I groaned as the alarm went off. I had no desire to get up — or for Edward to leave. Not after we’d finally come to an understanding last night. Hearing him talk to Emmett, how he feared that our loving each other might not be enough…it had scared me. I’d still been angry about what had taken place in the pool, in front of our teammates, no less, but to hear Edward’s fears spoken out loud like that was like being dunked in ice water.

I hadn’t known what to do, how to process everything I was feeling, so I’d clung to the anger. It seemed silly now — stupid, even. Then when we got home, I’d run for cover – equal parts pissed at myself, at Edward, and at everything that had happened.

And then Edward had started to play the piano. His music had drawn me out, because I could hear all of his frustrations in it — all of his fears. Fears that so closely mirrored my own. They tore at my heart, forcing me to try to reach out to him. I needed him so much.

He’d held me, comforted me more than I felt I had a right to. Especially after I’d tried to push everything away as always, burying it under kisses and physical needs. Those were easy for me; sharing my thoughts, my deepest, innermost fears, wasn’t. Had never been, really. Not even Rose had ever been able to get all the way in, because over the years I’d become too adept at hiding.

At first, it had been because I was a boy, and according to Daddy, boys don’t cry. After Brendan, they’d sent me to counseling, but even that hadn’t lasted long. Just enough to get me through the worst, because Daddy had insisted it wasn’t something real men needed – and I hadn’t wanted to disappoint him. Then, of course, there was what had happened at camp – both what Edward and I had done, and my feelings regarding him back then. That part of me I had buried so deeply that in the ten years since, it hadn’t seen the light of day — not until Edward and I met again.

Rationally, I knew all of this, and I understood — partially, at least — why I acted the way I did. But that didn’t make it any easier to change those old, ingrained habits. So when Edward insisted on talking, it had been so, so very difficult. It was the thought of losing him that forced me to open my mouth.

After everything that had happened — everything I had endured — I could not live with the idea of losing Edward, too.

What I hadn’t counted on was the release I’d feel after telling him everything. He was so supportive, so caring, that when he suggested I go into counseling — and then amended it to us both seeking counseling — I couldn’t disagree. If he wanted to do this with me, didn’t that mean he wanted to keep me?

The rest of the night, we spent talking and making out. Eventually ordering a pizza when we got too hungry to ignore our stomachs. It had felt good to just be with him again — almost as if a piece of a puzzle had slid back into its proper place again.

Edward brushed my hair out of my face and murmured, “Good morning, baby. What’s got you thinking so hard this early in the day?”

I glanced up at him, blushing a little and giving him a small smile. “Mornin’. Was just thinking about last night, ‘s all. And how I don’t want to leave this bed.”

He tightened his arms around me, and I did the same — as much as I was able to, anyway, since I was lying snuggled up against him with my head on his chest. He sighed softly, placing an awkward kiss on my forehead. “Wish we could stay, but I have to work.”

“I know,” I grumbled and frowned, lifting my head to look at him. “I never did ask…how did things go with the new program?”

Edward groaned, closing his eyes. “Don’t remind me. I have to go deal with that again today. There were a few…glitches in the system. I almost didn’t make it to training on time.”

Cupping his cheek, I leaned in and kissed him. “You’ll figure it out…if anyone can, it’s you.”

He smiled at me. “Thanks, Jazz.”

He hugged me again and then went to get showered and dressed. I waited for a little while before getting up to make breakfast. We ate in comfortable silence, and when it was time for him to go, he wrapped his arms around me and kissed me tenderly. I felt more at peace in that moment than I had been since the whole party fiasco.

“I love you,” he murmured against my lips.

“I love you, too. Think you’ll be on IM today?”

He nodded. “Yeah, I’ll be on.” He frowned, then added, “I hate when I’m not able to touch base with you during the day. I think you’ve spoiled me.”

I laughed, shaking my head. “Why’s that?”

He grinned. “Because you’re always home and able to talk. I miss it when you’re not there.”

