This o/s was originally written and posted as a Valentine's Day gift to the readers who had me on author alert, and was part of a group effort called "Cupid's Little Ficsters". Each of us received a candy heart prompt pulled at random from a bag, and had to write a story about Edward and Bella attending the Forks High Valentine's Day dance. Since every day is a good day for love, really, I'm offering it up to you now!

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Sweet Talk

I'm an idiot. I'll be the first to admit it, although I'm pretty sure I'd have lots of company if I opened the floor up to general opinions on the subject.

I know for a fact that my brother would agree with me. Emmett has always thought I was on the stupid side, and this despite the fact that my report cards generally feature vowels, while his are squarely in the consonant camp. I'm good at the school thing; I pay attention in class, study, do my homework on time, and keep out of trouble. I keep out of trouble because frankly, I have no real idea how to get into trouble. Emmett inherited that gene, and he kept it all for himself. He can get in trouble anywhere; he's got a real knack for that, but luckily, he's slick enough to talk his way right back out again.

Let's get one thing straight right away: I'm not a wuss. I'm not good because I'm scared to be anything else. I'm good because I actually like school. This makes me a bit of a freak. People don't know what to do about it, because I don't look like a nerd. I mean, I'm not big and burly, but I don't wear thick glasses and sport a pocket protector, either. Girls don't know what the hell to make out of me. I think I must scare the shit out of them, because I can see them looking at me, but very few of them have the guts to try and start a conversation with me unless someone's dared them to or something. I don't really know how to do that casual hang, and none of them said or did anything to make me want to bother to learn how to be around them.

So, anyway. There's this one particular girl. Of course there is, right? Her name is Bella. Bella. She kills me, and has been killing me on a daily basis since she moved here freshman year. The first time I saw her, in the school cafeteria, she was dumping the contents of her vintage Banana Splits lunchbox onto an empty table in the corner. I noted those contents with increasing interest: an apple, a bottle of chocolate milk, and a fluffernutter on Wonder Bread with the crusts cut off. She had the dietary proclivities of a four-year-old. My sister, Alice, was standing next to me as I gawped at the new girl. "Christ, get a load of Luna Lovegood over there," she winced. "Her monobrow makes me want to cry a little."

It was true that unlike most of the girls at Forks High, Bella didn't pay all that much attention to appearances. Her clothes never matched - hell, her socks rarely even matched each other. She wandered through those first few days in a fog, and seemed surprised when someone spoke to her. She sat next to me in Earth Science, and I had the opportunity to study her kind of bizarre rituals up close and personal as a result. She always kept two sharpened pencils to the right of her denim-covered binder, with an extra pink rectangular eraser directly above them. Oddly, she never touched the pencils after she placed them next to the binder, and only used a black-ink Bic for note-taking. Her handwriting was small and cramped, making everything she wrote seem like a closely-guarded secret.

She had a sort of dreamy look on her face, as though she was astral-projecting somewhere far away from fourth-period Science, but whenever Mr. Banner called on her, she miraculously produced a concise and correct answer to his question. My eyes were routinely strained from watching her in my peripheral vision. If asked, I couldn't have explained what it was I found so fascinating about her. She was certainly attractive in a very off-beat way, and clearly intelligent as well, but she made absolutely no effort to put herself forward and didn't seem to expect anyone to notice her at all.

Maybe that's what I liked about her. Maybe I liked the fact that she didn't try to be anything for anyone else.

We became friends, because when you're me and you're a freshman in high school, that's pretty much all you feel safe doing with a girl you really like. We ended up in all of the AP classes together, and just kind of developed a habit of sitting next to each other and sometimes studying together. I felt comfortable with her, and believe me when I tell you that it's pretty freaking rare for me to be comfortable around ANYONE.

I'm not a freshman anymore, though. I'm a junior, and I'd really kind of like to do something other than just be friends with Bella. Something...more. I don't mean like an experiment. I mean she's the only girl I want to picture naked, which has got to mean something pretty major. And the thing is, when I picture her naked, she's also talking, because as much as I like the way she looks, I also really like the things she says. She's a bit of a total package.

