Disclaimer: I don't own Edward. Nor anyone else from Twilight. They're all Stephenie Meyer's. Dammit.
Author's Note: I'm having some major writer's block with another story I'm working on. I know what I want to say and who's going to say it, I just can't get it into his words. It's so frustrating!
So I'm taking a break from beating myself up with it and instead writing this one-shot that's bounced around in my head for some time.
Yes, yes, I know! I always say it's only a one-shot then the story grows like mad. But really, this time it's a one-shot. Honest!
I can't say enough about KlutzLikeBella. She patiently read through draft after draft and never complained when I asked her to read "just one more version". KLB, you are the best! If you haven't read you stories, you need to – her Jasper is awesome!
Also, thank you, BlondieakaRobin, for the beta-ing and your ongoing encouragement! Please check out Blondie's stories too – they're awesome!
Set Shortly After Bella & Edward Return from Phoenix, After James' Attack
I heard the boys pull up in front of the house. Their competitive bickering drifted up to my studio windows. It seems Emmett had lost another bet with Jasper and was trying to talk him into a rematch. I smirked and shook my head. Some things never change.
Then again, some things do. The smile that stretched across my face this time was entirely different. I could hear Edward and Bella down the hall in Edward's room, talking quietly and listening to music. They would speak for a few minutes then the quiet would settle in again. I wondered briefly what was happening in the quiet moments . . . were they just sitting enjoying the music and each others' company . . . or were they kissing . . .? Oh! I pulled my mind sharply from that line of thought. It was really none of my business, and I'd have been blushing in reaction to those thoughts had I still been human.
I focused determinedly on the canvas before me.
Downstairs, I heard Emmett and Jasper come in the front door and close it softly behind them.
"You're such a pantywaist, Jasper," Emmett was grumbling.
"Pantywaist? Who says 'pantywaist' anymore?"
"I do. Would you prefer 'pansy'? 'Girly-man'? 'Sissy'? 'Wuss'?"
"Grow up, Emmett! You lost. Suck it up already."
"I don't want to suck it up. I want a re-match. Now if you'd just . . ."
"Give it a rest!" Alice ordered, echoing my own thoughts. I heard her moving down the stairs to the main floor. "I've been listening to you bicker for hours. You're giving me a headache."
"We just got back!" Emmett shot back. "We've been out of the house for hours! You can't blame me for your headache – even if vampires could get them – we were in Seattle, for God's sake!" Silence. Alice must have been glaring daggers at Emmett. "What? Now it's my fault you have visions? If you weren't being nosey about what Jasper and I were doing, you wouldn't have had to hear all this." I could imagine the look on Alice's face because Emmett backtracked quickly. "Well . . . er . . . right. So look, Alice, if you just get your husband here to agree to . . ."
"No," she cut him off sharply.
"We got the DVDs you asked for," Jasper interjected before things could get any worse between Alice and Emmett. Ah, my empathic son – ever the diplomat. Jasper was usually highly motivated to keep the fighting down, since his talent didn't allow him to block out the negative emotions.
Alice's annoyance with Emmett evaporated. She was hardly ever angry for long. "Yes, I saw you get them," Alice chirped enthusiastically. "Can we watch them now? A double feature!"
"Sure," Jasper agreed quickly.
"Do you think Esme, Bella and Edward will come too?" Emmett wondered out loud. Without waiting for an answer, he called quietly up the stairs, in a sing-song voice "Oh Edd-waard. Do you think you can peel yourself off Bella long enough for you two to come watch movies with us?"
"Emmett!" Alice and I both screeched at the same time.
"So help me God, Emmett McCarty Cullen, you will be one very sorry young man if Bella heard that!" I threatened in a hiss I knew he could hear. My mind was already churning with possible punishments, even as I listened for some sign of whether or not Bella had heard Emmett's comment.
I heard Edward speak quietly with Bella. "Jasper and Emmett just got back. They brought movies and Alice wants to have a double feature. Do you want to join them?"
"Sure," she said lightly. "Sounds like fun."
