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Survival of the Soul

Summary:
The trauma suffered by Bella for three years has left lasting mental scars. Surrounded by the support and love of the Cullen family, Bella begins to grow and finds out there is more to life than simply surviving. sots banner


Notes:


15. Chapter 15

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5100   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul

Chapter 15

By: Lady Saffir

Story Rating: R/NC-17

Chapter Rating:PG

DISCLAIMER: I own no rights to the Twilight universe. The talented Stephenie Meyer does. I’m just playing.

Thanks to Megami for being an awesome beta, and thanks to JokesOnJane for my wonderful banner. Yes, Jasper is a bit OOC, but he demanded it, not me. And for those that have been dying to have more Edward, here you go. He refused to take turns and hogged several scenes.

“A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked” Bernard Meltzer

“True progress quietly and persistently moves along without notice.” St. Francis of Assisi

************

“Bella?”

The quiet teenager turned to look at her classmate while they walked to History together. It was a week and a half since she had her breakdown, and she was waiting for Angela to decide she didn’t want to talk to her anymore. Edward knew her fears and reassured her that the other girl had nothing but friendly feelings for her. Alice had chimed in that she saw the two of them growing even closer. It only marginally stemmed the fear that her friend would abandon her.

“I was wondering if you wanted to maybe come over tomorrow after school and get started on our History project?” Angela continued, easily dodging groups of students congregating between classes.

“I don’t know,” Bella began.

“My mom will be home, and so will my brothers,” Angela hurried to add. “I’m sure my mom wouldn’t mind calling your mom, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

Would they mind if she went over to Angela’s? Bella was fairly sure Esme wouldn’t mind. But then someone would have to come get her.

“I’ll ask,” Bella promised, sliding into her seat.

************

Edward watched as Bella and Angela rushed up the stairs to Angela’s front porch, in an attempt to stay as dry as possible. Esme and Carlisle had both okayed Bella not only going to the human girl’s house to work on school work but also her staying for dinner. He had offered to take the two girls to Angela’s after school, in order to save them from the driving rain. He also wanted to give Bella the chance to change her mind, should she have any doubts.

It was odd, he reflected. A year ago the thought of a human in their house would have been strange enough. A human doing mundane things such as fixing dinner and showering incomprehensible. Yet now the thought of Bella not moving about the house, her steps stuttering as she tripped, the smell of dinner cooking, was unwelcome. How had such a tiny, frail, human girl wrought such changes in their lives?

“You’re worrying for no reason, Edward,” Alice broke into her brother’s thoughts. “Bella will be fine. This is only her first trip to Angela’s. It’s good for Bella to have some ties to the human world. Angela will help her heal just as much, if not more, than we will.”

Edward sighed. “And how much will this harm her when she has to say goodbye and never see her friend again? You know-“

“I know more than you think,” Alice interrupted. “And you need to stop borrowing trouble. Just be glad that Bella has a friend, Edward.”

Edward sighed and turned the car towards home.

***********

There was some awkwardness, the first few moments, in Angela’s house. It had been years since Bella had a friend. The strong part of Bella knew that she could relax with Angela. The other girl would not press her for answers or even ask uncomfortable questions. She would follow Bella’s lead. She could be trusted.

The part that continuously whispered to Bella to not trust others, to shy away from companionship, was growing weaker, but the familiarity of the voice was such that she couldn’t help but listen to it occasionally. She was afraid that she was going to do something that would upset Angela and make her wish she had never asked Bella to be her partner.

Bella trailed the other girl through the house, noting the various toys strewn around living room.

“My twin younger brothers,” Angela explained. “Mom had to take them to Port Angeles to get some new winter clothes, but she’ll be back in about an hour. I think she’s going to make hot roast beef sandwiches for dinner. You want anything to drink?” she asked, heading into the kitchen. “We’ve got soda, water, juice, milk….” She trailed off, opening the fridge door to peruse its contents.

“Water’s fine,” Bella replied, looking about the kitchen interestedly. It was nothing like their kitchen at home. The fridge was decorated with drawings obviously done by much younger children, held up with magnets in the shape of letters. The gloomy weather outside was no match for the cheerful décor and warm colors. The appliances were older but everything was well cared for. It was nothing like the state of the art kitchen she was used to, but both had the same aura that spoke of family.

“We can go up to my room,” Angela broke into Bella’s musings.

“Sure,” she agreed, and turned to follow her friend up the stairs.

