Author: Mandi1 PM
They had proven themselves strong in the past. Unbreakable, through change, force, and even death. But the cracks that form in the Cullens' lives are hard to ignore and even harder to repair when things start to shatter.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Chapters: 18 - Words: 55,300 - Reviews: 248 - Favs: 106 - Follows: 86 - Updated: 10-01-09 - Published: 05-28-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5094086
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It happened on a Saturday. A normal, ordinary Saturday.
For the moment, Edward had pushed his piano into the corner, covered it with the protective sheet, and had instead taken out the hammered dulcimer. He had recently regretted his lessening skill and wanted to hone his talent once more. The last time he had gone through a dulcimer phase, Emmett had tossed the instrument out a second-story window, shouting something like, "If I have to hear another Irish jig another fucking time, I'll blow my brains out." Courteously – and due to the fact that he had no more dulcimer – Edward had given the practice up, until Esme bought him another one for Christmas, much to Emmett's dismay. He could only use two hammers just now, but with practice, and Emmett's patience withstanding, maybe he could work his way up to four.
Luckily, Edward was blessed with the sort of wife who didn't mind the hammered dulcimer. Bella sat on the couch, leaning over the table before her, humming along to "Oh Susanna!" as she pasted photos into the scrapbook she was finishing. He looked over at her, smiling and nearly losing his place in the music when she returned his gaze, her golden eyes so like his now. But he returned back to his instrument, a smile still lingering about his lips, the same one on hers as she placed the last photograph in her book.
"There," she said with the hefty sigh that always comes with a job well done. "All finished. Want to see?"
Edward deftly put the hammers next to the dulcimer and came to sit next to his wife, an arm casually slung around her shoulders as she opened the book to the first page. An exquisite coat of arms was emblazoned there in gilt relief, four quadrants of red and pale yellow with a tree growing in the middle, two initials on either side – R and J. Bella ran a pale fingertip over the R and gave a quivering little sigh before turning the page to the first picture – a beaming Jacob holding up the left hand of their daughter, upon which sat the ring that she had so readily accepted. Bella could feel her husband's arm tighten ever so slightly around her and turned the page, focusing instead on the cream and gold wedding announcement that took up the next page.
Edward relaxed then as she went on through photos of dress fittings, of engagement parties, of bridal showers. He only growled once, at a photo of Nessie holding up a scandalous piece of black lingerie at her bachelorette party (a photo Bella had only really put in there to plague him). But even so, he softened when she got to the photos of the wedding – pictures of their daughter preparing for the day of her life, of their new son-in-law waiting anxiously at the altar, of Edward and Nessie walking arm-in-arm down the aisle to her future husband. Bella paused then, again fingering the edges of the photograph, as if she could reach in and touch the girl if only she tried hard enough.
"Go on." Edward's voice was stiff – a sure sign he was attempting not to give in to his emotions. She smiled a little at that; he was still the same after all these years. But she went on nevertheless, turning through pictures of the reception, the couple leaving on their honeymoon, and the last final photo – Nessie and Jacob, arms around each other as they stood in front of their new little house on the Washington coast. Miles and miles away from where Bella and Edward were now, in the wilds of northern Canada where no one would question having a multi-million dollar estate in the middle of nowhere. Both heaved a little sigh as the book was closed.
"She did say she's coming to visit in the spring," Edward reminded her – or maybe reminded himself. Either way, Bella nodded and leaned her head on her husband's shoulder.
"Yes…but spring's so far away," she replied. "What will we do until then?"
"We did have a life before we had a child, my love, if memory serves me correctly."
She laughed. "Sure, sure, I remember. I remember very well."
He snickered, and nuzzled into her neck, nipping softly as he murmured, "Why don't you tell me what you remember…"
"Or perhaps I could show you…?" Bella let her hands begin their descent.
The ear-splitting scream that interrupted them was an absolute mood-breaker, as was the crash that followed.
Sometimes all it took was a good autumn breeze, the open road, and a two-month old cherry-red Ducati to clear a man's head. At least that seemed to be the case for Jasper. The absence of all the family was an occasional – and hard to come by – blessing, one that meant not having to deal with emotions that weren't his; pouting fits from Rosalie, holier-than-thou feelings from Edward, the confusion Bella so often experienced, even years after her transition, the overemotive highs and dull lows that came from Emmett, and the depression they were all feeling after moving away from Washington once again. Carlisle was calming and Esme was warming and when Alice wasn't bopping around like a star afire she was heaven on earth, but that wasn't enough to clear out the jumble of feelings tumbling around in his soul on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis.
