A/N: Beta'd by SweeneyAnne and preread by aerobee82 & AlexisDanaan. 333
Don't own Twilight.
July 23, 2010
Bella sat on her heels facing Edward, and was so excited she nearly shook the entire couch with her bouncing. Edward didn't think she realized she was doing it. He hadn't even noticed at first. Bella's default setting was to fidget, and after sitting next to her bouncing leg for a few weeks he'd learned to tune it out.
"Why are you here again?" It didn't make any sense. Emmett wasn't going to stop by to visit him before he went home.
Her answer was immediate, and he worried that letting her drink that fourth cup of coffee was a bad idea. He should have known better. "Because Charlie told me if I kept it up he was going to throw me in jail until I calmed down."
"I can't imagine why." He stifled a yawn and scratched his fingers through his hair in an attempt to get himself to wake up a bit more. Bella couldn't sit still on a normal day—add excitement and caffeine and the girl was pretty much hopeless. Edward rolled his eyes and berated himself for thinking her enthusiasm was adorable. He was getting in way too deep.
"I can't help it. I haven't seen Em in forever." She stood and paced in front of the sofa for the fourth time. The production was almost funny enough to be worth being woken up at the ass-crack of dawn. Almost.
"Neither have I, but you don't see me running around waking people up at six in the morning," he grumbled.
"Don't even try to pretend like you're upset about it. You are a nineteen year old boy. You loved waking up to a girl jumping on your bed."
The problem was that he'd enjoyed it far too much—she'd interrupted an increasingly common dream centered on brown hair and little creases at the corner of a mouth he refused to admit was hers—but he wasn't about to tell Bella that. "You have got to learn what the word 'boundaries' means. You scared the shit out of me."
"I'll never forget that look on your face. Priceless."
"I still don't know what I did to deserve such a delightful wake-up call. I would have thought you'd go after Jasper."
Bella stilled and shuddered. "The last time I went to Jasper's in the morning, Alice was there. It was not pretty."
"So you figured waking me up would be less traumatizing?" Edward asked. He was actually quite amused by the face Bella was making at the memory of coming face to face with Alice in the morning—some cross of fury and nausea that made her look more confused than either.
She sat next to him with a dramatic huff and fell sideways. Her head landed right in his lap, and he almost reached out to pull his fingers through the loose locks of hair fanning over his jeans before he remembered that she was likely to flip her shit if he did. She was far too casual; it made it too easy to forget that there were certain lines he'd promised himself he wouldn't cross.
Admiration from afar was one thing. Actually touching her hair was another.
"I hate just sitting around waiting for something to happen." she groaned, rolling on to her back to stare up at him. The angle made him extremely uncomfortable, but there wasn't anything he could do about it.
Or, maybe there was.
"Come on." He grabbed her arm and tugged her up from the couch. He pulled a little too hard, and when she stood she crashed into his chest with a sharp exhale.
"You know you're supposed to buy a girl dinner before you do this kind of stuff."
Edward had been so sure he was done making himself look like an idiot in front of her. For what it was worth, she never really seemed to mind. He let her regain her footing before taking a step back and sticking his hand in his pocket to make sure he had his keys and wallet. "You're going to drive me insane if we stay here. We're going out."
Edward paused at the front door and waited for Bella to pass, and when she walked by him he leaned in and said, "And I bought you dinner last week."
"Fast food doesn't count," Bella argued. "What sort of a cheap date do you take me for?"
Edward thought he must be getting better at the whole ignore it until it goes away thing, because the word 'date' only made him falter for a moment before he regained his composure; or maybe he was just getting used to hearing those sorts of things from Bella.
She was quiet until halfway to their destination; the only indication that Edward wasn't alone in the car was the constant sight of her bouncing leg in the corner of his vision. It was like Bella was incapable of sitting still for more than two minutes—yet another thing she had in common with Jasper.
"Where are we going?" Bella asked. Her gaze was carefully trained in front of her, and Edward could just see those gears whizzing in her head as she tracked the landmarks and street signs trying to figure out the answer.
"It's a surprise."
"I hate surprises." She crossed her arms over her chest and glared at him. It was kind of cute, the way she tried so hard to look fierce but couldn't quite manage it.
