Boys on Boards contest

Title: Fall Into Place

Characters: Edward/Bella

Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight

Word count: 9,678

Summary: Boys on Boards contest: With a new friendship blooming between herself and surfer-boy Edward, Bella Swan finds herself fighting for balance, in more ways than one. Skating, baking and growing crushes all send her mind and heart spinning.

Bella shook out her hair and sighed peacefully. While she wasn't entirely used to the heat, even after three years in California, that didn't stop her from enjoying it. It was an amazing day: warm, bright and perfect.

As always, she and Alice - best friends since childhood and therefore inseparable as adults - were spending their weekend at the beach. They felt that the ocean held much more of an allure than their stuffy apartment or the busy streets of the city.

Or it could just have been the promise of half-naked guys populating the stretch of sand, but they pretended not to take that into account.

Here she didn't have to think about work or paying bills or how to dodge eight of the ten calls her mom made her every week, checking in on her only daughter from back in good ol' rainy Forks. Here, there was sand, waves, sun and heat, and that was all she cared about.

Bella shoved her sunglasses on her face. Pretending not to look at anything in particular, she people-watched as best she could. Hiding behind a pair of shades wasn't really an option up in Forks, something Bella had long since added to her list of things she didn't miss from home. Unobtrusively checking out strangers was so much easier in California.

She turned and leaned over to her right, grabbing her bag and aimlessly rooting through it. This offered her the perfect opportunity to inspect the group of people who'd set up base about ten feet away. They looked to be her and Alice's age, three girls and a bunch of guys.

They were loud, with a few surfboards anchored into the sand around them. With her head down, Bella didn't feel the least bit ashamed of watching the guys in all their bare-chested glory, gazing at them from behind her sunglasses. A few of them were nicer to look at than others, but none of them kept her attention for long.

She sighed and pretended to have found what she was looking for, smearing on some chapstick before leaning back down on her elbows.

"Anything?" Alice asked, nonchalantly watching the waves.

Bella snorted and shook her head.

"No, not really. One of them has a really nice ass, but other than that..."

"Shame."

"Mmhm."

They sat in silence for a while, watching people get in and out of the water. Bella was just about to reach for her book when Alice suddenly tensed beside her.

"What? What's wrong?"

Alice was now gaping and staring like a crazy person. Bella was just about to repeat her question when her friend's hand shot out and clamped down on her arm.

"Ow! What the f-?"

"I thought you said there wasn't anything!"

Bella stared.

"Have you been out in the sun too long?"

"No- just- Bella! Look!"

And Bella looked. One of the guys had grabbed his board and was walking towards the water. As he came closer to where they were, Bella could see his eyes flickering in their direction. Alice's fingers tightened around her arm.

He walked past, and for just a few seconds, he met Alice's eyes. He smiled, his gaze lingering just long enough for it not to be unintentional.

Alice was on the verge of hyperventilating.

"Did he slow-mo walk in your head? Did you hear music? Is he your soulmate?" Bella asked, as the guy reached the water. Alice was clearly having a moment, and what kind of best friend would she be if she didn't mock her for it?

"Shut up, asshole. Did you see that? He smiled at me, didn't he?"

"Yeah, probably."

"Oh god, I think I might die."

"Can you not? It's going to be really awkward for me to get you home if you do."

"I'm going for a swim."

And just like that, Alice was scrambling off her towel, headed straight for Blonde Surfer Dude. Bella couldn't stop her jaw from dropping. She wasn't really an expert at flirting and getting guys herself, but she was pretty sure that Alice's plan – if she even had one – was kind of shit.

"Alice!"

All she got was a slender middle-finger aimed in her general direction. Classy broad.

Bella had trouble closing her mouth as she watched her friend strut down the beach. She looked completely fearless as she literally made a beeline for the sudden object of her affection, stopping close to where he was sitting on his board in the water. It didn't take long until she'd started up a conversation with him, both of them gesturing wildly and laughing.

"The fuck..." Bella commented to herself. What the hell had just happened?

Not long after that, Alice walked back out of the water. She looked coyly over her shoulder to where The Dude was standing around, watching her. Bella arched an eyebrow at the sudden extra swing in Alice's hips. Alice's hips never swung.

When she came close enough to Bella, she whispered excitedly, "Is he still watching me?"

At her nod, Alice let out a high pitched, but somehow still subdued, squeal. She dumped herself down on her towel and immediately started gushing about her experience.

"His name is Jasper, and he's even prettier up close! Bella, his eyes! Oh my god, I've never seen eyes like that. He's so nice, and funny and smart, and he offered to show me how to surf, but no way am I doing that. And oh my god, wait until you hear his voice – he's from the south! I-"

"Wait, wait, wait. Why am I hearing his voice? What did you do?"

"Huh? Oh, he's just going to surf for a bit, but when he comes back he said we should come sit with him and his friends!"

Alice grinned in delight, shooting two thumbs-up at Bella's face.

Bella's face became frowny to the extreme. "I don't want to sit with his friends!"

"What, you're just going to sit here all alone like a loser?"

"You'd abandon me?"

"Did you not see his abs? What the fuck. I'd ditch you for less."

"You're a terrible friend. And kind of a slut."

"I know, right?"

And that was how Bella found herself surrounded by surfer dudes for the rest of the day.

...

...

It wasn't that they weren't nice. Because they were. Bella even laughed at their jokes and if she'd been completely honest with herself, she was actually having a good time. It was just really difficult for her to accept this when she was still irrationally grumpy about Alice forcing her to spend time with complete strangers.

This hadn't been a part of her lazy-day-at-the-beach plan. Bella didn't like people changing her plans. She could change them herself at the drop of a hat, but when someone else dared meddle with herplans... well, she just wasn't happy about it.

