Bring on the Dancing Horses

by the Dastardly Trans-Continental Prose Society (DTCPS) for dreaminginnorweigen, on her birthday

Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight.

Summary: When Emmett gets a second chance with the girl who ruled his high school dreams, he realizes getting into her bed is easy. Getting into her heart is another thing altogether. A collaborative O/S written for dreaminginnorweigen on her birthday.

By: BelieveItOrNot, IReen H., moirae, thimbles, and beta'd by Dragonfly336

Have a wonderful birthday, Jen! We love you as much as Rose loves her Monkey!

The morning sun creeps over the windowsill, stretching across her white-blonde hair, the fresh pillow underneath smudged with kohl. Her sheets twist around her, smelling of Insolence and the pore let weariness of one too many Cosmopolitans.

Lashes flutter against the light, her face twisting in discomfort and regret as a pale elegant hand covers her smeared eyes.

She runs a hot hand over cool sheets, grasping for her phone. One bright iris peeks from under an inflamed lid and she groans. A whisper-like sound of agony that pulls the man on her couch upright.

His eyes are blue, too. Not the blue of ocean, but that of sky.

Bright winter sky, thin, with nary a cloud.

His head doesn't hurt. But his heart does.

Through the crack of her bedroom door he can see her come to a sitting position, her long legs churning the vermilion blankets to the floor.

Rosalie Hale has always looked good in red. Always. And she knows it. Not in the conceited way some girls do. Rather, in the defiant it's-not-my-fault-I-look-this-way attitude she carries with her. I get judged, too, her ponytail used to say.

I get judged, too.

I have to prove every day that there is more to me than this face and this body. That's what Rosalie Hale projects. And she does prove it. Every day.

The man on the couch gets to his feet and pulls his t-shirt on, running a big hand through his short crop of hair and leaning against the wall. He vacillates. Should he speak, or wait for her to see him?

She's clad in black panties and tank, her backside may be more than she'd like him to see.

He clears his throat in an obvious ahem, appreciating the direct way she turns her face to him. No false coquetry. No surprise.

No recognition either.


She puts her pants on, one leg at a time.

Just like the rest of us, he thinks.

"You don't remember me, do you?"

"Don't be silly, Emmett. Of course I remember you. From the bar. You brought me home last night after my friend ditched me."

Emmett nods and then says what he wanted to say all night last night, but held his tongue.

Because he was unsure. Because she eyed the hand he had placed on her arm defensively. Because guarded Rosalie didn't recognize him. Later, unguarded Rosalie, Rosalie brimming with vodka and triple-sec, well—she wasn't wary of his touch, but she didn't recognize him either.

He hadn't known if he wanted her to. Somehow, if she did, he would be trapped in the mute awkwardness of adolescence. Trapped in his unachievable daydream of Rosalie Hale. Two seats over every morning in Homeroom. Four seats ahead in sixth period Remedial Algebra.

"From the bar. Yes."

She rotates her fashion watch on her fine-boned wrist.

"And also from Saints."

"Saints? You mean … from Aquinas-Siena?"

Emmett gives Rosalie his dimpled smile. "Go Stallions."

Rosalie returns it, minus a dimple, and Emmett can see her scouring the yearbook behind her wild eyes for the boy that became the man before her. The boy—because that is what he is in this moment—helps her.

"Emmett J. McCarty. But… no one called—"

"Oh my god. Monkey!"

Her smile expands.

She did remember him. But how? The way everyone did? A boy who grew into his body in odd spurts. Arms and elbows and forehead preceding the bulk of masculinity. That came later. After the acne cleared.

Emmett sighs and smiles. "Yeah."

"You sure grew up."

What does a person say to that? Emmett didn't know. Especially after spending the evening trying not to lose his shit, his mouth full of the girl who tormented his adolescent body with her easy obliviousness of him.

"Why didn't you mention it last night?"

"I didn't want to … you know ... weird you out or anything."

She moves a swath of pale hair behind her ear. "It doesn't weird me out."

It's overcast in Emmett's small shop when the phone rings.

Clouds of determination loom heavy over his neat desk as he works figures for labor and materials. Slow and steady wins the race.

Distracted hands lift the phone to check the caller ID. Sunlight blooms into the room.

Rosalie Hale is calling him.


"Hi Emmett. It's Rose."

Rose. It's Rose. He can call her Rose. Sunlight blooms inside him.


"Preston Property Management is remodeling the pavilion of The Village and we wanted to commission a fountain for the atrium. I thought of you. Would you be interested?"

"Yes. Of course."

"Great! Maybe we can meet for lunch and discuss. What's your schedule look like?"

Wide open. For Rose. Wide open.

Emmett thinks his jokes aren't funny. But Rosalie—Rose—laughs, in all the right places. He can't help but notice she's on her second glass of wine.

He slides the folder over to her. Three weeks of measuring, checking material prices, evaluating labor. Working out the right discount so that he would get the commission, so that he could see Rosalie again. He would lose money if he had to, for that.

He would survive.

It wouldn't hurt to have a McCarty piece right in the center of The Village.

Her long, ringless fingers flip open the folder in front of her.

Does she see his heart is stamped all over the proposal? Smudged in places from his hands. Smudged in places from his hope.

"Looks good."

Dimples flash from both sides of the table.

The subject of the email: You got it!

The sender was Rosalie.

His night is spent in solitary celebration. And frustration. His fingers itch to call Rosalie and ask her out for a drink. He wants to feel her mouth again.

Since that night at The Cellar, he has thought about those quiet moments in the shadows more than once. The taste of her mouth, the taste of her curve against him, his body remembers that flavor. Sharp and exquisite.

Where she pressed into him, those places. They rust with every meeting. Every time she drenches him in her oceanic gaze.

He falls asleep on the couch, one arm dangling down, knuckles grazing floorboards.

The atrium of The Village has been boarded off, decorated in yellow tape.

Caution - Construction Zone

Behind thin plywood walls, Rosalie conducts the first site meeting. Emmett watches the flex and release of her calves, pulled taut by the arch of her heels. She distributes the work schedule amongst the engineer's team, the pipefitters, the electricians, the masons, and him. The artist.

He stands out against the others, watching the world with quiet blue eyes. His gaze holds things, turns them over and around, feeling out dimension and depth. First with his eyes, then with his soul. Finally—with his hands.

