"Seriously, Bella, don't you think you're being just a little overprotective?" Jacob asked, his husky voice beginning to sound whiney.
We were at the house – the Cullen's large house outside of Forks, not the small cottage Edward, Renesmee, and I shared and which I had come to refer to as "home" in the nine months since Esme and Carlisle had given it to us as a belated wedding gift. I was sitting on the sofa, carefully applying sunscreen to my daughter, who was standing in front of me, her face serious as she just as carefully applied sunscreen to my face and arms. Our heads were nearly level, she standing and me sitting, and she was getting big enough to pass as a first grader, though she was still growing too fast to have much interaction with the public.
"If you're taking her to the beach, she's going to wear sunscreen, Jacob," I said as calmly as I could muster. This argument was starting to get old.
"It's First Beach, Bella, it's not really known as the sun tan capital of the world," he responded sarcastically from his perch just outside the kitchen.
"It's June, and it's sunny. She's going to wear sunscreen, and you're going to re-apply it every two hours like a responsible adult, aren't you?" The edge in my voice was unmistakable.
"She probably can't even get a sunburn."
I gritted my teeth. "We don't know that she can't either. I'm not going to take the risk." Renesmee met my gaze with large, curious eyes. I smiled at her ruefully and rolled my eyes in Jacob's direction.
"She would probably just heal right up from it if she did, you've seen how she heals." He was eating something, I couldn't tell what. It smelled horrible. I was starting to wonder if Jacob's constant eating in the house was more about annoying the rest of us with the smell than it was about his over-active werewolf metabolism. Like his own smell wasn't annoying enough, if any of us let ourselves give it a second's thought.
I sighed. "Jacob, when was the last time you had a sunburn?"
He looked thoughtful for a moment; whatever he was eating went crunch-crunch-crunch as he chewed. "Hmm, I'm not sure," he said finally. "I probably had one as a kid, I don't remember." He shrugged.
"Well they hurt, particularly for someone as pale as Renesmee. I had more than enough sunburns as a kid, so you'll forgive me for playing it safe here." I narrowed my eyes at him, making sure he knew it wasn't a question.
"I just think you're making this into a bigger production than it needs to be. It's just La Push. Nessie should get to see the ocean more than she does."
But I was no longer paying attention to Jacob. Renesmee had stopped in her careful application of sunscreen – unnecessary for me, but I couldn't bring myself to stop her – and pressed her small hand against my cheek; I felt the sunscreen squish under the warm pressure of her palm. This was her usual form of communication, so I was expecting a question or comment relating to the current argument.
What I was not expecting, was what she showed me.
The memory she was using to ask her question was vibrant in color and detail, though I couldn't figure out when or where she would have seen such a thing. Two people, pale and beautiful and dressed in anachronistic clothing, were huddled against a wall as a small spot of sunlight crept towards them. When it hit them, they screamed and clutched at each other as their pale skin turned to gray ash, burning and crumbling in on itself.
Along with this horrifying image was the implied question: Sunburn?
I jerked my face away and gaped at her. "Renesmee, when…?" I managed to choke out.
She looked confused for a moment, but pressed her hand to my face again. This time the view point on the memory was pulled back slightly – it was her and Jacob watching the scene on the small television in his father's house in La Push. Movie night, Jacob had called it.
It took less than half a second for the pieces to click together in my head. My first instinct was to tackle Jacob where he sat, then haul his smelly, traitorous, irresponsible butt outside for the real violence. My second instinct was to tell Edward and let him handle it. Or, I could tell Edward and then help him with the violence. I chose door number three.
In a move I had been practicing for the last few months, I quickly pushed my mental shield to the side and thought as loudly as I could, Edward! Jacob Black has been showing your daughter vampire movies! while holding the image Renesmee had showed me in my mind, before letting the shield fall back into place. Edward called this "snapping" – suddenly being able to hear my thoughts and then just as suddenly being shut out again – and found it very disconcerting, except in emergency situations.
Certain Edward would be along shortly to help, I stood and stepped around Renesmee, wheeling towards Jacob. His eyes widened as he took in my expression. "You!" I began, but a crashing noise from the garage cut me off. Edward came barreling through the door from the garage, nearly taking it off its hinges as he made a beeline for Jacob.
