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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:


7. Chapter 7

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3158   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul
By: Lady Saffir
Chapter 7
Story Rating: R/NC-17
Chapter Rating: PG/PG-13
DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer I ain’t.

Author’s Note – A thank you to Megami76 for doing a wonderful job as beta and helping to make this story better. Also a thank you to everyone who has taken the time to review, even if it is only one or two words. Reviews make for a happy author. ^_^ One last item: chapter eight may be slightly delayed. I have been out of town with my husband for a conference and haven’t had my usual writing time. If I post next week it might not be till the 23rd, but most likely it will be the 28th or 29th before I can do so. I promise chapter 8 will be extra long to make up for missing my usual posting date.

"Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I will not forget you. Love me and I may be forced to love you.” Willliam Arthur Ward

"I have had dreams, and I have had nightmares. I overcame the nightmares because of my dreams.”

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

Carlisle met Esme in the garage as they returned home, both hurrying in to the house without a word. Esme was both furious and elated with her children. What had Emmett been thinking, she wanted to know. He had encouraged Bella though, gotten her outside. Esme hadn’t even thought of the fact that Bella had been stuck in the house since she arrived. How was she supposed to give Bella what she needed if she couldn’t anticipate those needs?

“Stop berating yourself,” Carlisle soothed, reaching out to pull Esme to him. “This is a learning situation for all of us.”

Esme leaned into her husband’s embrace, accepting the comfort he offered. “I know. I still feel like I should have realized she wanted to go outside. Are we moving too slow? We were expecting her to take weeks and months to adjust to us. Yet today she initiated a conversation with Emmett.”

“I rock,” Emmett boasted, swaggering into the kitchen. “You were all afraid I was going to set her back and I actually helped. Go me.”

Edward entered behind his brother, rolling his eyes at Emmett’s antics. “You obviously don’t need help patting yourself on the back,” he stated, leaning against the counter. “Esme, I wish you could have seen her,” he continued, transferring his gaze to his mother. “It was…inspirational,” he decided.

Esme sighed, sitting the take-out bag with Bella’s dinner on the counter. “Well, there are many more firsts for me to witness,” she decided. “How long did she stay outside?”

“About an hour,” Edward answered, turning to hiss at Emmett even as he opened his mouth. “Don’t-“

“Bella! Dinner’s here!” Emmett bellowed, grinning at his parents. “What?”

“You’re having too much fun with having a human in the house,” Carlisle stated, moving to hang his coat and scarf in the coat closet. “I don’t want to know what you’ll do when Bella feels more comfortable with us.”

Bella’s hesitant steps heralded her arrival downstairs. She paused in the doorway, taking in the group before her. Edward had moved away from the door to allow Bella entrance into the kitchen without having to pass too closely to any other family member. She settled in to her usual seat at the island after first getting a glass of water.

“Hi,” was her soft greeting to Esme and Carlisle.

“Hello, Bella. How was your day?” Esme asked, moving to unpack dinner. “I hear you caught a bit of the sunlight. Did you enjoy it?”

“Yes.”

“Perhaps tomorrow you can work on your schoolwork outside,” Esme offered, handing Bella a plate full of food. “Sometimes the work doesn’t seem too bad if you can enjoy your surroundings.”

“Okay.”

“Alice’ll be back late tonight,” Emmett interrupted. “Rosalie called this afternoon to say they were heading home early. So your task master will be back in the driver’s seat,” he teased.

“Emmett!”

The triple cry had Emmett looking around in bewilderment. “What? Alice is setting Bella’s lessons, hence she sets the tasks. What’d I say?”

“Thank you, Emmett,” Carlisle said dryly. “Aren’t you missing the Mariner’s game?”

“Shit!”

“Language, Emmett,” Esme automatically corrected.

“Sorry, Ma.”

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

Edward sat in the kitchen with Carlisle and Esme while Bella ate, making small talk and picking out the wanted answers from their brains while he thought. The burn at the back of his throat had been diminished these past two days, he acknowledged, due to the fact he had stayed in the house practically the entire time. That would change tomorrow when he and Emmett left for a two day hunting trip in northern California.

