Author's Note: Set 20 years after my other FF "Thundering Floods and Whispering Winds," so you may want to read that one first. I strive for accuracy in all of my writing, so if you see any mistakes, please let me know. I can only get better with the help of loyal reviewers. And I do welcome all reviews, good and bad, as long as they are constructive. Thank you in advance for reading.
Disclaimer: All recognizable characters, settings, and situations are not mine. They belong to the awesome Stephenie Meyer. I just like to play with them. Cassandra, and Winston, however, do belong to me, so ask before you use them.
Two decades, twenty years, one-fourth of the average life span of a human, and the number of years since all the Cullens had been in the same place at the same time. After the incident with Winston, Rosalie and Emmett were the first to decide that it was time to go off on their own for awhile. The years leading up to that moment had been especially hard on them, watching from the sidelines, like support actors in a play, present, but without any real participation in the main plot. First when Edward found love, then when he ran away from it, and then again when it ran after him and brought him back, they had been there, but the story would have been the same without them. They watched as smaller families began to emerge within the larger Cullen clan when Bella and Edward and later, Jasper and Alice became parents. The circumstances were different, but the end result was the same. Everyone had someone else, except for Rose and Emmett. All they had was each other. And as many promises as they made to each other that it was enough, they both knew the truth, that it could never be enough, that they wanted a smaller family unit within the larger clan more than anything. Living with the rest of the Cullens meant that they were reminded of this every moment of every day, and it was simply too much for them. Or more accurately, it was too much for Rose, but Emmett would never let her take all the responsibility for their decision to leave the family. He chose to leave too, for them, for their love, to ensure that maybe someday, they really would be enough for each other. They visited the others from time to time of course, but always managed to find an excuse to leave again.
Their last face to face contact with the rest of the family had been two years ago. They had stayed with Bella and Edward and Nessie for almost six months before Rose had declared that it was too much and convinced Emmett that it was time to leave. It had happened right after Nessie had come in from being out with Jacob. She was looking for a woman's advice, and Rose had offered to help, but Nessie had declared that it was more of a Mom thing. The tall blonde didn't let on to how much the innocent comment had hurt her, but the next day, she and Emmett were gone.
After Rose and Emmett left, the other Cullens had stayed together for a couple more years, but soon Nessie started to age into a teenager and wanted to act like one too, and unfortunately, that was next to impossible in the small town of Forks, so the decision was made for the entire family to leave. Carlisle found an excellent opportunity at a teaching hospital in Maine. He would be supervising first year residents during the night shift at the ER. His face practically glowed when he heard about the opening; it was the perfect setting for him to test D Double V Solution. Diluted Vampire Venom was destined to be a medical breakthrough of epic proportions. Nessie, however, was unsatisfied with the short list of things to do in Maine, so after many long discussions, Edward and Bella announced to the rest of the family that they would not be joining them. Instead, they would be moving to Chicago where Nessie could be a real teenager, and Edward and Bella could attend Roosevelt University. Nessie would have to pose as Bella's younger sister to keep up appearances in front of the humans, but it was what they had all decided they wanted. No one was surprised when Jacob insisted on following them, unwilling, and perhaps, unable to be apart from Nessie.
Alice and Jasper were torn between wanting to stay with Carlisle and Esme, and wanting to go with Bella and Edward for the simple reason that Cassie had grown so close to Nessie. But in the end, it was Cassie who had made the decision for them. She told them in a rare moment of complete, open honesty, that she wasn't ready to start trying to blend into the human world just yet, that she wanted time to adjust to being a Vampire Angel and living forever before she attempted to remember what it was like to be a human. They talked about where they wanted to live for a long time, tossing around ideas about Vancouver, Denali, Philadelphia, and even Colorado. And again, it was Cassie who made the final decision. She wanted to see the world, so Jasper and Alice gave up the idea of finding a permanent residence, and decided to travel instead. They went to Europe, paid for by Emmett to settle his last bet with Jasper, and South America, they even managed to spend a little time in Australia. But for the past several years, they had been living with Peter and Charlotte. Peter had been the one to initiate the meeting that led up to their eventual living arrangements. He had called Jasper out of the blue one day and told him that he had one of his feelings that the two of them needed to stick close for a while. The feeling had never gone away, and no one could find an explanation for it, not even Alice with her vast array of visions to choose from. To pass the time, Cassie had started reading Jasper and Peter's history books. And when she was done with those, she read some of Charlotte's art books. Alice had taken up fashion design again, and as a surprise to everyone, Jasper started to write novels based on life during the Civil War.
