AN: I was so excited to post the first chapter that I forgot to thank the awesome ladies who help to bring Rabbit Heart to life: Laura (Busymommy) and Monica (LaMomo).
We also have some awesome pre-readers on our team! Amber (107yearoldvirgin), Kelly (SammieLynnsMom), Jenn (SabLuvslogan), Tanya (StupidLambTanya) and Traci (TrixieTraci). Love you guys so much!
Chapter 2: Home
Well I'm going home,
Back to the place where I belong,
And where your love has always been enough for me.
I'm not running from.
No, I think you got me all wrong.
Home by Daughtry
Someone cleared their throat loudly, causing Emmett and Bella to step apart. He looked down at her, his face full of awe, and playfully tugged on a strand of her blonde hair. He made a funny face and scrunched up his nose.
"Blonde? I don't like it, Scrappy. It's not you."
Bella shook her head sadly. "It's alright. I don't even know who I am myself, Em."
He gazed at her contemplatively for a moment, before shrugging. "It doesn't matter, you'll always be Scrappy to me."
A weight lifted off her shoulders and she felt like she could suddenly breathe easier.
"I'm glad to hear that. I've missed you so much," she replied brokenly, tears stinging her eyes again.
"Emmett, what's going on?" the Amazon asked frostily. "How do you know Izzy Dwyer and what's she doing here?"
Bella looked over at her and immediately wished that she hadn't. If looks could kill, the woman's violet eyes would have decapitated her instantly. She noticed Emmett's stance stiffen minutely, before narrowing his eyes at the woman.
"Rosie, baby," he responded with a warm, yet firm tone. "Bella's my friend; my little sister. Bells, this is my wife, Rosalie."
Emmett smiled down at his friend and the Amazon's eyes widened in comprehension. Her face immediately lost all hostility and she smiled somewhat sheepishly at Bella.
At hearing Emmett's proclamation, Bella's emotional walls completely shattered and she sunk to her knees. She was physically and emotionally exhausted, unable to stem the flow of tears streaming down her face. Emmett immediately fell to her side, as well as Rosalie and the smaller girl. He wrapped one of his muscular arms around her shoulders and whispered soothingly.
"Ssh, it's alright, Bella. It'll be okay."
"No," she sobbed, words coming out of her mouth in a rush. "No, it won't. Someone is stalking me and I just wanted to come home, so I hopped on a bus. I had to hide and not let anyone recognize me and I wasn't sure if you'd even want to see me after the way we left things. You never returned my letters and then the Clearwaters dropped me off here and everything's a mess, Em."
Her sobs slowed down and she felt two sets of small hands rubbing her back. She looked up and noticed that the two women were also on the floor, helping Emmett bring her comfort. The dark-haired girl smiled brightly.
"Hi! I'm Alice and I'm one of your biggest fans," she chirped happily.
Bella blinked in surprise. "Um, thanks?" she replied in a voice that was scratchy from crying.
"Bella, what's this about a stalker and hiding? What have you gotten yourself into, Scrappy?" Emmett asked, his voice filled with concern.
She rubbed the hoody sleeve across her face, drying her tears and sniffling.
"I'll tell you everything, but can we get off of the floor first?"
Emmett let out a laugh and patted her back. "Yes, ma'am."
Rosalie and Alice each held out a hand to Bella. She tentatively placed her hands in theirs, allowing herself to be pulled up.
"Thank you," she said quietly.
Rosalie smiled kindly at her. "If you're Emmett's family, then you're mine as well, Bella."
Bella felt her chest warm with hope, relieved that the worst case scenario hadn't occurred.
"Yo, E!" Emmett hollered from his spot on the floor. "Come help me up, man."
Bella glanced over to the door and watched as the bronze-haired man strode swiftly over to Em, reaching down to heft the larger man to his feet.
The man turned and held out his hand to shake. "It's nice to meet you, Bella. I'm Edward."
Bella placed her hand in his and felt a small shiver run down her spine. "Hi," she replied.
"Come on, Bells, let's hear this story of yours," Emmett said while tugging her towards a table. She plopped down in a chair and the others followed suit.
"Well, let me start at the beginning..."
As Bella finished her story, she looked up and silently judged the reactions on the faces around the table. Most were a combination of surprise and sympathy, except Emmett. His mouth was twisted in anger, his leg bouncing nervously. She reached out and gently touched his arm, only to pull back in shock when he banged his fist violently against the table.
"That bitch," he seethed. "How dare she?"
Bella's eyes widened. "Wha-what?" she stuttered.
"Renee." He spit out her mother's name as if it were poisonous. "She stole you away from us and never looked back. I bet she never even told you that your dad left his house to you and she sold it before you guys even left Forks. We wrote letters and tried calling, for freaking years, and she never told you."
