Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, or Snow White. I just played with the characters from one and the story from the other to make my own bit of silliness.

This was written as a bit of fun for my beautiful friend, Weezy (a.k.a Nostalgicmiss), on the occasion of her turning another year older and about twenty years wiser!


Faerie Tale - Snow White

1

xxx

She was a beautiful baby. On that point, everybody was agreed. With bright, blue eyes that sparkled like crystals and tiny tufts of jet-black hair, which stood on top of her head in little spikes in contrast to her flawless, ivory skin, she was the perfect specimen of a baby. Just the way a princess ought to be.

She was so very beautiful that they decided to name her accordingly, and so Isabella Snow came into the world, adored by all, right from the moment her tiny eyes opened.

Her parents were unbelievably besotted with her. So much so that concerns were raised as to King Charles' abilities to continue running the country, when all he seemed capable of after the birth of his daughter, was bouncing her on his knee and cooing and aahing at her.

But his Prime minister, Lord William of the house of Black, appealed to the government for just a little time for King Charles to get his head back into the game of running his country. After all, he reminded them, Isabella was his first child, and who didn't go a little gooey when their first child was born?

So King Charles was allowed just a little time to truly appreciate his newborn child and the joy that she brought to both he and his wife, Queen Renee, before resuming his duties in Parliament and leaving Isabella, mostly to the care of her mother, who could rarely take her eyes off her beautiful child.

Isabella grew up into a stunning young girl, with eyes of sapphire and long, straight, jet-black hair, which hung down her back in adorable pigtails. Her home was happy and loving and she never wanted for anything. Both her parents doted on her, and made sure she knew how loved she was every single day.

She wouldn't have changed a thing. Despite the fact that her picture-perfect upbringing made it impossibly more difficult for her to comprehend what happened the day her world fell apart.

2

xxx

Isabella, or just Bella as her parents generally called her, was just nine years old when her mother died. Nobody was ever able to prove what happened, what it was that killed her. She was found in her parlour, her quill - still soaked in ink - was held in her right hand, hovering over the page where she had begun to write a letter, and her left hand held a shiny, red apple, which had only a single bite missing from it. Her eyes were closed, and she looked almost peaceful, serene. But nonetheless, she was gone, and gone forever.

Bella cried for days solid, curled into her father's lap as he also allowed his sorrow to flow as pearly drops from his tortured eyes. His beautiful wife, Isabella's adoring mother, his Queen, his confidante and his best friend, all gone in one day.

His little girl looked so much like her mother that he sometimes found it hard to look at her, so poor little Bella, found that not only did she lose her mother that day, but her relationship with her father began to slip away, too.

As she grew and her father continued to struggle to look upon her stunning face, she became quiet, but strong and independent. She missed her mother terribly, but was determined to make the best of every situation she found herself in. She feared that her father blamed her for the death of her mother, and did everything in her power to try to make him proud of her. She excelled at her lessons, putting in twice the amount of effort that was expected, but nothing worked. She wanted to believe that her father still loved her, but it was getting harder and harder every day.

And then one day, she came home after spending the day in the forest, her favourite place, and found her father sitting with another woman who she didn't recognise. She was tall and slender, with long, red hair, which flowed down her back, all the way to her waist. She would have been beautiful but for the flash of something, Bella caught in her eyes. It wasn't loving or motherly, the way her mother used to look at her. There was a shadow in her expression that spoke of malice. Bella was a little afraid of this woman, and jumped back in shock when she saw her father looking at this stranger with the same loving look he used to bestow upon her mother.

"Isabella, I want you to meet Victoria," her father said with a smile. But Bella could barely register the strange woman's name. Isabella? He'd called her Isabella. It was the first time she'd heard him use her full name since she was a small child and he would chastise her for being naughty.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, Isabella," the woman, Victoria, said in a smooth voice, which sent, shivers down Bella's spine. Ignoring the hand that Victoria had offered, Bella turned to her father with questions in her eyes.

"Isabella, I didn't raise you with the manners of a pig. Victoria is speaking to you." Her father's voice was sharper than she had ever heard it directed towards her, and she recoiled at the anger in his tone.

"I'm sorry," she whispered, still looking at him and not the woman who had retracted her hand and was watching with a smug look of satisfaction as tears began to sting at Bella's eyes.

"I should think so," her father said, the anger still in his voice. "I'll assume from your attitude that you don't wish to join us for dinner." And with that, he draped his arm around the shoulders of the new woman and swept from the room without looking at his daughter again.

3

xxx

Another month went by and Bella saw Victoria more and more around the castle, usually glued to her father's side. She saw less and less of her father, and when she did see him he seemed to look at her as if he was appraising her, trying to find something wrong with her. When he announced to the kingdom that he and Victoria were to be married, he didn't even do her the courtesy of telling her before it was revealed to the general populace. It was as though this woman, this woman who was to be her new step-mother, was poisoning his mind against her. Every so often she would see something flash behind his eyes, maybe memories of how things used to be, and his expression towards her would soften somewhat. But it never lasted long and he would always cough and make an excuse to get away.

