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i'm chasing fire (when I'm running after you)

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“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Jacob's voice is amused, and Bella jerks up to glare at him in surprised outrage.

 

“Jacob, It’s six in the morning. I’m tired and cold and if what you’re doing right now it’s insulting Carol's ability to get us to school; you’re going to regret it.” She says, crinkling her eyes, threatening him to say something else about her truck.

 

Jacob snorts. “How can people still think you’re straight after taking one good look at you I won’t ever understand.”

 

He’s not necessarily wrong. It’s a mystery that still amazes her to this day, but alas, it continues. Straight people have an annoying habit of thinking everyone is the same as them unless they tell them so.

 

With words.

 

Her array of flannel shirts doesn’t seem to do the trick, somehow.

 

“This would mean a lot more if I hadn’t been forced to listen to Lady Gaga's new album on repeat these last few days.” She says, adjusting her black sunglasses and turning the engine of her truck on. “If you’re trying to imply that I’m a bigger stereotype than you – I’m afraid you’re going to lose that battle buddy.”

 

“I was trying to pass on valuable life-changing music knowledge to you and Charlie, you know.” Jacob points out. “If both of you can’t appreciate it then it’s not my fault. At least the universe knows that I’ve tried.”

 

Bella rolls her eyes at him.

 

Drama queen.

 

“Do you think It will be much different?” Jacob asks and Bella sees from the corner of her eyes how he’s fidgeting with the zipper of his black hoodie. “You know, from what I was used to?”

 

“I think all schools are pretty much the same Jake,“ she says, shrugging. “You’ll settle in no time. We both will.” She squeezes his hand with her free one, trying to offer him some comfort.

 

He smiles warmly at her and she tries not to let her worry for him show.

 

It’s not a surprise he’s nervous – or unsure of himself in a way Bella had never seen before when they were younger. Not after everything. Not after what Billy had done to him.

 

It’s a good thing she hasn’t had the pleasure to see him around town ever since she came back.

 

She’s not sure what she would have done if she had.

 

“I don’t want you to think that this right here will be something we’ll do every day from now on.” She says, voice serious. “But today, because I’m feeling generous, I’ll let you choose the music, okay?”

 

“What?”

 

“Don’t make me regret it, Jacob,” Bella says, focusing on the cloudy road in front of her. “No Gaga.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

It’s not like Bella didn’t know that this could happen.

 

Still, a part of her had been naïve to hope that three weeks would’ve been enough for her to be old news in Forks.

 

Spoiler alert? It hadn’t.

 

So when she and Jacob are ambushed by an eager student with a camera on his neck she’s a little surprised, to say the least.

 

“Hey!” He says too cheerfully for someone awake at 7 am on a monday. “I’m Eric Yorkie, you’re Isabella Swan and you’re Jacob Black, right?”

 

“Just Bella is fine,” she says while Jacob keeps looking at Eric like he’s going to punch him any minute now.

 

“Do you guys need some help getting to your first class?”

 

It’s not like she wants his help, but it’s becoming painfully clear that Bella has no idea whatsoever how to navigate this new place and Jacob doesn’t seem like he’s fairing any better if the look of concentration on his face is any sort of indication.

 

“Hmm – sure Eric, lead the way.”

 

She snatches Jacob's schedule from his hand with more effort than she would like (he more than anyone doesn’t look pleased with this turn of events), giving it to Eric with her own on top of it.

 

“Okay. The first stop is English for you Jacob, then it's History for me and Bella.” Eric says after glancing at both timetables.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Okay, so let me get this right. They don’t serve coffee here because it’s bad for our health, but pizza is fine?” Bella says, suddenly outraged.

 

“Are we supposed to answer that?” Angela, a nice girl Eric had introduced her to in their history class, asks Jacob.

 

“Not if you want to live, you don’t.” He says, chewing on his apple.

 

“I kept my cool waking up on an ungodly hour this morning, yes I did. I gave Ms. Vinet the benefit of the doubt when she made me introduce myself in history like I was a five-year-old. Didn’t even complain about it after. All because I kept dreaming about this moment here.” Bella says, wistfully. “The moment where life would reward me with a nice cup of coffee for my efforts. And now I learn that this pleasure will be taken for me forever?”

 

“You do know you can have one before we leave home every day, right?”

 

“This is not the point Jacob,” she says, without really knowing what her point is.

 

“The point is that…” she trails off, trying to think about something.

 

“First day’s sucks?” A girl who has just joined the table says to her.

 

“Exactly!” Bella points her way. “That’s exactly my point…”

 

“Jessica,” The girl – Jessica says.

 

“That's exactly my point, Jessica. The universe is here trying to tell me something, and I’m not liking it.” Bella says, matter-of-factly.

 

Eric looks at her, interested. “What is the universe trying to tell you, Bella?”

 

Jacob just rolls his eyes at her antics. After living together with her for the past few weeks he seems more than used to it by now.

 

“I don’t know yet – but if it's starting by denying me coffee I’m sure it's nothing good.”

 

“Hey, I’m not trying to interrupt or anything, but I think the Cullens might be staring at us guys.” A blonde guy that looks exactly like a labradoodle says, ironically interrupting what he said he didn’t want to.

 

“What?” Jessica exclaims, her eyes almost popping out of her head.

 

Bella, who’s not understanding anything that's happening right now simply follows the direction everyone is looking.

 

Whatever she expected to be staring back at her is nothing close to what is.

 

A group of five people – who seem more fitting to be the leading cast of any CW show about high school than actually be in one – are staring back at her.

 

Bella won’t deny she’s impressed by all of them – or that her heart hadn’t started beating faster when she’d locked eyes with the tall gorgeous blonde who for all intents and purpose shouldn’t be walking among humans.

 

But even if her mother hadn’t been all that interested in teaching young Bella any type of manners, her grandmother Marie had. So she looks away, eyes back on the group in front of her.

 

“And?” She asks, trying to extend the courtesy that everyone here today hadn't given her.

 

She won't stare at people she doesn't know. No matter how much an invisible force (she suspects it’s called being a raging lesbian) it’s telling her to take another glance at those beautiful golden eyes.

 

“They’re the Cullen’s,” Eric says like that answers everything. “They don’t interact with anyone here like ever. Not if they can’t help it.”

 

“That’s because they don’t think none of us are good enough.” Another girl that Bella can’t be bothered to learn the name says, tone bitter.

 

“Geez, I wonder why.” She whispers, low enough that they don’t hear it, but Jacob who’s right beside her gives her a small chuckle.

 

And Bella’s a little impressed that he has somehow managed to pick his jaw out of the floor and stop staring at the bronze haired boy for long enough to acknowledge her existence.

 

“They’re the children of Dr. Cullen, Bella. Charlie mentioned him yesterday, remember?” Jacob says.

 

Bella hums. “Oh, the nice doctor? The one dad’s glad he’s working here in Forks and not in some hotshot hospital somewhere else?”

 

Jacob just nods.

 

“It’s weird. That’s what it is.” The same annoying girl from before says.

 

“Lauren…” Jessica says warningly.

 

“What? We all know I’m not the only one who thinks it’s weird that Jasper and Alice are a couple. They live together. They’re brother and sister.” Lauren states.

 

“You know that the only ones who are related are Rosalie and Jasper, Lauren,” Angela says, voice timid but sure. ”I think it’s nice that Dr. Cullen and his wife take care of all of them.”

 

Jessica nods, agreeing. “Angela’s right. Also, there’s nothing wrong with Jasper and Alice’s relationship. It might be a little unusual? Sure. But you can’t choose when love’s going to happen.”

 

“Nice said girls,” Jacob says, impressed. And he’s not wrong. But Bella has no intention of continuing this conversation, so she changes the subject.

 

“Okay, whatever. Love is awesome, we can all agree on that,” she starts, hoping is enough to let it rest. “Now can someone please tell me why there's a hole on the right side of the wall on Ms. Vinet's class? The one next to the bulletin board?” She asks.

 

Labradoodle (who later in the day she’ll learn is named Mike) just starts laughing like a crazy person before launching into a crazy story involving the football team, a baseball bat, and two people who were into each other.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Bella, are you listening to me?”

 

She sighs, for the tenth time in the last twenty minutes. “Jacob, for the last time. I’m not going with you to the house of somebody I don't know just because you have a biology project with them.”

 

“Please Bella, there's something with this Edward guy. He just ignored me for weeks, and then he's super nice all of the sudden.”

 

She fights the urge to tell Jacob that she knows – that he hasn’t stopped talking about anything other than Edward ever since that first day of school.

 

Instead, she gives up on trying to do any homework when it’s clear he’s going to go on another rant about the guy. “Jacob, what am I supposed to do while you two work on your project? Don't you think it will be weird?”

 

“What if he and his family kill me and bury my body in the woods?”

 

“Explain to me how me going and having my body buried too will make things better for you, please?”

 

“C’mon Bella. I’ll owe you one.” Jacob says. “It's just – my father doesn't like the Cullens. Much of the old council down at the Rez doesn't either. And you know how I get anxious around people that I don’t know if I’m alone. His whole family will be there. Without you, I’m sure I’ll make a fool out of myself.”

 

“You’re giving me too much credit here Jake,” Bella says, smirk in place. ”I’m sure you’ll be able to do that just as well with me there.” She states.

 

He just looks at her with his best puppy dog face. “Please, Bella.”

 

Fine,” Bella says, already regretting everything. “But you’ll owe me big.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

It's a longer drive than Bella was expecting.

 

There's green all around and suddenly she's convinced Jacob had the right idea bringing her along. This is starting to look too much like a horror movie already, and that’s not good because she hates them with a passion.

 

“Are you sure this is the right path?” Bella asks, looking worriedly at the road in front of her.

 

This would be the perfect time for a masked killer with a chainsaw to pop out of the trees and start hunting them down.

 

She can picture it all so clear in her head.

 

She and Jacob finding out that there’s a creepy basement in the Cullen house when they finally get there after escaping said killer. The surprise in Jacob’s face when they realize that the masked killer is none other than Edward Cullen himself – the object of his crush.

 

That he and his wonderful family are actually devil worship cannibals who are going to kill them and eat their flesh to make them look even more beautiful than they already are.

 

She would be the first do die, surely.

 

The lesbian. They never last.

 

Jacob, who's too busy with his phone to realize she has stopped for a longer amount of time than necessary, suddenly looks up at where Bella’s suspicious eyes are staring. “Yes. Edward just said we have to follow it, then at the end of it we turn left and we'll be there.”

 

And we’re trusting this guy why exactly?” She asks, suddenly unsure of this course of action.

 

Jacob just looks at her like she’s grown a second head. “Hm, because it’s his house?”

 

“If I die because you have a crush on a guy, I swear I’ll haunt you forever Jacob,” Bella says, pressing the gas pedal on her baby and finally moving her truck along the road.

 

“What?” Jacob’s scoff of indignation is already enough evidence that she has hit a nerve.

 

“I don't have a crush on him. I don't even… like… like him Bella, that's crazy.” He says, protesting too much to make it believable.

 

“Jacob, the first time you saw him I almost had to pick your jaw out of the floor buddy. You didn't even pay attention to Mike's hilarious story.”

 

He huffs. “You're saying that like I was the only one who was impressed by them. I saw you; you’re forgetting that.”

 

“I didn't stare,” she says. Because she didn't – she made sure of that. She’d even gone out of her way to not show any type of interest in any of them at all.

 

“That's exactly my point. You went out of your way to not stare at any of them – you still do that by the way. That's not normal.”

 

So what if she hadn’t enjoyed how her treacherous mind seemed to be replaying over and over again the first time she had seen her. So what if she was a bit mad at the girl for that exact same reason. So what if she couldn’t survive another second of Jacob complaining about how Edward Cullen was avoiding him or something.

 

In her book, she had a lot of valid reasons for not liking the Cullen’s right now. Especially if they were indeed devil worship cannibals.

 

“It's called human decency Jacob. It's not my fault most people at school seem to be missing this valuable trait.” She says instead because she’s sure as hell isn’t telling Jacob anything that is going through her mind right now.

 

If she did she would never hear the end of it.

 

“Ok. So we're supposed to pretend you don't think Edward’s sister, Rosalie Hale, is smoking hot?”

 

Rosalie Hale.

 

She fights hard to not let him see just how much hearing her name can affect her even the slightest bit.

 

Now it's her time to scoff. ”I’ve seen Cate Blanchett up-close one-time Jake. Up close.” Her eyes shimmer with the recollection of it. “Now that's an angel. My future wife. The one who I chose to name my truck after. There’s no place in my heart for anyone else Jacob. I thought you already knew and respected that.”

 

“You're too good at lying to yourself, you know that right?” He says, shaking his head. ”You should get that checked out.”

 

Bella just ignores him.

 

 

xXx

 

 

 

“Wow,” Jacob says beside her when they see the Cullen house for the first time. “That’s an awesome house.”

 

She can’t help but agree with the statement.

 

Wow indeed.

 

“Hmm – maybe I’m having second thoughts about this. Can’t we say Charlie needs us home for something?” Jacob mumbles, suddenly nervous.

 

Bella just rolls her eyes at him. “Jacob let’s go. If we’re going to get murdered I would like it for it to happen before this day it’s over. The sooner the better.”

 

“I’m not sure that’s the spirit.” He says.

 

“Why prolong the inevitable?” Bella shrugs.

 

“This seems a little hypocritical coming from the one who spent thirty minutes this morning trying to install the new curtains on your bedroom window with no success before finally admitting defeat and letting me and Charlie help.”

 

“Jacob, let me remind you that insulting me right now it’s not in your best interest. Since I’m doing this here in the name of friendship it would be wise for you to try and maintain the friendship.”

 

“Did you have coffee this morning?”

 

“Yes. I’m not an animal.” Bella grumbles, arms crossed.

 

“Okay. So I’m having some trouble trying to understand why you seem so irritable right now,” Jacob says. “Care to share?”

 

“No.” She says. Because she doesn’t want to share anything.

 

She doesn’t want to be here.

She just wants to watch some stupid movie on TV, curl up with a blanket on the couch and a bag of popcorn on her hand.

 

“Ready?” She asks Jacob, before opening her own door.

 

“Not even a little bit.” He says, grimacing, before opening his own.

 

The walk to the porch is quick, and with every step, Bella feels Jacob shoulders tensing beside her.

 

“You should ring it,” Bella says, nudging him. “The doorbell.” She points out.

 

Jacob passes a hand through his white shirt, trying to unmake the new crinkles that had formed where his seatbelt had been on, to no success.

 

“You look fine,” she says, trying to be supportive. “Chill out buddy.”

 

He takes another deep breath before ringing the doorbell.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

She’s bored.

 

She's also regretting not having brought anything other than her phone to pass the time.

 

That was the third mistake she’d made today already.

 

The first one? Giving in to Jacob’s plea of coming with him.

 

The second one? Ignoring Rosalie Hale besides giving her a small nod when Edward had introduced both Bella and Jacob to the family.

 

Sure, It wasn’t like she’d seen her try and be welcoming to her at all (quite the opposite actually) – but her decision to ignore the girl who was sitting at the other end of the couch had seemed to make Rosalie glare become worse and worse the longer she continued to pretend she didn’t exist.

 

Maybe it had nothing to do with Bella at all.

 

Maybe the book she’d been reading had taken a turn she wasn’t happy about and here was Bella thinking it had something to do with her.

 

How self-centered.

 

Still, it wasn't like she knew what could’ve been happening in Michelle Obama’s memoir to make Rosalie react like that.

 

Did it mention Trump?

 

Because that would've explained everything.

 

Anyway.

 

That had been the second mistake.

 

The third? Being here without anything that could get her out of interacting with people for a long period of time.

 

Edward and Jacob were upstairs, in the library/study room, concentrating on their biology project or flirting – she didn’t know or cared – while Bella was stuck in the living room with Rosalie and Jasper.

 

Carlisle had been paged to the hospital as soon as they arrived and Esme, after giving them a tour of the house, had retreated to the kitchen animatedly saying something about making them some snacks.

 

The other two siblings, Alice and Emmett, hadn’t been present.

 

Edward had said something about Alice needing to buy something at the mall and Emmett going with her for company when Jacob had timidly asked.

 

Bella, on the other hand, had just stayed there silently. Wondering what the hell was she doing here in the first place.

 

So now here she was – studying her options.

 

She could try and ask Rosalie about the book, but that would mean she would have to talk with her in the first place.

 

The thing she’d been avoiding and was hoping to be able to avoid forever.

 

She didn’t need to fuel whatever this was, didn’t need to give her mind more reason to fixate on it.

 

Didn’t need to keep overthinking why was she so affected by every tiny interaction or lack of thereof.

 

So instead of making everything worse, Bella thinks that the more viable option would be to try and join Jasper on his solo game of chess.

 

Before she can rethink her plan or chicken out, she’s already up.

 

The chess table is not too far from where she’s in, just a few small steps, and when she’s close enough that Jasper seems to feel her presence she clears her throat.

 

Two things happen.

 

Rosalie Hale's head turns up from her book and in her direction, surprise echoing in her features, and Jasper looks up from the board with curiosity in his eyes.

 

Like he’s not sure why she would even be talking with him in the first place.

 

And sure – he did have a dangerous air about him. Something that told Bella she would be better off far away.

 

But between him and his sister? She sure as hell would pick him any day of the week.

 

“My grandmother used to say chess is way more interesting when played by two people. Care for some company?” She asks.

 

His warm smile is enough of an answer for her.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Who knew chess could be this vicious?” Bella asks, face worried, when she picks up her fallen bishop out of the board.

 

Jasper plays chess like they’re fighting a war. Not afraid to sacrifice any of his pieces if it means victory, and not stopping to gloat or take a breath every time he gets one of hers out of the board.

 

He plays like he’s always running out of time – calculated and precise.

 

Right now he just laughs. “If you think I’m being vicious you should never play it with Alice then.”

 

“Is she any good at it?”

 

“She makes you feel like you’re playing with someone who already knows exactly what’s going to happen, and before you understand what that is, the game’s already over.” He answers her.

 

Bela hums. “My grandmother used to play like that. She would always say that chess follows the trends of life, and if you learned to predict your opponent's next steps and counter them effectively enough you would never lose any war.”

 

Jasper looks up, interested. “Do you think she was right?”

 

“I always lost, so. She probably had a point.” Bella answers him, shrugging.

 

“And yet you still played? Even though you knew you could never win?” His fingers brush his chin while he’s deep in thought. If it’s in the game or in her answer she doesn’t know.

 

“I loved the game,” she states, giving him a small smile. “Did you know that most people say there’s more wisdom to be gained in loss than in victory?” She moves her pawn forward.

 

“Do you believe in that?”

 

“There’s wisdom everywhere Jasper,” Bella says, truthfully, picking the pawn she’d just moved out of the board again – this time for good. Apparently, she’d miscalculated what Jasper strategy would be and that had cost her another piece. “One only has to know where to look.”

 

“Unfortunately for me, I don’t know where to look for it when it comes to chess - if the game we’re playing right now it’s any indication.” She smirks his way.

 

It isn’t over yet, she knows that. But the tide is Jasper’s favor more and more the longer the game progresses and Bella knows that, without a doubt, he’ll be saying checkmate in three to four turns from now.

 

She might not know how to stop what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t know that it is.

 

Just like her mother's need for constant change – or the illness that had taken her grandmother’s life.

 

“How have you been liking Forks, Bella?” Jasper asks her.

 

“I haven’t been murdered yet – well, at anything other than this game of chess – so alright?” She answers him.

 

He seems intrigued by her answer, but unlike most people she knows he doesn’t press her to continue or to explain, and instead, lets her share only whatever she’s feeling comfortable with.

 

“It wasn’t something I planned, it just kind of came out of the blue?” She tells him. “But I like it. It’s nice having Charlie – hm, my dad – in my life again.”

 

“I’m glad.” He says sincerely.

 

“You guys moved here not so long ago right?”

 

“One year or so.” He answers her.

 

“And do you like it?” She asks and immediately sees the surprise in his face.

 

“I don’t think anyone has asked me that yet if I’m being honest.”

 

“So?” Bella inquires.

 

He smirks. “I haven’t murdered anyone yet – besides you at this game of chess - so alright?”

 

Suddenly there’s a loud noise in the kitchen, and before anyone can ask if everything’s okay, Esme’s already by the door saying a I’m fine.

 

Jasper’s still looking at her with a genuine glint of happiness in his eyes and Bella can’t help but smile his way.

 

“Always a noble goal.” She says before turning back to their game once again.

 

xXx

 

 

Checkmate.”

 

“God, that was painful,” Bella says when she glances at the board in front of them.

 

“You lasted longer than I thought you would.” A melodic voice says next to them and Bella’s a little taken aback by how nice it sounds. Even if said voice is currently throwing a subtle insult at her.

 

“Thanks for the encouragement.” She says, finally addressing the girl and giving her a nod.

 

In that moment Bella has to fight the urge not to stare, or to run or to snap at her.

 

Because Rosalie Hale is suddenly close, talking to her. Walking around in this earth like she owns it – and Bella’s not sure she doesn't.

 

Because even Cate Blanchett couldn't pull off black jeans and a white t-shirt this effortless.

 

“Who said I was trying to encourage you? I was merely stating a fact.” Rosalie says, and Bella knows her words are supposed to sound biting and rude but she finds herself struggling not to laugh.

 

Rosalie doesn’t seem the type of person who’s used to not getting her way. Or someone bitting back instead of cowering in fear.

 

“Okay. I’ll still take it as encouragement though.”

 

“Just because you decided it was doesn’t mean it is.” Rosalie challenges her, eyebrows raised. Bella knows she’s probably trying to be intimidating right now but the only thing in Bella’s mind is that intimidating is a good look on her.

 

“Your intention won’t stop me from taking it the way I want it to, Rosalie.” She smirks. If the girl thinks she’s the type to corner away from this little display she’s about to be surprised.

 

Rosalie scoffs. “Then that just makes you delusional.” She says before walking out.

 

Jasper’s staring at her like she’s the second coming of Jesus.

 

His stunned look slowly being replaced by a smile.

 

Now it just seems like he’s trying to hold in his laughter.

 

“Is your sister always like that?” Bella asks even though she can already imagine what his answer will be.

 

Yes.”

 

“Charming.” She says, not really sure if she means it or not.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Bella?” Her dad calls for her from the door of the kitchen and she has a little heart attack, almost dropping her hot cup of coffee on her jeans.

 

“I thought you would be at the station already?” She asks, taking a deep breath and putting butter on her toast like he hasn’t just shaved away ten years of her life with this little stunt.

 

“Late morning.” He answers sheepishly.

 

Bella looks down at her watch. “Me too.” She grumbles with her mouth full of toast.

 

Without Jacob here to make sure they would get on time Bella had taken her sweet time getting ready and having breakfast. Finally, a morning where the name of Edward Cullen hadn’t been said even once.

 

If she believed in God she would thank him right now.

 

“Where's Jacob?” Charlie says, sitting down on the table.

 

“He went to school with Edward Cullen this morning,” Bella says and sees the confusion in her father’s face. “Don’t ask, I don't know what's happening there either.”

 

He hums thoughtfully. “And you're still here why?”

 

“Is it weird I’m not even the slightest bit excited about going to school today?”

 

“Are you always excited?” He asks, amused, and Bella shakes her head. “Now that would be weird.” He teases.

 

It hasn’t taken her long to feel right at home with him. Charlie’s quiet and funny, and he doesn’t demand or expects – he just lets her be.

 

Sometimes he’s a little awkward around her, like he doesn’t know how to act or how to say the words that are swirling on his mind.

 

Like right now and the way he's fidgeting with his phone - a clear sign that something is bothering him.

 

“Bells – hm? Has Renée called you?” Charlie asks, unsure.

 

“She sent me some pictures last week, said something about Toronto being incredible and all that. Why?”

 

“She hasn’t asked about how you're doing? If you're settling in fine here?”

 

“No.” She answers him, wondering where he’s expecting to go with this. Are they talking about the same woman here? Hasn’t he been married to her?

 

“She hasn't asked me either.”

 

“Were you expecting her too?” Bella asks, and now she's the one who's confused.

 

“Maybe,” Charlie says. “People change.”

 

Bella shrugs. “She didn't.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

It’s not like she cares, because she doesn’t.

 

It’s not even something new.

 

Her mother had always been exactly like this – too focused on the things right in front of her to take notice of anything that wasn’t.

 

Too focused on enjoying life to be able to do mundane things like paying the bills or shopping for groceries.

 

It hadn’t come as a surprise to Bella that her mother hadn’t bothered to ask her if she was settling in alright.

 

Or the fact she hadn’t even had a small interest in checking in with her every once in a while like a normal person.

 

She had expected that – knew that it was coming.

 

So why did Charlie pointing this out to her make her feel like this?

 

A little angry, a little sad and very very tired.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Bella,” Angela whispers. “Don't look now but I think Rosalie is staring at you.”

 

Bella sighs. She’s not in the mood for this today. “Staring or glaring?”

 

“What's the difference?” Mike suddenly joins the conversation.

 

Men.

 

“Does she seems interested in what I'm doing or does she looks like she wants to kill me?”

 

“I think that's just the way she looks at people?” Angela chimes in trying to make Bella feel better.

 

“I don't know, Ang,” Jessica tilts her head, brow furrowed. “I have never seen her glare with this much intensity before.”

 

Intensity? Jessica could have said hate.

It was fine.

 

But her pseudo-friends (they had become closer with the passing of days but not close enough for her to grant them the title) were hell-bent trying to downplay the situation here.

 

“Not even at Robert?” Eric asks and Bella sees his face twist in pain at something she imagines to be the not so subtle kick Angela had given him seconds ago.

 

“I still can't believe he dared to ask her on a date while explicitly looking at her chest.” Jessica states.

 

“To be fair –” Mike starts.

 

Bella narrows her eyes at him. “Don't even finish that buddy.”

 

Angela, sensing the need for a change before Bella’s mood gets any worse, asks. “Do you guys think Jacob will sit with Edward and Alice from now on?”

 

Bella just shrugs, noncommittally.

 

I don't have a crush my ass.

 

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Okay, what did you do?” Jacob asks her out of the blue, making her jump a little.

 

She hasn’t even seen him approach her – she'd been too busy putting her books on her locker to realize she wasn’t the only one in the corridor anymore.

 

“Are you leaving already?” He eyes the backpack on her shoulders and notices the fact she’s not wearing her gym clothes.

 

“Yep. I’m not in the mood to make a fool out of myself at gym today Jake.” 

 

He snorts. “Fair. But just because you’re getting out of gym doesn’t mean you’re getting out of this conversation Bells. Why did Rosalie keep glaring at you throughout the day?”

 

“Why do you assume I’ve done anything?”

 

“Because I live with you.” Jacob states.

 

“Look,” Bella starts, sweeping a hand through her hair. “It's not my fault you left me alone with Edward’s family for two hours yesterday Jacob. Two hours.”

  

He has the decency to at least look embarrassed by it.

 

“At some point, I had to socialize. If anything it’s your fault.” She points an accusing finger his way.

 

“Bella..”

 

“What?” She sighs. “I didn't do anything, Jacob. She was the one who talked with me. I just talked back, and then she left. That was it.”

 

“So why is she behaving like this?”

 

How the fuck am I supposed to know?” Bella answers, her patience reaching zero.

 

She likes Jacob. She does.

It’s just sometimes he acts like the annoying younger brother she didn't expect to have when she'd decided to come back to Forks.

  

“Do you want something Jake?” She says tiredly.

 

He seems unsure and Bella knows he’s wondering if this is the right time for him to ask her for whatever new favor he needs.

 

It’s not.

 

“I could use your help. Me and Edward I mean, with the biology project?” He says and she’s suddenly awfully glad they’re not in the same year and she doesn’t have to do what they’re doing.

 

“There’s something we need to buy – something big. I don’t think it’s going to fit in Edward’s Volvo. I was wondering if we could use your truck?”

 

It’s a testament of how tired she is today that she doesn’t even blink or protest at the thought of someone who isn’t her using Carol.

 

“Do you need my truck or me driving it?”

 

He tilts his head, deep in thought. “Both?”

  

Bella closes her eyes, taking a deep breath. It's not that Edward has given her any outward reason not to like him. It’s just that she doesn't.

 

There’s just something about him that gets in her nerves. She doesn’t know if it’s the fact he keeps looking at her like she’s some sort of puzzle he has to solve or if it’s the way that any time he talks with her at all he’s always asking her questions she has no desire to answer.

 

And she doesn’t, but that somehow seems to make it even worse.

 

Of course Jacob would be crushing on him, of all people. Why couldn’t he have picked another Cullen? Or anyone else that wasn’t a Cullen?

 

“Bella?” He puts his hand softly in her arm. “Don’t worry about Rosalie, okay?” Jacob says, totally misreading the situation. “I'm sure it’s not your fault. Edward told me she could be a little difficult the other day.”

  

“What?”

 

She doesn’t know Rosalie – knows it’s kind of silly for her to take it personally. But she’s tired of hearing men call women difficult just because they seemed to possess a personality.

 

“He didn’t say these exact words. He just called her a –” Jacob seems unsure if he should be repeating whatever he had heard. “A bitch.” He whispers.

 

“What??” Bella says, suddenly outraged and Jacob winces. “ He said – what?

 

And maybe later, when the dust has settled, she will look at this here as something that she could have prevented. Maybe she will look at it and think that feeling this enraged on behalf of someone she’s doing her best to avoid probably means something.

 

But right now she’s only seeing red.

 

“You know what Jacob – you can tell Edward to fuck off. That asshole is not getting anywhere near Carol. I don’t care if both of you have to walk miles carrying whatever the hell you’re supposed to buy. I don’t care if his fucking expensive car can’t handle something big. Fuck him.”

 

She storms out leaving a bewildered Jacob in her wake.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

The walk to her truck takes longer than Bella was expecting.

 

So when she finally reaches Carol and chooses to rest her body on the passenger door instead of hopping inside, nobody can blame her.

 

Well, it's not like there's anyone around to question her behavior anyway.

 

Fuck.

 

She knew she should have just stayed home today.

 

Ever since waking up in the mourning something had been off with her. Now, to make matters worse, Bella could feel a massive headache coming her way.

 

Should she be surprised that everything seemed to be finally catching up to her?

 

Probably not.

 

xXx

 

 

The parking lot is awfully quiet at this time of the day.

 

Her phone, on the other hand, keeps vibrating and making noises that aren't helping her situation here.

 

Her head seems to be getting worse by the minute and what once had been a solid plan of getting in her truck and heading out is now starting to sound too farfetched for the condition she’s in.

 

She doesn't even have the energy to celebrate the fact she’s finally alone.

 

It appears she’d spoken too soon.

 

Because just when Bella thought things were going her way she sees Rosalie Hale walking towards her.

 

How bad would throwing up on the floor be at breaking the ice on a conversation?

 

xXx

 

 

“Are you alright?” Rosalie asks with an unusually soft voice when she finally reaches Bella.

 

And it's not fair that Bella doesn’t have time to be surprised by the question because she’s too busy trying to pretend she's fine.

 

“Give me your keys,” Rosalie says, and although her voice is still soft there's an edge to it now.

 

The kind that tells Bella she's better off agreeing with her, so she hands them away.

 

“Do you think you can get inside?” Rosalie gestures towards the truck. “Or do you need help?”

 

“I can do it.” She says. Bella still has enough self-respect to at least try.

 

“Let’s go. I’ll take you home.” Rosalie tells her and Bella’s too tired and too in pain to argue, so she gives in without protest.

 

 

xXx

 

She doesn’t know for how long they’ve been here.

 

Inside her truck, side by side, with Rosalie patiently waiting for her to feel at least well enough so she can start moving Carol without the threat of Bella throwing up all over her.

 

Which she wouldn't. She’s not that crazy.

 

But Rosalie doesn't seem to know that, judging by the wary looks she keeps sending Bella’s way.

 

“Your truck is a safety hazard,” Rosalie states, voice quiet.

 

Carol is wonderful.” Bella mumbles.

 

“My car is wonderful,” Rosalie starts. “This right here is an accident waiting to happen.”

 

“Your Volvo sucks.” She says with her arms crossed.

 

“That's Edward’s car, not mine.”

 

“Whatever. Your car sucks too.” Bella replies, too caught up on defending Carol’s honor to care about how childish she sounds.

 

Rosalie just chooses to ignore her. “Put these on." She says, handing her a black pair of sunglasses.

 

Rosalie's fingers gently brush her own and Bella tries to tell herself that the butterflies she's feeling in her stomach are the work of something bad she ate in the morning and nothing else.

 

“Your eyes are too sensitive to the light because of your headache. They’ll help.” Rosalie explains when she sees Bella still hasn't put them on yet.

 

“You can turn the heat on if you’re cold,” Bella replies.

 

“What?” Rosalie asks, confused.

 

“Your hands are ice cold. You must be freezing, right? You might as well turn the heat on.”

 

Rosalie shifts in her seat. “I’m not cold.”

 

Bella frowns. “Okay, suit yourself.” If Rosalie wanted to act like she was immune to the cold that was her problem.

 

“Do you think I can drive this thing without you throwing up on me?” Rosalie says condescendingly.

 

“You can try.”

 

xXx

 

 

“I don’t like your brother,” Bella says, out of the blue.

 

It’s just, she feels like she needs to let the universe know her stance on him. Before it tries to shove him into her life more than it already has.

 

“I don’t have a super valid reason,” she starts suddenly realizing this is Rosalie’s brother she’s talking about. “Still, I don’t.”

 

Rosalie smirks, eyes focused on the road in front of them. “I’m sure with time you’ll find some.”

 

Bella knows by Rosalie's tone that there's something there. If Edward had said those things about his sister to Jacob – who he knew for only a month - what hadn't he said to her face?

 

Still, she won't breach the topic with Rosalie right now.

 

They’re not friends.

 

“Not to sound ungrateful or anything but – hm – how are you going home if you don’t have a car?” Bella asks, biting her lip.

 

“Do you mind if I take your truck?” Rosalie asks, uncertain.

 

Bella suspects that driving her home hadn't been on Rosalie's plans when she’d gone searching for Bella in the parking lot. Honestly, she’s not sure what had been Rosalie's plan at all.

 

“Jasper can pick you up tomorrow morning with it and you both can drive to school together,” Rosalie suggests, waiting for Bella to agree with her plan.

 

“Okay.” She says. It's not like she has a better alternative at the moment.

 

“I heard what you said earlier,” Rosalie starts and Bella sees her grip on the steering wheel tighten. “When you were talking with Jacob.”

 

“Hm –” Bella's not sure what she's supposed to say here. “What part?”

 

“Everything.”

 

“Oh,” Bella says, rubbing the back of her neck. “That's – I didn't see you there.”

 

“You were kind of in your own world there.”

 

Bella grimaces. “Yes, that tends to happen sometimes.”

 

“I know it wasn't your intention to inadvertently defend me or anything,” Rosalie says, eyes shining with something Bella can't figure out. “But thank you.”

 

“It was.” Bella states.

 

Rosalie fixes her gaze on Bella when they stop at a traffic light. “I’m sorry, what?”

 

“It was my intention to stand up for you,” Bella says, not knowing if this is the best thing to admit to someone you're trying to avoid. She was so much better at dealing with a hostile Rosalie than she was at this.

 

Her words leave Rosalie too stunned to say anything else.

 

She clears her throat when it becomes clear Rosalie's still too caught up in her own head to pay attention to where she's going.

 

“You should turn right on Waldrigde road next.” She points out.

 

 

xXx

 

“So I guess we’re here.”

 

“For a time there I was worried you didn’t know where you lived,” Rosalie says.

 

Bella narrows her eyes. “It’s not my fault you’re awful at following directions.”

 

Rosalie scoffs, clearly bothered by Bella’s insinuation. “You’re the one who’s awful at giving them.”

 

“Let’s agree to disagree.” She says.

 

Let’s not.

 

“Are you always this stubborn?” Bella inquires, eyebrows raised.

 

Rosalie huffs. “Are you always this maddening?” She says, gritting her teeth.

 

Bella’s not sure for how much longer she can push the other girl without putting Carol’s future or her own in jeopardy, so she stops.

 

“Hm – thank you, I guess?” She says, not sure if she should be thanking her or simply getting out of the truck as fast as she can.

 

“Let’s not do this again,” Rosalie says.

 

Bella shrugs. It wasn't like she was planning to.

 

“Fine by me.” She says before getting out of the truck.

 

“Even finer by me, Bella,” Rosalie says, biting her lip and glaring Bella’s way.

 

“Do you always need to have the last word or –"  Bella says, amused.

 

Yes,” Rosalie replies before driving out, leaving an exasperated Bella alone on the sidewalk.

 

 

xXx

 

“Bella?” Jacob timidly says from the door of her bedroom. “Can I come in?”

 

Bella closes her kindle and puts it on her bedside table before nodding. It seemed Michele’s Obama memoir would have to wait.

 

“Look, I talked with Edward.” Jacob starts before sitting down next to her. “You know, about the things he said about his sister. Told him it wasn’t okay for him to say those things and that he should be more conscious about his words.”

 

“He listened.” He states. “I know that’s not enough for you to change your opinion on him or anything, but I just wanted you to know.”

 

Bella sighs. “Jake, I appreciate your intention. I do. But it doesn’t make me feel better that he listened to you. It just proves my point.”

 

“It says to me that he’ll listen to a man but not to a woman’s opinion.” She says.

 

“You don’t know that Bells,” Jacob says meekly.

 

“Actually I do,” Bella states. “Because every time we have talked till now I’ve told him time and time again I won’t answer his questions. Does he listen?”

 

“He’s intrigued by you. He told me that.”

 

“That just makes it creepier Jacob,” Bella says. “Look, this is not me saying he isn’t a nice guy or whatever. But he doesn’t know how to respect boundaries.”

 

“I don’t want to be the one to say this to you buddy, but if he only treats you well then that’s not infatuation, it’s a red flag.”

 

“I know. You’re absolutely right, it’s just –”

 

“You like him.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And I’m sure that’s something there to like, otherwise you wouldn’t feel like this Jake. But I don’t know. Thread carefully okay? And put up some boundaries. Don’t let him dictate your life.”

 

“What?” Jacob asks.

 

“I saw you today, at lunch? You seemed anxious. I don't know if he asked you or if he just sprung on you that you would be sitting with him and his sister.” Bella explains. “You have to tell him if you're uncomfortable with something Jacob.”

 

“It’s just – he’s him, you know?” Jacob says, unsure. ”And I’m me.”

 

“Hey,” Bella says softly. “I happen to like you very much. Edward on the other hand? Nah. If he doesn’t think you’re worth it Jake, if he’s not willing to work for it, whatever it may be – friendship or romance – then he’s the one who’s not worth it.”

 

He smiles at her. “Okay. Thank you, Bella, really.”

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t realize you weren’t okay earlier, or that I keep bothering you with stuff,” Jacob says. “You and Charlie have been nothing short of amazing and welcoming to me ever since my dad kicked me out. I hope you know how grateful I am.”

 

“Jake,” Bella says, reaching out to touch his hand. “Don’t say that. You haven’t been bothering me, I was just mad and tired, and I took it out on you. I should have just said those things to Edward. It wasn’t fair to dump them out on you.”

 

“We love having you here – me and dad. I hope that with time you can feel right at home here.”

 

“Okay,” He replies softly. “I hope that with time you can too.”

 

Bella sighs. “Charlie said something about Renee this morning and it got to me – even though I thought it wouldn’t. I’m sorry too.”

 

“It’s alright Bella. Better than anyone I get it.” This time he’s the one squeezing her hand.

 

“Thank you, Jake.”

