"Rose? You ready?"
She took one last, unnecessary look in the mirror, because today it would reassure her. Somehow, she expected, on this day and forever onwards, to look different, to look… like a Psychology degree student, to look… adult. But nothing in that mirror had changed, at face value. She still had the long blonde curls, the violet eyes, the pale skin. The perfect picture of beauty was still unmarked. But to those who had known her then, to those who knew her now, things had changed. Her eyes were warmed, much warmer, than they had once been, and her lips didn't curve automatically downwards anymore – they even had a slight upward lift. She wore less makeup these days, too, there was less need to smother the raw emotion she hadn't been able to remove from her face.
No, today, the mirror reassured her. She was a reflection of the Rosalie she had been last year, a reflection on the brighter side of the mirror, and somehow that made everything all right, as she lifted her bag from her bed, now stripped down to the mattress with the pillow and duvet folded in the corner, empty and bare, and headed out after Jasper's voice, not looking back.
Her brother was stood by the front door, her suitcase beside him, ready for him to lift out to the car. He smiled at her sadly.
"You ready?" he echoed, and she smiled, but it stuck somewhere halfway between a smile and her words, and in an instant she dropped her bag and wrapped her arms round his body, leaning into his, remembering the feel of him beside her, something that she would miss, maybe more than anything else.
"Hey." He whispered, stroking her hair lightly.
"I'm gonna miss you." Her voice was breathy and so quiet he could hardly hear it. He hugged her tightly.
"I'll miss you too… you don't have to go…"
Even Rosalie could tell he was desperate, clutching at straws. She pulled away, held his hands briefly and looked at him. "I do, Jasper. I have to go. Same as you have to stay."
He seemed to agree to that, because he said nothing more. He simply tucked her hair behind her ear on one side, and squeezed her shoulder one last time, smiling, almost bitterly.
"You take care, Rosalie, you hear?" he swallowed. "You can call me… anytime."
She nodded, and kissed his cheek. "Don't fret, Jazz. Emmett'll take good care of me, you'll see."
He nodded. "I know." He turned away, lifting the suitcase and walking through the front door. "I know."
Esme's eyes were filling with tears, but she blinked them furiously away, because they blurred her vision, and she couldn't have her last glimpses of her son blurred. Carlisle had his arm in its usual place wrapped snugly around her waist, but this time it fit more tightly than before. That was the only sign he was giving of any distress, as calm-faced and gentle as ever. Emmett looked at his parents, and then at his sister and brother, forcing his usual dimple-cheeked smile onto his face, grinning at them, whilst inside, his heart was thudding. He hadn't expected this day to come so soon; he'd waited for it for a good five years and now it was here and he hardly knew what to expect, what to say…
To Esme and Carlisle he looked so adult, their grown son, and to both of them it caught in their throats. Alice and Edward weren't far behind either, and this… this beginning for Emmett… this meant that someday, and now it was sooner that it ever had been, they would all be leaving them.
The red BMW M3 convertible came roaring down the road to the drive, where Edward was loading the Jeep, and Emmett was making his final goodbyes. Rosalie looked composed, beautiful, but Emmett could instantly read the sadness in her eyes, she missed Jasper and the others already. Jasper and Rosalie climbed out the car, and Edward wordlessly took Rosalie's pale blue suitcase from Jasper and loaded it into the Jeep. Then they all stood, forming a lop-sided circle, staring.
"We should… we should get on the road quickly…" Emmett started, half-choking on his words, wishing desperately now, in some bitter irony, that he could have one more hour here, one more day, one more year… Rosalie took his hand in hers, and the feel of her cold, small palm against his gave him an unspeakable reassurance – wherever he ended up, it would be with her. Carlisle and Esme were nodding briskly, like Emmett was suggesting a day trip over to La Push or something, not the final act of leaving home.
"You… take care of yourself, Emmett." Carlisle said, and for a moment there was a silence, and he clapped his hand over his son's shoulder, trying to smile. But Emmett pulled his father into a hug, fingers gripping the perfectly pressed cotton of Carlisle's shirt, remembering when he was so small he used to cling to his father's clothes to hold him in piggy-back… but now he towered over Dr Cullen, and he wasn't even a small man. They pulled back, awkwardness forgotten, and Carlisle patted his son's shoulder one more time. "Enjoy yourself."