************

Being an only child, Bella had never really been around younger children. Angela’s two younger brothers had immediately taken to her and had tried to pull her into the living room to play with them after dinner. Dinner had been an interesting affair, the boys shouting occasionally and insulting each other, and Angela’s mom trying to referee.

It was certainly different than her usual dinner. It was also odd to not be the only person eating. No one watched her with veiled fascination.

It was nice.

She was waiting for Carlisle to pick her up. He had been detained at the hospital and had offered to stop by and get her on his way home to save Mrs. Weber from having to come out. The knock at the door came faster than expected, Angela hopping up from her perch on the couch to answer the door.

“Hello, Dr. Cullen,” she greeted, gesturing for him to come in.

“Hello, Angela.” he replied, standing in the doorway. “Is Bella ready?”

“Right here,” Bella answered, slipping behind Angela to pull on her shoes. “Thank you for letting me come over,” she turned to say to Angela’s mother.

“You’re welcome anytime, Bella,” she replied warmly. “Have a good night.”

Bella automatically headed for the passenger side of the car, stopping short when Carlisle called her name.

“Bella? Would you like to drive home?”

Yes.

“But I’ve never driven at night before,” Bella said, ignoring her first thought. She wanted to drive. She knew vampires didn’t really get tired, but surely Carlisle wanted to get home.

“There’s always a first time for everything,” Carlisle replied, dangling the keys enticingly. “You’ll be fine,” he promised.

Bella’s smile was answer enough.

*********

Emmett was helping Rosalie in the garage when Bella pulled in, one hand stuck under the car to act as a jack. He grinned as she got out, announcing, “I knew it had to be you, driving, Bells. It was that or Carlisle finally decided to start driving like the old man he is.”

“Bella drives fine for just learning, Emmett. We aren’t all pretending we’re in a motor cross race,” Carlisle admonished, waiting for Bella to enter the house before turning back to the young man before him. “And that reminds me…cheating at video games, Emmett?” Carlisle berated. “You already have numerous advantages over her and you still choose to cheat. Emmett,” he sighed, breaking off.

“What?!” Emmett cried, almost losing his grip on the car.

Rosalie managed to snake a hand up to catch the vehicle before it could fall on her, her hiss of annoyance pulling her husband’s attention back to his job.

“Sorry, babe,” he apologized, turning back to Carlisle. “How’d she find out?”

“I told her,” Edward’s voice interrupted.

Both men looked over to see him leaning against the door frame, his arms folded across his chest.

“And I showed her a few tricks that even you don’t know,” Edward added.

“Traitor,” Emmett muttered.

“Traitor?” Edward scoffed. “How so?”

“I can’t believe you told Bella I was cheating,” Emmett explained. “AND you tattled on me to Carlisle.”

“Bella’s the one that told me,” Carlisle interjected.

“What?” Emmett narrowed his eyes. “I don’t believe you.”

“She did,” Rosalie finally joined the conversation, sliding out from under her car and sitting up. A smudge of grease was smeared along her cheek. “I heard her. Of course, she was talking in her sleep, so she doesn’t even know she told Carlisle.”

“Regardless,” Carlisle stopped whatever Emmett was about to say, “I know you take your big brother status seriously, Emmett, but please don’t abuse it.”

Emmett grumbled but agreed.

*************

Bella moved about the kitchen, preparing a late dinner. Esme and Carlisle had gone to Seattle for the night, intent on having a date. Edward, Emmett and Jasper were also in Seattle, but were attending a football game, and planned on heading up into Canada afterwards for a day hunting trip. That only left herself, Alice and Rosalie in the house, and the silence was odd. She knew the other two were somewhere around the house but absent were the usual sounds of the television, or even a radio.

Bella was dicing chicken for a fajita recipe she had found when Alice’s voice sounded behind her.

“Bella-“

Startled, Bella jerked her hand, whirling to face Alice. Her face was strangely tense, her nostrils flaring once even as she choked words out.

“Rosalie, I need you in the kitchen.”

The urgency behind the words, as well as her focused gaze on Bella’s hands had the teenager looking down.

The world spun.

The slice across her index finger was rather deep, blood already pooling in the cut. As with all wounds, it hurt more once Bella noticed it. The sharp tang of blood caused her stomach to revolt even as she broke out into a cold sweat. The knife clattered to the countertop, her fingers having gone numb and loosened their hold. She looked up to see Alice taking one hesitant step towards her.

“No! Stay away from me!” Bella shrieked, stumbling back into the counter behind her. Her knees went weak, dropping her to the floor. All she could smell was the blood in the air, her stomach churning as she fought to keep its contents down.