 

“Now, is there a reason why I didn’t see Carol outside?” He asks, intrigued.

 

“No.” She answers.

 

“There’s definitely a reason then.” He chuckles. “Are you going to tell me?”

 

No.

 

“Okay, fair enough. A woman of secrets. It suits you.”

 

She just playfully nudges him out of bed.

 

xXx

 

"I thought you would prefer it if you were the one driving us to school," Jasper says, getting out of the car and holding the door open for her.

 

Bella still feels like she's asleep in her bed. Her phone hadn't woken her up at the right time and instead of having time to get ready she’d just sprung out of bed – hoping that Jasper wasn't already waiting for her outside.

 

Lucky for her he hadn't. Instead, he had arrived as soon as she’d opened the front door. Perfect timing.

 

“You were right,” she says while getting in. “Thank you.”

 

"Oh Carol, how I’ve missed you." Bella’s too busy gently fondling the steering wheel to acknowledge Jasper’s snickers.

 

“I brought you coffee.” He says, giving her a Starbucks Christmas cup Bella’s sure it’s not from around here.

 

“Jasper I know you and Alice are together, and I'm dating my truck but if you continue to give me coffee every morning we might have a problem.” She jokes, suddenly glad she won't have to survive the day without it.

 

He raises an eyebrow at her. “Are we now?” He drawls, amused. “I don't think we would work darling.” He says, eyeing her flannel shirt with interest.

 

“You’re right. We're from two different worlds. It would never last.” She says dramatically while wiping imaginary tears.

 

“Sure, that's the reason.”

 

“Cheeky now, aren't we?” Bella smirks.

 

“Just on the days that end in y.” He replies.

 

Bella takes a sip of her coffee before turning the engine on. "That's a good coffee.” She smiles his way.

 

“Esme made it. I’ll let her know you've enjoyed it.”

 

“Please do,” Bella says. “Do you think there's any way I can bribe her for more?”

 

"Maybe." He laughs.

 

xXx

 

"I tried thanking your sister for getting me home yesterday, but it didn’t go that well," Bella says, turning left on Waldridge road.

 

Jasper shrugs, unbothered. “You’re still in one piece.” He says while checking his phone.

 

“I mean, it could’ve gone worse, I think?” She says.

 

“Now that’s the spirit, Bella.” He smirks.

 

“Okay.” She replies, a little unsure.

 

“I don’t get it.” She stars. “It just – she seems to hate me or something and yet she goes out of her way to let me know that? Shouldn’t she just ignore me?”

 

Jasper hums. “Like you’re doing?”

 

“Exactly,” Bella answers before realizing what she just said. “Wait, no. I’m not ignoring, I’m just keeping a respectful distance.”

 

“Because that’s not the same at all.”

 

“That's right.”

 

“I wasn’t agreeing with you Bella,” He says amused. “Sometimes what Rosalie wants to do and what she does are two very different things.”

 

“That cleared everything up. Thank you so much.” She says ironically and Japer rolls his eyes at her.

 

“Alice says hi by the way,” Jasper says when his phone chimes in again.

 

“Tell her I said hi back. And that I’m grateful her boyfriend has brought my baby back in one piece.”

 

“Okay.” He replies, smiling.

 

“Maybe she needs a friend,” Bella says, thinking about Rosalie again.

 

“Alice?” Jasper asks, confused.

 

“Rosalie,” Bella replies like it's obvious.

 

“She has friends.” Jasper says automatically.

 

“Friends who aren’t her family?” Bella asks, trying to think if she’d ever seen a Cullen out and about on the town. “Because that’s not the same.”

 

“Okay. So she doesn’t have any.” He concedes. “Are you volunteering?”

 

Bella scoffs. “No. I'm telling you this so you can help her make some. Plant the idea in her head, be encouraging, I don’t know.”

 

Jasper just gives Bella a look.

 

“It’s just, friends are great,” Bella says, thinking about Jacob. “They can make you laugh, they can offer you a shoulder to cry on. They can give you sound advice. It’s nice. She should try it.” Bella says encouragingly.

 

“Maybe I need a friend,” Jasper says after a few minutes of silence.

 

His voice is smooth, but Bella can sense the hesitation on it. Like he's not sure he should be saying these words.

 

"Oh," she says, a little surprised by his admission. "Okay. For that, I'm definitely volunteering."

 

If the universe is so set on putting the Cullen’s in her life the least Bella can do is interact with the one Cullen she does like.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“You’re up early.” A gruff voice says from behind her, and Bella sees her dad entering the kitchen with a surprised face.

 

“I’m making coffee.” She says, looking up to meet him. “Want some?“ Her head points down at the coffee machine.

 

“Yes, please.” He smiles, sitting down at the table in front of her.

 

“How are things at work dad?” She asks, putting two mugs next to each other at the counter and filling them up. “Anything exciting happened this week?

 

“Exiting like murder?” He questions her with his eyebrows raised.

 

“I didn’t say that,” Bella says, sitting next to him and handing Charlie his mug. “Though, in all honesty, it would’ve been.”

 

Charlie's eyes twinkle in amusement. ”This is a small-town Bells. There’s not much excitement besides your usual bar fights and speeding tickets.”

 

Bella nods. “That’s good.”

 

“Not boring?” Charlie says and Bella can see there’s something to his question.

 

“I could use boring.” She shrugs.

 

Bella knows one of the reasons her mother had given him for leaving out of the blue with baby Bella on her arms had been this.

 

A boring life in a boring town and she couldn't take it anymore.

 

After living the past seventeen years with her tornado of a mother Bella wasn't only welcoming boring – she was loving it.

 

He instantly relaxes. “How’s school?”

 

“Eh. Alright.” Bella answers, taking a sip of her coffee.

 

There wasn't much she could say. Classes were alright, people were ok (minus some). Your average high-school experience.

 

Charlie hums, face pensive. “Jacob settling in okay?”

 

“Yes dad, he is. Better than me if I’m being honest.” She answers truthfully.

 

It’s not that she hasn’t settled, she has. But she’s not the one who’s waking up singing every day.

 

And she should, actually. Because Jacob singing ability? Non-existent. So if she had to choose anyone in the house to pick up that mantle, it would have to be her.

 

Maybe Charlie. But definitely not Jacob.

 

“Why?” He asks, voice curious.

 

“You know Edward Cullen?”

 

“Yeah. He's a polite kid, they all are.” Her father says and Bella has to fight the urge not to roll her eyes.

 

In this house, apparently, she’s the only one who isn’t a Cullen fangirl.

 

“I think he and Jacob are getting to know one another,” Bella says in a suggestive tone.

 

Her father doesn’t seem to get it. “That's good, isn’t it? That he’s already making friends.”

 

She bites her lower lip trying not to laugh. “Of course, dad. But I meant in another way.”

 

Charlie's eyes widen. “Hm, That's good too.” He says before fidgeting with the newspaper on the table.” Have you seen Billy around town?”

 

“No. Have you?” Bella asks, weary.

 

“No.” Charlie sighs. “Look Bells, you tell me if he shows up here, okay?”

 

His voice is serious and Bella nods quickly. “You thinking he might?” She asks.

 

“It's just a feeling Bells, don’t worry about it.” He answers but Bella can see that’s more to it than what he is saying.

 

After all, Charlie had been there when Jacob had been kicked out – had gone against his older friend in defense of him.

 

Had offered his home even though he knew that it would mean going to war with Billy.

 

“Okay. Of course I’ll tell you.”

 

“Now, about Jacob. You think this Edward guy is good for him?” Charlie asks in cop mode.

 

Bella sighs. “I don't know.” She says.

 

“He does seem to like Jacob but he's... weird sometimes. Too entitled. I don't know, I'm not the best person to ask - I don't like him very much.”

 

Charlie just stares at her. “Okay. We'll keep an eye out, right? He's one of us now.”

 

Bella smiles softly. “Yes. He is.”

 

Charlie huffs. “I can always intimidate him with my gun.’

 

Bella snickers. “You should do that regardless.”

 

Now that would be a fun thing to watch.

 

“I'm sure you won't find it this funny when it's your turn.” He says and Bella stops smiling right away.” Any nice girl has caught your eye yet?”

 

Bella puts a hand on her face, grimacing. “Oh my God. Let's not have this conversation, please. Go bother Jake with these questions.”

 

“I would but he's asleep.”

 

“Lucky him.” Bella mumbles.

 

xXx

 

"Jacob, I need something from you," Bella says while she's lying down on the couch, feet in Jacob’s lap.

 

They're watching some dumb horror movie Jacob has picked out against her wishes.

 

Well, he’s watching - she's wondering if she can get away with using her kindle.

 

“Ok. Shoot.” He says but his eyes are focused on the TV screen.

 

“I need you to ask Edward for his brother's phone number.”

 

He stops watching to stare at her with a confused expression. “Emmett?”

 

Jasper’s.” She steals some of his popcorn while he's too busy thinking about her request.

 

“Hey,” he protests, nudging her. “Why?”

 

She rolls her eyes at him. “Because I want to talk with him. Why else?”

 

He softly slaps her hand away when she's trying to reach for his popcorn again. “I thought you hated the Cullen’s?”

 

She smirks. “Just your Cullen buddy.”

 

He shakes his head. “Okay. Sure. But will you please watch the movie now?”

 

“What is there to watch Jake? Why is this woman running half-naked through the woods? Why hasn't she put on a shirt?” She asks passionately.

 

“She didn't have time Bella. The man with the mask was after her.” Jacob points out.

 

“Because she was having sex with stoner guy. Rule number one on horror movies – if you're in this scene having sex, in the next one you're dead.”

 

“Are you an expert now? Don't you hate them?”

 

“Yes. Because they don't make sense. Wanna know Rule number zero on a horror movie?” Bella asks.

 

“Sure.”

 

“Everyone in it is an idiot.”

 

xXx

 

“Dad?” Bella asks halfway through dinner. “Do I have carte blanche with my room?”

 

“I’m sorry Bells, what?”

 

“Can I redecorate any way I want to?” She says, thinking about the fact that her room still looks the same as it did the last time she came to Forks, ten years ago.

 

Sure, the bed is different, and the new notebook on her desk is too. But everything else? The exact same thing.

 

Decorating the house wasn’t exactly Charlie’s forte.

 

He shrugs. “Sure, it’s your room. You can do as you please. Matter of fact if you want to redecorate the whole house you can, Bells. God knows I won’t.”

 

“Can I call over a friend to help me?” Bella asks, making Jacob – who until now was too focused on his food to pay attention to anything she was saying – looks up.

 

“What friend?” He asks with a suspicious voice while Charlie just says nods.

 

“I’ll leave you some money. Go crazy Bells, you deserve it.”

 

“Thanks, Dad.” She says.

 

“You don’t have to call anyone over Bella, I can help you,” Jacob suggests.

 

“Aren’t you going to the Cullen’s tomorrow? Didn’t you ask me for a ride?”

 

“I can cancel it. It’s nothing too important. Edward invited me to watch a movie or something. We can do that next weekend.” Jacob states.

 

Charlie gives Bella a look – the kind that tells her he’s now in the loop.

 

“It’s fine Jake. You can go and enjoy your friend’s company.” Bella smirks. “You can help me out some other time.”

 

“Or you can go to the Cullen’s with me and we can do your room makeover next Sunday,” Jacob argues. “I’m sure they would all love it if you came.”

 

“Yeah, because that went so well the last time Jake,” Bella says, sighing. “I don’t think so, buddy.”

 

“Esme’s always asking about you every time I’m there.”

 

“That’s because she’s being polite,” Bella says. “Besides, I want to do this tomorrow. I don’t think I can stand one more week of looking at blue walls.”

 

xXx

 

how good are you at painting walls?

 

 

I'm sorry, who is this?

 

 

your coolest friend bella

 

 

hey bella

  sure. could say I'm a pro by now

esme loves redecorating

 

 

great. are u busy tomorrow?

 

 

completely free

 

 

i'm driving jake to your house around one

he and edward are going to watch a ‘movie’

pick u up?

 

 

It's a date

 

quick question

do u know a place that sells what we'll need?

 

 

nice to see you have this planned out

 

 

it's called being spontaneous jasper

 

 

sure. i know a place

 

 

xXx

 

“Can I ask why the sudden need for a change?” Jasper asks her while they’re searching for the perfect tone of white.

 

Bella sighs. “I just can't spend another day with blue walls around me. It's driving me mad.”

 

“What about this one?” Jasper asks, pointing to the book of pallets in front of them.

 

Porcelain white. It’s a nice color – but just judging by its name Bella rules it out. “Neh.”

 

Jasper flips out another page without questioning why. “Isn’t blue supposed to be a calming color?”

 

“Yeah, and it’s having the opposite effect on me.” Bella states.

 

“So we’re going with white.”

 

“Exactly. Because then I can properly decorate it.” She explains. “Put some nice photos on the wall, color the room up with some objects.”

 

“Alright. It’s a good plan.” He says, pointing out to another tone of white.

 

Daisy white. Bella likes it immediately.

 

“This one is perfect buddy.”

 

Jasper looks proud of himself or relieved she has finally picked a color - Bella can’t really tell, she's too engrossed on the thought of how her new room will look like to care.

 

“My mother used to always paint most of the house some weird color.” She says, deciding to explain to someone why she was so intent on changing it. “The living room would be soft yellow - the kitchen green – my room purple. It was just color everywhere, and it used to drive me crazy. I always promised myself that if I ever got the chance to pick it, I would choose white.”

 

Jasper stares at her with understanding shining in his eyes. “I get it now Bella.” He says, voice soft. “It’s time to paint some walls. Let's go.” He says eagerly.

 

 

xXx

 

“Oh my God, I can't feel my arms,” Bella exclaims dramatically while lying down on the newspaper-covered floor.

 

Maybe she should care about getting more paint on her clothes, but she’s honestly past that point now.

 

Jasper laughs and Bella’s too impressed by his performance to complain about him laughing at her’s.

 

“Take a break, Bella. I can finish up.”

 

And Bella knows that it’s not necessarily fair to let him do this part alone when it’s her room they’re working on, but she’s in no position to do anything else.

 

“That doesn't sound right, but I can't even argue with you right now.” She says standing up.  “Do you want some water?”

 

“Sure. But only if you think you'll be able to carry them here.” He snickers.

 

“The worst part is that I can’t even bite back because it might be true.” She mumbles, trying to flex out her arms and groaning in pain.

 

xXx

 

It’s almost dark by the time they finish it up.

 

They’re sitting on the porch, finally resting and enjoying the view.

 

“You were right Bella,” Jasper says, and she has to fight the urge not to laugh at the state of his hair. “It did look a lot better with white walls.” He admits.

 

“Thank you.” She says, before biting her lip. “Jasper, you have paint all over your hair.”

 

“And whose fault is that?” He cheekily asks.

 

Yours,” She smirks. “Okay. Mostly mine.”

 

Jasper smiles warmly at her. “This was fun. Thank you for inviting me. Sometimes I forget how healthy it is to spend some time away from my family.” He admits.

 

Bella nods. “It’s okay, I get it. And I don’t even have siblings like you do.”

 

“You’re an only child, right?” He enquires.

 

“Well. I thought I was, but I think I have a pseudo-younger brother now.”

 

“I can see that. Jacob – he looks up to you Bella. Every time he’s in our house he’s always talking about you some way.”

 

Bella blushes. “Oh, dear. Good things, I hope? Nothing too embarrassing?”

 

“Probably not. Just everyday facts.”

 

“That’s worse, honestly.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I don’t know. But it is.”

 

Jasper shifts in his spot. “We all get along so well in my house, most of the time at least, that I forget how nice it is to be in a place not so full all the time.”

 

“You like the quiet, huh?” Bella questions and Jasper's eyebrows shoot up. “I see you struggling sometimes at school. Loud noises and too many people, right? There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert Jasper.”

 

“It’s overwhelming most of the time If I’m being honest.” He admits and Bella sees the relieved expression in his face. Like there's a weight out of his shoulders now that he has said it out loud.

 

She knows how hard it is to talk about things like this with your family. It’s one of the reasons she has trouble talking about her life with her mother to Charlie and Jacob.

 

"I get it,” She says. “I mean, I don’t get it exactly. But I know it must be hard for you. If you ever need to escape somewhere you can always call me, or text. We can do something fun or nothing at all. You can murder me in chess if you like.”

 

“You would do that?” He asks, voice soft and surprised.

 

“Of course. That’s what friends are for.” Bella states. “C’mon, it’s getting late. I’ll drive you home and pick Jacob up – Alice must be missing you too.”

 

Jasper smirks. “She was a little jealous.”

 

Bella snorts. “Of me?”

 

“Of me, actually. She loves doing DIY projects like this.”

 

“Alice?” Bella questions. “I would never say that by looking at her.”

 

“She and Esme are always looking for some new project to do around the house.”

 

Bella smiles, imagining them both making Jasper help with whatever new thing they come up with. “That’s nice. I’m horrible at doing anything remotely like that. I always manage to break something along the way – If not an object, probably myself.”

 

Jasper laughs. “What are you good at?”

 

"Reading. Writing? Watching trash movies until the end because I have to know how it ends once it starts?"

 

"What's the worst movie you’ve ever seen for that reason?"

 

"Sharknado 6"

 

"I don't even know what that’s about." He admits, shaking his head.

 

Bella smirks. "The title it's pretty self-explanatory, buddy. It's about tornados of sharks."

 

He snickers. "And they made 6 of them?"

 

Bella shrugs. It’s not like Hollywood made any sense. "It's a masterpiece of trash, Jasper. Don't mock until you see it. It's so bad it's kind of fun? I don't know."

 

"I'll take your word for it."

 

She gets up, offering him her hand. "Let's go. Before all of this paint in our hair dries out. Otherwise, it will be a nightmare to get it out."

 

He nods. "I can wait if you want to take a shower first."

 

"That's very chivalrous of you," Bella says. "Thank you for the offer but I'm not taking it. If you're suffering I must too. Those are the rules of friendship."

 

xXx

 

"Oh, you both look so adorable." Alice clasps her hand at seeing both her and Jasper walking in.

 

Alice is being too kind. Bella’s sure she looks like a mess.

 

She’s wearing black leggings (who are not so black anymore) with a black Sports Bra and an open old green flannel shirt, and her hair is up in a messy ponytail.

 

So, it’s pretty clear that Bella hadn't planned on coming inside Esme's house. Not when she was dressed like this and full of what had become dried paint by this point.

 

But she also knew it wouldn’t be polite to wait for Jacob inside her truck without at least saying hi to everyone else.

 

"Bella is so good to see you again," Esme says warmly, before giving her a small hug she returns awkwardly. "Are you staying for dinner?"

 

"Hm, actually I just came to pick Jacob up? And to give you back your son." Esme beams at her. “Who by the way? A natural at painting walls." She gives Jasper a thumbs up.

 

Esme looks at him with affection. "I would imagine. After all, he did help me paint most of the house last summer."

 

"Bella!" A loud voice belonging to an even larger boy says. "Nice to finally meet you."

 

Bella laughs at his enthusiasm. "Emmett right?"

 

"Yes. The coolest Cullen." He proudly beams, pointing to his chest.

 

Bella rolls her eyes at him. "That doesn't seem like a hard feat." She says and Jasper nudges her softly.

 

"You're staying for dinner, right?" He asks excitedly.

 

"No?" Everyone’s face drops at her admission.

 

"C'mon Bella. please? We can play videogame until it's done." Emmett suggests.

 

Bella sheepishly looks at her own clothes. "I'm not sure I'm dressed for the occasion."

 

Alice pouts. "That’s nonsense, Bella. But you can take a shower here if you want? I could lend you some clothes."

 

And at that moment Bella realizes just how bad she’d miscalculated her plan. Now it’s clear she won't be able to say no even if she wanted to. Not with the way everyone’s looking at her expectantly.

 

Maybe the right question wasn’t if she could escape.

 

It was if she really wanted to.

 

xXx

 

Bella is slowly walking through the hall, hands fidgeting with her shirt.

 

Jasper had vanished after she’d said yes to dinner, going up the stairs and saying something about having a quick shower so that Bella could use the bathroom next.

 

After ten minutes Alice had told her she could go up, giving her quick directions on how to reach their room.

 

But Bella had gotten a little lost and too much afraid to walk in Jasper while he was getting out of the shower. So, she had threaded carefully.

 

She passes a room with an open door, suddenly feeling self-conscious when she spots Rosalie Hale inside of it, looking back at her with an unreadable look in her face. The girl takes a few steps to the door, but her eyes spend a little too much time on Bella’s open shirt and she realizes that the other girl is staring.

 

“My eyes are up here.” She jokes, but her face betrays the confidence she’s feeling by blushing.

 

Rosalie ignores her. “Jasper still in the shower,” she says before explaining. “I heard you guys talking downstairs.”

 

Bella sighs, wondering if it would be rude to just sit down on the floor while she waits.

 

“You can use my shower if you don’t want to wait,” Rosalie says, sensing her distress.

 

She narrows her eyes at the girl. “Are there any death traps there?”

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her. “No.”

 

“Okay. Are you sure?” Bella asks before she can accept the offer.

 

“Why would I offer it if I wasn’t sure?”

 

“Because you’re being polite?” Bella says before remembering who this is exactly. “Okay, good point. You’re not the type to do something you don’t want because it’s the polite thing.”

 

Rosalie hums. “What type am I?” She asks, suddenly interested.

 

“The truth hurts kind of girl,” Bella says, and Rosalie just stares at her with suspicious eyes. “It’s a compliment, Rosalie. You gotta learn how to take those.”

 

If she was already breaking her self-imposed rule of not interacting with the Cullen’s why not just throw it out of the window already?

 

Why not try and befriend most of them sans Edward?

 

Rosalie ignores her comment. "I thought you guys were painting your walls. Not your clothes." She smirks.

 

Bella was starting to realize that every time Rosalie felt the tiniest bit exposed or vulnerable she started to resort to her usual persona.

 

Smirks, glares, and pointed comments.

 

"It might have been my first-time attempt at doing that. Hence - I made a mess."

 

"You don't say. And you think if it weren't your first time you would have made less of a mess?" She asks with her eyebrows raised.

 

Bella shrugs. "Probably not." She grudgingly admits.

 

"If you like I can lend you some clothes," Rosalie says while giving Bella space to enter her room.

 

"Hm thank you, but Alice has already offered." She says, trying to watch from the corner of her eyes all the little details about the place.

 

"Everything Alice owns are designer clothes." Rosalie states.

 

"And yours aren't?" Bella questionably asks.

 

"No. Some of them are, but others are just regular clothes."

 

"They don't seem like regular clothes," Bella mumbles, without thinking.

 

Rosalie smirks. "That's because I'm the one wearing it."

 

And Bella can't really argue with that.

 

Rosalie leads her through the room, stopping at a nice wooden door.

 

"The bathroom is here Bella. There are towels in the cabinet. I’ll leave some clothes for you on the bed.” Rosalie says. “When you're done meet us in the living room okay?”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"Okay,” Bella says, frowning. “Tell me again what button should I press if I want to shoot." She’s sitting on the floor in front of the couch with her eyes focused on the TV.

 

"R2," Rosalie says from the couch before Emmett can answer.

 

"Do you play this?" Bella turns around to look at her.

 

"Surprised?" Rosalie questions her.

 

"No,” she answers truthfully. “But I'm thinking you might be a better coach here. Emmett doesn't seem that interested in giving me information on how to beat him."

 

"Hey." Emmett protest.

 

Rosalie raises her eyebrows. "Is she lying?"

 

"No" He mumbles.

 

Bella gives a half-smile to the girl. “So, is that a yes? You’ll help me?”

 

"Fine,” Rosalie says, shaking her head, before getting out of the couch and sitting on the floor next to her.

 

“You have to aim with L2. You see this button here?” She shows Bella on the controller.

 

“Okay.” Bella nods without paying that much attention. She hadn’t realized that asking Rosalie for help would mean being this close to one another.

 

“Here – this stick? It moves your character.” Rosalie says and Bella hums, doing her best to pretend she’s got it. “It's easy in theory. The hard part is being able to remember everything when you need it.”

 

“Yeah. I don't think I will.” Bella admits honestly.

 

“I’ll help you when the match starts okay?” Rosalie says, voice softer. “Emmett’s not as good as he thinks he is.”

 

“Alright. I can do this.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

“That was cheating,” Bella says, pointing at Emmett. “I could have won if you hadn't cheated.”

 

“Bella you weren't even close to winning.” He says. “And it isn't cheating when you know how to play the game.”

 

“You did good, Bella,” Alice says, trying to be supportive. “It was your first time. Emmett on the other hand –"

 

“Spends too much time playing this game?” Rosalie finishes for her.

 

Emmet feigns hurt. “Hey, I don't tell you how much time you spend fixing up cars. We all have hobbies - let's show some respect here.”

 

Rosalie scoffs. “That's because what I’m doing is worthwhile.”

 

“Mine’s more worthwhile.”

 

Rosalie glares at him. “Are you sure about that? Think about it nicely. Because I do remember you asking me to improve your jeep last week.”

 

“And if you had already done that I could say whatever I wanted now.”

 

“Nobody wants that Emmett.” Rosalie retorts.

 

“Are they always like this?” Bella whispers to Alice who's sitting with Jasper on the couch.

 

Before Alice can say anything back to Bella an amused voice speaks from the other side of the room.

 

"Kids. Behave." Carlisle says, and Bella bites her lip trying not to laugh. Rosalie and Emmett keep staring at each other, daring the other to go against the request.

 

"Are Bella and Emmett playing?" Edward asks, suddenly appearing in the living room with Jacob by his side. “We heard you guys screaming upstairs.” He explains.

 

“Want to go again, Bella?” Emmett asks.

 

“Are you going to cheat?”

 

“No,” Emmett says, rolling his eyes.

 

“You're playing Bella?” a surprised Jacob says. “That I have to see.”

 

“You got this. Remember what I told you.” Rosalie says, encouraging her.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Do you need some help?” Bella asks, entering the kitchen.

 

The first thing she notices is how pristine everything looks – like either they don’t use this place at all or someone in the house is a cleaning freak.

 

Probably Edward if she had to guess.

 

The second thing is that she could marry this kitchen here if anyone gave her the chance. Bella’s surrounded by white walls, a modern setting, and a large window with a great view of the woods.

 

Esme, who’s focused on preparing dinner, looks up.” Oh, Bella. Weren’t you playing with Emmett?”

 

Bella shrugs. “Yes. But that didn't go as well as I hoped. I died a lot. Now Jacob’s trying.”

 

Esme smiles. “I'm sure you did your best. You can help me with the salad if you want.”

 

Bella nods, smiling back. “Safe choice.”

 

“You look lovely,” Esme says, glancing at her clothes.

 

Bella blushes. “They’re Rosalie's,” she mumbles. “I’m glad they fitted - she's so much taller than me that I thought maybe they would look weird.”

 

“I can see that,” Esme says. “She must have chosen them with that in mind.”

 

Bella hums in agreement.

 

“I’m glad you're here, Bella. Thank you for staying.”

 

“Thank you for inviting me.”

 

“Are you used to cooking?” Esme asks while watching her chop things with ease.

 

“Yes, my mother couldn't cook to save her life. So I usually did. Ever since coming back here not so much, we rotate at the house.”

 

“That's nice.”

 

“It's fun,” she admits. “I’m trying to teach the boys how to cook but not everything works. Friday night? Charlie tried to cook enchiladas. It didn't end well.” Bella laughs thinking about the failed attempt.

 

Her dad – bless him – had tried his best, but in the end they had ordered some pizza and called it a night. “Do you guys do that here?’ She asks, interested.

 

“No, but it's a wonderful idea,” Esme says.

 

“Not always – but it’s definitely better than what I had before, that’s for sure,” Bella says, thinking about Renee always demanding and never helping her in any way.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“How was work dear?” Esme asks Carlisle while putting salad on Bella’s plate. “Do you want more Bella?”

 

“No. That’s perfect, thank you.” She says, picking up the plate Esme’s handing her.

 

“It was good,” Carlisle answer. “How was everything here? Did the kids behave?”

 

“The kids are right here.” Emmet mumbles and Rosalie nudges him slightly.

 

“We behaved,” Edward answers, smiling softer at his dad.

 

Carlisle shakes his head. “I’m sure.” He says, blinking in Bella’s direction.

 

She snickers.

 

“So Bella, how are you liking forks?” Carlisle asks her, making Bella realize he’s the only Cullen she hadn’t had a conversation till now.

 

She smiles his way. “It’s nice.”

 

“Your dad looks pretty happy you're here.”

 

“He is,” Jacob says, agreeing with the man. “I Haven’t seen Charlie like this in a long time.”

 

“He's your fan, by the way.” She says, refilling her glass with juice, and taking extra caution not to let anything spill on the long wooden table in front of her.

 

“What?” Carlisle asks, confused.

 

“My dad,” Bella smirks. “Says you're the best doctor this town has ever had.”

 

“He’s right,” Rosalie says, proud.

 

“Your father's being kind.” Carlisle states, a little embarrassed.

 

“Well. I’m sure sometime soon I’ll be seeing you there, so I’ll tell you what I think.” Bella says, laughing to herself.

 

“Bella's accident-prone,” Jacob explains, noticing the confused look on everybody’s face.

 

“That explains so much,” Jaspers admits.

 

“Jasper it was totally your fault I fell on the bucket of paint,” Bella says, blushing. “Why would you leave it there in the first place?”

 

He raises his eyebrows at her. “Because it was the right place? Where else could I have put it?”

 

“I don't know. Anywhere I wouldn't trip on it.”

 

Jasper laughs. “I don't think that place exists.”

 

xXx

 

 

“Dinner was nice,” Rosalie says when they’re both in the driveway of the Cullen’s house.

 

Bella is waiting for Jacob (who went to grab his backpack on Edward’s room) and Rosalie is surprisingly here making her company.

 

“Yeah. I hope I wasn't intruding or anything.”

 

“Trust me, you weren't,” Rosalie admits. “I can't remember the last time we did something like that as a family.”

 

Bella awkwardly stands next to Carol, without knowing what to say next. “Thank you for lending me your clothes. I’ll get them back to you tomorrow.” She tries.

 

Rosalie smiles. “It's alright Bella, take your time. I'm not in a rush.”

 

Bella’s taken aback by Rosalie, again. Something had shifted and she couldn’t put her finger on what exactly, but she was going to try. “Is this kind of a peace offering?”

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her. “Sure Bella.” She says with an amused voice.

 

“Ok. I can work with that.”

 

“I bet you can.”

 

“Goodnight Rosalie,” Bella says when she sees Jacob getting out of the door.

 

“Goodnight Bella,” Rosalie answers back before turning back and walking home.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“God, is the weather always like this here?” Bella asks Jacob. “I think my jacket’s still wet from this morning. Who knew a short walk from the truck to the school could cause this much damage?”

 

“Me,” Jacob answers it. “That’s why I told you to leave an umbrella in your truck at all times.”

 

“Jacob,” Bella starts. “I don’t even own an umbrella buddy. I lived in Phoenix. There I had something nice and wonderful called the sun.”

 

“Am I supposed to pretend you enjoyed it?” He asks with his eyebrows raised. “You look like someone who has never gotten a tan in her whole life.”

 

“That’s not my fault. I only have two default colors,” she explains. “It’s either this or pink.”

 

He snickers and Bella picks up her lunch tray, beginning her search for something to eat. “The food here is awful, I’ll tell you that.”

 

Jacob hums like he agrees with her but keeps putting more and more things on his plate. “It could be worse.”

 

“I doubt that,” Bella replies, grabbing the only edible sandwich in front of her. “Are you going to eat that?” She points to a very disgusting slice of pepperoni pizza Jacob has picked up.

 

He shrugs. “Sure.”

 

“If things go wrong for you buddy just know I won’t be the one helping you clean out our bathroom,” Bella says. “Are we sitting with the Cullen’s today?

 

“Do you want to?” He asks.

 

“Sure,” Bella says. It’s not like she’s avoiding them anymore, after all.

 

“Okay. let's do it,” Jacob says, before turning his head towards her. “I'm just not used to you being this willing when they're involved.”

 

“Yeah. Keep that mindset. A drop is not an ocean buddy.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

“People are watching,” Edward says right after Bella and Jacob joins them on their table.

 

“Aren’t they always?” Bella argues. “I thought everyone at school stared at you guys.”

 

“Not you,” Alice says, curious. “Why is that Bella?”

 

“Edward meant that they were watching you, Bella,” Jasper says, changing the subject so she doesn’t have to answer to Alice's question.

 

She gives him a grateful smile.

 

“You and Jacob.” Rosalie chimes in.

 

“Do they look Jealous?” Jacob asks, probably already used to it after spending time with Edward.

 

Edward hums before saying.” And surprised.”

 

Jacob shrugs. “The usual then. You better get used to it Bells, they won’t stop.”

 

“Are they always like this with you?” She asks. “Because you’re hanging with Edward?”

 

“Pretty much, yeah,” Jacob says, unbothered.

 

And Bella’s suddenly worried about something else here – something like Billy. Something like small-minded people in a small town.

 

Her voice is serious. “You tell me if anyone gives you guys any trouble, okay?” She asks, looking at them both.

 

Edward seems surprised by her offer but Jacob just nods.

 

“Tell us too,” Emmett says. “We’ve got your back guys.”

 

“You guys aren’t going to eat anything?” Bella asks, taking a bite of her sandwich.

 

“The food here is dreadful,” Edward answers her. “We have breakfast at home before we leave.”

 

“You have a point; I’ll give you that.” Bella states.

 

Maybe she should eat better at home too before leaving in the morning. God knows she won’t be eating well here.

 

 

xXx

 

 

It all happens too fast for Bella’s brain to catch up.

 

She’s next to Carol, watching Jacob and Edward laughing with each other in front of Edward’s Volvo and thinking its kind of sweet.

 

That’s when she hears a high-pitched screech.

 

She looks to her left, startled. Her eyes instantly meet Jasper's across the parking lot and he’s staring back at her in panic.

 

The high-pitched screech turns to loud noise, one that’s too close for comfort, and that’s when Bella sees it.

 

A dark blue van skidding on the wet floor, tires locked and squealing against the brakes, spinning wildly and coming her way fast. She snaps her eyes closed, feeling something hard hitting her, but not from the direction she was expecting.

 

Her head cracks against the pavement while something solid and cold pins her to the ground before she blacks out.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Bells?” She hears a voice that sounds like Charlie softly calling her name.

 

“Dad?” She answers, opening her eyes slowly. At first all she sees are white walls and blurred faces. “Am I dead?”

 

“Don’t even joke about that.” Jacob states.

 

Bella blinks. “What happened?” She asks, finally realizing she’s in a hospital bed.

 

“You don’t remember?” Jacob says, face worried.

 

“That’s a normal reaction,” A new voice says, and she sees Carlisle approaching her bed. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Like a van ran me over.” She says, being honest.

 

“Well, it would have, if Rosalie hadn’t pulled you out of the way,” Jacob explains and Bella nods.

 

It made sense, in a way. If Tyler’s van had been the thing to hit her, Bella's pretty sure a headache would be the least of her problems.

 

She's not even sure she would be here right now.

 

Alive.

 

Bella frowns. “So the van didn’t hit me?” She asks, still having some trouble processing things. It didn't help that trying to remember anything was leaving her fuzzier than she already was.

 

“It didn’t.” Carlisle answers. “But when Rosalie pulled you out of the way you both fell, and you hit your head on the pavement.”

 

“Is she okay?” She asks, suddenly worried about the girl.

 

Rosalie had saved her life, probably. Bella didn't know what to do with this new information – at least not besides the usual thank you.

 

Carlisle smiles softly at her. “She's okay, Bella. She’s worried about you – the whole family is.”

 

She exhales, letting her shoulders drop. “Is Tyler okay too?”

 

“He’s alright. I mean, I thought Rosalie was going to kill him after you passed out, but besides that he’s doing fine.” Jacob says, snickering.

 

“If she did I wouldn't arrest her for that, trust me,” Charlie says, voice gruff and teary-eyed. “You gave us quite a scare Bella.”

 

She sees him wiping his eyes and decides not to comment on it.

 

“I’m okay now dad,” Bella says, trying to comfort him. “Right?” She asks Carlisle.

 

“You suffered a minor concussion,” Carlisle explains. “You’ll have to take it slow on the next few days.”

 

“Okay. I’ll do that – how soon do you think I can leave?” She says, fidgeting with her gown.

 

“Normally I would discharge you now, but because you passed out when you fell I think it's best if you spend the night in observation, Bella. Tomorrow morning, if nothing out of the ordinary happens, you can go.” Carlisle says, voice serious.

 

“I’m feeling fine doc,” Bella says, trying to get up before a wave of nausea hits her. “Fine. Maybe you have a point.” She admits when Carlisle gives her a pointed look.

 

“I know I can’t go home yet – but you both should,” She says, looking at the pair sitting next to her while trying to get comfortable in the bed again. “Take a shower, eat something, have a change of clothes.” Bella completes, taking in the fact they’re still wearing the same thing she saw them both put on this morning.

 

Charlie shakes his head. “And leave you alone? Not a chance. I’m staying here.”

 

“I’m staying too,” Jacob says, nodding.

 

“If I may,” Carlisle joins in. “If the problem is leaving Bella here alone for a while I think I have a suggestion. Most of my family is still here, waiting for news. I’m sure someone can keep her company.”

 

“See, guys? Problem solved. Go home, I’ll still be here when you come back later.” She says.

 

“Are you sure?” Charlie asks. “We can stay. I hear the food here is alright – me and Jacob can grab something to eat downstairs.” He argues.

 

“Hospital food, dad? Really?”

 

Jacob nods. “You know I can eat anything.” He says.

 

“Guys, you can go. It’s only for a little while.” She says. “I would appreciate it if you brought me some change of clothes too.”

 

“Alright,” Charlie finally agrees. “We won’t take long.”

 

“I know you won’t,” Bella says, voice soft. “Thank you, both of you.”

 

xXx

 

 

It doesn’t take long after they leave for Bella to hear the door being gently opened again.

 

She’s watching the small TV in the room and eating some jello that a nice nurse has brought her, when the Cullen she wasn’t expecting to appear, does.

 

“Hey,” A tentative Rosalie says, slowly entering her room. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Well, I’m alive. I heard I had you to thank for that.” She says softly while the other girl sits in the chair next to her bed. “Thank you. What you did was either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid. I’m just having some trouble choosing which one.”

 

Rosalie hums. “Every act of bravery usually comes from stupidity.”

 

“Should I be offended you’re agreeing with me? Because it feels like I should.” She says and Rosalie rolls her eyes at her.

 

“Seems like you’re back to your usual self,” Rosalie states, staring back at her with some fondness in her eyes. “Dad told me you're suffering from some memory loss. You really don't remember anything?” She enquires, coming closer.

 

Bella can see her shifting in her seat, nervous and unsure, like she’s afraid of her answer.

 

“Nothing besides thinking ‘can’t believe this is how I'm going to die’. After that just the feeling of something hitting me.”

 

"Apparently that was you, you know, being an idiot.” Bella jokes.

 

“You didn't see me before? Where I was?”

 

She tries to remember but it’s all just a fog. “Honestly? No. I guess I got to caught up staring at the van coming my way.”

 

“Understandable.”

 

“You would think huh? Still, people keep asking me that. Guess it's a good thing is all a blur.” Bella says, closing her eyes for a second. Was it weird she wasn’t more affected by nearly dying?

 

“Probably for the better.” Rosalie states. “Jasper wanted to come see you,” she starts. “But he’s not a fan of hospitals.”

 

“It’s okay, don't worry. You can tell him I'm fine.”

