A/N: As always, thank you for reading, and thanks to thimbles for pre-reading.
A monument to the falsely accused towered over sagebrush and sparse trees, over the grave of a forest that used to be. In the distance, the lights of a snow-dusted town sparkled. If any of the truckers who inched down the treacherous stretch of icy freeway happened to glance toward the monument, they would've noticed Rosalie trudging up the hill. None did.
It was still called Pendle Hill. Even with the balance restored and the Raiders all but gone, some things hadn't returned to normal.
Other scents, softened by the late spring snow, mingled with that of her coven on the path she took. Renee had been here, scattering flowers and thanks. Somehow, Bella's estranged mother must have guessed what the rest of the world had not. She knew who had saved them.
The wolves had come back to this place as well, some of them dragging their paws. The less Rosalie thought about them, the better. Some days, she wondered if it was only her love of Bella that kept her from tracking the wolves and making them pay, heaping on blame as if they were time travelers and she was a Raider. If not for her friend, Rosalie might have taken up her own red arm band.
There had been other vampires here, too; the former members of their organization had come to pay their respects. The potted purple hyacinth told stories of Carlisle's recent presence as much as his scent did. Plucking one of the star-shaped flowers, Rosalie held it up to her nose. These blossoms had once filled her home: apologies that had burst into color around the anniversary of her change.
She didn't miss them.
At the base of the memorial, she found the offerings from her coven: a jar of honey and a super villain's mask from Bella, a bottle of mead and a cupcake from Edward, a shot glass of blood (really, Mary) and some chocolates from Mary, two portraits and a tropical flower from Garrett. And there, on the last lines of the carved stone, were two names that appeared thanks to Jasper's legal acrobatics.
Jessica Stanley (1987-2003, 2013-2015)
Emmett McCarty (1915-2016)
There were other graves for them, she knew. Jessica's in Chicago and Emmett's in Ithaca. A weathered old stone in Tennessee stood as another memorial to him, placed over empty ground by his family years ago. Even so, this seemed closer to Jessica and Emmett's final resting place. Kneeling in the snow, Rosalie held her fingers just above the capital E of his first name, not quite touching.
Saving him from that bear was the best thing she ever did.
A minute or a year later, light footsteps whispered up the hill behind her. Familiar fingers combed through her ponytail, swept the snow from her shoulders. Like every other day of Rosalie's life, Bella was there, holding her as if she'd always been forgiven.
Instead of acting as Bella's shadow, Edward stood somewhere beyond Rosalie's senses, giving her space with her thoughts. Some wild flight of her imagination made her think she could feel him waiting for her return with a fresh argument or a request to drive her car—or both—poised on his tongue. And even though she could neither see nor hear them, she knew as surely as Alice would that Mary was telling a dirty joke she'd learned from Emmett, and Garrett was looking at a photograph of a smiling girl who had altered him more than venom.
"Do you need more time?" Bella asked.
Yes and no. Standing up, Rosalie let herself feel the weight of the invisible rope in her chest that still anchored her to something lost. The hand that squeezed hers was an anchor as well.
As Bella guided her down the hill, Rosalie looked back over her shoulder only once. If she could speak to Emmett, she wouldn't need to ask if he had loved her. Even without his letter—the one she still carried—she knew. If she was honest with herself, she'd known all along. But if she could, she might ask, anyway.
He would hold her close and kiss her as only he could kiss her. She would cherish every second, every touch. She wouldn't let any of it go to waste. And then he would speak the words that would wrap around her heart and prove that instinct, fate, or whatever else it was that drew them together knew what it was doing.
"I saved the world for you."