Thank you to Catharticone and RandomSugarRush for their help editing this story. I could not have managed to do this on my own. Xoxo!

Disclaimer: I do not own the Twilight Saga Characters-they belong to Stephanie Meyer. The rest of this story belongs to me.

*To all the readers who followed along with this story as it was being posted: I am very appreciative of all your support. I may not have succeeded in completion if you had not been so encouraging. :) Thank you! *blows kisses*



Three Weeks Later...

The time had passed by so quickly. Even though two of those weeks were spent in Rochester General, the week I spent at home — my home — in Ithaca with my family was better than I could have hoped for. That was really saying something since I was still very sore from my chest injury that I spend most my time in my new bedroom hugging a pillow.

I had to be reminded how to breathe properly... It was not like I forgot how — I was not a moron! It was just a lot harder to do with my ribs being so sore still, that's all. Emmett was sympathetic, but Esme and Carlisle were on my back constantly.

I was happy to be home, though — instead of the stinky hospital surrounded by all those do-gooder nurses. I mean, some were decent, but others were too nice it made me want to throw the liquid food diet they served me back in their faces!

Esme was a much better cook and I was back to eating anything I wanted now. And she was quite vocal about how thin I had become. She vowed that I would not be dieting so extremely again.

Pecker had called the house once. I don't know how he got the number, but he had real nerve to call and ask when I'd been able to go back to work. Carlisle told him that he was fired — that we'd be finding other representation for me — and that if he ever contacted me or anyone else in our family he would call the authorities and have a restraining order put out against him.

Esme and Carlisle were united in their front — that I could continue to model if it didn't interfere with my school work or my health. They also insisted that they had the final call on any job I was going to take, depending on the content and the maturity of the photo shoot. I wish I could have been upset with them for trying to rule my life, but it actually felt nice that they were in charge and that they cared enough to set guidelines.

I liked to be waited on and served all my meals in bed, but this was not as fun as it sounded. Carlisle was pretty strict about all the medications and the physical therapy that I had to do for my shoulder and to keep my lungs from filling with fluid. It was a pain in my ass, but Carlisle was on me every day about how important it was to breathe deeply and to cough several times every few hours to clear my lungs... Even if it hurt. He told me that I was at risk of pneumonia if I was breathing too shallow so he would literally sit there and watch over me to make sure I did the exercises correctly.

"You didn't want to go to the hospital for your therapy, so you have to listen to your doctor's orders and let Carlisle guide you at home as you were instructed to do. Besides, sweetheart, your father knows best so you'd better do as he says. It's important," Esme would remind me when I complained to her.

So, I did as they told me and it was true that it was helping — I was getting better every day. And so far, no complications had set me back. I was able to walk without too much pain now, though I was not allowed to go anywhere without someone there to chaperone me and spot me. It was absurd, but I could not talk them out of it!

Emmett was my nursemaid whenever he was not at school. He waited on me hand and foot for the first few days and then I made him go to basketball practice because I hated that he was missing out because of me. He didn't want to, but Carlisle and Esme sided with me and forced him to go because he had already missed too many practices and he needed to keep up his game if he didn't want to be benched.

Alice was over the moon to be my own personal slave. Using her to fetch things got old quickly, though. She was exhausting to be around, I had forgotten about that! Esme and Carlisle tried to get her to bug off so I could rest, but she was very sneaky and quiet when she wanted to be. She'd slip into my room when they were not looking and bombard me with questions about the fashions I had been privileged enough to wear before they hit the runways or department stores.

"Are you going to model still? I hope so! Can I come to all your photo shoots? I can help, you know. I will be quiet and hold things for you, okay? I promise I won't be annoying if you let me come with you sometimes. Please, Rose? Can I come?" She would ramble on and on and hardly let me answer.

She was being particularly persistent and annoying today. The same questions over and over!

