A/N: Thank you so much for your patience, guys! I'm so flattered and appreciative of your support as readers and can't thank you enough for the feedback you provide. As promised, here is the new chapter. This is THE chapter I have been building up to since the beginning.
(Hopefully there aren't too many mistakes in here - I will re-check it as soon as I can, so bear with me :) )
Let the mayhem ensue.
A blur of purple came hurtling forward, and before he knew what had happened, the cushion Rosalie had thrown hit Jasper square in the face. The pretence may have been to grab his wandering attention, but there was definitely a bit of unnecessary force in there.
He looked at her, the cushion having fallen into his moderately agitated grip. "What?"
"Is your brother still here?" Rosalie asked, presumably again.
Jasper waited a moment before answering, sensing she had more than just a slight amount of resentment geared towards him. "Why?" he wondered aloud. "Do you need a lawyer?"
"I was just asking," she replied.
No, she wasn't. Rosalie always had hidden agendas when it came to his family. She'd become more obvious about it since he'd started dating Maria a few years back and went into his downward spiral, but even as a five year-old she'd been nosy. Normally, it wouldn't have bothered him, but he was just not in the mood to deal with her sneakiness tonight. He hadn't had enough alcohol to be laid back about her prying habits.
"So, Alice," Bella chimed in, noting the acerbity in each of the cousins' voices. "Do you have any brothers and sisters?"
Alice looked at her, eyes wide like a doe in headlights. "Yeah..." she reluctantly said, fingers knotting around one another. "I... have a younger sister."
Jasper was surprised that Bella had ventured down that path of conversation, given that they found out Alice had moved away from home not that long ago. He was no expert, but he knew that someone who was legally emancipated did not come from fortunate circumstances. Even though he had no problem quipping about her likely fantastical dreams about him, even he wasn't sure that talking about her estranged family was safe. That made it a bad idea by anyone's standards.
"Does she live with you?"
Alice's jaw slackened a little. Again, he wondered how Bella was not seeing the effect of her questions. "Uh, no. She lives back home in Mississippi..."
Emmett got up from his seat. "Time for another round, I think," he declared, walking off to get some more alcohol.
Bella called after him. "Em?" she said, leaning back on her elbows and staring at the ceiling. "When did you say the pizzas were getting here?"
The unidentifiable bangs and clangs from the kitchen ceased, and, momentarily, his head appeared from around the corner. "Got a certain appetite, have you?" He wiggled his brows when she snapped her glare to him.
Jasper also grinned at the exchange.
"You guys suck," Bella pouted.
Bella was the only one of the girls that both Emmett and Jasper felt comfortable picking on as if she were a sister. Rosalie may have been Jasper's cousin - both exercising the familial right to be very crude to one another - but she was also Emmett's girlfriend, so he couldn't say certain things to her. Alice was too new, and even though Jasper had fun playing with her, Emmett wasn't sure how far he could take it with the new one. That left Bella, and the three of them had a certain level of understanding that only pseudo siblings would get.
"What is Edward doing tonight?" Rosalie asked as Bella took another cushion off the sofa and sat on it.
"I wouldn't know," Bella said. "He won't return my calls."
"What a sook," she replied. "If you ask me, you should just dump him."
"That's probably why nobody asked you, Rose," Jasper mused.
Bella shot him a thankful smile.
"Well," Emmett added, calling from the kitchen. "She at least knows who the better kisser is now!"
Then there was a knock at the door.
"Whooop! Pizza's here!" Emmett cried, keenly rushing over to the door. "I got it!" he insisted when he saw Rosalie make a move to answer it. "I got it."
Jasper instantly became suspicious.
Emmett unlocked the door very cautiously and poked his head through the crack. A little strange, given his nature for throwing doors open rashly. Turns out, there was a reason. Emmett asked the guy to come in and put the food on the table where they were all sitting patiently.
When the outsider came in, laden with the telltale flat boxes, they all understood why.
Jasper's face turned into stunned amusement as Edward came into the foyer of the house, hunched like a dog with its tail between its legs. Alice could sense this was probably wasn't the most comfortable of situations for the fighting couple, and she began to sympathise with Bella. But, when she noticed how Jasper became more and more amused with his presence, she immediately attributed it to his participation in the plot.
Bella, apparently, had the same idea. "Jazz!" she almost sneered.
He looked at her and shook his head. "This one is not my doing," he said. "Although, I am flattered that you think I would do something this intelligent."
