A/N: If you like stories about quiet, shy, uncertain Edward and enjoy the process that usually involves Bella and the rest of the gang breaking him out of his shell, you might like this one. At least I hope you will. *grin*
**All recognizable characters and situations are the property of their respective owners, in this case Stephenie Meyer, for the most part.
I, myself own very little besides what my imagination is able to conjure up. So now, on to the good stuff.
Bella trudged slowly up the stairs, her sleep fogged brain unable to comprehend the exact time of day or this odd need she'd suddenly developed for peanut butter. The only thing she knew for sure was that she was happy that she managed to make it up to the ground floor, only stubbing her toes twice—quite an accomplishment for her.
She wasn't really sure how many times she'd already thanked the powers that be for Alice's insistence that she be allowed the top floor bedroom, but Bella was indeed thankful yet again that she only had to worry about tripping up the stairs and not tumbling down them in what was her normal groggy morning condition. After years of living with her clumsy self she knew that the disaster potential always went down significantly when you could take gravity out of the equation.
Now safely standing at the top of the stairs she slid her glasses, which had been held loosely in her left hand during her ascent, into place as her face split into a jaw-popping yawn.
"Peanut butter." She quietly reminded herself before she set out across the room in hopes of finding said peanut butter and escaping back to her little bubble of happiness known as her bed for a few more hours.
Bella's head snapped up hearing the unexpected sound. No longer interested in watching her feet, she was surprised to see an unknown body lying on their sofa.
Blinking rapidly in an attempt to control the immediate rush of adrenaline and get her brain to focus, Bella slowly approached the covered form before her. She didn't know what to think, but it seemed that her brain was only interested in the very worst scenarios.
There was a pale yet well muscled arm dangling out from under the blanket that was usually draped over the back of her favorite chair, but that was all she could see of the individual, as the blanket did a good job of hiding everything else. Upon further inspection she noted a generous amount of dark hair covering said arm and a large capable hand attached to the end. This was no doubt a man, and by the look of things one that she truly did not know.
Bella was stuck for a moment wondering what she should do. Flee the room and pretend she'd not seen him here? Go upstairs and alert Alice? Wake the man and send him on his way?
She was seriously considering option one, never having been one for any sort of confrontation, when she heard another noise coming from the kitchen. Fortunately this provided her with a reasonable alternative that she gladly embraced.
Upon entering the kitchen Bella could hardly control her reaction. When she saw Alice flitting about at this godforsaken hour, happy as she believed she'd ever seen her, she began to ponder some very unsettling possibilities.
"Alice!" she whisper-yelled.
Alice turned with a radiant grin.
"Shh Bella, I don't want you to wake Edward." She said quietly, silently clapping her hands in her usual giddy fashion.
"Edward?" Bella became furious in a second. Alice knew this man on their sofa?
"No. We wouldn't want to wake Edward." She sarcastically agreed. "What the hell are you thinking Alice? Is Jasper suddenly not good enough for you?" Bella began to rant, her voice rising with each word. "I have half a mind to call him up and tell him…"
"Bella!" Alice quickly interrupted allowing her voice to rise as well.
Bella paused watching Alice take a deep breath.
She was suddenly livid, a condition she was extremely unfamiliar with. How could Alice do this to someone as sweet and sincere as Jasper? Wasn't she aware of just how perfect they were together—how completely that man adored her?
"Edward." Alice said patiently now, in a much quieter tone. "My brother, Edward."
Recognition instantly flashed in Bella's eyes.
God how could she have jump to such a ridiculous conclusion? Alice was completely head over heels in love with Jasper and Bella had never seen a couple so in love. To think that Alice would have jeopardized such a relationship with some random fling, as Bella had accentually been about to insinuate was unimaginable.
"Oh Alice, I'm so sorry for…" but Bella didn't get to finish the apology either; this time she was interrupted by the most wonderful sound her ears had ever had the pleasure of knowing.
"Morning." Was all he said. His voice was still thick with sleep and slightly gruff sounding.
Was it truly morning? Bella wasn't entirely sure because she was having the most difficult time convincing herself that she wasn't still dreaming. That arm, the arm she'd so intimately viewed just moments ago, was attached to the most wonderful specimen of a man she'd ever laid eyes on.
His hair was standing on end, pointing every direction; his clothes were rumpled and much of his face was stamped with the imprint from where he'd laid against the sofa cushion, but in her mind he was the most beautiful person she'd ever seen.
