Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended. Stephenie Meyer created it all.
A/N: Dedicated to Starla1979 who challenged me to write this.
"Hey, you two, what are you doing?" I asked Emmett and Henry, leaning over the back of the chair to peer over Emmett's shoulder.
They were sitting at the computer, and I realized that they had pulled up one of the astronomy CD-ROMs that Henry received for his birthday. They were looking at an article about the formation of a new supernova that scientists were monitoring. Henry glanced up at the screen, seeing my reflection. A curiously blank look came over his face and he glanced over at Emmett, saying, "Did you hear something? I could have sworn I heard someone talking to us."
Emmett turned and looked around the room, glancing right over me as he did so, and then responded back to Henry, "Huh…I thought I heard something, too. House must be haunted; good thing we're moving soon."
Henry snickered at Emmett's supposition. They turned back to stare at the screen, completely ignoring me. Infernal vampire, and…vampire's spawn. They were going to actually hold me to losing the Valentine's Day challenge. I heard Alice and Jasper come in the door behind me and figured I would at least have someone who would talk with me. Alice skipped toward me with a big smile on her face, and I responded in kind, grateful that she wasn't going to make me deal with the silly requirement Henry had imposed.
To say I was mad when she skipped by me, heading straight to Henry and Emmett, was an understatement. I did see Jasper's lips quirk slightly as he passed me, which seemed to be the biggest acknowledgement I was going to get.
I started back up the stairs, stomping my foot on each individual one and mumbling under my breath about what I thought of Emmett McCarty Cullen, and his son. I heard said son's giggles as I reached the floor on which our rooms were located. I wrenched the door to my and Em's bedroom open and then slammed it closed as hard as I thought it could withstand. Flopping down onto the bed, I threw my arm across my face and began to run through the memories of the day that had started my torture.
It had been a traditional Valentine's Day with the Cullens. We were merciless in our gifts to each other, as usual. The addition of Edward, Bella, and a walking, talking, calculating Henry, complete with his side kick Anna, were the only changes from the previous year.
I had been extraordinarily proud of Henry because of his ingenuity and finesse in finding gifts. He won the winner's rights because he had not only remained stoic through the whole affair, but also because he had spent absolutely nothing on any of the gifts he gave. He had connived; sweet talked, or just plain begged his way into acquiring each and every one. I never thought he would turn it around on me, but when I saw his face I knew I was being paid back for his birthday party.
Carlisle and Esme had drawn first place, and I actually heard Jake groan about he and Nessie getting second. He was hoping to get through the gifts early, as he had done the year past. We should have known by the first gift from Henry to Esme that we were in for a ride. It was in a large wrapped package, obviously a box, and the very distinct odor of rotting organic matter emanated from it.
Esme handled it with extreme care; not knowing what to expect. She knelt down on the floor when Henry told her to not tip it over. When she tore through the burlap wrapping, she found a wooden box full of dirt. In Anna's flowing handwriting, the phrase Esme's garden was painted around the wooden sides, with various flowers, bugs and butterflies in attendance.
Esme had looked over at Henry quizzically until a pinkish tendril squirmed to the top of the soil. She shrieked, leaping through the air to land in Edward's lap across the room. Emmett burst out laughing from the look on Esme's face, not caring that he immediately was thrown out of the running. He'd never won, and didn't care, because he enjoyed laughing at the participants' reactions and gifts, much to Alice's consternation.
Several other worms joined the first on the top of the soil, responding to the light that was coming through the windows.
"It's a worm farm, Nana. Charlie helped me make it from some of the left over wood he had from other projects. He took me to Billy's old gardening spot to dig up the starter soil, and we specifically picked through the worms to find the best ones to start the process. He and Ms. Sue said that they will give us the scraps from their kitchen to use. Actually, it's technically called vermicomposting. Since you're constantly teaching about the environment and ways to be environmentally friendly I couldn't think of a more appropriate gift."
The room was deathly silent, but Carlisle's facial expression said he was about to join Emmett in the disqualified list. Esme was extremely embarrassed from having overreacted. Although worms were not her favorite creatures, she ran into them regularly while gardening and had never reacted thusly. She elegantly slid off Edward's lap, dusting off her pants as she sniffed, "It just startled me, seeing it from my peripheral vision."
"Of course, Esme; no one would dream you were afraid of a few red wrigglers," Edward said with mock seriousness.
She swatted him quickly before walking back over to where her 'gift' sat, the rich soil undulating with the worms contained within; the rotting smell emanating from various pieces of food that were now visible within the soil.