Emmett attempted an uncomfortable smile, baring both his top and bottom rows of teeth. "Uh... Look who's here," he said, knowing full well that he'd just been busted. At the lack of approval of his grand plan, his smile turned into a grimace. "Uhh... Jazzy, a little help in the kitchen, please," he said, gesturing his head over to the other doorway.
Jasper looked at the doorway, then at Emmett, and then at the growing space between Edward and Bella. He got up and the two walked away into the kitchen, mumbling about something.
Alice didn't care what they said, they were undoubtedly in cahoots on this.
If there was a word to describe the feeling of ignoring a splinter in your eyeball in silence, then Alice would have used it. But, instead, for lack of better word, she could only describe the look on Bella's face as painfully uncomfortable.
"Are you going to put those down, or not?" Rosalie clucked, briefly looking at Edward over her shoulder.
Like a startled puppet on strings, he came further into the room and placed the pizza boxes tentatively on the table, the furthest corner from Bella. Alice smiled gently at him as she caught his eye. He returned the gesture and then looked nervously around the room.
Rosalie also noticed this. "Well, you are not sitting next to me," she advised.
While the other two, doing god-knows-what in the kitchen, went on with their business, Edward moved and sat on the ottoman next to where Jasper had been. Almost as if he knew that space next to Alice was reserved.
Alice thought she might try to strike up conversation, to somehow blow the iciness out of the room, since Rosalie had only barked orders at him. When she turned to Edward to ask the most generic question she could think of, she saw that Jasper's head was sticking out from behind the wall cartoonishly. He caught her glance and pulled his best Frankenstein face at her, then went back to assessing the situation in the living room.
What she wouldn't have given for a decently sized rotten pumpkin at that moment.
His head ducked behind the wall again, very quickly, when he saw that nothing productive was happening in the room. Alice wanted to change that by bringing up an open-ended topic, but all she could think about was how much Jasper's head had been the perfect target a few moments ago. She was never good at small talk. At least she knew prostitution was no longer an option.
She began to pinch herself internally as chastisement for not being able to carrying on a basic conversation when Edward looked like he was about to say something after staring intently at Bella.
All of a sudden, in unison, the two practically shouted "I'm sorry!" at each other.
Alice wasn't sure, but she didn't think that was how people apologised to one another in relationships - she'd never seen anyone do it like that in the movies and they were her bible for social interactions.
An even stranger silence followed until the terrible twins reappeared from the kitchen, conveniently after that moment of reconcilliation. "Another round of drinks," they called, Emmett gesturing to the tray of shots that Jasper offered up like a sacrifice.
"Why hasn't anyone touched these pizzas yet?" Emmett asked, pushing past a Jasper laden with their choice of poison. "You said you were hungry..."
Rosalie then leaned over and began to unpack the boxes, spreading them around the table so that everyone had equal access to the contents.
Jasper went around offering more drinks to everyone, giving them away even if he was told 'no'.
When they were all settled, had taken their shot, and began picking at the food, Jasper came and settled himself between Alice and Edwawrd.
At last a certain weight was lifted from the room. It would be nice to think that it was because the elephant named Jacob in the room had been deflated, but it was most likely due tot he fact that a bunch of teenagers had food.
Emmett conversationally asked about Edward's car and whether his parents had found out about that speeding fine he had copped a few weeks ago. The answer was an obvious no because he was still in possession of the car and his phone, and was allowed out of the house on a Friday night. They talked about this and that for a bit until the food drunk stupor started to kick in, and one by one, their postures began to resemble ragdolls. Edward made a move and ended up sitting with Bella on the floor, arms draped around her shoulder. He playfully asked what he had missed in the time that he was gone.
"We were just playing truth or dare..." Rosalie said casually.
Emmett, not catching on as to why Rosalie had mentioned it very casually, grew very animated at the reminder. "You missed a whole lot, Eddie! Seriously, Jasper and Alice made out and everything!"
Alice instnatly threw her head into her hands, any amount of pride from the act instantly diminishing.
Jasper saw what she did beside him, but when he looked carefully, he could see a small grin under those hands. He felt at ease because it seemed as though her embarrassment was only a facade - something he was very well versed in.
He had worried for nothing, it seemed, about the kiss between them. It was a pretty damn good one too, if he was honest.
He realised that he needed to get out more often.