Was it worth it? He wondered. He missed spending time with Emmett, with the peace he found in being surrounded with only Emmett’s thoughts. His brother rarely thought anything he wouldn’t say out loud, a refreshing change. Even though they were hunting, Edward knew his throat would burn as if it had been weeks since he had last drank, when they returned home.

So then…did he abscond with something of Bella’s, keep it close to him to keep himself desensitized to her smell? It still struck him as a stalker like action, but it would be better to follow that road then return home and be tempted to spill his sister’s blood. Edward kept his sigh small, hating the courses of action open to him. It seemed like he would either have to skip this hunting trip and deal with Emmett sulking or keep Emmett from finding out how difficult he found Bella’s scent to resist.

'Edward, is everything alright?'

Edward nodded to Esme, making an effort to focus on the conversation around him. He would think about it tonight, perhaps talk with Carlisle more regarding his choices.

***********

Carlisle waited for Bella to finish eating before apologizing.

“Bella.”

Knowing what was coming, Bella looked up, flushing. “Carlisle, I-“

“Bella, I’m sorry.”

What? Why would Carlisle apologize? Bella thought he meant to discuss being bothered at work with trivial matters. She never would have thought those words would be spoken. He had no reason to apologize. It was her fault for not understanding him.

“But…it’s my fault. I didn’t know you wouldn’t mind if I went outside,” Bella protested.

“No, Bella, it’s my fault. I didn’t mean for you to take me so literally. I should have realized that you would, and clarified what I meant. I’m sorry that you were afraid of getting in to trouble,” Carlisle’s words were sincere, his eyes conveying his regret.

“I tried to tell Emmett not to bother you at work,” Bella whispered, looking down at her plate. “I know you have more important things to do.”

Carlisle hesitated, wondering if what he wanted to do would be acceptable. Deciding to go for it, he slowly reached one hand across the table, gently touching the back of Bella’s hand to gain her attention. Her eyes snapped up, meeting his own.

“Bella, nothing is more important to me than family. I don’t want you to ever hesitate to call me at work, regardless of what you need. I will always make the time for you,” Carlisle vowed.

“That goes for all of us,” Edward spoke up. “We’re always there for one another, and that includes you.”

“Which is why I stopped on the way home and picked this up,” Esme finished, pulling out a slim silver phone from her purse. “Our phone numbers are already programmed in.”

Bella stared at the tiny silver device sitting next to her plate. Her own phone? Were they planning on leaving her alone more, now that they saw she could handle it? She liked spending time with Esme, though, and Alice was nice too. What were they trying to say?

Esme correctly interpreted the look in Bella’s eyes. “We’ll be around just as much as before, Bella. We just realized though that we hadn’t given you a way to call any of us if you needed to. Besides, every teenager is supposed to have a cell phone these days,” Esme tried for a lighter note.

The phone rang at that moment, scaring Bella and causing her to jump in her chair. She looked to both Esme and Carlisle for guidance, swallowing when they merely motioned for her to answer. The display read Alice, she saw.

“Hello?”

If Alice was put off by the timid tone Bella used, she showed no sign of it. “Bella! You finally got your phone! Now I can text you while I’m at school. What do you think about that?”

“Alice, when you’re in school Bella is also in school, remember?” Edward called out, easily hearing his sister’s words.

“Shoot, Edward’s right,” Alice muttered. “Fine, I’ll text you during lunch. How does that sound?”

Not wanting to do anything that would lessen Alice’s excitement, Bella murmured her acceptance, shutting the phone gently when Alice hung up with a cheery, “See you in the morning!”
****************

Jasper looked over at his wife in the passenger seat, smiling to himself as he felt her emotions. The past two days had made her happy, he knew, being surrounded by the latest fashions and designers. The trunk of the car was testament to her and Rosalie’s utter abandon to the world of fashion. Her excitement had spiked however when she saw that Bella had finally received her own phone, the ensuing conversation pulling forth an even deeper well of contentment.

