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For A Reason: Inauguration

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Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
Images & inspirations for this story: For A Reason: Inspirations is the blog. There is a 'Welcome' link in the side menu that explains how the blog works.

This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be "just a dream" for the characters.

Prologue: Off The Path

Darkness pressed in from all sides, every nook and cranny along the way appearing as if hands and tentacles were stretched out to grab the unsuspecting pedestrian's ankle as they passed by. The buildings on either side of the unpaved path were not exactly infrequent, but sparse enough to give off a feeling of vulnerability that caused me to speed up unconsciously in my trek.

Sometimes it just didn't seem worth it to go the long route back to the dormitory. No matter how many lights lined the paths, there was always a dark corner waiting to scare the daylights out of me, in spite of my resolve to stop jumping at shadows. Quite frankly, the lonely stretch between each section of the campus freaked me out more than I had guessed it might back in early fall. When everything is still in the process of changing colors and daylight still lasts until about nine o'clock in the evening, you don't think so much about late night journeys from work back to your personal little safe haven.

Why hadn't I chosen a more populated college to attend? Sure, the school had great ratings and an interdisciplinary studies degree I was only too happy to sink my teeth into, as well as a work study program that didn't skimp on jobs or hours. The grounds had looked beautiful and serene, green and healthy and vibrant in the middle of September when I had first started taking classes two years prior. In winter, it might have taken on a darker sense of beauty, but what with classes being so close to the dormitory complex for those first four semesters, it wasn't all that big of a deal.

The place felt just plain creepy now. In the middle of the Michigan wilderness was not exactly what one would consider prime property for a young college student to be traveling alone, especially from halfway across the campus in the middle of the night with no one but yourself for company. Forget gangs, serial killers, kidnappers, drunks, and what-have-you… I was a bit preoccupied watching for bears, coyotes, wolverines, and the ever-loving deer that leap out at the least expected moment.

Barely a third of the way home, and already my brain wanted to get me pumped with so much fear and adrenaline that I'd probably just spontaneously combust before I actually got back. I began to wish quite fervently that I hadn't switched library shifts with Keira Delaney the day before. Granted, the flighty redhead had neglected to mention that her shift went about two hours longer than normal this once, thanks to a ridiculous appreciation party for the main library staff. Like they didn't get paid enough to compensate for a lack of parties… Nothing came cheap at this place, including the hired help.

Distracting thoughts like that made the walk a bit better, even if it was a pretty rude line of thoughts. I supposed I could have thought about Twilight or something. Something that was not personally insulting to someone else. Nevertheless, I felt as though I had successfully distracted myself from some of the apprehension. Ashamed though I was to admit it… that alone was worth it. At least, it seemed to be worth it.

Until I found myself wandering in the middle of the dense forest.

How that happened, I didn't really want to know. All I wanted was out. The ground looked black and the trees weren't much lighter in color. If the moon had even dared to show its face, I would have been highly stunned. Everything was shadowed, mysterious, and outrageously frightening. Every minute sound caught my ears and made me freeze, eyes darting like a small woodland creature at my unfriendly surroundings. No way would I remain stuck in there until daytime – not willingly. Surely I hadn't gone that far off the path…

The more I tried to find a nearby edge to the trees around me – a way back to the path that I prayed was not as far as it felt like – the darker it seemed to get. My entire body quivered now, and if I hadn't been shocked mute with fear, whimpering would undoubtedly have followed. Stumbling around in a dark forest was not on my to-do list. Not once did I ever imagine it could be cool to run off into the woods and drain my entire tank of courage by going deeper than I knew how to escape from.

When my panic reached its peak, I literally started sprinting through the trees and heavy undergrowth towards the lightest part of the woods, breathing erratically while my heart pounded out a deafeningly rapid staccato. Somewhere in the back of my chaotic mind, I thanked God that I was wearing jeans, all my warmest outerwear, and my sturdiest pair of flats. As it was November, snow had not yet fallen, but it was absolutely freezing. As I ran, I hysterically congratulated myself on noticing the wetness that suddenly began squelching and splashing under my frantic feet.

That, however, spiked my fear. Why was it suddenly wet? The ground was completely dry while I walked on the path earlier and the wooded area around campus didn't have a lick of water until you reached the outlying edge of the property. Something seemed eerily wrong, but I had no more ideas as to how than I did as to where the exit was.

What pushed me to run faster than my legs could probably move at all under normal circumstances were the sounds that started up to my left. Beyond the dark, foreboding tree trunks, the hardest pawing sound I had ever heard came into being. To add on top of my horror, deep, heavy breathing adjoined the pawing sprint.

At last, my lungs started working again. Every ounce of terror that had plagued me since the evening began came rushing out in a long, shrill scream I had not – until that precise moment of my life – been aware of possessing. To my amazement, the sounds of pawing and breathing disappeared abruptly, as though they had never been there. The absence did not stop my running in the least, but somehow the feeling of strange freedom encouraged my legs and lungs to keep pumping.

All at once after the sounds faded, light bombarded my vision from ahead, and I was so relieved I nearly screamed again out of sheer joy. Maybe a mass murderer waited to take off my head, I wouldn't know, but I would have rather faced a sentient being than a wild animal that sounded as heavy as the one I heard.

The trees thinned like waves rolling over the sand and from the ridge ahead of me, I saw the figure of a tall man silhouetted against the lights of a car. Thank you, God, for bringing me out of this mess.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays. For example, this chapter is labeled Chapter 1: Inimitable within my written work, but because of the site's automatic labeling system, the link at the top will show Chapter 2: Inimitable. Just so everyone is aware.

Notes:
Mireille is pronounced "mee-RAY" and the restaurant mentioned is entirely made up. The Italian is from online dictionaries, which may or may not be completely accurate.

Chapter 1: Inimitable

"Are you hurt?" called out a gentle, but alarmed voice as I dragged myself up and around the ragged plant life as fast as my limbs could make it happen.

I could hardly respond without any breath to spare and the stranger seemed to understand. The man's long arms reached down and pulled me carefully up onto the road where he stood, keeping a firm grasp on my upper arms to settle me on the hood of his car.

"Try to breathe deeply," the soothing voice instructed me, rubbing my upper arms comfortingly and calmly. Blinded as I was from looking into the headlights on the way up the ridge, I could not even see the stranger's face. But he had been kind so far and my mind was too caught up in the aftermath of my panic to care. So long as he was human, I was set. "Think of it as breathing straight from your toes and bringing the air all the way through your body."

The phrasing of his suggestion sounded incredibly hilarious for some reason. Although I was pretty sure it was just the hysterics kicking in further, I couldn't seem to stop the small gasping laughs that spewed from my mouth.

"It's all right," the stranger continued speaking to me softly. "Just get it all out of your system. You're going to be perfectly fine."

Long moments of such words finally brought me down from the fear-induced adrenaline high and reduced my body to subtle quaking. Some time in the middle of my new acquaintance's easy, relaxing assurances, my eyes had shut of their own volition. It had always been a habit of mine when I was exceedingly stressed.

"I'm sorry," I got out quietly after a while. "You must think I've lost my mind."

"Not at all," he said kindly. Even that simple phrase sounded incredibly sincere. "You must have gotten lost out in the woods. It's never enjoyable to be alone in a dark copse of trees, let alone a forest of this proportion. I imagine you panicked at some sound or shadow?"

"Sounds," I admitted hoarsely, shivering violently at the memory of those enormous feet hitting the ground not far from my own path and those breaths, so thick and immense, puffing out along with it.

"What sort of sounds?" he prompted, when it seemed clear I wouldn't continue.

"I… it was… like big paws. But not just big… They must have been as big as tires or something. They were so heavy sounding. And this loud, heavy breathing… whatever kind of animal that was, it's not something I'd ever want to see in person."

"It might have been a bear," the stranger suggested after a pause, suddenly distant. I almost felt like he was lying. But how would I know? I had just met the man after all. It was just my nerves playing tricks again.

"I don't know. It didn't sound like any bear I've ever heard of." I shook my head to stave off the fear before it returned to me in spades.

"Well, at any rate," the stranger seemed to be shaking himself as well. "I'm glad you're all right."

"Thank you," I told him, reproaching myself in my head for not having said it earlier. "You really helped me. If I hadn't seen your lights, I might have gone the wrong way. And then you knew just how to calm me down."

"Well, I am a doctor," he laughed slightly. "I would certainly hope I know the latter."

"You're a doctor?" I asked in some incredulity. What were the chances?

"Yes," he said, and I imagined a smile was on his face. "I work up at Forks General Hospital."

If I had not been listening so intently, I might have said I misheard. Even with my attention so locked in, I absolutely had to ask, "Could you repeat that, please?"

"What?" he asked curiously.

"What… hospital… do you work at?" I slowly managed to question, fearing exactly what I might hear. The previous time may have only been my bad hearing…

"Forks General," the stranger answered cautiously.

"Forks, Washington?" I all but yelped, eyes still tightly shut. If this was a dream, I was not going to give into the urge of checking its validity.

"Yes. You… do know where you are… don't you?" he questioned warily. If he only knew how much more wary I was. Maybe this man was a bit crazy?

"I…" the words fell silent in my dry mouth. My tongue felt very thick and hard to move. What explanation could I give that wouldn't immediately get me locked in a padded cell? I had just been in Michigan, on my college campus, hoping to get back to my dormitory without running into a bear or a wolverine, and now I was in Forks, Washington? There was absolutely no way.

I had to be dreaming. Nothing else made sense.

"I must be dreaming," I murmured to myself, trying desperately to make the dream fade back into the oblivion of sleep.

"Are you quite sure you're all right?" There was immense concern in the doctor's voice now, and I feared it was all too easy to diagnose me as decidedly not all right.

And why should I be? If this was not a dream, as I had been so desperately hoping, then I was either capable of teleporting myself or… well, I didn't think the alternative would keep my sanity in tact any better than the teleporting idea. Physically starring in your favorite fiction series is not something that the average person finds in any way sane.

Besides, how could I possibly be in the same world as Twilight? It was fiction. The Cullens didn't even exist. There was no big white house with a wall of windows and a steel barricade for protection and privacy. There was no Chief Swan, no Mike Newton, no Angela Weber… There was no silver Volvo, no black Mercedes, no Aston Martin Vanquish… Shape-shifters did not exist and vampires masquerading as humans simply did not live here.

And if they did exist, I would already be dead because Alice and Edward would have seen a vision of me somehow spewing the truth to their family. Then Jasper and Rosalie would have immediately suspected me of being a liability and decided to take me out for their own protection. Despite my absolute refusal to ever betray their secret, I wouldn't likely live long enough to say so.

But it didn't even matter. I was dreaming and it would all be over when I woke up.

"You may want to rethink that," came a low, musical tone from further away than the first stranger. Somehow, even in my utmost denial, even with my eyes squeezed shut; I recognized that velvet voice as if I'd always known it personally.

"Son?"

Had the doctor not just spoken out with such alarm, I would likely have done it myself. This… final acceptance forced my eyes open at long last.

There, standing not a foot away from me with his hand resting beside my leg on the hood of that infamous Mercedes S55 AMG and his face turned half away, was the most beautiful man I had ever seen in my entire life. Blond-haired, sculpted, kind-faced, tall, and leanly muscular; outfitted in the sharpest set of slacks, dress shirt, and fall coat one could imagine… I ruled out dreaming immediately, to my boggled mind's astonishment. No dream I could concoct was ever as amazingly handsome as the real Carlisle Cullen.

A loud, amused snort sounded nearby, ripping me from my analyzing stupor, and I turned to attach my roaming eyes onto the other inimitable figure.

"Edward," I breathed in sheer astonishment, unable to focus on the startled exclamation from Carlisle that I knew his son's name.

Wow. If I'd had any breath left, it would have whooshed out of my lungs instantaneously at the sight of that slender yet muscled seventeen-year-old standing eight feet away. He was… stunning, for lack of a more descriptive word. I'd thought the books and the movies could have done him some remote justice, but nothing ever would have prepared me to actually look at his gorgeous features in person. His hair was so much… more stylish and… well, sexier, than anything I'd envisioned. Messy it may have been, but it was almost artfully done. And his facial structure was simply perfect. Nothing was disproportionate at all. Every angle and curve to his face was like the swipe of an old master's brush. It looked like Stephenie Meyer's descriptions hadn't all been underachievers.

"She knows all about us, Carlisle," Edward explained to his father, a wide smirk gracing his achingly beautiful mouth as my mental descriptions grew increasingly sappier. The only things I had yet to see in any great detail were those golden eyes. "But she won't tell anyone. She seems to have grown quite fond of us. Well we two, at least."

Fond… Well, yes, I was quite fond of the Cullens. Carlisle was wonderful, Esme loving, Alice perky, Emmett fun, Jasper mysterious, and Edward fascinating. Rosalie was not my favorite person in the world, but as long as she didn't snarl at me or cut Edward down too much, I would be just fine around her.

Edward laughed out loud at those thoughts. A grin unfurled on my own face in response. Something about the way Edward laughed made you feel like joining him.

"Edward, honestly!" Carlisle actually sounded mad. Not that I could blame him. Edward was stuck in my head and could hear everything going through it, but poor Carlisle was still stuck in limbo with a vague comment about me not spilling the beans.

"You're right," Edward gasped slightly from his remaining laughter, forcing himself to recover and rise to full height. "He's still out of the loop, isn't he?"

I didn't speak, still in awe of my two companions and the fact that Edward Cullen was actually sharing an inside joke with me.

"It happens often around here," he assured me with another smirk before turning to his frustrated father. "Sorry, Carlisle, but her thoughts are rather amusing."

"I can see that," Carlisle sighed, and it sounded to me like amusement bled through despite his former irritation.

"He wasn't irritated, believe me," Edward chuckled and finally stepped closer to us. "He just wants to know what we're going to do with you."

"Oh."

"Yes. Oh." Edward rolled his eyes at me. "You're not very articulate in the verbal aspect, are you?"

"Shut it," I retorted, somewhat distantly now that I had caught sight of his eyes close up. They were not golden at the moment; they were black. Mealtime had to be right around the corner.

"Tonight, actually," he muttered, a serious expression overcoming him. "I supposed we'd better talk over just how much you know about us, hadn't we?"

"Finally, a reasonable line of conversation," Carlisle sighed again, turning to look at me straight on.

Oh. My.

His eyes, on the other hand, were as golden as the hand of Midas. It felt physically impossible to look away, but I had to focus if I was going to sound even partially coherent. When Bella said 'dazzled' she wasn't kidding.

"Uh, can you kind of…" Words failed me, so I gestured weakly towards Edward, indicating that Carlisle needed to look away if I was to live through the night.

Another snort from Edward brought back my grin of earlier. Carlisle even chuckled, widening my grin. It was a really good chuckle. Warm and comforting, somehow.

"Sounds about right," Edward murmured appreciatively. "Now, how about we get you in the car, warmed up, and then fed?"

Until he mentioned it, I hadn't felt cold or hungry at all, but the sudden suggestion seemed to send a shiver down my spine and a growl in my stomach.

"An excellent idea," Carlisle agreed, reaching forward to give me a helping hand down. Almost jumping at the cold of his skin, I accepted the proffered hand and slipped down onto the pavement beneath us. "Why don't we head away from the house for now? I'm not sure the others will be as…"

"Accommodating?" I suggested sheepishly. Trust me to get into this kind of situation.

"Unfortunately," the doctor agreed apologetically.

"Alice will see all of this, though," I mentioned, ignoring how at ease I seemed to be with discussing vampires and their special abilities. I didn't even scoff at Edward being in my brain; I actually kind of liked how easy it was for him to understand what I meant, even when my words didn't quite come out right. I guessed to someone like me, this stuff was kind of… not normal, but just expected in this world.

"Good to know," Edward remarked with a small smile. It hadn't erupted into that full-blown crooked grin, but it hinted towards that very strongly. "Crooked grin?"

"Er, yeah," I shuffled my feet embarrassedly, realizing just how intimate my behavior and my thoughts must have seemed to two men who had just met me for the first time. "It's something from the books."

"Books?" Carlisle questioned instantly. "What do you mean?"

"These books tell a story about us," Edward explained, hurrying onward before Carlisle panicked at the idea his family was exposed. "But they don't exist here in our world. Only in… what was your name?"

The question was so sudden that I was speechless for a full minute as Edward's obsidian eyes became riveted to mine. His subtle smirk knocked sense back into me. Turning pink again, I answered, "Mireille. Mireille Holden."

"Mireille," Edward rolled the name off of his tongue like a true Frenchman. I actually giggled at the low, attractive way he spoke. Grinning at me slightly, he bowed sarcastically. Carlisle looked quite amused at his son. "At any rate, Carlisle… In Mireille's world, we are only fictional characters in a novel. So you can understand her disbelief at being around us."

"Well, that certainly explains your earlier questioning," Carlisle chuckled at me, though wonder was in his eyes at the revelation of a completely different reality from his own. Maybe being in the vampire world had eased him up in regards to ridiculous ideas.

"Yeah," I admitted with another sheepish look. A question I had not thought to ask swept into my head then and I was surprised I hadn't asked sooner. "What's the date?"

"October 13, 2003," Carlisle answered promptly. "Why?"

It didn't seem that anything could have shocked me anymore, but now it had. "It's 2003? But I… I'm from… oh Lord…"

Five years ago. Five! I wasn't even in the actual events of the series yet. This was before Bella even imagined coming to Forks!

"Who's Bella?" Edward asked curiously. If I wasn't still in shock from my evident time traversing, I would have laughed. Who's Bella? Oh my goodness that was strange coming from him.

"Why?" he asked, more seriously this time.

Was it right for me to tell him everything now? Maybe he wasn't supposed to know yet… But then, Alice would tell him at some point in the future, wouldn't she?

"All right," Edward said firmly, "That's enough. We'll talk when we get to Seattle. Push Bella out of your thoughts for now and decide what you'd like to eat on the way there."

"Seattle?" Carlisle asked – not doubtfully, but curiously – with an eyebrow raised.

"Alice will leave us be for now," said Edward with confidence. "And she won't tell the others. We just need to clear some major points of interest before we can talk sensibly with the rest of them. Esme will be kind, of course, and Emmett won't be outright harsh, but…"

Jasper and Rosalie would be, I couldn't help thinking.

"Yes," Edward nodded with some apology to me.

"All right then," Carlisle nodded once, apparently deciding himself. "Seattle it is."

It took me a full, awkward minute to slip into the fine leather interior of the Mercedes beside Edward. Of course, he was sitting on the opposite end of the seat, but he was sitting in the backseat with me all the same. Lucky I was so distracted, because once the sound of Carlisle's tires squealing on the road as he took the curves of the highway came into my ears, I could have become quite panicked. Speed and rollercoaster rides were definitely not my thing.

"I drive faster," Edward shrugged with a rueful smile. Casting an incredulous gaze his way, I just shook my head. Carlisle was doing the same from up front, only with an indulgent smile plastered across his face.

"I really don't want to ride in your car, then," I said halfheartedly. Like I wouldn't want to ride with him? And talk about… well, a lot of things, actually. Edward was just too interesting. He started smirking again and I bit my lip to stop from grinning like an idiot for the tenth time that night.

"Nothing wrong with that," Edward commented dryly.

"Shut up," I muttered. Oh, so mature Mireille. Great job on that one.

"Your mind is a much more amusing place than most people's minds are," was Edward's response.

"Oh, thanks," I said very quietly, face turning slightly pink.

"Have you given thought to what you might like to eat?" Carlisle asked from the driver's seat, and I marveled at his perfect annunciation. I wished I could speak as beautifully.

"I guess… it doesn't really matter where I eat." I shrugged. I wasn't going to put them anymore out of their way than my presence was already going to do.

"What do you like?" was Edward's highly aggressive demand, something at which I bristled. I knew he was like that, but to actually experience his commanding personality was a touch more personal.

"You don't have to be rude," I snapped back. Edward looked ready to insult me or hit me, I could not tell which.

"Enough, both of you," Carlisle intoned sternly. Edward scowled and sat back, arms crossed over his chest. "Mireille, please. I'm not going to go bankrupt paying for your meal."

"How did you—?" I gaped at the accurate deduction of my main problem. Money.

"It is a common enough issue," the doctor smiled at me in the rearview mirror. "Now, Seattle has just about anything you can think of, in the way of culinary art. Go ahead and think of something you enjoy."

"Well… I guess," I reluctantly replied. Choosing what I wanted to eat had always been tough. I liked so many things that it became difficult to pick one particular meal. "I've always liked Italian."

"Italian it is, then," Carlisle agreed with a nod. Before he could say anything further, ringing interrupted him. It was Edward's cell phone.

"Alice," he answered briskly. A long pause stole over him while Carlisle and I listened intently. But Alice spoke very quietly indeed. I couldn't even hear a vague murmur through the speaker. "Thanks… I'll point it out… Yes, we'll go there… Yes, Alice."

Biting my lip to reign in my amusement at his annoyed expression, I turned to look down at my hands, inwardly marveling over my sudden ease in what I had earlier thought to be a very weird dream.

"Alice would like me to give you a warm hello," Edward informed me, to which I brought my head up to catch his gaze, and smiled at Alice's friendliness. "She also would like to inform you of the soiled hem of your jeans and your ruined shoes, thanks to your journey in the woods. To which she added that we are to buy you something new. Don't argue!"

My mouth was half-open to deliver a refusal of this unnecessary kindness, but the look in Edward's eyes stopped me. Apparently, Alice was going to get her way. Tamping down his smirk, Edward continued, "Lastly, Alice suggested a particular store that you would end up liking."

"Alice isn't deciding for me?" I asked in disbelief. When had she become so loose-mannered about that?

"She mentioned something about you having decent taste," Edward shrugged and I felt strangely flattered that Alice thought I had good enough taste to shop on my own.

Sure enough, the store we ended up going into was exactly what I would have looked at. Well, if I had the exorbitant amount of money that Carlisle did, anyway. Normally I went to your average all-in-one grocery, home, and clothing store with my typical budget. Rarely did I go to the mall or large department stores; it was too expensive. This store, however, went beyond expensive. It was clearly top of the line. And Carlisle pushed me in ahead of him with only one warning.

Don't look at the price tag.

Did that actually count as a warning?

Regardless the semantics of it all, while Edward ran off towards a music store down the street – something at which I wasn't all that surprised – I did as I was told. Carlisle was probably the most generous person in the world; he wasn't likely to retract his offer to buy me an outfit or two. Edward had made it clear Alice wanted a couple of options for me to work with while I was here.

It was only after Alice called Carlisle and fairly well chewed him out that we realized 'an outfit or two' meant a small wardrobe for the next two weeks.

Although everything overwhelmed my mind with incredible force – not the clothing selection alone, but the whole strange experience – I was able to pick out a fair amount of clothes without a single call from Alice about my style options. The only thing she ever called Carlisle for was a warning about buying too little. I was amazed that my taste really was good enough. By the time we hit the register, I had picked out several pairs of shoes and a multitude of pants, skirts, tops, jackets, pajamas, dresses, and accessories. Where I was going to wear the nicer dresses, I had no idea.

None of this included the outfit I'd put on in place of my wet, dirty, sweaty clothes from the forest run. Gray jeans, gray suede boots that reminded me of Legolas from The Lord of the Rings, and a matching gray sweater with long sleeves and a cowl neck.

In spite of the cashier's dumbfounded face, Carlisle looked like he did this all the time – which, I had to remind myself, he probably did. Even though I'd imagined the black AmEx card he carried, seeing it in action was crazy. It was one of those cards that I knew I would never see because I would never have that much money. But here I was, staring at the thing where it sat so innocuously in Carlisle's hand.

Relieved to be leaving the now-envious cashier's presence, I followed Carlisle with a bag in each hand, while he carried the rest with ease. Edward was already waiting by the car when we returned, but I could hardly focus on him because of the small figure at his side.

She really was tiny.

Ignoring Edward's amused scoff, I took in the short, spiky black hair and truly elfin features of Alice Cullen. The girl was even shorter than me, true to Stephenie Meyer's description. Granted, I was only five foot three myself, but still… All in all, Alice's most attention-drawing feature was actually her cheery smile. It promoted a small smile on my own face.

"Hi, Alice," I said meekly, gripping the shopping bags in my hands with furious strength born of anxiety.

"Hi, Mireille," she chirped in a friendly way, clearly in a very good mood. "I'm glad I finally got to meet you. You've been giving me trouble for at least a month."

"Sorry," I apologized instinctively through my haze, though I could acknowledge it probably wasn't my fault at all.

"Forgiven," Alice trilled with a small laugh, Edward smiling along with her. "Come on, I have to fix your hair. Then we'll get you dinner."

"Hey, wait a minute!" I yelped suddenly, shaking my head to clear it. At a sharp look from Edward, I lowered my voice to a furious whisper, "A month? What do you mean, a month? Edward didn't even… and Carlisle seemed so surprised…"

"We were," Carlisle reassured me, hands emptied of bags now that he had settled them in the trunk. He reached for the ones in my grip, which I relinquished very hesitantly to his care. The cold of his hands was a bit startling, but I felt pleased that I didn't jump in response this time. I would have to get used to it, anyway.

"Alice neglected to inform us of your eventual coming," Edward interceded quietly with a good-natured roll of his eyes. "She worried because the visions kept disappearing and reappearing, so she kept it secret. Jasper was worried sick about her for a while because she was so moody about it."

"You would be too if a friend turned up and then disappeared without warning," Alice retorted, opening the back door to usher me into the car and seat herself directly beside me.

Friend? Already? Again, I felt quite flattered.

"Turn that way." She prodded me a bit demandingly toward the opposite window, to which I sighed exasperatedly and did as she asked. Within moments of Edward and Carlisle getting back in – the former taking the passenger seat this time – my hair had been wrapped snugly in a very neat little chignon at the back of my head and Alice had turned me to face forward with my belt on.

"Thanks," I said in surprise, enjoying the freedom of having my hair out of the way, especially if I was about to eat.

"Your welcome," she smiled at me. "It was a little untidy after your run."

"You make it sound like a peaceful jog for my health."

Giggling a bit, Alice responded, "Well, at least you're all right now."

"True," I agreed, but thoughts of those pawing feet invaded my mind and I wondered if I really was all right. "Er… Emmett couldn't go on a giant-bear hunt, could he? That thing kind of freaked me out, you—"

As the three of them laughed, something came to mind I hadn't considered. Cutting myself off as abruptly as a cliff edge, I recognized one very important piece of information. Sam Uley must have changed already.

"Uley?" Edward turned sharply back to me, incredulity on his face at a reminder of one of the original treaty's 'signers,' so to speak.

"He's shifted into a wolf already, I think," I confessed, still reeling from the fact that Sam Uley in his wolf form had probably been trying to herd me safely out of the forest, not eat me alive. Not that it made me feel much better. Gigantic wolves weren't something I would feel all that fond of. And considering my general dislike of Jacob Black in the books, it didn't get much better. Of course Seth Clearwater was a cool kid, but I probably wouldn't meet him without meeting Jacob and the rest.

"The wolves?" Carlisle question just as sharply as Edward had. Edward, who was now reading my every thought about the wolves with a mixture of fascination and irritation. "You mean, they're still here?"

"It's because of you guys, actually," I sighed out the admission, not wanting them to feel responsible. "Because vampires are the natural enemy of the tribe's ancient shapeshifters, the gene is triggered whenever vampires are nearby for an extended period of time. And you guys have been here for a couple months already. As a matter of fact, I think Sam might not be the only one. Jared and Paul might have shifted, too. I can't remember how long it was until they finally changed."

"How do you know so much about them?" Alice inquired confusedly and I realized she probably didn't know how I came to learn about their family, just that I did and I would be a friend.

"In the world I'm from," I started, feeling like a Star Wars junkie just from the choice of words, "you're all just fictional characters. You're in books and movies, but not reality. I've read the entire series about all of you. I've even read some excerpts that the author never published in the books. Extras and deleted scenes, you know?"

I didn't mention that I'd also been writing fanfiction stories about them, because I highly doubted that would be an enjoyable conversation. Yes, guys, I've been writing stories that put you in weird situations and change couples around. Forgive me?

"We're talking later," Edward told me imperiously and I cringed. Whoops. I forgot the mind-reader for a moment.

"Thanks so much," he added sarcastically, looking less and less pleased with me as we became more deeply acquainted.

"Sorry," I mumbled into my lap, feeling guilty. But it wasn't like I knew I would end up meeting them. They were fictional!

A sigh escaped Edward, one of weary resignation. "I'm sorry, too. This can't be easy for you."

'You can say that again,' I thought specifically for him. The young man rewarded me with a genuine chuckle.

"Okay, so we're in a bunch of books," Alice repeated, narrowed eyes flicking between me and her brother suspiciously, "and you read them. So now you know all about our world. Is that it?"

"Pretty much." I nodded.

"The Volturi," Carlisle commented grimly, partly in question and partly as a reminder, I suspected.

"Die or be changed," I sighed, watching Edward flinch and Carlisle look repulsed at the crude method of self-protection. "Yeah, I know all about that. Um… and can I just say… Aro is not what you might think he is, Carlisle. He's… well, he's a huge idiot. That's all I'll say right now."

It wasn't as hard as I thought to reroute my thinking away from Aro's specific actions so as to spare Edward for the moment. Carlisle appeared very disturbed and I couldn't blame him. Aro had probably been his closest friend, of a sort, until Carlisle found Edward in Chicago. Edward's face softened imperceptibly at my thought and his eyes jumped toward his father's worried features with fondness. A smile crossed my face at their obvious bond; that was one of my favorite parts of the series. Edward apparently couldn't resist rolling his eyes at me, but he didn't comment.

"I can see there's more here than a simple knowledge of what we are," said Carlisle gravely.

"A whole lot more," I nodded seriously.

"Well, it will certainly be a unique evening, then," Carlisle commented as blithely as he could, pulling into the parking lot of a very high-class looking restaurant called Casa Fiorente.

"I feel really underdressed."

"We all are," Alice sighed unhappily. "Well, except Carlisle. He's looking dapper, at least."

Chuckling, Carlisle turned the ignition off and exited the car gracefully, the three of us following suit and entering the lobby behind him. Every female eye that had even a slight peripheral view of the door turned to the vision of Carlisle as he stepped over the threshold. Half of them turned their gaze on Edward when he stepped up beside his father. Alice, too, got plenty of stares from the men, but what surprised me were the few gazes turned in my direction. Maybe they were in subconscious disbelief that a human stood with inhumanly beautiful vampires.

"Hardly," Edward murmured into my ear, his cool breath rustling the neck of my sweater. Clearing my throat awkwardly at both his lovely scent and the implied compliment, I had to turn away.

"Ah, benvenuto, Dottore!" The host – a thin, olive-skinned man with sparse beard and mustache – greeted Carlisle, vaguely smiling. Clearly Carlisle was only welcome because he paid a lot of money, rather than for his company. I wondered when Carlisle had come here before. "We have a private balcony, if you would prefer?"

"Per favore, Giancarlo. E grazie," Carlisle replied in flawless Italian, sounding as if he'd been born in the country. Then again he had spent a long time there back in the eighteenth century, so that wasn't such an unlikely circumstance.

"Ah, di niente, Dottore." Giancarlo airily waved away the thanks, snapping for a nearby waiter and moving on to a table where a customer waved him down.

"This way, please," the waiter, whose nametag read 'Cecilio', waved for us follow him. For some reason, his eyes lingered on me a second longer than they really should have. Edward sounded as though he was growling slightly, although too low for anyone else to really to hear it.

Unconsciously, I stepped further up to Carlisle, half hiding behind his tall form. Edward matched me to the point of almost touching shoulders with Carlisle. Cecilio recognized the warning for what it was.

Through the restaurant we walked in a direct line to the grand staircase – a boring, beige carpeted affair with smooth pine railings and a rustic chandelier above our heads every six feet. It wasn't exactly to my taste, but it obviously had been made with quality materials.

The stairs took a little longer than I was comfortable with after standing so long in the store, but we made it to the third floor without me falling flat on my face with exhaustion. Although I couldn't count the number of times Edward or Alice stopped me from tripping wearily on the carpet edge. Finally sitting down at the table was a relief.

At least until I had to choose my meal. Particularly when Carlisle suggested I choose a meal for all of them and then take it back to Forks to eat the next day. Nevertheless, I chose four separate meals after a while – all of them sitting untouched in front of the three Cullens – and settled into my salmon salad.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Previously – Mireille Holden realized she was in the world of Twilight, and met Carlisle Cullen & Edward Cullen for the first time. Alice Cullen insisted on a new wardrobe for Mireille, Carlisle took Mireille shopping in Seattle, and Alice showed up to say hello. Carlisle, Edward, and Alice took Mireille to Italian restaurant Casa Fiorente for a place to talk.

Chapter 2: Introduction

Edward looked ready to shovel the food down my throat if I didn't eat any faster. Of course, I had taken a while to prepare the salad after being served, let alone actually eat it. And my thoughts had been somewhat preoccupied with Carlisle's and Edward's looks again. Alice alternately giggled at something only she could see and glared at Edward for something he was likely planning in that complicated head of his.

Ignoring their behavior – or perhaps too used to it to bother – Carlisle took out a pad of paper and a thick retractable pen, scribbling until it looked to cover a fourth of the little notepad's pages.

It was while taking my last bite that I noticed exactly what he wrote down… notes about me. Granted, some were about the wolves, some about the Cullens, some about this hitherto unknown 'Bella' I had mentioned… Ultimately it all revolved around my story and what other information I could give. I began to feel increasingly nervous about telling everything I could while saying it in a way that didn't send them all panicking and leaving Forks forever. That would be entirely counterproductive.

"You're going to drive Jasper insane," Edward muttered mutinously beneath his breath, but still loud enough for me to hear. Alice glared at him again and whatever she was thinking, it made him roll his eyes for the twentieth time that night.

"If he can live through high school, he can live through my presence," I said through gritted teeth, glaring at him the same as Alice. Jasper needed a confidence boost and reason to abstain. If he had those, he could conquer his thirst much better. Everyone hovering over him would just make him believe he couldn't do it.

"You haven't lived it," Edward hissed across the table at me, eyes seeming even blacker than they had been. "You read a book about us. So what? You have no idea what it's like to be one of us."

"Edward!" Carlisle said warningly, flashing a look at his son and then to the door as Cecilio brought a refresher for my tea.

Once the waiter left, I stared coldly into Edward's fathomless eyes and responded simply, "You have no idea what it's like to be Jasper."

Alice looked between the two of us in both interest and frustration.

"I'll explain later, Alice," I assured her firmly, studiously ignoring Edward's twinge of a growl.

"Oh!" the small vampire gasped half a minute later. Edward looked annoyed, but Carlisle and I focused on Alice. Her eyes found mine with absolute gratitude shining there. "Thank you."

"You're welcome," I mumbled, embarrassed at the strength of her appreciation for something I had yet to actually do. It wasn't as though I had taken a bullet for Jasper.

To my surprise, Edward now looked torn. What over, I had no idea and suspected I wouldn't get an answer, as the resolve on his face proved all too well.

"Mireille," Carlisle caught my attention, sighing a bit. "If you don't mind, I would like to discuss some things with you."

"Of course," I agreed hesitantly.

"First of all," he took up his interrogation – albeit a kind one – with all seriousness, leaning forward to speak with me, "when you asked what the date was, you were exceptionally flustered."

I shifted awkwardly in my seat. "And you want to know why."

"Purely out of concern," Carlisle held up his hands in acquiescence. "You seemed quite horrified."

"Well, I guess it shouldn't have surprised me so much, actually," I began to explain. "I'm from 2008. You see, the books begin in January of 2005 and end some time after the new year in 2007. To be a part of it, I would have to be here sometime between 2005 and very early 2007. Of course, I never expected to be here before the main character even arrives."

"That being this girl named Bella?" Carlisle offered, one brow rising.

"Yes, that's the one," I confirmed in surprise, wondering how he deduced that.

"And who is Bella?" Alice asked.

"The whole reason the books even take place," I hedged. I tried really hard not to think about the exact details, so that Edward didn't learn too much too soon. It might not end well if he did. I had to be there in Forks with them for a reason, so it must have been to forewarn them about their future and help them make it a better one.

"Maybe, maybe not," Edward countered my thought pensively. "Perhaps you've ended up here because you belong here – because it's a better future for you."

"I doubt it," I murmured insecurely. Nice as his theory sounded, I had the unhappy feeling I might end up right back in Michigan once my work here was over; stuck in a job I didn't like, a welfare check coming every month, no family to spend my time with, acquaintances yet not friends hanging around, and no knowledge of ever having been in the middle of such a strange and wonderful adventure. It wasn't a pleasant idea at all.

"Don't think about that," Edward soothed me with remarkable kindness, stretching his arm out to barely skim my fingertips. It was oddly reassuring, to which Edward smiled and drew back his arm. "At any rate, perhaps you could tell us just a little about Bella."

"Okay, I'll try."

I took a deep breath and thought of the least complicated things to explain about Bella, something which pretty much covered the story up until she came to Forks, although a few things weren't too revealing later on. "Her name is Isabella, but she goes by Bella. She's Charlie Swan's daughter."

"Charlie Swan?" Carlisle interrupted in surprise. "I thought his ex-wife had custody all this time?"

"She did," I agreed, "or… well, does have custody. They live in Phoenix, Arizona right now. But Renée – Bella's mom – is married to an amateur baseball player. His name is Phil and he's going to go on the road with his team sometime in January 2005. Renée would love to go, but she doesn't want to leave Bella. Bella, self-sacrificing as she is, will decide to move in with Charlie so her mom can go on the road with Phil."

"That's very mature of her," Carlisle commented with an appreciative smile.

"Bella usually is the mature one," I said, feeling slightly guilty about my own – self-interested, I guessed – upbringing. Not that my parents had let me be a brat of any kind, but I had never been the kind to serve first and play later. I wasn't unselfish.

"No one is," Edward reproached me. "You're human, not a machine."

"I hope you don't compare yourself to Bella," Alice suggested quietly, obviously gleaning what Edward referred to. "You seem to have plenty of good qualities yourself. You probably wouldn't be sitting here talking to us otherwise. Most people would be terrified."

Why would I be afraid of them? They were people with feelings, not animals, and I knew they wouldn't hurt me. Confusedly, I said, "But I know you won't hurt me."

"That's wonderful to hear, Mireille," Carlisle told me gently, patting my hand, "but it in no way lessens your courage simply because you know our personalities better than the average stranger."

Turning pink at the undue praises I received, I uttered a muffled thank you and awkwardly moved back into our discussion. "Well… Bella had to be mature, because Renée was a bit flighty. She loves Bella a lot, but she's always been off on her own plain."

The three of them laughed at that, bolstering my previously weak confidence. "Bella blushes a lot and she hates attention. I think that's mostly because she's so clumsy; she trips over air, pretty much. And it can really land her in some bad situations when there are unfriendly people around... Bella is very touchy about money. She wouldn't have accepted any of the things you've done tonight."

"Why not?" Edward asked with a frown.

"She wants to be able to pay for what she has on her own. It's her independence shining through." I shrugged. "Honestly, though, that kind of annoys me because I know some people just like to be generous and give others gifts. There's nothing wrong with that. The Bible talks about giving without hope of return. Of course, I'm a lot more religious than Bella is. Well I say religious, but I think you can be religious about anything, so that sounds kind of bad."

"We get the point," Edward interceded before I could ramble any further, but smile took up residence on his face.

"Sorry," I apologized, biting my lip. Yet Carlisle waved it off casually and allowed me to continue, "Um… anyway. Bella is big into reading. Probably more than I am. Although I can't say we agree on what constitutes good reading. Wuthering Heights is such an annoying story. I can't even watch the movie, let alone sit through reading the entire book."

"Here, here," Edward cheered me on, grinning wider than he had all night and making Carlisle and Alice laugh. "I hate that blasted book."

"Well, Bella loves it," I settled the matter, still smiling at his good humor. "She likes a lot of the classics. She cries when she watches Romeo and Juliet's death scene."

"A true romantic, then," Carlisle chuckled.

"What does she look like?" questioned Alice, energy bouncing off of her almost visibly.

"Her hair is long and dark brown, with hints of red in the sunlight," I started listing the characteristics. "Her eyes are chocolate brown and her skin is extremely pale; almost like all of you, but not quite that white. She's five-foot-four and fairly thin, obviously not especially coordinated, I think her face is heart-shaped and… her bottom lip is out of proportion with the top lip, so she says."

"So she says?" Carlisle wondered, brow risen again – a move echoed by Edward.

"Bella is incredibly insecure," I informed them with a shrug. "She thinks she's really plain and boring and insignificant."

"Like you think of yourself?" Edward inquired rhetorically. To that, I had no words.

"So," Alice took up the thread of conversation, cutting off any further remarks from Edward, "Bella is self-sacrificing, mature, a romantic, really insecure, uncoordinated, hates attention, and hates people spending money or effort on her. Did I cover everything?"

"She's also responsible, careful, a really bad liar," I added, "and let's just say she's stubborn. The severity depends on what the situation is, but overall she's just plain hard-headed."

"How did we get connected to this girl?" Alice asked exasperatedly.

"Well… that's kind of… the weird thing."

My hesitation spurred Edward to prompt me further. "Go on. What's the catch?"

"Bella is Edward's singer," I told them bluntly. Carlisle and Edward gasped out loud, but Alice seemed confused.

"A singer is a human whose scent is stronger for one vampire than any other," I explained, feeling bad for taking over what would normally be Carlisle's job. "Bella's scent is really strong in the first place, but for Edward it's almost unbearable."

"Do they have any classes together?" Carlisle asked concernedly. "This sounds very dangerous."

"They have biology together, but Edward controls himself," I offered confidently, even smiling a little. "He's tough as nails. Even when it's literally painful, he doesn't give in to the thirst."

"You sound like a proud parent," Edward remarked, voice a mixture of amusement and annoyance.

"Well, you were pretty amazing," I insisted. "You fended off plans of following her to her house and all sorts of things."

"How do you know what my exact plans were?" he asked in shock, Carlisle and Alice imitating his stunned expression to a tee.

"Er… well, the main books are mostly in Bella's point of view," I nervously explained. "But for the first book, the author started writing a version in your point of view, too. There's a partially-completed draft of it, without any editing. It got leaked somehow, so she never finished it. It was really… uh… fascinating. Sorry."

Out of the blue, Edward exhaled sharply. "Fine. Go on. What do I do after fending off my own plans?"

"You drive to the hospital and Carlisle lets you take the Mercedes up to Denali," I answered. "You stay for a week and then come back, determined not to let some little girl force you and your family to move."

"Pride is the downfall of every man," Carlisle quoted ominously, though there was a decided twitch to his lips.

"That was… undeniably depressing, Carlisle," Edward sighed exasperatedly, shaking his head. A giggle escaped my throat at the odd little exchange.

"Terribly sorry, son," Carlisle commented good-naturedly, "but I have the feeling your pride will turn out to be the reason Bella gets acquainted with our family."

"True enough," I said under my breath. Of course, having vampire hearing, Edward caught it and scowled at me.

"I don't think I should say much more about Bella," I spoke out loud. "It might be too soon; might ruin the whole thing."

"Let's talk about the wolves, then," suggested Carlisle. "I am quite curious about them."

"There's a lot to say about them," I sighed. "I don't really have much patience for them in the story, but that's just me."

"Sam Uley is the alpha, isn't he?" wondered Edward.

"For now," I countered. "Jacob Black is supposed to be the alpha, because of his bloodline, but he probably won't even phase into his wolf form until sometime in the spring of two-thousand-six."

"Hm," Carlisle murmured pensively. "So the wolves are really back. This doesn't bode well, if they have not attempted to renew the treaty with us."

"They don't trust you at all," I added tentatively. "They keep to the treaty as loosely as possible. For instance, they would probably think it's fine to step on your land and not start a war, but if you do the same…"

"Hypocrites," Edward snorted. "At least Ephraim had the decency to keep his end of the bargain just as neatly as ours."

"Sam feels you're to blame for his troubles as a wolf."

I had to be fair and at least put the wolves' side out there.

"When he phased," I moved on determinedly, "he wasn't able to tell his girlfriend, Leah, what was going on. Only a wolf's imprint can be told about it. Then Sam met Leah's cousin, Emily. Sam realized Emily his imprint. It broke Leah's heart and Emily was angry with him for breaking things off because of her. They argued and then in his anger, Sam ended up phasing right next to Emily. Her face was mauled; you probably heard about her getting attacked by a bear?"

"No, we haven't heard anything," Edward shook his head, "but that doesn't mean it hasn't happened. We would be the last people to know, I'm sure."

"Well, whenever it does happen, it's Sam. He'll hate himself for it, but end up blaming vampires for his phasing in the first place."

"That's really a tragic story," Carlisle sighed unhappily. "Yet as much as I wish we could prevent this, it's likely beyond our help now."

"Probably," I confirmed a bit miserably. It was really unfair that Emily couldn't have the immediate help of a superb surgeon like Carlisle, all because of the wolves' prejudice.

"What's an imprint?" was Edward's sudden question.

"The wolves have a way of finding their… soul mate, I guess," I told him, "but it might also be because the person they imprint on has the best genes to make a stronger wolf in the next generation. Anyway, when a wolf finds their imprint, it's like their world is realigned to orbit around the wellbeing and happiness of the imprint. It's not a conscious choice. They just… change."

"Doesn't the imprint get a choice?" Alice asked condescendingly. She plainly disliked the idea that the imprint was forced to choose. Based on what happened in the last book, I couldn't blame her.

"They get a choice," I tried to put it in the terms that Jacob Black had used in Eclipse, "but the theory is… why would they? Why would they not choose such a devoted love?"

"Hmph," Alice settled back into her chair. "I don't like the sound of that."

"Don't vampires have the same kind of thing, though? I mean you know when it's the right person, don't you?"

"Yes, that's quite true," Carlisle nodded his agreement, "Even if we deny it, the truth remains that our mate is one particular person and none other. We couldn't love another with the same dedication and strength as our true mate."

"I guess that's the same thing," Alice huffed. "But it sounds better. It sounds mutual. With the wolves, it's only the wolf that has that mystical connection. The imprint doesn't have the same knowledge."

"That's a valid point, I suppose," Carlisle complied. "But let's move on with our conversation. We don't want to spend the rest of the night here. It's already eleven o'clock."

"When does the restaurant close?" I asked curiously. Eleven was a typical closing time for me.

"Around two o'clock," he replied. "The nightlife is later here than in a place like Port Angeles or Forks. Especially Forks."

"I kind of guessed that," I remarked dryly and he chuckled.

"What else could you tell us about the Quileutes?" Edward inquired anew.

"Let's see…" I thought of what was important. "By the time graduation rolls around in the books, there are ten wolves. One of which is Leah Clearwater."

"A female?" Carlisle wondered.

"She becomes really bitter about it," I said simply.

Silence grew between us for a moment until Alice asked the one question I'd been half-hoping someone wouldn't bother to think of.

"So, how much of our personal stories do you know?" Her face became suffused with high interest and it made me uncomfortable somehow.

"A lot," I hesitated, mainly because Alice would not be very happy about what there was of her history. Edward speared me with a piercing look when he heard that, but I gave him a pleading expression in return. "In the first book, we hear about everyone's stories, save Jasper and Rosalie. And in the second book, Carlisle tells all about finding Edward in the hospital. Then in the third book, we finally hear about Rosalie and Jasper."

"So you know all about us," Carlisle concurred politely. "Even our most terrible moments."

"Yes, even those," was my apologetic admission.

"I think it's a good thing," he went on to say thoughtfully, "that you have some background from which to acknowledge us all individually. Or avoid us, as might also be the case."

"I don't want Jasper to think he has to keep away from me," I boldly declared of a sudden. "I'm not an accident-prone person, so I don't go bleeding everywhere. Not even paper cuts. Besides, I like Jasper too much to not try getting to know him."

Alice's grinning face was enough to make me glad I hadn't kept silent on this point. "I think Jasper will like you, Mireille. You're blunt, but still tactful, and you won't let people walk all over you. He's like that, too."

"Just as long as he doesn't take the whole Yankee and Confederate thing too far," I joked timidly.

Alice laughed brightly. "He had better not. Four people in this family are considered Yankees."

"Actually, Carlisle is considered a foreigner," Edward smirked slyly at his father, who playfully narrowed his eyes and swatted at the mess of bronze hair atop his son's head. He missed, obviously, but Edward's grin more than made up for it.

"Ah, one more question," Carlisle suddenly spoke, turning to face me once more with a grave glint in his eyes, "How much do you know of Esme's story? You said our darkest moments, but…"

"If you mean Charles," I said very quietly, rousing a wild hiss from Edward.

"That's exactly what I mean," Carlisle sighed deeply.

"I would never bring that up," was my fervent response. "Never."

"I just wanted to make sure," he softly calmed me. "It is a difficult topic for any of us to think about, but for her…"

I only nodded my understanding, admiring the tenderness in his expression that was reserved solely for Esme.

"Oh, please don't start waxing poetic again," Edward groaned.

Scowling seemed to me a very good pastime where it concerned Edward's less-than-sensitive behavior.

"Before we leave," Carlisle broke in before we could argue, "Are there any particular questions you have for us?"

Only half a million, but who was counting? For the sake of time, I didn't go into the more complex things I was curious about.

"Well… this is kind of weird, I guess," I started, taking a deep breath, "but here goes... Does Jasper have any significant accent? Or has it been obliterated?"

"Oh, goodness, no," Alice sighed happily, "His accent is wonderful. He tends to limit it in public, so no one wonders why Rosalie doesn't share it. Otherwise, it's superb."

"Neat," I couldn't help grinning. "I have a fascination with accents. Especially from Texas. And England, Scotland, and Ireland."

"I believe they call that the United Kingdom," Edward dryly commented, but I ignored him much to his continued amusement.

"So you have two of them covered in this family," Alice twittered brightly.

"Sort of," I shrugged disappointedly. "Carlisle doesn't have enough of an accent right now. Honestly, if he started spewing seventeenth century English right now, I could die a happy woman."

Edward burst into raucous laughter after my admission, as did Alice. Carlisle looked like he would have been blushing, but he could not be any more embarrassed than I was. I'd gotten a bit too involved in the whole discussion.

"Can we maybe forget I ever said that?" I muttered hopelessly. Talk about too much information.

"Quite all right," Carlisle graciously waved it off, but he couldn't quite look me in the eye as he said it.

"Any other fascinating questions?" Edward prodded me with a grin.

"No," I refused flatly.

"Then let's go," Carlisle said in a very final way, cutting off Edward's potential retort. "Esme is anxious, I'm sure."

"I'll call Jasper," Alice announced happily. "Explain it all to him. He'll get the others calmed by the time we arrive."

"That sounds really ominous," I moaned worriedly.

"I will not let them intimidate you," Carlisle firmly stated, standing from his seat. "Come."

Accepting that I really didn't have anywhere else to go, I stood as well and followed him through the restaurant while Edward took up a spot behind me. Alice dealt with bagging up the leftover meals, one hand securing everything in sight and the other clamped solidly around her cell phone, her mouth moving at astronomical speeds. Shaking my head again at the oddity of the whole evening, I turned back around and stepped carefully down the stairs at Edward's prodding.

The air outside had grown considerably colder since my jaunt in the woods, unless it was just the shock that made me unaware of the crisp air.

"It's dropped about ten degrees," Edward disclosed. The car seemed a great deal more appealing now than a minute before, when I thought about how cold I was.

A sudden weight of fabric around my shoulders startled me, but as I soon saw, it was nothing more than Edward's coat. He had laid it around my shoulders.

"Thank you," I murmured low, pulling the dark blue plaid garment tighter around me to hopefully trap in whatever warmth I had.

"You're welcome," he offered, shrugging off the thanks and reaching out to open the car door for me. Carlisle already had the Mercedes running and heat blowing through the car, a lovely warm cocoon surrounding me in the middle of the backseat. Even with two freezing cold vampires on either side, I immediately began to lose the November chill and relax into my seat, Alice chattering top speed to Jasper in the background.

"Better?" Edward verified amusedly when I snuggled down into my coat burrow.

"Mm, much," I concluded pleasantly, to which he smiled, and that was the last thing I said until we came upon the Forks welcome sign.

"Never thought I'd actually see that sign," I commented out of the blue. Alice laughed a little, her phone now stashed away in her purse.

My curiosity got the better of me and I had to ask, "What did Jasper say?"

"He wasn't too convinced at first," Alice admitted easily, "but when I told him about my visions and that Edward could read the truth in your thoughts, he decided to give it a chance. Rosalie is furious, so she might be overbearingly rude to you."

"Don't let that bother you, though," Edward said coldly, and I felt thankful it was not directed at me. "Rosalie is rude to everyone as a general rule."

Carlisle passed a weary look to his son in the rearview mirror, but did not say anything. Suspicion filled me that he heard this all the time. Not that I ever doubted it. Rosalie and Edward only seemed to get along after… I had to stop my self from thinking of the hybrid baby that changed everything. Edward gave me a very curious look.

"What about Emmett and Esme?" I asked as a distraction.

"Nothing to worry about," Alice comforted me with a smile and a pat to my hand. "Emmett is convinced because Edward knows what you're thinking. And because Carlisle is okay with it."

"And Esme?" I asked worriedly when she didn't continue.

Grinning, Alice replied, "She's already deciding what to make for your breakfast tomorrow."

Laughter bubbled up in my throat at the idea. Here Esme was, never having heard of me, never having seen me, and she was willing to make me breakfast like I was part of the family. I couldn't restrain myself from saying, "She's such a sweet woman."

"That she is," Carlisle agreed softly from the front seat, a wistful smile crossing his features.

My mind began wandering over the upcoming meeting with the other four Cullens, and nervousness began to set in. How was I supposed to greet them? Would they all stand ten feet away and nod stoically while my scent lingered in the air, the big elephant in the room? Was my scent any stronger than other humans?

Before Edward could make any comments on my chaotic thoughts, I asked Alice, "Is shaking hands off limits?"

"With Jasper, yes," she confessed with a weary sigh. "Just because he won't allow it. He'd be too worried about… well, you know."

"Yeah, I know."

"I believe your interest in him will slowly change his mind," came Edward's casual comment. He didn't look sarcastic as he said it, but I couldn't be sure.

"I'm not being sarcastic," he sighed exasperatedly. "Jasper is used to people feeling fear around him. If you are as immune to that fear as you seem to be, then your fascination with him will be at the forefront of your emotions."

"At first it might throw him off guard," Alice picked up, "but I think he'll like the change. And your bravery."

All the talk of bravery and courage began to be a little overwhelming. I never once felt brave or courageous in any part of my life. Unless job interviews counted, though I didn't think so. I'd always thought bravery was about overcoming your fears. If I wasn't afraid of the Cullens in the first place, I wasn't overcoming anything. Where was the bravery in that?

"You'll see," Edward challenged me quietly. There was nothing I could say to that without coming across as petulant, so I kept my silence again, taking in the local scenery with as much attentiveness as possible. From what I could see in the dark, everything seemed small and relatively old, with literally a host of greenery on nearly every square inch. The more green that passed us by, the more I liked it. I couldn't see why Bella hated the green so much. Granted, she was from Arizona and I was from a snowy state. Bella's world was somewhat degraded, while for me this was actually an upgrade. Forks didn't get as much snow as Michigan, as far as I knew. It was greener a lot longer around here.

Nothing was familiar from the books at first, except that I saw a small sign pointing towards the direction of the hospital. The police station showed up not long after, right off of the main road, and I wondered if Charlie Swan was working that night and whether or not he had any idea that Bella was coming to stay with him in the future. He must have gotten lonely at times. I was glad that Bella decided to come stay in Forks. Much as Charlie annoyed me on some counts, I felt bad for him that Renée had been so flighty and had so little care as to how he would feel over her departure with their only daughter.

As if a big splat of black paint had just been thrown on a canvas, the world turned darker than ever. The trees grew denser, the canopy of leaves came lower, and the branches reached out like tentacles to brush the window occasionally. Only when I noticed us passing over the bridge on what must have been the Calawah River did I realize we were so close to the infamous three-story house. I wondered interestedly if it would look like the modernity of the film or the old-fashioned white I read about. Would it have the meadow-like lawn of the books? Would the piano be white or black? The questions popped into my head so frequently that I hadn't finished thinking them up by the time the car stopped. Overwhelming anxiety clawed at my stomach when I realized, but Alice was already pulling me out of the car to stand on the paved ground outside.

One brief look up at my surroundings stopped every errant worry in its tracks.

To say I loved the charming, old-fashioned white house was a vast understatement. It was the kind of place I had always dreamed about living in. Large, but not an unlivable enormous size, with an enchanting and vast collection of windows across the three stories and a sprawling meadow in front. The very atmosphere was that of a fairytale. Misty, green, otherworldly, but utterly beautiful.

I didn't know my mouth was parted in awe until Carlisle kindly tucked my chin back into place and wrapped an arm around my shoulders. "Edward and Alice have gone in ahead of us. Are you ready?"

My fluttering stomach flopped awkwardly. Looking up into his searching gaze, I swallowed hard and nodded once. Better to get it over with than sit wallowing outside in the cold. Smiling understandingly, he ushered me up to the front door and pulled it open to allow me in first. We stood in the entryway long enough for Carlisle to help me out of my coat and Edward's, both of which he hung on one of the many hooks adorning the wall far to our left. We turned as one for this strange introduction to face the line of Cullens now standing on the opposite side of the foyer, backed against the honey-colored circular staircase.

Edward took up the middle of the line, an anxious Esme close to his right side. Emmett – more enormous than I'd anticipated – and Rosalie stood together at the far left, Emmett's arm wrapped a little too tightly around the waist of his wife; it was a restraining move. Carlisle's arm moved to wrap around my shoulders once again, a gesture I felt intensely thankful for as I noticed Rosalie's defensively crossed arms and her incensed face, glorious even in wrath, staring me down from across the way. Luckily I stopped myself from knocking backwards into Carlisle out pure shock. I didn't want to give Rosalie the advantage of knowing just how much she bothered me.

From the corner of my eye, I noticed Edward grinning. I couldn't know if it was meant for me or one of his family members, but I liked that he was pleased about something. Forcing my eyes away from Rosalie's unfriendliness, I move to look at the right end of the line where Alice – smiling brightly beside Edward – stood arm in arm with Jasper. For his part, the Texan vampire was stiff as a statue, but something in his eyes indicated curiosity. I smiled tentatively at him, testing out my confidence, and the set of his face slackened in surprise.

"This is Mireille," Carlisle announced to his family, squeezing my shoulder reassuringly. "She knows all about us and has no intentions whatsoever of revealing our secrets, as Edward can attest to. We will, of course, treat her with respect."

His stern expression cornered Rosalie's upset one until she looked away in angry defeat. Carlisle continued on with a much easier tone, "Mireille, although I'm certain you know exactly who everyone is, allow me to formally introduce you. You've met Edward and Alice of course."

Everyone except Rosalie chuckled at Alice's bouncing nod, though Esme's 'chuckle' leaned more towards a tinkling of crystal.

"Emmett," Carlisle indicated the burly vampire, who grinned and winked at me. I guessed the big guy was being careful until Rosalie cooled off. Which might never happen, but I didn't want to think about that. Instead, I grinned back at Emmett a little; that seemed to make him elated.

"And Rosalie." Rosalie ignored me completely, so I only nodded in her direction. I wasn't going to match her rudeness just because I could.

When he introduced his wife, Carlisle removed his arm from my shoulders and elegantly stretched both hands to her, beckoning her to come over by us. "This is Esme, my beloved wife and companion."

"Hush, Carlisle," Esme affectionately murmured with a small smile on her lips as she crossed the small distance at a human pace, but her husband merely laughed lightly and squeezed her hands tightly in his grasp once they were given to him. "It's very nice to meet you, Mireille."

"It's nice to meet you, too, Esme." I smiled warmly at her, finally finding my tongue. "Thanks for welcoming me in so quickly. I didn't mean to disrupt everything. In fact, I didn't even know I was actually here until I saw who was helping me."

Esme smiled just as warmly back, briefly reaching to squeeze my hand. "You didn't disrupt anything, dear."

A disbelieving snort from Rosalie was almost too quiet for me to make out. Again I just ignored her, even if everyone else seemed highly annoyed by it. Almost in spite of my silence, Edward, Esme, and Carlisle turned to reprimand (or insult) the blonde. This time, she started arguing back, with Emmett trying in vain to play peacemaker. I knew the drill pretty well after reading the books, so I didn't listen closely. With everyone so preoccupied, my introduction to Jasper was getting neglected. Left fairly well alone now, I turned with a sigh to find Jasper growing more agitated by the second with his family's arguing. Alice had even stepped away from him to argue with their sister. Until that point, I had decided to just let them get on with what they felt was necessary, but Jasper's posture just continued to grow stiffer and stiffer. Giving up on my no-action policy, I started thinking of the calmest things I could fathom.

A lot of tries ended up punctuated by the debate on the other side of the room, so I finally closed my eyes and began imagining myself walking through a peaceful meadow filled with tall grasses waving in a breeze from up off the water. The sky would be slightly overcast, but tinged with a soothing blue tone, and the air would smell crisp and fresh. I would have nothing to do, save wander in a light, comfortable dress, letting the breeze drag loose tendrils of hair off my face and lift the hem of my dress a few inches off the ground to flutter behind me. It was freeing and relaxing to envision my boundless day in the breeze, easing away the stress and anxiety of the entire night as cleanly as a brisk rain.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Music In This Chapter:
Got My Own Thing Now by Squirrel Nut Zippers
Twilight by Squirrel Nut Zippers
Put A Lid On It by Squirrel Nut Zippers

Notes:
I changed the year for plot purposes. It's 2003, when the Cullens have only recently moved to Forks.

Previously – Edward & Mireille debated about Jasper. Mireille discussed Bella, Quileutes, and Cullen histories. Mireille entered Forks for the first time and met the Cullens. Rosalie was unhappy with Mireille's presence and the Cullens argued. Mireille tuned out the argument and exuded calm feelings.

Chapter 3: Initiation

"That's quite a talent you have." A deep, southern voice fluidly ingratiated itself in my daydream, lifting me carefully from the confines of the windy meadow and back into the real world.

Opening my eyes, I found Jasper's lean form standing tall and at ease only three feet away from me. Every shred of agitation was gone.

"Hello, Jasper," I greeted him with an easy smile. "It's a pleasure to meet you."

"The pleasure is all mine, Miss Mireille," he nodded. Now that I really looked at him closely, I had to stop myself from staring or feeling too overawed at his handsome face. There was a ruggedness about his features that was quite charming. And my goodness, did he make me feel short! He was only an inch taller than Edward and Carlisle, but something about him was exceptionally long looking. "Thank you for helping me keep things under a bit of control."

"It's no trouble," I shrugged, catching a glimpse of Alice to the left. She was the only one who remained with us, a large grin plastered across her face for the umpteenth time. "Frankly, I had no idea what I was doing. Was it too much?"

"Not at all." Jasper shook his head. "When it comes to the calming types of emotions, there's really no such thing as an overload."

"Oh, that's good then," I said a bit awkwardly. He was staring directly at me now, something I'd never dealt with very well.

Jasper stepped back abruptly, looking as though he had stomped on my toes.

"It's not you," I assured him instantly, before Alice had the chance. "I'm just not… very… comfortable with direct attention."

"Ah," he nodded, appearing much more at ease after that clarification. "My apologies, Ma'am."

I couldn't help grinning at the reminder of his first words to Alice. "Uh, I think it's Alice's line next."

Jasper's face bloomed into a wide smile, Alice giggling away beside us just before she popped up to his side in a blur of movement that left me reeling. I had never in my life seen something move that fast. The effect of the speed was blinding.

"Sorry," she apologized sincerely, though the smile never left her face.

"It's okay," I mumbled, blinking away the surprise as much as possible. I felt almost like this was all part of an initiation night, what with how many strange, surreal things I had experienced so far. "I guess I'll get used to that."

"You will," Alice assured me confidently, and I had no reason to doubt her. "So, would you like the grand tour? Or would you prefer for Carlisle to do that?"

An odd question, I thought, but did not say out loud. "Um, I don't know."

"Carlisle, then," she shrugged. "You'll love hearing his story first hand, anyway, although I don't think that will happen tonight. You look tired."

"Do I?" I asked pointlessly. I knew I was getting drowsy. It had been late enough when I first came here, but after having a good meal and so much discussion, it was definitely nearing time for bed.

"Yes, and you know it very well," she admonished me, but kindly. "Come on, you can sleep in our room for the night."

"Are you sure?" I blushed a decently dark shade of pink, embarrassed of my reasoning behind the doubts.

"Oh, we can go elsewhere for that," Alice winked viciously at me, and I blushed a full-blown cherry red, to which she had to respond, "You're so funny, Mireille."

"Don't I know it," I mumbled uncomfortably. Jasper didn't look very forthcoming either, which made me feel a little better. Of course, that may have only been his insecurity about the blood-lust, considering my beet red face, but I didn't want to question him.

"Come on, let's go," Alice ushered me forcibly towards the staircase. "You'll have to be carried if we wait any longer."

"Okay, okay," I exclaimed, climbing the stairs somewhat sluggishly. "No need to get snippy."

"Hark who's talking," Alice retorted, albeit in a friendly way. "By the way, what do you eat for breakfast?"

"Oh, I don't know," I replied, taken slightly aback by the sudden question. "It depends on what you guys have in the fridge and the cupboards, I guess."

"Like we can't go out and buy it in the middle of the night?" She questioned me in exasperated humor. "Just tell me what you like. Esme would love to cook for you. She's very good at it, despite not having anyone to cook for."

I knew that much, but kept to myself. No need to be a know-it-all. I needed to give them time to adjust to me, anyway. For me it may be familiar, but for them it was all new. Well, for all of them except Alice. I wasn't sure how much she had seen of my time here before my actual arrival. Maybe she had only seen my arrival out in the woods. Whatever the case, I resolved to ask her at some point in the future.

"Waffles, then, please," I sighed, giving in for the simple fact that Alice wouldn't let up until she found out what I liked to eat. Well, that and I was really getting tired. "With a lot of strawberries, a little maple syrup, and whipped cream on top. And skim milk to drink."

"No meat?" wondered Alice. "I thought humans ate meat a lot."

"We only need about five ounces a day," I responded. At least I had paid attention to my nutrition facts at some point. "Some people need more, some even less. I probably eat a little more just because I like it."

"Oh, then don't you want any for breakfast?" she asked bewilderingly, looking a little frustrated.

"Bacon," I added resignedly with a shake of my head. I didn't feel like explaining the nuances of a human being's ever-changing appetite just then.

"Okay," Alice complied with a much more cheerful nod. "Waffles with a lot of strawberries, a little maple syrup, and whipped cream on top. Skim milk. Bacon. Is that all?"

"Yep," I agreed quickly as we reached the landing to the second floor, when a question popped into my head that I was terribly curious about. "Alice?"

"No, we don't have a graduation cap collage," she cut me off before I could actually ask the question, pausing beside me with a look of distaste on her features. "What a stupid idea for them to put in a movie about us. We have far more important decor to talk about."

"But Carlisle's cross is here, right?" That was one thing I really wanted to see. If they had put it out yet, that is. Maybe it wasn't hung in its spot in the hallway until later on. I mean, it was only 2003. When Bella saw the artifact, it was 2005.

"Of course," Alice waved off the question impatiently. "It's not out yet, but it's here. Carlisle and Esme have yet to decide on the proper place for it."

I was right, then. And in spite of knowing exactly where they put it, I didn't bother telling Alice that. What fun would it be if Carlisle and Esme didn't choose the spot for themselves? That was half the enjoyment of decorating your personal space.

Alice continued on ahead of me while Jasper moved me forward with a gentle prod of emotional urgency, stopping with me at the door to his and Alice's room. This was a place that had never been described in the book, so I could hardly contain my curiosity as to what it looked like. If I remembered correctly, only Alice's bathroom counter had been described, considering the fact that Bella had been particularly distracted at the time.

"Here we are," Alice announced in sing-song voice, pushing open the door with a flourish. "Make yourself at home. Only don't mess with the guitar. Jasper might have to throw-down if you do."

A light, playful growl from Jasper for his wife's teasing remarks pushed a grin on my face as I stepped inside the spacious room, taking definite note of the guitar and armchair off in the farthest right corner of the room. The space was actually quite the opposite of the rest of the house's light, neutral scheme. Granted, I had always expected Alice's room to be different from Esme's neutrals – perhaps something frilly and girly. But in truth the room had all the earmarks of an English gentleman's study: lots of dark leather, intricate moldings around every doorway and the ceiling, a huge oriental rug that pulled in a vast array of blue and red and golden tan, thick dark blue drapes, gleaming dark hardwood floors, and the wall behind the bed covered in dark blue wallpaper printed with large red flowers. On the same golden walls hung classical artwork in a mixture of Greek gods and Civil War battles, yet both themes tastefully set to the colors and patterns in the room.

An enormous closet took up half the space on the long wall opposite the door, though admittedly it was not horribly disproportionate. How that worked, I couldn't fathom, but didn't bother asking. To the left and ahead of the closet was the bathroom door, open enough that I noticed a much more modern white scheme, although it still carried some of the dark blue and red and taupe of the bedroom. There was a desk tucked into the extended corner between bathroom and closet– a roll-top that looked like a perfect restoration – covered in a multitude of books and papers. I suspected it was all Jasper's stuff, considering Alice's fashion designs were probably on the computer downstairs that Edward and Carlisle had fixed for her.

A more-than-king-sized bed dressed with deep blue and red floral bedding was tucked deeply into an alcove to the right of the door – a space that I thought must have been the closet in Esme's original design. Trust Alice to change that for her clothing needs… At the foot of the bed was a dark brown sofa with a back that curved on the top.

The wall facing the front of the house – to the right of the entry – held a unit with a large stereo system and a few racks of CDs rising up the wall behind it.

To the left of the door was a corner seating area housing two dark leather chairs with studded legs and arms. A round coffee table in the very heart of the corner was balanced by an ottoman that matched the chairs. The arrangement added a sense of Western style that I attributed to Alice hoping to put a touch more Jasper into the space. It certainly seemed to succeed.

"It's a beautiful room," I finally commented, a small smile taking up residence on my face. "I love the paintings. They all work together very well."

"Thanks!" Alice chirped giddily. "Jasper actually picked them out."

"Really?" I asked, turning around to look at him in surprise.

"The art just seemed to match everything here." He shrugged, looking quite modest. "Alice and Esme decided where they should hang on the walls."

"Still, Jasper, they're very elegant paintings," I said sincerely. "You did an exceptional job."

"Thank you," he nodded slowly.

"Oh, you're clothes!" Alice piped up suddenly, popping solidly up onto the tips of her toes. If she had been sitting down, I had the feeling that she would have leapt up as she spoke. "How could I have forgotten?"

"I'll get them," Jasper offered kindly, disappearing from my sight in a whoosh of movement.

In the meantime, Alice led me to the bathroom and pointed out where everything was. Her mandarin-scented shampoo was decent, but when I caught a whiff of her body wash, I literally gagged. Glancing at the royal blue label, I could immediately see why.

"Chocolate Mint," I read aloud in disbelief, before pushing the offending bottle back into the cabinet it came from. "Eurgh! At least your natural scent overrides that one."

Alice laughed at me, clearly not offended. Thankfully she didn't take this as seriously as clothes. "Sorry. We'll shop for all of your hygiene products tomorrow."

"Don't you have any regular soap?" I asked a bit desperately. I definitely would want to shower in the morning, but if I had to smell that body wash in a hot, enclosed space, I might end up physically ill.

"I don't," she shook her head, "but Esme might have something that smells better."

"Honestly, Alice, just about anything would smell better than that stuff," I admitted, wrinkling my nose in disgust.

The small vampire's chiming laugh echoed while she whisked out of the bedroom, presumably to ask Esme about soaps. While she was gone, I settled on the edge of the bed trying to erase the smell of chocolate mint from my mind. I didn't succeed very well, even when I tried to distract myself with the bags Jasper had long since dropped off in the room.

"I don't blame you," came Edward's disgusted voice from the door, startling me. He was beside me in an instant, leaving me to refocus on him with slow human reflexes. "Try this."

Curious, I looked down at the bottle he offered me. The brand was unfamiliar (which probably meant it was too expensive for me to know it), but it looked fairly bland. Tentatively opening the lid, I took a very cautious whiff of the stuff. Pleasantly surprised by the rain-fresh scent that wafted into my nose, I actually smiled a little. "That's much better. I like the smell of rain."

"Keep it, then," Edward offered. "We usually buy three at once, just so we don't have to go shopping as often. So I don't need this really."

"You use this?" I asked blankly.

"Yes," he answered plainly, slipping over to the door. I felt like I was missing something, when the cocky idiot turned back to me with the flash of a wink and a devilish smirk. "Don't hyperventilate in the morning."

My jaw dropped at his gall, but he only laughed at me and disappeared from view. I was still fuming when Alice returned. As I had begun to suspect after Edward's impromptu visit, Alice came back empty-handed. Glaring icily at her cheerful countenance, I stood to dig out the first pair of pajamas that I could find in the shopping bags and headed silently into the bathroom to change.

I was left well enough alone after I returned from the bathroom (feeling vaguely less irritable, it must be said), and only after leaving me the remote for the stereo did Alice venture outside of her bedroom on a more permanent basis. As I hesitated over rifling through the CD collection, I found myself deeply pondering how the tiny vampire could possibly have known about my ritual. Namely that every night, I put a song or even an entire CD on repeat and left it on until the morning; it always helped me sleep. Without it I tended to toss and turn for hours and wake up completely restless and groggy the next day. Even for Alice, it seemed strange to know about this habit of mine. I had made no decisions about the stereo or music or anything even remotely close to it.

"That would be my fault," came an increasingly familiar voice from the doorway. Again, Edward stood at the entrance of the room, albeit looking far less mischievous than earlier. In fact, he looked mildly apologetic.

My tone was reluctantly forgiving – of both the previous smart remarks and whatever current misdemeanor Edward had taken part in – as I asked, "What do you mean?"

"I heard you thinking about it," he confessed in a low voice. "It didn't seem conscious. More like a habit you just instinctively contemplated. So I suggested it to Alice."

"And that's bad… why?" I inquired quite curiously. Actually that was a nice thing for him to do.

"Most people don't like someone reading their mind and intruding," admitted Edward. "But you're very different for some reason."

"I guess I like not having to vocalize things sometimes," I cautiously told him. "I'm not very good with social interaction. You must have noticed that this evening."

"Not especially," he wryly responded. "I find you to be rather engaging, truth be told. So do the others."

Except Rosalie, I thought for his benefit. He chuckled as he replied, "Well, there's always an exception, isn't there?"

"True enough," I smiled a little in good humor. "Thank you for telling Alice. I sleep so much better with music on."

What kind of music was a question I had yet to answer, since Alice's and Jasper's music collection hadn't struck much gold with my tastes. At least not for nighttime peacefulness; most often I enjoyed instrumental pieces for that. Most of their CDs had been lyrical.

"You're welcome," Edward distractedly commented, then continued tentatively, "I have a large variety of instrumental CDs you can look over. If you wish, that is."

"You'd let me borrow one?" Frankly, I was surprised. I thought Edward didn't like people touching his music collection.

"I don't," he shrugged, leaving it at that. Leaving the subject alone as well, I slowly moved towards him, still worried that I was overstepping a lot of boundaries in this house.

"You'll have to get used to it," Edward informed me, a glint of mischief back in his eyes, and I began to think that sentence would become my catchphrase.

For the first time since entering the Cullen home, I headed up the stairs to the third floor and followed Edward into his bedroom. It was very much like how Stephenie Meyer had described it, only there were books lying everywhere the same as they had shown in the movie – just tidier.

Where Bella had been described as feeling immediate apprehension upon seeing Edward's stereo system, I felt excitement bubble up in me and the drowsy feelings of sleep fade away. It was a fancy system, for sure. And I was positively itching to hear how powerful the bass on it was. Edward chuckled at my newly energetic thoughts, then gently steered me towards the gigantic collection of music he had amassed and organized on his wall. Remembering – much to Edward's amusement – that it was ordered by year and then personal preference, I started looking at the latest CDs out of sheer nosiness. Before I began to sift titles, a question came to mind that I hadn't considered before.

"When you say year," I turned to Edward with furrowed brows, "Do you mean the year the CD was produced or the year the music came out?"

"With the classical pieces, it's based on a general timeline of when the actual music was popular," he explained exactly what I had been specifically curious about. "Beethoven, for instance, would be after Mozart, but before Strauss."

Nodding my understanding, I turned back to the most recent additions to the collection with interest. I couldn't remember everything that I had listened to back in 2003. It had been my first year at high school, so it couldn't have been as terrible as my music options in middle school. Some vague remembrance of Britney Spears, *NSync, and Backstreet Boys made me cringe horribly and caused Edward to snort loudly.

"I don't have any of that," he said with a satisfied, but disgruntled expression.

"Good," I remarked firmly, only too happy not to see those titles on his shelves. "I don't need a flashback to sixth grade, thank you very much."

"You might have a hard time with the music selection, though," Edward said thoughtfully. "I mean, all of the latest music now is… incredibly old for you, isn't it?"

"No. Well, the mainstream stuff definitely is, but some of the things you listen to right now might be something I've never heard before. I may love it."

"What kind of music do you like?" he asked, and I noticed that his voice was coming from an entirely different part of the room. Turning back, I watched him settle on his black sofa at a reasonable human pace; at least compared to the speed he must have moved in order to change positions so swiftly.

"Oh, everything," I laughed lightly. "I can honestly say I like at least three songs from every genre that has ever existed."

"Every genre?" was Edward's doubtful response, but I knew I could prove it to him if I had enough of a selection to work from. He took up my challenge quickly, "Well, go ahead and look at these. I'm sure I have a little of everything."

Pursing my lips, I decided not to rise to his bait. "I can't even see most of them, let alone reach them."

"Then I'll pull them all down," he decided impetuously, a sort of brightness in his gaze. Sure enough, in a matter of a minute he took down every single CD on the shelves and lined them up around the room like a blockade. "Go on, have a look."

This time I followed his advice, standing and bending over the long snakelike shape to inspect titles in a sidestep motion. From the classics on down to the very early stages of jazz, I found a lot I would probably love to hear at some point.

A distinct lack of music from the sixties and seventies irritated me greatly. I suddenly remembered that in the book, Edward said he didn't like those two decades. Oh, but when the eighties showed up, there were stacks of CDs by a bunch of people who sounded exactly the same. The sixties and seventies were undoubtedly better in my mind.

"You can't possibly name a decent group or musician from the sixties and the seventies," Edward said agitatedly, appearing quite confident in himself.

"Queen," I snapped immediately. If that group hadn't had talent, then no one did.

Edward opened his mouth as if to protest, but shut it abruptly with a heavy frown. "Fine. One."

"The Beatles," I cut in before Edward could make any further sarcastic retort, and then cut in again when he seemed to build up his steam once more, "David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Lynyrd Skynyrd, CCR, Aretha Franklin, Cream, The Boxtops, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, the Monkees, Dion, ZZ Top, ELO, Tom Petty, Paul Revere and the Raiders… Shall I go on? I have a whole lot more where that came from."

The look on Edward's face was completely priceless. No doubt he hadn't expected someone my age to know those people at all. It was pretty satisfying to know I actually liked songs from all of them, too; I wasn't just rambling off names I'd heard my parents mention once upon a time.

"Who else could you possibly have up your sleeve?" Edward asked incredulously.

I blinked at him in wonder, rattling off more names immediately, "Jimi Hendrix, Linda Ronstadt, Meatloaf, Sweet, Chuck Berry, Badfinger, Elvis Costello, Charlie Daniels, The Temptations, The Turtles, Canned Heat—"

"All right! All right!" Edward half-shouted, and it wasn't until I really looked at his face that I noticed he was laughing. "You win. Not everyone from that time was a complete mess."

"At least you admit it," I glared playfully.

"What do you want to listen to?" he changed the subject comfortably enough.

"I don't know," I shrugged. "Maybe 'Moonlight Sonata'."

"Is Beethoven a preference of yours?"

"Mostly," I agreed. "I like a lot of his works, but not every one of them. His piano pieces are my favorites. The orchestral works are well done, of course, but I just find them too dramatic sometimes."

"I agree on that point," Edward nodded thoughtfully. "They are a tad overwhelming at times, aren't they?"

I nodded too, pleased to find some common ground with him. "Yes. That's a perfect way to describe it."

"What other composers do you like?" he asked. It seemed to me that Edward was excited to finally discuss music this way with a fellow supporter. His answering smile told me I was correct.

A list of composers came to mind that I began to rattle off, "I love Bach and Vivaldi the best. Tchaikovsky and Mozart are about the same level as Beethoven. Chopin, Brahms, and Debussy come in third, I guess you could say. A little of Rachmaninov isn't bad… I'm sure there are others I'm just not remembering right now."

"You have uncommon taste," Edward remarked with an arched eyebrow. "Most people enjoy one or two composers at best. For that matter, most people don't even listen to classical music anymore."

"I'm just weird like that," I shrugged.

"Just unique," he corrected me, though his brow still rose above its normal position.

Seeing I had no intention of replying to that, Edward moved forward in our talk of music. "What about when the music lost its more classical edge? Do you like jazz at all?"

Shrugging unenthusiastically with a slightly wrinkled nose, I said, "It really depends on the individual song. I'm not a fan of how messy and chaotic jazz music usually sounds. I lean more towards swing, big band, ragtime, or blues rather than true jazz. But there are a couple of actual jazz pieces I like."

"Is there anything you don't like?" Edward questioned in mingled amusement and exasperation. "Even when you aren't a fan of a particular style of music, you still like a song or two from it. You weren't joking when you said every genre, were you?"

"Honestly, there isn't anything I don't like," I told him with a proud little grin.

"What about the twenties?" he inquired energetically, possibly trying to oust a genre I disliked somehow.

"There's this group…" I started slowly and teasingly without thinking of the actual name, laughing when he scowled. "They're from the nineties and later, but they released a CD that reminded me of the twenties. It made me think of what flappers and their guys might have danced to; in clubs during the prohibition era."

"Hmm," Edward hummed thoughtfully, looking painfully good-humored about something, then suddenly disappeared and reappeared beside me with a CD case in hand. Frowning in bewilderment, I took the offered disc hesitantly. Eventually looking from the familiar case to Edward's laughing eyes, I let my jaw drop slightly.

"This is so weird!" I exclaimed in surprise. "You really have the Squirrel Nut Zippers?"

"Every album," he finally laughed at my expression. "But I'm fairly certain Hot is the album you were referring to."

"It definitely is," I admitted, then quietly murmured, "Could we put them in?"

Edward just smiled at me and in a second the first track was blaring through the room. While 'Got My Own Thing Now' played on – my foot absently tapping to the rapid beat – I got a look at the track list for the first time in a year. The fourth song made me snort suddenly, a fact Edward was very confused about.

"What's so funny?"

"It's just… 'Twilight' is the title of the first book about you guys," I explained, shaking my head at the irony.

"Ah," he tentatively responded, not seeing what was funny, apparently.

"Sorry," was my sheepish comment. "My remarks can be pretty random. Just to warn you ahead of time."

"You couldn't possibly be worse than Emmett." Edward's face was so long-suffering that I felt equal parts sympathy and humor for him.

"I'll take your word on it." I bit my lip to keep from laughing. "Can we play number eight?"

Edward and I listened to every song on every disc by the Squirrel Nut Zippers, tapping out the rhythms and singing to them in low voices. To my great happiness, I was in tune the entire time. We then replayed the tracks that we decided – by mutual consensus – were the best, my eyes growing steadily heavier as the night of song progressed. Halfway through 'Put A Lid On It' for the third time, I dozed off totally. In the last vestiges of partial wakefulness, I briefly recognized steely, ice cold arms carefully lift me up and carry me away as my mind drifted into the world of rest.

After wandering in the depth of dreams and revisiting every moment I'd had with the Cullens, my fantastical adventure into the world of Twilight became all too ludicrous to accept in the light of reality. I knew fairly well what awaited me when I opened my eyes; a cold and dead November morning in Michigan intruding on my warm blankets – the only things that actually warmed me since the heat in my dormitory didn't work most of the time. Groaning into my pillow, I tried to pull the covers up over my head to trap in the heat for a little bit longer. The ends were too short and would end up lying across my ankles, but if I tucked my legs up closer to my body, the blankets would still be a nice little cocoon of comfort. To my surprise, the blankets never crossed as I thought they would. I kept pulling, expecting that the ends would lift over my feet, but the end never came.

Utterly bewildered as to why the blanket was not stretching as it normally did, I yanked it forcibly up towards my head, only to have the material sound off like a spring at the sudden tension.

"Oh, come on," I half whined, half growled in frustration. "What is holding this stupid thing down?"

"We are, you silly girl," said a very amused, yet kind, voice.

Popping up in the bed so fast that the blood began to pound in my head, I stared in astonishment at Carlisle's golden face – smiling at me from the right edge of the bed. Just below my feet, Edward sat Indian style, smirking widely in my direction.

"I'm really here," I breathed, incredulously recognizing Alice's and Jasper's room from the previous evening.

"Yes," Carlisle nodded in confirmation, smile widening.

In a flash of impetuousness, I ducked down beneath the covers and buried my face in the pillow so I could squeal like a little piglet. I could hardly describe how happy I was to find my adventure had been genuine. Carlisle's laughter and Edward's snickering filtered through the blanket and into my ears.

Too late I realized that every other vampire in the house would hear my brilliant squeal very clearly, no matter how much the pillow muffled it. A heavy blush covered my face at this knowledge. Well, I thought to myself, at least now I knew why the blankets wouldn't move. Edward's snickers became full blown laughter at my embarrassed thoughts.

When he had gathered himself, Edward spoke finally. "Mireille, we're the only ones here."

"What?" Well, that was unexpected.

"Esme is shopping for groceries and the others are at school," Carlisle, whose laughter had subsided much sooner, answered me calmly.

"But what about Edward?" I asked confusedly, finally forcing myself up from beneath the covers to send a curious gaze towards Carlisle.

"He is out sick," the doctor chuckled, echoed by Edward. "And I am staying home to care for him."

"Okay…" I laughed lightly at the idea of Edward being sick, but then remembered that a sickness was exactly what would have killed him as a human. Pushing away that awful thought and avoiding Edward's piercing gaze, I asked, "So what time is it?"

"Rather early, actually," Carlisle explained, a wary expression on his face; I could only imagine my face was quite odd for a moment. "Barely eight in the morning."

"Oh," was all I could think of to say at first, and we sat in awkward silence until I felt a familiar morning urge make itself known. "Ugh."

"Er… I need a… human moment." I almost cringed at the use of Bella's phrase, but it was perfectly fitting and I didn't feel like making up some silly, elaborate term to replace it. Not waiting for an answer, I rolled up into a sitting position and immediately hopped up from the bed. While collecting an indigo sweater, a pair of dark jeans, and other essentials, I didn't dare look up at either of the two men in the room. Only once I was ensconced in the bathroom and ready to turn the shower on did I remember I needed towels and washrags.

To my fortune – or, more to the point, Alice's fortune-telling – the necessary towels and washcloths were sitting on the edge of the huge, spa-like shower that I had not paid much attention to the previous night. Another thing I had somehow overlooked all of the previous evening was the pajamas I slept in. Looking over the silky plum pajama set in the mirror, I had to admire the smooth, shining fabric and the invariable comfort it offered. The round neck of the top scooped down to show my collar bone, but remained modest, and the sleeves fit slightly wider than my arms – just enough to feel unrestricting.

Shaking myself from contemplation, I hurriedly removed my dirty laundry and set it on the vanity counter before turning the shower to a comfortably warm temperature. Hot showers defeated the purpose of comfort, in my opinion. How comfortable could it be if the water stung your skin? But the temperature of this shower was absolutely wonderful. I could have stayed under the spray all day, but I imagined it might annoy my hosts. And besides, the Cullens' house wasn't cold; the heat throughout the place had felt just as nice as the shower. Stepping out of my steam-filled haven with powerful memories of previous – less comfortable – reentries into unheated indoor air, I relished that fact with great happiness and moved cheerfully to brush my teeth.

Neither Carlisle nor Edward were present upon my barefoot exit from the fogged up bathroom, which suited me fine since I was only too happy to finish getting ready in relative privacy. A quick brush through my hair, a pair of socks to match my sweater, and a pair of cushioned gray flats completed my appearance for the day, along with a ponytail holder in pocket for after my hair dried. Lazy of me I supposed, leaving my hair to dry naturally. But it was a weird day. Breaks were permissible.

Just when I wondered where Carlisle or Edward would be, the latter showed up at the threshold of the room. "We're going to be in the kitchen."

Then he smirked abruptly, something that was surely a bad sign for me, as he said, "To watch the human eat."

"What a joyous occasion," was my dry response as I walked over, falling into step beside him as we turned in the direction of the stairs. Or perhaps it was more him falling into step with me.

"It is particularly momentous," Edward grinned slightly. "As you know, we've never had a human over in such a personal way before."

"Oh well," I smiled and shrugged pleasantly. "At least it's just the three of you. I can handle that."

"Alice saw as much," he chuckled. I was sure there was a good story behind the humor.

"Oh, yes," Edward agreed, carefully suppressed laughter somehow shining through in his voice. "Seven vampires watching you eat would have spiked your anxiety to the point that Jasper rushed out of the house in a state of nervous collapse."

Stopping suddenly in the middle of the staircase, I faced Edward with a severe expression of exasperation. "Two things. Number one… my anxiety would not have gotten that extreme. And number two… it would not be because you're vampires, it would be because seven sets of eyes were staring at me as I arranged, decorated, chewed, swallowed, and digested my food. That's just annoying. Besides that, I know Emmett would be laughing at a very disconcerting volume with absolutely no tact, Rosalie would be disgusted and glaring venomously at me because I can eat as a human, Alice would drive me nuts with strange questions, and Jasper would probably get annoyed by my growing nervousness. To top it off, all of that would kill my appetite… Oh, shut it, Edward."

The beautiful weirdo was still shaking with laughter as I hurried down the staircase to the first floor. At the bottom, I realized that the kitchen was not something I had seen the night before. Great.

'Edward!' I thought loudly. Straight-faced as he could be, the vampire in question appeared at my side.

"It's this way," he murmured, an undeterred smirk playing about the corner of his mouth, and led me by the elbow around the circular staircase, on the side I had not yet seen.

The space which comprised the dining room was beyond enormous; I doubted I had ever even imagined such a large space just for a dining room all by itself. A proportionately large dining table appeared to be a new creation judging by the combination of two antique white bases matched with a thick, modern wood tabletop. Decorated above with three silvery, quatrefoil, split-level chandeliers, the customized table comfortably seated ten white upholstered chairs with tufted backs and natural wooden legs, while a lone-standing wall separated the dining area from the kitchen beyond. Through the open doorway to the left of the long wall, I could see a gleaming, stainless steel double refrigerator near the back left corner of the kitchen.

As I passed through the dining room, I caught sight of another large space – this time the butler's pantry. So much silver and china and crystal decorated the sections of glass cabinetry that it put me in mind of a collage or a mosaic.

"Mm," I hummed in pleasant surprise, stopping at the edge of the dining space to enjoy the perfect scents of syrup, waffles, and bacon lingering in the air. "That smells amazing."

"I'm glad you think so," Esme spoke from in front of the refrigerator, putting up a rather large package of fresh strawberries. "I was a little worried the hot foods were overdone."

"She's been fretting the entire morning," came Carlisle's indulgent tone from behind me. Half-turning, I caught sight of his gently amused features gazing over at the caramel-haired vampire he loved, who appeared mildly embarrassed.

"Smells just right to me." I smiled back at the motherly vampire for her kindness.

"Go ahead and sit down," she encouraged me, pointing back to the table and walking over at a safe, human speed to set down the meal she held. Holding back an instinctive chuckle at her caution, I retraced my steps and took the seat where my breakfast now waited in the middle of the dining table, feeling Edward's hand finally slide away. Funny I hadn't noticed he kept it there until it was gone.

"Thank you, Esme," I said sincerely and pushed away my errant thoughts before settling down to the carefully made meal. Really, it was a breakfast worthy of the food network. In all except the method of eating, anyhow. I wasn't a pig by any means, but my food tended to look like some kind of mush once I mixed it all up the way I liked. Carlisle raised an eyebrow at first, but Esme giggled quietly at the odd process I ate by.

"How can you possibly enjoy that?" Edward asked with a wrinkled brow, from a seat right next to me.

Carlisle and Esme had taken a more discreet vantage point at the head of the table, but their dauntless son sat immediately to my left with barely six inches of space between us, even though the chairs had been positioned a foot apart at first. At one point, he even leaned over to examine the 'mutilation' I enforced on my food. A soft clearing of Carlisle's throat had pushed Edward back into his seat, but the expression of disgust remained prominent. Restraining my laughter at his tortured face became difficult, but I managed (albeit with great challenge to my eating capability).

Relief crowded Edward's sharp features when I pushed the plate away at last, and I couldn't stop the laugh from erupting after all. "You're so melodramatic, Edward."

"I aim to please," he uttered, though the narrowing of his eyes rather negated the sincerity behind his words.

"I'm beyond finished," I exhaled noisily. "If I eat anymore I'll probably combust."

A laugh rippled over the four of us, even Edward. Before I could stand to put my plate in the sink, Esme whisked it away in a flash. That was the trouble in a vampire household. A human could become exceptionally lazy with gestures like those going around.

"We'll try to remember that," Edward laughed aloud.

"Thanks." I rolled my eyes and slouched contentedly. "That was the best breakfast I've ever had, Esme. And after experiencing my grandma's cooking, that's saying something."

"I'm glad you liked it." While the surface of Esme's reply was a genuine gladness for my enjoyment, nervousness belied the face value.

"What is it, Esme?" I asked, wondering what could be wrong all of a sudden.

"Oh, nothing," she hurriedly assured me, but the woman was biting her lip too adamantly to be believed.

"It isn't 'nothing' from the way you sounded… Did I say something wrong?"

"No, you didn't say anything wrong," Edward sighed resignedly. "When you mentioned your grandmother… Esme is worried about you being separated from your loved ones."

"Oh. That."

Awkward silence descended, broken only by four sets of breathing and my heartbeat. So far I had told everyone a lot of superfluous information for casual conversation and a whole lot of big facts about their own lives and futures. Nowhere had I spoken up about my own personal life.

Carlisle hesitantly broke in with words that reassured me only vaguely. "You know so much about us, Mireille, but we know nothing about you. While I fully believe I am able to trust you, I am curious about what has made you into such a unique person; someone so rare that you are happily ensconced with a family of vampires – vegetarian though we may be – for an extended period of time without any fear at all. What about your life before meeting us? What about your family?"

Frankly, I had hoped in vain that this wasn't all that important in the long run. With an uncomfortable shift to ramrod-straight posture, I supposed this was something I could not keep neatly tucked away for very long.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
Rocheport University is completely fictional in this story, as is my interpretation of the welfare system.

Previously – Jasper used Mireille's calm to ease the room and introduced himself to Mireille. Alice & Jasper let Mireille borrow their room. Mireille wanted to put on music and Edward offered for her to borrow from his collection. Mireille and Edward discussed music and listened to Squirrel Nut Zippers all night. Mireille woke up thinking it was all a dream, but realized it wasn't. Carlisle inquired about Mireille's past and she reluctantly agreed to talk about it.

Chapter 4: Inquiries

Taking a deep breath for fortitude, I began to explain my story without preamble, drawing three sets of curious eyes to my face. "When I started my senior year of high school, I had certain plans in mind for college. I didn't have the money to pay for it, though. A couple of scholarships that might pay part of the first semester at a big university, but nothing more. So other than that, it was loans. A heap of them, if I went for anything more than a two-year degree."

For a moment, I paused to catch my breath and steady myself. Whenever I became uncomfortable or anxious, I usually talked nonstop at high speed and lost my breath in the middle of sentences. Only Edward could have any clue how difficult this was, since he was caught up in my memories as well as my words. He was seeing more than his parents possibly could, a fact which showed plainly on his face as it gradually tightened up.

"However," I continued, looking down at the tabletop self-consciously, "being me, I wanted more than that. None of the certificates and associates degrees led to anything I enjoyed working with. I wanted an MA or a PhD. So, I applied and got accepted at Rocheport University, as well as a couple of others. But at first I didn't want to make my parents mad, so I decided to start out at the local community college, taking summer courses. I figured until I knew what I wanted to do for certain, I could at least take general transfer classes. Knowing how my parents felt about the money involved in a big school and the so-called pointless degrees I was interested in taking, I kept it quiet in the beginning. I was close to getting found out, but luckily I got into the habit of checking the mail by the time my letter came."

That had been a harrowing couple of months, waiting for the letter and wondering if it would end up in my parents' hands before I could get to it. Someone had clearly been watching out for me, seeing as I passed all my classes with a high GPA. So much time was spent worrying over the letter, that I barely remembered the classes I had actually taken once the summer semester ended.

