Contest entry for Smells Like Metallic Roses 90s TwiFic Contest
Title: Swan Song
Disclaimer: None of it is mine. Age of consent in Washington State is sixteen.
Moe's Mo'Roc'N looks like nothing from the outside—a dark warehouse in a neighborhood of dark warehouses, a hulking mass of crumbling brick and newer concrete just like its neighbors, some abandoned, some still functioning.
The scattered clusters of parked cars and groups of people headed toward the entrance tell a different story.
They're locals. The light jackets and lack of umbrellas give them away in the rainy night. They walk with the familiar lazy lurch of people who rain no longer fazes—leisurely, unhurried, heads bent to keep water from stinging their eyes, watching the sodden streets and sidewalks littered with cigarette butts.
There's no window in the green room, but Edward knows this neighborhood, knows how these people look, and move, and feel. He's been away for a while, but this is still his home, his turf. His territory.
Moe's feels like a secret even though it isn't. In some ways it's Seattle's music epicenter, which means it's the music epicenter for angry youth of the world. And angry youth are the only people who really matter to Edward. He paid his dues, mailing homemade cassette tapes to college radio stations all over the US, living out of Emmett's shitty car as Jasper's shittier one lugged the rest of their equipment from seedy bar to dirty club, hoping each night to make enough cash from ticket and merch sales to buy burgers and cigarettes, and enough gas to get them to the next stop.
Now things are different.
Record companies realized that grunge sells. They grabbed hold of the culture created by alienated youth and sold it back to them. And just like always, kids bought it.
Edward doesn't mind. He's long ago come to terms with the commercial aspect of his business. As long as his label doesn't fuck with his writing process, he really doesn't care.
They have a bus now—a real tour bus with bunks and living space. There's always enough food, always enough booze. Kids know his name.
It's all he thinks he's ever wanted.
The crowd isn't thick yet.
Edward stalks through clumps of people, breathing in the hot, close smell of bodies under a comforting haze of smoke. There are two openers before his band goes on; he's not particularly pleased with the first. No wonder the crowds are small.
He feels eyes on him; recognition. People keep their distance, for which he is grateful. It's getting harder and harder to talk to strangers, to connect in a way that isn't about being famous. This is something he misses about the way it used to be, when Jasper's car would break down on the side of the road and strangers stopped to help them.
Now all people want is his autograph.
Edward shifts toward the bar, though there's plenty of booze in the green room. Of course, Emmett, Jasper, Paul, and Sam are there, too, and at least two of them will have attracted groupies by now. Edward shudders. He's not against girls in the green room, but his bandmates have awful taste.
Immediately Edward shifts away from the person he accidentally elbowed.
She's sitting on a barstool, legs drawn up, back to the bar. In the low light, he almost missed her tiny, huddled form.
"Sorry," he offers, the word out of his mouth before he gets a good look at her.
Once he does, he's positive she's nowhere near old enough to be here.
It's hard to tell just how tall she might be since she's tucked into herself. Her hair is long and dark, melting into the smoky shadows of the club, pulled back from her face in a half-ponytail. She's wearing a sleeveless babydoll dress, denim on top, flowery cotton or whatever for the skirt, with a row of little metal buttons down the front. Her pretty pale legs are smooth and bare, ending in a pair of chunky black Mary Janes.
It's her face, though, that tells him she's too young for this place. There's a hint of softness to her cheeks that won't be there in another few years, and something about the wide set of her big dark eyes that reminds him of high school. It's not innocence—nothing so mundanely poetic. Edward isn't sure he can explain what he sees, but he recognizes it instantly.
She doesn't shrink further into herself as Edward half expects. Nor do her eyes widen in recognition of who he is. He honestly can't tell if she knows his face or not. She regards him calmly, as if she's prepared for anything—or nothing.
They stare for what seems like too long. Edward doesn't know what to say. He already said he was sorry and apologizing isn't really his bag. Calling her out on her obvious age seems like kind of a sucky thing to do, too.
"You should be careful," she says finally. Her voice is lower than he expects. Silky. Soft. "Some of these dudes can hit pretty hard."
"I can take care of myself." The minute it's out of his mouth he wants to ask, instead, whether any of those "dudes" have hit her. Is she warning him out of firsthand experience?
"I believe you." Her voice is oddly serious; she's not giggly or flirty. Edward isn't sure he knows how to talk to a girl who isn't flirting.
"I'm glad," he says. It's been quite some time since he's been in a bar fight, but she doesn't need to know that. He can still hold his own.
The crackle and high-pitched squeal of feedback from the stage makes Edward flinch almost at the same moment the girl does. She wrinkles her nose.
"I offered to fix that for them," she says. "The amp on that lead guitar is filthy."
Edward cocks an eyebrow. "Oh, yeah?"
"Yeah. Tubes badly need a change, too. People really shouldn't play with tube amps unless they know what they're doing."
She's watching the stage, an expression of resigned dislike on her lovely face. Her features are small and regular—there's absolutely nothing special about her at first glance. She looks like any other pale-skinned girl in clunky Mary Janes. Only on further consideration does her true beauty reveal itself. She defies the passing glance to ignore her, forces the eye to give her that second look. Once it does, it's hooked.
"You're too young to be here," Edward blurts. It's not what he means to say. He doesn't know what he means to say. But she is too young—far, far too young to be here. He doesn't like the thought of anyone taking advantage of a young, pretty girl sitting alone in a dark bar. Well, this girl, in this bar, at least. He's never really thought about it before.
She laughs—not a giggle, but a low, sarcastic chuckle. "I got in, didn't I?"
