I'm sure you're all getting really sick of all the months that seem to come in between each update, huh? I'm going to try and fix that. Yeah, I can hear you all scoffing to yourselves. I can hear the whispered, "Yeah sure"s. Well, you're probably all right, but I'm going to try and fix it, okay?

She sighed contentedly and laid her head back down on my chest. My head lolled forward until my cheek was resting on the top of hers. "I forgot to ask you when your birthday is."

I chuckled silently against her hair, and smiled. That was just like Bella.

"The seventeenth." I kissed the top of her head softly, not knowing if she was even still awake. "The seventeenth of June."

"Okay," she sighed, and she snuggled even closer.

That night, as the storm raged on with no mercy, we fell asleep in each other's arms on the couch, and even though I knew it was wrong, it couldn't have felt more right.

Bella's POV
"Bella." A voice whispered, low and intense in my ear. "Bella, wake up."

I groaned and buried my face deeper into their neck, wishing they'd just let me sleep. A large hand slid over my shoulder and down my back, gentle and familiar, tickling and soothing, making me shiver. "Bella," the person sighed, pulling me closer to their body, closer to their warmth and their lips which were smiling against my neck. All I had to do was turn my head and—

"There's something important I have to tell you Bella. You need to wake up." The hand moved to my lower back, pressing firmly and kneading my muscles.

I sighed, content, and gave up on my sleep. I wouldn't have been able to sleep anyway, not when his hands were on me. Especially not with his lips gently kissing my neck.

Pulling my head back to look at him, his ice blue eyes still bright even in the darkness of the lounge room, I frowned. I was looking up at Jasper, but the voice was wrong. There was no southern drawl, no huskiness. It was quiet and strong and spoke of tightly reined control. It was a voice from my past that I thought I'd buried a long time ago.

Confused, I stiffened and moved away from him, this person that was made up of the boy who'd broken me and the one who had all the potential to.

He tried to pull me back to him, his eyes confused and hurt, but by then I was panicking too much to care, and all I could do was shake my head. My mouth tried to form words, opening and closing, but no sounds came out.

My mind couldn't understand why his eyes weren't so dark brown they bordered on black, and why his hair was fair and curling at the ends instead of brown and straight. Couldn't comprehend why his hands were so large and callused. I couldn't grasp why the boy who was my friend was being cruel and not talking in his own voice. Why he was using a voice that only brought me pain.

I had to get away from him—from them. Had to get away from the pain and the insecurity and vulnerability that came with the both of them. Away from the possibility of everything that could go wrong.

"Bella, please. Stop pushing me away."

I froze before shaking my head fiercely, the sting of tears building at the back of my eyes. Those were the words he said right before I left for good.

"No. No, get away. Stop touching me. You can't do this to me Drew. Not again. I can't… I just…" I was drowning on the tears in my throat, on the pain in my chest, on the aching need I had for both of them.

"Bella, it's me. I'm not going to hurt you." Through my tears I saw the desperation on his face; his wide eyes searching mine and his lips pressed tight, but his voice still wasn't his own, and now neither were his eyes. Jasper's icy eyes that really masked a passionate fire were swimming in and out of focus; taking on the quality of a pair of solid brown eyes that hid a personality that was anything but.

"Don't Drew." I moaned as I struggled with confusion and my unconscious that held me still; half in reality, and half in a nightmare.

I shoved against their chest hard, tangling in the blankets and hair and limbs. I gripped their shirt tight, because I couldn't lose him. I couldn't be hurt again. I wouldn't survive it.

And then the hands holding me grabbed my roughly by the shoulders and stilled my hands and pulled me closer to his face, to his eyes; to the truth. "It's me Bella. It's Jasper. You're okay, I'm here."

And suddenly I could see that, as the last of the nightmare was shaken away as he shook my shoulders again. His brilliant eyes were blazing with concern, trying to catch mine and hold my gaze, but I couldn't keep contact. It was too raw, too emotional. I was too vulnerable right now, so much so that he would see straight through me if I held it. So instead, I buried my face back into his neck, my tears burning my heated cheeks; searing through my careful mask that I wore around him, around everyone; turning it to ashes.

"Jasper," I groaned, gripping his shirt, convinced that as long as I had a hold of him, he couldn't go anywhere. He couldn't leave. "Please, I… you can't, you just… can't."

And this time, when he shushed me and whispered my name again, it was his voice. His beautiful, southern voice and I relaxed, sinking into his desperate embrace. And he held me like that, strong and immovable, rubbing my back and enduring my sobs. And even though he couldn't have possibly understood, he held me and tried to be there for me until I fell asleep again, exhausted.

I was sure I dreamed it when he laid his cheek on mine and I felt his own few tears fall softly onto my face. I definitely dreamed it when he whispered, "I'm sorry, Bella. God, I'm so sorry."

"Bella," a voice whispered, and my eyes flew open, memory and fear making my pulse race instantly. The owner of the voice jumped back, startled by my reaction, and I don't think either of us drew a breath for a heavy moment.

After a few seconds my heart slowed down and I slumped back, running a hand over my face. The eyes that belonged to this voice weren't black or blue, they were bright green and framed by thick lashes, and they were gazing at me with mirthful curiosity. I smiled with relief.

"Good morning, Alice."

"For you it has been, by the looks of it anyway." She said, the chipper tone of her voice leading me to believe that she was a morning person, and that this would turn out to be a bad thing for me in the up and coming future.

I squinted at her through my fingers, raising an eyebrow. She grinned in a way that could only be described as cheeky and inclined her head at me. Or rather, behind me. And there was Jasper, his face pressed into my back between my shoulder blades and his arms which I was only just noticing, wrapped tightly around my waist. Our legs were tangled together, and the blanket was twisted in a very seductive way. I felt my face heat up.

"Oh, ah… no Alice, we ahh—we just slept together." I choked on my words. "But god, no, not like that though. We just slept. That's all."


"Yes. I mean no! God, shut up, you know what I mean."

My face felt like it was on fire and she giggled softly, eyes dancing and then extended her hand to me. "Yes, I know what you mean. I heard the TV turn on last night. But the others probably didn't so," she grabbed my hand tightly. "Up you get."

