A/N: I apologize in advance to any Edward fans. He's still being...difficult. And this should be the last chapter before they get up and outta here so thanks for being patient.
It was weird for Alice to see such a social atmosphere around eating. In her family, everyone was either ashamed of needing to eat the way they did, boastful about whatever humungous creature they killed, or just plain silent about the whole ordeal until it became time to do it again. Mrs. Clearwater hadn't wanted Alice over for dinner, thinking it would be rude not to cook for her and eat while she couldn't, but Alice had insisted. If dinner was a girlfriend's usual proving grounds, then Alice wasn't going to miss it for the world.
"So...Alice," Mrs. Clearwater's voice was stiff, "any college plans?"
Alice smiled proudly, thinking of what Bella showed her last night. "I've been to college at least a dozen times, so I wasn't really thinking about it until Leah showed up to be honest. The only reason for me to have gone before was just to keep up the human charade, but then Leah came along and I wanted to share the experience with her."
"What would you do while Leah had to study?" Mrs. Clearwater's voice was biting.
"Mom," Leah pleaded.
"I was worried about that too actually," Alice wasn't lying, "I didn't think it would be fair if Leah was legitimately working on new things and learning and meeting new people and I was just hanging around. But...you know Bella, right?"
"Charlie's daughter?" Mrs. Clearwater asked. "Married to your brother?"
Alice nodded. "Yes, that's her. She invited me over last night, and apparently she got an invitation to a special college for people like us. Not just a college, an entire community where we won't have to worry about sparkling or moving too fast or sitting too still. The history professors were there when history happened, and the English professors probably watched the English language evolve from Chaucer. I think Leah would love it."
"Do you really think that an entire community of vampires is going to welcome a werewolf with open arms?"
Leah sighed. She had explained to her mother a thousand times since the confrontation with the Voltouri that she wasn't a werewolf. Trying was getting pretty old.
"I do actually," Alice said, "and here's why. Vampires were never really able to start their own community like this before, because our government was stopping us. The government that claimed to be 'preserving our way of life' and allowing us to hunt like predators throughout the ages also tried to keep us from having any chance at living truly fulfilling lives. They were very hostile toward my family for being vegetarian."
"Vegetarian?" Mrs. Clearwater didn't sound convinced. "You feed off of carrots?"
"No," Alice sighed, "we are meat eaters but we hunt animals, not people. Just like most meat-eating humans do. Anyway, myths were constantly being spread that true vampires wouldn't want to live with other vampires, that true vampires wanted to roam aimlessly in forests, completely alone. That was true for some, but it wasn't all of us. After Leah helped us stand up to this government that has been around longer than I've been alive, no sane vampire will have anything negative to say about her."
"Really?" Mrs. Clearwater asked. "And how much will this cost?"
"From what I understand, it doesn't," Alice said, "most vampires don't have money, and those who do have a lot of it. When you get to be a hundred, your bank acquires a lot of interest."
"Leah, is this actually something you'd want to do?" Mrs. Clearwater sounded very skeptical, putting Leah a bit on the defensive.
"Of course I do!" Leah realized her tone was sharp and did her best to soften it. "It is so stressful trying to make sure I don't phase in front of the wrong person, that I don't let my emotions get the better of me when you invite Charlie over, that I don't let anybody shake my hand and feel how hot my skin is. If there's a place I won't have to do that, I'm in."
"Me too," said Seth, rather unexpectedly.
Now Mrs. Clearwater looked like she was going to faint. "Well...wait a second. How is vampire college going to prepare you for the real world? For the job market?"
"They're working on accreditation," Alice explained, "it's why they're trying to round up as many vampires/what-have-you who are used to being around humans so the inspections can run smoothly. This school can not only give Leah a degree, but renew it every few years so no human will suspect. She can get jobs, she can travel, she can do anything she wants to."
"As long as you're around," Mrs. Clearwater said sternly. The truth was, she had always hoped her children would outlive her, but had never considered the extent to which they would.
"But she will be," Leah said, and for the first time Alice sensed confidence from her girlfriend and felt like she could soar.
"Didn't you leave your husband of over sixty years to be with my daughter?" Mrs. Clearwater asked.
"Oh come on," Leah protested, "are you really going to support Sam and Emily's relationship, but not mine with Alice?"