"Then afterwards, later tonight, Emmett and I are going to have a long talk. A very long talk." Edward threatened darkly.
"What do you mean?" Bella asked innocently at the same time as Emmett chuckled and said "Bring it, little brother."
"No, Emmett. I'll 'bring it'," I informed him in a voice that dared him to challenge me. "It seems you need to be reminded about manners. We will speak about this once Bella's gone home."
"Uh . . . I'll go get Rosie," Emmett said quickly before I heard him retreat out the back door.
"Nothing to worry about," Edward answered Bella's earlier question lightly. "It seems it's under control."
I quickly cleaned my brushes and went downstairs to join Alice and Jasper. I could see that, with the mood Emmett was in, my presence would definitely be needed to keep him in line tonight.
When I got downstairs, Alice was already perched on Jasper's knee in one of the loveseats. The remote controls rested on the armrest of their couch. They were talking in hushed tones and laughing quietly.
"Are we all set?" I said to announce my presence. I knew that, were my children paying attention, they would have heard my approach, but each couple often only had eyes for each other. In a house full of couples, privacy was especially respected – well, except for Rosalie and Emmett who neither gave nor expected it.
"Almost," Alice said brightly. "We just need the others."
I sat in the largest couch leaving space beside me for others. "Will Carlisle get home in time to watch any of this with us?" I asked her, knowing his shift at the hospital was due to end in about two hours.
She tilted her head to the side as she thought. "Yes, but only the last half hour of the second movie. Some kindergartener named Trevor will be brought to the hospital. He thought it was a good idea to put a marble up his nose and he wasn't able to get it back out. So Carlisle will be a little late leaving work."
Jasper snorted. "Genius."
"Future leader of our country," Alice laughed.
"Seriously?" Jasper and I questioned incredulously at the same time.
Alice laughed again. "I don't know. I was just joking about that part."
Just then, I heard Edward coming down the stairs. When they rounded the corner into the living room, I could see he was cradling Bella in his arms, trying to make her as comfortable as possible while her casted leg stuck out straight. She had her arms around Edward's neck, her fingers laced tightly together.
It struck me as a shock again to see her so covered in the faded bruises. Alice assured me Bella looked much better than she had in the hospital in Phoenix. It was hard to imagine. Most of her bruises had faded to a greenish yellow though some still showed purple. They covered almost all of her exposed skin.
Bella's return from Phoenix had been difficult for me. Every time I saw her, the bruises that peppered her skin brought back memories that I would have preferred not to relive. Mostly my human memories had faded. But the sight of Bella's injuries reminded me of the times I had had to hide the telltale marks left by Charles, my first husband. I would wear long sleeves and high collars for weeks waiting for the bruising to fade. In those days, abuse was not recognized and the shame belonged entirely to the wife. Charles used to say he needed to 'straighten me out'. At times the humiliation was far worse than the physical pain. Even now, those memories were difficult to stomach. I'm only grateful that my change stole most of my memories of him.
Then I felt a calm comfort sweep over me. I relaxed again as I gave in freely to the peaceful feeling Jasper was sending me. I drew a deep cleansing breath before turning to Jasper to thank him.
When I looked back at Edward, his jaw was clenched and his eyes burned with anger at my memories of Charles.
It's all right, Edward. It was a lifetime ago. I deliberately turned my mind to Carlisle – remembering our wedding day and a thousand happy moments in my life with the man I adored. I have Carlisle now. I have him forever. Nothing else matters but that. That and my children.
Slowly Edward nodded and I watched the tension drain from him. I was sure that Jasper had turned his talent to helping his brother now that I was feeling better.
To cover up my earlier reaction, I smiled warmly at Bella, looking directly into her eyes. "I'm so glad you could stay, dear," I told her honestly.
Bella smiled back shyly and ducked her head against Edward's chest.
"Where would you like to sit?" Edward asked her solicitously.
"Um," she responded while scanning the room. "How about over there?" She pointed to the overstuffed armchair and ottoman.
