Chapter 5: The House That Built Me

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I thought if I could touch this place or feel it
This brokenness inside me might start healing
Out here it's like I'm someone else
I thought that maybe I could find myself
If I could walk around I swear I'll leave
Won't take nothing but a memory
From the house that built me

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The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert

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The next morning dawned bright and early, sunlight streaming in the window and warming Bella's face. She stretched lightly, arching her back, before nestling her face deeper into her pillow. She opened one eye as she heard a small scratching and whining coming from the other side of her door. She dragged herself out of bed and padded over to the door, opening it a crack. She peered out into the hall, not seeing anyone, and was startled when the dog plopped down onto her feet. She looked down and met his wide, curious eyes, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth.

"Um, mutt? You're sitting on my feet," she murmured quietly, so that any other adults that might overhear her wouldn't think she was crazy for talking to the animal.

Joey cocked his little head to one side, as if asking what her deal was. She pursed her lips, placed her hands on her hips and sighed. She stepped back, letting the dog's behind hit the floor, and walked back over to the bed, sitting down. Joey trotted happily over and sat staring up at her once again. She reached down and scratched him behind the ears.

"I don't know what you want, mutt. I've never had a pet before."

"Never, really?" a voice asked from her doorway.

She looked up, surprised, and saw Mac standing there smiling. She shook her head and laughed.

"No, Mom always said that there was no time for one," she replied with a sigh.

A dark look briefly crossed Mac's face at the mention of Renee. He swallowed and attempted to change the subject, before anger overtook him. "How about some breakfast? Rose dropped some muffins off with Joey a little while ago."

She nodded and smiled. "Sure thing, give me ten minutes to freshen up and I'll be down."

Twenty minutes and two chocolate chip muffins later, Bella and Mac carried their coffee and conversation to the living room. She placed her mug down onto the coffee table, before wandering over to the group of photos bunched together on the mantle. At least half of them were of her and Emmett, in some form or another. She paused in her perusal of the past, wanting to ask a question that had been nagging her.

"Hey, Mac, do I know a Jacob Black?"

Mac leaned back in his recliner and rubbed one hand across his face, nodding.

"Yeah, but you probably don't remember him. He's a few years older than Em. His dad, Billy, was one of my best friends. He, Charlie and I were like the Three Musketeers. At least, until we all started to settle down and have kids. When Billy married his wife, Sarah, he took on more responsibilities on the Rez. His own father was Chief of their Quileute tribe and suffered a stroke not long after Jacob came along. By the time my Vera passed on when Emmett was born, we barely heard from him except once in a blue moon."

Mac took a deep breath, releasing it slowly. "Billy's wife was killed in a car accident shortly after your mom left Forks, which brought the three of us together again for a short time. Jacob was about ten, Emmett seven and you were five, I think, when we took a group fishing trip. Man, what a disaster that was." Mac wiped a tear from his eye from laughing so hard. "You freaked out over the worms and capsized the boat you were in with your dad and Em. That was the last time we took you fishing. Cora would watch you at the diner on the Saturday mornings that we'd go."

Bella walked over to the couch, perching on the arm. "So, if Jacob is the son of the tribe's chief, then how did he end up with my dad's job?"

Mac sighed again. "Jacob was always a good kid and he wanted to do more with his life than stay on the reservation. When we lost you and Charlie, everyone in town took it hard. Jake was eighteen at the time and decided that he wanted to follow in Charlie's footsteps. Billy put his foot down and they had a big row, not speaking to each other for almost five years, not until his older sister Rachel's wedding. Things are still strained between them, but nowhere near as bad as they used to be. As much as Billy was disappointed in Jacob's choice, he was just as proud of him for it. Although I haven't seen Billy in a few years, I hear he's doing well."

"Hmmm," she hummed in response.

"Why? Did you run in to him or something?"

"Yeah, at the grocery store yesterday. He introduced himself and I thought he looked familiar. I was starting to think that it was just the Fork's PD jacket and not the man himself."

Mac smiled wistfully. "Yeah, you loved your dad's jacket. He had to get a second one because you used to curl up with it when he worked the night shifts." A brilliant smile lit up his face suddenly. "You know, I saved it for you. Anything that I thought you'd have liked is stored in the attic of the house. I'm sure Edward wouldn't mind you rooting around up there."

Her heart ached at the thought of her dad, but at the same time, it soared with joy at the thought of being able to have some of his things with her, especially his jacket.

"Thanks, Mac. That means the world to me," she replied as she walked over and sat on his lap, hugging him tightly.

After a few minutes, she heard a quiet sniff and felt Mac shift his hand to wipe his face. He cleared his throat softly.

"You know, I miss him, too, Bella. Every damn day. People always tell you that these things get better with time, and they do to some extent, but they never go away completely." He reached up and moved a strand of hair behind her ear reverently. "But having you home, it makes it hurt less."