"When I got to midterms in the summer courses," I started up again, still resolutely avoiding eye contact, "I knew I had to tell my parents. I mean, I was going to be moving on campus in August and I needed to buy things for my dorm. There was a huge argument. My mother was especially mad. She hated that I'd been hiding things like that. Plus she thought I was being stupid for going to a place where I'd end up in debt. She just didn't understand why I wanted to risk it. To me, getting that degree was the ticket to a career I'd truly enjoy. My mother… well, she thought I should go into a job that paid well. Regardless if I liked it or not."

"But that's terrible!" Esme spoke up at last, succeeding in bringing my eyes up from their fixed position to look at her concerned face, mirrored by Carlisle's pensive brow.

"That's what I thought," I laughed a short, unhappy breath. "You have to understand my mother, though. Her family was always in debt, always really poor, and she hated it; she always wanted more than she needed - compensation for having so little in her youth, I guess. Our accounts were always negative and we never had enough to pay our bills, but we never looked like a poor family. My parents always bought the unnecessary material and superficial stuff first; things my mom whined about all the time, like her suntan, extensions, and bleached hair. My parents' rent was months behind most of the time and we had our power, telephones, internet, and TV cut off more than once over a few months time."

The freedom to expel all of the bad history I had built up and locked away was dizzying. I'd never said any of this to anyone, least of all people I admired, yet I couldn't stop. Everything just overflowed effortlessly. "When I started getting credit card offers, my mother made me think I would be fine; that I wouldn't go into debt, too. Only two cards to local department stores. Just keep a low balance, buy a couple of things, and then pay it off. The typical, suggested method of having credit cards. That's what she claimed. I ended up with eight cards, all of them just below the credit limit – which has been increased at least four times on each one – and I'm just barely paying the monthly minimum on them even now."

Of all things, recklessness was the one word that applied to every moment of financial strife my family had ever encountered. Recklessness and an unhealthy desire to keep up with trends and the material possessions of others; whether it was fashion, hair, makeup, decorations, parties, or whatever else had possessed my parents at some point.

Edward's hands grasped mine firmly as the thoughts and memories raged on. Topaz eyes held mine sympathetically and I was just selfish enough to be happy about it.

"It's not selfish," he admonished me in a voice of pure velvet. "It's just human nature to want someone to understand how you feel… Why don't you go on and explain the rest for Carlisle and Esme? Just get it all out there."

Accepting the advice Edward gave was more problematic than I expected, but following another discomfited pause wherein he squeezed my hands reassuringly, I finished my story. "My parents only bought everything for the dorm because I posted my acceptance to Rocheport on Facebook. I have to admit, I did it for exactly that reason. If others expected me to be going to Rocheport, my parents wouldn't dare have anyone think it wasn't true, so they would have to buy my stuff for appearances. They moved me in, my mother even took some pictures of me in my new dorm, and they left without saying anything too antagonistic. I didn't talk to them an awful lot while I was away during the fall. By the time I thought about coming home, it was near the half-way point in the semester. My hopes were pretty high that my parents accepted the choice I'd made."

There, at the point when all seemed to be going well, had been the downfall. I really, really didn't want to talk about it, but Edward nudged my hands to make me keep going, which I reluctantly did.

"I called my mother, planning to talk about coming back for the weekend. I knew right away she was in a bad mood; really anxious about something. Her voice was sharp and whiny. That was always a sure sign she felt stressed. When I asked her about it she got defensive, like I was nosing in or something, and started in about my loans. How expensive they would be, how I'd never be able to pay them back... It ended pretty badly and I said some things I'm not happy about, but I did leave her voicemails and emails apologizing. She never responded."

A sharp breath from Carlisle grabbed my attention, and I recognized the dawning realization on his face, something Esme was confused about. Edward looked stoic, allowing me to control the flow of the story completely.

"Did she—?" Carlisle hesitantly started to inquire, but stopped himself at a small gesture of pause from Edward.

"About a month before term ended, my parents were in a car accident," I murmured now, ignoring Esme's gasp as painful memories drudged up from two years prior flew through my mind. "My mother died on impact."

"I'm so sorry," Carlisle murmured with genuine sympathy, holding Esme's hand while she tried to hold in her dry-eyed crying. "What about your father?"

"Stuck in the hospital for weeks," I intoned without much interest.

"You must miss him now," Esme suggested sadly, probably envisioning a daddy's girl who needed her father's sheltering arms to hold her up in a time of loss. "Being the last thing each of you has."

"I don't miss him at all," I said forcefully, leaving the doctor and his wife staring in wide-eyed surprise; Edward's silent support kept me going in spite of it. "That man never cared about anything, but himself. Always expecting everything to come to him. He was always raging about something, throwing things around, telling us all our faults and flaws, and obsessing about useless projects rather than spending time with his family. No, Esme, I'm sorry to inform you that my relationship with my father is null and void. Has been for years, as far as I'm concerned."

Awkwardly, we transgressed into a deep silence that I was unwilling to break anytime soon. Edward continued holding my hands, a gesture I appreciated more than I could put into words. Soon enough, Carlisle gathered enough determination to press forward – hopefully into less damaging waters.

"May I ask what happened in the aftermath?" he gently questioned, apology in his golden eyes.

"I was… well, there was really no one to go to," I replied with a sigh. "My uncle was absorbed in my father's condition and pretty much nothing else. I guess that's because they lost their mother. When my father woke up a few days later, he didn't want to see me at all. So I didn't bother trying. Things were strained enough with my mother as an occasional buffer, but without her it was unbearable."

"He wouldn't even see you?"

At my nod, Esme scowled quite uncharacteristically.

"You continued with school, I assume?" Carlisle asked with a heavy sigh. "To keep your mind occupied?"

"Yes," I nodded again. "There was nothing I could do, except keep moving. Everything else probably would have sent me so far into a depression that I couldn't get out of it. So I acted like I was fine and tried to move forward with everything school-related."

"Didn't anyone realize how troubled you were?" Esme wondered incredulously, face drawn with worry. "Your friends? Classmates?"

"I don't really… have friends," I muttered embarrassedly, once again not looking anyone in the eye.

"No friends?" Esme picked up questioning again, completely aghast. "But… but why?"

"I'm a very solitary person; and not good at making and keeping friends." My mutterings were now so low that I doubted anyone but a vampire could have heard me.

"Family then?" Her voice seemed to break down a little with this last, desperate attempt to know I had been helped during my hour of need.

"We don't talk," was my curt reply. "My mother was usually the last to know in our family. We were never 'in the clique' in any way, no matter how much my mother tried to be with her... social war-mongering, if you will."

"I see now why you're not concerned with anyone missing you," Carlisle sighed, more deeply than before. "Although I find it horrifying that no one even bothered to check up on you, I am relieved there are no ties to slowly tear you down by this separation."

"Yes, unfortunately I have to agree," Esme said quietly. "Oh, Mireille, I'm so sorry. You must have been so desperately afraid."

"I wasn't at first," I confessed with some shame. "In the beginning I was just too empty to think like that, even during the whole of the winter semester. But the summer… that was the most awful time in my life. I went into total panic mode when the last week of term came up. I had nowhere to go and no one to go to. The college didn't offer summer courses, so I couldn't stay on campus. By sheer luck my roommate, Sienna, suddenly offered for me to stay up at a cabin with her and some friends for the summer. Honestly, I'm not too sure why she even did. We hardly talked most of the year and never spent time together. But I didn't really care about her reasons. It was a place to stay. So I accepted."

"It was a good choice, then?" Esme nervously asked.

"Yes, a really good one, actually." I smiled in remembrance of the better times during that summer and the one that followed. "We did the same thing the summer after that. Of course, the second time was a lot better because I had come to terms with what happened by then."

Before his parents could speak further, Edward interceded with a question of his own, "What year are you in?"

"My current semester would the beginning of my third year."

"This happened two years ago now?" he asked much gentler.

"Exactly two years ago next week," I answered steadily, of which I was proud. "Well, according the time I'm actually from, anyway."

"Oh yes," Edward frowned slightly. "It was November where you came from, wasn't it?"

"November second, two-thousand-eight," I agreed. "Not only did I switch years, I switched months. This is going to take some getting used to."

"Oh, Emmett will love spending Halloween with a human in the house," Edward groaned loudly.

Laughter bubbled out of me at the idea. "Should I prepare for surprise attacks?"

"No, you most certainly should not!" Esme emphatically assured me. "Emmett will behave himself, if I have anything to say about it."

"Thanks, Esme," I grinned a little. "I knew you'd have my back."

She laughed and I felt so much more at ease. The hard parts of my life were already explained; that alone took a huge weight off my shoulders.

"When did you start receiving welfare?" Edward asked out of the blue, surprising me.

"How did you know that?" I wondered.

"You were thinking about it last night," he explained simply.

"Oh. Well, I first got help in the fall of my second year. Sienna insisted I apply once she found out my predicament. She helped me financially, too; took half of her every paycheck to help me out. As for the government, I was amazed how much they actually helped me. They assisted with the rent for my apartment until I could support myself fully. I never got to use the apartment, though. I would have lived there next summer. Er… I mean the summer of 2009."

"I thought you said you didn't have any friends?" Esme interrupted with a small frown.

"Sienna left for grad school in the winter of my second year," I clarified. "She was already a junior when I moved into the dorm. And we were never really friends. More like allies for a semester. And by the time she really knew what happened to me, I was already beginning to mend."

"Oh, I see," the motherly vampire sighed sadly, slumping with disappointment.

"Well, think of it this way," I began hesitantly, a fresh idea blossoming in my mind. "If it makes you feel better, I haven't once had anyone to truly hear me out like this. You've helped me clear the air. I've never been able to vent about any of what happened until today. So, thank you for being the friends I needed."

Esme smiled, eyes suspiciously glassy, and moved in a flash of air to stoop and hug me against her shoulder. Feeling my own eyes grow suspiciously tight, I hugged her in return as she said, "You're welcome, dear."

When she pulled away, I sniffed rather obnoxiously, causing the two of us to burst into a fit of giggles. Edward rolled his eyes in response, but Carlisle smiled happily at our interaction.

"Now that the most difficult part is over," he spoke up, sounding much relieved. "Why don't I move onto a tour of our home? You can finally learn where everything is, including the kitchen."

At the tease about my brief scuffle with Edward earlier, I turned slightly pink, but ultimately brushed it off. "That would be a good thing."

"Come along, then," the doctor chuckled, extending a hand to help me from my seat.

"We're going for a hunt," Esme informed us, gesturing for a seemingly reluctant Edward to join her. "We should have gone last night, but we neglected to do so."

"My scent isn't overwhelmingly strong, is it?" was my nervous question. I didn't want to cause them undue stress because of it.

"It's not impossibly overwhelming," Edward haltingly told me, "but it's not bland, I assure you."

Esme's face turned apologetic when she nodded her agreement, but I waved it off. "It's okay. I know it can be difficult when you haven't hunted."

"We'll be back later," Edward stated equally as apologetically, allowing Esme to step outside ahead of him. Through the front windows, I watched as their quick forms darted into the trees and out of sight.

"Carlisle," I spoke up and turned back to him with worry in my eyes, "is it really hard for them?"

"Esme merely needs to hunt," the tall vampire assured me, a smile on his face. "It has been almost three weeks since her last trip. Normally she would have gone in two, but we were stuck inside thanks to the sunshine this week. We didn't want to risk anyone seeing us. There are a great number of people out and about for hunting lately."

"And Edward?"

"He is quite well, actually," Carlisle informed me. "It's typically more difficult for Esme than for Edward."

"Okay," I relented, then recklessly voiced my next question without thought, "So, what do I smell like?"

Taken aback and amused in equal measure, Carlisle took a minute to sink into his thoughts on the matter.

"Your scent is very complex," he settled on after a minute, although he didn't look completely satisfied. "At the moment, I haven't determined the precise smells involved. Edward might recognize it sooner than I. Admittedly, I am much less attuned to the individual… ingredients, if you will."

"Because you never drank human blood?" I suggested knowledgeably.

"Exactly," he nodded. "And on that point, I believe we should begin our tour. We'll be discussing that subject soon enough."

"Okay," I agreed with a lot more energy than I had previously engaged in, absently bouncing on the light hardwood flooring.

"As you can see," Carlisle started with a wry expression as he gestured around at the golden-painted space, "this is the dining area. We only really use the dining table for family meetings. However, now that you're here, I expect it will be used for its intended purpose often enough."

"Yeah, I don't think Esme would like me eating on those nice clean sofas." I shrugged.

"Probably not," Carlisle hummed in amusement, guiding me through the kitchen doorway for the first time. An immense span of white cabinetry sporting glass panes on the uppers and fitted with shining copper hardware gave the space a look of crisp modernity mixed with clean warmth. In the middle of the room, the large island boasted a thick slab of natural colored butcher's block to break up the endless flow of Calcutta gold marble across the remaining countertops.

"Down in the cupboards on this left half, we store all of our dry and canned goods that are to be used first. We also buy bulk of just about every ingredient imaginable and store it in the pantry," Carlisle explained and I followed the doctor's pointing gesture to the left wall of the kitchen, where a single, natural wood door apparently led through to the Cullens' food pantry. As we moved on, Carlisle added simply, "Refrigerator, microwave, range, sink, and dishwasher. Kitchen towels and aprons…"

We walked past each appliance as Carlisle pointed it out… from the refrigerator on the left wall, we passed the shining microwave in the corner and a wide window, then on to the gleaming black and stainless steel range in the middle of the kitchen's back wall. On the far right of the kitchen, near the window wall at the back of the house, a sink and dishwasher sat side by side. While the dishwasher matched the stainless steel of the other appliances, the large farmhouse sink was composed of white porcelain and copper fixtures.

The dividing wall between dining and kitchen had been artfully designed, starting with a central display of mini potted plants on a white trellis. To the left of the plants, shining pots and pans hung from hooks attached to neatly cut wooden slats.

On the right side adjacent to the plant display, a small selection of patterned aprons hung one after the other. Spices filled a simple, modern copper rack across the wall. Above the spices, two plant-themed art pieces brought out a mix of neutrals and greens, while fresh green and copper colored towels had been placed for easy reach in white baskets on a shelf underneath. At the very bottom of the right side, several sizes of cutting boards filled a copper wire basket.

"These cabinets down on the right side hold our large serving dishes, crock pots, and slow cookers," the doctor continued in more detail. "Silverware is in these drawers, the larger utensils are in those there, and special tools are in the third drawer here. Have I left anything out?"

Looking out the clear glass wall onto the back yard for a moment, I had to think before remembering my dependency on mixing tools and the toaster. "Well, if you have these… um, the mixer, blender, toaster, and… oh, if you have a vegetable chopper."

"Ah," he picked up quickly, moving to show me the items in question, "the toaster is in the far left cupboard down here. The blender and mixer are in that cupboard near the refrigerator. As far as cutting and chopping are concerned, I am afraid we don't have any actual devices for that."

"That's fine with me," I assured him. "I just wondered. And I also wondered… erm… do you have a bathroom down here?"

"Oh, so sorry," he muttered as realization struck. "It's around the other side of the stairs, down the hallway on the right."

Hm… After thinking about it, I decided the Cullens must have redecorated somewhat by the time Bella came. Shaking off the bewilderment, I rounded the staircase, then came upon a wide, empty hallway, with the walls of the pantries blocking in the kitchen on the other side.

At the end of the hall sat a door on the left, through which lay a vast yet tasteful bathroom decorated in neutral tones with a hint of plum. Due to its position right on the corner of the house, the bathroom had windows on both walls that allowed in ample natural lighting. On my way out, I took a moment longer to admire a painting on the south-facing wall of the room, then hurried to return to Carlisle and the rest of my tour.

"Around here," he gestured for me to go ahead of him into the living area.

Two elegant yet simple white sofas on natural wood feet angled perpendicular to each other; one faced the front of the house while the other faced a beautiful, enormous stone fireplace with a wooden mantle and broad outer hearth. A glass-topped nickel coffee table stood between the front-facing sofa and two comfortable white armchairs, capped off by the six foot TV screen above the mantle, nickel and glass side tables, and an antique white console table behind the sofa that faced the fireplace.

Further down the wall from the fireplace, I took note of a lengthy natural wood desk accented with white and littered with spaces for storage. A very new computer, keyboard, and mouse sat atop the work surface – Carlisle and Edward had most likely already modified the technology for Alice's designs.

"I doubt I need to explain much about this area," Carlisle digressed easily. "Although there is one thing…"

The look on his golden face seemed anticipatory for some reason as he glanced to his right almost nervously. When I glanced around fully in the same direction, I could see why, even before Carlisle went on to say, "I wasn't certain if you saw the piano last night."

And indeed I had not seen it. The beautiful black instrument sat on a raised platform that made up the floor of a conservatory space. Needless to say, the instrument captivated me entirely with its elegance. Strong though the urge was to lift the cover and run my fingers over those ebony and ivory keys, I resisted. Edward was likely to be touchier about his piano than about his entire music collection.

From behind me, Carlisle took in a breath to speak, and then hesitated a little before finally saying, "Edward asked me to tell you that you may play, if you wish."

"Me?" I turned so fast my neck hurt, eyes wide. "Why?"

Awkwardly, Carlisle indicated for me to head over to the piano and take another look at the instrument itself. Doing precisely that, I wondered what on earth he could be talking about, when the books setting out on the music stand caught my eye.

Those were my music books sitting in front of me. In a slight daze, I stepped closer and actually took a tense seat at the imposing grand piano.

"How did those get here?" I asked in amazement. "I know I didn't have them with me when I was walking across campus. I remember thinking how I'd forgotten them in the library."

"Well, Edward hasn't looked at his piano in months," Carlisle explained, bewilderment showing through in his tone. "But Esme cleaned it early yesterday morning. And she swears it was not there at that time. That leads me to believe your music may actually have appeared about the same time that you did last night."

"So, I might have other things lying around here?" I asked in a mixture of excitement and anxiety.

"I suppose so," he agreed in surprise. "I hadn't thought of that."

"After we tour the rest of the house, can we check?"

"Certainly," he acquiesced easily. "You might feel more comfortable if some of your more significant possessions are here with you."

"Maybe." I lifted one shoulder doubtfully. Not a lot had any amazing importance of my worldly possessions, save a few things I hoped had arrived the same as I suddenly had the night before. I stood with reluctance from the piano bench.

"You may certainly play later," Carlisle laughed at me, grasping my shoulder to tug me gently towards the stairs.

"Sorry, I get absorbed," I confessed embarrassedly as we climbed the steps. "Especially with music."

"As does Edward," the doctor chuckled good-naturedly. "If he did not read thoughts, Edward would be completely lost to our calls."

Entertaining myself with that notion, I allowed my eyes to take in all the art Esme had put up. There were a lot of different styles to examine, but not the cultural mish-mash the movie had tried to show. Most images incorporated Esme's neutral color scheme with a small splash of vivid color somewhere in the artwork.

We turned to face the rooms on the second floor as Carlisle began pointing out different spaces. "Emmett and Rosalie's room is the first here."

He did not elaborate much on it, and without further conversation, my eyes had no difficulty finding the door to Carlisle's office next. The face of it was darker than the other doors and something about it gave me the feeling that I was welcome.

"That would be my office, as you appear to have realized," he smiled. "Feel free to come in anytime, for any reason."

"Thank you," I told him sincerely. "I'm sure I'll have lots of questions for you."

"No doubts on that point," the golden-haired vampire grinned. "I can tell you are a highly curious young woman."

"You have no idea," I admitted sheepishly.

"Never a foolish question," he determinedly said. "It is better to have learned than to remain in ignorance, no matter how small the issue."

"Good philosophy," I complimented him.

"Thank you," he smiled. "At any rate, this is Alice and Jasper's bedroom next, as you know. And you can see Alice's room further down there."

"Huh?" was my intelligent response. I was confused, to say the least. What did he mean Alice's room? Staring at the room I remembered leaving that morning and back to the one further down, I tried to figure out why Alice had a room all her own or, potentially, why Carlisle had misspoken.

"Did you really think that closet was enough for Alice?" Carlisle laughed at my shocked face. "This room is all hers. Makeup, clothes, shoes, accessories… It's all in there."

"The other closet must be Jasper's," I sighed, shaking away the surprise. I should have known that a proportionate closet was not the property of Alice Cullen.

"Indeed it is," Carlisle confirmed, amusement still dancing in his golden eyes.

"Okay," I moved past the offending fashion room with rapid steps. "Above and beyond. Thank you, Alice Cullen."

Snorting very quietly, Carlisle followed me further down the hall. "The next room is Jasper's study."

"Jasper's study?" I wondered in confusion, remembering the desk in said vampire's bedroom.

"Yes," Carlisle confirmed, looking at me in equal confusion. "Is something wrong?"

"No, I just didn't know he had one," I admitted.

"Oh," Carlisle said understandingly. "I suppose the books never mention that."

"No, not at all," I answered in agreement. "I guess not everything is essential to the plot, but still…"

We were quiet until he spoke again at the third floor landing, "The next room is mine and Esme's. And that across the hall is… well somewhat of a storage room. Everyone has something packed away in there until we can use it, perhaps in our next move several years from now… We call it the library for public purposes."

I soon found myself led through what looked like a whole other floor, several cubical-like, ceiling-high spaces filling it. A few feet past the entrance there was a door through which I saw only a darkened area, looking like a true room rather than a cubicle. It was that room which Carlisle showed me.

Turning on the light once he was inside, Carlisle explained, "This is typically Esme's room for her artistic endeavors, although the rest of us use it on occasion. If you ever need any sort of art material, this is the place for it. Ask Esme first, of course, but I very much doubt she will refuse you."

"That's on my to-do list," I breathed excitedly as I examined the enormous space. Almost a quarter of the shorter wall was covered in a multitude of pens, colored pencils, brand new lead pencils, crayons, sharpies and washable markers, pastels, charcoal, and chalk. None of that counted the host of different paints lining nearly a third of the same wall; spray paints, acrylic, oil-based, watercolor… My brain whirred in overdrive at the menagerie of art and office supplies stacked in every possible nook and cranny.

"Can I live here?" I asked in a breathy voice. Honestly, I was surprised I didn't drool.

Carlisle burst into laughter, only subduing it enough to inquire, "You enjoy art, then?"

"Oh yes," I emphatically agreed. "More to the point… I just love office and art supplies. Give me a craft store or an office store and I'm good for the next month in the way of entertainment."

"What is it that draws you in?" he wondered humorously.

"I don't know. I would love to try every type of art tool out there, just so I can see what they do and how they look on paper. And I just love to look at the different shapes and styles."

"You and Esme will get along famously, then," Carlisle announced with a jolly air while I turned and examined the other two thirds of the lengthy space. I caught sight of a drafting table, two large farmhouse sinks, a few other worktables, and more storage units covering every inch of wall space that was not taken up by the sink units or the windows, before my host commented, "For now, let us move on. At this rate, the others will be home before we can have our discussion."

"Oh, sorry," I sighed dreamily with one last look at the nearest wall of selection, bringing another small laugh out of him while he carefully pushed me out and down the hall.

"The last room, as you know, is Edward's. He also asked me to tell you to come in whenever you wish. Alice and Jasper are in their room often enough to make your presence there awkward at times. If you ever feel that way, you may always come up here as a place for some down time."

"That's generous of him." I flushed a pale shade of pink. "He's being very good to me. You all are, of course! I just meant…"

"I understand what you mean," Carlisle soothed my fluttering nerves quickly. "Edward realizes you are both outsiders, in many ways."

Speaking felt superfluous after such a comment, so I remained silent, glancing in the partially-opened door of Edward's room to find it looking exactly the same as I had left it the previous night. The fact that he had left all as it was, made me feel inexplicably special; this effort, along with all of the other gifts Edward granted me, seemed to me an offer of friendship. That wasn't something I was willing to turn down lightly.

"That is everything, really," Carlisle spoke up from behind me, a knowing tone to his voice. "Any questions for me?"

"Plenty," I said emphatically, coming back to face him.

"Where shall we start?" he asked.

"Your story is the beginning of everything." This was a tale I had always wanted to hear and to have it from Carlisle himself was above what I imagined I'd get.

"My office, then," he said with a warm smile, waving me ahead of him.

As we walked, he suddenly asked me a significant question of his own. "Mireille, I have been wondering about these books you've mentioned. You say you own copies yourself?"

Slightly embarrassed of my obsession with their family and their world, I listed off the writings I had as blandly as possibly, "One copy of each book, for a total of four; a digital copy of Midnight Sun; and digital copies of some extra snippets. Why do you ask?"

"If things such as your music books are able to randomly appear in this world," Carlisle explained nervously. "Then perhaps these other things could also appear. Worse yet, maybe our worlds are not two separate entities as you believe and thus these books are already in our world."

"It's mass-marketed," I interrupted before he could work himself into a panic. "It's even being turned into a movie series. You know the Volturi would never let that go public. Everyone would be onto you guys and vampires would be exposed most likely. No, Carlisle. My world and yours do no coincide at all, except that you're fictional characters in a book that I've read. Other than that, there can't possibly be any other connections."

Immensely eased by this information, Carlisle exhaled gustily. "I must say I am vastly relieved. That would be a nightmare, to say the least."

"Yeah, I bet." I shuddered at the implications. Too many people would end up dead in that circumstance; including the Cullens and myself. Carlisle's office was before us in no time, thankfully quelling my discomfiting theory.

"After you," Carlisle opened the door and then held out his hand as invitation.

"Thanks," I smiled and stepped inside the infamous library-like office. Facing the doorway, Carlisle's dark wooden desk I noted as sitting slightly off-center towards the right of the room with two rich green leather armchairs in front. A vintage sofa upholstered in olive green suede, graced the wall of high, west-facing windows and a round, tri-level brown end table sat on either side.

"Esme utilizes this as a study space occasionally as well, just so you know," Carlisle commented, but my mind was otherwise occupied.

There was no doubt the description had been spot on – of this place in particular. Books upon books littered the dark bookcases lined up against the paneling on the back and right walls. The only spaces not filled by shelving were the openings of each window on the north wall. Every shape, size, and color of book lined the shelves; here was another menagerie for me to get lost in.

"Wow. That… is impressive, Carlisle," I remarked in awe. "I hope you don't mind me stealing your office for the long term, because those books are going to be my new best friends. Unless they're a bunch of medical texts…"

"Hardly," the doctor laughed at my insinuation. "The main component of my collection is historical. The second largest section is religious and philosophical texts. Some classic fiction is in there, too, although not as much."

"Which classics?"

"Shakespeare's complete works, of course." A heartbreaking grin flashed across his features and I found myself fighting the dazzle momentarily. "I also have the Brontë sisters, Tolkien, Doyle, Homer… and a number of others. You may certainly browse them yourself. They are all in alphabetical order of title, regardless the topic or genre."

"Thank you," I repeated for what must have been the hundredth time since my arrival. There were just so many things to be grateful for. Leaving the books alone until a later date, I turned with pleasant trepidation to face the wall behind us. Immediately my eye caught the largest painting on the entire wall, its gold gilded frame a beacon amidst subtle silvers and plain wood; I was like a moth looking between a bonfire and a torch. Both were desirable and would suit my purpose, but one was far more eye-catching.

Yet another image came to mind – a much more important image, as far as I was concerned. Pulling my gaze from the gilded portrait and over to the far left of the wall, I honed in on a little oil painting of London in the sixteen-fifties. Carlisle had grown up there, in the very world that this uncolored artwork showed; a place which was now obsolete, thanks to both the Great Fire of 1666 and the world's ever-changing ways. Suddenly this tiny picture felt like the bonfire, while the ornate painting burned out to a candle's strength.

"You were born there," was my rhetorical statement, a quality of vagueness overtaking my voice as the knowledge of Carlisle Cullen's life started to click into place in my mind. This had happened. It was real and I was going to hear firsthand how it all took place.

"Yes, I was born there," Carlisle responded softly, sounding lost in his thoughts. I only realized how close he had gotten when I felt his cool breath rustle the ends of my mostly-dry hair. Twisting back to see him, I wondered what was running through his head. Those golden eyes were distant, lost in memories I couldn't fathom. The idea that these memories were old news – incredibly so – for this man, made me think of something I needed to set straight.

"Carlisle?"

Snapping from his trance, he prompted, "Yes, Mireille?"

"I don't know if what you're about to tell me is any less… poignant for you… since it happened so many years ago," I started very carefully and quietly, making immense effort to verbalize my thoughts tactfully. "But if it is, could you try to remember that for me, it's the first time hearing it? Well, at least hearing it as a first-hand account, in a world where it's actually happened and it isn't just a storybook. That's quite a different ballpark, I think you'll agree."

"Yes, it is highly different," Carlisle nodded at me kindly for my efforts. "I understand you will feel more strongly than I might, considering how much time has passed since I experienced it personally. I grant you, my memory is crystal clear of all I tell you now, save a sparse bit of information about my human life. But that is beside the point. I—"

"Oh," I interrupted him once again, holding my hand up in a tentative gesture of pause before he could begin his tale. My cheeks reddened at the notion that I had so frequently put my oar in all day, but the good doctor only smiled encouragingly. "You don't have to go editing much, unless it's for your own sake somehow. I mean, clearly I don't want to hear specific gory details, but a passing description isn't out of my capability to handle."

"Ah," Carlisle said knowingly, leaning back easily against the desk, "you mean about the transformation itself, don't you?"

"Yes," I nodded simply. "In the book, Edward edits out a lot of things that I always thought were essential to understanding your choice in this life. I get the feeling you didn't edit that same information when you told others."

"Probably not," the fair-haired vampire laughed lightly. "Edward would be very protective in such a situation, I would think. Not wanting to give this girl, Bella, a fright."

"You have no idea," I sighed and groaned almost simultaneously, trying hard not to think of the many things Edward had done that were overbearingly cautious and unnecessary. One thing in particular – one very big mistake – was one I hoped I could prevent while I was with the Cullens in Forks.

"Oh dear," Carlisle sighed with some wry amusement, but worry too. "I am glad you are able to help us with this future of ours. Edward sounds quite troublesome."

"He can be pretty stubborn," I giggled. "But then that's Edward for you."

"Poor Edward." Carlisle shook his head with a quiet laugh. "…Well, where should I start? You already seem to know a great deal about me."

"Oh, I don't know," I hedged. My curiosity urged me to ask all about his human life, but my manners held me back. That was a touch personal to be asking a near-stranger, no matter how much I knew about this man from the books.

"I'm not easily offended," he chuckled calmly, waiting with extreme patience.

"I just don't think it's very polite of me," I muttered in embarrassment, looking down at my feet.

"Ask anyway," was his firm encouragement. "The worst possibility is that I will say no. However, I do not find that a very likely prospect. I am rather open about my existence."

"Life," I corrected absently, chewing my lip in thought – and for time to build courage. Not that the latter worked all that well…

"Life, then," Carlisle chuckled again, yet far more pensively. After a short pause, he hesitantly went on to say, "Mireille… if it is my human memories you are worried over… Well, that's nothing to be troubled about. Discussing the few I have would not cause any overwhelming emotional duress. No more than discussing the transformation, anyway."

"How do you do that?" I asked incredulously, finally looking back up at him, radiance and all. "Are you sure Edward is the only mind-reader?"

"Quite sure," he laughed much more freely, the wrinkle in his brows disappearing in an instant. "I seem to read you quite well. I'm not entirely certain why that is."

"Entirely?" I questioned, not exactly positive I wanted to know.

"Edward has formed a certain theory about it, already," Carlisle admitted, appearing vaguely uncomfortable. Oh, this would be good.

"And that is?" I inquired tiredly, slouching as I realized it was ridiculous to fight Edward's sarcasm in whatever form it took. I would be fighting for a long, long time if I did.

"That you like me the best of us all," he sighed, too. "I know it is rather childish of him, but—"

"No, it's not," I admitted baldly, weary of playing around with what I really felt towards this peculiar family. "I do like you best. Not that I dislike any of the others. All of them are good in their own ways. You've just always been my favorite character."

It was strange to speak of him as though he was not real, but how else was I supposed to explain it?

"That is illuminating," Carlisle finally responded, looking mildly shell-shocked. "Thank you, I suppose."

"Don't worry," I said in a deceptively blasé manner, shrugging casually. "I won't stalk you."

Eyebrows bouncing up to his hairline, Carlisle did his best to stamp out an instantaneous grin. "How very kind and generous of you."

"I'm good like that," I nodded smugly, trying desperately not to laugh at our weird relay. Naturally, I failed miserably, and ended up snorting with Carlisle over our silly banter.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
I got SM's official guide for Christmas, so Chapter 4: Inquiries has been reworked to include a slightly more faithful description of the Cullen home.

Previously – Mireille explained her troubled history with her parents, and explained her mother's death and her father's avoidance. Mireille told of her hard times in college and comforted Esme's upset over it. Edward and Esme went hunting while Carlisle began a tour of the house. Mireille realized her possessions had probably appeared as she did. Mireille saw Carlisle's portraits and discussed Edward's lackluster explanations from Twilight. Mireille admitted Carlisle was always her favorite character.

Chapter 5: Intent

"Mireille, I realize you are of college age, but exactly how old are you?" Carlisle asked curiously, the remnants of our laughter having died away to comfortable silence a few minutes before. Now seated in the tufted leather rolling chair behind the doctor's workspace, I felt a little more relaxed than I did earlier that morning.

"Twenty," I answered easily. "Nearly twenty-one."

"You seem younger, for some reason," he said wonderingly, leaning against the side of the mahogany desk, facing me with his arms folded comfortably. "At first I assumed you must have graduated high school a bit early, skipped a grade… perhaps skipped a couple of grades, even. It must be your exuberant personality."

"Me? Exuberant?" I half-laughed, pretty sure he was thinking of someone else entirely. "I'm about as tepid as they come, Carlisle. I don't even like reading out of the book in class."

"Be that as it may," he allowed reluctantly, thoughtful interest on his face, "you have a great deal of repressed energy. Like a… how did Alice once put it… oh, yes… like a party waiting to start."

"What?" I let out a genuine belly laugh at that. "Carlisle, seriously, you must be on some faraway planet."

"Oh, say what you will," he waved off my doubts glibly, "but that is exactly what you come across as."

"Whatever," I muttered with a light flush to my cheeks. "Why don't you move onto your own stories? Please?"

"All right," he granted my request with a nod and an acquiescent smile. "But you have yet to tell me where you would like me to begin."

Hesitantly, I voiced a question that had plagued me for some time since reading the series, "Do you... do you remember much from your human years?"

"I have retained a number of memories," he shrugged lightly. I was relieved that he did not look uncomfortable. "Some are highly unclear, but still discernible. I do remember watching my father carve the cross that hung in his parish. I also remember kneeling in the church cemetery as a very young boy; I know I was feeling exceptionally sad, so I can only imagine it was a visit to my mother's grave."

"You never knew her," I lamented. It seemed horrible that this man, who must have been a wonderful little boy, had never been able to even meet his mother. I always felt that, had his mother lived, Carlisle would have been immensely cherished.

"I feel worse for those who have known their mothers… and then lost them," he murmured gently. No doubt he was thinking of his adopted children, Edward in particular. And perhaps he was thinking of Esme losing her baby boy. How strange that Esme had never met her son and Carlisle had never met his mother. Esme's parents had been cold and Carlisle's father had been essentially heartless. Yet together, Carlisle and Esme Cullen made wonderful parents.

"It's just… I don't know… I'm just daydreaming, I think," I shook my head. I didn't want to tell him that I had previously imagined his mother holding her little son with love as her life faded; I'd even envisioned a story about her brief moments with him before she died. Now that I was living in this world and it was real, I felt like such a terrible person for playing around with people's lives like that, even if it was only a story.

"Are you all right?" Carlisle asked concernedly, leaning forward to lay a gentle hand on my shoulder.

"I'm fine," I told him in what I thought was a casual voice, ducking my head to avoid his gaze.

"I'm afraid I'm not convinced," he admitted in a serious tone, and I felt his eyes boring into the top of my head.

"I… I feel bad," I confessed under my breath, hardly wanting to admit to what had just gone through my mind. But Carlisle was worried now and I couldn't leave him feeling that way indefinitely.

"Over what?" he inquired soothingly, squeezing my shoulder in comfort.

"Well, in my world… since you are all just fictional people… a lot of fans write stories about you. You know… sort of… putting you into different situations and that sort of thing... Rewriting the books as if you guys were all human and other stuff."

"And you've done this, too," he stated, rather than asked, voice impassive. From it, I could glean nothing as to how he felt.

"Yes," was my meek reply, shoulders pressing forward to ward off the unfriendly reaction I guessed would come.

"What did you write about?" he asked me casually enough.

That was not the kind of response I was expecting.

"Um… different things," I confessed tentatively, eyes riveted to my knees. "Some are… things that could have happened within the books, but weren't written by the author."

"What else?" he prodded further, impassive again. "What specific plots have you created?"

Why was he asking me all these questions about what I wrote? Was he trying to make me feel worse?

"But—" I began, hoping to explain myself, but Carlisle cut me off.

"Tell me one," he instructed politely. I could feel his eyes on my bowed head still; it was making me more nervous than anything.

"I… in one… you and Jasper bond after he and Alice come to live with you. Since Maria was… well, Maria… and you're totally different from each other and it would have been strange going from one extreme to the complete opposite, so it must have taken a great deal of adjustment for him and… and you… and…"

I probably would have gone on rambling nonsense about my many theories on their family, had I not heard the oddest sound. Warily glancing up at the doctor from beneath my lashes, I blinked several times before I realized he was actually laughing behind his hand.

Carlisle was laughing.

Gaping, I wondered what universe I had transported to this time.

"Forgive me, Mireille," he chuckled when he noticed me looking up at him finally. "I could not help myself that time. But really, I don't care about that. What do you take me for? We were not even real in the world you came from. It's not some horrible crime."

"But I… it's real now," I uttered, weak with relief that he had only been teasing me.

"It wasn't at that time," he consoled me with a warm smile, all traces of laughter gone. "What has made you so guilty that you would be afraid of my reaction?"

"I had another idea a while back," I slowly confessed, biting my lip. "And you reminded me of it."

"Ah… it must have been about my mother, then?"

"Yes, it was." I gave up figuring out how he gained such knowledge and just watched in anticipation for a negative reaction, but his face remained pleasant.

"I suppose that would be a natural thing to be curious about," he said thoughtfully. "As many things would be for an inquiring mind such as yours, particularly when those things pertain to a group of people you have read about and become intrigued by. What else are you curious about?"

"You won't be disappointed with me?" I asked with trepidation. Already I felt like disappointing this man would be painful.

"Not in the least, I promise you," Carlisle answered in deep sincerity, reaching out to take my hand in his. "Even if you ask about the less savory parts of our family's history."

"Then I'd better hurry and ask this question before Rosalie gets home and takes over that reaction in your place," I admitted bluntly.

"That sounds quite ominous," he intoned, sighing and waving me on with the hand that had just held mine.

Breathing deeply to steel myself, I quietly asked something that always bothered me. "Does she still feel a lot of anger towards you over being changed?"

Carlisle breathed deeply, too, repeating the process I had just attempted. I only hoped it worked better for him than for me. Analyzing the way his exhale seemed to stick at the back of his throat before it left him, I doubted that very much.

After a moment, he responded very plainly, "Rosalie will always feel some amount of disgust for my actions that night; for the fact that I gave her no choice. However, as far as any of us can tell, she has forgiven me on all counts. She complains often enough about living this existence, but we do not believe she is doing it to spite me; more because she is so… well…"

"Er… oriented around her own feelings?" I offered haltingly. Referring to Rosalie's selfishness in a diplomatic way did not come easy, that was for certain.

Choking slightly on what I guessed was amusement, Carlisle murmured, "That is one way of putting it… Is that what you wished to know?"

"Mostly. It makes me feel better, at least," I shrugged.

"I'm glad of that," he acknowledged, then wryly asked, "Do you have any other questions like that tucked up your sleeve?"

"Probably." I ducked my head bashfully.

"Then you'd best fire away rather quickly," he informed me. Looking up again, I watched as the doctor checked his watch. "We've little more than two-and-a-half hours now. And thirty minutes of that should be set aside for your lunch."

Time had gone by so quickly and I barely realized it because I was so pleasantly engrossed. But I didn't want to waste time when I could be listening to Carlisle. "Well, I'm not hungry yet; probably won't be until around one o'clock. Besides, I could eat while you're telling me your story, couldn't I?"

"If you wish to do so, I won't be bothered," he smiled confusedly at me. "Are you sure you wouldn't rather take your time eating?"

"No, it's fine," I lifted my shoulders in enthusiasm. "I did it all the time when I lived at home."

"All right," Carlisle agreed. "But the rest of your questions must still come first. I doubt it would be wise to ask any such delicate inquiries with a risk of the others hearing."

"Okay. Well, then… I know you said you, personally, can't really pinpoint specific parts of a scent as easily, but are you able to notice if human scents are stronger than others?"

"Ah, now that I am quite capable of," he said, nodding. "It's easier to notice a higher concentration or a stronger… consistency. That is a part of what helps me determine clotting in the blood."

"Um… this is a kind of strange question and I'm not sure you'll know, but…" I started, stopped, then decided that my wording would have to stay the same no matter how it sounded. "As far as you know, how long could you go without hunting and still refrain from snapping at humans?"

"During Edward's first year of this life, I once went without for two months," was Carlisle's grim answer as he reflected back on the experience with distant eyes. "Edward was incredibly difficult to reign in when you matched his speed with newborn strength. Thankfully by the end of his first year I was the stronger one once more."

Wincing slightly, I remembered how long he must have gone without during his own first year. "How long was it when you were a newborn?"

"A few months," he answered, the distance growing in his eyes again. "Of course, I was both new and away from all human company at that time in my life. Quite a difference."

"Will you tell me about your life?" I finally came to the whole point behind our talk. "From as early as you can?"

"Human memories, hm?" Carlisle clarified, smiling indulgently at me when I nodded. "Well, the day I visited my mother's grave is the earliest recollection I have. I was quite young then, perhaps six years old; an age at which Edward finds it extraordinary for me to have remembered something so strongly."

"It really is amazing," I commented. "I can't remember a single firsthand memory from when I was six… Of course, your memory is a lot more emotionally powerfully than any of mine would be, so maybe that's why."

"It may be," he pondered, but shook himself from contemplation. "Regardless, that is the earliest memory I have."

"What was your mother's name?" I couldn't believe I had neglected to ask sooner.

"Joanna," Carlisle said simply, wistfully.

"God is gracious," I repeated the meaning of the name softly. True to my curious nature, I had often looked up the meaning of baby names and remembered a lot of the meanings I had read even months afterward. This name struck me as ironic now.

"What's that?" asked Carlisle curiously.

"Joanna," I replied quietly. "It means 'god is gracious'."

Unless I was mistaken, Carlisle's eyes sparkled at this information, shining even more golden than ever. If ever a man looked like an angel, it was Carlisle Cullen, especially in that moment. His beauty, however, was speared by a sudden sadness that startled me. Somehow I realized it must have been a wish to at least have met his mother, despite his earlier dismissal of his own sadness.

Hoping to spare him any more upset in remembering his mother, I tried to push his story along. "What's the next memory you have?"

Starting from his darkened daze, Carlisle took a moment to answer while he brought his mind back to the conversation at hand. "The carving. It could only have been a year after the first memory that I began to sit in the back of the sanctuary each evening, gazing in rapt fascination as my father toiled over raw wood until it formed to his ministrations. Well, truthfully, my only remotely clear memories of him carving are the last ones. Overall, it took him three months to finish it. Obviously I do not have a memory of every night I sat there."

"How do you know you sat there every night, then?" I asked in bewilderment.

"My father talked about it after he showed me the finished product."

"He wasn't angry, was he?" was my immediate, worried response.

A small smile lit the doctor's gentle face. "He was quite kind, actually. Somehow, my reverence for the cross he carved ended up softening him that night."

"Was he normally…" My mouth fluttered open several times as I tried to find a kinder way to say 'abusive,' but I couldn't manage it. My host understood what I meant almost immediately, though. Something about me was very open to his perception.

"He was not especially violent," said Carlisle delicately, arms moving to cross over his chest in a slightly defensive posture. "Not with me, at least."

Carlisle's words about his own treatment were not comforting. 'Not especially violent…' So Pastor Cullen was only a little violent towards his son? Instead of outright beatings, Carlisle may have been slapped around or occasionally hit with some heavy object? Perhaps a cruel word or two was passed around?

Oh, that was a comfort.

"Just with other innocent people," I couldn't help muttering, working very hard not to comment on my previous thoughts.

"Unfortunately," he grimaced. "Little though I enjoyed taking over my father's place in his hunt against evil, I am glad I could limit the amount of damage he caused."

"Did you take the position without question?"

"For the most part," the doctor sighed. "We had one major debate over the issue, and it was more a question of allowing me a freer hand, which he had to do anyway what with his health deteriorating so rapidly. My father's collapse during one of his raids was the only thing that made him retire his position to me in the first place."

"He was ill?" I asked curiously.

"Not exactly. By that point, mostly he was too old to do what he was doing. The constant stress on his mental and physiological condition became too much."

"While I'm not happy that another human being was suffering," I tentatively began to reply, "his personal suffering must have contributed to the freedom and wellbeing of a lot of people, what with you taking control."

"Precisely my thoughts," Carlisle half-smiled, hands tightening around his arms absently. "If I could save someone who might have died under another's hands, then surely my own displeasure with the position was vastly less important."

"You're so selfless." The wonder in my voice was plain, and even Carlisle's abashed, self-deprecating expression could not dampen it. "How many people would do that? How many people would take their own happiness at a disadvantage in order to help others? Very few, Carlisle. You know that somehow, but if your human life evolved the way I think it did, I wouldn't be surprised if you deny it."

Apparently deciding that responding would only serve to confirm my suggestion about his father's abusive behavior, Carlisle turned to gaze down at the surface of the desk, eyes far away from the present. For several minutes, I intently watched him trail his fingers in random patterns just above the wood. It occurred to me that the kind-spoken vampire might be planning to feign ignorance until I changed the subject. It was then that his lips started to move.

"My father was never a gentle man," he admitted in such a quiet voice that I had to lean forward to hear it. "A few of my human memories revolve around that specific aspect of his personality. Both in regards to myself and to others…"

With that he trailed off into silence once more, fingers continuing their nimble work upon the wooden surface beneath them.

"I'm sorry," I found myself apologizing again. I just kept asking questions that were none of my affair, no matter how much I knew about him and his family. "I keep asking things I shouldn't. And I guess I keep forgetting that you only met me last night; I can't expect you to just entertain my intrusive questions when you don't really know me yet."

"You told me a rather personal story," Carlisle offered, even his eyes looking upon me gently as he ceased the movement of his fingers to cast the whole of his attention to my fidgeting form. "I hardly see you as intruding after divulging what you have of your own life."

"This is different," I insisted. Indeed it was. Abuse was a far different type of personal story than my disagreement with my parents.

"Semantically speaking, perhaps," he agreed, but his tone belied the ultimate disagreement he felt. "Yet there is something to be said for a frank exchange of histories."

Reluctance oozed from my voice as I replied, "I suppose."

"I have not told anyone of these memories," Carlisle suddenly told me, sounding as if he had only just thought of it. "Edward knows, of course. Esme guessed as much, but I have not actually told her."

Gaping, I asked with blatant shock, "Then why tell me?"

"Because you asked," was his easy reply, a very light smile on his face. "And because you feel very… familiar is the best word I can think of right now, although it is not exactly what I mean. Strange, isn't it? We've barely known you a day and already you are leaving a mark."

"I don't want to brand myself onto all of you," I argued quietly.

"Oh, I'm afraid that is inevitable," Carlisle chuckled, looking wholly undisturbed. "Everyone leaves a mark somehow, even in the smallest and most unnoticed of ways. Take my mother, for instance. I never even met her, yet she has always had a hand, however indirectly, in the man I have become… Now let us not worry over this anymore. I have yet to find fault in your company and would prefer it to stay that way throughout the more trivial discussions, if not on the whole of our talk."

I just sighed in resignation. There was no use arguing with a Cullen or a Hale once they'd made up their mind.

"Now, where was I?" he asked me amiably.

"You watched your father carving his cross," I prompted dutifully, inwardly wondering on the irony of my phrasing.

"Ah, yes," Carlisle picked up with new vigor, nodding thoughtfully. "For a brief time after that night, my father was exceptionally tolerant of any failings I seemed to have. A stern talk was his only discipline for nearly a month. My next memory was set during that period of time… I remember my father was quite anxious one day, although it never appeared to be for any terrible reason. After supper, he settled us in front of the fire and suddenly he began to talk about my mother."

"He never had before?" I started vaguely.

"Never once," Carlisle shook his head sadly. "He… I believe he missed my mother too much to discuss her. I may be wrong about that, but I like to think he truly did love her. At any rate, that night we went round and round about the brief number of years my father and mother shared. And just before he sent me off to bed, he gave me one last gift to remember her by."

Abruptly, Carlisle stood and moved over to his bookcases, beginning to finagle a very high shelf that was covered with protective glass. Confused by his strange behavior, I decided to be blunt.

"What was the gift?" I asked.

Yet the doctor didn't answer me; he just kept working on the glass until he had removed it completely and taken out a particularly large, old-looking book. Unless I was mistaken (and I was fairly sure I was not), the pages were all parchment.

Carlisle then turned to me – the great book balanced carefully in his hands facing me– and finally spoke. "This was my mother's bible."

Jaw dropping widely, I stared at the leather bible in astonishment. This piece of literature belonged to Joanna Cullen. Not only that, however… the book was older than Carlisle!

"It's beautiful," I whispered reverently. I didn't even dare touch the bible for fear of it crumbling with age.

"Yes, it is very beautiful," he agreed warmly, glancing over it with love. "She signed her name in the cover, too. I was so pleased when I first saw it. I didn't even know she could write."

This was such a highly important piece of Carlisle's history. Yet hardly a word would come to mind that had any real value. My conversations went that way very often, actually. That was what I had meant when speaking with Edward the previous night. I was not good with social interaction because I had great difficulties in finding the proper words. Normally I listened, but added very little input.

Carlisle abruptly lifted his head from glancing at the bible, sheepishness in his gaze when he glanced over at me again. "Forgive me. I try not to become absorbed with this when I show it to someone, but I can never seem to rein it in."

With that he stood and returned the bible to its protective casings on the high shelf.

"It's perfectly fine," I assured him. "I'd get a little lost in that kind of memento, too."

"Thank you," said Carlisle lowly, and from his change in stance and expression, I could tell we were moving onto a different part of his human life. Not a good part, I wagered.

"After that memory, I have little good to share, I must admit," he told me a bit unhappily. "There are various unfortunate memories of my father's discipline for… sinful behaviors. Namely my own."

"Sinful?" I wondered with both brows lifted high on my forehead. "Now you'll have to forgive me, Carlisle, because that just sounds insane. There is an age of accountability, where people must take responsibility for their own sin, but I hardly think it's at seven or eight years old."

"You arerather religious, aren't you?" Carlisle commented, inadvertently ignoring my remarks. I was much less offended than I probably should have been. "I find that refreshing. And rare."

"Faith is important to me," I shrugged faintly. "I just never saw a reason to not believe in God."

"I assume this was a self-induced belief?" he asked me knowingly. "Having heard the way your parents acted, I can't believe they were your foundation."

"Well, they believed there is a God," I hesitantly explained. "But they were never strong enough to trust in God. I'm not saying I'm the picture of a perfect Christian, but I try to make myself accept that God knows better than I do."

"That is the most difficult part of our faith." Carlisle smiled warmly for having found a kindred spirit. "We pray for the things we want, and very often forget that those wants are not necessarily in line with God's plans."

"Exactly," I agreed quietly, thoughts wandering to my parents and their materialistic wanting. "My parents were like that. They wanted things to always be their way; wanted something now rather than later. God was just a… a charity sponsor. To them, He was supposed to give the things they needed, right when they needed them."

"I'm very sorry about that," he consoled. "It's not easy to live with any sort of religious extreme. I know that first hand."

My response, limited though it was sure to be, was cut off by a loud grumble from my stomach. Carlisle chuckled at the sound and stood from his spot on the edge of the desk.

"I suspect you're hungry, Mireille," he smiled amusedly at me. "Let us make you lunch before we continue."

"Oh, okay," I acquiesced quite reluctantly. After all, I was feeling a need for food now. "But we can keep talking, right?"

"Of course," he laughed and offered me a hand up.

Glossing over less than savory memories was Carlisle's main agenda as we took to the stairs and also a few moments later, while he made me lunch of a salad and sandwich. The meal was quite good, but the obvious hedging around Thomas Cullen's abusive behavior (and repeated dismissal by local townsfolk of a young Carlisle's naïve attempts at honesty) hampered my appetite greatly. This was not to mention the various times that Carlisle remembered seeing people burned alive or drowned or murdered some other terrible way, all because someone accused them of being a witch or a demon or a monster of some kind. By the time our discussion reached the point of Thomas' collapse, the other half of my sandwich lay forgotten with disinterest and displeasure over our distressing topics.

Carlisle spoke after a long, empty pause, his eyes having keenly observed my steadily dwindling desire for food, "I wish there were better topics to come, but there are not. Are you sure you want to hear more of this time in my life?"

"I want to understand you," I insisted with subtle eagerness, leaning forward across the island where we sat. "I know there are unhappy subjects ahead, but if you could live through them, then certainly I can listen to them."

"You're sure? I don't want what happened with your appetite to occur with your outlook as well."

"I'll be okay," I said firmly. "I might cry when I hear about your years alone or the pain you felt, but it doesn't mean I'm turning suicidal on you."

Carlisle shook his head with morbid humor. "If you insist, then… After those awkward, browbeaten years between childhood and maturity, I began to genuinely train as a replacement for my father. He was not very happy about it. In fact, he was downright disgusted with the idea. The agendas he had formed over the years were sure to be disbanded once I was given leadership and he hated that knowledge. The townsfolk were anxious, too; about removing his cruelty from the head of the community. They insisted that he was becoming too old to keep the position and that my rise was to be expected soon."

"Not something he wanted to hear, I'd bet," I sighed.

"Definitely not," Carlisle nodded wearily. "Of course, in an effort to prove his own strength and vitality, my father pressed ever harder in his quests and raids. There were so many people hurt in the last year of his authority."

The last was spoken with such sincere sadness that I felt it creep upon me, too. But before I could utter any sort of sympathy, Carlisle went on in his story.

"Yet he finally reached the end of his rope one night in the winter. We were leading a chase against a man who had been persecuted unnecessarily for months on extremely weak charges, when suddenly my father seized up and collapsed to the ground. Having been behind him, I was able to call for help immediately, but the damage was done to his heart already. There was nothing significant in the way of treatment at that time, so our local physician's only prescription was to quit the chase. In lieu of dying with so many of his vendettas unfinished, my father opted to follow the treatment and attempt to run us all from his bedside."

"Even then, he refused to stop tormenting people," I wondered in a low voice, disturbed by the cruelty one man could possess. I knew a wide batch of detestable sorts of stories like it, but to hear about it so personally made it much more real.

"Yes, he was quite determined to fulfill his harsh persecution of the people he saw as inferior to himself," Carlisle sighed resignedly, apparently having decided he must accept that truth about his father. "Thankfully it was not to be. The townsfolk removed my father from his position on the grounds that he could not do a proper job of it without also leading the action. I was instated the day after their announcement was made, at the age of twenty-one."

"What was your first step in the new position?" I asked.

Showing a tiny, almost bitter smile, Carlisle answered, "I dropped charges against the man my father had been chasing the night of his collapse."

"Did he know?" I almost didn't want to find out.

"No. The man escaped anyway. No one believed it was necessary to explain the fine details and risk my father's anger or health."

"I imagine that was the only time it happened so fortunately?" I suggested tiredly.

"That was my only lucky moment, it's true," the doctor actually chuckled for some reason. "Although I must say my luck never seemed very good during my human years anyway."

"I suppose so," I agreed reluctantly. "In a way, at least."

"Ah, you mean my family," Carlisle smiled widely, a drastic change in his features from the gloom of only moments before.

"Yes," I nodded sheepishly.

"Oh, don't worry, I quite agree with you," he said pleasantly.

"So, you were the leader of the raids," I picked up the previous thread of our conversation again. "How did you find out about the real vampires in the sewers?"

Carlisle's face turned deathly serious in an instant. "I caught a glimpse of one. Just a shadow in the night when I was headed home one evening. Yet somehow I knew it was more than a figment of my imagination. I tried to set a watch each night, but it was almost two years until I truly found their entry. So I arranged a raid in the hopes of destroying the monsters that threatened us. Naïve as I was, I of course had no idea how powerful our kind actually are. Thus I underestimated just how horribly our group would be harmed. Nevertheless, that naïve young man led out a raiding party to await the entry or exit of the monsters we sought to destroy. Being the fastest, I headed the party as we chased the first creature to exit the sewer. I suspect they were far too wild with thirst to truly leave such a feast as we presented to them… It was my throat the initial vampire turned to first. Yet, even torn apart as it was, my throat was the only one which survived the attack."

"How could you change when you were so broken?" I questioned faintly, to which Carlisle's face morphed into instantaneous concern. Judging by the vague nausea assaulting my senses, I must have been chalk-white in the face.

"When a vampire is intensely thirsty," Carlisle tried to explain despite his worry, an academic quality to his voice that I appreciated for its calm thoughtfulness, "the venom flows more thickly and rapidly. Seeing as these vampires must have been starving, I can only imagine it was the quantity and speed at which the venom entered my body that kept me from a nearly-immediate death."

My voice shook with nerves as I responded, "And throughout all this, you were silent?"

"The burning was… unimaginably terrible," he hedged awkwardly, fists clenched atop the island counter, "but I knew in some subconscious part of my mind that I would be destroyed if I did not remain quiet. Using fire as he so often did, my father might very well have killed me before the change was complete."

Shivering, I shook my head to clear the frightful idea away. Not only could I hardly imagine a world without Carlisle, it was also difficult to imagine a parent willingly destroying their child – no matter what they became. Holding back words for a moment, Carlisle reached over to cover my hands with his in a gesture of comfort I was becoming all too familiar with.

"I'm fine," I assured him meekly. "Go on."

"Having realized what I was becoming," he went on to say, shaking his head at my stubbornness, "I was horrified and hated myself more desperately than I can describe. Almost as soon as I awoke to my life as a vampire, I wanted to rid the world of my own presence. Suicide is, however, fairly elusive for our kind. Still I tried. In all manner of ways from drowning to poison to blades to starvation… I even attempted to hang myself once. There were many other methods, but they all failed, of course. By the time I had hidden myself away in a cave in the forest, I was beyond rational thought. The herd of deer that crossed my hiding place was one of the greatest mercies I ever received."

"And you never drank human blood." I marveled at the golden man sitting across from me. He was truly amazing.

"Never," he agreed with a smile that bordered on proud, but never quite reached it.

"And I thought I was conscientious when I denied myself chocolate," I sighed with false depression, making Carlisle chuckle as he looked down at his watch.

"Oh my," he exclaimed mildly, looking rather surprised, "It's already two o'clock."

"Already?" I half-yelped, sitting ramrod-straight in my seat, before I rapidly began to whine. "Why can't they stay at school a little while longer? I didn't even get to ask all of my questions."

Laughing, Carlisle stood from his stool and came around to stand beside me. Offering up my plate, I let him whisk it away to the sink and clean up the mess. We had little time before the others arrived, so it was probably for the best to let speed win out.

"Good choice," came Edward's voice from the direction of the front door. If I had been in the habit of guessing, I would have said a scowl accompanied his tone of voice. Whatever was coming with the others after school got out, I didn't think I would like it very much.

"You're perfectly correct," Edward affirmed wryly as I turned to face him, also bringing Carlisle around to face us with interest on his face.

"What about, Edward?" he asked, leaning back onto the counter casually.

"I have some unfortunate news," was Edward's grim announcement. "Lauren Mallory was in Seattle last night."

"What?" My intelligent response conveyed every ounce of my dread. I had a very bad feeling of where this could go. Carlisle looked little better, eyes temporarily closed in what I supposed was a plea for patience.

"Yes," Edward sighed in agreement with whatever Carlisle was thinking. "Lauren saw the two of you shopping together. At first she thought it was Esme and perhaps she had died her hair. Then she saw the face. Needless to say, there are rumors flying now."

"Let me guess," I started sarcastically, "I'm a mistress, a love child, or a prostitute."

"Sounds pretty close," Edward nodded with a roll of his eyes.

"But how did Alice miss this?" Bewilderment shone on my features.

"Lauren didn't decide to do anything until this morning," Edward explained. "Only by the time Alice was at school did the vision hit her. It was better for them to listen in and judge the situation there. If they all came home it would look suspicious."

"We'll have to figure you in as a relation somehow," Carlisle sighed deeply. If vampires could get migraines, I would have thought he had one at that particular moment.

"So, Rosalie is going to go tornado on me, right?" I suggested in a complete monotone. What a wonderful day it was going to be…

"Alice is heading her off somewhat, as is Emmett," Edward promised. "It was our fault, not yours. We really should have gone out of state for security purposes."

"Rosalie is only going to see that I'm threatening her bubble," I countered. "If I hadn't come here, she wouldn't be dealing with this. You know that's what she'll be thinking and feeling."

"True, but it doesn't matter," was Edward's reply. "Carlisle will end any undue arguments or criticisms. But let's stop talking about that for the immediate moment. Rosalie will be far more appeased if we have a strategy in hand. As a matter of fact, we all will be."

"What strategy is that, though?" I questioned with some despondency.

"A cousin or something would probably be best," Edward suggested thoughtfully, speaking at a speed I nearly didn't comprehend. "Probably on my side. No… Maybe Alice's. You're short, so that will work well. People generally take face value comparisons to heart."

All of Edward's logical, rational planning seemed to jumpstart my own imagination. Ideas began to flutter around in my brain like they would when I wrote stories and like normal, I tuned out all else around me to focus on them.

I could be a relation. Maybe a cousin could work somehow, but it was awfully odd for someone's cousin to come live with them before another, more immediate relation. A niece, however… But Rosalie and Jasper were already playing Esme's niece and nephew. That meant it would have to be Carlisle. My parents could have died recently and so I moved in with my uncle. Oh, but what about the last name Cullen? It was rare and surely the list of Cullens living in any one area was very limited. If anyone checked up on that name in the area we chose as my origin, it might be too easy to disprove us.

Then again, that was only if my we said my father was Carlisle's brother. Say we went with my mother… The name would be more easily explained, though it still left me with answering the question of why I never connected with my relatives for all these years. Perhaps my mother could have been distanced from her family or her husband wanted to create distance because he didn't get along with the in-laws? That was pretty feasible. We could say that my mother died years earlier and then my father, having disliked her family, cut off all communications between them and me after her death. But it would have been my mother's wish that I live with my uncle if anything happened to both parents. That all worked out!

"Perfect!"

Startled by the joint voices that interrupted my thoughts, I whipped around to see Alice standing right beside Edward, triumphant expressions on both of their faces.

"Huh?" I wondered with little in the way of intelligence.

"Your idea is wonderful," Alice chirped, newly happy. "Everyone will believe it instantly."

"Oh, that's good," I responded with continued surprise. If Alice was here, why weren't the others?

"Alice ran ahead," Edward told me. "To help plan before Rosalie came back. Jasper stayed to keep down the anger Rosalie is feeling. She's going to be irritating enough as is. I'd hate to have seen it without Jasper influencing her."

Quailing at that implication seemed appropriate, although Alice giggled at my inward slouch. "Okay, so what's the official plan?"

"Exactly what you were thinking about," Edward shrugged. "It will work very well, as we said before."

"Then how about explaining this plan for we lesser beings?" Carlisle spoke up from behind us. In spite of the mild sarcasm in his words, he was smiling ruefully.

Turning around, I started when I saw Esme standing there as well, arm around her husband's waist and a nervous look on her features. Hesitating only a second, I smiled slightly and waved at her; it wasn't much, but it could be a comfort if she believed I was confident. Sure enough, the nervousness cleared a little as she smiled back.

"I'm sorry, Carlisle," Edward responded, rolling his eyes at the doctor. "The plan is this: Mireille will be your niece. The daughter of your sister, who died when Mireille was very small. You were close with your sister, but her husband disliked your family so there was little contact between you during her lifetime. When she died, her husband cut off contact completely. He died recently and as per your sister's will, Mireille was supposed to come live with you in the event of both parents dying."

"An excellent plan," Carlisle surmised with raised brows. Looking over at me, he asked, "You thought of that, Mireille?"

"Yeah," I nodded shyly.

"You have a very quick mind," he complimented.

Shrugging, I didn't say anything; not that I knew what to say anyway. I didn't always do well with compliments.

"Now, as to other details?" the doctor continued pensively. "What exactly happened to her parents in this story?"

"That'll have to wait," said Alice, eyes distant. "Rosalie is coming down the drive."

I didn't like the way she specified Rosalie, rather than the others in general.

"We're agreed on that," Edward chuckled, then his face abruptly became thoughtful as he faced his mother behind me. "Esme?"

"I just thought it would be a good idea for Mireille," Esme said of whatever had gone through her head, gesturing somewhat helplessly.

"It is a good idea! Rosalie will cool down faster that way," Alice disclosed in a semi-pout. Casting a glance back her way, I noticed all of a sudden that she was holding my coat, scarf, and gloves. I was certain she had not been holding them a minute before. What on earth she was doing with them, I couldn't fathom. No one had informed me of any last minute shopping excursions.

"But Esme is too slow," Edward apologetically explained. Esme only smiled at him.

"Don't let go for even a second!" the pixielike vampire warned her brother furiously, leaving me entirely confused.

"Would I have done that?" wondered Edward with confusion equal to my own.

"Not with malicious intentions," Alice sighed and slipped to my side, forcibly lifting me from my seat to rush me into my coat and accessories.

"Oh!" Edward looked shocked. "As a joke? You have to be kidding me."

"No, not really," she sighed again, this time agitatedly. "Now hurry before Rosalie gets here."

"Will do," he promised, and promptly swept me up into his grasp, eliciting a startled squeak from my previously quiet throat. The four vampires muffled their laughter at my expense, and I couldn't help but glare around the room at them for their amusement.

Edward smirked and readjusted his ice-cold arms firmly around me, and then we breezed through the house at a speed that was positively dizzying. When the tree line entered our view, my eyes closed of their own volition in instinctive dread. I just hoped the ride was short.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
I am placing Jasper in the same grade as Alice & Edward, like they did in the film. Also, vampire eyes being darker/lighter based on diet is not directly mentioned in canon, but it is also never directly disproved in the books. So, I took my own interpretation of it.

Previously – Carlisle and Mireille discussed her age and personality. Mireille felt badly for writing fanfiction and Carlisle teased her about it. Mireille and Carlisle discussed Rosalie's resentment. Carlisle described his human memories and told of his mother Joanna. Mireille and Carlisle talked about sharing histories, their faith, and Carlisle's transformation. Edward revealed that Lauren Mallory saw Carlisle and Mireille in Seattle the previous night. Mireille created her story as Carlisle's niece and Edward whisked Mireille away before Rosalie could rage at her.

Chapter 6: Integration

Sickness threatened to overwhelm me throughout Edward's run. When he suddenly leapt mid-sprint, my stomach fairly flew out of its confines. We soared up, up, up… and landed with a smooth thud onto something I wasn't all too sure I felt like defining. Probably a tree, although I knew checking would likely scare me half to death.

"I won't let you fall," Edward conveyed seriously, no humor glinting off of the words at all. Tentatively, I opened my eyes to a squint. Seeing only the front of my host's shirt, I decided it was all right to open them further. Slowly – ever so slowly – I fully opened my eyes, but never once did they move from anything non-Edward.

The vampire in question snorted at the thought and looking up, I noticed a hint of humor dancing in his eyes, now back to their oh-so-familiar topaz. Desperately I tried to ignore the branches and pine needles behind his head and the sky which peeked through them.

"Oh-so-familiar?" Edward questioned with a grin threatening to break free, obviously choosing to distract me rather than dwell on the tree part of the equation.

"It's what your eyes are always referred to as," I commented a little breathlessly, praying I wasn't about to throw up; my stomach was still churning fiendishly. "In the book, I mean. It's kind of odd, since I thought all of your eyes were the same color."

"They are for the most part," he nodded, shifting to allow me to sit straight rather than lean back. I was rather glad, seeing as my neck was starting to smart from the back-breaking position. "You can see some differences up close, however. Mine and Jasper's eyes are the darkest of the family. I imagine you can guess why."

"Humans," I stated, rather than asked. It was a little obvious, when I thought about it.

"Yes," shrugged Edward, half-pleased by my understanding and half-displeased by my knowing at all. Oh well. At least he wasn't treating me like fragile glass.

"It's difficult to do that when you already know the things I might have otherwise kept from you," was his sarcastic reply.

"Sorry," I said simply, not really sorry at all. Ignoring his eye-roll, I asked, "Was this the thing that would make Rosalie cool down faster?"

"Yes, this is it," he conceded. "If she's not burning a hole in your head with her glare, she thinks a bit more clearly about things."

"Nice to know," I said dryly.

"Isn't it?" He stamped down a grin beneath my eagle eye. "So, how would you like to see the landscape?"

"From the air? No," I immediately answered. "From the ground? Yes."

Smirking, Edward gripped me tighter and warned, "Keep your eyes closed."

"Oh no," I groaned, following his advice. "Can't you just scamper down the tree like a good little spider monkey?"

"Spider monkey?" Edward barked out a laugh.

"Movie reference," I bit out. "Just go, okay?"

"I can clamber down if you like," he sighed resignedly, tone still littered with humor, "…but you'll have to hang from my back."

"On second thought," I squeaked a little too high, gripping his shirt as he made to move me from my spot, "maybe you should go tree hopping. I like the wind. Really."

"Fine by me," he laughed and took off like a bullet, leaping up and down, up and down, more times than I felt was absolutely necessary. At last, to my distinct relief, he landed and did not move again.

"We're on the ground," he said. Reluctantly opening my eyes, I chanced a look beneath my perch in his arms and saw dead grass, wildflowers, dry pine needles… all scattered around the dirt at Edward's loafer-clad feet. Exhaling in a strangled sound of relief, I actually hugged him in gratitude for returning me to my natural place.

"You're welcome," he laughed. "Now let's make sure you can walk still."

"Right," I agreed, releasing his stone neck from my attempted stranglehold (not that I could succeed). Gentler than I envisioned, Edward slowly settled me back on my feet, to which my legs swiftly revolted and nearly gave out on me. For a while, I was forced to just stand there in the circle of his arms and hope my legs got their stuff together soon.

"Where are we?" I asked after a time, really starting to make a close inspection of our surroundings.

"Along the river," he replied, passing a precursory glance around as well. "We're northeast of the house. I remembered this particular part of the forest from Alice's visions."

"It's a lovely spot," I commented sincerely. The forest we stood in was quite enchanting with its spiraling towers of bark and pine. All was relatively still, what with so many trees barricading our location, and the atmosphere felt incredibly peaceful. Flowing water nearby rustled into my ears delicately, in spite of the river's relative nearness.

"Carlisle found it," Edward said quietly, seeming to catch onto my reverence for the serenity around us. "The peaceful solitude comforted him after a very hard day at the hospital."

"I always thought Esme did that," I remarked amusedly, absently sweeping aside a pinecone with the toe of my shoe.

Edward smiled indulgently at my humor. "She does, usually. But this time Carlisle was having a slight crisis with his self-confidence. It's a bit rare, since he believes so firmly in his ability to help this way. So when it does happen he needs time alone to sort himself out."

"He must have lost a few patients that day?" I wondered sympathetically. That would definitely test Carlisle's faith in himself.

"Yes, five," Edward nodded with a sigh. "They all had been out in the woods hiking. A bit stupid of them, really; everyone had been predicting a storm. It hit during their escapade and the nearest shelter was a small cave. By the time they were finally found and brought to Carlisle afterward, he couldn't save them."

"What did they die from?" I asked, shocked. Why would a storm kill five people? Certainly lightning didn't strike them all.

"It was during the winter," Edward explained. "Four of them contracted pneumonia. The other suffered from frostbite. His leg needed to be removed, but he died on the table in the middle of the procedure. Carlisle said he had a weak heart."

"So this happened when you lived in Hoquiam?" I tilted my head to look over at him, soldiering on in spite of my slight queasiness at the mention of an amputation. "I mean, you haven't even been here for winter yet. Not this time around."

"Yes, it was Hoquiam. Our first winter there, actually."

"And Carlisle probably could tell the man had a weak heart," I suggested with dawning comprehension. "But he couldn't say that without revealing his inhuman senses."

"That was exactly it." Edward agreed, tilting his head in an imitation of my prior gesture. "So, of course, he blamed himself for not using his enhanced senses to save the man, despite the impossible position that would have put us all in."

Shaking my head in mild exasperation, I said, "I find it amazing that we can blame ourselves for the impossible, but never admit to what it is possible for us to be blamed for. And I include myself in that, so I hope you don't think I'm being pompous."

"That's the way it's always been." Edward shrugged and stepped closer to take my gloved hand. "Why don't we walk? It's fairly clear ground. Not much shrubbery to break through."

"All right." It was easy to agree when it meant staying out of Rosalie's war path… and spending time with Edward.

Laughter escaped said vampire and I grinned sheepishly. My shoulders lifted almost unconsciously as I apologized, "Um… I guess that was too much information."

"Don't bother about it," he assured me, still smirking. "At least you don't feel like it's your birthright or some such."

"Hm… you must be referring to certain girls at school," I said aloud, tapping my chin in mock thought. "Maybe… oh, but it couldn't be Lauren or Jessica."

"You're a very sarcastic girl, aren't you?" Edward chuckled good-naturedly, leading me beneath the far-reaching branches of an especially beautiful evergreen.

"It comes naturally," was my casual remark, eyes trained on the foliage above. With Edward leading me, I wasn't worried about falling. "My parents were both very sarcastic people. Vindictive, too."

"I can't see you being vindictive," Edward shook his head. "You're a very accepting and forgiving person, from what I can tell."

"Yeah. Guess I somehow disrupted that particular gene." Responding blithely was the best idea I had in order to combat my discomfort with compliments. To my good fortune, Edward didn't speak up about my inner doubts; he merely kept walking. Perhaps he felt my stubbornness was too frustrating to deal with. No matter what the reason, I was glad not to be arguing.

After a while meandering the paths of the forest, I began to feel the cold of Edward's skin through my glove. Hearing that he was chilling my hand, the vampire loosened his hold. It was with great reluctance that I let his hand slip away completely, although the feeling was not exactly conscious. It had been nice holding hands with a friend. I'd never actually done that before.

"Never?" Edward questioned softly, sympathetically, and it amazed me to realize I'd been thinking so loudly and plainly.

"It's not that," he pressed on before I could speak, stopping us both mid-step. "Being alone with you makes it easier to root out half-conscious thoughts, since yours is the only mind in my range."

"Oh, I'm sorry," I mumbled self-consciously, now focusing entirely on the ground beneath my feet. A deep inhale sounded above my head, making me wonder if Edward was going to start grinding his teeth at me.

Instead, to my surprised relief, his tone was quite gentle. "It's nothing you need to apologize for. I can't help reading minds and you can't help thinking. What's there to be sorry for?"

"What I'm thinking about." Still I mumbled, unable to look up at him.

"If you could read my mind," Edward began, amusement clear in his words, "I'd have to apologize ten times per hour just to make up for the morbid complaints and criticisms that run through my head."

Chuckling slightly on an exhale, I risked a single glance up at his face. There was no irritation present, only understanding and a hint of humor.

"Would you prefer if I growled at you?" he wondered honestly, lips quirked. "Perhaps hovered in that foot of height difference between us and stared you down like an avenging angel?"

A snort left me before I could control it.

"You see? It even sounds ridiculous," Edward told me laughingly.

Not for the first time, I found myself admiring his achingly lovely features as I stared up at him. While those golden eyes were very beautiful, I actually found myself drawn to his strong jaw line more than anything else. The urge to run my hand along his marble face was nearly irresistible, yet somehow I did resist. As far as I knew, I even kept my thoughts away from that avenue. Although, of course Edward knew I was staring at his face; his slight, curious smirk proved as much. Feeling awkward of a sudden, I turned to begin walking once more. For a moment I didn't feel or hear Edward join me. Worried that I had been all too clear in my previous urge and pushed him away, I nearly stopped again. The very moment I slowed down, long fingers instantly twined through mine and tugged me further forward. Fearing a blush would appear on my face, I didn't allow myself to look over at him.

Again we walked in silence, but this time Edward didn't let go of my hand until something flashed past and reappeared before us in the form of Alice.

"Rosalie is appeased," she explained without ceremony, though she was smiling. "You can come back now. And no, she won't glare at you. Granted, she may not acknowledge you either, but you can't have everything."

"Good," I sighed, happy to have been able to avoid the tantrums of Rosalie Hale.

"Oh, and we'll be determining the specifics of your official background today," she informed me unhappily. Before I could even look at her in curiosity, Alice explained, "That means no shopping until later. But we'll go, I promise."

"Fine by me," I acquiesced. "I guess Rosalie and Emmett are going far away from me?"

"Nope," came a loud and familiar voice just as Emmett himself appeared beside his annoyed yet indulgent-looking sister. "I wanted to meet you for real this time."

"Oh. Hello again, Emmett." My smile was very uncertain. I really hoped he didn't swing me around; he was, after all, known for his enthusiasm.

"Same to you, Mireille." The bulky vampire winked, even more mischievously than the previous night, and I felt my lips quirk naturally in response. Tentatively, I extended my hand for him to shake, praying it wasn't a bone-breaking grip.

But Emmett was much more in control of himself than I gave him credit for. Aside from the icy temperature and the knowledge that his hand was the strongest material I could fathom (and held the capability of crushing my fingers in one tiny squeeze), it was like any normal handshake.

"You won't be too mad at Rose, will you?" Emmett asked me, and in spite of the cheery expression he wore, I could sense an underlying seriousness that took me by surprise.

"I'm not mad at her, Emmett," I told him truthfully. "I can't say I like her. Not exactly. Well, not yet anyway. She might grow on me for all I know. Anyway, I can kind of see why she's upset when some stranger comes into her family without ever having met them and knows a large part of their history. That would agitate me, too."

"Yeah, but she'll get over it," the big vampire assured confidently, although his reassurance went absolutely nowhere with me. I knew enough about Rosalie to realize she would probably never fully accept me, even if I turned out to be Carlisle's long lost sister or something.

From my peripheral vision, I noticed Alice and Edward exchange an indecipherable look. Even though my curiosity was peaked, I refrained from asking about it just yet. Perhaps I could determine it through stealth, something which I always thought Bella needed to work on a little more in the books.

"Can I carry you back?" Emmett asked bluntly. Absently, I thought to myself that he looked as excited as if he was getting Christmas presents. Beside me, Edward tried not to laugh at the comparison. Luckily I wasn't looking at him, or I would doubtless have started laughing myself.

"No, Emmett," Alice intervened sharply, making us stare. Only Edward looked unsurprised. "Edward is carrying her back."

"Aw, man," the burly vampire whined boyishly, bringing a giggle out of me.

An enormous grin covered his face in response, to which I rapidly turned wary. Not because of his teeth, as Edward seemed to think suddenly, but because Emmett mixed with excitement could be a little harrowing. Choking on his own laughter, Edward quickly scooped me up and took off without a word. Violent inertia forced my eyes closed and sent my fingers digging into whatever part of Edward's shirt I could find. Thankfully it was his collar, something which allowed me a substantial enough grip to feel secure. Even running on the ground was uncomfortable with the speed at which vampires ran. And of course, I was running with the fastest one in existence.

"Thank you," said Edward in a low, amused voice, right in my ear.

"Welcome," I squeaked with absolutely no dignity. We reached the house in record time, and when I was finally set down again, it was with Edward's laughter still ringing in my ears.

When my eyes opened at last, Carlisle was standing outside the back door, looking exasperatedly as his eldest son, who appeared apologetic and sheepish at the same time.

"Was that really necessary, Edward?" he questioned the younger vampire, then gestured over at me helplessly, "Look at the poor girl."

Glancing down myself, I could see what he meant. Trembling and white-faced, sporting leaves and pine needles and a few tiny pine cones all over my coat (probably my hair as well), and somehow sweating bullets, I probably looked rather like something out of a Tim Burton movie.

Carlisle didn't give Edward a chance to answer, but continued, "Human speed would have sufficed, I'm sure."

"Yes, I'm sure," Edward sighed, turning towards me to pick off the debris at top speed. "My apologies, Mireille."

"S'okay," I mumbled with only partial truthfulness. If he ever did it again without absolute necessity (or my express permission), I probably would not be so forgiving.

That angelic face melted into a congenial smile as he said, "I'll keep that in mind."

"Come inside, my dear," Carlisle sighed, holding his arm out in welcome. It was easy to step into his half-embrace and let him lead me in the house. The immediate warmth hitting my face was wonderful, even with an icy limb around my shoulders.

In all of a minute, I was out of my outerwear and shoes, bundled in a cream blanket and warm new socks, sipping hot chocolate, and settled onto one of the couches between Carlisle and Esme. Cozy was an understatement to the situation, just the way I liked to have big conversations.

"Okay, so where do we go from here?" I started, wanting to get the planning over with.

Instantly, Carlisle took up the thread of conversation, "Well, you have given us a very good structure to work with. Tight enough to avoid suspicion, but loose enough to add details you may not realize need to be covered. The first thing is your name. We have to decide if you are keeping the last name or changing it."

Before I could reply, the voice I had dreaded hearing then entered the discussion, clearly laced with dislike. "What makes you so sure the human can remember it afterward?"

Feeling quite ticked at being labeled like a common cow and having my intelligence insulted at the same time, I couldn't keep my response inside. "Believe it or not, each and every one of us humans have names, Princess. You might try using them sometime. Unless you can't remember them, either?"

Dead silent was surely the best way to describe the room after that remark (in more than one way, save the fact that one member of the group was quite alive).

"Ouch," Alice suddenly broke the silence, albeit far more cheerfully than necessary. Shocked though her face was, it wasn't difficult to see she was pleased. Rosalie, on the other hand, looked ready to spit several dozen daggers at me. Hissing her disapproval (or curses, more likely), the blonde left the room in a whirl of color and wind.

"Nice," Edward exhaled harshly and threw himself gracefully back against his chair. "Now she hates you."

"She doesn't hate her," Emmett futilely argued from the chair beside Edward's.

"Yet," was Jasper's pessimistic murmur, bringing my attention to his lean form suddenly sitting with Alice on the sofa.

"That's good," Esme sighed, frustrated, then threw a mildly pleading look my way. "Please try to keep the peace, won't you?"

"Sorry, Esme," I mumbled into my hot chocolate, guilt shooting through me for upsetting the motherly vampire.

"It's all right, dear," she sighed again, this time with resignation.

"Where were we?" Alice brought us all back to the conversation at hand, as if she didn't already know. Vampires had perfect memories, after all.

"You know that?" Edward asked with some surprise, staring at me for a minute or two.

"I really do know a lot," I confessed, shrugging off my knowledge as perfunctory.

"An awful lot of surprises are in still store for us, aren't they?" he suggested with a wry smile.

"Probably," I laughed sheepishly, "Be prepared, I guess."

"Aw, come on!" Emmett half-shouted, coming back to his normal boisterous self with ease. "Either tell us what you're talking about or shut up about it."

Jasper snickered for reasons unknown to me, earning an agitated look from Alice – also for reasons unknown.

Glaring at both of his brothers quite viciously, Edward tightly explained, "Mireille knows we have perfect recall."

"Well, if—" Emmett started to say, a very unfortunate glint in his eye.

"So much the better," Carlisle said calmly, cutting off his burly son's (probably very rude) response. "It will be far easier for us in this situation if Mireille understands our natural behavior as much as possible. Now, back to the matter at hand. Let us review the story you created, Mireille. Maybe that will decide us as to whether you keep your last name."

"Oh, okay," I stuttered slightly, feeling the pressure and tension turn to settle on my shoulders as everyone looked to me expectantly. As rapidly as it had come, though, the pressure and anxiety were gone. Glancing at the probable source of the change, I saw Jasper nod, lips itching towards a smile that I returned fully before focusing on Carlisle again. "You're my maternal uncle. You and my mom were close, but my dad didn't like you, so my mom hardly talked to you after she married him. When she died, my dad cut off contact. He died recently and my mom's will listed you as my guardian in case they both died, so I've come to live with you."

After a beat, Jasper admitted, "It's a good plan. We just need to fill in some details."

"That's what I thought," Carlisle agreed, nodding along with his son's words. "What holes need to be filled, do you think?"

"Names, for a start," said Jasper, face becoming pensive. "And of course locations. But we'll have to be careful not to be too specific. Mireille doesn't have the natural deterrents that we do. The other students will easily gravitate towards her."

"Gravitate towards me?" I blinked a few times, trying to make sense of that statement. "What do you mean, Jasper?"

"I know you doubt yourself," he replied kindly, "but you are a naturally charismatic person. Your amiability is something that people like to be around. It makes it harder to keep other humans away. That means we have to create details about your past that are specific and yet still vague enough to prohibit further inquiry."

So I was charismatic now? The compliments I had been paid in the space of half a day made me wonder what the Cullens were smoking. Edward started chortling, but his expression was exceptionally exasperated with my continued doubts.

"So what details can we create?" I wondered, ignoring the entire compliment Jasper had paid me.

"Your parents' names, first of all. What were they?" Esme asked.

"Todd and Amy."

"Common enough," Alice pondered. "I think those will be fine. Now the last name."

"Perhaps we should change her last name to one of our old ones," Esme suggested. "That way it will be familiar to us all."

Carlisle considered the idea carefully. "It is a good suggestion, but for the fact that we are using most all of them right now."

"Use McCarty!" Emmett boomed, a beaming grin plastered across his face, but there was an abrupt pause which somehow caused Emmett's face to fall. Whatever he had thought about so suddenly, it made him change his mind. But why?

"Guess who," Edward fumed lowly, glaring up at the ceiling.

So Rosalie was the reason Emmett rethought his offer. She must have said something in that pause, at a volume that only vampires could hear. I felt bad for Emmett. The big guy was so happy of a person that his wife's attitude was a bit of a downer. The bulky vampire in question muttered something at an impossibly low volume, but through virtue of his expression I assumed it meant he was giving up the idea.

"Platt?" I wondered curiously, hoping to detract from the situation. Esme smiled at me for suggesting I use her maiden name.

"It's listed on our current marriage certificate," Carlisle shook his head negatively. "That can easily be found."

"What about—" So nearly did I say 'Brandon,' that I mentally clapped a hand over my mouth. Alice didn't know that yet! I didn't even know if she should. If she found out in natural time, then so be it.

For about the fiftieth time since meeting me, Edward displayed an expression that said we were going to be talking seriously at some point in time about all I knew.

"What about what?" Alice inquired suspiciously, obviously having seen her brother's look.

"Nevermind," I said quickly, tamping down my anxiety as I lied to her, "I was going to say my mother's maiden name, but it's too unusual. A person would be sure to find something on it if they really looked."

After a bout of wary silence, Edward tentatively inquired, "Whitlock?"

"It's not all that uncommon," Jasper admitted. If I had to guess, I would have labeled his expression as apprehensive. "I guess the question is whether or not it's common in Michigan, specifically."

"Let's look up how many Whitlocks there are in the phone book," I suggested. "That'll tell us how common it is."

"We don't exactly have a Michigan phone book handy," was Edward's sarcastic response.

"Thank you so much for that elementary deduction, Sherlock Holmes, but there is such a thing as a search engine," I informed him, allowing my temper to get the better of me for the second time that day. "When you type something in, you get information back."

"Mireille!" Esme scolded firmly.

Emmett fairly exploded with guffaws, recovering admirably from his downheartedness while Jasper snickered and Alice buried her face in Jasper's side to muffle her giggles. To Esme's exasperation, Carlisle coughed unnecessarily, obviously trying not to laugh as well. Edward's raised brow bespoke his surprise at my attitude, but a twitch of his lips betrayed his amusement.

"Forget it," Alice suddenly interrupted before anyone could rise to check a computer. Turning to face her, I noticed the glazed look of her eyes. "There are over two-hundred people by the name of Whitlock in Michigan."

"Good," Carlisle nodded decidedly. "Jasper, is this all right with you?"

"Certainly," the leonine vampire agreed, a slight smile on his face. "It'll be kind of nice to hear it again."

"And Mireille? What do you think?"

"Mireille Whitlock," I said out loud, testing the sound of my new name. A moment of thought more, and then I shrugged. "Sounds cool to me."

"Excellent," Carlisle settled.

Jasper winked subtly at me. "I guess I have a new relative, now."

"Thanks for the name," I laughed. "I always did like it."

Chuckles arose around the room and if I wasn't mistaken, Jasper seemed more relaxed than he ever did in the books. Happiness filled me to know that it might be easier for him when Bella came into the family. That might be another reason I was here. To ease them all into constantly having a human around.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that Edward looked a bit irritated at something. Wondering what Rosalie was thinking to bother him so much, I tried to bring our conversation back in line.

"Okay, so I'm a Whitlock now," I stated once the chuckles died down. "What's next?"

"Location," said Alice, sparing a glance at Edward also. "You're going to be from Michigan, but where precisely is a question we have yet to answer."

"We could say she moved often," Esme offered thoughtfully. "What have your parents done for a living, Mireille?"

"My father worked with furniture," I answered. "My mother didn't work, except for a temporary job at a hair salon once."

"That's good," Jasper spoke up again, "Less details that we have to fake."

"We'll say your father worked from home," was Carlisle's declaration. "That way we don't have to create anything to do with particular businesses."

"Okay, so I'm a Whitlock, my father was self-employed in furniture repair, and we moved around a lot. What else?"

"Schooling," came from Edward's corner.

"Yes, I'm afraid you'll have to be in high school again," Carlisle apologetically explained to me.

"That's okay," I acquiesced. "To tell the truth, I always wished I could go back and redo my high school classes."

Rosalie's disgusted voice floated down the stairs just as the vampire herself did, "Why in the world would you want to repeat high school?"

Amazed though I was that the blonde actually was participating, I looked at it as a good sign. Taking a moment to consider my answer and whether or not I really wanted Rosalie to know, I finally chose to reply honestly, "I procrastinated a lot. My grades suffered because I left work for the last minute and didn't try as hard as I should have. I've vastly improved since then. I have a four-point in all my classes right now."

"I figured as much," she replied casually, sitting regally on the arm of Edward's chair, rather than Emmett's. Edward and Emmett didn't look bothered by her choice of seat, and I couldn't imagine why the dynamics had changed so abruptly. Although… now that I really looked, I did notice that Rosalie's seating choice allowed her a full view of my face and body language. How lovely.

Weird as it seemed, I knew I couldn't really say much about her sudden intervention without sounding childish, but still I felt awkward actually being complimented by the woman who had insulted me, hissed at me, and then left the room because of me. For lack of anything better to do, I stared down into my hot chocolate, unconsciously frowning when I realized there wasn't any left. So much for that distraction.

"Would you like some more?" Esme asked me pleasantly and I looked up to find her smiling comfortably with her hand outstretched to accept my mug.

"It was really good," I remarked sheepishly, not wanting to take advantage of her graciousness, "but please don't go out of your way. I feel so spoiled with all of this."

"Oh, don't worry sweetheart," she assured me kindly, taking the slate blue mug and rising from the sofa with a pat to my blanketed hand. "I enjoy taking care of people."

"Thank you," I called quietly after her as she reappeared in the kitchen area, remembering she didn't need me to yell.

"You're welcome," she called back at a reasonable human volume, making me smile.

"Can we move on?" Rosalie inquired after a pause. There was a hint of sarcasm in her voice, but it was so muted that I thought I imagined it. Maybe she just wanted to get the logistics figured out so she didn't have to worry about it as much.

"How long ago will we say Mireille's father died?" Jasper brought up a bit awkwardly after his sister's remark.

"I would say three months," Carlisle said thoughtfully. "It will be enough time that Mireille is believably past her deepest grief, yet still facing some difficulty. For a time she lived with a friend of her father's – until the affairs were settled – and then she moved in with our family a couple of weeks ago."

The others nodded their acceptance, save Jasper, who looked pensive once again as he spoke, "What if someone tries to find this friend of the family? Or wonders why Mireille doesn't contact them anymore?"

For a moment there was silence as everyone pondered the flummoxing question, until my own mind wandered into another story idea.

"They were ready to move away when my father died," I tentatively suggested. "When they heard about it, they delayed everything and waited until I was settled with Carlisle. That was when they moved. I was so distracted after losing my father that I lost their contact information in the move here."

"A sufficient dead end," Jasper nodded appreciatively. "It sounds all right. My other concern is your relationship with Carlisle. You're plainly close with him, yet your father supposedly didn't like him and cut off contact between you. The two facts don't add up."

"That is certainly something to discuss," Carlisle began, looking down at me pensively. "There will be a lot of questions about how I am getting along with my estranged niece and how you are fitting into our family. What do you call me? How much about you do I already know and what things should I not know yet?"

"I've never called my aunts and uncles by title," I started with the easiest thing, glancing up at him as I spoke. "I always called them by first name. So I can call you Carlisle. As for how much you should know about me, it's very similar to our situation right now, isn't it? I think if we bring our relationship in this house out into our public lives, it'll be about the same kind of thing. We're still learning all about each other. And it actually fits that I know more about you than you know about me. I bet my 'mom' would have told me all about the brother she loved, but you never had much contact with my family, so you don't know as much in reverse."

"Those are very good points," Edward agreed, leaning forward onto his knees. "I think Mireille's right about the way you react to each other. Another thing I thought about is the obvious affection Mireille shows towards you. What she said about her fictional mother talking about you all the time would back that up nicely."

"And the idea that Mireille wasn't close with her father," Alice added, nodding emphatically. "That would back it up also."

"I don't see any reason for your relationship to really change in public," Edward finished. "Jasper?"

"All completely reasonable," the southerner agreed.

"That's settled then. I think most of our other details are based on school now," Carlisle replied, looking quite happy with the way things were turning out.

It occurred to me – rather randomly, I would admit – that the name Carlisle was not common. It was very rare, indeed. But Amy? As Alice said, it was 'common enough.'

"Carlisle is a really unusual name," I mentioned, catching Edward's understanding eye.

"So?" Emmett wondered confusedly.

"If Mireille's mother was Carlisle's sister," Edward answered his brother patiently for once, "then her name would probably be unusual, too."

"That's quite true." Carlisle frowned. "We should find an equally unusual name for Mireille's mother."

"Could I use the computer?" I asked, an idea forming in my mind.

"Yes, of course," Edward answered, gesturing to the corner by the piano. "Right over there. Although I think Carlisle might have pointed it out earlier today."

"He did," I nodded, letting the blanket fall as I rose and headed over to the workstation, hot chocolate in hand. The computer was already on, thankfully, and I quickly pulled up the internet to search out English baby names. A brief laugh from Alice caught my attention, and I just had to stop her from telling me what she knew.

"Alice, if you've seen my final pick, I prefer you to keep it to yourself," I warned her, twisting in the chair to catch her gaze.

"That's ridiculous," she scoffed. "It makes everything so much easier and quicker."

"I don't need to speed up the process. We're not in any hurry, are we? You're all done with school for the day and Carlisle took the day off work."

"That's not the point," she countered irritably.

"My point," I cut her off, trying to be patient, "is that I enjoy the decision-making process. When I'm shopping, I like looking. Not just seeing, but actually enjoying all the colors and fabrics and styles. I like trying different looks, even if I don't use them. When you tell me only the end result, it's like taking a road trip without looking at the sights on the way there. It'd be like going up to the top of the Eiffel Tower and not even looking at the view."

For a long moment Alice was quiet and unresponsive, but Jasper wasn't glaring at me, so I hoped I hadn't been too hard on his wife. I liked Alice and I didn't want to be mean, just honest.

"She's thoughtful," Edward said, offering me a friendly smile. "Not hurt."

"Oh, good," I replied with relief. "I wasn't trying to be rough…"

"It's fine," Alice responded at last. "I guess I never thought of it in the way you explained. And I can see where I've done it on a lot of occasions. Looking back on it with a new point of view makes it look very different. Thank you for setting me straight, actually. There are just some things I don't really need to check on so closely. It won't be easy to stop, though."

"Of course it won't be," I shrugged. "It's such an ingrained part of you that I'd worry if it was easy."

"Hm, I suppose so," she smiled abruptly, "Anyhow, why don't we move forward? Go on and search for a name. I won't give it away."

Early on, I decided to find a name with the same first letter as my mother's real name. Granted, it also had to be as unusual as 'Carlisle' and it needed to sound like the two names fit together somehow, since they would have been named by the same parents. Really, though, it took much less time that I thought it would to find a suitable name, even while sensing at least two vampires leaning over my shoulder. Engrossed as I was in my search, I didn't bother to check who it was, but when I turned around to tell everyone my final choice and see what they thought, I found Carlisle and Esme standing there with pleased faces.

"Aspen," I announced simply.

"Aspen Whitlock," Edward repeated out loud, frowning in thought. "It sounds reasonable, I suppose."

"Aspen Cullen at birth," Alice corrected her brother absently. "Carlisle and Aspen do fit together well as sibling names. They're both just unusual enough, yet not overly rare."

"Are we agreed, then?" asked Carlisle. Nods from everyone bolstered my confidence. "Good. Now Mireille, do you have any medical conditions?" Carlisle questioned.

