It was, all considered, an entirely miserable flight.
Unfortunately, due to their haste and Bella's previously conceived cover story, they could not use her passport. Or, rather, they could have, but it felt like blowing entirely too much caution to the wind were Charlie Swan to later find out Bella Swan, who was supposedly halfway to Florida by that point, had boarded a plane to Rome with Carlisle Cullen.
Carlisle Cullen undoubtedly had to disappear, but it didn't feel right to make Charlie Swan believe his daughter had been abducted, trafficked, and murdered. No, better for the girl's car simply to crash, halfway across the United States. Better for the man to have some closure in all of this.
The wolves, Carlisle was sure, would not correct this assumption.
More, due to the lack of time, fake documents could not be made for Bella and the other papers they had as backups of Esme, Rosalie, and Alice didn't match Bella in the slightest.
This meant that their nine-hour flight, rather than spent inside the plane, was spent in the frigid cargo hold with Bella smothered in Emmett's ski jackets. Where, of course, she could not seem to keep a single item of food down and instead survived on blue Gatorade (Bella had insisted that blue and red were the only tolerable flavors).
She looked utterly miserable the entire time, gaunt and pale, beyond the edge of exhaustion. However, as always, there was an indomitable determination to her. She never complained, not even once. Not even when Carlisle had the difficult, near impossible, task of maneuvering her in and out of the plane without any human noticing.
By comparison, the drive to Volterra was a dream. It was a beautiful night, the warmth of summer still lingering in the air. The Tuscan landscape unfolded underneath the moonlight, breathtaking even after all these years and so much change. How long had it been since Carlisle had been to Italy?
It hadn't seemed long at all just a few days ago.
When he had left Volterra, he had been on a quest to find others like him, and perhaps even to find himself. The Volturi had changed everything he knew about vampires. Suddenly, they were no longer demons but beings as sentient as mankind, as capable of the sophistication and generosity of any nobleman.
He had been so hopeful, despite Aro's doubts, that there must be others like him out there.
And he had travelled Europe, North Africa, and then the Americas searching…
He had never found anyone, only converted a handful of others.
After he turned Edward, it was as if time had just slipped away from him or else started rushing by too quickly. Decades passed in the blink of an eye, moving from town to town and worrying over whatever catastrophe had struck this time. After he created the coven, they had never returned to Europe, not to do more than visit at any rate.
And somehow, though the thought had often crossed his mind, Carlisle had never had a chance to return to Volterra.
Then, after what happened with Victoria, it had seemed as if he never could.
Yet here he was all the same, returning in the unlikeliest of circumstances, hoping he was still a friend but…
Only a few years ago, he would never have predicted it would come to this, that he would be so unsure of his welcome from Aro. He truly had no idea what awaited him and Bella in Italy.
He was only glad that sanity had prevailed, and he had convinced Rosalie and Emmett to take their leave and take another honeymoon. Rose had demanded he call as soon as they arrive, let him know they survived so she and Emmett could run to their side, but the point was that they would not be walking in with him.
Perhaps the coven had broken, as Alice predicted, but it would survive with the others even if Carlisle did not.
"How much time left?" Bella asked quietly, her voice hoarse.
"Only a few hours," Carlisle said.
Bella nodded and looked out at the landscape rolling past, "Last time, Alice stole a Porsche, she drove like a maniac. I have no idea how long it took us, only she cut the time in half. I barely even remember the drive though, that was such a surreal day…"
She looked back at him, assessing now, "You're worried, aren't you?"
There was no point in hiding it. Well, her health he supposed, or her nerves perhaps. If these were her last few hours on Earth, then he should reassure her. However, he was certain she'd see right through him regardless.
"Yes," he said, "It has been a very long time since I have seen Aro in person. I had thought this would not matter. When I left, we were very good friends. I had always considered him, perhaps, the greatest friend I ever had. But then—"
"Jane," Bella finished for him. Meaning, of course, the newborn army, Jane's delay, and then the murder of Bree.
And to think, only a few weeks before that, Carlisle had been more grateful than he ever had in his life that Aro had spared not only Edward, who had brazenly broken their laws several times over, but Bella as well, who by all accounts should never have left Volterra human.
It would have been well within Aro's rights, almost to be expected, that Aro would turn her there and simply call Carlisle to come pick her up when the three days had passed.
He hadn't, he had given Bella more time with her family, had given Edward time to do it himself, and Carlisle had thought it the greatest gift the man had ever given.
"I think I'm right," Bella said, "I mean, I think he doesn't want me dead, not really. He certainly doesn't want you dead."
Carlisle would have agreed, had Jane not shown that the Volturi had at the very least wanted their numbers thinned. But perhaps, with Carlisle and Bella directly under Aro's thumb, that would no longer matter.
And, though Bella didn't know this, Aro was more than willing to take time to evaluate these things. Immortal children had lived in the catacombs of Volterra for centuries before they were destroyed. There was precedent here, Bella's child… his child, would likely have a long period of evaluation.
"But, if I'm wrong—" Bella cut herself off damningly, not finishing her own sentence.
Carlisle felt his throat close, swollen in a way it shouldn't be a as a vampire, "Bella, I am so sorry."
"I didn't know, couldn't have known, but even so—" he cut himself off, searching for the words amidst the landscape flying by, "If I had said no, to Edward, then you would not be in this position. There would be no wondering if we are now driving the last hundred miles to our execution."
"You could have said goodbye to your father and mother," he continued, "You could have ended things amenably with Jacob Black, perhaps even with Edward. I promised you'd always be a Cullen, guaranteeing the Cullen coven would be there when you turned, and it seems I can't promise you even that."
