I had more planned for the ending, but I figured it would be fine the way I left it. Watch out: massive fluff toward the end.
Also, of course, I have another multi-chaptered story in the works.
I want to thank all of you for your wonderful reviews throughout my story - they mean a lot to me, because to me, they say I'm doing somethng right with the story for you guys to love it so much, and I'm glad you do! So, thanks!
Feel free to check out my other stories, and be on the watch for a new AU one coming out sometime soon.
Carlisle had one arm held out in front of me as I walked beside him, prepared to pull me back to protect me from any sort of attack as we approached the house. There was no noise coming from the house at all, which instantly alarmed me. There was a mix of scents that lingered to the point I couldn't separate them.
The front door was ajar, adding to my worry. He pushed it open and we stepped inside, Carlisle still taking a protective stance in front of me.
Everything was in a mess of disarray. Every bit of furniture I could see was broken, shattered, or flipped over. There were cracks in the walls – it looked like a heck of a fight had taken place. Just what had happened while we had been gone?
And where was my family?
Before I realized what had happened, Carlisle had me flung against the wall, a light switch digging into my back. I caught the scent a second later and knew why.
"Carlisle, my friend."
Carlisle stood in front of me like a gentlemen suddenly, and I frowned, looking at the vampire that had come around the corner. He was tall, and appeared quite young – but I knew he was probably older than time itself, by just how pale his skin was. His eyes were dark red and he had a cloak wrapped around his shoulders – he was part of the Volturi.
According to the capes of the others that appeared with to stand with him – including Jane, Alec, and Felix – they were all part of the Volturi. It had been a trap. My hand found Carlisle's and I moved to stand beside him so that we were facing them, together.
"Hello, Aro. You wouldn't have happened to see my family around?"
He gave a smile that gave me chills.
"They're perfectly safe. They're being held in a clearing not far from here." He gaze turned to me, and he extended a hand. "I don't believe we've met."
"Esme Cullen." I said briskly, not taking his hand. His smile disappeared.
"Fascinating, really." Aro murmured.
"What do you want, Aro?"
"You know why I'm here. You broke the rules. Two humans saw you attack a vampire, and while they may not understand what happened, they know you are not human. You know the laws." Aro said in the same tone – I had already decided I hated this man, and it confirmed it with the way he was looking and speaking to Carlisle.
"Aro, I -."
"I'm sorry, Carlisle. You are a dear friend to me, but I have to obey the laws." He looked back over at me. "Such a pity." He glanced behind him. "Felix, Alec, escort Mrs. Cullen here to the clearing with the others."
Carlisle's hand tightened against mine as Felix stepped forward with Alec, sweeping toward me. Carlisle pulled me in for a lingering kiss and our gazes locked.
"I love you." He whispered. It sounded like he was . . . saying goodbye.
Alec and Felix wrapped their hands around my arms and began to tug me way. On instinct, I pulled against them, struggling, trying to free myself.
"Let go of me!"
I fought a moment more before I looked back over at Carlisle – he almost looked defeated, in a way I had seen once before. The look he had given me upon returning to me – a broken, shattered look. I looked at Aro, then back at Carlisle.
They were going to kill him.
"Carlisle! No!" My screams were something I had never heard come from my own voice before, a sound I wasn't sure I had been capable of making. No. No. No. They couldn't kill Carlisle. "Let him go! He didn't do anything!"
"Now, Felix, Alec." Aro murmured quietly. I began my struggles anew, trying hard to get free of their grip and run to Carlisle.
I love you, I mouthed at him, my throat suddenly blocked with a lump. I wanted to cry, but it wasn't until Felix and Alec had started dragging me through the trees did the hot venom tears start to trail down my cheeks.
Carlisle was being killed for helping me. For saving me. I was losing him. Again. My thoughts were a shattered mess, like my stone heart, and I could barely think coherently. It hurt physically, just like it had before, to know I would never see Carlisle again.
I felt a wave of calm crash into me all of a sudden and I looked up. Felix and Alec had dragged me into a clearing. There were at least twenty other Volturi members in the area, surrounding the place where the rest of my family and the Denalis stood, some sitting in the snow, some pacing. They looked up at my approach.
"Esme!" Alice cried and flung herself at me when I was shoved into the group. She pulled me into a hug that I could barely return. I caught Edward's gaze behind her as he held Bella tightly to him.
Let me know when it happens. I thought toward him and he nodded. They wouldn't kill Carlisle right away – Aro was his friend. Carlisle would plead with them, knowing him. He still had time yet.