"Good point," Seth said.
"Sam wasn't married to you, Leah. And while I never approve of someone breaking my daughter's heart, it was a different story altogether," Mrs. Clearwater responded.
Alice nodded gravely, trying to figure out a way to dig herself out of this. Luckily, she didn't have to. "That's how imprints work," Leah said, "you don't know they're coming and you certainly don't know that there's better love out there than whatever you're in. I know Jacob didn't expect to imprint on his unrequited love's baby daughter."
"I never pretended to understand that one either," Mrs. Clearwater was abashed, "I just think...wow...the idea of marrying someone you saw in diapers."
"It scares him too," Leah said, "but the great thing about imprints is, there's always something more important than your fear."
"This is definitely never what I would have wanted for you," Mrs. Clearwater said.
Now, Alice felt, was her turn to defend. "I know I'm not what any mother really wants for her son, much less her daughter, but I swear to you I'm not going to hurt Leah and I'm not going to leave her. If she weren't a shape shifter, maybe a normal relationship with a human would make sense but she is, and it doesn't."
"If you ever have kids, you'll understand," Mrs. Clearwater said, "it's scary to see your child become something you don't even understand. I certainly don't blame them for my husband's death but, well, he couldn't handle it at all. It's hard being a single parent of two werewolves."
Resisting the urge to fly into a rage, Alice said, "I understand. Maybe I don't understand being a parent, but I understand not wanting to see the people I care about get hurt."
"A lover is nothing like your own child," Mrs. Clearwater said.
Alice nodded. "Wasn't suggesting it was. Bella is crazy about Edward, but her love for Edward has nothing on her love for Renesmee," Alice at least wanted to believe it was true, "the way she completely loses it if anything could happen to Renesmee at all really amazes me. I didn't have real parents before Carlisle and Esme, so I really hope that however hard it is, you guys will find a way to get along."
"What happened to your parents?" Mrs. Clearwater asked softly.
"Alice, you don't have to ans..." Leah started.
Alice interrupted, "no it's fine. Honestly I don't really remember my real parents. But I was a little like Leah in that, I found out I was very different sometime in my teen years. Instead of shape shifting, I had psychic visions. They left me in a mental hospital to rot and back then, mental hospitals weren't hospitals at all, just asylums for lunatics. Not a place I'd ever leave someone I loved."
"That's terrible," Mrs. Clearwater said. "I may not like Leah being a were-shape shifter," she forced, "but I would never...never do that to her."
That was all Alice needed. "I'm glad."
After dinner, Alice and Leah went for a walk by themselves to digest the evening. "I think she'll come around," Leah said, "good job tugging at her heartstrings."
"I didn't even mean to really," Alice said, "I just know what happens when parents get so afraid of their children being different from them, that they forget their kids are their kids. Forget to love them entirely."
"I don't think she forgets to love us," Leah said, "I just think she forgets that we're still the same kids we always were, you know?"
Alice nodded. "I tried to talk to Edward last night."
Leah half-chuckled, then put her arm around Alice. "How did that go?"
"About as well as you could expect. I thought I could find some common ground with him, because he dated a human and I'm dating somebody who is still technically living out a normal lifespan. Too bad though, the fact that we're gay just makes us night and day different from Edward and his lovely Bella," Alice was surprised at how bitter she was sounding.
"They seem like a pretty traditional 1950s couple," Leah said, "Edward kind of has all the power, but if Bella whines enough he'll do what she says."
"I didn't want to think of it that way, but you know you might be right," Alice said, "he was going to let her have a drive-through wedding in Vegas before I stepped in."
"Did she even want to marry him in the first place?" Leah asked.
"I don't know," Alice said, "I don't think so. She was all horrified about being the eighteen-year-old just-out-of-high-school bride. But it was pretty much either get married and let her dad at least get to give her away, or just essentially die. Everybody in the family was content to just hide her from her family forever and pretend she died on their honeymoon until Jacob finally dragged Charlie over to the house. I love my family but sometimes I hate every last one of them."
"Don't we all?" Leah asked.
When Alice and Leah got back to the Cullen mansion, Bella and a grumpy looking Edward were passing out "college applications" to Rosalie, Emmett, Jacob, and Renesmee. "Oh, hi you two," Bella said cheerfully, handing a stack of papers to each of them.
