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Love You Like I Do

Summary:
None of them could have imagined a world where he was gone because it had never been plausible. It was unfathomable, irrelevant - there was no world in which he did not exist and so their minds could not comprehend when he ceased to simply be. He was alive, as alive as any of them could be, and then he just wasn't.


Notes:
Co-written with _SuperSmiley.


1. Bones Shatter

Rating 0/5   Word Count 9578   Review this Chapter

“On my heart I'll bear the shame, No prayer can ease the pain
No one will love you, No one will love you the way I do.”
Love You Like I Do – HIM

How fragile bliss can be, and how easily happiness is shattered. It takes only an infinitesimal moment for the world which we have so carefully constructed to come crashing down. In that moment, in the minute span of time it takes for the mind to comprehend the painful truth, there is nothing. None of them could have imagined a world where he was gone because it had never been plausible. It was unfathomable, irrelevant - there was no world in which he did not exist and so their minds could not comprehend when he ceased to simply be. He was alive, as alive as any of them could be, and then he just wasn't. It took an eternity for him to fall and his yells echoed long after Esme fled. She watched with the knowledge that she could do nothing but honor his request and run. Run. Run away from her soul mate, run away from her true love, run away and leave him to die. But he asked it of her, and so she did. Some part of her knew that if she died too, his death would have been in vain. He was dying to protect her - to protect their family, and she had to go on. Somehow, she made her legs move. She made them move, one in front of the other, and she ran. Her body was wracked with empty, tear less sobs, and she had to fight not to go back as the howls of the monsters that took her beloved sounded, like gleeful laughter.

Not even as the smell of smoke reached her nostrils - too sweet, vampire smoke, death - she forced herself forward. Trembling, gasping for breath, she shoved her way through the brush, the tree branches whipping against her cold, hard skin, and she clutched her chest, as if she would shatter into nothing if she didn't hold herself physically together. It was like something inside of her was exploding, trying to force its way out, pounding against her ribcage and she realized what it felt like - a heartbeat. Of course she had none but the knowledge that he would not be behind her, following her home to safety, made her dead heartache as though it was trying to break open her chest. The sounds that assaulted her were hollow, muffled - as if someone had put cotton in her ears. Her throat was dry and the air that passed through it was dry and tasteless. Nothing had color anymore, nothing had taste. She almost stopped - realizing that in that second, she couldn't recall the sound of his voice or of his laugh. Could she loose him that soon? No, of course it was only the panic and grief blocking her memories of him, her mind trying desperately to shield itself from the reality and the sorrow. Carlisle Cullen, her love, her best friend, her soul - he would never pull her close or laugh or whisper love in her ears. He would never save another life - he couldn't have saved his own.

"No!" She choked out, her voice raspy and strained. She couldn't think about him, she couldn't remind herself of the truth, not if she was going to make it home. She wanted to curl up and let the emptiness swallow her, let the void take her over. But her children, they needed her. Whatever had killed him wasn't going to stop, and she owed him that didn't she? She hadn't felt pain before this - not in loosing her human child and not in the burn, nothing could compare. The only reason she had now to go on were her children. As she broke through the tree line, the images of Carlisle - his smile, the way he had approached them and introduced himself - tentative but open - and the glint in their eyes, the growls that erupted from their massive throats as they charged him. She felt that if she could cry, she would never stop. She could see the house; hear their voices - unknowing of the threat and of their loss. Carlisle. Was. Dead. His eyes burned with rage - something she had never seen there before, and the words fell from his full lips, desperation and horror marred in the velvet tone -

"Run, Esme!"

But she couldn't - not anymore. Vampires didn't get tired and yet, she felt beyond exhausted. She fell to her knees, dirt caked on her pants, slender fingers digging into the damp earth, her vision blurry, her mind spinning. She heard a vicious snarl, and she couldn't even muster the will to feel afraid as she sunk into the back.

