Disclaimer: I don't own any of the characters of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. I am exceedingly that she lets me play with them/have dreams about them. *naughty smile*
A/N: I hope you enjoy this story. It came to me one day, and I just went with it. It went in a completely different direction than the one I was planning, but that generally is the way the cookie crumbles! Leave me some love at the review button, and you'll be visited tonight by the Cullen male of your choice! There, now, how can you resist? You can't. Hence my brilliant plan. MUAHAHAHAHA!
Another day of my eternity was gone, and it was utterly wasted. I amused myself briefly with coming up for different terms that might describe the level of productivity of this utterly futile day: let's see, there was flushed down the toilet, shattered in a million pieces, sailed down the river, gone bye-bye, taken the big sleep…
You get the idea.
And the utterly frustrating fact about it all was that I was going to have to repeat the exact same experience tomorrow. And then the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that, ad infinitum. It was enough to make a vampire go bonkers, an action which, for our kind, could get extremely interesting.
There was a bright and shining example of this tendency in our own "family," now that I thought about it. One of Carlisle's oldest friends, Bernard, finally got sick of living the same tired norm after about five hundred years of it, and started to hula dance in front of Scotland Yard, complete with authentic grass skirt and lei. He had such fun breaking out of the prison they'd housed him in after his subsequent arrest that he became a professional prisoner just so that he could baffle guards and harass overly zealous wardens. Good times. Although I found myself wondering if Bernard would realize that his little criminal pastime would also, one day, be just as dry and boring as all of his other distractions and schemes over the centuries. Maybe he figured that jails would keep trying to come up with new technologies to keep him from breaking out, and those new challenges would effectively end the monotony of perpetual prison breaks. A vampire whose cheese has slipped off the cracker, after all, can be quite inventive.
And how was my particular existence being wasted? High school, the most dismal, frustrating, and irritating experience in any person's life, and they only had to experience it once. This was about my twentieth time through the drab, taupe halls of the average public education institution, and I was irrevocably and unquestionably over it. At least I was a senior this year, and next year I could start the college round of education. But even that higher level had its limits on diversions. There were only so many majors in the typical academic catalogue, and I already dreaded the day when there would finally be nothing new for me to learn. I comforted myself with the fact that Carlisle had been around for three hundred years now, and he still was just as interested in his calling as a doctor as he'd ever been.
But see, that was the problem. I didn't have a calling. Of course, even if I did have a calling like Carlisle's, what could I do about it? Hello, I'm a seventeen year old punk kid, and I'll be your doctor or your college professor or your dentist or your mechanic for this evening? Yeah, that would really inspire people's confidences. Only six biological years separated Carlisle from me, and it was enough to allow him to pursue his dreams, whilst I, his creation, was forced to spend an eternity among mindless, pimply, and insecure trolls and midgets that called themselves teenagers. The angst that I was forced to hear every day without cessation was enough to make hula dancing in front of Scotland Yard seem attractive as a pastime.
Of course I wouldn't, and quite honestly couldn't, blame Carlisle for my current mind numbing existence. I understood, far better than anyone besides maybe Esme, possibly could understand about why Carlisle had acted as he had when he'd first come across me. He'd had the best motivations in the world for what he did in changing me. He wanted to save my life—who could feel bitter about that? Honestly, I had experienced more in these past fifty years with Carlisle as a vampire than I ever would have, especially if my life had ended that day in Chicago. Even if by some miracle I had lived, had survived the influenza epidemic, I would never have been able to learn, to see and travel and know the world as I did now.
But of what use was the learning? What good did the senses, the strength, the telepathy ever really bring me? What use was forever to me? I was the odd man out in my family, and I didn't mind that. As I saw it, my life was a lot easier without somebody like Rosalie around to complicate it. I only had to depend on myself at the end of the day. I'd never seen romance as a possibility in my future. It just wasn't something I'd ever wanted. To share oneself so utterly with someone else…why was that necessary for me? I was strong. I was complete unto myself.
