Meyer owns everything but the plot and Peyton
"Esme!" Alice screamed as she wrapped her arms around my frazzled wife. "We were going to come in but you seemed to have everything under control, plus, Emmett was a little scared," she giggled.
"No I wasn't!" Emmett bellowed. "But that fire was pretty big…"Rosalie smiled and slapped her mate's shoulder playfully.
"I'm sorry," said Esme, raising one eyebrow, "but do I know you?"
Alice's face fell and I could see the hurt in her eyes. She had always been close to Esme, and for her not to even recognize who she was must have been painful. "You did, and hopefully you will again," Alice explained, her smile returning. Esme gave her an apologetic nod.
"Do you remember any of us?" Rosalie asked from Emmett's lap on the ground. We were in the middle of the woods, away from the burning castle.
"Aside from Carlisle, no. But I'm sure it will come back to me," Esme said sweetly.
"Yes, it'll just take a little time. Let's get her back home, maybe it will jog a few memories," my voice was hopeful and I wondered for a moment if my hope was foolish. Maybe she would never get her memory back.
"Time," said Edward, "will heal all wounds. She needs to go home now, though. And she's thirsty."
"How do you know that?" asked Esme, aghast. "Is it that obvious?"
"No, of course not, ma'am," Jasper said politely. "Edward here can read minds."
"Oh," my wife said sheepishly.
"And by the way, I'm Edward, and this is my wife Bella," Edward introduced, gesturing to my newest daughter. "And over there's Rosalie, and Emmett." Emmett smiled, Rosalie waved. "And Alice and Jasper," he finished with a hand motion pointing toward his two last siblings.
"And they're our adopted children, dear," I leaned down and kissed her cheek lightly.
"Wow, that's quite a large job."
Everyone, including myself, laughed and she blushed. Wait, what? Vampires can't blush!
"She's got enough blood in her system so she can, Carlisle. It's nothing to worry about," said Edward calmly.
I ran my hand over her cheek softly, relishing the pink color. She looked different. She hasn't looked so human since I treated her broken leg when she was sixteen. And is it possible that her beauty has increased? She must be rivaling Rosalie now, though it might just be my eyes…
"No, I think you're right, Carlisle, I noticed it as well. When Esme was forced to ingest such a large amount of blood I think it began to change her not only mentally, but physically as well. A vampire in need of massive amounts of blood would need to lure in more humans, which is why she looks noticeably more attractive. She's built to pull in humans on a more…industrial scale than before. Does that make sense?" asked Edward.
I nodded half-heartedly, my eyes locked on Esme. All was silent for a moment, until Peyton broke the silence.
"Well, I'll best be going now. The Brady Bunch is back together which means my job here is done," she said, turning to leave.
"Wait!" Bella cried from her spot next to Edward. "Alec and Jane left the castle in the middle of the battle. They didn't try to hurt us. They said they were just trying to escape to start a new life somewhere else. We didn't try to capture them because they seemed to have good intentions. Alec gave me this to give you before they left. I suppose they already knew you would win," Bella said, pulling a piece of paper out of her pocket and handing it to Peyton.
The letter read,
Whatever you do, stay with the Cullens. Return to their house in Forks and stay there. I know where Osiris is. Aro was telling the truth when he told you he was still alive. When I find him, I will send him to Washington, and you will be reunited with your mate. I hope you find true happiness in this life, Pharahildis.
P.S.– Jane says hello.
My knees buckled beneath me and sunk to the sodden forest floor. The letter fell from my hands, which were now holding my head. I felt my eyes close, my world becoming darkness. I reached through the abyss with my mind and saw him. He was smiling and laughing, his dark hair blending in with the background. It had been so long since I had seen him. Centuries and centuries ago. My last memory of him was sweet and I had clung to it like a human clinging onto air, all these years. But now I wouldn't need to. He was coming back, my Osiris was rescuing me.
Suddenly, I couldn't wrap my mind around how I survived without him all this time. Maybe a part of me wouldn't believe that he was dead, the irrational part, now the rational, I suppose. My heart swelled at the thought of seeing him again, holding him, hearing his voice. Through his prolonged absence, I told myself over and over again that if I saw him just one more time, I could die in peace. I could have killed myself at any moment, what with my gift, but I held on. On the especially awful days when insanity came knocking at my door, I would search for him. I searched all over the countryside for my mate, never daring to go into the cities though, because of my strict animal blood diet. I wondered where my mate was right now, what he was doing. I prayed that Alec could really find him and bring him back. Alec had been a good friend when I was in the Volturi, and I don't think he would lie to me. I trusted him, he would find him and I would be waiting.