"That sucks for you then."
"Jerk." She didn't sound like she meant it at all, and Edward couldn't help but smile at the way she squirmed.
Edward took the next right, and he could pinpoint the exact moment Bella figured out where they were going. He glanced over to see her eyebrows furrow and her lips press into a thin line; he couldn't decide if she looked more irritated or confused. He assumed it must be the latter, because she didn't say anything until he pulled into one of the parking spots closest to the football field.
"Why in the world did you bring me to the school?" Bella looked at him like he was crazy.
"You'll see," Edward promised. He'd intended to circle the car to open Bella's door for her, but by the time he'd walked to the front of the car she'd already climbed out.
"Where exactly are we headed?" Bella asked as they treaded across the damp lawn. Edward didn't think it would ever stop amusing him, the way she could bounce back and forth between thoughtful silence and constant questions.
He let her stew until they were standing in front of the bleachers. Edward was suddenly uneasy bringing Bella here, but he couldn't have said why, and it was too late to do anything about it anyway. He hesitantly motioned in front of them. "Up."
Bella climbed the risers first. Edward was right behind her, wondering if there was any balance in the precarious situation he'd found himself in. It wasn't like he could actually pursue anything with Bella, but he was also starting to think that he might not be able to stay satisfied with what they had. He could swear she was flirting with him earlier…
"So," Bella said, interrupting the debate raging in his head as she took a seat near the middle of the bleachers, "This was your grand scheme to get me to calm down? Bring me out to the football field? I thought you were supposed to try to entice the girls to go under the bleachers with you."
And there it was again.
"Just… look." Edward couldn't explain why this place made him feel the way it did.
"I don't think I get it," Bella laughed.
"You don't like it?" There was an irrational and utterly confusing longing present that she would understand.
"I didn't say that. It is oddly beautiful," Bella conceded, and she leaned to rest her head against his shoulder. He spent far too long considering all the pros and cons of letting his arm drift around her back.
"See?" Edward said smugly. "You're less jittery already."
Bella went still. "Yep."
"You're going crazy trying not to fidget now, aren't you?"
"No." She was lying through her teeth.
He let her stew for a few minutes, mostly because he wasn't sure what to do. Eventually he reasoned that she couldn't possibly be comfortable in that position, as tense as she was, and that was all the excuse he needed to snake his arm around her waist and tug her a little closer. Bella relaxed, and Edward smiled out at the empty football field. It was a good moment.
The spell was broken when Bella jumped at the sound of her phone chirping in her pocket, and Edward had to lean out of the way so her elbow wouldn't clip him on the chin.
In his haste to follow her Edward lost his balance when he stood and fell back to the risers with a huff. "Fuck."
"Are you okay?" Bella asked, peering down at him. There was confusion, worry, and laughter all fighting to take over her expression.
"Gravity is so fucking hateful," Edward muttered. He picked himself up and she glanced over him as he stretched his arms out and made sure that nothing actually hurt. This shit only happened when she was around. "I'm fine. Come on; let's go see your brother."
She was gone like a shot, halfway to his car before he'd even made it down the rest of the bleachers.
This time it had been Emmett who wanted to play poker, thankfully without the added 'fun' of Jasper's house rules. Emmett also wanted to smoke cigars and drink scotch. This was how Edward found himself sitting at Jasper's poker table, yet again, while Emmett swirled the liquid in his tumbler and failed miserably at trying to pretend he had a decent hand. Edward had no idea how it was that Bella—who was essentially transparent in all aspects—could be so good at poker, and Emmett could be so terrible.
Jasper seemed content to let Emmett dig his own grave before going after Edward. Edward just figured he'd quit before Jasper decided he wanted to put some effort into winning.
"What's the story with this chick Bella can't shut the fuck up about?" Jasper asked after half an hour of easy quiet.
"Unless you have another blonde beach babe stashed away down there…"
"It's so good to be home." Emmett laughed. "Rose's the only one, asshole. She's great. She's in Rochester visiting some friends, but you'll get to meet her in a couple of weeks. When we go back we're going to get a place together. She's ridiculously excited to paint for some reason."
Emmett rolled his eyes toward the end, but it was with a fondness that wasn't lost on either Jasper or Edward.
