Disclaimer - I own nothing you recognise.
Challenges listed at the bottom.
Word Count - 7803
Warning: Mentions of suicide/suicide attempt
like electricity through their veins
"How did I miss this?" Alice asked, looking up from her hands to Jasper and Esme. "How did I get this so wrong?"
Jasper reached out and squeezed her hand with his own. "You can't blame yourself, darlin'. It's not like either of them decided to love one another, is it? Edward on the other hand… he seemed determined to love Bella. It's no surprise you didn't see it."
Esme sighed but shook her head. "It's truly not your fault, dear. None of us could have predicted that Bella would be Carlisle's mate, we were all just happy to see Edward happy. Carlisle included. I think that would also explain why Carlisle didn't see it himself."
"What, he was so happy for Edward that he denied his own instincts entirely?" Alice asked, her brow furrowing.
Esme nodded. "You know Carlisle. Family is the most important thing in the world to him, Alice. Of course he would put Edward before himself, even as far as denying the easiest instinct a vampire will ever follow."
Jasper sighed, rubbing a hand over his face. He could feel the frustration from Alice and Esme, along with the compassion and sorrow, and it echoed his own emotions, making them all the stronger.
"It's not going to be easy for them," Alice said, her eyes going slightly unfocused. "And that's only if we can convince Carlisle to go and check on Bella which seems… questionable at the moment."
"What if we all decided to go back?" Jasper asked. "Minus Edward of course, since he's off playing the tortured soul again."
"You think Em and Rose will agree to that?" Esme asked, doubtfully.
"They will if we tell them that Bella is Carlisle's mate," Alice said, eyes focusing again and the beginning of a smile appearing on her lips. "Rose will still be against turning her, but… well. We've all got a soft spot for Carlisle, haven't we?"
Esme nodded. "He's been alone long enough."
"Edward didn't want—"
"With all due respect, Carlisle," Jasper interrupted gently. "Edward isn't here to mandate what we do or who we see. It was ridiculous that he decided for the family in the first place. Bella deserved better from us."
He could feel Carlisle's emotions spike at the mention of Bella, and he smiled sadly.
Of all of them, the devastation when they'd left Forks had been much stronger in Carlisle—stronger even than Edward's, who while not Bella's mate, had loved her like a teenager loves their first love.
"We need to go back," Alice added. "Bella… she's not doing well, Carlisle."
"What did you see?" he asked in a rush, his head snapping around to look at her. "Is she okay?"
"I see… nothing. Bella doesn't do anything. She sits in her bedroom and doesn't move. Charlie is losing his mind with worry. It's like her body is still there, but everything that makes Bella Bella has gone. She's a shell of herself, Carlisle, and I don't see her getting any better."
Despite his pain, Carlisle was still conflicted.
Esme reached out to squeeze his arm. "She needs us, Carlisle. We brought her into our world, our family, and we let fear force us away. Bella deserves the respect to make her own decisions, and that includes asking us to stay away if she truly doesn't want to be around us after what happened on her birthday."
She glanced apologetically at Jasper, who waved her off. His nature had dictated his actions that night, and he'd never met a human who accepted them so thoroughly. He would always be sorry for trying to attack Bella, but he didn't doubt that she didn't blame him for it.
Alice glanced his way and winked at him.
Carlisle looked from one to the next, each of his family looking back at him, waiting for his word.
"You all think that we should return to check on Bella?" he asked, his eyes eventually resting on Rosalie.
"Despite what I think of Bella's choices," Rose said carefully, "it seems callous to just leave her in so much pain if we can help her. We should at least give her the opportunity to tell us all to go to hell."
Carlisle sat for a few moments, staring at nothing. Jasper could feel his emotions fluctuating, but Alice shook her head slightly when Emmett opened his mouth, so they sat and waited, hoping that he'd give in to what he really wanted.
Eventually, he shifted. "Okay. Okay, we'll go back and check on Bella."
They travelled through the night, split between two cars. Alice and Jasper traveled with Carlisle, while Emmett and Rose joined Esme.
"Something's wrong," Alice whispered, trying to force a vision that seemed to be on the edge of her mind, almost there but just not quite.
"What do you mean?" Carlisle asked, glancing at her through the rear-view mirror. "Is Bella okay?"
"I don't… I can't tell. There's something but I can't see it properly. It's… I don't like it."
Carlisle sighed, and then the car sped up as he put his foot down. None of them had a good feeling.
"So, do either of you want to tell me what everyone is hiding?" Carlisle asked.
Alice shook her head. "Not particularly. Not yet. It's… you'll figure it out, it's better that way."
"Trust me?" she asked. "Please?"
"You know we'd never do anything to hurt you, Carlisle," Jasper said softly. "Believe in that, if you don't believe in anything else."
Carlisle nodded. "I know. I do know that. This last month has been… difficult for all of us. I can't help but feel like much of the suffering is my fault. I agreed to move when Edward asked it, after all."
