An incessant buzzing broke through Edward's latest reverie, pulling him back into reality with an annoyed growl. Peeling his eyes open, he rose from where he sat in his tiny living room, crossing the room in a moment. He snatched the headset off its charging pad and tucked it into its ear before the next ring had sounded, then touched the button.
"Yes?" he asked, not bothering with formality – only family had his number and would be calling. He'd had to bite back a more demanding response, not wanting to snarl at his daughter. He needn't have worried: Alice's perky voice greeted him.
"Well, good morning, sleepy head," she said, giggling. Edward rolled his eyes. "I know you hate to be interrupted, but I saw that if someone didn't call, you would keep 'sleeping' right through Christmas!"
He cast a glance across the room at the clock on the wall - it was just after 9am – and muttering a curse. "I'm late," he told her needlessly.
"Yes, you are," Alice agreed. "Or you will be, if you don't get out of the house in the next minute and start driving."
"Thanks." Without waiting for a response, he disconnected the call and sprung into action. Christmas was, traditionally, one of the few holidays that the entire family celebrated in a mostly human fashion. They skipped the feast, of course, but Alice and Esme always went overboard with decorations, and they exchanged gifts – the only time of the year they did so, birthdays having long since been abandoned.
Knowing his sister would never forgive him for showing up in the black turtleneck and pants he was wearing, Edward sped into the bedroom-turned-piano suite, returning a moment later wearing a dark green sweater and khaki pants. He cared little for what he wore, but some battles were easier to avoid than fight. Still at an unnatural speed, he gathered up all of the papers that were spread across the kitchen counters, tapping them on one end to line them up before settling them into a black folder, then into a plain gold-flecked box. He slowed marginally as he wrapped a black ribbon around the box's width, then its length, tying it into a bow. This done, he set it down and sped to the hallway closet to pull on a bulky black coat, then returned to pick up the newly wrapped box and a small, silver box adorned with a silver bow that sat on the counter beside it.
Planning, he mused with a chuckle, had not been his strong suit in recent years.
His phone buzzed briefly in his ear as he locked the door, returning to a human pace. "One message," an electronic voice announced, and as he pocketed his keys and started down the hall, Edward said softly, "Play message."
"Well done," Alice's voice chirped at him brightly, causing him to smirk.
The drive to his siblings' house was a short one, but the BMW Z8 roadster he had bought himself made the trip quickly, its sleek black body weaving through the streets easily. Edward kept control of the car, but was careful to ensure the speed limit was maintained, a task that both frustrated him and kept him mind on the task at hand – and off of Bella. As much as he would love to "fall asleep" as his sister had nicknamed it, he had other obligations to attend to.
Soon, he was pulling the car into his siblings' driveway. He parked it, grabbing the two gifts from the passenger seat and sliding out of the vehicle. The lights flashed as he walked away.
The door opened as he stepped up to it, and he pulled himself together quickly, putting a smile on his face that may even fooled some of them with its brightness. "Merry Christmas!" he said with a forced cheerfulness.
His entire family, excluding the most important piece, were gathered in the living room. Carlisle and Esme sat side by side on the loveseat, him wearing black slacks and a white dress shirt, Esme in a navy blue zip-front dress with a wide belt around her waist. Jacob sat beside them in jeans and a green polo – his version of dressing up, Edward thought, remembering all the arguments between him and Alice over the years about his lack of style. Renesmee was, as always, stunning in a three quarter length red dress that clung gently to her curves, a wide neck allowing her to show off the heart shaped locket she wore. Her hair was pulled back into a pony tail far more casual than her attire. Emmett and Rosalie sat together on the love seat, the collar of his green polo askew; his wife wore a matching pleated dress that fell to her ankles and had cropped sleeves and a plunging v-neck. Sitting alone in the single chair, Jasper wore grey slacks, a navy dress shirt, and a mildly amused expression as he watched his wife pull Edward into the room and guide him toward the wooden chair that had been brought in from the kitchen. It completed the circle, and he slid into it as Alice – wearing a full length dress of her own design in bright red with green trim and accents – bounced across the room to land in Jasper's lap.
Surrounded by couples, and sitting on his own, Edward had to work a moment to hold his composure. It felt awkward to be the odd man out, still, once again – always. This was the first time since the past Christmas that the entire family had been together, and it was as difficult as he had expected, but he was determined to ignore that for his daughter's sake.
Jasper shot him an understanding glance, and he felt a calm strength surge through him. He nodded his thanks.
"Merry Christmas, son," Esme greeted him with a warm smile.
