All characters are the property of Stephenie Meyer. All original characters and storylines belong to some chick in Michigan who looks a lot like me, but answers to the name "Gremlin" on alternating Tuesdays and Sundays. We don't know why.
"Absolución" is the sequel of "Antithesis" and picks up where that story left off.
"Antithesis" Recap: It shouldn't surprise anyone that Edward would have a vampire friend outside of the Cullen and Denali clans. What you might find surprising, however, is that Edward's friend is an assassin. As Alice explained, 'it wasn't like they exchanged business cards.' They met almost 50 years ago at a Blues Festival where Edward heard a particularly compelling pianist. The musician was a vampire named Rolle. They became fast friends speaking at length about music theory and history. The whole 'assassin' thing didn't really come up.
Neither did the fact that Rolle's true love had been murdered: A love so deep and integral to his soul that her death devastated him. The loss of her broke his heart and shattered his mind. And then he was turned into a vampire... it's a long story.
When, during a visit, Rolle discovered that Edward himself had found his perfect match in Bella Swan, the wayward assassin swore he would do anything to protect his friend so he would never experience that obliterating loss.
Rolle returned to the Cullens ten years later with disturbing news that the Volturi were concerned with Bella's developing vampire skills. Combined with the gifts of the other members of Carlisle's family, the Volturi saw them as a potential threat. True to his oath, Rolle sacrifices everything — their affection and his freedom — to protect Edward and Bella from the Volturi.
Chapter 1: Cogito Ergo Doleo
The four of us burst through the trees and into the yard... into Hell.
Rolle had Carlisle trapped from behind. With only one arm he held Carlisle locked in place with a frightening twist of limbs that seemed capable of ripping them off with a single motion. Rolle's other hand was clamped down on Carlisle's jaw, forcing his head back in another extreme position. I choked on the image of how easy it would be for Rolle to rip Carlisle's upper body apart using this torturous hold.
As we came crashing into the yard, the torrential rain pummeling us, Rolle spun to face us causing Carlisle to scream in pain. I half expected to see Carlisle's arms fall to the ground with that sound.
Esme screamed hysterically in response to his pain. I saw her in Rosalie's arms against the mangled side of Emmett's Land Rover. Emmett was face down in the mud. His arm was at his feet, a yard away.
Even with a hurricane howling at their door, for two solid days the house was quieter than Esme had heard it in twelve years. The last time it was this quiet, Edward had insisted that they all leave Forks, in order to leave Bella. That day, they were quiet because they felt Edward was making a mistake, but he had followed them in silence again and again over the years whenever it was suddenly necessary to move. That quiet was only unvoiced disagreement with his decision. This quiet was different and unsettling.
It was broken trust; misplaced affection; heartbreak.
It was Carlisle.
His mood was as dark as she had ever seen him. The past few years had been the hardest years he'd endured since his father had turned on him eons ago. The darkness in his heart began three years ago when they moved to Montreal. Like 9-11 in the United States, Canada also had a date to mourn. On March tenth, four terrorists entered the Montreal General Hospital and detonated the explosives they had attached to themselves in the middle of the emergency room. To honor Osama Bin Laden's birth one-hundred and twenty-one people were hurt, and fifty-two were killed. It had been Carlisle's first week in his new job as the head of general surgery. He moved the entire family the next day and left the house abandoned. Though he had spoken very little about it, even to Esme, the terrorist attack that forced them from Montreal left a deep impression on him and had shaken his views in humanity.
His faith in a greater good, a greater purpose, had sustained him for centuries. When he ended his vow of isolation by changing Edward, it was partly because of that faith in God's greater plan, a plan that was reaffirmed for Carlisle when Edward found Bella. God had seen Edward's great need and had crafted Bella for that purpose. The only issue was that God needed time. Carlisle believed it was because they were immortal that they could see the Lord's plan unfold over time: that mortals simply lived in a blink of God's eye and were not around long enough to see the greater good of his work.
No matter how he imagined it, though, the death of so many and the selfishness of panicked and frightened people could not be in God's greater plan. Carlisle had told Esme with disbelief about an uninjured but frightened man fleeing from the debris while his dying child cried for him beneath the rubble. Carlisle always saw people as better than they were. His faith in that truth took a horrible beating that day. No matter how he tried, he could never finish telling his beloved wife and confidante what had happened. The entire event left him so heart sick it seemed like an infection in his spirit.
