everything in its place
Rosalie might have brought Emmett to them, but she avoids him for days, then weeks, after his transformation. Her thoughts scream her uncertainty loud and clear: it is more than just bringing another into this life without his choosing that worries her, but some things are better left unsaid.
As a result, it is Carlisle who teaches Emmett how to hunt, and Esme who comforts him in his (admittedly rare) moments of distress. It is up to Edward to fill the other hours with companionship, which is exceptionally easy since his new brother likes nothing more than to sit on the back porch of their modest house and talk about everything for hours on end. He is companionable and easy to be with -- a welcome addition to their family.
Emmett likes to talk about himself, and his family, of football and baseball, of drinking and women (he gestures more when discussing the last subject). The strength of Emmett's human memories surprises Edward, though it shows how strongly he clung to his humanity until the very end. It's enough to make Edward envious, but he knows these memories will fade as the years pass.
Despite the amiable nature of his new brother, it's not always easy. There is Rose to deal with, the absent creator who locks herself away because she finds her creation too horrible and awesome to comprehend. This upsets Emmett, though he does a better job hiding than one would expect. Instead, he mines Edward for information about "that blonde woman" and Edward compiles, smoothing out her rough edges until she's near-perfect --though if Emmett stays, and Rosalie ever starts talking to him, he'll learn the truth soon enough.
Emmett also mines Edward for information about himself, his life, his lack of a love life , searching for the answers to questions about this world -- and to have ammunition in future sibling battles (his thoughts are so clear to Edward it's almost endearing). Ever the only child, the only son, this is fine by Edward, who is grateful for sibling company that is not prone to rage and melodrama.
"Ever kiss a girl?" Emmett asks one day as they watch the sun set over the mountains. It is just the two of them and some homebrewed beer that offers no intoxicating properties save a fleeting impression of morality which is welcomed, however brief.
Edward shifts uneasily, the bottle dangling precariously between his fingers. "Once," he admits, because it's the truth and he will not lie to Emmett since the other man (can they even be called that?) does not lie to him.
One time that mattered, at least.
Emmett waits for details but he will get none, for the memories remain only because the Red Cross emblem was the last thing Edward's sick mind saw before the end. He doesn't remember much, not even her name or the color of her eyes. He does remember the feeling of touching someone else so intimately, and how it gave him butterflies in his stomach, but nothing more. He guesses it was shortly before he died, but he'll never be sure so the vague idea of the human experience must suffice.
Emmett chuckles, his thoughts a vibrant blur of amusement at Edward's own discomfort at talking about women (he always gets so fidgety when I talk about -) but Edward doesn't mind. At least he's being honest, for women are a mystery and make him nervous and uncomfortable in good and bad ways all at once.
And Emmett, being the good sport that he always is, notices this as he always does, and launches into a story about his own brothers. Esme and Carlisle return at the end of the tale, and Emmett does not mind retelling it for their sake.
It is Rosalie who enters at the second ending, and Emmett gladly volunteers to tell the story one more time. When she accepts, hesitatingly, and finds a seat on the wooden steps near Emmett's feet, it's a welcome change. She smiles and laughs with the rest of them, and Emmett's joy at her approval of his tale is obvious even without Edward's special insight.
When he accidentally walks in on them – or, rather, hears their thoughts before he approaches the door, which allows him time to turn around and walk away – it gives him pause. Women will always be mysterious and strange to him, but the happiness on his brother's face tells him that maybe – just maybe – it's worth dealing with even if it's Rosalie.
He's been to Denali twice, and every time Tanya finds an excuse to brush against him in wide hallways and sit too close, her thigh pressed against his. It always makes him uncomfortable, because he doesn't like being touched and he can hear exactly what she's thinking as she runs her hand down his arm. It's unnerving, and wrong and when they go hunting later, Emmett laughs at his discomfort.
"She's not bad," Emmett says, eyes scanning the horizon for glimpses of prey. That's the understatement of the year. Tanya is beautiful – even more so than Rosalie, which makes Edward wonder if Emmett's downplaying her looks for his wife's sake.
"She's not great either," Edward responds with a sigh.
