Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns the Twilight universe.
6 - Bella
The kitchen was a mess. Blueprints were unfurled over the island. Swatch books and paint samples were stacked on the counters, some organization evident in the apparent chaos. The radio in the corner was playing some nondescript pop song. Esme's socked feet were tapping the tune as she hummed along. Snow was falling outside, the windows darkened by the thick downfall.
Carlisle was settled languidly in one of the hard kitchen chairs. His legs were stretched under the table and crossed at the ankle. Medical journals were spread before him and he read with a careful eye, his own foot rocking back and forth to her music.
It was one of those rare days when they could have been any other young couple. They weren't vampires or parents or grandparents or immortals. They were simply two people, enjoying a leisurely day, content to stay indoors as the snow blanketed the woods outside.
Esme tapped her pencil on her sketch pad as she eyed the plans for the new house. They'd bought the house and had it gutted a year ago. She'd overseen the restoration process, carefully preparing the old three-story house for their next move. It was larger than their house in Forks and had been a welcome challenge from the start.
Bella and Nessie were going to live in the house with the rest of the family for the first time. Esme was giving their rooms extra care, determined to perfect them as she had, long ago, with the others' rooms. They had also built a little place for Jacob and whoever would still be in his pack when they moved, but she was allowing someone else to decorate it, if only to minimize her scent in the space.
"Do you think Bella would like a little sitting area in their room?" She wanted things perfect for her newest daughter, for the brave girl that had given them an impossible grandbaby and had so lightened Edward's life.
Carlisle looked up from his medical journal, his eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "Maybe. She'd like a place to read, I'm sure."
Esme bit her lip and again looked to the blueprints. "Maybe a nice window seat," she muttered.
"Bella's not fussy, darling. She'll like whatever you prepare for her."
"I just want to get it right." She swiped impatiently at hair that was falling into her eyes and he grinned at her, his own eyes alight with amusement. "What?"
He shook his head, his grin still in place. "I enjoy seeing you so in your element."
She smiled, her dimples winking as she leaned again over her sketchbook. "I love this part. It's like a puzzle."
"You're brilliant at it. Remember the house that Edward and I lived in?"
She laughed and sketched a wide picture window with a low bench beneath it, her hand moving over the paper with sure strokes. "You didn't even have curtains."
He smiled, flipping his journal over to mark the page. He leaned back in his chair, his eyes flitting to the steadily falling snow outside the bay window. "We badly needed you in our lives."
Esme grinned again, watching as he stared at the snow. She moved to stand behind him, her hand light on his shoulder. "It's really coming down."
He nodded and twisted to look at her. "The kids will probably plan some elaborate snow war for tonight."
"I love this weather," she muttered, bending down to lean against the back of his chair. Her arms moved to twine sinuously around his neck, her lips a breath away from his ear. "It feels like we're entirely isolated."
Carlisle reached a hand up to touch her cheek as she kissed his neck. "You're really tempting fate, darling. We're in the kitchen and the kids are around here somewhere."
She smiled against his smooth skin. "I'm allowed to kiss my husband."
He laughed. "That's true." He tugged her around, twisting to pull her into his lap. "Hey." His voice was low and breathy as their eyes met.
"Hey," she said in reply. Her smile spread slowly as she took in his beautiful face. His pale eyes were filled with gentle amusement, knowledge and trust and love evident in his gaze. She always felt a tiny flutter of breathless nerves when he turned that gaze on her, his eyes softening as he looked upon the person he loved more than anyone else. She lifted her hand and ran the pad of her thumb against his full bottom lip, laughing when he leaned forward and nipped at it gently with sharp teeth. His face changed, his smile painfully beautiful as he took pleasure in their playfulness.
He leaned forward, his lips moving almost lazily against hers in a slow, drugging kiss. She wrapped herself around him more completely, her fingers playing gently with his hair. She kept her eyes open, watching as his brow smoothed in simple pleasure. He sighed happily, pulling her closer, his lips firming a bit as he touched hers with the tip of his tongue.
