Mine to Mark contest

Title: Siblings Need to Share

Rating: M

Genre: Romance/Family

Word count: 6082

Pairing: Edward/Bella

Summary: Edward has always had trouble sharing anything with his twin sister Alice. Things become complicated when her best friend Bella gets involved.

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer and Summit own the rights to the Twilight franchise and its affiliates. These words, however, are the product of my own imagination. No copyright infringement intended, but also, please don't copy as your own.

Calling the room to attention by delicately tapping her champagne glass with her dessert fork, Alice Cullen stands to address a speech to her brother and his bride.

"Edward, my dear baby brother… Yes, I know, you are much taller, but I was born ten minutes before you, so I'm still older…"

That causes the room to erupt in quiet laughter as her brother rolls his eyes.

"On this special day, the eve of your wedding, I could talk for hours about how happy I am for the both of you, and how I had always known you would end up together. But I won't. For one, never in my wildest dreams had I expected this day to come. Second, I pride myself on being original, and a toast like that can hardly be classified as such."

She then looks around the room and addresses the rest of the guests in attendance.

"Rather, I'd like to tell you a little bit about our childhood and the road leading up to this occasion. As much as I love my brother, we haven't always been as close as we are today. Allow me to take you back fifteen years…"

o.O.o

"No!" eight-year-old Edward yelled, clutching his skateboard to his chest.

"But Edward…" Alice tried again.

"No! This is my skateboard!" he insisted, pointing to the spot where he had written his name in permanent marker. "You can't play with it. You'll break it! Besides, girls can't skateboard."

"They so can!"

"Can not!"

"Can too!"

"Can not!"

Tiny as she was, Alice got right up in her tall – well, for an eight-year-old – twin's face and poked his chest.

"Yes, they can!"

Edward slapped her hand away.

"Well, not with my skateboard."

Outraged, Alice turned around to run to her mother and complain about her mean brother, when she saw her best friend ride her bike up their driveway, her hair in sloppy pigtails and a brightly colored Band-Aid on her knee.

The two girls couldn't be more different. Where Alice was loud, energetic, and outgoing, Bella was quiet, bordering on shy. Alice was the embodiment of girlie, loving to wear dresses, go shopping, and play with her mother's make up; Bella was more comfortable in jeans, t-shirts, and sneakers, and usually had a few scrapes and bruises she couldn't remember getting, as she was a bit on the clumsy side. However, opposites attract, as they say, and the girls had been inseparable since their first day of Pre-K, when Alice had shared her cupcake with Bella after Edward wouldn't let her borrow his crayons.

Edward had always had problems sharing, especially with his twin sister. It stemmed from some lingering jealousy that he couldn't explain nor remove. He only knew that he wanted what was his to remain just that – his. He was glad his twin was a girl, so he wouldn't have to share his clothes, but when it came to his toys and books, he was about as possessive as could get. He wrote his name on them and kept them carefully hidden in his room. Their mother had chastised him time and again, taking them away from him in punishment, but he couldn't seem to help himself.

Bella rode over to the twins and greeted her friend, frowning when she noticed Edward's scowl.

"What's up with him?" she asked, pointing.

"He's being stupid again."

"How come?"

"I asked if we could ride his skateboard."

"Oh."

A knowing look crossed the little girl's features, before disappointment took its place.

"Come on, let's go to the playground."

o.O.o

"Our little Edward here has always had trouble sharing, even with Bella," Alice continues, smiling indulgently as her friend blushes. "You see, although she was my friend first, he had a soft spot for her. We took advantage of that whenever we needed him to do something for us, like driving us to the movies or scaring off obnoxious boys. We even got him to dress up in a wig and petticoat one Halloween," she giggles. "Getting him to share proved quite the challenge, though. In tenth grade, he actually used a drill to carve his name in the desk in his room! Needless to say, he has been banned from using power tools ever since. Puberty and hormones didn't make the situation any easier," she winks.

o.O.o

Bella was submerged in her book, taking advantage of her time alone. She had a paper due on the reincarnation of Jane Austen in modern culture and was comparing Pride and Prejudice to Bridget Jones's Diary, diligently taking notes while one of the DVDs she was using for reference was playing in the background.

