Title: Additions to the Family
Author: Sare Liz
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Continuity: Book 3, Chapter 6 of The Day The Earth Stood Still
Beta: Stratan is pinch hitting for me while my beloved Colleen adjust to her new job.
Author's Note: It's good to be back. :) Yes, I'll be finishing the story. In the meantime, though, be a dear and go purchase my original fiction, which you can find on my amazon author page: amazon author / sarelizgordy - and thank you more than I can say, in advance.
Chapter 6: Additions to the Family
When it rains, it pours.
Our extended family was still in town a week after the summit and in the early hours of the morning, Jacob had summoned both Rosalie and Leah because little Seth Clearwater, who was only a thirteen year old child, seemed to be having 'wolf's fever'. Rosalie had requested my services as a translator and mediator. She also requested that I come and put a leash on Leah, who had apparently attacked Jacob. Of the five minds present, only two could presently speak English and it wasn't going well, as of 2:45 in the afternoon.
A new version of passing notes in class, I passed my cell phone to Bella so she could see what was going on.
You should go. Go now. Leave your stuff here and I'll take it with me. Tell Leah to stop attacking my favorite son-in-law. But feel free to smack him around if he really needs it. He can be kind of dense sometimes. I'm sorry, I'm rambling. Don't wait for me to stop rambling. Go. Go.
And so I leaned over, kissed Bella good-bye and when the English teacher's back was turned, calmly walked out of the class. These were the sorts of shenanigans I wouldn't be able to get away with, had it been a better school system.
Leah, no one would be shocked to know, was an emotional mess. As I tried to mediate first I had two arms full of angry, furry she-wolf who seemed to have many more square inches of tooth and claw than normal, and then I had six feet of naked, sobbing, shrieking daughter-in-law. I managed to hold her and give her my shirt at roughly the same time.
Eventually I convinced Emmett to release Seth whose whimpers were barely audible over the caterwauling of Jacob and Leah both. When that happened, the poor young cub slunk over to his sister with his tail between his legs in order to cuddle into her form and cry. At this point, Rosalie released her pent up fury on Jacob, whom she'd been physically restraining all this time in silence.
"You! I love you like the son I never had, and yet I have never been so disappointed in your behavior! This isn't all about you, Jacob! There are two packs in this region and just because you have an ancestral claim to be Alpha doesn't mean that every single shifter will be under your jurisdiction! Leah certainly isn't, and that was her choice, not yours! It doesn't matter that she didn't know the chant! Hell, I know the chant, but that doesn't make mean alpha! Do you have no heart at all? Seth is only a child and here you are, confusing him with your powerplay bullshit! He obviously wants to be with his sister! This isn't an insult to you, and it isn't more power for her! Pull your head out of your ass and act like the mature, responsible leader that I know you can be when you choose to be! There is still more to do here, in case you'd forgotten, and Leah has never walked another cub through it, like you have. Man up, already, and show her the ropes! Take your pride and shove it where your head has been because there isn't enough room in this forest for all of us and your pride!"
I tried to tune Rosalie out, though I noticed that Jacob was getting quieter as she got progressively louder. I'd been holding Leah who was holding Seth, but I shifted around and kneeled down in the leaves in front of the new cub.
"Hi," I said softly, trying to get the boy's attention. "I'm Leah's friend, Edward. I know you can't speak like you normally would, but I can hear you when you think, just like Leah can when she's in wolf form."
Is that why you're friends?
I grinned despite myself and the situation. "That would be a really good reason to be friends, but no, not really. We're friends because she's pretty cool, and she needed a friend just at the exact moment I was ready to be a friend to someone."
Are you her new boyfriend?
I laughed softly so as not to distract Rosalie from her righteous indignation in the background. She'd built up quite a head of steam and Jake was now trying to interrupt her to apologize, but she was having none of it, yet. "No, I'm already married. But my wife is friends with Leah, too."
You smell different, like candy canes dipped in honey, topped with cotton candy. Or twinkies, dipped in honey and rolled in sugar. Yeah. Twinkies. Twinkies, honey and sugar. That's what you smell like.
"You must have a sweet tooth. That's a much nicer way than how Leah describes my scent. I like you already, Seth. But listen, now. My sister Rosalie and my brother Emmett are going to go hunting with you guys, okay? Jacob and Leah are going to teach you how to hunt, and you're going to practice shifting back and forth from your wolf form to your human form until you can do it without thinking. And, because you're probably going to be hungry, still, you're going to come over to my house and Emmett is going to cook you an amazing dinner."
I should call my mom. She's probably really worried about me.
"Seth, your mom already knows, or has been told about your transformation. You'll be sleeping in your own bed again tonight, and tomorrow morning you're going to have to go to school again. But after school, bring your homework and come over to our house, okay? Think of it as your new after school program."
At this point the wolf cub put his giant head directly in front of my face, and licked. I maintained a straight face, thankfully, given what he said next.
You're pretty cool, Edward. I can see why Leah is friends with you. She can be kinda mean sometimes, but she's never been mean to me. Will you be my friend, too?
I nodded. "Of course." I focused on the fact that this was a severely traumatized thirteen year old who was doing the best he could, and had just offered me a token of gratitude and friendship. I focused on the fact that it would be horrifically unhelpful to cringe, despite the fact that there was wolf saliva up my nose. This was obviously not the time to be obstreperous about cleanliness.
I stayed long enough to hear Jake's apologies for 'being a tool'. Leah forgave him for trying to steal her little brother and Seth joined Leah's pack - though I'm not sure how the metaphysics of that one works, the politics of it was fairly simple.
