a/n: Thank you to Project Team Beta, ShowtunesJesus, and DreaC, for the helpful input and feedback. This is so much better because of your help.
This is for Hmonster, the lovely lovely lady with infinite patience and a fondness for happily ever after and The Princess Bride.
It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis. - Margaret Bonnano
Ness leans against Jacob's warm chest, enjoying the comforting thump of his heart as it pushes blood through his circulatory system, relishing the heat that he radiates as it warms her. She is curled up in his lap, leaning against him, head tucked against his neck, his chin gently resting on her head.
She places her hand on his neck. This is perfect. You're very cozy.
A rumble in his chest that might have been a laugh and a contented-sounding hum is his response. He shifts slightly, lifting his chin from the top of her head, causing his mouth to tilt so that his breath whispers across her hair and scalp, tickling her slightly.
They spend the next several minutes—though Ness wonders if maybe it's hours, with how snug and lazy she's feeling—curled up together. Quietly, Jake asks, "Are you happy?"
She thinks about that for a moment. Is she happy? In early September, in the hustle and bustle of her first term at university, away from the family for the first time (finally), away from Jacob, on her own and relating to the humans around her on her own terms, she would have called herself happy. Before her move from the family home in Copenhagen to Madrid, she'd been chafing at the restrictions of living with a large extended family, particularly one that had to be as secretive as the Cullens. She'd been feeling smothered by Jake, even though she loved him. Running away to sunny Spain had been her solution to the feeling of drowning in a well-meaning, overly enthusiastic (not at all domineering, no!) family. Only Jacob could have followed her there, and he had been careful to ask if she wanted him around or if she'd prefer to be alone, and he had abided by her decision. He'd gone back to Washington and she'd gone to Madrid.
By December, though, she would not have used "happy" to describe herself. Even-keeled, perhaps. Getting by, in some respects. Cautiously developing friendships with humans and learning to negotiate life with them (and not just among them, as her family traditionally did). Excelling academically. Not "happy," though.
In this moment, yes. With her answer, Ness pushes an image from San Sebastian that had stayed with her: a large, contented, ginger-colored cat lazing in a patch of sunlight, absorbing the warmth radiating up from the heat-baked stones under him. The big tom had positively oozed 'bliss.' At the time, she'd been jealous of his lack of worries, of how content he was with his lot in life. She finally understands. It is how she feels right now, snuggling in Jake's warm arms.
Jake chuckles, the vibrations echoing through her. "You didn't eat him?"
"Pfft." She huffs out. He wasn't worth the effort. Besides, how could I snack on a fellow so full of himself and utterly content?
"You could have pounced on him, sunk your teeth into him, and drained all his blood. Over before he even knew his blissful moment of sun worship was over. That's how."
She punches him lightly on the shoulder. "Jerk."
"You've met my mother. How could I not end up a softie?"
"Uh…have you met Rosalie? She should have counteracted any wuss-like tendencies you picked up from your mom."
"Mom's not a wuss, she's a softie. There is a difference. You know, just because you and Aunt Rose have really only learned to deal with each other for my sake doesn't mean that you can infer she's always a cold bitch. Dollars to donuts she would've smiled at the big happy tom, too, and not snacked on him. Not that she would've told anyone about it."
Jake makes a humming sort of noise that lets Ness know he doesn't necessarily agree, but he doesn't want to make her angry. "Continuing on," he says. "Happy in this moment is good, but what about over all?"
She can tell he's trying to keep his voice casual, but she's grown up with him, knows Jacob Black inside and out, and she can hear the worry he's trying to keep down. Is he worried about her feelings for him, she wonders? Or about her emotional health, now that none of them are nearby to keep tabs?
Ness worries with the hem of her threadbare Forks High t-shirt as she answers aloud. "Over all, I'm not unhappy," she says. "And there are days when I'm full of happy, so to speak, and days when I miss you all so much I feel sick. Those are the extreme days—no one has every day that is one or the other, I don't think—on average, I'd say that I'm alright. The farther along in the school term I got, the more I realized that I missed the family. I left feeling smothered and closed in, even though in my head I knew you all only meant well. After a while, that feeling faded, and I missed everyone. There were times when I wondered if I'd cut off my nose to spite my face. But, at the same time…the challenges of the coursework are great. Learning to live with humans, and not just among them, creates its own challenges. Going thrift store shopping—something Aunt Alice and Aunt Rose won't let me do—is fun. So the not-so-great things like missing everyone were balanced out by the enjoyable things in my life."