I tentatively lifted my head up and opened my eyes, squinting in the harsh moonlight. The Cullens stood around me, looking down with worried eyes. I noticed Alice had picked up the letter and was reading it.
"You're shaking," said Bella, who was crouched down next to me. I looked down at my hands, noticing my tremors for the first time. "It's okay, I know this is an emotional time for you," she whispered, rubbing my back comfortably.
"How long was I like that?" I asked slowly, looking up at the bright moon which was once obscured by clouds.
"A little over an hour," Bella answered. "But it's fine, I know this is huge news for you."
I nodded sheepishly and made a move to get up but Bella pulled me back down. "Just relax for a little, we won't be able to go anywhere for a few hours anyway."
I shot her a puzzled expression, "There's an airport not far from here. Is it closed or something?"
She laughed, as did the other Cullens, and I suddenly felt very self-conscious. Did I say something wrong? "Not many airports close for the night," Bella explained, "and Esme can't handle being around so many people right now, so we are going to take the Cullen private jet. Carlisle is setting it up now."
"Oh, yeah, right," I mumbled, remembering why we were in Volterra in the first place. After being blood-drugged, Esme wouldn't be able to handle being around humans for some time, decades even. "Where's Esme?"
"Well, Edward went to the local hospital and… borrowed… some blood. He and Esme are a few miles away, along with Carlisle. They just wanted to keep an eye on her, you know, just in case," Bella said, obvious worry in her voice.
"Who's going to be flying the plane if a human can't?" I wondered aloud.
"I will," Rosalie said, almost excitedly.
"A human pilot will fly it down, and Rose will fly us back," Bella expounded.
"Good thing you got your pilot's license a few years ago, huh, Rosie?" Emmett joked, pulling his mate into one of his famous bear hugs.
"Yeah, I never really thought it would come in handy," Rosalie replied as her husband's hand combed through her long hair.
"So, Peyton… or Pharahildis… or whatever your name is, your husband's coming back," Alice said enthusiastically, hugging my neck.
"Well, er, we're not really married. At the time, Aro didn't think it was proper for members of the guard to umm… intermingle. Of course, we did anyway, but it was never really a proper marriage. Though we both made a covenant with God, it was just never a 'proper,' marriage with the white dress and the veil and everything. But, you know, we did what we could with what we had, I suppose," I said awkwardly.
"So what you're telling me is that I get to plan another wedding?" Alice yelped, clapping her hands excitedly.
"Shh! Do you want to wake up the whole town?" I scolded her. "Sure, I mean, if you want to, I don't care."
"Do you really mean that? Oh, I'm so excited! There's so much to do, so much to plan! Now what's the basic concept for the wedding? Oh, I know! How about medieval? Isn't that the time you guys met?"
"Umm, not really. Quite a few centuries before," I said, making Alice's face drop.
"I know!" she said, spreading her hands theatrically, "Monte Carlo! You seem like a bit of a gambler!"
"Not really, but shouldn't we wait for Osiris to come before we plan the whole wedding?" I asked incredulously.
Her eyes widened dramatically, "Of course not! Do you know how long it takes to plan a wedding? Plus, the grooms never really care anyway… but then again, neither did Bella," Alice said, diverting her gaze from me to the brown-haired vampire.
"Hey, you know I'm not into that type of stuff," Bella said defensively, throwing her hands up in the air.
"I hate to break it to you, Alice," I said, "but neither do I."
"Ohh, God!" Alice screeched in mock horror, "Am I the only girl in this whole family that really cares about fashion?"
"Esme did," Bella whispered faintly, her head tilted downward. "Remember, she helped with Rose's wedding, your wedding, and my wedding."
Alice's joy faded and she sat down on the forest floor, leaning her back against a tall pine. "She'll come around. Honestly, I can't see a thing, but you are going to be living with us for a little while, right, Peyton?"
I nodded quickly and she sighed. "I know it's hard for you, what with me being around all the time. Our biggest danger has passed," I said, standing up. This time, Bella let me. "I think I can leave for a little bit. I'll go check on Esme and Edward, if that's all right."
Alice grabbed my hand and squeezed gently. "Thank you, Peyton."
I gave her a weak smile. "East or west?" I asked Jasper who was standing next to Alice.
"East. You won't miss the smell," he muttered, his eyes, I noticed, were black as night.
"Here," Alice said, handing me the letter which I tucked into my pocket. "One for the scrapbook, right?"
