You can find the complete A/N for this story on my blog at: http://supersecrettwilightblog[dot]blogspot[dot]com/
The song inspiration for this fic is: Sitting on the Self by She & Him http://www[dot]youtube[dot]com/watch?v=FkzRyHa9a6g&feature=player_embedded
Thank you to Ang(Amcas) from Why Not?, kg from i heart, marie from Our Twilight Bubble, Annie Cristina from The Danger Magnet, and afragilehuman from fragile little human for beta-ing, holding my hand, and, in general, for their kick-ass support. Thank you sofa king much. *gathers everyone into a group hug*
As always, Edward, Bella, and all the rest belong to the lovely Mrs. Meyer. I just borrowed them for a little while.
Why do you let me stay here all by myself?
She & Him Lyrics
Bella sat behind the counter strumming the fingers of her right hand against it, her chin resting lightly in her left hand, and her foot lazily keeping time with the clicking of the analog clock on the wall behind her. She watched with amused disinterest as two young boys, one a bean-pole of a kid, whose name was Benjamin, and the other a well-fed boy with hair the color of nutmeg who she had never meet before, argued over who was greater- Superman or Batman.
This was not out of the ordinary in a comic book shop and Bella had become accustomed to it, having seen the same scene play out, time and time again, over the last three years that she had worked at Twilight Comics. She had taken to betting on the winner for years now, even had a tally of her wins-to-losses ratio. In this instance, she was going to put her money on Batman, due to the steely look of determination on Ben's face as he stared his opponent straight in the face. This was not the first time she had seen him in action and the nameless kid was obviously a hobbyist, at best.
For Ben, comics were not only a collection but an obsession, a way of life, which defined everything he did. Bella often felt badly for Ben, who didn't have a father and spent a tremendous amount of time hanging out at the shop playing Magic. The other kid was clearly out of his league, but he hadn't figured it out yet.
"Superman is a true superhero," the unknown boy stated as he started to count off on his fingers Superman's abilities. "He can fly, is super fast, is awesomely strong, has x-ray, and heat vision! Annnnd he's got super-hearing, not to mention super-breathing, annnnnd he can stop bullets with his eyeballs!" The kid pointed at his eye enthusiastically. "Batman can't do any of that. I mean, sure he is awesome at all that karate stuff," he said with a dismissive shrug, "but he has to make all his weapons and rely on them. Superman doesn't need any of those weapons." At this the boy crossed his arms, a glint of premature victory in his eyes.
Bella turned her attention to Ben, who stood squirming around, his face as red as a tomato, and his hands clenching and unclenching at his side. Ben had appeared to be holding his breath the whole time the kid was talking and Bella feared he might pass out if he didn't take a breath soon. She watched with increasing enjoyment as Ben seemed to mentally reign himself in and gratefully watched as he dragged the much needed breath in through his teeth, making a hissing sound as he did so. The nameless boy looked as if he might purr with satisfaction, his smug gaze moving up and down Ben's face as a pompous smirk crawled up the right side of his mouth. Ben's quiet seemed to declare his victory, yet Bella knew better, realizing it was merely the calm before the storm.
"What? Cat got your tongue?" The boy taunted.
Suddenly, the volcano erupted, and Ben allowed the force of his pent up frustration to overflow.
"DON'T YOU GET IT!? Can't you seeeee?!" He hollered at the other boy in exasperation, his arms flailing about wildly, almost knocking down the comics on the free standing rack beside him. "That's what makes Batman so much greater than Superman!"
The other boy scoffed, his eyebrows rising arrogantly. It was clear he had never heard this line of pro-Batman defense before. Bella was waiting for Ben's response, and she could smell his victory in the air.
"Oh yeah," the boy snickered, "how in the world does that make sense?"
Ben's whole body physically sighed with his exasperation. "Because Batman wasn't born a superhero. He's a normal guy like you and me, but he made himself a superhero from nothing!"
The nameless boy was clearly not ready for this defense, and Bella watched as his face took on a quizzical look. "Huh? I'd never thought of it that way before."
Ben's pleasure lit up his face as an adorable smile spread across his lips and his breathing started to level out. Smugly, he led the boy to the back of the store to sit him down and explain everything. A look of victory was plastered all over his face. Bella knew, with her own self satisfaction, that she had won, as well. Sitting up a little straighter, she pulled out a notebook, from under the counter, and, opened it to the very last page in the book. Countless doodles covered the page, mostly flowers, some with her name decorated, and her sacred tally marks at the bottom.
Her wins were looking better these days, she reflected. When she had first started working at the comic book store, she hadn't even known who Stan Lee was. She chuckled at the memory of explaining to Emmett, her boss, that she did not know who Stan Lee was, let alone the Green Lantern. She'd been lucky that his girlfriend, now wife, Rose, and, his sister, Alice, had demanded he hire her, nonetheless.
Gosh, she pondered, three years… have I really been working here that long?
