Disclaimer - All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyers
Endless thanks and love to my favorite girls,
my boo Carrie ZM for betaing, and
Planetblue and Robsmyyummy Cabanaboy for prereading,
You three are the best!
Ten Months Later
"Ms. Swan, you're free to address the court," the judge says, waving her up to deliver her Victim Impact Statement.
Standing slowly, she tucks her hair behind her ear as she approaches the podium. "Thank you, your Honor. If it's okay, I'd like to address the defendant directly." The judge gives her a nod and she carefully places her paper down, smoothing it out with her hands. "I had mixed feelings about delivering a Victim Impact Statement today, especially after hearing the heartbreaking accounts of the families whose loved ones suffered at your hands."
She swallows audibly and looks at Tyler. "I've sat here through every minute of these proceedings. I've watched your reactions as you were vividly painted as the monster I know you to be. I've caught your every smirk. Every amused chuckle. Each look of longing as your crimes were discussed in detail. But I've yet to see an ounce of remorse for any of your victims or their loved ones."
Glancing down at her paper then back again, she continues. "I had a particularly difficult time putting pen to paper with this statement. I read dozens and dozens of these types of statements, trying to figure out where to begin. Each one more heart-wrenching than the last. But then it occurred to me …" She pauses a moment, making sure she has his attention. "I am no victim. And you will have no lasting impact on me."
He scoots back in his chair, wearing a gray three-piece-suit and the smug little smirk he's had plastered on his face for the majority of the trial.
"It is my hope that you will also have no further impact on the strong women you preyed upon. Between myself and the families and the good people of the Forks community, we intend to make sure their names live on through charitable and civic contributions. Your name and your crimes will not sully their legacies. Again, you will have no lasting impact."
Taking a deep breath, she peeks at her notes. "As for me. I will walk out of this courtroom and never think of you again. I'll go on, live my life, doing what I love," she smiles softly and meets my eyes, "with the man I love."
Her gaze cuts to his. "In all honesty, this should be enough for me. And it would be if it wasn't for that pesky word again. Impact. It doesn't seem fair that you're the one who gets to make the impact. Or any impact at all, for that matter."
Shifting uncomfortably in his seat, he watches her closely.
"I have complete trust in the court that you will receive the appropriate sentence for your crimes. God willing, you'll be locked away for the rest of your natural life for the atrocities you've committed. And while it does seem fitting, I can't help but wonder, will it have any impact on you? Will the long days and nights, surrounded by violent criminals be enough to make you remotely remorseful? Will you reflect on your crimes as you lay in your four-by-five cell night after night and feel penitent?" Her eyes narrow. "Or will you relive them, savoring each detail?"
Propping his elbows on the table, he clasps his hands together and covers his mouth like he did in the interrogation room. Although his lips are hidden, it's clear that he's smiling given the crinkles in the corners of his eyes.
"My guess is the latter which is a shame, but in your case, not surprising. So, while you lay there each night, replaying the details over and over, no doubt congratulating yourself on a heinous job well done, allow me to offer you another viewpoint to play it from." She tilts her head slightly, fighting a smile. "Another perspective, if you will."
"That day in the van, you spoke at length about your reasoning. As a matter of fact, you droned on and on. It was quite pathetic, really. A grown man desperately trying to conceal his numerous inadequacies through violent acts against women. Rationalizing his behavior and projecting his shortcomings on the confused ramblings of a terminally ill woman who was more than likely so medicated she had no idea what was coming out of her mouth."
Tom hangs his head at the mention of his wife while Mike places a supportive hand on his shoulder.
"In fact, I suspect that your actions have more to do with your fragile ego than anything. I'd be willing to bet this surfaced long before your mother's illness impaired her. My guess is that it stemmed from childhood. Inadequacy has probably plagued you from a young age, manifesting itself in several despicable and humiliating ways. Enuresis, cruelty to animals, and delusions of grandeur." Her voice takes a more clinical tone. "As you aged, I suspect compulsive masturbation was a frequent past time and given your proclivity for stalking, I'd hedge you did your fair share of peeping as well."
A few chuckles break out in the courtroom and out of the corner of my eye, I notice Emmett McCarty's shoulders shake with silent laughter. Tyler stiffens, looking positively murderous at her words with his brows furrowed and jaw clenched behind his fists.
"My intent with this statement is not to trigger any embarrassing internalized memories or to make you feel taunted or shamed. It's merely to serve as a reminder that we, the women you sought to impact, saw you for what you truly are and not the clever predator you believe yourself to be. We saw your every flaw and every deep-seated insecurity you've tried to bury. We saw the real you. The weak you. The pitiful boy asserting his manhood by brutalizing bound women who were unable to defend themselves."
