Disclaimer: I do not own nor make any profit off of Twilight. It belongs to Stephenie Meyer and Summit Entertainment, etc.
A/N: Thank you in advance for sticking around and here (finally) is the companion story that the Christmas season inspired. Back-Story/Companion Piece for To Hear The Angels. (I strongly recommend reading that story first.) This is a two-shot, since I found myself writing twice as much as intended.
Chapter 1: Parallels
There is a very particular holiday which can hold utterly no place of worth in my mind. No place of warmth or affection. No good memories. Just pain, sadness, and suffering. Losses and mistakes which can never be soothed with any form of healing. A dreaded holiday for its reminders of failure and terror. To add insult to grievous injury, somehow I have been forced into spending extended periods of time near the double beastly banes of my existence, Jacob the Mutt and multiple rings of decorated evergreen on this most despised of holidays.
Yuletide, if one prefers, although I have no preference one way or the other. Regardless the name, the season holds terrible knowledge and presents deep fears that will never truly leave me. Cannot ever leave me. Because of what I am; what I was made and molded into.
I used to hate my creator. Fervently. Unceasingly. Overwhelmingly. Viciously, even. With taunts meant to hurt as badly as I had been hurt by the choice made. Purposeful avoidance and direct obstinacy were the lesser of the evils I presented in my constant black moods.
How that same creator became a protected person in my existence would be anyone's guess. But Carlisle Cullen is not a person that anyone can truly hate without hating themselves even more. A vampire who rises with dignity from the repulsive depths of his own kind, a being who never harms anyone if he can help it, and a person who saves lives by defying the one thing which any other vampire would covet without qualm.
To be sure, my tenacity (or pigheadedness as dear, sweet, know-it-all Edward has occasionally assured everyone) kept me from accepting these facts for some years. Even when I at last regarded them with resignation, nothing could have made me admit them aloud. No matter how much it caused Carlisle pain to face my reticence and antagonistic behavior, I would not be moved. Of course, being such a martyr as he always was, Carlisle would not easily show his pain. It took a great many scrapes with Edward to see the inconspicuous signs our leader displayed without knowing it. Remembering those moments of realization was difficult this many years after the fact, particularly because I still had not come to terms with our relationship.
Don't you see how he drops his eyes when you look at him like that?
Do you honestly think Carlisle is always so quiet when Esme talks about her projects?
How many times does he have to wince for you to see your words are making their mark?
Many more such episodes of Edward's biting reactions sprung to mind, but the point evaporated in the face of my most horrifying task of the season. Admittedly, even worse than acting in any way civil towards the dog of the house. Faced with this task, I could even applaud Bella internally for escaping to her father's house for a few hours. Granted, Charlie and Sue had both been sick for a few days. No doubt Bella felt obligated to take care of her father while his normal caretaker was stuck in La Push fighting her own illness, but I wouldn't have been surprised if Alice's push to help hang decorations wasn't the final motivator. Whatever the reason, Bella was decidedly absent when my feared task came upon me.
Poor Nessie, the little sweetheart, took it into her head that the Cullen home needed Christmas wreaths to add extra festive flavor for its last inhabited holiday season. When Alice tentatively posed the suggestion later, I nearly blew a gasket of inestimable proportions.
Looking at my niece's warm, wondering eyes and seeing the sparkle housed within them cut through every protestation I had mustered. Hardly able to fathom why such a tiny creature could pull my strings so easily, I made the first agreement.
Oh, the stares I received for that. The sudden spotlight, usually so heartily welcomed, wasn't nearly worth the priceless expressions on my family's faces. They all knew exactly why my answer was so strange. Knowing they knew only darkened my outlook on the entire prospect of hanging Christmas wreaths in the house.
But Nessie wanted it. So I did it.
At least… I tried. I tried to hang an elegant ring of green with wine-colored bows and golden apples.
I remembered a wreath like that in my human life. A two weeks before Christmas, it was the first despicable evergreen ring I saw when the man I once dreamed about marrying had ripped off my lovely cream jacket in the snowy streets of Rochester. A monster in the clothing of a man. Tearing away a gift he himself had given out of supposed love.