Henry spoke up with enthusiasm, beaming at his grandmother. "The best thing is that it'll serve two purposes. It'll make very rich compost for your flowers, but it'll also serve as a breeding ground for some very juicy worms for us to take fishing. Charlie indicated that, by this summer, when we go on our trip, we should have plenty to divide and take with us."
Edward looked over to Henry and I could see the apparent delight in his face, although he had yet to make a peep. I knew what he was so clearly tickled about. Henry had utilized Edward's tactic from last year. He had given Esme a gift that she was guaranteed to keep, but in the process she would have to deal with rotting food scraps (one of a vampire's worst scent nightmares), and it would produce the worms she would hate to touch when they finally did go on the fishing trip she and Carlisle had planned. From the look on Edward's face, Henry knew exactly what he was doing, and yet he sat before his grandparents with a faultless innocent expression.
Henry's façade of innocence began to crumble when Carlisle had finally got around to his present. The trademark pink box was decorated with kiss marks (courtesy of Anna) and large black X's. Carlisle opened it and pulled out a pair of red silk boxers. The boxers had white hearts all over them and, at first glance, it would have seemed an almost appropriate gift for Valentine's Day. Well, if they were coming from Esme, that is…
Upon closer inspection, the white hearts that covered the red silk boxers contained messages penned in black permanent marker. Witty repartee like: Bite Me, Love Doctor, Freud Rocks, CC & EC 4-ever, Sucks Life (which took me a moment to figure out was an intentional slam on Carlisle vampire nature) instead of the traditional Life Sucks, and my favorite – Trust me; I'm a Doctor. These and various other combinations had been finely printed across each and every heart. Carlisle had raised his face toward Esme and she arched her delicate eyebrow at him in subtle challenge. I was guessing a repeat of from last year's escapades would be occurring at the first available moment. Emmett and I might possibly need to go ahead and call a hotel for them in Seattle and send them along their way.
"Aunt Alice got those as a free gift when she went to that girly shop at the mall for her Valentine's Day present for Jasper."
Jasper's eyes snapped up, and a truly anticipatory look washed across his face as his face as he gazed with expectant hunger at Alice. Alice knew Jasper had a soft spot for racy lingerie, and she used it at every opportunity to surprise him. We were only going to have about ten percent of Jasper's attention for the rest of the evening, and I didn't have to be a mind reader or an empath to know what was going to occupy his thoughts. Edward threw a pillow at him from across the room, startling him back to reality.
I learned later from Anna that she had helped Henry to come up with the sayings and penned them herself to the underwear. She had admitted to her embarrassment in doing this, and I warned her to hang on for a wild ride. She was a part of this family now, and she might as well get over the shyness or she was going to become a target.
I laughed as I looked at the ceiling in my bedroom, remembering running into the same boxers a couple of days later when I had gone into their room to retrieve a shirt for Esme. Carlisle had utilized a hanger and put the shorts on the back of their bedroom door. A black silk arrow had been hot glued to a safety pin and that said arrow had been pointed to the Love Doctor heart. I really didn't want to know…truly.
We'd all heard at least part of the "doctor's house call" the night of Valentine's Day. Alice had screamed, causing laughter to explode from various parts of the house. Esme and Carlisle ran into the woods chortling, as Alice yelled out the window after them that leaving would help everyone but her. She had shaken her head with a mischievous smile the next morning when they returned. As much as my family probably thought I regretted not being "special" with my prima donna complex, I was immensely grateful that I didn't have Alice or Edward's gifts. It was bad enough that we could hear everything without having to deal with the visuals.
I smiled and rolled over onto my stomach, remembering the satisfied look on Esme's face when they returned the next morning. My eyes were drawn to the picture of Henry and Nessie that sat prominently on my side table. I reached over and grabbed the picture, running my fingertips across the laughing faces.
Alice had captured them on Esme's bench down by the river. The sunlight filtering through the clouds turned their skin luminescent; highlighting Henry's hair blue/black and Nessie's liquid gold. They sat reading together, and something in the story had tickled them. Alice had captured the moment perfectly. It was one of my and Bella's favorite photos. They were thicker than thieves, and a source of constant amusement and worry for us with their super intelligence and quizzical natures. It was said quizzical nature that Henry utilized to annoy Nessie during the celebration.
After Carlisle's moment, Nessie had picked up the reins and began opening her gifts. When she reached Henry's, she was stumped by the large box. I had originally thought that the present was Carlisle's gift to her, due to the medical packing tape that had been utilized to secure the flaps on the Biohazard box. Instead, it was purely a Henry Cullen special. Beakers and test tubes, droppers and stirrers, slides and covers; a scientist's delight and exactly perfect for Nessie's experimental nature. I was about to complain when Jasper stepped in.