Edward wonders if she knows someone at Moe's. No bouncer in his right mind would let a girl who looks like her in, even with ID.
"Is he bothering you, B?" The bartender, a dark-skinned man who wears his muscles like armor, suddenly speaks up.
"Mind your bar, Jake," she says, though she tempers her words with a smile. "He's fine."
"Either drink or beat it," the bartender tells Edward.
He decides he doesn't like Jake.
The girl isn't drinking, but no one's asking her to give up her spot on the barstool. Edward wonders if she's as invisible to the rest of the crowd as she was to him before he bumped her. She's small, yes, but he still doesn't see how so many people could miss her. She's gorgeous.
"What's your name?" he asks, well aware that he hasn't given his, nor has she asked. "What does B stand for?"
"Drink?" the bartender prods again. He presses his big hands flat on the top of the bar, elbows bent, shoulders out. He's trying to look threatening, but Edward doesn't give a shit. The bouncers know who he is, even if Jake doesn't. This guy can't do anything to him.
The girl twists her head slightly to the side, exposing a graceful throat, all pale and elegant. The shadows of her collarbone are hidden by the denim collar of her dress. "If I tell you," she says, "you'll just tell me I shouldn't be giving my name to strange men in bars."
Edward feels the corners of his mouth tug up into a smile. She's half-right. He probably wouldn't say anything, but he'd be thinking it. If she were older, he'd totally be hitting on her right now. As it is, he's...not quite sure what he's doing. He can't flirt. It's not right. But she's pretty, and he's curious. "Why are you here?" It's what he's been thinking, but not anything he intended to say. Oh well. That's the way the night's going.
He thinks she raises an eyebrow at him, but it's hard to tell in the dark club. "I like music. Isn't that why everyone's here?" She tips her head, acknowledging the rest of the crowd. Screw them. For the moment, Edward doesn't care about anyone else's motives.
"Some people are here because they like to drink," the bartender puts in. "Dude, I'm serious. Order or buzz off."
Edward ignores him again. "I don't like to think about what could happen to you in a place like this." He's being honest. Seattle's a pretty harmless town, but they're not in a good part of it.
"Then don't think about it," she tells him, hugging her legs to her chest and offering him a droll little smile.
Edward reaches up to run a hand through his hair. It's too long, and greasy from being on the road. They have a week off after this show, and he aims to spend it in the Wallingford apartment he almost never uses. It'll be nice to pretend to have a home.
"Look," he says, "can I buy you a drink?"
She laughs again, and this time it does sound a little like a giggle. "You just told me I'm not old enough to be here, which means you think I'm not old enough to drink either."
Edward grins. She's way too young for him, but he likes this girl. She's got spirit. "And as you said, you're already here."
She lets him buy her a drink. Edward picks Zima, and she grins at him with a knowing little smirk as she lifts the clear bottle to her lips, though she doesn't complain. Jake does, under his breath, as he passes Edward a Red Hook.
"So you know about amps, huh?"
She shrugs. "I like looking at the insides of things. Figuring out how they work."
"That's a little unusual for a girl."
"Yeah, well, I guess I'm just all around unusual."
"Are you going to tell me how you got in here?"
"Through the door. Same as everyone else."
The bar is filling up now as the first opener leaves the stage to a smattering of halfhearted applause. Edward feels a little sorry for them, even though they bite. He remembers when that was him—playing for indifferent crowds of drunks, or fans waiting impatiently for the headliner. Sometimes those crowds could be won over. More often, not.
"Does this group have dirty amps, too?"
The girl shrugs. "I don't know. They wouldn't let me near their equipment." Her lips are lovely as she raises the bottle to her lips again. Edward doesn't mean to, but he watches her throat move as she swallows. He motions for Jake to give her another, though he knows he shouldn't. He tries to convince himself that he's watching out for her while letting her have a grown-up night out. Zima's practically Sprite, anyway. He's making excuses, and he knows it.
"And the main act?" Edward knows he's pushing.
She snorts. "I know who you are, Edward Cullen. I'm not stupid."
Yeah, Edward likes this girl. She's not suggestive or flirty, but neither is she particularly shy. She just...is. Half-ponytail, chunky Mary Jane shoes, and all. She makes no excuses and she doesn't seem ashamed of anything, but neither does she offer much information. It's an odd mixture Edward isn't used to.
"I'd offer to let you take a look at our equipment, but it's already in the wings, waiting to go on."
That knowing smirk he's beginning to recognize makes a reappearance as she finishes her drink. It's growing on him, it really is. "Oh, I already did."
"My friend offered to blow Emmett for the opportunity. It was really a win-win for your band all around."
Edward is a little peeved that some head is apparently all it takes for Emmett to let a stranger fuck with their equipment. They're definitely going to talk about this later. His predominant reaction, however, is relief. This girl has a friend. She isn't here alone. She shouldn't be here at all, but a friend is better than nothing.
"Did you find anything wrong with our shit?"
A gentle shrug. "Not too bad. Your bass has a sticky pickup, and the plug on one of your cords should be replaced soon. It'll be fine for today."
This is nothing Edward doesn't already know. He takes pride in taking care of their shit even though they have roadies now.
"You seem to know your stuff," he says. "Did you get to meet Emmett?"
"He was a little distracted," she says with another laugh and a shake of her head.
"Would you like to meet him now?" Edward pushes off the bar and jerks his head toward the door he came out of. He's just looking out for her, he tells himself. If she's backstage, there's only a very limited number of men she'll come in contact with and most of them won't fuck with a little thing like her.
More excuses. Yeah, he knows. Still, he tells himself, it'll be okay. He won't touch her. She's too young, and he just wants to make sure she's safe.