The burgundy and gold spotted wreath was meant to hang above the fireplace, but it nearly landed in the roaring fire itself due to my shaking hands. A sensation of wanting to deliberately burn the wreath came over me briefly. Nessie couldn't be disappointed, though. I couldn't let her down. Not when my niece was the nearest thing to my own child I would ever have.
The sound of something tearing suddenly sent all heads searching for the unusual noise. Being nearest the sound, I knew exactly what had happened. Edward stood stiffly next to me, where he had been attempting to decorate the mantle, a ripped piece of brilliant red ribbon in his oddly lax hands.
If anyone was confused, they didn't ask questions. After a beat, Esme brought over a new piece and went back to her decorating without a pause, nonverbally indicating to everyone else they should do precisely the same thing. I tried to do so with as much calm as could be mustered, all the while knowing it was my own thoughts which had caused Edward to tear that ribbon.
In spite of my mental cacophony, a gentle hand descended upon the middle of my back. Before I even ascertained for sure who the person accompanying the hand was, I shook it off reflexively. Edward was the nearest and the quickest of the family. I would have heard anyone else move across the room, but Edward didn't have to move anywhere; he was already beside me. It had to have been him and I didn't need his pity.
Why? Why the sudden supportive hand after all these years and after what he had said during my change? Never before had he reassured me like that. For that's what Edward's hand meant. A measure of assurance I could not bring myself to ask anyone for. Not even Emmett. Another moment and I would have asked the mind-reader outright, but he was gone before the words could leave me.
Leaving the stones unturned was quite unlike either of us, yet such a discussion was not fit for the ears of children or unwelcome mutts and there was another blasted wreath to put up. One of three still left in their preservative wrappings. It was my own fault, really. The moment Nessie insisted on having wreaths and passed me those pleading eyes, I volunteered for the entire project; it had always been a one-person job and not difficult in the least. For most people.
Another wreath, this time full of pale blue bows, perfect white doves, and little silver bells, passed into my hands. Nessie certainly didn't care about matching, I thought with bleak fondness. She had never seen so many interesting wreaths as in the specialty shop we visited. Even Alice didn't have the heart to impose her decorating critique upon on the choices made by our excitable little angel.
Looking at the wreath now, I wished she would have.
Royce knocked me to the ground after he tore away my hat. I remembered the feel of the paved street beneath my hip and elbow as I smashed down onto it. Every uneven line in the icy gray street imprinted itself upon my delicate porcelain skin, mixing indiscriminately with the lines of blood trailing the scratches left behind. As I looked up from the cold, wet concrete, the nearest doorway had boasted a wreath so familiar to the one my niece now chose as to be frightening. The bows were a slightly darker blue, the birds a pale gray rather than white, and the bells shining gold… but the general image could not be squashed as I attempted to place the ring of green above the glass doors in the back of the house.
Another rip, another tear, and all turned to find Edward along the front wall, the ribbon in his hands not merely ripped, but now torn into two pieces. His hands no longer lax, but tight, and the stance of his lean body ever firmer. Alice moved on silent feet to extend a new ribbon.
Edward paused… closed his eyes… took a breath… then took the ribbon with stiff movements and turned cautiously back to his work. No one breathed until he did.
The blue and white wreath was hung rapidly after that. Free of the associated memory for the time being, I took out another to hang above the kitchen entryway, and almost screamed with rage. Pine cones and cinnamon sticks hung all over it, miniature red apples and tiny matching bows mixed in for color.
There was a wreath so similar in Rochester. Royce slapped my face to the pavement, I remembered; one of countless times, but emblazoned on hard memory because of the doorway in line of my vision as strained eyes refocused through a blur of blood, sweat, and tears. A green ring wrapped with red ribbon and covered with white-dusted pine cones and a large bundle of cinnamon sticks in the place where a bow would normally hang. The fury and sickness of knowing I would die like humiliated vermin, at the hands of someone I had been so desperate to attach myself to.
Shredding rang in my ears, reverberating with all the pain of my last hours as a human being. Whether the shredding of my wretchedly pretty little dress or of the ribbon in Edward's hands, I could not tell anymore. Memory seeped through every pore of my body, filling every empty space as a deadly toxin in the air.