Alice didn't care. She was busy making goo-goo eyes at Jasper – and yes, he did have wonderful blue eyes, terrific abs and a very lovely voice, blah blah blah – so she ignored her friend's plight. Bella wasn't very happy about this either, but she at least tried to be supportive.

So it was in this state of mind – illogically trying not to enjoy her enjoyment – that she first saw him.

It happened very suddenly. There she sat, minding her own business, when something appeared in the corner of her eye. It took her a second to register it as a pair of board shorts. Attached to a pair of legs.

Long legs.

Hairy legs.

Lean, muscle-y, deliciously tan legs, with a pair of amazingly handsome feet on the end of them.

Right next to her face.

"Hey, there you are, man! Fucking finally," Jasper said, as Bella's eyes slowly travelled further up those mysterious legs.

She encountered more tan skin, more lean muscles, and the sexiest male hipbone she had ever seen in her life.

"Yeah, sorry – work was a freaking nightmare. I thought they'd never let me leave."

The owner of the mysterious legs spoke. His voice was like music specifically tailored for her ears; it was the most pleasing sound she'd ever heard.

But his voice was nothing compared to his pecs. Bella had the weirdest urge to bite them. They certainly didn't make them like that back in Forks.

"Did you make some new friends?" the owner of the mysterious legs and enticing pecs asked. She suddenly had the intense feeling that she was being watched.

A second later she realised it was Legs Guy who was studying her. With this realisation also came the horrifically mortifying knowledge that he'd caught her checking him out.

Her eyes snapped up to his face. It almost wasn't fair how beautiful it was.

He was smirking at her, just a little. Not in a douchey, self-aware-of-how-hot-he-was kind of way, but more in a way as if he found her amusing. She couldn't figure out if this was a good thing or not.

As they held each other's gazes, his smirk transformed into a genuine smile, his lips simultaneously softening and stretching wider. It was incredibly fascinating.

"Yeah, this is Alice, and that's Bella," Jasper supplied. Legs Guy nodded slowly, not taking his eyes off hers.

"Hello, Bella. Very nice to meet you," he said, sounding teasingly formal. He folded himself down beside her quite gracefully. "So, how did he lure you here? Because if he said something about having candy in his car, he was lying."

Bella had the odd compulsion to laugh harder than his joke actually warranted. She squished it down like a bug, opting instead for a somewhat womanly snort and a smile.

"No, no candy - it was all Alice," she said, nodding towards her best friend.

Legs Guy smiled wider, throwing a knowing glance at how close Jasper and Alice were sitting.

"I see. Well, I'm Edward. I don't really have any candy for you either. Sorry."

"Oh. That's a bummer; I could really go for a Snickers right now."

Edward made a face. "Really?"

"Yeah. Why, what's wrong with Snickers?" The smudge of judgement she could hear in his voice made her oddly defensive about the chocolate bar.

"Beside the fact that it's disgusting?"

"Whoa, whoa. Dude. I know we only just met and whatever, but don't disrespect the Snickers, alright? Ever tried having one of those for breakfast? It's a lifesaver if you're late for class or something."

"Yeah, but you could do so much better. Like a Twix."

Bella scrunched up her nose, making him laugh.

"Tell you what, Edward – you can have the Twix bars, and I'll get all the awesome candy. Deal?"

He looked her over, amused and speculative. "Yeah, okay. Deal."

Once again, his smile widened as he looked at her. He said nothing then, just sat there, watching her and letting his grin embed itself into her memory, turning into fodder for her daydreams. And normal dreams, too.

She didn't know it then, but that smile would eventually send tickling waves of nerves through her belly. It would make her blood hustle swiftly through her veins, sprightly and doused with hormones. It would be the thing she would always strive to bring out, through her words and jokes or simply through falling on her ass. Falling on her ass would always be unintentional, but it would get the job done, and she'd find that seeing him smiling at her made the pain much less noticeable.

That grin would eventually find its way into her heart, too – a sensation which would prove to be freakishly similar to falling.

...

...

The second time she met Edward Cullen was the following weekend. Jasper and Alice had already been out on two dates. He'd invited her to a party at his place, but Alice had, uncharacteristically, been unsure about whether she should go or not.

"I have work tomorrow!" she'd claimed, while Bella stood there and judged her.

"You're just scared you'll end up having sex, aren't you?"

"What? Of course not! I want to have sex with Jasper."

"Yeah, but you're scared that you'll have sex and afterwards, he'll be disappointed and not want to go out with you again. You're always like this. I don't know why you even try to pretend otherwise."

"That's. You know- no, that's not true. It's not." Alice stared back at Bella, tapping her foot. Bella slowly crossed her arms in front of her chest. Alice's foot tapped harder. "It's not! Fine. You know what? Fine. We'll go to the party, and I'll fuck that boy so awesomely, he'll lose his mind. Hah!"

"That'll teach me."

And so it was, that Bella stood near the improvised bar in Jasper's living room, alone. Alice and Jasper had disappeared a while ago, although she wasn't sure if they were off having sex or if they'd just gotten lost in the crowd.

And it was a big crowd. There were a lot of people there. She recognised a few that she'd met at the beach, but mostly, she was surrounded by strangers.

She wished Alice was around; she'd always been so much better at this stuff. Being social, meeting new people, not being awkward – these were things Alice was great at. Bella... not so much. She usually just followed along in Alice's wake, but since she'd disappeared, Bella was on her own.

Now all the company she had was Captain Morgan and señor José Cuervo. She forced her face not to scrunch up as she took a long swig of her drink.

She wandered off, making a circuit around the rooms. Jasper lived here with Edward, whom Bella had not seen yet, and some other guy who hadn't been at the beach. The house was okay. It wasn't great, but it was close to the shore and that had, apparently, been its biggest selling point with the guys.