This man couldn't possibly be Edward Cullen; Alice's elusive older brother whom Bella had heard about for years now but had never had the pleasure of meeting. Alice's brother was an awkward boy with merely average looks. The pictures she'd seen of Alice's family portrayed her brother as somewhat tall, with glasses and usually an indifferent expression, one that Bella secretly believed was meant to appear indulgent for Alice's benefit, as he was usually pictured by her side but apart from everyone else.
As much as she'd like to deny it however she couldn't seem to get the memory of his unique hair color and those startlingly, vibrant green eyes out of her mind. The man before her was indeed that boy she'd seen pictured with her best friend, there could be no mistake.
"Morning sleepyhead!" Alice squealed, launching her petite frame into the arms of the barely awake man standing in their kitchen.
"Edward, I'm so glad you're up. I want you to meet my best friend in the whole world, Bella. Bella, this is my big brother, Edward!"
Alice's enthusiasm could rarely be matched and Bella was beginning to feel slightly overwhelmed, particularly when Edward's brilliantly colored eyes, now looking more familiar to her from behind the pair of glasses he'd put in place—likely during her internal monologue, landed on her for the first time with some sense of recognition.
Under his brief inspection, she was abruptly reminded of her state of dress. She'd only been looking for a jar of peanut butter, not the most impressive sex god this side of the Mississippi, she tried to reason with herself. Could fate not cut her just a little bit of slack for once?
"I uhh…I'll…umm," his semi-statement was rushed and uncomfortable at best before he looked at Alice with a sense of urgency, rushing out of the room; an unintelligible string of profanities followed him, by the sound of it, if Bella's ears could be trusted.
Bella looked at her friend with a startled expression, her mouth moving without a sound as she tried to make some sense of what had just happened.
"Is he…?" she tried to ask.
"Shy? Yeah, painfully so." Alice explained without further prompting, a look of disappointment marring her features now.
"I'm sorry for that; I'm just so excited that he's home finally and he came here late last night wanting a place to crash." She offered by way of an explanation seeing just how uncomfortable Bella had become.
"It's fine. I just wanted to grab a snack then head back downstairs. Don't let me get in the way." Bella went to the cupboard in search of the peanut butter and discreetly tried to straighten the haystack upon her head as she did so, thinking her appearance was most likely more than enough to send any grown man running.
"Bella, this is your home too. He's just gonna have to get over this ridiculous aversion to people he's got and learn to deal if he wants to see me." Alice explained.
"Thing is he's been living out in the middle of nowhere for a long time and he doesn't get out much. I sort of neglected to tell him last night in all of my excitement that I had a roommate. I'm sure he was just startled to see someone else here is all." She looked truly apologetic for the first time ever.
Though she didn't fully understand Bella couldn't really find it within herself to be upset.
"Alice, it's fine. He's your brother after all. I could always go and visit Charlie for a few days if it would make things any more comfortable for him." She offered.
"Don't you dare! I've been waiting years for the two of you to meet and just because my brother is a big dumb chicken does not mean that we can't all be in this house together at the same time."
Bella sat down at the breakfast bar and looked at her hands for a moment.
"He's changed." Looking up to see Alice smiling down at her she tried to clarify. "From the pictures I mean, he doesn't look the same."
"Most of the pictures I've shown you were from when we were kids, Bella. He's a grown man now. Of course he's changed."
Bella was thoughtful for a moment. She didn't miss the subtle smile that danced around with Alice's words. Was she going to try and fix her up with her brother? He was beyond beautiful that was for sure. She'd never be able to deny some sort of physical attraction to him, but he had made his feelings clear enough with his abrupt exit just moments ago. She knew she wasn't at her best but even then she was hardly anything special. Alice could instigate all she liked, Bella knew better than to believe a man as beautiful as Edward would ever be interested in a woman such as herself.
"By the way, you need to stop internally degrading yourself please." Alice went on to inform Bella with an all-knowing look.
"I wasn't…" Bella was about to deny but she thought better of it when she saw Alice discreetly raise an eyebrow.
"Fine, but can you blame me Alice? I wasn't even awake until like five minutes ago and suddenly there's a man standing in this kitchen that I've never met before and you know I'm not good with new people." Bella knew that she was pouting but she really thought that Alice knew her better than that. Maybe it was because she was his sister that she didn't see the over all appeal that he might hold for someone.
