"GOOGLE IT" - GOOGLEWARD CHALLENGE ENTRY

Fourth place in the popular vote. Also awarded 'Best Awkward Edward "Awarded to the person who writes the best stuttering, uncomfortable, fidgety Edward possible."'

Title: The Pit

Pen Name(s): edward-bella-harry-ginny

Summary: When Bella transfers to Forks High, she is short the required Performing Arts and Physical Education credits. Taking Marching Band was never a part of her plans, but after meeting Edward Cullen, it was the best thing she ever did. GooglewardChallenge.

Word Count: 11660

To read the other entries, visit: http://www (dot) fanfiction (dot) net/~googlewardchallenge


Bella Swan watched in dismay as Forks' ever-present rain collected on the windshield of her ancient truck. The buildings of Forks High School loomed as blurry silhouettes in the distance. Coming to live with her father hadn't sounded quite so bad from the dry confines of Phoenix. She had been fairly isolated living with her mother, even in a city as large as the Valley of the Sun. Bella's only real friend was Renee, and though Bella's mother was often more pal than mom, Renee worried about Bella's non-existent social circle.

Her mother was sure that all Bella needed was a change of scenery to help her make friends, and so she had suggested that Bella spend her final year of high school with her father in Forks. She had always been quiet and shy; a teacher's pet trying to break out of her shell with ample use of dry snark and subtle humor. It had been easy for her to get lost in a crowd in Phoenix, which didn't lend well to making friends. Her high school there had a higher population than the entire water-logged town to which she had moved for her senior year of high school. The rain didn't let up when she dashed to the office to collect her schedule.

Bella had been disappointed to learn that Forks High School was rather stringent on its graduation requirements. Her old school had allowed students to take classes on Shakespeare and music appreciation to fulfill the performing arts credits necessary for graduation, and only two PE credits had been required.

Not in Forks. The population here in town, and thereby the enrolled number of students, couldn't support the broad range of classes that her over-crowded school in an enormous metropolitan area could. Fortunately, (unfortunately) marching band met both her missing requirements. Although there would be no balls to hurl at the unsuspecting, Bella imagined that marching with an object in her hands could lead to putting out an eye -- whether her own or someone else's was anyone's guess.

Grimacing at the lime-green schedule in her hands that proclaimed her first hour would be band, she made her way across the soggy campus to a large building that seemed to be emitting a host of discordant sounds. Like an army of ducks was competing against a herd of buffalo for dominance in a war of sound. She wasn't sure exactly what she would be doing, as she had no experience with playing an instrument, unless she counted the kazoos that Renee got for Bella's eighth birthday.

School wouldn't start for another fifteen minutes, but it would appear that this class was already assembled. Pausing in front of the door for a moment, Bella almost jumped when a sharp cry of ATTENTION! pierced through all the other sounds, silencing them immediately.

"I hope you've practiced your parts thoroughly, and that each section is ready for our sectional play-offs on Friday. Section leaders, I hope you've helped the underclassmen to know their parts- your position depends on their performance as well!" the disembodied voice was different from the sharp command from before. Bella assumed the new voice to be the band director's, but it was rather whiney, nasal, and flat; not at all what she would associate with music.

A few groans echoed the director's words, and Bella worked up the courage to open the door as soon as she heard sounds of movement. It was indeed a band room; though the students assembled here in a stiff pose couldn't possibly be the whole band. The bands in the kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school her mother had taught at had more members than this. There were around thirty students, all with instruments in hand.

"At ease," called the first voice Bella had heard. It belonged to a rather wild-haired redhead with a glint of fanatical authority in her eyes. Even without having heard the commands from her, Bella would have pegged her as a power-hungry drum major. The other students relaxed their formal stances and began milling around and taking seats.

Some of the instruments in the hands of the students were older and obviously used, such as the tarnished trumpet in the hands of a friendly-faced boy. The clarinet in the hands of the frizzy-haired girl didn't look quite as old as the trumpet, but the girl kept surreptitiously wiping at the more worn areas, as though she were ashamed of its condition. Others had instruments that were gleaming and obviously new. Like the piccolo in the hands of the snobbish blonde girl in the front. Everything about her looked new, even her nose, Bella suspected.

Shaking herself from her observations, Bella approached the director to show him her schedule. After standing unnoticed beside his rather inappropriately over-sized podium for more than a minute, Bella cleared her throat to get his attention. "Mr. Selwick?"

Finally he turned to her, his paunchy cheeks ruddy in his aggravation. Over what, Bella wasn't sure, but it looked like this man suffered from high blood pressure.

"Yes? I'm Director Selwick," he said in his nasal whine. He was tapping his baton against the podium, and his other hand rested high on his waist- uh, ribcage. He had no waist, really. He had a round Dunlop over his belt and skinny legs. He looked rather like a chicken.

"Uh, Bella Swan, I'm new here," she said.

"Instrument?"

"What?" she asked, confused.

"What do you play," the man asked condescendingly.

"Well, nothing, really, you see, I just transferred…"

"Fine. I see. What would you like to carry?"

"Huh?"

The man sighed again. "This is our marching season; everyone has to participate in some way. If you don't know an instrument, you can hold a school instrument and pretend while you march. The flute, perhaps?"

One look at the wrinkled what-is-that-smell expression on the face of plastic-nose, and Bella was sure that would not work.

"Well, you see, I'm pretty uncoordinated. I fall down. A lot."

The director's face reddened further, and Bella was sure that his blood pressure just rose again.

"To the pit, then."

"Excuse me?" Why did this man refuse to speak English?

"You are now a part of the pit, meaning you will stand on the sidelines and pretend to play something there. Cullen? You're in charge of showing her what she needs to do." With that, he turned and gestured toward a cluttered corner of the room.

Bella walked slowly around the chairs in the room to the area Selwick indicated. There was a grouping of the big tympani drums, an enormous drum suspended between two metal arms, a rack of cymbals, a large stand of long pipe-looking things hung in a metal frame with a little hammer tied to it on a string. There was even an enormous gong. Two snare drums stood side-by-side, and there, between two large xylophones, sat a hunched-over boy. His reddish-bronze hair obscured his eyes, and the style resembled John Lennon's from the cover of Rubber Soul, but with longer bangs.

He was staring at the ground in front of him when Bella walked up; in his hands were two…sticks. They weren't like the drumsticks that came with a drum set. (One of Renee's many phases…) But they were very slender with a cork-like handle and a big, felt knob on the top. He was obviously tall, even seated the way he was; as though he were trying to disappear. His knees knocked together, his feet were spread to touch each heel to the two front legs of his chair, but his toes were pointed inward and his feet were big enough to rest one toe of his shoe over the other, making him look…awkwardly adolescent. He had yet to meet Bella's gaze, but she knew that he felt her eyes on him.

Awkwardness was not something that Bella was a stranger to; she decided to jump in with both feet and crack the ice.

"So, is Director Selwick compensating for something with that enormous podium?" she joked.

"I-I-I, um," the boy cleared his throat. "I wouldn't know."

Bella watched as the boy's forehead burned red, and his neck, just barely visible over his brown Let the Wookie Win t-shirt, soon followed suit. Clearly, this boy was as awkward as he looked.

