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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:


9. Chapter 9

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4116   Review this Chapter

Survival of the Soul

Chapter 9

By: Lady Saffir

Story Rating: R/NC-17

Chapter Rating: G (Is this right? I didn’t swear once? I must be sick)

DISCLAIMER: Once more I must proclaim that I do not own Twilight or its characters.

Thanks to Megami76 for taking the time to look everything over and answer my zillion emails so patiently. For those on fanfiction.net, I’m sorry for all the formatting issues that have plagued the last few chapters, hopefully those are resolved. I’m tempted to sweeten the pot for those of you reading this on ff.net to get you to review. Perhaps if you review the chapter, be it long or a simple, ‘I enjoyed this,’ I’ll give you a sneak peek into the next chapter. Tempting, or just begging? You decide. :) And yes, this might seem like a filler chapter, but there are multiple key scenes in here that will play a role in the story later.

I now have a thread in the Twilighted Alternate Universe forum and will be posting sneak peeks at upcoming chapters and answering questions. Come play with us!

“Anyone can give up, it's the easiest thing in the world to do. But to hold it together when everyone else would understand if you fell apart, that's true strength.”

"Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” Arnold Schwarzenegger

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

It was very odd, Bella decided, having both Carlisle and Esme in the house on a weekday. They were both in the living room, Esme idly flipping through the television channels while Carlisle appeared to be reviewing some papers. Wanting nothing more than to forget the scenes that had occurred last night and this morning, Bella slipped into the kitchen, intent on grabbing some lunch and settling into her schoolwork. Alice would be home in a few hours and ready to move on to the next lesson, and Bella hadn’t yet finished the work assigned yesterday.

Staring at the clock, Bella fretted. She wouldn’t have enough time to get everything done before the others arrived home. Should she start with the easy stuff, get the most out of the way that she could, or did she focus on the harder items? She didn’t want to be accused of avoiding hard work, but the thought of trying to work through any of her geometry assignment had her groaning.

The chirping of a phone caught Bella’s ear, as she listened to Esme answer in a low tone.

“Bella, it’s for you,” she called, walking into the kitchen to hand the phone off.

Bella stared at the phone for a moment, knowing it was Alice calling to reprimand her for wanting to shirk her lessons. She didn’t want to do math today, or even look over the science and history lessons Edward and Jasper had given her. Sighing, she brought the phone up to her ear.

“Hello?”

“Don’t worry about trying to focus on your lessons today, Bella. Take the day off, read a good book, watch a movie, do whatever,” Alice’s bell-like voice commanded. “We skip school all the time so you should have the occasional day off as well.”

“Oh. But – “

“No buts, Bella. Go look through the library and find something to read. See you in a few hours!”

The phone went dead in Bella’s hand.

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

Carlisle watched Bella awkwardly turn the pages on the book she was reading, her cast continuing to impede her hand use. He wanted to take Bella into the hospital next week for x-rays as well as some blood work but was hesitant to bring the trip up at this moment. She should have an idea of what he had planned though, he argued with himself, to give her time to prepare for the trip. Besides, she had successfully gone with Esme to the store, so the idea shouldn’t be too scary, he hoped.

“Bella.”

The doctor in him was pleased to note that Bella’s heartbeat no longer sped up at being addressed by most family members. She still tended to have the odd skipped beat when Edward would speak to her, and sometimes when Emmett would surprise her, but she was growing used to their presence.

“I’d like to take your cast off next week,” he continued, smiling when his daughter looked at him in surprise. “It’s been almost six weeks so the bone should be healed.”

“It will be nice to have your arm free again, won’t it,” Esme spoke up.

The two adults shared a concerned look when Bella simply stared down at her casted arm for a moment.

“Are you going to take an x-ray afterward?” Bella asked, looking up to see the surprised expression on Carlisle’s face.

“Yes. Just to make sure the bones knitted together properly.”

“Oh.” Bella was silent for another moment. “Does that mean I need to go to the hospital?”

“It would be easier for me to do the scans there,” Carlisle admitted. “But if you like, I can bring a machine home and do it here.”