She knows how differently he sees the world; she's seen his portfolio.

He sent it to her via courier, old fashioned photos mounted to thick black paper. Each piece labeled carefully in thin black script.

She hasn't yet returned it.

Her own voice rings in her ears, bouncing off empty space as she runs through the schedule. Break ground on November 1st. Unveil the day after Valentine's Day. Three and a half months of managing, orchestrating, trying to keep the flow of work moving despite the problems that will invariably arise.

She looks around the group as she recites what anyone can read off the paper they all hold in their hands. Most are, their eyes following along with her words.

Emmett has his schedule rolled into a tube and he clutches it, arms crossed over his expanse of chest, gripping her with his eyes, reading the words as her lips drop them.

She trips over a word and his gaze reaches away from her. Down to the floor.

Emmett watches the glaziers install the skylights two stories over his head. His pencil flies over the thick notepad, sketching angles, making note of how the light floats into the space. How it glides down the walls, bounces off sleek surfaces, hits you in the face when it finds anything made of metal.

"Am I interrupting?"

He folds the notebook, closing the covers on his sketch, on his mind which stays trapped there with it. Full of thoughts of light, considerations of shape.

"Of course not."

She speaks, he listens. She asks and he answers.

What he will remember later is the color, the curve, the arc of the words that jump between them. A short distance traversed by her voice. The gravity of her, how he felt pulled towards it.

Rosalie: red lips—matte—soaking in the light and keeping it there; blonde hair against black jacket; circles of silver in her ears.

He knew he shouldn't, but he put that in the notebook, too. A different kind of light.


Friday night is jumping at The Cellar. As usual. The turnout for Midnight Sun is always huge.

Emmett checks IDs carefully. Matching faces to photos, trying to see past updated hairstyles to the true features of a person. This is something he does well. The arch of a nose, the tilt of an eyebrow. These things retain their shape despite age. Artists see these things.

Artists see arch of nose and tilt of brow, blonde of hair and blue of eye.

Acceleration of blood. His blood.

"Hey, Emmett."


Her dark-haired-ditching friend beside her, twinkling.


This time Rose puts a hand on his arm.

This time when the music has faded into the fatigue of early morning, Emmett, sober as a stick, takes Rosalie to HIS house.

The voice her body speaks in is thin and wanting. Writhing into him, the barrier of clothes confounding his need. The barrier of liquor demanding his frustration.

"Don't be a gentleman, Emmett. I want you to touch me."

"But, Rose—"

"I'm not drunk. Just happy. Make me happier."

How could he say no to that?

Clothes fall, the pitch of her need rises.

Emmett tries to do what is expected of him. To give and give until the woman in his arms is trembling and wrecked. Undone. It demands a kind of fearlessness. To be open. Exposed in his attention. Vulnerable in his elation.

But in this moment, as his calloused and metal-scarred hands try to master her skin, he worries he's not the man for the job. These hands were made to forge steel, not caress silk. They're clumsy, ill-fit for the perfect expanse of her thigh, the pert curve of her breast.

Is it blasphemy to attempt so great a feat—to touch beauty like this? Debase her with his fumbling affection?

He wants to give. He wants to create something new here, in the indefinable space between their mingled, stuttering breath. Something real and true, forged of missed opportunity and second chances.

But how can he give everything when he's so afraid?

He pays tribute as best he can, presenting his sacrifice to her altar though he knows his offering isn't nearly enough.

And when she comes—cresting slowly and quietly, ocean blue meeting sky—she looks ... if not shattered, at least happy.

And happy she is. At least, as she lies here, chasing her breath, her body—sweaty and tingling—is telling her she's happy. But when she really pauses to think about it, it isn't happiness that fills her, so much as contentment.

This is how it's always been with her; this is all she needs. To Rosalie, happiness—the world's search for it—is overrated, an impossible climb. To be content is all one needs, no inflated expectations that always seem out of reach. This way—the way Rosalie approaches life—is rational, never too far to fall. As long as she doesn't pursue the peak of happiness, she'll never feel the collapse—the crash—of pain.

She'll be safe.

When their eyes meet, as they lie on their sides, Emmett kisses her as if he can't help it, as if she were a piece of art he was molding, and it needed one final touch. Rosalie returns the kiss until it becomes too much; she won't allow herself to feel anything beyond sexual desire. She interrupts, and it tugs at Emmett's heart.

"Did you always want to be a welder?" Her hand drifts up along his mountain of a bicep before she realizes it. She stops herself, bringing her hand in between them, palm down on the pillow.

He looks deep into her eyes, this time noting more than just their color. He sees the question in them. He's sure she really wants the answer, maybe more than she knows. "I've always had these images in my head. Shapes. For as long as I can remember. And I knew they had to become something real. Something tangible. It was like—" He pauses, taking a bit of Rose's hair into his hand, feeling the soft texture. This is what it's about, too. Not just shapes, but texture, "—they, the images, wanted to be seen and touched by more than just me."

Rosalie's eyes close. She has never had such a passion, never felt compelled to do anything, driven by something either inside or outside of herself, and until now, hearing the fervor propelling Emmett's voice, she'd never even known it was missing. She wishes that right now she could open her eyes and say, "Me, too. I also know how that feels."

"What about you?" Emmett's voice jostles her eyes open. "Property management?"

"It pays well. Practical." She nods, coming back to herself. If she could describe herself in one word, practical would be it. She smiles. Content.


Work is Emmett's solitary friend in the days that follow.

Sketching and gathering materials in daylight hours.

Forcing a smile as he greets bar patrons at night.

The spectre of her is everywhere. Cornsilk blonde just a touch too brash. Ruby lips garish instead of classically refined. Blue eyes that rake over him dull and flat—missing that spark. He sees her everywhere and nowhere. No one compares.

"You look like someone stole your puppy, man."

Emmett's not in the mood for Jasper's brand of home-spun wisdom tonight.

"I'm fine."

"Uh-huh." The wiry bartender eyes the small Wednesday night crowd absently. "Seen your lady-friend lately? Leggy blonde?"

"Dude, she has a name. Rosalie." Emmett's fists curl and clench. Caveman instinct. "Fucking use it."

"Whoa! No offense, Em. Chill."

