Chapter I: Smiles of Sunshine
"A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you."
Set when Renesmee is physically around thirteen.
The hunt had begun.
Morning dew hit the lowland trees, glistening from the mist that was starting to hang over the woodland. But the sun was still bright in its setting. It cast an orange glow that illuminated the light, but darkened the shade.
The perfect time for stalking prey.
Breathe in. Breathe out.
His footsteps glided over the leaves that should have crinkled, but his step was so light that he didn't make a sound.
His golden eyes darted left and right, calculating each step before taking it. As the darkness that had settled in began to rise and vanish, his honeyed hair blew in the gentle morning breeze. The locks, the stunning figure, the eyes that drew people in without a second glance: a predator of unparalleled power. So angelic and deceptively innocent; yet his every molecule was a means of capturing the attention of those who would inevitably fall victim to his beauty.
He enticed prey.
And he meant to.
His ear picked up the almost imperceptible sound of movement to the east and with gentle steps he moved forward, a smile forming on his lips. There was a quiet rustle of an animal grazing and he became alive with the thrill of the hunt. And he was off in the sound's direction, skittering around trees and over fallen trunks, his mouth watering to the scent that was growing stronger with every step—
But then a twig snapped behind him and his daughter fell into the clearing. Straight onto her hands and knees with a bang and a groan. The sound and smell of prey disappeared instantly.
Edward sighed and darted to the fallen Renesmee. "Are you alright? Did you hurt yourself?"
Nessie scowled at the scrapes on her palms. "Only my pride," she muttered.
Edward took her hands and frowned at them. "You've got to be more careful, darling."
"I was only trying to keep up with you."
Guilt crept up his spine and into his veins. He was trying to encourage her with his speed, not force her to struggle to keep up. "I'm sorry, Nessie; I should have waited for you."
"No. I know I have to learn. It's just . . . hard." Renesmee's vampire instincts had grown very shallow since she was young; her human side was far more prevalent. Running, hunting, preying, all the things that came so natural to him were such a struggle for her.
So much of her was human and wasn't compatible in the vampire world. But she was trapped in it. And tried so hard to belong.
He kissed both of her palms softly. "Better?"
She smiled. "A little."
Edward stood up and bent down slightly so she could climb on his back. "Come on, that's enough for today. Let's get home. We can try again tomorrow." Renesmee complied quickly and wrapped her arms around his neck. He walked back in the direction of their house, slowly, leisurely.
What am I doing wrong? she thought to him. She knew she was doing a lot of it wrong. What she really needed to know was how she could improve.
"Well," Edward said. "For starters, you need to be really quiet. No louder than the wind."
Renesmee made a frustrated noise and rested her head on his shoulder. That's easy for you. You're always quiet. I'm . . . loud.
Edward laughed and gave her arm a squeeze. "You'll get it eventually. And in the mean time, your grandma Esme delights in cooking for you."
Renesmee smiled but didn't reply. It bothered her sometimes that she couldn't keep up with the rest of her family, that she wasn't like them, that she was just so different, so out of place. So lost.
"You're not lost, Nessie, and you're not out of place. You're just special."
Special. That had worked when she was a baby. When special was a good thing. But she didn't want to be special anymore. She just wanted to be like everyone else.
Edward let out a gust of air that wasn't so much a sigh as it was the strange cry-thing her vampire family did when they were upset. He stopped and put her on the ground so he could turn and look his daughter in the eye. He bent to her height and placed a hand on either of her cheeks.
"Renesmee, my darling, you're like us in every way that matters." He tilted her chin until she was forced to look at him. His golden gaze bore into hers. "You're just like us, Nessie—but you're better. You don't have to hunt and kill if you don't want to. You're good."
Good. That was the word now. Instead of special. Good.
He sighed in earnest now, and bowed his head. He had no idea how to comfort her. So he just turned around and she jumped again onto his back. She relaxed into his shoulders once more. I love you, Daddy.
