DISCLAIMER: Much to my dismay, I don't own SM's story or characters. I just like to mess with their clothes, sanity and anything else I can. I do own a Cullen Crest wristband though, does that count?

I know that a lot of you are going to be thinking 'Oh no! Another story! Why doesn't she just finish the ones she's got going first?' And my answer to that is, you know how I am with my stories. I have a new one floating around in my head, I have to get it out, and this one just doesn't want to stay a document on my computer for too long. It's begging me to publish it, and who am I to say no.

For all of you waiting, I can tell you that I have the next chapters of Breaking the Habit, Eternally Damned, Locked Up and Under Your Spell all written up. They just need tweaking to (my view of) perfection - though they'll probably be far from it – and they'll be posted over the span of the weekend. Maybe even more than once. Aren't you lucky?

Anyways, I'm going to post the first chapter of this story first, and then I'm going to wait to see what the response to it is. I hope you like it ^_^

It's been a while
Since I could hold my head up high
I'ts been a while
Since I first saw you
It's been a while
since i could stand on my own two feet again
and it's been a while
since i could call you
But everything I can't remember as fucked up as it may seem
the consequences that I've rendered
I've stretched myself beyond my means

'It's Been A While' - Staind

*~* Bella *~*

"That asshole!" I cringed, watching Emmett throw yet another one of his tantrums in the Cullens' backyard. Thank God it wasn't in the house or Esme would have a fit. "That …… that ……" It seemed that he had lost the ability to even put a sentence together he was so pissed. Especially seeing as the end of that sentence was nothing more than a yell of exasperation.

"What the fuck is he playing at?" Jasper wasn't in a much better mood, though he was much less …… shall we say, obvious about it, preferring to sit and seethe in a corner rather than destroy all manner of creation like Emmett did.

"Look, you guys, we don't know what's happened." I put in in a small voice, not really expecting to be heard over Emmett's cursing. They all turned to look at me. "We don't know the full story."

"Are you kidding me, Bells." Alice's jaw dropped, her eyes widening as she and Rose stood up, walking over to me. "You of all of us should be the most pissed off. Not defending that dickwad!"

"Aren't you guys being a little harsh?" I asked, looking around at all of them, receiving stares that made me feel as though nice men in white coats should be driving up to the house right now.

"No." Emmett stopped his tirade and glared at the third storey window above us. It seemed as though he was trying to melt it with only his angered stare. "That douche up there has been an asshole all year, Bella. He's had it coming."

"Don't you guys think that it's strange how he just changed, though?" I asked looking around at them. "I mean, it's like he went out one day and got a personality transplant. Something has to have happened."

"Not necessarily." Jasper mumbled, sitting down on the porch that lined the back of the glorious Cullen mansion. "Some people just change for no reason."

"Not Edward." I shook my head indignantly, not wanting to believe that they were being cruel about their own brother. "Why don't we just talk to him and-"

"No, Bells!" Emmett turned his glare on me and I flinched at its intensity. He was really pissed. "We have given him plenty of time to talk to us. Plenty of opportunites and he's thrown them all back in our faces. If he wanted to talk, then he should have done it months ago, before we started getting pissed at him, and before he became an utter douchebag!"

"Emmett…" I moaned, hating the way they were talking about him. Yes, he had fucked up royally and none of us knew what his problem was, but I didn't believe that the verbal thrashing that Edward had received from his brother and sister and friends was deserved. There was something going on. I just knew that there was.

"How can you be sticking up for him, Bella?" Jasper asked, his ice blue eyes boring into my own.

"I don't know." I shrugged, looking back up at the window Emmett had been glaring at. The window that held the odd Cullen out, as it were. "It's just …… there's something not right about this situation at all. And I don't like it."

"Come on, Bells." Emmett scoffed, standing there, crossing his arms over his enormous chest. "Just because you've had it bad for him since we were like, eleven doesn't mean that he's worthy of you sticking up for him."

I glared at Emmett, as did Alice and Rosalie.

"That was low, Emmett Cullen." Alice hissed at her older, and frankly, much larger brother. "And you know it."

"You're right." He sighed, looking at me, his eyes reproachful. "I'm sorry, Bells. I just …… I'm so pissed with him at the moment."

