A/N: Hey guys. It's been a while since this one's been updated, but here you go.
Let me know what you think! :)
What's Done Cannot Be Undone
The pain had returned.
I'd been expecting it, as I slowly drifted out of my medicine-induced slumber, but the intensity of it took me by surprise, as it always did, knocking the air from my lungs as surely as a blow. I gasped, allowing it to wash over me in steady waves, silently wishing that I could drown in the sorrow; wishing that the next time Carlisle stopped by with my sleeping pills, he'd leave a merciful few extra so that I wouldn't have to suffer this excruciating existence any longer.
But he was selfish, he and Charlie, and the rest of the Cullens. They cared nothing for the ragged, aching hole in my chest where my heart had once been. I'd foolishly thought, at the beginning, that the pain was a result of my heart hardening, growing strong and resistant to thoughts of...him, but I was wrong. When Edward had stepped into the sun, when his life had been cut so agonizingly short, the invisible threads he'd wound around my heart had torn the delicate organ straight out of me, leaving behind a festering wound that seemed to become more infected by the day.
They didn't care that the hurt had become a living, tangible thing. That it had unfurled from my chest in dark insidious tendrils and infected every part of me until I was barely able to function. Every breath was acrid, burning my lungs, every throb of my phantom heart harrowing, spreading the disease of my loss. My empty stomach complained of my mistreatment, aching dully... Every involuntary physiological action was an immutable reminder that I was alive... and he was not.
It was almost amusing now, to look back on when Edward had first left me; the catalyst to this never-ending nightmare.
At the time, I was sure that I could never feel worse; that numbing, empty ache that rendered every detail of my life without Edward blurry. The vibrant colors of the world around me, colors that seemed to have grow brighter with the knowledge of Edward's love, bled away, draining until there was nothing left but harsh shades of grey.
A crucial part of my very soul had been ripped away and hovered, unreachable on some distant horizon. I could sense it, out there somewhere.
But that was just it. It was there. There was still a chance, a tiny, minute chance, that some day I might find that piece and be able to put myself back together. There was never a question, despite his harsh words or the fact that he had abandoned me, that I would take him back should he even hint at wanting it. He was simply my Edward. And always would be.
So, like a zombie, I mindlessly went through the motions, burying the pain and taking refuge in Jacob's company when I could. I ate, I went to school, I smiled as I told Charlie the lies he so badly needed to hear, all in the hopes that the 'someday' I dreamt of would become a reality.
Now, there was no someday. There were no foolish expectations. It was over. And in the end, Edward had been right. I wasn't good enough... I'd never been good enough...
Quiet voices disturbed my less than pleasant thoughts and I listlessly rolled onto my side, peering with half-hearted interest at the shadowy figures in the doorway. Charlie and Carlisle. My daily visitors.
For a while Charlie had allowed my classmates to visit me, hoping, misguidedly, that their flowers and teddy bears and murmured condolences would 'make me feel better'. As though my naïve, uncomprehending peers could help assuage the guilt-ridden ache that gnawed at me.
That foolish notion had ended quickly enough when, after two weeks of silently suffering through my classmates' unwitting commiserations, I'd snapped on Mike Newton so severely that he'd run out of our house near tears.
I closed my eyes, feigning sleep. Not because I wanted to eavesdrop, but simply because I couldn't stand the idea of having to interact with either of them.
Carlisle had the best of intentions, really, didn't he always? But when he looked at me with that kind smile, and those brilliant topaz eyes, different, yet achingly similar, it was too much. With every word he spoke in that faintly musical tone, he drove the spike of Edward's death a little deeper. I felt as though I would never be able to staunch the flood of painful memory so long as he insisted on making house calls.
And Charlie, with his helplessly concerned gaze, and the words of encouragement that were getting more feeble by the day, did a terrific job of making me feel bad for not feeling better. I wasn't sure what he was expecting, or what he wanted from me, but I knew that I wouldn't be able to provide him with the cheerful smile he so desperately begged for anytime soon.
"She's not getting better, Cullen," Charlie growled quietly, the raw frustration in his voice making me cringe. It seemed to be my year to disappoint people; pruning the Cullen family tree without their consent, driving my dad to despair, and killing my boyfriend and his sister...
