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I decided to play my piano this morning, since Bella had reluctantly gone shopping with Alice, Esme, and Rosalie. Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper were hunting while their wives were out. They had left while Nessie was still asleep, so I stayed behind with her. Jacob had gone into the woods on his own, citing some need to 'be wolfish' and communicate with the pack back in La Push. A few months ago, Sam and Emily had discovered that they were expecting their first child. As such, Sam had decided to give up his wolf side, merging the two packs once more. Leah and Seth managed things in La Push, since Jacob moved around with us now. He had yet to find a distance far enough to prevent communication with the pack. I heard Renesmee come down the stairs, her hair mussed from sleep, though she was dressed already.
"Daddy? Would you teach me a song on the piano?" Renesmee thought, using all of her powers of persuasion. Not that she needed to. All the Cullen men are firmly wrapped around my little girl's fingers. I finished the movement that I was playing and smiled my crooked smile at her. She had shown some interest in my piano in the last couple of years, but she hadn't asked me to actually teach her anything until this moment.
"Of course, Nessie; come here." I slid over on my bench and patted the seat next to me. My little girl was four years old now, though she looked ten. The only time a stranger had ever assumed me to be her father was a few years ago, in Seattle. Bella and I had taken Renesmee into Seattle on an outing, and a kind elderly woman had told me that my daughter was delightful as we passed her on the street. Now no one ever guessed the truth, merely assuming us to be brother and sister. It pained me to be unable to claim her as my little girl in public; I cherished the moments we had together while we were able to be ourselves.
"I want to play my song," she thought, and looked up into my eyes.
"That is a very complex piece," I said, smiling wryly, "I'm not sure if you'll be able to play it as a first lesson. Of course, you've never let that stop you. I'd imagine teaching you to play 'Chopsticks' would be rather like reading picture books to you when you were learning to read. I've not actually scored the music on paper; it's always just been in my mind. Do you think if you watched me closely enough, you could reproduce it?"
"Yes, Daddy." She was so confident and determined, she looked just like Bella at that moment.
"That's my girl," I said, and started playing the first strains of Renesmee's Song. My daughter watched the movements of my fingers with a new sense of purpose.
"Play that phrase again…"
I immediately started replaying at the point where, I realized, she had not caught my left hand movements.
"I see…slower please…ahh."
I continued on, changing tempo and repeating phrases when she asked me, while she took in every note that I played. I came to the end of the song, and heard Jacob come in to the house. He walked over to lean on the piano and watch our lesson. I nodded my greeting and then turned back to my little girl.
"Are you ready to try playing it now?" I asked her. She looked up into my eyes, her soft brown orbs so like my Bella's used to be. I couldn't help pressing a quick, light kiss to her forehead and giving her shoulders a squeeze. I knew that she would start to pull away from my fatherly affections within the next couple of years, and I yearned for time to slow down.
"I'm ready to play it now," she thought, smiling at me in her youthful confidence.
"Go ahead. Do you need help with the first hand positions?" I asked, wanting to make sure that she got started off right.
"No, Daddy, I can do it." Renesmee said, fighting her urge to roll her eyes at me.
"I'm sure you can," I told her with a smile. I could see the teenaged streak coming out already. Renesmee positioned her hands over the keys, and started playing her song. I watched her, knowing that I wore what Bella called my 'proud daddy face.' Nessie gained confidence as she played more and more flawlessly, which made my fatherly pride swell again. As she finished playing, she let the last note resonate into silence instead of quieting it with the pedal. Both Jacob and I clapped our praise.
"I messed up too much," she thought, looking embarrassed, until Jacob started calling, "Bravo!, Bravo!"
"Nonsense, you did wonderfully," I reassured her.
"You're just saying that because you're my dad," she huffed in her mind.
"I did feel proud because I'm your father, but you also played tremendously well," I reassured her.
"You guys need to remember that some of us only hear half the conversation," Jacob said.