I made it a whole of two inches before Jasper wound his arms tighter around me, keeping me in place. I cast her a desperate look. "Don't…" he sleep mumbled, fingers grasping at my shirt, clinging to me.

Alice froze for a second, and the flicker of fear in her eyes made me do the same. Then she sighed. "Tell him… tell him you'll be back." She said, her voice tender and sad as she looked on at the scene before her.


"Lean down and whisper to him that you'll be right back. That you're not leaving him. Tell him that you'll still be here when he wakes up."

My smile slipped from my lips and I was gripped by so much pity as I stared at Jasper's floppy hair and grimace that, had he been awake and seen it, he probably wouldn't have spoken to me for a week.

I looked at Alice, into her truthful eyes. "Does he do this because of what happened with his mum?" I asked carefully, not sure if this was a subject that was really allowed to be spoken of. "Because on the night she died he wasn't there to cling to her? To hold her and try to keep her there with him, even though it wouldn't have worked?"

She just stood there for so long, looking down at Jasper's face, sleep making him look young and innocent, that I was sure I'd make a mistake in asking. Just as I was about to tell her to forget I'd said anything, she whisper broke the silence. "So he told you then?"

It was more of a statement than a question.

Looking at me, she saw the pity parade as it marched across my face, and she grimaced. "It's one reason among many," was her vague answer, and then we echoed each other as we said, "It's his story to tell."

Something told me this boy clinging to me had a lot of stories to tell. The hard part was actually getting him to tell you the ones that meant something.

Leaning down and turning away from Alice to shield my expression, I gently squeezed one of Jasper's hands and stroked his cheek softly with my other one. "Let go Jasper," I whispered, and his hand tightened its hold on mine. "I'm not going anywhere. I'll still be here when you wake up… I promise."

Slowly, reluctantly, his arms fell loose and slid from my waist as Alice helped me to my feet, but an unpleasant frown was curling his lips. "You know," she said, her smile back if only a little dimmer. "He only ever does that to people that he truly cares about."

I looked at her sharply, but she only shrugged. She pulled me towards the stairs, explaining as we went that I was in store for a makeover before school, but I wasn't paying enough attention for my protests to stand any real chance against her decision. My eyes had wandered back to Jasper who was still sleeping, albeit fretfully, on the couch, the blankets clutched tight to his chest.

It seemed that the both of us saved the fights with our demons for our sleep; the one place where even those who knew you best, didn't have a hope of seeing just how tough the battle actually was.

"So, I'm thinking blue. Edward seems to like her in blue."

I tried to glare at Rose in Alice's mirror, but my wince of pain seemed to ruin the effect. Apparently sleeping on the couch, and the nightmare, had severely knotted my hair. Alice was making sure I never did it again apparently.

"Actually, what about purple? Isn't that Mike's favourite colour? Oh, no, go baby pink! Erik totally has a thing for that colour on his women."

I started to turn in my chair, images of throwing a hair curler at Rose's face flashing in my mind, but Alice yanked me back in place with a tug of the hairbrush. I drummed by fingers on the desk impatiently, startling the settled glitter.

Alice's room was like a make-up artist's studio: she had a huge mirrored dresser, complete with the lights around the edges, rows upon rows of hair, face and skin accessories piled on every available surface, and there was glittered everywhere. I felt important just walking into the room, with the soft yellow light, the posters of various bands and actors on the walls, the fluffy carpet. Compared to my room back home, the place was like an open spaced loft apartment. It had earned itself the name The A. C. Studio.

I was just about to mention something about how I didn't want the glitter to get all over me for fear of sparkling in the sunshine at school, when a familiar presence from the doorway sent the little hairs on the back of my neck standing on end.

"You could always dress her in something green." My eyes found the familiar smirk in the A. C. Studio's glowing mirror, still cocky but a little softer than normal, like maybe he wasn't mocking us, but actually making a serious suggestion. At the memory of our lunchtime discussion yesterday, my cheeks heated up. "I have always been fond of the colour myself though, so my opinion may be a little biased." For a moment his eyes flickered to mine in the reflection, only to dart quickly away and back to Rose. He slumped against the doorway, hands in his pockets, a grin casually lifting his lips; the very picture of perfect indifference.

"Go away Jasper," Rose said absently, still lazily sifting through Alice's clothes. "We're not dressing her up for your preferred tastes anyway. It's for Edward idiot, so your opinion isn't needed here." Her words were playful enough, but I caught the narrowing of Jasper's eyes, the way his hands fisted in his pockets. When Rose looked at him, waiting for his witty reply, he grinned.

"My opinion is always needed, dear sister." He strode into the room. "Like how I think that politics is a completely ridiculous notion, because we all know that those fools really get nothing done at all." His eyes were a very bright blue as he sat on Alice's huge bed, brushing aside the mosquito net. I don't think I'd ever seen him in this kind of mood before, and I couldn't help but think that something was wrong. When he glanced over at me again, I stiffened. There was a barrier of sarcasm and wit in his eyes, and he was hiding something behind it. "And how I think strawberries are the most illogical fruit there is. I mean come on, what kind of fruit has its seeds on the outside? It's like us walking around with our socks over our shoes or our underwear over our pants."

He looked down abruptly, curls falling across his eyes, and in a much quieter voice said, "How my opinion is that all things happen for a reason, even though at first it may not seem like it." I couldn't be sure, but I had a weird feeling that he was intentionally not looking in my direction. "How I believe I'm the luckiest guy alive to have everything I do right now. That I think you all deserve to be happy."

His hand seemed to unconsciously reach for his left shoulder then, gently resting over the sleeve concealing his scars. He stood up quickly and gave an astonished Rose a kiss on the cheek, suddenly grinning as though he thought he'd said something absolutely hilarious. She tracked him as he crossed the room as he pecked Alice too, and when he stood up, my breathing stopped. His eyes were still as bright as before, but now with understanding.

"Because of that, go with blue." And then he turned and walked out of the room, surprising us all with his departure as much as he had with his arrival.

Slowly, after a few long moments had stretched out, Alice resumed brushing my hair, gentler now, and Rose came over holding a pretty blue top in her hands, and I took it gratefully.

Jasper had said to go with blue, but there was something inside of me that couldn't stop picturing his icy gaze on me. Had he been talking about clothes, or did I still have a big decision to make? And if so, did I stick with green, or did I go with blue?

