~ Chapter 46 ~

How did we get here?
Well I used to know you so well
How did we get here?
Well I think I know

The truth is hiding in your eyes
And its hanging on your tongue
Just boiling in my blood
But you think that I can't see
What kind of man that you are
If you're a man at all
Well I will figure this one out
On my own

Esme stood stock still at the window of her gallery. The breeze was slight, and cold like a night that never seemed to end. She's had spent countless nights like that, watching the moon and trees move slowly across time. Not that she was diverted so pleasantly on this night. There were no thoughts of beauty or hope, because her mind was lost in sea of ancient and painful memories. She was currently in one of the last of her human memories.

There was no pain. That's what struck her first. How could she be alive if there was no pain. She had hoped that by jumping that she'd have a release from her own anguish over losing her son. However, fate didn't seem to work that way for her. Slowly as she regained consciousness, she opened her eyes, which were partially glued shut by tears and blood.

Her head was turned at an odd angle, and just at the edge of her vision she could see her own blood lying splattered across a thousand rocks. She knew that her body was broken beyond repair, and yet somehow she was alive. The jump from the cliff should have killed her, by all rights she should be dead. It was all that she desired. It was all that meant anything anymore.

Except death wasn't answering her call. The tried to move, maybe in doing so she would aggravate her injuries and speed up the process. Her legs didn't respond, and neither did her arms. Yet she could still breathe, and her heart was beating steadily, albeit weakly. A horrible idea came to her then, what if she was stuck like this? Would she be in one of those iron lungs for the rest of her life? What had she done to herself?

She tried to call out, to scream. Except she had no voice left. She opened her mouth, letting out a pitiful wail of strangled emotions, and anger, and frustration. But she couldn't truly express what was in her heart. To be denied the one thing left to her. To join her son in death. She lost all sense of hope, and she began to feel her mind slip. She tried to sleep again, to let the world spin away. Only she couldn't keep them shut. After a while, she could only glare up into the bright sun and hope for death to finally come and take her.

It didn't come.

Then something changed, and a sharp pain began to shoot up and down her body. She wasn't sure if that was better or worse. At least she wasn't paralyzed, but enduring acute, pulsing, and impossible agony wasn't much better. Still, the pain was but a shadow of the gut wound she suffered when her son was taken from her. She couldn't understand why her life had turned out the way it had. She had only ever wanted to be a teacher, and raise a family.

Instead she had been pressured by her family into a marriage she wanted no part of. A marriage that had quickly turned abusive. It got so bad that she knew she had to run the moment she found out she was pregnant. All she wanted was the chance to raise the child in a house filled with love, but that was something that could never happen with Charles Evenson in their lives.

Of course even running didn't give her the happiness she had hoped for. Fate itself seemed to enjoy continually pulling the rug out from under her. Her son had lasted two days before succumbing to lung fever. She hadn't even been able to christen him with a name. It was like seeing her last chance at any of her dreams dying in front of her eyes, and it crushed her very soul.

All she had to look forward to now, was continually running from her abusive husband. Because of her choice to run, she no longer had family to turn to, not that they would've done anything except try and return her to him. Esme knew there was only once choice, she would rather have no life than be trapped in that hell.

So at dawn the following day, after sobbing through the night, she had gone to her favorite spot in the world. There was a steep incline at the tip of the peninsula she was living on. It was one of the local's hidden spots, because it had the most beautiful vista within a hundred miles.

However, it wasn't very popular, because the hike to the summit wasn't easy. Esme loved it. Even though she hadn't been able to come back in months. Early on in her pregnancy she had walked up there several times, and sat and read to her unborn baby.

The sea was grey that day, and the curls of crashing water had turned black... which felt fitting for her mood. She followed the same ritual she always did. She took the bus out to the end of the line. Then she walked the two miles to the summit one last time. She looked along both sides of the shore line. Down to where the beaches were to the north, and the rocky shore to the west with the thick forest pressed against the water like a green wall. Then she looked down the sheer face of the cliff. Far below was a tumbling roil of white foamy salt water and jagged rocks.

She sat near the edge, this time dangling her feet over because she no longer had any fear. It was something she had never dared to do before. And then she read the final few chapters of the book she'd been reading to her son out loud. She didn't cry, she didn't feel much at all. It was liberating, to know that the end was coming. That she didn't have to live with the pain anymore. So quite deliberately and with very little hesitation, she stood, pressed the book to her chest, and threw herself off the cliff, to the rocks and water below.

The cold instantly sapped anything resembling sense away from her. Then came the first crash of her body into the rocks, it was on the third impact that she lost consciousness. She was tossed north, at least that was her guess. Not that she could really tell given the angle she was lying. The rocky part of the beaches were pitched in several places, so it was entirely likely that her body wouldn't be found for days. She knew she didn't have that long, so clung to that idea with a renewed hope that she would finally join her son.

She lost track of time, but the fading light in the sky above her gave her a sense that it had been many hours. The stench rising from around her made her eyes water, she couldn't figure out how she was alive, when all she wanted was to end it all. To fade into the darkness and finally be with him again.

She closed her eyes and replayed the memory of a concert her mother took her to when she was a young girl. Before the misery of adulthood and the tortures of her husband. She would never confess it to anyone, but she was thankful for the war. It had taken Charles away and across the ocean, and she had privately wished that some lucky German soldier managed to put a bullet in him. Not that she was so lucky.