"Very basic allergies, but nothing else."

"Immunizations?" he continued.

"Up to date. I got the meningitis shot just a month ago and I didn't have to get the chicken pox vaccine because I've already had the sickness itself."

"Very good," he nodded once. "I believe we can move on to school now. Do we still have a course guide from Forks High School?"

Esme nodded while ushering me back to the sofa and blanket, explaining, "I filed it just in case."

"I'll get it," said Edward, disappearing upstairs. When he reappeared two minutes later, a wry expression covered his face.

"These will help quite a bit," he remarked, placing both the course guide and a divided folder full of paperwork in my confused hands. Rifling through, I was stunned to find my medical and school records, along with my birth certificate, driver's licenses and permits, and various other vital documents.

"This is just weird," I shook my head. "And I think we forgot about searching out my stuff, Carlisle."

"We didn't really have much time," the doctor chuckled as he settled back down beside me. "But once we have figured out everything for your background, we'll do that."

"You might want to look at this," I suggested, pointing to where my medical file began and allowing him to pull out everything from that section to review. "Just to warn you ahead of time, I had Scarlet Fever three times before I got my tonsils out."

"Three?" he repeated, gazing at me in some shock, as did Edward and Rosalie. "Why didn't your doctor take them out after the first time?"

"I don't know," I shrugged broadly. "I don't remember much of it. Just that I had a really rough time swallowing at some point."

"I should say you would!" Carlisle exclaimed. "They must have been far too large by the second time."

"Probably," I agreed casually. It was so long ago that I wasn't even bothered about it. Being a doctor, however, I had figured Carlisle might worry over it.

"Honestly, the things doctors ignore," Carlisle muttered incredulously, returning his attention to my file. His surprised reaction forced me to hold back giggles. It was hard to imagine Carlisle getting so worked up. To distract my self from laughing at him, I looked over my old grade reports from high school.

But glancing over the reports brought about such a dark frown that Esme concernedly asked "What's wrong?"

"My grades from high school," I confessed unhappily. "They were nowhere near what they should have been. I was a really great student before middle school. For some reason, middle school was the start of a downward spiral for my academics. I just hate seeing that now."

"Think of this as getting a chance to do over," Edward suggested with an understanding smile.

"I guess so," I conceded with a slightly happier outlook.

"You were in advanced courses, though," Esme remarked with pleasant surprise, eyes trained on the report I held. "You must have done reasonably well to keep going in advanced classes."

"Guess I did, after all," was my thoughtful murmur. "I never saw it that way."

"You took Pottery, Carpentry, and Electronics?" said an incredulous voice. Snapping around at the sound so close to my ear, I found myself inches away from Rosalie's impossibly perfect face where it was bent over one of my records.

"Uh, yeah," I answered, a bit confused. "Why?"

"It's not exactly common," she explained with raised brows.

"I just wanted to try them," was my simple yet truthful answer. "So I did. I wasn't too fond of electronics, though."

Seeming appeased, the blonde switched out the sheet she held for another. To my continued bewilderment, her face turned surprised once more. "What now?" I wondered exasperatedly.

"You must sing well," she said simply, turning her golden eyes on my blue ones.

"Really?" Alice and Edward both asked in synchronization, and everyone turned interested faces my way.

"I do sing," I nodded, wondering why that was cause for such amazement.

"What part do you sing?" inquired Alice.

"Second Soprano," I answered, increasingly self-conscious of all the attention I was being paid.

"Do you play any instruments?" was Jasper's question.

"Well… I do a little, but—"

"She plays the piano," Edward cut in, "and not just a little bit. Enough to have advanced to the fourth level class at college."

"Edward." My quiet admonishment went unheard amidst the sounds of interest around the room.

"Any others?" came from Esme.

"No," I sighed, realizing that a lost battle was in the making for me. "I tried the violin and the clarinet once before, but they weren't really my thing. And I didn't practice enough."

"I didn't realize you were quite so talented, Mireille," said Carlisle with more cheer than I felt was warranted. I had to have turned a brilliant shade of magenta by the time they were through complimenting me, yet still more was to come.

"And apparently she's also an artist," Alice commented with fresh surprise. "Carlisle, you'll want to look in your office after we finish here."

"Come on, guys," I exhaled uncomfortably. "I'm just average in all of those things."

"We'll decide that," Emmett grinned at me. "Hey, do you like any sports?"

"I like volleyball, tennis, and bowling," I replied more comfortably for the change of topic. "I also love the Detroit Tigers."

"Aw, but the Tigers are a lousy team!" Emmett groaned loudly.

Glaring, I couldn't help saying, "Shut up, Emmett. The Tigers happen to make it to the World Series in two-thousand-six."

"The World Series? They really make it?" Edward questioned with shock. "I would never have believed it."

"Knock it off, you two!" Whining was annoying, I knew, but they were being equally as irritating. "Show a little respect for the underdog."

"Not a Yankees fan, I take it?" Rosalie stated, rather than asked.

"No, I'm not," I told her bluntly. "Cocky idiots, the lot of them, thank you very much."

"Amazingly, I agree with you," she reluctantly divulged. "I happen to like the Mets."

"Honestly, Rosalie, you have no taste," Edward remarked.

"All right, that's enough," Carlisle announced before Rosalie could make a comeback. "We need to move on with Mireille."

Ensuring that Rosalie and Edward did not argue further, Carlisle then went on. "We have to decide what grade you'll be in. You look very young, so I'm sure we could pass you off as a freshman, but I don't know if that's what you want."

"I think she should be a sophomore like us," Alice interrupted, gesturing to herself, Jasper, and Edward. "It will be easier on her if she has friends at her side for the whole time she attends the high school."

Carlisle was already nodding before his dark-haired daughter even finished. "That sounds very reasonable, Alice. Would you be happy with that, Mireille?"

"It would be nice to know someone in my class," I agreed excitedly, making him laugh.

"And which subjects do you like best and least?" he continued to inquire.

"I like history and English the best. I'm not exceptional in science and math, but I'm not the worst. I hate biology, though. Dissections make me queasy."

Just imagining dissection sent my stomach roiling. Thankfully Jasper was there to take away the feeling, for which I smiled gratefully at his knowing face.

"Understandable," Carlisle chuckled. "So one requirement you have is skipping biology?"

"If it can be managed," I rapidly agreed, turning back to the doctor with interest.

"I have no doubt it can be done," he assured me. "We'll just recreate your old grade reports to include a more advanced line of science. Do you think you would feel comfortable in an advanced chemistry course? They have an advanced program here in Forks. Technically it's only meant for those who plan on taking AP courses, but I'm positive we can get you in if you wish."

"What AP courses do they offer?" I wanted to know. Taking an AP class was something I always wished I had done. "I've never taken one before."

"Mostly the typical subjects," Edward replied. "English, world history, US history, chemistry, biology, physics, government & politics, calculus…"

"I'd like to try AP," I tentatively suggested, "But I don't want to set myself up for failure."

"Have you taken college English and history?" Carlisle questioned.

"Yes."

"Advanced?" Edward pressed knowingly.

"Yeah," I admitted much more reluctantly.

"Then you should have an easy time in those particular AP classes," Jasper added.

"What about the others?" The advanced chemistry sounded a little too overwhelming for me, even if it did mean I got to skip out on biology.

"We'll tutor you, if you need it," Edward promised sincerely. "Don't worry so much. I'm sure you can do this."

My confidence definitely gained a boost from everything they were telling me, unto the point where I actually thought they might be right. "Okay, then. Let's do it."

"All right, so we're looking at advanced courses in chemistry, English, and history," Carlisle summarized. "What about mathematics?"

"I do better in math than science, if that means anything," I told him.

"Advanced Algebra II?" Jasper suggested with a sly expression that I didn't understand. It seemed Edward did, however, because he snarled at his blond-haired brother almost instantly.

"What? Are Jessica and Edward sharing a seat?" I joked, astonished to suddenly find six faces staring at me in awe and Edward half-laughing in his chair, all traces of anger now gone.

"How did you…?" Jasper spluttered momentarily, and I was amused that he was actually so shocked, but amazed that I had pinpointed the problem all by accident.

"Is she really in your class, Edward?" I wondered.

"Yes." He chuckled and grimaced at the same time, somehow. "She sits in the seat ahead of me and constantly turns back to try and get my attention. It's agitating."

"Has she asked you out yet?" I questioned him, quite sincerely curious about the event that was mentioned in Midnight Sun.

Everyone else laughed, and from Edward's blank face, I knew Jessica hadn't done it yet.

"She's going to?" was the bronze-haired vampire's flat assumption, to which the others' continued to laugh – Emmett being the most raucous, of course. The big vampire was literally rolling on the floor. For show, most likely, but I couldn't really tell.

"At some point before Bella arrives, yeah," I just shrugged apologetically. "Maybe I can deter her if I'm sitting with you."

"I bet you could," Rosalie remarked, a smirk gracing her golden face as she stole Emmett's seat. I didn't know exactly what she meant, but it sounded like a compliment coming from her.

"Um, thanks, I guess?"

Rosalie only smirked wider as the rest of the family snickered, snorted, giggled, and chuckled.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
I'm warning everyone ahead of time, this chapter has tons of spoilers for SM's Official Guide! Also, I got superbly sappy in this chapter. So bring your toothbrushes!

Previously – Mireille didn't enjoy 'running' with Edward. Mireille and Edward walked through the trees and discussed Carlisle's self doubts. Edward realized Mireille is sarcastic and they agreed no apologies for thinking or hearing thoughts. Alice announced Rosalie had calmed, Emmett said a proper hello, and they discussed Rosalie. Upon returning to the house, the Cullens discussed Mireille's new story, Mireille was given the surname Whitlock, they finalized backstory details, Edward found Mireille's paperwork, and they chose her classes for school.

Chapter 7: Informed

The laughter (and my confusion) had thankfully died down and as Carlisle had just informed me, I was unable to start before the new semester, since it was so far into the current one.

"You'll be starting in January," he went on to say, glancing down at the course guide he held in his hand. "Now… we need to recreate your school records and we'll also have to edit your parents' names on your birth certificate. Jasper, why don't you take Mireille up for that?"

Remembering that Jasper was the forgery go-to man, I just followed him upstairs, though I was definitely bewildered as to why we had to go up there. Even more bewildering was the fact that we bypassed his study and Carlisle's office both, without any hesitation.

"Jasper, where are we going?" I asked him in confusion. I trusted him, but this was odd.

"You'll see," was all he told me, and I was forced to just continue following him up to the third floor and into the same room that housed Esme's art studio. But rather than enter the studio, we took the first hall to the left and entered the first room on the left as well.

As I looked on in amazement, Jasper settled at one of the desks therein, gestured for me to take the seat next to him, and immediately began the procedure of forging my 'new' school reports and birth certificate faster than I could really comprehend. I just started to wonder why on earth I needed to be there, when Jasper finished the edited reports and pulled a blank class registration form out nowhere. Before I knew it, he had filled in the advanced courses as discussed.

"Are those right?" he wanted to know, glancing over his shoulder at me.

"I guess so," I partially stuttered, still a bit behind the times as awe swept over my mind.

Without a word, the Texan vampire knew exactly what was going on with me, and he was willing to wait it out until I became sensible again.

"Obviously you have to take gym," he said absently after a while, filling that in too, only at a much slower pace. Then, sensing my return to coherency he asked, "French or Spanish?"

"Spanish," I replied. Another class was written in at the speed of light and my registration form was completed and then scanned into the computer. If the entire process had taken fifteen minutes, I would have been surprised.

"Done," Jasper declared. After hitting print and turning around to face my stunned features with a slight grin, he casually remarked, "Not the first time we had to do that."

"I reconsider my idea of speed writing," I said dryly, shaking my head while his grin widened minutely and he moved to collect the printed documents and hand them to me.

"Maybe…" Jasper started thoughtfully, but trailed off. It wasn't until Edward showed up with my file that I understood why.

"A passport would be an excellent idea," he spoke, obviously agreeing with a thought already spoken. "If we have to leave the country in a hurry, Mireille will be coming with us."

"When have you had to actually leave the country?" I wondered in surprise. "I thought you could just move to the other coast or lose yourself in Canada."

"A couple of times we stayed overseas because of a larger threat." Edward was very careful in his word choice, I noticed.

"How much of my past do you know, Mireille?" Jasper cautiously inquired, looking highly uncomfortable.

"A good deal of it," I admitted plainly, curiosity present in my voice. "From the time you joined the army as a human, right on up to the present."

"At least that cuts down my explanation time," he commented dryly, but neither brother looked amused. "Sometimes, when we live closer to the south, the southern covens can cause a very widespread panic amongst humans. You wouldn't believe how much more superstitious people can be once there's a mass death rate."

"Actually, I can," I remarked with a sarcastic smile. "Look at how people acted about the millennium."

"True enough," Jasper chuckled. "The point is that at times, there can be an awful lot of dangerously close calls with humans once they get into that state of mind. So we leave the country until the panic dies down, explained by some variant on a serial killer or a plague or something like that."

"Okay, so you have to make me a passport," I summarized.

"Yes, but we'll have to take an updated picture," Jasper informed me, only then taking the file from his brother's outstretched hand.

"I'll take care of it," Edward responded, pulling me out of the forging space and down a hall perpendicular to the one we had taken the first time through. At the end of that hallway was a large room already set up for what looked like a photo shoot. A large piece of light gray fabric with a sponged design hung from the top of the far wall, contrasting vastly with the black stool in the middle, at which I took a seat.

"Smile," said Edward, and immediately after my smile became the most natural, a brief click of the camera cemented my lightly smiling face in Twilight history.

"So, what is this… area?" I questioned Edward broadly, waving at the expanse around us as I hopped down off the stool.

"The place we forge birth certificates, licenses, academic and medical records… You name it, we've had to do it. Mostly it's when we're more rushed than normal and can't do it through a professional agency."

"Wow," was all I could think to say, following him back to where Jasper was. The process of opening my picture and creating the passport photo was completed at the same speed as before, meaning that I saw virtually nothing of it until the completed project lay in front of my eyes.

We went out and down the stairs at a human pace and, having completely glanced over the records that were mine (and yet not mine) by the time we got to the main floor, I commented amusedly, "Congratulate me, I'm officially illegal now."

"Welcome to C.E.E. underground," Emmett half hollered from across the room.

"Grow up," Rosalie condescendingly responded to him with a scowl in her voice before I could even speak. She was going to give me whiplash, what with her constantly changing feelings towards me.

"Thanks, Emmett." Lame though it was after Rosalie's criticism, I felt like I should say it anyway. The big vampire shrugged and smiled apologetically at me, leaving the room in a tense silence.

"Your medical records are as complete as anyone could hope them to be," Carlisle remarked amidst the silence, clearly trying to break the uncomfortable atmosphere. "I don't think we need to make any changes."

"That's good," I nodded awkwardly, unsure of what to say to that. I hadn't realized that we would think about editing my medical information for any reason.

"Just precautions," Edward told me, handing me the same blanket from earlier while lightly steering me to the sofa that had formerly housed Alice and Jasper. Glancing around curiously, I found the two sitting on the ground beside the coffee table, perusing some of my school stuff again.

"What's so fascinating about those papers?" I asked them in amusement. Surely my grades were old news by now?

"Certificates," Alice informed me happily, never even looking up.

"Certificates for what?" I wondered, surprise coursing through my system for the tenth time that day.

"All of your clubs and achievements and so forth," she went on, still incredibly cheerful. Rosalie and Emmett looked up in interest when they heard her, Emmett even moving over to their spot to lean over and read along with whatever Jasper was holding.

Weakly I suggested, "I suppose this is repayment for knowing all about you guys?"

Alice rolled her eyes good-naturedly, at last looking up at me. "Of course not, Mireille. It's just that none of us have ever had anything like these. You have to remember how long ago any of us were in high school or below that. And of course, for me, there aren't even those memories. It's interesting to look over things I never had."

Content though she may have been in her explanation, I felt very badly for Alice. She never remembered her childhood or her teen years at all. Not that they were anything spectacular, particularly later on, but still it must have been hard to never know where you came from. In spite of my conviction that Alice should never know the way she was treated before becoming a vampire, I began to feel guilty for withholding what I knew about her past. Risking a glance at Edward, I found his rich eyes staring at me searchingly, asking me for the facts I had been hiding so well until then. Giving in was almost all too easy; showing him all I knew about Alice's human life, her vampire protector in the asylum, and James' obsession. The difficulty was editing out the parts about Bella once James started hunting her and told her all about Alice, but it was a necessary omission.

By the time we were through, Edward's face was black with anger, and I shivered at the hatred I could see growing there. For whom, I couldn't tell. Jasper gazed at us raptly, eyes narrowed as he concentrated deeply on his brother's abrupt change in mood.

"Thank you," Edward told me suddenly. The sincerity in his voice let me know it was not me his anger was directed at, relieving me so immensely that I sighed aloud.

"But I…" Edward spoke further, unhappier than ever and fidgeting in his seat beside me. I could only imagine the battle raging inside him; it was a matter of protecting his sister's happiness or being truthful with her. "I think she should know. It's not fair to keep it from her."

Now every vampire in the room stared avidly at us, all thoughts focused on our one-sided conversation. Understandably, Jasper could no longer stop himself from asking, "What is it?"

Inhaling the deepest breath possible, I turned to Alice. The expression of understanding on her face was very telling. "Have you seen this already?" I had to make sure.

"Not the words you'll speak," she admitted quietly, setting down the papers in her hand. "And I had no real idea when it would happen. All I knew was that you would have some unfortunate news for me at some point early on and Edward would want you to tell me."

"What?" Rosalie snapped in confusion, bouncing back and forth between me and Alice. For me, her gaze became completely mistrustful. For her sister, it was concerned, although the beautiful vampire hid it fairly well.

"Can you block it at all?" I tentatively inquired, not decided yet as to whether or not I would actually tell her.

"I can," she nodded. "And I'm not bothered about everyone hearing, so don't worry about that."

"Okay," I started, then cleared my throat in an attempt to erase my growing nerves. But it wasn't working. I couldn't fathom hurting Alice like that. Telling her that her parents probably didn't want her… I just couldn't do it if her human parents had not loved her at all, no matter how wonderful her immortal parents were.

To my horror, I could see Alice's vision grow distant before my eyes. Edward must have decided to tell her.

"I didn't," he assured me firmly, barely sparing me a glance as he looked over at his tiny sister, sharing whatever vision was in her head. "This is something else."

Jasper waited, patiently and yet somehow impatiently, with his arm secured around his wife. Worried over what might be so urgent that Alice couldn't block it at all, I sat with baited breath like the rest of the family to hear what was happening.

"Mireille," she spoke, startling us all back into breathing, however unnecessary it might have been for some, "Go up to my closet. There are some… packages… atop the low shelving in my clothes cabinet on the left side of the room."

Someone could have knocked me over with a feather, inciting me to drill Alice with too many questions at once. There was so much that didn't make sense, I just couldn't help it. "Packages? What are they? Where did they come from? Who sent them?"

"I don't know if they were sent from anyone in particular," she said, seeming dazed herself. "They just… appeared. Like you."

Everyone now turned to stare at me instead of Alice.

"Go up to my closet." Alice was coming back to herself; her voice wasn't so distant.

Bewildered as to what the packages could possibly be, but anxious to find out, I stood from the sofa, allowing the blanket to fall back on the cushion. Feeling incredibly self-conscious with every pair of eyes following me across the room and up the staircase, I tried my best not to let it overwhelm me. When I was out of their range of vision, I felt my bones relaxing slightly. Of course, when I opened the door to Alice's enormous closet and stepped inside the space full of modern white cabinetry, the nerves came back full force. Jasper must have been too absorbed in Alice's condition to bother with mine.

On the left side of the room was a section of cabinetry with low shelves inside to house her shoes. Upon the shelves, as Alice had said, were some packages. Six packages, to be precise. And I would have known the wrapping paper on two of those packages anywhere. How Christmas gifts seemingly from my estranged uncle ended up in Alice's closet, I had no idea. Just like I had no idea how my music books had turned up on Edward's piano or how my files had ended up in Carlisle's office. Just like I had no idea how I had even gotten here.

Shaking myself, I moved closer and hesitantly picked up one of the nearest packages, only to feel a certain familiarity with the shape and size. Checking the other packages, I started to get the most uncomfortable feeling about precisely what they were. As a matter of fact, I knew with certainty what they were.

Something about the other two packages was more bothersome, unfortunately, so I took my time opening the rest, not at all shocked to find the entire Twilight series sitting in front of me. Pulling an agitated hand into my hair, I tried to make sense of it all. Maybe I was supposed to tell them everything. But then how could I? It could ruin things that hadn't even begun yet. For all I knew, Edward might decide Bella's fate was too much at risk and skip out on it totally. I could be ruining everything Edward needed and deserved. And that got me panicking.

"You're not going to ruin everything," came the velvet voice from behind me. Somehow, I knew he would be the one to come up to me.

"These books," I said almost hysterically, grabbing Twilight and waving it between us to emphasize my point, "are your future! And I am not in them! If I step in, I'm only going to mess it up."

"Why would Alice have seen positive things about you, then?" Edward countered smoothly, walking over with the air of someone attempting to calm a caged animal. Then again, that was exactly what I felt like. Barred from leaving Forks or the Cullens. "Alice saw you successfully participating in our family life before you even arrived in Forks."

That caught my attention. Aghast, I asked, "Why didn't you tell me? You said she hid it from you!"

"She did," he reassured me, holding his hand up in a supplicating gesture that only slightly appeased me. "She has spent the last several minutes showing me what she saw about you. I must say, you seem to be making us all rather happy in every vision. I don't see any signs of you ruining our lives."

"It could be a temporary thing," I whispered sadly, letting go of my wildness to replace it with sadness. I had been selfish in thinking I could be here without any repercussions. Carlisle was right; everyone leaves a mark somehow. Mine just might be deeper than others. "Maybe I'll be a perfect fit for now in this family, but later it'll be my fault if things go wrong with Bella."

Though he looked exasperated, Edward's eyes were ever so gentle as he watched me. "Did you, even once, decide that you were going to change our futures?"

"No," I reluctantly answered, gripping Twilight so tightly that it probably wrinkled the cover.

"Did you make those books appear?" he continued, nodding at the novel in my hands.

"No," I replied even more reluctantly than before.

"And did you," Edward nearly breathed the question, stepping right up to me and gently releasing the book from my anxious hands, "ever choose to get lost in the Michigan wilderness at night and somehow, against your own will and comprehension, land in the middle of the Olympic Forest?"

"No," I whispered with my last bit of resistance.

"Then stop fretting," he murmured kindly, reaching out to softly rearrange my hair from its nerve-induced disarray.

"You are not at fault for what might happen," Alice's quiet voice followed her brother's. She stood in the doorway, and her eyes were just as kind. "If Bella is supposed to be a part of this family, then she will be. For now, the only thing I see is our newest friend. You."

Choking up was not a good choice, considering every person in the house could smell the salty tears and hear every irregular breath I took. Yet I couldn't stop it from happening. Not a single tear actually fell, but that didn't mean my eyes weren't full to the brim with water and my throat tight. The siblings both laughed lightly at my attempts to ignore it and helped me gather the four books and two strange packages to head downstairs. Alice flashed out of sight before I even cleared the edge of the cupboards, but Edward stayed by my side the entire walk down.

To my immense relief, the imminent tears receded by the time we were on the first floor. By my lack of nerves, however, I suspected it was mostly Jasper's doing. I was grateful, though, and the southern vampire nodded at me in acknowledgment. No one said anything about my outburst upstairs or even the fact that books about their future were sitting in the room with us, but Esme came up to me in a blink and hugged me as tightly as she dared, kissing my forehead before she released me. Carlisle was right behind her, offering a one-armed embrace of reassurance. From the same position as earlier, Rosalie gazed contemplatively at me for a full minute before turning back to her perfectly-manicured nails with a far less resentful expression than she had worn earlier. Emmett gave me the most reassurance of all, somehow; his grin was exactly the same as before.

It didn't take Edward's guiding hand to figure out my seat this time. The blanket remained, although folded neatly I saw, and a brand new cup of hot chocolate sat steaming on the coffee table. Smiling for the first time since finding the books, I settled into the sofa and let Edward tuck me in with the blanket, hand me my mug, and place my books and packages between us.

After a moment of comfortable silence, Emmett was the first to speak, practically bouncing on his toes in a method reminiscent of Alice. "So… Are you going to open them?"

A genuine laugh escaped me at his childlike enthusiasm. I had already faced the more frightening packages, hadn't I? Might as well open the rest, I figured. Feeling exceptionally courageous, I dived right into the two Christmas gifts that had bothered me so badly. The first, I was surprised to find out, was a book about the newborn vampire in Eclipse named Bree.

"That's weird," I muttered, frowning. "I don't remember this book."

"It's not yours?" Carlisle wondered in surprise.

"No," I shook my head, "I only have the four. This isn't even a part of the main series, actually. It's just a novella set during Eclipse. Maybe I just never paid attention to it. I might have thought someone was just being hopeful that the series might continue, so I never actually believed this was a real book."

That didn't exactly make sense to me, considering I was such an avid fan of the books, but I could explain it no other way.

"May I?" Edward asked, a frown on his face similar to mine.

"Sure," I easily offered up the book, hoping he could figure it out. Surprisingly, he turned to the front cover immediately.

"Oh, it must have come out late in two-thousand-eight," I told him. "My uncle, amazing though it sounds, must have bought it early."

"This wasn't printed in two-thousand-eight," Edward reported flatly, startling me a little by his seriousness.

"What?" I half laughed. "Don't tell me it came out in two-thousand-seven and he forgot about it? I mean he has a terrible memory, I grant you, but to forget this for a year? I didn't realize it was that bad."

"It was printed in two-thousand-ten."

My mouth dropped open completely, as did everyone else's.

"How did I get it, then?" I could barely make out my own voice. "That's my uncle's wrapping paper. I'd know it anywhere. He makes a lot of paper materials, so he creates his own wrapping paper. It's always the same kind."

"It must be a gift he was going to get you in the future," Alice suggested much more calmly than I could comprehend. "If that's the case, the other one probably is, too."

Just when I though I couldn't be anymore amazed, I opened the second package (far more hesitant than a moment ago, it must be said) and found an official guide to the Twilight series sitting there in all its glory. I acted from Edward's example first and foremost, almost blindly opening up to the publication date.

"Two-thousand-eleven," I mumbled disbelievingly.

"Well, you'd better read them soon," Edward suggested with a raised brow. "I think we'd prefer to hear any facts contained therein from your own lips. It feels more reliable that way."

"Right," I responded without thinking, staring at the index of the official guide in rapt fascination. To think... even the Cullens might not know some of that information. That was the craziest part of it all. It struck me all of a sudden that I might answer my own wish through this book. If Alice's story was in there… maybe her parents weren't as horrible as I feared. There could be a better explanation than simple abandonment.

Hardly aware of my surroundings, I opened up the book to the page for The Cullen Coven. A wide grin covered my face when I turned to Carlisle's page and saw the drawing of him. It was a very nice picture, although it didn't capture even half of his true attraction or the gentility of his eyes. I was pleasantly surprised to read on the next page that his eyes were blue as a human. I'd always thought so, but to have it confirmed was exciting. Skipping the actual biography, I turned pages until I found the next person in the family.

It was Edward. And my goodness, was it an attractive drawing. Again, it was nothing like the real person beside me, but that wasn't the point. I skipped reading his description since I already knew his human eye color was green, from New Moon, and moved onto the next family member. I now suspected the guide was going in order of the person's entry into the coven, and sure enough Esme was next in line. Her picture actually did convey all of the sweetness of her disposition and my smile returned in a far softer manner. Curious as to her eye color, I read the description this time. Brown. That I had also figured. She seemed so similar to Bella in some ways that it only made sense.

Rosalie, the next member shown, had a very fitting picture. It captured her beauty, yet also the bitterness that had encapsulated her since being changed. Her eye color, violet, I also knew, so I went on to Emmett's section. His picture amused me for some strange reason, although I couldn't pinpoint exactly why. Shaking my head, I went on to Alice, but hesitated. Not yet. I would save hers for last. I quickly rifled through to Jasper's section instead. This picture, like Rosalie's, showed the troubled nature beneath the outward appearance and I felt bad for him, having to live through what he did. It always made me feel anger for Maria, but now… Looking over at the scholarly yet battle-scarred vampire as he sat sifting papers with his beloved Alice, Maria's actions made me feel something close to hatred.

Edward's hand on my shoulder reminded me of where I was. Shoving my anger out of mind so as not to make Jasper feel what I was feeling, I refocused on my book and reluctantly turned back to Alice's section. To my disappointment, I found her eyes had been dark brown as a human. I used to imagine they were blue, too. Reading onward, I was not surprised to find that Alice had a degree in fashion design, but I was definitely amused. As I began to read Alice's history, however, my amusement was snuffed out like a candle flame. By the time she was put into the asylum, I was absolutely horrified and my throat was tight with tears again. Poor Alice.

Only when Edward started growling did I remember how easily he was following along, but I couldn't stop. If I was going to tell Alice about her life, I had to finish the story. What she endured in the asylum pushed my tears to escape their confines and run down my face. And then to have her protector torn from her… But then if this stranger had become a father figure to her, Alice might never have come to find the Cullens. That was the worse scenario in my opinion. The Cullens really were the best thing that happened to Alice and Jasper both.

After Alice's story came to the end, I had to close the book. Curious as I might have been for the rest of the information in it, I realized now that I might be able to find out a lot of the things I really was interested in from the vampires around me.

Without my notice, Alice herself had come to sit beside me while Jasper settled onto the arm of the couch next to her, a hand extended to grasp her small shoulder.

"I read it," Alice told me simply, an expression on her face I didn't understand at first.

"I'm sorry," I murmured guiltily. "That's why I didn't want to tell you about it. And I didn't even know this much before."

"What did you know before?" she asked quietly, reaching over to brush away the remaining tears on my cheeks.

"Just that you were put in an asylum for some reason," I explained equally as quietly. Upon my revelation, Rosalie and Esme gasped loudly, a deeply distressed look covered Carlisle's face, and Emmett scowled. Jasper growled so low in his chest that I could almost feel his body tremble from it, even with Alice between us. Unless that was Edward trembling at my side, which I found entirely plausible. "A vampire who worked for the asylum bit you, James wanted you, and he killed the old vampire for turning you. And then you went off into the world with your first vision of Jasper, never remembering what happened to make you into a vampire."

"Oh, Alice," Esme murmured, eyes glassy with tears she could not shed.

"So I was James' singer," Alice pondered pensively.

"Mm-hm." I responded to be courteous, realizing she was not really asking.

Then Alice whispered low, a tender expression crossing her face, "My mother loved me."

"Yes, she did," I agreed, happy that at least something from her story was good to hear.

"Of course she did, dear," Esme murmured at her small daughter and quickly rose to embrace her tightly. As Carlisle and Jasper smiled on, Alice basked in the love of the only mother she had left, returning her embrace just as strongly.

"You didn't want to tell me any of this," said Alice curiously once they parted, although her features still hinted towards the truth of her mother's affections. "Why?"

"Before this book came, I didn't know anything except the fact that you were put in the asylum by your parents," I confessed nervously. "I thought they hadn't cared about you. If all I did was make you feel badly, then it didn't seem worth it to tell you. Like it said in the book, the shock treatments made you forget the bad times with your father and stepmother, and so you went back to your bright, happy self. I didn't want to take that away."

Another heavy silence stole over the room, until Alice smiled. Not just a casual smile, but a wide, bright smile that lit up the room. "Thank you," she told me warmly, yet mischief entered her eye.

"For being just as overprotective as Edward and Jasper."

Stunned for all of a minute, I snorted abruptly and then started laughing along with the aforementioned vampires.

"Thanks, Alice," I finally told her, shaking my head. "I feel so loved."

"You should, actually!" she giggled a little. "After all, I compared you to my mate and my almost-twin."

"You were born the same year," A smile crossed my face. "I guess you were meant to be brother and sister all along."

"Of course we were," she grinned at Edward, who just shook his head laughingly at his sister and tried his best to rumple her short hair, which of course failed.

"Was my father always such an angry man, do you think?" Alice then wondered aloud, a frown marring the happy façade of a moment before. "Or was it just when he became interested with my future stepmother?"

"Who knows?" I shrugged sadly. "Your early childhood seemed relatively happy, so maybe that was the case."

With a shake of her head, Alice appeared to be mostly back to normal. "It doesn't really matter. I have a father that I can be proud of."

Carlisle positively beamed at the praise, albeit a bit bashfully, and gladly embraced the tiny vampire as tenderly as Esme had. "Thank you, Alice."

If I wasn't mistaken, the doctor's eyes were overly bright when he pulled away, but I didn't comment on it. Neither did Edward, although he looked like he wanted to chuckle quite brilliantly.

"Well, now that I've covered the entire spectrum of emotions in one go," I remarked wryly, to which Jasper snorted loudly.

"You couldn't possibly have," he said, simultaneously slipping down onto the sofa and pulling Alice into his lap. I had to wonder if it was a way of distracting himself from my constant scent and heartbeat, but shook my head to clear that idea.

"Smooth moves, Major," I retorted humorously instead. He grinned quite widely in response and Alice giggled, leaning in to kiss his cheek. Rolling my eyes, I turned to Carlisle. "So, any other files that need fixing?"

"No, we're quite finished editing," he assured me. "I'll be completing your registration for the high school tonight and then I believe that will be everything. We can get you a parking permit when we turn in the paperwork."

"But I'm not legally able to drive now," I said in surprise. "Not until I'm theoretically sixteen."

"Your birthday is in January," Jasper joined in the conversation. "You'll be able to drive next semester."

"Ooh! You're so-called Sweet Sixteen!" Alice added enthusiastically. "Oh, I could throw you a wonderful party! Of course, we'll celebrate your real age, not just the fake one. That wouldn't be any fun."

Wow. A party by Alice Cullen… I was already eager to see what she came up with.

"Then it's settled," Carlisle surmised, greatly amused by his daughter as she chattered. "We'll register you on Friday. I'll take you up while the others are in class. Less attention that way."

"You should register sooner," Alice suggested abruptly, apparently just entering into a vision. "If you do it any later than tomorrow, people will think you didn't have time to do the paperwork quicker because you never actually had plans to do this."

That was so soon, I couldn't help gulping. "Tomorrow?"

"Yes," she nodded confidently. "Trust me, it'll be better that way."

"Oh, then we should go over what classes I'm supposed to have taken," I said anxiously. "So I know what to say if I'm asked about it."

"Just look over the edited grade reports," Edward responded calmly, handing me said reports form the coffee table. Much relieved by the fact that I didn't have to remember the course names just by word of mouth, I took a while reading over the changes wrought in my old class lists.

"Carlisle," Esme spoke up some time later, a slight frown marring her lovely features. "All six of them won't be able to fit in the Volvo. And no, Rosalie, you will not take the M3. It's far too ostentatious, even for a junior."

Rosalie rolled her eyes, but replied quite respectfully, "You should buy a car, then, Esme. You have the subtlest taste of all of us when it comes to vehicles."

"Actually, I was thinking Mireille needs a car of her own," Carlisle thoughtfully added, leaving Esme looking pleased.

"A… car?" No doubt about it, I was doing a very good impression of a fish, the papers in my hand slipping right to the floor. "Of my own?"

"You had one in the other… reality," Carlisle chuckled, "Why not this one?"

"My car was a piece of junk that I bought in my second year of college because I purposely got more than necessary on my loan for a down payment," I pointed out flatly. "I don't think that's quite the same thing."

"Believe me," Edward cut in, "You won't be driving a piece of junk this time. And you won't even need a down payment."

Much as I wanted to protest this generous gift, I decided I shouldn't be so ungrateful. It was partly to protect the Cullens, anyway. Rosalie driving her M3 could raise suspicions.

"Thank you," Edward sighed. "That was much easier than I thought it might be."

"Sorry," I laughed. "I hope I haven't been too difficult so far."

"No, not especially," he laughed a little with me. "But I can tell you're going to be very stubborn at times."

"I ought to fit right in with you, then," I told him airily, smirking for the first time in my life. The whole family laughed (even Rosalie allowed her amusement to show) and Edward narrowed his gaze substantially.

Carlisle began to speak again after recovering from his laughter, "We are finished here, Mireille—"

"Oh, we can go shopping now!" Alice squealed, cutting him off completely and clapping her hands in excitement as her voice carried on at the highest speed I could comprehend at a human level. "Come on! We'll have plenty of time."

"But—" I tried to protest, having wanted to sit a while longer, but I was dragged away and half forced into my coat and other outerwear, as well as having my hair fixed.

"Esme, you drive," Alice commanded hurriedly, pulling on her own outwear: a lovely blue-violet pea coat that I was actually envious of. Esme smilingly accepted her charge and joined us in her tan coat and scarf half-a-minute later.

"Good grief, Alice," I grumbled on the way out the door. "Back home, I had half as many clothes in my whole wardrobe as I do from just that shopping trip last night. Why do I need more?"

"You're living as a Cullen now," she exasperatedly told me, finally releasing me from her iron grip to let me climb into the back seat of the Mercedes. "We have far more clothes than that. It would look strange if you weren't as well groomed as the rest of us."

Sighing as I pulled my belt on, I had to admit she was right. "I just feel… I don't know."

"Greedy?" Esme suggested understandingly, turning the key in the ignition.

"Yeah," I sighed again. "And selfish."

"That's ridiculous," Alice insisted forcefully.

"Alice," Esme gently reproached her daughter, who abruptly went silent at the expression on her mother's face. All was quiet until we reached the end of the long driveway.

"I do know what you mean, Mireille," Esme went on in a quiet voice. "When I first started my life with Carlisle and Edward, they spoiled me so much that I felt exactly like you do. Obviously I had the added troubles of being a newborn vampire and constantly ruining my clothes, but that's rather beside the point."

A smile found its way onto all three of our faces at that.

"My point is that you shouldn't worry, because it will all be for the best," the tender-hearted vampire explained herself. "We are happy to give you the same privileges that the rest of us have."

"Thanks, Esme," was all I could think to say to her kindness.

"And if that isn't enough reason," Alice threw in, "then just remember that you are helping us overcome what could have been a very sticky situation."

I smiled warmly at the tiny woman, and nearly thanked her as well, when she spoke again.

"Plus you're giving me a well-deserved shopping trip."

Esme and I were smiling warmly still, until we digested what Alice had just said more clearly. Glancing cautiously back at me in the mirror, Esme began to smile, and before I knew it we were both laughing at Alice's affronted face as the trees of Forks swirled away behind us.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Previously – Jasper created Mireille's new identity and documents, and Edward took Mireille's passport photo. The Cullens were intrigued by Mireille's achievements and Mireille felt badly about Alice's lack of memories. Alice saw the books arrive in her closet and Mireille went up to retrieve them. Mireille panicked about her effect on the Twilight world, and Edward and Alice consoled her. Mireille found she owned Bree Tanner's story and the official guide. Mireille glossed over the Cullens' pages and read Alice's full history. Alice accepted her past and it was decided Carlisle should register Mireille for school the next day. Carlisle suggested Mireille should have her own car, and Alice persuaded Esme and Mireille into a shopping trip.

Chapter 8: Imaginings

Wardrobes, as a general rule, should not be heavier than the vehicle one carries them in after the shopping excursion is finished. This, however, was a rule Alice Cullen had probably never even imagined, much less heard of. The weight of clothing and shoes that must have been forced into Carlisle's Mercedes by the time one half of the evening had ended, was proof enough of that theory.

"Alice, where in the world am I going to wear this dress?" I asked her exasperatedly from beneath a white garment bag containing a designer gown I could not find a purpose for as yet.

"Homecoming, of course," she explained quite patiently, examining a chipped nail with partial focus. "The Spring dance is coming up in March, too, but nevermind that for now. There's a charity ball in late November that the whole family is invited to, a hospital Christmas party for staff and their families, and some New Year's Eve gala or another – I was thinking New York this year, but Rosalie wants Los Angeles, so I can't tell for certain yet. Plus Carlisle was thinking of attending a cancer benefit sometime in the spring. There may be more than that, but until we're sure of everything, this is all we're buying. I hate shopping really early. The styles change too quickly for that. Even February would be too far away."

"Homecoming?" I latched onto the first surprise in her answer, trying desperately to forget the others until I comprehended that one. "But it's already the fourteenth!"

"The dance is on Saturday," was her off-handed reply. "It will be a great ice-breaker for you."

"Alice, Cullens aren't supposed to have ice-breakers," I argued a bit too loudly. "You melt into the background and keep people away until you move onto the next location."

"You're not a vampire, Mireille," Alice clucked impatiently now, "People won't notice something unusual about you just by standing near you."

I tried to keep a lid on my temper as I continued to debate the point, but Alice really was being unreasonable. "If they know I live with you guys and am related to Carlisle, then they are going to compare me with all of you and wonder why you are all the way you are, but I'm nothing like that."

"They won't," Alice stopped me cold with the finality in her voice. "I can see it working out. Now will you please shut up and trust me?"

Groaning in defeat, I childishly threw myself back against the dark leather interior. It was then that a thought occurred to me which might actually throw a wrench in Alice's plans for Homecoming.

"Wait a minute." Sensing victory, I sat up straight and looked right over at Alice as I elaborated my unspoken point, "I'm not attending classes right now, so I can't go. Someone would have to invite me."

"Someone will ask you," was Alice's cryptic response.

"But I'm not going to be in class until January. No one is going to give me a freaking tour of the classrooms so someone can ask me to Homecoming," I said in sarcastic bewilderment, when suddenly I understood. "Oh. No, no, no. No way. I am not going to the dance with some weirdo who walks right up to a strange girl when she's registering for classes and asks her to homecoming because he has no other options. No. I refuse."

Alice snorted in a very unladylike way yet did not otherwise respond, irritating me further. But I recognized a pointless argument and knew it was not going to matter what I told her. She saw me at the dance and to the dance she would try to make me go. Esme's decision to ignore the discussion was understandable, all things considered; she knew her daughter was undaunted. Still, in my continuing agitation, that bothered me too. A distraction from my frustrations thankfully came up, in the form of an early dinner. Esme had insisted I eat while we were in Seattle, since the shopping trip would be a long one and I would probably be ravenous if I waited until we got back to the house.

Despite my hunger, we didn't spend much time at all in the little restaurant I had chosen. Esme had gone off down the road to buy some jewelry, which Alice said the mother of five was the best at picking out, and Alice was unknowingly rushing me whenever she tapped a foot or a finger in impatience. Plus, my sandwich was actually kind of boring and I was anxious to just get back and relax. My feet were already killing me and we weren't even three-quarters done yet, according to Alice.

"Oh, buck up," Alice nudged me playfully at the table, unable to miss the brooding look on my face. "There's not that many stores left."

Rolling my eyes for probably the tenth time that hour, I didn't reply. It felt useless to argue anymore and while that was kind of depressing, I was too tired to get riled up now.

"I'm done," I told her wearily, wrapping up the unappetizing remains of my dinner.

"Let's go then," she chirped happily, apparently ignorant of my complete exhaustion, and effortlessly pulled me up and out to the next store in the lineup.

If I had thought anything of exhaustion then, it was nothing compared to what I thought after Alice finally declared my wardrobe – temporarily – complete. When I got to the Mercedes at last, aided by a concerned Esme, I pretty much collapsed into the car. It was lucky my mind wasn't up to shouting, because Alice was actually whistling as she bundled the last packages into the car while still making room for herself. That alone made me wish I could hit her without irreparably damaging my entire arm. I started to imagine being strong enough to smack the back of her head, like Rosalie might do to Emmett when he was being his goofiest, but I never seemed able to think of a time that Alice wouldn't see it beforehand.

In the middle of my violent imaginings I must have fallen fast asleep because a burst of cold air woke me up as someone was lifting me into their arms. Half-asleep as I still was, I started to panic a little in confusion. A low whispering nearby and rapid wisps and whirls of sound around me only increased the bewilderment I felt.

"It's all right," a gentle murmur drifted into my ear. "I'm just taking you inside. You can go back to sleep."

Even in my muddled mind, the voice was comforting. Instinctively, I knew the person holding me was someone I could trust. Just as they instructed, I allowed myself to fall back into sleep's outstretched arms and drifted comfortably within my dreams for what seemed like an eternity.

A brown-eyed Jasper danced with me, dressed in his pristine confederate uniform, and a frothy white skirt flew out around my heeled feet as he twirled me with expert precision. We were smiling, both of us, and every once in a while I would laugh out loud in joy because I was actually dancing like a professional. Without rhyme or reason, I switched suddenly to dancing with a vampire Emmett, who was dressed in a sharp black suit reminiscent of the Roaring Twenties and a bright blue dress shirt. Then I was dancing with a green-eyed Edward, who was wearing an elegant black tuxedo – complete with tails – far more reminiscent of his human life. Jasper returned to me in his gray uniform, but on a particularly large twirl I found myself spinning away from Jasper's white-gloved hands, watching in confusion as he drifted away into a heavy gray haze. I kept expecting to seem him reappear, smiling again, and though his eyes had been brown, I kept thinking they would turn blue. But brown or blue or any other color of eyes, Jasper never came back. Even when I became afraid, I didn't stop spinning. Maybe I couldn't stop.

In the blink of an eye the world turned bright. Out of this new, lightened haze came Alice. She grabbed my hands and spun with me, a bright pink dress twirling around her knees the same as my white skirt did about my own feet. A secretive smile played on her face and in spite of the fact that I was no longer alone, it all felt wrong. What made it even stranger were her eyes. One was blue and one was dark brown, but right when we were about to make a new turn, they would flash red, then gold, then black, and then quickly return to their original state. Onward we spun, never ceasing, until I was so dizzy that all I saw were streaks of colors whenever her eyes changed. Nausea roiled in my stomach relentlessly, forcing me to close my eyes.

I snapped up in bed – positively sick to my stomach – with such sudden force that my neck twisted painfully. There was no time to even throw off the covers before I nearly threw myself to the side of the bed and vomited over the edge of it. Miraculously, there was a trashcan already awaiting my abrasive expulsions. Out of nowhere, three pairs of cool hands simultaneously aided me in different ways. One lifted the thick, heavy mass of hair away from my face and neck and tied it back too swiftly to even feel. The other held my upper body so I didn't fall forward. And the last (the gentlest and yet surest) pair of hands stroked my back and forehead soothingly until my retching finally turned to dry heaves.

Once the haze cleared slightly and my body expelled only groan-like coughs as it wound down, I was barely able to make out the soft voices that I had not even noticed while I was so violently ill. There were several people present in the room from what my bleary mind could tell, but I was too worn out to determine whose voice went with which remarks. One was a doctor, clearly. And the others were probably some of my 'neighbors' in the dorm, afraid I might have something catching after that crazy run in the woods. The walls were so thin in this stupid building, they must have heard me get sick.

It didn't occur to me to wonder how the trash can got there, or how anyone could have gotten into my locked dorm room. I just accepted the glass of water the doctor voice encouraged me to sip from my lowered position, although I quickly spat it back out to get rid of the sick that still sat in my mouth. A few mores sips like that and I felt comfortable actually drinking the water in the glass before falling asleep almost immediately, someone lowering me gently back to the pillow.

The next time I awoke, it was to a room lit by heavily-clouded sunshine and a cool hand petting my hair. My throat was dry and an unfortunate taste lingered there that I associated with not having brushed my teeth after being sick. That was what made everything come back to me. The crazy dream about Jasper, Emmett, Edward, and Alice; waking up to sickness; the numerous voices around me… Shockingly enough, I could remember the entire conversation and recognize who said precisely what. And it was certainly not my dormitory neighbors who had been talking.

"Will she be all right?" Jasper had asked.

"It's nothing serious, is it?" As expected, Esme was deeply concerned.

"She's probably reacting to the shock. I'm surprised it didn't happen sooner." Of course, it was Carlisle explaining. No wonder I had thought a doctor was talking.

"You expected this?" Rosalie had sounded surprised. So was I, thinking back. Hers was a voice I didn't think I'd hear.

"Think of the upheaval she's been through in just one day. And then to have been so completely run down tonight..." That was Carlisle again.

"I'm so sorry. I honestly didn't realize." There was Alice. She had sounded quite sorry.

"You couldn't have known." Edward had reassured her, his voice littered with distaste. I could only imagine how disgusting my mind must have been while I was sick.

"I'm just glad you saw it when you did. Think if we hadn't been here for her…" Esme again, always concerned about others.

"That would have been fun to clean up." Should have known Emmett would say something like that…

"It's not funny!" Alice got pretty defensive then. Probably guilty that she had contributed inadvertently to me being sick.

"Quiet, both of you!" Esme had effectively ended the debate, and that was where my mind clicked off from the ping-pong of conversation.

"That was the last of it."

Turning my face carefully to the left, I was pleased to see Edward leaning against the wall, looking far less distasteful than he had sounded… well, the last time I woke up. I wasn't sure when that was or even what time it was currently.

"It's about eight-thirty," Edward informed me. "You were in bed early enough last night, so you've gotten a lot of sleep."

"When did I wake up sick?" I asked him, clearing my throat immediately after I heard how hoarse it was at first.

"Around three," he answered, reappearing at my side to help me to sit up with one arm and reach over to the end table to bring back a full glass of water with the other. "Here, drink this."

Sipping water gave me more time to think, and I absently wondered if he had been the one patting my hair. Chancing a blushing glance at him, I smiled slightly when I noticed he was very amused.

"It seemed to keep you peaceful last night," he offered casually, "but it was actually Esme."

"She was the one?" I blinked, remembering the hands on my back and face when I was sick.

"Not the one you're remembering," Edward smiled. "That was Carlisle. He stayed for a long while, patting your hair like that. You tossed and turned quite a bit whenever he stopped. Alice did it after he went to work, until she and the others had to leave for school, then Esme took it up when everyone left. She would have gladly continued, but she needed to finish a few projects around the house."

"Who was holding me up?" For some reason, I had thought it was him.

"That would have been Esme. I was the one who pulled back your hair," he answered, then turned amused. "Somehow, even in the middle of being half asleep and desperately ill, you thought of how disgusting it would be to have your hair covered in sick."

"Sorry you had to hear all that," I murmured.

"You couldn't help it," Edward comforted me, briefly squeezing my shoulder.

"What happened, exactly?" I asked him curiously. "I know Carlisle said it was the shock, but… it isn't some weird flu bug, is it?"

"No, not at all," he shook his bronze head lightly. "Esme was terrified by how long it took you to stop, but Carlisle said nothing was abnormal. He believes your body was broken down enough by exhaustion that it couldn't quite handle the upheaval of the past day. So you became sick. That dream you had was just a manifestation of all this."

"Why was it just you four, specifically, that I dreamed about?" I wondered.

"I doubt there's any symbolic meaning behind it, if that's what you're thinking," Edward surmised.

"Funny you have to question what I'm thinking," I half laughed, still kind of lost in said thoughts.

"It is, isn't it?" was his laughing reply. "But it proves that my ability, potent as it often is, can still be fallible."

"Everyone is fallible," I shrugged. "You just have one more thing to be fallible in."

"I like your description better," Edward chuckled deeply.

"So Carlisle had to work today?" I wondered.

"Yes, he was worried it would perpetuate more rumors about you if he stayed home all day again."

"But aren't you still out sick?" It would have seemed a little odd to me if a man stayed home with his son because the boy was very ill, yet the man still came to work the next day.

"I was the sickest over the weekend," he explained humorously, "Last night I turned for the better, and now I merely need bed rest."

"You do have some pretty dark circles under your eyes," I joked. Edward huffed a laugh.

"You need to be ready by eleven-thirty, by the way," he changed the subject. "Carlisle is coming to pick you up."

"I thought he didn't have the day off?" I asked in surprise.

"When Carlisle explained your 'situation', Dr. Snow offered to take the second half of Carlisle's shift today so you could get everything settled for school."

"Don't tell me I'm a charity case now," I groaned at the thought.

"Dr. Snow likes Carlisle a great deal," Edward shrugged. "He admires his dedication to the family and his work, so he's usually very happy to help out in situations like these."

"So as of this afternoon, I'm going to be an official student of a formerly fictional high school," the remark slipped from my mouth before I could stop it, but Edward just smiled in amusement.

"Oh no." I just remembered what Alice had said about someone asking me to the Homecoming dance today and felt my good mood drop into the tank.

"Actually," Edward cut off my tirade before it could even begin, hesitance in his voice, "it wasn't while you registered that someone would ask you."

It took a moment for that to register in my head, but when it did, I felt unhappier than before. "So now it's just some kid who skipped class? This is so annoying."

"Mireille, will you stop being melodramatic for one minute?" Edward cut in again, quite irritably this time. Startled, I stopped talking or even thinking about what frustrated me.

"As much as I love my sister," Edward sighed, "she really can put a wrench in some of the best laid plans because she's so excited to see them come to fruition. There are no boys waiting to ambush you while they skip class."

"Then how will it happen?" I couldn't figure it out for the life of me.

"You'll find out later. Alice wants you to decide what shoes you'll wear with the dress." Edward's face was a mixture of laughter, exasperation, and resignation as he stood from the bed and moved across the room and into another part of it. It was only when he did so that I took in my surroundings at last. Before, I had been so engrossed in my conversation with Edward and the memories of earlier that morning, that I hadn't even paid attention. Now I flung myself straight up in bed and stared around, frozen with awe.

I was definitely not in Alice and Jasper's space.

All of the walls had been painted sea blue to match the white bedding with a floral print in sea blue, spring green, gray, and brown. The king size bed I laid in sported a smooth sleigh frame of some type of multihued dark brown wood, with a tall headboard that curved just slightly towards the wall. Gentle gray fabric draped off short white rods to each side of the headboard from a central point above, forming the illusion of a canopy. Beyond the footboard sat a tufted suede aqua bench with short arms at each end. To my right stood a small, round, silvery table with mirrored trim; an aqua glass lamp with white drum shade was the only thing on the table other than an alarm clock, which was brand new.

Beautiful, sea blue curtains spread across the entire six feet of wall to the right of the bed, blending perfectly into the wall color. By contrast, each section of glass on the long windowed wall opposite was bedecked with gloriously cheerful lime green drapes that had been left just slightly open to reveal the bright but clouded day outside. In either corner of the long windowed wall, there was a six foot section of window seating created from the same dark wood as the headboard and cushioned in soft gray. Pillows in broad mixture of color from the room's theme had been strewn over both sections of window seating.

Settled further down the wall in a more central spot, I noticed a modern sofa covered in the same sea blue suede as the bench at the foot of the bed – the only difference was the subtle silver studding along the sofa's outer frame. In front of the solid sofa, a mirrored coffee table complemented the small table beside the bed very well. The arrangement only enhanced an antique chair painted white and upholstered in white, bird-printed fabric matching the bedding's color scheme. An exact match to the chair had been placed between bed and doorway.

In the hallway Edward had disappeared into, the ceiling-high cabinetry was off-white; unfortunately the closed doors prohibited me from seeing whatever waited inside. Hanging on the side of the white cabinet was a matching ladder. Across from the bed and beside the light cabinetry, the wall beheld a huge TV and an entertainment kiosk in dark wood beneath that.

The only thing familiar to me about the entire room was the windows. I was absolutely positive of where I had seen them before, but I needed to make sure.

"Edward… Am I in your room?"

The vampire in question was now standing in the hallway I had seen, eyes bright and mischievous. I took that to mean yes and was surprised I didn't faint on the spot.

"It was Esme's idea," he laughed at my stunned thoughts. "It's not practical for you to stay in anyone else's room, since they are often… otherwise occupied. Nevermind what Alice told you, it's actually a little inconvenient for them. Obviously I am not occupied in that way, so I don't have that kind of privacy concern. However, as you may have noticed, the room is substantially larger than before."

I had noticed that briefly, but being so shocked, I could hardly be expected to pay much attention to it or even recognize Edward's space as the same one of the previous night. And certainly not the same one from the books.

"What happened to it?" I asked incredulously. "It doesn't even look the same."

"You would be amazed what seven vampires can accomplish in ten hours," he smirked.

"Meaning?" I prompted him. I had no idea what they could have done just the previous night to change the room.

"We condensed forgery central," he replied jokingly, leaning on the wall, but I could tell he meant it. "Then we knocked down the interior wall, rebuilt it much farther back, remade the support walls, added the cabinetry and the bed, built the window seating, installed a computer area and a creative workstation, and added the other décor. Of course Alice put away all of your clothes, shoes, and accessories. And the bathroom is the same as it was before, save the fact that Esme removed the short hall that led to it."

"Where's the computer workstation?" I wondered, not having seen it – or several things he mentioned, actually.

"Behind those curtains to your right," he nodded in the aforementioned direction, reappearing to open the drapes I had thought were only attached to a wall. The niche behind them was painted in a soft gray color this time, with accents of lime interspersed throughout. High above the all-white cabinetry with translucent sea blue knobs, I observed two medium sized pictures that drew all the colors of the outer room together. Two shelves floated high on the wall with what presumably was computer software, matching the level of a free-floating hutch two feet above the desk surface. The crisp, clean desk was as wide as the nook itself and complete with two padded white office chairs, a shiny silver laptop on one end, and an even shinier black laptop on the other. The laptops were obviously some of the latest models, accompanied by a printer beneath the worktop.

"The printer is an all-in-one with fax and the like. There's internet hook-up, also," Edward told me matter-of-factly. "You're computer is the black one on the right."

"And the creative workstation?"

"On the other side of that wall," he answered, nodding at the wall with the TV. "There's also a music space in this alcove behind me."

"I am so confused," I said dazedly. I was a bit worried about how all of this was going to affect the future. "Why?"

"Why all this?" he made to confirm, to which I nodded. "As I said before, it's more practical for you to share my room. Besides, it's the only place in the house where we really had room to make you a space of your own. Granted, you're sharing it with me, but it's not like we need a half-and-half room with two of everything. I don't even sleep, so I don't need a bed. The only things I really have to use specifically within the confines of this room are storage space, the shower, and my closet. And the music area, of course. If you don't mind me sitting there while you sleep, of course."

"You'll hear and see my weird dreams anyway," was my vaguely shell-shocked remark.

He simply said, "True," then disappeared into the deeper alcove once more.

"What's in the cabinets down that hall?" I asked for lack of conversation, since my eyes had traveled back to the closed cabinetry after he disappeared.

"Records, sheet music, and books," came his muffled voice. "You'll be able to fit your own elsewhere, if you decide to buy any. There's twice as much storage in the window seating as there was on my wall before. Oh, and Esme hung that ladder on the side of the white cabinet - the one by the TV - so you can reach up to all the top cabinets on your own."

This was too much, I couldn't help thinking to myself. Too much to spend on a person who might not even be in this house for more than a couple of years. But what could I say? Put it back the way it was? Not only was that impractical, it was ungrateful and rude.

"Then stop worrying about it," Edward snapped from inside the closet. It was the first time he had genuinely sounded angry with me. Even the first night, in the car and at the restaurant, it was mostly irritation.

"What does that tell you, then?" he sighed and finally exited the hallway, a familiar garment bag in hand, along with three shoe boxes. At least I knew where the closet was now.

"That I should shut up, probably," I mumbled down at my hands, embarrassed.

"I wouldn't say that," Edward countered with a roll of his eyes. "Just tone down your pessimism, will you? I admit I'm not a stellar example of that, but please try. Anyhow, now that I have your attention… You have three options, an outfit to change into, and approximately two hours. Choose and change. Or change and choose. Your preference, really."

Laughing at his uncomfortable command as he put the dress along the curtain rod of the computer area and the shoes on the floor, I stood and made my way over to the bathroom first. As I expected, towels, hygiene products, and clothing were already laid out for me. The outfit was one we had found the previous night for just such an occasion: a crisp white button-down blouse, a black cardigan, and dark boot-cut jeans. At least I liked to wear those kinds of clothes without prompting. Otherwise this would be far more annoying. Everything felt twenty times better after I showered and brushed my teeth, though. As a result, my annoyance over the pre-planned outfit was eliminated entirely. A much happier young woman exited the bathroom than had gone in it and Edward noticed from his seat on the slender sofa cross from the windows.

"Nice to see you looking pleasant again," he smirked slightly. "The brooding look doesn't suit you."

"That's probably a good thing," I replied simply and turned to examine the creative workstation that was right beside the bathroom doorway. A ceiling-high, wall-wide storage unit in white – with dozens of cubbies and drawers – took up the entire left wall. Also in white was a large work table sidled up against the larger storage piece, but on the perpendicular wall – and several smaller units full of a variety of writing utensils and small craft items floating above the tabletop. Deciding there was too much to really get into at that moment, I went over to the shoes and dress to make my choice. It took all I had not to examine the deep alcove where Edward had gone to retrieve my dress and shoes, or indeed the office space in front of me.

"One more thing," he stopped me. "Esme wants to know what you would like for lunch."

"I have no idea. I like a lot of different things. Tell her to go for whatever she feels like."

Eventually I would have to start deciding for myself, I supposed. But when a person came from a life of few options, it could be very hard to expand into the excessive choices the Cullens offered. Appeased for the moment by my reasoning, Edward let me continue with my footwear perusal.

The dress to which I matched the options was a long, flowing piece in alternating sections of plum and eggplant, with only one elbow-length sleeve. The entire gown draped down from the single left shoulder and across the body, a band of the same alternating fabric fitted at the waist. At first, I considered a very shiny pair of designer heels Alice had likely bought while I was trying on mountains of clothes. But another pair caught my eye far more significantly after several minutes of staring. They were a stiletto heel with a sheer black covering and an open toe, crystal embellishments strewn across the top of the shoe. Something about them just fit perfectly. The only thing I needed was a good necklace; perhaps a bracelet or a ring too. You can't have everything, though.

"All right, I've chosen," I happily let Edward know, but he didn't answer. Turning with a frown, I found he was not even in the room. He may only have been there to explain the room and what Alice wanted. Plus he had to tell Esme what I answered about lunch. Deciding that was entirely plausible, I headed downstairs at a leisurely pace, incredibly pleased to smell something very Italian wafting out of the kitchen.

"I'd know that smell anywhere," I sighed happily as I walked up to where Esme stirred rotini pasta and Italian dressing together in an overlarge glass dish on the counter.

"Good morning!" The caramel-haired vampire turned to smile at me warmly. "How are you feeling today?"

"Morning, Esme. I feel great now," I said honestly, smiling back at her. "Thank you for taking care of me last night."

"Oh, I'm just glad you're all right," she waved away my thanks. "I hope you don't mind pasta salad. There isn't much time. It's just past ten o'clock now."

"It's perfect," I assured her. "I really do love Italian food."

"That's what Edward told me," Esme explained. "What would you like in it?"

"I don't know," I shrugged helplessly. "What do you have?"

Esme hummed and opened the refrigerator to look inside. "Chicken, red and green peppers, lettuce, carrots, tomatoes... Here, why don't you pick out what you'd like?"

Gladly accepting the offer, I moved to her side to search out my favorite additions; happily, I pulled out salmon and a selection of vegetables equal to my very own vegetable patch.

"It looks like Carlisle was right about buying so many vegetables," Esme laughed once, eyes wide, when I closed the refrigerator door at last.

My jaw hit the floor as I stared, a package of grape tomatoes stuck in my frozen hand. "Carlisle bought groceries?"

"Not this time, but he goes with me whenever he isn't working." She grinned brightly at me in amusement, hurrying to take the tomatoes from me, move the vegetables into one pan and the salmon into another, and turn on the stovetop. "Parents should know these kinds of things, shouldn't they?"

"I guess so," I shook my head to erase the surprise. "I mean, my dad did the grocery shopping often enough. I just… it's Carlisle. I can't even picture him walking through something as mundane as a grocery store!"

Esme's full, glorious laughter filled the entire first floor. Her laughter was positively infectious. I should have known it would be, what with her sweet disposition.

"That was my reaction the first time he offered to come with me!" she exclaimed enthusiastically. "If he had been human, I think he would have blushed when I told him!"

"He was completely embarrassed," came Edward's mischievous voice from behind us. Turning, I found him holding a very small bouquet of unidentified, deep plum colored flowers in one hand, with the other hand hidden behind his back.

"What are you doing with those?" I laughed lightly at his expectant face. The flowers had to be for Esme.

"Mireille," Edward spoke smoothly, his beautiful voice a picture of the deepest velvet, drawing my eyes back to his bright face. He had moved a lot closer, standing only a foot away from me. Seeing as he was a foot taller than me, my neck was slightly craned to actually look in his eyes.

He said something, asked me a question of some sort. For a moment I just stared into his golden eyes, doing my best to even understand the fact that he had just spoken. Why did he have to dazzle me now?

Two laughs, one a tingling bell and the other a repressed chortle, snapped me out of my bedazzlement, thankfully. Not so thankfully, the air in the room seemed to shrink in on my lungs when I could finally comprehend what Edward had been asking me.

"May I escort you to the Homecoming dance on Saturday?"

Edward had just asked me to the dance. Homecoming, Edward, dancing… all in the same situation. The words must have slipped out unbeknownst to me, because Edward was fighting tooth and nail not to burst into hysterical laughter and Esme's hand covered her upturned mouth. Magenta, surely, was the only color I could equate my face to.

"You?" I breathed hesitantly once my face and mind calmed, sure that he was mistaken. No one had ever asked me to a dance in my life. I had to take the initiative to ask a guy to both a homecoming dance and my junior prom.

"Yes, me," he smiled only a little, seeing the serious turn of my mind now. "I thought it would be advantageous. You get to go to the dance and begin ingratiating yourself with the students, while I spend a night out of the house with a friend and not 'wallowing at the piano.' Esme's words, not mine."

I smiled a bit over Esme's mothering. All too well did I remember her worries that Edward was too young when he was changed; that something was perhaps fundamentally wrong that disabled him from finding a mate… Even something so small as him getting out to the Homecoming dance with a strange new friend would be positive action in a worried mother's mind. Granted, it was not a romantic date, but Esme wouldn't care as long as her son actually got out and lived a little when he had the chance.

"I… I'd love to go with you to the dance," I blushingly admitted, hardly able to look him in the eye, "but for the fact that I can't… dance."

"We have three-and-a-half days," he shrugged endearingly, "You could learn a bit of waltzing in that time, if not a little more."

"Of course, dear," Esme finally rejoined our conversation, smiling over at me. "We'd be happy to teach you."

"If you're sure." Excitement was beginning to thrum in my veins. Ever since I was small, I had wanted to learn how to waltz. To be learning it from people who were beyond professional was amazing.

"Positive," Edward chuckled, stretching out the hand I could see to offer me the deep plum flowers that I could not name. "These are deep purple hydrangea. As you can see, they look more plum than true purple, so I thought they would match your dress admirably."

"Oh, I don't need a corsage," I murmured embarrassedly. "Besides, Alice told me last night that she already placed her order at the florist."

"Alice is picking up all of the corsages and boutonnières on Saturday," Edward contended easily. "It's a simple matter to add them to her order. But for now, these are for you."

"Thank you," I smiled widely, accepting the proffered bouquet with an appreciative sniff of the delicate flowers. "They smell so nice."

"Here, you can put them in this," Esme interceded, holding out a water-filled orange juice glass just big enough to fit my hydrangeas. It was a cute little sampling of flowers and I thought it would look nice in the remade room upstairs.

"I have something else for you," Edward continued far more nervously, driving my curiosity very high until he pulled out what he had been concealing behind his back. It was a large black velvet box. Large enough for a necklace, in fact.

"Edward, you didn't have to, really," I protested uncomfortably, feeling a little like Bella. "I think you're all spending enough on me as it is without adding in unneeded accessories."

"I wanted to," he nodded decisively. "Anyway, I didn't buy them. I'm letting you borrow them for Saturday."

That made absolutely no sense. "Did you rent it or something? In that case, you still paid money for it... Wait, what do you mean 'them,' anyway?"

"Open it first," he insisted laughingly, laying the flat box on the island counter in front of me.

Sighing, I did as I was instructed, opening the velvet case to reveal a beautiful gold and pearl jewelry set. The gold bracelet touted tiny pearls laid in a flower and leaf design that faded into a simple band. Also created mainly in gold and seed pearls, the accompanying necklace boasted three pearl encrusted flower shapes with deep plum-colored gems at the center and a single pear gem dropping from the middle.

"Oh my," I breathed in amazement. "They're beautiful, Edward. Thank you."

"You're welcome," he murmured in return, seeming newly bashful. "They're my mother's everyday wear. I think she'd like them to be worn."

"Huh?" I asked in confusion, only to realize rapidly which mother he really meant. "Oh! Oh no. Edward, I couldn't. Really I couldn't. These are so priceless! Elizabeth Masen's jewelry… oh goodness…"

The bronze-haired vampire only smiled knowingly at me, having seen the wayward thought creep through my mind… that only Esme or Alice (or a certain girl that I tried not to think of much at all, lest I give away the future too soon) should have these heirlooms of Edward's birth mother.

"What if I break them?" I whispered anxiously, fidgeting severely in my seat as I allowed my fear to come out.

"They're just baubles," Edward reassured me, as calm as anything. "I won't be upset if an accident happens. The truly serious heirlooms are in a separate safe."

"Promise?" I had to make sure.

"I promise," he assured steadfastly, smiling much wider. "Now try that ring on. I want to make certain it fits before you go trying to wear it at the last moment."

"What ring?" I wondered in renewed bewilderment. Wordlessly, Edward reached over to pull the object in question from its spot in the middle of the bracelet. The gold ring was slightly simpler in design from the necklace and bracelet; two creamy pearls lay one atop the other between parallel gold leaf designs, but otherwise the piece was unadorned. I wondered idly why I hadn't noticed it, but was more concerned with something else at the moment.

"What if it doesn't fit?" Surely he wouldn't resize it.

"Alice will buy one," he shrugged. Ignoring the fact that she would potentially be buying me more things, I slipped the elegant pearl ring onto my right ring finger, where I always wore my rings. After staring a while, I still couldn't believe my eyes. The little ring fit almost exactly; there was a bit too much give, but that was okay for me.

"That's handy," Edward remarked pleasantly, swiftly taking the ring from my grasp when I dazedly tried to put it in the bouquet rather than the box. "I'll take these up to the closet for you. You'd better eat. Carlisle should be here in about half-an-hour."

Shaking the dazedness away, I trained my attention on the freshly prepared pasta salad in which Esme was just now mixing the vegetables and salmon.

"That looks delicious Esme," I grinned with enthusiasm, gladly taking the plate and fork she offered and spooning a generous serving for my lunch. I'd nearly finished the plate of pasta when Carlisle arrived ten minutes early.

"Hello again, dear," Esme cast a sweet smile towards the entry as she spoke, lifting her arms to welcome the doctor into them. I frowned a minute, trying to figure out when I'd heard the door open or close. It took me a moment to remember that I would never hear any of the Cullens entering a room unless they purposefully informed me in some way.

"And the same to you, my love," Carlisle replied gently to his wife, warmly embracing her and kissing her forehead tenderly. My grin expanded so widely that I feared it would break my face in half. This was all like one very real, very beautiful movie, only better.

"Good afternoon, Mireille. You're looking much improved from this morning." The doctor turned to me with a pleased expression. "Do you feel as well as you look?"

"I feel fine," I happily concurred. "Trust me, if I can scarf down a huge plate of Italian food, I'm quite healthy."

The devoted couple laughed in perfect harmony and it took great effort not to sigh over it.

"Don't start," came Edward's contrary exhale. Leveling a glare at him, I remained mute, but reproached him in my mind. "All right, all right. No need to get so agitated."

"Should we even ask?" Esme sighed exasperatedly.

"Not really, no," I quickly informed her, having caught Edward's telltale smirk in my direction.

"Really?" He paused as if in thought, tapping his jaw. "I thought it was rather..."

"Edward," I cut him off warningly, not even capable of imagining anything I could do to successfully threaten him into silence.

"Threats now?" he laughed and shook his head. "Don't worry, then. I wouldn't want to get on your bad side. Your secret is safe with me."

"I'll believe that in twenty years, maybe," I muttered, rolling my eyes and slipping off my seat while he chuckled. Carlisle and Esme shared a look of amused resignation, but otherwise overlooked our sarcastic banter.

"Ready to go, Mireille?" Carlisle asked with the air of a man prepared for anything life could throw at him.

"Do you think there'll be a problem?" I wondered, brows raised high.

"No, not a problem," he laughed with much more ease than his tone had suggested a moment prior. "Just the awkwardness you will probably be facing. Not only are you going to high school again, but you're still human for it. It's bound to be somewhat uncomfortable as you try and keep a viable distance."

"Ugh," I groaned, wrinkling my nose in dislike. "That's going to be fun. At least the others will be around to help me out, though. Oh, hey, when will I know about my class schedule?"

"You'll be able to pick it up on the day you arrive, at the very least," Edward told me. "Or maybe you can find out early."

"We'll check," Carlisle decided, ushering me through the house to the front door and helping me into my new black and white tweed coat. I had just started to look around for the flats I had worn the last couple days, when Edward reached out, a pair of high-heeled black ankle boots in hand.

"You might need those," he smirked.

Scowling at the amusement on Edward's contorted facial features, I pulled the boots on over my jeans, straightened the sweater-like fold at the top, and walked out of the door that a chuckling Carlisle held open.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Music in this chapter:
'Spring' by Vivaldi (from The Four Seasons)
'Summer' by Vivaldi (from The Four Seasons)
Entry of the Gladiators by Julius Fučík (a.k.a. The Circus Song)
One Day I'll Fly Away by Nicole Kidman (from Moulin Rouge)
'Autumn' by Vivaldi (from The Four Seasons)
'Winter' by Vivaldi (from The Four Seasons)
Für Elise by Beethoven
Tempest Sonata by Beethoven
Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven

Previously – Alice led Mireille and Esme on a shopping spree and explained Mireille would be asked to Homecoming. Mireille and Alice argued about interacting at Homecoming. Alice's spree exhausted Mireille and she felt asleep on the way back. Mireille had a vivid dream and woke up sick, thinking her experiences were a dream. Upon waking again, Mireille realized she wasn't dreaming and recalled the Cullens' worry over her sickness. Edward and Mireille discussed the dream and Homecoming. Mireille realized Edward's room had been restructured and redesigned, and Edward explained Esme's work. Edward invited Mireille to Homecoming, Mireille swooned over Carlisle and Esme, and Edward teased her for it. Carlisle and Mireille left to register for school.

Chapter 9: Inspiration

My nerves returned in overdrive by the time I buckled the seat belt, asking Carlisle as we pulled down the driveway, "How should I act? Do I need to be kind of standoffish or a little down or what?"

"You should appear as though it is a little difficult to smile or laugh," he instructed me calmly, offering a reassuring pat to my hand where it lay on the middle rest. "Be slightly reluctant to divulge information, but not unwilling to speak when spoken to. Remember you are supposedly mourning your father, deceased only a few months ago. And just for your background information, as of last week I had you signed up for appointments with my colleague from Seattle, a grief counselor by the name of Elizabeth Anthony. Not that you'll need to talk about that."

I laughed with slight incredulity, some of my nervousness melting a smidgen. "A play on Edward's family?"

"We thought of it while you were out shopping," Carlisle laughed slightly as well. "The number we have listed for this Dr. Anthony is a line from a property of ours in Seattle. It will redirect to a cell phone here at the house. Once Alice sees the school's decision to call, Esme will be there to answer it. It's quite simple to create a different voice. For our kind, anyway."

"And here I thought everything was settled last night," I sighed disconsolately.

"Not nearly," he chuckled, patting my hand again. "Don't worry yourself over planning every detail. We have a great deal of experience in this, as you know. Most of what we are doing now is the dirty work. No need to involve you in that unless we have to. You just focus on what you need to be doing."

"Roger that," I sighed more amusedly. Carlisle chuckled at my odd reply and then the car filled with silence most of our drive to the high school.

Unless it was my imagination, the trees fairly glowed in the cloudy light, far greener in tone than they had looked the night of my arrival. The high school appeared like a splotch of faded red paint against such a widely verdant landscape, the brick seeming older and more run down than I had expected it to. I didn't even want to imagine what the bathrooms looked like. The very thought made me shudder.

"Are you all right?" Carlisle inquired concernedly, expression now grim as he pulled in the drive.

"I just didn't realize it was this decrepit," I admitted with a sheepish rise of my shoulders.

"Oh that," he replied, a smile fighting its way onto his face. "Yes, my apologies that the school could not be similar in quality to our home. Perhaps I should make an anonymous donation for its renovation."

"That would be very nice," I grinned over at him. "Makes high school a little less harrowing for us humans when the bathrooms are fresh and new."

"Is that what you were thinking about?" Carlisle laughed richly, rolling through the parking lot towards the front office.

"Um, yeah, actually it was." All I wanted to do was burrow my head in the sand after admitting that. Carlisle didn't even say anything further, merely shook his head amusedly and parked right in front, where as Bella said in Twilight, no one else was parked.

"Dampen your mood a little," Carlisle instructed me with a smile intended to bolster my confidence.

When he opened the driver's side door, files in hand, my new world smacked me straight in the face. From what I could see, everyone was heading to lunch, if the drinks and food in a few gloved hands were any indication. Teenagers in heavy fall coats and scarves wandered everywhere, chattering and laughing and fooling around with friends. One boy had a football in hand, twirling it up in the air as he walked beside a flirting girl whose strawberry-blond hair swished a bit too much to be believable in the still afternoon air. A raucous group of boys jockeyed each other for the front position of their group as they strolled along. Three girls off to one side conversed in whispers, plainly ogling the group of raucous boys and giggling whenever one happened to look in their general direction. Even after attending such a large school in my high school days, I was unused to all the calamity and chaos of it after a couple years away.

The seeming impossibility of the task ahead had me sweating. I had never fit in with the other students when I was one of them. How could I do it now? And to add that to the great possibility that I might expose the Cullens accidentally and send them packing at the very least, if not bringing the Volturi down on them… Since we had begun to plan my entry into high school, I had thought of it as fun little retrial of my teen years and a chance to do my grades over. But it was so much more than that.

Only when Carlisle came around to the passenger side and opened my door was I able to voice my growing anxiety and lack of confidence.

"I don't think I can do this," I whispered frantically to him, my face a mask of mild terror. Smiling kindly at me, the doctor knelt down to my level in the car, set the file up on the dash, and took my hands carefully.

"Mireille," he began with a low and soothing voice that no one else would hear, treating me as the frightened child I felt like. "You can do this. I know you can. All we're doing today is signing papers and talking very generally. We won't even speak to anyone but Mrs. Cope. Alice saw that. And I'll do almost all of the talking, remember? Come along, you'll be all right."

Biting my lip with continued nerves, I reluctantly nodded. As I accepted his hands and stood from the car, the wave of raw anxiety eased with the suddenness of a blunt axe, replaced with a calm confidence that I knew did not come from myself. Glancing around us, I spotted Jasper and Alice heading our way, the former looking amused and reassuring at the same time. How he managed that, I had no idea. Rolling my eyes amidst Carlisle's low chuckling, I waited with him while his two children approached.

"Thought you might need some moral support," Alice winked at me when they were close enough, reaching over to squeeze me carefully in greeting. Jasper grinned a bit beside her, the obvious answer to any question of moral support.

"Now I know why you suggested I do this at lunch," Carlisle shook his head wryly, reaching in the car to take the file in hand again. "Are you sure you will be on time for your classes?"

"Positive," the pixie winked mischievously, very lightly pushing the two of us forward to the office.

Faces I didn't know suddenly turned to stare at the regal figure of their town surgeon and wealthiest resident, still wearing his black slacks, dress shoes, and graceful fall coat as he emerged from behind the concealment of the Mercedes and walked up to the office door with his son, daughter, and rumored niece all in tow. One girl's jaw appeared ready to drop when she noticed Carlisle opening the door for Alice, Jasper, and me.

Compared to the cool temperature outside, the front office felt like sitting in a furnace. Only a minute or two inside it and already I started to sweat, completely unrelated to nerves. Carlisle's arm around my shoulder was a refreshing batch of coolness, even through my thick coat.

Everything matched Bella's description in the book, right down to the loudly ticking clock and the orange-flecked commercial carpet. Leaning over her desk filling in some paper or another, Mrs. Cope was as red-headed as ever, although thankfully she was not wearing a purple tee shirt; that would have been too coincidental. This time, her top was a silky green (rather loud) blouse – an object which clashed quite stupendously with the secretary's colored hair.

"Good afternoon, Mrs. Cope," Carlisle spoke in his most human voice, smiling mildly for effect.

Jumping in her seat, the secretary whipped around to find herself faced with three Cullens and me.

"Oh, Dr. Cullen!" she breathed out, sounding winded. Edward's ability would have made for interesting conversation just then, I was sure of it. "I'm so sorry. How can I help you?"

From the look of scrutiny on Mrs. Cope's face and the intensity with which her eyes sized me up from behind that long counter, I could tell she knew precisely what we were here for. Gossip moved fast in Forks, as I had expected. What I had not expected was that I would be judged so heavily by the staff. Judgment was not something I was equipped to be handling at all.

"To register my niece, Mireille, of course," Carlisle answered as if it was obvious, nodding down at me in reference. Glancing up at him more closely, I caught his eyebrow rising as if in doubt of the secretary's sanity. "Surely you have not forgotten my phone call from just an hour ago?"

Carlisle sounded amiable, but the muted sarcasm was there in his eyes. Thankfully Jasper was monitoring my emotional climate carefully, or else I couldn't have held in a snort of laughter. Despite my amusement, though, anxiety notched itself up to new heights at this unusually tense reception. Bella had been warmly welcomed in spite of the gossip; Mrs. Cope had even wished her well. Granted, Charlie had been talking about Bella's arrival for weeks before she came. My own 'arrival' had been immediately clouded with prejudiced suspicions of where I came from and what my parentage was.

"C-Certainly not," Mrs. Cope breathed embarrassedly, stuttering. "Just being cordial, Dr. Cullen."

"Oh, of course." Carlisle smiled more congenially, though some coolness lingered in his gaze. "Shall we settle everything?"

"I just need you to fill out these," she responded, taking out a folder that had clearly been set aside especially, as well as a clipboard.

"Thank you, Mrs. Cope," Carlisle said and led me to the padded chairs. The doctor took the end seat, leaving me to take the next one as he began to fill out papers. Alice and Jasper quietly settled in the chairs beside mine, surprising me when Jasper sat nearer.

"Your nerves are in overdrive," the southern vampire quietly answered my feelings of curiosity, offering his hand palm-up for me to take. Alice nodded encouragingly when I hesitated, pointing subtly at my left hand, so I slipped the same hand into Jasper's larger one, instant ease flooding my senses.

Sighing in relief, I murmured, "Thanks, Jasper."

He smiled reassuringly and sat back in his chair, free hand curling tightly around Alice's to his right; clearly I wasn't the only one needing support.

"Here," Alice murmured lowly – eyeing the head of a suspiciously quiet Mrs. Cope – and handed over a small notepad and a pen.

"What's this for?" I barely breathed, my lips almost stationary.

"Practice your full name," Carlisle murmured from my other side, eyes cast entirely on the clipboard in his hand as he added a signature.

"Oh!" I gasped very softly, understanding now. It wouldn't be good if I accidentally signed my real name to any papers. Awkwardly, with the knowledge that Jasper was sitting right next to me, I began to scrawl my full 'new' name. 'Mireille Claire Whitlock' filled the page when I was through and I was pleased to say that at this point, I no longer stumbled over writing the last name Whitlock. Jasper inconspicuously pulled off the top sheet where I had written the name, crumbling it and stuffing it in the pocket of his dark slacks before taking my hand again. Relaxing back in my seat, I turned to check Carlisle's progress and found him signing the last line and dating it. I didn't realize I had taken so long in my scribbling.

"This is the only line you need to sign," Carlisle informed me, offering over the clipboard where I signed the name I had just been writing all over the notepad.

"Now we just need to get your files sorted." He smiled over at me, gesturing for me to rise with him and walk back to the counter. Mrs. Cope was already rising, having heard Carlisle's remark, and took the clipboard and folder from us with a little more grace than before.

"Thank you, Dr. Cullen," she smiled too widely. "We just need her records."

Nodding, Carlisle slid my thick file up onto the counter. "I've included her course selection and the… certificate, as well."

The doctor hesitated over the word certificate, and I guessed he was referring to my father's 'death certificate.' Taking the cue, I lowered my head slightly into Carlisle's side, my face slightly sad, and felt an arm slip around my shoulders in a comforting gesture.

"Of course," Mrs. Cope faltered. She sounded as though she were fighting herself over something. Rustling informed me the secretary was going through the files, either as a distraction or to ensure everything was in there that needed to be. Or both.

Minutes later, she spoke again, "Well, everything is here. You should receive a packet in the next couple of weeks with a schedule and other pertinent information."

"Thank you very much," Carlisle replied, smiling again – wider than either of the first two times – and I watched from the corner of my eye as Mrs. Cope's face went blank with shock. "Good afternoon, Mrs. Cope."

Without waiting for a response, Carlisle steered me to the door and outside a bit quickly. Alice and Jasper were waiting by the door, a relieved look on the latter's face.

"Tight air space," Alice murmured sympathetically in explanation.

"If it is too much, we will not think less of you for leaving," Carlisle insisted with a firm, but soothing voice.

"It's better now," Jasper muttered, embarrassed and slightly sulky, eyes cast towards the top of his wife's head.

"The air in the office was really stifling," I suggested.

"Yes, warm air makes it harder," Alice agreed gently, arms wrapped around her husband's middle.

"Well, I repeat what I said a moment ago," Carlisle said to Jasper. "However, if you truly feel you can handle it, we will see the four of you later this afternoon."

"Bye guys," I waved a little as we got into the car, trying to put on an encouraging face for Jasper, who was looking a little down now. His expression didn't change, but Alice was plainly grateful for some help.

"Bye," she waved back, and then we were pulling out of the parking spot and rolling away from the two of them. My eyes remained with them until Carlisle pulled onto the main road and drove off towards the house.

After passing most of the trip in comfortable silence, Carlisle commented with evident satisfaction, "You did exceptionally well today, Mireille."

"Thank you. I wasn't too quiet, was I?"

"No, not at all," he shook his head. "And the way you reacted to the mention of the death certificate was quite well done, if I say so myself. Mrs. Cope became quite sympathetic after she saw it."

Pleased was an understatement to how I felt after hearing that. And here I had been all prepared to quit. But my job had been as easy as Carlisle had said.

"I hope I can do that well when I start interacting with everyone," I confided in the doctor.

"I'm sure you will," he assured me confidently. "The others will be there to help you, just remember that."

"Yeah, I can't forget it," I laughed self-consciously. "I'll be depending on it a lot."

"A wise decision, really," he shrugged. "And besides, you won't need to worry for almost three months."

"Um… actually…" I nervously interceded. "I'll be interacting this weekend."

"Will you?" Carlisle sounded surprised, glancing over with furrowed brows.

"Edward is taking me to Homecoming," was my shy response. "He asked today, just before you picked me up."

"Did he?" Carlisle wondered softly, almost inaudibly. A slight smile crossed his face and I felt an instantaneous need to explain before he got ahead of himself.

"Sort of an icebreaker for me," I hastily told the doctor, turning slightly pink. "And Esme likes him to get out more, so he's sort of accomplishing something, too. With a friend."

"Mireille, you don't have to hash out the relationship," Carlisle chuckled deeply, leaning very strongly towards laughter. "I know it isn't a romantic date. However, I am amazed that Edward is stepping out so easily. Normally Alice and Esme have to use every trick in their arsenal to have him attend dances."

Sheepishly, I admitted, "Maybe they did and I just don't know it."

Lips pursed contemplatively, Carlisle asked, "How did he ask you?"

"Esme was making lunch for me, and he came in with a bunch of hydrangeas," I began to tell the story. "I thought they were for Esme, but then Edward stepped up next to me and asked me to the dance. I… er… was a little dazed at first."

"I imagine so," Carlisle tamped down a smile admirably.

"Anyway," I continued embarrassedly, "Then I said that I couldn't dance and both him and Esme said I could learn in three days, so I said yes. Then he gave me the flowers."

"Anything else?"

"Well… he offered for me to borrow a pearl jewelry set for Saturday." The thought still struck me with nerves when I remembered whose jewels those had been and how old they were.

Carlisle nodded casually, so I couldn't tell if he was amazed by this offer or not.

"So Esme and Alice had to whip out the book of tricks for this?" I smiled a little, temporarily ignoring the thought of the pearls.

"I don't think so," Carlisle disagreed with confidence. "This seems like something Edward would do of his own volition. Particularly if he offered up some of his mother's jewelry for you to wear, borrowed or not."

There was no chance to reply, seeing as we pulled onto the long, overgrown driveway to the house just as Carlisle stopped speaking.

"Edward's playing again," Carlisle said suddenly, with great satisfaction, a pleased smile on his face. The benefits of vampire hearing, I guessed. "I haven't heard him touch the piano for months. Esme must be beside herself with joy."

I smiled, too. "She really loves to hear him play, doesn't she?"

"Oh yes," Carlisle chuckled. "It was one of the very first things they bonded over."

Hearing that little tidbit was something I couldn't help enjoying. Things like this were not in the books and yet were so interesting to know. "Why hasn't he played in so long?"

A deep sigh escaped Carlisle, a sad and troubled one. "Edward is… well, he tries to edge around it, but he is lonely. Being surrounded by three mated couples is no easy feat. Lately he seems to have lost inspiration because of it."

There was little I could say, so I stayed quiet until the house came into view. I couldn't see Edward through the front windows. The vaguest sound of his music floated from within, but I couldn't make out the sound enough to know what piece it was. Or if it was even one I would recognize; perhaps it was his own composition.

Carlisle parked in front of the house and was around to my door before I could even think of opening it. "Shall we?" he offered, extending a hand.

The music came clearer and louder every step we took towards the front door, but it stopped momentarily until Carlisle actually opened the door. As I stepped fully inside the doorway, Edward took up playing again; it was now a tune I recognized very well.

"That's 'Spring', right?" I named the piece with pleasure. "From Vivaldi's Four Seasons?"

"I thought you'd recognize it," Edward called out to me from the other side of the dividers. "I rarely play Vivaldi. As a matter of fact, I haven't played it since Carlisle found Esme. But I decided on a change of pace for once. What with all of the surprises after your arrival, you've rather inspired me."

"I'm glad," I told him sincerely, smiling as I took off my coat and hung it up, though I kept the scarf and boots on until my body warmed up.

"Come sit," Edward offered. When I came around the dividers, he inclined his head in invitation towards a chair near the bench. Ambling over, I settled comfortably into the yellow, floral patterned armchair. Watching Edward's hands move across the keys in expert rhythm and grace struck me dumb for some minutes, my eyes following his movements carefully even as he eventually segued from 'Spring'to 'Summer'. I wished I could play that well, but I never practiced like a pianist should.

"Maybe you would practice here," Edward suggested thoughtfully. "Sometimes you might need to take out your frustrations in a way other than throwing the nearest inanimate objects, particularly after dealing with high school a couple of months. Playing might be a way of doing that."

"Actually, just listening to music is my way of coping," I confessed, ears slightly pink. "I get in moods as to what I want kind of music I want to listen to and nothing else will do."

"I do that as well," he remarked, eyes on mine while his fingers exalted ebony and ivory. "What kinds of 'moods' do you get into?"

"Well, for an easy example," I tried to explain without being too detailed, "I might watch a movie about the circus and then want to hear music that reminds me of it."

With a completely serious face, Edward instantaneously started playing the circus song instead of Vivaldi. I burst into delighted laughter as the familiar theme came to its end, amused – both by the comical play on my example and by Edward's cheeky smirk when he was finished.

"Not exactly what I meant," I continued to giggle a bit, "but I take the point."

"So it's mostly what you've recently watched or read about that inspires your music moods?" he asked, still sporting a mildly devilish smile.

"Something like that," I shrugged. "Sometimes it's just how I feel or whatever I'm thinking of at the time, though."

"Then you must have certain music that you listen to during your… rebellious phases?" he asked mischievously.

"Yeah, I do," I said sheepishly, "but it changes. I have different kinds of rebellious moods, if that makes any sense."

"Not exactly," he admitted. "What do you mean?"

"Well, take my parents for example," I brought up a little uncomfortably. They really were not my favorite subject. "If I was feeling annoyed with them, I'd listen to songs about breaking away from the nest or proving myself by becoming successful in the path they scorned. Like… oh… I know this probably isn't your style, but have you ever seen Moulin Rouge?"

"Unfortunately," Edward grimaced comically. "I blame Alice, which is a very common occurrence in such cases."

"Well, personal opinions aside," I rolled my eyes at his dramatics. "Satine's song 'One Day I'll Fly Away' is one I might have listened to in a rebellious time. On the other hand, if I was annoyed about a movie where the men are really controlling or something, I might have listened to Kelly Clarkson."

"Who?" Edward wondered in confusion, and I suspected it was mostly because he would never watch something like American Idol.

"Alice again. She forced Jasper and me to watch the first couple of episodes when it came out," Edward recalled disgustedly. "The only reason she stopped begging me to do so was because I constantly pointed out the flaws. What an idiotic show. No value at all, except for cheap entertainment."

"Well, I don't like it either," I agreed, shaking my head at him. "But Kelly Clarkson won the first season. She's the only one I really have any respect for. I liked her few albums so far, and from what I heard she was planning on another one for 2009. It's too bad I won't get to see it now."

"Uh-oh," Edward laughed slightly. "You'll be going crazy whenever you can't listen to your later music, aren't you?"

"At some point, probably," I sighed. "Just knock some sense into me whenever I finally do."

"Hardly an appropriate measure to take," he said sarcastically.

Shrugging, I said, "Suit yourself. I can get really obsessively annoying."

"So can I," he retorted quickly.

"I can guess," I quipped back. Narrowing his eyes, Edward reappeared beside me and purposefully nudged my shoulder to tip me sideways.

"That's cheating." I nudged back fruitlessly, only squishing awkwardly against his immovable body.

"I disagree," he replied, staring down his nose at me. "You're just a sore loser."

"And you're just a cocky teenager," I smarted.

Laughter from behind us alerted me to the presence of Esme and Carlisle, who had either been silently observing our entire conversation or had just come in because of our play-sparring. The two of them sat together on the nearest white sofa embracing each other casually, Esme's caramel-brown head lying on her husband's shoulder. Neither even attempted to pretend they had not been watching Edward play and us making jabs.

"She seems to be a bit quick, dear," Esme teased her son, trying to restrain her smile, whereas Carlisle openly chuckled.

Face stiff, Edward abruptly turned his focus back to the piano and began a rendition of Rachmaninoff or some such composer that was so thunderous I jumped.

"Oh, really, Edward," Esme scolded him lightly. "We mean no harm. You know that."

"Hmph," was all Edward replied with, the grunt forcing me to restrain a bout of giggling.

"A cultured caveman," I barely said before laughing slightly with Esme and Carlisle.

Edward's eyes narrowed in on mine tightly, the look on his face warning me that I was in serious trouble for making fun of him. I didn't let it bother me, assuming he would just find some way of retorting.

It was without the slightest warning, then, that cold fingertips poked me in the extremely ticklish spot on my side. Yelping and flying up off the seat almost a foot, I knew instantly who had done it. Glaring at Edward's smug features, I immediately removed myself from the piano bench and stalked to the entry, pulling on my coat and gloves and walking outside without a word in spite of Carlisle and Esme's protesting voices.

Cold though it was outside, I decided to walk at least around to the garage and back, if not a bit into the trees at the edge. Time to calm my heart rate would be better than warmth right then.

It wasn't that Edward's icy skin had done permanent damage, but the fact was he had startled me enough to get my heart racing. Racing heartbeats had always scared me senseless; I attributed this to my father's hypochondriac mindset and his tendency to voice his constant impossible fears at least once a day for the first eighteen years of my life. Granted, I was not nearly as bad as my father. My own mind tended to go into overdrive only if a physical feeling was powerful or awkward enough to seem unmanageable. Strong cramps in my legs freaked me out, for example. Charlie horses and my anxiety level did not get along at all.

Expecting a visit from Edward after him hearing all of my unlooked-for thoughts, I decided to tuck myself away with the vehicles for a little while. I knew he could reach me no matter how fast I went or where I went. Nevertheless my pace was a bit faster as I slipped through the side door. Talking with Edward was not a very pleasant idea at the moment. I wasn't angry; that had fled almost immediately. Mostly I was embarrassed by my mimicry of my father: it was the kind of overreaction he would have had on a good day. What made it worse was that my tension over that fact kept my heartbeat from slowing down like I wished, as did my walk outside.

Sighing deeply, I moved across the front of the three cars in the garage with an absent gaze. Rosalie's M3 stood out for its vivid red color, of course. Then came the monstrous jeep. Frightening was a word I had never used to describe any vehicle except for a tank or maybe a semi-truck, but Emmett's jeep forced me to reconsider that idea very quickly. If I had to crane my neck to see the top of it, the thing was definitely too large. The only car left was Edward's Vanquish at the far end. It was a sleek kind of vehicle, obviously not meant for everyday driving – not that Edward would mind driving it everyday – and something I did kind of like looking at, as far as cars went. Well, that and the M3. They were both a beauty of a car.

A slight shuffling step – a very deliberate one – not a second later, alerted me to the presence I had been anticipating.