Rosalie appeared in the doorway, her face hard as she took in the scene before her. Alice had control of herself for the moment, her chest unmoving as she held her breath. Bella was on the ground, her increased heartbeat only causing the blood to flow faster. Her breath was coming in shallow pants, and briefly Rosalie hoped she would pass out. It would make it easier to care for the wound if Bella wasn’t fighting her.

“Bella, let me see,” she ordered, moving to kneel next to her sister.

“No! Get away!”

“Bella, I’m not going to attack you,” Rosalie tried to reason. “I need to see the wound to decide if you need stitches.”

“No! I, I…” her face crumpled as she swallowed heavily.

“You’re going to be sick,” Alice spoke up, having already seen what was to come and having removed the small trash can from the downstairs bath. She was just in time, Bella’s stomach refusing to hold onto its contents any longer. The sharp reek of bile hung in the air, both vampires wrinkling their noses.

“It’s okay, Bella,” Alice soothed. She had regained control of herself, thankful she had decided to hunt yesterday with Jasper before he left. Bella was slumped on the floor, the cold marble feeling wonderful against her skin.

“Alice, get her a cold washcloth,” Rosalie ordered, moving to pick up Bella’s hand. “Bella, I need to see your hand-“

Rosalie bit back an impatient snarl as Bella whimpered and pulled her hand closer to her chest. She tried again, reminding herself the girl before her had been tortured by vampires after her blood. It helped, only slightly. Why couldn’t Bella have done this when Carlisle was around? She was sure he would have been allowed to care for the wound already, and she knew he would have been able to provide the comforting words needed.

Thinking of her father figure gave her an idea.

“Bella, if I call Carlisle and he tells you that it’s okay for me to take care of your finger, will you allow it?” Rosalie asked. She really didn’t want to have to use force on the girl to get her to hold still.

Bella stared at her for a moment before nodding in agreement. Thankful, Rosalie pulled out her phone, hitting the speed dial for Carlisle.

“Rosalie? What’s wrong?” Carlisle answered.

“Bella has a rather deep cut on her finger,” Rosalie started. “She won’t let me see it and I think she needs stitches. Will you tell her it’s alright for me to care for her?”

“Put her on,” Carlisle ordered.

************

The moment his cell phone began to vibrate in his pocket, Carlisle’s stomach had clenched. The feeling of dread intensified when he saw Rosalie’s name on the caller ID. Something had happened to Bella.

“Rosalie? What’s wrong?”

His words pulled Esme from the bathroom where she was styling her hair. They had planned on going to the symphony, then dancing, a welcome break from their typical Saturday night. Both listened as Rosalie outlined the situation.

There was a brief moment of silence as Rosalie tried to hand the phone to Bella and a clatter as apparently the phone was dropped.

“Hello?”

Bella’s soft whisper was barely audible.

“Bella, I need you to let Rosalie look at your hand,” Carlisle instructed, hoping the urge to follow commands was still strong enough to allow her to accept help. “She isn’t going to hurt you. In fact, Rosalie has been to medical school, so she knows what she’s doing,” he added, inspired.

Silence stretched across the line.

“Bella? Bella, I can come home right now, but it will take me at least an hour to get there. We need to get the bleeding stopped as soon as possible.” Carlisle was already gathering car keys and wallet as he spoke.

“No,” Bella’s voice grew stronger the more she spoke. “You and Esme…have a date,” she panted, her heavy swallow quite audible. “I’ll be okay.”

“You’ll be okay when you let me clean up that hand,” Rosalie interjected.

“I – I can do it,” Bella insisted.

“You’re about to pass out. Now let me see your hand.”

Carlisle broke into the fight. “Bella, Rosalie is right. She won’t hurt you. Let her take care of your hand. I’ll be there as soon as possible.”

Silence stretched across the line. Carlisle strongly wished he could see Bella’s face. She was so expressive with her features, he could have easily figured out what she was thinking.

“Keep your date. I’ll be…okay.”

“Bella, sweetheart,” Esme took the phone, “you don’t have to try and handle everything yourself. Let Rosalie put a dressing on it and we’ll be home soon.

“No! Rosalie can take care of me,” Bella insisted.

Husband and wife shared a look.

“We’ll only give her the impression that we don’t listen if we head home early,” Esme murmured.

“Alright, Bella. We’ll see you in the morning. Call us if you want us to come home,” Esme ordered, saying good bye then closing the phone.

