Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight.
I smashed through the ferns on the edge of the forest, all my senses fixed on the girl standing in the middle of the meadow. The round meadow was so perfectly familiar, and I didn't even have to glance down to check my footing. Everything about me was focused on her, the girl whose face was even more familiar to me than the meadow itself.
Bella. Bella. Bella.
Her name coursed through me like a mantra as I slowed to a normal, human pace to reach her.
"Bella?" My voice was low, husky with the reminiscence of distant years. I crossed the distance between us. She looked completely confused. That wasn't unusual; Bella had often looked like that. What was unusual was Bella herself.
"Bella?" I repeated. But it couldn't be Bella; this girl was too young. My memories of Bella were of past years, of a clumsy, beautiful seventeen-year-old girl.
"I'm not Bella!"
Distant years, I thought … twenty-two years distant, in fact. Then why was she still the same? I found myself abruptly rooted to the spot. No! My Bella couldn't be a … a vampire. Who got to her? I whirled, my accusing gaze seeking Alice, who I knew followed behind me. Alice noticed nothing. She whipped past me and gathered Bella up to her chest, hugging her hard.
"I'm not Bella!" The girl shrieked, her voice muffled by Alice's chest. Then she fought her way free of Alice's hug, "And you're cold," she added as an afterthought, frowning. I heard Emmett's booming laugh as he, Rosalie and Jasper finally made it to the meadow. They paused on the fringes, waiting to see what happened next.
"If you're not Bella, then who are you?" I demanded of her, my voice more rougher than usual.
"I'm her daughter, Gabrielle," she told us crossly, sitting down on the grass, "and my mother'll be here soon to get me."
Alice and I sat down warily on the ground in front of her. Emmett, Rose and Jazz all hurried over and followed suit.
"If you're waiting, would you mind maybe telling us about yourself a little?" I asked carefully, measuring her annoyed expression. She didn't seem to be fazed by our beauty or speed, and I gathered as I watched her unconcerned assessment of us all that maybe Bella had talked about us a little.
"You know what? I would mind." She informed us, huffing and crossing her arms over her chest. I leaned closer to her without meaning to – she intrigued me. There was something about her that drew me in, she was like Bella, with silent thoughts, but there was something extra about her that piqued my curiosity that little extra bit. Her scent wasn't as appetizing as Bella's had been, but it was pleasant in a non-food way.
The way she assumed what she must have thought was an angry pose left no doubt in my mind as to the fact that she was my Bella's daughter. Except she wasn't my Bella anymore. The child in front of me proved that. Regret sent shockwaves through me. I had wanted so much for Bella to live a normal, human life. So why did I feel so miserable about it, especially with the living, breathing proof sitting in front of me?
It's what you wanted, Ed, Jasper reminded me silently. He could feel dejection washing through me, and for the first time I resented it.
As the girl in front of me – Gabrielle - sat and pointedly avoided our gazes, I analyzed her more thoroughly. She looked so similar to Bella that she could be her twin – the only real difference I could see was that her skin wasn't as pale as Bella's had been. Gabrielle's skin was slightly more tanned, and as she turned her head I caught an odd symbol under her jaw that looked like a red tattoo. I wondered briefly what it meant, but then was distracted by her smell, which the wind wafted towards me. I studied it carefully; it was tempting like Bella's had been but in a different way, and there was an underlying scent of something, a little like wet dog, but not as nasty. I opened my mouth to ask her another question, ignoring the thoughts of the others around me, but I was cut off by a voice so familiar it took me a few seconds to drag myself from the past.
"Gabi? Gabi! I asked you to stay out of sight, not to run and hide!"
Gabrielle was on her feet in a swift motion that was definitely not inherited from Bella. "I'm here, Mom, in the meadow!" she called back. I watched, my head reeling, as Bella appeared from under the trees. Although twenty-two years had passed, she didn't look very different. Her face had some very shallow lines in it – laugh lines, I noticed with annoyance – and her hair was thicker, more lustrous than it had been when I knew her.
"You!" she cried when she saw us. Alice tried to run to hug her as the rest of us got to our feet. She pushed her away with an angry, cold glare, and went to stand by her daughter, as far away from us as possible.
"Where's Dad?" Gabrielle asked in a low voice that carried perfectly. Bella didn't bother to lower her voice, knowing that we could all hear her perfectly well anyway.
"I don't know. I lost him when he headed off to see Paul. Why he would want to go visit that moody prat I have no idea." They shared an amused glance, and I wondered what Paul they were referring to, and why he made them laugh.
"So we have to hang around here and wait for him?" Gabrielle complained to her mother, frowning again.
"What, you'd rather walk? It's a long way home, but be my guest," Bella replied, gesturing that Gabrielle could go right ahead. I waited for her to respond.
"No, it's all good. I think I'll wait for the car." Gabrielle said hastily.
"I thought you might," Bella said, seeming slightly annoyed.
"Hey, Bella," Emmett called from behind me. I hissed, I hadn't been keeping tabs on the thoughts of my family, and I ought to have been in case Rosalie went on one of her she-might-be-prettier-than-me-so-I-have-to-beat-her-up rampages. It took all of us to restrain her when that happened. There was a short, uncomfortable silence, which Bella broke.
"Hello. I'm guessing that you've met my daughter." She said in a monotone. We all just nodded like idiots.
"Mom? Who are they?" Gabrielle asked, taking in the look on her mother's face.
"The Cullen's," Bella spat furiously. Gabrielle's eyes widened, and then she laughed. Bella glared at her. They seemed to be sharing another private joke. I didn't like it: without their minds open I had no idea what they were thinking about.
"God, I'm sorry Mom, I didn't realize," Gabrielle hurried out.
"Don't be sorry," Bella replied almost bitterly. "I'm not."
"Oh, I'm not. I just felt like I had to apologize." Gabrielle explained, making Emmett and Alice laugh. Bella sent Gabrielle a look that shut her up fast, and I relaxed a little now their family argument was over. Alice seemed to realize that I was no longer focused entirely on Bella and her daughter and mentally shouted a question at me that I guessed she'd been trying to get my attention with for a while.
Edward, who do you think her father is?
That caught my attention all right. I winced, and tried to pick out more things that differentiated her from Bella that might give clues as to her father's identity. I had already noticed the slightly russet skin, and her eyes were a little wider than Bella's. Her hair was shinier and a darker brown and she was a little taller. That was about all I could make out.
Then the last voice in the world I wanted to hear reached my ears.
"Sorry, baby. You know how Paul can get."
My head whipped up to glare at the source of the sound. The source glared right back. The other members of his 'pack' surrounded him, and all of them had furious expressions focused on us. A couple were shaking furiously. Apparently I had just discovered the identity of Gabrielle's father.
"Cullen," he spat.
"Black," I hissed.
A/N: Who did not see this coming? ;)