Ness pauses, and then pulls back from Jake's chest so that she can look at him properly. "I guess what I'm saying is that I'm doing alright. Listening to the other first-year students, I seem to be on par with them, missing family back home but enjoying the university experience. They don't have my unique situation—sneaking blood in through the Carlisle Cullen black market and trying not to notice how yummy they smell—but I don't have a lot of their problems, either, so it evens out. We're all adjusting to a new situation."
She reaches out to run her fingers down the side of his face and smiles when he closes his eyes and leans into her touch. He might be a wolf in his other form, but just then she's reminded of a giant contented cat. She hopes he is as happy in the moment as that big tom in San Sebastian. What about you? She sends. Are you happy?
His eyes remain closed as he answers. "Right in this moment I'm disgustingly happy. On top of the world. I'm on a comfortable couch with the love of my life on my lap and perfect cold weather outside. Yes, Sweetheart, I'm happy."
And overall? What about that?
"Overall, I'm ok. I'll be more than ok when I can see you more often than school breaks." Jake's large hands squeeze her biceps lightly. "It isn't comfortable for me, to be so far away for so long. You're my imprint. But it's ok because I know the bigger picture. It's a temporary thing, and I do get to see you."
The guilt fills Ness's stomach, and she imagines this is what it feels like to swallow a boulder.
Her regret flows through her hands to Jake, and she shares how sorry she is for inadvertently hurting him. She hadn't imagined that having his imprint so far away from him, and for an extended period of time, would be a problem.
"Oh, no, Nessie, I didn't say that to make you feel guilty. I told you that in the spirit of being honest. I'll tell you, Sweetheart, if it gets to be too much. Neither of us could have known how I—we—would be affected by being separated. No one in living memory has been separated from his imprint." Jake presses a kiss to her forehead. "And I'm not telling you that to make you feel guilty, either."
"I know. You wouldn't do that." She worries her bottom lip between her teeth as she thinks this through. She feels a little (more than she'd expected) cut off from everyone in Madrid, but she doesn't want to leave the city or the university, either. Losing contact with Jake as she had, physical contact, wasn't good either. "Can we work in more visits? Even though…" Ness trails off. Even though we live nine time zones apart, thanks to me, she thinks to herself.
Jacob smiles. "We're a continent and an ocean apart. But have you forgotten how disgustingly rich your family is? Frequent flights back and forth aren't an issue, money-wise. We'd have to work out our school schedules, our responsibilities, but we can do that."
Ness takes a deep breath. The years of school, of university, stretch out in front of her, and she very carefully does not give into the image of all those never-ending weeks and months. If she were to focus on that image, she'd curl up into a ball of toomuch and forget how to move forward. Instead, she concentrates on the comforting thump of Jacob's heart, the easy in-out of his breath, the warmth that radiates out from him. She knows instinctively that it is what will get her through.
She moves so that she is straddling him and can rest her forehead against his as she cups his face in her hands. We'll make it work? She sends.
"Of course." He does his (and she finds this just delicious and awesome) half purr, half growl of contentment. "We take it one day at a time, and we'll do it together. Even separated, with you here in Europe and me back home in Washington. A continent and an ocean are nothing."
"Are you ready for our movie, Squirt?" Her uncle's presence seems to fill the large family room where Ness is sprawled out on the couch in front of the state-of-the-art entertainment system the Cullens enjoy. She loves the way the super soft leather and over-stuffed cushions seems to cradle her body. She's already plotting ways to get a smaller version of this in her place in Madrid. It would be heavenly to have something like this to curl up on after classes. It might ruin her carefully cultivated image of a "normal" not-rich student, but right now she thinks it would be worth it.
