No Bella Allowed Contest

Little Margot: Matchmaker

Pen name: Zigster Pairings: Edward & Jasper Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight aren't mine, but they're too pretty not to play with.

To see other entries in the No Bella Allowed Contest, please visit the Contest's FanFiction page: http:/ www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net /community/ No_Bella_Allowed_Contest_Entries/77838/


Edward and Jasper are the pairing, but Alice is the catalyst. It starts off with her point of view.

Stepping into the studio for class again after my injury was both a huge relief and an incredible gamble. I'd been practicing to bring my muscles back up to working order, sure, but by myself, on my off hours. Never with my peers. Never in class. And not just any class, a Master class. Mr. C would be leading us today, and I was all the more nervous for it. Coming in and assuming I could keep up was a pipe dream at best. The only reason I'd even dared was because Edward said he'd be here. He'd promised.

I was nervous shuffling over to the resin box and blotting the soles of my shoes with the sticky powder. Five months had passed since I'd done that last in this studio—the main rehearsal hall for the company. The large, half circled windows lining two of its walls, with mirrors taking up residence along the other two, created a never-ending stream of reflected light, cementing its ethereal atmosphere. It was a place I'd always loved, and was heartbroken to part from for all those months. It was a beautiful space, and walking back into it was like coming home. I'd missed it so.

The early morning sun pooled on the floor in elongated patterns, where the rest of the company sat and stretched, mingled and talked. Dancers were like cats in that way, always finding beams of sun to bask in with their elegant limbs and lithe bodies. Many of them greeted me as I walked over to my place at the barre, framed by one of the large windows. I smiled at them all, hugged the men, and kissed the girls on both cheeks. They all claimed to be happy to see me, glad that I was back and in one piece, but I saw the apprehension behind their eyes. They all wondered how I'd do today, and not always in an encouraging way.

Dancers were competitive by nature. With career spans as short as ours comes an incredible urgency to be the best of the best, for the longest amount of time possible. I had sustained an injury that put me out of commission for the better half of a year, and there was no way I'd catch up in time to dance this spring in any performances. I knew this, and so did they. My fellow dancers were all supportive, but only to a point. It was just the way this world worked.

I closed my eyes to shut out their calculating stares and tilted my head back, deeply breathing in the smell of resin, sweat, powder, and leather. An air of smoke lingered in the dusty space, left over from everyone's hideous nicotine addiction. It clung to their leotards like moisture to a sponge, but oddly enough, it didn't bother me today. It was a real, live memory, and I found it comforting to be surrounded by these smells again. I smiled despite myself.

"What are you thinking, my little girl?" Edward's teasing voice whispered in my ear, and I spun into his arms with joy.

"Edward!" I shouted, squeezing him tight, my every limb curling around him in a full body embrace. He laughed at my enthusiasm.

"I didn't think you'd show today; I'm impressed," he said, rubbing my back and swaying me from side to side. Other dancers around us smiled and clapped. I suppose we were a sight to be seen: two of the best principals of the company reunited, holding onto each other for dear life after one's almost career-shattering fall.

"Of course I was going to come. You said you'd be here, and it's about time I tried to blend in again," I whispered in his ear. I could feel his resulting smile against my neck.

"Yes, but you could never blend in, Alice. You're too good."

"Pfft," I scoffed. "I'm no longer good. I'll be lucky if I survive till the winter season."

"You will," Edward said, shaking me as he looked me straight in the eye with devastating intensity. I could only nod back. When Edward wanted you to believe something, you agreed, if only to save the energy you'd need to argue with him.

No one ever dared.

Clapping sounded behind us, and every dancer turned towards the main door of the studio. "Come, come, stop this chatting. Everyone, to their places," Mr. C called. Everyone scrambled to find spots at the barre, the newer dancers running to the sides to grab the auxiliary center barres to make more room. Edward was exempt from such chaos, since he could stand wherever he bloody well pleased, and people would make room for him. The cocky bastard knew it, too; hence why he walked over to Mr. C with me still clinging to his waist and neck, oblivious to the game of musical chairs happening around him.

"Margot!" Mr. C cried the moment he saw the new accessory Edward was wearing: me. "Let me see you," he said, pulling me from Edward's arms and gently placing me on the floor. "Magnificent as always, my little Margot," he complimented before swooping in, kissing both of my cheeks, and hugging me tight.

"Calling me that now, Mr. C, would be an insult to Dame Fontyne's memory, I'm afraid," I told him sadly, ducking my head.

"You will be better than ever in a few weeks' time, little Margot. Don't let anyone tell you different," he said, straight to my face in a stern whisper. I smiled, trying to keep the tears at bay. Mr. C was always excessive with his compliments, but it was too soon for such claims. My injury was too fresh. I could only hope not to disappoint him in the coming months.

Class that day went... okay. I got through the first two hours with my muscles only mildly burning in protest, before my ankle started to ache during an adagio, and Edward, of course, noticed. Nothing ever got past him. It was annoying at times.

He lowered me from a lift we were practicing, and half carried me over to the side of the room. "Stay," he demanded, before he left to get me a pack of ice. Mr. C, up at the front, gave me an apologetic smile, and I tried, once again, to keep the tears back. I knew it was too soon. Especially for a Master class taught by Mr. C. I felt as if I'd made a mockery of the sacred space the studio became when he was present.

I perched on a chair in the front of the room and watched the rest of the class. Mr. C insisted that I sit up with him and observe. Secretly, he whispered in my ear, "It's a better vantage point to see how miserable Edward is with Tanya as his partner." I snorted into my palm. Edward did indeed look miserable. Tanya was taller than I, something Edward wasn't used to, and focused more on seducing the poor man than on the actual steps. It made for a rather awkward partnership, and a good distraction from my weakened ankle.

"I saw you two up front laughing at me," Edward scolded as he carried me down the hallway towards the front doors of the company's building after class. I giggled in his arms.

"You looked like you wanted to kill her, Edward! You really need to keep your emotions more in check. They'll get you in trouble."

Edward scoffed, "If you'd spent the last five months dodging her advances, only to have her rub her ass all over your cock today during adagio, you'd want to kill her too, you little tease." He rubbed his nose with mine as I pushed the door open with my good foot.

Edward did not put me down once we stepped out onto the sidewalk, and I laughed at his need to make grand gestures. He was such an over-the-top ass. A sweetheart, but an ass.

"Really, Edward. Anything to make you look chivalrous in the eyes of the world..." I said, shaking my head. He gave me a crooked smile in return when a very good-looking man walked past us and noticeably swooned at seeing Edward help little ol' me into a taxi cab. Edward winked at the poor man, whose knees almost buckled. He then climbed into the taxi after me, making sure the man on the sidewalk was having heart palpitations from his nice shot of Edward's fabulous backside, before shutting the door on the man's drooling face.

"You never stop, do you?"

"No. Why should I?"

"I don't know, maybe because you don't take it up the ass, and that poor man will now live forever with the dream that you do."

"I never said I was opposed to it, Alice. I just haven't found the right guy yet." I smiled at his confident admission. He might not have found the right man yet, but I had. I giggled to myself at the thought as Edward curled me into his side, making sure my foot was elevated on top of his lap before telling the cabbie where we were headed. "South Portland Ave and DeKalb, please."

"Brooklyn?" The cabbie shot back with disdain. Edward's carefree smile fell, and he narrowed his eyes at the cabbie's gaze in the rearview mirror.

"Yeah, Brooklyn. Take the Manhattan Bridge."

The cabbie grumbled in the front seat before readjusting his Bluetooth and zooming off down Broadway. I snickered at Edward's sourpuss.

"Cabs just don't like going to Brooklyn, Edward. It's okay."

"Why do you insist on living so far away from our job?"

"Because I like living on a block that looks like it came straight out of Sesame Street," I said, beaming at him.

Edward snorted. Wait, no, Edward didn't snort; he was too good for such a thing. He exhaled a short sort of laugh that was way too elegant to be called a snort before offering, "Why don't we just go to my place instead?"

"No, no, I want you to meet someone," I told him with the biggest smile I could muster, trying to sway him with my angelic charms. I batted my eyelashes for good measure.

