*This fic describes an attempted sexual assault, and further alludes to Rosalie's rape as detailed in Eclipse. Please heed this warning and do not read this story if either of these things is potentially triggering or upsetting for you.*
Written upon the momentous and joyous occasion of the anniversary of cinnamonscars' birth.
Happy birthday, darling. Love you loads.
Thanks to Twila Reaux for her alphaing services.
And Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and all its characters.
Epitaph for an Empty Grave
"Would you like to hear my story, Bella? It doesn't have a happy ending—but which of ours does? If we had happy endings, we'd all be under gravestones now."
--Rosalie Hale, Eclipse, pg. 154
As a general rule, Rosalie Lillian Hale McCarty does not attend concerts.
Especially not concerts held in dingy little dive bars in the Middle of Nowhere (a.k.a. Tacoma), Washington.
And especially not concerts that attract a fan-base of angst-ridden teenagers, all determined to express their individuality by wearing the exact same style of greasy, grungy skinny jeans and faux-destroyed black tee shirts.
But tonight, Rosalie is being nice. Or, at least, she is letting someone be nice to her.
When this "band" (Rosalie always uses quotation marks to refer to them as such, even in her thoughts) first toured through Washington last June, Bella had bought three tickets, her intention being to keep one for herself and give the other two to Edward and Alice as graduation presents. However, since human Bella was quite literally the Girl that Luck Forgot, her plans had gone awry. When Victoria and her half-assed group of rogue vampires had shown up in Forks, the tickets had instead gone to Angela, Ben, and the ever-patient, always-scorned Mike Newton. It had seemed at the time that the Cullens were simply not destined to listen to a group of adolescent males sing off-key about their oh-so-tortured lives.
However, Bella is nothing if not persistent. When she found out that the same group would be returning to Washington for an encore performance, she quickly bought not three, but six tickets, and presented them to her new siblings as gifts, shyly explaining that she felt bad for all the trouble her relationship with Edward had caused them over the past few years, and wanted to make it up to them by doing something nice.
Rosalie found the entire thing utterly ridiculous. As if tickets to something that could hardly even be called a concert could possibly make up for the numerous times she had risked her life to save Bella's. However, equally ridiculous was the fact that Bella had apparently decided to shoulder all the responsibility for events that were admittedly out of her control. Alice had foreseen that if everyone placated Bella by accepting her unnecessary gift (and if they all at least pretended to have a good time), then they could effectively shave five years off of the time it would take Bella to stop blaming herself for James, and her birthday, and Victoria, and the Volturi, and whatever other situations she felt personally responsible for. Alice further predicted that the end of Bella's self-admonishment would precipitate the dissolution of Edward's general moodiness. And, since Rosalie firmly believes that there is nothing in the world more annoying than the sound of her brother's whining, she'd graciously accepted the ticket when Bella offered it to her.
So here she is, watching possibly the worst "band" in existence, and staying sane only by reminding herself that one night of listening to a stranger's narcissistic brooding is infinitely better than listening to another five years of Edward hammering out Pathétique on the piano every time Bella trips over her own feet.
In truth, the concert had been kind of fun at first. Jasper (the only member of the family who was less excited than Rosalie to spend an entire evening cramped into a stuffy bar with hundreds of depressed teenagers) had spent the first half hour or so messing with the emotions of the performers, sending them wave after wave of elation and happiness and bliss. His antics had eventually made them forget their tormented lyrics and minor chord-progressions, effectively halting the performance mid-song. Edward, realizing what was going on, had threatened to take back Jasper's motorcycle if he didn't quit. When that didn't work, he threatened Alice's Porsche instead. Within seconds the music had started up again, Jasper having emoted a healthy dose of pain throughout the bar the moment Alice stomped angrily on his toes.
Things have been going steadily downhill since then.
