Author: Sobriquett PM
When Bella dies in childbirth, Edward is torn. He cannot live without his love, but neither he nor his family will allow him to abandon Renesmee. BD AU, one-shot, flangst, tissues recommended. For Kyrene. Indie Twific Awards finalist, one-shot category.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Family - Edward & Renesmee C./Nessie - Words: 11,964 - Reviews: 51 - Favs: 126 - Follows: 17 - Published: 11-04-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5489569
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Twilight and its characters are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended and all creative rights to these characters belong to their original author. No profit is being made from this story. There is some close paraphrasing of Chapter 18 of Breaking Dawn.
For Kyrene, who is unspeakably awesome, the superlative beta, and my soul mate across the sea. Happy belated birthday.
Edward wishes he could float.
It's not for the first time, nor will it be the last in these interminable days of agony. Any touch burns his skin, scolds him in a way he's sure would kill a human, but he cannot die. God has snatched away even that mercy. Instead, he shuns all comfort in perfect, silent stillness. He cannot sit nor stand nor lie nor kneel without thinking of her. His wife.
Edward is a widower.
Her presence is everywhere, reminding him of his crime. It is his penance for her murder. Her scent lingers in every corner and clings to every thread of material, every square inch of carpet, even his skin. He has not washed it away. He cannot. Most of the time, he cannot move. Tortured by a flawless eidetic memory and a lingering obsession, he is haunted.
Edward sees her everywhere.
Unmoving, unbreathing, he is slumped dejected before the great windows of his bedroom. He watches the sun rise over what should have been her nineteenth birthday. He thinks of when she first saw him in the sun. He remembers their desperate reunion just out of its scorching heat when she curtailed his theatrics in a busy square. His attempts to save her were justified, in the end, even though they weren't successful. He killed her. His eyes close on the beauty he never deserved and he remembers another scene.
Edward cannot help but remember.
Bella's body is twitching in Rosalie's arms as she sprints for their makeshift operating theatre. Edward hears Jacob describe it in his mind as if she is being shocked, but Edward is insensible. In his fever, he cannot feel, only think, and then only instinctively. He is an animal, more so than he has ever been, driven to protect his own.
He hears himself shout for morphine. He registers that Bella is the colour of snow, not dissimilar to himself, but he does not reflect. Only registers.
Jacob Black is standing in the corner, looking on. He does not know whether to gawk or to look away. Edward is indifferent. Jacob could look at Edward's naked wife until his eyes bled if it would keep her alive.
Bella comes around. She screams. Blood vessels pop in her eyes. She wants Edward to save her son. Edward wants to save his wife.
Rosalie wants to save the baby too and muscles in with a scalpel.
As Bella screams, she chokes, and Edward tries to support her head, to keep her airway clear. He hears Carlisle, firing instructions at Rosalie in words that blur together into a low buzz inaudible even to Edward. He is staring at Bella's stomach. Rose's blade punctures the black and purple-flowered flesh, stretched taut over an iron uterus. Then, disaster.
Rosalie's eyes are pitch black. She snaps, snarls, and Alice and Jacob jump to take her down. Edward loses his focus on the delivery; Bella faces a more immediate threat. He barks more instructions; his hands are busy with keeping Bella breathing. Rosalie is removed. Jacob becomes his assistant and Edward's stomach contracts; long dead butterflies soar again. He knows he is doomed to failure, a teenage boy his ally against inevitability.
Bella turns blue, then the worst sound yet: a crack as her spine breaks, legs sprawled awkwardly and deathly still across the operating table.
Jacob shouts something, Edward agrees. She cannot feel anything any more. Edward is relieved, yet terrified.
Jacob's lips are pressed to hers, Edward's to her stomach. She wants him to save the baby. That's what she wants. The baby needs to be out for him to save her. That's what he needs. Remove the baby.
Jacob is shouting again, this time at Bella. Edward does not care. He is focussed. Nothing matters except Bella and her child. On instinct alone, he frees the warm, bloody infant and the world ceases to spin on its axis.
Holding his daughter, he feels a peace he has only known with Bella in his arms. It is short-lived, only lasting long enough to murmur her name reverently. "Renesmee."
Bella asks for the child, too quietly for anyone else to hear, but he does. He is completely attuned to every part of her. He hands the baby over, slowly. The child bites. Edward snatches her back, berates the child, focus diverted, but the end of a familiar sound nearly kills him.
Bella's heart. It stops.
Jacob's hands are already on her chest, pumping up and down. Edward is frozen for less than half a second.
"Take the baby," he says. Jacob doesn't care about the child either. He wants to save Bella. He tells him to throw the thing out the window. Edward, although he will never admit it no matter how long he exists, briefly considers it. He is relieved by a voice from the doorway then tells Jacob to move aside.
Bella. Bella. Bella. Her name is a mantra in his head, an adopted heartbeat. His world has narrowed to the woman on the table and the syringe in his hand. This is all he can do for her. This, and keep her heart beating.
He swears that if he were alive and her heart stopped beating for good, his would too. Perhaps God would grant him some mercy, but he should not think like that. She cannot die.
He knocks Jacob's hand away, breaking one of the boy's fingers. He feels no remorse, slamming the needle into Bella's heart. She jolts. Then he kisses her, or so he pretends, but it's secretly a violation disguised as a lover's worship as he breaks her skin with his teeth in a dozen vital places. He spreads his poison to save her life.
He hears the rhyme in Jacob's mind. All the king's horses and all the king's men…
He half listens as Jacob thinks how much he wants to run, to leave, to go downstairs and out the door and never come back. He loses his temper and between ministrations barks for him to leave.
Jacob does, and Edward regrets it now. If he had asked Jacob to stay, would she have survived?
He forces her dead heart to beat, over and over again. He counts, he breathes, he pumps again. He counts, he breathes. Nothing. She's not responding. He pumps harder and harder, growing desperate. He cannot speak, cannot plead. He can only move, applying more and more pressure to her chest until…
He hears another crack, several almost simultaneously. He has splintered her ribs and crushed her heart. He freezes, hands in place on her lifeless chest, now hollow like her cheeks. He steps backwards, one step, another. Nothing. No sound but his feet squeaking on the floor as they slide back.
He has killed her.
Even though the house is submerged in a stifling silence, Edward willingly suffers the cacophony of his family's thoughts merging into a dissonant chorus of grief, disbelief and pragmatism. The other half of his mind acknowledges the quiet irony that Bella would be buried on the day that she should have been born again, the nineteenth anniversary of her birth.
Fragments of thought filter through Edward's consciousness as he only half forces the pretence of insensibility.
- Edward. We should ask him what he wants to do regarding the –
- body. Maybe we shouldn't let Edward see her. Who knows how he'll react? I'll snap, we all will, if I, we, feel that. He'll have to be involved, but perhaps we can do the sensitive parts, save him the –
- bite marks. They'll need dressing. No way we could have an open casket funeral, or even a traditional one, she's so emaciated and –
- Edward, stop torturing yourself. That's it, I'm coming up again.