Left to my own lame devices, I'd probably still be dicking around about how to move this thing with her to another level, but I've got a crisis situation on my hands now, and that sort of made it imperative for me to figure things out in a hurry.

It started when Mike Newton decided to develop a crush on Bella. Mike's surfer good looks and easy charm put him at the top of every girl's dream-date list. And as if that wasn't enough, he's actually a really decent guy. Polite and reasonably smart, he has a great sense of humor and everyone likes him, including teachers and parents. He pursued Bella like he was Patton with the Third Army at the Battle of the Bulge. She'd rebuff him, and he'd just fall back, gather his forces, and come at her again. This went on for weeks, until finally Jessica Stanley threw herself in-between the pair of them and distracted Mike enough to make him reach for the low-hanging fruit she offered.

But the damage was done by that point, because Mike had noticed Bella, which meant that suddenly, the other guys were taking another look at her, too. Mike was followed in rapid succession by Eric, Ben, and most annoyingly, Tyler, who stalked her in the hallways and scared the crap out of her by hacking into her locker and leaving her flowers, and food, and creepy "I really, really like you" notes. She turned them all down cold, earning herself a reputation as an ice princess.

Around the time I was busy making the leap from scrawny kid to less-scrawny-and-needing-to-shave-every-day guy, Bella's fashion sense morphed from orphan-chic to a kind of boho-hippie look. It was still rare when anything matched, but now she looked kind of free-spirited in a deliberate way. Her hair hung in long, wild waves down her back. Her face was never gunked up with powder or whatever the fuck it is that girls dump all over themselves. She smelled great, too - kind of sweet, but not perfumey. She looked like she'd rather be barefooted all the time. It was really, really, really cute. And distracting. And a little intimidating. The thought of her bare feet alone did things to me that none of the magazines and movies Em forced me to look at did, and there was a whole lot more than just some naked feet going on there. I'm not saying the porn didn't do anything for me, because that would be a big, fat lie. But those girls all looked plastic and a little forced. Bella isn't plastic at all. She's real, and soft, and natural. At least, I think she's soft. How the hell would I know? She looks soft. When I picture her naked, she's the softest thing ever, so I'm going with that.

She came to me in desperation two weeks ago. We've got this stupid Valentine's Day dance at school. I guess Bella had been bombarded with unwelcome invites to the thing, so she crashed down next to me in AP History one afternoon and begged me to pretend to have plans with her that night. I didn't have time to freak out about it, so I just said "Sure", and then asked her if she maybe wanted to go to the dance just to hang out. I kind of blurted that out before thinking it through, but then she smiled the biggest smile and said she'd love to, so here we are. In about ten minutes, I'll be at her door, picking her up to take her to this dance.

I officially have the sweatiest hands in the Northern Hemisphere. Jesus, I want to wear my ski gloves, because if I don't, her hands are going to get pruney if they're anywhere near mine for any length of time. If. If they are. There are no guarantees, I know. I have to figure out how the hell I'm going to take this opportunity and change the direction of our relationship. This means I need to use some moves. Slick moves. Moves that are going to let her know what I'm thinking. I'm so screwed, it's not even funny.

She's already been hit on by the best our school has to offer. That's not saying a whole lot, because it's not as though there are a bunch of urbane James Bonds strolling down the hallways of Forks High, but Newton's pretty smooth, and confident, and he knows how to talk to girls. He got nowhere with Bella, and he was really trying. I thought about asking Em for a little advice, but then I remembered how he and his girlfriend Rose got together last year, and I had another think. Emmett went over to Rose's house the first day he met her at school, and camped out on Mrs. Hale's couch all afternoon, getting Rose's mother to fall in love with him and his stupid dimples. When Rose got home from cheerleader tryouts, Emmett and her mother were best friends. He refused to leave until Rose agreed to a date that weekend, and between him and her mother, Rose never had a chance.