Emmett knows the mouthy bartender means well, knows he alone owns this frustration boiling to the surface. He wants another chance. He'd do it right this time. He'd risk it all.

But Rose hasn't called, and he's too much of a coward to take that step himself.

He's the shy kid all over again.

Fumbling in pants a size too big. Tripping over his own self-doubt.

"Listen, man. Don't take this the wrong way, but maybe someone who twists you up so bad doesn't deserve your time."

Jasper scratches at the tattoo curled around his forearm, skin turning blotchy and red as it demands, Who the fuck is Alice?

Silence unwinds like an endless spool of thread until the blonde bartender sighs and returns to his post.


He can almost feel the whisper of her touch in the water falling over him. Warm kisses of excitement roll over his shoulders and back as he showers for the second time today. Rose's touch was more eager, but his imagination supplies that need.

It's his hand that's all wrong.

She didn't feel like desperation and regret. She felt like perfection.


Bella hasn't been home much lately, all her spare time spent with Edward. They're working on it, she'd told Rosalie. They'd be better this time.

And Rose was happy for her friend, she really was, but she also needed her. Walking the length of the apartment, opening the refrigerator in search of something dinner-appropriate, she didn't like that she'd be cooking for one. Linguine in a rich vodka sauce. She pulls the ingredients out, sets the stove to medium, begins the sauce, filling another pot with water to boil. She'd like to set two places at the table and talk to Bella about the way Emmett touches her, about how he pays attention to her body, her needs, with a reverence unmatched by anyone before. She wants to tell Bella about the way Emmett sees art in everything. "Isn't that beautiful?" she wants to ask.

She laughs to herself, shaking her head, tasting the sauce, burning her lips. This giddy feeling is something unfamiliar. She's sure it's something Bella will understand. She lowers the heat, before releasing her phone from her purse.

We're going out tomorrow night, she texts. Rosalie doesn't need a response. She knows Bella will be here.

She turns on some music to fill the quiet and sits down to eat, focusing on work, the mall project, and on chores that need to be done around the apartment. At least three days have passed since she last changed her sheets. That's what she'll do once dinner is cleaned up. Fresh sheets, their springtime scent. Perhaps, if she plays it well tomorrow night, Emmett will join her between them.


Emmett greets Ditch with a grin. His pulse began to accelerate when he saw that shade of brown moving through the line.

Her lips find his cheek. "Hi, Emmett! How are you?"

She, at least, is ever-enthusiastic in his presence.

His gaze slides, anticipating blue but meeting green. Oh. Ditch's mandolin player.

His chest takes the hammer blow, his malleable heart gaining another dent.

He plays it cool, though the friendly chatter leaves an acid taste in his mouth.

Their eyes, brown and green, are for each other, not him. For someone so physically imposing, Emmett sure is easy to overlook. He knows it, and how he loathes it.

He wants to grab them by the shoulders and shake startled breaths from their lungs. "Look at me!" he wants to roar. "I matter."

His uncharacteristic rage dies as abruptly as it flared. It's not their attention he aches for. Guilt sets in, filing away at the edges of his spirit.

"Maybe someone who twists you up so bad doesn't deserve your time."

He curses Jasper for speaking the words he can't forget. For making him question the thing he wants the most. Emmett scoffs at the thought of anyone deserving him. He is no gift, no prize. His time and attention are no treasure to be coveted.

The gift of his hands, found not in touch, but in sculpture. It's not his love that is wanted, but his passion.

He's at the bar, scanning for those over their limit when a tap meets his shoulder, he turns and there she is. Radiance smiling red. The prize. It's not lost on him that she shows up when she wants to. No thought to what he might want, or when he might wish to see her next. He'd like to keep his smile hidden, show only coldness. Disinterest. But he doesn't have it in him. He's already giving in, his smile spreading, his hand taking hers, which seems to disappear in his palm. If he closed his hand, it would. If he closed his arms around her, her whole lean body might disappear into his.

The flower into the forge.

"Hi," she says. "Where ya been?"

He peers down at her, trying to make sense of her. Where have I been? I've been here, waiting for you.

"Around," he tells her, playing her game.

Rosalie is unsure if she has what it takes to ask him to come home with her. Not quite yet. Maybe after a drink or two. She takes a couple of steps toward the bar before halting. She breathes in. She can do this. Of course she can. She's Rosalie. She is the intimidator, not the intimidatee. It's what she came to do, after all, it's why she'd suggested Bella bring Edward—neither girl will go home alone tonight.

"Would you like to come home with me?" The words don't sound quite as confident as she'd like. They're a little too quiet, a little too bird-like. She doesn't like what Emmett does to her, how he makes her confidence fly out the nearest window. But, she can fake it. She's taught herself how to do that. She's learned how to put on a brave face even when she feels like she's shrinking in her boots. She stands taller, rolling her shoulders back, lifting her chin, giving Emmett a practiced smile. There's her confidence, manifested. Apparent to anyone who's looking at this moment, even if her bones are shaking under her skin.

He would.

Sparks fly around him, white hot, skittering across the concrete of his shop. His huge, gloved fingers are shockingly nimble in their work. His precision is intact despite the heavy mask shielding his eyes.

Forging. Burning. Melting. Out of the fire, something new emerges. Two fuse into one.

He can't help but think of her.

He's heard nothing but her silence. Held nothing but her absence.

It's been over a week. The whole city's been draped in shadow, rain coming down hard, slanted by heavy winds, splashing into streets, hitting anyone everywhere, umbrella in hand, or not. Nobody can stay dry in this. Women wear scarves tied over their heads on their way to work to protect their styled hair. People cross streets fast, heads down where drops pummel their shoes like stones. Cars roll through slick, puddled streets.

Rosalie's been as elusive as the sun. For days he's dealt with her colleagues, but never her.

He burns. Red hot.

He flips the mask from his face, inspecting the weld. It's perfect. Seamless. No evidence of the original separateness.

A hand on his shoulder makes curses spit from his lips like sparks from the Mig, until the ringing in his ears fades, and he hears her voice.

"There's somewhere I'd like to take you."

Emmett wonders that he doesn't hear the violent ppsssshhhhht, doesn't see the cloud of steam unfurling, as his burning heart is doused in cold relief.

Her smile is easy. He hates it.

But he doesn't say no.

