Title: Three Vampires and a Baby
Summary: Immortals and perpetual bachelors Emmett, Carlisle and Edward find themselves the guardians of a mischievous human girl after she's abandoned on their doorstep. With the unexpected help of one of Edward's classmates, they navigate the landscape of raising a child, learning lessons in love and parenthood along the way. AU.
AN: Some of you have already read this outtake – it covers Bella's experiences after she's kidnapped. But for those of you who haven't, enjoy :) This is the last installment of this fic – for now anyway. A few of you asked to see A/J as vampires. If I can think of an idea worth reading, I might be back one last time. No promises.
A note regarding the second epilogue: yep, that was the end. Some of you were quite upset with Alice, perhaps rightly so. She did a stupid thing. But keep in mind she's only a teenager, and she's grown up sheltered by overprotective vampires. She wasn't trying to ruin lives or get anyone hurt by ignoring her parents; she's just a naïve teenager who made a dumb choice because she's a know-it-all teenager who thought her parents were exaggerating about the danger. She's not perfect and neither are her visions. She was wrong. Trust me, she's learned her lesson. Lucky for her, she isn't stuck at 16, and will grow up.
I frowned at the sound of the doorbell. To my knowledge, neither Esme nor I was expecting anyone. I checked that Jasper was immersed in the goings-on of Pinocchio. Satisfied that he was glued to the television and would stay out of trouble, I arose to find out who was at the door.
A glance through the window revealed my boyfriend's apprehensive face. Even anxious, he was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. Alice was tucked in his arms. I allowed myself a moment to appreciate how adorable he was holding a baby.
"Couldn't stay away, could you?" I teased, opening the door.
Edward bent to leave a lingering kiss on my lips. "Sorry to drop in like this. I wish I could stay, but I kind of need emergency babysitting." He glanced down at the girl in his arms and returned his hopeful golden eyes to me.
"What's wrong?" I asked, wondering if something had happened to his brothers.
Edward's responding look was reassuring. "I need to run to the university to help Angela fix one of the pianos. There's a big concert tonight so I need to hurry, and I can't have this one underfoot."
I smiled at the squirming toddler in his arms. "I can see how that would be a problem. Come on Alice," I offered, taking her from Edward, "Jasper's going to be so happy to see you."
"Japper!" Alice squealed. She was delighted, as always, to spend time with her best friend.
Edward kissed me, his appreciation evident in the soft press of his lips against mine.
"Thanks for doing this. I appreciate it."
I grinned, unable to resist leaning in to sneak one last kiss. "You'll make it up to me," I said in a suggestive tone. I would be more than happy to cash in on that I-owe-you. "Now go save the concert."
Edward waved and said his goodbyes to Alice. The affection they had for one another was so cute it made my heart melt. A blink later, he was gone.
I closed the door behind me, turning to find my aunt watching from the staircase.
"Who was that?" she asked, descending the last few steps. She chuckled when she spotted the girl in my arms. "Nevermind, I think I can guess. Where is Edward?"
"Not here. He had to go to the university to help Angela out. I guess Emmett and Carlisle were busy? So Miss Cullen is hanging out with us for awhile."
"What a hardship." Esme tickled Alice, who giggled and halfheartedly pushed her away.
"Impatient to see Jasper, huh? He's watching Pinocchio," I explained. "Let's go find out if he's a real boy, yet."
I turned to take Alice into our living room, but was startled by the door bursting open behind me. Assuming Edward had returned or forgotten something, I turned to greet him with a smile.
Instead of my boyfriend, I came face to face with another vampire. The brilliant red eyes made it clear that he didn't share my vampire's values when it came to protecting human life.
"Hello, Bella," the unknown vampire greeted pleasantly.
I backed away as several others filed in behind him, each of them wearing the same inky cloaks. As they converged on Alice and I, it hit me like a punch to the gut; these vampires were the Volturi that Edward had told me about.
Aro was instantly recognizable. If his long, oily hair and papery skin hadn't given him away, the crazed look in his eyes would have done it.