They both reluctantly took their seats, away from Edward, and reached for books or magazines to use as a hard surface.
"Why don't you let me do that?" Edward asked, as Bella began to fill in her name.
"I'm not human anymore, Edward," Bella sighed, "I can write my own name."
Not liking to feel useless, Edward shifted his attention to his toddler daughter, who was also filling out her application without his help. "Daddy do you think I'll get in?" Renesmee asked.
"Of course you will," Jacob said, "who wouldn't want you at their school?"
"Why don't you let me get my daughter ready for school?" Edward glowered.
"Maybe because you're too busy babying your wife to bother," Jacob retorted.
"Guys!" Emmett rose to his feet. "Seriously. Edward, take some Midol."
"You're really going to make sexist period jokes in front of your wife?" Edward asked.
"He knows what I can handle," Rosalie had originally planned to stay out of this, but didn't like seeing Emmett attacked, "better than you do."
Alice sensed that Bella's idealism was slowly, very slowly fading. "You guys, come on! I thought we could just do this thing together and try to get along."
"We'll get along when your husband gets over the fact that shape shifters have invaded his perfect little bloodsucker family," Jacob spat. When he realized what he was implying about Renesmee, he stroked her hair and said, "I'm sorry sweetie."
"Well excuse me if I don't want a pedophile hanging around my daughter!" Edward roared.
"Daddy stop being mean to Jakey!" Renesmee screeched.
"You don't know anything about this guy," Edward said. "Do you know what he wants? Do you?"
"Daddy stop it!" Renesmee shrieked. "He wants to buy me a big house next door to yours and buy me lots of toys and dresses and ponies!"
"Want to know why?" Edward hissed.
"Edward STOP!" both Alice and Leah were in front of him, physically restraining his verbal abuse. Within seconds, a crowd of scorned vampires and shape shifters had assembled around Edward.
"Come on," he motioned to Bella and Renesmee, "we're going home."
"Mommy do we have to?" Renesmee asked.
"No," Bella said firmly. "Edward, you're acting like...you know what? Mike Newton is more mature than you're being right now."
It was a low blow but nobody doubted it was called for.
"Then why did you let me turn you into a vampire, hmm?" Edward asked. "Why did you marry me?"
"Mommies and daddies aren't supposed to yell at each other!" Renesmee argued. "They're supposed to love each other? Jakey said when you get married you promise to love each other and not be mean! You have to be nice because you promised." They were childish words, but Renesmee looked truly shaken.
"I also have an obligation to keep you safe," Edward said.
"You can't separate them," Leah said, "any more than anybody in either of your families could separate you from Bella."
"For real," Emmett said, "you can't stand here and say that your love is somehow better than everyone else's."
"You're okay with this, Emmett. Rosalie?" he asked, hoping to appeal to her maternal and rape survivor side. "You, after everything, are okay letting the closest thing you've ever had to a daughter hang around this..."
"I swear if you call him a dog again I'm leaving you," Bella said.
That was enough. Edward backed down and recoiled in his seat. "You'd really leave me over this? Over trying to do what's best for our daughter?"
"No," Bella said, "I'd leave you for being a bigot. You're the one who taught me not to judge people. You didn't know, because you couldn't read my mind, but I was scared when I found out you were a vampire. I had no reason to believe you wouldn't kill me other than I was madly in love with you and I needed to believe you. And I'm glad I had faith in you, because I figured out that love was stronger than whatever part of you wanted to rip my flesh apart," she used the words deliberately, knowing the image of tearing Bella apart would cut at Edward, "if love can keep a vampire from hurting the best smelling human he's ever met, don't you think love can keep Jacob from hurting Renesmee?"
"It didn't keep Alice from hurting Jasper," Edward argued.
"And surprisingly, Jasper is being more of an adult about all this than you are," Bella said.
A few moments passed and Bella stormed off. "I don't think you should chase her," Emmett said to Edward. But it was too late.
"Jakey where did Mommy and Daddy go?" Renesmee asked.
"They couldn't do it without me," Jacob sighed.
"I never thought I'd see the day Bella stayed mad at Edward," Leah commented.