"Hey, that's a perfect gift for Nessie. What's the catch? Or are you down on your game, Henry?" Henry had just pursed his lips and indicated with a wave of his hand that Nessie should continue to explore the box.
The quirk was at the bottom; two smaller packages – one was a fire extinguisher and protective eyewear, and the other was a small lab coat. Nessie's face turned red when she saw the eyewear and lab coat. Henry had obtained fake grey hair from somewhere and fashioned tufts of bushy hair at the tops of the goggles. The lab coat had "Dr. Nesstein" stitched finely across the pocket, and then a quote from Albert Einstein was finely penned just above that in the same black ink used for the boxers. It read: If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts.
Edward roared in laughter at the look on his daughter's face, ejecting him from the game. She had been busted. She was known to be dogmatic about her theories, and was known to question the facts first, even in the face of adamant opposition and failure of her experiments. Unfortunately for us, Nessie was almost always right when it came to her theories, but it took experiment after experiment to dispel the faulty facts. Emmett had labeled her Dr. Nesstein in response to her persistence, and teased Bella about her parentage – intimating that Bella must have had an affair with one of Einstein's spawn.
Someone, I was suspecting either Jacob or Anna, had drawn an incredible likeness of the scientist on the back of the lab coat and Henry had written further Einstein quotes surrounding it. "Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them." "It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education (a direct reference to both Nessie and Henry's complaints about their home-schooling)." "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." And one of my favorites, considering how the two of them covered for each other: "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."
The fact that Henry had placed it all in a Biohazard box was also a stroke of creative genius. The two were both hazards to most any form of life that got too close to their experiments.
"I went with Papa to the office the other day, and I met one of the nurses that stops by there all the time." Carlisle looked down sheepishly as Esme giggled under her breath, but Henry continued on. "She thought I was cute and asked if I wanted an ice cream. I couldn't hurt her feelings so I went with her, figuring I could ditch the stuff. On the way down, she stopped by the lab to introduce me to the techs there, and they were clearing out some old equipment. They also had the lab coat that had been sent as a sample and were delighted to let me have it, since it was too small for anyone else."
Henry looked over at Emmett, wriggling his eyebrows, and it was apparent to everyone that he had charmed the technicians out of the equipment.
Then, as an afterthought, he said, "Papa, I forgot to mention that the nurses think I'm your son. I heard them talking, wondering how you and Nana hid me from them all this time. Several of them think you might have had an affair with someone, since I don't look anything like you or Nana. That caused a flutter, because they began wondering what it would take to convince you to have another one."
Jacob burst out; spewing the Coke out of his mouth and nose down the front of his shirt. He began coughing, attempting to clear the liquid from his lungs, while the rest of us stared in fascination at Carlisle's horrified face. Nessie started beating Jake's back to help him out and picked up the next gift to start us back on the way.
Jacob's gift had been the source of a fight between him, Emmett, and Jasper. When Jacob un-wrapped the package from Henry to find a copy of the new American Idol Encore game for the Wii, Emmett and Jasper jumped at him before a word was even spoken. There was no way they were going to let Jacob sing.
"What the hell were you doing giving that to Henry, Jasper," Emmett roared as he attempted to rip the program from Jacob's hands.
"I didn't know he was going to give it to Jacob, I thought he wanted it for himself," Jasper rasped out, while he attempted to help. Jasper had received the copy as a free gift from ordering so many other programs.
Jacob had huddled into a ball, protecting the box from the two. He began huffing in an attempt to keep from laughing as Jasper began working the mojo on him. Jacob's arm whipped out, grabbing Jasper's legs from under him and knocking him to the floor in an effort to interrupt his concentration.
"Alice, isn't there a rule about stealing someone's presents?" Jacob yelled out, fighting the two of them as best as he could.
"Jazz…" her voice came out softly.
"Damn it," Jasper's voice had barely been discernable, even for us.
Having been released by the Pixie judge's ruling, Jacob flashed over to the Wii, putting in his new game and bringing up the program as we all groaned. Nessie grabbed the pillows around her, putting them over her ears. Jacob began muttering about the song choices and then his voice brightened. "Hey, here's a good one, Hotel California."
He turned toward us excited, ready to start the torture, but instead of the sounds of the guitar strings of the Eagles, a group of horns issued from the machine and the song "I'm Coming Out" by Dianna Ross began blaring.