I pecked his lips and smiled. “Yeah, me too. Now get going, or you’ll be late.”

He rolled his eyes. “Yes, sir. I’ll see you tonight.”

Once he was gone, I cleaned around the house for a while, before settling myself on the couch with my laptop, my schoolbooks lying within reach on the coffee table. I made sure to log in on IM, putting myself on invisible, and then checked my e-mail before starting on schoolwork.

For the first time that week, I was able to concentrate and get some work done, and by the time lunch rolled around, I’d finished two assignments and sent them in. I was still behind, but at least it felt good to catch up a little. One of my teachers immediately sent back an e-mail, asking how I was doing, saying she was glad to see I was trying. We e-mailed back and forth a bit, and I was pleasantly surprised to find that she was not only supportive of me in general, but also of the LGBT community as a whole. It still felt a little odd to consider myself part of that as well, now. I’d never given it any thought, really.

I’d made myself a sandwich, and when I got back on the laptop, Edward was finally online. He said he’d decided to have lunch in his office, so we could chat for a while. I told him about my teacher, and he was happy to hear I’d found support there.

He told me a little about how his day had gone thus far, and that Carlisle had said to say hello.

EACullen: Dad gave me the number of a counselor friend of his, by the way. She’s supposedly one of the best in her field.

I frowned. I wasn’t at all sure how I felt about seeing a friend of the family’s for counseling.

Jazzman: I don’t know…how do you feel about that?

I bit my lip, waiting for his answer.

EACullen: *sighs*It’s up to you, babe. I’m okay with it. She’s an acquaintance of his from college. Dad says she’s the best, and that’s what matters. Anything said during sessions is confidential, so…

With a sigh, I sat back against the couch, staring at the screen. He was right, of course. Whatever happened would be confidential. I knew Carlisle wouldn’t have suggested anyone without contemplating the consequences for us.

I swallowed hard, running my fingers through my hair, and closing my eyes. Buck up, Jasper.

Jazzman: All right. When do we need to call?

We talked for the duration of Edward’s lunch. He promised he’d call and set up an appointment for us as soon as he had a chance. He asked if I was cooking, or if he needed to bring home dinner. I told him not to worry about it, and that I’d take care of it. When Edward went back to work, I decided to bake some bread – both because I needed to have some sort of outlet, but also because I wanted to have fresh bread to go with the spaghetti bolognese I had planned for dinner.

The rest of the afternoon, I was a little more distracted than I’d been before lunch, but I still managed to get some more work done on my assignments. When it became time to think about starting the spaghetti, I put everything away.

My bags, the various boxes, and my guitar case were still standing where they’d been left by Emmett and Rose, the mere sight of them twisting the knot in my stomach a little tighter as I made my way to the kitchen.

I still had no idea what to do with it all. Even with all the times in my life that I’d had to move, this was definitely a very different experience. I just wished the circumstances could have been better.

“Jasper?” Edward called out.

I glanced at the clock, frowning – worried – when I noted that he was home almost an hour earlier than normal.

“In the kitchen.”

Edward’s arms slid around my waist as I was stirring the sauce, his lips pressing softly against my neck. “Hey, baby. Anything I can do to help?”

I shook my head, half-turning around to kiss him before going back to stirring the sauce. “Nah, I’m good. What are you doing home already?”

He leaned next to me against the counter, and said, “Dad told me to go home and to take tomorrow off.”

I stared moodily at the sauce because I wasn’t sure I wanted to see the expression on his face. “Why?”

Edward sighed, and from the corner of my eye I could see him looking down at his toes. “He and I had a talk this afternoon. Apparently I was…distracted.”

Abandoning the pretense of cooking – the food was pretty much done, at this point – I shifted and rested my hip against the counter so I could look at him.

“Do I want to know?”

He gave me a wan smile, reaching his hand out to hold mine. Entwining our fingers, he gave a quiet sigh, his features softening at the contact. “I’ve just been thinking about everything that’s been going on. Worried about you.”

