Author's note: Soundtrack for this chapter is Pienso, luego existes by Mario Viñuela.


Bella lay awake with eyes shut to the world for a long time the next morning. The sheer comfort of Rosalie nestled in her arms eclipsed even the steadily growing jabs from her stomach that insisted on reminding her she hadn't eaten in nearly 24 hours. To hell with food, she thought. Rosalie was her lifeline, and she clutched to her possessively, unwilling to break this spell...this much longed for intermission in her chaotic life.

If only her goddamn stomach would shut up.

Rosalie's lips twitched against her skin.

"Shhh," Bella mumbled.

"I'm not the one making a racket," Rosalie chucked into her chest, and Bella bit back a quip about which one of them made the biggest racket last night.

Rosalie, nude and relaxed beneath her gaze in the light of day — it had to be mid morning at the earliest — contrasted with her frantic memories from just a few hours ago. Beautiful. The blonde smiled as if she could hear exactly what she was thinking, and tilted her head so she could give her a proper kiss. Bella sighed contentedly and let her fingers ghosted down the blonde's arms and sides, inch after tortuous inch...barely touching but somehow still delivering something akin to an electric shock when she glanced over the curve of her backside, down her legs, around her thighs, and back up again.

Rosalie hissed in pleasure when Bella's mouth suddenly enveloped her exposed earlobe. She ought to be embarrassed that such a simple move affected her body so, but she was pressed close to the warm human and her soft barely perceptible touches were affecting her brain chemistry.

So much time had been lost. Time they'd...time that Bella would never get back. Despite her skin buzzing with the sensation of Bella's fingers traveling determinately south, Rosalie couldn't shake the regret of all those days that were now behind them both. Where would they be now had Rosalie never left? But more importantly, what will their relationship look like from here on?

Rosalie sighed into the crook of her elbow, breathing growing shallower the lower those fingers ventured until—

Fuck…

"I missed you," Bella whispered. Her eyes were wide with reverence, not lifting from Rosalie's rapturous face as she slowly buried two fingers inside her.

Rosalie's reply was a soft whimper. Words couldn't possibly express how much she too missed her human mate. It was as if only now could she see in full color after knowing nothing but monochrome. How would she find the strength to endure this again? Her arms tightened automatically and she willed the terrible thoughts out of her mind. She would need to learn to live in these moments and not darken them with the inevitable. Right now…she needed to stay here and now. She needed to commit all of this to memory. She needed…she needed…

"I need to taste you," Bella growled as she pulled her fingers out so suddenly Rosalie bit back a strangled moan of indignation.

Before Rosalie could get her bearings to respond (and really, was she going to say no?) the human had already dived between her legs, had taken her fully in her mouth, was swiping her tongue delicately over her—

Fuck, fuck, fuck…

Rosalie's hands clenched the sheets tightly beneath her, probably tearing into them. Probably ripping apart the mattress. But they were away from Bella and that was all that mattered now. She wanted to ask Bella to restrain her again — the thought sent a fresh surge of arousal through her body — but her human appeared so single minded in her determination to bring Rosalie over the edge she doubted she'd notice if a freight train steamrolled into the room.

Bella had indeed tuned out the world so she could feast on her girlfriend in peace. Rosalie was at her mercy. She was close, so close…Bella could tell by the way she moaned her name…the way she bucked uncontrollably into her face…and when she came with a choked sob, Bella watched with a perverse satisfaction every tremor and savored every whimper that escaped her lips.

It was without a doubt the most beautiful thing her eyes would ever take in, and Bella was about to voice her thoughts aloud when her stomach made a high pitched squeal.

This time Rosalie laughed out loud and she beckoned the sheepish girl up so they could get out of bed.

"Food's almost here," Rosalie chucked. "You're gonna need to sign for it because it's too sunny for everyone."

"K."

Only when she had wiggled herself into yesterday's clothes and was tying one shoe did her brain process what Rosalie had said.

"Wait…everyone?"

"Well, the sisters anyway. Carmen and Elezear should return tonight. What's…what is it?"

Rosalie stared at her with confusion while the human's face went through several shades of red, then purple, before settling on a sickly green.

They were here the whole time...