Edward was the biggest baby when it came to being introduced to people. He was an aloof fellow, and was way too used to people approaching him. He never had to start a conversation. This made him an egotistical bastard, and someone who almost always refused to be social when he didn't have to be. But my brother was in town for the first time since... ever, and I knew how perfect he'd be for Edward. Regardless of Edward's assertion that he hadn't found the right man yet, I knew that he just hadn't met Jasper. That boy could charm the pants off the Pope if need be. I couldn't wait to get Edward in the same room with him.

I wouldn't have done this a year ago; I wouldn't have dared. Edward had always been confident, and attracted to both sexes, but it was only a year ago that he started to show a blatant preference for men. I could see it in the way he'd flirt endlessly with the boys but only leave crooked smiles to the girls. He was testing the waters, seeing how far he could take it before reaching the ends of his own limits.

When I was injured, and my career was put on gut-wrenching hold, Edward was the one who kept me laughing. I became chronically depressed, not being able to dance or even walk for weeks on end. He'd kept me from locking myself into some black corner of my mind and never returning. Some of my favorite stories he'd tell were the ones about his endless and shameless teasing of the men in the company. Those poor boys, they didn't even knew what hit them.

It was because of Edward's selfless kindness towards me during my convalescence that I felt an extra kinship with him. We'd been partners for several years, and our extremely successful working relationship had spilled over into a very close friendship, but when you're forced to accept help from someone other than yourself—that's when everlasting bonds are actually created. Edward had been there at my worst. He'd held my hair back and sat with me on the bathroom floor as my body expelled a bottle of pills I'd taken in my attempt to end the pain. The pills wouldn't have worked—my body had rejected them as if it knew—but Edward was still there. Somehow, he figured it out and showed up at the right time.

He always was good at reading people.

Edward deserved some happiness. Stability. Love.

He'd kept me from slipping into my own overly-dramatic mind and cleaned up my puke to boot. The boy needed more than just my undying, sisterly love. Which was why I was going to hand him up my brother on a silver platter.

If only the damn cabbie knew how to get down to the damn Manhattan Bridge, they would have been introduced already.

"No!" I shouted to him as we reached the end of 5th Avenue, where it formed a 'T' with Washington Square Park and its grand arch. He'd put on his right turn signal. Luckily, we'd caught the light. "Don't go right; go left. Take Broadway, then West 4th, then the Bowery."

Folding my arms, I sat back in my seat and shook my head. Damn cabbies. I was not a tourist, thank you very much. I did not appreciate joy rides at my expense. I knew my way around; he wasn't going to pull the wool over my sharp eyes. And why the hell had he jogged over to 5th in the first place? Broadway went straight down the damn island. He'd have to make one turn onto Canal and be done with it. I sighed and shook my head again.

"Amateurs," I grumbled under my breath. Edward chuckled next to me.

"You're such a little control freak, Alice."

"I just like things done right."

"I know you do." I shot him a look, but his smile was genuine, so I didn't bother to scold him; I simply slumped into his side, foregoing my need to always have exquisite posture, and tried not to fume at the extra traffic our idiot cabbie had gotten us into.

He so wasn't getting a tip.

. . .

"Are you sure you don't need someone to pick you up from the airport, Jasper? My landlord has a car, and he absolutely adores me. He'd be more than willing to come get you if I asked."

I exhaled a laugh into the phone before answering, "No need, Alice. I'll be fine. I can take the subway, like you said. I've got your directions." I held up the e-mail Alice had sent me with meticulous directions, which would lead me to her front stoop with the least amount of trouble possible. She'd given me a secondary route and the numbers of two separate taxi cab companies, in case I somehow got lost while sitting in a subway car. Needless to say, I felt safe with my assertion that I'd be fine getting to her brownstone without the need of her landlord.

I'd been living in Amsterdam for the past three years, so stepping out into a new city without the constant smell of ganja seeping into my nose hairs was a surprisingly welcome change. My buddy Peter had just opened up his first bar in the States, in my sister's neck of the woods no less, and needed an American to help get things off the ground. I was only happy to oblige. I'd missed Alice greatly over the past year. We hadn't seen each other since her fall, and I wanted to make sure the girl was as put together as she seemed over the phone. I wasn't leaving until I knew my little sister was happy and healthy: end of story.

I had never ridden the subway in New York before. Alice never let me. She'd always insisted on taking cabs, but I kinda liked the feel of the train: the rocking of the car, the screeching of the wheels on a curve, seeing people in various states of awareness or relaxation co-mingling together in the fleeting community that made up the subway car. Soon each person would come to his or her own stop, and the human scenery would change. I got to experience plenty of that turnover as I rode, since the trip from JFK to Fulton Street Station on the A train was about an hour's worth of a ride.

Like I said, though, I didn't mind.

It took me a few minutes to find my bearings when I came up out of the underground and onto the hustle of Fulton Street. Black taxi cabs rolled by, partnered alongside fresh produce trucks and endless locals riding past on their city bikes, like daredevils on a precipice. I smiled at the chaos, crossed at the intersection, and wandered down the endless rows of brownstones along the residential streets.

Alice lived on the edge of the park, which was a welcome landmark, since most of these streets looked the same. I'd always confused South Oxford with South Portland, though, so I double checked the wrinkled directions in my hand once before making a left hand turn onto the correct side street.

Visiting her neighborhood of Brooklyn always proved to be a little dangerous for one's feet. The old slate sidewalks were broken up with tree roots and the degeneration of age. You'd have to be just as elegant a dancer as my sister to navigate them and attempt to take in the surroundings simultaneously.

"Mista' Whitlock? Mista' Whitlock!" someone shouted from a stoop several yards down the street. I waved at Alice's landlord with a warm smile. At least, I hoped the old man was Alice's landlord.

"Howdy," I said as I climbed up the stoop to greet him with a handshake.

"'Allo, it's great to finally meet'ya," the man greeted in a thick accent that sounded both French and African. "Alice told me to keep a look out for ya." I smiled at the man; his eyes were crinkled with amusement, and his hand was warm in mine. A good soul. I could tell.

"She's still out, I take it?"

"Yup. But I've got ya keys." He pulled out a ring of keys from his pocket and dangled it in front of me. I took them gratefully, happy that a soft place to lay my head and relax was in my very near future.

Alice's landlord Laurent and I talked for a bit longer on the stoop before I ducked into her apartment on the ground floor. He was a cordial old gentleman and did, in fact, adore my sister. He referred to her as "little Margot" and continually shook my hand, expressing how happy he was to finally meet her brother. Apparently, Alice talked about me a lot.

Laurent had given me a bottle of wine before I could slink away, and he insisted that I let it breathe for a while on the counter before diving into it. I thanked him, using the bottle to gesture a salute before jogging down the steps and into the apartment below.

I opened the bottle in Alice's small galley kitchen, set it on the counter—"to breathe," as Laurent had instructed—kicked off my boots to leave by the guest bedroom door, and plopped onto the bed all within two minutes of entering Alice's humble abode. I passed out before my face even hit the pillow.

. . .

"Keep the change," Edward told the cabbie, and I glared at him from my perch on his lap. He chuckled back at me before hauling me out of the cab with an infinite amount of grace that befitted his chosen profession.

"Edward, he took three separate detours to get us here, purposefully running up the meter. You did not have to tip the man," I scolded, my hands placed firmly on my hips, even while being held aloft in Edward's arms.

"Alice, if you don't like cabbies so much, why take cabs?"

"I love taxis! That one just... didn't... meet my standards."

Edward laughed again as we crossed the street to my apartment. The boy hadn't put me down since we'd left the studio. I sighed at his gallantry. This man needed someone to care for. And hopefully, that someone was snoozing inside my flat.

. . .

I don't how long I'd been asleep before I heard movement outside the bedroom and picked my head up off the pillow to peek with one angry eye at the door. I was still groggy and extremely jet-lagged; I'd been hoping to get more of a nap than I had before Alice got back. I wanted to be awake and aware, so I could take her out to dinner and catch up properly.

I guess that just wasn't in the cards for me today.

