They say that the stone countenance of a vampire isn't merely physical. It encompasses every aspect of their being the moment venom takes over their veins. Frozen in time, from the length of their hair to their frame of mind. It takes something monumental to cause a change, and any change is permanent.
I scanned the length of her fragile, broken body coming to rest on the warm chocolate colored depths of her eyes that, despite her slowing heart, shone with an unwavering spark of life. At that moment I felt something cave inside me and emotions long forgotten flooded my senses. Tears that had refused to fall since awakening in this body streamed down my face and I fell to my knees at her side.
Carefully I took her hand in mine, cringing at the lack of warmth, and brushed a piece of blood-soaked hair from her face. Her wet clothes clung tightly to her emaciated frame and I let her go long enough to wrap my thick coat around her. Too little too late, but I had to do something. I kissed her forehead and sat back. She watched everything in silence. After all that had happened to her she still radiated that sense of peace. With what had to be the very last ounce of strength left in her dying body, she shakily raised her hand and wiped away my tears.
Anyone else would have missed the whispered breath, but we could hear.
And I knew I was gone.
A Storm is Brewing
Jasper dipped the tip of the paintbrush into the bronze paint and wiped the excess on the rim of the jar. The tiny soldier in his hand awaited the finishing touch of brass buttons on his coat. With his enhanced vision he could see light dancing off of the grains of pigment as he quickly but precisely dotted them on. He placed the new recruit on the battlefield laid out before him, glanced up at the ceiling and smiled. He could hear Alice upstairs in their room, grumbling under her breath.
With the brushes clean and dried, he closed up his paints and locked the door to the study on his way out. None of them normally locked doors, little work for a vampire anyway, but they all respected each others privacy too. Emmett was his only real concern. He could only imagine what would become of the fruits of his new hobby if the jokester found himself alone in that room for five minutes. The museums and charities the dioramas were donated to probably wouldn't appreciate a Civil War populated with clowns and drag queens. Hopefully Emmett would just stay away from the room but his nose usually ended up exactly where it wasn't supposed to be.
Their bedroom door was slightly ajar, he could see Alice's form under the dark blue comforter that covered their king size bed. She was holding a pillow over her face and scolding her ability for not working properly. Jasper slid inside the door without making a sound and crouched, preparing to jump.
"I'm not THAT oblivious, Jaz." She mumbled. Jasper grinned and leapt gracefully onto the bed. He laid down next to her, gently moving her arms and lifting the pillow. She opened her golden eyes to look at her husband.
"Well a man has to take every opportunity with an opponent such as you, my love. I thought maybe you were a bit preoccupied." He kissed the tip of her nose and propped his head on his hand to watch her beautiful face.
"You know, if you keep up all this fussing, Esme is gonna be on your back wanting to know whats wrong."
She smiled at his southern drawl but the smile faded all too fast, replaced by the worried look she had worn for the last two days. Only Jasper was allowed to see her vulnerable, her emotions took over her face when they were alone.
"Jasper, it's driving me crazy!" she jerked the pillow back over her head.
"How many now?"
Alice slid the pillow behind her head. " Four. All the same. Nothing...blackness."
"And your normal visions are working as usual?"
She paused and closed her eyes, testing herself before answering.
"Working fine, everyone will be home in about 53 minutes. I just don't understand. Are they supposed to mean something and I'm just not getting it or is there possibly something wrong with me?"
She searched his eyes for answers they both knew weren't there. Jasper stroked her pale cheek and pulled her to his chest.
"I won't be able to keep Edward from catching on anymore, the last one was two minutes long. He will see them if he's around."
" Well hopefully you weren't planning on keeping this a secret forever sweetheart. Everyone needs to know. "
" But I don't have any answers for them Jaz. This is what I do and right now I feel broken and exposed..."
"Exposed, huh?" He pulled the comforter up and looked at her body underneath. "Nope you have entirely too much clothing on to be exposed." Sitting back to look at her, a mischievous grin spread across his face. "I could fix that you know. What was that you said about everyone being home in 53 minutes?"
He nuzzled the tender area behind her delicate ear. Alice giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck. He pulled the comforter over them and proceeded to make her forget her worries, at least for the next 53 minutes or so.