 

Rosalie raises an eyebrow at her. “Are you really?” She asks, clearly not buying her answer.

 

She sighs, deciding to be more honest. “I’ve been better,” Bella admits, begrudgingly. “I don't like hospitals either. Not ever since my grandmother died.”

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

“It was a while ago. Still – I can't seem to look at them the same after. Too many bad memories.”

 

“Anything I can do to help?”

 

“You’re here. It’s more than enough.”

 

“I wanted to come earlier,” The girl admits. “But I didn’t want to intrude.”

 

She laughs. “My dad would probably have hugged you or something. Guess Carlisle isn’t the only Cullen he’s a fan of it now.” Rosalie bites her lip and Bella’s not sure how she isn’t blushing right now.

 

“Jacob said you almost killed Tyler.” She says, trying to change the subject.

 

Rosalie scoffs, crossing her arms. “He almost killed you.” She says, like that’s reason enough.

 

“I’m sure he’s sorry.” Bella states. “It was an accident.”

 

“I don’t care that he’s sorry. He should’ve been more careful.”

 

“True. But let’s not talk about Tyler anymore. Wanna watch some bad soap opera with me?”

 

“Sure.” Rosalie shrugs. “What is it about?”

 

“I don’t know, but that woman there – the brunette?” She points at the TV screen. “She was making out with some dude before you came in. Now, If I’m not mistaken I could’ve sworn I saw her with her husband in some other scene earlier.”

 

“Okay,” Rosalie says, paying attention. “Are we supposed to like her or not?” She asks while Bella resumes eating her jello.

 

She shrugs, noncommittally. “I’m totally on board with everything she’s choosing to do.”

 

“And that has nothing to do with the fact that she’s hot?” Rosalie enquires, shaking her head.

 

Bella gestures with her hand. “Hey, you’re the one who’s saying it, not me.”

 

“Just because you didn’t say it doesn’t mean you didn’t think it,” Rosalie says, amused.

 

“Reader of minds, are you now?”

 

“No. That’s my creepy brother.”

 

“Edward?” Bella asks with her brows furrowed. “I seriously doubt that.”

 

Rosalie just laughs.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Bella, has anything came back to you? About the accident?” Jacob asks her when they’re both lying down on her bed.

 

She’s been discharged earlier today from the hospital, but Jacob and Charlie had still been acting like she was some sort of invalid who shouldn’t do anything besides laying in bed all day.

 

Bella thought it was best not to argue – this didn’t look like a battle she would win – or even one she should engage in, not when her head was still hurting and her mind was still busy being a fuzzy mess.

 

But just because she was like this didn’t mean she hadn’t been able to watch Jacob and realize he was acting weird.

 

Ever since everything had happened he’d been like this.

 

Quiet and pensive. Two things she never thought she would use to describe him.

 

Bella shakes her head. “It’s all a blur to be honest, Jake. Why?” She asks, not knowing where he’s going with this, again.

 

“It’s just, I was there talking with Edward, you know? When we were in the parking lot. But when I heard the noise I looked across from me, and I swear I saw Rosalie there, standing next to Emmett.” He says. “But before I even knew what was happening she was right beside you, getting you out from the path of Tyler’s van,” Jacob explains.

 

“I’m sure you’re probably just confused buddy.” She says, not paying much attention to him.

 

Jacob sighs. “That’s the thing, Bella. I don’t think I am.”

 

“Haven’t you noticed anything weird about the Cullen’s while hanging out with them?” He asks, sitting up on the bed.

 

“I don’t know if I’m the best person for you to ask Jacob,” She states, thinking about the fact that hanging out with them has been a new feature in her life. “Besides, that depends on your definition of weird.”

 

“Haven’t you noticed how they don’t ever eat anything?”

 

She shrugs. “At school? It’s not like I can blame them for that Jake. Honestly, I think they had the right idea there.”

 

“Not just at school, but like ever?” He asks again.

 

“We had dinner with them the other night Jake – they ate there.” She says back at him.

 

“Barely.”

 

“Maybe they’re on a diet or something. They all do look very fit. Maybe they’re one of those families who do that kind of stuff together, you know?” She argues.

 

Jacob decides to ignore her. ”It’s not just that Bella. Have you touched them at all?”

 

Bella frowns. “What kind of question is that?”

 

“They’re all ice-cold.” He says and she remembers the time when Rosalie’s hand brushed on her own.

 

Ok, that was probably weird. But some people were just like that. Poor circulation of blood or something.

 

“Where are you trying to get here, Jake? What is this all about, really?”

 

Jacob bites his lips, face pensive. “When I was younger my father used to tell me this story, you know, this legend. About our ancestors and the tribe. And I always thought he took it a bit more seriously than he should. After all, that’s all it was right? A tale. One they liked to tell in front of the fire at their meetings.” He takes a breath before continuing. “So I could never figure out why he seemed so obsessed with it, why he made a point for me to know it and always remember. Now, I’m starting to think he had a point.” He finishes.

 

“Okay. I didn’t understand anything you just said.” Bella says.

 

“You will.”

 

xXx

 

 

“Do you see where I’m going with this now?” Jacob asks. “Back then I thought it was my dad being him. Not liking anyone new who came into town. I thought it was him being a bit senile – trying to find a reason not to like the Cullen’s.”

 

“And now you’re buying into his crazy theory that the Cullen’s are vampires? Vampires Jacob.” Bella says, lips tightening . “You can’t be serious.” She states.

 

“That’s exactly what I’m telling you.”

 

Vampires.” She repeats one more time for good measure. “And not only that – you’re telling me they’re the same ones who did this treaty thing with your great-great-grandfather or whatever?”

 

Jacob nods. “Yes.”

 

“I don’t mean to sound rude. But you do know I’m the one with the concussion right? If anyone had reason to act crazy it would be me, not you.”

 

He frowns. “So you don’t believe me?”

 

“Jake,” Bella starts, trying to salvage the situation. “Be honest. Would you?”

 

“Yes,” He says, eyes soft. “If it were you telling me I would.”

 

“Now you’re just lying.” She says, shaking her head. “Look, it sounds a little farfetched. I just don’t think you have much going on in your theory. Nothing real besides some made-up tale your father probably told you to scare you up.”

 

“That’s because you didn’t saw Rosalie being in one place one second and being in a completely different one in the next – like she teleported or something.”

 

“Okay, okay,” Bella says trying to be supportive. “If you’re right – and I’m not saying you are – what do you suppose we do?”

 

“How should I know?” Jacob asks, confused.

 

“It’s your legend, your theory.” She points out.

 

“I think…I think we should tell them.” He says, suddenly determined.

 

What??”

 

"I'm going to tell them I know," Jacob says, getting up.

 

Bella's eyes widen. “Now?”

 

“I know you think I’m out of my mind. I get it. But they won’t – they’ll know I figured it out. They’ll admit, and then you’re finally going to believe me.”

 

“Jacob best case scenario they’ll think you’re going mad – bad case? They’ll kill you.” Bella states, worried.

 

"If they wanted they could've killed us ages ago," Jacob argues while putting on his shoes.

 

"That's not as encouraging as you might think."

 

 “I want the truth. Don’t you?” He questions.

 

“No. If that is the truth I'm okay with being lied to.”

 

“I’m going, Bella,” Jacob says, resolute. “Unlike you, I have to know.”

 

Bella puts her hands up in surrender. “I can see that.” She says, getting up too. “If you’re going I’m coming with you. There’s no way this is going to end up well.”

 

“You’re not driving.”

 

“Fine.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Bella asks, having a sense of déjà vu. She remembers being in this almost exact situation two months ago.

 

She and Jacob going to the Cullen’s. Him resolute but a little afraid - and her questioning why the hell was she going along with it in the first place.

 

It hadn't ended that well either back then. She’d left the Cullen's that time certain that Rosalie Hale hated her guts.

 

The next morning at school had cemented that fact and at the same time completely shattered it the moment the girl helped her get home.

 

Ironically both times she’d been relegated to a passenger on her own truck.

 

Jacob turns to stare at her in contempt. “Yes. You’re the one who isn’t.” He states.

 

“Eyes on the road!” Bella exclaims. “For God's sake Jake, I swear this is the last time you're driving us anywhere.”

 

“Chill out Bella, Carol’s in good hands.”

 

She sighs, thinking about the fact that, unfortunately, this was the least of her problems right now.

 

“Jacob, I know this year has been stressful for you. Everything with your dad, changing schools, coming out.” She says, trying to be understanding. “Maybe you’re scared things are going well with Edward – I don't know. Life's scary sometimes. I just… I don't think this is the right way to cope with it.”

 

“I’ve never been more sure of anything in my whole life, I—" He starts and she doesn't let him finish.

 

“How not seeing someone eat and them being cold equates as them being vampires? Please explain it to me. I’m still having trouble processing how you leaped to that.”

 

He rolls his eyes at her. “It's not this simple. I didn't tell you everything – there are little things too. Behaviors, actions, coincidences. Of course you're not seeing what I am, you're not even looking.

 

“And I should?”

 

“No. You didn't know there was anything to see.” Jacob says, voice certain. “Things just kept adding up Bella, and I know I might sound crazy to you – but I’m not. I’m finally seeing things clearly.”

 

“We don't live in the world you think we do.” His voice is somber and Bella starts feeling a little queasy. “There are things out there that can't be explained by normal logic.”

 

“You’ll see,” Jacob says, and Bella keeps quiet, wondering how she’s supposed to try and salvage a situation as crazy as this one.

 

She just hopes the Cullen's can be as understanding as she's trying to be.

 

xXx

 

 

“Does he do that often?” Bella questions when she sees Edward on the driveway, waiting for them to arrive. “Did you told him we were coming?”

 

Jacob shakes his head. “No. But I’m not surprised – this is the type of thing I’m telling you. It’s weird, and it’s not the first time it has happened.”

 

She ignores him. Edward had probably heard the noise of Carol approaching – there’s nothing to unpack here.

 

When you put something in your head is easy to believe everything that's happening is a sign. They aren't - they're just things.

 

“How are you feeling?” Jacob asks, glancing up at her with a worried face, like he’s suddenly remembering she should be in her bed at home getting some rest.

 

“Like Tyler’s van really did hit me and this is all a dream.”

 

Jacob snorts. “If someone had told me before how dramatic you were, I wouldn't have believed them. Now c’mon, it’s time for us to know the truth.” He gets out of the car.

 

“Yay.” She says to no one, with no excitement whatsoever.

 

She doubts Jacob will be feeling this confident after the Cullen’s start to stare at him like he’s tripping on something.

 

xXx

 

 

She was wrong.

 

Dead wrong.

 

Also probably dead and this was just the afterlife punishing her for something she couldn't even remember.

 

As soon as Bella had entered the house she'd been surprised to find everyone of the family in the living room – waiting for them.

 

When Jacob had loudly proclaimed ‘I know what you guys are’ she'd been waiting for laughter, shock, incredulous faces staring back at her.

 

Not the quiet. The resignation.

 

Not Edward uttering the words ‘we know you do’.

 

Not the confirmation that they were indeed vampires.

 

“Hang on, you’re telling me that Jacob’s right?” Bella says, her voice going up an octave. “This is some sick joke, that’s what this is.”

 

“I think she’s going into shock.” Alice states and Bella promptly ignores her.

 

Emmett, on the other hand, just keeps staring at her like he’s trying to figure something out. Before she can realize what that is or what's happening, he’s on the other side of the living room in a flash.

 

He grabs the large wooden table they had dinner the other night with only one hand and lifts it up.

 

Emmett looks her way, his face normal – like lifting a table that heavy is no struggle at all. “Do you believe us now?”

 

No,” Bella says, shaking her head. “I’m hallucinating, that’s what this is.”

 

Rosalie, who doesn’t seem to be enjoying this conversation at all, glances her way. “It’s the truth.”

 

“It’s how we knew you and Jacob were coming,” Edward explains.

 

I saw it.” Alice happily states.

 

“You saw it?” She asks. “What the fuck does that mean?” Bella clears her throat, suddenly realizing where she is. “Sorry, Esme.”

 

“It’s okay dear. It’s understandable you’re feeling this way.” She says with a soft voice.

 

“I think we should sit down, Bella,” Carlisle says. “There’s a lot we have to explain to both of you, and it will take a while.”

 

xXx

 

“You understand now why we didn't tell you both?” Edward asks. “The Volturi – they’re like our government and this is basically the number one rule. Keep the secret and protect our existence from outside forces.”

 

“Like the Ministry of magic in the Harry Potter books, we get it,” Jacob says.

 

Bella frowns. “You got it, sorry if I’m still stuck on the ‘they will murder all of us if they find out’.”

 

“As you should,” Rosalie adds.

 

“They won't. And if they do we’ll know first because Alice will see it.” Edward says it, voice sure.

 

Rosalie scoffs. “So that makes it right? What we’re doing here? What you're doing?”

 

“Not this again Rose,” Edward says, passing his hand through his hair. “Not now.”

 

“Yes now, brother,” Rosalie states, serious. “Am I supposed to be okay with the fact that you’ve been lying to us? That you have known for weeks now that Jacob was starting to suspect something but that you decided you would keep that crucial piece of information to yourself?”

 

“I know what you would’ve said if I told you then.”

 

Rosalie tightens her lips. “We should’ve left when we had the chance. This is a tragedy waiting to happen.” She crosses her arms.

 

“We can go back at this later kids,” Carlisle says, trying to maintain the peace. He turns to look at Bella and Jacob. “You both understand you have to keep this a secret from everyone? If the Volturi found out we will all be in great trouble. Anyone else finding out will only make it worse.”

 

They nod and Edward looks to his sister for support.

 

“My visions haven't changed,” Alice says, giving him an encouraging smile.

 

“No offense to you Alice, you seem great. But I’m not sure your words are enough to make me feel safer.” Bella says, trying to make sense of all the information they've just dumped on her.

 

“It's not just words,” Jasper says. “Alice can see the future.” He explains.

 

“What??” She says, looking at Jacob and hoping he's having the same reaction she is now. He isn't.

 

“How are you not freaking out?” She whispers to him, hard.

 

Jacob, who's sitting next to her just shrugs. “It makes sense.”

 

“No. It doesn't buddy. Nothing makes sense anymore.”

 

“I guess this is a good time as any to tell you she's not the only one in the family who has a gift?” Emmett chimes in, trying to contain his laughter at her expression.

 

“Edward can read minds,” Rosalie says, narrowing her eyes at him again.

 

“Not yours, Bella. I can't seem to read yours for some reason.” He says.

 

“Wait, what?” She doesn't know if she should feel relieved or worried.”Has this happened before?”

 

“No.” He says, face pensive. “It's mostly the reason why I have been so curious about you. I’m sorry if I have crossed some boundaries because of that.”

 

“Is that the best apology you can come up with?” Bella asks, raising one eyebrow.

 

Yes.” Jasper snickers.

 

“Does that mean you can read Jacob’s mind?” She asks, suddenly noticing her friend has been too quiet for someone who just outed a family of vampires.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Oh buddy,” Bella says, nudging Jacob lightly. “And here were you thinking you could hide your crush.”

 

He blushes. “So many things are starting to make sense now.”

 

Edward seems apologetic. “I wanted to tell you, I just… I didn't know how. I’m truly sorry Jacob. It was never my intention to violate your privacy – but it's not like I can turn it off.”

 

Jacob gives him a little smile. “It's okay. I guess it could be a good thing.”

 

“I don't see how," Bella mumbles and she sees most of the family agreeing with her.

 

“So that's it, reading minds and seeing the future?” Jacob asks, trying to change the subject. Bella would too if she had just found out that her crush could read her mind.

 

“No,” Esme says. “Jasper can feel and manipulate emotions and Emmett is the strongest one of us.”

 

Emmett grins. “I am.” He says proudly.

 

“Carlisle after years of working as a doctor has one of the best tolerances to blood I’ve ever seen.” Edward states.

 

“And Rosalie has a natural one, better than Carlisle even,” Jasper says, impressed.

 

“Ok. That's the better one, hands down.” Bella says, pointing to both of them. She sees the surprise in everyone's face. “As a human, I can guarantee that being able to resist the urge to drink my blood is always going to take the trophy.” She shrugs.

 

“Not your blood,” Rosalie states, voice soft. “Your blood doesn't call to us. It's almost like you have none at all.”

 

“Hm, that’s a good thing, I suppose?” Bella says, further intrigued by the fact that apparently, she had some natural protections against them.

 

Honestly, it was the least nature could do for her. It wasn't like she’d asked for predators like vampires to be roaming around humans.

 

“It's a very good thing, Bella.” Carlisle states. “If you were to start bleeding right now we wouldn't feel the compulsion to drink it.”

 

“Ok, that makes me feel better.” She states, before adding. “Does Jacob's?”

 

“Yes,” Edward says. “Nothing out of the ordinary though, and since he's been spending some time here most of us have gotten used to it.”

 

“My powers don't work on you either,” Jasper says, voice calm. “I can't feel your emotions or influence you at all.”

 

“But you can see my future?” Bella asks Alice.

 

Alice nods. “Yes.”

 

“Alright.” She says. “Still, from what you all told me that won't stop the Volturi from killing me, right?”

 

It might,” Edward says, biting his lips. “Aro has a fascination with gifted vampires. If you're like this as a human…he might be tempted to have you turned.”

 

“Or he might kill us all,” Rosalie says. “Either way Bella, the story ends with you dead.”

 

Bella gulps. “Yeah, I got that part.”

 

“So what do we do?” Jacob asks, voice quiet. He might not have any regrets as far as figuring out goes, but Bella can see he’s shaken up too.

 

“I’ll keep an eye on things. Until then I’m afraid there's nothing we can do anymore. Not now, at least.” Alice says.

 

“We can leave,” Rosalie suggests and Bella sees Jacob unease at the girl's solution.

 

“It's not that simple,” Edward says. “You know that.”

 

“Yes, it is.” Rosalie bites back.

 

Edward raises an eyebrow at her, disbelief clear in his features. “Can you leave?” He asks Rosalie but looks at Bella with clear intent. “Because I don't think you can.”

 

“There's no use arguing about this,” Carlisle intervenes. “For now, we're staying here. If things change we’ll regroup and make a family decision about it. I hope if it comes to it, both of you can agree on the course of action.” He finishes looking at both of them pointedly.

 

“Does anyone have any more questions or something they would like to discuss?” He asks but everyone keeps quiet.

 

“Great. Now I have to go to work. I’ll be back later.” He gives Esme a soft kiss before walking out.

 

“So what do we do now?” Emmett asks after Carlisle leaves.

 

“Would you all mind if I laid down for a minute?” Bella asks, feeling a little nauseous. Her head had started to bother her a few minutes ago but she’d been too engrossed on the conversation to say anything.

 

“Of course not dear,” Esme says, getting up. “I’ll help you. The rest of the kids can find something uneventful to do, can’t they?”

 

They all nod and Bella fights the urge not to laugh at them. Vampires or not it seemed like they were first a family.

 

xXx

 

“How are you feeling now?” Esme asks her while sitting down on the bed.

 

“Better,” Bella says gratefully. “Are you sure Rosalie won't mind that I’m in her bed?” She stares at the pictures on Rosalie's desk.

 

Apparently, vampires not showing up in pictures was a myth.

 

Esme chuckles softly. “She was the one to suggest it.” The woman must the expression on Bella’s face. “Surprised?”

 

“A little.” She admits. Maybe she shouldn't - Rosalie did have the ability to constantly surprise her – so she should be used to it by now.

 

“My daughter, she may seem like she doesn't care sometimes, but it's quite the opposite.” The woman says. “Rosalie has one of the biggest hearts I know. I hope that you can convince her to show you that side of hers Bella.”

 

She bites her lip. “How much of convincing do you think I’ll have to do?” Bella suddenly remembers her conversation with Jasper on the other day.

 

How ironic was it that she found herself in the position of wanting to volunteer for Rosalie's friendship now?

 

Esme smiles. “Probably not as much as you would think.”

 

She nods. “I’m not sure she’s quite sold on the idea of us being friends,” Bella admits.

 

“I wouldn't be so sure of that. Rosalie will never take the first step, for reasons that are her own to tell you, should she chooses to. But if you did? I’m quite sure she wouldn't be able to say no.”

 

xXx

 

"Okay. So tell me again how it works." Bella says.

 

After Esme had gone back down to make sure everything was alright and nobody was destroying the house, Alice had joined her here.

 

“Is not an infallible science. People make different choices all the time.”

 

“Okay,” Bella says, face pensive. “So if I decide to get up and leave you would see it?”

 

Alice nods. “Yes, but only at the exact moment you decide. Before that there's just fragments, possibilities.”

 

She hums. "And how do you sort through all that?"

 

"Time and patience."

 

Bella frowns. “Still, it doesn't look like it's something easy to carry."

 

“It isn't." Alice shakes her head in agreement. “But it has its perks.”

 

“Like what?” Bella says, sitting up straight. “Knowing the lottery numbers?”

 

Alice laughs. “Like knowing I would find Jasper before I did.” She smiles softly. “But that too.”

 

There's a light knock on the door and Bella sees Esme and Jasper in the threshold.

 

“The kids are going to have a movie night, are you staying?” Esme asks.

 

“I’m sorry Esme, I did promise Charlie I would see some basketball game with him today. Some father-daughter bonding or something.” Bella says, apologetic. “Maybe next time?”

 

“Of course dear. Is Jacob going with you?”

 

Bella snorts. “Probably not. He’ll offer but I know he wants to stay. I’ll let him enjoy his vampire pseudo-boyfriend a while longer.”

 

Everyone laughs.

 

“I’ll take you home then Bella,” Alice says. “You’ll let Jacob drive your truck home?”

 

She sighs. “Unfortunately. I just hope he won't make me regret it.”

 

“I can take her Al,” Jasper says, kindly. “You can help them choose the movie. Please make sure it's not Emmett who has the final word. I don't think I can watch a die hard marathon again.”

 

xXx

 

“I’m sorry I didn't tell you the truth Bella,” Jasper says, his eyes on the road.

 

She gives him a little smile. “I’m not sure I would've believed you then. Honestly, I don't even know if I believe you now.”

 

Jasper nods. “It's a hard reality to come to terms with.”

 

“You don't say.” She responds. “So, a vampire huh?”

 

“Yes,” Jasper says, biting his lips.

 

“Is it a faux pas to ask your age?”

 

“No. Well, maybe.”

 

“Can I guess?” She says, curious. “Give me a historical event you lived through.”

 

“When I was human I fought on the Civil War.”

 

Bella frowns. “Holy fuck. So you're older than a hundred, right?”

 

He shakes his head in affirmation.

 

“You must have lived through some crazy times.” Bella states.

 

“You bet. Lately? Not so much.”

 

She closes her eyes for a second, trying to come to terms with the fact this was her life now. Having these types of conversations like it was normal.

 

“You alright?” Jasper asks, worried.

 

She sighs. “I’ll be. I guess I just need some time to wrap my head around it. This all sounds so surreal.” Bella admits. “Guess you're not an introvert, yeah? Just a vampire. The problem with a large crowd is the amount of blood and not the noise.”

 

“You’re not wrong, but you aren’t right either. I wasn’t lying about that part. “ He starts. “You know about my gift. What Esme didn’t tell you is that most times it doesn’t feel like one.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I’m always feeling what everybody around me is – I can’t turn it off. At school, with that many people there? All those teenagers’ emotions? It’s too much for me sometimes. Of course, desiring their blood too doesn’t help.”

 

“You don’t have that problem with me.”

 

“I don’t,” He states. “At both things. It's one of the reasons I feel so much like myself when I’m with you. When it’s just us? I know that whatever I’m feeling is me. You don’t know how hard is to figure it out sometimes – what’s me and what’s someone else.”

 

“I’m sorry. That must be hard.” She says, suddenly seeing her friend in a new light. “If you ever need to get away from it all Jasper, my offer still stands.”

 

“Really? You don’t care that we’re vampires?”

 

“Don’t care is a strong word.” She says. “But it doesn’t change the fact that we’re friends. It’s not like there’s anything left for all of us to do then to get on with our lives at this point. What’s done is done.”

 

“Not according to Rosalie. In her opinion we should leave.”

 

“What do you think?”

 

“I don’t know. It’s a hard situation. There’s a lot more going on that you’re not privy to.” He says honestly. “Rosalie has her reasons for wanting that and she’s not wrong, but Edward has his reason for wanting to stay and he’s not wrong either.”

 

“I see,” Bella says even though she doesn’t see at all.

 

“They’re both so different. That’s what this is about in the end. Rosalie thinks Edward’s being selfish, and he thinks she’s being a coward.”

 

“I don’t think she’s in the wrong. I can definitely see her point.”

 

Jasper rolls his eyes at her. “Of course you would say that.”

 

“What?” She asks, crossing her arms. “She’s trying to protect her family. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

 

“They’re not the only ones she’s trying to protect.”

 

Bella stares at him, confused. “Who else there is?”

 

“Jacob, you.” He says. “Herself.”

 

She shrugs. “Whatever. At least Jacob and Edward seemed happy when we left.”

 

Jasper nods. “They were.”

 

“Maybe that’ll make him less insufferable.”

 

Jasper laughs. “I doubt that, Bella. But one can hope.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It's been two weeks since the grand revelation that took place in the Cullen's household.

 

Two weeks since Bella’s worldview had shifted in such a way that the notion that vampires were running around in good old Forks didn’t make her want to scream into a void anymore.

 

Well, maybe a little.

 

She was only human after all (unlike some).

 

In that time she’d also come to two very important conclusions.

 

The first one was that if Jacob and Edward didn't get their act together sometime soon she would have to take matters into her own hands.

 

Watching them make heart eyes at each other was starting to get old.

 

Jacob liked Edward. Edward could read Jacob's mind. They saw each other practically every day. Why hadn't one of them asked the other out yet? What was the deal?

 

What exactly were they waiting for?

 

 Whatever.

 

They were weird like that. She had to make her peace with it.

 

The second one was that Rosalie was avoiding her. On purpose. Honestly, it seemed like she was avoiding everyone at this point.

 

And Bella had tried giving her space - she had. Hadn't pushed. Had let the girl figure it out whatever she was trying to figure out without getting all up in her business.

 

But after fourteen days of silence she was tired.

 

And frustrated.

 

And missing Rosalie's snarky comments and the way she seemed to roll her eyes at almost everything Bella had to say.

 

So enough was enough.

 

"Jacob," Bella says, picking her truck keys from the table in front of her. "I'm going to the Cullen's. You coming?"

 

He looks up from his homework, confused. "Now?"

 

"Yes." She says, certain. A part of her knew she should have done something already.

 

"Weren't you the one who said I had to finish this?"

 

"You have." She agrees.

 

"Ok. Do you think they'll mind if I finish it there?"

 

Bella rolls her eyes. "No. Your boyfriend can help you."

 

"He's not my boyfriend," Jacob says automatically.

 

"Your friend." She corrects herself sarcastically.

 

"That's better."

 

"Is it?" She questions him with one eyebrow raised.

 

Jacob ignores her. "Do you want me to tell them we're coming?"

 

"Can't Alice see the future? Can't Edward read minds?" Bella says, shrugging. "What's the point?"

 

"Being polite?"

 

"Suit yourself." She says.

 

There was being polite and there was being redundant. Jacob always seemed to aim at the first but hit the second, time and time again.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but it feels like you’re avoiding me.” She says while entering the Cullen’s garage.

 

Rosalie, who’d been under a red BMW doing something Bella had no idea whatsoever, slides right.

 

The girl stares at her with surprise in her face, making part of Bella wonder if she'd been too engrossed on what she was doing to have heard the noise of her truck arriving minutes ago.

 

Rosalie gets up from the ground, her hands holding a dirty mini red towel, and her eyes looking at her like she's not sure if she wants her here or not.

 

“I’m avoiding everyone.” She states and Bella’s too caught up on the fact she's wearing a darkened green overall with a white t-shirt to say something smart.

 

Sometimes she wondered if the universe had fun testing her gayness at moments like this.

 

“Bella?” Rosalie calls her name, oblivious to the fact she’d been staring.

 

“Hm,” she starts, trying to clear her mind. “I’m not sure that’s better.”

 

“For you?”

 

“For you,” Bella says, matter-of-factly. “Maybe you should talk with someone.”

 

Rosalie just looks at her like she hasn't grasped the meaning of her words. “If I wanted to talk I wouldn’t be avoiding everyone.”

 

“Fair point.” She says, passing a hand through her hair. Who knew this was going to be this difficult?

 

What had Esme said the other day? Something about how she should be the one to make a move first.

 

Wait. That sounded weird.

 

A friendship move – that sounded better.

 

“Still, if you want to – I’m here.” Bella offers with what she hopes is an encouraging smile.

 

“Why? Why are you here?” Rosalie suddenly asks, voice raised. “Why aren’t you running for the woods?”

 

Bella scoffs. “That wouldn’t work.” She says, shaking her head. “Me running? The woods? That’s a recipe for disaster.”

 

“This here is a recipe for disaster.”

 

“You’re not wrong. I’m just not sure you’re right.” Bella says, taking a deep breath. “Look. I get it – honestly, I do. But it’s not like we can erase the fact that me and Jacob know, or that he and Edward are doing something weird they refuse to label like a relationship.”

 

Rosalie's shoulders drop a little and her stance becomes less confrontational.

 

“You didn’t choose this, neither did I. But it’s what we have right now. Why not make the best out of it?” Bella asks, shrugging. “And yeah, The Volturi might kill us all or things might end in tragedy –"

 

“There’s no might,” The girl interrupts. “They will. Hanging out with vampires doesn’t do well for your life expectancy.”

 

“That’s not true.” She argues. “If it weren’t for you I would already be dead. Wouldn’t I?”

 

“That not the point,” Rosalie says and Bella pretty sure she’s having a hard time trying to get her point across.

 

“What the point?”

 

Rosalie sighs. “The point is there I can’t possibly agree with this.”

 

“I know. But from where I’m looking at there’s not much you can do – well, more than brood and hide in the garage and not talk to anyone for days on end.”

 

Rosalie tightens her lips. She starts cleaning her hands in the red towel and Bella knows she's buying some time.

 

“What do you want me to do?”

 

“Let it go?” Bella suggests.

 

“And do what with that?”

 

“Enjoy it? Accept things haven't gone the way you wanted them to but try and make the best of it anyway?”

 

Rosalie chuckles depreciatingly. “If you knew me, Bella, you would know that’s not my forte.”

 

“Well, I’m trying – you’re not exactly helping here.” She says, trying to keep the exasperation out of her voice.

 

“To?” Rosalie asks.

 

Bella rolls her eyes. “Get to know you. God, hasn’t anyone ever tried to befriend you before?”

 

“Is this what’s happening here?”

 

“Hm, yes?”

 

“You’re trying to be my friend?” Rosalie says, eyebrow raised like she’s not believing her words.

 

“Yes. Is that so hard to believe?”

 

“Yes.” Her voice is honest.

 

“Can’t say people didn't warn me about this.” She says, resting her back on the white wall behind her.

 

“What people?”

 

“Your family, mostly. Maybe Jacob before I came here. He totally gave a sign that was like ‘are you crazy?’ but he’s the one to talk. At least I wasn't the one who believed some old tale and thought you guys were vampires. Seriously, he should look himself in the mirror instead of pointing the finger at me.”

 

Rosalie bites her lips. “Wasn’t he right?” She says amused.

 

“No.” She says even though she knows the right answer here is yes.

 

“I don't think you should be here.” The girl tries again but Bella's not having it.

 

“Rosalie. I’m trying to be your friend. Will you please – for the love of God – let me?”

 

Fine. What do you want to do then?”

 

Bella scratches her hair, face pensive. “Honestly hadn't thought past this here. Didn't think you would agree this easily.” She jokes.

 

Rosalie throws the towel in her face with meticulous precision. “I’m going to go back to what I was doing before you distracted me. You can stay here if you want.” She says, pointing with her head to the cozy sofa at the other end of the room.

 

“Alright,” Bella agrees. “I’ll read something.” She says, grabbing her small kindle from the inside pocket of her denim jacket.

 

“You do that,” Rosalie mumbles, and she sees that the girl is already going under the car again.

 

 

xXx

 

She doesn’t know how much time has passed. The only thing Bella knows is that she’s bored.

 

Her attention had been slowly drifting from her book to the girl in front of her. Ever since Rosalie had started fixing something in the passenger seat she’d slowly abandoned her kindle in favor of watching her.

 

“I’m bored.” She says.

 

Rosalie smirks. “I can see that. I’ve been wondering how much longer you would last without starting a conversation.”

 

“Hey,” Bella protest. “I’m not that bad.”

 

“You aren’t,” the girl states. “Emmett wouldn’t have lasted fifteen minutes.”

 

“Am I distracting you?” She asks, worried she's not exactly being a good company right now.

 

“No. Am I distracting you?” Rosalie grins, and Bella's pretty sure she already knows the answer to the question she'd just asked.

 

“Yes.” She says honestly. “Want to play twenty questions?”

 

“I don’t think you actually know how to play it,” Rosalie says, crinkling her eyes and nose.

 

Bella frowns, confused.“I ask a question and you answer. Then it’s your turn. Is that not it?”

 

“No.”

 

“Whatever. Want to play my version of it?”

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her. “Sure. Lead away.”

 

“What's your favorite Tom Hanks movie?” Bella asks, voice suddenly serious.

 

Rosalie looks at her like she's doubtful those were the words coming out of Bella’s mouth. “Seriously? I agree to answer anything you want and that’s the first thing in your mind?”

 

“Of course. What else would it be?”

 

“I don’t know. Anything else. Maybe something to do with vampires. Don’t you have any questions about that?”

 

She nods. “I have several. But that would tell me about vampires, not about you.

 

Fine.” Rosalie decides to go along. “Castaway.”

 

“Oh, that’s a good one.”

 

It was on her top 3. She would never forget crying when Wilson had floated away.

 

“Yours?”

 

Bella smiles. “Forrest Gump, hands down.”

 

“Can I ask you why?” Rosalie says softly.

 

“My grandmother loved this movie.” She says and her eyes shine with happiness. “We saw it together when my mother was too busy with some boyfriend to care about anything else. It was one of those days, you know? The kind that sticks with you somehow.” She reminisces.

 

Rosalie’s head turns a little, smile in place. “Is it my turn now?”

 

“Didn’t you just ask me something?” Bella asks, raising an eyebrow.

 

No,” Rosalie smirks, ignoring her. “What’s your favorite Meryl Streep movie?

 

Bella doesn’t even blink before she answers. “Devil Wears Prada.” Her fingers brush against her chin. “Although Mamma Mia is a close second. I do love me some ABBA.” She finishes. “Yours?”

 

“Sophie's Choice.”

 

She snorts. “Of course it would be this one.”

 

Rosalie looks at her threateningly. “Why?”

 

Bella bites her lip trying not to laugh. “Hm - because you're....old?” She finishes, already fearing for her life.

 

Before Rosalie can do anything Bella’s already saying. “Please don’t throw the dirty towel at me again. I swear I swallowed some oil the last time.”

 

“I’m going to let this one slide,” Her eyes narrow. “I won't be so forgiving next time.”

 

“Thank you,” Bella says, scratching the back of her neck. “What’s your favorite movie of all time?” She asks, trying to get back to their game.

 

“That’s a tough one,” Rosalie says, face pensive. “Probably Titanic.”

 

She snickers. “You? Titanic? Really?”

 

The girl nods.

 

“I would never say that in a million years.”

 

“You don’t like it?” Rosalie asks, voice genuine.

 

She shrugs. “I saw it once ages ago. Never got the hype.”

 

Before they can continue their game a very enthusiastic Jacob opens the garage door with such force Bella’s a little afraid he has damaged it.

 

“Bella,” He says, out of breath. “We have to go home, now!” He grabs her by the shoulders.

 

What the hell Jake,” She says while Rosalie laughs quietly in the background. “Warn a person next time.”

 

“Edward asked me on a date,” His grin is taking over his whole face and Bella can’t help but grin back at him. “It’s tomorrow morning. I have to go home so I can prepare, you know?"

 

"I don't even know what I'm going to wear." He says, panicking. "I need your help."

 

Bella suddenly looks outside and sees it’s already pitch dark. Apparently, she'd been here longer than she thought.

 

“A date in the morning? Who does that?” She questions him but she's looking at Rosalie. The girl throws her hands in the air like she’s not sure either.

 

“Don't ask me,” Rosalie mumbles, shaking her head.

 

"Ok Jake, I'll help you. Try to take deep breaths and not freak out."

 

“Thank you, Bella. I’ll let you say goodbye.” Jacob says sheepishly before leaving again.

 

 

xXx

 

“So,” She starts, a little unsure.

 

Rosalie’s in front of her and she doesn't seem to be doing any better, if her fidgeting hands are anything to go by.

 

“This has been…nice.”

 

“It has.” The girl agrees.

 

“I guess I’ll see you at school?” She asks, hopeful.

 

“Of course,” Rosalie says softly. “See you Monday, Bella.”

 

“Thank you for putting up with me.”

 

“Thank you for staying.”

 

“Let's do it again sometime.” She says, grinning.

 

Rosalie shakes her head in amusement, getting the joke. “Let's.”

 

“Who knew you would change your mind, huh?”

 

Rosalie narrows her eyes at her. “You should go before I decide to throw something in your face again.”

 

“You wouldn't do that.” She says, voice sure.

 

She sees the girl hands grabbing the towel, but before anything can happen she's already sprinting away from the garage.

 

The last thing Bella hears is Rosalie's laughter ringing throughout the house.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It’s early afternoon when Jacob returns.

 

He has a warm smile in his face - the kind that tells Bella everything she needs to know. His cheeks are red and she's sure it has more to do with who he was just with than with the cold temperature outside.

 

She's watching him from the kitchen, but he's too caught up in himself to spot her. So he’s none the wiser that he has an audience when he decides to rest his back on the front door with his hands on his heart.

 

Usually, Bella wouldn’t let him live this one down, but today? She’s too happy for him to do anything but smile at the scene.

 

"Hey," she clears her throat, wincing when Jacob gives her a startled scream. "Guess I can assume things went alright on your date?”

 

He stares at her with narrowed eyes. “You almost gave me a heart attack. I didn’t know you were here.”

 

Bella bites her lip, trying not to laugh. “Where else would I be?”

 

“You could have gone fishing with Charlie.” He answers, shrugging.

 

“I’m going pretend you haven’t said that.” She says and he starts to slowly walk towards her way.

 

“I thought maybe you would’ve succumbed to Charlie’s pleas.”

 

“I kindly explained to him that it seemed fishing was something he did so he could relax. Me screaming every time a bug came near me would defeat that purpose.” Bella explains.

 

He pulls up a chair, sitting right next to her on the kitchen table. “And what did he say?”

 

“He agreed to go alone this time. I did have to promise him that we would join him some other time though.”

 

Jacob whines. “You know I hate fishing. Why would you say something like that?”

 

“So we could suffer together? Isn’t that like the base of our friendship?”

 

He just rolls his eyes at her, playfully giving Bella a little shove.

 

She chuckles. “So, tell me all the details. Did Edward kiss you? Was that the reason you were clutching your heart like a character in one of those stupid movies you’re so fond of?”

 

“Why are you so against romantic comedies?”

 

“Because it’s the same thing as horror movies.” She states.

 

Jacob seems offended. “No, it’s not.”

 

“People have to be dumb so the movie can work.” Bella starts. “Things happen in a way that they never would in real life. Also, they’re awfully heterosexual and damaging to women.” She finishes. “Is that enough reason for you? Because I can go all day.”

 

He sighs. “Ok. Maybe you have a point. But they’re also fun and romantic.”