He stood up swiftly, knocking his chair over backwards and began to pace in front of the bar.
"I'm sorry, Bella. I know she was your mother, but I sincerely hope she's rotting in Hell right now."
Bella swallowed the lump in her throat, letting Emmett's information sink in. Her dad had left her their house; the last physical connection between them. And her mother had sold it. Emmett had written letters and never received the ones that she had sent him. A piece of her heart cracked with the knowledge that her mother had been deceptive, playing upon her child's fears instead of comforting her.
"I never knew," she sniffled. "When I wanted to come home and visit, she made it seem like you guys didn't want me around; like I was a burden."
Emmett stopped his pacing and was at her side in an instant, crouching next to her chair. He reached out and tugged on her braid.
"Never. You could never be a burden to me, Scrappy. You're my little sister, nothing could change that."
She threw her arms around his muscular neck and squeezed him as tightly as she could. Right there, in that place and at that moment, she had never felt more safe and secure.
"You know what you need?" the little one asked, drumming her perfectly manicured fingernails on the the tabletop.
Bella shook her head, curious as to what she had to say.
"A makeover!" Alice clapped her hands together excitedly.
Edward groaned. "I'll apologize for my sister ahead of time, Bella. She's a bit over the top, but she means well."
Alice smacked him on the shoulder lightly and pouted towards Jasper. "I'm not over the top, am I honey?"
The bartender coughed in surprise, but quickly recovered. "No, darlin', of course not."
Rosalie gazed at Bella thoughtfully for a moment before nodding. "Ali is right."
Alice and Edward replied together, causing the table to break out in laughter.
Rosalie reached out and untied Bella's braid, fluffing her waist-long blonde hair. "A cut and some color, along with the loss of your contacts, should make you unrecognizable. For the most part. Your DSLs are a totally different story."
Bella cocked her head to the side in confusion. "DSLs?"
"Dick Sucking Lips," Rose replied with smirk, causing Emmett to blanch and the other males to look away uncomfortably.
"Dammit, Rosie. You can't say shit like that about my sister!" he groaned.
"What?" she replied innocently, intent on torturing her husband. "Back when she was on tv and you didn't know-"
"Okay, that's enough of that conversation," Bella interrupted. "Shit like that will scar me for life."
Emmett turned to her in surprise. "You cussed!"
Bella blinked. "Um, yeah? I have a rather extensive vocabulary as well. Fuck, shit, cocksucker, asshole. The list goes on and on."
He grinned and patted her on the back. "That's awesome. Izzy Dwyer always seemed so wholesome and pure."
Bella blushed. "Uh, well, I'm no angel and I certainly wouldn't use the word pure."
Emmett's smile fell from his face. "Yeah, well, as far as I'm concerned you're as pure as the driven snow. You hear?"
She bit her lip to hold back a giggled and nodded. "I hear you, Em."
"Okay!" Alice announced, jumping to her feet. "I'll run to the shop and pick up some supplies." She turned to Bella and smiled. "I own a salon and spa in Port Angeles," she explained.
Rosalie nodded. "Good, we'll sneak her out of here and head to the big house. I'm sure Bella and Mac will need some time to talk."
Butterflies fluttered wildly in Bella's stomach. She was both eager and nervous to see Mac again after all of these years. The plus side was that the apprehension she had felt earlier in the day was completely erased by her time spent with Emmett. Knowing that they had missed her and were just as heart broken by their time apart, made her even more eager to come face to face with her second father.
After Alice left a few minutes later, Rosalie bundled Bella's hair back up, hiding underneath the ball cap. She gave her a reassuring smile and flipped the hood up on top of her head.
"Edward, are you coming with us?" Rosalie asked, shrugging into her jacket, as Bella slipped the backpack and guitar case back onto her shoulders.
Bella looked over at him leaning against the bar, talking with Jasper. He looked over their way and waved them off.
"Nah, that's okay. This should be a family thing. Plus, I have work to do in the back room. You guys pay me for something." He smiled and tipped his head towards Bella. "It was nice meeting you, Izzy."
A burst of panic coursed through her blood. She stared, wide-eyed, and shook her head. "Don't... Don't call me that."
Edward's eyes widened at the vehemence in her tone. "Shit," he replied in regret, "I'm so sorry, Bella. I didn't mean any harm- I wasn't thinking."
She looked away and nodded jerkily. Rosalie shot him a sympathetic look before leading Bella outside, where Emmett was waiting in his jeep.
Rosalie stopped her when they got to the car. "He really didn't mean any harm, sweetie."
Bella sighed. "I know, I'm sorry, it was a knee-jerk reaction. You guys just met me and my face is all you know."
