Chapter 64 - onward and forward
"Hurry up, my toes are going numb," Edward whined while beckoning her to walk faster.
They were making their way back towards the house, Edward walking first on the snowy path, with Bella slowly trudging behind him.
They were the first to head back inside. The rest of the bunch was still engaged in a variety of outdoors activities. It was the last day, the last afternoon, of a very eventful year and the unspoken plan seemed to be to get the kids exhausted enough to get them down early, so that everyone could start off the new year well-rested… or pleasantly buzzed… He suspected there would be champagne. And great food too, of course.
Edward didn't know the exact plans. Didn't care. He just wanted to get back inside the house and enjoy some toddler-free silence. Bella, however, was not cooperating at all. For all she claimed to be an intelligent and high functioning adult, she sure acted like a four year old digging her heels into the snow when it was time to leave. He suspected the only reason she was even walking at all, was because her was growling quite audibly.
"Come on, my great-great-grandma walks faster than that."
"You don't want your soon to be live-in-girlfriend to fall and break her neck, do you?" she shot back innocently, grabbing onto his upper arm to balance herself. "That would mean a lot of extra work for you."
"Cute, but keep walking, Swan. I'm not falling for that. It's really not THAT slippery."
He pushed her forward, but not without making sure his arm was securely around her before he did so.
"I've told you at least ten times already that I really don't want to go inside until I absolutely have to," she reminded him with a small pout.
"And I've warned you just as many times that you are not so big that I can't throw you over my shoulder."
"Yeah right, but then you'd be stuck with back pains and a very sexy hunchback look. Why are you even complaining, Edward. You're enjoying this just as much as I am."
"I'm complaining because I can. I mean why are we still out here, when we could be inside, lounging in front of the fireplace, snacking, drinking hot chocolate and taking a quiet nap together?"
"I'll tell you why…. It's called fresh air. Smell it, breath it, it's good for you," she teased, but picked up her pace just a little.
Despite Bella's best attempt to drag her feet it was inevitable that they would reach the point where the wood line and the house property met.
However, as the house itself came into view, they both stopped in their tracks, momentarily blinded by intense sunlight reflected from a nearby glass surface. It was a car window, it seemed. Bella shut her eyes and grimaced. When she opened them again, two silhouettes had appeared next to the car.
Edward touched her shoulder questioningly, and she grabbed blindly for his arm, pulling him back with her into the cover of the thicker tangles of vegetation.
Even from this distance she could tell that the men were dressed in black from head to toe. They were agents, she realized with startling clarity.
"Looks like the cavalry is here," she exhaled in a quiet voice.
"You've got visitors," she explained reaching for her phone. "Remember how I said they would send new agents."
"I remember," he grumbled. "Something about bringing in fresh eyes to look things over … Yes, I remember," he repeated, and then his eyes widened dramatically. "You mean they are here now? Today?!"
"Looks that way."
"Oh, okay…I just thought they'd let us get through the holidays first. But I guess that was too much to ask for."
"You're a person of interest now," she explained, without really explaining anything. "I don't think they've seen us yet, so that gives us a few minutes to prepare."
"Prepare for what?" Edward questioned, rubbing his temples. "Are they taking me somewhere? Do I have to get into that car with them?"
"No, there is no need for that," she answered without looking up from her phone. "I'll give Seth a call. He should know why they're here, but I think they just want to ask you some questions."
"Fine, I'll talk with them, but I don't want any surprises." He looked up and locked eyes with her. "I don't think I can take any more surprises."
"I know, that's why I'm calling Seth. You should go back and look for Jasper. They are going to want to speak with him too."
He gave a resigned nod and looked back at the path they had just come from.
"Maybe, if I'm lucky I'll get lost in the woods and never have to answer another question again."
"Great plan. You might want to rethink it, though. Your mother would have the national guard here faster than you could say 'hypothermia'."
"I'll fake amnesia," he muttered, as he started walking away. "Who are you? ...Where am I?...Who am I?"
He heard Bella snort. Apparently the irony was not lost on her.
"Now that wasn't so bad, was it?" Esme asked Edward afterwards.
"Not so bad!" he echoed incredulously. "Are you kidding?"
As it turned out, it had taken Agent Tanner and Agent Biers almost three hours to get through all the questions they had prepared for Edward and Jasper. Three hours of poking around in wounds that weren't healed.
"My brain feels like a wrung-out dishrag, and that's me putting it mildly. If I wasn't so tired, I'd be throwing furniture around and breaking stuff right about now," he gritted out between clenched teeth. "So to answer your question, it wasn't bad. It was downright awful."
"Then I'm sorry you had to go through that." Esme patted his arm. "I hope you know how proud we are of you for keeping yourself together, Edward honey," she added, before getting back to the task of feeding her grandchild another bite of peas.
It probably wasn't a coincident that they were having this conversation in front of Anthony. As bad as his mood was at the moment, he wasn't about to lose his temper in front of his son. Esme knew this and apparently didn't hesitate to take advantage of that fact.
"Doesn't it feel good to have it over with, though?" she inquired. "I know it's not the same, but Jasper is relieved to finally have everything out in the open."
Of course she had found the time to speak with Jasper. He should have expected that much, really.
"Eh… not the same thing, no," he told her, clenching his fists and counting to ten in his head.
The thing was, Jasper had been allowed to stay even after they were done with his portion of the questions, meaning he had been there for the entire thing, meaning he had been there when Edward had been forced to talk about things he rarely ever spoke about with anyone, especially not strangers with FBI badges and recording devices.
