A/N: My beta, siouxchef, is the best. Many thanks to her, and The Usual Suspects ™.
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We walked to my room and changed into our pajamas, brushed our teeth together and curled up in bed. I spooned behind Alice and held her tightly to me.
"Bella?" she whispered in the dark.
"Yeah?" I pressed a soft kiss into her shoulder blade.
"I think I'm falling for you."
I wasn't sure how to react to that admission from Alice. For a few seconds, I was nervous and anxious; what if I hurt her? And then my heart swelled and I replayed her words in my head. Didn't I feel the exact same? Before I could stop myself, the words tumbled out.
"Me too, baby. Me too."
They were the last words in my brain before I fell asleep.
Thursday and Friday passed in a blur; I was buried in work and didn't see Alice at all until Friday night, when she came to spend the night with me. Even then, I greeted her with an exhausted hello and we collapsed into bed together.
I woke up with the funniest feeling in the pit of my stomach. As I became more alert and awake, I realized Alice was above me. Her nose was nuzzled into my neck, her body pressing against mine. I shifted my legs so she was between them and moved my hands to her body. Pulling her up to kiss me, I groaned slightly as she shifted her knee between us and rubbed against my swollen clit.
"Good morning birthday girl."
Her lips finally met mine and I pressed up into her. A small whimper came from my mouth as I moved my body against her leg, seeking the friction I so badly needed.
"Alice," I moaned. I couldn't help it. I needed her, every part of her, like I'd never needed anyone or anything before.
"Shh. Just let me make you feel good, baby."
I tried to relax and enjoy the moment, my body relaxing into the bed beneath me. Alice's hand moved lower, beneath my pajama pants and I lifted my hips again. Her mouth was back on mine and I kissed her hungrily. Her fingertips danced over my skin and then skimmed between my lips, teasing me. I whimpered against her mouth, my eyebrows furrowing in frustration. I had been on the brink for days and was more than ready.
Her long fingers slid up and down the length of my slit, the tips barely teasing my opening on each pass. I took a deep breath and reminded myself to relax and enjoy the journey. I wanted Alice to set the pace, I needed her to. I needed the reassurance that last night had been an off moment. That we were still connected with each other.
I moved my hand down her body and underneath her nightgown. I could see from the look on her face that she was conflicted. She eventually relented as my fingers began to touch and please her as well.
Our bodies rocked back and forth against each other, mouths and fingers landing in random places. I could feel the tightness begin and I knew I was close. I arched my hips up to her hand and pressed my fingers against her body more. My breathing came in hard pants as I felt my body let go and my climax approach.
With a sigh, my orgasm rolled over me in waves of pleasure. My hand and lips had stilled their movements as my entire body tightened. Thankfully Alice didn't stop what she was doing and once I was coherent enough to continue to pleasure her, I could already feel my body building back up for a second orgasm. Watching her come was so fucking sexy. I was almost certain in that moment that I would never grow tired of it.
Her eyes closed and she bent her head forward, resting it against my shoulder as she whispered words of affection in my ear. I brought my other hand to her breast and nibbled at her neck as she writhed against me. I pinched her nipple as I felt her muscles begin to spasm around my fingers.
"You are so beautiful when you come," I whispered into her ear as I watched her orgasm take over. I was right behind her, the visual of watching her let go pushing me over the edge.
Alice was heaving sobs as she came. I had no clue if it was from the overwhelming pleasure we were bringing each other, the admissions we exchanged the previous night or something else altogether. In that moment, we were just wrapped up in each other, in every meaning of the word.
As she began to come down, she rested her body entirely on mine. I could feel her breathing combined with her crying and I stroked my hands up and down her back in an attempt to soothe her.
"It's okay, baby."
I kissed her ear, her neck, her shoulder; anywhere I could reach. One hand came up to her head and ran through her hair, stroking her scalp. I waited until she calmed down a little and then I nudged her lightly.
"Ali, are you okay?"