The pain pulsed heavily, reminding me with cruel efficiency that the wound I'd sustained was not nearly healed enough for such caustic thoughts, and I clenched my fists in my sheets.
Carlisle sighed quietly. "It's only been three months, Charlie. You need to give her time."
I jumped involuntarily as a loud thud echoed throughout the room. I didn't need to look to know that Charlie had just hit something.
"How much time, dammit? She doesn't eat, she doesn't sleep, she doesn't talk. She's wasting away, and nothing I say or do makes it any better. I can't just stand by and watch this, I mean, there's gotta be something you haven't tried, or--"
Carlisle's voice was weary, but held no edge of defensiveness. "I'm doing everything I can, Charlie. She refuses to see anyone else and won't take the medications I prescribe. She refuses therapy. I'm sorry, but there is a certain level of cooperation necessary, here. She has to want to get better. Until she does, there's only so much I can do..."
There was a moment of silence and I could feel the weight of both of their gazes. Finally Charlie sighed, muttering resignedly,
"That may be, but I'm her father, and if this keeps up... Well, I'm willing to do whatever's necessary to ensure her recovery, Cullen."
"Charlie, I don't think..."
"Whatever's. Necessary," Charlie replied, in a voice that brooked no argument.
As the quiet creaking of the stairs signaled his departure, I wanted to shout after him not to bother. There was nothing anyone could do.
Despite the sudden silence, I knew better than to think I was alone. I was willing to bet my life, though it held very little value these days, that Carlisle was still standing in the doorway, a knowing, pensive look on his face. I knew what was coming. He would try, as he did every day.
And he would fail. As he did every day.
"I know that you're awake, Bella," his melodic voice murmured into the dim hush of my room.
I opened my eyes to find him slowly approaching my bedside, regarding me as though I were a wounded animal that might attempt escape at any moment.
His fist hovered over my nightstand for several seconds, and I watched worriedly as he hesitated. I was tormented by the thought that one of these days he would simply refuse me the solace of the only prescription medication I was willing to take. Luckily, today didn't seem to be that day, and he reluctantly released two familiar blue pills next to the glass of water that permanently resided there.
"Thank you," I whispered hoarsely. I couldn't remember the last time I'd sounded like myself, the last time I didn't sound like I'd been crying or screaming for hours on end.
Carlisle nodded slowly as he sank into the worn kitchen chair Charlie had dragged up next to my bed. He would be sitting there, sometimes, when I awoke; always watching me with that same forlorn gaze. And when the nightmares got bad, so bad that I honestly feared for my sanity, Charlie would sit there stoically, promising me that everything would be okay.
"How are you feeling, today?" Carlisle asked perfunctorily.
I never responded to the question. Because he already knew. It was worse. Always worse.
Instead, I closed my eyes, turning my face into my pillow and breathing deeply. I hadn't allowed Charlie to change my sheets. Perhaps it was a merciful deceit of my mind, some trick necessary to keep me from going crazy, but faint traces of Edward's scent still seemed to cling to the covers.
"When's the last time you've eaten?"
I was silent until Carlisle's cool, gentle hands grasped my chin, forcing me to look at him. Those eyes... My stomach clenched as I met them.
I shrugged. "I don't remember."
He frowned at that. "Would you like me to have Charlie make you something?"
I dragged one of my pillows down, clutching it protectively to my chest.
"I'm not hungry."
He sighed, and I suspected he meant it to be too quite for my ears. Unfortunately for him, I was all too used to Edward's nearly inaudible sighs of frustration. "If you don't eat soon, I'm going to have set up an IV."
Did he expect me to object?
"Bella, please," he suddenly beseeched.
For the past eighty seven days, Carlisle had never once pushed, cajoled, or threatened me. He hadn't given any indication that my behavior was upsetting him; it was as though this was precisely what he'd expected. So when his tone took on that pleading note that Charlie's often did, it took me by such surprise that it broke through one of the many dams I'd erected to keep the pain from pouring out onto others.
I hadn't cried for three weeks.
But the barrier holding my tears at bay suddenly burst, and there they were.
The wrenching sobs seemed to come from deep within, clawing up from my stomach to choke their way out of my throat.
