This was written as a one shot for Contagiously who asked for fluff. What's fluffier than kittens and cute boys?

Thanks to moonlightdreamer333 for & americnxidiot for betaing and general awesomeness.

If you like visuals, here's one: http:/bit(dot)ly(slash)dqKGi4. There's more kitten cuteness in my cabin on ADF & I tweet it a lot too. Links in my profile. Oh and I don't own Twilight.

Say It, Out Loud

"Edward." I nudge his fabric covered head, which is resting on my shoulder.

He grunts but doesn't rouse. I wiggle my legs where they are slung over his lap and he stirs just a bit. "Edward." More urgent this time.

"Mmm," he answers, burrowing his face in my neck.

"Edward!" I say, knocking him off my shoulder as I yank his hoodie off his head. He sits up and leans on the window of the bus, choosing to sleep on it instead. The ride is bumpy and I can see the vibrations shake his face lightly. I'd say there's no way he can sleep through that, but Edward's sleeping habits have tempted suspicion of narcolepsy. "Edwaaaaard," I whine.

"Belllaaaaaa," he mimics, eyes still shut. I know him well enough to know he's being stubborn because I woke him up and is probably not going to open his eyes, so I launch into my reason for disturbing him.

"Am I being a bad person? I mean, it makes sense not to tell them about us, right?" I ask.

He wrinkles his nose and sniffs. "Yes."

"Yes to what? Yes, I am being a bad person or yes, it makes sense not to tell them?" I ask in a panic. He cracks one eye open and fixes his green stare on me. Finally.

"Yes, you're the noisiest pillow I've ever had," he says and then pushes off the window and buries his face in my shoulder again. I'm so irritated that I don't talk to him for a few minutes, during which he's fallen back asleep. I don't know why I even bother sometimes. Edward is the most non-verbal person I've ever met. Seventy percent of his communication is expressed in eye rolls, grunts and eyebrow raises. The other thirty percent, I'm almost sure, is making fun of me. Not that I don't deserve it—I'm really bad. His brother used to call me 'Babella'. But he's just what my verbose, motor-mouthed, over-analytical self needs.

He's cooler than a cucumber. Hell, he's cooler than a glacier. The glacier metaphor works well since ninety percent of him is under the surface. This also means that since I can't get a read on him, I might be heading for a Titanic-style crash and burn.

Because I'm in love with him. I'm silly grins and stupid sighs, turned on by his kind-of-weird orgasm face, kiss him even with morning breath in love. But for all the useless rubbish that tumbles out of my mouth, I've not actually told him this.

I'm sort of waiting for a cue from him. I know he likes me—Edward doesn't tolerate people. If you're in his life, it's because he wants you there. And judging by the fact that we've spent almost every night together in one of our apartments in the four months we've been dating, he really wants me there. And in the laundry room of his apartment building. And in the always empty reference section on the fifth floor of the library.

I'm getting off track.

Edward likes me, a lot. I just don't know if he loves me. And I'll be a little heartbroken if he's not feeling what I'm feeling. I mean, maybe if we had a these next few months free of classes and responsibility during this last summer before we graduate from college next year, I wouldn't worry so much—things could develop on their own. But instead we're on our way back to Forks, our hometown, for the summer before our senior year of college. Edward will be holed up, studying for his MCAT in August. I'll be staying with his family, since my dad, the police chief, is out of town, working on some case in Arizona due to a jurisdictional mess and body trail. He couldn't talk about and I didn't want to hear about but it was decided that rather than staying in my house by myself for a majority of the summer, I'd stay with our long time friends, the Cullens.

Since I'll be working with Esme all day at her plant nursery, and Edward will be studying, we're not going to get much quality time. At all. And on top of that, Edward's brother Emmett, my dad's deputy, has been swamped taking over in his absence, so Rose and he have moved back with the Cullens' for the last trimester of her pregnancy. Alice is also back for the summer from the Art Institute of Portland. And sure to visit is her joined-at-the-hip (or maybe the groin, to Edward's chagrin) boyfriend Jasper. Add to that his parents and we've got a full house. Have mercy. Not to mention the Cullens are ultimate over-involved, totally nosy, every family member's business is their business type of household. (How rude!)

"Edward," I bug him again. He gets up reluctantly, irritated as he tries to glare. But with his lion's mane mop of hair askew in every which way and an adorably grumpy frown on his face, he's even cuter than normal. Other people—meaning me—wake up looking like a farm animal has climbed on their face and then nested in their hair. Edward's just-woken-up look could sell sleep to somniphobics.

He grunts as an indication that I can continue my rant.