I was barely aware enough to notice Emmett step forward with atypical silence and understanding to hand over a new length of ribbon, which Edward grasped gently and expertly, as though he had not just torn and shredded three different pieces. Considering the speed with which he applied the colorful décor, I could guess he was leaving for a run. Lucky him, being able to escape my memories when I could not.
Snapping from dreadful thoughts as abruptly as a shot from a gun, I turned to look down at Nessie, whose small hand rested tensely against my leg. Her sweet little face scrunched with concern, warm brown eyes darting back towards where her father had just been.
"Yes, Nessie?" I prompted gently, knowing full well she was going to ask an impossible question, but crouching besides her with the intent to listen closely all the same.
"Why is Daddy so upset?" she murmured just loud enough for me to hear.
Breathing became difficult – nigh impossible – to continue processing. While I had known the direction of her thoughts, Nessie's question was now out in the open and needed answering. How to answer, though? With the horrible truths her innocent mind should not have to process? I didn't want my niece growing up afraid. Children deserved security whenever it could be given. Something which Walter and Marian Hale never gave me; not when it meant something in the grand scheme of things.
"He was reminded of something terrible," I answered vaguely, at a loss how to explain without revealing my whole sordid past. "Something that happened a long time ago."
A long time ago indeed – in human terms, at least. A little over seven decades, in fact. How did the time pass so swiftly? At times it seemed as though I was still recovering from the first year of my transformation. Nessie's presence disproved that idea, clearly, but the feelings would always blaze hot and thick whenever I remembered the end of my life as I knew it. The reminders were constant and unchangeable. Just like me.
"What was it?" came the young, naïve question. Little hands twisted several inches of fabric on the shoulders of my blouse, accompanied by a concernedly curious expression. So innocent still, even after what she had witnessed with the Volturi.
"Something that happened to me," I found myself spewing thoughtlessly, moving hurriedly forward in my answer before Nessie could ask further. "I'm not… not ready to talk about it. Can you understand that?"
Gazing up at my tense and guarded expression, Nessie seemed to check off possibilities in her mind, before finally nodding slowly. "Sure, Aunt Rose."
"Thank you, sweetie," I murmured, offering her a tiny smile of reassurance.
"Will Daddy be all right?" the little angel wondered, worry overtaking her again.
"I'm sure he will be," I half-lied, afraid to find the answer to that myself. While Edward had seen my memories of the attack hundreds upon hundreds of times, never had he seen me connect it so vividly to something in our present lives. The difference was startling, even to me.
"I hope so," Nessie sighed, reaching over with a tight hug around my neck that warmed me inside and out. With a slight smile, I suddenly lifted our special girl into the air and carried her away from the last wreath I had hung and the awful memories associated with it, my focus now on Nessie's adorable giggles rather than the single wreath I had not hung or horrors I had once known.
Gratefully, Jacob Black left not long after Bella returned home with the long-suffering expression of one who had fought with a petulant child and lost. Nessie entered into a full giggling fit with every story about her human grandpa's silly, prideful attempts to take care of himself. Charlie Swan was as stubborn as his daughter and clearly much less communicative.
The fly in the ointment following Bella's return was Edward's continued absence. Loath though I was to admit it, I was getting worried about him. He had seen plenty of horror in his long years, to be sure, yet there was something still so… fragile about him. Or perhaps it was just the strict etiquette his human parents taught him long before. Whichever the case, an inexplicable feeling of guilt gnawed at my stomach. Could I have stopped my thoughts from going the way they did? While the larger, more tenacious part of me said no, a tiny conscientious part of me whispered yes. With more difficulty than I had ever encountered, I squashed that tiny voice.
"Maybe I should look for him," Alice suggested for the third time in fifteen minutes from one of the white sofas. She was as nervous as Bella, except my tiny sister didn't have a young daughter upon whom to devote her nervous energy.
"It's been a really long time," Bella agreed in a low murmur from the opposite sofa, worriedly eyeing the sleeping child beside her.
"Edward knows his own mind," Carlisle shook his head negatively from the arm of the same sofa upon which Bella sat. "Believe me, I have known him to be in worse states of mind and behavior than what you've all described. He'll come back when he feels in control of himself."
"And in the meantime worry his wife and daughter to extremes," Bella muttered even quieter, although no real heat entered her tone.