 

“Jacob. Julia Roberts would never in a million years walk into a stranger’s home so she could change shirts. If any guy offered her that she would flee as fast as she could.”

 

“Are we really about to have this conversation again? It wasn’t enough for you to completely ruin the last time I tried to watch Nothing Hill? Do you have to ruin it forever?”

 

“I’m just saying he’s a stalker. That’s all.”

 

Jacob seems like he’s about to go for it, about to start this discussion again, but she sees the moment he changes his mind.

 

“You know what, I’m not doing this with you.” He says, passing a hand through his long hair.

 

“Fine. So tell me how things went with your crush.”

 

“My date went great!” Jacob says excitedly.

 

She grins. “I figured out that part. What did you guys do?”

 

“Oh, Bella, it was perfect. He took me to this place in the woods –”

 

“Isn’t it a bit ironic that you're enjoying the exact thing you were first worried Edward would do to you?”

 

Jacob just stares at her, clearly not amused at the interruption. “It’s such a beautiful place. Truly. I’ll have to show you sometime.”

 

“Please don’t.” She mumbles. Bella has zero interest in seeing Jacob and Edward make-out spot in person.

 

“I was a little anxious, but it turns out I had nothing to worry about.” He says and she nods.

 

She doesn't tell Jake that him barging in minute after minute in her room last night had already managed to cement that fact in her head.

 

“It went great. We had a picnic there – I mean, I ate and he stared. Still, it was wonderful.” He says with his eyes shining. “We talked a lot. I told him about everything that happened before, you know, with my dad. He was super supportive.”

 

“That’s.. great buddy. Really.” She says, smiling softly. “I’m happy for you.”

 

Jacob smiles back at her and Bella can't help but think that if anybody deserved this kind of happiness – it was him.

 

His smile suddenly turns to a frown and he sighs. “Do you think it’s weird that he didn’t kiss me?”

 

Bella's eyes widen. She definitely wasn't expecting him to say that. “Do you?”

 

He starts tapping one of his fingers on the table. “Yes. Maybe. I don’t know,” Jacob says. “Can't he read my mind? Shouldn't he know that’s what I’d wanted?”

 

This was way above her pay grade. Sure Bella could give the occasional relationship advice once or twice (thanks to her mom) but this here was a whole new territory.

 

“Look, Jake, I don't think it's that simple.” She starts, hoping to make some sort of sense. “Relationships are supposed to be based on communication, right?”

 

He nods and she lets out a relieved breath. Maybe this wouldn't be as hard if the person on the other side of the conversation wasn't Renée.

 

“And I know it must be hard doing that when you're with someone who can literally read your mind. But I still think the principle stands.” She points out. “If you want something you should tell him. You shouldn't assume he already knows just because you thought about it once.”

 

“Trust me, I thought about more than once.”

 

“Yeah, didn't need to know that. Super gross.” Bella makes a disgusted face. “He’s also like…ancient. Don't forget that. I think it's more likely for you to receive a marriage proposal than a steamy kiss.”

 

“Not that I would be opposed to it, but I’m just angling for a normal kiss here. Still, you're probably right - I hadn't thought about things like this.” Jacob says honestly.

 

“It's just a theory.” She shrugs. “Maybe he just hasn’t done any of this before.”

 

“Neither have I.” He states, biting his lip.

 

“It makes sense. You’re both nervous,” Bella says. “You guys should take your time. I don’t think the normal rules of dating apply here. Don't compare it to anything else buddy, just make your own thing – something that will work for the both of you.”

 

He nods, relieved. “When did you get this wise?”

 

“I’m always this wise, it's not my fault you haven't been paying attention.”

 

Jacob grins. “Maybe I haven't – but I know someone who has.” His tone is suggestive, but she can't quite catch his meaning.

 

“What?”

 

“How can you be so wise one second and so dumb in the next one is beyond me, Bella.” He shakes his head in amusement.

 

“I'm going to pretend you haven't just insulted me to my face right now. Especially after I’ve given you great advice.” She says. “And Jake?”

 

“Yes?”

 

“If you want a kiss to happen that much you should take the initiative.”

 

Jacob gulps. “Right. I can do that.” He says to himself.

 

“That’s the spirit.” She chuckles.

 

“So, what you’re doing?” He asks with his eyebrows raised, suddenly realizing there's a mess of assorted foods in front of him.

 

“Making popcorn and gathering some snacks. I’m about to watch a movie that’s longer than God knows what and I need to be prepared. You in?”

 

“Nah. I’m too tired, I didn't sleep that well last night. I was thinking of taking a nap. Do you mind?”

 

 Bella rolls her eyes. “Of course not.”

 

He smiles gratefully at her. “What movie are you going to watch? Lord of the rings?”

 

“Ha – I wish.” She says. “Titanic.”

 

Jacob winces. “Yeah, hard pass.”

 

“Not a fan?” Bella asks with a surprised voice.

 

"No," he says. "Why?"

 

"Well, I mean, it seems like your type of thing."

 

He laughs, unbothered. "I like romantic comedies, Bella. Titanic is anything but."

 

"But there's romance." She points out.

 

"No comedy, no happy ending, “ he starts. “The guy dies at the end. It's too tragic for me. I always cry like a baby."

 

“Alright,” Bella says, but inside she’s thinking Jacob’s might be a little too much sensitive for his own good.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Promise me you’ll survive. That you won’t give up, no matter what happens. No matter how hopeless.”

 

Jack’ saying that to Rose, and Bella’s starting to think there’s a little more to this being Rosalie’s favorite movie than the fact it is a masterpiece (she’d changed her mind okay?).

 

Unfortunately, she’s in no condition to think about it further.

 

She’s too busy being a madwoman who's throwing popcorn on the TV screen while sobbing uncontrollably.

 

So when the end credits start to roll around and Celine’s Dion song is still playing, Bella’s actively cursing the whole thing.

 

Fuck you, Celine Dion, this is all your fault,” She says while wiping the tears that don’t seem to stop coming. “This is an absolutely terrible movie, I totally hated it.” She mumbles to no one.

 

Someone should've warned her this was going to happen.

 

How was she supposed to do anything else today after being completely and utterly destroyed by this thing?

 

In the end, life shows her she doesn’t have much of a choice in the matter.

 

Because before she can get up from the couch on her own volition the doorbell rings and a hysterical looking Bella is left cursing at whoever’s at the door.

 

 

xXx

 

 

Billy?” Bella asks, voice failing. Out of everyone in the world, he would be the last one she would expect to find in her doorsteps. “What are you doing here?” She asks rudely.

 

He doesn’t back down at her distrustful gaze. Instead, he stands a little taller, almost like he’s enjoying it.

 

“I came to talk to you. And Jacob, of course.”

 

She has to fight the urge not to immediately slam the door on his face.

 

Her lack of an immediate response is not enough for him to take the hint that he’s not welcomed here.

 

“Charlie isn’t here, is he?” He asks, giving her a creepy smile. The kind that real-life book owner something (she doesn't know his name) would've probably given Julia Roberts character if Hollywood had any sort of commitment to the truth.

 

Bella narrows her eyes at him, not liking the tone he’s using. “No. But you already know that, don’t you?” It all made perfect sense. Why he was here, why right now.

 

Billy must've known Charlie would be fishing in La Push today.

 

“Me? Watch out, Bella. I don't like what you’re trying to imply here.” He says.

 

“I’m sorry, did I hurt your non-existent feelings?” She says sarcastically. “If you came here because you thought there wouldn’t be anyone to stop you from seeing Jacob, you were wrong. Go home, Billy. He doesn’t want to see you, and I can't say I disagree with his choice.” She tells him, voice hard.

 

“So you won't let a father see his only son?”

 

“You stopped being that the moment you kicked him out.”

 

“If your father had half the courage I had he would've done the same thing to you Bella,” He says, eyes twitching in rage. “This is a small town, people talk. I know what you are.”

 

Bella gives him a hollow laughter. “You can’t even bring yourself to say the word can you?” She defies him. “C’mon, go ahead. Lesbian – that’s what I am. Say it. I’m not ashamed.”

 

Billy takes a step closer to her. “Such fire you have. It would be such a waste to see it fade away, wouldn’t it?”

 

“I’m not afraid of you.” She says, one hand gripping the door frame.

 

“I’m not the one you should be afraid of.” He gives her a predatory smile.

 

“What?”

 

“You think I’m not aware of how close to the Cullen's you and Jacob are?” He says. “They’re not who you think they are, Bella. Or better yet, what you think they are.”

 

Bella clenches her jaw. “They’re exactly who and what I think they are. A nice family who’ve been nothing but kind to me.”

 

His smile gets sinister. “So you already know their secret, huh? Does Jacob? Has he finally understood everything I’ve always told him?”

 

Bella scoffs. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

 

“Oh, but you do. Don’t lie to me. It doesn’t suit you,” He says. “You should stay away from them.”

 

“You think you can show up here after everything and demand I do something? You’re out of your mind.”

 

“You think you know what you’re dealing with here Bella. You don’t. This is so much bigger than what you can imagine.” Billy speaks while staring intensely at her. “We all have a part to play in what’s to come – even you. Be careful of the choices you make now.”

 

He grabs her arm with force and Bella feels something else with the pain. Something weird. A feeling that tells her he’s more dangerous than she’d been giving him credit for.

 

“You wouldn’t want to meet your end before its time, would you?” He whispers, hard.

 

She feels his fingers pressing harder on her forearm.

 

“You should leave,” Bella says again.

 

“I won’t leave until I’ve talked with my son.”

 

“Yes, you will.” She tries taking her arm away from him, but the action only serves to make him tighten his grip.

 

“Who’s going to make me? You?” Billy raises his eyebrows in defiance.

 

“The cops.” She says, grabbing her phone from her back pocket with her free hand. “I don’t think they’ll take too kindly to you threatening a young girl – the chief’s daughter – in her own house.”

 

He suddenly lets go of her, taking a step back, but his eyes are still burning. “This doesn’t end here. Not for you and not for the Cullen's. I’m not even close to being done.”

 

“Whatever.” She says before slamming the door in his face.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Why didn’t you called me?” Charlie asks, pacing around the living room while Bella and Jake watch him from the couch. She can from his face how concerned he is.

 

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Jacob says almost at the same time.

 

Before she can answer them she adjusts the sleeve of the grey hoodie she'd put up right after Billy had left. If Charlie got a look at the bruise on her left arm things would escalate quickly.

 

The last thing she needed right now was for him to make a big deal out of it. For him to go confront a clearly deranged man.

 

She sighs, holding one hand up. “Guys, it wasn’t like I knew who was at the door, okay? And once I was there I was too caught up on the conversation to do anything else.” Bella explains. “When he tried to force me to let him talk to Jacob I threatened to call the cops.”

 

Her dad nods. “Do you think he knew both of you would be home alone?”

 

“I don’t know. But he didn’t want to stick around once he realized I was being serious.” She says, not letting them know she suspected just that.

 

Jacob fidgets with his hands. “Did he say anything else to you? Anything other than the fact he wanted to talk to me?”

 

“He said we should stay away from the Cullen’s,” she starts carefully. “He also didn’t look happy there was another member of the LGBTQ+ running around town. Said that if dad had enough courage he would’ve done the same thing he did to you.”

 

Her friend closes his eyes, taking a deep breath. “Do you think he knew I went on a date with Edward?” He says weakly.

 

“No buddy,” Bella answers him. She adjusts herself on the couch so she can be closer to him. “I think it’s that thing you told me; you know?” She raises her eyebrows pointedly. “The hate he has for them ever since they arrived in town. People talk, he must have heard we're all friends.”

 

Charlie shakes his head. “Your dad just too stuck on his old ways Jake. If something’s different from what he was used to it he rejects it.”

 

“His words were of someone who seemed worried about us.” She says, omitting part of the truth.

 

“But his actions didn’t really give you that impression, right?” Jacob completes. “I think he wanted to make me scared of living my life, of being happy. But I’m not going to let him.” His voice is stronger now and both Bella and Charlie stare at him proudly. “I love him, I’ll always will – but if he can’t accept who I am it’s his loss, not mine. I won’t let him take anything else from me.”

 

“I won’t either Jacob,” Charlie says. “We’re a family here. Don’t forget that. You’re not alone.”

 

“I know.” Jacob smiles gratefully at him.

 

“You did good Bella.” Her dad says, putting a comforting hand on her shoulder.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Hey Alice,” She whispers on her phone a while later in her room.

 

After things had calmed down both Charlie and Jacob had decided to watch some basketball game that was on.

 

She had opted to go to her room instead. Her mind was still stuck on Billy’s words for her to be able to concentrate on anything else.

 

“I want to talk with you.” She says. “Alone.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Of course you do,” Bella sighs. “Do you also know where we should meet?”

 

“Yes,” Alice says. “What a silly question.”

 

“Great. Pick me up as soon as you can.” She’s almost hanging up when another thought pops into her head. “And bring Rosalie with you.”

 

“I was already going to.”

 

Bella rolls her eyes. “This can get old really fast.”

 

“Tell me about it,” Alice responds. “Be there in 10 minutes.”

 

xXx

 

 

 

“Are you sure this is the best place for this conversation?” Bella whispers, looking around the almost empty diner.

 

She'd been here once on her first week at Forks with Charlie and Jacob.

 

The irony isn't lost on her.

 

So yeah, she's a little surprised at Alice’s choice. She’d been imagining something more like an abandoned house in the wood’s scenario here.

 

“Yes,” Alice says. "We’re just three friends hanging around – nothing unusual to see here."

 

“Yeah. That's like the problem – have any of you done something like this ever?”

 

No,” Rosalie says, agreeing. She also doesn’t look that happy to be here. The fact that their waiter has been drooling all over her ever since they walked in isn't helping matters.

 

“Chillax, both of you,” Alice says. “Everything’s going according to plan.”

 

Bella doesn’t answer at first, she's too busy narrowing her eyes at Vincent (the waiter) who seemed to think that going to their table again, when they already told him they didn’t want anything, was a good idea.

 

“What’s his problem?” She asks loudly, hoping that will be enough to discourage him. It isn’t.

 

“Are you girls sure you don't want anything?” Vincent asks when he reaches them, his eyes fixated on Rosalie.

 

Yes,” Bella says, gritting her teeth.

 

“My shift’s over in thirty minutes. Do you want to go –”

 

Leave,” Rosalie says in a scary voice and the guy almost trips while running away.

 

“Ok. That was…” Hot. That’s what she wants to say. “Awesome.” Is what she says instead.

 

Rosalie gives her a feral grin and Bella gulps, suddenly feeling warm.

 

“I saw Titanic yesterday,” She blurts out, trying to compose herself. “It was a horrible, horrible movie. I had a traumatic experience watching and it's all your fault.”

 

Rosalie smirks. “Did you cry? Is that what this is about?”

 

“No. Of course not.” Bella says, offended.

 

The girl doesn't seem to buy her answer.

 

“Maybe.” She mumbles. “Okay. Fine. I sobbed. Are you happy now? You were right all along – it’s a masterpiece. Satisfied?”

 

Rosalie's golden eyes stare back at her, amused.  “Yes.”

 

“Honestly, I’m pretty convinced it’s all Celine’s Dion fault. How am I supposed to be okay when that song is playing?” She says, watching Rosalie biting her lip trying not to laugh.

 

Alice clears her throat. “Not that seeing you two bond and act like I’m not even here isn’t fun – but didn’t you called me for something Bella?”

 

“Yeah, sure. My bad,” Bella blushes, embarrassed. “Look, I know you already know everything I’m about to tell you Alice, but I’m going to say it anyway because well, if I don't you wouldn't have seen it. Right?” She says. “I saw a documentary on time travel last summer – I know how it works.”

 

“The one who doesn't see the future thanks you for your kindness.” Rosalie jokes.

 

She gives her a small smile. “Do you guys know Billy Black?”

 

“He's Jacob dad,”  Alice answers. “He's also the great-grandson of Ephraim Black – the shifter who made the treaty with us in the first place.”

 

“Yeah. I still haven't wrapped my head around that yet. Vampires? Sure. Giant wolves? Nah.” Bella states. “Isn't it weird there aren't any of them left?”

 

“Yes,” Rosalie says, agreeing with her. “But it's not like we can go there and ask them what happened.”

 

“Fair point,” Bella says. “But back to Billy. He came by the house earlier today.” She takes a deep breath. “I don’t want to go into greater detail but are you guys aware of what happened between him and Jacob right before I came to Forks?”

 

“No.” They both say.

 

“Ok. The short story is that Jacob decided to tell him he was gay, and it didn't end well. The long one? Not mine to tell.”

 

“That's horrible,” Rosalie says. “I didn't know that.”

 

“Not many people do.” She explains. “Thank god Charlie was home at the time and not at the station when it happened. Jacob called him and he drove there, picked him up, and the rest, as they say, it's history.”

 

“Your dad's a good man, Bella,” Alice tells her.

 

“Yeah, he is. Still, ever since that day, Billy hasn't tried to reach out to Jake. He hasn't even spoken to him at all.” She explains. “So you can imagine my surprise when I opened the door and there he stood.” Bella passes a hand through her hair. “I think… I think he knew Charlie wasn't home. He said he wanted to talk with me and Jacob, but I stood my ground. Said he should leave, but Billy didn't listen. He threatened me.”

 

“What??” Rosalie asks, voice loud.

 

“Get it together,” Alice nudges her sister. “We’re in public, Rose.” She states.

 

“And whose fault is that?” Rosalie says, unimpressed. “I’m sorry Bella, please continue.”

 

“It wasn't like a normal threat you know? He said some weird stuff too – like how we all had a part to play in the future and what a shame would it be if I met my end before that happened.”

 

“He said what??” The girl raises her voice again and Alice shushes her.

 

“Don't shush me.” She tells her sister.

 

“Keep quiet then.”

 

Bella bites her lip. “He grabbed my arm and he –”

 

“That's it – I’m going to kill him,” Rosalie says, furious.

 

“Please don't.” She says quickly. “I’ll spare you guys the finer details. It’s just…. It seemed like he had a bone to pick with us – you guys included. He said it was only the beginning, and I think he meant that.”

 

“Did you tell Charlie and Jacob?” Rosalie asks her.

 

Bella sighs. “No, I didn't. Jacob said he doesn't want to let his father ruin his happiness – and him worrying about it definitely would.” She says. “And if dad knew he wouldn't let things slide, I’m sure he would go confront Billy. It didn't feel like the right call, at least not yet.”

 

“So you came to us.” Alice states.

 

“Yes.” She nods. “Because whatever his plans are, you guys are involved too – and he knows your secret.”

 

“We’re more worried about the things he said to you, Bella,” Rosalie says softly. “You did the right thing telling us.”

 

“Rosalie's right. We’ll keep an eye on him, okay?” Alice tells her. “If he even thinks about doing anything we’ll know it first.”

 

“Thank you guys. I appreciate it.” She says, relieved.

 

 

xXx

 

 

 

“Your sister’s staring at us in a weird way,” Bella tells Rosalie when they both reach her front door.

 

The girl just rolls her eyes. “She does that. Please ignore her.”

 

“Alright.” Bella shrugs.

 

She knew there was a reason Rosalie had accompanied her here instead of waiting for her to enter her home from inside the car.

 

 “Whatever you want to say to me, you can. You do know that, right?” She tells her.

 

Rosalie nods. “Can you promise me you’ll call next time Billy shows up? I know Alice said she would be keeping an eye on him but she’s not infallible.”

 

“Hey,” Alice yells from the car, window opening. “I heard that.”

 

They ignore her.

 

“I.. don't have your number?” Bella says, frowning. She'd been meaning to ask Jasper for it, but she didn't want him to take it the wrong way.

 

“I can ask Alice for yours and send you a text – if that's alright with you?”

 

“Sure.”

 

 “When Billy grabbed you, did he hurt you?” Rosalie asks, worried.

 

Bella sighs. “I’m not sure I should answer that.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I don't want you to commit a homicide tonight.” She says like it's obvious.

 

Rosalie's eyes harden. “So he did hurt you.”

 

“You don't have to worry,” Bella says. “I’m sure it will fade in no time.”

 

The girl doesn't seem to buy that. “Let me see it.”

 

Her tone suggests she won't take no for an answer, so Bella takes off her grey hoodie, exposing her naked arm.

 

Rosalie gently reaches for it, her cold fingers softly tracing the bruise. “Are you sure I can't kill him?”

 

“Yes.” Bella shakes her head.

 

“Fine,” Rosalie concedes, not very happy about it. “You should put some ice on it.”

 

“Isn't that what you're doing right now?” Bella tries to joke.

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her before letting go of her arm. “I should go.”

 

“Alice must be getting restless huh?”

 

“Always.” Rosalie's eyes shine with fondness. “Goodnight Bella.”

 

“Night Rosalie.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Mom?” Bella asks, voice worried. The shock at seeing the name Renee popping up on her phone two seconds ago had rapidly transformed into concern. “Is everything okay?”

 

Part of her felt bad that she hadn’t missed any of it. Not her mom and even less the array of calls that drifted from relationship advice to errands to run to bills she hadn’t paid and needed Bella’s help with.

 

But another part of her knew that it was only natural. Knew that this would happen the moment she found herself able to escape her clutches.

 

Renee laughs, carefree. “Of course Bella, why wouldn’t it be?”

 

Her concern starts to evolve to dread and she takes a deep breath before answering it. “Is there a reason you’re calling?” She tries going straight to the point.

 

“Can’t a mother talk to her daughter without one?” Her mom says and Bella bites her lip in an effort to keep hostile words from coming out.

 

Every confrontation between them both would always start exactly like this.

 

Her mom would say something that to outside eyes would be harmless, but for her who’s patience was always close to zero, that would be the spark that would ignite the fire.

 

She wasn’t doing this today.

 

Instead of sarcastic words, she meets Renee's question with silence. Unfortunately, that does nothing to dissuade her mom. “No words or comebacks? My my, is Forks diminishing your spirit already?” Bella hears the pointed tsk tsk. “You know, you and I aren’t so different after all.”

 

“Is there a point to this conversation?” She tries again, annoyed.

 

Her mom chuckles, delighted that she’s finally able to get a reaction out of her. “I didn’t know you were busy.”

 

She passes a hand through her hair, making it messier than it already was. “I was studying.”

 

“Oh, you always did took studying and school too seriously for your own good.” The woman says and Bella’s annoyance grows tenfold. “Anyway, I’m sure you’re aware Christmas is right around the corner.”

 

“Sure,” she answers, trying to pretend she isn’t a bit shocked at the information. “I knew that, of course.”

 

Bella checks the Harry Potter calendar that's sitting strategically next to her notebook on the table. She starts flipping it – frowning when she realizes that yes – five months had passed in a blink of an eye and she hadn't even noticed.

 

“Then why haven’t you called me so we can set up a date already?”

 

“A date for what?” She asks, confused.

 

“For you to come here.”

 

“To Toronto? For Christmas?” She says, grimacing. Surely her mother wasn’t indulging in the crazy idea that she would just leave everyone here to go spend the holidays in her company.

 

“Yes.” Renee states.

 

Ok, maybe she was. She shouldn't be surprised. This was typical Renee behavior.

 

“Mom,” she says, already bracing herself for the storm. “I’m staying here. I live with dad now – I’m flattered by your invitation but..”

 

“You’re not telling me you prefer spending the holidays on boring Forks than lively Toronto, do you?” Her mom starts. “I don’t think this town doing you good, Bella. Now that me and Phill are settled here maybe you should consider moving back with me.”

 

“I like it here,” Bella says, voice certain. “I can see why you didn’t though.” She tries to pacify things. “I know you’ll have a wonderful time with Phill, mom. Wasn’t you the one who was always telling me that Christmas would be ten times better if it was more of a romantic holiday than a family one?”

 

“I did say that.” Renee agrees, humming.

 

“You can do that now.” She points out, hoping this will be enough to keep her at bay.

 

 “Okay, Bella. But there’s still a few weeks left till the twenty-four. Let me know if you change your mind.”

 

“I will.”

 

She knows she won’t.

 

“We’ll talk soon.” Her mother says before hanging up and Bella knows they won’t do that either.

 

 

xXx

 

 

Thirty minutes after hanging up Bella hears her phone vibrating again against the stack of books she has in front of her.

 

There’s no doubt in her mind that her mom is calling again, trying to convince her to spend the holidays with her.

 

She never did understand the word no when it came to Bella.

 

“Mom, are we really doing this again? 30 minutes is not enough time for me to have changed my mind.” She says and her voice comes out harsher than she was expecting.

 

“Bella, it’s Emmett – not mom. Thank god you’ve picked up.” He says.

 

“Emmett?” She asks, surprised. “How do you have my number?”

 

“I stole from Rose’s phone,” he says like it’s obvious. “Everyone knows her password is Esme’s birthday. I still don't know why she hasn't changed it yet.”

 

“Ok. Didn’t need to know that second part.” She says, putting down the pen she'd been holding on her right hand on the table. “What’s up?”

 

“I kind of need your help,” His voice sounds a little out of breath and Bella starts to have a bad feeling about it all. “I may or may not have done something life-threatening.”

 

She pinches the bridge of her nose. “Please tell me you didn’t kill someone.”

 

“Life-threatening to me.” He explains. “So it's definitely worse than that.”

 

“How?” Bella asks, worried.

 

“I think I’ve destroyed a page of one of Rosalie's favorite book.” He says and she hears the panic in his voice. “She's going to kill me. She's going to make me wish I was dead.”

 

“Aren't you being a little bit dramatic?” Bella snickers.

 

Sure, she had seen Rosalie angry. She’d made her angry several times.

 

And yeah, it wasn’t the smartest choice in the world, she could give him that. But it wasn’t as stupid as everyone made it to be.

 

Maybe Emmett just needed to grow a pair.

 

“No. Not everyone can be as courageous as you are when it comes to her.” He says, trying to get into her good graces. But Bella’s well aware that by his tone courageous had meant stupid.

 

“Ok. And how am I supposed to help you?” She genuinely asks.

 

“You can be here when I tell her,” he says. “That’ll probably make her think twice before mauling me.” He finishes.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because she probably won’t want to show you that side of hers. Won’t want you to be afraid of what we’re capable of doing, if needed.”

 

Bella rolls her eyes. “Then it’s a good thing she’s not aware that in that instance I would find it funny and maybe even a little hot?”

 

“Please don’t tell her that.” He pleads.

 

“What's in it for me?”

 

“My eternal gratitude?” The voice on the other end says and Bella scoffs.

 

She shakes her head. “Unlike you, I won't live forever buddy. I need something more concrete.”

 

He takes his time before answering. “I can punch someone for you. I’m pretty good at that.”

 

“I bet you are,” Bella says, remembering how easily he had lifted the living room table. “Someone like your brother?”

 

He snickers. “Sure. I mean, Esme would probably be mad if I did it out of the blue. But if you're game waiting for him to screw up somehow then yes, I can do that.”

 

“And I can ask for this favor any time I wish?” She questions him.

 

“Well, it's a one-time thing but sure. Why? Do you want it now?”

 

“No.” She says, hands on her chin. “But it will be nice to know I can collect it any time I want to.” Bella tries to keep the glee out of her voice.

 

“This shouldn't be bringing you this much joy, you do know that right?” Emmett says.

 

“Whatever. When do you need me there?”

 

“Now.”

 

“Why? Is she already there?”

 

“No. But unlike my sister, I can't see the future so who knows when she will. I’m not leaving it to chance – I want my get out of jail free card here with me as soon as possible.”

 

“Out of jail free card?” Bella says, trying to be outraged. “You know what… I’ve been called worse.”

 

“So, you're coming?”

 

“Yes,” she says, rolling her eyes. “I’ll be there soon.”

 

“Please drive fast.”

 

“You should remember that I’m no use to you if I’m dead.” She points out.

 

“That's what you think. I’m a desperate man, Bella. I would find a way to make it work.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Couldn't you let me punch him at least?” Rosalie asks her, laying down on the bed while Bella takes a place on the chair in front of her.

 

She’s not laying down on the bed with the girl, she’s not that courageous (aka stupid).

 

Because although she felt much more at ease here at Rosalie's room than she did at the rest of the house, that didn't necessarily mean that she would feel that way if they were closer to one another.

 

“No.” She says, grinning. “It would be funny – I can give you that. But I kind of made a deal with your brother.”

 

Rosalie raises her eyebrows. “What kind of deal?” It doesn’t surprise Bella that there’s an edge to her voice, one that suggests she’s well aware that both of them conspiring together cannot lead to anything good.

 

“One that I’m sure I will collect when you’re present so that you can enjoy it too. Till then I’m afraid it will have to remain a mystery.”

 

Rosalie looks at her, golden eyes staring back at brown ones with interest. “So just another thing to add to the constant mystery that you are, huh?”

 

Bella blinks, unsure. “Hmm – not really, I’m kind of an open book.”

 

“No, you’re not.” The girl dares to laugh. “You know way more about me than I do about you – and bear in mind that I’m the one with the supernatural and life-threatening secret here.”

 

And she knows that Rosalie's statement is not a hundred percent true, because although she can say she knows stuff – those things have a lot more to do with some old legend and The Cullen’s as a family than with who Rosalie is as a person.

 

Vampire.

 

Vampire - person.

 

But Bella knows she's not wrong either. She hasn't exactly been forthcoming about things either.

 

She watches as Rosalie makes herself more comfortable on the bed, her head now resting on the headboard and with a blue pillow under her arm.

 

“Jasper seems to know more about you than I do.” She says, a little annoyed.

 

“Well,” Bella smirks. “He is my favorite out of all of you.” She jokes and Rosalie throws the pillow at her with perfect accuracy.

 

“What’s with you and throwing things on my face?” She asks while laughing. “Isn’t that a bit childish?”

 

“You’re childish. I’m an adult.” Rosalie says, huffing. Bella can’t help but think that this side of her – this soft and playful one – it’s nothing short of adorable.

 

The thing is, she’s not about to say that to her face. Bella values her life too much to gamble freely like this.

 

“Rosalie, you’re ancient.”

 

“Do you want another pillow thrown in your face?” Rosalie threatens her, grabbing another one.

 

“I mean, they are quite comfy.” Bella shrugs, putting said pillow behind her back. “ It’s definitely an improvement on that oiled towel you threw at me the other day.” She points out.

 

Rosalie doesn’t look impressed.

 

“Look, maybe it might seem like Jasper knows more about me than you do – but I’m not sure that’s the truth. If I’m being honest I haven’t told him much about myself. He just has that aura you know? The one that says he knows everything about everyone.”

 

“Why haven’t you?” The girl genuinely asks her.

 

Bella sighs, shifting a little in the chair. “I don’t think I’m too good at that.” She scratches the back of her neck, suddenly feeling exposed. “Opening up has never been one of my strengths.”

 

Rosalie nods. “If it makes you feel any better it isn’t one of mine either.”

 

“It doesn’t,” Bella says, frowning “It just makes me feel like we’re not very good at this.” Her hand goes from Rosalie to herself.

 

Because yeah, maybe they’d done a fine job moving from pseudo-enemies to friends.

 

And sure, Rosalie did prove in these last few weeks that she was exactly the type of friend Bella always imagined she was to the people she cared about.

 

Kind, funny, protective - present.

 

But it still said something about who they both were as a person that this had been achieved without them knowing nothing about one another. Well, almost nothing.

 

She did know some things about the girl. Like her favorite movie – she just had no idea how Titanic had managed to clinch the gold medal.

 

Okay, maybe she had an inclination as to why, but that said a lot more about her power of observation than anything else.

 

“I don’t think we’re that bad,” Rosalie says, crossing her arms. “It’s not like I’m out there, making friends with all the humans that cross my path. Of course we would struggle a little.”

 

Bella grins. “I always knew I had a special place in your life – but it’s nice to hear you say the words.”

 

“I didn’t say that,” Rosalie mutters, eyes narrowing.

 

“You kind of did, actually,” Bella says victoriously.

 

“I – you know what…if you want to be delusional that’s always your choice, Bella. God knows I won’t stop you.” Rosalie says and Bella smiles at the lack of bite on the girl’s voice.

 

“It’s always fun to see you try though,” Bella grins again.

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes. “You know, Emmett thinks he can fool me, but I know he was the one to call you here and not the other way around. I also know he stole your number from my phone. I know a lot of things.” She points out, proudly.

 

Bella puts her hands in the air, surrendering to something she’s not quite sure what. “I kind of assumed you did.” She explains. “He wanted back up and I wanted a favor I could cash in later.”

 

“And I wanted my book back in one piece,” Rosalie states, pressing her lips. “Funny how I’ve seemed to be the one drawing the short stick here.”

 

“We can’t always get what we want?” Bella suggests, trying not to laugh.

 

Rosalie raises one eyebrow. “Isn’t that a song?”

 

“Sure. But it’s also common knowledge Rosalie, you got to keep up with these things.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

They’re all in the living room, sitting together at the dinner table listening to some story Jasper’s telling them. Rosalie’s next to her, holding one hand in front of her lips and shaking with laughter.

 

Bella doesn’t think she has ever seen any of them this carefree before. At least not with her in the room.

 

She grabs another spoon full of the ice cream Esme had kindly brought her from the supermarket earlier and tries not to splutter any of it when another round of laughter comes around.

 

“How could you not have known that woman was flirting with you man?” Emmett shakes his head while asking his brother.

 

“Like you would be any better – don’t you remember that time in Rome?” Jasper points out.

 

“What time in Rome?” Rosalie asks. “That one where both of you we’re gone for ten hours without any explanation whatsoever?”

 

“Precisely that one Rose,” Jasper starts. “Emmett here –”

 

“C’mon man, you promised me you wouldn’t tell.” Emmett states.

 

“Fine. Fine. But remember every dirt I have on you next time you try to imply I’m the clueless one.” Jasper says, grinning and Bella can’t help but snicker.

 

You’re one to talk,” Emmett mumbles, looking pointedly at her.

 

“I’m sorry?” Bella asks, a little outraged. “I always know when a lady is flirting with me, thank you very much.”

 

“A lot of practice, Bella?” Jasper says, grinning.

 

“Enough to know,” Bella says, shrugging. She suddenly sees Rosalie narrowing her eyes at her, daring her to continue on this train of thought. “I mean, no. Definitely not. No ladies here for me.”

 

Alice chuckles.

 

“You know sis, not everyone can see Mr. Perfect coming into our lives before he’s already there. Some of us have to get our hands dirty.” Emmet argues, trying to make a point and Bella has to bite her lip in an effort not to laugh at his choice of words.

 

“Didn’t know you were looking for Mr. Perfect, Em,” Rosalie says, raising an eyebrow.

 

“That’s a little homophobic of you, Rose.” Emmett grins, clearly joking. “Afraid you won’t be the only bisexual vampire in the house?”

 

Rosalie just gives him the finger while Bella tries to pretend this sudden revelation did not affect her the slightest bit.

 

“I thought she already wasn’t?” She tries chiming in. There's no better way to pretend it didn't affect her than inserting herself in the conversation without a second thought.

 

“What?” Both Emmett and Rosalie say at the same time, staring at her.

 

Bella confusedly looks at Alice and sees the girl smile her way. “Hm, didn’t Alice have some fling with a woman before being with Jasper?”

 

I did,” Alice says proudly and Jasper smiles at her.

 

“And you never told us?” Rosalie asks, lips thinning.

 

Alice shakes her head. “You never asked. It’s not like it’s a secret.”

 

“How do you know this Bella-bear?” Emmett looks at her, interested.

 

“She told me the other day.” She explains.

 

“We’re talking about this later on, Alice, don’t think you’re escaping this conversation,” Rosalie mumbles, and Bella can see she's not over the fact she hadn't know that particular fact about her sister.

 

“Why?” Alice smirks. “Need some tips?”

 

Bella and Emmett start snickering while Jasper just looks amused by the whole thing. Before Rosalie can answer Alice, the noise of someone coming their way stops them and suddenly Edward’s there, entering the room.

 

He looks at all of them together at the table, his face breaking into a smile. “You guys seem happy.” He states.

 

“We are,” Emmett says, voice soft. “Wanna join us?”

 

“I wouldn’t want to intrude,” Edward answers him but his eyes are looking at Bella.

 

“It’s your house,” she points out, but he still doesn’t make a move to join them. “The more the merrier?” She tries again.

 

He gives her a warm smile before sitting beside Jasper and Alice claps her hand in excitement. “Yay, tell us all about your date.”

 

Bella's eyes widen. “Please not everything, try to remember Jacob’s like a brother to me. There's no need to traumatize me further.”

 

Edward doesn’t seem to share Alice's enthusiasm. “It was nice?” He starts, but his voice is unsure." I kind of thought everything was going great but by the end of it, Jacob was barely looking at me. I dropped him at your house and told him I couldn’t wait to do this again but he just closed the door at my face.”

 

“What did you do?” Rosalie asks, not even taking a breath between his revelation and her words.

 

“That's the thing Rose,” Edward says. “I don't know.”

 

“Can’t you read his mind? Wasn’t he giving you any indication as to why was he acting like that?” Emmett asks.

 

“No.” Edward shakes his head in exasperation. “His thoughts kept coming back to you, Bella. I could see some images in his mind about the two of you talking in your kitchen.”

 

“Oh crap,” Bella says, and all eyes turn to her. She’s suddenly very aware of what Edward had done wrong. Or better yet – what he hadn't done.

 

“So you know what’s up?” Edward asks her, his voice soft. “Please tell me so I can do something to fix it.”

 

She sighs. “I can’t believe I’m about to have this conversation with you of all people.” She shakes her head. “Jacob will own me for life. For life, I swear.” She keeps mumbling to herself. “I’m going to go straight to the point here. Have you kissed him yet?”

 

“What?”

 

“You know, that thing people do when they like each other?” Bella jokes. “Please tell me you’ve done that before.”

 

Edward shifts in the chair. “Of course I have,” He says, fixing his hair with his hand. “Not with Jacob, at least not yet. I was waiting for the perfect time. Was trying to be a gentleman.”

 

“Edward, this is the twenty-first century. If you haven’t kissed him yet he’s probably wondering what’s wrong with him.”

 

“He is?”

 

“I would.” Rosalie agrees.

 

“Yeah, I don’t think you would have this sort of problem.” Bella points out before realizing exactly what she’d just said. She feels her face getting warm and decides to just power through. “Anyway, he can’t read your mind, it's not like he knows you were waiting for the perfect moment or whatever.” She does air quotes with her hands. “Jacob’s a little insecure when it comes to this sort of thing – you have to find a way to let him know you’re interested in him.”

 

Edward scratches the back of his neck. “And how would I do that?”

 

Bella raises her hand in the air. “Don’t look at me – I’m an expert at showing guys I don’t desire them, not the other way around.” She says honestly. “But I think kissing him is a safe way to do it, buddy. Start there and then you know, go for it. Respectfully of course – wait, not respectfully. That’s exactly why we’re here in the first place.”

 

“So I should kiss him to let him know I desire him?” He looks at her, eyes searching for something she's not sure she's the most qualified person to give him, but since no one else here is pitching in she marches on.

 

“Do you?” She asks. “Desire him?”

 

“Of course,” Edward says, a little uncomfortable.

 

“So go for it. With actions and words.” She tries helping him. “Just because you know Jacob likes you doesn't mean he knows you do.”

 

He still looks confused. “And how would you suggest I do that?”

 

Emmett starts snickering and Alice punches him on the shoulder. “Leave him be Emmett,”

 

Bella takes a deep breath, wondering how in the hell is she the one having this talk with him. “Just get closer to him, into his personal space you know? Say something flattering like how nice he looks or how long you’ve been thinking about kissing him – and then just go for it. I don't know, it’s pretty simple. When you see the window of opportunity don't let it pass you by.”

