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Chapter Nine: Leftovers

It's tough, but I manage to hold back my insults when I pull into Rose and Emmett's driveway, which is lined by giant candy canes. The house is overly-decorated in white blinking lights. There's garland wrapped around the pillars of the porch. There's an inflatable snowman in the front yard, along with tiny, plastic people and animals that are a part of the nativity scene.

"Help me figure this out," Bella starts as I shut off the engine. "When we left, it was Thanksgiving... and now it's Christmas."

"Are you afraid?"

"Mostly confused."

I laugh loudly, grabbing the doll from the back seat. "Don't let this affect your decision on whether or not you spend Christmas with us. I guarantee, other than the tacky decorating of the house, our Christmases are fairly normal."

"As if an inflatable snowman could scare me off," she teases, stepping out of the car.

We make our way to the porch, and I unlock the door, letting Bella in first. I head straight for the living room, not even surprised to see a large, artificial tree in the corner, covered in lights, tinsel, and ornaments.

"Jesus," Bella breathes.

"He is the reason for the season," I joke, then point across the room. "And look. The stockings are hung by the chimney with care."

My lips mash together in a smile and I watch her head tilt back as she laughs loudly at my jokes. Her laughter turns into a light chuckle, and she's still smiling widely when she looks at me, her eyes crinkling in the corners. She looks so fucking pretty like this. I realize I'm not smiling anymore, just staring.

"What?" she asks, removing her coat.

"What?" I echo, removing mine as well.

"Why are you looking at me like that?"

I contain my smirk. "I'm not looking at you like anything. Hey, what should I do with this?" I ask, holding up the doll to change the subject.

"Are they going to give it to Emily before Christmas?"

"I have no idea. I guess so?"

"Maybe you can just put it under the tree for now?"

I frown. "Why don't we know more about what's going on?"

"I have no idea," she sighs.

I toss the doll under the tree, covering it with a throw blanket from the couch. "There. Perfect."

"Perfect. So... what now?"

We stand there. I should offer to drive her home, but I don't want to. I mean, I want to drive her home, but just not yet. Then again, there's not really much we can do at my sister's house, so we should probably leave. Unless she wants to chill in the backyard and jump on the trampoline, but then I'd be obligated to attempt a backflip, and I don't really feel like breaking my neck tonight.

"Are you hungry?" I question, rubbing a hand over my stubble. "We could eat the leftovers from earlier."

"We could definitely do that," she agrees, following me into the kitchen.

I open the fridge. "Beer?"

Her lips press together in a smile and she shakes her head. "Still weird."

"Eh. They're asleep. It's not weird if you drink their beer. In fact, they owe you the beer after what you did for them tonight."

Not ten seconds after I say this, Rose bounds into the kitchen. She's wearing a robe, an eye-mask that's pushed up to her forehead, and there's a crazy look in her eyes. I unintentionally jump at the sight of her.

"You got the doll," she states.

I nod, and she steps forward, practically assaulting me with a hug. This might be the first time my sister's ever hugged me before, and it's all because of a doll.

"Where is it?" she asks, suddenly patting me down.

I swat at her hands. "Jesus. It's under the tree."

"And the accessories?"

I blink. "Wait, what?"

"The accessories," she says, drawing out the word, as if I don't understand the meaning.

Bella and I exchange a look.

Rose brings a hand up to the bridge of her nose and pinches it. "Edward, please tell me you got the glow-in-the-dark wings." She looks like she might be shaking. I don't think reacting this way over a toy is healthy.

"Are you fucking kidding me?" I ask in disbelief. Fatigue and hunger are causing me to become whiney. "I took an elbow to the eye. Bella was attacked by some psychotic bitch, whom, in the end, was fought off with a punch to her throat. You seriously—"

"Bella, you throat-punched someone?" Rose interrupts, looking impressed.

"Yeah." Bella's nonchalance shines as she shrugs. "No big deal."

I crack a smile, which lasts a few seconds before I turn back to Rose and glare. "You know what else isn't a big deal? The fucking accessories."