"I just—I feel bad, lying to Esme and Carlisle about this. But I just think it'll be so awkward if they know. And it'll kill any chance of us spending any alone time since Esme was always so painfully fond of the chaperoned hang out. Plus, Alice will be all over us and Emmett will make fun—"

"Bella, I know my family is crazy. What's your point?" he asks, sleep and annoyance combining easily in his voice.

"My point is… make me feel better about hiding from your mother—who has only ever treated me with as much love and trust as her own children—the fact that I am boinking her precious middle child, her Eddy Teddy," I say. He cringes at the childhood nickname. When we were kids, and hated each other with a passion only eight-year-olds can muster, Esme would always tease us that one day 'Jelly Belly' and 'Eddy Teddy' would end up together. I don't think we'll ever hear the end of it if she knew she was right. "Say something to justify me not telling your dad, your wonderful dad—who was my pediatrician and used to give me extra lollipops—that I am doing very adult things with the son who wants to take over his practice."

Let's be honest here. There is a tiny part of me that wants Edward to say that we should just tell them. That a love like ours would be impossible to hide. That maybe our mouths won't say anything but our eyes will speak volumes of our affections for each other. That he just wants to be with me and will tell anyone who listens. That he will stand by me forever and I take his breath away.

But my boyfriend isn't Enrique Iglesias and (most days) I'm glad for this. So I am amused but not surprised when he says in that lazy, detached drawl of his, "I'll make you feel better, Bella, but not because of what I'm saying. Unless—" he pauses to raise his head from my shoulder and give me a salacious smirk. "Dirty talk?"

I want to huff indignantly but it just comes out a strange, snorting laugh. "Edwaaaa—"

"It's fine, Bell," he says, arranging my arms so I'm cradling his torso once more. You're just keeping things uncomplicated. I'm a fan of that."

Uncomplicated is true. Totally unemotional is also another way to describe his response. I don't know why I expected great confessions of love. Pushing my legs off his, he lays his head in my lap and closed his eyes. He's out for the rest of the bus ride.

- ~ # ~ -

When we get to his house, I am expecting much fanfare. The Cullens are a bit clannish. They're also extremely close. Years ago, they adopted me and Charlie when he was a struggling widower with a toddler and they've been our extended family ever since. They're really quite wonderful and though I'll miss my dad, I am at home here.

I am as much theirs as they are mine, so I'm extremely surprised when we walk into the house and there's no stampede of relatives, no bear hug from Emmett, no warm mothering smile and "You've gotten too thin, Bella!" from Esme. Edward is puzzled too.

"Ma!" he yells out through the foyer. Leave it to Edward to shorten even the word "mom."

"We're downstairs—the rec room," she yells back. That's strange. Esme never yells. Whatever is in their basement rec room must really be commanding her attention.

When we get down there, we find out exactly what.

Three tiny fluffy tawny kittens with black tails and white paws are prancing around.

I am in awww of them. After the hugs and the requisite "how was your trip" questions are asked, and the "ooh, Rose you're so big!" comment followed by her sarcastic retort are dispensed, we all go back to admiring the three little harbingers of cute.

"Rose's hormones kicked in when she and Esme went to visit Mrs. Eleazar. She took them off her hands," Emmett informs us. "No way that little old lady could have taken care of three more cats. She already has like… twenty."

"Carlisle and I were thinking that you could each take one," Esme says, her voice like a warm hug. "Rose, we can keep yours until the baby is old enough that the germs won't be an issue. Alice, you can take one to Oregon. And if Edward takes the last one back to Seattle, Bella can visit it whenever."

"That's assuming they can meet up without jumping all over each other," Emmett says, referring to Edward's and my childhood animosity. Oh Emmett. If only you knew the kind of all over each other we really are.

Rose snorts. "Well, give them some credit. They got here in one piece, right? And Edward must be less horrible at college since Bella's willing to be here for the summer," she says, smiling at me. I swear, Rose is going to be the best combination of bitch and mother ever. Her kid is going to have identity and attitude the minute it's born.

The kittens demand our attention just by being their adorable selves. One in particular is all about Edward. She manages to amble adorably but boldly on her little kitten legs over to where he's lazing on a bean bag chair and attempts to nudge his big toe with her nose. She's smaller than the size of his foot but soon she's scaled up on to his knee, where he snags her and then brings her up level to his face.

"And who are you?" he asks the kitten, a mock serious frown on his face as they stare at each other nose to nose, big grey eyes to green ones. She meows at him.

"Oh yeah?" he challenges. She meows again and places her tiny white paws on his nose. "That's how you want to play this, huh, little one?" She purrs back. Who knew Edward Cullen, who can barely speak without sarcasm to humans, would be a kitten whisperer? Esme informs Edward that the fur ball attempting to climb on top of his head is his kitten.