Utterly devastated and overwhelmed by an almost constant blanket of despair, Bella retreated more and more often to her safe haven in the forest that surrounded their castle. The guards of the high, iron gates were accustomed to the sight of her scurrying away from the castle, wrapped in her warm, blue, velvet cloak with a book in one hand and a basket in the other. She would while away the hours lying on a blanket under the trees, reading the books from her mother's library and escaping into the stories. One day she would be Ishmael, braving the turbulent seas with Captain Ahab, onboard the Pequod, hunting for Moby Dick, and the next she would be living in Neverland, fighting with pirates and flying with fairies. The stories transported her away on a wave of danger and adventure, plunging her to the deepest depths of the earth and to the highest joys as they wove her into their precious words. Her mother had loved to read, and some of Bella's warmest memories were of them curled up together by the fire in the library, enjoying the written word together.

The people in the stories always won through in the end. The brave, courageous heroes always overcame the evil that sought to bring them down. Peter Pan always won his battles with Captain Hook and the pirates, Alice's sister woke her up before the Queen of Hearts could follow through with her order to chop off her head. The bad guys never won in those stories. Not like real life, where she could feel her father slowly slipping away from her and dragging all her happy memories with him.

Creeping back into the castle, late one night, only days before the wedding, Bella stopped short when she heard a horrid screeching sound emitting from Victoria's chambers. Pressing her ear up against the door she could hear her soon to be step-mother wailing and crying out that it wasn't true.

"Nobody is fairer than me," her nasally voice screeched out into the peace of the night. "And certainly not that putrid little brat!" There was a loud smash as something glass hit the wall and shattered. "I will not stand for this any more," she continued, and Bella could hear her footsteps pacing up and down the room, her standard spiky heels, which were as prickly as her character, clicked loudly against the old, stone floor.

Bella's breathing stuttered when she heard the footsteps making their way over to the door she was pressed up against. Darting away she hid inside an alcove, which was covered by an heavy tapestry, depicting a scene from the Bible. She covered her mouth with her hand, trying to stifle her heavy breathing, which would betray her to Victoria if she heard it, then peeked out around the frayed edges of the ancient and dusty tapestry. All she caught as she looked out was the retreating figure of the woman she hated the most in the world, as she strode away purposefully, with her shoulders tensed in anger.

Trembling, Bella crawled out from behind the tapestry and darted her eyes around scanning for observers, before scampering quickly into Victoria's chambers in search of anything that could have set off this rage in her. Her eyes scanned the room, confusion seeping in as all she saw was a normal bedchamber. The four poster bed stood proudly in the centre of the room, with a vanity chest standing opposite. On the wall opposite the bed, hung a large, majestic looking mirror, with intricate decorations carved into the gilt covered wood. Staring into it, Bella saw nothing exceptional in the girl who looked back at her. Her face was thin and too pale; her eyes were almost too bright and too blue for her unimpressive face to hold. At sixteen years old, her body was nothing to shout about. She had been a reputed beauty as a child, the whole kingdom had talked of nothing but how beautiful she would be when she grew. Maybe this was why her father no longer cared for her. She had disappointed him, by failing to grow into the woman everybody expected her to be.

The loud clipping of familiar heels dragged her forcibly from her thoughts and anxiety filled her as she realised she did not have time to get out of the room before Victoria came in, and if she was found there she didn't know what would happen to her. Her father was already mad at her for not welcoming Victoria into their home. She couldn't imagine what his response would be if he found out that she'd been snooping.

Panic gripped her body in its icy clutches as the doorknob began to turn slowly, with hushed voices whispering conspiratorially to one another on the other side. She stood, frozen to the spot, desperately clutching for an excuse for why she was in the forbidden room. The doorknob continued to turn as she ran out of time to think. And then the door pushed open.

4

xxx

Seeing an opportunity, Bella darted to her knees and clambered quickly under the bed, scooting silently to the middle where she curled up as small as possible and listened, hoping that she could avoid detection. The unmistakeable voice of Victoria rung out through the room, barking orders at somebody. The only clue as to who that somebody was was their footwear. They were wearing the heavy black boots that all the male staff wore in the castle.

"I want it dealt with," Victoria snapped at the staff member as her spiky heels came to rest in front of the mirror on the wall. There was silence for a moment as the booted feet scuffled and the heels stood silent and still. "As soon as possible," Victoria finally finished with a snarl.

"Yes, ma'am." Samuel. It was Samuel. The young boy who worked in the stables, taking care of the royal horses. His voice was quiet and held none of the conviction that Victoria's had, as his feet continued to toe the ground awkwardly.