Sighing unhappily, Carlisle did not reply, instead laying a supportive arm around his daughter-in-law. Glancing up apologetically, Bella reached up to grasp the extended arm in gratitude. Their growing bond, while not entirely unexpected, had burgeoned rather suddenly of late. I wasn't entirely certain why, but the change at least took some small amount of pressure off my residual distance – a habit I had long ago failed to break.
"I see him!" Alice jumped up instantly, amazingly keeping her voice low. Jasper stood with her, attempting to contain her excitement with little success.
"Where?" prompted Esme from beside the windows, where she had been keeping an unneeded watch.
"I don't exactly know," came the distant answer, a bit belated and very disappointed. Jasper's hands dropped as the mood lowered. "It's a little wooded area. Still in-state, I think, but I can't pinpoint the precise location. It's an average copse of trees with a little pool of water in the middle. He's just… sitting there."
"So we haven't found him," Bella sighed, closing her eyes and dropping her head back.
"No," was Alice's miserable response as she sat back down beside her husband.
"Figures," Emmett commented irritably from his self-induced watch-post in the back yard. Honestly, I was startled by his reaction. Any other time he would have been swearing up and down that Edward was just chicken about decorating with pretty little ribbons and made a lucky escape. Contrary to this expectation, Emmett looked more depressed than anyone in the room.
Rising from my own seat in one of the chairs, I moved outside to my husband with a tentative air, placing a hand on his bicep comfortingly. While I knew he was close to Edward, it seemed more than the usual funk Emmett engaged in whenever Edward was in a bad mood.
"What is it?" I asked so that only we two could hear.
"Nothing," he shrugged, accidentally knocking my hand away.
"What's gotten you into such a strange mood?" I sighed heavily, leaning my head tiredly against his sturdy shoulder. The entire situation was beginning to exhaust me.
"I said it was nothing," he insisted stubbornly, continuing to stare out at the rich green depths of the woods behind the house. I tried to recollect being shut out by my boyish husband like that, but came up empty-handed. He had never done it before and it hurt to know he wouldn't talk to me.
"Em," I whispered, stung, pulling away in confusion.
Taking one look at my face, Emmett heaved a sigh and wrapped both arms tightly around me. "Sorry. I just don't like what always happens with you and Edward."
"I don't understand," I confessed, still stinging and even more bewildered than ever before.
"I don't know…" Emmett hedged, searching for the words to match his feelings. "I mean, you were obviously remembering that night, and it was bugging you both, but you…"
Grasping in vain for words and unable to find the ones he wanted, Emmett groaned frustratedly. "I can't even say it right, Rose. You're going to take it the wrong way."
"Take what the wrong way?" I questioned, growing agitated and pulling back from his embrace enough to glare mildly up at him. "You haven't even told me anything!"
Emmett inhaled as though to take the plunge over a cliff, and plowed quickly through before I could interrupt, "It's just that every time you think about that, you and Edward both get upset, and then he almost reaches out like he wants to help you and take your mind off it, but then he pulls back like he got burned and you act like you didn't know he was trying to do it. And today it made me kind of mad because he finally did reach out and try to comfort you, but you still just shook it off and so he backed away all depressed because he thought it didn't matter to you. And he keeps thinking it's his fault that he can't connect with you, because he always blames himself and you always blame him, too. Sometimes you blame him for the stupidest things. I love you, Rosalie, I really do, but sometimes you can drive me nuts with the way you act about Edward. After all this time, I still can't understand why you act like he's such a bad guy. Edward's as much my brother as if we'd been born that way. I don't want to avoid him because you're mad at him, but if I didn't you'd be mad at me, too. I'd just like to be able to have the two of you in my life together – at the same time – without having to be a referee or choose between you. Because we both know I'm always going to choose you. It'd be wrong if I didn't, because you're my wife and I promised to support you before anyone else. I'm keeping that promise, but honestly, Rose, it gets old when Edward isn't doing anything except breathing in a way you don't like."
If my mouth had a hinge, it would most likely have snapped off with the force and speed at which my lower lip dropped away from the upper. Emmett had never, ever, in his entire existence as a Cullen, made such an enormous speech. Neither had he ever directly stated his feelings to be against mine. I always knew he disliked the times when Edward and I were at odds, but to hear him burst with feelings he'd kept pent up for an obviously long amount of time was shocking. Imagining Emmett Cullen thinking rationally and talking about his feelings in this way never entered my mind.