He's surprised when she agrees so quickly. Definitely not a good sign. She's green. She has little to no preservation instinct, so beautiful and so young, so trusting. She's a sitting duck, a delicious little target for anyone with less than honest intentions. Someone needs to look out for her, and her friend, wherever she is, isn't doing a very good job.
She slides off her barstool, and Edward slings his arm around her shoulders. It's a friendly gesture, right? Something he'd do with...okay, probably not with anyone he'd just met. In fact, with very few people, regardless of how long he'd known them. But still...friendly. Right.
She's short, her eyes maybe at a level with his Adam's apple. The denim under his arm is soft, but not as soft as her skin when his hand brushes her bare bicep. A light shiver bleeds through her at that touch. She doesn't move away. Edward is glad Jake's busy with customers right now and doesn't notice them move off into the crowd. He's not sure, but he has a feeling the bartender wouldn't like it. But, then again, he did let him buy her drinks.
The green room is noisy—more crowded than Edward anticipated. Usually the headliner got their own space away from the openers, but the other room is being renovated so they're stuck together. It's surprisingly large and clean—Edward's been in far worse backstage areas—but he doesn't like the way the dudes from the first act, still sweaty from the stage, look at the girl beside him. He moves his arm from her shoulders to her waist—not such a casual, friendly gesture anymore, but the implication to the other dudes is clear. Hands off. The girl glances up at him with amusement dancing in her eyes. She knows exactly what he's doing.
But she doesn't stop him.
"Who's the kid?" Sam asks. His lip curls slightly—he sees what Edward sees. She's far too young to be here. If the bar made the mistake of letting her in they won't say anything about her being backstage, but Sam still doesn't like it.
Sam doesn't have to like it. It isn't any of Sam's business.
She's cool and calm, unflinching under Sam's disapproving glare. Edward thinks he loves that about her. Whatever else she may be, walking target or otherwise, she's brave.
"Hey, bro." Emmett lifts a hand. There are girls on either side of him on a ratty green couch. Edward isn't surprised. "Who's the kid?" That's two.
In the brighter light of the green room, she looks even younger than she did before. The little babydoll dress, the way her hair's pulled back, those wide brown eyes—they scream jailbait.
"You should know." The minute it's out of his mouth, Edward knows better. The girl's friend had Emmett's whole attention during their encounter. There's no way he'd remember a tagalong.
Emmett's eyebrows draw together, and he studies the girl tucked against Edward's side again. "Dude, she's a kid. I can't have fucked her. No offense, baby." He grins at her. "You're hot and everything."
"None taken." The girl's voice is easy and calm. "I wouldn't fuck you, either. You're too old."
Emmett's laugh shakes the groupies on either side of him. They don't look too pleased. "I like you, kid. C'mere and talk to the old man. How'd you get in here?" Yeah, the groupies are definitely pissed.
Jasper calls Edward over to where he's tuning his bass for the millionth time—Edward swears the dude has a little OCD. He squeezes his hand on the girl's hip gently, just a little warm pressure, and she nods that she's okay before she goes to Emmett. He scoots over on the couch to give her room, nearly steamrolling over one of the groupies in the process. She scowls, but grudgingly makes room—not that Emmett's bulk gives her much choice.
"What're you doing bringing jailbait in here?" Jasper's voice is a low, warm slide. It's no wonder he's their lead singer despite also playing bass.
"I couldn't leave her out there," Edward insists. "Look at her—she's a walking target! Anything could have happened to her."
"A random kid who snuck into a bar isn't your responsibility."
Like hell she isn't. If something happens to her, Edward will carry that guilt for...well, a long time. He doesn't really know how long. This feeling is kind of new to him. He's never really worried about anyone else's welfare before.
"She seems to be able to handle herself," Jasper says.
Edward turns his head in time to see Emmett hand the girl a shot glass filled with clear liquid. She shoots him a devilish smile and tosses it back without so much as a shudder.
Emmett giggles—fucking giggles. "Another," he says, reaching for the glass in her hand.
"I'm not sure that's such a good—"
Before Edward can get out another word, the door slams open and a tall blond knockout—a total Elle Macpherson ringer—stomps through. Her cutoff shirt exposes a tanned, toned midriff, just the hint of a belly button peeking out over her high-waisted jeans. "You!" She marches up to the girl and pulls her up from the couch, almost dwarfing her with her height, and grabs her shoulders. She punctuates her words with a series of shakes. "Where the hell have you been? What did I tell you about wandering off without me?"
The imposing woman barely glances at Emmett despite his gleeful cry. "You took a drink from someone, too, didn't you? What are the rules, B? Never take a drink from anyone but the bartender! Don't leave your drink, and if you do, don't drink it once you're back. What the hell is wrong with you?" She shakes the wrist still holding the shot glass.
The girl is calm despite her friend's tantrum. She blinks those sweet brown eyes and offers Emmett the glass. "I'm fine," she says, cool and even. "I was with Edward."
Damn right she was.
"He wouldn't hurt me."
No, he wouldn't, he thinks, and not just because he's a fucking gentleman. There's something about this girl. He's barely touched her, but he's not stupid. She's special.
"How the fuck do you know?" the blonde demands.
Edward's girl tips her head slightly to the side, giving her friend a considering look. "I just do."
Edward can't take it anymore. He leaves Jasper and slides up behind his girl. He's not quite brave enough to reach out and touch, but her body is so close he swears he can feel her warmth. "Who are you?" he asks, not really caring about manners since the blonde obviously has none.
On closer inspection, it's hard to tell exactly how old she might be. She has one of those picture-perfect faces that could be a mature teenager or a youthful twenty-something, and she's heavily made-up. Her pale hair is teased into something that looks like yellow feathers.
