Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. But I own Blueballsward. Snort.

So, hiiii. It's been Jes's (queenofgrey's) birthday for what - over half a year, now? (Yeah, sorry about that, wifey. :/ ) One day, maybe I'll learn to juggle my writing projects properly. Or, you know, maybe someone will decide to pay me to write fic … HEY. YOU LAUGH, BUT IN DISNEY WORLD, I WAS TOLD THAT DREAMS COME TRUE, OKAY?

Little recap: Last chapter, Bella decided that she'd had enough of Edward teasing her with his words and his manly bits, so she introduced her foot to Edward Jr. under the table - during brunch. It was awkward, but there was no talking her out of it. Then, you know, Edward pitched a tent and had to book it upstairs because he almost combusted at the table, and they had a fight about it. Then Emmett saw Bella's vajayjay - accidentally, of course. Not a good day for anyone, really. So, continue on this crazy ride if you wish.


I sat like a schoolgirl on the counter of the bathroom vanity and leaned close to the mirror, tentatively extracting small bits of white napkin from my curls. My sexy dress was bunched up to my thighs like a pair of forest green hot pants and my feet were planted in the sink for balance - yet, I couldn't bring myself to care how unladylike I appeared. It wasn't as if I had an audience, anyway; I was alone in my room - well, Emmett's room - hiding out and feeling like the black sheep of the party.

Earlier, I'd thought that a few glasses of Riesling would have put me at ease after the day's events, but I'd only ended up feeling unsteady and increasingly anxious, instead of calm and bubbly. Also, my reaction time had been hindered - I was now fussing with my hair because Tanya, one of Edward's cousins, had drunkenly sloshed half of her Italian Surfer cocktail onto the top of my head as she'd exclaimed something about how I had to order some kind of brandy-infused sponge cake with butter cream icing for my wedding because it was "better than sex against the wall." Or, my inability to dodge a cascade of rum and juice could have been due to her ill-timed, ironic statement, or the confusion of why she was talking to me about wedding cake. I couldn't blame her mistake; I rarely saw the Denalis, and since I'd been sticking to Emmett's side for most of the party, I was pretty sure she thought I was Rosalie.

Edward had witnessed the rainfall of liquor onto my head, and I had been expecting to hear him laugh or blurt out, "How about that bitch called Karma, babe?" Instead, he'd mumbled a scornful, "Jesus fucking Christ," and simply stalked away to the kitchen as Tanya tried to wipe my hair with an already-soaked napkin. After Irina, another cousin, had dragged Tanya's drunk ass to the bathroom, I'd hightailed it upstairs to dry off, trying not to burst into tears for the umpteenth time.

I sighed as I got another whiff of maraschino cherries and Bacardi - my hair reeked of alcohol and the crumbled bits of Tanya's napkin that were stuck between the strands made me look like I had confetti-sized dandruff. As I continued to pick little pieces of white fluff out of my hair, a knock sounded from the door. I flinched, knocking a row of toiletries off the sink and accidentally kicking the spigot with a loud crack of my toes.

"Shiiiit," I hissed, rubbing the throbbing skin, and quickly jumped down from the counter and bounded into the bedroom. I pulled at the hem of my dress, feeling paranoid that someone might burst in and get another inadvertent peek under my skirt. At least, this time, I was wearing a thong, but it wasn't like those little skanky triangles covered anything. I hated wearing ass-floss, but I figured panty-lines were the kind of fashion faux pas that would make Rosalie gag. Even if she wasn't around, I could still hear her scolding 'Devil Wears Prada' voice in the back of my head.

"Come in," I squeaked, my heart pounding in anxiety, wondering who had come to find me - or rather, if Edward had, because he was all I could think about. When the door slowly opened and Emmett's large frame appeared, I couldn't help but slump my shoulders in slight disappointment. "Oh. Hey."

"Hey," he said quietly, slipping inside and closing the door. "You've been up here awhile."

"Have I?" I frowned, hoping my absence hadn't seemed rude.

"Yeah, you missed Uncle Aro stripping down to his Mickey Mouse boxers and singing I Want to Be Somebody's Baby," Emmett said, winking.

I rolled my eyes, cracking a smile, and sat on the bed, folding my hands in the crease of my dress. "Video, or it didn't happen," I joked.

Emmett studied me thoughtfully before sitting beside me and nudging my shoulder. "Looks like a snowflake shit on your head."

I sucked my bottom lip against my teeth, trying not to laugh. "Well, you could make me feel better and spill a drink on your crotch."

"Only if you're the one holding it," he said, grinning a bit. "You could trip and everything. Much more believable." At my slight sigh, he tapped his feet and heaved a breath of his own. "So, uh … look, Bella… if I would have known this would be the result of this whole bet thing, I wouldn't have egged it on for so long."

I looked at him, pointedly raising my eyebrows.

"No, I'm serious." Looking like an apologetic child who'd been caught with their hands in a cookie jar, he fiddled with his tie and gave me puppy eyes that would melt the heart of a demonic snowman. "I mean, Edward's my little brother. I've got the older sibling complex - I always talk him into stupid shit for fun. Take that scar on his left arm - did he ever tell you how he got it?"

I nodded, still absentmindedly picking at my hair. "When he broke his arm playing football?"

Emmett chuckled. "That's what he told you, huh?" He snorted under his breath and continued. "Awhile back, there was this huge motherfucker of a tree in our old yard, and I bet him he wouldn't be able to climb up even halfway before crying for Mom. And hell, I was scared of climbing that thing - it was all decayed and totally unsteady. I didn't think he'd actually do it, but Edward always wanted to - I don't know - prove himself, or something, and damn if he didn't scale that stupid tree like a crackpot monkey and fall out once he was fifteen feet in the air."

"Lots of little boys climb trees," I pointed out. "Superman-complex, you know? It's an adventure to defy danger."

Emmett laughed, shaking his head. "He was eighteen when it happened. He knew how dumb it was to do, but he just wanted to shove it in my face."

"So, is this the part where you tell me we're all a bunch of idiots for climbing the proverbial tree of chastity?" I asked, monotone.

"Well, maybe, but more like the part where I perform my other brotherly duty," he said, putting his arm around me. "It's my familial right to get Edward into trouble, but it's also my job to get him out of it. And since I started this whole thing, I think I should take some of the blame, here."

I frowned, brushing my cocktail-soaked hair out of my eyes. "You didn't force him to stick to it, and it wasn't your fault that I acted like such a hussy, either. And you didn't scream at me to get out of your room."