Esme smiled. "Now who's tempting fate?" she whispered.
"I'm allowed to kiss my wife." He pulled away, his hand fluttering to her face to tuck silky strands of hair behind her ear. He leaned forward again to kiss her jaw. Her eyes closed at the familiar sensation. She sighed as his lips closed over the gentle curve of her earlobe, as he skirted her diamond stud and ran his tongue over the delicate shell of her ear.
"Not fair," she whispered.
She felt him smile again, his breath warm against her skin as he spoke. "I didn't say I minded tempting fate. Let them walk in."
His lips returned to their ministrations, teasing a familiar spot behind her ear. Her hands started moving of their own accord, one thrusting into his hair, weaving through the thick blonde locks, the other inching under his woollen sweater. Her fingers made idle paths on his chest and stomach, tracing the sinewy muscles.
A strangled little gasp from behind them had her jerking her head away, her fingers stilling on his skin. "Sorry!" Bella squeaked, her eyes wide as she turned and fled.
Esme eyed Carlisle, an eyebrow raised as he grinned sheepishly. "You had to say 'Let them walk in,' didn't you?"
"Well, at least that's all of them."
"That's what you said last time," Esme said, her fingers moving from his hair to trace lightly across his cheek.
"I'd rather have Bella in the family than have been right."
Esme squinted, laughing softly. "I think I'd rather have had both."
He laughed fully, his head tilting back slightly. "We have an anniversary soon. Maybe we should go someplace where no one could possibly walk in on us."
"I almost can't imagine that."
His grin gentled, his face softening as he searched hers. "The sacrifices are worth it, though?" He stated it as a fact, only the slightest upward inflection at the end to indicate that it was a question.
Esme shook her head in disbelief. She brought both of her hands to his face, cupping it lightly, her steady fingers making tingling paths across his skin. They were as light as a whisper, fluttering the smallest of distances from his pale face, only the roundest part of her fingertip making any contact at all. "There are no sacrifices in this life. I wouldn't change a thing."
He turned his face to kiss one of the teasing fingers. "Even the interruptions?"
She thought of each of her children, of the decades they'd all had together, of the embarrassing, funny, painful interruptions and the jokes that ensued. Esme tilted her head, remembering how Emmett had teased her gently and how Jasper had apologized. She remembered how Alice had never again spoken of why she interrupted and how Rosalie probably didn't even realize that she had interrupted. She remembered Edward's care and fierce protection of their relationship. It all mattered. Every tiny little moment mattered in their lives together, in their unbreakable bonds and lovely familial relationships.
"Yes." She smiled slowly. "Even the interruptions."
Bella found her husband and siblings in the garage. Her brow was furrowed as she walked in slowly. She knew that if she could blush, her cheeks would be flaming red.
"I know that look," Emmett said from his place on the long counter. His arm was looped around Rosalie, her head resting on his shoulder as she smiled knowingly, "That's the look of 'I just walked in on Carlisle and Esme.'"
Bella's eyes narrowed as her gaze darted from face to face, lingering on Alice's amused grin. She was settled on the hood of her Porsche, her heels resting on the front bumper. Jasper was leaning next to her, his elbow planted behind her. "Don't look so alarmed, Bella," Alice said, her voice high with her mirth. Jasper's smile was slow to spread and Bella felt herself calm, her embarrassment melting away.
Bella shook her head. "You could have stopped me." She could hear the frustration in her own voice.
Edward looped his arm around her waist. "It's their really warped way of welcoming you to the family." His own amusement was written plainly across his face. It made her skin tingle with annoyance.
Alice rolled her eyes. "Stop making that face, Bella. They were just kissing. You weren't this appalled when you walked in on me and Jasper."
Emmett groaned and Jasper laughed lightly. "Bad bet," Jasper said. "My wife sees the future."
Bella ignored them. "You're my friend, Alice. They're like parents to me," she held up a hand, her brow furrowing again, "and how was that a welcome?"