Falling out of bed with a thud, I quickly rubbed my hands over my face, trying to shock myself into a more conscious state before yanking open the bedroom door and searching out the origin of the noise. There were voices, two of them. One, I immediately recognized as my sister's, but the other was male. Did she bring a man home with her? Was she seeing anybody? I thought back to our many conversations over the past months. She'd never mentioned anyone in particular, except for a few people from the company, and a friend of hers named Edward. She'd insisted that it was platonic when I prodded for more information on him. Being a big brother and all, I had to make sure my little sis was being treated right.

"Alice?" I called, rubbing the back of my neck, ridding it of a crick.

"Jasper!" she gasped somewhere off in the apartment before I heard the vibrations of her footsteps fast approaching. In one whoosh, my little sister was in front of me, her delicate arms latched around my neck in a tight embrace. Despite her petite size, the girl had practically knocked the wind out of me.

"Ouf! Hey Alice. Nice to see you too," I laughed as I hugged her tight. She'd limped slightly as she ran towards me; I hoped her ankle wasn't giving her trouble again.

"Oh, I missed you!" She squeezed me tighter, and I smiled. The feeling was mutual. "You still smell like Nag Champa and patchouli, though. We'll have to fix that, you damn hippie."

"Ha! Alice, living in the Netherlands does not make me a hippie," I said, releasing her from my grasp as she slid down from around my neck and landed on the floor in a graceful plié.

"No but working in a 'coffee bar'," she shot back, making air quotes around the words as she spoke, "makes you one. You probably had a contact high every damn day for the past two years. Your poor lungs." She patted the place over my heart with her hand as she pouted.

"Alright, enough about me; I heard a man's voice. Who's here?"

Someone coughed at the end of the hallway, and I raised my head in the direction of the noise. What I saw nearly made me choke on nothing but air. A man was leaning against the wall, his long legs crossed, along with his arms, while a lazy half-smile played on his rather perfect, rose colored lips. His hair was a shock of auburn and gold, the colors of fall contained within each strand as it defied gravity and convention by looking incredible, while simultaneously seeming unkempt. His sage eyes were alight with amusement and mischief. I found myself desperately wanting to know what he was thinking. And when he licked his lips, his pink tongue sliding languid and slow across the bottom of his mouth, I might have actually groaned.

I blinked a few times, shaking my mind of the sudden wave of fantasies that had sprung up at seeing such a person. His body was lithe and sharp. His limbs were elegant and lean, with just the right amount of muscle. He was a dancer; his presence screamed it.

"Jasssspeerrr," Alice called to me in a sing-songy voice, waving her hands in front of my face.

"Oh, sorry. I must have zoned out there."

Alice smiled at me knowingly as she swayed her body from side to side like a bashful child happy to see mommy and daddy kiss.

"Jasper, I'd like you to meet Edward. Edward, this is my brother, Jasper." Alice stepped back towards the far hallway wall after her polite introductions and eyed the empty space between us as if she could absorb it through her eyes and make it disappear. Before she had a chance to burn a hole in the flooring with her intensity, I stepped closer to... Edward, and extended my hand.

"It's nice to fin'lly meet you, Edward. Alice here talked about you a lot over these past months."

Instead of acknowledging my greeting, Edward turned to Alice, his eyebrows raised up to his hairline. A mischievous glint appeared in his eyes. "I knew I spotted a twang to your speech, little missy." Alice's face flushed red before she squared her shoulders and shot him a look.

"I am a New Yorker now. It doesn't matter."

I had to hold back a laugh as I retracted my unshaken hand. "Alice has been attempting to cut the accent out of her voice since we were teens. She's always considered herself a Northerner."

"That's a pity. It's such a lovely accent," Edward said to no one in particular. It was my turn to flush. Was that a compliment?

An awkward silence fell, during which Alice glared at Edward, I watched Alice, and Edward, I'm pretty sure, watched me. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see a slight grin on his fascinating face.

"Well, come on Jasper, shake my hand."

My head turned abruptly. "Oh," was my brilliant response.

"I'll go get us drinks!" Alice chirped, before she waddled out of the hallway as best as she could with the limp in her step. I momentarily wondered how bad her leg was after class.

"Jassssspperrr..." Edward trilled, repeating the sing-songy tone of Alice's before, except in a low note meant for a tenor. I had zoned out again, apparently. Edward was still waiting.

I extended my hand, with caution this time. What was this man's game?

Edward took my hand in a firm and warm grasp. It was every bit a normal and polite handshake, save one embarrassing difference: the instant hard-on that occurred the second that man touched me. I almost jumped back from the jolt to my libido our skin-on-skin contact had created.

Well, shit.

Edward was smiling. He must have known the effect he was having, since he hadn't let go, and his eyes shone with amusement.

"Boys!" Alice hollered from the kitchen, and I suddenly remembered to breathe. "Come on, let's all catch up and talk while drinking alcohol like civilized people."

"Coming," Edward called over his shoulder with a final smirk sent in my direction before he left me there, stunned and hard.

Okay, he wanted to tease me. That was fine. I'd be happy to tease back. However, I had a little bit of a bone to pick with Alice. She'd never told me that Edward was pompous, gorgeous, and most importantly, attracted to men. I cursed myself as I tried to control my breathing while I walked into the living room. Why had I never seen a ballet of hers while she was partnering with Edward? What a missed opportunity to see the man—currently lounging across Alice's loveseat like a jungle cat—in tights.

. . .

Jasper was putty in Edward's hands the moment that boy gave a little cough announcing his presence like the over-the-top ass he was. I'd left them to chat it up a bit in the hall while I got drinks, but not for too long. The night was young, and the times—and by times, I mean the sexual preferences of Edward Masen—they were a' changing. I had to strike while the iron was hot.

At the beginning of the night, Edward had been dangerously close to making Jasper drool, something I really didn't want to see, but by the end of the evening, my brother had pulled out the smile that could knock anyone's socks off and send them straight into the washer, which had successfully caused Edward to fidget in his seat. Bingo.

Edward's fidgets were a sign of nerves, and his nerves meant he was worried about impressing my brother. This could only mean one thing, and it made me very, very happy.

Edward actually liked Jasper.

Edward's blushing, stuttering, and regression back to what I'm sure he was like as a gangly, pre-pubescent teen were only further proof. I would have gotten up and danced a jig of joy if my ankle hadn't been bothering me, and if I didn't view the jig as a dance that insulted my abilities.

The only hiccup in my plan was that Edward had been drinking. His guard had been down, and therefore, his true feelings were easier for Jasper to read. This would have been a good thing, had Edward been a normal person, but Edward wasn't normal. He'd be back to his old, introverted tricks the second he'd sobered up, and Jasper would have to break through all over again. This made my job harder, and Jasper's, infinitely more so. I'd have to be sure to give Jasper plenty of incentive to crack Edward's shell. I knew once he did, he'd see what very few people got a chance to witness: a lost, little boy desperate for reassurance and love.

Friday would work, I thought.

On Friday, I knew Edward would be doing the last full dress-rehearsal of Mr. C's current revival before they moved everything to the stage. That'd be the perfect opportunity for Jasper to observe Edward uninhibited, doing what he did best: seducing an audience into loving him. No one could resist Edward after seeing him dance.

No one.

. . .

"I just want you to see the rehearsal, Jasper. It's incredible."

"You've never brought me inside the studio before, Alice. Why can't I just come see the show when it opens?"

Alice slapped my arm half-heartedly. "Don't be silly. This will be an unforgettable experience."

I sighed and let her lead me to a group of chairs set up in the front of the studio. In truth, I was nervous. Edward was fucking confusing; it was almost too much work to try and milk a sip of truth out of him. Everything was hidden behind that cocky smile. Alice hadn't told me exactly what this rehearsal involved today, but I could only assume that Edward was a part of it. Her covert smiles were only further proof as she practically shoved me into my seat with strength way beyond what her deceiving size should have been able to muster.

Resigned to the fact that I was in this for the long haul, I took in my surroundings while everything still seemed casual. Dancers in various types of leotards and work out clothes were milling about, mixed in with more established looking characters that I assumed were teachers or costume designers. Something.