She concentrated on that memory of family, of sitting between her parents at the orchestra. The violins sang in an ever rising crescendo, building, building until the full orchestra joined in a cacophony that literally took her breath away. Maybe it would now, the memory of that moment would steal her final breath from her chest. She almost smiled as she felt her body being lifted, wondering if she was finally being taken away to heaven.

Then she heard a voice, close to her ear, whisper soft, and kind. It was a familiar voice, one that she had heard… years before. She opened her eyes and saw the doctor who had been so nice to her when she was a stupid teenager.

She had fallen out of old Marley, her favorite tree. She knew each and every tree in her neighborhood like they were old friends. She even went so far as to name each of them based on their individual peculiarities. On her sixteenth birthday when she went to see Old Marley she knew something was wrong. He looked off, maybe he was dry. Or he could've possibly been unhappy about the new construction in the lot adjacent to his resting place. Still, she took her usual path up his trunk, and failed to notice each limb bending a little more than usual to her weight.

Yet as she ascended she began to feel uneasy, there was something very wrong with her old friend. Then she rounded towards the top and found a large section missing, which had killed the core of him. She froze in place, terrified for own safety, and began to scramble back down towards the ground as quickly as caution would allow. On the last branch, which was just a little too high to jump from, a crack which she had caused on her ascent gave way.

She noticed it a second too late as her foot descended from the branch above. The wood made a sickening sound, and she was suddenly in free fall. She flailed her arms, in an attempt to find any purchase, but there was nothing close enough to hold onto. The fifteen foot drop wasn't the worst she had ever faced, but she landed wrong and her right leg buckled under her weight. Luckily she caught herself before she fell forward and hurt anything else.

She had to wait nearly an hour before anyone walked by, and the off duty cop who was on rounds for security on the construction site was helpful, but too young to really know how to handle a screaming girl who needed medical attention. When they finally did get to the emergency room, she was treated by someone named Carlisle Cullen.

He was the one who set her leg, and then helped with her recovery even though he didn't need to. Maybe her fond memories of him were due to the fact that he really knew what he was doing, which was rare in those days. Most people in that time period who had the misfortune to suffer a break to a leg bone usually ended up with a limp of some sort, even if it was just a subtle one.

Or maybe it was because he didn't treat her like a child. Either way she thought of him as a dream of a man, one who epitomized kindness and compassion. She was a little in love with him before she left the hospital.

Carlisle was the opposite of Charles Evenson in every way. He was her savior, her saint. So it had to be a delusion. There was no way he was there in that moment, at the end of her life. He had to be an angel, because there was no other way he could still be so beautiful. She gasped, and he smiled. She remembered trying to talk, but was unable to get any words out. He kissed her forehead in earnest, and a moment later she felt something hot press into her neck.

Nearly two centuries later, Esme opened her eyes, wiping away the mists of memory from her mind's eye. She turned to face the moon, still high in the sky. The paint was still drying on the canvas she had been working on, she couldn't bear to look at it at the moment. Carlisle had given her some time alone to think, and she had come to a decision. Much like the one she had come to all those years ago. It was time, she had no other choice.

She leaned out over the windowsill and took a breath of the night air. She knew this was the end, and so she turned back for one final glance back around her private sanctuary that housed so many memories. She took in each little monument to her family members one by one. Ending on the empty spot where her first adopted son's portrait used to hang. With one more deep breath she finally she turned away from the room with a silent sigh, and leapt out of the window. As soon as her feet hit the ground she began to move, as fast as her preternatural legs could carry her.

Without a sound, she began her search.

It didn't take her long. She caught the scent five miles from her house, and began to follow it along non-existent paths toward the source. She was entirely unsurprised where she found it leading. The trail she picked up was nearly a direct line from their house to where she knew Isabella's house used to stand. This was at a point somewhere between the two, and she guessed that Isabella's house was probably no more than three or four miles further ahead, which was within his range.

There, high atop a massive pine was Edward. He was crouched on one of the uppermost branches, staring into the sky, in the direction of Isabella's house. He had a look of concentration on his face, one she'd seen too often when he was picking up the thoughts of those around him. However at the moment it was an expression that was tinged with anger and frustration.

Esme hesitated, she was surprised he hadn't reacted to her presence in the area, or most especially to her thoughts. She had been very careful to organize her thoughts, and keep them as silent as possible. However that had only seemed to dilute the effect of his mind reading ability in the past, and there was no way she would be able to hide the current anger coursing through her. Yet it didn't seem to matter. Edward was apparently completely oblivious to her presence.

She watched him crouched on the branch, and let her eyes flick over his face. Searching for any sign of the boy she thought she had helped raise. She was trying to find any of the goodness and light that she had once attributed to him, with the hope that somehow he might eventually be redeemed. She watched as frustration turned his face into a disgusting sneer, marring his looks even further. A scowl crossed her own face and her jaw line became set, because she knew there was no turning back now.

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Since the newborn girl's adoption into Isabella's twisted little family, Edward's power to read minds had been missing, reduced to static. Over the intervening days it had slowly come back to him, until it was almost normal. Then his range returned as well. That gave him the perfect opportunity to snoop. Allowing him to spy on the 'Swan' coven meeting. Though Bella and her two adopted bitches were still completely blank to him, the rest of the coven was still open, like a magazine tossed aside on a bathroom floor.