She gave him a watery smile as she gazed into his sincere, yet haunted brown eyes. She blinked back her tears and swallowed the lump in her throat, easing herself off of his lap. She walked over to the front window and gazed out at the rare sunny day for a few minutes, her eyes wandering over the few houses scattered down the block, all with new paint and cars parked outside. She wondered what else had changed about the neighborhood.

"I'm going to go for a walk Mac," she called out as she left the room, grabbing her jacket along the way. "I'll be back later."

"Dress warm, it's pretty damn cold out there!" Mac hollered back in response.

She grinned from ear to ear as she stepped out into the brisk, chilly air. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, letting the cold air fill her lungs. Her feet automatically started to move, following the familiar path that, ten years ago, they would have trodden on a regular basis. Without even really meaning to, she soon found herself standing on the pavement outside of her childhood home. The creepy old tree still stood in the middle of the front lawn and a black pick up truck was parked out front, signaling that Edward was more than likely home. She nervously ran a hand through her hair and debated whether or not she actually wanted to bother him.

She dropped her hand with a frustrated sigh and turned to walk away, when the door creaked opened. Edward took a step out and smiled in her direction.

"Hey, Bella, how's it going?" he called out, leaning up against the door jamb. His long legs were encased in loose-fitting jeans, ending with a pair of well-worn tan work boots, whose laces were loose and untied, as if he'd just thrown them on. A blue flannel button-up with a white t-shirt underneath completed the look. She walked up the path and the front steps, getting a better view of his green eyes, which were dancing with amusement. He was one of the most attractive men that she had ever met.

"Hi, Edward," she replied quietly. "I, uh, I'm sorry to bother you. I can come back another time." She started to turn around, but he shot out his hand and caught her arm, giving her a disarming smile.

"I don't mind. I have a few hours before I need to head over to the bar. Did you need something?"

She swallowed and nodded. "Mac was telling me earlier today that there was some stuff of my dad's up in the attic here. I was wondering if you'd mind me rifling through it sometime."

He eyed her contemplatively for a moment, before stepping back and motioning for her to come inside. She smiled and brushed past him, before memories hit her in the chest, forcing her to stop in her tracks. Everything was different, yet somehow almost exactly how she remembered them. She stood in the foyer, her gaze sweeping over the living room, before craning her neck and looking into the kitchen. Its pale yellow walls were now a sky blue color and the table and appliances were new, but the cabinets were still the same. Her hand flew up to cover her mouth, as she unconsciously made her way over to the living room's archway. She felt the grooves in the wood that held hers and Emmett's height progression over the years, before walking over to couch, which was the same one from her childhood. She ran her fingers across the fabric and felt a piece of her heart fall into place, slowly stitching itself together.

She looked over at the room's entrance, where Edward was watching her with a sad look on his face. She gave him a bright smile, which contrasted with the tears on her cheeks. She sniffled and wiped her nose.

"I'm so sorry, I just-" she broke off and motioned her arm around the room. "There are so many memories. So very many."

"Understandable. Can I get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water?" he offered graciously.

She was about to decline, but her frozen fingers convinced her otherwise. "Whatever you're having would be fine."

He smiled and left the room, leaving Bella alone with the ghosts of her past. She shrugged off her coat and gently sat down on the couch. Her eyes fell on the newer recliner and she smiled, picturing her dad sitting in his, watching a ball game. As much as it ached recalling all of the old memories, she felt so grateful and happy to be able to reconnect with that part of her life. She was so caught up in her thoughts that she was startled a few minutes later when Edward sat a tray on the coffee table. Two steaming cups of tea, a small container of milk and a sugar bowl sat upon it.

"I wasn't sure how you liked it, so I brought what I had on hand."

She smiled at his thoughtfulness. "Thanks, just sugar is fine."

He sat down next to her on the other end of the couch and held his cup, which was engulfed by his large hands.

"So," he started after taking a sip, "how about I go up and bring down the boxes for you? You're more than welcome to go through them here and figure out what you want to take with you. The rest I can take back up until you want them again."

"Oh, I can't ask you do that," she exclaimed. "I'm sure you have more important things to do than deal with me."

He gave her a sincere look and shrugged. "Not really. I don't mind, honestly."

Her heart flip-flopped a bit and she nodded, accepting his offer. "Thank you."

He quickly stood and strode out of the room. She listened and heard as each of his heavy boots hit the hardwood stairs, one at a time. He came back down ten minutes later with three cardboard boxes stacked just above his head. She jumped to her feet and pulled the top one off, meeting his stunning green eyes.

"Thanks," he replied, barely more than a mumble.

"You're welcome," she replied earnestly. "I didn't want you to get hurt."

