A/N: Dear KCerena, I am so sorry this FGB oneshot has taken so long to deliver. Happy New Year! And that goes for the rest of you too!

Disclaimer: SMeyer owns, as well as Neal Israel, who wrote the screenplay for Real Genius.

I heartily apologize for what nonsense follows.


Real Chagrinius

So I was in the school auditorium, dazzling everyone with my amazing science fair project on mitosis, onion root cells, and laser-cats, when this mysterious guy in a suit showed up. Guys don't wear suits in Forks unless they're the stiff at an open-casket wake, you know? And even then it's not a real suit, just a one-sided dealio that ties in the back like a hospital gown. As you can imagine, all eyes were on the guy. Maybe he was a zombie. Maybe he was here to eat our brains. I was suddenly nervous, since I knew full well I had the biggest, tastiest brain in the entire auditorium, I mean, me with my laser-cats and shit. Jesus, people at my school couldn't even operate a bottle opener.

And wouldn't you know it, he zeroed in on me. See, I'm always right. Always.

Crap, crap, crap! I thought. Now I'll never win a Nobel Prize or have an element named after me! I hastily tried to rig one of the laser-cats to incapacitate the undead, but before I could switch the polarity based on carbon dioxide emissions, Suit Zombie Guy had grabbed my hand.

"I'm not organic or free range!" I screamed, twitching.

"Um, Miss Swan?" He had a particularly suave voice for a zombie. I wondered what the process was to mummify vocal cords, and what sort of sound waves might be produced when air passed through such a membrane.

"Hands off the brain," I mumbled, pulling away.

He smiled, not showing his teeth. It was kind of more like a grimace. "Miss Swan, I'm from Pacific Tech. We're offering you immediate transfer, full tuition scholarship, into our program in engineering. You'll be assisting me on a special project for which only a handful of upperclassmen have been selected. It's a great honor."

Not a zombie. So there was hope after all for Bellatonium (atomic weight: 6969).

"B-but I'm only fifteen," I stammered, blinking. Blinking's kind of my thing. I'm really awesome at it.

"Do you really want to spend another year and a half in this hellhole?" the man said, gesturing vaguely toward all the meatheads with their sad foaming volcano projects.

"I'm sorry; I didn't catch your name."

"Professor Jerry Aroaway."

"What kind of last name is 'Aroaway'? It sounds like a stain remover."

"Not all of us can have such pleasant, avian surnames, Miss Swan." He touched the fingertips of one hand to the other's, Mr. Burns-style. "So? Will you join my team? Will you fulfill your potential?"

I bit my lip in what I hoped was an alluring way and blinked at him beguilingly. "Where do I sign?"


Mom and Dad weren't too thrilled about my getting away. "But we'll miss prom! And that talk about birth control I've always wanted to have with you! I've been working on a special IUD diorama and everything," Mom wailed.

"Yes, that's horrifying," said my dad, chewing on his mustache. It was made of licorice, so he was always fiddling with it. Did I mention that earlier? He's got a weird medical condition where all his facial hair comes out licorice. But it's how the town knew to choose him as the sheriff. "He who hath the five o'clock shadow sweet and chewy lo like the nipples of heaven shall guide thee and bust all thine local meth labs," it says, plain as day, in the town charter.

What can I say? Forks is weird.

"I'll be home before you know it," I said, zipping up my last duffel bag and throwing it down the stairs. "Look at me, a fancy college co-ed!"


Pacific Tech was bigger than anything I'd ever seen in person, even that strip mall with the Target we drove a good six hours to that one time. My parents had finally driven away in their wood-paneled station wagon, my mom sobbing all the way, my dad offering her a few stray chunks of licorice from time to time. I was supposed to go to some freshman tea, but I was already lost. I figured I'd just go back to my dorm so I could change clothes and unpack.

When I got to my room, my suitcases were empty. My drawers were empty. Where was all my stuff? Then this pale older guy with eyes like pools of butterscotch-colored urine just opened the door and walked in, didn't even knock. He wouldn't look at me. He just scratched himself in the general balls area (which made an inexplicable tinkly chiming sound) and shuffled off into one of the closets. When I checked the closet a second later, he wasn't in there. This was some freaky shit right there. Is this what college was like? Or life outside of a small town?

