Disclaimer: I have ZERO claim or creative control in official Twilight Saga content. All rights for the original content go to Stephanie Meyer. I'm just playing in this sandbox and only own my ideas and characters.

Word Count: 7256


1997

'97 was a really mixed year for me. A lot of stuff happened in '97, and mine and Bella's 10th birthday was probably the least eventful moment of it. On the good side of things, I was finally able to keep and maintain a haircut. No longer did I look like fucking Jack Harlow with my curly pubic mop-head of a hair don't that Renee always let happen due to her forgetfulness and then total inability to schedule. I was finally coming into my own style-wise with a crisp haircut that took advantage of the curls I inherited from Dad. Coming somewhere between a modern short mullet and an undercut with a nicely done taper, I went from Jack Harlow on drugs to Andrew Bazzi at the Grammys in a half-hour flat. And if I had my way -which was becoming quickly easier to do- it would stay that way until I either grew too old to rock it or became a vampire.

The other good news is that she was letting us become more independent; We were allowed to take the bus system and ride our bikes around the city, as well as go to friends' houses. Especially for weekends or when she had to work doubles. As long as we were together, she let us go, and while normally I'd throw another mental "fuck you" towards her for something along the lines of bad parenting, I was actually grateful for this. Not only did it let me and Bella see the world(an admittedly small part), but it also provided a blind spot from our mothers' prying eyes that allowed me to act more like the adult I wanted to be.

Which really just meant carrying a knife and paying attention to shit. I'd carry a gun, but those were significantly harder to get a hold of, and I honestly didn't want the questions or the chewing out if any "actual" adults caught me with the knife let alone any kind of projectile launching "problem solver". In some of our many moments alone, I taught Bella the basics of self-defense that I remembered and armed her with a jerry-rigged compact flamethrower made out of mini hairspray can, a barbecue lighter, and one of those spray paint holder handles with a trigger on it. The idea was, she sprayed, I stabbed, then we both ran like shit. We even practiced with a gag knife and a water sprayer.

Aside from that, Mom's work habits had settled again, and with that, so did her hobbies. We were officially stuck on music this time and thank God because I was getting tired of ballet and art. Not that I was forced to participate in the former, but Mom being Mom and having Bella typically meant more feminine hobbies and activities than masculine ones. I'd asked multiple times over the years if I could take Karate or something and got shot down like a newbie facing off against an MLG pro. "No violence" yeah, okay Mom. Just leave us unprepared to handle our shit.

Sorry, I was supposed to be listing good things. Yeah, music was great, Mom insisted on a classical approach, as well as instruments, but I managed to bargain out a deal with her where for every classical instrument I learn, I can learn one "modern" instrument of my choice to suit my rock/pop/punk side that I really enthusiastically got into. Worked out for me, because I was gonna find a way no matter what, even if that meant transcribing rock songs to the Cello or something.

It also worked because I had a little philosophy about classical stringed instruments. Basically, guitar -and side note, piano- were for people who can sing with their mouths or needed a melody as a base, whereas Cello and Violin? Those were people who sang through their instruments and needed no backup. As much as I love electric guitar and all, I fully admitted that it wasn't as vocal as a Cello or Violin, and you could make some really beautiful standalone pieces with those.

Originally, Bella played piano only for a short time around when she did ballet, and quit both. This time around, with me in the mix, we not only stuck with piano together but took it further and quickly branched out and expanded from there. I even talked her into joining me on the "dark side" with some lighter, more fun rock, pop, and punk songs.

But playing music and learning to play instruments was only HALF the enjoyment. Having grown up for a second time, in the 90's no less, exposed me to countless subgenres I'd never heard before. Don't get me wrong, it was mostly 70's and 80's pop, classical music, and other old stuff -thanks, Mom- but whenever I had control of the tunes, I found all sorts of hidden gems I'd never gotten into in my past life.

Let me just say, 90's rap was some deep shit, and rediscovering Nirvana and others in their heyday, as well as watching the progression of metal, pop-punk, and the highly anticipated by me upcoming "emo" era, all in real-time!? Yeah, I was having the time of my lives, and wouldn't get over it any time soon. I was incredibly tempted to, at some point, remake at least a few songs I knew, even before they came out. Damn the downfall, I'd deal with it later!