He squeezed my shoulder, pursing his lips. "I'm still sorry. And so is he - he wants to talk to you."

"He wants to break up with me."

Emmett scoffed a laugh. "Yeah, right. And I want to become vegan. Get up."

"Nooo," I whined, resisting his tugging on my hands. "My hair…"

"Oh, since when do you care about your hair?" He bent over to dig in my duffel and pulled out my trusty hair dryer. "Here. At least something can get blown around here."

He dodged my elbow, cracking up at his own joke, and I dutifully entered the bathroom, proceeding to dry my hair and praying that the damn thing wouldn't spark and ignite my entire head. After I convinced myself that my hair didn't resemble Ronald McDonald's too closely, I walked back into the bedroom.

Emmett patted my poof of curls. "There you go. So, come on, Bella-beanie-baby, let's go pull the stick out of Edward's ass and enjoy the rest of the party. I bet you five-hundred dollars that he'll be begging your forgiveness, first," he said, winking.

"If you value your future children, you won't say the words 'I bet you' for the next few years, or I'll put your balls in Esme's Magic Bullet," I muttered.

He cringed. "Ew, Bella, that's my mom."

"Oh, my God, Emmett, it's a vegetable dicer," I said, rolling my eyes, causing him to break into his ever-familiar, jovial-bear-like laughter. Yeah, he laughed, but I would totally commit testecide if I was pushed much further.

He linked my arm with his and escorted me into the hallway and down the stairs, giving me no time to breathe before walking straight toward the back door, where Aro, Carlisle, and Edward were talking.

During the whole evening, time had slipped away faster than I'd expected. Since I'd been constantly helping Esme with preparing some food, along with assisting a caterer, Edward and I hadn't had a chance to talk - not more than a few words, anyway. Every time I had approached him to incoherently stutter over an attempted apology, I'd freeze at the sight of his bleak, beautiful eyes and chicken out, instead uttering, "Esme is asking if you can park your car down the street," or "Emmett wants to know if he can borrow your navy blue tie," instead of 'I'm sorry. I'm stupid. I love you. Forgive me… please?"

Once the party had started, there wasn't much of a chance to do anything but pretend like everything was fine. It was like an unspoken agreement: excluding Emmett, no one needed to know that Edward and I had fought. It was hard to mask our melancholy, but with the growing crowd of guests, we managed it, somehow. At least when he dropped his façade for a minute, he had a convenient excuse - saying he still felt a bit off-color from earlier - while I had to swallow my dejection, plaster a fake smile on my face for everyone else, and continue to pretend that rainbows were shooting out of my ass. Edward had introduced me to random strangers and once he was pulled into a discussion about completing his dissertation, I slipped away and made an effort to cheerfully mingle with the others. Now, I was almost too nervous to face him, again.

"Em," I said, catching hold of the banister, stopping Emmett from ushering me over to his family. "I - I don't know what to say to him - I can't just walk up in front of - " Edward's eyes caught mine right then, and the term 'deer in headlights' wasn't even appropriate enough - not unless the deer was peeing all over himself on the highway, trembling, as the juggernaut of all headlights was careening toward him.

I froze, slightly lightheaded, and dug my fingers into Emmett's arm, not understanding why seeing me would cause such a reaction - he'd seen me all night, after all, and nothing had changed. As quickly as Edward's peculiar stare had come, it focused back on his father, and he mumbled something only they could hear. "Why … why did he look at me like that?" I softly whispered to Emmett, feeling my stomach twist. "I thought you said he wanted to talk to me."

Emmett scrunched his face, and I couldn't decipher the emotion. "He does."

"How did he say it? Sincerely? Reluctantly?"

"You girls and your analysis on everything we say - "

"Well, Jesus, did you see his eyes?" I said sulkily, turning away and walking to the sitting room, which, thankfully, was empty. Emmett followed and I leaned against the piano, tilting my head back and breathing in Esme's floral-scented potpourri. "He looked like I was about to serve him a court-ordered castration."

"He's got a lot on his mind. I'm pretty sure Dad and Uncle Aro are grilling him on his doctorate, or something."

I chewed on my lip, stealing a glance out the window to see the sun beginning to set, and I found myself wishing I could go down with it, simply disappear into the horizon and wake up again in the morning with a fresh start. After a minute of my broody sun-gazing, Emmett gave me a nudge. "Hey, want me to get you a drink? You could spill it on my crotch, now. It'll give me a good excuse to get out of these preppy pants and put on some jeans."

I laughed, feeling some of the tension ease. "Go for it. Make it something with cranberry. It'll stain, and you'll never have to wear them again."

"Such a little conniver," he said, tugging a piece of my hair and wagging his eyebrows. "Want any appetizers? Maybe a cocktail weenie and a mini muffin? Put 'em together and you'll have a tiny good time."

"Oh, my God, cut it out!" I cried, bursting into laughter and smacking his shoulder. "Maybe you need to get some. I'm telling Rosalie to get you a silicone replica of her vagina for Christmas, you pervert."

Emmett's eyes turned serious. "They can do that?"

"Seriously, Em, is that all you think about?" I said, shaking my head.

"More or less," Emmett said with a grin. "Rosalie's been gone for almost a week and a half. I'm getting antsy."

I rolled my eyes, still chuckling. "You would have never lasted the bet. You should just pay Edward for making it this long, regardless."

"Well, I would, but I don't think he would accept it," he admitted, bobbing his shoulders. "He already paid me."

My smile melted almost instantly. "He what?"

"Don't worry, I'm not going to keep it," he went on, loosening his tie and dramatically clearing his throat. "Damn, I hate ties."

"Emmett - focus. What do you mean, he paid you? When?"

"When I went in to get your bags," he explained. "He wrote me a check and said 'Congratulations,' like the moody motherfucker he is. Then, you know, that's when I realized this whole thing had gotten way too deep, and there was no way I could actually keep any of his money and feel good about it. I tried to give it back, but he wasn't having any of it. I figure I'll just rip it up, later."

I ran my fingers along the neckline of my dress, feeling uncomfortable, once again. A few people walked past us, taking seats in the scattered chairs and chatting with drinks in their hands, and when one man remarked in passing, "Pretty bride you've got there, Emmett," and winked, Emmett clasped my hand and sighed.

"That's enough," he said under his breath. "People should be complimenting Edward on his date, not mistaking you for mine. You're going to talk to him."

I didn't even have time to protest, because as soon as we turned the corner, Emmett literally bumped into Edward, who nearly spilled the drinks he was carrying. He stared at us and the way my hand was tucked into his brother's, and then held out a bottle of beer to Emmett without a word.