"What do you think?" he asks the bundle of fluff; she replies by sticking her nose in his ear before slipping off his shoulder and landing in his lap. After she's righted herself, she looks at him and begins mewling gregariously, as if to answer. He looks up and sees me watching him. There may be drool. He smirks, totally aware that he's performed visual insemination, and says, "Bell, this one talks as much as you."

"Ha fu—" I realize Esme and Carlisle are still in the room "—friggin' ha, Edward."

"I think I'll name her Bella."

"What? You can't name the cat after me!"

He shakes his head and rolls his eyes. "So narcissistic. She's not named after you. Her name is Bell. I just said 'ah' after it. "

"You just said—! Fine, who is she named for? Beauty and the Beast?"

"Maybe she's named for Aesop. 'To bell the cat'. Appropriate, don't you think?" God, I want to wipe that smirk off his face. Preferably by kissing it.

"No. Lame, I think," I retort.

He chuckles. "Fine then. She's named after another book. For Whom the Bell Tolls."

"You hate Hemmingway," I say, accusatorily. He's really doing this just to irk me. He's such a smug little ass, and he loves provoking me. The less words he can use to get a reaction out of me, the happier he is. Neither of us notices Esme suspiciously eyeing our exchange.

He concedes, "True. But I love John Donne."

Damn it, I would have the medical student boyfriend who reads voraciously.

- ~ # ~ -

Edward and Bell(ah)—the kitten—are practically inseparable after that. It's really quite adorable. What's not so adorable is that my namesake sees my boyfriend more than I do.

Over the weeks, I've become more and more exhausted from helping Esme at the nursery and I've been falling asleep earlier and earlier every night. And Edward is always studying during the day and I don't want to disturb him. I can't tell you how many evenings I've come home and gone to his room, only to find him asleep, face down in his book, Bella the cat, curled comfortably on top of his head. We've managed to sneak in a visit or a stolen kiss here or there, but it's not nearly enough. Despite him never being too far from me, I miss him like crazy.

I miss his goofy laugh, which is completely at odds with his handsome smile. I miss how he'd jokingly say, "Honey, I'm home" every time he'd come to my apartment. I even miss his sarcastic comments and how he makes fun of me all the time for watching reality TV. It irritates me that I got myself in this situation. Not that we'd get a huge amount of time to ourselves if we had told his parents about us, but it couldn't be as bad as being in the same room as him and not even being able to stare at his pretty face. At least then I wouldn't be wondering why he was so agreeable to keep this a secret. Wondering whether he'd not wanted to tell his parents because he doesn't feel about me the way I feel about him.

Because Edward doesn't seem all that miserable. I mean, he's not a man prone to demonstrating extreme emotions. I like that about him, usually—as I'm extreme enough for both of us. But, aside from being tired or sick of studying, he doesn't seem to be especially sad—like he misses me. Maybe it's because he does spend all of his time with Bella. Just not me Bella.

I'm not jealous of a kitten. I swear I'm not.

But I can't help but be a little bitter. I know that Edward has a lot on his plate this summer, but I just want to be around him all the time. I covet him.

Over the following month, my pattern of getting less than any alone time with Edward continues. It's almost worse seeing him around others because I can't touch him and god, all I want to do is touch him. I want to run my fingers through his hair and trace my lips down the side of his neck and touch his hard forearms and—oh god, I'm working myself up. He doesn't help matters at all, practically annihilating all coherent thought and amping up ovarian activity by being so cute with kitten Bella.

Like right now, Edward strolls into the room and plops down next to me on the couch. His hoodie is an old one and it is a little small on him—it clings deliciously to his flat stomach, even though his bony wrists jut out of the sleeves. He's even got summer scruff because he becomes a hobo when he studies, and it looks so good, my fingers twitch from the effort to keep them to myself.

"Where's your new girlfriend?" Emmett asks Edward. My heart flips at least three times before I realize what he is talking about. Edward jerks his lovely hitchhiker's thumb back, but I don't see the kitten following behind him. And then, as if hearing her boy—no wait, that's my boy— call her, Bella pops her head out of the hood of the sweatshirt, clawing onto the back of Edward's hair as she surveys the room. I'm not quite sure how this cat and this boy get in these adorably odd positions, but I am thoroughly enjoying them.