Needing some fresh air, she walked outside. The tiny backyard seemed even smaller with the people milling around in it; most of them were gathered around the kiddie-pool filled with ice and beer cans.

"Hey," a voice said behind her on the porch. He sounded a little surprised. Bella didn't need to turn around to know that it was Edward, but she did anyway. Mostly because it was the polite thing to do when addressed by someone, but also because she wanted to stare at his pretty face.

"Oh, hi," she replied, lifting her cup in some lame salute, and immediately regretting it.

You couldn't have just stuck with a smile or something? Really? Dumbass.

"I didn't know you were coming," he said, turning in his seat to face her a bit more. Bella cast a quick look at the small group he was with. One of the girls from the beach, Rosalie, was there, along with a barrel-chested, curly-haired guy, and another blonde girl, who was taking a hit from a bong.

"Yeah, Jasper invited us. Or I think he actually invited Alice, and I just tagged along."

He smiled a little lazily, showing his teeth. "Tagging along is good."

The way he said it, sort of quiet and honest, made Bella think he was genuinely happy that she was there.

Suddenly, she was a whole lot happier about it, too.

"Come on, have a seat." He motioned to the empty space on his left, next to Rosalie on the bench. "Did Alice and Jasper wander off?"

Bella snorted as she gingerly made her way towards her new seat; she had to half step over his knees due to the tight squeeze between him and the low table in between them all.

"They did indeed. Didn't take very long, either. Oh, sorry," she said, accidentally banging her foot against his thigh.

"That's alright," he said, chuckling at her. His hand softly brushed her foot for just a second as she pulled it across his knees. She felt each of his fingertips with an incredible clarity, dragging a tickling heat across her skin.

"Guys, this is Bella," he said after she'd sat down, her foot still tingling slightly. "Bella, this is Emmett – he lives here with me and Jazz. And this is Tanya."

He introduced the blonde with a grin; Bella wasn't sure if he was smiling because of the girl or because she was in the process of handing him the bong.

She really hoped it was the latter.

Tanya gave her a slightly dismissive nod before she focused all her attention on watching Edward take his hit. Bella immediately decided she didn't really like Tanya all that much.

"You smoke?" Rosalie asked beside her while slapping away Emmett's hand from her upper thigh.

Bella shrugged. "Occasionally."

Edward looked at her sideways, smoke curling slowly out from his mouth. He grinned and then tilted the bong in her direction.

"Well then, Miss Swan – join the party."

"Yeah? Sure you don't mind? I'll give you some money for it."

He smiled at her like that again, as if she'd said something funny, something amazing that he'd never heard before. It made Bella feel both nervous and empowered, emotions she didn't really know what to do with.

He shook his head after a second and passed her the bong.

"Nah – just give me some of your candy, and we'll call it even."

...

...

Over the next few weeks, Alice and Jasper had quickly become inseparable. Bella found herself spending a lot of time at the boys' house, and – much to her surprise – it didn't take long before she and Edward had developed a strong friendship. She discovered that behind the pretty face was a really cool guy, and she assumed he must have discovered something he liked about her in return, because he didn't exactly avoid her.

And even though Edward made her feel things that definitely lay outside of the friend-zone, she tried to ignore them, tried to convince herself that it was better not to risk it. Being friends was easy and risk-free. Doing something about these 'feelings' wasn't. Mostly because she'd probably embarrass herself trying.

Beings friends with Edward wasn't always easy, though. Like when he cajoled her into doing things she wouldn't - or couldn't - normally do, much to her annoyance.

"No! No, Edward, I don't want to. Seriously, I'm going to fa-"

"You won't fall."

"Yes, I will. I swear to you, I will. I'll fall, and hit my head, and then I'll die. Do you want me to die? Do you really want that on your conscience? Huh? Do you? I don't. Want you to have that, I mean. Or want me to die either, really, because that would be bad. Because I don't want youto die, and if you want me to die, I don't really think we can be friends anymore, and that's. That's. You know, that's just sad. So I don't really think I should do this. Because, it- it would clearly ruin our friendship, and that's just not cool. Are you going to ruin our friendship, Edward? For what? To prove a point? Because that's just not worth it. It's not. So I'm not going to do it."

She put her hands on her hips, and turned her face up in what she hoped was a serious and confident stance. Edward tilted his head to the side as he regarded her.

"You think up really weird shit to say when you're scared."

"I do not! And I'm not scared."

"Why would I want you to die?"

"Well, I don't know, do I? That's my point. You want me to get on a skateboard, Edward. I thought you knew me better than that by now. You obviously want me to die, or at least seriously harm myself. I can barely stand when I'm not moving. How do you expect me to- Edward! Stop laughing at me, you dick."

"I'm sorry!" he said, still laughing as she smacked his chest and arms a few times. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry. But come on, just get on the skateboard. Please?"

"No."

"Yes."

"No!"

"Yes?"

"Nooooooo."

Their stare-off lasted for several long seconds.

"Please."

"NO."

"Please? I'll help you, I swear. And I have a helmet and knee-pads for you, see? See how much trouble I went through to ensure your safety? And now you're just turning it down, without even trying? For shame, Bella. For shame."

He went ahead and put the helmet on her as he spoke, slapping it down perhaps a little bit harder than necessary. Bella glared at him.

"I'm not doing it!"

Two minutes later, Edward was holding on to both her hands, with the skateboard between them, securely immobilised against the curb.

"Okay, and now you just step on to it, slowly... good, good, find a good place for your foot. Perfect. Okay, and now your other foot- no, Bella, it's okay, I've got you. I won't let go."

"Promise? Because if you let go and I fall, I am going to murderyou."

"I won't let go, I swear. Come on, up you go. Yeah, there you go. See? It's not so bad, is it?"

He grinned down at her. Bella was sorely tempted to say that the only reason it wasn't so bad was because they were holding hands. She loved his hands.