I fell into the snow next to Emmett and Rosalie, Alice still holding onto me tightly. Emmett reached over and wrapped an arm around me as well, pulling us both closer in comfort. I kept my eyes on Edward though, waiting for some sign to let me know Carlisle's life had ended.
As I sat in the snow, however, I began to wonder if we could somehow overtake these Volturi members and get back to the house to save Carlisle. Edward looked at me as this thought ran through my mind, giving me a look that plainly asked 'are you insane?'.
Beside me, Alice sat up suddenly, looking at me, and then at the others, and then at Edward. She apparently had a thought – he nodded after a moment, then looked at the others. They were communicating with their eyes, it seemed, and with minor motions the Volturi wouldn't detect since they were standing so far away. I caught some of them – they were taking my idea and planning with it.
It felt like forever, but I knew it had only been a few seconds when Edward suddenly moved, pressing a kiss to Bella's forehead. He and Tanya stood in unison, followed by Emmett, Rose, Eleazer, and Carmen. Alice and Kate stood, and then Jasper and Irina. Bella exchanged a glance with me before she too stood – I followed, understanding.
We would fight.
They had clearly lost the first fight, but I prayed it wouldn't be the case this time. They only difference now was the fact that they had me as a fighter – I wasn't really good enough to make much of a difference. Hopefully it would be enough.
The Volturi noticed our movement and suddenly became on edge, some of them going into defense positions – these were the experienced fighters, obviously, and knew when an attack was coming. The others took a moment longer to follow the others' leads, so I knew they were less skilled and easier to take out.
I saw a flicker of movement out of the corner of my eye – Edward had moved in an attack. Seconds later, the rest of us followed, half colliding in mid air with various members of the Volturi.
One of them leapt toward me and my fingers twisted into their shirt and flung him back to where I could get a grip on his arm. My nails dug into his flesh - the thought that I was harming someone came to mind, but then I remembered that they had attacked my family. I wasn't about to let them get by with that. Filled with sudden rage, I ripped his arm out of socket and grabbed his head, twisting it and snapping it off. I pitched it several feet away and leaped over his body and onto the next one.
I tried not to think about what I was doing, killing wise, so instead I just focused on keeping myself alive. Nails raked down my back and I whirled, grabbing another head and ripping it off the shoulders. I felt others try and grab onto me, nails digging into my marble skin - I'd have marks for a while, if they looked as bad as they felt. I managed to keep them from biting me, thankfully, and avoided most of their attacks like Alice was able to do across the field.
One of them grabbed me and I whirled, trying to rip from their grasp, but the Volturi member kept his hold on my arm, trying to grab a hold of my hair so he could rip my head from my shoulders. I kicked him in the stomach as hard as I could, grabbed his hair with my other hand, and jerked, hearing his neck crack. I winced before ripping his head the rest of the way off. I peeled his hand off my arm off mine and watched his body collapse to the floor.
Fingers tangled in my hair and jerked me back - I screamed. There was a growl from behind and the fingers released.
"Mom!" Edward called - he had ripped the vampire off my hair. "His thoughts . . . The Volturi's thoughts . . . ."
"Go! Now!" Alice screamed from across the clearing and I understood instantly. I took off toward the house at a full run, sending snow flying in my wake.
I could only hope I wouldn't be too late.
The house came into view shortly, and I leapt up onto the deck, running through the open back door and back into the living room. Carlisle was on his knees in front of Aro, who had a hold of either side of his head. Two Volturi members had a hold of Carlisle's arms, holding him down in place.
All eyes turned toward me when I barreled through the door.
"Let him go." I snapped as several moved toward me. Aro raised a hand, stopping them. He turned toward me himself, stepping toward me.
"You are making a very silly mistake, Esme."
"You're about to kill my husband. I think you're the one making a mistake."
"I understand that you may not understand our rules, but considering the amount of time dear Carlisle lived with us, he knows them very well. He knows our punishment."
"He was saving me! From her!" I nodded toward Jane, who growled. "He had no choice since I was being attacked, for no reason. Besides, if he lived with you for so long, no doubt you two are pretty good friends - so why would you kill your friend?"
Aro cocked his head to one side as I spoke, stepping closer toward me.
"Show me." He whispered and extended a hand. I frowned, but extended my hand as well. He took mine in both of his and shut his eyes - I suddenly felt a probing presence in my mind. When I shut my eyes, I could feel memories being brought forward. They flashed in my mind as Aro sorted through them - I tried to bring up the one from that night. When I did, I let it play across my mind. Apparently Aro held the same gift as Edward, but he could only see thoughts and memories when touching someone.