The studio was intimidating in its size, but the large, arched windows along the far wall let light spill into the space, warming it and creating a softer atmosphere. Dust particles drifted through the streams of light, their lazy nature a jarring juxtaposition with the frenetic energy the dancers were exuding in the room. It was a feeling of excitement. Alice was even buzzing next to me, with her little arm curled around mine.

She waved and smiled at almost every person in the room, kissing the cheeks of the few who came over to speak with her, and conversing with everyone in French, of all things. I held in my impulse to roll my eyes and snort at her frivolities. Despite her adopted flamboyance, she was endearing, and judging by my observations of the company, much loved in her little world. I was glad for that.

The rehearsal was soon called to order by a tall, blond man with a scarf draped elegantly along his broad shoulders. He clapped three times, and all speaking, fidgeting, tying of ribbons, adjusting of tights, stretching, and even buzzing of the Alice variety, ceased. The room's respectful silence continued as he gave a short, simple speech before strolling over to Alice's opposite side and sitting down next to her, pulling her hand into his lap in the process.

"My little Margot, are you ready to see Edward be the genius that he is?" he asked, all expectation and smiles.

Alice practically squealed in response. "I cannot wait! I brought my brother for that exact reason."

"Ah, little Margot's brother. We must talk after the rehearsal, yes? Good." He nodded without even waiting for my answer. "It will be wonderful." He finished the one-sided conversation by reaching over and patting my knee before clearing his throat and signaling to the pianist to start. I gave Alice a look, and she returned it by squeezing my arm in reassurance. I was right; she had brought me here to see Edward. The little sneak. Was she trying to embarrass me? And now I had to speak with her boss? The man was elegance personified, and I was sitting one seat away from him in too-tight jeans and cowboy boots. What was Alice thinking?

Alice, sensing my unease, motioned back towards the expanse of the room and gave a little nod. I turned my head to see a bed, a table, and two chairs set up at calculated distances from each other. A few moments ago, they had been hidden off to the side underneath large, white sheets. Damn, the prop people were fast.

Edward walked in a moment later, his head self-consciously bowed, his body language strained. He was wearing a pair of paint stained pants and canvas slippers. Only. I blinked, attempting to take in the beauty this man could exude, even in nothing but a pair of ratty slacks. To my shock, he brought a cigarette to his wine-stained lips and lit it. I sat up a little straighter in my seat, my chair creaking beneath me.

The piano was playing three haunting chords over and over as he stalked to the bed and lounged across it, pulling drags the entire time. I tore my eyes away for two seconds to look at Alice. She was smiling at me, her eyebrow raised in a self-satisfied way.

"Is this the rehearsal?" I whispered to her behind my hand. She nodded with a broader smile. I turned my head back towards the captivating image of Edward contorting his body in impossible ways. He had pushed off the bed and fallen to the floor, twisting in a choreographed rhythm. Watching his muscles pull and strain in his lithe arms and down the length of his exposed back was a dangerous thing. His body was like a colt, fast and lean, and a slight sheen was present on his skin, reflecting the sunlight pouring in through the windows. I found myself having several very inappropriate urges at such a sight, which, considering I was sitting next to my little sister, needed to be ignored.

I shifted in my seat, turning my body away from Alice as much as I could without being conspicuous. Alice chuckled silently next to me, and I cursed under my breath. My sister knew me too well.

The rehearsal continued, and a woman appeared at the back door. She was in a blood red ballet tunic that matched her lipstick, with cropped black leather gloves on her hands, and her strawberry blonde hair arranged in a simple twist. Edward's reaction to her entrance turned from hopeful to negative within seconds as his shoulders hunched and his face registered a look of shock. Immediately, my instincts called out a warning as the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end.

This woman was not good for him.

As the ballet progressed, Edward's demeanor turned desperate; he dragged himself behind the haughty temptress in the red dress as she slinked across the room, his hands reaching for her, only to be shunned. Their interactions were poisonous. They'd cling to each other before the woman would throw him off, or turn away. Their bodies twisted in a familiar way, the known way of past lovers. It angered me to see such slight touches between them, even though it was choreographed. I had to shake my head, reminding myself that it was just a performance.

The woman abused Edward's kindness, acceptance. She lit a cigarette, only to blow smoke in his face. She'd open herself to him, only to kick him away with a turn of her head. Edward tumbled on the floor, extending his legs up past his head, and held his body aloft by his shoulders and hands, only to lower himself slowly to the floor, symbolically taking in the damage she had inflicted. The muscles in his stomach contorted and contracted with his fevered breaths.

For as lanky as he could appear, the strength in his limbs astounded me. The control he had over every single tendon was incredible to witness.

I found my breathing had picked up as the dance became more strained. Involuntarily, I adjusted myself, pretending to pull at my belt, when Edward made one last effort to wrap his limbs around the woman. I wished I were in her place. I would accept him, take him in. Much more, even... so much more.

Out of nowhere, a noose appeared. I had been too focused on Edward to pay attention to anything else. Alice patted my knee with one delicate hand as if she knew my concern had risen. I felt foolish for all of a second before my eyes strained to take in the frightening image of the woman directing Edward's attention to the lethal length of rope with one elegantly pointed finger. To my horror, his eyes followed, and the woman ran with a silent cackle from the room. I internally cursed her as she left.

Edward fought against the control the woman apparently had over him, even when she was absent from his presence. He threw himself across the room, the furniture, everything, before dragging a stool and himself to the gallows. I shifted in my seat, suddenly nervous and uncomfortable. I was upset on an irrational level. Even in pantomime, I didn't want to see this powerful, emotive man die.

Alice's hand came down on my own, giving it a squeeze. I wanted to shrug her off, as if to say, "How can you be so calm?" But I didn't. It was a performance. I had to keep reminding myself that.

Watching Edward struggle against the rope after he'd kicked the stool away actually made my stomach turn and my chest constrict. I moved forward in my chair, wanting either to run from the room, or to run for help. I didn't care how choreographed it was; I still didn't like seeing it. But when the noose was lowered and the ballet came to a close, shattering the illusion, I couldn't help but stand and clap. Awed. The range of emotions I had been dragged through in those twenty minutes was more intense than I'd ever likely admit. Edward was incredible.

. . .

Jasper had gone from salivating at Edward, to seething at Tanya—something I was very happy to witness, since she was dancing my role—to almost breaking down when Edward succumbed. I could see the tendons in Jasper's neck strain with his desire to help as Edward acted out his death. It almost made my heart clench to see my brother so affected, but I knew that this was what Edward did best. He was a genius at drawing the audience members in, captivating them and never letting them go. He had wrapped Jasper around his little finger with expert precision. I couldn't have been more proud.

Now that Jasper had been awed by the man, it was his turn to woo Edward. I knew he could, and the get-together Mr. C had suggested before the rehearsal was the perfect setting for my plan to go down.

"Margot," Mr. C whispered in my ear, pulling me and Jasper out of the studio as he did. "You will be magnificent in Afternoon of a Faun this winter season. I'm sorry that you weren't able to dance La Mort."

I gasped at the news and hugged Mr. C as if he were my father. "Thank you, Mr. C! I can't wait to do another Robbins piece."

"He was a great man, and knew how to make dancers move so beautifully..." Mr. C said, his voice trailing off as he closed his eyes, reliving memories.

"And as for La Mort," I prompted. "Tanya is actually quite fitting for the role. She did a great job as the woman who drives Edward to kill himself." I winked at Mr. C with the most innocent smile I could muster, and he responded by giving my shoulders a loving squeeze.

"So, Jasper, what do you do?" Mr. C kept the conversation flowing as we walked to the elevators and descended to street level. He told us he planned to cook a simple dinner at his home, and that he'd love to invite us to join him. His wife was in town and wanted to have a nice meal with friends. Which meant that several other distinguished, yet bohemian, New Yorker types would be there—along with Edward, of course. I hugged Mr. C again. His skills at pulling together last-minute dinner parties were unparalleled.

Mr. C lived down in Tribeca in a pre-war duplex, with a terrace off the living room and a full roof garden that even Robert De Niro (his neighbor) was jealous over.

"Jasper," he called, while he and his wife, Esme, were giving us the grand tour. "Tell me, as someone who's never seen Edward dance before, what did you think?"