"She's Rose!" Emmett breaks in. "Rose, baby, I went looking for you. Where did you go?"
Rose eyes him speculatively. "I never said I was coming back."
"I came looking for B, that's all."
"Rose," Edward's girl says as if the other two aren't bickering, "this is Edward Cullen. Edward, this is Rosalie Hale, my best friend."
The name isn't familiar to Edward, but he doesn't expect it to be. It doesn't escape his notice that she's told him her friend's name, but not her own.
"Yeah, I know who he is." Rose glares at him but, really, it's hardly Edward's fault. She left her friend alone first, before Edward bumped into her. What was he supposed to do? Just leave her there on that barstool, easy pickings for the next drunk jerk who came along? Not gonna happen.
The girl shifts her weight from one foot to the other and, in doing so, closes the distance between their bodies. She's not quite resting against him, but it's close. At first Edward wonders if it's an accident, but she doesn't move away.
Not an accident.
He shifts, too, raising his hands to rest lightly on her hips. The thin material of her dress is warm with her body heat. He holds her lightly, feather-soft; she can move away from him with just a tilt of her body if she wants to.
Edward's not sure what he's doing. She's young—too young, he thinks. He's twenty-three. She's less than ten years younger than him, he's sure, but she's certainly not old enough to be in this bar either. It's wrong; he knows it's wrong. But there's something about the calm in her dark eyes, the second look she forces people to take, the way she talks to him...
Rose sees his hands. Edward watches her eyes flick down to where he's touching the girl, then back up. To his surprise, she doesn't tell him to keep his filthy paws to himself.
So he doesn't.
His hands tighten on the girl's hips, pulling her back more firmly against him. She lets herself be pulled, the sweet curve of her jailbait ass pushing gently against his crotch and upper thighs. It's not a good idea and Edward knows this, but he doesn't move away. It's been a long time since he's let himself go like this—groupies don't tend to interest him—and this girl feels too good. She's warm against him, leaking body heat, and she smells like alcohol and...just girl. It's a combination that has his mouth watering even though he knows it's so, so wrong.
She tips her head up and to the side, finding his gaze with those soft brown eyes, and the look in them is sweetly knowing. Her mouth curls up in a playful smile. "Hi, Edward."
"Hi." He can't help one side of his mouth lifting to mimic her grin. "You're trouble. You know that?"
"Really? But I thought you were trying to protect me from trouble." She laughs, the sound vibrating through both of them, and it feels too, too good. It shouldn't, but it does.
She leans her upper body against him more firmly, sweet and warm, and Edward lets his arms slip around her without really thinking about it. It's better when he doesn't think. His head doesn't scream at him so much with all the reasons this is a very, very bad idea.
"Tell me your name," he says softly, tipping his mouth toward her ear. Just a little further and he'd feel that shell of skin against his lips. He wants to, but he refrains. Not that that's been particularly successful thus far.
She turns her head slightly, giving him a delightful view of one dark, liquid eye framed by long lashes. They look smooth and natural, untainted by the clumpy, thick mascara he's so used to seeing on women. For the first time, there is no sweet mockery in her eyes or mouth. "Bella."
Bella. It's a sweet name, a pretty name. Edward likes it. It fits her.
"You're beautiful, little Bella."
Her soft, full mouth turns up at the corners, though it's not quite a smile. "Not so little," she tells him.
"Oh?" Edward quirks an eyebrow.
"I'm older than I look."
Maybe a little. Edward still doesn't doubt that she's too young for him to be doing this...whatever this is. Jailbait, he reminds himself. Gorgeous, tempting, mocking jailbait.
"Will you wait for me back here, Bella?" he asks. "It's safer. I don't like the thought of you out there by yourself." Anything could happen to her. She's young, beautiful, and not nearly wary enough. Her friend Rose is right.
The hint of a smile dies. "I can take care of myself, Edward."
Edward isn't stupid enough to actually argue with her about that. He grew up with a sister, after all. "I don't want you getting away." It's true enough, as far as it goes. "But I have to go on soon."
"Stay, B." It's Rose. Edward's a little surprised to hear her agree with him, but then he remembers how furious she was that Bella had gone off on her own. She probably just didn't want her doing it again.
"Stay," Emmett agrees. He waves a shot glass in her direction. "There's plenty more white tequila, and I bet we could find some limes around somewhere."
"No limes." Edward is firm about this as he lowers himself onto a couch, bringing Bella down next to him. The combination of young tequila and limes doesn't necessarily mean body shots, but he's not taking any chances. Emmett's as unpredictable as they come, and Sam and Jasper are still shooting him pissed-off looks he hopes Bella doesn't notice.
She consents to sit with him, but there's a look on her sweet face that Edward doesn't recognize. "I didn't come here looking for a father, Edward."
Does that mean she doesn't have one? How the hell is he supposed to know? Edward hates cryptic comments. "Good," he says slowly, "because I'm not interested in having a teenage daughter right now."
She considers him for another minute before settling back against the couch. "Fair enough."
Now he's wondering if she just admitted to being a teenager.
Whatever. He's probably going to hell anyway, because right now he's trying very hard not to regret the loss of that sweet ass held against him. It's kind of difficult.
Instead, he sits as close to her as he can, the warmth of her side pressed against his, and drops his head back. His scalp kind of itches, reminding him once again that he really should wash—and probably cut—his hair. She reaches toward him and takes a fold of his baggy grey flannel sleeve, rubbing it slowly between the pad of her thumb and the side of her forefinger. The shirt's old and worn, layered over a white tee that objectively isn't so white anymore. He knows he smells like the bar, and their bus. Smoke, alcohol, sweat. Clothes either dirty, or musty, or singed from overheated laundromat dryers. It's the smell of the road, and he's used to it by now. Mix in a little gasoline fumes and whatever Emmett burned in their tiny bus kitchenette, and it's practically the smell of home to him.
