Disclaimer: Belongs to Stephenie Meyer and her publishers.
Dedicated to my lovely Beta! Because after I finished the actual entry for Het_Big_Bang that clocked in at 43k, I decided to write another one. This one is a little bit silly and a lot less het, so it doesn't count. But it makes a good thank you gift.
AN: I wanted Meyer to write these stories, but since that didn't happen, I'm taking a crack at them myself. Or risk going mad when the plot bunnies attack.
1. Café Meadow
Why Bella couldn't have managed to break her leg a few weeks earlier and therefore been free of the bothersome cast at Prom, she would never know. It probably stemmed from the fact that she just wasn't that lucky when it came to injuries. In fact, she might be the most unlucky person in the world when it came to injuries.
Edward had promised her a surprise after the cast was off. The thought of that made Bella a little nervous. She really hoped the surprise didn't involve Alice in any way. Bella had had quite enough of Alice's 'surprises' as of late to last her a lifetime. Or more likely: eternity.
Her leg was even paler than the rest of her when it was finally freed from its prison. Bella sighed. It was summer now, or near enough, but the constant rain that plagued this particular area of America hadn't let up. She wouldn't have much opportunity to work on her colour if the rain continued. At least the weather in north-west Washington was cool enough that she felt she could get away with jeans for the foreseeable future. Her pale, scrawny leg would be an unpleasant reminder for a few more weeks of exactly what had happened that spring.
'Be careful,' Carlisle all but pleaded with her when he helped her up to his office where they'd left Edward.
'It's not like I do it on purpose, you know,' she grumbled at him.
'I know. But please, Bella, for my sanity as much as my son's, can we try a few weeks without injuries?'
'I haven't even given myself a paper cut in the last five days, thank you very much,' Bella protested.
Carlisle sighed, exasperated.
'Yeah, alright,' she finally agreed with a sigh. 'I just don't make any promises.'
'Try your best. Edward will do the rest. And failing that, there are six others to protect you from yourself.' He winked at her.
'Please don't go all over protective on me. I get enough of that from him,' Bella pointed down the hall to where Edward was waiting in the doorframe of his father's office. He'd probably heard them from the other end of the hospital.
'I'm not overprotective. I'm cautious,' he told her once she reached non shouting distance.
'Is that what you call it? I call it hovering.'
Edward smiled at her and Bella instantly forgot why she was annoyed.
'Edward,' Carlisle admonished him.
'What?' he asked his father innocently. 'You ready for that surprise now?'
Bella gave him an appraising look. 'Is this surprise going to involve anything that may result in injury? Because I'd hate to end up back in here today.'
Edward stared at her.
'Right; forgot who I was talking to. Alright, does this surprise involve Alice in any way?'
'No,' Edward promised.
'Let's go then.'
'Be careful of that leg Bella. You may want to accept Edward's offer of a ride,' Carlisle added with another wink.
When, exactly, had Carlisle Cullen started teasing her?
'Good plan,' Edward agreed and before Bella could so much as blink, he had her on his back, legs wrapped around his waist.
'I don't really think I get a choice in this,' Bella told them.
'I've learned better than to give you choices. You always pick the wrong one.'
'It's not the wrong one if it's my choice,' she explained. 'Okay, I'm ready. Can I at least know where we're going?'
'North,' Edward stated.
'Wow, that's detailed. Thanks ever so much.'
'There's no need for sarcasm. You will love the surprise; Alice promised.'
'I thought you said this didn't involve Alice,' Bella replied in an accusing tone as Edward turned to make his way down the hall.
'Perhaps a bit. I just asked her what you might think of a few things. Other than that, she's had no involvement and you won't even see her today. Alright?' Edward turned slightly to glance back at her.
'I can handle that,' Bella admitted. 'Bye Carlisle,' she called back over her shoulder to the blond doctor.
'Enjoy the afternoon,' he returned and then gave a look to Edward. Bella knew they were having a silent, one-sided conversation.
Edward nodded. 'Thank you,' he told his father.
It was a bit embarrassing to be carried through the hospital on Edward's back like she was five. More than one nurse stopped to stare at Bella with varying looks of envy. And at Edward with various looks suggesting they were thinking of ways to jump him.
Bella sighed when they reached the exit. 'Honestly, you know they look at Carlisle like that too, right? And he's married.'
'We're used to it, love.'
'Yeah, but isn't it annoying?'
'I've learned to ignore the looks and even more the thoughts behind them. Alice and Rosalie and Esme are stared at wherever they go, just as Carlisle, Jasper, Emmett and I are. It's always been like that. And yes, some of the hospital staff over the decades have been particularly...obvious, when it comes to Carlisle, but Esme finds it amusing. Every time we move to a new place and Carlisle starts work, Esme always stops by on a really busy day and loudly announces that she's looking for her husband. A few years ago, in Anchorage, she and Carlisle had a rather...public kiss in the middle of the lobby. There were a lot fewer stares after that.'
Bella hid her smile in Edward's neck, knowing he would feel it. 'That's such a nice mental picture,' she said.
'Maybe to you,' he muttered. Bella had discovered, over the last weeks, that Carlisle and Esme's physical relationship was not something Edward really liked to talk about. Or think about.