***********

Rosalie stared at the girl before her. Blood was spattered all over her shirt and the floor, the wound still dripping sluggishly. She shook her head, moving to settle on the floor next to Bella. Carlisle’s medical bag was already open and the supplies laid out.

“You’d argue the color of the sky,” she murmured. Bella’s vitals still hadn’t stabilized, her breathing almost a pant as she looked everywhere but at her hand.

“Don’t…wanna….interrupt,” Bella muttered.

Silence descended as Rosalie blotted the cut, holding pressure for a moment to stop the bleeding. The edges of the wound gaped, indicating stitches would be necessary.

“Bella, I’m going to give you a local,” Rosalie instructed, pulling out a vial of Lidocaine. “You need some stitches and this will numb the area. All you’ll feel is a little bit of pressure while I’m working.”

Bella chanced a look down at her finger, her stomach tightening as she stared at the wound. She nodded once, closing her eyes and turning her face away. Rosalie worked in silence, injecting the anesthetic and insuring Bella could feel the area before beginning to sew. It only took three stitches, the skin lining up neatly. She finished her work by applying an antibiotic cream and gauze dressing, taping the absorbent cloth securely.

“Finished,” Rosalie announced. “It will probably hurt a bit once the Lidocaine wears off but Ibuprofen should be enough. Why don’t you take some now and we’ll finish up dinner,” she offered. Hopefully Alice would help her cook. She detested handling human food.

“’M not hungry,” Bella muttered.

“You need to eat,” Rosalie contradicted. “Now, what were you fixing? This?” she asked, holding up a recipe.

Bella sighed and nodded.

**************

There was no hint of blood in the air when the three male vampires returned home from their trip. Rosalie had informed Emmett of the mini-emergency when he called to say that they would be home in a few hours. Edward and Jasper had of course heard, and both had decided to hold their breath when they first entered the house, despite Rosalie and Alice’s assurances such an action wasn’t necessary.

Of Bella there was no sight. Jasper exhaled first, smiling ruefully to his wife as he acknowledged that she had been correct. Edward followed suit, turning to frown at Rosalie.

“What happened?” he asked, wanting the images that would accompany her thoughts more than the actual words.

Knowing this, she complied, but also spoke aloud for Emmett and Jasper’s benefit. She quickly outlined the event, making sure to comment on the hardheadedness Bella had displayed.

“She puts you to shame,” Rosalie concluded, smirking at her brother.

“It’s a good sign, that she’s beginning to argue with us,” Jasper spoke up. “Though perhaps we should dull the blades a bit?” he suggested. “Having her scent around constantly has helped, but if she were to do that when I’m around,” he trailed off, his eyes darkening slightly at the thought.

“Or maybe we should just make sure we don’t surprise her when she’s handling sharp objects,” Carlisle said, stepping into the room. “That’s twice now, Alice, that you’ve surprised her while she was in the kitchen. The first time she broke a glass. Now she’s cut her finger. We all need to be careful to make noise like a human if we’re approaching from behind,” he lectured, sweeping everyone in the room with a glance.

Everyone murmured in agreement before scattering to their preferred pastimes.

*********

Edward sat in his usual seat in the cafeteria, only half paying attention to his siblings’ conversation. Angela had flagged Bella when they had exited the lunch line and Bella had headed over immediately to see what her friend wanted. He shamelessly eves-dropped, his eyes narrowing as he caught the thoughts of several of the boys also seated at Angela’s table.

“Bella, mom and dad are taking Sam and David out trick or treating, but I’ll be staying home to hand out candy. Do you want to come over and hang out with me? We can watch some movies, maybe get some more of our project done,” Angela asked.

“Um, sure,” Bella replied. “I’ll ask Esme to see if it’s okay.”

Jasper caught Edward’s attention by calling his name mentally.

What’s up? You just went all tense.

“Nothing,” Edward growled. “Just a little something I’m going to have to take care of soon.”

“Stanley still crushing on you?” Emmett asked, elbowing his brother playfully. “Maybe if you kissed Jasper at lunch she’d get the hint you aren’t interested in her.”

“Oh yes, that would help,” Alice replied sarcastically. “Then the rumors that I’m not only sleeping with Jasper but having a ménage a trios with him and Edward would spread like wildfire. Why doesn’t he kiss you instead?” she suggested.

Edward cut off the argument. “I’m not kissing any of you. I’ll deal with this problem,” he reiterated, carefully not correcting his family’s assumption.

