The Never Ever Happily Ever After Contest
Title: Fractured Lives
Characters: Edward, Cullen Family, Denali Family
Word Count: 10,094
Summary: A NEHEA Contest Submission. What if Edward never met Bella? What if he gets tired of his existence? What if he is betrayed by the people he trusts the most? When it all goes wrong all that's left are fractured lives.
Disclaimer: "Due to the nature of this contest, you may expect content such as character death, adultery, abuse, illegal activities including drug use and underage drinking, etc."
It was becoming intolerable. Noise. So much noise all the time. What had taken years to master seemed to be unravelling a little more each and every day. The incessant drone of voices; rambling, disjointed, confusing, predictable, all at the same time. High School surely had to be hell on earth, though, Edward could find very little to soothe his spirit by then.
For so long he had managed his "gift," snickering derisively when he thought of it. "Gift indeed," he would mutter to himself, all the while wearing his mask of indifference. But he wasn't indifferent anymore.
It hadn't happened all at once, it was a gradual thing, insidious in the way it worked its way into his psyche, and before he knew it, he was worn down. He wasn't supposed to get tired, and yet he felt spent in a way that he could not explain.
It was becoming more difficult to disguise his discomfort. Certainly Jasper, his empathic brother, could sense his control slipping, especially when his despair broke through the ever widening cracks in his normally flawless armour.
His sister, Alice, was worried, too. She was the closest of all his siblings, and she was hurt by the distance she could feel growing between them. She wondered why he didn't confide in her so much anymore, and why she couldn't see a clear picture of his future, almost as if he'd stopped making decisions about anything.
In fact, all of his family could see that something wasn't quite right with Edward.
He'd stopped playing the piano, even when Esme, his mother, implored him to do so.
"For me?" she would beg sweetly. But with a slight shake of his head and a forced smile, he would politely decline.
"Not tonight, Esme. Perhaps another time."
But it had been quite some time indeed, Esme thought worriedly.
It was the same for Emmett, his boisterous brother who enjoyed nothing more than their mock fights in the clearing behind their home. A chance to test his strength against Edward's advantage and lighting fast speed.
"No thanks, Emmett," he would reply. "I think I'll just go for a run. Alone," he quickly amended when he captured Emmett's intention to join him straight from his brother's noisy mind.
Seeing his ever increasing melancholy all too clearly, Carlisle, his maker, worried anew in his decision to turn Edward, berating himself once again for his selfishness in condemning Edward to a life he wasn't happy with. He wondered if Edward might leave them again in pursuit of a simpler existence where he could succumb to his baser instincts. He knew what he asked of his family came at a great cost, and he understood that their lifestyle was most difficult for his oldest yet youngest child. Edward's gift above all the others was most burdensome. Carlisle thought his son had accepted his special ability, but as time passed by, he could see that wasn't the case, and as the only unmated member of the family, he had to shoulder his encumbrance on his own. Though Carlisle and Esme hoped that familial love was enough, in their hearts they knew it wasn't the same. It wasn't the same at all.
Yes, it was clear to all the Cullens that Edward was becoming more withdrawn. Though he tried to conceal it, they'd known each other too well and for too long for something like this to go unnoticed.
Even Rosalie, his loathsome sister, knew there was something wrong, but in her egocentric mind, she could only fathom the problem in terms of how it affected her. She didn't feel sympathy or even concern for Edward. She resented him. She resented the way her parents and siblings and husband spent so much time thinking about him and his problems. As far as Rosalie was concerned, Edward was nothing but a drain on her happy life, the laundry list of his infractions against her growing by the day.
She resented the way Esme never asked her to play the piano, or how Alice didn't seek her out to share secrets. She resented how Carlisle had never asked her to join him in philosophical discussions, or how Jasper never challenged her to a game of chess. She even resented the way her husband spent precious time away from her trying to find ways to make Edward feel better. She resented it all, but what she resented the very most was that from the day she joined the family as hisintended mate, Edward had barely paid her any attention at all. He dismissed her as if she were some dumb bimbo not worthy of his time. So for Rosalie, the source of all the resentment and upset in her life had always been Edward.
It's not that she wanted his attentions, of course. In fact, she despised him. Though in all honesty, she couldn't recall if she began despising him before he rejected her or if it started afterwards. She didn't suppose it mattered much. What mattered was how Edward kept taking away from her. How dare he not only insult her for all these years by refusing to acknowledge her desirability, but he had to upset the balance in their home with his moody, sullen behaviour, too.
Edward knew it all, of course. How could he not? His giftnever turned off, and though for a time he was able to shift his focus to dull the voices, he was never able to fully block them. And it seemed he was beginning to lose control of his gift all together. The voices were on maximum volume all the time.
So Edward knew how his parents and siblings worried for him. He knew how he made Jasper uncomfortable with his morose feelings, hidden to the outside world, but ever present and as invasive to Jasper as Jasper's own thoughts were to him. And he knew how Rosalie's annoyance was growing and changing and becoming something much uglier. Though being privy to her secret thoughts all of those years, he had always known that her heart was the very antithesis of her outward appearance. If he were being truthful, Rosalie Hale was the ugliest person he had ever known. In Edward's mind, her only redeeming quality was her love for Emmett, which he knew to be absolute. But he suspected this to be more about genetics than her own true nature. Vampires mated for life.
Still, even Rosalie in her unique way recognised a change in him, so he redoubled his efforts to appear normal, whatever that meant. Yet the harder he tried, the more his family worried, so he took to spending more time alone so as not to disrupt the household any more than he already had.