Jacob turned to the control and again muttered under his breath, believing that he had hit the wrong choice. I saw from across the room him choose Sharp Dressed Men by ZZ Top only to get "YMCA" by the Village People. When he hit "Living on a Prayer" and got The Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men," it was obvious what Henry had done. Jasper snorted and looked over at Henry in dawning respect. Before Jacob could hit the controller again, Alice blurred up beside him and began singing, forcing Jacob to at least join her physically in the show by wrapping her tiny arm around his waist.
I wasn't one to stand back in the wake of an opportunity to embarrass the mutt so I joined them our voices at least helping to mask Jacob's croaking. Esme, Anna, and Bella quickly followed and Jacob was surrounded by the women, unable to leave. The men began throwing catcalls and whistling obnoxiously, and Nessie sat on the couch laughing so hard she was actually crying. Henry watched the whole event with a look of tolerance.
When the song came to a conclusion, Jacob stood glaring at Henry as the animated British commentator announced, "That was quite possibly the worst audition I've ever heard."
"Sounded like a bunch of wolves howling at the moon," Emmett added in at the same time.
Those of us that still hadn't lost on the bet attempted as best as possible to keep from exploding. As Jacob returned to his seat, Emmett and Edward began throwing out further criticisms mimicking the British accent.
"That was horrific; it sounded like a bunch of dying cats."
"I think you should pack your bags, because you're going home after that audition."
"Its okay, Jake. I think you're great. You'll always be a star in my eyes," Nessie said, patting his hand as he sat down beside her, ignoring her father and uncle.
"Really, how could you tell through all those pillows, Ness?" he had challenged, grabbing her to put a kiss on the top of her head.
Even to this day, Henry wouldn't confess which one of the others had helped him reprogram the disk. I was laying my money on the silent one. Anna had remained poised by his side throughout the whole day. I grinned, remembering the only time I'd seen any hint of mutiny in the ranks was when she'd opened her gift from him. She had been kind to him, buying him a t-shirt that said "Stupid is as stupid does." Henry was known to mumble the phrase, his favorite from the Gump movie, whenever he felt any task was below him.
Emmett had labeled her another word for her "nice" gift, but Edward had quickly punched him in the side for being disrespectful. Henry waited anxiously for her to open his gift. It was in a reused baby gift bag from Emily. Anna reached in to pull out a stuffed cougar toy. She looked at it quizzically until Emmett lay down in the floor laughing, saying "That's my boy."
Anna had narrowed her eyes at Henry, finally clueing in on the cougar reference, and he responded by winking at her flirtatiously. Even Carlisle suspiciously coughed into his hand during their exchange.
"Emily received it as a double gift for Gabriel and she told me it was just the thing to give to you," Henry informed her.
"Did she really?" Anna's voice carried her petulance.
Edward's lips twisted, I was sure from Anna's thoughts. "Henry, you know that cougars are solitary creatures, only coming together for short periods of time. You'd better step lightly to avoid being left out in the cold."
"Nah, Anna and I are like peas and carrots," he responded, elbowing her in the ribs and then looked up to see her glaring at him. He swallowed hard, realizing he had to execute a quick plan of "sucking up."
"I think cougars are the most beautiful animals in the world, and that's all I've got to say about that," he ended with a hopeful expression, clearly counting on his flattery and humor to win her over.
She attempted to stare him down, but ended up grinning at his earnest face. "Just remember who knows your secrets."
He had nodded seriously at her, obviously taking her warning to heart. I was a little saddened as I watched my son and the woman that I believed he had already selected as his mate. Not because I felt any animosity toward Anna (actually, my feelings were quite the opposite), but because I already saw how short my time with him would be. My baby would grow up too soon. You could still see him and Nessie change perceptibly by the day. At times, it was too much to consider that these bright and vibrant children would be adults within just a few years. I wanted to beg for more time and I knew Bella felt the same; we'd spoken about it many times. I looked up and caught her looking at me, noting my expression. She shook her head just slightly; acknowledging my feelings, but telling me also that this was not the place for my angst. That day had been about having fun with the family, not revisiting our 'lost' feelings.
Ironically, it was the concept of being lost that Henry utilized to harass his Aunt Bella. She and Edward came after their daughter and soon to be dog-in-law. By chance, Bella opened Henry's present last. It was neatly wrapped in an old Washington state map that he had found in the garage during the beginning of clean up and packing.
Inside were a scrapbook and an old compass. Henry had convinced Alice to give him the scrapbook one evening when she and I were arranging some of the kids' pictures. As we had done with Nessie in the beginning, she and I were constantly snapping pictures and arranging them into albums to create the illusion of a normal childhood for the two. Henry joined us briefly, but when a speculative look had come across his face, I knew we were soon to be dismissed. When he begged for the book, Alice had agreed without a second thought, having purchased a box of them. He disappeared up the stairs with the album under his arm.