Disappointment crossed Edward's face for a moment before he hid it. Why, I wondered, would she choose to sit alone?
Then Bella added, "I think we'll both fit. If you don't mind snuggling?" The last part came out hesitantly – a question.
I scoffed silently; as if Edward would ever mind being with her!
Edward's grin was ear-splitting. He kissed her forehead gently and said, "Of course, I don't mind, silly."
Would it be childish to squeal like a school girl? Witnessing their blooming romance made me feel as if I were living it with them. I was so thrilled to see Edward like this – tender, protective, loving, romantic . . .
Edward rolled his eyes at me for my thoughts. But he couldn't keep the smile from his face, despite his obvious embarrassment at my line of thinking.
Oh, Edward. I'm just so ecstatic to see you happy. Is that so bad?
His smile grew a bit wider in answer, before he crossed the room and settled Bella into the chair. She scooted over to the side to make room for him.
As Edward settled in next to Bella, I wondered aloud, "What's keeping Emmett and Rosalie?" I shifted my attention to the voices outside the house.
"Do we really want to know?" Jasper mumbled. Alice snickered.
I could hear Emmett speaking cajolingly to Rosalie outside. "Come on, Rose. It'll be fun. How long's it been since we all watched movies together?"
"The 'all' would be the problem, Emmett. I really don't want to sit with her for four hours."
"C'mon Rosie. Bella's ok. Give her a chance. . ." She must have shot him a look because his tone quickly changed, "well ok . . . ok, you don't have to make conversation but just come and sit with me. . . I'll make it worth your while," he bargained.
"How?" Rosalie demanded.
"I'll do that thing with the silk scarf. You know you love it," he purred at her.
Oh God, did I even want to know what that meant? I looked quickly at Edward. I bit my lip to keep from laughing as I saw him pinch the bridge of his nose and shudder. Apparently I didn't want to know any more about that.
"Fine. But you'll be doing it twice, Emmett. Right after the movies." He quickly agreed.
Oblivious to the conversation outside, Bella asked "Are Emmett and Rosalie coming?"
"Apparently so, but that'll be after the movies," Jasper mumbled, his head back against the back of the couch and his eyes squeezed shut in an attempt to block out both the words he was hearing and the emotions he felt. "For godsakes, Alice, turn on the TV. And make it loud."
Alice and Edward laughed, both of them enjoying Jasper's discomfort far too much. To hold in my own laughter, I had to press my lips together – hard.
"They'll be here in a second, Bella." Edward said quietly to her, as he bent his head to kiss her hair.
Alice had just clicked on the TV, when Rosalie and Emmett came in.
"Kill the lights, Emmett," Alice ordered. He did as he was told, and ambled towards an open seat across the room.
Remembering his earlier boisterous mood and the rude comments he had made, I patted the seat beside me. "You can sit next to me, Emmett." He clearly understood that I wanted him right where I could see him and he seemed about to argue. I hardened my eyes and he wisely gave in.
"Sure, Mom." He sank down in the couch next to me and pulled Rosalie down on his other side. He stage-whispered to his siblings, "That's because I'm her favorite."
"Can we start this movie already!" Jasper snapped.
Alice laughed and hit play.
As the credits began, Rosalie asked her sister, "So is this movie any good, Alice?"
Alice giggled. "I think you'll all find it really scary."
I noticed that Jasper smirked and wondered again what those two had been laughing about earlier.
"What's it called?" I inquired. Alice's reply confused me and I asked, "Haven't we already seen that?"
"It's a remake," she explained.
Uh oh. I suppressed a sigh. Remakes were hardly ever as good as the original. Nevertheless, we all quieted to pay attention as the show began.
My concerns about the movie's quality were confirmed. It was an average horror film and my attention started to wander.
Distracted, I looked over at Edward and Bella and smiled to see how they were sitting. Bella was turned towards Edward and was resting her head on his chest, while he absently played with her long hair. His attention was focused on Bella and his eyes only occasionally flicked to the TV.