I left shortly after that and took a brief detour to the Manse to shower and scrub myself of wolf saliva which, despite my best efforts, was still up my nose. I admit that I had expected to see Bella's truck in her father's driveway when I got there, but this was not the case. When I walked into that house, the state of the scents told me that she hadn't even come inside after school. I admit to a moment of panic when I realized this.
I pulled out my phone and texted her. I decided not to go with a direct query as to her present location. I didn't particularly wish to own up to my panic just yet. I might have to do it later, but I didn't wish to rush the process.
'What would you like for dinner, love?' I asked, and stood in stillness in the front hallway during the long interval that came as I waited for her response.
'Nothing. I'm eating now.'
What? Was she at the other house? There were only so many places she frequented. And her favorite chefs were otherwise occupied and had been for the last eight hours. Not that she was incapable of cooking for herself, particularly now that her hand has healed from her last kitchen accident... Had she somehow arrived just after I'd left? I briefly thought of running back there, but decided to ask first.
'Where are you, sweetheart?' Again, the wait was interminably long, but I knew she was safe, at least. The panic was slowly abating. Slightly. A bit.
'The diner. And before you ask, yes you can join me.'
To my credit, I did lock the front door again when I left, but then I was off, running for the diner as fast as I was able, stymied twice when I needed to cross a road with traffic on it. Jogging across those thoroughfares at a human pace made my skin crawl. Coming out of the trees at a similar pace, I saw Bella's truck parked at the side of the diner and breathed my first sigh of relief. I searched for her mind as soon as I was in range and when I found it I slipped inside to blessed silence. I would have cried, if I could. When I opened the door to the restaurant and saw her hunched over a bowl of something at the counter, it was the final confirmation that all was well. Not knowing where she was and not being right about my conjectures wasn't something I could see myself ever wanting to repeat.
I slid into the open stool next to her and saw her check the time before she so much as greeted me in her head or kissed me hello.
"Were you timing me?" I asked, somewhat incredulously. I'm worried that she's dead or dying, I'm trying not to imagine the bleakness of my existence should such an event come to pass and she's timing me?
I took a deep breath and tried to place firmly in my mind the fact that she was trying to process a lot of difficult things.
I ordered something that I thought would be slightly more appetizing to Bella than the glop in the cup before her when the waitress came by. I was quiet with Bella and it wasn't four full seconds of silence once the waitress left before my love finally opened up.
I'm totally spoiled. This stuff used to be fine, but now... I don't know. Just not very good.
And then a moment later she opened the door she was keeping all her thoughts about Tanya in. Even as I traveled through the door, I heard her continuing commentary about the diner's soup.
Yeah, really not enjoying my soup experience. Um, could we maybe make something at home after all?
I prepared to feed her a bite of cobbler even as I sorted through the conflicting and very strong thoughts she had about Tanya. ...Whom she was now calling 'The Siberian Vampire Bitch'. I guess I could have expected that one, though I don't think I've ever witnessed Bella quite this vituperative. She was deeply upset that Tanya seemed to be going through all of the important men in her life until she found the one she wanted. Bella likened her to an evil Goldilocks.
It was conflicting and slightly confusing in her head, but she was both very upset and not at all clear as to how she felt and how she ought to feel.
Mostly, she saw that her father was, or seemed to be, reacting to the mating in a far different manner than her own starstruck reaction. I made no mention of the fact that she met me when she was seventeen and her father is nearing forty. I wanted to be productive in this conversation, after all.
She wondered if the mating wasn't really a mating after all, or if it was somehow one-sided. She worried about her father's giving nature if that was the case, what he might sacrifice to make someone as charming and beautiful as Tanya, happy.
"You know it doesn't work like that, love," I said gently.
She shrugged at me.
It's not like he's being obvious about whatever he's feeling. About Tanya, I mean. Bacon. I'm craving bacon. Why bacon? Or maybe steak. Yeah, with those little mushrooms and onions on top. And a side of bacon. And maybe a baked potato. Huh. Bacon. Don't normally crave bacon, but I'm totally there now. The vegi soup just wasn't doing it. I thought I wasn't supposed to have weird cravings until I was pregnant. Weird.
I rubbed the back of her arm as we sat side by side at the diner's counter. Clearly there was more to this than she was even letting on right now. I wondered if Bella had ever participated in emotional eating before because I wasn't entirely positive that this sudden desire for bacon and steak-not two of Bella's favorite foods-was due only to the substandard nature of the diner fare.
In the nebulous background of her mind she tossed back and forth the idea of giving into my inevitable offer to make exactly what she was craving. It didn't take her long to give in. Toward the end she admitted that she wasn't here for the food. It was good we were finally on the same page.
"You want to tell me why you're really here?" I asked, leaning into her just slightly, inclining my head to lend a little privacy to our conversation.
She shrugged again but I could feel another door open in her mind. Oh, my... Bella was profoundly unhappy with her father's mating. Profoundly. I had assumed this, of course, but here was the evidence right before the both of us. Actually, I think she was acknowledging this to herself for the first time as well. So the diner has proven helpful after all.
Edward, I don't like it.
"If it makes you feel any better, it threw me for a loop, too."
Quick loop, she thought and then continued on to remember other times I had lost my shit. In fact, she did a very quick reminisce through all of my worst moments. I was momentarily taken aback before I put it into perspective. It did take me sometimes weeks to work through the pain involved in some of those instances. This was clearly something on the same level for Bella, only she deals with her trauma in a very, very different fashion than I do. I think I like her way better. She compartmentalizes and continues to function fairly well. I tend to want to run away and pretend it never happened. Neither method works in the long term, of course. At least Bella sticks around for hers...