"Well this is the pits," Bella tried again. Silence prevailed for a few seconds, during which, Bella was drawing on the depths of her drum-related humor courtesy of Renee, when there was a soft snort beside her. Turning to face him, Bella smiled at his quiet snickers.

"Pits. Right. Because we're the pit musicians…that's classic." Then he laughed some more. Bella laughed at his quiet innocence. It was rare to see someone their age laugh so heartily at such a lame joke.

"I'm Bella," she offered, hoping he would return the favor.

"Um. I'm Edward…Edward Masen… I mean I'm not… well, I am Edward, it's complicated, I was Edward Masen, but now I'm Edward…Edward Cullen."

"So, Edward…" Bella said, trailing off with a smile.

"Yeah. Just Edward works." He looked down at his well-worn black sneakers. His feet constantly moved, rubbing the toe of the left shoe along the side of the right, and then vice versa. His hands fidgeted with his pseudo-drumsticks, bouncing them off of his thighs. His heel began bouncing under her scrutiny, and she wondered if he ever truly sat still.

"So, what are my duties here in the pit? Sharpen the swords? Grind the axes?" Bella asked. Edward gave her a small smile.

"No… primarily we are in charge of all the pit percussion instruments; the bells, the suspended bass drum, the triangles, the gong, basically everything that stands and is played at the side of the field. I, um, I uh…usually I play the…uh…xylophone."

Bella was amazed at how smooth and confident Edward's voice became when he was concentrating on the instruments, and not the people around him. Yet he still faltered when he focused on himself. He had yet to make eye contact with her. Something he said stood out. Usually.

"Do you play all these instruments?" Bella asked, eyeing the maze surrounding their corner. Since when did it become theirs? Bella wondered.

"Uh, yeah, I guess…uh, yeah, I do…" He was watching the ground again. Bella wanted him to look at her straight on; she wanted to see his whole face. She wanted to grab the curtain of his hair and brush it from his eyes. Bella could see the top of his wide, rectangular, tortoise-shell glasses. There was a seam in the middle of the glasses that looked as though they had been super-glued back together. When the dark reddish-brown frames slid down his nose, Bella could see that there was a slight crookedness to the bridge of his nose that corresponded with the break of his glasses. She couldn't help but wonder if they had been broken at the same time.

"So, are you going to teach me?" she asked.

"I guess that's my job," Edward said nervously.

"I think you'll be a great teacher," Bella said honestly.

"Thanks," he whispered, almost inaudibly. Then, the unmistakable sound of a drum line came ever closer to their room. Edward sighed, and for the first time, looked up into Bella's eyes. "There's the rest of the percussion section."

Bella wasn't quite sure what he had said. It could have been Charlie Brown's mother speaking to her for all she heard. She was lost. The depth of his green eyes could not be hidden behind the clunky, outdated frames. Neither could the long lashes framing the liquid, smoky, gold-flecked jade that Bella had fallen into.

Other than the slight quirk at the bridge of his nose, it was long and straight. His jaw was strong, though still youthful. Bella could tell that his clear, smooth skin had yet to grow any scruff. He was sixteen, maybe just barely seventeen, younger than her own eighteen. She figured he must be a junior; she was surprised at the disappointment that she felt at the realization that they likely wouldn't share any other classes.

"What?" Bella asked, when she realized that Edward's lips were moving; she had been staring at them uncomprehendingly, and Edward was starting to shrink into his nervous posture again. "I'm sorry; I was completely zoned-out there. You were saying?"

"We're all doing sectionals today; you can meet the rest of the Percs." He said it with a mumble to his sneakers, and Bella vowed to try not to show how enthralled by him she was. She didn't want to give him a complex. Though she wasn't sure how to avoid Edward's charm. He certainly didn't know he had it, but Bella would have to be careful lest he catch her staring. Frequently. Only then did she look around and notice that all the other students had grouped themselves by instrument, and were shutting themselves into the small practice rooms off of the main band room.

"Edward!"

"Eddie!"

"You have got to introduce us to your friend, here! Is she joining you in the pit?" asked a perky black-haired girl who looked too impossibly small to be carrying the drum that was strapped to her chest, even if it was the smallest drum in the line. Another boy stood next to her with the next biggest drum, and he gave a wave with his sticks. The next larger drum was strapped to a taller, brown-haired girl that gave a friendly smile and a wave as well. The largest drum was carried by the biggest guy Bella had ever seen.

"We're your Forks High Percs, at your service," the big guy said, bowing without taking off the drum.

"You're going to fall right on your face you big lunk!" chided a blonde-haired beauty wearing a snare drum. Another blond boy stood beside her, also wearing a snare.

"Edward? Would you introduce us?" the small girl asked again.

"Sure," Edward said, standing up for the first time. He was tall, Bella mused. And though he still spoke softly and towards the floor, he was obviously more comfortable with this group of people than with the full room from twenty minutes before. "Bella, this is Alice on first bass, Ben on second, Angela on third, and Emmett on fourth. The Hale twins, Jasper and Rosalie are our snares. Everyone, this is Bella," he finished.

"Hello," Bella said, extremely intimidated by all of the skilled musicians around her. She didn't even know how to read music.

"Ok, guys," Rosalie spoke up with a clear tone of authority. "Let's work on our Percussion feature. It's the best thing going for this ridiculous show Selwick is trying to pull off." Everyone arranged themselves in a semi-circle around the pit corner. Edward moved behind the largest xylophone, pulling out two more identical pairs of sticks and holding three in each hand, using his fingers to separate them.

Rosalie counted them off on a routine that they obviously all knew, but Bella's eyes were riveted to the tall, gangly boy bent over the xylophone. Peripherally, she noticed the others tapping their foot, or even their heads in time with the music. Edward though, moved his whole body. His entire being was taken over by the music produced by his blurred hands. The drums all thundered to a stop and Bella's ears rang in the sudden silence. Edward kept playing though. At first, Bella thought that he was just lost in the moment, but then she realized the others were still in performance-mode. Edward's hands moved faster as his fingers manipulated the sticks in his hands to produce the bell-like tones from the instrument in front of him.

It was beautiful. Edward's solo came to a triumphant close, and the drums joined in once more. Bella had never seen live music performed so close; it was a surreal experience. Her body hummed and vibrated from the very sound waves bouncing off of everything in the room. It was awe-inspiring.

Then the flute section came out of the practice room.

"He's such a dweeb. If he paid half-as-much attention to a girl as he did that xylo, he wouldn't be such a freakin' spaz."

Plastic-face was asking for another new nose.

Before Selwick could waddle from his office, Alice, the spritely first-bass player had dropped her drum to the ground and rushed the blonde-haired girl.

"Don't you say that about Edward, Lauren!" she shrieked as she jumped on the girl and they went down to the floor, grappling with each other.

"My piccolo! You brute! Ow! That was my hair! Director Selwick!!!"

***

That had altered the lesson plans for the day, as Mr. Selwick (Bella refused to call him director) sent Alice to the office with Lauren and, for some reason, Edward as well. The rest of first hour, Bella sat in the 'pit' and read a book she had in her back-pack.