"For fuck's sake, Alice. No! You can't come. You're such an unbelievable pest! Now go to your own room or I will call for help or for someone to come remove you," I threatened her. But she knew I wouldn't follow through...

"I thought you said, it hurt you too much to yell," she reminded me with a cheeky grin.

"Al-ice..." I pleaded for her to go away. "Leave me alone and maybe I will bring you back something from set sometime, okay?"

"Really? You can do that? Do you get to keep the clothing every time? What about the shoes?"

"Yes. Yes. Yes. Now, shut up or leave before I change my mind and never bring you anything good!"

She hushed up and pouted for a few minutes, but she didn't go. She would usually sneak out as slyly as she came in. But if not, I would ignore her and flip through magazines while she chattered away to herself about random fashion ideas and plots.

A lot of the modeling jobs I had done months ago for clothing campaigns were starting to make their way into the magazines. Alice had caught on to this and demanded she tear out each page of me for her collection. I was annoyed at first with her obsession, but I could not really get too mad with her for wanting to be like me. I wish I could have been a better, nicer, role model for her, but that was never going to happen. I could be civil — sometimes — but 'nice' was not my thing.

"Fine... Take the magazine and get out," I conceded and let her have the one I was done with so she could go cut out all the pages she wanted. According to Bella, who was sleeping in Alice's room until I was feeling a bit stronger, Alice had a collage of my photos on her wall over her bed. I had to admit, that was a bit strange, but I was still sort of flattered.

Alice was a little odd, but she had been instrumental in saving my life — sending Carlisle and Emmett to my aid that night — so I had an unspoken respect for her now.

"Oh!" she piped up and got up to leave like she was in a real hurry. I thought, at first, she had finally obeyed my threats, but a moment after she had disappeared Carlisle was in the doorway.

"Knock knock," he said as he rapped on the frame melodically. He was in a neat blue shirt and beige slacks, just home from work, but he must have changed. He had his stethoscope folded and clenched neatly into his hand that rested by his side. "May I come in?"

I rolled my eyes at him. "If I said no…?" I challenged him. Of course he thought I was joking, though. He typically, gave me the benefit of the doubt when it came to my sarcasm. He chuckled and let himself in.

"How are you feeling this afternoon?"

"Fine," I answered lowly. I hugged my pillow closer to my chest as an act of defiance.

It was childish of me, but I was sick and tired of being treated like I was some fragile waif like Bella was… That girl had slipped on black ice in the hospital parking lot last Friday and was now in a cast from her thumb to her elbow. I was taken home, and poor Carlisle had to stay back with her for a whole day and night while they waited for the swelling to come down so they could set her arm and cast it.

I was becoming a bigger nuisance than Bella at the moment… and that was pretty pathetic!

His smile faded and his eyes darted down sadly for a moment.

"What?" I demanded.

"I know you've talked with Esme a bit about what happened that night, the loss of your mother and the attack on your own life. You've been handling the trauma remarkably well, but I wanted to ask how you were doing… emotionally, I mean," he asked tentatively. "Are you sleeping well enough now, without the morphine?"

"Uh huh," I mumbled quickly.

It was a touchy subject. It was kind of Carlisle to inquire about my feelings, because I think he really did care about that sort of thing, but it was hard to talk about. I told Esme because she the only one here in the afternoons when I napped and she knew that I didn't sleep well. Esme was so open about everything and she wanted me to talk about my mother — she didn't mind at all.

It upset me to think about Royce or Lily. Each time their name crossed my mind I would feel sickness. I had nightmares about Lily several nights in a row — she would be dead, but then her eyes would open, blood red and she would spring out to grab me, but I would wake in a cold sweat before the dream could continue.

I had hated Lily for so long that it was hard to deal with my grief over her death. I had never wanted her dead, of course. Not in the way she died, especially — it was too horrible. The vision of her in that hallway as I tried to escape haunted me. She had been trying to stop Royce. There had been a struggle and she lost to his gun — simple as that. I would probably never forgive her for everything she put me through, but I was upset by her death. It was hard to wrap my mind around this concept.