She watched in fascination as his cheeks pinkened slightly with a blush. She looked at the dusty box in her hands and sat it on the table in front of her, eager to explore its contents. Edward sat the other two on the floor and started to turn away.

"Edward?"

His eyes met hers curiously. "Yeah?"

"Keep me company?" She bit her lip nervously. "I don't know what's in these boxes and I don't want to be alone."

He immediately stepped over the boxes and sat next to her on the couch. "Sure, I don't mind. Just let me know if you need a minute alone."

She smiled her thanks and opened the first box, pulling out an old photo of her and Emmett, covered head to toe in mud. Edward let out a chuckle.

"Now I need to hear the story behind that."

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Two hours later, the pair was startled by Bella's stomach rumbling. She was shocked to see that so much time had passed. They'd only gotten through one box, falling into comfortable conversation and sharing stories. It had been so easy to just sit and talk with him. Besides Emmett, she'd never felt such a strong connection to anyone before, even though she barely knew him. He placed the last of the scrap books into the box and replaced the lid.

"How about you let me treat you to lunch at the diner? I don't think I have anything edible here at the moment," he explained sheepishly.

Her heart pounded at the thought of spending more time with him, but Alice's warning echoed in the back of her head. As annoyed as it had made her yesterday, she'd come to the realization that his sister was right. Her life was too complicated for a romance, especially at the moment.

She smiled at him sadly and shook her head. "I don't think that'd be a good idea, I'm sorry. I can borrow Em's car and drive back to pick the boxes up another day."

Edward sat back and looked intensely at her. "Let me guess, Alice told you not to get too close to me?"

Bella's eyes widened in surprise. "How did you know that?"

He shrugged. "You wouldn't be the first girl she's done that to." He paused for a moment before continuing. "Alice is, well, she's the best sister that I could ever ask for, but she's a bit over-protective. She forgets that I'm a grown man sometimes. Plus, I'm sure that you're not looking for, erm, a relationship right now."

He cleared his throat and she noticed the adorable blush resurface. "But, you could always use a friend, right?"

Her heart skipped a beat and she almost found herself replying, No, I want to be your everything. That thought surprised her greatly. She barely believed in love as it was, not having found it anywhere in Los Angeles. She'd had hookups and had been on dates, but relationships weren't exactly her strong suit. Maybe they were better off as friends. She made a vow right then and there, that she'd be the best friend he'd ever have.

"Okay, friends it is," she replied, reaching out her hand to seal the deal with a handshake. She felt an unexpected warmth run up her arm as his skin touched hers. She swallowed and hid her reaction to his touch. It was confusing to her and all she wanted to do was get on the phone to call her best friend, but she thought it was too dangerous.

"Well then," he smiled as he let go of her hand, "friends go out to lunch with their buddies all the time. So, let's get some grub, okay?"

She laughed and shook her head, realizing that he had her in a corner. "Fine," she sighed playfully, "but I buy next time, understood?"

His eyes caught hers, just as surprised as she was to hear the mention of a next time come from her mouth. His lips curled into a crooked smile. "Fine, Miss Bella, you can buy our next meal together."

Edward picked up her jacket and helped her shrug into it. "Shall we?" he asked as held his elbow out for her to take.

She eyed him carefully, before making the decision to go with the flow. She linked hers though his and rested her hand on his forearm.

"Yes, we shall."

They continued their chattering until they reached the entrance of Forks Diner. Edward held the door open and Bella stepped into the building first. The sense of dejà vu that she'd been fending off since her return to town, hit her once again square in the chest. Other than a few modern upgrades, the diner was practically the same as it was when she was a little girl. She glanced around briefly, suddenly nervous, feeling as if all eyes were on her.

She felt a touch on her elbow and looked up to see Edward's encouraging smile. She felt her nerves begin to dissipate as he led her over to a corner booth towards the rear of the restaurant. She slid onto the seat and he sat across from her. A few moments later, the waitress came over and handed them two menus.

"Edward Cullen, who is this beautiful young woman?" a warm, familiar voice said.

Bella's gaze flew up and was met warm, cinnamon colored eyes of Cora Benton, the closest thing that she'd ever had to a mother figure. The older woman's face was still smooth and beautiful, although crow's feet were prominent around her eyes. She gasped and dropped the bundled napkins in her hand. Silverware made a metallic clang as it broke free from its prison, scattering on the ground at their feet. Cora's eyes were locked with the younger girl's. Butterflies began to flutter in Bella's stomach, worried that she recognized her as a celebrity and not as the little girl whom she used to babysit. Cora bent slightly and cupped Bella's cheek, giving her a teary smile.

"Isabella Swan, as I live and breathe," the woman murmured. She reached for her hand and pulled the girl out of the booth, hugging her tightly and causing a few customers to glance their way.

"Waylon!" she called loudly. "Waylon, come out here!"