Even music no longer soothed him as it once did. The complexity of the notes had begun to tangle amongst the abstract thoughts of his family, leaving Edward unable to discern melody from noise. So, much of his free time was spent out of the house, losing touch more and more with his human charade and sadly, his familial charade as well. He couldn't help but wonder when he'd begun to think of his family life as a pretence.
High School became more and more unbearable. Hundreds of students, faculty and staff screamed in his mind, each voice vying for attention and making the six complex, busy minds of his family seem like a gentle, babbling stream by comparison. So overwhelmed, he started missing the voices he needed to hear, sometimes unable to distinguish spoken words from silent thoughts. On occasion he would answer questions that hadn't yet been asked, or fail to answer direct questions. Certainly this garnered all the wrong kind of attention, only his slightly frightening demeanour prevented further unwanted scrutiny. His mask was slipping and though this did not go undetected by the humans, it did keep them away, their innate survival skills kicking in and telling students and teachers alike to back off.
It had become so onerous that he even stopped driving, suddenly arriving in the garage one morning and listlessly throwing his keys toward Jasper, realising on the spur of the moment how he had no interest whatsoever in being the designated driver. This alarmed his siblings because second only to his music was his love of cars. But Edward was simply tired, and the thought of driving, knowing where he was going and what he had to endure when he got there was too much to contemplate. He was aware that his apathy was growing, but in an amusing realisation, he neither cared nor felt inclined to do anything about it.
Renowned for their absences as a family during sunny weather but a perfect attendance record otherwise, for the first time in Edward's seemingly never ending scholastic career, truancy became a glaring feature on his permanent record. It wasn't intentional, at first. He would simply lose track of time in whatever secluded spot he could find deep within the forests of the Pacific Northwest. He favoured the upper branches of a majestic Redwood which gave him a spectacular view of the entire region, not that he was even interested in that. He just liked the solitude.
He would often arrive home just in time to leave for school, or increasingly, not at all. A near perfect GPA and a sizeable donation to the school kept the faculty silent for a time. After all, they preferred it when he wasn't there. Something about him was just "off." Alice often found herself picking forest debris out of Edward's hair and clothes and had taken to laying out fresh clothing each day in a desperate attempt for him to blend in. She wasn't sure how else to help. She strained to see some kind of happily ever after for the brother she loved so much, but each day the vagueness grew like a black hole was consuming him bit by precious bit. It wasn't long before home schooling became the lie du jour. His siblings didn't like that they were left to suffer, but the family owed him this. He'd never asked anything of them before, and they wanted so much for him to be happier. Still, Alice would seek Edward out to update him on the goings on at Forks High School. It wasn't the same without him there, and she wanted to include him.
Stories of Jessica Stanley's shameless flirting, Lauren Mallory's epic bitchiness and Mike Newton's spectacular ego barely elicited a response, although Alice's conviction that Eric Yorkie would literally fall out of the closet, the Janitor's closet to be exact, with Mike Newton in the May of their senior year, did cause an involuntary quirk of his lips. But it was the story of the new girl with the heart shaped face and the hypnotising dark brown eyes that gave him pause. She really did suit her name. Bella. He couldn't understand the flash of regret he felt when Alice shared the news of the fatal parking lot accident, nor her wistful vibethat she was different somehow. "She could have been more," she'd said, but Edward wasn't sure what that meant, so he filed away that news as he did all the rest. He had no business interacting with humans in the first place. Edward was done with that.
Edward didn't notice the way his eyes were darkening a little more each day. He would lose track of time when sitting in his favourite tree, so he didn't hunt as much as he used to. It's not that he forgot to hunt, exactly, for he surely felt the burn in his throat - the enduring ache that only worsened with time. It's just that he no longer cared about hunting, the thrill of the chase lost somewhere along the way. What right did he have to take another life anyway, animal or not? In all honesty, he wasn't sure he should be at the top of the food chain. He wasn't trying to starve to death. He knew that wasn't possible. But the scorching of his throat was the only thing he really felt anymore, and even that didn't seem as intense as it should be, so he held onto it. He'd hunt when he really felt like it, he told himself, but his family had finally come to a decision. Waiting for Edward to feellike hunting just wasn't good enough.
On one of the infrequent nights he spent at the family home, his father and brothers ambushed him with a hunting trip high up in the surrounding mountains where Edward's favourite prey was more plentiful. Emmett felt sure that he need only be tempted with a mountain lion or something else more appealing than the herbivores found closer to home, and all would be well. Carlisle and Jasper weren't so sure, but they did agree that getting Edward to feed was a high priority.
Edward, of course, wasn't interested. He'd been looking forward to escaping to his quiet place after a quick change of clothing, his jeans a muddy, ripped mess from several days away. He wasn't completely lost, grooming still a part of his routine, such that it was. But his family's thoughts were insistent in his mind, and he knew it would only bring them more worry if he were to refuse.
Seeing his acquiescence, his brother's and father's moods improved significantly, and Edward was glad that he could give them that one small happiness instead of the usual anxiety he caused, seemingly without effort.
His brothers tried to goad him into racing knowing how much he enjoyed his superior speed. But speed wasn't of interest to Edward anymore. Why rush when you aren't really going anywhere? He much preferred stillness and quiet by then. He couldn't even remember why he was ever in such a hurry.
Emmett and Jasper sidetracked along the way when they smelled something tasty, but Carlisle stayed close to Edward in their leisurely journey, neither of them having come across anything appealing. At least that's what Carlisle told himself so that Edward wouldn't notice just how worried he really was. He needn't have bothered.
"I feel like I barely see you anymore, son," he comments casually, though his inner dialogue was anything but. "Is there anything troubling you? Anything you'd like to talk about?"
He was so hopeful he could barely contain himself, and it pained Edward deeply to disappoint him yet again. It seemed to him that no matter what he did, he was a source of constant concern and disappointment to his family, and he wondered, not for the first time, if they wouldn't be better off without him.
