Disclaimer: the Twilight characters are, unfortunately, not my property; they're just helping me to become a better author!
The Sweetest Thing
It is true, we shall be monsters, cut off from all the world; but on that account we shall be more attached to one another.
Frankenstein, Chapter 17.
"We should probably get going."
"We'll miss our flight if you keep it up. We'd better – "
Speech shifted into a purr when his lips pressed just beneath my earlobe. I grabbed a handful of sheets, not caring if they would rip beneath my grip. My eyes snapped shut for a second in complete addiction to the softness of his touch. When I gained enough composure to meet his gaze again, he was watching me half amused, half smug.
"You were saying?" he asked, his voice a husky whisper that sent a jolt of desire right through me. His eyes were dark and not from thirst. This was a different sort of hunger, one I'd become well familiar with in our first year of marriage.
"Stop it," I giggled when his lips set a path down my face, eventually settling in the hollow of my throat. His tongue drew small circles there. I dug my nails into his shoulders, trying to resist him. "Get dressed. I mean it."
"Do you, really?" he murmured before his lips descended on mine. My resistance evaporated as soon as our lips touched. Instead of clawing his shoulders, my arms were suddenly around his neck. "I didn't think so," he breathed in between frenzied kisses.
"I do." I wriggled out of his grasp. "Come on."
He didn't budge as I got out of bed. He lay there, leaning against the bed board, as I wandered around the room only half dressed myself, and shoved discarded items into the suitcases at random. The colossal mess around our hotel suite was typical for neither Edward nor myself, but during our stay, keeping the room in one piece was a priority on top of keeping it tidy. In our two weeks' excursion we had already changed five hotels. Emmett would roar when he heard the tale of his brother and sister-in-law, leaving a trail of destruction all across London. I knew it would make him secretly proud as well.
Lying there with his chest bare and nothing but a thin sheet at his waist, all smoldering eyes and tousled bronze hair, Edward looked like the epitome of seduction. Watching him was as distracting as the burning sensation of his lips on my skin. His expression was strange, not because I wasn't familiar with it, but because I couldn't figure out why he would look so entertained now. "What's so funny?"
"It just amuses me how we have sort of switched roles." He let out this short raspy laughter. "I often find myself wondering what you have done with the girl who wanted to stay human for more of this." He motioned the bed as if to make a point. "The one who asked me which tempted me more, her blood or her body."
Flashing a sultry smile at him, I dropped the shirt I was holding, and walked over to the bed. I crawled towards him in a much slower pace than necessary, extremely aware of his gaze on me. His breathing, cool and sweet, exhilarated as I leaned over to bring my lips closer to his ear. "She gave birth to your daughter," I murmured, and then pulled back a little to scowl at him. "Renesmee? Remember? It's her birthday in two days?"
"I remember," he assured me. "I miss her as much as you do. But there is still plenty of time before our flight leaves. I remind you there isn't much pleasure in spending a major amount of time in an airport filled with humans."
I pouted, unconvinced, but it only made him laugh. Then he looked contemplative. "If from some reason we do miss that flight, though, I'll race you home. I have always wanted to try crossing the Atlantic swimming. It will give me something to boast about in front of Emmett."
"Guys," I rolled my eyes, but my mocking rant was quickly shifted into a gasp when he traced a finger beneath the thin strap of my camisole until it slipped down my shoulder. I locked my eyes on his. They were almost the same color now, mine just a shade darker. It wouldn't be long before they would gain that same butterscotch shade as his. It was a moment before I remembered how to speak. "So which one was it, eventually?"
He blinked, as if my question confused him.
"My blood or my body?"
"Well, your blood was sweeter than anything," he replied in that same low tone. "As for your body, well…" He let his voice trail as he gave the other strap a similar treatment. "I would expect you'd figure out as much from my apparently not so evident reluctance to leave this room."
"Just in case you were wondering," I whispered, slowly letting go of my shield and thus letting him know exactly how much I longed to stay there with him as well.
"Oh, I see," he murmured, violet eyelashes brushing against his porcelain skin. I stared at them, fascinated, in the brief second before he opened his eyes again. "They're not completely gone then."
"Your human hormones. My old friends. I must confess I have quite missed them."
"Oh, they're still there alright. Shadowed by maternal instincts." I dropped a kiss on his lips, but quickly pulled away. "Get up. Renesmee is waiting."