"Look, Em, I get it." I ran my hand through my long brown hair, sitting down on the porch next to Jasper. "You're pissed, we get it. But listen to what I'm saying. Doesn't Edward's behaviour seem a little weird to you?" I looked around at all of them. "Doesn't it seem weird that all of a sudden, Edward changes from our fun-loving, care-free Teddy Bear to being cold and distant, short-tempered and irritable? I mean, it was practically overnight that he changed, wasn't it? You guys can't say that that's normal."

"You don't think that he's into something, do you?" Alice asked, looking strained.

"What?" Jasper looked up at us all. "Like drugs or something?"

"No." Rose shook her head indignantly. "Our Ted's not that stupid."

"That's the whole point, Rose." Emmett sighed. "He's not 'our Ted' anymore, is he?"

"But he could be again." I insisted and Emmett shook his head.

"No, Jingle Bells." He smiled slightly, using my old nickname from when we were little. "He can't. Too much has changed."

"What if it is something like drugs, though?" Jasper asked, standing up.

"Then he's a stupid prick who needs help." Rosalie growled. She was not a huge fan of drugs of any kind. She'd learned about their effects the hard way. It wasn't something we talked about often … ever, actually, but it was always there, bubbling under the surface.

The six of us had grown up together, all living in a town as small as Forks, it really wasn't like we had a choice. I had been three when I'd met up with Edward and Alice, the twins that had moved in down the road with their parents and big brother Emmett. Rose and Jasper already lived in Forks and our mothers' were friends, so we had been on playdates since before we could sit up, what with them being four weeks older than me.

The six of us had been firm friends since the day we met the Cullens, none of us ever wavering in our friendship. Alice and Jasper and Emmett and Rosalie had split into couples and I could tell that they really did love each other. I wanted that with Edward. Not that I'd told him, but I'd loved him since I was little, not really understanding what it was of course, but it was still there nonetheless. I didn't hold out any hope that he felt the same way, so of course, me being the incredible hulk of cowards, I said nothing.

At least, that was how it had been.

Up until last year when Edward had suddenly started acting differently to us all. He had become cold and distant, blowing us off for no reason, disappearing at random times in the day, sometimes not even acknowledging us at all.

It had put a strain on the dynamics of the group and today had been breaking point. I don't know what it was that set Emmett off, but one minute Alice, Rose, Jasper and I were sitting downstairs, watching television in the den when we heard an almighty crash and Emmett shouting upstairs. We had all run upstairs to find Emmett pinning Edward to the wall. Edward had an expression of extreme pain on his face and I was immediately worried about him.

Edward was not the smallest of seventeen year olds, but he was nothing compared to his older brother, who was literally built like a bear. It had scared me. We had prized Emmett off of Edward, who promptly collapsed on the ground, gasping for breath, but when I asked him if he was okay, he told us all to piss of and take Emmett with us.

That was when Emmett really lost it.

He was so pissed that he was extremely close to pushing Edward out of his floor to ceiling window. It was only because Edward was so quick and lithe in his movements that he wasn't seriously injured. We had then taken Emmett outside for a much needed cool down session, that appeared to have worked.

Not before Emmett shouted some choice words at Edward, most of which I didn't agree with.

"Em?" I looked up at him and he looked down at me, his expression sombre. "You didn't really mean it when you told Edward to disappear, did you?"

He sighed and sat down next to me, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. "Of course not, Bells." I could hear the regret of those words in his voice. "I just …… I was just so pissed at him. I don't know why I said that."

"What happened?" Rose asked, sitting down next to her boyfriend, placing a hand on his knee. Alice had moved over to sit on Jasper's knee and was now cuddling into his side. "Before we got up there?"

Emmett shook his head, closing his eyes. "No." He whispered. "If I think about it now, I'll just get pissed again and probably take it out on Ed's bike. And I don't really feel like paying for any repairs right now."

I smiled at him, rubbing the hand that was flung over my shoulder. "Maybe, now that some of the tensions been hashed out, it'll get better with Edward."

"You think?" Alice asked, her green eyes worried. "What if it doesn't?"

"I don't know, Ali-Kat." I sighed, shaking my head. "We'll figure it out. We have to."

"We don't have to do anything." Jasper spoke up, his voice harsh. "I know he's your brother, Ali, but I'm sorry. He's being a huge asshole at the moment and we don't need to do anything about it. Whatever he's got going on, he's the one that needs to sort his shit out. Nothing to do with us."