"What?! What are you asking me for, Carlisle?!" I cried. "What do you want from me?! I can't! Whatever it is, I can't do it! Edward is dead, okay?! He's dead! He's never coming back!" A horrible realization hit me, and my lungs constricted painfully, my words breathless when I uttered them. "Oh my God. I don't know how to live without him."
Strong hands grasped my shoulders, lifting me partially from the bed, so that I was sitting, Carlisle's fierce gaze burning into mine. He shook me, and I could only imagine how I must look, hanging listlessly from his grasp like a rag doll. "You must, Bella! Please, you have to try."
I shook my head, eyes burning with tears that should have long since been exhausted.
"I can't," I muttered wearily. "I'm tired, Carlisle. So very tired."
He understood immediately that I wasn't referring to a need for sleep. He understood that this life no longer held anything for me. There was no chance that I might catch a glimpse of Edward in passing ten years from now. And Alice would never drive up the Cullen's driveway, arms loaded with more shopping bags than any one girl had a right to.
There was no hope. And that was a very dangerous thing.
Carlisle hauled me off the bed completely, tucking me against his chest as though I were nothing more than a child.
"I'm sorry," he murmured into the tangled mess of my hair. I buried my face against his shoulder, inhaling the painfully familiar scent. "I can't imagine how hard this is for you; what I would do if I lost Esme, but please, Bella, you're not alone. We've all lost Edward. You don't have to do this by yourself. We're all here, if you need us. And you do. You need someone, you need to at least talk about what's happened, you need to cleanse the poison of this wound. If you don't at least try, I won't be able to stop him."
For the first time in three months something other than the image of Edward's face took control of my mind; an emotion other than pain rising to claim my attention.
I glanced up into Carlisle's wise, handsome face with a curious frown, the tears slowing as I sniffled. "You won't be able to stop who?" I questioned thickly, my throat still swollen with a lump that enlarged and deflated, but never seemed to entirely dissipate.
"Charlie," he murmured, his eyes moving over my face with concern. I wondered, again for the first time in a long time, what I must look like. Not that it mattered...
I briefly recalled Charlie's cryptic parting words. That he would do whatever it took to make sure I got better. I hadn't taken them seriously, but if Carlisle was concerned... "Charlie? What do you mean?"
Carlisle simply shook his head, standing and laying me gently back on my bed. His cool fingertips brushed a few stray locks away from my face.
"Just try, hm?"
He straightened, glancing at the blue pills, the one item in my worthless existence that I considered essential, with a frown.
"And Bella? The sooner you can live without those, the better off you are."
Panic washed over me in swift waves, debilitating me with terrifying speed.
"I...I can't..." I panted, the anxiety causing every muscle in my body to tense, as though in preparation for flight. The nearly dreamless slumber that those pills incited was my one escape; the only time of day when I didn't feel as though I was being crushed beneath the weight of my grief.
Carlisle laid a soothing hand on my shoulder, his smile understanding.
"I know. Just... Think about it."
And he left me with something other than my own shortcomings to ponder.
The look on Charlie's face when I joined him at the breakfast table, two days later, was truly priceless. I only wished that the never abating, bone-deep ache would ease, just for a moment, so that I could enjoy it.
For the better part of the last forty eight hours, I'd been absorbed in attempting to decipher Carlisle's mysterious words. I'd come up with nothing solid, but my best guess what that Charlie was planning to do something that neither Carlisle nor myself would approve of; a suggestion that'd born dozens of possible scenarios ranging from bringing grief counselors into the house and forcing them on me, to trying to send me to live with my mother and Phil. Again.
And this morning, as the sun had made a murky, half-hearted appearance, I'd lain on my side and stared at the end table where my little blue friends were perched. Friends whose company I'd declined the night before. I hadn't slept, but it was the first time in a long time, that I'd felt as though control of my life wasn't slipping through my hands faster than as if I'd been trying to hold water.
I'd thought that locking myself in my room and staying away from everyone would shield them from the incredible anguish that threatened to swallow me whole. But the more I'd thought about it, the more I realized that my withdrawal, my refusal to let anyone in, rather than protecting them, only served to hurt them more.
Perhaps I'd known that all along, subconsciously; wanted to inflict even a fraction of what I felt upon them. I only hoped that I hadn't become so cruel in my bitterness.