Did I mention I could sing now? Yeah, who knew. I sucked before I was reborn, but then again, I never DID take any lessons back then, and could only "sing" (in my opinion) a select few specific songs. But my apprehension and inhibitions were long gone when all that stood in front of me were the limitless possibilities of the future yet to be discovered and a properly functioning body and mind free of the depression and dysfunction I had previously.

So yeah, I learned how to sing. In key. Properly belt without holding back and sounding choked or untrained or untalented. At the right volumes. And I sounded good too if I do say so myself. Just, immature since I was ten. Sadly, I still couldn't beatbox worth a damn besides the ultra-basics that everyone can do.

In any case, my vocal coach gave me some tips for when my voice started cracking, so I didn't worry about it too much. The only downside was I couldn't sing along to all the songs I was used to because they didn't really exist. But the more skilled I got, the more tempted I was to just recreate stuff, even if only to privately enjoy. I don't wanna fuck up the timeline or step on any of my favorite artists' toes, but… Damn was I getting impatient for my old "golden era" to return.

Bella could sing if she tried, but she was apparently too shy to do so; content to back me up or otherwise follow my lead, and I was fine to take the lead, too. We made a great team, me and her, and the more we did together the closer our sibling bond grew. I really don't think there was a thing that COULD separate us, supernatural or otherwise.

I was totally ready to shut Edward down if he couldn't shape up, and Bella was definitely getting to the point where she would be able to see his bullshit for what it was, let alone feel codependent on him or whatever. But still, that's assuming the Cullens actually exist and these names and people I'm meeting aren't just hullabaloo coincidences.

Speaking of which, it was becoming harder and harder to deny the very real possibility that I WAS in Twilight now, and not just back in time with an ironically named family. It was subtle, but the more I looked at the world and into its shadows the more I could tell. Things were more stable, but quietly and secretly more dangerous. Call it a product of the times if you want, but it felt like there were puppet masters behind the scenes keeping humanity from going too crazy like it was starting to do in my original life.

What little glimpses of the news I saw, I caught a fair few red flags. Again, I'm not 100% certain it wasn't just a product of the times or me watching more TV than I ever had -I originally cut cable when I was 16 and traded it for the internet- but there sure seemed to be a lot more animal attacks and unexplained disappearances.

That wasn't the end of it, though. Since we were steadily growing up and since Dad had to spend more time on duty, our visits with him started to also become visits with the townspeople of forks. We met several families and "canon" characters that lived there like Mike and Jessica, Angela, Eric, and so on. I could almost look past all of that, especially since it was only the once or so that we met them, but when Dad took us to meet his best friend Billy Black last summer, well… I was about 95% certain then.

The deep, loud howling in the woods was mostly responsible for abating my skepticism.

But meeting another set of twins -Jake's sisters- was pretty cool. They were a year older than us, so, like in most cases, easier to get along with than younger kids. I will admit that they stole Bella away to do girly things that I politely declined to instead wrestle Jacob in the woods, play cowboys and Indians -I got a real kick out of that one- build forts, make mud pies, and other boy stuff. 97 wasn't even the best year with the Blacks, but that's for later.

Because now was the big downside of '97 that almost fucked everything over.

Right before winter break, two men tried to kidnap Me and Bella. It was about halfway between the music studio and our house that they caught us with our figurative pants down. Four flat tires between both of our bikes left us walking home, and just past the wrong alleyway at the wrong time. My situational awareness did fuck all against those two fat fucks, who blindsided us, toppled us over each other with our bikes on top, then one pummeled me while the other grabbed Bella. There was but the smallest window where she had a split second to grab her little flame-thrower as the fucker struggled to drag her to their van, but it was just enough that she was able to light the guy who was beating me on fire.