I can't believe how ungrateful she's being. She inhales deeply and I lock my jaw just as Bella steps in.

"Honestly, I didn't even see any accessories at the store. Maybe you can try ordering them online or something? And I'm sure Emily will be so excited to have the doll, she probably won't even notice there aren't any glow-in-the-dark wings."

Rose thinks this over. "Yeah, you're probably right. I'll check online in the morning, anyway."

My jaw is still locked, so I take deep breath. My anger deflates, but I still feel slightly anxious. I think I might be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. Walmart did this to me. I wouldn't wish this upon my greatest enemy. Not even Backflip Garrett.

"How did you manage to get a doll, anyway? We weren't sure you'd be able to pull it off."

"You can thank Bella for that," I tell my sister. "It was seriously all her. She's amazing."

Rose stares at me questioningly, and longer than I appreciate. I clear my throat. I don't like the way she's looking at me, like she just fucking knows I'm into Bella.

"Don't be so modest, Edward," Bella argues, giving me a tiny smile. "It was a joint effort. You're pretty amazing, too."

As soon as she says the words, we just stand there, grinning at one another. She licks her lips, and I'm immediately thinking about her mouth on mine. I have a feeling she's thinking about that, too.

"Well," Rose speaks, pulling our attention back to her. "Thanks, you guys. Seriously."

"You're welcome," Bella says politely, as if she wasn't just eyefucking the shit out of me.

"Yeah. Welcome," I mumble. "Now... give me food."

The two of them laugh. I'm glad I bring so much joy to the world.

"Leftovers are in the fridge. You can help yourselves. I'm going back to bed." Rose goes to leave, but stops, voice sincere as she says, "Hey. You're a good uncle."

"I already knew that," I admit, mostly joking. "I'm just glad you're finally noticing."

"Yeah, yeah. Clean up after yourself when you're done," she instructs before disappearing down the hall.

"You really are a good uncle," Bella says quietly, watching me.

"Well, you're a good babysitter."

"I don't think I charge them nearly enough," she teases.

I snort, pulling out two plates and two forks as Bella excuses herself to the bathroom. About thirty seconds after she leaves, I hear Emily's small voice echo from somewhere in the house.

"Santa? Is that you?"

I head toward the living room and catch sight of her lingering at the bottom of the stairs, sleepily rubbing both eyes with her hands.

I hold back a laugh. "It's not Santa, Emmy. It's just me."

"What are you doing, Uncle Edward?"

"What are you doing?" I challenge. "Shouldn't you be in bed?"

"I'm thirsty," she mumbles in a tiny voice. "Can you get me some water, Uncie?"

Oh, she pulled out that big guns with that. She hasn't called me Uncie since she was three. I ruffle her hair. With a quick nod, I walk into the kitchen and grab one of the small, colorful plastic cups that are regulated to her use only. I know Rose would have a fit if she knew I was using water from the tap, but I'm too lazy to get the pitcher of purified water out of the fridge.

I head back toward the living room and see her sitting on the couch. Her small hands reach out when I hand her the cup, and I let myself sink into the cushion next to her.

"Thank you," she says, water dribbling down her chin as she takes a sip. I realize this might be the first time she's ever thanked me for anything. She can be kind of sweet when she's tired.

Bella walks into the room, smiling warmly at Emily. "Did someone sneak out of bed?"

She brightens when she sees her babysitter. Bella sits on the arm of the couch, and Emily wraps her arms around Bella's thigh. I might be jealous of a five year old.

"Bella, are you going to stay here with me forever?"

We both laugh at this. The way she thinks is so odd to me.

"No. I'm leaving soon." Her eyes flick over to mine. "Your Uncle Edward is nice and is going to drive me home."

Emily lights up. "You think he's nice?"

"I do. I think he's the nicest," Bella tells her, whispering like it's a secret.

"Do you want to marry him?" Emily asks, erupting in a fit of giggles.

"Okay, you. That's enough," I interrupt, reaching over to tickle her. Which is stupid. I'm winding her up when she should be going back to bed. But I need her to stop talking to Bella, and this seems to be the quickest way.

"Stop! No!" she shrieks. "I'm gonna pee!" I back the fuck up. "Gotcha!" she laughs, and I visibly relax.

Joking about pee is never funny. Unless you're Dave Chappelle.

"Are you wearing makeup?" Emily suddenly asks. She crawls into my lap to get a better look at my face.

"Um, no."

"Did Daddy punch you in the eye?"

I'm concerned those were her first two guesses.

I snort. "What? Why do you think Emmett punched me in the eye?"

She goes to touch my cheekbone. Her grace and coordination are severely off, because she pokes me in the eye instead.

I jerk back. "Ow. Thanks."

"Who punched you?"

"I didn't get punched. Someone elbowed me in the eye."

"Why?"

"Because people are assholes," I tell her honestly.

Emily covers her mouth. "That's a bad word," she mumbles from behind her hand.

"Then don't tell your mom I said it in front of you." I sigh. "So, I heard you had some problems with Santa earlier."

"He's a fake," she whispers with wide eyes.

"Why do you think that?"

"Because."

"Why?"

"Because!"

Well, this conversation is going nowhere.

"Listen, kid. Santa is real," I insist, and Bella releases a laugh. "Go look under the tree."

Emily's head whips around and she darts over to the tree. She looks disappointed. "Santa got me a blanket?"

I'm running out of patience here.

"Look under the blanket, Emmy," Bella says for me.

Emily lifts the blanket and squeals.

"Princess Luna Sparkle!" She clutches the doll to her chest, hugging it tightly. "Santa isn't an asshole!"

I burst out into laughter, then realize, "Hey. Don't... say that word."

"But you said it."

I shrug it off. Rose and Emmett can deal with that.

She goes back to squealing and jumping and saying, "I love Santa! I love him so, so much!"

It's cool and all. I'm glad she's happy. It just sucks that Santa is getting all of the credit for this when the fucker did absolutely nothing. I bet he never took an elbow to the eye, or had to body-check someone. I'm sure he never had to deal with Walmart shoppers. I'm certain... I'm losing my mind. I'm jealous of a fictitious dude.

Emily starts singing some song, twirling around with the doll when Bella says, "You know, your uncle is one of Santa's helpers."

Her little dance suddenly stops and she casts me a glance before turning back to Bella. "His ears are kind of pointy, but he doesn't look like an elf."

I self-consciously bring a hand up to my ear as Bella drops to her knees in front of Emily. "He's not an elf, silly. But your uncle is the one who got the doll for you." Emily frowns, apparently not understanding. "Santa's really busy and sometimes hires helpers."

Emily's eyes go wide. She looks like she might cry. Motherfuck.

"Uncle Edward, you got me Princess Luna Sparkle?"

"Maybe? Bella helped—"

Before I can say anything else, Emily's small arms are around my neck and she's hugging me.

"You're my favorite," she whispers in my ear.

I hug her back. I think we're having a moment. Bella looks on like it's the sweetest thing she's ever seen. And maybe it is. Sure, Emily's a brat, but I'll admit it—I like the kid, enough to risk my life in Walmart on Black Friday.

The moment ends when Emily sneezes in my face.

"Alright. You need to get back to bed," I mumble, wiping my cheek. She looks like she's about to protest, so I move her off my lap and drop to my knees. "I'll piggyback you up the stairs."

It works. She squeals, keeping the doll in her hand, and climbs onto my back, grabbing my shoulders for support.

They said goodnight to each other, and I carefully walk up the stairs and into Emily's room. The night-light glowing in the corner helps me find my way to her bed, and I set her down.

"Into bed, you," I say quietly, pushing stuffed animals off her bed and onto the floor.

She crawls under the blanket and places the doll next to her on the pillow.

"You good?" I ask. She nods, yawning. "Okay, well. Night."

"Uncie?" she calls out when I reach the door. "Tell Santa I said thank you."

I run a hand through my hair, realizing that my work here is done. She believes in Santa again. I can sleep peacefully tonight. Cool.

"Okay. I'll tell him." I leave the door halfway open and head downstairs.

"That was fast," Bella says, standing from the couch. "It usually takes me an hour to get her to bed. You're going to get me fired."

"Yeah, right. They love you," I counter, giving her shoulder a small shake. "By the way, you didn't have to tell her it was me who got the doll."

Bella tilts her head to the side. "I know. But I mean... I couldn't let Santa get all of the credit. You did all of this for Emily without the prospect of milk and cookies. You're better than Santa."

"Better than Santa?" I ask, feigning shock.

"Yeah." She laughs. "Better looking, too."

I grin down at her. "So you think I'm nice, a good uncle, and better looking than Santa."

"Basically."

"Bella." I try to keep my face serious as I say, "It kind of sounds as though you like me."

Her eyes slightly narrow, and she keeps a straight face, too. "Well, ever since that kiss in Walmart, how could I not?"

I swallow, no longer trying to keep myself from smiling. "Have you been thinking about that?"

"I've mostly been wondering why you haven't kissed me again."

Ah. Yeah. I've been wondering that, too.

"I'm not sure what the protocol is. I don't know if you have a thing for only kissing in Walmart."

"I think it's fairly simple. If you like someone, and it seems as though they like you, you can kiss them," she explains, gently placing a hand on my chest.

I tip my head back and laugh. "Fuck. I swear I'm not usually this... confused and awkward when it comes to how things work. It's just, you..." I trail off, bringing a hand to the side of her neck.

"It's just me?" she repeats, breathlessly.

I nod dumbly before I dip my head and press my lips to hers. Our mouths move together, slowly at first. But then her hands move higher up my chest and she's gripping my shirt and breathing into my mouth and I might be getting hard and our kiss turns frantic and I slip my hands around her waist to bring her closer and we're still standing in my sister's living room, which makes sense as to why we suddenly hear Emmett's voice.

"Whoaaaaa."

We pull apart and stare at Emmett. I try not to look smug, but I can't fucking help it. Bella fixes her shirt, and I adjust myself.

"Hi, Emmett," I say.

"Hi, Emmett," Bella echoes.

"Not that I'm not... all for this," he says, laughing, "but I need to kick the two of you out before my kid walks down here and finds you two fucking on the couch."

I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone blush as much as Bella is right now.

"Yeah, we were just... leaving," I mumble. "I just need to grab those leftovers Rose put together for me."

"Uh huh. You go do that. I'll wait here." He's got this shit-eating grin on his face, and he crosses his arms.

Bella and I quickly pull on our coats, and I disappear into the kitchen, grabbing as many tupperware containers as I can. Fuck it. I did all of the hard work earlier. It's only fair if I get all of the leftovers.

Emmett opens the front door for me, but not before grabbing the top container, which is filled with mashed potatoes.

"Mine," he grumbles.

"Bye, Emmett," I say as we walk outside.

"Bye, Emmett," Bella echoes again.

He slams the door behind us.

"Did we just get kicked out of your brother-in-law's house because we were caught making out in the living room?" Bella asks in shock.

"Basically. Hey, can you grab my keys out of my pocket?"

Bella reaches into the pocket of my jeans, and my smile is smug.

"Not the pocket of my jeans." I laugh. "Sorry. They're in the pocket of my coat."

She looks a little embarrassed. "Right."

After she unlocks the car, I set the tupperware containers in the floorboard of the backseat. And then we're sitting in my car, in the dark again, just like earlier. Except this time I lean over and kiss her, because it's simple: I like her, and I'm pretty sure she likes me, too.

When we pull apart and I ask if she wants to go over to my place, because it's close by and I need help eating all of the leftovers, she says yes.

And that's how, twenty minutes later, we're sitting in my living room, eating leftovers, drinking beer, and listening to The Proclaimers on repeat.


Thanks for reading and reviewing and other cool things of that sort. You guys are awesome. I totally want to backflip for y'all.

Marking this complete! But if I can think of something cute to write for an epilogue, I will.

Major thanks to Kim and Vic who went over this chapter with me MULTIPLE times. You guys make everything better.