"I don't think playing the blame game is going to help anyone," Jasper replied. "We all played a part in what happened, and we're all going to face consequences of it, be them big or small."
"You're right," Carlisle agreed. "I—"
"NO!" Alice screamed suddenly.
The tyres screeched on the floor as Carlisle skidded slightly.
"Alice? Come on, Darlin, talk to me," Jasper begged.
"Carlisle, go faster," Alice moaned. "Towards Port Angeles. I can't tell if we're going to be there on time."
"Bella's going to crash, and if we don't get there, she's not going to survive."
Jasper slid into the driver's seat as Carlisle set off running towards the indicated crash site. He still wasn't going to get there on time, Alice had warned him, but there would be a chance to save her.
Carlisle ran harder than he ever had in his life, and he heard the impact seconds before he arrived. There were no other cars around, and Carlisle couldn't help but wonder how Bella had run off course so much that she'd smashed so hard into the tree.
He could smell oil in the air, and he knew that it wouldn't be long before the car went up in flames. Working quickly, Carlisle forced the door open and pulled Bella from the car and into the woods, holding her gently to his chest. There was a lot of blood but he ignored it in favour of listening to the sluggish beating of her heart.
With no medical supplies, and nowhere to take Bella too fast enough, Carlisle wasn't sure how he was supposed to save her.
"Bella," he murmured, lying her out on the damp ground. "Bella sweetheart, can you hear me? Bella, open your eyes."
Amazingly, she did, blinking up at him. She opened her mouth to try and speak, but a gurgling sound came instead. A thin trail of blood ran from the corner of her mouth down her cheek.
"Bella, you've been badly injured, sweetheart," Carlisle murmured, trying to keep his tone calm even though he felt anything but. "I want to… I want to change you. You'll die if I don't. Do I have your permission, Bella?"
She stared at him, unblinking. He couldn't even tell if she could hear him, if she understood the reality of the situation, but he couldn't bear to let this beautiful young woman die.
"Do it, Carlisle," Alice said from a distance, barely audible even to Carlisle's hearing.
He looked back down at the broken woman on the ground, and he knew if he could cry, he would.
"Please don't hate me."
And he bit.
Travelling in a car with a human was tough. Travelling with a human changing into a vampire was almost impossible. Jasper had to switch cars after a few hours, the pain Bella was feeling too much for him to handle.
Alice and Rose held her between them in the backseat while Carlisle drove the forty four hours it would take them to get to their home in Ottawa. They hadn't been intending to move to Canada yet, but the house was situated in a densely rural area, and it was the perfect place for a newborn to stretch their legs.
"She's going to be stunning," Alice commented, stroking the hair from Bella's face gently.
Surprisingly, despite the burning pain they all knew she was going through, Bella hadn't screamed. She'd been silent since Carlisle bit her, and she looked like she was simply sleeping.
"She already was," Carlisle replied, almost absently. His mind was on Edward, and the way his son would react to a vampire Bella, when he eventually came home. Part of Carlisle hoped his son would be happy, but he suspected that was optimistic to the point of foolishness.
There was also the unlikelihood of Edward and Bella being mates. While Edward had seemed convinced—and Carlisle had been for a time—that they were, the fact that Edward had been so easily separated from Bella proved that they were not.
Alice and Jasper couldn't bear to be apart for longer than a few days, and Rose and Emmett were the same, as were the other truly mated couples that Carlisle had met in his almost four hundred years.
Vampires, while they could enjoy others, only mated once, and they mated for life when they did so. Carlisle hadn't been lucky enough yet to meet his own mate, but he'd been looking forward to the day for as long as he could remember.
To know that there was someone who would love you, wholly and irrevocably, was a wonderful thing that he longed for.
"How is she going to be when she wakes, Alice?" he asked softly.
"Confused," Alice replied. "Beyond that, I'm not sure. I can't really see her. It's getting harder with every minute that passes."
Carlisle frowned and then realised. "Her shield," he said. "The one that keeps Edward from her mind. It's the only explanation."
Alice nodded. "I agree. Hopefully I'll be able to see around it once I get comfortable with it, or she'll learn better control enough to drop it for me."
Carlisle nodded his head and turned his attention back to the long road in front of him. Hopefully, Bella would continue to be silent and Alice would be able to charm the border crossing security like she'd foreseen.
Esme directed the cleaning of the house as she whizzed around, opening the many windows to air the place. It had been a while since anyone had lived there, after all, and quite a lot of dust had settled.
Thankfully, she always covered the furniture before she left, so there wasn't too much to be done.
Alice cleaned Bella up and dressed her in fresh, soft clothes for when she woke up, while Rose cleaned the spare bedroom for them to arrange Bella on a bed there.
They hunted in shifts, knowing they had time before she woke up but not wanting to leave her alone, just in case. None of them wanted to be thirsty when they took Bella for her first hunt.