**********

He felt a bit like a stalker, Edward admitted to himself. Here he was, perched on a tree branch near the Weber’s house, monitoring the thoughts of any human that came close to the house. So far he had only heard the expected, children wanting as much candy as possible, and their parents mentally lamenting the amount of sugar their offspring would devour before bed.

The periods of inactivity found him musing on Bella’s progress. He had expected otherwise, but school had helped immeasurably with her self esteem. She was moving easier now and would speak up for herself more. Crowds still tended to bother her, he noted. He, Carlisle and even Jasper had scoured psychology text books in an attempt to prepare themselves for every possible outcome.

That she had made it this far without significant intervention was a miracle and a blessing. Having Jasper able to run interference with some of her stronger emotions, and Alice able to predict things that might set her off or upset her had also helped tremendously.

Meanwhile, he had been useless. Unable to read her mind, even at times unable to be in the same room, he had been able to contribute nothing to her recovery. Even Rosalie had helped more than he had; her history and the fact that she was female had allowed Bella to let her in slowly. All he had done was stick his foot in his mouth at every turn and sound like an idiot the few times he had let himself talk to her alone. He wasn’t surprised that he was the last of the family she would turn to for help. For god’s sake, she trusted Jasper above him! True, she didn’t know the difficulty Jasper had with the close proximity of humans, but still…

Well, at least he could help her from afar, he reasoned. He could protect her, even if it was only from the sophomoric pranks their classmates found amusing. And speaking of…his eyes narrowed as hushed whispers met his ears.

“You got everything?” Tyler Crowley.

“Yeah, yeah, we’re good to go.”

Edward glared into the darkness. Mike Newton. Something needed to be done to get the boy to leave Bella alone. He tracked their progress through the woods, their flashlights beacons in the darkness to his sensitive eyes.

“Man, that wind is creepy,” Eric Yorkie muttered, giving Edward an idea.

He swiftly fell from his perch, stalking the three boys as they stood in the woods and contemplated the house before them.

“So a few eggs thrown at the side, then you’re going to knock on the back door while I knock on the front, right?” Tyler clarified, passing the egg carton to Mike.

“Yup. They’re gonna freak!” Eric was entirely too gleeful at this idea for Edward’s liking. He moved at vampire speed, the darkness hiding any movement that would have been visible to the human eye. All the three boys felt was the sudden gust of wind as it circled them.

“What was that?”

“Nothin’, man. Stop freaking yourself out,” Tyler said, even as he looked around apprehensively.

Crouched several feet behind them, Edward let loose a low growl, the sound traveling well.

“There’s somethin’ out here,” Mike’s voice was almost comical at its high tone.

“What’re you gonna do, run home?” Eric taunted, even as he moved closer to his friends.

Edward chose that moment to run past them again, once more growling. That proved to be too much for the three teenage boys. With a shout, they abandoned their plan, running for the road and the safety the streetlights provided.

Content, for now, Edward resumed his watch spot, monitoring Angela’s thoughts. The girls had noticed nothing out of the ordinary, their voices continuing smoothly as they debated the poor fortune of Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.

********

Alice was waiting for him on the porch when he finally returned home.

“Good job,” she congratulated her brother. “All three boys are convinced something is in the woods and is out to get them.”

“They deserved it,” Edward refuted, striding into the living room. “I don’t understand why teenage boys think teasing and tormenting a girl they like is an acceptable showing of affection. They’re like second graders pulling a girl’s pigtails to get her attention.”

“You still did a very good thing,” Alice praised, bouncing up to place a kiss on his cheek. The odd conversation pulled the family downstairs.

“What are you talking about, Alice?” Jasper wondered. His wife had been a contradiction in moods this evening, alternating between amusement, annoyance, affection and joy. She had refused to tell him what was going to happen, but apparently Edward was the root of her vision.

“Tyler Crowley, Mike Newton, and Eric Yorkie though they would be funny and try to scare Angela and Bella this evening,” Edward growled. “So I turned the tables on them.”

“Is that why you were in such a foul mood earlier in the week?” Emmett wondered.

“Yes,” Edward confirmed.

“You could have told us,” Emmett complained. “It isn’t fair you got to terrorize humans and we didn’t. Next time you’d better tell us,” he demanded.

Edward rolled his eyes. “You’ll be the first I tell,” he said. Emmett chose to ignore the tone in which the words were spoken.

*************

Of course Carlisle and Esme found out about the Halloween incident, both unsure as to whether they should encourage such behavior or scold Edward. In the end they had shrugged. He was more than a hundred years old. There was only so much they could say without treating him like the teenager he was pretending to be.