I didn't mean that in a snobby way, of course. It was just how I'd always been. Carlisle had been like that, too, at least when I'd first known him…but then he'd found Esme. I was glad to see them so happy together, and I didn't think any the less of Carlisle for wanting someone to share his burdens with. It just wasn't something I ever saw myself as needing. I wasn't going to give up my freedom and become no better than a giant Labrador, like Rosalie had done to Emmett. She had taken a perfectly strong and capable individual that had respected himself and had been in charge of his own life, and she had shamelessly molded him into her idea of the perfect husband. "Slave" was my term for it, really. And Emmett couldn't seem any happier with practically having to wear a leash! Strange. It irritated me that I couldn't seem to understand what was so great about the marital institution that they had so gleefully joined.
One would think while observing my family that it was the greatest thing in the world to be totally responsible to someone else and to have to do their every beck and call. Carlisle and Esme's relationship was a little more balanced, but it still had some of the same fundamental elements that Rosalie and Emmett's had. I had studied them, as I'd studied every new experience, and it had been quite interesting.
I pondered my newest siblings next—Alice and Jasper. I was still getting to know them, even though they had been with us for a few years now. Alice and Jasper were both very…different. I still wasn't quite sure how to take them, especially Alice. It is a little unnerving when someone walks into your life—or, more correctly, your bedroom—and declares without an ounce of insecurity that you and she are going to be best friends and confidants, and that you really shouldn't wear yellow, Edward, it isn't your best color at all, I saw us meeting in the future so I picked up this blue shirt for you instead.
I liked them both; it was nearly impossible not to. Despite the occasional problems that Jasper's dietary needs caused us, which usually involved a hasty and highly irksome move to another state, he was still a great guy. I enjoyed having discussions with him when he wasn't trying to manipulate how I felt just so that he could win the debate. In all honesty, Jasper was what our family had needed. I would always be grateful to Rosalie for bringing Emmett into our family (best thing she ever did, frankly) but there had been such a drastic difference in our personalities. Jasper was the bridge.
Alice and Jasper's relationship with each other was just as different as they were from us. Jasper was absolutely committed to Alice's happiness—after all, he had a vested interest in it. I often thought that that was why they got on so well together; Alice was very rarely unhappy to begin with, and if she was unhappy, she was very good at manipulating the situation so that she could make herself happy. Jasper was often her willing helper in such schemes…which brought me back to the original point. Jasper would wait on Alice hand and foot if she so desired. He went against his very nature and training and years of practice as a bloodsucking vampire army commander just so that she could have peace with their lifestyle. I could feel him suffering as he tried again and again to gain mastery over his thirst for human blood. I knew how much he abhorred the animals that we hunted out of deference for our moral choices. But in his mind, it was a very small price to pay for Alice.
Alice, in turn, was just as willing to help Jasper. It all appeared to be some kind of game to her, but I knew better. Alice pretended to be the quintessential prima donna as she went shopping and made sure everyone was fashionable and all the rooms were decorated tastefully, but I knew that if it came down to her fashion preferences and a moment of Jasper's happiness, it was bye-bye dresses, hello hubby.
I shook my head, realizing I had been staring blankly at a tree for a long while, having completely lost track of the cougar I'd been stalking. All of that contemplation had brought me to this point: there was a reason to forever with the rest of my family. I didn't understand their relationships with each other and I didn't want their relationships for myself, but somehow, their relationships were what made their futures. Did I have no future, if I had no mate of my own? Let it be, then. I couldn't imagine ever finding someone that I would want to spend an eternity with. I had never found anyone interesting enough. Most people were transparent, far too easily understood. My gift had doomed me to an everlasting drudgery. And hula dancing, apparently.
After I'd finally pulled my head out of nonsensical and contemplative castles in the air and finished hunting, I went back to the house, knowing that in only ten hours I would be back in the taupe hallways, bored to (figurative) tears at my surroundings. I faced my fate stoically. Things wouldn't change with whining or longing for what would never and could never be. This was forever for me. Whether there was a reason for it or not, it must be faced with Resolve and Fortitude and the Ability to keep from snapping everyone's neck out of sheer Desperation and Tedium.