I was still staring into the closet when I heard a noise behind me. I turned around to find the door open to the hall, and someone hanging, bat-like, upside down in the doorway.

"Hi! Would you be prepared if gravity reversed itself?"

"I, uhh," I began.

The woman righted herself, shaking her hair back into a perfect, shampoo-commercial-like poof. "The only thing I haven't figured out is how to keep the change in my pocket. No, I've got it—use my vagina as a coin purse."

I sputtered. "What if you have a nickel allergy?" I finally managed to say.

"Good point," she said. "I hadn't considered that. Maybe I'll invent a cream."

"So, um, I got here this morning and dropped off my stuff, and now I can't find it," I said in an attempt to change the subject from her vagina.

"You see, Isabella—it is Isabella, right?"

"Just Bella," I corrected automatically.

"Well, Isabella," she continued, ignoring me, "I used to be you. And lately I've been missing me, so I asked Aroaway if I could room with me again, and he said sure. So I put all your clothes away in the bottom drawer there—shirts, pants, plaid flannel, shoes—I had a little trouble with the tiny cactus so I threw it out. I'm Esme. But you can call me 'Mom.'"

"Whut?"

She ignored me, coming in for a big hug. "We are going to have so much fun!" she said as she squished me.

"I can feel your boobs," I said.

"Aren't they amazing? They're scientifically perfect."

"In what way?" I asked, slowly untangling myself from her slightly creepy embrace.

"I don't know; that's just what my quantum physics professor told me last semester."

"All righty then," I said, clearing my throat. Best not to stay alone with this Esme for too long. "I, um, have to go." I shut the door behind me before she could follow me out.

I avoided Esme for the rest of the day, which was actually pretty easy to do on such a big campus. The entire town of Forks could probably fit in the student center. I got winded walking to the lab to work on Dr. Aroaway's project—it was more than I walked in probably a month back home. Man, I was flabby.

I went into my assigned lab, and this big asshole waved me off. "Just leave the sandwiches and go."

"Excuse me?"

"Do you speak English?"

I just stared.

"If you're waiting for a tip, you can just turn around. We ordered those sandwiches, like, hours ago."

"Was I … supposed to bring sandwiches? Is this like some hazing thing?" There was so much I didn't understand about college.

The guy pushed his glasses up his nose. "You. Are. Worthless!"

"I … I'm supposed to work on Dr. Aroaway's project?" I offered.

The guy sputtered, eventually recovering enough to snort in contempt. "What, are you like the Doogie Howser of engineering?"

"I'm sorry, should I know who that is?"

"You're just an embryo, aren't you?" he sneered. "A brain-damaged embryo."

"Does this Doggie Whoever go here or something?"

I'd never before seen a guy slap his own forehead so loudly.

I was saved when Dr. Aroaway came into the room. "Ah, Miss Swan, I see you've found the lab." He looked at my tormentor. "Newton, this is Miss Swan, the brightest mind of her—as well as your—generation. No, you two are not of the same generation. And she's in charge of this project now."

"But … but Jerry," whined the pompous asshole.

"I've told you before, Newton—you don't get to use my first name."

I smiled smugly and cracked my knuckles. "All right, let's fix this hot mess." I thought I saw that Newton guy snarling at me, but it may have been a facial tic. "Have you considered using laser cats?" I began.


After a long afternoon in Dr. Aroaway's lab, I hurried back to my room to work on actual homework. It wasn't until my stomach started growling that I realized I'd missed dinner. There were vending machines in the lounge, so I figured I'd just eat some salty crap and get back to work.

I was digging in my pockets for loose change as I walked into the hallway, which was probably the reason I didn't notice the floor had become a solid sheet of ice. Predictably, I wiped out and fell hard on my ass. "The hell?" I muttered, trying to stand back up.

Esme came running—skating, rather—over to me. Of course she'd be behind this. She reached out a hand to help me up. "Welcome to Pacific Tech. Smart people on ice. Let's go skating."

"I don't know, Esme—I've still got a lot of homework …"

"EVERYONE MUST BE SKATING!" She flung me out so I spun in a circle before falling flat on my ass again.