 

“I don’t think this will work as well as you’re saying it is, Bella,” Edward says, narrowing his eyes and not putting enough faith in her.

 

“Trust me, it works.” She says, voice certain.

 

Prove it,” He challenges her.

 

And Bella knows she shouldn’t bite the bait – but she’s not the type to let this type of thing go. If Edward wants some sort of proof she knows what she’s talking about she’s going to show him.

 

She looks at Rosalie, who staring at her with suspicious eyes - but thinks it’s better not to go there. There was a reason that she was still keeping some sort of physical distance from the girl in the first place.

 

Rosalie was Rosalie.

 

And every time she got too close to her; Bella was reminded of just how much of a lesbian she was in the first place. Or how her mind still seemed to be fixated on something she hadn't quite figured out yet.

 

So she wasn’t about to open this pandora box. Not when she'd been doing just fine with her closed.

 

So she gets up, walking a little till she’s on the other side of the table, right next to Alice. Bella raises an eyebrow at her, questioning if this is alright with her. When Alice nods her way she goes for it.

 

She inches her face closer to the other girl, brushing her thumb gently on Alice’s cheek. Her eyes stare at golden ones with intensity before she leans closer.

 

“You look…so beautiful today,” Bella starts, whispering in a low voice. “I couldn’t keep my eyes off you. Couldn’t stop imagining how your lips would feel like.” She finishes, gently passing her thumb through Alice’s lower lip. “Would you terribly mind if I kissed you?” She asks before leaning closer.

 

When their lips are about to touch Bella pulls away, satisfied. Alice still has a dazed look in her face while Jasper’s trying and failing to hold his laughter.

 

Rosalie, on the other hand, is staring at her with so many emotions in her eyes that Bella is incapable to decipher them with any sort of clarity.

 

“Yeah, that will totally work,” Alice says, voice hoarse and Edward nods, still too stunned she'd actually gone through with it.

 

“Don't forget to always ask for consent, okay? This is the number one rule.” She says to Edward, serious.

 

“That was educational,” Emmett says raising his eyebrows and now Bella’s the one to nudge him lightly on the shoulders.

 

“That is your sister you're talking about,” Edward says, grimacing.

 

Emmett bites his lips. “I’m adopted?”

 

Bella rolls her eyes. “Weren’t we about to play some board game before Edward arrived?” She asks. “Who’s still up for that?”

 

“Me!” Alice says, raising her hand. “I’m going to go grab the best game of all time.”

 

Bella stares at Jasper with confusion in her eyes.

 

Monopoly,” He explains before following his girlfriend.

 

“Great,” Bella says, nodding. “I’m just going to put this in the kitchen, and I’ll be right back.” She looks down at the empty bowl of ice cream in front of her.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“That was an interesting display,” Rosalie says from behind her and Bella lets out a little scream, letting the bowl of ice cream fall down from her hands and into the ground.

 

“Fuck,” Bella swears before grabbing it again. She turns around, sheepishly looking at the girl in front of her. “It did its job of shutting Edward up.” She states, shrugging.

 

“Oh, I’m sure it did more than that,” Rosalie says.

 

Bella gulps. “If you say so.”

 

“Why didn’t you used me as a test subject?” She enquires, voice soft all of the sudden.

 

“I didn't want to make you uncomfortable?” Bella answers it. “I kind of figured Alice would at least see it coming, you know?”

 

“I wouldn't.” Rosalie states. “Have been uncomfortable.”

 

Bella bites her lips, not really understanding exactly what Rosalie is after. “Ok. So next time I’ll definitely choose you then. Happy?”

 

Rosalie smirks. “Delighted. We wouldn't want people starting to think Alice’s your second favorite Cullen now, wouldn't we?”

 

“C’mon, you know that honor is all yours,” Bella says smiling.

 

“It better be,” Rosalie says back before walking out. “Don’t take too long here – If we’re playing Monopoly we need all the time we can get.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Late night?” Charlie asks, his mustache twitching up in amusement when he looks down at a tired Bella who's sitting down on the kitchen table, nursing her beloved cup of coffee, and trying hard not to fall asleep.

 

After leaving the Cullen household just short of one in the morning it was not a surprise that she was feeling this way.

 

The scenes that had transpired in front of her eyes, on the other hand? Bella was sure she could never again look at a monopoly board in the same way.

 

Just thinking about it right now had been somewhat triggering.

 

“Remind me to never play board games with the Cullen's again.” She says shivering.

 

Charlie hums. “That bad?”

 

“Bad?” Bella scoffs. “That’s putting it mildly. It was a bloodbath. I loved playing the game, now I feel like a war veteran every time I think about it.”

 

“Aren’t you being a little bit dramatic?” He questions her. “It’s only monopoly after all. How bad could it really have been?”

 

“Rosalie and Alice are competitive.” Bella tries to be kind. “There were threats and there were almost tears.” She says remembering Emmett’s face after landing on the exact spot Rosalie had just put on a new hotel. “Honestly, at one point I was sure Alice was going to break up with Jasper after he didn’t want to trade his water company with her.”

 

He laughs. “And how did you do?”

 

She shrugs. “Survived almost until the end, unfortunately. Made some shady deals trying to get out of it when I realized just where I had put myself in, but they were having none of it. Poor Esme was the first one to declare bankruptcy, she's just too nice to do well and they took advantage of it. Like a pack of sharks when there's blood in the water.” She shakes her head.

 

Competitive people she could handle. Could even go as far and admit she could be one of them sometimes, when the mood struck. But competitive vampires?

 

It was another breed altogether.

 

And Rosalie and Alice seemed to have some kind of rivalry that was older than her when it came to it.

 

“It was an eye-opening experience, trust me. By the end of it, even Carlisle was exasperated by the girls.”

 

“So you all had fun?” He asks, smiling.

 

“As much fun as an animal has when they're being hunted.” She says and Charlie gives her an amused laugh before sitting next to her.

 

“Is there a reason Jacob stayed here brooding instead of going with you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Charlie raises an eyebrow at her answer. “Is the sort of reason I want to know?”

 

“No.” She says honestly. “Teenage drama mostly. I think Jacob wants Edward to move a little faster with their relationship than he has until now.”

 

Charlie grimaces and Bella has the feeling he’s regretting having asked.

 

He adjusts the collar of his shirt, shifting a little on his seat. “Slow is good, Bells. You should tell him that.”

 

“Speaking from experience?” She can't help but ask. Because although she knows the story of his failed marriage from her mother she’d never heard his version of the facts.

 

Never knew how much everything had affected him when the woman he loved fled away with his only daughter in her arms.

 

“Yes,” He says, putting his hand on his chin. “Moving fast didn't exactly work out for me and your mom. When you're in love you just want to be with that person, you just want to live that. But love doesn't make a relationship, work does. Time does.”

 

“That's true.” She shakes her head in agreement. “Mom never really understood the concept of work, especially in a relationship. Or time for that matter.” Bella says, remembering all the times that Renée would bail when things got tough.

 

“It's not all on her when it comes to us, believe me. I saw the signs you know? That she wasn't happy here.” He says solemnly. “I thought if I tried harder and just ignored it, it would go away.”

 

“But it never did.” She finishes for him.

 

“It never did.” He agrees. “I was young and naive.”

 

“I think, I think you were brave,” Bella says honestly, trying to lift his spirit. “You gave your heart away even though deep down you knew she would never do the same. Not like you did.”

 

“You can say it was stupid Bells, I won't mind.” He chuckles.

 

“They're the same, aren't they? If it works you’re brave and if it doesn't you're stupid.” She takes another sip of her coffee, giving him time to ponder her words. “Even though it didn't work like you thought it would, I will still classify it as brave. It takes courage to put yourself out there.”

 

“Yeah, well. It's not like I have tried to do it again after that so, maybe not as brave as you're painting me to be.” He points out.

 

Bella smiles softly at him. “Yeah, seems mom managed to traumatize us both in that way, huh?”

 

She sees the confused look in his face and decides to explain it further.

 

“Seeing her have a new boy toy every other month to disastrous ends didn't exactly make me want to do the same. Kind of put me off of relationships in general if I’m being honest with you.”

 

“I’m sorry.” He says sincerely.

 

“It's not like it's your fault, Dad,” Bella says, even though she knows what he means. “Speaking of the devil - she called me yesterday.”

 

He looks surprised at her words.

 

“It seems Renée was under the illusion I would be spending the holidays with her and Phill in Toronto.”

 

Charlie's faces fall at the prospect of not having her here for it. “And is that something you want to do?”

 

“Dear God no.” She says, vehemently shaking her head. “Once you're out you're out, right? There's no use going back.”

 

Charlie rolls his eyes at her fondly. “This is your mom Bells, not the mafia.”

 

She hums. “Sure sure. The principle still stands though. Besides, I know for a fact that she doesn't want me there, not really. She just doesn't want me to spend it with you.”

 

“Why?” He asks, face worried.

 

“Because when it comes to me she feels like it's a competition between both of you. When I choose to come here she wasn't happy. In her mind that meant I was choosing you instead of her.”

 

“Does she really views it like this?”

 

“She always has.” She sighs. “It's the reason that I never got to spend any time with you here before.”

 

“What?” He says, a little outraged. “Are you serious?”

 

“Yes. She kind of figure it out that first place was already taken by her mother, but she would never agree to lose second place to you.” She tries explaining.

 

Bella doesn't say that she had never wanted first place in the first place. Because that would’ve meant taking up the mantle of raising her from her grandmother.

 

She also doesn't say that, at the end of the day, she knew without a doubt that her mother considered marrying Charlie and having her as a mistake that had almost ruined her life.

 

“So all the excuses she gave me time and time again, they weren't true?”

 

She bites her lips. “Honestly? I don't know. Some of them might, but all of them? It's highly unlikely.”

 

“I can't believe this.” He says, fidgeting with his hands. “I can't believe she would do that.”

 

She looks at him, surprised. “Really? Because that seems to me like something she would absolutely do.”

 

“It probably didn't help that after a while I just stopped reaching out.” He says regretfully.

 

“Probably not.” She admits. “It kind of proved her point, in a way. It definitely made her feel better about herself.”

 

“I’m sorry Bells, I should have tried harder. Should have realized what she was trying to do. There’s no excuse for it. There isn't.” He exhales slowly. “I’m truly sorry. I know I haven't been the father you deserved. And your mother - she isn't…” He continues.

 

“Dad?” Bella tries to shake him out of it. “It's okay. I had Gran, and she was everything. Let's not dwell in the past.” While a part of her was happy hearing his words another one was starting to feel just a little too vulnerable for her liking. “Things are different now. Right?”

 

“Yes. They are.” Charlie agrees.

 

“So, what are our plans?”

 

“For Christmas?” He asks. “Whatever you want, Bells. Whatever you and Jacob want to do it's fine by me.”

 

“Do you think it will be alright for him?” She says, worried. Although her friend seemed to be doing better these days she knew that when the holidays came around things could get harder. “Spending it for the first time without his dad?”

 

“We’ll make it alright, okay?” Charlie says, putting his hand on top of hers. “He’ll be fine.” He takes a deep breath before continuing. “Look, Bella, about Billy. I know you haven't told me everything that happened between you two that day.”

 

She tries not to show how startled she is by his statement. “What do you mean?” She plays safe.

 

“C’mon kid, I’m a cop. I’m the chief of police – give me some credit, please. I knew the moment that you told me that something was off.” He says and Bella bites her lips.

 

“Why didn't you say anything?” She enquires, frowning.

 

“Because you clearly didn't want to tell me, whatever it was.” He says, shrugging. “And I respect and trust your judgment.”

 

“That means a lot.” She says honestly.

 

He nods. “Still, after that, I paid Billy a little visit. Told him to stay away for good if he knew what was best for him.”

 

“I’m sure he loved that.”

 

“Yeah, can't say he did. Just promise you’ll call me if he shows up again, or if he approaches you in any way ok?” Charlie says and Bella sees how worried he looks right now. “He’s not right in his mind. I wouldn't put it past him to do something stupid. Please be careful.”

 

“I will.”

 

It's not like she can tell him that she already has the backup of two vampires when it comes to him.

 

“Okay.” He seems relieved now. “I don't know if I told you how happy I am that you're here.”

 

“Not with words.” She grins, already expecting him to roll his eyes at her.

 

He doesn't.

 

“I’m glad you're here.”

 

Bella's a little taken aback by how true his words sound.

 

“I am too.” She whispers back.

 

xXx

 

 

“So, you're going to the Cullen's?” Bella asks from the couch, raising her head at the boy in front of her. His stance seems like a man on a mission, but she can see that his eyes don't hold the same conviction.

 

“Yes.” He says, voice determined.

 

She can't say she wasn't expecting this. Jacob didn't strike her as the type of person who would just give up when the situation didn't go the way he planned.

 

Sure, she still thought he was giving too much credit to something he shouldn't, but that was only her opinion.

 

“Can I borrow Carol?” Jacob asks, biting his lip. His long hair is flowing effortlessly and not for the first time Bella finds herself a little jealous about it.

 

If she tried to get out of the house without brushing it like he did most times, her hair would resemble a rat nest and not a shampoo commercial.

 

“If you're going to resolve this unneeded drama sure. If you're going to create more drama then no.” Bella states. Because although Jacob wasn't the type to give up he looked like the type to sometimes make things worse by his inability to let things go.

 

Like the whole the Cullen's are vampires’ debate.

 

He’d been right then, but she could only imagine what the situation would've been like if he’d been wrong.

 

“It's not unneeded.”

 

She rolls her eyes at him. “Well, it's definitely not needed, buddy.”

 

He scoffs. “Easy for you to say. It's not like Rosalie's refusing to kiss you even after asking you on dates.” His voice has a little bite to it and Bella has to fight the urge to bite the bait.

 

It's clear he's after some sort of confrontation.

 

“I don't know why you're bringing her into this.” She says while crossing her arms.

 

“Just because you like lying to yourself doesn't mean I have to help you do it.” Jacob stares at her like he knows something she doesn't. “ I have eyes – I’m just stating what I’m seeing.”

 

Now it's her time to scoff. “There's nothing to see.”

 

“You keep telling yourself that.”

 

“Weren't you leaving?” Bella says, not in the mood to deal with a brooding lovelorn Jacob any longer. “The door’s that way.” She points with her finger. “You should go before I change my mind about lending you Carol.”

 

He doesn't move.

 

“You know, you're awfully defensive about her. Not only when I mention you and her in the same sentence, but also when anyone has something to say about her that you don't like.”

 

Bella narrows her eyes, daring him to go on. “Were you about to try?”

 

He seems to notice he's pushing her a little too close to comfort. “Just wanted to prove a point.”

 

“You know,” She starts, not about to let things slide. “Sometimes I think you and Edward are two entirely different people. In moments like this? I get why the two of you get along.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Hey,” Bella answers her phone with a soft voice. “What's up?” She grabs the TV remote, lowering the volume so she can talk without it getting in the way.

 

“I need your advice.” A melodic voice says on the other end and she can't help but grin.

 

“I’m great at those.”

 

“I’ll reserve my judgment until I see it with my own eyes.”

 

She rolls her eyes. “Of course you will, Rosalie. So what can I help you with it?”

 

“I need you to tell me one good reason why I shouldn't kill either Jacob or Edward right now.”

 

She fights the urge not to laugh. “Hmm – and if I don't have one?”

 

“Then I’m really in trouble here. You're usually the one who's always like ‘please don't kill him, Rosalie’.” The girl points out, imitating her voice.

 

“Maybe this time what you should be asking me for is an alibi, not a way out.”

 

“Bella, if I were going to kill someone you can trust me I wouldn't need an alibi, nor would I need anything else.”

 

“Okay, Dracula, whatever you say. I know you're aiming for a threatening vibe here but you're only coming out as conceived psychopath.”

 

“Dracula?” Rosalie says outraged. “Couldn't you come out with a nickname that was less cliché?”

 

“Blondie?” Bella tries.

 

“No,” Rosalie says firmly.

 

“Aphrodite?” She says without thinking.

 

Rosalie seems a little taken aback by her words. “That's..better. But it's still a no.”

 

“I’ll think of something.”

 

“I’m sure you will.” Rosalie hums. “You had the right idea in not coming here today.” She says and Bella can't help but notice how tired her voice sounds.

 

“I always have the right ideas.”

 

“Sure.”

 

“I do.”

 

Sure,” Rosalie says again. “Edward’s being more of a dick than normal.”

 

“Didn't know that was possible. What his problem?” Bella asks.

 

“Hell if I know. One would think that after making up with your friend he would be over the moon, but no. He’s being insufferable right now and Alice's not being any better, she's still bitter I managed to win yesterday.”

 

“I bet she is,” Bella says wincing, thinking of all the threats the girl had thrown her way before she left.

 

“Don't think she's not reserving some of that for you. She's loudly proclaiming every chance she gets that I’ve only won because you helped me.”

 

She shakes her head. “I helped myself. Lord knows I wanted that game to end.”

 

“You could have helped her win.” Rosalie points out.

 

“And face an enraged you? I’ll take my chances with her, thank you very much.” She says biting her lip. “Jasper wouldn't let his girlfriend kill me.”

 

“His wife.” Rosalie corrects her.

 

“He wouldn't let his wife murder me.” She says again.

 

“I wouldn't let her kill you either.”

 

Bella grins. “No one left to help you win against her, huh?”

 

“Something like that.” Rosalie mumbles. “So, what you're doing?”

 

“Being lazy. Watching my favorite reality tv show curled up in the couch with a blanket.”

 

“Please tell me is not The Bachelor. Alice made me watch a whole season of it years ago and I haven't been the same since.”

 

“Of course it's not The Bachelor, that show's too heterosexual for my taste. Now if there had been a The Bachelorette where a horde of women fought to win a rose from another woman then that I would definitely watch.”

 

Although she can't see the other girl Bella’s pretty confident that she's rolling her eyes at her right now.

 

“Of course you would.”

 

Bella smirks. “It's Survivor, have you ever seen it?”

 

“No,” Rosalie says. “What's it about?”

 

“Can't really explain it. You have to see it to understand it, and once you do you're hooked. Before you know it you'll be googling what are the best seasons to watch and you’ll be wondering how good you would do if you were there.” She says excitedly. “You would love it, I’m sure.”

 

“Don't know if I have the ability to love anything right now.”

 

Bella chuckles. “Fair point. I know what's like to have someone getting on your nerves.”

 

“So what do you do when that happens?”

 

I send them to your house.” She says, thinking about Jacob.

 

Rosalie laughs and she smiles, pleased. “Want to come over?” She says before overthinking it. “We could watch it together and you could be free of everyone. At least for a while.”

 

“You wouldn't mind?” Rosalie asks, voice soft.

 

“Do I look like the type of person who would offer to do something that would bother me in the end?”

 

“Yes,” Rosalie says honestly.

 

“Ok. Maybe you have a point. Still, it would be nice to spend some time with you without the looming knowledge that your whole family is listening to our conversation.”

 

“You make a valid point.” Rosalie agrees. “Alright. I’ll be there soon.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“Are you afraid of me?” Rosalie suddenly asks her, smirk in place and she can’t help but answer it first with a frown, not sure of what had brought this on in the first place.

 

The girl, sensing her confusion, slowly tilts her head, pointing to the large space between them on the couch and Bella starts to finally understand where she’s going with this.

 

It’s not the first time something like this has happened.

 

Every time she'd chosen to avoid being a little too close to her, Rosalie had looked at her with questioning eyes. Still, this is the first time she'd said something out loud about it to her.

 

And she gets it, she does.

 

But a part of her wants to argue that it’s not like they’re on two different sides of the room right now.

 

And maybe, just maybe, Bella wants to be able to say that choosing to uphold some imaginary boundary that she has put up in the first place doesn’t have to mean anything other than her being respectful.

 

Unlike Jacob says though, she’s not as good as lying to herself as he thinks she is.

 

Because yeah, she’s afraid.

 

Afraid of how much closer they’d been able to get in so little time. Afraid of how right it feels whenever they’re like this, in the same room.

 

How happier her life has gotten ever since she'd made Rosalie's acquaintance (and subsequently friendship).

 

But she’s not stupid. She knows she can't say these words out loud.

 

She also knows that there's no way in hell that choosing to go down this road will lead to anything other than a monumental disaster.

 

So Bella avoids, she deflects, she lies to herself and she tries (and most times she fails) to put some sort of boundaries in place. But most of all she just tries not to think too hard about it.

 

“You know, you’re the first of your family to ask me that.” Bella points out. “Why is that?”

 

Rosalie bites her lips. “Ironically, I think they’re afraid of your answer.”

 

She sighs. “And you’re…not?”

 

“I’m a big girl, I can handle rejection.”

 

She snorts. “Rosalie, I’m not sure anyone has rejected you like ever. It’s okay to admit you can't handle that simply because you haven’t had the practice.”

 

“I can be good at something without having some sort of practice.”

 

Bella rolls her eyes at her. “Not this. Humility doesn’t exactly suit you.” She says honestly. “And being a vampire definitely hasn’t helped. In reality, I kind of get the feeling that human you weren’t much different.”

 

Rosalie shifts in her seat, turning so she can be face to face to Bella. “At being modest or at being beautiful?” She asks while staring at her intensely.

 

Bella just shrugs. “Both.”

 

Because she's a hundred percent sure that human Rosalie would still clinch the top spot of the most beautiful woman she's ever seen, without effort.

 

“You didn’t need to find a fancy way to tell me I’m hot, Bella. The plain and direct way would've been enough.” Rosalie says with a smug grin in place and Bella shakes her head, unimpressed.

 

“I won’t answer that. It’s clear you’re fishing for a compliments right now and I won’t fall for it.” She playfully says. “I’m smarter than your average human. That won't work on me, Hale.”

 

Hale, really?” Rosalie questions her. “Honestly, I was trying to get an answer out of you, but if you're not up to it a compliment will always do.”

 

She can't help but give the girl a little smile.

 

Even though she could sense Rosalie's distress at her not answering her question, it was nice to know that the girl wasn't going to force her to say something if she didn't want to.

 

“If that’s the case then let me give you an answer and a compliment.” She says, voice soft. “No, I’m not afraid of you, or your family. It kind of helps that I know that even if I started bleeding right now in front of you, you wouldn’t feel the urge to drink it. But that's not the point. You guys are my friends.” Bella gives Rosalie a look she hopes can convey the truthfulness of her words. “And although yesterday scarred me forever and made me fear for my life a couple of times, you also forget I almost saw Emmett cry. I know you guys have this whole vampire image to uphold but the more I get to know you the more you look like… just people, I guess?”

 

Rosalie gives her a soft sigh. “Good. Don't tell Alice that though. If she hears you calling her ‘just people’ she’ll lose her mind.”

 

Bella laughs. “Of course she will.”

 

“Now that’s settled, how about you give me my compliment?“

 

“Eager, are we?” Bella raises an eyebrow. “Ok, how about –” She starts, unsure of how to proceed. “You have a nice laugh.” She says, thinking absently about all the times she’d caught herself smiling while hearing it.

 

“A nice laugh?” Rosalie says, a little outraged. “This is the worst compliment I have ever heard.” She crosses her arms.

 

Bella stares at her, unfazed at the drama. “Really? Because Mike told me a while ago that Robert, that gross guy from school, once told you to your face that you had a ‘nice rack’. I fail to see how mine would go last when you have that one on the list.”

 

“Fine. Second worst, are you happy now?”

 

“I can live with that.”

 

Rosalie narrows her eyes at Bella, still not satisfied by something. “You still won’t come any closer? You’re just gonna sit at the opposite end of the couch the whole time I’m here?”

 

“I’m trying to be respectful of your space.” Bella points out.

 

“You practically slept on my bed the other day, without me in the room. How's that for respecting my space?” Rosalie argues.

 

“No, I haven't.” Bella starts to panic while entertaining the notion of sleeping in Rosalie's bed. “It wasn't even close to that. I was sick and I laid down. That was it. There was no sleeping in the bed that you also sleep.” She mumbles, fumbling through her words.

 

Rosalie looks unfazed at her display. “Ok. I just don't see what the big deal is.”

 

“Of course you don't,” Bella whispers before finally giving in. She moves closer to the middle of the couch and Rosalie does the same. They aren't abnormally close to one another but they're not miles apart anymore. “Better now? Are you happy?”

 

Delighted.” Rosalie gives her a predatory smile and Bella can't help but gulp, thinking about how she should just have stayed where she was.

 

“Can we watch the show now?” She says rolling her eyes. “Please press play before I decide to rescind your invitation to my home.” She says, pointing to the remote on Rosalie’s hand.

 

“You do know that won't stop me from being able to come in if I want to, right? That's just a myth.” Rosalie says, shrugging. “I don’t know why you haven’t let me started it yet, to be honest.”

 

“You…. You don’t know?” Bella says with a little more enthusiasm than necessary. “You were the one who didn’t press the button, woman.” She points out. “Instead, you decided to ask me a question you could have just asked at the end of the episode.” She says while shaking her head exasperatedly. “You’re lucky you’re hot.” She smirks Rosalie’s way.

 

The girl's so taken aback by her words that she fumbles with the remote, letting it fall to the ground.

 

Rosalie looks sheepishly at Bella, making it harder for her to not laugh at what just happened. She tries though, very hard.

 

“I’m sorry, can you say that again?” Rosalie asks her, still dumbfounded by what she said. “Did I hallucinated, or did you just call me hot?” She suddenly grins.

 

“What, like this information is new to you?” Bella asks. “Let me remind you that I’m super super gay and you're… well, you.” She says before adding. “Also, can vampires hallucinate?”

 

“I don’t know,” Rosalie answers smugly.

 

“Try not to let it get to your head. God knows you're already insufferable enough as it is.” She says before trying to reach for the remote. “C’mon, let’s watch this thing already.”

 

 

 

xXx

 

 

 

“My lifelong dream is to be able to be on this show, I swear,” Bella says, eyes fixated on the screen in front of her.

 

She’s watching two tribes fighting hard to win the elimination challenge and her mind can’t help but wonder how she would do if she were in their place.

 

“You like the wild?” Rosalie's voice sounds dubious. “Don't forget that if you were there right now there would be mosquitoes, rain, and no food. And not to mention the fact that you would have to do physical activities. I've seen you trip in thin air, Bella.”

 

“I hate the wild, but I would do it if Jeff Probst asked that from me. And honestly, the tripping thing is generally not my fault. I can't help that I have two left feet.” She says, tilting her head so she can look at the girl beside her. “What about you? Are you a friend of nature or a friend of the internet?“

 

“Do I have to pick one? Can't I be a friend of both?”

 

“Sure, you can be whatever you want, Aphrodite. That's the beauty of life.” Bella points out.

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her. “When I was human it wasn't something that I would ever do, but after joining this lifestyle it kind of comes with the territory. Also, we always go on camping trips like three times a year. Carlisle calls it a family bonding activity.”

 

She's not surprised by that. The Cullen’s always struck her as the type of family who would do these crazy activities together.

 

“Yeah, dad tried to pull this card with me when it came to fishing, but I shot him down,” Bella says. “Told him the only bonding probable of happening there was the one between me and the lake when I undoubtedly fell into it.”

 

“I would pay to see that.” Rosalie states, grinning.

 

“Another reason why I’m definitely not going. I wouldn't hear the end of it if I went and something like that happened.”

 

“You know…” Rosalie starts. “Our next camping trip will be in the first week of January. You should come with us.”

 

“Me?” Bella’s truly surprised by the invitation. “Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of it being a family trip?”

 

“I'm pretty sure Edward invited Jacob earlier today. So…” Rosalie shrugs, trying to pretend she wasn't bothered by it but Bella can see past the facade.

 

“…So two wrongs make a right?” She enquires.

 

“Honestly? Yes. No offense to Jacob, Bella, but you have at least made friends with most of the family by now. He on the other hand just hangs around my brother. If Edward can invite him I can sure as hell invite you.”

 

She can't help but sigh. “Yeah, I told him this kind of easy and fast attachment to your brother wasn't the most healthy behavior in the world. You can imagine how well that conversation went.” She says, wincing. “Most of his friends are form La Push, you know. I think he's avoiding going back there because of Billy. So that leaves him with either me or Edward to hang out with.”

 

“I get that,” Rosalie says softly. “But we’re not in La Push here, and he's always at our house. He could try and reach out to us instead of spending the whole time in Edward's room.”

 

“I was going to say something along the lines of ‘maybe they're busy making out’ but we both know that's not the case.”

 

“Yes, and that just makes it worse.” Rosalie points out. “Anyway, the camping trip – January – are you in?” The girl says a little too excited.

 

Bella grimaces. “Not that I'm not thankful for the invite because I am, trust me. But me, camping? A recipe for disaster.”

 

“It seems like you in several places are a recipe for disaster.” Rosalie playfully points out.

 

“Can't argue with you there.” She concedes.

 

“That is a first,” Rosalie says, impressed. “C’mon, it won't be so bad you know. It's actually fun.”

 

“Don't you guys hunt when you're there? Isn't it like a hunting trip?”

 

“Sometimes. Why?”

 

“I fail to see how bringing humans into that would work. What would I even eat while we're there? And is this the kind of trip where I would have to sleep in a tent? Because that won't help your case here at all.”

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her. “You have plenty of time to make a decision. Don't overthink about it now.”

 

“I already made my decision.” Bella mumbles. “And yet,  I’m getting the feeling it won't matter much in the end.”

 

Rosalie gives her a searching look. “Hey, you know I would never make you go if you don't really want to, right? That's the point of inviting you to something. You can always say no.”

 

“Yes,” Bella says honestly. “That's the problem actually. Because, somehow, I’m finding myself not totally opposed to this crazy idea.”

 

“Yeah, then you're definitely going. The whole family will find a way to sway you. Trust me.

 

 

 

xXx

 

 

 

Bella doesn't know how long they’ve been here, side by side on the couch with their shoulders almost touching now.

 

While part of her wants to run away and never come back, another one can't help but feel good at their proximity. At peace somehow.

 

“So, what are you guys doing for Christmas? Anything crazy like a coffin party?” She asks Rosalie while getting a handful of popcorn from the bucket.

 

“You know I already told you we don’t sleep in coffins Bella. We can sleep just fine in a regular bed.” The girl answers her while still looking at the TV.

 

Bella can't help but feel smug about the fact that yes, she’d been right all along and Rosalie did end up loving Survivor.

 

She, on the other hand, had been so caught up in watching the girl instead of the show that she had no idea whatsoever of what was going on right now.

 

“It’s still a little crazy to me that you guys don’t necessarily need to sleep. Like you can go days without it.”

 

“Yeah, but honestly I wouldn’t recommend it. Last time Alice spent a week without it she almost destroyed half of the house in an argument with Jasper.” Rosalie says snickering and Bella almost chokes on the popcorn she'd been eating.

 

“Did he deserved it?” She manages to say while coughing a little.

 

“I don’t know, maybe? Not enough for her to do that. I don’t think I ever saw them arguing like that.”

 

“I don't know you guys long, but even I can say that doesn't sound like them.”

 

Rosalie nods. “It doesn't.”

 

“Have you ever saw Esme and Carlisle argue? They strike me as that type of perfect couple you only read in books or something.”

 

“Not really. Do they have disagreements? Sure. But they're always open with each other.” Rosalie says fondly. “It sets a high standard for everyone else in the house, that's for sure.”

 

“I bet,” Bella says. “Is it common for vampires to have someone? Like to be married to other vampires?”

 

Rosalie seems to panic at her question, eyes going wide. The girl thins her lips, finally turning around to look at Bella's face. “I’m not the best vampire to answer that for you. Hm – maybe you could ask Carlisle if you want?” She deflects, and Bella sees right through that.

 

She decides not to push, at least not for now. “Sure. Maybe I’ll ask him about it sometime.” She says absently, wondering why Rosalie had been so startled by something so inconsequential.

 

 

xXx

 

 

 

Bella's coming out of the kitchen after grabbing a new bottle of water when Rosalie suddenly asks her, out of the blue, and with a soft voice.

 

“Do you remember what you told me the other day? When you said to me that we didn’t seem to be that good at opening up to each other?”

 

“Vaguely.” Bella jokes but realizes the mood is a little more serious when the girl starts to fidget with her necklace.

 

“You told me it’s not something you’re used to. Opening up.”

 

She nods. “Yes.”

 

“Why? If you don’t mind me asking.” Rosalie's eyes are on her face, attentive.

 

And Bella knows that she’s usually the one to shy away from this type of conversation, but she also knows that somehow, contrary to that she keeps finding herself doing it. So if Rosalie could have the courage to ask her that question in the first place, the least she could do was to answer it honestly.

 

She grabs the remote that's resting on the armchair, quickly pressing pause before sitting down again. This is not the type of thing one can say when there are people screaming at each other in the background.

 

“I guess it’s not easy to change behavior. Not when it’s something you’re so used to doing that it becomes like, second nature, you know?” She tries explaining. “My mom, she’s not like yours. Opening up, sharing? It always leads to giving her ammunition she could use against me later on – it wasn’t something that brought us closer or made her understand me better. It just led to regret.” She bites her lip, unable to keep some memories at bay. “It made me very wary of making myself vulnerable to anyone else.”

 

“I’m sorry Bella.” The girl says sincerely. “Was it always like that?”

 

“No,” she says, shrugging. “Things just got way worse after my grandmother passed away. No one to stand in the middle, I think.”

 

“Do you mind me asking when did that happen?” Rosalie asks her softly.

 

Bella shakes her head. “Almost four years ago.” She tries to offer Rosalie a little more context to everything. “Mom ran away from here when I was a baby, but she didn’t have a place to go. So she went to live with her mother in Boston. We ended up staying there and living with her until, you know. After that Renée decided we needed a change of scenery, so we moved to Phoenix.”

 

“And you didn’t want that?” Rosalie enquires.

 

“Honestly? Didn’t care at that point. When Gran died it just didn’t feel like home anymore. Still, it wasn’t like it would matter if I didn’t. When my mom puts something in her head, that’s it,” She grimaces. “It’s better to just go with the flow. I learned that the hard way, trust me.” She looks down at her hands, fidgeting.

 

“I can understand that,” Rosalie says quietly and Bella looks up. “When I was human things weren’t like they are today. Women didn’t have a voice or a choice. It was always about marriage and children.” She says regretfully. “And I wanted those things, dreamed about them even.”

 

“I’m pretty sure I would’ve been the same had I been born at that time,” Bella says.

 

“You?” Rosalie scoffs. “I seriously doubt that. You would have rebelled against it all. I was too naive. Too pretty, from a nice family. Men wanted me, desired me. And I welcomed it.”

 

Bella's skin starts to tingle in a bad way. “Why do I have a feeling this story doesn’t have a happy ending?”

 

“Because if it did I wouldn’t be here,” Rosalie says nonchalantly but Bella can see the hardness in her eyes.

 

“You don’t have to tell me,” She says, unsure of how to approach any of this. “Not if you don’t want to.”

 

“I do want to tell you,” Rosalie whispers. “But maybe not today. I’m sorry.”

 

“Hey,” Bella says, reaching for her hand. “When you’re ready, okay? There’s no need to rush it. We have all the time in the world.”

 

Rosalie gives her a little smile. “I have all the time in the world, you on the other hand…” She grins.

 

“I’m going to ignore the jab you just took on my mortality,” Bella says. “For the good of this friendship.”

 

Rosalie just smirks. “You do that Bella, you do that.”

 

“You know, next time you need some time away from your brother I won't offer my help again. Not if this is the treatment I’ll receive.”

 

“You wouldn't dare.”

 

“Oh, I would.” She raises her eyebrows. “No Survivor marathon for you next time, no. You’ll have to suffer.”

 

Rosalie just looks at her like she doesn't believe her words. “You keep telling yourself that, Bella. I know the truth, don't forget you were to one to seek out this friendship in the first place. It is your duty to maintain it.”

 

“Last time I checked it took two to tango, Blondie.”

 

“Yeah, none of those are working. And by the way, I’m being an excellent friend,” Rosalie says affronted.

 

“You are.” Bella can't help but say sincerely.

 

Because at the end of the day that was the undeniable truth.

 

Rosalie was being an incredible friend. And that was kind of the problem.

 

“You are too.” The girl says back softly. “I’m glad you didn't give up on me even though I didn't make it easy for you.”

 

Bella grins. “If you made anything easy for me it wouldn't be you though.”

 

“No, it wouldn't,” Rosalie says back, grinning too.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“C’mon Bells, why the long face?” Charlie asks her while he puts up another ornament in the tree in front of her. “This is supposed to be the happiest time of the year.”

 

“I thought that was when Basketball season started.” She states with an eyebrow raised. “This tree is giving my OCD a heart attack.”

 

“It looks pretty,” Jacob says shrugging.

 

“It looks anything but that,” Bella says.

 

There are colors everywhere and nothing makes sense. Also, there's no theme either, just a bunch of old stuff Charlie had collected over the years.

 

Probably on several Walmart sales.

 

“Maybe we shouldn't have put that many things on the right side Jake. I think it's getting kind of crooked.” Charlie admits, shaking his head. “Should we take some of it out?”

 

Bella rolls her eyes, smiling fondly at the two men. “Yes. But I’ll leave that to both of you. I’m going to go get started on the food because I’m not risking another thanksgiving fiasco. I’ve learned my lesson.”

 

“It was not our fault that most of the food burned.” Jacob weekly states.

 

“Who fault was it? The stove? The kitchen?” Bella playfully asks.

 

“Yes.” He says, biting his lip and trying not to laugh.

 

“Okay. But since I’m not in the mood to have pizza for Christmas let's not leave things to chance.” She points out. “When you guys finish the tree let me know. Can't wait to put some gifts under it.”

 

“I still can't believe you managed to go shopping for them two weeks in advance,” Charlie says, impressed.

 

“Yeah, well, I had Jasper to thank for it. He figured I would be like him and would prefer avoiding large crowds and last-minute shopping so he invited me to go to Seattle with him.” She answers. “He was definitely right.”

 

“I haven't forgotten you didn't tell me you were going. I could've tagged along with you guys.” Jacob says, whining.

 

Bella frowns. “Buddy, try not to take this the wrong way.” She starts. “But I have the feeling that if Jasper wanted you to come with us he kind of would’ve invited you.”

 

She sees from the corner of her eyes her Dad trying to keep his laughter in. “She has a point, kid.” He says, amused.

 

“It's not my fault he doesn't like me,” Jacob mumbles, crossing his arms.

 

“It's definitely your fault.” She argues back. “I told you a hundred times you should try and get to know them. If not for your own benefit for Edward's sake then. It's his family after all, and now that you guys are actually dating it might serve you well to get along with everyone.”

 

“Dating someone is hard.” He says, sighing dramatically. “I should’ve listened when Taylor Swift said that.”

 

“That's why we don't do it, right Bells?” Charlie jokes, putting his hand up for her to give him a high five.

 

She slaps his hand. “That's right. We're just two bachelors living the fine life.”

 

“Yeah guys, nobody's buying that,” Jacob says and Bella gives him the finger when Charlie’s too busy putting another thing in the tree.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“I’m just saying that maybe you should try,” Bella tells Jacob, again, while they're both in the kitchen, prepping things up.

 

She knows he probably won't listen to her, and It's not like saying those words to him had made any difference at all those other times, but maybe – just maybe -  she could finally manage to get through his thick skull today.

 

It would be a Christmas miracle.

 

Jacob lets a frustrated sound out of his mouth when he doesn't manage to copy what she's doing with her vegetables.

 

 “I’m not you though. I don't fit in with them as you do.” He tries to explain. “I see you guys together and it's natural, you know? Like you're one of them. No matter how hard I try, it won't be like that.”