He turned to Esme, who wasn't able to hide her tears anymore. Beside him, his sister and even Edward were hugging Rosalie, but for this single moment he could only focus his attention on his mother, the woman who had brought him into the world, who had put a band-aid over his scraped knees, who had kissed him on the top of his curly hair until he grew too tall for her to reach, who had laughed and threaten to ground him for his whole life when she had asked him to dry the dishes and he had patted her on the head and skipped off upstairs, who had been the one to step in and break it gently to her husband that Emmett had no intention of becoming a doctor and working under Carlisle at the hospital…
His eyes blurred as her threw his arms around her, holding her tightly to him, and he felt her shoulders shake a little. She pulled away, and patted the side of his cheek through tear-filled eyes, a bright smile juxtaposing the sorrow in her eyes.
"Make me proud, Emmett Cullen." She whispered, "Make sure you call at least once a week, eat properly, change your underwear every day-" that earnt a groan from her son, "-don't ever change, and…" she trailed off, and looked pointedly towards Rosalie, "…make sure you don't ever let go of a good thing…"
He nodded, kissed his mother on the cheek, wondering how she ever got so wise, and gave her his full-on, dimple-cheeked smile.
"Love you, Mom." He said, hugging her one more time, "Always."
Edward was next. The brothers hugged, awkwardly at first, but then Emmett clapped Edward on the back. "Keep an eye on Mom when Dad's at work, won't you?"
Edward nodded solemnly. Emmett chuckled, and nodded towards Bella. "Don't you hurt her. And don't do anything I wouldn't do…"
But, maybe not so strangely, Alice was the hardest. She'd stopped even trying to hide her tears as she flung her arms around Emmett's neck. "I want you to call me everyday." She said into his shoulder, and he laughed lightly but sadly. He ruffled her spiky hair.
"You'll love it really, me being gone." He said quietly, "Control of the TV, enough room in the garage for your own car, me not bugging you and Jasper when you're alone…"
She gave a light laugh, but tears still spilled from her eyes and she shook her head. "I'll miss you, Emmett…"
"I'll miss you too, Al." he whispered, hugging her so tightly he lifted her up off the ground and swung her round a little, making her smile, at least a little.
Lastly, he was faced with Jasper. The two of them shook hands awkwardly, both looking anywhere but each other's face, knowing what would come next.
"Look, Emmett-" Jasper said at the same time as Emmett said, "Jasper…"
They both laughed, and then Jasper leant in, his tone serious.
"Watch out for Rose. She's… she's so much better, but she's still so…" he was struggling to find the word. Emmett nodded, meaning he didn't have to.
"I know. I was about to say the same to you. You – take care of Alice… if anything happens to her…" he trailed, but something threatening flashed through his eyes, and Jasper was no fool. He clapped Emmett's shoulder with his palm.
"I… I won't let anything happen." He said solemnly. "Have fun, Emmett. Come back soon."
"You betcha." His friend grinned, and then turned away.
Emmett and Rosalie climbed into the Jeep, and with final waves, and with final tears, they started to drive.
Further down the road, Rosalie woke up from her light doze, and smiled across at her companion.
"Love you." She whispered, as she rubbed sleep from her eyes. He grinned at her, and now was one of the times he was going to say it back.
"Love you too." He murmured, and the sunshiny grin she gave him was worth anything, worth leaving everything behind for. They both smiled for a moment, saying nothing.
"How far now?" she asked, merely out of curiosity rather than boredom.
"Three to four hours, give or take…"
She nodded slowly, and then started to shake her head in disbelief, something he saw out of the corner of his eye.
"I just… I can't believe myself. I can't believe I'm here, with you, after everything that happened… going…"
"Going where?" he asked, his tone light and joking, but both their words had been holding hidden meaning.
Rosalie put her hand over his as it went to the gearstick.
A/N: Well, folks, that's the last chapter! I hoped you liked it! An epilogue is on it's way, and Veiled Thorns is kicking off! Sorry this update took so long, by the way, I've had a very very busy week. I visited Bristol University's vet school on Sunday, and it was AMAZING, I loved it, and I want. To. Go. There. Now. :D:D:D
Look out for the epilogue, and for Veiled Thorns. I will post an author's note on here when it's starting to be posted. Should be soon. Love to all the amazing reviewers who have followed me faithfully and sometimes blindly through this fic, and I hope every single one of you will be as pleased with the end result as I am!!!
End of ramble.