"I will not tolerate mistakes in this, do you hear me?" She was almost shouting now, and the booted feet took a couple of hasty steps back before coming to rest in place again.

His voice rung out again, with more certainty this time. "Yes, ma'am."

"Good. You're dismissed."

Samuel's boots retreated out of the door, pulling it softly closed behind him. Victoria let out an exasperated growl, before sinking onto her bed, which caved underneath, squashing Bella against the floor tightly.

"Stupid mirror," were the last confusing words she heard from her soon to be step-mother,before another glass object smashed against the wall leaving tiny crystals of broken glass scattered all across the floor. Then the space under the bed increased once more and the heels clicked their way out of the door.

Utterly confused, Bella stayed where she was until the sound of Victoria's heels disappeared into the distance before pulling herself out from under the bed. She was completely unable to make any sense of what she had just witnessed as she made her way up the stairs to her own bedchamber.

As she walked into the room her cry was muffled by a thick hand covering her mouth tightly as a strong arm pulled her back into a heavily muscled chest.

"Miss Isabella, I won't hurt you if you do exactly as I say. Please." His voice was almost pleading as she struggled against her sudden capture. It was Samuel. Evidently whatever Victoria had ordered him to do, it involved her.

She thrashed around in his arms, deperately trying to free herself from his grasp. Whatever Victoria had asked him to do, she knew it couldn't be good news for her. She clawed at his hands, trying to pry his fingers apart as they held her firmly to his chest.

"Please, Miss. I don't want to hurt you." His voice was desperate now, as desperate as her attempts to get away. And then, in a last gasp attempt to still her, "Please. If you don't let me help you then she's going to have you killed."

All the air whooshed from her lungs at his words, and she went limp in his arms. Tears stung at her eyes at the thought that this woman wanted her dead. She had never done anything to her. What could she possibly gain by killing her husband-to-be's child?

Feeling the shuddering sobs which racked Bella's body, Samuel loosened his hold on her and removed the hand which was held over her mouth. He half expected her to run or to scream when released from his arms, but instead she just dropped to her knees in defeat, with tears streaming down her face.

"I'm sorry, Miss," he whispered, lowering himself to her level and placing a comforting hand on her shoulder which was still shaking with her sobs. "She said she would tell your father I was stealing from him if I didn't do it. I'd lose my job for sure, and my family couldn't survive if I didn't work."

"I understand," she whispered through her tears. "You should just do it. But..." she stammered to a stop, unable to catch her breath with the fear that was coursing through her.

He was just about to intercept, to put her straight when she finally went on. "But... could you.. I mean... Make it fast?"

"I'm not going to kill you, Miss," he came back, once he was over the shock of her courageous request. He rushed to explain when he saw the look of confusion on her face. "Come with me; I'll get you out of here. You have to run. I'm sorry, Miss, but you can never come back here again. If you do, she'll kill you."

Her heart was pounding in her chest, almost as though it were trying to beat its way through her ribcage. She had to leave home. Forever. She had to leave now, or her life would be in danger. She had to turn her back on her home, her father, on everything she knew, and run away like a thief in the night.

"I'm sorry, Miss. We must go now. She wants you gone by midnight or she'll come for you herself. I've to prove to her that I finished the job." He looked down at his boots as he spoke, a look of pain shooting across his face and settling there as he saw the fear in her eyes.

"Okay," she sniffed, pulling her soft, blue cloak around her shoulders and steeling herself for what was to come. Placing his hand around her slender wrist, Samuel hoped that to Victoria, if she spotted them, it would look as though he was dragging Bella into the forest. Whereas in reality, he was running his thumb over her wrist in soothing circles, trying to make this ordeal less frightening for her.

"Stay behind me and try to look like I'm forcing you," he whispered to her, before pushing her door open and pulling her behind him as he ran through the castle and out into the crisp night air.

The grounds were empty, but for the guards on duty at the gate. The sky was darkening rapidly as the sun weaved its way towards the horizon, painting the world in beautiful shades of orange and gold. Bella pulled the hood of her cloak up, shielding her partially from view as they made their way through the gates and into the forest.

The trees that usually called out to her soul, pulling her deeper and deeper into the heart of the forest, now looked menacing and dangerous. Samuel kept running, though he wasn't running at his full speed, mindful of the young girl who trailed behind him.

After they had been running for what felt like hours, Samuel stopped in the middle of the dense forest, and released her wrist from his grasp.

"I have to leave you here, Miss," he said softly, looking around regretfully at the dark forest.

"Samuel, you're saving my life tonight, I think you can call me Bella, don't you?"

"Bella," he smiled, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a hunk of bread, which he pressed into her hand. "I'm sorry it's not more; it's all I have."

Her eyes brimmed over with tears at the sweet gesture from their humble stable boy and before she knew it, she had flung herself into his arms with a choked sob.