As I sat, the cold seeping right through the seat of my jeans, I noticed a girl with the bounciest, shiniest golden curls I'd ever seen. She was wearing goofy aviator goggles and sitting in a sled at the top of the stairs someone had covered with a ramp. After she gave a thumbs up, two people gave her a push, and she came hurtling down the stairs. It looked super cool at first, but then she totally wiped out and fell out of the sled. It looked painful—possibly dangerous—so I picked my way across the ice to see if she needed help. I would have run, but my butt was getting pretty sore from the constant falling.

"Hey, are you okay?" I asked, reaching out my hand as she took off her goggles and shook out her bouncy, bouncy hair.

Her voice was surprisingly low as she spoke a mile a minute. "No, not emotionally, no I'm not. I'm disappointed, not terribly, but still. It should have gone much further, much faster. It's okay though; I know what the problem is. It's obviously the drag co-efficient." She stopped talking long enough to flip the sled back over. "I just have to fix the blades. I can do that, no problem. I could do that here, but for their design I have to cut them, and that takes tools." She looked at me, finally noticing that she didn't know me. "What's your name?"

"Isabella Swan—I mean, just Bella."

"Oh, thank you for your help. Okay, I'll see you later. Okay, bye."

She turned abruptly and began pushing the sled away. I asked Esme, "Who was that girl?"

Esme snorted, covering her mouth with her hand. God, was she always high or something?

The curly-haired girl came back. "I'm Jasper. I forgot to tell you my name. I'm Jasper. I heard there was going to be someone new this term—are you it?"

"Yeah," I said. Jasper? What kind of girl's name was Jasper? And why did she have such big manhands? And that large Adam's apple? And a weird bulge in her jeans? Oh. Oh. I looked at her—his—hair again. Wow, that coif was unfortunate.

Jasper asked, "Do you have a bed?"

"Yeah." I coughed. Was he coming onto me?

"I was gonna make you one if you didn't have one. But you have, okay. Okay, I'll see you later. Okay, bye." He waved a hand awkwardly at me and left again.

It was weird; while he was here, I felt all jittery, like I'd just slammed back six or seven espressos, and my brain was humming like squirrels busily chattering. As soon as he left, though, I was normal again. "He was going to make me a bed?" I asked Esme, who was still snickering.

"He kind of never sleeps, like, ever, so he's very … productive," she shrugged, still laughing. "Oh my god, I can't believe you thought he was …"

I cut her off, already embarrassed at my mistake. "Come on, is hair like that normal? I mean, I could even understand a mullet, but what the fuck? He's like Shirley Temple on speed."

Esme put on a stern expression. "You have to understand, Jasper is the most recent to adopt our lifestyle … it's hard for him. So if he finds it more comfortable to grow this horrible puffball hair and suddenly adopt a Civil-War-era southern accent he's never exhibited before, we should be supportive of his coping mechanisms." She melted again into a fit of giggles. "I'm sorry, I totally set you up. His hair confuses everyone. The odd thing is that his hair looked pretty normal freshman year. Sophomore year it started to get bizarre and floofy to the point where we wondered if it was a wig, and then this September he showed up with that goofy accent."

"Has anyone talked to him about it? Maybe the guy needs help."

Esme shrugged. "You just saw him. You want to try to tell him anything more than 'hi' and 'bye'?"

"Does he make you, you know, nervous?" I asked. "Like, when he's spazzing out all around you?"

"You noticed that too? Some days I'm convinced he's an empath, but for hyperactivity."

"That could be useful during finals," I mused.

"Molto bene! I like the way you think, Swan," Esme said. "Now who wants a hug?"

Crap, I was going to fall on the ice again trying to outrun her.


I'd been at Pacific Tech for about a month, and mostly it was going well. That guy Newton continued to be a gigantic pill. I had no idea what crawled up his butt and died, but it probably had pointy teeth and sharp talons. Esme hadn't stopped invading my personal space, but I'd grown rather fond of pulling away from her strange, maternal urges—it was like a fucked up, nonsexual roommate tango. Dr. Aroaway seemed awfully tense about building his prototype on some schedule. Maybe it had something to do with the terms of his grant. Whatever the reason, his temper was practically uncontrollable. Anything could set him off. I wondered if the thing that had crawled up Newton's butt and died had mysteriously resurrected, crawled into Dr. Aroaway's butt, and died again.

In other news, Jasper's hair was inexplicably fluffier and more fake looking. One morning, I was taking care of my morning pee when I heard clomping footsteps echo on the tile of the floor bathroom.