"You could do worse," Emmett points out, and Edward wonders how worse it could get.
Ever since Emmett learned about Edward's lack of experience in certain – um - areas, he's done everything he could to embarrass and encourage him. From crudely drawn images to obscene photographs, Emmett has made it his responsibility to educate his brother on all that he's missing out by clinging to some sort of "misguided hope" of virtue.
"There's only one thing better than hunting," Emmett likes to say, but Edward never lets him finish. It's uncomfortable enough to be able to hear people's thoughts of the action and everything surrounding it, let alone lack practical experience.
"Don't you –" Emmett starts, stops, uncertain of how to continue though his knows Edward can read his thoughts. Don't you want to? Sometimes?
"Sometimes," Edward admits. There have been women – random women he passed on the sidewalk, seen in clubs or in school, women with brown eyes and long hair and blood which runs through their veins. He's no monk, but he has felt the momentary stirrings of passion quenched just as suddenly by rationality: he is a monster, and monsters cannot have the innocent.
Self-control has always been a challenge for Edward, but ever the good Catholic boy, he uses guilt to temper his baser instincts. Drinking the blood of murderers allows him to justify drinking blood at all, and his own horrible nature compels him to avoid intimacy. There is a flaw in all of this – it's not good enough – but he does not question it for fear of finding too many holes to jump through.
"She wants you," Emmett points out, just as a herd of caribou enter into sight.
"But I don't want her." There is finality in his tone that keeps Emmett's mouth shut, though as they start towards their prey – racing, as they always do – Emmett's thoughts have the last word.
One day you will want someone, and you won't know what to do and it will be hilarious.
Edward tries not to think about it as he takes the lead and lunges towards his dinner.
Alice and Jasper arrive three days after Rosalie and Emmett's second wedding, a little affair for the family based solely on Rose falling in love with a wedding dress in a shop window. Their arrival disrupts the casual flow of things, not because they have any particular skills, but because they come as a pair.
Edward pretends not to feel awkward around his family from the moment Rose brought a human Emmett home to them, but the latest additions to this growing brood make him uncomfortable. Its hard being the odd man out, but when the number grows it's nearly unbearable. He's almost tempted to leave, to head to Denali and let Tanya have her wicked way with him just to avoid being on his own.
He's hidden this discomfort for Esme's sake, because she thinks (in her head and out loud) there's something wrong with him, that it's Carlisle's fault, and it's easier to pretend he doesn't mind then to start any arguments on the subject. He tells her not to worry, that he's fulfilled and to some extent, he is. He has his music and his family and that is more than monster like him can ask for.
There are times, though, when he knows his façade has cracked, that someone has seen through. As he goes through his belongings, hastily assembled in a corner of the garage by that little freak, Alice, who has commandeered his room, he wonders if this is how it will now be – single and solitary, without a companion, easily shuffled around.
If that's the case, Denali is looking better every second.
The garage is where Emmett finds him, and the look on Emmett's face is cause for concern. Emmett Cullen does not like to have deep conversations. He's not a man of many words but what he says always matters.
Maybe not right now, though. Edward is angry and frustrated and annoyed and sad and ready for a fight of any sort.
"Are you going to lecture me on temper tantrums?" Edward asks, hoping someone will snap back.
"No," Emmett says, his thoughts coming too fast for Edward to parse. "I just wasn't sure what you'd be doing."
"Making sure my records aren't broken," Edwards replies, marveling at the carefully-piled stack of music. She might be pushy, but at least the little freak is respectful.
"Does this make everything worse?" Emmett asks suddenly, and it takes Edward by surprise. He stands up, staring at his brother, whose thoughts are still a violent and confused mess.
"When all my brothers got married, it was difficult for me," Emmett starts, and his thoughts start to form in a more orderly fashion, though Edward concentrates on his spoken words. "I was the youngest brother but that was okay, I still had sisters, but it was difficult to see them paired off and me by myself. In some ways, I'm glad Rose found me, because by then I was tired of being the odd duck."