"I love you, too, Nessie."
Renesmee smelled breakfast in the air as she and her father approached the big house. She was hungry, not overly so, seeing as she had just finished an elk.
The moment she stepped through the front door, she was swept into a hug so tight her chest deflated like a popped balloon. "Good morning, sunshine," Emmett crooned. "Nice to see you up and about and out of bed!" It didn't matter that Nessie had been up for the past two hours to hunt with Edward, the fact that she had to sleep at all was enough for her Uncle Emmett. "And how are we this fine, fine day?"
Renesmee rolled her big brown eyes over his shoulder before he put her down. It was customary, there was no avoiding it. He did this every morning. So she told him she was good, and when he asked if she'd slept well, she told him that, yes, she'd slept remarkably.
She left him to make for the kitchen, where the rest of her family had gathered, but he followed her, making constant quips about the nonsense and weakness of sleeping.
Emmett muttered something about bed's having much better uses, but her father coughed so violently at the same moment that she couldn't really make it out.
Grandma Esme caught her eye from from the stove and gestured towards the kitchen table, which was overflowing with a banquet of breakfast. Jacob was sitting there already, a plate of food stacked high in front of him. He smiled brilliantly at her.
"Thanks, Grandma," Renesmee said, and then to the room in general: "Morning."
"Good morning, Renesmee, honey," her mother said and pulled her into a hug much tighter yet far softer than Emmett's. When Bella drew back, she studied her for a moment as though she was searching for cracks or scratches or damages. And Nessie knew her father had told. He had been quick. They were barely back five minutes.
He looked guiltily at her and she flicked her gaze away, embarrassed at the hunting and the falling and the conversation that had followed.
"Are you—?" Bella then asked, but Renesmee cut her off with an "I'm fine, Mom" before she could start an inquisition.
Bella could obviously sense this, and left her alone. Renesmee had a vague recollection of once being told that her mother had been prone to such things as falling over and embarrassment, so Nessie supposed she understood.
The rest of her family greeted her then: Aunt Rosalie hugged her and kissed her and told her she looked beautiful. Aunt Alice complained of Renesmee's clothes and how she hadn't worn what had been left out for, but seemed to let it slide for now. Uncle Jasper rolled his eyes at his wife. He raised his hand in silent greeting and Nessie beamed at him.
She took the seat between Jasper and Jacob, two of her favourite people in the world, and grabbed a slice of toast.
It was strange, how well Renesmee and Jasper got on. But they did, for as long as she could remember, and she never questioned it.
She jumped suddenly when her chair wobbled. Jacob had kicked it.
Her head shot up and she glared at him. "What's wrong with you?" she implored.
"Uh," – he gestured around widely – "Have you forgotten someone?"
"Oh, yeah," Renesmee said, and turned purposely to her father. "Where's Grandpa?" Though she had her back to him, she could feel Jacob frowning in irritation.
Edward smiled at her. He liked watching her annoy Jacob. "At the hospital," he told her. Grandpa Carlisle worked at some hospital in Seattle, having left his job in Forks some years ago when it became apparent he wasn't aging.
Thump. Jacob kicked her chair again.
She looked at him over her shoulder. "What, Jacob?" She tried to sound angry, but it mostly came out amused.
"Good morning, Nessie." He raised his eyebrows, like he was waiting for something vitally important. She wanted to both groan in exasperation and smile in happiness all at the same time. Emotions with Jacob were getting to be so confusing all of a sudden.
Nessie looked back to Jacob and made the words sound like they required the most obscene amount of effort: "Good morning, Jake."
He smiled like sunshine. "I thought you'd forgotten about me for a moment."
Renesmee was trying to think of something witty to reply with when Rosalie scoffed. "Like we could forget. If the smell wasn't enough, you never shut up."
Nessie rolled her eyes and ate some breakfast while they exchanged customary Blonde/Dog jokes.
