Setting: takes place Christmas 2006, six months after the conclusive climax of Jocelyn Torrent's story Rose Read. Or what I think will be, so this a fan-fiction piece on a fan-fiction piece.

Pairings: Canonical. For Rose Read. =P

Triarings: Now, that's not so canonical, and quite the surprise for all parties involved, but ...

Chapter summary: Edward simply must call Esme to tell her he's not coming home for Christmas break, but I wonder how, or if, he'll tell her about ...

Jasper and I returned a week before Christmas break (or whatever they call it these days ... I call it Christmas break, so that's what it is. You don't mess with Alice, even if your from the PC corps. "Happy Holidays"? It's Christmas! You know? Christmas! With presents and snow and Santa Claus and trees and shopping (and sales!) and everything! Don't you dare "Happy Holidays" me!).

The cover was that I had to prepare for the Christmas celebration. It's not that Esme wouldn't make a wonderfully festive Christmas air, it's just that she doesn't ...

Well, she doesn't go overboard enough, that's why! Before I started taking charge, things were a little too staid and button up. Esme so wants everything to be perfect for her proper brit Carlisle, so she tends to understate things.

Well, 'understatement' isn't going to be the watch-word for this year, because last year ...

Because last year, 'understatement' wasn't the watch-word, then, either.

Because we didn't have Christmas last year.

See, Edward had left Bella last year, 'for her own good,' as he said, 'and for ours,' he added. But it wasn't for anybody's good.

I couldn't help it: I peeked, and Bella, 'for her own good,' was ... well, she was a zombie, there was less life in her eyes than there was in mine.

And I'm dead. I've been dead since at least 1920.

What? You can't let little things like that slow you down or put a damper on things. Always look for the bright side, I say.

But we couldn't look on the bright side last Christmas, because while Bella was on the West Coast a zombie, not even hearing or seeing her father struggling to be strong for her on the worst holiday to have your own daughter lost to everything, we were scattered all over: Edward down somewhere in Mexico, looking for Victoria, Rosalie and Emmett and Jasper and I attending Dartmouth, and Carlisle at the Hospital.

And Esme at home. Looking at the phone. For hours.

Over Christmas break last year.

Well, this was not going to happen this year, not if I have anything to say about it, and I darn tootin' do, because so help me, we are going to have a wonderful Christmas this year, come Hell or high water. And says who?

Says me! Mary Alice Brandon Whitlock Hale Cullen, that's who!

... Even if Edward's not going to come home for it.

And that's the other reason I've come home a week early.

He's been hemming and hawing over this decision for weeks now, and it's been driving me crazy! this flipping back and forth of his.

Not his decision not to come home, he's pretty much made his mind over that a long time ago.

No, it his decision to call home and tell Esme this. The when and the how to tell her this.

Because you don't bet against me, right? Unless you're a fool ... or just plain crazy like Emmett

But you don't mess with Esme when it comes to family. Particularly and especially if you're Edward. Her favorite son. Who am I kidding? Her favorite child. Who left her for half a decade, murdering more than six hundred people in the process.

So I wondered how Edward would call and break the news to her. Or if he would even dare. No matter what he came up with, it didn't end up prettily, that phone call, and so we left for me to go banzai with the preparations, and maybe avert a brewing disaster.

I grabbed me my Jasper and we headed home early for Christmas break.

You can do that when you're doing post-doc research. They don't have finals. They have theses.

And Jasper loves that.

He loves reading his old moldy books, most of them at least a century younger than him. He loves talking with the professors and debating with them, and he loves it when they had an insight that he doesn't. He covets that knowledge like, well, like Aro covets me and Edward and Bella.

My family thought Jasper struggles around people, and he does, but they concluded that he doesn't like being around people, and that's not true.

He loves being around the professors and the other bright post-docs, and he loves putting an old idea or a new idea through its paces. Yes, he struggles. It's hard for him, but he loves this. He loves this.

He feels.

And, boy! Ladies, I tell you, does he feel!

But he's a thinking man. Really! He's caring, and sensitive and calm, and ...

And perfect for me. I don't know what I did to deserve him, so I thank my lucky stars, because he loves being sweet to me and he's a sensitive soul, and I have absolutely no complaints in the bed, and he loves to think and to hash out his thoughts with his colleagues. His equals.

Which, sadly, are most definitely not the Cullens. Nor me.

I mean, really. Which Cullen, or Hale, wants to engage in philosophical debate? Name me one. The closest you can come is Carlisle, the preacher's son, but Jasper is an existentialist, Jasper is always questioning and seeking answers.