She was startled from her assignment by a knock on the door. Not expecting anyone, she cast a glance around the dorm room she shared with Alice to make sure nothing embarrassing was lying about before she went to open the door.

"Edward, hey," she greeted her best friend's brother.

"Hey. Can I come in?"

"Sure."

She stepped aside, allowing him to enter. When his arm brushed hers, she felt the by now familiar jolt, like an electrical charge, run through her.

It had been happening for the past few years and always managed to put her on edge, reducing her to a nervous mess. Unbeknownst to anyone else, she had been in love with Edward for years. It had snuck up on her gradually but had become painfully clear on his sixteenth birthday when he had taken off his shirt in her presence to take a swim in the family pool.

She hadn't confided in anyone about her changed feelings, fearing it would put a strain on her friendship with Alice, and him for that matter. Instead, she suffered in silence, relishing in the time she got to spend with him as friends.

After closing the door, she turned to face him, arching an inquisitive brow.

"So… is Alice here?"

She laughed nervously. "She's out on a date. With Jasper. Your roommate?" she reminded him.

"Oh, right."

An awkward silence filled the space between them for a few heartbeats. Bella fidgeted while Edward appeared to be debating with himself. She bit her lip while glancing at him, and that seemed to make up his mind for him, because he determinedly strode over to Bella, cupping her face in his hands, and pressed his lips to hers in an urgent kiss. He had absolutely no idea what he was doing; he was going on instinct.

Little did he know, it was her first kiss as well.

Bella gasped in surprise at Edward's sudden move and froze. Edward took her parted lips as invitation to lightly run his tongue along them, but pulled back when he realized Bella wasn't kissing him back.

"Crap! I'm sorry, B, so, so sorry. It's just, I've been wanting to do this for so long…"

His rambling was cut short by Bella tangling her fingers in the hair at the back of his head, pulling him down and kissing him. His hands slid down her sides, coming to rest at her hips, and they stood like that for several minutes until Edward finally broke their kiss, looking at her with a most vulnerable hope in his eyes.

"Really?" he whispered.

"Yeah," Bella said, pushing his jacket off his shoulders. "You have no idea how long I've waited for this."

As she spoke, she pulled him further into the room by his belt loops, bypassing the couch and navigating toward her bed instead.

He chuckled against her lips, "I've been in love with you since you tried to take my crayons, B."

Bella wisely decided to ignore the first part of his statement for the time being.

"I only wanted to borrow them."

"Well, they were mine," he shrugged.

"Possessive much?" she grinned, reveling in their banter, as of yet unaffected by the change in their dynamic.

"Hey, I've grown!" he argued. "I'm only possessive over things that matter these days."

Feeling the backs of her legs hit the bed, Bella dropped down onto it, taking Edward with her. In his attempt to not crush her with his weight, he nearly fell off the small twin bed, which made them both erupt in giggles, diffusing any tension caused by the fact that they were making out on her bed. Once they settled down somewhat, Edward cupped Bella's cheek, gazing down at her as she looked up at him with sparkling eyes.

Countless emotions passed between them, until he leaned down for another kiss. The hand at her cheek slowly moved down to the hem of her sweater. Her muscles flexed when she felt his fingers caress the skin on her stomach where the garment had ridden up a bit, but she quickly relaxed into it. Until that moment, she had only dreamed about Edward touching her like this.

Reality was even better.

She started to unbutton his plaid shirt and pushed her hands under the t-shirt he wore underneath, feeling him shiver in pleasure at her touch. He hovered over her, leaning on one arm, while his other hand moved to the small of her back, pulling her closer into his body. When her hands started to work on the buttons of his jeans, he stilled and pulled back.

"Bella, we don't…" he gulped. "Kissing you is more than I could've hoped for tonight. Maybe… we should wait…"

"For what? To get to know each other?" she huffed. "We practically grew up together, Edward. There's nothing that'll scare me away from you now."

Relief flashed in his eyes, and before he could make a conscious decision to, he blurted out, "Damn, I love you, B!"

His eyes widened comically, and Bella could see his panic rising in them. Yet, she couldn't help but giggle at his outburst. Before he could take offense to her reaction or backtrack on his declaration, though, she cupped his face in her hands and looked deeply into his bright green eyes. "I love you too, Edward," she declared.