Oh my god. Oh my fucking god. Oh fucking shitting fuck. Oh-

"Bella!" Rosalie watched her with alarm before it dawned on her what the girl was hyperventilating about.

"Oh...shit, Bells. I thought you knew."

Of course she should've known. She knew Tanya was in the house during their confrontation. Why would the woman leave her own home after the danger had passed when she remained despite the legitimate possibility of Bella blowing up the house around her? It was obvious in hindsight, but that didn't make it any easier for Bella to know that she had just gone down on her girlfriend (and so, so much more last night) in a house full of vampires with very keen senses.

Was there a hole big enough for her to hide in the yard that she'd torn up yesterday? She could make one. She could stay in it till they could leave. She could—

"Honey," Rosalie carefully approached her. "I'm so sorry, but you don't need to worry so much. They're not gonna say…" She paused suddenly before looking even more apologetic. "Ok Kate will be insufferable like always but no one else will say anything."

Yep, time to find a hole.

What sounded like a vehicle approaching outside, though it sounded nothing like any car she'd heard before, distracted Bella enough from her digging plans.

"Please sign for the delivery? Tip's on the table by the front door."

Somehow, Bella was able to nod and follow her instructions, grateful not to bump into anyone on the way out. And yeah, she deliberately chose to wait at the end of the driveway as far from the house as possible and in the bright sun so as to delay the inevitable walk of shame..

The unfamiliar noise grew in volume until she looked up and watched with jaws flung open as a massive Chinook chopper grew larger and larger above her head. When it touched down in front of her, all she could think was this is definitely not a Doordash.

She stood rooted to her spot while a team in military garb (who the fuck were these people?) unloaded a pallet…a fucking pallet…of food. Bella stared dumbfounded, noticing the crew was giving her and the house behind her strange looks. Trying to act like this was completely normal, Bella signed the clipboard that was handed to her, and gave the man a tip. The fat envelope of money made a lot more sense now that she understood it wasn't going towards a pizza delivery.

Just how long were the Denalis expecting her to stay? Bella had assumed a day at most, and hadn't thought to warn Charlie of more, but that plan was clearly down the tubes. She inspected the pallet — 10,000 pound weight capacity, she remembered reading somewhere — and noticed a considerable amount of liquor alongside the food. Well, she thought dejectedly, definitely more than a day. How was she going to explain this to Charlie?


A week as it turned out. There was enough food and liquor to feed an army for several weeks, and god help her the Denalis actually tried to keep her that long. Luckily even they couldn't charm Charlie into ok-ing more time on account of school. That was a very strange phone call…

"Bella? Where are you?!"

"Er…hi. I'm ok, promise. I uh, well you know I go off on my own this time of year…"

In the back of her mind it occurred to her she was standing thousands of miles not just away from Charlie, but away from Phoenix. Away from the chapel and the cemetery and all the pain she normally subjects herself to on her birthday. It was technically the day after and…well, other than the yard, a fiery fight with Rosalie, tying up her girlfriend and fucking her into obvliv—Jesus, was she actually ok or not?

Charlie sighed. "I understand. When are you coming back?"

"Uh..well here's the thing. I ran into Rosalie."

Silence. "Oh?"

Very awkward silence. "We made up."

"Oh."

"…and I'd like to spend some time with her before returning if that's alright with you."

More silence. Christ…

"Where are you?"

Oh boy. "Just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska."

"HOW ON EARTH…?"

Before she had a chance to reply (and good thing too because all she could think to say was 'powers, remember?') two blurs raced before her eyes, one of whom snatched the phone before she could blink.

"Nobody's better at convincing humans to give us what we want, love," Kate whispered conspiratorially in her ear. "My sister has a way with words."

Bella stared at the grinning blonde, her mind still trying to formulate a sentence to answer Charlie, but there was no point anymore. Irina, for she was the other blur, was chatting amiably with her father like she'd known him for years.

Kate grinned, stretched and let her arm flop around Bella's very tense shoulders. "Now if it's seduction you need to make your point, I'm your woman."

Heart pounding, Bella eyed her warily. She couldn't concentrate on Irina's conversation while Kate looked at her like this.

"Uh, I'm good, thanks."

"Oh I can see exactly how good you are," she said wickedly.