It's a brand new place, just opened, light sparkling from crystal chandeliers overhead. It's a place where neither of them would know anyone else.

Off in the corner is a carpeted stage where a jazz band plays on Thursdays and Saturdays. The stage is empty tonight, the whole lounge blanketed in quiet, allowing the patrons to enjoy one another in hushed ambiance. As Rosalie and Emmett talk, they both feel as if they should whisper, maybe so they aren't intruding on anyone else's conversation, or maybe so others aren't intruding on theirs.

Since this thing with Emmett started, whatever it may be called, something foreign had planted itself inside of Rosalie, and it grows whenever he's near—sprawling, vein-like vines reaching for her heart. She has no control over this. It brings hope with it and a malleable future. This scares her to death. She knew what to expect of her future—solid—she was sure of it. At least, before Emmett she was. A career, a man here and there, but not one man. One man everywhere, surrounding, filling her up, sprouting new emotions she never knew existed.

If she looked at the pale underside of her arm, she could almost see the vines crawling under her skin, climbing—she could certainly feel them.

The last time they were together, the way he held her in her bed like she belonged to him, the way he looked at her like he really saw her, deep inside, not her appearance, not her hair color, her eye color, her body, but what it encased. Nobody had ever looked at her that way. Like he couldn't get enough of her. The real her.

She wasn't sure she wanted anybody looking at her that way—with expectations. Whatever he had planted inside of her without her permission, she wanted to pluck it out, be rid of. It was making her life—her well-planned life—too unpredictable, too impulsive. Too vulnerable. Maybe, she thought, if she stayed away, all her pieces would fall back into place. Where they belonged.

She didn't return his call. Her colleagues were willing to communicate any business needs with him. This is the right thing, she had thought. This is right.

But instead of everything falling back into place, the hope that had been growing inside her began to wilt. And it hurt. It yanked at her, pulled her insides together, squeezing, made her throat dry and her voice hoarse, and even her lips, when she wet them with her tongue, dried right back up. Emmett would push his way into her mind with the simplest things. The way, as he hovered over her, that first bead of sweat formed from behind his ear, curved a path around his neck and down his chest. The way his eyes held hers, not just looking, not just seeing, but speaking something, communicating. She pulled her lips into her mouth, they dried almost immediately. She applied lip balm; that didn't help either.

She had to see Emmett again. She couldn't stay away. And now—gorgeous in a button-down and tie—as he meets her eyes from across the table, her heart races. It almost seems to be pounding out his name. She wants more, even more than this, being together, sitting across from one another, conversation flowing, it isn't enough.

As she's ready to scoot her chair closer, to rest her head on his shoulder, she can't help but see how uncomfortable he seems. The feelings she has inside, don't match what he's projecting at all. She stays where she is, keeping her false-confidence in place, and waits far away from him, not reaching to him, when that's all her hands want to do. She folds them. She sits back. She waits.

He doesn't belong in this place. He knows it, and so do the other patrons. They eye him, their conversations pausing, their glasses halting on the way to their pursed lips. He fights the urge to tug at the collar of his shirt, to loosen the tie that strangles his thick neck.

He wonders if Rose is oblivious to his fish-out-of-water status, or if she just doesn't care. And if she doesn't care—is it because she wants him here by her side, or is it because his discomfort just doesn't matter to her?

She brought him here, even tucking her arm into his, coaxing him along when he'd hesitated at the entrance. But now, here she is, after animated conversation replete with smiling eyes, shutting down again, keeping her distance, backing away.

"What do you want?" he asks, leaning forward, his forearms against the table. He has to know where she stands.

She meets his eyes, straw to her lips, they part. "You."

Tonight, he forges their union from behind her. His fingers digging into fleshy hips, her back arched in pleasure, his breath hot and damp on her shoulder blade.

He doesn't want to see her blue indifference. He doesn't want her to see how much he cares, how brightly he sparks. Or worse still, have her fail to see.

Blonde silk slides against his wrist. Sweat traces the perfect curve of her spine. She calls out—body shaking, elbows buckling.

He loves it. He makes her feel all this.

He hates it. This is all he makes her feel.

He chases his own release, drawing pleasure from her body. It's the only thing she'll give him, and he grasps it greedily. He bites his tongue as he implodes, tasting the blood of his determination, the effort it takes to keep those words to himself.

I love you. The words are deafening in his mind. I love you.

As she folds into easy slumber, he can't close his eyes, can't look away. Love me, he pleads. Let me matter to you.

She calls up a few days later. She's all business—facts and figures, dates and deadlines for the installation of his piece. Her tone is clipped, impersonal. He resents the way his own tone softens when he hears her voice, the way it curls so tenderly around her name.

No more, he thinks. No more.

But like an addict, it's only days before he's flat on his back on her bed, unable to resist her awful temptation. Her head is thrown back as she moves furiously over him, breasts jutting forward, her fingers pinch-tug at her nipples.

He watches her rock over him, eyes closed, lips parted. Emmett knows that when she calls out like that, he should move her hips like this. And when she gasps like that, he can circle his thumb just there and send her into freefall.

Emmett lets his own climax roll over him, her name spilling from his lips.

Melancholy creeps in as his heartbeat slows. He can mould her pleasure like the softest metal, shaping it with ease. He knows her body like his own. But he wants more than her pleasure, more than her body. He wants her fears, her hopes, her memories and her dreams.

He wants her heart.

He wants her to want his. She already owns it, anyway.

This is the last time, he promises. The last time.

Royce was the first. Her first boyfriend. Tenth grade. Star athlete, already playing Varsity while his peers played JV. Girls fought for his attention, most would've been happy simply standing by his side, acknowledged by him. And the only girl he wanted was Rosalie. That was what he said. "I only want you." He was lying next to her, on a friend's bed, loud, partying voices trickling in from under the door. A hand under the hem of her shirt, he was trying to get it off. She let him take it and drop it to the floor. "Your body." His fingers traced the lines of her bra over her early-developed breasts. "Your face is like, like ..." He kissed her without finishing his thought.

"Why do you want me?"

He was reaching around her back, tugging at the clasps of her bra, fumbling. "You're beautiful," he said, giving up on the clasp. "Could you get that?"

She reached behind to undo her bra, as if it were her place to follow his command. She hesitated, fingertips on cotton. "But what else? Why do you like me?"

"What else is there? Come on."

