Of Tales Told
"So how was your night out?" Carlisle asked the returning youngsters, assuming the parental role even though five of the six hadn't truly been children in many decades. He took in their appearances: Rosalie, of course, was completely unruffled, but the other five were in various states of rumple or disrepair. Edward's clothing, in particular, looked a little worse for wear.
Emmett punched the air. "It was the best night out! I'd call it awesome!"
Jasper had a wry expression on his face. "I think 'interesting' is a better word, don't you, Emmett? I wouldn't go so far as 'awesome' to describe our little field trip."
"Well," Bella said with a self-depreciating shrug, "there was free-flowing blood and neither Jasper nor I ate anyone. I consider that pretty awesome, myself."
While Rosalie rolled her eyes in exaggerated offense, Emmett high-fived the newest member of the Cullen family. "Not eating people in spite of their bleeding is a definite point in favor of the word 'awesome,' little sis."
Kate's voice came floating down from the upstairs library where she'd taken to playing chess games with Carlisle when the Cullens visited. "This sounds like a story! Do tell. I need some entertainment aside from embarrassing Carlisle at chess."
"Yes!" Came Irina's voice in agreement, her voice coming to them from where the dinner-come-conference table sat in what would have been the dining room, had they been human. "I want to hear about the successful restraint of your thirst." She ran into the foyer just as she was finishing her sentence, her eyes alight with interest. "Impressive for all involved; no matter how long we practice this lifestyle, ignoring someone who is bleeding is hard work. I admire it in all six of you, considering how young or new to this lifestyle you all are."
Bella beamed at the older vampire. "Thank you Irina. There was a time tonight when just being around all those people with their hearts thumping around me was a strain; I am still shocked, I think, that nothing really bad happened."
Edward, who already had his arm wrapped comfortably around her waist, pulled her in closer and laid his forehead against her temple in a clear demonstration of support. Bella closed her eyes and leaned into him in response, and so missed the indulgent smiles sported by most of those surrounding them, who now included Carmen and Eleazar.
Emmett rubbed his hands together. "I think this calls for on official recount of what happened for those poor souls who weren't around for the fun. I'll be happy to relay tonight's activities, if everyone wants to get together in the living room."
"I'm painting!" Tanya called up from her studio in the basement, "But I'll be listening! Tell your story, Emmett."
They collectively situated themselves in the large Denali clan living room. Kate came down from the abandoned chess game, and Esme, who'd been enjoying the quiet of painting with Tanya, came upstairs to join Carlisle on the hedonistically comfortable chaise lounge she always favored on visits. With Emmett and Rosalie hogging the couch, Alice and Jasper sprawled across the bear skin rug, Bella and Edward heading toward their customary chair, the others taking their usual spots across the room, Emmett began their tale.
"Let me tell you, dear listener, of the day my youngest sister finally grew up. It isn't a tale for the faint of heart; no, only those of prodigious fortitude and nerves of steel need listen. Great sacrifice. Dire need. A dread evil. These things--"
"You can't interrupt the storyteller Edward. It's bad form. Sit down, or be sat." He glowered at his older-young brother.
Edward answered with a low growl. "Do you really think you can force me to do anything I don't want to, do Emmett?"
A large, slow smile worked its way across the larger vampire's face. "Is that a challenge?"
Edward opened his mouth to respond when he was interrupted.
"Edward," Bella chided gently, laying a restraining hand on her husband's arm, "let Emmett tell his story. You know it will only get worse if you fight it."
Edward glowered at Emmett, who simply raised an eyebrow.
"As I was saying," the larger man continued, "Great sacrifice! Dire need! A dread evil! Our story is a classic example of the monomyth, without all that pesky getting called into action, being initiated, trials, apotheosis, so on and so forth." Emmett paused. "Ok, so monomyth, or," he deliberately looked at Edward, "the hero's journey, for those of you not familiar with the terminology, isn't the best example. But I promise plenty of action. And lust. And character development."
"And embellishments," Bella added dryly, shifting to make room for Edward as he sat with her.
"Little sister," the larger man responded, his face solemn, "I'm a storyteller. To imply, as you have, that I would alter the story, ichange/i it, is an affront. I take my job very seriously. Perhaps your status as a subject of this story has skewed your view of events. I can assure you, I'll relay the night's tale with one eye toward truth and the other toward entertainment. Do not doubt my skills."