"Aye captain! Ready for our annual viewing of the cheesy-yet-awesome eighties action-adventure-romance!"
With a delighted grin usually seen only on small children, Emmett gets the movie started.
As Peter Faulk bustles into the movie, moving across the room to pinch Fred Savage's cheek, Ness rolls her eyes. "I'm so glad you all stopped doing that to me when I started looking like an adult. I hated having my cheeks pinched." Less than a second after she finishes the sentence, she knows it was a mistake; she might as well have invited him to do just what he's leaning over to do--pinch her cheek.
She makes a face as he does. "Ow! You didn't have to pinch so hard!"
"Stop whining. You're talking over Columbo."
"He's not Columbo in this movie. Just in everything else he did."
"He's rumpled, is he not? Columbo was always rumpled. Plus, you never hear his name in the movie. It really could be Columbo visiting his grandson."
"I don't think that's the way it works, Uncle Emmett. We've talked about this before. We talk about this every time we watch the movie."
"That means you're wrong every time we watch the movie. Now be quiet. They're about to cut to Robin Wright."
"Does Aunt Rose know you have a crush on Buttercup?"
"Of course. I don't keep anything from her. And sometimes, if I'm really, really good, I can get her to dress up, and - "
"Gah! Stop! I don't need to know. Really. Eww, Uncle Emmett."
He pauses the movie, and then rewinds it a bit, because they've talked over Buttercup's first appearance.
"You're ridiculous," she says, not bothering to hide the affection in her voice.
"It's part of my charm. Anyway, Squirt, you know you like Inigo as much as I like Buttercup. Admit it."
"I don't know what you mean."
"I can hear your heart beat faster whenever he's on screen, you know. It's been that way since I first watched this with you, and you were still little. Your dad wasn't thrilled."
"Dad is mildly retarded from time to time. I get my brains from Mom."
"Your mom, who doesn't understand your fascination with Inigo."
Ness rolls her eyes again, and then wonders how Uncle Emmett manages to reduce her to a typical teenage girl when she isn't even a teenager anymore. She developed past teenage hormones and attitude years ago. "Mom, while smarter than Dad in many ways, is blinded by red hair. There are days when I don't think she sees anything other than Dad when he's in the same room. I, on the other hand, while madly in love with Jacob, can appreciate others. Like Inigo."
"Have you seen Mandy Patinkin lately? I bet you wouldn't have a crush on Inigo anymore."
"Oh shut up. That movie was made the same year Mom was born; the man has the right to age. Anyway, as Inigo, he's awesome. That's all I need to know. Now be quiet. Vizzini, Fezzik, and Inigo are about to show up."
"I've always thought of you as Fezzik," Ness says as Fezzik tells Vizzini that killing an innocent girl isn't right. "Not that you're slow, because you aren't, but because of his physicality and his devotion to the people he cares about."
"I'll take that in the spirit you intended it, ickle little niece of mine. If I'm going to be compared to someone, Andre the Giant is ok. I suppose Fezzik is, too." He gives her a playful sort of growl. "Don't tell anyone I agreed to that."
"You know anyone in the house heard it."
Emmett shrugs. "It's just Jasper. He doesn't count, anyway. He's what we call a 'secondary character.'"
"Uncle Jasper is secondary? So does that mean you are a tertiary character, Uncle Emmett?"
"I'm the main character!"
"Nonsense. I am."
"Oh really? Says who?"
"Uh, I do. And since I'm the main character, what I say goes."
"You realize, ickle niece, that you're long past the age where I indulge in such nonsense just because you are the youngest member of the family." He points at himself. "Me. Primary character. Protagonist. You? You and Jazz are secondary at best."
Ness very definitely did not smile. At all. "Mom and Dad?"
A snort from upstairs.
"The parents of the primary character—me—are quaternary characters? Wouldn't they be important?"
"You're getting your primary and secondary characters mixed up. Regardless, though, of who the primary character is, his - "
"His/her parents aren't important. Just support characters. Not even three-dimensional."
"So you're saying that neither Mom or Dad or Grandma Esme and Grandpa Carlisle are as important as you and I are?"