"Jasper's right." Rosalie sighed, leaning into Emmett. "If he asks for help, then we'll help him, but until then, I'm done. I can't handle his shit anymore."

"I agree." Jasper nodded and Alice and Emmett murmured their agreement. I, on the other hand, wasn't so sure. I knew that there was something up with Edward. Something that he wasn't telling us. Something that he was hiding and probably ashamed of.

I wanted to find out what it was and I wanted to help him.

Whether or not he would let me was another story.

"Come on." Alice sighed, climbing off Jasper's lap but keeping hold of his hand. "Let's go order some pizza and stick a movie on."

We all nodded and stood up, walking into the house and back into the den. Alice and Emmett promptly started having an argument about what kind of movie we were going to watch. She wanted a romance – as usual for Alice – and he wanted something with a lot of explosions and cars in it – as usual for Emmett. In the end, I think we settled on Mr and Mrs. Smith, which I think was somewhere in between. Well, it had a lot of explosions in it, but it had that underlying romance as well.

Our pizzas arrived about twenty minutes into the film and we all sat there, laughing at some of the obvious close calls that they had and how Alice and Rose had to keep distracting Emmett and Jasper from Angelina Jolie's legs. But then again, we weren't that much better when it came to Mr. Pitt either, so they couldn't really talk.

After the movie, we started playing a game of truth or dare, which held some rather embarrassing truths and some rather heinous dares that I would relish telling Emmett and Rosalie's children one day, because lets face it, they're gonna have 'em.

I couldn't help but look towards the stairs every ten minutes or so, even though it was in my peripheral vision, so I would see any movement coming from that direction anyway, but still, I couldn't help but feel that something wasn't right with Edward.

"What is it, Bells?" Jasper asked, taking a swig of his soda. "Something wrong?"

"I don't know." I murmured, looking back over to the stairs. "I can't help but feel that there's something up with Edward."

"What?" Rose scoffed slightly. "What are you talking about, Bella? He's obviously sulking and is too chicken shit to come downstairs for anything."

"I don't know." I murmured again. I stood up, stretching out and grabbing the last of the pizza box in front of me. "I'm gonna go and see if he wants anything to eat."

"Why?" Alice asked, a scowl crossing her face. He had really pissed both her and Emmett off today. Emmett had told her part of what had happened upstairs, but had held out on the rest of us. I had a feeling it was something to do with the family, so I didn't interfere.

"Because no matter how much of a douche he's been lately, he still needs to eat, and maybe he'll see it as a goodwill gesture and his attitude and behaviour will improve." I argued, smiling at her before sticking my tongue out.

She scoffed and mumbled something that sounded very much like "when hell freezes over". Whatever they thought, I knew Edward better than anyone. He was my best friend and I knew when there was something wrong. When the others had coupled off, Edward and I had bonded together, becoming closer and closer everyday, able to tell each other things we wouldn't dare even dreaming of telling the others. Which made it hurt so much when I thought that he was keeping things from me.

Pizza box in hand, I climbed the stairs slowly, hoping that he wouldn't blow up at me, and think that I was trying to worm my way into getting information out of him. I had learned years ago that doing that didn't work with Edward. When you wanted him to tell you something, you had to wait for him to offer up the information. He was like a fort and pushing him for information served no purpose, other than to make him withdraw and erect even thicker walls. I knew how to get information out of Edward better than anyone did. Especially seeing as it was me that he generally went to with any problems or when he needed advice.

Well, he used to anyway.

Now he was like a completely different person.

"Edward?" I called quietly, reaching the lonely door on the third floor. "Edward, are you okay?" I asked, my voice a little louder, hoping that he would hear me. There was no music coming from his room, as there normally was, and I couldn't hear the shower going at all. There was no reason for him not to hear me. There was a light coming from under the door, so he was in there. Maybe he fell asleep, I thought, gently wrapping my fingers around the doorknob.

Something still wasn't right. I could feel it in my gut. I was just going to open the door, poke my head in and see if he was awake or not. If he was, then I'd give him the pizza, if not, then I would place it on the bedside table.

I quietly opened the door, slowly pushing it open and peering inside.

