This was written for National Survivors of Suicide Day. Please read the A/N in the next chapter. Huge thanks to Sarah Elizabeth Emily Woods for being a sounding board and to NoMoreThanUsual for being the best beta known to man.


Aftermath

Alice

I watched my brother burn in front of my eyes and knew that he was gone forever and that it was my fault. I should have seen what he was planning earlier. What is the point of being able to see the future if I can't use that so-called gift to save the people I love?

I didn't save Edward.

Bella was beside me, her eyes lifeless and not really seeing. I knew I had to get us out of Italy but all I could think was that we had failed.

I had failed.

With my perfect vampire recall, I brought up the memory of the first time I had met Edward. Jasper and I had found the Cullens and we had claimed Edward's bedroom and moved his things into the garage. I knew he would be mad, but I could also see how close he and I would become. Having intrusive gifts made us siblings in a different way than I was with Rosalie and Emmett. He and I both could see and hear things people probably didn't want us to. It was a burden more often than a gift. Once we were together, it was a burden that was less, because we could share with one another.

He was only one that truly understood what that was like. And he was gone. I couldn't curse the Volturi; they were only doing their jobs. Edward had forced their hands. I knew that they hadn't wanted him to die. No one did.

Couldn't he see that his pain could have been lessened if he had just shared it with us? We would have been glad to carry that with him. Instead he hid away, rambling around the world in an effort to escape himself that would lead him no where except to his own death.

If he had only been with all of us this never would have happened.

I should have seen it coming.

Why didn't I see it coming?

The pain of his loss was only starting to seep into me. I knew it would become overwhelming shortly but I had things I needed to do before I could give in to the pain that was to come.

I had to get myself and Bella out of Italy.

But first, I had to make a phone call.

Esme

I shouldn't have answered the phone. I've never been one to have powers, per se; I leave that to Alice, Edward and Jasper. But I couldn't help the sense of dread that washed over me when the phone rang. I felt my gaze slide across the room to land on Jasper, who had frozen with fear at the sound. I felt overwhelming panic and I wondered if it was his, or my own.

We should have heard from Alice hours ago.

Everyone was in the living room, afraid to leave the house and miss the call when it came in. I almost wished I hadn't been there… then I could have had a few more minutes believing my son was alive.

It would have been a lie, but it would still have been time. Now that time is gone forever, blown away like the ashes that were once my son.

I answered the phone and hesitantly offered a greeting. As expected it was Alice. I curse my vampire memory because I will never forget the words she spoke to me.

"He's gone. We were too late."

I dropped the phone, too shocked and yet unsurprised to realize I had done so. I knew what he had gone to Italy to do but I never thought he would succeed. Things didn't work like that in our family. We were always able to stop the bad thing from happening. How had we not been able to stop this?

I looked at the remaining members of my family, heavily aware of the three that were missing. Carlisle, the love of my existence, was sitting in his armchair by the fireplace, his face buried in his hands, his shoulders slumped in defeat. I had never seen my husband look so broken. Jasper looked torn. I could see the relief etched all over his face at hearing Alice's voice and knowing she would be home soon but it warred with the grief for Edward's loss. Rosalie and Emmett were together on the sofa. Emmett was unusually solemn and the pain on his face was something I had never before seen in my usually jovial son. Rosalie beside him looked… furious. I looked away, not wanting to feel her anger. Not then. Two would be with us again soon, returning from Italy, but the last… that spot would be vacant forever.

And that's a long time for a family of vampires.

There was silence in the room. I had no need to tell them the news since they could each and every one of them hear Alice's voice from the phone.

"I'm so sorry. We'll be home soon."

Another son was lost to me forever. I thought back to my first born son, my tiny baby boy. I had loved him so much. It consumed me. I never really knew what love was until I held that precious life in my arms and felt his sweet breath. But he was gone only days later and all of that love turned to crushing pain. I felt nothing save relief when I threw myself from a cliff and let the weight of that pain crush me physically.

His tiny baby face was only a blurry memory now but I could still feel how much I had loved him. How much I still loved him.

A mother never forgets.

Edward was my second son; my first in this new life. Though he was already technically older than me when I was turned, I always saw myself as a mother to him.

Had I failed him?

Had he needed me and I let him down?

What did I miss? How did I miss this?

Was my love, a mother's love, not enough?

Gone… Edward was gone. I didn't know how to feel about a world without him in it. My strong vampire muscles seemed to melt and I slid to the floor.

He was gone.