Alice. He hears his sister's clothes rustling as she ascends the stairs. She is wearing heavy clothes that make more noise than her usual attire. He hears the negligible creak of the wood under her feet. It's too loud, too much. He closes his eyes.
Edward. He shakes his head; it's a tiny movement. If they weren't monsters, Alice would not have noticed. Edward. Stop it. Open your eyes. Look at me.
She steps closer and flashes him an image of her niece. That makes Edward turn around. The shadows under her eyes are as pronounced as they would be if she had been a human crying for days. Her chest lurches with a sob and he understands that she has been as close to tears as their nature allows. He returns to the window.
Come downstairs, she pleads. They're all so worried. You always were the family's glue. Esme has lost her daughter, she wants her son. Carlisle is… She sobs. She cannot explain in words. She shows Edward his father's face. Carlisle looks like an old man. None of us have ever seen him like this. Jasper can't be here most of the time. Emmett's so quiet, reserved. His eyes seem to dart between the stairs and your daughter, constantly. Rosalie, she-
"The baby. Is she well?" Edward feels his temper creeping towards red. He wants quiet. Alice should know this.
"Then leave me alone, Alice. I want to grieve, although God knows I don't deserve any peace."
She does. With his thoughts now on his daughter, he remembers the first time he held her, after Alice's previous intervention.
If Alice had not come upstairs shortly after Bella's death, he may never have moved again. He was determined to end his existence in that same spot, the place he stood when he realised she was dead. He could not think her name yet. His world would implode and he would go on forever in unseeing misery.
"Edward." Alice's hand is shaking as she reaches out to him. She knows he isn't going to lift his to meet hers, so she takes his wrist in one hand and uncurls his fist with the other. She entwines the fingers of both their hands and stands in front of him, but he can still see Bella's body over her head.
"Don't," she says, lifting her chin to meet his eye. "Look at me, Edward." She waits until he does. "Come and meet your daughter. Come on." She steps backwards, tugging their hands. She tries to keep his eye. She gives a decisive tug and Edward, not entirely in control, stumbles forward.
Then he is wordlessly irate, his insensibility interrupted.
Alice pleads with him. "Come downstairs, Edward. Please. Your daughter needs you. Bella wouldn't want you shut up here. She would want you to be caring for your child."
Hearing Bella's name, Edward flinches, but Alice has said the magic words. What Bella wants. This is what Bella wants.
Wanted, he corrects himself, but he allows Alice to lead him downstairs anyway. Even if she is dead, he can disrespect neither her memory nor her wishes.
"Rosalie," Alice says, releasing his hand, and suddenly Rose is standing in front of him, baby supported by outstretched arms.
"Take her," Rosalie whispers. Edward does, unthinking. He is bewitched by those eyes. Chocolate brown, just like hers were.
Alice, knowing best how to prod him forward, remarks, "She looks so much like her mother. Isn't she beautiful, Edward?"
He nods, enraptured.
"Give her your finger," Rosalie suggests. Edward, still not thinking for himself, does so, and falls violently in love – again – when Renesmee wraps her fist around it and beams at him.
Smiling. She should not be doing that at such a young age, but she is. Edward, ever the pessimist, thinks this is punishment. All he can see is Bella's smile in his daughter's, and so he never wants to let her go again.
It is nearly sunset and monsters are gathering downstairs. The noise in Edward's head has grown into a tremendous ruckus. In reality, there are only self-consciously soft footsteps and the sough of friction against fabric. He recognises that they are trying to take care with their thoughts, to protect him as far as they can, but he cannot decide whether to thank them or politely ask them to let him suffer. In the end, apathy wins.
He presses his forehead and hands against the window, forcing out rhythmic breaths. He wonders idly if this is meant to make him feel alive, but he knows he is dead. So is Bella. He misses her heartbeat. He finds he doesn't miss the quiet of her mind; he would give anything to have any of her sounds back.
Eyes down, he is faced with the suit he has been coerced into wearing. His attire is not enough to show his respect and love for the woman they are burying. He wishes he could stain it with his tears or wither away inside it. He doubts any vampire has ever wanted to be human with this intensity.
Sifting through the voices, one stands out in its similar pre-occupation to Edward's. Jacob, his mind split between Bella and Renesmee, is not bothering to filter his thoughts. Eventually, Jacob's attention settles on Renesmee, who Edward can see is crawling towards the boy, beaming. He wishes he were Jacob now, but would not wish his own suffering on anyone else instead.
At least Renesmee would be well cared for. He remembers realising that Jacob had imprinted on his daughter, but cannot remember how he felt. Did he feel? He tries to remember that instead, playing through the moments in his mind.
Edward knows Jacob Black has imprinted on his Renesmee from the moment he notices the dog hasn't left. At the moment of epiphany, he is otherwise distracted, and later occupied with his own self-flagellation and guilt over Bella's death. He does not feel anything but Bella's chest beneath his hands or her lips below his mouth, even now, hours later.
He knows he has to contemplate it. As much as Edward may not like the boy, he respects him. He may not like the match between his daughter and a dog, but he understands that an imprint is a fierce, intense love between a capable man and a compatible woman.
Edward was not unhappy that Jacob had imprinted, although he would have preferred it not to be on his daughter. However, in his loss, he would begrudge no-one their own happiness. It's one fewer thing for him to worry about, one loose end effortlessly tied up. He does, however, have to act like a father for the first and last time and at least interrogate the boy. Bella had enjoyed seeing two men fight for her, and Edward hopes she would be satisfied to see the same two men fight for her daughter, if she could see them. He justifies that it is as much for Bella's peace as Renesmee's safety.
He remembers the last conversation he had alone with Bella.
"Edward," Bella says, and his attention snaps from their baby to her. It is the first time they have been almost alone together since their return – Rosalie remains a silent sentinel in the corner, her attention half-focussed on the works of Simone de Beauvoir.
Bella's eyes are burning bright rather than warm this evening and Edward wonders if that's her soul releasing all of its fire before being prematurely extinguished. Then he whitewashes his mind, and his face, as he recognises the scepter of hope and knows that it's not important, just as long as she lives and forgives him.
"Can you still hear him?"
"What does he want?" Edward is confused and Bella clarifies. "Does he want anything?"
"No," Edward says, but he's not sure. What he hears from the child's mind are fragments, vague images. He cannot read him like he does the family. Perhaps it's something inherited from Bella, or just the child's age. He is still wondering, when he sees the opening for a conversation he hadn't wanted to start before.
"What do you want, Bella? For him?"
Bella stares into his eyes; she has that glazed look in them again. "I want him to be happy."
"How do we make him happy, though?"