When they arrived in Halifax, Carlisle had turned to his family to heal his heart. He took a teaching job, trying to build the morality of younger people, hoping this could put God's greater plan back on track. When he needed to see purity and goodness, Carlisle simply sat back in the living room and watched his family, each of them a desperate and precious hold on his faith. After hearing of Rolle's earnest pledge to protect Edward and Bella, he had been the first person outside of the family that Carlisle had put his faith in; a faith that was utterly crushed three days ago when Rolle had turned on them all. His actions sent Carlisle's faith spiraling into depths where he felt unsure it could ever be repaired.
The hurricane had finally passed, but no one had been able to even consider enjoying the storm after Rolle's attack on the family. No one had even tried to hunt again. One by one, they had slowly left Carlisle and Esme's room and retired to their own rooms. They showered, changed into clean clothes and found uneasy comfort in the arms of their spouses. With Jasper's help, Alice had silently gathered up the ruined clothes and burned them.
For two days, they stayed sequestered in their home; alone together. When the storm broke, they tentatively reemerged into the world.
Carlisle was the first to escape the confines of the walls in the small hours of the morning. When Esme ventured out to find him the rain had subsided to fat drops escaping the boughs of the trees. The yard was a tangle of leaves, branches, roofing shingles and tangled yard furniture. She found her husband standing alone now on the edge of their property, staring at the sunrise over the ocean.
After the others left their bedroom where they had huddled together for support and to soothe one another, Esme and Carlisle talked more about what the others had seen Rolle do to Demetri. The apparent range of his influence and the odd pulsing sounds that had made them all feel sick were troubling, but not nearly as sickening as the speed at which Rolle could decimate another vampire.
Carlisle wanted to believe that Edward was right about his friend; that Rolle had staged his attack on them to protect them. But he couldn't stop coming back to how easy it was for Rolle to destroy a vampire. Even the notion of it had made Carlisle feel sick, as if they had brought in a pet snake only to learn it was a cobra that could have wiped out and killed his entire family in the blink of a vampire's eye.
It had been Charlotte and Peter who first spoke uneasily of the rumors of a vampire assassin who did not work for the Volturi but hunted and killed other vampires: a vampire with unparalleled tracking skills. When Edward came to the family one night and told them that Rolle had admitted to being this same vampire, no one could believe what he was saying. They had already met Rolle on several occasions. He appeared affable, sometimes amusing, sometimes withdrawn.
Carlisle had identified Rolle as possibly bi-polar or schizophrenic upon hearing more of Edward try to explain that Rolle believed that he was a demon living in hell and still seemed to understand that he was a vampire visiting a friend in Washington. Carlisle hypothesized that Rolle was suffering from some kind of psychological trauma from being alone so much.
He had been right about the psychological trauma, and had only really learned about the truth of Rolle's past the night Rolle met Bella for the first time. Even so, his story only made him more sympathetic; imbalanced perhaps, but not malicious.
They all thought they knew what was possible if Rolle had a psychotic break, but no one had wanted to believe it.
Despite this, Esme knew Carlisle still tried to see the good in him. The night Rolle told them all about the death of his true love, and how he'd hunted down her murderer only to be 'killed twice', as he put it, by Marcus, Carlisle spoke to Esme about his diagnosis of extreme psychological trauma caused by emotional distress. Being attacked and abandoned by his own maker reinforced Carlisle's beliefs in Rolle's baser goodness. Carlisle explained to her that Rolle's self-imposed vegetarian diet was a clear indicator of the depth of goodness in him.
It turned out that Rolle concealed much more craft than anyone had realized. He wasn't a lost boy. He was a powder keg with a burnt fuse. One couldn't know if it was safe to approach, unsure if it might yet explode — or rip off your son's arm.
It was that wile that now left Carlisle questioning everything about what he believed and had him staring out over the sea in solitude.
Esme walked up behind her husband and wrapped her arms around his waist. Carlisle raised his arm to let her snuggle closer and lowered it over her shoulders, kissing her hair.
"Good morning, Petal," he whispered.
"You didn't hunt at all, did you?" she asked him. She could feel the tension in his body when he didn't eat.