Emmett's smile is brilliant. "Got it in one."
"I can't wait to tell Dad that."
"Edward is an unimportant character, remember? He doesn't need to know what's going on."
"That's Rose," Emmett tells her in a low, conspiratorial voice, as though in a house where there is even one other vampire there can be any private conversation.
Ness raises her eyebrows at him. "Buttercup?" They're at the point in the movie where the Man in Black has accused Buttercup of not being capable of love and raised his fist as if to hit her, but she doesn't back down. As many times as they'd watched The Princess Bride together, her uncle had never told her that. In her head, actually, she rather equates her mother to the heroine, coloring aside.
Emmett grins. "Of course. Because she's gorgeous, and I'm Westley, obviously." He cocks his head and his brown-gold eyes seem to twinkle. "You can't possibly think your dad is like Westley. Edward's not nearly cool enough."
Ness snorts, startled and amused. "For a dad, he's pretty cool. When he's not being stupid and over-protective. " She pauses. "But yeah, I see what you mean. He's way too dorky. It's weird. I think of Mom as Buttercup, because she got her happily ever after, so you'd think I'd make Dad Westley in my head."
"No. Westley makes me think more of Uncle Jasper." Her lips twitch, knowing Uncle Emmett won't like that one bit; he always fancies himself the 'cool' Cullen, and therefore he is, de facto, the hero of almost any movie.
"Jasper? Absolutely not. Just because he's blonde doesn't mean he gets to be the awesome hero who gets the girl. Besides, that means Alice would be Buttercup."
"Just because Aunt Rose is blonde doesn't mean she's Buttercup," Ness returns. "And anyway, Aunt Alice could be the heroine; she got her happily ever after, after all. She found Jasper. She found you all and she gained a sister in Mom and a niece in me. She could be the heroine of the story. Just because you're wrapped around Aunt Rose's little finger doesn't always mean she's the heroine."
Emmett's smile softens. "I really am," he says, his voice taking on a wistful, almost mushy tone as he talks about his wife. It only lasts a moment, though, before his usual jovial voice is back. "Rose got her happily ever after, too, you know. She got me and a family that loves her."
Ness worries her lip between her teeth. Aunt Rose is only a building over, tinkering with the little Mini she'd driven home to Copenhagen (no niece of Rose's is going to putter around Europe in a car that isn't as updated and fancy as Rosalie Hale can make it) and is likely able to hear at least some of the conversation between her niece and husband.
"Are you sure?" Ness asks quietly. "She had, still has, I think, as many problems with this life as Dad. I know she loves you, loves all of us, I do, but is this her perfect ending? Before Grandpa, wouldn't that have been a trophy husband, children, and being the queen bee of Rochester?" She grimaces. "That makes her sound so shallow. She isn't, but…I know she's always wanted a family. Is it really happily ever after if you end up with something you like, something you can work with, but it isn't what you always dreamed of? Wouldn't Aunt Rose's true happily ever after include being a mom with you?"
Emmett smiles a little sadly, then perks up. "Let me tell you a story." He gestures grandly with his arms, indicating (Ness thinks) the large scope of this story.
"Is it a fairy tale?"
"Of course it's a fairy tale. What kind of story-telling uncle do you take me for?"
"Is it a topical fairy tale?"
"When are my stories ever not topical, little niece of mine?"
Ness arches her eyebrow in a fair imitation of her blonde aunt. Growing up, she spent hours in front of a mirror to get that same arch, trying to get the same 'are you kidding me?' effect that seems to have come naturally to Rosalie. She puts it to good use now. "You do have a tendency to digress and embellish, Uncle Em."
She watches as he adopts an expression of affront. "That eyebrow trick only works on me if it's from my wife. I am a big and scary vampire.--Don't roll your eyes at me!--Don't question my story-telling abilities. Now, do you want to hear my story or not?"
Getting up and giving him a hug, she tells him, "You might be big, but you aren't scary. Just a big teddy bear." For Uncle Emmett's benefit, she places her hand on his cheek and adds: But you are scarier than Uncle Jasper.