The married couples paired off and spread out about an hour ago after Edward sensed that they were drawing too much attention to themselves as a group of six. Currently, Alice and Jasper are standing near the exit, engaged in some sort of intense conversation taking place exclusively through meaningful gazes. Long ago, Emmett dubbed this type of behavior 'Eyesex.' Given the way Alice's chest is heaving unnecessarily against the black silk of her dress, Rosalie does not find this term inappropriate in the least.
Closer to the stage, Bella's fingers are slipped into the back pocket of Edward's jeans (yes, jeans—Alice finally broke down and burned every single pair of his khaki pants last month, thank god), and Edward's hand is resting on Bella's cheek. The contact required for Bella's special "talent" to work on Edward makes their Eyesex not quite as subtle as Alice and Jasper's, but the effect is the same. Even in the dim, smoky light of the bar, anyone can tell that Edward is clearly enjoying himself.
In the middle of the crowded room, Rosalie turns and looks over at her husband, who is radiating boredom as he stares at the prop glass of whiskey in his hand. Sometimes, the fact that she and Emmett are the only Cullen children without special gifts annoys her. Bella can show Edward what she's feeling, what she wants at any time, just by lifting her shield and letting him touch her skin. Likewise, Alice always knows exactly what Jasper needs, sometimes before he knows it himself. And Jasper can make Alice feel anything—yes, anything—without so much as moving a muscle. As much as Rosalie hates to admit it, the mystical element to her siblings' relationships is undeniably appealing. She may laugh at the word every time she thinks it, but deep down, Rosalie wishes she could have Eyesex with Emmett, too.
In reality, Rosalie's sense of injustice over the unequal distribution of enhanced abilities in her family runs deeper than the trivial things she may or may not be able to do with her husband. After all, the ability to see the future, or manipulate emotions, or read minds, or shield an entire army of vampires against an attack is extremely useful. Alice, Jasper, Edward, and Bella all have clearly defined and indispensable roles in the Cullen family—they are the protectors, the first line of defense; in some cases, they are the defense that prevents defense from being necessary. The family depends on them in a way that they could never depend on either Emmett or Rosalie. After all, when any threat is bound to be unnaturally strong, slightly more unnatural strength is hardly an asset. And as for unnatural beauty… when did that ever save a life?
Shortly after Bella's transformation, it had occurred to Rosalie that the balance of the family had shifted—that with the addition of Bella and Renesmee, there were now more "gifted" than "normal" Cullens. The thought had made her highly uncomfortable, and she had spent the next few days distancing herself from everyone, convinced that people would suddenly begin to see her as useless, unworthy even. Emmett, of course, had noticed her withdrawal, and had patiently waited until the two of them were alone before calling her out on her behavior. (Yes, contrary to what Edward would have Bella believe, Rosalie and Emmett do not spend every spare moment in bed together; most of the time, when left to their own devices, they talk.) Rosalie had kept her mouth shut at first, her pride not allowing her to admit that anything was wrong. But Emmett had had years to learn and memorize every crack in her stoic walls, and so with a little prodding, he'd eventually been able to get her to talk.
Doesn't it bother you? she'd finally asked, her trembling voice a precursor to the tears that would never fall. Everyone else is special. We're just… us.
She'd hoped that, after attempting to offer up the trivial consolation that neither Esme nor Carlisle was especially talented either, Emmett would admit to being just as angry as she about receiving the proverbial short end of the vampire stick. However, much to Rosalie's surprise, her husband remained quiet, almost contemplative for a full twelve seconds before shaking his head and crossing his arms over his chest.
No, he'd said, it doesn't bother me at all. And then, before Rosalie could stop him, he continued, I don't think I could handle any of that extra shit. Hearing what people are thinking, or knowing everything that's gonna happen to me in the next day, or week, or year—where's the fun in that? And besides, not being able to do any of that makes me feel more like the old me—more human. And Rose? I never want to forget how that feels.