Not that he liked what he heard once he trained his focus on Bella's group, who were mostly made up of his family, or rather… traitors from his family. He wouldn't tolerate their betrayal, which was why he had given them up to the Volturi. Yet even so, he couldn't contain his anger as he read their thoughts. It seemed Bella and Eliza were twisting and contorting everyone to suit their renegade views. They were turning everyone against him specifically, even more than when they left him humiliated after he finally told Alice the truth about his protection of Bella's innocence from her soulless perversions.

The only part of the meeting that he found any enjoyment in, was when Bella had forbidden any of this new coven from coming after him. He read the anger on Alice, Rosalie, and Jasper's minds when she said this, they wanted to hunt him down and remove his head. Those mental images alone reinforced his convictions, he was absolutely right to inform on them.

Edward couldn't contain a smile of glee at that. Her refusal to let her coven go after him held significance. It meant that a part of her was still his Bella, and still didn't want him hurt, no matter how she may have justified it. No matter what 'changes' she'd gone through, or how she had been corrupted by Eliza's influence. It meant that a piece of the old Bella remained, and he could see a glimpse of that tentative, insecure, and easily malleable girl he remembered. If he could only get Eliza's claws out of Bella, maybe he wouldn't have to kill her after all.

Eliza of course would have to die. Her crimes were too many to name. He simply didn't have any other option. Just defying the Volturi and consorting with a wolf in a… homosexual relationship was enough. The rest, well what she had done to Isabella was beyond reprehensible. Edward's eyes widened, he realized that Eliza's influence hadn't just caused Isabella irrational fury towards him, but maybe it had also perverted Isabella's mind to the point where she found that sort of deviant relationship acceptable… even palatable, enough to accept Alice's attentions.

He turned away from the pleasant thoughts of how he would tear Eliza apart limb from limb, and allowed himself to focus on the rest of the coven. The newborn bitch would have to go too, he had briefly considered going after her, in fact that was his original plan. She was easily the most vulnerable of the little group, and her death would've hurt Bella and Eliza, and caused enough chaos in the group that even Alice wouldn't have seen the real attack coming.

Now... he wasn't so sure that was the right way to go. Although he firmly believed that that girl should never have been given a second chance, it was not Bella's place to save her. Alice would also definitely have to go, not just for the fact that she betrayed him by even thinking of touching his mate, but also to put her out of her misery, ending her existence would finally save her from her own perversions.

Rosalie and Emmett he wasn't so sure about, though he was pretty sure Jasper had to be dealt with first. Adara was a write off, he cared nothing for Jasper's mate and would end her after he was done with Jasper.

Emmett was slow and stupid, he could easily be tricked and perhaps even convinced to reverse his decisions. Rosalie, well Emmett could be the bargaining chip, and threatening Emmett's life would easily sway her back to his side. Or maybe he could have her killed either by the Volturi's hand, so that he could get Emmett back without having to deal with her worthless mind another day. It would all come down to her reaction, she would have to learn her proper place. Though thinking on that, Edward realized that it might be too harsh of a lesson for her. It might be kinder if she was simply destroyed, oblivious and vapid to the end.

He had read Rosalie's mind as she lead Isabella away, to give her time to think. Her odd kindness put him on edge, and made him wonder if maybe he had misjudged her all these years. If so she was an even greater threat than he thought she was. He nodded once, determined to end Rosalie's life when the time came.

He watched Bella closely, waiting for the right time since she was isolated. Then he snarled to the night sky when Alice joined her. Reading Alice's mind made his blood boil, and it forestalled any approach he might have made when Bella was alone. He couldn't bear to read her thoughts when they touched, and had to restrain himself from streaking to their location and attacking them. Not with Rosalie in earshot, not with the Coven less than a mile away from them. It was too risky.

Then it happened again!

Some sort of psychic backlash hit him like a wrecking ball knocking down his power like a bunch of poorly mortared bricks. It was the same thing that had happened when Bella had taken in the newborn girl. What had she done? He squeezed a nearby branch in anger, since he couldn't wrap his hands around Alice's throat.

Over the next few hours, he puzzled over that as he tried to force his abilities to function again, to no avail. He wondered if it was an extension of Bella's gift to block him, or maybe it was a power the newborn had that she was using unconsciously, or far more likely it was something Eliza was doing to control them all. Not that it mattered, since the effect was the same. His power was once again reduced to nothing but static, it was like losing his sight, he was lost without it.

Suddenly, in his concentration, he could hear the faintest whisper of the mind, but couldn't make out the voice, or anything said, but it was progress. He smiled, but the smile quickly vanished when he realized how close the mind was to him. It wasn't in the distant ruins of Bella's exploded house. He tensed up, waiting for the attack, as he stretched his other senses out around him, searching for the person close to him. He was braced for any sudden movement, only it didn't come.

Instead the stranger slowly climbed up to a branch near his perch and waited for him to respond. Normally he would have known who it was without a second's hesitation, just from their internal voice. It was why he didn't look, he was waiting for that recognition to come to him. After a second when nothing came, he took a deep breath and a familiar scent came to him. Lilac and vanilla, a scent he associated with only be one person; Esme. He sighed and looked down to see her looking up at him, even though it wasn't the face he was hoping to see. He had hoped Isabella had finally come to her senses and sought him out.

"What do you want, Mother?" He gave Esme an exaggerated frown, he didn't need a lecture.

Esme had her feet balanced perfectly one the branch directly below his, which put her within a few feet of his legs. Her expression set in as neutral an expression as she could muster. When she spoke, her voice was very soft and had a strange quality to it, one Edward had never heard before. "Tell me why, Edward."

"Tell you why what?" Edward glared down at her for a long moment, his anger and frustration deepening his already miserable sneer.

