Disclaimer: I do not own The Twilight Saga. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc. I make no profit from this writing.
A/N: A Christmas story that I had to write. It actually began last year and I've been working steadily on it since, but I didn't find the inspiration to finish it until now.
This actually is a sequel of sorts to my stories Emotionless (#1) and Little Gem (#2), so if you want to understand some of this story's background a little better, go read those. :)
To Hear The Angels
"Up a little further, Nessie!" Alice's perpetually enthusiastic voice squeaked through my eardrums – at a painfully chipper volume – as she pointed to the corner where my "three"-year-old daughter was resignedly assisting in the placement of garland. My sister unashamedly defiled my little girl's beautiful, poignant name with that frustrating moniker that Jacob had never quite been forgiven for.
Renesmee rolled her chocolate brown eyes in exasperation at her gleeful aunt, the only one of the family who could do so and still be alive afterward. Well... No… that wasn't entirely true. Carlisle could do it, actually; he had done it once a few years ago and was never given a single hint of scorn from his pixielike daughter. I had been so amazed by his talent, so-called, that I'd hugged him – the surprise on his face was priceless. Esme was even unable to show blatant annoyance towards Alice, though Esme would rarely do such a thing anyway. She was a naturally kind woman who adored her children – and spending time with them – so much that she often ignored how aggravating they might be sometimes. The one occasion where Esme rolled her eyes at Alice, the psychic vampire had come back with a snappy retort before Esme's eyes even fully rolled back to their original position.
Rose was helping quite liberally with the decorations this year, considering her spat with Alice just the previous holiday season. I was in no way complaining, considering it put me 'out of work' – thank heaven for that – but I never saw a person who so disliked putting up Christmas wreaths until I met Rosalie Hale. She despised the things for some reason I had yet to comprehend, but I had decided long ago not to ask. It wasn't hard to realize that it was somehow related to some of her more regrettable human memories. I'd sometimes wondered if Royce King and his foul friends had assaulted her around Christmas time, but again I would never dare to ask. Her story was depressingly easy to remember now and to even imagine she wanted to think about that time again was sheer stupidity.
Emmett, for his part, was beyond gleeful to be helping put up décor for the season. As always, he was acting like a little child; waiting expectantly for Christmas morning to dawn bright and early, with presents and stockings for him to tear through. Since Renesmee's birth, my bear of a brother's excitement for this particular holiday had even risen to new heights. There had been an on-and-off contest between him, Renesmee, and Jacob about who could open their presents faster. Safe to say Emmett always won, but Renesmee had quite a few scheming helpers who were willing to purposefully slow Emmett's gift-opening progress this year. To his misfortune, Rose was the main contender.
To everyone's surprise, Jacob's presence at our Christmas celebrations was not frequent at all. Occasionally he stepped in – mostly when Rachel and Rebecca both ventured home to La Push for the holiday. There was a lot of tension between Jacob and his sisters for some reason that I had yet to discern. Edward knew something of it; he couldn't very well help hearing Jake's thoughts. (I very rarely blocked anyone from my husband's 'reading'; Edward's ability was too useful, in case he heard the Volturi or saw something in another person's head that might clue him into their dark presence.) All in all, considering how rare Rachel and Rebecca's stays were, Jacob wasn't at the big house very often. This year was one of those rare times and Emmett was planning to take full advantage of it with plenty of gaming and male bonding. If anybody could relate completely to Jake's all-out rough-playing, piggish, tough guy attitude... it was Emmett.
Jasper, however, was rather uncomfortable around Jacob. Although I'd had my suspicions for a long while about why that was, I didn't want to bring it up until I felt comfortable enough to ask for myself. For a time, I too had seemed to be someone who made Jasper rather uncomfortable. In the months since he and Alice had come home, Jasper seemed to pull away from me a bit. Whereas before the Volturi confrontation he had followed me around to share in my happy emotional climate, Jasper began to stay back once more, as he had during the time when I was still human. Edward and Alice had to reassure me multiple times that he was not upset with me in any way, nor did he dislike me for any reason. But in the midst of all my joy with Edward and Renesmee, Jasper's distance had made me feel quite sad. As he began to notice my worsening moods, Edward finally decided to step in and make Jasper buck up to whatever was bothering him.
How was I to know he didn't want to experience my joy so closely because when he had done that before, he and Alice were forced to leave and the abrupt loss of my happiness had depressed him worse than ever? Thankfully the ensuing conversation had enlightened both me and Jasper about the dynamics of our relationship and the distance disappeared with my honey-haired brother.