Then again, she's been here physically, but my darling wife hasn't been here much mentally or emotionally since The Incident. So maybe her way isn't so much better than mine.
I listened quietly as she turned things over in her mind, comparing Tanya and Charlie to Renee and Phil and the difference in her reaction and why that might be. Every time she came back around to the fact that she deeply disliked Tanya for no rational reason, she castigated herself all over again. By the fourth time she did this, I intervened.
"You don't have to like her, Bella. I had to earn your father's trust, and it didn't happen all at once. If you can only give her a chance-just decide not to hate her-then you can let her do the rest of the work."
She turned to me for only the second time since I sat down. It was with some measure of relief that I registered that she still looked at me with the haze of adoration that all mated couples had in common. It wasn't that I sincerely thought she wouldn't, but I had felt and still did feel some measure of powerlessness to be helpful to her in the midst of her upset, despite what Esme had once said about that sort of thing, and it was incredibly stressful to watch her be in pain and not be able to do anything about it. It would be gross hyperbole to say that it was killing me, but the general sentiment was about right. And to have her look at me and thusly reassured that she still loved me even though I could do nothing for her... That brought untold measures of relief.
"What if I want to hate her?" she asked quietly. I sighed and leaned into her, gently resting my forehead against her. I felt as she breathed deeply. I saw as her shoulders dropped slightly and she visibly relaxed.
"Why do you want to hate her?" I asked just as quietly as she did.
Because she wanted you, Edward. And now she's got my father, but she wanted you first, and I don't like the idea of her going through all the important men in my life until she finds the right one. And I don't like the idea of her having ever hit on you. And I really, really don't like the idea that maybe there was a part of you that was kinda okay with her attention toward you. She is, after all, like, devastatingly gorgeous.
I picked up her left hand and kissed her engagement ring. I caught her eye before I started to speak in a whisper. "There is so much I want to say to you, but I can't say it here. Can we please leave, my love?"
And we did. She offered me her keys but I refused them. I didn't want her going back inside with this change of venue, closing all the mental doors, and then having to start all over again. I thought perhaps if she had to multitask, she might not be able to do that. Then again, her ability to compartmentalize was legend in my eyes by this point.
You're a tricky one, Mr. Masen, she thought at me, directly after I refused her keys, which told me that I was at least partially correct.
We climbed in the truck and sat in the parking lot as it began to warm. We had enough privacy for me to say what was on my mind at this point, so I started in.
"You need to know, Bella," I said, but she wasn't listening. She was contemplating my footwear. Focus, Bella, focus. "You need to know that if-if-I had felt even the tiniest bit of anything for Tanya at any point, I would tell you so you could work through it. I would. The truth is that I've never felt anything for her. I've held her in contempt more often than not, though it shames me to admit it. She is as physically attractive as any one of us, but I knew what she was thinking all along. She never really wanted me. She didn't bother to get to know me, either. She found me attractive enough and she was really, really tired of being alone and without a mate. She wasn't particularly upset when I declined her offer, though every time our two families met she would inquire as to whether or not I'd changed my mind.
"And you know this, Bella. I know you absorbed the content of my journals like they were gospel, and I know I wrote about Tanya - and not in glowing terms, either.
"Bella, I don't remember much about my life before I was changed. I know my family was fairly affluent. I know I very much wanted to join the army and fight in the war. I know I thought the world of my mother. I know my father was a lawyer. I don't know if I had a sweetheart, though I like to think I would have remembered if I did. But I do know this, Bella. And you need to listen well to this part. From 1918 until the day I saw you in the cafeteria, I lived a completely chaste and celibate life. More than that. I never felt remotely attracted to anyone. I did not desire. I did not crave. I did not lust. Maybe it was because I could hear their thoughts before they could even see me and was turned off by them before I could even be turned on. I don't know the reason, and let me tell you, it wasn't pleasant. If I could have had even a bit of a respite from it, I would have taken it. As it was, Rosalie thought I was gay. Esme thought I'd been turned too young. Neither one of them was right. I just hadn't met you, yet."
"And when I met you, you changed everything." She nodded at me, the first movement since I'd started talking. "You're everything to me, Isabella. And I love you just as much as you love me."
She smiled very slightly at me before thinking, Get over here, you.
I leaned in and was drawn immediately to her lips which she presented to me quite boldly. It was all things natural and beautiful to kiss her and this particular kiss seemed all the more precious for the issues that surrounded it.
And then it was interrupted by a knock on her window. We both glanced up and over to see her father with one eyebrow raised and his hands on his hips. It's worth noting that he was in uniform.
"In the parking lot of the diner? Really?" he said as soon as Bella rolled down the window.
"We had to work some stuff out," Bella said quietly. She sounded so sad it made my heart ache all over again. I almost reached out to place my hand on her back, but I refrained. As far as her father is concerned and in his company, I let Bella set the tone of just how much physical affection she was comfortable showing, as it tended to change from day to day.
But she continued on, halting and stammering, and eventually asking her father to come home from work early to talk, one imagines, privately. They worked out the timing of it and decided that I could be present for that conversation.
"So, what's for dinner? Or have you already eaten, now?" he asked her.
When Bella hesitated, her mind still mixed up in the turmoil of all that she had revealed to me, I answered for her. "Steak and potatoes with a side of bacon."
"A side of bacon?"
"A side of bacon." I dared him to ask for more details. I really, really liked Charlie, but Bella would always be my first priority. She needed comfort food and no one was allowed to gainsay that.