I still found it hard to believe that my little nudger, our daughter, was one year old in two days. The day of her birth was nothing but a dim memory, of course. Our reunion, my first clear memory of her, was alive and burning. She was turning one in a couple of days, but she was much older both physically and mentally. Her accelerated development left us all at awe, although we were less mystified or concerned now. It had already been confirmed that she was going to live a long and happy life.
It was my first time away from her, and although I reveled at being alone with Edward, something we didn't have since our honeymoon a year ago, I missed her so much it was physically painful. I wondered how different she would be when we got back. Two weeks' absence was crucial as far as her development was concerned. She was essentially different each day. I both anticipated the change, and feared it. The one thing that remained constant was our boundless love for her. All banter aside, I knew Edward was longing to see her too.
Despite Edward's joke about us swimming our way home, we couldn't do that even if we had missed our flight (which, of course, we didn't). Our luggage upon our return included, apart for one suitcase for each, three large suitcases filled with books and toys we got for Renesmee. I was already set on ignoring Alice's scolding glares at the fact I hardly bought anything for myself. I only hoped none of the suitcase would lose its way somehow at our stop at New York. I let Edward handle them at the airport as part of the human façade we'd been pulling off, although I could hoist them onto the trolley just as swiftly. The crooked grin he flashed at me assured me he thought so too.
We had a strike of bad luck in New York, where our flight to Seattle was delayed. Although I tried to contain my disappointment, I could tell Edward wasn't buying my act. I was hoping to be able to kiss my baby awake on the morning of her birthday, and that wasn't going to happen. Both of us spoke to her on the phone when Edward called Carlisle to notify him of our delay. When we finally landed in Seattle it was early afternoon, a few hours later than our designated arrival time. I breathed a sigh of relief as soon as the plane's wheels grazed the ground.
Our car was waiting for us at the Seattle airport. From there, we made the four hour drive to Forks in approximately two hours. We spent the drive mostly in silence. Edward's long fingers tapped absentmindedly against the wheel; the motion reflected my state of giddy excitement. As I stared wearily into the distance, I felt a smile curling on my lips. We would be home soon.
Dusk fell when we finally drove into Forks. Anticipation was building within me at the sight of the familiar houses. Homesickness had never been something I expected to feel towards Forks. Then the houses thinned, we passed by the police station, and the darkness of the forest enveloped us as we took the turn towards the Cullens' abode. I shifted restlessly in my seat. It felt as if we were moving too slowly. There was nothing I wanted more than running the rest of the way home.
Edward was clearly as eager as me to meet our family, because he stopped the car by the front door instead of driving it to the garage. He smiled at me as he killed the engine. "Here we are."
As soon as he said it, the front door burst open, and orange light filled the dark lawn. We were already out of the car as two figures, one tall, one much shorter, raced down the stairs and towards us. My daughter's bell-like chortle echoed all around us. "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" she chanted, throwing herself into my arms.
"Careful, Ness, you might…" Jacob's voice trailed off as soon as she hit into me full force. My cringe reflected his. "…hurt yourself."
But the collision didn't seem to have any impact on her. If she was hurt, she hadn't shown any signs of it. It took me mil second to do the overview I'd feared from. She was slightly bigger, but not much altered. Her hair seemed a little longer, but that was about it. That was a relief. I didn't need any physical change in her to add on to the guilt I felt about leaving her behind.
Alice jumped on the opportunity to dress her up, as I should have probably guessed. Renesmee looked like a doll in a blue dress and lacquered shoes to match. Now reassured, I wrapped her in a tight hug and closed my eyes as her warmth surrounded me. Her scent overwhelmed me after I'd been away from it for so long. Even combined with Jacob's scent, it was potent, intoxicating. I couldn't help but think back of Edward's words from the day before. Your blood was sweeter than anything. The burning down my throat was throbbing steadily. I held my baby tighter in defiance against it.
Renesmee giggled, oblivious to the boiling storm within me. She pressed her palm to my cheek, showing me her very impatient self, inquiring about our arrival since we had spoken on the phone earlier that day.
"Did you think we wouldn't be here on time for your birthday?" Edward, who didn't need her palm on his cheek to hear her thoughts, asked her, leaning over to drop a soft kiss into her chocolate ringlets.
"I knew you'd be here, Daddy," she told him, her little face serious as her eyes met his. She reached out for him, and I placed her in his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and buried her head in the crook of his neck, closing her eyes with what seemed like contentment.
"We missed you too, little one," he murmured into her hair.