I saw Jasper blink at Mr. C's cryptic question before shaking his head and stumbling over his answer. "Oh, well, he was incredible. I mean…" Jasper paused, his brow furrowing. "The way he controlled his body, down to his toes, it was... beautiful."

"Ah, so you think I'm beautiful?" Edward said while walking out onto the terrace, as if on cue, with a lowball glass already in hand.

"Edward!" I squealed, giving him a kiss on both cheeks. Now the fun could begin. "Be nice," I warned him under my breath.

"Always, Alice." He flashed me a dazzling smile before turning his attention to Jasper. I quickly went to refill my brother's glass in the kitchen. He'd need liquid courage tonight.

. . .

Edward's swagger was all show. He was so comfortable with using other people to entertain himself that he didn't even think twice about their gender before flirting. I, however, thought differently. I was very much a proud gay man. The male body was a beautiful thing, and Edward's should have been worshipped on a daily basis. I'd gladly take it upon myself to do just that, if he'd let me, but it was clear that I had to break down the exterior he had built up before I could begin doing the worshipping. I thought that I'd broken down some of those walls the other night, but it was clear from his demeanor that he'd chosen to ignore any progress we'd previously made.

First things first: turn up the charm. Edward didn't seem to have a problem with personal space, as he draped his arm over my shoulder, waiting for my answer. This gave me free rein. I smiled at him, keeping it coy, while boldly placing my hand on his abdomen. "Yes, I do. Your dancing is beautiful."

"That is it," Mr. C added, raising his glass to his student.

Edward's smile faltered, and mine widened. I knew what he had wanted: to hear that he was beautiful. He looked like the sort of man who was accustomed to always getting his way, but I was not the sort of fellow who complied so easily. Edward was beautiful, yes. Striking, even. Anyone and everyone could tell, and had probably told him all his life.

The sage of his eyes darkened as it spoked out towards the edge of his irises, making his dilated pupils that much more pronounced as he took me in and sized me up. Again. He'd done this back at Alice's apartment. I tried my best not to show my hand, but it was clear from today that I was just as enamored with him as the rest of the world was.

So what good would come of me telling him so and inflating his already sizable ego?

"You two create a striking image," Esme said, pulling a professional-looking camera out from nowhere. Mr. C chuckled.

"Ah yes, they do," he nodded. "One of Esme's hobbies is photography. She's quiet brilliant, actually," Mr. C explained, gazing at his wife as if she were the only one in his presence. It was clear they were devoted to one another. I was too taken with their sweet gestures and sidelong glances to notice the first time Esme's camera went off with a loud click that snapped me back to the present.

"One more?" she asked sweetly. Edward nodded beside me.

"Look like you want to be here," he instructed under his breath, his tone depressed as he posed for the camera. I slung my other arm around behind his waist, so that I was practically embracing him.

"I do want to be here," I said, giving a gentle tug on his waist. His head snapped in my direction, his eyes wide. We were nose to nose when the camera went off, but neither of us blinked at the crack of the flash.

"Well, don't you boys look cozy," Alice sassed as she handed me a fresh glass of bourbon. I took a deep breath and stepped back, lowering my other arm from Edward's waist and gaining some much needed room between us. I thanked Alice for the bourbon before downing half its contents without a second's hesitation.

"Thirsty?" Edward asked with intense eyes and a half smile on his lips. I gulped more of the liquid caramel down.

Edward was intoxicating. I needed a break from his brand of inebriating power.

"Esme?" I prompted. "I'd love to see some of your work, if you'd like to show me." I made sure to give her a warm smile and kept the southern gent in me on the surface. He'd been slipping into the background the longer I stayed around Edward and contemplated his sexuality. He didn't seem to be more one thing than another. It made him so much harder to gauge.

"Sure dear, follow me," she said, linking her arm with mine. "Edward? You haven't seen the new dark room, have you?" Esme offered, an obvious little glint in her eye.

"No, I haven't," he said. I had to hold back a groan of frustration. Edward then proceeded to follow us into the apartment and up the staircase into a modern-looking garret. I was immediately overwhelmed with the number of black and white photographs decorating the walls in elegant, black frames. They were all of dancers, and many of the images were of Edward and Alice.

"Wow," Edward breathed at my back, and I turned to nod in agreement about how beautiful the room was. Our eyes locked, and we had a moment of real, shared emotion. It lasted no longer than a few seconds before Edward realized he'd let down his guard and threw his cocky smile back on his face, but it was obvious that we had both felt it. He'd let me see the little boy hidden behind his eyes. It gave me hope.

"You haven't seen these, have you, Edward?" Esme said.

"No. Has Alice?"

Esme shook her head. "I was going to give her a few of them. You two were so beautiful in this pas de deux," she said, pointing to a striking image of Edward holding Alice aloft by his arms. Her delicate little limbs were twisted into an elegant position as she held her head high. She looked regal, sprite-like, and happy. I hadn't seen that look on her face in a long time.

"Will she be able to dance again? Like she used to, I mean?" I asked, unable to hold back.

Esme's sweet yet sad smile made my heart clench, but her answer soothed the pain. "She'll be different. Everyone is after an injury. But she'll be just as special as she was before she fell. Alice has a quality about her, like Edward; you can't help but watch them."

A moment passed during which we all stood, taking in the pictures on the walls, before Esme spoke again. "Here, let me show you the darkroom."

We followed her inside the dark, red lit space. More images hung on long lines of string over our heads. These were unframed and glistened in their newly developed state. Their subject matter was overtly sexual, despite the fact that they appeared to have been taken during a rehearsal. Leg warmers and mismatched leotards inched into some of the compositions.

"Edward is a fabulous model," Esme stage whispered in my ear. I smiled, suddenly feeling very warm.

"Where were these taken?"

"During a warm-up for class," Edward said, too close behind me.

"Oh, I forgot the roast in the oven!" Esme exclaimed in an almost convincing portrayal of surprise. "Feel free to stay and look around, boys." She gave me a wink and kissed Edward on the cheek before closing the darkroom door behind her. We listened to the clinking of her heels lessen as she slipped back down to the party below.

Silence followed.

I cleared my throat. "Does Esme come and photograph the dancers often?"

Edward nodded, not looking at the images, but instead, at me. "She loves to try and capture our movement."

"I can see that, these are..." my voice trailed off, not able to find the right word.

"Beautiful?" Edward's eyebrow was raised, showing the sarcasm in his question. I snorted, feeling foolish and turned on.

"Are all the male images pictures of you?" I asked, since most of the photos didn't show the dancers' faces. The compositions focused on their bodies, covered only in thin material, and sometimes, no material at all. Bare backs, legs, and arms abounded.

"No. Some are Demetri and Aro. Soloists in the company."

"But this is you?" I asked, pointing to an image of a man performing a turn in mid-air. Edward's face fell, and his eyes burned.

"No," he said dismissively, his voice gruff. He stepped back from his close proximity to me and I physically felt the loss, even though he hadn't been touching me. I almost cringed at his change in demeanor.

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"That's me," he spat through gritted teeth, gesturing towards a picture of a man's back twisting to the side, his arms elegantly stretched above his head. I smiled as soon as I took in the mess of hair in the picture. Of course that was Edward. The same man who was currently rocking on his heels with a petulant look on his face in front of me. Seems his ego was easy to bruise, and I'd done a number on it.

Well, I could fix that. Hesitantly, I took a step towards him.

"Edward?"

"Hmm?" He didn't look at me. I took another step.

Edward's head was down and turned away, with his jaw clenched. It created an almost violent silhouette in the dark space, his jaw was so sharp. I lifted my hand and placed a palm on his opposite cheek, forcing his eyes to mine as gently as I could.

"Edward, you don't need me to tell you that you're beautiful. You know it already," I spoke in a soft tone, not wanting to scare the timid animal in front of me away. For all his swagger, he was very much a child seeking reassurance. I silently wondered if he'd had a disapproving father he'd forever be hoping to impress.