I backed myself into a corner, holding my body between Alice and the intruders, though the logical part of my mind knew to do so was futile. They were so much stronger than me that any attempt to protect Alice would be in vain.
"What do you want?" I demanded, refusing to let my voice tremble. If I were to die at the hands of the Volturi, I would do it with my head held high.
"Bella?" Esme questioned, her tone desperate. Her eyes were dilated in fear. "Who are these people? How do they know you?"
I remained mute, unable to communicate the depth of danger we found ourselves in. Nothing I could say would make her understand what these people were capable of.
I stared down the men hovering over us with bravado I didn't possess.
"Jasper!" Esme gasped in remembrance, fleeing to gather her son.
Aro watched her leave the room with a serene smile, as if her escape was the last thing that concerned him. He waved a hand at the largest of the cloaked figures, indicating he should follow her. In a flash, the vampire returned with a stone fist clenched around Esme's bicep. She clutched Jasper to her chest, tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Please don't hurt the children," Esme begged. "Please! I'm begging you!"
Aro ignored her. "Take the seer outside," he commanded a small brunette girl breezily. She couldn't be more than fourteen, yet her cold, world-weary gaze spoke volumes about the unspeakable acts she'd committed. "Alec, Afton and Eleazar will deal with the others."
"My lord, if I may," an olive-skinned vampire interrupted, his words deceptively soft, "the seer is not the only gifted among us. The girl and boy child are also talented."
Aro sighed as if this information ruined his carefully laid plans.
"Is that so?" He held out a hand to the other vampire, who shuffled over, placing his hand in the papery white one.
Aro stood perfectly motionless, his filmy red eyes glazed. After a moment of digging through the man's mind, he burst into cackling laughter. The usual demented gleam returned to his gaze as it settled on me.
"Oh! This is most excellent." I could almost see the cogs turning in his malicious mind. "Most excellent, indeed. We shall use this to our advantage."
I turned to run, unwilling to stand and do nothing. Before I could move an inch, a pair of stone hands jerked me backward violently.
"Give me the child," the brunette girl demanded. Alice whimpered, burying her face in my shoulder.
"Now, Jane, let's be nice," Aro scolded in delighted amusement. "Bella will be one of us soon."
Jane's red eyes turned to slits, unable to mask her disgust.
"As you wish, Aro," she sneered, her lip curling. She tore Alice from my arms, giving me a shove as she did.
I stumbled; the force behind her push made it impossible for me to recover. I tumbled to the ground, ignoring the sting in my knees and palms.
Alice thrashed in the girl's granite grip. Her grey eyes begged me to take her. With one last sneer, Jane disappeared out the door with Alice, who let her terror be known with indignant wails.
"Alec, take the other child to Alice," Aro demanded. "Perhaps that will silence her."
"No! You can't take Jasper," Esme cried, sobbing and clutching her son closer to her chest. "Please, I'll do anything!"
Alec followed the order with a smirk, snatching Jasper from his mother. Esme was helpless to stop him.
Jasper whimpered, reaching for his mother. "No! No! Bad! Bad!" he screeched as Alec carted him outside, where Alice's wails could still be heard.
"You don't have to do this," I beseeched, my heart tearing for my aunt's pain. "If you're trying to hurt the Cullens, take me instead. Leave the others out of it."
Aro glided over, crouching next to me. "My dear, you are more valuable than you realize."
He stroked my cheek. I cringed, skittering backward. Having his hand on me made me feel unclean.
Aro's tranquil smile said he was undeterred. "So spirited." He stood, nodding to the other vampires. "Change the girl and dispose of the spare."
With a swish of his cloak, he was gone.
"Esme!" I cried, scrabbling to reach her as the two remaining vampires descended.
"Bella! Oh god!" she sobbed, gripping my forearms. "What do the Cullens have to do with this? Why are they doing this to us?"
"I'm sorry," was all I was able to whisper, before we were separated.