"Bella," Edward chided gently, laying a restraining hand on his wife's arm, "let Emmett tell his story. You know it will only get worse if you fight it."
Edward was rewarded for his mocking efforts with a sour look before she curled herself around him on the oversized chair and made herself comfortable. Bella waved her arm toward their storyteller, silently indicating to him that he should continue.
Their self-appointed teller of tales smiled with satisfaction and nodded in approval. Emmett glanced around the room, and, seeing no objections from the eleven vampires surrounding him—six of whom hadn't been there to see the story unfold in person—began his story.
"Our ladies fair were out on the dance floor, dancing with each other, blind to their many, many admirers, all of whom had a particular attraction to the blonde goddess amongst them. Though the three started off on the fringes of the crowd so that the youngest among them could gain confidence in her abilities to move to the music blaring crassly from the supposedly state-of-the-art stereo system, they found themselves, soon enough, at the center of the dance floor. The women surrounding them were jealous, the men desirous. All around them were sweating, hormone-driven humans, and much of the focus was on the three beauties at the center.
"Our heroes, banished to the balcony above by their ladies fair—who had compla- ah, kindly suggested that the low life men in the club were too intimidated to dance and enjoy themselves or their own dates when faced the clearly superior grace and appearance of Cullen men—observed with dazzled eyes the mesmerizing sway of their ladies' hips and the manner in which their rich, luscious hair reflected the moving and flashing lights of the fine establishment they found themselves in.
"Alas, only one of the handsome heroes looked at ease in this environment. His companions looked uncomfortable and constipated, respectively, and it is not for this storyteller to tell you which of the devilishly handsome men wore which expression, though you are free to guess.
"Time passed, and gradually, as it neared closing time, the crush of bodies on the dance floor thinned, so that individuals who wanted space could spread their arms a small amount without knocking into their neighbor. The three devastatingly handsome heroes were inundated by lustful young women, whom they had to constantly repel, for these girls had nothing, nothing I say, on their gorgeous wives, dancing below. It quickly became tiresome--not something they enjoyed at all--and they discussed braving the wrath of their wives, and trekking down to the lower level to join them in spite of their banishment.
"Jasper, the blond beauty of the male trio, had a frown on his face as he watched their stunning mates dancing below. Our red-haired hero frowned at his brother, who soon spoke. 'Edward,' said the constipated-looking vampire, 'something is wrong.'
"Edward, who went from looking uncomfortable to looking fiercely concerned, swung his head from his empathic brother to his gorgeous wife. He noted that she was still dancing with the other two bright spots on the dance floor, and saw nothing overtly wrong. Trusting his brother, and looking for the source, he focused on the thoughts of the immortal women his Bella danced with. There was no warning or hint of problem in the mind of the most beautiful of the three, but in their other companion he caught the barest glimpse of a vision as it flickered through her mind.
"With a strangled sound, the dashing forever seventeen year-old quickly made his way across the balcony, through the thinning crowds, to furthermost left side of the top level, and down the spiral staircase that connects the two levels of the club. Fortunately for our collective efforts to blend in, he managed to keep himself moving at a human speed, though just barely. At the moment his feet touched the dance floor of the first level, the two heroes remaining on the balcony saw that they were not the only immortals watching their blindingly beautiful wives; yours truly caught the movement of unusual grace that marked the creature as vampire as it came off of the secluded and shadowed wall far to the right of the dance floor, and our wives.
"Our two ruggedly handsome heroes, with their vantage from the balcony, could see what their worried mother-hen brother on the lower level could not; that this new player on the scene had eyes of ruby; eyes that were fixated on the three divine beauties still dancing. The observers could also spy, now that they were truly paying attention, this interloper's companions—four more vampires lurking in the shadows, all ruby-eyed, and all paying special attention to the heroines of our story."
Tanya spoke up from the studio. "This sounds like an epic bar brawl in the making. Tell me, did you upstanding young men actually help your…heroines…at all, or did they end up ripping those four to pieces all on their own?"
Alice, Rosalie, and Bella all exchanged a look. Jasper and Edward glanced at each other, Edward snorting in response to whatever it was that Jasper thought at him. Emmett, however, made an offended noise.