Edward's stubble-covered cheek pressed into my palm as he allowed his body to slacken from its rigid stance. I took another step as he moved back into the wall, leaning his body against it. His hips jutted forward involuntarily, meeting mine with my last step towards him. His breath hitched at the contact, and I had to hold in a leer. There was no denying my attraction for this man, and how he'd kept me in a constant state of confusion and arousal since we'd met. The fact that he could feel it now, and was somehow shocked by it, amused me.

"Jasper, what are—"

"I'm feeling you," I answered.

Edward gulped, and I moved my hand down to his throat, skimming the skin with the backs of my fingers. "What have you done with a man?" I asked. The bourbon clearly had taken effect. I would never have been this brazen with Edward sober.

"I... umm, I've kissed—"

I cut him off again. "And?"

Edward licked his lips as his eyes involuntarily shot downward to where our hips met before refocusing on my face. I smiled back at his coyness. He'd already given me the answer.

"Ah... interesting." I nodded, moving in, watching him. His eyes widened and his pupils became impossibly large, pitching his sage eyes black. I was just about to dip below his chin to lick his warm skin when Edward surprised me. He pressed his hands to either side of my face and pulled me to his lips before tilting his head to take in more of my mouth. He was adamant and forceful in his kiss—something I hadn't expected—but I assumed his nerves were leading his false bravado, so I moved my hands into his hair to soothe him. The frantic nature of the kiss lessened and morphed into an even push-pull between us, languid and smooth.

Edward gasped and pulled away suddenly only a few seconds later, his eyes darting everywhere but my face. I guided him back towards me with a gentle hand to the cheek, trying to keep him calm.

"Jasper, I can't..." he breathed out with no voice. He was heaving as if he'd run a mile.

"Shh," I told him, running my hands, once again, through his soft, messy hair. It worked; his breaths evened and his eyes closed. He even hummed a little.

"Nothing has to happen, Edward. I didn't expect it to."

A crease formed between his closed eyes. "You didn't?"

"No. Why would I?"

"But I thought—"

"Being nervous and scared are not the two things I look for when I consider whether or not to make the next move, Edward. That'd be... kinda creepy of me."

Edward exhaled a humble laugh and opened his eyes to finally look at me. What I saw was pure honesty expressed on his face, and I smiled all the more for it. The facade was gone, and only Edward remained.

With an extremely reluctant sigh, I removed myself from his grasp, knowing the moment was gone, for now. Wrapped up as we were, I hadn't even noticed how close we'd pressed our bodies together. I'd only known that I enjoyed it and wanted more. Edward's hand lingered on my waist as I pulled away—telling me he did, too.

. . .

When the boys rejoined the party only thirty minutes after Esme had, my immediate reaction was to scowl at my brother. What had he not done right? Esme had handed them a perfect little hide-out on a silver platter; there is no way they should have been back that soon. But when I saw their newfound closeness—the subtle way Edward leaned into Jasper as they exchanged a whisper, and the not-so-discreet hand Jasper kept on Edward's hip or arm as they mingled with the guests—I took a deep breath and reassessed my assumption.

They'd done something, yes. They were obviously more comfortable with their physical contact—whereas before, it seemed forced and mixed in with some kind of power struggle—but to what degree?

"He's doing well," Esme said, surprising me.

"Oh, Esme!" I jumped, almost spilling my drink before recouping. "Yes, he is."

"Edward, I mean," she clarified.

"Oh," I smiled. "I meant Jasper."

She shrugged with a sweetness in her eyes. "I figured. He has a lot of work on his hands if he wants to crack Edward."

"He can do it. They'd be perfect together; I just know it," I told her with a confident nod of my head. She smiled back and patted me on the shoulder in a motherly gesture of understanding before kissing my hair and disappearing back into the fray to be the glamorous host she always was. I stayed in my spot just along the small bar, tapping my finger on my martini glass, in hopes of observing my brother's next move.

After an hour or so, even my soft flats with arch support couldn't keep my ankle from bothering me. I'd been on it a lot all day, and I knew it was time to go home and give it a break. I was going to have to miss dinner, which was a shame; Esme was a wonderful cook. I sought her out, along with Mr. C, my brother, and Edward in the small crowd, giving each a hug and a kiss. I added a wink to my parting with Jasper. The boy had work to do.

. . .

Alice was about as subtle as a heart attack as she winked at me before leaving. The elegant Mr. C even snorted slightly at her indiscreet ways. But they were all giving Edward and me the same look: one of anticipation, as if they expected me to get down on one knee any minute.

Jesus, way to lay on the pressure.

Esme corralled us all to the dining room table at around eleven in the evening. "We're going to be European and take our time," she said, in reference to the meal.

She'd left the terrace doors—which made up the length of the apartment's outside wall—open, letting the soft breeze of the night drift in, along with the sounds of the city. It was soothing to hear the murmur of the people walking and talking, taxis passing, and fire trucks' sirens sounding. It was the utter antithesis of the tension I felt between Edward and me—conveniently seated together, thanks to Esme—at the table. He radiated body heat and nerves, and they all seeped into me, stirred in my gut, and made my knees bounce. Edward placed a hand on one, stilling it, but it only seemed to direct the shakes elsewhere, jolting my upper body into a more rigid stance. I was sitting up so straight even Alice would have questioned me. Normally, I was a very relaxed man.

I moved Edward's hand off my knee and over to his, but didn't drop my hand from his hold. I wasn't shunning him; I just needed room to breathe. Mr. C was asking me polite questions, and with Edward touching me, there was no way I'd be coherent enough to answer.

"You're a tricky one," I whispered to Edward when it seemed everyone else was busy with their own discussions. He tilted his head to the side, eyeing me.

"What do you mean?"

"Your actions don't mesh with your mood half the time," I told him with a smile and my head down.

"Oh? And how can you tell what I'm feeling, Jasper?" he challenged.

I didn't bother answering; I just lifted my head and held his stare with my own. His eyes questioned me before softening and becoming tinted with nerves and a hint of lust. When Edward was open, he could be read like a book.

His Adam's apple bobbed as I watched him, seeing his chest heave with quickened breaths. After a few moments, I turned my gaze away from him and calmly answered a question Esme had asked. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Edward slump in his chair with a heavy exhale, as if exhausted.

I think I'd won that argument.

"Will you boys get home alright?" Esme asked as she handed me a tote bag of leftovers for Alice at the end of evening—or should I say morning? It was 2:00 a.m. New York artistic types sure could pontificate with the best of them.

"We're taking a cab," Edward said with confidence. My eyes widened slightly. This boy was coming home with me? I mean, I'd hoped to relieve some of the insane tension between us, but Edward wasn't the type of person you rushed with. Did he want to rush? I certainly didn't want to.

"Uh, yeah. Cab," I said to Edward, stunned, before moving in to hug Esme. "Thank you so much for tonight, Esme."

"You're a charmer, Jasper. You're welcome anytime."

The goodbyes continued for several more minutes before Edward and I found ourselves on street level alone. Edward looked nervous but determined as he walked to the edge of the sidewalk to hail a cab. I watched him in silence. His hair was being teased by the wind, and even when doing something as mundane as hailing a taxi, he looked elegant. The boy just knew how to move.

He grabbed the first cab that drove by. I smiled as I climbed in, wondering if Edward was the male equivalent of all those girls in the black and white flicks showing a little leg.

"No," Edward admonished, speaking to the cabbie as we stopped at a T intersection on 5th Avenue several minutes later. "Take Broadway, then West 4th, then the Bowery." He fell back onto his seat and wiped his hand over his face before letting out a soft chuckle. "Alice was right."

"Well, I don't know what you're referring to, but she usually is," I said, with my head lolled on the back seat. Edward turned to look at me with an honest expression of amusement on his face. The lights from the street drifted over his features as the cab turned onto the bridge that took us to Brooklyn, and I suddenly felt the weight of what this all meant. I placed my hand on his cheek and let it fall to the back of his neck as I pulled him to me as gently as my patience would allow. Edward smiled as I kissed him, his lips pulling back as I moved to his jaw, peppering it with soft, warm nibbles and little licks. We kissed lazy and slow as the two of us slumped further on the back seat with tongues twisting and hands seeking hips.