"This stall is occupied," I said, doing that territorial coughing thing.

"Oh good morning!"

Was that Jasper? In the girls' bathroom? "I thought I saw you come in here. It's me, Jasper. We met the other day, out in the hallway? I had a sled? Oh, here, I made you a sweater last night."

He threw the sweater over the stall. It was lumpy and strange, much like this encounter.

"You knit this last night?" I asked, trying to sound polite and not at all freaked out.

"Yeah, it's just something I do with my hands. I hope I got the size right. I can check on it when you're done in there. I'm pretty sure I did. I have a twin sister, and I use her for a sizing comparison, and I have a pretty good eye for that kind of thing, and so I just went ahead and made you one, because, you know, I was up. Are you peeing?"

"I was, yeah."

"Oh. I never sleep; I don't know why. I had a roommate and I drove him nuts. I mean really nuts. They had to take him away in an ambulance and everything. But he's okay now. But he had to transfer to an easier school. But I don't know if that had anything to do with being my fault. But listen, if you ever need to talk or anything because I'm just a couple doors down from you guys and I never sleep, okay?"

Since that morning he'd knit me several sets of footie pajamas and cozies for all of my textbooks. He'd also made me a chainmail shirt. Seriously, that guy never slept. It was rather troubling.

And that pale guy with the pools of urine eyes still showed up randomly, wordlessly slipping into my closet and disappearing. Once I tried to ask Esme about him, but she'd just asked me if I wanted her to give me a bikini wax. I thought I saw him oiling the hinges on my closet door one night, but I was half asleep and not sure if I'd just dreamed the whole thing. Some nights I had this weird feeling that I was being watched, even while I was dreaming. I imagined him sitting on my desk chair and watching me sleep. Frankly, it was kind of creepy, him and his pools of urine eyes. Why doesn't that guy hang out with Jasper? They could play cards or something, I'd think as I'd drift off to sleep.

So all in all, it was your typical fifteen-year-old-goes-to-college experience, I supposed. I mean, what did I know? My dad had licorice growing out of his face.

It was after I'd opened my eyes in the middle of the night to find that guy sniffing my hair that I thought I'd risk a roommate-administered bikini wax. "Did you know there's a guy living in our closet?"

Esme sighed. "You've seen him too?"

"He watches me when I sleep. I think. Who is he?"

"That's Edward Cullen."

"Why does he keep going into our closet?"

Esme countered, "Why do you keep going into our closet?"

"To get my clothes, but that's not why he goes in there."

She snorted. "Of course not. He's twice your size; your clothes would never fit him. Plus I doubt he's a transvestite. I mean, he's kind of fruity, but not in that way."

"Well, this has been illuminating," I said. "Thanks."

"Now how about that bikini wax? I'll make it a Brazilian for free. I don't mind getting into your asscrack if it'll make you happy."

"Umm, my pubes are good for now, thanks."

Esme furrowed her brow. "If you say so." She didn't sound so convinced. "Listen, I have to stop by Dr. Aroaway's house. I'll see you later."

When she had left, I decided to take matters into my own hands. I opened the closet door, pushed all the clothes to one side, and peered around. I'd done this countless times before. I ran my hands along the walls, trying to find some latch or secret passageway. On a whim, I stepped inside and shut the door all the way. A tiny panel opened, with a sign that said, "This is it. You are my life now." Well, that wasn't creepy at all. No, sir.

Because I have the best instincts ever, I followed the sign to a small metal car. It looked like a miniature silver Volvo. I climbed in, fastening the seatbelt, because I'm not an idiot. After a short ride down, the car stopped in a dark tunnel. I thought I could hear Debussy. I crept down the tunnel toward a dim light. I heard a scuffle, snarling, and Debussy. When I finally reached the end of the tunnel, I saw this Edward Cullen grappling with what looked to be a mountain lion. He batted the lion from hand to hand like it was a ball of string. With a swift move, he snapped the lion's neck and bit into it. He actually said, "Om nom nom nom," as he slurped away. I knew some people liked their meat rare, but I was still puzzled. I mean, where did he even find a mountain lion? And why was he listening to Debussy? Actually, the Debussy part was less weird than the mountain lion part. Focus on the mountain lion. How'd he even sneak that thing into the dorms? Like, through my room? Of course, this would explain that one morning I found all my panties shredded to bits on the floor.

