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Story Notes:

This one-shot was originally posted as an epilogue to my story Survivor: Vampire Island over at fanfiction.net, but it works well as a stand alone piece too, so here it is. 

 

All you need to know from S:VI is this:

 

Alice’s misplaced faith in the new U.S. administration caused her to take her psychic eye off the stock-market ball, and as a result, the Cullen family lost their fortune.  They tried to compensate by going for the million-dollar prize in the game of Survivor, but things, eh, didn’t work out as planned, so now they’re enacting Plan B in order to support the extravagant lifestyle to which they’ve become so accustomed. 

 


Carlisle Cullen is happy.  No, happy isn’t strong enough—he’s blissful, delighted, and gratified. Today is the day the members of his undead family become productive members of society and earn an honest living.  He always knew it would happen.  He’s even convinced himself he’s happy the Survivor gig didn’t pan out as hoped.  Another easy million isn’t what they need—this is where the Lord has been leading them all along.

 

Mondays are his days off from the hospital, so today he’d been around to send his wife and children off to their new jobs after a nutritious breakfast of black-tailed deer and bald eagle.  It had seemed a shame to leave the baby birds in the nest to fend for themselves, so they’d sucked them dry as well.  But Carlisle has learned something from his Native American brethren and uses every part of the animal.  Right now, he’s sprucing up his pristine home in the forest with a duster made from feathers “donated” by the very eagle he ate this morning.

 

Now that his lil’ Esme is a full-time working woman, he realizes he’ll need to help out more with the housework.  Not that he minds.  He finds there is something therapeutic and freeing in the mindless activity.  And since he’s home all alone for the first time in decades, he doesn’t see any harm in donning his wife’s frilly, white apron while he does it.  Yes, Carlisle Cullen is a content man as he swishes his feathers, twirls in his apron, and reflects with satisfaction on this new chapter in his family’s life.

 

It had been a bonding and encouraging exercise to help each other select suitable positions.  Esme had been the easiest to place. The nurturing, turbo-housewife is off working at a daycare center, where her ultra mothering tendencies will no doubt be much appreciated.   Rosalie opted for the opposite side of the spectrum. She’s finally putting her law degree to use and was hired almost immediately as the junior partner at a high profile litigation firm in Olympia.  

 

Emmett and Alice, the liveliest of the bunch, have appropriately found work in the entertainment industry. Always the clown, Emmett secured a position as a Funny Bunny.  He’d left this morning dressed up as a giant pink rabbit, destined to entertain guests at three separate children’s birthday parties. Alice, meanwhile, has a gig as the perky assistant to a magician.

 

Jasper had surprised everybody by becoming an entrepreneur. He purchased a frozen banana stand down by the beach after being advised by J. Jenks that there’s always money in the banana stand.  But Edward’s choice of employment is perhaps even more shocking.  He’s been hired as a clerk at Wal-Mart.  Yep, blue smock and everything. He’s explained his hopes of bringing the “normals” who shop there up a notch by exposing them to his superior culture and refinement. 

 

Bella was the only one who refused to go along with what she calls a mockery of vampirism.  She’s been there and done that with working at Newton Olympic Outfitters after school and isn’t interested in becoming an everyday schlep again. 

 

“I ain’t gonna do it.  I ain’t gonna do it, I tell ya!” she’d shouted and then packed up herself and her daughter and flew to Florida, where she’ll stay in the shade at her mother’s house while she waits for the rest of them to come to their heightened senses.   

 

Carlisle shrugs when he considers Bella’s reaction and tells himself there’s still time for her.  She’ll see how happy and fulfilled the others are, and she’ll come around.  He continues to dust and hum a merry little tune, thinking of all the good his family is doing out in the world.

 

Edward is the first to return.

 

When Carlisle hears tires crunch the gravel at the end of the long driveway, he hastily unties his apron and ditches it in a nearby cabinet. He hadn’t expected anyone to be home again so soon. 

 

Edward opens the door and without saying a word sulks over to the couch and slumps down into it.  It’s a very human action.  Vampires don’t need to sit and slump for comfort.  He’s simply being dramatic. 