It would be much simpler if they could focus on her rather than on their own thirst.
Emmett was the first to hunt and then parked himself in Bella's room, leaning back against the wall in the corner.
"You know you don't have to be in the room with her, right?" Jasper offered, trying to work out the messy emotions Emmett was emanating into the room. "She's not going anywhere without our knowledge."
"I left her once when I shouldn't have," Emmett said softly. "I won't leave her to go through this by herself, even if she doesn't know or care that I'm here. She shouldn't have to be alone for this."
Jasper nodded thoughtfully and then joined Emmett against the wall. He'd have to duck out occasionally, he knew, to give his gift a break, but he wanted to support his brother and his new sister.
By the time there was little less than an hour to go, the whole family were in the room. Carlisle and Esme were closest to Bella—something Jasper had fought against—one on each side of her.
They listened closely to the final beats of her heart until silence reigned in the room. They didn't even breathe as they waited for her to open her eyes.
Bella blinked her eyes open to see a white ceiling above her. She could see every tiny crack and bump, and even faint lines from the paint.
The voice was melodic and soft, but it still startled her. She flinched away from it. She knew that voice, and it meant pain for her because they'd left. They'd left and they shouldn't be here and—
Her thought process blanked when she realised that in flinching, she'd managed to end up on her feet in the far corner of the room with her back pressed to the wall, her eyes on almost all of the Cullens.
There was, in fact, only one missing.
"What… Why am I like this?" She asked, and then blinked because her voice was different. It sounded musical, like bells almost. "What happened?"
"There was an accident," Carlisle said. She noticed he was in front of the others, his stance as unthreatening as it could possibly be. "We were heading towards Forks when Alice had the vision. There was no way to save you and keep you human, Bella, I'm so sorry."
"Accident?" Bella asked, trying hard to remember the last moments of her human life. She remembered pain, so much pain, but not physical. She'd had a nightmare, Edward again, and she'd—
She shuddered against the wall and then remembered that she was still in a defensive crouch. She stood up to her full height, only just barely taller than Alice.
"That wasn't an accident," she told Carlisle carefully. "I think I meant it. I think I meant to die."
Carlisle's eyes widened, and she saw him glance at the others. None of them seemed to know what to say, and Bella shifted uncomfortably, because all of their eyes were on her and she'd never liked to be the centre of attention.
Especially not the attention of vampires.
"You meant to commit suicide?" Rosalie asked eventually. "Why?"
Bella shook her head. The memories were foggy, hard to put together. "I think I had a nightmare about… It was too much, I guess. I don't… it's hard to put the pieces together."
"Don't force it," Esme offered gently. "It seems that those are memories you don't need, and they'll only hurt you if you keep trying to remember them."
Bella nodded and glanced away.
"Bella… how are you doing this?" Jasper asked.
"Doing what?" she asked, confused.
"Are you not thirsty?"
At his words, Bella felt a fire in her throat and she raised a hand to it, massaging it gently.
Jasper blinked. "Huh."
"What is it, Son?" Carlisle asked, glancing between Bella and Jasper.
"Her thirst. It's equivalent to the thirst of a much older vampire, certainly not the extreme thirst of a newborn. Bella, do you think you could hold off on hunting?"
She shrugged. "Probably? It's not very bad."
"Does this mean we don't get to take her hunting?" Emmett asked, pouting from his spot still leaning against the wall.
"She still needs to hunt, Emmett," Rosalie said, rolling her eyes.
"Um," Bella said, looking between all of them. "Sorry. Why were you on your way to Forks?"
"We were coming to see you, sweetheart," Esme said softly. "We… we realised that we'd made a mistake. Leaving you, though we did it because of our fear of hurting you, was the wrong thing to do. We shouldn't have left, certainly not the way we did it. We were hoping you could forgive us for it, and perhaps, let us make it up to you if we can."
"Oh." Bella looked from one to the next, her brow furrowed. "Uh. I'm not really sure what to say. You didn't… none of you had any kind of obligation to me? It's not your fault that I got so attached so quickly."
"Bella, we got attached to you too," Alice said quickly. "We love you, so much. Edward… he was right that we were a danger to you, but that didn't mean that we had to leave as we did without so much as a goodbye. We could have easily remained in contact with you, and I'm sorry that we didn't."
Bella nodded slowly, feeling a little overwhelmed. She still didn't really understand why she was vampire, or why the Cullens had brought her to—
"Where are we?"
"Canada," Carlisle supplied softly. "Ottawa, to be precise. It's a good location for a newborn, and it's a good distance from Washington."
Bella frowned. "Does Charlie… what does Charlie think?"
The Cullens exchanged glances before Carlisle spoke again. "The crash was… messy, Bella. After I got you out of the truck, Jasper helped it along by setting fire to it. Charlie, and everyone else, believe that you're dead, sweetheart."
There was a pause, and then Bella nodded. "Okay. I uh. Think I should hunt now?"