The olive-skinned vampire dragged me away while the other vampire did the same to Esme. I struggled against the iron grip holding me in place, kicking and screaming with all my energy. It was a pointless endeavour.
There was a sharp pain in my chest, followed by bone-numbing pain. I crumpled, succumbing to the sudden agony. Blackness descended, but provided no relief; I could still feel each stab of pain acutely.
The torment was inescapable and all encompassing; I could feel, hear, see nothing. Only an unending sea of misery lay before me.
Years later, just as I was about to go mad from the endless agony, the pain began to drift away, gradually becoming more bearable.
After an eon, my senses began to return from the void.
I could feel something soft beneath me. I could smell the odors of everyone who had been here before me. Voices began to drift into my consciousness.
I tried to move, but my body refused.
"She's twitching like she's having a seizure."
The words were said in a cruel, high-pitched voice I recognized as Jane's. She chuckled, relishing my pain.
"Stupid bitch. I hope she suffers."
"Now, now, sister," a smoother, calmer voice reprimanded with a hint of amusement.
"I'm sure Aro has his reasons for keeping her."
"Of course he does," Jane drawled, a note of worship in her syrupy tone. "Aro never does anything without purpose."
"The Cullens are on their way to claim her as we speak. Demetri's been keeping tabs on them. They landed in Italy last night. They're biding their time, I suppose."
Jane sounded surprised. "Where are they now?"
"Demetri was vague. Somewhere near the French and Swiss border. Apparently Carlisle Cullen," Alec spat the name with distaste, "owns a property there."
Jane was unperturbed. "I don't understand all this fuss for her. She's utterly useless. Aro already has Renata for a shield. Why does he need another?"
The siblings laughed. The malice in their giggles sent a shiver down my spine.
"She'll make a pathetic addition to the guard." Jane continued, her voice laced with spite. "She's unworthy of such honour."
Alec sighed in a longsuffering way. "You know as well as I do that she is a means to an end. Aro desires to have Edward Cullen. His gift is more unique than his mate's."
"She's unworthy of him," Jane sneered. "Edward should have picked a mate with gifts equal to his own."
I heard what she had left unsaid. She had wanted Edward. Red-hot fury boiled within me at the thought of that little bitch being anywhere near him.
"She doesn't hold a candle to you," Alec simpered to his sister. "Edward is a fool. This girl is utterly useless. Her only value is as a pawn that will tie Edward to Volterra as Aro wishes."
Something in me exploded. The frayed thread that tethered me where I lay snapped.
Without warning, I was flying across the room toward Alec, my mind teeming with anger. Everything that had happened over the last few days came to a head, fueling my rage.
The way they were manipulating Edward; that I was being used to hurt him; the two innocent children that had been ensnared in the process; the thoughtless disregard for Esme's life. All of it converged in that moment.
I glanced down at my hands in horror. The rough texture between my fingers alerted me that I was holding Alec's head in my hands, gripping his hair in my balled fist. His sightless eyes were glazed with death. In utter disgust, I tossed his head in a corner.
Jane stared at the scene in shock.
"Alec!" she screeched. "You fucking cunt!"
"Shut up," I snapped. "Just shut up."
Jane was irate that I would dare challenge her. "You have no idea who you're messing with, do you? No one fucks with the Volturi! Least of all some pathetic nobody like you! Aro is going to punish you for this stunt! You're going to begging for him to kill you when I'm done with you."
She stared at me, a smug smile twisting her childlike features into something ugly. After a moment, a look of pure terror flashed across her face. She turned to run but I was faster.
I catapulted myself across the room, landing on her shoulders. The two of us crashed into an adjacent table, wood splintering around us. Flipping her over and pinning her with my heavier weight, I growled in her petrified face.
"This is for Edward," I snarled, yanking her head clean from her neck.
Throwing it into the corner where Alec's head was still squirming, I stood, brushing the splinters of wood from my tattered clothing.
I glanced around the room that I hadn't paid much attention to until that moment. My keen instincts instantly zeroed in on the tiny basement window as a means of escape. The vaulted ceilings could have made it difficult to reach. Lucky for me, my new vampire body could scale the wall with ease.