Doesn't mean I'm not jealous. I mean, this little cat is all over my boy. Like the other day, when Edward came down to watch a movie with Esme, Emmett and I. He was just being his regular brand of Edward deliciousness, slouched down on the couch, shorts riding low so I could see just a sliver of his blue boxers, long legs propped on the coffee table. He wasn't even really watching the movie because the other Bella had somehow managed to climb on top of his head and then slide, head first, down his face, landing on him with a mouthful of kitten tail. I felt like yelling "that's the wrong Bella's tail you have near your mouth, Edward!"

Even after that, she was touching him in every way I wanted to, trying to climb up his chest. But her little claws couldn't hold her weight, and she kept sliding down and landing on her little kitten butt on Edward's fingers, which were laced together to catch her.

It was freaking adorable.

Kitten hussy. I would insert a pussy joke here but I'm too sexually frustrated. Okay, it's true. I'm envious of a cat.

In all honesty, I like Bella the kitten a lot. How could you not? Hating that thing would be like… I don't know, hating something that is cute and sweet and makes you boyfriend do cuddly, charming things. Except that it is the wrong Bella. I should be cuddling with Edward. I should be nipping at the lovely hollow next to his neck. I should be sharing his bed at night.

- ~ # ~ -

I nearly lose it two days later. When I get back from work, I nap in the late evening so I'll have the energy to stay up late and manage to sneak into Edward's room, well past midnight. I find him on his bed with his book open—asleep.

Bella the kitten is on the floor at the foot of the bed, mewing softly and unsuccessfully trying to paw her way onto the mattress. I walk over and pick her up, placing her on Edward's pillow. Immediately, she sprints toward his face, full on headbutting him. He doesn't stir. She does it again and again, repeatedly mewling as loudly as her tiny body will let her—which isn't loud at all—until Edward slowly begins to wake.

He has a kitten alarm clock.

Finally, after Bella climbs on top of him—dear kitten, get off, that's what I'm here for—and begins licking his neck, he gets up. When he sees me standing next to his bed, he smiles sheepishly and pats the space next to him.

"Nope. One Bella at a time, Cullen." He laughs and strokes under the other Bella's—who at this point might as well be the other woman—neck and she purrs in delight. I control my envy by telling myself that'll be me soon.

"Aww, come on," he mumbles, voice full of smiles and sleep. "There's plenty of me to share."

"Well right now, Bella's all over my favorite spot," I say, referring to where the kitten is licking his collarbone. "I'm not happy about it."

"Well—" Edward starts and then shakes his head. "I was going to crack a threesome joke, but we'd be skirting the topic of bestiality. Let's quit while we're ahead. Come here."

As I settle on to the bed and into the crook of his neck, I ask, "Are you even getting any studying done? Every time I see you, you're sleeping."

"Yeah and how often do you see me?" This is a fair point. Even on the days Esme lets me go early, I spend time with Alice and Rosalie, not wanting to disturb him. As his exam gets closer, he's getting more and more stressed. And since he's laid back and generally apathetic (about everything other than his studies), he really doesn't handle it well. He gets his best studying done during the day, his best sleeping during the night, which leaves no time for me.

We lie, nose to nose, not talking, just looking as Bella uses our interlocked bodies as her own personal jungle gym. I feel like I haven't looked at him in months—and I haven't really, always averting my eyes when he's around so that no one gets suspicious. Or maybe because looking at him will always make me want to touch him.

"I miss you," I tell him. He doesn't say he misses me back, just leans over, smiling, and kisses me gently. I melt into him a little, pushing myself into his arms more and he lets out this noise—somewhere between a moan and a sigh and a laugh. That noise captures my heart and sends little warm tingles through my stomach. And then my stomach makes another kind of noise and I realize that I've napped through dinner.

"You hungry, my little kitten?" he teases. I huff. He motions to his desk. "I've some leftover turkey over there if you want."

I do want, and I leave him to his other Bella, wolfing down the food, completely unashamed of eating like a beast around him. I may have come here because I was hungry for something else, but I'll take food too. I am in the middle of a giant bite of turkey when he speaks out of nowhere.

"I love you, Bella."

Holy non sequitur, Batman! I choke a little on my bite and swing the desk chair around to look him, all ready to swallow and return his words joyfully. But when I lay eyes on him, he's holding kitten Bella up above him by the scruff on her neck just out of reach of his face as she bats her paws trying to reach him. There is an awkwardness in the air. Edward's eyes flicker to me and he's got a strange look on his face. I'm pretty sure my jaw is hanging near the floor and there's some half chewed turkey so that might explain it. I may also be turning green, Hulk-style, with fury.

Not only does she get to spend all her time with him. Not only does she get to touch him and be all over him whenever she wants. Not only does she have my name and not only is she about eight billion times cuter than I ever will be. But my boyfriend loves her. And tells her.