"Everything is as it always is," he finally replied, not knowing how to explain to his maker that he was tired of his existence. How could he explain to Carlisle what he could not even explain to himself?
Carlisle's face remained impassive though his step faltered with the crushing realisation that his son would no longer open up to him, but he let it go.
After several missed opportunities for the tastier large carnivores like lion and bear that were the purpose of their quest, Carlisle could not contain his concern any longer.
"Son, you must eat. Why do you deprive yourself? Your eyes cannot hide your thirst."
With his father's and brother's eyes upon him, their minds screaming for answers they had not been inclined to ask for before, Edward realised it was a mistake agreeing to accompany them. He knew there was nothing he could say to appease them. He simply had no interest in the things that once occupied his time. He wasn't sure why it was like that for him, he just assumed that it was his true self asserting itself. He'd always been different - separate - and he didn't care to conform any longer.
"My thirst is manageable. I just don't feel like hunting right now," he finally replied. It was the truth.
With exasperated sighs and concerned glances, the others consider what else they could try to coax more information from him. Something must be wrong, and they were getting tired of wondering about it. They just wanted things to go back to the way they used to be.
"Edward, you're clearly not happy and you haven't been for some time. And honestly, your apathy concerns me. There must be something you'd like to do, something that would give you pleasure?" Jasper pleads.
Edward was profoundly saddened by how his very existence seemed to bring his family such distress. Even then they should have been home with their mates instead of coddling him. He wished he could think of something that would ease their minds when an errant thought formed in his own. He blanched. They'd never allow it, but it would solve everything, and for the first time in his existence as a vampire, true happiness blooms within him.
Jasper was almost overcome with the unfamiliar emotion he sensed in his brother, and he couldn't contain his own excitement.
"There! I feel it. There was something. You're happy, Edward. Hopeful."
Carlisle and Emmett were swept up in the excitement Jasper was more than happy to share. Their thoughts were an animated flurry of vindication and relief that their plan was turning out even better than they'd hoped.
Eager to seize such a rare opportunity, Carlisle could barely contain his questions about what he could do to make his son happy on a more permanent basis. A new sports car? Travel? The promise of no more High School ever? He didn't care so long as he got his Edward back again.
"What is it, son? What do you want? Anything. It's yours."
Edward realised that the cause of his momentary happiness was not what his father and brothers were expecting at all. He didn't think the truth would be welcomed, and yet, he could tell they genuinely wanted him to have what he desired. Carlisle did say "anything." With no further thought he allowed himself the luxury of hope that his wish would be granted.
"End me," was his simple reply, his eyes wide and pleading.
For one blessed moment all was silent but for the forest noises around them, his companions minds completely silent before an almost deafening roar startled him back to reality, his mistake plainly obvious.
His father took a rushed step backwards as if Edward had physically struck him and stumbled to the ground. That in itself was shocking enough. Vampires do not stumble. His brothers on the other hand stood still as statues, their mouths agape before Jasper fell to his knees and wrapped his arms around his middle as if he were trying to soothe a great pain. Unable to contain the overwhelming emotions he was feeling, he thrust them upon Edward with full force, his thoughts bitter and hurt that his own brother could be so cruel.
Edward welcomed the burden, wishing there was more he could do to ease their discomfort. What he wished for most of all, though, was that he could go back in time to mere moments before and choose not to tell the truth. But it was too late, and it was just one more hurt he had caused his loved ones that he could never take back.
Sensing his brother's genuine remorse and worse, the absolute truth of Edward's heart felt desire, Jasper sobbed in anguish. In his shock and pain he had been sure that Edward's intention was to hurt them with an appalling lie, but he quickly realised with irrevocable certainly that underneath Edward's apathy was abject despair.
Emmett, usually so full of verve and good humour, could not comprehend that his brother could want to end his existence. He was bereft and out of his depth. He had no idea how to fix it, and that did not sit well with him at all.
Carlisle turned onto his hands and knees and retched, the blood of his recent kills spewing out onto the sodden earth beneath him. All at once he could not believe what he had heard, and yet he knew it to be true. A part of him had always known it, but he had chosen to ignore it. Denial meant it didn't exist.
Edward was horrified by the scene before him. He doesn't know how he could have allowed himself to believe for even that one reckless moment that his family would welcome his request. In a desperate attempt to right the wrong, he did the only thing he could - he lied - seeing no other option, for the truth most certainly did not set him, or anyone else free.
"End my hunt. I meant I wanted to end this. I've had enough of the outdoors. How about we just head home?" he asked, his tone unnaturally upbeat.
No one really believed him. Of course they didn't. They had perfect hearing and recall, but they wanted to believe so very badly, and so they tried. While Carlisle and Emmett could almost convince themselves that this lie was truth, Jasper knew without a doubt that there was no confusion or misinterpretation. His brother could lie with ease, but he could not conceal his true feelings, and that was Jasper's burden to bear. Sensing his brother's true remorse for finally having given in to his desires saddened Jasper beyond words. How had he not seen this? How could he have missed a truth so obvious he could taste it in the air, the wretched despair bitter and vile on the back of his tongue whenever his brother was near. He didn't want to see it, he realised. For just as Carlisle had always known, so too had he.
Jasper could think of nothing to do in that moment but to try to ease the pain of all involved, and so if not outright perpetuating the lie, he could at least make it easier to carry on, to pretend as they had always pretended. It could never be the same now that the words had been spoken out loud, but he could help facilitate the denial they had swathed themselves in for just a little bit longer.
"Yeah, I've had about my fill. I must be getting soft in my old age, but the comforts of home sound good," he fibbed, following Edward's lead.