Royce was a monster, but in self-defense his fall had saved my life. I felt a little less upset by his death, simply because it meant that I didn't have to fear him anymore. Mostly, I thought about how close he came to killing me that night. I was glad that I chickened out and not shot him. Killing someone would have changed me for the worse, I imagine. I was bitter and cold enough as it was, but at least now I had a fighting chance at being a happier person one day. I was still innocent.

"How about the nightmares? Did they wake you up again last night?" Carlisle asked, seeming to know that I was holding back.

"Yes, once," I admitted, "But it was not as bad as it has been. I was able to calm down a lot quicker and I went back to sleep again."

"I'm glad you were able to handle the situation so well on your own, sweetheart," he told me kindly. "Remember that Esme and I are happy to come sit by you if you need. You're not alone, hon. All you have to do is call us."

"Ya," I squeaked, "I know." They would put the phone from their room by my bed at night and if I needed them I was supposed to press the intercom button. I never felt right about waking them up, though. And sometimes, Emmett would sneak in to lie next to me and I preferred that anyway.

"May I?" Carlisle inquired politely hovering to sit down next to me on the bed.

"Mmhm." I nodded apathetically and he took a seat and unfolded his stethoscope.

"Any more pain?" he asked of me, "Esme told me you only took one of the Tylenol I left out of you. Was it enough?"

"I think so," I replied. "I don't feel any worse than when I was taking two."

"That's a good sign," he murmured reassuringly and he gave my hand a light squeeze. He placed his instrument in his ears and motioned for me to move the pillow and lean forward so he could listen to my breathing. I knew the drill. At least he was pretty quick about it, but the repetition had me kind of cranky and irritable.

"Deep breaths for me, honey," he reminded me again — for the billionth time.

"I know!" I hissed lowly and I inched forward for him so he could listen to my back first, and then at my chest. It was harder to do when he was watching me so intently. I felt pressure to impress him so he might not have to scold me, but each time we did this he would comment that I was still breathing too shallow and then ask me to cough for him. It was so humiliating.

This time, however, I must have done something right. He pulled back, removing his stethoscope and placing it in his lap. He gave me a smile and said, "You're lungs sound clear and healthy. I'm very happy with how well you are recovering, darling."

My eyes narrowed in suspicion. He was being very positive, and yet his face was still troubled slightly and that worried me.

What was going on?

"How do you feel about a short road trip this weekend? Do you think you would be able to handle a five-hour drive in the car without too much discomfort? I don't want to push you if you're not ready to travel-"

"A road trip?" I interrupted. "Why? Where am I going?" I took in a sharp inhale and winced slightly, my lips tightening together in defense. Clara had told me that I could stay with the Cullens for good this time!

Had she lied? Had the Cullens changed their minds?

"Relax, honey. Wewere thinking that we would all go to spend Christmas at Blue Mountain Lake if you're feeling up for it," he told me softly.

I sighed and did calm down a bit. Okay, they mean me too. It was hard to break old habits, apparently. At least now, I trusted him.

"It is a family tradition, but I've been hesitant to make any promises to Esme or the kids yet until I was sure you were out of the woods."

Out of the woods? I rolled my eyes. What a stupid expression! Who did he think he was talking to — Little Red Riding Hood?

"Esme has her heart set on it. She asked me if I thought you were well enough to make the trip. From what I can tell, you are stable and so long as your pain has not increased any, I would allow for you to make the journey. What do you think, hon?"

"I'm fine, Carlisle. I can sit on my ass in a car just as well as I can here in bed," I told him flatly. My heart leaped with exhilaration, though. The cabin was more my home than this room in Ithaca. It would be nice to go back there.

"It's our usual home for the holiday, but we are prepared to set up here if need be. I'd hate to move you too much if we can help it — I know you're feeling better, but you're still quite bruised, dear. We can stay home and have a lovely Christmas as well… Home is with family, after all," he told me with a fond smile and a sideways glance.