 

Carlisle quickly checks his thoughts, but Edward doesn’t seem to be paying any attention to his father’s musings.  He’s lost in his own thoughts and clearly upset.

 

“Was it just an orientation today?” Carlisle asks.

 

Edward mutters something back to him.  Despite his vampiric hearing capabilities, Carlisle can’t quite make it out—Edward has become quite the expert mutterer (as anyone who’s read the third book in the series (wherein the word mutter is used no less than one hundred twenty-six times.  One hundred twenty-six times!) can attest).

 

“Pardon?” Carlisle asks.

 

“I got fired,” Edward enunciates.  “The manager asked me to leave and never come back.”

 

But…you were only there a few hours.

 

“Yes, I know.”  Edward replies. “It all started when they put me in the electronics and music department.  A customer came in looking for the Lady Gaga concert DVD.  I suggested she might want to consider Puccini’s Madama Butterfly instead.  She was reluctant, so I dazzled her—only slightly—and she agreed.  Then I found out our Wal-Mart doesn’t stock Madama Butterfly, or any other operas for that matter.

 

“After the customer left I told the manager I had some ideas about how we could round out the store’s collection, and the Neanderthal responded that I wasn’t hired to think and that in the future I should simply get the customers what they ask for, not try to push my ‘hoity toity horse crap’ on them.”

 

That wasn’t very polite.

 

“No, it wasn’t.  But the goon took his disregard even further by changing the radio station playing through the store’s intercom.  He put on 80s music, just to spite me, I’m sure.  As if it isn’t bad enough I had to exist through that obnoxious, cocaine-hazed decade, now the entire pop-culture is making a comeback, and he took the opportunity to torture me with that inane nonsensical jibberish they call music.”

 

Like a butterfly, a wild butterfly, I will collect you and capture you

 

“Carlisle!”

 

I’m sorry, please continue.   

 

“Well, the final straw came after he forced me to re-stock the Justin Bieber display.  I was wearing the regulation, God-awful polo shirt, the hideous vest, and a name tag, and do you know how many people came up and asked me if I worked there?  Six.  In the forty-seven minutes I was stacking CDs next to the life-size Bieber cut out, six people asked me if I worked there.  Do they think I’d voluntarily dress like that and fondle a twelve-year-old’s media?”

Calm down, son, and tell me why you got fired.

 

Edward looked down, as if ashamed about what he was going to say next.  “The seventh customer was approaching me.  I could hear her thoughts.  First she admired my behind, as they all do, but…dad…she wasn’t just going to ask me if I worked there.  She was going to ask me where she could find the Justin Bieber CDs.”

 

He looked up at Carlisle, and his father knew that if had been physically possible, desperate tears for the downfall of humanity would have been welling in those amber eyes.

 

Edward…what did you do?

 

“I snapped.  Hall & Oats taunted me with their peppy lyrics over the intercom, and I snapped.  I ripped Bieber’s head off and molded it around my face.  Then I turned to the customer and said ‘Are ya lookin’ for me?  Here I am, baby, come to papa!’ and then I chased her around the store.  I never intended to catch her, of course, but I wanted…I needed to hear her terrified shrieks.  Then I looked around at all the morons staring at me, and I shouted, ‘What would Lady Gaga do?’ and I tore off all of their pants so that the entire store stood around in their underwear...including my manager.”

 

Oh, dear. 

 

Another car’s tires crunch the gravel.

 

“Jasper,” Edward says, eager to get the focus off himself. “He’s excited about something…bananas?”

 

Jasper strolls into the house whistling a Dixieland tune and hoisting a large insulated chest over his shoulder. 

 

“What’s in the cooler, son?”

 

“Frozen bananas on a stick.  Five hundred of ‘em.”

 

“Don’t you need those at the stand?” Carlisle asks.

 

“I’ve found a better use.” Jasper turns and winks at his brother, and Edward sees it all. 