I tried to imagine camping out on Charlie Swan's lumpy green sectional and pulling a similar stunt to get Bella. I'm pretty sure Chief Swan would shoot me in the kneecap. He's not the type who takes kindly to insistent kids, and I don't have dimples, which probably wouldn't work on him even if I did have them.

Fresh out of other options, I did the unthinkable: I turned to Alice for advice. It took me two days of prepping before I mentioned the situation to her as casually as I possibly could, but of course Alice tore through the casual like it was tissue paper and started scrounging around for the truth at the bottom of the box.

"So, you like like Bella," she said.

"What does that even mean?" I asked her, annoyed that she was calling me out on it. "Fine. Say I like like her. She's just, you know, interesting, and nice. But we're friends."

Alice arched an eyebrow at me and squinted. "Yes, but you don't want to stay friends with her, am I right? This is exciting, Edward. You've never shown any interest in a girl before. You're looking to step things up a little. Or a lot."

"Oh, for fuck's sake. Whatever. Fine. Yeah. So if you have any valuable advice to give, I'm listening." I did my best to look vaguely irritated and unconcerned; I'm pretty sure she knew that that underneath the scowl, I was ten kinds of freaked and pretty desperate.

She flopped down next to me on the couch in the tv room, then curled one leg under herself so that she could turn to face me. "Okay, game plan. Let's see: Bella isn't like a normal girl. Erp - shut up, I didn't mean anything nasty," Alice preempted me as I opened my mouth to object to the whole "not normal" assessment of Bella. "I just mean that she's obviously not a giggle-head you'd be able to impress with your car or some cash or a few pretty words. She's...different. In a good way. But that makes your job harder."

"Awesome," I grunted, resigning myself to total humiliation and failure.

"Calm down," Alice huffed. "We'll figure it out. What's she into - do you even know?"

I thought about it for a minute or two. "Tough to tell," I finally admitted. "A lot of things. She loves beat poetry, and mountain lakes, and botany. We don't really, you know, talk about that stuff in any major detail. We mostly just study, and talk about what we're working on. She's great in AP English; she seems to really like that class more than any other."

"So, she likes books. Any idea who her favorite authors are? Maybe we can work out something with that."

"She was really psyched about the Austen unit, and mentioned that she thought Conrad and Dickens were depressing," I offered. "Oh - and her mid-term paper was all about rationalism in nineteenth century literature."

Alice made a gagging sound. "Ugh. Nothing sexy about that at all. Well, you can't go wrong with the classics, right? So if she likes Austen so much, maybe you should just rent that Keira Knightley movie and study it to see what she digs in a guy. Everyone raves about the guy in that story - Danby, or Derby, or something."

"Darcy," I corrected her. "I don't know, Alice. I don't want to pretend to be something I'm not. Maybe I should just try being honest with her."

"Honest? Honest, Edward? What are you planning to tell her? 'Hey, Bella, I think you're totally hot and if it's not too much trouble, I'd like to suck your face off'?"

"You're disgusting," I scowled at her, although really, nothing that she'd said was technically untrue.

"Edward, just be nice to her, I guess. Try to sweet-talk her a little bit. Tell her she's pretty and tell her you like spending time with her. I don't think slick is your mojo."

Slick is not my mojo. Truer words have never been spoken.

So here I am, pulling up to the curb in front of her house with my sweaty hands and my complete lack of a plan. And my complete lack of mojo. I'm a sad, sweaty, planless, moveless, mojoless bastard.

Bella doesn't even wait for me to come to the door. She opens it up while I'm still walking up the path to the house and trips down the stairs, catching her foot on the last one and tumbling straight into me.

"Whoa - hey!" I say, grabbing her awkwardly somewhere around her hips while she leans over my shoulder and laughs at herself. My nose is in her stomach. My nose is in her stomach, which is definitely as soft as I suspected it would be, and also located at the midpoint between two areas of her body which I'm not even going to try to deny I've been doing some serious speculating about . So now, my brain refuses to process any more information, and instead sends all data to my crotch for analysis. Oh, God, standing up, whenever the hell I decide to do that, is not going to be pretty.