The trees bent slightly as Edward jumped from one to another. He stopped to listened to the voices of his family about a mile north of him. Carlisle and Esme had settled themselves against a tree on the cliff edge, wrapped in each other's arms to watch the coming sunset. Rosalie and Emmett bickered over heading back into the mountains to search for Emmett's favorite meal.
"Pleeeeease Rosie, we won't go too far, I'm just really in the mood for something with more of a bite." He wagged his eyebrows at her and she rolled her eyes.
"Seriously Emmett, I do not feel like trekking halfway across the state just so you can play with your food." Rosalie crossed her arms and stared at her husband.
" Awwwww, come on babe, I don't wanna go alone." He dropped to his knees in front of her and hugged her around the waist, looking at her with puppy dog eyes and a pouty lip.
She let out a loud exasperated sigh.
"Fine, let's go. But you better hurry up because I'm going home in an hour, bear or no bear." She pulled away as he jumped to his feet. Rosalie tossed her long golden hair over her shoulder and turned back towards the mountains with Emmett right on her heels.
Edward, standing in the treetop looked back over the vast expanse of the Olympic National Forest to the white peaks his brother and sister headed for. Washington was so perfect for the Cullens. Overcast weather most of the year meant they could lead almost normal lives and the vast amount of uninhabited park lands that covered the state allowed them to feed without fear of discovery. Seven vampires could put a serious dent in the local wildlife. The opportunity to spread out their hunting grounds helped them keep their secret but also meant the deer, bear, and mountain lion populations didn't suffer from the losses.
Edward dear, are you ok?
He jumped a little at Esme's unspoken question, he had been lost in his thoughts. Over the years he had learned to somewhat stifle the almost constant stream of others thoughts. His family could be tuned out so fully that at times like this, when his mind was far away, it could take them a few tries to even get through to him.
"I'm fine, Esme. Just enjoying the view."
Stay close, please.
Edward smiled to himself. They couldn't have asked for a better matriarch. Dear, sweet, Esme, overprotective of her almost indestructible brood. The loss of her infant son is what brought her to Carlisle and this life. Her mothering nature was only amplified by the change. She knew full well there was little that could hurt her precious family, but she also knew the pain of such a loss and had vowed to never experience it again.
The branches blurred as he made his way closer to the ocean. The sky above tranquil as the clouds drifted by wearing the rainbows of sunset. The trees thinned slightly before they reached the cliffs edge and here he stopped. Swaying gently in the wind he looked out over the ocean. The rhythmic waves lapped against the rocks below and gulls cried overhead. The soothing melodies of nature surrounded him. He breathed deeply of the salty ocean air and a hint of freesia and strawberry caught his attention. It hitched in his throat for a moment and it sent a shiver down his spine. Such ordinary scents but out of place here, and together they stirred unfamiliar feelings in him. Warm and peaceful yet his skin tingled in anticipation. His eyes closed as he let the scent linger in his lungs and on his tongue, wanting to steal this moment and keep it for all time.
He felt the sun leave his skin as it finally dipped below the ocean's edge, rays of light dancing on the horizon as they faded away. Not wanting to lose the scent that was fading with the day, he stopped breathing. A smile played at his lips, he was content for the first time in so long. No thoughts warring in his head, no overwhelming emotions to remind him of all he didn't have.
Edward we are heading home now.
"I'll be right behind you, Esme"
The scent was gone, lost with his spoken words. Only the crisp ocean air met his lungs as he searched for any traces. He glanced up at the dark clouds in the distance knowing they would blow inland soon enough. He sighed and dropped to the forest floor.
Normally he would run home, the speed and freedom exhilarating, instead he chose to walk letting his head clear.
Esme was the only one to look his way as he shut the front door. He widened his smile a bit and headed up the stairs to his room. He saw himself through her eyes and heard her musing over his smile and something in the air, hope was the word that sprung to her mind. Then she started remembering things about himself he didn't want to see so he tuned her out.
A bit overcome, Esme watched him retreat to his room just as he usually did. He hadn't smiled in so long. She couldn't stifle the little swell of hope for him.