I laughed and sped off through the forest. Jasper was right; you couldn't miss the strong smell of human blood surrounding the area. I pushed through and was greeted by the even stronger smell of blood. My mouth filled with venom and my body tingled. The fight had drained me, both mentally and physically, and I craved blood. But I smothered my needs with a forced smile and greeted Edward kindly.
"Hello, I'm sorry about what happened back there. Sometimes my emotions run a bit wild," I said sheepishly.
"Nonsense, I would have done the same if I had been away from Bella for so long. Trust me Peyton, I think your emotions are allowed to run a bit," Edward said with a smile. If I was human, I'm sure I'd be blushing.
"How is she doing?" I asked as I sat down next to Esme's shaking and hunched form. A few drained blood bags were strewn around her. Carlisle, to my surprise, was nowhere to be seen.
Edward shook his head slightly, and I stood up, wary of what he meant. He stepped closer and whispered in my ear, "She was doing fine, and then Carlisle started rubbing her back, like any husband would, and she went crazy. She attacked him, pinning him to the ground and threatening his life. I pulled her off, but then she just went limp in my arms and started crying. She obviously regrets what she did. Carlisle went away to collect his thoughts. The plane should be here soon, by the way."
I looked at Carlisle's wife's broken form. I could now see she was sobbing, sobbing because she hurt her beloved. The cherry, matronly woman the Cullens described was nowhere to be seen. She was gone, leaving only the empty shell of a pitiful woman.
"Well, at least you got her some clothes," I said, trying to stay as positive as possible. Situations like these usually called for such behavior.
"I stole a few things on my way to get the blood. For a moment, before she began drinking the blood, I saw the real Esme. It was like she never left. And then this monster comes out of nowhere. I tried to help her but she told me to go. I, of course, refused. She's still a mother to me; I can't let anything happen to her."
"I understand," I said quietly as I kneeled down next to Esme again. She was facing the other way and though I wanted to talk to her face-to-face, I didn't dare try to turn her over.
"Esme," I tried to get my voice to have that calming, musical quality that the Cullen women have, but it turned out sounding more like a croak.
"Please," she sobbed, burying her face in the ground, "leave me be!"
"How can you possibly say that? Your husband and I just risked our lives to save you; we can't just leave you alone! I know you're hurting Esme, but laying here on the dirty ground isn't the answer. Being with your family and those who love you is. I know this family loves you more than anything, Esme, and I know Carlisle loves you more than life itself, so please just turn around and look at me!" I said, my tone harsher than I had intended.
Slowly, Esme flipped over, her red eyes cutting through me like lasers. "I'm a m-monster," she stuttered.
"No, you're not," I soothed her, combing a hand through her caramel locks. "Carlisle loves you very much, your whole family does. Come on, sit up."
She complied, pulling herself up with a soft sob. She then proceeded to wrap her arms around her knees like a child. "I-I didn't mean to hurt him… or scare him. I love him, I r-really do."
"I know you do, and he does too. Do you want me to go get him for you? Maybe you two need to talk," I said.
"I suppose that would be alright. I'm just so embarrassed," she cried, another round of sobs racking her body.
"I know, but everything is going to be alright. You'll be home soon. Then we can sort everything out, okay?"
Her pout lessened and she nodded. She reminded me once again of a child that didn't get what they wanted at a toy store. Where was the strong woman Carlisle loved so dearly?
"I'll be right back." I trotted over to Edward and he pointed in the direction Carlisle went.
"He didn't go far," he whispered.
Edward was right. I found the patriarch of the Cullen family less than a mile away. He was leaning against a tall tree, his head in his hands, tearless sobs escaping his body. He glanced up when he heard me arrive and mumbled something incoherent.
"Carlisle," I said hesitantly as I moved closer to the broken man.
"What do you want!" he shrieked, loud enough to scare the birds out of the trees.
"I know this is hard for you–" I started, but was cut off by Carlisle.
"YOU know this is hard? Ha! Did your mate ever attack you after you risked your very life to save her, huh? Did your mate ever threaten to kill you? Don't tell me you know because you don't! You don't know anything!"
I stumbled back, surprised at Carlisle's outrage. It was most certainly out of character for the Cullen leader. "Did you forget that I haven't even seen my mate for centuries? I thought he was dead for all that time, Carlisle. I was alone, I didn't have any help. There was no one, so don't ever tell me I don't know pain. I know more pain than you will ever know in your entire life, Carlisle Cullen." I spat out his name as if it were poisonous. I wasn't truly angry, not yet, but I was aggravated by Carlisle's selfish words.