"Bella, my dear brother is the most ridiculously intelligent, handsome, and frustratingly stubborn man I've ever known."
Ok so maybe Alice did see his appeal, but stubborn? Bella wondered.
"I know I've told you stories about us growing up and how Edward went off to boarding school to study music when he was a teenager, but Bella I didn't want you to think poorly of him so I've never really told you about some of the other stuff." Alice looked torn over what to do for a brief moment.
Bella was just about to tell her it was ok, and that she didn't have to say anything. Edward was her brother and Alice was Bella's closest friend, Bella would accept him no matter what, but when Alice looked at Bella again still trying to decide something it would appear, she hesitated. Alice shifted her eyes towards the door that Edward had so hastily escaped through and then back to Bella once again.
"Give me about two seconds? You could grab that peanut butter you were looking for and go on downstairs like you'd planned. I'll bring us some coffee in just a few and we'll talk." She offered finally.
"Sure." Bella conceded with little fuss. Whatever Alice wanted to talk about must be important she determined and she was unable to deny her curiosity all of a sudden.
Alice smiled and left the room so Bella went about her business and with peanut butter finally in hand she headed back down to her little cave.
When Bella and Alice had decided to share a place after graduation Bella had been overjoyed. She had spent the past four years on her own and loathed the idea of moving back home. Life with Charlie or Renee was never really what one might call comfortable.
Bella loved her parents and all of their weird ways but as an adult she felt like it was finally time to let them exist on their own while they were forced to allow her the same privilege.
The only problem with this plan initially was a severely limited bank account. Enter Alice, her magical checkbook and her seemingly endless supply of resources.
Her best friend's parents were both very successful and generous to a fault. They had decided early on that they wanted to insure that their children had a good head start in life; as a result they had quietly been purchasing multiple properties over the years. So when Alice and Bella graduated together a few weeks ago, Carlisle and Esme had given Alice the news that all she needed to do was choose which place would suit her needs best and they would take care of the rest.
It wasn't even a question really; she insisted that she and Bella would need a place big enough for the two of them and it should be close enough to downtown so that their commute to their respective jobs would be convenient. Plans were made and they'd moved in to their new place the following week.
Bella sat nibbling thoughtfully on the corner of her peanut butter sandwich while looking around her room, as she waited for Alice. Thankfully she'd be getting the last of her things from home in the next day or so which meant that she could finally clean the place up a bit and organize.
She didn't have much right now, a bed, her computer and most of her Alice approved wardrobe. Various knick-knacks and keepsakes she'd collected over the years along with her collection of books and some other basic furnishings were all that was missing. Her plan was to drive home to Forks this weekend, pack it all up and make her move official if everything went well over the next few days.
"Ok, sorry about that. I got Edward all settled and eating some breakfast. Had to promise that we'd be down here a while so he'd actually come out of the bathroom." With a heavy sigh following her explanation Alice handed over a mug of coffee to Bella and sat down on the foot of the bed.
"Alice, really, this must be very awkward for him, if it makes things difficult I really don't mind going home early." Bella offered.
Locking one's self in the bathroom over meeting your sibling's roommate seemed rather extreme, but Bella was not one to judge when it came to overreacting to an uncomfortable predicament. Given enough time to think about it, Bella realized had she been in Edward's place just now she would still be cussing Alice for the unnecessary surprise he'd been faced with.
"Bella this is your home." Alice stated forcefully. "Edward has some social issues and it has nothing to do with you particularly. What I want to tell you, you have to promise to keep an open mind about. I won't have anyone look at Edward as if he's weird or abnormal and he hates people feeling sorry for him; so I want you to know this but you have to understand that it would embarrass Edward and likely be counter productive if he knew I'd shared, ok."
"Alice you don't have to tell me if its that bad. I can understand the not being good with people and accept it." Bella assured her with a little self-deprecating chuckle.
"I know you can." Alice smiled. "That's why I really want you to hear this. You two have so much in common it's not even funny."
"You know I love you and by extension I love your family, Edward included." Bella promised. "I really think that if whatever you want to tell me might make things weird for him it might be best if I don't know about it."
"Ok," Alice begrudgingly conceded. "Maybe if he hangs out long enough with us he'll be able to talk to you about some of his issues himself, though I'm not really sure that's likely to happen."
