Bella, Edward and Alice return from Italy. Esme POV.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to the great Stephenie Meyer, of course.
Carlisle stood looking up at the flight schedule while I leaned against his shoulder, closing my eyes. As a vampire, I shouldn't feel weak or shaky. But the relief that flowed through me was still strong, and after all those hours of anxiety and waiting, I wanted to simply lie down and rest.
Jasper waited nearby, pacing. My heart ached for his suffering, and I couldn't wait for Alice to return and calm him, sooth the last of his subsiding fears. But she was still several minutes away, on the way home from Europe…Italy…Volterra…I cringed again at the thought.
Carlisle shook my shoulder gently. "They'll be here in any moment, love," he whispered into my hair. My eyes flew open and I turned in anticipation, keeping one arm tightly around his waist.
The sweet, warm, human essence of Bella Swan reached my senses as several doors opened, followed by the subtler vampire scents of Edward and Alice. A few minutes later, they emerged; Jasper had a hard time keeping his pace at human speed as he hurried to meet Alice, dawn breaking over his features. Edward's arms were tight around Bella, who seemed to need help on her feet. He guided her toward us, and I reached for her, pulling her tight against me as I tried to convey my love and gratitude.
"Thank you so much," I murmured into her ear as she hesitantly returned the hug.
I released her, then turned to my son. There were many things I wanted to say, but all I could manage was, "You will never do that to me again."
He smiled apologetically. "Sorry, Mom."
"Thank you, Bella," Carlisle said. "We owe you."
"Hardly," Bella's voice was garbled and distant. She swayed, betraying her exhaustion.
"She's dead on her feet," I exclaimed, putting an arm around her waist and pulling her forward. "Let's get her home."
I looked carefully at Bella as we half-carried her to the car. I didn't like what I saw; she looked thinner than the last time I'd seen her, unhealthily thin. Her eyes were glazed, her face shadowed and sagging with weariness. Her hair was bedraggled and seemed to have lost some of its luster. I glanced at Edward over her head, questions in my eyes and concern in my thoughts. He flinched, and I hurried to think reassuringly that a good night's sleep could work wonders.
We were outside now, and Rosalie and Emmett came into view. Edward balked, frowning, his eyes locked angrily on his sister.
My heart sank. "Don't," I murmured. "She feels awful."
"She should." He had clearly not forgiven her. In my mind, there was nothing to forgive, just one of a strong of actions connected to create nearly disastrous results. Jasper's loss of control, Edward's decision to leave, Bella's jump, Rosalie's phone call…Fate had been unmerciful. No one deserved any more blame than anyone else.
"Let her make amends," I begged. "We'll ride with Alice and Jasper."
He shot me a look, but was silenced by a sleepy word from Bella. I smiled at them and hurried off to the other car. Carlisle opened the front passenger door for me and I settled in, turning to see Alice and Jasper curled up together in the backseat.
I smiled, leaning my head against Carlisle's arm as he drove.
They were home, and we were together again.
My family was whole.