“How much longer?” Jasper asked, knowing Alice would understand what he was asking.

“A few more months, Christmas at the latest.”

“And after that?”

“Hmmm…still a bit murky,” Alice decided, her eyes clearing of the future as she looked over at her husband. “Too many variables involved. Edward’s future is also clouded, and I wish I knew why,” she fretted, turning to frown at Rosalie when she snorted.

“He’s still not sure if he’s going to drain her dry,” Rosalie offered, raising an eyebrow at her sister’s look of disgust. “What? It’s the truth; he admitted it to all of us. He finds her entirely too tempting. He won’t be able to last too much longer.”

Alice was silent. She had experienced exactly two visions of Bella’s future, with variations on each. In one, she was a vampire. In the other…Edward crouched over her frail body, the limpness of her limbs indicating death had come for her. Edward had seen both futures in her mind, his vow to not let the latter happen sincere. That had not erased the possibility however, as well he knew.

She had kept one variation of the future in which Bella was a vampire from her brother, however. The future that showed the two of them passionately kissing under an arbor, the garland of flowers flowing down around them, their wedding bands glinting under a string of fairy lights. That vision would bother Edward just as much as the future in which he killed Bella. And while Alice desperately wished to share that happy possible future with Jasper, she refrained, afraid that if she spoke of it to another Edward would see it in their mind. No, she could tell no one.
***********

Edward found himself once again watching from his window as Bella stepped out into the sunlight, Alice at her side. They made their way to the table Alice had dragged outside earlier in the day, sitting opposite each other as they completed their schoolwork. He wondered if he should take the opportunity to grab something of Bella’s now, while she was outside and unaware.

'Not right now, Edward. I’ll let you know when the time is right'

Edward frowned down at his sister as she raised her head to smirk at him. She was keeping him from her thoughts by singing Christmas carols in her mind; something she knew would drive him away. Resigned to wait, he folded himself down onto his couch, aimlessly flipping through various music stations. He was tired of hiding in his room, afraid to leave for fear of slipping and harming Bella. Would more exposure be better or worse, he wondered for the fiftieth time.

His decision was made when he heard Alice speak to Bella.

“I was thinking that Edward could continue on with the sciences lessons, and Jasper could perhaps do the history part. It’s better to have more than one teacher,” the petite vampire continued, not giving Bella a chance to argue. “It will give you different perspectives on things.”

“Okay?”

The hesitation was obvious, but Alice beamed, tossing directions to her brother.

'Come do the science lecture. And why don’t you bring your coat down? Bella looks like she’s getting cold and I haven’t had the opportunity to purchase one for her.'

Edward waffled between amusement at how cleverly his sister had given him a way to keep Bella’s scent close, and annoyance at pulling him into a teacher’s role.

'You’ll thank me this time tomorrow,' Alice stated. 'Now, get down here before she finds a reason to go inside.'
****************

“Edward’s going to bring a coat out for you,” Alice informed Bella, nodding behind the human girl towards the house. “We can stay outside longer this way.”

Bella bit her lip, nodding in agreement. She had been getting a little chilly, especially when the wind blew. It came as no surprise then when something heavy settled around her shoulders a second before Edward was seated next to Alice, his face expectant.

“Ready for your lesson?”

Bella nodded, absent-mindedly slipping her arms into the sleeves of the dark blue coat while Edward launched into a lecture regarding genetics. A tantalizing scent kept catching her attention however, distracting her from Edward’s speech. Tilting her head to the side she hesitantly breathed in, confirming her suspicions that the jacket held the wonderful odor. Was this what Edward smelled like? How had she not noticed this before?

Jerking her mind from following that train of thought, Bella pulled her head forward, focusing once more on the lecture. It didn’t matter, she knew. After all, why would he want anything to do with her?

***********
Edward sat patiently on a rock, waiting for Emmett to finish toying with his meal before eating it. The enraged bear’s snarls echoed in the small valley they were in, rebounding back on itself to intensify the sound. He knew his brother would draw the encounter out, playfully wrestling with the bear before finishing it off.