Grinning, Emmett simply replies "Of course I am!" then looks at her expectantly.
After a short staring contest, Ness gives in. "Alright. Tell me your topical fairy tale."
Emmett clears his throat dramatically, causing Ness to roll her eyes again. It's something she does frequently with this particular uncle. (With her parents, too, but that's different: they're her parents. Eye-rolling is a given, even though she's all grown up.)
"Once upon a time," he says, "there was a merchant's son. The merchant was successful, providing for his family and training his son to take up the family business as he grew into manhood. The son did not feel passionately about selling, as his father did, but he saw that it was an honest living, one that would provide for his own family when he married, so he learned what his father had to teach him. As he grew, he made friends with the merchants and vendors at the various markets at which his father and he traded. He was content. His father had many contacts throughout the land, and through his father—and through his own open, friendly nature—he grew to know and respect the people of their homeland."
"You were that popular in your home town?"
She shrugs. "I'm adding color commentary."
"My tale-telling does not need color commentary. I, Emmett McCarty-Hale-Cullen, am the living embodiment of color commentary and do not need any help in this area. Keep your interpretations to yourself."
"Uncle Emmett, when have I ever kept my commentary to myself?"
"You're old enough to know better, half pint. Pipe down so I can tell my story."
"Here I thought you were just retelling Aunt Rose's story, and it's really yours!"
"It's a metaphor, my ickle little niece who I can still beat up if I wish to do so. Don't get tied up in the details." He bares his teeth at her and asks in false deference, "Will the Lady allow her humble servant to continue on with the tale?"
"The Lady finds you suitably entertaining. Continue on, good sir."
"The Lady is most gracious." Emmett solemnly nods his head in acceptance.
As I was saying, the quite intelligent and very humble merchant's son found that his pleasure in life came not from following in his father's footsteps and trading, but from helping others. If he negotiated a better price on wool for the neighbor widow, or assisted a newly wedded couple to put up a fence to keep in livestock, it was a good day.
He thought, as he neared his twentieth year, that this was the life to live. He made an honest living, he was able to help those he cared about, and the preacher's daughter had been smiling at him lately. As he traveled to the market the next village over, the merchant's son allowed himself to get lost in dreams of small children with the red-blond hair and fierce will of the preacher's daughter.
The young man, lost in dreams of fat babies and a beautiful bride—his life's wish—was attacked by ruffians. They saw his wagon of goods and wanted what he had for themselves. The merchant's son, not willing to give up the wares he and his father had worked so hard for, fought the thieves with everything he had. They were many against his one, however, and in the end, the merchant's son lay dying on the side of the road, his wagon tipped over and stained with his blood. Most of the goods he'd been transporting were taken.
Lying there, the young man realized that his dreams of a life with the beautiful preacher's daughter would never come to happen. He whispered an apology to his father and mother for failing them and accepted his lot with equanimity.
Much to his surprise, the merchant's son woke. Expecting to be dead, he didn't understand how he could be seeing sunlight stream through a window. Nor did he understand why the sunlight looked somehow more. As he woke, a man—though that wasn't an accurate description, because the being examining him was obviously not human—explained to him that he, and his son, had been traveling and found the young man dying by the side of the road. He was unwilling, this creature said, to let a youngster of such potential go to waste, so he'd saved the merchant's son by turning him into a being such as he: a fae.
The fae man knew his son (who looked to be of an age with the merchant's son) to be lonely, so he hoped that in converting the young dying human into a fae, his son would have a companion and friend.
They explained to the merchant's son that he could no longer live with his human family. As far as his family was concerned, he was dead, killed by the thieves who'd robbed him. His thoughts of the preacher's daughter as he lay dying remained true. He could not be with her; he was no longer human. The life he had been dreaming of, a wife, children, an honest living, had been ripped from him. Only now, he was still alive to know it.
The merchant's son was not happy. Worse still when he understood that because he was not a natural-born fae, he could not have even fae children. None of his previous dreams could be realized.
