At first it's genuine confusion on his face, but then the meaning of my words sinks in.

"She can't really think that I meant her with all that? Bella knows me better than that!"

"Does she?"

"Of course she does!" he huffs, but I can see from his frown that he's starting to doubt his own words. There's a lot I could add - but I keep my tongue and instead get up to flag down the bartender. Armed with two fresh bottles of beer and a couple of darts I stop next to Jazz, then nod towards the darts board.

"Wanna play?"

He's downright grateful that I don't pick up the previous topic again. It's been a while since I've played but at least neither of us is too drunk yet to miss the board, although we're not shy to insult each other.

"So what else besides you quitting your job did I miss?" I finally steer the conversation to something else than my inability to hit the same fields consistently.

"Well, not much," he grunts, then squints at his own less than stellar result on the score board. "Much work, not much time for anything else with Alice flitting across the globe with her fashion shows. Guess the most noteworthy was that I met Jack Sullivan from college. Remember the guy who nearly blew up the dorm with his makeshift moonshine distillery?"

"A great moment for us all, and definitely unforgettable," I muse, lost in the memory for a moment.

"You at least didn't get busted for smoking pot! I still can't believe they just let you walk away like that when you'd so obviously had more than just a contact high!"

"Yeah, that was pretty funny. I think I laughed my ass off for hours."

Jazz scowls at my grin for a moment, then cracks up himself.

"It was! Ah, good times."

We finish the next round in amicable silence, then get another round of beers.

"Anything new on your side, except for you calling off the wedding?"

I shrug.

"Not really. And I can't say I resent my life being kinda boring."

"No one ever really does," he grunts, then throws a couple more darts that barely hit the board. "I've really missed this, you know? Us just hanging out, getting a couple of beers, stuff like that."

"Me too," I admit, a little surprised just how much that's the truth. Jazz seems to have expected a different answer, or at least a scathing remark from me, but when neither comes he relaxes visibly as he empties his bottle.

"How about we switch to something stronger?"

"Tequila?"

"Always."

We abandon the dart board for the bar, and a few shots later the somewhat stop and go of our conversation soon runs into a continuous if not quite coherent string of anecdotes and wise-cracks. By the time we finally go home we're both no longer steady on our feet, and Bella greets us with a frown and a laugh.

"Drunk and sweaty, do you even need to ask why I didn't drop in when I got your text?"

I find her snide remark as funny as it gets, which makes it obvious just how drunk I really am, but don't protest when she herds me off into the bathroom upstairs after wishing Jazz a good night. I'm not surprised but still grumpy that she doesn't respond favorably to my less than subtle attempt to seduce her, but like before I accept that she doesn't want to have sex -

for now.

The next morning going to work is helll- the combination of sexual frustration, a light hangover and some residual soreness in my muscles makes me less than happy to leave the bed, and the following killer shifts at the hospital don't help to improve my mood. The only thing that keeps me going is the promise that between the day before Thanksgiving until Black Friday afternoon I'm going to be off rotation so that I can at least see my family again. And maybe guilt-trip Bella into a booty call or two if we haven't gotten rid of Jasper until then.

The few days until then all blur together, and when I finally make it home for my fifty hours of freedom it's already late afternoon. Neither Bella nor Jazz are in so I go straight to bed, and it feels like only seconds later when the loud bang of the door downstairs falling into the lock startles me awake again. I'm about to roll over and pretend I'm not awake when I hear someone running up the stairs. A moment later the door bursts open and Bella comes charging in, grumbling under her breath. She sees me blink at her groggily, and the next thing I know she's on me, her lips pressed hard enough against mine to bruise.

My mind hasn't caught up yet when she's already done yanking off my t-shirt somehow, then her hands are inside my boxer briefs, and what minimal thought capacity I've had flees when her hot, wet mouth slides down on my cock. I moan as my eyes close again on their own account, convinced that this must be a dream my frustrated mind has come up with out of sheer frustration.

Then her mouth is gone, leaving me grumpy for a moment as that just underscores my dream theory, but when I open my eyes again Bella is still there, only now busy literally tearing her clothes off. I'm still amazed how fast she can get out of her jeans when she's crawling upwards and over me, the heat of her body enticingly close. A critical look down and she wraps her hand around my cock, stroking me fast and determined while her eyes are fixed on mine. I can't read the look on her face, partly because all the remaining blood in my head is rushing south very fast, and I abandon the seemingly inconsequential attempt when she lets go of my dick with a grunted, "Should be sufficient."

My hands find her hips just as she leans towards me, her mouth hungry against mine. She doesn't protest when I pull her close, in fact she rolls her hips against mine so that my now hard cock slides along her pussy lips. But then she stops, one hand pressed against my chest as she props herself up there, her eyes again intent on my face.

"No games. No begging, teasing, whatever, I just need you, and I need you now, I can't -"

A small voice in the back of my head tells me to let her go on but my mind isn't the part of me that's in control now, and instead of heeding that advice I pull her head down to devour her mouth, then flip us over so that I'm crouching over her. She lets out a throaty chuckle when I grip her hips to hold her down for a moment, then thrust into her, relishing how her body yields to mine.