The front page of the book had a cleverly drawn picture of a girl, who looked like Bella, with a compass and map in her hands. The title of the book was stenciled down the side. De Bella and the search for the Fountain of Youth.
"Aunt Bella, you have to read the story to us, and then show the pictures so that everyone can see what's happening," Henry directed.
The pages portrayed De Bella as she tripped and fell through a series of familiar scenes such as Forks High School, the woods, the beach at La Push, Charlie's house, and our home. The map held in the figure's hand indicated for her to continue following the arrow on the compass. Always at the edge of the pages, where the compass pointed, there would be a tendril of copper colored hair, or the bottom part of a leg, or the back end of a familiar looking Volvo. The pages were exquisitely done.
At first glance, you would have believed that a child had drawn the figures, but on further inspection it was clear that an artist of some caliber had taken on the task of creating the simplistic looking portrayals. I looked up at Jacob's curiously blank face and snickered. It was then that I began to notice the wolves carefully disguised in the foliage. They were sleek and handsome. Suspecting what I did, I couldn't wait to see what the "Fountain of Youth" looked like. Henry's careful penmanship spelled out the troubles poor De Bella faced on her quest … evil pixies, bloodthirsty savages, and the like. The Fountain of Youth was always just out of the poor girl's reach.
Bella's face was a curious mixture of humor and dread. I began to believe she had the same suspicions as I did. When she turned to the last page she snorted before reading the words out loud. "And De Bella cleared the edge of the woods and stepped into the meadow to finally discover her final destination. As the arrow pointed directly forward at the creature before her, only one thought ran through her mind … RUN!"
Bella turned the book so that we could see the final page. De Bella was running for her life out of the area. Edward's look alike stood in the middle of the meadow, but to call him a look alike was a far stretch. The copper hair of the figure stood out around the face like a haystack. Edward's hair looked like he had stepped out of a salon in comparison. But Jacob's embellishments didn't stop there. The gold eyes look like they were shooting daggers as the creature attempted to dazzle the fleeing figure. The creature was slack jawed with obvious fangs protruding, and a large wart sat squarely on the nose. His skin was white - bloated dead whale white - and his scent, well, it was obviously something special because the flowers around him were drooping. Bela Lugosi's vampire was handsome in comparison.
"I must have been rolling around too long with the wolves," was Edward's deadpan response, choosing to focus on the flowers untimely demise.
Jasper coughed, attempting hard to not laugh, but he lost it when Henry looked around the group and explained his gift, "Well, she did keep chasing him down attempting to stay young forever, so the story seemed appropriate."
As the others around her cracked up, Bella rolled her eyes at Henry and held up the compass, shaking it slightly at him in question. "And the broken compass?"
"It isn't broken," he responded cryptically as Bella continued to spin it, watching the needle and attempting to keep the smile off her face.
"Henry, this one keeps pointing in that direction and it isn't even north," she patiently explained, pointing toward the pile of presents.
"Aunt Bella, the purpose of a compass is to help you find your way," he said. Bending down to locate a package, he handed Edward his first gift.
It was a small package, wrapped in comics from the paper. Edward opened the box, and pulled out a cheap Superman logo necklace.
Emmett laughed under his breath and mimicked Edward's voice, "I'm not the superhero."
Jasper punched him in the arm laughing, and threw out his best Bella imitation. "Radioactive spiders bites…kryptonite…"
Edward was glaring at the duo, clearly unimpressed with their banter.
"Ooooh…I get it, you're dangerous," Alice squealed, running over to throw herself at Edward's feet, looking up at him with big eyes and batting her eyelashes at him.
Even Carlisle pitched in, having heard about the conversation from us. "Yes, that's right, I'm the bad guy."
Jasper started laughing; enjoying the fact that Alice was teasing Edward. She reached up, attempting to grab the necklace, but Edward held it over his head. Alice stood up, attempting to get it from him, but Edward wrapped his arms around her waist, keeping her in place and dodging her continued efforts.
"Wait," Bella said, waving at them to get their attention. "Edward, move the necklace around again."
She looked at Edward over the compass as he dangled the necklace in front of him, and then looked over at Henry, "To help me find my way, huh?"
"Yup," he looked back at her smugly.
Bella rose and went over, taking the necklace out of Edward's hands and quickly secured it around his neck before kissing him on the lips. We all looked quizzically to Henry.