His voice conveyed all the contriteness one would expect from the self-loathing vampire he was known to be. "I'm sorry I scared you."

In spite of how nice he was behaving, I didn't say anything. Embarrassment flooded me for the way I had run from the room without a word, so childishly.

"I know you're embarrassed," he continued with a heavy sigh, "but it's not really your fault, is it? Everyone is afraid of something. More than one something, usually. When faced with whatever fears we have, most of us do overreact in some way. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine for startling you so much."

When I didn't reply, even mentally, Edward pressed me, "Mireille? Come on, I won't bite."

I heard as he chuckled darkly at his own pun. Long fingers dropped carefully to my right shoulder, finally convincing me to turn (with great reluctance) to face him.

"Forgive me?" he wondered, obviously genuinely concerned that I was angry at him.

"Yes," I mumbled, chewing my lip for lack of things to say, before I gave in and made to apologize. "And I'm—"

"No," Edward stopped me instantly, finger against my chapped lips. "You weren't wrong. Overreacting? Perhaps. But not really wrong."

"Matter of opinion," I was able to get out before he went on, making him smile a little.

"I agree," he nodded. "Weakness is always a matter of opinion. In the eye of the beholder, so to speak. But if we are the ones beholding you, and it is our opinions you're worried over, then you shouldn't be worried at all."

"Now, I'm forgiven," he went on thoughtfully, "but are we friends?"

Rolling my eyes more good-naturedly, I said, "Friends."

"Come back inside?" he offered with a cheerier smile.

"Are you going to play Vivaldi again?" I asked with narrowed eyes.

"If you like," he nodded. I didn't talk out loud, but allowed my thoughts to confirm the wish vehemently. Clearly amused, Edward turned to lead me back outside, but turned abruptly to ask, "Oh, what do you think of the cars?"

"I don't like the jeep," the reply slipped off of my tongue rapidly and immediately. "It's much too big."

Quiet laughter displayed the mind-reading vampire's growing humor. "That was precisely the point of it. You know Emmett. The bigger the better. We luckily talked him down from a hummer."

"I'd rather not think about anything bigger than this thing," I half-choked. Edward laughed louder this time, the sound echoing in the more-than-half-empty garage.

Once his humor died down, he calmly asked me, "What kind of car do you think you'd want to drive?"

"I don't know," I shrugged ignorantly. "Nothing flashy, obviously, since I'll be driving it to school. I kind of like black cars or gray cars."

"A subtle, sleek choice of colors," he commented, pensive. "I think even Rosalie might approve, despite her typically flamboyant taste."

The mention of Rosalie made me a little wary, particularly after how her mood towards me changed so frequently. One moment she had seemed to outright hate me, then the next she was commenting on my course choices, then teasing me about my grades. At least, I hoped she had been teasing the previous evening…

"She was," Edward admitted, a smirk blooming on his face. "She's trying not to tolerate you, but you are already proving difficult… And I can tell you, tolerating someone is essentially the high point of Rosalie's feelings towards anyone except herself, Emmett, and Esme."

"She's having a hard time not hating me?" My voice was exceptionally flat as I paraphrased his answer.

"The first time she insulted you, you fought back," he explained. "Not a common occurrence, I assure you."

"That's all it took?" I queried dryly. "Fighting back?"

"Maybe," he grinned lightly, tugging me up to the house while I considered the absurdities of bitter, vanity-obsessed people.

Carlisle and Esme were gone from the main floor when we entered the house, and I figured they wanted me to settle back in comfortably, without worrying over my brief interlude outside. It was with a newly calm mind that I sat again in the chair beside the piano. Despite having 'Summer' interrupted, Edward started afresh with 'Autumn' instead. The music entranced me once more throughout the rest of the piece and then, with skill I envied greatly, Edward played through the beginning of 'Winter'like a prodigy; his fingers danced and swayed across the ivory keys at grand speeds.

A satisfied sigh left my lips as the last chord sounded, resulting in Edward's soft laughter at my enchanted thoughts.

"I've never heard anything so wonderful," I told him happily. "I loved the first part the best, though, I must say."

"It's a rather thrilling part, isn't it?" he agreed enthusiastically.

"Oh, yes," I nodded, smiling. "Thank you for playing."

"Thank you for facilitating my playing Vivaldi, of all things," he teased, but turned thoughtful. "What else would you like to hear?"

Grinning, I leaned over and answered conspiratorially, "Beethoven."

"Ah, you have made me very happy indeed," he laughed again.

"You're favorite?" I guessed.

"He just seems to understand my moods quite well," he replied dryly. "Along with Chopin, that is… What piece did you have in mind?"

I though for a moment of 'Für Elise', because of its speed and intricacy, but decided against it. I wanted something different for a change.

"I'd like to hear 'Tempest Sonata'," I finally chose.

Looking pleased, Edward moved straight into the first movement. Beautiful was the only word I could use to describe the sounds he brought forth. For twenty long and glorious minutes, I listened rapturously to the serenade. Time was really inconsequential when attending such a concert of talent, but my disappointment was great when I realized just how short a time it actually took. The end had me wishing for more.

It took me by surprise, therefore, when Edward hesitated – hands waiting midair above the keys – before laying long fingers back down and softly, ever so softly, leading into the first movement of 'Moonlight Sonata'. Had I thought 'Tempest Sonata' to be beautiful, this piece surely had to be angelic by contrast. So much emotion filled Edward's performance that it was difficult to listen without being reminded of how troubled he often felt about living this life and being alone in it. Each downward scale told me of his growing hopelessness. Each heavy bottom note spoke to his sadness in frequent solitude. I tried to keep these thoughts quiet, considering he could hear every one, but it was impossible not to feel the despondency in the last wavering notes his fingertips pressed.

Edward's fingers still lay on the keys minutes later, in the exact positions he had ended the piece, and it was obvious his mind dwelled on my thoughts deeply. Neither of us seemed capable of moving or looking at each other; at least, I knew Icouldn't do it. Not with how my mind was effectively tormenting him with his own loneliness. Truly I would have said something, anything, to try and release the new tension in the atmosphere, but a door slammed outside (rather unnecessarily, I thought) and the front door banged open not-so-quietly. Rising mindlessly to see who it was, I watched Rosalie stalk inside with Emmett on her heels. They did not look my way, but even from across the room, I could see that Rosalie was angry again. At what, I didn't like to imagine.

Alice and Jasper did not immediately follow, which induced the idea that perhaps the small vampire had seen something. What she was now waiting for, I couldn't determine.

Edward seemed to answer my question by moving – not to leave my troublesome head behind, but to lean forward and awkwardly grasp my hand. Not being easily pressed into unprecedented physical affections, I stiffened vaguely beneath his hand, but didn't pull away. Friends, as we had agreed to be, did not do things like that.

"Thank you," Edward said simply, breaking the lengthy silence and his gesture at the same time. "That makes tonight's events a bit easier for all concerned."

"Tonight's events?" I asked, confused, feeling the atmosphere return to normal, as though it had never been awkward in the first place.

"Tonight," he began cautiously yet resolutely, "you learn to dance."

"Oh my," I squeaked, bringing a sudden laugh out of Edward.

"Don't worry," he said confidently. "Carlisle will be dancing with you for the most part. I believe his patience and good humor will be the best environment for you to learn in."

"For the most part?" I wondered, catching the extra phrase.

"Well, obviously you and I will need to at least try it once before Saturday." The pianist shrugged mildly.

"Who will be there?" I wondered timidly. Self-consciousness was hard enough to take without Rosalie's frigid presence and Emmett laughing at me whenever I goofed up.

"They won't be there," Edward comforted me. "Esme and I will be, but mostly to encourage you and help you learn. Plus, she would never turn down an opportunity to dance. And Alice and Jasper will be dancing for the fun of it. Although that's probably a good thing. Jasper will keep your nerves low."

"Good thing is an understatement," I sighed worriedly. "I don't know how good I'll be at this."

"If you're not, we'll simplify at Homecoming," he assured me calmly.

Alice made her appearance known just then, prancing in the house with Jasper's hand in hers, dragging the Texan vampire behind her. The amused smile gracing his features as they came over to us made me want to laugh, though I held it in. Edward had no such inhibitions and laughed outright. Sensing my amusement as well, Jasper grinned at me.

"She always like this?" I questioned him, in spite of knowing the answer already and the woman in question standing right there.

"Frequently," Jasper nodded, smiling indulgently when Alice turned upwards to eye him shrewdly. Instead of responding, the tiny woman just bounced up to kiss her husband's cheek and turned back to her brother and me.

"I'm stealing your piano buddy," she informed Edward casually. "We have things to discuss. You and Jasper need to go hunting."

"I need to go hunting is what she really means," Jasper corrected Alice's description for my benefit, shaking his head at her.

"Quiet, Jasper," Alice swatted his chest a bit irritably. "Call it a run, if you like. Edward needs to get out for minute, too."

"I really do, Jasper," Edward sighed from behind me, rising to his feet. "A run would be nice."

"And a spar?" Jasper suggested quietly, a competitive gleam in his eyes.

"If you like losing," Edward retorted just as quietly. Jasper snorted disbelievingly.

"Boys," Alice muttered with her eyes far away, making me giggle, before she immediately ordered, "Take an extra set of clothes... Two, in fact. I know how you both get. And don't you dare go find Emmett and ask him to come, too. Rosalie is in a foul enough mood as it is."

"Am I the reason?" I wondered with a grimace as the brothers flashed upstairs and came back down within about a minute, a single duffel bag thrown over Jasper's shoulder.

"Oh no, not you," Alice waved me off easily. "Someone accidentally splattered her hair with food just after lunch. It was a near thing when Jasper and I showed up in the hall. Luckily Rosalie likes staying in one place much more than fighting over her hair."

Jasper and Edward both snickered, and Alice sighed as she pushed them both towards the back of the house. "Go on. Stop laughing, get running, and keep to the northern part of the woods. You'll avoid Rosalie and Emmett that way."

Snickering still, the two brothers disappeared in a blur, leaving Alice to pull me upstairs for whatever discussion she had in mind.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prefaces/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
Carlisle's teal shirt is a nod to Made In Morocco by ThisIsTrueImmortality. I definitely recommend reading that fic. :)

Previously – Carlisle registered Mireille at Forks High and Alice and Jasper joined them. Carlisle and Mireille discussed Edward's Homecoming invitation and his loneliness over the years. Edward played Vivaldi and discussed musical moods with Mireille. Edward teased Mireille and she panicked about her health. Edward apologized and they returned to the piano. Edward played Beethoven for Mireille and Mireille contemplated Edward's melancholy. Rosalie angrily returned home, Jasper and Edward went for a run/spar, and Alice pulled Mireille upstairs for a discussion.

Chapter 10: Instinctive

As it turned out, Alice's idea of a 'discussion' was to give me fashion quizzes in a variety of areas that I had barely even thought of before. The real test, however, was when Alice laid out a hoard of clothing options from her closet and insisted I was to mix and match until I had six different outfits, including accessories and undergarments. Rather more interested than I thought I would have been, I took as much time as my mind would allow in such an exercise and came up with six outfits that I would gladly have worn out myself had I been the one wearing them.

"Oh, that's not bad at all," Alice's chipper voice startled me out of examining the last outfit I had put together. "They look better in person."

While it was difficult not to roll my eyes, I managed to withhold my instinctive response as the small vampire analyzed my style options.

"I suppose you'll do all right on your own," she finally commented, obviously reluctant to give up her fashion command post.

"How sweet of you." I sighed and sat on the vanity bench. Giving me a reproachful look, Alice began returning her clothes to their original locations in the enormous closets, coming back to pull me up from my seat and lead the way up to the third floor before I'd even remotely rested my feet.

"What are we doing now?" I asked confusedly.

"Changing," was her simple answer, as if that explained everything.

"Uh-huh," I went on flatly. "And why am I changing?"

"Dancing lessons!" she informed me in a voice that clearly said don't tell me you're serious.

"Hm. That." Not much else came to mind now that my lessons were upon me. Except nerves, that is. I had never gained a particular talent in dancing. Granted, I'd never taken lessons either, but that didn't fill me with any confidence as to my skills.

"Oh, cheer up," Alice sighed in exasperation and twirled me suddenly through the door of my shared room. "It'll be fine. I swear. You'll even have fun."

"With five perfect dancers watching me?" I asked dubiously. "Somehow I doubt that, Alice."

"Um… about that…" Alice bit her lip nervously of a sudden, her eyes somewhat shifty.

"What aren't you telling me?" I reluctantly questioned.

"Rosalie decided she would like to dance tonight, too," the small woman explained hesitantly.

"They'll be watching, too." If I swallowed a little convulsively, it really wasn't my fault. Nerves increased drastically by this unwelcome fact, I started to wring my hands a little.

"Yes," she admitted, biting her lip just as nervously. "But I haven't seen anything being embarrassing, so…"

"So what am I wearing? A ball gown?" was my wry question – an attempt to throw off the anxiety, although I was definitely not successful.

"Hardly," Alice laughed sarcastically, playing along with my change of subject and disappearing into my new closet at the back of the alcove I still had not explored. "It's just a dance dress. Actually it's extremely basic, but you'll look well enough in it."

"Flattering language," I snorted.

"Well, it's only a plain white dress, after all. I didn't exactly have a lot of options last night, you know," she argued from within, before abruptly reappearing with low, white sling-back pumps and a dress just a basic as she'd explained it would be – floor-length, long-sleeved, modest neckline, and no detail whatsoever.

"Okay, so it is basic," I admitted, shaking my head. "Very basic. But I like it. For some reason I find those dress styles romantic. It must be the sway of the skirt."

"It is pretty when you can twirl," she agreed with a tiny smile. "Anyway, get changed and I'll be back in a jiffy."

She was gone in an instant, but of course was present in the room when I emerged from the bathroom with my dress on. Before I even glanced over at her, she had already pulled my hair into a low, smooth ponytail to hang over my shoulder and then returned to standing in front of me.

Very much unlike my own plain dress, the little vampire's outfit was a long, vibrant red chiffon dress with a low v-neckline and a fabric belted waist. The open-toed heels adorning Alice's feet shone as vividly as the dress she wore; with her spiky dark hair and golden eyes, the red was quite striking.

"Shoes," Alice reminded me, remarkably patient while I dawdled staring. Shaking myself, I reached down to grab the sling-back heels, only to read the label inside and go into shock again. Knowing something and seeing it for real are very different experiences, I quickly realized.

"These are… Jimmy Choos?" I wondered, agape at the idea that I was wearing the pricey things for so basic an event.

"Of course," she cheerily answered, then shocked me further with, "as are mine, Esme's, and Rosalie's. Come on."

Speechless despite knowing the Cullens wore designer clothing every day, I slipped the shoes on and dumbly followed my tiny guide down to the main level, where the rest of the family waited for us in the cleared dining area. Sitting in a chair off to the side with Carlisle standing near, Esme looked radiant in a flowing, sleeveless teal dress that crossed over the bust; sleek matching pumps adorned her feet. Rosalie (to no surprise whatsoever) wore a tight, low-cut dress; the fact it was long-sleeved and black – rather than red – only enhanced the effect, as did pointy black heels with strips of leopard print on the back of the heel and across the toe. Rosalie's long blonde locks looked effortlessly sleek.

The men all looked leaner, taller, and ten times as attractive in dress shirts, black slacks, and shiny dress shoes; each of them sported shirts indicative of their dance partner's fabric color. Or should I say, their eventual and intended dance partner. Carlisle's teal button-up was not meant for my white dress, and vice-versa for Edward and Esme. No doubt Alice had planned it all beforehand.

"Eek," I murmured with heavily diluted sarcasm, causing all four men to chuckle.

"Don't look so worried," Esme laughed lightly, grasping my hands reassuringly as we came level to their position. "Just do your best, dear, and it will be fine."

"We'll only laugh with you," Emmett nodded in mock graveness, countering it with a little wink.

Rosalie's smirk barely penetrated my thoughts as Carlisle, Jasper, and Alice laughed. Looking far less amused was Edward, who leaned casually (almost to the point of boredom) against the back wall of glass; likely his weak humor over the situation was due to the point that he had been listening to my nerves run rampant for some minutes. I would have apologized to Edward, but Esme didn't find her burly son's remark funny in any way and reproached him, "Emmett, don't be rude!"

"Do you ever give straight responses?" I wondered dryly to the aforementioned vampire instead.

"Occasionally." Carelessly the big vampire shrugged, sending Jasper into a fit of snickering.

"Ignore them, dear," Esme almost cooed, standing to put an arm about my shoulders and pull me out to the center of the floor space. "Carlisle will be teaching you mainly. Edward and I will give you an example of any steps or positions, if you need it."

"You just like dancing with Edward," I teased tentatively. Snorting a bit, Edward stepped forward to offer his mother a hand.

"I can't even deny that," Esme laughed richly. "He's a wonderful dancer."

Shaking my head resignedly at Edward's vaguely smug expression, I stood uncertainly where Esme had led me to stand. I watched the mother of five accept her son's invitation, feeling very little confidence in my abilities as Carlisle stepped towards me.

"Shall we?" the doctor offered, extending a hand with patience plain on his golden features.

"If we must," I sighed, my jest only half-hearted.

Smiling in understanding, Carlisle began, "I'll start with the hold... First, I'll put my hand on the back of your left shoulder."

He did just that, the palm of his hand resting on my shoulder blade, before continuing, "Then you lay your left arm over the top of mine and place your left hand on my shoulder…"

It was slightly awkward, considering our height difference, to actually reach his shoulder with even the very tips of my fingers. Cursing my short stature for the millionth time in my life, I frowned in confusion.

"Don't worry if you can't reach," Alice giggled from her place by the island. "Just lay your hand as far up as your reach allows."

Sighing slightly, I nodded, but nearly scowled when I saw that my fingertips only crept halfway up Carlisle's upper arm. Edward alone remained unresponsive and I couldn't have thanked him more for it. Emmett was laughing out loud by the time I had my hand in place, irritating me beyond belief and making Esme glare at him in reproach. However, I wasn't nearly as irritated when Alice giggled in Jasper's arms, since she knew what I was going through. She had to have a harder time of reaching Jasper's shoulder than I did reaching Carlisle's.

"And finally, I will take your right hand in my left," Carlisle finished with an amused smile, lifting up our joined hands and pulling me so close that I felt my face growing slightly warm. "That's the hold. Obviously you don't have to do it formally at the dance, but I suspect Edward will anyway."

Half-a-glance at Edward proved the doctor right, as Esme and Edward were definitely in the formal position while they interestedly or impatiently observed us – and standing just as close together as we were, to my relief. That eased my embarrassment, although the no-longer-serene face of my future dance partner did not allow the pink of my cheeks to recede entirely. Beneath that smooth façade, Edward was quite enjoying himself.

"Now we're going to do the box step," Carlisle informed me, voice calm and placid, plainly not having any indication of what passed between his eldest son and me. "We won't be turning about the room yet and we'll move very slowly, so don't fret overmuch."

A grateful smile crossed my face as he moved on. "The first step for you will be with your right foot. When I move my left foot forward, you put your right foot backward. All right?"

"Okay," I agreed nervously, trying to figure out if I even knew how to step far enough without looking at the floor, which I was doing quite frequently at that very moment. And we weren't even moving yet!

"It's practically instinctive," Jasper advised, though he did nothing to ease my awkwardness. In fact, he seemed to be holding back snickers. "You learn to feel when your partner is stepping and how they move."

Somehow, I wondered if Jasper wasn't subtly teasing me over my embarrassment. But I had no real proof in spite of my suspicions, and so decided to let it go.

"That's part of the reason you stand so close while dancing," came the wickedly amused comment from Rosalie.

Great. Now even she was making fun of me. Maybe my suspicions of Jasper were not so far off… Gritting my teeth over the muffled laughter of everyone except Carlisle and Esme – who were both glancing around at their children suspiciously – was all I could do. Snapping at any of them, making any type of remark in kind, would only fuel their fire.

"Carlisle?" I prompted the doctor, lifting my head up with as much confidence as I could muster.

Turning back to me instantly, though wariness remained in his posture, Carlisle explained, "As I said, you will first step backward with your right foot. Then you move your left foot to the left, and bring your right foot over, to end with your feet side by side again. Does that make sense?"

"Yes," I nodded firmly, ready to begin.

"Would you like to see it once?" Esme kindly inquired, to which I shook my head.

"Thanks, but I think I understand it pretty well," I answered certainly.

"Then let us try it," Carlisle suggested, pleasantly surprised by my abrupt change in attitude. "On three – One, two, three…"

At first it was unsettling trying to match his steps without getting my toes squashed because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I was able to step just as he said. Back, left, and step… The three steps. One for each of the three counts of the waltz. We tried it several times, just to make sure I had it down, by which time I felt far more appeased as to my capabilities and far less bothered by the teasing.

"You're doing quite well," Esme praised me with a smile. Standing by her side, Edward also smiled at the progress and probably at my thoughts, positive as they had become.

"Indeed you are. And now we have only to complete the box step," Carlisle informed me. Confused, I looked back up at him.

"What we just did was only a half box," he patiently explained. "The second half is really the same procedure, just reversed. This time you step forward with your left foot, step to the right with your right foot, and move your left foot over, so that both feet are beside each other once more. And now we are in approximately the same spot where we began, having completed the box step."

"Same procedure, reversed," I muttered more to myself than any particular person, now understanding what the doctor had meant by that. "Now I know why it's called a box step, anyway."

Another round of practice on the second half box, my confidence growing by the minute, and I was ready to admit to myself that Jasper had actually given me sound advice. It really was instinctive as you went along and learned to move with your dance partner. I only hoped Edward was half as patient as Carlisle when we attempted it.

Happily, Carlisle announced, "Now we just put the two together. Start with the first half, then end with the second half. All right?"

Nodding excitedly for this step up in my dancing lesson, I readjusted my hand on his arm and much more easily moved as he did, never once looking down at my feet while we practiced the full box step several times. I even found myself smiling throughout it. Putting the steps to music, as I had no doubt we would soon be doing, was likely to make me actually laugh.

"Wonderful!" Carlisle complimented me after completing one last box. "You're doing excellently, Mireille."

"What about some music now?" Alice enthusiastically suggested, to which I couldn't say no. "Great!"

Not having actually answered her yet, I had to laugh at her response.

"I'm guessing no one planned to object," Esme laughed also.

"They wouldn't dare," Edward added, shaking his head.

"Hush!" Alice retorted, choosing a disc and putting it in. "We finally get to dance, too!"

"Wasn't that a given?" I wondered in surprise as a very slow, proper waltz tune filled the air. "I mean, you didn't see me totally failing, did you?"

"No, of course not," she assured me simply, dancing over to Jasper to pull him onto the floor. Their height difference, for some reason only now appearing so obvious, was quite comical. Desperately I tried to stamp out my giggling as I watched them walk out onto the dance space, but Jasper was all too aware of my high bout of humor.

"You should see her dance with Emmett," the Texan joked dryly, turning my giggles into laughter at the idea. Emmett gladly joined in, to which Alice rolled her eyes, but she was giggling again soon enough.

When I turned to face Carlisle, something from the corner of my eye caught my attention. For some reason, Esme looked pleased as pie about something or other. Incapable of fathoming why her emotions traveled that path in particular, I shook myself internally and focused on dancing my first waltz instead. So well did I learn it, that Carlisle didn't even warn me when he began to turn us. Upon realizing his slight trick, my predictions of earlier couldn't have been truer; laughter bubbled up as Carlisle and I successfully waltzed around the floor between the others.

Chuckles sprang up from most everyone at my enthusiasm and Esme's face lit up radiantly.

Our excitement, however, was cut short. First by Alice's annoyed groaning and second by the ringing of a phone. Ending our dance and apologizing to me, Carlisle slipped across the room to answer the call. It was just as well, I supposed, since my feet kind of hurt when I really thought about it. Not bothering to listen in on the conversation, I walked over to take a seat on one of the dining chairs and wait out what was going on.

"That was Dr. Gerandy," Carlisle sighed at last – clearly for my benefit alone – after ending the call. "There was a complicated accident on the 101, south of Forks. We're too small to house everyone from the pile-up, but due to our proximity we'll be receiving the worst cases."

"You'll be gone a while, then," Esme sighed a bit sadly, though she tried to appear toughened about it. I felt guilty that I had been the one dancing with Carlisle when his wife had probably wanted to. Now they wouldn't be able to dance together at all, thanks to him dancing with me.

"You have to be joking," Edward voiced suddenly albeit quietly, his tone bordering on incredulous. Looking around along with the rest of the family to see what he was talking about, I was surprised to see him scowling a bit – straight at me. "Don't tell me you're actually taking on the responsibility for a multiple-vehicle accident."

Irritably, Rosalie interceded, "What are you raving about?"

"Mireille felt guilty for a moment," Jasper added, brow furrowed.

"Guilty about what, dear?" Esme worriedly asked, appearing beside me to fuss mindlessly with the ends of my hair. "I hope you weren't being hard on yourself."

"I wasn't beating myself up or anything," was my indignant reply, thankfully not a tone which Esme took insult over. "It was just a stupid little stray thought, not a full-blown self-flagellation. Honestly, Edward, you over-dramatize everything way too much."

"Me?" he half-laughed, vague sarcasm evident in the sound. It looked like my comment had only made him irritable. "That's so hypocritical I could choke on it."

"What is with you?" Emmett wondered in confusion, frowning at his brother. I couldn't help agreeing with the big vampire. Edward was so agitated over such a little thing! It wasn't fair.

"Life isn't fair," he retorted, thankfully not actually angry. Yet.

"You ought to know," I argued back, getting agitated myself. "Considering you're propagating the fact!"

"Please!" Carlisle interrupted abruptly, some astonishment on his features. "Will the two of you kindly act like the adults I know you to be? This is foolish."

"Edward, please explain yourself?" Esme asked in a demanding manner that brooked no refusal.

"She's blaming herself because you didn't get to dance with Carlisle," he answered, eyes flickering toward me reproachfully. "As if she had a hand in that car accident occurring at this particular time."

"How could you think that?" Alice cut in, surprised at me.

"I did not think that!" I countered amazedly, gaping at Edward. "Where in the world did you get that from? It was just that Esme looked so disappointed Carlisle had to leave and I only thought it was a shame that she couldn't dance with him because he had been dancing with me. How is that some kind of guilt complex?"

"It's not," Rosalie inserted her opinion sharply, surprising everyone by supporting my side of the argument. Scowling again, Edward crossed his arms and moved out of sight.

Sighing, Esme smiled weakly at Carlisle and gestured for them to step outside together. Matching her sigh, but not smiling, the Cullen patriarch disappeared upstairs and came back down with his black bag. In those few seconds, Esme had slipped on her coat, clearly ready to go with him at least part of the way. Mildly surprised by this, though clearly not unhappy, the doctor held open the door, threw a wave to the five of us still standing in the kitchen and dining area, and followed his wife out.

A moment or so after hearing the car drive off and become no more than a distant purr, no one seemed capable of moving. Edward's strange behavior weighed on everyone's minds no doubt; certainly it weighed on mine. I just couldn't fathom what had been so terrible in my head that made him react that way.

Harsh laughter from the stairs caught my ears, but it wasn't long before another – far less welcome – sound graced the Cullen home.

Even from all the way down on the main level, I could vaguely hear Edward's door slam.

Well, our door.

That was just a little more awkward than I could possibly have suspected. In theory it all seemed great, but when it really got stuck in my head, I was terrified of how things had already changed because of me. The panic of the previous evening all flooded back to me and I couldn't imagine how to fix the blatant changes. Bella was not supposed to come into the Cullen house and find Edward's room looking like my room. Even worse, it was a shared room. It wasn't that Edward gave it up for me to have; he was actually taking stock in it still. How would Bella feel, knowing that another girl, who was not a 'relative' of the Cullens, was sharing the room of her potential — er, friend?

Groaning internally, I plunked right back down on my chair despondently. Should I just let the family read the books? Should I pick and choose the parts they would need for the moment? Maybe I should briefly summarize what was going to happen in the future? I was just so confused!

"You should calm yourself, Mireille," Jasper's deep voice invaded my scattered thoughts, just as his hand descended to barely graze mine.

"Sorry, Jasper," I sighed.

Appearing at my other side, brow furrowed with slight concern, Alice wondered, "What's up?"

"Why would those books show up, if not for all of you to learn from them?" I asked her, needing help to sort out my confusion.

After a time of thought, the small vampire admitted hesitantly, "I can't think of any other reasons off hand… But why does that bother you so much?"

"If those books are to be learned from," I replied, "then why not just have them turn up in your possession? Why have some random person show up and then the books come to that person, and not your family?"

"In other words… why are you here?" Rosalie inserted, though there was no insult in her words, merely curiosity. How odd.

"Exactly," I admitted, gloom beginning to set in.

"We might not have believed them if they showed up that way," suggested Emmett, more serious than I'd expected.

"Why not?" was my only question.

"They're just books," he shrugged. "Anyone can write a book and leave it for someone else. We might have thought the books were a trick or something and then burned them. But with you here, Edward can read your mind and know that the books are true."

Blinking owlishly, I found myself speechless for a very long moment, until my brain finally caught up to my gaping mouth. "Emmett, that was brilliant. Thank you."

"Your welcome," he grinned widely, obviously pleased by his ingeniousness.

"Okay, so you needed me in order to believe they were real," I repeated, almost to myself. "And yet…"

"Yet?" Rosalie prompted me impatiently.

Frowning, I answered her slowly, "It still doesn't quite make sense. I mean, why my books in particular? Why not any old set of the books? As a matter of fact, why not any old person?"

"Didn't I already explain this?"

Snapping my face up towards the staircase, I found Edward standing uncomfortably on the bottom step, hands in his pockets.

"What was your explanation again?" I made sure to ask, just in case I'd forgotten some of it.

"I still say you are here because it's a better future for you," he insisted. "A chance to make a life you want, rather than just mucking it through hour by hour."

"I'm pretty sure that was a little more than what you originally said," was my dry comment.

"You didn't seem to believe my original statements," he argued lightly. "I figured a new angle might break through more solidly."

Allowing the statement with as little of my underlying disbelief as possible, I just shook my head. Then I asked, "Why are you so annoyed with me?"

"I was annoyed," he sighed, coming to stand in front of me. "I'm sorry about that. You just… irked me. I know you didn't outright believe that you were to blame for that accident and Esme not dancing with Carlisle, but it bothered me that your mind might turn in that direction, given the right situation."

No words came to mind that sufficiently analyzed his reply, so I ended up silent and thoughtful, which apparently satisfied Edward for the time being.

"I'm going out," Rosalie announced out of the blue, examining her nails in boredom.

"Have fun," responded Alice, bouncing up out of her seat beside me. "And don't bother with the gold one. It's terrible quality."

While one of my eyebrows rose in wonderment, Rosalie just nodded normally at her sister and left – presumably to change out of her dance attire. Close on her heels was Emmett, already walking sans dress shoes.

"I won't bother to ask what you were talking about," I commented wryly.

"That's probably better for your health," said Edward, rolling his eyes.

"I think we'll go out, too," Alice thoughtfully remarked, ignoring her brother entirely. "Jasper?"

"Gladly," he nodded, lips lifting slightly at the corners, and moved to the stairs with his wife just as Rosalie and Emmett came down in jeans and fall coats.

"See you, Mireille," Emmett called out behind him as he and his blonde beauty glided through the front door.

"See you," I answered. The jeep grumbled to life at a distance and was heard driving off. When Alice and Jasper also headed to the front door not two minutes later, I slouched in my chair. What had been turning into a very fun evening with everyone together now felt empty. In a matter of one day, I already was spoiled for the company of a group.

"Don't look so glum," Alice pleaded, encouraging cheer in her tone. "Edward is more than capable of keeping you entertained. And Esme will be back soon."

"I know," I shrugged, only a little sheepish.

"We'll be back later tonight," she added, sighing slightly at my lackluster reply. "Have fun."

"I'll try to make that happen," Edward dryly offered.

Giggling, his tiny sister grabbed Jasper's hand and they ran straight out to the forest surrounding the front yard.

"Are you hungry?" Edward asked suddenly, turning back to me.

"I kind of am," I answered in surprise. "Wow, I totally forgot about dinner."

"Precisely why I reminded you," he smirked, gesturing over to the kitchen area as invitation.

"Thanks for that." So saying, I rose a bit slower than normal from the chair and walked over to the refrigerator, my body now aching from the level of physical activity I had initiated by dancing.

Concernedly, Edward inquired, "Are you all right?"

"I'm okay." A half-laugh escaped me at his worry as I moved to take out the leftover pasta salad Esme had made earlier that afternoon, sitting at the island for my meal. "I just don't normally do that much of a workout on a daily basis."

"Oh, good," he sighed in relief.

The house became quite silent after that, even the sound of me eating coming across as immensely quiet. I didn't really have a lot to say even when I finished. My mind wandered over the day absently, nothing in particular keeping my interest for long. I just hoped Edward didn't mind the lack of conversation.

"It's fine," he offered sincerely, sneakily nabbing my plate and spoon to deposit them in the dishwasher before I could.

"I thought you were going to keep that in mind?" was my suspicious query.

"I have kept it in mind," he replied with a straight face, "but I never promised we would always follow it."

Mocking a huffy attitude, I hopped down from the island stool and walked into the dining area. However, finding nothing to do but start a roundabout pacing, I was soon snagged by the shoulders and turned back to face Edward.

"We should practice," he suggested, flashing over to the stereo to turn it on and returning to my side before the same waltz tune even started. "Don't you think?"

"Sure," I quietly agreed, nervous to twirl the floor with such a talented dancer.

"You were doing wonderfully earlier," Edward smiled exasperatedly, tapping my hands to stop the wringing motions and pulling me into place for the waltz.

Biting my lip, I tentatively admitted, "You make me nervous. The books even mentioned you and Esme dancing around like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers."

A laugh burst from Edward upon hearing that, before he started to waltz with me. Dancing with Edward didn't feel like nearly as flawless of a process as it had with Carlisle, however. All I could think was about messing up and feeling stupid. The number of times I inadvertently stepped on Edward's toes, despite it not hurting him, made me cringe. It got to the point where Edward actually stopped trying to dance and took a long breath, our arms still in position and our bodies nearly a foot apart.

"Why is it so different this time?" he asked as patiently as he could manage, though it was plainly very difficult.

"I told you," I explained again, feeling a tad agitated and very embarrassed to be constantly repeating myself. "You make me nervous."

"Then will you allow me enough trust to try something?" he questioned, obviously curious.

"What something would that be?" I asked, again suspicious.

"Close your eyes," he answered, ever so calm.

"I don't think that's a good idea at all."

No. Not at all did I find that a plausible situation. If I couldn't see, how could I dance? It sounded positively impossible.

"You dance with your feet," argued Edward with great determination, "and you determine potential movements by feeling what I'm about to do. Hence why we are not supposed to stand a foot apart. The rest is up to me, by leading you properly."

To emphasize our need for a closer stance, the bronze-haired vampire tugged me close like Carlisle had, but my continuing discomfort with the idea of closing my eyes caused him to sigh, wafting the sweet scent of his breath towards me. It was a very nice smell, but a tiny bit distracting because of how hard I suddenly attempted to determine if it smelled like honey, lilac, and sun or not. Chuckling thankfully brought me out of my ruminations, bringing me to look up at Edward.

"Do I need to keep you stunned?" he asked, golden eyes sparkling with mischief.

Fearing the stupidity that might ensue if he did just that, I snapped my eyes shut instantaneously, hearing only the vibrant laughter of my dance partner in response. Turning serious after a moment, Edward only insisted, "Trust me."

Tentative though my first steps were, I did feel when Edward moved and I knew the timing well enough to anticipate the steps as he initiated them. Nerves didn't really leave me for a long time as we danced, but the more we did it, the more I trusted Edward. What really cemented it was the fact (as Edward pointed out) that he could read in my mind how my own body was moving and changing and what he needed to do to keep us in line with each other.

With that, I gradually grew to the point of opening my eyes while we whirled around the floor. Same as the first time I began to turn the steps with Carlisle, I was laughing at the accomplishment of successfully waltzing. Disappointment flooded me when we stopped after a long while of fun, but I knew my feet were going to be paying dearly as it was, let alone if I continued further.

"You see?" Edward smiled at the end of it. "You're a wonderful dancer."

"For a human," I tacked on humorously, still on a sort of high.

"Well… yes," he laughed, "but that's not really the point."

"I like dancing," I confessed, restraining a large grin.

"Good," he replied, smile widening.

"Hey," I spoke up abruptly, remembering that Esme had never come back from driving with Carlisle.

"Oh, she came back," Edward informed me amusedly. "While your eyes were closed, she snuck in and watched us for a little while."

"Whoops," I mumbled embarrassedly.

"You couldn't have noticed me, dear," Esme herself spoke from behind me. The caramel-haired lady stood at the foot of the stairs, smiling over at the two of us. "I wanted to see you dancing without making you nervous, so Edward let me sneak by unnoticed."

"That's good, because I was afraid I'd missed something."

"No, not at all," she assured me.

A slightly awkward silence took place while I wondered what to do next. It was early yet, so I certainly wasn't going to sleep, but I couldn't determine anything in particular to do.

"I think I'll go change," I spoke after a little while of fruitless thinking. "So my feet don't hate me any more than they already do."

Laughing slightly, Esme agreed, "All right."

In hindsight, removing my heels would have been the most appropriate measure to take before climbing all the way to the third floor, but my mind apparently was not working as well as it ought to have been. I was halfway up the stairs and complaining inwardly when Edward literally picked me up – eliciting a gasp of surprise from me – and plucked the heels from my aching feet before setting me back down.

"I'm guessing that's better?" he wondered knowingly, smirking as usual and dangling my heels from his fingertips teasingly.

"Can you ever not be sarcastic?" I asked rhetorically while snatching my heels back, though I imagined he would probably answer anyway.

"Occasionally, I fulfill that condition," he remarked easily, joining me in my walk upstairs.

"Remarkable as it sounds," I changed tack, rather than take the bait, "I don't really know what to do with myself right now."

"Music, books, movies, TV, shopping, internet, talking…" Edward listed off rapidly. "I'm sure there are many more, but I won't bore you by rambling."

"All feasible," I shrugged, glancing at the walls just to see the artwork again. "I guess I'm trying to think of what will be the best to help all of you with the future. That has to be a part of the reason I'm here, otherwise I highly doubt the books would have shown up like they did."

"I'll agree that far," he nodded thoughtfully, though he quickly turned mischievous. "You must have been amazed that we didn't indulge in reading all the books while you slept."

"I didn't even imagine that, actually," I admitted, shocked. "Alice swept me away so quickly… And of course, for me it's not strange to have the books around, so I wasn't thinking like that at all."

"A very good point," Edward agreed. "Not that you needed to worry. Emmett decided to read the books, but Alice saw it would end up going rather badly if we did it without you."

"I don't know why that would be true," I said with a frown.

"So when do you think you'll divulge these books to us?" he changed the subject slightly. "Or will you just release snippets of information as we need them?"

"I don't know," I sighed deeply, throwing my hands up in frustration. "I haven't really had time to think about that. Sometimes I feel you should know everything possible, but then other times it seems too dangerous to hand out your future so freely."

"Too dangerous?" he repeated with some incredulity, eyebrows shooting upwards. "That sounds a little exaggerated, don't you think?"

"With Aro ready to wrap his greedy fingers around your neck?" I retorted more sharply than I had intended – and perhaps too informative.

"I disagree," he countered plainly, brows furrowed now as he continued, "Aro sounds worse and worse every time I hear about him."

"Sounds pretty true to life," I grumbled bitterly.

"What has he done to make you feel this way?" Edward questioned concernedly, albeit quietly. "You make him out to be a dastardly adversary to avoid. The last Carlisle heard from him, Aro was quite congenial and wished him well."

"He's greedy," I explained, deciding this was one fact the Cullens needed to know as soon as possible, no matter what happened. "And I don't mean for wealth, although he seems to be in that area, too... I'm talking about greed for people – people with talents. Your talent, for instance, would be an amazing addition to Aro's brood."

"Aro can read minds already," Edward argued, shaking his head in disagreement. "Why would he want me?"

"You don't require physical contact to hear what's going on up here," I countered immediately, tapping my temple for emphasis. "Aro does, however, and he also can only read one mind at a time, unlike you. Didn't Carlisle ever tell you that?"

"We've actually discussed the Volturi very rarely," he confessed, brows burrowing deeper and a frown creasing his face. "Mostly about the laws. I'm not entirely sure Carlisle even knew Aro could only read one person at a time… This is rather disturbing."

"Tell me about it," I sighed again. "Now that I'm here… now that all this is real… everything I read about in the books makes me so uncomfortable because I know any of it could actually happen; to you, to the family, to Bella, to me… to everyone. It's overwhelming to think through."

Just thinking about it so vaguely in that moment was giving me a headache and a slight anxiety attack – which, of course, Edward noticed.

"Let's change the subject for now," he suggested suddenly. "You're here a year earlier than the story begins. Surely spending a couple of days avoiding the topic is not going destroy our chances of improving the future?"

"I certainly hope not," was all I could think of to say as we came up to the door of my—his—oh, our room!

"That is awkward," Edward hesitantly spoke up, but the hesitance did not seem related to that particular thought. Curious as to what troubled him now, I stopped just inside the bedroom doorway and glanced up at his pensive features with questions in my eyes.

Taking the hint, he tried to get out what he worried over. "I just wanted to ask… Is Bella—I mean, will she be… No, I mean—In the books, was she… Ugh!"

Such annoyance was by no means unusual from what I knew of this particular vampire, but ineloquence to this severity definitely was. As was his openly embarrassed expression.

"I'm sorry," he sighed irritably. "I don't want to assume too much, as that would very arrogant… But considering the situation in my family, I have to wonder what this girl, Bella, will… be in our family. Where she fits in. Do you understand what I mean?"

While I was certain I did understand, I wasn't altogether positive I could tell him what I knew about that subject. If I prompted a relationship for him that did not naturally come to be, then would Edward be going about the relationship the wrong way? Was that any different from Alice's visions or was it a far more dangerous game to play?

"Mireille?" Edward cut into my thoughts, sounding rather uncomfortable. Turning back up to his face, I lifted an eyebrow to show I was listening. "You… Well, you pretty much confirmed what I was thinking about Bella. Just by worrying about forcing a relationship… I'm sorry."

How could I have let that slip? Stupid, stupid, stupid! Groaning loudly at my stupidity, I actually tried to palm my forehead as a means of venting my frustration with myself.

"Hey, don't…" Edward started, quickly reaching towards my hand to stop it.

"I didn't mean for you to find that out," I groaned again, hand encased in his cold fingers. "You heard my worries. You know why I didn't want that out there yet…"

"I don't think it's as much of an issue as you think," he made to console me, squeezing my hand.

"But I do," I replied anxiously. "You don't know… Oh, but how could you if you didn't read it?"

Sensing my thoughts were too jumbled to keep discussing at that moment, Edward remained silent and allowed me time to go change into the blouse and jeans I had worn earlier that day. Emerging from the bathroom no more enlightened than before, I wasted time by hanging the white dress with impossible precision – even going so far as to pick off nonexistent lint or smooth wrinkles that were invisible – in my new closet. When that failed to give me enough time, I took the effort to look through most of my new socks and pick a pair I liked for the night.

Foregoing the chance to examine my closet and the rest of the room in depth until I was more coherent, I walked back towards the main part of the room. There was nothing left to distract me except for Edward sitting cross-legged on the pale aqua sofa; his inquisitive gaze drove me crazy.

"I'm trying not to stare," he informed me pleasantly, eyes sparkling with good humor. "It's just that you're so distracted."

"That makes me feel so much better," I retorted huffily, feeling less than stellar that I was the object of his amusement right then.

"Forgive me," he laughed on a breath, turning to gaze at the sofa beneath him briefly before returning his gaze to me. "Really, I don't want you to overwork yourself trying to figure this all out right now. Regardless your worries, we have more than a year before Bella arrives in Forks. There are three months now and three in the summer that will be free of schooling and we'll be able to think on it all. How does that sound?"

"While it sounds reasonable," I began tentatively, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, "we have no idea what could happen between now and then. For all we know, a fire could burn this house down next week, with the books in it."

"Do you often think up these pessimistic probabilities?" he chuckled.

Not amused by his joking, I crossed my arms defensively. "It's entirely possible, thank you very much. And if you don't mind, I'd appreciate you taking this more seriously."

"All right, no wise cracks," he agreed, spreading his hands out before him in appeasement. "In all seriousness, aside from reading the books all day tomorrow or something of that nature, I don't know what you expect to happen. Either we wait or we don't. Unless you want to spend your free time going through all the books and writing down only the most pertinent information?"

"We'll have to just read them," I sighed in resignation. "It's not that I don't want to spend my time listing the significant points, but I don't feel I'm qualified to makes the choices of what is and isn't important to all of you. All of you should be the ones to decide that."

"Sounds like a plan," he summarized, smiling a little. "You see? It wasn't as complicated as you worried it would be."

"You won't say that once we start reading," I retorted lightly, giving up on not hinting towards things.

Edward grimaced. "I can imagine. But again, for some reason I am in the mood of avoidance, so let's discuss something else, shall we?"

"Like what?" I asked, hopping onto the bed and allowing my body to fall where it would. It was a relaxing, if odd, way to lie down, with my head near the foot of the bed and my legs almost perpendicular to my torso. I couldn't even see Edward from my position.

"I'm not sure," he hesitated, then asked, "You must have a lot of things you're curious about… Why don't you ask me something?"

"But most of my questions are about your human life," I warned him hesitantly. That couldn't be the most joyous subject to remember.

"Take it away," Edward encouraged me. "I can handle it, I swear."

"Okay, well…" I thought for a moment what I would like to ask. "Do you have a lot of memories of your father?"

"Father…" he repeated, surprised. "You mean Edward Masen?"

"Yeah," I confirmed, biting the inside of my cheek.

"Well, not really," he confessed, sounding as if he were frowning slightly. "From what little I know, he was often gone on business and didn't spend an inordinate amount of time at home… Why do you ask?"

"I just thought about how often your mother was discussed in the books," I answered honestly. "Your father was never really brought up, except when Carlisle talks about him—um…"

"Dying?" Edward suggested the word much easier than I could, smiling at my mild astonishment. "It's not hard to say it anymore. I've had almost a century to deal with that particular aspect."

"I guess I'm overly sentimental or sensitive about that kind of thing," I mentioned. "For other people, anyway."

"You really don't need to worry about it with me," he insisted. "Only Rosalie is likely to take your head off if you ask about her human past, as I'm sure you could understand."

"Yes, that I could definitely understand," I murmured sadly.

"Moving on, though," he continued with a breath. "What other things might you be interested in knowing?"

"Um… maybe we should just play twenty questions?" I joked.

"I'll go with that," he laughed a bit, moving in a blur to sit on the bed beside my inert form. "You've already asked me something, so I'll start…"


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Previously – Alice tested Mireille on fashion and realized Mireille is fashionable. Carlisle taught Mireille the waltz and the others teased her nervousness. Mireille overcame her nerves to dance wonderfully. Dancing was interrupted by a highway accident and Edward argued with Mireille about feeling guilty. Carlisle headed up to the hospital, Edward disappeared in a huff, and Mireille began to wonder why she is in their world. Emmett offered a logical reason and Edward returned to add to it. Edward apologized, the others left the house, and Edward tried to practice dancing with Mireille. Mireille was nervous and Edward slowly persuaded her not to be. Mireille went upstairs to change, wondered how to reveal the books' information, and decided they would read them. Edward and Mireille agreed to play 20 Questions.

Chapter 11: Interview

"What's your favorite color?" Edward asked. This, the first of his 'twenty' questions, sounded a bit silly.

"You're really going back to the basics," I laughed, rising finally to sit Indian-style, facing him.

"The best place to begin," he shrugged.

"The particular shade matters, of course," I said first, then continued, "but I do seem to like a lot of blues and greens. Really, though, I love so many colors that it would be hard to specify. It all depends on how they're used, where, and why."

"That's quite a few qualifiers," he remarked wryly.

"It's how I do things, usually," I said. "What about you? Which color is your favorite?"

"Well, frankly, I agree with your qualifications," he muttered somewhat sheepishly.

"Oh, so you do, huh?" I teased him.

"It's more reasonable," he hedged, rolling his eyes at me before indicating, "Your turn to ask a question."

I asked the first question that came to mind, "What was your mother's maiden name?"

"Keating," he answered. Before I could fully wonder if it was an Irish name, he went on to say, "Yes, it's Irish. One set of my maternal great-grandparents immigrated to America in 1847 and the other set in 1849."

Seeing the interest in my eyes and hearing the questions in my mind, he sighed on a chuckle and began to talk about his mother's family in a bit more depth. "All of my mother's side was Irish and they came over because of the Potato Famine. Mother was named after her grandmother, Elizabeth Allen, as was the tradition for the first daughter in the family. Not that tradition made much difference when she had me. She was bound and determined to name me after my father, rather than after Samuel Masen, my grandfather."

"Samuel?" I wondered, brows lifted when I tried very hard to fit that name to the young man in front of me. It just didn't work. "No way. That name doesn't even remotely match you. It would be the same as calling you 'Eloise'."

Chortling loudly, he leaned down on one elbow with his lanky legs outstretched almost to the headboard. I only then noticed that he had removed his dress shoes.

"Don't you think you're a bit biased to the name Edward?" he inquired amusedly. "Considering the fact that it is my name and you've been reading about it for the past few years?"

I waved away his argument, "That's not the point. Samuel doesn't suit you. Period. You're mother definitely knew what she was doing when she ignored tradition."

At that thought, I grinned suddenly. Cautiously, Edward asked, "What?"

"The rebel Victorian lady." Still I grinned. "I think I would have liked her."

"I think you would have, too," he admitted with a smile. "She was cheerful like you, although a bit more confident in herself… A lot more, actually."

At my glaring, he snorted. "Don't look at me like that. You know it's true."

I decided to ignore that like a mature adult.

"What was your mother's maiden name?" he asked in kind.

"Bager," I answered shortly.

"Sorry, but you made me curious," he apologized for bringing up my family.

"It's fine. What's your favorite color of car?" I asked for a change of subject.

"Silver," he admitted a little sheepishly. I just shook my head; really I should have known.

"What's your favorite movie?" he inquired.

It took a long time to think of an answer to the question with my large variety of interests, and in the end I decided I couldn't really choose just one. "I like too many to pick and choose favorites."

"Well, then what are some of your favorites?" he persisted, interest on his face. Obviously my thoughts on the subject hadn't been very clear.

"Okay… well, The Lord of the Rings," I started with. "Oh, is Return of the King even out yet?"

"No, it's slated to come out in December," he informed me. Pausing briefly, he then asked another question, "Would you like to go see it?"

"Would I!" I exclaimed with a grin. "I never got to see it in the theater. The first time I ever watched the movies, it was 2005, I think. I was watching it on a portable DVD player, but their Return of the King DVDs were already out at the rental place, so I had to get it on VHS. Luckily we had the VCR hooked up still and I watched it."

Edward was laughing halfway through my speech, but I couldn't figure out why.

"You're definitely a diehard," he chuckled in response, forcing himself to composure. "Only a dedicated fan would have been incapable of waiting for the DVD to be returned."

"I wanted to watch them straight through," I shrugged sheepishly, to which he just laughed again.

"Well, the others would enjoy it, I'm sure," Edward suggested. "It's rare that we get to go out as a group to something so ordinary as movie. Mainly because we can never agree on which one to see. This one has us all interested, thankfully."

"What are your favorites, then?"

"Action, sports, and science films mainly," he answered.

"That's too broad," I pointed out quickly, leaning down onto my side.

"Okay… The Natural is a favorite of mine."

"Oh, I like that one too!" I exclaimed happily. "It's a good movie. And of course the music helps."

"It usually does," he chuckled, then abruptly announced, "My turn… Actually, you never answered my first question completely, so technically I get to ask two questions."

"Picky much?" I said rhetorically, not bothering to argue that he, too, had only answered with one film. "The Lord of the Rings, as I said. I also like Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. And I love the Granada TV version of Sherlock Holmes with Jeremy Brett. He was the best Sherlock I've ever seen."

"I would have to agree with you on that," Edward nodded. "That particular series was the truest to Doyle's writings, I think."

"Was that enough of an answer?" I dryly questioned him.

"For now," he smirked, making me wary. "What about books?"

"Same as my movies, really. I read less than I watch, although I do love to read."

"So Austen, Tolkien, Doyle?" he listed. "Any others?"

"Well, the bible, of course," I added thoughtfully. "Nancy Drew… Oh, and Star Wars! How could I forget?"

"You like Star Wars?" he half laughed. "Jasper and Emmett will love that."

"Do they like it or hate it?" I asked tentatively.

"Love it, actually," Edward grinned. "It's rather amusing, but Jasper might break me into pieces if I ever say that out loud."

"Okay…" I trailed off amusedly. "So you must hate it, then."

"No, I don't hate it," he qualified, "I just don't think it's the end-all obsession like they do."

"Sound like my kind of guys," I giggled, wishing I had my books with me.

"Your question," he waved to me, rolling his eyes.

"Is there anyone in the family who dislikes watching movies?" While it was rather random, I thought it was an interesting question anyway.

"We all enjoy watching films," he answered. "Emmett and Alice especially, but none of us would turn down the chance if it was a movie we might like. Now… what is your favorite season?"

After a moment of thought, I decided, "Fall. I love the colors and the brisk weather. Although Spring runs a close second, just because it's so full of new life."

"So you don't like extremes in the weather, do you?" Edward wondered.

"Not really," I shook my head, then scolded him, "And that was one question too many."

"You already answered it," he half-smiled at my indignation.

Rolling my eyes, I randomly asked, "Favorite time in history?"

"Difficult to say," was Edward's confession, brows furrowing deeply in thought. "I did like the teens and early twenties. It was when I grew up… Overall, however, I might say it's a tie between that and the fifties."

"Alice must have made things a lot livelier," I laughed.

"That is the understatement of the century," he chuckled with me. "She really did light up our lives. Emmett did as well, but he was a little… er… offensive sometimes."

Laughter bubbled up before I could stop it. "He isn't still?"

"That's beside the point," Edward retorted, grinning slightly. "So, based on what you know, which time in history would be your favorite?"

"The Victorian period was cool in a lot of ways," I began, thinking it over deeply. "I mean, not so good in some ways, but better in others… Yeah, that or the time you grew up in would be my favorite. The thirties sounded neat, too. I liked the clothing styles then. Actually, I liked the clothing for all three of those times."

"Don't tell me we have another Alice on our hands." He mocked a groan of frustration. "I can't take that much fashion under the same roof."

"Ha ha," I laughed sarcastically. "Aren't you so funny?"

"I think so." He smirked, then waved me onward. "Go on, ask your next question."

"Ugh… well… Are there animals that interest you from a more objective point of view?"

"You mean, do I find any animals interesting as something other than a food source?" he teased, partly serious.

"Yup." I popped the 'p' purposely, avoiding the darker aspect he was obviously starting to focus on.

"Sea creatures are intriguing," he answered thoughtfully, tapping his chin. "And in spite of my preference for mountain lion, I do find large cats fascinating on the whole. What about you?"

"I like big cats, too," I commented casually, forcing myself not to grin, although Edward's narrowed eyes proved he knew exactly what I wanted to do. "I also like sea otters, seals, horses, owls... Oh, I like a ton of animals, as long as they're at a distance. And penguins. I'm big on penguins."

If Edward's brows rose any higher, I would have been shocked. "Penguins?" His tone bespoke the incredulity he felt. My mind was drawn to the line Edward said in Eclipse and I giggled.

Edward snorted, breaking the tension. "Penguins. Lovely."

"Seems I don't change much," the current Edward laughed loudly.

"Was that all right?" I asked worriedly, my smile dropping to a concerned frown. "I know you said you're kind of on the avoidance track…"

"It's fine," he assured me quickly. "Don't worry about it. I don't have an issue with references here and there. I just think that large hints would be a bad idea until we read the books."

"Okay, I can do that," I nodded easily. "Um… favorite place you've lived?"

"Chicago, of course," he smiled a little in reminiscence. "Not just when I was human, either. I'm still rather fond of my early days with Carlisle."

"Really?" I questioned in surprise and sat up to look at him straight on. "I thought you would have despised it. What with being bombarded by bloodlust, a life you didn't ask for, and the thoughts of half the population…"

"Aside from all that," Edward dryly remarked, eyeing me amusedly, "I actually am fond of that time. Carlisle was a wonderful mentor – well, he still is – and I enjoyed the talks we had. And believe me, there were many. It was the only way he could distract me outside of going hunting every five seconds."

"You're not as pessimistic as I've been led to believe," I admitted wonderingly, gazing up at him in curiosity.

"I doubt you'll see it by staring at me," he chuckled, but soon turned serious. "Truthfully, I think you've been lucky with your timing. Lately, I've felt a bit more upbeat. Probably because we just moved here. If you'd come a few months later…"

He let the implication trail off into silence for a little while, until I decided it was too awkward. "Any other places?"

Edward pursed his lips, eyes lighting with mischief. "Letting your double question slide…"

"Like I did yours earlier?" I cut in sweetly, making him smirk.

"At any rate," he went on wryly, "other than Chicago, I enjoyed Ashland and Hoquiam best, I think. The weather is perfect for us in both places. A little less so in Ashland than Hoquiam, but that was to be expected… And now for my next question. What holidays do you enjoy most?"

Rapidly I answered, "Christmas, Independence Day, and Easter."

"That was easy," Edward shook his head. "Your question."

For a moment I almost repeated his question, but felt that perhaps Edward might not feel joyous about holidays at times, so I rapidly redirected my mind. "What games do you like? Outside of contact sports, that is."

Taking a minute to think, he finally responded, "Well, chess is one game I enjoy. I just can't play it with many people because of my ability. Regardless what Emmett thinks, I don't like being able to read the moves before someone makes them. Alice and I play too quickly and easily, so it's not the challenge I would like it to be. Carlisle is a good opponent, but his work keeps him away, as you can imagine. Jasper could be a good opponent, but when he gets into the game, he forgets to block his moves from me at times."

"Your so-called gift truly is a curse sometimes, isn't it?" I frowned. Not that I had believed otherwise, but still…

"It's not easy to handle," he confessed in a quiet voice. I wondered if he was trying to keep it from Esme. "But after this many years, I've become used to its ups and downs."

"Is that the only game?" I asked, clueless as to how I could reply to his deep thought.

"No, but it's one of my favorites. Words games are enjoyable, too. Usually I don't have to worry about reading anyone's answers and therefore getting an advantage. What about you?"

"Well for one thing, I like word games, too. Other than that I like card games, trivia, and interactive computer games. Nancy Drew is my favorite PC game. There's a whole series of them. You have to go through and solve the mystery by interviewing people and doing puzzles and things like that. My other favorite is the kind of computer game where you build a nation or a city or something."

"You seem to enjoy strategy," Edward commented.

I shrugged. "I like puzzles and mysteries."

"Maybe you would like chess, as well," he suggested, a thoughtful expression on his face.

A grimace crossed my face. "I've tried it before, but I'm not very good at it. I don't think ahead very well."

"That can be improved, you know," was his counter-argument. "Carlisle and Jasper are much better at it than the rest of us and I have no doubt they could teach you."

"I don't mind learning something new," I agreed hesitantly. It sounded okay to at least try. That worst that could happen is if I stayed at the same skill level.

"That's the way to think about it," Edward smiled encouragingly. "It's your question this time."

"Let me think… Oh. Do you remember if you liked any particular foods as a human?"

"Not precisely," he answered, frowning in concentration. "I have a vague memory of drinking iced tea on the porch with my mother, after I came home from school. There was some kind of stew my mother made at Thanksgiving, but I can't say if I enjoyed it or simply tolerated it. Other than that, I don't remember anything specific… You must have a lot of memories of foods you like, though. Which do you like best?"

"I'm a real food-lover," I admitted embarrassedly. "There are so many different foods I love."

"Just name a few," he pushed patiently. Before I could reply, he turned abruptly to the door. "Esme?"

Whipping around, I found the caramel-haired vampire standing in the doorway with a pad of paper and a pen in her hand. "Not to intrude, but your conversation was exactly in line with what I was thinking about. Mireille, could you make out a list of grocery items you would like? And perhaps any hygiene products you need? I know we didn't buy much of anything the night we went shopping, save soap and deodorant. And when I went out to the grocery store, I only bought enough for a few days."

"Oh, sure Esme, I can do that."

"Here, this is what I take with me when I go shopping," she said, coming over to offer up the pad and pen to me. "I know humans aren't supposed to remember everything, so Carlisle convinced me to take this every time."

"I'll start working on it now," I told her with a smile. "Thanks, Esme."

"You're welcome, dear," she smiled back and then left.

"I don't actually know what to put down, though," I muttered to myself, staring at the blank pad of paper.

"Start with drinks," Edward suggested. "And you'll be answering my question at the same time."

"Not really. I mean, I like a lot of things that I won't actually buy anymore."

"Why not?" he inquired with a confused look.

"There are things that aren't very healthy for me, but I like them. Now that I'm more in tune with healthy eating, I don't get those things."

"Oh, I see," he nodded. "Very responsible of you."

"I guess," I shrugged nonchalantly, writing tea, water, and skim milk down.

"What do you like to drink that isn't healthy?" Edward asked me.

"Um, chocolate milk, strawberry Crush, and Dr. Pepper."

The two of us went over as many things I liked as possible, Edward always wondering what unhealthy things I used to enjoy eating all the time. The list I made ended up including the drinks I'd mentioned, tons of vegetables and fruits, various yogurts and cereals, and a boatload of pasta.

My hygiene list was much shorter, boasting mainly cleansing items like shampoo, wipes, and toothpaste. I didn't add any makeup, save a couple types of lip balm for the winter. I definitely didn't need a split lip for several months at a time.

"Finis!" I cried out in relief, flourishing the paper in the air dramatically and sending Edward into a fit of snickering.

"So you know Latin, too?" he ribbed through the snickers.

"Shut up," I threw back at him.

"Mireille?" Esme called as she arrived in the doorway. Looking in at Edward's snickering and my face full of annoyance, she hid a smile behind her hand. "Did you say you were finished?"

"Yes, I am," I answered pleasantly, though all the while giving Edward a dirty look. "I don't think I've forgotten anything."

"Thank you very much," the mother of five took the list and glanced over it a minute. "It does look complete. I'll go shopping Sunday, I think. Would you like to come?"

"Gladly," I responded immediately, feeling excited at the prospect.

"Wonderful," she smiled widely, eyes sparkling. "We'll drag Carlisle along, too. Then you can watch him shop in the mundane little grocery store."

We laughed together at the reminder of our discussion that morning and Esme headed back downstairs.

"Speaking of forgetting things," I mentioned to Edward suddenly, "I have a request, now that I think about it. Can we check and see if any more of my things are hiding around the house?"

"Of course," he agreed amiably. "Would you prefer to do it your way or mine?"

"Tell me the difference between the two and then I'll choose," was my suspicious reply.

"Speed," he smirked.

"My way."

Edward was left laughing as I abruptly rolled off the bed and stood up to find my possessions, but of course he was at my side in an instant when I asked him, "Should we really be in the others' rooms while they're not here?"

"They know you have to check for your things at some point," Edward assured me. "Carlisle already asked their permission for you to search all the rooms in the house."

"Yeah, but probably with them present," I suggested. "I don't feel right going in them right now."

"You've already been in most of them," he argued calmly. "You can at least look in the ones you've already visited. And Esme has given you free reign to search her and Carlisle's room whether they are present or not. That only leaves Jasper's study and Emmett and Rosalie's room."

"Neither of which I am going into without their owners present," I firmly declared.

Out of a need to corral and catalog everything of mine that had appeared in the house, I took my musical books and papers from Edward's piano bench, in spite of the fact that I would only be using them downstairs anyway. On the rest of our way around the main floor, I was introduced to the laundry room, with its enormous hampers, and the food pantry. Then Edward reintroduced me to every cupboard in the kitchen and the butler's pantry.

Emmett and Rosalie's room was, like the latter vampire, beautiful and sophisticated to an extreme degree, with vivid red and terracotta coloring everywhere. As I stood in the doorway, an elegant chaise lounge caught and held my attention for the time it took Edward to search the room.

"How are you going to find my things if I don't point them out?" I asked concernedly after a few moments, albeit tainted by my curiosity for the décor.

"Scent," Edward pointed out simply, later returning with a whole stack of magazines, some DVDs, and a few pairs of shoes. The last items rather surprised me.

"Apparently, you and Rosalie wear the same size shoe," he explained with a shrug and headed back to the hall.

Bypassing Carlisle's office with the explanation that I was bound to have a lot in it that we wouldn't be able to safely carry without dropping off other items first, the bronze-haired vampire led me into Alice and Jasper's room. Their room yielded a couple more books and Alice's separate closet provided my class ring and my grandma's wedding ring and band.

Jasper's study, a room that reminded me strongly of British colonial decorating, posed an interesting container of items to examine, but I decided to wait until we stopped searching to get into it all. Edward ran all of the things we had found so far up to our room before heading into Carlisle's office. As expected, I found more of my books. And as Alice had pointed out the previous night, some of my artwork sat on the floor, tucked into a corner between the bookshelves and the portrait wall.

"You're pretty artistic," Edward commented, switching his gaze between studying a teal monochromatic copy of Van Gogh's Starry Night that I had done in my last year of high school and a larger pencil drawing of a tiger's face, also completed in that last year.

"Thanks," I smiled shyly, purposefully moving out into the hallway with my collections in hand.

"I'm glad there hasn't been much to find," I admitted once he had joined me. "I really didn't want a huge amount of stuff from before."

"You really were unhappy in your other life, weren't you?" Edward softly asked, glancing at me from the corner of his eye.

"Guess so," I shrugged, not wanting to go into it when I was having so much fun.

"Moving on, then," he nodded in acquiescence, leading me back up to the third floor.

Carlisle and Esme's room I did enter, since they allowed it, though we only found a couple more books. Edward then led me into our shared room and settled my latest possessions along the window seating. "The only space left to search is Esme's work room and the attic."

"You have an attic?" I wondered, blinking, when I suddenly recalled that Alistair had been hiding in said attic during Breaking Dawn. "Nevermind."

"Fascinating," he commented, watching me for a moment in curiosity. "You have a good memory."

"Only for things that interest me," I admitted ashamedly. "I sort of have unintentional selective hearing at times."

Muffling a laugh behind his hand, the bronze-haired vampire merely shook his head and led me out into the hall and through the door to the forgery area. Esme's art room was still there, to the right of the door, dark as it was when Carlisle first showed it to me.

"Where's Esme?" I wondered curiously. What would she be doing outside of it? She wasn't shopping, obviously. Cleaning, maybe…

"Gardening," my companion informed me as he turned the lights on in the space. Everything to be found in the art room was related to my scrapbooking interest, which I had never gotten around to before.

For the attic, Edward led me back around to the hall outside the photography room. He reached for a hidden panel in the wall with a switch to release an automated door in the ceiling, which fell into a full ladder. Casting me a wondering look, he prompted, "Coming?"

"There aren't any critters up there, right?"

"What critters would come around us?" he asked, grinning a bit. "We eat them, remember?"

"In a manner of speaking," I remarked distractedly, now thinking about bugs.

"Trust me, Esme has pest-proofed this house in every way known to the world," he laughed. "She dusts and cleans every room, every day – attic, too – and she hates insects or arachnids. A remnant of her human dislikes."

"We are in total agreement, then," I nodded emphatically, now much more easily walking over to join him, though I didn't like ladders much. Well… heights would be the more accurate explanation of my fears.

"You go first," he offered, "I'll be right behind you if you feel unsteady."

That did make me feel better, so I climbed up as instructed, but the room I entered could hardly be considered a dark little hole up in the ceiling. More like a modern loft – complete with a ton of enormous skylights along the back angle of the roof. Granted, it was full of stuff, but it was all organized so that it almost looked like it was meant to be furnished with everything it housed.

"You call this an attic?" I gasped in amazement, slowly turning to take in every inch of the light, beautiful, and gigantic space. It was as wide as the house, but not as deep.

"Esme can't go without designing a room," Edward chuckled. "Attic included."

"I'm surprised she didn't put me in here," I wondered curiously, frowning. "I didn't need to cram your room so badly."

"You're hardly cramming the space," he countered with a roll of his topaz eyes. "Besides, Esme would never have put you up here. There isn't an adequate entrance and it's not heated… Alice would never have allowed you to live in this room either, come to think of it."

"Lack of closet space?" I guessed knowingly, eyebrow raised.

"Exactly," he agreed, smirking. "We use this for hidden or useless storage. Any items we don't want visitors to see end up here, or things we didn't feel like using in this particular house."

We didn't say much after that, but searched through everything for objects that could belong to me. In the end, the attic had given up more items than Carlisle's office. Books and more art of course, DVDs, and some trinkets I'd always liked. Most surprising was the appearance of photos. Nothing too numerous, but some from when I was small, my time in the choir, graduation, and a couple other events I found significant.

For the time it took to search out the remnants of my other life from the bottom of the house to the top, Edward was actually quite a good companion. Not only did he help me by looking in places I felt uncomfortable rummaging, but he also gave me a running commentary on the rooms and what Esme had found particularly irksome or wonderful in the construction of them.

Going through all of my things back in our room was interesting to say the least, considering all that sat on the window seat. Edward was full of curiosity, asking questions about my possessions left and right.

"Are you sure you watch more than you read?" he asked me, glancing between the disproportionate amount of books to movies.

"Yeah, well, I spent so much money on the books that I couldn't afford the movies, apparently," I shrugged, surprised myself by the difference. Books littered almost a quarter of the window seating. Star Wars, my bible, a small part of the Nancy Drew books, The Silmarillion, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Hobbit, Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice, Les Misérables … the collection went on and on.

"The Adams-Jefferson Letters, The Adams Chronicles, John Adams by David McCullough, John Adams: A Life, My Dearest Friend: Letters of Abigail and John Adams, John Adams: Revolutionary Writings…" Edward prattled off with one eyebrow lifted. "You clearly have an interest in John Adams."

"He's my favorite president," I shrugged sheepishly. "That and I've always loved learning about the Revolutionary War."

"You and Jasper could go around and around about history, I can tell," he sighed. Ignoring that remark, I went on looking through my things.

"I'd forgotten about this," I commented with a half-laugh, looking over a photo of my five-year-old self in a cowboy hat and boots.

Edward laughed loudly at the picture, containing himself enough to say, "Alice will hate you for that, you know. She's always trying to convince Jasper to not wear cowboy boots, but they're what he's used to and he likes them too much not to."

I laughed at that myself, able to imagine Alice wearing a disgusted look at the thought of the detested cowboy boots her husband liked to wear.

"They're absolutely the worst excuse for fashion I've ever seen," came Alice's voice from the doorway. Her face was the exact picture of disgust I had been imagining, forcing a burst of laughter from my throat. The small woman didn't reply, but settled onto the floor beside me, glancing over all the things Edward and I had found.

"Where's Jasper?" I asked distractedly, eyeing my DVDs.

"In his study," she told me, predictably picking up the shoes that had been tucked into Rosalie's closet. "These are edgy. Not designer, I grant you, but they are more on the edge."

Looking up more clearly, I found Alice examining a pair of dark red velvet flats into which a rose pattern was pressed. I had adored them when I bought them, but never found the chance to wear them. "I liked the shape of them. They remind me of Audrey Hepburn."

"They do, don't they?" she agreed wonderingly. "Hm… I may actually let you wear these."

"I hope it's on a dry day," I added amusedly.

"Oh, of course," she confirmed seriously, waving away the concern.

"What's this?" Edward asked suddenly. Turning, I found him holding a magnetic shirt badge with my name engraved on it. The trinket box from Jasper's study was open in front of him.

"That was my name tag at a local art museum," I answered. "When I starting volunteering during college, they made one of those for me."

"You're a woman of many talents," was his complimentary reply.

"Well, I like so many things," I explained modestly.

"You certainly do," Alice agreed, lifting the box of scrapbooking supplies as another example.

"I… um… never actually got around to that," I admitted sheepishly, averting my eyes to the magazines in my lap.

"Oh, I actually like Teen Vogue," she instantly commented, eyeing the top couple of magazines interestedly. "They help me keep our clothes a bit more teenage than I would normally plan for."

"Yeah, well, I just like looking at the pictures," was my dry response as I handed all seven issues over to her eager fingers.

"You seem to like looking at homes and decorating more than clothes, though," she countered with a vague frown, as though this preference was an offence.

Indeed, Romantic Homes, Traditional Home, and House Beautiful made up most of the magazine stack. Four issues of French Country, two of Michigan Travel Ideas, and two issues of National Geographicrounded out the rest of the pile.

"I like decorating and putting colors together." Shrugging, I set aside the stack and picked up The Magic of Jell-O, a book of Jell-O brand recipes that I'd almost forgotten I had.

"What in the world is that?" Alice giggled, catching sight of the very colorful cover.

"Jell-O is the world's cure-all," I grinned. "Give me some orange, lime, or raspberry Jell-O and I'm happy. Or chocolate pudding. That's tasty, too."

"Humans eat such strange things," Edward sighed in amusement.

"We can't exactly sniff out our food and take it down right then, you know," I remarked with a laugh.

"Perhaps humans would be healthier if they could," he joked.

"That was terrible, Edward," Alice laughed.

Her brother only shook his head and continued sifting my things, holding up most items to ask me about them.

"I got that in Detroit, when we went on a field trip," I explained to him about a silver coin similar in size to a quarter, a donkey embossed on one side. "They say it was made in Mexico, so I thought it was pretty cool."

"And the other?" he wondered, holding up a grayish coin with a tiny square cut out of the middle.

"I joined a Japanese language group in seventh grade," I answered. "My teacher visited Japan a lot and she gave us all items that she'd gotten there; that coin, a shampoo packet, a shower cap, and a couple other things."

"Any other cultures you've been involved in?" Edward asked with fond exasperation.

"My maternal great-grandparents were one-hundred percent Danish," I suggested casually.

Laughing a little, he moved on to a couple of corks with a sharply raised brow.

"I don't drink," I immediately corrected any doubt on that point. "One of the volunteers at the art museum collected a bunch of corks from wine bottles and made some project out of them. He had two left over in his pocket and randomly decided to give them to me. He said 'I have no idea what you're going to do with them, but they were in my pocket.' So I kept them. I thought it was a nice gesture."

Alice and Edward both laughed at the story and my sentimentality.

The three of us spent approximately thirty minutes more sorting through everything and storing it in the appropriate places in the room. DVDs in the media kiosk, books in the cushioned bench at the foot of the bed or the window seating, my CD case in the music area, scrapbooking materials in the creative corner Esme had made for me, and jewelry and shoes in the closet. Until a basket or a rack could be bought, the magazines sat out on the coffee table. As for my artwork, photos, and trinkets, Alice laid them atop the desk in the office space while Edward returned my musical books and papers to the conservatory downstairs.

"Everything's put away now," Alice informed us both after we'd all reconvened in the room. "I'm going to go help Jasper. Good night, Mireille."

"Oh, Alice, wait!" I called as she disappeared from sight. Just as quickly she reappeared, a knowing expression on her face.

"Discussing the books will go much better if you wait until after Homecoming," she answered my unspoken question.

"Are you sure?" I double-checked, biting my lip. "It seems awfully careless to not at least tell you some major points."

"Trust me, Mireille," Alice soothed. "Just live in the moment through Saturday. On Sunday, we can talk about the books and what we want to do. All right?"

"If you're sure," I further begged her assurance.

"I've seen it," she cheekily responded, winking at me. "Night."

"Night, Alice," I half-laughed as she left the room for good.

After the small vampire had gone, Edward inquired knowingly, "Music?"

"How ever did you guess?" I grinned, making sure to change into a pair of pajamas before heading into the alcove, which I was finally able to fully take in without interruption or distraction. There were technically five walls, three of which had been extended into 'forgery central' as Edward called it; all five walls were painted sage. Each of our closet doors separated the music area from the rest of the hall.

Against the farthest wall sat the stereo, placed on a cabinet that reached the middle of my thigh. A floating shelf on the wall above hefted two large speakers and two tall, cylindrical speakers stood on the floor on either side of the stereo cabinet. Two ceiling-high shelving units covered three-quarters of the angled walls and a third matching unit was placed across from Edward's sofa on the closet walls, apparently reupholstered in the same fabric as the window seat.

After sitting with Edward on the sofa, the rest of the night was filled with Brahms and Bach, at first, then followed by a sudden mischievous change to Queen, over which Edward smirked with glittering golden eyes. I laughed freely at the offering.

"I thought you didn't have much of anything from the seventies?" I teased him, leaning back in my seat.

"I didn't," he agreed, "but you made me rethink my opinions a little. I may have wrongly judged the entirety of that decade on disco, so I asked Esme to buy a selection of the artists you mentioned. She bought them while you were out last night."

"Have you actually listened to any of it yet?" I asked doubtfully.

"Not yet," he confessed. "I was actually hoping you would walk me through it, since you know so much more."

"I'd like that," I grinned.

I got through most of Queen before my eyes finally started to droop and Edward made sure I got into bed without falling flat on my face in sleepiness. I rolled onto my side and slid up onto the pillow without bothering to pull on covers.

"Night," I murmured a little drowsily, feeling the cover slide over me. Turning upwards, I found Edward essentially tucking me in.

"Goodnight, Mireille," Edward returned softly. Not long after, I tiredly recognized 'Moonlight Sonata' coming from the alcove.

My mind almost unconsciously woke up a bit, just to hear the beautiful song as it played, and as it did, I oddly remembered a moment from our dancing lessons earlier the day.

"Edward?" I called him confusedly, brows furrowed as I tried to sort out the memory, though admittedly I was too tired to think it through enough.

"Yes?" Edward prompted, appearing at the edge of the bed with curious eyes.

"Why was Esme looking so pleased today?"

"What do you mean?" he wondered, taking in my steadily growing drowsiness with amusement.

"After Jasper joked about Emmett and Alice dancing together, Esme looked pretty smug for some reason. I just wondered why."

"Oh, that," he said more understandingly, obviously remembering the moment I referred to. "She was just glad Jasper was joking. It made her happy to know you could get him to open up a little more."

"Huh," I remarked unremarkably, too easily falling prey to sleep's comforting embrace. Before I fell completely to oblivion, Edward's soft laughter filled my ears like music.

Over the following two days, I took Alice's advice, ignoring the books temporarily and focusing on the moment. She had said the conversation would go much better after Homecoming was over, so I decided it was worth the wait.

After I had gotten ready and eaten a late breakfast on Thursday, Edward played for about an hour as I looked on from the nearby chair. Following the concert, I headed outside for a walk, then went back up to my new space and just dug around. Edward came up with me and pointed things out if I hadn't noticed them yet. I went straight down for lunch at about one o'clock, after which I spent time talking with Esme.

When we exhausted three or four topics of mediocre interest like color schemes or the beauty of nature, Esme went to garden or clean the house or dabble in her work room, among other things. That left me to return upstairs and further explore my room. Edward interrupted my findings to initiate a couple hours of dancing, so as to keep boosting my experience.

Dinner came soon after dancing, then Alice stole me away to discuss anything and everything fashion that could be fitted into a two-hour period, as well as making me walk around in my homecoming shoes to get used to them. I was passed to Edward after that, who spent time just listening to music with me before I fell asleep around ten-thirty or so.

A couple changes in routine occurred on Friday, however. First, Edward was 'well-enough' to go back to school. In truth, Alice had seen some of the staff and students becoming suspicious that Edward was sick enough to miss Friday, but well enough to attend the dance on Saturday. So, groaning and complaining far more than necessary, Edward drove to school with his siblings. That meant I was left an hour after breakfast with nothing to do. Upon Esme's suggestion, I reluctantly decided to practice my piano skills for that time. The experience was refreshing I had to admit afterward, although I was obviously nowhere near Edward's talent.

The second change in routine, because of Carlisle's odd hours due to the accident on the 101, was that the doctor was home Friday afternoon sooner than Esme had expected him to be. To my happiness, therefore, husband and wife had a chance to dance with each other as had been impossible on Wednesday. Esme gladly changed into an elegant white blouse with lace sleeves and a long black skirt that twirled beautifully, matching it with a pair of black Jimmy Choos with cutouts across the toe. My own blue, off-shoulder dress didn't spin nearly as wonderfully as Esme's, though it was pretty and looked sharp with the shiny nude pumps I had picked out.

Overall, until my conversation with Esme ended on Saturday at three-thirty, life was mostly regular and expected. Fate took that late afternoon to intervene – in the form of Alice Cullen on a mission.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Previously – Edward and Mireille played 20 Questions and Esme asked Mireille to make a grocery list. Mireille and Edward search for Mireille's possessions, Edward admires Mireille's artwork, and Alice joins them to look at Mireille's possessions. Alice tells Mireille to wait on reading the books until after Homecoming. Mireille examines the music alcove in her room and Edward suggests she led him through 60s and 70s music. A couple days passed, Edward had to return to classes or risk trouble, Carlisle came home early and danced with Esme, and finally Alice began prep for Homecoming.

Chapter 12: Irksome

Come Saturday afternoon, Alice began my prep for the Homecoming dance by cutting out my usual afternoon room explorations.

"You need to practice dancing in your heels," she said firmly, pulling me downstairs with a written schedule and the aforementioned heels in hand. "Esme will be doing your nails at four o'clock, so you won't have any time for practice afterward if you go spend time in your room now."

"Oh, all right," I groaned a little, accepting the black heels from her hand without an argument.

"Edward, crunch time!" Alice commanded sharply of her brother, who was sitting at the piano as we passed the conservatory area. He had been playing steadily ever since that morning, when I'd gone out for my usual exercise. I suspected he was trying to steel himself for the hormonal mental onslaught he would be facing at the dance.

"Trying being the key word," Edward remarked rather darkly as he headed over to the dining area with us.

"Stop whining and dance," Alice scoffed, pushing him forward to the CD player that was again sitting on the side-swept dining table.

"Yes, mother," he snarkily replied, switching on the player with a vicious flick of his index finger. Alice rolled her eyes and left the room, presumably to start getting herself ready.

"Are you going to be in this mood the whole night?" I complained to my intended escort for the evening.

"I'd forgotten the past few days how irksome their thoughts can be," he admitted with a scowl, pulling me into position. "Going back yesterday only reinforced that."

I didn't really know what to say to that, so we danced in silence for the most part. What I eventually realized was if that was how the dance was going to go, I wasn't all too certain I wanted to attend.

"Look, I'll try to ease up on the gloomy behavior," Edward interceded with a sigh. "Okay?"

"Okay," I shrugged. We only had about forty-five minutes of silent twirling, thankfully, when Esme came to get me.

"It's time to do your nails, dear," she informed, smiling slightly.

"Thanks, Esme," I sighed in some relief to be away from Edward's mini-tantrums. In response to that, the vampire in question scoffed and headed outside in a blink. Esme frowned unhappily at that particular action, but said nothing (aloud, anyway) as she took my heels for me and led the way upstairs.

"I wish he wouldn't stay that way the whole night," the lovely mother fretted quietly as we cleared the third landing. "I'd really hoped he could enjoy himself somewhat. And of course I want you to enjoy the evening, too."

"We'll be fine, Esme," I did my best to assure her, feeling my own doubt laughing at the contradiction.

"You're sweet, dear," she smiled gratefully, pressing a hand on my back to gently lead me into the room she and Carlisle shared, "but I know Edward. This mood he's in right now doesn't usually lead to anything except moody dirges and sonatas for the next week."

While I easily let Esme draw me around the shelving unit that served as a divider for their bed, a deep frown creased my face. Edward looked to be heading straight into that less-happy place he had suggested was yet several months off. The reason he was arriving there so quickly was a matter that reached quite beyond my comprehension. Hadn't he found some encouragement by knowing there was someone meant for him? Did I not make it clear that Bella would become something special to him? I had pretty much confirmed it on Wednesday night, but here Edward was, moping and grizzled not three days later.

Thoughts no less bothersome continued to assault my mind as Esme helped me focus on choosing a color of nail polish.

"What about this one?" she asked me with a vague smile, offering up a sparkly dark plum polish for me to see. It was the eighth polish she had asked about, as far as I knew.

"I like it," I agreed just to help the poor woman feel productive in her endeavor to help me get ready. I just couldn't find the enthusiasm any more, knowing that Edward would be in a foul mood the entire time we were gone. At least the color I'd agreed to wear was a good match for my dress.

"Wonderful," Esme reluctantly agreed, her smile hesitant in the extreme. My obvious discontent was not easy to gloss over, much as she was trying. Nonetheless, the motherly vampire continued in that precise vein of communication until my manicure and pedicure was finished. The motions were a little bit soothing in spite of the cold hands performing them.

"Now for your hair," she murmured, pulling me into the beautiful spring-like bathroom and settling me at the cornered vanity counter. "What would you want it to look like, Mireille?"

Chancing a glance up at my reflection didn't help me decide any, nor did it enthuse me any more than before, but I made a general estimate based on the dress itself. "Something to the side, I guess."

"Maybe a chignon on the same side as your bare shoulder?" The suggestion was full of hope that my interest had grown.

"Sure, that'll be great," I smiled less distantly, hating to disappoint her hopefulness. Whether or not I liked it, I really needed to be more enthusiastic. For Esme's sake, at least.

"What about some pieces hanging loose?" she wondered next, picking up a comb from the countertop and beginning to tame my fuzzy, curly mane of hair. "I could take a couple pieces at the temple…"

"That sounds okay," I nodded, pleased by the more generous smile on the Esme's face.

Time passed very silently while my hair was smoothed, twisted, and turned into what I could only imagine was a professional-looking chignon on the right side of my head. As yet I couldn't even see it; I was facing the sink wall – the one that happened to have a window instead of a mirror. Even when Esme completed the look and nearly turned me around to see it, Alice bounded in at high speed and dragged me out before I ever glanced in the mirror. The only part of my hair I was capable of seeing were the two loose strands at each temple.

"She didn't even get to see her hair, Alice," Esme scolded lightly from behind us, but the psychic would not be moved.

"That's just it," she argued respectfully, towing me out the door and down the hall. "She can't see it until she's all ready. It won't be as lovely without the dress and everything else to go with it."

"That's kind of true," I shrugged for the tenth time that day.

"Oh, very well," sighed Esme exasperatedly. "Let me know if you need any more help."

"You could get started on dinner for Mireille," Alice remarked just as we disappeared into her wardrobe. Esme's melodic laughter reached my ears from down the hall.

Pointing to the long, pink-cushioned bench at the opposite end of the room where the vanity mirror was covered with some fabric or another – Alice moved off to her lengthy closets and opened one of the doors to reveal the garment bag holding my dress.

"You've got about ten minutes to put on lotion and change into your undergarments," she told me bluntly.

"Alice!" I exclaimed embarrassedly, ears and cheeks turning slightly red.

"Oh, what?" she half-laughed, waving my reaction off blithely. "We all wear them, don't we?"

"Unfortunately, some people don't," I grimaced, nose scrunched in distaste, causing the fashionista to break into a full laugh.

"That's not exactly relevant, but I take the point anyway," she continued to giggle, opening another closet door to reveal a black garment bag.

"What color are you wearing?" I asked, now curious. That was one topic we had never discussed in the few days I had been in Forks so far.

"You'll see after you eat," was her hedged reply. Knowing I would get no more from her, I accepted the lotion and undergarments that that were set out for me to use. Alice was forced to speed up the process and apply some of the lotion herself because I began to intrude on makeup time.

"All right, on to the makeup," she cried at last, seeming to grow in excitement by the second. "You keep your eyes closed!"

"Yes, Alice," I sighed resignedly, closing my eyes immediately. "Work your magic, pixie."

"Ha," she laughed abruptly, and in front of me I could hear the fabric being whisked off the mirror in one quick swoop. The most difficult thing I had to do was constantly keep my eyes closed. All the while, I just had that annoying urge to open them and see what was going on. Every swipe and brush and powder puff applied to my features increased my curiosity. Intermittently, Alice would pop in with a "Don't you dare!" or an "I know what you're trying to do!" and I would squint my eyes closed with renewed willpower.

"Done!" Alice exclaimed happily at last. "But you still can't look. Wait right there."

"Well, I wasn't planning to trot along blindly," I snorted.

"Shush," she demanded amusedly, and I could hear her whisking the fabric over the mirror again. "All right, you can open your eyes, but don't look down at yourself at all."

Opening my eyes was a relief after so long of seeing blackness. Any longer and I probably would have fallen asleep. Another relief was the incoming scent of something very tasty, followed by Esme with a tray of food.

"Alice didn't want you accidentally looking into any mirrors," she explained laughingly as she settled the tray up on the counter before me. Atop the tray was the most beautiful-looking bowl of minestrone I had ever encountered, accompanied by soft bread and a large cup of yogurt with granola and raspberries.

"Wow, Esme," was all I could say, my mouth already starting to water. The mother in question laughed a second time and patted my shoulder on the way out.

"Hurry and eat," Alice pushed rapidly, pulling her garment bag off the closet and disappearing into her bedroom to change. In spite of the impending rush, I ate my dinner quite comfortably and peacefully, not leaving a single delicious bite on the tray. Esme came up as if an alarm had gone off, though I supposed Alice had informed her.

"Finished?" Esme inquired smilingly, eyeing the empty dishes.

"Yes. There's not a drop on there now," I laughed slightly. "Thank you. It was really good."

"You're very welcome," she smiled wider, picking up the remains of my dinner and gracefully slipping out the door. "Alice is coming back now."

"Nope, I am back," the black-haired vampire replied, sidling in beside her mother.

Practically dancing into the room, Alice looked quite sharp in a vivid green belted gown, for which the single sleeveless shoulder was on the opposite side of my own. A slit came up to Alice's knee, leaving exposed the strappy black and green heels she wore.

All of her jewelry was black and simple, save the necklace falling across her collar bone. The thick necklace consisted of five rows of black beads.

"That's definitely an unusual color to wear," I commented. "I like it."

'Thank you," the tiny woman grinned, reaching out to me. "Now close your eyes again and stand up."

Aiding me with a hand on my elbow, Alice made sure I stood without seeing myself at all. Getting into the dress with my eyes closed was not fun and I was embarrassed at wearing only my under-things in front of Alice, but she kept jabbering so freely that I somewhat overlooked it all.

The black sheath heels finally went on, my makeup was touched up or – in the case of lip products – applied for the first time, and Alice turned me towards something only she could see. The sound of fabric being removed boosted my somewhat weak enthusiasm, albeit barely. Clearly it was time to see myself.

"Open your eyes," Alice told me, excitement palpable in her voice. I wondered why she sounded so far away.

Again relishing the lack of blackness that opening my eyes entailed, it took a moment to adjust my sight. When I did, I was mesmerized by the reflection in the mirror.

Makeup was no unknown in my life, but I had never taken much care with it. Lip balm or a touch of mascara. Blush, perhaps, if I was so inclined. Never eyeliner, lip liner, foundation, a full complement of eye shadows, and whatever else Alice had put on me. Half the time her touch had been too light to properly understand what she did with the makeup. Now, with the finished product sitting before me, I couldn't explain it either. All I knew was that my eyes were covered with medium plum and dark gray shadows to create a smoky look, in addition to a gray-purple eyeliner that brought out the blue of my eyes. On my lips – thankfully not a shiny finish – was a rich color to complement the plum in my dress and the blush was a mix of muted pink-peach colors.

My hair was another world entirely. Esme had surely done the most beautiful chignon I had ever been party to. While my dark, golden-brown locks were pulled snugly into the hold at the back of my head, there was a looseness that allowed some of the natural wave in my hair to show through. The two free strands at my temples were soft and delicate, but not so thin as to be flimsy. Elegant was the only word to describe the entire effect.

"Thank you," I said distractedly, but with genuine gratitude. I forced myself to look in the mirror at Alice, but the small vampire was not there. Confused, I tried to turn around and make sure, but suddenly there were cold hands at the back of my neck and beads falling against my collar bone. Whipping around to the mirror, I was amazed to find Edward standing behind me and his mother's necklace around my throat. The plum-colored gems matched perfectly.

"They do," he agreed quietly. "After I saw your dress a few days ago, I thought that immediately."

"Thank you," I repeated, this time for his benefit. "They're lovely."

"Here," he murmured, reaching out for my left arm to slip the bracelet on. He then took my right hand to slip the pearl ring onto my finger. Fresh and beautiful, a corsage of deep purple hydrangea easily slid onto my wrist next. Only then, when I remembered there was a flower for Edward's lapel also, did I genuinely examine my escort's appearance.

Simple yet classy, Edward's black suit and dark gray tie enhanced his pale handsome features excellently. I saw now why black was not a frequent color in the Cullens' public wardrobes.

"You look very dashing," I grinned at Edward, the first time I had grinned with such sincere cheer the entire day, before I noticed something. "Oh, where's the boutonnière?"

"Right here," came Alice's happy reply, followed abruptly by her appearance at my side and the matching hydrangea boutonnière being handed over to me. Both vampires stared expectantly at me for a minute or two, until I realized they were expecting me to put it on the lapel.

Raising any eyebrow, I dryly remarked, "You do know I haven't the slightest idea how to put this on, right?"

"Oh!" Alice exclaimed in understanding while Edward muffled his laughter. "Sorry! Just watch."

Watching the green-bedecked woman attach the small bunch of hydrangea to her brother's lapel was easier than remembering how to do it after she left, but I managed well enough with Edward's help.

"Note to self… don't try flower arranging," I murmured sarcastically, making Edward laugh a little.

"I don't think that's the same thing," he chuckled, offering me his arm.

"Close enough," I sniffed slightly, slipping my hand through the crook of his elbow. "Anyway, you finally have a decent-looking boutonnière… I wonder what in the world Alice did for flowers to match that outfit of hers."

"White," Edward answered with a shrug, leading me out into the hallway. "You look lovely, by the way. Violet tones are a good match for your coloring."

"You didn't compliment her first thing?"

We turned as one to find Emmett in a black suit and dress shirt, fiddling with his white garden rose boutonnière while waiting outside his and Rosalie's room. A mock look of disapproval on his face was tempered by the grin trying to break free.

"I didn't exactly get a chance to say it," Edward defended lightly, rolling his eyes. "Alice bounded in with the boutonnière before I could."

"Actually, I think I started talking immediately, so it was kind of me," I mentioned thoughtfully.

"Still," Emmett pressed on, allowing his grin to show finally. "What with how pretty Mireille looks right now, I'd think you couldn't hold it in, little brother."

Edward opened his mouth to offer a snarky retort, when Jasper's voice came from the other side of the staircase, "Emmett, will you shut up? I'm sick of feeling Rosalie's irritation."

"Sorry, Rosie," Emmett apologized through the partially-open door of his bedroom. "You know no one's ever as beautiful as you are. And I had to rib Edward, didn't I?"

Edward rolled his eyes more strongly this time, pulling me down the stairs quickly while I giggled at the candid exchange between siblings. This experience was so much better than the books or fanfiction could ever produce.

"Glad to know that," Edward snorted amusedly. "Although why you haven't lost your mind yet, thanks to us, is a mystery I have yet to solve."

"No mystery necessary," I laughed more freely. "I'm already crazy, I guess. Hence why it was so easy to adjust to being here with all of you."

"I wouldn't call intense vomiting and strange dreams easy," he chortled. "But whatever suits your fancy, I suppose."

"Oh well," I lifted one shoulder nonchalantly. "At least I wasn't completely lucid for that part. I hate being sick."

"I can see why," he muttered disgustedly, bringing another giggle out of me.

In the foyer, Carlisle and Esme stood arm-in-arm with satisfied smiles on their faces as they watched us come down.

First Alice and Jasper, then Rosalie and Emmett came downstairs mere moments after us. I couldn't decide which couple looked more striking. There was Alice in her vivid green dress, white lily corsage, black snakeskin clutch, and spiky black hair offset by Jasper's honey blond hair and black suit with green satin vest and tie, and matching lily boutonniere. I'd never imagined Jasper in such a color before, but the Texan looked quite attractive in it.

Then there was Emmett in his all-black suit ensemble matched by Rosalie's glittering, strapless black gown with a slit up to mid-thigh, her slender black heels with glittering silver straps down the middle, a large white garden rose corsage, a glittering black clutch, and glowing blonde tresses barely pinned on one side of her face. Like Alice, Rosalie had all black jewels. Personally, I would never have worn the low-cut gown she wore, but Rosalie was gorgeous and confident in it. And as for Emmett, while I had never particularly admired his looks as much as Edward or Carlisle, now I could truly appreciate the handsomeness of his charmingly roguish grin and glittering, laughing eyes.

"You all look so wonderful," Esme sighed happily, hands clasped gleefully in front of her. Carlisle smiled at her joy, rubbing a hand up and down her arm.

"You really do look exceptional," he agreed, plainly including his wife in that assessment. Edward caught my eye, nodding with a smirk which put a grin on my face. The night was looking up.

"Thank you," I replied pleasantly, contrary to Alice's bright "Thanks!" and Rosalie's self-assured nod. The three sons all nodded gratefully, but said nothing.

"Here, Mireille." Alice handed over the fluttery black clutch I remembered her picking out on Tuesday. The fact it was from Christian Louboutin still hadn't registered completely in my head.