She released her bra.

In that moment, she released more than her breasts. She released a part of herself.

What are the right reasons?

How was she to know? But she did know. Her beauty alone wasn't enough. Her vanity, her ownership of Royce in the eyes of all those girls. Those were the wrong reasons.

In the years since, there have been plenty more. Encounters that left her with more questions than answers.

And Emmett … he felt like an answer. All his own.

Did he like her for more than shape and texture? She didn't know. She was afraid to ask.

Afraid to release more parts of herself.


Headline news apparently. The reopening gala was just a few weeks away. In the meantime it would be a grueling schedule.

Long days and short nights.

Long hours and short patience.

Emmett had never been good at directing others. Yet, as the time for unveiling grew near, more and more he was looked to for direction.

"Where does this go?"

"Here let me handle that."

Problems needing solving.

Rosalie came to the site almost daily. Her hair, not swishing in its superior ponytail, no. Now it was bound into itself. A French twist that still speaks volumes. Her steps, precise and echoing down the blocked corridor of the mall as she approaches. Heralding her arrival.

Heralding her aloofness.

And she is. Aloof. Her eyes hold nothing of the intimacy that he sees when her back is to the wall, when her legs are around his waist. Her voice is flat and professional, she says Mr. McCarty like he's a disdained teacher. Like he assigns too much homework. Not at all the pleading Emmett, a low demand sung against his skin when there's no one to see.

When there's no one to know.

He could pull off his shirt and show them. His skin bears the marks of her fingers, long red welts that burn under the stream of the shower. She probably takes a brush to her nails, scouring away the collection of his skin that taints her.

He knows she doesn't linger in his scent. She probably shucks it from her body, scrubs it away, all of it. The reminder that she's slumming.

He watches her make her way gingerly through the debris, nodding as people point to this and that. Her eyes never stealing a glimpse his way. Not a one.

I'm done, he thinks.

I don't want to resent you, he says silently to her back.

Later that night, when his phone vibrates to life and chatters against the steel drafting table in his office, he mutes it with reluctant hands, drags them through his hair.

Rosalie watches Emmett guide the lift operator into place, her heart a deflated balloon, rubbery and empty. The muscles of his back flex under the shirt, strain, and her mind wanders, cruel and painful, to the things he now denies her with his silence.

In an odd way she knows he knows she's watching him. The touch of their eyes upon each other has always been tangible. Even back in school, when the exposed skin of her neck over her pressed white collar would itch with his attention. She would swivel to slide something into the bag slung over the chair back and feel the itch dance over her face. When she lifted her eyes to his, he would be working a problem. She told herself she imagined it.

She told herself she didn't want Monkey to want her. She didn't want him to touch her, or fantasize about her. Even while she did of him.

It made her feel weird. Shallow. Because she would never date him. She would never go to prom with him or even Pizza Palace—the less frequented pizza place. She wouldn't accept a ride in his corduroy-colored Chevy Seville, the back bumper hanging low on one side. He would never ask. She knew that. And if he did she would never have said yes. But still, her hormonal teenage mind turned thoughts of his hands around and over in her nighttime waking fantasies.

She wondered what that meant about her. That she wanted the oafish, ugly boy instead of the jock prince.

And now she'd had him. And he was done.

But she didn't wonder what that meant about her. Not this time. She wondered how she was going to get through this day. And the next. And the opening gala.

She just would. She's Rosalie Hale, she tells herself.

She can get through it.

Dressing for the gala she admonishes herself repeatedly. I am not dressing for Emmett, she says silently over and over. But she is. She wants him to look at her. She wants him to want her, like she always has. Even though she feels uncomfortable with it.

She makes herself up carefully, drawing on cat's eyes with a lavish hand. Combing her eyebrows and lashes, painting her lips, slipping diamonds into the holes of her ears.

She wears her hair down.

It's something she never does.

She wants Emmett to be reminded of other times when it curls against her shoulders. She wants to entice him from his reticence. Not only to speak to her, but to touch.

It's not as if they haven't spoken lately, but it's been topical. All of it.

Her dress begs for him to see her. Even to see through her if that's what it takes.

Emmett fits himself into the starchy, creased fabric, knots the silk around his neck. He vaguely remembers hearing the phrase "power dressing" somewhere, but he suspects it might be a crock of shit designed to sell over-priced suits to insecure schmucks. He doesn't feel powerful in wool and silk, he feels like an oversized kid playing dress-up in his father's clothes. He feels like a fraud.

Sure, his artist's eye can appreciate the fine lines and the impressive silhouette his mirror shows him. He is imposing and sharp in his perfectly-tailored pinstripes and shiny black shoes. The blue of his tie doesn't match his eyes, it matches hers, and curiously, makes his own shine all the brighter.

He squares off with his reflection, fills his lungs with breath.

He looks her equal. But he sure as shit doesn't feel it.

They stand side by side while some local politician babbles on about the boost to the economy this revamped temple of consumerism will provide.

He looks straight ahead, determined not to notice the turquoise sheath that hugs her curves so sweetly. He refuses to see the shiny high heels that put her eyes on the same level as his. He doesn't want to see those red-painted lips, doesn't want to think about that lipstick smeared across his cheek, his mouth, his cock. He doesn't want to acknowledge the way her platinum locks tumble down her back, or the carefully drawn perfection of her face.

And he definitely can't be pierced by her sharp blue gaze. Emmett knows his strengths and his weakness. And he knows he can't survive the coldness he anticipates in her regard—not anymore.

Emmett doesn't feel her eyes on him, but Rosalie feels the absence of his gaze on her. All that effort, she thinks, for what? A tight-lipped smile when some official chivvied him onto the makeshift stage to stand beside her, a curt nod of his head, his eyes so carefully avoiding hers.

His strong, scarred hands tucked into his pockets, she can't help but trace the line of his jaw, wishing it were her fingers, not her eyes, caressing his cheek, twisting that curl of hair just behind his ear, brushing across his lips.

She watches his jaw flex and jump as his teeth grind together. Notices the slight sway of his shoulders as he shifts his weight from his heels to the balls of his feet and back again.

He's uncomfortable. The thought surprises her, and yet she knows, somehow, that it's right. That he might feel discomfort is strange to her—he's always seemed so gregarious, so at home in his own skin, the easy-going counterpoint to her own uptightness.