I looked from side to side, but I couldn't see him there at all. I stepped into the room, leaning so that I could see into his en suite, but seeing nothing. He wasn't in here. That's weird. I thought, shaking my head. Maybe he had gone downstairs without my noticing.

I shrugged my shoulders, placing the pizza on his bedside table. As I turned to leave, the curtains that Edward had gracing the enormous window in his room, swelled with a sudden wind, reaching out into the room. That's weird. Edward never leaves those open. Unless he's out on the balcony, having a cigarette.

That's another thing about Edward that had changed. He had become a smoker and that pissed me off more than any of his other behaviour. He knew that I abhored smoking.

As I walked around his bed, I noticed that there was a slip of paper on his desk, which was a bit strange, because for all of his changes, Edward still had a slight OCD about things being out of place. I picked it up and read it, my jaw dropping as I read his beautifully elegant handwriting.

Abandoning the open windows, I ran downstairs into the den and the others looked at me like I was crazy for the second time that night.

"He's gone." I croaked out, looking at them all.

"Who's gone?" Alice asked, walking over to me and taking the piece of paper that I handed her. "Shit." It wasn't very often that Alice cursed, and when she did, it was not good.

"What?" The other three looked between the two of us and the ominous little piece of paper still in Alice's hand.

"What are we gonna tell Mom and Dad?" She looked at me, her eyes wide with worry.

"I don't know." I shook my head, running my hands through my hair. "I don't think that when they went away, having their youngest son disappear was something they wanted to achieve."

"What the hell is going on?" Emmett asked, getting impatient. "What the hell is on that piece of paper?"

"Be careful what you wish for."

*~* Edward *~*

Afte*r the argument with everyone earlier, I couldn't stay at home. I just couldn't do it. I hated myself, the way I've been acting around them for the last year. It wasn't how they deserved to be treated. Especially Bella.

Sweet, beautiful Bella.

I never did have the guts to tell her how I felt, and now I would never have the chance.

Emmett made it clear how he felt, as did the others. They all wanted me gone. They didn't want to have to see me again, so I made that easy for them. I would disappear.

As soon as they had gone, I had begun packing my shit into a bag that I could shove under the seat of my Ducati. I needed to get out of Forks. Tonight. I hated how it was going to affect my parents, but that really couldn't be helped.

Everyone wanted me to disappear, so disappear I would.

I wrote a short note, not telling them anything about what I was doing, where I was going. Only using six of the words that I wanted to use, and I knew that there would be enormous amounts of questions on their end. Hell, there were huge torrents of questions on my end and I was the one leaving. I didn't know what else to do.

I waited until I heard the movie start downstairs before I, ignoring the stabbing pain in my side, flung my bag over my shoulder, and swung my leg over the side of my balcony and climbed my way down the lattice just outside my bedroom.

I knew that they were in the den, so I didn't have to worry about being seen as I walked around the side of the house and round to where my bike was parked. I didn't want to alert them to what I was doing, so I grabbed my helmet out of the garage through the small side door that blended in with the main garage door and slung it over one of the handlebars of my bike, quietly walking it down the extensive driveway that my parents insisted we have. For once I was thankful to them.

Once I reached the end of the driveway, just before I reached the main road, I slung the bag I had over my shoulder underneath my seat, grabbing my leather jacket and gloves beforehand, and got onto the bike.

Kickstarting the bike, I didn't know where I was going, what I was going to do.

All I knew was that I had a couple of grand saved up from the job that I had been working at in Port Angeles for the last couple of years or so – I'm a good saver. So sue me. On second thoughts …… don't – a few changes of clothes and my bike. That was all I had.

I had no idea where I was going and at that point I didn't really care. All I knew was that I had to get out of Forks. Now.

Nobody wanted me here.

I was like a plague that nobody wanted to be anywhere near. I knew that I'd brought it on myself, but I didn't want to be the one that everybody hated. I didn't want to think that I had lost my best friends and family, just because of a few stupid choices.

I wasn't that guy, was I?

Then it hit me.

Yes. Yes I was. At least I was now.

I drove straight through Port Angeles, not stopping anywhere until I needed to fill up with gas or got hungry and even then it was only ten minutes stops or so. I still had no direction as such.