"Now we have to take pictures!" the pixie informed everyone even more brightly, popping over to Carlisle and handing him an expensive-looking camera. Smiling indulgently, he stepped over to the wall of coat hooks, waiting patiently while Esme and Alice determined the best angles to use and who should stand where against the opposite wall of the foyer. Somehow upon our arrival downstairs, I had missed the fact that the Cullens' two cushioned benches were missing.

The final decree was that Rosalie and Emmett, wearing all black as they were and both invariably the tallest of their respective gender in the house, would stand in the middle. Jasper was moved to stand beside Emmett, while Edward stood beside Rosalie, leaving Alice and me on the outside edges for the group photo.

Our alternate photos moved a little slower. Alice was picky about seeing all of the accessories and flowers in each picture, but Esme also wanted two different poses for each couple, so it was a trial to capture different poses that still covered all of Alice's accessory bases. There was the typical standing couple pose, and then different positions for each pair.

Rosalie chose the enormous and dramatic stone fireplace for her picture, sitting on the large hearth with her dress spread artistically to one side and hair fanning out like liquid gold on the other. Because of his height, Emmett ended up on the hardwood floor beside Rosalie's knees, his hand reaching up to grasp hers over his broad shoulder.

Alice picked the stairs for her alternate pose, standing a few steps above her much taller husband. Jasper faced his wife on her higher plane, face upturned and one foot on the step in the very middle of the distance. Their hands stretched the space like a goodbye scene in a fairytale. I loved the pose so much that I dubbed it my favorite straight off.

Edward and I were not decided upon much of anything for our alternate pose. The sofa was Esme's suggestion, quickly turned down by Alice on the grounds that it was too much contrast with our dark clothes. Privately, I thought the sofa was just too plain – much to Edward's amusement – though I wasn't going to tell Esme that. Emmett brought up the front porch. While it was a good setting, Carlisle wisely pointed out that it was a little too chilly for it at that time of year.

In the end, Rosalie was the one to find our pose. While Alice and Esme rapidly debated reusing the stairs in a different way, the blonde vampire calmly seated us side-by-side on the piano bench, hands joined between us, knees leaning towards the middle, and ivory and ebony showing through in the background. Everyone except Edward had stared momentarily before Alice quickly informed Carlisle that it was perfect and he should take the picture.

Now with only twenty minutes before the dance was set to start and none of us even in the car yet, Alice inexplicably stopped us once again, shouting, "Oh, wait!"

"What, Alice? We're going to be late," Rosalie complained snappishly, flicking her hair back with great impatience.

"We need to take a picture of Mireille with Carlisle and Esme!" Alice exclaimed in a voice that screamed 'are you kidding me?'

"Why?" Rosalie demanded, echoing my own sentiments, albeit in a rude way.

"We've always taken individual pictures with them before dances and special events," the smaller woman argued firmly, standing her ground with a steely glint in her golden eyes. "This is Mireille's first homecoming, so we're definitely taking a picture. Carlisle and Esme, stand against the back wall behind the sofa. Mireille, I want you standing between them. Come on, or we will be late."

Carlisle and Esme were already in place by the time I came over to fill the empty place in-between, their genuine smiles warming me. Camera in hand, Alice sat atop the back of the closest white sofa to take the picture of Carlisle's arm around my shoulders and Esme's around my waist.

"Wonderful!" Alice cheerily announced. "Okay, let's go. And no, Rosalie, we are not going to be late."

"At least there's that," griped the blonde, grabbing her fur-collared dress coat as she swept outside, followed more slowly by Emmett, who was still looking quite cheerful.

"Now you really know you're welcome, Mir," the big vampire said with a wink, hands in the pockets of his dress pants. "Picture with the parents and all, you know."

With that he disappeared completely, leaving me pleasantly surprised by my new nickname.

"He's been cooking up all sorts of nicknames the past few days," Edward informed me with a chuckle and an eye-roll. "Alice kept arguing with him about your reactions."

"Oh, some of them were just ridiculous," Alice inserted, rolling her eyes. "I had to get in your corner on almost all of them."

Turning pink, I didn't respond further. Heaven only knew what kind of names Emmett had been considering.

Japer and Edward helped Alice and I into our black dress coats at the same time, while Carlisle and Esme wished us an enjoyable evening.

"Try to be slightly more mellow than normal, Mireille," Carlisle regretfully informed me, apology in his eyes. "I am sorry, but the story requires some reticence on your part."

"It's fine, Carlisle." We had talked about that particular subject twice since Thursday morning. As per my public back-story, it would only make sense that I wasn't as enthusiastic as the rest of the group. "Really, I understand the need."

"All right," he chuckled gratefully. "Have a good time as much as you can under that restriction."

"I will," I smiled, easing into Esme's parting hug at the same time. "Thank you."

"You're welcome, dear," she said with a squeeze, propelling me to the front door where Edward waited. "Have fun, all of you."

"Well be back by eleven at the earliest," Edward told his parents with a smooth face, offering his arm for me to take again. Only a slight hint of mischief was visible in his bright eyes.

"Get out of here, you ingrate!" Carlisle laughed richly, holding an embarrassed but smiling Esme to his side. Smirking devilishly, Edward pulled me outside. I was too well-humored too much to say a proper good night to Carlisle and Esme; the amusement only left after I was already belted into the backseat of the silver Volvo. I was greatly surprised to find Emmett behind the wheel.

"Hey Emmett," I greeted him in amusement. "Why aren't you with Rosalie?"

"Hiya," he grinned back at me, then answered my question, "Well, we can't let the little sophomores drive yet, can we? Chief Swan might not like that."

"Oh, yeah!" That made sense. I kept forgetting that Edward couldn't legally drive yet.

"You and me both," Edward remarked in annoyance as Emmett sped off behind the M3. At that moment, I was very grateful to be in the backseat and somewhat distracted. "Rosalie has been driving us to and from school every day."

"Hey, I did some smooth driving sometimes," Emmett interrupted indignantly, scowling at Edward in the rear-view mirror.

"Four times, Emmett. Four." Edward left it at that, ignoring the continued scowling of his black-haired brother.

"Who will be able to legally drive next?" I asked curiously.

"Jasper in November," Edward answered. "Then Alice in February."

"And you in June," I added without thinking.

"How do you… nevermind." He shook his head as if to clear it. "I shouldn't be surprised. The books probably mention it."

"Oh, no, it wasn't the books," I contradicted him pleasantly. "The author was talking about it in some interview. Plus it was in the guide when I glanced over your bio page."

"It lists our birthdays?" Emmett wondered out loud, frowning a little. "Weird. Cool, but… weird."

"Actually, I don't think it lists anyone else's. Except Bella, that is. I'd have to double-check, but I'm pretty sure yours only has the year."

"Damn," the big guy snapped his fingers.

"Sorry," I laughed. "When is your birthday, Emmett?"

"August eighth," he proudly announced, seeming to puff up even more than normal. "When's yours? I didn't read your birth certificate, only heard Jasper say it was in January."

"January third. Almost the fourth, but I was too headstrong to wait any longer, I guess."

Laughing loudly, Emmett pulled into the high school parking lot, whipped into an open parking space beside the M3, and jumped out only a second after having turned off the car. To have arrived so quickly, I didn't want to know how fast he'd driven.

"You definitely don't want to know," Edward assured me and got out of the car to come around my side and help me out.

"I'm so nervous," I muttered, seeing all the students milling about in groups, chattering and laughing and glancing around nervously like the rest of the herd.

"Herd?" Edward chortled heavily, trailing behind Rosalie and Emmett while Alice and Jasper came up beside us.

"What about a herd?" Alice asked, glancing inquiringly at her brother.

"Mireille is being funny again," he glanced over the remark I'd been thinking, sensing my vague embarrassment.

"Nothing new there," Emmett called back to us from where he walked with his arm around Rosalie's waist. Not that I could deny it. Most of the time, I made sarcastic or randomly funny remarks just by commenting on day-to-day things that I noticed. Half of those times were unintentional; indeed, the unintentional ones were usually the funniest of the lot, much to my indignation.

"It's actually your embarrassment that is so amusing in those instances," Edward confided in me with a hint of a smirk.

"Thanks so much," I grumbled, glaring at him and a giggling Alice. Jasper was trying to stay neutral, I could tell, so I gave him a break.

"Oh, if you only knew," said Edward with a low chuckle, patting my hand sympathetically where it lay on his arm.

"I don't like the sound of that," I frowned suspiciously, eyeing Jasper with accusation clear in my gaze. In response to my wary emotions, the Texas native just grinned slightly. Rolling my eyes came naturally by now, so I didn't fight it.

Instead, I turned to focus on the decorations outside. Typical balloons and crepe paper announced the front of the gym, all in black, white, and occasional yellow. The black banner above the gym doors matched the color scheme, proudly announcing 'Night of Stars Homecoming.'

"Boring," Alice sighed very quietly, also eyeing the décor.

Boring didn't begin to cover it, even with stars everywhere. Who didn't like to see a bit of color at a dance?

"Here's your ticket," Edward told me in a low voice, handing over a little black rectangle of cardstock with the details of the dance in white and yellow lettering and (of course) a little star image.

"Thanks," I smiled slightly in return, slowing as he did when Rosalie and Emmett found the end of the line.

Someone ahead was turned in our direction, talking with the person behind them, when they noticed exactly who was in line for the dance. Staring in what they probably thought was an inconspicuous manner, the original person who espied us whispered the news to their neighbor. Faces began to turn everywhere, most every pair of eyes zeroing in on the elusive Cullen family and their newest member. My discomfort rose every passing moment, but as I was short and stuck in-between the other members of the family, actual eye contact with my personage was relatively small. Nevertheless, as a show of support, Alice, Jasper, and Edward closed ranks on three sides and left Emmett and Rosalie as my forward guard.

The time it took to approach the ticket table was really too long as far as I was concerned, although once we did reach it, I decided I would rather have stayed in the line. Neither of the two adults accepting our tickets looked at all pleasant towards me. They seemed tolerant of the siblings. Indeed, one might say there was respect in their eyes for Carlisle and Esme's adopted children. For me, mistrust colored their gazes. What on earth they were suspicious of, I could hardly imagine. Not that I was ignorant of how the rumors of my 'arrival' would have tainted their opinions, but it was strange that I once again faced so much hostility from people I had never even met. One would think that being Carlisle's 'niece' might have added some level of understanding, but apparently not so.

"Don't let it worry you," Edward murmured in my ear after the man at the table handed us back our stamped tickets and allowed us to proceed. I could feel his gaze following me doubtfully as I moved off to the side of the hallway with Edward. "They just don't trust outsiders. You should have seen their first reactions to us."

"I don't think that's quite the same thing," I countered with a nervous laugh, eyeing the decorations through the inner gym doors a bit skittishly. A white and black balloon arch stood in one corner of the gymnasium that was covered in black paper; the place where a photographer waited in boredom for students to come and get their picture taken. Nothing much else was actually decorated, save the black-draped table of drinks and cookies on the wall opposite the main doors.

"Maybe not," Edward agreed with me, an understanding smile lighting his face, "but you'll be fine. Come on, coat check."

Unpleasant worries kept on hitting my brain as we moved to the makeshift coat check opposite the ticket table and Edward helped me out of my coat. He kept my coat check ticket himself, slipping it into his inner jacket pocket.

"If we dance, you won't be as bothered by all of the unfriendly faces," he suggested kindly. Nerves in full force, I nodded and followed him into the gym itself and to the middle of the floor where Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett had already begun to dance. No one danced near them. As a matter of fact, no one danced within a full ten foot radius of any of us.

"Relax," Edward murmured again, pulling me into the proper hold and slowly leading me with the rhythm.

In spite of the enjoyment I derived from the dancing itself, eyes still followed me everywhere I went. Disconcerting though it felt, there was little I could do about it, as Edward kindly pointed out to me. The Cullens still received stares, after all, and they had been here a little while already. I could only hope everyone became accustomed to looking at me without suspicion after I started attending school.

The usual twirling, such as Edward's siblings were doing right then, didn't even begin until about five dances in, so I guessed he wanted to ease me into it.

"Sort of." He tried not to smile.

"What does that even mean?" I asked suspiciously as we spun past the front doors. That hidden smile of his was troublesome at best.

Still tamping down his smile, Edward leaned down to murmur in my ear, "How would you feel about dancing with my brothers?"

My jaw fell slightly. That was not at all what I expected. "Why?" I murmured back.

"It would prove our solidarity, as Alice put it," he explained simply, pulling back from my ear to glance cautiously at my surprised expression. "…You don't have to, if that bothers you."

"I didn't say that," I hedged rather conspicuously, but quickly gave into the shrewd expression on his face. "I'm just worried I won't be very good. Since I've never danced with them before…"

"Don't be ridiculous," he muttered, rolling his eyes dramatically. "Emmett is already thinking of how careful he needs to be. And Jasper's patience is in full force. Stop worrying, will you?"

"Easy for you to say," I frowned at him, making sure to lower my voice just in case. "You can see what's going on through everyone's heads and Alice's visions. I can't."

"Neither can Rosalie, Emmett, or Jasper," he argued quietly, frowning the same as I did, "but they're not worried."

Sighing, I gave up on debating the point; it was too irritating.

"Good, that's settled then," he smugly asserted, sending my own eyes rolling. When the song ended, the watching crowd of students was shocked to find us all switching partners. Edward moved to Alice's side, Jasper to Rosalie's, and Emmett to mine. His size was wild to stand next to. I felt kind of like a Geo Metro parked next to a semi-truck.

"Hey, Mir," he winked at me, positioning us much more loosely than Edward. That was a bit of a problem, however, because I could hardly reach up his arm at all in the first place. Add in the distance and I was pretty much grazing his forearm with my fingertips. The two of us seemed to realize this at the same time. Emmett broke out laughing quieter than normal and I bit my lip to hold in a laugh.

"Oh well," he shrugged once his laughter died down, still sporting a happy face. "At least you're taller than shorty over there."

"Watch it, you big bear," Alice hissed playfully as she and Edward danced past us suddenly, both of them grinning slightly. Emmett laughed again, not taking it badly in the slightest. He began to slowly dance us across the floor, clearly being incredibly careful with my fragile human body. For that, I was very grateful, even if his extreme care started to make me smile.

The big guy grinned a little at me. "What are you laughing at?"

"You," I admitted, still biting back laughter. "I've never seen anyone dance so carefully."

"Oh, you want a little less careful, huh?" he teased, getting a dangerously mischievous look in his eye. My nerves went on red alert, even though I was sure he wouldn't hurt me or anything.

"Emmett, don't you dare," Alice hissed angrily as she passed a second time. Edward, too, looked frustrated with his brother.

Dancing around our spot with an equally annoyed Jasper mere seconds after her brother and sister, Rosalie hissed equally as irritably, "We don't need a scene."

"Sorry, babe," Emmett groused, deflating instantly. Whatever he had planned, it wasn't a good thing. Maybe my red alert hadn't been so wrong after all.

The dance continued just as carefully after that, until Jasper came over to cut in. Emmett stepped back, offering another smile. From the corner of my eye, I watched Rosalie and Edward begin a stiff yet beautiful dance. They really were two of the best looking people I had ever seen.

Jasper took up a stance slightly less distant than Emmett, though just as formal as Edward. His care was no less than Emmett's, yet somehow it didn't feel as tentative. Our dance was still very graceful and smooth.

"You're having quite a night," the Texan commented with some dry humor. "Anything you haven't felt yet?"

"I can think of a few things," I mumbled embarrassedly, quite glad I had yet to feel a few in particular.

Jasper's brow rose curiously, and I sighed before continuing, "Love, hate, horror, terror, disgust... Do I need to go on?"

"Please do," he muttered in great amusement, beginning to twirl us around the floor with greater ease and less caution than before. He was obviously getting more comfortable as we went along.

"Uh…" I pretended to think about it for a moment or two, before going on definitively, "No. Actually, make that a double no."

Snickering quietly, Jasper turned us once, and my eyes caught sight of something he had told me about on Wednesday, but I hadn't really believed. With a gasp of laughter, I drew Jasper's startled attention over his left shoulder. When he saw the source of my amusement, the honey blond vampire started snickering all over again, this time louder than before.

Emmett and Alice were dancing together, both sporting stamped-out grins at my reaction. They were just so… different! I couldn't help laughing at the height and size differences.

"I told you, didn't I?" Jasper teased in a deep voice. "But you didn't believe me, did you?"

"Shut up, Jasper," I uttered in embarrassment, cheeks tinged pink. He did as I suggested, but a smile never left his face the entire time we danced.

After a while, I was back in Edward's embrace and spinning the floor with much more confidence than earlier that night.

"You don't seem to have done badly at all," he smirked.

"Okay, so it was fun," I confessed freely. "I just wasn't sure at first. And it took my mind off of the staring."

"Have you looked around lately?" he wondered curiously, some glint of smugness in his eyes. Warily and confusedly doing so, I no longer found myself the object of everyone's gaze. Amazement flitted through me.

"No one seems to be doing much staring now," was his stolid addition.

"Wow, I didn't even realize," I breathed pleasantly. Unfortunately, my pleasant feelings were interrupted by human urges. "Where's the uh…"

"Oh, it's over there," Edward nodded towards a wide entryway in the back wall. "I'll be waiting by the refreshment table, all right?"

"Okay," I smiled slightly, then moved off to the indicated area to take care of my human minutes.

The bathrooms were actually not as bad as I had feared earlier that week. They looked clean and relatively modern, although the lighting was low and awful. When I checked my reflection at the sink, my skin looked as though it was tinted goldenrod, rather than its natural peachy color. Sighing resignedly to this small and (admittedly) insignificant flaw in the bathrooms, I moved to grab a paper towel when I realized I had left my designer purse hanging by its short, thin strap on the door hook inside the stall. Throwing away the harsh brown paper once my hands were dry, I headed back to grab the purse.

No sooner had I disappeared into the stall than did the bathroom door creak open on noisy hinges and a few twittering girls enter the room. At first I didn't pay attention to what they were saying, but just as I was ready to open the stall door again, I found myself the object of their conversation.

"Ugh, did you see her?" one girl commented disgustedly in a very prissy voice.

"The new Cullen girl?" another clarified in a deeper and slightly more mature voice, though equally as unhappy as the first. "Yeah, of course. Who didn't? She walked in like she owned the place."

"Rich kids think they can do whatever they want," a third girl griped, her voice of a distinctly nasal quality. "She'll probably be another stuck-up thing like Rosalie Hale."

"Looks like it," the first girl chimed in icily. "Did you see them in line? Edward Cullen was carrying her ticket. She must be a real snob, if she can't even hold her own ticket. She was too full of herself to even take her own coat off. He did that for her, too."

"Bet he likes her that way," the deep-voiced one remarked with a rude snort. "Like the other ones do with each other. That has to be illegal."

"Like Dr. Cullen practicing plastic surgery on them," the third girl added conspiratorially.

"Doesn't look like he's done much with this one yet," the girl with the deeper voice laughed sarcastically.

"Thank God she's in the grade below me." The first girl let out an exaggerated sigh of relief.

"I know, right?" the second one agreed. "It's bad enough having Hale the ice queen in classes."

"You get all the luck." It was the nasally girl again, and her voice was really starting to bug me. "She's in my grade, from what Samantha heard Mrs. Cope telling Mr. Banner. I'll probably have her in one of my classes. As if that freak Alice Cullen wasn't bad enough with her horrible hair and weird personality."

"I feel for you," the first girl added, words a mask of sickly sweet sympathy. The deeper-voiced girl hmm'd her agreement. The next sound I heard was the door opening and closing, the creaks and squeaking passing straight through me. Minutes passed after they had gone, and all I could do was stand there and think.

They were just some dumb girls. Just stupid kids who didn't know me. And they were too selfish and snotty to try and see me as a person. That was all… I tried to convince myself of that truth; tried to tell myself it didn't matter. But no matter how much I told myself their words were unimportant, it was a terrible challenge to stop tears from flowing down my cheeks.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Music In This Chapter:
I Hate You Then I Love You by Celine Dion & Luciano Pavarotti

Notes:
I would have replied to the reviews, but I honestly didn't know what to say, except a gigantic thank you over and over again. You are all so wonderful!

Previously – Mireille and Edward practiced dancing and Edward sulked. Esme and Alice got Mireille ready for Homecoming. Edward helped Mireille with jewelry and corsage. Alice showed Mireille how to put on a boutonniere. The Cullens took pictures together and Emmett gave Mireille the nickname "Mir" as they left. Emmett drove Edward and Mireille in the Volvo. People stared at the newest 'Cullen' and Edward danced with her to ease the nerves. Mireille danced with Emmett and Jasper. Girls gossiped about Mireille in the bathroom and she was hurt.

Chapter 13: Imitation

I wasn't sure how long I stood in the stall fighting back tears, but it seemed too long. Edward certainly was close enough to read my mind, though, and he hadn't sent Alice in. Perhaps it wasn't that long after all.

That blasted bathroom door creaked open again, and I prayed it wasn't someone else with a negative opinion about me.

"Mireille?"

It was Alice, her soft voice just outside the door, and she pushed it open enough to stick her head in. A look of understanding filled her eyes. "Come on out, Mireille."

Nodding too sharply, I waited for her to back out before I opened the stall. Suddenly, Alice embraced me very tightly and murmured firmly into my ear, "Don't you dare listen to what they said. They're just jealous. You are a very sweet person and you don't deserve that kind of talk."

Her kindness, ironically enough, pushed my tears overboard. Embarrassed that I was overacting so strongly, I muttered, "Sorry. This is so stupid… I just… it hurt more than I thought it would."

"It's not stupid," Alice countered quietly, wiping away some of the tears as they fell. "It's hard when people judge you so harshly without ever getting to know you."

"I already guessed they were going to be like that, though," was my weak reply, an unsightly sniffle going along with it.

"It doesn't make it sting any less when you actually hear it," Alice argued, firming up again. "Now, we aren't going to let them think they got to you. That's just what they'd want. So let's clean you up and fix your makeup."

Giving the small woman a slightly watery smile, I let her pull me in front of the mirrors to wipe my face clean of tears and reapply some of my makeup.

"Where in the world did you fit all that?" I asked her somewhat incredulously, allowing my hurt feelings to subside mostly and instead watching as she laid out several products that she must have used on my face.

"Trade secret," Alice winked mischievously, opening the eye shadow container with a quick flick of her wrist. "Close your eyes."

Giggling mutedly, I did as instructed and felt light swipes and brushes along my cheeks and eyes. In no time, I was given the all clear. "There, you're right as rain now."

"Thanks, Alice." I smiled sheepishly, moving into step as she guided me with an arm around my waist.

"It's nothing. We'd better hurry out, though, before Edward and Jasper combust. They were ready to growl at Lauren—"

Blanking out abruptly as Alice kept on talking in a low voice, I realized very quickly why the third girl in the bathroom had seemed somewhat familiar. Granted, I had never heard anyone imitate Lauren Mallory's voice before, but that nasal quality to her voice was directly mentioned in the books.

"—was ready to as well, but thankfully Rosalie stopped him. Not that I blame any of them," Alice was saying coldly as we stepped out onto the dance floor and over to the right, where Edward and Jasper were standing together by the drink table. I briefly wondered if they were holding each other back in the figurative sense.

"Pretty much," Edward admitted darkly, casting an angry gaze across the floor.

I could see a girl with long and perfectly-curled corn silk hair in a strapless, form-fitting, orange taffeta dress, laughing and whispering with three other girls: a heavily highlighted blonde in a vivid purple, one-shoulder taffeta gown; a strawberry-blonde in a strapless, cobalt blue number with sequins and pluming chiffon on the skirt, and one with dark sandy-colored hair in something resembling my great-aunt's ugliest quilt. Her yellowish-white dress was something I wasn't all too sure I wanted to examine, but the thing was so ridiculous that I couldn't help staring a little. Simply put, her grandmother probably hadn't even worn a dress that was so despicably floral.

The first two girls must have been the same ones in the bathroom with Lauren. I wondered if the sandy-haired girl was Samantha, who had been listed in the official guide as a friend of Lauren's – that much I had read in random perusals of the book.

"Would you like to dance?" Edward asked me, forcing himself to a calmer state of being.

"Sure," I agreed, smiling a little to take the edge out of my earlier reaction to being criticized. Alice tugged Jasper out onto the floor as well, only marginally taking away the tight expression which spoke to his own anger at how the three girls had spoken of his wife.

Occasionally as we danced, I recognized more students from the books. Eric Yorkie standing off to the side with a couple of other stag attendees was simple to spot with his trademark oily hair. Jessica Stanley's voluminous black curls, let loose for the night, drew my attention to her short, magenta-clad form. Angela Weber was of course tall and thin, wearing a very dull, strapless navy dress and her light brown hair straight as a pin; it was obvious she didn't have the confidence to do much with her hair or clothes for such events, but she clearly didn't want to miss out on the dances either. I really hoped I could befriend her (and possibly boost her self-confidence). Mike Newton, the last one I spotted, was still wearing his hair in spikes and his face had a definite roundness to it yet, although I could tell it was already beginning to shape into a more adult form.

There was a strange atmosphere in the air after I stopped noticing any book-familiar faces. It was an atmosphere which I was incapable of shaking off, and one which was clearly part of the reason Jasper couldn't lose his agitation very well. Something was moving in some of the gathered group that I didn't like the look of. Staring happened even more frequently than it had the first half of the night and whispers started passing around just out of my range of hearing. The whispering, I noticed, seemed concentrated in students who appeared older than most. Seniors, I determined. I couldn't figure out why, though, and Edward wouldn't speak of it. Even when I asked him outright, he shook his head and frowned uncomfortably. I tried to ask as randomly and as quickly as I could, and in different ways, to perhaps startle him into answering me, but he never faltered.

"Just wait," he said sharply at last, his temper getting the better of him. Glaring icily at him for his rudeness, I snapped my dress coat out of his hands and pulled it on without his aid, stalking away and leaving him to get his own coat and hurry after me. Thankfully we were all leaving a little early and no one else was outside to hear or see our spat.

"Don't do that," he snapped quietly, firmly but comfortably grabbing my elbow as he caught up to me outside the main doors.

"Stop being so rude, then," I snapped back, frustrated with the lack of explanations.

Gritting his teeth, Edward kept silent until we reached his car, where Emmett waited with a remarkably stern face. Sitting in the M3 beside the Volvo, Rosalie, Jasper, & Alice looked rather similar to Emmett. Taking stock of their sudden seriousness, I kept quiet only long enough for us to climb in the back seat.

"What is going on, Edward? I want to know," I practically demanded, staring directly at him.

Sighing exasperatedly and reaching over to buckle the seat belt I had neglected, he finally said, "I only want to say it once. Can you just wait until we get home? You'll know then."

Begrudgingly accepting this proposition, I settled back into my seat for the ride home, not even noticing the trees as they flew by.

"Deputy," Edward remarked once, but other than that, the brief drive was all too silent. Everyone except Alice ran in ahead when we stopped in the driveway, right beside the house. The small vampire came to my side, taking some of my things when I got out.

"Is it really all that bad?" I asked in a sigh, searching her face for honesty.

"It could turn that way," she admitted, putting an arm around me as she had done in the bathroom and leading me inside at my own pace. We stopped to remove our coats in the foyer (in which the bench, I noticed, had been put back) when I decided Elizabeth Masen's pearls needed to come off too. Alice took them from me and disappeared to put them away, with the instruction that I wait there for her. Confusion was my primary response to such an odd request, but further than that I didn't speculate because she was already back.

"We're having a family meeting," she explained upon seeing my puzzled face, guiding me to the dining room.

"Did I do something wrong?" I wondered vulnerably, aghast that I might have done something to hurt their chances of staying in Forks.

"No, of course not!" Alice exclaimed, a shocked expression stuck on her elfin features. "Why would you think that?"

"Well, Edward didn't want to tell me and I thought… I don't know. I was just worried and I didn't want to do something to mess up your chances of staying…" By the last word, my voice had become nearly inaudible with mortification over my mistaken guess.

"Oh, Mir," Alice groaned and sighed simultaneously, shaking her head in pure exasperation, but saying nothing more. Everyone at the table when we approached seemed to be holding back amusement somehow. At the head of the table, Carlisle's mouth was tight from holding back a smile. On his right, Esme held a hand over her smiling lips, and on his left, Edward's eyes gleamed with sharp humor. Emmett shook with chuckles between Esme and a pleasanter-faced Rosalie. Last to catch my eye, Jasper positively trembled with repressed snickering two seats down from Edward. I could feel my cheeks and ears heat up in reaction.

As Alice pushed me ahead of her around the side of the table and took a seat on the other side of Jasper, Edward offered me a helping hand into my chair and wondered irritably, albeit amusedly, "How your mind works itself into these kinds of knots, I will never know."

Glaring instead of blushing now, I folded my arms across my chest and stared at the table. Unwillingly, I felt the irritation fade thanks to Jasper's finger against my exposed elbow. Coughing past a slight chuckle, Carlisle finally began the meeting. "Alice, you only said there is a troubling development amongst some of the students. Can you explain now?"

"It was actually Edward who noticed it first," Alice answered, turning grim. "I told you of the girls who were talking about Mireille. And a little about us…"

The brothers all growled and I could have sworn I felt vibrations from the men on either side of me. Carlisle nodded his acknowledgement, eyeing me sympathetically when I grimaced. Alice eyed me in concern, too, before she went on, "Well, Edward heard the senior, Vanessa Travis, think of teaching Mireille her 'place' in the school."

A loud gasp left Esme and me at the same time, our eyes wide and expressions disturbed. Edward and Jasper each took one of my hands, one to calm and the other to comfort.

"Is that why we left?" I asked quietly, hardly able to believe someone hated me that badly already.

"Not that moment, no," Alice sighed unhappily, traces of anger in her voice. "What settled it was when Rosalie overheard – and I saw – Vanessa, her boyfriend Greg, and her junior friend Whitney planning to jump you after the dance."

"What!" I yelped in deeper shock and added fear.

"I'm sorry," Alice sighed again, her face troubled. "I think it's because they don't feel any resistance to you, since you're human. They don't feel that need to stay away."

"And they are heaping all their jealousy for our family onto the one member they now feel they can safely alienate," Rosalie added coldly.

"That's why you didn't want me walking off by myself," I suddenly pieced together, turning to face Edward with recognition dawning on my face.

"I didn't know when they would head outside precisely," he nodded gravely. "I was afraid they might get even a hit or two in before we could reach you."

"We need to employ deterrents as much as possible," Jasper suggested knowledgeably.

"You obviously have thought out some options," Carlisle sighed, deeply troubled by the developments. "What are you planning?"

"We have to make sure one of us in each of her classes," Edward replied.

"And I'll be coming with her if she needs to use the bathroom," Alice added apologetically. "It's the only safe way."

"But they already have my class worksheet," I said worriedly.

"We can get into the system and change it," was Emmett's blasé solution, shrugging as he spoke.

"Er… okay."

"You'll have to get used to it, Mir," the big vampire laughed, no longer bothered now that we had a plan. "Got to do what you got to do."

Edward snorted sarcastically, but thankfully the meeting came to an end before he could say anything.

"Just be on the alert," Carlisle concluded, focusing on me in particular. "It may not be your usual way, but please be extremely cautious."

Nodding was the extent of my response as we all rose from the table or – in the case of Rosalie, Emmett, Alice, and Jasper – disappeared entirely.

A thought hit me then, however. "What about sunny days?"

"You should probably miss those as a rule of thumb," Carlisle sighed.

"Okay," I sighed also.

"I know you would prefer to stay if possible," he apologetically replied. "I wish you didn't have to miss, but for both our cover story and your safety, it would be best."

Nodding resignedly, I decided changing was my next order of business, so I went upstairs to my closet.

After I removed my shoes, washed my face, and took my hair down, however, I found I didn't want to take my dress off. For a fashion statement, it was remarkably comfortable and the skirt was freeing in a way. After dances in high school, I had always felt a strange urge to keep the dresses on after I returned home. I was never sure why.

Scuffing the carpet on my way into the main area of the room, I wondered why the girls at the high school would be so angry that they would want to hurt me. It bothered me more than I had admitted or shown at the meeting downstairs, much as I tried to quell the feeling. Slouching overtook me and I sighed as I sat disconsolately on the edge of the bed facing the office space.

"You aren't the first one they've decided to haze," Edward spoke consolingly from behind me. "It's not because of anything you've done."

I just shrugged. Did it matter much anyway? They were doing it to me regardless.

"Of course it matters," he sighed, walking around the bed to face me. When I refused to look up from my feet hanging off the side of the bed, he knelt before me and lifted my chin with his fingertip. "I just want to make sure you aren't blaming yourself for their decision to be bullies."

"I'm not," I replied honestly. "I've just never had to face this kind of… of… persecution, I guess. I'm not used to being so blatantly despised."

"I know," he allowed gently, pulling his finger away. "Try not to let it get you down. Vanessa and Greg will be gone by June. I've heard their thoughts about college and getting out of this place for good. Whitney doesn't really want to join in on their hazing anyway, so once the seniors are gone, she won't even bother with that behavior. We'll keep you safe until then."

"Thanks," I smiled slightly at him, though I was still feeling a little down.

"Why don't we put some music on?" Edward suggested on a much lighter note, standing in a lightning quick movement and offering his hands to me. "Pick whatever you want. As a matter of fact, why don't you dig through your CD case? I'm curious as to what you like that I don't have."

"And probably won't ever have," I said wryly. "Celine Dion will never be your style, for one thing."

"Do tell," he chuckled, letting me walk ahead of him.

"Do you mind if I listen to her?" I made sure, looking over my shoulder at his good-humored face.

"I did say pick whatever you want," he pointed out.

After picking out one of my Celine Dion CDs and putting it in, I took a seat on one of the two armless, pale aqua chairs that flanked the hall on either side, Edward's dark gold drapes for acoustics covering the pale gold wall behind them. Edward slipped onto his reupholstered sofa, bravely facing the music he could hardly be a big fan of. Everything went fairly simply for a while, Edward behaving quite kindly about my musical preference, until it got to track fourteen 'I Hate You Then I Love You'.

I'd always enjoyed the song's mixture of Celine Dion's voice and Luciano Pavarotti's – the mix of pop and opera. But two minutes into the song, Edward gave me no warning when I heard something that threw me for a complete one-eighty.

"You make me long for you…" came a loud and false Italian operatic voice from behind us, clearly trying to match the way Pavarotti sang the words.

Turning slowly around, my jaw fallen open and eyes nearly popping out, I found Emmett standing in a more casual outfit of jeans and tee shirt at the end of the hall as he continued to imitate Pavarotti's part of the song. Thirty seconds of staring at his dramatic face and listening to his purposely ridiculous attempts, and I got a second shock in the form of a high soprano imitating Celine Dion's part just as exaggeratedly as Emmett, "Then I love you… I love you more…"

Alice appeared at Emmett's elbow, also in a more casual outfit, the two of them now feeding off of each other and getting more melodramatic every time they sang a new line. When they finished the soft, slow ending with a cheesy look of adoration, I sat gaping in blatant disbelief, only vaguely recognizing Edward's heavily muffled snickers. Alice found time to snap a picture of me in my frozen pose and Edward bent over with laughter.

"Well, how was it?" Emmett had the gall to ask, grinning wider than should be allowed after such a disgustingly blasphemous performance. Edward finally exploded with laughter and I could hear a matching laugh somewhere on the other side of Emmett and Alice, the combined roar startling me into facing that ducked head of bronze with saucer-sized eyes.

"Is he serious?" I asked at last, my voice high and incredulous. More laughter broke out and I did not get an answer. The blank look on Emmett's face told it all, anyway.

"Come on, Em," Alice sighed, shaking her head in mock sadness. "Some people just don't appreciate artists."

"See if we serenade you again," Emmett scolded, shaking his finger at me like I was a misbehaving puppy before he left with his tiny sister.

"You should have seen your face," Edward still laughed, though now capable of sitting up. "It was absolutely priceless."

"That was complete misrepresentation," I retorted. "I loved that song and now I don't even think I'll be able to listen to it again without cringing."

"He just thought you needed cheering up," Edward murmured hesitantly, his smile becoming more serious. Pretty much instantly, I felt ungrateful.

"I'm not trying to give you a guilt-trip," he told me before I could even wonder. "I would probably be just as annoyed if Emmett and Alice did that to me. Actually more so… I'm just letting you know Emmett didn't intend to ruin the song for you."

"Sorry, Emmett," I muttered almost under my breath, ashamed of being so touchy about a stupid song. "And Alice."

"It's okay." It was Alice who appeared in the alcove again, looking quite accepting. "Emmett would say the same, but Rosalie is kind of upset with him."

'Why?' the question rang in my mind. I knew better than to say it aloud with Rosalie possibly listening.

Edward left and then reappeared with a pad of paper and a pen, scribbling a note at a human pace and offering it to me.

She secretly loves Celine Dion and Emmett knows that, but he still made fun of it. He wasn't thinking; he just didn't like the sad look on your face downstairs, so he wanted to make you feel better.

"Oh," I sighed, again feeling ashamed of my negative reaction. Why couldn't I have just laughed? It was pretty funny, now that I thought back on it. As a matter of fact, if I had been reading a fanfiction story where Emmett and Alice did that, I would have cracked up.

"Don't worry about it so much," Alice tried to reassure me, smiling convincingly. "You've had a nasty shock tonight. And remember to change out of that dress before bed. You'll be achy all tomorrow if you don't."

My lips twitched. "Okay."

"Night, Mir!" she chirped and sped out the door. I didn't bother to say goodnight.

"Would you like to sleep now?" Edward inquired. "It's been a long day for you."

"I guess I should if I want to be up at a reasonable time tomorrow," I admitted, rising from the chair and moving into my closet to change into a pair of white and pink pajamas.

Edward already had a soft classical piece playing just loud enough for me to hear from the bed and the covers of said bed pulled down for me. The vampire himself waited at the foot of the bed, searching for something in the cushioned bench.

"What are you looking for?" I asked through a lengthy yawn, stretching my arms above my head comfortably.

"Gatsby," he murmured absently, rising from his bent position with a thoughtful frown on his face. "Do you know where it went?"

"I thought it was in the window seat," I commented with a frown of my own as I tried to remember where I had seen the book last.

"I could have sworn it ended up in here," he said, pointing down to the bench. "Are you sure it was in the window seat?"

"Oh!" I exclaimed as I recalled finally. "It was mine in the window seat. I don't know where your copy went."

"Strange," he uttered with pursed lips. "I'll have to look for it."

"Just use mine," I shrugged. "I'm not going to need it while I'm sleeping, you know."

"If you don't mind," he acquiesced.

I shook my head, climbing into bed and pulling the covers over me while he searched out The Great Gatsby in the window seat.

"Goodnight, Edward," I yawned again, settling further into the blankets. It was amazing how quickly sleep crept up on me once I was cocooned.

"Goodnight, Mireille," Edward responded and removed himself to the alcove for the night.

The next morning I woke up earlier than I had expected, feeling strangely energetic – enthusiastic, even – as I washed up, brushed my teeth, and later pulled my hair back into a high ponytail. I didn't think much on the reason for it, but I was glad when Edward let me know Jasper wasn't around to be driven crazy by my unexpected emotions.

"Where is he?" I questioned him through my closet door, which I had left open a couple inches so I could talk with him while I changed into dark gray pants, a light pink sweater, and sequined flats to match.

"Hunting," he answered simply.

"I'm guessing Alice went with him?"

"Yes. Emmett and Rosalie went, too."

"What about you?"

"I went with Carlisle and Esme last night, a little while after you fell asleep," he explained.

"Oh, that's good," I said, pulling on my jeans. "By the way… um, this is kind of an embarrassing question, but how are you ignoring my mind right now?"

"By focusing on Carlisle's," he confessed laughingly. "He's reading a Lithuanian medical text for me."

"You asked him to do that?" I giggled a little.

"No, he just knows me all too well," Edward sounded highly entertained.

"And now he's probably grinning over this conversation," I laughed, finally slipping into the flats and exiting the closet to find Edward smiling himself.

"He is," was the amused reply. My good humor was thoroughly disrupted when I noticed the Twilight books sitting on the chair by Edward's closet.

"I hope you don't mind," he frowned slightly, catching the slight downturn of my thoughts. "On Wednesday, you said we would discuss them today, so…"

"I did, didn't I?" Much as I became nervous about the family reading the books, I realized now that my enthusiasm was also caused by the day's events. "When are the others coming back?"

"Alice said they'd be here in an hour," he answered more comfortably. "After you eat breakfast, Carlisle wants to talk for a few minutes about the books."

"Okay," I nodded, wondering what he would wish to talk about, but not asking. I would find out soon enough anyway.

Breakfast was just as rushed as my energy pushed me to be. Within fifteen minutes of sitting down to eat eggs, fruit, and yogurt, I was heading upstairs with Esme to Carlisle's office, where the patriarch and Edward sat talking in low voices. Their conversation ceased when I entered the room, though I could tell it wasn't because they were hiding anything. Just simple courtesy.

"Hello, Mireille," Carlisle greeted me with a smile. "How are you this morning?"

"Energetic for some reason," I confessed lightly, taking the seat parallel to Edward's in front of the desk while Esme moved to perch on the arm of her husband's chair. Carlisle's arm slipped unconsciously about her waist. "Must be because we're planning to discuss the books or something."

"That's good," he chuckled.

"You wanted to talk about them, right?" I prompted patiently.

"Not exactly," he hedged, obviously curious. "…I found some other items of yours."

"What do you mean?" I wondered in surprise. "We searched everywhere, didn't we Edward?"

"Everywhere that was available at the time," he corrected with a wry expression.

"I don't get it," I admitted, frowning very deeply.

"When you searched the house," Carlisle started to explain, "I had left my case of journals and paperwork in my office at the hospital. It was only Friday that I brought it home. And only today that I looked through it."

"What was in it?" was my stunned inquiry.

"The first thing I noticed was this manuscript," he told me, tapping a loosely bound stack of paper on the desk before him. "I only read the title, which I recall you telling me about."

"Midnight Sun," I labeled it without even looking at it.

"Yes," he nodded. "But there are also these smaller, bound packets. I believe they are those outtakes and extra scenes you mentioned."

Almost dazedly I lifted up each packet and read off the titles. Sure enough, they were the various extras that Stephenie Meyer had posted on her website.

"But why are they printed? I never had a physical copy of any of these. They were all on the computer."

"Maybe in the future you typed them yourself, so you would have a physical copy," Edward mentioned with a shrug.

"I guess that makes sense," I sighed. "I did start to type copies of the books, since I was writing… well…"

I didn't want to admit I had been typing a characters-read-the-book fic. That was irony of the worst kind.

"A characters read the book fic?" Edward quoted, stamping out a grin viciously. "I guess you didn't spare any expense this time, did you?"

"Shut up!" I exclaimed, laughing a bit and trying to shove his immobile body.

"All right," Carlisle laughed, holding his hands up to stop our quibbling.

"Now," he continued after we had calmed. "Mireille, there's more."

"More?" I half yelped. If it wasn't any of Stephenie Meyer's writing… "Oh no! Please, don't tell me my stories are there!"

Carlisle and Edward's grinning faces sent me groaning miserably into my hands, "This is going to be awful."

"It will not be," Edward ribbed, poking my shoulder in an effort to have me look at him. It failed, I was proud to say.

"Mireille, we won't read them if you don't want us to," Esme laughed understandingly. "But we are all rather curious how you wrote about us before you actually met us."

"And I think it's ironic," Edward added, "that only significant things have shown up for you. It makes me think these are important, too."

I couldn't speak. My face would probably never return to its normal color if they read my stories.

"It's entirely up to you, my dear," Carlisle offered, chuckling as my face flooded with red. "I just wanted you to know they are here."

Not once would I ever allow myself to read those stories, even for myself. Edward would be able to see it, so there was no way.

"I'm not going to blackmail you or anything," the vampire in question scoffed. "I just find it fascinating, that's all."

"Carlisle," I forced my self to speak at last, "Did you read anything of those?"

"A line or two," he admitted, making me groan again. "But only because I wondered what they were. After I realized, I stopped reading. I am sorry, though."

"Why does this have to happen to me?" I asked myself. "Of all the embarrassing things…"

"It's not like you knew us then," Edward protested. "It's not going to make us angry. As long as you don't have Esme married to… Emmett… Well, that might disgust us or make us laugh, actually, but that's not the point."

Esme blanched at the suggestion of her and Emmett married, and under better circumstances I would have joined Carlisle in muffling laughter. Sighing, I finally said embarrassedly, "After you have read all of the books and extra scenes… I'll think about it, okay? Just don't expect it, please."

"Very well," Carlisle chuckled again. "Aside from that, I wanted to talk to you about your education."

"What about it?" I inquired nervously, still mostly looking at my feet.

"I wonder if you would like to have lessons for the rest of this semester," he suggested. "To catch you up on the things you remember and help you understand things you've never taken."

"That would be nice, probably," I agreed, daring to catch his eye. Kind was his gaze, so I didn't look away.

"Most of the lessons would have to be on the weekend, since I work and the others go to school. But if there is something you could learn from Esme, then that could happen during the week. Now, as far as what your lessons will be, that depends on what you desire help with."

"Everything," I responded flatly. "Maybe even some subjects I was supposed to have learned before this semester, like geometry and world history."

"All right," he nodded, turning slightly businesslike as he wrote down my preferences. "So lessons in geometry, algebra, Spanish, English, history, and chemistry?"

"That sounds about right," I nodded, feeling the blush finally fade from my cheeks.

"When would you get up in the mornings?"

"I don't know. I want to get up early so I get in a routine for school, so…"

"How about six o'clock?" Esme suggested. "It usually takes you a little under an hour-and-a-half to get ready and have breakfast. And school starts at seven-thirty, so that's exactly enough time."

"Works for me."

"Would you like your lessons to cover an average school day?" Carlisle asked. "Or would you like them spread out more, so you can take breaks in-between?"

"Spread out," I immediately answered.

"All right. What I want you to do, then, is work on laying out a plan at some point tomorrow. List everything you'd like to spend time doing throughout the day, your meals, and your lessons. Then try mapping out a schedule you feel comfortable with."

"All right," I agreed easily. It actually sounded fun; like I was putting together a puzzle.

"As for reading the books," the doctor continued, "We'll have to create something of schedule for that, too. We can start today, however, if everyone agrees."

"We do!" Alice cried excitedly as she burst into the room, laying a cheery kiss on the crown of my head, pulling me to my feet, and dragging me out the door as she called behind her, "Bring all the books, the extras, and the manuscript, Carlisle!"

Her father, mother, and brother's laughter followed us to the stairs shortly before the three people themselves did. Quicker than I had expected, the entire family gathered in the living area – even Rosalie. She and Emmett shared a couch, as did Carlisle and Esme. Edward and I took the chairs, and Jasper and Alice sat on the floor in front of the hearth.

As Edward laid all the books and writings in front of us on the huge coffee table, Alice added more quietly, "Mireille has some points to make before we begin, so we need to listen."

In spite of my nervousness, I tried to remember everything I had thought about warning them of, or explaining beforehand.

"Well, the first thing is just… remember this has not even happened yet. I don't feel it would be fair to get really angry or yell at anyone for something they haven't said or done. A little reaction is understandable, since none of us are automatons, but please don't start screaming at someone or… blaming them for things that haven't occurred."

I couldn't help my gaze sliding to Rosalie, who I was sure would be furious when she saw how Edward kept messing up around Bella.

"I'm guessing you mean me, in particular?" she asked dryly, raising an eyebrow at my brief glance.

"Well in Twilight, especially, you kind of flip out on Edward," I tired to carefully word my answer, though it wasn't working out quite how I'd hoped. "I just would prefer if you didn't do that here. Mentally or verbally. There are things you won't like and I know I can't stop you, but… I'm just asking you not to go calling names…"

My words softened to practically nothing at the end. How in the world could I convince Rosalie to not be angry? It seemed an impossible task. Feeling uncomfortable under her steady golden stare, I fidgeted and shrugged, looking down at my hands.

"What else did you want to say?" Carlisle intervened gently.

"Um… well, Esme," I started more nervously than ever, trying still to keep my words kind. "Edward's behavior in the books can be rude and… well, kind of dumb sometimes. No offense, Edward."

"None taken," he smirked while Emmett laughed loudly.

"Anyway, I don't know how big you are on pointing out rudeness and all that, but I think you might want to ease up on it while we read. It's only going to get people down if their every little word is scolded and reproached."

"I try not to be too demanding on that count," Esme actually laughed. "I know that everyone's sense of humor and rudeness can be quite different from mine, so I do try to curtail too much reprimanding. Thank you for reminding me, though, dear."

Breathing a sigh a relief, I moved onto something else. "Okay, another thing is you, Emmett."

"What'd I do?" he instantly asked. Everyone laughed at his quick expectation of having done something wrong.

"Just limit the making-fun, please?" I begged with the best puppy dog pout I could muster.

"Uh…" Emmett tried to reply, scratching his head in some confusion as he tried to get past my pouting features. "Okay…"

"Thank you," I smiled sweetly at him in gratitude, ignoring the restrained laughter from the rest of the family.

"Oh, they learn so fast," Alice sniffled as if she were letting go of her baby for the first time.

"Alice? I'm almost twenty-one years old here."

"Oh, shut up," she giggled, reaching over to push my knee lightly.

"One thing I wanted to say is for you, Edward," I informed him seriously.

"Yes?" he prompted with equal seriousness.

"You have to have hope. Got me?"

Tilting his head to examine my earnest face, Edward stretched out his arm across the space between us to take my hand in his. "I'll try."

Smiling at his willingness, I figured it was time to admit to something I had been concealing for a few days. I didn't allow myself to focus on Edward's confused face.

"Jasper?" I addressed the former Major hesitantly after a minute, but found I couldn't push the words out of my mouth when he looked at me expectantly. Instead, I looked to Alice to see if my question would be all right.

She answered my question with glazed eyes. "It's all right, Mireille. You can ask him."

"Ask me what?" Jasper queried patiently, leaning forward in interest.

Taking a deep breath, I asked, "Would Maria have any reason to come after you?"

Taken aback, Jasper's eyes widened slightly. "I don't know. I mean… I realize she lost a lot of territory without my ability under her control, but when we met her again in Calgary, she left fairly peaceably. For her, at least. Why are you concerned about that? Do the books…?"

"No, she never appears in them," I quickly reassured him. "The only time she's brought up is when you finally tell Bella your story."

"Then why?"

"I just… I don't really know how to say it… I've had a strange feeling for a few days."

"What kind of feeling?" he asked me as calmly and as practiced as if he were talking Alice through a vision.

"A feeling that I'm going to meet Maria."

The room erupted in shocked exclamations, even from Edward and Alice, but Jasper stayed remarkably quiet, a pensive and calculating look on his face.

"Why didn't you say anything?" Edward demanded, aghast at my hidden feelings.

"I didn't want anyone to freak out," I rapidly defended myself. "Maybe it's only because of me reading Jasper's story that I started feeling like that. Maria freaks me out as a general rule, so maybe I was just being paranoid. Maybe I'm still adjusting to being in a totally different world from what I've known…"

"That night," Jasper spoke calmly, pushing the feeling through the room, "when we first found your certificates and the books, you felt a sudden spike of hate… Was that for Maria?"

I merely nodded my assent.

"And you also feel that you'll meet her somehow?"

"Yes," I added very quietly, blue locking with bright gold.

Jasper was silent for a long moment, until he finally frowned and spoke, "I can't explain why, but I believe Mireille may be right."

"What?" Esme gasped concernedly. "But that would mean…"

"Death," Rosalie bluntly put forth, though her eyes were steely. I shivered unconsciously.

"Or change," Edward suggested more quietly, taking my hand again.

"If Mireille turns out to have a gift that is noticeable in this life, then yes," Jasper agreed with his brother. "Maria has a distinct sense about gifted vampires, although she does not know what the gifts are. She has no actual ability like Eleazar has. Just intuition. Perhaps that is all Mireille has, but I'm afraid of risking that assumption."

"As am I," Carlisle added gravely. "Mireille, do you feel that this is a very imminent danger?"

"No, not really," I shook my head. "More like it will happen eventually."

"At least there's that," Emmett frowned.

Jasper again gazed at my face, but I was unable to read his expression. At last, he spoke. "I don't ever want you to meet that creature, Mireille. I hardly know what I would have to do to prevent it, but I would do most anything to keep someone from being forced into the kind of life I once led. I don't want you to become like me."

"That depends on how you mean," I argued softly, daring to reach for his clenched hand. He stiffened, but Alice gently stopped him from moving. "If you mean living through the hell that you did, then I agree. But if you mean your personality… Well, I hope I can have as much dignity and strength as you've had."

"Don't argue!" I snapped commandingly as he moved to interrupt, startling him. "No one could live through that and then lead this kind of life without strength of character."

Pausing to take in the force behind my words, Jasper finally nodded, "Thank you."

"Welcome," I mumbled, slouching back in my seat and watching Alice wrap her tiny arms around Jasper's chest.

"I don't feel there is much we can do if we do not at least catch a glimpse of our futures," Carlisle said in conclusion. "Let's start reading, shall we?"

"I think alternating chapters of Twilight and Midnight Sun should be read until the end of the manuscript," I suggested.

"A good idea," Carlisle agreed.

"Oh!" I recalled suddenly that certain people should probably not read certain chapters. Like Rosalie reading 'Port Angeles'. I winced at the implications of that. "Some of you probably shouldn't read particular chapters of the books, so I need to know the chapter title before you start reading. If I stop someone from reading, please don't be upset."

"After each chapter we'll just hand the book over to you for a decision," Alice agreed, handing the first book over to me. "Why don't you start?"

"Actually," I hesitated, laying the book back down, to everyone's curious stares. "I have one last suggestion to make."

"We're listening," Edward replied for all concerned.

"I think you should read them aloud, but at a vampire pace," I announced. Protests arose, but I waved them away. "I've already read the books. I don't need to go through them again to know what happens and how I feel or what I think about it. But I think for time purposes we could finish most of this very soon and plan as soon as possible for any changes that need to be made. What I do ask, however, is that you stop at the end of the first chapter, at least, and we'll all discuss it. Otherwise, it's more productive for me to wait out each chapter. While you're reading it together, I could even make a list of who is best to read each chapter."

"That does sound like an exceedingly wise plan," Carlisle smiled. "But why don't you take a few minutes to work out the readers beforehand? We have time for that if we're reading at our speed. Does everyone agree?"

Nods around the room convinced me we could begin and I removed the glossy book cover to have only the matte black binding underneath. As I opened the cover of Twilight to write down who would read each chapter, I felt my fingers tingling in anticipation of a very rough journey for me and my new friends.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Music In This Chapter:
Someday by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
John in the Jordan by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Get Away Jordan by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound
Right Place, Right Time by Ernie Haase & Signature Sound

Notes:
I will not be writing out the chapter and having the group comment on it. I wanted to, but it's too drawn out for the purposes of this story.

Previously – Alice comforted Mireille and they returned to the dance floor. The Cullens danced more and Mireille noticed certain people at the dance. The students at the dance began to act oddly and Edward acted secretive. Mireille was irritated, stormed off, and Edward followed her. Back at the house, everyone explains the villainy of Vanessa Travis and Greg Overman, and the threatened inclusion of Whitney Duran. Edward and Mireille discussed Vanessa and Greg. Emmett and Alice mocked a Celine Dion song to make Mireille feel better. The next day, Carlisle revealed Mireille's fanfiction had appeared, then asked Mireille to create a daily tutoring schedule. Mireille prepared the Cullens to read the books and discussed a feeling that she would one day meet Maria. The Cullens began the first chapter of Twilight while Mireille began to create a reading order.

Chapter 14: Ideas

It was surprising how quickly I sorted through who would read what chapters in the first book and the match-up of Twilight and Midnight Sun, since some of Edward's chapters hadn't matched exactly with Bella's. And I hadn't even given Edward any unnecessary hints of what would happen.

"All right," I announced after a little while, "For the most part you'll read in an order, but occasionally I've switched it so certain people are reading particular parts. Carlisle seems to be the neutral reader more often than anyone, so don't be surprised if he reads the most."

A chuckle spread over the eight of us at that indicator.

"I also decided that it's better for each reader to double up Twilight chapters with Midnight Sun chapters. So until Midnight Sun is over, you'll all read a chapter from each book and then you can talk or just move on or whatever you want. Is that all right?"

"It'll be great," Alice confirmed with a single nod, eyes coming back into focus. "Now tell us our general reading order."

"Carlisle reads first, then Esme, Edward, Alice, Jasper, Rosalie, and Emmett. And any changes I've added in are pretty clear. Carlisle, you should read the Twilight chapter first."

"Wonderful!" Alice piped up excitedly, grabbing the book and tossing it into Carlisle's hands.

"Talk to you in a few," I chuckled, pulling New Moon into my lap so I could prepare a readers list for it, too.

They chuckled with me and then turned their attention to Carlisle. Suddenly all I could hear was a sound similar to a whispering wind and I found myself staring in awe at the rate Carlisle's mouth moved. I may have actually blinked a few times, because Edward grinned at me. Shaking myself, I returned focus to my list. That didn't stop me from hearing sudden bouts of grumbling, snapping, giggling, and laughter, of course. The whole spectrum of emotions seemed to be covered throughout the reading. I had gone about halfway on my list when I noticed Carlisle and Alice trade off the book for the manuscript. Luckily, I figured I'd be finished by the time he was, but I sped up a little anyway to make sure.

When I scribbled the last name, I heard a collective sigh around me. Looking up, I saw Carlisle set the manuscript over on the coffee table with a rather stunned expression, matched by Esme. Edward appeared more than stunned, he seemed absolutely shell-shocked. Rosalie looked concerned, but angry, and Emmett had a certain worried curiosity about him. Alice gave off a more excited than worried air, a certain gleam in her eyes, while Jasper seemed flabbergasted. Despite the different expressions, I could tell there was an overall sense of pride. I was pretty sure I knew why.

"Well?" I prompted, anxious to hear their thoughts. Not that they weren't obvious from the faces everyone made, but I needed words to work through it all.

"You were right," Alice remarked first, looking over at me with a growing smile. "Edward was tough as nails. Not that I doubted you."

"Told you," I smiled back.

"If I didn't already know you have read this and understood it, Mireille, I would be positively terrified by Bella's observations," Carlisle admitted with a raised brow.

"I still am," Jasper muttered awkwardly, fidgeting where he sat and casting a nervous glance at his wife.

"I'm not terrified, I'm disgusted," Rosalie spat, arms crossed in fury. "We can't even try and avoid notice with her."

"She'd never tell anything to anyone," I firmly told the blonde, who looked only slightly less angry for my assurance, though I did get the feeling she believed me.

"I think Bella sounds great." Emmett grinned slightly. "She made some bad jokes there, but sometimes she's pretty funny. Like when she trips over air."

Rosalie glared at her husband, instantly shutting him up and wiping the grin off his face.

"I hope Edward is all right in the next chapter," Esme fretted, laying a soothing hand on her eldest son's arm, and I could tell her hopes also applied to the present. He still hadn't responded to anything we'd said.

"Edward?" I prodded him gently, reaching for his hand. The change in physical temperature might move him where Esme could not.

"I'm listening," he quietly replied, still staring at his hands where we grasped them. "I just… I'm afraid of this. Afraid of reading further… Afraid of k—"

Abruptly he had stopped himself from saying 'killing' and I felt badly for him. This chapter and his struggle was not something he would want to hear, even if he had already known Bella was his singer.

"Edward?" I pushed again, drawing his reluctant eyes up to mine. "You are not going to kill Bella Swan. I know it. There is no doubt."

He could hardly refute the sincerity and determination in my voice. "I'll still be worried about this," he admitted freely, though he squeezed my hand in thanks.

"That's normal," I shrugged. "Honestly, I'm worried about all of this, too. But if you don't read, you'll go at it blind."

Nodding slowly, he squeezed my hand one more time and steeled himself to hear more of the story.

"Okay," I spoke again, looking around at the others, "Do you want to keep stopping after every chapter? Or would you prefer to stop after all the books are finished or what?"

"I think it might be best to just keep reading all the way through," Carlisle suggested thoughtfully. "You've already written out who reads which parts, haven't you?"

"Yeah, it's all here." I gestured to the paper in front of me. "I just finished the list for New Moon. And I'll be able to finish the lists for Eclipse and Breaking Dawn while you read the first book."

"Mireille, why don't you read the official guide when you're done with the lists?" Edward suggested. "It will give you something to do."

"That's a good idea," I agreed, surprised. "I will do that."

"Let's get reading, then. Esme, you're next with the first book." Alice clapped happily and Esme cautiously picked up Twilight.

After I finished determining the readers for the last couple books, the information I found in the guide kept me so engrossed that I was barely aware of the various reactions the family had as they read. A few exceptionally loud growls here, some snaps and sniffles there, but little else broke through for a while. Granted, when they reached parts like the nomads' entrance (or so I guessed), there was a lot of negative noise. Growling, snarling, and the like did enter my bubble occasionally. Outside of that, my own reactions were strong enough to block them out until I had finished the guide.

I was upset to learn that Edward was more than correct about his father not being home a lot, but at the same time I was a little overemotional about the fact that Carlisle had so easily given Edward what Mr. Masen had not in their relationship. Absently, I wondered how Edward was handling hearing my thoughts on the guide book mixed with reading the other book.

"It's easy, actually," the vampire himself commented, startling me from staring at the open book on my lap to glimpse his furrowed brows. "Sorry… I have been able to mostly focus on the others' thoughts, so I didn't hear much of what you were thinking on the guide."

"Why aren't you reading?"

"We're not starting Eclipse just yet," he explained.

"Eclipse!" I started, stunned by how far they had read. "Wow. You're done with the first two books already?"

"Yes, we were reading quite quickly," he nodded. "But we are pausing for the moment."

"Why?" I wondered incredulously, but my own grumbling stomach answered my question. The sound surprised me. "Oh! How long has that been going on?"

"Since the last quarter of New Moon," Edward chuckled, though not as brightly as usual.

"Where are the others?" I asked, gazing avidly at his face to judge the expression I found there. It was a very mixed up sight. Somehow relieved, yet also nervous, downhearted, and regretful.

"Esme and Carlisle are making you lunch," he answered, gesturing towards the kitchen at the opposite end of the house. "The others went out a little bit ago for a short break. Jasper and Rosalie particularly needed some time to think."

"Was everyone really upset with you about…" I couldn't bring myself to say his 'suicide attempt'.

"Not as upset as I would have thought." He frowned heavily, the trademark brooding look – one that I had originally expected would always be on his face – taking up residence now. "More than anything, everyone was… remarkably sympathetic. Emmett and Alice were angry at first – when we read chapter eighteen – wondering why I would hurt the family like that, but Jasper and Carlisle talked them through what I might be feeling if… something like that happened. After mine and Rosalie's extra scenes were read, they weren't angry anymore."

"Rosalie let you read her part?" I was amazed.

"After hearing mine, she felt it was only right," he murmured, seeming surprised himself. "And she wanted to know what she was thinking at the time, too. Although I grant you, her words were a bit coarser than that."

"Did Jasper feel…" Again, I didn't want to say out loud what was on my mind, but Edward took the lead.

"He wasn't even remotely angry about Alice ending up in Volterra because of me," Edward admitted, although the look on his face suggested he believed differently. "He said it was just a misunderstanding and how could I have known… And he said that Aro was to blame for his greed and violence. Like Maria."

"Then you should listen to him," I determinedly told the bronze-haired young man. "Because he's right."

"I know," he sighed disappointedly. "I just can't believe I actually went to Aro to ask that. Why not just make the scene and keep the family safe from him? I mean, if I wanted to die that was one thing, but to expose everyone's thoughts and gifts and weaknesses like that? It frustrates me to no end!"

"Ease up," I insisted calmly. "It hasn't happened, okay? You can avoid all of that."

"You're right," he agreed, sighing again. "Forgive me. It's a trying experience, seeing things that you might do if someone hadn't been there to warn you how idiotic it would be. Thank you for helping us with this."

"I like you guys, remember?" was my wry response.

He laughed lightly, taking my hand appreciatively. "Well, thank you anyway."

"Anything else you guys felt really strongly about?"

"It took Rosalie slapping Jasper to get him to sit back down after the party incident."

"Huh? How did I miss that?" Now I was the one shell-shocked.

"He zipped outside and she caught him there," Edward smirked, "which was a trick, considering she read that chapter herself… Jasper's face was fantastic. Didn't even see it coming."

Snorting with laughter, I tried to imagine that scene in my head, but failed. "Has he actually let the incident go, though?"

"Not really," he sighed. "It will take time for him to get over his so-called moment of weakness."

"By the way," I mentioned as a sudden idea came to me. "I've read stories where people think Jasper's empathetic ability makes him feel the thirst of everyone around him. What do you think of that idea?"

Edward appeared very startled and extremely curious. "None of us have ever even thought about that kind of idea. And what an idea it is… I'm not sure, though. We'll talk about that when they return."

"Good," I smiled my appreciation, then instantly turned serious. "But I'll be having words with him anyway. Now, what else did you guys have a big reaction to?"

"James and Victoria are going to be dead as soon as possible," he said oh-so-nonchalantly. "But you probably expected that… What?"

A pensive look had overcome my face. I remembered reading a fanfiction story where the Cullens went after James and Victoria immediately after the books. And I also remembered the part where Laurent had been pushed to give information after the Volturi found out about it all from other nomads. I didn't want to risk that.

"I see," Edward frowned again. "That's a good point. We'll discuss it after we're finished. What have you found in there?" He pointed to the guide.

"Did you hear what I read about your father?"

"I did," he nodded a bit uncomfortably. "I wish he had cared more, but I have Carlisle now. He doesn't need any help in that department."

The last line was thrown a bit more loudly towards the kitchen area, and I distantly heard a warm chuckle. Edward shook his head and rolled his eyes dramatically.

"Don't tell me he was questioning himself?" I sighed exasperatedly. Edward just shrugged as if to say 'what else?'

"If you two are going to talk about me behind my back," Carlisle appeared in the living area, a wry expression crossing his face, "you could at least make sure it is actually behind my back and not right where I can hear it."

"The point is for you to hear it," Edward retorted, raising an eyebrow. "Just because I was stupid in the book doesn't make you a substandard father. So stop thinking it. Besides, Esme is getting upset over it."

That seemed to settle it for Carlisle, who sighed briefly in resignation and returned to the kitchen.

"Were there any chapters that maybe someone shouldn't have read?"

"No, you handled it very well," Edward complimented me with a smile. "Particularly the chapter in Port Angeles. I doubt anyone but Carlisle could have safely or comfortably read that one. And well done on making sure Esme didn't have to read any more chapters of New Moon until it was all resolved. Her nerves were like taught wires right up until we all got off the plane."

"I figured that might happen," I nodded. "What about Jacob's extra at the end there?"

"I don't really like the boy much so far, I admit," Edward frowned, "but until I actually encounter such hostility, I don't want to judge him. Not yet... Rosalie hates him, though, so that's normal."

We laughed loudly over that for a minute. As the laughs died out, I allowed my mind to turn to the one subject we hadn't really gotten to.

"And… her?" I hesitantly brought up.

Edward breathed deeply twice, then spoke slowly, "I'm still uncertain of it all. Until she comes here and we meet, until it all works out somehow, I'm not sure I'll ever feel safe in having a relationship with Bella."

"That's reasonable, I guess," I frowned slightly unhappily. "And probably the best I'll get from you for a long time."

He tried not to smile at my assumption. "Probably."

Before I could comment, his siblings materialized at the back of the house, none of them looking exceptionally cheerful. That worried me, but Edward didn't seem fazed, so I tried not to let it worry me as much. In any case, I was distracted by Esme and Carlisle also returning to the living area, the former carrying a tray laden with something that smelled wonderful.

"What masterpiece have you cooked up now?" I sighed pleasantly.

"Carlisle cooked it this time, actually." Esme grinned as she set the tray before me, knowing my amusement over that. "It's vegetable soup and a grilled turkey sandwich. And a cup of yogurt, but that was the easy part."

"Thank you both," I giggled, eyeing Carlisle's bashful features.

"You're welcome," they answered in unison, smiling at each other for the synchronization.

"Hi, Mireille," Alice greeted me calmly, pulling Jasper to retake their seats. He looked a bit morose.

"Hello all," I greeted all four of them at once, gladly digging into my lunch as Edward started to talk of the things we had discussed in the others' absence.

"Mireille made a very interesting suggestion," he said as his last talking point, eyeing his honey-blond brother. "You saw how my ability makes it harder to handle the thirst when I'm reading another vampire's thoughts… Well, what if that applies to Jasper, as well?"

Rosalie actually stopped examining at her nails in distraction and Jasper finally lifted his face to stare at Edward and me.

"You really think that?" the former major asked in a low voice, hardly daring to believe it.

"It might be true," I shrugged. "Hunger – or, in this case, thirst – is a feeling… I guess the question is whether or not you can feel emotions, specifically, or just feelings period. Do you see the difference?"

"Emotions versus physical feelings, you mean?" Alice questioned.

"Uh, kind of… but not precisely that," I replied haltingly, formulating the words in my head. "…I wonder if Jasper's power ventures slightly into the senses or is perhaps tied solely to the emotional realm."

"I don't quite understand what you mean," Carlisle admitted, lips pursed.

"Well, take nausea, for example," I began to explain. "When someone feels nauseous, it may be inherently physical – due to illness, disease, or something that simply tastes bad. However, nausea can also be caused by an emotional response. Like when you hear a news story about someone mutilating another person. It causes a disturbing, uncomfortable feeling in you that often leads to nausea. Are you getting what I mean?"

"I see it now," Jasper was the first to agree, looking nearly as excited as I was beginning to feel. "And you think perhaps it's not thirst itself that affects me, but the typical combination of emotions which surround the thirst?"

"That's it, exactly!" I confirmed, nodding enthusiastically.

"Now it makes more sense," Carlisle nodded as well, a smile blooming on his face. "Mireille, I think you've hit the nail on the head… Figuratively, of course."

Edward snorted very quietly.

"Well, it explains some things that I'd never considered before," Rosalie confessed. "But how could we help him avoid that? We've learned to stop ourselves from attacking when we feel the thirst, but it's impossible to not feel it at all."

"I don't think it's a question of you six not feeling it," I murmured, coming to an epiphany. "More like Jasper not feeling you."

"So you're saying we should leave him on his own?" Esme frowned, clearly not happy with that idea. Alice, however, was already looking ahead, seeing the direction of my thoughts, and I could see her mouth steadily widening into a grin. At my side, Edward started smiling with her.

"I wouldn't say that," I countered thoughtfully, confidence growing thanks to Alice's joy. "Just that maybe he should hunt at different times, so he's strongest when you're weakest. It's all a balancing act, you see?"

"I like this plan more and more," Carlisle smiled at me. "You have an exceptional mind, my dear."

"Are you sure you're not secretly a vampire?" Emmett suspiciously questioned me, eyes narrowed in on my face like he could divine all my secrets with a look. The expression was absolutely comical and I allowed my laughter free reign. Edward and Rosalie groaned in synchronization.

"Thank you," Jasper murmured beneath their groaning, taking my hand to pass along his appreciation.

"You're welcome," I smiled at him. "But you know what this means?"

"What?" he cautiously prompted me. Already, Alice was giggling at my response.

"It means that you, my fine friend, are going to start having some faith in yourself!" I finished the last word loudly, purely for the purpose of emphasis, my finger right in front of Jasper's startled nose. Hearing his wife laugh eased his surprise, though, even bringing a wry smile of out him.

"Yes Ma'am!" he saluted me sharply, making everyone crack up. I didn't know how the empathic vampire wasn't rolling in the floor by then.

"Now that we've settled that, we should probably keep reading," Esme suggested once our laughter ceased.

"All right, Mireille, who's reading what?" Alice asked excitedly. "I know you really had to switch some chapters around in this one."

"Well, we'll start with Edward," I uttered abstractedly, looking at my list. "Then you'll go in order until chapter seven, which Jasper will read. Then Carlisle reads chapter eight and the order picks up again… Um… Esme reads chapter twenty and then Emmett picks up on chapter twenty-one… then it's Carlisle, Esme, Edward, Rosalie, Alice… And the last two chapters will be Carlisle and Esme."

"What about Breaking Dawn?" Esme wondered. "Would you tell us that one ahead of time, too? With New Moon, we almost kept to the same order by accident, when it should have changed."

"Okay… First, you need to know that Breaking Dawn is in three parts. Part one and part three are Bella's point of view."

"And part two?" Rosalie warily asked.

"It's Jacob's," I admitted tentatively. A scowl overtook her lovely face, but she didn't argue the point.

"All right, what order do we have to read?" she pushed forward irritably, "I certainly hope I don't have that much of the dog's twisted brain to read about."

"The first seven chapters are part one and they'll be read by Edward, Rosalie, Alice, Emmett, Carlisle, Esme, and Jasper. Part two will be… Alice, then Rosalie, then back to the order… Oh, after that it's all in order."

"Hey, are we reading Bree Tanner's story?" asked Alice curiously.

"Oh, that would be good, too," I agreed sheepishly. "I haven't even read it yet, so I didn't do any chapter list."

"You can read that while we read Eclipse," Jasper suggested. "It's a much smaller book, so I imagine it will take us about the same time to read them."

"I'm good with that."

"See you on the flip side," Emmett grinned at me while Edward picked up the third book and I lifted the thin novella into my lap.

When I finished the book, I liked Bree even more than I already had in Eclipse, I realized. And after what I had read in her biography, I really felt for her. I wondered if we could set her up somehow and give her a chance to do something with her life. I knew Diego needed to be with her and it was sad to think I probably couldn't help him like I could Bree. If Diego's brother was hooked into the gang, he wouldn't take an easy pass; he would stay and help however he could. Sighing at the conundrum, I hoped Diego and Bree could somehow meet each other some day and then put the thought away for the time being.

The family was right at the end of their book, so I waited silently until they were done to trade Carlisle the novella for the book. The doctor looked sad and stunned in equal measure. Actually, so did everyone else.

Correction. Everyone else except an angry Rosalie looked that way. Edward looked a little more dead that the rest, however. Was he contemplating the benefit of Bella being with Jacob? While there were benefits to that for Bella, what benefits did it give Edward? And he couldn't tell me it wasn't important, because to everyone sitting with him, it was.

"I wasn't expecting that ending," Jasper spoke softly, so as not to break the atmosphere.

"It seemed impossible to imagine it going that way," Alice reluctantly confessed. "I had a better opinion of how it would end up happening."

"The engagement?" I double-checked.

"Yes, the engagement," Alice sighed slightly, leaning into Jasper, who wrapped his arms around her snugly.

"Frankly," Esme added in her thoughts, frowning sadly, "I didn't realize Bella had come to love Jacob, too. It was so subtle until she realized it herself."

"I know," I agreed unhappily. I had never agreed with Bella's actions in Eclipse.

"I can't believe she kissed that dog!" Rosalie was (amazingly) able to say through furiously clenched teeth, "After he had forced her hand before… And she told that animal she loved him!"

"Bella had a choice to make," Alice argued, brows furrowed. "But she didn't realize the other option she had until that moment. So she had to make the best of it."

"So it was fine that she betrayed Edward?" I incredulously interrupted before Rosalie could snap back, my jaw falling slightly open. "Would you have felt right kissing another man when you had already agreed to marry Jasper? Or telling that other man you loved him almost as much as you loved Jasper?"

"It's not the same situation," Alice shook her head, seeming to think me naïve. Jasper looked between us apprehensively, and I wondered what he was thinking.

"Why not?" I demanded loudly, angrily, shocking her into silence. But I couldn't help myself. "Why is it okay for Bella to kiss and profess love to one man when she already promised herself to another one? If she was so damned incapable of deciding, why couldn't she have declined the proposal in that moment – uncommitted herself – and waited until the battle was over to choose?"

"What if Jacob died in that battle?" Alice argued back, frowning severely. "She would never have the chance to choose."

"How does that matter?" I snapped, immovable. "If someone dies, they die. How can you defend a person committing themselves to one person and then slapping that person in the face by splitting the commitment in half!"

Alice looked ready to come back with another rebuttal and my anger swelled again, but a loud, guttural snarl – practically a roar – shut the both of us up so fast I got whiplash. The sound would have frightened me if I wasn't so mad. Alice blinked in utmost disbelief when she saw, as I did, that it was Edward who had snarled so distinctly.

"Will the two of you stop bickering!" he half shouted to the room at large, glaring between his sister and I. Alice flinched slightly from the force of his gaze. I just looked down at my lap, embarrassed.

"Thank you, Mireille," he finally said, after he believed us calm enough. "I do appreciate you supporting my side of this issue. For the record, regardless of the fact I am the one who would be hurt by this action, I don't think Bella was right to do what she did in that moment. However, I do understand the issue of her choice, Alice... That's why this time I am going to make sure she has a more even chance of meeting Jacob."

"What?" I yelped, completely thrown. "That's… but… you… Ooogh… Read Breaking Dawn."

"What?" he asked me in bewilderment.

"Read Bree Tanner's story and then read the final book. Then you can go on your merry little way, killing the perfectly wonderful future you could have. Okay? Okay."

Standing with a frustrated roll of my eyes, I headed upstairs under the scrutiny of everyone, to hopefully find something to do that wasn't infuriating.

Nothing seemed particularly appealing except music, so in an attempt to cool my agitation, I put in my album Get Away Jordan by Ernie Haase and Signature Sound. There was nothing like Godly music to put me in a nicer mood.

The moment I heard 'Someday', my mood was uplifted and I started singing along. By the time I got to track four 'John in the Jordan', I even started bouncing along. Track ten 'Get Away Jordan', had me up and stepping my way around the floor with no clear pattern. Side-step, grapevine, twirling, box step… you name it I was doing it. Giggles overcame me when I thought about what I was doing while the others were trying to read, but I was having too good a time to really bother.

Disappointment filled me when the disc ended, so I instantly started it over. I danced and sang all over again to the songs, having no less of a good time than the first time. Knowing it might annoy the Cullens if I started it over a third time, when it finished I put in the group's next CD, Dream On. The first song 'Right Place, Right Time', always reminded me of Chicago for some reason and I was unreasonably amused when thinking of Edward being from Chicago.

Swift hands suddenly caught and turned me to the tune of the song, making me gasp in surprise.

"Edward!"

"Having fun?" he grinned, leading me in a swing-waltz to the rhythm of the music. A grin swiftly took over my own face as he happily twirled us about the room. The steps weren't as hard as I thought they might be, especially having learned the waltz.

"I am, actually," I admitted, still grinning. "You seem to be, too."

"I can't say I ever would have thought to listen to a Christian quartet," he confessed bluntly, "but they have a great sound and energy. Wonderful harmony, too."

"I love them," I agreed. "Especially Tim."

"Tim?" he wondered, brow lifted.

"The bass, Tim Duncan," I clarified. "He's amazing."

"Ah," he understood, slowing our jaunty dance to match the changing music as it neared the end. I missed the dancing when the next song came on. It wasn't nearly the same style to dance to. Not as fun.

"Let's start it over," suggested Edward with a smile, moving to repeat the track in a lightning-quick movement. "It was rather enjoyable."

As we began to dance again, I asked, "What did you think of the last book?"

"Obsolete," he shrugged. At the sight of my wide eyes, he backtracked quickly. "Not that it doesn't have a lot of good information. It's just that I know nothing will happen that way, since we'll be changing some events to end better. Plus, we have you to consider. That changes things, too."

"I'm sorry," I mumbled, feeling badly for my intrusion on the family's future.

"That isn't a bad thing," he exasperatedly retorted. "You're already helping us make things better. We know certain things to avoid and things to try that we didn't in the books. We can time things better and stop trying to force Bella into choices she doesn't want."

"Good," I replied, feeling more confident in the possibilities. "I wouldn't want to mess it up for you."

"On the contrary, it would be nice for Bella to have a friend in the know, who is still human," he pointed out. "If you become friends, anyway, although I don't see why you couldn't. You're both sensitive and kind. But I admit, as insecure as you can be at times, it's nothing compared to Bella."

"I'll let that slide," I narrowed my eyes at him, but he only chuckled. "Are you still going to give Jacob a more even chance with Bella?"

Edward frowned a little. "I don't know. I'm not actually sure I'm going to meet Bella right away when she gets here – Now let me finish!"

I had opened my mouth to protest, but he was too quick. "I'm not saying I won't, but Bella's scent is dangerous to me and for almost two months I only handled her scent because I snuck into her room at night and listened to her talk in her sleep. Which, by the way, I am not going to do this time around. It's just a little too creepy, even for a crotchety old vampire like me."

"Crotchety old vampire?" I choked on laughter. "Please tell me you're kidding."

"Well, something like that, anyway," Edward grinned, spinning me around more largely than before and bringing me back gracefully. When he saw my face, he asked, "…What?"

"I'm trying to picture you with a white beard," I confessed mischievously. He broke into loud laughter.

"No need to picture it," Edward laughed still, "Alice made me dress as Father Time for Halloween one year. I even had an oversized pocket watch. It was ridiculous."

I couldn't imagine Alice choosing such a… an unfashionable costume. My look turned to disbelief, and he quickly added, "Admittedly, she was rather mad at me at the time."

We laughed together and a thought came to mind that I hadn't asked about yet. "Is she doing anything in particular for Halloween this year?"

"Definitely," Edward nodded. "She says she's already envisioned the costumes for you ladies. Nothing much else, though. Well, except a party. We'll be having one here. Not sure what we'll be doing, since Alice is hiding it so well, but…"

"I wonder what I might be for Halloween," I wondered to myself. "I haven't truly dressed up since my freshman year of high school."

"That's ironic, considering you're a sophomore with us now," he chuckled.

"Now I'm all excited," I sighed, making him chuckle.

All of a sudden, Edward stopped dancing. "Carlisle's coming back. We'll be discussing everything soon."

"You didn't talk about it all yet?" I marveled. "What has everyone been doing?"

"They all went in pairs on separate runs," he calmly replied. "To clear their heads, think out their more intense reactions, that sort of thing. Carlisle said we'd all meet here to start planning."

"Did anyone think it was a bad idea to meet Bella?" The question had been rattling around in my head ever since he'd declared giving Jacob a larger opportunity with Bella.

"Rosalie briefly wondered about it, but not very deeply. It was mostly an instinctive reaction."

"Should we go down?"

"Probably," he nodded, offering me his arm.

"Thanks," I smiled, letting him lead the way back down to the living area.

"I saw you had a great time," Alice teased me from the same seat in front of the fireplace. Everyone was in the same places, actually.

Shrugging as I sat down, I merely said, "Yep."

"Today has been quite a day," Carlisle began the expected conversation, drawing all eyes to him. "Even with what Mireille told us at the restaurant, I did not even remotely expect to read the things that we did. Particularly about Renesmee."

Most everyone's face softened at the mention of the adorable little girl. To my amazement, Rosalie was not one of them. This reaction totally bewildered me and I saw no different in Edward, but when the blonde vampire caught our confused stares, she shook her head against telling the reasons. She must have been blocking Edward because he still looked mightily confused.

"What, in your opinions," Carlisle went on, steepling his fingers thoughtfully and sharing a questioning gaze with each of us in turn, "should be avoided in the future?"

"That incident on the first day," Rosalie spoke first, "When Edward smelled Bella so strongly."

"How can we stop that?" Esme asked curiously.

"Perhaps Edward can ingratiate himself with someone else," her daughter answered in all seriousness.

"Angela," I named rapidly, making the others stare for a moment. "She's the only one who would respect Edward enough not to ask impossible questions. And she won't gossip, either."

"She would be a good choice," Edward nodded pensively. "I just don't know how I'd do that. She knows we don't socialize with anyone."

"Could we slip a false note from Mr. Greene into Mr. Banner's papers?" Jasper wondered, "Perhaps that he should include a partner project of some kind in the junior biology classes? Edward could invite Angela to be his partner."

"Hey, that's interesting," I commented. "It could make Ben jealous, too. Then Edward wouldn't have to match-make at all."

"Now I really like the idea," Alice grinned, bouncing slightly in her seat. "They would be so cute together."

"Well, we can at least keep that idea in mind," Carlisle agreed with an indulgent smile. "What else is on your minds?"

"James," Jasper growled, squeezing Alice's hand protectively in his own.

"Mireille mentioned something about that," Edward intervened before anyone could get too angry.

Jasper gave me his full attention as I spoke, "I read a story once, and in it, you all go after James and Victoria. But because you searched them out, the Volturi found out about you going after them. It brought their attention back here and they kept their eye on you after that."

No one was very happy about that, and Jasper even sighed resignedly. "I don't want James around, but I prefer to face him some time than to invite the Volturi to keep watch."

"I have to agree with you," Edward conferred disgustedly. "We can see how much worse they would be."

A sad sigh left Carlisle. "I wish I had never even known Aro, quite frankly. It frightens me now... that he could come after me out of curiosity and end up desiring some of this family."

"You never kept in touch," Esme comforted him, wrapping her arms about his torso. "Aro probably thinks you're on your own still."

"Esme's right, Carlisle," Edward soothingly added. "I doubt he's very anxious about you. Look how surprised he was when he read my mind in New Moon. Obviously he didn't try to keep up with your whereabouts, or he would probably already have known that much."

"Yes, that's true, I suppose," Carlisle hedged, worrying his lip.

"So, we're not going after James?" Emmett asked suddenly, his voice ripe with disappointment, lifting a rich chuckle from his father.

"No, Emmett, I'm sorry," Jasper responded, lips twitching.

"Aw, man! I was all ready to rip his head off, too." Emmett whined childishly. Rosalie smacked him in the back of the head. "Ow! Sorry, Rose."

Refraining from snorting was difficult, but I somehow did it.

"What about the Quileutes?" Esme worried.

"I do not think there is much that can be done on that count," Carlisle sighed deeply, slipping a comforting arm around her back. "We can only do our best with the treaty and Bella."

Alice wrinkled her nose. "I hate not being able to see them."

"Well, in a way you can see them. At least enough to know when we'll encounter them," I suggested with a sympathetic smile, when my own words smacked me in the face like a heavy brick. "Of course!"

"What is it?" Carlisle spoke for everyone's concern.

"That's why Alice kept seeing me disappear in the woods all this time!" I excitedly pointed out. "At least one wolf was blocking me out! Remember I was being herded out of the trees?"

"Oh, seriously!" Alice complained, scowling. "They mess up everything! I might have told everyone about you sooner if I'd known that."

"Maybe it's better that you didn't," Rosalie remarked dryly. "Can you imagine me in the weeks leading up to it? Or Jasper?"

"I didn't think of that," Alice admitted, grimacing.

"Oh well," Emmett cheerily ended the debate. "We've got Mireille now."

"Now I've been reduced to a package," I muttered, though I was flattered. Edward and Jasper laughed at my grumbling.

"But a very beloved package," Alice cooed sweetly, receiving a fierce glare in return and more laughter.

"What are we going to do about the accident?" Esme inquired.

"With Tyler?" I clarified.

"Yes. I don't see how we can stop it."

"Alice and I had an idea regarding that," Edward hesitantly interceded, but allowed Alice to continue.

"I could befriend Bella the first day," she said confidently. "And make sure I'm right next to her when the accident happens. Either I'll pull her out of the way or I'll get her walking in a different direction."

"That sounds reasonable," Jasper acknowledged. "And it avoids any potential notice from bystanders if you're already beside her."

"I feel very positive about it," Carlisle conceded. "Any disagreements? …All right. Other problems?"

"Port Angeles," Rosalie growled. "I want that slime taken care of."

"Definitely," Edward growled also.

"I think Carlisle and Alice can take care of that," Esme quickly cut in, obviously hoping to avoid a murder from her two eldest children.

"Good idea," Alice vouched for her mother, "I'll watch his decisions and get a lock on him. Then Carlisle can go take care of it."

Rosalie settled back in her seat, obviously dissatisfied with so mild a punishment, but willing to take Lonnie being locked away.

"Could we ever do anything about Laurent without hurting Irina?" Jasper queried uncomfortably. "I know they are important to each other, but…"

"It never says that Laurent and Irina are mates," Rosalie pointed out. "It just mentions them having a bit of a flirt."

"Very true," the southern vampire agreed.

"As much as I would like Irina to find someone special," Carlisle spoke up, "I would prefer James and Victoria having one less ally, if it came down to that."

"I do understand that logic," Esme sighed sadly. "Although I wish Laurent would take it more seriously if he ever met Irina."

"There was something in the guide you might want to consider," I pointed out tentatively.

"What was that?" Carlisle asked curiously. Edward already looked unhappy with what I was thinking.

"The guide says that Laurent always liked joining people with power," I explained. "And he has a lifelong ambition of joining the Volturi."

"Well, that settles everything," Emmett concluded matter-of-factly.

"I would have to agree," Carlisle murmured. Jasper nodded also. Esme looked unhappy, but the potential for Laurent to ever trade information for power was too great.

"How are we going to approach Tanya's coven about Mireille?" Edward broached a new topic, this one startling me.

"We have to?" I wondered, drawing seven pairs of disbelieving eyes to me. "I mean, not right away, right?"

"Oh, well no," Esme eased my discomfort. "But eventually we have to. They'll probably ask us to visit some time in the next year."

"Yes, it's about that time," Edward nodded, then turned to me thoughtfully. "Would you like to meet them, Mireille?"

"As long as Kate doesn't think it's funny to try shocking me," I frowned.

"She wouldn't?" Esme gasped, startled by my worry.

"I would never allow that," Carlisle firmly declared. "We would have to tell them Mireille is human and that is off limits."

"Yes, but Edward has a point," said Rosalie, frowning herself. "How are we going to break that news?"

"We will just have to tell them we have a human visitor," Esme decided. "And then explain when we get there."

"That doesn't sound very productive," Edward grimaced. "You know how they all are about the laws. Except Carmen, anyway. You can see in the books how accepting she is."

"Should we explain to Carmen first?" Jasper suggested.

"That might work," Carlisle conceded, deep in thought. "Alice, would you be able to check if she is ever alone for a phone call?"

"It's not very likely," she confessed, brows furrowed, "but I can try."

"That is all we can do for now, I suppose," he concluded. "Are there any last trouble spots to speak of?"

"None that we have any certainty will happen," Alice responded for everyone. I was amazed to realize she was right. Everything that we might have argued about was not even likely to happen anymore. Well, not everything…

"What about the Volturi?" I asked with great trepidation.

"As far as you are concerned?" Edward remarked. "Nothing. If we don't end up revealing ourselves, then I don't see how we can have any problems."

"Then we are finished here," Carlisle ended our discussion after a pause.

No one seemed capable of leaving, though. The books and the future still weighed heavily on everyone's mind, I guessed. Having that thought in mind, then, it was a surprise when Emmett suddenly asked a rather odd, anticlimactic question.

"Checkers, anybody?"


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
The restaurant mentioned in this chapter is based on Waterstreet Cafe+Bar, a real place in Olympia.

Previously – Mireille created a reading order. Everyone discussed the first chapters of Twilight and Midnight Sun. The Cullens continued reading and Mireille started reading the official guide. Edward and Mireille discussed New Moon and Mireille explained her theory about Jasper's ability. While the Cullens read Eclipse, Mireille read Bree Tanner's story. The Cullens argued about Bella's choices and Edward suggested letting Jacob have a better chance to meet Bella. Mireille stormed off and listened to music to calm down. Once the Cullens finished Breaking Dawn, Edward joined Mireille dancing and decided not to meet Bella right away. The Cullens discussed the books and made several decisions for the future.

Chapter 15: Interests

For a full hour on Monday afternoon, after the Cullen siblings returned from school and Edward had played the piano for Esme and me, I sat in my room with a notebook and a pen in hand, trying very hard to think of what activities I would like to spend time on during the weekends, whenever I wasn't having lessons. It was a rather confusing process and one which Edward had kindly offered to help with. Once I got it all sorted in my own head, that is. I wondered if he was just enjoying watching me get all confused, but I had no real proof for that conjecture.

"Any breakthroughs, yet?" he asked from the computer desk, Les Misérables in hand.

"You'd know as well as I would," I remarked absently, studying the compiled list of interesting activities in bewilderment as I lay on my stomach, bare feet tapping the headboard with a steady rhythm.

"If your mind was at all fluid right now, that would be quite true," Edward retorted amusedly, setting the book down and coming over to look at my slightly loopy cursive handwriting from above and upside-down. "Aren't you going to keep practicing the piano?"

"Shoot!" I mumbled irritably, quickly adding piano to the list. "Don't know why that slipped my mind…"

"Maybe you're going about this backwards," he suggested mildly.

"In what way?" I eyed him coolly.

"Well, you haven't even written in the things you know for sure you'll do," he went on, ignoring my attitude blithely. "Getting ready, meals, exercise, listening to music before bed… Those things you've been doing every night this week, for the most part."

"Oh, I didn't think of it that way," I admitted, frowning vaguely in disappointment. I hated not thinking of common sense things like that. Abandoning my interests list for a moment, I did as he suggested and wrote down the activities I already did most every day.

"Thanks," I smiled up at Edward, who had remained as I wrote out the most basic parts of my schedule.

"You're welcome," he nodded, returning to the desk and his book. Well, actually it was my book. He had borrowed it, since for some reason no one in his family owned a copy. Even Carlisle didn't have one, which was almost unheard of.

I really was grateful for Edward's single suggestion. It did line up some general time frames for when my lessons could be, so that made it a bit easier to flesh out. Granted, I had to decide what times I would like best for certain lessons, but it seemed to just flow instantly now. Edward was already reading over my routine with an appraising eye.

"World History at eight o'clock," he recited my lesson times half to himself, "geometry at ten-thirty, chemistry at noon, Spanish at four, algebra at five-thirty, and English at seven-thirty… I think that will work out nicely. Now we'll have to determine who your tutors will be. And lesson plans… Although I believe Carlisle sorted that all out last night, so I doubt there's much to worry about."

"I was wondering," I mentioned suddenly, remembering my language interests, "Could I learn two languages at the same time? Or is that too much to heap on myself at once?"

"I don't know," he frowned. "You've already taken a lot of Spanish, so that will be much easier for you, but any other language will be all new. You would probably need lessons more often than two per weekend. And with this schedule you've written, I doubt there's much room on the weekends anyway."

"Esme could teach her," Alice popped in to say, her bright aqua top, earrings, and shoes cheering up the dreary, rainy day outside. "Depending on the language, of course."

"That's a good idea," agreed Edward, passing the schedule back to me. "Esme would enjoy teaching, too."

"Shouldn't we ask her first?" I suggested, brow lifted.

"She's listening while she does the laundry, actually," Edward smirked slightly.

"You know, Esme is a lot sneakier than she pretends," I suggested warily, though a smile was working hard to break through. Edward and Alice also withheld their laughter admirably when Esme came into the room with narrowed eyes.

"I suspect someone is teasing me," she commented suspiciously, crossing her arms, but a sweet smile won out quickly. "I'd be happy to teach you another language, dear. Which one were you thinking of?"

"French, maybe."

"That's my favorite language to speak," she smiled widely.

"It's very elegant to listen to," I agreed, smiling as well. "Italian, too, but I don't need to add a third language onto my lessons."

"You might move a great deal faster if you took up Italian, actually," Alice wondered aloud. "It's very reminiscent of Spanish."

"I don't care which I learn," I shrugged. "I love both. Although I did love hearing Carlisle and Giancarlo speak Italian at the restaurant."

"I won't be able to teach you Italian," Esme frowned lightly, more thoughtful than upset. "Surprising though it may seem after all this time, I never learned it. I've always been satisfied with knowing German, French, and Spanish. The rest I leave to Carlisle."

"How many languages does he know?" I asked, vaguely wary of finding out.

"Too many to count," Edward sighed in fond exasperation, "I was actually surprised when he took out that Lithuanian text yesterday."

"After all these years, he still surprises us," Esme laughed warmly, a wistful and romantic expression crossing her features. "You should ask him how many he speaks, Mireille. With us, he is cautious of appearing too showy with all the knowledge he has obtained over the years. But knowing how curious you are, I think he would happily tell you."

"I'll do that at some point," I chuckled, finally adding Italian lessons to my schedule. "Should be pretty fascinating… And properly awe-inducing."

We laughed for a moment before Esme followed Alice out of the room. Edward seemed to contemplate Les Misérables for few minutes, but finally shrugged, bookmarked it, and set it on the desk.

"Would you like to do something?" he inquired, looking quite bored and antsy.

"Was the book not to your taste?" I teased him.

"It's very good so far, actually," he admitted, shaking his head at my tease, "but I need a little change for the time being. Something livelier, perhaps."

"We could play a game, I guess," I pondered curiously and slowly, tapping my jaw in thought. "Although what we could play where you won't see my moves ahead of time is another story altogether…"

"That's true," he frowned, turning equally thoughtful. "I can't really think of anything."

"Well, that stinks," I murmured with a frown. Speaking of smells, though… "Hey, can I ask you an awkward question?"

Since I hadn't completed my thought, Edward was a little confused on what I meant. "An awkward question?" he wondered hesitantly.

"I asked Carlisle on the day after I arrived," I explained a little embarrassedly, "but he couldn't really answer my question. He thought I should probably ask you."