"You still okay with Tanya coming over tonight?"
I heard Bella's mind rage even as she nodded calmly. Now that she had opened the door that housed the dragon, it was not going back in quietly.
Charlie chastised us gently for making out in her car in such a public place and then we were all on our way.
I took the center seat and rested my hand gently on her thigh so I could have some physical contact. It was in moments like these, moments where we seem to have resolved something, even just slightly, that every fiber of my being wanted to celebrate by rutting inside of her and letting walls close in on me. This, however, was not an option at present and it would be several hours before it was. I contented myself as best I could with my hand on her leg.
"Are you going to be okay?" It wasn't the best question, but it was the best I could come up with. Of course she was going to be okay, eventually. But really I just wanted to go back to the conversation and see if she still needed to talk about anything.
She nodded at me. The worst has passed. I still don't like her, but at least now I can admit it. And I can also acknowledge that you've never been tempted by what she offered. I mean, you've said it, but it was hard to understand. But I get it now. And, yeah. You know. I can admit that she's probably... a perfectly fine person. You know, with her very own list of redeeming qualities. I just don't know what they are yet.
Vituperative and occasionally venomous, Bella's compassion still managed to bowl me over.
"Thank you for coming and finding me," she said aloud.
"Always, love," I instantly responded. "I'm sorry I pushed so hard that you felt the need to escape."
It's not that. Well, okay, maybe a little, but not in a bad way. I just needed... I don't know. I needed somewhere different to think something different. If you'd been around, I probably would have just hijacked you, too. Though the diner wouldn't have been my first pick then, I don't think. I probably would have made you sit on the top of a very tall tree with me somewhere far from here, or something. Just somewhere to get away and think my painful and rebellious thoughts in peace. But not away from you, baby. That's not the way it works.
And, well, shit. How can I deny Charlie something as wonderful as what I have with you? She sighed at this realization. I can't. It doesn't really matter how I feel about her. I'm not mated to her. I'm mated to you. She's mated to him, and she'll be everything he needs... but what if that means he doesn't need me, anymore?
She started to cry and my heart twisted to see the tears create slow tracks down her face. She didn't tremble, and her focus didn't waver from the road. She just took a deep breath and kept going.
What if he doesn't need me anymore, Edward?
"You are his daughter. He loves you very much. That will not change. Will you love the twins any less because you love me?"
No. I wouldn't even know how to love them if I didn't love you. I mean, you know, other logistics aside.
"And perhaps Charlie will learn how to love you even better than he does now, because he loves Tanya."
I'm still not yet convinced that he loves her. Just saying.
"I know. But regardless of how he feels about her, he won't love you any less. Just like the twins won't love us any less for all that they will eventually fall in love with their mates. And yet, it still took us time to deal with that."
Bella nodded and sniffed. I hate crying. I usually only cry when I'm angry. That's kind of fucked up, isn't it? Crying when you're angry?
"No," responded honestly. There was nothing fucked up about Bella that I could tell, and frankly, I wasn't interested in other people's opinions on the subject.
We pulled into a parking space at the little grocery store and once Bella turned the car off, she just sat, staring ahead.
I don't really want to go in, she thought. Tears continued in their slow stream.
I reached over and wiped her tears away with my fingertips. She closed her eyes and I saw more of the clear, salty liquid seep out from under.
"I'll go," I said softly. "It's not a problem. Do you want anything else?" I asked.
She shook her head minutely. No, she thought. But thank you. I'll just... hang out.
"I love you," I said softly before I opened the door of the cab. "And so does he."
There was a lot going on in my life, more so than I think I could have ever imagined. I mulled it all over as I made Bella's dinner. Charlie was only twenty minutes away from his proposed arrival time, but Bella wasn't feeling like talking. She had all but shut down, though she refused to move to a more comfortable position. She sat at the kitchen table, her head laying on her folded arms. I had a sense that she was just holding it together, just barely, but I wasn't anything like certain. I didn't know how to read her when she was like this and I felt perpetually inadequate.
So, I made dinner. I kept one line of my attention on Bella, one on the meal, and with the rest mused about the complexity of our lives.
My life was not this complex two years ago.
I'd found my mate... and she was stunning. I could never, not ever have imagined someone as perfect and perfect for me... and someone for whom I could be perfect... no, I could never have imagined. And so many things have occurred because I found my mate. Carlisle's treaty with the Quileute has been rewritten. Rosalie is whole, finally. Emmett found his passion. I'm going to be a father. And I'm going to be a father-in-law. I killed a vampire. I married my wife in secret. I befriended her father and berated her mother. I learned to cook, and learned to love to cook. I learned that sex to a newly mated vampire was more important than blood; significantly so.
And it goes deeper than these things. I am different. I never thought that could happen. I didn't realize it was possible. I am... not as cynical as I once was. I am no longer depressed. I am no longer in the midst of a downward spiral of hate and despair. I still panic; frankly I don't understand how someone wouldn't in my position, but I experience joy so very often with my Bella. I know what peace is, now. I wallow in love.
Things are so very different, now.
I now had about ten minutes in my dinner preparation in which nothing else needed to occur, so I moved a chair next to Bella and sat down next to her. She did not move. I place one of my hands gently on her back. I whispered, and almost too softly and quickly for her to hear, but caught myself. She wouldn't approve of me doing it, if she knew. "I want so desperately to help you, to make it better... But I don't know what to do."
