Well, here we begin—the full-length story of my one-shot I Never. As you can see, I've expanded the title, too, to differentiate between the one-shot and this multi-chapter fic. I'm a little nervous about a multi-chapter; please be kind. :) A longish A/N at the end with some more info.
Thanks bunches to HollettLA and furious kitten at Project Team Beta for checking this out!
Rated M for future naughtiness (but it'll be a few chapters, folks).
Of course, I own nothing but dog-eared copies of all five books (yes, including Bree – which actually isn't all that dog-eared), three DVDs, and a desire for the Illustrated Guide (almost there!) and tickets to a midnight showing of BD part 1. Maybe Stephenie would share Edward? No? Well, it was worth a try. ;)
We start a few years before the one-shot...
Off to College
My palms slipped on the steering wheel as I took the last turn toward La Push. The sign of nervousness was unexpected and unwelcome. How could I be nervous about going to talk to Jake? I've known him his whole life! His whole life, but not quite all of mine. Was it the fifteen-month age difference that made me unable to view him in a romantic light?
It wasn't like I hadn't tried. Despite my misgivings, I had agreed to give him a chance. Our fathers were best friends, we were best friends, and I couldn't imagine my life without him. Who could resist those deep, dark eyes and that cocky smile—not to mention the awesome body that had started to develop in the last year?
I sighed. Me, apparently.
Sure, I had had fun on our "dates." It was impossible not to have fun with Jake. He had a snarky wit that could make me laugh even when I was mad at him, and he had talked me into trying things—like cliff-diving—that no one else could have. His tall, muscular frame, smooth, russet skin, and soft, dark hair should have been icing on the cake. But when he had brought me home and moved in for a goodnight kiss, something had been missing. The kisses had been warm, pleasant...and all too easy to end. If I had romantic feelings for him, shouldn't I want to hold on and never let go? Even if I wasn't actually ready to go much beyond kisses—shouldn't I want to?
I had decided the answer had to be yes. Mild pleasure and curiosity just weren't enough for me. And that's all it had been with Jake. I was satisfied that I had made the right decision.
But this was going to be so hard...
I realized the truck had slowed to a crawl as I pulled onto Jake's street, my subconscious trying to put off the moment as long as possible. I came to a stop outside his house and wiped my palms on my jeans.
Okay, enough was enough. I was leaving for college in a month, and I was determined not to leave Jake with false hope. He still had another year of high school, and he should use the time to find someone else. "Screw your courage to the sticking place, Bella." My Shakespearean pep talk got me out of the truck and to the door.
Fifteen minutes later, I was astounded at how dense Jacob could be.
"Give it some time. I know you'll come around." His voice was confident, and his expression was encouraging, almost like a parent urging a child to try something new. I couldn't believe it.
"Jacob, I don't think you understand—"
"I understand what you think you feel," he interrupted. "I just think you're wrong. Maybe you need to get away from Forks—go to college, spread your wings. Then you'll appreciate me when I get there." His trademark cocky smile flashed.
What the hell? 'Spread my wings'? From my younger best friend? That's just wrong.
"I know how I feel." I resisted the urge to raise my voice and kept it calm but firm. "I love you, you're my best friend, but I'm not in love with you. After all the trying I've done over the last few months, I'd know it by now if I was." There, I was leaving no loopholes. Then his last words hit me. "And what do you mean 'when you get there'? I'm going to William & Mary—Williamsburg, Virginia, all the way across the country. You've always said you need to stay close to your dad."
"I'm going where you go. Besides, Rachel started dating Paul a while ago, and it looks like it's getting serious fast. If she comes back to live here, then Dad's taken care of."
My mind went off on a tangent. "Your sister's dating Paul? Why do you seem so happy about it? I thought you couldn't stand him."
"Oh, he's not my favorite person, that's for sure. But his temper's a lot better now that he's seeing Rachel. It's almost like he's flipped the other way—now it's hard to get him to stop joking around, and he's so laid back you'd think he was smoking something."
I realized I was getting distracted, and I returned to my main point. "Jake, don't follow me," I said earnestly. "I'm not a little kid who needs to see something of the world before I know what I want. I know what I'm looking for, and I'm sorry—" I paused, searching in vain for a gentler way to put it, all the while knowing that gentle just wouldn't penetrate Jake's thick skull— "but it's just not going to be with you." .
Hurt flickered in his eyes, and his smile—his beautiful, light-up-the-world smile—faded. My heart fell. I never wanted Jake to be hurt, and I hated to be the one causing it. Please, please, let him be okay, and let our friendship survive this. I don't know if I could stand not having him in my life...
He swallowed, then said in a husky voice, "You're doing what you feel is right. I get that. Well, I have to do the same thing." He paused, as if to let me respond, but I could think of nothing to say. He tried for a lighter tone as he continued, "Who knows? Maybe when it's time for me to go to college next year, I won't feel the same." His attempt at a smile was a shadow of its usual brilliance, and it faded quickly as his voice became serious again. "But if I feel like I do now, I'll be following you, even if it's across the country. I just know I need to be with you."
A tear escaped my control and slid down my cheek. "I'm so sorry." There really wasn't anything else I could say that wouldn't make it worse, and I didn't try.
I opened my arms to him and was surrounded by his warmth as he hugged me back.
I left quickly and headed for home. Tears continued to fall as I wrestled with my old truck's steering wheel on the sharp turn for my street. To my dismay, I found myself second-guessing my decision...I love him, I even need him in a way...How can I be so sure it's just friendship?