Esme's brow furrowed at that response. Edward never had to ask for clarification before. It was obvious something had happened to his ability to read minds, though she didn't know what. She opened up her mind, letting the thoughts that plagued her come to the surface so she didn't have to waste energy hiding them.

Esme's voice was tinged with infinite sadness, "I want to know why... everything. Why you've done what you've done. Why my family is split in two. Just… why?"

A brief smile flickered across his face. Here was one person who would never give up on him. Esme would always believe him to be her beloved son, and this was his chance to at least have someone in his corner. Someone whom Eliza and Isabella couldn't manipulate and twist against him. "Everything I've done has been to protect our family."

Edward knew that he had Esme with that one statement, her love for her family was unparalleled. He could see it in her face, how it softened with his declaration. "I tried to protect us all. I tried to keep us all together as a family. I tried not to let this all happen, but I don't understand why everyone seems to be turning on me, on us." He injected as much hurt into his voice as possible, playing on her sympathies as much as he could. It was a performance he'd mastered years ago, it was the same one he used to get her to turn away from Isabella.

Esme let some hope show on her face, but didn't respond. He was saying the right words, and his face reflected the kindness and confusion that she had wanted to find. Except... except it was the same words, and the same expression he had used a hundred times before. She felt her heart die a little as she saw past his charade, saw it for the act it had always been. She kept her expression the same, but inside her anger began to grow again.

As silence greeted him from below, he knew she was hearing and absorbing what he was saying, and buying his story. He just had to close the performance with something she couldn't refute. He let the silence linger for almost too long, thinking about how to phrase it just right.

Then his head shot up as a thought occurred to him. Whether it was true or not, Eliza would never be able to prove his actions, even Jasper could be sold on that eventually. It might be enough to get the Denali to side with him, as well as Carlisle, and possibly Emmett too.

Edward kept his voice tentative, almost thoughtful, making it sound like it was something he suspected but was pretty damn sure of. "I think this is all a power Isabella's… well… Eliza has. manipulating people. She's twisted Isabella's personality for years, and now has managed to twist our entire family to their side. I'm trying to get them back. So we can be a family again. Eliza's entire goal seems to be breaking up our family and she's almost succeeded." He beamed down the pride he felt in his theory, convinced that Esme bought it completely.

Esme stared up at him, and after another long moment she finally responded with a slight nod. "I guess that means there's only one thing to do then." Her voice was gentle and thoughtful.

Edward smiled down at her with the same false expression of love he'd given her for his entire life. The fake mother, with her blank, simple, gullible mind. Her role was never going to change, she loved him too much to ever believe him capable of the things he knew were ahead of him. Edward struggled to keep the smug grin off his face, he had convinced her, and she was going to help him. Not that she was capable of anything else, but he did have a moment of doubt when she first arrived.

"What's that?" He asked with eager anticipation, not that he expected her to express anything more than a desire to get her family back together.

"To say goodbye." Her reply was harsh, filled with anger. The expression she had kept on her face shifted to her true feelings, and the sudden hatred caught Edward totally off guard.

Edward furrowed his brow, trying to understand what she meant. However before he could come up with a response, her arm shot out and grabbed him by the left foot. Then her other hand slammed into his left knee in a vicious and precise strike. His leg was effectively severed at the joint.

The shock, and the impact of the attack caused him to let out a cry of pain. His hands let go of the branch he was clinging to, in an involuntary move to find the leg that was now missing. That simple movement, shifted his center of balance in just the right way to cause him to topple out of the tree, hitting several branches as he fell. On particularly large branch flipped him so that he was falling face first, flailing uselessly for a handhold to stop his descent. Until he slammed into the ground at nearly terminal velocity for a human.

Esme, her face set in a grim mask, and jumped out of the tree right behind him. She gave him no time to recover, after he landed on his stomach, he had just began to push himself up when she landed on his back, forcing him back down into the mud and pine needles. Forcing his face into the ground several inches.

Edward let out a grunt from the first impact, a grunt that quickly turned into another cry of pain. Esme wasted no time when landed on his back, she had thrown his amputated leg away while she descended, so her hands were free when she reached down and grabbed a hold of his right arm at the wrist and upper bicep. She pulled it up and backward with one merciless yank, and then quite deliberately stomped down on his shoulder with as much force as she could muster while she twisted the arm. It was a simple but effective move, and it did its job, severing Edward's arm right at the shoulder. She repeated her actions with his other arm, rendering him basically defenseless.

Edward managed to turn his head, so his face was out of the mud, so she could hear his surprisingly soft cries of protest and pain that were laced with genuine disbelief and fear. Sincerity dripped from his voice for the first time, and the change wasn't lost on Esme.

"Mother... please! Stop! What are you doing?" He called to her pathetically, as he realized she was as lost as Bella. His mother, the only person he was sure would never turn on him.

Edward was relieved when she seemed to hear is pleas and stepped off his back. Then she slid her foot under him slightly and flipped him over unceremoniously, like he was just an oversized pancake. His relief was short lived as he looked up into Esme's face. He had never seen her look like this at him before. Her expression was beyond angry, it was filled with a hate he didn't know she was capable of. Her usually lovely amber eyes bored into his, and he was struck with how cool and calm they were. This wasn't fury, this was calculated rage.

"I need to hear it Edward. I need the truth, don't evade the answer and don't attempt to lie to me, or I'll know." When she spoke, her voice wasn't as angry as her expression was. It was dark, and precise, and her demand was not up for negotiation.