As he steps forward to shake the babbling politician's hand, Rosalie feels the scales fall from her eyes.

She sees all the things she hadn't noticed, or maybe she hadn't wanted to notice them. She sees the slight bounce of his knee, sees the muscles in his throat work as he swallows hard. She sees the tremor in his hand as he pulls it from the handshake and stuffs it back in the pocket of his pants.

She accepts the handshake being offered to her, but her other hand finds Emmett's elbow and squeezes gently. He startles, stiffens, and Rosalie's heart turns a somersault and falls into her stomach.

Emmett's heart accelerates with her touch, squeezing almost painfully in his chest. But even as it pounds, even as his breath catches, his knee stills and his hands unclench.

Someone cuts a wide yellow ribbon with some ludicrously over-sized scissors, and Emmett realizes his only tie to Rosalie has just been severed. His commission is fulfilled, his purpose served.

He allows himself one last look at her as she sips champagne and listens seriously to the suit-clad businessmen surrounding her. With a sigh, he drains his own glass, sets it down, and turns his back on the woman who unknowingly carries his heart in her own chest.

He's opening the door of his pickup when his own name echoes in his ears. He shakes his head, but the breeze carries her shout to him again.

He doesn't turn, but he does pause.

"Emmett, wait." She's closer now, doesn't need to raise her voice.

He gives her only his silence and the broad expanse of his back.

"Please, Em. I ... Can we … I want -"

His hand finds his neck, his thumb pressing into the thick muscle, pulled taut with nerves. His shoulders rise and fall with a deep breath. And then, his decision made, he turns toward her slowly.

"What, Rose? What do you want?"

Finally, finally, he looks into her eyes—blue finds blue. The intensity of his regard makes Rosalie stumble back a step.

She sees him. Sees him laid bare.

What do you want, Rose? Ask and you can have it. Whatever you want, I'll give it.

She sees the white flag he's raised, sees his capitulation.

She doesn't feel victorious.

She thinks she should, but instead, all she feels is fear.

A tiny sing-song voice laughs merrily in her head, taunting her.

You can't have your cake and eat it, too.

Yes, I can. I'm Rosalie Hale.

No. You can't.

"I just ... you didn't say good-bye. You didn't ... say ... anything."

"What do you want me to say, Rosalie? You want me to say the words? So that you can take them and keep them locked up, keep them ...?" He shakes his head, not knowing what he means.

But she knows.

"Don't. I don't want you to say them."

He nods, swallowing. "No. I didn't think you did."

The pause between them is violent, fecund, like the ocean of her eyes. Transient, like the icy breeze blowing through his.

"Goodbye, Rosalie."

He turns his back to her. She doesn't repeat the words until his truck is a splatter of chrome against the distance.

"Good-bye, Emmett."

"Hey, Emmett." Ditch sips her margarita, her gaze sliding over his wrinkled shirt, his unwashed hair. She avoids his eyes. Like she's afraid of what she'll see there. Like it might be catching. A lot of people look at him that way these days. "How are you?"

He shrugs, too exhausted to feign a lie. Long days and longer nights full of bad dreams are starting to catch up to him. Ditch glances at Edward setting up on stage and nibbles her lip. The bar's full tonight, but Emmett doesn't see individual people. He sees the space between them. He sees connection, connection, connection ... sprawling through the room like an eight-tentacled beast that doesn't reach him.

She takes another drink and shifts silently. Why isn't she leaving? Why doesn't she walk away from him and his sucking black hole and go where she belongs?

"She misses you, you know?"

Anger flares hot and bright inside his chest, scorching the edges of that hollowed-out cavity. He doesn't want to think about this. He doesn't want to fucking talk about this.

"You should go to your man. You'll be stuck in the back of the room if you don't get a spot now."

She furrows brows—wounded by his dismissal—but doesn't move.

"Did Edward tell you we're moving in together?"


"It'll be good for us. Take things to the next level, you know?"

Jesus Christ, what is wrong with this girl? Does she honestly think I want to hear about this?

"But Rose ... she's taking it kind of hard."

The name slams into his heart with too much force, like a nail splintering wood. He sees her face and shakes his head to rid himself of the image. It hovers defiantly, challenging him. Blue eyes, saltwater deep. Crimson lips, cupid's bow-perfect. They twist and turn in his imagination, shrouded by gloom at Bella's words. Ditch is really earning her nickname now.

Emmett pushes down his concern and buries the protective instinct trying to claw its way to the surface. It's none of his business. He's not part of her life. Not anymore.

"I'm sure she'll be fine."

Ditch huffs in frustration. Clearly, this conversation isn't going the way she'd hoped.

"I don't know what happened with you two, but I just thought—"

"What, Bella?" He's done. Can't she see that? "What did you think?"

"That she could use a friend."

Emmett snorts. Bitterness coats his tongue. "I thought that's what you were."

Her jaw drops, silence oozing from her mouth. She snaps it closed and glares, meeting his gaze at last.

"Fine. Nevermind. If you two are determined to be fucking miserable, go ahead." She stalks into the crowd without a backward glance and leaves him alone.

But it's no good. The ghost of Rosalie hovers around him like swarm of silvery moths.

Fog blankets the city. March winds have yet to rise and blow it from its heavy perch. Emmett's shop is bathed in gray, the cold air thick and wet.

His drafting table is absent of real work. New commissions are scarce, and Emmett isn't sure he'd be able to fulfill them anyway. His focus is shattered. He sees nothing but her face, hears nothing but her voice.

Don't, she whispers. I don't want you to say them.

Her voice chips away at him bit by bit until he's not much more than a shell. An empty husk pumping not with blood and breath, but regret and bitterness.

Still, it's her face scattered across his desktop, her image tired hands sketch over and over again. Aching fingers fly across the page, trying to capture her expression. Trying to bottle the moment he said goodbye so it will no longer haunt his dreams. If he can just perfect the sweep of her hair, the jut of her chin, he thinks, he'll own it. It won't own him.

But no matter how hard he tries, the perfection of a living, breathing Rosalie is always just out of reach.

"I don't remember—was the blue vase yours or mine?"

"Take it. It doesn't matter." Rosalie's voice is thin, coated in indifference.