Time passed. The merchant's son learned to live as one of the fae, becoming friendly, if not close friends, with the two whose family he'd joined. As the years flowed by he became integrated with the life of the supernatural world. There was always a faint tug of sadness when he thought about his parents, and he still wondered, long after enough time had passed for all his peers to have lived long lives and then die, how they had fared without him there to take care of them. To his surprise, however, he found he didn't think about the preacher's daughter so often after those first few years.
He lived longer still, as fae do, and met a beautiful fae woman, one who surpassed all his expectations of beauty. He felt humbled to stand in her presence. As he came to know her, he came to love her, and he was shocked to find that she felt the same. 'I cannot give you children,' he told her, though he was afraid it would cause her to change her mind. The preacher's daughter, like him, had very badly wanted children and he knew that if it were her he were courting, she would refuse him if he could not provide her with little ones. The man-turned-fae waited anxiously for the beautiful fae woman's response. 'I have no need for children,' she told him, 'if I have the love I have searched for over the millennia. If you will have me, I will have you.' They were wed, and the merchant's son knew happiness."
Ness stares at her uncle for a moment, waiting for the story to continue. When he doesn't, she frowns. "That's it?"
"What do you mean, 'that's it?' What did you expect?
"The heavens to open up and shine the sun down on their heads, while moving music plays in the background."
"Did I say I was reenacting an old Hollywood movie?"
"No. But I thought you wanted to make a point about how Aunt Rose has her happily ever after with you."
"Are you saying I didn't?"
"The merchant's son, thinly disguised composite of you and your wife, knew happiness. Got that part. That's it?"
"Maybe 'happily ever after' doesn't mean what you think it means."
Ness is quiet for a moment while she thinks on that.
"I think the idea of 'happily ever after' is different for everyone," she speaks slowly, as the thoughts in her head spool together into something coherent that she can share with her uncle. "When I drove here from the university, I stopped in Bordeaux for some wine. I stayed with a lovely couple, Laetitia and Aubert, who have a winery there. They are genuinely, truly, happy. It isn't a life I would want, growing grapes, maintaining the vineyards, hiring help, making the wine, entertaining visitors, living and dying by the whims of weather. The two of them, though, seem like they were born for just that purpose."
"So they have a fairy-tale life?"
"Not really. Not in a prince-and-princess fairy tale kind of way, anyway. They work. Not just the land or the business. They work on their relationship. When they turned in for the night, with me on their couch, I could hear them talking." She wrinkles her nose in annoyance. "Sometimes the 'superior hearing' bit sucks, you know? Anyway, they were talking after we all turned in for the night. If I were normal, it would've been a private conversation. Aubert was hot at Laetitia for inviting a strange girl—me—into the house to stay. They had no way of knowing if I was a thief or worse, and he couldn't believe his wife's naïveté at insisting I stay. They exchanged a few words over it, and I was starting to regret taking Laetitia up on her invitation. I didn't want to be the reason they were fighting. But after a while, I realized that Aubert was a lot like Aunt Rose: loud and harsh because he cared and worried about what might happen to his wife, and Laetitia was a lot like you: rolling with it, redirecting his 'grr, arrrgh' until they came to an understanding. He wouldn't fuss anymore, or kick me out, and when they woke up whole and uninjured in the morning, they'd pack me up and send me on my way, rather than invite me to stay longer, as Laetitia wanted.
"What I noticed, Uncle Em, is that they didn't shut each other down. They talked. Loudly, but they talked and they came to an agreement that they could work with, even if neither of them was one hundred percent happy. And they went to bed on good terms. Then in the morning, they included me in breakfast, Laetitia loaded me up with food and wine for the road, and life went on."
"And what did you learn from this, ickle niece?"
"I had mad guilt about just up and abandoning Jacob when I felt smothered. We talked a lot yesterday, and I'm not sure I would've known we needed to if I hadn't heard Aubert and Laetitia work through their problem."
Emmett wipes a fake tear from his eye. "You are learning, young Padawan. I'm so proud."
"Then as your Padawan, I feel obligated to remind you that Jedi eschew emotion. Should you be telling me that you are proud?"
He makes an airy, grand-looking dismissive gesture with his arm. "Details. Don't get stuck in them."