And on top of that, I feel like an absolute tool for being jealous of a cat.

In a huff, I turn back to my plate, polishing off the leftovers before I get up to leave. I'm in a foul mood and foul moods make me even more word vomit-y than usual so I'm going to get out before I reveal that I am insecure that a feline is usurping my place in Edward's life.

"Bella, where are you—" Edward begins to ask, but I cut him off as I dash out.

"That food made me really tired. I'm going to bed. And you should study."

- ~ # ~ -

I don't fall asleep until almost three hours later, and then I dream that I fail my senior year of college and have to get a job handing out flyers in an ugly kitty costume. Inception has nothing on my dreams.

But the thing about fighting with your boyfriend when you barely see him? The making up is amazing since you're so upset you've wasted any time at all fighting. I mean, I don't even think Edward knew we were in a fight. But he's realized something was up, because the next morning as I'm showering, Edward surprises me by joining me, fully clothed.

"Edward!" I hiss, weirdly aware of my nudity. It's not that we've never been naked together—quite the contrary, but the fact that he's fully clothed (and soaked) makes me feel self-conscious. "What if someone catches you?"

He grins lasciviously at me. "I did recon, Swan. Dad and Emmett left for work, Mom asked me to drive you to work today since she's dropping Rose off in Port Angeles for her doctor's appointment and Alice left for Portland about…" he pretends to check the watch he's not wearing. "Thirty seconds ago."

I laugh as he pulls me to him and kisses me. It's a strange sensation, being up against a squishy Edward. He's normally all hard, natural boy muscle. It gets less and less strange as his hands begin to wander all over me.

"You weren't the only one hungry last night, Bell," he says huskily. "But you were the only one who left satisfied."

I left satisfied? Satisfaction would be him telling me that his life was like a moonless night before I came along (at the age of five) like a meteor. Satisfaction would be him telling me I am his life now (aside from the MCATs). That my love for him is a tiny tree compared to his forest of—oh!

Or satisfaction might be his hand right there, moving like that.

And then things aren't strange at all, and Edward's squishy, waterlogged clothing is removed—with some effort—and he's hard and natural and boy and muscle under it. Rivulets of water stream down every part of him, flattening his hair and slicking our skin, and it's like it is every time Edward and I come together: mind-blowing.

Shows how little cats know for hating water.

- ~ # ~ -

It's like the shower sex was an indication of how amazing this day is going to be. When I get to work, Esme informs me that Emmett is going to Seattle after work to meet up with an old friend and will be there for the night. Rose will join him. Then, she informs me that she and Carlisle will be out of the house all night for some social event or another all the way in Seattle.

I avoid her probing Esme mom-eyes as she asks, "So will you and Edward be okay tonight, all alone?"

I'm pretty sure I'm answering with every part of my body when I say, "Sure, Esme. I'll cook us some dinner so he doesn't have to worry about studying." What I'm going to cook is high protein, gives us tons of energy so we can have more sex after dinner. Maybe in the foyer. I should feel bad about desecrating Esme and Carlisle's house, but after once walking in on Emmett and Maria Mayford in high school, it's merely a case of been there, done that.

I text Edward to tell him of the situation, and when I get home that afternoon, I immediately start on my specialty, steak and potatoes. But even ten minutes after Esme and Carlisle depart, Edward doesn't come down. When I go to his room to see him, he's hard at work.

"Hey," I say, unable to not take advantage of being able to touch him. I stand behind him and lean on his shoulders, sliding my hand down the front of his hoodie. I am just wondering where his constant companion is and whether I'd feel weird having sex in front of a cat when I feel a big lump where his flat stomach usually is. I prod it and sure enough, little Bella pops her head out of the kangaroo pocket and purrs at me.

He laughs and speaks for the first time. "She loves it there." The warmth in his tone—directed at my rival though it may be—melts me, and I lean down, placing his kisses down the back on his head, following his spine down his neck, till I'm kneeling behind his chair, my arms clasped around him.

"Well, I love it here," I say, kissing the smooth flesh along his hairline.

He hums for a second, letting out a soft grunt, and then says, "Okay, Bella. I want to finish this problem set before dinner."

I feel like I can hear my dreams of foyer sex, followed by couch sex, followed by balcony sex, followed by naked eating of the cheesecake I made, fly away.

"But Edward," I say, recognizing that my tone has already taken that whine both he and I hate. "I thought we'd spend the night together. We have the house to ourselves. As in no one else is around!"

He puts his pencil down and twirls the desk chair to face me. He grabs my face in his hands and kisses me, not deeply but for quite a long while.