Still, I must have unintentionally pushed Charlie to some sort of breaking point.
And I intended to do what I could to remedy that.
If I was going to continue with this farce of a life, I was going to have to at least attempt to live.
Charlie scrambled to his feet, sending milk and a good deal of bran flakes spilling onto the tabletop. I felt the corners of my lips twitch, though I couldn't execute the smile fully.
"Mornin', dad," I uttered huskily, my throat still not fully recovered from all of the strain I'd put on it recently.
"Mornin', Bells." His gaze was nervous as he quickly righted his bowl, raking a hand through his hair. "Can I... Get you something to eat?"
I fidgeted with the hem of my t-shirt, swallowing back my immediate refusal. I had to make the effort. Like Carlisle said, I had to try. So I nodded slowly, suggesting wryly, "Just promise that you won't try anything too difficult, huh? I'm supposed to be getting better, not worse."
The relief on his face at my half-hearted attempt of a joke was painful to witness. He suddenly laughed, and in a rare show of emotion, strode over to my chair and pulled me into a tight hug. I returned it gratefully; allowing the love my father exuded to wash over me, knitting some of my painfully raw edges back together.
When he pulled away, his eyes were bright and glassy, and self-hatred flared briefly within me, an emotion I'd become well acquainted with over the past several months. Why had I assumed that my suffering would affect no one else if I just shut them out?
Charlie's calloused hand mussed my hair as he headed over to the stove, cracking a couple of eggs into a frying pan. Comfortable silence settled over the kitchen as he cooked and I actually found the role reversal somewhat amusing.
When he set the plate before me, my stomach lurched a little. After not having eaten in so long, the smell of food made me slightly nauseous. I forced myself to pick up my fork anyway.
Charlie kissed the top of my head, murmuring gruffly, "If you need anything, you call me at the station, alright?"
I nodded mutely, forcing a painfully strained smile as I looked up at him. Trying. I had to keep trying.
Would it always be this difficult?
Charlie grabbed his gun belt, tossing his hat carelessly on his head and headed toward the door. He paused on the threshold, glancing back at me as though he planned to say something, before shaking his head and walking out.
I was grateful that he avoided the small talk.
I pushed my eggs around my plate, forcing myself to choke down a few bites, before my stomach began to lurch warningly and I tossed the remainder, scrubbing the plate clean.
And then, I stood there.
I stood there, in the kitchen, with its cheerful yellow cabinetry, sunlight streaming murkily through windows that hadn't been washed in too long, and I realized that I was... lost.
Utterly, and entirely lost.
What was I supposed to do with myself? I hadn't gone to school in months, and not only was I hopelessly behind in my classes, but there was no way I'd be able to suffer an entire day of sidelong sympathetic glances and feeble apologies.
Carlisle had concocted a simple tale of loss and sorrow to explain away Alice and Edward's sudden disappearance and my subsequent withdrawal.
A drunk driver had swerved over the median, hitting the car in which Alice, Edward and I were driving head-on. Alice and Edward were instantly killed, while I, asleep in the back seat, escaped with hardly a scratch. There'd been a funeral I'd been unable to bring myself to attend, and the local paper ran obituaries that lamented the loss of two young, vibrant, gifted people. With typical small-town mentality Forks had banded together, its housewives making scores of casseroles to send to Esme; the high school holding a memorial service to mourn the loss of two students that it'd never truly known or loved as I had.
And no one knew. No one knew the terrible truth about what had happened. Not even the Cullens could fully understand what I had been forced to witness...
I gasped softly, clutching at the counter as it returned with a vengeance; the consuming, crushing sorrow. My legs buckled beneath its weight, and I wrapped my arms around myself as my knees hit the floor. I gagged as jagged shards of pain suddenly pierced my head, light bursting behind my eyes. I tried to hang onto my breakfast, but it was a lost cause, and I spilled the minimal contents of my stomach onto the dusty floorboards.
I couldn't do this. I wasn't strong enough. I couldn't even think his name, or imagine his face, without turning into a trembling ball of worthless, for God's sake. Why had I thought that I could walk down here today and it would be different?
