A/N: This chapter was written for MarcyJ, who bought it during the Support Stacie charity auction. Marcy, thank you for your contribution, encouragement, and enthusiasm!
Many thanks to Pat for critiquing this chapter so quickly! With your help, this version is much better than the original.
And thank you to the fans of "Edward Vs the Toddler." I hope you enjoy this second installment!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
EDWARD VS THE CHRISTMAS HOOLIGANS
As a vampire, Bella had little to fear, but she would always fear Alice's Big Ideas. Bella knew one was coming when she saw the gleaming eyes and stubborn chin.
"We should have a Christmas party!" Alice exclaimed, nearly bouncing on her bed.
Bella squeezed the armrest of Alice's chair too hard and accidentally pulverized it. "Oh. Wow. That sounds nice. But I figured we'd have a quiet, relaxing Christmas—"
Alice rolled her eyes before stooping to pick up the splintered pieces of wood. "Quiet plus relaxing equals boring. Besides, I'm not talking about a lot of people. We can't get rid of Jacob, so we might as well invite his pack. Charlie will want to come, which means Sue will too. I also thought we could invite the Denali coven." She gestured with wide, graceful movements as if she would encompass the world in her plans.
Humans, werewolves, and vampires all together for the holidays. They needed new Christmas songs for that type of occasion. "I don't know—,"
"Oh, c'mon, Bella!" Alice protested. "I wasn't here last Christmas, and it sounds like it was miserable for those who were here. I want to make up for it this year. Nessie deserves a big Christmas while she's still young."
Leave it to Alice to hand out guilt for Christmas. Unfortunately, she was right. One year ago, Alice and Jasper had been searching the Amazon rain forest. Everyone else had been at home preparing for a confrontation with the Volturi. Nessie's first Christmas had been wrapped up in worries and trimmed with fear.
"Fine," Bella relented, "for Nessie's sake." As if Alice wouldn't have thrown the party anyway, with or without Bella's consent.
Alice grinned. "You won't regret it. This will be the best Christmas ever!"
Bella realized that if she had regrets now, she would carry those regrets until the end of time.
On Christmas Eve, Jacob willingly agreed to take Nessie hunting. While they were gone, everyone else pitched in to quickly decorate the house.
Alice unraveled thousands of Christmas lights, leftover from Bella's graduation party and wedding. She instructed Carlisle and Esme to wind the lights along the driveway and hang the extras on the house. Alice continued to open boxes and delegate responsibilities. Jasper hung mistletoe while Bella and Edward hung stockings and wreaths.
Emmett ran out to the forest to uproot a spruce tree. He carried it inside and set it up in the living room, the top branches nearly touching the ceiling. Then he and Rosalie hung ornaments, lights, and garland. Bella snickered when she saw the tinsel strands stuck to Emmett's clothes.
The stereo played quiet Christmas music, but the vampires could discern every word: "Run, run, Rudolph, you got to run, Rudolph."
"Who sings this song?" Bella wondered aloud.
"Hanson!" Alice called from the yard where she was organizing poinsettias. "Aren't they fabulous?"
Emmett groaned. "Not Hanson again! This deer song always makes me thirsty!"
As soon as he said it, a burn scorched Bella's throat like the strike of a match. Concentrating on the beat of the music, she found her feet tapping in the semblance of a rhythm. The song was catchy if she didn't listen to the words. She managed to cool the burn to a simmer.
Then Edward was beside her. "Are you all right?" he murmured. "You look a little… twitchy."
Bella sighed. Even with the grace of a vampire, she still didn't know much about dancing. Edward had promised to teach her everything he knew; but their days were occupied with Nessie, and their nights were occupied in other ways. She was in no hurry to learn how to dance—they had forever. Literally.
Suddenly Jacob and Nessie returned. Bella heard Nessie approach the yard, heard her gasp when she saw the Christmas lights. The young girl ran inside, twirling in circles to see every new aspect of the house. "It's beautiful!" she said, delighted.
Chronologically, Nessie was only sixteen months old. Physically, she looked like a five-year-old. But if you considered her behavior and intelligence she seemed even older. Edward often joked that Nessie would soon be smarter than Emmett.
Alice had been right, as usual—Nessie needed a fun Christmas. Next year she'd probably look like a nine-year-old.
Nessie ran and jumped into Bella's arms. She placed her palm on Bella's cheek and sent an image of the house's exterior, sparkling with thousands of lights.
Bella smiled. "You're right, it is beautiful. It was Alice's idea. She wants to have a Christmas party."
Another image flashed into Bella's head: last Christmas, and the party at Charlie's house. Bella nodded. "This year the party is at our house."