By then, fight or flight kicked in, and I was numb to the pain. All I needed was the opening and a clear shot and my sister gave it to me. My leg snapped out as I growled in outrage. One hit to his crotch, one hit to his knee -which bent backward with a sickening snap- caused him to buckle. I lurched up, snatching my switchblade from the hidden pocket on the back of my backpack before flicking it open and driving it into the upper-right-center of his chest. I didn't realize it at the time, but I buried that bitch halfway up the handle in his heart. Probably explains why I couldn't get it back out to go at the other guy with, but I was seeing far too much red to think straight and the pounding accelerated to a buzzing in my ears and just would NOT STOP!

"Get the FUCK OFF MY SISTER!" I screamed, launching myself forward faster than I ever ran before, a new pounding reaching my ears with every step to accompany the buzzing. Three whole strides earlier than I should have, I leaped into the air as Bella delivered an elbow to his liver and broke free. As I quite literally flew at the man, I raised a knee and reached out with both hands, grabbing his head and driving my attack into the bastard's face as hard as I could.

The three of us fell, Bella forwards as she stumbled away, and the kidnapper and I backward towards the van. His head made a satisfying crack on the chrome bumper, probably breaking his neck on the thing, though noticing it at all was something I processed later. All I cared about at the moment was protecting HER.

"Bella, BELLA! Are you okay? Did you get hurt? Where did he touch you!?" I was frantic as I scrambled out of the open doors of the van, having rolled into it in the follow-through of my mid-air assault. Both of us were experiencing an adrenaline rush, I could tell in hindsight -and in the background of the moment- by her labored, panicked breaths and my tunnel vision. I did my best to get her to pay attention to me and breathe deeply and slowly, trying to calm us both down.

The thrumming in my ears turned back into a pounding, then slowly quieted down and calmed as I swallowed back thick bile at the possibilities that flickered through my mind. I wanted to retch, and given the pallor of my sister's face as she started to realize what happened and what could have happened I bet she wanted to as well.

Nonetheless, as the edge slowly faded away and she started to get her wits about her, she blinked and shook her head at me. "H-He didn't, I'm fine…" she promised, looking down to where I gripped her wrists and muttering "Ow." to which I quickly let go of her. Already, I could see bruises forming where both I and the kidnapper had held her wrists. I glared at them and growled, whipping around and launching back up to deliver a swift kick to the caved-in face of our would-be kidnapper.

Bella was busy grabbing her bag and flamer when I turned around and ushered her out of the alleyway. In the back of my mind, I worried about the evidence, but my 10-year old brain was already circling like a tornado as I held my sister tight and ushered her out of the darkened area and past the corpse of the other sicko to where our bikes lay.

"Can't leave these here." I told her, facing her away from the dead man and picking up her bike for her. "Here… Don't look back, okay?" I pleaded, somehow able to sense the shock settle in for her as my own eyes grew misty. We almost ran down the street away from the scene. I looked back once and regretted it with a shudder. She didn't.

A few blocks away we stopped running and caught our breath again, trying to further calm down from the whole escapade. Luckily, we had turned a corner on our necessary route home, so it didn't matter if we looked back now. I was still desperately trying to hold myself together and not puke as we allowed our bikes to clatter to the ground once again.

Before I could think too deeply about the situation, Bella was suddenly embracing me tightly and sobbing into my shoulder. I was entirely emotionally blindsided and brought out of my own spiral as my priorities re-aligned on her. My arms slowly snaked around from their "hands-up" position in an equally tight and hopefully reassuring hug. I rubbed circles into her back as she calmed down and promised her that it was over and it was okay.

We heard no sirens, and as such, I felt no urge to force her to move. We were officially in the suburban area, now, so it was about as "safe" as we could get outside of being locked in the house with an AA12 at the ready or surrounded by supernatural bodyguards. It felt like an hour before Bella got it all out of her system, but eventually, she calmed down to just sniffles and pulled back to look at me.

In that time I contemplated what this meant for our development and how it would change us. We'd now both witnessed death and despite it being self-defense, I had murdered two men.