Anger surged within me, fury at myself boiling over, mingling with the constant self-hatred instead of burning it away. Together, they created a roiling, festering combination that threatened to pull me under.
I screamed suddenly, pounding my fist against the cabinet behind me with a resounding crack.
Why wasn't I getting any better, dammit?! Why wasn't the miracle cure-all 'time' healing this huge fucking wound that gaped in my chest?! It had been three months, and he wasn't coming back. I'd seen him die! If that wasn't fucking closure, then I couldn't imagine what was!
I screamed again, though it was choked this time by the sobs that clogged my throat.
It wasn't supposed to be like this. I shook my head helplessly as the never-ending tears burned their familiar paths down my cheeks. It was never supposed to end like this. We were supposed to live happily ever after; we were supposed to be together for eternity.
Horror trickled icily through my veins as I realized that not all of my animosity was reserved strictly for me; that along the way it had grown into such an enormous thing that it reached for Edward, and even Carlisle.
Why hadn't Carlisle stopped Edward from going to the Volturi? Why hadn't Edward just changed me when I'd asked him to? Why hadn't Alice seen this and prevented it? Why hadn't I been faster, stronger…better?
Gasping, sobs wracking my body, I tipped my head back against the cabinet, glaring through our ceiling, through the sunny Forks sky, and up into the Heavens.
"Why?!" I cried desperately. "Why did you do this to me?! How could you take him from me?! Why?! Why…why…?"
I brought my head down sharply, scrubbing my hands over my eyes as the deep voice met my ears. I wasn't delusional enough to think that my furious demands to God, or whoever made the decisions 'upstairs', were being answered. I still had enough common sense to be concerned with how someone had gotten into the locked house, and more importantly, who they were and what they wanted.
But my worry was unfounded. It was only Emmett's hulking frame that stood in the doorway separating the kitchen from the short hallway to the living room. His expression was one of acute discomfort.
I scowled, sniffling repeatedly as I attempted to staunch the flow of tears.
"What do you want?" I demanded.
Now that I wasn't a screaming, hysterical, snotty mess, Emmett looked a bit more at ease. He stepped into the room, his eyes assessing as they moved from my swollen face to the mess I'd made on the floor and then back again.
And there it was. The pity. Always the pity. I despised it.
"Uh, Carlisle asked me to stop by. He wasn't able to get away from the hospital today and he wanted to know how you're doing."
I sneered, angry with him for daring to witness my very personal breakdown, and even more angry with myself for indulging in it. "Well, now you've seen. I'm a fucking wreck. Run along to report back in," I defensively snapped, waving my hand dismissively toward the door.
If I was hoping to send him running with the harsh words, I was sadly mistaken. My eyes slid to his feet in surprise as he stepped closer yet.
"Don't be a bitch, Bella, it doesn't suit you."
I looked upward so quickly that I actually felt dizzy for a moment. My mouth shot open to reply archly, but I was silenced as I met Emmett's gaze head-on.
His blood-red gaze...
I jumped to my feet and had closed the distance between us before I even realized what I'd intended to do; before I'd fully processed the ramifications of this latest development, and what they may mean for my safety.
"Emmett, what the hell?! Your eyes!" I reached up, as though to touch the faintly bruised looking skin beneath said eyes, before drawing back.
He chuckled, shrugging nonchalantly.
"Yeah, I fucked up. Rosie reamed me when she found out."
I was shocked by his blasé attitude. "How can you be so...? I mean... When...? Who did you...?" What was the etiquette for asking a vampire about his most recent human snack?
"No one around here. It was up near the border, a couple of weeks back. I hadn't eaten in a couple of days, which was stupid on my part, but some hiker was crushed by a boulder. He was going to die anyway... There was blood everywhere and I just lost it."
"And you're not... You don't feel bad about it?"
Again he shrugged his massive shoulders. "It's how I'm made, Bells. Can't beat myself up too bad over the occasional mistake, now can I?"
He watched me pointedly as he said this, and I immediately realized why Carlisle had sent Emmett. Emmett with his crimson eyes and easy smile. Carlisle was trying to send some sort of message... About not blaming myself for what had happened.
I shook my head, feeling a tired smile fighting its way to my lips.
"Yeah, I guess not," I agreed.