He closed his eyes and shook his head. The motion was slow and weary. She didn't have the heart to scold him for not taking care of himself.
"What are you doing out here?" she asked instead, looking out over the violent red of the oddly calm Atlantic.
Carlisle inhaled deeply. "Thinking. Praying."
"What were you praying for, darling?" Esme smoothed her hand over his chest.
"Honestly, I don't even know," he answered.
Esme slid her hand back and forth across his stomach. "You don't know?"
Carlisle hesitated, not really wanting to admit the truth to his wife, but unable to do anything else. "Maybe I was just hoping to have a little sit-down with God."
She held him tighter. "What would you talk about?"
His eyes closed heavily and he took a deep breath. The ugly truth fell from his lips, because she wanted it. "I'd want to know... Is all of this really worth it?"
She froze at his tone that made his words even more worrying. Her strongest human memories were her worst memories: the beatings, the hunger, her son's death, and her depression. She heard that depression in Carlisle's voice now. Fear gripped her in clammy fingers, but when she spoke, she was surprised to hear such wrath in them.
"Carlisle Cullen!" she cried and let him go, turning to stand in front of him. "You rethink yourself right this minute." She put her hands on her hips and looked straight into his eyes, her fear at his words burning like anger in her. She was fierce in her protection even if it meant protecting her husband from himself. "You look me in the eyes and ask me that question. You look Edward in the eyes and ask that question." She poked him on the chest and kept going. "And because it was worth it to Rosalie, we have Emmett? And because it's worth it, we have Alice and Jasper? And Edward has Bella?
"We change the world one starfish at a time!" she reminded him of one of his favorite parables.
It was a story he told her often of a little girl walking along a beach covered with a million stranded and dying starfish. She was throwing some of them back into the life-saving water one at a time. When a man pointed out the futility of her efforts and said she couldn't possibly make a difference, the girl simply held up the starfish in her hand and said, "It makes a difference to this one."
"I wanted Rolle to be a starfish," he admitted sadly.
Her eyes softened as his confession. "Tch." She shook her head, clicking her tongue. "Sweetheart, perhaps Rolle had already been left on the beach too long. He was too far past our help. If what Edward thinks is true, then perhaps Rolle gave us his last gift."
Carlisle pulled her into his arms. She held him tight, inhaling his scent of oak and autumn. His words and his now ever-present malaise worried her more than she wanted to admit.
Above all of her most painful human memories, Esme remembered the depression and despair the clearest. She never thought she'd ever see Carlisle grappling with these particular emotions: he was her rock, her constant, her light. She hoped she was misreading the darkness in his eyes, but her hopes were in vain when he spoke.
"I've called the dean of students and asked for a leave of absence," he said, and Esme stilled a shudder at his confession. He had never before made a decision like that without talking to her about it first. "Maybe it's possible to live too long and to see too much to keep your faith," he murmured.
Esme pulled back and looked up into his face, each word made worse by the sad conviction she could hear from him. She knew she couldn't bully him out of his ennui; she'd only make it worse if she tried. She cupped his cheeks in her hands, holding his gaze, but the dullness she feared was there in his apologetic eyes. She petted him, stroking his hair back from his face before leaning in to kiss him. She tried to stir the passion in him, deepening her kiss, but his heart was too heavy to do more than offer his lips to hers.
When she surrendered and released him, he pressed his forehead to hers, but could not meet her gaze now, having failed her in the simplest way.
"I love you," he said quietly, hoping it sounded more like the declaration he wanted it to be and not an apology.
Esme tightened her embrace. "I don't like seeing you in pain like this."
"I'm sorry," he whispered. "I just..." Carlisle stopped short and raised his head, looking in the direction of the house. Edward had appeared there looking toward them and went back into the house.
Esme turned and followed his gaze back toward the house, then looked up at her husband. "He'll know something is wrong," she warned him.
Carlisle took a deep breath and his face smoothed over. She understood the action without asking and knew instantly that his choice would be to keep this from Edward, too. Esme ran her hand over his chest, rubbing wrinkles out of his shirt with her fingers.
"Are you sure you want to hide this from him?" she asked softly keeping her eyes on her task.
