Author: LadyExcalibur2010 PM
Edward never returned to Forks after the events of New Moon. Bella never jumped from the cliff. Now Bella's short human years are over and Edward returns to Forks to say good-bye. There he makes a surprising discovery.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Edward - Chapters: 8 - Words: 16,698 - Reviews: 195 - Favs: 205 - Follows: 278 - Updated: 06-10-11 - Published: 02-18-10 - id: 5756930
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I don't own these characters. They are the sole property of Stephenie Meyer. I only borrow them. No humans are permanently harmed through my actions, though I do confess to harassing, annoying, torturing, and exasperating them – just because it's fun. I make no money from my little stories, sad day. I only play in the sandbox, I didn't build it.
Author's Note: LOOONNNGGG over due, I know. But I am sincerely trying to finish up some of these stories. This post has been half-written for months. Today, it was finally completely written. My apologies!
Chapter 8: Crowned with Consolation
"For grief is crowned with consolation." - William Shakespeare
I had to laugh at myself, thinking that Cassie McBride would be intimidated by a mere coven of vampires. She handled meeting my family with all of the aplomb that Bella had, but she had no fears that they wouldn't like her. She offered herself as she was, and if they didn't care for her, then it was their loss and not hers. She could not be anything other than what she was. She was simply herself, as if she knew that was enough.
And it was.
Alice soon had her settled into a room and Cassie declared that she was going to have some "human" time and take a nap. She was hardly up the stairs when everyone gathered around me and began talking (or thinking) all at once. I wanted to wince at the cacophony of voices I heard both with my hears and my head. All of them wanted to be heard at once. All of them wanted my attention at the same time. The family had not been this animated in decades.
"She's almost as much fun as Bella," Emmett noted. Then Rose gave the back of his head a light, admonishing tap and he shot her a disgruntled look. "What did I say?"
She rolled her eyes at him and hugged me close. Such shows of emotion were rare for Rosalie, and all the more significant because of that. "Edward, she's…amazing," Rose said. "Really, there's something about her, isn't there?" She sounded as puzzled as I felt.
I nodded my head. "She's so much like Bella, but not." I shrugged. "She's not Bella reincarnated by any means. There are more differences than similarities, but... I don't really know how to explain it, but the more you get to know her the more you'll know what I mean."
Esme held my hand tightly. "She's good for you, Edward. I can tell that just by looking at you. You're more…at peace than I've seen you in a long time." I've worried so about you, Edward. If this woman helps your heart heal then I love her already. How could I not? Then a flash of a suppressed thought from Esme. Could she be his mate? Maybe we were wrong all these years. Then the thought was gone, buried beneath a mountain of mundane observations.
I sighed and tried to keep from betraying my exasperation. Esme would have liked nothing more than to see me mated. She had longed worried about me and my solitary state. "I'm going outside for a while," I told her, giving her a kiss on the cheek. I needed to be alone with my thoughts and they were all used to my introverted nature.
Once outside, I contemplated the idea of a mate. It was a familiar path of thought for me. I had had decades since leaving Bella to ponder it and yet I felt no closer to an answer now than I had all those years ago. What constituted a mate? Was it a feeling? A bond? If a mate was lost, could a vampire find another mate? From what I had seen of mated vampires who lost their mate, it did not seem that it was so. It was not uncommon for the surviving mate to find a way to end their existence, as I had once considered ending mine.
Love in the human world was a transitory thing, changeable and fickle. In the vampire world, a mating was more than a marriage, the bond between the two more than mere love. Humans fell in love again after losing a spouse, but could a vampire do the same thing? Traditional vampire wisdom said that a vampire loved once and only once and it was forever. But that same wisdom decreed that only human blood could sustain us.
Carlisle's innovative idea to live on animal blood had been greeted with derision and doubt. Others of our kind still looked at him, and us, expecting us to go mad or succumb to the inevitable blood lost. Yet, despite all that we had been told was impossible, we had continued to feed off of animals. Not one of us had killed a human in a hundred years.
Was the idea of a mate similarly incorrect? Before Carlisle, not one of our kind had even considered living on animal blood. Had a mate survived and never even considered the idea that such a bond could occur twice? What if we were capable of mating more than once and just did not know it? After all, eternity is a long time to be alone and to grieve.
Every day, my family and I fought our natures and struggled to rise above our instincts. Could it be possible that a vampire could learn to love again? And if so, what did that mean about the concepts of mating for our kind?
For decades, I had been convinced that I had left my mate behind. Then Emmett had one day commented that he didn't think a vampire was physically capable of walking away from their mate – ever. Since that day I had sometimes wondered.
What if the question was not whether a vampire could find more than one mate, but whether a vampire could be sure the one he had lost was actually his mate?