Overcome by passion and the reassurance that his feelings weren't in vain, he lost himself in kissing her once more. He was so distracted by the feel of her lips, their tongues dancing, and her soft body molded against his that he didn't realize she continued undressing him until he felt her fingers wrap around his hard length. Reflexively, his hips bucked into her hand, his body seeking release, and she gently squeezed in response.

"Are you sure?" he asked, afraid to rise above a whisper.

She nodded, kissing along his jaw, loving the feel of his stubble against her swollen lips. "I want all of you."

That was all the confirmation he needed, and he helped her in shedding his clothes before removing hers. Once he had her naked in his arms, he was captivated by the sight. She was all softness, with curves in just the right places, porcelain skin with a few scattered freckles, and pert breasts with rosy nipples, begging for attention.

"You're so beautiful," he professed reverently, and proceeded to show her exactly how much he loved and wanted her.

It didn't take long for Bella to become a panting mess. She had longed for Edward's attention for so long; to finally have it heightened her senses. When she couldn't take his sweet torture any longer, she pulled his face back to hers and looked at him pleadingly.

"Edward, please… stop teasing."

He didn't want to see her so frustrated, so he settled between her legs, his erection resting heavily on her thigh. Moments away from the point of no return, Bella's nerves finally got to her.

"Have you done this before?" she enquired softly.

"No," came his immediate reply. "You?"

"No."

They grinned goofily at each other, happy to know they would be each other's first.

Only one, hopefully, Edward couldn't help but think.

Then, he realized with horror that he was wholly unprepared for this step in their relationship. Not emotionally, granted, but practically. He stilled his movements against Bella, burying his face in the crook of her neck and groaning.

"I don't have a condom."

Bella was quiet for a moment, thinking of the implications of this statement.

Resolved, she stroked his hair and whispered in his ear, "It's okay. We're both clean, and I'm on the pill. Cramps," she clarified at his surprised expression. "I trust you, Edward, and I want you. Now."

They fumbled for a bit, trying to get comfortable in the new situation. Bella hands rested on his hips, as Edward leaned on his arm while positioning himself with his free hand. When he was sufficiently lined up, he slowly pushed forward. With the tip in, he trusted himself not to slip, and locked eyes with Bella. The first intrusion was a strange sensation, but not uncomfortable. When he was all the way in, they exhaled, both having held their breaths.

"Are you okay?" he whispered.

Taking her nod and smile as encouragement, he started to move. Unfortunately, he only lasted a few thrusts before the feeling of finally making love to the girl of his dreams became too much for him, and he shuddered in her arms. Embarrassed, he hid his face in her hair and tried to roll away. Bella wouldn't let him, instead cupping his face in her hands, forcing him to look at her.

"Don't worry about it, baby. It can happen."

"Doesn't make it right," he groaned. "That was humiliating! I lasted, like, what? A minute?"

"Look at it this way: it'll only get better."

"It'd better," he grumbled. "Or I'll be sorely disappointed in myself."

Bella giggled at his pouting face, knowing full well their first time wouldn't be earth-shattering and finding Edward's grousing adorable. He groaned, feeling her muscles flex when she laughed, causing him to harden inside of her once more.

Suffice it to say, he more than made up for their first time in round two.

A few hours, another round, and lots of kisses and tenderly whispered words later, they begrudgingly got dressed again, as Edward had to return to his own dorm room for the night. They shared another passionate kiss at the door, trying to postpone their separation by a few minutes.

"I still can't believe you're mine," Edward confessed.

"Well, I am," Bella assured him. "I think I always have been."

She had never cared to date before and had only gone to prom with Eric Yorkie, as friends, because Edward had taken Alice. In the same sense, Edward had only been on one date before, in a futile attempt to get Bella out of his head. Needless to say, that hadn't worked out.

"I can't wait to tell the world," he continued, leaning in for another kiss.

Bella hesitated, biting her lip while contemplating how best to respond to this.

"What?" he questioned.

"I just… Can we keep this to ourselves a little longer?"

"Uhm… why?"