'SICKOS!' My mind spat back at me, justifying the event, and I had to agree with it in some regard. It was rough, though. My "kill count" in my last life had been very limited, almost entirely accidental (I stomped a small lizard in rage once), all animals, and I felt terrible about every single one. Despite my dark and macabre mind and a few close encounters with self-defense, I really didn't believe I had it in me to kill another human being, and that when faced with a life or death scenario, I just might have folded and died, or got someone killed if it was someone else's life.

I was apparently wrong. I HATED, DETESTED that such a moment had to happen, that I had to find OUT I was wrong, especially since it involved Bella, a sister that I'd now grown to love more than anyone in this life OR the last, including myself. But as I considered myself, my past, our future, and what just happened, I was GLAD, relieved even, to know that I not only had the gumption but the power to protect myself and anyone I held dear.

These thoughts would comfort and embolden me in years to come, but I knew that such trauma still had to be "dealt with'' and laid to rest properly, at the very least for Bella's sake. It was with this that I resolved to convince her to tell Charlie. But that led me to remember that we still had to get home right now...

'Fuck, how are we gonna explain this to Mom…'

"Bella." I started, pulling back from the hug and holding her by the shoulders. "We need to tell Mom." I tried, my oration skills failing me in the aftermath of it all and causing my sister to overreact.

"W-what? NO! I-i-if Mom finds out, she'll, she won't, we won't be able to-" I had to interrupt her before she could spiral anymore. KALM was the key, not panik.

'Bad brain, no memes.'

"No, I mean we have to tell her something." I clarified. "Obviously, we can't tell her what really happened, she'll freak out… Only if the cops come asking questions, okay?" I reassured, hoping to plant the seed of "Dad" with the mention of the police. "After all, we can't lie to them, and telling them, if they ask, might help keep guys like that off the street in the future." I was starting to ramble. Guess being reincarnated doesn't give me "gamer's mind" by default.

'Fuck.' I shook my head to get my thoughts back on track, looking down and around at our feet as I let go of my sister, who thankfully remained quiet and let me think. 'A-ha! Flat tires on the bikes. Okay, this will work.'

"We'll tell her we got into a bike accident, okay? Our tires are flat, so she'll believe that. We can say I flew over the handlebars and landed face-first on the ground, then uhhh…" I looked at her, trying to assess her injuries again and a way to explain them. "I almost rolled off the bridge, so you jumped to save me and I grabbed your wrists too hard when you pulled me up." I finished, pointing to her bruised wrists.

It helped that popping our tires actually did cause a small crash for the both of us, and scraped hands and knees would be the proof. All of this made the bigger lie easier, and my sister nodded her affirmation of events. We practiced a few times, working on the words, memorization, and even the tone of our voices before finally picking up our bikes and continuing to the house. Once we got there we quickly stashed our deflated steeds inside the gate to the back yard and went in.

Mom wasn't home yet, and wouldn't be until 9. I checked the clock as we rolled in the door. 8:43… 'So we got hung up for almost an hour.' I thought to myself, heading to the bathroom for the first aid kit while Bella took the couch. I came back, setting the stuff on the coffee table before proceeding to the kitchen to make some ice packs. Both Bella and I were silent, but after making the packs and proceeding to the living room I broke it to go over the plan one more time.

We reaffirmed the explanation to each other, and I tentatively had her clean the blood off my hands and perform first aid on my face. Yet another adult thing I had to take responsibility for but was glad I did. I could only imagine what was going through her head, and despite the futility of it, I kinda wished I had Edward's quirk right about now. I tried searching in her eyes and found detachment. 'Fuck.'

"Hey…" I started softly, her having finished cleaning the few cuts I had and handing me an ice pack. "It's gonna be okay. WE'RE okay. This?" I said, gesturing to my face. "Doesn't even hurt that much… I'm more worried about you." I admitted to her, causing her to exhale what seemed to be a little stress as she took in my words and seemingly relaxed.

"I'm…" She hesitated, biting her lip. "W-when I saw him beating you... I wasn't even thinking about what would happen to me… I just had to get him off of you… and then you shot up, like a blur… and he was down… then you were flying through the air at us… I knew setting him on fire would distract him, but… how did you do that?" She asked. I'll be honest I did not consider she would break down the fight like that, especially as her first priority. She was fucking TEN, she was supposed to be scared for her life… right?