"Auntie Tanya!" He called out in apparently heartfelt offense. "I can't believe you think the heroes of the story would leave the dainty damsels to take care of the distasteful bad guys on their own!"
"Actually," Rosalie supplied, "that one with the dreadlocks was kinda hot, if you like that hippie/Bob Marley look." She smiled impishly up at her husband, and their audience had the distinct impression that the big vampire was in trouble.
Alice giggled. "Dreads don't do it for me, but I did rather think that Asian vampire, the one who looked a bit like Jet Li, was quite a looker. He'd have gone better with gold eyes, through. The red ruined the attractive factor." She winked at Jasper. "My husband is the only one who could really pull that off well."
Emmett cleared his through. "AHEM. I'm the storyteller here. Stop with your silly interruptions. As I was saying. There were slimy bad guys closing in on our girls." He glared down at the blonde head resting in his lap. "Slimy. Not hot. They're bad guys. Black hats. They can't be hot."
Her lips quirked up, but she otherwise managed to keep a straight face. Rosalie reached up to pat his cheek. "Of course, dear, wise, husband. Of course. Continue on."
"Much better! Now, where was I? Oh yes. The slimy bad-guy interlopers moving in on the story's heroines.
"Our dear baby brother hero, reacting, the other two heroes supposed, to a vision seen in the head of the littlest beauty, had zipped down stairs to join his lady love, seemingly unaware that there were four other vampires closing in on their spot at the center of the dance floor. When he reached the fair maiden Bella, he scooped her up into his arms and proceeded to kiss her nearly senseless. An onlooker might have thought that the two of them had forgotten where they were, and that they had an audience.
"After watching the red-eyed monster types for a few more seconds, heroes One and Two thought warnings at their telepathic little bro, and made their way down to the lower level. By the time they made it down the stairs, most of the humans on the dance floor had survival instincts that had finally started to kick in, so the crowd had dramatically thinned. It was now easy for both heroes and heroines to spot the unfamiliar vamps.
"Taking matters into her own hands, the most beautiful of the three, the blonde goddess-"
"Emmett," Jasper interrupted, "you know Alice is the most beautiful of them all. And we were there, remember? Rosalie didn't instigate anything."
"As a matter of fact, I believe there was some blustering, and a few air-headed people talking."
Emmett snorted. "Sorry Edward, but you were actually quiet for most of that exchange. You were too busy staring into ickle Bella's eyes."
Several members of the two families hastily covered up smiles or snickers, and Edward took on the air of a martyr and sighed deeply. "So tell us, sir storyteller, since we know Rosalie didn't suddenly go crazy and scratch their eyes out, what did happen?"
"This would be easier if you all would stop interrupting."
"We'd stop interrupting if you'd get the story at least reasonably close to the truth, exaggerated language aside."
"Are you saying I'm embellishing, Edward?"
"I'm saying that up 'til then you'd gotten close enough not to interrupt. Rosalie was golden tonight. You don't need to outright lie about events to make her look good."
"I look good all the time."
Edward grinned at her. "Not all the time. You look pretty rough when you've been helping Emmett get the bears riled up. Dirt and twigs in your hair aren't attractive."
Carlisle, in an apparent bid to stop an outright brawl in the house, interrupted. "The story, perhaps? I haven't seen any sign of bleeding or a bar brawl yet. I'm getting bored."
"Your story needs more violence!" Tanya added from her basement studio.
"Do you want to hear the story?" Emmett's voice was low, and in other circumstances would've sounded threatening.
There were general nods of agreement, and a verbal note from the basement. Emmett opened his mouth to continue, but was interrupted by Alice.
"I'll tell it," she said. "Here's how the rest of it goes: Edward swept down from the balcony and swapped spit with Bella for a good long while. I had flashes of visions that told me that bad things were potentially about to happen, and Rosalie caught sight of a few of the strange vamps coming toward us. We circled the wagons, so to speak, and Edward being Edward, he put himself between them and us. Specifically, with Bella in the back. Because," she turned her piercing golden gaze on the first one of Carlisle's 'children,' "Bella is oh so fragile now that she's a changed." She stared at him for a second longer, and he grinned impishly at her and shrugged.