* * * *

It happened very suddenly, and without warning. One moment, everything was normal - Jasper was laying on the couch, Alice was upstairs with Rosalie, Emmett was watching baseball and Edward was playing Bella's lullaby on the piano. Bella was visiting the wolves in La Push, and while Edward wasn't happy about it, he knew Bella would be waiting a seven o'clock for his silver Volvo to pull up at the treaty line. Alice had coerced her into a sleepover, and Edward wasn't exactly falling over himself with remorse. He didn't care why Bella was coming, just that she was. Of course, she wouldn't be thrilled that Alice's plans ultimately included talks about the wedding but that couldn't be helped. He smiled to himself at the thought. Silly Bella. And then, Alice let out a strangled gasp. Jasper was off the couch and up the stairs to her side in a non existent heartbeat. It was a fraction of a second while Edward focused on her mind, on what she had seen and the piano keys made a violent crunching sound and he stood with such force that the grand piano groaned and flew back toward the wall. Emmett jumped up and after stopping it from going out the window onto the front lawn, he turned to regard Edward curiously. However, his brother was gone. What Edward had seen made him quiver with rage and confusion, his eyes smoldering, unable to even focus on the wreck he had made of his piano long enough to care. He flew out of the house, his mind demanding that was Alice had seen was a lie, that she was wrong. Alice was never wrong. Alice cried desperately after him.

"Be careful!"

Emmett was behind him, but he didn't even really notice. At the same moment he reached the tree line of the backyard, through Esme's garden, a creature burst through the brush. She was unrecognizable for a moment, her face twisted in a madness from a pain Edward couldn't comprehend. Not yet, but soon. Soon he would understand. Her hair was wild, dirt and leaves clinging around her heart shaped face. Her dark eyes filled with... nothing. Her eyes said nothing, and that terrified him. Esme's eyes were always warm and alert and sparkling with love and now they were empty. She fell, gasping for breath, and as porcelain skin collided with black dirt, her eyes closed as she shook and sobbed, kneading the ground in her hands as if clutching at something that only she could see.
"Esme!" Emmett's deep booming voice brought him back from his own thoughts. He heard his bear of a brother move forward, and he flung his arm out to stop him.
"Emmett - go back. Please." a strained, pain filled whisper.
"What?! Hell no! Look at her, Edward, what’s wrong with-" his voice was panicked, incredulous.
"I don't know, I can't hear her! Please, Emmett, go!" he snarled. Emmett responded with a growl and tried once more to move against Edward's arm but he wouldn't budge, and with one last desperate glance back at Esme, he ran back inside. Edward could hear him speaking to them, his voice wild and even louder then normal in its hysteria. However, the words meant very little. Right now, as hard as it was to see her this way, as painful as it was to see her broken, he couldn't tear his gaze from his mother. There was blood on her, animal blood. It made sense, they had been hunting. They. Carlisle. Where was he? He would know how to help Esme, maybe he would even know what happened. But where was he? Why wasn't he here? If he had known Esme was like this, he never would have left her, not by his own will. Oh, god. No. No. No, his mind was just running away on him, Carlisle would be here soon. He took a careful step forward and knelt, scooping Esme up. He cradled her close to him and cast one glance at the tree line. Some part of him knew that Carlisle wouldn't be coming home, a distant part that knew the truth through the need for this to be a mistake, and the pain that hit him at the thought almost knocked him over like a physical blow. Esme was silent in his arms, even as his arms tightened around her. It would have crushed Bella's arms, broken her bones. But for once, in what seemed like an eternity, Bella was not the first thing on his mind.

Stop it, Esme is the priority, get her inside.

He commanded himself. He nodded once to no one in particular and less then a second later he was inside the house. He was bombarded with questions and demanding thoughts - Emmett, who had done as Edward asked but still wanted answers, Alice, who was running through the vision again and again - making him flinch accordingly - crushing her body against Jasper's, who was having a hard time controlling himself as the emotions of those around him assaulted him without rest and Rose - Rose was clearly confused. She didn't know what was going on and she was wondering why the hell the piano was cracked almost in half and how it had made its way across the room. Her thoughts seemed so mundane to him but what bothered him even more that he could hear her. It made the silence of Esme's mind become the loudest sound of all. Her thoughts stopped cold when she turned to Edward, and gasped.