From inside a house, a very loud "KATE!" erupted which had exactly zero effect on the vampire in question.

"If we'd known you were so adventurous we would've kept you longer last time. Tell me," she wasn't even trying to keep the glee out of her voice, "are you always a top or are you ok with switching it up once in a while?"

"KATE!"

It was Irina this time who was glaring at her sister furiously while pointing at the phone. Bella just stared at the device, aware her face must be beet red and very much wishing her powers would let her combust right then and there. How much of this could Charlie pick up?

Unable to focus an iota on Irina until she finally hung up, Bella waited to find out just what she'd be doing (other than hiding under a paper bag) for the next god knows how long.

"5 days! Well, plus the weekend for travel so really 7!

Kate smirked. "She told him you and Rosalie wanted time alone and that you'd be humping like rabb—"

"KATE!"

And that was just the first 10 minutes in the Denalis' company.


Looking back, the week with the Denalis turned out to be the most fun she'd had in a very long time. Not to disparage the Cullens whom she loved and they in turn loved her back like family…but that was just it…the Cullens were family. As wonderful and as fulfilling that was, the weight of it had lately grown heavy after her refusal of their offer to turn. She felt so much guilt and wariness…it was impossible not to despite the warmth underlying every moment with them. Here though, there was none of that. Well, none other than Rosalie. The others weren't attached to her nor she to them, so she was free to simply be with nothing to weigh her down.

After the mortifying start, Bella gradually grew numb to Kate's advances. The mischievous vampire got a kick from every blush she inflicted on her. Bella finally got sick of sputtering and turning into a tomato after every inappropriate remark — "our dungeon is very well equipped, Bella. You should take a look before you leave" — and started to dish out as good as she got. The vampire's glee grew ten-fold and from then on Bella had a retort ready for her wild innuendos. Somewhere along the way, Bella's embarrassment disappeared and she found she enjoyed the NSFW banter with Kate, far more than she ever thought she would.

Her friendship with Kate wasn't only about who could make the other blush. Kate took an immediate interest in Bella's fighting ability when she saw the damage she had done to their yard and heard the details from Rosalie and Tanya.

"If you insist on keeping this body, you need to learn how to use it. And no I don't just mean in bed you vixen!"

To her surprise, Kate was a martial arts master who taught children of all people in town. She explained that she preferred kids because they were less observant than adults, and because sparring never escalated near the point of potentially hurting anyone.

"We wear masks to make it more fun for them, and I can stay hidden. Want one? We have all kinds in the dungeon," she said with a smirk.

"No!"

But Bella was eager to learn something new. Books were invaluable to her and kept her alive so far, but real experience with a real expert wasn't something she'd thought was her case though, the lessons were less martial arts and more how to use her gifts in a fight. Bella was at first indigent about that. She had killed 2 vampires single-handedly with her gifts after all, a fact she smugly related to the smirking blonde. Bella held her back with a burst of air and tilted her head — "See?" — when she found herself flat on her back staring up at Tanya, who had snuck in behind her on Kate's signal.

"You're way too cocky," grinned Kate who was released from her bind when Bella lost concentration. "You sure you aren't packing down there?"

"Christ…" Bella could only mumble and look away, because that image was now seared in her mind.

After that little lesson in humility, they worked on her mental strength in the face of danger. Everyone stepped in to assist, eager to observe and in this case help the gifted human stay alive for Rosalie's sake. They showed her, over and over and in excruciating (for them) slow motion how a vampire typically lunges when attacking. If she saw it coming, Bella's powers usually kicked in in time to save her. If she didn't, she was basically fucked.

Still, she practiced with her lighters, which were now permanently attached to her body in some way (unless, you know, she and Rosalie were busy) that her reaction time had improved exponentially. She also, on Tanya's advice, figured out a way to combine a solid barrier of air with fire, creating an absolutely impenetrable inferno. It took a lot out of her to hold it for more than a few minutes though. And she was nowhere near the goal of molding that cage around herself in a way that allowed her to move untouched regardless of whatever danger in her path.

"She'll have no trouble with this when she turns," said Eleazar to Tanya. They stood like they usually did, nearby watching her practice. "I suspect her shield too will develop beyond its current capability."