I was immediately aware of where everyone was in the house, of course. My telepathy was better than any newfangled radar system that the military boasted of possessing. Jasper had weakly succumbed to Alice's pitiful pleading and had taken her to the opening of a new store in the little town. After all, Jasper, you know very well that it isn't often that this little dot on the map of the world has any new kind of couture to parade! We must celebrate this moment! Carpe diem, Jasper!
Yes, dear. Shall we take my car or yours, Alice? And promise you won't lock me in a dressing room again.
Oh, don't be such a baby about your fashion reform, Jasper. You know very well that you would always go around in that awful Confederate uniform cap unless I took you in hand!
Rosalie was working in the garage on the old Bentley that she was restoring to mint condition, swearing happily at the recalcitrance of an engine part. She was planning to give it to Carlisle when she was done—she preferred a modern car instead of an antique, but Carlisle would value the classic vehicle for its historical and aesthetic value. Frankly, I was just glad that she was finally starting to do things for other people, even though it was usually on her time and the slightest whim of her flighty brain rather than out of a desire to bring pleasure or happiness to someone else.
Emmett was listening to a record of the Beatles in their shared bedroom, even though it was always referred to as "Rosalie's room," as if he were merely a lamp or some other kind of fixture necessary for Rosalie's comfort and convenience. I didn't care for the Beatles all that much myself, but Emmett liked to keep current. I know I wouldn't wish to forever remain a Tennessean hillbilly if I were in his place, either.
Carlisle was at the hospital at the moment, checking on some patients. There was an older gentleman under his care, a stroke victim, that he was quite worried about. He'd grown pretty attached to the elderly man's wisdom and acerbic wit over the weeks. I didn't have to the heart to tell him that Alice had had a vision of Mr. Abernathy's impending death. It would be hard enough for him to bear without the knowledge that everything he did would prove to be in vain. Carlisle struggled with the whole idea of death, knowing that he had the power to save everyone he cared about…if only it weren't at the expense of their souls.
And Esme…my surrogate mother was standing in the light of the huge window in the living room, humming to herself as she put the finishing coat of gloss on a canvas before her. Her face lit up when she saw me.
"Edward!" she cried, hastily setting down her brush and flitting over to put a gentle hand on my shoulder, knowing that I rarely allowed physical contact from anyone. A greeting was one of the rare times that I would let her get by with it, mainly because of the genuine son's love I had for her. "What perfect timing! I just finished this piece, and I was feeling a little lonely," she admitted. "How was your day?"
"The exact same as the hundred and twelve days preceding it," I told her wryly. I walked over and looked at her painting. It was an impressionistic rendering of the woods outside the window. To my mind, it was far lovelier than the real world. My mother had a tendency to see the world through rose colored glasses. That was part of her charm, I supposed. It had often worked in my favor, such as when I'd gone far outside of her wishes and dreams for me. She'd seen a beauty in me that I didn't believe existed, but that beauty had allowed her to forgive me and let me back into her heart. "And your day," I asked politely, "how was it?"
"It was lovely," she replied cheerfully, wiping her hands on a white towel. "The same as everyday."
"Ah," I said, admittedly unoriginally. There it was again, the whole satisfaction with eternity thing. Esme was thoroughly content to live every day in the same way, because she was happy in her life. It seemed that my hypotheses were correct.
"But I am glad to see you, Edward. I have a question for you." Her golden eyes sparkled merrily, and I saw her intention in her mind.
I barely managed to smother a groan before it exploded out of my lips. "Really, Esme? You're seriously going to ask that of me?"
"Yes, I am." Her head tilted as she tried to understand my resistance. "What's wrong with dancing, Edward? I taught Carlisle, and you know he loves it."
I shuffled my feet, trying not to snap at Esme; she didn't deserve that. "Dancing is a little pointless for me, at least in my mind," I said as kindly as I could. I couldn't say, gee, Mom, you're kind of being idiotic at the moment, now could I?
"It may be pointless to you now," she said with a wink, "but you never know when the future might change for you. Just ask Alice, she ought to know. Besides, one day you'll thank me for teaching you."