"I know, Bell. But because of this morning, I didn't get a lot done and I fell asleep again last night, so I'm really behind schedule. This thing is in a month and I'm freaking out."

I frown and huff and say, "Fine, I'll just get my laptop and sit on the bed while you study." And maybe, I can strip off all my clothes and coax him to come join me.

"No way," he says, pulling away from me. "I can't concentrate with anyone around. Especially you. You're very distracting. I'll join you for dinner but you can't be in here. I won't focus."

"But—but—" I splutter. "She gets to stay!"

I point at the other Bella, who meows loudly in response from atop his textbook. My two greatest rivals for my boyfriend's affection: the cat and the MCATs. Edward gives me a skeptical look before seeing my expression. His eyes soften and he grabs my hand.

"I'm sorry I'm such a shit to be around lately. I swear, let the MCATs be over and I'm all yours," he says.

As I look at him, I don't like what I see—or rather, what I don't see. Between the tired bags under his eyes and the dull green, I can't find that horny, happy boy I'm in love with. The one who's sarcastic and still so sweet, the one who slipped the keys to his apartment on my keyring without saying a word, he is nowhere to be found. All I see here is a stressed, solemn young man.

So despite my own wishes and my growing insecurities that it is more than just this test that has put these gaps between us, I let it go. Instead of foyer sex, couch sex, balcony sex and maybe even cheesecake sex, I spend the evening on the couch in the living room, watching 30 Rock.

Esme and Carlisle return late at night. When Esme asks, with a twinkle in her eyes, if we "kids behaved ourselves?" I am unfortunately telling the truth when I tell her, yes, we absolutely did.

- ~ # ~ -

The summer continues to fly by and before I know it, it's August and Edward takes his MCAT. The results won't come for a month or two, so there's a light atmosphere at dinner that night. The Cullens—for all their grace and sophistication in public—are like pigs at the home dinner table. Esme is a fabulous cook and everyone, from eating-for-two Rose to lanky Jasper, who is visiting, practically shovels pork chops into their faces. It disappears within minutes, and I offer to bring the second round, which is still warming in the oven.

As I enter the kitchen, I hear Esme say, "Edward, go help Bella. She won't be able to carry it all by herself."

Even though it has been only a few hours since his exam has been over, the lightness in his actions and his smiles, the playfulness that characterizes him, is back. My insecurities about us are not eradicated but they are fading. Edward walks into the kitchen and grins. I've forgotten what his smile does to me even as I remember how much I love it. There are tingles racing through my chest.

"Mashed potatoes," I say as I offer him the heavy bowl. I thank him as he takes it from me and then quickly, but sweetly, presses his lips to mine.

"No, thank you," he says, smirking as he walks out of the kitchen, making my mouth go dry and my brain go dumb. It's things like this, stupid, random words and tender, tiny kisses that make me think that I don't need to hear the exact words from Edward. What we are can't be summed up in a word, even if it can be summed up in a peck.

"Edward, sweetheart, it's so nice to have you at dinner with us again," Esme says once we've all served ourselves a third helping. I'd like to have him for dinner. Hopefully later tonight, we'll figure out a plan of action as to how we're actually spend some time alone together. Emphasis on the action.

"Yeah," Edward says, in between mouthfuls. I'd like to have a mouthf—I've really got to stop. It doesn't help that Edward's big toe is slowly tracing around my ankle underneath the table. "This is really good, Ma." Esme grins her pride.

"So Edward," Carlisle says. His tone implies impending inquisition, so I fully expect Edward to be grilled on the rest of the application process. Instead, his dad says, "Are you dating anyone?"

Edward chokes on his food. I hand him a glass of water and rub his back to help him swallow—and, oh alright, yes, because I want to touch him. And then I notice Esme scrutinizing my actions, so I quickly drop my hands. Which in retrospect, probably only looks more suspicious.

"Because if you are, Edward," Esme says, slowly and deliberately, her eyes sliding to me. "We'd think it was wonderful. Whoever it was. I mean, if we knew the girl, that'd be even better."

Edward's eyes are darting toward me and he's frowning slightly. I know him well enough to recognize that he's thinking hard about something. Maybe… Oh my god.

Maybe the reason Edward hasn't said I love you is because we haven't told his family, and he doesn't want our love to be tainted by deceit. And stress from his exam! And now that it's over, he wants to tell them. Yes! That could totally be it!

It's going to happen. The moment seems to slow and stall as Edward opens his mouth to speak, pink lips parting to let out the greatest words I'll ever hear. Edward is going to declare himself as mine.