He wonders what it feels like to her.
"You're from Seattle." It's not quite a question, and her eyes remain on her thumb, still rubbing a fold of his shirt.
"Yeah. It's kinda nice to be back home." Really, he isn't sure about that yet. It won't sink in that the tour's over, not really, until he gets to sleep in his own bed and wake up the next morning with nothing to do. "What about you?"
She shrugs. "I'm here, right?"
Yeah, she's here. He wonders if Rose would be more forthcoming with information than Bella is. Then he wonders if even Rose knows.
"You know about amps," he says, almost at random. "What else do you know? Do you play an instrument?"
"Mm." The sound is noncommittal. She finally lets go of his sleeve and looks at him again. Despite her cryptic answers, her soft eyes are untroubled. "Sort of. I mean, I do. Guitar, and Rose got me a harmonica to mess around with last year. But..." She shrugs, and that warm, mocking smile breaks out again. "It's not really my calling, you know? Rose—she wants to sing. It's all she's ever wanted. I think you really have to feel that sort of passion for music if you're going to be a musician. Does that make sense?"
"A lot of sense." Edward agrees with her, he does. But he's not looking for a philosophical discussion about art, and he doesn't really care about Rose's calling. He's trying to learn something else right now. "So you can play, but it's not your calling."
She nods. "I like listening to music. I like the anonymity of dark bars and stuff, you know? And how sometimes it's just not right, the vibe, I mean, between the audience and the band. But when it clicks, it's magic."
"You sound pretty passionate." Edward reaches for her left hand, and she lets him take it. He knows what she's talking about—that energy, the give and take, audience and musicians feeding off each other. It doesn't always happen, but the high when it does can last for hours. He turns her hand palm-up and examines the pads of her fingers. Her nails are short and clean, and she has the tell-tale calluses of someone who does, in fact, play a stringed instrument.
"I love music," she agrees, her voice dropping slightly as he traces his fingertips over her calluses. She won't have much feeling right there, nerves muted by the protective buildup of tough skin. "But it's not my calling."
"What is your calling?" She switches their hands, using both of hers to cup his, and he lets her examine his own calluses. They're bigger and rougher than hers, but, then, he's a professional. She flexes her left hand, stretching her fingers to meet his, tip to tip, callus to callus.
"I don't know yet," she admits. "Did you always know what you wanted to do?"
"Yes," Edward says, and it's true. He's always wanted to be a musician. He's always wanted the nomadic life, dark bars filled to bursting with music, chords squeezing into the slivers of space between people, being dragged into lungs as they breathed. He didn't always know his genre of choice; what he wanted to sound like. But what he wanted to do—that was never in question. "Don't you think about the future?"
He doesn't mean to upset her, but it's clear she doesn't like the question when she pulls her fingers away from his and drops her hands into her lap. "No. Not really." Her upper teeth bite down a little on her lower lip; it looks like she's thinking. "Not much further than the end of the night, usually."
It's...not exactly an answer Edward expected to hear. Slowly, watching her face for signs that she's not okay with this, he captures her hand again. Are hands jailbait? Whatever; that ass definitely is. He raises her hand and kisses her knuckles, just a light brush of lips, a gentle apology for the question that disturbed her. "Why not?" he asks, the words spoken against her skin. "Don't they try to prepare you for the future in school?"
She pulls her hand away. "What makes you think I go to school?"
"Bella, don't play coy." He's not sure what sort of game she's trying to play, honestly. She has to know how she looks. She has to know no one buys this act that she's old enough to be here. "How old are you, really? Honestly."
She flashes him a look that's pure poison and he feels her body gather, muscles tensing, ready to move. He knows he blew it, but he's frustrated. He doesn't want to be a prop for her game of make-believe. She's gorgeous, and other than this touchiness about her age, he likes her personality. He wants to make sure no one in this bar hurts her—tonight, anyway; there's not much he can do if she makes a habit out of sneaking into bars. But how is he supposed to fucking do that if she's not honest?
He expects her to pull away.
He's not prepared when, instead, she shifts on the couch and then straddles his waist, her bare thighs firm against the outside of his legs. Her hands grip his shoulders and her dark eyes blaze. "You think I'm playing a game?" That perfect pink mouth is tight with displeasure. "What the hell sort of game are you playing, old man? If you think I'm so young, what the fuck are you doing?"
Oh, god, she feels good. His hands rest on her sleek legs, just above her bent knees, and that warmth on his palms is...everything. He wants to ignore what she's saying and lose himself in the feel of hot skin, but he can't.
Because she's right.
He's been teasing all night, coming on to her despite his excuses, despite the fact that he knows he shouldn't. There's something about her: that sweet mocking mouth, her curious dark beauty, the frank way she talks to him...
Okay, maybe he hasn't done enough to end up in the slammer, but he's probably going to hell anyway.
He looks up at her, hovering ever so slightly over him, bracing herself on his shoulders. To his surprise, she's smiling. One of her hands lifts, and as she cups his stubbly cheek he turns his head to brush his nose against the tender inside of her wrist. She must have dabbed perfume there earlier; she smells like green growing things, like his mother's spring garden. He inhales deeply.
"Gap Grass." Her voice is gentle. "I'm seventeen, Edward. Above the age of consent. It's okay. D'you want to see my driver's license?"
Seventeen. Seventeen. Six years younger. Edward considers for a long minute.