"Of course," Carlisle agreed. "I think, given your control, you certainly don't need the whole family watching your every move. Is there anyone you'd prefer to go with you?"
Emmett grinned at her from across the room, and Bella returned it with a more muted smile. Then she glanced at Jasper and raised her eyebrows.
"Is two enough?" Bella asked, and Jasper nodded.
"You'll be fine. Come on, we'll help you."
Alice waited until Bella was out of hearing range before she turned to the others. "I can see her again. I'm not sure what happened earlier."
"She'll be okay hunting?" Carlisle asked, his eyes still on the window that Bella, Jasper and Emmett had jumped out of.
Alice nodded. "She'll be fine. She… she's very confused as to why this happened. The next few days, she's going to be very quiet. I think we need to let her have her space to assimilate. She'll come to you, Carlisle, when she's ready to talk."
Carlisle nodded. "Did I do her a disservice turning her, Alice? Is she angry with me?"
Alice shook her head. "I don't think so. She doesn't seem angry. Just confused and… sad. You'll notice she didn't ask about Edward."
"Him she is angry with, though I can't quite pinpoint why at the moment, beyond the obvious."
Rosalie snorted. "If he returns while she's still a newborn, I wouldn't be surprised if he lost a limb at some point. You know how Edward can be, especially with Bella."
Carlisle sighed. "Hopefully it won't come to that, though I am concerned that she was hurt enough by his—by our—leaving that she tried to end her life."
"She's going to be okay, Carlisle," Esme said patting his arm. "We're here now, we won't let anything happen to her."
Carlisle pulled her into a gentle hug. "What would I do without you?" he murmured into her hair.
Esme laughed. "What are sisters for?"
They separated to different parts of the house while they waited for Bella and the boys to get back from their hunt. Esme settled herself into the largest empty room and started to visualise a bedroom for their newest addition to the family. Alice opened her laptop, excited to have a new person to buy clothes for; especially since Bella had nothing.
Rose disappeared to the garage to make a list of things she'd need to stock up on, and Carlisle went to his office, hoping to find something to distract his mind from the unease he was feeling about their new vampire.
He couldn't shake the feeling that he'd done the wrong thing, changing Bella against her will. He knew what that had done to Rose, and the resentment she'd felt towards him for so many years.
He didn't think he could bear it if Bella held that same resentment for him.
Carlisle looked up from the book he'd been reading to see Bella standing awkwardly in the doorway.
"Come in, sweetheart," he welcomed, gesturing for her to sit down. "How are you feeling?"
It had been a couple of days since Bella had woken up, and as Alice had foreseen, she'd requested a little alone time to settle herself. She was so resilient, Carlisle had been amazed by her control, by her ability to push away her thirst and the quick grasp she'd gained on her strength.
She shuffled in and sat down, folding herself up as small as possible. "I don't know how I'm feeling," she admitted. "I'm sure Jasper must be getting sick of my mood swings to be honest."
"Mood swings are normal, Bella, especially given your specific situation."
She nodded, hesitated for a moment, and then asked, "Why did you turn me, Carlisle?"
He stared at her for a moment and then sighed, leaning back in his chair. "It was selfish of me. You see, we'd been coming back to see you, as you already know, and I… when I saw you again, I just couldn't bear to let you die, Bella. I tried to get your permission, but… I fear I would have done it, even if you'd told me no."
"You wouldn't," she replied, and her conviction was so strong that Carlisle's eyebrows arched. "You're one of the best, most compassionate people I know, Carlisle. If I'd asked you not to change me, you wouldn't have."
She seemed certain and sincere in her words, and Carlisle was flabbergasted that even after everything, she still had so much faith in him. He stood and rounded the table, and pulled her up to her feet, wrapping his arms around her.
When their skin touched, Carlisle felt a jolt run through his entire body. It was like electricity, and it almost felt like his heart was about to start beating once more.
Bella pulled back, her eyes wide. "What was that?"
Carlisle shook his head, unable to speak. This was why the family had been so set on returning to Bella, why they'd talked him into it—not that it had taken much. They'd known, likely from Alice.
"I…" He shook his head. "I need a moment, Bella, would you excuse me?"
She nodded, and his heart hurt for her. She looked so lost and confused, and hadn't he promised himself that he would do everything to make her more comfortable in this life?
Now look at him.
He left the room and then the house, unable to deal with the knowledge that that perfect creature was meant for him. Why hadn't he known? Shouldn't he have sensed it when he met her, when he saw her in the hospital, or even later, during the many times he saw her at their house? Shouldn't he have sensed it the moment her blood was spilt on her birthday?
"I think you did know," Jasper said softly behind him. "Subconsciously at least. You were always… very protective of Bella. Beyond your usual interest in human life, you worried about her, even at the very beginning, and when you were around her, she brought you so much joy, Carlisle."