There was a loud thud as Jacob slammed the trunk after getting our luggage out. "Thanks, Jake, but I can – "
"Please, Bella," he cut me off, and jokingly slapped my hand away when I tried to reach out towards one of the suitcases. "I don't care what you are now; vampire or no vampire, you're still a girl."
There was a murmured agreement by Edward, and Renesmee was in my arms again before I even opened my mouth to protest. I narrowed my eyes as Edward and Jacob split our luggage between them. Clearly, my best friend was taking chivalry lessons from my husband. Was Edward that concerned about Renesmee's future with Jake?
I meant to start forward, but then my eyes caught a silvery flicker coming from between Renesmee's hands, and I halted. "What you got there, Renesmee?"
At my question, Edward looked up. I heard a low growl coming out of his mouth as he narrowed his eyes at Jacob, their kinship all gone. Renesmee just giggled as she placed the object of her interest in front of me to see. I'd been well familiar with her affection for strange, unusual playthings. I had to buy Esme new silverware for Christmas, her previous set having been destroyed almost in its entirety by her granddaughter. A few compasses from Carlisle's collection had met a similar destiny.
"It's a can opener," Jacob replied, eliciting another snarl from Edward. A hiss almost slipped through my own lips. I held it back; I didn't want to scare Renesmee, who was watching our exchange curiously.
"I can see it's a can opener, Jake. Why does she have it?"
"She found it in the kitchen the other day, and you know how protective she is with her toys."
"A can opener is not a toy!"
Renesmee held out the small silver object in front of us. Catching the light from inside the house, it glimmered in the darkness. She stared at it, mesmerized.
"She likes things that sparkle. Like mother, like daughter."
A thunderous roar of laughter sounded from inside the house – Emmett, no doubt. Edward's snarl was even more vicious than before. "Tasteful, Jacob."
"Why don't you let me keep it for now, Renesmee?" I asked my reckless daughter, who handed me the can opener without a protest. I stuck it in the pocket of my trench coat, ignoring Jacob completely. How typical. We weren't home for ten minutes, and already he was getting on my nerves.
Renesmee had her palm pressed to my cheek again, and we resumed our walk towards the house. She showed me everything she'd been doing during our absence, including how she came across the can opener. I had no doubt that Edward, a few steps behind us, was listening to her thoughts as well.
It seemed everything was calm in our absence. It made me feel slightly better about going. Travelling to London wasn't our decision in the slightest – it was an anniversary gift from the Cullens. My apprehension about leaving didn't just involve leaving Renesmee behind. I knew she would be well taken care of. Technically, I was still a newborn, far too young to handle a journey of the sort. Edward brushed off my concern – I'd been more controlled than any of them had imagined. There was no reason why it would be different abroad. So with his assurances, and after many threats courtesy of Alice, we were off.
Everyone was waiting for us in the bottom floor with the addition of Seth, who was fully dressed, as was Jacob, I now noticed. I meant to make a nasty comment about this unusual fact, when a glimpse of color caught my eye. I halted.
"What the – "
My inquiry was cut short as they all surrounded us, speaking and laughing all at the same time. It was good ten minutes before I got a chance to look around the room again. Balloons of various shades and sizes were suspended an inch from the ceiling, their white ribbons looking like fluffy clouds against colorful skies. The dining room table was adorned with flowers and filled with food, and there was an enormous cake in its center. I held back a groan. I didn't need to guess who was in charge of this.
"Alice – "
"Before you say anything," she stepped forward in a motion so graceful, it looked as if she were dancing. "I know how you feel about birthday parties. But this isn't what you think."
"It looks exactly like what I think," I grumbled. My worst nightmare. A dim memory flashed through, of a similar evening two years ago, and everything that it led to.
"Won't you grin and bear it for Nessie? You only get to be one once!"
"This is our party, Mommy!" Renesmee rejoiced. Over her head, I narrowed my eyes at Alice; the smile she flashed in return was angelic.
"My birthday is not until the 13th and besides, vampires are not supposed to celebrate their human birthdays."
"Well, you only get to be twenty once," Edward, suddenly right behind me, murmured, as his arms snaked around my waist. I turned to glare at him.
"Wouldn't it be more appropriate to celebrate my vampire birthday?" I asked him. "I'm one, like Renesmee." In my arms, she agreed with a cheer.
"As long as we're celebrating something," replied Alice. She was in front of us in three lithe steps, and yanked me out of her brother's grip.
"Is this why it was necessary to send us abroad?"
"Yes," she replied, unabashed. "You would have bitten my head off if you knew what we were planning."
"Damn right I would have."