 

He sees people coming up to the stand and buying Jasper’s frozen, chocolate covered bananas.   He reads Jasper’s memory of the lusty pheromones coming off a pretty girl across the way.  She’d flirted with Jasper when buying her banana a few minutes earlier.  Edward watches her through Jasper’s eyes, sees her flutter her lashes and give the banana a sultry full-length lick, watches her lock eyes on Jasper as she sticks the banana half way down her throat and slowly pulls it out. 

 

Edward has unwittingly known about his brother’s performance issues in the bedroom for quite some time, and now he understands exactly what Jasper intends to do with those rock hard bananas. 

 

“But what will you sell at the stand if all the bananas are here?” Carlisle persists.

 

“Not our problem anymore. As a matter of fact, we ought to be getting a tidy little check for the stand,” Jasper tells him.

 

“Oh, did you make a deal with someone?” Carlisle asks.

 

“You could say that.” Deal with the devil, Jasper adds in his head just as his cell phone rings. He picks up, and everyone in the room can hear a man shrieking angrily into the other end.  Something about a fire.  And cash.

 

“Mr. Jenks, I suggest you reconsider taking that tone with me,” Jasper warns and then deliberately growls.  The voice on the other end quiets so that only the vampire’s end of the conversation can be heard.  “Uh huh … Are you talking about the insurance money? You can have the check sent right here.”  He winks at Carlisle but the cocky grin is soon wiped from his face. “Oh, there was no insurance policy?  Huh.  Well, what could a ramshackle banana stand be worth, anyhow? … A hundred K?  No way.  How could that piece of cra— … Oh, there were bills hidden in the walls?  Why didn’t you tell me?”

 

The volume on the other end picks up again for a few words.  “ … money in the banana stand!”

 

“Ohhh yeeaaah. Hehe,” Jasper responds.  “Didn’t realize you were being literal there, J.J. … You owed that money to who? … Ouch.  Yeah, that does sound like a problem … I’ll take care of it … I said I’ll take care of it!” 

 

Jasper flicks his phone shut and looks to Carlisle.  “Well, unless we want our friend J.J. showing up at your hospital with a couple broken arms in the near future, we’re going to have to spot him a few dozen C-notes.”  He readjusts the cooler on his shoulder and starts walking toward the kitchen. “Time to get these puppies into the deep freeze.”

 

Soon after Jasper disappears into the other room, yet another approach becomes audible.  But no gravel crunches in the driveway.  This is the sound of labored footsteps followed by an occasional thud. Carlisle and Edward exchange a confused glance.

 

“It feels like Alice’s thoughts,” the younger vampire explains.  “But she’s entirely focused on taking the next step, and it seems as if she’s watching her feet from directly behind.  It doesn’t make sense.”

 

The footsteps and occasional thud near the front door, and Carlisle opens it to find that it is indeed Alice.  In two pieces.  Her legs and hips stand erect, while behind them her waist sets on the ground with her arms stretched up to grip her hips. She peeks through the space between her skinny thighs.

 

“Thank goodness you’re home, Carlisle.  Brain-muscle coordination is a bitch when the muscular system’s been severed.  Can you help me inside?”

 

Carlisle assures her he’ll fix her up in a jiffy. She wraps her arms around his shoulders when he stoops to pick her top half up, and Edward has joined them at the door to turn her legs sideways and tuck them under his arm.

 

Lay her on the sofa, son.  I don’t want to alarm Alice, but I have no idea why she’s not healing on her own. 

           

Jasper returns to find both halves of his wife lying on the couch and being inspected by Carlisle.             

 

“Peaches, what happened?” he exclaims. “Don’t try to tell me you’re not in pain—I can feel it.”

 

Alice winces. “Gob is, without doubt, the worst magician I’ve ever seen.  He didn’t get a single trick, er illusion, right.  Then I had a vision of the geriatrics at Fogey Village revolting when he started pulling a string of Depends out of his sleeve.  In hindsight I suppose I should’ve just snuck out quietly and let them beat him bloody with their canes, but…I don’t know…I felt sorry for the guy. So I tried to help him out.  Before the show I’d noticed a silver vampire saw in his bag of tricks.”

 

“Why didn’t you get the hell out of there right then?” Jasper scolds.