. . .

. . .

. . .


Edward turned around from pouring a cup of coffee and leaned back against the counter. He looked good in the morning, I realised. I knew Edward was attractive, but I'd never really taken the time to really look at him. I was always too caught up in arguing or ignoring Jasper. But in the early morning light, leaning back with his hands on the bench behind him, his shirt pulled up over his stomach just enough, and an easy smile on his face, I think I finally got why Laruen and all those girls seemed to give me such venomous looks. And to think, I hadn't even noticed before.

His green eyes sparkled when he noticed the blue shirt Rose has dressed me in, and he smiled to himself.

I hoisted myself up into one of the chairs at the kitchens bench and snatched the paper from next to him, absently flicking through it. The smell of coffee and boy was permeating through the kitchen air, and it was making my head swim. I looked up to find Edward pouring a second cup of coffee and watching me out of the corner of his eye, a smirk that wasn't that different from Jasper's tugging up the corner of his lips. I sat up straight and brushed the hair off my face. "What?"

"Nothing," he said, shaking his head. "That's just exactly what Jasper does every morning." He flicked his hand towards the paper. "Rose and Ali don't ever bother with reading the paper. Well, not unless there's a section in it that includes half naked men at least."

He handed me a cup and leaned down on the counter facing me, an easy smile on his lips. "And good morning."

This close, I could feel his sweet breath stirring my hair. I had to clear my throat embarrassingly before I could thank him. His smile changed, and it wasn't his usual sweet and hesitant smile either. This one was akin to someone who sat back after a test that they knew they just aced.

"Do you have milk?"

The cup stopped halfway to my mouth. "Excuse me?"

He took a sip of his own and stood up, heading to the fridge. "In your coffee. Do you have it black or with milk and sugar?"

He'd leaned over to peer into the fridge and it took me a moment to reply. "Um, yeah, milk and sugar please."

He grinned back at me over his shoulder. "And here I was, thinking you were following Jasper's routine." He walked back over to me, producing a bottle of milk and deftly picking the sugar container out of all the items piled near the percolator.

I raised my eyebrows as I shovelled in two teaspoons of sugar. "Oh? And how does he have it? Black, like his soul?"

Edward smiled into his coffee. "Generally accompanied with whisky."

I gave a short, surprised laugh, although I really shouldn't have been. "And what about you? Is this a habit of yours as well?"

He walked over to fill up his empty mug, shaking his head with a wry smile. "No, mines just black. Besides, I don't think I'll be able to so much as look at alcohol for a while after the other night."

He leaned in the corner between the counters and dropped his steady gaze to my face. Meanwhile I was fiddling with the mug in my hands, not trusting my expression. The image of him laid out across the back seat of the car, gripping my hand and apologizing over and over again still fresh in my mind. So was the memory of Jasper's face as he gazed down at Edward, his expression so full of brotherly affection, and then at me, like I was an intruder.

"I wanted to apologise for that night again, Bella."

I put my empty mug down carefully on the counter. "You don't need—"

"It was our first date," he interrupted, his eyes still steady on my face. "And I got absolutely hammered. It's embarrassing to say the least, not to mention it must have given you a horrible impression of me. I can assure you that I normally don't go out and get illegally wasted. Jasper is normally the one that does that."

I got up off my chair and walked around to stand in front of him, his eyes on mine the entire way. By the time we were face to face I felt a little flushed. "Don't worry, that whole first impressions thing is a ridiculous notion anyway." I expected him to smile, but his green eyes only seemed to darken.


I turned to the percolator next to him, filling my mug again as well. "And besides, I had a good night. It gives me a funny sense of power to know that I can drink you under the table." I reached over him to get at the sugar, and as I was scooping it in I had to lean against his chest. Against my arm I could feel the beat of his heart, pounding strong and erratically.

"Bella, I—"

I pulled away and turned my back to him so he wouldn't see my flushed face, or maybe notice how my heartbeat was just as dangerously close to beating its way out of my chest as his was. "But you have nothing to apologise for Edward," I said. My voice was a little breathless and my hands shook as I poured the milk. I clenched them as soon as I'd set the bottle down. "As I said, I had a good—"

Strong hands grabbed my shoulders and turned me around so I was facing him, those green eyes no longer dark, but burning brightly with frustration. I opened my mouth to give some sort of apology, but the words vanished as his mouth came down on mine.

I gasped in surprise, the sensation unexpected and completely overwhelming, before I raised my hands and buried them in his unruly hair, sinking into the kiss. His hands travelled from my shoulders to rest one against my waist and one behind my neck, urging me to kiss him deeper.

"Bella," he whispered against my lips as he gripped me tighter, sending a shiver through me.

Where Jasper's kiss had been aggressive and full of pent up frustration, and had been exactly how I'd expected it to be, I was entirely unprepared for Edward. His lips and movements were gentle and careful, like he was talking his time to experience something he'd been waiting his whole life for, but his hands gripped me tightly, pulling me against him, pushing me up against the counter beside us, trailing over me, like he never wanted to let me go.

His hands gripped my waist and he lifted me onto the counter we'd been watching each other across, nudging my legs apart to stand between them and pull me even closer to him. His fingers dug into my waist as his lips travelled to my neck, and the way he was holding me nearly made me come undone. He wasn't holding me carefully, like I was fragile and might shatter in his hands, but as if I was unbreakable. His teeth nipped at the skin just below my ear and I gasped, gripping his shoulders tightly.

Just as his lips travelled back up to mine, we heard the echo of footsteps at the top of the stairs and the voices of the other, and Edward kissed me harder than ever, before reluctantly pulling away, breathing a curse.

He took a step away from me, and I was left gasping and flushed, seated on the counter before him. His eyes raked over me and I silently wondered, or maybe prayed, they he'd ignore the others and come back and kiss me again.

He did walk back towards me and ran his hands from up from my knees, and the look in his eyes when he gripped my waist told me that he wanted more than anything to just forget about the others. But then his hands held me tighter and he slowly lifted me down from the counter. If I'd been worried about my knees being too weak to support me, I needn't have worried. Edward had me wedged in between the counter and his body, and we were so close that every part of us was touching, the toes of our shoes to our knees, all the way up to our chests, heaving against each others.