Even the thought that Carlisle would intentionally keep this from Edward frightened her. Edward had been Carlisle's first companion, his first confidante in this existence. They shared a bond that no one could ever replicate. If Carlisle was to the point of hiding things from even Edward, what did that say about what he was hiding from everyone else?
She took her worry and buried it deep. That was the only lesson she had taken away from Charles Evenson: how to hide her fear.
Carlisle answered her by catching her fingers. He kissed them tenderly, then turned her hand over and kissed her palm. Esme curled her fingers over his cheek. His silent answer confirmed her worst suspicions. Esme felt the desperate panic coil inside though there was no sign of it in her honeyed eyes, no evidence of it in her sympathetic smile.
"When you're ready then," she said.
When Carlisle and Esme walked into the house, they found the entire family already gathered and pensive. Alice stood behind Jasper, her cheek resting against his back and her arms around his waist. Bella and Edward were waiting on the sofa holding hands. Rosalie was tucked under the now-healed arm of Emmett. If it still ached at all after Rolle had ripped it off, he made no show or mention of it, simply wrapping Rose in stoic support.
Sensing Carlisle's emotional stress, Jasper met his eyes with a question, but with a single shake of his head Carlisle dismissed the silent concern. He led Esme into the center of the living room to join the family circle. Everyone understood it was now time to decide how to proceed.
Alice was unusually quiet and would not meet anyone's gaze. She seemed to almost be hiding behind Jasper. Esme tried to give her a reassuring smile of support, but there was simply too much worry in her to manage it effectively.
"The airport has announced that flights will resume this afternoon after they complete cleanup and some repairs," Edward offered quietly.
Carlisle immediately bristled with worry. "Where are you going?"
"We're not going anywhere. We want to catch Rolle at the airport and talk to him," Bella began when Edward did not. A collective gasp of shock went around the room, followed by the weight of the dangers to Edward and Bella if they were wrong.
Bella looked slowly around the room at the faces of her family, ending with Carlisle. "We need to know if we were right."
"What?" Carlisle hissed in shock. "After what he's done to this family?"
With a heavy sigh and a glance at Bella, Edward confessed, "The more we talk about it, the more we think Rolle did all this for us, but we..." he tried to explain and failed. Bella squeezed his arm in support. Edward glanced around the room at their family, and said heavily, "We just need to know the truth."
"He made his decision," Carlisle said and his cold tone made every eye in the room turn to stare at him in surprise.
Jasper felt Carlisle's bitterness.
Edward heard his bitter thoughts.
Edward stood up abruptly. His expression was a mixture of disbelief and anger. In all the years they'd been together, Edward had never heard such rancorous thoughts from his father. Carlisle was the forgiving one, the patient one. Of them all, he was always the most understanding, giving everyone the benefit of the doubt even when it was undeserved. Why he suddenly chose now to shut out any possibility that Rolle had done all this to protect them, to protect Bella, felt like an attack on Edward's judgment.
"He might be giving up his freedom and peace of mind... for us!" he added that last heatedly. "This isn't like dying in battle to protect a brother. If we're right, it's willing exploitation, Carlisle! Not exactly high on the chart of romantic sacrifices I'd be proud to have imposed on another for my sake.
"Do you think I could condone that? That another being — my friend — may be debasing himself so I can be happy?? Do you think I can let a single moment pass with my wife when we won't wonder what price Rolle is paying for that gift?"
"You don't know what his true motivations are, Edward. For all we know this is exactly what he planned all along!" Carlisle shot back.
"I have to know the truth. If there's even the slightest chance that we're right, I have to know. I can't accept that all of this was simply an elaborate machination so Rolle could join the Volturi."
"That may be exactly what it is! The simplest answer is the truth," Carlisle pointed out loudly.
"How can you believe that?" Edward gasped. "If it's true, he'll never have peace. Do you think that because Rolle believes he's living in hell already that it's all right for him to actually be in hell?"
"Volterra is hardly hell, Edward," Carlisle pointed out in a condescending tone.
Edward moved aggressively forward as Bella leapt to her feet and grabbed his arm before he could do or say something else he'd regret. "Edward!" She pulled on Edward's arm, shooting a glance at Jasper for help, but their brother was already working to calm both Edward and Carlisle from this argument. Bella could feel Edward's stiff posture slacken, felt the muscles in his shoulder unlock enough to let her drag him toward their room.
