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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:


18. Chapter 18a

Rating 5/5   Word Count 2677   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul

Chapter 18a

By: Lady Saffir

Story Rating: R

Chapter Rating: PG

DISCLAIMER: I own no rights to the Twilight universe. I’m simply playing with S. Meyer’s creations.

Big thanks to Megami for being such a wonderful beta. This chapter is broken in two for Twilight Archives, due to chapter size.

I’m always curious as to how people stumble upon my story. Feel free to let me know how you came to be here. My most sincere apologies for the lateness of this chapter. I hope to return to my usual posting schedule of every other Monday. And for those on FF.Net, when you receive a reply to your review, that is the signal a new chapter will be out in a few days. Hope that clears things up.

“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.” Marie Curie

“I am not alone at all, I thought. I was never alone at all. And that, of course, is the message of Christmas. We are never alone. Not when the night is darkest, the wind coldest, the world seemingly most indifferent. “ Taylor Caldwell

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

Edward remained in the hallway after depositing Bella on her bed, his fists clenched at his sides. He was shamelessly rifling through Laurent’s head, listening to his thoughts as he was questioned. He could see the truth the man spoke, when he stated he had not harmed Bella or tasted her blood. It was the only thing keeping him alive at this point.

Edward, does he speak the truth?

“Yes,” Edward replied to Carlisle’s thought.

How to proceed then, Carlisle mused, his thoughts drowned out by Esme’s.

Edward didn’t need Jasper’s gift to know that his mother was in pain. He had witnessed through her eyes Bella’s flinch away from her touch, as well as her action of rolling away.

What do I do? The Denali’s are family. Do we demand they leave? What can I do to help Bella? How do I comfort her if she won’t let me touch her?Esme’s thoughts continued in this same vein, the turmoil of the position she was stuck in causing her thoughts to repeat.

“Give her time, Esme,” Edward’s voice was a low murmur, inaudible to the vampires downstairs. “Why don’t you go downstairs and help Carlisle,” he suggested.

She didn’t want to, he knew, even as she opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. Esme closed the door softly, staring at the wood as if she could see the room’s occupant through the grain.

Tell Esme Bella will be in her room until evening, Alice instructed.

“Alice says Bella will stay in her room until tonight,” Edward relayed. “Go down, I know Carlisle wants you.”

Esme nodded, moving towards the stairs. She paused. “Aren’t you coming, Edward?”

“I think I’ll stay up here,” he replied, moving to sit by Bella’s door.

Is he planning on doing something? Esme asked worriedly, sighing in relief when Edward shook his head. Then why?

“Just in case,” Edward replied.

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

Jasper had dissipated the tension in the living room once it became clear they would not be attacking Laurent out right. He could feel nothing but remorse from the other man, no hint of any desire to attack Bella. But…he was even newer to their lifestyle than Jasper himself. And Jasper knew exactly how much he would have trusted himself to be around Bella after only abstaining from human blood for two years. He still had issue, at times, with the constant swirl of her blood perfuming the house. And he knew that Edward would be constantly monitoring Laurent’s thoughts, but perhaps it would be better to remove the temptation for a while.

“That’s a wonderful idea, Jazz,” Alice spoke up, smiling at her husband.

Used to such seemingly random outbursts by now, everyone waited to hear what Alice had seen.

“How does everyone feel about a game a football? Say, Denali’s versus Cullens?” Alice asked.

Wanting the idea to take, Jasper spread his eagerness throughout the room subtly.

“An excellent idea,” Carlisle agreed.

“Bets?” Kate asked.

“Of course,” Emmett replied. “What’ll it be?”

“First to score, winner, final score?” Tanya suggested.

“American football or European football?” Laurent asked. He appeared relieved and eager to take the strange peace offering, now that it seemed he wouldn’t be torn to pieces.

“American.”

“That reminds me,” Emmett cracked his knuckles menacingly. “I promised Bella I’d kick anyone’s ass that hurt her.”

“Emmett,” Rosalie hissed.

“What?” Emmett protested. “I won’t be allowed to kick his ass just because, so now I’ll have to do it through sports. That’s all I’m sayin’.”

Rosalie pulled her husband outside, lecturing as they began heading for the clearing they used for sports. “They entire point of this is to get away from that subject,” she began, her voice trailing off as they sped away.

“Emmett is very protective of Bella,” Esme offered. “Edward, are you going?”

“No; you go ahead. I’ll stay here and enjoy the silence,” he replied.