Nessie gave her a crooked grin and jumped down. She ran straight into Jacob's arms and proceeded to show him images too.
Edward, who had been listening in on Nessie's thoughts, whispered in Bella's ear. "She hasn't once thought about presents, or Santa Claus, or anything else that most children associate with Christmas."
Bella frowned at him. "So? Isn't that a good thing? I don't want her to only care about presents."
"It's a good thing," Edward agreed. "But it's not normal for a child her age."
Bella pondered that for a moment. Nessie had never been a normal child by any means. She'd hardly cried during her baby years and never thrown a tantrum in her toddler years. She was always sweet and loving, careful and understanding.
During her human life, Bella had dreaded toddlers—bossy, pouting, out-of-control toddlers. She had a fuzzy memory of the time Edward took her to the Turkish restaurant in Port Angeles, where they'd sat by a toddler named Eddie. For a minute he'd shown her his sweet side, but mostly he'd thrown Cheerios at Edward and wreaked havoc.
Remembering Eddie, Bella suddenly got an idea. She drew in a sharp, unnecessary breath at the brilliance of it.
"What are you thinking about?" Edward asked her.
Bella just smiled. She knew how to give him a normal child.
Alice called everyone about the party (after Bella talked her out of personally delivering handwritten invitations). Christmas morning, Edward and Bella were put in charge of cooking since they had the most experience. They sent Jacob out to buy some last-minute ingredients. Nessie read a book on the new Kindle Edward had given her for Christmas. Alice had everyone else setting up tables and chairs while she put the finishing touches on the decorations.
At three p.m., Charlie and Sue arrived. Bella's mouth fell open when she saw Charlie in a Santa Claus costume. Nessie hesitated until she recognized his scent, then laughed and ran to him. He scooped her up into a bear hug. "HO, HO, HO! Merry Christmas!"
Soon afterwards came the werewolves: Sam (with Emily), Quil, Leah, Seth, and Embry. They all laughed good-naturedly at Charlie, which helped them overcome their initial awkwardness around the vampires. They'd all been on good terms since Nessie's birth, but the natural revulsion between the two species was hard to ignore completely.
Last to arrive were the Denali coven—Eleazar, Carmen, Tanya, Kate, and Garrett—who had stopped for some fast food (mountain lions) to prepare for their proximity to humans. Nessie was thrilled to see them again and shared countless images with each one.
Edward and Bella had spent all day cooking food, yet it was barely enough to feed the wolves. Even Leah swallowed her pride… and a whole lot of turkey.
The vampires sat nearby, but not too close; they didn't want their scents to ruin the wolves' appetites. Carlisle managed to keep up a polite conversation with the wolves despite the distance.
If not for Charlie and Sue, we could have just carried in a deer and plopped it on the table, Bella thought wryly.
After the meal, everyone mingled and admired Alice's extravagant decorations. Mistletoe hung everywhere: every doorway, every window, every single protrusion that could hold a bundle of leaves. At first Bella enjoyed it, finding multiple excuses to kiss Edward in every room. But then she made the mistake of leaving Edward's side for one moment to go check on Nessie.
Jacob stood at the entrance to the kitchen, leaning against the doorframe as he watched Nessie sit on Charlie/Santa's lap. Bella paused, smiling at the scene before her. Charlie was asking Nessie if she'd been a good girl and what she wanted for Christmas. Then he'd pull a gift out of his big canvas bag and let her open it.
"Grandpa spoiled her again," Jacob said with a snort, pretending irritation but secretly enjoying the scene as much as Bella.
"Oh, like you didn't—." Bella's words choked off suddenly as she looked up at Jacob. The top of his head was brushing a clump of mistletoe.
He glanced down at her in confusion. "What?" Seeing her horrified eyes, he followed her gaze.
And then—irony of all ironies—he blushed. Two years ago, she would've been the one blushing, and Jacob would've just laughed and kissed her against her will. She could no longer blush; but she still had those human memories, including one of kissing her most-likely-future-son-in-law. Not a friendly peck on the cheek either, but a make-out session with dog slobber and tongue.
Would Bella have to someday explain that to Nessie?! Sweetie, I know he's the love of your life… but before you were born, I kissed him and considered having his puppies.
Jacob and Bella both started talking at once.
"I better thank Charlie for those gifts—"
"I need to remind Leah of something—"
Still talking, they quickly left the doorway and walked in opposite directions. Bella made a mental note to throttle Alice later on for the stupid mistletoe.
She stopped in her tracks. Had Alice known this would happen?! Bella focused with her ears, trying to pinpoint Alice. She heard trilling laughter on the second floor.
Bella gritted her teeth and thought un-Christmas-y thoughts.