Then finally, after twenty years of separation, two decades of being apart, it was as if someone flipped a switch, and the Cullen clan suddenly felt the need to be together again. Alice and Jasper were enjoying some time alone together on the back porch of Peter and Charlotte's farmhouse when the vision came to her. She stopped talking mid-sentence and stared straight ahead at the tree line just a couple yards away from the edge of the porch. On instinct, Jasper scanned the area for sights, sounds, smells, and feelings that might indicate unwelcome company. But he found nothing out of the ordinary, so he turned his full attention back on his wife, holding her hand and patiently waiting for the vision to come to an end. Finally, after what seemed forever, Alice slowly blinked, and focused her gaze on her husband. "It's time to go home."
Jasper didn't have to ask what she meant. They had decided a long time ago that home would always be with Esme and Carlisle. "Are you sure? I mean, you're ready to? It's not just a possibility that you saw? It was really something that you're ready for?"
Alice slowly shook her head. "I don't know. I saw us going home, so I don't know if it's because I'm ready to, or if it's because we're going to have to go because of something I haven't seen yet. I just know that I saw it. Edward and Bella and Nessie were already there when we got there."
"Have you talked to any of them lately?" It wasn't a hard question, but one that he honestly didn't know the answer to. It had been some time since he had made contact with his siblings. Perhaps, Alice had been doing some talking when he wasn't around.
"I talked to Edward a couple weeks ago, and to Bella just last night."
"What did she say?"
"That Nessie misses her grandparents, Carlisle and Esme."
"I miss them too. We haven't visited since last Christmas, and even then, we were only there for a couple of days. Long enough to exchange gifts and have a family meal/hunting trip."
"Esme has been asking to see some of my latest designs before they become mass marketed. And she did offer to edit your latest novel before it goes to the publisher."
"Esme. The number one purchaser of JAC Fashion, and A.C. Jasper novels."
"You need a better pseudonym. A.C. for Alice, Cassie. Really needs some work." Alice teased her mate.
"And you need a better name for your clothing line. Jasper, Alice, Cassie. Now that really needs some work." He teased in return.
A week and a half later found Edward, Bella, Nessie, and Jacob running through the woods to Carlisle's and Esme's newest home. Edward slowed his run marginally. "I can hear them." He whispered so that only Bella could hear him. "Esme's watching HGTV and planning a completely eco-friendly home and Carlisle's reading an article in a medical magazine claiming that the cure for cancer isn't that far away thanks to the discovery of a new element to be added to periodic table very soon. The discoverer wished to remain anonymous, but requested that the element be named Vampinium."
"So, Carlisle's gone public then? With D double V solution?" Bella asked astonished. "I thought he was still years away from being ready for that."
"Apparently, he's come further than we knew. Either that or there's someone talking to the press that shouldn't be. I wish he had told me that he was this close. Then again, we haven't exactly been around that much lately."
"Do you hear anybody else?"
"Nessie and Jacob are still about a mile behind us. And I think that Seth is nearby too. Alice called him after calling us. She thought that Jacob might like to see him. But no one else, so I guess Rose and Emmett must not have made up their minds yet."
"Or maybe it's more complicated than that, and only one of them's decided."
"That's not fair, Bella. You can't make comments like that if what Alice saw is really going to happen."
"And why does it have to happen the way that Alice saw? I liked it being just the three of us…well four if you count Jake."
"Alice said that it would be significant. That we all had to be together for it."
"Yeah, I still don't get that. Significant like the Volturi? I thought they were trying to leave us alone as long as we stayed separated like we've been for the past twenty years. If we come back together again, who knows what could happen? Maybe that's the trigger leading to Alice's significant vision."
"She says that it's not the Volturi, and I believe her. But the only thing she could see for sure was that it would only be a success if we were all together. And if we were separated when it happened, then it would be bad."
"Fine, I'll go along with this for now, but if she crosses a line, we're gone. I will not let Nessie be subjected to that." There was no need for her to clarify which she Bella was referring to. Rosalie had never gotten to the point where she and Bella could be true sisters and friends.
"They've caught our scent. They don't know if they should come to front door to greet us or not."
"It's ok, Carlisle and Esme." Bella called for the only parents she knew now.
"Edward, Bella, it's really you. I wasn't sure if you'd ever get here, it's been over a week since Alice called to say you were all coming in." Esme could no longer contain her excitement as she ran out the front door to give her children a welcome home hug. "Where's Nessie?"
"Saying goodbye to Jacob, he's going to be back later, but wants to spend the afternoon with Seth." Edward explained with surprisingly little resentment for the dog.
As if on cue, Nessie came running around the end of the house and leaped into Esme's waiting arms. "Grandma Esme! I'm so glad to see you!" The group made their way into the house, exchanging stories of the past few years in an effort to catch up with each other's lives."
Two hours later saw the arrival of Jasper, Alice, and Cassie. "Look at you, all grown up into full maturity! How does it feel?" Alice squealed when she saw Nessie for the first time since she had stopped growing as they entered Carlisle's and Esme's house.
"It's actually kind of weird not changing, but I like it for other reasons too." Nessie would never tell her aunt that it was because she and Jake were essentially the same age now and how that was the real benefit.
"Oh, I hate not being able to see you, but I guess there's more important things going on there." Alice grinned knowingly. She had hoped that once Nessie was fully matured, she would finally be able to see her, but so far, nothing. "Tell him I said hi. No one else has disappeared, so you'll be alone with him tonight."
"Um…actually, not if I get my way. There's something I'm trying to get him to talk to the family about…"
"Oh, wait, it just changed. You'll succeed, apparently. Everyone else just disappeared which tells me he'll be at the house tonight for that family meeting you requested. And since I can't see Em or Rose right now, I assume they'll even make it in time. See, I'm learning what the holes in my vision mean. It's almost as good as the real thing. Except, I can't see what we're going to talk about, or what everyone's reactions will be. Any hints?"
"Sorry. I'd rather we just tell everyone at once. But, can you see anything later on…after tonight…or even further into the future than that, like maybe another twenty years. Specifically about me and Jake? I know you can't usually see us, but anything? Just out of curiosity."
"Ness," Alice hesitated, then her eyes became unfocused as she attempted to look a little further in the future than she normally would, especially when it came to the wolves and Nessie. "All I'm getting is a headache. Maybe a couple of blurry flashes, but not enough to be able to tell anything concrete. I could show them to your dad if you want and see if he can make anything out of them. Sometimes he can when I can't and he's a lot closer to you and Jake as of late than I am."
"No!" Nessie hurriedly shot down the idea. She couldn't let her dad get any hint of what she and Jake were considering. She had already been so careful not to let her guard slip around him lately. "I mean, maybe later, after he knows what we want to talk to everyone about. I've kind of been memorizing atomic weights around him lately."
"I see." Alice contemplated the latest information for a second before she heard Cassie and Jasper on the front porch, and getting ready to open the door. She had been further ahead of them than she had thought. They had taken a short detour to hunt on the way to the house.
"It's ok you two, come on in. Cass, show Nessie how I did your make-up." Alice instructed the girl. Cassie slowly made her way into the room, but stayed behind Alice. "Hey, what's with all the shyness?" She could feel the girl shrugging her shoulders, and exchanged a quick look with Jasper, who had come fully into the room and was giving Nessie a hug in greeting. Jasper offered her a half-smile, and she knew that it was his sign that he didn't know why someone was feeling what they did, but that he wasn't going to do anything to change their mood. "Look, we still have to go say hi to Bella and Edward, so we're going to leave you two to catch up a little. Later, Ness." Alice said with a grin to the older of the two girls in the room, at least in terms of vampire years. She grabbed Jasper's hand and led him out of the main room and up the stairs to find their brother and sister.
"Cassie, I'm impressed. Alice did an amazing job. You look so old, 16, at least." Nessie gushed over the other girl. She had missed spending time with her.
"Yeah, that was the goal, I suppose. She and Jasper think it's time for me to go to school. And well, they want to make sure I can act the part of as many years as possible. Right now they're thinking maybe age 10 or 11 to age 15 or 16. There's only one problem. I really don't want to go to school. I like staying at home. Reading, working on puzzles, hunting whenever I want. I'm really learning a lot just by reading Jasper's and Peter's history and war books and Charlotte's art books. And I'm sure I can do the same with Carlisle's medical books. Can you talk to them? I would never ask, but they listen to you without thinking that it's some kind of newborn/immortal child thing. I've been a vampire for over twenty years, and they still treat me like a kid."
"No, with me it's a hybrid human/vampire in love with a werewolf/shape shifter thing." Nessie said sarcastically. "School really isn't so bad. Jacob and I went for three years a couple years ago. I've even done some online college classes with my mom. And I made a better grade than she did. I get it, I really do, school can be a drag sometimes, but it's necessary if we want to keep our cover around humans."
"Well, that's just it. Why do we even have to interact with humans? I mean if we stay isolated and feed on animals, we can be the Vampire Angels we're supposed to be and never have to interact with humans and fight so hard to blend in with them."
"This is a human world. Some interaction is always going to be unavoidable. Like when we go shopping. Yes, we can do that online and everything, but doing it in person is half the fun."
"As long as our thirst is under control with animal blood…"
"How long has it been since you've been around a full human?"
"Well…" Cassie hesitated before answering. "Three years."
"Three years!" Nessie's eyes grew wide. "Why did Alice and Jasper let you go that long?"