Alice took a sip of her coffee and Bella smiled seeing that she was trying to play it cool but she was really about to burst. If Alice wanted to do something she was never satisfied until she got her way.
"You know, it wouldn't hurt to at least know a little about him; you know, so that I don't do something that might unknowingly make things any more awkward or uncomfortable for him." Bella hedged, knowing that Alice wouldn't be happy until she was at least granted permission to share something.
With a bright smile now, Alice launched into her story without any further prompting.
"So Edward's not really good with people, sorta like you but worse in a lot of ways.
When he was little mom thought that he was just shy since he never interacted well with other kids. He'd always go off on his own in social settings, play by himself and stuff, never talked to anyone unless mom or dad forced the issue and then it was always really awkward.
He'd started pre-school about the time I was born and it became even more obvious that he wasn't just shy like some kids are normally, so the teachers asked mom to get him tested for all sorts of things. In doing so they found out that even though he'd just turned four he was scoring off the charts in intelligence, so they kind of brushed it off as boredom. You know, like 'I'm a smart kid and you're not so I can't be bothered with you,' if that makes sense. And basically when his teachers were asking him about colors and shapes it was like someone asking a rocket scientist what's two plus two."
Alice took another sip of her coffee before continuing and smiled noticing Bella follow along with equal amounts of interest and sympathy.
"Once I was born they actually got kind of excited; turns out that Edward only interacted well with mom and dad up to that point and our Aunt Elizabeth, mom's sister. So when they noticed that he didn't shy away from me they were encouraged that they might be on to something—that he was normal enough with people so long as he felt comfortable with them. Our parents had been there from the beginning so he didn't really have a choice in that matter, but with me he seemed to be ok of his own accord, actually seeking out my company.
Sometimes when I'd be in my crib napping or whatever Mom would find him sitting in my room reading or playing quietly in the corner with his matchbox cars. It was like he wanted to be away from everyone but he didn't want to be alone so, me being a baby and the most non-threatening person around he seemed to latch on to my presence. As I got older it seemed to stay that way. Edward was always shy and reserved except when I was around. I couldn't get him to run and play with me the way that I wanted but he was always willing to just be there.
So I guess it was when Edward was around seven or eight that his teachers got concerned again and Mom finally sought the help of a psychologist. He wasn't growing out of whatever this problem was, so they figured that now, since he was older and could perhaps verbalize his feelings better, they could maybe discover something they would have missed when he was so young. The doctors didn't have any real answers but they tried to pin some type of mental disorder on him; everything from basic anxiety, all the way to full blown Agoraphobia, but he doesn't truly exhibit enough symptoms of any one disorder to actually render any sort of real diagnosis."
Bella set her coffee mug aside realizing that she'd lost interest in her sandwich and the coffee had already started to go cold. When she turned back she reached out and took Alice's hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. She had no idea the flood of information that Alice was holding back when she had encouraged her to share, but this was obviously something that she really needed to get off her chest.
"Thank goodness my Dad is an awesome doctor in his own right, otherwise Edward would probably be drugged out of his mind and living in some institution by now." Alice continued, trying to make light of the subject.
"The general consensus eventually, was that Edward didn't really have a problem—he was just really shy and too stubborn to make any effort to change; so they felt that if he were continually around people eventually he'd have to learn to interact.
Things went on as usual from there, but it quickly became obvious that he couldn't really reach his potential in a normal school setting. So, rather than allowing him to be closed off from the rest of the world and give in to his introvert-ness, Mom located this school that catered to gifted kids with an aptitude for the arts.
Dad checked things out over a long weekend and talked to all the right people and Edward was transferred mid-semester. It was a place just outside of Chicago and though I hated to see him go so far away, I really only wanted whatever was best for him. It was the only setting I could ever really see him thriving in, so we all accepted it."
Alice looked to be on the verge of tears as she spoke and Bella was feeling very inadequate all of a sudden. Seeing as Alice was never the type to be anything less than giddy.
"He did really well once he was settled in to the routine at school and he eagerly moved on to college, which was a breeze for him. He took online classes for almost everything, and the few classes he actually had to attend he went to via a small community college up in Alaska near Aunt Elizabeth's place. Then afterwards, he basically made a habit of studying anything he could get his hands on while traipsing around the Alaskan wilderness for a year. I teased him when he finally came back home that one Christmas, that he must have decided caribou were preferable company to his only sister." Alice snorted in a very unladylike fashion making Bella smile. At least she could still find some humor in it even if Bella could still see how hard it was for her relive the memory.