With careful, gentle hands, Edward reached up and smoothed down my hair that he'd run his hands through, while I tugged his shirt back down and straightened his collar. I stepped out of the confines of the corner and leaned against the cold granite bench, coffee mug in one hand, the other flipping through the paper casually. There was no pretending for my pounding heart though, or the way my hands still trembled a bit against the morning news.

I could hear Edward tinkering around with the percolator and jars beside it, probably making himself look busy, or fixing his hair in the stainless steel reflection of the stove top. I had just managed to get rid of the blush that was heating my cheeks when I felt Edward's breath against my neck, his hands teasing my sides. I raised the mug to my mouth, my eyes fixed on the door I knew the others would be walking in through any second.

"So," he said softly, a slight tinge of laughter in his voice as his lips made slow progress against my neck and up to my ear. "First impressions are such a ridiculous notion, are they?"

He nipped my earlobe and pulled away to busy himself with the contents of the fridge. I had an excellent reply waiting on the tip of my tongue, but I barely had the time to hide my renewed red cheeks behind my hair, before Emmett bounded into the kitchen, his voice already taking up every corner of the space.

"But honestly, I mean, sometimes you've got to just stop fooling around and stick it in. It's only then that—Oh, good morning you two."

Edward mumbled something that sounded vaguely like a greeting from the back of the freezer, and through my hair I saw him shift his body slightly so that his back was to them all. I looked up from my intense studying of the fine print to raise an eyebrow at Emmett. The others had moved out from behind him and were rattling around in the cupboards producing bowls and utensils. Rose complained about the lack of coffee, and I heard Edward trying to cover his laugh with a cough.

"Oh relax Bella, no need to blush. I wasn't talking about that."

"Mm-hmm," I muttered before hiding my face again and trying to calm down.

Okay Bella, I thought to myself sternly. You need to think about something else. Anything else. Not Edward's lips gently sucking yours, or him between your legs. Definitely don't think about his hands on you, how they gripped your tightly. No.

Okay, something safe. Hmm, safe. How about strawberries? They're safe.

Jasper's voice echoed inside my head, "Strawberries are the most illogical fruit there is."

Okay, so maybe they aren't safe. Cucumber, that's safe. Safe, and green. Green eyes staring at me with frustrated longing.

I groaned to myself.


I looked up then, not into bright green eyes, but icy blue ones. Ones that were giving me a questioning look that I ignored.

"Good morning," I said, wincing when I noticed how fake and chipper my voice sounded. Behind me I could hear Edward chatting with Emmett about football and the upcoming game, and across from them getting coffee were Alice and Rose, both talking about how cute the new English teacher at school was. They all seemed a great distance away, as though I was hearing them all from my memory. "How are you feeling?"

His mouth opened to reply just as Alice yelled, "Jasper, Bella, do you guys want toast?"

"With jam please," we said in unison, giving each other a surprised look while the others laughed.

He didn't answer me until Alice had provided us both with two slices of toast and Jasper with a cup of coffee. She gave us both satisfied smiles when we bit into our toast, mm-ing appropriately. Her eyes danced across my face before she turned back to Rose, and I swallowed thickly, certain she was psychic.

"I'm fine," Jasper said finally after devouring his breakfast. He didn't just eat his food, I'd noticed. Where Emmett seemed to just swallow his whole, Jasper seemed to wage war against his. "But you look a little flushed. Are you feeling okay?"

I smiled into my mug as Edward sat down next to Jasper. "Yeah, fine, couldn't be better."

Jasper nodded and reached across the counter, swiping the paper from me. Edward and I shared a knowing smile.

"Come on you two," Alice interrupted, her voice demanding instant attention. "Hurry up and eat. I'm sure mom and dad don't want another call from the school saying we're late."

I bit obediently into my toast as Jasper mumbled, "Not like either of them would answer anyway," which earned a scowl from Alice.

"So, that reminds me, when—"

"Don't talk with food in your mouth, Bella. It's gross." I swallowed and showed my empty mouth to Alice, who nodded patiently at me.

"Anyway, when are your parents ever home? I'm starting to think that you're all just lying to me and they don't really exist at all." I shifted on in my seat and caught Jasper rolling his eyes at me.

"Carlisle is a doctor, Bella. He works long hours, and the ones he spends at home are often used up getting sleep." He didn't look at me as he spoke, but I got the feeling that if he had been, the look would have been a glare. He was being touchy this morning, his bad mood emanating from him the way the stench of alcohol often does from someone who's hung-over. I don't know what was fuelling his annoyance, but he seemed to be directing it all in my direction.

"Don't be cynical, Jasper." Edward admonished, snatching the paper from him. "We see dad enough. I'm sure his patients need him just a little more urgently than we do."

"Life is short, Edward. You never know what day is going to be your last. As far as I'm concerned, everything we do in life should be urgent."

Edward pushed the paper away from him and looked sharply at Jasper. "Oh, yeah? Is that why you're always so quick to jump into a fight? Worried you won't cause enough bruises or endure enough before you die? Is that it?"

Jasper jumped up from his chair, sudden anger and frustration rolling off him in palpable waves. He towered over Edward, his mouth a hard line and his eyes icier than ever. In that moment, watching his fists flex at his sides, I don't think I'd ever regretted asking a question more in my life.

"And what if it is, Edward? Huh?" Jasper leant down so his was at eyelevel with him, a sneer on his face. "I'm sure as hell tempted to cause another one right now if you're volunteering."

Edward made a move at Jasper, and then suddenly, faster than I could see, Emmett was between the two, a hand on each of their shoulders. In a second he had Edward pinned to the counter and had shoved Jasper away from him, hard enough that he stumbled and nearly tripped.

Rose marched over to Jasper, and before he had even straightened up, had a hold of his arm and was pulling him to the front door. As she passed me she shot me a brief apologetic look that couldn't quite hide the irritation in her eyes. I got the impression that over the years she'd given out many apologies for her brother.

Edward was still being held to the counter, and was calmly telling Emmett to let him up, but as the seconds passed I could hear the frustration creeping into his voice. Alice stepped forward quickly and gently touched Emmett's hand, which immediately released its grip.

Edward stood up and straightened his shirt, the set of his mouth and shoulders angry. He stalked around the counter and over to the sink, pouring himself a glass of water. He didn't meet my eyes once.