And his face. His face was pretty easy on the eyes, after all.

"Okay, we're going to try moving a bit now..."

"What?" Bella asked, panic seeping into her voice.

"Alright, stay calm. I told you, I won't let you fall."

"But- but what if you can't stop it? What if I fall, and then I end up dragging you down with me? Or worse, what if I fall on you?"

"I can think of worse things," he said, sort of mumbling to himself. Then his eyes went wide, and he tensed up, all weird-looking.

"What?"

"Nothing," he said, way too quickly. She might even have imagined that his cheeks turned a little bit red. "Come on, time to skate."

And then he took a step back, loosening his grip on her slightly. Bella shrieked.

"Don't let go! Edward! Oh my god, seriously, I don't think I can do this. I can't. I don't want to do this anymore. Let me down. Don't let go!"

He laughed at her, long and hard. "Jesus christ, Bella, would you stop being such a puss-... uh, I mean. I- uh."

"I'm sorry, were you just about to call me a 'pussy'?"

He seemed to choke on air a little.

"No?"

"Rude, Edward. Rude."

"Yeah, I-... yeah. I'm sorry – I don't usually almost call girls that. Or even say it in front of them. Or well, sometimes I do, but that's normally in, uhm... in- in private. Uhm, right. Come on, let's get to it."

Bella's mouth dropped open a little bit. Even though she didn't really want to think about Edward in a 'private' situation with some other girl, she couldn't deny that his words turned her on. A lot.

Oh, this is bad. Friend, Bella. He's just a friend. Stop having a stupid crush on your stupid friend.

Your stupid friend who looks so cute when he blushes.

"Okay, here's what we'll do – put your hands on my shoulders, and I'll walk with you, alright?"

"Huh? No, no, I think I should get off. This is- I've had enough skateboarding for now, I think."

He rolled his eyes at her. "You'll be perfectly safe, Bella. Trust me, please?"

"No, no, I'm serious. This is good. A good, uh, first effort. I can stand still on it, and that's good enough for me right now. Yeah. So, I can stop. Now. I don't- okay, I don't. I'm done, so, yeah, just- no, nonono, what are you doing?"

She tried sticking a death grip on his hands, but when he pulled harder, pulling away – letting go of her– she had to choose between that or risking him pulling her off-balance and therefore straight towards a face-meets-street situation.

She chose letting him go.

A high-pitched sound, sort of like stepping on a chew-toy, left her, but she barely had time to panic before she felt his hands on her again.

On her hips.

His thumbs stretching towards her belly button. Two of his fingers lying flat against naked skin, where her t-shirt had ridden up slightly. His warm palms holding her so, so steady.

The squeak died out in favour of a tiny gasp. She didn't think he even noticed it.

He looked down at her with concern. On some level, it annoyed her that even when she stood on a skateboard, he was still taller than her.

"You alright?" he asked, quietly. She could only nod dumbly. "Okay. Hands on my shoulders." She complied, swallowing heavily at feeling the heat of his skin beneath his t-shirt. There was just something special about having your hands on a guy's shoulder, soft and hard and warm and just... manly. Bella was pretty sure she was three seconds away from getting flustered.

"Good. Okay – you ready?"

"No."

"Stupendous. Now, just relax and trust me, okay?"

"You're saying 'okay' an awful lot."

He stared at her. "I can't believe that's what you're focusing on right now. Grow some balls, Bella. Stop stalling."

"Okay, you need to pick your gender – I can't be a pussy andgrow balls at the same time."

"Stop being so predictable and just play along, ok-... alright?"

"Did I make you self-conscious about your use of 'okay'? I'm sorry, it's not that bad. You can still use it."

"Shut up, Bella."

But he smiled, and it made her feel a little less panicked about being on a small wooden structure with wheels.

His hands on her hips helped, too.

...

"I told you Iwould fall!"

"At least you fell on that grassy bit. And you had a helmet on."

"I fell on my ASS! A helmet really didn't make that much freakingdifference!"

"Would you please stop shouting?"

"NO!"

...

"Edward! Edward, look! I'm skating!"

"I can see that," he said, laughing as she sped by at approximately 3 feet an hour.

He laughed harder when she almost fell over again, at which point she promptly displayed a finger.

...

"I'm done. I don't want to do this anymore. Can we get ice cream?"

"Yeah, I don't think your ass can take anymore falls today. Maybe we can ask the ice cream people for an ice-pack, too."

"Shut up."

...

...

"Can I lick the bowl?"

"No, that's the baker's treat. You can have the spatula."

"But you've eaten like half the batter already!"

"Wha-! Fuck off, Edward."

"I'm just saying, there would be like ten more cupcakes if you'd kept your fingers out of the batter."

"Keep it up, and you'll find out about all the terrifyingly harmful things I can do with a balloon whisk, alright?"

She brandished it in his direction menacingly. Or as menacingly as one can look in a bright yellow apron with cartoon flowers, and cupcake batter in their hair.

Edward raised his hands, palms out. "Fine, but don't come crying to me when you run out of cupcakes in the first hour."

"Just because you can eat the entire contents of a fridge within the space of a day, doesn't mean everyoneshuffles food down their throat like that. Besides, over half the people coming are chicks who are too self-conscious to eat more than one cupcake in public, so your argument is invalid."

"Bella, you're planning to put cubes of jello shots on them. I'm pretty sure the chicks will at least eat those."

"How does that prove yourpoint? Then they'll just eat the cubes and leave the cupcakes. Again, your argument is invalid."

They stared at each other for a long moment. This was something they did approximately eight times a week, so Bella was used to pretending her lower belly wasn't fluttering as his eyes held hers.

"I still think you should at least share the bowl-"

"No, the bowl's the best part! Mine."

"I'm your guest!"