I had no idea how long I drove for, not paying attention to direction or time, but suddenly – at least it seemed like it was sudden to me – I was staring at a large 'Welcome to Chicago' sign. As I approached it, I thought about staying here. I was far enough away from my family by now for comfort. Maybe there was something here that I could do. Maybe I could start over in Chicago. Leave who I was behind.

I wish.

I knew that that would never happen. I would always be that boy deep down, but maybe, just maybe, in a new place I could try and push him down where he belonged. I wouldn't forget about who I was or what I had done though. No, I was going to have that imprinted on my body forever.

It was what I deserved.

Even though I had nowhere to live, no food or possessions other than those I was carrying on my person, the first place I went in search of was a tattoo shop. This was something I needed to get out of the way and marked onto my skin. I needed to feel the pain of the needle, marking me with the pain and torment I carried on the inside. The troubles that I didn't let anyone else see. Not even Bella, the one that I told everything to when we were growing up. She had known all of my secrets and fears, she had helped me when I needed it, just as I had her.

She had been my confidante.

And now she hated me as much as the others did and that was something that tore me apart. Every time I thought of Bella hating me, another piece of my heart died and another few bricks went into the wall I was building.

It might have been almost nine at night, but I found a place that was still open, looking fairly decent.

I parked my bike and went inside, hearing the bells ringing above me, announcing my presence in the shop.

"Be right out!" I heard a masculine voice call from somewhere in the back. After a moment or two an enormous tanned guy walked out from the back, drying his hands on some tissue before he threw it in the bin. He was covered in tattoos and piercings. Just from looking at him as he walked towards me, I counted three in his left eyebrow, two in his nose, more on his ears that I could count, two on the left side of his bottom lip and there were probably more underneath the clothing that he wore, but I didn't want to think about that. The tattoos he had were extravagant to say the least, the colours flowing into each other, morphing with the black and twisting into each other along the lines and contours of the muscles on his arms. Now, I was severly into girls, but I couldn't help but stare as his arms moved, just watching the way the colours moved when his muscles flex. It was entrancing to say the least. "What can I do for you……?" He trailed off at the end, hinting for my name,

"Edward." I offered and he nodded.

"I'm Jake." He held out his hand and I took it, feeling the calloused skin of his fingers against mine. "What can I do for ya?"

"I was wondering if you'd be able to do this for me." I held out the paper, which he took and unfolded, inspected it closely.

"Yeah." He nodded, looking at the paper intently. "I can try. Whoever did this has excellent precision and an eye for detail." He looked up at me. "You draw this?" He motioned to the paper and I nodded slightly, watching as a grin made its way onto his face. "You wouldn't be looking for a job at all, would ya?"

I swear my jaw dropped to the floor. "Are you serious?"

"Yeah." He waved the paper slightly. "You produce more like this, I can train ya up … ya know, be my apprentice … then, if you want, you can work here. What you think?"

I was stunned, standing there blinking like a dumbarse. "Are you sure? I mean, you don't even know me."

"All in good time." He grinned at me, stretching the numerous piercings he had on his lips out as he did so, the steel clashing greatly with his extensively white teeth. "I just lost an artist, so I'm looking for another to train. You up for it?" I stood there and shook my head slightly, clearing it before looking back up at him. He was still grinning at me. "Tell you what, let me see what I can do with this and then you give me your answer when you've decided, yeah?"

With that he disappeared into the back, taking my artwork with him.

Did I want to become a tattooist? Could I do that job?

Hell, this Jake guy seemed to think I could and he'd only just met me. I could always give it a shot. And hell, it wasn't like I was turning people and placed down.

Before I knew it, Jake had finished my design, I'd agreed to become his apprentice, he'd said that he'd get 'contracts and shit' drawn up – his words not mine – for legal purposes apparently and I was lying, face down at his workstation while he inked the outline of the design I'd given him onto my back. It was all happening in such a blur and I knew that this could very well be the place that I could start over.

Thinking that, my mind flicked back to Forks.

What was everyone doing?

Were they worried about me?

It wouldn't surprise me if they weren't.

Emmett and the others had wanted me to leave. And leave I did. I wondered what they had done when they had realised I was gone. Did they feel bad about it? Did they not care? Maybe they hadn't even noticed yet.

Well, you know what they say …… be careful what you wish for.

Well, what do you think?

Love? Hate?

Continue? Abandon?

Let me know.