Pausing, his eyes shifted to my things in the hallway before refocusing on me. “I told him about you moving in…not like he hadn’t figured that out already, but…”

He shrugged. “He told me to take tomorrow off and get you situated. He knows there won’t be much time this weekend, with the double-header Saturday.”

My lips pursed, my irritation bubbling up at the reminder of the games that I’d be forced to sit out. Edward cupped my cheek with his free hand and stepped closer to me. “Jazz, he’s worried about you, too. And he wants to help. This is his way of doing so. Please?”

I felt a twinge of guilt that he felt the need to ask for my approval for Carlisle’s gesture. I closed my eyes, taking a deep breath to center myself. When I felt that I could answer him without losing my temper, I opened them again and nodded. “Okay.”

Edward gave a small smile, kissed me tenderly, and said, “I’ll set the table after I go change into something more comfortable.”

We had a quiet dinner and after the dishes were done, he asked if I wanted to unpack tonight, or wait until the morning. I thought about that for a moment. Part of me wanted to ignore it all and just try to have some time with Edward to connect again — and another part of me realized that we needed to do this. Not just because it was annoying to have my things packed up and in the way, but to solidify us.

I sighed, leaning against him as I rested my head against his shoulder. “Let’s just make a start tonight? I think we’ll both feel better for having made a dent in things.”

He wrapped his arm around my waist in a sideways hug and kissed my temple. I could feel him smile as he murmured, “Okay,” with his lips against my skin.

We went into the hallway and stood in front of the boxes and suitcases. Edward ran his fingers through his hair, frowning as he looked at me. “Umm, where did you want to start?”

The idea of integrating my life into his was a little daunting for me, and the fact that it seemed to be the same for him strengthened my resolve. Taking a steadying breath, I asked, “Bedroom?”

He nodded, grabbed one of the suitcases, and headed to our room. In spite of everything, a smile tugged at my lips at the thought of it being our room now. Taking one of the other suitcases, I followed him, placing it just inside of the door.

He’d already gone to his closet and started to sort through his clothing. I stepped up behind him, wrapping my arms around his waist, and kissed his neck. “I love you.”

Edward’s hand came to rest on where my arms crossed over his stomach, and he leaned back into me. “I love you, too, Jasper.”

Hugging him briefly, I stepped aside, taking the things he began to hand to me. We worked steadily for about an hour before we decided to take a break. Edward had pulled most of his summer clothes out, as well as heavy sweaters, and made room for me to begin putting away some of my clothes. I’d started to sort through my own things, piling it all on the bed and putting what I wasn’t going to wear any time soon back into the suitcases.

The easy rhythm of it had allowed me to settle down and find a little bit of peace in all this mess. As I watched my folded sweaters and hanging shirts displace Edward’s, though, a quiet nagging began to grow in my mind. I couldn’t place it at first and chalked it up to being out of sorts from the circumstances of this particular move, but my thoughts became clearer the longer we worked. Eventually, we went back to the kitchen, grabbed a beer, and then settled down at the kitchen island. I watched him as he took a swig of his drink, and something about the look on my face must have puzzled him. He arched a brow. “What?”

I scowled, trying to gather my thoughts. “Are you sure you’re okay with all of this? I kinda feel like I’m putting you out or something…making you pull apart the way you’ve set your life up and everything. I mean…”

I huffed, feeling like I wasn’t getting the words out right. The way his brow furrowed, and his eyes searched mine, indicated that I had to try again. The last thing I wanted to do was to hurt his feelings.

Taking his hand in mine, I gave him a small smile. “Don’t get me wrong, babe. I’m actually liking the idea of living with you and not having to leave here again. But…this is your home, has been for years, and you’ve been settled here…”

My voice lowered as I added, “I don’t want to intrude…and I don’t want you to feel like you have to put up with me because of what happened.”