"Thank you for saving me, Samuel. I know it's a risk for you. I won't ever forget it."

He patted her on the back a few times, before he turned on his heel and walked away, leaving her alone in the forest with only the clothes on her back and a chunk of bread the size of his fist to see her through.

Standing alone, in the dark and the ever-increasing cold, Bella looked around fearfully. What was she to do now? Samuel had told her that she was to run, run far away and never look back. But how far could she get with no money and only a small piece of bread? Her stomach was already growling, not used to being deprived, and she had only been out of the castle for a short while. How long before her father realised she was missing? Would he even miss her? When Samuel went back to tell Victoria that he had carried out his duty and murdered her, would she tell her father that she was gone?

Trying to force back the tears, which threatened to fall once more, she instead focused on the immediate future. She shot one last look towards her past, though the castle wasn't visible from that deep in the forest, then started to walk slowly, deeper and deeper into the overwhelming darkness.

The trees were thick and tall, standing like sentries around her as she pulled her cloak tighter around her against the nighttime chill. Her body shivered without her permission and her teeth began to chatter uncontrollably. She started to wonder why she left. If she was doomed to die of the cold in the forest all alone in the night, maybe she would have been better off taking her chances with Victoria. But no. Samuel had risked everything in order to save her, and she would not repay him by being ungrateful. If only she could find some shelter, some warm place to stay. But she kept moving forwards, through the relentless sea of tree trunks and the blackness which swirled around her, until her legs refused to go another step. Exhausted and so cold that it had begun to hurt, she slumped down against a tree, bringing her knees up to her chest and wrapping herself tightly in her cloak. The soft hooting of an owl in a nearby tree eventually lulled her into a fitful sleep filled with nightmares.

5

xxx

"Do you really think that's sensible, Emmett?" The unfamiliar voice invaded Bella's dreams and tugged her into wakefulness. Blearily she opened first one eye, and then the other and found herself looking into a pair of eyes that were almost as blue as her own.

"She's awake, she's awake," another voice called out happily, and she scanned her eyes around for the speaker. Peering at her were seven pairs of eyes, housed in seven rosy faces, atop the bodies of seven extremely tiny men. All would be a good head and shoulders shorter than her if she was standing, but sitting down as she was, she was around their eye level.

"Thank you, Aaron, that would have been difficult to see for ourselves." The blue eyes, which sparkled with kindness and compassion rolled a little before turning their attention back to Bella.

"Are you alright, Miss?" His voice was soft and gentle, and although, after her ordeal at the castle, she wasn't given over to easily trusting people, there was something in his face that told her that he wasn't a danger to her.

"Y-yes, thank you," she responded. Her voice was rough and her throat sore after spending the whole night on the cold ground in the forest. The head tilted to one side, an appraising look crossing the kind face.

"Are you sure about that?" He looked at her attire curiously. "You seem to be a long way from home. Can we escort you anywhere?"

"NO!" Bella shouted in a reflex response to the idea of going home, back to the danger. "No," she repeated much quieter this time, after she saw the shock on the kind man's face.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "It's just... I can't go home. Not ever." He nodded his head sympathetically and she was grateful that he didn't ask any further questions, but instead offered her a hand to pull her up to standing. A somewhat tricky venture considering their difference in height. "Thank you, Sir," she said, smiling down at him. "My name is Bella."

"You're welcome. My name is Carlisle and these are my sons, Emmett, Michael, Aaron, Marcus, Felix and Edward." He gestured to each of them in turn and they all smiled brightly at her, all but one who scowled and turned to his father.

"Can we go home now? I'm hungry."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," Bella gasped. "I'm keeping you from your food."

"Oh no, dear. Don't be silly. You can ignore Marcus, he's just grumpy." Marcus scowled even more, which caused Bella to giggle a little. When he snapped his eyes to her angrily she turned her giggle into a cough nervously. "Would you like to join us for something to eat?" Carlisle asked, with a gentle smile.

"Oh no, I couldn't," she replied, desperately trying to ignore the growling and yawning of her stomach, which moaned loudly at her denial of the offered meal. Carlisle chuckled and quirked an eyebrow at her; evidently he heard her stomach's protest.

"Are you sure about that?" he asked. "There's more than enough to go around, and my wife will be delighted for some female company for a change."

Allowing a shy smile to creep onto her face, she agreed and they started to walk on along a trail that they seemed to know well. As they walked, a young looking boy, maybe even younger than Bella, kept peeking out from around Carlisle's shoulder. He would look out with his wide, green eyes and copper hair, and then start when he saw her watching and dart back behind his father. Carlisle laughed heartily, and tugged on the boy's arm gently.

"Don't be bashful, Edward," he laughed. "Bella won't bite, she's just a girl, she can't be much older than you."