I had no logical answer. Just a bone-deep certainty that somewhere, someone else was meant for me. And if I never found him, I'd rather muddle through on my own than settle for less.
I sorted through my CDs, deciding which I should leave at home in Chicago and which I should take with me to college. I'd have my iPod, of course, but I liked having the CDs, too. The take-with-me stack was easily five times bigger than the leave-at-home stack. "Fuck it," I muttered and put both stacks in the box. It's not like I'd be squashed in a dorm room with a roommate. With the house that Carlisle and Esme had purchased, my cousin Emmett and I would have our own bedrooms and plenty of space for my music and books. It would even have a piano, although not the baby grand that occupied a prime spot in my aunt and uncle's Chicago home. And between Emmett's Jeep and my Volvo, we'd have enough room for a few boxes.
I taped the box closed. There, that was the last of it. The next morning, we'd start the 800-mile trip to William & Mary.
I wandered downstairs and sat at the piano, playing around with bits and pieces of songs I knew and a few of my own compositions. I felt someone sit next to me on the bench and was unsurprised when I looked over to see my aunt Esme.
"Your parents would be so proud of you," she said softly. I realized that, without conscious thought, I had started to play John Lennon's Beautiful Boy, a song my mother had sung to me and which came to me when I thought of her.
"I hope so." I let my fingers move from Lennon to Debussy as I started Clair de Lune, one of Esme's favorites. She smiled and listened as I played.
"Hey, dude, enough of the emo crap. How about something with a beat?" Our quiet time was interrupted when Emmett entered the room. "Aren't you excited? College! No more high school! New babes to meet, new worlds to conquer!"
Because I loved him even when he annoyed me, I improvised a little Jerry Lee Lewis before ending with a flourish. He laughed.
"That's more like it! Come on, Dad's got the grill warmed up, and Alice is done with the Bon Voyage decorations. She wants us all out there, pronto."
"We'll be right out. Tell him I'll have a burger," Esme said as she made a shooing motion toward Emmett.
"Me, too," I echoed. After Emmett left the room, I looked up at my aunt, who had risen from the piano bench. "Did you need something?"
She gazed at me for a moment, then brushed her hand over my unruly hair. "Just to say that I really meant that. You've become a fine young man, and I know you're going to do amazing things."
I felt a blush heat my face, and I looked down at the piano keys. "I don't know about that," I mumbled. "But Emmett's right—it's got to be better than high school."
She laughed. "Oh, honey, it is. You'll do fine." She nudged my shoulder. "Come on; let's go see what Carlisle's managed to do with the grill. Enough emo crap."
Hearing Emmett's words out of Esme's mouth jarred a laugh from me, and I stood and followed her out to the deck.
Later that night, lying in the dark and waiting for sleep, I thought about the last four years. They hadn't been all bad. I wasn't exactly popular, but I had friends who shared my interests in music and science. I hadn't had a steady girlfriend, but I had managed to find enough courage to ask a friend from band to the prom. She'd said yes, and we'd had fun, as friends. My grades and test scores were good enough to get me into a competitive school with a scholarship.
But I was constantly compared with jovial, athletic Emmett or vivacious, trendy Alice. I could run fast, sure, but that was the extent of my athletic ability. And just the thought of keeping up with Alice's social calendar made me nauseous. They were both so good-looking, too, with Carlisle's bright blue eyes and the dark hair that was a throwback to Esme's father. Alice was short, true, but for a girl that was just petite. Sometimes I felt out of place in this family: green eyes, red hair, freckles, short for my age, skinny...I'd kept hoping that I'd have a growth spurt so I didn't still look like a freshman, but it just hadn't happened. Esme's reminder that my father had been a "late bloomer" didn't really make me feel better.
I sighed, realizing I needed to get some sleep before tomorrow's drive. We were going to try and make it in one day, and with Emmett's competitive streak and my stubbornness, we just might. Despite my previously somber thoughts, a smile tugged at my lips. Behind Emmett's pranks and jokes lay hints of genius. New worlds to conquer, indeed. William & Mary wasn't a huge school, but it was big enough that I wouldn't automatically be linked with Emmett, and Alice still had a year of high school to finish. I would rise or fall on my own merits. As for the new babes...my smile turned to a grin. Well, I wouldn't say no to that, either.
A/N: So, what do you think? Edward's a little different from the one-shot here. I had so much more in mind as I wrote the O/S, and I'm glad to tell the rest of it. We have a few chapters before we get to where the O/S started. Also, a few other couples want some time, although this will remain primarily an Edward and Bella fic. (Other couples will likely get their own stories later, if there's any interest—or if the plot bunnies keep hopping.) Each chapter will have two POVs, one from Bella and one from Edward (although one of the other couples may sneak in a chapter or two), but I'll try to keep the overlap to a minimum.
I can't promise a specific update schedule because my real life is just too hectic and unpredictable, but I can promise I won't drop this. I have an outline and I'm working on the next chapter, so I'll shoot for two weeks. Just don't hold me to that—I have enough deadlines at work! I'm on twitter, (at) SqueakyZorro, so if it looks like that time frame won't work, I'll tweet.
Let me know what you liked—and what you didn't, that's how I grow as a writer. Yeah, that little button below—just click it and type a few words. :) Thanks for reading! And thanks even more for reviewing! (Let me know if teasers for reviews sounds like a good trade to you—maybe there will be a reward...)