Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. Everybody knows who does.
Edward and I wandered around Volterra until we found a car we could steal. Edward also stole a cell phone, which he used to call his family. Then we went to a store that carried colored contacts – I couldn't go around without hiding my vibrant red eyes – and from there we went to a contact of Edward's who worked outside of Florence. The short, balding man had me equipped with a fake passport in no time. Then it was easy to get to the airport and buy tickets for a flight to New York, and from there, to Seattle, where Edward's family would meet us.
However, the flight didn't leave until ten o'clock, and it was just eight thirty. But that was good – Edward and I had a lot to talk about. I told him what I my talent was, and his eyebrows rose in shock. "You see a person's past?" he whispered. "Is it like the Dreams, when you become them?"
I shook my head. "No, it's not like that." I paused wondering how to best describe it. "It's like..... I see them, their families, their homes, the places they've been, and I just know how they felt and what they thought. I don't feel it with them – I just know."
Edward nodded. "So you've seen my life and Santiago's life?" he asked. I'd purposefully left out seeing Aro's past – there was deadly knowledge in that story. In this case, what Edward didn't know couldn't hurt him.
I started. "Not Santiago's," I replied.
Edward frowned. "You hugged him," he reminded me.
I had hugged him. Huh. So why hadn't I seen anything about him? I rubbed my eyes. "Is figuring out how your power works always this frustrating?" I inquired wryly.
Edward grinned. "Not always," he admitted.
I laughed, too happy that I was with him to be annoyed at my unreliable power. "But God forbid something should be easy for me." I leaned up against Edward, and he put his arms around me. "I want to go home," I sighed.
Edward kissed the back of my neck. "I know. I want to go home, too. Just a little longer and we'll be on our way."
But thinking about home..... it made me think about where my home would be now. I couldn't go back to Charlie or Renee. And speaking of Charlie and Renee..... "What do my parents think happened to me?" I whispered, dreading the answer. I knew I would cause them pain – I would disappear, never to be found again. It would kill them.
Edward hesitated, but told me what I wanted to know. "I asked Carlisle about that while you were putting your contacts in. He said that when Charlie came home and found the front door of your house open, and your truck keys left in the ignition, Charlie assumed that you'd been kidnapped. He got a search party together and called your mother. She got on the first available plane to Seattle. Your jacket was found, torn and dirty, in the woods near where Demetri loaded you into a car. There was no blood on it, but after they found it – especially when nothing else was found – most believed that you were dead. The case is still open, and Charlie works on it nonstop, but..... everyone else in Forks thinks you're dead."
I could just picture Charlie sitting at our kitchen table, his eyes red and puffy from lack of sleep, going over my file again and again, looking for something he might have missed, something that could help him bring me home. But he wouldn't find anything. And I would never be able to see him again. Pain, regret, and guilt welled up in my chest, putting a lump in my throat. I was hurting him so badly. And that was the only option. Oh, Dad, I whispered in my mind, wishing he could hear me, I'm so sorry. I tried to draw in a deep breath to steady myself, but the air hitched and caught in my throat. I was crying – as much as a vampire could cry, at least.
Edward pulled me into his lap, and I curled up there, burying my face in his chest and letting him rock me, hold me, and croon comforts in my ear. I let the pain have me for a little while, letting the dry sobs wrack my body, and trying to be as quiet as I could while I cried. But then I gradually regained control over myself. I'd known all along what the price for being with Edward would be. It was time to pay it. I would grieve because I'd basically lost my family, but I would handle it. Edward would help me. So I wrapped my arms around his waist, silently thanking him for his comfort and telling him that I would be fine. I lifted my face and kissed his throat. "I love you," I whispered. That would carry me through.
Edward held me tighter and kissed the top of my head. "As I love you," he responded softly. "I wish....." he began, then sighed, trailing off. I knew what he meant. I wish it didn't have to be like this. I wish you didn't have to leave your family. I wish there was another way for us to be together.
But there wasn't, and, despite how painful this choice was for me right now, it really was the best choice for my parents. They were safe now. But still..... "I know," I murmured. "I wish, too."
Then it was time to board the plane and head home. Edward and I passed the long flight mostly in silence, holding hands and drawing solace and strength from the other. But by the time we landed in New York, I was more collected. I was resolute in my choice. I was able to smile at Edward with sincerity as we boarded our plane to Seattle and I felt truly excited to see Edward's family again – my family, now. He and I talked more on that flight – Edward was curious about what I'd seen about his past. He laughed when he remembered the cocker spaniel Jack, and sighed when I mentioned his mother. He missed her. I squeezed his hand, offering him comfort this time, and was rewarded by his grateful smile.