Looking imploringly at his father and Emmett, Jasper silently begged them with the urgency of his projected need to play along, to not make this any worse. He knew this was something they needed to talk about further, but he also knew without a doubt that none of them were equipped to do that without support from their mates. Something Edward had never experienced. This realisation saddened him even further, but he hurled about a sense of happiness that felt as false to him as it did to his companions. Regardless, they latched onto it greedily as if it was a lifeline to keep them afloat.
"Yes, let's," Carlisle agreed. "You know how your mother prefers us to be together."
And so they set off once more, back from whence they came. Edward refused to feed on the journey back, and they wondered how long exactly it has been. But they said nothing, because they were pretending once again. Conversation was stilted but light until they reached the place in the forest beyond their home where Edward's mind reading range came into effect. He stopped abruptly, earth and leaves flying up around him at the sudden loss of momentum.
"What is it?" his father asked in alarm, his brother's thoughts shouting the same question in his mind. His mind that was suddenly very full - painfully so.
"Carmen, Eleazer and the sistersare here." His tone was clipped, unable to hide his scorn.
All at once the men in his family were of one mind, blending with the thoughts of their mates that he could hear loud and clear from the house. If only he could relax a bit more. If only he would give in to Tanya's advances. Sex would do him good. He might even decide to make a more permanent arrangement with her if only he would give in and learn to enjoy himself. Certainly Tanya's feelings had never wavered all these years. He needed the companionship.
Carlisle and Jasper and Emmett were suddenly urgent in their encouragement when now presented with the promise of a solution, as imperfect as it may have been. The unforgettable revelation from earlier was still so fresh in their minds.
"Go on, Edward. You know she wants you. You won't know yourself if you just give in and. . ."
Emmett didn't need to finish his sentence, Edward grabbing it easily from his mind and spitting it back at him.
Jasper didn't know what to do with the anger and contempt that was rolling off his brother in smothering waves, but he decided that this was at least better than the indifference and hopelessness he was most accustomed to. He chose to believe that if Edward had such strong negative feelings on the subject, that perhaps he was walking the fine line between love and hate. He knew better than anyone how closely aligned those emotions could be. He also knew that Edward's fury was nowhere near love. In fact, it was not even in the vicinity of like, but he convinced himself that it could be, because he was simply at a loss to know how else to proceed.
Carlisle and Emmett were equal parts shocked and encouraged by Edward's outburst. They too had not seen Edward have such a powerful reaction in some time, and so they allowed themselves to be heartened by it. Carlisle decided that perhaps a firm fatherly touch was required to push things along, after all, nothing else had worked so far.
"Edward, you will not embarrass your mother and me in front of our guests. If you only tried you would see that there is much to be grateful for. Tanya cares very deeply for you. If you gave her a chance. . ."
"You have no idea about Tanya's true feelings and thoughts." Edward gave Jasper a pointed look, and Jasper guiltily averted his eyes. It was true that Tanya's feelings were salacious and proprietary at best. But still he convinced himself that there could be more if only Edward would try. Amidst her X-rated emotional range he had also felt her hurt and rejection. Much like his sister, Edward was the only man to have ever turned her down.
"We will not tolerate your rudeness. You will be polite and sociable and the gentleman I know you were raised to be," Carlisle admonished.
"At least be honest with yourself, Carlisle. Gentlemanly is the very last thing you - any of you," he glared at them all, "- expect of me. Shall I just throw her down in the lounge room in front of you all, or would you prefer I pretend to woo her first with flowers and fine linens before she fucks some sense back into me?"
Carlisle was stricken, but could not deny the truthfulness behind Edward's spiteful words. They were not verbatim, more like something Emmett would say, but they were his own thoughts that Edward had thrown back at him.
Trying to calm the rapidly escalating situation, Emmett placed an arm on Edward's shoulder. Edward immediately flinched as if he'd been burned, betrayal and hurt overtaking the anger of moments ago.
"Hey, take it easy," Emmett pleaded. "We just want you to be happy. Seriously, bro, you don't know what you're missing. She wants you. What's the harm?"
His brothers and father looked to him expectantly. Their mental voices are begging and pleading and demanding him to just be normal. They simply didn't know what to do with him.
Edward's resigned sigh was audible. No matter what he tried, he keeps hurting and disappointing his family over and over again. But on this he could not relent. He knew Tanya's true heart, and it was not for him. Deciding nothing good could come from continuing this conversation, he moved forward at a reluctant human pace towards the house. It no longer felt like his home, and he realised it hadn't for some time. He was just too different from the rest of his family. Clearly there was something wrong with him that could not be fixed. Perhaps he could just leave. They'd be so much better off without him. This thought buoyed his despondent mood somewhat, as he continued to trudge ahead.
Sensing a tiny of glimmer of something akin to hope within his dispirited brother, Jasper brightened and smiled at the others. It was the encouragement they hoped for, and so they followed Edward with much lighter hearts towards home.
The following days were nothing short of torturous for Edward. He tried to please his parents by at least being present and polite, if not fully sociable, but they had no idea what they'd asked of him. A house full of vampire minds was intolerable to him now, Tanya's incessant lascivious torment and Rosalie's mounting ire more than he could bear. Carlisle and Esme treated him like a problematic child, constantly at him in one way or another, verbally and mentally reminding him to try harder, to be nice, to make an effort. Jasper and Alice looked on with sympathy, but they too were encouraging him to be open to the "possibilities." Emmett was hopeful that he would "do the deed" and get it over with, encouraging his wife's thinly veiled barbs that he saw as loving support. He had never been able to see past his love for Rosalie, his vision tainted by his Rose coloured glasses. Edward had never felt more alone.