"I think I knew she wasn't Edward's mate," Carlisle admitted, still facing out towards the forest that lined the house. "He wouldn't have been able to leave her behind, no matter how scared he was of her getting hurt. I didn't… I missed her so much, Jasper. So much. But I didn't… I didn't consider this."
"Which is why I said subconsciously. I think you've been repressing the bond because of your loyalty to Edward. You didn't want to see it because he 'loved' her, and so you didn't. It was always going to happen as soon as she was turned, you know?"
"How am I supposed to tell her, Jasper? She still thinks Esme and I are a couple, I think."
"You need to sit her down and tell her, Carlisle. And she might react badly at first, so I think you need to be prepared for that. But it'll turn out alright in the end."
"Alice has seen it?" Carlisle asked, only half joking.
Jasper chuckled. "No. I just… I guess I have faith in the two of you, and I have faith in the mating bond. I was little more than a monster when I met Ali, and now… now I'm a little less of a monster, and that's down to her and the bond between us."
"You just didn't know there was another way," Carlisle said softly. "I need to go and talk to Bella, don't I?" He turned to look at Jasper. "Thank you."
Jasper nodded, and when Carlisle passed him going back towards the house, Jasper clasped his shoulder briefly, sending a wave of familial love and compassion to him.
Carlisle smiled serenely and leant into him for a moment before he continued on his way.
Bella was still sitting in his office when Carlisle returned.
"I apologise," he offered when she turned her head to look at him. "That was rude of me."
"Are you okay?" she asked, biting her bottom lip between her teeth.
Carlisle nodded and retook the seat he'd been in when Bella had first arrived in his office. "I'm fine. I just had a bit of a… shock to the system."
"The… I felt it too," she admitted, and Carlisle didn't need Jasper in the room to feel Bella's nerves.
Carlisle twisted his lips thoughtfully for a moment. "When you and Edward were together, did he tell you anything about mates?"
Bella winced a little at Edward's name, but then frowned thoughtfully. "He told me that it was hard, living in the house with three mated pairs, but that was about all he told me about it."
Carlisle nodded. "Okay, well, the first thing you should know is that Esme and I are not mates. She's like my sister. We have love for one another, but it's most certainly familial."
"Oh. I thought—"
"We present ourselves to the outside world as a couple, because it's much easier to be accepted as a husband and wife than it is siblings raising fostered children, but we're not and never have been romantically involved."
Bella nodded slowly. "Okay. So… Edward lied to me?"
"We all did," Carlisle admitted. "I'm sorry for that, and I'm trying to make up for it now. Mates… vampires have soulmates, for want of a better word. That one person that makes this existence make sense, if you will. Someone that you would want to spend your forever with. Alice and Jasper have found that in one another, as have Rose and Emmett."
Bella watched him, her fingers fidgeting in her lap.
"The… electricity between us just now… it would appear that you're my mate, Bella."
He waited for a reaction, only to have her run out of the doorway a moment later. Carlisle sighed, running a hand through his blond hair. He wasn't sure what he should do. Should he run after her? Should he give her space?
He was usually so sure of himself, so certain on the path of his life and now, his mind was in disarray. Bella had turned him upside down with a simple touch, and he no longer had any idea of what to do for the best.
"Give her some time," Emmett said from the doorway. "Alice and Rose are with her. They'll talk to her and then bring her back when she's calmer."
Carlisle nodded. "Thank you."
"Uh huh. I've always wanted to give a shovel talk, you know? They look like so much fun on the tv and—"
Emmett scowled. "Mean."
Chuckling, Carlisle waved him off, and picked up the book he'd discarded when Bella had first arrived. He didn't think he'd be able to take anything in, but it was better than staring into space.
"You don't think it's weird?" Bella asked, glancing from Alice to Rose. "He's—for all intents and purposes—my ex-boyfriend's dad."
"It's only weird if you make it weird," Alice said, shrugging her shoulders. "Carlisle is only a few years older than Edward and you, technically speaking. He was twenty three when he was turned, you're eighteen. It's only five years, Bella. And Edward… the two of you didn't, uh, get up to much of anything, did you?"
Bella shook her head mutely. She'd be blushing if she still could, she knew, and Rose chuckled slightly at the face she pulled, clearly amused.
"And when Edward comes back?" Bella asked, wrinkling her nose. "That's going to be the worst kind of awkwardness."
"Do you want Edward back?" Rose asked, head tilting to the side slightly.
Bella shook her head. "Not… with me? I want him to come back to the family, of course I do. I'd hate to be the reason for him being out there on his own. I just… I guess I… no. I don't want Edward back. Besides, he doesn't love me. Told me as much himself."
Alice and Rose frowned. "What?" they asked at the same time.
"When he left, he uh. We went for a walk in the woods and he… I remember he told me that he didn't love me anymore. He said something about a distraction, but I don't remember what. I think he left me there? I remember someone carrying me from the woods, and Charlie was worried. Dr Gerandy was there."