"Sorry about that," Emmett said, his sigh deep and tired. "They get like that sometimes. All you can do is separate them till they cool down. They'll probably apologise to each other later today."

I watched Emmett with concern as he ran a hand down his face. It was the first time I'd seen him without his goofy grin or lacking a smartass comment. In fact, he looked like a mature eighteen year old that's seen a lot too quickly. Maybe there was more to Emmett than I'd given him credit for.

Alice's tinkling laugh sounded behind me. "You think that was bad, you should see them at a family gathering." She came and stood beside Emmett, her car keys jingling in her hand. "Jasper has a temper and loves an argument. Edward is stubborn and actually believes in morals."

"I'm still here," Piped in Edward, still standing by the sink. "I can here you."

Alice went to say something, but a loud rev of a motorbike interrupted her, followed by Rose slamming the front door shut.

"That's our queue to leave," Edward mumbled, hosting both mine and his own bag onto his shoulder from the ground next to the counter. I made a grab for my last bit of toast, but Edward's hand was quicker than mine, and in a second he was pulling me down the hall that led to the garage.

Just before the door shut behind us, we heard Rose yell, "I'll deal with you later, Edward!" I felt him cringe just a little beside me.

I took my bag from him and stood next to the passenger door of his Volvo, waiting for him to unlock it. Instead he stood there and fiddled with his keys, shifting from foot to foot.

"Do you need to pee?" I joked, trying to relieve the tension he was creating. "Should you go before we leave for school."

The shifting stopped and he looked up at me, finally meeting my eyes. In a second I recognised the look in them and started shaking my head. "Oh no, don't you even think about apologising to me."


"No. Jasper totally deserved that back there. Maybe what you said will actually make him stop and think before he acts next time." I crossed my arms over my chest and straightened my back. This was my defiance stance, and he had better well get used to it, because he'd be seeing it again.

Edward blew out a breath and ran a hand through his hair, leaning back against the tool table beside the door. "I just wish you hadn't been there to see that. That side of me I mean."

I stepped toward him. "Why? You think I haven't seen anything like that before? You think my ex boyfriend never had a temper or got into arguments? Hell, most of them he had with me." I placed my hand on Edward's chest and felt a little of his tension flow out of him. "I seem to have a way of finding ones like that, huh?"

He grinned down at me. "Was your last boyfriend also stubborn and weighed down with morals?"

I reached up to straighten his collar, but really I just want to feel his hair brush the skin of my hands again. "Stubborn? Oh yeah. As for the morals, well he was just a little lacking in that department." I stepped back from him before I gave in and pushed my hands up into his hair, because if I did, we would definitely be late for school. "Now, no apologies. It didn't bother me. What will though, is if we're late to school and I have to listen to Jasper chew me out about it for the next six hours."

Edward rolled his eyes. "Well we wouldn't want that, now would we?"

. . .

. . .

. . .

"Miss Swan?"

I looked up at our science teacher from packing my books into my bag—and studiously ignoring Jasper's foot tapping the ground impatiently. The man was sitting behind his desk, red pen balanced in hand as he gazed at some test papers, glasses perpetually hanging on the very end of his nose, and one eyebrow lifted in my direction.

"I need to give you those assignments that you just missed before switching to the school. The Principal says you can hand them in two weeks after everyone else."

This earned me a few dark looks. I turned to Jasper, who was looking away from me and studying his nails for any imperfections. "I'll meet you at the lunch table, okay?"

He shrugged without so much as glancing at me and walked out the door. That air of indifference he'd been wearing this morning in Alice's room was still clinging to him like a finely tailored jacket, and I was starting to really hate the design.

I sighed and swung my bag onto my back, heading to the teachers desk. At first I had thought that he'd been mad at me today because he figured I'd side with Edward about this morning, but I'd seen them chatting and laughing together in the halls between classes earlier. They'd obviously made up, so that meant that whatever reason he had to be pissed off at me had to do with me alone, and I was stumped for what that reason was.

"There you go, Miss Swan." The teacher handed me too stapled piles of paper, which he described as 'everything I'd need'. My definition was 'complete waste of time'. Like with English, I'd already learned most of this is stuff in Biology back in Phoenix.

I nodded politely to the teacher and left, reading the front sheets of both assignments as I walked to the cafeteria. Unfortunately I only got two feet out the door before someone bashed into me. Someone with a squeaky voice, too-tight skirt and heels.

Lauren snatched the papers out of my unsuspecting hands, and I looked despairingly at them resting in her taloned clutches. It was a requirement that I passed those assignments to complete this year, which was why I was doing them late. From the glint in her made-up eyes, Laruen knew this.

"So I heard you got an extension on the assignments, Swan." Her blue eyes looked me up and down, taking in my hair and make-up, blue shirt and jeans, all the way down to my converse that I refused to part with. I didn't exactly appreciate the sneer on her face. "How'd you manage that? Chemical dirty talk with Mr. Hulson?"

I leaned back against the wall feigning a casual attitude, but my eyes were locked on those papers the entire time. My brows furrowed at her ridiculous comment though, and I cast a sidelong glance at her smug looking face, really wanting to hit it. "Uh, Lauren, we do Biology, not Chemistry."

Her squeaky voice shrilled out a laugh that hurt my ears. "Oh that's too bad. So there was no chemistry between you, but you decided to check out each other's biology anyway? Why Bella, I thought you had a boyfriend."

And there it was, I realised. That little touch of jealousy in the voice, the slightly hardened look in her eye when she mentioned Edward. That was why she hated me. "And I had thought that you had some fraction of intelligence, but clearly you're lacking that, along with tact."

Her eyes narrowed at my comment, but she let it slide. It seemed she had an agenda today, and no matter what I said, she was going to broach this one topic to me.

"Tell me, because I really can't tell, which one are you dating again? Was it Edward, or Jasper? Or is it both?" She put her hand to her mouth and widened her eyes at me, as if she was deliciously scandalised. "Bella, do they know you're cheating on them with Mr. Hulson?"

I shot forward and snatched back the papers, stuffing them in my bag as she laughed at her oh so witty comment. "Is this you jealous, Lauren? Is that it? Can't imagine that someone with a real nose and boobs, and who isn't clad in foundation could win over the guy you've been pining for since forever?" Her eyes narrowed at me, but she didn't deny it.