I listened for a moment, to see if anyone was approaching to find the source of the ruckus we'd caused. I couldn't make out any voices in the area beyond the door. It appeared I was alone. Or perhaps the room was soundproofed, even to my sensitive vampire ears.
Not dwelling on the reason, I stripped Jane out of her heavy black robe. We were close to the same height. With the hood down and her scent lingering on the heavy fabric, perhaps it would buy me some time if I were to be spotted.
Cringing at Jane's cloying scent, I wrapped myself in the robe.
With one last glance around the room, I clambered up to the window I'd spotted. I punched out the glass pane as if it were made of tissue paper. It was a close fit, but I managed to squirm though.
Yanking the hood of Jane's robe down to conceal my face, I darted away from the building I had escaped from. I ran at the speed of wind, meandering through the narrow streets and avoiding open areas where I would be easily spotted.
My legs pumped at an inhuman pace, the ground hardly touching my bare feet. Hoping I was a blur to curious human eyes, but too terrified to slow down, I ran without purpose, putting as much distance between my captors and myself as possible.
When I was surrounded by greenery, deep within the Italian countryside, I decided I was no longer in immediate danger.
I abandoned Jane's weighty cloak, unable to tolerate her putrid scent a moment longer. Remembering what I'd learned from years of safety drills at summer camp, I made sure to cross my own path and travel in circles to confuse anyone who might be searching for me.
Secure in the knowledge that I was safe for the time being, I slowed to a steady sprint and considered my options.
I'd instinctively run to the north, where Alec had mentioned Edward and his brothers were. Other than my innate compass, which told me I was heading north, I had no idea where I was.
I could smell a hiking trail somewhere to the east. The pungent aroma of human sweat and exertion was dense and made my throat burn. Hoping I could find a map that would give me a better idea of where I needed to go, I headed in that direction. I kept my distance from the worn path, unable to tolerate the intense burn of being so near where countless humans had trampled.
Within minutes, I came to a clearing with what looked to be a guidepost. I noted with relief that there was an information centre. I made my way over to it, well aware of my disheveled state. I was relieved to see it was closed for the evening and appeared to be empty.
"Sorry," I muttered to no one as I smashed the door open. It was necessary, but I still felt bad about destroying property that wasn't mine.
Inside I found a wall covered in hiking and tour brochures. Snatching one that claimed to be a map of Europe, I ripped it open. Unused to my newfound strength, I tore the delicate paper. I paid the gash in the map no mind.
Pleased this map would be satisfactory for my needs, I stuffed it in my pocket.
Half an hour and several consultations to my map later, I was sure I was getting close to the area that Alec had indicated. With my unmatched ability to calculate the distance I'd travelled and my innate knowledge of directions, orienteering was a hell of a lot easier than it had ever been as a human.
Listening carefully for any sign of Edward or his brothers, I combed the landscape. I crisscrossed the land in ever widening circles, hoping to stumble upon something that might help me find them. I had no idea where they would be, or if Alec's information had been accurate. Without any money or other options, I was growing desperate.
As hours slipped by without a sign, I grew more frantic. I felt near tears, but was now incapable of them. Slumping onto a fallen log, I allowed myself a moment of pity. I consulted my now worse-for-wear map for the hundredth time (actually the hundred and eighth, but who was counting?) sure I had to be getting close.
I would give myself a couple more hours to find them, I promised myself. If I came up empty, I would figure out how to get back home and hope they would find me there.
Feeling better now that I had formed a contingency plan, I continued scouring the countryside, my eyes and ears sharpened for any clue that would lead me in the right direction.
I'd been at it another forty-five minutes when I came across the most mouthwatering scent I'd ever smelled in my life.
Fighting the urge to follow it was impossible.
Try I as I might, my feet had a mind of their own, carrying me toward the ambrosial scent. I was frightened by the power of my desire and the knowledge that it was quite possible I would hurt someone.