Emmett stepped forward, and I was on the receiving end of my second hug of the day. I closed my eyes, resting my forehead against the solid wall of his chest, my arms hanging loosely at my sides as I didn't return the embrace, but didn't fight it either. And despite the painfully reminiscent pale, marble arms, I was able to accept the comfort that Emmett offered, if only for a few minutes. I pulled away as the sweet vampire scent of him, buried underneath a layer of cologne, but there nonetheless, caused my eyes to prickle with tears.
I wiped at my eyes yet again.
"So, I suppose you've been laying low then?" I turned away from him, reaching for the damp washcloth I'd used to wash my plate earlier and kneeling to clean up the small puddle of egg-water that'd come out of my stomach.
"Yeah, can't exactly run around with eyes like this. Rose got me some contacts but they're itchy, and the venom makes 'em dissolve so quickly it's almost not even worth it. Jasper said they'd get back to normal soon enough."
I froze, in the process of wringing out the washcloth in the sink.
His had been the last voice I'd heard before the darkness had claimed me, darkness that'd held me hostage for nearly three days. And though the other Cullens had made attempts to visit, to assure me that things were not my fault, I had not seen Jasper since.... that day.
I turned slowly, wringing my damp hands as I struggled to make my voice casual. "How... How is Jasper?" It came out strained and slightly higher than normal.
Emmett shook his head, answering carefully. "Not good. Not as bad as you, I don't think, but he doesn't really talk about it much, so I'm not sure."
I closed my eyes as guilt crashed over me, reminding me not just of the lives that I'd been too inept to save, but those that I'd ruined in the process as well.
"But he's still with you guys?" I whispered.
"Yeah. For now. I don't suppose he has anyplace else to go."
"Yeah," I murmured.
Silence that neither of us knew how to fill descended, before Emmett smiled. With those crimson eyes, the expression was actually a little scary, and I could understand how, despite their beauty, most self-preserving humans might be quite wary of them.
"Anyway, along with being Carlisle's errand boy for life, after this little mistake," he gestured to his eyes, which rolled upward, "Esme wanted me to stop by and invite you over. She misses you, you know."
My head began to shake before the request was finished. The very idea of setting foot in the Cullen residence causing me to hyperventilate. Memories flooded my mind, unbidden and unwanted, reminding me of every action, every smile, every thing Edward and I had ever done in that house. There would be so much... Too much to remind me of him.
"I can't, Emmett. I just... Please don't ask me to--," I gasped, feeling more dizzy by the second.
Emmett interrupted me, taking me firmly by the shoulders. "Bella, stop. You can't keep doing this to yourself; you can't keep living like this! I know that you're in pain, but do you think this is what Edward would have wanted for you? All he ever wanted was for you to be happy, to live your life. He would still want that."
I closed my stinging eyes, the truth of Emmett's words penetrating the thick shell of apathy I'd built up over the past three months.
"We miss you, Bells. Me and Carlisle, Esme. Hell, even Rosie's been asking about you."
I peered up at him blurrily, arching a disbelieving brow.
"It's true!" he defended. "She blames herself, you know. She's worried about you."
I sighed softly and Emmett seemed to sense my weakness.
"Just for a little bit? Esme would love the company. She's redecorated the entire place."
I tried to imagine the house, the same, yet different, but all I could think of was the living room, with a focal point that may just break me should I see it.
"The piano?" I questioned softly, pain spreading in my chest as Edward's lullaby dug its way out of the depths of my mind to play quietly in my head.
Emmett rubbed my arms lightly, perhaps picking up on the sudden ache.
"Gone," he reassured me.
Though it hurt me to know that they had mourned the loss of Edward so greatly that they'd been forced to purge the house of memories of him, I couldn't help the tiny sliver of relief... I wasn't alone in this. Carlisle had been right. Again.
"Alright," I finally agreed. "Just give me a second to change."
As I slipped into a comfortable pair of jeans and my favorite hoody, I couldn't help but be thankful for Emmett and his crimson eyes. For Carlisle and his wisdom.
I finally wanted this.
I wanted to be able to embrace Edward's memory without having it crush me. I wanted to live the life that he always wanted for me. I had no illusions that this would be easy, but things worth doing rarely were.
I may not know how to live without him, but I was willing to learn.