"Shut up, you stupid bitch."

I imitated her, my hand flying up to my gasping mouth. "Does Mr. Hulson know you feel this way about him? I'm sure if you told him, he'd a least give you an extension on the assignment too, out of pity of course."

She shrieked at me and threw her fists down aggressively as her sides. Her actions much reminded me of a child throwing a tantrum when they didn't get their way, only this child had claws on her that could pick my eyes out.

"You fucking little whore, shut your mouth. This is my school, and you don't get to come here and try and ruin it for me. Why don't you got back to your filthy mother in Phoenix, or did she not want you there either? Face it Bella, no one wants you around."

I was about to say something about the fact that Edward had seemed to really want me around this morning, but I didn't want to ruin the memory on this bitch. For some reason I wanted to keep it to myself, preserve it and be one of the only two who knew about its existence, like a beautiful treasure.

So with a lack of words to throw at her, I was just about to substitute them with my fist when someone slumped against the wall beside me. I nearly jumped out of my skin when Jasper appeared, the only faulty part in his jacket of indifference was his frown and intense blue eyes.

Lauren straightened up and brushed back her hair, a light pink blush creeping into her cheeks. "Jasper," she said stiffly, her eyes quickly meeting his before darting away. "Good to see you."

Jasper just stared at her evenly, and even I squirmed under the scrutiny. Finally, not being able to handle it anymore, Lauren lifted her purse higher up on her shoulder and turned stiffly, her steps slow and precise in her heels. Just before she was out of earshot, she flipped her blonde hair over her shoulder and said, "Don't be fooled, Bella. He doesn't want you around either. He doesn't want anyone around."

When she had turned a corner I spun around and thwacked Jasper's shoulder hard, briefly forgetting the quiet hostility he'd had towards me all day.

"Ow!" He flinched away from me and rubbed his arm, a look of utter disbelief on his face. "What the hell was that for?"

"Why did you have to show up?" I went to hit him again and he ducked out of the way, opting to face me off from the other side of the hallway. "If you had just taken five more seconds, I could have bettered my day sevenfold and have felt really satisfied.

He gave me that level gaze he used on Lauren. "If you get in trouble for getting into a fight, who's going to be able to vouch for my good behaviour? The Principal would replace you with some dorky sophomore with my luck, and believe it or not, I'm getting used to putting up with you. Besides, you've damaged my reputation enough already. I don't want to completely destroy what's left."

I narrowed my eyes at him for a second before a grin spread across my face. "Jasper, I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me." I pushed off the wall and started walking towards the cafeteria, suddenly ravenous. Jasper easily kept up with my quickened pace, falling into step beside me.

"Yeah, well, don't get use to it."

"By the way, why were you there to break that up? I thought I sent you ahead to lunch."

"You were taking too long. I'd thought Mr. Hulson had roped you into one of his tedious conversation about his personal theories of evolution."

My laugh sounded louder in the empty halls, and I realised just how long my confrontation with Lauren had lasted. "No, just a head to head with the bitch of the century. Who, by the way, I have a theory about. She seems to really hate me because of either you or Edward. Have either of you dated her before or anything? Led her on?"

I watched Jasper's face out of my peripheral vision, but he gave away nothing. I vowed then that I would never play poker with him.

"Edward and Lauren? Hell no, he wouldn't even think about going near her, so don't worry, you're not going to catch some venereal disease or anything. Me? No, we never dated."

I crossed my arms. "I'm sensing a 'but'."

"We've hooked up a couple of times, but she always seems to expect way more than she should. Really, it's her own fault she gets hurt."

My mouth dropped open. "You've had sex with Lauren?"

"Among others." He glanced over at my hanging jaw and laughed, but the humour was lacking from it. He swung an arm over my shoulders, pulling me roughly into his side. "Come now Bella, you may think you do, but really, you don't know me at all."

With that, he pushed open the doors to the cafeteria and pulled me inside.

. . .

. . .

. . .

My lunch tray hit the table with a loud wack, and I made a dive for my apple before it rolled off the side of the table. I ignored the looks from the group and sank down into the chair beside Edward, who immediately shifted so he was facing me more. I felt his eyes on the side of my face as I bit into the apple, and I self consciously lifted my hand to my chin and wiped off the juice-spray.

When he was still looking at me after my second bite I gave in. "What?" I looked up to find four pairs of eyes on me. Of course the only person disinterested by my eating habits was Jasper, who was scrolling through his iPod. "Never seen someone eat an apple before guys? Quit starring, it's creeping me out."

"Sorry," Edward laughed, reaching forward and wiping away some spray off my chin what I'd missed. "We were just inspecting you to see if you had any claw marks on you. Lauren is known to be a scratcher in a fight."

I groaned. "Geez, how do you guys already know about that? That happened less than ten minutes ago. Besides," I said grudgingly, shooting a look in Jasper's direction. "This one over here showed up before anything could really happen."

"Lucky for you," he mumbled.

Alice held up her phone and wiggled it around, a gleeful smile on her face. "This little piece of technology allows the gossip around here to spread like wildfire, dear." I scowled at the tiny thing in her hand.

"Didn't take you as someone who believed in gossip, Alice." I said around my sandwich. I handed my half eaten apple over to Edward who munched on it appreciatively.

"Believe no? Well, not until I've heard all the sides to the story at least."

"Speaking of which," Rose piped up, leaning forward in her seat. "I heard that some pretty filthy names were exchanged between you two. The kind that would make Esme blush. What did you call her?"

I took another bite of my sandwich. "Oh you know, tactless, air brained, insinuated she was in love with our Biology teacher—"

"Mr. Hulson? Ew."

"Yeah, but other than that, just a fake, plastic bitch."

Rose sat back, a look of disappointment clouding her pretty face. "So nothing out of the ordinary. People are saying she called you some pretty horrible things though, but no one's saying what. What did she call you?"

"Was it 'cheap, love-of-my-life-stealing bitch'?" Emmett asked rather excitedly, and I cast a quick glance over at Edward, who's face had darkened somewhat.

"Uh, no. Not quite."

"Attention-stealing slut?"

"Emmett," Rose admonished, giving her boyfriend a long look. "Quit it. The teachers are giving you dirty looks."