At lunch, Bella wandered into the cafeteria alone, wondering what to do about the seating situation. Her concern was short-lived, however. Alice, the first-bass player, skipped over and grabbed her arm.

"Hi, Bella! You've got to sit with us! You're a part of the drum line now!"

"Uh, ok. I'm actually kind of surprised to see you at lunch today," Bella murmured. Back in Phoenix, if Alice had jumped on plastic-face like that, she would have been suspended at the least.

"Because of this morning? Nah, Lauren had it coming, and no one can resist my pleading look," Alice said, giving Bella a stellar example of the look in question. "Once I said she had been derogatory against Edward, the principal gave her detention. I just promised whole-heartedly to never use physical violence again." Alice batted her eyes and gave a doe-eyed look that Bella was sure to wrap anyone around the pixie's little finger.

Alice had not stopped talking the whole time she dragged Bella through the lunch line. They started towards a table that the rest of the people she had met this morning were crowded around. Edward sat at the far end of the rectangular table, with the group, yet slightly aloof from what was going on around him. In front of him, he had a crumpled brown paper sack, a slightly squashed sandwich, and an apple.

"Edward looks kind of lonesome, why don't you go sit with him?" Alice said with a smirk.

Bella blushed. "I don't want to make him uncomfortable," she said, hoping that Alice would push a little more.

"Nonsense! Trust me; he would love to have you sit with him."

Bella smiled at Alice, and the next thing she knew, she was being thrust into an empty seat next to Edward.

"Hi, Edward," Bella greeted him. He gave a reserved smile before he nodded at her and began to fidget in his seat.

"Brown baggin' today?" she asked, hoping to spark a conversation.

"Yeah; I actually do every day. Nutritional content of cafeteria food is questionable at best," he said matter-of-factly.

"Yeah," Bella agreed, grimacing as she looked at the tray that Alice had loaded for her. There was a salad, but the limp iceburg lettuce had the same nutritional value as the table in front of her. The slice of pizza was swimming in orange grease. "Hmm. I think I'll be joining you with that tomorrow."

"S-sure. Maybe we can trade things. Esme- I mean my mom, uh…she always packs me peanut butter granola bars, but I don't like them. I had a few dozen of them in my locker last year." He said it to the table while his long fingers shredded what looked like tuna-on-wheat into small bite-size pieces.

"So why don't you tell her you don't like them?"

"She likes to make my lunch… I don't want to hurt her feelings," he said softly.

"Well, what do you like better?"

"The s'mores ones. You know, with the little tiny chocolate chips and the little tiny marshmallows. Those are my favorite," he said the last in a whisper.

Bella smiled at his admission. She wasn't sure what was sweeter. That his mom packed his lunch for him, or that he let her, because she enjoyed it. Not many boys his age would allow that, let alone admit it to the new girl at school. Edward was a diamond in the rough.

***

After lunch, Edward made his way to his locker to drop off the peanut butter granola bar to begin his collection. He had gathered forty-three of them last year, though when school ended, he'd had to clear them out for the summer. Biology was next on his schedule; science had always been an easy subject for him; he enjoyed the lab-based classes even though he rarely had a partner like everyone else. He was used to being the last one picked or the only one left out. He didn't mind so much. It was who he was.

Bella had been interesting. She was so pretty, beautiful even, that Edward wasn't sure why she had wanted to talk to him, the xylo-boy. She had even sat next to him at lunch and talked with him. No one had ever done so much to make him feel like one of the group, except for Alice and Emmett. Edward always just assumed that they felt obligated though, as his new adopted family.

Edward heard the one-minute warning bell and leaned forward to run awkwardly to biology. He knew that Lauren always laughed at him when he ran. It wasn't that he was a bad runner, he actually ran cross country back in Chicago, and was one of the best runners on the team. But when he ran with his back pack on, he had to hunch over and lope with long jazz-run type steps to keep the bag from bouncing too much. He supposed that he did resemble a turtle with long legs, but it still hurt when Lauren cackled about it with the other girls in the flute section. Bella hadn't laughed at him at all today. She had smiled though.

He slid into the classroom just before the final bell rang. Mr. Banner raised an eyebrow at him, but waved him to his seat without marking him tardy, proving that there could be something positive on the first day of school. That, and Bella. Edward pushed his falling glasses back up his nose and nodded at Mr. Banner, ducking his head and watching the floor as he went to his usual seat in the science lab.

Therefore, Edward was surprised when he got to the table that everyone else avoided and saw that someone was sitting in his seat. It was Bella. He felt his face redden as he gaped at her like a dying fish. He was more than a little aware now that he was developing a crush on her. He vowed that he wouldn't show it; girls never liked him like that.

"You're in my seat." Were inexplicably the only words that came out of his mouth. It was rude and he hadn't meant to say it, but he supposed it was better than I love your hair, can I smell it?

Edward felt even worse when Bella stammered an apology and slid her things to the other seat, all the while, he was apologizing and asking her not to move. Mr. Banner came by to pass out a packet for the next unit that they were starting and raised his eyebrow at Edward again. Chagrined, Edward sat heavily in the now vacated seat and blindly pulled his packet towards him, giving Bella hers. His fingers brushed against hers, and before he was aware of it, "Your hands are soft," came tumbling out of his mouth.

Edward and Bella were both blushing now.

"I didn't think I'd have another class with you," Bella whispered. Edward was confused. Was she disappointed to have to be his lab partner?

"I-I'm sorry," he stammered, feeling foolish about having thought about her smile…her hair…her soft hands…everything about her, if he were honest.

"No! No, that's not what I meant," Bella whispered back. Edward was confused, and opened his mouth to say as much, when Bella explained. "This is a senior class."

"Yes… I'm… I'm a senior," Edward said, still confused.

"You don't look like a senior; what are you, sixteen, seventeen?" Bella asked.

"I turned seventeen in June," Edward said a little defensively. He was tired of all the baby-face jokes he had been the butt of.

"I just turned eighteen," Bella said ruefully.

"At least you can vote," Edward said.

"Of all the things that anyone has said about my age so far, that has to be the best! Usually I get, 'Hey, you can buy me cigarettes!' or something," Bella said, laughing.

"Ok, class, take a look at the papers I just passed out! This is going to be a week-long assignment to be completed with your partners, but I expect each of you to fill out your own packet," Mr. Banner said, clapping his hands together. Most of the others in the class began giggling. Edward wasn't so sure what was suddenly so funny, but one glance at the packet on the table in front of him instantly explained what had the others in peals of laughter.

Male and Female Reproductive Systems was printed at the top of the first page in large, bold letters.

"There's a crossword, vocabulary match-up, and a blank page in which I want you all to diagram and label the reproductive organs. Nothing graphic this year, boys and girls," Mr. Banner explained.

"This year?" Bella questioned Edward, who turned red.

"Last year, Mr. Banner had a...uh…unit…on…uh…STD's." Edward barely whispered the last word.

"What?" Bella asked. Edward sighed in embarrassment.

"STD's," he whispered a little louder. Recognition dawned on Bella's face, but only briefly.