Bella looks up from the box on their kitchen island, crumpled newspaper in one hand, ceramic vase in the other. Rosalie is on her knees in front of the bookshelf, sorting their mingled CD and DVD collections.


She's so tired of that Rose. The pity inherent in that sing-songy question. And it's not just Bella.

"Rose? Are you okay? You sound kind of sad," said her mother from the other end of the phone.

"Rose? Do you want me to bring you some dinner? You haven't eaten all day," said her assistant, Angela, as she packed up her bag for the night.

"Rose? You look like you could use a vacation. Why don't you take a few days?" said her boss after she'd stumbled her way through another presentation.

Rose. Rose. Rose. Endless concern. Endless reminders that she's not right and people know. She's broken. She's not invincible Rosalie Hale anymore; she's fragile Rose, the woman whose very appearance demands coddling compassion.

She wants to scream. She wants to tear that Rose from their lips and ground it into the earth.

Instead, she swallows her anger and pulls her mask on. Thin-lipped smile. Elegant fingers smoothing a stray lock from her forehead.

"It's yours, Bella. You picked it up at a yard sale for five bucks a few years ago. I said you got ripped off, and you told me to shut it."

Bella nods and sets the vase on the counter.

"You should keep it."

"It's hideous, B."

"I know." She smiles. "You want it?"

Rosalie returns to her task, blinking dust out of her eyes.



"I don't need to see your ID."

"Don't you?"

He looks at her, they share a fatigued stare.

"I know who you are. You can go in." He cocks his head to the side. The sign that she's been admitted yet again. Into the ruckus and the drink. No farther.

But she doesn't move.

"Who am I, Emmett? Tell me."

Her heart is a muscle in her chest, stretching, flexing. Hurting. She wonders how her blood can be so cool when her heart thuds as it does.

He sighs.

"Rosalie Lillian Hale. Your birthday is in April, I think. You like red, but your favorite color is purple. You prefer penne to rigatoni. You sleep on your stomach, you don't like baths, you don't like cigarettes. You stand about five-foot-eight in your bare feet, and close to six in heels. I'm taller than you, even then. Is this what you want to hear, Rose?"

"How do you know my favorite color isn't red?"

"I just know."

"That isn't good enough. Tell me HOW you know that."

"Red is like … your power color. You use it. Purple is a comfort color. You write with it. You always have. Rosalie red writing in gel purple ink. You signed my yearbook in purple."

"I did." And not under her picture, the headshot of her, bare shouldered and glowing furiously into the camera; she wrote her name right over his, obscuring his face with her swirling purple script.

"You did," he agrees.

"In the parking lot. I waited all day for you to ask me to sign your yearbook, but you never asked. I had to chase you down."

He had been pulling his keys from his pocket when he heard the call from behind him, smiley and breathy. Turning, the first thing he saw was the swish of her pony tail against the red of her Stallions sweatshirt. "Monkey, wait!"

He waited. She handed him her yearbook with a questioning smile. He took it and flipped page after page. All of them crammed with notes, hearts, wishes for success. He didn't even know what page his picture was on, and ended up scratching his signature on the spread for the Biology Department.

She'd had to hunt for it later. Small and precise and easily missed. Unlike him.

"Why would I have asked?"

"Because I wanted you to."

His laugh is bitter, he hands his flashlight to Mac, whose job it is to strap wristbands on those of legal drinking age. "Cover for me. I need fifteen."

Mac nods and Emmett pulls Rosalie out of the line and around the corner. The alley is dark, lit only by the blinking pepper red of lights strung in the window of the late night cantina next door. It illuminates Rosalie, pressed to the brick, in red then gold. Red then gold.

He doesn't know what to say. He thought he did, but all his words have melted. To look at her. Illuminated and lovely.

But she knows.

"I liked you. Did you know?"

"Rose," he stops, running his palm over his mouth. "Nobody liked me."

"I know."

"Why … why did you go with Royce, then?"

"Why do you think? You tell me, Emmett."

"Because it was … what everyone expected you to do."

Her eyes fall closed. She nods, it's almost imperceptible.

She speaks, softly, eyelashes twitching against her smooth skin. "I always thought, maybe … you liked me. Did you?"

So incredibly blue. And glossy.

His exhalation is abrupt with the futility of this conversation.

"Why does it matter? Why now?"

"I need to know. If I just imagined it … or-"

"You didn't."

"Why? Why did you like me?"

"Rosalie. I can't … answer that fucking question."

She starts at his profanity.

Why does it always preclude men to know?

Emmett shifts his weight and Rosalie's eyes focus on the blinking pepper lights, the red glow making her eyes shine violet.

"You ask me these questions, Rose. Like you don't know. Like you don't know who you are and how you've ruled my mind since we were in high school. You ask me these stupid questions like why did I like you. Wrong question, Rosalie. And you know it. The question isn't why did I like you. The question is … why do I love you? I have a million answers for that one, but you don't want to hear them."

The gloss of her eyes turns to tears and one slides over her cheek.

"I do. I do ... want to hear them."

With a hand to her cheek, he wipes away the runaway tear. Another follows and he catches that one, too.

"Why are you crying?"

"Emmett..." She pauses; she sniffles; she looks away; she wipes her own eyes. And when she turns back to him she takes a breath, revealing something in her face he's never witnessed before. Creases in between her eyebrows illustrate pain and vulnerability, and her slightly parted lips seem to plead for something. Her lips close and then open again. "Answer my question first?"

If it were possible for him to resist giving her anything she asks for, this look on her face would make him crumble.

"You want me to tell you here?" He glances around. People pass along the street, entering or exiting the bar. Cars pull up, parallel park, doors slamming.


Emmett knows this answer will come easily. He's spent many nights lying in bed while thoughts of Rosalie played themselves out so clearly they began to take form. He could've created a work of art through all that is Rosalie. But speaking them, laying them out in the open, that's another story.

"Let me take you home tonight. And I'll answer you. I have something to show you."

They walk back to the bar where he resumes his position as bouncer and she goes off to find Ditch, to watch Midnight Sun perform.

While Emmett would like nothing more than to be released from work early, he doesn't think "I'm leaving to tell a girl why I love her" will be an acceptable excuse. He contemplates his stomach to see if it hurts, and then his head. Unfortunately, at this moment, he's physically pain-free. So without a valid excuse, topped with the fact that tonight's the busiest the place has been in weeks, Emmett's stuck at The Cellar until after one.