 

Bella sighs. “So you won't try at all? I’m not saying you have to be me. But you can try to have some sort of relationship with them.”

 

“Do you find kind of ironic that we're in this position when I was the one who wanted to be closer to them in the beginning?” Jacob says, amused. “Can you even remember the time you wanted nothing to do with them?”

 

“Maybe and yes.” She admits. “It didn't happen out of the blue like you're implying. It took some time.” Bella says, remembering how resolute she’d been when it came to having nothing to do with them back then. “And we didn't become friends on the next day after I decided to stop avoiding them. It took time, and work and…”

 

“Fate intervening?” Jacob completes it for her.

 

Bella rolls her eyes at him. “I don't believe in fate.” She says proudly. “Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that if you had tried to get to know them before, like really know them, and not the whole ‘ask Edward about his family out of curiosity’ thing you had going on, maybe you could also have something similar.”

 

Jacob chuckles. “I seriously doubt that.”

 

“God, why is this so hard for you?” She points her knife at him before putting down on the table. “Just try to make some sort of connection, will you? Something real and not Edward related.” Bella says exasperated. “Either do that or accept that most of them won't have a particularly nice opinion about you. Don't forget that friendship is a two-way street buddy, you can't wish for it without also contributing.”

 

“Ok. you're right.” He admits. “ I’ll try. Do you have any tips?”

 

If this answer had come weeks ago Bella would’ve probably made a little dance of celebration. Today? She has to fight hard not to be harsh.

 

“Aren’t you spending New Year's at their house? Aren't you going on the January camping trip?” She asks and he nods. “If you can't comprehend that those are excellent opportunities for that then I’ll have to deem you a lost cause and wash my hands clean.”

 

“Do you think it will work if I try?” He asks, biting his lip. “I’ve been feeling a little bit of a hostile energy from most of them lately.”

 

“I don't know, Jake. I’m not Alice, I can't see the future.” She can't help but say. “Look, if you're serious about it I’ll talk to them okay? Try and help you out. But I need to see you make an effort first.”

 

Jacob seems surprised. “You would do that?”

 

“Of course.” She answers honestly. “Do you get on my nerves most of the time? Sure, but that's what family’s all about, right?”

 

“Yes.” He smiles softly at her. “I know you're not going there for New Year's, but are you going on the camping trip?” He asks.

 

“I don't know.” She says, looking up at him again. “Maybe not. Camping it's really not my thing.”

 

He doesn't seem to take her answer as the truth. “Yeah right.”

 

“What?”

 

“Wasn't Rosalie the one who invited you?” Jacob raises his eyebrows, amused.

 

“Yes..and?” Bella questions him.

 

“And you won't say no to her or to spending time with her.” He says, too sure of himself for her liking.

 

“This again?”

 

“Look Bella, I know I haven't been a good friend when it comes to this to you. Actually, most of the time, I have found a way to make a stupid comment or remarks about it.” He says, grimacing. “But I’m not blind, I have seen how happy you are every time you're together. She’s different too, when you're around.” He states, giving her a look. “What's the worst that can happen if you try?”

 

She sighs, running a hand through her hair. “So many things that is hard to count, honestly. Death? Heartbreak? Death again? It’s just… it's a terrible idea for so many reasons.” She starts. “Not that I have thought about it, because I haven’t,” Bella adds, lying.

 

By the way Jacob's looking at her though it's clear he hasn't bought it.

 

“How about long term goals? What could possibly be our future?” She argues. “She a vampire and I’m a human. A human who loves being human. I don't want to be a vampire, and I definitely don't want to die. Aren't those like our only choices if something goes wrong?” Bella whispers hard, aware that this type of conversation shouldn't be happening here where Charlie could walk in at any given minute.

 

“Wait. You don't want to be a vampire?” Jacob asks, surprised.

 

Bella can't help but shake her head. Of course this was the thing he would focus on after the whole speech she just gave. “Why would I want that?”

 

He looks at her like she's crazy. “The immortality? The powers? The sheer strength?”

 

“I’m not interested in any of those things.” She answers him. “Living forever isn't everything it's made out to be, trust me. I have almost eighteen years on this earth and I’m already tired.” Bella points out. “Power? What about the hunger? It's easy to look at the good things and forget the bad ones come hand in hand with them, buddy.”

 

“I think you’ve been spending too much time hanging around Rosalie and Jasper, Bells,” Jacob says. “You're starting to sound like them.”

 

“If by that you mean I’m making sense like they usually are then thank you. If you're trying to imply I’m focusing on the bad things, you should look in the mirror. Don't forget you're dating the broodiest vampire of them all. Or did you erased from your mind Edward’s whole ‘our soul is damned’ speech last Friday?” Bella questions him. “Oh, I’m doomed. I don’t have a soul. This is a curse…blah blah blah.” She does her best Edward's impression. “Yeah, no shit Sherlock. Of course it's a curse. Hasn't he consumed any sort of media about this subject like ever? That’s basically the starting point of all of them.” She points out. “And a soul? Really? We're getting religious now?”

 

Jacob snickers. “You're getting away from the point.”

 

“The point is Jacob, that even if I wanted to start something, and I don't by the way, this is just conjecture. There's no future in it.” She says, tired. “You may love this whole two different worlds lovers vibe, but me? I just look at it and can't help but think it won't end well, for any party involved.”

 

“Bella, I’m not saying you should marry the girl. I’m talking about hooking up, making out. Having fun, you know?”

 

“God,” She says, thinning her lips. “And men keep wondering why women are flocking towards our side of the force.”

 

“I’m gay.” He says, frowning. “I don't think your insult applies to me.”

 

Bella rolls her eyes. “You're still a man. Your words just proved that.”

 

“What?” Jacob shrugs. “It's not my fault I didn't know it was like, serious. But I should've guessed.” He looks down, shaking his head and muttering what sounds like ‘lesbians’ under his breath.

 

“It's not. There's nothing to be serious about.” Bella says. “In fact, this situation is only happening because you couldn't keep it in your pants when it came to Edward. Then to make matters worse you had to go and tell everyone about your supernatural assumptions. Now we're all here stuck with this situation. Always looking over our shoulders in fear of the Volturi finding out and killing us all.” She finishes, voice serious.

 

He puts his hand in the air. “Hm, first you don't seem unhappy being stuck with them, so you're welcome by the way. Second, I’m not aways looking around my shoulder in fear.”

 

“Maybe you should, Jake. This is serious, ok?” Bella says, worried. “Maybe you should be the one questioning the things I am. You’re the one who's actually in a relationship with one of them.” She shakes her head. “It's great that you're happy with Edward, and that you're enjoying having your first boyfriend and all, but it's alright to think about the future. Aren't you worried?”

 

“I am now.” He states, a little frantic. “I was just trying to live in the moment, you know?”

 

Bella gives him a soft nudge. “I know. You're not wrong..”

 

“I’m just not right either,” Jacob admits. “I get what you're saying.”

 

“Yeah, let's not talk about this anymore. Charlie could walk in any minute now. We’ll finish this some other time.” She says and he nods.

 

xXx

 

 

“This looks delicious Bella,” Charlie says, smiling. “Can't even figure out what I’m going to eat it first.”

 

“The turkey?” Jacob suggests playfully. “That's always a great choice. Traditional.”

 

“Don't pay attention to him, Dad. You can choose whatever you want.” Bella says, rolling her eyes. “Tradition is what we decide to make with each other, not the other way around.”

 

“Are you a poet now?” Jacob asks her, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Yes, if you must know. I was trying to keep it on the down-low but now it's in the open, I guess.” She shrugs. “Didn't want to make you feel like you're the underachiever of the family, Jake.”

 

He chuckles. “It’s kind of nice to be though. No way other than up, right?”

 

“Can we eat?” Charlie asks, face amused.

 

“Sure,” Bella says, smiling. “By the way, the decorations are great. You did a nice job.”

 

“Didn't know you had it in you, Charlie,” Jacob says agreeing with her statement.

 

“Neither did I.” He says while filling up his plate. “Guess I still got some tricks left in my sleeve.”

 

“Now if only you could understand how Instagram works.” Jacob jokes. “Hashtag blessed.”

 

“Was he always like this or did living with us made it worse?” Bella asks Charlie.

 

“I think you did it, actually. Before you came he seemed normal.” He states, grinning.

 

“Yeah, I doubt that,” Bella responds.

 

“I’m still in the room,” Jacob says.

 

Charlie frowns. “Did you heard something, Bells?”

 

“Nothing.” She says back to him, snickering.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Are you guys ready to go to The Cullen's?” Charlie asks them from the couch when he sees them walking down the stairs. “Do you want me to take you?”

 

“You can rest, Dad,” Bella says while watching him flick through the channels on the TV. “You do know there's no need to pretend you're going to watch anything other than home alone the moment we're out of the door, right?”

 

Charlie looks up at her, eyes wide. “How did you know that?”

 

“I’m the daughter of the chief of police – give me some credit.” She smirks. “We won't take long, okay? We’ll be back before midnight. If I see one present out of place in the tree I’ll know it was you.” She threateningly points at him.

 

“I’ll behave,” Charlie says.

 

“You better,” Bella says, narrowing her eyes. “C’mon Jacob, let’s not keep your boyfriend waiting.”

 

“Bye Charlie, try not to cry at the end,” Jacob says, waving to him from the door.

 

“How did you know that?” He asks again, this time even more shocked.

 

They don't answer him, instead choosing to close the door and laughing like maniacs.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Oh Bella,” Alice says, giving her a tight hug as soon as she enters through the door. All of The Cullen's are inside the living room, smiling at her. “You didn't need to buy me anything.” She says when she notices the bag of gifts Bella has in her hands.

 

“And yet you're glad I did, right?” Bella says, patting her in the back and putting what she's holding on the floor next to her.

 

“Let Bella bear breathe Al,” Emmett says, joining them.“Or just maybe let other people greet her too.”

 

Jacob gives her a smile and a nod before walking towards Edward.

 

“You're just jealous that Bella likes me better than you,” Alice says, giving him the eye. “It's not my fault I’m way more adorable than you are.”

 

“No way! I’m way more adorable than you.” Emmett argues back, whining. “Mom, don’t you think I’m more adorable than Alice?” He asks Esme with a puppy dog face.

 

“All my children are adorable,” Esme says, smiling. “Now can we please let Bella say hi to the rest of the family?”

 

“Hey Bella,” Jasper approaches her, giving a small hug. “Don't mind them, they already had a little more to drink than they should.” He stares at them, shaking his head in disapproval.

 

“It's alright,” Bella says, not really minding it. “It's Christmas, they should have fun.”

 

“Not too much fun, I hope,” Esme says, coming closer to Bella and giving her a sweet kiss on the cheek. “We're so glad you're here Bella. Thank you for coming.”

 

“Where's Jacob by the way?” Bella asks when she manages to look around. She hadn't even realized he wasn't in the room anymore.

 

She finally sees Rosalie coming from the kitchen, walking towards them. “Where do you think?” The girl says when she reaches them.

 

Bella can't help but grin at her and Rosalie nudges her lightly “I’m glad you could come.”

 

“She was worried you weren't gonna show,” Emmett tells her, whispering loudly.

 

“Of course I was going to come,” Bella says softly. She looks at Rosalie, trying to convey the truthiness of her words, but the girl's too busy narrowing her eyes at Emmett to realize Bella had been staring her way.

 

“Jacob's is, let me guess… with Edward, in his room?” She says, putting her hand on her chin and pretending to think hard about it.

 

“Yes,” Rosalie says, rolling her eyes.

 

“Maybe they're exchanging presents?” Bella argues.

 

“I know what they're exchanging alright.” Emmett snickers and Rosalie punches him in the shoulder. “What?” He says wincing. “Don't tell me you can't hear the disgusting noises from here.”

 

“It's called trying to give people privacy, Em.” Rosalie shakes her head. “Maybe you should try it sometimes.”

 

“Where's the fun in that?” He mumbles, crossing his arms. “Don't forget Eddy here is the one in the wrong.”

 

“It's Christmas, they should be here.” Jasper states and Bella sees everyone agreeing, even Carlisle, who most of the time just tries to stay out of this particular conversation.

 

“I’ll go ask them to join us in a couple of minutes. Don't worry.” Esme says to them. “I’m not about to let the boys spend the whole time there.”

 

It's only when Bella hears ruffling beside her that she realizes that the reason Alice wasn't engaging in this particular conversation was that she’d been busy snooping inside Bella’s bag of gifts.

 

“Alice, what are you doing?” She says, surprising her, but Alice just looks at her sheepishly. “You’re not supposed to open your present before midnight!”

 

“Are you serious?” Alice says, frowning.

 

“Yes, I’m being serious. Can't you see the future?” She asks.

 

“So?” Alice shrugs.

 

“So, what's the rush?” Bella says throwing her hands up in the air. “It's not like you don't know what's inside.”

 

Alice rolls her eyes, unimpressed.“Knowing and having are two different things.”

 

“I don't care, you're not supposed to break the midnight rule. None of you are.” She points at all of them threateningly. “Now let me put them under the tree before another sneaky vampire tries to steal his present.”

 

“I’ll help you, Bella,” Carlisle says, smiling at her. “I’m afraid you might need some backup finding a good place to put them.” He looks pointedly at Esme and Alice. “Some people got a little too excited this Christmas and there's almost no room.”

 

Bella chuckles, already imagining the number of gifts she was going to see. “Great Dr. C, lead the way.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Are you okay?” Bella asks Rosalie, rubbing her hands together trying to get herself warmed up. She’d seen when the girl had slowly left the room when no one was watching and headed towards the backyard of the house. “I was going to say it's freezing out here but, well, vampire and all that.” She says before sitting next to Rosalie on the grass, their shoulders almost touching.

 

“I’m alright Bella, I just needed some fresh air.”

 

“Is it weird that we have never spent any time out here?” She asks her.

 

“Maybe,” Rosalie says softly. “It's not the most comfortable place for a large group of people to hang out most of the time.”

 

“It's beautiful though.” Bella states. “Didn't realize how many stars we could see from out here.” She says while staring at the sky.

 

They stand in silence for a couple of minutes, too lost in the view. After a while Bella shifts her eyes from the sky to Rosalie, noticing how far away in her thoughts she looks.

 

So she takes advantage of that, quietly grabbing the small package she'd been keeping on the inside pocket of her jacket.

 

“This is for you.” She puts the gift in Rosalie's lap. “You kind of ran away from the room before I could give it to you.” Bella shrugs.

 

Rosalie looks down at it, before staring back at her, her face a myriad of emotions. “You bought me something?”

 

“Don't act so surprised. Am I supposed to pretend you haven't done the same?” She enquires.

 

“I mean, yes. No? I just didn't think you would.”

 

She rolls her eyes. “Of course I would,” Bella says pointedly. “You don't have to look so surprised every time I do something nice for you. I know I’m not the best at this but… I’m not that bad, right? At this friendship thing?”

 

Rosalie sighs. “I’m sorry, it's not you.”

 

“It's me?” Bella completes, eyebrow raised. “That one's kind of old.”

 

“So am I, according to you.” Rosalie points out.

 

Touché.” She says. “You can open your present right now if you want. Just don't tell your sister I let you do it, please.”

 

When she says that Rosalie's eyes wander back to the house and Bella follows it. Even though they're out here they can still see everyone else at the living room through the glass windows.

 

She can't help but smile when she sees the whole family (Edward and Jacob included) laughing at something Emmett has just said.

 

“Lucky for me she seems too busy cracking up right now to overhear us.” Bella states, relieved.

 

“I won't tell her,” Rosalie says, amused. The girl starts to slowly open her present. “Bella, this is…” She says while staring at a silver necklace with a delicate oval-shaped rose quartz in the middle.

 

And Bella knows it's not a marvelous piece of crafted art, but even she’d been impressed by it when she'd seen it the first time.

 

“When I saw it, it instantly reminded me of you,” Bella says, biting her lip. “I don't know if necklaces are your thing though.” She points out, a little nervous. “I think I’ve only seen you wearing one like three times since we’ve met? But you always put your hands in your neck reaching for it, even when it's not there.” She shifts a little in her seat. “You don't have to wear it if you don't want to.”

 

Rosalie's golden eyes just stare at her, intensely. “I love it. It's beautiful. Thank you.”

 

“Only fitting, right?” She says softly, too caught up in the moment to realize she shouldn't be saying those words out loud.

 

“Will you put it on me?”  The girl asks while handing her back the necklace and Bella doesn't even get the time to respond before Rosalie's already turning, brushing her hair to the side, giving her access.

 

Bella slowly and carefully brings the necklace to Rosalie’s neck, her finger softly brushing against the girl's skin, making both of them jump at the touch.

 

“I’m sorry.” She sheepishly says before continuing. “There, all done.”

 

Rosalie turns back, sitting face to face to her this time. “Thank you.” The girl bites her lip and Bella realizes she's nervous about something.

 

“Bella, I -- I know this is probably not the best time, but there's something I wanted to tell you. About me.” She grabs the new necklace, fidgeting with it. “I never told you my story. I would like to, if you wouldn't mind hearing it?”

 

“Are you sure?” Bella asks her, putting her right hand on top of Rosalie's. “You don't have to. You don't own me anything.” She says.

 

Because Bella had seen Rosalie try to do that time and time again this past week without success. Had seen how upset the girl had gotten every time she hadn't been able to say the words.

 

“Yes.”

 

Bella nods. “Let me just say that whatever you decide to tell me, that won't change how I feel about you.” She states before realizing what she'd implied. “About our friendship.”

 

“That means more than I can say,” Rosalie whispers, before starting. “It was a different time back then, when I was human. There were things society expected from women, but that didn't bother me. Not in the way I saw it bother some of my closest friends. I wanted those things.” She says shaking her head. “I wanted to get married, to have a husband to come home to, kids. A family of my own.” Her voice gets bitter. “Royce King was the most eligible bachelor in town, but I didn't really know him. I was young and naive, in love with the idea of love. Before I knew it we were engaged, and I suddenly had all my dreams so close to at the point of my fingers I could almost touch them.” Rosalie thins her lips. “On the day before the wedding, I went to see my friend, Vera. We talked for so long that I lost track of time, only realizing how much time had passed when I looked out of the window and it was dark. So I said goodbye and started walking home – we didn't live that far away from each other.”

 

Bella can't help the sickly feeling in the pit of her stomach from spreading.

 

“I found Royce on my way back home, he was drinking with his friends on the corner of the street where I lived. They were wasted. I don't know for how long they’d been there, but by the look of things, it had been for a while. He saw me walking home and he called me over, he was determined to show them just how beautiful I really was, how lucky he’d gotten when my father gave him my hand in marriage. Before I knew he attacked me, took off my clothes and the others follow suit. I don't need to tell you the details but you can imagine what they did to me.” She says solemnly. “When they decided they were done, they left me there, laying in a pool of my own blood. They thought I was dead, but I wasn't. Not yet, at least. That's when Carlisle and Edward found me. They tried to save me but it was too late, the damage had already been too severe.”

 

“So he transformed you. Carlisle.” Bella manages to get out even though her heart is breaking for her friend.

 

“Yes. He wanted me to have a chance to live again.” Rosalie says. “It took a while for me to realize that though. I didn't want this life Bella, I didn't choose it. I resented it, for a long time. I still do sometimes.”

 

“I’m sorry,” Bella says, voice soft. “You didn't deserve what happened to you.”

 

Rosalie just nods, far away in her memories.

 

“I killed them, all of them, once I became what I am today,” Rosalie tells her. “That was the first thing I did. One by one. I saved Royce for last so he knew I was coming. I even went as far as using the wedding dress I was supposed to wear when we got married to do it. I was a little theatrical back then.”

 

Back then?”

 

“Well, I suppose I still am.” The girl begrudgingly admits.

 

“I would say,” Bella mumbles, before getting serious again. “I know this will probably sound bad to anyone other than you if they heard it, but I’m glad you did it.”

 

“Killing them?” Rosalie asks surprised.

 

Yes,” Bella answers it. “Anything else would've been a kindness none of them deserved.” She narrows her eyes. “I would have done the same, well, sans the wedding dress though. But that's just me.”

 

“Of course you would say that, Bella.” Rosalie rolls her eyes at her.

 

“Look,” She squeezes Rosalie's hand. “I know you didn't get the life you wanted back then, and that this one wasn't your choice. But it isn't so bad, is it?” She asks, looking back at all The Cullen's.

 

“No, it's not”. Rosalie nods, agreeing with her, but instead of looking at her family, Bella can feel her eyes on her.

 

 “C’mon, if we're out here any longer Alice’s going to send out a search party,” Rosalie says, standing up and extending her hand to Bella. “Or you’re going to turn into a popsicle.”

 

“Yeah,” Bella says, reaching out and letting the girl pull her up. “I kind of think I already did.” She shivers dramatically and Rosalie chuckles.

 

 

xXx

 

 

In theory, going back to the house hadn't been one of Rosalie's brightest ideas, Bella couldn't help but think.

 

Because even though they hadn't been gone for long, they had been gone for enough time for people to notice. And apparently for Emmett to scheme with another Cullen she couldn't name (not yet, at least) behind their back.

 

It shouldn't have taken Bella by surprise.

 

Unfortunately, she’d been too caught up staring down at her phone, checking how much time she had before having to leave to realize that the reason the other girl hadn't moved from their spot on the threshold of the door was the little item standing on top of their heads.

 

“Oh, how unlucky guys,” Emmett says, and Bella finally looks up, getting confused when she spots the whole family looking at them with different expressions. “Seems you both have been cursed by the mistletoe.” He points to it.

 

And well, she could think of worse curses than having to kiss Rosalie Hale of all people. But she also could see that the girl wasn't taking the joke as well as she was.

 

Her eyes were looking at Emmett with fury and Bella couldn't help but think of all the things Rosalie had just managed to tell her. How some things had been decided for her, without her even having a choice.

 

She doubted Emmett had informed Rosalie of his plan to put the mistletoe on the exact same door they would have to go through when they came back from being outside.

 

“C’mon Rose, the clock is ticking.” He chuckles at his sister, unaware or unafraid of what's staring back at him. “Midnight is fast approaching and Bella has to get home, right Bella-bear? You wouldn't want to make her feel unwanted, would you?”

 

“I hope you're having fun right now, because I’m this close to killing you. I swear to God Emmett.” Rosalie growls. “Who else agreed with this stupid prank?” She threateningly says.

 

Although the situation could be considered sort of tragic right now Bella can't help but find herself amused. She thinks it's better for her to act before things escalate further.

 

Christmas was a time for miracles, not murder.

 

It's also not like she has the time to stand here forever. Jacob's already close to the front door, carrying a new bag full of gifts the Cullen's had given them (she had also refused to open them before midnight, only thanking them and saying she would call later to express her gratitude again once she’d seen them), looking at her with a face that clearly says ‘do something’.

 

She softly reaches for Rosalie's shoulder, putting only enough force so the girl can look back at her. “Does it help if I tell you I’m pretty sure I’m not a bad kisser?” She jokes, trying to alleviate the tension that has taken hold of the room.

 

“What?” Rosalie asks, eyes widening.

 

Maybe Edward wasn't the only one who could be slow when it came to these sorts of things.

 

She chuckles quietly before stretching out her hand so she can reach Rosalie's jaw. “Come here,” She whispers, moving her fingers so that their faces can be close enough.

 

When it becomes clear that Rosalie’s too shocked by her actions to meet her halfway Bella starts leaning closer, watching closely when the girl's breath catches in her throat.

 

She stops millimeters away from the girl's lips, but instead of going forward like most of the room expects her too, she moves slightly to the right, giving Rosalie a soft kiss on the cheek.

 

When she moves away Rosalie's still staring at her, seemingly unable to form words.

 

“Merry Christmas, Rose,” Bella says softly before walking away, leaving a bewildered Rosalie behind.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

"Are you really wearing a leather jacket when we're at home?" Jacob asks, face scrunching in confusion when she joins him in the living room.

 

After spending the whole morning organizing her gifts in her room, she’d decided to join him here so they could watch something together.

 

"It's called having a sense of style buddy, you should try it sometime," Bella argues back, sitting down on the couch next to him and getting comfortable. "Also, I’m not wearing it inside. I was just trying it out, seeing how well it fits."

 

"Sure," Jacob says, sarcastically, giving her a pointed look. "And you didn't do that like, a hundred times already?” He asks, shaking his head. “Didn't think blondie would've been able to get you something so right in the money like this. Kudos to her.”

 

Bella grimaces when she hears him using that nickname. No wonder Rosalie didn’t seem to like it when she did it. "Yeah, you should definitely not call her that to her face if you want to live."

 

He stares at her, unfazed. "I've seen you do it countless times."

 

"I'm... cute, and her friend. And..."

 

"Addicted to testing just how far she's going to let you push her limits?" Jacob finishes for her. "Don't think I have forgotten the whole mistletoe stunt you pulled two days ago. I'm pretty sure she hasn't either."

 

"It wasn't a stunt." She sighs, passing a hand through her hair. "We were put in a tight spot, and I got us out of it. I didn't want her to be pressured into doing anything she didn't want."

 

"Didn’t you kind of do that, though? You did kiss her on the cheek without her consent. Not to mention the fact that I’m a hundred percent sure she thought you were going to kiss her, like for real .” He points out. “We all were.”

 

“Not really, no. Well, maybe. I’m not saying it was the perfect solution, but I had to act quickly.” Bella says, remembering the slight panic in Rosalie’s face before it turned into anger. “She did tell me one time that she wouldn’t be uncomfortable if I got close to her like that so…”

 

“What? When did she say that?” He says, voice rising. “Why didn’t you kissed her right then?”

 

Bella rolls her eyes at him. “Because it isn’t like you’re imagining it was. There was a situation, some dare your boyfriend made and…look you won’t get it, you weren’t there that day, you were too busy brooding in your room because Edward wasn't making a move on you.”

 

“Don’t try to change the subject. I really thought for a second there that you were going to kiss her, and I’m pretty sure that so did she.”

 

She tilts her head. “I wouldn’t. Not only was everyone watching, but to do it right then, at that time? It would’ve definitely been something she wouldn’t be consenting to. I would never do that to anyone, least of all to her.”

 

“Look Bella, I know I’m not like…qualified to say that to you but aren't you stretching a little to thin the lines with her? You keep telling me you won't go down that road, but then you go and pull something like that.” He says. “If I’m confused can you imagine how she must be feeling most of the time?” He argues. “This hot one minute and cold on the next must be giving her a headache.”

 

She bites her lip. “I know. But do you think this is something I want? Everything would be awesome if I could just put up these boundaries and hold them up, buddy.”

 

And Bella had tried, she had. But just because the rational part of her brain decided on something didn’t mean that the rest of her could follow when push came to shove.

 

Most times, before she was even aware, there she was. Doing the exact same thing she’d promised herself she wouldn’t do in the first place.

 

Like the whole staying away from the Cullens debacle.

 

“Believe it or not this is me trying, Jake. It's not like she's making it easier, or any of you for that matter.” She takes a deep breath before continuing. “What Emmett did? I know it was a prank, but it was also him trying to push us somehow – I’m not stupid. What none of you seem to get it is that this isn't helping matters.”

 

He nods. “It's making it worse?” Jacob asks while looking at her.

 

“Yes.” Bella sighs. “Because a push it's definitely not what I need.”

 

What she needed was a different life, in a different time, and her being a different person.

 

“Maybe it's what she needs.” He points out. “Has she ever said something to you?”

 

“No. I mean, there were times I thought I caught her staring at me or something like that. But like I told you a million times, there isn't as much here as you guys think there is. We're friends.” Bella says weakly. “Is she insanely gorgeous? Yes. Is she great at being my friend? A hundred percent. Is she making things a million times harder for me? For sure. That doesn't mean she's interested in me in any other way, Jake.”

 

“Really, Bells? Are you blind?” Jacob says. “You're trying to tell me that if you went to her house right now and asked her on a date she would say no? To you?”

 

“She might. It's not like I know what's going through her mind.”

 

“That might be true, but still, it's clear to see – for anyone – that there's something else besides friendship between you two. There always were. The animosity in the beginning? Sexual tension.” He says, pressing his lips together.

 

“Or just animosity.” She tries pointing out.

 

“Yeah, right. What about all the constant back and forth flirting you guys always do, then? That's supposed to be what? Playful banter?”

 

Yes. Like you and me. Friends do that.”

 

“That's just gross, Bella.” He grimaces. “That's nothing like what we do. Trust me.” Jacob sighs. “All I’m saying is that every time I’ve seen you try to put some distance between you two, she finds a way to break it and you do the same.” He says and she can’t argue with his statement. “Is frustrating for me and everyone else to see, honestly. I know you both must have your reasons for it, I know it, and I won’t push anymore. But can I at least ask you something?”

 

“Something else, you mean?” She says playfully.

 

“Yes.”

 

She shrugs. “Sure, go ahead.”

 

“Promise me you’ll answer it though? No avoiding or changing the subject or saying something like ‘It doesn’t matter buddy’.” He tries imitating her voice.

 

Bella bites her lip, adjusting herself better on the couch. “I’ll promise I’ll try.” She says, being honest.

 

“Do you like her?” He asks, voice soft. “Rosalie.”

 

And Bella can’t help but be taken aback by the simple question.

 

Because although she knew it was only a matter of time before someone outright asked her, she sure as hell wasn’t expecting it to happen now.

 

Here.

 

With her wearing Rosalie’s Christmas gift like it was a life-vest when Jacob had just thrown her into the ocean with no regard for her safety.

 

No regard for the fact that she didn’t wish to speak those words out loud. Not when doing so would make everything she'd been trying to deny feel real.

 

“Yes.” She answers him, voice soft. “I do.”

 

Because how could she not? Between all the playful banter, all the laughter, soft glances, and heart to heart conversations, one thing had always stood out between them.

 

How right it all felt.

 

Jacob gives her a small smile. “So what are you waiting for?”

 

“For it to pass, Jacob. What else?” Bella says, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Look, even if she was human and nothing supernatural existed, I wouldn't be jumping on this train either. There are a lot of other things keeping me here.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because…” She shakes her head. “This isn't some small thing, okay? I could really get into it.” She starts fidgeting with her hands. “I could really fall for this girl. Like really – like for real man. And then what?”

 

“Isn't this supposed to be a good thing?” He asks, confused. “Falling in love, being in a relationship?”

 

“No,” Bella says like it's obvious. “Because what if it doesn't work out? What if I’m left heartbroken by it? What if I give my heart to someone who will break it?” She asks. “What if they leave, what if I die? What if --”

 

“You have serious commitments issues.” He points out, not letting her finish.

 

“And this is supposed to be some sort of news for me?” Bella asks, eyebrows raised. “I’m well aware of my shortcomings.”

 

“What if it doesn't pass? What if it only gets worse?” He says, and she grimaces. “What will you do then?”

 

“I don't know.”

 

“Maybe you should figure it out,” Jacob says. “Probably before you do something stupid like really kiss her without thinking things through.”

 

Bella snorts. “Like you did with Edward?”

 

“Exactly.” He grins. “We only have room for one screw up in this house. I already took the mantle, find something else.”

 

Bella chuckles, nudging him softly.

 

“If you ever need to talk though, I’m here okay? I know things are complicated. But you deserve to be happy – to put yourself out there and for things to go right. Don't forget that, Bells. You're not your mom, things won't crash and burn all the time.”

 

“Thank you, buddy. Really.” Bella says, surprise echoing in her features.

 

For someone who seemed like he was unaware most of the time, Jacob sure knew more than he let on.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Take your feet off the coffee table, will you? We’re not animals, jeez.” Bella playfully says, throwing a single popcorn on Jacob's face.

 

“Weren't you doing the same like two seconds ago?” He tries arguing with her while reaching for the bucket in her hands.

 

“No. You're hallucinating.” She shakes her head, moving the bucket away from him.

 

“Next time you could try to throw the popcorn a little closer to my mouth you know, no need to waste it.” He says, voice amused. “C’mon, let me grab some.”

 

Bella grins. “Maybe we should start eating better then. The amount of junk food I started to eat ever since living with you guys has increased tenfold, I swear.” She tells him, suddenly a little worried.

 

“We could always try to exercise or something.” He suggests, finally managing to take the bucket out of her hands. “It would at least balance some of it out, right?” He asks with his mouth full of popcorn.

 

Bella snickers. “I don't think I ever done that in my life.”

 

“We should start. It's good for our health.” He says, eyes darting between the television and her.

 

“Yeah,” She says, putting her hand on her chin in deep thought. "Maybe I can ask Jasper if it's okay for me to tag along on his morning runs one of these days.”

 

Jacob's loud laughter makes her jump on the couch a little. “That's not happening. I don't know what is more difficult to believe, the fact that you're going on a run or the fact that you think you can manage to wake up in the morning to do it.”

 

Bella rolls her eyes. “You should be supporting me, not telling me I can't do it.”

 

“Didn't know you wanted this relationship to be based on lies, Bells.” He grins.

 

“I’m this close to –” Before she can finish her sentence her phone starts vibrating - the universe seemingly saving Jacob from her awesome comeback.

 

“Jasper?” She says, and Jacob nudges her.

 

“You should ask to join him on his run now, before the world ends.” He says snickering and Bella gives him a soft punch in his shoulder.

 

“Hey Bella,” Jasper says. “Is this a good time?”

 

“For you? Always, buddy. What do you need?”

 

“Remember how we were supposed to go on the camping trip in January?” He asks and Bella hums. “Our plans have been moved up. Alice saw us there this week, apparently, the weather will be 'just perfect' - her words, not mine. We’re planning on going tomorrow morning.” His voice sounds amused, like this is a normal occurrence in their lives. The changing of plans any time Alice sees something else. “Are you and Jacob coming? We’ll be staying there for New Year's too.”

 

“Didn't your wife kind of told you that already?”

 

“Maybe. But it doesn't hurt to ask.”

 

“Always so chivalrous. If more men were like you maybe I wouldn't be gay.” She jokes.

 

Sure.”

 

“Give me a minute here, Jazz,” Bella asks, taking the phone from her ear and staring at Jacob. “The camping trip has been moved up. They're going tomorrow morning and spending the New year there too. Are you in or out?” She asks him, even though she can already imagine what he’s going to say.

 

“Yes, of course, I’m game,” Jacob says, excitedly. “I’ll have to clear things with Charlie though, ask him if it's alright.”

 

Bella rolls her eyes at him, but in a fond manner. “You know he’ll say yes.” She points out. “Jazz, Jacob's game.”

 

“What about you?” He asks.

 

“I’ll have to pass it up. I won't leave Charlie alone for the holiday, I’m sorry. Some other time maybe?”

 

Bella knows he would be the first one to insist for her to go – but she's not about to give up any bonding time with the man she'd spent so long without it in her life.

 

“Oh, I’m sorry, Bella. Of course you won't. I’m not explaining this right, am I?” He says. “The place we’re going is not too far away from here. A few hours only, so we're driving there. Any of us can drive you back before the thirty-one.”

 

“Won't that be a bother though?” She asks, worried. “Someone will have to drive me here and then back on the same day.”

 

“No. The problem will be deciding who will drive you, rest assured. A lot of volunteers.” He says honestly.

 

Bella can help but smile at his words. “Okay. We’ll clear things with Charlie as soon as he gets home then. I’ll text you guys later to give you a definite answer.”

 

She hears Jasper talking with someone before coming back on the phone. “Alice told me to tell you that he’ll say yes.”

 

Bella grins. “Of course she did. I’ll text you anyways buddy, just for the fun of it.”

 

“See you tomorrow, Bella.”

 

“See you,” She hangs up.

 

“So, we’re going camping?” Jacob asks her, smiling from ear to ear.

 

“Apparently yes,” Bella says, holding one hand up for him. “Don't get too excited just yet. Remember we have less than twenty-four hours to pack our things.” She points out.

 

“Should we start now?” He says, worried.

 

“Yes,” Bella says. “God knows how long you're going to take.”

 

“Hey,” He protests. “I’m not that bad.”

 

“Yes, you are. And don’t even get me started on the whole ‘what am I going to take’ debacle you’ll have once you start.” She says. “Just try to promise me you won’t come to my room almost crying as you did on your first date with Edward.”

 

“I wasn’t crying!”

 

“Sure you weren’t buddy. Sure you weren’t.” She snickers before turning the TV off. “Let's go.”

 

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Bella asks him, biting her lip. She’s standing by the door of his room, asking him again just to make sure. “Can you survive three whole days alone?”

 

“You forget I used to spend most of my days alone, kid,” Charlie says, amused. He takes out his chief of police jacket, looking way more laid back in his black jeans and a white t-shirt.

 

“That’s not a yes.” She says, raising an eyebrow. “And that was before, you’re not alone anymore. So I’ll ask again, are you sure you’ll be okay?”

 

“Yes, Bells,” Charlie says, shaking his head. He sits on the edge of his bed, untying his boots. “I’ll survive. You do know I’ll be working until the thirty-one so I’ll barely be at home. Are you sure you don’t want to stay there with them to celebrate the New Year?”

 

“Of course I’m sure, Dad. I’m not bailing on our Lord of the Rings marathon.” She smiles at him. “Unless you’re trying to get me out of the house so you can call some nice lady over? Because if that’s the case then you can be sure I’ll stay there. No need for me to be traumatized further in this life.”

 

Unfortunately coming back home and finding Reneé hooking up with some guy on their couch wasn't an uncommon situation.

 

Charlie laughs. “Someone will drive you back home? Or do you want me to get you?”

 

“Someone will.” She nods. “But thank you for offering.”

 

They both paused, looking over to the hall where a loud noise has come from.

 

“Maybe I should go help Jacob.” Bella says, rolling her eyes.

 

“I’ll help both of you too, I’m just going to take a quick shower.” He says, getting up.

 

“Great. Don’t forget to grab something to eat. I managed to convince Jacob to try and make some healthy burgers earlier.”

 

Charlie winces. “How healthy are we talking about here?”

 

“The description told us it was vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free.” She says, trying to hold her laughter in at the disgusted expression in her dad’s face. “It’s edible, I’ll give you that.”

 

“Well, you guys did try to eat my enchiladas that day. The least I can do is extend the same courtesy.”

 

“Yeah,” It’s her time to grimace now. “It’s definitely better than that.”

 

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Why am I doing this again?” Bella asks herself while holding her luggage on the Cullen’s driveway. It’s so early in the morning that the sky’s almost dark, and she can’t help but wish for another cup of coffee right now.

 

One was not nearly enough.

 

The family’s running around in chaos and she’s surprised that after what seems like years doing this, they can still be chaotic like that.

 

Next to the front door, Rosalie and Alice are arguing about something she has no idea. Inside the house, Carlisle’s grabbing several things out of the living room with Esme.

 

And not so far away from her, Edward and Jacob are grossly kissing in front of everyone with no regards whatsoever for the fact that no one (especially her) wants to see that.

 

Emmett’s busy playing some game on his phone next to his Jeep, and Jasper right next to her, probably not wanting any part of this crazy madness going on right now.

 

“Because Rosalie asked you,” Jasper answers her, even though she wasn’t really asking him in the first place. “And the rest of us kindly coerced you into it” He chuckles.

 

“Yeah, that was nothing nice about Emmett’s coercion.” She says back, remembering his veiled threats the first time he knew Rosalie had asked her to join them on the trip.

 

“He was just excited for you to come. He was all me and Bella-bear are going to do this, and me and Bella-bear are going to do that.” Jasper says grinning.

 

“Yeah, Bella-bear is still wondering if she should just throw his ass into the lake after the whole mistletoe thing.” She tells him, narrowing her eyes.