His eyebrows shot up in surprise, “Jazz! I told you…I-”

I squeezed his hand to interrupt him. “I know, Edward. I know you said you were going to ask me anyway…I just…wanted to make sure. I don’t want you to feel obligated, or to regret asking…”

He stepped up to me, and I had to swing around on my seat to face him. Placing his hands on either side of me on the counter, he leaned closer, his eyes searching mine for a moment. He rested his forehead against mine briefly, then took a slow, deep breath before kissing me languidly.

His eyes were intent on mine when he spoke. “Jasper, can we try to forget what happened for a minute?”

I frowned, wondering what he was thinking. How could I possibly forget what had happened? He sighed softly, pressed his lips to my forehead, and murmured, “Please, Jazz, humor me?”

Swallowing a couple of times, I tried to find my voice to answer him, but when I wasn’t able to, I simply nodded. He smiled softly, whispering, “Thank you.”

He stepped back, took both my hands in his, and closed his eyes briefly before focusing them back on mine. “Jasper…from the moment you stepped back into my life, I’ve felt like something fell into place again. I love you – so much – and having you love me in return is more than I’d ever dared ask for. Every time you’ve spent the night with me has been bliss. The week you were able to be here every day…nothing’s ever felt more right to me than having you with me. I miss you when you’re not here. I want to be able to fall asleep with you, and to wake up to you, every day.”

This time, I had to swallow hard for different reasons – my heart was beating rapidly, and my eyes were shimmering with the tears that threatened to fall. Every word he’d said could have been about my feelings for him. To hear him say them now was a little overwhelming.

He squeezed my hands, his smile brightening a little as he watched me. “Would you move in with me, Jasper? Share your life with me?”

I tried to speak, to tell him that it was the same for me, but the only thing that managed to pass my lips was a hoarse, “Please…”

His hands went to cradle my face, and then he kissed me fiercely. My arms slipped around his waist, pulling him closer until he stood between my legs. When it became too difficult to breathe without my ribs objecting, I pulled away. My eyes were on his as I muttered, “Thanks, darlin’.”

He nodded, and just held me to him, his lips at my ear as he whispered, “This is your home, too, now, baby. We’ll work to make it ours. Unless you’d rather look for a place we can start from scratch with? Though I think it might be better to wait until things have settled down a little before we make any big decisions like that.”

“Stay here, I think. I like it here, babe. We’ll make it ours, like you said.”

He smiled at me then, his happiness evident in the way his eyes shone and his whole body seemed to relax. He pecked my lips, grinning. “In that case, maybe we should get back to it? At least so that we’ll be able to sleep tonight – clear stuff off the bed?”

I nodded, and after we both finished our beers we headed back to work. Edward put some music on this time and every now and then he’d hum along, making me smile. We managed another hour or so before we decided we’d had enough. Most of our clothes were sorted out and put away – either in the closet or in the suitcases.

We went to bed tired but pleased with what we’d accomplished that night. I was snuggled up against him, my head once again resting on his shoulder as my finger traced lazy figure-eights on his chest and stomach. Tomorrow was Friday – the last training day before the doubleheader on Saturday. There was no way I’d be able to play, and I knew he wouldn’t let me train either, but I still wanted to be there. I just wasn’t sure how to bring it up.

Edward ran his fingers through my hair. “What is it, Jasper?”

I sighed and looked up at him, with a quiet plea in my eyes. “I want to go to training tomorrow.”

He stiffened slightly, his face guarded as he said, “Jazz…”

I shook my head, placing my fingers on his lips to stop him. “Listen to me, please?”

Edward nodded, eyeing me warily.

“I want to be there. I know I can’t train, Edward, and I understand why you don’t want me to. I do. But I want to be there for the team. They’ve been nothing but supportive, and I haven’t had any chance to thank them for that. And after the other day…”

He frowned, sighing softly. “I’m sorry…”

I bristled, and this time he interrupted me as I began to argue.

“No, I don’t mean ‘I’m sorry’ in that you can’t go. I mean I’m sorry about the other day.”