Jasper

I fled the house. Everyone's emotions were overwhelming me and I felt like I was going to be crushed. I knew Alice would be home soon and the relief at knowing my other half, my better half, was safe battled inside me with everyone's agony over Edward. I was drowning in their sorrow.

I had my own grief to face.

I settled myself on a rock overlooking the river and remembered Edward… my brother.

In a lot of ways, Edward had been my failsafe. He could read my mind and he kept me from making choices I would later regret. He kept me safe somehow. He always knew when things were getting close and my control was slipping. He found ways to remind me that I'm not a monster and I can choose to be better. He helped me make that choice.

I looked up to him, though I had never told him that.

Now I never could.

I tried to think of what I would do if I truly believed Alice was taken from me forever. The world wouldn't make sense to me without her in it, so I would probably choose the same fate. Or I might have, before today.

I closed my eyes and willed away the image of Esme falling to the floor. I couldn't bear to remember the look on her face. I didn't need to be an empath at that moment to know what she was feeling. She was devastated. I have never had to face losing a child. I was never blessed enough to have one. But in that moment with Esme, I knew the pain of losing a child. She felt as though every fiber of her being was being shredded, slowly, deliberately. Part of her very soul was being torn and ripped away, never to return. I knew then that, no matter what, I couldn't be the one to put that expression on someone's face. That amount of pain… it's not meant to be.

I could see the tunnel-vision that Edward must have had to make such a choice but I couldn't help but wish he would have seen just a little bit further, past his own pain of the moment. There is always something to live for. He chose not to see it.

I stared at the river, somewhat amazed that it was still moving. Life was going on all around me but it felt wrong and I knew that something vital was missing in my life. I hadn't realized just how important Edward was to me until now, when it was too late to tell him.

He really was my brother, in every way that mattered.

Tomorrow Alice would be home.

Tomorrow I would have to be strong.

Today I could grieve.

I curled up in a ball to watch the river flow and let my sorrow take me.

Carlisle

I had my hands full trying to calm Esme and take care of her but my mind was far away. Years away really. My mind was on the day I decided to make Edward into a vampire, like me.

I understood, probably better than most, what had driven him to such extremes. In my first days in my new life I had tried to die as well. I lost count the number of times and ways I had attempted suicide. But I could look back on that time in my life and see how far I had come; what I had made of the life I had not successfully given up.

I found reasons to live.

Edward was one of them.

In my hundreds of years as a doctor, how many lives had been saved? All of the good that I had done, that I would still do, would have been gone, had I succeeded.

And Edward would have died in that hospital ward of the Spanish influenza.

Would that have been more merciful?

I felt his dying mother's fingers clutch at me as she begged me to save her son, as only I could.

I made the decision on the spur of the moment and had often wondered if I made the right one.

If I closed my eyes I could still feel her blazing skin on mine. She was burning from the fever. But it was her eyes that I remembered. The fever hadn't corrupted her mind at all the way it had for some of the others. She was alert and her thoughts were only for her child.

Edward.

I couldn't let him die. I wondered if they were finally together now. I hoped so. They both deserved peace.

Had I done the right thing in turning him?

No, I wouldn't second guess myself now. The world was a better place for having him in it. I couldn't allow myself to believe anything else. He brought beauty and music…

I found myself second guessing how well I had known my son. He was my first companion and we had been together for more than 80 years. Yet did I ever really know him at all? I could name the degrees he held and the schools he attended; I could hear the compositions he wrote in my mind. I knew bits and pieces of who he was. But is it ever possible to really know someone?

I wasn't sure. And he was gone and I would never have the chance to ask him.

I could only hope he knew how much I had loved him.

The pain radiating out from where my silent heart wept crippled me. How could he be gone?

Rosalie

I hadn't made it a secret that Edward and I didn't always get along. Something about him rubbed me the wrong way from the moment I opened my red eyes into this new existence. But Edward and I did have one secret.

In the days after waking, I remembered over and over again my rape. I went over every brutal second in my mind, making sure they stayed sharp and were etched permanently there. Carlisle had explained to me that my human memories would fade with time. I think he believed I would find comfort in the fact that I wouldn't remember the attack that led to my death.

He was wrong.

I never wanted to forget. I wanted to remember every instant so that I could protect myself from ever having that happen to me again. I wouldn't let it go. I couldn't. They had killed me. I wanted my revenge.

Edward, being the nosy mind reader that he is… was… watched the rape over and over again in my mind. I knew it had to be killing him. The first time I played the entire thing through my head I heard him gasp. I knew he had been raised a gentleman in a wealthy family. He had probably never imagined such violence.

And I made him a living witness to my defilement.