Rose and Alice exchanged a look, and Bella could tell that the two of them were angry, though she wasn't quite sure why.
"Dios mio," Rosalie muttered, shaking her head. "He's an idiot, Bella. An absolute idiot, and you're better off without his immature ass."
Alice snorted her amusement. "Jeez, Rose, tell us how you really feel."
"She could have been hurt," Rose snapped, shaking her head. "We all know how clumsy she was, and he just left her in the forest? Maldito idiota!"
"Rose tends to get angry in spanish," Alice said to Bella, grinning. "It's quite amusing listening to her and Emmett argue when he gets her really mad."
"So… back to Carlisle," Alice said, when the silence went on a moment too long. Bella groaned.
"Can we not?"
"I think we have too," Rose said softly. "He's your mate, Bella. You won't be able to avoid the pull for very long. It's strong, and you… you deserve a chance to get to know him as a man, rather than 'Edward's dad' before it's too strong to ignore."
Bella nodded. It made sense, even if the idea was still weird. She couldn't deny that she was feeling something of a pulling sensation in her chest, and she instinctively knew if she followed it, it would lead her back to the man she'd ran from not too long ago.
"I'll go and talk to him," she agreed softly. "But later. I just… I need a few minutes."
Alice bounced in her seat. "That means we can talk about all the new clothes I ordered for you!"
Bella flopped back on the grass so she was staring up at the sky. "Are you usually this annoying?" she asked, grinning at Alice to show she was teasing.
"I'm usually worse."
Bella had always found Carlisle a calming presence, and she'd always found him easy to talk to, but it still came as a surprise to her when that held true. She was never calmer than when he was in the room, and since he hadn't gone to work at the hospital yet, he was quite often in the room.
They spent a lot of time curled up on each end of the sofa like bookends, each with a book open on their laps, reading in a comfortable silence together for hours on end.
Carlisle was the one to escort her hunting now too, though she didn't really need an escort. Her first experience with the scent of human blood had come in the form of a delivery driver who didn't take any notice of the sign at the end of the very long drive that said to leave all deliveries by the gate.
He'd smelled better than the deer in the forest, but Bella had sat in the house with relative ease when he'd been at the door, and when he'd left, she'd been able to go outside and be around his scent without wanting to chase him down.
"You really are quite extraordinary, Bella," Carlisle had praised afterwards, and the smile he'd given her had made her feel like her insides were melting.
The days slipped by, and before Bella knew it, December had arrived upon them, and with it, Christmas Madness.
If Alice had been easily excitable before Christmas, it was nothing to how she was during the run up to it. Bella found herself more and more often taking shelter in Carlisle's study.
Not that Alice couldn't come and find her there, but she seemed to respect the room as a safe haven for both Bella and Carlisle, and left them alone for at least a few hours before she bounced inside, her mouth running a mile a minute.
Bella had been relatively calm about Christmas herself. She'd done her shopping online and stashed the presents in the room Esme had decorated for her, and while she'd helped with the decorating of the house, she'd simply followed Alice's instructions, feeling it probably safer that way.
Then it snowed, and all bets were off. Carlisle found her in the garden, sitting on the steps of the wide porch, watching the snow fall.
"It's beautiful," she said, as he sat down beside her. "I can't believe I never realised how pretty snow was before."
"Your eyesight is much clearer now," Carlisle replied with a small smile. "There are a few advantages to this life… although, I'm not sure I can agree with you."
"How can I pay attention to the beauty of the snow, when I can admire you instead?"
He smiled at her, his handsome face lighting up, and she cut herself off.
"Thank you," she said instead.
He nodded, and she leant into his side as though it was the most natural thing in the world. He wrapped his arm around her back, and they sat together to watch the snow fall around them.
"It's getting stronger," she said quietly. "The pulling in my chest. The more time we spend together."
"I know. For me too. I… I want you to know that there's no pressure. No rush. I'm happy with how things are progressing, Bella, and I hope you are too. We have… all the time in the world."
She nodded, her hair rustling against his shoulder. "I know. I… I'm not ready for, uh. Sex. Yet. But… I like this. I like being able to touch you."
He pressed a kiss to her temple. "You can touch me whenever you wish, my dear. I am your humble servant."
"And," she forced her nerves down. "I want you to know that I do love you, Carlisle. It's… I always did, I think, but it's different now. Different love. And I do… but I'm a little bit scared and… I think time is good. But."
"Hey, hey," he murmured. "Don't try and force yourself, okay? I meant it when I said we have all the time in the world, sweetheart. And I love you too, how could I not? You're indescribable, Bella. Would you tell me what you're scared of?"
She winced. "I… I think. I think I'm scared that you'll leave. That you'll decide I'm too much trouble."
She shifted, looking up at him to see the serious expression on his face.
"I'll never leave you," he reiterated. "Not for anything or anyone, Bella. I swear that to you."
She nodded. "I think I knew that, but… maybe I needed to hear it."