Her impassive expression turns icy as she levels him with a glare.
"I'm certain that when you look back and reminisce about us, you'll no doubt recall the things you loved most. The screams and the struggles and the heady rush of power you may have felt as we fought to survive. But I hope when you envision the fear in our eyes, you'll also remember what we saw. You'll remember that Jess and Kate saw you as unworthy. And Emily and Maggie saw you as insignificant." She breathes in deeply and exhales slow. "As for me, I saw you in that moment as I see you now. You're nothing more than a fragile, entitled, pathetic failure. A complete waste of potential." She pauses to stare him down, unintimidated by the pure vitriol in his expression. "Overwhelmingly disappointing, and therefore … utterly unimpactful."
Tyler is sentenced to serving four life sentences concurrently, plus another twenty-five years for his crimes against Bella and me. I sit with Leah and the chief as the judgement is pronounced. There are some smiles, and a few celebratory hugs between the grieving families. But mostly there are tears on both sides. Rosalie McCarty consoles her weeping husband, while Mike Newton struggles to keep his sobbing father upright.
Tyler doesn't acknowledge any of it as he's escorted from the courtroom.
"Give me a minute to say goodbye to her, will ya'?" Charlie asks when we pull up to Bella's place later on that afternoon.
Bella is out front, trying her damnedest to shove a huge red suitcase into my already too full SUV. Her father takes a turn, jostling and shifting everything until he's able to get the door to latch. She high fives him and says something that makes him laugh. They're mirror images of each other, both standing there with their hands on their hips. He's wearing a misty-eyed smile, and she's wearing my favorite threadbare t-shirt from the Bureau that she swore up and down she didn't steal the last time she came to visit.
I look away when they hug, not wanting to intrude on his goodbye to his baby girl. Moments later, there's a knock at the window and the chief is standing there.
Opening the door, he holds out his hand for me to shake as I get out. "Cullen."
"Chief," I reply with a dip of my chin and a firm handshake. "We'll see you in a few months."
"I plan on it."
"Are we going freshwater or saltwater fishing?"
"Either one works for me." His hands find their way to his hips again. "I didn't think you liked fishing."
"Eh, well, you know … I don't hate it." I smile. "But I don't mind it so much anymore, either."
He chuckles as he rounds the car. "Safe travels, you two."
I give him a wave before turning to Bella who's got her arms wrapped around herself looking a little somber as she watches him drive away.
"Are you all right?"
"That's an awful lot of luggage, lady. How many of those boxes are filled with books?"
"I've gotta keep myself occupied in Virginia."
"There's tons to do there," I tell her, slipping an arm around her waist.
"I hear Virginia is for lovers." She giggles when I dip my head to kiss her neck. "What does that slogan even mean, anyway?"
"Virginia is for people who love history and beaches and mountains." I press my forehead to hers. "And for guys who love girls that make them pistachio cupcakes for the long ride ahead."
She rolls her eyes, but can't help but smirk. "Your treats are in the front seat. You don't need to butter me up."
"Excellent," I peck her on the lips, "but I wasn't buttering you up, Virginia really is for people who love all those things."
"Even the girls who make pistachio cupcakes?"
"Especially the girls who make pistachio cupcakes."
Placing my lips at her ear, I murmur the words that I'll get to say to her every day from here on out. In turn she curls a hand behind my neck, still careful not to put too much pressure on my bad side and whispers them back before kissing me sweetly. When we break apart, I take her hands in mine. Palm to palm, we entwine our fingers.
"So, we're doing this?" I ask, gently squeezing our joined hands.
Positively beaming and looking as fucking beautiful as ever, my brilliant girl nods. "We're doing this."
A/N: That's a wrap on this one, pals! Thanks so much to everyone who read, reviewed, followed, fave'd, rec'd, lurked and sounded off on this fic. We loved seeing everyone's thoughts and guesses – we had lots of fun with it.
Huge love and thanks to my best girls who make this happen:
Yum – Grateful for all you do, sis, and I appreciate all the love and encouragement and the time you put into whipping this fic into shape. Love you, Jen!
Planetblue – Big love to you, birthday girl! So thankful to you for all your feedback and endless speculation on whodunnit – for a minute there you had me really thinking about making Bella the killer, LOL. Glad we could put our questionable love/knowledge on killers and creepiness to work, pal! Thanks so much, Aim! Love you!
Carrie ZM – Giiirrrrrrllll … Much love and appreciation for all the time, love, effort, and Holy Water you put into this one. I wouldn't have had the balls to write it if you weren't cheering it on. Truly, Care – so grateful to and for you! Love you, HCC!
Until next time, fandom! LAHM out!