Carmen and Eleazer were perplexed by the situation, thinking Edward to be childish and arrogant by continuing to reject Tanya's overt advances. For her part, Tanya was becoming increasingly annoyed by his indifference, and had taken to spending more time with her sisters and Rosalie away from the house and his prying mind. He was unsettled by the tenor of their thoughts when they were around, especially as they worked hard to keep something from him. But mostly he was just relieved to be spared their constant distasteful chatter for at least some of the time.
As the Denali's visit became more and more protracted, Edward took to spending more time alone away from the house at his special place. He had done his best to not embarrass his parents, but the constant barrage of thoughts bombarding his mind was too much. If they were waiting for him to have sex with the girl, they might never leave, so he thinks that perhaps it's time to be rude and embarrassing after all. He simply could not continue on like this.
They were upon him before he had barely registered them. Certainly he was aware of them, but high as he was in the tree, he'd thought they would pass him by. Their thoughts hadn't led him to believe otherwise, until it was too late.
He was on the ground, thrashing against them as they pinned him down. Irina and Kate had his legs while Rosalie pinned his arms. Still he thrashed, barely able to believe what he was hearing in their minds.
He fought against them but it was hopeless. He was one and they were four. Tanya straddled him, her fingernail slicing through his shirt and down his frozen chest. She played with his belt buckle, taking her time with that, toying with him. Playing. He was panicked beyond measure. Irina and Kate were suddenly uncertain. Rose had promised that he'd wanted this, but he seemed more than just shy. But they cast their doubts aside. He was not the first to put up a fight, though certainly the first vampire. Tanya was too caught up to even consider his demeanour. She was excited by his struggle, still convinced that this had been his secret fantasy all along. Why did you make me wait? she thought at him. You naughty, naughty boy.
Seeing exactly what was coming, he fought harder. "Why?" he plead, his question directed at his sister. He knew she disliked him, but this was unthinkable. Not like this. It was not what he wanted. He couldn't bear it.
You know why, you selfish, stuck up bastard. Images came at him unbidden, each time he ignored her, each time he was unimpressed by her latest hairstyle or revealing outfit, and finally his family's distress over his melancholy. She had never wanted him, but she couldn't forgive his disinterest or the disruption he had inflicted to her happy family life. Just lie back and enjoy it so we can all get on with our lives. I'm doing this for all of us. You'll thank me later.
But Edward could see that this was not for his benefit. She was consumed by an irrational anger and thirst for revenge over his perceived slights.
Tanya had torn his jeans and was palming him ravenously, her need insatiable. For the first time in his memory, Edward was afraid and felt utterly violated. This could not be happening.
"You haven't thought this through. What will Emmett think?" He pulled at her harder, physically wrenching his arms to try and unsteady her while he attacked her emotional weak spot.
Enraged, Rosalie yanked against him forcefully, and the unthinkable happened. His left forearm detached violently and Rosalie stared at it aghast, thick, viscous venom saturating her as she dropped it to the ground. Edward screamed in pain and terror, the Denali sisters snapping back to reality as their actions finally came into horrifying clarity. The rest of the Cullens and Denalis suddenly appeared. Edward had been too panicked to notice their approach, but the distraction allowed him to free himself from his captors who had loosened their hold. He curled into a tight ball, gathering his dismembered limb close to his chest as he tried to protect himself, feeling vulnerable and exposed. The emotions and thoughts coming at him were stifling and panicked him even more. He was not in any state to discern regret from anger or disgust from accusation, instead he felt bombarded by hostility and anguish. Before he had even had the conscious thought, he was flying through the forest and back towards the house. He didn't know if the house was the right place to go, but feeling as exposed as he was, he could only think that he needed to get to his own room. He had nowhere else to go.
He felt weak and disoriented but he was driven forward, aware that he was being pursued. He was too overwhelmed to understand that there was no further threat, that Alice had sent Jasper after him so he wouldn't be alone, while she stayed with the others to confront the horror of what they had seen. It was doubly worse for Alice, for by the time she'd seen it play out in her mind, it was too late to prevent it, forced to arrive just in time to witness in real time what she could still hardly believe had happened. It was not the first time her gift has been used against her by her sister, but still she bristled at her failure to recognise what had been happening.
A fiery rage burned through Carlisle, worse than the blaze of his change. "How could you?" he roared. Rosalie shrunk down into the dirt and looked to Emmett imploringly, but Emmett couldn't even make eye contact with her. He couldn't find a word to describe how he felt. Carlisle was also having difficulty handling what he was feeling. A peaceful man by nature, he was unsure how to contain the fury that consumed him. He felt dangerously close to violence, and this frightened him as much as it added more embers to the blistering inferno of his anger.
Esme's indignation rivalled Carlisle's. She trembled where she stood, torn between what she had believed to be unconditional love for all her children and her current disgust at what her daughter had orchestrated. It was only Alice who prevented her from striking the girl, though in reality, Esme was constraining Alice as much as she was being constrained herself.
"It's not what it looks like," Rosalie feebly cried out, but even the Denali sisters took umbrage at her blatant attempt to escape responsibility.
"Emmett, please get your wifeout of my sight. I can't even look at her right now." Carlisle's voice was cold steel, and he was afraid of what he might say or worse, do, if these traitorous bitches didn't get away from him immediately.
Emmett only hesitated because for the first time since his creation, he wasn't looking forward to spending time alone with his mate. Walking by her and further into the forest in the direction opposite the house, he didn't even pause to help her up. "Rose. Now!" he commanded, and Rosalie scrambled up, frightened tearless sobs wracking through her chest as she stumbled after him, grabbing for his hand which he snapped back. He didn't know how he could process this, but one thing he was sure of - she was his Angel no more.