She had watched his spark fade over the years, gradually losing interest in everything. Human-like psychosis started to plague him, depression being the worst. Not just the good things are amplified when you change and what would be depression for a human would be an all-consuming black hole for a vampire. If they sunk too far inside themselves there was no guarantee of ever getting them back. She and Carlisle had tried desperately to find ways to help him cope. They had spent endless days and nights picking apart what may have caused it to begin with but even Edward couldn't answer that. How do you find solutions when you don't know the cause?
Sometimes he would just leave the house and hide himself in the forest but during the really bad times he never left his room. Never moving for days on end, a living statue lost in his own gray thoughts. For years he fought to keep control of his emotions. It took the entire family to help him win the battle. Alice had kept a vigilant eye on his future making sure to never leave his side when he needed her. Jasper regulated his moods as best he could. The others tried everything to keep him occupied. Hunting, running, sports, hobbies. Even Rosalie had tried to help, on more than one occasion dragging him to the garage to work on the cars.
Eventually it worked. He was able to stabilize himself enough to resume their normal charade but Esme could tell he was still broken inside. The light was gone from his eyes and his beautiful smile had disappeared altogether. She had become even more concerned and protective of him. She knew it probably irritated him to no end but her heart broke every time she looked at him.
The warmth she saw when he smiled at her for that split second was enough to rekindle her longing to have the old Edward back.
It was also enough for her to get the feeling that things were going to change. She smiled to herself as she headed up to her office.
It's about damn time.
Edward closed his door and leaned back against it. This room was his saving grace. The outer walls were floor to ceiling windows with the farthest even opening directly into the forest.
Of the many absurd human issues he had developed over the years, claustrophobia was the one he had never learned to deal with. Esme had remodeled the entire house before they moved back to make him feel at ease. She had also installed as many windows as she could and had replaced the rear wall of the first floor. He could never thank her enough for all she did.
His stereo system and shelf upon shelf of music lined the inner walls. Without looking, he grabbed a CD from the wall and put it in the player. The haunting notes of "Sleepwalk" filled the room as he crossed the wooden floor to the huge pile of pillows that served as his furniture. He fell back into them and looked up to the evening sky. The stars were visible for once in dreary overcast Forks.
He absentmindedly ran his hand over the different textures of the pillows. Some satin, some suede, even some leather. Different sizes and shapes but they were all rich chocolate brown, his favorite color.
Vampires didn't need soft things to be comfortable but he found himself drawn to them, or maybe the idea of the comfort they afforded humans. Either way, this was his sanctuary. The only place he could completely relax.
The images that had plagued Esme's mind found their way into his thoughts. His face as he talked to his family as he made the motions of everyday life but you could see he wasn't really there. So many of him walking away, even as they were reaching out to him
He had seen them all before. A series of images of him sitting motionless in his bedroom floor, eyes vacant. He had been like that for almost a month before Esme hit her breaking point and smacked him back to reality.
Then there were the ones she didn't even know about. All the times Alice had found him after days wandering aimlessly in the mountains. He would go weeks without hunting, not caring what happened. The times she had caught his thoughts drifting towards finding a way to end his existence.
He shook his head.
It still shamed him that he wasn't strong enough to push those feelings back and fix himself, but they had all stuck by him. Honestly, without them he didn't think he would have made it this long. Hell he knew he wouldn't have. He knew how lucky he was to have a family that loved him enough to fight for him and that in itself had helped keep him sane.
"Come in Alice."
She opened the door and just stood there.
"What is it?" He noticed the worried look on her face and patted the pillows next to him then crossed his arms behind his head. She still hesitated a moment before closing the door and sitting down next to him.
"Alice, I don't think I've ever seen you nervous before." He all but whispered to her, sensing her need for some form of semi privacy. The others save Jasper, were all in the living room watching TV. They had all learned to tune each other out for the most part but he smiled when Carlisle picked up the remote and turned the volume up. Overly sensitive hearing and seven adults in one house required a certain amount of etiquette, he was glad his father was an expert in the subject.
"Edward, I'm having a problem. I wanted to talk to you about it before you saw it for yourself."
"Ok, well Alice, you know you shouldn't worry about telling me anything. I think all things considered we are beyond that by now. You are privy to some of my most dastardly deeds you know." He smiled at her, trying to put her at ease.
"I don't know exactly whats going on." She picked up the edge of his shirt and started playing with the buttons.
" Just say it Al, or think it if you want."
"That's just it, I couldn't think it to you, you wouldn't see anything. I keep having blank visions."