Bella thinks; her eyes are shining and fixed on a point just over Edward's shoulder. He thinks the exhaustion is making it hard for her to concentrate. "I don't know." Her voice is dreamy. "By being there, whenever we're needed. By loving him. I want him to be loved, and to fall in love like we did. I want him to have whatever makes him happy." She lifts her hand an inch and he understands. He clutches it, feverishly hot now, between both of his. He caresses her fingers, trying to cool them. "Promise me," she murmurs.
"Promise you what, my love?"
"Promise me you'll make him happy."
He kisses her hand; it's partly affection but mostly so she can't see his eyes. "Of course, but you'll have to help me."
"In any way I can," she promises.
Edward tries to imagine what could possibly make this bereaved child happy at her mother's funeral. He chooses to sift through her mind to find out.
Despite being clothed in an uncomfortable ebony dress, Renesmee is unconcerned by the melancholy of the house as she bounces, giggling, on Emmett's knee. He is dressed in a shirt and tie, jacket over the back of the chair and shirt still untucked, tickling his niece's sides. There is a smile plastered across his face, but it's vacant, his eyes glazed.
Edward goes down to meet them. The living room falls quiet when he enters, but his attention is only for his brother and the infant on his knee. Their eyes meet. Emmett nods.
"Rose," he says. He barely breathes the word but she has Renesmee in her arms in under a second and a half. Edward would like to believe that he'd be able to communicate with Bella like that after seventy years together, but now he'll never know. Emmett leads Edward out of the room and through to the hall. From there, they go out the front door, up the drive and into the fringes of the forest.
"Edward," Emmett says at last. "How are you?"
Edward doesn't answer. He quirks an eyebrow but his old sarcasm is missing.
"Sorry." Emmett tries again. "She's an awesome kid. She's so much like Bella."
Edward flinches. It's only the second time he's heard his wife's name aloud since her death. It still stings. He thinks it might forever. He doesn't want to experience forever.
"You should spend more time with her."
"I wish I could."
"For Christ's sakes, Edward. You only have to stop moping and come downstairs."
"I know," Edward says again. He's quiet. "I just don't know what to do."
"What do you mean?"
"Kids. I don't get kids. I can't look after one, especially one as complex as Renesmee. She needs her mother, not me."
"You're her father."
"Stop saying that. If you know so much, why don't you just do something?"
Edward sighs. "I don't know how. You seem good with her. How do you do it?"
Emmett, sensing this could be a long conversation, sits. Edward sits opposite.
"Alice will kill us," Edward says. He can feel the damp ground through his pants, against his skin.
"It doesn't matter."
Edward crushes twigs between his fingers. Emmett watches, but his mind is in another decade. "You know I had a lot of brothers and sisters?"
"Yeah," Edward says. Of course he did.
"That's how I 'know' what to do." He punctuates his words with finger quotes. "You never really know, Edward, it's instinct. Like hunting."
"I'm scared," he admits. "Completely terrified."
"Of fucking up." Edward almost never swears. Emmett knows he means it; it's been one of Edward's most obvious signs of stress for as long as they've known one another.
"You won't, Edward. You can't."
"Oh, I can."
"No, you can't, and you won't."
Edward goes to disagree, but there is a noise in the garden. Somebody is maybe a hundred feet away. Edward listens; he wants to know who might have heard him.
Only me, Edward. It's Alice. You know I'm the soul of discretion.
"It's time," she says aloud. They go in.
Alice asked Edward to pick Bella's final resting place two days ago, the day after she died. He shook his head but showed no other sign of animation. Alice, as Bella's best friend, chose instead. Edward put off thinking about this too. He didn't like the idea of his Bella underground, out of the light. He had never wanted her to lose the sunlight.
In the house, Rosalie has reluctantly relinquished Renesmee to Jacob. She's tugging on his hair with a powerful fist. He's grinning like a lovesick teenager. It hits Edward like gelid water from a fifty-foot jump when he realises Jacob is just that: a sixteen year old in love.
The whole family are there and all their eyes are on Edward. Then there is Jacob, flanked by Seth and Leah. Seth's eyes are red and inflamed. Even Leah looks less resolute than usual. Edward nods to them then turns to Alice. She smiles and extends her hand. Edward takes it and they exit to the garden.
The last time Edward walked through this door, he was leading Bella and they had just been married. Now he is being led by his sister and Bella is behind them. He doesn't want to think about it.
The sky is just the same as it had been over the wedding exactly one month earlier – the sun had just ducked below the trees, setting their silhouettes ablaze. The white flowers that had been blooming a month ago are still there and they glowed again, but this time they look as though they are burning, not glowing. Edward cannot look. He watches the grass as it is crushed under his too-shiny shoes.
The procession moves down towards the river.
There is a deep hole in the ground between the two great cedar trees. It is the exact same spot where they had danced their first dance. Edward scrunches his eyes shut. He does not want to be here. His heart feels as though it's being shredded with teeth and claws and nails. He puts both hands in his hair and stops in the middle of the lawn.
Alice steps away and Edward hears Jasper's footsteps come closer. He can tell from the sound; Jasper has the longest stride of any member of the family. Jasper's palm plants itself firmly between Edward's shoulder blades and he is pushed under a wave of quiet. He feels numb. Lowering one hand, Edward turns his head to see Jasper. His brother's face is contorted.
"Stop," Edward says. "Let me feel this."
Jasper can tell he is rational. Even though he is being emotionally crucified, Edward knows what he is saying. Jasper nods and backs away. I… I might need to leave.
Edward nods. "Of course. She'd understand."
The ceremony is brief. Edward does not remember much of it. Esme wanted him to hold Renesmee; he refused with a shake of his head. He stood beside the grave, head bowed, and listened as the rest of the family said their pieces and Bella was laid to rest in the chasm.
He still did not look. He would grieve alone later. This was for his family to say goodbye; his goodbye had been over the last month, slowly watching her die. Besides, it was only an au revoir, not an adieu. He would see her soon.
Edward. It's Carlisle, on the other side of the door. Edward can see the grain of the wood through Carlisle's eyes and hear the soft brush of fingertips over the indentations. I will come with you, should you need me.
"For what?" he asks, although he knows.
Charlie. The image of the police chief watching Bella and Edward dance on their wedding day flashes briefly through Carlisle's mind, but it is quickly banished and replaced with a blank slate. We must tell him something. He needs to know at least a semblance of the truth.
"I know." He pauses. "You can come in, Carlisle."
I know, he replies. I just wanted this to be on your terms.
Nothing more is said for an hour. Carlisle enters and perches gingerly on the end of the bed. It's unmade, crumpled and untidy, one pillow on the floor. Carlisle reaches down to pick it up, but a subtle movement by Edward distracts his attention and the two focus on the rain until they're ready to speak again. It's dark now, but Edward can still see the mound of earth over Bella's body and discern every individual raindrop separating them.
"What do we tell him?" Edward asks.
"We can't do that."