"That was graphic?" she asked with a quirked eyebrow. Edward felt like smacking his head into the table before explaining this to Bella.

"You see, last year's class had to create a poster to raise…uh… awareness, for the particular…uh…disease they were assigned." Edward's face was burning; he was sure that Bella would think him a naïve imbecile for his reaction. "There were several…" Edward cleared his throat, and continued. "…rather realistic…depictions…of …of…diseased organs," Edward finally finished.

When he looked up at Bella, she was blinking her eyes owlishly. "It was a little embarrassing to walk down the science hall that week," Edward admitted. Bella began laughing; she clamped a hand over her mouth, but only succeeded in causing a snort to echo into her hands. Edward couldn't help but laugh too.

Mr. Banner didn't have the heart to tell them to settle down. Edward had never looked so comfortable with one of his peers.

***

Later that afternoon, as Edward was donning his helmet to ride his Genuine Stella scooter home, Bella rumbled to a stop in her deafening truck.

"Edward! When did you want to get that packet for bio done?" Bella asked, once she got her stiff driver's-side window down.

"Uh…I don't know…whenever…would you like to work on it some this, uh, this afternoon?" Edward crammed his helmet on his head in an attempt to cover the fact that his face was bright red again.

"Sure, you know where my house is?" Bella asked.

"Uh, yeah, I think…I don't think so."

"You can follow me," Bella said with a grin.

Ten minutes later, after Edward asked Alice and Emmett to tell Esme where he would be, he pulled his scooter up beside Bella's truck. She hopped out of the cab and slammed the door shut. Edward remembered too late that Bella's father, Chief Swan, was divorced; there likely wouldn't be a mother-figure waiting for Bella like Esme waited for Edward and his siblings.

"Uh, um…who else is going to be here?" he stammered. He had never been in a house alone with a girl who wasn't a sister, either foster or adopted.

"It's just going to be us…Charlie will be home in a couple hours, though," Bella explained.

"Oh…" Edward wasn't sure how to make his feet move anymore, and Bella was already at the front door. He was still standing beside his Stella frozen in place.

"Are you coming?" Bella asked softly. Edward realized that she must have noticed his apprehension, and he felt even more foolish and awkward.

"Yeah," he managed, though his voice cracked and his heart was hammering. He was deliberately walking into a girl's house-where they would be alone- so that they could diagram and define…the reproductive system.

In short, he was walking into his worst nightmare. Except that Darth Vader wouldn't be coming to Bella's house…

"I thought we could use the kitchen table," Bella assured him; he merely nodded and followed her into the kitchen with slightly-faded yellow cabinets. They both pulled their packets and text books from their backpacks and began to look over them.

"Uh, Edward?" Bella asked a few minutes later. He looked up, tucking his hair behind his ear and pushing his glasses higher on his nose in order to look at her. "This textbook is sort of basic…I don't think we're going to get all the answers that Banner wants from this alone. I mean, it says the urethra is 'The transport tube leading from the bladder to discharge urine outside the body' but it is not clearly shown on this diagram. And fallopian tubes. All I've got is 'The upper arms of the womb.' No mention of function or anything. Did you find an acceptable definition for fallopian tubes?"

"No…uh…not the fallopian tubes. There's always Google," Edward mumbled.

"Pardon?"

"Do you have the internet? We could Google it," Edward said.

"Yes, actually that's a good idea. The computer is in my room. Come on," Bella said, grabbing her papers and pencil and starting towards the stairs. Edward froze. Her room; beautiful Bella's…room. Edward began to sweat under the collar a bit; then he took his first step into a larger world. He followed Bella up the stairs.

Forty-five minutes later, Edward sat beside Bella at the computer, finishing the last of his diagrams. He started when he heard the front door click shut, and footsteps on the stairs. He hadn't heard a car pull up.

"Bella? Whose scooter is that?" said the unmistakable voice of Charlie Swan. Chief of police, and more importantly, Bella's father. Didn't he read somewhere that Vader was Dutch for father? Perhaps that nightmare would come to pass.

"Up here, Dad!" Bella called, seemingly unperturbed as she put the finishing touches on what Edward was mortified to discover was her diagram of the male reproductive system. Could there be a worse situation? Edward supposed that it could be worse. At least they were fully clothed. But why did that thought even occur to him? Edward thought that Emmett must really be wearing off on him. Then he blushed; that was when Charlie Swan came into Bella's room.

"Bells, what had you planned for din- who are you?" he asked, his casual demeanor from moments before gone.

"I'm E-Edward Ma-Cullen," he stammered, wishing that the chair he was sitting in would swallow him.

"Dr. Cullen's new boy?" Charlie's tone was softer, though Edward was sure that it was only in reference to Carlisle, not to Edward himself. He nodded in response, and pushed his glasses back up his now sweaty nose. When had it gotten so warm? "What are you kids workin' on? Bella?! What on Earth are you drawing?!" Charlie inquired. Now Edward was sure that he would not survive this encounter.

"Dad, don't have a heart-attack. It's for biology," Bella explained. Chief Swan pursed his lips, and folded his arms, giving Edward the evil eye. Edward fidgeted with his pencil, and squirmed in his seat. Finally, he gathered everything and stuffed it into his over-sized back-pack.

"I think I should head home," Edward said nervously.

"I'll see you in band," Bella called after him as he descended the stairs and nearly slid down the last three in his haste to get out from under Chief Swan's gaze. Once he reached his trusty Stella, he shoved his helmet onto his head and nearly knocked the scooter over as he tried to step through and sit down. Finally, he got it started and turned in the direction of the Cullen home.

***

Bella understood now what people meant when they said time flies when you're having fun. She had never expected to enjoy living in Forks, though she had a feeling that her happiness was directly related to a certain xylophonist. It was obvious still that Edward's social experience was severely limited; not that Bella's own experience was much more extensive. Slowly but surely he had been opening up to her; they had a natural rapport. Bella had come to find that he had a very dry sense of humor that went over most of their peer's heads. He was extremely witty, but he enjoyed corny jokes more than Bella would have thought. Edward had been tickled when she had brought him an old, tattered book of jokes from the forties that she had found while cleaning the attic.

Every day for the past few weeks, Bella brought Edward a s'mores granola bar to trade for the peanut butter one that he had, and they would talk over lunch. Oftentimes they forgot that there were others at the table. Occasionally, Edward would bring Esme's homemade cookies; he would share them with Bella, and she would in turn bring marshmallow-crispy treats the next day. Edward said that he loved the marshmallow gooiness, though Bella never told him she used twice the amount of marshmallows called for just so that she could watch him lick it off of his fingers.

She and Edward also spent a good deal of time together in the pit; he made the mandatory 6:30 AM practices worth attending. Rosalie insisted on at least one evening practice a week, as she was determined to get an award for Best Percussion at the upcoming marching competition. Edward had been helping Bella even beyond the usual section practices, teaching her as much as he could about the instruments that had been his only friends outside of his family until Bella came to Forks.