"He'd grown and matured a lot by then and he told us all that he was ready to start working finally. He's been independently making computer software for the past couple of years, which works for him because he can work from home and any correspondence he has with his buyers can all be done through email."
There was a pause finally, while Alice seemed to be taking a moment to think. Bella felt like her mouth was hanging open at this point trying to remember exactly why this whole conversation had started in the first place.
Oh yes, Edward and his shyness.
Why Alice felt a need to share his entire life story all of a sudden was beyond her, but Alice never was one to do any thing halfway.
"He's been quite successful but it's all pretty meaningless though—he's stuck just puttering his way through life. So far as I know he talks to me and Mom about once every two weeks on the phone, he might call Aunt Elizabeth about once a month and other than that he may as well be a mute. He's a friggin' twenty-five year old genius and he hasn't had a real adult conversation with more than five or six people in his entire lifetime. And for those not a part of my immediate family those conversations have been painful to witness, let me tell ya."
Bella was trying to wrap her head around what Alice was saying and more importantly why it was a big deal in the first place. Bella was not an outgoing person either. She'd be embarrassed to admit it to anyone, but she often went out of her way to avoid doing most things that required any sort of social interaction on purpose. The only reason she was so close to Alice was because she really had no choice in the matter—generally people aren't allowed to be shy around Alice. Well, most people, excluding Edward it would seem.
She couldn't explain all of the reasons right now, but Bella felt some sort of kinship with Edward and decided she needed to stand up for him.
"But Alice, what's the problem? So he's shy. Maybe there is really something there that makes him unable to interact with people."
She was concerned by the level of shyness that had been described to her but really, the man was successful and seemingly content, why not just allow him to continue to exist however he likes?
"If it has worked for him for twenty-five years, why try and force him to change now?"
"Bella, he is successful in everything he does, but he's lonely. There are times when we talk that he actually confesses a need for something more, something he can't really explain. And I just feel like that something is a friend."
Bella recognized that uncomfortable feeling again. Alice knew her better than anyone and when she said that she and Edward had a lot in common she was very right. Bella was also very shy and standoffish when it came to meeting new people. If Alice was insinuating what she thought she was Bella wanted no part of it.
"I love you Alice and you know I'm always there for you, but if you're suggesting that I'm the friend that Edward needs, I feel like that's not being fair to him. I am happy to be here for you and for him, but only if he wants me to be—no outside interference from well meaning but overbearing sisters. Got it?" Bella smirked as Alice threw her arms around her.
Alice smiled shyly herself now, "I know its not fair to either of you to ask this but I've never known another person quite like my brother until I met you. The difference is that you have this people-pleasing gene apparently and therefore you can overcome some of your isms to make others happy, whereas Edward usually doesn't see the point. If anyone can understand where he's coming from and be a sympathetic sounding board I figure that person might be you. And if that makes him feel comfortable with you, I'm hoping that maybe a little bit of your courage might be able to rub off on him."
"I've already told you. No interference from the likes of you." Bella demanded. "I'll be around and I'll make an effort to be nice to him. That's it."
"That's all I need." Alice grinned jumping up from the bed, her abundance of energy no longer happy to sit on idle any longer. "I'm going to find Edward so I can take him shopping. Would you believe he had the nerve to show up here with nothing but the clothes he's currently wearing and a duffle bag that's hardly big enough to carry an extra pair of shoes in?"
"Alice, I don't think dragging Edward all over town is the best way to make him want to stay here." Bella cringed. She'd been subjected to Alice's shopping ventures more than once and for a person like Edward she could only imagine how horrifying such an experience might be.
"Don't be silly, I know that. Shopping with Edward involves a credit card and a computer, but its still fun to pick things out for him." Alice chuckled, already pleased that Bella seemed to be taking on the role of protector where her brother was concerned.
"We'll be up in my room if you need us." She added while already bouncing up the stairs.
Bella took a deep breath and glanced at her half eaten sandwich and the mug of coffee sitting on the nightstand as she snuggled back into her pillows.
To say it had been an interesting morning didn't quite seem to cover it. Not long ago Bella's only wish was for a little snack and a few more hours of sleep on the only day off she was allowing herself this week, but with all this new information she felt like sleep was the last thing she'd be capable of right now.