And then, in the time-honored tradition of all husbands who have ever said exactly the right thing at exactly the right time, he'd reached over and smacked his wife playfully on the rear, effectively ending his shining moment.
Rosalie had let Emmett's words (and his later… actions) comfort her that night, even if she couldn't truly believe them. After all, in seventy years, the one and only point that she and Edward had ever agreed on was that their humanity had been stripped from them on the nights they had become vampires. Of course, Edward had gone all traitor on her when he'd started claiming (out loud, the pansy) that Bella's love was "resurrecting the human in him."
Well, Rosalie has loved; Rosalie has felt hate and fear and joy, and she is still very much an immortal vampire, frozen and barren at the age of eighteen, without even a special ability to make eternity more interesting.
Still, at times like this, when she finds herself feeling jealous of or excluded by her siblings' talents, she tries to remember Emmett's words and be as appreciative of her 'normalcy' as her vanity will allow. Wordlessly, she reaches out and takes her husband's free hand, pretending that actual warmth spreads throughout her body at the contact, a result of her heart pumping adrenaline-infused blood through her veins.
The illusion is broken a few seconds later, however, when Emmett raises his glass to his face, sniffing its contents tentatively.
"Don't even think about it," Rosalie admonishes, realizing what he's about to do. "Remember what happened when Jazz dared you to drink that Coke?"
It had been one of the first things Jasper had ever said to his new family. Emmett had accepted the dare more out of surprise than anything else. He'd drained the whole bottle in one gulp, and then promptly vomited it all up again, only narrowly managing to make it to the sink in time. Rosalie had been horrified at first, and had almost killed Jasper on the spot. But then Jasper had started laughing, and to her amazement, Emmett had joined in too—the two of them feeding off each other until both of them were keeled over with their hands on their knees from laughing so hard. That one incident was all it took for Jasper to solidify his place as both Emmett and Rosalie's favorite brother. Edward, bless him, never did have a sense of humor.
"But this is from Tennessee," Emmett insists, calling Rosalie back to the present by pointing across her to the black labeled bottle behind the bar. "How can I not drink it?"
Rosalie rolls her eyes and is about to bite back with a sarcastic comment about how he knows damn well how to not drink things when she hears it.
The scream that still echoes in her ears whenever she finds herself walking alone at night. The expression of pain that still contorts her face every time she hears ripping fabric. The cry her soul makes every time someone speaks the word 'king.'
No one else notices. Bella is shielding Edward so that the only voice he hears is hers. Alice isn't Looking, so she doesn't See. And Jasper is so saturated with false angst that he can't feel the one true pang of fear in the entire room.
But Rosalie hears it. Rosalie sees it. Rosalie feels it.
Suddenly, she is no longer a passive, bored, member of the concert audience. Instead, she is weaving her way through the crowd, trying to remember not to use too much force as she shoves people out of the way. But the voice (that is not Rosalie's though it might well be hers, or any other woman's who has ever had her desperate, pleading 'no' ignored) keeps screaming high above the cacophonous din of the bar, and so Rosalie finds it very hard to be careful. Frantically she makes her way toward the sound, leaving a trail of already-bruising human flesh in her wake.
And then she sees them.
The girl can't be more than seventeen. She's slightly shorter than Bella, and not quite as thin. Her blonde hair has been dyed almost black, and her irises are the exact shade of light blue that always turns red in a camera flash. Heavy, dark makeup is smudged around her eyes; her corresponding dark lipstick has been smeared up at the corner of her mouth, painting her lips into a frightening smile, even as she screams.
The man is older—in his forties, maybe—and even from ten feet away Rosalie can smell him: his putrid breath, his greasy, unwashed hair, the sweat that seeps like acrid perfume from every pore in his skin. He's not terribly tall, but he is big, and he knows how to use his size to his advantage. He keeps his back to the bar, shielding the girl with his body as he pushes her toward the back exit, one hand on the small of her back, the other wrapped around her throat.