Then he says fuck it. He tips his chin up, mouth reaching for that soft smile he's been watching all night.
And yes, she tastes as good as he tried to tell himself he wasn't imagining. Sweet girl, the faintest hint of alcohol still on her breath. He sucks at her lower lip and with a small, breathy chuckle she relinquishes it, letting him pull the soft flesh into his mouth. Somewhere in the room, Emmett laughs. Edward doesn't care if it's at him or not. He's busy kissing this strange girl. Yes, she's too young to be in the bar, but she's not too young, legally, for him to touch. He doesn't need to keep stopping himself.
So he doesn't.
His hands find her waist, then her hips, as she lowers herself, sitting on his legs rather than hovering over him. Her tongue flicks at his upper lip, and he feels the graze of her teeth for an instant before he pushes forward, locking his mouth against hers, kissing her harder, deeper. One of her hands slides sensually up his neck, finding the soft hair at the base of his skull and weaving gently through it. She's warm and soft, and he can feel her smile against his mouth as his hands slide down over her skirt, cupping her firm little ass. It's the perfect kiss, and Edward doesn't push her any further. For once it's him making out backstage instead of Emmett, and he's mindful of the other people in the room. If anything else is going to happen between himself and this girl, it'll happen in private. He's not sure how she feels, but dammit, he's not interested in sharing.
Jasper's stiff voice isn't welcome, but Edward knows what it means. The second act is over and it's time to get ready for their set. He skims his nose along Bella's jawline, finding another spot of perfume behind her ear. "I have to go." His voice is deeper than he expects, a little rough. Music is his life, but between one heartbeat and the next he's honestly not sure he can get up and leave this girl.
"No doi, Edward." She pecks his lips softly, and he can only hope it's reluctance that slows her movements as she slides off of him, back to the couch by his side.
"Will you still be here when I get back?" He catches her chin gently, intent on her liquid eyes. If she doesn't say yes, he doesn't think he can honestly leave her. Not until he changes her mind.
Something he's not sure about glimmers in her eyes. "Are you still trying to be my dad?"
"Not even remotely."
She turns her head, her eyes searching for Rose, and Edward watches as the two share a long look. It's obviously a speaking glance, but their faces remain blank; he has no idea what they mean.
"Edward." Jasper's getting impatient.
She bites down on her lower lip, dark and slightly swollen from his kisses. He watches as she releases her lip, then slides her tongue slowly over the soft flesh. Rose looks away before Bella does. Edward's not sure what that means, but he decides he doesn't care when she turns back to him and tips her head in a small nod.
He kisses her again, briefly. "Stay." The whisper is somewhere between a request and a demand; he's not entirely sure she'll obey either.
"Is there a place I can watch you?"
Edward can't resist those eyes. "Yes," he says, "right offstage. I'll show you." He takes her hand, squeezing gently, and all he can do as he shows her where to stand is hope that she keeps her promise.
The crowd wants two encores—they know it's the last show of the tour—and by the time Edward returns to the green room he's dripping sweat, a little drunk on the performance, and completely exhausted. Bella isn't just offstage watching anymore, and he's a little anxious until he enters the green room and sees that half-ponytail of dark hair. Rosalie isn't hanging around that he can see, but one of the girls who was hanging on Emmett earlier is. Her dark roots show so much that he wonders if it's intentional. Are undyed roots a thing now? Some sort of...statement? Fuck if he knows.
She turns, and Edward swears there's relief in her smile. He offers an arm, unsure whether she wants to get too close to him while he's dripping. She comes to him, though, slipping under his arm, her body cool now in comparison to his. He hugs her to his side and sees the other girl's face twist into a grimace of disgust. Had she been hassling Bella? Edward narrows his eyes, because that's unacceptable. Nobody's allowed to be a bitch in his backstage space. Not to Bella, at least.
"You're really good," Bella says, tipping her head up to meet his eyes as he tucks her closer to his body. It's not the sort of fawning praise he's come to expect from most people but, then, Bella isn't most people. "Was your accoustic a little out of tune on that first encore? It sounded maybe like the D string might have been off."
"Yeah." He grimaces. "That's what you get for letting someone else tune for you."
She scrunches up her nose. "I wouldn't have done that to you."
"Yes, but you, kitten, are not most people."
She beams. "Thanks. But don't call me kitten."
Edward doesn't argue, though that's what she is. She's a curious little kitten, and her fearlessness is going to get her in trouble one of these days if she doesn't watch out. He won't hurt her, but there are many, many men in the world without even his admittedly lax morals.
"Come home with me tonight," he says instead, ignoring the noise from his bandmates and the girls, a few of the guys from the middle band still hanging around.
She considers, drawing her hand across the damp fabric of his shirt. "Where's home?"
Her head tips to the side as she watches him. "I'll come," she says, her dark eyes inscrutable, "if I can spend the night. I prefer a morning walk of shame over wandering around strange neighborhoods in the dark."
Edward can't help his reaction. He grabs and lifts her, hearing her high-pitched squeal above the deeper voices of the men in the room. Her legs curl around his waist and he squeezes that perfect little ass in his hands. Fuck, yes, she's spending the night. At least that. Yeah, he wants to fuck her now that he knows he legally can, but he also wants to figure out this strange little girl who loves music so much but doesn't want to be a musician, who somehow gets into bars when she looks even younger than her too-young self already is. "Bella," he says, just remembering not to call her his kitten, "any guy who'd let you go wandering around strange neighborhoods in the dark is a guy you shouldn't have gone home with in the first place."
She shoves lightly at his chest. "Rose and I are really good at picking them. I've never been attacked, and she's only been attacked once."