"Esme!" her voice was a strangled moan and she raced to his side, pushing back Esme's hair and stroking her cheek. Edward moved with her, setting his mother down on the couch. At the same time, Alice shoved her way out of Jasper's arms where he had been attempting to stop her from running outside and she ran to the couch, her small body shaking with dry sobs, flinging her arms around Esme's motionless form. Emmett was pacing and forth, a furious growl seemingly endless as it built in his chest only to reach crescendo in a strangled moan and restart again. No one seemed to register the other blond haired vampire who was gritting his teeth in an effort to remain silent as waves of pain crashed over him, threatening to pull him under. Not even his darling Alice who seemed equally consumed with sorrow and loss and confusion. There was no time for sympathy now though. Rose straightened up, her jaw tight, fists clenched at her side, taking a small step back from where Alice sat, clinging to Esme.

"What happened here, Edward." she hissed, her eyes smoldering. Emmett stopped pacing, but remained silent, casting a fleeting glance at his wife.

"I...I don't know. Something went wrong." his voice was hollow as he spoke, his gaze not leaving the carpet at his feet, shaking his head. "I don't know what to do...Carlisle...he..." he couldn't say the words even though somehow even without any evidence he knew them to be true.

"Edward Cullen, now is not the time for being helpless or whatever it is you are right now - Read her mind, already!" There was a long pause, and he finally looked up at her, finding Emmett standing behind her and he let out a soft sigh.

"I....I can't. It's blank, Rose, I don't know what happened but... Carlisle is..."

Jasper let out a sharp gasp at the same moment his wife spoke.
"Don't you say it, Edward! You don't know! You don't know for sure so you - you don't say it!" Alice cried, furious, finally releasing Esme and seemingly realizing Jasper's state, found her place at his side. He was snarling, his jaw clenched, his whole body shaking and leaning forward slightly as if off balance. He was fighting a loosing battle and Edward read it in his thoughts. Pain -more then he had ever known during war, before Alice - there was nothing to compare it too. Edward moaned and at that moment, Jasper gripped the stair rail and it screeched and finally gave into his grip. Edward flinched and Rose turned to Emmett shaking her head, her eyes questioning.

"Bear? I...I'm scared, what’s happening?"

Emmett frowned and pulled her close, whispering soothing words in his wife’s ear, shooting daggers at Edward who had resumed staring at the floor, sliding down the wall and holding his head in his hands.

"Edward, come on - we have a fortune teller and a freakin’ mind reader here, you are telling me no one knows what’s going on?" Emmett growled, angry now for the pain this was causing Rose and simply for not knowing - that was the hardest part, the not knowing. There came a pained moan from Jasper, who despite Alice trying to hold him, wouldn't allow it. Instead, he was clutching his chest like a heart attack victim and staggered to keep his balance.

"W-what’s going on? C-Carlisle's not coming home." he spat, his voice a low, dead snarl. His face looked paler - if that was possible, and his hair was falling into his face. His mouth was pulled tight in an emotionless frown and his eyes were black. Alice whimpered, and grabbed for his arm. He avoided it, and gasping for breath he didn't need, he found his body leaning against the wall for support.

"Jasper!" Alice pleaded. Rosalie's eyes went wide and she clung to Emmett, burying her face in his neck. Emmett blinked, and turned on Edward, waiting for some conformation.

"You don't know that, don't... it can't be, Edward, tell him its not true..." Alice's voice no longer convincing, but weak and defeated. "It can't be..."

Jasper shook his head, and closed his eyes, his breathing shallow and pained.
"I can feel it! She knows it, and I can feel it. Carlisle is dead. And our mother would have been too, if not for him. I'm right, aren't I, Edward? As blank as her mind is, you still k-know it." it seemed like it took monumental effort for him to even speak and this time when Alice locked her tiny arms around his waist he didn't resist. Emmett, his face blank, turned once more to Edward, who was nodding.

"Yes."