Emmett took it and swallowed a mouthful. "Thanks. But didn't anyone ever teach you to get drinks for your girlfriend before your brother?"

Edward's eyes drifted to me, and he looked slightly ashamed of himself as he said, so quietly, "Would you like me to get you something?"

I felt all the blood in my body rise to my cheeks as I shook my head. At this point, I was scared my hands might shake too badly to keep from spilling anything. There were a few moments of awkward silence before Edward cleared his throat and said, "Em, I need to talk to you for a minute, please."

Emmett rubbed a comforting hand on my back, but it didn't stop me from shrinking backward. He gripped my shoulder to stop me, and gave Edward an acute stare. "I think you have someone other than me to speak to."

I couldn't tell if Edward looked at me or not, because I was staring at the ground, hoping that no one else around us was speculating our strange, melancholy behavior. I only heard his voice, a gruff murmur, "I need to talk to you, first."

Something wasn't right. Apprehension, anxiety, and apologies were wrapped into his shaky voice - the one he used when he'd accidentally tinted my favorite white shirt pink in the laundry, or when he broke the news that he'd spilled Magellan's bowl - my old beta fish - and then stepped on him while trying to catch him, mid-flail. Or, when he'd confessed that he was super gluing his pants closed for thirty days.

"If it's all right with you boys," came a smooth, familiar voice, "would you mind if I steal Bella for a bit?"

Aro had walked up behind Edward and was smiling cordially, and there couldn't have been a better time for his invitation; he saved me from having to walk away and become a wallflower for the rest of the night, anyway. Of course, the boys didn't protest, and Aro led me over to a small bench outside the sitting room, keen on continuing our conversation on world literature. At first, I listened with eager ears, desperate to turn my attention to something I could make sense of, and shyly added my insight. But, eventually, the desire to peek over at Edward proved too great, and I couldn't help sneaking glimpses at him around the corner, especially when Aro remarked, "Edward's always talked about you with such devotion. Every time he would mention your name, his eyes would light up like the tree at Rockefeller. I've never seen him so happy, you know."

That seemed almost ironic, right now, because at that very moment, as if on cue, Edward glanced over at me and instantly looked as though he might vomit up his glass of Dom Perignon, or whatever the hell he was drinking. He and Emmett quickly turned away from me after that, and a growing sort of dread began to build in my stomach. When Aro continued the conversation, and asked me if I preferred Julius Caesar over Livy, the only response I could think of was 'I foot-fondled your nephew at brunch today, and then I wouldn't put out, and now he hates me.'

When Aro excused himself to take a phone call, I casually got up and walked over to the piano, somewhat hiding behind it since Emmett and Edward had their backs to me, and hadn't noticed my move. I couldn't pretend like I wasn't trying my best to eavesdrop; if that made me a slippery bitch, then oh well. I was getting too nervous to take any more silence or hissy-fit looks of doom. I listened carefully, but they were too quiet, and as I peeked over one more time, I saw Emmett lean over and whisper something to Edward. Whatever he said must have either been funny, or shocking, because Edward choked mid-sip of champagne and nearly spit a mouthful of foam all over himself.

Accidentally, I leaned my hand over the piano keys, creating a cacophonous blare of notes, and they both turned toward me. I tried not to curse, as I'd been determined to remain unseen, and spun around. And, in true Gravity-Hates-Bella fashion, I stumbled over my shoe and fell right into the Ficus. It practically toppled, and would have, if it wasn't for the wall to catch it. My shoes slid on the floor, and the pot clattered as I finally caught my balance and stabilized the tree. Sighing, and feeling as though my cheeks could be used to defrost meat, I looked up to find the boys, along with a handful of other people staring at me. I simply pressed my back against the wall, staring at the carpet and trying to appear nonchalant, as if Ficus-hugging was the new crossing-my-legs.

I didn't look up again until I heard footsteps walking in my direction. Edward stood with one hand in his pocket, the other raking through his hair, looking like a beautiful mess. He opened his mouth to speak and only ended up coughing, his cheeks pink, still recovering from his drink-sputter.

"You okay?" I asked in a mousy voice, and he nodded.

"I… you… I…" he eventually rasped, fisting his hair with white knuckles and clearing his throat. "I'm…" He took a quick breath, and said in a hushed voice, "I can't."

I eyeballed him, feeling a sort of gnashing in my stomach. "C-can't do what?"

Suddenly, Emmett popped out of nowhere, like a goddamn speech bubble. "So, getting freaky with the Ficus, huh, Bella-bean?" he chuckled and good-naturedly elbowed Edward. "Dude, look what you've turned her into."

I pressed my lips together for a moment. "You know, Emmett, if we weren't in dress clothes, and Esme hadn't spent so much time on this house, I'd push you out of those pretty windows."

Edward coughed again, and for a second, I thought I might have heard a laugh in there, too. I hoped so, but it was probably my imagination. What couldn't he do?

Emmett smacked Edward on the back, a little too hard. "Why don't you go take a minute, Eddie? Go get some water and swallow it, this time." With that, he pushed Edward in the direction of the hallway, and shook his head.

"What, are you two fighting, now?" I asked after Edward had turned the corner.

"No, but I might have to kick his ass if he doesn't get his shit together," he mumbled.

"What the hell did you say to him?" I demanded in a quiet, but harsh whisper.

Emmett casually took a sip of his beer. "Told him I saw your vag."

My gasp was so loud, I caused one of the servers to whirl around, knocking another guest on the head with a tray, almost upsetting the wine glasses. Emmett grabbed my hand, shushing me with a squeeze.

"I'm kidding," he said, chuckling. "I told him to get his dick out of his mouth and put it somewhere useful, like under your skir- "

I cleared my throat in interruption, reaching to grab a glass from the wine tray. When the server was out of earshot, I mumbled, "Emmett, from now on, wherever you are in life, you can't talk about dicks when the lights are dimmed. Got it?"

He shrugged. "Whatever you say. I was trying to loosen him up. He's wound tighter than your girly bits."

"Enough of that, please," I said, wanting to cradle my head. "And don't lie. He's avoiding me."

"That's because he feels like an asshole." Emmett placed his hand on my back and started walking, leading me out of the sitting room. "You've known him for six years, but I've known him his whole life. He's trying to think of a way to make this right. And he's got a lot on his mind."

"Like what, how to get the blue out of his balls?" I grumbled, still stung from the whole entire day.

"That, among other things, " he said, blowing out his breath. "What a crazy night. Month, even."