Edward shrugged. "It's kind of a tradition. I walked in on them in their room, right after they married. They uh – they weren't just kissing."
Rosalie lifted her head. "They were in the bath when I walked in."
"The study," Emmett said with a grin.
"Against a wall," Alice hugged her knees, smiling softly.
Jasper shot a glare at Emmett. "In the woods."
Emmett laughed at his brother, spreading his hands and shrugging before he turned again to Bella. "And now you can say, 'In the kitchen.'"
Bella shook her head again, a tiny smile forming as she saw that in their strange, too much time on their hands kind of way, they really were welcoming her into their little club. They were saying, 'now you are a Cullen.'
Emmett started the story of his first interruption and Bella let her mind drift. It was so easy to forget that Esme and Carlisle were physically in their twenties, that their bodies would still carry all the urges and drives that went along with being twenty-three and twenty-five.
She thought of the moment she had interrupted in the kitchen. She thought of how Esme had looked with her hair in a ponytail, a headband holding back the pieces that were too short to reach, simple diamond earrings flashing in the kitchen light, her face clean and fresh for their leisurely day. She thought of how Carlisle had looked with his dishevelled hair, his sweater thick and needlessly warm, his jeans fashionably distressed. They had looked like a young happy couple, far too young for the responsibility of grown children or a rapidly growing grandchild, far to young to carry the burden of guiding six vampires down a moral path.
It was in their intimacy that they rediscovered their youth, Bella realized. It was in those moments that they were able to forget how many years they had been on Earth. They were free to simply be Esme and Carlisle, eternally young, eternally in love, and eternally trusting in each other.
Bella sighed and burrowed closer to Edward. "There's something comforting about seeing them together" he said, as if he could read her thoughts, "isn't there?"
"You know," Rosalie spoke up as Emmett captured her hand, "their ninetieth anniversary is coming up."
"They're going to the island for their eighty-seventh," Alice said confidently.
Bella sighed again. "Ninety years," she breathed. The room fell silent as they contemplated their own relationships, of what it would mean when they got to ninety years.
Bella took great, overwhelming comfort in imagining that she and Edward could still be like Esme and Carlisle, nine decades into their everlasting life together. That Esme and Carlisle could still feel young and carefree and playful was a lovely thing to witness, a warm bit of assurance for someone still in the earliest part of immortality.
She looked at Alice and Jasper. They had recently celebrated sixty years together in their usual private, intimate way. She watched as Jasper grinned at Alice, his eyes searching her face. She watched as Alice met his gaze, her fingers pushing at his hair as she answered some silent question that only she could understand with a gentle smile and a tiny shake of her head.
She looked at Rosalie and Emmett with their seven and a half decades together. She watched as Emmett whispered in her ear. She watched as Rose laughed and burrowed closer, their fingers threaded together in a tight grip.
She thought again of Esme and Carlisle. Bella's parents would pass on eventually. Esme and Carlisle would provide whatever guidance she needed. They would keep her safe and listen to her troubles. They would pick her up if she fell and take joy in her steady times. They would wrap her in their love and warmth and provide the clearest of examples for her own relationship.
Edward squeezed her tightly again and she glanced up at him, her smile gentle as she met his questioning gaze. "Is it hard to imagine?" he asked.
"Ninety years?" She looked around the room at what sixty years looked like, at what seventy-five years looked like, and she remembered with a smile what ninety years looked like. "No," she said easily. "No, it's not hard to imagine at all."
Note: And that's six. Thanks so much for all of the reviews, the alerts, the favorites, the recommendations, and the PMs. A special thanks to those of you that took the time to review every chapter. I so appreciate and understand the time that it takes to do that. I, quite simply, never imagined that this little fic would take off like it did. I have enjoyed every second of playing in Esme and Carlisle's world and after a little break, I might return to it with a different story.
I forgot in most of the chapters, but I had to edit to add in a huge thanks to the folks at the Twilight Lexicon. No way would this story have been possible without their timeline.
Now, one last time, please review!