“No. I – I can go to the hospital,” Bella stated, chewing on her lower lip. “I don’t mind.”

“If you’d like,” Carlisle said, smiling before turning back to his papers.

***********

Jasper checked the emotional climate of the house from the garage, holding back as his siblings filed into the house. Alice had promised him that she saw no difficulties for them at home, but he still wanted to know what he was walking in to. He was deeply ashamed of his actions the previous night and had already apologized to his family for making them endure the pain with him. He had yet to apologize separately to Esme and Carlisle for abandoning them and not helping to regulate Bella’s emotions.

He quickly identified his parents’ emotions, the two of them in the living room, contentment radiating from them. As for Bella, she seemed to be…happy? Was this right, Jasper wondered to himself, thinking for a moment he might have confused her emotional state with someone else.

Curiosity pulled him into the house, his steps silent as he approached the grouping of seats in the living area. Though hidden from his sight, it was obvious where Bella was, as Esme would look over at the love seat every few seconds before returning to her show.

Two more steps and Jasper was able to see that Bella was asleep, curled up on the plush cushions of the love seat, a throw draped gently over her form. He had been correct on his initial assessment, he saw, noting the small smile that pulled one corner of his sister’s mouth up slightly. She was dreaming happy dreams then. Good. She needed to replace the negative dreams.

“Told you so,” his wife sang to him from their bedroom.

Smiling to himself, Jasper continued around the corner to where Emmett was busy setting up for their chess war.

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

The first few minutes back in the house were always the worst. After hours spent away, the tantalizing aroma of Bella’s blood sucker punched Edward in the face every time he walked into the house. He had developed a habit of drawing one deep breath, allowing the freesia to invade his senses for one long moment before exhaling and taking more normal breathes. It had worked, so far, allowing him to safely interact with Bella when he finally allowed himself to be in her presence.

As usual, he had fled to his room, taking little in as he sped up the stairs. He knew Bella was downstairs with Esme and Carlisle, and took this time to pause by her bedroom door, closing his eyes against the stronger scent. He would give himself half an hour then head back downstairs, perhaps see if Bella was interested in learning to play the piano. It would be a good way to spend time with her without forcing her to be completely alone with him.

The thought of having Bella’s complete attention was oddly nerve wracking, Edward acknowledged, attributing the emotion to Alice’s vision of him holding Bella’s limp form in his arms than to anything else.

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

When Edward finally seated himself at his piano, he was displeased to note that Bella continued to sleep. He had thought she would awaken as his brothers continued their war game, the razzing and jibes increasing in volume as they progressed. She had simply rolled onto her other side though, rubbing her face against the seat cushion before falling still once more.

Edward started with Esme’s song, knowing how well it pleased his mother to hear him play. He played softly, looking over often to make sure he hadn’t woken Bella. He had moved on to Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata after finishing the first song, still staring at Bella, knowing as he did so he was being rude. She wouldn’t know, but his siblings were noticing his preoccupation, Emmett in particular taking delight in throwing the occasional mental comment his way.

Edward simply focused on blocking the others’ thoughts from his own.

The elusive melody from the previous night captured his attention once more, his fingers automatically moving to pick out the tune. It flowed easily, the quiet notes almost weaving a picture in the air. What was this song supposed to be, Edward wondered, his brief glance down at the keys interrupted when Bella rolled over. She sighed once, mumbling something incoherent, before drawing the blanket covering her more snugly about her shoulders.

A lullaby.

The purpose of the song leapt into Edward’s mind, his vision now clear as to the meaning behind the gentle tune. Something soft and lilting, lulling the mind into a state of calm and relaxation prior to succumbing to sleep. His fingers only hesitated a moment before continuing on, the melody weaving through the lower notes of the song artfully. He looked up, once, to see a smile break out on Bella’s face as she turned her head as if listening to the piano.

Bella’s lullaby.

Edward’s hands stilled on the keys, the importance of the song striking him suddenly and with force. This beautiful melody had haunted him since last night, teasing his mind as bits and pieces would appear to him, incomplete and broken. He had been more distracted than usual today, itching to return home and wrestle his newest composition into submission.