"I don't want to have to share you straight away. I mean, can't we just be us for a while, without others interfering?"

"By others, you mean my sister?"

"Yeah. I just got you, like this. I want to savor it, before anyone, especially Alice, will put in their two cents."

"Just for a while? Promise?"

"Promise."

"I can live with that. As long as I can still call you mine."

o.O.o

"They were lucky I was so consumed by classes and Jasper," Alice picks up. "Otherwise I would've found out much sooner. As it was, I did know something was up with both of them. It just didn't occur to me what it was exactly, or that they could be sharing the same secret. A few months later, though, just before summer break, their bubble burst."

Jasper looks at her in alarm as Edward hisses her name in warning, while Bella hides her blush in her husband-to-be's shoulder. They worry she will go into too much detail to be appropriate for the occasion. Luckily, Alice wrote this speech several times, tweaking it until she deemed it perfect, and found the perfect balance of anecdotal humor and PG-rated detail.

"I'm not going to embarrass anyone by giving a play-by-play, though I imagine some of you will be able to connect the dots, or have heard of this particular episode before," she assures them with a smile, squeezing her fiancé's hand. "You see, I had been suspicious of Bella's behavior for a while, suspecting a guy to be involved. She wouldn't give in, though, always changing the subject. So I decided to ambush them. I told her I was going on an overnight date with Jasper, knowing she would take the opportunity to see her mystery man. She didn't disappoint, and when Jasper dropped me off at our dorm, I could hear soft music playing through the door. Imagine my surprise when I found my brother in my best friend's bed!"

Both bride and groom groan quietly, tinged red in embarrassment, as the room laughs once more at Alice's comical expression. Renee and Esme, the couple's mothers, giggle, while Carlisle shifts uncomfortably. Bella's father Charlie tries to hide a scowl, not wanting to hear about his little girl's sexcapades.

"I won't go into any detail, but let me assure you: it wasn't pretty. Edward isn't the only one in our family with a possessive streak. I didn't want to share Bella with anyone. Sure, I would have tolerated a boyfriend eventually, but to have that boyfriend be my own brother, who would never share his toys with me… that stung. I threw a fit worthy of an Oscar for Best Drama, and kicked them both out."

She hangs her head in shame, allowing her audience to take in the seriousness of what she's regaling to them. It was not one of her finer moments.

o.O.o

After Alice kicked them out, they drove to Edward's dorm in silence. Bella was shocked and on the verge of tears, while Edward was warring between anger and guilt. He helped her out of the car and up the stairs to the room he shared with Jasper. While Bella was in the bathroom to splash some water on her face, Edward received a text message.

I'm staying with Alice tonight, will come over in the morning. Take care of your girl. We've got some talking to do. – Jazz

When Bella returned, still teary-eyed, he was already in bed, holding out the covers for her. She slid in beside him, and he gathered her in his arms. Finding herself in his strong embrace, she finally broke down, clinging to him desperately, and cried herself to sleep.

The following morning, Jasper crept into the room, not wanting to disturb his roommate and his friend, should they still be asleep. Edward was already awake, though, gently stroking Bella's hair and back. It had broken his heart to watch her so upset, and he hadn't known how to fix it. At that moment, however, all she had needed was to feel safe and loved, and to have a good cry.

"How is she?" Jasper whispered.

"She finally fell asleep a few hours ago. She cried for a long time. I think she was beating herself up over not coming out sooner. We actually fought over that a couple of weeks ago, but she was scared of Alice's reaction."

"With reason, apparently."

"Yeah, well, I didn't really fight her too much over it. I just wanted to keep her all to myself."

Jasper didn't know how to respond, so he held up the brown paper bag and the cup carrier he had brought with him.

"I figured you guys wouldn't be up to going to the cafeteria for breakfast, so I drove by Starbucks."

The smell of coffee and freshly baked bread woke Bella from her slumber, and she snuggled a little closer to Edward.

"Good morning, love," he said, kissing her forehead. "Jazz brought breakfast."

She looked over his shoulder to where Jasper was sitting on the couch, smiling at her. Like the girls, the guys had opted to get a couch and coffee table instead of two desks, adding a more communal feel to the room.

They untangled themselves from each other and the sheets, and joined their friend.