 

She knows that doing that wouldn't actually be possible, but still, it doesn't change the fact that if given the chance she would try to do it, nonetheless.

 

“If you want to just give me some sort of signal and I’ll gladly do it for you.” Jasper offers.

 

She gives him a genuine smile. “Nice to know you got my back, buddy.”

 

“Always.”

 

“What are they arguing about?” Bella suddenly asks him, pointing with her head to the girls.

 

“Emmett thought it would be a good idea to tell Rosalie, before you guys arrived, that Alice was the one who schemed with him on the whole mistletoe fiasco,” Jasper says, shaking his head.

 

“First, I’m not surprised. Of course she was.” Bella sighs. “Second, is he stupid?”

 

“Yes,” Jasper says, thinning his lips. “He thought it was unfair for Rosalie to be treating him like that when she was seemingly okay with Alice.”

 

“But she was only okay because she didn’t know Al had anything to do with it.” Bella finishes his explanation.

 

“Exactly.”

 

“It will be a nice car ride then. Four hours of fun.” Bella says, sarcastically.

 

“Regretting this yet?” Jasper asks her, raising an eyebrow.

 

“Since getting up from my bed this morning in this forsaken hour, actually.” She says.

 

Before he can say anything else to her Carlisle and Esme join them on the driveway, calling everyone so they can work out who’s going with who.

 

“Okay so how are we doing this?” Emmett says, looking around at the three parked cars and away from his phone.

 

She doesn't miss the pissed looks he’s receiving from both of his sisters.

 

“I think it’s best if we split up,” Carlisle says, sensing the tension.

 

"Who’s driving this one?” Bella asks, pointing to the car that's closer to her.

 

“Me.” Alice grins her way.

 

“Yeah, so I’m definitely not going on this one.” She says, moving a little and reaching out inside the open door, grabbing her backpack from the backseat of the car.

 

“What?” Alice says, a little outraged.

 

“You forget I’ve seen you drive, woman. I’m not about to die before I even turned eighteen. That would just be tragic.”

 

“I’ll have you know I’m an excellent driver,” Alice says, huffing.

 

“Yeah, you can keep saying that. It won’t make it true, nor will it make me risk my life right now.” Bella points out and she sees Rosalie giving her an amused smile.

 

“I can see the future, don't forget that. I would be the only one who would be able to save you if something were to happen.” The girl says, crossing her arms.

 

Bella looks at her. “You would just be saving me from yourself. How does that count?”

 

“Jasper, Edward, and Jacob. You all can go with Alice.” Carlisle interrupts them, and Bella can’t help but think he’s dividing them with the current situation in mind.

 

“Rosalie you can come with me and your father. Bella, would you mind going with Emmett?” Esme asks her, voice soft.

 

“Thank you,” Bella says to the woman, happy with the arrangement. “Good luck, Jazz.” She adds solemnly.

 

“Please don't kill my best friend.” She says to Alice, voice serious.

 

“I thought I was your best friend.” Jacob protests, whining.

 

“I’m not getting into this again with you, buddy.” Bella shakes her head in exasperation. “C’mon Emmett, let’s roll.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

Persona non grata at the moment with your family, huh?” Bella asks Emmett a while after they’re on the road.

 

He shrugs. “I would be lying to you if I said this is not a normal occurrence.”

 

“This time it was a low move,” Bella says, being serious. She’d wanted to talk to him about this that night, she had. But it was already too close to midnight right then and she hadn’t seen any of the Cullen’s after that, not until this morning.

 

“You don't have to tell me that. Rosalie's still pissed.” He states.

 

“Look, I know you’re not an asshole. You should know better than to force her into something she would have no choice in it.” She gives him a pointed look. “Before you pulled that stunt do you know what she was doing?”

 

He shakes his head

 

“She was telling me her story. What happened to her.” She tells him and suddenly his grip tightens on the wheel. “How did you think it made her feel when not long after that you put her in that position?”

 

“Fuck. I didn't know.” He says, worried. “She didn't say anything, not then and not even now.” He bites his lips. “I screwed up this time huh? I swear I would’ve never done that if I knew.”

 

“And I know that, and she probably knows it too, buddy,” Bella says, trying to be comforting. “But it didn't make it any better at the time.”

 

He nods. “It probably didn’t help that I’ve been saying she should thank me instead of threatening to kill me.”

 

Bella presses her lips, frowning. “Probably not. If anyone should be thanking anyone, that person would be you...thanking me. I kind of saved your ass.”

 

“And I bet you had a terrible time doing that.” He says, grinning at her.

 

“Em, I get that you’re trying to help okay? I do. But you aren’t.” Bella says, voice soft. “Leave Rosalie alone, and leave me out of it too. Please pass it along to the rest of the family.”

 

He seems surprised at her choice of words.

 

“When it comes to me and Rosalie just stay out of it, all of you.” She says a little harsher than she intended to.

 

He winces. “Okay.”

 

“And if I ever see you trying to pull something like that with your sister ever again you can be sure I won’t stop her from kicking your ass. Please respect her boundaries.”

 

“You’re right, Bella. I’m sorry.” Emmett says, voice genuine. “I wasn’t thinking things through, and I won’t get in the way again, nor will anyone else. I’ll make sure of it.” He states. “You're kind of scary when you're coming to my sister's rescue.”

 

“She doesn't need to be rescued, Emmett.” She rolls her eyes at him. “More like I'm rescuing you from her if anything.”

 

He doesn't seem to agree with her. “Fine. But if you need anything, any advice on how to seduce a woman you can always come to --”

 

“Jasper for advice?” She chuckles.

 

Me.” He proudly points to himself.

 

“You do realize he’s the one who’s married and you’re the one who’s single, right?”

 

“Exactly. That tells you everything you need to know.” Emmett states. “Who do you think has more experience in that department?” He wiggles his eyebrows at her.

 

Gross,” Bella says, grimacing. “Please let’s change the subject.”

 

“Any advice on how to make my sister forgive me?” He offers.

 

“Apologizing should do.” She shrugs.

 

“I did that already and it didn’t work.”

 

“So do it again. She loves you.” Bella says. “Maybe explain what you were trying to do without making any inappropriate joke. Say you won’t do it again. That should work.”

 

“What would I do without you?”

 

“Drive four hours alone, probably,” Bella says, alluding to the fact that she was only here because no one else seemed to want to. “Now please keep your eyes on the road. Otherwise, you’ll be joining Alice on my ‘I’m not riding with them again’ list.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

It’s close to nine o’clock in the morning – already three hours on the road – when Bella finds herself deeply regretting her non-existent choice of going to bed late last night. If even the Cullen’s, who had super speed and could go a few days without sleeping, had struggled with the timetable of moving the trip up, Bella had no chance of escaping unscathed.

 

Even with her Dad helping, things hadn’t gone that smoothly. Her decision to keep several unpacked boxes full of stuff had finally managed to come back to bite her.

 

Well, it wasn’t much of a decision.

 

Not really.

 

More like a character flaw. Actually, more of a thing that seemed simple, but it wasn't.

 

Because the truth was that ever since getting here, coming into contact with anything that reminded her of her previous ‘life’ gave her a strange flight response, some chills, and an uneasiness she couldn’t explain even if she tried.

 

So she hadn’t.

 

And Charlie hadn’t asked her either, bless him. Even though Bella could clearly see that it bothered him. That he probably saw it as a sign she was having second thoughts – that she was waiting to see how things would play out before making a more permanent move to settle here.

 

Unfortunately, it seemed like her mother would always find a way to infiltrate their lives like this.

 

In a traumatizing way.

 

She’s shaken out of her reverie when Emmett’s knowing eyes stay a little too long on her for it to be a coincidence.

 

“You can sleep if you want. I won’t mind.” Emmett assures her, clearly aware of the fact she’s been fighting with herself trying to keep that from happening.

 

“No, no,” Bella says, sitting straighter on her seat. “Not only it would be extremely rude to do that to you, but I would also be missing out on spending some quality time with you, buddy.” She gives him a soft smile.

 

Emmett can’t keep the grin out of his face at her statement. “Wow. No wonder you have charmed my family so quickly.” He says, biting his lip. “Bella has a way with words, Em.” Emmet starts, doing his best Jasper impression. “You should try learning something from her.” He finishes, shaking his head.

 

Bella raises her eyebrows. “You should. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen you make things worse by saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.”

 

“It’s what makes me endearing, dear Bella.”

 

“It’s what makes Rosalie almost kill you like, three times a week, dear friend.” She says back.

 

Emmett snickers. “It’s probably both.” He acknowledges, before turning up the radio.

 

“I love this song,” Bella says approvingly, looking out of the window and staring at the green scenery they’re passing by.

 

“Guess you and Eddy boy finally found some common ground after all, huh?” He says and she turns her head back at him sharply. “It’s his playlist we’ve been listening nonstop.”

 

Bella grimaces. “Please, tell me you’re joking.” Her voice is serious and he just shrugs. “I know most of these songs Emmett, there are several here that are like – some of my favorites of all time.”

 

“What’s the big deal?” He dares to ask her.

 

She stares at him with an incredulous face. “These tunes define who I am, Emmett,” Bella explains. “If he likes them too that means they mean something to him as well.”

 

“So?” Emmett still says. ”Isn’t that the purpose of any song?”

 

“Yes.” She admits. “It bothers me, that’s all.”

 

“C’mon, you think I don’t see how he’s grown a little on you?” He points out. “You can even stand to be in the same room as him for hours now.”

 

“One can say the same thing about mold, Emmett, it still doesn’t mean it's good for your health.” She half-jokes. “Also, it's not like I’m managing to do that with just me and him.”

 

“I couldn’t either, you know, in the beginning.” Emmett confides. “It took some time.”

 

Bella smirks. “I can imagine.” She says before getting more personal with her question. “Was it hard? Adapting not only to this new life but to having a new family too?”

 

He nods. “A little. Not as much as I thought it would be.” There’s a light in his eyes now, one she can easily recognize as fondness. “They made it easier.”

 

She can't help but smile back. “You’re not so bad yourself. I’m figuring it wasn’t hard for them to welcome you in it either. More like both sides took an instant liking to each other.”

 

Emmett shakes his head. “I definitely took more of a liking, rest assured.” He blurts out, suddenly focusing too much on the road in front of them and not looking back at her.

 

“You’re going to have to explain this one a little further, buddy,” Bella tells him, confused. “Wasn’t there and can’t read minds.” She explains.

 

He shifts in his seat, a little uncomfortable. “I might maybe have had a huge crush on Rosalie back then.” Bella's eyes widen. “Surprised?” He questions her.

 

“That these were the words coming out of your mouth? Yes.” She says honestly. “Not at the content.”

 

More than anyone she could sympathize with him. It would also be extremely hypocritical of her to judge someone for doing the exact same thing she was guilty right now.

 

“It all started when she saved my life if I’m being precise. So, actually, more like way back then.” He continues, watching Bella’s face closely. “There I was, alone and dying – minding my own business, you know? – when out of nowhere this…woman comes along.” Emmett says, lost in the memories. “I thought she was an angel.” He finishes and Bella tries hard not to laugh at her friend.

 

She clears her throat. “Totally understandable.”

 

“Yeah,” He agrees. “Try telling that to her – can’t say how many times I’ve had to listen to her tell me how I was hallucinating from the blood loss when I called her that to her face. Like she can't just accept the idea of someone viewing her like that.”

 

“Tell me you didn’t say that straight to her face. Tell me you only thought of it.”

 

“Of course I did. I was dying, I didn't think it was real.” He points out.

 

Bella snickers. “I’m guessing she hasn’t let you live that one down.”

 

“Honestly?” He says. “She doesn’t give me as much of a hard time about that, or the crush, as I would do it if I was in her place.”

 

Of course Rosalie didn’t.

 

For the look of things, Emmett still felt a little embarrassed about it all, so it was not a surprise to Bella that the other girl would try her best not to mention it.

 

“Do you mind if I ask you why nothing happened between you two?” She asks, genuinely interested in his answer.

 

“I think she was never too sold on that idea, if I’m being honest,” Emmet says, unbothered. “And once I settled into the family my feeling shifted pretty easily. I guess part of her knew that would happen before I did. That it wasn't something that would last.” He shrugs. “If you want you can ask her more about it. I’m sure she won't mind telling you her reasons.”

 

Bella nods, trying to remind herself to do just that the next time she gets a chance. “I think it could've worked. You two together.” She tells him, not as bothered by the thought of them together as she thought she would be.

 

“It did.” He states. “She's my best friend.” Emmett points out before grinning at her. “Also, I kind of have a feeling that things worked out for the better this way.” He finishes with a pointed look.

 

 

xXx

 

 

This is where we’re staying?” Bella asks, voice rising in surprise. “You gotta be kidding me.”

 

Emmett doesn’t seem to understand her shock.

 

“I thought we would be staying somewhere small, like a cabin in the woods type of thing. Sleeping in tents, one with the nature and all that.” She explains.

 

Emmett gives her an amused laugh. “You have met my sisters, right?” She rolls her eyes at him. “Do you think they would love this as much as they do if we all slept in tents? If they had to share a bathroom with everyone?”

 

Bella can’t help but wince thinking about it. Yeah, they definitely wouldn’t. “You have a point.” She concedes.

 

“It happens sometimes.” He grins. “Even a broken clock is right twice a day.”

 

“Still,” Bella points to the two-story wooden house that’s full of large windows. “Can you blame me for not expecting a mansion by the lake?”

 

“Yes.” He rolls his eyes at her. “You’ve seen our house.”

 

“This is at least three times bigger than that. And that’s not counting like the lake and everything else.” She says while looking around.

 

“We don’t own the lake, Bella. That’s just silly.”

 

She huffs, crossing her arms. “Rich people are crazy, who knows what you guys own? A town? An island? Forks?” She says. “Wait, do you guys own Forks?”

 

Emmett ignores her. “C’mon, let’s go. The sooner we get everything inside the house the sooner we can jump in on the lake.” He says excitedly while getting out of the car.

 

“Camping trip my ass. This is everything but that.” Bella mumbles, still on her seat. She can't help but narrow her eyes when she remembers all the time she’d spent voicing her concerns about this trip to Rosalie in the past few weeks.

 

How a tent wasn't the best place for anyone to sleep. How being that close to the grass usually meant she would have to deal with insects.

 

How she couldn't pee if it wasn't in a clean bathroom.

 

Apparently, the girl had thought it would be amusing to keep her in the dark.

 

Maybe if she asks nicely Jasper can throw Rosalie in the lake for her too.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Esme, this is just - your house is so beautiful,” Bella says.

 

They’re standing on the second floor, staring at the awesome view of the woods from the balcony after Esme had given her a tour of the house.

 

And even after seeing everything, Bella couldn’t help but still be impressed by it all, especially the well-chosen interior décor.

 

“I thought there was no way that the inside of the house could find a way to match the outside, but I was wrong. You did a wonderful job.”

 

Esme smiles fondly at her. “It makes me glad to hear that, Bella. This house is incredibly special to all of us – I’m happy you and Jacob could both be here.”

 

“I’m sure he’ll say the same thing I’m telling you once he sees everything.” She states.

 

While part of her had wanted to join him in the kitchen so she could grab something to eat too, she knew that doing so would probably make her grandmother crawl out of her grave.

 

Bella could already hear the words she would say. How arriving at someone else's house and acting like you weren't a guest wasn't how she had raised her to behave.

 

Unfortunately, growing up with only Billy to teach him things hadn't done Jacob any favors.

 

Esme nods. “I didn't think we would ever have guests coming here.” She confides.

 

“No vampire friends have ever visited? Not even that cousins you said lived in Alaska?”

 

“No. This was always our own hidden spot.” Esme says. “Just us.”

 

“I guess we're ruining that now, huh?” She can’t help but ask.

 

“On the contrary, Bella.” Esme takes her right hand on her own. “You're just showing us that we should have done this sooner.” She says honestly. “It's easy to isolate ourselves sometimes.”

 

“I get that.” Bella nods, thinking about herself. How many times had she chosen going down that road instead of making a connection with someone?

 

Too many to count.

 

“Unfortunately I can see it now how big of a mistake I did when I drew only five rooms for the upper floor.” Her voice sounds apologetic.

 

“You drew the blueprint?” Bella asks, feeling surprised even though she knows she shouldn’t. Esme’s incredible talent wasn’t any news to her. “You have a real talent, Esme. You never thought of doing it in a more professional way? I’m sure a lot of people would hire you if they could.”

 

Esme laughs heartily. “You’re too kind, Bella. Who knows? Maybe in the future.”

 

“I’m just telling you the truth, Mrs. C. You should definitely think about putting yourself out there – building a portfolio or something. Making an instagram account.” She says excitedly. “And about the rooms, Esme, It’s alright. I won't mind sleeping anywhere, really. As long as that place is located on the inside of the house and not on the outside I’m ecstatic.”

 

“Nonsense, dear.” Esme dismisses her words with a wave of her hand. “I’m sure two of my children can find it in themselves to share their space with both of you. And let's not pretend my son wouldn't have found another way to sneak Jacob into his room at night. At least like this, he won't have to waste his efforts.” She says, amused.

 

“Yeah, well. I’m game for whichever room that's far enough away from his then.”

 

“I’m sure they'll behave,” Esme says but Bella can see that the woman doesn’t believe her own words.

 

She snorts, not really believing them to be capable of that either. “It’s a good thing or bad thing that you’ll actually know if they're behaving or not?” She can’t help but ask.

 

“I don’t know.” The woman says truthfully, and once again Bella wonders just how weird it must be living without any kind of privacy in their lives.

 

“So, who’s the lucky vampire who’ll be getting me as a roomie?”

 

Esme gives her a knowing look. “Rosalie, most likely. Her room is the one who's farther away from his. If that's still what you want.”

 

Bella chokes on air as soon as the words leave the woman's mouth. She's coughing hard, supporting herself with one hand on her knees while Esme kindly offers her some help.

 

She stares at her, worried. “Unless you’ll feel better with someone else? I’m sure Emmett would be over the moon if you chose him..”

 

“No. No.” Bella says, clearing her throat and trying to pretend this new turn of events hasn't bothered her as much as it did, or that it wouldn't somehow complicate things more on her end. “Rooming with Rosalie is perfect. If she doesn’t mind that is.” She adds quickly.

 

 “I’m sure she won’t,” Esme says, and Bella just nods dumbfounded.

 

There was no reason to panic – she mentally says to herself. She could survive sharing a room with Rosalie.

 

Sleeping three nights in the same bed. Having her be the last thing she saw before going to sleep, and the first thing when she woke in the morning.

 

She could definitely do that without doing something stupid, right? Like blurting how she felt to the girl.

 

Of course she could.

 

There was nothing complicated and worrisome about this new development. After all, this thing - this crush - would pass sooner or later, she was sure of it.

 

Bella just needed to hang tight till that happened.

 

She could do that.

 

 

xXx

 

 

Not even two hours had gone by when Bella comes into the realization that, well - she couldn't do that. Not when Rosalie seemed more determined than usual in her quest to make Bella notice her.

 

Granted, she couldn’t say with one hundred percent certainty that anything that the girl was doing was premeditated - or that she was deliberately targeting Bella. But it felt like it. And that only made it worse.

 

Because right now it seemed like Rosalie was busy laughing with Jasper, not that far away from where she was standing. But in truth, she was busy making Bella fall deeper and deeper.

 

Making her feel unable to move, to tear her eyes away, to do anything other than just question the universe how someone like that could exist in the first place.

 

How someone could manage to be so soft and adorable while also being so insanely hot.

 

She had doomed herself the moment she’d say yes to this trip. She was sure of it now.  Because she hadn't even gone to bed with Rosalie yet – wait that sounded…not how she wanted it to sound. She hadn't even gone to sleep next to Rosalie yet, and here she was. Already doubting she could survive the experience.

 

Especially if the girl decided to wear to bed something as revealing as the black high-waisted bikini she was wearing it right now.

 

She’d looked – Bella couldn’t even find the words to describe it.

 

So yeah, how was she supposed to get over her like this?

 

“You're drooling,” Alice says next to her and Bella almost jumps at the sound of her voice.

 

“I’m not.” She lies, passing one hand next to her mouth just to be sure. “I’m just… I don’t think I’ve ever seen them like this, so carefree.” She points with her head to her friends.

 

Alice just stares at her with knowing eyes. “They’ve been happier lately. We all have.” She states.

 

Bella just nods, finally tearing her eyes from the pair so she can talk to Alice properly.

 

The first thing she notices is what the girl in front of her is wearing. “Are you sure this is like, appropriate attire?” She asks, raising an eyebrow.

 

“What?” Alice shrugs. “Is what everyone's wearing these days.”

 

“Ok, I’m going to try and pretend you're not standing almost half-naked in front of me then.” She says, looking up at Alice's face again and not daring to leave it.

 

“I’ve been walking around like this for the past twenty minutes. Funny how you’ve only seemed to realize that now.”

 

Bella's about to say some excuse when Edward suddenly joins them.

 

“Hey,” He gives Alice a little nudge. “You guys jumping into the lake?” He asks, pointing forward with his head.

 

“Yes. We’re just waiting for everyone to join in.” Alice answers him. “Well, I was. Bella, on the other hand, was busy trying to tell me I’m wearing something too revealing for her tastes.”

 

She quickly raises one hand in protest. “I didn't say that.”

 

Edward chuckles. “You should be glad she's wearing something.”

 

“Do you usually wear less than this?” She asks, incredulous. “Like full nude?” She turns to Edward.

 

Alice rolls her eyes. “I’m a free spirit.” She argues.

 

“What are you nerds going on about?” Emmett asks when he joins them, a big smile on his face.

 

“Bella was telling Alice –” Edward starts but before he can finish she interrupts.

 

“— Nothing. Was telling nothing to no one.” She says, daring him to finish. “Where's Jacob?”

 

“He’s helping Esme bring some stuff over,” Emmett says. “I forgot how frail you guys are. You can't even stand to be in the sun without putting some sunscreen on.” He shakes his head.

 

“I’m not even going to answer you,” Bella says, huffing. Sunscreen was a must if she didn't want to look like some cartoon character at the end of the trip.

 

“C’mon, we should at least already join them,” Edward says, pointing to where Rosalie and Jasper are standing at the end of the deck.

 

Bella hears a different edge to his voice. Something suspicious. So she stares at the three of them, taking notice of how they keep looking at her sheepishly. “If any of you throw me in the lake I’m telling Carlisle.” She threatens and they pretend she hasn't said anything by starting to walk.

 

She follows.

 

Once they reach their destination, Bella finds a way to stand behind Rosalie, positioning her back to the lake in a strategic move. If any of them wanted to get to her they would have to get past the girl first.

 

“Hey you,” Rosalie says softly at her. “Is everything alright?” She asks, taking notice of Bella's movements and how she's trying to have her as a shield against everyone else.

 

“Your siblings are conspiring to throw me in the lake against my will.”

 

“Are they now?” The girl asks with one eyebrow raised, amusement dripping from her voice. “What gave you that impression?” She turns to look at Bella.

 

There's a fondness in her eyes, but there's something else there too. Something like mischief.

 

And Bella suddenly realizes just how naive she was when she’d decided to implicitly trust Rosalie a few seconds ago – but it's too little too late.

 

Everyone else’s already watching the two of them with matching grins on their faces, and it's clear that this has been a setup from the start. When she'd willingly joined the two siblings here she had been nothing short of walking straight into the lion's den without back-up.

 

Part of her wants to run. But she knows it's already too late for her to be able to escape what's coming. Bella feels Rosalie's cold hands on her shoulder, and she's not surprised when they give her a slight push.

 

That simple action is all it takes for her to fall backward, her body colliding with the water in an ungraceful manner.

 

The water is warmer than she was expecting, and Bella can't help but stay underwater for a while, enjoying the peacefulness. She's shaken out of it when she hears what sounds like several bodies jumping into it.

 

When she resurfaces everyone's already inside the lake making a ruckus and she can't help but shake her head in fondness.

 

What a bunch of children.

 

Rosalie slowly starts to move next to her, approaching her quietly. She only stops when they're face to face – when they're close enough that Bella can see with precision the little drops of water running down the girl's face. When she can see how Rosalie's golden eyes seem to shine a softer shade of yellow when the light of the sun hits them just right.

 

The girl smirks at her. “Nice dive?” She has the audacity to ask.

 

Bella narrows her eyes, trying not to let their proximity faze her. “I think you're forgetting the fact we're sleeping in the same room later at night, Rose. You should prepare yourself. Someone's waking up with a mustache on her face tomorrow morning.”

 

Rosalie licks her lip and Bella can't help but follow the movement. “You wouldn't dare.”

 

“Oh, I would.” She tries standing taller, but it doesn't work and Rosalie lets out an amused laugh. “Was it always going to be you?”

 

“The one to push you into the lake?” Rosalie asks and she nods. “Yes. I wanted to be the one to have that honor.” Her face looks smug at the admission.

 

“Betrayal is not as good of a look on you as you're thinking it is.” Bella jokingly says.

 

“Oh, Bella,” Rosalie gets even closer, grinning widely. “Everything’s a good look on me.” She says flirtatiously and Bella has to fight the urge not to say something compromising – or worse, to kiss her right then.

 

Instead, she chooses not to answer her, slightly turning her head just in time to see Emmett trying to dunk Edward underwater. She sees from the corner of her eyes Rosalie pressing her lips together.

 

“Want to see us do the same thing to Jacob?” Rosalie offers and Bella turns her head in her direction again.

 

“Do you even have to ask?”

 

“No. But if I didn't you would still be trying to ignore me.” Rosalie points out.

 

“Like that's even possible,” Bella says honestly, remembering all the times she’d tried and failed to do so.

 

“You make it seem like it is,” Rosalie says back, tilting her head to the side. “It kind of makes a girl wonder.”

 

And Bella can't help but think about Jacob's words to her the other day. About how every time she tried getting some space Rosalie wouldn't let her and vice-versa.

 

“Rose, just because I make it look effortless doesn't mean it is.” She says. “Now, are any of you throwing Jacob into the lake or will I have to do it myself?”

 

“Patience is a virtue,” Rosalie says smirking.

 

“Yeah, and is one I don't have.” Bella finishes. “Guys,” She calls everyone. “Let's go get Jacob.” She says, eyes shining with mischief.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Are you okay, Bella?” Carlisle asks her from the shore as soon as she gets out of the lake. She doesn't answer him right away though, choosing instead to grab one towel from the small table on her right first.

 

Bella tries to dry herself as best as she can before sitting down next to him on the edge of another identical black lounge chair. “Just cold.” She finally answers him.

 

A gust of wind decides to hit them as soon as the words leave her mouth, and she can’t help but shiver, tightening her grip on the towel that’s wrapped on top of her shoulders.

 

“Good book?” Bella points with her head to the one he’s holding.

 

“No. Enjoyable enough to pass the time.” He shrugs, closing it. “I borrowed it from Jasper but it's more his style than my own.”

 

“How are they not cold?” She mumbles, looking at everyone still having fun inside a lake that's getting darker by the minute.

 

Carlisle smiles. “We don’t feel the cold – nor the heat.” He explains.

 

“Ok. How’s Jacob not cold?” She rephrases while flattening the sand with her feet. “This is not normal, I swear. The other day he was walking around shirtless at home and I was wearing a blanket over my body.”

 

He laughs. “He did live his whole life in Forks. He’s probably more used to it then you are.”

 

“True.” She agrees. “Still…even if it was warmer I wouldn't be swimming around either. Do you see how dark the water’s getting? You can't see anything. Who knows what's lurking inside.” She finishes, biting her lips.

 

“Nothing that can pose a threat to us, rest assured.” He says, trying to offer her some support. “I was never one to enjoy being in the water when I was human.” He tells her. “That has seemed to accompany me in this life too.”

 

“So you’re not usually one to join them in the water?” Bella enquires.

 

“If it's inside a boat or a yacht it's okay. But like this? No. Not if I have a choice.”

 

She shakes her head in agreement, understanding his concerns. She was never one to venture into these situations either. “Is it okay if I go take a shower?” Bella can't help but ask, feeling a little weird thinking about being inside without any of them.

 

“Of course.” He says softly. “Please feel right at home, Bella. I’ll try to get the children and Esme out in a few minutes too. If I don't say anything who knows how long they'll stay.”

 

Bella snickers, already realizing this will be a battle he’ll probably lose. “Good luck Dr.C,”

 

He shakes his head in amusement. “Thank you. I’m sure I’ll need it.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

“How can you possibly eat another burger?” Bella asks Jacob, voice incredulous. While she was fighting hard trying to finish her second he was having no trouble eating his fourth. “Are you pregnant?”

 

“I’m a growing man.” He says, shrugging.

 

They're all outside the house, doing the best to recreate what could be considered a “campfire experience” – but is actually just Carlisle managing the grill and everyone sitting on fancy chairs in a circle.

 

Bella couldn't be happier at this turn of events. No wilderness experience for her – no sir. If she knew things would've been like this she would have said yes earlier.

 

“Boy,” She corrects him, trying to take another bite of her burger. After both Esme and Carlisle had gone to all this trouble the least she could do was force herself to eat more than one. “You’re a growing boy.”

 

Emmett snickers, putting his chest out proudly.“Yes, Jacob, I’m a growing man.” He points to himself.

 

“More like a man-child,” Rosalie says back, rolling her eyes.

 

“You know, we used to do this a lot back at the Rez. Light up some fire at the beach, eat some marshmallows.” Jacob says, ignoring her jab at him. “Telling each other scary stories.”

 

“Like the one about us?” Jasper asks, interested.

 

Jacob scratches his neck. “No. That one was more of a laughing stock most of the time.” He starts. “My father was so obsessed with it that most people just thought he was crazy. A lunatic spluttering nonsense all the time.”

 

“But he wasn't,” Esme says kindly.

 

“Yes.” Jacob nods.

 

“I have my doubts.” Bella mumbles and Alice, who’s sitting on Jasper’s lap a few feet away from her, softly shakes her head in agreement.

 

“Is this what's considered an essential part of being human these days?” Edward asks, looking at his boyfriend. “Being with friends and telling scary stories?”

 

“Yes.” “No.” Jacob and Bella answer him at the same time.

 

“We should do it. I have some good ones to tell you guys.” Emmett affirms, suddenly excited.

 

“Let's not. This is exactly how every stupid horror movie starts.” Bella points out. “Next thing we know there'll be a psychopath with a mask following us.”

 

“Scared?” Rosalie smirks, unbothered by her words.

 

She rolls her eyes. “Terrified.” It was easy for the girl to be so nonchalant about it – it wasn't her neck that was sticking out, after all – it was Bella’s.

 

“You guys could tell us more about the Volturi,” Jacob suggests and everyone seems surprised at his choice of words.

 

Her more than anyone. It looked like he had taken their conversation at Christmas to heart and was finally ready to acknowledge the Volturi as the valid threat that they were.

 

“That's not a bad idea, Jacob.” Esme agrees. “It would do you two well to know more about them, I’m sure. Right darling?” She turns to her husband.

 

He nods. “I suppose it would,” Carlisle admits.

 

“Know thy enemy?” Bella says, raising her eyebrows.

 

“Something like that.” Carlisle shakes his head. “Where should I start?” He asks, hand in his chin.

 

“Aro,” Rosalie says, thinning her lips. “You should start with Aro.” Her voice gets dangerously slow.

 

“Aro is their leader, isn't he?” Jacob asks, shifting to sit more at the edge of his chair.

 

“Yes Jacob, he is. But there's more to him than that.” Carlisle explains. “Aro’s probably the oldest vampire alive today. He claims that he was turned and ‘raised’ by the first-ever vampire to exist.”

 

“Is that true?” Bella asks, narrowing her eyes. That sounded like something the vampire could have easily made up.

 

“No one knows.” He answers her. “But there are stories. Stories that suggests that the Volturi are older than we think, older than we can imagine. That they were the firsts – the ones who started all of this.” He points to himself. “And somewhere along history the mantle of leader passed to Aro, so yes. His claims do make some sort of sense.”

 

“What does that means, in practical terms?”

 

“The Volturi control all of us, in one way or another.” He says, grimacing. Clearly not happy about it. “If not in a political sense, given their status as our leaders, by their sheer strength. Aro has made sure to surround himself with only very gifted vampires on his court. Some even go as far as claiming that he has an army of them at his disposal.”

 

“Why?” Jacob asks.

 

“No one knows for sure, but I think it's because he's consumed by power.” Carlisle passes a hand through his hair. “I’ve known him all my life – Aro. We're friends. Well, as much as anyone can be when it comes to him. But even I can’t say with certainty what's his plans and ambitions are. I only know that he’s obsessed with making sure that no other vampire can come to possess the amount of power that would make dethrone him possible.”

 

“Is that why he's so firm in his reign?” Bella asks, finally getting a sense of how things work in their world.

 

“Yes. He’s paranoid. The main reason he has for making sure that our secret isn't exposed to humans it's because he fears them – their weapons and their number. On the other hand, he makes sure that we as vampires behave in a way that makes him an absolute force.” Carlisle tells them.

 

“So he fears us because we're at a greater advantage because of our numbers, but he actively chooses to control just how much of you exist?” Bella says, thinking about it further.

 

“Yes,” Jasper says. “It might seem like an unwise move for you – but it works well for him. It's easier to keep us in check if there's only a few of us. Easier to make sure the secret stays safe.”

 

“So there aren't that many vampires roaming around?” Jacob says.

 

“No,” Carlisle says, face pensive. “Not as much as it used to be when I first turned, at least. I don't know if it's because of Aro’s philosophy or if it's something else. I do try and stay away from the more political side of it.”

 

“And no one ever rebelled against them?” Bella can't help but ask.

 

“Many have, and many will.” He shakes his head. “But they always end up dead. It's an effective way to send a message to the rest of us.”

 

“What about the rest? His court, as you said.” Jacob enquires.

 

“Some are vampires who have been around a long time – others haven't. All of them possess a gift, one that Aro finds valuable enough. They're all formidable on their own, but together they paint –”

 

“A terrifying picture?” Bella offers. “One I could definitely go to bed without imagining it?” She narrows her eyes at Jacob. While part of her was glad he had asked, another could use being in the dark about them for longer.

 

“Yes,” Rosalie answers her quietly while most of the family looks a little solemn.

 

Bella bites her lips, deep in thought. If Aro was always trying to ‘recruit’ vampires who had a gift he could use, had he ever wanted Alice and Edward to be part of his court? Did that mean he was always watching them, waiting for an opportunity?

 

Was that the main reason the Cullens seemed to always be afraid of them finding out Bella and Jacob knew their secret?

 

“Did Aro ever try… did he ever try recruiting one of you?” She asks, looking at Carlisle.

 

“Yes,” Alice responds in an annoyed voice while Jasper holds her closer.

 

“He’s always been deeply fascinated with Edward and Alice,” Jasper explains.

 

“And did he ever try to do something so he could get it?” Bella presses on.

 

“No, no,” Carlisle says. “Nothing short of offering us a place at his court.” He states. “We have aways politely declined though, assuring him we wanted to live a different kind of life.”

 

“One as a family,” Esme says, firm.

 

“And if he finds out about us, me and Jake. What do you think will happen to you, to us?” Bella says, serious. Now that she understood better the situation they were all in she wanted to know the truth – the real risk they were all putting each other in.

 

“He might try to use that for his advantage. As a bargaining chip.” Rosalie says with a rough voice. “He can say he’ll spare both of your lives in exchange for Edward and Alice joining him. Or he can easily decide it's better to just kill all of us.”

 

Edward sighs at his sister's words. “Or he might offer both of you the chance to become one of us – taking his friendship with Carlisle into account.”

 

“This option is not so bad, is it?” Jacob says, a little relieved, and Bella can't help but disagree. It’s definitely not the worse, far from it. But it's also not one she would gladly choose. None of them were.

 

“Maybe not for you.” Rosalie points out, a little hostile. “But for Bella? Can you imagine what Aro would do the moment he realized Edward’s and Jasper's power don't work on her? What he would do if she turned and that was amplified?”

 

“He would want me to join him.” Bella whispers, finally understanding the extent of Rosalie's fears for her. It wasn't just that she might become a vampire, something she didn't want to be in the first place. It was that if she did she might be thrust into a reality far worse than she could’ve imagined it.

 

“Want is a kind word,” Rosalie says, face worried. “He would find a way to make sure that happened. The only reason he hasn't done something like this to Edward or Alice it’s some shred of consideration he has for Carlisle.”

 

“That's true,” Esme says, and Bella can see how worried she is for all of them. “It's the main reason we try to keep ourselves isolated. If we're not calling attention to us he's less likely to try and do something.”

 

“It's not all bad.” Carlisle tries to comfort everyone. “If anything like that was to happen Alice would see first. And we’re not as defenseless as we may seem.” He says, giving Bella a little smile. “Aro has a lot on his plate, all of the time. It's been a while since he has shown any interest in what we're doing. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. It's good that we all understand the risks and the situation we're in. But let's not focus only on the bad side of things. Let's try to enjoy the good too.” He says, putting an end to the conversation.

 

Emmett, as always, tries to be the one to cheer them all up after that. He immediately launches at the chance to tell them a crazy story that’d happened to him while he was human – something about spending a weekend at a house he was sure was haunted by the spirit of an old woman.

 

Although Bella can't help but laugh alongside everyone, she also can't help but think back at everything she'd heard tonight.

 

And about what it all meant for all of them in the future.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“So how are we doing this exactly?” Bella asks Rosalie, standing in front of the bed. She's trying hard to pretend that the thought of joining the girl isn't as terrifying as it looks. “I can sleep on the floor.” She suggests, praying to a God she doesn't believe in that Rosalie will say yes.

 

“Don't be ridiculous, Bella,” She says instead, rolling her eyes at her. “There's plenty of room for both of us here,” She pats the empty space next to her as an invitation, and Bella gulps, unsure on how to approach this situation.

 

“Do you have a problem with us sleeping together?” Rosalie says sweatily while raising an eyebrow, and Bella knows she's one hundred percent aware of what's she’s doing right now – that her choice of words had been deliberate.

 

She won't be fooled by it. “No, no. It's just –” She stalls. “I like to sleep on the right side usually.” She finishes lamely.

 

Rosalie just stares at her. “Don't you have a singles bed in your room?” She asks and Bella doesn't respond. “You know what? Fine.” Rosalie shifts to the left side, exposing Bella to the sight of her in nothing but a plain white t-shirt and minuscule shorts. “Happy now? Can we sleep?”

 

Ecstatic,” Bella answers it, quickly averting her eyes from the sight in front of her and getting into bed. She turns off the bedside lamp before laying down. Before shifting to the left she adjusts her pillows, taking the second one out of her head and holding him in her chest.

 

There's not much room between her and Rosalie's back, and part of her wonders if putting something between them – like a safety net – is a good option.

 

Probably, she admits before doing just that and putting the pillow she was holding between them.

 

“What are you doing now?” Rosalie says, turning right and meeting her face to face. “Why is there a pillow here?” She asks.

 

“I was –” Bella says faintly. “How can I be sure I’m not going to wake up with you cuddling me?” She enquires, narrowing her eyes at the girl.

 

“I don't cuddle,” Rosalie exclaims before realizing she's speaking louder than necessary. “How can I be sure I won't wake up with you cuddling me?” She whispers hard.

 

Bella blushes. “You can't – hence the pillow.” She tries to be honest. There's no use pretending that her traitorous body won't do something stupid like this the moment her brain shuts off.

 

Rosalie bites her lip, and Bella can see she's making an effort not to laugh. “Look, if it happens I’ll pretend it didn't. Does that suit you?” She offers, not waiting for her answer before taking the pillow and throwing it at the chair next to the bed with perfect precision.