I rolled my eyes at that. "I highly doubt that, Esme."
Her expression puzzled me as she gazed deeply into my eyes. "I don't, Edward. One day you'll have the most beautiful girl you've ever seen in your arms, and you'll be glad that you know how to dance. It's about more than movements or where your feet go, son. Dancing is all about cooperation, and equality. It's symbolic of the whole relationship, especially of the kind of relationship that vampires share."
She stepped closer, and placed her hand in mine as I stood before her, slightly awkward. "It's graceful, beautiful, and," she guided my hand to her back and put the needle down on the record that was already waiting on the player, "it has the possibility of going on forever."
Esme's feet began to move in a square pattern that I recognized to be the waltz. She moved in carefully orchestrated steps. Somehow, despite the fact that her steps were in the shape of a box, we were moving in circles. "There is a form to which we all must shape ourselves, but it becomes something far more beautiful when we allow ourselves to step outside of the box. It takes bravery to do that, Edward, believe me. And sometimes one of you will be the one dancing backwards and you can't see where you're going. But it's worth it. All of the discomfort is worth it when you realize that you trust your partner, when you know that they will never allow you to fall."
Being a vampire, I had already picked up the basics of the dance, and I began to take the lead, guiding Esme as we flowed from one step to the next. I wouldn't admit it yet, but she was right. This was fun, and exhilarating in a way that I hadn't experienced anything to this degree before. It was new, and that was a relief to begin with. But the whole thing was deeper than that.
"Someday, Edward," Esme whispered as we whirled around the room, "someday you will be dancing like this with someone else. She'll trust you to take care of her, to guide her, and to allow her to be your equal. And it will be anything but pointless."
In my arms was the loveliest creature ever created, even though she was nothing like what I would have imagined had I been capable of conjuring up the siren that could capture my heart. Isabella Swan, my Bella…she was nothing like I'd planned. She was never boring; her skin was transparent even though her mind was not. The blush of her cheeks screamed of the blood that even now made the venom run thick in my mouth. The huge cast on her leg spoke of her vulnerability, of her need to be protected. But her brown eyes spoke to me, even though her mind was silent. Right now they were telling me that she was afraid, that she didn't know how to do this.
"Edward…" she whispered frantically in her panic. "I honestly can't dance!" Adrenaline pounded though her veins and I wanted to laugh at her absurdity, even though I knew my laughter would just infuriate her more. Didn't she realize I would never let her fall? Even though she was afraid, I knew I wanted to dance with her. I wanted this tangible recognition of the fact that I had a reason now in my life.
"Don't worry, silly," I'd whispered back, a fierce grin spreading across my face. "I can!" And I could. I'd been taught, long ago, by a mother who could somehow understand some things far better than I could.
I lifted her onto my feet, letting her know that she could trust me. I would never let her fall, never again. The music began and we started to dance. Bella's arms were wrapped around my neck as she leaned heavily against me, but her neck was held gracefully up as she gazed into my eyes.
It was in that moment that I finally, finally understood what I had never before understood. There was a point to forever for me now, even though I could never grasp it for myself, like my family had. The only forever that I could have now was the forever that spanned the years of Bella's life. After she ended, so would I.
But this dance had the possibility of going on forever, and I had every intention of making it do so. My eternity was here in Bella's arms. There was a leash around my neck every bit as thick as the one around Emmett's, and I couldn't be any happier about it. Strange. But so unbelievably joyous at the same time! I would stay with Bella for every minute of the forever we were allowed, and be thankful for the opportunity. Her happiness was every bit as much my concern as was Alice's to Jasper. She was my life, like Carlisle was to Esme.
There were moments in this dance to come where we would dance backwards. There would be moments when I would fear that I could not step outside of the box, or would not allow her to step out of the box. Worst of all, there would be times when I would not allow Bella to be my equal. But thankfully, I didn't know about that reality.
Tonight, I was dancing with her. Dancing with Bella would never, ever grow old for me, as everything else before had grown old.
Not even hula dancing could compare.
A/N: Review! Cullen male, remember?