I suddenly felt like I was intruding on something really private between Edward Cullen and this mountain lion, so I rode the tiny silver Volvo back up to my closet to give him some space. I needed to get to the lab anyway.


Things in the lab weren't going well. The laser cats kept coughing up hairballs, stuff was smoking randomly, and my patience was wearing thin. Esme was supposed to be the expert on the circuitry and parabolic focusing shit, and she was always goofing off. I couldn't even remember the last time she'd made an appearance at the lab. I was pushing the heels of my hands into my eyeballs. I had no idea what time it was, but I hadn't eaten in hours and all my joints were creaking like I was the fucking tin man.

I was lying with my forehead against one of the work tables when I heard the door to the lab fly open.

"Here's … Esme!" she shouted, holding a fire axe in her hands.

Great, she'd finally lost it. And she was going to murder me. I welcomed death.

"God, you didn't even jump. You're no fun."

"Sorry, Esme, but I was too busy working on this shitty laser that won't work, and we're out of Fancy Feast for the laser cats, and …" I couldn't even finish; I was so annoyed at her slacking.

"I'm here now, pumpkin! Does someone need a hug?"

"No! Jesus! Just make this goddamn laser work!"

"All right, all right, keep your panties on," she said. "I mean, unless you're finally going to take me up on that offer to wax your pubes."

"What is your fascination with my general pubic area?"

"Self-centered much? It's everyone's pubic area. I'm like Johnny Appleseed, but for pubic hair trimming. I consider it my life's mission. I'll also cut the existing pubes into a pleasing brontosaurus shape, or other dinosaur of your choosing."

I fastened my safety goggles. "Can we please get back to the laser?"

"Right, right." Esme strapped on her goggles as well. "All right, fire this baby up. Give it full power. I have a feeling. I did some 'adjustments' while you were in the bathroom."

We got behind the protective wall, and I turned the power on. There was a humming, then a huge flash of light, and then a really bad smoked cat smell. Then all the lights went out. "Oh, crap," I said.

"Relax, it's just the fuses at the substation. They'll have it back on in a minute. Perhaps I shouldn't have shorted across the building transformer. But, more importantly, did we get a charge?" Esme flipped a switch, and the laser came on, bouncing off mirrors I hadn't noticed in the room before.

"What did you do?" I asked as Esme started pushing me out the door. "Wait, where are we going?"

"Come on, little monster pubes! You said you wanted help, so here we go."

"Help" turned out to be a party she'd set up with the local chapter of Chippendale dancer apprentices. It was wall-to-wall oiled hardbodies. I gulped hard and tugged on Esme's sleeve. "I don't think this is going to help with the prototype."

"Sure it is, honey! You just need a hot protein injection. That'll get those neurons firing!" She pushed me into a pile of gyrating men.

"I'm not sure these guys … like … girls," I hissed.

"That's okay," she said, guiding my hands onto some stranger's extremely muscular buttocks. "Didn't you know that nothing is hotter than seeing a bunch of guys make out and act like emotional girls?"

"I'm very uncomfortable right now!" I squeaked. I ran into the hallway, where I ran into Jasper, who was wearing a mesh tank top. "Oh, hey, Jasper," I said. "Why aren't you out there?"

"Despite what you may have read about me on the Internet, I'm not gay. I mean, not that there's anything wrong with that, you know? There are all these stories floating around about me and that guy living in your closet? That Cullen guy? And how I teach him the joys of anal? Well, I don't know where they get that, but I've never even seen him naked. I mean, never even touched myself while thinking of him. I MEAN, I'm nineteen, and I'm brilliant, and I'm hyper kinetic, and I have this authentic Civil-War-era accent. So guys find me fascinating. Probably if I stopped to think about it I'd be upset. Or flattered. Or turned on. Or, oh jeez! Wait for me, guys!" He flailed around and ran right into the pile of dudes I'd just escaped.

"Swan!" I heard behind me. That didn't sound like Esme at all. I turned around. Shit, Dr. Aroaway.

"H-hi, Dr. Aroaway. What brings you here?" Just then I noticed Newton standing behind him with a smug expression on his face.

