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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:


2. Chapter 2

Rating 4.5/5   Word Count 3200   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul
Chapter 2
By: Lady Saffir
Chapter rating: PG
Story rating: R/NC-17

AN - A big thank you to Megami76 for being a wonderful beta and putting up with my many emails. :)

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters from the Twilight universe.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience by which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” Eleanor Roosevelt

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The quiet murmur of voices pulled Bella from her slumber. Opening her eyes, she found the room lit only with natural light that filtered through a window that encompassed an entire wall. Her attention was pulled from the gently swaying trees outside to the other occupants of the room when her name was called.

"Bella?"

The soft voice offered no insight as to the speaker's frame of mind, yet the young woman flinched as if expecting pain. Turning her head she again found herself staring at a god come down to earth. The vampire before her was the most beautiful she had encountered, his blonde hair smoothed back from his forehead, pulling attention to his unusually colored eyes. His body was perfect of course, and Bella spared little attention to that. It was the eyes that captivated her. What did it mean for a vampire's eyes to be golden and not fiery red?

"How are you feeling?" The man pressed.

Her mind pulled forth a name. Carlisle. This vampire had said his name was Carlisle and that he was a doctor. That couldn't be right though, unless he was referring to the sort of games he enjoyed. James and Victoria had always enjoyed watching when Jonathon came over and 'examined' her.

A shudder ripped through the frail woman's body, her eyes closing against the memory.

"Are you in pain?"

Answer! Her mind screamed. Don't make him ask you a third time and punish you. He was new and unknown and you have no idea how he'll react to your disobedience, Bella's mind insisted, forming the words she needed to speak.

"No, I'm fine," she whispered, turning her eyes away to stare at the wall.

"Why are you lying?" The other tall blonde man asked from his position by the door. The tense set of his shoulders and tightening around his eyes made her nervous.

"I'm fine," Bella insisted, her mouth going dry as he stepped away from the wall.

"Jasper," Carlisle cautioned, twisting in his seat to stare at the other man. Any further words were lost as Bella gasped when Jasper stepped in to the light.

She could see the crisscrossing of scars over his arms and neck and knew those to mean that this was a fighter. Perhaps he was this coven's enforcer? She couldn't control her body's fight or flight response to this threat before her. Her heart tripped over itself then began a jackhammer pace, her breathing accelerating as well. She must quickly find out what behavior was acceptable so as to give him no reason to look at her again.

"Bella, this is my son, Jasper. You have nothing to fear from him or anyone else in our family," Carlisle soothed, slowly standing and moving to the side of the bed. "Would you like to sit up?"

Bella nodded mutely, struggling to pull herself into a sitting position. She flinched away from the feel of Carlisle's hands under her arms assisting her to a better position. Satisfied, he stepped back, sitting down once more.

"Thank you," Bella whispered, looking down and picking idly at the blanket covering her.

"Are you sure you aren't in any pain?" Carlisle asked again. Bella caught the look he gave the man he called Jasper.

"I'll be okay."

The door opened, interrupting Carlisle before he could press for a truthful answer from his patient. Esme entered, carrying a tray containing a variety of foods. The smell of the broth perfumed the air, causing Bella's stomach to gurgle loudly.

"Good, you are hungry. I was afraid the morphine might have made you nauseous," Carlisle stated. He moved aside to allow his wife to place the tray on Bella's lap. It was painfully obvious to the vampire occupants of the room that Bella tensed as Esme drew near, her breathe held and body unnaturally still. The already fast beat of her heart thrummed even faster.

Esme, ever the mother, couldn't resist trying to ease some of Bella's fears. "You're safe," she murmured, stepping back to stand next to Carlisle. "No one will ever harm you again, Bella, I promise."

Bella glanced up at Esme as she spoke, quickly looking back down at the tray before her. There was wariness and fear in her eyes, Carlisle noted, but he thought he had perhaps caught the faintest trace of curiosity in her gaze.

The head of the Cullen family settled back into the chair he had been previously seated. Esme pulled a chair up next to him, and Jasper moved back to his position by the door. "Why don't you eat and I'll explain everything," Carlisle suggested. He waited for Bella to swallow the first spoonful before beginning.

"As I've told you, my name is Carlisle Cullen and this is my wife, Esme. You've met two of our children, Jasper and Alice. We have three more, two sons and a daughter - Edward, Emmett, and Rosalie. We live in a place called Forks, Washington and have been here for a little over a year."

Carlisle paused to gauge Bella's mood, satisfied to see that for the moment, her stomach appeared to be handling the food. Perhaps her nutritional status wouldn't be so hard to correct after all.

"I'm sure you are concerned about our diet," he started, ignoring the jerk in Bella's hand that sent broth sloshing over the edge of the bowl. "Let me assure you that we do NOT drink from humans, only animals. This allows us to blend in and interact with humans on a daily basis. Our diet also affects our eye color as I'm sure you've noticed."