She was starting to get full when Emmett asked suddenly: "So how was hunting?" He was always so overly excited. Especially about things that involved violence. "How many? Were they big? They put up a fight?"
Renesmee didn't want to talk about the disaster that had be hunting this morning, and she rather wished the ground would swallow her whole when Jacob stopped eating so he could pay attention. It was quite a big deal when Jacob stopped eating to do anything.
"I – um –" Her family knew she wasn't the best hunter, after all she was only part vampire, but she hated to admit it. Besides, for a while it seemed like she'd been getting better.
"Fantastic," her dad said for her. "Excellent. She had a whole elk." He didn't mention that he had actually done the catching. Or that she fell and scared away all the other animals in a two mile radius. And he was so convincing. She was glad to have him on her side.
Edward winked at her.
Renesmee finished all she could eat and pushed her plate to Jacob, like always. He smiled his best Jacoby smile and ate gladly. She spent the rest of the evening trying with every ounce of her restraint to not think about that smile.
At ten o'clock that night, Renesmee sat in her room, reading her much tattered copy of Pride and Prejudice. She didn't care what her mother said: this book far surpassed Wuthering Heights. It was about friendship and sistership and falling in love with someone despite your best intentions and against your mother's wishes, falling in love with someone who loved you against reason and without obligation. Who simply loved you because they couldn't help do anything but.
She sighed aloud when Mr Darcy confessed his love to Elizabeth Bennett. This book always made her so emotional. She was tearing up. "You have bewitched me body and soul, and I love, I love, I love you. And wish from this day forth never to be parted from you." And she understood completely. Or, at least, she thought she did. She knew what it was like to love someone so much she never wanted to be parted from them. But to have them so out of reach, and also know you would never, ever have them.
She envied Lizzie there: she got her Darcy in the end. Nessie would never get hers.
Renesmee almost jumped out of her skin when there was a knock on the window behind her. Jacob was pulling open the pane and climbing in. She relaxed a little at the sight of him, but was far too preoccupied with thoughts of Mr Darcys and true loves and happily ever afters tonight.
He nudged her to make room for him so he could lie down on the bed and she suddenly was very aware of her pyjamas. He relaxed and folded his hands behind his head. He did this every night—well, every night he wasn't working—and had done it for as long as she could remember.
Her parents must know. How could they not? They can hear her breathing from the other room, let alone the noise of a full grown werewolf climbing in her window. But they never said anything to her about it, not a word. They were still at the big house, so she knew he'd turn up eventually. He always came when she was by herself.
She was closing the book to set it on her dresser when Jacob suddenly placed his finger beneath her chin.
"Nessie – Nessie, are you crying?" He looked so concerned.
She quickly wiped the stray tears away with her sleeve and tried to laugh. "No, I'm fine." She pulled her face away and Jacob sat up immediately.
"What's wrong? Are you okay—"
"No, there's nothing wrong with me. I was just – reading this book, and—"
Jacob's face perked up at once. He grinned a bit. "You were crying over a book?" The word book sounded like a profanity.
Renesmee shoved his shoulder. "Shut up. It's a classic."
"Some heroic war tragedy where everyone dies?" He reached over her towards the dresser.
"What? No –" She snagged the book first and held it away from him at body's length. "People don't have to die for it to be sad."
"As long as it's not some chick-flick." Chick-flick – another bad word. His eyes were trained on the cover. "Just show it to me."
"No," Renesmee said. "And it's not some chick-flick." He was trying to stretch around her. She put one hand to his chest and held the book in her other hand as far away as her thirteen year old body could reach.
"Just show me."
Jacob seemed to appraise her for a minute, his gaze darting from her face to her hand. Fast as lightning, he leaned around her body and she squealed. "No – Jake –" She held the book farther away, but his arms were just so much longer.
"Just – let me – see." He grabbed it and rolled backwards and off the bed.