"I apologize. It's rude of me to exclude you." I said.
"Man, could you possibly act like you weren't born last century?" Jacob said with a smile, teasing me for my formalness while Nessie played with a melody of her own.
"Jacob, I'm afraid that you and I were born in the same century, putting you into that 'last century' category as well," I said. I was pleased that he couldn't argue with my rebuttal, even if we were born on opposite ends of that century. Jacob's eyebrows pulled closer together, thinking about that.
"Well, that's beside the point! I just think you need to remember that not all of us hear voices in their head," Jacob stumbled over his words, trying to make his point. I raised an eyebrow in question, as Jacob did frequently hear voices in his head.
"I mean outside the pack," he amended.
"Again, I apologize; it's not something that goes away. I don't have the luxury of changing form and blocking out the voices. The best I can do is push it to the background till it's just a dull hum. It makes it difficult to not respond when someone deliberately pushes their thoughts at me." Renesmee just looked at me, curious. I had never really spoken at length about my gift to her before. She just accepted that it was a part of me.
"I like thinking with you Daddy. It's lots easier."
"I like hearing your thoughts, Nessie. You're very genuine," I said. I smiled at her, and she smiled back, and returned to the piano.
"How do you stand it?" Jacob asked, genuinely curious.
"I've had a lot of practice. I'm sure that you have become better at listening to only the most pertinent voice at any given time while in your wolf form. It is much the same with me." I knew that this was something he'd been vaguely curious about for some time. I also knew how uncomfortable he was when I acknowledged how little privacy there was in my presence; when I answered questions that hadn't even fully formed in his mind. However, his curiosity overcame his discomfort today after he spent the morning in his wolf form and realized again how chaotic it was to be in the presence of nearly twenty distinct minds. Some of the newest members weren't accustomed to the pack mindset yet, since they had come into the pack only recently as the more senior members of the pack refrained from phasing in order to age along side of their imprints.
"But how do you handle crowds? How do you not go crazy with all the noise? I thought I'd go nuts when our pack grew past ten, but I can still get away from it if I want to," Jacob said.
"The constant drone of thoughts very nearly drove me to insanity in the first month after my change. All that I could do the first week was huddle in the corner with my hands over my ears. Of course, that did nothing to help, but I was completely lost in the chaos. Between my enhanced senses, the bloodlust and the voices in my head, I truly thought I was insane; that I had burned and gone to my own personal hell. I very nearly became an animal." My eyes lost their focus as I remembered that difficult time.
"It was just Carlisle and me then, so we left Chicago and isolated ourselves for a time. I couldn't tolerate crowds for a few years; Carlisle was still working as a doctor at night, and helping me focus my concentration when he could. After Esme joined us, she helped as well. They are the reason that I learned the control that I have, but it has taken many years of practice to get to where I am. As our family grew with each new addition, I had to adjust again to be in such close quarters with so many minds; especially since they were all married." Jacob turned red in the face, understanding my predicament all too well, since so many in the pack were married now too.
I started playing a soft supplement to the melody that Renesmee was trying to work out. She looked up at me and smiled. I smiled back.
"Just a few hours today of all the pack in my head made me glad for a break. Maybe it's not Edward's fault he's so uptight. Crap, he heard that."
I let a soft growl rumble in warning, and looked at him with a glare. Jacob looked somewhat chagrined.
"Sorry," he thought.
"Is that why you fell for Bella? Cause you couldn't read her? Cause there's times when I think I'd like Leah more if I couldn't hear what she's thinkin." His question momentarily took me off guard; it was so suddenly blurted out before he had really thought about it.
"No, that fact was originally my greatest frustration with her. She is so unpredictable. Though I have to admit, it is nice to be alone in my own mind, yet still have company," I smiled in remembrance. "No, it was definitely her scent that first attracted me." I laughed mirthlessly. Attracted indeed. "Regardless, I fell for Bella herself, not her scent, or her blood, or the fact that I couldn't hear her thoughts. I just couldn't force myself to stay away."