And then I blink because instead he says, "I'm not, uh, dating anyone, Ma. Nothing's going on. Stop projecting your desires on me." Emmett snorts and Esme reprimands him lightly.

When the rest of the family's attention is on dessert, Edward catches my eye and smiles. I smile back at him and he doesn't seem to notice how weak it is. I'm not quite sure what to do here. All Edward did was what I wanted—to not say anything to his family about us. But now what I wanted has changed and I don't know how to tell him without seeming like a needy, insecure girlfriend.

But by the time I sneak down the hall and into Edward's room, I don't care about being needy. Because I am. I don't care about being insecure. Because I definitely am. All I care about is being Edward's girlfriend—which, hopefully, after this talk, I still will be.

For once, I don't waste time and words, not beating around bushes here. I stomp into his room, practically slamming his door shut and begin pacing like a lunatic as I speak.

"Why will you tell your damn cat you love her and not me?"

"What the hell are you going on about?" Oh Edward. Always to the point. He's sitting on the edge of his bed, eyes following me with equal amounts amusement and annoyance as I stride back and forth in front of him.

"You told Bella you loved her the other day. The cat, Edward. You said I love you to the cat and not me. Why is that? It is because you don't love me?" The more I pace, the more of a frenzy I work myself into.


"Because I love you. And I realize that I should have probably said that in a more, I don't know, coherent or sensible manner but I do. I love you and if you don't love me, I'll be broken hearted but at least I'll know. And I mean, I guess knowing is not much better than wondering, especially since I'll have to spend the rest of the summer knowing that you don't love me and that I'm staying in your house and that I've told you I love you and—"



"Shut up."


"Because I was saying it to you." He's fidgeting, fingers rubbing at his temple. It's odd—Edward rarely fidgets.


"I was saying it to you. But it was a strange moment and your face looked all weird—"

"Thanks, Edward." But it's his face that looks sort of weird right now.

"You know what I mean..."

"I wasn't even facing you!"

"Yeah but when you turned, you had a strange look on your face and I panicked. And so I pretended I said it to little Bella. Instead of, you know. You Bella." He rubs anxiously at his temple and then it hits me. Edward is nervous.

"You—what? I looked weird so you rescinded your 'I love you'? That's not cool, Edward. You can't just… take that back. Or change who it's directed at. You should have—"

"Bella," he says, cutting me off. He takes a deep breath and finally meets my gaze. "My human girlfriend, Bella. I love you. Not my cat."

Okay, that may not have been the wording I'd dreamt of, but still. He said it. "You do?"

He grins. "A lot." He's not nervous anymore.

"Okay." I walk over and kiss him, long and lingering on his lovely mouth that is so much better when it's kissing me, instead of spewing teasing words. He loves me and I love him and everything is pretty much perfect. Except for one thing. "Edward. How much do you love me?"

He groans even as he pulls me into his lap. "I don't do sappy words. You know this."

"You barely even do words," I say, scoffing. "Anyway, I don't want words. Okay, just one word."

"What word?" he asks suspiciously. Then a dirty little grin steals on to his face. "Threesome?"

I roll my eyes. "Yes, nothing says 'I love you' like a threesome."

"You never know, Bell."

I shake my head. "And I never will know." Before he can continue, I speak. "Please change Bella the kitten's name. Please."

He frowns. "Why?"

"Because in the future, when you say I love you, Bella, I'd like to be sure you're saying it to me."

"What if I'm not?"

"Then I'd like to be sure you're not. And—hey!" I say as I catch on. He grins at me and plants a small little peck just under my chin. "Whatever. Just change the cat's damned name, Edward."

"That's your damned name too."


"Fine. You want to know a secret?" he asks me.


"So nosy," he says, as he sloppily kisses me because he's laughing. "The cat already has another name."

"What?" I yell. He clamps his hand over my mouth, and I realize that I may have just woken up the whole house. We listen for a few tense moments but hear nothing. "What do you mean the cat already has another name?"

He starts chuckling and if he didn't look so good, green eyes light as they dance, mouth wide in a white grin, I'd smack him. Instead, I just kiss him. A few seconds later, I pull away and demand an explanation.

"Mrs. Eleazar called the day after we got them to ask if we could keep the names the same. She'd named them after her daughters—Alice's is Katerina, Emmett and Rose's is Irina. And this little one"—he reaches down and picks Bella (or whatever her name is) and places her in the cuddly crook between his neck and shoulder—"is Tanya."

"So why—"

"It was just fun getting you worked up." I slap his other shoulder and Be—Tanya hisses at me. Figures he'd have a guard kitten. "I get so little entertainment nowadays, Bell."

"Funny how your entertainment always seems to come at the expense of my dignity. Or sanity," I mutter.