Loath though I was to admit it to Emmett's face, Jasper swiftly became my favorite. He was a calm, but talkative sort of person who knew when to stay silent and when to speak, not merely due to his gift. The fact that he didn't prank me was a plus that I reluctantly confessed as being a large part of why I liked him so much. Edward openly admitted his gladness at my growing bond with his battle-scarred brother. According to Edward, Jasper had always been a bit of an odd-man-out, as far as the sibling relationships went. Edward and Alice had their own little bond, thanks to their abilities. Rosalie and Alice were also close, having been the only two girls 'born' in the family for so long. Emmett was very close with Edward, despite their opposing personalities. And no matter how annoyed he was with Emmett most of the time, I knew Edward still loved his burly brother quite a lot. They both enjoyed horsing around with each other. Emmett kept alive the boyish side of Edward, really.
As far as I was concerned, Alice was a great friend to me; my best friend. Yes, she was also a sister to me, but because of how close she was with Edward, it was truly as though she was my sibling in marriage alone. Rose and I, while retaining a fully congenial relationship now, would never be really close. She had difficulty in expressing her feelings towards most people (except Emmett and Renesmee) and after admitting herself wrong once before, it wasn't likely to happen again.
Emmett, while amusing and always in good spirits, tended to be too boisterous for my liking at times. I wasn't a fan of the spotlight, even now, and the big vampire always seemed to be putting me in precisely that spot. Jasper never did that. Like me, he enjoyed staying back a little, stepping into the shadows a bit to give the 'crowd favorites' a chance to shine. We both enjoyed reading and after learning more about some parts of history than a history book would ever be able to tell, the leonine vampire had me hooked on learning about the past. It helped that I was so fascinated by my family's histories.
Carlisle's history, of course, had garnered immense interest on my part. He had done so many things and seen so many places that it was almost stifling to imagine the tumult of it all. But beneath that, he had been very lonely in his travels. I could only imagine how much that dampened his enthusiasm, when he had no one with whom to share his new experiences. It was, in part, this very fact which led me to start investigating my new father's history more than anyone else's.
It amazed me, really, how little Carlisle's other children wanted to learn about that history. Even Edward seemed as though he had better things to do than discuss it. He was so busy as a father with Renesmee that he appeared to have forgotten about his own. Not that I resented him spending so much time with our daughter. It was simply bothersome to me; the fact that no one even considered it worth conversation.
Personally, I had been a little worried about Carlisle. Lately, he spent a great deal of time working on any number of projects that were not very significant at all. From little things like double-checking passports and licenses that he knew were up to date, up to big things like reviewing every inch of an online library database for information or photographs that might give away our secrets. There were a lot of other jobs Carlisle had assigned to himself, most of them either completed mere months ago or unreasonably pointless to even the most serious victim of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.
On the other hand, Carlisle had also begun to take on projects that someone in our family briefly mentioned, but felt no immense priority for; things that were only vague inclinations of someone he loved. Yet in the past month alone, Carlisle had nevertheless compiled a detailed inventory of Rosalie's cars, parts, and tools; organized and reprinted every one of Edward's musical compositions and notes; cross-referenced an enormous packet of Jasper's personal historical commentaries; and built a particularly specific storage unit for Esme's blueprints and sketches (a unit, incidentally, that would not even be used until we moved in March).
It felt to me like Carlisle was using these 'projects' as a way to show love and affection for his family. Not that he was unwilling to show physical expressions of it. On the contrary, Carlisle had an endless supply of hugs, kisses, kind words, and understanding to bestow upon each and every one of us. It was just that he didn't have many chances to do so of late. He worked almost all hours and days and when he wasn't working, no one in the family actually spent a lot of quality time with him, outside of Esme. Even she was engrossed in other things at times, especially Renesmee. I was beginning to think Esme's long-deceased baby boy was a much larger influence on her behavior than anyone guessed. So much of one that she might inadvertently ignore Carlisle in favor of spending time with her granddaughter.
Carlisle didn't look or act any worse for wear, yet it all got under my skin quite quickly and easily. More than anyone else in our family, Carlisle hid his feelings too deep for most people to even scratch their surface. Today, I was going to change that. Or at least get Carlisle to open up about his past, if nothing else.
"What in the hell are you doing?"
It was a simple enough question really. And one that I felt was not unduly deserved as a greeting at this point in time. I just wasn't entirely certain it would be answered in any satisfactory way by the sheepish-looking doctor sitting on the floor in front of me.