"You make for a great uncle, Uncle Em, but I think you'd suck as a Jedi."
"I do believe you are right. I'm much better as a vampire than I would ever have been as some space-hopping knight." Ness sees that despite his words, he looks a little wistful. "I could be another Han Solo, though, or Mal Reynolds, smuggling between the planets."
"You'll be a kick-ass space pirate one day, Uncle Em. I'll be your right-hand man. Girl. Woman. You know."
Uncle Jasper's voice carries down from his study. "You don't think your Aunt Rose will be his wingman?"
"Aunt Rose is Princess Leia!" Ness replies. "Hard-ass, butt-kicking princess with a heart of gold."
"Not your mother?" Jasper asks.
"Quaternary character, remember?" Emmett is cackling. "I love Bella, but between her and my Rosie, it's Rosie who reminds me most of Leia."
Ness shrugs. "I hate to tell Uncle Emmett he's right, but he's right on this one thing. I'm calling Amidala as a composite of Mom and Aunt Alice, though."
"Oooh," Emmetts says, "Jasper, that means you're a Sith!"
They hear the blond vampire upstairs snort. "I've already come back from the dark side, Emmett. I'm not going back. Besides, I'm Obi-Wan, and Edward is the broody one. He's clearly Anakin."
"Dad is many things, but he is not evil! Good call on the broody, though."
"Anakin before he got all pathetic and worked over by Palpatine, then."
"What about our resident wolf?" Emmett asks.
He swivels his head around to look at her in surprise. "Chewy and Lando don't hook up. Are you sure about that?"
"What makes you think they don't? There's definitely tension there." She sticks her tongue out. "Really, it's cause Jacob is a good guy, whatever the family might've thought of him at first. Like Lando proves that he is more than that first agreement with Vader, and ends up being a good guy fighting with the Skywalkers and Solos. Plus I think Jake would look hot in a cape."
"I didn't need to know that," Emmett tells her with a frown.
"They got their happily ever afters, too, for the most part," Ness muses. "I mean, in the books and stuff after the movies, they have kids that die, that go rogue, that go dark side and then come back, and it isn't easy, blah blah blah, but even though it isn't easy-peasy, they're happy with each other."
"So happily ever after isn't happily every day?"
"Like I was telling Jake yesterday, I don't think anyone is happy single day. We shouldn't blissfully happy every day. Just…overall. The good balancing out the bad, and the bad days being something you can share with people there who support you."
"Our niece is all grown up. I might shed a tear." This from upstairs.
Emmett perks up and looks toward the ceiling, in the general direction of Jasper's study. "If you manage to squeeze out a real tear, I'll buy you the newest Lotus."
Ness rolls her eyes. "Worst agreement ever. Can we finish the movie, now? We're at the point where Buttercup is being stupid and naïve and believing Humperdink's actually going to send his fastest ships to find the Dread Pirate Roberts."
"Stop interrupting us, Jasper. Our niece and I are watching a movie and having quality bonding time."
Ness wants to roll her eyes again—Uncle Emmett really does bring out her inner bratty pre-teen self—but he has such a huge, contented smile on his face that she instead shakes her head and promises Jasper she'll come upstairs to visit with him later.
"I love how Buttercup has really learned her lesson," Ness says as the princess holds fast to the idea that her Westley will come for her. "She gave him up for dead once, and she'll never do it again." She glances at her uncle. "Have you ever lost faith in the idea of happily ever after?" Ness isn't sure she wants to know the answer. If Uncle Emmett says "yes" then her view of him, her perception of his stalwart faith in the 'good guys' will be forever changed; she's not sure that's a good thing. If he says "no" then somehow he'll lose some of the depth she knows he has because what real person never waivers in their ideals or beliefs?
Uncle Em is watching her, his expression serious but open. He wants her to know that he is treating her question with the gravity it deserves. She thinks, too, that he understands that her perception of him will change, regardless of his answer. She feels confident, though, that Uncle Emmett will be honest with her, regardless. Dad and Mom, and even Grandma Esme try to sugar-coat things, keep things from her to make her life easier, wanting to protect her, but she knows that Uncle Em is like his wife, like Aunt Alice and Uncle Jasper and Grandpa Carlisle: they believe in telling the truth. They try to pad it, to make something painful hurt less, but they don't hide things from her to "protect" her, they don't lie or subterfuge as she's seen so many adults do with children. They answer her questions.