Edward sighed, she truly was as lost as the others. Since she had the upper hand, for the time being he knew he had to play along, he knew there was no way she would take this beyond a simple flash of anger. She had done damage to him, that was more than enough to prove her point. She would lecture him and be done. Thought it was a shame that she would have to die too. In a way he was fond of her. She had tried her best to be a mother to him.

"I don't blame you for this. She must've gotten to you too." Edward looked for any of the love she usually had in her eyes, and at the moment it was very disconcerting to find none. Edward groaned softly in exaggerated pain, in a vain attempt to evoke some sympathy from her, but even that didn't work.

He grimaced, and frowned and finally flinched under her gaze as it bored into his eyes. "Fine. I imagine this is about Isabella, like always. I will never understand it. How are all of you so obsessed with that bitch. I didn't even find her all that attractive, she was so average. Not particularly smart, no real exceptional traits except for her ability to block my gift. Why her, why her over me. What's so special about Bella fucking Swan?"

Esme's gaze, if possible seemed to narrow even more, and the daggers she was sending at him became even more piercing. "That's the question. If you cared so little about her, why did you bring her into our family? Why did you put us through all of that grief, if you never really wanted her in the first place?"

Edward snarled, his anger finally getting the best of him, "if it hadn't been for Alice's… sick infatuation, I probably would've just given in to my lust for her blood. I probably would have buried her out in the woods never to be found, or left her so that it looked like suicide. As is, I almost did took her in the forest when we left her, but I knew it would cause too much of an uproar. Besides… I was already on the outs with half the family, who blamed me for leaving her behind. You barely spoke to me for two years afterward, even after I told all of you it was her choice. Her choice, not mine."

Edward had begun to try sit, which was a bit comical without arms, but Esme found no amusement in it, and stopped him with a foot planted on his chest, which effectively kept him pinned to the ground. Her voice was low and dangerous."Her choice? Even though I convinced myself to believe you, I knew it was lie. I knew it. In my soul, I knew she wouldn't have wanted to be left behind, but I trusted you."

Edward sneered as he looked up at Esme, "I should have just killed her. Then none of this would've happened. You can't deny that. And you can't deny that I was right. Look at what's happened! Isabella became a monster, just as I said she would! Our family has been split apart, all because of this. I could have stopped this all if I had just killed her when I saw Alice's vision that first day, before she even had a chance to walk into our lives!"

Esme's eyes became hooded, and her tone softened slightly, "Yes, tell me about that. What did Alice see that first day that forced you to act?"

A look of disgust passed over Edward's face as he hesitated just a moment before responding. "I saw Alice have a vision of her and Bella… together. Some human girl, comes in and starts an unnatural and perverted affair with Alice. Breaking up her proper relationship with Jasper. I knew in that moment I couldn't let that happen. So I sacrificed searching for my own happiness to protect our family once again."

Esme stared down at Edward, the true selfishness of his nature striking finally home. It left her utterly at a loss for words. It was one thing to suspect all of this, but it was quite another for her to hear him admit it. Not just confirm it, but actually be proud of his actions, without the need to justify his reasons for it. She didn't need another reason, but still… she wanted... needed to hear all of it.

She kept her voice thoughtful, and intentionally put a trace of understanding in her tone, "and that's why you informed the Volturi." It came out more as a statement than a question.

Edward nodded, "Of course! You see what Bella has become. She's a monster without conscience, and has most definitely lost her soul! That trade she made for immortality, has made her powerful, but at what cost? She's totally lost her way, she doesn't even attempt to curb her impulses like us, just look at her eyes! I knew the Volturi would take steps when they found out about Eliza and her… consorting with a mutt, steps that needed to happen. Such a beast cannot walk around unleashed. Then somehow they managed to survive, I wanted the Volturi to know so our family wouldn't get blamed! So we wouldn't get taken down with them."

Esme was nodding slowly, and her voice was very soft. "If that's the reason for you actions, why did you tell them about Alice and Rosalie?"

"Alice and Rosalie betrayed us. So of course I betrayed them. I admit I was angry, but they need to be taught a lesson! They broke up our entire family siding, with someone who's done nothing but make our lives miserable since she walked into it! They need to be taught that nothing is more important than family. They won't be killed of course, just shown the error of the ways. For once, the Volturi have the right idea. Eliza is an abomination. She and her… 'mother' are like a plague, they poison and corrupt anyone and anything they touch. They need that need to be destroyed. Don't you get it?" Edward's voice came out in a plea for understanding, although he could clearly see he was getting through to her.

Esme was quiet for several long moments as she apparently considered his words. When she spoke, her voice was very gentle. "I get it. I finally get it. I chose poorly. I'm sorry Edward." Esme's expression was suddenly very kind, and she leaned down to push back his tangled, wet, and muddy hair from his face.

Edward breathed a sigh of relief. "Oh thank God. I was worried that whatever they do to people had gotten to you too. I actually thought you were going to kill me for a second there."

Edward looked up at her troubled expression as she looked down at his injuries, he shook his head, his smile magnanimous. Now that he'd convinced her, he'd solidify his hold if he appeared forgiving. "It's okay, Don't worry about it, you were angry, just help me put myself back together."

Esme stood back up and resumed the pressure on his chest. "You misunderstand me. I get that you were never worth my love, I finally see that I've wasted so much time with you when you never deserved a second of it. I loved a mask, a mask you've worn for centuries, that hid your true face from us. I chose poorly a century ago, when I didn't go with my instincts. I gave up the fight, and let your selfishness destroy a young woman's life. You're wrong, all of this can be laid at your feet, not Isabella's." Esme's reply chilled him to his absolute core, and for the first time since he was human, he felt genuine fear.