"It's my birthday! And my bowl. And my flour and eggs and butter and chocolate and my kitchen and you can just- No! Mine."

"You're such an only-child."

"Wouldn't having siblings sort of be the same though? I mean, I'm only going off what I've seen on TV, but don't you like, have to defend your food before someone else eats it? So you'll want to keep the good stuff for yourself?"

Edward stared at her, and not in a good way.

"We're not wolves, Bella."

"I'm just saying."

Edward's lips took on a pinched appearance as he glared at her.

"Fine, you have your stupid bowl, and I'll just sit over here and starve."

"Starve? You've already eaten three cookies! You came in here chowing down on a meatball sub!"

"Yeah, but that was like... an hour ago."

"Can't you go do something useful instead?" Bella said, shaking her head as she began spooning batter into cupcake liners. "Get the bar set up or something."

"No, I'd rather stay here. You're starting the frosting soon, aren't you?"

"I'm not giving you any frosting, Edward."

"I'll be your taste-tester. Come on, please? I thought we were friends."

"Yeah, and I thought you volunteered to come over to help me get this place ready. All you've done so far is a bunch of standing around. Worst birthday present ever."

"I got you something else, too!"

"Ever," she repeated.

"Fine. If I set up the bar, can I have some frosting?" he said, leaning one arm on the counter beside her. "Please," he added, as an afterthought.

She turned her head to huff at him, but – unprepared as she was – his closeness startled her slightly. The huff came out a lot shakier than she'd planned. That she noticed Edward studying her lips a little longer than necessary didn't really help her decorum.

"Maybe," she said, unconsciously licking the very lips Edward kept looking at. His breathing went a little funny for a second.

He has asthma. It could be that. Don't be so stupid, Bella. You're not living in a romance novel.

"'Maybe'? I can work with that."

"Okay then. You, uh... bar. The bar. Set it, uh, up." She cleared her throat. "Please. And then, maybe. Okay, just- just go over there." She pushed him away, desperately trying not to let it show how much she enjoyed fondling his chest like that.

"Alright, no need for violence, Swan. You better save some of that frosting for me," he said, turning and walking out of the kitchen.

Bella's shoulders dropped. She hated when he called her 'Swan.' Like she was one of his buddies, one of the guys. Sure, they were friends, but she couldn't exactly deny that she liked him on a deeper level. Being called by her surname like that kind of broke her heart.

She knew, realistically, that she should perhaps do something about this crush of hers. She was almost convinced that she sometimes caught Edward staring at her, in a non-creepish way. Like just now, when he looked at her lips. Once or twice he'd touched her hair, or smiled at her in a way she hoped he didn't smile at other girls.

On some level, Bella suspected that maybe Edward was trying to show her... something. That maybe he was willing to venture outside of the friend-zone. She could never be sure of these things, though. Something inside her was probably broken, because she couldn't pick up on sexual tension if it was running around naked, shouting about wanting to have sex while waving a copy of 'Playboy' in one hand and a lightsaber in the other.

So how was she really supposed to know if Edward looked at her lips because maybe he wanted to kiss her? Maybe he was looking at her lips because he thought they were weirdly shaped. Maybe he touched her hair because there was a bug in it and he didn't say anything so she wouldn't freak out. Maybe he didsmile like that at all the other girls, too.

As she whipped the frosting, she considered whether or not she should attempt flirting, but quickly dismissed the idea. She was terrible at flirting; she either overdid it and made a complete ass of herself, or she underplayed it so much the guy didn't even notice. She didn't really want to do that to Edward, or to herself.

When he returned a little while later, Bella was an even bigger mess than she'd been before. She was almost impressed with herself; she looked like she'd rolled around in the ingredients, rather than baked with them.

"So, the moment of truth," he announced, splaying his arms wide. "Do I, or do I not, get any frosting?"

"I'm not sure you've earned any frosting, actually. I had to tell youto go do something productive. That's not really being helpful, is it? So I can't really think of any reasons why I should let you taste it."

He frowned at her decision.

"But the bar is set up." Bella stayed silent. Edward continued, somewhat more vehemently. "It's an awesome bar. There's never been such an awesome bar before... in this apartment."

"I didn't say you would get frosting if you set up the bar. I said you'd 'maybe' get frosting."

He stood beside her, attempting to stare her down. Or – she assumed – at least make her uncomfortable enough with his silent attack that she'd give him some goddamn frosting if he just went away.

However, since Bella didn't mind him staring at her, his plan was useless.

"I've earned some of that frosting, woman."

"Uh, no, you haven't."

"Yes, I have!"

"Well, I'm sorry you feel that way – you're still not getting any."

A grim and determined expression huddled up on his face, setting his jaw.

"As if you could stop me," he said. Without wasting another second, he attacked. His finger was in and out of the bowl before Bella could even react.

"What are you-!"

He laughed triumphantly, brandishing his finger like a badge of honour.

"You asshole!" Bella exclaimed, grabbing his hand. In the back of her mind, she was fully aware of how stupid they were both being, but the heat of the moment pulled her in to it.

Seeing as Edward had stolen the frosting, she was now determined to keep it from him. No way did he deserve any. So she did the only logical thing she could think of.

She sucked the frosting off his finger.

Edward choked on his laughter when his digit was suddenly surrounded by Bella's lips, teeth and tongue. His face went sort of blank, his jaw going slack. This made Bella realise what she'd actually done.

His finger... was in her mouth.

Something inside her groaned with embarrassment. Or horniness, she wasn't really sure.

His finger... was inher freaking mouth.

What really puzzled her was that, instead of removing it, like a normal person would, her brain went on a sort of lockdown. It was apparently determined to follow through.

So there they stood: her hand wrapped around his, and his finger in her mouth. Her eyes wide, and his eyes obsessively focused on the interesting development of the last few seconds. His lips trembled slightly as her tongue pressed more firmly against his skin.