I sighed, closing my eyes as I nodded. He cupped my cheek, and said, “Hey…”

He waited until I was looking at him again, and then said, “If you bring your trunks, we can maybe swim for a while after training? Or you can hang out in the kids’ pool…the warmer water might be better, all things considered — your muscles’ll be able to relax more.”

A slow grin spread across my lips at the prospect. “You mean it?”

He rolled his eyes, grinning back at me. “Of course. You being in the water was never the issue, baby. Training was. It’s probably a good thing for you to move around without having as much resistance. And I’m sure the team’d be happy to see you.”

I frowned at that, not at all sure that would be the case. He nudged me, and said, “Yes, even after the other day. You’ll see.”

Pulling myself up just far enough to be able to kiss him, I hummed when he returned it. Snuggling back against him, we talked a little bit about how class was going before we finally fell asleep.

The next morning, I woke up to Edward’s fingers trailing lazily along my spine. I was lying on my stomach, with my head resting on my folded arms, facing away from him. Stretching carefully, I hummed in pleasure at his caresses. I turned to face him and smiled when I saw him lying on his side, watching me. “Mornin’, sweetheart. How long have you been awake?”

He shrugged. “Not long…a few minutes, maybe?”

“Time’s it?” I mumbled.

He shifted to glance at the clock, then chuckled as he turned to look at me again. “Almost nine. Guess we were both tired.”

My eyes widened. “Shit, really?”

He nodded. “Yup. Hungry?”

“Yeah, actually…Want me to—”

He kissed me briefly, interrupting me, and then said with a grin, “Nope. I’m cooking this time — you’ve made me breakfast every day I’ve gone to work. What do you want?”

I turned over onto my back, rubbing the heels of my hands over my eyes as I thought about his question. After a minute, I glanced at him, a grin tugging at my lips as I said, “You any good at making waffles?”

He narrowed his eyes at me. “Depends. Belgian or American?”

I huffed in mock offense. “Belgian, of course. Eggo’s do not count as waffles, thank you very much.”

He laughed, shaking his head. “Glad to hear that. I don’t much care for those either. Belgian waffles, coming right up. You get to take care of toppings though, fair enough?”

“Deal,” I said, nodding.

A little while later, I watched in astonishment as Edward made proper Belgian waffles. Once he had a few ready, I set about getting some toppings together. We didn’t have a lot of things left, but there were strawberries in the freezer, so I made a quick and easy strawberry sauce. While Edward finished off the waffles and watched over the sauce, I set the table. In the end, we had syrup, powdered sugar, the strawberry sauce, and a can of whipped cream. Coffee, and orange juice completed the meal.

Edward waited until I’d taken my first bite of my waffle, watching me closely for my reaction. I closed my eyes, moaning as the flavor hit me. It’d been forever since I’d had them, as not many people knew how to make them, in my opinion. The last place we’d lived had a small diner I used to go to in order to get them, but other than that…

When I opened my eyes again, it was to see him trying to bite back a grin of satisfaction. “I take it, it meets with your approval?”

“Fuck, yeah, it does. Where the hell did you learn to make these?”

He chuckled, shrugging. “Nana taught me.”

I grinned, “Remind me to thank your nana, if I ever get to meet her.”

He laughed, and we spent the rest of breakfast talking about what we were going to tackle first. Edward insisted on making room for me in his office, saying that he didn’t want me to have to continue working in the living room, but to have a space dedicated for working. I tried to argue that it wasn’t necessary, but when he pointed out that it would benefit me to have a space to really relax and one to concentrate on work, I had to concede.

Once we were done, he put the remaining waffles in the freezer, and then we did the dishes before starting on our task. Edward told me to find some music to put on while we worked, and I decided to use the same playlist I’d used when I made him dinner and he’d caught me singing along.

Edward cleared off space on the shelf behind his desk for my schoolbooks and rearranged his desk so there was room for my laptop as well. It took us a couple of hours, but I had to admit that once we were done, I was looking forward to being able to study here.