"Outside!" he barked at Jacob, advancing on him as though he intended to drag the larger man out by the scruff of his neck if he had to. But Jacob, clearly sensing that something had gone very, very wrong, was out the door before Edward reached him. Edward followed him with a quick, determined pace.
Alice and Jasper came trailing in from the garage after Edward. Alice looked like she was concentrating very hard, probably trying to see where this argument was going to go, despite the blind spot that Jacob caused. Jasper looked tense and I knew he was testing the emotional atmosphere, but he hadn't extended any calming influences, at least not yet – he, too, wanted to see where this would go.
I turned to follow Jacob and Edward outside, but Renesmee's hand on my arm stopped me. She looked confused and frightened, but mostly angry. I forgot sometimes that Jacob belonged to her as much as she belonged to him; she didn't like when we fought.
I sighed, the rage draining out of me. "It's okay, sweetie, we just need to talk to him. He did something I wish he hadn't done, but it'll be okay. We're just going to talk," I assured her again. "Stay with your Aunt Alice, okay?" I kissed the top of her head and then headed outside to join Edward and Jacob.
They were standing on the far side of the yard, facing each other angrily. The bright summer sun made Jacob look like a bronze statue, while Edward's skin glittered like alabaster; neither seemed to notice. I picked up their voices as soon as I was off the porch.
"—What were you thinking, showing her that?" Edward demanded, obviously still seething.
"Oh relax, would you?" Jacob snapped back. "It's just a movie. She's smart enough to know the difference between fantasy and reality."
"Then why did she just ask me if that's what a sunburn is?" I asked from half way across the yard still, my rage boiling over again.
Jacob turned to me to respond snidely, but he stopped suddenly, looking first confused and then horrified.
"Can you see why we're so upset?" I continued, hoping that he had realized what he'd done wrong. "She thinks a vampire getting a sunburn means turning into ash, and she thinks it could happen to her. Of all the inappropriate movies to show her, Jake, a vampire movie? Really?"
I glanced at Edward for some back up, but the expression on his face was even more horrified than Jacob's. He was paler than normal, and he seemed to be rooted in place, not moving at all. For some odd reason it reminded me of when we'd realized I was pregnant with Renesmee.
I looked over my shoulder, wondering if I had somehow missed a catastrophe behind me, but turned back when Edward made a strangling noise. It took me a moment to realize it was my name.
I was at his side in an instant, closing the remaining distance without conscious thought. "What is it? What's wrong?" I demanded, my hands on his face.
His eyes were still locked onto mine, his expression still pained and horrified, but he reached up a hand to delicately trace a pattern along my cheekbone.
"Bells, your skin!" Jacob said then, sounding slightly strangled himself.
Annoyed at this distraction that couldn't possibly be what Edward was so worried about, I glanced down at my arm. And then I saw it. There was a long streak along the outside of my arm where my skin didn't sparkle in the sunlight. The skin there was a flat pale color, almost milky, while the skin around it still sparkled like normal.
"Huh," was all I could manage as I turned my arm in the sun, seeing the jagged edges of the milky swatch. There was a similar stripe on my other arm, and my palms, too, were flat white.
"Bella?" Edward choked, tilting my chin up so I would look at him. I met his gaze for a moment, the wheels turning in my head, before I went back to examining my arm.
"Yours too now," Jacob said to Edward, his voice more curious than horrified now. "On your face, where she touched you."
The pieces had fallen into place in my head. I rubbed my fingers together, feeling the slick texture, subtly different from the normal silky smoothness. "Wow, I can't believe no one's ever noticed that before…"
"Bella!" Edward admonished now, clearly hating that he couldn't hear my thoughts.
"It's sunscreen," I said, and heard the astonishment in my own voice. "I was putting sunscreen on Renesmee, and she wanted to put some on me, too."
Edward, his eyebrows drawn together, rubbed the streak on my left arm vigorously. The sunscreen stayed put.
"Cool," Jacob said then, leaning over my shoulder to get a better view. "That might make things a bit easier, huh?"
I glared up at him. "We have no idea how long it will last. Just because it doesn't rub off right away doesn't mean it wouldn't wear off at the most inopportune moment—"
"Bella?" Alice called. I turned to see her standing on the porch, Renesmee tucked under her arm, her head riding on Alice's hip. Jasper was leaning in the open doorway behind them.
"It's okay!" I called back. "It's just the sunscreen."
