When I got home, I went straight to my room and turned on my computer. I usually checked my e-mail before going to bed to make sure I didn’t miss anything important, like a note from a teacher or something. I took Edward’s card out of my pocket, intending to put it by the computer. Instead, I flipped it around and stared at his IM name for a couple of minutes. I tapped the card against my fingers. Ah, what the hell… I logged on to my instant messenger. It hadn’t even finished loading yet when the box came flashing on my screen:
EACullen would like to add you to his or her Messenger  List. Accept or Deny?

I stared at it for about a minute. I hovered the mouse over the “accept” button. I realized that clicking that button meant that we really were going to be in each other’s lives again. And if I were completely honest with myself, the thought of that was both scary and very, very enticing. Having him basically ask me to be in his life felt good, like he could still want me even after what had happened – what I had done – ten years ago.  I clicked on ‘accept’ and shot him a request to be added to his list as well.
EACullen: Hi. Glad to see you made it home okay 🙂  
Jazzman: Hi back. Man, you sure didn’t waste any time, did you? *chuckles* 😉
EACullen: What can I say? 😉
Jazzman: *chuckles* Miss me? 😉  
EACullen: You could say that… *grin*
Jazzman: I know… I didn’t want the evening to end, either. It was… nice, to see you again. To talk to you.
I closed my eyes for a moment and smiled. It had been nice, but it had been hard, as well, to tell him everything. It had killed me to see the pain I caused in his eyes. And when he told me how he had perceived those last days at camp, it felt like something was clawing at my heart. All I wanted in that moment was to step over to him and wrap my arms around him, to kiss him and beg his forgiveness for causing him pain, for not believing in us, for giving up, but I didn’t. I just sat back and apologized again and again.
How could he want to have anything to do with me, especially now that he knew? But he did. He had asked me out again, and I was thrilled. Thrilled, and more than a little scared. I had not been with any guys since him and only a few girls in all that time. What had happened between us had had such an effect on me that every relationship I’d had, I measured against Edward. None had ever compared. I could never put my finger on why that was. I was afraid to look too deeply into it, afraid that if I really thought about it, I’d discover I had made a horrible mistake – one I could not take back. And I was afraid that, even if I could, I would still not be able to do it. I loved my family so much.
Now he was here. By some miracle, we were thrown back into each other’s lives. Part of me felt like running in the opposite direction. Another part of me felt the need to be with him. Yet I was still scared. This wasn’t a girl I could bring home to Mom and Dad. This was Edward. I sighed and looked back at the screen. He’d asked me about camp. We talked for a bit longer before he had to log off and get some sleep. I reluctantly did the same.
I woke up early, before my alarm clock went off. I grumbled and threw the covers back. It had not been a restful night. Thoughts of Edward had chased me around. Some were pleasant, and we were together, happy and carefree. Others were more like a nightmare. I’d been kicked out as soon as my family had found out. I was all alone. Even Edward had left me, scorning me for my decisions back at camp. I rubbed my eyes and just sat in bed, my knees pulled up so I could rest my arms on them.
Rosalie barged into the room about twenty minutes later. I hadn’t moved, too deep in thought about the disturbing dreams from the night before. Rose never did knock or announce herself in any way, which was the main reason I always wore my pajama bottoms. I had only needed for Rose to walk in on me naked once to sear that lesson into my mind. I loved my sister, but I could have strangled her the day she’d walked in while I was still sleeping. I had been seventeen at the time.
“Get up, you lazy bum!” She stood next to my bed and pulled the covers off to entice me to get out of bed. The loss of covers didn’t do nearly as much to wake me as her laughter did. She had looked down and noticed the morning wood I was sporting, and she fucking laughed at me. I was mortified. I pulled the covers back over me and yelled at her to get the fuck out of my room. She was still laughing as she closed the door behind her. She’d teased me about it relentlessly for weeks, always earning a blush from me.
I looked up at her, suppressing the smirk that was trying to come out at the memory. She raised an eyebrow as she took me in.
“What’s wrong, Jazz? You look like hell.”
“Good morning to you too, sis. Was there anything you wanted, besides stating the fucking obvious?” I glared at her. I wasn’t in the mood to deal with anyone right then.
“I wanted to know if you’d like to come with me today. I’m going to look into getting a new car.”
I sighed. My sister and her love of cars.
“No thanks, sis. I’ve got school stuff to do today….” And hopefully see if Edward comes online at all. And a date to get ready for. I frowned at the thought of that. A date. With Edward. I put my head in my hands and groaned. I heard the door close with a soft click, and then I felt the bed dip as Rose sat down opposite me.
“Okay, brother mine. Spill. Now.”
I looked at her, searching her eyes. I wanted to talk to her, but I wasn’t sure how she’d receive what I had to say. We had always been very close, almost like twins. We were exactly a year apart. How Mother managed it we never found out, but both of us have the same birthday. If I couldn’t talk to her, I didn’t know who I could talk to, so I took a deep breath and went for it.
“Rose. Do you remember when I went to camp ten years ago?”  
She nodded.
“I never did tell you everything that happened there, did I?” I asked, knowing full well that I’d kept the majority of it back because I’d been too ashamed and frightened.  She arched an eyebrow at me and shook her head.
I told her. I told her about Laurent smuggling in the bottle of whiskey. About the game of Truth or Dare. How Laurent had dared Edward to kiss me, and how it had made me feel to kiss him.
I gave her a summary of what happened over the following weeks, leaving out the details of what we had done. I told her all about her phone call, my decision afterward, and how horrible I had felt for weeks once I’d gotten home. I was picking at the covers, my eyes down, afraid to see her reaction. She didn’t say a word throughout my story.
I paused and slowly raised my eyes to meet hers. Her head was tilted slightly, a small frown marring her brow.
“So you made out with a guy when you were sixteen. So what? Why does that have you tied up in knots now?”
“Edward is here. In Seattle. He’s on my water polo team, and he is the teacher I work with at the club.”
I sighed and looked down at my hands.
“Have you talked to him?”
I smiled a little and nodded.
“It’s still there, Rose. I can feel it. And I’m fairly sure he can, as well. It scares the crap out of me.”
I felt her hand run through my hair, and I looked up.
“You’re scared because of Dad?”
I nodded.
I blinked.
“I said ‘idiot’. You just got done telling me about being in love…”
I started to interrupt her, to deny what she was saying, but she just glared at me, and I closed my mouth again.