Passing by the Cantina on the way to Emmett's car, the lights in the window have been shut off. Only the streetlight, yards away, is illuminating Rosalie now, an aura lining her hair in a soft white-gold. Rosalie seems very different to him. For the first time, she seems like someone who needs reassurance, and he's basically kicking himself for not recognizing this sooner. For being so caught up in what he needed from her, he failed to see what she may have needed from him.

He fiddles with the music in the car. Nothing sounds right in this moment. And talking is not an option either. He has things to say that are so much more important than what a nice night it is, how the fog has finally seemed to have lifted. He's convinced nothing should really be said until he's ready to say it all.

He isn't ready until they're in the apartment, side by side on the sofa, his sketchbook laid out across their laps.

"Rose," he says, and clears his throat. It had been so long since he'd said anything, his voice comes out like gravel, like metal welding together. He opens the book, revealing the first sketch.

Rosalie walking. Simply walking.

But it isn't that simple at all. This drawing details much more than a walk. It's the way she holds her head high, with this slight smile on her face that's easy to miss, but denotes that everything she wants is already hers. The way she walks is symbolic and he's captured it in his sketch.

Emmett makes sure his voice doesn't shake, even when his heart falters with nerves. He somehow knows that he needs to sound confident when he tells her how he sees her. He passes his finger over Rosalie on paper.

"First, there's the way you walk. You walk like you own the world. Nothing will get in your way. Even in high school, you walked like that. You go after what you want.

"Look who came to the bar tonight. You. And speaking of the bar..." He turns the page. This sketch is of Rosalie sitting at that new restaurant she brought him to, the one with the yuppies and the chandeliers. In the picture, just like she'd done in reality, her fingers are toying with her wine glass stem and she's looking into her wine as if its giving her answers to the universe. "You can walk into a dive bar or the richest place in San Francisco and still belong."

He leafs through pages, passes what he's looking for, and flips back a few. This one is Rosalie slipping into pants, one leg in, one long, brilliant leg out.

"It gets to the point where I have to remind myself that you put your pants on one leg at a time. I have to remind myself that you're just one of us, or-" He pauses, tugging at his chin. "I don't know. By trying to feel worthy of you, I'll mess up. You'll see it's nothing but an act."

She starts to say his name, but he shushes her. He holds the next page out for her, offering to let her turn it. In this sketch, she's lying on her side in bed, a sheet pulled up to her neck, her mouth open in speech, her eyes just a bit narrowed.

What was I saying? she wonders, running her hand over the depiction of her face. Whatever it was, it looks important.

"When we're in bed together … when I'm close to you. I feel like …. I can see the abstract image of your heart. I know that sounds …" He shakes his head, hiding a small smile. "It's just, you speak with your heart, Rosalie. And I'm not talking about emotions or feelings. We both know you don't do much of that." He pauses and they share a quiet laugh. "What I mean is, the things you do say, matter to you so much, that it's like ... I can hear your heartbeat. I see it, in your words. You're passionate."

"You think I'm passionate?" Her fingers make their way to her chest where her nails just barely scratch back and forth.

His brow furrows. "Well, yeah, isn't it obvious? Don't you feel it?"

She shakes her head, her own brow furrowing in confusion.

He turns back a few pages to a sketch of just her eyes, penciled in almost every hue of blue she's ever seen, maybe even some shades she's never seen before. When she looks closer, she's sure he's drawn waves in them.

"And your eyes..." he continues; she looks at him, "...they've always reminded me of the ocean. Because of what you can hide in them. They keep me searching. You keep me searching. And while sometimes that drives me up the wall, I love the search.

"But sometimes your eyes show me what I'd never thought I'd see from anyone. It's like when you're a kid and you find the golden Easter egg. Do you know that feeling?"

She nods, her voice barely above a whisper. "I can imagine it."

"It's like that time you—you asked me about my art. When I answered you, the way you looked at me, you watched my mouth. You weren't just listening to an answer. It was more than that. You looked at me like you understood. You saw me. That art is me. And you didn't have to say a thing. For me to know that you knew."

Rosalie opens her mouth to speak, but Emmett interrupts before she even begins. "I'm not done."

He places a hand on her shoulder. To him it feels awkward, to her it feels warm.

"Right now, I love that it seems you don't know any of this about yourself. Even though that breaks my heart. You should know how incredible you are."

He turns to a page near the end of the book, but something catches Rosalie's attention. She stops his hand, flips a page back, finding a hastily rendered self portrait.

Emmett. Not today's Emmett, and not yesterday's either. A man and a boy, blurred together. Pencil smudges and eraser smears. The art of trying to learn one's own soul.

"It's you," she says.

"Not anymore. I'd draw myself differently tonight."


His eyes meet hers. "Once in awhile, you make me think that maybe I could be right for you. That maybe me—with my calloused hands, and my stupid night job." He runs a big hand through his hair. "I can't even wear a tie without feeling like a fraud. Rose, I don't know. But, I might be. Right. For you."

His smile is pure, sweet. She returns it, small and tentative, but sure.

He kisses her lips, unsure if that's the thing to do right now or not, but he can't seem to stop himself. He keeps it simple, chaste, a kiss unlike any they've shared before.

"So, there's the short answer to your question," he says, their faces still close, so close he's sure he can smell the salt in her tears. "Now, answer me, beautiful, beautiful Rose. Why were you crying outside the bar tonight? And why are you crying now?"

She sniffs, wiping her nose with her wrist, then her eyes—with fingers flat against her face. "I cried on the street because the exact person I want ... the man with these hands." She takes one of his hands in both of hers and brings it up to her lips, planting kisses on his knuckles. "The man I need, had just told me he loved me. It felt—different than I expected. I mean. I don't know what I expected, I just knew I was afraid of them, those words, but I needed to hear them. Because I love him, too." She opens his hand and places it on her cheek. "And now I'm crying because he's just told me I have all these traits-" new tears fall and he sweeps them away, "-I only ever wished I had."

His fingers caress her face with only enough pressure to turn her, so that she looks at him.

"You have it all Rosalie Hale." He kisses the corner of her mouth, her jaw, her throat, then back to her lips. "And me, if that's what you want."

Her fingers find his, tangled in her hair. "It's all I want."