We may have to. What lie can we tell him without a body? He is a man of the law, and she was-
Edward flinches at the past tense.
Carlisle bows his head. I'm sorry. Edward knows he means for more than his slip. He does not acknowledge the apology. She was his daughter, Edward. He'll chase us for the rest of his life to find answers, and I don't want to curtail it if he finds answers he didn't want.
"He may want his life shortened because of her loss. That's what I want for mine."
"Don't say things like that, Edward." Carlisle's transition to speaking aloud makes his words more powerful. Edward is aware that all of the family present in the house – everyone except his daughter and Jasper – will have caught the words. He can hear their reactions already. He's grateful circumstance has occupied Jasper elsewhere. He wonders where they are in this weather, but perhaps it's best that he doesn't know. Nobody in the family will allow any harm to come to his daughter.
"I'd say I don't mean it, but I do. I don't want to live without her, Carlisle. I can't."
Carlisle swallowed the urge to curse at his son, to berate him for being so selfish. Then he imagined what he himself would be like if he ever, God forbid, lost Esme, and was awed by Edward's stoicism. You can, Edward. You've done things in these last two years that would astound any creature. You can do one more thing for her.
"I don't want to."
And that's fair. But you could, can, if you try. And you have to try, Edward. You have a daughter to think about. No matter what happens to you both in this world, she must be the first thing to you now, always. More so than Bella ever was.
"That's not possible."
You must try, Edward.
"She deserves better than me for a father, Carlisle. Would you raise her?"
"Please? Carlisle, there is nobody I trust more, and you have been the best of fathers. Please?"
Carlisle shook his head. "We should be alone for this conversation."
The words spoken aloud by their patriarch cleared the house. Both heard soft footsteps across the hardwood floor of the halls, then the crunch of the gravel as the other four made their way out of hearing range of the house.
"Please, Carlisle?" Edward asked again, when the other voices had faded to a near inaudible buzz in his head.
"No, Edward. Absolutely not. I will be the child's grandfather – it's the only opportunity to play this role I will ever have, despite my large family – but I will not be her father. The girl does not have a mother; she needs her real father twice as much as any normal child."
"You're better qualified than I am."
"Not important. No parent is ever fully qualified to raise children, and you will be better than most."
"Bullshit." Carlisle glared and Edward had the decency to look sheepish.
"I will not raise your child for you, Edward. You are in almost every way that counts over one hundred years old. You can raise a child, and you'll fulfil your responsibilities. And one of those, tonight, is to Charlie."
Charlie. Edward bows his head. "I don't know what to tell him," Edward breathes.
"Something to soothe him. Bella would not want him to be tortured."
"But he will be, whatever we tell him."
"I'll be with you."
"Will you speak, Carlisle? I don't know what I could say, if I could say anything…"
"I will be there; that's all I can promise."
Edward nods and sets his shoulders. "We should do it now before more questions are asked."
Carlisle nods. Let's go.
Edward does not remember much of what happened at Charlie's either. He cannot remember much of what has happened since Bella's death at all.
They pull up in front of the house in Carlisle's Mercedes – Edward refused to use any of his cars because of the scent – and Carlisle has to open Edward's door to make him get out. Edward trudges behind his father to the front door like the archetypal teenage son, and hides his features under a mask that barely conceals his despair. It is an effort. Carlisle has his doctor's face on.
The door opens and Charlie appears. He looks like an old man. Edward would swear that there are more lines around his eyes, or maybe they're just deeper. There seems to be more grey at his temples and his lips are set thinner than last time they had met. Seeing Carlisle, Charlie's face pales and he retreats back inside, leaving the door open behind him. His walk is slower, more uneven, than it had been a year ago. Carlisle and Edward follow, Edward closing the door behind them.
In the living room, Charlie has slumped into his chair. The television is muted and comical figures sprint across green masses. Only Edward even glances at it. "She's gone, isn't she?"
Carlisle nods. He has stepped into the room but Edward doesn't cross the threshold.
"When?" Charlie asks.
Edward doesn't answer. He has regressed to a stubborn teenager. Carlisle will berate him, but not here. "Three days ago." Carlisle can be honest about this much.
Charlie slumps further forward. His face is hidden in his hands and his thoughts are sharp enough now to pierce Edward's skull. Charlie hides his face so they cannot see him cry, but the racking of his shoulders and the changed tempo of his breathing give him away. Edward turns his face away; he cannot bear to see a strong man cry.
Carlisle looks lost. Edward has never seen him lost.
"Wh-when…" Charlie cannot finish his sentence. He sniffs, deeply. "When will you bury her?"
"We already have," Carlisle says. He is quiet, embarrassed, but they could not have invited him. Edward interprets Carlisle's internal monologue truthfully: Charlie should not be allowed to see the wounds his son-in-law inflicted on the woman they both worshipped.
Charlie nods. "And you'll be leaving now." It's not a question and he doesn't just mean the house.
Edward sees glimmers of comprehension in Charlie's mind. He knows they are not what they seem, but he does not want to know. He wants to be left alone. Edward taps his hand against the keys in his pocket. Carlisle looks over. A minute inclination of Edward's head signals that they should leave. Carlisle nods, another action invisible to the human eye, and he turns back to Charlie.
"She loved you more than she would ever say."
"She was my world."
"And ours," Carlisle says. "I'm so very, very sorry."
They left Charlie Swan half-dead in the chair where he'd rocked Bella to sleep for the first time, sang to her, seen her first steps, heard her first words. Edward stole the memories from Charlie's mind and locked them away as securely as he locked the Swans' front door.
It is Rosalie who finally inspires Edward to move, or at least show some sign of animation. She storms into the room, shoving the door into the wall and leaving a maze of cracks where the handle collides with the plaster. She positions herself directly behind Edward, the picture of confrontation: feet planted apart and hands on her hips, she tries to burn the bronze from his head with her eyes.
He rolls his eyes; his telepathy renders him slightly prescient, and he has already seen most of this conversation through Alice and Rosalie's eyes. "Rosalie."
"When are you going to grow up and act like a man?"
"I am a man, or at least as much of one as I'll ever be." He would smile if things were different.
"You're acting like an infant, sulking away in your room and hiding from every responsibility. You've been up here for nearly a week. Have you got no idea what you're doing to the rest of us?"
Edward closes his eyes. "I know," he says quietly. This isn't how he'd seen the conversation going. He wonders what changed.
"Esme spends most of her time in the hall, completely lost. She doesn't know whether to care for her granddaughter or her century-old son, and that should be a no-brainer. Carlisle is... well..."
She breaks off and puts a hand on his arm, trying to pull him round. Edward considers resisting but moves with her hand.
"How is Carlisle?"
"I think he's where you get your self-flagellation from, although he's not nearly as bad. He's a whole lot more mature. He's barely talking to anyone either, blaming himself for what happened - for Bella's death-"
"She's dead, Edward. Dead. Accept it, okay? He blames himself for what happened, and for not being able to motivate you into doing your share for your daughter. You remember her, right? You know, your daughter, who asks for you every day and you've only seen twice?"