"You're really into this girl, huh?" Jasper asked.
Emmett smiled. "Yeah. She's smart and she's nice. She just… she gets me. What more do you need?"
"You do realize that you sound completely whipped," Jasper laughed.
Emmett took a long pull from his bottle and nodded his head. "I'm going to ask her to marry me."
"For real?" If Edward hadn't known better he would have sworn Jasper had absolutely no idea that Emmett and Rosalie's relationship was so serious. Edward's attempt at nonchalance was far less impressive, but Emmett didn't notice that Edward's smile was nearly as big as his.
"Yeah. Charlie said I could have his mother's ring. I'm thinking I'll ask when she comes to visit. She doesn't really have any family she's close with, and I think she'd like to get to make a big deal of it."
"What if she doesn't say 'yes'?" Jasper teased.
Emmett just smirked. "Oh, she's gonna say yes."
Edward didn't know how Emmett could possibly be so confident, but this was a subject he knew next to nothing about. What he did know was that Emmett was a perpetually cautious being when it came to building relationships; it had taken quite a bit of time before he'd even become comfortable with Bella and Charlie. If Emmett was sure this was where his life was heading, well, he would know.
"You excited?" Edward asked.
Emmett grinned, bright and wide, and leaned back in his chair. "Fuck yes, man. You guys will be groomsmen, right?"
"What, wait," Jasper cut in immediately. "Who's gonna be your best man?"
"I doubt we'll do the best man, maid of honor thing."
"Why not?" Edward wondered. He worried that he may have crossed some sort of line by asking when Emmett took a swig of his drink and considered how to respond for longer than usual.
"I think if Rose had it her way, we'd just go down to city hall and get it over with, but I know that's not what she really wants. She's kind of hung up on the fact that she doesn't have a lot of people who would care enough to come—at least she thinks so anyway. Her parents have pretty much disowned her. I think she doesn't want to deal with the whole wedding thing because she's worried her dad won't come to walk her down the aisle.
"This is my compromise. We'll throw all that typical wedding shit out the window and do it our way, and in the end I think she'll be happy that she got the fanfare without all the drama."
"That's an awful lot of planning you've done without having even asked her yet," Jasper pointed out.
Emmett just shrugged. "We've talked about it. It's more a matter of making it official."
"Who talks about that shit before they're even engaged?" Jasper scoffed.
"People, who are in healthy, committed relationships." Emmett didn't seem all that surprised that he needed to explain. "What about you? Got a girl waiting for you back in Cambridge?"
Edward didn't even know where to begin to answer that question. He certainly wasn't going to tell Emmett that his sister had somehow managed to worm her way into his dreams and refused to get out. It figured; even in his imagination Bella was stubborn as hell.
"No, no girl in Cambridge," Edward answered. It wasn't lying, exactly, but it wasn't really telling the truth either. It was easier to deliberately misunderstand the intent of Emmett's question.
"Give it time," Emmett replied.
"Why don't I run to the kitchen and whip us up some cosmos so we can grab the eyelash curlers and talk about our sappy, sappy feelings some more," Jasper snarked. "Maybe we can braid each other's hair and paint our nails, too."
"Hey, it's not my fault you don't get it." Emmett laughed and flicked one of his poker chips at Jasper. It hit him right in the middle of his forehead. "'Sides, if you want your hair braided again all you gotta do is ask Bella."
"Oh, man," Jasper laughed. Edward had a very bad feeling about this. "You should have seen the job she did on Edward a few weeks ago. Fucking priceless."
"Please tell me Bella got pictures of this one, too," Emmett snickered.
Jasper paled, and Edward focused a little more attention on him. "She got you, too, huh? I've gotta find these pictures."
"I don't think she can even help herself. You know how that girls is; always has to be moving. Fuck it. Try to find 'em if you want. I looked awesome." Edward immediately made plans to peruse the board of polaroids in Bella's room in search of some blackmail material.
"He really didn't." Emmett snorted. "She'd done almost his entire head by the time he noticed. Charlie said he almost bust a lung it was so hard not to laugh."
"At least I didn't let her turn me into her own personal, life-sized barbie doll," Jasper said with a pointed look toward Emmett.
"She was nine! I was just being a good brother."