“…that you let that go ten years ago, and now that same person…” She gave me a pointed look, daring me to open my mouth. “…is back in your life again. You still have feelings for him, and he for you, and you’re more worried about Dad’s reaction than about letting go of love again?”  She slapped me upside the head and repeated, “Idiot!”
All I could do was stare at her in shock. Of all the reactions I had foreseen from her, this was the last thing I had expected. She rolled her eyes and gave a short snort in disgust.
“Men! Always so worried about the wrong things.”
I tilted my head slightly, frowning. I still hadn’t found my voice yet. She sighed.
“Brother mine. I love you. You know that, right?”
I nodded, waiting for her to continue.
“Love doesn’t care about what package it comes in, Jazzie. Love is just that. Love. You’re lucky if you can find it once. You have to grab it and hold on with both hands when you do.”
She smiled at me then.
“What about Mom and Dad? Rosie… I love you all so much. I’m afraid he’s going to flip out, and that he won’t talk to me anymore. I don’t know what I’d do if I lost you.”
My face fell at the thought of losing the ones I loved. At the same time, I realized that the thought of losing Edward, again, hurt. A lot.
I heard a strange choking sound, and it took me a second to realize that it was coming from me. I felt Rosalie’s arms around me as she lowered my head to her shoulder, holding me to her. She made soft shushing noises as she let me just get it out.
She murmured in my ear, “Jazzie… you won’t lose me, no matter what. I’m your sister; you’re stuck with me whether you like it or not.”
I chuckled as I felt her grin against my cheek.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen next, brother mine, but I’m with you, all the way. Just this once, do what you need to do for yourself? Follow your heart.”
Rosalie had never been one to show her emotions much, but she had always had an underlying mothering instinct. I loved her a little more now, for showing that to me. I knew I could count on her; she’d have my back. We’d always had each other’s backs, and it felt good to know this didn’t change that fact.
“Thanks, sis.” I turned my head a little and gave her a peck on the cheek. “I love you, too.”
I hugged her tightly to me for a moment before letting her go and wiping my eyes, surprised to find them wet. I looked at her, feeling a little sheepish. She rolled her eyes again and then winked as she got up.
“So, now that we’ve got that settled…are you sure you don’t want to come car shopping with me?”
“Yeah, I really do need to get some school work done today. And it seems I’ve got some soul searching to do.”
I winked at her. I felt much better after having talked to Rosalie about it all. She had a way of putting things in perspective for me. Now I just needed time to figure everything out in my head. I frowned and looked straight at her again.
“Rose? Please don’t tell anyone. I don’t think I’m ready for anyone else to know. Just between you and me, alright?”
She nodded.  “Just you and me, brother mine. This is your tale to tell, not mine.” 
She winked again and then waltzed out the door as if we’d talked about nothing more than today’s weather forecast. I shook my head and chuckled. She sure is something else… I sighed and stretched out, feeling my back pop in a few places. I got up and turned the computer on. While everything was loading, I showered, got dressed, and gathered my books so I had everything I’d need for class. I forced myself to not log in yet and instead went downstairs to have some breakfast.
When I got in the kitchen, I saw a note on the table. It was from Momma. She had gone out for the day to run errands. She had made a skillet breakfast for me, leaving it in the oven to warm. I do love that woman’s cooking! Yum! As I was tucking into my breakfast, Rose breezed through, grinned, and yelled over her shoulder, “Think about it, brother mine!”
I had the house to myself now. I knew I was alone because Daddy always left the house at the crack of dawn to get to work. The joys of Army life, I guess. I grinned. At least we’re not on a base this time. Thank God he was transferred to a recruiting position. I polished off the rest of the food quickly, cleaned my dishes, and all but ran up the stairs to my room. It wasn’t the schoolwork I was anxious to get to. I knew that Edward would be at work by now and that it would be unlikely that he’d be on IM. Part of me hoped that maybe, just maybe, he’d pop online because had hinted that he might.
Talking to Rosalie had left me feeling a little bolder than I had before, and I really didn’t want to wait until our….say it, Jasper, your date!…. tonight to talk to him.
I logged on, putting myself on invisible so I could get some work done, but I could still keep an eye out for him. I logged onto the program for school and set to work. I found myself having to re-read because my mind kept going back to Edward. I kept going over what we talked about the night before, and the conversation Rose and I had this morning. I pushed my books aside and rested my arms on my desk, leaning my head on them. Maybe Rose was right.  
I glanced at my screen and smiled. He’d logged on. I sat up and quickly opened an IM.
Jazzman: Hey you. Shouldn’t you be working? 😉
EACullen: Yeah, don’t tell the boss I’m on here instead 😉
Jazzman: The boss? Isn’t your dad your boss?
EACullen: Exactly 😉
Jazzman: tsk tsk, shame on you, Edward ;-). But I’m glad you’re on. 🙂
EACullen: Me too. I can’t seem to get anything done around here. My mind keeps wandering… 😉
I grinned. Sounds like me… wonder if his mind is going in a similar direction as mine… I felt a little bolder at the thought.
Jazzman: *chuckles* What’s got you so distracted then?
EACullen: Oh I don’t know… I keep seeing these blue-green eyes 😉
My heart started beating just a little faster. He’s thinking of me. That’s good, right?
Jazzman: Oh really? Who might those eyes belong to?
EACullen: Mmm… just a guy I bumped into yesterday. Kinda cute, has an impish smile that’ll melt your heart… 😉
Jazzman: You don’t say…
I felt that smile pull at my lips as I read that. I chuckled softly. He thinks I’m cute… wait, can guys be cute? I frowned at myself. Whatever, Jasper. You know you think he is, too. Now enough with the self-rebuttal.
EACullen: I have to go, have a lunch appointment. Will you be on later?
Jazzman:  Sure. Later.
I felt disappointed that he had to leave. Did he have a lunch date? Who was he seeing? The small stab of jealousy took me by surprise. Hmm. I shook it off for now. I’d be seeing him tonight, if not before on IM again. I went downstairs to get some lunch of my own. Even if he has a lunch date, it’s not like you can expect him to give up other people for you. You’re not together or anything. The thought made me stop with the sandwich I had made hovering halfway to my mouth. Together. With Edward? Did I want that? Was that even possible? I mean, really possible? I finished my lunch and went back to my computer. He wasn’t back on yet, so I tried to get some more work done. As soon as he logged back on, I shot him an IM.
Jazzman: Did you have a nice lunch date?
I held my breath, not sure if I really wanted to know the answer.
EACullen: Lunch date? Yeah, I guess you could say that, though I wouldn’t call Emmett a “date” to his face, if I were you. 😉 *chuckles*
I let out the breath I’d been holding with a big whoosh, relief flooding me at the same time as embarrassment did.