What bothered me most was how I had entertained the same idiotic delusions about Emmett that thousands of other people had over the years. Big, silly, tactless, and ignorant of the more sensitive things in life like emotions and fair play. When this unfortunate illusion overtook me, I hated to think. Emmett deserved better than that from his own wife.
Despite my guilt on that subject, Emmett opened a can of worms I was not ready examine now, if ever. Even after Bella had cleared some of the cobwebs away during her enforced slumber party years ago, I still believed in Edward's dismissal of me; he proved it everyday, after all.
"We don't get along and we never will," I refuted simply, recognizing the weakness in my own argument, but unwilling to bend.
"You guys would get along just fine if one of you would stop being so sensitive to each other," Emmett argued back for once, a frown overtaking a face that normally grinned and sparkled with dimples. "The problem is you're both so similar and so you both snap out of self-defense and you both get so hurt by it, but neither of you wants to admit it to anyone – especially not each other. Really, though, you snap at Edward a lot more than he snaps at you. I know you've always had a protective wall around you, Rose, but the way you lash out at him is way over the line most of the time. What did he ever do to you?"
Frozen by the accusations, and frustratingly unwilling or unable to tell him exactly what Edward had done to start our relationship of discord, I just turned away, infuriated that even Emmett couldn't side with me on this.
Another heavy sigh escaped from behind me and Emmett merely said, "I knew this would happen."
The sound of his fading footsteps was the last thing I heard for some time as I stood staring out at the tall, silent trees until dawn encroached with a splendor of color and light. No one in the house moved any more than I did, until Nessie began to stir. Her worry was immediate as she realized she and Bella had never gone back to the cottage, and her father still hadn't returned.
Remarkably, Emmett's words had become engraved on my mind throughout my silent vigil. Was all he said really true? I didn't want to think so, but being called out by my own husband was too close to home for me to ignore very long. Impossible though it felt, I was forced to concede upon three major points.
Firstly, Edward and I were similar like Emmett said. Too similar to argue and not lead to a complete explosion. We grated on each other thanks to our easily-triggered tempers and our instinctive ability to cut deeply with words and accusations.
Secondly, I admitted to myself how I made Emmett pick sides in those grating explosions. I wanted – no, expected – someone to be on my side, no matter if I was right or wrong. Just as a matter of course.
Last, and hardest of all to admit… I was the one to start most of the spats with Edward. He got on my nerves, and made snide remarks, and made fun of my vanity, and I made fun of his old-fashioned code of honor, and…
Thinking over our relationship more completely than I ever had, Edward suddenly reminded me strongly of my human brothers.
As much as I called Edward and Jasper brother, I had never forgotten the love I once felt towards my biological baby brothers. Jasper had always appeared the older brother, protecting and guiding, but Edward was truly like my little brothers in so many ways. Even years after their memory had faded almost completely from my mind, I could recall our relationship being something like what I had with Edward currently, only kinder and more affectionate.
For the first time in years, I realized one of the key reasons I could never allow myself to be real friends with Edward, let alone true brother and sister. Because being close with him felt like betraying the blood brothers of my human life. How long I had felt that way wasn't even clear. The thoughts never coalesced solidly in my entire vampire existence until Emmett's words shook me up so thoroughly.
Now the trouble was determining if I could move past that. I didn't want to; leaving one of the few happy, albeit hazy, memories I had left was not at the top of my to-do list. Still, Edward deserved an explanation at least. I could clear the air if nothing else, and hope that would make Emmett feel a little better. Hardly thinking my plans through, I hurried mindlessly around the house and ran off in the direction Edward's fading trail indicated. For a brief moment I wondered at all of our stupidity for not doing this sooner. Worry certainly clouded the mind in exponential ways.
Afterward followed a very random path that proved how mindless Edward's run had been. A need to get away and think, more than a desire to be alone. Regardless the unprecedented journey taken, it was no hardship to finally find him, sitting at small pool in the middle of a typical forest clearing, just as Alice had said.
A/N: I know that Rosalie says in Eclipse that her wedding was in April, but I'm using some creative license here.