I stepped up to him as he put the last of his books away and wrapped my arms around him, much like I had that time in the swimming hall. He straightened up with a grin, turning in my arms so he could kiss me. He held me close to him, humming softly as I pulled away. “What was that for?” he murmured.

Shrugging, I pecked his lips, and said, “No particular reason. Thank you, though, for doing all of this.”

He brushed the back of his hand over my cheek, smiling tenderly at me. “You’re welcome. I told you…this is your home, too, now. I’m thinking we may need to call Mom and see if we can get help redoing the study so we each have a desk. I’m sure she’d enjoy the challenge.”

He winked, and I rolled my eyes. “What? Don’t you think we can figure that out for ourselves?”

His eyes widened slightly. “And deprive her of the pleasure of doing something she loves? Besides, she’s been hinting for a long time now that she wants to redecorate the place for me. I’ve been holding off because I didn’t see the point, but now seems like as good a time as any. If you’re okay with it, anyway.”

I thought about it for a moment. Part of me wanted to just do it myself – well, with Edward, but still. Another part knew Esme well enough already that she’d welcome the chance to do something for her son – and for me. Edward seemed to sense my hesitation, and said, “Esme wouldn’t do anything without our input, sweetheart. The place would still be ours. She just has a very good eye for that sort of thing, and she loves doing it.”

I bit my lip and nodded. “Okay. We can ask her, I guess. I know she’s got great taste, so…”

He grinned. “She’ll be thrilled. Dad said they might stop by the pool tomorrow at some point; we can talk to her then?”

“Works for me. They don’t always come to the games, do they? I don’t remember seeing them at the last one.”

He shook his head. “No, their schedules don’t always allow them to make it, but they try to come to most of them.”

We decided to take a break for lunch before tackling the living room. There wasn’t a whole lot left to do, from what I could tell. Edward suggested we hang up my guitar along with his, and he got his tools out while I made us a couple of sandwiches. We ate at the kitchen island again, talking about the games tomorrow. I still wished I could play, but I felt a little better about not playing, but knowing I’d at least be able to cheer them on.

Once we were done eating, Edward made holes in the wall to put the anchors up for my guitar. After that task was done, it was only a matter of putting photo albums away and finding homes for the few pieces of art and family pictures that I owned. I couldn’t bear the idea of having the pictures around yet, so Edward tucked those in a drawer. The only ones I wanted out were the ones of Rosalie and me, and the one picture of me and Brendan as we held up our catch of the day – one that was taken just a week before he died.

I sat on the couch, glancing around the room, an odd sensation in my chest as I took in all the changes. Edward sat down next to me, placing a bottle of water in front of me on the coffee table, and settled back with his arm around my shoulders.

“You okay, baby?” he asked.

“Yeah. It’s just a little strange to think…” I paused, frowning. My heart ached as I forced the words out. “…to think that I won’t see them again. We’ve lived together – just the four of us – my whole life…”

Edward pulled me closer to him, coaxing my head to rest on his shoulder. He pressed his lips to my hair, sighing softly. I took his free hand in mine, entwining our fingers, and whispered, “It’d be one thing if they had died, you know — that’d be final, no going back. But they’re alive and well, and still…”

I couldn’t finish my thought — it hurt too much. Edward nodded, his voice soft and full of emotion as he said, “I’m so sorry, Jazz. I can’t even begin to imagine…”

Closing my eyes, I shook my head. I took a shaky breath, then looked up at him, fighting to give him a smile but fell short. He was watching me with sympathy and worry in his eyes. Brushing my lips against his, I cupped the back of his neck and said, “It’s okay, darlin’ – well, it’s not okay, but…” I sighed. “Like you said before, forget what happened. This is a new start for us, right?”

His eyes searched mine, and he nodded, though I could tell he was still worried. Resting my forehead against his, I closed my eyes. “I’m not saying I want to pretend nothing happened, or to brush everything aside. Just that I want to try to focus on you and me. I can’t change what happened. I can’t change how Daddy’s—” my voice caught, and I had to clear my throat before I could continue. “I can’t change how they are dealing with things. But I want to move forward with you, Edward.”