He smiled down at her, lifting a hand to gently brush a few strands of hair from her face.
Slowly, she pushed herself up to lay a soft, barely-there kiss on Carlisle's lips.
"What the hell is going on here?!"
Bella stared as Edward walked towards them at a human pace, just as Alice, Esme and Jasper ran out behind them from the house.
"I didn't see you decide to come here," Alice said, frowning.
"I didn't 'decide' too," Edward snapped, his eyes moving from one face to the next. He was clearly reading their thoughts, trying to pick up on what was going on. "I was running through, and I caught one of your scents. What, did you think I wouldn't find out? That you could hide Bella here forever and I'd never learn of this?"
"Nobody was hiding anything, Edward," Carlisle snapped. He stood up, and Bella followed suit, just as Edward reached them. "We tried to inform you, but you've not had your phone on, and we weren't sure where you were."
"So you thought that while I was away, you'd steal my girlfriend."
Bella frowned. "You… you broke up with me," she said, before anyone could say anything. "You left me. You… I'm not your anything!"
She shook her head fiercely. "No. You don't… you don't get to come here and try and ruin this. This isn't for you to spoil."
"This is my family, Bella," Edward replied cruelly.
Carlisle growled, making Edward step back in shock. It wasn't often that Carlisle got angry with any of them, and to have it directed at him had clearly surprised him.
"Don't you dare come here and tell my mate that this is more your family than hers!"
"Mate?" Edward asked, eyes wide. "But I thought—"
"She's mine," Carlisle snapped. "As I'm hers."
"Let's go for a run, Edward," Jasper suggested, stepping in front of Bella and Carlisle. He forcibly wrapped his arm around Edward's shoulder and led him back towards the forest.
Bella watched him go and then looked up at Carlisle. "I'm sorry. I didn't… I don't want to be the cause of a rift between you two."
Carlisle cupped her cheek. "You're the cause of nothing, sweet girl. Don't worry about Edward. He'll come around."
Edward didn't come back with Jasper, but Alice assured them all that he was okay. He just had some 'soul-searching' to do, she said, and she promised he'd return one day.
Bella could understand it, in a way. Edward, for all of his over one hundred years, was still a seventeen year old boy at heart. It must have been a shock for him; hadn't it been a shock for Bella?
The following few days were a little subdued, but Alice soon perked everyone up again.
Bella found herself being drawn closer and closer to Carlisle, leaning into him, sitting beside him, even curling up on his lap a few times, when evening settled upon them all and they joined together often to watch movies or play games.
Carlisle had confided in Bella that they felt more like a true family now. He enjoyed it, thought she could tell he missed Edward.
She did too, in a strange way.
While she didn't love him like she once had, she still felt something for him, and he belonged there with them.
"You know you don't have too, right?" Alice said, perching on the railing of the porch beside where Bella stood.
"I think I do," Bella argued. "I'm the only one who can."
Alice nodded absently. "Go north. He didn't go too far, you'll find him."
Bella grinned at her, and pulled her periwinkle coat closer around her. She still had quite a lot of human habits that she couldn't shake. Carlisle enjoyed watching her though, so she couldn't regret it too much.
"Tell him I'll be back soon, okay?"
Alice nodded again. "You're not going to say goodbye?"
"Will he let me go if I try?" Bella asked, grinned when Alice laughed. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Tell him I'm okay, Alice. Don't let him worry too much."
"Oh, he'll be worried," Alice replied gently. "But we'll keep him sane. This is a good thing you're doing, Bella."
"I'll see you soon, pixie," Bella said, taking off at a run for the forest. She went north like Alice told her, and she just kept on running. It was the furthest she'd been since her change, and it was nice to stretch her legs.
Eventually, about a day after leaving, she finally caught Edward's scent on the wind. She followed it to a cabin, set back in the forest, and taking a deep breath to steady her nerves, she knocked on the door.
She knew he was in there, and she knew he knew it was her at the door. It took him almost a full minute to open it, and when he did, she bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from gasping.
He looked awful.
"Edward… what are you doing to yourself, you dumbass?"
He stepped back to let her in and closed the door behind them.
"What are you doing here, Bella?"
"I come to fetch your sorry ass home," she replied, sitting down on the table gingerly. It was sturdy though, and held her weight without a problem.
"I'm surprised he let you leave. You're only young to this life, it was dangerous."
Bella shrugged. "Nobody lets me do anything, Edward. I'm not anybody's property. I'm my own person, and this separation… you're hurting him, Edward. And I think you're hurting yourself."
"I can't come home and watch the two of you—"
"Edward, you don't love me. Not like… not like a mate, or a boyfriend."
He opened his mouth to argue, but she shook her head.
"You don't, because if you did, you wouldn't have been able to leave. Edward, we're meant to be in each other's life, but not together. You're happy ending, it's not with me. It doesn't mean you're not going to get one."