The cabbie up front coughed into his hand as he drove. Neither of us noticed at first, but when he coughed again, sitting up straighter, Edward self-consciously pulled away to the far side of the backseat. I turned front and adjusted myself rudely, holding the cabbie's eye in the rearview.

He so wasn't getting a tip.

Edward, however, wasn't focused on the cabbie; he was staring at me. His eyes were already dark from the night, but in that moment, they looked black. I'd seen that look before, and it simultaneously excited me and put me on edge. But our idiot driver had clearly made his feelings known about what we had been doing in the back of his cab, so the tension and frustration was left to hang in the air like a bad odor. By the time the cab had pulled onto my sister's street, I was having trouble breathing from holding myself back. Nothing increases desire more than being forced not to act upon it.

We watched the cab pull away from the curb in silence, following its course until it turned off the street and continued on its way. I shook my head, trying not to care, but Edward's hand had slipped into mine and gently tugged me back towards my sister's door. I stopped him just inside the small front room.

"Edward, what—"

"I don't know. I just... come on," he responded, answering my unasked question before pulling me down the hall. I felt like the blind was leading the blind. I didn't know how to handle this; he'd never been with a man.

"Edward," I said again, but he stopped me by pressing me into the wall. His false bravado was back, which meant he was nervous. Not a good way to start. "Edward, this isn't an easy thing, here."

"Why shouldn't it be?" he asked, looking like a scorned child.

"Because it isn't. It shouldn't be." Why didn't he understand that? I wasn't the kind of guy who just did this on a whim.

"But, you want me."

It wasn't a question. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the wall with a dull thud. God, did I want him. I could only nod my answer as I swallowed thickly.

"Then show me, Jasper."

"Show you what?"

"How to be with you. I want this," he promised, giving me a tug on my waist.

I searched his eyes, his face, his body language, everything I had at my disposal to make sure he was being truthful with himself. Words were just that, but acceptance of yourself was another thing to consider.

I gave in when his face fell and a small whimper left his lips. He looked broken and shunned—two things I never wanted to see him express because of me—so I put my hands on either side of his face and kissed him. Hard, long, sincerely. When I pulled back, Edward looked as if he'd just seen what was under the tree on Christmas morning. It gave me my answer, and with a final smile, I pulled him into my room.

Falling onto the bed with nervous laughter, I promised him I'd take things slow. He nodded into my lips as he kissed me, pulling at my shirt as I tore at his buttons. In a few urgent tugs, our clothes came loose, only to be thrown from the bed, dismissed. Edward lay before me with heavy breaths but prideful eyes, leading me to believe that he was very comfortable naked. And why shouldn't he be? His body was a perfectly tuned instrument to be explored and lavished with affection, which I happily accepted as my new responsibility.

In slow, steady beats, I charted his skin with my lips and tongue, tasting what I had so long admired as he panted beneath me. I smirked at him as we twisted around each other on the bed, happy to see the flush of his skin and the darkening in his eyes. The more aroused he was, the easier this would be for him.

I took him into my mouth with reverence, figuring this probably wasn't the first time he'd let a man taste him, but wanting to leave the impression that they had all paled in comparison to me and what I could do for him, what I could make him feel when he was open to me.

Carefully, I teased him with my slicked fingers, preparing him with patience and care. He moaned above me, urging me on, wanting more, and I complied, pushing deeper and adding pressure where it would be appreciated most.

Edward jerked with surprise, his eyes widening as he stared down at me. He looked bewildered and electrified, and I smiled up at him.

If he only knew, I thought.

"Can you do that inside of me?" he asked, his voice ragged as I crawled up his torso to lie by his side. I nodded into his neck.

"Do you want me to?" I felt shy all of a sudden; he was offering me such a large part of himself. Edward put his finger under my chin to lift my face to his.

"Not just want, I think I need it. I need this," he said, motioning between us. "Please, Jas—" I kissed him before he could finish, rolling myself on top of him. I wanted to look into his eyes his first time, to keep our connection and to gauge how he would take things. The last thing I wanted was to unintentionally hurt him.

We shifted and moaned, tangled our limbs and twisted our tongues. Distracted as he was, I reached blindly into the drawer of the nightstand to grab the items I needed to prepare him and protect both of us. Grounding myself with my arms on the bed, I positioned myself above him, hooking his flexible and powerful legs over my shoulders. I didn't even dare to blink as I pushed into him, watching his reactions, measuring each inch forward with an exhale of his breaths. He winced at first, but then gasped and clawed at my hips, pulling me closer.

When I started to move within him, after I'd held still for as long as I could stand to, I finally allowed myself to feel. Up until that point, it was about Edward, but once I felt him holding me and pulling me deep inside of him, I couldn't help but moan out his name with each stolen breath.

He pushed himself up off the pillow to kiss my lips, my neck, my shoulders, wrapping his arms around both our bodies and keeping me close. Our stomachs moved together in a sinuous sliding rhythm, bringing him extra pleasure and breaking me of my tenuous control.

He brushed the wisps of tangled hair off my face with delicate hands, and I closed my eyes at the gentleness of it, so different from our frantic movements below. He'd floored me with the simplest of touches even as I moved with him in the most carnal of ways.

When he whimpered my name, soft and pleading, I picked up the pace. The sensations built and twisted in my gut, signaling the start of my climax, and I warned him, hoping he was close.

"Yes," he moaned, pulling me tighter to him till his body was practically bent in half. "Please," he cried.

We fell together, gasping and panting into each other's necks as I came inside him and he released onto our stomachs. I collapsed, my arms giving out unexpectedly. It had been so good, so perfect. I didn't even want to move for fear that I'd somehow imagined it.

Minutes passed as our breathing evened and our bodies tingled. Edward stroked my hair and whispered unintelligible words into my skin. I knew I should clean up the mess we'd made, but I couldn't get my muscles to work. I'd have to force them, since we couldn't stay sticky all night.

"You're too cute," Edward whispered as I wiped him down with a warm washcloth from the hallway bathroom.

"I'm just attentive," I said with a smirk as I paid extra attention to a certain part of Edward's anatomy. "Are you okay?" I asked, after finishing and crawling into bed again. He nodded and rolled on top of me, positioning himself between my hips. I could already feel his excitement growing again.

Well, this could get interesting.

"I'm more than okay, Jasper," he growled, pulling on my earlobe with his teeth. I had to bite my own lip to keep from mewling like a damn cat. "Tell me, do you have a preference when it comes to sex?" His confidence was back, but this time it had nothing to do with nerves. What I felt pressed into my stomach was evidence enough to explain that.

"I like having it," I told him, playing with his hair. His head lifted up, and he stared at me for a beat before a wicked smirk appeared on his relaxed and beautiful face.

"Good," he said, smiling as he reached over to the nightstand for supplies before he claimed me with unparalleled stamina. It was only when we saw the early morning light start to peek through the curtains that we finally lay together, side by side, and allowed our exhausted bodies to rest.

. . .

I reluctantly tipped the cabbie and stepped out of the taxi with as much grace as I could. My doctor had not told me what I wanted to hear, but the prognosis wasn't all doom and gloom. I'd be able to dance professionally again. That was the light at the end of my tunnel. I'd just have to wait a little longer than I'd expected to get there. And I had Edward to help me.

Speaking of Edward...

As I walked down the slate sidewalk towards my flat, I saw him emerge, his hair ruffled, his shirt wrinkled and misbuttoned. He'd clearly been in a hurry to leave. His hands ran through his mane several times as he bounced on his toes in front of the stoop. It looked like he was arguing with himself.

It was only 10:00 a.m., and the boys had been out so late the night before. When they'd returned, I was sure to play some very loud music in my noise-canceling headphones to keep from hearing anything a sister didn't want to hear her brother doing. I'd awoken with a start at 4:00 a.m., my headphones askew, to wall banging happening down the hall, so I knew those boys had been up to quite a lot the night before. Why on earth was Edward up so early?

"Edward!" I shouted, waving my hand in the air. His head snapped up, eyes widening as he realized who I was, before he bolted towards the park in the opposite direction. "What the... Edward!" I shouted again. Why was he running?

I jogged after him, wary of my aching ankle. Damn him and his long limbs.