As one of the characters on the TV moved through the darkness and the cinematic tension mounted, Bella cringed against Edward. She reached for his hand and clutched it to her. Her heart pounded as her own anxiety mounted. I was pleased to find I was amused rather than tempted by her racing heartbeat.
Emmett chuckled. "Scared, Bella?" he teased softly. It seems I wasn't the only one distracted from the movie.
She laughed self-consciously and admitted, "A little."
Edward smiled softly and held her a little more tightly. She flashed him a quick smile and turned back to the movie. Edward only had eyes for her.
I could hear her heart rate pick up again as her stress began to rise again.
Suddenly I felt a tingling at the base of my spine. A feeling like a cold draft crept up my back and along my arms. I couldn't remember feeling like this before and I turned to look at my other children in confusion. Both Rosalie and Emmett were staring at the TV, mesmerized. Alice and Jasper looked amused but were also spellbound by the movie.
The subtle prickling I felt intensified, and I recognized it with a start. It was fear – nail biting, nerve wracking fear. I looked to Jasper questioningly.
He shot me a wicked grin and explained in a low voice, "It's what Bella's feeling. I'm taking her nerves and I'm sending them back out to us." Seeing me about to speak, he guessed my concern. "Alice and I are watching to be sure no one gets too excited by the tension and a human heartbeat. Alice saw this evening, last night, and she's certain that nothing bad will happen. I'll stop the moment anyone – myself included – gets interested in anything but the movie. I'm sure Edward's paying attention too – I can feel his caution. Relax, Esme. Enjoy the experience. It's not often we get to see a scary movie as a human does."
Well, he was certainly right. I couldn't remember ever feeling this way while watching TV. As I settled into the story again, I promised myself that if I felt out of control I would leave immediately. I refused to put Bella at risk. But darn it, Jasper was right – this was an entirely new experience. It was exciting!
At one point, I could hear Edward whisper to Bella an explanation of what Jasper was doing. She smiled quickly at Edward and looked around at us, blushing slightly.
As the film progressed, we jumped when things sprung from the dark – even knowing they were going to spring at us. All in all, it was the best horror movie I'd ever watched.
As the final scene closed, I found I was grinning wildly. That was exhilarating! I looked over at Bella and Edward to see how she was doing. Bless her, she had practically crawled up into his lap. Only her cast kept her from curling onto him like a cat.
Emmett's loud laughter rang out in the room. "Well, Bella, you've proved it. You're completely insane. Only you could be more scared of that movie than of the six vampires a few feet away. You're clearly nuts, squirt."
Then she shivered. Edward was instantly attentive. "I'm so sorry, Bella. You're frozen. I should have realized. It was thoughtless . . ."
He would have continued apologizing as he disentangled himself from her, but she laughed again and said, "Actually I didn't realize I was cold at all, until now." She added sheepishly, "I was a bit distracted."
We all chuckled.
While Alice changed the DVD, Edward ran up the stairs to get Bella a blanket. I heard him open the linen closet, where I kept a few extra blankets – mostly human props accumulated over the years for public events like hospital fundraising picnics or other outdoor events. I made a mental note to buy Bella a throw blanket to keep in the living room.
Instantly, Alice piped up excitedly, "Oo, shopping! Can I come too?"
I laughed at her enthusiasm and took the opportunity to tease her. "How did you see that so fast? I only just decided to buy it! Do you live in the future or are you just keeping your eye out for shopping opportunities?" I joked.
"She keeps her eye out for shopping opportunities," Jasper, Rose and Emmett all chorused together.
The laughter was infectious. Even Alice joined in the hilarity.
"What's keeping Edward? Hey Eddie, shake it, ya slowpoke!" Emmett called up the stairs, unnecessarily loudly.
Strangely, I could hear the clothes dryer running. That was odd. I wondered what he was doing.
Edward was quickly back downstairs and laid the plaid blanket across Bella's lap. Her eyes widened with wonder. "It's warm," she breathed.
"You were cold," Edward shrugged. Bella held the blanket up in invitation for Edward to slip under it with her. He determinedly pushed it back down and sat next to her with the blanket between them, sheltering her from his cold body.