"I'd like to go," I replied more assertively.

He laughed softly and his smile grew as he nodded and patted my knee. "Alright then, if you say so! I will let Esme know. We'll leave Thursday morning, bright and early."

I was smiling now too, I couldn't help it. It sounded so magical to be out at the lake for Christmas. It was pretty snowy out and with the lake view and all the trees covered in snow, I was excited to go back to the place where I got my second chance at a happy life. I was aware that the Cullen's home was in Ithaca, but that cabin by the lake — their summer house — was my first real home.

The days flew by…

Suddenly, it was Christmas Eve day and we were in the Suburban and on our way to Blue Mountain Lake.

I was feeling a lot better and the family, though still doting on me, were allowing me more freedom and space to do things on my own. I was able to move around a bit more now and my breathing was almost normal — except, I tired easily. Carlisle said it was normal after injuries like mine and I had to give it time before my lungs would work at their full capacity again. The cold air was refreshing, but it kind of hurt to breathe.

It was not snowing anymore, but it was cold out and there was snow on the ground so the drive was taking a bit longer than I remembered it. I was able to enjoy the scenery this time, instead of being such a tightwad because it had been my first day with a new family.

They still irritated me to no end, but it was different now... They were my irritating family!

Even though I insisted I was not in that much pain, Carlisle gave me a fair dose of painkillers since we would be in a car all day. He made a small bed for me with a bunch of pillows and blankets in the backseat. He situated me so I could still have a seat belt across my lap, but lie down and be comfortable as well. I think he had an ulterior motive — to drug me into submission or slumber…

Alice was being a pest, as usual, and no one seemed surprised when she burst into song the moment we pulled out of the driveway and headed north.

"Tis' the season to be jolly…"

Was no one going to shut her up? This had been going on for hours. Song after song, she never stopped. Bella seemed annoyed too, she asked her to take a break a few times, but Alice really only stopped in between songs to decide on what to sing next. Edward had earphones on, so he was sleeping in the seat in front of me and I envied him. I felt like punching the seat to wake him — it wasn't fair!

"All of the other reindeer. REINDEER!" She shouted. She was the only one singing for Christ's sake! "Used to laugh and call him names…"

"I'm about to laugh and call you names, Alice," I warned, "…If you don't shut the hell up soon!" But she didn't even pause.

"Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to say…" I threw my napkin from the peanut butter and jam sandwich Esme had made me and it hit Alice in the back of the head — quite the success to accomplish with my left hand. "Hey!" she squealed with a huge, toothy grin as she turned around in her seat. She contemplated throwing it back at me, but I thought I heard Carlisle say her name in warning...

Emmett was sitting at the end of my make-shift bed and he graciously held my feet on his lap. He was such a doll and had been rubbing them for me continuously for hours. If it were not for Alice's merriment, I might have fallen asleep — and then we'd be there already!

"Time to shut 'er down, Runt," Emmett told her.

"It's tradition!" Alice chimed proudly.

"But Rose is trying to sleep."

"Alice, honey," Esme's peaceful voice cooed from up front. I couldn't see her lying down, but I imagined her turning around from the passenger seat to reason with the midget. "Perhaps you could find a quieter activity for the next few hours?"

"But we need Christmas music in the car! It's tra-"

"You can sing more tonight after supper," Esme told her. "Now, turn around and sit on your bum, darling."

Alice heaved a dramatic sigh and flopped back into her seat so I could not see her anymore. She sulked for a while, but I didn't care.

Aaah… Peace and quiet at last! With Alice's pipes on mute and everyone reading, listening to music, playing Nintendo DS, or rubbing my feet… I was able to shut my eyes and rest for the remainder of the trip.