Had Bella been my mate? Or had she almost been my mate? Were we not truly mated because there had never been a physical consummation of our love? Was a mating between a vampire and a human even really possible? As the years had passed, I had become more and more convinced that a mating between a human and a vampire simply wasn't possible.
Yes, there could be love. But that love could never be consummated. The danger was simply too great. My family had tried to convince me that Tanya and her sisters had proven that a vampire could love a human. But there were two fundamental differences.
One, what Tanya and Irina and Kate felt for their human lovers was not love but simply lust. It was easier to remain in control of lust. By simple definition, love demanded that one lose control, surrender entirely. Being with a human I loved would be a perilous undertaking, especially when I knew I could hold nothing back with a woman I loved.
Two, the simple fact of anatomy. As a female vampire, they accepted the invasion of a human body. There was less danger in that. As a male vampire, I would be taking, invading, putting a part of my body into the frail human body that I could all too easily damage. I could simply do more harm in my role as lover simply because of biology and the way our bodies were formed. I wouldn't mean to, but that wouldn't undo the damage.
So yes, though it would remain a wound unhealed, I had done the right thing in leaving Bella. The only other alternative would have been to take her mortal existence, her soul, away from her. And that was not an option. I had done right by Bella, but where, in the end, did that leave me? Had I doomed myself to being forever, eternally alone? Was Bella trying to free me from this prison of my own making, even now, from beyond the grave?
Bella, in her infinite wisdom and mercy, had sent this unlikely angel to tell me that she had forgiven me. No matter what message Cassie eventually gave me, I knew that forgiveness had to be part of it. Otherwise, there would have been no reason to direct Cassie my way. Cassie was simply too direct and honest to be hiding anger or disgust.
I sat on my favorite rock and stared out into the forest. Such forests were becoming rare these days. Man encroached on the natural world more and more. Even the vampires were finding it more difficult to remain unobtrusive, especially those that fed on humans. My family and I found it easier, due to our less conventional diet. It was easier to remain hidden among the humans when you weren't trying to figure out what to do with the corpses.
I wasn't surprised when Cassie sat down beside me. She nudged me and her warmth permeated my stone flesh for just a moment. "Hey, vampire boy," she murmured. "Are you out here being all broody and sulky?"
I couldn't help but laugh. Cassie tended to do that to a person – or a vampire. I shrugged. "I suppose so, that seems to be my role, doesn't it?"
Cassie studied me for a moment and then shook her head. "I think it's the role you've taken on as your own." She laughed. "But I like to think we can reinvent ourselves at will – become someone we've never been before." She pressed against me briefly, another friendly nudge that sent fire licking through my side.
"What about you?" I asked. "Have you ever reinvented yourself?"
Cassie shrugged. "Several times over, in fact," she replied. "I'm not the same person I was in high school, or even last year. I don't pretend that I am. I don't want to be that person because that would mean I haven't learned anything or grown from my experiences in the past." She turned and settled dark, knowing eyes on me. "What about you?"
"I'm a vampire," I said.
She rolled her eyes at me. "I know that, vampire boy," Cassie said. "That wasn't the question. I asked if you had reinvented yourself. Ever?"
"It is part of a vampire's nature to be immutable and unchanging," I reminded her.
"So when you're changed into a vamp, you slap a coat of varnish on it and call it good?" she scoffed. "For beings who supposedly live an eternity, that doesn't seem very efficient...or wise. You'd think that vampires would have to be the most adaptable of creatures. The world changes around you all the time. If you don't adjust, you'll stick out. If you stick out, you get in trouble with the vulture boys. And that's something nobody wants."
"The vulture boys?" I asked, amused at her logic.
"Nana Bells told me about the Volturi," Cassie said breezily. "They're like the mall cops for vampires or something, right?"
"That's one way of looking at it," I allowed, thinking of Aro's face if he ever heard something like that. It might almost be worth having my head ripped off.
"Listen, I think vampires don't change because they don't want to change," Cassie said. "You're a perfect example."
"How so?" I asked.
"Well...you're just as sullen and brooding as Nana remembered you being, and here are, how many years later?"
I turned away from her. I turned away from her words. Then Cassie's hand was a white hot brand on mine. "I'm ready to give you the first part of Nana Bells' message," she said quietly and unexpectedly.
Her fingers linked with mine, darker flesh against my own pale skin. Delicate, feminine strength against more masculine lines. Life in contrast to death. Worthy linked with unworthy.
"The first thing Nana wanted me to tell you was this... It's all right to let her go now..."
And then Cassie's slim, strong arms were holding me, rocking me like a child, giving comfort where it was least expected but most needed. I could not cry, but Cassie did it for me. We both mourned the woman who had changed our lives, our very existences.
I sat there, wrapped in the warm, human arms of a woman I had not known existed just a few days ago...and I began to loosen my grip on Bella's memory.