He looked out towards the horizon, focused intently on the road before them, "Nothing turned out the way you were promised."
For a moment, Bella said nothing, simply stared at him solemnly. Then she asked, "Remember that movie we watched, that weekend?"
"My Fair Lady?" Carlisle asked in turn, eyebrows raising at the non sequitur, but she shook her head.
"No, the other one, Hello Dolly," Bella said, "The tall lanky guy, Cornelius, he says something near the end of the film, right when he thinks they're all about to be arrested."
"I remember it line for line, word for word," Bella said, with the smallest of smiles, "He says 'I've lost everything: my job, my future, everything people think is important, but I don't care—because even if I have to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I shall be a ditch-digger who once had a wonderful day."
Her smile grew into a grin, something filled with unparalleled joy, almost made brighter for the bleakness of their circumstances, "Carlisle, I've lost everything. I lost Edward, my dad, my mom, Jake, your family, the future I imagined—But I gained something. You and I made the impossible together, we—created life, something I never thought I wanted. And Carlisle, even if this is it, if this is the end—I am a ditch-digger who once had a wonderful day."
It was a simple, nearly wordless, thought. More of a feeling.
Had Edward been sitting with them, he imagined it would be a thought he couldn't translate, something he could not hear.
In this moment, sitting in this car, Bella was hardly beautiful.
She had grown noticeably thinner during the short duration of her pregnancy, her skin had taken on a sickly almost green tint, and her eyes were slightly sunken with constant exhaustion and fear.
She looked not only human but mortal, a being that courted death, had the door to the afterworld ever so slightly ajar and was currently stepping into it. She looked like a human who desperately needed his medical attention.
He remembered that day, after he'd assured her that there was something out there for her, that she was worthy of love from someone, and the way she'd stared at him. He hadn't been able to interpret it then, still wasn't now, and had no idea what she'd seen when she looked at him or why she had asked to be loved, just once, by him.
He imagined, in this moment driving down an empty road in the middle of the night, that he wore the same expression on his face as he stared at her. And it wasn't the words, her own or Cornelius Hackle's, it wasn't the way she looked or anything that had happened between them it was—
Something ineffable, something he had never felt before, only glimpsed somewhere glittering in the distance.
A thought that was in actuality a feeling beyond all words.
"We should come up with names," Bella said, her hand drifting to her stomach, looking past him and at the landscape with a smile again.
Carlisle blinked, forcing himself back into the moment, shaking off—whatever the hell that had even been.
"I've been thinking Carlie for a girl," Bella said, "You know, sort of a combination of you and Charlie. I was originally thinking Renesmee, but uh, with Esme—Yeah. Maybe Carlie Renee, then? I uh—kind of ran out of idea for boys' names, maybe CJ, for Carlisle Jacob?"
Apparently, Carlisle's poker face needed some work, as Bella read his clear disapproval.
"Not so hot on junior?" Bella asked hesitantly.
"I would not curse our child with a name no one can pronounce," Carlisle said with a laugh, as, indeed, his name was a source of consternation nearly wherever he went.
Not to mention that he was sure Jacob Black would just die knowing Bella had named Carlisle's demon spawn after him.
"You have any ideas?" Bella asked.
Well—no, no he did not.
It suddenly hit him again that this was his child. Bella was carrying his son or daughter, not some hypothetical infant, not someone else's child that had nothing to do with him.
This was his child, someone he would hopefully spend years raising, in a way that he'd never raised anyone before. If all went well, then he was going to be a father. Not a father in the way he had been to Rosalie and Edward, but a true father.
He wasn't ready.
He had never considered children before. Once he had become a vampire, it'd been so far outside of the realm of possibility that it never occurred to him to even waste time considering. He hadn't longed for children in the way many had, they had never felt missing from his life, but here he was all the same and the future felt like it was hanging over him like a guillotine.
He was going to teach someone how to walk, how to talk, how to interact with the world around them. He was going to give another human being a name, guide them through this life and hope for the best, he was—
He was going to be a father.
"Carlisle, you going to watch the road?" Bella asked hesitantly.
Carlisle jerked his eyes back to the road.
It didn't matter whether he was ready or not, this was happening, this was coming. He would be ready, for anything, he had to be…
"I'm sorry," he confessed, "I haven't considered any names."
"Well, I mean, I did kind of tell you two days ago," Bella said.
Had it only been two days? It felt as if it'd been two lifetimes.
"I—" he was about to say that he liked Carlie, that this was a fine name, but he found his mouth taking over his mind, "I am not comfortable naming a child after myself."
"What do you mean?" Bella asked.
"Like all people," he said quietly, "I am both good and bad, capable of grievous mistakes, and have recently learned that I am quite the fool. While I try to be admirable, to do my best in this world, I am not sure that I have reached a point where children should be named after me."
What child deserved to be named after a man whose marriage had fallen apart in only two weeks? Who was only their father because he had slept with his son's fiancée and future daughter?
"More," he added when Bella opened her mouth to argue, "I think children should be their own people. They should not be held down by my name, be born standing in my shadow, but should have a name for themselves."
"Huh," Bella said slowly, "I don't agree with the first part but that last—you make a very good point."
"Thank you," Carlisle said.
Bella frowned, "Well shit, there go all my names."
"Indeed," Carlisle said.
They sat in silence for well over a minute, both lost in their own thoughts. They would arrive in Volterra very soon.
"Well, if we live," Bella said, "Then I guess we can request a book of baby names or something."
Author's Note: And now it's Bella's turn to unintentionally spout romantic drivel.
Thanks to readers and reviewers, reviews are much appreciated.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight