Well, this is it – the final chapter. I made it extra long though! Enjoy, and please let me know what you think. Reviews make my day!
Bella was asleep on my shoulder before half of the movie was finished. I stayed very still so I wouldn't wake her, though she seemed pretty out of it snuggled up against me.
With one hand I tucked the afghan more securely around her, worried about my body temperature affecting her. We'd become used to stocking up supplies for her, and several blankets were only the beginning.
She smiled in her sleep, and I was overwhelmed by the love that hit me. I loved all my children equally, but Bella was special.
Maybe because she definitely requires the most looking after, I thought with a smile, remembering all the times I'd patched her up after one of her "accidents".
The movie ended and I muted the screen, shifting a little to get into a more comfortable position. Edward and the rest of my family would be home by mid-morning, and I cherished the time spent with Bella alone while I could – even if it looked like she was going to sleep through most of it.
I think it was the sunlight that woke me. I cracked open my eyes, just to shut them again when the light hit them full force.
After they adjusted, I pulled myself up into a sitting position after realizing I was leaning on Carlisle. Oh, God, I hope I didn't drool on him, was my first thought.
He smiled back down at me as I stifled a yawn. "Good morning, Bella. Sleep well?"
"Um, yeah, thanks. What time is it?"
My knee felt better; a little sore, but I was pretty sure I could walk.
"I need a human moment," I admitted self-consciously.
"Of course," he replied, getting up. "Here, let me help you."
With his help I got to my feet and stretched, sore from my little jaunt in the woods and from sleeping on the couch all night – even if I did have a very comfortable pillow.
I checked his shirt surreptitiously for wet spots and thankfully didn't find any.
I took a few experimental steps and winced as all my sore spots made themselves known.
"You can use mine and Esme's bathroom, if you like," Carlisle offered. "It has a large tub. And I'm sure Alice has something you can wear."
Oh, I knew Alice had something I could wear. The problem was finding something that didn't look like I was ready for a fancy party.
"Thanks," I said, letting him help me towards the stairs. "A bath sounds heavenly."
"I'll poke through Alice's closet," he said.
I looked up at him. "Nothing too fancy, okay?"
He chuckled. "I'll see what I can do. But you know Alice…"
We arrived at the foot of the stairs, and I looked up dejectedly. It was taller than I remembered. I didn't think my abused body would thank me.
I put my foot on the first step slowly, but Carlisle stopped with a hand on my shoulder. "Wait, Bella. I don't want you to injure yourself further…May I?"
Now that my pathetic human weakness had shown itself to him completely, I nodded resignedly. "Thanks, Carlisle."
He scooped me up, very gently, and walked up the stairs. When he stopped at a door and pushed it open with his foot, I realized I'd never seen his and Esme's bedroom. It was gorgeous, as airy and full of light as the rest of the house.
The bathroom adjoined it, and Carlisle set me on the smooth tile, steadying me before moving away. "I'll leave the clothes outside the door," he said, and shut the door behind him.
"Thanks," I said belatedly, knowing he could hear me from anywhere in the house.
I turned the water on as hot as I could get it, enjoying the steam. Carefully, I slid into the tub and sighed with bliss as it soothed all my aching muscles.
I stayed in until the water cooled. I was shriveled like a prune when I finally forced myself out of the tub. Grabbing a fluffy towel, I dried off before reaching outside for the clothes Carlisle had promised.
Designer jeans and a filmy red top. Honestly, I was surprised she had anything even that simple. It was a far cry from my usual ratty jeans and t-shirt, but I was grateful.
Slipping into it, I bundled my dirty clothes up and stowed them in Alice's room, making a mental note to myself to grab them before I left. I also borrowed her hairbrush, tying my hair back into a simple ponytail before joining Carlisle downstairs.
To my surprise, he was cooking breakfast. I slid onto a barstool as he glanced away from the pan of eggs. "Feel better?"
"No problem," he said easily, flipping the eggs. He must have seen my surprised look, because he laughed before turning them onto a plate. "Esme's not the only domestic one around here, you know," he said, setting them and a piece of toast in front of me with a flourish.
I dug in. "Nothing should surprise me any more," I said, swallowing. "Wow, Carlisle, this is great."
He smiled in delight. "I don't get much practice."
I had to laugh at that. "No, I guess you don't."
He intently watched me eat, which normally made me uncomfortable but somehow with Carlisle it didn't.
When I'd finished, I got up to take my plate to the sink, but he whisked it away. "Oh, no you don't. You're my guest, remember? Besides, you probably get enough of that at Charlie's house."
"He hasn't washed a single dish since I moved in," I agreed with a laugh.
Carlisle's gaze moved towards the door. "Here they come," he said, and sure enough less than a minute later the Cullens trooped through the door.
Edward was the first one in the kitchen. "I can't leave you alone for five minutes," he teased, wrapping his arms around me from behind. I drank in the sight and smell of him as he nuzzled my hair.
"Oh, that top looks awesome on you," Alice chirped, coming in behind Edward. I laughed.
"Sorry, Alice. You'll get them back as soon as I get home," I apologized, even thought I knew she wouldn't mind.
"Nonsense! I've already worn that outfit twice. I was going to give it away anyway, so you keep it."
Emmett and Rose said hi before wandering off in the direction of the TV, and Jasper tugged Alice away. Esme gave Carlisle a hug and a kiss.
"I'm going to get changed," she told him. "I'm a mess."
"You're beautiful, love, but I'll finish here and meet you in the library."
He moved to the sink to give me and Edward some privacy.
"You're not hurt, Bella?" he asked anxiously, tipping my chin back to study my face.
"No, I'm fine," I assured him. "Carlisle and I had a great time, didn't we, Carlisle?"
Edward must have read his thoughts, because he suddenly groaned. "She talked you into watching that movie with her?"
"I would do it again," Carlisle said, winking at me. "It was worth it."
That said, he crossed the room to wait for Esme, giving me a hug and a smile as he passed me.
I realized that Carlisle loved me unconditionally – not in the same way Edward did, but that didn't mean his love was less strong, or any less binding. As surely as I knew that Edward would be there for me forever, I knew Carlisle would be, too.
I snuggled deeper into Edward's arms. "I'm very lucky, you know," I said, watching Carlisle lean against the doorjamb.
His warm, throaty chuckle stroked my ears like velvet. "Why's that?" he asked, nuzzling my neck.
I didn't raise my voice at all; I knew Carlisle could hear every word.
"Because not only do I have you, I have two dads that love me very, very much – almost as much as I love them."
Out of the corner of my eye I saw Carlisle's head snap up. His gaze shot to mine, and I smiled at him.
His ocher eyes shone with surprise, and then he smiled back as a warm, contented light enveloped them.
I sighed happily as that same light wrapped around my soul.
"You've made him very happy," Edward murmured into my hair.
"Not as happy as he's made me."
Esme came and tugged Carlisle out of the room then, but not before I saw his brilliant smile.