"I'm sixteen," she said softly, trying not to startle the shy boy.

"I-I'm fourteen," he replied, looking to his father for reassurance, which he received in the form of a smile and a ruffle of his hair.

"It's nice to meet you, Edward," Bella said with a smile and earned a bright crooked smile back.

"DAD!" a voice called out behind them, and they all turned just in time to see one of Carlisle's sons trip over the root of a tree in his haste to reach his father.

"Oh, Emmett," Carlisle said, shaking his head as he helped his boy from the ground. "You dopey thing. What is it, son?"

Emmett brushed off his clothes, scraping bits of the forest floor off his green trousers and purple shirt.

"Felix fell behind again, Dad," he explained, pointing to a tree several feet away where another of the boys, dressed in a green and blue shirt, was slumped, apparently fast asleep. Bella frowned in concern, but noticing that nobody seemed especially surprised, she looked on in curiosity.

"Felix," Calrisle said, shaking the boy's shoulder. "Wake up, sleepy-head."

"He does it all the time," Edward explained in a whisper, before shooting his eyes back down to his boots, which scuffled the ground shyly.

"Oh..." she replied, already enjoying seeing the strange family's quirks and individualisms.

Finally they passed through the trees and into a clearing where the most beautiful house Bella had ever seen, stood. The house was fairly large, she supposed it would have to be to house such a large family, but it didn't detract from the beauty of the surroundings. Rather it accentuated it. The house was white, with one wall that seemed to be made almost entirely out of glass, and the whole thing shone in the bright sunlight. Bella squinted at the harsh light after being in the dark for so long.

"Home sweet home," Emmett said, smiling broadly, sniffing the air and evidently liking what he smelt as he bounded forward towards the front door.

"Mind the..." his father started, but too late. His son went flying once again, this time catching his foot on the bottom step, which led up to the porch. Bella once again stifled a giggle, and raced forwards to help him to his feet.

"Are you alright?" she asked, already guessing at the answer from the broad grin on his face.

"Oh yeah. I've had much worse. Come inside, Bella. Smells like mum's making spaghetti."

She laughed and followed him inside, where she was surprised to see a woman, a good head taller than herself, standing in the kitchen, stirring an enormous pan full of spaghetti sauce.

6

xxx

Dinner was a light-hearted affair, and Bella was delighted to find that Carlisle's wife, Esme, was just as lovely as he. She had shoulder length, honey coloured hair, which framed the kindest face she had even seen. Her heart tugged for a moment, when Esme pulled her into a warm embrace, reminding her sharply of her mother. But she quickly pulled herself together and smiled brightly, trying to answer all the questions that were thrown at her.

She faltered for a moment when Esme asked her why she had been in the woods all alone all night, but in the end she decided that these were good people and she could trust them with the truth.

"Oh, my poor dear," Esme cried out, covering her mouth with her hand in shock. "Well then you must stay here. You can't be out there all alone; it's not safe for a young girl like you."

Bella began to protest, but it sounded weak even to her own ears. The idea of staying here with this lovely family who had just taken her in without a second thought was so tempting to her. So even though Samuel had told her to run, far, far away, she decided to stay and thanked them gratefully for their hospitality.

Her offers of helping around the house to earn her keep were cut short by a sneezing fit from one of the boys. He sneezed fifteen times in a row, by Bella's count, before his father turned to him.

"Michael, for goodness sake, if your allergies are playing up, then take one of the antihistamines I brought back from the hospital for you."

"Yes, dad," he sniffled, then commenced sneezing again as he made his way up the stairs, presumably to find his medication.

"My sneezy boy," Esme said, smiling after her son with an affectionate smile.

Over the next few weeks, Bella learned that these observations about the family were not just one off things, they were everyday occurrences. So much so, that she started to call them by little nicknames in her head.

Carlisle, who worked as a doctor at the hospital, she called Doc. Edward was Bashful, Emmett, Dopey, because of his propensity to trip over anything remotely solid. Michael she called Sneezy, as no matter how much medication he took, he was always sneezing. Felix, who she barely ever saw, she named Sleepy, as he seemed to spend most of his time dozing somewhere. Once she even found him curled up under the kitchen table, taking a nap. Marcus was always in a bad mood, even when there was really no need for it, so she named him Grumpy, and then there was Aaron, who she named Happy, as he always had a smile on his face.

Every day, Carlisle went out to work at the hospital and the younger boys went to school in the local city of Charming, and Bella stayed in and spent the days with Esme, helping her out around the house and enjoying her wonderful company. It was a much simpler life than she was used to living in the castle, and she found that she enjoyed the peace and tranquility.

One day she was sitting in the front garden in the sunshine, with a glass of cool, homemade lemonade, with Esme, when their conversation was interrupted by the sound of hooves hitting the ground, galloping towards them.