"Swan! You were supposed to be in the lab tonight, working."

I combed my fingers through my hair, which was all greasy from the Chippendale apprentices' body lube. "I was! I just got …"

"You're at Pacific Tech to work, not to play doctor," Dr. Aroaway snapped.

"I was working! I just got delayed."

He gave me a withering glance. "I took a big chance recommending a fifteen year old. I can see now that I made a mistake. I hope you're proud of yourself." He turned on his heel and stormed out of there. I could have sworn I heard the Imperial Death March.

I realized then that the music had stopped and everyone was staring at me. Laughing, even. Shamed and feeling guilty, I ran all the way back to the lab. I picked up the office phone and called my parents.

"Mom? I want to come home."

Nothing on the other line.

"Mom? Are you still there?"

Finally she started talking. "Baby? You sound upset. What's wrong?"

"I don't like it here anymore, Mom. I want to come home and live with you."

I talked to her a little bit, but she was surprisingly unsympathetic. I hung up the phone and sobbed silently before returning to the lab and sitting in the dark until I saw the sun come up. Might as well go to breakfast.

I stared morosely into my oatmeal. Esme suddenly appeared, pulling out the chair opposite me and sitting down. "Where were you last night?" she asked.

"In the lab, where you were supposed to be."

Just then the PA crackled to life. The voice sounded familiar. The voice … shit, the voice was me!

"Mom? Mom, are you there?"

"Baby, you sound upset. What's wrong?"

"Mom, I don't like it here anymore. I want to come home and live with you.

"It's not for you to like. It's for you to do. You're fifteen years old now."

"But I want to come home and live with you!"

Who had recorded my call last night?

"You want to live with me and Daddy?"

"Yeah, and Dad too. I want to go back to high school."

There was a lot of snickering around me, the loudest coming from Newton and his cronies. It figured, the prissy little bastard.

"Winners never quit, Bella. Plus, I already converted your room to my workshop."

"What?"

"Well, we had all this extra licorice around, and I've always wanted to start my own mail-order confectionary—it just seemed like the right time."

"Why can't I sleep in the workshop? I'll just put my sleeping bag on the floor! I don't want to stay here anymore!"

"Now, Bella! That doesn't sound like Mama's little deputy."

By now the laughing had gotten so loud that it was drowning out the phone call. I abandoned my oatmeal and ran to my room as fast as my legs would take me. I grabbed suitcases and started throwing my shit in them. I had to get out of here.

"Well, if you want to leave, go ahead. But, uh, you're gonna miss the fun."

God, Esme had a way of sneaking up on a person.

"What fun?" I mumbled. "The other night I needed your help and all you wanted to do was party!"

"I did help you," she insisted. "I tried to help you relax."

"Being snubbed by gay exotic dancers-in-training is not my idea of relaxing."

"No?"

"You know, I thought this place was going to be different. But it's just the same! In high school they stuffed me in a mailbox. Did I tell you that?"

Esme sat on the edge of my bed. "My teachers used to hate me because I was smarter than they were. Students hated me because I blew the grading curve. Does that sound familiar? Isabella, I used to be just like you. My mother used to dress me in white shirts and Hush Puppies and made me carry a briefcase guaranteeing that a guy would never talk to me. And when I first came here, for three years I studied all the time."

"You?" I couldn't picture it.

"Yeah. And then one night I was sitting right over there, and I had a vision."

"Of what?"

"Cullen."

"That pale guy in the closet?"

"Edward fucking Cullen. And I followed him into the closet and down into the steam tunnels, and there I saw the most disgusting thing I have ever seen in my life."

"Did you see mountain lions too?"

"I may have."

"I don't understand what this has to do with me."

"Have you ever talked to him?"

I thought back to the mountain lion and the "om nom nom" sounds. "He seemed kind of busy."

"Well, he used to be the number one stud around here in the 1940s. Smarter than you and me put together."

"1940s? He doesn't look older than twenty!"

"Well, he's a vampire. They don't age."

"Wait, what?"

"Do you want to hear this story or not? It's extremely enlightening."

I groaned. "Fine. So what happened? Did he crack?"

"Yes, Isabella. He cracked, severely."

"Why? And say 'crack' again."

"He loved his work. Crack."

"Well, what's wrong with that?" I was still trying to wrap my brain around the part where that guy in the closet was a vampire.