A long, shuddering sigh caused her body to heave again and I worried that she had resumed crying. A moment later, though, she slipped off my body to the side and looked up at me.
"Yeah, I'm sorry."
She moved up and kissed me softly, almost apologetically. I was still stroking her scalp and I thought about pressing her. Something was clearly bothering her, but she didn't seem ready to talk about it. I didn't want to force her, but at the same time, I felt a little hurt that she wouldn't open up to me.
"Alice, don't be silly. If something is bothering you, I want you to be able to talk to me about it, no matter what the day is."
She smiled softly, but not my crooked smile.
"I promise, we'll talk about it soon, okay?"
I nodded and she shifted her head back to the crook of my arm. Just as I felt guilty for being lazy and feeling tired, I remembered that it was my birthday. Surely you could take a nap on your own birthday, right? I yawned and tucked Alice's body closer to mine.
The next time I woke, Alice was gone. For a very brief moment, I panicked; did she leave again? Then I reminded myself that we were long past that phase in our relationship. I stretched and yawned, briefly wondering what time it was, but still too lazy to turn and look at the clock on the other side of the bed.
Eventually, I got out of bed. Alice was in the kitchen, attempting to setup the coffee pot. I playfully hip checked her out of the way and began the brew, drawing her back into my arms when I was done. She was so warm and soft, and I was struck again by the fact that she was everything I never knew I needed, and more.
"What time do we need to be at Jasper's?" I yawned. "I still need to get to the grocery store and start cooking."
I started to get butterflies at the realization that I was woefully under-prepared for the party. Then I realized she hadn't even answered me yet, she was just standing still in my arms.
She buried her head between my breasts and I got suspicious.
"Don't be mad," she said, her voice slightly muffled by my cleavage.
"I just thought it wasn't right that you should be so stressed about cooking for your own birthday, baby. It's just a small catering job, I promise. We're meeting at Jasper's, at five."
"Alice, did you go overboard?"
She simply buried her head further. I sighed, deciding there was no sense in fighting what was already done.
"Well, do I need to get dressed up? It's just the five of us, or is Emmett coming?"
Alice shook her head no and I giggled. I moved my hand up under her chin and tilted her head so she was looking at me.
"Thank you for going to all this trouble for me, on such short notice." As I was speaking, I placed kisses around her face, ending at her lips. I brought my other hand up and pulled them both through her hair, cradling her head in my hands as we kissed until the beep of the coffee machine startled me.
We futzed around the kitchen and had brunch together. Eventually, I came around and realized that she had done me a favor with the caterer; I was now free to spend my entire day enjoying her company. What better way to spend my birthday?
It was getting colder outside, but it wasn't snowing yet, so we bundled up and took a walk. I knew my neighborhood well enough, so I took her hand and she smiled at me.
"Ali, sometimes I get nervous when we're out. Are you out out, or... ?"
She shrugged and seemed to think about it for a while.
"I dunno, I've never really thought about it I guess. Sasha and I didn't care, but we didn't exactly leave campus a lot, you know?"
I nodded, but her answer made me more curious. "What was she like?"
"Sasha?" Alice asked, her eyebrows scrunching into a cute mess.
"Yeah. I mean, you don't have to tell me about her if you don't want to, I'm just curious."
"It's okay, I don't mind. We were together for three years, while I was at Vassar. Edward was so good to me, I can't tell you the number of times he rescued me during college. He told me over and over how bad she was for me, but I just never listened. I thought I was so in love with her."
Her voice sounded so sad.
"Do you look back now and still think you were in love with her?" I asked, genuinely curious if time and perspective had given her a different view.
Alice began to laugh so hard, she had to stop walking. She was literally doubled over and gasping for breath.
"Should I take that as a 'no'?"
She held up her hand, motioning for me to wait as the giggles still poured out of her. It was slightly unsettling to see her laughing so hard, but it also made me giggle just a little.
Taking a few minutes to recompose herself, she stood back up and took both of my hands in hers. She was suddenly very serious and her eyes took on a sad look, the tears seemingly brimming in them for vastly different reasons than just moments ago.