In the four steps it takes for Rosalie to reach the pair, she can't help but wonder what the girl is thinking. Rosalie imagines that she's cursing herself for making the fake ID that got her in here, or for liking this band in the first place, or for allowing a stranger to buy her just one drink. Or maybe she's begging.
Rosalie had begged.
Please, God, if you stop this from happening, I'll do anything. If you just take this away, I swear...
Carlisle, for all his goodness, had arrived too late to honor Rosalie's bargain. But tonight, in a strange reversal of situation, Rosalie arrives just in time.
She grabs the back of the man's neck just as he reaches the door, feeling his collarbone beginning to bend under her grip. He tries, futilely, to push forward so Rosalie squeezes harder. Human pretenses be damned; she is about to rip this man's head off his shoulders.
However, just before she carries through with her plan, the young girl gasps loudly—not so much a sound of fear anymore as one of pain. And that's when Rosalie notices the knife that the man is pressing into the girl's back. Even for a strong, immortal vampire, the weapon is a game-changer. Sure, she could still snap his neck, but there's no guarantee she could be fast enough to stop him from first delivering the fragile human girl a fatal blow. Slowly, reluctantly, she relaxes her fingers, though she keeps her hand on his neck to prevent him from escaping.
The man looks over his shoulder, pleasantly shocked when he recognizes the tall, blonde woman every man in the bar has been eyeing surreptitiously all night. Impossibly, she's even more beautiful up close.
"Wait your turn, sweetheart," he sneers, grinning wickedly as pauses—against his better judgment—to look her up and down. "There's plenty of me to go around."
On any other night, in any other situation, his brief hesitation would be completely insignificant. But tonight, the five seconds it takes for him to speak these words are more than enough.
Enough for him to infinitesimally loose his hold on both the knife and the human girl's throat, unintentionally freeing her from any immediate harm.
Enough for Emmett to emerge from the crowd in search of his wife, and immediately understand upon seeing her defensive posture that something is decidedly wrong.
Enough for the altercation near the back exit of the bar to finally attract the attention of the surrounding concert-goers, so that there are witnesses when Emmett (who bystanders will later describe as the only man in the bar strong enough to accomplish such a task) slams the knife-wielding man hard against the wall, fracturing two of the man's ribs with the force of the impact.
Enough for Rosalie to pull the girl away at the exact moment that Emmett makes contact, so that the girl is already huddled safely in Rosalie's arms by the time the knife clatters harmlessly to the floor.
And then time—which has seemingly slowed down in order to accommodate the virtually impossible series of events that has just occurred—begins to pass again.
Within a minute, fifteen 911 calls are routed to the Tacoma call center, and three police cars are immediately dispatched to the scene.
Across the room, Bella drops her shield, allowing Edward the insight he needs to understand what has just happened. Alice's talent, too, begins to work in these moments, and she quickly starts scanning the future, trying to determine the best course of action for her family. Almost simultaneously, a weak but noticeable air of calm pervades the room, granting all those in attendance a welcome clarity of thought as the rapid seconds tick by.
But for Rosalie, time continues to stand still.
Silently she sits on the dirty ground, holding the still-terrified girl in her arms. The girl says nothing as she stares vacantly at the floor, but from her eyes spill the tears that say all the things her mind is unable to form into words.
And with her, Rosalie weeps.
Because, though her hair had been blonder, and her eyes had been violet rather than blue; though she'd been taller and thinner and older, Rosalie had been this girl. Somewhere deep inside her, Rosalie still is this girl. And so these, real, flowing tears—they are hers, as well.
The sudden weight of a hand on her shoulder causes her to flinch, a defensive snarl breaking from her lips.
"Shhh," Emmett soothes, running his fingers over her back. "It's just me."