"You're such a hopeless romantic Daddy," Renesmee said aloud, for Jacob's sake. She and I continued playing. Her melody that she had been playing had turned playful, though serious. I added my own contrasting part, concentrating on the music.
"What will you call this?" I asked her, curious as to her inspiration.
"I think I'll call this, Jake and Daddy Bonding," Renesmee said with an impish grin. Jacob laughed, and my hands nearly missed a beat in my surprise. Apparently, Jacob had taught her to speak before she thought. I looked up at him, gauging his reaction to what she had said. He was incapable of finding fault with what she said, so he simply nodded with a besotted look on his face. It wasn't just Cullen men that my Nessie had wrapped around her fingers. Jacob was completely hers. That brought both a smile and a frown. Very soon, Nessie would start acting more and more like a teenager, and then a young woman, towards Jacob. I had heard enough teenage girls lusting after my daughter's wolf to make me cringe in the realization that my Nessie would have those very thoughts before this decade was over.
"Hey, I'm not that bad! You let me get away with calling you dad a lot more than Bella let's me call her mom. You could at least save your grimaces for when I'm not around!" Jacob had mistaken the reason behind my facial expression.
"You needn't worry about that," I reassured him. "I was merely thinking my little girl is growing up too fast." I looked at Nessie sitting beside me; she smiled and said, "Daddy, I'll always be your little girl."
My heart nearly started beating anew. Jacob merely laughed at me.
"Whipped!" he thought. Then, we both heard my family returning home. My brothers must have known their wives were coming back; they had planned their return to coincide with the women's. They all started flowing into the house, bringing in bags of clothes and various items that Esme had bought for the house. Bella's face was priceless. I could tell she had been ready to come home some time ago. She immediately came over to us at the piano and leaned into my back, pressing her lips to mine when I leaned my head back in silent request.
"What have you three been doing today?" she asked, when Jacob cleared his throat.
"Daddy and Jake and I have been bonding," Renesmee explained, her impish grin sliding back into place. She knew what Emmett would say about that. He could never pass up an opportunity to take the mickey out of me; and this was a golden opportunity to include Jacob as well. I rolled my eyes and waited for him to start; he was already thinking it.
"Bonding?! Why are you bonding over the piano?! That's girl bonding. You need to take that young son of yours there and get him out into the woods for some manly bonding." Emmett dropped his voice an octave while saying 'manly bonding' and flexed his muscles for extra show, making Renesmee laugh at his display.
"How about taking your 'manly bonding' outside and help bring in the new dining table? Your 'manly bonding' last night is the reason we needed it in the first place," said Esme, smiling at her sons' chagrined looks.
"Yes, Esme," Emmett gave up his act and went outside to help the others, but not without thinking at me, "I've got to teach you how to bond properly. Real men don't bond over the piano." I rolled my eyes and let out an exasperated breath as he laughed at my reaction.
"Well, Jacob, Bella, Nessie? How about we let everybody else bond here while we go for a hunt?" I asked.
"I'm in, Dad." Jacob said, laughing with Renesmee and slinging her up onto his shoulders as he ran outside.
"Please, get me out of here," Bella said. "If I have to coordinate more furniture or clothes I'll scream."
"After you, my wife," I said, as I held my hand before me. Bella grabbed my hand and we ran after our daughter and Jacob before they could scare away the wildlife with his laughter and Nessie's delighted squeals.
A/N: One of my favorite quotes from BD is Edward saying good bye to Jake and Nessie; "Goodbye Jacob my brother, my son..." So deep. I thought that if any one could understand Edward's difficulty dealing with his gift, it's Jake. Then, I thought, Jacob must have wondered how Edward dealt with that mental chaos, since he's had a taste of it, and has expressed some discomfort at it. Thus, Bonding with Daddy hopped out of the plot bunny closet.