Renesmee borrowed her head in her pillows and groaned. "God, Jacob Black, you are so annoying."
He hooted in victory. When she peeked out, he was staring at her incredulously.
"Pride and Prejudice?"
"What?" She sat up and went to her dresser, content to ignore him as much as possible until he just went home. "There's nothing wrong with that book."
He must have picked up on her mood because he eased up a bit. "I know, I just don't see what's sad in this."
She peered at him over her shoulder. "You've read it?"
"No, but I've sisters. I picked up the gist."
Renesmee made an irritated sound. She walked over to him, snagged the book back, and returned it to its rightful spot on her bookshelf. "Well then you wouldn't understand. You wouldn't appreciate the story."
Jacob sat down on her bed again. "I get the story. Girl meets guy. Guy's an ass. Girl loves him anyway."
"No, no, no. That's not the story at all. It's about overcoming adversity, and about love."
Jacob shrugged like he was giving up. "I still don't get why you were crying. If it's about love or whatever, why's it sad?"
"Jacob, I wasn't crying because it was sad." She was nervous to look up at him, and when she did, she was surprised to find him already watching her with a nonsensical amount of curiosity.
His voice came out so quietly: "Then why were you crying?" He was so desperate to understand, so eager to fill his well of Renesmee-related knowledge.
Nessie sat next to him on the bed. "I don't know. Because it's a happy book? Because everybody gets a happy ending? Because, in the end, all their fighting pays off and everything's worth it? Because they fall in love."
She looked at him again, and he was still staring at her. His expression was strange, like he was trying to work out a difficult problem.
Renesmee was suddenly self-conscious. "What? Am I only supposed to cry at sad books?" She was trying to be mad, but her voice was a whisper. "Is there something wrong with love being more moving than death?" Why were they whispering?
She realised how stupid she was sounding and waited for him to make fun of her like he usually did. But he just whispered, "You're a romantic, Nessie."
"Is that bad?"
Whisper: "Of course it's not bad."
The phone on her dresser buzzed and Nessie's eyes snapped away from Jacob's so she could get to it. A text from her dad: they'd be home soon. His timing was always impeccable. Jacob shrugged like his shoulders had tightened. "Romance just makes you a bit of a sop," he told her. Good old Jacob.
Renesmee remembered she was mad at him and shoved his shoulder again. "Shut up."
"I'm kidding, Ness," he said. He stood up and started going through her collection of CDs, which she was sure he already knew the contents of. He turned around suddenly, and said with complete uncertainty: "I'm your best friend, Nessie, right?"
Renesmee stared at him for a moment, shocked beyond speech. Best friend? Of course he was her best friend. She was closer to him than anyone else in the world. If anything, best friend wasn't strong enough.
"Of course, Jacob. Of course you're my best friend." And before she could think to stop herself, her arms were around him and her cheek was on his chest. "Who else would it be, Jake? Who else?"
They stayed like that for a long while, neither really wanting to move. But she eventually pulled back and as she did Jacob asked: "So – you're coming to La Push tomorrow?"
Of course, Jacob. Of course I'm coming. I'd go to the end of the world to be with you. "Sure," she said. "If you like."
Jacob smiled and the sun shone in her bedroom at eleven o'clock at night.
COMING UP . . .
He smiled then and took a step closer. "I don't know, Ness. You're getting really old now." He squinted at her. "Is that a gray hair?"
She stormed past him, down the worn path in the forest, infuriated. But she barely got five steps before he caught her arm. "Okay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'll do it properly." He was still smiling when she turned around.
He looked at her, and she looked at him, and his eyebrows tightened in concentration, and the smile teetered off his face. It took a hundred years for him to say: "Sixteen." It wasn't a question this time.
Renesmee wanted to say something smart, something witty, something romantic even, but she couldn't think of anything and then the quiet began to envelope her. Words would be wasted in silence that perfect.