"I'm really sorry this is the impression you're getting of our family," Emmett said, "I swear we don't all have sticks up our..."
"Not in front of Ness," Rosalie warned.
"Sorry," Emmett said. "But geez...Edward used to be the totally level-headed one. I thought we had all the drama in the family. Us and maybe Jasper."
"Why don't you finish your application, Ness?" Jacob asked. "I'm going to talk to Bella. Alone."
His tone dared anyone to try to stop him.
"Oh geez," Leah sighed, when Jacob was gone. "Not this again."
"What's Jakey doing?" Ness asked.
"I really think someone should just explain this Edward/Jacob drama to Ness already," Rosalie said, "it's getting ridiculous."
"Won't that just creep her out?" Emmett asked.
"I wanna know!" Ness said.
"When your daddy and your mommy first started dating, your daddy didn't think he was good enough for your mommy. He was scared he'd hurt her, so he left her thinking she'd be happier without him," Rosalie began.
"Rose, I don't think Edward would want Ness to hear this," Emmett said.
"Tough," Rosalie said, "anyway, your daddy broke up with your mommy and moved somewhere else. She was really hurt and she didn't really talk to anybody for months."
"If Jakey did that I'd yell at him," Ness said.
"Well your mommy probably wanted to, but she couldn't. He was gone," Rosalie said, "he thought he was helping her. Anyway, Jacob was your mommy's best friend back then. They spent a lot of time together, and Jacob thought he was falling in love with your mom. He just wanted to be around her all the time. He didn't know yet that he was really in love with you, but since you weren't born yet, he was confused. Anyway, Jacob cared about your mommy a lot and didn't want her to get hurt. Your daddy came back and apologized to your mom, and they got back together."
"Poor Jakey!" Renesmee said. "How come no one liked him?"
"Because your mom knew she was supposed to be with Edward. And deep down Jacob knew he wasn't supposed to be with your mommy, "Rosalie said, "anyway, Jacob didn't trust your daddy, and your daddy didn't want your mom hanging around Jacob. He was scared that Jacob might hurt your mommy, or maybe take your mommy away from him."
"But how come he didn't know better?" Ness asked. "Cuz I'm a baby and I know better!"
Put in that context, it was pretty comical.
"So your mommy and your daddy got married," Rosalie continued, "and when they went on a vacation together your mommy got pregnant with you."
"But they thought she was sick," Renesmee filled in.
"Basically," Rosalie said, "no one knew what happened to her, so Jacob came over to make sure she was okay. They kept right on fighting up until the moment you were born. Jacob realized that he didn't really love Bella, he was just waiting for Bella to have you. And most of the time when men Jacob's age love girls your age, they're bad people who hurt kids. Your daddy doesn't quite understand what's going on yet."
"But Jakey isn't a bad person who hurts kids!" to Renesmee it was the only argument needed. "Can't Jakey just tell daddy that?"
"He tried," Rosalie said, "but your daddy loves you so much that he can't listen yet."
It wasn't totally satisfying to Renesmee, but she knew there wasn't much else to ask. Eventually, everyone returned to their applications and tried to be chirpy as possible.
"They did a good job with these," Leah said, "they look just like every other application I've ever filled out."
"Have you gotten to the essay yet?" Rosalie asked. "In the why do you want to attend question, your answer will tell them if you're a vampire/shape shifter or not, and that's all that really counts. The rest is a formality."
"And a waste of time for whatever human kids decide to apply here," Leah said.
"Yeah, but this school is selective enough that kids know not to make it their first choice," Rosalie said, "at least from my understanding."
"What activities did I do in high school?" Ness asked.
"Shouldn't her application be different from ours?" Alice asked, scribbling down some theater experience from her school before Forks.
Rosalie shook her head. "They have one application that's more an application to let you live on their island in the first place than an actual college application. If Ness doesn't fill out a single question but the essay and her name she'll still get in. Chances are though, her classes won't be college-like."
Alice nodded. "Sure sure."
Everyone was finished long before Bella came back without Edward or Jacob. "Oh crap, where's Edward?" Emmett asked.
"I don't know," Bella said honestly, "can I just stay here tonight?"
"Slumber party!" Renesmee said. Her cheer was short-lived when she saw how upset her mother looked. She frowned. "Daddy's being a stupid dumb head."