Carlisle cleared his throat, and a few of them chuckled at his efforts to appear human, so ingrained he kept them up even when it was just family. He gave a chagrinned smile and clasped his hands in front of him, bowing his head. The rest of them did the same; Edward wasn't sure how much he shared his father's faith, but Bella had opened him to the possibility that they might not be damned, and Renesmee seemed a miracle in her own right sent to remind him that his life should have meaning. He muttered the words under his breath with Carlisle.
"Lord, in this holy season of prayer and song and laughter, we praise you for the great wonders you have sent us: for shining star and angel's song, for infant's cry in lowly manger. We praise you for the Word made flesh in a little Child. We behold his glory, and are bathed in its radiance.
"Be with us as we sing the ironies of Christmas, the incomprehensible comprehended, the poetry made hard fact, the helpless Babe who cracks the world asunder. We kneel before you shepherds, innkeepers, wise men. Help us to rise bigger than we are. Amen."
A few murmured an "Amen" in answer, and then Alice clapped excitedly. "Me first!" she exclaimed, turning to smile brightly at Renesmee.
Chuckling, the young woman reached down and grabbed a red gift bag from behind the couch, tossing it over to her aunt. Alice caught it deftly, pulling out the red tissue paper and producing a woven sun hat with a wide blue ribbon around it. She set it on her head, slipping off her husband's lap to sit on the floor so it didn't flop into his face. "It's from a little shop along the beach," Renesmee explained, not so much for Alice's sake as the rest of them. "The ribbon is, of course, Alice Blue, and I remembered how you said you wanted to stand on a dock somewhere-"
"-and have the wind catch my hat and blow it into the ocean, yes!" Alice could hardly contain her excitement. "Oh, Nessie, thank you, it's brilliant!"
Emmett picked up a brightly wrapped box at his feet and tossed it across the room to Renesmee, who beamed at him when it landed in her lap. "Your turn, kid," he said with a grin. They always went in order like this, the person who gave the last gift receiving the next; each year they chose names from a hat to decide who to buy for, though most gifts ended up being a joint effort by all the others to come up with something meaningful.
Renesmee unwrapped her gift with a flourish of tearing paper, then gasp a small gasp. Inside, she had found an empty scrapbook with brown leather binding, gold thread stitching around the edges. A ballpoint pen with a carved wood casing was tucked into it as well for journaling.
"I know how much you like your moms' scrapbooks," he told her, suddenly shy. "I figured your first time out on your own would be a great time to start making your own. You know – not that you need them, but it could be fun…"
Renesmee set it down, then rose and crossed the room in two quick strides, enveloping both her uncle and his wife into a hug. "It's perfect," she said. "Thank you."
Emmett reached up to rub the back of his neck, giving her a crooked grin as she went back to sit down and flip through the pages of the book. Edward saw in her mind that she was already planning out the first pages from the time they'd spent in Florida.
"You're up, Em," Jasper said, rising from his chair. He flitted out of the room briefly, returning with a large box overflowing with metal and wires. When Emmett gave him a confused look, he dropped it on the floor beside him; the box had a sprinkling of bows and gift tags in it along with the automotive parts. Comprehension dawned on Emmett's face, and he leapt to his feet.
"Parts for my Jeep! Awesome!" He grabbed the box and raced out to the garage, and a moment later, they heard a fierce growl. "JASPER!" Suddenly, Emmett had Jasper in a hold under his arm, wrestling him around. "What the hell, man!"
"Hey," Jasper said calmly even as Emmett shoved him around the room. "You said you wanted to upgrade it. I just figured I'd give you a good excuse."
Emmett paused at that, and a moment later, gave a huge laugh and let his brother go. He clapped Jasper on the back, and everyone else started to laugh; even Edward chuckled. "Good one, bro, good one."
They continued around the room one by one, giving and receiving gifts. Carlisle gave Jasper a print of a painting depicting a scene from the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863; from Rosalie, Carlisle received a photo of all the siblings together, framed for his desk when they left after the holidays. For Rose, Jacob bought an ornate hand mirror whose saving grace was that it was an exact replica of the one he's broken a few years earlier, and in turn he received a poorly-woven dreamcatcher that Esme had tried to make for him, the design on it far simpler than most; he assured her he loved it all the same, though in his mind Edward caught him thinking he needed to take his grandmother-in-law back to La Push some day for a lesson. Edward offered the smaller of the boxes he had brought to Esme, who opened it to discover a wide platinum ring with two rows of gemstones in it, a row of four and a row of five, all various colors.
"It's a mother's ring," he told her as she took it out of the box and studied it. "Each gem is the birthstone of one of your children or grandchildren." Sliding it into her finger, she held it up, matching each gem up to one of the people in the room. As the question began to form in her mind, he added quietly, "I took the liberty of including both Bella and William."