Esme hedged, really wanting to be the one to stay with Bella. She had to make it up to her somehow, and perhaps she could find the words Bella needed to hear, if it were only the two of them in the house.

“It’s no use, Esme,” Alice stated. “I can still see you tackling Carmen and scoring a touchdown.”

Amused at the thought of his wife doing a touchdown dance, Carlisle pulled Esme along. “We’ll talk on the way,” he promised.

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

Bella wasn’t sure how long she remained in her peaceful world of the silent forest, but the constant dripping she was imagining falling from the leaf tips was making her both thirsty and in dire need of the bathroom. She didn’t want to leave though, knowing that their visitors would still be in the house. It was the twenty-second, and they were due to stay at until the twenty-seventh, perhaps even until the New Year. Would she be allowed to stay in her room the entire time?

Dragging herself out of her mental world, Bella listened intently, moving the covers back a bit. She had expected Alice to yell upstairs, or hear someone in the room with her. They never left her alone when she was upset. Why would they do it now?

Maybe they were giving her space. Maybe they were all downstairs, talking with their visitors and glad they didn’t have a human around. Maybe they were regretting ever taking her in. She had been mean to Esme. And everyone loved Esme, so they’d all be mad at her and she’d ruined Christmas.

The overwhelming fear that the Cullens would no longer accept her had Bella almost hyperventilating, hastily sitting up in bed and crushing the quilt to her chest. What would she do? Where would she go?

The knock on her door had her gasping in surprise.

“Bella? Are you alright?”

Edward’s voice didn’t sound upset, or mad, Bella noted. Maybe even a bit…worried?

“I’m-I’m fine,” she replied. “Where’s Esme?” she asked hesitantly.

“She left.”

The answer had Bella jumping out of bed, tripping on an errant shoe has she hurried to the door, throwing it open and staring at Edward in alarm.

“She left? But…why? She’s not upset with me, is she? I didn’t mean it, I-“

The deluge of words tumbled to a halt when Edward held a hand up.

“She’s not upset with you, Bella,” he began. “She didn’t want to leave, but we talked her into going with everyone to play a game of football. She’ll be back in a little under two hours.”

Bella sagged against the doorframe. “You’re sure?”

Edward smiled. “I’m sure. Since you missed lunch, why don’t we go downstairs and find you something for dinner?”

Bella accepted the offer, blushing when her stomach growled at the mention of food. As they descended the stairs, she thought of everything she was going to say to Esme when she returned.

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

Esme couldn’t stand it anymore. She had to get home and make sure Bella was okay. What if she was upset and wouldn’t allow Edward to comfort her? She shouldn’t have left in the first place. What must Bella think of her, placing a football game above her own daughter?

Peace stole through her body, making Esme turn to Jasper in thanks. Carlisle had paused next to her and had one eyebrow raised, no doubt quite aware of where her thoughts were leading her.

“Shall I say our goodbyes?” The question was more rhetorical, as Alice was already calling a halt to the play and reassigning teams.

“Go on, we’ll see you later,” Alice waved her away.

Esme gave her daughter a brief hug before grabbing Carlisle’s hand and pulling him onto the path that would lead them home.

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

Esme voiced her fears once more to Carlisle as they brushed through the undergrowth.

“She wouldn’t let me touch her, Carlisle,” she lamented. “What am I going to do to gain her trust back?”

Carlisle tugged on his wife’s hand, lifting it up and placing a kiss on her knuckles. “You haven’t lost her trust. This is actually a good thing,” he assured.

“A good thing? It’s a good thing that our daughter doesn’t want me to touch her or comfort her? Carlisle….”

“Esme, this is a step I’ve been hoping would occur for quite some time.”

Esme stopped, pulling Carlisle to a halt. She looked at him as if he had said the world had turned upside down.

“You’ve been waiting for her to shun my touch for some time now,” she re-iterated. She didn’t find his chuckle funny at all.

“Sweetheart, the fact that Bella refused your comfort is a sign that she knows you won’t abandon her. She can act moody and be cranky with us because she knows we still love her and support her. It’s a positive sign.” Carlisle cupped Esme’s face in his hands, bending down to place a light kiss on her lips. “It might be hard to remember this, whenever she throws a teenage fit and refuses to talk to us, but it’s a good thing.”

Esme sighed, taking comfort in his touch. “I’ll remind you of all of this,” she promised.

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

Edward kept Bella company downstairs, flipping through the various Christmas shows while Bella immersed herself in a book. It was nice to be able to spend time with another person and not constantly know what they weren’t saying, he mused. The way she had placed herself to see the river, as well as the frequent looks out the back windows hadn’t escaped his notice, and he had promised to give Bella some warning before anyone approached. She had thanked him quietly and turned back to her book.