 

“Relax, Pooh Bear.  I didn’t get any visions of him intentionally hurting me. But just to be safe, I asked him about it.  He had no idea what it was—said when he was in Europe he bought it cheap off some burly Scottish priest because it looked frightening and would be good for his act.  So I asked him what he used it for, and he said he was too scared to touch it.  After a bit of coaxing, I convinced him to use it to saw me in half.  I figured there was nothing to lose—he saws me in half, the crowd is amazed, and I go behind the curtain and heal.  No problem, right?             

 

“Wrong.  He sawed me in half, the audience loved it, and then he completely freaked backstage when he realized I was actually in half.  To get him to shut up before attracting more attention I had to explain what I was and that I’d heal at any moment.  Then he went sort of catatonic, so I figured I’d better get out of there before he came to and started sobbing and screaming again.  I walked home through the forest so no one else would see me.”        

 

“Carlisle, why isn’t she healing?” Jasper asks.

 

“You said he bought the blade from a priest, correct?” Carlisle says.

 

“Uh huh.”

 

The doctor frowns.  “It must’ve been a blessed blade. This is going to take days to heal, maybe a week.”

 

“But she’ll be okay?” Jasper persists.

 

“Yes.  And there is a bright side to this,” Carlisle adds, attempting to reassure himself that even though three of his children have already failed on their first day on the job, it’s going to be okay.  “While Alice isn’t working anymore, at least she can’t shop for another week.  That ought to help the bank account.”

 

Jasper senses Alice’s guilt well up.

 

“Um, yeah, see, the thing is…not only is Gob a horrible magician, he’s also a total bastard.  He told me earlier that the Magician’s Alliance has been trying to squeeze him out again, relegating him to nursing homes and subway stations, and he’s been looking for a way to get back up there with the likes of Tony Wonder.  But his ‘tight-ass hermano’ won’t give him any money to buy top notch equipment for his illusions.  So just as I opened the door to leave, he squeaked out that now that he knows what I am, he’s going to blackmail me for a…a new Sword of Destiny or something.” 

 

Carlisle somberly nods, but before this news can fully digest, Emmett zooms through the front door without warning.  He slams it behind him and presses his back against it, standing completely still while his eyes dart around.  His chest and arms are bare, as are his legs.  The only thing covering his burly physique is a fuzzy pink strip of fabric he holds up to cover his nether regions.   

 

“Emmett,” Edward says soothingly. “Why are you thinking about a hoard of women?”

 

“And why are you so scared?” Jasper asks.

 

The bulky Cullen jerks his head and protests too much. “I’m not afraid of women!”

 

Alice reaches up with one hand and grips the back of the couch, which blocks her view of Emmett, and pulls herself up.  The moment her feminine shoulders and face come into view, Emmett shrieks.  

 

“What’s she doing here?” he demands.

 

“She lives here,” Jasper answers defensively.

 

“Yeah, well, she’s supposed to be at work.” Emmett looks around. “Hey, so are you two.  What the hell!  Why is everyone lounging at home while I’m out there busting my rump to make a living?”

 

“Speaking of your rump,” Alice says in a half giggle, “why is it barely covered with a pink muppet?”

 

“It’s my costume…what’s left of it.” 

 

Carlisle sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose.  “Emmett, I think you’d better just tell us what happened.”

 

Emmett nods, takes a dramatic inhale, and tells his story.  “I killed it at the first two parties.  I knew I would; kids love me.  And then I headed to the third party.  Some idiot at the agency must’ve switched addresses, because this wasn’t no kid party.  But I didn’t know that.  I walked in and saw all these middle-aged ladies, figured they were the moms and the kids were out back hitting a piñata or something.

 

“Seemed a little odd that they were drinking mixed drinks during the day at a kid party, but hey, who’m I to judge.  Especially when they were a bunch of MILFs.  And they were friendly…a little too friendly, I can see now.  But that’s part of the schtick—suck up to the parents, cuz they’re the ones who dole out the tips, so I was friendly back. When the music started and they wanted to dance, I danced.  I started to get suspicious when there were still no kids. But when all the ladies sat down and started to watch me dance—and Rod Stewart started singing—I knew for sure something wasn’t right.”