Once the sandwiches were gone and the coffee had sufficiently woken them all up, Jasper leaned back into the couch cushions and looked at the pair expectantly.

"Okay, guys, spill. How long has this been going on?"

Bella and Edward exchanged glances, Edward grasping Bella's hand and squeezing it reassuringly. Jasper immediately picked up on her rising panic, and hurried to elaborate.

"Look, I don't really care that you kept quiet. I knew something was up, but I figured you'd tell me when you were ready. But I have a very pissed off Alice to deal with, so I'd like to know what's happening here."

At the mention of her best friend, Bella cringed.

"How mad is she?"

Jasper chuckled humorlessly, "She ranted for a while after you guys left last night, but now she's mostly being stubborn. You know how she can get."

They all nodded.

"That, and she feels betrayed. By both of you."

"Betrayed?" Bella questioned. "I don't get it."

"She feels that you didn't trust her to come clean. That hurt her. She told me she doesn't want to talk to you."

"Well, if she's going to act childish about it, she can stew in it all by herself," Bella fumed decidedly before turning to Edward. "Can I stay here until the start of summer break? It's only a few weeks away, anyway."

He wrapped his arm around her and pressed his lips to her temple before answering softly that she was more than welcome to stay. Jasper nodded his ascent; if necessary, he would spend the night with Alice. They quickly decided to pack up some of her belongings that morning, when Alice would be in class. Then, the second part of his previous statement registered.

"What do you mean: both of us? I get how she's mad at me for not telling her, but how does she think Edward betrayed her?"

At that, Edward froze beside her, causing an ominous feeling to settle in her stomach.

"She uhm… may have known how I feel about you. Before," he confessed hesitantly.

Bella turned to face him, breathing in deeply to steady herself for what she knew could not be good.

"Explain."

"When I realized that my feelings for you were more than a little crush, I confided in her. She got angry with me, accusing me of trying to steal you from her. She forbade me to make a move and threatened to tell everyone I used to write my name on my penis with a Sharpie when we were five if I wouldn't stay away from you."

Bella was stunned silent for a few minutes, digesting this new revelation. So many thoughts and emotions fought for dominance in her mindI that it was hard to focus on one at a time. Eventually, she settled on anger toward Edward for keeping her in the dark.

"And you let that stop you?" she asked, incredulous.

"Bella, we were fifteen! I had no idea how you felt about me. I was terrified you'd laugh in my face and I'd make a fool out of myself. And she had pictures to back up her threat!"

"Do you have any idea what I had to go through in high school? I had to watch girl after girl throw herself at you…"

"But I didn't do anything with any of them," he interjected. "I didn't want any of them."

"But I didn't know that, now did I?" she countered, her voice rising both in volume and pitch. "And even if I had known that you didn't want those girls, I was still suffering alone. I couldn't confide in anyone for fear of losing even the tiniest bit I had of you!"

She was full on sobbing by now. Jasper didn't know whether to excuse himself, or to make himself scarce without a word, but before he could make up his mind, Bella did it for him. When Edward reached for her in a desperate attempt to console her, she flinched and backed away.

"Don't! Edward, I love you, but I'm really mad at you right now!" She then turned to Jasper, "Can you take me to my room to collect my things?"

The hour it took Bella to pack some clothes, toiletries, and study materials was enough to calm her down sufficiently and realize the person she should really be angry with was Alice. Jasper had let her fume in silence, carrying some of her belongings to his car, letting her make up her own mind. When he dropped her off at his room before meeting Alice for lunch, he hugged her and assured her it would all work out and to just give Alice some time to come to terms with this new development.

Dropping her bags inside the door, she found Edward on the couch, mindlessly flipping through channels on the TV. He hadn't known what to do or how to apologize to the girl he loved about a stupid teenage mistake. He was prepared to grovel and plead for her forgiveness, but his pride prevented him from doing so the moment she walked in.