"Paul had the necklace and compass in some of his stuff and gave them to me. I used the magnets out of the speakers that Jake removed from Bella's truck and attached a piece to the back of the pendant. Since Bella stole the truck that mama gave to Edward last year, I thought it might be appropriate for him to at least be able to carry a piece of it around."
"And you magnetized the compass to the point toward the pendant?" Jasper guessed.
"Anna and I did. We did the research on the internet. I figured this way Bella would always be able to find him, and the family wouldn't have to traipse across the globe again, chasing him down," Henry announced, acting very serious about the presumption that the compass would be able to guide us. Only...I could see the deviltry in his eyes.
"And we all know how much it's pained him to not possess The Thing. It makes me feel so much better to know he'll be wearing a piece of it around his neck," I added, and then thought silently like an albatross.
Edward glared at me. I hope if he wins that he makes you wear that stupid necklace, Mr. Kent. He'd narrowed his eyes even further.
If I'd only known, I thought in derision. Edward had lain on the couch laughing for a good half hour when Henry announced I would be the recipient of the honor. Even Alice had traded sides, breathing deeply in relief when Henry made his announcement. She'd had to suffer just like the rest of us, waiting to un-wrap her gifts. It was glorious to have wolves and hybrids running around to mess with her. We'd all taken advantage of having them to go looking with us to block her visions when we selected her gifts. The little pixie hadn't been able to tell just exactly what was going to happen.
Of the gifts that Henry had given, perhaps the one to Alice had been the softest. She opened the box to find a bracelet made out of silver bells. As she lifted it from the box, the tinkling sounds permeated the room. Alice looked up to Henry in puzzlement.
"Aunt Alice, what do you know about the legends surrounding bells?" he asked. When Alice shrugged her shoulders remaining silent, he continued. "When I thought about what to get you, I was really stumped. But then I thought about Jasper and his motorcycle, and I realized he doesn't have a Gremlin Bell."
"A gremlin bell?" Jacob questioned.
Henry rolled his eyes at Jacob as if any everyone should know what a 'gremlin bell' was. "Motorcycle legends indicate that there are gremlins that just love to hitchhike on bikes, and that they steer the rider toward trouble. However, the sound of bells scares them away. Since Papa is always lecturing us about avoiding trouble, I thought it would be a good thing for you to wear them when you and Jasper ride."
Henry then looked at Carlisle, "Papa, want to tell her about the Christian legend regarding bells?"
Carlisle smiled serenely at Henry, and then looked over to Alice. "Bells announce the arrival of peace. Several legends indicate that they were heard throughout Bethlehem on the night of the Messiah's birth. Symbolically, they have been used for the funerals of royalty to send them home."
"Since you were instrumental in bringing Jasper peace, it also seemed appropriate," Henry indicated, tying in Carlisle's information to Alice.
"Don't forget, 'teacher says that every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings'," Nessie added to the teasing. "Maybe Alice is really just Jasper's angel?"
"Well, considering just how many times an angel would need to watch over me, it's good I have my own personal one," Jasper grinned over at Alice.
Clearly unconvinced that his gift was serious, Alice snorted. "I'm not buying it. Henry?"
Henry finally caved. "Well, Tinker Bell has always been associated with the sound of bells, and I realized our own personal pixie didn't have any, so…" he left off, suggestively.
I saw Alice narrow her eyes at Henry and then look over to Carlisle and Esme in an attempt to catch them laughing with the group. She was being bloodthirsty, attempting to eliminate everyone.
"Jasper, maybe you should just start calling her 'Tink'," Emmett offered a suggestion through his laughter.
"That wouldn't be fair to single her out of the group for how she smells unless you are going to do it for everyone," Jacob stated, grinning in amusement.
Edward rolled his eyes at Jacob. "Talk about the pot calling the kettle black, Jacob Black."
Ignoring them, Alice looked down at her wrist as Jasper fixed the bracelet onto her. "Henry, this is an expensive bracelet. It's silver, so I'm calling foul on your claim that you didn't spend any money."
Carlisle began to look acutely embarrassed, and Edward's face jerked toward him, and then he began laughing. "One explanation; Carlisle and Esme…and a belly dancing costume."
"And I'm already adding more to the bargain I drove with him for it. Those "juicy worms" are going to be all yours this summer, Henry Cullen," Esme informed him, as the group snickered behind their hands.
Henry stuck his thumb up to her, indicating his agreement.
If Alice's gift had been the soft one, Jasper's had been the most simplistic…or so it seemed at first glance. Henry had found a small, clear window sticker. It was rectangular and simply read, "Make Love, Not War" in psychedelic colors.
