AN: Thank you for all your lovely reviews and to Eternally Edward's Girl and Chocaholic123 for their invaluable help. I'm sorry for the long delay; thank you for your patience. RL reared it's ugly head again.

SM owns Twilight.

~o~o~0~ Adagio ~0~o~o~

Chapter 52

Wind whistled through the trees, shaking the leaves until they gave up their weak hold and drifted to the ground. Those gathered pulled their coats tighter. Shrunk into woollen scarves, they tilted their umbrellas against the relentless patter of the rain.

Charles avoided the sympathetic eyes trained on him and his daughter, their backs bowed under the leaden burden of grief as they made their way out of the church. Bella's hand gripped tightly onto his fingers, her own as fragile as bird wings. How could he possibly keep her safe? How would he ever be able to take away the pain that ran through her veins likes quicksilver, drawing the color from her cheeks and the light from her eyes?

A sea of black on grey surrounded them as they huddled around the sunken hole dug into the ground. Heavy storm clouds had gathered above, mourning along with Renee's loved ones. Sunshine would have been offensive. The granite and marble stone, slick with rain, stood sentry as the priest's words, diluted by the raindrops falling around them, turned into meaningless sounds.

Charles' eyes were dry, and his heart was as cold as the tips of his fingers and toes.

The smooth golden wood, marked with whirls, was a taunt. Its glossy exterior belied the horrifying reality of what, or who, lay nestled on top of cushioned satin. The irony of the comfort choked the breath from his throat, squeezed his lungs like a vice.

He could hear the strangled sounds of grief coming from his daughter, feel the shudder of her body next to his as if she was disintegrating. Her grip tightened on his hand until her knuckles were as white as snow.

How was he to do this alone? He and Renee had always been a team, a matching pair, and without her, what was he? Alone, dismembered, empty. The curve of his daughters smile, the slope of her eyes. They were achingly familiar. So familiar it was almost unbearable. Like looking into the sun.

He vacillated between wanting to destroy and hide, scream and remain silent for the rest of his life. The unfairness settled around him, sinking into his pores until it became a poison. Until he couldn't think of anything else, much less the child, desperate for comfort, by his side.

Charles Swan allowed his grief to consume, to take up residence in the corners of his heart and the edges of his mind until it ate away at him. It turned his love sour like vinegar added to a glass of milk. It wiped his smile away and turned his heart to dust.

As he stood in his office, the information about his daughter and Edward racing through his mind, he exploded. Anger raced like wildfire through every cell in his body, and he'd reacted instantly, picking up his phone and spitting out orders.

It wasn't because he was angry at Edward for seducing his daughter. It wasn't because he was disappointed in Bella for falling for an older man. It was because he knew, with a certainty, he'd let his daughter slip through his fingers without an ounce of consideration. He'd stepped outside of her life. Closed all the doors. Cut all the strings. He'd made Bella a stranger.


AN: Thank you for reading xoxox