'We're taking the car?' Bella asked when he let her down beside the Volvo.
'Well, I drove it here, so short of leaving it in the parking lot for someone to pick up later, I thought we'd drive most of the way.'
'Most of the way?' Bella repeated, still trying to get him to admit his surprise.
'I'm sure you can figure it out, if you think about it,' he smiled.
Bella froze, half way into the front seat. 'The meadow?'
'Yes,' Edward admitted, but with a smile that suggested that was only part of it.
'Okay. I can handle that.'
'I'm so glad.'
It wasn't a far drive, especially with Edward at the wheel. They turned off the highway in half the time it would have taken Bella and before long they had pulled to a stop at the end of the gravel road. 'Now you get a ride. I'm not risking you in a forest full of roots and rocks, even when both your legs are in working order.'
'You know, I'd find that insulting if it wasn't so true.' Bella jumped easily onto his back and they were off, racing through the woods at a speed that still made her dizzy. She squeezed her eyes shut for the few minutes it took for them to reach the meadow.
It wasn't exactly sunny, but it hadn't rained since the evening before, so the ground was dry. The clouds were thin enough that the vague outline of the sun could be seen. In the centre of the meadow, surrounded by the new wildflowers of the season, was a picnic. Now Bella understood what Edward had meant when he'd said he asked Alice for her opinion.
'Oh, this is perfect,' Bella told him.
'Good. Alice said you'd like it. With the weather this spring, and the cast, we haven't been able to spend much time outside. Since it's not raining, I thought this might be a nice way to spend the afternoon. It's a bit old fashioned, I know.'
'Oh, no, Edward, I love it. Really,' Bella wrapped her arms around him and pushed onto her tiptoes to kiss his cheek.
'It's a little early for lunch, but we probably shouldn't leave the food too long,' he told her.
Bella shrugged. 'I could eat. Breakfast was a while ago.'
He led her over to the red and white checked blanket. It looked like the perfect setup, from the wicker picnic basket overflowing with more food than Bella could have eaten in a week, to the bottle of sparkling water and wine glass, to the small stereo sitting on one corner of the blanket, ready for them to push play. Someone's black iPod was stuck in the top of it.
'Yours?' Bella asked.
'Yes.' Edward pushed the play button on the stereo and soft piano music filled the meadow. The speakers had pretty decent sound, considering how small they were.
'You?' Bella asked again.
'Mostly,' Edward admitted. 'Though there is some classical pieces on the playlist that you'll probably know.'
'Thank you,' she said, knowing it would have taken time to record and compile everything. She'd never noticed an iPod in his room in all the times she'd been there in recent months, though it seemed strange he wouldn't have one.
'Esme made the food. I know she got a bit carried away, but she was enjoying cooking so much I didn't have the heart to tell her to stop,' Edward told her.
'That's alright. Whatever's left over I'll take back to Charlie. Wouldn't want it to go to waste.'
Bella sat down on the blanket, being careful of her leg. Edward surprised her by sitting down behind her, giving her a backrest to lean against. He pulled the basket closer and Bella started to dig through it. There was almost every picnic type food imaginable. He opened the bottle and poured her a glass of sparkling water.
'Thanks,' she said absently as she took it from him. Bella was too busy pulling out stuffed paninis, cheeses, breads, meats and half a dozen kinds of sliced fruit. 'You know if this is Esme's way of saying I need to eat more...'
'It's not, love. She just...gets caught up in things. You know she enjoys cooking for you. Sometimes she can't stop. But on that note, you do need to eat more,' he admonished.
'So I've heard,' Bella agreed. 'That certainly won't be a problem today, will it?'
The thing Bella loved most about picnics was the ability to pick. A little bit of this, a little bit of that. She spent the better part of the next hour trying some of everything, Edward's cold chest behind her providing a nice rest. They didn't talk much. Bella was mostly too busy eating. Edward would explain each piece of music as the iPod skipped on to the next song, but beyond that there was just the melody of the piano and the soft sigh of wind and birds in the trees. It was pretty much Bella's idea of a perfect afternoon.
When she was finished eating, Edward packed the remaining food back into the basket. There was enough for a few more meals, at least, and that was if Charlie shared it with her. When Edward helped her to her feet, Bella figured it was time to go, but he had other ideas.
'We didn't really have the chance to do this properly, considering. And since you don't have heels as an excuse right now...may I have this dance?'
There was a nice piano solo playing on the stereo.
Bella shrugged. 'Why not? Just, catch me if I fall,' she told him, accepting his hand.
'Always,' he whispered into her ear when he drew her close. His cold hand on her back was steady as he led them off the blanket and into the meadow's grass. He kept her close as he led her around in circles.
'See, you can dance,' he smiled into her ear.
'Only with you,' Bella told him.
'I'm the only person you ever need to dance with.'
'Yes,' Bella breathed. 'Forever.'
She felt the slightest hesitation in Edward's step at that comment, but a split second later he drew her in and kissed her. Bella sighed softly into his mouth, trying very hard not to ruin the romantic moment by pushing back. It was a sweet kiss, soft and gentle and full of love. And it was enough.
'Forever,' he whispered to her when he pulled away, so softly she almost didn't hear it over the music.