"I've doubted," he says. "I've wondered why I still believe in happy endings. When Edward talked us into leaving Forks, when he declared us--him--bad for Bella, I knew he was wrong, but I didn't fight too hard against his decision. Bella was his business, his choice. It was obvious how much he loved her, and she loved him, so I figured that sooner or later he'd cave and go back to her, tail tucked between his legs, begging for forgiveness." Emmett shakes his head. "Your father is so disgustingly stubborn. When I saw what leaving her was doing to him, how he was dying by inches, and that he wasn't going to go running back, my faith in everything working out wavered." Ness sees his expression change, watches desolation and pain wash across it before he's arranged his features into careful neutrality.
"It figures that my parents would be part of the reason your faith in the good ending might be tested."
Emmett's lips twitch into a brief smile before he continues. "The three times I doubted that belief the most strongly were when I was still human and my little sister was sick and dying, when the bear nearly killed me out there in the Smokies, and when Alice called to tell us about her vision of Bella leaping from the cliff. When I thought I'd permanently lost another sister…" He paused, looking pensive. "Underneath the questioning, though, there's this calmness, this knowledge that life will work out, regardless of how we try to manipulate it or change it."
Later, when her parents come home after their outing—which Ness had politely pretended not to know was them buying last-minute gifts for her—her mom curls up with her on the big over-stuffed chair, which is somewhere between the size of a big chair and a loveseat, that sits near the fireplace. As Bella finger-combs Ness' hair and frowns at the muted brown she has dyed it, she starts talking about her day with Edward.
Ness smiles to herself. Some things never change. She wonders (unfairly, she knows; her mom is smart, as well as a voracious reader) if her mother ever talks about anything other than her husband or daughter. She listens, though, content to let her mom's words wash over her and give her the sense of home she often misses while in Madrid for school. "Did you enjoy movie day with Emmett, Renesmee?"
She turns her head so she can see Bella. "You know you're still the only person who calls me that?"
"I named you after our mothers, Sweetheart. Of course I call you by your full name." She makes a face like she's just eaten human food. "You are not some big mythical monster who lives in a Scottish loch."
"'Ness' isn't an overly large loch-dwelling aquatic creature of mythology. You could shorten it down to that." She knows it is a futile argument; she's been trying to get her mom to chill on using her full name for years. Tradition holds, though, so she feels like she should make the attempt. Vampires are inherently unchanging creatures, and once they make up their minds about something, they don't usually change them. She is the child of Edward and Bella, though; she's at least as stubborn as the woman who birthed her.
To her satisfaction, her mom rolls her eyes. She considers this a triumph because Bella likes to pretend she was more mature at nineteen than her peers, which means that she acts older than Uncle Emmett at times. Any time she, or Emmett, can get Bella to embrace her inner teen and roll her eyes is a point. Uncle and niece have an unofficial competition.
"Renesemee you are, and Renesmee you shall be, at least to your crazy and annoying mother." Her mom is laying on the guilt-voice thick, but Ness grew up dealing with Emmett, Alice, and Jasper. In comparison, Bella is still an amateur.
"Not annoying. Well, not always annoying. Just annoying in the I'm-the-mom-and-I'm-right-even-when-I'm-not kinda way." She leans into her mom's hand where it's stroking her hair. "I still love you, though, even with all your failings."
"I'm so lucky."
"Yep, you are!"
Before they can continue with the banter that Ness is sure will soon devolve into "Am too" and "are not!" Jake sticks his head in the front door.
"Are you ready to go out, Nessie?"
She peeks out the window at the layer of snow that is melting into a slushy mush in the unusually warm day. "Sure. Just let me grab my wellies."
Ness kisses her mom on the cheek and gets ready to go out with the love of her life. She really is fortunate, and happy.
a/n: Leave a review, let me know what you think!