My plans to get Carlisle into a discussion of his feelings and his history (or one of them, at least… I wasn't picky) had seemed completely foolproof in the predawn morning. Rosalie and Emmett had taken a few days of personal time, for which I did not want to imagine their activities. Alice and Esme were, as usual, shopping for Renesmee, so that meant they were gone for most of the day. Thankfully, Edward had encouraged my endeavor and took Renesmee out for a day with him and Jasper. Heaven knew, Edward needed a day with his little girl – Jasper or no Jasper, it really didn't make much difference – what with Jacob around so much. It often amazed me that Edward hadn't murdered Jacob yet. Charlie would never have been so patient in a similar situation. Well, to be honest, Charlie would never have accepted imprinting in the first place, so I guessed it wasn't a clear comparison anyway.
All my careful planning came upon quite a stumbling block when I actually made it to the big house. With everyone out for the rest of the day, Carlisle apparently decided to make use of it to engage in another 'project.' This time, he looked to be reorganizing – and redesigning, though Esme might have disagreed on that precise definition – his entire office.
In spite of vampire speed, Carlisle clearly had no idea where he was heading with his redesign plans. All of his paintings were lined up along one wall in no express order. Piles of papers, books, CDs, office supplies, and dozens of other things lay randomly around the floor within radius of the vampire who was sorting them. Needless to say, the place looked rather like a tornado had hit. Hence my rather crude question that had yet to be answered.
The question was spoken rather like a mother who wanted to know why her little boy had just pulled the stuffing out of her favorite pillows. Carlisle, by humorous and irritating contrast, was the father who had pulled the stuffing out of an entire room.
"Eh... I was um..." Carlisle began to say embarrassingly, but after glancing about himself and my raised brow, he finished weakly with, "...organizing."
The last word may as well have been a question itself. The word was definitely dubious in relation to his... well, office.
"I think Esme might disagree with you on that point," was my disbelieving comment. "Mind telling me why it needed to be organized a second time? If I recall correctly, you just did this a year ago. And when I used this office to work on my online classes – which, I might remind you, only ended last month – it was hardly disorganized."
"I just... wanted a bit of change, I suppose," he hedged, not able to make his eyes reach mine while he mindlessly shuffled the papers near his right knee.
"Uh-huh," I muttered disbelievingly, my other eyebrow rising to match its fellow up around my hairline. "So the change we'll be undergoing when we move in three months... What? That wasn't soon enough for you?"
"Oh, well... that's not... not at all what I..." Carlisle spluttered uselessly for a few moments, during which I began to feel quite sorry for him. I wondered if he even realized why he did things like this. Maybe it was a subconscious need to feel useful; one that he hadn't even acknowledged yet.
"Carlisle," I sighed, halting his stuttering immediately. Taking another glance around the room, I decided there was nothing for it but to move his things in order to have a seat anywhere near him. Doing just that, I then settled myself knee-to-knee with Carlisle, taking the papers out of his hands in the process, and gave him a look I had only ever used on Edward when he was being especially difficult.
"What is wrong?" I asked slowly, emphasizing my concern with a grim frown.
"Bella, nothing is wrong." He waved off my worries so casually that my frown only intensified. "It was a whim to do this."
Oh, he was too good at hiding things. I was going to have to do some serious retroactive therapy.
"Don't lie to me, Carlisle," I reprimanded him sternly, ignoring his position as father for the moment. "You have never worked like this before. Certainly not so close to a move. Edward said as much. And didn't you even make a rule that any ties had to be gradually lessened the closer we come to a move? Working this much isn't following that rule, Carlisle. To every human we know, you're becoming a workaholic. That doesn't even cover the extra projects you've been taking on at home. And don't you contradict me!"
Not at all surprised by my scolding, Carlisle sighed and shook his head, but did not respond.
"Please, tell me what's wrong," I encouraged him pleadingly. "Something's really bothering you. Or don't you know what's bothering you, yet?"
"It's just a feeling," he murmured deeply, barely chancing a glance at my steady eyes before looking down again. "Nothing more."
"Feelings can be a big motivator," I suggested knowingly. "Just ask Jasper."
A slight smile, weak yet genuine, crossed Carlisle's face momentarily before he finally answered, "I may very well be imposing it upon myself, but... It seems that time has been scarce to spend together with the rest of you the past few months."
"You mean no one seems to want to spend time with you?" I asked bluntly.
"No, not in the slightest!" He immediately disagreed, although I didn't believe him at all. "I don't require time quotas of company to be filled for me to be happy with my family."
"We all know that," I said simply.