"Um, are you okay?" she asks me breathlessly. I get why she's curious, because she stopped falling quite some time ago, and I haven't actually moved much at all. "Edward, seriously, I can stand by myself now. It's okay to let me go. Save yourself," she laughs again, and sounds self-conscious.

"Give me a minute, uh," I mutter, trying desperately to get my crotch to signal my hands that they need to release the prisoner. They're fighting it, but eventually they surrender, and my hands land on my knees to support my doubled-up frame.

Bella steps back and tilts her head at me. "You feeling okay? You're breathing pretty hard. I didn't hurt you, did I? Crap, did I hurt you? I'm sorry! It was an accident, I swear! I'm such a dork!" She looks upset now, and there's no way I can explain what the hell is really going on, so I just wave my hand at her and stand up, praying that what she's done to me isn't so obvious that it totally freaks her out.

"Nope, I'm fine. Are you okay? I didn't mean to, uh, head-butt you." I've already had a decent feel of her, but I haven't taken much of a look, so I do that now, and the next words I speak come out without any effort to be smooth at all. "Wow - you look really, really nice." She's traded in her hippie-chick threads for some kind of little dress that looks like something from The Mod Squad or Laugh-In. It would show me more of her legs than I've ever seen before, except she's also wearing these boots that come up to her knees. It's like the boots are sending me a message to lick her knees, which is a stupid reaction to have, but now it's all I can think about. And that's definitely not helping my crotch situation.

She blushes and looks down. "Really? Thanks," she mumbles. "I don't really have any clothes to wear to something like a dance. I just raided my mom's closet; she left a ton of freaky stuff behind when she moved out. You should see all the Madonna gear going on in there." Bella looks wistfully back up at me, and I hope she's not getting sad about the fact that her mom lives in Florida now. "You look great. Really good, too, I mean."

The fact that this dress once belonged to her mother helps me out a little bit. Not much, but a little. We just stare at each other for a minute until I hear her father grumble from the top of the stairs.

"You two gonna get going sometime tonight, or is this dance moving to my front lawn?"

"Chief Swan. Sorry. Hi. Yes," I sputter nonsensically, hoping that something in there was the right thing to say. I also put my hands up in the air, which I'm pretty sure makes me look like a total jackass. It makes him smile, though. I'm happy to amuse the father of the girl I'm eager to molest. That's perfect. Will he be laughing when he shoots me full of bullet holes? Probably.

"Go on, then. The Sonics game starts in five, and I don't want to miss tip-off," he says. I'm horrified to find myself saluting him, and I watch his grin spread. "Edward Cullen. I know where you live. Remember that, son."

"I wasn't - I mean, sure, of course you do. I'm not moving," I answer. What the hell am I saying? No idea. He's that good. Crotch situation 100-percent managed. Way to go, Chief Swan.

Bella frowns at her father. "See you later, Dad. We won't be too late."

"No, I'm pretty sure you won't be," he answers, giving me another look. Oh, fuck, maybe we'll just drive around the block twice and then I'll drop her back home.

She takes the lead as we're walking back to my car. I suddenly remember that if I want her to start looking at me as though I'm possible date material, I should probably use some of the manners my mother tried stuffing in my head. I race ahead of her and manage to get to the passenger door before she does, banging my hip against the right rear quarter-panel of the car. I can hear Chief Swan laughing his head off as he watches me. Bella's such a nice person. How the hell is she related to this sadistic guy?

"Thanks," she says uncertainly, as I hold the door open for her and wait for her to get in. I hobble over to the driver side and slide into the seat with a groan. I'm going to have a bruise the side of a grapefruit tomorrow because of the stupid manners thing.

"Hey, thanks again for saying you'd hang out with me tonight," she smiles, as I turn the key in the ignition and pull away from the curb. "I really appreciate it, even though I know that this dance is probably the last place you want to be. It's nice to just spend a - a no-pressure evening - with, you know...a friend?" That last bit comes out as a question, and even though what's she's said should be breaking my heart right now, the way she said it leaves the door of my hope slightly ajar. If she's not sure I'm just a friend, then there's maybe a chance that I can convince her to upgrade to a model with more options.