I squeezed her hands, worried.
"It's okay Alice. I meant it when I said before that you didn't have to tell me anything you weren't ready to."
Shaking her head, she opened her mouth to speak, but then closed it again. She took a deep breath, swinging our hands between us. I could almost see the wheels spinning in her head and the conflict of emotion in her heart.
Looking over at me, she smiled. Her hands squeezed mine this time and I could see that whatever it was she was so close to talking to me about had been pushed completely away again.
"Another time, I promise. For now, let's go back and start getting ready. I'll tell you a few things on the way."
With that, she let go of one of my hands and we turned to walk back to my house. Alice told me she had a hard time in college. It was her first time away from Edward and her parents, and she struggled. She never got into the details of the how or why, or even what she struggled with, but I leave it at that, simply offering my support. She explained how she met Sasha and they hit it off, becoming great friends and then great lovers. Alice thought they had the same ideas and goals in life, but then Sasha got involved in drugs and drinking, their paths diverging. At the time, she explained, she thought her life was over; that Sasha was the one she was supposed to be with forever. She didn't even try to move on. Didn't want to move on.
It secretly thrilled me to no end that we were doing something as coupley as sharing secrets. For all the time I was so afraid to let someone in and get close, I was finding out that I very much enjoyed it. It felt like my friendship with Jasper, only better.
Once we were back at the house, we took some time in my closet and Alice helped me figure out what to wear. We had enough time for a leisurely bath before the party, so I ran the water while Alice lit the candles. I added bubbles this time, because I just wanted a touch of fun in the bath.
When Alice was done, we slowly undressed each other and I climbed in first, motioning for her sit between my legs. She shook her head no.
"I want to take care of you today, birthday girl."
My wide, crooked grin was back on Alice's face and it made my heart skip a beat. I moved forward in the tub, hugging my knees to my chest as she climbed in behind me. Alice's hands wrapped around my waist and pulled me back to her. We both reclined and relaxed, enjoying the warmth of the tub and each other. I could feel her slippery body behind mine as her hands roamed my skin.
"Lay back, let me wash your hair," she whispered as he kissed just beneath my ear. My eyes closed and I slid further into the tub, getting my hair wet before sitting back up. I opened my eyes and saw that Alice had taken my shampoo and conditioner from the shower and set them on a table near the tub. Her hands began to work a lather in my hair with the shampoo and it felt heavenly. No one had ever washed my hair before, much less given me the kind of delicious scalp massage she was.
I let out a soft moan and closed my eyes again. Her fingers were running lines up the back of my neck and then down to my shoulders, the slippery soap helping them to glide effortlessly. Something about this moment was very tender and intimate, and I felt even more connected with Alice. I sighed and smiled, giving in to the calm.
Gently pushing me back into the water, Alice rinsed my hair and then worked the conditioner from root to tip. This time she helped me to more of a sitting position and then rubbed my shoulders and more of my back, my hair piled on top of my head. When she was done, we sank down together again and she used her fingers to help untangle and rinse my hair.
We laid together quietly until the water was cold around us. I felt Alice's body squirm and then heard the drain unplug. I sat up and hugged my knees again, knowing that either I would have to get out of the tub first, or Alice would need room to slip out from behind me. My eyes opened and I felt a soft kiss at my shoulders before I felt her moving over the edge and out of the tub.
Carefully watching her as she dried off, I rested my cheek on my knee and thought about the party. Jasper wasn't upset with me anymore and I was excited to see him interacting with Edward. Rose would be there, and even though she'd probably feel like a fifth wheel, it meant a lot to me that she was coming.
I was snapped out of my thoughts by Alice standing at the edge of the tub. She had a fresh towel between her hands, which were extended as far as they could be. A sweet smile graced her features and I was struck again at the feeling in the pit of my stomach I got when she was happy. Was this love?