I hope she isn’t still in her room.

Esme’s mental voice was faint. Edward smiled to himself. He knew Esme and Carlisle would be the first to return, and well ahead of the others.

“Esme and Carlisle will be here in a few moments,” Edward stated. He watched Bella fumble her book, finally setting it aside as she rose and stared anxiously outside.

***********

Esme could see Bella standing at the back door even through the dense trees. The sight of her daughter, hands clasped before her as she chewed on her bottom lip had Esme increasing her speed. She was across the river and on the back porch before Bella could register her presence, and the door was open and she was standing before her by the time Bella had taken one step.

“Bella?” Esme knew her voice sounded frantic, but she had to know everything was alright.

“Esme!”

Esme found her arms full of Bella, as the teenage tripped over her words in her haste to get them out.

“Esme, I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have done that, I didn’t mean to-“

Esme cut her off, putting one finger against her lips.

“Hush, Bella, you’ve nothing to apologize for. No, wait,” she cut off any attempts to interrupt. “You saw someone from your past and you were upset by this, I understand. This man is a guest in our home and you aren’t certain how you feel about that. No one is upset with you. We just want you happy and safe,” Esme hugged Bella tightly, enjoying the arms that went around her back.

Carlisle spoke. “We decided on the way back that we’re going to ask Laurent to leave. You shouldn’t be afraid in your own home, Bella,” he added.

Bella bit her lip, wanting to argue that she wasn’t afraid but knowing everyone would see through the lie. Why did she have to mess up the visit like this?

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

Laurent held Irina back as the others raced ahead. The game had ended shortly after Esme and Carlisle had left, the general consensus being that everyone should hunt. He knew that the others were nowhere close to needing to slake their thirst but did so in order to not make him feel alone.

He had no idea what his future was to hold, when he first stumbled upon the Denali coven. Their way of life was so unlike anything he had ever dreamed of. Of course rumors of vampires that only drank the blood of animals had circulated throughout their kind, leading to speculations regarding their mental stability. Could vampires be truly crazy? And why were they allowed to live such a lifestyle?

It was luck, he knew, that it was Irina he had first met. She had captured his attention and piqued his interest, which allowed him to stop and truly try her way of life. It was a good thing it hadn’t been Kate; they fought as siblings from the first meeting. Tanya, Carmen and Eleazar had welcomed him and given him words of encouragement, but it had been Irina who had anchored him. She spoke frankly of the struggle to ignore human blood, to see them as equals and not animals to be slaughtered on a whim.

And now his past had come back to haunt him. He had never thought a human would survive James or Victoria’s attention for any length of time. When he had visited James, Bella had been fairly new, Laurent guessed. While he had thought James’ idea innovative, he knew it couldn’t last. Someone was bound to take offense to the idea, and he had warned James of this. It was why he had departed so quickly, and had never taken his friend up on the offer to taste the sweetest blood ever.

And now that slip of a girl was living in a house full of vampires and called them family. Laurent was surprised to see that Bella had survived. He would have thought her mental state would have been broken well before now. It appeared she was surviving, even if she still seemed to have problems. And he was one of them.

“That was interesting, wasn’t it?” Irina asked, curling herself into his arms.

Laurent stroked her hair, loving the feel of it curling about his fingers. “I don’t know that I’ll be able to watch football on television again,” he agreed. “The players move so slowly.”

“And now we have to go back to the house,” Irina sighed. “I wonder if the girl will have calmed down by now.”

“Irina, I doubt a few mere hours will be enough to settle Bella’s nerves,” Laurent forged ahead, knowing he was in for a fight. “And I don’t think my continued presence will help at all.”

“Laurent, what are you saying?” Irina pulled back to study his face.

“Dear heart, the trauma that child has suffered,” Laurent broke off, sighing in regret. “Well, I can only imagine. If she is finally healing, my constantly being there will only set her back.”

“Surely she understands-“

“It’s Christmas, Irina. The first in years she will celebrate. There is time for us to get to know one another when she is a vampire.”

Irina huffed, pulling away. “What are you saying, then? We should spend Christmas alone? What of our family?”

Laurent smiled. “How many Christmases have you spent with your sisters? Enough I would think you wouldn’t mind missing one. We’ll start your present early,” he coaxed.

“And what is my present?”

Laurent smiled slyly. “I’ll tell you on the way.”

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