Edward's eyes close again, his chin pointing at the floor. "I remember. How is she?"
"She needs her father."
"She has a more than sufficient family."
"No, she doesn't. She doesn't have a parent. She has Alice to spoil her and Emmett to play with her. Jacob doesn't leave her side without a fight and Esme, when she's in there, can't stay away. Carlisle spends an hour with her every afternoon, and even Jasper has taken to reading to her. But she doesn't have a father, Edward, and you're all the more important without Bella. Snap out of this and go be her dad."
"She can manage without me. She has so far."
"She hasn't. She asks for you night and day; I'm sure you've heard. But we're taking the decision out of your hands. I came to tell you that we're going away. All of us. And we're leaving Nessie here with you."
"Yes, that's what Jake's been calling her. But it's not important. You're going to have to get your act together now, Edward. You've been neglecting your daughter, and what would Bella say? What would she want, Edward? She wouldn't want you all moping and angsty when you have responsibilities. She died for this child."
Edward scrunches his face up. He feels like a child, berated like this by Rosalie. Her speech was punctuated with images of the bereft child, fidgeting in her aunt's arms and reaching out, asking wordlessly for her father, to see him, to hear him. He sees her struggle with nightmares in the same way Bella had and knows that Rosalie was telling him to offer his comfort.
She nudges him and meets his gaze when he looks up. She holds it firm, hurling a whirlwind of snapshots of the family at him: Carlisle in his office, face drawn and looking older than his perpetual twenty-three. Esme standing at the bottom of the stairs, hand planted on the banister, a foot on the bottom step, but her eyes on her granddaughter in the other room, playing on the carpet. An image of Alice in her bedroom, fingering Bella's wedding dress with shuddering shoulders. Emmett, glum and uncharacteristically still in the living room, watching his niece on the floor with glazed eyes.
Edward shakes his head, trying to clear the thoughts, but Rosalie fires image after image at him, and then stops.
Notice anyone missing, Edward? she asks. Jasper can't stand being here. He stays in the forest. Sometimes he takes Renesmee too, teaches her, reads to her – she's a bright girl – but he can't do everything you can. He can't tell her about her mother in the same way. She's your last tie to Bella. She needs you, Edward.
He had expected a loud, angry confrontation, and is surprised – not pleasantly – when Rosalie disappears soundlessly. He hears her thoughts fade into something quieter and her hissed whispers to the co-conspirators at the bottom of the stairs. Then there is a second set of footsteps. Esme's. He feels a rising panic as she comes up the stairs and nudges the door aside with a polite, unnecessary knock. "Edward?"
He is rarely self-conscious about his appearance, but when her eyes widen and she shudders a gasp, he has to look away, down at himself again. He has not changed since his run through the forest after leaving Charlie's. He had tried to get away from everything, to run until the world faded into oblivion around him, but it failed. All it did was intensify his thoughts and it only took two hours to find himself back at this window, watching her grave, the detritus picked up from the run still tangled with his clothes, his shoes, his hair.
He has not fed properly since his brief honeymoon, little more than a perfunctory 'snack' to appease his wife. His eyes are probably as black as his feet and as dull as the room in this absence of light.
"Edward, please, come downstairs honey."
He shakes his head. "I… I don't want to."
"I know you're grieving dear, but you have to look after your daughter now. I want you to know how very, very much we all love you." She sniffs, even though there is no need to. "And so this is for the best, really. It's only for a couple of days, but we need to relocate anyway. This would be the best time for you to get to know your daughter and teach her about her mother in the place they were both born. She's such a bright girl – even Carlisle's amazed – and who knows how long it'll be before we can return. It's now or never, Edward. You wouldn't want her not to know her mother."
"It's my fault she doesn't."
"No. No, it's not. You did everything you could to save Bella, we all know that." Esme knows he means crushing Bella's heart. "It's a terrible, terrible tragedy, Edward, but she would definitely have died if you hadn't. And now you can't do anything except what she would have wanted – raise your daughter."
"I don't deserve her, Mom."
Calling her that melts Esme into a flurry of soft curls and tearless sobs and she wraps her arms around Edward. Startled at first, he surrounds her as well as he can with his arms, not sure whether he is the comforter or the comforted. He isn't sure it matters.
"You deserve her," Esme whispers. "You deserved them both, and all the happiness in the world. I have never known a better man, one who loved another quite as much. You don't deserve this, Edward, this pain. I – we, all of us – would do anything to save you from it, to take just some of it away, but the only one who can do that is Nessie."
He nods into the crook of her neck. "I love you too."
Esme smiles; he feels her cheek move against his ear. "Come downstairs as soon as you can. We'll be waiting for you." Edward nods, they separate, and he is left to his own musings for a few last self-indulgent moments.
Downstairs, he's greeted by his mother and Alice in the hallway, co-ordinating Emmett and Carlisle with their bags. There aren't many, so he reasons that this is only a short journey. Seven unique adults, having lived many lifetimes between them, have collected many precious and priceless things, some that go everywhere with them even when nothing is a necessity. Esme stops her work at the sound of a creaking step under Edward's foot. She had heard him leave his room but was letting him make the decision of when he to come down. He'd hesitated at the top for longer than he had expected.
With one foot planted on the top step, another follows one step down, then another. Alice turns too when he pauses half way to them.
"Edward," she smiles, holding a hand out to him. Things will be alright now, she thinks, and she flashes him a snapshot where he lays on his bed, a bronze-haired child asleep on his chest. Renesmee is curled almost in the fetal position with her thumb in her mouth. Edward has one hand behind his head and the other on the girl's back, bright gold eyes on the rain pelting the huge windows.
She understands his questions, all of them, but shakes her head. "When you're ready," she says aloud, and she grabs his hand to pull him down the last few steps. "She's outside with Jasper, under the oak tree at the bottom of the garden." But you already know that.
"Thank you." He releases Alice's hand to pull her into a hug, lifting her off her feet and nuzzling his head into her shoulder. She does the same. "Thank you," he says again, quieter.
She pulls away slightly to kiss his cheek. "I love you, you know." And her too, always, just as you will. At least you have your daughter so you can never forget. She pauses the words in her head and looks at him, looks through him. Edward feels himself mentally reel behind a barrage of sentiments and images – even Alice cannot decide how she feels - but they eventually settle into an image of Esme behind them, then the three of them together.
Edward looks over Alice's shoulder at his mother and half-smiles, an upward quirk of one corner of his lips, and Esme melts, embracing him with Alice in the middle, still not touching the ground. "I love you both," he says, each cheek tickled by a different woman's hair, two completely different sensations to him – long and curly, short and spiky. "I'm sorry."
They pull apart and he hears the same words in both minds. You have nothing to be sorry for.