This afternoon, Edward had asked her to meet him in the band room so that he could talk with her about her part in the show. She wasn't sure what else she could do, considering her lack of musical skill. Bella was more than a little nervous that he was going to tell her she just wasn't doing well enough. Opening the door, Bella saw that Edward had pulled out the gong. He had been teaching her to keep a beat with the large suspended bass drum; he had promised to teach her a simple song on the bells next. This was unexpected.

"What's this?" she asked him as she took in his apprehension. He was looking at her as though he wasn't sure of her reaction.

"Well, this-this is the gong," Edward said simply, pushing his glasses up. He was nervous, and it was starting to affect Bella too.

"Yes, I realize that," Bella said slowly, nodding as well.

"I know you know that, I mean, of course you know that, you're not stupid, I don't want you to think I think you're stupid, because you're not, I just-"

"Edward."

"Yes?"

"The gong?"

"Uh, yes. I wanted to uh...teach you proper technique so you can play it in-in the show," Edward explained.

"You want me to play the...gong..."

"That would be- that is, the uh- plan," Edward confirmed. "Now, you know how to hit the drum; the gong is the same-"

"Edward!" Bella interrupted.

"What?"

"I can't play the gong! I'll stick out like a sore thumb! That is a little more noticeable than just a few beats on the suspended bass!"

"But, this will be a lot less! It will only be five times, at the beginning of each song and at the...end..." Edward trailed off and Bella immediately felt bad for her obstinance. Edward looked like someone had told him that Comic Con had been cancelled. Dang it. He was melting her resolve with his sad eyes and his defeated expression. The worst part was that Edward was clueless. Bella was ninety-nine-point-nine percent certain that he had no idea of the control that he had over her.

"Show me," she relented.

"Huh?" Edward asked.

"I want you to show me the gong. I'll do it, if I don't make a fool of the whole band. You'll have to show me."

"Ok!" Edward was instantly ecstatic. Apparently Comic Con was still on the schedule.

Nearly twenty minutes later, Bella and Edward were standing in front of the gong; Edward had shown her a few times, but she was not getting the same rich, resonating sound that he was. Her attempts sounded like she was banging on a trash can lid. Then Edward did something unexpected. He grabbed her hand where she was grasping the big mallet. They both stood there frozen for a few seconds. His hands were warm, and soft. Bella was aware of the slight calluses from where he held his xylophone mallets, but his hands were surprisingly dry. Bella looked up and met his eye; she had promised herself the first time she met Edward that she would do her best not to get lost in his perfect jade depths, but she was failing stupendously.

"Like.... a-a ball. A bouncing ball," he said in a strangled voice. Then he released her and gave a wave towards the gong. Bella tried a few tentative strikes; she smiled when she noticed Edward gazing at his hand in wonder. It may very well have been the first time he had done more than just brush a girl's hand. Bella felt invigorated by the thought that it was her hand that he had grabbed a hold of; it was her that he had bestowed the honor of that 'first.'

"Like a ball," Edward repeated softly behind her. Bella closed her eyes and pictured the mallet in her hand, while she thought back to her first day of instruction from Edward. Bella had been expecting him to give her a pair of sticks to bang around with. Edward had surprised her with a canister of new tennis balls, and had instructed her to bounce one around the room. She had thought that he was taking her PE requirement a little too far, but after about ten minutes of the exercise, he had handed her a tennis ball mounted on a stick. Then he had asked her to bounce that around the room, letting the ball do all the recoil, rather than her wrist. She had felt a little foolish bouncing the ball off of the chairs, walls and doors of the band room. By the end of another twenty minutes, Bella was wondering what the point of this exercise was.

Then Edward had handed her the real mallet and directed her over to the drum. Her hand and wrist was so accustomed to the bouncing movement of the tennis-ball-on-a-stick that the movement just came naturally. Bella had been delightedly surprised by the warm, echoing boom that came from the drum. Whenever she had played with Renee's short-lived drum set, she had only been able to coax short, flat thumps from the drums. She had felt like a real musician at that moment.

Like a ball...

Bella opened her eyes and confidently struck the gong with her practiced movement. It rang gloriously around the room, and Bella couldn't hold back the triumph from her face.

"I did it!" she cried in amazement; she thought Edward's face might break he was smiling so hugely.

"I knew you could," he said shyly. His face and neck reddened and he ducked his head to study the floor rather than meet her gaze. Bella wanted to grab Edward in a big hug, but she didn't want to scare him. She would have to pace herself and hope that she didn't attack him in a suppression-induced frenzy at some point.

***

Edward had been pleased the next morning to see that his favorite shirt had been washed and placed right at the top of his drawer. The Let the Wookie Win shirt had been part of a large selection of clothes that Carlisle and Esme had given him at his first birthday celebration with them. He had only been the Cullen's foster kid for about three weeks when they had surprised him with a birthday party. He hadn't had very many possessions of his own. Even though his parent's will had taken care of his financial matters, he had moved from home to home so often that it had been easier to travel lightly. Emmett and Alice had given him all of the mint-condition action figures that currently graced the walls of his room. Emmett had been disappointed that Edward wouldn't let them open them all up and play with them.

At lunch, Edward had just taken a bite of his turkey-and-swiss-on-wheat when Bella caused him to freeze mid-chew.

"I've been meaning to ask you; what's a Wookie, and why does he need to win?" Silence fell at the table. "What?" Bella asked.

Every head at the table swiveled between Edward and Bella, though he couldn't seem to hide his incredulity. "You haven't seen Star Wars?!" he asked.

"Uh, no...can't say that I have," Bella responded. Edward couldn't believe it. His first major crush had a major flaw. A New Hope blossomed in his chest; all was not lost, the Empire could Strike Back, but the Return of the Jedi was at hand. It was time...for a marathon.

"Be at my house at 9:00 AM on Saturday," he said. He ignored the fist-bump that Emmett gave Alice behind Jasper's back, and the smiles on everyone's faces. This wasn't a date...it was education. Unless Bella wanted it to be a date...what did girls consider a date? What if Bella didn't want to watch Star Wars? Edward felt the beginning of an asthma attack creeping up on him. Just when his throat felt like Darth Vader had it in a Force grip, he heard the six most beautiful words ever.

"I guess it's a date then."

Edward couldn't keep the grin off his face.

Three excruciatingly slow days later, Edward impatiently stood by the front door waiting for the clock to read nine.

"Hey bro, don't sweat it. Is this your first date, ever?" Emmett asked him from the couch in the living room.

"It is not a date-" Edward began.

"It's education," Emmett finished with a smirk. "Well, there are no textbooks, no tests afterwards- you're not going to test her right?"

Edward rolled his eyes at his brother and silently re-thought his plans for Star Wars Trivial Pursuit after the marathon. Edward was saved anymore of Emmett's commentary when they both heard the deep rumble of Bella's red beast pull up and then go silent. She had arrived. Edward Cullen's first non-study date had officially begun.

Bella kept interjecting random commentary throughout their marathon.

"So, do they not have bras in the future? Or is this a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far, away referencing our timeline?"

Edward assumed that her first two questions were rhetorical. He supposed he could answer the second question, but that may necessitate the acknowledgement of the first, and Edward did not want to contemplate Princess Leia's lack of...support...with Bella.