The cabin was even more stunning in the winter. As Emmett helped me walk toward the front porch, I noted that the snow covered every inch of the ground and the top of the lake and except for the foot prints from the others who walked ahead of us; there were no signs of life except for our family. It was gorgeous!

"Careful," Esme fussed over me as Emmett helped me inside by my left arm — my other was still in a sling. Emmett was so good about being my support, but he did tend to walk too fast. I was a bit out of breath by the time we got inside, but mostly it was from the cold. As chilly as it was outside, and in, I still loved the smell of the crisp, mountain air.

"Here, sweetie," Carlisle reached out for me and guided me to the sofa, which he had just revealed by pulling off a sheet. "Have a seat and I will start a fire to warm this place up."

"I'll go start the generator," Edward announced.

"I'll help," Emmett offered, letting go of my hand and smiling at me before he raced out the door behind his brother.

Esme brought me a blanket from the car and tucked it around me neatly before she and the rest of the family went to work at unloading the truck and unveiling the rest of the furniture that had been covered with protective, plastic sheets.

Eventually, the place warmed up and lights came on and the smell of food began to waft through the cabin. Esme was making a roast ham and all the fixings tonight for dinner. Bella was helping her out in the kitchen and Alice and the boys were decorating a huge tree that they had just cut down.

Emmett was particularly proud of it. "I choose this one for you, Rose. Isn't it the best Christmas tree you ever did see?"

"Uh... Yes, it's beautiful," I told him, not being able to resist his dimply, red cheeks — still flushed from the cold wind outside. They had to walk a ways off the trail to find a tree that would okay to cut down. It was really big, almost too big, to come through the door. However, once it was inside, with the stand hammered into the trunk, it stood tall at nearly nine feet! It was a good thing it was a high-ceilinged roof.

It began to look really nice when it was dry and they were wrapping lights and hanging shiny balls on it. I had never decorated a Christmas tree before. No one stopped me when I got up to help. Emmett hovered protectively around me, but I was fine hanging some of the ornaments in my reach and let the others do the higher up stuff. When it was finished, I was a bit tired, but I couldn't help enjoy seeing Alice being lifted up by Carlisle so she could place the singing angel on the very top.

"It's perfect!" Esme sighed, sitting next to me, her apron still on and a tea towel draped over her shoulder that smelled like honey glaze. She cuddled into me and kissed my cheek. "I'm so happy your home, darling." She whispered it, but I blushed as if it had been some kind of secret that they loved me.

"So am I," whispered in return. It earned me another kiss and she told me that dinner would be ready very soon if I wanted to wash up and have a seat at the table. And that is exactly what I did.

The food was delicious and everyone was smiling and laughing and passing around the dishes. Emmett's plate was so full that some spilled over when he dug his fork in for the first bite…

Everyone laughed hysterically at him when he shrugged and ate the food off the table. Edward made fun of him, and then nearly choked on his ham…

We laughed some more. It was most enjoyable family dinner I'd ever been a part of!

Later that night, after putting out our stockings, we sat in a semi circle around the fire and Carlisle read 'The Nutcracker' and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' to us before it was time for bed.

Esme had bought me a brand new stocking and had hand sewn my name on it in gold so it would match the others. Across the mantel they hung in this order: Carlisle, Esme, Emmett, Edward, Rosalie, Bella, Jasper and Alice. Of course, Alice complained that hers was last — and the smallest stocking — but Carlisle appeased her by saying that the best things come in small packages and he proceeded to flip her upside down and tickle her until she screamed, "Mercy!" and he let her go.

"Off to bed now!" Esme sang as Carlisle finished the last reading and put down the book. "Santa won't want to come and leave you presents if you're not sound asleep in your beds." She smiled brightly with excitement.

"O-kay, Ma," Emmett laughed sarcastically as he got up and gave an obvious wink in my direction. I giggled at how readily Alice was up and willing to go to bed for a change. Jasper too, but I knew he was too old to believe in that kind of crap, right? I think he was just excited about presents.