He doesn't look disgusted.

Maybe he's in shock, dumbass. You're sucking on his finger, for fuck's sake!

Yeah, but he's not doing anything to get his finger back, is he?

That's true. I still can't believe you did this though. Can you let the poor guy go now?

Oh my god, he tastes better than the frosting.

Focus!

Edward's eyes slowly rose to meet her own wide-eyed stare. She fought the impulse to swallow. He didn't.

A small sound left him, as if he'd exhaled funny. Bella was starting to feel a strange mixture of humongously awkward, horrifically embarrassed and unwillingly aroused. Aroused was quickly winning out over the others, though.

She carefully started pulling his hand back, managing to get most of the frosting off as she sucked firmly. Edward just continued to stand there as if he'd been hit on the back of the head with a frying pan. Bella wondered if it could actually be possible that he didn't feel the self-conscious silence quickly descending on them.

If he didn't, she concluded that that was fine, because she probably felt more than enough for the both of them.

She dropped his hand. He continued to stare at her.

Bella opened her mouth, but no words came out. She couldn't even muster up some vowel-sounds. As if on autopilot, she instead turned away from him. Pulling some plastic-wrap over the bowl, she quickly stashed the frosting in the fridge. With a few feet between them now, she found it a little easier to break the silence.

She kept her eyes firmly glued to the counter next to his hip.

"I- uh. I should... I'm gonna go get ready." She gestured towards the bathroom over her shoulder. "Don't eat all the food, okay? I-... uhm."

Her mouth closed abruptly. Without another word, she turned and left him standing there, still staring at her.

Was it possible to die from stupidity? Bella felt as if she was about to. Her mind was alternatively yelling insults at her and practically sobbing with shame.

Oh my god. That was ridiculous! How could you do that? Oh crap, I'm so embarrassed. Oh god, why did I do that? Oh god, oh god, oh god. That was so stupid! Oh god, I'll never be able to look at him again. Ever.

Bella shuffled despondently into the shower. She spent more time banging her head against the wall than she did getting clean.

...

...

"Bella? Bella, wake up."

Someone was whispering close to her ear. Bella groaned and burrowed deeper into the cushion. She'd gracefully allowed Rose, Angela and Kate to pass out on her bed, leaving her with the couch. She would've taken Alice's bed, if not for the fact that Alice and Jasper had disappeared into her room quite quickly and had failed to reappear. Bella hadn't wanted to risk it, so the couch it was. A few more people were spread out over the apartment; she was pretty sure she'd seen Emmett crammed into the bathtub at some point.

To say that her birthday party had been a success would be an understatement.

But now someone was trying to rip her away from her wonderful dreams of Edward. To say that this annoyed her would be a massiveunderstatement.

"Bella?"

"Whaaaat?" she whined.

"I'm going surfing. You wanna come with me?"

The request was ludicrous enough that Bella had to see who had made it. Through the bleary crack of one eye, she could just about make out Edward's face, kneeling next to her.

"Why?"

"The sun's coming up soon," he said, as if that explained anything. Bella failed to comprehend his point.

"So?"

"So, I just... I-" He stopped and sighed heavily. Bella blinked and managed to lift her head a little bit. He pushed a hand into his hair. "I just thought that maybe... maybe we could go see it. The sunrise. Just you and me."

He had no idea how lovely that sounded to her ears. "Just us? I'd love that," she said, smiling at him sleepily.

But then the other thing he'd said dropped like a penny, and she groaned.

"Wait, the sun's not even up yet? Edward..."

He sighed in mock frustration, dropping his forehead onto her shoulder with a laugh.

"Bella, please. Do you wanna come or not?" He raised his head and looked at her, cracking a smile. "A dip in the sea is a great hangover cure, by the way."

She sighed, but started getting up anyway. Like she'd say no. "I'm not swimming at dawn, Edward. Just sayin'."

"We'll see," he whispered mischievously, rising quickly. He apparently didn't suffer after the night's festivities. Bella wasn't too bad herself, even though she would've liked a few more hours of sleep. The temptation of spending time alone with him was too strong for her to pass up on, though.

They took a cab back to his place to get his board and from there they walked down to the beach. Bella didn't understand how he had the energy to carry the thing; the sun was only just lightening the sky, and she herself could barely walk and talk at the same time. But he insisted that it was fine, and she didn't argue. She just sipped from the carton of orange juice she'd swiped from his fridge and followed him.

They didn't talk much on the way down; they'd always been good at being silent together. They were good at doing a lot of things together, actually. Everything had been sort of effortless with them, since they'd met.

Finding that they fit together nicely, they'd quickly become friends. Two peas in a pod, and all that. Bella had been surprised by how fast it really had all happened. It usually took her a while before she felt comfortable around new people – she couldn't help feeling suspicious around them, on some subconscious level, and she'd never truly open up for months.

But it hadn't been like that with Edward. She couldn't figure out the reason why. It just was. She felt comfortable when she was with him, in a way she'd never experienced with anyone else. And it wasn't about finding him attractive, or about having feelings for him – it was just him; who he was as a person, and who she was, and how their puzzle pieces fit together. She knew it would be so, so easy to fall in love with him. She was peering over that ledge already. It was just a matter of time before she let herself jump.

She glanced over at him. He was smiling about something, which made Bella smile in return. He was infectious like that.

"Why did you want me to come with you? I thought you said you like surfing alone in the mornings."

He'd told her that months ago, when they were just starting to get to know each other. He'd said it helped clear his head and brought him a sense of peace.

He looked over at her quickly, but suddenly seemed shy. His eyes reverted back to the street.