Bella swallowed nervously as the people were now unabashedly staring at the two of them. The kitchen door swung opened and an older man came strolling out, grumbling under his breath. His hair was almost all gone and he was really thin.

"What is it, Cora? What's wrong?" he asked, his voice taking on a concerned tone as he glanced between his wife and the young woman.

Cora shoved Bella forward slightly. "Look who it is, honey!"

The man squinted and stared at Bella for a moment. "Well, I'll be damned. It's the Swan girl. Little Bella Bee, we thought we'd never see your face around here again." He smiled and pulled her in for a hug. She hugged him back and had to will away her tears. She stepped back and smiled.

"Yo Pops," a young man called from the kitchen. "Your pancakes are burning."

"Oh shit," Waylon muttered before rushing back through the door. A moment later, there was crash and yelling. "Seth, you little shit! Clean that up!"

Cora patted Bella on the shoulder. "Why don't you go back to Edward and I'll make sure Seth is still in one piece?" she suggested. "I'll be back for your orders and we'll catch up."

Bella nodded and made her way back over to the booth, where Edward waited with an enigmatic smile on his face. She arched a brow.

"What is that face for?" she inquired.

"Nothing," he replied. "It's heart-warming to see how everyone is so happy to have you back."

She returned his smile and opened her menu.

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"Get out of here, that's total bullshit," Edward laughed as he held the door to Mac's open for Bella.

She giggled in return. "No, I'm completely serious. His hair was orange for a week."

A throat cleared angrily, causing both of their gazes to shoot across the room. Emmett was leaning against the bar, arms folded across his chest, an annoyed look on his face. Feeling somewhat like a chastised child, Bella took a step away from Edward and tucked some hair behind her ear.

"Hey, Em," she said. "What's up?"

"Where have you been?" he asked, his voice gruff.

She gave him a confused look, not understanding why he was upset. "I was going through Charlie's boxes at the house and then Edward and I went to lunch at the diner. Is everything okay?"

He nodded jerkily. "Yeah, but Dad called here a couple of hours ago because you went for a walk and never came back."

"Damnit," she muttered. "I forgot all about that. I'm so sorry, Em! I'll call him right away."

"You do that. Cora called him from the diner and asked him why he hadn't told her that you were back, so he knows that you're okay, but we were still worried, Bella."

She walked over and reached for his hand, trying to break through his cold anger.

"Emmett," she spoke softly, "I'm so sorry. I should have called Mac as soon as I made the decision to look through the boxes at Edward's. I'm not used to having to let anyone know where I am. Body guards surrounding you twenty-four seven will do that to you."

His face softened and he let out a sigh. "I know. I'm sorry, too. Mac called asking that I keep an eye out for you, since you never came back and I panicked. I just got you back and I wanted to know that you were safe. This stalker business isn't something to take lightly."

"Lightly?" she asked, slightly incredulous. "Do you think that playing cloak and dagger from there to here was taking it lightly?"

Emmett washed his hands down his face. "No, that's not what I meant. I just don't want you to let your guard down, just in case you were followed and didn't realize it."

She swallowed the lump in her throat. "I know that's a possibility, Shaggy. I also know there's a good chance that I'm going to be recognized and cause everything to go to hell, but I don't want to live in fear. That stalker was the best thing that could have happened."

He raised an eyebrow. "How do you figure that?"

She wrapped her arms around his waist. "It gave me the courage to come home."

Emmett squeezed her tightly. "I'm never letting go again, you know that right?"

"I'm counting on it."

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AN: Chapter song: The House That Built Me by Miranda Lambert

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I just wanted to drop a note to let you guys know what else I've been working on for various fundraisers. All of the info/links on how to participate is up on my profile. I know times are tough and not everyone has the means to donate, so please don't feel left out if you're not able to help out any of these charities. Everything that I've donated will be added here on FFn at some point. (Usually a month after the fundraiser ends, ensuring that the people who donated get their copies first.)

*~* I wrote a Victoria POV Parachute Outtake called In The End for FADV a few months ago and it will post on FFn tomorrow!

*~* I've co-written a O/S called Paperthin Hymn with laurnorder for The Fandom Fights the Floods, the compilation is available now.

*~* I've written a Charlie POV Parachute Outtake called My Daughter's Eyes for the Fandom Gives Back: Autism Speaks fundraiser.

*~* I've signed on the write for The Fandom For Sexual Assault Awareness and Fandom for Tsunami ~ Not sure what I'm writing for the Tsunami yet, but the FFSAA is already planned out as a O/S with the possibility of more. It'll be called Accidentally in Love.

Would you guys like to see anything in particular? Another Parachute Outtake? A Rabbit Heart one? Or something new? Let me know!

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As always, reviews get replied with teasers on Monday! Love you guys!

Shel