"Charlie actually helped me with this one, as well. He had this in his toolbox, along with some others, and I found them when I went looking for tools to build Nana's box," Henry informed us when Jasper looked up at him.
"Really," Bella had responded with a doubting expression on her face. "My Charlie…"
It was clear that Bella was having a hard time equating her law-abiding father with someone who would have such a Bohemian possession. Henry nodded his head at her. "He said something about being a 'closet rebel' during his teenage years."
I thought back to the Potlatch celebration we'd done for Jake's father and remembered Old Quil telling stories on Charlie and Billy. It would seem that Mr. Swan had layers, 'like an onion' (the saying from one of Em's favorite movies ran through my head).
"It's for your motorcycle helmet Jasper," Henry offered in explanation. "I thought it would go perfectly on the black, making it really stand out. You're so misunderstood by everyone, that I thought it would remind them that you're a lover, not a fighter."
Most of the individuals in the room were aghast. Exactly to whom was Henry referring? Jasper was particularly deadly in a fight, compliments of the years of preparation and warfare. But as I looked at Henry's face and the earnest expression, I realized something. Henry had a totally different perspective of Jasper. He saw the man that would spend hours in the woods with two braniacs, answering each and every question patiently. A man that would spend the same amount of time staring up at the night skies and discussing history, and astronomy, and yes … warfare as well, but this was clearly a case of the two younger Cullens seeing a side to Jasper that the rest of us were rarely privileged to see. Possibly because my eyes had been so closed by my pigheadedness, or maybe because I'd just proven myself unworthy.
Jasper grinned down in delight at the sticker. "And the catch?" he finally whispered.
"Nothing really, other than I know you make Alice go out with you on the bike when she is particularly mad at you, so I thought if she had to stare at it during the ride it would help your cause."
My snort was joined with several others. Very, very clever…Alice's makeup/makeout sessions generally left Jasper wiped out. Emmett was known to play 'feeling' games with Jasper when he was in such a vulnerable position. Jasper was fairly good natured about putting up with the targeting, because he was generally on such a high from his little fairy. But to increase the chances of the targeting by utilizing Henry's premise of the sticker was a case in pure self flagellation. The look on Jasper's face said he knew it as well. I was willing to bet that the sticker was going on the helmet anyway.
"Can't wait until Charlotte and Peter get a load of that," Emmett grinned over at me, clearly anticipating the razzing that Jasper would experience from the two.
Emmett, my big teddy bear…I'd spent over a half century with the man and I was still discovering hidden depths. For instance, I would have never imagined his large hands cradling a delicate rose bush as if it was china. But that is exactly what he had done as he helped Henry with his real gift to Anna. Henry had fretted for weeks about what to buy her. He was intelligent. He knew he couldn't go overboard with our newest family member, but he wanted to buy something special. In the end, Esme had suggested that he buy her a rose bush that could be kept in a container and transported with us to Seattle when we moved. It would then be planted outside Anna's cabin for her to enjoy for the years we would reside there.
Then had come the arduous task of deciding what color. Red was too obvious; yellow not significant enough; pink too girly and common. In the end, Henry had gone with a white rose in significance of the "purity of his feelings." During the whole conversation, Emmett had cradled Henry in his lap, nodding his head in understanding as they discussed this very serious topic. He had made suggestions on the planter and where it could be located in the house so that it would be protected from the harsh winter, but receive the appropriate amount of sun. We'd driven all the way to Seattle to visit the garden shop, and I wanted to laugh at the discussion they had about which potting soil would be best. Throughout the whole event, Emmett had nurtured the burgeoning feelings of the child he'd held. I was astounded just how much he reminded me of Carlisle, with the patience and wisdom he was showing in raising our son.
When he opened Henry's gift, however, he was pure and traditional Emmett. He pulled the "Astronomy for Dummies" book out of the bag and rolled his eyes. He constantly harassed Jasper for taking the kids into the woods and "staring all googly-eyed into the sky." I knew he didn't really think it was as big a waste of time as he carried on.
"When the Seattle library had their book sale last month, Aunt Bella took Nessie and me. We found it in the pile. The male librarian came over and saw me looking at it. He didn't realize I knew so much, and began talking to me about how astronomy was a solid study for anyone."
Emmett had guffawed at this moment as Jasper nodded his head in agreement of the observation.
Henry continued with his explanation. " 'Helps us relate our past to our future' the librarian said. I began telling him about the newest constellations I was attempting to find and that started a long conversation. He asked why I would be interested in such a simplistic book, in light of my 'superior knowledge' and I explained it was for my dad. Nessie told him that my uncle had to help us learn this stuff. Nessie suggested that possibly this would generate my daddy's interest."