The real question wasn't how long had she been working there, but why was she still working there, when she could have found a much better job. A job that would utilize the journalism degree she had just earned from University of Washington State. Her father had asked her just that morning what sane person spends all that money on a degree then basically throws it away to work in a comic shop? She had sighed and been unable to give him an answer, because no one would truly understand. How could they? Even she could not comprehend why she refused to move on with her life, all because of a guy who didn't even know she existed. Edward Cullen. As if thinking his named had the power to conjure him up, she suddenly realized she was not alone.
"So…" A velvety voice said from the other side of the counter, startling Bella from her musings. "Did you win?"
Looking up, Bella felt as if she were a deer caught in the headlights of a car as she stared into the most beautiful face she had ever encountered. Feeling the blood rush up her neck and into her cheeks, she quickly shook her head to clear her thoughts. How many times had she seen his face, with its deep green eyes, finely chiseled features, and out of control auburn hair, which was always standing on end from the countless times he ran his fingers through it? After three years, you'd think she'd be immune, yet every time it just got worse. The butterflies in her stomach were threatening to eat her alive and her heart felt as if it might explode.
Edward's face quickly showed concern as he watched Bella's face turn pink. "Are you okay, Bella? You look a little flushed. Do you have a fever? You really shouldn't be working when you are sick." His voice was laced with concern and he seemed ready to vault over the counter to check her temperature.
Sighing dramatically, she stood up needing to feel a little more grounded. She always felt so small around Edward, who was at least a foot taller than her 5'4" stature.
"Oh, no, you just startled me, that's all, Edward. Now what did you ask?"
Still looking concerned, but knowing how stubborn Bella could be, Edward decided to go along with her. "I asked if you correctly picked who won the Batman vs. Superman debate. Or should I even ask when it's Ben and his Batman rhetoric?" he chuckled.
"Rhetoric, huh? Haven't I heard that same speech from you, my dear Mr. Cullen?" Bella asked with a knowing smirk, finally feeling as if she were winning the battle against the butterflies, as now there were just a few trying to make their way out of her via her belly button.
Turning slightly pink around the ears, Edward scoffed but made no real effort to argue, as he mumble, "Bella, there is no way I am as bad as Ben."
"Oh yeah," she teased, trying to hold back the giggles that were bubbling up in her throat, "was it not you who spent an hour last weekend explaining to Ben why Disney buying Marvel was such a terrible thing?"
"Now, that is a completely different topic, and you know it!" Edward's face was a mirror image of Ben's from a mere few moments ago. Struggle as she may, Bella couldn't keep the joyous smile off her face. Nor could she stop herself from admiring how adorable Edward was when he got all excited about his comic books.
Edward didn't seem to notice Bella's victorious look, and continued on with his rant. "Disney will completely destroy Marvel! I don't even want to think about the limits they will put on their artist, in an effort to make their comics more family friendly and marketable. And let's not even get into the abysmal movies they will produce. You know how formulaic Disney scripts are, not to mention the fact that they will probably cast Eddie Murphy for all the roles and have the Jonas Brother on every soundtrack! Companies, like Disney, are only interested in the almighty dollar. They do not care about creative integrity and…."
Throwing her arms up in surrender and waving them in his face, Bella tried to slow down Edward's impassioned speech. "Hey, hey, I'm not saying it's a good thing, okay? I was just trying to make a point, which I think you proved perfectly for me," she said with an impish grin. "And I thank you for that."
A sheepish look covered Edward's face as he looked at Bella. "Well, you know how I feel about that subject." He ran his hand errantly up the back of his neck and through his hair. Bella watched enthralled and felt the butterflies come back in full force.
"Yes." Bella said softly. "Yes, I do, sir."
They stood smiling at one another for a long moment, the counter between them, and their breathing seemingly the only sound in the room. There was always an ease to their conversations, and while at times there was an awkward tension, each felt they could simply be themselves with one another. Looking into his face for the millionth time, Bella wished that Edward would think of her as more than just the girl who worked behind the counter of his brother's comic shop.
Seeing the wistful look in her eyes, Edward cocked his eyebrow in confusion. Bella contemplated how he would react if she confessed her attraction to him. Should she just man up and say something? Bella wondered.
Out of the corner of her eye, Bella saw Ben approaching the counter, his gaze solely focused on his hero, Edward. She knew that she had just lost whatever alone time with him that she was going to get tonight and reluctantly sat back down.
"Hey, Edward! You're here!" Ben looked like he wanted to launch himself into Edward's arms. Yet, he held himself in check and stood staring up at his hero with worship radiating from his eyes.
"Hey man, what's up?" Edward's face lit up upon seeing Ben. The two were extremely close. Bella loved how much Edward tried to hang out with Ben, even though his schedule was so busy. Edward was a pre-med student at UW and worked part time at his dad's clinic. Bella had learned from his sister, and her best friend, Alice, that he had turned down his acceptance to Dartmouth last spring, something that had never made sense to Bella, but she never asked and just assumed he didn't want to be far from his family.
With a small wave, Edward excused himself from Bella and walked towards the folding tables at the back of the store, which were reserved for game nights. Ben, having schooled the nameless boy and deemed him worthy to hang out with his hero, introduced Edward to him. Another heated debate began and Bella was once again left to sit staring off into space, wondering how Edward Cullen could be the most intelligent man she had ever met, yet be so damn dumb.
To be continued...