Bella gritted her teeth but said nothing. If there was one downside to this week it was this: they had collectively all decided to believe in her impending transformation, regardless of her desires. They weren't pushy about it, otherwise she'd have had a lot less fun. But they, especially Eleazar and Tanya, often made off-handed comments like this that tested Bella's maturity…because everytime it happened within earshot she wanted to scream and shout that NO she would not be transforming into anything except a fucking corpse one day. But…she held back, reminding herself that if anything, their attitudes toward her may one day save them from the Volturi.

If there was one thing she wished could develop a bit faster it was her goddamn shield. Of all her gifts, this one was completely outside her control, and it frustrated her to no end. Elezear had suggested that she may be able to extend it and potentially protect others from mental attacks. The Volturi guard were famous for those, and Bella instantly saw the benefit of rendering their arsenal useless against her family and friends. But try as she might, only she could withstand Kate's zaps, the only thing they had to test it. Poor Rosalie got herself shocked countless times because of Kate's suggestion that Bella would be more motivated to protect someone she loved. It didn't work. All of them got themselves electrocuted multiple times while Bella tried and tried to grab a hold of this thing in her mind that, according to Elezear, was incredibly powerful.

By the end of the week, though she had made some gains, little had changed from the status quo. Head on with one opponent, Bella had a good chance. Divide her attention though, whether it was through multiple opponents or any of a million environmental factors (or Kate handcuffing Rosalie and wiggling her eyebrows suggestively at Bella while Tanya and Irina smirked at her), and she was helpless. Not to mention aroused.

But it wasn't all work and no play. Somewhere amongst the 10,000 lbs of food there was a birthday cake. And candles. And a box of party hats. As soon as those items were revealed, Irina immediately declared there would be a celebration that night, no matter how many times Bella tried to insist she doesn't celebrate her birthdays.

"Give her this," Tanya appeared next to her quietly. "We've never had the opportunity, and my sister is a hopeless romantic."

After that, Bella couldn't find it in herself to keep resisting, and she resigned herself to what would be her very first birthday party since…well, since that night.

Irina's excitement was frankly sweet, and Bella begrudgingly found that she enjoyed knowing she was the cause of it despite the circumstances. Whenever her thoughts turned to the reasons she normally hated her birthday and she got that sad faraway look on her face, Rosalie appeared with a hand through hers, and Bella came back from the darkness.

As they sang her happy birthday, with eighteen candles flickering and Rosalie gazing at her with complete adoration, Bella felt torn between the lightness she felt and anger with herself for feeling good in the first place. It was all very confusing and the sheer emotions warringi inside her would've immobilized her had it not been for Rose.

The party didn't end with the blowing of candles and eating the cake that only Bella could eat. Oh no, no, no. The "party" basically never ended because every single night (and some days) somebody handed her a glass of beer or wine or straight up hard liquor and waited with bated breath to see what would happen. Bella's tolerance, despite her age, was pretty high thanks to night after night trawling Seattle's bars and clubs looking for some sort of thrill. But that only served to encourage the sisters and even Carmen into getting her more schlossed just to see what would happen.

Oh, and let's not forget the drinking games.

Bella found herself fulfilling some bizarre fantasy they all seemed to have of partying like college students. Since no one else could get drunk, it fell to her to satisfy their curiosities and allow them to live vicariously through her (very drunk) self. As soon as Bella felt remotely tipsy, someone would pull her into a game of pong, flip cups or some other juvenile ordeal found on the Internet. Once again Bella went along because it was easier than resisting…and once again she surprised herself with how much fun she had. She did put her foot down on strip poker though, much to Kate's pouty disappointment which quickly turned to a knowing smirk at Bella's face. Bella averted her eyes from everyone except Rose for the rest of that night, because she couldn't stop imagining them playing Texas hold 'em in the buff.

When she wasn't drunk or training, Bella just…was. She spent a lot of time in Tanya's study picking out and returning books she read. She even read a few of Irina's novels. Kate meant it when she said Irina had a way with words, for that was what she did over the centuries to keep from boredom. Irina had published hundreds of novels under dozens of pseudonyms. Romance, especially the steamy kind Irina preferred, wasn't Bella's genre of choice but she read several to be polite to the kind hearted and hopeless romantic.