Carlisle didn't respond, but looked intently down at his hands where they lay uselessly in his lap.
"But it must get lonely," I continued softly, finally accepting that I would have to take the lead here, "when people don't spend much time with you on a personal level. Especially compared to how they used to. Honestly Carlisle, I don't like the isolated way you've lived the past few months, but no one can blame you. I've watched you try, time and again, to spend quality time with every member of this family. And it isn't you that declines. It's all been on us. I'm sorry about that."
"You should spend every precious second with your daughter that you can, Bella," he gently reproached me, but the scolding in his words was too mild to bother with. "She's changing so quickly and I would never wish you to ignore that in favor of my company. I have not changed, but Renesmee will."
So stunned was I that someone actually called my little girl by her full first name that I couldn't respond for a few moments. Shaking away the frozen posture I had acquired, I replied with some amazement, "You called her by real name."
Carlisle actually laughed at that, looking far more upbeat than he did earlier. "Yes, I did. I find it a very lovely name and one that should be used. Besides, you gave her that name for a very good reason."
"Thank you," I told him with a smile. "I'm glad somebody appreciates my efforts."
"I was under the impression that Edward does as well." Dry though his tone was, Carlisle looked quite amused.
"I wouldn't really know," I admitted. "He always calls her by a pet name. You know… my little girl, sweetheart, honey, pet... that sort of thing."
"He does that on purpose!" Carlisle laughed again, far more robustly. "He absolutely hates the moniker that Jacob gave her. So do I, for that matter. Well, perhaps not hate, per se."
"Just severely dislike," I muttered with a roll of my eyes, ignoring the fact that I agreed. Carlisle only chuckled and nodded helplessly.
"I'm surprised Renesmee hasn't forced you to give her some kind of pet name, too," I continued thoughtfully. "If I'm not mistaken, most everyone does."
Unaccountably, Carlisle began to fidget slightly and if I had to guess at his expression, I would have labeled it as a blush of embarrassment. "What?" was my suspicious question.
"I do happen to have a pet name for her," he confessed somewhat shyly.
When it became clear he was not going to elaborate, I prodded, "So? What do you call her?"
Heaving a resigned sigh, he mumbled, "Little Gem."
Blinking a bit, I had to wonder what was so bad about that. "And that's... a bad thing?"
"No," he murmured even lower. "Edward just seemed a touch amused when he realized..."
"I think it's really sweet," I explained confusedly. "Where did you get it from?"
The room became quite silent following my question, Carlisle's expression turning on the path towards morbidity. Knowing all too well what such a look meant, I almost scowled. "Are you seriously doing a guilt trip right now?" I complained loudly and irritably.
"All right, all right," he remarked with a wry smile. "I won't."
"Good. Now tell me where you got the name from." I ordered him. Tenderness flooded Carlisle's angelic features so strongly then that he was ten times as handsome as he normally appeared, which was almost impossible to imagine when he was already so beautiful.
"You remember the weeks and months just after Renesmee was born, of course?" he asked suddenly.
"Yes, of course I do," I answered in bewilderment.
"Then you will also remember my... strange behavior? Working all hours and never letting anyone know what I was working on? And that one – rather unfortunate – incident involving several dozen old texts and these very windows to my right?"
"Ah. Eh, yes, I think I do remember that." That incident was branded into all of our memories quite vividly. No one had ever known Carlisle to engage in such a raging fit of temper before. Remembering his reasons for all of it, this line of questioning abruptly began to make a great deal of sense.
"Well, that night when Edward and I both held Renesmee," he went on, reminiscence in his deep golden eyes, "I thought of how unique she would always be; what a precious little gem she was. And I decided that would be my own secret name for her."
For some reason, after a minute of contemplation, he began to chuckle richly. Seeing my raised brow, Carlisle explained, "Of course, manipulative little darling that she is, Renesmee wrangled it out of me."
Smiling affectionately about my sly baby girl, I said, "She's so special."
"That she is," he agreed quietly.
Long moments passed us by, each of us in our own little world of memories. For existing such a brief span of time so far, Renesmee had made quite a few memories with each and every one of our family. No one could resist her, as had been proven just before our confrontation with the Volturi.
"Do you have a particular nickname, Bella?" he asked me suddenly, albeit gently.
Looking into his wise eyes, I wondered if my first-ever name for Renesmee was something to share. Even Edward didn't know about it. But Carlisle had just shared such a personal thing with me that I felt it was only right to share mine, as well; that glorious moment when my baby first connected with me.
"My little nudger," I whispered, laying a reminiscent hand on my permanently flat abdomen. "The first time I felt my baby's nudge… I knew I couldn't lose her."