Go outside and save my granddaughter. Esme nudges him around by the shoulder and Edward almost smiles again as he focuses on Jasper's thoughts, moving quickly outside to meet them.
Jasper is completely absorbed by the story he's telling, a version of Beauty and the Beast that Renesmee obviously knows inside out. She's distracted by pulling his hair until he submerges her in the emotions of the story again.
"That's cheating," Edward says from ten feet away, feeling Beauty's peril towards the climax of the story. There is something approximate to a smile on his face. Jasper smirks when he sees it.
"To see that," Jasper says, waving the open book at Edward's face, "it's worth it."
"Don't mind me." Edward steps closer and goes to sit down. "Go ahead and finish the story."
"No, we're good, aren't we, Nessie? We've read this one plenty of times, haven't we?" Jasper chucks her under the chin and looks back at Edward. "It's her favourite." There is a whole other rueful subtext to his words.
"I could guess why."
Jasper sighs and stands up with Nessie supported in one arm. The book dangles from the other. "I guess we're leavin' then." Edward nods. "She's all yours." Jasper puts the book down against the base of the tree and pecks his niece on the cheek before placing her into Edward's half-outstretched arms. While Edward does not falter at the weight, Jasper feels his brother's momentary fear.
"It's okay," Jasper says. "You're holding her right." Edward sighs and adjusts her slightly in his arms. Renesmee beams and reaches for his face. She presses her sticky palm against his cheek and shows him a picture of a small plastic cup. She is hungry.
"In a minute," he says with a smile. Renesmee pouts and tugs on his hair. "In a minute, I promise."
Alice says everything will be fine, Jasper confesses. We'll see you soon.
Edward is distracted by Renesmee tracing under his eyes. Bella has done that before and he is mesmerised. He snaps out of it to find Jasper is gone and he can hear a car pulling away, gravel crunching under the tyres. They are alone.
It's their first day alone, a rare sunny day in Forks. Edward stands in the shadow of the porch, watching his daughter crawl across the lawn. He smiles. He wonders how he managed to neglect her so desperately for so long. Now that he has her, he wonders how he'll bring himself to leave her behind when the time comes.
There is movement not far from the house. Edward stills. His eyes dart through the shadows of the forest and his ears are alert for any sound. He poises himself to spring from the porch and protect his child. He hears the snap of a twig, then another, and then the thoughts filter through.
It's only me, Edward. I had to come and see how she was. You understand, right?
"Yes," he says. He knows the boy can hear. "How are you?" A shape appears from the shadows. It's the silhouette of a wolf. After a nod from Edward, he shifts back into human form and dresses.
"How are you?" Edward asks again.
"I'm… okay. What about you?"
Edward shrugs. It's a gesture adopted since he started spending time with Bella but most accurately conveys how he feels right now. Edward can tell that Jacob understands.
Jacob changes the subject. "And how's Nessie?"
"She's fine. Do you want to do this now or later?"
Jacob, pulling a shirt over his head, doesn't catch Edward's brief smile; he's been planning this moment, and wishes Bella were here to enjoy his more theatrical tendencies. Jacob's face emerges confused. "Do what now?"
"Talk about this. You imprinted on my daughter, Jacob. That calls for discussion."
Jacob blanches. "Okay."
"Come inside," Edward says, smirking again once he's turned, "and bring Renesmee." He is careful to use her full name. He thinks it's beautiful, and it was Bella's choice. He refuses to think of his daughter as any kind of monster, even if her complete name is a mouthful.
Edward chooses the most imposing room in the house: Carlisle's office. "You can leave her in the living room, Jacob," Edward calls. "I'll hear her." It will be a distraction to half-listen to Renesmee while talking to Jacob, but a necessity. He intends to threaten the boy and cannot do that in the presence of a child. He wonders if Bella's watching as Jacob takes his time.
The boy enters, closing the door softly behind him. He is standing at his full height now, shoulders drawn back and feet slightly apart. It's a defiant pose, but Edward does not tense at all in Carlisle's chair. He waves at the small armchair opposite and Jacob folds himself into it.
"So, Jacob…" He cannot think of a more eloquent way to phrase his question, so he blurts it: "What are your intentions with my daughter?"
Jacob stills. He grips the arms of the chair, tries to stare Edward down. Edward meets his eye, holds it. Jacob relents. "What... what do you mean?"
"Exactly that. What are your intentions with my daughter?" He spells out the words.
"I highly doubt you have no intentions regarding her."
"She's barely a week old!" Jacob exclaims. His grip on the arms of the chair tightens further. "I will be her friend, a brother of sorts for as long as she wants me as that. When, if, she wants something more, I will be what she needs. I have no dishonourable intentions, and you know that." Edward hears the sobriquet in his mind: leech.
"You're right, I do." Edward says nothing else.
"I'm not a bad man."
"No, you're not."
"So why are you questioning me like this?"
"It's my responsibility as a father, Jacob. Maybe someday - and hopefully not any time soon - you'll understand." Edward stands. "I think it's time for a truce." He extends a hand. "Not friends, Jacob, not yet, but are we at least allies?"
Jacob stands too. "We always kind of have been." They shake.
Edward, now finished with his fun and one clear responsibility, lets Jacob escape to Renesmee in the living room, asking him to babysit for a few hours. Jacob is more than happy to oblige.
The vampire needs to hunt.
He drains two elk before he is ready to return and finds himself impatient to get back. He hasn't gone far from the house, but he can no longer hear them. When he can discern their noises amongst the sounds of the forest and the road a mile away, he moves faster.
Renesmee is bawling.
Determined to break Jacob's neck first and ask questions later, Edward finds Jacob and Renesmee still in the living room. It reeks of dog now, but Edward does not think of that. He sweeps Renesmee into his arms and growls at Jacob. Jacob stumbles back and flees. When Edward is sure the dog is gone, he adjusts Renesmee in his arms to snuggle her properly.
"What's wrong, baby? What's wrong? What did the filthy mutt do?" He smoothes her hair and murmurs to her. Renesmee wriggles an arm free and presses it to his face. She shows him the picture of a white sippy cup again. "You're hungry, yes. But what did the d-" He rolls his eyes. "What did Jacob do?"
She shows him the cup once more and this time a second image of Jacob shaking his head and holding out sweets in bright wrappers instead. Edward slowly comprehends.
"That's why you were upset? You wanted blood, he offered you candy?" Edward laughs. It's a foreign sound. "Oh, sweetheart, he's not going to like giving you blood. You should just take the candy next time."
Renesmee, palm still spread across his cheek, shows him the sippy cup again. Her eyes are wide and there is a pool of moisture spilling over the bottom lid.
"Okay, we'll get you something to drink." He shifts Renesmee's weight again. It's not because he is uncomfortable, but a human tic. The affectations were a habit he had developed for Bella and he wonders how long they will linger without her. He catches himself thinking in the long term. He wonders when that change occurred.