As far as Edward is concerned, those sorts of numbers only raise the probability that the next time, whenever it comes, will be the time she gets hurt. He grips her body close, loving the way she squeezes her legs around him in return. "You're staying with me tonight," he tells her. "And in the morning I'll make you breakfast...as long as you like cold cereal and toast."
Bella laughs, and it's a sweet sound, nothing like the vapidly fake titters he can hear across the room from some other chick. She pushes her forehead against his, and one of her hands leaves his shoulder, the tip of her index finger playing lightly along his lips. He opens and captures it in his teeth, bearing down slowly. She doesn't jerk away. "Take me home, then." Her murmur is a warm breath in his ear.
So he does.
It's nearly closing time anyway, and he pretends not to see the disapproving glances from Sam and Jasper as he carries Bella out the back door to find a taxi. They can disapprove all they want. She's legal and he's taking her home. "Will Rose call the police or something if she can't find you?" It's his only worry. Rose is a little scary, to be honest. He has no idea if they live together or what, just that they're close, and he doesn't want to worry about pissing someone else off tonight. He just wants to concentrate on this girl.
But Bella shakes her head, and her expression isn't troubled. "It's all good."
It's the last Edward thinks about the Elle Macpherson lookalike that night.
When they reach his apartment, Edward doesn't apologize for the shut-up, musty smell, and Bella doesn't ask. She follows him with her hands in his back pockets, and once they're inside with the door closed behind them, she's pressed to his front and her mouth is on his.
There's no awkward smalltalk, no "tour" of the simple, almost bare bachelor pad. It's perfect—just what Edward wants. He hoists her into his arms again, loving the feeling of her legs wrapped around him, her firm body pressed against his. With one hand he adjusts the thermostat by the door so they won't freeze—not that that seems to be likely anytime soon—and then nothing matters but the feel of that warm, tight little body tucked up against his.
Her mouth is all over his, refusing to release first his lips, then his tongue, sucking hard, then letting go only to seize his lower lip and bite down. She's not shy, not about this, and Edward loves it. He suspects she might have had more to drink while he was onstage from the sharp bite of alcohol on her otherwise sweet breath, but she's not acting drunk or even buzzed. He goes with it. What teenager doesn't drink underage? He knows he did.
Instead of his bedroom, he takes her to the bathroom. She may not particularly care about his sweat and smell, but he does. He sets her on the counter, staying between her legs as his arms release her weight. She's...he can't let go. It hurts, physically aches, when he tries to put space between their bodies. He's been more or less celibate for most of the tour, his hand and a couple of drunken encounters notwithstanding, and his body craves the soft, sweet touch of a girl.
But that's not all it is. It's this girl, the one he was sure for most of the evening that he couldn't have, that he was going to hell for even wanting. She's so warm, her mouth wet and willing, taking what he gives even though he's kissing her hard—bruisingly hard. One of her hands pulls at his hair and the other slips under the hem of his t-shirt, the heat of her palm leaking into him as it slides from his abdomen to his back, fingers grasping, short little nails biting his skin with tiny pricks of pleasurable pain. He tightens his own hand in her long hair, tugging gently until she releases his mouth and opens her eyes. They're so dark, her face flushed and pink, and he can't help but watch the way her chest lifts with each quick breath under the denim top of her babydoll dress. Her hand leaves his back and slides down, squeezing his ass before drifting to the front of his loose jeans, finding his hard cock through the fabric.
"Bella..." He's not sure if it's a request or a warning. She squeezes him lightly and, god, that feels good. It's been too long, way, way too long. His hands snap to the little metal buttons down the front of her dress and he undoes three of them before deciding that's enough. He lifts her little skirt, and she releases him just long enough to raise her arms above her head so he can pull the dress up and off. He hears the twin thuds as she toes off her chunky shoes and lets them fall.
Without the dress, he can barely stop himself from grabbing at her body like a maniac. He needs her, needs the heat and rush of pleasure, the sound of her panting breaths in his ears. Her matching bra and panties have daisies on them—daisies. It's...a little ridiculous, but he doesn't have much time to consider it as she reaches behind, unhooking her bra and letting it slide down her arms.
Those breasts...he latches onto one hard little pink nipple with his lips, pressing her lower back with his hands, bending her body in a lovely arch as she rakes her short nails along his arms. Fuck, she feels good. All of her. She smells like the bar they just left, but the warm scent of her skin is just underneath, and it's driving him crazy. He wants to be clean...wants to be inside her...wants...he wants...
She pushes back against him, and when he lets her pull upright again she seizes his flannel shirt, tugging it down his arms. He follows with the t-shirt under it as her hands unbutton his fly and drag the zipper down.
"You're going to be the death of me, little girl," he groans as she pushes her hands under his boxers, sliding everything down at once.
"You can take it, old man." Her eyes glint with humor as he pulls her off the counter so he can get at her daisy-covered ass. She presses her body against his, breasts to his chest, his throbbing cock trapped between them. More than anything, he wants to be inside this girl. The feel of her panties, the last clothing left between them, is unacceptable. He grabs the sides and pulls down firmly, and she steps out of them before kicking the scrap of fabric to the side. "Should I leave you alone to shower?"
As she teases, her hands reach for him again. One wraps around his cock while the other grabs at his hip, and he can't help the groan that escapes from his mouth. She tugs a little, that sweet, mocking smile back.
Edward wants to stop her. Well, part of him does. Part of him wants to make this sensual rather than quick—a hot shower for both of them, the feel of wet skin under his hands, on his tongue, then taking her to bed. It's the appropriate thing, he thinks, if anything about them together is appropriate.