Just this, sweetheart. This is good. And after a long moment, she added, I think this talk with Charlie is really going to help. And you're right. I don't have to like her. I don't have to want to like her, either. I just have to be neutral and polite and deal with my own stuff. It's... it's not her fault that she imprinted on Charlie. And she'll probably make him a really great wife. He'll probably be really happy with her. And if he's not, I'll make it my mission in life to dismember her and burn her to ash and dust. Just so we're absolutely clear on that.
At this she raised her head and met my eye. Finally I saw emotion in my wife. She spoke aloud and her voice was low, almost a growl. I've likened Bella to an angry kitten in the past, but there was nothing adorable and cuddly about her anger this time. This was a proleptic taste-she might not have this power yet, but she would soon.
"If she hurts him, if she ever hurts him," she said, her voice low and full of menace. "I will make it my mission in life to kill her."
I nodded and replied calmly, but seriously, "If she ever hurts him, she'll probably bring you matches."
Tears were leaking out of her eyes. "I mean it," she whispered.
I took one of her hands in mine. "I know you do," I said. "And if it ever comes to that," I said, hoping against hope that it never, ever would, "I'm with you. I'm always with you, no matter what."
She nudged me back, then, and crawled into my lap. I made it easy for her and once she was comfortable I wrapped my arms around her and breathed in her scent, her presence.
"I adore you," I said softly.
"I know," she said. And it's keeping me sane. A fucking succubus. A fucking succubus fell in love with my dad. Mom gets a professional athlete, Dad gets immortality.
"So do you," I whispered.
No. No, I don't. I get you. And when there's no more you, there's no more me. It's not immortality if you know you're going to die at some point. I know I'm going to die at some point, and that point will be directly after you do. I'm sure it will eventually happen, I just have no idea when. Which works out, because I've never known when I was going to die. This doesn't change anything, not really. Just my life expectancy. You added a few zeros, that's all.
It hurt to think about it, so I tried not to.
When Charlie came home, we decided to talk in the kitchen so I could more easily tend to the food and be a part of the conversation.
By the point that Charlie admitted that he and Tanya were taking it slowly, I was mentally cursing. I was going to lose my Vanquish and what's worse was that Bella was going to remain in her Chevy for the foreseeable future. We were already on day three of the bet, and it seemed likely that Charlie was going to have the fortitude to easily withstand Tanya's siren call for the next seven days, particularly if she was reining it in, as it seemed she was.
Tanya was going to take an apartment in town and move a few things down from Alaska, but beyond that nothing was planned. No mention was made about what Tanya planned on doing with the majority of her time, and I didn't ask. It's possible that she hadn't shared that with Charlie, and it's possible that she didn't yet know. Personally, I didn't have a clue as to Tanya's interests this decade.
And then it was Bella's turn. She was halting and she stammered and she had to speak through her tears, but she was honest and she wasn't cruel. Thankfully it was not news to Charlie that Tanya had previously been interested in me, and he understood completely how that had messed with Bella's head. And when she tearfully told him her fears about how first her mother and now he would no longer need her he stood up and pulled her into a hug. It was the longest sustained physical contact I'd ever witnessed between Bella and her father.
"Bells, I think we've gotten this backwards so far. I'm the parent, you're the kid. I'm supposed to have the crisis about you not needing me, and not the other way around. But things... I mean, things didn't really work that way with Renee, did they? I mean, you did a lot of stuff that Renee should have been doing for the both of you, didn't you?"
"I didn't mind," she protested.
"You minding or not minding isn't really the point. You never should have had to do that kinda stuff to begin with. Too much responsibility, too much weight to put on a little girl's shoulders. Little girls shouldn't have to take care of their mothers like that. I wish I'd realized sooner, but I just didn't... I'm sorry, Isabella. I'm so sorry."
And she cried. A lot. I've never seen Bella seem so broken on the outside, but inside she was touching on a thousand little moments throughout her childhood when she had been let down by Renee, when she had had to pick up responsibility because Renee simply wasn't doing what clearly needed to be done. She was mourning for her own loss of innocence, there in her father's arms. I tried very hard in that moment not to hate Renee, but I failed miserably.
"They'll be here soon," I reminded them softly.
Bella sniffed and wiped at her eyes. "I'm going to go wash my face."
"Kiddo," Charlie said, calling her attention back when she had gotten a few steps away. "I love you. More than I ever loved Renee, that selfish- uh, and more and certainly differently than I think I'm even capable of loving Tanya."
Her smile was genuine. "I love you, too, Dad."
When she was halfway up the stairs, Charlie sat heavily on one of the kitchen chairs and sighed. When I glanced over, his head was in his hands.
"I kinda wanna kill Renee right now, Edward."
"I kinda want to help you hide the body, Charlie," I said, meaning it.
"That..." he said and then sighed. "That would not be the right thing to do. But, God, I really want to do it."
"I'm sure the angels of your better nature will restrain you from committing first degree murder."
"Yeah, probably. This stuff with Tanya is a walk in the park compared to how I feel about Renee right now. And... how I feel about my own inaction. I guess I never realized, but... since Bella has come to live here I've wondered now and then. But I never knew how to ask her about it." He groaned softly. "Yet another way in which I have fucked up as a father."
I stopped tending to the steaks and came over to Charlie. I crouched down next to his chair and met his downcast eyes.
"For good or for ill, it has already occurred. Right now we have to deal with the consequences of both your and Renee's actions and inactions. Now isn't the time to kill Renee any more than it's the time to beat up on you. Right now is our chance to live, and if we choose, to make a different sort of decision than we've made before."
He nodded and rubbed his hand over his face. It was quiet in the kitchen for a very long moment. "You're pretty wise for a guy stuck at seventeen."
I grinned wryly. "Wisdom comes more easily when you stop fighting it, I've found. And that's true at any age."