"Did that stormtrooper just crack his head on that door?" she asked a few minutes later.

"Good eye; I had to frame-by-frame it to prove that to Emmett." Edward responded.

"Princess Leia's a pretty good shot with her blow-dryer thing."

"It's a blaster," Edward clarified. They sat quietly watching for a few more minutes. Then Bella's date-setting question was answered.

"So that's why Wookies need to win. Chewbacca is pretty awesome. Can we introduce him to Mike?" Edward snorted and Bella laughed into her hand. She didn't say anything more until, "Where's Chewie's medal?! Doesn't he get anything? I'm offended on his behalf." Edward nodded his agreement. He had always felt that Chewbacca had been grossly over-looked, and had even petitioned ILM to digitally insert a medal for Chewie when the saga was remastered for the twentieth anniversary. No such luck.

"Wow, I think that Vader must have some secret children or something; I would believe Victoria if she said 'Vader is my father,'" Bella commented as the credits rolled a moment later. Edward had to bite his tongue while he put on The Empire Strikes Back. Bella was so absorbed by Luke's jedi training that she didn't say much. Until the big finale, that is.

"So Vader really does have secret children?! Has anyone checked Victoria's birth certificate? I think there were actually twins..." Edward couldn't help but laugh hysterically at Bella's on-the-mark commentary. She had made their marathon so much better than he had ever thought was possible. That was saying something, considering how seriously he took Star Wars. He put on Return of the Jedi with a huge smile. Esme came in with a tray of sandwiches, popcorn and sodas during the first half; Edward and Bella ravenously attacked the tray while Jabba's minions were haphazardly fed to the Sarlaac.

"Wait a minute! 'Somehow, I've always known?!!?!' So why did she kiss him? She kissed her brother! That's just..." Bella broke off and gave a big shudder. Edward's face was bright red; Bella had said 'kiss' twice, and the thought was making him dizzy. He knew he was normally fidgety, but he thought that he may have actually rubbed a hole in the side of his new sneaker in the last hour. Sharing his favorite things with Bella was giving him a nerd high. He was sure he could win a round of Star Wars Trivial Pursuit in one turn he was so worked up.

"Han just touched her breast! She's been shot, and he's feeling her up!" Bella exclaimed a bit later. Why did Bella keep mentioning breasts?! The tightness in his throat was there again. Rhetorical, rhetorical, rhetorical, he chanted in his head.

Bella's commentary on the prequels was less frequent as she got swept up in the star-crossed romance between Anakin and Padme. She had been near tears during Revenge of the Sith; Edward had been concerned. He didn't have enough experience with happy girls, let alone crying ones.

"So why didn't we watch these first if these are Episodes One, Two, and Three?" Bella asked once the third episode came to a close.

"It's better this way," Edward explained. "Otherwise, 'Luke, I am your Father' is rather anti-climactic, don't you think?" Edward moved the box of the pizza they had shared during Episode Two so that they could get up.

"I suppose you're right. Thank you, Edward." Bella said as they turned off the TV and moved towards the front door.

"For what?" Edward asked, confused.

"For providing me with a quintessential education in the lore of a galaxy, far, far, away."

"It was my pleasure," Edward said to his sneakers.

"I'd better get going; I'll bet there is an ice chest at home that is full of fish that will need to be rotated with the older stock in the freezer." With that, Bella leaned towards Edward, and he panicked. He thrust his hand forward and grasped hers, giving it a firm shake.

"Thanks for coming, Bella," he whispered as she shut the door behind her. He told himself that he had just imagined the disappointed expression on Bella's face.

***

A couple weeks later, Victoria the drum major had insisted on coming to their drum practice. She and Rosalie had been butting heads all evening as Victoria kept trying to take control of the section from Rose. Bella wasn't sure why Victoria felt the need to come to the percussion practice. Emmett had told Bella that Victoria hadn't even been in the percussion section before she became the drum major. At the moment, Rose had taken Victoria over to the side of the stage and was having a tense-looking conversation with her.

"You can't hinge the whole feature on some rinky-dink xylophone solo!" Victoria shouted suddenly.

"You have no say in our feature!" Rose growled back.

"I'll talk to Selwick! He isn't going to let you ruin our chances at a superior with him!" Victoria shrieked as she pointed her finger at Edward. He had been studying his shoes intently; at Victoria's outburst, he put his mallets down on the xylophone and stuffed his hands into his pockets. Bella could see him shrink into himself.

"Not only is Edward not going to hurt our chances, Vicky," Rosalie spat. "He's going to be the one to ensure Forks wins Best Percussion!"

Victoria stormed backstage to return to the band room in a huff. Rose stood with her back to them for a few moments, breathing deeply as she tried to calm down. Bella had never heard Rose speak badly of Edward before, but it was rather shocking to see her tear into Victoria in his defense. When Rosalie finally returned to the practice, Edward had a new confidence to his posture. Bella smiled when Emmett turned to Edward.

"Don't listen to Victoria, Edward. You know she plays French horn. She's just mad 'cause she hasn't got anywhere to put her hand except her rear."

"Emmett!" everyone said, shocked; though they were all laughing hysterically, even Edward. Bella was grateful that Rosalie and Emmett had managed to make such a potential disaster disappear. Edward was still grinning when he climbed on his Stella scooter to go home after practice; the sight made Bella giddy.

Bella had become a regular fixture at the Cullen home, where Edward had introduced her to his family and had shown her his extraordinary talent as a pianist. Edward was also frequently at the Swan's house, where he often sweated under Charlie's watchful eye. Bella suspected that Charlie was comfortable with Edward being alone with Bella every afternoon because of Edward's nerdiness, but that didn't mean he was blind to Bella's reaction to Edward. Giving Edward the fatherly eye was the best way he had to make sure things didn't get out of hand when he wasn't there to supervise. She knew that her father really did like Edward; he just didn't want Edward to know that.

Bella smiled at the memory of the day that Edward had explained his relationship to the Cullens. He had very haltingly explained that Emmett and Alice were Carlisle and Esme's natural children. They were twins, and Esme had an especially difficult time carrying them. She had been devastated when they had found that she was unable to have any more children. Esme threw herself into being the best mother she could be to her extremely mischievous twins, but she could never get over the feeling that her house was just too empty. When Emmett and Alice had entered high school, the Cullens decided to open their home to foster children, hoping to adopt if they could. When Edward's social worker had seen their application requesting a child of any age, rather than just an infant or toddler, she had thrilled at the opportunity to place Edward with them. Even more so when she found that there were teens already in the home.

Edward had told Bella timidly that his parents had been in a car accident when he was twelve. His father had been killed instantly, though his mother had survived. She had been left severely mentally and physically handicapped, and lived for three years in an assisted living facility before she too passed away. Edward had no living relatives, leaving him in foster care for nearly four years. After his mother died, Edward came to live with the Cullens. His adoption had only become official a few weeks before the start of the school year. Edward had shyly shown Bella a framed childish drawing hanging in his room of a pair of stick-figures in a grassy field. It was his mother's last gift to him.