"I know," Alice grinned. "I was going to ask, where did you put all those bikinis I bought for your honeymoon?"
One hour, Alice's uncanny ability to remember where every piece of clothing she had ever owned was stored, a quick stop at Newton's, and several buckets of sunscreen later, we were on the beach at La Push. In the sun. In swimsuits. We looked like the result of an over-zealous "Got Milk?" campaign. But we could pass for normal – pale was very normal around here – at least for a few hours.
Alice and I set up a small fortification of beach umbrellas and towels and coolers full of food for Jake and Renesmee, while they, along with Edward, started scoping out spots to build a sandcastle. It almost felt normal, too.
I shook my head as I spread out another towel. "Just when I think my life can't possibly get any weirder…" I said to Alice. She grinned. "You're sure this won't wear off suddenly and frighten all the mortals?" I asked her for the third or fourth time.
She nodded. "It's hard to see specifics with Jake hanging around, but I'm not seeing any catastrophes in our immediate future," she said, winking. "Besides, your insistence on reapplying is going to keep all of us this bizarre color for the rest of the afternoon, I'm sure."
I rolled my eyes at her as she laughed. "We should probably stay out of the water, though. I'm not sure 'water proof' applies to us."
Alice laughed her silver bell laugh again, and took off for the waves breaking on the shore. I should have known better than to put that challenge to her.
As I settled myself safely under the shade of one of the huge umbrellas, Jacob came jogging up the beach and plopped himself down beside me, sprawling his nearly seven foot frame across two towels and several feet of sand. I handed him a bag of chips without looking at him. He tore into it and began crunching away on the contents, his eyes, like mine, trained on Alice, Edward, and Renesmee playing in the sand.
"Did you tell Sam we were coming?" I asked, trying to avoid the conversation I knew was coming. The re-negotiated treaty allowed us onto Quileute land for activities other than hunting, but we still liked to give advanced notice when more than one or two of us crossed the boundary line.
"Yeah," Jake shrugged. "But that," he motioned towards where Edward and Renesmee were creating a giant pile of sand, which I assumed would eventually be an intricate and fully detailed sandcastle, "is quite a sight. I'm sure some of the other pack members will come down, out of curiosity if nothing else."
He shifted uncomfortably, and I knew what was coming next. "You still mad, Bells?" he asked after a moment.
I sighed and gave him an exasperated look. "You showed my nine month old daughter Interview with a Vampire, of course I'm still mad."
Jacob snorted. "She hardly counts as nine months—"
"We can call her six years old if you'd prefer, but that's really not any better," I snapped, cutting him off. "Really Jake, what were you thinking?"
He shrugged, but had the good sense to look at least slightly ashamed of himself. "It was movie night. We went to the video store, and she picked up the box. She thought it was funny. How am I supposed to say no to that?"
I rolled my eyes at him. "By being the adult, Jake. We trust her with you because we know that you have her best interests at heart, but sometimes that means saying no to her. We have enough trouble explaining the differences between her life and what most people think is reality, without throwing Hollywood fantasy into the mix. Not to mention that an R-rated movie is in no way appropriate for a child her age."
Jacob huffed and grumbled non-committally, but didn't argue.
"Just, no more R-rated movies and no more vampire movies, ok? And no werewolf movies, either," I added, kicking a bit of sand at him.
"Aww, not even Teen Wolf?" he whined around a mouthful of chips. "Come on Bella, that's a classic!"
I rolled my eyes again. "Trust me, there'll be plenty of time when she's older, when she can actually appreciate the irony. So are we clear?" I asked, nudging him with my foot.
"Sure sure, no vampire movies, no werewolf movies, no R-rated movies, got it. Take all the fun out of it, why don't you," he grumbled.
I smirked at him and handed him a bottle of sunscreen. "It's been about forty-five minutes. You should probably go make sure Renesmee has enough sunscreen on her shoulders. You know, like a responsible adult."
He sighed and rolled his eyes dramatically, but took the sunscreen from me and started back down the beach towards Edward and Renesmee and their quickly growing sand castle.
"Oh and Jake?" I called after him, waiting for him to turn back before I continued, trying to keep the smirk off my face as I spoke. "If you ever show her the Underworld movies, she'll be grounded from movie night until she's actually eighteen years old, understand?"
Jacob grinned and shook his head, then continued on down the beach.