Nostalgic as I felt, I still noticed the way Carlisle's face turned even more deathly pale than normal. Guilt, grief, and self-loathing – emotions I usually only associated with Edward – all mingled in his eyes like heavy weights dragging Carlisle down.
"What is it? Carlisle, what's wrong?" Worried to the core, I crossed the insignificant gap between our hands to grasp his firmly in my own.
"I'm sorry," he murmured painfully, brows drawing in so tightly that they wrinkled. "To think what I almost… To have forced you… Please forgive me."
For a moment I just stared at him in surprise, until I remembered something Jacob had explained to me after the Volturi were gone. I'd been upset over the fact that I had so little recollection of my pregnancy. No matter how hard and terrible a time it had been for all involved, I wanted to remember my baby girl while she was still warmly cocooned inside my body. In an effort to help me sort out that time, Jacob described everything that had happened during the pregnancy that he knew of, even those things that I was not present for. Jacob and Edward had spoken shortly after Jacob first saw me pregnant and a lot of the words they'd exchanged now tore at me a little bit…
How stupid are you vamps? Hold her down and knock her out with drugs…
I wanted to… Carlisle would have…
"Would you really have…?" I couldn't get the rest of the whispered words past the lump in my throat.
My question was answered when Carlisle closed his eyes as if to ward off great pain. I wanted to cry out at the knowledge of what he would have done to rid me of my baby. I'd trusted him so implicitly, so confidently… My only worries had been of what Edward, in his great panic, might have done to save me from pain and potential death. Never did I think Carlisle was someone to doubt during that time. Rosalie had known, though… Unconsciously I pulled my hands away from his.
"I had no idea what you wanted," he said in a defeated voice as he saw the betrayal on my features, head dropping to his hands. "Edward only told me what he wanted done and I thought… I couldn't imagine he would neglect asking you how you felt. I should have known him better than that. And you sounded so rational on the phone. That should have told me you were not in the panic that he was; that you felt differently."
Pausing in bewildered speechlessness for several moments, Carlisle pulled shaking fingers roughly up through his golden hair. At last, in wake of my own stunned silence, he went on. "Oh, Bella, I'm so terribly sorry. To even think of destroying that darling child, taking away your choice, stealing your daughter from you… It would have destroyed you. My God, I'm just sorry."
Carlisle had thought I felt the same as Edward, because Edward had not asked my opinion, and therefore did not tell Carlisle that I had a different opinion. How could I be angry when Carlisle simply did not know what I wanted in the first place? It was Edward's position to know how I felt when he arranged to abort our baby, not Carlisle's. He should have been able to trust his son where it concerned Edward's own wife.
In the midst of the hurt that had been swelling inside of me, I hated to see him hurting so much himself. I knew all too well how nonviolent this man was and how much he disliked taking anyone's choice away from them, unless they had no other options. For all intensive purposes, I had certainly not appeared to have any other options.
"Stop," I murmured forgivingly, softly reaching up to take his hands in mine. Bleakly, he lifted his eyes to mine, melting all the hurt coursing through me with a dismal expression. "I know you would never intentionally hurt me like that. Edward should have asked me, discussed it all… But of course he was too panicked. Please stop beating yourself up over this. You love us and I know that."
"Thank you, Bella," he smiled weakly, gripping my hands with gratitude. In reply, I leaned forward to hug him tightly, his arms matching the gesture.
"Okay, Carlisle," I sighed as I pulled away, viewing the wildly messy room with vague distaste now that our angst was over. "What are you going to do with this place?"
Shrugging casually and haplessly, Carlisle seemed oblivious to the chaos surrounding us as he replied, "Reorganize, I suppose."
Snorting in a very unladylike way, I added, "We'll even redecorate, if you want."
"We?" Carlisle repeated blankly.
"You really think you'll get this done without help?" I inquired with some measure of disbelief.
His answering laughter made me smile.
Regardless the speeds at which vampires could move, it was two hours later before we made any amount of headway in Carlisle's office. Despite our general knowledge of what things should go with what, there wasn't one iota of decorating expertise between either of us. Wishing fervently for Esme's help, but knowing that was not the point of this particular venture, I continued suggesting different places for Carlisle to put his possessions and came up empty-handed every time. There was always some reason why Carlisle didn't want to move something from his collections, and eventually I gave up. Now we were stuck entirely, staring at a blank wall.
"Okay," I spoke up after a long and tiring silence, fed up with useless gazing. "I quit. We'll come back to this. Let's just… do something else for a little."