Bella tensed at the sound instinctively, afraid that Victoria had somehow discovered that she was still alive and had sent somebody less loyal to Bella's family, to finish the job. Jumping out of her seat, she began to make her way hastily indoors, when Esme's hand closed around her wrist tenderly.

"What is it, Bella dear?" she asked, her eyes wrinkled up in concern.

"H-horse... coming. Maybe it's..." Unable to finish, Bella dropped to her knees, frozen in terror and completely unable to move herself to safety. She felt Esme's hands encasing her face, but couldn't find the strength inside to respond to her. She knew she must be scaring her, but her eyes were fixed on the forest where the sound was approaching from.

As the sound of the hooves drew nearer and nearer, Bella's heart began to thump rapidly in her chest, to the point where it was almost painful. Her breath came in short, sharp gasps as she completely failed to bring her fear under control. How was it that not too long ago, she had been faced with almost certain death, and she had faced up to it with a courage that bordered on indifference. But now, now everything was different. Before, her life had been a confusing mixture of despair and sadness, but now she had people who loved her, a safe place to stay and the prospect of having that ripped away was almost too painful to bear.

With her eyes fixed firmly on the line where the garden met the forest, waiting for her fate to be delivered, she finally caught sight of the horse. A fine, white stallion broke through the line of trees, bearing a tall, handsome man, with tousled, blonde hair, which blew around his face in the light breeze. Bella's eyes met his and for a moment she thought it might not be so bad to have this man bring about her downfall. His horse reared up, neighing loudly, and the man jumped off as it landed. Strapped to his side was a sword, which was safely encased in its scabbard for now. How long would it remain that way?

He approached them slowly, his eyes trained on Bella's and a curious expression on his face. He didn't look like an assassin. Yet he had a sword. As he neared them, he dropped down to his knees in front of her, looking a little confused and more than a little hurt when she flinched back from him.

"Is everything alright here, ladies?" he asked, in a smooth voice and an accent that spoke of nobility.

"We're fine thank you, Sir," Esme responded, taking Bella's hands in her own. "Bella here just isn't feeling too well. Right, Bella?" she asked, massaging Bella's shaking hands lovingly.

The stranger's face contorted into a frown, and his hand reached up to touch Bella's cheek.

"What seems to be the matter, little lady?" he asked, running his thumb tenderly down her pale cheek.

"I... uh... You're not here to kill me?" she whispered in a shaky voice, looking into his deep hazelnut eyes as they widened in surprise.

"Kill you?" he asked in confusion. "Why would I kill you?"

"Well... uh..." Her words deserted her in the face of this incredibly handsome man. All she could do was stare at him as he watched her carefully. After a moment or two, he seemed to realise that no other words would be forthcoming, and rose to his feet, pulling her with him by her hands.

Seeing that she wasn't too steady on her feet, he put a chivalrous arm around her waist, helping her into the chair indicated to him by Esme. Her eyes never left his as he released her and she sank into the comforting depths of the chair.

"Th-thank you," she stuttered out, eventually forcing her eyes from his and down to her hands that were busy twisting together in her lap.

"You're welcome," he said, smiling. "Bella." Her eyes shot back up to his at the sound of his smooth voice caressing the syllables of her name.

They both stared for a long moment, neither of them moving, their eyes locked, until Esme coughed subtly pulling them from their staring contest.

"Can I get you a drink... uh... I'm sorry, I don't know your name?"

"I'm sorry, how rude of me." He started forwards, offering his hand to Esme, who took it and shook it. "My name is Jasper."

"Jasper?" Esme toyed with the name for a moment before looking up in shock. "Jasper as in Prince Jasper?"

He looked a little sheepish and suddenly shy at her words.

"Yes ma'am, that would be me." He shifted uncomfortably, unaware of why Esme was eyeing Bella with amusement in her eyes.

"Prince Jasper of Charming, meet Princess Isabella of Mesa."

7

xxx

He was a Prince. Of course he was a Prince. Why wouldn't he be? Because every single day, unbelievably handsome Princes just ride into random gardens in the middle of the woods, and just happen to stumble across Princesses, hiding out from their evil step mothers, with huge families of really short men. That stuff happened every day... Right?

Bella's thoughts were whirling all over the place after Jasper left, as she washed the cups they had used. Shaking her head, she tried to rid his face from her mind. The way his eyes twinkled as he spoke in his beautifully rich and smooth voice, the way his hands felt against her soft skin, the way that his voice sounded as he said her name.

She fought against his domination of her thoughts for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening when Carlisle and the boys were home.

After another of Esme's amazing home-cooked dinners, Emmett asked if they could all go and play baseball together in a clearing a short distance away from the house. It was a popular idea and soon they were all making their way back through the forest. She was a little taken aback when all the boys started singing, a song that they all knew well apparently. Esme just rolled her eyes and threw back her head in laughter so Bella did the same.