 

Edward groaned when he saw what Emmett was about to tell them.

 

“The woman who seemed to be in charge slammed back a vodka shot and slurred ‘Getting hot, bunny boy?  Sweaty under all that fur?  I say it’s time to skin the wabbit.’ Then she meowed.”

 

“W-wabbit?” Alice stammers, trying to keep her laughter at bay so she can hear the rest of the story.

 

“Then it hit me—this was a cougar party.  They were waiting for me to strip, which meant some guy from the other side of the agency was now sporting a G-string at a kiddie party, but I couldn’t worry about that.  I knew I had to get the hell out of there.”

 

“So why didn’t you?” Edward asks through clenched teeth.

 

“Gettin’ to that, bro.  I stopped dancing and was about to explain that I was in the wrong place, when the women all ran to their purses to pull out dollar bills.  Big wads of dollar bills.  And the whole point of this job thing is to make money, right?  So I was on the fence about what to do, waiting for a sign, when Vanilla Ice started playing, and I took that as a cue, cuz ‘Nilla Ice is my boy.  So it all seemed to come together and…shut up, Edward!”

 

“I didn’t say anything.”

 

“No, but you’re thinking it.  I swear I thought I was doing the right thing.  I was just gonna let ‘em have a harmless look at Vampire Ice, collect my money, and get outta there.”

 

“And…” Jasper, Alice, and Carlise prompt at the same time.

 

And, I had no idea middle-aged human women could be that aggressive.  They didn’t want to just look.  Once I unzipped the back, just a little, and they felt my smooth, icy goodness, they couldn’t get enough. They were all over me.  The costume didn’t rip itself to pieces.”

 

“Are you trying to say you were held against your will by a bunch of humans?”  Edward asked incredulously.

 

“They were surrounding me.  Caressing me, moaning about the hardness of my muscles, shivering at the sensual coolness of my flesh.  I don’t know if any of you have ever been in that situation, but it’s pretty fricking hot.  Don’t tell Rosie, but there were parts of me that didn’t want to leave—one particularly huge part, if you know what I’m saying.  Don’t look at me like that, Alice!  My brain overpowered Big E and I beat it outta there, even though I knew it meant pissing off the client and losing my job.”

 

“Well, I do give you a lot of credit for that,” Alice concedes.

 

“Yeah dude, those kinds of pheromones aren’t easy to pull away from,” Jasper agrees.

 

 Edward reluctantly nods his head in approval of his brother’s will power.

 

“You…you said something about dollars?” Carlisle asks hopefully.

 

Emmett feels around his fur.  “Uh, yeah, guess they must’ve all blown away as I ran home.  Too bad—I signed a waiver accepting full financial responsibility for the costume should it get damaged.  I imagine these things are none too cheap.” 

 

Emmett’s eyes suddenly open wide.  “Oh shit!  Rosalie’s coming.  I’m not gonna have time to change first.”

 

The door flies open, and a perfectly coifed Rosalie struts in with her customary cat-like smirk. Yellow canary feathers wouldn’t look at all out of place jutting from between her glossy pink lips.  She glances at her scantily clad husband, and Jasper senses a spike in her arousal. Looks like he wants to play convert gay Tarzan again tonight, Edward hears in her thoughts.

 

“Got a lot of casework to do at home?” Carlisle asks tentatively with a glance at her brief case. 

 

“Oh, just the one case, really,” she answers as she lifts her hand to inspect her polished fingernails. 

 

Carlisle can’t stop the relieved chuckle that escapes.  Rosalie is pulling in a bigger income than the rest of the others combined, so as long as she stays in her firm’s good graces, they’ll be just fine. 

 

“Well, dear, why don’t you tell us all about it—what you can without breaking attorney-client privilege, of course. Not that you can hide it from Edward.” Carlisle allows himself another chuckle. 

 

“Yes, Rosalie,” Edward says, training a stony glare on his sister. “Why don’t you tell Carlisle all about the brand new case.” 

 

“Not much to it, really,” Rosalie says, turning to face Carlisle.  “The senior partner who was assigned to mentor me got a little handsy.  I asked him to stop.  He didn’t.” 