But the other part of him needs this too much, needs her, and the pressure of her hand stroking his cock. It's been too long; he's not gonna last. He hopes she's good with that. Maybe if he comes, it'll be better. Maybe this crazy heat in his body will calm to a simmer, something that he can control.
So he doesn't stop her, even though he suspects he should, as she flashes him another mocking smile and then lowers slowly to her knees in front of him. Edward sucks in a deep breath. No, he's definitely not gonna last long. Not if—
The feel of her tongue licking softly up the underside of his cock makes him groan, and his hands reach out to hold her head. If she doesn't like it, he's sorry, but there's not much he can do. He needs something to hold on to if she's going to do shit like that.
But she doesn't protest, and he feels the wet heat of her little mouth wrap around the head of his cock, stealing his breath. His body is granite; tense. His hands fist in her hair as he grabs at the last shreds of his control, forcing himself not to thrust deep, to let her do this her own way. But god, it's hard. He aches, his body shakes with the repressed desire to push hard and deep. She looks up at him with a curious little lift of one eyebrow, her mouth stretched around him, and Edward hopes to god he understands what that means. Slowly, in case he's misread her, he pushes forward at the same time as he pulls her closer.
She hums around him, tongue swirling, rubbing the underside of his cock as he begins to fuck her face, pushing just a little deeper each time. Her pretty lips are tight on his length, and she applies suction each time he pulls back, as if fighting the ebb of his stroke. He reaches the back of her throat, feeling the obstruction, but she doesn't pull away. Instead, she adjusts the angle of her neck, takes a deep breath through her nose, and holds still.
He presses forward experimentally. She doesn't move as he pushes deeper, her throat closing around him. Her eyes are closed, her face a mask of concentration. He withdraws, but not much. Losing that wet heat hurts too much; he can't do it. He wants to keep this feeling forever. When he pushes forward again, it's not so slow, not so gentle. She takes it, takes him, her hands holding his hips, her mouth now moving with him, throat swallowing him down. It's too much, too much at once, and he can't take it. With a sharp little grunt he comes, holding her still as he empties down her throat.
They're both panting when he finally slips from her mouth, and he jerks when she gives his head one last little lick with that pink tongue. She raises up, nibbling along one side of the defined V of his pelvis.
"You crazy girl." He still needs her—fuck yes, he does. He's not nearly finished with her yet. He grabs her hands and hauls her to her feet, then turns her toward the shower and smacks her ass. "Get in there."
She yelps, grabbing at the warm mark he's left on her butt, and scowls over her shoulder as she steps into the tub. Edward follows her, adjusting the showerhead so it won't spray on either of them until the water heats.
Now that he's better able to really appreciate her naked body, Edward takes the opportunity to stare. Her skin is peaches and cream, flushed with warmth where the water hits her, her cheeks pink and her eyes bright. Her breasts are small and round, with sweet little pink nipples that harden when he puts his hands on her, bringing her back to his front, cupping them in his hands. She lets him bite and lick his way down her wet neck and across her shoulder as he squeezes her breasts and pinches the nipples, working her slowly, learning the sound of her sighs. He's a little calmer now, where before he might have eaten her alive. He cups between her legs, feeling the silky brush of hair, then smooth, bare skin as his fingers find her lips and dip between them.
She exhales slowly, her body going limp against him. Edward's hard again, and he presses his cock against her ass as his fingers slip deeper, finding her swollen clit and circling it lightly. The whimper she gives him is electric, and he pushes against her again, his cock slipping between her legs as she widens her stance, letting him rub against her. He won't enter her bare, he tells himself firmly, but god, this feels good. He thrusts from behind, the head of his long cock meeting his fingers as he pushes against her, parting her folds, rubbing along her dripping slit. She's moving, too, pressing rhythmically against his fingers as he circles her clit. He can feel how much she wants this, and he's not gonna deny her.
"Kitten," he breathes against her wet shoulder. "Pretty little kitten. You've been driving me crazy all night, and now you're mine to return the favor. You have a fucking naughty little mouth. Maybe you'd like to see what I can do with mine?"
The pleading noise she rewards him with and the way she pushes harder against his fingers tells him that yes, she definitely does. His mouth waters at the thought, but not here. Going down on a girl in a shower is just awkward. Instead he moves his fingers faster on her clit, pinching and rolling a nipple with his other hand, locking her against him as he thrusts. A high-pitched whine leaves her mouth and she jerks in his arms. He holds her tighter, keeps her still, making her take what he's giving her as her body spasms and her cries get louder until she spills over the edge, coming against him, her tight little body struggling with the instinct to move, to curl with the sensation that floods her. He's still hard; the need to be inside her is overwhelming.
"Please," she says. Fuck, he loves that. Her little ass pushes back against him, and he feels her arch, trying to get his cock exactly where she wants it.
"Not here, baby," he groans, even though it's exactly what he wants, too. "Can't give a kitten like you a kit of your own."
A whine of complaint leaves her mouth, but she stops wiggling and arching against him. "Good girl," Edward croons. He rubs her breast slowly, teeth grazing the wet skin of her shoulder. She feels too good in his arms; he's not sure he can let her go. She's panting, chest heaving under his hand as he holds her close. He hasn't been inside her yet, and he already knows this is different—different than any hookup he's ever had.
After a minute, she turns in his arms. Her eyes are wide and dark—hazy, replete. She raises one hand and cups his cheek, rolling up on her toes to brush her lips against his. "You are going to fuck me though, right?"
"Till you scream, baby." He nips her lip as she pulls away.
She reaches for the bar of soap in the soap dish, that sweet, mocking smile flashing again. "Good. And don't call me kitten."
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