"Now you wish we stayed a little longer?" I couldn't see Edward's face, but I knew he had that smug grin on. I didn't bother to reply. I made a step forward and observed the dining table. There was so much food it was ridiculous. The cake looked gorgeous, but not the least appetizing, of course. I still found it weird. This was just the thing to make me drool back in the day, and now… nothing. There was something a bit upsetting about it, in an odd sort of way.
"Who is going to eat all that food?"
From across the room, Seth snorted, as if I was missing something very obvious. Which, of course, I was.
"I just want the cake," said Jacob. Everyone chuckled, as if it was a private joke we had missed during our absence. Renesmee was squirming out of my grip, and I lowered her to the ground. Once free, she ran to Jacob, who easily picked her up. She towered so high in his arms that she could easily touch the floating ribbons if she reached out for them.
"Looks like you can have it all for yourself; no one else will eat it."
The look he gave me, half skeptic, half amused, confused me. "Are you sure about that?"
"Well, you can share it with Seth, I guess. And with the rest of the pack, unless they think it's poisoned or something." My voice trailed at the sight of his grin, which was growing wider. "Why are you laughing?"
He didn't reply. Instead he shifted Renesmee so she was placed more comfortably in his embrace. "Why don't we show Mommy what we learned while she was away?"
Renesmee nodded, her beautiful ringlets bouncing every which way. Somewhere behind me, Edward growled under his breath. "What have you done, mongrel?"
Jacob's grin shifted into an innocent expression. "Nothing, she just likes it!"
"And you have nothing to do with this, of course." Edward's voice was dripping with sarcasm.
"Well, I might have given her a piece to try it," Jacob shrugged, unflinching beneath Edward's glare.
"She is not an object to experiment on!" Edward interjected crossly.
"What? What did you do?" I asked, still oblivious, since Edward was frozen with this furious look in his eyes, and didn't seem willing to enlighten me of the situation any time soon.
"Let's just say that, umm, while you were away, Nessie found something worth having other than blood."
So far, Renesmee had expressed exclusive preference for blood over any other human food, no matter what we had tried giving her. As far as I remembered, there were absolutely no exceptions there. I gave Jacob a look. He just had that grin on. I turned to Edward, whose lips were pressed into a thin line.
"Chocolate," he muttered.
My eyes popped wide. My head whipped in Jacob's direction. "You gave her…"
"It wasn't me, it was Charlie!"
"Why are you experimenting on my baby?"
"Really, Bells, you should have seen her face when she tasted it."
"It was quite adorable, really," Rosalie interjected, which caught me off guard. Since when had she and Jacob agreed on anything before?
Still struggling to process all this new information, I stepped forward and let my daughter place her palm against my cheek, as she requested. I could see it now, a memory she had only mentioned briefly earlier. Charlie came for a visit a few days ago. Every time he stopped by, he brought her something: a doll or a game, or other items which often found themselves dismantled shortly afterwards beneath her strong hands.
On the day she now chose to show me, Charlie brought her chocolate. I saw Jacob explaining to her what it was, and Charlie's surprised expression at the fact she'd never seen chocolate before. I saw them opening the box for her, and everyone's expectant expressions when she placed a tiny piece between her lips. She then showed me a trip she and Rosalie had taken to a big candy store in Port Angeles, where they got handfuls of chocolate bars, and herself, sitting among empty packets with a satisfied smile across her lips. Then I saw Emmett hoisting her onto the kitchen counter, where he was working with Alice, Rosalie and Esme, probably making the very cake that was standing in the middle of the dining room just now.
"See?" she asked me as she lowered her hand.
I looked from the cake to her, and then looked up at Edward. "Wow."
Edward seemed displeased still, and I was wondering whether it was because we missed it while being away, or because he was really upset with Jacob for meddling with our daughter's choice of nutrition. However, his severe expression quickly melted into a much softer one once he met Renesmee's smiling eyes.
"Cake!" she demanded, pointing a finger forward.
"Your wish is my command, my darling niece," said Alice, already lighting one candle she then placed on top of the purple icing.
Someone, Jasper I thought, brought over a camera, and Jacob had to reluctantly place Renesmee in Edward's arms as Alice wanted to take a picture of the three of us next to the cake. She had taken tons of pictures before she announced it was time to make a wish and cut the cake. Renesmee was back in my arms after switching hands for all the pictures, and Edward nudged us forward so we could both make a wish. I wanted to glare at him, but I didn't want to spoil things for Renesmee. I didn't know if vampires' wishes were granted, but I closed my eyes anyway, and wished it would always be as perfect and happy as that moment. I couldn't ask for anything more than this.