Turning his ire on the Denali sisters, Carlisle's voice quavered under the strain. If he weren't certain it was not possible for one of his kind, he would think a shock of adrenaline to his system was subsiding for he began to feel unimaginably tired.
"Kate, Irina and Tanya, you are no longer welcome in our home. Any home," he added as an afterthought. "And if you have any decency left within you at all, you will make certain that you never cross paths with my son again. I will not be held responsible for my actions if you do. Are we clear?"
Kate and Irina looked every bit as shamed as they felt and nodded their compliance. Tanya, however, felt some conflicting emotions. She realised that she'd been duped by Rosalie, and she wasn't quite sure how she could have agreed to such an outrageous plan anyway. But she didn't have to dig too deep to see that she'd needed little encouragement to finally have her way with Edward. She'd let her interest in him become an obsession, and she wondered if that had more to do with his continued rejection of her than any genuine feelings she might have had for him. If she'd really cared, how could she have treated him so detestably? But, it was time to assert her authority. She was her coven leader after all, and being summarily dismissed without being given any opportunity to explain herself didn't sit well.
"Look, I'm sorry for what's happened. It's. . . inexcusable. But if I could just speak to Edward and apologise, I'm sure we could clear this up without any lingering bad feelings. Our families have been friends too long for things to end like this."
Carlise and Esme could not believe her audacity, but before either of them could respond, Alice stepped forward, her diminutive frame somehow ominously towering over Tanya's lithe form.
"Are you fucking insane? Have you no clue? You're not going anywhere near Edward. You think Carlisle was kidding? He speaks for all of us. You even think about seeing Edward, I'll know about it," she says, tapping her forehead, "and you will be sorry. Are we clear now, Tanya?"
Carmen and Eleazer stepped between Tanya and the direction of the Cullen home. It was a symbolic gesture that was not lost on her. She gulped, a human quirk she had retained throughout her many years. She realised her actions have not only harmed Edward, but also have caused irreparable damage between her coven and the Cullens. She had no choice but to go home, but she wondered if she would have a coven to lead when she got there. Her whispered, "what have I done?"floated back to them on the breeze as she retreated into the wilderness.
The remaining Cullens were inconsolable, and Carmen and Eleazer were at a loss. In truth, Carmen and Eleazer needed consoling themselves. For all of Tanya's authority, the sisters had been more like daughters to them. They didn't know how to keep their family together, and they didn't know how they would ever face the Cullens again. After striving for so long to be more, in the end their own daughters are no better than the monsters they had tried so hard not to be. Their succubi nature had seen them walk a fine line in the past. This day had seen them cross that line. There was no coming back from this.
In Edward's room, he had curled himself into a tight ball in the far corner, pressed into the glass wall that overlooks the back yard and the forest beyond. He held his severed limb close to his body, venom still dripping from the wound. He was in a heightened state of anxiety, his mind a bewildered mess of emotion and imagery mixed in with his physical pain. He could still feel Tanya's hands on his body while the others held him down. Of all that he'd experienced in his hundred and four years, he'd never come close anything like this. He may not have liked them very much, but he had trusted them. He couldn't make sense of anything. He didn't even understand what he was feeling, but his torment was all consuming.
Jasper sunk hopelessly to the floor outside Edward's door. His brother's pain was so palpable, Jasper wanted to weep, making it hard for him to even capture a full breath in his useless lungs. It was everything he would expect from a victim of assault, but as a vampire, it was so much more. He couldn't even comprehend that his own sister could mastermind such a thing and that the women he had considered to be part of his extended family could go along with it. Edward had done nothing to deserve this, and if Jasper himself couldn't find a way to accept it, he was not sure how Edward ever would.
Jasper was steeling himself for the arrival of the rest of the family. He could barely manage his own pain, and Edward's was in a league of its own. He was trying to keep his own guilt at bay, knowing full well that once the family's anger began to subside, they too would acknowledge the roles they had played in this tragedy. They'd all but forced Edward and Tanya together, knowing full well how strongly opposed to it Edward was. They'd all contributed to this, himself and his wife more so than the others. They'd known Tanya's true feelings, and they had always known their sister's. Yet they'd ignored their own gifts, blindly hoping that Edward's increasing discomfort could be alleviated by being intimate with Tanya. They hadn't wanted to face any other alternatives.
As if her promiscuity and Edward's innocence could ever have been compatible. It all seemed so ludicrous now. And it all seemed so obvious. Hadn't he known that the sisters and Rosalie were up to something? Hadn't he sensed their deceit and secrecy every time he was near them? Hadn't he known Rosalie's loathing was taking an even uglier turn? Hadn't he always known, especially after their failed hunting trip, that Edward's problems were so much deeper than a simple romp with Tanya Denali could ever cure? Hadn't his wife's ability led her to the very same conclusions? Yes, Jasper and Alice had played their part. They all had, and they would all carry that burden forever. Edward might never forgive them.
Trying to push his own guilt aside, he tries to ease Edward's pain. It's the very least he could do, but Edward does not welcome his interference, growling and feral as he curls himself impossibly tighter into the corner of his room. Jasper tries to express his sorrow and remorse, but that too was rebuffed, so he stands sentry by his door, waiting for his family to arrive. He could only hope that Carlisle would know what to do, or that his beloved could guide them down the correct path.
Edward would not speak, and though they were loathe to invade his privacy after what he had endured, Carlisle's first duty upon returning home was to reattach his arm so it could heal correctly. Aside from the emotional pain that was apparent to all, he knew Edward must have been in a great deal of physical agony. Being a vampire did not make them immune from pain, especially when such a horrendous act of violence was inflicted by one of their own kind.