"Bella, I love spending time with you. Anytime," I say, because that much is true enough, and I've neatly ignored the whole "friend" thing. I don't realize until after I've said it that it actually sounds kind of smooth.

She blushes again, like she did when I told her she looks nice tonight, and that blush hits me squarely in the middle of my chest, making it squeeze in tight like a collapsing star and then explode back outwards. I've gone super nova. Shit. There is absolutely no way she gets away tonight without me begging her to give something between us a shot. I just want to reach out and put my fingers against that blush. I want to know if it's as warm as it looks. Alarmingly, before I can stop it, my hand does just that, reaching out to her cheek and brushing against it for a brief moment with the backs of my fingers. Oh my God, she's soft, and the blush is definitely warm.

"Is there - I don't have anything on my face, do I?"

And like the true idiot that I am, I decide to take her up on the excuse she's just given me. "Uh, yeah. Sorry. You had a bit of - I don't know - a little bit of fluff, or something, stuck to your face." Fluff? Fluff? What the hell? Fine, I'm in it now, and since I'm in it, I might as well swim around a bit, because this pool of stupid that is me trying to be something more to Bella is clearly a deep and wide one.

"Hey, speaking of fluff - remember when we were freshman? The first time I saw you, in the cafeteria, you had a fluffernutter for lunch. A fluffernutter, a bottle of chocolate milk, and an apple." I actually laugh at the end of this meaningless recollection, as though it's the wittiest thing I've ever said.

She blinks at me, and I thank God I have driving the car to occupy me, because if I was just a passenger, I'd probably be opening up the door right now and rolling myself out onto the street.

There's an awkward pause, and then she says "How do you remember that? I mean, how do you remember exactly what I had for lunch that day? And - why? Why would you remember it?"

I shrug one shoulder, aiming for nonchalance I'm far from actually feeling. "I don't know. I guess I just pay attention when you do something."

"Why?"

Why? How can I answer that one? "I guess I find you kind of, I don't know, fascinating? You're different from all the other girls around here."

"I know," she says in a small, sad voice, and when I look over at her, she looks upset.

"Oh, God, no - wait, Bella - I didn't mean that in a bad way," I yammer, reminding myself that this is almost exactly the same conversation I had with Alice on the subject. "I meant different in a good way. In the best way. You know, you're smart, and you're your own person. You don't follow the crowd."

She snorts softly in response, and then whispers "Hopeless" at the same moment I mutter "Moron". We follow up that duet by saying "What?" at the same time, and then we each laugh nervously as an encore.

Not sure how to explain to her that I was calling myself a moron, and equally puzzled as to what she meant by "hopeless", I pull into the school parking lot and kill the ignition. The engine ticks several times in the uncomfortable silence between us before I grab the metaphorical bull by the horns and turn to her. "Listen. Let's just go in there and try to have a good time, okay? I'm glad I'm with you. I'm just happy to spend some time with you. Any time with you."

"Okay, Edward," she sighs, sounding resigned, and reaches for the door handle.

"Wait - stay there. I'll get it." I hop out of the car and bang my hip against the driver-side door in the exact same spot I hit earlier, then yell "Shit" and slam my door closed so that I can hobble over to her side and open her door. She scrambles out of her seat and stands next to me.

"Are you mad? I'm sorry," she says, biting her lip and looking at me with her sad, brown eyes.

"Mad? At you?" Why the hell would she think I was mad at her? "Of course I'm not mad at you, Bella. You're, you know, perfect. I'm mad at myself. I'll shut up now, I swear." We start walking to the side entrance of the gym.

"That's the problem. I don't want you to shut up," she murmurs as she strolls next to me.