"That sounds quite practical," Carlisle agreed with a nod, and if he was human I was sure his eyes would have been glazed over. "What shall we do?"
"I don't know," I sighed exasperatedly. "Tell me a story about Christmas Past or… whatever."
Carlisle actually snorted in response. "This is hardly A Christmas Carol, Bella."
"Yeah, you're right," I nodded, tapping my chin in mock thought. "Probably more like… A Midwinter's Tale."
"Why, you—" Carlisle whipped around to face me. It was difficult to keep my face straight under the scrutiny of his narrowed gaze. Finally, he spoke again, "Watch yourself, my dear. Mentions of Shakespeare may be dangerous to your health."
The two of us stared warily at each other for all of thirty seconds more, when Carlisle's upper lip twitched. That was the straw that broke the camel's back. We burst into laughter all at once, leaning onto each other while our bodies shook with rich amusement.
"Ah, Bella, I thank you," Carlisle told me after we had calmed, leaning down to kiss my forehead affectionately. It was good to see a twinkle reborn in his eye when he pulled back. "I needed that. It is something I have been missing lately, as you probably noticed."
"Yeah, I have," I agreed seriously. "I didn't like it. I'm just glad you're coming back to yourself."
"So am I," the doctor smiled at me, then paused with a contemplative gaze. A minute passed before he spoke again, this time quite seriously. "Would you truly like to hear a story?"
It didn't take any thought to answer, "Sure."
"You've heard most of our Christmas stories already," he said confusedly. "Actually, as quickly as we're able to speak, I have no doubt that five years is enough to hear them all. I'm not too certain what story to tell you."
"Do you remember a human Christmas?" I tentatively suggested, knowing well how hard a life Carlisle had with his father.
"Not many," Carlisle admitted wistfully, casually leaning back against his desk. "Although there is one from when I was quite small. A good memory, too."
"I'm all ears for a good story," I encouraged him kindly, smiling for effect.
Smiling in return, the good doctor breathed deeply and began his tale, "My father was never very sentimental or too easily attached to anything. But one thing he was secretly very attached to was his own childhood Christmases... When I was a child, there was a lake town that we often visited during the winter for my father to deliver a yuletide sermon. They had no minister there and so it was decided he should go out on Christmas Eve each year. One year in particular, when I was about six, the weather turned such a degree that everyone promised the lake would freeze over."
"It didn't normally?" I clarified. Living in a warm state most of my life had limited my knowledge of how ice and large bodies of water worked together during the winter.
"Typically not," he confirmed, continuing on with his story. "I had never seen the lake covered with ice before and I continually pestered my father about what it would look like. Eventually, he told me about his own youth, when the lake had done just that. He recalled how excited he had been to see it. And how beautiful it was. He told me it was so beautiful that the angels came down from heaven to sing its praises."
I smiled at the thought of how that phrase must have astounded the young Carlisle. At a time when angels were believed in as surely as the soil was, any young boy with a strong faith would have found the description significant of how lovely the frozen lake would appear.
"My father thought I would want to see the lake frozen over, of course," Carlisle explained with a faraway look in his golden eyes, turning to look out at the trees surrounding the house. "Unfortunately, that was not at all what I wanted anymore."
"What did you want, then?" I asked confusedly. Hadn't he just explained how fascinated his young self was by the idea of the lake freezing over?
To my surprise, Carlisle's answer did not escape him as mere words, but as a single fluid verse from Ding Dong Merrily On High, sung slower than was typical in his gentle, rhythmic tenor: "To hear the angels singing."
Startled entirely by the abrupt burst of melodious song, which I had never before heard from my father-in-law, I blinked for a few moments until light laughter bubbled from Carlisle's lips. His stance relaxed and he dropped his gaze from the trees outside to glance sheepishly back at me. Shaking myself from the shock, I laughed as well.
"That was lovely, Carlisle," I told him sincerely, smiling at his embarrassment. "You sing so well. I never knew."
"Tis unusual that I sing for anyone," he admitted with an adorably bashful expression. I bit my lip to withhold the grin that almost peeked through at his use of the word 'tis. "But I could hardly contain it for some reason. Perhaps Emmett's sense of humor is finally rubbing off on me after so long."
"I think you should do it more often," I said, allowing my grin to show. If possible, Carlisle's face became even more bashful than before. "Honestly, Carlisle, you're very good."
"Thank you, Bella," he smiled modestly and gratefully all at once. "Esme, Alice, and Edward all sing so wonderfully that I tend to just listen."