Maybe I was somehow rubbing off on her. Either way, as I re-analyzed the event myself, the points she made stuck out to me, and I nodded along with her thought pattern. I already had an idea what it was, though.

"Adrenaline rush… I read about it in a book. When you're under extreme physical and emotional stress, the body releases excess adrenaline into your system. It has a number of effects on the body regarding the nervous system, cardiac system, and muscles…" I trailed off as Bella nodded her understanding so far. "Long story short, it removes your limits and supercharges your strength, stamina, and perception so you can either fight or flee in a moment of great need." I finalized. "You… probably had one, too… It's why you were able to fight the other guy off and get out of the way in time." Bella just exhaled again, the stress seeming to dissipate from her more as she now more deeply understood the situation.

She's taking this too well if you ask me… No wonder she didn't really fear Vampires or care about Edward's whack warnings in canon… It really made me want to contemplate just how much I genuinely had an effect on her as a person.

After all, she had more diverse hobbies now, wasn't stuck on just Classical music, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen novels and the like (still dabbling in them, sure), and was at least as coordinated as your average human being. Bella was also a bit more outspoken and not as selflessly and unconditionally kind to a fault. I could genuinely bet money that she would outright tell Mike, Eric, and Tyler off rather than lie to them or let them down easily.

But apparently, she was still Bella. Ever observant, calm with the unordinary, loving, kind, and self-sacrificing at least when it came to family. She was private, but shared everything with me, and I, her… Except for the future and my past.

Before I could contemplate that line of thought more, the door swiftly opened and Mom burst in, announcing her presence with a few grocery bags and her purse in hand. Bella and I both started at the sudden intrusion but quickly calmed when we realized who it was. Everything was sunshine and rainbows for about ten seconds before she caught sight of us on the couch with ice packs and the first aid kit.

She demanded what happened, and we told our lie. It got a little easier for me to lie over the years, having to keep one of the biggest ones anyone could, but it was easier still for me to do it when I mixed it with the truth. Regardless of this fact, my little sister surprised me again when she seemingly took control and told most of the story.

Flawlessly.

Mom, as predicted, still freaked out and insisted we go to the hospital, THIS INSTANT. It was another groan-inducing moment for both Me and Bella, and instead of getting a good night's sleep like we wanted and needed to, we spent 4 hours in the emergency room only to get told what I already knew we would be told. The only upside was no cops and we also didn't hear or see any stab or skull crush victims being brought in, either. I was tense the whole time despite Bella holding my hand. She was just 5000% done with the whole thing.

The police never did come asking questions. I thought that odd for the longest time until I brushed it off as a lack of cameras and forensic evidence left behind by us. Thank God...


1998

Following the attempt on our lives, things went back to pretty much normal for the rest of the year and the start of 98. Fourth grade was just as boring as the first three, and our friends were definitely children. We kept up with our most recent hobbies (Baseball and Music for me, Music and Cooking for Bella) and quickly realized that the one we shared was starting to get pretty involved. Our lessons went smoothly, and while we weren't technically prodigies or virtuosos, I liked to think we were pretty damn good.

I thank our instructor now for insisting on a good foundation rather than just learning specifically how to play popular songs that we liked. (We still did plenty of that, though)

We didn't have an excess of money, but in our parents' attempts to collaborate and leave us never wanting in this world, we got our own first set of instruments. One beginner grade violin, one cello of the same quality, and a keyboard that I talked mom into over an actual piano for several reasons. The thing was packed with sounds, too, and had looping to boot.

Best Christmas ever! We played ourselves ragged and loved every second, greedily learning everything we could to become better players and set up our instruments properly.

The rest of the school year was spent acing all of our assignments and getting offers, yet again, to be advanced a year. The school board knew they wouldn't get two out of Mom, and so were doubling down on convincing her to place us one year ahead, instead. This song and dance was getting old, honestly, and as predicted, Mom declined once again.