Edward reached over and opened my chocolate bar, breaking it in half and popping some into his mouth with a grin. When he wasn't watching I swiped a handful of his hot chips.

"So anyway Alice, would you be able to give me a lift this afternoon to my broken-down truck. Jake is going to meet us at it and hopefully revive it."

I noticed Jasper look up at the mention of the name, probably recalling our conversation at the bar and how I'd said he was a childhood friend. After a second though he seemed to lose interest and went back to his iPod. He hadn't, I could see, touched any of his food.

"I can drive you there," Edward said, polite helpfulness colouring his tone. I scrutinised his face for any sign of mistrust or jealousy, but then reminded myself that he wasn't Drew. I relaxed back into my chair.

"You have AP Mathematics this afternoon after school," I reminded him, and he groaned. Laughing, I poked him in the side. "You took the class, Cullen, you deal with it."

I looked over at Alice who was studying us closely, a look of confusion pinching her face tight. At my raised eyebrow though, she smiled. "Yeah, absolutely. That's not a problem. Meet you in the car park after last period?"

I nodded.

"I've got it!" Emmett burst out, turning heads from all around us. "She called you a desert-dwelling, pail and frail, attention seeking, fowl-mouthed, boyfriend-stealing, good-for-nothing whore, didn't she?"

The cafeteria was silent.

"Yes Emmett," I said slowly, laughter bubbling up in me. "However did you guess it?"

. . .

. . .

. . .

I sat on the hardwood floor of the gym amongst a mixture of boys and girls all clad in running shorts and polo shirts. Currently, I was contemplating running for it.

I spied Jasper on the other side of the hoard talking to Tyler, laughing and shoving each other. It was hard to look away from Jasper when he laughed or smiled genuinely. His entire face lit up, and for a second you seemed to forget how rude or arrogant or cruel he could be sometimes. In those moments, you got a glimpse of who he could really be. That's what makes it so hard to deal with him, I realised. Knowing the real him, but only getting the version he wants you to.

I turned away from him as someone sat down next to me on the floor, letting out a grunt as they hit the ground. When I looked over to see who it was, I was greeted by a wide smile from Eric.

Rose's words filtered back into my mind at that moment. "Go baby pink! Erik totally has a thing for that colour on his women!"

I cast a surreptitious glance down at my black pants and red top and breathed a sigh of relief before smiling back.

"So Bella, what do you think they have us all herded together like this for?" His tone was casual and he seemed content sitting an appropriate distance away from me, so as far as I could tell, his intentions were innocent. I looked over at Mike, currently flirting badly with Jessica, and decided I liked Eric. For now.

"Don't know," I said, shrugging and then repositioning on the uncomfortable floor. Eric corrected his position too, keeping the same distance from me. I smiled. "Your guess is as good as mine. Probably better, actually. What do you normally do in P.E. that requires both genders?"

Eric's eyes suddenly opened wide, his mouth forming a shocked 'O'. I stared back at him in confusion, glancing around to see if anyone was about to pounce at him. The only imminent danger I could see was Jasper glaring a hole in the side of Eric's face, his conversation with Tyler momentarily on hold.

"Oh god, please don't tell me we're doing—"

"Alright class, listen up!"Miss Pike blew her whistle, calling us all to attention. "Today we're starting our dancing unit."

Eric hung his head in despair. "—dancing."

A chorus of groans and a few rude accusations were thrown around. Miss Pike blew her whistle again.

"Don't groan at me. You think I like trying to teach all of your uncoordinated teenagers how dance?" Her dark eyes scanned our faces, watching for any smartass response. When she found none, she dropped her whistle. I hadn't been at the school much more than a week and I already knew not to mess with the P.E. teacher.

"Form a circle. Boys on the inside, girls on the outside. You should each have a partner."

Eric cast me a friendly smile and held out his hand. "Partners?"

Over the next fifteen minutes Eric and I stumbled our way through the instructions Miss Pike was barking out at us. Apparently the first dance we learnt was suppose to be the easiest, though with my coordination skills, I was dreading the harder ones already.

"Heel, toe, heel, toe, slide, slide, slide, slide!"Her voice rang out around the hall as we all fought the keep in time to the beat whilst getting the steps right. Eric, who had a hold of my hands like all the other partners did, was using them more to keep balance than anything.

"Now the other way! Heel, toe, heel, toe! Slide, slide, slide, slide!"

That was the most hazardous part of the entire dance. Obviously some of our class didn't quite know how to follow the direction and flow of the rest of the circle, and more often than not we had people bumping into those who went the wrong way. My toes were proof of this as they throbbed painfully inside my gym shoes.

"Clap, clap clap!"

Everyone dropped the others hands and slapped down on their thighs, some more enthusiastically than others.

"Clap, clap, clap!"

Then you clap your hands together.

"Clap, clap, clap!"

Clap your partner's hands.

"Clap, clap, clap!"

Then your own again. Eric and I linked arms, in perfect time with everyone else, and spun each other around in a circle for eight seconds.

Yeah, I felt like I was back in junior high again.

Miss Pike blew out a relived breath. "Great, now that we've all finally got it now, I'm going to put on the music."

Collective groan, responsive glare from the teacher.

"And after the twirling bit, boys, you let go of your partner, and girls, you move on to the next boy in an anti-clockwise direction."

I groaned softly and looked down at my feet with a guilty expression. Just when they'd thought it was over.

Miss Pike started the music, something that sounded like it belonged at a B-grade circus, and in unison we all grabbed each other's hands.

I was surprised when I got the hang of it pretty quickly, and even more so when I started to enjoy myself. Soon I was spinning from person to person, dancing and laughing as we all stumbled through the steps to the way too cheery music.

Suddenly, without even realising it, I was holding Jasper's hands in mine and smiling up at him, our feet carrying us to the right a few steps, then back to the right. He looked at my smile with a weird expression and rolled his eyes.

"Of course you would be the one to enjoy this, Miss I'm-the-most-uncoordinated-out-of-the-lot-of-us." His tone was sarcastic, but there was just the hint of a smile at the corner of his mouth that led me to believe he didn't hate this as much as he wanted to.

My smile grew as we clapped hands. "Oh come on, Jasper." We linked arms and begun to spin. "You can't fool me. I know you love it. Especially when Jessica holds your hands just too tight, and stands that extra little bit too close to you."