Carlisle? Bless his heart, and thank God for him and for his family, but Carlisle is sure of everything. Everything has a reason and that reason has been pre-determined, and everything has its place.

How can Jasper have a conversation with that unshakeable faith? or should I say 'Faith'?

So I dragged my Jasper away from what he loves to go home to a house full of vampires who constantly (but unintentionally) belittle him by turning off their instinctive needs so easily. So easily for them, but so, so difficult for him when he's talking to a just out of tween snack that has two words in her vocabulary: "um" and "huh."

He likes Bella, but it's so much easier for him if he avoids her, especially after he almost killed her. And he doesn't intentionally avoid the Cullens, or Rosalie, but ... well, he's not avoiding them, he's just reading, and they don't have much to talk about with him.

But he came back early with me, not complaining, but — so help me and I can't believe this — eagerly, honestly and truly eagerly.

Because he wants to be with me.

He wants to be with me, girls.

So who's the luckiest girl in the world?

Yes, you guessed right: me, again.

Ooh! I could just rip that collared, pressed shirt off his perfectly-sculpted body and take that blond mane of his and ...

Ahem! Where was I?

Oh, yes, the phone call. And Edward telling Esme that he wouldn't be coming home for Christmas again this year and again, because of Bella.

Because Bella actually did go to Dartmouth, and started her freshman year in college there.

With Rosalie.

And they were coming home to spend Christmas day with Charlie, and they all were coming over for the Christmas night festivities chez Cullen.

And Edward ...

Well, Edward's ... happy ... for Bella, but it's still too soon for him ...

You know? I mean, really? You fiancée leaves you days before the wedding ... for your 'sister'?

It was a surprise to us. A surprise to us all. Even me. Shocking! I know. But I mean, I've known Rosalie since 1950, and she and Emmett had their understanding, and she had never shown any interest in anyone else at all. I mean, she enjoyed the looks from both men and women, in that disdainful way she enjoys things, but it was a regal right of hers. So I wasn't keeping tabs on her after she decided not to kill Bella after the van failed to do just that.

I thought, after 50 years of knowing Rosalie as my sister, I thought I knew her.

Sure I saw something when I nudged Bella along, but then, as they say, one thing let to another, and ...

Edward was taking this as best as he could.

Which was really, really polite and civil on the outside.

And really, really ... really-really-really ... badly on the inside.

So, of course, Edward wasn't ready to come home. And he wasn't flying solo, either. I made sure to check on that. He was down in Virginia Tech starting over as a frosh, but this time studying electrical engineering. You know, something entirely different than his usual fare, so he would actually have to study. And be among people, so he couldn't just wither away in a sulk fest.

But he wasn't ready — yet — to come home, and be at least pleasant over Christmas break. And everybody understood that.

Even Esme should understand that.

Yeah. 'Should.'

So Edward was debating what to say and how to say it with his phone call. He kept seeing panic attacks as only Esme can throw them after her son, her favorite son, ran off for years with her worrying every single day, reading him in the headlines in the Chicago and New York and then across the Pond in Great Britain and then on the Continent. Reading the headlines furtively, so that Carlisle wouldn't worry more about her worrying more.

Yeah, Edward's concerns about Esme were justified.

But then some other decisions started to be made, and I wondered if or how Edward would bring up these new developments, because Edward wondered, too. And I worried more how Esme would react ... as Edward wondered this, too.

Following along people's futures as they made them — or, more precisely, as they worried them to death — can be exhausting work!

And then, three days into our return home, it happened. The decision.

Jasper and I were cuddling in bed, and I felt him feeling me feel it, so I didn't fight it. I scrunched my back as tightly as I could into his manly, broad, and war-ravaged chest, and he wrapped me in his arms.

"Lis," he whispered in pure concern, "what is it?"

I shook my head. I couldn't even whisper, because the cursed vampire hearing would pick the nuance right out of my well-modulated voice.

But I didn't have to explain anything to Jasper, because in 3-2-1-now ...

The phone rang.

I could feel the movement of displaced air, Esme moved so quickly to the phone, she probably blue-shifted.

She unnecessarily cleared her perfect throat and picked up the receiver.

I cringed, the anticipation of seen-future-playing-now tearing my insides apart, and only Jasper's calming waves, tinged by my own worry he absorbed, kept me together.

[1] In the story Lunière by siDEADde, Jasper affectionately calls Alice 'Lis.'