Every day…

Every hour…

Over and over again until I was sure I would never forget.

I forced him to watch because I didn't know a way to keep him out and he hadn't learned to block my thoughts yet.

Once I knew I would never forget, I began to plot my revenge.

And Edward helped.

We had never spoken of it to anyone. We hadn't even planned it that way ourselves. But I knew that my memories had affected him deeply… deep enough for him to join me on my spree. He just showed up as I was leaving. We didn't speak throughout the entire journey or what came during that time. He just acted as a lookout for me. I think he was also making sure I didn't lose control being around humans.

No matter his reasons, he was there.

When it was finally over, when Royce was dead, I collapsed on the stairs of the bank vault he had been hiding in. It became his tomb. I stared at my hands and wondered what had become of me.

Edward was there. He took my hands in his own and lifted me into his arms. He carried me home.

We never spoke of it. To my knowledge, no one ever knew he was there with me. It was our secret. And I loved him for it.

I guess him being with me for that moment in my life made him a part of me because I felt as though something huge was missing. It was just gone, and I wasn't sure it would ever be back. How could it ever come back, when he was dead?

When you're a vampire, death isn't something you have to think much about when it comes to your family. We've had our share of frightening encounters, sure, but for the most part, life as a Cullen had been fairly steady. Now there was a huge rift and a gaping wound caused by death. And not just any death… but suicide. Yes, the Volturi had killed Edward, but I harbored no illusions. I knew he had chosen death over life.

The anger I felt started to consume me. How could he make a choice like this? He had no right! He was so selfish, making a choice like this. His life mattered to more people than he apparently wanted to think about.

He mattered to me.

It isn't my fault. It can't be my fault.

I loved him. And I missed him so much that my whole body throbbed with it.

Emmett

How could he just be gone?

He was here, I remember him being here, but now he's gone forever and he won't be back. A slight breeze had blown away all that was left. Such a little thing, a breeze. I really didn't notice the brush of wind across my skin on a normal day. I'd never feel it again without thinking of Edward.

He's ash and wind and there's nothing left of him.

He loved Bella. I could understand that. I loved my Rosie so much that some days I wondered where she stopped and I began. She was everything I felt. I didn't know how I would react if I lost her. But I knew I wouldn't choose death. I couldn't. I have a family that needs me.

Edward had a family that needed him.

I wondered if he saw Bella in his last moments. I think from what Alice said he did. I was relieved and horrified to know that. Relieved because my brother didn't die alone… and horrified because he would have known that he was making a mistake. He knew he was no longer going to the woman he loved but to something unknown.

I wondered if he was scared.

I hoped it was fast and that he didn't suffer. I didn't want that for him. He deserved a quick death and one without pain.

How could I even think that? He didn't deserve death at all!

I wondered if, in the instant before he died, he regretted meeting Bella. Knowing her had led him to his death. Did he regret it? Did he wish he had never set eyes on her?

Probably not. Bella had taught him what it truly was to live and to love. If I knew him at all, and I'd like to think that I did, I knew that he wouldn't regret loving her.

He wasn't always so serious. My favorite memories of Edward were of the two of us hunting. He liked to act all brooding and serious and grumpy but I knew the truth.

Sometimes he liked to play. We would run around the forest together, hunting whatever came across our paths. He was always faster, but over the years I got smarter at clearing my mind completely. I could sneak up on animals and beat him to it. It used to infuriate him.

He could be really fun when he was riled up. Wrestling with him was actually a challenge because I had to keep my mind focused and yet blank to him. He never failed to keep me on my toes.

Was it always this dark?

I used to try to drive him crazy by remembering some of my and Rosie's more adventurous exploits in bed. He was such a prude about that and it was easy to get a reaction that way.

He died a virgin. I mean yeah, that's my brother and all, but still, he should have known what it was like.

That was my brother, I mean.

This past tense stuff would be hard to get used to. He went from being present to past.

How long would it take for me to stop waiting for him to yell at me for picturing Rosalie?

How many years before I could stop expecting to hear his music floating through the halls. I always liked it, though I usually referred to it as 'classical crap' to annoy him.

I wonder if he knew.

I hope he knew.

Charlie

Alice called me from California. I demanded to know where Bella was and if she was safe. Alice's voice was shaking when she told me that Edward was dead. I guess the kid had killed himself.

I hated Edward Cullen. He's dead now and I know I shouldn't think like that but I'm a father, first and foremost. It's my job to hate anyone and anything that hurts my little girl. And Edward hurt her badly. He broke my baby girl by selfishly leaving her once before. Now that she was finally starting to pick up the pieces and live without him, he does this. I didn't want to think about what she would be like now that he was dead.

