept back quickly to her face.

"Inadvertently." She whispered, echoing my earlier admittance.

After a moment of awkward silence, I straightened up in my seat and reiterated my declaration.

"I'm still not going. I can't face it. Not yet."

"You're really scared of what they may say about you, aren't you?" Her eyes widened as she accurately gauged my fear level.

"I'm not a coward." I hissed, my eyes squinting into narrow slits. She gave me a sympathetic smile as she finally climbed out of the car.

"Even the strongest people get scared, Edward. It doesn't make you a cowardly person. Just human."

With that she closed the door and bounded off into the house, leaving me stunned, gaping after her, as usual.

I drove home, with my mind reeling and eventually found myself staring at the curtain-door to my room. Someone had taken a pen and written under my initial sign:

He-Man Woman Haters Club

Edward Cullen, President

My first instinct was to blame Jasper, as it just reeked of his special kind of douchebaggery, but whoever it was had disguised their writing. And frankly, I didn't care. Normally it would be exactly the sort of thing that would set me off, that would cause me to rampage through the house in one of my infamous funks, tearing a new asshole into everyone I encountered, causing havoc and turning everyone's day miserable just as mine had been. But that day I honestly didn't care, and that day I had more pressing things on my mind. All I cared about was what she had said to me. Jasper should really thank Swan for saving him from an angry-Edward encounter, because it was her words echoing in my head that kept me preoccupied.

'Just human...'

No words had ever sounded so appealing, so beautiful, before then.

She called me...'human...'

Leave it to Swan to sum up exactly what I had been aching to achieve for decades. I parted the curtain and crossed the room, arranging myself on the usual spot on my couch, staring at the same spot on my ceiling. But something was different this time. It wasn't aimless wallowing. No, this time I had something to think about. Something about what Swan had said hit a nerve in me, awoken some dormant feeling that I had long ago confined to the depths of my twisted mind.

I spent the weekend pondering my entire existence in my own little Emo-Edward lair of self-loathing. I only had one visitor Friday night, Alice. And that was only because she wanted to gank some of my CDs.

She had come bopping into my room, completely ignoring me on the couch and headed straight for my CD collection, ripping out titles and stuffing them in the backpack she was carrying and scoffing at others. After watching the whirlwind that was Alice for several moments I finally addressed her.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

"I'm packing for my vacay." She said frankly, as she stuffed a handful of CDs in her bag.

"You're leaving?"

"I told you that. On the car ride over to Bella's." She rolled her eyes. "Remember, you told me to shut up..."

"Yeah, I remember." I snapped. "I just didn't think it would be this soon. I knew Bitchy and the Beast were leaving tomorrow, but I didn't think you two were heading out at the same time."

"We decided to visit Denali with Rose and Emmett first, then we'll part ways and Jasper and I will be in Paris! Oh, I love Paris..." She trailed off and flung yet another CD into her increasingly full backpack.

"Hey! That's one of my favorites!"

"Relax," She sighed, unfazed, "I'm just taking ones that you have duplicates of in your car. It's not like you'll be needing these extra copies in the house anyway, considering you have no stereo to play them on."

"You could be nice and tell me where it's hidden before you all leave." I pointed out.

"Yeah...I COULD be nice..."

He tone told me that she wasn't going to be. She finally gave up rummaging through my collection and skipped across my room, calling over her shoulder as she went.

"I'll let you know if I see you with that supermodel!"

"Or impending death...don't forget impending death!" I yelled to her retreating back.

I spent the rest of Friday night thinking about the party I was missing out on. But was I really missing anything? Beer, same old girls, same horny jackass guys. Newton. The novelty of this life had started wearing off about as soon as it had started. We had been here too long, I could feel it. I was becoming common. I wasn't the hot mysterious guy anymore...by now everyone knew my ways.

I left my couch just once over the weekend, making it all the way into the living room on Saturday where my parents had gathered to say bon voyage to Emmett, Rosalie, Jasper and Alice before they left on their respective summer long expeditions to Denali, Paris, and wherever else happy couples go. Seriously, they'd all seen half of the world by then, and I was pretty sure the half they hadn't visited simply consisted of small towns rivaling Forks for the title of "Most Boring Place, Ever", the rats that lived underneath bridges and overpasses, and Transylvania (because really, that's just way too cliche of a vacation destination for our kind, fucking stereotypes).

Regardless, off they went to see the world, and I emerged only that one time to give my obligatory goodbye. And by "goodbye", I really mean "Get the hell out of my house, assholes," as that's what I actually said to them.

Terms of endearment. Trust.

At least with my siblings gone for the summer, my stress level would lower substantially. Four less people to harass me.

The rest of the weekend passed uneventfully as I spent it motionless on my couch. Esme had given up on coaxing me out early Saturday night, my anti-social attitude eventually winning over her efforts.

I was alone in my room with my thoughts. Always a dangerous combination.

I had become a rich, well-dressed, possibly metrosexual, hermit. I had designer labels in my closet. I had degrees, masters, and doctorates collecting dust in the back of the same closet. I had cars and money. I had a dwindling supply of women. I had infinite time.

And I was absolutely depressed by it all.

I could feel myself fading into the background in every aspect of my life. The local girls knew to stay away from me, not just because I was a physical threat to them, but because they saw me as a player. My own family dreaded talking to me, so much so that my own sister had found it necessary to barricade herself in a closet wielding a knife to avoid a conversation with me. Albeit, said sister was certifiably deranged, but it still hurt nonetheless.

I just needed to talk to someone face to face. A friend.

I pulled out my phone and scrolled through my contacts:

Alice

Carlisle

Emmett

Esme

Jasper

Rosalie

All grouped together under "Family." My "Friends" group was completely empty.

That's incredibly pathetic, Cullen.

Human. Swan's words haunted me once again. I'd been pretending so long but I'd never really felt human. I acted like them...but I never tried to get to know them. Wasn't part of being human making friends, having relationships? I had most certainly failed on those two points.

I had been trying to feel human for decades, but instead of embracing mankind, I'd pushed it away. I couldn't think of one human I'd ever had a conversation with that wasn't about business or getting me laid.

Except for one. Only one person actively tried to converse with me, in a very loose sense of the word. And I supposedly hated her.

Wait...supposedly?

She was a bitch. She was annoying. She definitely had some wires crossed in her head.

She talks to you.

I hurriedly justified my reasoning for thinking of Swan. I was just lonely, I mean, this was the same girl that I had fantasized killing just a week earlier.

But instead of having a staring contest with the ceiling as I normally did, I thought about her.

She talked to me like I wasn't some freak show or someone she just wanted to fuck. Quite the opposite, actually. She talked to me like I was a real person. She had called me beautiful. She called me human.

She had also thought about kissing another girl.

I felt a familiar ache below my waist, hard skin straining against thin fabric. It didn't take long for my hand to end up down my pants. Instinctively, my fist moved slowly over my hard cock.

She was always playing with me, teasing me.

I imagined her teasing me in other very naughty ways.

My back arched as I quickly came in my hand.

I smiled, reveling in the post-orgasm bliss until what had just transpired finally hit me.

Fuck me. Did I just cum thinking about Swan?