A button popped off his shirt and pinged against the glass wall.
"Oops, sorry, I'll fix that." She went to grab the button from the floor but he grabbed her arm to stop her.
He just stared at her, waiting.
"Ok, ok, watch." She closed her eyes and started flipping through recent visions in her head. Edward watched with her. They were like little movie clips, you could see clearly what was going on in each. Some had happened already some hadn't, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then they just stopped.
He kept watching as a few more scenes played out in her mind then they stopped again.
They blanked out twice more, the last one going on for over two minutes.
Alice focused on Edward once more. Her face still scrunched up in worry.
"How long has this been going on?"
"Only the last two days."
"Very strange. And this has never happened before?"
She smacked his arm.
"Don't you think I would have mentioned that?"
He raised his eyebrows at her and shrugged.
She smacked him again.
Edward stifled a laugh, Alice staring at him incredulously.
"Edward Anthony Mason Cullen, was that a chuckle I heard come from your mouth?"
"I believe it was dear sister."
"Well Saints preserve me!"
Her perfect Irish accent made him laugh again.
She threw her hand dramatically to her head and pretended to faint back into the pillows. After a moment she turned on her side to face him, grinning.
"I didn't know you still knew how to do that."
He shook his head smiling.
"Weren't we discussing something of importance here?"
"We were, until you laughed at me! Seriously, I'm still in shock."
"Ok, no more laughing."
His face instantly smoothed, intensely serious.
"Only for now though, I like it when you laugh. You should do it more often."
He couldn't contain his lopsided smile as he sat up.
"Is it just me or do those blank visions have an odd feeling about them?"
"They do, I thought it was just that they scared me but I guess not. They feel, I don't know, heavy? Ominous? Expectant? GAHH! I don't even know how to explain it, how am I supposed to tell everyone else?"
"What about the silence? Is that normal?"
"A lot of my visions have sound but not all of them. I think it depends on the importance of what can be heard. I've never had any that felt like that. It's creepy."
"Hmmm, so four in two days. Not that much to go on. How about we just wait a little bit and see if we can get a better idea of what is going on? Then we can try to explain it to the others."
"I'm scared. What if it's something vitally important and I'm not getting it?"
He leaned over and kissed the top of her head.
"Relax little sister. You are so used to knowing everything in advance that you are working yourself into a panic over nothing. I can't think of many things that would pose any kind of threat to our family, can you?"
"I never said threat, I said vitally important."
He looked at her, feeling there was something behind those words that she wasn't telling him but he knew better than to try to get information from Alice. If he should know, she would tell him.
"Would you like me to watch your visions with you for the next few days?"
"Yeah, maybe together we can catch something I'm missing."
"Well," he looked at her, very serious again, "they do say two heads are better than one."
She rolled her eyes.
"Edward, you are such a dorky vampire. I still love you though."
She hopped to her feet and headed out of his room, pausing at the door.
He turned from the starry sky to look at her.
With that, she flitted down the hall to Jasper. Her head starting to fill with more intimate thoughts.
"Oops, sorry Edward."
He laid back down on the pillows and looked up at the sky. He had never seen Alice like that and he had made light of the situation to keep her calm. In all honesty he was just as unsettled by it as she was. It was the "feeling" that came with the blank visions. There was no good way to explain what it felt like but it made him nervous. It also made him feel that Alice was exactly right and there was something happening. Something important. They just needed to figure out what.
He knew they needed to tell Carlisle even if they didn't tell the others right away. He wouldn't tell her secrets behind her back, Alice would see the importance of Carlisle knowing and they would tell him together. Yes, that would work out fine. He would talk to her about it during school tomorrow.
The stars began to disappear one by one as a dark cloud slowly rolled in. For the moment he brushed all the issues aside, closed his eyes, and thought about freesias and strawberries. It filled his mind and the warmth spread through him just as it had in the treetop.
"You know those scented candles you liked for a while?"
Yep. What about them?
"Do you know if they come in a combination of freesia and strawberry?"
I'm sure I can find some that do, would you like me to get you some?
"If you don't mind, I'd like that very much."
Consider it done.
"Thank you Alice."
His lips turned up and he spent the rest of the night enjoying the pleasure even the thought of the scent brought him.