"No! No!" Emmett bellowed, detangling himself from Rosalie before proceeding to throw a few punches into the wall, leaving an Emmett sized hole. "What are we doing here? Let's find what did this and tear it apart!"

That snapped Edward out of his shock-like trance, and he snarled. Of course, Emmett would want that. All fight, all bite. He was so impulsive sometimes - and the thought of acting on impulse made him think of Carlisle. Yes, Carlisle could be impulsive. It wasn't something you could normally associate with the doctor but when it came to trusting people, to trying to connect with people and things, he acted first. This time, he had acted and whatever had reacted had killed him.

"What, you want to end up dead? You think he would want that? Whatever did this is stronger then us, understand?"

"Who made you boss, Edward, huh? Carlisle might not have liked fighting, but I bet he didn't like dying either!" Emmett countered. Rose retreated to the couch, cradling Esme against her in an almost maternal way.

"Stop it, both of you! Don't you see we are all in pain here? Being stupid and rash won't help at all!" Alice interrupted, trying to sound calmer then she felt. Jasper was having a very hard time not unleashing the pain he was feeling on everyone and he shook violently as she stroked his hair. She could feel it - on some level the connection they shared gave her a glimpse into it and she knew he was a ticking time bomb. Edward's eyes flashed, forcing himself not to wish for Carlisle, not to wonder what Carlisle would do.

"Get him out of here - this is hurting him more then us and if it hurts him it will eventually hurt us too. Go, find help. This has got to be killing him, Alice, and it’s only making it worse." Edward demanded, and Alice, with a glance at Esme, let out a whimper. She helped Jasper up, and moved to the door. Rose looked up.

"Where will you go?"

"Alaska. We will return as soon as we can, with help. I promise." she said simply, her eyes far away, her face drawn with grief.

"You are going to leave, with Esme like this?" There was no mistaking the judgment and anger in Rosalie's voice.

Jasper replied through clenched teeth. "You think it hurts now? If I don't get out of here, I won't be able to control it and it will be hell. I'm sorry, but I can't stand it. She will understand."

Before Rose could come up with a snarky reply, Edward cut in, shaking his head.

"They won't do any good here and we are going to need the others, Rose. Whatever did this is still out there and we can't face this alone." Edward snapped, and with a pained glance over her shoulder and a single nod, Alice was gone with Jasper. It was suddenly very silent and he hated it. Silence gave Edward room to think and he didn't want to think right now. Thinking was bad, hearing the thoughts of the other two non-comatose vampires was even worse and he needed to distract himself, and soon. There was nothing he could do right now, not until Esme woke up and told them what happened. He suppressed a frustrated snarl. He hated being so helpless, so useless! His father was dead and he couldn’t do anything. Even Alice and Jasper were finding a way to help – they would get Tanya and the others and when they returned they would figure it out together. But that would be days, and he couldn’t sit in the house and listen to the silence of Esme’s mind and the fury and sadness of his siblings. “If she wakes up,” he began, standing and using the wall for support, his fists clenched, “Call me. I need to get Bella – I need to warn her and the wolves. I will return immediately, but if there is any change…”

Emmett nodded. “We’ll let you know.” He replied tightly, seemingly answering for both himself and Rose who was finger combing Esme’s long hair. Bella. He needed her now more then he had ever needed her before. She made sense, she was constant, and in a matter of hours his life had been irrevocably altered beyond repair. He couldn’t even feel guilty – Jasper was right: whatever they had to do, Esme would understand.

* * * *

Hunting was a necessity, not necessarily something to be enjoyed, or a hobby of sorts as Emmett and Jasper may have regarded it. It was a need, not a want; like a human having to go shopping for food. Maybe you didn't want too, but if you didn't, you would die. Carlisle regarded hunting as such; a necessity, not a hobby. He didn’t think he could ever view it as a hobby. No matter what he thought of it, hunting animals would always surpass hunting humans. Carlisle didn’t condone to the killing of humans, not even ones whom deserved to die; he had too much compassion for his own good. It had been a simple hunting trip - a few hours where he found himself alone with his wife. It was easy, and he didn't have to think about it. He wasn't prepared. So many things happened at once. Since he was a vampire, Carlisle could take in so much of the scene around him, so much more than a human did when their life was about to end. He couldn’t really see anything too intricately, just Esme’s face wherever he turned. If anything, he had to save her life. Her eyes reflected the stars to him; that meant so much more than “I love you”. He loved her more than that… and now she was going to die, too. Had he saved her so many years ago only to witness her death now?