"I don't know, I just thought... I realised that maybe I wouldn't mind it if youwere there." Bella's heart skipped a beat. Edward glanced at her again. "We both like being alone – you know that. Because we can be ourselves when we're alone, and we don't have to hide those sides of ourselves that we're too shy to show other people. We're weirdoes like that," he said, winking at her. She laughed and nodded.

"But, lately..." he continued, "... lately, I've realised that I can do that, even if you're in the room. I've never felt so relaxed in someone else's company as I do when I'm with you."

He shrugged, looking down at the ground. Asphalt was slowly giving way to sand, dragged up on the streets by the people who came and left the beach.

Bella didn't know what to say. She knew exactly what Edward was talking about, and the fact that he felt it too sent thrills through her.

She'd always been like that – needingtime alone to be able to cope with everything. She never realised how she carried a tiny speck of tension in herself whenever she was around other people until there were no other eyes on her. Only then did that tension dissolve. Spending time alone was her way of unwinding, letting loose. She'd only recognised a few weeks ago that sitting around watching a movie with Edward offered her that same respite.

And now... he felt it too? What did that mean?

"Me too," she said quietly, as they fully stepped onto the beach. The horizon was slowly gaining streaks of pink and blue, gently pushing away the gray of the dying night. The sun would be up soon.

Edward's steps slowed a little bit, and he looked at her curiously. Neither of them said anything. He offered her a small smile, which she replied to with one of her own.

The beach was almost deserted; save for one lone jogger moving away from them, they were alone.

Bella sat on the sand while Edward stripped down to the wetsuit he'd put on back at the house. He pressed his sweatshirt into her hands with a small chuckle, seeing her curling up against the cold. She immediately put it on, wanting to savour his lingering body heat.

"I'll be back soon," he said, before grabbing his board and heading out into the water. She shivered; it looked incredibly cold, like iron rolling onto the shore. Not that he seemed to care.

She watched him eagerly, despite how tired she felt. Sitting still on a cold beach in the wee hours of the morning, with the wind blowing across her face and through her hair, didn't exactly help wake her up.

Occasionally sniffing Edward's sweatshirt did, though.

As she watched him, she couldn't get over how amazing he looked out there. She figured it must be something about Edward specifically – she'd never found other surfers as fascinating as him before. But watching him, seeing how strong he looked as he rose on to his board, how well he could keep his balance... it was almost as if she could feelhow much he enjoyed it, simply by observing him like this.

He came back just as the sunlight started creeping over the sand. She handed him a towel which he wrapped around himself before sitting down beside her.

"Was it nice?" she asked, frowning as she saw tiny shivers going through him.

He smiled at her though. "It was. Cold as fuck, but still amazing." He grabbed another towel and vigorously scrubbed his hair. "I'll get you up on a board one of these days," he promised, his voice muffled through the towel.

Bella laughed. "No, you won't."

He only grinned at her in response.

They sat in silence as they watched the sun advancing across the sand, the sky growing brighter and brighter. Edward had unzipped the top of his wetsuit, peeling it down to his hips. It made it a little harder for her to concentrate on the sunrise when the temptation of his bare chest was right there beside her.

Nonetheless, she took a deep breath, sighing contently. She was glad he'd asked her to come with him. This would be another thing they did together, introducing each other to the things they loved. Like him showing her how to ride a skateboard, or her making him watch her favourite anime.

"The other reason I asked you to come with me was because I wanted to tell you something," he said suddenly. She turned to him in surprise; his voice had startled her slightly, but he'd certainly grabbed her attention. He was looking out at the water, but she could see a quiet determination set in his features.

"I've been thinking. About you. And how quickly you've... come to mean a lot to me." He paused, turning his head slightly. He looked down at her hands clasped in her lap. Bella's heart started beating wildly inside her chest. Where was he going with this? "I've been thinking about it a lot recently. Because this doesn't normally happen for me, and I couldn't figure out what was going on."

He swallowed tightly, slowly reaching over to stroke the back of her hand with his fingertips. Bella stopped breathing.

"And then, yesterday, I realised..." he said, his voice dropping so that it was barely audible over the waves, "what it was."

"Was it when I sucked on your finger?" Bella breathlessly blurted out, for some ungodly reason.

He laughed quietly and shook his head, just as his hand fully engulfed hers. He carefully pulled them across to his own lap. "No, not exactly. It helped though."

"Oh?" Her voice was so shaky. He played with her fingers and nodded.

"Yeah. Because they way I reacted to that wasn't exactly how you'd respond if someone who's just a friend puts your finger in their mouth."

Bella's heart didn't know whether it should drop or soar, so it settled for an uncomfortable squeeze. What was he saying, exactly?

"And when you walked out of the kitchen, and my first coherent thought was something like 'that was the sexiest thing I've ever seen', I realised I probably needed to really think about some things."

He looked up at her then, meeting her gaze with confidence. Her heart definitely soared this time.

"What things?" she whispered. She wanted to speak with more strength, but her lungs wouldn't let her.

"Things like... how my day feels really weird if I don't get to talk to you, even if it's just sending a text. Or how you've gone from being one of the prettiest girls I've ever seen, to being the most beautiful one I've ever known. And how I can't stop wondering what you look like underneath your clothes."

Heat flooded her cheeks instantly. She blushed so deeply, so quickly, she feared she'd burst a few blood vessels. He thought about what she looked like naked. Naked.

Oh my god. Oh my god. He wants to see you naked.

She suddenly felt close to hyperventilating.

He leaned closer and she could see nothing but eyes, so green and warm and so earnest.

"And when I think about that, I start thinking about how much I want to kiss you sometimes. Like yesterday, when you had some sugar on your chin. Or last week, when you bought that new chapstick and kept putting some on every five minutes." He grinned a little bit, showing that he was teasing her. She didn't care – she just wanted him to keep talking about kissing her.