Emmett has never talked negatively about his family before, never discussed any sort of solitary life, and Edward has taken for granted how many human memories the other man still has over the course of the years. He's not sure whether he should be surprised that someone as easy-going as Emmett has felt the sort of pain he feels now, or if he should be upset that he's so easy to read.
"I can't tell you any way to make it better," Emmett says, "because it's not something that disappears. And it's different for everyone. But I just wanted you to know that I understand."
Edward smiles, grateful for this new understanding. "Thanks."
"Anytime, brother," Emmett responds. Now, what do you think about the new kids? That Jasper guy's covered in bites from head to toe!
As Emmett begins to muse on Jasper's past, and the freaky properties of Alice's mind, Edward assembles his belongs. They move him into a new room, and soon Alice comes to apologize, realizing in her own way she's caused Edward considerable distress, though she doesn't know what triggered it. He doesn't tell her, because some things don't need to be said aloud. He does is best to welcome them into the family, for Esme's sake, and for his own piece of mind. Emmett's words have lightened his mind, but loneliness still rests on his shoulders.
When he learns that Jasper can feel emotions, he learns to guard his thoughts more carefully, to see more at ease. He enjoys this new family members and appreciates the distraction they provide. He lives in the moment, and for some time, it seems to work.
He's been existing in the same way for so long that the slightest change alters everything.
Bella Swan's entrance into his world is shocking, but not nearly as shocking as his reaction to her. For the first time ever, his self control falters and he can't do anything about it: he talks to her in school, he saves her from death, he watches her sleep every night.
"And where have you been?" Emmett asks one morning when he returns, and Edward shrugs. He's not embarrassed at the extent of his voyeuristic tendencies; he'd just rather not share this with the others.
And how exactly can he share it? Watching Bella Swan sleep is indulging his new addiction in exactly the wrong way. Sleep makes humans vulnerable, and no one is more vulnerable than Bella as she breathes in and out, unaware of his presence. It's more than that – there's also the matter of her talking in her sleep, sharing bits of herself she is more careful with while awake. And the roll of her body, the way the blankets and sheets fall off her body, and the arching of her neck, the faint smell of her blood, like a siren in the darkness -
"Out," Edward responds, but Emmett just laughs.
"Alice told us about your voyeuristic tendencies," his brother explains, and Edward is less annoyed than flustered. They all know the extent to which this human girl upset his careful equilibrium. It's a family matter, this attraction, and as much as he wants to keep it to himself, he can't. His actions as far as humans are concerned dictate whether or not they can stay in Forks.
"Look," Emmett says, "whatever you're doing has changed you. You're not nearly as petulant as you were."
Edward frowns at this straightforward assessment of his behavior, but Emmett continues. "Are you really taking her to Seattle this weekend?"
Edward nods his head in agreement. "I don't want her to go alone."
His brother smiles and shrugs. Do whatever makes you happy, little brother.
"I'm older than you," Edward mumbles, but he knows that others in his family – Esme, Carlisle, Alice even – feel the same way. Emmett continues in his head: maybe the girl's the one you've been waiting for.
"I don't know that I've been waiting, really," Edward admits, though that couldn't be farther from the truth. He has been waiting for something, be it direction or companionship, and this girl might just be it.
"Want to go camping this weekend?" he asks Emmett, who grins widely. "Its grizzly season, you know."
She makes him feel things he never has, pushes his self-control to the limits, drives him insane with the feel of her body pressed against his. It's more than just bloodlust – it's lust, the sort he's never felt before, which leaves him dizzy and wanting more.
After all is said and done, after the battle and her tearful goodbye to Jacob and the announcement of their engagement to Charlie, after frantic kisses in her bedroom to make up for the halted progress in the meadow, he returns home in a state of agitation that's abnormal for him. Even his carefully practiced self-control can't get the images of Bella, eyes closed and body arched, out of his head.
He considers driving, to get his frustration out, but that will not work. He considers punching a tree but does not want to have to deal with the clean-up. By some miracle, Emmett finds him before he can do any harm to himself or anyone else.
"I knew it," his older brother says. "I knew that one day you'd self-destruct."
"It's not that," Edward says though he knows it's anything but the truth.