"That girl has got to learn how to sit still," Jasper muttered, and though his words were laced with irritation, he had a bit of a grin on his face. Edward did, too.
"How's she been doing?" Emmett asked. "I didn't get to see much of her today. Thought she was going to tie me to one of the kitchen chairs and force me to tell her every single detail of my life since I've been away. She even tried to get me to go to work with her."
"She's been fine," Jasper shrugged. "Had a bit of a rough start this year, but fuck, like that's surprising."
Edward found himself listening intently as Jasper outlined a few of the less personal highlights of Bella's year for Emmett. He hadn't ever really thought about what she might have to deal with in the absence of Emmett. It was just like she'd said to him—almost all of her friends had come attached to Emmett, and this year the only one who hadn't left was Jasper.
"She's good now, though, right?" Emmett asked. Sincerity overtook Jasper for a moment as he nodded, and just as quick as it came, it was gone. Emmett gave a nod back in reply, and the whole moment was over. Edward had barely noticed it happening.
Edward had a few questions he wanted to ask, but Jasper was already giving him far too many curious glances; even Emmett looked suspicious. They would have to wait.
"You're really going to make me do this, aren't you?" Jasper groaned and shot a dirty look at Edward. "You're actually going to sit there, not paying any attention to the game, until I ask you what has your panties in a twist."
Edward's vision sharpened and he pressed a few random buttons on his controller in an effort to convince Jasper he hadn't completely zoned out. He was getting sick of constantly trying to battle and repress one of the only things in his world that he was genuinely interested in. It made him feel heavy.
It had been a good afternoon. Once the conversation had drifted from girls to far more inane topics Edward finally managed to relax and enjoy himself. Having Emmett back in town made him feel more at home. Like Forks was finally Forks again, instead of some vague representation of where he'd lived before he went off to college.
Bella had stopped by to pick up Emmett after her shift ended. Edward was bothered that she didn't come in, until he realized that her staying in the truck didn't mean anything beyond the obvious, because there was no reason it would. She was probably tired and in a hurry to get home. Maybe she didn't want to get sucked into a conversation with Jasper instead of spending quality time with her brother. There were dozens of possible reasons.
While Emmett was away it was almost easy. For moments that lasted anywhere from seconds to hours he forgot what Emmett was likely to do if he ever found out what sort of sordid dreams drifted through his mind as he slept. He could ignore the fact that there was no denying it now, he and Bella were friends in a real way instead of through obligatory courtesy, and complicating that balance would likely ruin it in the end. None of the snags or obstacles mattered; it was so freeing to be in her presence. That had to mean something, but he could never figure out what because he was caught up in a crazed and cyclical argument with himself.
The truth was that if Edward accepted certain uncertainties as fact, then he knew exactly what the problem was. There were rules. Look, but don't touch. Dream, but don't act. Edward knew that if it was his sister Jasper or Emmett wanted to go after, then he wouldn't be okay with anything less than complete and total commitment. There were boundaries, and there were long standing friendships and loyalties that had to be weighed against what he hoped to get out of this thing with Bella. As long as he wasn't sure what he wanted, he was stuck.
He was thinking about this shit far too much.
"Dude, where the fuck is your head at?" Jasper asked. He clipped Edward on the shoulder and shot a look of annoyance in his direction. "You're not even trying anymore."
"Just thinking." He didn't feel any need to elaborate.
"I mean it. You and I are going to have to have a talk about your behavior at some point," Jasper threatened. "I am not looking forward to it, so just do me a favor—straighten your shit out."
Edward kept his gaze steadily focused on the screen, but he nodded, once, because Jasper wasn't the kind of guy who liked saying that kind of stuff, and Edward appreciated the gesture.
Edward had always considered himself to be more adept with dealing with his emotions than Jasper, but as he mulled over the way Jasper seemed to know every time his mind slipped away from him, he had to consider that maybe Jasper was only stunted when it came to his own feelings. It wasn't just the subtle prods away from his thoughts, either. It was the way Jasper noticed every time he let his gaze linger on Bella for just a little too long, even the vague and nearly accusatory comments made at that poker game almost two months ago.
It was the first time that Edward had ever wondered if maybe, in this case, he was the one who was incapable of seeing things clearly.