Catching onto my hard-to-withhold memory of that day, Edward began to catch on, looking mildly disgruntled. "Oh, fine. Ask your awkward question."

"What do I smell like?" I questioned him a bit quietly. I could tell he wasn't completely sold on the topic of choice, but he didn't refuse me.

"As Carlisle told you that afternoon," he began to say, "your scent is complex. From what I can tell, there are four different factors."

"Four? Are you sure that's not an exaggeration?"

"My scent is comprised of three," he pointed out simply.

"Oh, I guess you're right… Well, do tell. What are these factors of mine?" I shrugged.

"One thing I can smell right off the bat is peppermint."

"Peppermint?" I started slightly. "Really?"

"It's very powerful, yet refreshing and soothing," he nodded.

"What else?" I asked, fascinated by the smells that I didn't even know existed on me.

"There's something sharp and earthy about your scent, and the smell of a food or drink that is probably richly flavored…" he frowned thoughtfully. "There's an inherent sweetness, and a little tang to it, as well. Perhaps a fruit of some kind…"

"It's not citrus, is it? I'd hate to smell like an old sour-face," I joked, mocking a grimacing, puckered expression.

"No, definitely not citrus," he chuckled, tweaking my nose very gently. "I was thinking more along the lines of berries, actually. Hold on a minute."

Edward was gone in a flash, though he didn't turn up immediately after like he typically did. It took a full two minutes for him to return, this time with a satisfied expression on his face.

"Raspberry," he informed me confidently. "You smell like peppermint and raspberry, first of all. The raspberry was the sweet-yet-tangy combination."

"What about the richly flavored part?"

"Tea," he replied, smiling a bit. "Specifically, black tea."

"I love the smell of black tea," I smiled widely. "That's so cool that I smell like it."

Edward chuckled. "And the sharp, earthy scent I mentioned is the smell of autumn leaves."

"What a weird combination," I couldn't help remarking.

"They smell quite lovely as a cumulative force," he reluctantly admitted. "Not that I like telling you that, but since you already understand so much about us…"

"It's fine, Edward," I chided him kindly. "I like you being open and honest about the vampire things. There's no sense in hiding it all away."

"I suppose," he shrugged uncomfortably, then swiftly changed the subject, "Are you sure you can't think of anything to do?"

"Maybe we could read some of the guide together," I suggested suddenly, feeling my interest peak.

"That wouldn't be very intriguing for you," he countered. "You read all of it yesterday."

"I didn't read all of it… I read most of it. But I didn't read any of your biographies in any more detail. After I read about your father, I didn't want to read any more."

"Would you mind us reading my section, then?" he asked hesitantly. Something in his eyes told me he had a well-guarded reason for this.

Ignoring verbal communication, I offered both my paper and pen, and a single thought… 'Why?' My determination to know was plain in my expression. Sighing resignedly, Edward settled beside me on the bed and rapidly penned an explanation.

Esme and Alice are interested in reading the guide. But if you read my complete section, I'm sure there will be a part about Charles Evenson. You seem to understand me rather well, so I'm sure you can understand what I'm speaking of. I won't stop Esme from reading it, but if the book will tell her of my actions, I would prefer to explain it myself first.

My mind was mostly blank while I read Edward's message, just absorbing it. It was an admirable reasoning, thankfully, and one which I could easily support. He was only looking out for his mom. And Esme certainly deserved to be looked out for.

When I did start thinking more solidly, I admitted in my mind that I had always suspected him of killing Esme's abusive first husband. I was totally on the fence about whether or not it was the best choice to make, however.

'I don't think you had any right to do it,' I confessed mentally. Edward's face turned shameful before I was able to continue. Reluctantly, he still looked at me with heavy-laden eyes, and I knew immediately that he was thinking not only of Charles Evenson, but of all his victims during that time. Realizing the awkward position we were in to have such a discussion, I decided we had to leave for a little. Just to clear the air about what I was thinking and feeling.

Edward looked uncomfortable, but nodded all the same. I headed into my closet to retrieve warm clothing for going outside and nice flats, but Alice breezed in ahead of me and selected an outfit that didn't precisely fit that bill. The black button-up shirt had open shoulders and the brown buckle shoes were high wedges. Nevertheless it was a very nice outfit, Alice had already left the room, and Edward would probably carry me most of the way, so I put it on. At least my coat and scarf would keep me warm. Edward was (to my surprise) dressed equally as snugly for the chilly October weather.

"I thought we could take some time in Olympia or Seattle," he shrugged sheepishly. "Rather than you getting cold and uncomfortable in the forest somewhere."

"You have it?" I implied the guide book, but didn't say it out loud in case Esme overheard.

He gestured casually at a large but cute brown and gray Coach bag I didn't remember buying.

"Alice decided your need was greater than hers, so…"

"Thanks, Alice," I murmured, knowing she could hear me if she was still there.

"She says you're welcome," Edward offered with a half-smile as I picked up my new purse. "Oh, and she transferred the items from your other bag to this one."

"Cool beans," I smiled, nodding for him to lead us down the staircase.

Near the end of the stairs, I asked him, "Are you carrying a fake license, then?"

"Yes, we always have them on hand in case," he responded over his shoulder. "Not that Alice or I necessarily need them, but it never hurts to be cautious. We made one for you, also. It should be in a slightly hidden place in your purse, actually."

"I'll have to make sure I know where it is, then." The casual nature in which I spoke of the illegal stuff really amused me.

"It does become quite normal after a while," Edward chuckled dimly, his mind obviously on the deeper subjects we had been discussing.

We said goodbye to Esme as she worked on cleaning the front windows, and waved up at Alice, who was grinning manically from her and Jasper's room.

After helping me into my side of the car and zipping around to his own before I had even buckled my seatbelt, Edward asked, "Would you prefer taking the highway through Hoquiam or Port Angeles?"

"Which has the better scenery?"

"Going through Port Angeles would keep us near either the ocean or a river for a lot of the drive," he qualified. "It's a bit longer that way, as well."

"Let's go that way, then," I decided, trying my best not to pay attention as we sped off at an ungodly rate. I had always loved driving by the coast, even if it sometimes gave me a creepy feeling because I was so close to the water.

"Really?" Edward was surprised at my thoughts. "For some reason, I would have thought you loved it."

"I like looking at it, but I have issues with large bodies of water," I explained sheepishly.

"Worried about drowning?" he wondered a bit more seriously. I just nodded, ignoring the fact that my ears were burning.

"Well, I won't ever lose control of the car," he settled at last. "If I did by some chance, I wouldn't let you even get wet, let alone drown. So don't worry."

"Thanks," I mumbled embarrassedly. I felt like a paranoid schizophrenic sometimes.

Edward just rolled his eyes at me and kept on speeding his way towards Port Angeles and then further to Olympia.

Music filled the ensuing void of conversation as we drove down Highway 101, although I wasn't exactly fond of some of the heavier music he put in. Still, there were a couple of songs I enjoyed and even when there was silence, it was completely comfortable.

When we exited the highway at a velocity that blurred the speed limit signs, Edward finally spoke again.

"I think we may as well settle in at a restaurant and talk. It's dinner time and probably the most comfortable way to discuss things."

"I am hungry," I admitted, "but I don't have any idea what I want."

"Would you like to stick to something comfortable or try branching out?" he asked.

"I don't mind trying something new," I shrugged easily. "I like experimenting."

"Why don't we check out a high-end place," Edward suggested. "You're more likely to find something different and we're less likely to be interrupted during our talk."

"How would a vampire know what high-end restaurants there are?" I teased.

"Part of our… real estate research, if you will," he grinned slightly, eyes glittering at me with suppressed humor.

"Whatever," I giggled, letting him choose. "Just take me someplace that has a clean, modern atmosphere and medium lighting."

"Ah, it sounds like you might like this place by Capitol Lake Park, then. From what we know, they aren't very busy on Mondays, either," he responded satisfactorily, making the drive through town at only a slightly more normal pace to the restaurant he had described.

Park Tour Café was a clean-looking place even from the outside, with a nice clear view of Capitol Lake and its corresponding park through the building's many windows. The interior, however, was even nicer; Edward had followed my joking requirements to a tee. Right across from the front doors was the register, beyond that a modern dining area with the medium lighting I had wanted. The floors were made of very wide stone slabs, the walls painted a warm cream, and the tables a fresh, light colored wood. Edward held a brief, whispered conversation with the host while I was distracted with the décor, leaving me completely unaware of what he might be saying. Regardless, it didn't take long for us to be escorted by the host himself through the fairly empty restaurant and to a distanced table in a corner, just on the other side of a large fireplace painted the same as the walls.

"Please take your time perusing the cuisine," the accompanying waiter smiled pleasantly while setting menus and silverware wrapped in cloth napkins before us. "I'll be back shortly to see if you're ready to order."

"Thank you," I said, also smiling as he walked away. My smile became suspicious when I turned back to Edward's steady face. "Don't try that look with me, Edward. You paid him off, didn't you?"

His lips twitched upwards, but his face otherwise remained smooth. "I may have suggested a rather generous tip to ensure our privacy."

"You're something else," I sighed, trying not to smile. "Oh well. Let's see what they have."

It didn't take long for me to choose, surprisingly enough. As soon as I saw butternut squash pasta, I was hooked. Edward even had to gesture for the waiter to come and take our order it had happened so fast.

"That was easy," Edward teased, not bothering to withhold a grin. "Are you certain it's really you sitting there?"

"Shut up," I shook my head, finally allowing my smile to come through, though it was small when I considered what we really came there for. And there was no time like the present to start, even if I hated ruining the cheery mood my companion was in. "So… I didn't mean to be accusatory back at the house."

"I didn't think that," he replied seriously, turning quiet in spite of our relative aloneness. "What you said was correct, however."

"I wasn't finished, though," I pointed out.

"Why don't you read that part of my biography first?" Edward offered, pointing at my new purse.

"A good idea," I muttered, pulling out the book and hesitantly turning to the Cullen section to find Edward's part. What I read was not gruesome by any means, but it was quite clear on the fact that Edward had, indeed, tracked down and killed Charles Evenson.

"Nothing like blunt truth," I grumbled down at the pages.

Edward sighed. "Esme isn't going to like this at all."

"Does she have to read the guide?" I asked, biting my lip. Much as I hated to lie, I didn't want any kind of break to occur between mother and son over this issue. Esme was likely to take it very hard, especially since it had happened so long ago without her ever knowing.

"She is very interested," Edward sighed again, pinching the bridge of his nose.

The waiter arrived with our meals then, preventing me from responding immediately. Seeing Edward's continued expression of frustration, I put the guide away and settled into my food for a few minutes instead of talking, giving him a moment to calm himself.

"You'll have to tell her," I softly told him after a while, allowing my gaze to be entirely sympathetic.

"I know," he groaned quietly. "Now it's just that Rosalie is going to have a field day."

"Why should she?" I frowned. "She did the same thing. Worse, probably."

"Did she?" was his dark reply, eyes fading towards black.

"Stop being melodramatic," I snipped slightly. "That… man… if you can call him that—"

Edward laughed mockingly in the same dark tone.

"Did you torture him?" I asked plainly instead, genuinely unafraid of the truth.

"Not exactly," he murmured, some shame on his face mixed with lingering defiance.

"So you toyed with him?" I continued with the same frankness. "Mentally, I mean?"

Grudgingly, Edward said, "Yes."

"You scared him? Told him he was a worthless coward who would die alone because he didn't deserve human affections for being such a cruel monster?"

Edward blinked at my unusually rude vocabulary, then slowly agreed, "Essentially."

"Well, then I would be just as bad as you," I confessed simply, cooling my temper from the previous outburst.

"You aren't as distanced from your family's vindictiveness as we thought," he tentatively pointed out, lifting a single brow in astonishment. All the same, a slight grin – albeit a grave one – tried to break free on his face.

"I can't stand monsters that torture people like that," I explained firmly. "And frankly, I don't like the thought of Esme technically still being that man's wife while she was trying to start a life with Carlisle."

"I thought of that," Edward nodded, breathing deeply in an attempt to ease his growing dark mood. "It made me sick whenever I heard her worry if it was sinful to be married to Carlisle while Evenson was still alive. I admit that was not the main factor in my choice, but it was significant enough."

"Like I said," I spoke softly again, "I don't think it was your decision to make in any of the lives you took. But… I can't know that I would be any better in the same situation. And I'm pretty sure you feel remorse about it, which is a good thing. It proves your humanity is still in tact."

Silence descended as Edward grappled with my conclusions, which was lucky when the host returned with an offer of dessert – something I took only to extend our time. Not that we did much more talking after that, but I knew Edward probably wanted more time to think before we returned to the house. The expression on his face had thankfully settled somewhat by the time I cleared the plate of my sponge cake with raspberry sauce.

"What would you like to do now?" he wondered more comfortably, not bothering to hide this normal line of conversation from the waiter who took away our dishes. I wondered what the man was smirking about as he walked off, but Edward's face was completely untroubled, so I shrugged it off.

"Why don't we… drive around?" I suggested helplessly. "If we see something interesting, we can just stop, right?"

"If you like," he nodded, standing to come around and pull my chair back for me. I smiled back at him in gratitude, grabbing my purse as I stood and following him to the register.

"Have a wonderful evening," the host greeted us most graciously as we turned to leave, although I noticed his eyes seemed more focused on the crisp green bills the cashier had taken from Edward. You would think they had never seen that much money before, which I found hard to believe considering the astronomical prices they charged for their food.

"Thank you," I said anyway, letting Edward steer me impatiently out the door. From the look on his face, I guessed he wanted to laugh at my observations.

"You have no idea," he muttered into my ear, laughter clear in his voice. A grin spread across my face in response, but I didn't say anything until we were driving away.

"How close was I?"

Edward finally gave into his laughter as I asked the question. I took that to mean I was right on target and joined him in laughing over it all. Both of us fell silent afterwards, the atmosphere once again comfortable.

Stopped at a red light a few blocks down from the café, I noticed a nearby movie theater's sign with interest – initially anyway.

"They don't have any good movies," I said after a minute, scrunching my nose as I stared at the theater's movie listings. "At least I don't think they do."

After a brief pause, Edward asked curiously, "Would you like to see one?"

"I just said I don't like any of them," I pointed out, rolling my eyes good-naturedly.

"California generally has a better selection," he countered easily. "A benefit of being the birthplace of Hollywood, I suppose."

"You would drive all the way down to California just to take me to a movie?" I wondered incredulously, turning to look at him in surprise as he took off from the green light.

"Why not?" he remarked, eyes on the road. "The way I drive, I could get us there pretty quickly."

"But there's school tomorrow," I said, unsure of precisely why I was being so obstinate about this.

"I don't exactly need to sleep," he dryly commented, chuckling when he saw my embarrassed face. "And you don't need to be up early, so whatever time we get back, you can just sleep in."

"Yeah, I could, but…" I hesitated still, biting my lip. My mind wandered to Bella and the seemingly date-like circumstances we were in.

Edward snorted sarcastically. "What? You think I should hold off movie nights until Bella gets here a year or so from now? Not likely, Mireille… Come on. Let's just enjoy it, all right?"

"You're unbelievably anxious about Bella, aren't you?" I inquired concernedly, just then noticing the anxiety in his eyes. "I don't even think you were this nervous in Midnight Sun."

"The major difference there is that I now have to do things just right," he told me agitatedly, pinching the bridge of his nose with one hand. "In the books, I didn't know what the hell I was doing and so I played it by how it felt to me. Now, I have to get it exactly correct or I risk ruining everything the future holds for us all."

"Whoa, cool it there, Dr. Fate!" I half-laughed, stunned by the utter terror and desolation in Edward's golden eyes. "It's not that serious, I promise you! You already know what has to happen. Now you just do it when the time comes. That's all there is to it. As to the other issues, like James or Victoria or whatever, we just have to deal with it as it comes. That's all we can do. It's how life operates, okay?"

"Forgive me," he sighed, already calming slightly. "My anxiety has been skyrocketing since we finished the books yesterday. When I danced with you, I was honestly helping myself as much as you. Stress started bleeding into my system the moment I heard about the way Bella's scent affected me, but everything feels ten times as overwhelming right now. It's all been poured on at once."

"Maybe I should have enforced a reading schedule," I frowned. I didn't like the way he slouched. "But I was afraid it might leave everyone – particularly you – far too much thinking time and make you doubt your chances."

"Admittedly, that was a high probability," he confessed shamefully.

"It was more a choice of evils, I guess," I grumbled, to which Edward's lips twitched.

"So…" he started, plainly changing topics, "will you, Miss Whitlock, kindly join me in an excursion to the cinema?"

Giggling over the formal speech and manner he had adopted, I simply nodded and laughed brightly – albeit with a startled tinge – when Edward turned abruptly toward the nearest entrance for Highway 5.

Edward drove an absolutely terrifying yet thrilling 185 miles per hour the entire way to California, without exception. I didn't even know the Volvo could move that fast. Equally nerve-wracked and excited because of how fast we were going, I practically started gasping for breath and gripped the door handle until my knuckles were white. It was a roller coaster ride in a way; every curve, no matter how beautifully executed, sent my stomach into knots. The only reason Edward never slowed down was my unspoken adrenaline kick out of the whole experience.

When we finally arrived, I was horrified and awed at the same time to learn he had made the nearly 700 mile trip from Olympia to Sacramento in approximately four hours. We made it into a practically empty midnight showing of the only movie on their list that I wanted to see.

"I still can't believe I'm watching this," Edward mumbled to himself, rubbing his temples as if a migraine was coming on. His energy for movie-going had dampened considerably when he realized what film I was set on watching.

"Oh, come on, Edward," I nudged him lightly in the shoulder, surprised when he let himself move naturally with the gesture. "I love Underworld. It's really exciting."

"Mythological monsters really are an obsession of yours, aren't they?" he muttered sarcastically, shaking his head.

I glared slightly at him over my lifted box of Raisinets as the show began. He chuckled at my annoyance, but groaned when he actually listened to Kate Beckinsale's narration about vampire-lycan history. I could see this little introduction was not endearing him to the film any more than before, but something about his long-suffering face made me snort with laughter. It was Edward's turn to glare, and in his case it was unfortunately more effective. I tried very had not to laugh at him as the movie progressed… and failed spectacularly.

"I can't wait to see the next one!" was my excitable comment as we exited the theater two hours later and walked out to the Volvo. I was pleased that I hadn't needed to wear my coat and accessories at all. The weather was beautifully mild and comfortable. "And you can't say you're not interested, Edward, so don't try it."

"I won't even try to lie," he sighed amusedly, "It was better than I expected."

"See? Don't judge a book by its cover," I beamed at him.

"When does the next one come out?" he asked quietly, opening the passenger door for me.

"2006 – in January," I sighed a little disappointedly, taking care to keep my voice down. "But it will certainly be worth the wait, trust me."

"Well, it looks like you and I have an appointment in a couple of years," he chuckled. "Don't you forget it."

"I won't," I laughed at his 'threat' and buckled myself in while he walked around to the driver's side.

I chattered part of the way back to Forks, somehow not paying attention to the same outrageous speed Edward was taking advantage of on the return trip. In spite of my obvious excitement over the movie, about a third of the way back I must have fallen asleep in the passenger seat because Edward was suddenly lifting me out of the car, startling me awake enough to realize what was going on. The air was frigid compared to the warmth we had enjoyed in California.

As I blearily lifted my head from his shoulder, I caught the time on the digital clock as reading six-forty. Considering it had been midnight when we went in to watch Underworld, I knew it was very, very early the next day.

"It's almost seven in the morning," I muttered distantly – almost incomprehensibly – already closer to a dead sleep than wakefulness. "I must be insane."

"Perhaps you are," Edward agreed lightly, laughter underlying his speech. "Although with as little sleep as you have right now, I can't judge just yet."

Had I been any more awake, I would have glared at him for his comment. As it was, I just went about laying my head back down on Edward's shoulder with a slight thump and remained silent even when we entered the front door. Someone had opened it for Edward, I guessed, since neither of his arms ever left their hold on my back and legs. Or would I even feel it if they did…?

"You're quite amusing when you're tired," Edward half-laughed at me, joined by a chuckling voice I recognized as belonging to Carlisle.

"You two have had quite an evening on the town, so Alice tells us," the doctor commented teasingly.

"Well, you know how Alice likes to take leaps and bounds ahead of the simple facts," Edward partly joked, but I sensed a bit of genuine meaning behind the words, even while still half asleep.

"I resent that, Edward Cullen," Alice snipped playfully from somewhere else in the vicinity. "Just because I know things above the norm…"

"Oh, shut it, Pixie," Emmett called out to the psychic vampire, and it sounded like he threw a magazine at her, which obviously missed. "You cheat and that's all there is to it. What happened to the freak twins protecting each other's backs?"

"Took the words out of my mouth," I mumbled sarcastically, wishing I didn't have to sleep and miss all of the good family times like this.

"I think the sandman is calling her name," Jasper remarked dryly from across the room somewhere.

"Yes, he certainly is," Edward sighed humorously, starting to walk again. I tried to remember the precise moment he had stopped in the first place, but decided I was too out of it to know and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

A few minutes later I was startled out of yet another doze when Edward laid me down on the bed and two smaller hands fluttered over me, helping me into a pair of pajamas. A split second after it started, it was finished, and I was comfortably wrapped up in the covers.

"I've turned off your alarm for the day," Esme quietly informed me. "You just sleep, all right?"

I was already on my way to dreamland, but somehow I found myself responding, "Mm-hm."

"Good night, sweetie," she whispered, kissing my forehead. My strange, half-cooked brain came up with the amusing and brilliant recognition that it was no longer night, but morning, yet I was too sleepy to actually say it.

"Where'd Edward go?" I wondered suddenly, eyes barely splitting open to see a blur of caramel-colored hair near the bed.

"He's getting ready for school, dear," Esme's gentle voice again washed over me, adding significantly to the comfort I already felt as she sweetly patted down my hair.

"Oh," I murmured with a vague frown, letting my eyes slide shut again. I was irritated with myself for not telling him what a fun evening out it had been. Even after the dark subject matter we had discussed (and watched, admittedly), I had thoroughly enjoyed myself. I wished I had told him thank you.

"You're welcome," came a velvet whisper right beside my ear.

"Rest well, my dear," Carlisle's voice, soft and kind, also drifted over me from very nearby.

By the time the word dear had passed his lips, I was too far gone to ask why he suddenly decided to kiss my forehead.

I woke at twelve-thirty in the afternoon the next day, refreshed and still pleased by my time well-spent with Edward. I pretty much just threw on an outfit, not altogether certain that it matched especially well; at least the shoes matched the shirt. Alice could kill me later if it suited her.

Esme had lunch all ready when I headed downstairs and I dug in with gusto. I would hate having to eat cafeteria food when I started at the high school; Esme's culinary skills were going to make me spoiled. That much I was sure of.

"What are you going to do today?" she asked, sitting down with me at the island counter after she put away the food.

"I don't know," I shrugged thoughtfully, pausing to chew a forkful of my antipasto. "If I exercise and practice the piano, together those will take up an hour-and-a-half."

"The others will be home not long after you finish," she smiled. "I have no doubt someone will have an activity for you by then."

"That's true," I laughed. "Somebody always has something for me to do."

Esme did not sit nearby when I practiced the piano, a feat which must have taken extraordinary effort because Esme just loved to hear it, whether it was good or bad. I knew she was listening from somewhere in the house, though. The thought made me a little nervous, but once I got into the swing of playing, I didn't think much on it anymore.

Sure enough, when the others got home, they had an activity for me. It just wasn't one I was all too keen to participate in.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
I will be mentioning the fanfiction stories Mireille wrote in this chapter. For these, I am just using some of my own Twilight stories. It's the simplest and most comfortable way to do it. So yeah, this is all just one big shameless plug I guess. :P

Previously – Mireille created a tutoring schedule and discussed languages with Edward, Alice, and Esme. Edward described Mireille's scent. Mireille and Edward went to Olympia and discussed Charles Evenson. Edward admitted he's anxious about Bella. Edward drove to Sacramento and watched Underworld with Mireille. Mireille whiled the day away with Esme until the others returned home from school.

Chapter 16: Insistent

"Guys, come on," I sighed for the fourth time in a row from my seat on the sofa nearest the window wall, staring down five enthusiastic vampires who were fighting tooth and nail to read my fanfiction stories.

Emmett, Alice, Edward, Jasper, and Esme were quite insistent about it. Rosalie tried to remain uninterested over on the other sofa, but the intrigue was just as keen in her eyes.

I had spent the last several attempts at rejection by alternately tugging on my hot pink and gray striped top and dark gray running pants or curling my toes inside the hot pink flats on my feet.

Unfortunately, I had a peculiar feeling this was inevitable. Sort of like how I had predicted one day meeting Maria, I predicted they would end up reading my stories one way or another. The thought incited a groan from me and a slight grin from Edward.

"Does that mean yes?" Alice bounced on her toes, sensing the tide was changing in her favor.

"Prepare my early grave," I grumbled into my hands, which I had brought up to my face in resignation, and steeled myself to block Edward so he wouldn't see the story plots before he even read them. They laughed, even Esme, over my response, but someone whooshed away – presumably to get my stories – and then rushed back. The only reason I knew this was because of the air that fanned me in the wake of their movement. I bet myself that it was Edward.

"It was," he confirmed amusedly. "Now please stop covering your face and talk with us."

"About what?" was my incredulous reply, albeit muffled by my hands. "You can read, can't you?"

"Yes, but you have to tell us about your inspiration," Alice cut in cheerily. "Why you wrote what you did… how you came about it… that kind of thing."

"I still say you're trying to torture me," I muttered, but reluctantly moved my hands away from my face. Every pair of golden eyes was bright and twinkling, eager to read my demise at the hands of my own stories.

"You're as bad as me," Edward reproached lightly. "If what they say about my melodrama is true, anyway."

We all just stared at him for a moment.

"Okay, okay," Edward muttered, holding up his hands in surrender. "You are as bad as me."

Esme shook her head in amusement and sat down in one of the chairs. Taking the cue from their mother, the rest fitted themselves in. Edward took the other chair, Emmett joined Rosalie on her sofa, and Jasper and Alice joined me, one on either side.

"What about Carlisle?" Jasper asked.

"Oh, he can read them later," Esme waved it off. "He won't mind us going ahead while we have free time."

"Okay, then where do we start?" Emmett turned to me, rubbing his hands together gleefully. Rosalie rolled her eyes at him.

"I don't know," I sighed, glancing at the pieces spread on the coffee table before me. "Maybe the first piece I wrote?"

"Which is…?" Edward prompted me.

"Reminders," I reluctantly answered, picking up the story in question as if it were a deadly snake. "I based it on a song called 'Undiscovered'. It's about the time after you leave in New Moon."

"That's depressing," Emmett frowned a little.

"It's Bella's point of view," I sighed. "And it's a song fic."

"Song fic?" Alice questioned with a raised eyebrow.

"Yeah, it contains lyrics from a song," I explained with pink cheeks. "Here, just read it, okay? I explain all of this in the author's note at the beginning."

I didn't pay attention to them as they read through the story at a human pace, too embarrassed to have it read out loud in the first place. Their voices stopped suddenly a few minutes later, creating a heavy silence in the room that I was afraid to break. I forced myself to look up only when Esme finally addressed me. Her eyes were suspiciously glassy as she asked, "You wrote this, dear?"

"Er… yes, I did."

"But it was… it was beautiful!" she exclaimed gently. I blinked.

"It was very striking," Edward added quietly, followed by nods from the others.

"I felt like I was reading from Bella's real thoughts," Alice finished.

"Thank you," I murmured, humbled by their reactions.

"Well, what's next?" Emmett excitedly asked me to liven up the room, and I had to laugh.

"Well, about half of these are a single 'chapter,' so to speak." I thoughtfully looked over them again. "But the other half of them are chaptered stories and kind of long."

"Let's go through the single ones first," Esme decided. "By the looks of these, we'll be finished right about when Carlisle comes home and then read the longer ones with him. You'll have to have dinner anyway, Mireille, so that will work well, I think."

I nodded, then tried to determine which one to go with next, but kept coming against a wall. I just couldn't decide.

"Do you have a least favorite one?" Edward suggested.

"Not really," I shook my head. "Although I do have one or two that I know are completely out of character and therefore kind of embarrassing."

"Which ones?" Rosalie wondered quietly, surprising me with her continued interest. Well, she didn't look interested, yet she also didn't look disinterested either; somehow that put me more at ease.

"Well, there's one I wrote where Edward is extremely cold and angry towards Carlisle about his vote in New Moon," I admitted, biting my lip. "And in the story it lasts for about ten weeks."

Edward smiled briefly. "That does sound slightly out of character, frankly, but I don't mind. It's just a story."

"If you're sure," I acquiesced with relief. "It's called Discreet Disagreement. And I really don't remember why I wrote it in the first place."

Nodding his understanding, he took the piece from my hand and started to read. It was odd having him read his own point of view; it made it far too realistic. Like he was actually living through it.

"I agree with you on that," Edward muttered, setting the piece down gingerly.

"Well?" I wondered with a strange nervousness. "Terribly out of character, right?"

"I don't know," he responded uncomfortably, and my heart sank slightly. "I wouldn't do it now, but… in the twenties I might have—"

Esme's sharp inhale stopped him from finishing the thought. Edward's eyes were apologetic as he took her hand comfortingly.

"Moving right along, then," Emmett muttered to himself, picking up another story. "Here, what's this one?"

"Magnitude," I read off the title thoughtfully, biting my lip. "I told Carlisle about this one a little bit already."

Alice started. "When?"

"After we toured the house, we ended up talking about fanfiction," was my equally startled answer. "Why?"

"I just didn't even see it," she frowned.

"Well it was kind of last minute," I shrugged.

"Anyway," Emmett butted in, rolling his eyes. "What's it about?"

"It's an alternate course that might have taken place in Breaking Dawn," I responded with an eye roll of my own. "The wolves attack in an attempt to get rid of the baby before they know what Renesmee is. Then all of you guys fight them and Jasper ends up badly damaged."

"How is that possible?" Alice groused, giving me a scowl. Jasper seemed mightily amused by her expression. "He's the best fighter in the family."

"But he could overextend himself," I countered easily. "If he tried to take as much of the fighting away from all of you as possible, he might be taken advantage of. Remember his injury in Eclipse?"

"That's true," Alice glared at her unapologetic husband. "I can see where that would make sense."

"What happens then?" Esme wondered concernedly, in spite of the fact that it was not real.

"Carlisle protects him from Sam and it's in Carlisle's point of view… You may as well read the rest."

They did just that, with Jasper reading the piece, and I felt embarrassed as they reached my sappy attempts at bonding Carlisle and Jasper as father and son.

After a tense silence, it was Jasper's deep voice that sounded from my right side, his hand on mine to instill a sense of calm. "Please don't be embarrassed. I… I admire what you wrote, actually. It's… quite true to life in many ways."

Hardly daring to look up at him, I chanced a brief glimpse and quickly darted back down to my lap. What I had seen was somewhat heartening. Jasper appeared sad, yet… something in his face had taken on an air of hopefulness.

"I have a question," I was brave enough to comment after another minute. "Is any of the vampire-specific stuff correct in this story?"

"A little," said Edward, humming with thought. "Healing with venom, for instance. It's not necessary to heal our wounds, but it does speed up the process significantly. And the paralysis you described, that is also quite true. If there is enough injury done, a vampire will be mostly incapable of moving – due to pain and the removal of certain important joints, ligaments, and etcetera – until the more serious wounds are mended."

"And the bonding experience…" Jasper reluctantly tacked on. "It's not exactly so… poignant… as you described, but it is something that exists in many covens. The more such experiences one has, the closer one is considered to be with their coven leader. Or should I say the more advantageous to the leader one is considered to be."

"Wow," I sat back, surprised. "I thought I was just playing around with things that don't even exist."

"Including us," Emmett said more joyfully than anyone seemed to feel, bringing a slight smile out of me.

"We should move on," Esme murmured concernedly, looking over at Jasper with a bit of pity in her gaze.

"Here," Alice quietly offered me another story while slipping her free hand around to Jasper, who took it gently into his own.

"This one is Lasting Illusion," I explained. "It takes place after Breaking Dawn is over. It's in Alice's point of view."

Alice was the one who took it, prompted by it being her viewpoint no doubt, and I tuned out her words to allow Jasper's calm to continue spreading through me.

Upon completing the story, another silence encompassed us all. Sensing the change when Jasper stopped offering me a store of calm, I opened my eyes and checked everyone's faces. There was a darkness there that I didn't like, but also a determination that I couldn't understand.

"That was… quite well done, Mireille," Edward uttered low, expression disturbed. "Intimidating, but accurate."

"Frighteningly so," Rosalie imparted her opinion on my writing for the first time, voice quiet and her eyes keen on my face, which grew warm.

"I can actually see myself going through this," Alice whispered in slight sadness.

"I'm sorry there are so many depressing elements to my writing," I whispered back.

"Why?" Emmett cut in, looking more serious than usual. "It happens. This kind of stuff happens in real books and real life all the time, right?"

"Kind of," I agreed hesitantly.

"The issue isn't how dark the stories are," Esme spoke up, her eyes tight. "It's how well you write us in them. I truly am astounded by how closely you portray some of our deeper reactions. These are very beautiful, Mireille."

"Thank you, Esme," I said humbly.

"You're welcome, dear," she smiled a little, gesturing wordlessly for my next story.

"Um… this next one was supposed to be the preface for a multi-chaptered story, but I never got around to finishing it. Work and school took away my free time."

"What's it called? What's the plot?" Emmett asked in quick succession. I could tell he was positively itching to read.

"Something Like Hope," was my uncomfortable reply. "It's really short. Micro, actually. And it's about Esme's faith."

"Well, then we'll just nip it in the bud," Emmett proclaimed before Esme could comment, taking the single page out of my hands and reading it himself.

The excitable big vampire didn't sound half as excited when he finished reading.

"You sure know how to give people a downer," he remarked in spite of his earlier comments on my writing.

"I think it was absolutely wonderful," Esme sniffled, passing her son a reproachful look. "That is so close to how I have felt about Edward's future before. You make it so real."

"Thanks," I mumbled, cheeks pink again. Edward was staring at me with something akin to awe, and I wished he would look away before my face burned up entirely.

After a minute of awkward silence, Jasper commented dryly, "But it just doesn't sound right in your voice, Emmett."

"What do you mean?" the vampire in question argued, scowling at his blond brother. "Esme liked it, didn't she?"

"Shush, both of you," Esme interrupted before they could get into it, but a more genuine smile was on her face. "Go on to the next one, Mireille."

"There are actually two related stories here. Emotionless and Little Gem."

"Sounds cool," Emmett grinned. "What are they about?"

"They're in Esme and Carlisle's points of view, respectively. I based them on Renesmee's first spoken words."

"Momma, where is Grandpa?" Alice clarified.

"Yeah, that's it," I confirmed. "Considering Renesmee probably knew that Charlie lived in town and couldn't always come around, I figured she was talking about Carlisle."

"And this is an explanation of where he was?" Esme deduced, to which I simply nodded. "Well, I think I'll read the one in my point of view. Edward, why don't you read Carlisle's?"

He nodded and handed her Emotionless, which was nearest him. Once again, I tuned out the reading. I already knew what it said anyway, considering I had written it. Alice had to nudge me by the time Edward had finished reading Little Gem so I could return to the conversation.

"The emotion is so wonderfully done," Esme couldn't help saying, shaking her head. "It really does sound like us."

"You write Carlisle better than you write the rest of us," Edward commented oddly. His face bore an expression I couldn't decipher.

"Is that a bad thing?" I tentatively asked.

"Not at all," Jasper spoke first, also spying Edward's strange look. "I think he just means it's odd that you never even met Carlisle and yet you knew him so well."

"I guess so." I shrugged uncomfortably.

"What is To Hear The Angels about?" Alice questioned, obviously changing the subject on purpose.

"It's a few Christmases or so after Breaking Dawn," I explained with more ease. "Essentially, it's Bella spending some time with Carlisle and bonding. They talk about his angry fit from Little Gem at one point, so it's kind of a third tale in that story arc."

"And what about A Wreath of Thistles?" Jasper asked.

"What?" I started. "I never published that one!"

Even if I had… well, I doubted Rosalie would wish it to be read.

"What do you mean?" Edward murmured confusedly, leaning over to pick the story out of Jasper's hands and read at least a little of it, disregarding my protest. His confusion evaporated instantly. "Oh… I see."

"Yeah," I muttered awkwardly. "I didn't think that would go over very well."

"Why don't we ask her opinion?" he suggested grimly.

"Are you sure?" I suddenly felt panic creeping. "I… She won't like it."

"Who won't like it?" Alice questioned impatiently. Everyone was staring between Edward and me, Rosalie more suspiciously than the others. Why did she have to be so keen?

"Rosalie, I think you might want to read this," Edward said before I could argue, slipping the story into his sister's hands.

Blank though her face was, I watched her lips tighten the further down the page she read. My nerves started to fray as I waited for the explosion, but Jasper calmed me down a little before I lost it. When Rosalie finally spoke, I was shocked to hear her actually reading the story to everyone, rather than chewing me out. My surprise lasted until the blonde stopped reading and lifted her eyes to mine. I saw no anger, no suspicion, no unhappiness that I had written what I did. As a matter of fact, there wasn't much of anything in her eyes, except shrewd perception. What she perceived, I could not fathom, but no one else dared speak about it.

After the silence grew stale, Esme pulled me up and into the kitchen as she prepared a somewhat late dinner and sat down with me at the island. The front door opening drew my attention in the middle of eating.

"Hello, everyone," Carlisle called out for my benefit, voice quite calm and content. Not a moment later, the content turned to wariness. "Is something wrong?"

"Not wrong," Edward replied. "Just deep in concentration, is all. We read some of Mireille's stories after we got home."

"I see," Carlisle tentatively responded. "Was it so uncomfortable of an experience that you all sit here silent and still, not even looking at each other?"

"As I said, it's just… thought-inducing," Edward responded with a sigh. "Take a few moments to read this stack here and you'll see what I mean."

Curious as I was, I was still eating and couldn't head back to the living area to see what was happening. Esme didn't like the idea either, insisting with a gentle hand on my back that I stay and finish my meal. Appetite slightly less important now, I hurried through the rest of it so I could get back into the main room. Esme sighed in a mixture of exasperation and knowing humor, but didn't stop me.

By the time I finished and helped Esme clean up as much as she would allow me to, the both of us were too late to catch Carlisle still reading. The expression on his face as he sat in the chair beside Edward's was so pensive I worried he had taken my stories the wrong way somehow. Edward subtly shook his head at me, smirking slightly. I took that to mean I was overreacting and flushed pink when I took a seat beside Alice, who had moved over to sit beside Jasper and left the end of the sofa free. Esme took a seat on the arm of Carlisle's chair, placing a soft hand on his shoulder. He looked up at her with a warm smile, easing my discomfort even more than Edward had.

"You are rather a talented writer, Mireille," the doctor finally spoke, transferring his smile onto me. "I quite enjoyed your stories. Although I wonder where on earth you get your insight from."

"I don't really get it from anywhere in particular," I murmured embarrassedly. "When I write… it's the things that I can't seem to put into words. It all comes out on the paper, like the pen or the keyboard is an extension of my vocal chords. Instead of making conversation… I write stories."

"You seem to be doing very well vocally, too," Carlisle smiled more warmly. "That description was quite eloquent, you know."

"Thank you," I mumbled even quieter than before.

"Now," he continued, taking some of the pressure off of me, "I believe we have some longer stories to read?"

"Er… yeah. They're all part of the same series," I answered nervously. "They're out of character for Edward, in particular. And I think I've brought up every bad thing that ever happened to all of you. It's really over-dramatized and I made Rosalie into a real… well, far more vindictive and evil than I think she really is. It's just that I needed the plot to have a sort-of villain and she was the only one who made sense at the time and—"

"Stop dithering," Rosalie, of all people, cut in sharply. "I don't even care."

"Okay," was my meek reply, and I quickly started to describe the story. "The series is called Damages. That part is in Bella's point of view. There are also some side stories from all of your viewpoints. It looks like a chronological reading order is with them, so you know what gets read next."

"What is it about?" Rosalie prompted, apparently appointing herself my coach until she was certain I would stick to the plain facts.

"Between New Moon and Eclipse," I explained, "it's about the healing Bella goes through with the family."

"How long is it?" the blonde asked.

"There are eight main stories and eight companion pieces."

"Then I guess we should start reading," Rosalie went on to announce. "Perhaps at our speed, since there are so many?"

I just nodded my agreement.

"Let's take turns like we did with the books," Alice suggested, turning to smile at me in a friendly way. "I think I'll start. See you in a little bit, Mir."

Nodding again, I settled more comfortably into my place on the sofa, wondering how they would take this particular story and its many ramifications, when something very significant popped into my mind.

"Stop!" I shouted suddenly, making even Alice jump. An irritated glance from Rosalie, I was easily able to overlook in my panic. "Edward, it talks about what we talked about yesterday!"

Edward's eyes were already wide thanks to reading my thoughts. It would have been comical if the situation wasn't so serious. He had planned to tell Esme of his first victim in 1927, but he hadn't planned it to be quitethat soon.

After a very awkward minute of everyone staring curiously and sometimes suspiciously at the two of us, Edward slouched in on himself. His deflation roused my sympathy greater than my worry. Jasper looked sympathetic as well, and he didn't even know what was going on.

"Carlisle, Esme," Edward said at last, voice defeated. "I need a moment alone with you."

Frowning concernedly, Carlisle and Esme shared a single look and then nodded at their first son. Alice took the lead in heading out of the house, her face carefully blank. Jasper reluctantly followed, leaving Emmett and Rosalie to be forced out by a stern glance from their parents. I stood without thinking as they disappeared, in spite of knowing that Edward, Carlisle, and Esme could much more easily leave for privacy than I could. I started to walk out, but the strangely frightened expression that crossed Edward's face gave me pause.

"Mireille," Carlisle called my name thoughtfully. It sounded as thought he had just come up with an important idea.

Wordlessly, I returned to stand in front of the sofa Rosalie and Emmett occupied a moment before. Carlisle looked at me, then gave me the merest glance towards his son, and abruptly I understood what he was asking.

"Would you mind if I stayed, Edward?" I asked him gently.

Such a gust of relief seemed to have taken hold of the vampire in question that I knew Carlisle had the right idea. Edward needed someone in his corner right now.

"No, I wouldn't mind that at all," he practically sighed the words, gesturing for us to share the sofa behind me. We sat down at the same moment as a hesitant Carlisle and Esme did on the other sofa. Edward was trembling slightly, a fact I noted with pity.

"What is it you wish to talk about, son?" Carlisle patiently took up the conversation, taking Esme's hand reassuringly into both of his.

"I have something I need to explain," Edward confessed, fidgeting. "I don't think you'll take it very well. Especially you, Esme."

'Call her Mom next time,' I corrected him in my mind. I figured softening Esme in that regard couldn't hurt. If anything, it would remind her all the more strongly that no matter what he had done, Edward was still Edward. He was still her son.

He chanced a glance at me then, vaguely exasperated by my odd interruption, however subtle it had been. I felt better when I saw that exasperation, though; it meant he was more himself.

Sighing resignedly, Edward continued, "I think you already suspected something about this, Carlisle, but I know Es—Mom didn't."

The effect of the word mom was obvious on Esme. Her eyes grew sweeter, warmer, towards Edward than they already were. Inwardly I sighed with relief.

"Mom… please try to understand me," Edward pleaded first, fully embracing the endearment now that he knew it might help somehow. "I thought it was the right thing at the time. That it would help you in some way."

"What are you talking about, Edward?" Esme asked worriedly, brows furrowed. Carlisle squeezed her hands in reassurance, but his own face was grave. He had to have figured it out.

"When I left in 1926," Edward began again, seeming to remind himself to be factual, rather than emotional. "I didn't just head out to the nearest criminal mind I found… I… I went to someone very specific."

Esme started, eyes wide as she gazed upon her eldest son. "Edward… but who would you have…"

But Esme gasped suddenly, her face horrified, as the truth settled in. At her side, Carlisle took a deep breath that was both a sigh of relief and a preparation for the storm to come.

A flinch from Edward told me that the storm had most certainly begun. Nervously, I laid my hand over his, hoping it might help even a tiny bit.

"No… Oh, Edward, no!" Esme murmured, eyes glassy and wet-looking. "Why did you do it? Why?"

"I hated him," Edward admitted tightly, his own eyes appearing wet. "For what he did to you, for living to hurt others like he hurt you, for being in the way when you wondered about marrying Carlisle… I couldn't bear the thought of him surviving another day when you were so worried about whether or not it was wrong to marry the man you loved while that animal was still alive. But mostly I just couldn't stand to see him live after how he hurt you. After watching those terrible memories live on, even in your immortal life, I wanted to eliminate the source. I don't know if I honestly believed that would somehow heal your pain, but… I think I feebly hoped it would."

Esme was literally crying tearlessly into her free hand now and Carlisle freed one of his hands to wrap the whole arm around her shoulders.

"Don't hate me, Esme. I just wanted you to be free of him," Edward whispered painfully, face contorted into an expression of grief as he lowered his head to avoid his mother's eyes. "Please forgive me."

Esme took a long while to compose herself, Carlisle holding her close and murmuring comforting words in her ear, and Edward's posture growing steadily more defeated every moment that passed by. At last, when her empty crying steadied out completely and her mind was likely more rational, Esme took in a long and heavy breath, then let it out very slowly and turned her gaze back on Edward's bowed head.

"Edward," she said softly, sadly. "Oh, sweetheart, I could never, ever hate you. I don't know how you could even think that. It's not that I approve of what you did… I wish you hadn't been forced to live through my memories like that. I wish you had never partaken of even the smallest bit of that vile man or any of the others. You are too good to have any part of him or them in you. You're my son and I love you. And as much as I forgive you, I wish even more that you'd forgive yourself."

Shuddering slightly at something only he could see, Edward finally lifted his head. One brief look at Esme's outstretched arms and he flew into her mothering hug, slipping onto his knees beside her. Carlisle pulled back enough to kiss Esme's forehead and squeeze Edward's shoulder before rising and gesturing for me to come with him.

As silently as I knew how, I followed him up to his office and walked in to take a seat in front of his desk. Closing the door behind him and turning to face me, Carlisle said in a low and grateful voice, "Thank you for being so supportive of Edward. I would have done the same, only I knew Esme needed support as much as he did."

"I'm glad I could help," I uttered as lowly as he had. "I know he was very worried about this coming up."

"Is that why the two of you left yesterday?" he shrewdly observed.

"Yes," I admitted. "I mentioned reading the guide and it all kind of led to that."

"I'm glad he was at least somewhat prepared to speak of it," Carlisle sighed, running a hand through his blond hair. "Otherwise it would have been twice as difficult for him tonight."

"You already knew." It was not a question.

"Edward never said it in so many words," the doctor replied honestly. "But knowing him as well as I did, and do, I always expected that was one of his… stops."

"I'm happy he's cleared the air with Esme now," I commented. "Will he tell the others? Well, aside from Alice anyway."

Carlisle chuckled at the mention of Alice, who was undoubtedly watching the whole scene. "I think he may allow it to come out as we read your story. How soon will it crop up?

"It's first mentioned in part one, but not confirmed until part two," I answered.

He simply nodded, moving to sit in the chair opposite mine. "Mireille, now that we have a moment, I would like to talk to you."

Nervously I shifted in my seat.

"Oh, it's nothing that serious," he chuckled, taking in my discomfort. "I merely wondered if you wanted to begin your lessons this weekend or next."

"I don't know," I started to say, but before I could actually answer, a phone ringing startled us both. Shaking his head, Carlisle hurried to pick up the cell phone on his desk. "Yes, Alice?"

The knowing amusement in his voice had me giggling.

"All right, thank you," he ended the call a minute later, humor risen to new heights. Turning, he caught my eye and grinned slightly. "We have been ordered by the commander to leave your lessons until next weekend."

Laughter escaped me at that. "I guess I don't have to answer you. But why do I have to wait?"

"I believe she mentioned something about this weekend being reserved for costumes," he added, tacking on a good-natured sigh. "Education is always so undervalued."

Giggling again at his dry sense of humor, I pulled my legs up onto the chair to get more comfortable.

"I never did get to see your artwork," Carlisle brought up out of the blue.

My ears felt a little warm. "I didn't think about it."

"Might I see them sometime?" he asked, face suffused with genuine interest.

"I… sure," I agreed more from the sudden pressure than anything else, although I guessed I wouldn't mind him looking at my art. Edward had liked the works, so I imagined Carlisle might like them, too.

A knock on Carlisle's office door brought our faces around to watch as Edward peeked around the door.

"We're finished talking," he explained, looking much improved from what I remembered downstairs. "And the others will be back in a few minutes, so we'll be able to start reading soon."

"All right," Carlisle agreed, standing from his seat. Standing as well, I tried to follow him out the door, but Edward stopped me with a gentle hand on my elbow.

"We'll be waiting for you," murmured Carlisle, disappearing from sight.

Giving Edward a look of curiosity, I let him lead me over to the sofa in front of the room's West-facing windows.

"I wanted to thank you," he told me quietly, "for helping me with this. I don't know if I would have ever talked to Esme about it otherwise. And you really kept me from becoming too depressed about it."

"I just knew it must be a hard subject for you," I half-shrugged awkwardly. One thing I was not good at was emotional discussions where it concerned myself.

"Well I'm glad you understood," he pressed forward anyway, reaching over to give my hand a comforting squeeze. "You understand things that I didn't think anyone would."

"Sometimes people are so understated that you'd never know if you didn't ask," I said cautiously.

"Like you," he pointed out with a wry smile. "Thank you again."

I didn't really know how to react to the first part of that statement, so I settled for, "You're welcome."

Nodding decisively, Edward rose and easily tugged me along after him. When we reached the living area, everyone was sitting again, although the seats had changed around from earlier. Rosalie and Emmett had taken the chairs this time while Alice and Jasper had now split, Alice to sit with Esme on opposite ends of one sofa and Jasper to do the same with Carlisle on the other To my surprise, Edward led me to the seat between his father and brother while he took the one between his mother and sister. It was sort of strange, but I just went with it; they must have had a very good reason for it after all.

"What time is it?" I asked.

"It's about nine-o'clock," Esme replied.

"Do you think you'll have enough time to read them all?" I wondered.

"If we are reading at our speed, we should be able to finish these tonight," was Carlisle's reasonable answer.

Nodding my understanding, I sat back as Alice picked up the story that she had dropped and started to read in that same voice of whispering wind.

An indefinite amount of time later, I was nudged from an unexpected doze to find an enthusiastic Alice crouched in front of me. Belatedly I realized I had nodded off on Carlisle's shoulder. Someone had put a blanket there to protect me from the coldness.

"Are you ready to kill me yet?" I wondered blearily. Alice trilled a laugh, along with almost everyone else. Carlisle's laughter shook me slightly where I still leaned against him.

"Hardly," Esme laughed at my assumption. "We just wanted to let you know how much we enjoyed it all."

"You're finished?" I asked in surprise, waking up a little more.

"Yep!" Alice proudly announced. "It took four hours to get through them all. You fell asleep somewhere in the middle of part five."

"Great." I cleared my throat slightly. "How far off was I?"

"Oh, astronomically in a couple of cases," Alice waved me off impatiently. "But it was still really, really good. And the way you created a relative theme for the chapter titles in each story was neat."

"I liked the part with the intruder best," Jasper admitted from my left. "The strategy you used was fascinating to work through."

"Intangible Sentiment was my favorite part," was Alice's confession. "The way you portrayed Edward and Carlisle's points of view was absolutely amazing."

"Yeah, and your idea of how each of us has different ways of blocking this cheater," Emmett grinned and pointed at Edward, who rolled his eyes.

"I particularly enjoyed Damages I," Esme smiled. "I just love reading about Carlisle. Especially as well as you write his personality and reactions."

Her husband smiled as well, though he appeared a bit bashful as he added, "I think part eight was my favorite. With all of us coming together, whole and healed."

"Emmett's parts in the stories were my favorite," Rosalie said softly, some sentimentality clear in her voice.

"You really showed his big heart," Esme agreed, smiling warmly at her burly son, who actually looked rather bashful himself now.

"Bonds Not Of Blood was the best one for me," Edward rounded out the list of favorites. "You highlighted the best things that each of us can do."

"We all contribute very unique things within our family," Esme smiled over everyone.

"It looks like we have another talented contributor now," Alice remarked happily, then gasped. "Which reminds me! Esme, we have to start on costumes!"

"Oh, yes," the mother in question smiled wider. "Have you finished the sketches yet?"

"Yes, I have!" the pixielike woman answered excitedly. "Now we have to do fabric choices. Mireille, you should work on that with Esme tomorrow, so we can get cracking on the actual construction."

"Will do," I faked a salute, enjoying the others' laughter and ignoring the tiniest vampire's glare completely.

"Why couldn't she have been a total wallflower?" Alice grumbled to herself, inciting even more laughter from her highly-entertained family.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
We had to see the other side of the coin sometime, so here it is! Edward weighs in on the newest family member. This chapter got so long that I split it into two parts. Chapter 18 will tie it all up.

Technically, this really should have been posted after Chapter 14, but I messed up my labeling. So to keep Chapters 15 & 16 together (they do hook right up, if you read the end of 15 and the start of 16), I waited until now to post this.

Previously – The Cullens fought to read Mireille's Twilight fanfiction and she finally gave in. The Cullens read Mireille's one-shots first. Mireille proved surprisingly insightful about the Cullens. Edward and Jasper explained certain vampire 'data' Mireille was correct about. Carlisle came home and read the one-shots also. Edward told Esme of Charles Evenson and Edward thanked Mireille for supporting him. The Cullens read through Mireille's multi-chapter story and discussed their favorite parts.

Chapter 17: Impossible - Part I

By the greatest instance of happenstance, I had been sitting up in my room listening to music on the fateful Monday evening that changed my existence so thoroughly.

Nothing much bothered me at the time, seeing as we had just moved to Forks in August and had plenty to watch out for and adjust to. Boredom and dilapidation would set in by the wet spring, but it was a phase I'd grown accustomed to in the long years we had been moving place to place as a family.

On the front porch, Rosalie thought of her beauty – typical – as she stared rather vacantly at Emmett and Jasper wrestling in the front yard. She didn't really enjoy watching these testosterone matches, but it made Emmett happy to have an audience – particularly an audience that was exceptionally beautiful and completely in love with him, win or lose.

As for Emmett, he was losing as usual. Quite badly, too, if Jasper's mental commentary was any indication. My battle-hardened brother felt surprisingly well-humored by Emmett's continued attempts to defeat him in any kind of combat sequence. In any case, he knew I would be amused by a show of Emmett's growing list of weak spots for the next time our burly brother tried wrestling me.

Not that it would be any time soon. A decade prior, he had heatedly invited me to a wrestling match after my sarcasm cut a little closer to the truth than he was expecting.

He lost.

Spectacularly, at that.

And even this many years later, he was unwilling to fight me again. He called me a cheater, said I didn't fight fair, but I couldn't help the way my mind worked. There were a great many times when I wished he would understand my inability to turn it off. Only Carlisle understood really, a fact for which I was immensely grateful every time I thought of it.

In the work room on the other end of the third floor, Esme hummed something gentle and low as I switched out my compilation disc of Mozart for Rossini. It took a moment to realize she imitated the foundational theme of the song I had written for her and Carlisle years ago. Frowning at the sad tinge to my mother's voice, I was glad Carlisle had been able to arrange going in early that morning so as to get out earlier in the evening. It was rare and considering Esme's melancholy mood, that particular night was a good time for it.

Carlisle's position at the hospital was still relatively new and some of the veteran staff continued to give him that age-old treatment as the new man on the force. Long hours and paperwork. Lots of paperwork. The amusing part of it all was the ease with which Carlisle did paperwork. A cathartic process for him in some ways, it enabled his mind to wander as he completed routine tasks he could have done in his sleep. If he could actually sleep, that is. Dr. Snow & Dr. Gerandy were slowly working to change Carlisle's workload to genuinely good cases, but the administration dragged its feet to make sure the new recruit wasn't a fluke. Regardless, all of the paperwork kept my father at the hospital and away from home and Esme longer than ever before.

'You look pensive,'Alice thought to me, appearing in the doorway of my room with a tilted head and curious eyes. Wordlessly, I nodded in the direction of Esme's work room. Recognition flitted through my sister's gaze.

'She misses him,' Alice thought unhappily.

"Yes," I nodded, then frowned. "So do I, come to that."

'He's your best friend,'she pointed out.

"I know," I sighed quietly. It was true. Much I as loved Alice and got on with her, Carlisle had always been my closest friend.

'Why don't you—'Alice began again, but stopped abruptly as a full-action vision caught her off guard.

A girl not much larger than Alice ran through the woods as fast as her legs could carry her, fear on her face and panic in her every movement. Something must have scared her beyond belief. What really stunned me, however, was the fact the girl suddenly appeared out of thin air. One moment the forest stood empty and the next minute… she was just there, already moving as though she had always been in that location. It was like a magic trick… a puff of smoke and voile! Girl suddenly appears unscathed.

To add to my shock, I then saw Carlisle helping the disheveled girl out of an uninhabited part of the forest along the highway just outside of the real city section of Forks, easing her shock from whatever had frightened her out of the woods in the first place, and then staring in surprise himself as she told him something with wide, unseeing eyes that had been temporarily blinded by the headlights.

"What's going on?" I demanded of Alice, confused and surprised.

'Be quiet!' she shouted in her mind, obviously worried of anyone else overhearing us. Just like that, I realized Alice had been hiding things. Her mood swings that scared Jasper so much over the last month had not been meaningless. I glared slightly at my tiny sister, expecting an explanation for her strange behavior.

'Outside, before Jasper realizes,' she sighed in her mind, tugging me by the hand out into the trees across the river behind our house. No one even noticed we had left. Esme was far too embroiled in her longing to see Carlisle and the others remained focused on the long-winded wrestling match on the opposite side of the estate.

When we stopped, Alice quickly began to explain, "I started seeing her about a month ago. I didn't say anything because she kept disappearing at strange intervals. There was no rhyme or reason to it. I was afraid we might expect her and then possibly never meet her."

"We shouldn't be expecting humans like that, Alice," I countered incredulously. "It's dangerous!"

"She needs us, Edward," she fought back. "She's going to become our friend. I saw it!"

That gave me pause. "You saw more of her?"

"Yes. I've seen her staying with us at least as far as Halloween." As she spoke, she showed me a vision she had already had of the strange girl laughing with Emmett and Alice over something we couldn't hear. All around the three of them were Halloween decorations yet to be hung. "She'll probably be with us longer, though."

"But how? We couldn't possibly put on that good of a show in close quarters."

"We wouldn't have to," was her simple reply.

Fearfully, I clarified, "You mean… she knows?"

"Yes," she answered calmly, keeping it brief.

"Alice, we can't do this!" I argued. "The Volturi—"

"—won't find out," she interrupted confidently. "We can trust her, Edward. And she trusts us."

"You can't know that from those brief visions," I debated with a heavy frown. "Did you see something else?"

"I can't show you everything," Alice admitted honestly. "It seems like whenever I plan to tell someone or show you, the visions become less focused. But I have seen more. Enough to tell me she is as trustworthy as anyone in this family."

An idea already began forming in my head, however. "If Carlisle is going to find her, it won't be for another hour, when he's coming home…"

"What does that have to do with…?" But Alice didn't need to finish her question. A vision already overtook her of me running to the spot she had seen the girl exit the tree line, then waiting up in the nearby trees until Carlisle came around the curve. "Oh… You're going to be there, too."

"I'm going to listen to her thoughts," I firmly told her, setting my goal in stone. "I'll determine for myself if she's trustworthy."

Another vision came over Alice, this one in full motion the same as the first. Carlisle stood beside the Mercedes with the girl sitting on the hood, her eyes closed and obviously trying to calm herself. The vision took an unexpected turn when I appeared several feet away, clearly saying something with an amused expression before the vision ended.

"See?" Alice told me, trying not to be too smug. "You'll trust her right away."

"I'm still going," I stubbornly concluded, ignoring the grin my sister stifled. "It's the only safe thing to do. What about the others?"

"I'll explain after we take care of our new friend," she shrugged unconcernedly. "I'm sure she'll need some new clothes after running through the forest. It's almost always wet here, so her jeans probably are as well."

It seemed impossible that we could allow a human into our midst and never face consequences for it. I was not going to believe it until I heard her mind myself, so without another word I led the way back to the house and pulled on my coat to keep up the charade as I made my way to the spot where my life would change permanently.

The girl's mind suddenly came into my range as I leaped from tree to tree, and I realized something had just been chasing her. Something quite large, unless her mind exaggerated the sound out of fear. Frowning, I wondered what in the world would have been chasing her and then suddenly disappeared when she had screamed – all moments before I came into range of her thoughts.

My ruminations were interrupted by a flash of headlights, indicating Carlisle had arrived. I listened as the girl nearly cried out her relief, but held it in and moved even faster, if it were possible, to come upon this newfound salvation.

When she felt gratitude for the potential of a human encounter, I nearly snorted out loud. Of course if anyone was human enough to fit that bill, it was Carlisle, but the irony was not lost on me.

I continued to watch as Carlisle helped her to calm down, his gentle tones easing her as surely as any of the words he actually said. She didn't know who he was, which made me wonder if Alice really knew what she had seen…

The girl described her encounter with the large animal and Carlisle tried to think of anything that fit her description. Coming up blank, he moved on unconvincingly. Just when I started to think Alice had been thoroughly mistaken about the girl's knowledge of us, Carlisle mentioned where he worked.

At first the girl was merely shocked at the fact she had suddenly reappeared across the country, which I couldn't fault her for. She thought she must be dreaming, which in some ways I wished was the truth. Her following thoughts – that she could not possibly be starring in the plot of her favorite book series – struck me as distinctly more uncomfortable.

So she did know about us… Just not in the way I was expecting. I had imagined all sorts of strange scenarios for how she found out about vampires and yet lived through the experience, but I never imagined it would be through a series of books about Forks. Not even that, but books about Forks that were written in a place where we did not even exist. This girl came from a completely different reality.

Had I not been so utterly terrified in the first place by what she knew, the girl's accompanying mental list of all the things and people in my world that 'should not exist' except in a fiction novel, would have sent my mind skyrocketing in horror.

It all seemed to be such a hopeless situation, made worse by how well this girl knew us. She imagined the possibility of Alice and I seeing her entrance to our world and then her own death by the hands of Jasper and Rosalie for knowing too much, for being a liability. I found myself feeling badly for her; she did not deserve to be relegated to a mere liability. Yet I had no idea how I could stop that from occurring. My family's safety was as stake.

Then this small girl thought the one thing I had been half-hoping to hear, even though I hadn't been able to admit it.

She would never betray our secret; she recoiled from the idea as though it were a deadly snake ready to strike. Without even accepting the fact that she truly was in our world and we did exist, this girl loved us already. She adored our family for reasons I had yet to learn, would help us stay in Forks and remain under the radar. Once she knew the truth, at least. For the moment, she figured it was a dream she could wake up from.

I couldn't hold back any more. For her loyalty to a family she had never even met, this girl deserved the truth and deserved my support. I could do that much for her.

Mireille.

That was her name, as I found out. A rather unusual and lovely name, I decided. Fitting for the unique girl that had landed in our midst without fear of our vampire natures. She knew it all and still she didn't fear us. I had even grinned at her, exposed a great deal of my teeth so as to test her reaction. Not even a slight recognition of the natural fears we presented! She even got me to laugh, so soon after having met me. I couldn't help admiring the courage and fortitude she possessed, even if she didn't believe it herself.

Most of that night passed in almost a blur. My God, the things this girl knew! It was astounding. And the way she understood all of us on an individual level was equally astonishing to behold. Most amazing of all, however, was her matter-of-fact acceptance of this understanding. It just came to her naturally and she took it in stride.

One fact that annoyed me and fascinated me in equal measure was her willingness to argue right back to me. She did not suffer fools from what I could see, yet she disliked being unkind and so forced herself to be patient as much as possible. I wondered if she even realized this about herself, but quickly determined she did not. Mireille was a very self-conscious girl, lacking confidence in her abilities and looks to an extent, although not too badly. She was willing to stand up in front of others and be completely herself if the occasion arose, a far cry from this girl Bella she had described to us at Casa Fiorente. Bella sounded like a nice girl, but her self-consciousness seemed to take on a life all its own, as though she wasn't capable of forcing it into submission when it was necessary. With Mireille, I could tell she would push back her insecurities if they were corrupting her life too much.

It was a moment of silent triumph when I realized that – in Mireille – I had found a kindred spirit in the arena of music. Her interests were so vast they probably rivaled my own, if she ever lived as long as I had. Listening to the Squirrel Nut Zippers all night had to be the first time I had lived so spontaneously in a long, long while. Even Alice had never gotten me to behave so impulsively, which was saying something. Our night of song, so to speak, gave me another amusing insight into our new friend.

Mireille was a stubborn soul. Even when she started nodding off where she sat, she fought the urge to sleep. Chuckling as she finally dozed off, I rapidly picked her up and carried her back to Alice and Jasper's room before she found some other way to fight her body's natural rest.

Come the morning, I learned a great deal more about Mireille than she had ever wanted to tell. As much as she told Carlisle and Esme about her parents and her life, I saw three times as much in her mind.

Todd Holden was a temperamental, selfish, lazy, and insensitive man, with an inability to see beyond his own greedy wants. As Mireille glossed over the last encounters with him out loud, she inwardly remembered his temper and impatience when his young daughter did not understand a concept from her homework, his obsession with building up a furniture collection for a career he would never really have, the one time he had contacted another woman and nearly broken his marriage, the yelling matches he started even when he was in the wrong, the times he had done something Mireille considered cruel just to get back at someone… His faults seemed endless.

Amy Holden seemed better at the outset, but the invasiveness of her personality was as bad as her husband's coarse idiocy. Perhaps worse. It was different in that it crept up on a person over time, slowly overtaking them in a negative way. Her personality was a subtle poison. She was just as selfish and temperamental as Todd, but she was far more careful in how she portrayed herself to others. Out in the world, people saw the sociable and powerful leader who took care of everyone and ran the show. At home, the mother and wife let it be known that she was upset and bitter over her distressed youth with a drunken, abusive, adulterous father and a greedy, cold-hearted mother who called favorites among her children right in the open and ignored the unworthy ones.

Amy needed social acceptance like she needed air to breath. The slightest hint of judgment from anyone and she was hurt and outraged because of it. She exaggerated the merest glance into a glare and the slightest whisper into a shouting match. She engaged in critical ridicule of people around her and became angry when her daughter gently tried to dissuade such behavior.

Where Todd yelled out in denial and pride, Amy flouted even the tiniest flaws as if they were mountainous sins. She dug deep under the skin for words that would hurt others as she had been hurt. It was this specific propensity for vengeance that made Mireille fear her mother's anger. Amy had never actually engaged in physical abuse of her daughter, but Mireille did remember at least one occasion when her mother had slapped her out of anger without even realizing it.

Even after all of Amy's cruel words and lack of understanding, though, Mireille had loved her mother and wanted her to feel happier in her own skin someday. She had entertained a bond with Amy that she could never have with her father. In spite of all Amy's flaws, she was the one person who had been there almost all of Mireille's life. When she died, Mireille felt as though she had lost her best friend; although what best friend would say or do the things to Mireille that her mother had, I could hardly imagine.

All of these instances were mere flashes in Mireille's mind as she talked of her life before meeting us, but I watched it all with pity and fury coiling in my stomach, instinctively grasping her slender hands in comfort. Watching this girl with us in the present, and the strength and compassion she was undoubtedly imbued with, I could not fathom where she had learned it from. Certainly not from her parents.

I was only too pleased to go hunting with Esme once Mireille's story was finished, although I still felt instinctively as though Mireille needed to be comforted somehow. Nevertheless, Carlisle could do that admirably and I needed to run and release my anger if possible. Esme could tell something disturbed me, so it came as no surprise that she stopped me from returning once we were done with our hunt.

"What is it, Edward?" she wondered concernedly. "You've been very upset the entire time."

"I can't tell you everything," I conceded, sighing. Her hand on my arm was soothing, calming my discontent somewhat. "Suffice it to say, Mireille's memories of her parents are far from my favorite things to dwell on."

"Were they that terrible?" Esme's voice trembled slightly, hesitantly wondering if her first marriage was in any way similar.

"Nothing like that," I reassured her kindly, wrapping an arm around her shoulders supportively. "Not happy by any means, but not that kind of horror."

"I'm glad of that, at least," she exhaled in relief. I almost responded further, when someone came into range of my ability.

"Alice is coming," I suddenly informed Esme as the thoughts came in clearly, stunned that my sister was arriving before school even ended. Something must have happened.

"There's not an emergency, per se," she called out before either of us could say anything, frowning slightly. "But Lauren saw Carlisle and Mireille in Seattle. She's already spreading rumors around. And if we don't want Rosalie chewing Mireille out to the point of tears, we'd better think up a cover story fast…"

It still surprised me that Mireille was the one to think up the majority of her cover story. Her mind was quick and imaginative, as well as practical and rational. She just continued to surprise us. Even Rosalie felt a flicker of admiration after Mireille stood up to her. She was irritated that someone came up with a better comeback, but ultimately liked the gutsy reply. It reminded her of herself, which was always a plus in Rosalie's mind.

I had to suppress a bout of agitation after Mireille and Jasper joked about taking the Whitlock name. Not because of the exchange, but because of Mireille's complete disregard for herself. She assumed (wrongly, in my opinion) that she was so dispensable as to be shoved aside after we treated her like a human guinea pig for Jasper's resistance. I felt glad she thought my irritated expression was due to Rosalie, since I was uncertain as yet on how to change Mireille's viewpoint about her future.

Mireille' academic achievements and her multifaceted interests kept us fascinated later, thankfully limiting my irritation. Among our family, only Carlisle and I had such a large variety of hobbies to speak of. I was amazed by how little Mireille took stock of her own skills.

Alice's lack of memories sprung up, of course, and detracted from our pleasant perusals. Mireille was so thoughtful about it all, not wanting to hurt Alice by showing her the limited information she had on the Brandons' abandonment of their daughter.

That matter was taken out of her hands when Alice saw the books had arrived. Having seen a fully grown young woman just appear out of thin air had taken away the shock of watching something as small as a book come into being out of the blue, so I wasn't all that surprised by the vision. I was, however, startled by the extreme response Mireille had. Her terror that she was going to ruin our lives by staying was absolutely heartbreaking. Alice's vision of Mireille's panicked gestures pushed Alice to reveal things to me that she had thought it necessary to repress the day before, allowing her visions of Mireille to play out in an uninterrupted flow.

First was the very same run through the forest which had brought her to us, and the interaction with Carlisle and I. The next, a vision I had not yet been party to, showed Mireille and I waltzing around the cleared dining room with ease and Mireille grinning widely. Then the two of us were in line at a movie theater, the clock displaying a quarter to twelve and a pensive expression on Mireille's face. This was followed by the vision of Alice, Emmett, and Mireille laughing around Halloween. After that, I saw Mireille standing out in the snowy front yard in full winter gear, the rest of us nearby in simple shirts and jeans. Mireille, Alice, and I looked mischievous, and I wondered what we were planning to do.

The last vision, and the most startling, was actually in motion. Mireille walked through the halls at Forks High School and tried to fend off a knot of overanxious teenage boys who looked besotted with the new girl in class. Jasper, of all people, came up out of nowhere and sent them off with a glare that even I found frightening. Mireille sighed with relief and leaned into his side, to which he responded by draping a protective arm around her shoulders as I had done for Alice on numerous occasions in the past.

"See?" Alice murmured softly. 'She needs us, Edward. Hell, I think we might need her even more than she needs us. Just look at how Jasper acted with her in the last one! So comfortable and protective. He reminded me of you when you defended me against boys at school before.'

I was no longer surprised that Alice echoed my own thoughts. She had been doing it for as long as I could remember. And I agreed with her. We seemed to need Mireille and vice-versa. It took no thought at all to go up to the girl in question and ease her fears, Alice close on my heels.

I could not have been more pleased to find out that Alice's mother had loved her so much. To imagine her without a single relation who might have cared for her was painful, although her experiences were bad enough as it was. The despicable vampire named James already took first position on mine and Jasper's hit list. We hated him already and were prepared to destroy him if we ever met him. Contrary to our lingering unhappiness over her past, Alice bounced back to life with twice as much enthusiasm when she was able to take Mireille shopping.

While Esme, Alice, and Mireille were out raising the balance on their credit cards, the rest of us separated for the time being to think over the issues we encountered. I ended up in my room, mind wandering over many things, but ultimately landing on the topic of Mireille's place in our family.

Clearly she would become a baby sister to Jasper. That much was obvious. But what about the rest of the family? Alice and Esme were both hell-bent on making her feel loved and accepted, but I wasn't sure what path their relationships with her would take. Mother? Sister? Friend? All three?

Rosalie wasn't likely to create much of a relationship past cordiality. Emmett probably would be a good friend to her, but if Jasper took up the role of a big brother, there wasn't much likelihood of that role being doubled. Carlisle… it was very hard to say.

Alice and Rosalie were Carlisle's daughters and he loved them, but neither of them were particularly close with him. They loved him too – although Rosalie would never admit that so honestly – and Alice had already shown her affection for him earlier that night while hugging him. Still, neither of them had much in common with our father and didn't go out of their way to spend time with him.

Mireille, on the other hand, adored talking with Carlisle and loved his kind, gentle nature. She looked up to him more than anyone else in the world. Carlisle admired her strength and determination, her faith, her compassion, her modesty, and her humor, among other things. He seemed to see himself in her, a fact I agreed with whole-heartedly. A father-daughter relationship seemed entirely plausible, then. And in some ways, I welcomed it. Carlisle was so gentle of a person that he needed someone to dote on and show affection to. Except in regards to Esme, he had little opportunity for that.

As for me, I had very few ideas how our relationship would progress. I couldn't see myself as her doting older sibling exactly. Aside from my obvious bond with Alice, and Jasper's impending closeness to Mireille, it just didn't feel like the right thing for the two of us. Outside of simple friendship, however, I didn't see many other options. Unless she would become my doting older sibling. That was one relationship I didn't have and one which Mireille seemed quite capable of fulfilling. All the same, something about it felt off.

Putting that to the side for the moment, I moved onto the next topic of interest. If Mireille was going to be a part of our family, even for a brief time, we had to take steps to ensure that it happened. After her reaction to finding the books, Alice and I both knew it would take true, convincing inclusion to stop Mireille from feeling like an intruder. This shopping trip with Esme and Alice, as well as Esme's words about her early days with Carlisle and me in Ashland, was a step in the right direction, but it would take more than that. I tried to think of something, and finally decided I needed to talk with Carlisle and the others.

My father was in his office, looking through Mireille's files again. He had not seen much of the academic memorabilia we found, so took the time now to know our new houseguest better.

"She really is something, isn't she?" I smiled slightly at his fascinated expression as he looked up at me.

"So talented," he remarked quietly, glancing back at the certificate in his hand. "And she doesn't even seem to realize it."

"She's been browbeaten by her overbearing mother and self-interested father too long," I frowned. "They really kept her back in many ways. Even when she excelled the most, she never felt as if it was enough. And she never felt as if she could do more, even after she did do more. It always surprises her when she excels at anything."

"I was afraid of that," Carlisle sighed. "Her humility is admirable, but it can be taken too far under some circumstances."

"She always keeps trying, though," I pointed out.

"I know," he smiled. "I admire her perseverance in spite of her insecurities."

"We might be able to help her with those insecurities," I suggested thoughtfully. "I don't know how much, but even a little would be beneficial."

"Yes, I agree on that," he nodded. "When she's asleep, we'll all brainstorm the topic."

"I have one suggestion to help with it," I hesitantly added.

"What is it, son?" Carlisle's expression was shrewd, knowing.

"I'd like to make her feel like she belongs," I answered. "I'm not sure how to do that."

"Esme and Alice are helping as we speak," he remarked, although his tone suggested he knew that was not enough.

"Something more than that," I confirmed. "Something… meaningful."

"I have an idea," came Jasper's voice from behind us. I hadn't realized he was coming in. It must have been a last minute idea.

"What have you come up with?" Carlisle offered interestedly, echoed by my curious expression. Jasper was not being very forthcoming in his mind.

"She needs to feel like she has a place here," Jasper responded a bit nervously, stepping fully into the room. "Not like she's borrowing because there's nowhere else to go. You remember how I felt out of place for a while, years back? Esme thought I should have my own room. A study or some such. And it did make me feel like I had my own place in the family, rather than riding on the hem of Alice's skirts. It seems a little silly, I suppose, but …"

I didn't think that sounded silly at all, but I knew better than to argue the point.

Carlisle frowned in concentration, leaning back into his seat with his hands clasped atop the desk. "I see your point, Jasper. But where? We don't have any spare rooms."

"Esme would have an idea," I mentioned with some enthusiasm.

"I'll call her, then," Carlisle perked up, pulling out his cell phone and dialing Esme's number.

"Carlisle?" her voice came muffled through the speaker.

"Hello darling," he smiled at hearing her voice, putting a smirk on both mine and Jasper's face, to which Carlisle rolled his eyes. "Dear, Edward and Jasper have brought up a very intriguing idea as to how we might make Mireille feel more welcome."

"Oh really?" she excitedly replied, and I knew she was beaming even through the phone. "I have a minute right now. Tell me all about it."

"Jasper suggested we should create a space that Mireille can call her own. Like you did for him years ago. Edward thought you would have the best idea of where that might be possible."

"That's a wonderful idea!" she gasped. "And I have the perfect place! Oh, I'll have to have Alice distract Mireille so I can do some extra shopping, though. I want it to be a lovely surprise for her…"

"What place are you talking about, Esme?" Carlisle questioned, bringing her back to us with a chuckle.

"Sorry, dear," she laughed lightly in return. "Before I say, is Edward there with you?"

"Yes, he's right here."

I took the phone a little hesitantly, unsure what she wanted that Carlisle could not tell her. "Yes, Esme?"

"Edward, there is only one place I can think of for Mireille to have a space of her own," she tentatively informed me, and I already knew what she was asking. "If I did some remodeling, I could add another section to your room and…. I know it's intruding on your space, sweetheart, but it's the only viable option. Every other place is somehow occupied in a way I can't change."

"Go ahead and do it, Mom," I comforted her, smiling slightly at her rambling. The name was what really calmed her, and Carlisle smiled gratefully at me for the endearment.

"Thank you, dear," she said excitedly. "I'll go find everything I need right now and have it held. I just need one of you to come and pick it up. I could never fit it all in the car without Mireille seeing something."

"We'll retrieve it all," I promised.

"All right, I'll call back when I have everything squared away."

In the interim waiting for my mother's call, while looking at the calendar in Carlisle's office, I suddenly realized something else I could do to help Mireille feel welcomed. When my phone rang in my room, I knew it was Alice.

"What did you decide now?" Carlisle teased me. "To buy her a New York penthouse?"

Rolling my eyes, I did not hold back from saying, "At least I'm not going to buy her a whole damn island."

Carlisle laughed brightly as I rushed up to get the phone, ruining the effect of my sarcasm completely.

"You're sweet," was Alice's initial greeting, a sentimental grin obvious in her voice. "Mireille will be so overwhelmed when you ask her."

"I just thought she might feel more a part of us if she joined in those kinds of activities," I demurred a bit bashfully. "I'm the only one without a date, so obviously I would have to be the one to ask her."

"It's still very good of you," she countered. "When are you going to ask her?"

"Tomorrow some time, I guess. The dance is on Saturday, so I figure the sooner the better."

"Now I can buy her a designer gown!" Alice sighed contentedly. "I'm so happy!"

Grunting loudly, I couldn't help remarking, "I knew there was something in it for you somehow."

"Oh, shut up," she casually commented, hanging up the phone immediately over my chortling.

If I had ever doubted Esme's ability to put together a thing of beauty on such short notice, I was certainly proved wrong that night. While Mireille slept on obliviously, the seven of us were put to work in every manner of design available. From upholstery to woodwork to reconstructing a wall, we did a little of everything in order to make the new space come together.

Alice's vision of Mireille being sick startled us both into exclaiming the impending scene out loud. Carlisle shook his head at our anxiety and went for his bag, then the bed where Mireille rested in the original section of my room. It was strange caring for a sick human when we never got sick ourselves, but we were all worried about her and didn't want to leave the room until Carlisle assured us she would be all right.

Even after she was proclaimed to be fine, Carlisle could not seem to leave her side. It made him very happy when she became restless without his gentle patting of her hair. He liked caring for her in such a way, not having been in a position to do it so personally since I had been in the hospital in 1918. He never allowed himself to get that close to anyone else, knowing the risk of exposure he might face. Esme left her husband to his patient, smiling mistily at the sight, and gave his tasks to the rest of us to complete.

Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
Here is the rest of Edward's point of view. On a side note, there was nothing significant about New York in the previous chapter. I was just making a joke about the gentlemen spending exorbitant amounts of money on the ladies. Since New York penthouses are probably some of the most expensive real estate out there, I figured it was a reasonable method of exaggeration.

Previously – From Edward's point of view… Edward realized Alice was hiding something and she revealed the arrival of a stranger. Edward waited at the place where Carlisle would meet this stranger. Edward realized Mireille Holden knew everything and decided to support her. Edward realized Mireille was a kindred spirit in music, stubborn, and willing to argue with him. Edward explained to Esme about Mireille's troubling history. Alice showed Edward the visions of Mireille that she had withheld. The Cullens decided how to make Mireille feel at home. Edward decided to ask Mireille to Homecoming and the Cullens redesigned Edward's room. The Cullens worried over Mireille's bout of sickness and Carlisle sat with her the rest of the night.

Chapter 18: Impossible - Part II

Everything we had done to redesign my room was worth it when Mireille finally noticed it the next morning, awed at the new space. Her guilty thoughts of how it could mess up our future drove me up the wall, but I couldn't stay that way for long and instead charged her with the task of choosing shoes for her dress. It took only a moment to go and tell Esme to whip up something Italian for Mireille's lunch. What took longer was when I heard Mireille wishing for a necklace to match her gown. I frowned slightly, wondering why Alice had neglected that particular detail. It was quite unlike her.

A text message from my psychic sister made everything quite clear, however.

Your mother would have liked Mireille.

Brow lifted in surprise, I took the hint for what it was and went up into the attic to retrieve the jewelry I had put up there after Esme remodeled my room. My human mother had two different sets of baubles. One was highly significant for various reasons such as her wedding, my christening, and other events. The other was a group of jewelry worn at insignificant times, made for daily wear.

I searched through the latter and found exactly what Alice must have been talking about. Pearls. Not just any pearls, either. Plum pearls. They would match Mireille's dress exactly.

I took a moment to argue with myself over letting her borrow my mother's jewelry, but I determined her happiness within our family was worth it. After all she had been through – not only here, but in her own life – I thought it a worthy cause. It was only borrowing, anyway. I wasn't giving them to her permanently.

Now I only needed flowers. Well, I didn't need them, precisely, but I had been raised to give flowers with any kind of invitation to a young lady. My roots had stuck with me, even this long after not using them. I decided to just gather a few wildflowers, when Alice sent another text, this time only two words.

My vanity.

Strewn across the enormous vanity in my sister's closet was a selection of tiny bouquets. Most of them were white: rose, gardenia, camellia, peony, carnation, daisy. The other three were all purple: sweet pea, aster, and hydrangea. The deep rich plum of the hydrangea left me in no doubt as to which I would be using.

I should have known Mireille wouldn't just accept all of it calmly, but her reaction was more amusing than exasperating and her memories of the two high school boys she'd had to ask herself were just uncomfortable.

The boy Mireille had asked to her sophomore Homecoming – Andrew – had turned her down with the remark that he wasn't going. Yet Mireille had been absolutely positive she saw him at the dance anyway.

The other boy – David – whom she had asked to Prom, originally asked Nichole, a casual friend of Mireille's. The only reason Mireille actually ended up going with David was because Nichole didn't want to go with him and set the pair up like a bad business merger. When they finally got to the dance, David's behavior seemed a bit too creepy-crawly for my taste, let alone his date's. Needless to say, Mireille's vague dance endeavors were less than successful and not very pleasant to remember. I hoped I proved to be more fulfilling of a candidate.

In the wake of Carlisle taking Mireille to register at the high school, I found myself at a loss. Esme had taken to sketching out a greenhouse. After learning that Alice had bought all those tiny bouquets that were now mostly useless, Esme felt as though we should have flowers on hand so we didn't have to go to the florist for every little flower arrangement. Her pastime left me wondering what to do myself. I didn't feel like listening to music or reading. My fingers felt restless, which usually meant I needed to do something along the lines of activity.

Passing the piano, I stopped for a long moment at the sight of Mireille's musical books. Out of sheer nosy curiosity, I flipped through them. One piece gave me pause. It was Vivaldi's 'Spring' and it was covered with pencil markings.

Could Mireille really play that well? Granted, I had said as much about her fourth-level piano class the night before, but I hadn't known her course was quite this advanced. Knowing Vivaldi was also one of Mireille's two favorite composers, the idea sprung to mind that perhaps playing was my activity of choice. I had not done so in ages. Even at our previous home, I hadn't touched the piano for months on end. Esme was distraught by the change, and I thought now would be a good time to fix that.

If everything I played until Carlisle and Mireille's return was Vivaldi, well, I couldn't exactly help that. Mireille inspired me quite vividly to play a composer I had not turned to since 1921.

The moment my fingers brushed the keys, I felt at home.

Esme inhaled sharply from the third floor when she heard the tinkling of ivory, immediately dropping her sketches to listen rapturously. At once, I felt badly for not playing in so long. My mother loved listening to it and I had denied her that joy. My father's reaction out in the car only added to the guilt and hearing him explain to Mireille why I had stopped did not make it any better.

I was amused and flattered by Mireille's guess that the music might be my own work. In reality, I had done little in the way of composing. Bits and pieces over the years when I had needed a sound that no composer had written, but very few completed songs.

More amusement in the form of Mireille's funny little confessions kept me in good humor as I played 'Summer'. So good, in fact, that I found myself jokingly playing the Circus song when Mireille mentioned it. Her laughter was delightful, as were the ensuing attempts to trump each other's sarcasm. Not many people kept me on my toes this way; usually because my humor was too dark or too sarcastic for them to enjoy the verbal sparring. Rosalie was the only person to really come close, but our relationship was often too angry to entertain our humorous sides with one another. Carlisle and Esme even snuck into the living room to watch my repartee with Mireille, their own amusement flying high.

Then I had to ruin it. It was easy to see Mireille was upset by my teasing prod, but I had no idea she would feel as badly as she did. After a minute of staring after her with my parents, the memories starting coming in loud and clear and I now understood why she was so disturbed.

It did not surprise me that Todd Holden was a hypochondriac. Considering he and his wife's ability to exaggerate a breath into an insult, it made sense that he would also exaggerate his health concerns. As if his many other faults were not a terrible enough influence on Mireille, Todd then had to add a fear of health onto it all. Sighing heavily, I quieted my parents' concerns and rose from the piano bench to attend to the little meeting Mireille was already expecting from me.

Beethoven.

Why, oh why, did I agree to play Beethoven? Worse… why did I intentionally play 'Moonlight Sonata', of all pieces? I knew it would bring up my aloneness only too keenly. Yet I knew Mireille loved the beautiful yet melancholy tune best of all Beethoven's music. She even understood my troubles with the piece, much to my surprise, although she clearly felt guilty for thinking on it where I could hear her. The atmosphere grew to such improbable levels of disquiet that Rosalie's abrupt entrance was almost welcome.

Almost.

Before Alice came in with her plans to test Mireille's fashion sense, I forced myself to thank the girl in question for her thoughtfulness. It was the least I could do before I headed out with Jasper a few minutes later.

Hunting with Jasper was always a quiet experience, even with an impending spar to anticipate. He was a methodical, strategic hunter, unless in cases of extreme thirst bordering on starvation. The raw energy he had after times of intense thirst made him near impossible to defeat. Thankfully he was not starving that day, or else I knew with certainty I would have lost the first sparring match with complete lack of finesse. I barely won as it was, thanks to my distraction over the melancholic moment with Mireille back at the house. Mere minutes after engaging for a second spar, Jasper sighed exasperatedly at my distraction and held up his hands to end the match. Straightening up awkwardly, I acknowledged him with a hesitant nod.

"What happened with Mireille?" he asked plainly, crossing his arms in front of himself. Typically he was subtler about his interrogations, but in instances where he became annoyed or frustrated, he turned blunt.

"Nothing actually happened with her," I hedged. Jasper stared me dead in the eyes as exasperated disbelief played over his expression. His thoughts echoed the sentiment perfectly.

Deciding to get it over with, I exhaled impatiently, "I played 'Moonlight Sonata' for her."

Pursing his lips, Jasper nodded thoughtfully. "Must have been a depressing situation."

"Not necessarily," I countered, noting the increased drawl he had with resignation. If he had settled into his Texan accent so easily, he was quite comfortable to wait out my tentativeness. "Just… melancholy."

That word was unfortunately beginning to be my catchphrase.

"And she picked up on it?" he assumed correctly.

"Yes, she… picked up on a lot I didn't expect her to," I admitted honestly, fidgeting somewhat where I stood.

"That sounds like something she does quite naturally," Jasper remarked. "She's a very perceptive girl. Not someone to hide things from."

"I know," I agreed with a dry chuckle. "I have to keep reminding myself of how much she knows about vampires. My natural instinct is to restrain the things that come naturally to us."

"That was my instinct as well, when Alice first called about her," he confessed wryly.

"Not going to happen, is it?" I asked knowingly.

He withheld a smirk remarkably well as he replied, "Not at all."

Upon returning home, we separated at his and Alice's room, where the manic pixie was waving him in rapidly. As the door closed behind them, I could hear her tiny fingers starting on the buttons of Jasper's shirt. Clearly he had not begun the job fast enough for her. I snickered quietly, ignoring his warning growl and Alice's giggling, and hurried to change into my white and black ensemble, which Alice had already shown me before ushering her husband into their room.

Coming out of my newly-shared room in a simple white button-down, I noticed Esme down the hall in a teal gown, straightening the collar of Carlisle's matching dress shirt unnecessarily – much to his entertainment.

"Son," he nodded amusedly. From the look on his face, I prepared myself for the same treatment from my mother with great resignation.

"Oh, Edward," Esme turned suddenly, smiling. Her smile flipped 180 degrees when she glimpsed my collar. Sure enough, she rushed over to begin straightening it. She didn't even consciously think about it.

Carlisle and I shared a long look of repressed humor as she fussed over me, until finally we both burst into laughter. Esme started briefly, cast a glance at each of our faces and our collars, then shook her head in some embarrassment. "I knew you were too quiet a moment ago, Carlisle."

"I am sorry, dear," he chuckled still, walking forward to clasp her to him. She rested her head on his shoulder and, without warning, suddenly reached up to flick his collar crooked. Even as he laughed, Carlisle's thoughts became so sweet I had the urge to turn away. He loved when she did tiny domestic things like straightening his collar or his tie. He just found her so adorable in those moments that he had to laugh at her.

Taking the opportunity which their distraction in each other presented, I started down the stairs to the second floor and met with an amused and exasperated Jasper, freshly dressed in a vivid red shirt. Everyone was ready before Mireille had finished dressing, all of us heading downstairs to wait until Alice brought our dance student down.

I truly wished Rosalie and Emmett had not decided to stay, once I realized how Mireille felt about it. Her nerves were strung like a tight rope. One joke from Emmett and she was likely to run away with her face burning.

By the time she had come down with Alice, and Emmett did indeed make his joke, I realized that I should have known Mireille wouldn't run away. She wasn't a coward. All the same, Esme's kindness helped immensely to cool the poor girl's nerves, even if she didn't realize the change. Her humor over Esme and me dancing together was proof enough of that.

The expression on Mireille's face when Carlisle tugged her close would have had me rolling in the floor any other time. As it was, knowing Mireille felt so nervous and unsettled, I forced myself to hold it in. Jasper faced the same difficulty, as did Emmett, but they were lucky enough to not have Mireille glance over at them. She knew exactly what was going on with me.

So did Carlisle, actually, and it amused me greatly that Mireille thought him oblivious to it; he just knew how to hide it very well. Esme was oblivious, but only because she was watching her husband teach our young friend to dance. After Jasper and Rosalie's remarks, however, Esme clued into the peanut gallery just as Carlisle had already done.

It amazed me the way Mireille pushed herself to move forward in spite of our laughter at her expense. I might have said it was her stubborn pride, but at the same time I admired her ability to push onward. And push onward she did, right into a first-class waltz with Carlisle, regardless of the lack of music. Mireille was so doubtful of her skills that she couldn't see the beauty of her dancing. It was like I had described to my father the previous evening; she was shocked when she did so well.

I was sidetracked when the waltz music began by Esme's smiling face, tuning in more clearly to her thoughts to catch the full gist of what was going through her mind.

'Jasper doesn't usually joke like that,' she pondered pleasantly. 'It makes me glad to see that. Mireille is so good with them all.'

This was a point I had to agree with, however silently I did so. Mireille was beginning to seem like an extension of our family that had just gotten mislaid somewhere along the way and had now found its path back.

I needed no further evidence of Mireille's ability to fit into our family than her guilt-trip over Carlisle and Esme not being able to dance with each other. It wasn't exactly my intention to become so irascible with her, but honestly it was a bit ridiculous. Granted, I probably took it a little too far. Yet Mireille didn't seem to mind as we danced later on. Oh, it took a little coercing to make her more comfortable with me. However, I took it as great progress when she finally closed her eyes and let me lead her around the floor.

Progress did not seem so great when Mireille worried over the books and telling us about our future. I just couldn't seem to gather enough willpower to encourage her occasional hints. Something about it terrified me. The thought of a future already sitting there, just waiting for me to take the steps that were already laid out… It was uncomfortable, to say the least. Did I really have no choice in how my future would take place?

The interviewing I started thankfully took my mind off of such things, and Mireille's answers were certainly interesting enough to keep up the avoidance I so coveted. Even better was the need to search for her possessions throughout the house.

Despite the way Todd and Amy had squandered money on their images rather than on personal effects, I was still surprised by how little there was for Mireille to find. Mostly things she must have gotten for Christmas or birthdays, or so it seemed to me. She loved the things she had found very much, though, and that was important.

Returning to the high school on Friday was the grimmest, most inhumane form of torture known to mankind – particularly so after having spent such a fascinating selection of days with our house guest.

Mike Newton hated the fact that I was considered better looking than him. Lauren Mallory thought I may as well belong to her, nevermind the string of boys she had been pulling along for the past couple of months. And worst of all… every time Jessica Stanley saw me in algebra, her eyes turned glassy and her lips formed a very unattractive and unnatural pout for the rest of the class period. Added into all the other ridiculous things running through the mind of every teenager in the building, I was ready to slam someone into a wall and get the hell out of there before fourth period even began.

Alice kept comforting me in her mind whenever she got a vision of me leaving. Her reassurances just barely kept me in my seat until the lunch bell rang. Rushing out at the most human speed I could muster before Jessica tried to talk me into 'tutoring' her, I made it to our usual table just in time to avoid a similar confrontation with Lauren. It didn't help my temper any that most everyone wondered over Mireille; who she really was and where she actually came from. The harsh gossip in some of the older minds drove me to clenching my fists atop the lunch table.

"Ease up," Jasper muttered to me, frowning slightly over my growing anger. "We still have two more hours and you're already furious."

"They're driving me insane," I growled under my breath.

"You've had Mireille's thoughts stuck in your head for several days," Alice commented beneath her breath. "Surely that has to help."

"Mireille is… different," I argued. I couldn't explain it, even to myself, but our human 'relative' had a very unusual way of thinking. She actually drew my interest, rather than repelling me as most people did.

"Whatever," Rosalie snapped quietly. "Just don't mess this up. I don't want to move again."

With much difficulty, I refrained from mentioning the fact that Emmett had forced us to pack up and move at least eight times over the years. Mostly I refrained because I didn't want to insult Emmett. Annoying though he could be at times, he was my brother and I didn't want to be harsh with him. Thinking this way helped to calm me and Alice seemed to breathe a sigh of relief as the future remained clear of any fighting – or leaving.

The day of the Homecoming dance dawned like a stale soap opera rerun. At six o'clock in the morning, Alice and Rosalie argued – actually argued – over the clutch purses Alice bought for them to use. Rosalie wanted the leather one, but Alice insisted the glitter would look better. I tried not to sigh irritably as the squabbling washed over me in three main variants: my ears, Alice's mind, and Rosalie's mind. Everyone else tried so desperately to tune out the debate that I didn't have to watch it from any other venue, a fact which pleased me immensely. Eventually, I watched from Alice's thoughts as Rosalie gave in to the glitter clutch.

The second fight occurred not three hours later, and I was glad Mireille sat downstairs eating breakfast at the time so she didn't have to hear the agitation on the second floor. This time, Alice tried convincing Rosalie that Emmett should wear a white shirt with his suit. Rosalie wanted him to wear all black, so as to match her ensemble. This time, Rosalie won.