Esme put her arm around me. "There's nothing wrong with that, but that's all he did. He loved solving problems; he loved coming up with the answers. But he thought that the answers were the answer for everything. Wrong. All science, no philosophy. So then one day someone tells him that the stuff he's making was killing people. Also, his being a vampire was also killing people. He had a wicked human blood tooth back then, before he switched over to an all-animal diet."

"So what's your point? Are you saying I'm going to end up in a steam tunnel? And a vampire?" I added.

"Yeah."

"I'm going to turn into a vampire? That doesn't make any scientific sense."

"Look, if you keep up like this, Isabella, I can't guarantee that you won't become a vampire and go on a student eating spree. But you don't need to run away from here. When you're smart, people need you. Use your mind creatively."

"Like, in honing my pubic hair trimming skills?"

Esme grinned. "Bingo."

"Yeah, but if I stay, what should I do?"

"The first thing you should do is get even with Newton. It's a moral imperative."

I smiled for the first time in days.


In the end, it was extremely easy—just set up a secret webcam in his dorm room. That Newton kid was sick. There was nothing he wouldn't masturbate into, including a wad of Silly Putty onto which he'd pressed the image of Mickey Rooney. Mickey Rooney, really? A few student-body-wide emails with choice video files attached, and I felt pretty good about myself. Newton didn't leave his room for days, and when he finally did, he discovered the pile we'd left for him of Silly Putty eggs, adult diapers, jars of mayonnaise, and other items we'd seen him jack off into.

I felt sorry for the guy, almost.

Almost.

And Esme really stepped up and helped me finish the prototype. We actually got the fucker working, and when we brought Dr. Aroaway in for a demo, he actually patted me on the back. "Good work, Swan."

Esme and I were out celebrating our success with a burger. We toasted each other with milkshakes. She took a big sip through her straw, put her cup down, and said, "Edward."

I turned around and saw that pale guy from the closet standing behind me.

Esme smiled and said, "Edward, I'm so glad you came out. You want a hamburger?"

I hissed, "He's a vampire! Isn't that rude, to offer him food?"

Edward spoke for the first time since I'd gotten to Pacific Tech. "I've been thinking about your laser solution."

"Oh yeah?" said Esme, leaning forward and pushing her boobs onto the table.

"I figure you've increased the power output to six megawatts?" he asked, ignoring her boobs.

"Yeah, about that," Esme said, fluffing up her boobs again.

"Well, what would you use that for?" asked Edward. I couldn't stop looking at his urine-colored eyes.

Finally I said, "The applications are unlimited."

Edward looked chagrined. "No. With the fuel you've come up with the beam would last for … what? Fifteen seconds? What good is that?"

"Edward, honey," began Esme, "that doesn't matter. I mean, respect you, but I graduated."

"Yeah, let the engineers figure out a use for it," I agreed. "That's not our concern."

Edward looked pained. "Maybe somebody already has a use for it. One for which it is specifically designed."

"You mean Dr. Aroaway had something in mind all along?" Esme asked.

More chagrin. "Look at the facts! Very high powered, portable, limited firing power, unlimited range. All's you'd need is a tracking system and a large spinning mirror, and you could vaporize a human target from space."

Esme and I looked at each other.

"This is not good," Esme said.

We paid our bill, and the three of us ran to the lab. The laser was gone—it was as if it had never even existed.

"No," said Esme.

"Oh, no," I said.

Esme ran into the side room and came back, looking slightly seasick. "The tracking system Newton built is gone."

"I can't believe Aroaway lied to us!" I said.

"It's easy to lie to you, Isabella. You trust people. I'm a cynic. I'm such an asshole."

Edward spoke. I'd nearly forgotten he was there. "I understand how you feel, Esme. And you're right. But what we should be doing now is trying to find out what he's doing."

"Wait, can't you read minds?" Esme asked.

"Oh, right," said Edward. He closed his eyes and concentrated. "Oh, he's going to the Department of Defense with it. Okay, he's going to meet them in a secret military compound now to show them the prototype."

"He can read minds?" I said.

"Yeah, didn't I mention that?"

"Uh, no."

"Well, he can."

I turned to Edward. "What am I thinking?"

He scoffed. "Well, I can't read your mind. Because you're a freak. Also, you smell delicious."

