Disclaimer: Nothing's Mine.


We returned home in two cars. It was rare that all my children traveled anywhere together anymore, and even without Esme, my family simply didn't fit into one vehicle. Seven bodies, one heartbeat. I stopped my Mercedes at the end of the driveway, stopping just short of pulling into the garage. Emmett, in his Jeep, pulled up behind me, a wide toothy grin encompassed his mouth. He parked his car behind my slick black one, which surprised me, as he usually pulled into the shelter of the garage.

"Who's up for a little friendly competition?" he asked the crowd when he jumped from his car. "A race, perhaps?"

Edward scowled. "Yes, because that's hardly fair." His gaze fell on Bella, who shivered and drew the lapels of her parka closer together.

"Emmett's just scared." Bella chided and thrust her tongue outwards towards Emmett, and turned her attention back to Edward. "He knows you could beat him, even with you having to carry me on your back." She said soothingly to Edward.

I smiled as they good naturedly continued to insult each other. From the corner of my eye I watched as Rosalie did a neat pirouette in the falling snow, the white precipitation caught in her hair, melted with the golden strands, giving them the distinct appearance of tiny sparkling diamonds. Someone had started a snowball fight, and they were moving impossibly quickly around the tiny clearing. There was a flash of Alice's black hair, a glimmer of Emmett's curls. Jasper was now antagonizing the fight by playing for both sides. He was lobbing the wet slush everywhere. I bit back a laugh, and then a curse as one collided with my head.

I sighed, ignoring the fresh rubs they threw at me, and slammed the car shut, darted for the glass frame masking as a doorway. . I tossed the heavy woolen overcoat across the kitchen counter. It was a rather useless prop, and continued to glance out the window. Children, I mused, enjoying the afternoon of a cancelled day of school. I smiled slightly. But where was my wife?

I searched the house meticulously, floor by floor, and when I finally found her, she was curled on the high platform of our bed, eyes closed. My smile melted away. Esme didn't realize I had come into the room until my hand brushed her cheek. I moved so quietly, barely stirred the air if I didn't choose.

"What hurts?" I asked her.

"Nothing. Nothing really." But she turned to me, turned into me, where I lay beside her. And pressed her face into my shoulder. "I needed to be home. But I thought I needed to be alone, just be alone until I could get my head on straight. I was wrong. Can we just lay here a while?"

"My favorite place."

"Tell me something…"

"What would you like to know?"

"Anything. Things you did today."

"I saved a life this morning. The mother of three triplets. Teenagers, if you can imagine." I waited a beat while she smirked. "The woman, Katrina, was in a car accident. Everyone else had given up, but there was a heartbeat, and I wasn't done."

"Of course you weren't."

"She came around, eventually, and later told me about the puppy they'd just gotten. They named it Mac. She told me that it was more work than the kids, if you could imagine."

"I can't, no."

"What did you do today?" I asked her quietly, closing my eyes.

"I went to the store, to get food for Bella…" her voice broke lightly, but she continued speaking. "I saw a man hit his wife."

"Ah" I didn't need the rest, didn't need it for my stomach to tighten.

She pressed a hand to her stomach, used the pressure to force herself to keep talking. "I couldn't stop it, Carlisle. It wasn't my place. He open palm slapped her, right in the middle of the store, she just took it, and there was nothing, nothing I could do about it."

"No, you couldn't, Esme." I said before she could speak. "I don't have to hear anything else to know it…to know that sometimes, it's just not our place."

"But I know, I knew when I looked at her that she wouldn't have wanted me to anyway. Just like I didn't." She stood, and paced the room for a minute. "Oh, and I bought flowers." She said softly gesturing to the table by our bed.

I understood her quick subject change. This pain was still fresh, even after all these years, and she needed to distract herself. "You went through all that, and still had time to get petunias?" I smiled, and stood to join her.

"Did you like them?"

My hand trailed up and down her back. "I did indeed."

"Do you know it's been nearly seventy-five years since we were married?"

I kissed the top of her head, then turned to rest my cheek there. "I have a vague recollection of something along those lines."

"It's just, with Bella and Edward about to have their wedding here; it made me think of the petunias. How simple – a flower, a few minutes to lie here and talk – makes the complicated things worthwhile."

"Is that why we have tulips and daffodils? They are tulips…right?" I asked her, referring to the vase that sat on the kitchen counter.

"They are. It's good to be reminded that things come around again, fresh and new. And some things remain steady and solid. Even in the middle of a blizzard."

I let my gaze wander towards the window; the snow was letting up, the flakes growing smaller. She sat on the bed again and sighed. "Years ago, I wouldn't have had anyone to say these things to. I didn't have someone to come home to who'd just talk to with me about seneschal nonsense when I needed it." She turned to me and grinned. "Thanks."

"You needn't thank me" I whispered "I only wish I could do more."

"It's more than enough." She touched her lips to mine, putting many unspoken thoughts into the action. There was a hard edge to the kiss, something smoky simmered bellow the surface. She continually surprised me.

She spoke my name, practically sighed the word. I tightened the grip I held around her waist.

"I really should head back downstairs; get something ready for Bella to eat…"

"We both know Edward will make sure she's fed. I would imagine, long before she's even hungry."

"Fair point." She agreed and sank deeper into my embrace. "And in that case, don't let go."

"Never." I whispered. "I'll never let go."