Rosalie glances up, taking a quick inventory of her surroundings. Two men have taken over Emmett's former duty of pinning the girl's assailant to the wall, and though the man is still sneering at Rosalie viciously, he has stopped trying to put up a fight. The concert, too, has come to a stand still, the audience members having turned their backs on the stage to form a loose circle around the scene of the near-crime. Across the bar, the rest of the Cullen siblings are standing alone and unnoticed near the front exit, whispering to themselves and watching their brother and sister warily.
"Alice says we have to go," Emmett says quietly, his voice too low for any human to hear.
Rosalie understands. The Cullens can only co-exist with humans because of their anonymity—their perceived normalcy. Even though neither Rosalie nor Emmett has done anything to arouse undo suspicion, they still cannot afford to be at the center of a police investigation. The more questions asked of them and their family, the harder it becomes to hide the truth. Alice, as always, is right: they have to leave.
"But…" Rosalie begins, looking down at the girl in her hands. How can she leave her like this? How can she leave her alone?
Emmett lifts his chin to indicate a group of three wide-eyed girls hovering together at the edge of the crowd.
"Those are her friends," he explains in a whisper. "Edward says she got separated from them about a half hour ago. They were trying to find her when they heard what was going on back here. They're scared, but they'll take care of her—Alice has seen it. I promise, she'll be all right."
As though they have somehow heard Emmett's words, the three girls begin to move toward their friend hesitantly, their instinctual aversion to both Emmett and Rosalie making each step forward exceedingly difficult. But Rosalie can clearly see the concern in their eyes; the longing to comfort their friend. She knows that Emmett is right—that they will take care of her until the police arrive, and that they will be there for her long after this night is over.
This is how it should have been for me, Rosalie can't help but think as she watches her perfect reflection shine back at her from one of the girl's tears. She gets to live now; she gets to have children, a family. She gets to die. She—
Emmett's soft voice pierces through her thoughts, the rarely used pet-name striking a chord deep in her unbeating heart. Rosalie looks up to meet her husband's golden eyes, and he smiles a small, dimpled smile at her as he cups his hand against her cheek.
"Rosie," he repeats, running his thumb over her skin. "Let her go."
Maybe it's the juxtaposition of the trembling girl in her arms with the kind, patient man who is literally standing right in front of her. Or maybe, Rosalie just needed the opportunity to grant someone else the future she'd been denied before she could truly understand the future she'd been given all those years ago.
But either way, Rosalie Lillian Hale McCarty does finally let go.
Gently, she relinquishes the girl into the waiting arms of her friends. And with her, Rosalie offers up the ghost of a girl she's been carrying inside of her for decades: a girl whose bitterness and anger over the things that had happened to her would never have allowed her to recognize the profound humanity that Rosalie has shown tonight. A girl who could never have seen that it was only because Rosalie had been able to love and hate and feel as a human loves and hates and feels, that she was able to save another person's life.
Rosalie has been alive for ninety-two years; the span of a human life. And yet, she has never felt more human than when she takes her husband's hand, allowing him to help her up—not only off of the dirty floor—but also off of that Rochester street she hadn't even realized she was still lying on until tonight.
Emmett wraps his arm around his wife's waist, pulling her into his side. Though it's unnecessary of course, since vampires are never without an infallible sense of balance, Rosalie allows Emmett to support her as they disappear together into the crowd. No one notices their retreat—all human eyes still focused on the girl now cradled in the arms of her friends on the floor.
At the front door, Jasper briefly touches his sister's hand, silently speaking for the whole family as he sends her—not doses of comfort or calm or sympathy—but five distinct waves of pride, awe, approval, respect, and love. Rosalie doesn't need a special talent to know exactly which family member is radiating which emotion. And even if she didn't know, she'd still find strength in them all.
Jasper drops his hand and, in a well-practiced routine, the Cullens slip out the door and vanish into the night.
Rosalie never looks back.
'Non lugenda est mors quam consequitur immortalitas.'
'Death is not to be mourned which is followed by immortality.'