"Yeah, I'm sure you really want to hear me keep babbling like an idiot," I grimace, giving up all pretense of cool, if I hadn't already done so. "I'm no good at this stuff, Bella. I don't know how to do it. I wish I did, but I just don't. If you want me to drive you back home now, believe me, I'll understand."

"Well, of course you don't know how to do this. Why would you? I'm sure it's...different, you know, for a guy like you."

I shake my head several times because I have no idea what's going on now, and it's making me feel a little drunk. "What is that supposed to mean? Why would it be different for me? You mean because I'm that lacking in social skills?" Honestly, I wasn't mad before, but now I'm a little ticked-off because it sounds like she's making fun of me somehow, and I never thought she'd be that cruel.

"Edward, I just don't want you to think you have to pretend to be something you're not, okay? I didn't mean to - I'm not judging you in any way, I swear. You're not responsible for the way I feel."

I stop short of the gym door and turn around to face her. "What exactly are you trying to say to me, here? Whatever it is, just spit it out there. Say it, Bella."

I can see that she's building up a head of steam, but nothing on earth could have prepared me for what comes out of her mouth when she finally lets it fly. "I just really hate that I like you so much and you're gay, okay? I hate it, but I can't stop. I've tried. I've really, really tried. And I'm sorry if it makes you uncomfortable, and I understand if you don't want to be my friend anymore. I get these little bits of you, and they mean more to me than anything, but I'd rather die than make you feel badly for being who you are."

A series of extremely volatile emotions race through me over the course of the next few moments. I'm stunned, and really pissed, and mortified, and bitterly amused by the serious irony of the situation. I don't know what my face is doing, but whatever it's doing while I process this new information, Bella's clearly freaked out by it, because two big tears slide down her cheeks, and she keeps whispering "I'm sorry, I'm sorry" over and over again.

Fuck the lack of mojo. And clearly, fuck the sweet talk, because apparently, that just sends the wrong message all over the place.

I grab her by the shoulders and push her up against the wall, not caring who the hell is walking by or what the hell they think about what I'm doing. I'm done talking, and I'm done listening for the moment, too. To keep either one of us from saying another word, I crush my lips over Bella's and kiss her with every ounce of feeling I have for her. I kiss her mad, and I kiss her embarrassed, and I kiss her to erase any trace of irony from the situation. I kiss every doubt about who I am and what I want right the fuck out the window. My body notices how close I am to the girl I've been picturing naked for two years now before my head realizes it, and the reaction it's having is pretty intense, so I move it as close to her as possible in an effort to offer further evidence that she couldn't be more wrong if she tried to be.

"Any questions?" I pant, when I finally break away from her mouth to get a bit of oxygen back into my system.

Jesus Christ, she looks amazing right now, all flushed and wild-eyed and breathing heavily. I should give her some space, but I just don't want to. Space between us might mean more misunderstandings. If I have to, I will never let an atom of air come between us again.

"But you never - and no girlfriends - and all this time, and not once did you ever do or say anything -" she gasps at me. "Why?"

"I'm not interested in girls, Bella," I say through my teeth. "I'm interested in you. Just you. I didn't know how to tell you, and it's not like you ever did or said anything to make me think you wanted me to, either."

"I don't know how to flirt! I'm so bad at that kind of stuff. At first, I thought if maybe I just kept sitting next to you, you'd figure it out. I mean, every other guy in school tried, but you? Never. Not once. I kept saying no because I didn't want any of them, and I was just...hoping. And then Jessica and Lauren kept saying that you'd never asked a girl out, and they did everything they could to let you know they'd be interested, so they just assumed you didn't - you know, want that from anyone. From any girl. And you're gorgeous, and smart, and really nice. You belong with one of those normal girls."

"Do you want to see me with one of those girls?"

Bella shakes her head. "No," she whispers.

"Then how about you just stop talking now? In fact, new plan: we're not talking anymore tonight. At all. Every time you open your mouth to say something, you're going to find my mouth on top of yours. Got it?"

"But-" she says. Is she testing me? I don't wait to find out, and just slam my mouth down on hers again.