Nonetheless, he took a stray bottle cap sitting on the arm rest and flicked it over the small space to Emmett. He had to at least pretend he was annoyed at Emmett's forthrightness. The cap didn't hit him in the forehead like he wanted it to, but it did land in his lap, causing him to look over at Jasper.
Jasper just rolled his eyes, hoping that Emmett would see that such a divulgence of information probably wasn't the best thing to have said.
"No, really, what did I miss?" Edward said, completely disbelieving that anything like that could have happened. Bella nudged him and shook her head discretely when he took notice. It was definitely an I-will-tell-you-later look to which he promptly zipped his mouth shut.
"Yes, well, and Jasper is still in contact with Maria," Rosalie added bitterly. Jasper watched her facial movements closely and even though he could tell that she wasn't happy about the Maria situation, it wasn't the cause of the disatisfaction in her tone. It was most likely attributed to the valedictorianship for which she perceived he had taken from her. That was something he was going to have to deal with properly sometime this week.
Edward was surprised to hear this and piped up. "Why would you do that?" he asked.
Jasper just looked at him, not loving that he was sharing these details with someone who had no idea that the world was not perfect. "An easy lay?" he joked. Edward didn't know how to interpret the humour because it did sound characteristic of roguish Jasper. This wasn't by accident, and Jasper so designed the answer so he did not elaborate. He'd rather leave golden boy wondering.
"Speaking of which," Emmett said, a lightbulb going off above his head. "What is this I don't hear is happening between you two?" He gestured with a finger at the space between Edward and Bella.
Edward pinched the bridge of his nose and lowered his head. Bella looked at him nervously and smiled almost sheepishly.
"Why would you tell them that?" he mumbled to her quietly.
"Emmett doesn't need to be told," Jasper replied, almost laughing at them, "he has a sixth sense about these things."
Bella ceased the opportunity to say that, yes, they had indeed guessed what had not happened between them.
"Actually," Emmett added, "Jasper is the Nostradamus on these things. He's so starved that he can pick up on it a mile away. You two must be blue ball buddies."
Alice stifled her laugh a moment too late, fighting the slightly tipsy urge to think about Jasper's balls. That was so beyond off-limits that she could probably make a priest swear if mentioned at confession.
"I don't want to think about Edward's balls," Jasper groaned, huffing out exasperatedly over the top of Emmett's laughter.
Edward nodded. "Yes, please don't."
Jasper stood up, punching Emmett on the arm as he walked passed and back into the kitchen. "I'm just going to go wash my mouth out with cyanide now..." .
Emmett called after him, taking great satisfaction in the disgust he had caused his best friend. "Top drawer!"
Edward smoothed out a wrinkle in his jeans with his hand. "You really need to have that brain of yours checked, Em," he remarked, letting any traces of a disgusted frown float away.
"Ha! You couldn't take a joke even if it was a girl!"
Again, Alice clapped a hand to her mouth to stop the laughter. She liked to think it was the alcohol loosening her up.
Jasper appeared back from the kitchen, demanding the attention of the room silently as he held up an opened box of condoms. "Top drawer?" he asked incredulously, flipping and shaking the upside-down box to emphasise the lack of contents.
Everyone laughed at what he was doing.
"You actually went looking for cyanide?" Emmett asked, equally as incredulous.
"I thought 'top drawer' was a hint or something."
"Yeah, I got that." Jasper replied, sitting back down in his spot and tossing the empty box over his shoulder somewhere. "Just in case you didn't know, Edward, that's what a box of condoms looks like."
Bella just shook her head while Rosalie grinned at her cousin's humour.
"So, Edward..." Emmett said. "To be welcome back here, you need to do a little initiation. And since I took Jasper's dare from before, I think it's fitting that he comes up with your punishment."
The cogs in Jasper's head starting turning as he eyed them off carefully. He wanted to pick something that would push Edward's limits, but not be as far as something Emmett would do. Emmett, unlike any sane person, had no boundaries. Edward did.
"Hmm," Jasper said, "Give me a minute."
He was so smug all of a sudden, Alice noted, and - perhaps it was the alcohol spurring on - that infuriated her. She felt the same way that she had when she first learned that Jasper was going to be in the same psychology class as her and she snapped a pencil in her grip.
He noticed her looking and flicked his gaze to her out of the corner of his eye. "Have you got an idea?" he asked, looking down at her.
She just folded her arms and sat back on the couch. "Looking at your face should be enough for them."