NO!

He couldn’t let that happen to her. The good doctor just wouldn’t allow it. Whilst his attempt at making peace with The Children of the Moon hadn’t passed with good success, he’d discovered one thing about them; they were ruthless, and they would not spare Esme even if he begged them not to harm her. The scholar in him had wanted to know what they were, wanted to understand. The human in him had wanted to make friends - some kind of connection. It was what made him who he was, and it seemed it would be what killed him now. The thought was thick with irony.

“Esme…” he whispered, keeping his eyes locked on to the wolves approaching at a vast rate. They were huge - larger then the La Push pack and their size made them even more threatening. “Run.” He instructed. “Listen to me,” he ran beside her, knowing that the both of them running would do no good. “Get out of here. Alert the others; tell them to prepare for something we could never have anticipated, even with Alice’s help.” His voice was strong and full of authority, and yet it was breaking with every second that his wife was put in danger. He struggled to compose himself. Was Carlisle, always calm and in control, losing his sanity? She looked so confused, and her eyes pleaded with him to make her understand, to make everything okay again. “Esme, please!” He struggled to get the words out, to get her to understand.

“Look after them. You have to go on without me.” For a brief moment in this nightmare, all he could see was her. Her beautiful heart shaped face and her eyes brimming, threatening to tear over, if vampires could cry. Yet her face said it all - she was distraught, and Carlisle couldn’t comfort her in the way he wanted to do so. His lips crushed her own, a kiss of earnest and love - he loved her more than anything he could ever imagine, ever picture to be, and in that one kiss he knew that would be their last. He knew, deep down, that he wasn’t going to escape from this. The good doctor, through all his hard work, was coming to an end. Whilst he believed that something waited for him after this inevitable death, he couldn’t picture himself without Esme. That struggle to contain his anguish was reaching past it’s peak, it’s breaking point - he had little time left yet the invisible loop hugging his soul to Esme’s was starting to break.

“Go,” he encouraged, pushing her away. “Esme, run!” He couldn’t hope to fend them off, but as they came for him he pushed Esme from their line of fire, as it were, bracing himself for the impact. Of course, he was not going to go down without a fight, but they were too strong, too strong for him all alone, and he would not risk Esme getting hurt. Never.

The ties all seemed to break. Nothing was on the doctor’s mind aside from his family and his devoted wife, his wife whose eyes reflected the stars. Shakespeare had once said that love was blind. Not in this case. He couldn’t regret any decision he had made that had led him here, but he could regret never being able to see his wife again. His children, his entire family. The loss was greater than the pain he was enduring as they attacked him; stronger than anything he’d fought before, trying to fend them off but not succeeding. All the while he could hear Esme’s feet race back towards the house, and all the while he willed her to go further, knowing that she could, and all the while knowing that she would never hear him again.

Knowing that he would never see her smiling face again.

The unbreakable bond was now broken.