Baseball with her new family was more fun than Bella would have cared to admit. Between Emmett who kept falling down, Aaron who cheered, even when the opposition did well, Marcus grumbling that he was tired and hungry, Felix who just about managed to force his eyes to stay open long enough to take his turn at batting, but constantly let the ball run past him when he was out to field.

It wasn't until Bella saw Edward hiding behind his mother that she realised that they were no longer alone. An old woman had entered the clearing, dressed in rags, and carrying only a basket. As she approached them, Carlisle stepped forward with a friendly smile, just like always.

"Can we help you?" he asked, in his usual kind voice.

"Buy an apple, Sir?" she asked, peering out with old, grey eyes from beneath a ragged old cloak which almost swallowed her whole. The moment food of any sort was mentioned, Marcus made a beeline for her, practically dragging the coins out of his father's hand and buying himself two apples. Then he sauntered off, biting into one and putting the other in his pocket for later.

"Anybody else?" Carlisle asked, turning to each member of the family in turn. He bought apples for Esme, Emmett and Aaron and one for himself. "Bella?" He turned to her with the question.

"Yes please?" she answered, her words almost a question, as she wasn't sure about him buying it for her, and she had no money to buy it herself. Carlisle just smiled tenderly at her and purchased another apple. The old lady pulled out a shiny, red apple and placed it into her hand, pushing her fingers closed around it.

"For the beautiful girl," she said with a toothy grin.

Bella took the apple with a polite smile, then took a big, juicy bite from it's succulent flesh. She was about to turn to the old woman to thank her and tell her it was delicious, when suddenly everything was wrong. The world started to spin around her and the faces that surrounded her stretched and contorted into strange shapes. She could hear panicked voices calling to her, but they were blurry and unclear. She could make no sense of their words as they grew quieter and quieter and the light started to fade from her vision. The last thing she heard was a high pitched, nasally voice screeching out in celebration before she fell to the ground and everything went black.

8

xxx

"Bella? Oh my God, Bella!" The whole family crowded round her as she fell, limp and lifeless to the ground. Carlisle froze for a moment before springing into doctor mode and yelling to Edward to run and fetch his medical bag from the house.

The rest of the family stood back, watching on in horror as Carlisle tried desperately to revive her. Esme sobbed violently when she saw that Bella's chest was no longer moving up and down, but Carlisle refused to give up. He pounded on her chest forcing the blood around her body with a fervour her had never felt before. He always tried his hardest for his patients at the hospital, but this was different. Bella was like a daughter to him now, and he would not lose her without a fight.

"Come on, Bella," he grunted through gritted teeth, against the effort of massaging her heart and breathing for her.

"Come on, Edward. Where are you?" Esme kept asking, her eyes constantly darting from where Bella lay on the ground, to the gap in the trees that she expected her son to appear around at any moment.

For the first time ever, in both his parent's memories, Aaron was crying. They had only ever seen him shed tears of laughter and happiness, but he had grown close to Bella and looked on her as his sister. The entire family were distraught and refusing to give up hope, when Edward appeared through the trees, and he wasn't alone. Behind him strode Prince Jasper, whose face was written all over with pain and fear.

Thrusting the medical bag at his father, Edward crouched down and attempted to get his breath back.

"He was at the house when I arrived. Said he'd come to see Bella," he said, by way of explanation for Prince Jasper's sudden presence among them. He was standing, staring at where Bella lay, motionless, on the ground. His face was contorted into a look of pure horror as he watched Carlisle's attempts to bring her back.

He fell to his knees the moment that Carlisle shook his head and stood up, with tears streaming down his face. He cried out loudly and kicked the apple that had taken Bella from them, across the field in his despair.

Cradling Bella's cold, white cheek in the palm of his hand, Jasper whispered his last goodbye to the girl who had stolen his heart from the moment he first saw her.

He had spent the day trying to forget her. Trying to rid his mind of those stunning, blue eyes, which shone like sapphires, and her flawless, pale skin, which only made her eyes sparkle even brighter.

With tears pouring like waterfalls from his eyes, he leaned down and pressed his lips lightly to her forehead, holding them there for a long moment as he squeezed his eyes tightly shut against the pain of seeing her lying dead before him.

"I'm sorry, Bella," he whispered when he finally pulled away.

Her lips had begun to turn blue from lack of oxygen and he wanted nothing more than to kiss them and turn them back to their beautiful ruby red.

Allowing himself that one, last indulgence, he leaned down again, and this time he dropped a soft kiss onto her paling lips. He jumped back startled when he felt her lips begin to move against his.

He wanted to cry with joy when he looked down at her and saw her eyelashes flickering delicately against her cheekbones. Cupping her face in his hands he called to her softly, and felt his heart leap in his chest when her eyes fluttered open and gazed at him. A small smile curled the corners of her mouth upwards when she saw him leaning over her.