Without hesitation, Bella straddled his lap and took his face in her hands. Locking eyes with him, she brought her lips inches from his and whispered, "I'm sorry," before kissing him.

o.O.o

"Not to be a downer on this happy event," Alice says solemnly. "But I feel that I must be truthful about this, as most of it was my fault, and it also shows how perfect my brother and my best friend are for each other." After another smile at the couple, she continues, "The last few weeks of that semester were very difficult for me. I had alienated my lifelong friend, and spent the majority of my time sulking. Jasper unfortunately took the brunt of my frustration, and I have never been more thankful that he loves me enough to put up with my antics."

In response, her fiancé takes her hand and quickly kisses the ring on her finger.

"Meanwhile, they didn't wait any longer to go public, and conference-called our parents the day Bella packed her bags. I would be lying if I said that must have been easy. Imagine telling your parents you are madly in love, and, for the foreseeable future, will be living in sin."

She pauses for dramatic effect, and several chuckles can be heard throughout the room. One is coming from Edward himself, remembering Charlie's initial reaction to the news.

"Having faced, and survived, that, they were seen around campus, being nauseatingly adorable with Edward walking Bella to class and all over just being the cutest couple since, well, since me and Jasper."

Even during such a troublesome passage, she manages to implement a bit of humor to lighten the mood.

"To make a long story less long: I spent the remainder of the semester being a stubborn brat before going to Texas with Jasper to visit his family, while Bella and Edward returned home to Forks for the summer."

o.O.o

"Baby, are you sure you don't want to go see your parents first?" Bella questioned.

They we sitting in Edward's car in her father's driveway, mentally preparing to face the first set of parents after their phone call a few weeks earlier.

"I'm positive," Edward assured her, rubbing soothing circles on the back of her hand. "Scary dad first, my mom's hugs later."

With a confident grin, he got out and walked around to open Bella's door for her, taking her hand and helping her from the car. He didn't let go of her hand as they walked over to the house, and Bella took comfort in his warm touch. Before they reached the porch, the front door swung open and a very excited Renee emerged. She rushed down the steps, engulfing Bella in a tight embrace, before doing the same with Edward.

"I'm so glad you guys are home! Did you have a safe drive? My, Edward, look at you, all grown up now. I can't believe you're the same boy who left for college with the girls last summer. You're so dashing. Bella, isn't he dashing? I can see how you fell for him. Oh, sweetie, I'm so happy! Don't you worry about your father; he's only trying to scare him a bit. You know you're still his little girl to him. Now, I know Esme has some fancy dinner planned for you guys tonight, but I was thinking of a nice brunch tomorrow, just the three of us? It's been so long; we really need to catch up. And maybe we could get together with both families soon…"

She rattled on, not giving either of them the chance to get a word in. At the mention of the Chief, however, Edward blanched. Renee remained oblivious to his distress and continued to usher them in the house, but Bella noticed and squeezed his hand, offering an encouraging smile.

Renee was right, though: Charlie only wanted to intimidate Edward some, to make sure he would treat his daughter with the respect she deserved. Edward didn't waste any time agreeing with him, stating he only wanted what was best for Bella. Charlie mumbled his approval while Renee practically swooned at the adoring smile Edward flashed at the girl by his side.

After retrieving her suitcase and duffel bag from the trunk of Edward's car, Bella quickly deposited them in her room before saying goodbye to her parents for the evening.

"That went… remarkably well," she commented once they turned the corner.

"It's a good thing your dad has known me all my life and knows my record is squeaky clean."

"Oh yeah, you're a regular goody-goody," she teased. "You're lucky he doesn't know you're sleeping with me."

At that, he chuckled, "Trust me, he knows. He just doesn't want to acknowledge it."

Catching up with the Cullens was much less stressful for both of them. The only obstacle there had been the fall-out with Alice, and they all knew that each of them had had a part in that. Esme loved Bella as a daughter and had known about her son's feelings for her for quite some time, so she couldn't be happier to see them together. Carlisle cautioned them to be careful, but was also realistic and made sure Bella knew she was always welcome in their home.

Esme had prepared a lovely dinner of chicken parmigiano, potatoes with Italian herbs, and several vegetables, concluded with apricot crumble for dessert. Although both of them were fairly decent cooks themselves, college life didn't offer them much opportunity to prepare a healthy, home-cooked meal, so they had dug in with vigor, humming their praise and appreciation.