And then Charlie smiled. "I'm glad Bella picked you over one of those other bozos. You're a good man, Edward Cullen."
"Thank you, Charlie," I said, shaking his hand when he offered it.
When Bella had woken up in the Port Angeles' Red Lion Inn directly after a certain scintillating dream we'd shared, I had, in my post-orgasmic naiveté, assumed that a very interesting conversation would be in the offing.
I had been quite wrong.
I understand with hindsight that Bella was entirely too stressed out to do anything of the kind. I also understand that I am capable of being... single-minded... when it comes to sex, particularly sex with Bella. But after Bella had had some time to reflect, she was in a much better frame of mind.
After dinner, and after Leah and Jacob had gone to their respective homes, and after Charlie and Tanya went for a late night walk-Tanya no more desiring to impinge on my privacy any more than I wish to impinge on hers-Bella and I got ready for bed. Her menstrual flow had been quite light this month and was already over by the time evening rolled around. We showered together, a gentle and sensual process that was always necessary after contact with the wolves. I could largely deal with their smell at this point, but I drew the line at smelling them on our sheets. No. I wanted to smell Bella on our sheets.
"Do you remember the dream you had on Saturday? The night we stayed at the Inn?" I murmured to her as I gently washed her hair.
"The Edward Sandwich? Like I'd forget that."
"That was pretty amazing," I commented.
"Yeah? I mean, duh. Yes. Totally. But I wouldn't have thought that you got much out of it. I mean, I get two Edwards. It's not like you get two Bellas or something."
I didn't even let my mind go there. Yet. I'd save that line of inquiry for a moment I was truly bored, as I'm certain that that particular fantasy would enliven even the most profoundly boring moment. Instead of losing myself in the thought, I answered Bella's question.
"My dearest love, I was so unbelievably aroused by that scenario that I couldn't control my orgasm."
She opened her eyes and gave me a disbelieving look. Seriously?
I leveled my gaze at her. "Seriously."
"Oh," she said on a slightly breathy gasp. Well, that's... good.
I raised an eyebrow. "You like it when I lose control, don't you?"
Her grin was weak. "Yeah. I really kinda do." But I still don't get it. I mean, I don't get it on a lot of levels. I have no idea how it happened, or why, or how I can repeat it, or if it's just a dream thing, or if I could do that while I was awake-at this I couldn't control my groan-but what I really don't get is why you would find it sexy to have two of you... you know, with me.
I rinsed her hair as I spoke. "An extra pair of hands to touch you? An extra set of eyes to see you? An extra pair of lips to kiss you? Another tongue to draw patterns on your skin? I can kiss you deeply and whisper into your ear at the same time. And all that skin to stretch along yours? An entire other mouth to suck at your savory skin and drive you wild?"
Mmm, don't forget your cock...
"Oh, Love. I hadn't forgotten that at all. Two cocks to pierce and plunge and thrust and twist inside of you? Where in this scenario did you think I would not lose my mind with lust? Seeing from one and feeling from the other? Oh, Love, be realistic. I'd never fantasized about it only because my imagination wasn't that good."
Mmm, I'm getting that sense now. Yes. Edward's Favorite Dream. Got it. But um, how did that work? Or, you know, so far as you know? Because I know you. You've been thinking about this. You've had days to think about this. You probably already have several theories and sub-theories.
I laughed aloud. She did know me quite well, and she was absolutely right. I did, in fact, have several theories.
"Well, as far as I can tell, it happened like this: You were dreaming about snuggling with me in bed while we were actually snuggling in bed, in the same position. And I was also in your head, observing the dream, even as I was looking at you, snuggling in bed with me. Following me so far?"
I'm totally with you. Continue.
"Now, I don't normally talk with you, or say anything at all while you dream, but this time I couldn't resist. And when I spoke in your ear, in the night, I also spoke in your ear in the dream. But from my perspective in the dream, watching all of this happen, it was the dream figure of me who spoke. Still with me?"
"Okay. Then something very strange indeed happened. I have a few competing theories about why it might be, but for some reason, somehow, at this point you gave my mind an avatar - my mind, which was inside yours, inside this dream, watching you snuggle with your husband. And so suddenly, there were two Edwards in the room. And when I tested things out, I eventually figured out that it worked like this: If I mentally decided to do something, the avatar did it. If I physically just did something, the dream version did it. If I spoke, it was the dream version. If I thought about it really intentionally, and then spoke, I could do it in stereo - the avatar and dream version. Still following?"
So, the dream version - the one already in the dream that I created - was controlled by your physical actions. And the avatar that I gave you spontaneously, the conscious you hanging out in my mind, you were controlling that avatar through your thoughts, even though it was in my mind.
"Exactly. Yes. I think. It wasn't exact - not every single thing I did physically translated into the dream version, but it was pretty stunning. And so when we enacted, as you say, The Edward Sandwich, you were facing me in bed, I was physically inside you with one finger pressed gently against your anus. And meanwhile in the dream-"
In the dream, my Dream Edward was filling me up from the front and the Avatar I gave you was pounding into me from the back.
"Exactly," I said, not realizing until afterwards the low register my voice had adopted.
She shifted against me to turn off the shower and I could feel all over again the desperate need to be within her. And so explain the whole feeling one thing and seeing another.
I reached for the towels and handed one to her. "Well, if I concentrated on what I saw before me with my eyes open, I'd see you and I in bed. And normally when we are intimate with one another I can just barely concentrate on one thing at a time - though you know I have the capacity to multitask far beyond that when I'm not quite so distracted."