"You're telling me. All because you had to triple-dog-dare him." Emmett's burly shoulders drooped the slightest bit and I frowned, apologetic. "Sorry. It's really not your fault."

And it wasn't. The truth was, I was insecure. I couldn't stop thinking that Edward had just had enough of me, regardless of his insistence that the bet 'wasn't about us.' Even before the bet, he'd been working extremely hard, putting in long hours at the office and taking more business trips than were necessary to fill his time quota; I'd missed him, then, too, and he assured me that he was only trying to bulk up his savings account - and because of all of the overtime hours, I figured he wasn't exactly hard-pressed for cash. So, most likely, the bet hadn't been about money. I supposed there was truth in Edward's 'I have to prove my brother wrong, because we're twelve years old and I pinky-promised myself' explanation… but maybe he'd simply wanted time away from me, after all.

No. Stop thinking like that right now.

He'd assured me, over and over, that he loved me - that our relationship was still fine - and with all of his earlier, eager teasing, he hadn't seemed to have lost interest in touching me. But I couldn't help feeling like I was the only one missing out on a big secret… or, I was just an idiot.

"I guess we just weren't thinking," Emmett continued as we stopped outside of the kitchen.

"It's okay. Neither was I." Tanya's drunken laughter was echoing from the other side of the wall, and if I hadn't cared about impressing Edward's family, and their friends, I would have walked in there and asked her if we could do a few shots together.

"Well, at least we're young. It gives us an excuse to be stupid and sex-crazed, right?" Emmett said, nudging me with a grin and plucking the wine glass out of my hand. "Give me this, and go talk to him."

I looked around, unsure of where Edward had gone, but then my eyes widened as I saw Rosalie step through the front door of the house, exquisitely dressed, of course. As soon as she saw me, she broke into a wide smile.

"Bella!" she called cheerily, hurrying over to me. Before I could even say hello, she threw her arms around me in a bone-crushing hug, putting Emmett's strength to shame. "Oh, my God - hi! I can't believe I missed it!" She continued squeezing me, squealing under her breath in a very girly, non-Rosalie way. When she finally let me go, she was beaming.

"What are you talking about?" I asked obliviously, mirroring her silly grin. "Aren't you supposed to be in Aspen?"

"Well, I wanted to come surprise you guys, and then my stupid flight was delayed and it figures I wouldn't make it in time for everything," she chattered, squeezing my shoulders before reaching for my hands.

"Rose - " Emmett said quickly.

"Oh, wait a minute, honey, I'll hug you in a minute," she said, ignoring him, which was extremely surprising; normally, she would have been attached to his lips by now. "I'm just so excited, and I can't wait to start plan - "


Emmett's hushed, but severe voice made us freeze, and I darted my eyes to him with a dumbfounded expression, raising my eyebrows. I expected him to roll his eyes and make a smart-ass comment about 'mile-a-minute-chick-talk,' but he looked as though someone had just told him that Fantasy Football had been discontinued, or that he'd have to eat Tofurkey on Thanksgiving. "I - Rose -" he started, looking a little panicked, and I turned to find Rosalie staring at my hands.

"What?" I asked quickly, feeling a wash of unease churn in my stomach. Why the hell was everyone acting so strange? I needed a spa. Like, right now.

"I…" Rosalie glanced up, and it was her turn to look befuddled. "It's just … I thought…" She rubbed her thumbs over my fingers, looking slightly flustered as her eyes drifted to Emmett. I looked between the two of them, tennis-match style, and Rosalie finally blurted out with a smile that was much too wide, "I thought I'd taught you better than that, that's all. That color of nail polish is all wrong for you, Bell. Pink polish with a green dress is a fashion no-no. It's watermelon-syndrome. You need a neutral, sweetie."

"Oh," I replied, self-consciously curling my hands into fists, hiding my nails. I'd never heard Rosalie talk so fast. "Okay." Obviously, I couldn't do anything right today, and I really doubted that a manicure would be a magical fix-all situation for my fashion sense, but I was too tired to care. "So, what do you mean? You can't wait to plan what?"

"Vacation," she said calmly, looking more like her composed self as she smoothed her hair and her cheeks relaxed. "We only have two weeks to plan your wardrobe. And mine, of course."

I nodded, my brow still puckered in confusion. "I guess that makes sense." It really didn't, but I was too tired to guess why else she would be so thrilled.

"Yup," Emmett said eagerly, setting my wine and his beer to the side and slipping his hand into Rosalie's. "Can I have my kiss, now, or do you want to go jump on Edward, next?"

"Aww, sorry, babe," she cooed, standing on her toes and, like always, they started making out like that couple - the kind who just never gave a shit who saw.

I let my breath out just as Edward rounded the corner, stopping short at the full-on face-swallowing between his brother and Rose. He raised his eyebrows and looked at me, and I shrugged, because the sight of them kissing was the only thing that made sense to me, at the moment. Rosalie must have heard his footsteps because she suddenly broke away from Emmett and proceeded to give Edward the strangest smile I'd ever seen.

"Hi, Edward," she said pointedly, reaching over to give him a hug. "Sorry I'm so late for the party. Though, I'm not really that late, am I?"

I shook my head, answering for him. "The sun's not even down yet, honey. You're fine."

Rosalie hummed her agreement and released Edward, who hissed his breath through his teeth and muttered, "Jesus, you don't have to pinch me."

"Well, you'll be my brother in three months," she answered coolly. "I have to practice antagonizing you at some point, Mr. Abstinence-Pants."

I slowly backed up against the wall, a little taken aback by Rose's harsh tone; she and Edward usually got along well. Maybe Emmett had called and relayed that Edward and I had been arguing… yes, that would make sense. If so, she would, of course, take my side. She thought the bet between the boys was ridiculous, and, early on, she'd made it very clear that if Emmett had gone along with the wager in the first place, she would have 'George Foreman'd his joystick.'

"Good to see you, too, Rosalie," Edward grumbled, rubbing his neck.

She gave him another glare before focusing her eyes back on me. "Bella, why do you look like you're about to bolt out the door?"

I hadn't realized I was grasping the sides of my dress in a python-like grip, and quickly let go, trying to appear relaxed. "I'm fine," I murmured.

Rose narrowed her eyes again, searching everyone's faces, and probably sensing the same thing that I did: something was off.

"Hey, babe," Emmett piped up, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "Why don't we get you a drink? Mom bought a bottle of Moscato, just for you."

"I thought you said you came here to surprise us," I said to Rosalie, and then stared at Emmett. "You knew she was coming? Esme knew, too?" I sternly dipped my eyebrows as I looked to Edward, whose eyes were boring holes at his brother.