Bella opened her mouth to correct her daughter, but stopped. "I don't think I can argue with you right now."
"I should find Jake," Leah said, "make sure he and Edward aren't attacking each other."
"I should come with," Alice offered.
"No," Leah said, "I think I can make Jacob stop, but I doubt any of you have much sway over Edward."
Those words were biting to Bella, who was used to at least having some sway in the relationship.
"I'll deal with Edward," Emmett said.
"Emmett," Rosalie pleaded. She knew Emmett was fiercely loyal and protective of her and other people he loved, and didn't want to see that pitted against Edward's current state of brooding.
Before anyone else could object, Leah and Emmett were gone.
"This is getting stupid," Alice said to Bella, "I'm sorry Edward's being like this."
"Is Daddy leaving Mommy again?" Renesmee looked horrified.
"No, no," Alice stepped in, "after the first time, he promised he wouldn't..."
"If anyone's leaving this time, it's Mommy," Bella said dryly.
Alice felt pretty shocked. Those were fighting words coming from Bella, but Alice was never sure how much stock to put in Bella's "anger" with Edward. It seemed to come and go and always seemed solvable with a little flip of his hair. This time, he probably should get on the hair flipping a little faster, Alice thought.
Leah and Emmett returned, Emmett practically dragging Edward into the house. "Jake went home," Leah said, "he's my alpha so I can't really do anything about that."
"But I'm not letting Edward leave until we have this shit sorted out. At least between everyone present," Emmett said.
"Emmett come on," Rosalie said. She had to admit his heroism was great at times, but now was not one of those times.
"Why did Uncle Emmett say a bad word?" Renesmee asked.
Bella frowned. "Edward, seriously. Jacob is a part of our family, and so is Leah now. If you can't deal with that, you can go home by yourself. I'm staying here tonight."
He seethed and returned to his seat on the couch. "I thought my wife of all people would understand. Here I tried so hard, damned or not, to keep our relationship pure, to keep things proper, and you're sending our daughter off with a..."
Bella shook her head, looking angry. "You didn't do all that purity stuff for me. We did it for you," she hissed, "I had no problem with sex before marriage, I was undecided what my opinion was on marriage, but it was important to you. So we did it."
"I don't know what you're saying," Edward breathed, "so now you regret marrying me?"
"I never said that," Bella said, "never. I'm saying, I've always been more progressive than you. I've never been homophobic or conservative. It just seems a little odd to me that you never noticed."
"I spent a hundred and eight years searching for Bella," he seethed, "searching for the perfect woman who could return my humanity. And Bella has so little respect for our daughter, for my daughter, to throw her to a...dog."
Bella shook her head. "Are you really that insecure, that your marriage feels threatened by your own daughter?"
Everyone just watched, letting the fight continue in front of them. Until Leah stepped in. "Okay, look. You obviously love each other or you wouldn't have gone through all this crap to be together. And obviously Alice and I love each other and you to put up with all the crap we're getting from you, and if Jacob didn't honestly love Ness, do you really think he'd be content to spend seven or more years playing patty cake with her before even thinking about what's in it for him? There's not a single person here whose love is normal or usually even acceptable, so none of us really have the right to judge each other."
"I don't want to hear it," Edward said.
"I thought that would work," Leah muttered to Alice.
"I think it'd be best if you and Bella figured your own stuff out before dealing with us," Alice said. She took Leah's hand and they left, applications in Leah's messenger bag.
"When we get to vampire school, I want a dorm room on the opposite side of the island from theirs. With sound-proof walls," Leah said bitterly.
Putting her arms around Leah, Alice tried to think of something to say to lessen the blow of Edward's behavior. "Whatever you want," was all Alice could come up with.
"Let's just get these things finished and in the mail," Leah said, "even if they come with us, they'll have hundreds of other people to annoy, won't they?"
"Be mad at my brother if you need to be, but try not to be too hard on Bella," Alice said, "I think she's finally waking up a bit, and it's just taking him some time to catch up."
They finished the essay portions of their applications at the library and were ready to mail by the time it was closing.
"I guess we'll see what happens," Leah dropped her application in the mailbox.
"I guess we will," Alice agreed.