It wouldn’t have worked until this moment, he realized. He needed the inspiration of watching Bella sleep to unlock the final keys to complete the song. He could feel the peacefulness of the song radiating out as he continued to play, his gaze once more focused on the slumbering form so close to him.

The song came to a soft close, the last notes lingering in the air.

Esme appeared at his side, seating herself on the bench next to him as she leaned her head down onto his shoulder.

“That was beautiful, Edward. What inspired it?”

Edward swallowed hard, not wanting to say the words aloud. It would cause the family to find a deeper meaning than there truly was, and most likely cause Bella not a little bit of embarrassment when Emmett teased her about inspiring a song. Esme was still waiting for an answer though, her thoughts turning over what could possibly have caused him to write such a piece.

He settled for tilting his head briefly in Bella’s direction, one eyebrow raised as he stared at his mother. The shock in her thoughts was enough to have him laughing, a short bark that turned into a groan when her thoughts shifted in the direction he knew they would.

“Not like that,” he whispered.

I’m sorry, Edward. It’s just been so long since you’ve written something new, Esme apologized. It was beautiful, very peaceful.

“That’s how it should be,” Edward agreed, replacing his hands back on the keys and playing a soft jazz number.

Still….

“No, Esme, I’m sorry. I only wanted something that would be comforting. Please don’t read more into this than there is,” he begged, monitoring his brothers’ thoughts to make sure they weren’t paying attention. He was relieved to find they were both wholly focused on annihilating the other.

You’ll find her someday, Edward, I know you will.

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

“Bella? It’s time to wake up for dinner.”

Esme’s soft voice, added to the gentle shake she gave Bella’s shoulder, was enough to pull her from her dreams. They had been pleasant, for once, Bella knew, but she was unable to grasp more than wisps from her mind. She pulled herself into a sitting position, scrubbing at her face in order to wake more fully. The fading light shining through the back windows caught her attention, making her look around for a clock.

It was six, she noted, a ball of nerves forming in her stomach. That meant the others were home. Esme swore they were understanding and sympathetic, but Bella didn’t understand how they couldn’t in some way look down on her. She had been a whore for three years, unwilling or no.

‘But they know Esme’s story’ her mind whispered. ‘They love her. Surely they won’t hold what happened against you.’

Wishing she could believe her thoughts more strongly, Bella swung her legs onto the floor, unsteadily gaining her feet. Esme was there to give her a supporting hand until she found her balance. They walked into the kitchen to find Alice tossing a small salad, consulting a cookbook while a pot simmered on the stove.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” Alice greeted her. “Dinner’s almost ready. Esme and I made you spaghetti.”

The sight of vampires cooking still caused Bella some disbelief. They swore they didn’t mind the chore and more often than not made more food than she could possibly eat. She watched Alice for a moment longer, looking for any sign that the petite vampire was upset with her. All she saw was the same dinner routine; Esme and Alice with her in the kitchen, talking comfortably to each other and to her.

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

Bella was confused.

Throughout dinner and the following adjournment to the living area, everyone acting just as they had in the past. Emmett continued to tease her for her clumsiness, Jasper sat quietly in the corner, reading, and Esme and Carlisle sat together, heads bent over some floor plan. There were two changes that seemed odd to Bella. One was Rosalie, curled up on Emmett’s lap, idly running her fingers through her husband’s hair, her words when she spoke to the rest of the room pleasant.

Then there was Edward.

Since meeting the lone male vampire, Bella could count on one hand the number of times he had initiated a conversation with her outside of her lessons. True, he often sat at dinner with his other family members, but he usually interacted more with the others in the house than her. That was a good thing, though, Bella knew. If he had spent more time focused on her she would end up making a fool of herself.

Like now.