Wanting to stay in Charlie's good graces, Edward dropped Bella off at home around ten. They lingered on the porch for a while, not wanting to say goodnight and be separated for the first night in weeks. It wasn't until the living room light was turned off and her parents made a show of retiring that Bella reluctantly extricated herself from Edward's embrace, giving him a final kiss goodnight before going up to her room.

Two hours later, she found herself staring up at her ceiling, sleep eluding her. Down the hall she could hear her father snoring, and once again she wondered how her mother could sleep through that. She was glad neither Edward nor Jasper snored.

She tossed and turned in a desperate attempt to get comfortable. She even tried an exercise Alice had taught her to relax both body and mind, imagining a warm light slowly moving through her body. It was all to no avail. Frustrated, she picked up her phone from her nightstand, opting to text rather than make a call this late at night.

I miss you. – B

She had barely set it back down when it vibrated with an incoming message.

My bed is too big without you in it. – E

She smiled, loving how he almost read her mind, and knowing he couldn't sleep either.

My bed is big, period, after so long in those tiny dorm beds. – B

Can't sleep either? – E

Nope. I miss you holding me... – B

I miss holding you. – E

Can't you come over? – B

It was quiet for several minutes, and Bella started to wonder if maybe he actually fell asleep after all. Just when she was about to call him to check, and hear his voice, the screen of her phone lit up with another message.

Look out your window. - E

Carefully slipping out of bed, Bella tiptoed over to her window and pulled aside the curtain. She was startled to find Edward on the other side, balancing on a branch of the tree outside the window. She hurried to open it and usher him inside.

"Are you crazy?" she whisper-yelled. "You could've fallen! Or what if my dad saw you?"

"B, I could here him snoring from the driveway," he chuckled.

As if to corroborate his statement, Charlie gurgled particularly loudly. Bella grinned sheepishly and closed the window while Edward hung his jacket on the desk chair and toed off his shoes.

"Besides," he continued, wrapping his arms around her waist. "I realized I can't sleep without you in my arms."

o.O.o

"Imagine the surprise Renee got the next morning when she went to wake up Bella for brunch," Alice winks. "She took it in stride, telling them to come downstairs and tell Charlie themselves. Edward insisted they hadn't done anything Charlie wouldn't approve of, but in the end, it was decided they would go to our parents' house if they wanted to spend the night together. Which worked out just fine, seeing as Edward and I shared the top floor of the house and we all had a private bathroom. Seeing as they were moving in together after the summer, anyway, it made sense."

She sighs heavily, knowing what she's about to share is probably the most difficult part of her story, but also a vital part.

"After having spent a few weeks with Jasper's family at their ranch, and one encounter with a bull I will never forget…"

On cue, the guests laugh, their imagination filling in the blanks.

"Jasper and I flew back to Washington in time for mine and Edward's birthday. By then, I was prepared to grovel and beg for their forgiveness. I missed my best friend," she says, casting a tearful smile at Bella. "And in the end all I wanted, all I still want, is for her to be happy."

Both women discreetly dab their eyes with a tissue. Although it was their only fight in their lifelong friendship, the memory still stings. After exchanging watery smiles, Alice continues.

"Bella didn't make it easy on me, though. She and Edward kept us waiting after arriving at my parents', and their disheveled appearance explained why. She laid into me, telling me I had no right to dictate her life. And she was right, of course. Fortunately for all of us, her outburst was mainly to get it out of her system, and before long we were a crying mess, apologizing to each other. You know, typical girls," she laughs.

"The rest, as they say, is history. We spent the summer hanging out, and, although I didn't like to admit it at the time, I could tell they were happy together. Apparently, Edward wrote a song for Bella that summer, which he recorded for her birthday. We'll be hearing it tomorrow, as it's the song to their opening dance. She surprised him by getting a tattoo of the opening bars of the song, leaving his permanent mark on her. He reciprocated with a tribal swan tattoo. And of course, a few months ago, he gave her grandma's ring. So," Alice concludes. "I guess Edward won this claim in our possessiveness. But, brother of mine, remember this: she may be your wife soon, but she was my best friend long before that."

She raises her glass and looks at the couple fondly as the rest of the room follows suit.

"Congratulations, guys. I love you both."