"No, Bella, that's not all we know. I know that you love Root Beer and that you fell out a tree when you were eight and broke your arm. I know that you have a scar on your knee from falling off your bike and that your dad taught you and Em how to shoot a gun when you were ten."
Bella looked into the other woman's eyes, awestruck. "I- I don't know what to say, Rosalie."
Rose smiled sadly. "You don't have to say anything. I just want you to understand that, while I may not know you personally, I do know who you are and I love you."
Bella reached out, hugging Rosalie tightly. "Thank you," she whispered.
Rose nodded and gestured for her to take the front seat, next to Emmett. Bella balked, not wanting to intrude and take Rose's rightful place next to her husband.
"Don't say a word," Rosalie laughed. She opened the door and slid into the back seat, winking at Bella and motioning for her to hand the guitar case over.
Bella blinked and gave in, realizing that she wouldn't win this argument. She swallowed and climbed into the passenger seat, resting her backpack at her feet before buckling her seatbelt. She glanced over at Emmett, who shot her a big smile. She nodded at him, unable to keep away the smile that was forming on her face. After just a ten minute ride through hazily familiar streets, they pulled up in front of a large, white three story house with red shutters and an actual white picket fence.
Bella stepped out of the jeep and gazed at the McCarty home wistfully, a slew of memories assaulting her at once. Emmett appeared beside her and took her backpack.
"Does it look the same as you remember?" he asked curiously.
She shot him a small smile before shaking her head. "Yes and no. The shutters were blue and there wasn't a swing on the porch. But other than that, it's like I walked into one of my dreams."
Emmett smiled sadly, tugging on her arm and guiding her towards the front door.
"Come on. Dad's inside with Joey."
She looked at him curiously. "Joey?"
Emmett chuckled lightly. "Joseph McIntyre the second. He's an English Bulldog puppy. Ugliest thing you've ever seen, Bells."
"Don't talk smack about my baby, Emmett," Rose called from behind them. "Or else the mutt will be in bed with me and you'll be downstairs."
"Aww, come on, Rosie! I just said he was ugly, not that I didn't love him," Emmett whined as he opened the front door.
The sound of paws and yipping echoed through the house as the wrinkly little tan and white dog came barreling down the hardwood floored hallway. The puppy immediately started barking at the newcomer, causing Bella to step backwards in fright. Emmett crouched down and scooped up the small dog, cooing lovingly while scratching his head.
"Who's my good boy? Huh?"
"I swear, son, you treat that damn dog better than your old man," a deep, gravelly voice called from the next room.
Bella's eyes widened slightly and her heart began to pound furiously. Emmett smiled and nudged her forward. She walked slowly towards the living room until the imposing visage of Robert McCarty came into view. Even though he was sitting in his beloved recliner, you could still tell that he was a big man. Six feet five and built like a lumberjack, Mac had always been an imposing figure. She could see that his dark hair was now peppered with gray and his face was a bit more haggard with age, but still ruggedly handsome.
"What are you doing here at this time of-" Mac's words were dropped from his mouth when he looked over and saw the girl standing in the doorway.
Her fingers nervously played with the pockets of her sweatshirt and she hesitantly pulled her hood back, revealing an old and worn Mariners ball cap. Recognition and an ache for his deceased best friend hit him like a punch in the gut. He stood slowly, as if the girl could dart away at any moment.
Joyous hope surged through his veins, wondering if this was his long-lost daughter. She took off the hat and although the hair was a different color, he found himself staring into Charlie Swan's warm brown eyes. Mac had always been a big-hearted, boisterous man, but something changed in him when he lost not only his best friend, but his almost-daughter as well. While he tried to stay strong and loving with his son, even he had to admit that he became more stoic and withdrawn.
As he gazed down into the small form of Isabella Swan for the first time in almost ten years, he was taken back to the day that their lives were ripped apart. The task of telling Bella that her father had passed away had fallen to him. The young girl had broken down in sobs, refusing to leave her spot on the couch for two days. He and Emmett had stayed by her side the entire time, the three of them drawing upon each other for support.
A week later, Mac had filed for legal guardianship of Bella, at his best friend's written request. Even if Charlie hadn't mentioned it in his will, Mac knew that he would have done the same thing on his own. He loved that girl as much as he did his own flesh and blood son. Ten days after he filed the motion, Renee Dwyer swept into their lives and ripped apart at the seams all that had just started to slowly mend. Nothing was ever the same after that.
Bella cleared her throat and anxiously clutched the hat in her hands. She watched as a wide array of emotions played across Mac's face. Her heart just about burst from her chest in happiness when he gave her a watery smile and said the words that she had longed to hear every day that she had been gone.
"My Bella, I've been waiting for you."
Tears streamed down her face and she ran straight into his arms with a strength that made him take a step back to keep from falling.