He smiled then — I could tell even though I still had my eyes shut tight. His whole demeanor changed, and it almost radiated off him. He put a finger under my chin, lifting my face so our eyes were level when I opened mine. Kissing me briefly, he said softly, “I think we can definitely work with that, Jasper. I love you.”

I smiled. “I love you, too, babe.”

Just then, the alarm on my phone went off. Edward patted my knee, and said, “C’mon. Time to head out. Are you sure you’re ready for this?”

I nodded. “Yeah, I’d like to see the kids again, if you think it’s all right. It’s been too long, and I don’t think I look too horrible…I don’t want to scare them.”

That was the only thing I was worried about going to the pool. I’d seen a few of the kids when I went to training on Wednesday, but only in passing. Edward watched me appraisingly for a moment, tilting his head slightly, and then said, “I think you should be fine. Just stay on the side with me, and wear a shirt.”

He grinned, and added under his breath – almost too low for me to hear, “Even if it’s a shame to hide that body of yours.”

I glared at him in mock-offense, “Hey!”

He chuckled, shrugging unapologetically as he got up and went to get his things. I followed after him, shaking my head in disbelief.

It didn’t take long before we were at the club, changed, and ready for class. The other helpers greeted me warmly enough, saying they were glad to have me back. Most of the kids smiled and waved as they saw me, then jumped right in for the lesson — messing around under supervision until it was time to start.

Jessica walked up to me, tugging at the hem of my shirt to get my attention. When I kneeled down to her level, she looked at me seriously, taking in the stitches in my brow and lip, and the fading bruises barely visible. She frowned, and whispered, “Are you okay, mister Jasper?”

I smiled. “I’m fine, sweetheart. Promise.”

I really hoped she wouldn’t ask me why I looked the way I did, because I had no idea how to answer her. Thankfully, her eyes cut to Edward briefly before refocusing on me, her voice stern when she said, “Did mister Edward give you my hug like he promised?”

Edward tried not to chuckle, but I could hear him and I narrowed my eyes at him, then turned back to Jessica with a grin. “Yes, he did. Thank you so much.”

She nodded. “Okay. I hope you feel better soon.”

Her eyes raked over my face again, the furrow in her brow deepening as she walked over to her mom, hugged her, and whispered something to her before hopping in the water with the rest of the class. Mrs. Stanley smiled at me, but I could see the concern in her eyes as she, too, noticed my injuries.

Edward called the class to attention then. They were going to take a break from the training for the fundraiser, and just have a fun day today. They ended up playing with balls — essentially a version of water polo, but not as rigorous. The kids all had a blast, as did the helpers who were in the water. Edward and I stood on either end, making sure to tally the scores.

After class, Emmett (who had shown up shortly before we were done) helped Edward put the goals in the water and set everything up for training. Little by little, the rest of the team showed up, even Bella, though she would also be unable to train.

Edward sat next to me in the stands, and Bella sat on my other side. Once everyone had shown up, I cleared my throat, glancing at everyone in turn. I took a deep breath, and said, “I just wanted to thank y’all for standing by us. It means a lot to me to know you’re here, and I’m sorry for what happened the other day. It was stupid of me, and I’d hate if my idiocy jeopardized the team in any way.”

I felt Edward squeeze my thigh, and I gave him a small smile. They were all quiet for a moment, and then Felix said, “Dude, it’s cool. We’ve got your back. And though we’ll miss having you and Bells in the water tomorrow, we’ll do what we always do — our best. Right?”

Felix looked around at everyone, and they all murmured their agreement. Bella grinned at me, and said, “Don’t worry, Jazz. You and I are gonna be the best cheerleaders this sorry lot’s ever had.”

She winked at me then, causing both Edward and me to laugh.

“Thanks, Bella.”