EACullen: I haven’t had a “date” in a while, Jazz. But speaking of which… I’ll be a little late tonight for ours. My lunch with Emmett ran later than I thought, so I need to make up for it after work. I should only be about half an hour later though.

My face burned as I read his response. God, what must he think of me?  I was glad he still wanted to get together.
Jazzman: *blush* Sure, no problem.
EACullen: So what kind of classes are you taking? Getting anything done today? 😉
I took a moment to think about my answer and decided to be honest.
Jazzman: It’s nothing, really. Mostly for fun. I’m going for my Bachelor’s in History. Ashford U? As for getting anything done, I think I have a similar problem to yours, but the eyes I keep seeing are emerald. 😉
I wondered what he would make of that last sentence. I felt my face flush again. I don’t think I could’ve ever said this to his face. At least, not yet.
EACullen: A BA in history? Cool. If I recall, you always were interested in the subject. Doesn’t surprise me you’re pursuing it.
Jazzman: Yeah. Not sure what I’ll be doing with it once I’ve got it, but then I don’t really need to.
EACullen: Because of the inheritance? I seem to remember you talking about something like that at camp…
Jazzman: Yup.
Everything went quiet for a while, and I frowned. Maybe something came up that needed his attention. He’s at work, after all! I scolded myself. After a few minutes though, I couldn’t help myself.  
Jazzman: Hello? You still there?
Nothing. I sat staring at the IM for another couple of minutes before I got an answer back.
EACullen: Yeah, sorry… my dad walked in unannounced. He needs me to look at his laptop, so I’m going to have to go. Sorry.
I chuckled. Hmm… I grinned as I typed.

Jazzman: It’s cool. *chuckles* Your dad walked in, huh? Good thing you were at work then ;-). If you’d been at home, it might have been even more embarrassing. 😉

EACullen: When did you become such a tease, Jazz?
When, indeed? I chuckled again. I knew I hadn’t said much, but that the implication was there.