After dinner she had trailed Alice into the living room, curling up on one end of the couch as everyone debated what to watch. Emmett was all for watching the Mariners’ game, and in the absence of any other suggestions the TV was switched to baseball. As usual, Bella was hyper aware of the placement of the vampires in the room, so she knew that Edward had stood in the doorway for a moment before moving to sit on the other end of the couch. She kept her eyes firmly focused on the pages of the book before her. Her heart was beating faster though, and she knew he was aware of it. The fact that he shifted slightly in his seat had her blushing. Why couldn’t she control herself better? What must he think of her actions?

Edward was never so grateful to be the only mind reader in the family as he was at this moment. He had been standing in the doorway, staring at Bella’s neck – cliché, he knew – watching the pulse bound away beneath her skin. In truth, it wasn’t so much her blood that had captured his attention, though its pull was still potent as ever, as the graceful way she held her head as she read. She was utterly still, barely breathing as her eyes skimmed the page.

Stop staring, Edward

Alice’s thought had him starting in surprise.

“What are you reading?”

Edward wasn’t sure whose expression was more comical; Bella’s deer in the headlights look, or his, reflected back at him through five different sets of eyes. Had he been capable of blushing he would probably be as flushed as Bella, and he had to force his mouth shut with a snap. He hadn’t meant to speak, but he had been unable to see the book cradled in Bella’s lap and her mind, as always, was frustratingly closed to him.

Bella simply stared at him for a moment, blinking wide eyes before blushing even harder (was that possible? Edward wondered) before stuttering out, “Sense…Sense and Sensibility.”

“Oh.”

Oh? Edward wanted to smack his forehead. Oh? He was how old, knew how many languages, had read countless books, and that was the only thing he could think to say? Oh?

What is wrong with you?

Jasper’s thought, accompanied by a recap of Edward’s emotions as sensed by his brother, had Edward fleeing to the piano, keeping his eyes averted from the faces of his family. Their thoughts were bad enough; he had no desire to see the questions reflected on their faces.

******

Bella could feel the heat still emanating from her cheeks as she stared down at the pages before her, the words a blur. Why couldn’t she have added something afterward? Her answer made it sound like she hadn’t wanted to talk. Surely Edward thought her rude. The flash of motion from the corner of her eye caught her attention. Edward had disappeared from his seat, no doubt to get away from the human.

The sound of the piano shocked her, the soft notes whispering through the air. The familiarity of the classic had tears pricking at Bella’s eyes. Her mother had played this song so many times in their house, dancing around as she lazily dusted various knick-knacks. Of all the songs she had thought to hear, this was one of the last. The words slipped out.

“Claire de Lune?”

**********

Edward’s hands stilled, surprise evident in his voice as he responded to Bella’s words. “You know Debussy?”

The thoughts of the entire family were now focused on this exchange, Edward noted distantly, never taking his eyes off of Bella. She was blushing again, her eyes flicking down before rising to meet his gaze.

“It’s one of my favorites,” Bella stated, her words soft.

“Would you like to learn how to play?”

Once more words slipped out without his brain approving. Why could he not control his mouth around this human? If he kept this up he’d be stuttering like a human teenage boy talking to his crush in minutes. He waited for Bella’s reply, watching her mouth move soundlessly for a few seconds before forcing words out.

“I won’t be any good.”

The defeatist attitude had Rosalie snorting and Edward shooting his sister a warning look before turning back to Bella.

“You’ll never know till you try.”

“I don’t want to waste your time.”

“You won’t. Come play, Bella,” Edward cajoled, scooting over on the piano bench. “Just try.”

Why was he so insistent on this? Bella wondered, hesitating as she set her book aside. There was no way she could play even a tenth as well as he did. He would grow tired of trying to teach her quickly, she knew.

“Come play, Bella,” Edward repeated.

Bella looked up, her breath catching and heart stuttering as she looked towards Edward. The glow of a lamp behind him threw his features into stark relief, the light butterscotch of his eyes contrasting wonderfully with his pallor. His lips were twisted into a half smile, the crookedness lending him a boyish air. His tousled hair finished out the look, making him appear to truly be a regular seventeen year old boy.

“Okay?”