"Can I just-" she squeaks when I let her up for air. I just shake my head and dive right back in there. At the rate we're going, we will never actually make it to this dance, which is perfectly fine with me, because this kissing Bella thing is even better than I thought it would be, especially when she reaches up and laces her hands together at the back of my neck.

I break away from her again and give her a cautionary glare. I don't know what I'm angry about, because the more she talks, the more I'm going to kiss her. What a massive stroke of genius on my part - I should submit this plan in my college essays. It's impossible for me to lose in this scenario, because I'm either going to be kissing her, or listening to her tell me she wants to be with me. Top that, Steve Jobs. I win. Who needs slick moves when you've got "Shut up or I'll kiss you"?

As soon as Bella and I get things settled between us, I'm going to write a freaking book.

She looks up at me and tentatively opens her mouth, but I frown at her and she shuts it again. Taking a deep breath, I step back one pace, and she whimpers, which right away makes me feel about as fantastic as I've ever felt in my entire life, even though the price I have to pay for that whimper is to take my body away from hers. 'We'll be back,' I say in my head. 'Often, and soon.'

Bella waves her hands in the air and makes another noise that sounds like a frustrated scream behind closed lips. I roll my hands in a circle to indicate that she needs to mime whatever it is she wants if she's ever planning on leaving her little spot against the gym wall, and she closes her eyes in frustration.

Her head tilts to the side and she opens her eyes really, really wide, and there's a metric ton of sarcasm shooting out of them as she does. I shrug my shoulders, because I'm sticking to the New Shut Up Plan no matter what, since it's worked out so well for me up to this point. She growls at me, only when she does, she sounds a bit like a kitten when you pick it up off of a chair because you want to sit there.

Resigned, she begins an interesting game of charades. She mimes shutting a door, and then moves her hand like she's grabbing a handle. I furrow my brow at her and shake my head, because I'm not getting it. She expels a sigh through her nostrils, and then suddenly, she's in a squatting position, and she's miming pulling up her dress. The things I'm thinking at the moment are not right - they couldn't be - because even the Shut Up Plan isn't that good. There's no way. It dawns on me that she might also be performing these movements in another and infinitely less romantic situation, and I realize that she's telling me she needs to use the bathroom.

"Oh - God - sorry," I say, and pull her up by her arm. She stands up and stretches out the thumb and index finger of her left hand, placing them above and below my lips and pinching them together. She pinches really hard. I don't need more charades than that to tell me she's letting me know that if she needs to shut up, then so do I. Fair enough.

We make our way into the gym and are immediately assaulted by flashing lights, Whitney Houston, and Mrs. Cope, who hands Bella a paper rose. "Oh, Happy Valentine's Day, you two. Aren't you just precious," she coos, like we're a couple of five-year-olds in fancy dress. We nod at her and let her think we're precious so she doesn't go on and on about it, and Bella run-walks to the girls locker room at the other side of the gym. I thread my way through the tables at the edge of the dance space so I can wait for her outside the locker room door, thinking about the fact that I'd really like one or the other of us to talk now so we can kiss some more, but we're in the school gym surrounded by half the town of Forks, and it's not exactly a great place to make out like animals. Shutting up while we're here is the only safe option.

Alice's boyfriend Jasper strolls by, and does a double-take when he sees me.

"Edward? That you? What the hell are you doing here? You never come to these things." He raises his lazy eyebrows in my direction. I'm not talking to anyone tonight unless kissing is somehow also involved, so I just shrug at him. Bella joins us as I'm shrugging, and she stands very close to me, which again, I can't stress it enough, is awesome. I grab her hand and start to walk away, but Jasper stops me by putting his hand against my chest. Stupid senior. Stupid sister's boyfriend, wasting my shut-up time with this nonsense.

"Wehehell now," he grins. "Not so fast. What's going on with you two?" I look at Bella, and Bella looks at me, and Jasper looks at both of us. Bella and I shrug, and Jasper's grin just keeps getting bigger. "You guys finally get together? Al's gonna flip when she sees you. Al! Hey, Al!" he shouts, trying to scan the room to see where my kids-meal-sized sister's disappeared to.