Never taking her eyes off him, she brought her fingers up to touch her lips, as though she could still feel the pressure of his lips there.

"Hello," he said lamely, bringing his hand back down to her face and brushing a few stray strands of hair out of her eyes.

"Hi," she whispered back, hoarsely.

9

xxx

"I thought I told you to stay in bed." Jasper tried to look strict as he crossed the room to where Bella was starting to get up. "You're still recovering. Doc said you need rest."

Sighing, Bella dropped back onto the bed and rested against the thick, fluffy pillows as he came to stand beside her bed with a tray spread with breakfast foods for two.

"I thought we could have breakfast together," he said, sheepishly. She almost laughed out loud at his slightly embarrassed expression, and patted the bed covers, indicating that he should sit.

"Bella, I.." he said at the same time as she began to speak. They both blushed and stopped short.

"You go," he said, smiling shyly.

"I just wanted to say thank you. I don't know how, but you saved me. I can never thank you enough."

"I thought you were gone, Bella. I thought that I'd lost you before I really got to know you. When I saw you lying there, I just... I couldn't bear it. I wanted to ask you, if you'd consent to having dinner with me." He held her gaze as he asked her, and from the corner of her eye, she could see his fingers twitching as though they longed to reach out and touch her.

She giggled at his question, looking down at the tray on the bed.

"What do you think this is?" she asked, laughing lightly at the confused look on his face.

"This is breakfast," he said quietly. "I meant, like on a date." He blushed the colour of the bright crimson carpet and couldn't meet her eyes, until she placed a finger under his chin and nudged his face upwards.

"I was joking, Jasper. I'd love to go to dinner with you," she said with a wink. "When I'm allowed out of this bed," she added with a wry smile.

He laughed, and it was the most beautiful sound she'd ever heard. When he laughed, his face lit up, and his eyes crinkled adorably at the corners.

"I'll carry you, if I have to," he teased, reaching out and brushing a stray hair from her face and enjoying the blush that coloured her cheeks at his touch.

She was rendered speechless at that, and they both focused their rather embarrassed attentions to their breakfast.

Several days later, Carlisle finally declared Bella fit enough to leave the house and she and Jasper went on their first date. They were a little shy and awkward at first, but once he got her onto the topic of books he couldn't stop her, and he found himself enraptured by her. Her passion and love for the stories she spoke of was infectious and he soon found himself lost in her words and the sound of her voice.

"I'm sorry, I'm doing it again aren't I?" she said suddenly, blushing and chewing on her bottom lip nervously. "I tend to get a little... carried away when I talk about books. I don't-" She stopped short when he covered her fidgeting hands with his and looked up at him nervously.

"Don't be sorry," he said. "I would listen to you talk all day, and never get tired of hearing you." Her blush deepened at his words and her eyes fell once more to her hands.

They ate on in silence for a few moments, before falling back into an easy conversation, talking about anything and everything that came into their minds. When there was a silence, it was a comfortable one, and they both found that the time slipped by before they realised it it was getting late.

Escorting Bella home through the forest, Jasper was enjoying her company hugely, and found that despite being rather shy, when she was comfortable she was perfectly loquacious. Everything was going beautifully, until he asked her about her family. She stiffened beside him, and when he turned to her, he was appalled to see tears falling down her cheeks.

"I'm so sorry, Bella," he crooned softly, stopping and taking her face gently in his hands and wiping away her tears with the pads of his thumbs. "I didn't mean to upset you."

She looked up at him and he was heartbroken at the pain in her eyes. Gathering her into his arms he held her there, with her head resting on his chest as she cried.

"What is it, Bella?" he asked, when her sobs had subsided somewhat and she was looking up at him with wide, red eyes. She didn't answer him for a long moment, her eyes just staring into his with a pained expression. He leaned down until his mouth was right beside her ear, feeling the shiver that ran through her as his breath fanned over the skin of her neck.

"Talk to me, Bella. Please?" he whispered, and felt her fingers tighten their grasp on his shirt.

She braced herself, and then told him everything. All about her mother, her father, about Victoria and what she did. It all came pouring out in a great heap of tears and he held her the entire time, offering words of comfort where he could, and reassuring by holding her where he could not.

"Come away with me, Bella," he whispered after a few moments silence.

"What?" she asked, confused.

"Come away with me. We'll go somewhere far away and leave all this behind. You'll never have to be afraid again."

Bella's mind whirled with the possibilities being offered to her. She had only known Jasper for such a short time, but when she thought of being away from him her chest tugged painfully and tears sprung to her eyes involuntarily. To move away and be free of her past, free of her step mother forever was so tempting. She tried to think of a reason why not, and couldn't, so she turned to Jasper with a small smile, took his hand in hers and whispered, "Yes."