I smiled contentedly to myself. They took such good care of each other.
The sound of a hard smack rang out beside me. I turned quickly to see Emmett rubbing the back of his head. "What was that for?" he demanded loudly.
"That's for never bringing me a warm blanket," Rosalie declared crossing her arms over her chest angrily.
"Ah Rosie. I'm sorry. I'll get you one now," he cajoled, trying to make up for his apparent oversight.
"Nevermind. It's too late now," Rosalie huffed.
I could see poor Emmett thinking fast. I hoped he saw what I didn't, because I couldn't see a way out of this for him – he was damned if he did and damned if he didn't.
In the end he settled back against the couch and pulled Rosalie into his arms. She sat stiffly against him.
To distract Rosalie from her sulk, Emmett turned to tease Edward. He deliberately drew attention to the couple by grinning widely at them. "Are you warm now, Bella?"
"Toasty!" she answered with a grin.
"Good, good," Emmett murmured in a satisfied voice. "What about you, Edward? Are you warm enough?"
"Yes, I'm quite comfortable. Thank you for your concern, Emmett. It's kind of you to ask," Edward answered him straight-faced.
"You know I worry about you, little brother. You always were the weak, sickly one. I wouldn't want you to come down with pneumonia or something." Emmett answered with exaggerated concern.
Rosalie snorted in amusement.
"Can we please start the next movie?" Jasper growled.
As Alice clicked forward through the previews, she explained, "This is called "A History of Violence". It's with Viggo Mortensen and it got good reviews. You'll all like it." Then she grinned wickedly, "But not as much as the last one."
So we settled back to watch. As the story progressed, I could see that Alice was right. The plot was engaging and the acting was credible. It held my attention as the story unfolded.
After the first half hour, I wondered if everyone else was enjoying it as much as I was. I glanced around at my children. Rosalie and Emmett were engaged in the story, as were Alice and Jasper.
Bella was curled against Edward's chest again and he was gently running his fingers through her hair and down her back, in a slow rhythmic motion. The movie held no interest for him at all. His full attention was on the young woman in his arms. Every now and then, he'd draw her hair up to his face and breathe in her scent, or kiss her head softly. Would I ever tire of seeing the gentle side of my son?
Bella herself was completely relaxed – her heartbeat was slow and steady, and her eyes would drift closed for a few moments before she opened them again. After the third time this happened, I realized what was happening. She was falling asleep. I tried to remember the last time I watched someone sleep and remembered with a pang that it was my infant son. I had held him and rocked him for days during the illness that led to his death. Determinedly I turned my mind away from those memories. It was old grief and I wouldn't deal with that again tonight, nor did I want to inflict my old pain on either of my sons. I focused instead on the fascinating sight of watching this young woman fall asleep.
As I waited, her heart slowed further and the length of time her eyes stayed closed increased.
"Is she fighting it?" Emmett's barely audible voice surprised me out of my concentration. Startled I looked around the room quickly only to find we were all watching Edward and Bella.
Edward nodded silently without looking up.
A few more minutes passed, and Bella seemed to lose the battle to keep her eyes open. Edward answered someone's unspoken question in a low voice, "Not quite yet."
Another moment passed before Bella relaxed infinitesimally more against Edward. He drew a deep breath and turned to face us.
The tender expression he had worn when watching his love was replaced by one of irritated irony. "In the past weeks, I've taken a lot of abuse from everyone, except Esme, about watching her sleep. Shall I point out the irony that you're all completely fascinated yourselves now? I find it strange that you find my behavior perverse, but engage it in yourselves at the first opportunity. Isn't that somewhat hypocritical?"
It was Jasper who answered him. "Oh we still think you're perverse, Edward. It was never about watching her sleep. It was about what we thought you did while you watched her sleep."
Emmett and Rosalie laughed loudly. I elbowed him to keep his voice down. Even Alice was laughing a little, though out of loyalty to her brother, she tried to smother it.
Emmett added, "And for the record, Edward, we still think you're a pervert."