 

Emmett emits a low growl as he studies his wife’s curves, which are being hugged in the most tantalizing of ways by her tailored suit.

 

“Don’t worry, babe,” Rosalie consoles.  “He won’t be using those handsies again for quite some time.  I made sure of that.” 

 

Emmett grins and Rosalie winks. 

 

“You mean to say…you mean to say that you’re the one being sued?” Carlisle asks.

 

Rosalie’s already across the room and snuggling with her mostly-naked mate.  “Huh?  Oh, yep.  The papers are being drawn up right now.”  She goes back to rubbing noses with her husband while he grabs a large piece of that fine ass he alone is allowed to touch without repercussions. 

 

Edward feels more smug than usual as he’s returned to favorite child status in his foster father’s mind.  Son, you may have been the first to get fired, but you’re the only one who hasn’t ended up costing me money today.

 

“Oh wait a minute,” Rosalie says, pulling herself temporarily off of Emmett. “Make that two cases.  Wal-Mart is one of the firm’s biggest clients.  And just before the ‘incident’ with Handsy McGee, we got a call from them about some pretentious boob causing a ruckus at the Forks site.”  Her cotton candy lips spread wide.  “I knew immediately it could only be our Edward.”

 

Edward narrows his eyes and growls. She sticks her tongue out at him and shrieks when Emmett pulls her back into him and starts nibbling on her neck.  Jasper feels a conflicted vibe roll off of Edward as he watches his sexy sister squirm.  Bella’s going to have to come home soon or that boy’s going to explode.  Jasper looks down at Alice—both halves.  He wonders how much she’s even going to be able to feel the bananas with her brain cut off from the lower nervous system.

 

Carlisle stands amidst the roomful of undead pervs and thinks about his own wife.  On a much higher plane, of course.  He’s feeling a tremendous sense of pride in her as he looks at his watch.  Her shift has just ended.  She’s done it.  She’s made it through the whole day, and together she and Carlisle will tough it out and support the family. A true team.

 

He hears her car pull up and suppresses a suddenly ravenous impulse.  He wants his luscious wife now more than he’s ever wanted anything in his entire existence.  Her petite footsteps fall across the front porch, and he rushes to the door to open it and gaze upon his beloved.

 

Her formerly crisp white blouse is now half untucked from her knee-length plaid skirt and streaked with a rainbow of markers and fingerpaints.  The hair she’d so neatly pulled back into a bun earlier that day has been ripped free of its bonds and stands out from her head, a Medusa of tangles with small bits of…something…scattered throughout.  Her eyes—normally soft and lustrous—seem vacant, and the circles of mascara smeared beneath make them appear sunken. A rancid odor wafts through the air toward Carlisle, confirming that the chunks clinging to her snarls are, in fact, vomit.   

 

“My heavens, what happened to you?” he asks.

 

Esme moves her lips and nods her head as if she’s speaking, but nothing comes out other than an incoherent squeak. 

 

“Come, my dear,” the good doctor says and steps behind her, putting a hand at the small of her back to guide her into their home.  He narrows his eyelids as they step toward the sofa.  He’s certain his vampiric senses must deceive him, because a black scrawl across his wife’s back seems to spell out Die Bitch.         

 

Esme is so distraught, Alice doesn’t even complain when Carlisle quickly shoves both her halves in opposite directions to seat Emse comfortably between them.  He kneels in front of his wife and gently takes her hand—all she does is stare catatonically forward. Carlisle doesn’t take his eyes from his wife, but everyone else turns to Edward for explanation. 

 

Edward shrugs.  “I can’t see anything.  Her mind is blank.  Completely blank.”

 

“Darling,” Carlisle pleads. “Please talk to us.  What happened to you?”

 

There is no response.

 

“Don’t worry, my love,” Carlisle resumes.  “We’ll get you through this.  Maybe you just weren’t ready for the Caterpillar Room.  Why don’t you talk to your boss about a transfer up to Butterflies when you go in tomorrow?”

 

Esme tilts her head to look down at him. “T-t-t…?”