The comment had the intended effect of pulling Bella's attention away from her food and causing her to briefly meet Carlisle's gaze. The frank interest in her eyes had the seated vampire smiling. Good. She hadn't been totally broken. Hopefully with time and patience they would be able to help Bella regain her faith in the world and put the past behind her. The smile quickly fell though as she dropped her gaze, her shoulders hunching as if expecting a blow.

"As a rule, we don't keep secrets in this family for a multitude of reasons. The first and foremost being that Jasper, Alice and Edward have special talents that make lying or hiding something impossible. Jasper can not only sense other's emotions but can influence them."

At this, Bella immediately looked over to Jasper, the fear in her eyes evident.

"Yes, Bella, I can tell you're afraid, but you have no reason to be," Jasper soothed, sending a wave of calm towards the bed. "No one will harm you."

The hunch of Bella's shoulders loosened and she spoke for the first time without prompting.

"That's a very scary talent," she whispered, peeking up through her eyelashes before looking away.

"Yes, it can be," Jasper agreed. "I can influence your emotions, but you can influence mine. I'm something of an emotional sponge."

The attempt at light humor worked, discernable through the tiniest lift of the corner of Bella's mouth, which was seen by all.

A light knock on the door heralded Alice's arrival. The petite woman slipped through the open door, looking at her husband with reproach when he grabbed her wrist to halt her path to the bed. The couple communicated wordlessly, their long familiarity allowing them to have an entire discussion with only facial expressions and body posture. Alice finally sighed, rolling her eyes.

"Fine, Jazz, I'll take it slow," Alice muttered. "But I'm telling you she can handle more than you think. I bought some clothes for you to change in to," she added, turning back and addressing Bella. "Now that you've had some food I'm sure you'd like to get cleaned up. I'll go start the bath and Esme can help you with your hair."

The authoritative tone was not lost on Bella and she looked to Carlisle and Esme to see how they would handle being ordered around by a subordinate. They merely looked amused, for which Bella was grateful. She had no desire to be in the room if a fight broke out.

Jasper excused himself from the room and Carlisle stood to follow his son, stating, "When you're finished, Bella, I would like to further examine you and see if you have any other injuries that require treatment, if that's alright with you."

Bella nodded mutely, wishing she could say no but afraid to upset Carlisle. Alice came dancing out of the bathroom, exchanging a quick look with Esme before heading out the door and closing it behind her.

"Why don't I help you wash your hair first then you can relax as long as you'd like in the tub," Esme suggested, placing Bella's dinner tray aside before pulling back the blankets. "I know that I find a nice warm soak and some alone time with my thoughts to be a wonderful way to unwind," she continued, placing a light hand under Bella's elbow as she slid to the edge of the bed.

They began the slow walk to the bathroom, each hyper aware of the other. Esme was quite certain that Bella wished nothing more than to be left alone and would love to refuse her help but for now seemed unable to voice her opinion. They would work hard on building her trust of them, as well as her self confidence.

Bella was afraid that she would be more clumsy than usual and draw the female vampire's ire. Victoria had never had any patience for her slowness or aptitude for having accidents and her punishments were more likely to be something embarrassing rather than painful.

Both vampire and human paused inside the bathroom door to look at the bulky cast adorning Bella's right arm. Extending from elbow down to her palm and wrapped around her thumb, the plaster left Bella only able to wiggle her fingers. At the same time, the two women reached the conclusion that assistance would be needed in removing Bella's clothing.

"Let's get you out of these things and into the bath, shall we?" Esme asked lightly. The shirt was easily removed thanks to its large size and was immediately thrown in the trash. The sweatpants sagged around Bella's waist and required only a slight tug before they puddled on the floor.

Esme couldn't contain the gasp that escaped her lips upon viewing Bella's naked form. Bruises coated her skin in a rainbow of colors, testifying to the abuse she had endured. The dull brown and purple of new bruises overlapped the yellow-green of older injuries, making a macabre patchwork quilt of the skin.

"Oh, sweetheart," Esme's tortured whisper had Bella blushing, wishing she had been able to undress and bathe without assistance. A few seconds of silence stretched out before Esme spoke again. "Is the water warm enough?"

Bella bent and trailed a hand through the water, nodding in response before gently easing herself down into the sunken tub. A hiss of pain escaped as the water met with her injuries before she could stop the sound in her throat. Afraid the woman with her would take insult to her complaint she flinched, looking up for the blow she was sure was coming.

Instead she found Esme's face full of compassion and empathy, her eyes bright with the tears she could not shed. "Oh, sweetheart," she repeated, lowering herself to sit on the wide lip surrounding the tub. "Oh. I'm so sorry we couldn't have found you earlier and spared you this pain."

It had been years since another human being had looked up Bella with such kindness and never had a vampire acted in such a manner. Tears began to pool in her eyes, her breath hitching as she fought to keep from showing her emotions. Why would this vampire who didn't know her look at her with such warmth and understanding? Was it a trick to lull her in to a false sense of safety? Even as she thought that she was shaking her head against the idea. No, this vampire seemed to truly care.