Alice comes bounding over out of nowhere to stand next to Jasper, and when she sees us standing there, hand in hand, she laughs with delight. "Aww, Edward, so cute," she gushes, her voice hopping on a ladder and climbing several scales in a pre-squeal. "Yay! Did you talk about Denby?"

Bella frowns at me and I shake my head at her. "Darcy," I whisper before I can stop myself; like it's a pop quiz and I can't stand to get an answer wrong. Bella wastes no time planting her lips on mine and giving as good as she's gotten, and I wrap my arms around her.

"Oh, my God," I can hear Alice shriek. "I have got to read that book. Look at what just that guy's name does to a woman. Maybe I'll watch the movie. Jas baby, rent me the movie, okay?"

I pull Bella away while Alice and Jasper debate whether or not he'd be willing to sit through a movie where nothing explodes, and we head out to the dance floor. Dancing is not my thing, but we're at a dance, and the girl I've been thinking about non-stop for two years is finally, finally, unbelievably, pressed up against me - willingly - so I'm going to take advantage of that. I'm not sure if you could call what we're doing actually dancing, per se; we're just rocking back and forth. But as we do that, we're looking at each other, and it's just magic. I can't stop smiling. I mean, I try - I pull my mouth in and try to get serious - but it's completely impossible. This kind of happiness flatly refuses to look cool. My happy rejects cool like water rejects oil. So I smile, and rest my forehead against hers, and she's smiling and blushing and driving me insane, because one of her hands is on my chest and the other is in the middle of my back.

We're apparently causing a stir. I notice that people are kind of dancing around us in a circle, trying to get a better look at what's going on. 'Do you care?' my eyes ask hers. 'Not even a little,' her eyes smile back. The Guy Who's Probably Gay and The Girl Who Turns Down Every Date are a couple. We're two social wrongs making one pretty fantastic right.

We let the gawkarazzi get their fill of us for a few more songs. We still haven't said a word to each other since the Shut-Up Plan was put into (brilliant) effect, and what I notice about that is the fact that we've just been allowing ourselves to feel this connection. When words are taken away, there is only the truth in the eyes, and in the smiles, and in the feeling of hands and arms and lips. I don't feel inept at the moment; I feel...eloquent. Silently eloquent.

An hour and fifteen minutes later, we've had enough of the stares, and the fake-dancing, and the complete lack of privacy. We've made our point - to the school, and to each other. When I tug on her hand and tilt my head toward the door, she nods, and we leave everyone behind us to gossip the rest of the night away.

The walk back to the car is a slow one. Slow, and perfect. Of course it's misting now, and Bella shivers because she's not wearing a jacket, so I pull her close to my side and try to cover her with as much of myself as I can. I hit the unlock button on my key fob, and the lights on my car blink twice to let us know that there's a dry little cave waiting for us and the serious, serious heavy breathing we're about to create there. I hope.

I reach for the handle to the passenger-side door to open it for her, but her hand on my arm stops me for a moment. Bella stretches out her finger and traces a heart on the condensation of the door window, then writes "B & E" in the center of the heart, which makes my stomach do the craziest things. Right next to the heart she's drawn, I draw one of my own, and reverse the initials inside it.

We'll talk tomorrow. We'll tell each other every stupid thing we can remember about what we've noticed and liked and secretly thought about each other over the past two years. We'll laugh about missed signals, and failed efforts, and where we go from here. We'll talk about everything. But tonight, no talk could be sweeter than the things we've already said to each other without words.

# # #

A/N - Happy Valentine's Day!

All my sweet talk belongs to the Little Ficsters, because they make writing these things for you so much more fun than it actually should be. Thank you all for reading, and reviewing, and recommending the stories I've written, and I hope each of you has a terrific day today. If there's someone special in your life, remind them (and yourselves!) how lucky you are. And if there's nobody special for you at the moment, don't give up hope. Have some fun without compromise today, and do something that makes you smile.