Of course it is, Emmett thinks, smirking. Whatever Bella's doing is messing with that self control of yours, badly. You're losing the battle, kid.
"I'm not losing," Edward says, struggling for words. "I'm just…rethinking my strategy."
Emmett knows how Edward feels about Bella, and about sex, and about sex with Bella. It's a complicated mess, defined by rules that Edward made up years ago and held in place by strength of will which becomes weaker and weaker every day (the halted progress in the meadow not counting – it was for her, not for him).
"There are ways to get around it," Emmett says, and Edward has been on this earth too long not to know of these ways too. But there's the fear of going too far - of breaking his fragile Bella, of bloodlust taking over - governing his actions and impulses as well.
Not to mention his moral compass, veering further off course with every roll of Bella's hips.
You're marrying the girl in two months, Emmett tells him. Will it hurt to see how everything works?
The needle on his ridiculous moral compass shimmies, spins, oscillates back and forth. It's not unheard of for engaged couples to…test out...their compatibility. Especially in their situation. And if it keeps both of them from spontaneously combusting, it just might work.
If only he knew how it all works. He's horribly uninformed and unskilled, and worries about disappointing an equally unskilled Bella. Yet here, standing smirking before him, is the one man who can answer these questions.
If he only has the courage to ask.
He clears his throat.
Later, he returns to Bella, fully informed and eager. He's not at all surprised by her response, the shy smile and bold kisses and the way she seems relieved and excited all at once.
They make up rules, which is part of the fun: no more than two articles of clothing (each) off at a time; respect of comfort zones and acknowledgement of limits; no teeth and limited use of tongues. They are good rules which can be altered over time, but they are in desperate need of testing, so he pulls his shirt over his head, revealing his body to her eager eyes and hands.
In the early days of experimentation, it's all about discovery. He learns what the valley between her breasts tastes like, and how soft and warm her stomach is beneath his palm. He focuses on the details – the contrast between her little blue bra and her pale skin, the sounds and moans she makes now that she's never made before – memorizing them for future use. Soon, he comes to understand how much pressure he can use, and exactly how he can touch her, to elicit the sighs and moans which drive him to the edges of his self-control.
What's most fascinating – to him, at least – is watching Bella in her moments of ecstasy and knowing it's because of him, that he has done this, brought her this pleasure despite what he is and what she will become for him. It's mind-boggling and ultimately the most amazing experience of his life.
But she is not the sole test subject; she would not be Bella if she did not demand the right to discover on her own. He has never felt anything like the touch of her lips on his chest, and her bold caresses. And when he – they, together, grinding against each other like the teenagers they are – experiences bliss, it's made the more enjoyable by her presence.
He doesn't know how to thank Emmett for this, but the smile on his brother's face says everything.
He's playing with his cuffs when Emmett enters the room, Holy Bible in hand. Getting a license on the internet took all of five minutes but can be considered the highlight of Emmett's month, if not year. He's taken to outrageous displays of supposed religious power, trying to exorcise demons from Alice (with her help, and some pea soup) and blessing his bed (Rosalie was barely amused).
Edward is nervous, excited, and everything else he imagines it's possible to feel on one's wedding day. Disbelief, that this is actually happening. Happiness, at his future life with his future bride. Nerves, at the wedding night Bella must be envisioning (while they have redrawn many boundary lines, there is still one that will not, must not be moved until tonight).
But beyond all else, there is the pleasant surprise and eagerness at starting a life with Bella.
"Is it like this? Every time?" he asks, feeling like the anticipation to begin that life will kill him.
"Every time," Emmett replies. "Every time the music starts playing and Rose starts walking down the aisle, I'm the luckiest man in the world."
Edward laughs. "Are you sure about that?" he asks jokingly, receiving a punch in the shoulder in response.
"Let's get you to your bride so you can finally get some," Emmett says. He's not a man of many words, but all he says is true, and Edward is grateful, not for the first time, for Rosalie's impulsive behavior.
He takes a deep breath and follows his brother out the door.
Author's Note: thanks to Beverly for the beta work. All of this belongs to Stephenie Meyer, and I promise I'll return them in good condition.