"Ah, Bella, I'm just trying to make her feel special," Emmett said quickly, but Rosalie suddenly grabbed my hand and pulled me to the side, away from the boys. "Wait a minute," she whispered, seeming perplexed. "You didn't say no, did you?"

I blinked, my mouth parting in uncertainty. "Did I… what?"

"Hey, Mom!" Emmett effectively cut us off with his booming voice, making half of the party turn in his direction, including Esme, who spun around frantically as if something were wrong. He grabbed Rosalie and steered her toward the living room, yelling, "Look who's here!"

Still glued to the wall of the foyer, under the glow of a wooden sconce, Edward and I watched as Esme enveloped Rosalie in her arms, and like a domino effect, more family members and curious friends all but lined up to play meet-and-greet. I pressed the heels of my palms to my forehead, trying to iron out the knolls of phantom wrinkles that were making my head pound. Rosalie's question wasn't helping to ease my mind - did I say no to what? Drugs? Yes, I did. The question was, did everyone else? I was at a complete loss; I couldn't even think straight.

"I can't wait for this night to be over," I said in a hushed murmur, regretting the words as soon as I said them. What I really wanted to do was start the day over, and keep my mouth shut and my feet to myself. Edward closed his eyes and rolled his neck, pinching the bridge of his nose with a weary sigh, and a faint, "Yeah."

I wanted to crack a joke about this feeling like a cliché prom night, or repeat Emmett's weenie/muffin line, just to see if he might smile, but all I could do was reach for my wineglass and guzzle the last bit of liquid courage. It didn't help. After another minute of listening to the chatter echoing throughout the other half of the house, Edward turned to me, sliding his hands into his pockets and looking like a nervous wreck. "Can we talk?" he asked, his voice only a scrape of sound. "Alone?"

There was something peculiarly off about the way he said 'alone.' It was anxious and reluctant, and his entire stance and voice were completely different from any other time that we'd been on our way to forgiving each other after a silly fight. Maybe he didn't want to make up. Maybe he really was going to break up with me. Say no. Delay this until you can find a way to fix it.

I shook my head, gritting my teeth so hard, making my head ache even worse. I couldn't let him see my jaw tremble.

He lowered his gaze, seeming even more pained. "Please?" he tried again, his fingers clumsy and fumbling with the end of his tie. I hadn't seen him so fidgety since college graduation, when he'd had to give a Valedictorian speech in front of close to eight thousand people. Beforehand, he'd puked backstage… twice.

"Aren't we alone right now?" I asked, glancing around. Sure, there were people on the same floor, but right here, in the quietness of the hallway, we could talk. Couldn't we?

Edward narrowed his eyes, looking so different from the man I knew - his physique was the same, yes, but he appeared worn out and indifferent. He wasn't smiling, not even the shy, timid ones he gave sometimes if we'd been mad at each other, before. It was like he was made of cold glass that could shatter at any moment, instead of the warm, witty, jovial strength that made him who he was.

"Could we go outside? Or upstairs?" He swallowed, brushing a hand over his face, looking ill, again. "I just need to talk to you. And I'd prefer to be by ourselves."

I felt cold, suddenly, and even though my heart was beating in a rampant way, almost warning me not to agree, I nodded. "Outside's fine." I needed the wind in my face for this.

He reached for my hand and I allowed him to take it, even placing my other on the top of his. I pressed my forehead to his arm as he started walking to the door, not caring that my make-up would probably smudge his shirt. I just wanted to feel close to him. He squeezed my hand tighter, and I glanced up at him with hopeful eyes, unsure of what the gesture meant. To console, to comfort? To prepare me?

"Oh, hey - there you are, Bella! Bella!" Tanya.

As we turned around, Tanya, still intoxicated, was peeking around the corner of the kitchen wall. I waved halfheartedly and she smiled drunkenly, bounding over to us with a phone in her hand, exclaiming, "I just got off the phone with your mom! She's reaaaally nice. She didn't call for you, though - she was asking for Eddo, here." She sloppily ruffled Edward's hair, adding, "She wanted to chouble deck - I mean double check - directions - how to get here, or something. Want to call her back?"

Tanya's words were like hearing the hissing of a grenade, right before explosion. I whirled around to face Edward, feeling betrayed and humiliated. "You … " My breath caught in my throat, constricting, and my stomach felt like it had dropped into my ass. "You called my mom?" I asked, my eyes widening. "You called my mother? To come here?"

I silently demanded for him to say it wasn't true, but he stared at me with an open mouth and frozen expression, and tears that felt like slivers of glass crept into my eyes. "God, Edward, I know you're angry with me, but you called Renée? If you wanted me to leave, I could have called a taxi!"

"You're mad at Bella?" Tanya practically shouted. "Why?"

Irina appeared, out of the blue, and yanked the cordless out of Tanya's hand, pulling her back toward the kitchen and giving us an apologetic look. "Sorry, I tried not to let her answer the phone."

I knew I was going to openly fall apart and make a spectacle of myself if I didn't move, and I supposed Edward knew it, too. Before I could run on my own, he grabbed my hand and pulled me through the living room, past the party guests, and ushered me out onto the balcony. The balcony, of all places. Even though I wasn't suicidal, I would have to jump off - I wasn't about to be dumped and then walk through a crowd of people, including his family, while bawling my eyes out. Hopefully, I would miss the rose bushes - I was only wearing a thong under my dress, after all; it was embarrassing enough that Emmett had gotten an accidental peek at my she-place, and Carlisle and Esme already thought I was running around the cocktail party with a bare ass because my underwear was "missing" - all I needed to do was land in the goddamn thorns and give a whole new meaning to a prickly bush. I could only imagine the names Emmett would come up with: Bella McBarbAss, or Stickerbella Swanbush.

Speaking of Emmett, I saw a flash in my periphery, and there he was, closing the curtains, blocking our view from the rest of the party, and vice versa. I was glad for the privacy, but apparently, Emmett knew what was coming. I wondered if he'd known the entire night that I would have my heart broken… maybe he had tried to talk Edward out of it, or simply tried to give me hope.

I sucked back my tears with a hasty breath, feeling incredibly stupid and naïve and steeling myself for the inevitable. I couldn't believe Edward had called my mother. What did he think, that if he broke it off with me, I would be too unstable, too inconsolable to function, and that I might need my mommy? Probably… but still. The impulse to cry grew to an urge to scream, and the thudding of my heart against my ribs was fuming, frustrated. He could have waited until after the party, or tomorrow morning - at the very least, he could have warned me. Maybe that's why he wanted to talk, so he could tell me we were done and that I had a ride home in my mom's minivan. Mentally, I painted my heart with darkness and steel, putting up the best shield I could. Yes, anger was definitely easier than pain.