He glared at me as I spun over to the next person, though I saw his smile.

The rest of the lesson passed by quickly, but not before I had to dance with Newton, who tried to pull me closer. I even caught sight of Jasper laughing when he had to dance with Tyler, the only guy without a partner. To say they should have taken that to another room would be an understatement.

Miss Pike dismissed us to go change, but as it was the end of the day, I just grabbed my bag and went to leave. On my way out of the change rooms though, I was too busy trying to get my bag onto my shoulder, and by the time I realised someone was in my way, it was too late.

I hit them side-on, my bag falling to the ground and causing them to grab onto my arm to right themselves.

"Jesus, Bella," came an overly familiar voice. I looked up into Jasper's glaring, icy eyes and I groaned. He was pissed off at me. Again. "You'd think that someone who could do dance steps and twirl themselves around without tripping over could at least watch where the fuck they're going."

I shrugged off his hand that was still on my arm and scowled at him. "Yeah, well maybe if you weren't so egotistical and self-centred you would have seen me coming as well."

My voice was loud in the empty hall, and so were his footsteps as he turned and walked away from me, hands in his pockets. "Yeah, whatever."

I huffed out a breath and ran a hand through my hair, ripping when it got caught in knots. "What is your problem?" I yelled after him, smiling when I saw him tense. The bare walls had echoed my words back at him, and with each accusation I saw him grow a little angrier.

I leaned down to pick up my bag, and when I straightened up he was in front of me again, his mouth twisted in an angry line. "You want to know what my problem is, Bella?" He stood up straight and tall so he was towering over me, casting me into shadows. "You, Bella. You're my problem."

I crossed my arms and brushed past him. "Well then," I called back to him, making him listen to my retreating footsteps this time. "Glad we settled that."

I pushed open the heavy doors to the gym a bit more forcefully than was necessary, and cursed when I saw how hard it was raining. At least I hadn't changed back into that nice blue top. I took a deep breath and stepped out, my arms wrapped around my stomach trying to hold onto some warmth.

I'd taken all of three steps before Jasper was there, right beside me matching his pace to mine.

"What do you want, Jasper?" I asked, the rain in my eyes preventing me from looking at him.

"You know what pisses me off the most about you, Bella?" He asked, sidestepping my question. I glared at him through slitted eyes. "The way you lie."

We'd reached the school parking lot, and I stopped dead, spinning around to face him. I hated his height most in that moment, because if I wanted to make eye contact with him, I had to look up into the sheeting rain.

"Excuse me?" I yelled, stepping closer to him and poking him in the chest. "When have I ever lied to you? Huh?"

He pushed my hand away with a violent shove of his hand. "I said the way you lie. I don't care that you do lie, everybody does. But it's the way you do it that pisses me off."

I threw my hands up and turned away from him, fed up and cold. I walked towards Alice's car, bright yellow and too fucking cheery in the rain, on the other side of the parking lot. Jasper continued to match my pace though, even when I sped up. After everything he'd done today, he was refusing me the satisfaction of a god storm-off. Who the fuck did he think he was?

"Like the way you lied to the principal the other day when you gave him your report on me. You know what he did? He actually told me I was doing a good job. He fucking congratulated me!"

"Well sorry for thinking that you—"

"And how you probably lied this morning when you kissed Edward in the kitchen." A blush spread over my cheeks. "Tell me, Bella, do you actually even like my brother in that way?"

"How did you—?"

"Oh come on, it was so fucking obvious what had just happened. It would have been more discrete if you two had tattooed it on your fucking foreheads."

I stopped walking and spun around to him, water dripping from my hair and into my eyes. He was equally as soaking wet as I was, though he had the nerve to look good during it.

"Okay, you want to talk about lies? What about yours, hmm?"

His narrowed eyes warned me to be careful about what I was about to say, but I was too angry to care.

"What about the way you always say the opposite to what you think? Or the way pretend not to care when you so obviously do." I stalked closer to him until he backed up into a car, blocked off with nowhere to go. "What about that lie you fed me the other night about being friends, huh? That whole truce bullshit was just that, wasn't it? Bullshit."

He grinned down at me and caught my hands, bringing them to rest against his chest as he softly stroked my wrists. Under my hands I could feel his pounding heart, and under his fingers on my wrists, I was sure he could feel my erratic pulse.

He leaned down so his face was close to mine, and I couldn't help but notice how his bright hair turned almost brown when it was wet, or how the rain dripped off his nose and onto our hands.

"What about your biggest lie of all, Bella?" He whispered, the look in his eyes predatory. "The one about how you like Edward oh so much. About how he's perfect for you."

"That's not a lie," I said back, my voice hoarse.

Jasper smiled like a spider that's just caught a fly in its web. "It may not be, but what is, is how you're dating him, when I know that right now, all you want is to kiss me."

My eyes, which had been watching his lips, grew wide, and I pulled my hands out of his grip. Jasper laughed and leaned back again the car behind him, his arms folded across his chest.

"You are such a bastard," I spat through clenched teeth.

"Is that why you want to kiss me? Didn't get enough of it from your ex, so now you're trying to get your fill from me?"

Without even thinking, my hand swung forward and my open palm cracked against his cold, hard cheek. His eyes went wide and he brought his hand to his cheek, though probably more out of shock than actual pain.

"What the fuck is your problem?" He yelled, rubbing his cheek.

I gave him a stony look. "Don't you know by now, Jasper? You're my problem."

I walked over to Alice's car slowly. My entire body was cold and wet, my teeth we chattering, my hands were clenched around the straps of my bag, and my vision was blurry from the rain. Despite all that, my feet were trying to tell me that I was walking the wrong way, and my hands were clenching my bag even tighter, because really, they wanted to be clenched in Jasper's shirt. And my mouth, well it had had enough of the stream of obscenities that were spewing out of it. All it wanted was to be kissing Jasper's, just like he'd said. So, I walked very slowly towards Alice's car, afraid that if I took one wrong step, my body would call a mutiny and run back the way I'd come.

If there was one thing I had lied about to anyone, it was my true feelings for Jasper, and I had been lying to myself.

So, was it all you have been waiting over a year for and more? Yes? No? Maybe? Review and let me know.