"Because I know they're expendable," he says, laughing.

"Hey—" I start to protest as I get off his lap. He pulls Tanya off his shoulder and puts her on the ground and grabs my hands, yanking me back into his lap. Then he kisses me, tongue probing and stroking and stealing all the retorts I had.

"You're a good sport. I don't know why, but you put up with me," he says, so softly. It's a moment of unexpected gentleness and it melts away all my disgruntlement. "You're the only one..." he trails off, as always before really saying anything, but I don't push it. In his Edward way, with as few words as possible, he's said what I needed to hear.

I lean him and kiss his cheek. "I am," I reply, uncharacteristically succinct. "I wish you'd told me about the cat's name..."

"I was going to tell you. But the whole 'I love you' fiasco happened. And if I told you after that her name wasn't Bella, you'd know. So I just called her Bella whenever you were around. As a bonus, it annoyed you. You're so damn cute when you're annoyed."

"Well I must be freakin' Elmo. Why did you lie to your mom?"

"Why wouldn't I? You were the one who didn't want to tell my family."

"Does that mean you did?"

"Are you kidding me? I avoid giving my family any information about my life if I can. They're so over-involved and—" he stops and gives me a suspicious look. "Are you upset I didn't tell them?"

I'm not. Well, not anymore. Sheepishly, I admit, "I guess I thought it meant you weren't serious about us..."

"You are so stupid sometimes," he says. As if he knows just what I need—not if, somehow he does—he says it again, breath tickling my ear. "I love you, Bella." I smile and sigh, and he says, so softly I barely hear it even this close to him, "Say it back."

"I love you, Edward. And—" I abruptly cut off as we both hear it. Footsteps in the hallway unmistakably getting closer. Edward and I share a moment of wide-eyed, fraught stares before I leap off his lap.

"In the closet," he almost shouts and then amusingly, he shushes himself. Edward in a panic is rare, and I wish I could see more of it, but he's just closed the closet door when I hear a knock followed by the opening of his bedroom door.

"Edward?" It's Alice. I do my best to hold my breath. Alice gives Stabler and Benson a run for their money with her "investigative skills". "Do you have a girl in here?"

"What? A girl? No, no girls!" Edward says in a strangely high-pitched wheeze. And then he lets out the world's most awkward laugh that sounds like the opening of a rusty gate. I now get why he doesn't talk much. He's sort of horrible at it when he's not making fun of things. "Alice, get lost." His voice back to normal now, that bored disaffection is coloring his tone again. I pray it'll throw Alice of the scent.

It doesn't.

"No way," she says. And then I get why Edward and her fought all through their childhood. It's because she's annoying. In a shrill scream, she yells, "Emmett! Edward has a girl in his room!"

Oh god. "Shhhh! Shut up, Alice! You'll wake the whole god damn house!" he hisses.

"Maybe that's my point. You think you're so smart, Edward. I heard you tell her—or him—to get in the closet." Alice's voice is nearing the closet as my panic rises; I can't even laugh at her little dig at Edward.

"It wasn't a girl, I was talking to Tanya."

"Surely, you mean Bella," Alice teases. She means the cat, I realize. "You know Mom thinks you two are dating. She was asking Dad if she should have the sex talk with you and her."

"This from the lady who thinks you and Jasper are abstinent." I hear them both laugh and I relax.

I shouldn't have—in the next second, the closet door is wrenched open.


It's not even Alice who screeches this. It's Esme, utterly flabbergasted as she stands in the doorway with Carlisle, joined seconds later by Emmett, Jasper and Rosalie, no doubt all summoned by Alice's caterwaul.

The jig is up. This won't be remembered as the night Edward and I said I love you for the first time. This will be the night Edward and Bella got caught sneaking around by Edward's entire family. This will be the night Bella came out of the closet.

"What was that you said at dinner, E?" Emmett asks. "I do believe you told Ma to stop projecting her desires on you."

Rosalie snorts. "I don't think the issue here is Esme's desires." Et tu, bitchus?

"Edward, Bella... are you two together?" Esme asks. She's got that guilty, pitiful tone down pat. "Did you"—histrionic gasp—"lie to us?"

I look at Edward and from the look on his face, I know I'm going to handle this one. "Uhh..."

Turns out I don't need to. Tanya meows loudly to grab everyone's attention in the silence while I formulate my answer. Then she walks up to Edward, who is standing two feet away from his family, and drops something at his feet to start licking at them.

It's a condom.

Looks like Jelly Belly and Eddy Teddy are going to have that sex talk with Esme after all.


Thank you for reading. Leave your thoughts?