Then I heard the most wonderful voice in the world.
"Not a chance," Edward whispered, his voice light with laughter.
Unable to resist, I careened toward him, leaping onto him with the delicacy of a freight train. We tumbled to the ground, rolling around in dirt and leaves. Edward growled in surprise.
"Bella?" he gasped suddenly, just as I sunk my teeth into the solid flesh of his neck. He groaned as I sucked greedily, unable to help myself.
"Edward!" I sniffed, yanking myself away from him. Panic surfaced to replace the pleasure. I'd tried to hurt Edward! I was disgusted with myself.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to bite you! I was just so happy to finally find your scent… and next thing I know, I'm trying to kill you!"
Edward seemed unconcerned, pulling me against him with a glorious smile that made me feel fluttery.
"You weren't trying to kill me," he explained, tenderly brushing a thumb over my cheek. I searched his eyes, desperate to believe him. The last thing I wanted to do was hurt him. "You were telling me you loved me. You were claiming me as yours… marking your territory."
Still wary, I glanced into his golden eyes, certain he was just trying to make me feel better.
"Um, well that's good to know, because it felt really, um, nice."
I was glad my human tendency to turn red was gone, because that was the understatement of the century. I was quite embarrassed by just how amazing it had felt. The mere memory of sinking my teeth into him sent a tingle of pleasure surging down my spine.
"For me, too," Edward assured, kissing my forehead and then each cheek, his hands slipping over my hips and the small of my back, getting accustomed my new form. "It's one of the ways we show affection."
I combed my fingers through his hair, shaking out the dirt and leaves that had gotten caught in the coppery mess when I'd wrestled him to the ground.
I scanned his form, paying close attention to where I'd bitten, making sure I'd done no permanent damage. The skin was already healed. God, it hurt to look at him now. If I'd thought he was gorgeous before, that was nothing compared to how he looked without the blurred filter of human sight. He was perfect.
"You're not just saying that? I really didn't hurt you?"
"You didn't hurt me." He pressed his erection to my stomach as evidence. Greedily, I shifted closer, desperate for more of him. My mate.
A loud cough interrupted our reunion. I snarled at the intruder, springing to my feet defensively. Edward was mine, and no one would touch him without my permission.
Edward's soft touch dragged my attention back to his concerned face. He caressed my fingers with his, slowly dragging them up my forearm. I was helpless to do anything but stare down at him, more than a little turned on by his touch.
"Bella," he intoned in his smooth baritone, "you remember my brothers Carlisle and Emmett?"
Still feeling a little out of sorts, I glanced at the interlopers for the first time. I recognized them immediately, though they looked different through my new eyes. I nodded, embarrassed by how I had reacted to their presence, but still wary of them for reasons I couldn't explain.
Edward stood, wrapping himself around me, his hands settling on my stomach. His presence anchored me, making me feel more in control of myself.
"I'm sorry, of course I remember," I offered in embarrassment. "I'm just not used to this." I gestured to my new vampire body.
Carlisle smiled in his gentle way, his body language emanating warmth and approachability. "You're demonstrating unbelievable control for a newborn. That you're able think rationally enough to carry on a coherent conversation is extraordinary. Most newborns are feral for the better part of a year."
"I growl at the slightest movement!" I countered, "And - and I bit Edward! I don't feel rational."
"That's completely normal," Emmett offered with a laugh. "Vampires are driven by instinct. As your mate, Edward makes you react more strongly than anyone else. Your instincts tell you to protect him, even at the cost of your own life."
"He doesn't need me to protect him," I pointed out, confused.
Emmett gave me a wry smile. "I think you'd be surprised. He's kind of been a wreck without you. Besides, like I said, it's instinct. Whether he needs you to or not, your instincts insist you protect him."
That would explain why I'd reacted so strongly to Emmett and Carlisle, initially. The knowledge that it wasn't just overreaction on my part made me feel a little better.
"Perhaps you should explain how you found us," Carlisle suggested calmly. "I imagine it's a long story."