When I felt solid enough to glance in his direction, I saw that he'd taken off his tie, having let it fall to the ground, and was leaning against the railing, staring over the side. He looked extremely pale and kept his eyes closed, taking slow breaths, as if to calm himself down.

"Are you okay?" I finally asked, fighting the itch to reach out and stroke his hair, to brush the sweaty strands off of his face. Nope - no - don't stroke the pretty. Smack the fuck out of the pretty.

"I'm just … trying not to throw up," he said, gripping the iron bars and placing his head on the ledge.

I watched him tentatively, afraid he was going to do just that. "Are you drunk?"

He chuckled darkly, running a hand over his clammy forehead. "No. I wish. It would make this easier."


So, this was going to be hard, whatever this was. Now, I felt sick. He didn't say anything after that, and neither did I, and the silence was stifling and poisonous, suffocating us both. The sun had nearly disappeared from the sky, leaving an impressive palate of vivid orange and cherry-pink skies in its wake, and the scenery was breathtaking; I might have enjoyed it if I wasn't about to vomit on Esme's pretty, probably hundred-dollar porch plant. Sucking in a deep breath, I finally blurted in a choked voice, "Just do it, Edward. Just say it."

"Say - do what? What are you talking about?" he asked in a thick voice, almost skeptical, like he wasn't planning on making me the next girl to blast Beyoncé's Single Ladies for the summer.

"You know what," I answered, nearly indistinct. "If you don't have the balls to do it now, away from everyone else, then I don't know what you want me to say. I'm not going to be the one to do it."

He was silent, though I could hear the whisper of his breath in the air, like a puff of wind. Finally, he said softly, "I… I wouldn't have expected you to. And I won't do anything that you don't want me to."

I tried to laugh, but it stuck in my throat and sounded more like a cough. "Then we'll be sleeping out here, tonight." I steeled my grip on the railing, wondering if Emmett had locked us out, too, until we worked it out. At this point, I kind of hoped so. "And, you know, if that were true, you would have said to hell with this bet a long time ago, and we wouldn't be having this problem right now."

"That's - that's all? This is because of … the bet?"

"Do you have a better reason?" I almost whispered, hesitant, because I wasn't sure I could handle hearing the real cause of why I wasn't good enough anymore. When I felt his hand graze my shoulder, I couldn't help flinching. I didn't want his obligatory, consolation touches.

After a few moments, I finally tore my eyes away from the carnation-colored sunset to be met with an even more beautiful, yet, broken scenery. Edward was staring at me, mouth set in a tight, miserable frown, the glow of the sky liquefied in his eyes. His sadness was breathtaking, as if this moment should be replicated by expensive marble and admired in museums. The Sullen Cullen, ladies and gentlemen. Oh, and if you'll look past this sculpted masterpiece, you'll find The Pathetic Swan. I'd probably be made out of recycled crap, like cans and gum.

"I don't understand, Bella…" He suddenly looked as though he was going to cry, and I felt like screaming that he wasn't allowed to - this was his break-up, not mine - and I was just about to do so when he said in a low, somewhat crushed voice, "You won't forgive me?"

"For calling my mother to come pick me up?" I blubbered. "For breaking up with me in the middle of your parents' party? No, I don't forgive you! It's been five seconds!"

He actually had the audacity to look stunned, as if he couldn't believe what he was hearing. He even stuttered over his words, barely able to get past making noises in his throat before he managed, "I - I didn't - your mom - break up with - I can't - oh, my God…"

Yes, that makes everything perfectly clear, thanks.

"And tell me the truth, Edward Cullen!" I cried. "Don't you dare say this is because I wouldn't sleep with you, earlier!"

"It's not - Bella, I'm not - "

"Then what?" I lowered my voice, finally, remembering that there were people inside. Even though Esme had proudly explained, earlier, about the soundproof glass and walls, who knew if there was a window open, somewhere. "What happened, and when? I thought - you said - just what made you slip away from me? Did I do something wrong? Other than today, what did I do?"

I was openly sobbing now, and plopped myself into one of the wrought-iron chairs, hiding my face in my hands. I was hideous when I cried, and even though I knew I shouldn't have cared, I still didn't want to look reminiscent of a wailing, crinkled-faced beet. Warm hands slid through my hair, and, for a moment, I thought they might have been my own, wandering without my brain's permission, but then I felt familiar, electric lips kiss my forehead, and the pressure of his fingers gently moved, sliding over my wrists and pulling my hands away from my sniveling features. I wondered why he was bothering; sympathy, maybe.

"I'm sorry. I love you so much," I choked, feeling a horrible weight on my chest, and a slow, agonizing pain spread, like something inside me was starting to crack and bleed. "But that's not enough, is it?"

"Bella, don't - " He reached for my arms, then, pulling me to my feet and I felt a bittersweet burn as he cradled my head and pulled me tight against his chest, because this was the last time he was going to do this, and it was killing me. "Stop… don't cry, please? God, this is so - just - all wrong."

Yes, it is. It really is. Please, please don't do this.

"I'm so, so sorry," he murmured into my hair. "I didn't mean for it to come to this. I had no idea you thought... I'm just so sorry."

"Yeah, I'll bet," I rasped, wanting to laugh from the irony - what a poor choice of words. Another wave of grief came and I tried to keep it at bay, sniffling and hiccupping like a fucking infant. I backed away from him, finally, and shook my head, feeling as though walls were crumbling down, about to bury me.

"We're supposed to go to Mexico…" I whimpered, keeping my head down as I felt grimy, mascara-laced tears slide down my cheeks. Random thoughts of 'we' were starting to run rampant through my mind, and I realized just how much we both would lose, other than each other. "We signed up to volunteer at the food bank next week, too. We split those stock investments. We share other things… the vacuum's mine, and the coffee pot's yours, but the couch, the bed - they're ours. God, Edward, we have an apartment…"

"I don't want an apartment."

The breath I'd just taken whooshed back out, stinging my chest like a slash of a knife. "Well," I said shakily, "you could have told me this before you - "

"I want a house."

I paused, frozen, playing back his words. He what? I raised my head, wiping my nose, feeling disgusting. "You what?" I echoed my thoughts.