We graduated with honors and packed out checked luggage with instruments in the summer of '98. We wanted to show off to Dad. Plus, we can't risk going rusty any time soon for lack of practice, you know? Besides, by now we had an entire wardrobe of summer wear up in Forks, so we really didn't need to pack more than a carry-on, anyway.

Dad was ecstatic that we'd found a mutual hobby that we were sticking with and enjoyed so much. I didn't begrudge him our games of baseball -especially since his schedule was busier this year- but, whenever we could, Bella and I would tend towards practicing instead of other things. It definitely helped that we almost always had something we could do when Dad wasn't around, but I was starting to sense a bit of… disappointment or something in Bella. She complained about the humidity and rain when I'd suggested we go on a hike by ourselves one day while Dad was busy. Weird. She didn't complain too much before?

Oh well, there was no sense worrying about it. Whenever Dad was around, we had plenty to do besides practice and then adapt modern music to cello and violin. We hiked a couple of trails with him, went to the Blacks' a lot, caught several fish, and shot more guns. He promised to take us hunting someday when it wasn't just summers we were spending with him. I don't know where he got the idea that would happen from, but… okay.

The last two weeks of our vacation Dad took the earlier one completely off so we could go on a week-long camping trip. It was still pretty close to home, but we DID genuinely get all the way out into nature in the middle of nowhere. Even better than that, we'd go with the Blacks. The whole family went, with ours counting in their eyes since Dad and Billy were so close. Uncle Billy was the shit when it came to outdoor stuff, too. We -or at least I- learned so much practical application in that short time that I could stack on to my previous theoretical knowledge that it made me laugh in retrospect.

The man was literally a camping GOD. Guess it's in the blood, eh? I would definitely abuse that to my benefit and entertainment. Even Bella couldn't totally escape it or hate it. Billy had this way of telling stories that totally captivated you, so at the end of the day and after she complained about several things, it was reassuring to see her calm down, settle in, snuggle up to me and Dad and listen just as raptly as I did.

That was definitely the best week of the summer of '98.

Hell, the entirety of that summer went by so excellently smooth that I'd all but forgotten the one thing I felt we had to do while we were here. But it was unkindly reminded of it when Dad got a call to duty over some missing kids. Bella seemed to have caught it, too, giving me a knowing look -and then a pleading one once she saw my recognition- as Dad prepared to leave.

"You two be good. Stay in the house, lock the doors, I'll be back later." Dad instructed us, his voice going into a mix of "Dad" and "cop" mode. He gave me a significant look right before he shut the door. "You know where the guns are." He stated, causing me to nod as the 'I hope you don't need them' was left unsaid. He gave Me and Bella another significant look, shutting the door after we exchanged "love you's" and with that, Bella almost immediately began to protest.

"We can't tell him, it'll ruin summer!" She rebuffed me before I could even set the deadbolt.

"We have to tell him, Bella. We can't keep this to ourselves. Not forever." I started, turning to face her as I secured the other entrances to the house.

"Okay, but even then, we can't tell him now!" Bella protested adamantly.

"What's to say we won't forget next year until the last minute? Or entirely? Bella, there's never a "right time" to have a difficult conversation or share… something serious with another person except for "right now"." I countered, flexing my older frame of reference for the first time in eight or so months. It took her a second longer to think of something to say this time, but I was already cocked and cut her off with my final statement.

"Besides. Dad can help us. You know how Mom will never let me take Karate?" I asked, getting her to nod and mutter a "Yeah" in response. "Well, if we tell Dad, then he's likely to convince her to let us both take something for self-defense. Or at least sign us up behind mom's back." I told her.

"But I don't wanna take Karate…" She whined, causing me to sigh and roll my eyes.

"Bella… This world is rougher than either of us really understands… Self-defense isn't a luxury, it's a necessity and a responsibility. Whether it's just physical conditioning, martial arts, small weapons, or guns, you have to be prepared, SOMEHOW." I almost begged at this point for her to understand.

"W-well, we did okay last time!" She tried weakly. She had a point, but she knew it wasn't a good one, especially with the skeptically raised eyebrow I gave her. She half sighed, half scoffed, and looked away from me, unable to meet my gaze.