Esme looked up at him, and had she been able, he could tell she would have been crying. She traced the rows of gems with a finger, swept up in memories of her adopted daughter and her infant son. Thank you, she told him privately, and he dipped his head in acknowledgement.
A box suddenly appeared in front of his face, and Edward reached up for it, an eyebrow raised at the sister that stood over him. "Your turn!" Alice said, giving him a knowing smile before going back to her seat on the floor by Jasper. The box in his hands was heavy by human standards, wrapped in glittering silver paper. He untucked one corner, carefully removing the wrap and setting it aside. Lifting the lid off the box, he revealed the papers within.
"Sheet music?" he asked, taking one page out and looking over the empty bars on it. The quality was incredible, and in the lower right corner in elegant script, the letters "E.C" were monogrammed into each sheet. Alice nodded.
"You should start writing them down again," she told him with a smile. "I thought you deserved something nice to use, instead of the ridiculous electronic copies modern composers are using." She pulled a face at the idea, and Edward had to agree with her; it seemed remote and unattached to use a computer to record such artwork. Thanking her, he reached for the other, larger box he had brought. With a flick of his wrist, he tossed it over to Renesmee, who looked more surprised than she was.
"Father's prerogative," he reminded her as he had to every year; she used to complain that he got her an extra gift, but he couldn't help it, and she was always touched by his efforts to go above and beyond for her. "It is something I would have given you anyway."
"All right…" she told him, putting up token protest as she opened the gift. Ironically – though not unsurprising, as Alice had certainly seen what his gift to her would be – it was also full of sheet music. These pages, however, were already full of carefully drawn notes. She glanced over the top sheet, humming a few bars before breaking off. "Is this what I think it is?"
"A handful of my compositions," he confirmed, smiling in earnest for the first time since arriving. "You have been doing so well lately that I thought you might be ready for something composed for our speed and dexterity." Since reaching adulthood, Edward had been teaching his daughter the piano in bits and spurts; they would work together for a few months, and then she would request a break and work on it on her own, or they would get caught up in another move and the piano would be stored away. Renesmee burst into a wide smile and began leaving through the pages in earnest; the action seemed to signal the end of the gift exchange for all of them. Emmett stood and went over to Alice and Jasper, giving him further grief about his gifted Jeep parts, while Carlisle and Esme disappeared into the basement; Esme still had a faraway look in her eyes, caught up in memories of her two lost children. Rose took up the box of parts her husband had received and took them to the garage to sort through; Jacob trailed along, the odd pairing having found common ground in their love of automobiles.
Edward stood, making his way over to his daughter's side and sitting where Jacob had been. He fought against the urge to make a face at the smell left in his wake, trying to be polite. In all honesty, however, it was offensive, and after a moment he shifted to where Carlisle had sat instead. It didn't really make it any better, but it allowed Renesmee to slide off the arm of the couch and sit beside him.
Setting the stack of sheets she had already gone through on the arm table beside the couch, she picked up the next sheet and sang a piece of it under her breath.
You see the shelter as the storm
Holding wind to keep you warm
You are everything to me
This why is I have to leave
So sleep well, my angel
She looked up at Edward as she trailed off. "Is this from when you left her?" she asked, her voice a little unsteady. He nodded, not trusting himself to answer, and she gave him a small smile. "It's beautiful, but I'm glad you went back."
Setting the page aside, she continued to look through the sheets of music. Most of the pieces had no words, only piano; he very rarely set lyrics to his music, the song she had found being one of the few exceptions. He had never shared the song with anyone, even Bella; Renesmee was the first to ever see it.
She had stopped again, and he looked down to see what piece she was reading as she commented, "This must be another from then."
With a start, he snatched the paper from her. "This is not mine," he mumbled, reaching into the box and gathering up the other sheets. Somehow, in his rush, he had grabbed the song the young woman had pressed on him along with his own compositions. Renesmee snatched it back from him, humming a few bars of it.
"Whose is it?" she asked him, looking it over. "I can see the differences in it from your style, but still, it's really good."
As he looked it over, Edward had to grudgingly agree. It was good, the music and lyrics so poignant they seemed to strike a chord in him. He started to piece the melody together in his head; across the room, Alice was grinning at him.
Perfect, he heard her think before she returned to blocking him. Shooting her a glance, he took the music back from his daughter again, turning it face down and setting it on the couch beside him. "No one," he told her. "Just something a stupid left in one of the rehearsal rooms. I must have grabbed it by mistake."
"Too bad," his daughter commented. "I liked it."
He refused to say it, but he liked it too.