He shot through the intersection without even looking before running towards the entrance of the park. I had to wait for the light to change and for several slow-moving food trucks to pass before I could dart after him.

"Edward!" Now I was fuming. My ankle was hurting, and my best friend in the world was running from me. Bastard. He knew I shouldn't run.

Just as I voiced the thought in my mind, my shoe caught on the uneven cobblestone pavement and I fell, landing on my hands and knees, a heap of trench coat and Burkin bag. My ankle stung, and I cursed myself.

"Alice," Edward whispered, his voice strained. I don't know how he'd gotten to me so fast, but no sooner had I realized that I'd done some damage to my already damaged limb, than he had me in his arms and was walking back across the intersection towards my flat.

We sat on the stoop as the tears started. I didn't know how badly I'd hurt myself, but this was definitely not good. Not good at all. I slapped Edward in the chest. Hard.

"Damn you!"

"I'm sorry, Alice."

"Why the fuck were you running from me?"

"I wasn't running from you," he half whimpered. His head was in his hands; his hair looked about as stressed as he did.

"Then why didn't you stop?"

"It's Jasper," he said, his voice small. I gasped.

"What? What happened?" As if my heart rate weren't jacked enough.

"Nothing happened... well, no. Something. Everything..."

I slapped him again. "What did you do!"

"Nothing!"

"Bullshit. Tell me why you were running from here like you'd seen a ghost just now."

He shook his head and didn't speak. I slapped him again. "Alice!" he whined.

"I'll stop when you start talking."

A minute passed in silence. I allowed it, only to let Edward gather his very frazzled thoughts.

"Everything happened," he confessed, once he'd come to some conclusion in his head, I assumed. He turned to look me in the eye. "Alice, everything. I didn't know it could be that great. That..." He gave an exasperated sigh and dropped his head into his hands again. "Alice, Jasper's incredible."

"I know he is, you idiot. You say it as if it's a bad thing."

"No, I mean, he's perfect. I woke up this morning next to him, and I almost couldn't breathe. He was so beautiful, and it felt so right. I was happy…" he paused, "and maybe a little sore," he added, smirking, and I flinched at his side. I knew what they were up to last night, but if Edward was about to go into details, I might have to stop him. I was thrilled for them both, and extremely proud of Edward for letting someone in the back door, but knowing the specifics of my brother's sexual prowess would be where I'd have to draw the line.

"But..." Edward continued, not noticing my hesitation, "all at once, it felt like everything was weighing down on my chest, and I panicked. I had to get out. It was too much to take in."

Okay, then I really did smack him. Hard, across the face. He looked back at me in shock with his palm to his cheek. I was furious.

"What? You mean emotion, Edward? That thing that everyone else in the world has experienced except you, because you keep almost everyone at arm's length? Was that what was too hard to take in?"

"Alice, I'm just trying to explain—"

"I don't want to hear it! You were running out on my brother because you felt something real? Something good? You just told me how happy and right you felt waking up with him. Why on earth would you want to ruin that?"

"I don't want to."

"Well, running is a surefire way to shoot that to shit. You couldn't have picked a worse way to deal with your emotions, Edward."

"Alice, you're dangerously close to sounding like my mother."

"I don't care. You were just dangerously close to destroying something that could be incredible for you both. Now get back in there!" I demanded, pointing towards my front door under the stoop. "If we're lucky, Jasper's still sleeping. If he is, then you'll be giving him the chance to wake up to you, so he can feel happy and right, and a little sore." I quoted with my eyes screwed shut. I didn't want to think of my brother being sore because of...

Edward chuckled lightly at me. "Alice, you know what we did last night, right?"

"Yes, I know. And I'm damn happy for the both of you. But, so help me Edward, if you don't go inside, right now—"

"What about your ankle?"

"It'll be fine; I'm gonna ice it as soon as you get your sore ass back to Jasper!"

"I'm going," he said, his shoulders hunched and his hands held up feigning surrender, before he quickly scooped me up and carried me inside, with me kicking the entire way.

"Dammit, Edward." He ignored me and ran to the fridge to grab a bag of frozen peas I could use to ice my ankle. I glared at him until he relented and retreated down the hallway towards Jasper's room. I cursed my ankle as I sat on the sofa with my frozen peas, wishing I hadn't gone after Edward, and simultaneously feeling relieved that I had. If Edward realized what was good for him and finally stopped running from it, I knew my actions wouldn't have been in vain. Especially since the "it", in this case, was my brother.

. . .

I awoke to the shifting of the mattress for the second time that morning. Edward was sliding back into bed, his clothes left abandoned on the floor. I smiled into my pillow, trying to keep my breathing steady. I didn't want him to know I was awake yet.

He curled around me and pulled me into his side, gentle and caring. I hummed, despite myself, and snuggled deeper into the blankets and the warmth of his chest pressed to my back.

He came back.

When I'd awoken earlier, to the sounds of jeans being haphazardly thrown on and the clicking of his belt buckle sliding home, I'd feared that Edward thought last night was what I'd previously suspected: a one-night stand. Edward was rushing, desperate to get out, and I was too chicken to call him on it. So I stayed stock still in the bed with my head turned from him, and the tears staining the pillow beneath my cheek.

I ran through several scenarios in my head as I heard the almost silent thud of the door closing with Edward on the other side. Maybe he was just going to get coffee? Start breakfast? Pee? Each one sounded more ridiculous than the last. He was not a self-conscious being. Walking to the kitchen or the bathroom in his briefs would not be a problem. No, he'd thrown on all of his clothes before leaving the room. He wasn't returning.

So when he did, and flipped the lock on the door, sealing us inside before I heard each article of clothing hit the floor, my smile grew with each plop of fabric.

He'd come back. Jesus, I don't think I'd ever been happier.

"I don't want to ruin this," he whispered into my shoulder, kissing it as he spoke. I guess my attempt at feigning sleep wasn't fooling him. I turned in his arms, my eyes seeking out his own.

"Were you planning to?" I asked with a small smile, trying to lighten the impossibly heavy atmosphere that had descended on what should have been an easy morning.

"No." He shook his head and closed his eyes. I moved in and kissed his lips, stealing away his doubts.

"Then try to get some more sleep. And we can redo this whole waking up together thing."

"Do it right this time?"

I nodded, twisting our bodies into a more comfortable position as Edward settled against my shoulder, fitting into me perfectly.

The sun poured in through the windows across our tangled bodies, and I watched as the wind made the shadows of the leaves from the tree outside dance along Edward's skin. I let that image, coupled with Edward's hand on my chest and his soft breaths on my skin, lull me to sleep as my eyes drifted closed for the second time that morning. There were no tears, only warmth, and limbs, intertwined.

Fin.

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A/N: Sits back in her chair and blinks. A lot. One might even liken her repetitious eye movements to a twitch of some kind.

Well, if you're still with me, I'd like to thank you for reading this monstrosity. It's the longest thing I've ever written in one go, and judging by the 40 or so e-mails that my beta goddess, Gallathea and I sent back and forth to each other during Balletward's creation, I'm pretty sure it's the last 10k+ piece I will attempt. Sweet Jesus, have mercy. Falls to the floor and kisses Galla's feet. Thank you, sweetie. Thank you. The Cuban pool boy I ordered will be arriving shortly to your humble abode baring gifts and sporting wood. Do enjoy.

The brave souls who preread this baby were Chicklette and PolkaDotMama. The pool boy's cohorts will be knocking on your respective doors soon. Do keep your eyes peeled, the boys are nude.

Thank you Christine and Sue for hosting a Bella-free contest! Brilliant idea, ladies.

The ballet Edward preforms is Le Jeune Homme et La Mort. (The Young man and The Death) Choreography by Roland Petit.

Alice's nickname "Little Margot" is a reference to Dame Margot Fonteyn, a brilliant English ballerina who famously partnered with Rudolf Nureyev for many years. Alice and Edward's characters are very loosely based on their partnership.

Carlisle's character, "Mr. C" is based on George Balanchine, who was nicknamed "Mr. B" by his dancers.

There's are many more little details I'd love to tell you about and geek out over, but I won't do it here. Instead, I'll go blog about it. You can find a link to my blog on my profile.

Thank you all for reading!

~Zigs