"We got lucky last time… I hate to consider it, but… What if it was only you that night, Belly? What if I'm not around next time…" I murmured, stepping closer to her and laying my hands on her shoulders. "This is for both of us… AND for Mom and Dad. Dad will sleep better knowing we trusted him with this and that he'll have us prepared, and Mom will sleep better every night that we're safely in bed, unharmed. I know you don't want to ruin Dad's summer and stress him out more than he already is. I love that about you, but you can't be selfless when it hurts you, and you can't walk on eggshells hiding the truth about serious stuff from people who love and care about you."

I was distinctly reminded of my own huge secret in this moment, and when Bella looked up and into my blue eyes, I think she may have seen the sincerity of experience there. I hoped she didn't draw too much from that, but either way, she nodded after a moment of deliberation.

"Okay… We'll tell him… Just, when?" She asked.

And so it was with that that I decided we needed to be emotionally prepared -and Dad emotionally reset- and that the only way to do so was to wait until morning at the earliest. Slamming Dad with this after coming back from a stressful day at work just wouldn't do, and given how old wounds being torn open again was never pleasant, we would need the rest of the afternoon and evening to compose ourselves and figure out how to tell it, too.

We did almost nothing for the rest of the day, watching TV but not really paying attention, and then cooking dinner for when Dad got home. He came home in a bit of a huff, taking off his hat and hanging up his jacket and gun belt. "We found them." He announced, coming into the kitchen where we set the table. He initially was a little upset when he learned just how well we were able to cook, knowing how Mom was terrible at cooking and needed to be sorta looked after. But the man could not deny our talent, and so begrudgingly accepted it as a good thing. Not to mention how he couldn't cook, either.

"It was a domestic dispute… The uh, mother took the kids and tried to leave the state despite the father having custody…" He trailed off, getting a grimace of "yikes" from Bella as I chuckled dryly.

"That sounds familiar." I replied with a bit of sarcasm, cracking open Dad's beer and setting it by his plate before taking my seat. He raised an eyebrow every time I did that, and I just rolled my eyes. He knew I was mature enough, even more so than Bella in some ways. Besides, my past memories disliked the taste of beer and didn't care much for alcohol in general. I didn't have any issue with waiting, at least.

It was another one of the little oddities about our relationship and life growing up, but since he got a stone-cold "Vitamin R" that was verging on a little slush every time he had dinner with us, he hardly complained past the raised eyebrow. It's gonna be fun going back and forth with him when I'm older. After all, I'm practically the same age as him, chronologically.

"Yeah, well… Theirs was a little different, and worse in some ways… At least your mother and I still… get along." He tried, uncomfortable with the subject. Bella being the empath that she was decided to change the subject, and I bolstered her efforts given where she turned it to; plans for next year and a recap of how much we enjoyed this year.

After dinner wrapped up, we did our nightly routine and went to bed. It was a little odd sharing a room here, and I considered that it would likely be worse when we were teenagers. 'Hmm, gotta do something about that…' I thought, considering the one-car garage downstairs. 'Maybe we can convince Dad to do a renovation before we move here…' I thought, falling asleep to a mixture of confusing dreams.


The next day we woke up earlier than we would have. Dad, despite being back to work this week and working overtime, wouldn't have to go in until 7am. This was only an hour later than usual, but Bella and I generally only caught him just long enough to say "good morning" before he left. This time, though, we'd woken up at 5; same time as Dad. He gave us a questioning look as he came out of the bathroom and saw Bella waiting with me heading downstairs to go outside. The awkwardness continued as our morning routine did and Bella and I made pancakes for breakfast.

Both of us were sending each other probing looks. I'll be honest, having the rest of yesterday and this morning to think about it, I was beginning to second guess my decision. No matter how mature we acted or felt, we really were just ten-year-olds (almost 11, though) in Dad's eyes. 'Fuck, Bella's right, he's going to take this way worse than if we wait a couple years, but…' I mulled, and it seemed my sister was on the same page as she sent a sort of "told ya so" look in response to my trepidation.