After he saw that one, he began to sort through memories related to it.
After a moment, he withdrew his hand, and then glanced behind me. I turned - I hadn't noticed Emmett, Eleazer, and Alice come in behind me.
"You better leave now, Aro, before the rest of my family comes and destroys you like they're doing to your guard." Alice chimed in, all traces of her usual kindness gone from her tone.
"As Esme here had shown me, I have realized that the fault is ours that Carlisle here is about to be punished." Aro said slowly, turning toward Jane. "Jane, explain yourself. You said you were there on orders of me, that you were after Carlisle on orders of me. I never gave those orders."
Jane faltered slightly, stepping back. Aro made a motion with his hand and the two holding Carlisle released him, moving toward Jane instead. I went to him without hesitation, kneeling to his level, taking his face in my hands.
"Are you okay?" I whispered and he only nodded, looking more relieved than anything as he pulled me into a hug. I hugged him in return, thankful I would not be losing him again.
I heard a scream of terror behind me and I winced - Carlisle pulled me closer and I buried my face in the crook of his neck, trying hard to block out the terrible noise. There was a cracking sound and the screaming cut off – I heard the ripping noise that signaled body parts being torn from the body, the same sound I had listened to back in the clearing in the small fight we had put up, when I had ripped arms off of the guard.
I hoped Aro wouldn't take it too personally, since it appeared he was letting us go.
Hooking my arms under Carlisle, I helped him to his feet . He wrapped an arm tightly around me as he turned toward Aro, who was watching Jane's body being carried out, followed by her arms and head.
"No hard feelings, Carlisle. I apologize for Jane's incompetence. You can be assured that it will not happen again." He murmured and Carlisle nodded. Aro glanced back at the others that surrounded him and suddenly they were off, disappearing out of the house. Aro cast one more gaze at the rest of my family as they filed in the back, before he too disappeared.
Had it really happened that quickly? Was everything already over? It seemed like there was a catch, but after a moment, I realized they were not coming back.
Silence settled in.
Then, Emmett's laughter interrupted it.
"We kicked Volturi ass!"
That seemed to shatter everything, because then everyone was embracing, laughing, and talking animatedly now, about the fight. Alice and Tanya were already making plans on buying new furniture for the house. Emmett, Jasper, and Kate were enacting out parts of the fight with wild grins. Carlisle and I just stood and watched our family – and extended family – look so relieved. They didn't notice when we snuck away to the front porch.
"I thought I was going to lose you again." I admitted quietly, pressing a hand against his cheek.
"I promised I wouldn't leave again. I wasn't going to let him do it." He murmured and pressed a kiss to my forehead. "I'm glad you're safe."
"So am I." I let his embrace surround me, taking in his scent for the longest of moments. I steadied myself - I had been more on edge than ever, and was only now starting to relax within my husband's arms. Were things truly over? I could only hope, because frankly, I was tired of it all. I just wanted to be left alone, for my family to be left alone, so we could live our lives.
"Esme, let me see your back." He said. It was then I remembered how my dress was shredded in the back and there were claw marks down my back.
"Really, it's nothing." I murmured as I turned and swept my hair aside. He moved the pieces of shredded dress aside and I felt his hand gently run down my spine. It took all I had not to shiver. His fingers traced other lines down my back, and I knew he was tracing the marks that dragged down my back. He didn't say anything, and a moment later I felt his lips along my spine, tracing the paths his fingers had just done. I knew instantly what he was doing - healing the marks with venom. I sat very still as he did.
He pulled my hair back down for me and turned me around when he finished.
"Thank you." I whispered, a bit breathless now. How the hell was it that Carlisle could still do that to me? Make me breathless with one touch, make my head spin with one kiss like he was doing now? I supposed I would have to get used to it though, if he was going to spend the rest of forever doing it.
"So what do we do now?" I asked after a moment of silence had passed. We leaned against the railing and Carlisle shrugged.
"We live the life we were meant to lead." He replied after a moment. I suppose he was right. Wasn't much left to do but live out eternity together with our family. I liked the sound of that particular idea. Perhaps, later on in life, the Volturi would bother us again, but for now, we would be left alone in peace.
I looked over at Carlisle, who was staring at me no. I arched a slender eyebrow curiously at him.
"Just thinking." He mused. "Of how perfectly lucky I am."
"I could say the same thing."