There was no time to think about it, so I stood and stepped out, letting her dry me. Each time she got an area of my body dry, she would leave a kiss behind. I was starting to get worked up, my breath becoming more labored with each kiss. Finally, she reached the front of my body. Her hands softly ghosted the towel over my breasts and then my torso. She dried each leg and foot, and then kissed my tattoo on her way back up. She dried my face, then ended with a kiss at my lips.
"Ready to go to your party?"
"I'm pretty sure they'd appreciate it if we got dressed," I laughed.
Alice playfully swatted my behind and we each put our clothes on. I decided on jeans, jaguar print heels and a fitted short-sleeved black, feminine cut button-up shirt, with a black tank underneath. Alice pulled on a pair of jeans with a plaid corset that had a red bow at the front and I couldn't resist the joke. I tilted my head in the direction of her abdomen and raised an eyebrow.
"You my gift tonight, baby?"
Even to my own ears, my voice was soft, relaxed and easy. Alice walked up to me and kissed me again, then pulled back slightly to look at me.
"I think you've been my gift, but tonight I'm yours whenever, wherever, and however you want me."
Laughing, I buried my head in her neck and nipped playfully. "In that case, do you think they'll enjoy the party without us?"
We went back to getting ready, drying our hair and then Alice just waited on the bed as I put a little makeup on. I was learning that she wasn't really a makeup kind of a girl, and she looked just as stunning straight out of the shower as she did dressed to the nines.
Once we were ready with our jackets on, we walked down to Jasper's house. I didn't bother to ring the bell, Jasper and I had been walking in to each other's houses for years now. Walking over the threshold of his door, I gasped at the scene before me. Someone, Alice probably, had gone to great lengths to decorate for the party – not in a I took a quick trip to Party City manner, but in a very thoughtful, tasteful way. There were gorgeous red candles around, tapers and pillars. Tablecloths and pillows were accenting Jasper's furniture and my initial gut reaction was to turn around and go back home. The discomfort with the time, attention and money that had gone into this production was already making me uncomfortable, and we weren't even to the gifts portion of the evening.
Except, I knew I needed to stay. I needed to do this, not just for Alice anymore, but for myself. I wanted to be the kind of person who graciously accepted attention and gifts.
Rose came over first and gave me a tight hug and a peck on the cheek. I was grateful that she always felt comfortable hanging out with Jasper, even if they weren't as close as Jasper and I were. I spied Jasper and Edward out of the corner of my eye, holding hands and standing close to each other. It seemed like such an intimate moment and I smiled; it was nice to see Jasper this happy. Once Rose and I parted, I walked over to where they were and hugged both of them. I was aware that Alice had wandered away from me once we were inside, but she reappeared with a glass of champagne for each of us, handing me a flute.
I half scowled when I saw a server walking around with a tray of appetizers, but held my tongue. He came to me first, offering up what was hands down the tastiest bruschetta I'd never had. I let the flavors dance on my tongue as I chewed and closed my eyes in happiness.
The five of us made our way to Jasper's dining room table and sat to enjoy dinner. The server from earlier brought out the food and we all tucked in, happily talking, drinking and eating. We decided to save the cake for after I opened my gifts, and my anxiety increased tenfold at the thought.
I tipped my champagne flute up and let the remaining bit of the liquid fill my mouth, then glide down my throat, tickling on its path. Alice smiled and tugged my hand, leading me back to the living room. On the table, there were several wrapped boxes, so I sat on the couch and let Alice hand some to me.
The first thing she handed me was a tall bag; inside was my favorite ice wine. Next, she gave me a box of chocolates from Godiva, and I hummed, then opened the card that belonged with the two gifts. I got up and thanked Edward and Jasper each with a hug and a kiss.
Rose sat next to me and brought her gift. I unwrapped the largeish box and was thrilled to open it and see a beautiful red leather briefcase. I hugged her and she pointed to the envelope. Inside was a gift certificate for a day at the local spa, and I squealed. Love the spa.
After I gave Rose another hug, Alice handed me a bulky envelope. I raised an eyebrow and asked if it was from her, and she shook her head no. I carefully opened it and read the card.