By unanimous agreement, no one mentioned to Bella what had transpired that night. She had returned the next morning, having spent the night, unaware of Edward having watched over her evening. She had asked Esme if perhaps Angela could come over in a few weeks, hesitantly bringing the subject up.

Thrilled that Bella was growing more comfortable with their family dynamics, Esme had enthusiastically agreed, even promising to drive the girls to Seattle for the day if they wished.

*************

Jasper watched as Alice and Bella played on the Wii. For once, being a human seemed to be an advantage. The rest of the family tended to move too fast for the gaming system to keep up, so they usually scored lower or had more faults. At the moment, his wife was boxing with Bella, both laughing as the comical figures on the screen bobbed and weaved according to the controllers.

An idea sprung into his head, both funny and worrying for its possible outcomes. He considered the possibilities a moment longer, looking up in time to see Alice turn to wink at him before turning back to the screen. Taking that as a sign he should proceed, he planned everything out, patiently waiting until he could speak with Alice regarding the specifics of his plan.

***********

Carlisle gratefully turned on to the gravel drive. While vampires couldn’t grow physically weary, there were times that his job wore him out emotionally and mentally. Today had been such a day, and he was looking forward to going home and simply wrapping himself up in the comfort he always found in Esme.

He prayed to god, quite sincerely, that everyone had a good day and there would be no fights tonight. He couldn’t handle it.

The garage was empty, all the cars save Rosalie’s convertible absent. He could hear the T.V. on, though, as well as Bella’s heartbeat. It was increased, he noted, and pausing to sample the air, fear and adrenaline were abundant.

Then Bella spoke and his mind cleared of all other concerns, save getting his daughter to safety.

“Jasper! Jasper, stop!” Bella cried, her breaths coming in pants.

“JASPER!”

Carlisle was out of the car and into the house by the time the second syllable of his son’s name crossed Bella’s lips. He didn’t even pause to assess the situation. He hurriedly took in the fact that the two of them were in the living room. Jasper was mere feet away from Bella and he knew she wouldn’t be able to escape.

Leaping the distance, Carlisle tackled Jasper about the waist, the two of them skidding into and through the glass panes that over looked the backyard.

“Jasper! This is Bella,” Carlisle wrestled himself so that he was on top. “Stop breathing!”

The man under him was oddly complacent, not fighting back at all.

It would be hard for him to fight back, Carlisle noted, since he was laughing so hard.

“Jasper…what…” what in the world was going on? Carlisle wondered, loosening his grip marginally.

“Your face!” Jasper wheezed, his humor leaking out, causing the other man to release his hold and slide to the side.

“But – you – I,” Carlisle stammered.

“Carlisle? Jasper?” Bella called, standing in the living room, her Wii controllers dangling by their safety straps.

“Oh, I hope Alice caught all of that,” Jasper laughed, the sound deep and infectious, even without his talent.

Carlisle stood up, dusting his hands on his pants leg. “I’ll just be calling the glazier,” he stated calmly, moving back into the house and past Bella, ignoring her questioning look.

************

“I can’t believe you pulled such a prank!” Emmett laughed, high fiving Jasper. “Play it again!” he ordered.

“Out of all of everyone, YOU were the last one I would suspect of such a thing,” Esme scolded Jasper, catching Rosalie in her peripheral vision. “Well, the two of you,” she amended.

“That wasn’t a very nice thing to do to Carlisle,” Bella defended, still unable to help the smile that she wore as she watched the video. Alice had hidden several cameras about the room in order to catch all angles and they were currently viewing the best video.

“Thank you, Bella. You’re now my favorite child,” Carlisle replied, glaring at the others.

“I warned you about hijinks,” Alice sang, giggling as she watched the video of her husband crashing through glass once more.

“Those weren’t the kind of hijinks I was suspecting,” Carlisle grumbled. “Taking one of the cars joyriding, yes. Skipping class and getting caught, certainly. Setting it up so it sounded like a family member was killing another, absolutely not.”

Esme was appalled but couldn’t help but find the humor in the videos. “The best pranks come from the one you least expect,” she intoned, outright laughing at her husband as he shot her a look of annoyance.

Edward watched, as always, from the corner. Alice and Jasper both had been very careful to not think of their plan around him. He was confused and upset equally. How could Jasper joke around about him taking the chance of harming Bella? And if Jasper, of all people, could do something like this, why was he still holding back?