Disclaimer: S. Meyer owns Twilight. I just like playing around in her sandbox.

I'll be upfront and say that this isn't polished. It's more of a sketch or an outline of a long story that I refuse / don't have time to write. I spent no time editing it. It's also not been beta'd.

I've divided this up into 13 chapters because I wanted each mini-scene to stand on its own. This isn't a ploy for reviews - seriously, read and review however you see fit. I'm happy with any feedback you choose give.

Warning: I promise nothing. Read at your own discretion.

In the pretty green suburbs of Chicago, tucked away in an elegant two-story home, a man and a woman fight.

"What have you done!" she screams. "How could you!"

Blinking away stinging tears, Carlisle holds his wife, silently suffering her anguished blows. He doesn't care that he'll have bruises tomorrow where her fists fall. He lets her vent. He takes whatever she dishes out. In a way, it's a welcome kind of pain. Bruises are something he can deal with at least. They heal. They fade. In time, it's like they never were.

She's been crying on and off for a solid half hour, going back and forth between needing his comfort and cursing his name. It's confusing and he's angry, but all he really wants to do is curl up beside her and hold her and allow himself the same luxury of tears. Because he needs his wife right now just as much as she needs him. He's just as lost, just as terrified, and his insides churn with the same misery of not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

But one of them has to be strong right now, he argues. So he just hugs her tightly to his chest, kissing her soft brown hair, running a hand down the curve of her spine. And he lets her cry and cry, until she can't anymore.

It's a conversation that Carlisle knows by rote. He and Esme have lived this life for so long – years – an endless cycle of hope and disappointment, dreams and nightmares. Someone had to break it. This is the only thing left to try.

"What will happen to him now? Where is he going to go?" Her knuckles dig into his ribs.

Carlisle squeezes his eyes shut. "I don't know. Just… he can't come here anymore."

"He's my baby. I can't… I can't let this happen. We're supposed to protect him!"

"He's twenty-three years old!" he snaps. "You can't keep doing this. He's killing you. He's killing us both."

Softer now, Esme whispers, her exhaustion eating through the anger, turning it into grief, "Where did we go wrong?"

"It's all your fault." Her voice breaks, searching for solid ground. "You weren't here enough. If you had been…"


"Carlisle… What do we do?"

He hugs her tighter, questioning every moment, every decision, everything from the past five years. "We pray."