She shot an apologetic look toward Esme, even as she coaxed Edward to follow her. "This isn't the time to talk. Everyone is still upset about...."
They disappeared down the hall.
Carlisle's arm dropped away from Esme. He closed his eyes and lowered his head in chagrin. Edward, I.... he thought to his son, but a door slammed shut down the hall. Alice startled, crushing her eyes closed.
...sorry, Carlisle added wearily in his mind.
He raised his head even though he was ashamed of his behavior. Jasper gave him another offering look, but again Carlisle silently refused the gift.
"I'll be outside," he said quietly, when Esme moved to follow him, he stopped and held up his hand to hold her back. Her eyes filled with pain at his refusal to allow her to accompany him. Carlisle raised his hand and brushed the back of his fingers along her cheek.
"I just need a moment," he explained, hoping his tone would make clear what his words could not.
Bella pulled him into the center of the room and released him. "Edward, we can't start turning on each oth..."
He cut her off by crushing his lips to hers, plundering her mouth with his tongue. Bella did not flinch from his aggressive attention, but instead let it wash over and encompass her, offering no resistance to him. She understood where it came from. Things he treasured, people important to him, felt like they were slipping away, out of his control to stop it. He had to reassure himself that the single most essential person in his life was still there, still safe, still protected. Bella absorbed it all opening her mind to him instantly, soothing him with assurances of her presence, her safety, and her love.
When Edward trailed his rough kisses over her jaw and down her throat, Bella rubbed her hands over his shoulders, massaging the tension from him. His argument with Carlisle had completed the final stage of overturning his composure. As her presence reassured him that of all things, this was constant, his tight control relaxed into her familiar presence. He began to tremble in her arms, angry at himself for blowing up like that with the one man who mattered more to him than any other in the world.
"Shhh." Bella soothed him with her voice and hands, pressing her cheek into his hair. As his frenzy abated and his rough grabbing hands became tender caresses, she pulled his head back and rested her forehead to his.
"Look at me," she whispered. He opened his eyes obediently and his breath stilled in his chest at the absolutes he saw in her eyes. "You're right here, with me. We're right here."
She cupped the sides of his neck and stroked his skin, catching strands of his hair between her fingers. "I feel exactly as you do, Edward. I'm willing to take this just as far as you are." She lightly kissed his brow, then his eyelids and cheeks. They leaned quietly against one another. Bella lowered her hands to his shirt and methodically slipped each button open. When she freed the tails from his belt, she pressed it off his shoulders.
Edward did not help her. He didn't stop her when she undressed herself. He didn't resist her when she pressed him gently toward their bed with her hands on his chest, and followed him down on the comforter. She lay over him with the entire length of her body, giving him the contact she knew he needed.
"Bella, I..." he tried to say.
"I know," she whispered back, silencing him in the manner only she could use.
She raised her hips and reached between them holding his shaft with her small hand as she positioned him at her entrance. He felt the wet and very familiar welcome of her body. She looked into his eyes as she slowly lowered herself onto him. Their combined exhale were silent moans of surrender. With his body within hers and her mind within his, the rest of the physical world faded from their vision to shades of grey. All he could see was her honey-colored eyes, the muted yellows of a new dawn and a new day. Buried deep in the only home he would ever need, he lifted his head to hers kissing and then gently sucking on her lower lip. They did not move with intention. There was no purpose to the intimate embrace except connection, grounding themselves to one another as electricity raced over their skin as it had the first time they touched.
She brought her mouth back to his, not kissing him, but using her lips to caress his. He could feel her breath dance across his mouth. He touched the tip of his tongue to hers in a slow tentative dance that began to erase everything else from their minds: Rolle, The Volturi, Carlisle, until the only thing that remained was the physical touch of his lips on hers. Their hands stilled as both concentrated their awareness toward this single touch of lips and tongue, tasting the eternal promise of their love.
Better? she asked without words.
Edward nodded as if hypnotized by her.
She pressed down onto him and was rewarded with his breathy groan and a slow blink.
I'm yours, she told him silently. He nodded.
She bore down onto him again without retreating the ground she'd gained. Edward grunted and tensed.