Edward tried to reply, but was cut off as Esme pushed against his chest as a distinct warning not to talk.

Her voice ascended to a loud rant. "I should've known that you were wrong for her, but I was blind. Stupid and blind. You've caused us all… so much hurt. Alice has been walking around nursing a shattered heart for nearly a century. Our family has been living a lie just as long, longer even. I lost a daughter because of your deceit. And Bella… God, I have no idea what happened to her, but I can only imagine it was awful. Do you have any idea what your selfishness has done to her?"

Any reply Edward was going to make to that was cut off when she suddenly stepped forward brought down her foot other foot on his neck.

Esme's voice dropped once again to a mournful, regretful tone. "I'm sorry Edward, I'm sorry for failing you. For not being strong enough to see you for who… or what you've always been. If I had, maybe I could've found you help. It's far too late now. You know, I had always thought of you as my baby, my son. The one that I lost. But you're not even close. He died two hundred years ago."

Esme's voice turned even harder, "I think I understand now. The reason you would never turn someone, and your claims that none of us have a soul, is because of you lack one. You're a monster, reprehensible, despicable, evil. What you could never understand, was that being a vampire doesn't make you a monster by taking your soul. You have to let yourself become a monster. Although I think you always were one... Carlisle should've let you die on that hospital bed." She clenched her jaw, and any remaining kindness as well as all doubt vanished from her face, and she squeezed the foot pressed below his chin, and began placing extreme pressure on his neck.

Edward's eyes widened, as he realized what was about to happen. But part of him still felt she couldn't be serious. That she couldn't go through with this. As the pressure increased on his neck, he realized that maybe… just maybe he'd underestimated Esme. His last thought was that it didn't matter. He'd be put back together eventually. If she didn't do it, Carlisle would. Carlisle loved his eldest son, more than any of the others, and Edward believed he'd save him.

Esme was knew it was too late to do anything else. She was implacable. She had to do this. There was no other option. Edward had made his choice, and his manipulations had caused her family far too much pain to forgive. He didn't even show a remote understanding of what was wrong with his actions, nor the barest hint of remorse. Just a glimmer of self doubt and she wouldn't have been able to go through with it. Instead she found that he was absolutely convinced he was right. He would continue to be a danger to the rest of her family.

No matter how much it hurt her, no matter how much it tore her apart. She could not allow him to live.

If she had been human, tears would've been flowing from her eyes, and they would have been genuine tears of grief. Not for the creature who's life she was ending. No the tears would've been for the life he could've had. For the man he should've been. The tears would have been a mother's sorrow for the pain her other children had gone through at his hands. The tears would have been for the absolute loss she felt in that moment.

Then with one final push, she separated his head from his shoulders. It was almost anticlimactic, his entire body going limp when his head came off with a dull grating thump. She stared down at his body, and knew that it would eventually pull itself back together. A part of her was tempted to let that happen. Then she looked down into the blank eyes of her son once more before she turned away. It took only moments to complete one final task, and when she was done she stared at the area where Edward's body lie covered and hidden.

Finally, she let the emotion of the day overtake her, and in one violent and loud outpouring of raw emotion, she let out a scream of anguish for the son she never got a chance to see grow up. For the fact that she let this monster into her heart, she let him replace her own blood, to the point that she had missed out on the pain that his actions had caused her other children. Children who deserved so much more than she had been able to give them recently.

She screamed with rage, and pain, and utter desolation. It was a scream that made the trees shudder, and it felt like they bent away from the power of her voice. It was a scream that could be heard all the way down into Forks. Although to human ears it sounded like nothing more than a wolf howling at the moon.

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Carlisle had gotten a book he hadn't read in decades off one of the multitudes of books shelves in his office, and was idly flicking through the pages, more as a distraction than for any real interest in re-reading the book itself. He had just read a page and decided to put the book back and pick another, when he heard a wretched heartrending scream, so primal that is was impossible not to flinch from the intensity of it.

The flinch was worse for him though, in his own heart he felt a tiny bit of that agony. Especially she he would recognize that voice anywhere. Esme was in pain, and that terrified him more than anything he had ever experienced, more then when he went through the fires of transformation. He blurred into motion in the next instant, and hit the forest floor in a fraction of a second. The glass window of his office was shattered, not that he cared in that moment, all that mattered was Esme. He barely noticed when he was joined by the Denali less than half a mile out from the house.

The coven had been arguing in whispers about what they were going to do about the impending attack from the Volturi, and it had nearly split them apart. If the Volturi had gotten here earlier than they thought, and attacked Esme, this might be the final straw, the moment when her own coven might dissolve and never come back together. It was something Tanya didn't want to think about, but was a very real possibility.

The Denali members all wore their worry on their faces, Tanya in particular was scared by the sheer agony conveyed in the scream. Nothing good could come from a sound like that. Whatever she was going through was going to change Carlisle in a very permanent way, and she wasn't sure he was strong enough to survive another loss. Yet they moved as one toward the source of the scream.

A mile later Carlisle and the Denali came upon an otherwise insignificant clearing to find Esme still shaking from the force of her scream. Carlisle started looking around to make sure that she hadn't been attacked, and a look of confusion crossed his face when he realized she wasn't in danger. She was surrounded by different scattered piles of branches and leaves, as if she had ripped them down in a rage.