Alice seemed torn between affection and irritation as she continued. "So the dashing hero Edward puts himself between the, as Emmett phrased it, interlopers, and us women. Very chivalric of him. Before anyone could say anything, our iother/i two heroes," the sarcasm was thick on her voice, "made down to us, chasing any human with any sense off of the dance floor."
"In old times," Bella interjected, "this would've meant that I would've been the only non-vampire in the near vicinity. Apparently now that I'm indestructible, others have taken up that mantel. Three idiot dancers were still nearby."
"They were high," Edward interjected. "Their thoughts made absolutely no sense. And they reeked of chemicals. So as it turns out, humans have to chemically altered to reach the level of casualness about the inherent dangers of vampires that you had sober."
Alice continued, almost talking over them. "Anyway. Moving on. The six of us, the four of them, three high-as-kite humans. And Emmett's mouth."
"I was bored," Emmett said with a shrug.
Rosalie barked out a laugh. "Which we all know is dangerous."
"So," Alice pushed on, "Hero Zero, a.k.a. 'Emmett' tried out some of the taunts from Monty Python's Holy Grail movie, exchanged words with the closest vampire-"
"The cute Asian one," Bella supplied.
"-and Hero Zero's choice words had the end result of the bad guy launching himself at Emmett. Our oversized brother, strong oaf that he is, ended up tossing Bad Guy One off to the side, where he landed on high, yet innocent bystander. We'll call him Bystander One. I'm not feeling creative. Bystander One was crushed and there was the lovely audible snap of bones. And then, and here comes the fun part, the smell of fresh flowing blood."
Jasper nodded. "In which case, it was a good thing he was so packed full of drugs. It tainted the smell of his blood enough to let me, and, I assume, Bella keep control." He glanced at his newest little sister, seeking confirmation.
"That's what that smell was? Chemicals? I wondered why he smelled so off."
"The smell might've put you two off, but Bad Guy One was all over it, so Rosalie and I had to rip him off of the poor broken human before he could start feeding, which set the others off. It was a full-out brawl until two of them decided they weren't going to win, and ran off." Alice shook her head. "I've been concentrating on them since we left; I think they're gone for good. I saw them stalking around Joe Louis arena in a vision."
"Poor Detroit," offered Esme with a solemn face. "And the two that stayed?"
"Bonfire in the alley behind the club." Edward answered. "We cleaned up the dance floor and Bella and I took Bystander One to the hospital as good Samaritans."
Kate was concerned now. "What about the other two humans? They saw everything, did they not?"
"Trust me. They were so strung out on a cocktail of drugs that I'm not even sure they'll survive the night. If they do, they'll have no way of telling the difference between what they saw tonight and any drug-induced hallucination. We're safe." Edward looked uncomfortable. "One of them, at least, was hallucinating. I truly don't think she had any clue what was happening around her."
"Emmett." This time Tanya's voice was much closer; she come upstairs from her studio and was now in the open doorway of the living room. "I think you over-sold the story at the beginning. I was promised 'great sacrifice' and 'dire need.' I feel short-changed."
He pointed accusingly at Alice. "It's because she finished it! If you people hadn't interrupted, there would've have been more flowery language, impassioned and eloquent pleas from the bad guys for us to offer mercy." He pouted melodramatically. "Alice sucks as a storyteller. She didn't even call Jasper her dashing hero!"
Bella stretched lithely from where she was plastered to Edward's side. "Are we done yet? I have dirt on me from the pretty dreadlock-sporting bad guy. He wasn't big, it seems, on being clean." She turned hopeful eyes on her husband. "Shower?"
He beamed back. "Shower," he confirmed. And there was no doubt on the mind of anyone in the room just what "shower" entailed.
"Make sure you go back to your cabin for that!" Irina told them. "I want no newlyweds enjoying their shower time in my hearing."
Edward bared his teeth at the older vampire, then scooped up his wife and ran at top speed to their cabin. Hot water awaited.
Emmett made a disgusted noise. "And so our tale ends. The annoying little-big brother runs off with his much-too-cool-for-him new wife."
"You could run off with your wife, Emmett. Said wife arched an eyebrow in invitation.
"Garage?" He asked hopefully.
She winked and ran out the door.
While their adopted siblings were making a big production out of their mating ritual, Jasper and Alice slipped out on their own.
Esme looked around. "Well that didn't last long. They're all gone again."
"And having more fun," Kate added.