"They sing great," I agreed simply. "But something about your voice is so pleasant. Not overbearingly powerful, but not weak. I bet Renesmee would love it if you sang to her occasionally before she goes to sleep."
"Well, Esme usually does that when Renesmee stays the night," he shrugged carelessly. Obviously it would take a direct request from my daughter to make him change his mind. Oh well. Renesmee loved to hear him speak. She would feel no less admiration for his singing, if I told her about it. No doubt a direct request would be in order very soon.
Less than a week later – just two days before Christmas, in fact – my thoughts were proved correct. Everyone, Jacob included, was present at the big house that night to put the last touches to decorations and presents. Alice insisted on pictures the next day. That meant the house had to be perfectly outfitted to the last bow and strip of tinsel while Renesmee was still awake, since there would be no time for the little one to participate in such things the following day. All the furniture had been pushed back (artfully, of course) to allow for the enormous pile of presents surrounding the tree to take precedence, although I still didn't understand how anyone would miss them, what with how high they stood.
Noticing a rather conspicuous absence in the room, I frowned slightly. Where was Carlisle?
Frown firmly in place, I double-checked that no one was paying any overt attention to me before I headed up to the second floor. Sure enough, our leader and father was sitting at his desk, going over what looked to be years worth of medical documentation.
"What are you working on?" I asked in lieu of greeting, knowing full well he must have recognized me enter the study.
"Renesmee's medical and school records for our move in March," he murmured absently, still intently scrutinizing the papers in his hand. "She's been so excited about going to school. I wanted to have it all settled before the New Year so she can have time to learn what someone in her grade would have knowledge of."
Admittedly, I was touched by his devotion to Renesmee, but I had no doubts that my daughter would love him to be sending time with us much more than she would love to go over the records he was creating.
"Leave it, Carlisle," I quietly commanded him. Looking up at me in mild surprise, he almost replied, but I put up a hand to halt him. "Do it when Renesmee is asleep. Spend time with us all now and then work later. She'd prefer your company over these documents. Heck, she'd probably prefer your company over school, actually. God knows you could teach her whatever they can."
Hesitating only a moment, Carlisle left his work in the study and ventured downstairs with me, though he sat at a distance while the others were congregating near the tree. Frustrated, yet amused, I marched over to sit beside him on one of the sofas. Edward grinned widely at me when I caught his eye. He had probably heard my entire conversation with Renesmee earlier and I could easily see how thrilled he was by what she was planning to do tonight. Maybe he had not been as blind to Carlisle's isolation as I'd imagined.
Having allowed that thought to be heard by my husband, I was not at all surprised when his face showed a mixture of sadness and acknowledgment. Foregoing the excited decorating now, Edward made his was over to our subdued corner. Rather than settle between Carlisle and I, where there was room, however, he casually lifted and shoved Carlisle onto the floor.
Carlisle's face was a perfect picture of shock for a full minute where he sat on the floor in front of us, the incredulous gaze directed at his son. Mischief, however, spread gradually over his features after the surprise had worn off. Edward unexpectedly found himself on the floor and his father back in his original seat. I wasn't certain if Edward or Carlisle had been more shocked by that move, seeing as Carlisle actually caught Edward off guard. Like his father before him, though, Edward's shock wore off and he turned to reciprocate.
Much laughter was had as the two squabbled playfully over the seat, most prominent being Emmett's booming guffaw and Renesmee's sweet giggles. Neither father nor son missed her pretty little laughter, evidently planning to extend their fight and keep her twittering.
"Take him out, Carlisle!" Emmett shouted gleefully. Trust him to make it all about beating Edward.
"Oh, honestly, you two!" Esme laughed from the other side of the living room, eying her husband and eldest son exasperatedly. Taking the hint from her slightly stressed expression, I tugged Carlisle down beside me and allowed Edward to take the other end as he had originally intended.
Sighing in amusement, Carlisle rearranged his clothing from the brief wrestle and pushed his son's shoulder good-naturedly. "Impertinent," he murmured with a grin, causing Edward to chuckle.
"I just thought you'd prefer being shared between us, rather than fought over," he told his father wryly.
"So you thought you'd fight with me, instead?" Carlisle wondered with a raised brow and heart-melting grin.
"Something like that," Edward nodded nonchalantly – a sly smirk on his face – making Carlisle laugh richly. Renesmee looked up from the decorating she was doing so she could eagerly search out her grandfather's beautiful voice. Carlisle happened to catch her eye and smiled lovingly, to which she grinned with adorable little dimples.