When Rosalie laughed, he continued along his line of reasoning. "It's all that repressed sexual energy. It has to come out somehow. If you don't let it out naturally, it's bound to come out in all kinds of freaky ways. Like, for example . . ."
"Don't." I grabbed Emmett's knee to emphasize my point. "I don't want to hear your theories, Emmett."
"But . . ."
"No!" I cut him off again.
"All right, Mom. I'll let it go," he said patting my hand. But his agreement was too quick. It made me suspicious. When I saw Edward's jaw clench, I realized Emmett had just switched his taunting to non-verbal remarks. Jasper chuckled at the feelings he was undoubtedly picking up.
I sighed. There was only so much I could do. Emmett could be irrepressible. "Emmett." I growled nevertheless.
He just chuckled.
"Should I turn down the volume?" Jasper asked Edward, indicating Bella. "We only had it on loud so she could hear. And to drown out certain conversations from outside." He glared at Emmett and Rosalie.
"Mind your own business," Rosalie snapped at him.
Jasper turned the volume down, without waiting for Edward's answer.
I tried to immerse myself back into the storyline and found it still entertaining. I lost track of time.
The violent sound of gunplay filled the room as the sound ricochet off the walls propelled by the powerful surround sound system, even though the volume was low. Just as quickly, the gunfire ended.
The sound must have woken Bella because in sudden silence, I heard her breathe quietly, "I love you."
I couldn't hold back my smile. Bella and Edward were so sweet together. I felt joyful laughter bubbling inside me.
Emmett was amused too. "Bella," he boomed, "you're back! So nice of you to join us again!"
We were all surprised by Edward's irritated hiss. "Quiet, Emmett!" He gently stroked Bella's hair, in a slow soothing motion and held her a little closer.
"What?" Emmett was clearly confused by Edward's reaction. We all were.
"She's still sleeping. Keep it down," Edward whispered.
"But she was just talking . . ." Emmett stuttered. Then comprehension dawned on his face. "She talks in her sleep? No shit! A somniloquist?"
Edward flashed him a grin.
Appreciative chuckles rang around the room, as certain puzzle pieces fell into place. Only Alice looked unsurprised.
Once again, Emmett voiced our collective thoughts. "So that's why you spy on her all the time when she's sleeping!"
"I don't spy on her," Edward said indignantly. "Anymore," he added sheepishly, when his siblings all challenged him with a look.
Then Bella breathed Edward's name. We all turned to pay attention. This was really fascinating, I thought with guilty pleasure. I hoped she didn't wake up while we were watching her. We'd probably terrify her, if she woke to find six vampires staring at her so intently.
She was silent for another long moment, then sighed, "You think too much."
We all burst out laughing, but tried to muffle the noise so as not to wake her. Edward was quietly laughing too.
Pulling himself together, Emmett gasped, "Is she always like this?"
Edward nodded, grinning.
"I see now why you stay with her while she sleeps. It's worth it to catch gems like that."
"You are right, my brother." Edward laughed.
"But I still think you're a pervert," Emmett couldn't resist adding.
Edward growled at his brother, but made no further moves to stop his teasing; not wishing, I'm sure, to wake the girl in his arms.
Bella was silent for the rest of the movie, as were my other children. Carlisle came home, as Alice predicted, when only one half hour remained of the film, but he still sat down to join us. I moved over to the other couch with him and curled against him. As his scent filled my nose and mind, I realized again that the place that would always be my home was right here, beside Carlisle. I can't honestly say that I know how the movie ended. My thoughts were only on my husband. Perhaps he and I would go for a walk later tonight and enjoy the stars . . . and the privacy the nighttime darkness would bring.
End Note: If you happen to see Emmett wandering around looking lost and confused, can you please send him my way? He's late for an appointment to tell me what happened at the end of my other story. I only need him for a few hours.
If you see Carlisle or Edward looking lost, please also send them my way. But it's not regarding a story and will take considerably longer!
Please let me know if you've enjoyed my Esme one-shot by leaving a review. Pretty please!