Edward offers Renesmee animal blood. She adamantly refuses. He tries to reason with her; she is stubborn like him. She throws her cup across the room and Edward spins to see it hit the far wall. He breathes a sigh of relief when it doesn't mark it. "Alright, alright, but your grandpa isn't going to like this."
Renesmee beams. Edward sits her on the kitchen counter under the window and hunches to eye-level. Hers are a beautiful chocolate brown, the exact same shade as Bella's. Again, he is both relieved and haunted – she shows no sign of being a monster like him, and Bella's eyes were one of his favourite sights in all the world. He is going to look into those every day for a long time. His masochistic side is content and a nostalgic one is developing. He does not need to live, merely exist, and he can do that for his daughter. He fetches some of Bella's supply of donated human blood for his daughter as he ponders.
Renesmee is messy. In a gesture that both infuriates Edward and sobers him with its echoes of Bella, Renesmee drops her cup and the blood spills across the pristine tiled floor. Renesmee sits on the counter, Edward in front of her, and they both stare at the mess on the floor and his shoes.
He laughs quietly and kisses her forehead. She smiles, but has no idea what he finds so funny.
It's the hours that Renesmee is asleep that are the worst. Of course, she doesn't sleep as much as human children, but it is still a necessity for her, and Edward still finds himself alone with his thoughts.
He feels like a pervert, eavesdropping on his daughter's dreams, but eventually he begins to filter them out in the same way he can block his siblings' liaisons, and he spends his nights in another room. He does not like to be apart from his daughter, but watching her sleep impales his heart with not-so-distant memories of lying beside his wife, singing to her as she dreamed.
It's only their third night without the family, and so far he's mostly left Renesmee to her games. She's a painfully intelligent child and Edward, having had no experience with infants at any time in his life, is at a loss over how to entertain her. He had always been a solitary creature before Bella, but she'd shared and spawned enough of his interests that it was too simple to pass the time with her. With Renesmee, it is a chore. He doesn't dislike it because he doesn't want to care for his daughter, but rather that he wants to so desperately, and it's difficult. Edward isn't used to finding things difficult.
He has tried to read to her as Jasper did, but he could not get her to respond to the story in the same way. She would fidget and reach for his cheek or hair and he would nudge her fingers away and give up on the story. He knows now why Jasper had cheated to get her to sit still, filling her soul – he knows she has one – with the emotions of the story, even when she did not understand the words, or perhaps he had dealt with children in his past and had more experience.
Edward has never felt more torn in his life. Alone, despite being in the company of the only creature on God's earth who could interest him. Animate, yet never wanting to move again. Almost content, but knowing he cannot get any closer to happiness than he can sitting in the rocking chair beside his daughter's bed. Homesick, but geographically at home.
An image slams into his consciousness. At first, he thinks his subconscious is torturing him again, that he is going to murder his wife once more on the operating table just downstairs, but it isn't his thought, not his perspective. He can see his own face from below, his eyes burning with something between awe and hope, but still charcoal black and shadowed as though he had wept ash and smeared the dust to highlight his cheekbones. Then the view shifts to Bella, gaunt and chalk-white on her deathbed, lilac lips forming her daughter's name, frail arms that look as if they could snap in the breeze reaching out for her.
He realises he is viewing Renesmee's only memory of her mother through the child's eyes.
He doesn't even put down the book he's been neglecting; it came along for the sprint and was discarded in a flurry of pages somewhere in the quarter of a second it took him to be at his daughter's bedside, staring down at her. Her face was scrunched and creased like the sheets of his bed. He had changed all but the pillowcase so she could sleep there in the scent of both parents. Renesmee often wrapped herself around Bella's pillow, nuzzling her nose into the material. Edward was barely civilised enough not to shove his daughter away and mimic her, breathing in that bouquet of freesias and strawberries.
He nudges his daughter awake. "Renesmee? Come on, beautiful, wake up." He kneels over her on the bed and she wakes up with wide, instantly alert eyes. Her hands reach up to him but he's too far away. Sighing, he lies beside her and pulls her onto his chest.
He freezes, remembering something close to this image from the past…
When Renesmee fidgets, he returns to the real world, the present, and rests a hand on her back, rubbing circles through her pink pyjamas. Renesmee curls into a ball on his chest, apparently comfortable despite it being solid and cold, and Edward reaches for a blanket to tuck over her body. She sucks her thumb, her cheeks gently moving against his heart, and Edward falls a little more in love.
He hums Bella's lullaby, a tune he has not let himself even remember, until she is sound asleep again, warm against his chest, her breath as rhythmic as, albeit slower than, a heartbeat. His heartbeat.
The next morning, Renesmee is amusing herself with a trunk of Alice's clothes from the 1960s that Edward's retrieved for her. She doesn't wear them, merely rifles through the selection and pulls free the brightest lengths of material. She is content making a mess, and Edward is content watching her.
He is in the corner of the room, sitting on his piano stool. It has been weeks since he last sat here. The cover is still lowered over the keys and grey with thick dust. He runs a white finger across the surface, parting the specks to reveal the glossy black paint and finds himself tracing a shape. Before he realises what he's done, he has traced the melody of Bella's lullaby in a zigzag, up and down with the pitch, using more forceful strokes as it crescendos. He swipes his palm through the line and pulls up the lid, knocking it against the main body of the piano and forcing out a range of discordant notes. Renesmee drops the yellow polka dots she was stretching and whimpers. Edward is already at her side.
"Sorry, love. Just losing my temper a little. I didn't mean to scare you."
She presses her fingertips into his cheek and shows him Carlisle perched on the piano stool, hand hovering above the keys, then shoving himself backwards and causing a similar jarring mess of notes. Renesmee, in Emmett's lap, saw Esme jump and flee the room. Edward doesn't remember hearing the sound, but he was worlds away for a long time.
"I'm sorry, love. Come sit with me."
He scoops her up and moves back to the piano, settling himself on the stool and her in his lap. He takes her hands from behind and rests them on the keys. He presses down, gently, and Renesmee squirms and giggles when the hammer hits the strings and she feels the room vibrate around them. She presses down again of her own accord, then starts trying different keys.
Edward grins like a fool. "That's it, Renesmee." After a minute though, his patience is wearing thin and he stills his daughter's hands. "Want me to play something for you?" he asks.
She swivels as well as she can in his lap and stretches a finger up. She plays a hazy memory of the night before, a lovely tune she heard him hum as she drifted off. Edward's face falls.
Renesmee silently questions him. He shakes his head.
"No, it's fine." His hands are poised above the keys for the opening chord. "This was your mother's lullaby. I wrote it for her over a year ago."
He begins to play. Within two minutes, Renesmee has leaned her head into his chest and is dozing in his lap. Eyes on his daughter, Edward keeps playing over and over again, the melody evolving each time into something new, distinct.