 

Bella glares at her, not wanting to give her the satisfaction of knowing she’d been impressed by that display. “Hey, I was going to use that.” She lies.

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her. “No, you weren't.”

 

“Ok. I wasn't.” She concedes. “Still, why do you have to throw things? Why can't you just put them slowly in the ground?”

 

“Because I don't have the patience to do it. Throwing is quicker.” Rosalie explains, and Bella can't help but smiles softly at her.

 

She loved the Cullen's, she did. And she loved when they all got together like this, but she hadn't realized just how much she’d missed being able to be like this. Just her and Rosalie alone, bickering with each other.

 

“Shouldn't we be sleeping? Don't we have to wake up early tomorrow morning?” She asks and the girl just stares at her, making Bella wonder if she’s feeling the same as her. If she had missed being with her like this too.

 

“Yes.” Rosalie concedes, sighing. “Good night Bella,” She says softly before turning around, pulling the blanket with her while doing so.

 

“Night Rose,” Bella says, unable to keep the smile off her face.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“You all hate me.” Bella paints, being a little dramatic. “There’s no other explanation as to why you’re making me do this.” She has one hand firmly stuck to a tree, trying to keep herself upright. “Sucking all the blood from my body would’ve been a less painful way to kill me, guys.” She half-jokes.

 

“You know, Bella, I don't think it's a good sign you're this tired already,” Jasper says, worried. “Maybe you should join me on my morning runs.”

 

“I know you're trying to be a good friend right now, buddy.” She acknowledges, breathing hard. “But I don't even want to think about running right now. Ask me to join you later.”

 

He just laughs, shaking his head at her antics.

 

Edward looks a little bothered by her slowness. “If you keep stopping every time, we're going to take the whole day.”

 

Bella thins her lips, seriously wondering if this would be a good time to collect Emmett’s favor. “Who's stopping you?”She points to the path straight ahead. “Go on.”

 

He seems like he's going to say something to her again but stops when he sees the matching threatening looks coming from Rosalie and Emmett.

 

“Move along Edward,” Rosalie says, voice hard.

 

“You heard the lady,” Emmett completes. “You guys can go on. Me and Rose will trail behind with Bella.”

 

Jasper looks like he's going to protest against this new development but Alice strings him along while Jacob mouths an ‘I’m sorry’ before following them.

 

Bella gratefully smiles at both her friends. “And then there were three. Thank you, guys."

 

"My brother's an asshole.” Emmett points out.

 

“I was this close to tearing him from limb to limb, honestly.” Rosalie thin her lips. “The audacity.” She narrows her eyes.

 

“If I knew that stopping would have made him go on without us I would've done it way sooner,” Bella smirks.

 

“I’m never doing this again without you then,” Emmett jokingly says.

 

“Why are we doing this again?” She can't help but ask.

 

Rosalie grins. “Because at the end of it you'll think it was all worth it when you see the view.” She explains. “C’mon, I’ll help you out.” She softly says while offering her hand to Bella.

 

“If it's anything short of jaw-dropping I’ll blame you for it,” Bella tells her.

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes. “Of course you will.”

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Jacob had the right idea when he decided to take a nap,” Bella says, closing her eyes and getting more comfortable on the big fluffy chair in the living room. “I’m beat.”

 

“I can see that,” Rosalie looks up from her phone. “I thought you were going to pass out at one point.” She says and Bella can't help but narrow her eyes at the girl who's currently laying down at the couch in front of her.

 

Hiking had probably been her idea – she was sure of it.

 

“I was this close,” She gestures with her fingers. “I still can't believe you guys thought that taking me in a hiking would be a good idea.”

 

“We didn't.” Rosalie points out. “That was half the fun.” She gives out an amused laugh.

 

Bella fights the urge to give her the finger. “How long do you guys usually take when you go hunting?” She asks, wondering if the rest of the family would soon be coming back or if this was the kind of ordeal that lasted the whole day.

 

“Not much,” Rosalie says. “I mean, if we’re going out there with only this purpose in mind it doesn't.” She says sheepishly.

 

“What do you mean?” Bella asks, confused.

 

Rosalie smirks. “Well, Carlisle and Esme and Jasper and Alice sometimes tell us they're going hunting – but it's clear from their faces when they return that they were also doing something else, if you catch my drift.” She says, tone suggestive.

 

“Please say no more.” Bella holds one hand up while Rosalie just snickers.

 

“You asked.”

 

“And I have already regretted that like, two seconds ago. Please keep up with the conversation. Emmett will be the first to come back then?”

 

“Yes. If I’m assuming correctly.”

 

“Ok. Kind of promised him we would play video game today.” Bella states, trying not to yawn.

 

“Is that why he was carrying you on the whole way back?” Rosalie enquires.

 

“I’m not just a pretty face, I have brains too.” She jokes. “I might have made him think I would be able to convince you to join us.”

 

Rosalie smirks. “And how did you thought you were going to convince me?”

 

“Hm, by asking?” She admits. “We can play Mario Party.” Bella offers, trying to sweeten the deal. “As long as you promise me not to take it that seriously I’m game.”

 

Rosalie grins. “If Alice's not playing I don't have too.” She shrugs and Bella vows to discover – from a non-involved and biased party – where did this rivalry begin in the first place.

 

“Can I ask you a question?” Bella says, tilting her head to the side.

 

 “Sure.”

 

“Emmett told me something when we were on the road, you know, on our way here.” Bella starts.

 

“Oh, God. What did he say?” Rosalie suddenly asks, biting her lips and seemingly preparing herself.

 

“He told me he had a huge crush on you, after he turned.” She reveals, grinning. “But he also told me that you were never too sold on the idea.”

 

“And he couldn't exactly tell you why?” Rosalie enquires, shaking her head. “Say what you will, but most men are dense.”

 

True.” Bella agrees. “Would you mind telling me?”

 

“Of course not.” Rosalie sighs, shifting in her seat. “But first you have to understand that as soon as we turn, that first year? Our emotions are all over the place.” She explains. “Being a vampire means all your senses are amplified – but your emotions are too. You don't get mad, you get enraged. You don't feel happy, you feel elated. It takes a while for us to understand and to get a rein on things, to figure out how to deal with it.” She thins her lips. “Emmett didn't fall in love at first sight, Bella – he fell in lust.” She rolls her eyes. “I knew that whatever he was feeling, if I gave him time – it would fade.”

 

“But if you didn't, gave him time that is.” Bella can't help but say. “Do you think it would’ve passed?”

 

“I don't know,” Rosalie says, honest. “But after everything, I figured that if I ever decided to try my hand at a relationship again, I would do it differently.” Before Bella can say anything or protest she's already speaking again. “I know it wasn't my fault.”

 

“I wasn't going to say that.” Bella gives her a little pout, crossing her arms playfully.

 

“I’m sure you weren't.” Rosalie says softly, “I just, I – I want something different. I want someone to know who I am first. Someone who will fall for all that I am, not just this.” She points to herself. “Anything short of that I don't want – or need.” Bella just nods and the girl stares at her with intensity. “Do you think that's too much to ask?” She enquires softly, eyes searching.

 

“No, Rose,” Bella says without missing a beat. “It isn't.” She finishes, feeling something important clicking inside her.

 

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

It’s late. Bella knows that.

 

Knows that she'd been tossing and turning around in bed for a while now. Knows that it was nothing short of a miracle that she hadn't woken up Rosalie because of it yet.

 

In only a few hours the birds outside will start chipping, the sun will rise, and she’ll be the worst company the Cullen's ever had in their lake house, for sure. Unfortunately, it'd been hard getting her mind to shut off for long enough.

 

Hence, Bella couldn't manage to fall asleep. She'd tried. Counted sheep's even. But it wasn't happening. Not today.

 

Not when the knowledge of everything – of her feelings and the Volturi – kept plaguing her mind in a way they hadn't before.

 

Well, they mostly hadn't because every time she’d started to do just that she had stopped, had found a way to banish those thoughts from her mind.

 

Had put them in a box, close it up with duct tape, and hid it on the deep corners of herself. But she hadn't done that tonight.

 

Tonight Bella had let her mind wander, had let the questions come to her, one by one. Had let herself entertain the thought of doing something, once and for all.

 

How much would she risk if she told Rosalie how she felt? How much would Rosalie risk in return if she felt the same?

 

Was it even fair to put the other girl in that situation? Was it even fair to ask her to do it?

 

To throw caution into the wind and do this with her, even though the consequences could be severe for all of them? To her family most of all?

 

She didn't know the answer to any of those questions, and that was another big problem in a long list of problems she had right now.

 

If that wasn't enough, to make matters worse, all she could focus on ever since hearing Rosalie's words earlier in the day, was what would happen if she put herself out there.

 

Would Rosalie tell her she felt the same if Bella found the courage to come clean?

 

Would she tell Bella that she’d taken things the wrong way, that she'd imagined it all, and that this was only a one-sided thing?

 

She hoped not. But there was a chance.

 

Would telling Rosalie the truth ruin their friendship?Definitely yes.

 

Bella had seen enough romantic comedies (thank you Jacob) these past few months to understand that no friendship could survive something like that.

 

And that would be – well, devastating on top of it all. Because Bella had grown so accustomed to having the other girl in her life she didn't know what it would even look like if she wasn't there.

 

She didn't want to found out either.

 

So yeah, there were so many things that could go wrong if she really chose to do something.

 

There were so many things keeping this fragile stability between them – this push and pull, avoid and reach out – this hot and cold dynamic.

 

She would break all of that if she told the truth. She would rip everything open. She would gamble it all away with only a few words.

 

If that wasn't enough that was also the fact she had chastised Jacob, over and over again, for throwing it all out of the window so he could be with Edward.

 

Had told him several times he was being naive and a hopeless romantic when he still kept choosing this road when he knew what would be expecting him at the end of it anyway.

 

If she decided to do the same wouldn't that just make her a hypocrite on top of it all? Yes, and it wouldn't matter that it wouldn't exactly be the same as what he did.

 

Because Bella hadn't pretended, even once, that nothing was wrong, or that nothing was happening. She hadn't blindly accepted the risks without thinking them through. She hadn't just jumped at Rosalie the first time that she saw her.

 

In truth she had done the opposite – she had tried to avoid her. Had tried to stay away. It hadn't been the same at all.

 

And if she chose to do this? She would do it right, she would commit. Bella would have honest and real conversations with Rosalie about it – about the future, their future. Their choices. She wouldn't just swim with the tide.

 

She wouldn't take things lightly. Not everything that stood in their way – and definitely not their relationship.

 

She would really try to make it work if she had the chance. If Rosalie gave her a chance.

 

If she gave herself a chance first.

 

God, how she wanted it too. Bella wanted to do it – wanted to give them a chance, wanted to be able to stop fighting what she was feeling, and let it go.

 

And it hadn't been this trip, this night, or how much time she had struggled with her feelings that had made her come to this conclusion. No.

 

It had been Rosalie.

 

Rosalie being Rosalie.

 

Rosalie telling her she wanted someone who saw all of her, who wanted all of her and not only what was on the surface. It was her saying that if she ever decided to try her hand at this again she would do it for someone like that.

 

It was Bella realizing, amid her wishes for that to happen to the girl (because no one deserved to have that more than she did), that she wanted to be the one to make her feel that way.

 

She wanted to be that someone. Wanted to be the one Rosalie would try again with.

 

And that had changed everything.

 

Suddenly there weren't enough lies, or excuses, or amount of avoiding she could do to escape the simple truths of the world.

 

No matter what,  there would always be a new day tomorrow. The Volturi would remain a threat to the Cullen's, even without her and Jacob around to make things worse. And no matter how much she tried, or what she did, Bella would always find herself falling for everything that Rosalie was.

 

That was no escaping this.

 

But even more important than that was the fact that, for the first time, ever since locking eyes with the girl at the high school cafeteria, Bella didn't want too.

 

She didn't want to run and hide. She didn't want to avoid it. She didn't want to pretend that there was nothing besides friendship going on.

 

And that, she knew, was the thing that was making all the difference tonight.

 

 

xXx

 

 

The wind sweeps through her hair without mercy, and Bella finds herself clutching her legs tighter on the deck, trying to fight off the cold.

 

She should have brought a coat. Or a blanket. Or anything that could provide some warmth, but she'd been so lost in thought when she left Rosalie's room, that she didn't even know she would end up here of all places.

 

Sitting on the deck, with only the moon and the stars keeping her company.

 

She should though.

 

This wasn't new behavior for her or anything. Bella would always find herself sitting on the roof of her house when she desperately needed to think – or just when she desperately needed to escape her mother.

 

When she'd lived in Chicago, her grandmother would join her most times – to Bella's surprise.  She remembers the first time that had happened, how incredulous she had looked at Marie, wondering how could someone so much older than her manage to climb a window way more gracefully than she had done it just minutes ago. But well, that wasn't saying much, not really.

 

Still, they would then proceed to spend hours together just looking at the sky, talking about everything and nothing at the same time.

 

They would laugh, sometimes they would cry, but most of all they would just feel like, as long as they were together, they could get through it all life threw at them.

 

How bittersweet it was to be doing this right now without her by her side. Without her wise words, her warm hug, and her knowing eyes.

 

‘Follow your heart Isabella’

 

She would say. Or something equally supportive.

 

Maybe even something a little offensive.

 

Still supportive though.

 

Without her here she can't help but feel a little lost.

 

A little alone.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Dear God, warn a person next time,” Bella says, clutching her heart and almost falling from the deck into the lake when a shadow sits down next to her. “I thought you were a ghost.” She can't help but say.

 

It didn't help matters that a part of her had been sure it was her grandmother making an appearance. And while she did love the woman – she could do without an impromptu visit.

 

“I kind of just did but you looked like you were somewhere else entirely.” Rosalie points out, giving her a knowing look. “Is everything okay?” The girl asks, voice worried.

 

“Kind of,” She answers her.

 

Rosalie waits for her to say something else, but when it becomes clear Bella won't, she speaks again. “What are you doing?”

 

“Apparently freezing to death.” She says, shivering when another wind hits them out of the blue.

 

“And you're here without a coat because?” Rosalie asks, raising her eyebrows and thinning her lips in disapproval.

 

“I love the cold?” She grins.

 

Rosalie rolls her eyes at her. “You hate the cold.” She points out.

 

“Fine.” Bella sighs. “I forgot to put on a coat before leaving your room and once I got here I didn't want to go all the way back just to get it.” She tells her the truth.

 

“You could have just grabbed your blanket,” Rosalie says, clearly not willing to let this go. “You're going to catch a cold.”

 

“I had a lot on my mind, Mom. Are you going to keep scolding me because of that all night?” Bella playfully asks.

 

Rosalie narrows her eyes at her. “Am I running your brooding moment?” She smirks. “Ironic, isn't it? I would say it's only fair after how many times you've seemed to ruin mine.”

 

“I was doing you a favor.” Bella bites her lip. “You brooding? A danger to humanity. Me, on the other hand? Pretty harmless.”

 

“Bella –” Rosalie warns her playfully. “Don't forget we're standing awfully close to the lake.”

 

She rolls her eyes. “Like you would have the courage to do that to me right now.”

 

“I already had the courage to do that to you, or did you forget?” Rosalie says, nodding towards the lake.

 

“Yeah, but the weather was nice and the water was warm. If you did that right now I would probably get hypothermia.”

 

“It kind of seems you're already well on your way, I would only speed the process up.” Rosalie states. “Do you want to go back inside? Or do you want me to go grab you something?”

 

Bella shakes her head, smiling softly. “No. It's fine, really. I’m being a little dramatic. Also, brooding alone was kind of getting me down.”

 

“Okay.” Rosalie tilts her head. “Do you want to talk?” She offers.

 

Bella snickers, unable to keep the memories of another conversation just like that from her mind. “If I wanted to talk I wouldn't be brooding here, alone.” She raises an eyebrow at the girl. “Wasn't that what you told me that day in the garage?”

 

Rosalie just stares at her, unimpressed. “Yeah, well. Who knew talking with you would help that much?”

 

“Hm,” Bella pretends to think. “Everyone who has ever reach out to me like ever? I’m great at giving advice.” She states, proudly.

 

Now, if only she could follow them herself – that would be another story altogether.

 

“Whatever, Bella. Are you done stalling?” Rosalie asks, pressing her lips together.

 

“I’m not stalling.” She mumbles, doing just that.

 

“Are you going to tell me what's wrong?” Rosalie asks her, ignoring her latest words.

 

“Who says there's anything wrong?”

 

“You forget I know you,” Rosalie tells her. “Did you think I didn't notice how withdrawn you were today? You didn't even sing ‘we are the champions’ when you won on Mario Party.”

 

Bella shrugs. “I guess I just wasn't feeling it.”

 

“And that's the point. You're always feeling it when it comes to Queen.” Rosalie states, biting her lips. “Did something happened?”

 

“No. No. I just have been thinking about some things, that's all.” Bella says, passing her hand through her hair.

 

Rosalie stares at her, narrowing her eyes. “Am I really going to have to ask you what they are?”

 

“I don't know.” She grins. “Are you?”

 

“Can you not answer my question with another question?”

 

“Can you?” Bella tries not to laugh at the frustrated look the other girl is giving her.

 

“Look,” Rosalie says, crinkling her nose. “You don't have to tell me if you don't want to, Bella. I was just wondering if I could help.” She says, voice soft. “I do have a degree in psychology, you know.”

 

“Really?” Bella asks, surprised, and touched.

 

“Well, yes. But so does Emmett.” Rosalie tilts her head, face pensive. “So, I’m not sure it means anything other than the fact we both have had a lot of time on our hands.” She shrugs.

 

Bella chuckles, before biting her lip. “I was thinking about life.” She starts. “My life.” She explains, more sure of herself this time. “There's something I need to figure it out, and it's not quite as simple as it might seem to anyone else.”

 

Rosalie hums, face pensive.“I get that.”

 

“Yeah,” Bella nodding. “I’ve also been thinking about your father's words. About Aro, and the Volturi.” She admits. “I think I can finally understand why you wanted to leave so much at the beginning. I mean, I always understood. I just understand better now.”

 

“There's still more to it than that,” Rosalie states, making no move to explain it further. “But yes, in the beginning, it seemed like the most sensible option we had. Especially after Jacob told us he knew what we were.”

 

“Does it still seem like a sensible option now?” Bella asks, searching for some kind of answer that might show her where Rosalie stands.

 

“No, it doesn't,” Rosalie says, shaking her head. “We're still walking a thin line, all of us. But you had a point when you told me months ago that there was nothing else that we could do but follow the tide.” She admits. “Would things be different if my brother had some sort of sense? Yes. But it's their relationship at the end of the day, it's not like we can make the decisions for them.” Rosalie says, not as bothered by it like Bella had seen her be in the past. “I’m just tired of being the bad guy in this situation. If that's what they want then they should go ahead and do it – I’m not getting myself involved in it anymore. What's done is done.”

 

“Yeah,” Bella furrows her brow. “You know, this isn't helping.” She can't help but say.

 

“I’m sorry?” Rosalie asks, confused.

 

Bella grimaces, making a gesture for the girl to forget what she had just said. It doesn't work.

 

“I’m not helping?” She prompts Bella to continue.

 

“I feel like I’m at a crossroad, stuck between one path and another.” She says, averting her eyes to the lake in front of her, watching the water slightly shake whenever a gust of wind blows through it. “I tried to pretend I wasn't. I did. But the truth is that I am, I have been for a while now.” Bella takes a deep breath. “Your words aren't helping me decide which road should I take.” She finishes, hoping Rosalie can understand all that she isn't saying.

 

Hoping she can realize exactly what she's asking for here.

 

But the girl just stares at her, frowning. “Maybe if you explained to me what you're trying to choose, instead of saying cryptic words, they would.” She points out, probably trying to help Bella out.

 

“Yeah, that's not happening.” She tells her, trying hard not to start fidgeting with her hands.

 

“Okay,” Rosalie says softly, her voice calm. She looks at Bella's bothered expression with worry of her own. “Can you explain it better at least? You said you're stuck between two roads?”

 

“Yes.” She admits, biting her lips. “Well, more like I’m on a road, but I’m asking myself if I should take another one. The one I’m not in.”

 

“Is this other road something you want?” She stares at Bella with a fixed gaze, her voice serious.

 

Bella gives her a hollow chuckle. “More like something I’m realizing I won't be able to avoid.” She pointedly stares back at Rosalie, unable to look away.

 

Apparently, her words convened way more meaning that she wanted them too, because suddenly Rosalie's eyes are shinning with something akin to understanding and Bella feels the air leaving her lungs at the realization she might be walking to close to the truth right now.

 

“You won't be able to or you don't want to?” Rosalie whispers.

 

“Is there a difference?” Bella asks, whispering back.

 

“Yes.” Is Rosalie's time to bite her lips now, and she can see that the girl is nervous awaiting her answer. “There is for me.” She says, words full of meaning.

 

Bella takes a deep breath, passing a hand through her hair, wondering if she should deflect. If she should run, or if she should just answer the question. Consequences be damned.

 

“Bella?” Rosalie presses.

 

“I don't want to avoid.” She says, looking straight at Rosalie's golden eyes. “And even if I did I wouldn't be able to, trust me. God knows I’ve tried.” Bella finishes, unable to look away.

 

Rosalie doesn't move either, her eyes still searching for something else. Some other answer she seems to deem necessary. “And you were out here trying to what? Make up your mind?”

 

“Yes,” Bella says, honest. There's no use backing down now. She might not be telling Rosalie word for word that she likes her – but it kind feels impossible that the other girl isn't understanding what she means here. Not when she kept asking this type of questions.

 

“This is not the type of thing I can take lightly.” She tells her, voice sure. “It's more like an either all in or all out situation.”

 

“And you're?” Rosalie questions, voice wavering.

 

And Bella doesn't think. Doesn't question if this is the best place to say this, if she's putting everything on the line at the wrong time. She just answers the girl, unable to do anything else.

 

“All in.”

 

Rosalie seems dumbstruck by her words the moment they leave her mouth – like she wasn't expecting Bella to actually answer her, or if she did like she wasn't expecting this to be what she would say.

 

And if moments ago Rosalie had wasted no time pressing her to continue, urging her forward, now she just looks frozen in place.

 

She doesn't say anything, but Bella can clearly see that she's struggling with something. What to say, what to do.

 

Bella nods in understanding, slowly getting up from the wooden planks. When she's fully up she waits - waits for Rosalie to look at her again before she can move away.

 

The girl does, tilting her head up so she can see her better. “You're leaving?” She asks, voice unsure.

 

“Yes,” Bella says, giving her a soft smile.

 

Because although there's nothing that she wants more than to stay here until Rosalie figures it out whatever it is that she wants to say to her – she knows the girl will need more time. Knows it isn't as simple as it looks to give her any kind of answer.

 

Knows just how long she had needed to take before making up her mind.

 

“I made up my mind, Rose.” She tells her. “Guess it's your time to figure out where you stand now.” She finishes, walking out without looking back.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

 

“Where’s Rosalie?” She tries asking Esme in a nonchalantly way after taking a bite out of her toast.

 

They're both sitting at the kitchen table after Bella had finally managed to convince herself it wouldn't do her any good to spend the day overthinking everything and lying face down on the floor.

 

Overthinking the fact that it seemed like Rosalie had bailed out on her – her side of the bed a clear indication she hadn't come back last night. Or this morning. Or anywhere in between.

 

While part of her could understand Rosalie's necessity of needing space – given she’d been the one to suggest that in the first place – another one couldn't help but find the situation kind of funny.

 

Because the girl was avoiding her, in an ironical twist of roles.

 

“Hunting,” Esme answers her without looking up from her tablet. The woman, being the only other person awake in the house, was politely keeping her company even though Bella had assured her she would be fine on her own. “Didn't she tell you?”

 

“Guess she didn't want to wake me up,” Bella says, trying to create a scenario that hadn't happen, but that would sound way better than the truth.

 

Esme nods, too engrossed on her project to see just how strange Bella's acting.

 

“You saw her? Rosalie?” She can't help but ask again. “Before she headed out?”

 

“Yes,” Esme says, finally looking up.

 

“And she looked normal? Like okay?” Bella says, fidgeting with her hands.

 

“Yes,” The woman says again, staring at her with questioning eyes. “Now that you say she did look a little ruffled. Like she hadn't slept last night.” She points out. “Did something happened?”

 

Bella scoffs while giving her a bewildered look. “No, no. I mean, not that I know. Did something that you know happened?” She asks, her voice coming out weird. She sees Esme biting her lip and trying not to laugh at her display and she's grateful for it.

 

“No.”

 

“It’s probably nothing,” Bella says, shaking her head. “I just was expecting to wake up and find her here.” She tries quickly thinking of a good excuse. “She'd promised me she would play some chess after breakfast. Help me in my quest to defeat Jasper.” She explains, suddenly glad of how many times her mother had put her in a tight spot where she had to lie through her teeth.

 

Apparently, she couldn't say Renee hadn't thought her anything anymore.

 

Esme gives a little smile. “I’m definitely not my daughter, but I could stand-in for her if you want.” She offers.

 

“You wouldn't mind?” Bella asks, smiling back. Esme was too kind for her own good sometimes.

 

“Of course not dear,” She tells her. “It would be a pleasure to play with someone who won’t cheat one way or another.”

 

“If you're sure,” Bella says back. “Don't let Alice hear you say that thought. Last time I accused her of cheating she spent two hours telling me I was offending her moral code.”

 

“She needs to have one first, before she can be offended by your not so subtle way of implying she’s breaking it.” Esme points out, chuckling.

 

“That’s exactly what I told her, word for word,” Bella says, gesturing with her hands. “Well, maybe without that second part.”

 

“And how did that work out for you?” Esme asks, voice amused.

 

She puts her hand on her chin.  “Not well at all,” Bella admits while Esme just laughs away, delighted at her misfortune.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“You know, Mrs. C. I’m really starting to think I suck at this game,” Bella states, looking at the chessboard in front of her, before realizing what she’d just said. “I mean, I stuck at this game?” She offers.

 

“You can say suck Bella, it won’t offend me.”

 

She nods, pretending she will do things differently the next time, but knowing she won’t. This was Esme, after all. “How can you be better than Jasper at it?” She mumbles, shaking her head.

 

“Who do you think taught him how to play, dear?” Esme states, moving one of her pawns and leaving Bella in a bad situation, game-wise.

 

“Maybe you should have lead with that when you told me you would be playing with me.”

 

“Sure. But that would take half the fun out of it.” Esme says, grinning.

 

“You know,” Bella says, giving her a look. “I think you're spending too much time with your daughter. Maybe you should start trying to be a bad mom instead.” When she's about to make a move on the board that could either save her or end this game entirely (it would probably be the latter), the front door opens, and a ruffled Rosalie Hale walks in.

 

And Bella doesn't think she has ever seen her like this, ever. The girl had always been a perfect picture of composure and calm but today she looks like she’d just barely survived a zombie apocalypse.

 

There are twigs in her hair, her jeans are ripped in places Bella’s quite sure weren’t there before and the right side of her body is covered in something she can’t even say with any certainty what it is.

 

But it looks like moss.

 

“Hello dear,” Esme says affectionately to Rosalie as soon as she walks in. “Is everything okay?” She asks, suddenly noticing her overall state.

 

Rosalie grimaces, giving them an awkward smile. “I had a little accident. Nothing major but I kind of fell?”

 

Into a tornado?” Bella asks, eyebrows raised.

 

Rosalie narrows her eyes at her, daring her to continue. “I’m just… I’m going to head up. Take a shower, maybe a nap. See you guys later?” She doesn’t wait for any type of answer before sprinting towards the stairs.

 

“So are you still going to tell me nothing happened last night?” Esme stares at Bella, eyes shining with amusement.

 

She stares back at her sheepishly. “Let's say your daughter was avoiding me, like hypothetically. How long do you think that would last?”

 

“Hypothetically?” Esme chuckles and Bella nods, biting her lip. “I would say a few days? Maybe a week.”

 

“So not before I leave tomorrow morning?”

 

Esme tilts her head. “One can hope.”

 

“Yeah. Unfortunately, in this case, I feel it won’t do me any good.” She says, sighing.

 

 

xXx

 

 

Bella had been right yesterday – and so had Esme.

 

Because here she was, in the living room, with her backpack on her shoulders and her luggage on her feet, ready to say goodbye to the lake house without Rosalie anywhere to be seen.

 

And sure, besides Carlisle – the one who would be taking her home – it wasn’t like there was anyone around. But everyone had at least said their goodbyes to her before going to bed last night.

 

Everyone besides Rosalie. The girl had been too occupied finding several ways to not be where Bella was. It’d started out as something funny – but now it was making Bella worry a little.

 

“Are you ready to go?” Carlisle asks her one more time. She looks around again, hoping to see a sign of blonde hair floating around, but there’s still nothing.

 

“You know what?” Bella says, adjusting her grip on her backpack and making up her mind. “Yes, yes I am.” She says. “Let’s go.”

 

If avoiding and space were what Rosalie wanted Bella could give it to her. She could. She wouldn’t like giving it to her, but that was neither here nor there.

 

The important thing was that she definitely could, right?

 

Of course she could.

 

After spending months ignoring the other girl's mere existence in the first place, this would be fine. A piece of cake even.

 

If Rosalie wanted space, Bella would give her the biggest space she'd ever seen.

 

She was nothing if not an overachiever after all.

 

 

xXx

 

 

“Carlisle?” Bella asks.

 

“Yes?” He answers her, but his eyes are focused on the road.

 

“Let's say that, hypothetically, someone you know kind of asked you to give them space. Do you think texting that person would be violating that?”

 

“Did that person specified what kind of space they wanted, or did they just told you to give them that?” He goes along.

 

“Hm,” Bella bites her lip. “More like they didn't even tell you they wanted space. More like you suggested they needed space, but they didn't say anything. And after that, they started avoiding you, so you decided to give them space anyway.” She explains. “Should you even give them space? Is texting breaking the space boundary? Is space even necessary in this instance?”

 

Carlisle just looks confused. “I’m sorry Bella, I don't think I understood even half of that. There was a lot of space in there.” He jokes.

 

Bella doesn't tell him that this was exactly the problem. “It's okay Dr. C. I didn't either.” She winces. “Just forget I said anything.”

 

“If that's what you want.”

 

She gives him a look that tells him that yes, she definitely wants him to forget. “Carlisle?” Bella asks him again, trying to not only change the subject but to take advantage of the fact they’re alone right now. “Is it normal for vampires to be with other vampires? Like you and Esme or Jasper and Alice?” She asks something that had been in her mind for a while.

 

“You mean married?” He says to her.

 

“Yes and no. It’s different with you guys – not like it is with my mother and Phill for example. It seems more –”

 

“Real, eternal?” He finishes.

 

“Sure. Let’s go with that.” Bella says. It wasn't the words she was thinking of – but they fit, in a way.

 

“It is different.” He agrees. “You're not wrong about that.” Carlisle starts and she nods. “For us, it doesn't work as it does for humans. I mean, that's not true either.”

 

“I’m not following.” Bella frowns.

 

“Vampires have mates.” He decides to be short and precise.

 

Bella's eyes widen. “Mates like in soulmates?”

 

“If you believe in that kind of thing, yes. But I would argue it's more animalistic than that.” Carlisle points out. “In the way lions and wolves do.”

 

“And how does it work?” Bella can't help but ask. “You meet someone and boom, you just know? Because that seems like a stretch.” She says grimacing.

 

“Honestly? Yes.” He chuckles. “The first time you see them you know. You feel it. Suddenly there's an invisible string connecting you to them.”

 

“And is mandatory? Do all vampires have one?” She says, biting her lips, firm and decisive in her quest of not thinking about what this could mean.

 

Did Jacob know this? Was he Edward mate? Was he not his mate?

 

What a mess.

 

He looks at her, eyes knowing. “In theory? Yes. But just because you have one doesn't mean you're going to find it. It's a rare thing.” He thins his lips. “For what I’ve seen, it's not something that can happen to one of us more than once, so if you find it - that's it.”

 

“And if you don't?”

 

“That's why I told you it was not true that things were different from what you humans do. We can still date and involve ourselves with others, even if they’re not our mates.” He says, voice honest. “But they’ll both know. Know that it isn't it. Know that someone can come along and change everything for one of them.”

 

“You don't have a choice? Can you not choose to be with your mate?” Bella asks, raising her eyebrows.

 

Carlisle turns to her, amused by her words. “You won't want to have a choice. It's a good thing, Bella.”

 

She looks at him, doubting his statement. “What if that person dies?” Bella grimaces. “That's it? There's no one else out there for you? That's just sad, and honestly depressing.”

 

“Yes,” Carlisle answers her. “But like I told you. It's not something every vampire can find. Once you do, though, if you lose it – it changes you. I’ve only seen it happen once, but it was enough to show me that wasn't what I would ever wish upon anyone else.” He says, solemn.

 

“With who did you see that happen?”

 

“With one vampire on Aro's court. Marcus.” Carlisle says. “He was mated with Aro's sister, Didyme, and she died. I didn't know him before, when she was alive, but people told me he was someone else entirely. Full of life, funny, kind. When I met him he just looked like a shell of a person.”

 

“Someone on Aro's court could be described as full of life, funny and kind?” Bella says, surprised.

 

“Yes.” He tells her. “Do you have some psychopaths who love power and shedding blood? Sure. But not everyone who's there is one. Some of them are just people who believe in what Aro's doing – people who buy his speech of being the rightful heir to the throne. People who understand the dangers of what would happen if humans found out about us. Some are even people who are there because they don't have much of a choice.” He explains.

 

“They don't have much of a choice? What does that mean?” She can't help but ask.

 

“Look, Bella. I didn't say anything that night because it's a subject I prefer not to discuss with my children or Esme around.” He says, voice worried. “But Aro's not really the kind to pass up an opportunity to ‘collect’ a gifted vampire. Even if they don't want to join him he will find a way.”

 

“That's…worrying,” Bella says, biting her lip. “And why exactly hasn't he found a way to do that to Alice and Edward?” She asks him, preoccupied.

 

“My family thinks it's because he has some consideration for me because we're friends.”

 

“But you don't?” She asks.

 

“I’ve never told anyone that Bella, but no. I think Aro's scared. I think part of him believes that I’m trying to build something here – an army. I think he fears I’m trying to have more power than he does.” He says, eyes hard.

 

“You, building an army? Are you sure he's your friend? He doesn't seem to know you.”

 

Carlisle sighs. “He’s paranoid. It doesn't help that Alice and Edward are both extremely gifted, in his eyes. That's the main reason he's always checking on us, on me. He’s afraid.”

 

“So what does that means? In practical terms?” She asks, once again, trying to figure out the whole picture.

 

“It means that he’ll always keep an eye on us. It means we’ll always have to be careful. It means many things, Bella. The main one? It means you and Jacob aren't the ones putting us at risk, not really. The risk has always been here – it will always be.”

 

Bella nods. “It's hard having an egomaniac, psychotic, and paranoid ruler, huh?” She points out. “At least he’s not in cahoots with the Russians, so, kind of a win for you guys.” She half-jokes, trying to lift up the mood.

 

 

xXx

 

 

It's New Year’s Eve.

 

Bella should be watching Frodo and Sam fall even more in love and argue on how to raise a child in the mountains, but instead, she's busy looking at her phone.

 

Staring at Rosalie’s contact picture.

 

Staring at the last thing the girl had text her – some smart-ass comment about not forgetting to bring her new leather jacket to their trip.

 

Oh, how things had been simpler then. Now here she was. Acting like a lovesick pathetic woman in one of Jacob’s beloved romantic comedies.

 

Wondering if two days of absolute radio silence was enough space. Wondering if she should call Rosalie. Wondering if, when the clock struck midnight, she could at least send her a text wishing her a happy new year.

 

Why had the universe reduced her to this?

 

Hadn't he punished her enough by making her watch Jacob being this pathetic with Edward before? Now she had to watch herself doing it?

 

“Kiddo,” Charlie calls her, pausing the movie that's playing in front of them and shaking Bella out of her reverie. “Is everything okay?”

 

“Look Dad,” Bella starts, narrowing her eyes. “Let's say someone hypothetically asked you to give them space –"

 

“Was that person your mother? Because she told me that several times when we were together.” He interrupts her.

 

Bella pulls out a disgusted face. “Dear God no.”

 

“Ok, just checking.” Charlie hums, amused. “Continue.”

 

She sighs. This hypothetical thing wasn't getting her anywhere. She needed to tell someone the truth. Someone who she could confide in – and also someone who didn't exactly passed time with any of the Cullen's.

 

“Remember Rosalie?” She says to him and he nods.

 

“Tall, blonde, Dr. Cullen's daughter.” He tries being cheeky.

 

She rolls her eyes at him. “I might have told her I had feelings for her two days ago,” Bella says, waiting for the surprise to appear in his face.

 

It doesn't.

 

“Ok. Really proud of you for finally admitting that to her.” Charlie says instead. “Thought you would drag this for way longer. Way to go kid.” He puts his hand up so she can give him a high five.

 

She doesn't. “Yeah, hold on the confetti, Dad. She hasn't said anything since then, been kind of avoiding me actually.”

 

He winces. “You told her you liked her and she didn't say anything?”

 

“Well, I didn't say the words – but she got my meaning.” She states, sure of herself.

 

He looks at her dubiously. “If you didn't tell her Bella, how can she possibly know?”

 

“Because she’s not a man, she's not clueless.” She points out. “It also worked with the flow of the conversation, Dad.” Bella rolls her eyes. “She clearly understood my meaning, if she didn't why would she be avoiding me like the plague?”

 

“You do have a point.” He admits.

 

“And it's complicated. Me and her, being together.” She says, thinning her lips. “There's bad history in her past, and several complications, and –” Bella starts to fidget.

 

Charlie reaches out to her with his hands, grabbing her own. "It's complicated? I got that part.” He finishes for her, trying to encourage her to continue.

 

“When I told her, I saw it came as a shock. I don't think she was expecting that.” Bella admits before taking a deep breath. “It took me a while to figure things out, to make a decision. So I told her to think things through, to take her time.” She shakes her head. “Is the right thing right? To give her time?”

 

Charlie nods. “Yes it is, trust me, you don't want to pressure her into anything. That never works out.”

 

“I would never want to pressure her,” Bella admits. “I just… I miss her. How pathetic is that?”

 

Charlie gives her a soft smile. “Pretty pathetic.” He jokes. “But nice too. It's adorable, seeing you like this.”

 

She gives him a little shove. “No, it isn't. It's character assassination - that's what this is.”

 

“Bella,” He says, supportive. “I’m sure things will work out. She would be pretty stupid if she didn't give you guys a chance. If she didn't give you a chance.” Charlie tells her. “Give it time. She’ll come to you when she's ready.”

 

Bella bites her lip. “But what if she doesn't?”

 

“If in three or four days she’s still ignoring you then you go to her. You tell her again how you feel, say the words this time. Say that if she needs space to figure things out you'll give her that, however long she needs.” Charlie offers, voice sure. “Be honest, be serious – be you. Just talk to her.”

 

She nods, appreciating his advice.“You're right. I’ll give her a little bit more time, but if she doesn't say anything I’ll talk to her. Tell her I’m serious about this, I’ll tell her I like her. No cryptic words. No double meaning – just the plain truth.” Bella states.

 

“That's my daughter.” He says proudly. “Now can I unpause this masterpiece? Are you going to stop brooding and finally join me?” He asks, giving her a wide smile.

 

“Yes.” She tells him, grabbing her phone and turning it off. “Thank you, Dad, really.”

 

“This is what I’m here for kiddo,” Charlie says, shaking his head.