The entire family was watching the two from the corner of their eyes, continuing to act as if they were involved in their various pursuits. Edward was obviously aware of the attention he and Bella were receiving but gave no indication, instead smiling encouragingly as Bella slowly made her way around the couch to the raised dais that held the piano. When she hesitated next to the bench, he assumed it was because she didn’t want to sit so close to a male vampire.

“Here,” Edward offered, rising from the bench. “You can sit, I’ll stand.”

“No. I…it’s alright,” Bella surprised him with her words, sitting next to him on the edge of the bench.

Edward looked at her briefly, taking in her body language before deciding to accept her words. He slowly sank down next to her, scooting to the opposite side of the bench.

“This is middle C,” he began, the rest of the world falling away.

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

Carlisle looked up at the knock on his study door.

“Come in,” he called, setting his book aside as Jasper entered the room. He considered the blonde southerner to be his youngest, even though he was actually the oldest of his children. He had nothing but respect for the man that had left behind his bloody lifestyle and embraced this peaceful existence for the love of his life.

“What can I do for you?” Carlisle asked, gesturing to the seat before his desk.

Jasper sank into the soft leather chair, tossing a manila folder onto the desk. “I thought you’d like to look everything over,” he offered in way of explanation.

Carlisle eagerly reached for the folder, ripping open the tab to pull a sheaf of papers out. He leafed through the documents quickly, his eyes skimming the page as he looked at official documents declaring one Isabella Swan to be the official adopted daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Carlisle Cullen. A birth certificate was also included, as were medical records.

Up ending the folder once more, Carlisle caught the passport and two pieces of plastic that fell into his waiting palm.

“Alice will be happy to help Bella break this in,” he murmured, sparing a look at the credit card embossed with Bella’s name on it before turning to the driver’s license. Jasper had managed to obtain a picture of Bella, a hint of a smile lurking at the corners of her mouth. Carlisle remembered when the shot had been taken. Bella had been watching Alice attempt to follow the directions in a cook book, confused as to what ‘add a dash of salt’ meant.

Carlisle looked up to meet’s Jasper’s expectant gaze. “Jenks’ work, I assume?”

“Of course.”

“Good. Esme and I are meeting with the school principal in two weeks to enroll Bella in school. I glad you were able to get everything together so quickly.” Carlisle continued after a moment. “I suppose now we’ll have to teach her how to drive.”

“I’ll leave that to you,” Jasper smirked, starting to rise from his chair.

“Jasper.”

It was more the emotions behind the word that had the blonde vampire sinking back into his chair. His father had pride, concern and curiosity swirling about him. Not an unusual combination, the two former emotions, but the addition of the latter had Jasper wondering what was on Carlisle’s mind.

“How…” Carlisle trailed off, unable to think of a tactful way to ask his question.

“How have I managed having a human in the house?” Jasper finished, one eyebrow raised.

“Yes. I don’t mean to be rude, or doubt you,” Carlisle began, rushing to assure his son he meant no offense.

“It’s okay, Carlisle,” Jasper interrupted, settling back into his chair. “I would be concerned too. To be honest,” he began, propping one ankle on the opposite knee as he stared at the wall behind his father, “I haven’t been breathing much the past month. What did Clinton say, ‘I didn’t inhale’?” he continued, eyebrows drawn in self disgust. “I didn’t want to chance harming her.”

“And now?” Carlisle pressed.

“And now…it’s a bit easier,” Jasper admitted, meeting the other man’s gaze. “I see how happy Alice is, having Bella around. I’ll endure whatever I must for Alice to be happy, even if it is having a human in our home. At first I didn’t breathe at all,” he continued, the confession spilling from his lips. “But after a day I started taking small breathes, gradually increasing the frequency. It helps, having her scent permeating the house. And now, I can almost breathe normally,” he finished.

“Jasper,”

“Don’t apologize, Carlisle. Alice saw that not only did Bella need us, we need Bella. She’s seen her become one of us. I can hold out until that time,” Jasper vowed.

Carlisle was silent for a moment.

“You underestimate yourself, son. You’re stronger than you think.”

“No,” Jasper refuted. “I just try to be the man you expect me to be.”

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