"Oomph, you pack a punch for such a little girl," he chuckled.
"Oh, Mac," she sobbed into his chest. "I missed you so much."
"Ssh, don't work yourself up, sweetheart," he murmured as he stroked her hair. "We've missed you, too, honey."
He looked over towards the doorway and watched as Emmett and Rosalie held each other, tears visible on their faces as well.
"Did you know?" he asked his son, thinking up a few choice words for him if he had kept this from him.
Emmett shook his head. "No, Pops. She just showed up at the bar a couple of hours ago."
Bella sniffed and pulled away, wiping her face on her shirt sleeve once again. At the rate she was going, she didn't think she could ever give it back to James, no matter how many times she washed it.
"Where have you been? What have you been up to? How long are you staying?" Mac started to ramble off. He caught himself and shook his head. "I'm sorry, I don't mean to bombard you. I just want to hear everything."
Emmett's face grew dark and he laughed humorlessly. "You might want to re-think that statement, Dad."
Mac looked down at Bella in concern. "Why? What's wrong? Are you in trouble? Do you need anything?"
Guilt hit Bella in full force, kicking herself for letting her fears keep her from coming back sooner. Just as she opened her mouth to respond, a loud growl erupted from her stomach. Her cheeks flushed with the heat of embarrassment as the others let out a few laughs.
"When was the last time you ate, honey?" Mac asked her, slipping into parent mode like a day hadn't passed between them.
She scrunched her brow in thought before answering. "Two days? I think, anyway. It's been kind of hectic."
"Two days?" Mac asked incredulously. "What the hell was going on that would make you forget to eat? For two days?"
"Why don't we move this conversation to the kitchen?" Rosalie suggested. "I'll make Bella something to eat while she tells you her story."
Bella smiled gratefully at Rose, who winked at her in return. Mac nodded and ushered his visitors towards the large kitchen. Bella noticed somewhat sadly that the room had been completely re-modeled. All of the appliances and cabinets were new; the ugly paisley wallpaper was replaced by sky blue. She glanced over at Mac, who was watching her expectantly.
"It looks nice. I almost miss the old wallpaper though."
Emmett let out a loud guffaw and hit the table with his hand. "Get the fuck out of here, Bells. That was the ugliest shit that I've ever seen."
"Emmett Dale McCarty," Mac growled. "Watch your language in front of the ladies."
Emmett's eyes widened. Even though he was a grown man, he knew that his father wouldn't hesitate to tan his ass. "Yes, sir. But in my defense," he continued, motioning towards Bella, "I think this one here can cuss a ring around the both of us."
Mac looked over at her and raised a bushy eyebrow. She smiled sweetly before looking away and whistling.
"Okay, let's not cross hairs about that. It's still rude, Em."
Em nodded and motioned towards the walls. "Edward actually redid the kitchen about two years ago."
Bella cocked her head to the side slightly. "Really? He's a carpenter?"
Emmett nodded. "Yeah, he's building onto the back of the bar as we speak. We're going to expand it a little."
"How did you meet up with everyone?" she asked curiously.
"Well," Emmett started, "Edward and Alice moved here back in high school when Dr Cullen took over for Doc Gerandy when he retired. They're good people. They even opened a free clinic in Port Angeles a few years back."
Rose smirked and leaned on Emmett's shoulders for a moment. "Jazz is my cousin, who fell head-over-heels for Alice the first time they met. I was dating her brother at the time."
Bella's mouth popped open in surprise. "So, you and Edward...?"
Rosalie laughed. "Yes, but only for a couple of months. He was the one who introduced me to Emmett. And the rest is, well, history."
Mac cleared his throat and smiled encouragingly at Bella. "Okay, now let's hear this story of yours."
An hour later, Bella was happily full and content after devouring a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup. The same could not be said for Mac, who sat, staring at his hands in a daze. She was expecting his reaction to be similar to Emmett's fury, but surprisingly it wasn't.
He shook his head and swallowed painfully. "I'm so sorry, Bella."
She looked at him in surprise. "Why are you sorry?"
"I should have protected you; fought Renee harder. I let both you and your father down," he replied morosely.
She reached out and took his hand, squeezing it in comfort. "No, don't do this, Mac. You did what you could. No court would have given you custody over my mother if she didn't pose a threat to my well-being. If anything, I should have fought harder to come back home. I should have listened to my heart and not been afraid of Renee's lies."
Mac smiled sadly and shrugged. "I guess we all have our regrets, hun. Now, we move forward, right?"
Bella's eyes shone with unshed happy tears and nodded. "Yeah, now we move forward."
He reached out and pulled her into a one-armed hug. "I'm so damn happy that you're back."
She sniffled. "Me, too, Mac. I'm finally home."
AN: Chapter song: Home by Daughtry
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