"The librarian had a strange look on his face at this point, and it wasn't until after he gave the book to Henry that we heard him talking with one of the other ladies. He thought that Henry came from a broken home and that the 'uncle' I'd referred to was Henry's stepfather. He said that some 'good for nothing fathers' just didn't deserve what they had left behind," Nessie announced in innocence, but the adults in the room froze momentarily.
Seemingly unaware of the undercurrents, Henry quickly rose and went over to Emmett as he sat motionless with the book in his hand. "Nessie and I went through and added a few instructional aides for you daddy, just to help you out."
Emmett looked down at the first page, and his face unfroze as a grin cracked his face. He turned the book so that we could see their artwork. They had drawn arrows from certain words to the added pictures. 'Star' had an arrow pointing to a simplistic drawing of such an object. Other illustrations included a telescope and nighttime as represented by a moon with wispy clouds across it. Similar pictorial representations occurred throughout the rest of the book.
By far my favorite was the page that discussed the need to have open space in order to practice the art. Henry and Anna had drawn a diagram similar to a football field and utilized the X's and O's that coaches do in a playbook to illustrate how to set up, 'figuring it was something Daddy could understand'. They had managed to 'dummy down' a For Dummies book. It was a riot, and was the end of me in the contest as I burst out laughing. I couldn't help myself due to the incredulous look on Em's face.
"Now you have no excuse, Emmett," Jasper had challenged.
When Emmett had looked up to glare at Jasper, the empath quirked his lips slightly and pointed. "By the way, that's north. Figured I'd help you out a little."
At that moment, Carlisle broke down laughing at Jasper's face. It was a study in seriousness as everyone around us rolled. The others had already lost the competition during other gifts, so the fight was finally down to Esme and Henry. Henry looked toward his Nana in contemplation.
The sounds of the others in the living room below me drug me from my recollections. The rest of the family had finally joined the traitors. I knew that I wouldn't be able to socialize unless I abided by the dictates of my tyrannical son. Rising from the bed with reluctance, I walked over to the dresser. I caught the sight of my face in the mirror and wondered what it had looked like the day of the competition.
I'd had the dubious honor of going last. When I finished opening my gifts I'd realized that I hadn't received one from Henry. I looked up in question to find him standing in front of me, holding a very large box. He smiled serenely, mimicking a very Carlisle-like expression, as he placed it on my lap and went back over to sit with Anna. As I shifted to open it, I heard the distinct sound of metal hitting metal. I gave him a quizzical look. Upon tearing open the box and looking inside; I realized that I was in trouble.
It was what looked to be a steering column and a crown. I pulled them out and realized that they were exactly that. The steering column had a gear welded to the end to form a sort of scepter. The gold 'crown' was made of metal and had red reflective 'jewels' cut into diamonds and circles. Astonished looks met me from the faces of my family.
Henry began to explain. "We all know you're the princess around here, and just recently I realized that you don't have a tiara to wear or a scepter to carry. Seth helped me cut the metal from the truck panels you and Jacob discarded during the restoration of Aunt Bella's truck. We then heated the metal and formed it in the circle before welding it. Seth taught me how to grind the metal to remove the sharp edges and the rust, and I painted it with gold colored Rustoleum. The jewels are pieces of the old tail lights that I cut and ground down into the shapes. The scepter is the steering column you decided not to use. Seth made that for you, by the way."
Edward began laughing hysterically. I heard him mumble, in between gasps, "Your own personal piece of The Thing."
Esme lost her place, joining him. She knew how much I hated Bella's old truck. It had been an eyesore and hadn't deserved to even grace our driveway. The new and refurbished one was barely better. To think I would even touch a component of that vehicle after the perfection of giving it to Edward last year was ludicrous. But as I looked up into Henry's eyes and saw Esme laughing, I knew I was doomed.
So as I looked into the mirror and picked up the crown placing it on my head, I giggled silently attempting to keep the family from knowing just how funny I thought it was as well. I adjusted the crown so that the main jewel, a red reflective R was centered and picked up my scepter remembering Henry's dictate. "Mama you have to wear the crown for the next month whenever we are at home. I'll be your loyal servant, but no one is going to acknowledge you without it."
I turned and went out the door, heading toward the living room. My intent: to bash at least one of the servants in the head with the scepter for listening to his child and ignoring me.
To my amazing Betas – without them this story would be a wreck:
CullenFest – In the midst of your own excitement and possibilities – I'm amazed you take time for me!
Crmcneill – Always my voice of reason … I'm grateful as always for your patience and amazing editing skills.