When we landed in Seattle, our family was waiting for us. Esme rushed forward and pulled both Edward and me into a tight hug. We, laughing, returned it as the rest of our family approached at a more reasonable pace. Esme pulled away and, before I could stop her, laid a hand on my cheek.
And then I was seeing a much younger Esme – Esme Anne Platt of Columbus, Ohio. Her mother, who looked just like her, and her father, who had blue eyes and dark brown hair. A farm house and the apple tree she fell from when she was sixteen and broke her leg – and the incredibly handsome Doctor Carlisle Cullen who treated her. I saw Charles Evenson, the man whom Esme married, and I saw him beat her. I saw Esme's relief when he went off to war, her horror when he came back, and her resolve when she found out she was pregnant. I saw her run away and become a teacher in Ashland, Wisconsin. I watched her son, Theodore Evenson, die of a lung infection days after he was born, and I saw Esme jump off a cliff. I saw Carlisle change her, and I saw the family they built together.
I saw all this in the split second before I reacted by hissing sharply and jerking away from Esme's hand. "Bella?!" Esme cried, worriedly. "What's wrong?" Edward and the rest of our family echoed her questions.
But I couldn't respond. I just started at Esme, torn by horror, shock, pity, and rage. How could anyone ever hit Esme, who was so kind and gentle? "Esme," I whispered hopelessly, at a loss for words. "I – I'm sorry. I didn't mean..... I wasn't sure how it worked – I didn't know I would....." Oh, God. There was no way to apologize for seeing that. I continued to stare at Esme pleadingly.
Esme, confused, turned to Edward, who had realized what had happened and had wrapped a comforting arm around my waist. "What is she talking about?" she asked. "What happened?"
"Why don't I tell you in the car?" Edward suggested, pulling me toward the airport's exit. "We're attracting too much attention." We were – several people were staring at us. When we got in the car – which turned out to be Emmett's jeep – everyone except Carlisle, who was driving, turned to stare at me, curiosity and worry in their eyes.
Edward glanced at me, silently asking if I wanted him to tell our family about my ability. I shook my head minutely – I would do it. I sighed and began. "You know that I Dreamed about people's pasts. Obviously, I can't Dream anymore, but my ability is similar to the Dreams. I....." I ducked my head and forced myself to continue. "I see a person's past when I touch them."
My family thought about that in silence for a moment. "I'm not exactly surprised," Carlisle admitted. "The Dreams were such a defining part of your human life – of course a piece of that would carry over into your vampire life."
Emmett was grinning. "Well, it's not as cool as shooting lightning bolts from your eyes, but as powers go, it's not bad," he complimented. Rosalie was completely silent.
Esme cocked her head slightly. "But why were you so upset earlier?" she asked.
Did she really not know? "I saw your life," I reminded her softly. "Everything. I shouldn't have seen that. I fell terrible," I confessed, "I've invaded your privacy, and -"
"Bella," Esme said sternly. "If you're talking about seeing Charles and Theodore," her voice caught a little when she said her son's name, but she continued, "then don't be sorry. I would have told you anyway. Besides," she added gently, "that was a long time ago. I've made my peace with it." She hugged me, then asked playfully, "So, am I not allowed to touch you for the rest of eternity?"
I couldn't help but smile. "No, I think you're fine," I replied. "I don't think enough has happened between when I last touched you and now for there to be anything new for me to see." Esme gave me a motherly smile and kissed my cheek.
"Well," Emmett declared, "I'm not going to be tiptoeing around you for forever trying to avoid touching you." He leaned over the back of the front passenger's seat, where he was sitting, and held his hand out to me. "Let's get this over with," he said, a wicked twinkle in his eye.
I was taken aback, but recovered quickly, and timidly said, "Okay." Slowly, in case Emmett changed his mind, I reached my hand out toward his, stopping when I was about a centimeter away from touching him. But Emmett just raided a challenging eyebrow, so I closed the rest of the distance between our hands.
And I was no longer looking into Emmett's twinkling eyes. I was seeing a man and a woman, both with curly, dark hair. Brenna and Gregory McCarty – Emmett's parents. I saw a chubby baby Emmett, and seven other children's faces, three boys and four girls – Emmett's younger siblings, Gregory Junior, Carson, Adam, George, Sarah, Ashley, and Brigit. I saw his home in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I saw the bear that attacked him when he was twenty, and I saw the awed look in his eyes when Rosalie saved him. I saw Carlisle change him, saw Rosalie and Emmett fall in love, saw the bond he formed with Edward and, later, Jasper. I saw his whole life, knew his every emotion.