****

She should have been watching, trying to see them and yet the thought had never occured to her. They were her parents in every sense of the word and they never needed looking after. They would return, like always, their eyes a little more golden then before and Alice never doubted that. In the split second when her world was turned upside down, she felt that she could have stopped it somehow, seen it coming, saved Esme from whatever had seemingly broken her. There were trees, green and brown and flashes of sunlight. There was the cool, shaded earth and the sound of sharp gasping breath and the sound of tearless sobs. There was smoke, sweet, sickening vampire smoke but she couldn't find the source. There was the sound of animals, wolves maybe, howls and barks. And there was Esme, pale and trembling and her body shaking with sobs. There was Esme, her mother, her friend, on the ground, as if there was nothing else she could do but lay down and wait to die. The swatch of silk fabric fell from her slender fingers and the mixture of a scream and gasp that had been building in her chest found its way from behind her lips as she found herself once more in Rosalie's room. Rose rushed to her, and she fell back against the taller woman, shaking and gasping for breath. Esme. It didn't even occur to her the relevance of what she hadn't seen. She hadn't seen Carlisle, she hadn't seen the before - it was like she had walked in on the middle of a film and missed the part that explained how Esme had gotten there. As Rose questioned her quietly and she heard her husband enter the room, she closed her eyes, screwed up her face and tried to see it again. Had she missed it? She didn't understand and it terrified her. Yes, Esme was in danger, yes, something was wrong - but what? What good were visions if she couldn't see anything else that would help her understand. Rose was gone, the cool arms replaced by Jasper's strong hold, pleading with her to calm down, to explain what she had seen. But still, she forced herself back, trying to bring the vision back, play it back. Where was the beginning, the event that lead to this? There was nothing, just a blur, an absence of picture and color and sound. She clenched her fists, gritting her teeth. What wasn't she seeing? What was there didn't matter, it was what wasn't there. His breath, cool on her cheek.

"Alice, my love?"

"Jasper - Esme!" she choked out, finally opening her eyes, and finding his. He nodded once.

"Edward's gone to find her."

She tried to explain, wishing she could just show him - the words she needed to explain didn't exist. Why hadn't she seen it, why hadn't she been able to stop it? It wasn't her fault and some distant part of her knew that and yet she couldn't help but feel asthough she had let them down somehow. Let them all down. Through explaining, she realized what she missed. She pushed herself away from Jasper, and tried to look into the future. There was their family, and then some blurred out spots, like parts of the future had been cut out or erased altogether - Bella and Edward, Bella, as always, a vampire. But where was he? Where was their leader, their father, their mentor and confidant? He didn't exist in their future, he was no where. He didn't stand at the alter as her brother’s bestman, he didn't give Esme that rose colored diamond necklace for valentines day she knew he had planned on giving. She searched for him, trying to see and knowing there would be nothing. It was as if he had no future now - the thread had been cut. But that couldn't be possible, she wouldn't accept it. She made mistakes, she missed things - but she knew she wasn't wrong now. That knowledge was enough to rip her back to the present and send her to the ground as she felt the sharp pain well in her chest and spread to her fingers and toes. Carlisle was gone. He was dead. He had no future because he no longer lived and she couldn't see outcome of decisions he wouldn't be around to make. She was aware of Emmett's voice,and the gritting of Jasper's teeth as he helped her to stand. She was aware of the sound of Edward's steps as he carried Esme back to the house and she could hear Rosalie muttering under her breath - trying to sound annoyed and only managing to sound terribly afraid.

Her mind went back to her husband, his breathing now shallow and pained. She couldn't imagine how he was feeling and she didn't want to cause him pain but that’s all she knew then, the loss and the absence of the blond man who had welcomed her into his family with open arms and loved her. He helped her, shaking and whimpering like a child, to stand and lead her to the stairwell, where numbness seemed to swell. She wasn't ready for what she saw even though she had seen it only moments before. Here it was, laid out before her and it was real. If this was real then so was the awful truth of the man she held such love for. Jasper held her close, and she struggled. She wanted to go, to see for herself, to prove to herself she was wrong - being insane, finally snapping and being crazy was better then the reality. She was at Esme's side a moment later, her arms thrown around the slender woman who looked as though she had looked death in the face. "Please, be okay. I need you, we need you, please don't leave us..." she whimpered, knowing that if she could cry she would be drowning. She knew only a few things for certain. Carlisle was dead, Esme had been there, and Esme had returned to them something less then when she had left. It all happened too fast, just too fast. "I love you, Esme." she breathed against her mother's cheek, burying her face in her neck, inhaling deeply. She smelled like honey and oranges and lilacs and grass after the rain. But there was blood and fear and other smells that didn't belong. Despite knowing there was nothing to see, she tried looking anyway. She wished suddenly that she could see the past. The past, which had never been of much consequence to her, was where the truth lay, buried in Esme's mind and she wasn't callous enough to ask even if she thought her mother would respond. She remembered the way Bella had been, when Edward had left.