Later that evening when the humans and werewolves left, Bella decided to launch Operation Eddie. She led Nessie into the kitchen and took out the hidden box of Cheerios (which Jacob had secretly picked up at the store for her). Bella pulled out a note from her pocket and showed it to Nessie. Earlier she'd written silent directions: Throw these at Daddy, but hide your thoughts or he'll hear you coming.
Nessie read the note and frowned. She placed her small palm on Bella's cheek, showing an image of an angry Edward covered in Cheerios.
Bella grabbed a pen and wrote—I promise he won't get mad. It's just for fun.
Nessie smiled as she read the words, then nodded. Bella handed her the box of Cheerios, stifling a sigh. Maybe corrupting her perfect daughter wasn't a good idea after all.
It was too late now. Nessie was already creeping through the door in search of Edward. Bella stayed in the kitchen, peeking around the doorframe.
Luckily, Edward did not suspect a thing. He was on the other side of the living room, deep in conversation with Garrett. Nessie snuck across the room, a predator stalking her prey, using each piece of furniture as cover. Bella couldn't help but feel proud of her hunting skills.
Nessie had almost reached Edward when Emmett spotted her. He didn't say anything… but his thoughts must have betrayed her intentions, for Edward turned away from Garrett with a curious look on his face.
In that second, Nessie realized the element of surprise was gone. She popped up from behind the couch and began to launch Cheerios at Edward's head.
Edward could have easily avoided the flying O's, but he was too stunned to move. He just stood there while Nessie pelted him with supernatural speed and accuracy. The astonishment and confusion on his face made Bella giggle, then laugh uncontrollably. She held her sides and shook with mirth, unable to stop.
Everyone else was laughing too, but somehow Bella's laugh got Edward's attention. He zeroed in on her immediately, his confusion disappearing. Now he knew who was responsible for Nessie's strange behavior, and Bella knew she was in trouble.
"I'll deal with you later," Edward warned Nessie in a tone lightened by his grin. Then he sprinted for Bella with shocking speed.
Bella had less than a second to hesitate. She spun around and raced for the back door. Swinging it open, she jumped through just as Edward grabbed for her. She felt his fingers brush her hair—then she was halfway across the yard with a single leap.
She landed and jumped again in one fluid motion; this time she cleared the stream. She started running as soon as her feet touched the other side, knowing she'd need every possible second if she wanted to outrun Edward.
It was fruitless, as always; he was just too fast. She heard his footsteps gaining even as she pushed herself to run faster than she'd ever run before. Then his feet crunched—followed by a second of silence—
Thwack! Edward tackled Bella in midair, then twisted so he hit the ground first. Thwump! She landed on top of him and immediately tried to spring up again. He locked his arms around her and rolled, pinning her to the ground.
Even if Edward was faster, Bella still had her newborn strength. She could have broken free of his hold… but she no longer felt like running.
"You, my dear, have some explaining to do." His eyes glowed with excitement—whether from the chase or their closeness, Bella couldn't tell.
"I only wanted to show you that our daughter could be normal, too."
Seeing his confusion, Bella placed her hands on his face and closed her eyes. She'd improved at lifting her shield during the past year, but it still required intense concentration. Fighting against the stretched elastic, she focused on her memory of Eddie the toddler.
After a minute she allowed the shield to snap back into place. She opened her eyes to see Edward staring at her in awe, the way he always did when she shared her thoughts. "Do you remember that?"
"You know I do," he whispered. Of course—he couldn't forget even if he wanted to. And no doubt he'd really wanted to forget Eddie.
Bella, on the other hand, had to struggle to recall the hazy details. "In the car, after we left the restaurant… I said I only wanted children if you were the father."
"Yes," he said warily.
"And then you said, 'I wish I could read your mind.' But that's not what you meant to say, was it?"
He hesitated, smiling at her with a strange mixture of sadness, embarrassment, and joy. "No. I almost said, 'I wish I could father your children.'"
She grinned, feeling vindicated. "And you did."
"You have a habit of making all my wishes come true."
"Oh, and you don't?" She laughed. "I have the perfect husband and the perfect child. Forever."
She kissed him. She never had to worry about fainting anymore, or worry her heart would stop beating. She no longer blushed constantly or fueled Edward's masochistic fire.
But some things would never change. He still dazzled her, made her dizzy with love and desire. She still stared at his beauty, still breathed hard when no breath was necessary. Her heart did not beat, but it belonged to him all the same. Sometimes she felt as though he might jump-start it.
The kiss deepened, and she slid her hands into his hair. She hadn't realized she was searching for something until she found it: a small, grainy circle. She kissed Edward harder to hide her discovery and her glee.
She'd learned long ago not to mention things like Cheerio-hair to Edward.