Though Esme ached to pull the young woman into her arms and comfort her, she realized it was too soon for Bella to truly be comfortable with such an action. Instead she reached for the cup Alice had placed on the floor, dipping it into the water and beginning the process of wetting Bella's hair, intentionally allowing some water to trail over her face and hide the tracks of the tears.

At Esme's urging, Bella turned to face the wall so that the older woman would be able to easily reach the long tangle of hair that trailed down her back. Silence fell; the only sound produced was that of the water sloshing around the tub.

"Carlisle began to tell you a bit about our family so I'll continue," Esme began suddenly, unable to take the silence that allowed her thoughts free reign. Later, when trust had been established, she would share her past with Bella. For now though she would attempt to stay in the present. "You've met my daughter Alice. She and Jasper are married," Esme paused, smiling at the surprised sound Bella made, "and have been with us for many years. Alice's talent is that she can see the future. It makes it very hard to give her a surprise gift," she added. "She also loves to shop, which I'm sure you'll find out. She has a tendency to be a bit bossy because of her abilities but don't be afraid to tell her no."

Bella nodded, knowing she wouldn't say no. Her life would be easier if she simply did exactly what they wanted, she was sure. She just needed to find out what they expected of her.

"Emmett and Rosalie are also married. Emmett loves nothing more than to tease his siblings and give Rosalie whatever she wants. He's...big," Esme hesitated on how to describe her son. "But he won't hurt you. Rosalie loves fashion almost as much as Alice but also loves to work on cars. She's the mechanic in our family."

Esme rinsed Bella's hair thoroughly before starting the process over again. It was one small way she could care for this newest daughter and she rather hoped Bella found the action as soothing as she did.

"Edward has been with Carlisle the longest, a few years before Carlisle saved me." That was all she would say about that for now. "His biggest passion is music; we'll have to show you his CD collection. He plays the piano flawlessly and loves to read. And like every other male in the world he loves anything that goes fast."

The relaxed way Esme spoke of her family was lulling Bella into a calm state, the gentle rub of fingers massaging her scalp easing some of the tension from her body. Silence fell again but this time it was more peaceful, holding none of the tension from earlier.

With a sigh, Esme reached for a towel, her task complete. Gently drying Bella's hair she deftly wrapped the wet tresses up, securing the towel on top of her head. "There," she stated. "Your hair is clean. Do you need any help with the rest?" She asked, already knowing the answer.

Bella shook her head, her glance quick as she murmured, "Thank you".

"You're quite welcome," Esme replied warmly, standing and heading for the door. "Take as much time as you'd like. When you're done, just call and I'll help you dry off and get into your clothes." So saying, she slipped through the doorway, gently closing it behind her.

Carlisle was waiting for her in the hallway, his strong arms wrapping about her slender frame as she shook with horror and pity. "What they did to her, Carlisle," she whispered so soft only her husband could hear. "They were monsters. She's covered head to toe in bruises. My god, why would anyone do that to a child?" Esme's voice quivered with anger. "It's going to take a very long time before she starts to heal from everything done to her."

Jasper appeared suddenly, one hand tentatively reaching out to rest on Esme's shoulder. Calm stole through her body, her breathing slowing and quieting. Esme turned her to head smile in thanks, not willing just yet to leave the comfort of Carlisle's arms.

"You've already started her on the path to healing," Jasper refuted Esme's prior statement. "Her feelings," he hesitated, attempting to put in to words what he had felt emanating from Bella. "She's already started to trust you, even if she isn't aware of it herself. She'll look to you for comfort," he nodded to Esme before transferring his gaze to Carlisle, "and you for rules."

"What Jasper's trying to say," Alice interrupted, joining the conversation, "is that Bella needs parental figures and she'll be looking for you two to provide that." Her gaze blanked for a moment as she stared in to the future. "She's heard you call us son and daughter but we'll need to emphasize the fact that we are a family and that the five of us do view you as our parents. Her understanding that will allow her to see us as her siblings and that she is part of this family."

Carlisle stared at Alice thoughtfully for a moment before nodding. "Very well. What's next?"

"Bella will call for you in five minutes, Esme. Once you've helped her back to bed, you and Carlisle should go over house rules and routine with her." Alice zoned for a moment before coming back to the present. "Edward won't be home till the middle of the night, so she'll have to meet everyone else tomorrow." She blinked. "And more food might not be a bad idea, especially if you're going to give her more pain killers, Carlisle."

Carlisle ran a hand through his hair, pushing a stray piece back off his forehead. "Anything else?" he asked, regretting the question when Alice gave him such a sweet smile he knew there was trouble coming.

"Get used to hearing 'mom' and 'dad' yelled through the house. And remember, all the teenage hijinks we get in to will help Bella acclimate to this family."

Together, Esme and Carlisle sighed, already afraid of what antics would be ensuing.