"Can we make out now?" I asked.

He thought for a minute. "Okay," he agreed, shrugging.

"You taste like mountain lion balls," I said.

"Um, guys?" Esme interrupted. "Shouldn't we be getting that laser back?"

"Oh, right," we said, wiping our mouths.

With Edward's mindreading capabilities, it was easy to find Dr. Aroaway. "Wait, what's our plan?" I asked as we drove into the compound.

"Well," Esme whispered, "I thought we could try to redirect the trajectory of the beam so the demo will appear not to have worked. And maybe we could direct the laser to Dr. Aroaway's house, which we could have pre-filled with popcorn kernels, since he really hates the smell of popcorn."

"That sounds complicated," I said. Edward just parked behind some bushes and cut the engine.

"Here, put these on," said Edward, pulling out some white labcoats.

"Ooh, secret espionage mission!" I said.

"Um, yes, something like that," he said, avoiding eye contact.

He led us through some buildings and tunnels until we were in a large room with Dr. Aroaway, a bunch of military dudes, and the laser. "Okay, so what do we do now?" I asked, crouching down behind some garbage cans.

"Wait here," he told us.

I was expecting some major stroke of brilliance, but all I saw was a vaguely Edward-shaped blur. He was gone, and so fast that even my pubic hairs were blown back. "What the hell is he doing?" I asked Esme. She just shook her head.

We could hear the clanging and twisting of metal, glass shattering, noses punched, and a lot of profanity on the part of Dr. Aroaway. Then something picked me up roughly, and I was flying through the air.

"Edward?" I asked once I'd caught my breath. Everything was jiggling: my vision, my boobs, Esme's boobs. He had us pinned under each of his arms, and he was running back to the car.

"Get in, hurry!" he said when he dumped us on the ground next to his car. I had newborn colt legs for a while, so he ended up just opening the door and placing me carefully inside like a doll in a dollhouse.

Once we were inside and speeding away, I asked, "So, why exactly did we need these labcoats?"

"I like labcoats. They're very hygienic."

"So what's going to happen now?" I massaged my belly, which now bore a distinctively vampire-arm-shaped bruise.

"Oh, I destroyed the laser, punched out the DoD guys, and castrated Aroaway. It was so fast he probably didn't notice. It's all good."

"Did we really need to be here? Me and Esme, I mean."

"Eh, probably not," Edward admitted. "But I feel … very … protective of you."

"Have you been watching me sleep at night?"

Edward twitched a little. "Um. What? Ha ha, that sounds creepy! Who would do that?"

"You, maybe?"

Esme whispered, "Awkward!"

"I HAVE A PRIVATE ISLAND, YOU KNOW," Edward yelled suddenly.

"Weren't we talking about you spying on me while I sleep?"

"SOMETIMES I BITE PILLOWS."

"Are you uncomfortable, Esme?" I asked. "I'm a bit uncomfortable."

"YOU'RE MY SPECIAL BRAND OF HEROIN!"

"Umm, can you let me out here?" I asked.

"I'M A MONSTER!"

"Really, here is good. I can walk the rest of the way." I rattled the door latch.

"I HAVE A RING THAT LOOKS LIKE A CHEESE GRATER. IT BELONGED TO MY MOTHER. I WOULD LIKE TO GIVE IT TO YOU."

"Anywhere is fine, really."

"I DIED OF SPANISH INFLUENZA."

I looked at Esme, who shrugged. "He gets like this sometimes. Don't worry about it."

"I KILLED THEM LIKE ANIMALS! THE WOMEN AND CHILDREN! I KILLED YOUNGLINGS!"

"Dude, I think that's Anakin," I said.

"He can't really hear you right now," said Esme.

"DO NOT WANT!"

"Is he going to swallow his tongue?"

"He hasn't before."

"CAN'T READ MY! CAN'T READ MY! NO HE CAN'T READ MY POKER FACE!"

It was going to be a long ride back.

"Do you have your bikini wax kit with you?" I asked Esme.

"Do I!" She started rummaging around her backpack.

I hitched up my skirt. "Can you do like a T-rex with really tiny arms? And he's holding a martini?"

Esme peered at my junk. "Did anyone ever tell you your pubes are made of licorice?"

Son of a bitch!