"Nessie, you're not concentrating," Alice scolded semi-playfully. Half a second later, my sister's eyes glazed over and I knew Renesmee had decided what she would ask Carlisle to sing. Alice looked touched and completely dazed for a moment, but before I could even wonder over her reaction, she started back in on my daughter. "Oh, come on, Nessie. Focus."
"I'm trying, but Grandpa is very distracting." Renesmee grinned cheekily back at her aunt, and it was amazing how much she looked like Edward when she did that. The father in question was vainly attempting to muffle his laughter. Not that Alice was fooled. Her glare was only slightly less frightening to me since it was being turned on someone else, but I would take what I could get.
Finally, after much taping and tying and twisting, an argument between Emmett and Jacob over where the last extra bow should be placed, a snarl from Rosalie when Jacob tried to put it in her hair, a giggling fit from Alice when Jasper snuck her under a sprig of mistletoe, an exasperated shout from Esme when Emmett nearly knocked over her favorite nativity piece, and lots of adorable laughter from Renesmee, our decorating fiasco was complete. Alice nodded once with pride at the finished product, thankfully having overcome her flattered giggling.
"All right, Nessie, it's your move," the tiny vampire called out to my daughter with a smile.
Everyone turned with interest to see what Alice was talking about, and found themselves looking at Edward and Renesmee both standing at the piano with matching cheeky smiles on their beautiful faces.
"Yes, little gem?" Carlisle lovingly prompted her, bringing a wide smile to mine and Esme's face at the nickname.
Renesmee grinned even more widely, if that were possible. "Would you sing a Christmas carol for me, Grandpa? Pretty please?"
From the blanched expression on Carlisle's face, he knew he was in deep trouble already.
"We always sing carols, gem," he responded cautiously, but upon seeing Edward's determined face and the narrowed eyes of every adult female in the house, he seemed to resign himself to whatever his granddaughter asked of him.
"But I want you to sing one," she argued calmly. "Just you."
Sighing and casting a vaguely reproachful look in my direction for spilling the beans about his singing skills, Carlisle stood and moved to Edward and Renesmee's side.
"What should I sing, then?" he asked of Renesmee, lifting her onto his hip lightly.
"Silent Night," was her prompt reply as she wrapped her little arms around his neck and stared expectantly at his golden features. Carlisle nodded gently in acquiescence, pausing to settle himself and take a deep breath.
When he began to sing, I felt as though an angel truly had come to sing to us. I had heard him sing a little the previous week, but nothing like what he was displaying now. His vocals swept us all away in soft, but rich tones as the verses praised the birth of Jesus. The power in his calm voice relayed the magnitude of the night Christ was born and the faith that Carlisle still held so deeply in God's love and purpose.
I hadn't thought such beautiful music could become any more astounding, but that was before my daughter added a sweet soprano to her grandfather's elevating tenor on the last verse. Carlisle smiled tenderly through his singing, squeezing Renesmee in thanks and pride for compounding the rapture of the old carol.
As the last note faded away into a deafening silence full of awe and sentimentality, Carlisle held Renesmee closer and sweetly kissed her cheeks.
"Thank you, my wonderful little gem," he whispered conspiratorially to her, making her giggle.
"Can we sing more?" she asked excitedly, clearly more than confident that she was going to get her way. Everyone laughed at her assuredness, but soon enough we all were singing Christmas carols. In all the time we had been a family, I couldn't remember a moment when we had been closer than we were in that instant.
Much as Renesmee enjoyed singing from the safe and comfortable confines of her grandfather's arms, she was still a half-human who needed sleep. Even though she tried so desperately to fight through her drowsiness for a round of Joy to the World, my little girl just couldn't stay awake well enough to sing every word and note. To compensate for her frustration in occasionally nodding off, Carlisle slyly began singing Do You Hear What I Hear. The somewhat sad yet hopeful song was slow and long enough to send Renesmee to sleep against her grandpa's shoulder while he was still on the third verse.
Carlisle continued to sing the song very quietly and followed my nod to lay her upstairs in Edward's old room. Smiling slightly at me, he headed up at a slow human pace, careful not to jostle his precious bundle. Edward and I embraced each other softly in front of the piano, staring after the gentle patriarch with warm eyes as he disappeared to lay our daughter down to sleep.
No one could have missed the soft verses of Brahms' Lullaby that soon drifted down to us, as if from heaven itself.
A/N: There is a companion piece to this, but it's not nearly completed. Just keep an eye out for A Wreath of Thistles. Hopefully it won't have to wait until this Christmas to be finished. :P