Title: growing up human
Characters: Bella, Rosalie, Emmett, Edward, Alice, Jasper
Summary: "This was what it meant to be human. To be young and unsure, to grow and live and breathe and fight and believe, and to die too soon." A story in descending chronological order, with focus on the Cullen kids (plus Bella) before they were changed.
Notes: for comment_fic on livejournal
Isabella Swan stood at the back of the ballet studio, and leaned forward into an Arabesque. She leaned forward, spread her arms wide, and kicked her leg backwards.
She shouldn't have been so surprised when she fell on her face, but she was. She burst into tears. Not because the lump forming on her head hurt - it Idid/I - but because of her own frustration. It should have worked, it really should have. She did exactly what the teacher said. The resigned sighs of the other students as the teacher went to grab yet another icepack hurt more, anyways.
Later that week, at her recital, she still had the bruise. She fell down and nearly twisted her ankle during the chassé, but Karlie also fell down on the sauté, and she fell down first, so Bella didn't care so much.
Afterward, the Phoenix Ballet Company closed the area-wide recital. Bella watched those dancers in their beautiful clothing, with their perfect pointes and pirouettes, so graceful as they almost floated across the stage.
Bella felt a surge of envy and despair. She Iwanted/I that perfect grace, that beautiful perfection.
The dress itself was beautiful - floating, white chiffon and silk, probably imported from Paris. The debutante wearing it was equally as striking - blonde curls perfectly arranged, rouge just barely pinking her cheeks.
Rosalie's lower lip quivered, as the George Hardison kissed the debutante's gloved fingers. She had been having a nice conversation with George, until Ishe/I walked over and batted her eyelashes.
Worse, Rosalie's awkward fourteen could not compete. Her chest was too flat to attract any attention, her eyes were a watery shade of gray, and she still couldn't kick the habit of biting her fingernails. Next to the debutante, she looked downright frumpy.
Rosalie's eyes bore into the back of the girl's I(perfect chiffon silk ruffled)/I dress, and made herself a silent promise.
George Hardison would regret he had ever spurned her.
"Emmett! Emmett, where are you?"
"I'm up here, mama!" Emmett McCarty called down to his mother.
The harried woman looked up into the trees, to see her son - his ears covered by a coon-skin cap - clinging to the branches halfway up a tall pine. She pressed one hand to her breast.
"Emmett! Come down here at once! You could break your neck!"
Emmett laughed, at the thought - he hadn't fallen yet, and he'd been climbing trees for Iyears./I Still, he didn't it when his ma worried, and she worried too much as it was. So he obediently began descending the branches of the great pine, the sap getting under his fingernails and causing his fingers to stick together in the most delightful way.
As soon as he was close enough, he let go of the tree's trunk and leaped to the ground. He could hear his mother's gasp, but didn't care in the moment of freefall. And then he hit the ground - a bit harder than he thought, and scraped his elbow pretty bad. Still, it wasn't too bad.
Lillian McCarty dragged her son up off the ground and hugged him to her breast. He squirmed in her embrace, but remained wordless.
"You scared me half to death, Emmett Dale McCarty! What do you think you were doing?"
"Climbing tress," he answered, a little cheekily.
Emmett's mother gave him a stern look.
That night, after he had cleaned the sap off of his hands and put some iodine on his elbow, he sat at the dinner table, and glanced guiltily over at his mother.
"I'm sorry, mama," he said quietly. "I don't want you to worry."
She smiled warmly. "I'm your mama. It's my job to worry." She left the pot of vegetables she was stewing, to put an arm around her son's shoulders. "You remind me so much of your father," she whispered quietly.
Emmett stared hard at the kitchen table. "What d'you think happened to him, mama?" he asked.
She shook her head. "I don't know," she said, softly. "I really don't know. But he's in heaven, I know it."
"Do you think he met a bear? D'you think that's why he didn't come back?"
"Something happened out there on those mountains. Maybe it was just an accident."
Emmett shook his head, and his shaggy curls fell into his eyes.
"He met a bear. A big grizzly - and then they fought, and wrested, and they both went off a cliff…"
Edward Masen Sr. laid his paper down on the dining room table. 'Germany declares war on Russia. Europe at war!' it read, in large block letters.
He let out a long, heavy sigh. Elizabeth's worried green eyes flickered to his.
It was a moment later that his young son entered the room and sat at the dining table. His copper hair was tousled - it would never lay flat - and in his hand he held a tin casting of a soldier with a bayonet slung over his shoulder.
As he said grace, Edward looked closely at his young son. He seemed particularly young tonight, his cheeks full with the remnants of baby fat and a smudge across his forehead. But his gaze was level, as he met Edward's eyes.
Edward wondered if his son would go to war. He wondered if he would kill. He wondered if Edward, his son, would return home alive.
"Mary? Mary, what's wrong?"
There was a long breath of silence, as the nightgown-clad girl stared at her big sister. Something was wrong.
"I'm getting mama," she said, and ran to the room their parents shared.
Moments later, a tall southern woman entered the bedroom. She went to Mary's side, and set a hand on her daughter's shoulder. "Mary, love, what's wrong?"
Mary Alice Brandon blinked and shuddered, suddenly tearing her eyes away from the wall that had so captivated her attention.
"A fire," she said, and her voice was shaking. "In the harbor. A big fire-!"
"It was just a dream, love," her mother said, hugging Mary about the shoulders. "Just a dream, nothing else."
A week later, a fire broke out in the harbor. Mary Alice stood at the edge of the charred wreckage.
"I saw it," she said, her voice quiet. "I did."
Her mother wrapped her arms closer about herself, and took a long look at her child.
Jasper Whitlock slung the bayonet over his shoulder, and felt the chafing of his uniform on his shoulder. He looked into the faces of his comrades, saw the different emotions in their expressions - some exultant, some afraid, some grim - in the moments before their first battle.
Jasper was eighteen, and even he felt too young. Most of these faces were younger than his. Young and awkward in the gray uniforms with bayonets half as long as they were.
But this was the time to fight for freedom, to fight for secession, to fight for their way of life. This was the time to be a man.
The red and blue and white striped flag fluttered in the forefront, and the order was given.
This was what it meant to be human. To be young and unsure, to grow and live and breathe and fight and believe, and to die too soon.
The entire company began to charge, and the battle cry swelled in his chest as his feet and his heart pounded in time with theirs.