Edward and Bella shared an eye roll as they got up and folded the blanket they had been sharing and set it back down on the sofa.

"Goodnight," Edward told her and he smiled lovingly at her. She blushed and bit her lip.

"G'night," she replied softly, her cheeks as red as apples! Those two were not fooling anyone.

We got into our pajamas and into bed. Esme came around first to kiss us goodnight and then Carlisle. I had become so used to this, that I would quite literally miss it if they didn't make their rounds each night. It was silly that a simple hug or kiss and a kind, "goodnight, I love you," made me feel so safe and secure. I fell asleep feeling warm and loved each night now, in spite of the nightmares that sometimes still haunted my dreams. As bad as the nightmares could be, they didn't shake me up as much anymore — knowing that I was not alone helped considerably.

Poor little Alice was not quite as rational as I was, though, and was still easily scared at night by her dreams. Sadly, she'd never gotten her orange dog back. Most of my things at the house in Rochester were confiscated by the police, though some clothing items I did get back, but when we asked about Alice's orange dog, no one knew where it was. Someone must have taken it, or thrown it out or, something — it was a mystery.

I knew it was not my fault, but I felt terrible that she had to do without her favorite stuffy. She loved that stupid dog and I knew she missed it. She had been a very good sport about not getting it back. She never once blamed me for losing him. I had wanted to make it up to Alice and I hoped I could…

It was late and I had woken up because I had been lying in an awkward position. I shifted myself a bit to get comfortable, and I would have fallen back asleep if it were not for Alice's whimpers. It was not as bad as I had witnessed before, but she was obviously experiencing some very real dreams for her to get worked up enough to toss and turn and practically talk in her sleep like Bella's stupid, annoying habit.

Alice's mumbles were not as peaceful — she never murmured Edward's name in her sleep the way Bella did… No, Alice was seeing something that was very real to her — something we could not understand.

It was hard to ignore her fitful sleep and my guilt mounted until I couldn't take it anymore. I slowly eased myself up and reached for my bag on the floor.

Emmett had gone shopping for me to buy some presents. I had given him all the money I had saved up and some allowance that Esme and Carlisle had given me in spite of my being useless around the house. It was enough to buy each Cullen a small gift. And I thought it might be nice to give Alice hers early…

I pulled out the tissue filled bag and very carefully got up and shimmied over to her bunk bed. I didn't dare climb up it, because I only had one arm still and I might not be able to get down.

I tapped Alice's arm through the railing and she jolted awake.

"Shh!" I hushed her when she stared back at me, wide-eyed and somewhat frightened.

"What's wrong?" she whispered.

"Nothing," I told her quietly, looking down to make sure Bella was still asleep… She was!

I held up the gift bag to Alice and told her to open it. "Hurry up, Alice. I haven't got all day!" I was short with her when she hesitated.

She finally took the bag and in the light of the moon bouncing off the snow and through our window, I watched her pull out a stuffed dog that looked almost identical to her other dog — only this one was newer.

"I know it's not Freddy, but… Maybe you can give this dog a chance?" I hedged. She looked at it, studying the stuffy carefully. I could not read her expression and I feared she might hate the idea of a replacement. "Your dog really helped me sleep when I had no one else, Alice… And I'm sorry I lost him, but-"

"I like him!" Alice peeped back, hugging him to her and pushing the empty bag to the foot of her bed, tissue paper and all. She leaned over the edge of the wooden railing and kissed the top of my head.


"Mmhmm! Thanks, Rosie," she told me, her voice above a whisper with excitement.

"Well… Good," I uttered in relief that it had gone over so well.

She watched me with a perma-grin so I took this time to tell her, "Thank you... for helping to save my life, Alice. I know you were the one who sent your dad and Emmett to me. I am really glad you did or who knows what would have happened and who would have found me…"

"You're welcome," she peeped shyly into the plush head of her new toy as she hugged it tighter.