And so, on nice days like today, Jasper would hop on his new bike and tour the wild, barely-hewn roads of the Canadian frontier, letting no emotion invade him but his own. It was pacifying, being unencumbered by any other feelings. Freeing, to be with his own self and no one else to worry about, to calm or to liven or to lull to a near-dead stasis. He revved the engine of the Ducati, not caring that he wore no helmet and appreciating the feel of the wind in his hair more than ever as he sped down the path.
He only returned when the sun was beginning its descent in the sky and the patches of skin that flashed between the cuffs of his leather jacket and the tops of his riding gloves were sparkling like diamonds. He took the easy path home, not wanting to damage his new plaything so early, and met up with another piece of fine machinery on the road – Carlisle's elegant Jaguar returning home. The man Jasper called his father had not taken a job in Canada but was instead using the peace of the wilderness (and their extensive Swiss bank accounts) to take some time off and focus on writing a book – his third, to be precise. The darkly-tinted window lowered when Jasper pulled up next to the car, and Carlisle's face peeked out, his eyes a darkening caramel.
"Enjoying your getaway, son?"
Jasper cracked a small smile. Yes, Carlisle understood. And his soothing spirit didn't ruin Jasper's mood at all. Had he met Rosalie on the road, that would've been another story.
"Everyone's busy back home, except Alice and Esme," Jasper explained, edging the bike up the drive home as Carlisle drove alongside him. "They've gone out hunting and won't be back till after dark."
The tip of Carlisle's pink tongue swept over his lip. "Ah, a hunt. Sounds tempting. I might have to –"
They weren't even at the end of the drive, but Jasper and Carlisle still heard the scream – and the crash that followed too.
"Animal testing? How awful."
Esme frowned as she made it to the top of the next hill, looking down at the industrial gray building in the valley below. Alice came to stand next to her and nodded unhappily.
"Yes, I saw it last night. Probably some awful cosmetics company or cleaning supplies or something equally stupid," she said with a sigh. "I, for one, am of the opinion that animals should be left to their own devices…unless I'm thirsty, of course."
"And it's better us drinking from the animals than from the scientists, I suppose," Esme said, a little wry grin on her face.
Alice laughed. "Indeed."
Mid-laugh, Esme stopped and crouched low, a scent on the wind catching her attention. Alice was attuned to it too, her eyes wide as she took in the vision at the same time.
"This way," the dark-haired girl said a moment later, leading the chase down the hill and through the forest. Esme followed Alice through the trees, stopping outside the quiet, dark den the girl had seen in her vision.
"Here?" Esme asked.
Alice nodded silently, then murmured. "Something with the testing…they're going to be taken…poked, prodded."
Esme felt her throat pool with venom. "We should…put them out of their misery…shouldn't we?"
Alice's face twisted into a wicked little grin.
They were swift. It was rather like a mercy killing, saving the two huge bears inside the den from being subject to the awful chemical torture Alice had seen happening. And when they were done, their thirst satiated for now, they took the short way home, walking lazily in the sunset light.
"Carlisle will be sad to have missed that," Esme said ruefully. "You know how he enjoys bear."
"His English palate thinks them exotic," Alice mused. "Give him a badger or a fox, and he'll be bored to death."
Esme reached over to pinch her daughter's cheek. "Be kind."
"Oh, I'm kind, I'm only saying –"
But she froze mid-sentence, her eyes widening with something Esme couldn't see. And when she came around, she said nothing to explain, only took off running.
"What is it? What's wrong?" Esme cried out as she followed.
"We have to hurry!" Alice said, her only explanation. "If we do, maybe we can stop them!"
"Stop who? What's going on?"
They had reached the clearing behind the house and still Alice did not slow down, not even when the scream pierced the air.
She stopped dead in her tracks when the third-story window crashed open, glass tinkling to the patio below, and she took a silent step backwards to get out of the way of the four-poster bed that followed, splintering to pieces on the ground floor.