Cassie shrugged. "It's not that big of a deal. I just stay at home with Peter and Charlotte when they want to go into town. And even though Alice never saw anything bad happening if I went with them, Jasper convinced her it was for the best. The last time I was around humans, I messed up. Alice and Jasper promised not to say anything, so I don't expect you know about it. But it was bad. I killed two humans. Alice didn't see anything until it was too late, so by the time Jasper got to me, they were both drained. He cleaned up the mess and we went home. They never mentioned it, but I know they were disappointed. So, they haven't been pressuring me to get back in contact with humans. Maybe they were wrong to change me in the first place if I don't have any better control than that."
"Oh, no, Cass. Don't say that. Have you tried talking to them about it? If you feel half of what you're acting right now, Jasper already knows, and it's got to be tearing him up."
"I know, I've been careful around him. I keep it buried. But that's why I don't want to go to school. I don't want to mess up again."
"Well, tell them that then. Maybe they have some ideas on how to help. Or if you really can't talk to them, then talk to my dad. He's practically an expert on control."
"Maybe. Or maybe I can just convince them to let me stay home."
"Good luck with that one. Eventually we all have to go to school. It's what being a Cullen is all about."
While Cassie and Nessie continued to talk, Alice and Jasper were waiting on the front porch for imminent arrival of Rosalie and Emmett. They didn't have to wait long for Emmett's jeep to pull into the driveway, and a cautious looking Rosalie to exit the passenger side as a beaming Emmett exited from behind the wheel.
"You made it. I knew you would." Alice said with a coy smile as she danced toward the driveway to properly greet her brother and sister with a tight hug for each. "Everyone else is already here. We all ran. And I do mean everyone, so are you ok with that?" The last was directed at Rosalie. "Wait…no, you're not, but you will be. Anyway, it's just so wonderful being together again. Oh, and Renesmee and Jacob called for a family meeting tonight. Don't know what about, and I obviously can't see it, but they figured this would be their only chance to talk to everyone at once, so it must be important."
Alice continued to babble, but Jasper wasn't listening to his mate. Instead, he was studying Rosalie. The last time he had crossed paths with her nearly five years ago, she hadn't exactly been in the best emotional state, and unfortunately he hadn't had a chance to talk to her about it then. And from the few phone conversations he'd had Emmett, it seemed that the goal of opening herself up to him completely had cost her a lot, and it was nearly impossible for her to hide her feelings from anyone now. He tilted his head to the side as he searched her current feelings. For now, she was relatively calm, but it wouldn't take much for the anxiousness just below the surface to escape. Rose gave him a pointed look in return and he watched as she squeezed Emmett's hand ever tighter. Emmett offered him a small nod and Jasper could feel his contentment and almost joy, although if that joy was at seeing everyone in the same place at the same time again, or at his new found openness with Rose, he would never know.
"I don't mean to interrupt, sis," Emmett finally spoke. "But Rose and I kind of would like to get unpacked before this family meeting thing."
"Say no more. You carry the bags, and I will arrange everything into its proper place." Alice easily gave the order, and in the blink of an eye the two of them were gone and Jasper and Rose were left alone staring at each other.
"So, did you have a good trip in?" Jasper asked his sister breaking the silence.
"Yeah," Rosalie said quietly with a nod.
"Do you want me to stand by, in case you need my help? When you see Cassie and Nessie? It's been a couple years, hasn't it?"
"Yeah, a couple. But, no, I don't want your help. I'm always going to feel something around them. And lately, I've needed to feel that. Emmett will be there."
Jasper offered Rosalie a half-grin. "You've really come a long way the past two decades. We haven't exactly talked about any of it since we all split up. There's been a lot of dancing around the issues. But…are you ok?"
"Yeah, I am. For the first time in my existence I'm really ok. Almost too ok, if you know what I mean."
"I sense that. But you'll get back in the grove quickly enough."
"I don't know, maybe." Rose shrugged and shook her head to herself. "Actually, I was thinking that if Alice saw the family all together for any length of time, now would be a good time for us to work on some more advanced fight training. Don't think that I forgot your promise. If I'm training for a war, it'll give me something to focus on, besides my open emotions."
Jasper looked Rose up and down for a split second, grinned, and nodded. "There is actually something I've wanted to teach you. I should warn you though, it is a difficult technique, and I've only ever witnessed it mastered in one vampire before. I've tried to teach it to Peter, but he couldn't master it, and honestly, I can't even execute it perfectly."
"Then, who was the one? And what makes you think I can pull it off?"
"Maria. And with my training, you'll be able to do it better than her."
"Again, why me?"
"Because, you know your emotions now better than any other vampire I've crossed paths with, and this technique is all about understanding yourself, and your own control. It's a highly calculated technique, and you have to be smart about when and how to use it, and you have impeccable judgment when it comes to fighting. I've seen it before in you."
"That's quite the reputation to live up to."
"And I have every confidence that you can pull it off. Training starts tomorrow."
"I'll be there."
Jasper didn't have time to respond before Alice reappeared at the doorway. "Jacob's here. It's time."