He was standing in front of me, reaching for my face and using his thumbs to clear the tears from underneath my lashes. "I want a house," he repeated, softer this time. "I want to be able to paint the walls and get a dog, and have a fireplace - maybe one of those breakfast bars, or kitchen islands… you always said you couldn't wait to have more counter space."

As I creased my eyebrows in utter bewilderment, more tears slid out from my eyes, and he caught those, too. "I want a music room for my piano. And I'll build you a library, a study - anything. I want you to have room for your books. For your work. For you."

Edward's lips curled into a small smile, his face suddenly void of worry, and his fingers were now stroking near the corner of my mouth, as if to coax me to do the same. "I want a house with you, silly."

This was not making sense, but I knew he wasn't so cruel as to toy with words like these. Slowly, cautiously, my heart began to dance to different music, going from thrashing drums to steady strumming. "You do?" I asked, narrowing my eyes, waiting for someone to poke their head out the door and bellow 'April Fools!'

He nodded, staring at me, so handsome, yet, sorrowful. "I've been trying to save up for a down payment for months, now. I wanted it to be a surprise. And, clearly, I really, really suck at surprises of any kind… especially today."

I rested my knuckles against my lips, still puzzled and a little dazed. He wanted a house with me. That was a step forward, not a step back - not a break up. I could feel the fissure that had ripped and split inside me start to lace itself back together, and I could breathe, again. Edward studied me, still caressing my face and trailing his hands through my hair. "You really thought I was going to break up with you?" he asked unhappily. "That I'd throw away six years with you just because I was … horny?"

I almost laughed. "Something just seemed so off. It did, up until right now. During the party, you kept looking at me like I made you sick - like the last thing you wanted to do was talk to me. I was scared that this whole thing made you realize I wasn't enough, anymore. And you were so, so mad at me."

"If I was anything, I was so, so stupid," he breathed, his face crumpling. "And embarrassed - God, Bella, I've never felt like more of an idiot in my life. Ever. I'm not sure you understand how much - how horrible I felt because I was such an asshole."

He bent to kiss my forehead and I pulled his hands away from my face so I could hold them. God, I would never take his hands for granted again. Fear of losing them - him - was enough to make me ache all over again.

"I'm sorry for everything. I know that's not even enough, and I'm not even sure where to start," he continued, motioning for me to sit again, and I complied as he took a seat next to me. "Earlier, I know I acted terribly, and you had every right to be mad… I just…"

"Would have preferred if my feet hadn't tried to play 'raise the flagpole' in between your legs?" I offered, guiltily biting my lip.

He laughed weakly, and I felt the rest of the tension in my shoulders dissipate at the sight of his smile. "Well, I do wish that could have happened elsewhere - you know, in a location where Emmett didn't have a front-row seat to the show," he said, causing me to turn pink and grin sheepishly. "But, no, I wish I wouldn't have taken it out on you the way I did. It's hard to explain. I was wound up and self-conscious and felt like I failed you, completely."

"Failed me?" I repeated, amused. "Edward, do you even remember this morning? In the car, in the sunroom… I wasn't exactly opposed to honoring the rules."

"I know," he admitted, unbuttoning his collar and taking a deep breath. "This started out as something so juvenile, and I take full responsibility for being drunk and stupid. I figured I wouldn't make it past the third day, but I started thinking about it, and the opportunity it provided. I thought, maybe, this could be something to try, to see if… " He sighed, looking embarrassed as he nervously bounced his heels. "It wasn't even about the money, or trying to show up Emmett. I just knew it would give me time."

I placed my hand over his twitching knee, wondering why he seemed so jittery. "To yourself?"

"In a way, yes, but not because I wanted to be away from you," he said sincerely, but then smirked. "For one, I had the pressure of preparing you for a night of passion and ravishment when this was all over." I gave a slight eye roll, smirking along with him. "But at the same time, I was trying to be sneaky about researching real estate, putting in overtime at work… and a few other things. I wanted today to be something to look forward to, so the whole month sort of became a countdown."

"Oh, yeah? To what?" I asked, unable to help giggling. "An all-night fuck fest?"

He smiled, but he shook his head, and with the movement, his expression grew serious. "No… no, something more important."

My eyes widened. "Oh, did you finally finish your dissertation?" I tried again eagerly. He gave a small shake of his head as he rubbed my fingers with his, his eyes pleading, and I had a feeling I should shut up. "Sorry," I said, sitting back and swallowing my questions. "Go on."

Edward cleared his throat, glancing around the balcony as if waiting for words to come to him. He stood up, suddenly, and held out his hands. "Come here," he said after another deep inhale, and when I reached to wrap my fingers around his, I could feel him shaking. He pulled me against him, holding me close before his hands traveled down my back, denting into my spine. "You say you were scared you wouldn't be enough, anymore? Well, you've got it wrong. No one else would ever be enough. You're my other half. I don't know what I would do without you."

I reached behind his neck and slid my hands into his hair, breathing in the fragrant, summer air that was mixing with his own scent of spice and amber. "Rosalie has hot friends," I teased, trying to loosen him up. His muscles felt much too tense and his skin was baking, sweaty. I creased my brow in worry. "Edward? What's the matter?"

"Don't joke," he whispered, his voice husky and genuine. "I mean every word."

There was something in the way he was looking at me, something so sincere and intense that made my lips tremble for the feel of his skin; they drew forward, my mouth to his, like iron and magnet. I moaned softly as the crackle and burn of sparking need warmed me, engaging me in the deepest way. He tasted of champagne and salty sweetness, and the scrape of his crisp collar grazed my neck, as did his lips as they dropped to kiss the hollow of my throat.

"I feel the same, you know," I breathed against his hair. "I don't ever want to lose you."

My words relaxed him and when he brought his eyes back to mine, full of love and longing, he swept a piece of my hair behind my ear. "I just crave you, constantly," he said gently. "Every part of you. Your body, your mind, your mouth, your soul… everything." His breath seemed stuck in his throat as he swallowed, and before I could say anything else, he was sliding down, away from me… onto his knee. "I love you, more than anything, anyone. It's you, always. And I'm yours forever, if you'll let me be."

My eyes were practically popping out of my head as I stared, mouth gaping, trying to form an intelligible sentence, or answer, or something that didn't make me look like a goldfish. Holy shit. He was proposing.

You're hallucinating.

However, Edward proved me wrong as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small, black box. It gave the softest click as it he opened it, and a stunning, shimmering diamond ring stared back at me, the facets glittering as brilliantly as his eyes. "Bella … will you marry me?"

I couldn't even speak.