Eleazar and Carmen, being older and more reserved (and more mature, though let's face it, a 12 year old was more mature than Kate) than the others, kept a greater distance generally speaking unless Bella was training. But she did manage to gain some insight on the Volturi from Eleazar, who spent several centuries with the Volturi identifying gifted individuals.

"They are not monsters, Bella," he had gently insisted. "Though from a human perspective, I suppose they do monstrous things. But every society needs rules. It needs order. The Volturi provide it, simple as that. If it weren't them it would be another coven. At least they are predictable. Their laws are few and straightforward. And they are not arbitrary. There is a very good reason they have maintained power for millennia."

That conversation had left her with more questions than answers, not to mention an annoying sense of guilt for her part in potentially upending the Cullens' and now the Denalis' lives.

Whether it was guilt for this or for her sheer audacity to enjoy herself so much when she should be beating herself up for being a mass murderer, Rosalie always found a way to ease her away from herself and back to tranquility. Her steadfast girlfriend was the best thing about her week off. It almost scared Bella to realize how much she depended on her…how much a look from her or a glancing touch could calm her down or pull her out of a funk.

And then there was the bed.

A lot can change in a week, that was for sure. Something happened between all the drinking, Kate's unending teasing, Irina's earnest romanticism, Tanya's knowing but gentle smiles, and Rosalie's unwavering support for whatever Bella was comfortable with. Not to mention 24/7 proximity to the love of her life, no parental figures, and no Emmett.

She and Rosalie did, as it turned out, fuck like rabbits all week.

Well, there was some restraint. Neither were as vocal as they were the first night or as much as they wanted to be. Whatever exhibitionist kink Bella now had developed, she still didn't feel like exposing more of herself than was absolutely necessary. Making love to Rosalie, regardless of who could hear them, was absolutely necessary. Giving Kate more ammunition to tease her than she already had? No, thanks.

Despite looking forward to uninhibited time with Rosalie in a quiet cottage after they left for Forks tomorrow, Bella would happily come back here again.


The last night in Alaska was rare in that it was quiet. Rosalie was out hunting on her own while everyone else did their own thing throughout the house. After an hour quietly reading in Tanya's study, Bella decided to explore an area she had yet to, oddly enough for her, venture to: the roof.

Tanya's study was, naturally, her favorite room to haunt, and she spent so much time there she had grown acclimated to Tanya's unique scent. Which is how, without needing to use her gifts, she knew she had company and that it was the older woman in question.

"Hi," she waved from the stone chimney she was leaning on.

"Hello, Bella."

"I can go inside if this is a problem."

"Not at all. Rosalie explained your star gazing habits."

The Denali coven leader was…a mystery indeed. She interacted the least with her, at least in comparison to her sisters, even when accounting for half a day spent sleeping in her car on the way here from Fairbanks. But despite this she was nonetheless often at the forefront of her mind. Why? Well, because of Rosalie.

Bella knew they had a history. She knew they were still close. And she had told Tanya the truth in the coffee shop a week ago—Bella was grateful to her for doing whatever she did to bring Rosalie out of the pits of despair and nurse her back to sanity. At the start of the week she thought Rosalie would tell her that they were…well, something. Dating? Friends with benefits? But it never happened. She trusted Rosalie completely and if no such admission came that meant there was nothing going on.

And yet…

Tanya was never far and if she was it wasn't for long. And during the week Bella couldn't help observing her and especially observing her with Rosalie. She knew that Rosalie drew strength from her, but it was something else to see before her own eyes. Whatever their relationship was, it was a powerful thing. It looked platonic, but it didn't feelplatonic. She wanted to talk to Rosalie about it and she would've…were it not for the house full of nosy vampires, and Tanya herself who never left.

Tanya settled down so her own back was also against the chimney, but another face of it so Bella couldn't actually see her.

"It was very nice having you here. I hope you'll plan another visit?"

Bella smiled a genuine smile. "Thank you for everything. I would love to come back, though next time you don't need to order so much food."

They both chuckled, especially now that Bella had a better understanding of the woman's capabilities in the realm of "getting shit done."