Their quibbling and melodrama only added to the frustrations I had been dealing with since returning to classes the previous day. Neither Mireille nor Esme complained, even mentally, about the musical choices I made while playing the piano for them afterward, but I could see in their faces they knew I was in a foul mood and playing according to it. When Mireille finally remarked in her mind about it, I knew I had been at it too long.

My irritations lasted, however, until Jasper forcibly marched me outside a few hours later and gave me a glare of epic proportions. I knew why, of course. Mireille's mind had been growing increasingly more depressed every minute.

"If you mess this up," he warned me, "Mireille is going to feel the complete opposite of welcome, regardless all of our previous gestures. Don't interrupt!"

I snapped my jaw back in place, knowing better than to cut in after that kind of sharp snap from my empathetic brother.

"She's already listless and unenthusiastic about tonight, as well as turning Esme that direction," he continued mercilessly. "So get in the mood. Now."

Regarding his fierce expression and clenched fists for all of ten seconds, I decided it was a very good option to take advantage of. Nodding cautiously, I went ahead of him into the house and rushed into my Homecoming attire, then picked up the pearls I had offered up for the evening and headed down to Alice's wardrobe.

My sister stepped out of the room with a large bolt of silk under her arm and gave me a nod towards the door she had just exited. 'Surprise her.'

Taking in a breath to stop my negativity from popping back into existence, I headed inside at my fastest as Mireille offered a distant thank you – probably to Alice. Barely glancing at her actual appearance, I dropped the pearls around her throat. She turned rapidly to check in the mirror who had startled her, and the face reflected back at me was so very different from what I knew, I could not find words for it.

When she said the pearls were lovely, I thought she had it a little backwards. She was by no means a plain girl in the first place, but the cosmetics Alice applied had enhanced Mireille's gentle features in the nicest of ways. The only reason I did not immediately say how lovely she looked was because I still hadn't completely taken in the rest of her ensemble. Emmett annoyed me for pointing out my breech of manners, but I secretly thanked Jasper for stopping me from a rude reply. The night would have been unbearable for Mireille if Emmett kept trying to prank me for my rudeness.

As it stood, Mireille's night was awful enough.

There were many times when I had heard Lauren Mallory or Vanessa Travis thinking horrible, vitriolic things about other girls. Many times I felt badly for the girl or girls in question. This, however, was beyond the norm.

I had purposely evaded Mireille's mind to give her privacy while she used the restroom, instead focusing specifically on Alice, who was simply absorbed in the music and her contentment at dancing with Jasper. Only when the vision came of the three girls entering the bathroom did I widen my focus.

Alice hissed angrily under her breath as she saw Mireille's eventual tears, but it was Jasper's ability that really started to make me angry. Mireille was in shock at first, but blooming out of her disbelief were hurt and self-consciousness in equal measure. Even more terrible was the way Mireille tried to rationalize the remarks of her future classmates, despite how much they stung her. Most infuriating of all… Vanessa and Lauren knew she had heard them.

Now that I was listening to everything, I gathered the entire order of events from Vanessa and Lauren's shallow minds with distaste. However unwittingly, Vanessa had subconsciously recognized the lack of fear she felt towards Mireille when she brushed accidentally past her at the punch table shortly after our arrival. Never before had I realized how much the senior girl hated my family simply for being better looking. Her vanity and cruelty truly knew no bounds. She had watched Mireille go into the bathroom and then convinced her two companions to go in with her for a little 'fun' with the newest Cullen snob.

Whitney did not want to join in, that much was clear – something I found only a tiny bit fortunate. She had only started talking about Mireille because Vanessa threatened to send Greg after Whitney's younger brother for a little rough-housing. As to how Vanessa and Greg got away with their bullying, seeing as they had clearly been doing it for a long time, I could only hazard a guess everyone was too afraid to say anything about it. I was upset with myself for not noticing this strain of their personalities before that moment.

Understanding Whitney's reasoning, even if very difficult in the face of Mireille's pain, was not impossible. She did not enjoy taking part in this, but for the longest time she had been Vanessa's scapegoat in order to spare both her brother and a friend of hers that had thankfully moved away. Lauren, on the other hand, was all up for hazing the new girl. She was not physically vicious like Vanessa could be, but her verbal acid was enough to make me ill.

Jasper and I almost mindlessly followed Alice toward the restrooms as the three exited. We stopped at the punch table while the girls slowly passed, and Alice finally headed inside to see to Mireille. It was challenging to focus on the poor girl's mind, but I needed to know how she was doing. When Alice started to touch up the makeup, I knew Mireille was at least a little better. They emerged not long after, looking none the worse for wear, although our enhanced sight allowed me to catch a glimpse of the slightly red rim of Mireille's eyes.

No matter which way we turned that night, we were apparently bound to run into trouble. I could hardly believe it when Alice had a second vision while dancing with me later on in the evening – two figures suddenly attacking Mireille in the parking lot. Mireille's curled body shook with fear and pain as the two reigned hits and kicks on her body. Her beautiful dress destroyed, luxuriant hair ratted and tangled, lovely face smeared with makeup because of her tears and blood because of her attackers.

A third figure stood off to the side tentatively, afraid to get involved, but after a seeming encounter with one of the other two, the person reluctantly kicked Mireille's shin. It wasn't until they turned around at some unheard sound and then ran off towards the main road that I recognized Greg and Vanessa as the main culprits and Whitney as the threatened third.

The worst part of it all was that none of us arrived until it was too late to stop them. Alice and I both appeared at the scene with sheer grief on our features, clearly holding our breath, and could only sit with Mireille as she lay on the pavement shaking and crying. The fresh blood was too much for us to handle, even to explain what happened to the dance chaperones; we continually shook our heads as though in shock. Carlisle was the next person to arrive on the scene, with a furious Charlie Swan right behind him. As Charlie investigated the area, the blaring ambulance arrived in the lot and Carlisle took Mireille into his arms and carried her up inside. Just before the vision ended, Alice and I gravely headed to the cars to join the three remaining horror-struck members of our group.

My rage at this atrocity was so all-consuming that Jasper had to stop dancing with Rosalie and grip my arm with all of his strength to apply calm. It was lucky Mireille had been dancing with Emmett several feet away, oblivious to this extreme reaction.

"Calm down," Jasper murmured harshly to me, trying his best to also cool his wife's choking upset. "People are staring at us."

Indeed, the couple nearest us glanced our way in surprise, frightened at my black gaze and beginning to creep away from us. Thanks to hearing Jasper's hissing comments, Emmett kept Mireille occupied until we sorted ourselves out. Alice calmed before I did, and her rational, logical frame of mind helped me to stop reacting so intensely, as did Rosalie's deep concern. When my blonde sister became so concerned, I knew I needed to calm myself.

"What is it?" Rosalie murmured more reasonably than Jasper had, pulling me into a dance instead and leaving Alice and Jasper to discuss what she had seen in voices too low for anyone but themselves to hear.

Strangely enough, Vanessa's big mouth preceded her as she happened to dance nearby with Greg, obviously not realizing her whispers would be heard by anyone with enhanced senses.

"I'll wait outside by that really dark part of the lot," she told her boyfriend conspiratorially, going over her plan with him. "You befriend her, flirt with her, whatever… and get her to go outside alone. We'll show her who's on top here. I'm sick of being overshadowed by those freak Cullens. If we show everyone how easily they can be taken down a notch…"

I couldn't listen to anymore of her twisted thoughts – far more reminiscent of a B-rated movie villain than a high school teenager – and forced myself to drown out Vanessa's words and thoughts with those of Mireille, who still pleasantly danced with Emmett. She knew something was off and had already asked me several times before Emmett cut in on us, but she was trying to ignore it for the moment while she enjoyed the present dance.

Regardless what I ignored Vanessa saying, Rosalie's enraged face and thoughts said it all anyway. Had she not wanted to remain in Forks for a decent enough span of years, my sister would have gladly taken out the two monstrous seniors before they ever got near anyone.

'We need to leave,' Alice told me in her mind. 'One more dance.'

Nodding in her direction, I led Rose over to Emmett and Mireille, and switched partners. The last dance was filled with Mireille's increasingly clever attempts to make me reveal what happened, as well as many students' attempts to ignore what they suspected Vanessa was up to. No one wanted to be her next target if they stood up to her. Besides that, enough people in the senior class disliked the arrogant Cullens that they half-believed we deserved a little roughing up.

Not that any of those people actually realized how far Vanessa would go. When she noticed my brothers and sisters heading to the exit, the vile girl became irritated and decided to go outside and wait anyway. She figured Mireille would be easy to separate from her date, especially seeing that she appeared quite annoyed with me at the time.

Needless to say, I became incredibly frustrated and angry by the time Mireille got out her last attempt at an inquiry as I was asking for our coats, and I ended up snapping at her. For a human, her glare was remarkably potent, freezing me in place for all of thirty seconds while she stomped off to the front doors and threw her coat on. Panic set in next when I recalled what she could be walking into and I ripped my coat from the volunteer attendant's hands, rushing after Mireille and quickly ensuring she was safely ensconced in the car with us.

After revealing the horrible plans of Vanessa and Greg at the family meeting and the precautions we were going to take, I felt twice as terrible for Mireille. She still couldn't understand why someone hated her from merely seeing her for a couple of hours at a dance. I wished I could give her some explanation that was not so cruel as Vanessa's vanity and ego, but there was no other one available. She did perk up with our musical evening, and I really felt she could move past the ugliness of Vanessa's scheme and live her life as well as she could.

How little I expected to occur the next day. Yet so much did. Mireille was right to be worried about reading the books. It was like seeing into an alternate world where I was meant to have a perfect little ending if I only stepped on the right squares. But it felt so planned, so… I couldn't think of the right word to describe how helpless I felt when learning of my supposed future.

Bella Swan. A girl who apparently revolutionized the life I had led for so many years. A girl who bridged the gap between the Cullens and the Quileutes. The girl who was clumsy and stubborn and opposed to marriage and strangely protected from mental gifts…

The girl who was my mate? My wife?

Somehow it didn't feel completely kosher to me. Was I expecting too much? I didn't think so. Perhaps I was expecting too little… That sounded more reasonable.

Because honestly, Bella Swan as I had thought of her in Midnight Sun and as I had seen her in the rest of the books seemed altogether too perfect for me. Every single quota was met in excess. I couldn't read her mind, which led to a whole host of reasons Alice had labeled Bella as my 'perfect match.' And then there was the way Bella had ingratiated us and the wolves into one big happy family. Granted, that reason was Renesmee – the daughter more beautiful than Bella thought I was, and the imprint of Jacob Black.

I felt sick at the thought of the latter. Even when Jacob had forced Bella into a kiss and acted like it was nothing, even when he had manipulated her affections into a second one, and even when he betrayed a promise he had made her to stay out of the fight, I didn't feel nearly as ill about it as when I thought of him taking over my own child. My innocent little daughter. It wasn't the imprinting itself that bothered me, although it wasn't a comfortable subject to think about.

It was the fact that Jacob had done several things that usurped the power of Renesmee's own parents. He had tried to control when Bella could see Renesmee and forced the issue of Charlie learning our secret just so we would stay nearby. And at Christmastime in Breaking Dawn, Bella had stated right out loud that Jacob was very good at blocking me. That was frightening in and of itself, if Jacob would end up close to my daughter. I didn't need to see romantic thoughts if they were true ones, but if he ever hurt her somehow or was planning to, how would I know? Alice would not be able to see either of them and Bella plainly trusted Jacob in spite of it all.

As much as I didn't like the idea of Jacob Black manipulating Bella, she was a grown woman at the time. It was her choice to keep going back to the Quileute boy even after being manipulated and as she had proven in the book, she was going to return to him regardless of how I ever felt about it.

Renesmee, however, was a child and no matter how shockingly intelligent she was, she could not understand adult matters like this enough to settle it herself. That's what Bella and I were supposed to be there for, to protect and nurture our child until she was old enough to do it herself. And apparently Jacob might very well do his level best to change that. Was I truly supposed to sacrifice my precious daughter in order to gain the happiness I might find in Bella? That wasn't something I was prepared to do.

If giving up that dream – for that's what everyone seemed to think Bella was to me – meant protecting my innocent unborn child from possible manipulation, then I would do it.

But I had to shake myself out of that train of thought for the moment. Jacob was only a child himself at present and had not done a single thing wrong. Perhaps he would never do the things he had done in the books. Perhaps he would become a better person than we were expecting. And I had to at least try my chances with Bella. Mireille was evidently very sure I would have a happy ending if we did things the proper way. As a matter of fact, she believed that my entire family would find a happy ending.

For a long while after Mireille had fallen asleep that night, I listened to 'Moonlight Sonata' with a strange sense of foreboding. I wondered if Mireille ever thought about her own future. I wondered anxiously what would happen to her after Bella burst into our family's lives like the savior she was purported to be. And I wondered with creeping dread if Mireille would ever find her own happy ending.


Chapter Text

This was a poll I offered over on FFnet for the story, but it's long over.
I just wanted to show all the work Emmett and Mireille put into this project. ;)

Intermission: Top Ten


The next chapter of For A Reason: Inauguration will include some
festive Halloween fun, but first the Cullens need a little assistance.

Emmett and Mireille have been working extremely hard on a secret project...
Making funny names and sayings for an entire cemetery of headstones!

Carlisle, Esme, Edward, Alice, Jasper, and Rosalie all voted on their top ten favorites.
Now, the Cullens need your help to choose the three funniest sayings of the bunch.
Choose carefully, because the three sayings with the most votes will appear in Chapter 19: Inventive!


Emmett & Mireille's Top Ten Sayings


(#1)
Here lies
S. Kelly Ton
Bone-weary
since 1940

(#2)
Barry N. Graves
Dug too deep
and fell asleep

(#3)
Here lies
Caesar Blood
He died a dud
and a stick in the mud

(#4)
Etta Wake
she met a vampire
found a stake
and made a bonfire

(#5)
Here lies
Hal O. Weane
Scared to death
in 1917

(#6)
E. Ree Knight
was a foolish woman
She kissed a zombie
and forgot she was human

(#7)
Doug M. Bones
Married thrice
and killed them twice

(#8)
Here lies
Ben A. Wolfe
Forgot his clothes
and went to play golf

(#9)
Frank N. Stein
Mean and green
since 1913

(#10)
Here lies
Cree P. Mann
Met a goblin
and lost his hand


The poll is over with, but go ahead and tell me your top three favorite sayings!


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prefaces/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Music In This Chapter:
Monster Mash
by Bobby Boris Picket
Purple People Eater by Sheb Wooley
I Put A Spell On You by Screamin' Jay Hawkins
Skeletons In My Closet by Alice Cooper
Monster's Holiday by Buck Owens

Notes:
I'm glad you all enjoyed the voting! Top three votes: (#1) S. Kelly Ton, (#4) Etta Wake, (#7) Doug M. Bones! They appear in the chapter. :) Here's a 'key' here for the Headstones:
(#1) S. Kelly Ton = "A skeleton" (Hence 'here lies a skeleton – bone-weary since 1940'.)
(#2) Barry N. Graves = "Bury in graves" (Basically, Barry dug a grave and buried himself in it.)
(#3) Caesar Blood = "Seize her blood" (Caesar was a vampire who died a 'stick' in the mud – or a stake, technically.)
(#4) Etta Wake = "At a wake" (Etta was 'at a wake' when she met a vampire and then killed him.)
(#5) Hal O. Weane = "Halloween" (What else could kill Halloween, except fear itself?)
(#6) E. Ree Knight = "Eerie night" (It was an eerie night when "E" met a zombie and became one herself)
(#7) Doug M. Bones = "Dug them bones" (Doug… well, dug up them bones of his twice-murdered wives.)
(#8) Ben A. Wolfe = "Been a wolf" (Ben transformed; clothes shredded. Went golfing next morn, so rushed he forgot he was naked.)
(#9) Frank N. Stein = "Frankenstein" (I'm sure you all got this one. XD)
(#10) Cree P. Mann = "Creepy man" (This creepy guy met a goblin that bit off his hand.)

Previously – From Edward's point of view… Edward let Mireille borrow his mother's jewelry for Homecoming and asked her to the dance. Edward began playing the piano after months away. Edward realized Mireille's parents made her worry about health concerns and apologized for teasing Mireille. Edward played Beethoven and thanked Mireille for understanding him. Jasper and Edward discussed Mireille's perceptiveness. Carlisle, Edward, and Esme shared a sweet moment and the Cullens taught Mireille to dance. Edward and Mireille danced, interviewed each other, and searched out her possessions. Edward was frustrated by returning to school and admitted Mireille's mind was better to listen to. Jasper convinced Edward to stop sulking. The Cullen 'kids' heard/saw Mireille's bullies and Edward realized Whitney was coerced. Alice saw a vision of Mireille being attacked and the Cullens left the dance. The Cullens read the books and Edward had many doubts about the future, especially Mireille's.

Chapter 19: Inventive

"I guess Jasper is going to go old school and wear a Confederate uniform?"

It was the eleventh time I had asked Alice about someone's Halloween costume in the past few hours. I didn't even want to think about the amount of times I'd asked her over the past week-and-a-half. By this point, I would have thought the woman would just ignore me if she planned not to answer, but the pixie couldn't seem to resist replying.

"I'm not telling you, Mireille, so shut up about it."

She was getting snippier every time, I noticed. And using my full name rather than the nickname Emmett gave me the night of the Homecoming dance.

Honestly, I was less interested in knowing the costumes than I was in her answers. She was incredibly amusing when she got sarcastic rather than sweet. Jasper had been keeping mum on my amusement, although his wife certainly had to know about it by now; she knew him too well.

"Fine," I shrugged nonchalantly.

Stopping suddenly at the door to her separate wardrobe, Alice stared at me through suspiciously narrowed eyes. We remained locked, gaze for gaze, until my traitorous lip twitched. Alice's twitched a second after, and we found ourselves bursting into laughter.

"I was sure you knew," I gasped through a laugh, "but you were so good at acting irritated."

"At first I thought you were serious about continuing to ask," she withheld laughter, opening the door of her wardrobe and ushering me in ahead of her. "But on Tuesday I figured it out."

"Aw, you've known for three days already?" I whined, huffing afterward.

"But it was fun, wasn't it?" Alice giggled, turning on the lights and rushing over to set up the room divider she had borrowed from Esme. I still wasn't entirely comfortable undressing in front of Alice, friend or not, especially after my discomfort at homecoming. Eventually I figured I would get used to it, like I had in gym class back in my high school days. And, incidentally, like I would have to do in gym class starting in January.

"Yeah, it was," I sighed amusedly, waiting for her to open the required doors on her clothing hoard. "So was decorating with you and Emmett. He was a literal laugh-a-minute earlier. I couldn't even hang a paper pumpkin without him spinning some yarn about its secret origins or something."

"He's been in rare form today," Jasper's amused voice floated in from the hallway as he passed by.

"That's certainly true," Alice hummed amusedly. "Edward was ready to strangle him every time, but then you'd laugh and he had to grit his teeth."

I joined in her laughter, having seen Edward's pinched features nearly every time Emmett commented on something.

"Hey, you didn't tell me how you knew I was kidding you," I asked suddenly, curiosity taking over.

"Oh, I saw Jasper's jaw tightening like it does when he wants to laugh, but knows he shouldn't. If not for him, I wouldn't have known until today probably."

"Was I really that convincing?"

"Definitely," she admitted with a sigh, "Edward has been grinning for unknown reasons, but it wouldn't have clued me in. He seems to do that a lot lately anyway."

"Neat," I grinned myself, ignoring her mock glare. Turning away after a second, she reached into the middle closet section and pulled out a tan garment bag with a flourish.

"Now, Mireille. This… is… your…" Alice began slowly and dramatically, unzipping the bag as she spoke, only to suddenly whisk it off at top speed, "…costume!"

It took all of a second to recognize the bohemian, multicolored style of clothing, the attached pack of cards, and the round shape hanging off of one hip in a small, velvet drawstring bag.

"Why aren't you the fortune teller?" I asked incredulously.

"Because you're the one who brought us the biggest news about our future," she responded easily, handing over the re-zipped garment bag. "I think you deserve the title more than I do right now. Besides, the long length and curl to your hair fits the gypsy-in-a-bandana image better than mine would."

"Then what are you dressing up as?" I wondered curiously.

"I'm going back to my roots," the tiny vampire grinned, unzipping another bag and pulling out a knee-length burgundy dress with black tights hooked onto the hanger, a little matching burgundy hat with a small brim, and several strings of pearls in different lengths.

"A flapper?" I laughed a bit. "It does fit you, I guess."

"It's the earliest memory of fashion I have," she shrugged, still grinning. "And of course my hair looks better with it."

I snorted with her over this tiny rationalization, finally giving in and dragging my costume back behind the room divider.

"What are the others wearing?" I questioned Alice one last time as I changed.

"Oh, knock it off, Mir!" she retorted from the other side of the divider, and I could hear her zipping her dress up already. Chuckling, I finished pulling on the layers of my own costume, the gold bangles and necklace, and the knee-high laced boots, but started to have trouble with the bandana.

"Here," Alice appeared next to me, taking the fabric into her hands and swiftly fixing up my hair.

"Thanks," I said, readjusting the necklace so that it hung straight and then glancing at Alice's costume. "You look nice."

Indeed she did, the burgundy looking every bit as striking on her as bright red once had and the flapper style fitting her better than any modern one could – right down to the low, black t-strap heels on her feet.

"Thank you," she responded brightly, pulling me out from behind the divider and leading me over to the vanity. Ah, of course. Makeup time.

"It won't take anywhere near as long as Homecoming," Alice assured me, a grin crossing her face.

"I'm not that bad, Alice," I reproached her amusedly.

"No, you're not," she laughed. "I think I'm just being paranoid in preparation for Bella."

"That's a good idea, actually," I laughed, too, closing my eyes to let Alice do her stuff.

"Edward isn't the only one with his work cut out," she agreed, moving at high speed to apply my makeup. "I'm trying to learn not to be so pushy about fashion and all that, but really it's very annoying. Bella could be just as comfortable in a designer outfit as she could in her old worn clothes."

"That's not the point and you know it," I scolded her lightly.

"Oh well," she sighed, brushing something on my cheek bones. "I hope I can convince Bella to compromise on her clothing status a little. It wouldn't kill her to be stylish and comfortable at the same time. Or to accept friendly gifts. Or cell phones…"

"One thing at a time, there, Alice," I laughed again. "Slowly with Bella when the time comes."

"Okay, okay," the small woman grumbled good-naturedly, swiping my lips once. "There! You're all done."

"That was faster than Homecoming," I admitted, opening my eyes to find only minor enhancements to my face. A little blush, mascara, and lip color was all she had used.

Together we headed out of the room and to the stairs, Alice humming something that sounded an awful lot like 'Monster Mash'.

"That's because it is," Edward remarked wryly from behind us, and I turned to find him completely normal looking in a black t-shirt and jeans.

"You're not even dressed," Alice complained to her brother with frustration. "And what an awful shirt!"

I didn't think it was awful at all, considering it boasted the Squirrel Nut Zippers' cover art for their Hot album. The previous weekend, Esme had bought one each for Edward and me while shopping in Olympia – much to Alice's dismay.

"You look very lovely, too," Edward chuckled at his sister, jangling his car keys at her. She snatched at them rapidly, but not quickly enough to catch her brother's darting hand.

"Don't worry, Edward," I jokingly assuaged him. "I like your t-shirt."

He snorted humorously at that, moving past us to go downstairs.

"Where are you going?" I asked him curiously.

Pausing on the top step, he replied, "I'm going to pick up a few things for your 'ghoulish' dinner, as Esme so laughingly put it."

"That still doesn't explain why you're not dressed properly!" Alice literally stamped her foot on the floor like a little girl.

Edward's musical laughter floated back to us as he jogged down the stairs and responded simply, "Esme doesn't want me in costume."

"Oh, fine," Alice sighed finally, gesturing for us to continue on our journey. As we stepped off the stairs, I just saw a flash of Edward's back when he jumped lightly off the porch and headed to the garage.

Sitting on the sofa facing the fireplace, I took a moment to appreciate the decorations Alice, Emmett, and I had put up that afternoon after the Cullen kids got back from school. I was glad we had kept it simple and clean for the most part, although we were still quite inventive about it all.

Paper lanterns in the shape of carved pumpkins hung across the very tops of the walls and windows, adding low mood lighting once it actually got dark enough out. A few puppet skeletons hung from the railing of the staircase and ghost glass clings took up a lot of the front windows. Alice and I had made a large fake cauldron to set on top of the coffee table, complete with a witch's hat and a three-dimensional black paper cat on either side of the thing, acid green fabric to imitate a potion stuffed inside it, and fire-colored fabric underneath.

The piano had only a collection of various orange flowers in a black vase, something Esme had enforced because she didn't want it damaged with two people in the house using the instrument daily.

Our only house-wide décor was a mixture of orange, black, green, and purple taper candles in mismatched candle holders placed on every available surface in the kitchen, dining area, living area, conservatory, and foyer.

The dining table had the most elaborate design in the center, as it was a diorama that took up half the length and width of the table. Emmett and I had decided it would be something like Halloween Town in The Nightmare Before Christmasand started to work on it a week prior. A section on the table end near the living area was dedicated to a cemetery with little monsters peeking around the headstones occasionally. The central part was a collection of Addams-family-inspired houses and the last part was a creepy forest with little cobwebs all across the trees and at least ten ghosts hanging from the branches.

That had been the bulk of work Emmett and I did for the decorations, really. At one time we had gotten into a silly competition of who could make the goofiest headstone 'engravings' for the cemetery. A quarter of the way through, we were having so much fun that we just decided to work together on them. The rest of the family was going to vote on them during our party, ranking the top three engravings.

"Hey, Mir!" Emmett boomed at me from the staircase as he came down, grinning like a fool in his brown, white, and red Hercules costume. It was a very good one – Alice had made it herself – and thankfully not a remake of the Disney version. It was also the only costume I had known about before that moment. Alice hadn't been able to stop Emmett wearing it while we were decorating. His enthusiasm just wouldn't be dampened, although after Rosalie got annoyed about the plastic sword tip tearing her blouse, Emmett had changed into something else quite rapidly.

The big vampire's curly black hair stuck up slightly over the top of the band around his forehead, and the muscles on his arms and legs looked all the more imposing where they were exposed by the costume and his gladiator-inspired sandals.

"A fitting costume for you," I remarked with a smile, not having commented on it earlier in the day. "Blessed with Herculean strength and all that."

"Yep! That's why Rose suggested it." Emmett grinned even wider, eyes sparkling as he took a sideways seat beside me on the sofa.

"And what's Rose w—" I winced suddenly as I realized my misstep in naming, as did Alice. We froze unconsciously, catching each other's gaze nervously. I hoped Rosalie wasn't ready to lambaste me now.

Emmett looked at us in confusion, obviously not seeing anything wrong with the repetition of the name he used all the time. He prompted me curiously, "What's Rose what?"

"Er— I was going to ask what Rosalie," I corrected myself subtly, "is dressing up as."

"I don't know," the big guy frowned a little. "She wouldn't tell me. Alice wouldn't either."

"Oh," was all I could say, scrounging around for a topic that did not involve Rosalie. Glancing around surreptitiously, I found a very convenient one. "Where's Jasper? I thought he came downstairs."

"His vest caught on something when he and Emmett were hassling each other a minute ago," Alice responded, glaring at an unrepentant Emmett while she stood at the long computer desk. "Anyway, it had a tear, so Esme is sewing it for him."

"He's wearing a vest?" I caught on interestedly.

Alice paused with her hand hovering above the music collection Edward had laid out earlier that day, then uttered irritably, "Damn it."

"Oh well." I laughed with Emmett at her reaction. "There are plenty of costumes with a vest, so I doubt I'll guess what he's wearing."

"Hm, there's that," she hummed to herself, finally choosing a disc. "…Old school is best, I suppose."

"That would depend on the school," I countered lightly. She waved me off absently as – what else? – 'Monster Mash'started up.

"We don't even have any monsters," Emmett complained.

Alice just rolled her eyes and pointed suddenly to the custom paper banner of Frankensteins, Draculas, Mummies, and Witches that hung against the entire window wall on the back of the house.

"One of us should have dressed up as Frankenstein this year!" Emmett argued.

"You've been saying that for the past forty-six years, Emmett, and I still say it would get boring if someone always dressed up as Frankenstein." Alice tried and failed to look stern, ending up more exasperated than anything.

"I don't think it would," Emmett pouted, making me giggle.

He couldn't stop himself from grinning now that he had made someone laugh.

"Why don't you make a cardboard Frankenstein to stand up in a corner?" I suggested, biting my lip to hold in further giggling.

"That isn't Halloween-like enough!" he argued.

"Emmett," I stated as though I was talking to a very slow kindergartener, "You have seven vampires in this house and at least one shape-shifting werewolf over in La Push. That isn't Halloween-like enough for you?"

He paused to think for a minute, then burst into laughter, exclaiming, "Maybe you're right!"

"Hopefully," Alice muttered, shaking her head in distaste.

Emmett didn't seem to hear her as his eyes suddenly caught sight of something behind us. His eyes went slightly blank, like he was looking at something beyond description. Guessing pretty easily what it was, I looked around to find Rosalie outfitted as the Queen of Hearts in a full-skirted black, red, and white gown with puffed shoulders, a big white collar, and a black satin choker. Her hair was pulled up into a very regal updo with curling pieces of golden hair falling around her face and a gold crown on top. If anyone looked like a queen, it was Rosalie. And a queen of hearts… well that was a given. Men regularly fell over her whether she dressed as royalty or not.

"You look gorgeous, babe," Emmett commented with a wide grin, to which his wife smiled confidently.

"I love your hair," I added with a smile. "Very elegant."

"Thank you," was her smug comment, but I didn't let the arrogance bother me anymore. A couple of weeks with her, and that at-first annoying self-assuredness became commonplace.

Edward returned shortly after 'Purple People Eater' began to play, dropping something in the kitchen before going upstairs to change. While he was gone, Jasper came downstairs in a costume that forced me to hold in a fit of the giggles.

"What's so funny?" Jasper questioned me with a mild grin. "Haven't you ever seen a Southern gentleman before?"

With that he tipped his hat at me and then Alice, who shook her head fondly.

"Yes, but… A riverboat gambler?" I finally couldn't gold back my giggling anymore as I took in the complete outfit. A wide-brimmed black hat topped off a burgundy suit jacket with black lapels, a silky paisley vest in taupe, brown, and ivory, and neatly pressed black slacks. The pin on his tie was a little horseshoe and on his feet were black leather cowboy boots. He even had a cigar and a deck of cards in hand.

"I didn't want him to go for a strictly Civil War outfit this time," Alice sighed, a funny little combination of resignation and happiness. No doubt resignation that she had to forgo Jasper's heritage, but happiness that he looked wonderful all the same.

"Oh well," Jasper shrugged. "At least it's not a superhero."

"Why?" I wondered strangely.

"You've never seen Emmett go on a superhero kick before," he sighed tiredly, "so you wouldn't know, but he gets… tricky… when superheroes are concerned."

"I do not!" Emmett scowled, but Rosalie gave an expression that stifled his indignant behavior instantly. I decided I didn't want to know.

"A wise choice, as always," Edward said from the stairs as he whirled down them in a very simple vintage baseball uniform and cap, both of which boasted the letter 'C' on them. I figured the back had the name 'Cullen' plastered across it, at which Edward purposely turned and showed me that exact thing before joining us in the living room.

"I like your costume!" I exclaimed in surprise. "It really suits you."

"Thanks," he chuckled, moving to change the current song 'I Put A Spell On You' before Alice could get to it. Instead Edward put on 'Skeletons In The Closet' by Alice Cooper, a song I had introduced to him in the week leading up to Halloween. Surprisingly, he loved it as much as I did.

"Now we're just waiting on Carlisle and Esme," Alice remarked, wrinkling her nose at her bronze-haired brother for his song choice, but not changing it.

When the couple did come down, I couldn't have been any more enchantingly surprised by their costumes. Edward snickered at my train of thought, of course, but I was too pleased to bother about him.

"You look so perfect," I gushed in a rather whiny voice, but I couldn't help it.

I was staring headlong at Snow White and The Prince. The outfits were almost exactly like the Disney movie, save the fact that Carlisle wore slim gray pants instead of tights – something I was certain he appreciated greatly – and Esme's hair was pulled back into a very loose bun with a red headband sans bow. In this case, I didn't mind the costumes being duplicates of Disney. Carlisle and Esme looked too wonderful to quibble over trivial matters like that.

"Thank you," Esme laughed lightly with Carlisle, both of them looking as though they would blush if they were human.

"All right, enough lollygagging," Emmett called out loudly, drawing an exasperated exhale from Edward. "We have a cemetery to vote on!"

"Oh, that's right!" Alice excitedly agreed, clapping her hands with enthusiasm. Her pearls bounced as she did. "Come on, everyone!"

"Actually, it's about dinner time," I commented, glancing at the clock. "Why don't I eat while you guys look over the display and vote?"

I had already looked over the diorama dozens of times, so I wasn't worried about missing anything. The anticipation would be exciting.

"Oh, I'll help you, dear," Esme offered immediately, smiling. "I have a few surprises, actually."

"Aw, you didn't have to do that." I half laughed.

"I wanted to," she smiled warmly at me, leading us into the kitchen.

On the island counter was a very nice assortment of Halloween-themed foods. My personal favorites were the mini mummy pizzas, orange pumpkin-shaped jigglers, and cupcakes with frosted pumpkins on top.

"Thank you, Esme," I told her enthusiastically. "I love it. And of course it all looks wonderful… Smells that way, too."

"You're very welcome," she laughed. "I thought it might be fun to get creative. Like you and Emmett on those headstones, I imagine."

"I hope everyone thinks that when they read them," I grimaced slightly, putting a selection of various foods on my plate to try, particularly the mummy pizzas. "Some of them were just plain stupid."

"I doubt that," she scolded lightly. "Don't shortchange yourself so much. Even on something so small."

"Okay, okay," I mumbled, shrinking back in mock fear and making her laugh.

"Come in here with us, you two," Alice called out. "Esme has to vote, you know."

Esme rolled her eyes slightly, but shook her head in fond exasperation. "Coming, dear."

Eventually sitting with Emmett on two dining chairs he had acquisitioned against the glass wall, I took time to both savor the creative foods Esme had made and watch the rest of the family flutter around our Halloween pet project. Carlisle and Edward would sometimes find a particular headstone or decal and gesture for the other to join him, both of them ending up in mutual fits of amusement over whatever they had seen. Jasper and Alice stayed beside each other the entire time, the latter sometimes giggling while her husband shook his head sarcastically at the ridiculous things they were seeing.

Esme laughed at most of the sayings she read, trying to get Rosalie to do more than just smirk, but it was impossible. Rosalie hadn't been all too keen on the headstone voting, and I could guess why. Still, she seemed willing enough to overlook the seeming coarseness of the event and dredge through it for Emmett's sake.

I wasn't even half finished eating by the time they were all done voting, but I gladly set aside my plate to hear the verdict.

"All right," Carlisle took up the role of presenter, smiling still over the last thing he and Esme had looked at. "We enjoyed so many of these sayings that we had great difficulty in choosing only three, so at first we narrowed it down to the following ten… S. Kelly Ton, Barry N. Graves, Caesar Blood, Etta Wake, Hal O. Weane, E. Ree Knight, Doug M. Bones, Ben A. Wolfe, Frank N. Stein, and Cree P. Mann."

"Brilliant!" Emmett grinned widely, holding up his hand for me to high five. Laughing, I gently smacked his granite palm so as to keep my own fleshy appendage in tact.

"Looks like we're better together!" I added with a smile.

"Hell yeah!" he crowed, laughing with me. Rosalie rolled her eyes and sat down, annoyance plain on her face. I could feel her steady scowl burning the side of my face, but I ignored it as best I could. Edward caught my gaze and turned narrowed eyes at the blonde. She just scowled at him, too. Maybe I should have been more careful with my word choice…

"Did you do any of these ten individually?" Jasper wondered amusedly, eyebrow lifted.

"Emmett did Frank N. Stein," I answered for both of us, wary of Rosalie's current attitude, "and I made up Doug M. Bones and E. Ree Knight."

"So you both put together the other seven?" Alice chirped happily.

"Yeah," Emmett concluded. "I guess we had so much fun working together that it made them funnier."

From across the table, Esme smiled pleasantly. Her face seemed to glow with motherly warmth. "I'm glad you're getting along so well."

"Emmett's kind of easy to get along with," I replied, pausing a moment for effect. "…Except when he's not."

The big vampire started to nod, but stopped suddenly, his smile frozen in confusion. "Hey, that's not cool!"

Laughter rippled across the group, and I bit my lip to avoid hurting Emmett's feelings with further laughing. He was already wrinkling his nose at me. "See if I work with you again."

My desire to laugh only increased as the burly Hercules folded his arms and pouted. "Ah, come on, Emmett. You'd say the same to me if the opportunity presented itself!"

Grumbling incoherently for a few minutes, acting as though he had not heard me, Emmett finally turned to eye me shrewdly. Given half-a-second, the big guy burst into laughter and relief spread through my body. Emmett wasn't the kind of person I wanted to start pranking me. Of course, I could probably get Edward to back me up in such an instance, but it wasn't top on my list of things to do.

A scoff from the vampire in question brought a smile to my face.

"I suppose I would have to help you out in that instance," Edward smirked, turning my smile into a scowl.

"Okay, stop it with the cryptic speech, will you?" Emmett remarked in annoyance. "So, tell us what the top three are!"

"Forgive me," Carlisle chuckled, turning back to us formally. "In first place… Doug M. Bones. Married thrice and killed them twice."

"Aw, that's all yours," Emmett pouted at me. He really did look like a little boy when he smiled like that.

"In second place…" Carlisle continued, shaking his head amusedly at the burly vampire. "Etta Wake she met a vampire, found a stake, and built a bonfire. Chosen for its… er… personal connotations."

Emmett and I laughed loudly, inordinately pleased that our efforts to relate the saying so closely to vampire lore had been recognized.

"And in third place… Here lies S. Kelly Ton. Bone-weary since 1940."

"Whoo! Another joint effort!" Emmett called out happily, figuratively raising his hands to the roof and sending me into a fit of laughter.

"Let's get a picture of you both with your town!" Alice grinned, whipping out her camera with a flourish. Emmett half dragged me over to the enormous dining table, pulling us both to sit on the floor in front of it while his sister snapped pictures from a million different angles.

"Alice," I finally spoke up warningly as the little woman moved for 'just one more' picture. I was pretty sure that counted as number eleven. "I am so not going to be happy if my jaw hurts from smiling by the time this is over."

Pouting ineffectively against my glare, she finally sighed and put the camera down grouchily. Relieved, I stood from the floor to pick up my unfinished plate of food and settled down at the uncovered end of the table to eat the rest. To my eternal gratitude, Emmett had gone to sit with his wife, his blatant attentions driving away her irritation from before. It was nice to not have Rosalie's eyes boring into my skull, I had to admit.

"I did warn you earlier this week," Edward suddenly murmured in my ear, tone infused with high humor, and I turned to find he had dragged a chair up beside me – watching me mess with my food. I had to smile, even as I tried in vain to recall when he had warned me that week.

But as 'Monster's Holiday' played in the background, I suddenly recalled the warning with great clarity.

" Don't incense Rosalie by getting too friendly with Emmett. Taking Emmett's attention away from her and onto your project with her husband would not be wise. She may not dislike you as much as she would Bella, but that doesn't mean you're her favorite person, either ."

Well, if the little jokes I worked on with Emmett were going to send the blonde vampire into fits of jealousy, then that was just too bad. Nothing was going on for her to be worried about – clearly – and Rosalie could do with not being the center of attention for a while, I figured. So I had ignored Edward's friendly advice. I wasn't going to cater to Rosalie's whims at the expense of my friendships with others in the family.

"Suit yourself." The bronze-haired vampire flashed a grin. "For the record, I enjoy this attitude of yours. Quite amusing, I must say."

"Go find a coffin to snooze in," I grumbled, purposely ignoring him and focusing on the rest of my food. Edward laughed genuinely, leaning back in the chair he'd finagled.

"Sorry, I'm claustrophobic," he retorted after a minute. I just snorted in response.

"Mireille," Carlisle called to me. Glancing over, I found him at the staircase landing, holding a slip of paper, which he walked over to give me. "I almost forgot. This is the final list for your lessons, including who will be teaching you which subjects."

"Great!" I exclaimed, eagerly looking it over, a pumpkin jiggler forgotten in my hand.

According to the list of subjects, Jasper would be tutoring me in three of them: World History, Chemistry, and Spanish. I guessed those were his strong suits – not that the first or the last one surprised me. Esme would refresh me in Geometry, Edward would do Algebra, and English would either be Carlisle or Edward. The latter depended greatly upon Carlisle's weekend hours at the hospital. The last lesson was Italian with Carlisle – set for the weekdays, after the doctor returned from work.

"So Italian won't start until Monday, but tomorrow I begin all the rest?"

"Precisely," he nodded. "Now, Edward will be taking up English tomorrow, because I will be at work until eight o'clock. I expressly rearranged my hours tomorrow so I could be there for World History and Geometry in the morning. Just to help you settle into everything, all right?"

"Okay," I nodded my understanding, relieved to have Carlisle at my side as I started working towards my reentry into high school. Shrewdly perceptive, the doctor picked up on my relief, smiling warmly at me and squeezing my shoulder comfortingly as he walked away.

The following day began with a large amount of fuss on Alice's part. She wanted my outfit and hairstyle to be just right that morning. By and large sitting comfortably for a couple of hours, and allowing the tiny woman to try various hair products and styles was very easy. I relished the opportunity to have my hair all fixed up without any work on my part. The fuzzy, static-plated mane my hair typically became under my own fingers was a pain to handle at the best of times.

The only trouble I had with it was that Alice took so much of my morning prep time that I ate breakfast half-an-hour late and thus had no time for my morning piano practice.

"You'll have plenty of days for that," she waved me off before snapping a picture of me at the dining table on my first day of lessons – hopefully not with a forkful of food lifted to my mouth.

After that Alice disappeared, but I had the feeling she would pop up later, totally unexpected. Sometimes I wondered if I wasn't just a guinea pig in disguise. Or Alice's long-lost infant or something. The way she took pictures of me felt like a never-ending baby book and my annoyance could not be dampened as I moodily finished eating.

Edward snorted across the room, barely capable of reigning himself in at the stern faces of Carlisle and Esme, who sat with me. Carlisle had a book in hand, most likely to keep pressure off of me and ensure I ate at a reasonable speed. Esme was not doing anything, but her presence was a comfortable one. She often just sat with me when I ate, occasionally asking me questions about trivial things and answering my questions in return. This morning we asked no questions, because frankly I was too focused on my upcoming lessons.

Eventually I polished off breakfast with a satisfied sigh and followed Carlisle up to the second floor. We separated at the upper landing – he to his office to collect my 'lesson plans' and me to Jasper's study. The first time I had glanced inside this particular room, I had immediately noticed the general British Colonial theme. I had also noticed a brown wicker set of table and chairs in front of the wall of windows on the left wall; and bookcases lining the wall opposite the door, with a space in the middle for a large picture. Walking straight across to the picture, I could see now it was a landscape – with blue skies, grassy plains, a two-track dirt road, and a single tree off to the side.

"It's called The Long Way Home," Jasper's deep voice sounded off beside me. Turning towards him with a slight hint of embarrassment for my nosy investigation, I was rewarded with a wry smile. "There's nothing wrong with curiosity. Although I was under the impression you'd already been in here?"

"I waited outside while Edward found my things," I shrugged, wondering why Jasper had suddenly dropped his natural accent around me. The stance he affected was quite stiff and formal as well, but I didn't say anything. "It didn't feel right to come in when you weren't here."

"Thank you for that courtesy," he smiled a little wider, suddenly jerking his chin back at the painting. "I thought this was fitting for me."

"Why?" I asked with a reflexive tilt of my head as I looked up at the former solider. His darkened eyes reached mine, contrasting greatly with the rich, pure gold of the other Cullens' gazes. The sight was an abrupt reminder that Jasper was now on a slightly different hunting schedule than the rest of the family. I almost smiled at the knowledge that he was trying out my suggestion from two weeks prior.

"Alice is my home," Jasper responded quietly and honestly, returning his gaze to the painting with distant eyes. "It was a long road to find her."

The explanation was exquisite in its plainness, its simplicity. There were no Shakespearean phrases he needed to use to describe what Alice was to him. Not that I was against such things, as I was quite a romantic at heart, but genuine simplicity fit Jasper more smoothly than elaborate prose ever could; his plain phrasing bespoke a simple soldier doing his duty to his country, even decades after the fact.

"That was very beautiful, you know," I remarked softly, a slight smile tweaking my lips. Jasper didn't respond verbally, but sent me his gratitude directly, the feeling warming me inside-out.

"Shall we begin?" Carlisle spoke quietly from behind us, and Jasper nodded once, finally turning away from his painting. As I turned around with him – passing a large table compass as I did so – my eyes paused upon the three wonderful old maps hanging behind Jasper's monstrously long desk, which stood opposite the windows. The first map was of Texas in the 1860s, the middle one of the entire world even further back than that, and the last one of the whole United States in 1864. The end of the last map's frame drew my eyes further to the right – to the corner next to the door – and after a cursory glance at a Civil War painting, the sight I saw beneath it astounded me into laughing.

"You have a jukebox!" I couldn't help grinning up at Jasper.

"Old habits," he grinned back more subdued, but clearly pleased with his decoration.

"I love this house," I sighed amusedly, setting rather slowly to task with my chuckling companions as I took in the rest of the room, including an old standing globe and the corner on the other side of the door, which housed a media center and another guitar on its stand, this one striped in design.

As Carlisle took the lead in my lesson, somewhere inside I half expected some of the same boring, monotone lectures I had endured at my old high school. Yet I had to hand it to Carlisle; as even and uninflected as his voice was when presenting objective information, it didn't induce even the slightest soporific stupor as he lectured. Rather, the smooth tenor kept me riveted to the storybook tales laid out before me. Because it was surely not merely historical facts he spoke of, but a fantastical place of literature that my former history teachers had never been able to capture like he did.

When Carlisle talked of the ancient worlds, you could imagine yourself sitting there with the Egyptians along the Nile, at Caesar's right hand in Rome, or warring alongside the Trojans. The gentle vampire carried his students along on a journey they had never taken before, nor ever expected to encounter. I felt like my mouth must have been left gaping open as Carlisle ended his introduction to what I would be reviewing before I began high school again in January.

"Mireille?" the doctor wondered, quite obviously repressing a smile.

"I think you just carried me off over the rainbow somewhere," I confessed in slight awe. "If you ever feel like becoming my personal storyteller, just let me know, okay?"

Carlisle laughed richly, accompanied by Jasper's snickering, but I wasn't offended. Sheepishly, I sort of grinned and shrugged it off.

"Well, I don't know that I can pull you over the rainbow," Jasper recovered quickly, standing from the chair across from me and moving to take Carlisle's place leaning against the desk while the aforementioned vampire took the now-empty chair. "But I hope I can at least keep you awake more than Mr. Hughes."

"Mr. Hughes?" I wondered confusedly.

"Most of the regular history classes are under his direction," Jasper explained patiently. "He also teaches economics. Rosalie has him this year and she's going crazy. According to her, you'd think there was never a worse monotone in the history of the world."

"You don't have him for history?" I asked, again bewildered.

"I'm in Mr. Abbott's class," he answered with a shrug and a vague smile. "Advanced U.S. History. That's actually what you might be in."

Upon hearing this, I perked up considerably. It would be fascinating to share a history class with Jasper, especially when the Civil War came up. "Do you think the school will go for my transcript and the courses we chose?"

"I don't see why not," Carlisle responded easily. "They're perfectly legitimate probabilities for someone of your intellect and supposed age, as I'm sure will become obvious during class."

"I hope so," I agreed hesitantly.

"I know so," he countered with a smile that made me feel infinitely better.

After reviewing world history with Jasper, I chose a bit of light reading on the same subject, did my daily exercise, and then moved on to geometry with Esme. I found myself grinding my teeth almost audibly as the old, familiar discomfort and confusion started setting in. Only the first lesson and already I was getting frustrated. It really made me question my ability to succeed in an advanced algebra class.

"Try not to think so hard on it," Esme comforted me as she pulled me downstairs for lunch, having ended the grueling review without her husband. Carlisle had left the session twenty minutes prior, as it was running over – thanks to my sluggish comprehension – and he had to get to work. "You'll get through it with far less annoyance if you're not bullying your mind into the study."

"I just always feel like I'm missing something in math classes," I sighed, letting the frustration go for the time being, relishing the idea of something as uncomplicated as eating lunch. "Like that one crucial step just isn't there."

"It will come to you," Esme promised kindly, insisting upon me sitting while she worked up a lunch made of Halloween leftovers. I wasn't complaining, especially about the addition of those pumpkin-shaped jigglers. Jell-O just made everything better, which I decided must be true, as the next two review lessons went exceptionally well.

Chemistry, which was mostly going to be theoretical until I attended my actual classes, was amazingly interesting for once. Of course, Jasper's discussion techniques were half of that reason and the other half was Edward's impromptu sit-in on the lesson. The three of us had a remarkably good time together. For another three hours afterward, Edward played a horde of music for his mother and I. He was full of all kinds of inspiration that day, and rarely stayed on one composer for long; such was his excitement for some unknown reason. I liked his high spirits, however. From the books, one wouldn't have been able to tell that side of him was ever there in such strength.

Spanish was my next lesson, and for some reason, Jasper just sounded so funny speaking the language that I started giggling. Alice was extremely confused by the vision of me laughing at her husband and came to see what was going. The combination of hers and Jasper's raised brows prompted me to speak through my laughter.

"He sounds like some… latin lover," I gasped out. "Deep voice, flawless accent, rolling the R…"

Alice's lips went thin and tight for a long moment, worrying me that I had gone too far in my assessment, but Jasper's exasperated and indulgent expression eased my mind. Half a minute more, and Alice laughed with me, leaning into the Texan vampire as though she couldn't hold herself up.

It was fortunate that I had such good humor throughout the lesson and my dinner after, because reviewing algebra with Edward was a thoroughly horrible experience not to be repeated. He was impatient as a general rule and that alone made me even more nervous about one of my most challenging subjects. But I had hoped being able to see my confusion first-hand would help him ease up a little.

Somebody really should have rung a buzzer on that assumption, because I was as wrong as I could be.

"No, no, no. You missed a step," Edward corrected me irritably for at least the twentieth time in forty minutes, snatching the pencil and eraser out of my hands to erase all my work since the mistaken step. "Don't you remember?"

Even as he pointed out where the error began in my work, I had difficulty understanding how I had done it wrong or how the step he described seemed so blatantly obvious to him and not to me. Exhaling frustratedly, Edward handed back the pencil and I set about working out the problem again in utter silence. I could tell from his inhale a couple of minutes later that I was doing it wrong again. My body tensed the same time as my hands did, the pencil effectively locked between my fingers while I waited for his correction.

Luckily, Esme entered Carlisle's office at that exact moment, hands on her hips as she gazed at her son demandingly. The forever-seventeen-year-old rolled his eyes and left, allowing Esme to take his place at the desk.

"I'm sorry, dear," Esme apologized to me, smiling comfortingly. "Edward isn't really patient enough to teach you algebra, I'm afraid. Especially since it's more challenging for you than your other subjects."

Smiling weakly, I turned my attention reluctantly back onto the problems at hand and let Esme lead me through them more patiently. I was still frustrated, but she explained much more thoroughly than Edward did and helped me realize exactly where I went wrong. Having had such an uncomfortable and draining experience with a very agitating subject, I was only too thankful when Emmett offered up something I had totally forgotten about.

"Hey, Mir," he called to me just as I was heading for a snack in kitchen. Looking back at the burly vampire a bit tiredly, I nodded him over my way. Taking the invitation, the big guy reappeared next to me with something in hand and a big grin on his face. "How do you feel about Astro Pop?"

Blinking rapidly, I tried to process that sentence more clearly, and failed. "What?"

"Astro Pop," Emmett repeated, surprisingly patient as he held up a thin Playstation case. "It's a video game. You blast bricks according to their colors."

"Oh!" I exclaimed, feeling extremely silly. "Wow, I guess my brain isn't quite up to bat right now… Um… I guess I'd have to see what it's like before I know how I feel about it."

"I'll show you!" he grinned widely, dimples out in full force. "Come on."

For most of the night, Emmett and I battled it out to see who could get the highest scores on the first two levels of Astro Pop, the colorful little space-age game I grew to enjoy for its simple goals. Emmett won the night, virtue of his experience with the game, and I decided to keep improving my game-playing abilities. The only interruptions were a bathroom break on my part and a momentary intermission when Edward produced the preliminary English study topics for me to look over. To my gratitude, he was far friendlier and more patient now that we had ended our algebraic convolutions and relaxed into our normal camaraderie. Overall, my first day of lessons went as well as could be expected.

When my school packet arrived the following Monday, Carlisle's certainty of their acceptance was proved right. There was no trouble at all with my slightly edited transcript and selected course options, as proved by the welcome letter I received, which had been signed personally by Mr. Greene. After school got out, Alice was the first through the door, all a-twitter as she remarked on the schedule she'd already seen in her visions, but had been quiet about – because of my wish to read it first-hand, rather than vicariously. I had to admit, she was getting pretty good about that kind of thing.

"We don't even have to edit anything. This is wonderful. You're in Emmett's gym class and Chemistry with Rose!" the tiny vampire chattered. "And you have two classes each with Jasper and Edward! That will be so much less boring for them!"

I just shook my head, sharing an indulgent smile with Jasper as his tiny wife kept on with her amiable and hyper chit-chat. When I checked for my algebra class, Edward appeared at my side with an expression of utter vindication on his handsome features, golden eyes gleaming brilliantly.

"What is it?" I inquired amusedly at the look, head turned back towards him as he leaned over my shoulder.

"You're sitting with me," he demanded in a friendly yet desperate way, arm curved around the other side of my shoulders as he pointed at the class in question. Remembering that Jessica was in said class, too, I burst into loud laughter.

"What'd I miss?" Emmett wondered, ambling in the door on his own.

"Me – Edward's bodyguard!" I finally choked out for the biggest Cullen, and he laughed a bit, but still looked a little confused.

The thought hit me suddenly that he had been late to enter the house. And Rosalie still hadn't come in. It wasn't like they lacked the speed.

"Emmett—?" I started to question him.

"Don't ask!" Edward advised me severely, and this time Alice, Jasper, and Emmett all laughed with me.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
The special date in this chapter is of my own making, since SM never told us anything specific. And the books are actual texts that I found as first editions on Amazon, so you may still find them, if you have the inclination.

Previously – Alice and Mireille playacted arguing over Halloween costumes as the Cullens prepared to celebrate Halloween. Mireille was a fortune teller, Alice a flapper, Emmett was Hercules, Rosalie the Queen of Hearts, Jasper a riverboat gambler, Edward a vintage ball player, and Carlisle & Esme were Snow White and Prince Charming. The Cullens voted on Emmett and Mireille's headstone sayings and Esme surprised Mireille with Halloween-themed foods. Mireille began her tutoring and talked with Jasper about the décor of his study. Edward was impatient with Algebra and Emmett played Astro Pop with Mireille. Mireille received her school schedule and it was exactly what they needed.

Chapter 20: Insecurities

Given a choice between three decidedly bold and distasteful color palettes, I supposed I should have known Alice would choose the one I found the most gratingly obnoxious of the three and flaunt it as beautiful. If the decorating aspect of any given event overwhelmed Alice in excitement, the small vampire had a knack for taking a really good thing and turning into something with no subtlety or meaning anymore. November sixth was one of those kinds of days.

"There," the pixie in question stated rather obviously, holding up the palette of vivid cerise pink, bright sea green, and blinding amethyst which she had chosen for Carlisle and Esme's small anniversary party the following day. "What do you think?"

The colors were truly disgusting together, at least for this particular event. If it was a birthday party, or maybe New Year's Eve, I wouldn't have necessarily had a problem, as long as they were used tastefully. But for celebrating the eighty-second anniversary of two gentle souls who were so deeply in love?

"It's repugnant," I answered flatly, still in slight disbelief that she couldn't see that for herself.

"What do you mean?" Alice glared at me, hand flying to rest ominously on her hip.

"I mean eurgh," I repeated my sentiments a little more blatantly. Edward hummed quietly in amusement from the tall silver rack behind us, where he was pretending to examine a twenty-five-year anniversary book.

'A little belated, don't you think?' I couldn't help remarking to him in my mind.

For that, the bronze-haired vampire laughed out loud, trying not to be rude about it and failing miserably. The little specialty shop – and by little, I meant roughly half the size of the average shopping mall – in Los Angeles was one of Alice's favorites, but it certainly didn't do much in the way of privacy. Everyone nearby stared at Edward, probably wondering if he had lost it completely. Sharing an exasperated look with me, the lanky vampire moved away from his seemingly-oblivious post and came to my side instead. One look at the colors in Alice's hands, and he grimaced in obvious disgust.

"What is that?" he asked, nose wrinkled as though he had smelled something rotten. It wasn't like he hadn't already seen the color palette about fifty times through both mine and Alice's heads, but I appreciated the support all the same.

"This," Alice responded, scowling furiously and shaking the fabric swatches with great violence at her brother and me, "is the color selection I made for the anniversary party."

"You've got to be kidding me!" Edward almost whined, very much unlike him. Now I knew the colors had to go. If even Edward felt so brilliantly repulsed, we were in big trouble.

"I'm not kidding!" Alice whined back, and were we at home I surmised she might have stomped her foot.

"Those have to change," Edward continued more seriously, folding his arms stubbornly over the zip front of his close-fitted, dark yellow sweatshirt. The mustard-like color somehow did wonders to dampen the powerful beauty of his skin, face, and hair, but it still looked quite nice on him. It was nearly impossible to make him look really bad, or unattractive, so we had settled for extreme mutability instead on this trip.

"I refuse to change the colors," the tiny woman retorted, arms also folded in front of her. "There's nothing wrong with them. They're perfect, in fact."

"Yeah, if only we were decorating a circus," I remarked under my breath, knowing she would hear me anyway.

Her huffing proved that well enough, but I ignored it as my eyes caught on an anniversary card tucked into the rotating rack just behind Alice. While the card as a whole was not to my taste, the three colors I saw on it were absolutely wonderful. Lavender, light aqua, and spring green. They were light, but bright at the same time, and utterly enchanting for the delicacy of Carlisle and Esme's relationship.

"Alice," I interrupted her continued remarks on the perfection of her chosen colors, stepping over to pluck the card from its holding. "These colors are just right."

"They're so dull and pale," she rebuked me stubbornly, barely glancing at the folded item in my hand. "No life at all."

"I disagree completely," I argued much more calmly now, a sense of rightness pervading my color choices. Granted, it was merely a party, but it was also a reminder of a beautiful bond between husband and wife. "Carlisle & Esme don't fit the bold colors you have right now. Theirs is a delicate, romantic relationship. They remind me of spring. Bright yet gentle; happy and fresh."

Edward raised a single brow at me, mingled amusement and amazement flooding his golden eyes as he responded, "I really shouldn't be surprised at your incredibly accurate and eloquent conclusions anymore, but I suppose it's only right that you keep me on my toes."

Laughing lightly, I tilted my head questioningly at Alice, who was intermittently looking thoughtful and attempting to put her scowl back in place. After a long moment of gazing at futures, she finally exhaled gustily, practically ripping the card out of my hand and carelessly tossing her gaudy fabric swatches into the nearest half-empty sales bin.

"Fine," she muttered mutinously, stalking away to the lighter color schemes the store had to offer. "I hate it when you get me all up on a cloud with your stupid, perfect, fairytale descriptions. Ugh. Never trust a writer. Cheeky articulates…"

I was grinning by the time she was out of sight – still mumbling about writers and fantastical phrasing – and Edward's body shook with silent laughter. Upon reflection, I decided I didn't want to know what thoughts accompanied Alice's audible words.

"Well, let's go find gifts for Carlisle and Esme," I sighed happily, pulling on Edward's hand to drag him along with me, since I would need his help. He laughed out loud again at my blissful thoughts of success against Alice, and redirected me to the corresponding gift sections of the store, all the while ignoring the rude stares that continued to follow his laughter. Apparently Alice had dragged him here numerous times for other anniversaries, because he knew exactly where things were.

"We usually shop together for the others' anniversaries," Edward shrugged as we came across more anniversary albums, all of which were white with either silver or gold for the ridiculously curly and scrolled lettering on the front. I couldn't see much difference in any of them. "I always need help picking out any kind of gift for Emmett and Rosalie's anniversaries. And Jasper doesn't enjoy the heavily trafficked stores like this one. Granted, he's waiting outside tonight, but he usually doesn't come at all. Alice and I just teamed up after a while."

"Well, now I need your help choosing a gift for Carlisle and Esme," I informed him, glancing around at anything that might be a decent gift for the pair. Everything was so cliché, however. Albums, mugs, stationery sets, matching hot pink bathrobes (on that one, I did a double take that made Edward snort with laughter), and various other common, boring memorabilia.

"Why don't you get individual gifts for them," Edward suggested after a while. "It's really easier that way and we can certainly afford it."

"I suppose that's best," I agreed, nose crinkling as we passed a more risqué area of the store. Scanty clothes were not the only questionable items displayed in this tucked away section, I soon realized, and I felt myself turning a brilliant crimson.

Way to go, Mir. Way to go.

"I really would prefer to leave this area alone, thank you very much," I got out through my half-strangled embarrassment. Choking similarly on repressed laughter, Edward led me away rapidly, right to the main entrance and outside into the night air.

Having had school, the others couldn't get out and shop until later in the day. When Alice decided to go to Los Angeles for the specialty shop, we then had to make it a night trip to avoid sunshine. It wasn't a bother to leave later, since it was cooler – something that thankfully helped calm the redness of my face as Edward and I walked away from the shop.

Overall, I wasn't a huge fan of hot places. Besides, I liked the city lights. It was always bustling and lively in a metropolitan area. When the night came alive with neon, running motors, dance music, thousands of chattering voices… the urban world became a true beauty in its own strange way.

"Alice would kill you if she heard all that poetry in the flesh," Edward teased, pulling me casually along the streets in a comfortable stroll. It was nice to just relax and walk around, instead of constantly rushing store to store without taking in the scenery in-between.

"Thankfully, Alice isn't here right now," I retorted easily, glancing with interest at a furniture store we were soon to pass. From what I could see as yet, they had some nice contemporary pieces, mixed sparsely with more traditional and elegant works. "Does Esme need any furniture anywhere?"

"Not that I know of," he responded with a shake of his bronze head. "Although I think she could easily find places for anything you might buy her. We certainly have plenty of extra spaces that could be filled with an intriguing item. And Esme's tastes are fairly diverse."

"Let's go in there, then," I decided, tugging him inside the business.

Overflowing with modern style and sleek, simple designs for the most part, the atmosphere of the place called to me. Wandering was my initial course, until I saw something that caught my eye like a flash of lightning out in the middle of an empty field.

"Hey, that's it!" I cried. Quietly, that is. No need to draw more stares than Edward had already garnered that day.

"What would they…" the vampire in question began to ask, brows furrowed in confusion, until I started envisioning the use this particular piece of furniture would be put to, and then his expression cleared abruptly. "Oh! That's a good idea. It's an awfully large piece, so we'll have to go get the jeep, but…"

"Yes, it is." I stopped halfway to the item of interest, frowning as I glanced up at him. "None of you guys bought anything that big, did you?"

"I don't know about the others," he shrugged. "And I'm still undecided what I'm getting. For Esme, anyhow."

"We couldn't share that, could we?" I asked hesitantly, gesturing at the piece I so badly wanted to get for Esme.

"Not that I'm opposed to sharing," Edward replied curiously, offering me a quizzical look, "but it's no problem if you get it all on your own, you know?"

"I… I just don't want…" I bit my lip, feeling ridiculous as my thoughts raced ahead of the spoken words. I could just imagine Rosalie sourly accusing me of kissing up to Esme by buying some enormous gift.

Edward pursed his lips thoughtfully for a couple minutes, staring at me in consideration and occasionally glaring at the next person to stare manically at us where we stood motionless in the middle of the wide-open floor.

"Let's share it," Edward finally decided quietly, continuing to be very thoughtful in tone and expression as he pulled me towards my original goal. "Esme will love it and I really didn't have an idea of my own anyway."

I had no trouble in recognizing his subtle avoidance of my worries, but could find no words with which to broach the topic again. Instead, I just watched as Edward paid extra to have the item held until he came back with the jeep a little later.

Once out in the night air again and steadily walking along the pavement, it took me a moment to find a suitable subject for small talk. We didn't usually indulge in a ton of chit-chat, since I often spoke to Edward mentally of late, but I found myself needing the verbal discussion.

"What are you going to buy Carlisle?" I asked after a while, grateful that Edward hadn't interrupted my floundering for a topic.

"I'm fairly certain it'll be a book," was his wry answer. "Preferably a first edition of some kind, if I can find it. Which reminds me… there's a bookstore a few blocks away from here, and it has a fair selection of collectible books. Why don't we head over there?"

"Sounds like a plan," I agreed immediately. Bookstores were no problem for me to get dragged through. Like as not, I would end up dragging Edward myself.

"Now that I would love to see you try," he remarked with a deep smirk. Rolling my eyes, I playfully shouldered him – with as little damaging force to my arm as possible. Although, as we continued on towards the shop, I wondered if that was even remotely possible.

"Edward!" I gasped in pleasant surprise as our destination finally came into view some time later.

When he said 'bookstore,' I hadn't realized he meant a private home which the owner turned into a sales pitch. The ambience of the old library was absolutely spectacular, with two large windows on either side of the door. Further in among the shelves of books, comfortably low lighting turned the space warm and created a glow around the dark-stained shelving – ornately carved and clearly not the cheap manufactured wood of your average pre-fabricated storage unit.

"What kind of wood is this?" I asked Edward in fascination, brushing the nearest shelf reverently with my fingertips. It was reassuringly solid under my grasp.

"It's oak," he answered absently while we waited for the owner to appear, perusing the nearest shelf of books with a keen eye. One book in particular, while not a first edition, was nevertheless a collector's item and placed on special display near the makeshift checkout, the plated price tag registering a whopping four thousand dollars due to its extreme age and rarity.

Frankly, I wasn't surprised it was still on display; the price was certainly detrimental enough, to say nothing of the subject matter. The ancient history of a ritual cannibalistic culture couldn't be very popular amongst a steadily growing vegetarian population. Or any human population at all, for that matter.

"You never know," Edward remarked quietly, wryly. "You are standing next to a variant on the cannibal."

I just about growled at him, "Not. Funny."

He shrugged nonchalantly, unbothered by my upset. If there was one thing I noticed Edward still had some of the biggest trouble with, even after reading the books, it was faith in his own humanity. His lack of this faith made me struggle more monumentally with my own inefficiency at convincing him than just about anything else we'd talked about. Except the matter of his soul, that is. But I didn't really want the conversation to head in such a direction. Now that was a migraine waiting to happen.

"Can you stop talking about this?" Edward growled suddenly.

"I'm not talking about it," I responded quietly, immediately irritated with his irascible tone.

"Then stop thinking about it!" he snapped, turning away from the books to scowl at me.

"Why don't you stop hearing it!" I retorted a bit louder, crossing my arms angrily.

"I can't and you know it!" Edward hissed, scowl becoming a ferocious glare.

"Then stop taking everything the wrong way!" I finally snapped back, doing my level best to match his glare. "Every single word I speak isn't tailored especially towards pissing you off! Learn to deal with it, will you?"

Ignoring the fact that Edward was opening his mouth to speak, I took advantage of the owner's return so I could stalk off into the shelves of books in a fury. The gall of that… that… I could not find a word adequate to describe Edward Cullen's idiocy at the moment. I had a perfect right to my thoughts, thank you very much, and if they happened to center on something Edward found distasteful then that was just too bad. We had already gone over this idea of fair play several times, and I had thought we came to an understanding about the fact that neither of us could help what I thought or what he heard.

Until I wrenched my jaws apart, I didn't realize my teeth were clenched so tightly. Taking a deep breath to cool the tension a little, I purposefully distracted myself by browsing titles to find Carlisle a gift for his anniversary the next day. So many ideas passed through my mind in what I came to notice as a historical section, but nothing felt right. Knowing the doctor as I did, I felt that history was fitting, but it didn't inspire me the way I wanted it to.

It took a lot longer than I expected to arrive at a section I felt strongly connected to. That is was the religious section of books did not escape my notice, nor did I neglect to mark that for future reference in my book shopping ventures.

A few titles crossed without interest; I picked up a title that came close and read it, felt it was wrong, then moved forward again in my browsing. This was my pattern through three different shelves before I found the proverbial jackpot. The title certainly sounded interesting for a person like Carlisle, I decided, opening to the introduction. The further I read, the more I felt the connection I'd been waiting for. Checking the details of the book, only to realize it was tagged as a first edition, I knew I had found just the right kind of book for Carlisle, and headed out to buy it with a satisfied air.

When I arrived at the front, my pleasant expression dropped instantly. Edward was not there. I walked back through the stacks to look for him, double-checked outside the large windows, and even set my chosen book down on a nearby table so I could step just out the door and check my surroundings for the familiar vampire.

He was nowhere to be found.

Biting my lip against a sudden influx of nerves, I uneasily stepped back into the door and hurried to ring the desk bell. I hoped that perhaps Edward had merely wandered off a bit to make me a little worried. Still, if he was playing a joke just to get back at me for my earlier thoughts and our argument, it was an incredibly cruel one. Frighteningly so. I had never been to Los Angeles in my life, I had no cell phone or any other means of communication, no transportation, no map…

The owner thankfully hurried out of the back door at that moment, distracting me from my growing list of worries. The gray-haired man smiled a little, clearly rushed, and greeted me first, "Mireille, is it?"

Startled, I inched a step backward. Seeing mistrust written all over my face, the owner hurried to reassure me, "Oh, I'm sorry. Your friend told me. He wanted you to know he'd meet you later."

Blinking, I tried not to look surprised by this information. I decided Edward must have wanted me to know he left on his own. The whole situation was beginning to look more and more like a cruel retaliation, but I tried not to think like that. It didn't seem like Edward to mistreat anyone like this, unless he really hated them. Fortunately, I knew he didn't hate me. He was upset, but I really hoped it was nothing more than that.

"Thank you," I responded a bit belatedly to the somewhat impatiently waiting owner. "I'll just get this book."

"Ah, you must be pretty religious," he remarked with a half-smile as he looked over the navy leather book. A vague smile was my only response as he rang up the purchase and bagged it.

"Have a nice night," he smiled, handing the bag over to me.

I guessed I gave him another smile in return, but I wasn't altogether certain of that. My nerves notched up to unbelievable heights in those few minutes of paying for the book. Unless I wanted to trek around Los Angeles mindlessly, I was well and truly stuck. Slow steps carried me around and then over to the door, every footfall jolting me unpleasantly.

Expecting a street devoid of familiar faces or vehicles as I reached out to grab the door handle, I closed my eyes as it twisted. The bell rang gently when I slipped outside onto the walkway, a sigh of fearful resignation escaping me, and I forced myself to open my eyes again.

I couldn't have been more shocked to find the Mercedes parked outside and Jasper standing erect beside it with a frown spread across his face and his arms folded.

"Are you all right, Mireille?" he inquired concernedly. To my embarrassment, a choking breath left my throat to signify the utmost relief coursing through me.

"Fine," I was able to get out, gladly rushing forward to stand equally as stiffly next to him, bag clutched to my stomach by white-knuckled fingers. Jasper frowned more deeply, and it took me a slight second to realize why.

"Oh!" I exclaimed, turning pink in the face and trying to wrestle down my unleashed feelings. "I'm sorry. I forgot. I don't know how, but I did. I'm so sorry."

"Stop that!" Jasper ordered firmly, unfolding his arms to grasp my shoulders with human firmness. "I can handle it. Just stop pushing it back. You'll only make it worse."

"Sorry," was all I could say, vaguely able to tell I was trembling slightly. Shaking his head at the continued apologies, Jasper turned me around and walked me to the passenger side of the vehicle. He had to buckle me up himself when I found my fingers incapable of releasing the book I'd purchased.

"You're all right now," Jasper murmured deeply as he drove away, reaching over with one hand to grasp mine. Calm flooded me in an instant, the dread that had built up inside suddenly flushing away – water over so many rocks in the streambed.

"Did Alice send you?" I was able to ask some time later, still absently latched onto his hand. He didn't seem bothered, but I figured a change of topic might ease the awkwardness of the gesture on my behalf.

"I suppose you could say that. Although really, Alice was so involved in visions of what tomorrow will be like, that she missed this whole situation when it happened." Jasper shook his head in a combination of indulgence and exasperation. "No, actually Edward called; asked us to hurry and come get you, so you wouldn't be afraid."

In order to miss my head suddenly whipping around at high speed, Jasper would have to be blind. Seeing as he wasn't, it only made sense that he was offering me a sort of privacy. "Edward sent you?"

"He didn't leave you there on purpose," Jasper reassured me gently, offering a vague squeeze to the hand he held. "After you argued earlier, he quickly bought his gift for Carlisle and took a run to clear his head. Once his temper wound down, he instinctively ran all the way back home. That's how he usually ends his run. Only this time, he belatedly realized you had no way of contacting anyone and no knowledge of where to find us. He called Alice and she sent me over."

"He couldn't even come back himself?" I wondered, quite hurt. Maybe Edward was angrier than I thought.

"Alice and I were only four blocks away when he called," Jasper amusedly countered. "Edward was all the way back in Forks. By the time he made it back here at a run, we could have driven here and back to the other store about three times."

"Oh." I blushed lightly, reminding myself that Edward may be a hyper-speed runner, but he wasn't capable of instantly beaming himself from place to place. That would be my personal talent, if my entry into this world was any indication… Granted, I was still upset that Edward would leave the way he did, but I could at least understand what had happened on a more objective basis now. If he had not done it on purpose, we would be back to normal soon. Still, he was going to have to get over his anger and frustration on deeper subjects or else risk more permanent friction.

"I'm pretty sure he'll meet us partway, though," was Jasper's next comment, a knowing tone to his voice.

"How do you know that?" I asked, giving him a puzzled look.

"If I know Edward, his guilt is stronger than steel right now," the Texan vampire sighed resignedly. "I'm going to have a great night, I can tell… And don't you apologize again!"

Snapping my mouth shut in surprise at his abrupt reprimand, I sunk into the passenger seat embarrassedly, keeping silent for a long while. Jasper was back to the 'less Southern' voice that meant he was feeling formal and somewhat stiff. I wasn't precisely sure why, since he had hunted just the previous night and surely my blood wasn't as terrible in that moment as it had been the day before.

"You have a question?" the former soldier prompted me suddenly, lifting a single golden brow. Grimacing at the idea of telling him what I had been thinking about, I just shook my head negatively. After another minute, he continued, "You do… But you're afraid to ask. Or worried it's too uncomfortable of an inquiry. Am I right?"

"Just because I'm curious about something, it doesn't mean I have a question to ask," I retorted with a slightly irritable strain in my voice, although the honey-haired vampire would unfortunately feel how impressed I was at his astuteness. "And even if I do have a question, it doesn't mean you're the one I'd like to ask."

"Fair point." Jasper offered me a bit of a grin. "But based on your embarrassment and defensiveness, I think you do wish you could ask me something."

"I said there wasn't anything," I huffed, looking out the window frustratedly, knowing all the while he could feel the dishonesty and the embarrassment rolling through me.

"Let's get a couple of things straight," he pressed forward doggedly, determinedly. "I'm pretty certain you've noticed my distance, the way I retain a formal veneer at times, the stiff posture I hold when we're in the same room… Your curiosity always gives you away at exactly the right times."

"So what if I've noticed it?" I bluntly countered, turning to look at him.

"So how about you ask why?" he argued just as blatantly. "No, nevermind. I'll just answer the unspoken question because I know you're too thoughtful and stubborn to ever actually ask it… Fact is, I have a hard time being around a human all the time; most of the day, every day. And that's in addition to spending five days of the week sitting in a school full of human youth who have hormones, blood, and emotions running sky-high almost every second of that time. Can you understand why that might be a challenge?"

"I never questioned that," I bit out, glaring at him. "And if you're insinuating that I have somehow made less of your struggles—!"

"I didn't say that," he interrupted sharply. "You've wondered why I became so stiff and formal all of a sudden. That's my answer."

"Your lecture, you mean," was my cool retort, eyes narrowed icily. "Since I never actually asked you a single thing about it?"

Jasper cocked both eyebrows this time, and for a minute I thought he was going to get angry. It was to my startled disbelief, therefore, that he began to smile ever so slightly. Even worse, a minute later he started chuckling. Well, no, that wasn't quite right.

He didn't start chuckling, he started snickering.

"What's so funny?" I asked him incredulously, eyes widening from their narrowed state.

"You," he got out through his amusement, shaking his head side to side. Trying to settle himself down, he added, "When I sunk my teeth in, I didn't expect you to bite back!"

Gaping consumed my entire thought process at first, because I couldn't think past my utter surprise. When I found my voice, it – very regrettably – squeaked out at an undignified volume, "Did you really just tell a morbid vampire joke?"

"Surprise," he snickered, looking to be in a stupendously good mood now.

"Where did I miss the laughing gas?" I murmured worriedly.

"I like that you can occasionally get the better of us," Jasper confessed with a milder grin, "it keeps us from going stagnant."

Still remotely stunned, I allowed myself to get lost in the passing scenery for some miles. Until we slowed down and exited the highway somewhere just past Redding, California, the car was completely and awkwardly silent.

"Where are we going?" I wondered confusedly.

"Edward is meeting us at a campground," Jasper answered, smoothly turning left onto Gilman Road and then briefly taking another right, onto Salt Creek Road. Another right onto Conflict Point Road – which became Statton Road right under an overpass – and then a left onto Solus Campground Road, and we drove straight up to the entrance of Lake Shasta Pines RV Park & Campground. I had yet to see Edward, so I suspected him to be waiting in the trees deeper in.

Sure enough, Jasper drove through the park a little before stopping in a clearing that was empty of people, vehicles, or anything else. With little warning, Edward appeared at the tree line, and Jasper got out to meet him.

"Alice and I will see you later, Mireille," the Texan explained.

"See you, Jasper," I waved to him as he walked to the trees. Some words were exchanged, but at my distance I couldn't tell what they were, nor even if they were heated or not. I didn't like the idea of them arguing over me, so I hoped it wasn't heated.

Another moment and Jasper disappeared into the trees, leaving Edward to slowly and uncomfortably approach the car. I could understand his hesitance, because I wasn't even sure myself if I was ready to completely forgive him. Hearing this in my mind drove Edward to reappear at the car and take the driver's seat.

Neither of us spoke, instead sitting awkwardly beside each other in the quiet of the Mercedes. My hands became quite interesting to examine, and likewise I noticed Edward staring at the dashboard with far more concentration than normal.

Sighing over the tension and my realization of it, Edward took the reigns with something approaching resignation.

"Would you accept my sincerest apologies for being such an idiot?" he wondered quietly, barely glancing at me from the corner of his eye.

"That would depend on your intention," was my neutral response.

"I didn't intend to leave you alone and afraid in the middle of Los Angeles," he murmured, wincing. "I wasn't trying to get back at you for arguing with me."

"Maybe next time I shouldn't have to argue over something like that," I murmured in return, fearing this would send him over the edge again. His temper was certainly legendary.

"Maybe not," he hedged through gritted teeth, looking at me head on finally. "But I shouldn't have to curb my opinion, either."

"Your opinion borders on tyranny," I retorted, the corners of my mouth tipping downwards already. "I have a right to believe you have a soul. If you don't like it, then go pound a tree into wood pulp or grind a rock into dust or play a furious Rachmaninoff piece. I don't care what you have to do, Edward, but I won't take you getting mad at me because of my opinion. Otherwise…"

Shrugging, I tried to hide how much it would bother me to stop talking to him or spending time with him. But it was true. I wouldn't want to spend time with someone who couldn't let me have my own opinion without kicking me for it.

"Then stop trying to convince me that your opinion is the better one," Edward returned stonily. I had to confess to doing that a few times over the few weeks I'd been living in Forks, but not that forcefully.

"I'm sorry, but I won't do that, Edward," I admitted boldly, hurrying on before he could speak, "I won't do it for the simple reason that I know you'd be happier if you did believe my way."

Edward closed his mouth briefly, eyeing me shrewdly for a few minutes before he spoke again, "I can't fault your reasoning, but I'm asking you to stop. At least for now… I'm still coming to terms with a lot of things that I've read and that are expected to happen. Please, just give me some time to get my head around them before you go pushing faith on me as well."

Frowning, I tried to think around that, but it was perfectly reasonable for him to try and sort out everything he was waiting for. When I thought of it that way, I did feel a little pushy and thoughtless. As much as I realized our argument and the issues surrounding it were not really resolved, I figured I needed to stop pushing so hard at the moment. Biting my lip was as eloquent a response as I could think up, so it was lucky Edward could read my mind.

"Thank you," he sighed a third time, leaning his head back against the rest for a moment.

"You're still stressing about Bella?" I wondered anxiously, glad for something of a topic.

"Always," Edward muttered, turning the key in the ignition. "It never leaves my mind, really. The only time I've been able to think past it was when I realized you were all alone tonight."

"Nice to know I keep you focused," I rolled my eyes. "By the way, you're forgiven."

"Thanks," he grinned slightly, turning to leave the clearing and head home.

The following morning I remembered the furniture store and my gift for Esme. Panic just about mowed me down until Alice came in to calm me, practically dressing me herself. She thankfully informed me that Edward had gone back for the item that morning and returned successfully. Far more relaxed with this information under my belt, I headed down to breakfast with Alice, whose pale gold dress and honey-colored heels seemed to make her glow. Only as I realized I wore a peach cocktail dress and gray suede pumps did I remember I was pretending not to know anything special would happen that day.

Looking quite resplendent in a knee-length cocktail dress of rich blue, Esme didn't seem at all disappointed by mine and Alice's lack of congratulations; in fact, the mother of five looked quite distracted as she washed the dishes. It didn't appear she even realized that her vibrant elbow-sleeve frock and matching shoes were far nicer than usual for an average day. Alice offered a quelling look when I nearly inquired, quickly pulling me away from the table.

"What?" I mouthed to her, confusion written all over my face.

Checking that Esme was not paying attention, Alice took out a pen and a pad of paper. This was a practice I was very familiar with. Whenever I needed to know something without another member of the family overhearing, out came the paper and pen. We were practically mimes the whole week preceding Carlisle and Esme's anniversary, so that we could plan out the party, and Alice's current note was no exception.

Esme thinks he's working all day today. She's down about it, since it's such an important day. But Carlisle is coming home at lunch so we can throw the party and then let them spend the weekend together.

I nodded my understanding and smiled a bit at the surprises Esme would be receiving that afternoon. Of course, Carlisle would be the best surprise of all. As nice as our party was going to be, it was not the priority. No one had wanted it to be a huge bash anyway, despite Alice's protests to the contrary, and Carlisle's office was a much easier place to hide from Esme without becoming suspicious. With Carlisle at work for the morning, it was absolutely ideal. It did leave an unhappy wife to be distracted, however, because apparently when Esme missed her husband, his office was her refuge.

Given the task of distraction, Edward did one of the things Esme loved most. I couldn't even count the amount of gentle, happy songs that floated in the atmosphere of the conservatory for the hours Edward played his piano. Esme was fondly appreciative of her son's attentions and my supportive seat beside her on the sofa facing the foyer, but nothing dampened the sadness in her gaze. Not until Edward had nearly finished playing a sadder and more romantic piece than before, something I recognized as being Chopin's work.

It was a little unfortunate that poor Esme began to cry nonexistent tears at the moment the piece ended. That moment at exactly twelve o'clock when Edward started playing a beautiful, complex, familiar melody; and when Carlisle walked in the front door with a colorful bouquet of roses, hydrangea, and lilacs in one hand and a white-wrapped gift in the other. The doctor had obviously changed before coming home; his striped dark blue shirt and black dress slacks were much too appealing and form-enhancing for the hospital.

Esme gasped and stood instantly from her seat, staring at her husband in shock. Carlisle, in turn, stared after having watched and heard his lovely wife crying on such a special day. Edward in his light gray dress shirt shared a fondly exasperated look with me. It was all I could do to keep my grin in check.

"This wasn't exactly what I had in mind," Carlisle finally spoke, looking at his wife with a sweetly abashed expression. "I had rather hoped you might be smiling when I walked in."

Esme laughed abruptly, her sadness gone, and swept to her husband in a whirl of blue to slip delicate arms around his waist. Glancing a little amusedly at his occupied hands, Carlisle almost settled for tucking his elbows around the woman he loved. Edward came up to him with a smirk, shaking his bronze head as he took the gifts from his father's hands and stepped back. Carlisle grinned at his son and gladly wrapped his arms about Esme's shoulders.

"I thought you were working all day?" Esme mockingly scolded the doctor, but her wide smile gave her tease away.

"Hm… I garnered a half-shift today and extra hours this coming week in exchange for the weekend," answered Carlisle, stealing a quick kiss. "Happy Anniversary, darling."

"Happy Anniversary," Esme sighed happily in return, ignoring the presence of two other people in the room and reaching up for a far more lingering kiss than the first. Carlisle's throaty chuckle was still audible, even through the lip lock.

If not for Edward eyeing me, I probably would have swooned at the whole scene, but I had learned not to sigh too loudly in front of him. Sarcasm would inevitably follow and only serve to irritate me, so I just withheld the romantic thoughts and notions I felt at times.

"Like I can't tell anyway?" he said as he reappeared beside me on the sofa – flowers and white gift still in hand – making me jump a bit. I glared at his smirking face. "You get this distant, dreamy look on your face whenever you think something is sweet and romantic."

"You could do with adding a bit of sweetness to yourself," was my tart reply.

Carlisle interrupted his son's impending remark by clearing his throat and offering a raised brow in request of his gifts. Judging by the way Esme' eyes lit up after seeing the bouquet, flowers thrilled her almost as much as the actual gift, which was an exceedingly delicate and complex crystal figurine in the shape of a tree.

"It's a cherry tree!" laughed Esme, moving to peck a smiling Carlisle on the lips again. "Thank you, dear. I think you've outdone yourself, this time."

"I'm glad you think so," he chuckled, squeezing her arm.

"Happy Anniversary, you two," Edward spoke with deep, knowing humor, smiling genuinely at his parents. "You deserve the happiest day possible."

The two beamed at their son, chiming together, "Thank you, Edward."

It seemed fitting that the only child to have been present at Carlisle and Esme's wedding was also the first one to congratulate them on their anniversary. Nice as it was, though, I also couldn't help feeling suddenly out of place in the familial scene. Times like this made me realize how little I was actually a member of the family. For all the fun I'd had in recent weeks, the strong affection I felt towards these special vampires, and the shopping excursion the previous night for just this occasion, I wasn't actually a 'Cullen' as the term implied in the grand scheme of things.

"Esme, why don't I put those in water for you?" I offered more confidently and smoothly than I really felt, nodding at Esme's pink, purple, and green bouquet. Edward looked over at me, giving absolutely nothing away in his expression, and likewise said nothing about my inner turmoil. Yet there was a glint in his topaz eyes that bespoke his agitation with my thoughts.

"Oh, but I can do that," Esme responded with a continual smile, stepping away from Carlisle and moving towards the kitchen.

"I know, but I think Edward needs to show you something," I smiled convincingly back at the sweet vampire, all the while tossing forceful suggestions at the mind-reader in question. The slight stiffening in his posture indicated his frustration.

"Really?" Esme beamed again, apparently unable to stop herself now that everything was going so well. "Edward, how nice."

"Actually, Alice is the one who needs to show you something," Edward said instead. Had I not wished Carlisle and Esme to remain unaware of my feelings, I might have glared at their eldest son for ignoring what I asked.

"I certainly do," Alice squealed, whooshing down the stairs and hurrying to whisk Carlisle and Esme off up the staircase. "Come on, come on!"

Esme gladly went, handing her bouquet off to me with a grateful expression. "Thank you, Mireille."

"You're welcome," I smiled once more, daring to drop my nose into the flowers and take a contented breath of the fragrance as Alice dragged her mother away.

In contrast to his beloved wife, Carlisle reluctantly followed his small daughter up, casting me an odd, reproachful sort of look that surprised me into stepping back a little, eyes wide. Sighing and shaking his head with some unnamed emotion, the doctor hurried after Alice and Esme, leaving me alone with a stony-faced Edward.

When it became clear he intended to remain mute and not even look my way, I exhaled more heavily than normal and moved to where I knew the vases and flower food to be stored. For a few minutes I simply set about carefully trimming and arranging the beautiful rose, hydrangea, and lilac bundle in a large vase. The task was an enjoyable one, something I had often done while living with my parents. It was just slightly mindless, but it took some creative power to get the arrangements to look artful.

Unable to hold off the inevitable any longer, I heaved a breath and turned to face the motionless vampire behind me. At finding him standing a mere three feet behind me, I jumped and held a hand to my chest in surprise.

"Don't do that," I murmured, folding both arms across my stomach in a familiar defensive posture.

Edward still refused to speak or move, his eyes boring into mine unabashedly, until abruptly I found myself in a whirl of movement that ended with me and the newly arranged vase of flowers standing smack in front of the door to Carlisle's office. Six pairs of eyes looked back at me, two of which were distinctly too kind and understanding. Esme's sympathetic expression I could understand; it was merely who she was. What amazed me was that Jasper was the other extremely kind gaze.

'So now everybody knows what I was thinking?' I snapped at Edward in my mind, trying very hard to keep an angry look from overcoming my features.

A discomfiting pause stole over us after my silent remark, during which I couldn't even hear or feel Edward breathing. Finally, he murmured more cautiously, "No, not everything. But Esme worried, Carlisle guessed, Jasper concurred, and… well, it all snowballed from there."

"We would very much like you to join us, Mireille," Carlisle informed me quietly, disappointment in his eyes. Who it was directed at wasn't clear, but I feared it was meant for me and my insecurities. Incapable of thinking up a suitable response, I made a poor show of interest in the flowers I held, fingering the soft petals without thought. I hated being in the middle of everyone's attention in such a way; it was a form of personal torment I had never been able to overcome. It didn't help that I had apparently put a great big downer on Carlisle and Esme's happy day. Embarrassed at the very idea, I practically shoved Esme's rearranged flowers at her out of discomfort and looked at the ground. With trepidation, I watched from the corner of my eye as four pairs of legs headed into the office, Rosalie's black-heeled feet the last pair I saw before the door closed.

Immediately, I found my face held between Esme's small, cold hands. Over her blue-covered shoulder, I saw Carlisle holding the vase of flowers and looking slightly sad.

"Please don't isolate yourself, sweetheart," Esme murmured, eyes glassy with the vampire equivalent of unshed tears. "You live here and we care about you. We want to include you. Not just in trite, meaningless events, but in important days like today as well. All right?"

Eyes watering, I suddenly reached over and hugged the woman before me like I had once hugged my own mother – before I had started becoming a person my mother could no longer love or understand. The tears never truly fell from my eyes, but Esme comforted me as if they had, sweeping her hand through the loose curls of my hair and shushing me. Through the blur of my wet eyes, I watched Edward reappear beside his father and talk inaudibly with him, once glancing over at his mother and me with some concern.

After what seemed like forever, Esme pulled back a bit, reaching up to swipe away a tear I hadn't even felt fall. "Coming in?" she asked with a small smile, nodding back at the office door.

"Yeah," I muttered, offering a tiny half-smile in return.

"Good," Esme kissed my forehead and moved to Carlisle's side, more happily accepting the bouquet he held.

Behind the two of them as the door opened to reveal the decorated space beyond, Edward moved to my side and laid a hand on my shoulder. I felt badly for accusing him of revealing my thoughts earlier.

"It's okay," he muttered, and I could hear the awkward smile in his voice.

"Happy Anniversary!" Edward's siblings all called out to Carlisle and Esme, bringing my gaze up to the open doorway.

"Oh, this is so lovely!" Esme sighed, spinning slowly in order to see the entire party space. The windows had been decorated with tissue tassel garland in the soft lavender, spring green, and pale aqua theme I had convinced Alice to use. Tissue paper confetti in the same colors had been sprinkled across the desk, the window sills, the lower bookcase tops, and the end tables on either side of the leather sofa. To add a final, elegant touch, tissue pom flowers were strung across the ceiling above our heads. Something I had not known about was the perfectly arranged curtains of alternating lavender, green, and aqua which now bordered the corner to the right of the door.

"This is wonderful of all of you," the doctor remarked happily. "But what is the curtain for, if I may ask?"

"Gifts, of course," Alice commented with a grin, although her eyes darted to mine for a moment. I realized that the item I had sought for Esme must be hidden behind the curtain.

"Gifts?" Esme blinked. "But we told you all long ago to forget about buying us presents on our anniversaries. It gets so monotonous for you."

Well, that was news to me. Everyone had made it sound as though they had gifts and a little celebration every single year. Not that it wouldn't get a little tiresome to do something different so many times, but still…

"Well, we didn't listen, did we?" Emmett announced cheerfully.

"Come on, Esme, Carlisle," Alice insisted, pushing them both towards the temporary curtains and pulling them aside with a whoosh to display seven gifts beautifully wrapped in a spring-like paper to match the party's theme. To my surprise, the item I'd chosen wasn't the only large gift. There were two other pieces which could not fit on the table. "Emmett won the draw, so you're opening his and Rosalie's gifts first."

Dressed in a form-hugging teal dress that fell to mid-thigh with her hair in a knot of curls to one side, Rosalie came forward to pick out one of the largest gifts, something very wide, and hold it out to Esme. The unwrapping took all of ten seconds, revealing an enormous tapestry in varying shades of green, with a tree on it.

"You wanted a tapestry for the back of the shelves dividing your bed space from the main entry," Rosalie explained quietly, "and you loved that green tree pattern they had on display last month. I had to order a new, custom design so it would fit the space, however, so I hope the design is what you were looking for."

"Oh, sweetheart, this is beautiful," Esme sighed a little, smiling warmly at her blonde daughter as Carlisle and Edward held up the tapestry for her to see it better. "Thank you so much. It really does fit what I wanted. And I love the new design just as much as the original."

"You're welcome," Rose murmured almost under her breath, looking slightly awkward with the emotional gratitude of her mother, but resigned to it all the same.

"And this is yours, Carlisle," Emmett pronounced in a loud, cheery voice, reaching to pick up a much smaller package and hand it over for his father to unwrap. It was a very pricey looking silver watch with a dark blue facing.

"Thank you both," Carlisle smiled at them, instantly replacing his current, plain pewter watch with the new one. "I suppose my other one is a little old now."

"Esme, this is our gift to you," Jasper spoke, lifting up another small package.

The mother of five gasped at the sight of the little silver piano engraved with a delicate scrolling pattern of hearts and one large, smooth heart on top where it had obviously been engraved.

"What does it say?" Carlisle asked softly, coming up to put his arms around his wife from behind.

"For our mother – a loving heart always," Esme whispered emotionally, rubbing her thumb ever-so-carefully across the words she had read.

"It's a musical box," Alice quietly told her mother. "We had the song programmed especially."

Looking over at her small daughter curiously, Esme opened the lid of the mini piano, gasping a second time as she recognized the basic melody of the song Edward had written for his parents years before. With a sniff, Esme opened her arms for Alice and Jasper. The former giddily accept the embrace without hesitation while Jasper moved more slowly to indulge in the sentimental gesture, though no less pleasantly.

"Our other gift is kind of for both of you, but mostly for Carlisle," Alice informed them once she pulled away, pointing to another large gift. Chuckling, Carlisle stepped up to unwrap it and found himself face to face with a chair just as green as the décor and covered in a large, brown and gray, vine-leaf pattern.

"For the writing area?" the blond-haired doctor guessed laughingly.

"Yep!" Alice giggled. "I knew you needed one, but it also had to match Esme's décor. So I found that."

"It's perfect," Carlisle and Esme agreed at the same time, sharing a brief grin at their synchrony.

"Now it's Mir's turn," said Alice, gesturing me forward. One look back at Edward in uncertainty had him at my side.

"We shared the gift for Esme," he explained, pointing at the largest of all the presents with a wry smile matched by my sheepish expression.

"My goodness!" Esme laughed, curiously unwrapping it up and down to first show the dark wood cover on the top and the beginnings of a glass panel on every side. Every inch of paper taken off afterward revealed more of the smooth glass panels and interior shelves, right down to the bottom dark wood panel and the cylindrical, stainless steel feet.

"A display cabinet?" Rosalie wondered with a single blond brow lifted.

"What's it for?" Alice inquired, equally as puzzled.

As much as Esme looked pleased at our thoughtfulness, not one person aside from Edward seemed to understand the point, and I flushed pink. "I thought… uh, Esme, you were showing me all those old bottles up in the attic last week and I… I kind of thought they might look nice in this."

Esme beamed at me, then switched just as abruptly to a slight frown. "But where would I put it? There aren't many good display places left."

"Um… I don't want to push anything on you," I tentatively spoke up again, fidgeting, "but I keep seeing it on that wall by the dining table. You know the one that faces the living area?"