There was a general chuckle from the group.
Jasper also laughed, only sarcastically. "Keep calm, Mad Hatter," he said, leaning over and picking up a stray shot from the table and handing it to her, "And drink this."
She took it from him and placed it straight back on the table. She didn't need another one so soon, she was sure.
Instead of taking a clear stab at her pride, he simply looked the shot she had replaced. "Typical."
"Typical - you won't do the shot, will you?"
She looked at him and there it was: another challenge. She knew she couldn't back down from this one, because she hadn't done it thus far in their war. If she didn't do the shot, sticking to her ground, he would be right in his accusation. But, then, if she did pick up the drink, he would win because he was goading her and everybody knew it.
He smiled at her, knowing that she'd just realised he had put her into a lose-lose situation. He believed that that was checkmate. He liked it when that happened.
Alice, on the flipside, was seeing replays of the party where he had gotten up and called her a virgin in front of the entire senior class. It seemed like he could be on to her, but she couldn't see how that could be possible because she had taken every precaution to cover her sickeningly innocent tracks. He couldn't possibly know that stuff about her.
It only took another wink from him to set her teeth on edge. Damn, he was cocky.
She leaned over, picked up the shot and swallowed it confidently. She understood that she had just given a point to him, but it was probably one of the least important points to give away. An easy win was hardly a win at all.
He just gave her a nod of acknowledgement, pleased that he had won this impromptu round.
Jasper turned back to Edward then, the fire she lit in him fuelling an entertaining idea. "Edward", he said, "demonstrate to us that you are actually attracted to Bella."
"Ooooh!" Emmett cried, shuffling forward to the edge of his seat and bouncing energetically.
"I don't really care how you do it," Jasper said, "I'll leave that to your imagination. But, you have to make us believe it."
The two would-be lovers - playground sweethearts, as Jasper liked to refer to them as - sat stone still for a moment, trying to process what he had just dared them to do.
In one not-so-smooth motion, Edward kissed Bella. Their heads were at an awkward angle - neither one aware enough to change the fact - to accommodate their bodies' positions. He put a hand in her hair, she tried to undo a button on his shirt, they may have even used a tongue... It was all very amateurish to Jasper. Frankly, he thought his and Alice's kiss had been better.
Of course, Edward couldn't come up with anything more original to show his girlfriend his affection, but she was clearly smitten with the gesture. Jasper thought that Bella should probably raise her standards a little, but he had to remember to keep his mouth shut because not everyone had the capacity to think creatively.
They broke apart after a whopping five seconds, and looked towards their audience for their report card.
The response was underwhelming.
"I hope that looked more awkward than it actually was," Jasper remarked under his breath. Surely he had never looked that clumsy when he first started chasing after girls.
Rosalie snickered in agreement.
Edward brushed it off, uncharacteristically. "Does this mean I get to ask truth or dare now?" he asked, straightening up his hair and checking all the buttons on his shirt.
At that, Emmett's hand shot up like an eager student in class. He didn't wait for his turn to speak. "Let me do it! I have a really good one!"
Edward's brow furrowed.
"Emmett's not very good at taking turns," Jasper remarked, rolling his eyes.
Edward conceded his turn with the wave of his hand. "This had better be worth it."
Emmett just grinned and swivelled in his seat towards Jasper.
Jasper realised what this meant. "Oh, for crying out loud! Not again..."
"Jazz, I dare you to do the full monty for us, right here."
"Is that a double dare, then?"
Jasper nodded. "Indeed."
"Fine. Then you two-" he said, pointing at both Jasper and Alice with each hand, "-have to pretend to be a couple for an entire week."
Alice balked, her eyes locked in place at the words coming out of Emmett's mouth in slow motion.
"And you have to make everyone at school believe it."
Instead of refusing, or pulling a face of sheer horror, or even sitting in stunned silence, Jasper got straight to business. "What's in it for us?"
Alice looked at him, horrified. "We are not- I am not doing this. "
He held up a finger to silence her, intent on hearing the details of a plan she would not allow to come to fruition.
"Jasper, you get your iPod back-"
"That's hardly an incentive."
Emmett ignored him. "And, Alice, you will get the ultimate weapon against Jasper."
Her interest betrayed her good senses by peaking at his bait. "What would that be?" she asked. Not that she would ever agree to this charade...
"Some information that only I know..."
That didn't sound promising to her. She placed a finger to her chin in thought. "I'm intrigued, but it's hardly worth a week of torture."