More groping and sloppy kissing ensues, but before long she pushes against my shoulders until I let her roll us over again so she's perching on top of me, her hips grinding against mine while her pussy grips my cock hard.

"If you don't mind, I'm gonna be on top. As much as I love you fucking the living shit out of me, right now you're just not doing a good enough job of that."

Her words, together with the raising of one brow, make me crack up, but I don't protest when she starts bouncing up and down on me.

"Excuse me if I'm not living up to your high standards, but I don't remember the last two consecutive hours I've slept through."

"Yeah, that's why all you need to do is lie back and let me do the work," she laughs, then grabs my hands and brings them to her tits, squeezing them until I get the hint.

"If this is what happens when you don't get to fuck for weeks, I should take advantage of that more often."

Bella makes a face at my words, but the frown leaves her features when I stoke her nipples with my thumbs, making her moan. The piercing are healing well and I can tell that she's still very sensitive, not exactly a bad thing as I see it. She increases her pace, then shifts so that her torso is slightly reclined, her fingers digging into my thighs behind her body. I let go of her right tit to reach down and start rubbing her clit instead, drawing a most satisfying "Fuck!" from her.

She's close to coming, and so am I, and I love getting lost in the moment of crazed need and lust - when suddenly the bedroom door swings open, admitting a somewhat distraught looking Jazz. My brain stutters to a halt and time seems to slow down in that comic way it always does in the movies, but somehow I can still see what is going on with clarity.

"Bella? I know you don't wanna talk to me right now, but, look, I know I've been acting like a complete asshole. And if you want to punch me again, go ahead, I know I deserve it for being such a delusional fool, but you can't just ignore what I've said -"

That's when he finally looks up, and taking us in as we are, stops short.

Panic races through me but it's as if my brain is still disconnected from my body as I can't move, which is probably a good thing right now. I still tense up, waiting for Bella to do something instead - scream, shout, throw something at him, hide under the bed - but when I can finally drag my eyes from Jazz gawking at us to her, my level of confusion only rises. She is completely calm with her eyes fixed on Jasper- except for her heavy breathing from exertion, her whole body shaking slightly with every deep breath she takes - but it's the look in her eyes that twists something in my guts.

There is no confusion there, nor reproach, only a hint of simmering anger -

but as I keep watching it slowly leaks from her, gets swallowed by the predominant emotion present - lust. And that's when I realize that she's not horrified at all that he has barged in on us. Neither am I, I have to admit, and the reason I can tell so easily what's going on inside of her is because the look on her face resonates with something deep inside of me that I've tried so hard to keep locked up and buried.

Jasper clearing his throat finally shakes me out of my brain freeze.

"I ... I'm sorry, I didn't know you were ... ah -"

"Get the fuck out of here!"

My words come out flat and hollow, and after another stutter of something unintelligible Jazz finally gets the hint and walks out backwards, the sound of the door closing behind him echoing through the room with a final quality to it. My head snaps around back to Bella, and her gaze is defiant when I catch it.