By the time Renesmee wakes, he has composed a completely new song for her.
Renesmee has another nightmare. It's the same horrific image of Bella on the operating table, pale and gaunt, hollow and lifeless, Renesmee's teeth latching into the flesh of her mother's collarbone. He tastes what Renesmee tastes and, although it doesn't have the potency he remembers from his own experience drinking from Bella, venom pools in his mouth and he feels the monster fight his way to the surface.
To distract himself, he lies beside his daughter – he was watching her from his leather couch tonight – and rubs her back again, humming the lullaby he composed just hours ago. It has almost eclipsed Bella's in his mind and he isn't sure why. Is it because one came from the other, or because they are so similar? He sees parallels between his love for his wife and his daughter, and finds himself uncomfortable again.
Then he realises Renesmee is awake.
Her eyes are wide and fixed directly on his. She wriggles to free the arm pinned in her blanket as she slept and reaches both hands towards his face.
Bella. She shows him Bella's face.
"What about her, honey?"
Renesmee struggles for the right image. Edward comprehends the struggle in her mind.
"You want to know what she was like?"
"Tomorrow," he says. "I'll tell you everything, I promise."
Renesmee smiles and pulls her hands back. She clutches his shirt and snuggles closer against him. He wraps both arms around his daughter and rolls onto his back, pulling her with him. Settled securely on his chest and swaddled in blankets, Renesmee nuzzles into her father's shirt and goes back to sleep. Edward watches her dreams.
Renesmee remembers Edward's promise.
Edward is watching the sky transform from black to blue when Renesmee wakes. It doesn't take long for her hand to be pressed against his cheek. Edward closes his eyes against the sky; he means to close his eyes against the images of Bella, or perhaps to better enjoy them.
She wants to know now. She presses harder, shows him the images again, more of them.
"Where did you see those pictures, love?" he asks. His voice is losing its honey-smooth edge. Renesmee shows him Alice and a photo album. He should have known.
He climbs out of bed, still holding Renesmee. She puts one hand on Edward's chest and the other thumb in her mouth and thinks as Edward carries her downstairs. He is reading her, and she is highly curious about Bella. She is imagining all kinds of stories - most related to the version of Beauty and the Beast Jasper had been repeating for her all week. She wonders if her father is a monster like the Beast. He's certainly prettier, but so was the Beast in the end. Edward feels as though he's been slapped in the face. He can't answer. He still drinks blood – just not human blood. His instincts are killer – but he won't harm a sentient creature. He sparkles in the sun – but Bella told him he was beautiful.
His mind flashes to their meadow, and he knows just how to tell his daughter everything.
"Renesmee?" She looks up at him, smiles. She knows she's won. "I can't tell you about her here. We'll have to go out." Her smile grows.
They are in the meadow. Edward has a small collection of photos of Bella - prints he had spirited from her room during their courtship, others by his siblings. He also has the lemonade bottle lid from one of their first conversations at school. He smiles as he tells the stories. It takes all day; they arrive as the sun is climbing above the trees and Edward doesn't fall silent until the sun is setting and the sky is alight in orange, red and purple. Finally, he has Bella's bracelet; Alice must have removed it from her body. He fastens it around Renesmee's wrist, a symbol of love from her father, her imprint and her mother.
Edward is torn. He cannot imagine even a week more without Bella, never mind eternity. He wants relief. Equally, he cannot imagine leaving Renesmee behind, but she is growing more insecure about his wavering every day. She may not understand it explicitly, but Renesmee can sense that Edward is neither with her nor somewhere else, and as they are the only two for miles, she wonders if it's her fault.
Edward reads this in her mind and tries to reassure her. "It's not you, Renesmee. You're the reason I'm still here. If it weren't for you, beautiful, I would be long gone after your mother."
He sees the question in his daughter's mind before it appears in explicit words.
The adults talk in hushed whispers by the front door. Renesmee is playing on the carpet, seemingly oblivious. Esme is speaking. "I think he's going to leave us soon. Alice?"
"I'm not sure. I can't see anything. He hasn't decided."
"Of course he's going to leave us." Rosalie. "Remember what he did last time, when it wasn't real? That was before they were married."
Renesmee drops her toy and Esme's head snaps around. Renesmee holds her arms out to be lifted up. She shows Esme a picture of her father's face, exhausted and drawn. Then she shows her an open door, Edward walking through it.
"No, honey, not like that."
She tries the picture of her mother being lowered into the ground.
"Not quite like that either, dear. Almost. It's not so simple for your father, being what he is."
Renesmee cocks her head to the side. She is confused.
"He won't leave, Renesmee, I promise you."
"Esme!" Rosalie snaps. "You cannot lie to the child." She looks directly at Renesmee, who doesn't comprehend the fire behind her quasi-mother's eyes. "Your father may leave us, just like your mother, any time. There is nothing any of us can do to stop it." She looked away, dropped her voice. "He's an unstoppable force of nature after these sulks of his…"
"Daddy, you won't leave me, will you?"
Edward sighs. He isn't surprised that she has the ability to speak; he supposes she prefers her non-verbal communication, much as his family does with him.
He has been wavering these last few days in his choice to stay with her only until the family returned and she knew all he could tell her about both her parents. But she is so precocious and would understand too much and not enough. She really would think it was her fault she was an orphan. Edward is the monster, not his daughter. But he cannot mope. "Your mother didn't want to leave you either, sweetheart."
"You won't leave me, please, Daddy?"
He looks down at the girl, sitting sideways in his lap, one hand clutching his shirt as her mother had once done to him, the other shielding her eyes as she peers up, the sun casting a glow around his silhouette. He bends down to kiss her forehead. She is so beautiful, so innocent. She's so much like his Bella, but she will live a long and happy life. He will make sure of it.
"No, honey. I won't leave you. I promise."
If you were Edward, what would you have done?
L'heure bleue is literally 'the blue hour' - a time of neither complete light nor complete darkness. In this case, it's the time between the darkest part of the night and the dawn. And, because I like clichés like this, it's French for 'twilight' or something. Wikipedia is a wonderful thing.
Thank you to allysue08, Shereebedee, alitriona, Frenchbeanz and spellboundagain of WA Rehab, and Miss-Beckie-Louise and stolenxsanity for their input and general hand-holding while I kept Kyrene in the dark. Thank you to Kyrene for being even her present's beta. She's just re-posted her one-shot Song With No Words. You should take a look – it's heartbreakingly haunting, mesmerizing. My sobriquet for it isn't appropriate to a T-rated story though.
March 2010: Indie finalist in the 'Love Conquers All' one-shot category? God, there are no words… Thank you to everyone who nominated or voted or read. I will bake brownies for you all… and then declare myself your proxy and sample them on your behalf, due to lack of postal addresses and/or stalker skills. Fandom, I heart you. Thank you for the biggest shock of my life. It was, I think, better than sex. Thank you!