And then I was looking back into Emmett's eyes. I smiled shyly and let go of his hand. Emmett looked surprised. "That's it?" he asked. "That was fast – you didn't even touch me for a whole second."
I shrugged. "Apparently, that's all the time I need."
Carlisle laughed a little. "Fascinating," he said. "We'll have to explore this more thoroughly. The possibilities..... I wonder if, with practice, you might be able to use your gift on objects as well as people."
I considered the implications of that silently. That could be useful, I supposed. I'd have to find out if I could do that. We'd reached the beautiful white house in the woods by then – the place I'd be living now. I glanced down at my clothes – Edward and I had only been able to find some ill-fitting pants and a slightly-too-small shirt for me. They were still better than the clothes I'd worn through my change, which were bloody, and damp from my laying on the stones of the cell I'd been in. I wanted to change..... but did I even have clothes to change into? All my clothes were at Charlie's house – was it safe for me to go and get some? Of course, I was no danger to Charlie, what with my thirst firmly in control, but would he notice if some of my clothes went missing?
After we had entered the house, though, Alice flitted up the stairs, and returned with a change of clothes in her hands. She grinned at my relieved expression. "I saw that you would need to change," she explained lightly, a satisfied look in her eyes. I took the clothes and dashed upstairs, kissing her on the cheek without thinking as I went by. I froze when I realized what I'd done, and braced myself for the onslaught of images to flood my mind, but nothing happened. I frowned, confused, and scrutinized Alice, wondering if my failure to see anything was related to something I'd done, or something she'd done.
Edward was at my side in an instant. "Did you see anything?" he asked tensely.
"No," I replied, still trying to figure it out. "I didn't see a thing."
Alice frowned slightly, too, and everyone was quiet as we thought. To my surprise, Rosalie was the first one to offer a theory. "Maybe you didn't see anything because you've already seen it," she suggested. "You Dreamed about her life when you were still human."
I relaxed. Of course. That made sense – once I'd seen somebody's life, I didn't see everything again if I touched them again. "Thanks, Rosalie," I said, smiling again, as I continued on my way upstairs.
"I put some more stuff for you in Edward's room!" Alice called after me.
I heard Edward groan. "Please tell me you didn't throw my stuff out the window to make room," he begged sarcastically.
Alice's voice was equally teasing when she responded. "I'm not making any promises."
I grinned at my new family's antics as I slipped inside Edward's room. I was very comfortable there, as if I'd lived there for years. The gold carpet and drapes, the black couch, the wall stacked with CDs, the sound system in one corner..... it felt like home. I changed quickly and darted back down the stairs.
I sat by Edward in the living room, and he put an arm around me. "So," he began, a humorous lilt in his voice, "she didn't throw anything valuable of mine out, did she?" he asked, giving Alice a playful glare.
I kept my face blank. "That depends," I replied smoothly. "Were you very fond of your sound system?"
Edward's eyes widened briefly, and Alice laughed. "Don't get me in trouble for something I didn't do, Bella!" she told me firmly. "I can annoy Edward without your help."
Edward made a face. "I'm sure you can," I muttered.
Carlisle, though smiling, leaned forward and interrupted. "Why don't you tell us what happened in Italy," he said. "Edward wanted to give us the details in person, with you here."
So we all got comfortable, and Edward and I told our story. Emmett laughed out loud when I told them my reason for asking to be changed. "Well, at least Edward had the sense to fall in love with someone with spunk!" He grinned at me. "Living with you should be interesting." Carlisle gave me a likely explanation for why I hadn't seen anything when I'd hugged Santiago – I hadn't actually touched him. I'd touched his clothes, but not him. Apparently, I needed genuine contact.
After we'd finished our story, everyone lapsed into conversations – except Rosalie. She'd hardly said anything that night. Every now and then, though, I would turn, and catch her staring at me with an unreadable expression on her face. Finally, she got up and asked to talk to me in private.
I agreed warily and followed her out of the house. We ran maybe ten miles, until we were out of our family's hearing range. Then she climbed a huge fir, sitting on a branch. I did the same.
She didn't speak for a while. I waited. Then finally, "Do you know anything about me?" she asked, not looking me in the eye.
I need to be honest with her now, if I was ever going to get along with her. We would be living as a family now – we needed to bury the hatchet. "Yes."
Rosalie fidgeted nervously. "You've Dreamed about me, like you did Alice?"
I shook my head. "No," I whispered. "But..... I dreamed about Royce."
Rosalie's hands clenched into tight fists. "Then you know what happened."
"Yes," I replied softly.
She looked at me. "He took so much away from me. Because of him, I lost everything – my family, my humanity....." she trailed off, but I knew she was thinking of one more thing she would never have.