"I think it's obvious that we really have to talk," is what she finally says, frustration heavy in her voice. And fuck, I'm really starting to hate these words.Chapter 25" I think it's obvious that we really have to talk."I hate those words, but I know that they are true. We have to talk. We have to, but I don't want to. That's the only thing that my racing mind seems to agree on. Silence stretches between us, until Bella finally extricates herself from my lush grip. She ends up lying next to me on her back, and I can feel her gaze heavy on me, but I just keep on staring at the ceiling."Edward?"Her voice is raspy with emotion, but something in me immediately snags on the note of frustration in her tone, and in response anger rears its ugly head inside of me. I try to fight it, but then I feel her fingers softly caress my arm– or the spine of the dragon there, as she does a lot of late – and something snaps inside of me. I turn my head and glare at her."What?"She shies away for a moment, clearly taken aback by my bitten off retort, but before I can wonder how much damage my impulsiveness has just caused a familiar stubborn set comes to her jaw, her eyes suddenly alight with rage in return."Did you hear me? We need to talk.""It was kind of hard to miss. Particularly as it seems that was already the case before you jumped me to fuck whatever that is that we need to talk about out of your system."Bella is seething now but somewhere she takes the strength to swallow her comeback before this escalates into a real fight, and while part of me really wants to scream and throw things, I'm also glad she tries to keep things civil. Acting like children is really the last thing we need now – I'm just wishing I could stop the urge to do so as easily as she does."Probably. Yes. But maybe my need to fuck you was more important than spending the next hour hurling insults and accusation at each other."When I don't reply she exhales loudly, then sits up as if staring down at me will lend her some kind of advantage."Okay, before the elephant sized misconceptions that are right now crowding this room start stomping us to mush, can we please just act like two adults for five minutes?""I was under the impression we were already doing that.""No, you just sound like a rejected, snotty little boy."Try as I might, my temper gets the better of me at that, although of course I know that she's right. Which is not helping this, either."The first thing you say that actually sounds right, why shouldn't I feel rejected when you so obviously still want to fuck him?""But so do you!"In the momentary silence our heavy, angry breathing is deafening as we keep staring at each other, neither ready to look away or back down, but also reluctant to draw any sort of conclusion from this.As before, Bella is the one who sees reason first, but considering that I feel like she's had some time to prepare for this speech while I've gotten whacked over the head just now that's only fair. She's still angry but now frustration leaks back into her posture, and when she surges to her feet her motions are as clipped and ragged as her words."There's no sense in this. Whatever I say right now just won't get through to you."I watch in silence as she gathers her clothes, then throws them into the hamper before she dons a simple tank top and sweat pants. Even dressed casually like that she looks positively regal when she turns to face me again, her lips pressed into a thin line while she throws me a haughty look."I'm not the one you need to talk to right now. You need to talk to Jazz.""Oh, I don't think so."She only scoffs at my growl, then throws my own pants and a t-shirt at me."Right now I don't give a shit about what you think!""Do you ever?""Stop acting like such a freaking idiot!"It's the first time that she actually screams at me, but contrary to most women, who look more comical than anything else when they throw a fit, Bella gets downright frightening. Some of the shock must have shown on my face as she calms down almost immediately, then hides her face in her hands for a moment, before she combs the sweaty strands back."Edward, please, for me, talk to Jazz. Or if you don't wanna talk, just listen to what he has to say. You really need to hear this, because nothing I could say would make sense any other way.""You could just tell me.""Certainly not," she scoffs, then actually whirls around when she sees me open my mouth to add another insult. "Of course I could, but I'm so done dealing with other people's shit, I'm not going to let him off the hook and resolve this for him. Man up, listen to him, that's all I'm asking of you. And then we can have our talk."Her words come out with a finality that I can't protest, but instead of reaching for the clothes I get up and stalk towards the bathroom."What the fuck do you think you're doing?" she shouts after me, and I hear her light footfalls follow.I've already reached the door to the adjacent room when I feel her hand on my arm, her grip surprisingly strong, but before she can pull me around I turn to her, nearly unbalancing her with the unexpected motion. Seething down at her I wait until she's looking into my eyes before I open my mouth to speak."I'm going to take a shower first, because I'm not going to have that kind of conversation with your sweat and cunt juice all over my cock."She lets go of me so fast as if I'd slapped her, and whatever strength of will has kept her temper in check until now is not enough to keep doing so. Her cheeks darken with anger, and a low growl echoes forth between her clenched teeth."You fucking asshole!"With that she whips around and stomps out, throwing the door closed behind her with a loud 'whack' that could have raised the dead. I'm too mad myself to really care just now.The hot water is scalding my skin but I don't really notice, the turmoil inside of me too strong for much else to intrude into my unhappy bubble. My main problem is that once the most superficial anger evaporates along with the outer layers of my skin, common sense kicks back in and makes me feel foolish on top of everything else. Turning the temperature to something that won't boil me like a lobster I grab the body wash, then spend a lot more time just standing in the warm spray than it takes for the suds to be cleaned off. I don't turn when I hear the bathroom door creak open and close again in quick succession, but when I finally shut off the water and step out, I'm not surprised to find a neat bundle of my previously ignored clothes resting just inside the door, with a steaming mug of coffee beside it. The gesture is so typical for Bella – although she must still be raging mad at me, she knows that overworked and sleep deprived as I am, I need something to clear my head – that for a moment I feel like bashing my head repeatedly against the wall for shouting at her. I'm also sure that she's counting on causing that very reaction inside of me so I will do what she wants – but that doesn't change the genuine care it shows. And I know she only means the best – and if memory serves well, she usually is right, too.I take my time toweling off, then stare at my reflection in the mirror until the part I've haphazardly wiped clean is fogged over again.I really don't want to talk. I don't want to get dressed, don't want to drink my coffee, don't want to hear anything that Jazz has to say, nor do I want to talk with Bella about it. I just want to go back to bed, curl up and sleep, and when I wake again I want to pretend it all never happened and I can just go on with life as it is.But I know I can't do that – and not just because Bella won't let me. I know that I have to man up and act like a responsible adult, and responsible adults don't run from conflicts.I've clearly idled too long as a soft knock sounds on the door when I'm just done getting into my underwear, and I hurry to pull on the sweat pants."Are you decent?" Bella's voice chimes through the wood, the forced lightness of her tone telling plainly that she's still pissed."All the clothes in the world won't make me decent, but I'm dressed, if that's what you wanna know," I shout as I wrench the t-shirt over my head. There is a telltale pause, then I hear Bella's voice again, only lower as she doesn't talk to me."Go in. I don't think he's going to come out on his own any time soon, and I don't think it will help your cause much if we have to drag him out kicking and screaming."I'm glad the door is still closed as I can't hide a grin at that, even though I'm still frowning, followed by a snort at Jasper's answer."Maybe I should just talk to him later. Maybe he doesn't want to talk right now.""Of course he doesn't want to talk! But I'm done waiting for you muleheaded idiots to be ready to have your talks on your own time! I'll be old and gray until you get to anything by yourselves!""Do you think now is a good time to quote Robert Jordan -""Get the fuck in there, or I swear to everything that is holy, I will punch and kick you through that door, and we both know that you're too much of a wuss to hit me back, so just do it! Now!"