Truth be told though, Jaspers presence had been just about the only thing that had kept Edward from running out of that room.
"It all seems so pointless." The words fell out his mouth before he could catch them. He hadn't meant to say it aloud, but it was how he felt. "They are the same old questions, just different people asking them."
He could tell his mother was opening her mouth to argue, so he quickly added, "I mean, it would be fine, if I believed it would actually lead somewhere, but…."
"Jasper said those two agents came across as very thorough and very professional. Also, didn't you say just the other day that everything was happening at a pace you can't quite keep up with?"
"Lovely, you know you're messed up when your mother calls you out on bullshit," he grumbled with a grimace, giving Tony a look of exaggerated alarm that earned him a fit of giggles.
"Just because it's not going the direction you thought it would, doesn't mean it can't lead anywhere good."
"True, I suppose," he agreed, looking away from her for a few seconds. His mother said nothing; he didn't expect her to. So, he continued. "Fine… What I meant when I said I couldn't keep up, was that there are things I've only just started to remember. Memories that are still new and raw. I really don't feel like rehashing those with anyone. I just want to forget and move on with my life. Is that so wrong?"
"Of course not. Please know that you're entitled to those feelings. However, forgetting and moving on, is going to be tougher than you think, considering you have a living, breathing reminder to feed and clothe and care for," with that she pushed the plate of reheated food towards him. "Here take over this. I have a New Year's eve feast to prepare."
"Good one, mom!" He made a big production of sighing, but picked up the spoon and the plate anyway. "Kick me while I'm already down why don't you."
"That wasn't a jab at you. That was the truth," she replied in a sing-song voice, ruffling Tony's hair, before pulling a cookbook off the shelf by the window.
Edward used the distraction to fill the spoon with food, mostly vegetables. Anthony saw the vegetables coming and clamped his mouth shut, twisting his head as far away as he could.
"What?! These are yummy!"
"Blah…" The boy spat out what seemed to be a mouthful and a half of soggy peas and made a face that told his dad he was questioning his judgment in what was considered 'yummy'.
"Alright, no more green stuff," Edward grunted before he tried again, with carrots this time, but much like before the boy managed to move away from the spoon.
"Hey, don't look at me that way, kiddo. I'm not in charge of the menu here," he said, pointing the spoon at the boy playfully.
Esme laughed. "We all agreed to try and cut down on his sugar intake. You were the one who insisted on it really."
"And of course you listened," Edward sighed. "Why are we feeding him this early anyway? He doesn't seem all that hungry."
"He may not be hungry, but look at him, he's dead tired. He's been outside all day. He'll fall asleep before the table is even set."
"Alright…. can we at least add some ketchup?" he suggested, accepting the pack of baby wipes that his mother handed him. "Or wait… How about we put these sausages on a sandwich, Tony? You'd like that right?"
The response was lukewarm at best, but he decided it was worth a shot. Of course, the whole thing turned into a messy fiasco, but at least Tony ate two slices of bread. Edward hated the idea of sending him to bed with an empty stomach.
Later, when Edward was about to take the child upstairs for a diaper change, his mother asked him about the next step.
"Next step?" he parroted back, adjusting Tony on his hip.
"Did they say anything? How they are planning on proceeding. The agents, I mean?"
"Not really, no. We just wait, I suppose... Dad told you what Clearwater needed those hair samples for, right?"
"Of course," she nodded. "So, we wait for the test results."
"Yes, we wait for Tony's test results," he sighed. "And then there is the fetal heart ultrasound thingy… next Thursday…"
"It will be fine. They will all be fine. You'll see," she told him, giving him a hug, or half a hug considering there was a sleepy toddler between them.
"Thanks. I actually believe so too, but I would feel a lot better knowing for sure."
"If you and Bella can survive a falling roof, you'll survive anything."
"Even moving in together?" he hinted, with a poorly hidden grin on his face. He couldn't believe he had almost forgotten something so monumental. Then again, as distressing as his afternoon had been, he wasn't surprised his mind wasn't up to par."
"Oh, Edward! Is it true? That makes me really happy to hear."
"I can't NOT try, you know. Living together seems like a good place to start for us. As great as this has been, I'm really looking forward to going home. No offence," he gave his mother a sheepish smile.
"None taken," she responded patting his cheek. "Carlisle has been reminding me every night before we go to bed that grandchildren are not for keeps. That they are only ours on loan for a while."
"He knows you pretty well."
"Yeah, and sometimes when he tells me that, I think 'thank heavens' and we laugh about it for a bit, and sometimes I cry a few tears because .. .well, you know me, I tend to get really attached," she gave him a watery smile. "It will be fine though. It's not like you're leaving tomorrow, right?"
"Right. Nothing is set in stone yet, but we're working on it, as in looking for an apartment to live in together. Don't tell the others, though. I promised Bella, she could be the one to tell Alice."
"She's gonna flip," his mother warned.
"I know. She's gonna have a kitten when she hears about this. An actual, literal fuzzy kitten, that breathe fire and poop rainbows. Speaking of poop, I'm going to take this little guy upstairs now."
Esme giggled loudly and waved her hand at him. "I was gonna say, she'll gloat and insist it's all her doing, but yeah there will be kittens too."
"Say goodnight to your nana, Anthony." He bounced the child to get a reaction. "I see you at dinner, mom."
"Goodnight, Anthony," Esme waved, pleasantly surprised when the boy drowsily waved back.