Home Safe

It was a good day.

Carlisle and my children were safe and home where they belonged – in a manner of speaking. Everyone but Rosalie had gone out hunting today to take advantage of the sunny weather. Edward had been very loath to leave Bella; he invited her over for the day, but she fell asleep on the couch two hours in. Even so, Edward had spent another hour with her curled up in his lap, fascinated by her even when she was unconscious. I thought it was rather romantic. Emmet and Jasper, naturally, found it hilarious and teased Edward mercilessly until Carlisle convinced them all to go hunting to 'work off some steam.'

Alice had gone shopping, and Rosalie stayed behind to do some work in the garage; I had my suspicions that she was fixing up Edward's Volvo. She had been especially nice to him ever since he and Bella had come back from Volterra. Bella had forgiven her right away, but Edward was still acting brusque with her, and it was starting to wear thin. It was causing some tension between him and Emmett as well. I couldn't blame him much – if that happened to me, I could hardly think I would be so restrained as Edward. But we were a family, and Carlisle and I worried that if Edward let his anger fester, it might cause a rift.

And then, of course, Jasper still felt guilty about being the catalyst for Edward's leaving, even though both Bella and Edward had told him none of it was his fault. He was avoiding everyone but Alice – Bella especially – and hiding out in his bedroom, unwittingly sending out the occasional wave of guilt and irritability, which was not helping the already-stressed situation.

That was part of why Carlisle had taken the boys out; he had been looking for an opportunity to clear the air between them for a while, and it was so hard to get them to go together. Jasper would hide away and go hunt with Alice, Emmett would be preoccupied with Rosalie, and it was practically impossible to pry Edward away from Bella for any length of time. Poor boy felt so guilty about her he didn't want to spend a minute away from her. He had gotten somewhat better since Charlie had eased up on the punishment and let Bella visit our house, but even at our house he was never more than ten feet away from her. He had only gone today because I had promised to keep a close eye on her. Silly of him, perhaps, but love makes fools of us all.

Speaking of which… I stood up from my desk and walked over to check on her. I might think it was silly, but a promise was a promise.

Bella had fallen asleep on the couch, but I had carried her to my bedroom so she would be more comfortable. I had been nagging at Edward to get a bed for his own room lately, but he had as yet to take my advice.

I peeked into my room carefully, making sure I didn't make a sound. Bella was curled up around Carlisle's pillow, holding it to her chest like a blankie. I almost laughed out loud. She looked so vulnerable when she slept, so like the child she was. I could see why Edward could never seem to get enough of watching her night after night.

I was afraid she might be cold, so I grabbed a throw from the linen closet. I had to admit I was having a ball with Bella around; I had never gotten to use half the things we had stocked the house with, and I always felt bad about wasting so much just to keep up appearances.

Bella squirmed a bit as I tucked the blanket around her carefully. She didn't wake, though; she was too exhausted.

Bella had taken Edward's absence far worse than we had imagined. She was a good fifteen pounds thinner than she had been before we left, and there were dark circles under her eyes. She always had this haunted sort of look on her face, especially when Edward would leave her alone for even a minute. She would stare at the door he'd gone through as if part of her didn't expect him to come back. It was heartbreaking. Edward had mentioned to Carlisle that she hadn't been sleeping well since he had gotten back, and she was eating less than he remembered. Poor thing.

Unable to help myself, I brushed the hair off Bella's forehead and sat next to her on the bed. I had never gotten to see one of my children sleeping, never got to watch over them. I reached over to stroke her hair again when Bella suddenly flung out her arm at me.

"No!"

I drew back my hand quickly, thinking she had woken up and been startled, but I soon realized she was having a nightmare. Bella thrashed on the bed as if trying to run away from something, moaning.

"No, Edward, not the rosary, you can't let them!"

I didn't know for sure what she was talking about, but I had a pretty good idea. I wanted to wake her up and reassure her, but I wasn't sure how she would respond to that. Poor little girl. It hurt me to see her like this.

I was still debating whether or not to wake her when Bella decided it for me, sitting up and opening her eyes with a gasp. She looked around the room wildly for a second before her gaze settled on me. She had tears in her eyes.

"Esme?"

"Bella," I said. I reached out with my hand, and Bella took that as an invitation, flinging herself into my arms. Sobbing.

"I'm sorry," she mumbled in between gasps. "It was so horrible, the woman with the rosary, and the Volturi, they…"

I shushed her, curling my arms around her and resting her head on my shoulder, rubbing circles on her back in what I hoped was a soothing way. Bella stopped talking and just cried, letting it all out. The last time I had been this close to a human, Carlisle and Edward had had to physically drag me away, but that didn't matter now, nor did I care that she was getting my new silk shirt wet. I just wanted to take away her terror.

Eventually, Bella's sobs quieted and her grip on my shirt loosened. I waited for her to move, holding her, but soon enough I realized she had fallen asleep. I looked up at the sound of someone knocking on the door: Rosalie stood at the doorway, hair sticking out at odd angles, grease staining a fancy white dress I knew she had been fond of.

"Is she – all right?" Her question was slow and tentative; I knew she felt personally responsible for Bella's condition, even though she shouldn't have.

I nodded and looked down at Bella. She was breathing deeply, though her sinuses were blocked from her crying. She snuggled against me and curled her head down, not seeming to be bothered by the fact that I was cold. I laid back slowly on the bed so she could be more comfortable; she curled up and put her head on my stomach. I felt the bed dip as Rosalie sat down next to us, watching silently. She might not have shown it much, but she did care for Bella like a part of our family. We all did.

We sat there in silence until I heard Alice park her car in the garage and the boys troop back, laughing raucously. I knew that as soon as Edward heard my thoughts, he would stop laughing, and Jasper and the others with him, but we could deal with that. Things would be better now.

It was a good day. Carlisle had helped the boys work out some things on the trip, and my children were back home and safe – all six of them.