Finding Edward naked and huddled in the corner broke their hearts even more. He did not want them there, refusing to speak but making his feelings known through his angry snarls as they continued to approach. Esme had brought a blanket which she carefully draped over Edward's hunched shoulders. He turned further away from her, but made no move to deny her, for he appreciated feeling less exposed. My boy, I'm so sorry, she lamented, but Edward was in no condition to soothe anyone else's conscience.
Carlisle held his hands up, palms out, a physical gesture to show Edward he meant no harm. Intellectually Edward knew this, of course, but in his current state, he had difficulty telling friend from foe, suspicious of what he saw and heard in his own mind.
"Edward," Carlisle began softly. "I need to examine your arm so that Jasper and I can reattach it for you. We're not going to hurt you, but we need you to let us help you."
Edward ignored them, but a low grumbling purr deep in his chest spilled out as both Carlisle and Jasper took tentative steps closer to him. They were wary.
It was Alice who convinced them all to stay their course. "They won't hurt you, Edward, and you won't hurt them either. Just let them help you. Please brother, let us do this one thing."
Edward couldn't deny her sincerity, and on some level he felt sorry for the pain he could see she was in. If he were to trust anyone ever again, it would be her, but why hadn't she seen what they'd planned for him? Why hadn't she warned him or stopped them? Why hadn't any of them listened to him when he'd made his feelings about Tanya so very clear? Though reasons and excuses were coming at him thick and fast through their thoughts, Edward was unable to understand anything other than betrayal and pain. Jasper and Alice were sucker punched by his unspoken accusations, each in their own way seeing and feeling his heartbreak so keenly they wanted to scream. But they set aside their own upset, desperate that Edward at least be put back together physically. It was all Jasper could do to keep himself upright with the concentrated emotion in the room that he was trying despairingly to contain. The rumble in Edward's chest grew louder, and as Jasper and Carlisle kneeled before him he eyed them warily, but allowed them the access they needed.
The process was painful especially because of the time between severing and reattachment. Edward screamed and trembled, his agony a combination of the physical and the emotional torment that he has endured. Jasper absorbed it all, the humiliation and shame, confusion, anger and fear until he reached a point where he was not sure if it was Edward causing them to tremble or himself. He didn't know how much more he could take, but one look into Edward's anguished eyes, and he knew he must continue to do everything he could. He would not let Edward suffer alone, but he didn't know it was the last time any of them would ever have the opportunity to touch him.
They couldn't make sense of what had happened. They were a family. They were better than this. The guilt had them in its vice grip and Jasper did nothing to alleviate it. It was not misplaced. They deserved to feel this way. Carlisle broke down sharing with Esme their son's wish to end. Alice had known since the moment Edward had desired it, but it did not lessen the renewed shame she felt at the disclosure. She'd known and she'd done nothing. Recriminations and self condemnation plagued their thoughts How could they have forced him to endure the torment they all knew the sisters inflicted with their thoughts and deeds knowing his state of mind? Esme's high ground was cut from beneath her with Jasper's painful reminder of her own culpability. She was his mother. She'd known. She'd always known, and still she'd turned a blind eye. Worse, she'd participated. Her tacit acceptance and encouragement of not only the Denali's teasing but her own daughter's barbs had secured her role in this story. It had never been as innocent as she'd chosen to believe, but she'd gone along with it in the hopes it would shock him from his malaise. It had been easier that way.
They sat in near silent contemplation, sharing in Jasper's emotional burden which sent them all hurtling towards some imagined breaking point. He had decided to be transparent, absorbing every emotion but not containing them. This family had spent too long under his selective protection, and who the hell was he to decide what should and shouldn't be filtered anyway? They were crippled under the weight of Edward's pain, the complexity of it so raw that they wished they could bleed so it could be purged. Edward did not try to conceal his misery anymore. The time for that was over. He had been betrayed by those he loved, their accountability clamouring in his over cluttered, tortured mind. But still he blamed himself. He should have left long ago. He hadn't been happy for some time. He drove them to it. He was insufferable. They hadn't known what else to do. They gave up. They gave up on me. The realisation was another blow, and he couldn't reign in his feelings, not even to spare them. They suffered now, too, and a part of him was glad for it. They'd given up on him. They'd let it happen. He didn't deserve that- did he?
Days passed before Emmett finally arrived with a repentant Rosalie. Her grief and heartache were genuine, though Edward and Jasper knew the true epicentre of her remorse was the impact to her own happiness and sense of security. Her family was angry with her. Her mate had't touched her in days and could barely look at her. She regretted her actions. She hadn't meant for things to go so far. She hadn't meant to physically damage him. But couldn't she just apologise so they could get on with it? Why couldn't things go back to normal? She could barely conceal her simmering anger with Edward. She should have known he'd overreact and make the whole situation worse. It's all about him. It was always about him.
Emmett blocked Jasper's snarling attack. "I can't let you harm her," he all but whispered. So Jasper unleashed Rosalie's conditional remorse. He was done covering for her. Let them all see her true nature. Where Jasper was consumed with empathy, she was incapable of it.
Emmett sunk to the floor, his head in his hands as he sobbed. He was in despair. He couldn't reconcile his love for her - his immutable bond with her - with what she'd done and what she is. How could they go on?
Carlisle and Esme were at a loss, their family was crumbling before their very eyes. They could not stand to share their space with her, but exiling her almost certainly meant losing Emmett, too. And she was still their daughter. They were not supposed to give up on their children. Were they? What sin was so great that it cannot be forgiven? This they thought. Surely this. She was an overwhelming aching reminder of their own failures, too, for what of Edward? Hadn't they already given up on him?