"This is unbelievable," I told Edward on our way home. I still couldn't get over the sight of our daughter, now asleep in his arms, consuming something which wasn't blood, and tremendously enjoying it. Before we left to our cottage, Rosalie assured me that our cupboards had already been well stocked. It was almost laughable. All this time we worried she was growing up faster than any normal child, and there she was, acting perfectly childish with her newly found love for that sweet indulgence.
"Let's hope Carlisle's dental training will suffice in times of trouble."
Something in his voice wasn't quite right. He looked distracted throughout the evening. Not upset anymore, or weary, but as if there was something on his mind. It worried me before, but Renesmee was constantly demanding my attention, and I couldn't delve into it. "What's wrong?"
He looked at me inquiringly without slowing his pace.
"Are you still mad at Jacob?"
"No. Of course not." He sounded decisive and it was quite convincing, but he didn't elaborate, and I didn't ask.
Soon afterwards we arrived at our cottage, and put Renesmee into bed. She sank comfortably into the pillows, sighing in her sleep. Smiling to myself, I gently brought her hand close to my face. I loved watching her dreams. I tucked her in, and turned to find Edward on the threshold watching me with that same expression on his face. I walked passed him wondering what it all meant, and heard his quiet footsteps as he followed me outside and into our bedroom.
We didn't turn on a lamp. We undressed in the dark, and crawled into bed together. We didn't need sleep, but cuddling under the covers after putting Renesmee to bed had been our favorite pastime. Tonight there was something different in the way he held me. I looked up to question it; he was staring at the ceiling. I shifted a little, and lay a hand against his chest, where his heart should have been.
He sighed so quietly it was almost easy to miss. "I can't help but think that… in a way, Renesmee's first day on this earth is also your last." Whether he read the shock in my eyes at this confession, he shook his head. "I know I'm not supposed to see it that way, and I try very hard not to think back of that particular moment, but sometimes I just can't help it."
"It was a price we had to pay."
"You, not we. And in a way, I lost you because of it."
I died so that she could live. It was my life for hers. "It was worth it."
"Perhaps. But as far as I'm concerned, Renesmee's birthday will always be the day I lost you."
The words sounded incredibly loud in the silence of the night. Looking into his angel face, I could see he meant each and every one of them. There was no regret in his eyes; no, I knew he didn't regret keeping Renesmee. He had made peace with his wish to get rid of my little nudger. It wasn't regret reflecting in his eyes now, just deep sorrow.
I crawled up a little so that my face hovered just above his. "You didn't lose me. Not really," I told him, but I could see the words weren't much of a consolation. "We gained so much in return."
It went beyond the miracle that was Renesmee. We were completely equal now. I was part of his world, and he was part of mine. I held his face gently between my palms, hoping he would see it as clearly as I felt it. "I wouldn't do it any other way," I whispered.
He closed his eyes as if he wished to focus on the inner voice of my thoughts. I concentrated twice as hard to show him there was absolutely no regret in my own heart. Of course, there were moments when the loss of my humanity stung. I would never be able to see my mother again. I could never share Renesmee's love for chocolate. I would never fall asleep knowing Edward was there to watch over me. But those were marginal in comparison with everything else that had happened in only one year. My blood may not sing to Edward anymore, but we had something else now, sweeter than that, sweeter than anything. Renesmee completed our fairytale in every possible way. Her blood sang to both of us, but it was a different song entirely.
"You're right," he murmured, and his arms tightened around me. "She is the sweetest thing. How did Jacob phrase it earlier? Like mother, like daughter."
I scowled, unwilling to bring Jake's tactless humor into this moment between us.
Edward laughed softly and reached out to tuck a lock of hair behind me ear. "So tell me. Has your reluctance towards gifts changed in the passing year?"
A dark chuckle escaped me. So many changes, and this would be the one he'd linger on. I took a moment to consider his question, and then shook my head. "I've got everything I want right here."
A tender smile slowly curled on his lips. "You know what, for once, I couldn't agree with you more."
I returned his smile and leaned down to touch my lips with his before I rested my head against his chest. His fingers threaded in my hair as he held me closer. As I listened to the beating of Renesmee's heart, soft and steady from the next room, I knew my statement couldn't have been more true. There was nothing else I wanted but an eternity of this.
Edward's lips pressed against the top of my head, a wordless agreement. "Happy birthday, Love."