Yes, I recall. Feel free to not gloat about that, by the way.
I smiled at her as she did the first cursory drying of her hair. "But there was also this lovely fantasy going on in your head, and you know how watching your inner fantasies and monologues just drive me wild. I've gotten quite good at seeing you before me as you suck my cock in our bedroom, say, and then also seeing the fantasy of you sucking my cock in the locker room at school. It feels less like multitasking and more like something else, something simpler."
Porn? she offered helpfully, moving on to her torso with the towel as I stepped out to give her some more room.
"If so, better than average porn. So in this scenario it was quite easy to make love to you and see you before me, as well as be present in your mindscape, where you so kindly provided me with an avatar, and also make love to you from that point of view. In the physical world, I could see only the two of us. In your dreamscape I could see three of us, and though I could direct movement but gain no feeling from the avatar, I was already on physical sensory overload because I was already making love to you in the physical world."
Right, okay. All makes sense, I guess. But any thoughts on how I actually gave you an avatar? I mean, I'm not so sure about the whole anal sex thing in real life, but I wouldn't mind having that dream again, let me tell you. And also, I'm sort of intrigued - I mean, could I give you an avatar in real life? I mean, like now when I'm waking and not just while I'm dreaming?
I quirked my eyebrows even as I let my hands roam her beautiful body, now dry. She hung up the towels and we made our way back to the small bedroom in her father's house.
"Well," I began, as an answer to her question, "that's the question, isn't it? Try it now - can you make me an avatar now? I'm in your head."
"I know, I just..." she said, trailing off. After a moment she continued, in thought. Okay, wait a second. I think I want to sit down for this. I watched as she wrapped herself in a blanket and sat in the rocking chair. No, you sit on the bed. Don't distract me. Or maybe it would help to be touching. No, this time don't distract me. I wonder. I mean, I think practice could be very helpful here. But do me a favor. In five seconds - no, wait. Okay, uh... I want you to snap your fingers every second. Now, every ten seconds for the next two minutes - okay, this is weird, but go with it, okay, baby? - every ten seconds, get out of my head, or come back in. Back and forth, right? I want to compare, I want to really think about what it feels like and if I really can feel the difference. I mean, I always sort of think I can, but I want to try.
I did as she asked for two minutes and then paused both with shifting in and out, as well as snapping my finger.
Okay. That was interesting. Definitely something. Will you do it again, except make it intervals of fifteen seconds? And I want you to count, in your head. And if you can, imagine it kind of... like echoing in mine, when you're all the way in. But only when you're all the way in. But echoing, as if you were in some sort of spacious grand hall, you know? And another thing - I want you to go all the way out, half in and out, then all the way in, then half in and out, then all the way out. Like that, you know? Over and over again. And when you're all the way in, really focus on counting in your mind, like you'd focus on making the avatar speak, or do something.
"How long would you like me to keep this up?"
Um, if you don't mind... kind of until I tell you to stop? Or, if you just can't stand it anymore, just stop and let me know.
It was fifteen minutes before she called it to a halt. She hadn't managed to create an avatar, but she had heard my counting, and after a while had begun to doubt herself, whereupon she instructed me to stop and start counting at random when I was in her head. But she really was hearing me. I was stunned.
You know what this means, she thought.
All the way inside of her, I very intentionally projected my thoughts out to her. 'It means that you and I may never have another verbal conversation again.'
She burst out laughing and I didn't bother trying to restrain myself. After the emotional rollercoaster of the last many days, it was glorious to hear her laughter, to hear her dissolve into giggles.
'Come on, love,' I said, getting up from the bed and taking her hand. 'It's time to get you where you belong and really take this non-verbal communications of ours for a test drive.'
Do I intuit correctly that you mean sex? Because it's been a bit long since our last orgasms and I'm starting to feel somewhat strained.
'You intuit just beautifully, my darling one,' I thought to her as we climbed into bed.
Brilliant. Do continue.
The after dinner scene at the Cullen Residence had become something of a homework clinic. The Quileute who were still in high school had less and less patience with it, but Rosalie had some stern ideas about education. Mostly that they all needed one. Esme tutored math, Jasper had history, government and writing. Carlisle took biology and chemistry while I handled earth science and physics. Rosalie wasn't fully satisfied with the curriculum of the tribal school, however, and so there were one or two additions. Twice a week, on a rotation with just a few at a time, the boys helped Emmett with dinner, thus learning basic kitchen techniques, some cooking, and meal planning, and the practical application of reading for content and mathematics. They had some gender bias and many of them demurred, but eventually saw the wisdom of not arguing too much with Rosalie. When she found out that there was neither music nor art in their school, she almost lost it. Quite suddenly, there were both field trips to museums... and it seems we were now sponsoring a garage band. It started with road trips to Seattle, but before long she was discussing with me the merits of chartering planes versus the family purchasing one and employing a crew for the field trips. Every other weekend - alternating with hunting, of course - there was a trip somewhere. Mostly they went to highly populated urban centers that had excellent museums and opportunities for music and theatre of all sorts. D.C. was a favorite for museums, but Austin for the music scene. Occasionally they went to National Forests.
Leah finally agreed to play her stockmarket game for real, but only with whatever I could get at a casino with a starting capital of one hundred dollars before I was thrown out. I scoffed, but we took the new family jet on an off weekend, Bella, Leah, Jasper, Alice and I and over the course of the weekend, being very, very careful, turned the starting capital of one hundred bucks into three hundred seventy eight thousand four hundred eighty dollars. Leah took it, blinking, and then handed me back my original hundred dollars. In the next six weeks, in consultation with Alice, Leah turned the nearly four hundred thousand dollars into nearly nine hundred thousand before she decided to diversify.