He opened his mouth to speak, but was interrupted when the entire Swan coven showed up suddenly. Isabella and Alice led, followed shortly after by Eliza and Bree, and then finally Emmett, Jasper, Rosalie, Adara, and two of the wolf shifters, They all stopped short, their expressions cautious as they saw Carlisle and the Denali's there.

The only one who seemed completely oblivious to the whole thing was Esme, who was on her hands and knees with her head pressed against the ground in front of her.

"Esme, are you okay?" Carlisle asked with more than a little desperation. He had never seen her like this before. Except once, the night he found her in the morgue after they brought her in broken and battered. How she had survived was remarkable, and that strength of spirit convinced him to turn her. Only he might not have tried had he known why she was so broken at the time. Although he never regretted his decision, he wondered if the reason she had leapt off that cliff had stayed with her all these years. Had the loss of her family, and her first adopted son in particular driven her mad, or maybe it had broken her will beyond his ability to repair it.

Esme lifted her head, but didn't look at her husband. Ignoring his question entirely. Instead, she turned her head to fix her gaze on Isabella. She was silent for what seemed like an eternity as her eyes took in her coven as a whole, but then focused on the point where Isabella and Alice's fingers were intertwined.

She stared at their hands for the longest of moments, before she finally spoke, her voice was soft, but carried to everyone present.

"Isabella, I know I don't deserve it… but I… have to know something. If you'll answer a question for me?" The words came out very stilted, and a bit formal. Esme's strained to hold onto her composure, because it hurt to talk to any of them like this, as an outsider with a request. It was tearing her up inside. The turmoil was reflected in her face when she spoke. Carlisle moved to take her in his arms, but before he took more than a step she held up her hand, without even looking at him, commanding him to halt. It stopped him in his tracks.

"What is it you want to know?" Isabella said, feeling a strange sense of tension. She found herself resisting the urge to walk over and give Esme as much comfort as she could. A frown crossed her face as she realized the impulse came from a place of love. For a moment she thought she was just feeling Alice's emotions. However after a moment it struck her, that while Alice was certainly feeling those emotions, she wasn't alone in them. Bella realized she still had deep feelings for Esme and her presence, more than she would've ever been able to admit before.

"All those years ago, would you have chosen us, chosen Alice, if you were actually given the choice?" Esme spoke quietly, but her question carried a heavy sense of importance with it. The question elicited several slight sighs and gasps from the large group gathered, but no one spoke up.

Esme's eyes move from Isabella's to Alice's, and finally absorbed the changes in both of them. From brilliant ruby red of Isabella's eyes, to the startling bright green of Alice's and the obvious height difference. Alice must have gained at least two inches in height and nearly four in hair length. She wanted to ask why, to ask how. But she restrained herself as she had asked a far more important question. Then her eyes flicked down to their joined hands again, and they lingered there as she awaited an answer.

Isabella knew what Esme was asking. It was the same question that she should have been asked a century before. Was it too late for her to ask now? Isabella wasn't sure if there was an answer, but she knew what her answer was back then, and what it was now that the Cullen's had become a part of her life again.

" I begged him to take me with him." Isabella's voice was bitter, but not as angry as it had been before. No one spoke for several seconds before she continued, this time her voice was filled with a very different emotion beyond simple bitterness, it mirrored the loss Emse felt in her entire being in that moment. "All of you were my family. I made my choice, and he didn't care. His selfishness cost me all of you. He cost me the love of my life for over a century. The only good things to come out of that were my daughters."

Isabella's response was gentle, but carried great import of its own. As she stared at Esme, a look of conflict and confidence came across in a smile that almost no one would've expected see on Isabella's face. It wasn't a bitter and mocking smile, nor was it a feral smile that heralded pain, but a genuine one. The first that Esme had seen on her. Esme flicked her gaze up, and locked her eyes with Isabella's for what seemed like an eternity.

Then she nodded once, and snapped her fingers down at the brush in front of her. A spark ignited from the tips, and a flare up of matches lit up the night, Then she tossed the book on the leaves and twigs in front of her, which caught fire almost instantly. It grew within seconds into a bonfire, even though there was almost no visible fuel. Then everyone realized that the thick smoke billowing off it was a deep purple.

It took several more seconds for the realization to set in. Nearly everyone gasped, but no one tried to move to save the remains of the vampire Esme had set on fire.

Carlisle feel to his knees, staring at the fire raging in front of him. He knew exactly who was under the burning blanket of rotten leaves and twigs, and that it was far too late to save his son. He stared for a few seconds more, and then buried his face in his hands.

The Denali stared in shock. They had been witness to the drama that had unfolded for the past week, as well as had been privy to everything that happened, but the idea that it might push Esme to do something like this was astonishing. None of them had words.

The former Cullen's stared as well. Emmett, Jasper, and Adara staring at the flames, with equally dumfounded expressions. Rosalie's expression was one of muted satisfaction, and concern as her eyes flicked between Esme and the fire.

Alice wasn't even looking at the fire, she was watching Isabella, concern on her face. Edward being dead didn't really bother her. She was more concerned about the emotions that it would bring up in her mate.

Isabella was also staring in shock. She was as much astounded by the fact that Esme had done this, as she was by the fact that she was seeing Edward's funeral pyre right in front of her. Very nearly her entire life had been colored by his presence. She didn't realize how much of her emotions were tied up into Edward's fate. Although she wasn't sure which affected her more, the fact that she had wanted to see him dead for going on ninety years, or the idea that Esme had just, for all intents and purposes, set fire to her son.