Dear God, don't let her follow him again… I can't lose her that way.

The thought, fleeting as it was, stabbed me through the heart. I felt like a bullet had gone clean through my heart and out the other side. I knew that brief flash of pain couldn't even compare to what Carlisle and Esme Cullen must have been feeling.

Parents aren't supposed to bury their children.

It isn't the natural way of things.

I looked around the kitchen after I hung up the phone. Traces of Bella were everywhere. It shamed me to admit it but I was grateful my daughter was safe and coming home. And I felt guilty that I was relieved it wasn't my child that had died.

I guess he wasn't really a bad kid, aside from hurting my daughter. As much as he hurt her, he also made her incredibly happy for a while. There had to be something in that.

Bella

Ashes to ashes…

Take me with you.

Please, I can't be here without you.

Aro

Pity. What a waste.

***

They gathered in a clearing in the forest. It was a beautiful spot, and peaceful. Light streamed through breaks in the clouds on a rare sunny day in Washington State. None of them paid any attention to the fact that some of them sparkled when the sun hit their skin.

They weren't there to notice the present.

They were there to remember the past, and to honor someone they all loved.

Joined in their grief they clung to one another.

Then they spoke, one by one.

"I understand you felt like you needed to go. I won't ever agree with that choice. Even if what you thought had been true, you still had so much to live for. You had family that loved you. We would have been there for you, always. You were my son, my first son and my first companion in this life. You will always be my son."

A gentle touch to the stone they gathered around preceded the next speaker.

"Your face was the second I saw in this life, and you were my child from that moment. You will be my child until the day I join you and further. Loving you helped me hold on to a part of myself that I thought I had lost when my son died in my arms. Now that you are gone, that part is lost once more. But I will find it again. It's still there in my memories of you and in the children I have left. You were so loved and needed. I hope you found the peace you desperately needed in life."

From the arms of the large man beside her, she spoke quietly, her words carrying on the breeze.

"We shared a secret, you and I. I'm not sure I'm strong enough to carry it alone. I'm so angry at you for forcing me to. Didn't you realize how much we all needed you? Couldn't you see how selfish you were being? You've given so much to this family over the years and now it's all just gone. I don't understand. I'm angry and I want to scream at you and hit you and I can't even do that. It's not fair and you should still be here, where you belong."

He took a steadying, although unnecessary breath, before beginning his eulogy to the lost.

"You knew me, better than I would have liked you to at times. You knew me at my weakest moments. I could never hide it from you. But I never felt your pity or your disdain. Just compassion and understanding. You never made me feel like less because my control wasn't as strong… I wasn't as strong. If you felt my shame you never said anything. That gave me strength. I can just hope that I find that strength in myself now that you are gone."

She sat down in front of the stone and stared at it.

"I don't forgive you. I refuse. You had to know what this choice would do to all of us and you just didn't care. I want to hate you for it but I can't. I blame myself. What good is a gift if it doesn't save people you love? You weren't thinking clearly, Edward. You weren't thinking at all. Had you stopped to think, you would have realized that there was another way. Had you just waited a few minutes, I would have been in time. I could have saved you. You should have saved yourself. I don't forgive you, but I still love you. I always will."

The giant of a man, his face normally dancing with mirth, was somber today.

"I'm not the best with words. I said what I thought around you because I knew there wasn't a point in trying to hide anything. Not with you, anyway. So now all I can do is hope that my habit of just speaking my mind ensured you knew that I loved you, little bro. Though it wasn't often I said it, I thought it all the time. And I hope you knew that."

Finally it was her turn. She was shaking, and was supported by one of the others. For once, blood was the last thing on anyone's mind. Tears flowed down her face, for she was the only one able to shed them. She cried for them all.

"You left me again. I love you so much and now I'll never know how it feels to be in your arms again. You cheated me out of everything you claimed you wanted me to have. I don't want those things if it isn't with you. There's no point. I can't feel this kind of love and then settle for something less. You were my life. I don't know what to do now. Please, don't leave me…"

She finished on a whisper that faded as quickly as it began.

Silence reigned as those assembled stared at the stone, its polished and carved face glinting slightly.

As the sunset faded to twilight, they slowly took their leave.

The moon rose and cast its light down upon the stone that would be the marker for a life lost.

Edward Cullen

Beloved Son, Brother, and Love

To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die.

-Thomas Campbell

You live in us.


Love and peace to all survivors today. You are not alone.