"And when I'd thought about all of that, I realised that I-..." he trailed off, swallowing nervously. Bella squeezed his fingers tightly, which seemed to strengthen his resolve. "That I don't want to be just your friend anymore."

Bella's stomach was filled with so many butterflies she was fighting the urge to throw up. She figured that might ruin the moment and make Edward stop saying all these pretty, wonderful things to her though, so she fought harder.

"I need... I need more than that, now. I want more. I think that if we tried... if we-. If we became something more..." He trailed off again, but shook his head as if in wonder. "I think it could be really great. You and me."

A dog suddenly barked in the distance; although she jumped a little, she never took her eyes off his. She found it hard to believe he was actually saying these things to her, but his words were making her so happy she didn't really know what to do with it all.

"You and me?" she asked, feeling her lips twitching and shaking. She wanted to grin and laugh hysterically, but she was still battling the urge to vomit, and it was all very confusing for her face. When Edward started smiling though, she couldn't help it; she grinned back at him.

"Yeah. I think it could be pretty good. We'd still be doing the same stuff we do now. I'd just get to kiss you, and see you naked." He paused, reaching up to brush some hair behind her ear. Bella was blushing again, and he ran a finger across her cheek. "I really want to find out what your boobs look like, not gonna lie."

A short bubble of laughter shot out of her, and she shuffled closer to him through the sand. His hand drifted down to her neck.

"I think you and I could be really good, too," she said. "I've thought that pretty much since we first met."

He looked surprised, but still happy. He leaned closer, until their noses were almost touching.

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"Have you met me? Me? Make the first move? I'm way too much of a pussy to do that."

"Oh, right. Yeah, sorry, that was a stupid question."

They both laughed, and she moved even closer.

We're almost kissing. You're about to kiss Edward.

Holy shit.

"Does this mean I get to kiss you now? Because I really, really want to," he said, laughing quietly.

Bella could do nothing but lean in. Their lips brushed, and his were so soft and warm. A couple of seconds went by, where Bella struggled with a sense of surrealism. She was kissing Edward. She didn't kiss Edward. This wasn't something that was normally on her list of day-to-day activities. But here she was, sitting on a beach, with her lips pressed so, so gently against his.

And then his fingers twitched against her neck, pulling her just a little bit closer, and everything suddenly seemed so real. Of course she was kissing Edward. It was not kissing him that shouldbe weird, that should be unusual about her day. She should be kissing him as often as she possibly could, because nothing had ever felt this good.

She sighed contently, reaching up and cupping his jaw. His lips moved with more determination, pressing back, encouraging her to take more of what he was offering. She did so gladly, parting her lips against his.

He tasted and smelled like the ocean, with the salt still clinging to his skin. His hair was wet, but she didn't care; her fingers slid against the back of his head, pressing him closer. The tiniest groan left her when she felt the heat of his tongue against hers for the first time.

Edward put his hand on her back, the other one sliding from her neck into her hair. He was persistent, eager to feel her, moving his fingers across her and gripping her tightly, only to let go with a reverent caress. He tilted her head, deepening their kiss. His skin was cold against her own, but he was slowly warming up. He hummed softly against her, his hand travelling up her ribs. His thumb brushed the side of her breast, making her shiver and arch her back to be closer to him.

It was the best kiss she'd ever had.

They didn't stop until a dog suddenly ran right past them, spraying sand in all directions. They pulled away from each other with a jump; she laughed at the look of surprise on his face.

She kissed him quickly one last time before leaning back, smiling.

"I think we should do this every day," she said.

"What, kissing or getting up before dawn?"

"No, the kissing."

He nodded. "Yeah, that works for me." He swooped in and stole a kiss as if to prove it. Then they smiled at each other for a few seconds. Everything was so different now, but somehow still the same. "Are you hungry?"

"Yeah, I could eat. I think I need some bacon."

"If I buy you breakfast, can we count that as our first date?" he said, standing up. He reached down and helped her to her feet.

"Yeah, I guess. Why?"

"Well," he said, bending down to pick up his clothes, "I distinctly remember you saying you wait until at least the third date before going to second base-"

"When did I tell you this?" she interrupted.

"That time you were really drunk and I helped you home, and then you made me watch Sex and The City with you."

"Oh yeah..." she said, remembering.

"Anyway, you said you don't go very far until at least the third date. So I figure that if I take you out for breakfast now, then dinner tonight, and maybe a movie tomorrow, I'll have seen your boobs in like forty hours."

She considered him for a few long seconds. "You would make a really good evil genius."

"Thank you."

"But how about – breakfast now, then you take me out for an early dinner tonight, after which I'll go home and change, and then you can come pick me up for a movie? That'll be like three dates, and we'll get through them much quicker like that."

He blinked. "You'd show me your boobs tonight?"

"Yeah, sure."

He stared at her for a few seconds. With a quiet groan, he cupped the back of her neck, kissing her much harder than he'd done earlier. Bella's stomach flipped in the most delightful way.

"I'll hold you to that," he said after he'd let her go, sounding extremely pleased. "Come on, I think I need some bacon, too."

They walked hand in hand up the beach, Bella holding clothes and towels, and Edward carrying his board.

She squeezed his fingers as they reached the street.

"I'm really glad you told me," she said, smiling up at him. She didn't think she'd be able to stop smiling for a while; it felt like everything was finally falling so neatly into place. "That you don't want to be just friends anymore, I mean."

He kissed her knuckles and smiled back. "Me too."

"I'm not thrilled about you waking me up before dawn, though. Please don't do that again."

He laughed loudly. "I'll try to remember that."

"Try real hard."

"Okay," he said, laughing again. He kissed the side of her head this time. "I promise."

"Good," she said, smiling. She smiled wider when she realised the only way for him to not wake her up before dawn would be if they slept in the same bed. She could live with that.