As much as Bella enjoyed spending time with Edward in the pit, she was grateful that they were preparing for the end of the marching season. The band didn't have the budget available to travel to the away games with the football team, but they were planning on traveling in just a week to the Veterans Day Marching Band Competition in Auburn, Washington. Edward had groaned about the long hours on the bus, but Bella wasn't about to complain about an opportunity to spend time with Edward away from Forks.

This morning, Bella had been worried because Edward hadn't been in school. Alice had explained that Edward had caught cold riding his Stella in the rain, and Esme had kept him at home in bed. It had been lonely in the Pit without him, and Bella was surprised at the depth of the reaction that she had to Edward's absence. It was all she could do to wait until school was out before driving over to the Cullen's house to check on her favorite xylophonist.

***

Edward was sure that he was dreaming. When he had failed to awaken to his alarm for the first time this marching season, Esme had come in to his room and stuck a thermometer in his ear before he had a chance to react otherwise. She had tut-tutted over his 101.6 temperature and confined him to bed. He had been huddled under his comforter ever since. But he could have sworn that he heard Bella's voice, speaking to Esme in his room. He thought he felt her hands in his hair, and he really thought he was taking this fever-induced hallucination a little far when he felt Bella's lips press to his forehead, checking his temperature, of course.

"He's still burning up, Esme," rang Bella's beautiful, melodic voice. Edward was certain now that he was dreaming. Bella had to be at school.

"Well, it's because he has been under that blanket all day with chills. We need to pull this blanket off and let his body release some of this heat," Esme said. Now, Edward was starting to wake up; Esme would definitely not be involved in a Bella-turning-down-his-blankets dream. He had to act quickly. He vaguely recalled feeling warm the night before and going to bed in only his I'd just as soon kiss a Wookie boxers rather than donning his customary flannel sleep pants and t-shirt.

Edward grasped his blankets to him, firmly holding them at his neck. His eyes flew open when he caught a whiff of a familiar strawberry scent. Bella and Esme stood at either side of his bed, and Esme was just reaching out to pull back the comforter.

"No!" he rasped in his dry, scratchy voice.

"Edward, sweetheart, we need to get you cooled down. You're reading over a hundred and two, and I think it's just because you're buried in the blankets, honey," Esme said in a motherly tone. Edward was aware that she meant business, even with the soothing tone she had used. Two endearments in as many sentences gave her away.

"Please, I know I have to cool down. Can you two give me a moment?" Edward flushed red as he said it, and even with his blurred vision, he noted Esme's eyebrows pulled together in concern at his ruddy complexion. He was worried that she would push further, but Edward wasn't about to admit to wearing Chewbacca boxers with Bella in the room. As if she didn't know he was nerd enough already. Course, she had seen the mint-condition-in-the-box action figures that were hung all over his walls, and the movie posters, and the sign on the door that proclaimed his room to be a hive of scum and villainy.

But, no, the boxers were out of the question, and neither Bella nor Esme had moved. Edward looked to Bella imploringly, begging her to understand his reluctance. His glasses were still on the side table though, and he was sure he was coming off as squinting more than begging.

"Mom…" he moaned, wishing that he could pull off Alice's special look, but sure that he was failing miserably. It didn't help that his head was pounding, and his throat was on fire. All he needed now was for his asthma to flare up and he was sure that Bella would forever consider him the nerdiest guy of her acquaintance. Preventing that was of course, dependent on her not seeing him in his boxers.

"We'll just head downstairs," Esme said, finally catching on. "Bella, let's go finish that chicken soup."

***

Bella was relieved when Edward got over his cold. She didn't want to face the prospect of the bus-ride to Auburn with the rest of the band without him. She and Esme both forbade him to ride his scooter in the cold winter rains. When he had pointed out that Alice (who normally transported Emmett and herself to school) only had a two-seater, Bella had jumped in offering to pick him up in her truck. She had been pleased when Edward stopped protesting the temporary retirement of his Stella.

They were expected in Auburn at 9:00 am this morning, necessitating a 5:00 AM call time to load onto the bus and get dressed in uniform and warmed up for their 10:00 AM show time. Bella had spent the night at the Cullen's to make things easier transportation wise. Esme was riding on the bus as a chaperone, and Charlie was bringing Carlisle after he got off of his shift at the hospital at 7:00 AM. Carlisle had promised Esme he wouldn't drive all that way without any sleep, and so Charlie had offered to drive him, much to Bella's surprise. She couldn't help but smile though, when Charlie had gruffly admitted that he wanted to see this show that Bella and Edward had worked so hard on.

And so it was that Alice, Emmett, Edward and Bella woke at 4:00 AM to have Esme drive them to the school where the bus was waiting. They immediately began loading the drums and pit instruments into the equipment van, and Edward took meticulous care to make sure that all the percussion instruments were secure for the drive to Auburn.

Selwick stood off to the side, hands on his ribs while Esme did a roll call as they all filed onto the bus. Esme gave Emmett a warning look as he and Rose sidled up holding hands.

"No funny business in the back this year, Emmett. If I hear any horns honking or see any appendages hanging out of any windows, you are in trouble," She warned him. Alice and Jasper each came forward, promising to reign in their respective twin. Esme gave them a look that clearly said I'll believe it when I see it. Edward and Bella were next, and Esme gave them a brilliant smile. "I can count on you two to keep everyone in line, right?"

"Yeah, Mom," Edward murmured.

"Of course, Esme," Bella agreed, and the two of them got on the bus and moved to the back where Emmett was holding seats for the percussion section.

"Mamma's boy and teacher's pet, what a match made in heaven," Lauren sneered from her seat half-way back. Bella and Edward pushed past her, and moved to keep Alice in her seat before Lauren required rhinoplasty round two.

Edward settled into the window seat against his pillow and Bella sat beside him. For the first half-hour of the ride, they sat straight in their respective spaces, listening to Edward's iPod while others around them started to doze. The rest of the percussion section was asleep, therefore they didn't see Bella finally drift off to sleep and slide over to lean into Edward's side as he slept against the side of the bus. Neither did they see Edward's arm pull her closer to him and hold her as they slept.

Esme didn't miss it though, nor did she resist sending an enthusiastic text to Carlisle.

***

When the bus pulled into Auburn a couple hours later, Edward woke to find Bella and the others around him pulling their band uniforms over their band shirts and shorts. Bella hadn't realized that he was awake yet; Edward took a moment to admire her out of the corner of his eye, beneath the cover of his hair. The gold Forks High Marching Band shirt wasn't flattering on very many people, but Bella's porcelain-and-rosy complexion and her mahogany hair only stood out more because of it. The midnight blue of the uniform pants hugged her slim waist and accentuated her feminine form. Edward could never recall caring about clothing more. On Bella anyways; he still couldn't really care about his own.

"Edward? We're here, you've got to get your uniform on," Bella said while giving his shoulder a shake. Edward feigned a jerk as though he had just woken up, and Bella didn't seem to notice that he had been awake already. When he caught Alice's eye though, he noticed that she had a knowing smirk on her face, and she raised her eyebrow at him. Edward merely shrugged his shoulders and gave a small, unrepentant grin. Alice burst out laughing, only to shrug off Jasper when he asked what was so funny.