"Your ability to have children," I finished for her, my voice gentle.
Rosalie closed her eyes. "That's why I was so cruel to you, you know," she murmured. "You could have what I wanted. I couldn't. And you just threw it all away."
I understood, but now she needed to understand my side of the story. "You saw me when I Dreamed about Alice," I reminded her quietly. "What did it look like?"
Rosalie shivered. "Like you were in pain. Like you were going through hell."
"I was," I told her quietly. "And that's why children were never in my future." Rosalie glanced up at me in surprise. "I know what it feels like to be a mother," I murmured. "I've Dreamed of it so many times. I know what it's like to hold a child. But any child of mine," I continued, "might have Dreamed as well. I couldn't ever risk that. I couldn't have inflicted that on my child or grandchild."
Rosalie nodded. "I guess I understand," she sighed. She hesitated, then abruptly thrust her hand toward me. When I stared at it in shock, she growled, "Just do it. Before I change my mind." When I still didn't take her hand, she sighed sharply and took my hand herself.
The images rushed through my mind. Rosalie Lillian Hale as a baby, her two younger brothers, her fair-haired parents, her childhood of being the prettiest girl in Rochester, New York. Her friend, Vera. The presents her parents loved to give her. She had been so happy. Then, I saw the day she met Royce King the Second. I saw the roses and violets he sent her. I saw how thrilled she was when they became engaged, but, at the same time, how strangely empty her relationship with Royce felt. I saw her envy of Vera's small son, Henry. I saw what Royce and his drunken friends did to her, I saw Carlisle save her, and I saw her take her revenge. I saw her find Emmett, and, in him, the love she'd always wanted. But I also saw her sadness, her bitterness. She hadn't wanted this life. She still didn't want it. She would have preferred to have died that night in the streets of Rochester. But, at the same time, I saw how much she loved her vampire family, despite her prickly demeanor. I saw myself through her eyes, saw her desire to be human like me. The last thing I saw was her reconciliation with me. She didn't hate me anymore. Maybe she even liked me.
When my mind cleared and I could see Rosalie's face again, her eyes were tight with the pain of old wounds, but held no regret for showing me her life. I briefly considered what to say. Well, there was a time to be serious, and there was a time to lighten the mood. So I said, "You like me," in a mildly teasing tone.
Rosalie snorted, and we jumped from the tree. "Don't let it go to your head," she told me as we ran back to the house.
The sun was just beginning to rise when we got there. Edward was waiting outside for us, his expression a trifle surprised. But he also looked satisfied, like he was glad Rosalie and I had called a truce. He met us half way to the door of the Cullen's mansion. Rosalie gave me a tentative smile, and went inside, leaving Edward and me alone. "Come with me," he said, excitement in his eyes. He took my hand. "I want to show you something."
That something turned out to be the most beautiful meadow I'd ever seen, in my Dreams or in my own life. It was deep in the forest, perfectly round, and full of wild flowers. A river was somewhere to the east of the meadow – the sound of rushing water was in the air. Mouth open, I turned in a circle, taking everything in. The cloud cover was light, allowing more sunlight than usual to seep through the clouds. "It's beautiful," I observed, turning to look at Edward again.
He smiled and squeezed my hand. "I like to come here when the weather's nice." I could see why. At that exact moment, the sun broke through the clouds and shone down into the meadow, down onto Edward and me, reflecting off our skin in millions of rainbow sparkles. Edward's face mesmerized me. He was so beautiful in the sun. Absolutely perfect. And he was looking at me in the same way I was looking at him. "You are so beautiful," he breathed, stroking my cheek with a sparkling hand. "You truly have no idea how much you've changed my life," he murmured. "I want you by my side forever." I smiled into his golden eyes, so happy I felt like I was going to burst.
And then, Edward did something I hadn't been expecting. He got down on one knee. I felt my eyes widen. Oh, my God. I couldn't breathe. Edward looked up at me, his golden eyes intense. "Bella," he said, his voice gentle and loving, "will you marry me?"
I was frozen for a second as I tried to comprehend what had just happened. Edward had proposed. He wanted me. Forever. Just like I wanted him. Joy exploded inside of my chest, and a huge smile broke spread across my face. When he saw my smile, the same joy lit up Edward's eyes.
I dropped to my knees in front of Edward, wrapped my arms around his neck, and kissed him with all the passion I could muster. When I did pull away, I answered his question, my voice sure. "Yes," I told Edward. "I will."
A/N: The End. Thanks for reading and reviewing, everyone! Hope you enjoyed it! Another story's coming soon – it's going to be called Taming the Lion. Please check it out!