"I agree," Jasper said, nodding. "That's not good enough."
Emmett sighed. "Fine. If you succeed, I will streak too."
Alice laughed, but Jasper shook his head. "You've already done that before..."
"Not at graduation, I haven't."
Jasper bit his lip as he contemplated the latest offer. Emmett streaking at graduation would take the spotlight off him when the students found out he had out-smarted them all while acting the dumbest. It was a decent enough proposal, but he thought he could weasel a better deal out of his ape of a best friend. He stood up, motioning Alice to do the same. She did so, but quizzically.
Again, she liked to think it was the alcohol doing that.
"We need to confer," Jasper said, heading into the kitchen with Alice obediently in tow.
"I am not doing this," she prattled before moving away, letting the others hear what she thought of this dare. "It's sad enough that you need to dare someone to be your girlfriend, but to pick someone who really doesn't like you..."
When they came into the security of the separated room, he spun on his heel to look at her. "If we do this, we will own him," he explained quietly.
She thought back to the tennis ball incident in the hallway. "You already own him!"
"That's the nicest thing anyone has said to me all week." He rubbed the back of his neck. "Seriously, though, I think we can do this."
Alice's eyes bulged out of her head. "Are you for real? I knew you were messed up, but-"
"Wait a minute," he said, narrowing his eyes at her looming insult. He thought he would push a few new buttons of hers that he had learned about this evening, just to see if he would get his way. "Don't you want to prove that you know how to have fun?"
He smiled evilly. "I've been watching you-"
"You haven't been to parties and gotten drunk and done irresponsible things with friends before, have you?"
She wouldn't let him tug her any further out to the grand sea of pity. Like she had reminded herself earlier, she didn't need some cowboy messing up her new world. "Does it look like I don't know what I'm doing?"
"I'll give you credit, you hide it well," he said, crossing his arms. "I don't think any of the others know. Yet."
"Is that a threat? Are you seriously blackmailing me into this stupid dare?"
He shrugged his shoulders, but that was hardly the truthful answer to her question.
"There is no real reason to do this!" she all but squealed.
"How about just the satisfaction of winning? Of doing something they don't think you can?"
"That is such a lame thing to say!" and she began to make her way out of the room.
"Wait," he said quickly, involuntarily reaching towards her. He pulled out a chair for her at the kitchen table. "Sit down first."
She looked at it venomously. "Are you going to tie me to that chair?"
"You wish," he replied, taking a seat himself. He looked at her completely for the first time since the incident earlier in the night, catching her off guard.
Suddenly, there was an invisible rope around her waist stopping her from moving away. That was the only explanation because, next thing she knew, she was taking the seat he had pulled out for her.
"Look," he said, his eyes apparently more interested in the grains in the wood table than her face. "I'm sorry about before. I wouldn't have done it if I had known..."
Alice just shook her head. "You can save your pity and disgust. I don't need it."
"Disgust?" he asked, pointing out one of her key words.
That was definitely not a word he would have used. It was the opposite.
A small amount of panic then settled itself in his stomach: did she think the kiss was disgusting?
She just turned to look at the hands in her lap. "Doesn't matter. It's done. Whatever. I still don't like you very much."
Did she think he was disgusting?
Well, there went any need he thought there might be to try to assess any damage caused. That was not what he'd expected.
Quick! Respond, Jasper. "Don't like me very much? So you do like me a little bit..."
She stopped fiddling and looked at him incredulously. "Don't flatter yourself."
"Hey, well, now you can say your first kiss was with me... That seems like a pretty good deal."
"Again, don't flatter yourself."
He was equally frustrated now, finding it less fun than usual to argue with Alice. She was the only one had to worry about being out-smarted by, but it wasn't such a perk in this instance. "You just don't want to do it because you're afraid you might like it!"
What she did next, he had not counted on.
She jutted out her chin defiantly, got up, turned on her heel, and marched out of the room. He thought he had lost out on this one, disappointment creeping in, until he heard her declare, loud and clear that "We accept."
He raced out too, trying not to let Emmett get out of this too easily. "With two extra conditions: you have to paint a face on your ass and do your best performance of We Are the Champions on stage until you get escorted away." He came and stood next to Alice, like a united front.
Emmett thought about it, bottom lip protruding in thought for a moment or two. Then he nodded. "Congratulations," he said. "You are now boyfriend and girlfriend."