I tried to think of something more to say to break this awkward mushy silence, but Bella did it for me. "Ed-waarrd," she mumbled in her sleep as she rolled over. Then she squished her face into her pillow.

Alice's eyes lit up and she giggled.

I put my finger to my lips and hushed her. "Go to bed, Alice," I told her, trying not to laugh at Bella too. "Good night."

"Good night," Alice whispered to me, as she cuddled into her blankets again with her dog tucked under her arm. She looked more like herself with that toy cradled next to her — just as I remembered her. I was pretty pleased with myself for fixing this. It was nice that one more thing was back to normal now.

I got back into my bed and settled down for the night too.

Christmas morning came quickly — as if in the blink of an eye. It was very bright as the sun came up and shined through our bedroom window. I had forgotten that the cabin was not the optimum place for sleeping in.

However, I was happy to get up this morning. Alice was the one who chanced waking me. She jumped from Bella's bed over to mine and she crawled up to me and said, "Wake up. It's Christmas!"

I cracked open my eyes and found her toothy smile beaming down at me and then she kissed my cheek quickly and bounced back up!

"Ah!" I gasped in surprise as she bounded away laughing like a hyena.

She still had her dog tucked under her arm and in the distance I heard her say, "It's my new Freddy. Rosie gave him to me!"

"That was very thoughtful of her," Carlisle replied. "What a lovely gift!"

I smiled proudly to myself, knowing that I had done something right for once.

"Are your sister's getting up?" Esme asked. "The cinnamon buns are almost ready to come out of the oven."

"Cinnamon buns!" Emmett cheered from outside our room. "Woohoo!"

I smiled involuntarily at the sound of his voice. His enthusiasm made me feel enthused about the day. I sat up in bed and stretched my one arm and my legs as I yawned sleepily.

Bella got up first to use the bathroom and then when she came out, it was my turn. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and combed my hair. I contemplated makeup, but none of that mattered to the Cullens and it thrilled me to know I would not be scolded for choosing not to dress up. I was good enough just as I am.

In fact, none of the Cullens were dressed — they all had their pajamas, robes, and slippers on. Jasper had told me last night after dinner that that was how they always spent Christmas morning — in their pajamas. It was tradition to not to get dressed and to eat cinnamon buns as they opened gifts. I was rather excited about it. I had heard wonderful things about Esme's famous sticky buns!

Bella was out of the bedroom when I returned and I went inside to grab my robe too, because it was a bit chilly. I heard the door shut behind me and some heavy feet shuffled on the floor. I knew Emmett had snuck inside.

"Good morning," he said.

"Morning!" I smiled happily as he paused by the closed door.

"Is it okay if I give you my gift now… in private?" he asked me. He seemed a bit apprehensive, but his dimples told me he was more excited than anything else. I nodded eagerly and we both sat down on my bed.

"Here," he told me, putting a tiny black box on my lap. It had a single red ribbon tied neatly around it with a bow on top.

I sighed and touched it gingerly. "Oh, wow!" It looked like jewelry. All I had gotten him was a Nintendo game he had asked for…

"Go on… Open it!" he egged me on.

I was smiling so hard my face hurt and the anticipation was killing me. I fumbled with the ribbon and then I realized I just had to pull the ends to unfasten the bow. It slipped into my lap and I pulled off the lid of the box.

Inside, was a delicate golden chain.

"Oh, Em…" I gasped breathlessly. "It's too much!"

"No. I have you. This is only a symbol of my love in comparison to how much I love you…" He giddily stuck his fingers in to pick up the chain and hold it up in front of me to see that there was a delicate, charm dangling from it.

My fingers reached up to touch it and steady the charm so I could see it better.

It was a tiny carved, gold key.

"When you were away I was not a whole person, Rose," he told me seriously — the mood shifting slightly. "I wasn't sure what was wrong… mom and dad said I was depressed. But it was more than that… I was missing a piece of myself without you near."