Esme watched the fire and sighed once, it was over. He was finally gone. She turned away from the flames, knowing she would never look back. She turned to face her daughter again, the one that Edward had kept from her for over a century, and she met her eyes fully once more.

"Esme?" Carlisle said before Esme could say anything else. She broke eye contact with Isabella and turned halfway towards her husband, but didn't look directly at him. Carlisle had finally gotten back onto his feet, but was unsteady enough that Tanya was helping him stand. He was still staring that the fire, a look of grief on his face. "Why?"

"Someone had to put him down, he was nothing more than a monster. As soulless as he always claimed he was. I couldn't let that thing endanger my children for another moment." She sneered at the flames even though she didn't look at them. Then she tried to look at Carlisle, but found that she couldn't. She couldn't blame him for the grief that he was feeling over the loss of their false son. She wished she didn't have to be responsible for that grief, but paradoxically she found herself irrationally angry at Carlisle for feeling it.

She immediately tried to toss those thoughts from her mind, and was partially successful. It wasn't Carlisle's fault for the way Edward had turned out. Edward had fooled him just like he'd fooled everyone else. She couldn't let herself fall into that hole, but she also couldn't quite accept him as he was either. She knew, however unfair it was, that Carlisle would have to put Edward behind him, if she was ever going to be able to accept him again.

She hoped that their relationship would survive this. She loved him, and prayed he could find a way to understand why she had done what she had done, and move on. If that meant he turned his back on her, she could accept that, no matter how much it broke her heart.

Silence filled the clearing, no one knew what to say. It was Esme who once again broke the silence.

"I'll just… go. None of you need me here anymore." Esme said with clear reluctance. She didn't want to leave, she couldn't imagine her life without these people. At the same time she couldn't bring herself to go into the flames with Edward. He wasn't worth following into the next life. She couldn't go to Isabella because had already rejected her once, and Esme wasn't sure she couldn't handle a second rejection. So she turned away from the fire, and both groups, making it clear of her intentions, then she began to walk away. Her footfalls silent as she made to leave the clearing, and their lives forever.

"No." The voice ringing through the clearing caused Esme to stop though she didn't turn around.

"No." Isabella repeated, only this time her voice came from directly behind her. Esme hadn't even heard her move, and jumped when she felt a hand come to rest gently on her shoulder. Still she didn't turn around, she couldn't face her.

Isabella's voice was soft, and it sounded very much like she was talking out her own feelings to herself as much as explaining them verbally. "I…. don't want you to go." She paused for a moment, like she had metaphorically cleared a lump from her throat.

When she started again, Isabella's voice was noticeably stronger, "You're the only mother I have left. You're the only real mother I've ever known. Ren... Renee was more like a best friend than a parent. You loved me in a way that I had never had, and when you...were gone it felt like there was a hole that could never be replaced. I'm tired of feeling empty. You are a part of me, of us… and I want you back... if you can accept me for who I am now." Isabella's voice sounded nervous at the end, though she could feel the flow of elation from Alice, and a similar but more muted flow from Eliza and Bree.

Esme turned her head looked at her, and the vacant dead expression on Esme's face melted. A warm smile crossed her lips, and she rushed the two steps to Isabella and buried her head in her shoulder, hugging her harder than she had ever been able to before. A moment later Isabella wrapped her arms around her, and buried her own head in Esme's shoulder. She could feel the younger woman let go of her pent up emotions, and it was more than she had hoped for. Then she a second pair of arms around her, and knew that Alice had joined them. Esme gathered her wits together, even though she was at the point of an emotional breakdown, "I can't tell you how much I've missed you Isabella."

Isabella's reply was so soft that Esme thought she might have imagined it, and knew she was the only one that could hear it. "You can call me Bella."

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Wooo! Chapter!

1) Holy shit. We just did that.

2) Sharp-Eyed Shout outs go to IronicArcangel (who is FEMALE) and Chester Gavin for your amazing reviews, and to a guest who signed as Larry for catching a small error in an earlier chapter!

3) Samantha's Author's Notes: So yeah, that happened. We really just had Esme kill Edward. If this is something you just can't buy, or totally hate, blame me. I was the one that suggested it. We couldn't figure out how to have Isabella and the coven go after Edward, and retain the progress they've made since it would be based entirely on revenge. They would be hunting him down like an animal, and executing him. That just didn't work on every level.

Esme's actions, although similar, were different in one significant way. She was protecting her family, she was not seeking revenge perse. Does that make her actions more palatable? I leave that to you guys. I can say this, it was not a decision we made lightly, nor was it just done for shock value. Esme literally made the most sense, no matter how horrible it felt to bring her character to that place. We also felt it was more than time to bring Esme and Isabella together. It feels strange to say that Isabella just got her mother back, but in very real way, she has.

We haven't forgotten any characters, and Charlie and Angela will be coming soon.

That being said, I'd like to clear up the timeline a little. This chapter takes place on the same night chronologically as the meeting with the Quileute Council, which is the same night as the events in Chicago. When Esme kills Edward, Charlie and Angela have just packed Zoey up into a car. In other words, some time is going to need to pass before certain elements come together. So please bear with us.

4) A lot has happened in this night!

5) We are very very nervously awaiting reader responses for this chapter. It was huge in terms of impact, emotional fallout and the amount of emotion we put into it. I hope it paid off.

As always. Read and review!