Getting shit done is exactly how the family described Tanya's hobbies when Bella was brave enough to ask. Tanya was in charge of keeping the family's scent hidden from the modern world. Her network made the Cullens look like amateurs. Over the thousand years she'd existed, she had amassed enough wealth, real estate and business holdings to make it relatively easy to disappear anything or anyone into obscurity if she desired it. Since meeting one another, when the Cullens needed a quick getaway, she provided it. When one of them got caught in a photo, she scrubbed it from devices and from the cloud. Bella got a first hand look at her talents when she walked into her study to find her at her desk with a dozen different passports and IDs, all with pictures of her. Carlisle had requested them, she explained, so the Cullens could be ready for any contingency and still be able to take her with them. That was a shock…even more so when she handed them all to her, shrugging that she was going to deliver them to Carlisle anyway and they all belonged to Bella technically.

A single text from her phone was all it took to arrange a military aircraft supply run with 12 hours notice.

Tanya fascinated her, if Bella was honest with herself. She could see why Rosalie was taken with her. If she thought Rosalie was steadfast, this woman was a rock. She certainly was to her sisters, and managed to become so to Carmen and Eleazar despite leading long lives before ever meeting her.

"You make her very happy," Tanya said quietly.

Bella's chest ached at those words. Granted those moments were rare during the week, but she had faltered several times and wondered, albeit quietly to herself, if she was doing the right thing where Rosalie was concerned. Was she being colossally selfish? Yes she was. Bella herself barely held on to her sanity while apart from Rosalie for just 2 months, and here she was expecting Rosalie to live out god knows how many years after her own death, alone with the pain.

But if Rose had the strength she didn't…if Bella could make her as happy as Rose made her…

"You make her happy, too."

Bella waited with baited breath for Tanya's response. Anything. Bella hadn't planned on saying it, but the second the words left her mouth she knew she meant it. Rosalie deserved every bit of love she could get, and the densest person could see that Tanya loved her.

Tanya's response never came. After several minutes passed she glanced around the corner and saw she'd gone.

Hours later when she felt the bed sink with Rosalie's weight next to her, Bella snuggled contendly into her arms.

"Hey, you. Sorry to wake you."

"So'Kay. Catch anything good?"

Rose smiled. "A bear. Emmett will be jealous."

Bella laughed sleepily. "I miss him."

"I know. We'll be home before you know it."

Something about that statement jostled her awake, and she realized that yeah, this was it. They would be in Forks tomorrow and all of this would be far behind them. Bella wanted...no, she needed to say something before that happened, privacy be damned. As a matter of fact, she wanted them...wanted Tanya to hear what she had to say.

"Rose," she whispered. "Is there something going on between you and Tanya?"

Rosalie looked at her in surprise. "No," she whispered back. "Not for a long time. Years."

"Why?" Bella asked, genuinely taken aback.

Her girlfriend looked at her wide-eyed, trying to formulate a response and knowing full well that the house had a full and rapt audience.

"I...I don't...Bells, I told you I would come to you if anything were to happen. I would ask for your blessing."

"You have it."

Silence.

"What?"

"You have my blessing," Bella repeated with a yawn.

"Bells," Rosalie said, perplexed. "You're half asleep..."

"Then I'll say it again in the morning," Bella replied with a smile. "Night..."

Rosalie watched her girlfriend succumb to sleep once again, wondering what the hell had just happened. Wondering for the hundredth time this week...just how much Bella had changed in their months apart.


Author's note: Well, FML. Despite having this chapter pretty heavily outlined, it took me an ungodly amount of time to finally get around to writing it. I blame the initial sex scene. Did I mention I hate writing them?

Seriously though, I'm sorry for the wait. I had some major work stuff that took a lot of my spare time and then as usual, I psych myself out really hard when it comes to this story, which has become a lot more important to me than I ever thought it would be. Fun fact, my adult ADHD was so bad the only way I managed to write anything without distractions has been the friggin bathtub. The last 3 chapters were written entirely in the tub. I hope get a handle on this soon or our water bill will kick my ass till I finish Gifted.

Aaaaanyway. I'm relieved to be able to update one last time in 2021 (fuck you, 2021 for taking Betty White). I hope 2022 brings something better to all of you.