"It's beautiful," I whispered, as he helped me to put the necklace on. His fingers were so large, but he deftly hooked the miniscule clasp so that it latched and then he let go of the chain so it fell and hung comfortably around the scoop of my neck.

The key was centered right above my heart on the twenty-inch chain. It was absolutely stunning in its simplicity. The meaning was so much deeper for both of us.

"And when I thought I might have lost you, my heart literally stopped, Rose."

I looked at him with tears in my eyes and my hand over my new present to hold it closer to me.

"I lost the ability to breathe at the thought of losing you," he continued.

"Oh, Em. I-" He held up a hand to stop me.

"Please let me get this out. I'm a fool for words, but I need to tell you this while I still have the courage."

I closed my mouth, my eyes filling with tears, and I nodded for him to go on.

He gulped and took a deep breath. "This key… Well, it is the key to my heart," he said taking my hand that was over my heart. "When you were gone, you took it with you — I was half a man."

The tears slipped from my eyes and ran down my cheeks into my lap.

"My heart belongs to you now, Rose," he finished. "Forever, or as long as you want it — it's yours."

"Oh, Em!" I cried and launched myself into his arms that were open and waiting. "Always! Forever. Yes!"

He was gentle with me, but I didn't care if he held me too tightly this time. Any pain I felt now was the good kind of pain again. I welcomed the tears because they were tears of joy — tears of release… I was finally complete. I was finally home for good now!

"I love it. I love you! Your heart is exactly want I need, Em. It was the piece I've been missing all my life… You make me whole!"

I sobbed joyfully into his robe and relished in the scent of his sweet, spicy man-smell.

I stayed with my face buried in his chest until I melted into a blissful pool of happiness in his lap. He stroked my hair and kissed my face and for a few minutes it was like we were the only ones on the planet — the only ones who existed.

The moment could not last forever, because we had siblings and parents waiting in the other room.

However, we took the time to get in a few last kisses and then he wiped away the tear streaks from my face and I straightened up his robe so it looked a little less groped. Then, when we were presentable again, we made our way out to join the family for sticky buns and more presents.

They must have been waiting for us. No one had started yet, but they were all seated around the fireplace again, Edward playing his guitar lightly as they all softly sang 'Deck the Halls' to accompany him. It was a scene out of a Normal Rockwell painting.

They stopped singing as we made my way over. Bella touched my necklace and smiled at me kindly as if to congratulate me. I smiled back and hoped that she would get her wish soon too. She made room for me to sit on the side of the sofa, next to Emmett.

"What are we going to sing next?" Alice cheered. No one gave suggestions, but I thought pleasantly of one of my favorite holiday songs. It had been so long since I had sung it. I wasn't sure if I could.

Alice touched my hand knelt down in front of me expectantly. "Please? You can do it," she encouraged.

They were all pretty quiet — not wanting to scare me out of singing, I guess — but there really wasn't anything to be frightened of anymore. I took a few beats to prepare myself and then I went for it.

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas," I sang slowly, melodically. No one laughed, and no one stopped me, so I kept going. "Let your heart be light."

I saw Esme cuddle into Carlisle out of the corner of my eye.

"From now on, our troubles will be out of sight..."

Alice sighed and leaned her face on my leg. This felt right, somehow — I could be a part of this. I was a member of this family now. There was no shame in that.

Bella touched Edward's hand and he began to play for me.

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas…"

The End

Fluffy as it was, I think this was the most enjoyable chapter to write. I hope you all enjoyed reading it. I will let you all decide where the romance(s) go from here... it's more fun that way! A happy ending with endless possibilities for continuation...

Thank you for reading from beginning to end!

*New drawing of Rose and Emmett posted in my DeviantArt Gallery (link on my profile page) if anyone is interested in taking a gander.

Peace Out! ...for now. ;) I might write some outtakes from 'Thorns' from other character POVs. *shrug*