Warm up seemed to go too fast; before he knew it, he and Bella were standing side-by-side at the rear of the two columns of the band. He carried his mallets arranged in his hands, with his arms crossed over his chest. Bella stood similarly, except she carried only the large felt mallet that she used with the suspended bass and the gong. Their pit was already set up at the sideline.

Victoria the drum major counted off; before they could worry any further, they were moving out of the tunnel and into the watchful gaze of the judges in the press box. Edward knew that this was what Bella was the most nervous about. Taking and leaving the field was the only time that she had to worry about her synchronization with the rest of the band, or about remaining on her feet.

"Left…left…left," Edward murmured under his breath to help her stay in-step. He could see her tension from the corner of his eye. This competition was much more stress-inducing than the home games that had only been attended by the residents of Forks and the opposing team's diehard fans.

Finally they were in the pit, and the band was taking their positions on the field. Edward could just make out Esme sitting in the steep stands in her gold band-mom sweatshirt. Carlisle sat beside her, and Chief Swan sat with a proud grin on his face. One last glance at Bella before the show started was all Edward needed to know that she was touched by Charlie's decision to come today.

Victoria stepped onto the raised drum major's platform and cued Bella. Edward had had to convince her that it wouldn't be wholly embarrassing and she had finally relented to ringing the gong at the beginning of each song. Thus, Bella began the show red-faced and shaking, but Edward was proud of her. She played her part exactly as he had taught her; she was counting carefully to keep on the proper beat with the suspended bass, while Edward played his xylophone, and on one song, the cymbals. Bella remembered every gong hit and every drum beat. Then it came time for their percussion feature. The rest of the band froze while the rest of the drum line came forward to surround the pit.

They performed their piece flawlessly. The bass line passed their sticks off to one another with flair, creating a visual element to their performance. Jasper and Rosalie did the same with their snares, executing perfect stick-work the entire time. Then the moment came for Edward's solo; he positioned his three pairs of sticks and readied himself for the complicated melody. As the drums thundered into silence, Edward's piece rang through the stadium, causing the spectators to erupt in cheers. The crowd didn't let up as the bass line and snares resumed their cadences and began their grand finale. When their feature came to a close and the band began their final song, the audience was on its feet.

As the final note began Bella hit the gong one last time, allowing it to echo into silence with the rest of their show. Edward had to fight to keep the stoic expression on his face until they were out of sight of the judges. He wanted to pick Bella up and swing her around, but he wasn't sure he could work up enough courage.

At last, they were off the field and behind the stands; everyone congratulated each other on a job well done. Edward was trying to psych himself out to grab Bella into a big hug, but Esme grabbed him before he could. He looked over in time to see Chief Swan giving Bella a fist bump.

***

Bella was rather disappointed to have to wait till the end of the day to find out their scores. She had been on such a high after they came off the field that it had been quite a downer to hear that. Especially after the early morning they had all had. Selwick was insistent that everyone stay in the stands in uniform for the other bands' shows, though he had relented and allowed them to at least unzip their uniform jackets. Edward sat beside her, fidgeting in his seat as much as he ever had, and giving her an occasional sidelong look when he thought she wasn't looking.

She had shared a good laugh with Alice before the show this morning when they both noticed Edward watching her get her uniform on. He had tried to be so stealthy about it, as though he thought he would offend Bella if she caught him looking. She didn't mind though; she figured she owed it to him for secretly sneaking a peek of the Chewbacca boxers he had tried so hard to hide. Edward's had been a very slow awakening over the last couple months. Bella was certain though, that Edward was nearly ready to acknowledge that she was, in fact, a girl.

Thank. Goodness.

The host band was just leaving the field a few hours later when the ball of nerves returned to Bella's stomach. The individual ratings for each band would be given first, and then the special awards would be given at the end.

Bella heard little else until Forks High School Marching Spartans…was announced over the loudspeaker. Edward's fidgeting beside her increased exponentially with the tension. It seemed an eternity before the announcer continued…receive a superior rating for their show Earth, Fire, and Water.

The whole band erupted into cheers; Forks High School hadn't received a superior rating in a marching band competition in at least fifteen years. Bella heard nothing else until she heard Victoria throw a fit for not receiving the special award for Best Drum Major. Bella knew that Rosalie had been hoping to receive the Best Percussion award; the entire drum line sat nervously waiting for the color guard winners to be acknowledged, so that their category could be announced. They all nearly slid out of their seats when the announcer said Forks High School, Best Percussion Performance with special commendation to soloist Edward Cullen.

At that point, Edward really did slide out of his seat. He sat there awestruck, before Emmett hauled him to his feet and gave him a hearty slap on the back that nearly had him on the floor again. Victoria scowled in Edward's direction as though it was his fault that she didn't receive Best Drum Major.

Bella couldn't wait any longer. She grabbed his uniform suspenders and yanked him towards her, mashing her lips to his. She had taken him so by surprise that she completely toppled them over into a pile of gangly limbs. It did seem that Edward was in fact cognizant of her gender; he began to kiss her back as soon as the air re-entered their lungs after they tumbled to the ground. Somehow, Bella had ended up on top of him, and she wasn't planning on getting up anytime soon.

"Bells, let the boy breathe."

Until then.

Bella pulled back from Edward; his glasses were askew and completely smudged with her cheek and nose prints. His hair stood on end and he had two wrinkled spots on his shirt where she had held the fabric fisted in her hands.

"Congratulations, Edward," Bella said with chagrin as she stood up. Edward just lay there, still somewhat stunned.

"Th-thanks," he managed after a moment. Then Emmett peeled him off of the floor.

"That was some show, Bella," Charlie remarked. It was implied that he wasn't referring to the show that the band had performed earlier.

"Thanks Dad," Bella said, red-faced.

"Anytime, Bells, anytime."

Edward shook himself from his shell-shocked state.

"Am I still allowed to come over after school?" he asked. Charlie took in his rumpled state and his flushed face.

"Not while I'm not there. You obviously can't tell her no…"

"Dad!" Bella protested, though the damage had been done. The rest of the drum line burst into raucous laughter while Esme and Carlisle gathered Edward into a group hug. Marching band may not have been her first choice; it wasn't even her second. But it had become so much more than two high school credits.

Edward broke away from his parents and shuffled over to Bella.

"When can I kiss you like that again?" he asked quietly. Bella smirked.

Definitely more than two credits.


A/N: Thank you Gleena and Justine Lark for reviewing this for me again and again, and making it that much better:) Thanks are also in order to Gleena for sharing a particularly awkward experience with a certain diseased science hall poster-project, and allowing me to use it to mortify poor Edward:) Special props go to the hubby as well, for suggesting the Chewbacca boxers;) Thanks, love.

I was a band-geek in high school. I marched for four years with a band a only a little bigger than the one portrayed here. It wasn't so bad, as I love music, but the early morning practices, the Friday night obligation from September-November, the bus rides to away games,and the weekends given up for competitions did get a bit old. In fact, as soon as I saw the contest for Googleward, my first thought was nothing gets more nerdy and awkward than marching band:)

Please review, and don't forget to vote before the 28th!

ebhg:)