You're mine, she reminded him with her thoughts. His mouth formed the word yes, but no sound passed his lips.
Mine, she assured him with a fierce and overwhelming possessiveness that her mind growled into his. Her eyes hardened with the warning of a predator. He whimpered this time as she pressed down again. It was barely movement at all and yet it felt as though it spanned a chasm.
Edward forced himself to remain still, letting her control him, needing her to take control of this moment when everything seemed out of their control. He raised his hands to her backside, pressing and kneading his fingertips into the soft flesh.
My husband, she thought with a gusty exhale that ruffled his hair as slowly pressed him into her.
My mate. She kept him lodged deep within her body, contracting her muscles around his hard shaft to show her possession of his body.
Each proclamation of possession echoed in his head, branding his mind.
She paused for what could have been a moment or an hour, then she pulled back all the way and bore heavily down onto him beginning the process anew. She repeated every word, each time pressing with the faintest of motions to drive him deeper.
Mine. You're mine. My love.
Her teeth pulled tenderly on his lips, the gentle erotic sucking of their mouths making her sound like a predator in the midst of a meal. Soft growls and grunts provided the harmony to the wet soft melody of their bodies.
She tipped her hips and found even more depths, guiding his shaft to the spot they both knew well. Though the journey was not new to him, Edward was always stunned by the way their bodies came together perfectly. The friction between them began to build exponentially.
My mate. Press, relax. My Edward. Shift, relax. My husband. Rock, relax.
He was trapped, ensnared in her wet hot body; squeezing and releasing with exquisite precision again and again, each time slower than the last.
My protector. My heart. My dream. My everything.
She began to tremble over him. Edward, I know you can hear me.
"Yes," he hissed, the sound of his voice rough and unnatural against the sexual music of their room.
She pictured her intentions in her mind, playing it out like a movie for him. It crushed his restraint like tissue paper. Her body followed her thoughts. As she had pictured for him, she moved back quickly and roughly impaled herself on him again, and again. His strong hands guided her as she wanted, gripping her hips tightly and pulling her body to his. Bella gasped his name as his cock spasmed violently inside her, pulsing into her clutching body as they came together. She drove him deeper, relishing the feel of his unforgiving hands on her skin. She wanted the strength of his touch to be one more connection they would have at this moment. Rotating and grinding fiercely against him, she worked her body toward her own climax, coming together with him with one final push. Bella collapsed over him, limp and spent. He gasped as if his life depended on the air he frantically gulped.
His hands felt numb and weak as he slid them over her sides and wrapped his arms around her. He whispered, "Mine."
She pressed a kiss onto his chest then lay her cheek over his quiet heart. "Yours."
A/N: Nothing is ever done in a vacuum, and when you write, you affect everyone around you because the "art" of writing is a deep and soul-searching thing, from the silliest crackfic to the most zesty lemons. Anything that occupies your mind this much, not only at the keyboard, but at the office, in the store, in the car... Trust me. People around you can see it. They might not know what it is, unless you simply tell them, but they do see the deep distraction.
So having learned this after 20-yrs of writing fanfic, I first have to thank (and apologize) to my family. I don't deserve a fraction of the understanding you allow me. I also have to thank my friends, both in RL and internet-fandom. To those "in the know" and who see the depth of my fascination because they're in the thick of it with me, you have my deepest affections. I've made some of my closest friends in fandom, and in the years to come, I hope to count you among that number: that our friendship will outlast "Twilight."
So to those, my previewers, I place my hand on my heart and try not to get all choked up as I thank you for your love, encouragement, and friendly dope-slaps to the back of my head. ::grin:: IrishGirlTaken, coolmommy99, Milalencar, giselle-lx, LolaShoes, Philadelphic, Nerac, Aciepey and original_audience.
Special thanks to LolaShoes and giselle-lx, whose stories inspired me as much as "Twilight" has.
Thanks also to George, without whose encouragement, this sequel would not have been written. He gave me the best praise of all.
If you ever come across something in my story that doesn't make sense, then Google is your friend. I do a lot of research before I write a story, and 90% of it is from the internet. So if you have a question, the answer is out there! Or ask me in the review. I'm easy that way.
"Cogito Ergo Doleo." (I think therefore I am depressed.)
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It's been said that reviews can cheer up Carlisle... just sayin'