 

“Yes, yes, dear,” Carlisle says with a warm smile.  “Tomorrow, when you go back to Sunnyside Daycare.”    

 

A high pitched whine from Esme’s throat soon grows into an all out marrow-curdling scream.  She shakes her head violently from side to side while she claws Carlisle’s forearms. “No!  Not going back!  Not ever going back! No, no, no!”

 

“For God’s sake, Carlilse!” Rosalie scolds as she comes over to the couch.  “Move your ass, Alice.”  Alice bends her legs and scotches her hips and butt to clear a space next to her foster mother.  Rosalie plops on the couch and cradles Esme, soothing her down to a soft weeping with her whispers, “Don’t listen to him.  You don’t ever have to go back.  Never again.”  She fixes a hard glare on Carlisle.

 

The Cullen patriarch’s shoulders slump.   “Of course you don’t, darling.” 

 

Rosalie picks a hunk of baby barf out of Esme’s dark hair and flicks it at Edward.  “Whenever you’re ready to talk, I’m here,” Rosalie says in a voice that’s gentler than anyone has ever heard it before. 

 

Esme wraps her arms around Rosalie’s waist and clings to her.  “There were so many of them,” she murmurs in a far away voice.  “Crying and squealing.  And the fluids leaking out of them…” She gives her head a shake.  “But I knew to expect this, and it was nothing I couldn’t handle.  Everything was fine.  We were having fun…one of the babies even started calling me mommy.”

 

Her long eyelashes lower in embarrassment. 

 

“I know I should’ve stopped him…but even though I pretend to be everyone’s mother, no one’s ever actually called me mommy.  It felt nice. So I let him.  And he seemed to like it.  I was the only teacher he wanted to pick him up, and soon I was carrying him everywhere.”

 

Esme’s eyebrows pull together and she lifts her head from Rosalie’s shoulder.

 

“That’s when things started to get strange.  At times I could understand him perfectly—in that funny little English accent of his—and at other times he spoke in pure gibberish.  But even when I couldn’t understand him, I could tell he wasn’t pleased when I gave the other children attention. So I told him, ‘Stewart, you are not the only child here, and it is my job to care for all of you equally, so you either stop biting the others, or I’m going to have to put you in a time out.’

 

“At first I thought he took my lecture to heart, and he very sweetly asked if he could play hair dresser.  I naturally said yes, and he did…this.” She gestures toward the monstrosity on her head. “Many of the other children were too frightened to come near me after that, and when I saw him slip something—I realized too late it was ipecac—into the bottle of a baby that didn’t mind my new hairdo, I knew he’d done this on purpose.  So I put him in the time out corner with the other naughty children.

 

“That was my biggest mistake.” Esme’s voice begins to tremble. “The next mistake was turning my back on the lot of them while I read The Monster at the End of This Book to the rest of the children.  I was almost at the end, at the part where Grover is begging and begging not to turn the last page.  You remember,” she says, looking up at Emmett.    

 

He nods and asks, “Did ya read it with the Grover voice?”

 

“Yes.  And the children were on the edge of their seats—just like you always are—when…when…” She speeds through the rest of her story with each word slightly higher-pitched than the one before it. “Before I’d even finished turning the page, the Time Out Gang burst forth from the corner with Stewart as their leader, and they…they attacked me! If I wasn’t as solid as granite and immortal, I swear they would’ve killed me!” She collapses back onto Rosalie and sobs violently. 

 

Her pseudo-children all groan in sympathy over their adopted mother’s ordeal, and Carlisle once again attempts to console himself. “I’m sure I can pick up some overtime at the hospital,” he sighs.

 

So much for long days alone with the frilly, white apron.

 

“What’s that?” Edward asks, turning away from Esme to look at his father.

 

Oh, nothing.

 

 

 

Chapter End Notes:

Well, I hope you had fun w/ Cullens.  You may have noticed a few Arrested Development, Family Guy, and Toy Story 3 references too.  ;)  Much thanks to Metropolis Kid for hatching this idea and then brainstorming appropriate job opportunities for the feckless Forks Vamps.

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