"You're - you're surprised?" he asked after a few moments, seeming a bit disbelieving.

I thought my head might bob off my neck from nodding. "I - I didn't - after today, this was the last thing - I never even thought…" A silly smile spread wide across my face, realizing that not only was he not breaking up with me, he wanted to buy a house with me… and spend the rest of our lives together. He wanted to be mine and have me as his for life, for always.

It took me a moment to realize he was still on his knees, holding a ring, and I was simply staring at him. He waited with yearning eyes, searching my face for an answer I hadn't yet given, and I laughed aloud, ecstatic, and knelt to his level. Instead of reaching for what he was offering, I clasped his cheeks and kissed his beautiful mouth, answering first with my heart before words. "I love you, too! Yes, I'll marry you. Yes, yes, y -"

Edward's arms were around me before I could finish, and he swept me into the air, lifting me to his chest and igniting my lips with his own, on fire and eager. When he pulled back, still holding me up, he grinned so stunningly, so happily, I actually felt my eyes tear. "Yes?" he repeated with a laugh.

I nodded again, my face flushing with warmth and bliss, and this feeling - I wouldn't have even traded it for a night of multiple-O's. He put me down and slid the ring onto my finger, kissing my forehead as I admired it. "It's beautiful, Edward. I can't even - how did you - when did you…?"

"You really had no idea?" he asked in wonder. "Not even a suspicion?" When I shook my head, he exhaled dramatically, rolling his eyes in amusement. "I was positive that you knew everything… Tanya talking to you about wedding cake, Mom telling me in front of practically everyone inside not to lose the ring, and then Rosalie showed up…"

I crinkled my brow, thinking back to earlier when everything had seemed so strange. "God, it all makes sense, now. No wonder you looked like you were going to throw a hissy fit, or pass out. Emmett said… oh my God, Emmett. He knew the whole time, didn't he?"

Edward nodded in agreement. "He's known for months."

I suppressed a giggle, knowing it must have been killing Emmett to keep it secret. "So, everyone knew you were going to propose? Everyone in there?" I gestured to the curtained door.

"Yes, and even if they didn't before, I'm sure the word's spread by now." He looked relieved as he tucked my hair behind my ear and sighed against my forehead. "Man, I really thought you knew - this whole night, I thought you knew. I was waiting for you to tell me what a terrible idea it was, or not to bother after how I behaved. I didn't mean to tease you so much today… it's just that I was excited, but so nervous. I was afraid you'd say no … and that you'd walk away from me."

I shook my head, cupping his face in my hands. "Never. From now on, we're just going to have to learn to communicate, huh?"

He laughed. "Yes, I suppose that might be important. And speaking of communication, I should probably go call your mom and explain everything." Seeing my confused expression as I remembered the unexplained phone call to Renee, he said with an air of amusement, "See, she's coming up here tomorrow morning for an engagement breakfast, which was supposed to be a surprise for you…"

"Oh," I breathed, more pieces falling to complete the puzzle. My skin was alive with tingling and warmth, and I leaned into him, encircling my arms around his waist. "So, she's known since…?"

Edward brushed a lock of hair over my ear, looking thoughtful. "April, when I asked her permission."

I was melting, every little inch of me. "You put so much thought into this…"

"Well, my family helped. Emmett, especially. I was acting like a brat, sulking in every corner of the house, and he told me he'd hold me down and shave off my broody-fucker eyebrows if I didn't snap out of it." Edward shrugged with a bashful smile. "And I know things didn't go perfectly, but…"

I shook my head, beaming. "No, this is perfect. It is because it isn't. If everything had been faultless, we wouldn't have a story to tell - all about you and the sainthood of your sex staff, and how it led to -"

He hushed me with his thumb on my moving mouth. "I'll never live this down, will I?"

"Nope," I said, shaking my head with a tight-lipped grin. "I'll still be teasing you on our twenty-fifth anniversary."

Edward pulled me closer, the glow of setting sun bright in his eyes. "What about the fiftieth? Not that I'm promising that my love pistol will still be able to shoot in that many years."

"Ew!" I broke into giggles, smacking his shoulder and thinking of us, grey-haired and wrinkled, sitting to watch the California sun go down, parallel to this moment. I knew I'd be just as in love with him as right now. He'd still be the most beautiful, caring, crack-witted man I would ever know.

"Even then," I promised in more ways than one. I stretched my arms, clasping my hands around his neck and standing on my toes until my mouth neared his chin. "I love you. Forever."

Still sporting a winning smile, he sighed against my lips and murmured, "God, I love you, too." Lifting me by the waist and hugging me tight to his chest, he ruined what was left of my lip gloss, his mouth eager and smoldering. I was content to stay this way all night - honestly, I was downright close to making plans of christening the balcony - but Edward broke away and asked, "So, can we go inside, now? Let me show you off? Finally?"

I giggled as he set me down. "Of course. But be honest… how's my mascara?"

"You look a little emo, but we can just pretend you teared up because I'm such a lady-killer," he with mock smugness, smudging under my eyes with his thumbs. I mm-hmm'd in jest, and picked up his tie off the floor, adding, "Don't forget this, Casanova."

Edward stuffed the tie in his pocket, lifting an eyebrow with a cocky grin. "One less thing to rip off of me later, huh?"

Before I could answer, he pulled open the door and tugged me through the curtains into the crowded living room, where his family and their friends were waiting, leaving me to stuff all thoughts of sensual ravishment to the back of my mind.

I can't get no satisfaction.


Yeah, yeah, I know - "Where's the SEX, Banana?" I felt like it needed its own chapter so it didn't mess up the flow. (PLEASE DON'T HATE ME, IT WAS MY BIRTHDAY YESTERDAY AND MY BDAY BUZZ WILL BE KILLED IF YOU DO! YES, I'M PULLING THAT CARD. ) So, in its entirety, this will be five chapters. I know, the number keeps going up. But that's the last time. ;)

I couldn't have wrote this w/o WhatsMyNomDePlume, as she has fantastic beta skills, and is one of the coolest chicks ever. Seriously, go applaud her or send her pictures of hot men. It never hurts. Oh, and if you're in the mood for another proposal, go read her o/s "Put a Ring On It." It's brilliantly sweet, and wonderfully witty, and it's just win.

Also, huge thank you and peen-shaped cupcakes to ninapolitan who gave this a rec on the Perv Pack's Smut Shack. I love her sfm, and she gives me way too much credit. Xoxo Nina!

FYI, in case you didn't know: I Want to Be Somebody's Baby is a 1974 song by Barry Manilow. It just makes me giggle.