They could feel it in the air, prickling at their skin with heartbreaking persistence. Edward was not filtering now, and Jasper was done hiding it, so their denial was broken wide open. It's all too clear. He needed help they didn't give. They either couldn't or wouldn't. They weren't sure which. They only knew that they had avoided it, allowed him pretend he was OK when he so clearly wasn't. They'd been living in a charade, playing at a happy family, when in reality they didn't know the first thing about being parents. Their son was in trouble and they hadn't known how to help him, so they'd let it go, just as they'd ignored their daughter's disturbing behaviour. It had been so much easier to pretend, to force him into a situation he clearly hadn't wanted. And now this. How could it have come to this?
Alice was present but not, forcing her focus to a future she could not fathom, for no decisions had been made. What she could see was bleak, dark, hopeless, for indecision was its own choice. She was the closest to Edward. Even Carlisle didn't share the bond she had with him. She knew him best, so she saw her failure as the worst. She would never forgive herself, and what was worse, she couldn't see Edward forgiving her either.
Finally her head sprung up, her eyes glazed and unfocused as a new vision hit. A profound sadness enveloped her and in turn the rest of them. They hadn't thought they could feel worse, but Edward had a power over them now that was more than he could possibly contemplate.
"He's leaving." The words fell from her lips in a strangled cry. Their parents jumped to their feet. They had to stop him. "Don't," she ordered. Edward would not welcome any intrusion now. "He's showering first, to wash away the filth." Even Rosalie managed to feel genuine shame at that revelation. Carlisle and Esme didn't move. They would not sacrifice any more of his modesty. It's too little too late, but it was all they had.
"Can we stop him?" Jasper begged. She was still looking. She hadn't stopped looking. But it was clear. There was nothing to be done. Her silence was the final nail in their collective coffin. These were wounds that could not be healed.
He dressed simply in jeans, a coat and solid hiking boots. He didn't need the protection from the elements, bare feet and short sleeves would suffice, but long ingrained habits die hard. On the remote chance he should encounter a human again; he needed to at least look the part. He pulled the hood from his sweater firmly over his head and kept his eyes downcast. He took nothing with him but the clothes on his back and the hole in his heart. He could not bear the goodbyes. There was nothing more to be said anyway. It was for the best. His step faltered as he sensed muted relief as he crossed the threshold of the house that was once his home. He's not sure from where it originated, and in truth it stings, but it sures his decision. It's for the best.
He was weak. It had been too long since he fed, and his arm could not fully heal until he took in sustenance. But he didn't care. He welcomed the burn and the hurt. He preferred that pain to the other. So he walked slowly, one foot after the other in a weary but purposeful trudge. He was leaving the life he had and walking towards. . . nothing. A peaceful, silent oblivion, he hoped.
Their decision was clear in his mind, but it was of no import to him now. They would give him the distance he required, and once he found a resting place, they would accept his decision and leave him be - for the most part. They just needed to know where he was.
He walked for a very long time. He had lost his sense of timekeeping - it meant nothing to him now. Sometimes he stumbled, and even in his weakened and disturbed state, he understood his increasing, unnatural fatigue. He needed blood, but he would not take it. He wasn't even sure why anymore, only that the deprivation was something fully within his control, and he liked that. Its absence would dull his perception eventually, among other things, he'd once been told. It was an added bonus. He forged ahead, and still they followed. They had to. Though every wrenching step took him further from their lives, it cemented him further into their hearts. None of them would ever be the same again.
It was somewhere deep in a wilderness much further north than the forests surrounding his former home that he stumbled across a dilapidated hunting cabin so old he could barely detect the scent of the humanity that placed it there. The area was so treacherous and remote that there had not been humans there for many decades. He did not expect that pattern to change. A door was barely hanging from its hinges, no doubt pushed in by the bears he could smell in the area. They were curious creatures by nature. Whatever supplies may have once been there were long gone, and he chose a crude cot by the far wall and next to a small window to rest his weary self. The window had no glass of course, just a small opening over which a flexible eave provided a modicum of protection from the outside world.
Drawing his knees up to his chest, back to the tight ball he had favoured since the attack, he leaned against the wall and stared out onto the landscape. He let out a final sigh, something almost like contentment. His journey was done - this was where he would spend the rest of his existence. The fight was over and he was so genuinely relieved. No more pretending and blessed silence in his mind. It was as close to peace as he would ever be, though he would never forget. He did not move, he did not speak, he did not breathe. He was still. Somewhere in the deep recesses of his mind, he was aware of the tragedy and the waste, but he could not find it within himself to care.
His family visited him occasionally. He could not have stopped them even if he'd tried - he knew they needed this. They respected him enough now to come only one at a time so as not to overwhelm him, except for Rosalie, of course. They didn't let her come at all. It was probably just as well, but he no longer really cared. She could do nothing to hurt him anymore. He did not engage them when they came, and they had long given up trying to convince him to change his mind. Their visits were brief, he thought, their shock and sorrow over his withering appearance finally settling into a sad acceptance. They either sat in silence with him or they read to him. He favoured the classics over the modern authors Emmett sometimes tried to tempt him with, but as time passed, his starvation dulled his senses and he didn't always understand what they told him.
He knew the family was still together, in a fashion, but he had not sensed happiness in their thoughts in any of their visits. He wanted to be sad about this, because somewhere deep within he knew that he had contributed to their grief. But the part of himself that could help was lost long ago. He was just a shell now. An undying barely sentient creature condemned to an eternity of wasting away. There were moments when he had flashes of memory that evoked a certain something he could no longer name. The flutter of deep brown eyes and a heart shaped face that held the promise of something more, but such flights of fancy were fleeting and meaningless. The ramblings of a fractured mind and a tortured soul.
A/N: Thanks SO much to my beta. Couldn't have done it without you.
Thanks for reading.