Finally, Dad broke the ice as his fork clattered to his plate. "All right, what's going on?" He demanded, Dad mode coming out. "You two never wake up this early and are never this silent in the morning. Now there's this… tension in the air..." He dithered for a moment. "Just spill it." He encouraged.

Bella and I shared one more look, and while my heart pounded and I radiated uncertainty, it seemed the tables were turned and she now became the bold one. Before I could implore her to reconsider, she just outright said it.

"We were~"

NOPE

"Having trouble with bullies this year." I interrupted, saving us from the absolute doom of trying and failing to be adult ten-year-olds. Dad huffed a sigh of relief, thinking -quite accurately, mind you- that it was something much more serious than that. Bella gave me an offput look, and I returned it with a pleading and promising one of my own. I would explain later, and she knew it. Her expectant look as she rolled with the lie said as much.

"They call us weird because of how mature we act and insult us for being intelligent." Bella took over, causing me to nod in agreement. "Which is ironic, and quite frankly~"

"Retarded?" I interrupted again, earning her ire as Dad gave me a stern look for the use of language. I suppose he had a point this time. I'd made my little quote once before of "no bad words unless you use them to hurt others" but that wasn't quite aerodynamic enough to fly just yet. Maybe when I was 13. He didn't berate me for the occasional swear anymore, though. Just an exasperated mention of my name or a stern look.

"Why is this such a big deal?" He asked, and Bella deferred to me, now, since I'd derailed where we were originally going.

"They've… Started getting physical." I tried, thinking about how to weave this. "Bella and I could handle it when it was just one or two, but they've started coming for us in groups, and… running only gets you so far." I explained. It would've been good for cardio if it were true, but, well… We already rode our bikes all over Hell's half-acre, so.

'Actually, the bike accident… This could work.' I thought to myself, my Sister seeing the lightbulb go off as I dug the rabbit hole deeper. "You remember the bike accident, dad?" I asked, and he nodded, realization already dawning on his face as he noticed my sheepishness and Bella's silence.

"We were covering up for what really happened… We got jumped… Some of the kids were a year or two older, too…" I admitted. "I fought back, but got worse for it… They only smacked Bella around and held her down to make her watch…" I trailed off, probably sticking my foot in my mouth and dooming us more with every word as Dad started looking red.

He seemed to have several questions, but having already heard a version of this story and Mom's reaction to it… He took a moment to process things and came to the same conclusion we did.

"And you lied to your mother because you knew she would… overreact…" He surmised, pausing for a moment to think about how to handle this.

"She would sooner lock us away and try some hair-brained attempt at home-schooling before letting David take Karate so he could have a chance against them." Bella interjected, and Dad swiveled back from his musings to eye us.

"Is this why you've been asking about it more lately?" He asked. I nodded the affirmative with a bit of shame, which caused him to sigh and run his hands through his hair.

"Alright. I'll see what I can do. If I can't talk your mother into it, I'll just… Sign you up behind her back. Or at the very least, give you a few pointers, myself." Dad promised, getting us both to nod, although Bella sent me another slightly disgruntled look. Dancing was bad enough for her, it seemed. She probably thought Karate would do her in.

No way someone who can play instruments like her is uncoordinated, anymore. She's just going to have to grow out of her self-depreciation about her balance. She really had improved over the years.

Either way, with that, the "big reveal" and breakfast was over. Dad washed his plate and got ready for work as we handled the rest. He hugged and kissed us both goodbye and we exchanged "I love you's" as he walked out the door for work. Bella and I deliberated for the rest of the week but eventually agreed on the conclusion that we really should wait to tell him, at least for our own sakes. I apologized for pressuring her into feeling like we had to do it now, admitting that I was being impulsive. She forgave me and we moved on.


A/N:

A reviewer has asked me a rather important question that I ought to address in an A/N. This is NOT going to be a slash story of any kind, let alone with the MC. That is all.

Please leave a review, even if you disliked it (tell me why and what you might change), or even if all you have to say is "cool chap, bro" it's a real motivator, or so they say. Dunno yet since I'm not a review whore, kek.

Now. Off to finish Ch3 and start on Ch4 so I can keep my promises to you guys. LOVE YA!

~Drunk