Minutes later Emmett sat next to his brother, his smile wide. “That was fun. Been a while since I’ve had a big one like that.”

“How can you hold all of that blood?” Edward wondered.

“Lots of me to keep full,” Emmett replied.

They sat in companionable silence for a moment, Edward allowing Emmett’s thoughts to coast along, his brother thinking of nothing serious. When his thoughts did turn, Edward groaned, knowing what was coming.

“You’re wearing the same jacket you had Bella wear yesterday,” Emmett noted.

“Yes.”

“I keep thinking Bella’s hanging around, her scent’s that strong.”

“Yes.”

“You going to answer with more than one word?”

“Possibly.”

Emmett growled. “Smart ass. Come on, tell me what’s up.”

Edward hesitated, picking through his words carefully. “Do you remember the two humans whose smell you found irresistible?”

“Yeah. Why?”

Edward merely looked at his brother with exasperation, practically able to see light bulb turn on over Emmett’s head.

“That’s what she smells like to you? How the hell have you lasted so long, man?” Emmett wondered, thinking back to the two times he had succumbed to human blood. His recall was vivid and perfect, causing Edward to moan and bury his head in his hands.

“Do you mind not thinking so hard about that?” he begged.

“Sorry, bro. Damn, how the hell have you resisted so long? There’s no way I could do it,” Emmett marveled, smacking his brother on the back. “You must have the control of a saint. Or Carlisle,” he added, laughing.

Edward didn’t join in the laughter, instead burying his nose in the collar of his jacket. He had another day before they headed home and he wasn’t sure the jacket would be enough to keep his sensitivity threshold high.
***********

The dreams continued.

They did not occur every night, and some nights were worse than others. The family grew used to hearing Bella’s mutters throughout the night, some words more clear than others. Jasper tried to give Esme fair warning when the dreams were heading into nightmare territory so that she would be there to soothe Bella back to sleep. It wasn’t entirely altruistic, Jasper acknowledged to himself. Bella’s anxiety had a tendency to hit him hard, so he was driven to block any negative emotions he could.

Jasper had thought long and hard about simply erasing Bella’s dark emotions and replacing them with something lighter, something easier to deal with. God knew the teenager had dealt with enough horrible things in her life. Why subject her to having to relive them? Wasn’t that the reason she was now living with them, to obtain a better life?

“You can’t do it,” Alice had stated, appearing out of thin air. She curled up under her husband’s arm, placing a light kiss on his chest. “Your intentions are good, but Bella needs to work through this.”

That had been two nights ago, the night that Bella had a particularly bad dream that left her shaken for hours.
Now she was muttering, tossing in her bed, the words slurred and indistinct. Jasper closed the book he was studying, leaning back in his chair and staring thoughtfully at the ceiling. He knew Esme was in her own study, feel her determination to stop this dream before it could fully realize into a nightmare. He listened to his mother’s footsteps fade up the stairs before moving downstairs to find his wife and convince her to take a midnight stroll with him.

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

Regardless of how many times Esme woke her from the dreams, Bella was never able to convince herself while she was dreaming that her surroundings weren’t real. The closed in little closet, her own smell from the lack of bathroom facilities, the cries of other humans, they all haunted her mind, forcing her to relive her captivity day by day.

And every time the angel’s voice would come to her, entreating her to wake up, to open her eyes and overcome the dream world. And every time Bella would open her eyes and see Esme and Carlisle perched on the side of her bed, murmuring their assurances that she would never suffer again. Bella had come to view sleep with mixed feelings. The dreams might appear that night, but then so would Esme and Carlisle, driving off the bad memories. She had come to rely on their presence. Every time they appeared, staying with her until she fell asleep again. The continuity was something she had come to crave. Surely they did it because they wanted to, not because it was a chore. Esme’s smiling face and Carlisle’s calm demeanor did more to reinforce the notion that she was family more than words ever could.

And then came the night when nothing Esme said or did could pull Bella from her nightmare.