"Alice, I can't accept a gift from your parents. I don't even know them!"
"What is it, anyway?" she asked, moving closer to me to dig around in the envelope. Alice held up the ballet tickets, two excellent seats to see The Nutcracker in December. Her lip quivered for the briefest of moments, and then she put on her happy face.
"Oh Bella, I'm sure we'll have a wonderful time. Do you like the ballet?"
"I'm sure I'll have a good time if you're there with me, baby." I leaned over to kiss her, but I must've had more champagne than I realized, losing myself in her. Several throats were cleared and I pulled back with a pout. Before I moved back to opening the rest of my gifts, I gave Alice one last quick kiss on the lips.
"You just have mine left to open," Alice beamed at me, handing me a long, slim rectangular envelope.
Once I had it open, I began to shake my head and protest. "I can't accept this, Alice. No way."
"Shut it. We're going, end of story."
Alice had given me two first-class tickets to Las Vegas and there was a very cute hand-crafted IOU for two nights at the Bellagio.
I plead with my eyes, giving her my best puppy dog face, but she just shook her head 'no' again, then handed me a small-ish box. Briefly fumbling with the lid, I opened the box and held my breath, uncertain of exactly what to say or how to react.
"Do you like it?"
She spoke barely above a whisper, a slight quiver in her voice. I looked over at her and cupped her cheek with my hand, hopefully soothing her. The words were stuck in my throat and all I could do was nod as I pulled it from the box.
"Will you help me put it on?"
I fingered the pendant and thought about what it might mean. She had already told me she was falling for me, and I admitted the same. If I was being honest with myself, I knew from the first time I saw her that I felt something more from her.
Twisting my body so she could place the necklace on me, I realized that no one else had gotten a good look at it yet. Rose scooted closer to me again and picked up the hearts as Alice clasped the chain around my neck. The pendant was two silver, white gold or platinum hearts, intertwined. One had what looked like diamonds in it. They laced together in such a fashion that you might not immediately see it as two hearts.
Tears were pricking the corners of my eyes. No one had gone to these great lengths for me before. No one had given me such a gift before, and I wasn't even sure I meant the pendant, as I thought about it. The chain was hanging from my neck, the hearts between my breasts and I took Alice's hand in mine.
Not for the first time, I let Alice see the emotion in my eyes. I wanted to let her in all the way, but it was baby steps for us, from both sides. She smiled back at me, finally wearing my crooked smile again.
"Time for cake!"
Jasper was always great at gaging the emotion in the room, and knowing just how to change it.
We all went back into the kitchen, the server long gone, and Alice took the cake from the refrigerator. It already had candles in it, so she set it on the counter and lit them. Everyone sang Happy Birthday and I tried not to blush furiously. I blew out the candles and asked Alice about the cake as she sliced it and plated it for everyone.
"It's a moist almond cake base, with lemon curd filling and buttercream frosting. There are fresh sliced strawberries in the middle as well, and some on top. I think you'll love it."
Handing me the first piece, Alice looked at me expectantly. I took a bite and smiled, humming in pleasure. "This is very, very yummy, Ali."
Everyone else got a piece of cake and we all ate. The kitchen was mostly silent, every once in a while someone commenting on how delicious the cake was.
Rose left first, mumbling and grumbling about the brunch the next day. She hugged everyone on her way out and I was glad that her first interaction with Alice was pleasant. Sometimes Rose could be a bitch, but I always knew she had my back.
Edward and Jasper curled up on the couch together and Alice and I exchanged a glance. A wide, naughty smile took my crooked grin's place and suddenly, I was eager to leave. She cut a piece of the cake for us to take back to my house and share later, then grabbed the open champagne bottle. A round of hugs and kisses later and we were on our way.
Once inside the house, I kicked my shoes off as Alice put the cake in the refrigerator. She came out of the kitchen with one champagne flute and the bottle.
"Ready to unwrap your gift?"