"I was coming back," Edward said softly. "I was heading back towards Forks, to check on you."
Bella sighed. "You were wrong, you know? When you told me that it would be like you never existed."
"Listen to me," she interrupted. "Please, Edward. Just listen. You were wrong, but… not entirely. I missed the idea of you. I missed having someone love me, but I don't think it was you specifically, and that's the same for you. You loved the idea of me, not me specifically."
He stared at her for a long moment and then fell back against the wall, his head in his hands. She waited him out, let him pull himself back together.
"You're right. Well, about most of it, anyway. I do love you, though, Bella. More than anything, I hope you believe that."
"I love you," she replied in kind. "Just… not the way I thought I did. Carlisle… we fit. And you're going to find that, Edward, you will, and you'll understand the contrast between what we had and what you'll have with your real mate."
He nodded. "Can I hug you?"
"Of course you can."
She held her arms out and he stepped closer, wrapping his arms around her. They hugged for a long minute, and then he stepped away, smiling. "Your scent has changed. You smell like… like wildflowers and the meadow after it rains."
Bella smiled at him. "Are you going to come home, Edward? You belong there. With your family."
He hesitated for a moment before he nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, I'm ready. I uh… I should hunt, before we get back. Carlisle hates it when we let our eyes get too black."
She grinned at him. "Race ya?"
He rolled his eyes. "Oh, you're on!"
Bella was only away from Carlisle for just under three days, but when she arrived back at the house, Edward a step behind her, she ran straight into Carlisle's arms.
"Sweetheart, I was worried sick about you."
"I'm fine. Just went to pick up the missing ingredient for our family Christmas." She nodded behind her to Edward. "He's home, Carlisle. You can stop worrying now. We're all home."
Carlisle smiled softly at her and then bent his head to kiss her. They'd kissed before, of course they had, but this felt like a first kiss. A real kiss. They only parted when Edward cleared his throat awkwardly, chuckling under his breath.
"Go see him," she told Carlisle. "I'm going to go see the others."
"Thank you," he murmured, kissing her cheek. "I love you."
"I love you too."
Two Years Later
Edward grinned at Carlisle as he pulled the last present of the day from his pocket. Bella was talking to Esme, discussing the upcoming move and how they'd present themselves as a family.
It was easier if they kept up the pretense that Esme and Carlisle were a couple, but Carlisle had taken some convincing. Bella didn't mind, she knew who the man's heart really belonged to after all.
And Carlisle was about to prove it.
"Hmm?" she turned to him, a smile already on her lips. "What's up?"
Carlisle shifted until he was on his knees in front of where she sat on the sofa, and he opened the box.
"Marry me, sweetheart?"
Bella gasped, and venom filled her eyes, even as she nodded her head. Edward caught a flash of a vision in Alice's mind, of himself walking Bella down the aisle to the waiting Carlisle, and he grinned at her.
It wasn't what he'd expected when he first met Bella, but he was happy for them both.
He could only hope that it would be his turn soon.
He'd been alone long enough.
Record Collection: Morning Glory: 2. Wonderwall: Write about saving someone.
Amber's Attic: Dale, 3: Saving Someone
Angel's Archive: 17. Princess Diana: (dialogue) "Family is the most important thing in the world."
Film Festival: 12. Snow
Marvel Appreciation: 18. [Character] Betty Ross: Write about someone standing up to a family member.
The Forecast Says: 17th. Sunny with clouds: Anger
Cheerleading: E: Extreme
Dodgeball: 29. (dialogue) "You were wrong."
Play It Out: Dirty Dancing - First Word: Write about someone cleaning.
Fireworks Show: 7. Catherine Wheel: (dialogue) "Are you usually this annoying?"/"I'm usually worse."
We're going on a Bear Hunt: 18. Penguin Prints: Write about someone who 'mates for life'.
Baking: 9. Butter cookies: (word) sturdy
Shelter Building: 15. Handfuls of Dirt: (emotion) amused
Wacky Wandmakers: 2. Alder: Sincere / Unicorn Hair: Extraordinary
Days Of The Year: 27. 6th July - National Kissing Day: Write about an important kiss in someone's life.
National Anti Boredom Day: 5. Learn a language: Write about someone speaking a language other than their native tongue.
Unlucky Month For Weddings: 2. (scenario) Being proposed to/proposing
National Ice Cream Month: 7. Neapolitan: Contrast
Romance Awareness: BellaCarlisle
National Indoor Plant Week: 1. Asparagus Fern: (trait) resilient
Seasonal Colours: 9. Periwinkle
Seasonal Flowers: 1. Lady's Mantle: "Did you think I wouldn't find out?"
Crystals and Gemstones: 13. Pearl: (word) Loyalty
Tarot Reading: 3. The Hermit (upright): Write about someone needing to be alone.
Build A Fairytale: Stage 3, The Villain: ...might have a thing for the hero: (dialogue) "It's only weird if you make it weird."