He lowered his head, "You're right, I'm sorry. I'm just so tense and confused right now. I don't know where to go or what to do! I'm usually the one to guide this family and now… I have no idea what to do. How do I get her back, Peyton? I need her... the real her. That woman back there, that wasn't her."
"I never had the honor to meet the real Esme, but I'm sure she was quite the charmer. She'll come back, Carlisle," I said softly. "We need to get her back to your home in Forks. Maybe some things will jog her memory."
"Right," his voice was stern. "The plane will arrive soon, it will land a few miles from here in a small, less commercial airport. We need to restrain Esme before we go, though. Can't you do that?"
I sighed, my body feeling weary at the thought of having to do anything else tonight. Vampires couldn't get tired, but they could feel weak and thirsty, both of which I felt now. "Sure, yeah, I can do that. Let's go back and I'll do that."
Carlisle nodded and we were off. Esme ran to her husband when she saw him and he picked her up in a warm embrace that made even me smile.
"Oh, I'm so sorry… I love you… So, so, so much…" she gushed, kissing him passionately.
"As do I, love, as do I," he muttered as her legs wrapped around his waist in a seductive manner.
"Uggh, please, wait 'til we get home, will you?" Edward said, covering his eyes with his hands.
Carlisle rolled his eyes and placed Esme back on the ground, giving her one last kiss.
"Edward," Carlisle said, his father-like voice coming back. "Go get the others; we're leaving in a few minutes."
Edward nodded curtly and sped off into the forest to gather his wife, sisters, and brothers. His absence hung heavy in the air and the space between us began to feel awkward quickly.
"Esme, honey," Carlisle started with a scared look on his face.
"I know, I know," Esme said, waving her hands, "you need to restrain me so I don't kill anyone or run away."
"I'll carry you," Carlisle whispered in her ear, making her smile.
"I just don't want to kill anyone," she admitted, hanging her head.
I chose that moment to speak up, "You won't, I promise. Now, can you come here?" I motioned to the ground.
She lied down, taking an unnecessary breath. "Go ahead."
I flexed my hands and put my palms down on the ground. My mind ached as I commanded the earth to move, which it did. I quickly molded two bricks out of the earth and placed two wrist holes in one, and two ankle holes in the other. I slid both on Esme carefully. I tweaked them both, making them more streamlined and packed the wrist and ankle holes so she wouldn't be able to escape.
She whispered her thanks and I gave her a weak smile as Carlisle lifted her into his arms, careful not to damage my work. I laughed at that, like he could do anything to hurt those things.
Just then, the others broke through the woods, Edward at the front. "Ready to go?" he asked, holding Bella's hand.
Carlisle took a deep breath and looked down at his wife lovingly. "I think we are."
The run to the airport was short and the plane was already waiting on us. Esme made a few attempts to escape, for there were a couple of humans in the main building down the runway, but the restraints held strong, as did Carlisle.
The plane was, as promised, empty of all humans. I couldn't help but notice the large Cullen crest emblazoned on the side of the aircraft. The Cullens sure did have a lot of money.
Rosalie took her seat in the pilot's chair, Emmett beside her, as the rest of us filed into the cabin. Carlisle sat down, placing Esme in the seat next to him.
"Do you mind?" he asked, gesturing towards Esme's hands.
I got up from my seat and pulled the restraints off, letting it fall to the floor.
"Thanks," Esme said, rubbing her wrists delicately. "There were some close calls out there. I don't know what happens to me, I just go into this sort of mode that I can't get out of. It's really scary…" The last part was barely audible.
"I'm sure it is, but that's why I'm here, right?" I smiled at her and sunk into one of the comfortable chairs, wishing sleep would take me. I always envied humans when it came to that rather valuable trait.
The plane took off, rising into the sky above the cloud line. The stars twinkled outside my window and the moon shone bright. My throat burned but I could wait, I'd have to.
I glanced over at Esme and Carlisle who were wrapped in each other's embrace. Carlisle leaned down and whispered something in Esme's ear. She smiled brightly and giggled, kissing his cheek affectionately. I was so happy for them; they deserved to have each other. It's true that things weren't perfect, but right now, they had what they wanted.
I still haven't seen Osiris, and Esme doesn't have her memory back nor does she have her thirst under control. But I won't go into that now, because all that is a whole different story.
End of Keep Me Close
The biggest thanks to my wonderful beta, Mikarin Aoi. She edited this entire story for me and did an amazing job.
A/N: It's the end. Or is it? Yep, I'm doing another story that takes place after KMC. It's going to be called 'Never Let Me Go,' and I hope all of you will read it and review!
Characters are Meyer's.