"That's a marvelous idea!" Alice squealed and clapped her hands, eyes distant. "Oh, Esme, you just have to put it there! Really, it will be the perfect backdrop for the dining room."

"Then I will," Esme decided firmly. "Thank you, Mireille. And Edward, of course."

Edward sighed humorously. "Don't bother. It really was all Mireille's idea."

"Well, you bought it, after all," I pointed out somewhat shyly.

"And that's all I did," he countered amusedly, reaching for one of the two gifts left. "Carlisle, I think you'll appreciate this. I was surprised to find it, myself."

Opening the gift without a response, Carlisle raised both eyebrows nearly to his forehead upon seeing the face of it. "A translation of the Books of Jeu? You must have been surprised."

"Well, it's not your everyday bookstore find," Edward laughed.

"I'll say it's not," Carlisle laughed with him, setting the book down to free his hands for the last gift. Wordlessly, the doctor gave me a gentle, curious look. Just as silently, I handed over the gift I wasn't all too certain he would like.

Slower than any other time, Carlisle pulled off the paper of the last present and stared at the title in his grasp. Seeming to be in wonder, he cautiously opened the cover and read the introduction. Even as I stared anxiously at him, hoping he would enjoy the book I'd found, I could see Edward's brows pop upward in my peripheral vision. A startled yet pleased look filled his sharp features.

"What is it?" Emmett boomed all of a sudden, jolting Carlisle from his reading to look up at the burly vampire as though he'd forgotten he was there.

"It's a first edition of The Diary of a Country Priest," the elder of the two responded, turning to offer me an odd, inquisitive stare and tilting his blond head to the side. "You have fascinating taste, Mireille. I truly look forward to reading this. Thank you."

"You're welcome," I replied abashedly, more glad than I could express that he honestly appreciated the theme of the book.

"Well, that concludes our, ah… prelude," Rosalie remarked out of nowhere, the dry humor in her tone warning me of impending mischief.

Alice bit her lip to stop from giggling as she added, "The rest of the celebration belongs to the two of you."

"What do you—?" Esme began to ask through a frown, but Carlisle was trying desperately not to grin beside her.

"We'll all be going out," Edward cut in with a smirk.

"All weekend," Jasper tacked on, almost as an afterthought it seemed.

"Won't be back until Monday morning," Emmett joyfully announced, heading to the door with Rosalie tucked into his side. Jasper and Alice quickly followed, and Edward had almost pulled me along with him when I caught sight of that blasted crystal tree and curiosity reared its badly timed head.

Exhaling in humorous, but embarrassed exasperation, Edward stopped, giving his cautiously-embracing parents a vaguely apologetic look. "Go on and ask," he sighed, looking as though he would be blushing if he could.

"Ask what?" Esme wondered amusedly, eyes twinkling at her fidgeting son.

"Why a cherry tree?" I hurriedly asked, and Esme laughed at the flush on my cheeks.

"Well, you see, Mireille," Carlisle began, adopting a mock pensive pose. "There once was a lovely young girl who wanted to pick some cherries. In order to do so, she would have to climb rather high in the tree on her parents' large estate. Unfortunately, the poor young lady lost her balance and soon required the services of a doctor."

"The doctor was very kind and thoughtful," Esme picked up after her husband's little narrative, grinning at him from the circle of his arms. "The young lady never, ever forgot him or that cherry tree. Many years later, they were married and had five beautiful children who gave them a lovely anniversary celebration."

I shared one sly, romanticized look with Edward and he burst out laughing, dragging me out of the office as rapidly as he could. Hardly had I bundled up in my coat and scarf when he once again began to pull me, this time out to the car.

"Let me guess," I concluded, my breath fogging in front of me on the way to the garage. The afternoon air froze my nylon-clad legs right down to the bone. "Alice already packed me a bag last night."

"Three bags," Edward corrected me in a rush and opened the passenger door.

"What?!" I exclaimed in shock, barely able to make my legs move into the Volvo while the bronze-haired vampire reappeared on the driver's side.

Edward's only remark as he sped off with furiously squealing tires was, "Well, it is Alice."


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Music In This Chapter:
Varations on God Save the King by Beethoven

Previously – Alice, Edward, and Mireille went shopping for Carlisle and Esme's anniversary. Alice chose an odd theme for them and Mireille convinced her of one more suited to their romance. Edward and Mireille walked down the streets and bought a gift for Esme. Edward showed Mireille a home-based bookshop and they argued over souls and faith. Mireille stormed off, found a gift for Carlisle, and returned to find Edward gone. Mireille panicked until she saw Jasper outside. Jasper calmed Mireille and debated their interactions. Jasper drove Mireille to meet Edward. Edward and Mireille apologized and compromised their views. Esme was depressed over Carlisle's absence and he surprised her. Mireille felt out of place and Esme comforted her. Carlisle and Esme opened gifts and the Cullen 'kids' offered them a weekend alone. Mireille asked an awkward question and Edward swept her away in the Volvo.

Chapter 21: Immobility

While it would seem, on the surface, to be a frightening prospect when one is carried off by a vampire and then shuffled to an unknown destination in said vampire's care, I found myself only mildly worried about where we were going.

"Where are we headed?" I asked comfortably, almost mindlessly, as the greenery rolled by like a film in fast forward.

Edward smiled slightly, replying, "A place up in Seattle. It's a mall and market sort of place. While Alice packed your bags, I picked the destination. I thought you might enjoy seeing a bit of everything."

"That's fun," I agreed, smiling with fresh excitement. "What kinds of places do they have?"

"There's a large focus on organic and natural products," he responded thoughtfully. "Glass bead shops and jewelry designers are numerous. And there's a good cross-section of ethnic cuisine, from what I read. Chinese, Mexican, Italian, French—"

"Oh, stop," I groaned, slumping down into my seat with exaggerated depth. "I'm getting hungry already."

Laughing, Edward stopped discussing the food options as requested and moved to turn on the radio. We engaged in a real tussle over my choice of a blues-jazz combination frequency and Edward's choice of a horribly loud alternative rock station for over fifteen minutes before I found a classical station completely by accident. Glancing surreptitiously at each other, we both snorted and left it on for the rest of the trip.

The last piece to be played on the station was Beethoven; his variations on 'God Save The King' were a wonderful, uplifting way to end the ride as Edward pulled up to a curb boasting a tidy courtyard area reminiscent of a street café in France or Italy. Light wood-and-wicker chairs sat around small tables covered with white cloths. A black and white striped awning on the right side of the open area completed the café ambience, but was modernized by the large, single windows displaying the shop goods or seating areas behind them.

In the middle of the arrangement was a dark granite fountain sculpture that put me strongly in mind of an egg, lined on two sides by park-style benches. Miniature evergreens in large square pots dotted the stone space, along with a randomly placed larger trees I could not name against one of the three surrounding walls.

Up above the ground level for four stories of red brick casing – something that reminded me of Forks High School in its better days – I looked over a multitude of little white terraces lined with thick ivy, which hung down towards the top of whatever openings lie beneath.

"You can go in ahead of me," said Edward, pointing over to the left side of the middle wall. "Wait in the lobby over there. There are two chairs with a table between them, if you want to sit while I park."

"Do you mind if I just walk with you?" I wondered. While doing that, Edward could probably tell me about the place we were staying at, something I found far more fascinating than sitting in a lobby and waiting with nothing to do.

"I don't mind," he hesitated. "But it's pretty cold. You were freezing when we walked out to the car and the temperature has dropped somewhat since then."

"I don't mind," I shrugged. "I'll be going out in it anyway, won't I?"

"Not in nylons, you won't," he laughed.

"Oh, just park," I sighed in aggravation, pointing rather imperiously away from the courtyard. "I know what I'm doing."

"Which is why you're pointing in the wrong direction for the car park?" he smirked, eyes sparking with humor.

Refusing to respond, I merely narrowed my eyes in his direction. Laughing again, Edward put the car in drive and pulled out into the street, turning at the end to go back the way he'd originally come. To my surprise, parking and foot traffic were both quite congested, even for a chilly November day.

"Living with the chill weather is rather like that fact it always rains around here," Edward explained amusedly.

"Like in Twilight?" I clarified. "You know, when Bella says… shoot, what was it exactly… Oh, something about the rain not having any effect on playing sports outside. But it was funnier the way Bella said it… That was pretty much what you meant, though. Right?"

I glanced over only briefly to see if he nodded or not, but that short look told me Edward was no longer interested in the conversation. A dark expression overtook his beautiful features, one that would have frightened me if it were most any other vampire; darkened eyes, hands clenched on the wheel, ramrod posture… As it was, I felt surprise first, then concern in close second. Staring rudely was not a habit I liked to indulge, but it seemed such a strange topic to become furious about.

"Edward?" I dared to ask worriedly, startled abruptly by a jerk so sudden that my seat belt locked up automatically as I pelted back against the seat. Whipping up to look at my unhappy companion in disbelief, I found the car in park already.

"Can you not leave those books out of the conversation for two seconds?" he half-snarled, knocking the door open in a too-quick movement.

"Edward!" I exclaimed in shock, but the door slammed shut on my call as the vampire in question stalked around my side of the car to wrench the passenger door open. Stunned, I stared out at what I could see of him behind the car door, only to find his hands still clenched and his lips precariously close to a snarling position still.

"Do you find the cold good for your circulation?" he bit out when I didn't immediately get out of the car.

"What I find good for my circulation is a shouting match with you!" I snapped in return, instantly frustrated with his attitude. "You know what? Take me back to Forks. I'm sure Carlisle and Esme will understand my barging back in, what with the idiocy you're showing now!"

"Whether we're here in Seattle or back in Forks, it won't change the situation! I'm sick and tired of everyone pressuring me into things. And you're the worst, you and Alice! You just can't let well enough alone, can you?"

His glare would have pierced the hardest of diamonds, I was sure, but it just infuriated me even more. Edward was so black and white about everything. It was his view or none. And now he was ranting about me pressuring him into things.

What things, though? I'd let up about religion and Bella Swan and the Volturi and singers and practically everything else worth talking about, mostly because Edward had seemed to slowly lose interest.

It had been a subtle, quiet change over the past two-and-a-half weeks. Changes in topic I had not really thought about. Now it all became painfully obvious Edward was bypassing things without even telling me he wanted to. He never made a fuss, but tweaked tiny moments to his favor so he didn't have to discuss anything he didn't want to. That didn't even include the rare blowup, like in Los Angeles. But that still didn't explain why he was doing it or what particular things bugged him or what I was doing to make him so mad at such random intervals and without any warning.

"Unless and until," I slowly remarked, trying to reign in my raging temper without success, "you can climb down off that marble pillar and explain what in God's name is the matter with you, I am not going to show any sign that you actually exist! Clear?"

With that I swung my legs out of the car and forcefully slammed the soles of my shoes on the concrete to push myself into a standing position, almost keeling over from the strength of the movement.

"Good luck with that!" Edward retorted sharply, slamming the door scant inches from my arm. "Not only do you spend a lot of time with me, your subconscious focuses on me half the time, too. You can't even keep me out of your dreams, did you know that?"

In one swift and thoughtless movement, born entirely of humiliation and rage, I ripped Edward's car keys from the pocket they were sticking out of and did the absolute unthinkable. The only thing I could think of at the moment to get back at him for ridiculing me so meanly.

I scratched the Volvo.

It started as one tiny jab, but in my fury I pulled the key in one long, jagged line from back window down to bumper.

Edward's jaw dropped spectacularly, eyes riveted to the ruination of his paint job, but I didn't wait for any further reaction, instead marching around to the driver's side, my heels click-clacking away on the pavement at a pace I had never known myself capable of. Presumably still in shock, of perhaps past the point of caring what I did, Edward did nothing to stop me starting the Volvo and backing out of the parking space. He remained immobile as I began taking off, leaving the car park to escape the madness Edward had taken to exhibiting at the worst times.

It was only once I stopped at a red light three blocks away, thoroughly ticked off and smarting from the insinuation I couldn't get Edward out of my head, that I was half-startled by the passenger door whipping open and shut as quickly as humanly possible.

"Alice," I greeted the invader curtly, having caught sight of her hair from my peripheral vision. "What do you want?"

"Only to give you a credit card," she informed me seriously, sticking the offending piece of plastic in the ridge of the dashboard. "Go South on Highway 5, through Olympia and Hoquiam, then up to Forks. You'll be running on fumes by the time you reach it, though. So stop at a station and fill up before you go home. And park at the far end of the garage. Rosalie can deal with the paint job later."

"You're not stopping me?" I asked incredulously. It seemed something she would do to help smooth things over and get Edward back in line.

"I don't think that would be the most beneficial thing right now," she murmured with a slight wince. "Edward is… Well, safe to say we've all been driving him too hard."

"About what?" I demanded, to the end of my rope with beating around the bush.

"Bella, Renesmee, Jacob, the future," she listed almost without thought, sighing wearily. "Edward just… He needs more time to adjust to the idea of having a future already waiting for him like this. I didn't realize I was so… pushy. I thought I was just doing what I normally do, letting him know the possibilities. But he's taking this all extremely hard. Like he has to be perfect or else ruin our lives and Bella's. And yours – Green light, Mir."

Snapping around to the windshield with a billion thoughts now running through my head, I took off again, heading towards the way I knew we had come into the area. "So what you're telling me is that everyone's heaping their heavy expectations on Edward?"

"Daily," Alice confirmed sadly. "I think the only reason he's so specifically focused on my intervention and yours is because we spend the most time thinking about Edward and the possibilities. Both of us tend to think about the future and dream up all the variations that might take place. The others don't think so much ahead, but try living day by day. Add in their occasional thoughts to ours, however, and…"

She gestured uselessly at the air, conveying the obvious outcome of such an overload.

"All I did was mention a little quote from the book, Alice!" I retorted with great exasperation.

"Yes, but you did say 'it was funnier the way Bella said it'," she sighed again.

"Oh, for crying out loud!" I half-shouted to the world at large, nearly missing a stop sign until Alice reached for the brake pedal at an astronomical speed. I purposely remained stopped too long, even after she had pulled away, looking over at the tiny vampire in absolute agitation.

"I'm sorry, Mir," she responded with equal amounts of exasperation and frustration. "I know it's not fair for him to overreact like this, but he is under an enormous amount of stress right now. Jasper didn't even realize how much because Edward's been stamping it out so he doesn't snap at anyone. Particularly at you, since the two of you inevitably spend a lot of time together. The constant pressure from all of us, his irrational attempts to keep all his feelings bottled up, and his trying to protect your feelings… It's all pushing him to heretofore untested limits. Think of how stretched he was in the books and then imagine it all being thrown at him in one day. That's a lot to handle. I think today he finally reached a breaking point and it started to pour out."

"I hate it when I can't stay mad," I grumbled resignedly to my self, jumping when someone blew the horn at me. Scowling at the old burgundy Buick in the rearview mirror, I took off a little too fast, burning a bit of rubber along the way. Alice made a very tiny choking sound, and within a second I was laughing with her over it. The release of my frustration was a nice change and I felt far more concentrated than moments before.

"Was that why Edward let me go so easily just now?" I asked after a pause, looking ahead at the lessening amount of traffic. "So he wouldn't lash out further and hurt my feelings more?"

"Yes, that's why," Alice sighed once more, one hand resting at her right temple tiredly. "He wanted you to go before he lost it and started venting about everything. Jasper is thankfully handling him right now, so hopefully he's going to be a bit more open about all of this in future. It would be so much healthier for both of you. For the rest of us, too, but he's the one bottling it up and you're the one who tends to get in the line of fire, so…"

"All right, look…" I sighed myself, glad for the next red light I came upon so that I could turn to look at Alice as I spoke. "I would willingly listen to his venting. More than willingly, I would do it cheerfully! I just want him to realize when he's making it more personal than it needs to be. If he wants to yell and scream to a listening ear about the unfairness of it all, he can carry me off to the middle of the forest and shout it all out. He can even uproot a tree if he feels like it and I won't begrudge him the violence. Will you just let him know all that?"

"Cheerfully," she teased, grasping my hand with gratitude. "I think he'd like that, actually. Well, maybe not uprooting a tree, but you get what I mean."

"Yeah, I do," I replied amusedly, hitting the gas much gentler when the light turned green. "Well, get back to your weekend and try to take off Edward's blindfold for me."

"All right," Alice laughed lightly, giving my hand a squeeze. "Carlisle and Esme will be waiting for you at the house, okay?"

"Okay," I nodded my understanding, but felt guilty. "I wish I didn't have to interrupt their weekend. They didn't even get a full day alone."

"You just get home and have a nice meal," Alice waved away my worries. "Carlisle's going to order out for you and Esme is already making dessert. Then you three can play cards or watch movies or whatever. Or Carlisle can teach you chess… Oh, that would be a great weekend adventure for you!"

I was laughing at her rapid-fire ideas already and could only shake my head.

"Drop me at the next corner, just before the market," she informed me with new enthusiasm. "Go South around Puget Sound on the way back. It'll be a shorter drive, which the gas tank definitely needs right now."

The next corner was vacant of other cars just long enough for my passenger to hug me and get onto the pavement. A tan Impala with a speed fix came up almost immediately afterward, laying on the horn before they even fully pulled up behind me. Alice rolled her eyes and turned to glare at the driver with frightening intensity. I didn't see their reaction, but the horn did not blow again while Alice left me a parting message.

"Go to the station just past Sol Duc Way. Avoid the station at the edge of town," she said seriously, yet irritably. "The only things it can boast to its dubious credit are cheaper prices and a socially inept attendant who loves to flirt with moronic movie references. He'll annoy the hell out of you and keep you fifteen minutes longer."

Bursting into laughter, I could only wave at the pixie as I pulled away from the curb and she started walking back to the market.

The ride home was uneventful in every way except for my thoughts about Edward's stress levels and overreactions. That is, unless one counted a strange obsession with going faster than I really should have been once I met with a clear stretch of smooth highway with a major ocean view. Even if I didn't get caught by a cop, it was pretty reckless to go so fast with my pitiful human reflexes. I was beginning to get a speed thrill and that scared me a little. I had thoroughly hated speeding before I started riding around with Edward Cullen.

Regardless, I lightened my lead foot by the time I passed through Hoquiam and kept it that way the entire ride to Forks due to a mixture of ticket-anxiety and ethical consideration. Somewhere in Seattle, I knew Alice was probably in hysterics over it all, but decided it wasn't worth feeling irritated over.

The station with the movie-fanatic flirt certainly did look dubious as I passed, especially in the dark, and I was glad Alice had forewarned me. The one in town was not much better necessarily, but the attendant was female this time and didn't even look out the window as I pulled up to the fourth pump.

It occurred to me that I was in nylons and likely to freeze outside while I pumped the gas, so I dug around in the bags Alice had packed to find a pair of pants to go under my dress. A pair of gray leggings was first to hand, but they felt warm enough, so I put them on and continued looking for some flats. There were none that matched according to my taste, and being more of a fashion fiend than one might suspect, I sighed disappointedly and kept on my heels, returning my sight once more to the windshield. Out of habit, I enacted a cursory inspection of my surroundings.

I had to admit, however reluctantly, that Forks was a much creepier place than I had realized since arriving there. Nighttime at a gas station on a deserted street in any town could be unnerving, but Forks at that particular moment gave me a full complement of goose bumps that had nothing to do with the cold weather. An unnamed fear wrestled for control of my senses when I noticed how near the forest was to the gas station. I felt strange, unprotected, as I got out of the car and instinctively locked the door. It seemed to me some unknown threat lingered in the shadows of the surrounding buildings, waiting expectantly for a single misstep.

Shaking away the fright as thoroughly as possible under the circumstances, I moved to the pump and marked my choice of fuel. Waiting for the pump to be ready, I could barely keep the feelings in check. With a sigh of relief, I finally watched the digital display turn to zeros and squeezed the handle to begin fueling.

The tank filled so slowly it was unreal, leaving behind an increasing desire for it to move just a little faster every time I looked back at the display. At long last, however, the pumped clicked and thudded to a stopping point. Another wave of relief passed through me as I rapidly replaced the nozzle and jogged inside the station itself to pay, extremely uncomfortable remaining outside – alone – any longer than I had to.

The sandy-haired attendant, whose badge read 'Alexis,' looked up at me a bit bleary-eyed when the bell above the door clanged against the glass. Considering the red mark on her left cheek, I guessed I had caught her dozing, but she at least seemed fully operational as she entered the payment and printed my receipt.

"Thanks," I smiled quickly, eager to get into the car and get back to the house before the night became any more anxiety-inducing.

"Have a nice night," Alexis muttered more to herself than to me.

The bell clanged again as I made my way outside and jogged across the lot for the second time. Soon standing beside the driver's side door and clumsily digging the key from my pocket out of sheer anxiety, I absently noticed the attendant already dozing away on her arm again.

Just when the key slid completely in the lock, the lights above me flashed uncertainly. Startled, I whipped up to stare at the blinking brilliance, nervously realizing that every single light in the station's overhead was doing the same thing. Alexis slept on, oblivious to the situation right outside, and in another instant, the lights blinked out entirely to suspend the world in darkness, aided by the clouded night and lack of street lamps. The lights inside the station were too dim and too far from the Volvo to help matters, but it was curious that a power outage would not affect them.

I felt a furious shiver pass over me like ice water as the information crept through my mind. Lights did not just turn off all across a station while the interior lighting remained intact. Darkness remained around me, absolute and overwhelming, and I understood with great horror that my danger instinct was not as delusional as I had thought.

Something beyond my control rooted me to the ground, body frozen while my mind tried to process the fear coursing through my system. It was that single moment of immobility which I cursed in my head as something hard knocked straight into my abdomen, leaving in its wake a lingering pain the likes of which I had never experienced before.

The scream I was so close to uttering never left my throat, the breath ushered out of my lungs in one fell swoop from the blow and a thin yet strong hand clamped over my mouth before I could recover. Two large hands wrenched my arms behind my back with painful force at almost the same instant, dragging me along in my now unmanageable high heels to what I fearfully recognized as the tree line behind the station.

Before I could process anything with true coherency aside from the crushing fear, the black shade of the trees engulfed me and my abductors. Half dragged and half stumbling along in the dark for an eternity with my stomach clenched and knotted and hurting, I was too horrified to even cry. This could not be happening to me, was all I could think.

There were no more fully rational thoughts when another blow connected with my abdomen; somehow my mind now recognized that a fist had done it, but the thought was a detached fact as if from another person's brain. Hardly did I inhale when another blow rained down on me, this time on my upper arm. Someone shoved me to my knees as the fist connected again, this time my lower back. Pain burst my senses into gear with acute clarity of a sudden, and the world invaded my ears like water from a broken dam.

Leaves and natural debris rustled as my attackers moved around me, the foreground to the wind gusting about my ill-dressed form. The captors' breathing, quick and light, raced against my own labored, unsteady intake. A beat passed, then two, four more hits slamming into my back and knocking me to the ground. A kick smashed into my back, pain jolting around my shaking body like fireworks and forcing me into a fetal position to protect myself somehow. I didn't count the further blows, desperate to stay conscious after one blunted the side of my head.

My brain could not concentrate on anything except the pain and the continued impossibility of my circumstances. Why were they doing this? Who were they? What did they want?

No answers came.

I had read Rosalie's story. I had stared at her and known what happened to make her the way she was, but I never knew anything of what she must have felt. The helplessness of thinking she wasn't going to live until the dawn, the gripping terror and cruel suffering, and the steadily dying hope that someone would come to save her.

I wondered in some dark corner of my mind if I was ever going to feel again through the cracked lips and torn skin and multiple bruises, when my attackers added a new form of torture.

I hardly recognized my own voice as a scream curdled into the blustery air as violently as a siren.

Sharp, burning, stabbing pain thundered across my back like a white-hot firebrand had torn open my skin and someone poured acid into the wound. Thoughts flew out of my head, leaving nothing but a wish to black out, to escape. I prayed with everything I had for someone to hear the scream I had finally been able to loose into the atmosphere.

My prayers seemed to be answered when the blows stopped abruptly. Rustling and hissing echoed around me, my mind too beleaguered to comprehend the meaning until the sound of running footsteps passed vaguely into my hearing and disappeared into the silence.

They left.

They had really gone.

I could sense it, feel it in the air somehow as only the wind washed my battered body in coldness. Time passed, whether brief or long I could not tell. Nor did it matter in my shivering slump. Even the trees seemed to moan with me, deep and despairing, as I waited for someone, anyone to help me.

The idea hadn't even sunken into my head when the sirens came blaring from a distance away. Doors slammed and shouts sounded. Rustling grew louder and louder, someone running towards me at high speed.

"Mireille!" came a cry out of the silence, waking my depleted mind to the overwhelming pain more deeply than I had thought I could feel it anymore.

That voice, so full of choked desperation and pleading, blazed through me like a shot of adrenaline I could not suppress. My lips, cracked and bleeding though they were, still formed the name stuck in the back of my mind.

"Car-l-lisle," I managed to breathe out painfully, regretting every use of my vocal chords and the muscles of my face. Still I tried to move, to reach out. A strangled gasp of agony wavered in my entire body as the movement exacted its revenge.

"Do not talk any further." Carlisle tried to be calm, but the quaver in his voice gave away his fear as he spoke almost too rapidly for me to understand and petted the fringes of my hair with gentle fingers. "And do not try to move, dear. You will only hurt yourself further. They are bringing a stretcher now. We will get you out of here."

I couldn't do anything outwardly, my eyes too heavy to open and limbs too weighted down to move, but I thanked God for sending me help after all. For sending someone who cared.

"Carlisle!" came a gruff voice from further off, but one that was almost as worried and rushed as the doctor had been.

"Over here!" Carlisle shouted back, his petting stopped.

Heavy footsteps thudded into our space, near my head, some huffing and puffing accompanying it. There was an indrawn hiss of breath, a muttered curse, and then the gruff man spoke again, this time with fury.

"We're going to get whoever did this," he vowed in a low, angry tone. "I promise you I'm going to find them."

"Thank you, Charlie," Carlisle replied gratefully, albeit sadly, informing my drifting mind of whom the gruff voice belonged to.

Any further discussion ended when more footsteps entered the area. Something was placed beside me, and they lifted my pain-seared body awkwardly onto what I realized was a stretcher. Carlisle's cool hand on my forehead was the only thing that kept me from passing out. My bearers drew me out of the woods at a swift and jerky pace, but those kind fingers never abandoned me.

"You are going to be okay, sweetheart," Carlisle whispered kindly to me, voice breaking a little, as I was lifted up into an ambulance and an oxygen mask covered my face. The gentle doctor climbed up right behind the two paramedics who had carried the stretcher. Soon, he was the only one in the back with me, murmuring more words of reassurance and comfort. "I am going to take care of you, I promise. You will be all right."

"Let me call your family for you, Carlisle," Charlie offered more quietly than before as Carlisle kept on petting my hair in soft strokes. "You're the best surgeon we have. Family or no, you're going to be the one taking care of Mireille for a while yet. And I know you want Esme and the kids to get the straight facts as quick as possible."

"Yes, that... that would be wonderful," Carlisle awkwardly answered, brushing the hair away from my discolored face when it slipped over my nose. "Tell them… not to come up. I do not want them to see Mireille until I have gotten her out of surgery, at the very least."

"Of course," the chief agreed, tone sympathetic, before moving into a more tentative vein. "I hope you don't mind if I add a warning for your boys to stay at home and not get into any trouble looking for the attackers?"

"Yes, that is an excellent warning," Carlisle nodded firmly, seeming to square his shoulders. "I would not mind at all. Will you add my hearty agreement on that subject?"

"Be glad to. I'll touch base with you later," Charlie concluded firmly just before shutting the doors.

For a minute after sealing the interior of the medical transport, all was silent save my uncomfortable breathing. Carlisle began to work over me with the air of a man going to war and hating himself for it.

"You are going to be quite uncomfortable while I mend these lesser injuries, my dear," he informed me regretfully. "I will be as gentle as possible, but some of the damage may hurt worse before it gets better. I am sorry for that."

If I had not been under use of an oxygen mask, I would have assured him that his apology was needless, but I had to settle for giving as much of my sentiments as I could through eyes alone. When he caught the expression therein, Carlisle smiled sadly.

"I know you think my apology is not necessary," he replied with knowing fondness, still working over the minor lacerations with speed and efficiency. "But I will nevertheless feel terrible because of every moment of discomfort you feel. It is not something I will be able to prevent. Now, sweetheart, I am going to ask you a couple of questions. Blink once for yes and twice for no. Do you understand?"

I blinked once, as definitively as I was able.

"Good," he responded, a relieved smile crossing his face. "First, was your head hit during the attack?"

A single blink and my mind recalled the hard blow against the side of my head.

"More than once?"

Two blinks. I was starting to feel so very tired now that I was in safe hands. My body didn't want to stay awake for more questioning, although I pushed it to do so.

"Were you hit in the abdomen more than once?" Carlisle asked. I blinked once, but tried to convey the way I had protected my stomach after the first two blows there.

"Not many more, though?" was Carlisle's shrewd guess, eyeing my face carefully as I blinked once, much more tiredly than before. "Did you protect yourself?"

One very slow blink and he sighed with relief. "We will do x-rays to check your ribs, but I think they are fine. That should speed up your healing time… Now, I am going to check for a concussion, all right?"

It was exceedingly difficult to blink this time, my eyelids growing heavier and heavier every moment.

"Honey, just stay awake a little longer," Carlisle pleaded with me, ghosting a hand across my eyelids. "Open your eyes. Come now, just open them for me."

Opening my eyes was like trudging through a bog on a foggy night, but I did it. True to his word, Carlisle was quick but thorough as he shone a penlight in my eyes and checked my concentration.

The doctor fell quiet after, probably uncertain what else to say. Complete silence encompassed the rest of the trip – which was thankfully brief – until the ambulance opened up again to reveal a mess of noise and confusion that made my head hurt even more. My jolting, painful trip into the emergency room passed in a blur of brilliant white overhead lights and squinting against the ensuing head pains.

"You can try to rest now, sweetheart," Carlisle murmured at my ear, once more brushing the hair from my forehead. "You will wake up mended and on the road to healing, all right?"

An irrational fear gripped me as he pulled away, my panicked attempts at squirming drawing the gentle vampire back in a hurry. "Do not worry yourself," he said worriedly. "I will be there when you wake, I promise you that. Try and relax now, dear. Just relax. I am going to count backwards from fifty and I want you to listen carefully."

By the time he reached thirty, the edges of my vision had crept into a small, blurry circle and hurriedly continued into utter oblivion. I never even felt the hypodermic pierce my skin.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Notes:
When it rains, it pours. Job loss, financial problems, car issues, power outages, health concerns… we've had it all this year. I also had computer issues, and lost everything for my stories. The hard lesson of keeping backups and not depending solely on one method of storage. *sigh* So, if you're a writer and you don't already… then save, save, save! Do it in different locations if possible. Even keeping a draft of the latest chapters on your email account would be helpful.

I've had to rebuild all the information that wasn't in a published chapter. On EVERY unfinished story. Thus, it took me this long to even begin dealing with it all. I had half-written chapters for this story, Damages, and several other stories, all of which are gone. So it was back to scratch. In some ways that might refresh the story, but I hate losing the hard work I put in before. And let me tell you, there was a LOT of it. Damages is frustrating without the framework I had, so that will be a long wait again. But I swear I am forcing things into progress no matter what. I refuse to let my stories flounder while the ideas are still thick in my brain.

Re-reading the earlier chapters of this story will not only be recommended because of time, but because I was forced to do some retconning, so please be aware of that. I just happened to remember the information on this particular chapter more than any other, so I had a much easier time writing it up again. Here is the culmination of that god-awful cliffhanger!

Previously – Edward and Mireille drove to a market in Seattle and argued over the books. Edward was rude, Mireille scratched the Volvo, and she drove away. Alice met Mireille and explained Edward's attitude. Mireille stopped for gas in Forks and sensed something very wrong. Mireille was attacked and badly damaged. Something scared the attackers away. Mireille thought she would die, then Carlisle and Charlie found her. Carlisle took Mireille into surgery.

Chapter 22: Implications

White… Pure, sterile, unyielding white.

Noise... Loud, cacophonous, jarring noise.

And pain… Blazing, uncomfortable, startling pain.

That was all I could see, all I could hear, all I could feel.

Voices collided and mashed around me, full of confusion and panic and energy my mind was incapable of processing. Everything overwhelmed me, roaring across my senses with useless, mindless waves of bedlam. Before I could attempt to comprehend any of it, the world coalesced and surged into an abyss of complete and total blackness once more.

When I woke next, the atmosphere did not explode into being like a blinding sun. There were no voices battling for my attention. All was quiet, save the infernal beep, beep, beep which invaded my sluggish senses with annoying frequency. For far too much time, I attempted to ignore the sound, my eyes remaining stubbornly closed. Yet returning to sleep became impossible. Driven by constant curiosity and frustration, I finally forced my obstinate eyes open.

Squinting against the overly bright lighting above, I slowed my eyelids to a tortoise's pace until the white around me didn't seem so blinding. The last part of the room I came to terms with was the small window on the parallel wall. In that little room, which was actually quite dull in spite of its imperial white walls, the one tiny window gave off a bounty of sunshine. It seemed unfair, that I should be stuck in what was obviously a hospital room while the sun shone with such abandon outside of it.

Once adjusted to the room, I tried to remember where exactly I was and what had happened. My eyes traveled over the IV in my arm, the heart monitor clipped to my finger, a drab hospital gown, and stiff white blankets. The side table had been filled with a water bottle, a plastic cup, pill bottles, prescription boxes, clean bandages, and ointments I'd never heard of. Further down the wall sat a single padded chair, upon which a clipboard lay full to bursting with paperwork. Before I could examine the room any further (or possibly injure myself more by trying to), the door clicked open and my eyes flew to see who the visitor was.

"Carlisle," I breathed in muted surprise.

Once again since landing in fictional Forks, I had thought myself only dreaming my adventures with the Cullens. But this was no dream.

"Mireille," Carlisle sighed with a flabbergasted combination of relief, gentility, and gratitude.

"I r—" I tried to speak, but my voice cracked and died before I could do so. It hurt to speak just the same as it hurt to breathe and move my body.

Carlisle rushed to my side, hurriedly pouring water into the plastic cup I'd noticed a few moments earlier. He had to hold my head up for me, and swallowing made my throat ache, but the cool relief and moisture was worth it. Only half of the water remained after I finished sipping, leaving Carlisle equally concerned and pleased.

"What I was trying to say," I picked up at a whisper, in spite of the doctor's disapproving glance, "is that I really need to stop thinking this is all a dream."

"Indeed," was all Carlisle said, lips slightly pursed.

"Look," I continued to speak through a sigh, wincing at the movement, "if you're trying to stop me from talking, your approach is all wrong."

"Is it?" he responded a bit tartly, eyeing me with fatherly disapproval.

"Yes, of course," I answered confidently despite my soft voice, ignoring burning pains all over the place with a ridiculous amount of stubbornness. "If you want me to stop talking, then you'll have to fill the silence, not leave it wide open like that."

Against his better judgment, Carlisle began to chuckle lightly.

After a beat, he sighed, "All right. Then I shall have to try a more devious tactic… I never counted on you waking up so early today. My hope was for you to sleep into the evening. Please, sweetheart, for your health and my sanity, will you try to rest your throat if nothing else?"

Faced with this sweet, unexpected parental approach, my resolve died instantly. "Oh, okay."

"Thank you," Carlisle sighed more happily than before. "I'll be right here if you need me."

Remembering my promise to rest, I just lifted the corners of my mouth up in some semblance of a smile so as to avoid more of the same pain, watching the doctor sit in that padded visitors' chair.

Carlisle's obvious familiarity with the seat, coupled with the immediacy with which he chose a spot on his paperwork to begin again, told me a suspicious tale. I had promised to rest, and rest I would. But the next time I awoke there would definitely be some questions to answer. That was the repeating mantra in my mind as I lay there.

One more thought crossed my mind, and I forgot my promise long enough to tell Carlisle what was on my mind.

"Carlisle, don't put me on a bunch of meds if you don't have to. I hate them… and they're so… so…" My words trailed off as I fell under the spell of sleep once more, never hearing whatever reply Carlisle might have made.

A third moment of waking came much easier than either of the previous two, the sun no longer shining in through the window this time. Instead, the dark of night beleaguered Forks.

"Good evening, Mireille," Carlisle spoke quietly from the same chair – drawing my slow gaze over to him where he sat holding his clipboard again – and offered me a small smile.

"Mr. sunshine was being very sarcastic today," I mentioned mindlessly, my thoughts stuck on that tiny window for some reason. Everything felt a little disconnected still, so I guessed that was the problem.

Carlisle chuckled gently, his smile broadening more naturally than before. "Yes, I suppose he was."

"You haven't left here much, have you?" I asked with abrupt curiosity, irritated by my scratchy voice.

"Not exactly," Carlisle murmured a bit embarrassedly, glancing away towards the window a moment. Those golden features turned so pensive and gray that I almost felt badly for bringing it up. "You looked so… small, fragile… and I could not leave you all by yourself, even if you were not awake."

Caught by the emotion in his soft voice and the obvious care therein, I found a sudden pressure looming behind my eyes, which were quite unexpectedly wet. Turning swiftly to face me with something approaching alarm, the golden-haired doctor's brows furrowed worriedly.

"M' fine," I mumbled through a thick throat, wincing as I swallowed against it.

Continuing to frown, Carlisle reached for the glass of water on the side table, helping me through the painful process of lifting my head to drink. Laying my head back down did nothing to quell my many discomforts, but at least it did not increase them.

"If I did not already have a very good idea of what you are going through, I would inquire after how you feel," the doctor announced with a heavy sigh, sitting back against the chair with a mild thump. "I am so sorry you are experiencing this."

"What's the story?" I wondered, focusing on the conversation as much as my body would allow in its current condition.

"Exactly what happened," Carlisle seemed to shrug. "You were driving back home from Seattle, stopped for gas, and they attacked you."

The manner in which the patriarch said 'they' was very curious. Almost as if he knew—

"You do know who it was," I whispered lower than ever, ensuring I could not be overheard by anyone except for the vampire beside me.

"Of course we do," Carlisle muttered half beneath his breath, but even then I could hear the fury coiling tightly in his tone. "Alice and Edward watched as it happened, and I could easily smell their scents on you and the surrounding environment as I came upon the scene."

A chill ran down my spine at the knowledge of who it must have been.

"The three from the dance," I whispered just as softly, dread pooling in my stomach. "The ones who were going to…"

The words died on my tongue, so ill did they make me feel. They had done exactly as they said.

Swallowing against the sick feeling, I closed my eyes as Carlisle went on, anger still clear in his words, "Only two. Vanessa Travis and Greg Overman."

"Why?" I breathed, incapable of understanding the violence I had endured from two people I had never actually met. How could two human beings wish the pain and terror I had felt – and continued to feel – upon another person? "Even knowing they hurt me like this, I couldn't even fathom wishing the same violence on them."

Sighing ever more darkly, Carlisle grasped my hand comfortingly in his own, the temperature not even a barrier. "Who can truly understand such things, Mireille? Two angry people decided to hate you without ever knowing you. It makes no sense. There is no real 'why' in this situation. Their anger drove them, and they allowed it to cause deep, abiding pain to another human being. We will never be able to genuinely explain or comprehend that choice."

"So they've been caught?" I asked.

"Not yet," Carlisle practically growled.

"What… How?" I floundered, impossibly confused. There had to be evidence. There just had to be.

"Whatever proof there is, it was mostly on you and your clothing," Carlisle kept on growling his words and grinding his teeth, yet he had sense enough to remain as quiet as possible. "We made sure to collect whatever evidence we could find upon your person. It will take at least two weeks to process any DNA, no physical evidence can be found in the vegetation, and because the ground was surprisingly dry, there were no footprints to speak of… Oh, I could see the faintest indentations upon the soil, of course. But it is not as though I can bring my vampire senses to everyone's attention, which therefore results in waiting upon the average human senses to find what little they can and hope it is enough."

"What's happening with the others?" was my tentative response to his heated talk. I didn't even dare to imagine what the rest of the family was going through – even if I needed to know. They couldn't come and see me, since I was in the hospital where there was frequently fresh blood around, and I couldn't guess what effect that absence had.

"Do you really want to know?" Carlisle queried rhetorically with the hundredth sigh of the day. "It was a near thing when Charlie called and told them to stay at home and out of trouble. Alice barely recovered enough to agree with the idea. Other than that, there is nothing positive happening at home. Mr. Greene was in full agreement with my pulling the others out of school for the coming two weeks, which does more harm than good in many ways. And Esme… all she talks about is seeing you and taking care of you. Until I bring you home, she will not be content."

"When will I be getting out of here?" I asked resignedly, disturbed by the mess everything had become after it all seemed set so fine.

"I have arranged to take you home in a few days, if all goes well," he replied. "I can care for you just as well there, now that you are no longer in need of surgery, so it is only a matter of your body healing enough to be moved. Based on the rate of healing I have seen so far, I would estimate Tuesday, but that is based in my extra senses and invisible to my human colleagues, so it may be a longer wait than that."

"I wish Esme was able to visit," I sighed awkwardly, mind returning with sadness to the motherly vampire. "It'd be good for her to see me awake."

"Yes, and it would help with the rumors I've heard today," Carlisle groaned slightly, folding his arms over his chest. "Apparently, some even doubt it was an outside attack."

"Excuse me?" I muttered, blinking owlishly at the implications.

"It is exactly what it sounds like," he assured me tiredly. "With the others unable to visit, the less-informed people in town and at the hospital see it as a family divided over its newest member. Some of the comments I have fended off… You would not believe the audacity when some of the nurses speak with me."

"Send them to me, then," I almost growled myself, ignoring the twinges it gave me. "I'll give them a piece of my mind they won't soon forget, believe me."

Chuckling suddenly at my fervor, Carlisle patted my hand. "Well, not just yet, my dear. I doubt your body would be up to that right now."

Regardless how little my body was up to such a task, I certainly gave it a good try whenever a flirty, annoying nurse pushed her way into my private room, acting sympathetic towards me and seductive towards Carlisle. One in particular, named Jill, drove me up a wall with her clumpy mascara, over-painted lips, too-tight scrubs, and general apathy towards anyone who wasn't Carlisle.

"How do you even get scrubs to fit that tightly?" I had commented irritably to Carlisle after the first time meeting Jill. "They're made baggy, for heaven's sake!"

Carlisle had merely grinned at my frustrated commentary, having already lived with its constant presence since my waking. As had the nurses of Forks General Hospital. Indeed, every nurse who entered my room was given one chance to not flirt with the married doctor. Those who did, I grumbled about. Those who flirted and also made some subtly disparaging comment about Esme or the other Cullens, I grumbled about and glared at. Childish though it may have seemed, it was all I could really do to get my point across. My point being, essentially, to leave the Cullens alone and quit flirting with an obviously married man.

On my final day in the hospital, which was indeed Tuesday, Jill was unfortunately the one to bring my last lunch tray. The same clumps of mascara, over-bright lipstick, and inhumanely tight scrubs remained, as did Jill's most agitating expression – cow-eyed.

"Jill, is there something wrong with my niece's meal?" Carlisle inquired curiously when she still hadn't left, the deeply buried hint of ice in his voice all too clear to me.

"Of course not, Dr. Cullen," Jill laughed with false airiness, her heavy-laden gaze latched onto Carlisle's face. "Why would there be?"

"Perhaps because you have yet to set it down?" he mentioned ever so casually, yet the lift of his brow and the lilt of satire in his tone proved just the opposite.

"Oh," Jill murmured, embarrassed, rapidly slipping the tray across my legs with bad grace and backing away one step. It was to her misfortune she glanced my way at that precise moment, for my glare apparently terrified her almost as much as Carlisle's subtle, sarcastic reprimand. Turning all kinds of red, the nurse scurried from the room as quickly as possible.

"I've come to the conclusion that the nurses around here are idiots," I ground out mercilessly a moment later, jabbing viciously at a fruit cup over and over with no tangible results. "Except for Diane… Yeah. The rest need to forego reproducing, because clearly their mental deficiencies should not be passed on to a new generation."

Snorting at my convolutions, Carlisle tried very hard not to laugh outright. Instead, he sighed a little and reached over to calmly and smoothly remove the lid of my fruit cup. "I must say, I never saw the nursing staff so traumatized until you started glaring at them."

Despite his laughing words, I felt suddenly overbearing in my manner. It wasn't really my place to defend Carlisle's marriage, I guessed. "I'm sorry…"

"Oh, don't be!" the doctor finally laughed outright, his easy honesty reassuring me immensely. "Not only have you assuaged those foolish rumors about our family's feelings toward you, I have also never had an easier time fending off flirtatious nurses!"

Biting my lip to stifle a laugh I knew would not be comfortable, I didn't argue with him, but ate my lunch without complaint.

Much to my gratitude, it wasn't long after lunch that we prepared to go home. Carlisle discreetly aided me in dressing, helping as much as he could while still giving me privacy. I didn't trust anyone else enough to accept the assistance of a stranger's hands.

Thoroughly exhausted and perpetually in pain, I finally settled into the wheelchair with his help. It was an odd chair, fitted with improvised padding to straighten my back to a less dangerous angle. Carlisle grabbed our bags and pushed me out of the tiny hospital room with great relief it seemed; despite my horrid condition, I felt the same relief in spades. Whatever pains and discomforts I felt, however sickening it could get, everything would be a thousand times better if I could talk freely and finally be among all of the Cullens again.

Coming upon the lobby, Carlisle and I found Charlie Swan and an unfamiliar doctor waiting to see us off.

"It's good to see you awake, Mireille," the doctor smiled warmly, and I liked him right off the bat. "Maybe now Carlisle will start to take care of his own health, too?"

"Mireille, this is Dr. Gerandy," Carlisle introduced us with a chuckle, obviously accustomed to this type of response from his colleague.

"It's nice to meet you," I offered a bit weakly.

"I only wanted to see you off. I won't keep you waiting," the older doctor responded kindly. "I know you must be extremely uncomfortable. Take care, you two."

"We will," Carlisle answered for both of us as Dr. Gerandy walked away, leaving us in the company of Bella's father.

"And this," Carlisle continued seamlessly, turning to gesture at the other man, "is Charlie Swan, our chief of police."

"Mireille," Charlie nodded once in greeting. "Glad to see you're on the mend."

"Thanks," I replied simply, growing more tired than ever. Both doctor and police chief noticed immediately.

"Why don't I walk you both out?" Charlie stated more than asked.

"A good idea," Carlisle commented easily, turning my chair toward the main doors as he conversed further with the chief. "I can't thank you enough for all you've done the past few days."

"Got a girl of my own," Charlie responded, a dash of tenderness buried underneath the rough exterior. "I wouldn't want anything like this to happen to her."

My mind blanked entirely as the phrase processed, and I could feel Carlisle gripping my shoulder with gentle understanding when we came up to the Mercedes.

"I know what you mean," was the doctor's quiet answer.

The two men stopped talking as they worked in tandem to maneuver me into the passenger seat, which had been laid back all the way and plumped up at the fold to even out my spine. Every move was horrid, my back causing me every kind of grief where the worst injury had been, but finally I was left still.

"Seeing this just makes my blood boil," Charlie ground out, trying to fall beneath my hearing and failing. "I swear we're going to do whatever possible to find justice here."

"Until that time, we'll keep her safe," Carlisle murmured sadly, brushing a hand across my forehead before he pulled away and stood back from the door. Just before he moved to shut it, I forced out words I had wanted to say since waking up, but nearly forgot in the midst of everything.

"Thank you, Chief Swan," I said quietly, but firmly. In an instant, the cop in question squatted down to my level. "I remember you being there. You've been great."

"Ah, call me Charlie," the dark-haired man awkwardly shrugged, but the hint of a smile teased his lips. "And maybe you can get Carlisle in the habit of it. He seems to forget it a lot."

Outside my range of sight, Carlisle chuckled good-naturedly.

"I'll try," I smiled a little in return as Charlie pulled back, allowing Carlisle to close the door fully this time.

Words passed between the two outside of the vehicle for a moment and after a handshake, Carlisle headed around to the driver's side. I watched through the windshield as Charlie headed to the cruiser, Carlisle settling in beside me as I did so.

"Let's get out of here," the golden-haired doctor sighed, grabbing the wheel with one hand and my fingers with the other.

As we made our way out of town and more and more trees passed us by, both of us remained silent and contemplative. It was only once the Mercedes passed over the Sol Duc River that some silent agreement passed between us and a duo of sighs escaped our mouths. Huffing a miniscule laugh, Carlisle seemed to relax minutely into his seat and his cold grip on my fingers loosened. Scant minutes passed before the private drive came up. Where I thought the trees might have reminded me of the attack, of my fear and pain, of helplessness… I felt only a sense of welcome and safety. The Cullens would take care of me. Of that I had no doubts.

Coming upon the house brought a new mystery to my mind, for something covered the windows from the inside. I just couldn't see entirely what it was from such a distance.

"Carlisle?" I inquired curiously.

"You'll see," he smiled slightly at me, patting my hand and stopping the car. He was out and around my side before I could ask any more, and had me up in his arms with as little jostling as possible. There was still pain, but far less than Carlisle's faked human reflexes had been capable of.

With my condition, Carlisle used a human speed to walk up to the house, where I noticed Esme standing outside on the porch wringing her hands while she took us in.

"We're finally home," the doctor spoke first, approaching more slowly the closer we came.

"Carlisle," was all the caramel-haired vampire could say, biting her lip anxiously and golden eyes all on me.

"Hi, Esme," I quietly remarked, my head lying heavily on Carlisle's hard upper arm.

"Oh, sweetheart," Esme murmured mistily, lack of tears notwithstanding. In a second, she stood beside us at the foot of the porch steps, fluttering over me until she laid her fingers on the top of my head. "After all our plans to keep you safe—"

"Hush, dear," Carlisle quieted his wife gently. "No one could have anticipated the way this turned out."

"I know," the motherly vampire admitted just as tearfully. "I just wish she'd been spared this."

"So do I," the doctor responded softly still. "Let's get her inside now. It's too cold out here."

"Of course," Esme whispered through a watery smile, leaning in to kiss my forehead and brush my hair back one more time. Turning, she led the way inside the house and waited to close the door behind us.

I was reminded strangely of the night Edward carried me inside after flying across the roads at top speed to Sacramento and back. While the original purpose for that night out was to discuss Charles Evenson, that dark subject could not put a dampener on the fun we had chatting in the café together and watching Underworld.

My pleasant thoughts trailed away rapidly as the foyer passed and we entered the living area.

Every available surface in the house looked fit to bursting with the colors of the flag. Tinsel garland in the trio of colors bedecked every ledge, streamers and lantern garland dipped down low and spread from one wall to another. Patriotic confetti had been scattered over any flat surface, even the floor. From the high ceiling hung balloons and paper fans. The enormous window wall at the back had been decorated with patriotic window clings as far as the eye could see. At the center of everything was the coffee table, boasting a smooth-frosted white cake with red, white, and blue sprinkles; a piece had even been cut out to reveal a three-layer patriotic interior.

Around the coffee table stood Emmett in the most blatant button-down shirt I had ever seen, the entire thing designed to look like the American flag. Jasper's plaid button-down and blue jacket were far subtler, yet clearly portrayed the patriotic theme. Between them, Rosalie had even dressed to the theme slightly with blue jeans and an atypically simple blouse of navy blue and white. Although I had not noticed at first, Esme also sported something patriotic with her red and white striped top.

"What is all this?" I asked softly, taking care not to strain myself, yet allowing as much of my awe to show as I was able.

"We appreciate our two battle-scarred vets," Emmett spoke for everyone, voice much more subdued than usual, even as he tried to hide it under a façade of celebration. "So Happy Veterans' Day, Mir and Jasper. You're two of the toughest people we know."

"Thank you," was all I could get out in response, my voice a strangled whisper. Jasper offered me a tiny half-smile of understanding.

"Now, we got a gift for you, Mir," Emmett continued with false cheer meant solely for my benefit as he turned to pick up something from the nearest sofa, and I wondered why no one else had yet spoken. What little I could comprehend at first was relegated to the pinched set to Rosalie's features, Jasper's tense shoulders, and Esme's stiff smile.

More notably than anything else, however, Alice's and Edward's absences claimed my attention. The overwhelming occasion presented had distracted me for a moment. Long enough to forget two of the family were missing from this little celebration. Discomfited, I searched the room as much as my body could withstand before accepting the two gifted vampires were nowhere to be found. Carlisle gave a restraining squeeze to my leg, but my pains were warning enough without the gesture.

"There you go," Emmett proclaimed with something approaching his usual boisterous nature, but I saw the difference in his typically boyish face. The proffered gift, wrapped in a thick blue throw, held little appeal when I could see the effect my circumstances had on everyone, yet I couldn't deny it now. It obviously meant something especially significant to the big vampire.

With a small smile I reached out to touch the throw, already in love with its ultra soft texture.

"The blanket is yours, too, honey," Esme finally spoke up. "I thought you might like something extra soft after all those hospital blankets."

"And Edward told me about what's inside it," Emmett added with a tentative shrug. "Said you liked them."

"Them?" I whispered curiously.

"Here," the big guy said more gently, gesturing for me to peel away the throw. But my hand was too weak and I had grown too weary since waking up that morning in the hospital. For the first time since the attack, I hadn't taken a nap in the afternoon. Carlisle decided it must have been excitement that had done it, since we were to be leaving that day.

"Maybe… Could you…" I tried to ask, embarrassed to have to say it, but it was necessary as I laid my head back against Carlisle's arm tiredly. "Could you please do it, Em?"

It was the first time I had called anyone in the house by a nickname, and I had no idea if he even liked that name. But it seemed fitting, and it was so much quicker when my energy sat so low.

Everyone seemed to blanch, and Carlisle's arms stiffened beneath me as the sentiment processed. Within a moment, a tick began to move in Rosalie's jaw and Jasper's eyes narrowed. Emmett was swiftest to recover from upset, replying with that same atypical gentleness, "Sure thing, Mir."

The burly vampire carefully unwrapped the new throw, revealing an underside of cream until finally a familiar shape emerged from the mass of soft fabric.

"A penguin?" I questioned, some sense of bubbly joy burning in me despite my lethargy as I took in the huge, fluffy stuffed animal sitting in Emmett's large hands.

"Yep," he confirmed, a real and genuine cheer entering his eyes. "And he's all yours. I kind of thought… maybe you might like a friend to keep you company when you're stuck in bed. Edward told me to get a penguin because you like them."

Tears hindered my vision for a moment, and when the big vampire placed the comfortable throw and plush penguin in my arms, I buried my face into Carlisle's arm with bashful emotion over the sweet sentiment. Chuckling was Emmett's only response.

"We'd better get you in bed now," Carlisle said softly, lips pressing against the top of my ducked head. "I shouldn't have left it this long, but I wanted you to know how much everyone cares."

"Thank you," I whispered, overwhelmed and grateful. A slew of 'you're welcome' washed over me before we headed upstairs.

I was all too thankful for Emmett's sweet little gift once Carlisle began to settle me in the bed; everything that had seemed to pause downstairs suddenly reappeared with a fearful vengeance and I found my self squeezing that soft toy like a life preserver. It couldn't stop pain, but it softened the blows of my healing body somehow. My back, more than any other damage, called my attention like a beacon with its burning pain, and against logic, I had to ask.

"My back…" I started through tense breaths. "Carlisle, what did they do to my back?"

"It was a knife," he nearly growled in reply. "There will certainly be a scar, but no permanent damage."

A knife. They had sliced my back open. Because of jealousy, they had beaten me and cut me. Bile rose in my throat, but I pushed it back forcefully. "Was that the worst?"

"Yes," he said through clenched teeth. "That will take the longest to heal."

I just nodded a little, knowing better than to move too much.

"Sweetheart," Esme spoke up, "while you sleep, Carlisle, Rosalie, and I need to talk with Edward and Alice for a little while."

"Jasper and Emmett will be here and you can ask them for anything," Carlisle assured me firmly yet comfortingly. "We'll be back soon, I promise."

"Okay," I whispered almost beneath my breath, wishing for sleep already.

"Sleep well, honey," Esme murmured, kissing my forehead. Carlisle brushed my hair back as he had often done since I woke in the hospital and then they were both gone.

I tried to relax, to sleep… I wanted to so badly. Every fiber of my being cried out for rest, peace, stillness… But it would not come. For what felt like hours I lay there in the huge bed, clutching the soft blue throw in one hand where it lay over me beneath a mountain of different covers, and my penguin in the other hand. Like a little child I clutched my security blankets and prayed fervently for true rest without the pain nagging every nerve ending. At last I knew it was impossible, tears clouding my eyes and restlessness clogging my mind as the realization struck home more powerfully than ever.

In a last ditch attempt to keep it under wraps and not worry Jasper, I put my mind in sight of the same peaceful, grassy plain I had used upon first meeting the Cullen family to claim calm. A gentle dip in the mattress let me know I failed.

"What's wrong, darlin'?" the honey-blond vampire asked quietly.

"I… I'm… I just want to… to sleep," I breathed in a sigh of a voice, my desperation shining through brightly as my tears nearly spilled over.

"Just let me do all the work," Jasper murmured ever-so-kindly, taking the hand not wrapped around my penguin and gently pressing with reassurance. "You'll be all right."

Mere moments passed before I started feeling drowsy, Jasper's special gift working its way through me and pressing the lethargy I had been missing into my system. Sleep came like an old friend, beloved and much-anticipated after a too-long absence. I couldn't even remember the moment my eyes slipped shut for good.

What seemed to be mere minutes later, I was awoken from a dead sleep by the immense sound of shattering glass. Startled, I attempted to rise, forgetting in my sluggish mind that I should not do so. Barely had the thought fluttered past than did a cold hand gently brush my forehead in a gesture of restraint. Obliging the hand, I refrained from moving further. As it moved away, a familiar voice floated into my ears, warning me and informing me simultaneously.

"Don't move, Mir," Alice told me, "Rosalie just broke a vase by accident. Go back to sleep, all right?"

"Alice," I called to her, hearing her voice fade even as she spoke, yet she pulled away and did not speak again. I dared to try rising a second time, wishing she wouldn't leave, when a wave of lethargy not my own weighted me in the bed. Understanding immediately where it came from, I felt and said a reprimand to the responsible party, my words slurring with sleep already. "Jassh..ver…"

"Sorry, Mireille," the Texan vampire apologized quietly, the last thing I remembered for the night.

By my count, three days passed in this manner, with me attempting to sleep and something causing the others to worry or believe I was overworking my body. Esme would fret audibly over the situation, Rosalie or Emmett or distant Alice would suggest I needed to sleep more, and Jasper would once again give me a bout of lethargy I could not shake. Each time my frustration grew by the unnecessary pressure and sleep, but by the time I woke next, I became distracted by pain or human moments or nourishment or news about the investigation, and I forgot what I wanted to say until it happened again.

Carlisle was the one person in the entire house who didn't know what was going on. From the little I learned during his early afternoon talks with me, Carlisle had been run off his feet working with Charlie, catching up paperwork, doing more paperwork for my situation, talking with high school administration and teachers, trying to reason with an unmoving and guilt-ridden Edward and Alice, working to reschedule with Dr. Gerandy, Dr. Snow, and his superiors at the hospital… For once, even vampire endurance and longevity did not help calm the circumstances; Carlisle simply had too much to do. It was all up to him, since often it required a meeting or a signature that only my 'official guardian' could give.

It all came to a head one evening when Carlisle came home from a visit with Charlie about the investigation. The doctor had been taking excellent care of me, never doing anything without my consent, so I felt badly for him when he realized what his family had been doing in his absence. Granted, they did it out of sheer worry and care, something which I couldn't fault them for, but the situation had to end.

"This must stop. If you continue in this vein of constant sleep manipulation, you will cause long-term damage to Mireille's natural sleep patterns," Carlisle chided his family, even Esme, as he stood between them and me with crossed arms. "I won't even describe all the harm this could bring to her body in general. A great many things in the human body depend upon proper sleep in order to function in a healthy manner. Even if that were not the case, I am thoroughly disappointed that all of you refused to consider Mireille's personal choice in this situation. I know you care about her, and you were worried she needed more rest in order to fully heal, but it was not your place to decide for her. To the outside world, she may be a minor in my care, but in truth she is an adult woman capable of deciding her own life."

Out of all the family, Esme looked the most morose with her decisions the past few days, and I felt sorry for her. Worry alone had driven her, which negated any real, possible anger I might have felt.

"Jasper," Carlisle called on the empathic vampire firmly but kindly. "Unless you have Mireille's personal consent, in conjunction to my consent as her doctor, you will not aid Mireille's rest. Under no other circumstances are you to manipulate her sleep. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Carlisle," Jasper nodded his agreement, looking sincerely repentant. "I'm very sorry, Mireille."

"I'm sorry, too, Mir," Emmett muttered as well, shoving his hands uncomfortably in his pockets.

"So am I," Rosalie murmured, looking towards the floor awkwardly as she led her husband towards the door.

"It's okay," I forgave quietly, confident in the knowledge they truly regretted the situation.

Emmett, Rosalie, and Jasper left the room silently, leaving an extremely upset Esme to speak last. The motherly vampire reappeared at my side with a wobbly smile of apology.

"Sweetie, I'm so sorry," she moaned worriedly. "It's so new, handling a human under such circumstances, and I was so afraid you'd be in a lot of pain if you were awake too long."

"I know, Esme," I assured her with a half-smile, glad that my face and throat at least had healed enough to speak comfortably at a reasonable volume, "but the pain isn't going to go away until I'm healed. And as much as sleep will help my body to do that, the biggest factor is simply time. Carlisle would have said something if I needed more sleep, and he never did. He knows what he's doing and he respects my choices. So if you ever worry about it, just trust him. That ought to be easy for you, right?"

Laughing with genuine humor for the first time in days, Esme leaned over to kiss my forehead. "You're right, Mir. That is easy. The hard part is remembering that in a moment of worry!"

The last she said with another laugh, so I knew she would remember the next time.

"I'll let you be, sweetie," she said at the last. "After all this, you'll need some genuine sleep, I think."

"Probably," I smiled, but quickly turned mischievous. "You guys sure are a bunch of trouble."

Carlisle and Esme laughed lightly and the latter left in a blur of movement.

"Is there anything you need, Mireille?" Carlisle asked, coming to sit at the side of the bed.

Ringing from his pocket interrupted my reply, and he pulled out his cell phone with a slight frown. "Dr. Cullen speaking."

Like a rain storm clearing to reveal blue skies, Carlisle's confusion melted away. "Hello, Mr. Weber."

Startled by the mention of Angela's father, I listened all the more closely to the conversation.

"Yes, she's… not doing so well at the moment," the doctor responded with a glance towards me, pausing to take in something Mr. Weber said. "…Well, that sounds very kind… Yes, I think that might be arranged. Just one moment."

Pulling the phone away for a minute, Carlisle turned fully towards me to ask quietly, "What would you think of a visit from Mr. Weber and Angela when you're feeling stronger?"

"A visit?" I wondered blankly, surprised. "What brought that up?"

"Mr. Weber heard what happened and they've been keeping you in their prayers," Carlisle replied with a smile. "Angela suggested coming to see you, giving you some company while you're stuck here."

"That's really nice," I smiled back at him, already liking Angela without ever having met her. "I think I'd like that."

"All right," he nodded, pulling the phone back to his ear. "Mr. Weber? …We'd be delighted to have you both over. How about next Saturday? Eight days should see marked improvement in Mireille's condition… Yes, that's fine… Thank you, Mr. Weber… Have a good night."

"Well, by next Saturday, we shall have to clear anything suspicious from this room," Carlisle told me, face becoming thoughtful. "And we shall certainly have to be cautious about Edward sharing the space."

"I told you that would be an issue," I had to say.

"Well, we have eight days in which to handle that," Carlisle assured me easily. "It's not a very troublesome issue. I highly doubt Angela and her father will go poking around the closets to see if Edward has any clothes stashed there."

If I hadn't known the problems it might cause to giggle, I would have done so. "Okay."

"Now, do you need anything?" he wondered.

"I think I'll just try to sleep a little more," I murmured tentatively. "Not sure I'll get there, but I'll try."

"I suppose I should have another word with Edward and Alice," Carlisle sighed, long-suffering. "Little good though it may do."

"I wish they wouldn't keep blaming themselves," I muttered uncomfortably.

"May I use that in my argument?" was Carlisle's dry comment.

Smiling sleepily and reaching for my new friend the stuffed penguin, I agreed easily, "If it works, go for it."

Chuckling, Carlisle left me to a natural rest with one last brush over my hair.


Chapter Text

Disclaimer: I do not own nor make profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.

A/N: This is an insert-an-OC story that will veer from canon timeline, but the actual canon events will retain great similarities. This is NOT a dream story. Everything that happens in the world of Twilight throughout this story is real and will never be “just a dream” for the characters.

Chapter Numbering: Because AO3 doesn't allow for Prologues/Epilogues/Intermissions (which are usually not meant to be labeled "Chapter #") my numbering within the actual chapter will be different than the link AO3 displays.

Previously – Mireille awoke in the hospital and Carlisle admitted he couldn't leave her by herself. Carlisle explained his view of the attack and told Mireille her attackers were Vanessa and Greg. Some believed the Cullens had a hand in the attack. Mireille antagonized flirty nurses and Carlisle appreciated her efforts. Mireille met Dr. Gerandy and Charlie Swan. Carlisle took Mireille back to the house. The Cullens celebrated Veterans' Day for Mireille's benefit and Emmett gave her a stuffed penguin. Mireille realized Alice and Edward were absent. Jasper helped Mireille sleep, Rosalie broke a vase, and Mireille woke up. Alice and Edward stopped Mireille from reacting. The Cullens made habit of helping Mireille sleep and Carlisle finally stopped it. The Webers called and arranged a visit.

Chapter 23: Inordinate

After Carlisle left me to my desperate hopes of sleeping, my stuffed penguin once again became the only protection against continuing pain, discomfort, and sleeplessness. The tiredness remained firm, but my body excelled at refusing to relax and fall into real sleep. For a number of minutes, I wished rather fervently that Carlisle hadn't made Jasper promise not to assist my sleep without his adjunct consent. Yet I knew pushing my body into unnatural sleep patterns would do even more damage to my messed up physiology.

All the same, if I couldn't find rest, what else was there to do? I supposed I could drink chamomile tea or warm milk or… I didn't know what else. Music might help. Of course, music was the biggest thing that had been missing from my life since the attack. Without Edward there, I felt as thought there was no one to share my love of music with, and found myself avoiding it. But it was a part of my sleep cycle, really. Hopefully I just needed that backdrop of sound to help me relax. I was on the verge of calling out for someone when help came all on its own.

"Mireille?" Jasper's uncomfortable voice hesitantly interrupted my contemplation.

"Jasper?" I returned with a little surprise, turning to find him hanging back in the doorway cautiously, Rosalie standing beside him. "Rosalie?"

The presence of the two Cullens who were most distant towards me did not go without strong notice. While Jasper had been nice to me in general, and we had our moments of camaraderie, his lower resistance levels drove him to become stiff whenever the thirst grew to its most prominent heights and he often pulled away. And Rosalie was… well, she was Rosalie. That was about all the explanation one needed.

"You seemed anticipatory… We thought we'd see if you were all right," Jasper told me awkwardly, clearly still wary after his actions the last three days.

Smiling slightly to show I held no ill will against them, I responded quietly, "I can't sleep… again."

"Is there anything we can do to help?" the southern vampire asked, again hesitant. "Humans do have remedies for these kinds of things, don't they?"

"Yes," I smiled a tad more widely at Jasper, grateful he tried to think outside of his ability. "Do you have any chamomile tea around here?"

"Carlisle bought some after you came home Tuesday," Rosalie answered immediately, taking one step forward into the room. "I didn't understand why until now. Some could be made, if you think it'll help."

"I don't know for sure," I tried not to sigh, knowing all too well how uncomfortable it would be, "but I don't have any better ideas."

"Then I'll make it," the blonde assured me quickly, disappearing from the room to accomplish her task.

Rosalie's willingness and determination to help amazed me for a moment… but then I remembered her ticking jaw when she saw how badly injured I was a few days before, the anger she felt when Vanessa and Greg were planning to attack me after Homecoming, and her slow but steady acceptance of my presence in her family's daily life. Perhaps my preconceptions about Rosalie were in need of an adjustment.

"Is there anything I can do for you?" Jasper asked once more, looking almost as helpless as I felt.

"Could you put some music in, maybe?" I inquired softly, almost a little embarrassedly, but my body hurt and my brain needed relaxation. I couldn't get the rest I needed without something to ease at least my mental discomfort.

"I don't really want to mess with Edward's music collection," Jasper awkwardly admitted.

"That's okay," I accepted understandingly, though a pang hit me when I acknowledged Edward and Alice's continued absences. Now I was stuck. I knew I didn't have anything in my own CD collection that would meet my needs.

"Was there something in particular you wanted to hear?" the Texan vampire wondered.

"Not really," I almost shrugged, but stopped myself in time to prevent the painful gesture. "I just thought a quiet background noise would help me relax."

"What about a movie?" Jasper suggested curiously. "Even if the sound fails to relax you, watching the film might distract you from a little of your discomfort."

"That might work," I agreed slowly, considering the possibility. Smiling after a moment of thought, I confirmed the idea more solidly, "Yes, I think that's a good idea, Jasper."

The southerner looked relieved to be of service as he inquired, "Which film would you like?"

Not really feeling up to deciding on something, I nearly shrugged again. Holding back a sigh that my most casual functions had become useless, I instead answered, "Why don't you put in one you like, Jasper? I don't have many dislikes."

"If you're sure," he frowned minutely, brows turning down thoughtfully.

"I am," was all I felt up to saying, the aches and pains strengthening of a sudden.

"I'll be right back," Jasper murmured quietly, disappearing from the room.

While Jasper was away looking for a movie to put in, Rosalie returned with the promised cup of chamomile tea on a small tray along with sugar, cream, lemon, and a spoon.

"I wasn't sure what to add, so I brought options," she answered with some stiffness as she sat gingerly on the bed beside me. "What would you like?"

"A spoon of sugar and a little lemon," I informed her easily, gratefully.

Wordlessly Rosalie set about stirring in lemon and sugar, finishing just as Jasper returned to the room with a movie in hand. With very human movements, Jasper put the film in and Rosalie helped lift my head to sip the tea. My entire spine lit on fire with the simple lift of my head, but the tea was worth the trouble. It was a perfect temperature, obviously cooled enough to drink before the blonde vampire brought it up to me. Half of it disappeared in record time, until finally the pain in my spine was too much to keep up the angle of my neck. With gentler movements than I would ever have guessed before recent events, Rosalie settled my head back down on the pillows and set the cup of tea back on the tray without even a clink of china on china.

"Thank you, Rosalie," I murmured tiredly, but more contentedly.

"You're welcome," she murmured simply in return.

Warmed and soothed by the chamomile despite my spinal discomfort, I was already more relaxed when Rosalie left. Jasper remained and I noticed his posture had relaxed a bit from the soldier form he typically employed around me whenever his time to hunt was near. I knew Jasper wasn't expected to hunt until Sunday, as per the two week margin, so the fact that he felt this comfortable near my scent encouraged me.

"What did you pick?" I asked quietly.

"An old film," he answered hesitantly. "It's called High Noon. With—"

"—Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly," I finished in unison with him, pleased by his choice and more excited than a moment prior.

"You've seen it?" he wondered, staring at me in surprise, his posture going stiff again.

"I love it, actually," I murmured, nearly shrugging for the third time that evening. Either I shrugged too much, or I felt apologetic too often, because it took far too much of my time to keep stopping such a gesture.

"I'm going to go out on a limb," Jasper spoke again, a little smile playing about his mouth, "and say you enjoy a lot of old movies."

"Not too long of a limb, there," I actually felt capable of teasing him. Jasper chuckled at my humor, any tension that had built in his posture melting away again.

"I'll start the movie for you," the honey-blond vampire offered affably, picking up the remote from the entertainment cabinet to turn on the TV and start the movie.

'Do Not Forsake Me' sounded through the speaker system, and I felt relaxed just by hearing that gentle country tune.

"I love that song," I randomly let Jasper know. "Nice and simple, and good lyrics."

"I always liked it myself," the Texan vampire agreed pleasantly, already leaving the room.

"Watch it with me?" I asked without warning, quiet and tentative with the odd request yet filled with a kind of urgency when he stepped on the threshold, leaving the room empty but for me.

I couldn't be certain of my reasons in that moment, whether fear of being alone after the attack or simply enjoyment of Jasper's steady, quiet company, but something in me balked at his exit. Maybe it was the fact that the two people I spent the most time with – Edward and Alice – were gone and no one else, not even Esme, spent any real time with me lately. And while I wasn't trying to whine about the unfairness of life, it was disheartening that the only one who really talked with me the past few days had been Carlisle. Stuck in bed as I had been since coming back to the house, one would have thought I'd have company during my waking hours. I was… well, I was a little lonely.

Jasper studied me for a long, drawn out moment, gazing with keen dark eyes and – I was sure – an even keener empathy. After a moment's indecisiveness, wavering in the doorway as though he should leave, Jasper finally took one sure step back inside the room.

"I will," he nodded with well-hidden sympathy, walking around to the computer area and pulling a desk chair over beside the bed.

Releasing a tiny breath of relief for the company, I turned my attention to High Noon at last, finding Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly's characters getting married. Despite my wish for more sleep, I ended up watching the entire movie with Jasper, both of us entirely silent throughout the film. Yet the silence was welcome and comforting. I knew Jasper didn't mind.

When the credits later showed, Jasper turned back to check on me, although I doubted it was necessary for him to know I was awake still.

"You must love that movie," he chuckled at me, arms crossed and leaning back in his seat. "You were all ready to sleep until I put this in."

"I do love it," I agreed, smiling. "It's a very good story. Thanks for sitting with me, Jasper."

"You've been on your own lately," he admitted quietly, seeming to struggle for the right words, until he nodded once. "We… we're all so afraid of anything going wrong… of you not healing correctly or our actions slowing the process down. I'm sorry we left you alone so much."

"It's okay," I muttered, the rationale fitting in with their fear of me not getting enough sleep to heal. They had never faced this situation before and it was bound to cause growing pains.

"It's not, really," Jasper sighed. "And neither is the way Edward and Alice have been acting. They shouldn't leave you when they usually spend so much time with you. It's a shock to your system, I imagine."

"I wish they wouldn't blame themselves," I whispered, upset with how much Edward and Alice took on their shoulders. "Whatever happened with us, it wasn't the reason those people hurt me."

"I know," Jasper sighed more deeply, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees as we talked. "But we can barely corner them long enough to get it through their heads. Alice will come around more quickly, I promise you. She knows she can't always stop a vision, even if she does see it beforehand, which didn't happen this time. But Edward…"

"He's angry with himself because we fought," I explained for him, knowing exactly what Edward was doing. "He thinks if we'd never fought, I wouldn't have left Seattle, and when Vanessa and Greg passed that gas station, I wouldn't have been there to be attacked."

"Yes, that's exactly it," Jasper shook his head with a frown. "Not an easy argument to dispel, of course. There's viable blame, in a sense."

"Edward is not to blame!" I exclaimed louder than I had ever spoken since returning from the hospital, making sure not to jerk my body with the strength of the words.

"Of course he isn't," Jasper said immediately, holding up placating hands. "But you can see how easy it is for him to reach that rationalization. For that reason, you probably won't be able to convince him he's blameless. You might only be able to make him move on from it."

Frowning deeply, I worried about Edward's psyche after this incident. "Things just couldn't be simple. As if Bella won't be complex enough…"

"Nothing is ever simple for us," the southern vampire shook his head again.

"There's no way I can get through to Edward right now," I released the barest of sighs, wincing only slightly at the movement of my back in response. "Not until I've healed more fully. Seeing me this way will only bother him more."

"Agreed," Jasper nodded, turning thoughtful. "Until then, I do have an idea about Alice. Granted, she'll see it before it happens. But if I do this, I know she won't refuse."

"What idea is that?" I asked interestedly.

"Don't want to say it yet," Jasper responded, "But know I'm working on something that might help her accept what's happened and stop hiding away."

"Glad someone has ideas," I grumbled half to myself. "I sure don't have any. Especially about Edward."

"If anyone can think of something to change Edward's mind, it'll be you," Jasper assured me confidently. "You're innate knowledge about us is something I still don't fully comprehend, but it's a powerful tool. You have the uncanny ability to know how each of us works best, and that'll help you."

"Thank you," I half-smiled at him for the vote of confidence.

"You're welcome," the tall vampire nodded gently. "Think you can sleep now?"

"Not with my mind running this much," I sheepishly replied. "I'm sorry I asked Rosalie to make that tea now. I just wasted it."

"It's not wasted," Jasper waved me off easily. "No one else was drinking it, and you needed to know if it even had an effect on you. Carlisle would have wanted you to test it once."

"It did relax me a lot," I confessed, "but then I got sucked into the movie so easy and couldn't sleep."

"No one knew that would happen," Jasper shrugged.

"Now what?" I queried. I doubted Rosalie wanted to make more chamomile tea for me.

"Well, Rosalie left to talk with Alice," Jasper let me know, a concentrated look on his face. "And I have no idea how to make tea, frankly."

Smiling at his blunt honesty, I wished he did know how, and would sit talking with me while I sipped my tea. I loved his deep voice when he talked. That, in and of itself, was relaxing and reminded me of when he lectured during my first day of tutoring; it also gave me another sudden inspiration which I couldn't resist.

"Jasper, this is kind of odd, I guess," I began tentatively, not looking at him while I spoke. "But I… well, your voice is pretty relaxing, you know? Like when you were talking during my lessons. And um… Well, there are plenty of books around here. Would you maybe… read to me?"

"If that would help, I'd be glad to," Jasper reassured me kindly and instantly, rising from his chair to head over to the window seat and look at the books therein. "Any suggestions?"

"Well, we could kill two birds with one stone," I decided, biting my lip in thought. "Maybe the history lessons I would have been discussing with you?"

"How about The Prince?" he offered, pulling it from the window seat storage. "It's a mixture of history and government, after all."

I smiled more widely than I had all week. "Sounds okay to me."

The next morning I awoke slowly, relief hitting me that I felt a tiny bit less pain and soreness than normal. Esme brought me breakfast and helped with some general grooming before I remembered that Jasper never read past the first few pages of The Prince when I fell asleep to the rich, fluid tone of his voice. I wanted to thank him for his generosity the previous night. Luckily, I didn't have long to wait.

Esme carried away the tray of breakfast I'd partially consumed when Jasper arrived in the room, hesitantly curious about my condition.

"Feeling any better?" he inquired, though his eyes made it clear he knew any improvement was slight.

"Teensy bit," I answered. "Thank you for reading last night. And your advice. I really needed the help."

"My pleasure," Jasper replied, mouth quirking into a little smile.

"Do you think we could do more reading tonight?" I asked somewhat shyly, realizing I was not the only person he needed to spend time with. Alice needed his support more than ever.

There was no hesitation in Jasper's tone when he responded, "Of course we can. I'm glad I can do something for you."

"How's Alice?"

"The same, mostly," he sighed, stepping further into the room. "She knows what I'm asking for now. And being stubborn about it… obviously."

Smiling at the exasperated fondness in his voice, I said, "At least it's food for thought."

"Yes, that'll have to be enough for now," Jasper agreed rather sadly, but perked himself up enough to say, "She did tell me something you might enjoy doing while you're laid up, however."

"What's that?" I questioned curiously. I couldn't imagine what I could do while stuck in bed, other than what I already had done.

"Would you like to learn chess?"

Two hours later, Jasper and I had discussed what little I actually knew about chess, and the empathic vampire had pulled out a well-worn book on how to play chess that went further in depth about the basic playing mechanics than I ever knew was possible. After that, Jasper retrieved his laptop and spent another hour helping me try my hand at some online chess games, even holding the laptop at just the right angle so I could reach it while lying down. I had begun to gain a much deeper and better grasp on the game by the time lunch came around, and felt a little disappointed that lunch interrupted my playing. Esme and Jasper laughed together over my pouting.

"You'll have plenty of time to play after lunch," Esme smiled indulgently, shooing Jasper away with his laptop and chess book so I wouldn't be distracted.

"Okay, Esme," I gave up, letting her lift my head without complaint.

Lunch was another half-finished affair, my spine unable to take the strain of such a long time at that awkward angle, but Esme was satisfied enough with the amount I ate to leave me be afterward.

"I'll let Jasper back in now," she offered wryly, rising to head to the door.

"Esme?" I stopped her, something quickly coming to mind.

"Yes, sweetheart?" the caramel-haired vampire stopped and turned back in curiosity.

"Is there any way I could work on some of my lessons again? I just… I don't have much to do, and I know Jasper can't be here every time I'm bored or can't sleep."

"I'll talk with Carlisle, and see what we can do about that, all right?" Esme suggested kindly.

"Thank you," I sighed a little, frustrated by the twinge the movement caused.

"You're welcome," Esme smiled warmly, if a bit hesitantly. "Honey, I'm sorry I haven't been up to just visit with you. I'll come and check on you later, and we'll just talk if you want… Like we did early on. All right?"

"Okay," I agreed simply, glad of the offer.

Smiling one more time, Esme left the room and Jasper soon took her place, laptop and chess book in hand.

"More chess?" he asked wryly. "Or are you tired of it yet?"

"Not at all!" I insisted with enthusiasm. "I'd love to play again."

Chuckling, Jasper came around the bed and set up our playing arrangement once more. We spent another several hours that way – him holding the laptop at a level I could comfortably reach and me doing my best applying all the chess skills he'd taught me.

For several days afterwards, Jasper came to play chess or give me a history review or watch another movie. In the spirit of High Noon, we also watched Sergeant York, which was another mutual Gary Cooper favorite of ours. In addition, we watched two John Wayne movies: Stagecoach and The Quiet Man. Emmett refused to miss the latter film, joining us the moment he heard Jasper say the title.

Despite his occasional distance at times before, and in spite of the darkness of his eyes nearer to hunting times, Jasper and I had been spending an inordinate amount of time together. And whenever I wasn't spending time with Jasper or eating and chatting with Esme, Emmett inevitably came up to play checkers with me or watch some comedy TV show or another. When my injuries hurt more than usual and I once again had trouble sleeping, Jasper would arrive in my room with a cup of chamomile tea – miraculously already mixed the way I liked – and he would read more from The Prince. He never got very far before I fell asleep wondering who had made my tea.

Finally Carlisle announced I would be able to start sitting up a little.

"Not too long," the golden-eyed doctor cautioned kindly, holding my back steady while Esme placed pillows beneath me. "But you will get there, I promise. This is really the first major step for you."

"Anything is better than constantly lying flat," I assured him uncomfortably, grateful when he was able to set me back down a moment later.

"There," Carlisle pronounced with a slight smile, and I was amazed to see him without the painful tilt of my neck. "Better?"

"Much better," I sighed, happy to find that also had improved to the point where the gesture no longer caused a twinge. "Thank you."

"I am only too happy to assist," the doctor smiled wider, taking a seat beside me and brushing back hair from my forehead. "It is refreshing to see you perking up like this."

Carlisle glanced to the side for a second, then did a double-take, staring at the doorway for a long moment. A tiny smile lit his features and he brushed my hair back one more time before rising. "You have company, my dear."

"Company?" I queried with a frown, too tired to turn and see who he meant from my new position. Carlisle merely smiled again and left the room. But my question was answered when Jasper stepped into my line of sight.

"Oh, hi Jasper," I said, a little confusedly. It wasn't exactly a surprise that Jasper would see me, so I didn't understand Carlisle's startled expression of a moment prior.

"When Alice and I first traveled together," Jasper began a bit mysteriously, hands clasped behind his back with stately grace, "we had the opportunity to find out my date of birth. Today, November nineteenth, would have been my birthday. Alice has been trying to get me to celebrate the occasion ever since or at least allow her to get me a gift, but I prefer not to have any fuss. However, this year I realized there was something I wanted… so I asked Alice to stop hiding away and start spending time with you again."

"You did that?" I questioned, blinking away moisture from my eyes, trying not to get too choked up. Obviously Jasper didn't do it solely for me. He wanted Alice to feel happy again, too. But it was a sweet gesture no matter what.

"You've been through a great deal and missed a friend," the honey-blond vampire said more gently. "And Alice hasn't been content, either. Enough was enough."

"Thank you, Jasper," I whispered, clearing my throat awkwardly against the emotion, regardless the fact the empathic vampire could feel it all anyway. He didn't say anything, but merely nodded with a small smile and left the room.

A few halting moments later, the elusive pixielike vampire in question came into my line of vision, appearing in a flash at the end of the bed; she dressed in a drab gray tee and leggings that didn't suit her typically bubbly personality – or her high fashion sense – at all.

"Alice," I murmured, a mixture of happiness and sentimentality overcoming me now that she had finally become more than a phantom in my presence.

"Mir," she murmured in return, looking particularly miserable as she glanced me over in all my injured condition.

"Are you going to stay away forever?" I bit my lip to fend off watery eyes. It hadn't occurred to me before just how close I had become to the Cullens. This only cemented the fact.

"No," Alice wobbled a little, looking wet-eyed herself as she finally burst, "I was just so horrified! Watching them hurt you and not being able to do anything! Oh, Mir, I wish I could have stopped it!"

"But you couldn't have!" I insisted strongly. "It just wasn't possible!"

"I know, I know!" she agreed, spreading her arms helplessly. "It doesn't make it any less terrible to have looked on uselessly!"

"You're never useless," I commanded as firmly as I was able, ignoring the pull in my neck as I tried to look at her more clearly.

"Oh, don't do that," Alice moaned frustratedly, reappearing at my side to adjust my position to something more comfortable and leaving her arms around my neck to hug me gently. "You could have hurt yourself turning like that."

"Then make sure I don't," I demanded quietly, lacking any real authority as she pulled away and sat up facing me.

"I promise I won't leave anymore," she sighed sadly, rearranging my slightly messy hair. "I'm so sorry."

"Forgiven," I said simply, forcing myself not to shrug.

Inhaling deeply to calm herself, Alice nodded in response and reached for my hand. "Jasper has certainly stepped up."

"Yes, he has," I smiled genuinely. "I really appreciate all he's been doing for me. He's really thinking beyond his ability."

"I'm glad he is," the black-haired vampire smiled as well, "I was always afraid Jasper would think his ability was all he'd ever be good at. Which is horribly untrue, of course."

"How has he been holding up…?" I trailed off uncertainly, hoping she knew what I meant without me having to say it.

"Better than he's ever been," Alice answered quietly, but her smile widened into a grin. She had so rapidly become her old self that I felt enormous relief. "Your idea was just what he needed. It's constantly pushing him to new levels."

"I'm glad to hear it. And how is…"

Biting her lip out of nervousness, Alice shook her head negatively. "Not good at all. I swear I'll try to work with him. He has to get back to school on Monday, otherwise the consequences won't be good. But he's almost impossible to deal with right now. He's not even near the house tonight, if that helps you understand how badly he feels."

"I thought if I was sitting up, maybe he'd be more willing to listen," I told her hopefully, but the frown on her face told me my answer.

"Seeing you laid up at all will probably keep him on this run of depression even longer than he might otherwise be," Alice negated with a deep sigh. "I don't really even know what to say anymore. Everyone has said all that's possible to say, and he still won't budge. He feels even worse because he knew you were looking forward to the Charity Ball in a few days, and now you'll miss that as well."

Remembering the Charity Ball on Sunday sunk my spirits to an all-time low. I'd successfully pushed the ball out of my mind, knowing there was no way I'd be able to go. I hadn't even bothered talking about it, every pain and ache and sore spot telling me all too clearly I was unable to move enough to sit up, let alone walk and dance at a party of any kind.

"I'm sorry, Mir," Alice sighed for the umpteenth time since coming to see me. "I shouldn't have brought it up."

In spite of my disappointment, mention of the Charity Ball gave me an idea I couldn't let go of.

"Alice…" I let my words trail away, once more hoping the future-seeing vampire could understand without words.

Gasping in surprise at something only she could see, Alice allowed another grin on her elfin features, this one half borne of relief. "I'm so happy you know Edward as well as you do. It really gives a whole other world of possibilities when we deal with situations like this. Oh, that takes so much off my mind. I won't tell you what might happen, in case he comes close enough to check on all of us."

"Wonderful," I sighed as well, glad to have figured something out this time.

"Isn't it?" Alice exhaled in a more subdued way. "Thank goodness you thought of it."

"Mireille?" Esme spoke up, the new, lighter tone to her voice very obvious as she bustled into the room. "I've brought dinner for you."

"Thank you, Esme," I smiled more widely than usual, just as happy as Esme that one of her wayward children had stopped being stubborn.

"Oh, and don't forget Angela and her father will be visiting on Saturday," the motherly vampire reminded me warmly. "We'll be coming in more often the next couple of nights, so we can clear this room of anything questionable."

"I almost forgot about them visiting," I admitted sheepishly. "Will Carlisle be here with me?"

"Yes, we both will, sweetheart," Esme reassured me kindly, arranging the tray of food over me. "Don't worry about anything; just be yourself."

"She'll be fine," Alice assured us both, waving off the matter as trivial. In the moment, I was only too happy to agree.

But as the days dwindled, the Cullens arranged mine and Edward's room to their satisfaction, and the Webers' visit came nearer and nearer, I began to worry something would go wrong. Half-an-hour before the Webers were to arrive at two o'clock on Saturday, I was trying very hard not to panic, and Carlisle was trying very hard not to frown every five seconds.

"It will be fine," he firmly consoled me, confident in his belief. "Nothing is going to happen."

"Then why do I have such a bad feeling?" I moaned uncomfortably, doing my best not to twist too much. Sitting up was enough of a pain without twisting. "Oh, if only Alice were here right now. I just know something's going to go wrong today."

Sighing in lieu of any actual response, Carlisle just shook his head and gave my hand one final squeeze of reassurance before heading downstairs to wait for the Webers with Esme. Jasper had foregone direct interaction with our company that day, profusely apologizing to me for not staying by my side. Alice – who joined Jasper in his leave – had actually seen it going much better without everyone there, but Jasper had felt personally responsible for leaving me on my own with the stress. Emmett and Rosalie decided it was better to stay in their room, and heaven only knew where Edward was.

The ring of the doorbell interrupted my musings and my stress spiked exponentially. Something was going to go wrong; there was no doubt on that point. I just couldn't imagine what.

I had no time to think of possibilities, however, because Carlisle stepped into my room a moment later, wearing the kind of expression he wore when one of his children behaved especially stubborn and impatient.

"The Webers are here," the doctor informed me unnecessarily, grasping my hand reassuringly for the fiftieth time that day. "Esme is walking them up now."

Unable to speak past the lump of anxiety in my throat, I merely nodded in acknowledgment.

Esme stepped in not thirty seconds later, tall Angela walking in beside her father, who stood the same height as Carlisle. Father and daughter looked strikingly similar with shared light brown hair and light brown eyes, and even the same brow and nose.

"This is my niece, Mireille Whitlock. Mireille, this is Mr. Weber and his daughter, Angela," Carlisle introduced the guests to me, coming to take a seat beside me on the bed. Esme took a seat on the storage bench at the end of the bed, clearly prepared to fetch whatever her guests might need.

"It's nice to meet you, Mireille," Mr. Weber spoke first, smiling warmly at me. "We're all sorry for what happened."

"Thank you. I'm glad to meet you, too," I replied with a smile of my own, the nerves melting away somewhat as I talked with my visitors. "It's nice to have more company."

"Angela thought we should come over," the minister continued, glancing over at his quiet daughter in a mixture of anticipation and encouragement, wrapping an arm around her shoulders. "Didn't you, Angie?"

"Yeah," Angela responded shyly, leaning into her father slightly. "I thought it would be nice for you."

"Thank you," I told her with deep gratitude, smiling warmly.

"Oh, I can see the resemblance," Mr. Weber said pleasantly and in all sincerity of a sudden. "Mireille certainly looks like the Cullen side of the family."

A beat of silence passed while Esme, Carlisle, and I processed that statement, until finally my lip twitched awkwardly. Unfortunately, Mr. Weber noticed.

"Did I say something wrong?" he wondered genuinely, appearing concerned.

"No, nothing wrong," Carlisle denied, shaking his head, but coming up with no excuses.

"Most people say I look just like my father," I added quickly, doing my best to save face. "I've never really heard anyone compare me to my mom's side of the family."

"I understand," Mr. Weber half-laughed. "Your smile and cheekbones are very much like Carlisle's, though… But how are you feeling, Mireille?"

"Better than I did," I admitted with ease, letting the resemblance issue slide away until I could process it further. "At least I don't have to lie flat all day anymore."

"A definite plus," the minister chuckled with Carlisle and Esme. "Will she be healed in time for school?"

"If she faces no setbacks," Carlisle confirmed, nodding. "We're being very careful, so I see no chance of that happening."

"Do you know your class schedule yet?" Angela asked me, seeming slightly uncomfortable cutting into the conversation. Mr. Weber looked pleased by her interaction, though.

"Yes. I got it just after Halloween, actually," I answered, looking to Carlisle and Esme for help. "I don't remember where it went, though."

"I put it in your desk, sweetheart," Esme explained, standing from the bench. "I'll get it for you."

"Thanks, Esme," I said with a smile as she walked around to get the school packet and brought it straight to my hands.

"You're welcome, sweetie," the motherly vampire told me gladly, retaking her seat on the bench.

Angela hesitated to move closer, but made tiny edging steps all the same.

"Come on," I waved her over heedlessly, patting the space beside me. Carlisle smiled with Mr. Weber at our interaction, and stood from the bed to allow us some space to talk, gently motioning Esme to come with them. As the three 'adults' left the room, the tall teenager finally stepped over, setting gingerly on the bed next to me.

"This is what I have," I explained, handing over the schedule. "Do you happen to know who's in any of my classes?"

"Um, well it looks like Jessica Stanley is in your Algebra class for first hour," Angela began thoughtfully. "I think Mike Newton is in your second hour gym class… Ben Cheney and Tyler Crowley are in Spanish with you during third hour… I'm not sure who's in your chemistry class… Oh! You and I have our last two classes together!"

"You're in advanced history and advanced English?" I wondered curiously. "Neat. It'll be good to know someone nice outside the family."

"Oh, it's nothing," Angela demurred quietly, going on to surmise, "It must be nice having such a large family, though. You all seem so close."

"We are," I nearly shrugged the answer, remembering at the last minute to avoid the twinge. "Everyone balances each other really well."

"I guess it's kind of the same in my family," she commented casually. "I have a lot of relatives, but none who live close, so I never really thought of it like that… Do you like Forks?"

"So far, I like it a lot."

"In spite of what happened?" Angela wondered tentatively.

Drawing in a breath for calm, I thought very carefully over my answer. It was quite a good question, and one that led me right back to the two biggest questions I had about my presence in the world of Twilight.

What am I doing here? Why me?

Two people I didn't even know had hurt me so badly I couldn't even sit up or walk for days; I lived in constant pain and restlessness, and a mark would scar my back for the rest of my life. The entire town had been filled with nasty rumors about my origins and my place with the Cullens. People would stare at me and people would continue to be jealous of the privilege Carlisle's money, occupation, and social status gave me. The Quileutes would view me as an enemy and the Denali coven would view me as a risk. If the Volturi ever learned of my fully-human presence in the vampire world, I would end up dead.

And yet… I had found something here in Forks, Washington that I'd never found anywhere else. My former 'reality' had never given the sense of cherished love and proud support the Cullens had given me. No one there would have read me to sleep or made me chamomile tea. No one there would have played my favorite piece of classical music even though it reminded them of a dark, sad past. No one ever played chess or checkers or Astro Pop with me, no one gave me nutty fashion quizzes or gave me designer purses because my 'need was greater than theirs'. No one would have given me a little stuffed animal or a soft blanket when I was hurting. My mother would never have thought to hold me up when I was sick, or make hot chocolate when I was cold. My father would never have sat at my side in a hospital for four straight days or taught me to waltz – even if he had known how.

In spite of all the pain and uncertainty and fear, I had gained so much from my journey. And it had barely begun. Barely a month in and already I had been given the closest and truest friends I ever could have asked for.

"Even with what happened…" I finally spoke – confident and steady in my words, "even being stuck in bed with a thousand bruises and marks and pains, even lying out in the woods worrying I might die… I like Forks. Given the choice… I would come here all over again."

Angela seemed taken aback by the sudden barrage of words, but her eyes were kind. And seeing my wet eyes, the tall girl didn't try to make any more small talk about what had happened for the rest of the visit, instead telling me all the things she could about Forks. She never gossiped, but told me factual details like where the grocery store was, what kind of books the tiny library had, how far it was to the post office from the Cullen house, and our classmates' names and appearances. By the time Mr. Weber collected his daughter to leave, we had formed the foundations of a friendship and I hated to see her go.

"Maybe I'll see you again before school," Angela suggested hopefully. "You know, when you're up on your feet again."

"I hope so," I agreed with a wide smile. "It was fun talking with you. Thanks for explaining so much to me; that'll help a lot."

"You're welcome," she smiled back, "Bye, Mireille."

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