Leah was wandering through, one day during homework clinic. She gave me a significant look and I shifted out of Seth's head and paused in my explanation of rock strata.
You with me, Edward?
I gave her a look that indicated that I was.
Give me a straight number. What's the family's net worth?
"About twelve billion," I said quietly. It was a bit over that, and we were considering taking a considerable chunk of that and repurposing it for the use of the tribal council, but that's about where it stood last week. At least, that was how much the family held in common. Collectively, we might have had something more like forty billion, but that wasn't what Leah had asked.
Ho-ly shit. No wonder you don't think twice about tee shirts and jeans. And motorcycles. And trips to the Smithsonian. Thanks. I need to go talk to Alice now. She ruffled Seth's head and said to him, "Find me before you leave, Squirt." And to Jake, "Hey Jake - I wanna talk to you before the end of the night, okay?"
"I got time now," he said happily.
"No, you don't," responded Esme, and tapped the page of trigonometry in front of them both.
It was day eleven. I left Bella earlier this morning so that I could change at home and return in enough time to catch Charlie before he left for work. Bella wasn't even awake yet, but I could tend to that later.
He heard me as I walked in the back door. He was making coffee for himself, but hadn't yet gotten to anything else. "Morning, Edward. Don't suppose you've got any of Emmett's breakfast sandwiches on you, do you?"
I handed over the goods.
"That's the good stuff," he replied. "Thanks."
"No problem. So. I don't wish to seem inquisitive, Charlie, but I am curious to know where we are on our bet. It's been eleven days, after all."
"So it has," the Sheriff remarked, just before he took a bite of the first unwrapped sandwich.
The kitchen was silent for some time, save the sound of chewing.
"Bacon. I love the ones with bacon. Tell Emmett thanks, will you?"
I nodded and continued to wait.
"You know, Edward. I haven't made a snap decision since I was eighteen. I felt somewhat pressured into it at the time, I don't mind saying, and I've never since had the urge. A mind that can't be made up slowly is a mind that doesn't take enough time."
I watched him as he paused to take a sip of his scaldingly hot coffee. Eventually, I asked, "Do you still feel that way?"
"Well, no. I suppose I don't." He put down the half eaten sandwich back on the wrapper which lay on the table. "Edward, I am in over my head. All the very good rules I had to govern my life no longer seem to apply. I have no idea what I'm supposed to do."
"What do you want to do?"
"Move to Hawaii with that bombshell."
"That's a reasonable reaction, Charlie. I'd kind of like to be secluded on a small tropical island with Bella for the next ten years, myself. So, why don't you move to Hawaii with Tanya?"
"And also?" I prompted, when he seemed no more forthcoming.
"People just don't do that."
"People do that all the time, Charlie. What's really holding you back?"
"Money. Work. Family. Not in that order."
"Well, lets address them in that order, because it might be easiest."
"'Kay," was his suspicious response.
"Tanya has money. And if you don't want to take hers, please take mine. I have more than I know what to do with, and I'd be really, very happy to discuss financial planning with you."
Charlie's brow furrowed. "It goes against the grain, that."
"Think of it as winning the lottery. What's the one in Oregon these days?"
"Uh, I think the powerball goes up to a couple hundred million," he responded slowly.
"Well, there you go. Two hundred million. You'll lose half of it in taxes, but that's the way of the world. We've got some tax shelters we can work you into, if you're up for it, but you can also just have the money outright and pay the tax. Up to you."
"I'm sorry - did you just say you'd give me several hundred million dollars?" Charlie was blinking.
"Well, if you'll take it," I added.
"Damn straight I'll take it!"
"Well, that's one of three. Now, work. It may be best, whenever you decide to do whatever it is you're deciding to do, to simply resign. Tell them you're taking an early retirement and travelling around the world with your new wife. Or girlfriend. Or whatever. Let them throw you a going away party and properly celebrate it. Give them time to train your replacement."
Charlie was munching on the rest of the sandwich at this point.
"And give yourself time to adjust to this new world you find yourself in before you make any long term decisions about what you'd like to do in it. You're a police officer now, and perhaps you'll want to continue doing similar work once things are different. Give yourself time to discover if that's what you'll want to do."
He was on to the second sandwich and looking very pensive.
"Family is easy. We'll be here, no matter what decision you make. We'll support you. If we move, we'll tell you where and you'll always be invited. If you travel, we'll periodically come and find you, if you're amenable. Jasper handles our identities and when yours need to shift, that can happen. Your first year might be a bit dicey so you may want to think about when you want that to happen, but if you change before Bella, or vice versa, we'll make it work, and we'll keep everyone safe, I promise."
He finished his sandwich, pushed his chair back from the kitchen table and sighed. He took a swig of coffee before putting the mug back down again. It was quiet in the small room for some time.
Finally, he broke the silence.
"Shit." He drew it out. It sounded more like sheee-it. "So, I'm going to become a vampire, then, huh?"
I grinned a lopsided grin. "Seems that way. But you didn't answer my question. Do I owe you my Vanquish, or are you going to have a talk with your daughter about that Chevy?"
He smirked, and I'll tell you truthfully, I wasn't sure what he was going to say next.
End Note: Ooo, cliffhanger! Well, I am writing more, but it may be a little bit. (Not two and a half years, but really not next week.) In the meantime, if you have the inclination to go and support my other writing, you won't be disappointed, and I'll be ever so grateful. Heck, I'm grateful in advance. Check out my profile page for details. XOXO -Sare