She'd checked up on her after the fact, even if Edward asked her not too. It was good he wasn't around or else he would of had to see it too - she had decided not to take her life or anything stupid like that but she had done something much worse. She had become numb, taken any memory of Edward, of the family, and tried to shove it away. She couldn't - she wouldn't allow herself to forget them but at the same time what Bella had become was an empty, lifeless shell - existing in a world that no longer held anything for her. Of course she had come back to them as soon as she had seen Alice - it was as if they had never been gone, and so that gave Alice some hope that Esme would be okay. Oh, but the pain - she remembered Jasper telling her about the pain. If, during the first few weeks of their return, Edward had left her without notice, even if for a moment when she dozed off and he moved to close to window, she would wake instantly, anxious and panicked and the pain would return. It had taken weeks of Edward refusing to leave her at all, even to hunt, before she could understand that he was never going to leave her again. It had taken weeks after still for Jasper to be able to be around her - it was terribly difficult for him to be around her nervousness and timidness and emotional instability. But, the point was, she had gotten better. With time, and resounding promises from not only Edward but herself that there was nothing in the world that could take them from her, she got better and the pain stopped.

Alice knew she would always remember and the ache would never leave her memory completely - the pain had led her to Jacob and the pain had made it even more clear that there was no way she could be whole without and him and so, she would never forget. Esme, if she got better, wouldn't forget. Bella had come close to seeing Edward killed but Esme... well, she could only assume that whatever it was that had cut Carlisle's thread short hadn't been very kind and hadn't done it in mercy. Carlisle would have never allowed himself to be taken without a fight and it would have taken someone strong and very powerful to beat him and to stop Esme from joining in. Esme would have never stepped aside to let Carlisle die unless he had asked it of her and he would have only asked it of her if it was the only way, if it was the only way to keep her alive even if he was marked for dead. She couldn't imagine loosing Jasper - god, the thought was painful and she forced the thought to leave her head. Jasper. Her head snapped up and she glanced over at him, as a snarl ripped from her throat and her glare turned on Edward.

"Don't you say it, Edward! You don't know! You don't know for sure so you - you don't say it!" She cried desperately. Saying it would make it real, it would make it true and she couldn't help it - she felt helpless and she knew she sounded petulant but she couldn't hear the words. She found her place at her husband’s side swiftly, watching in horror as his lips formed the words and his voice spoke the terrible truth. Carlisle wasn't coming home. "Jasper!" It was even worse hearing it in his voice, sweet and deep and like honey but now full of pain. She felt like she was being torn apart - rationally she knew it was true and yet the human in her, the daughter in her, still expected him to walk in the door, telling them it would all be okay. The sun was setting, and it was no longer beautiful. It was a deep orange and the clouds that surrounded it were tinged crimson. Red, like the blood that had been spilled. Yes, the sun would rise again tomorrow as it always did, but it would rise, a hollow, empty thing. It would never shine as brightly as it had when it had risen that morning when Carlisle Cullen had lived.

* * * *

Time passed in the silence and Esme could hear the voices of her children. Sweet, sweet Rose. She never left her side. Emmett, her big strong bear of a son, his voice was deep and strong and it soothed her as much as anything could. From their conversation, she knew Alice and Jasper – her most sensitive and quiet son and her bubbly and energetic daughter – were headed to Alaska. Edward didn’t speak often and his presence came and went – sometimes Bella was with him and she could hear Bella’s wet sobs. She was the only being in the house that could cry true tears and Esme tried to remember why she was crying, why everyone was so sad. Why the black was eating a hole in her heart and why she couldn’t remember what laughter sounded like or what it felt like to be happy. Happy was something she tried to remember but it was like hope – she couldn’t reach it. She was aware of something terrible, some change but her mind, in its attempt to protect itself, had become mercifully numb. Time passed and she passed in and out of the black – never sleeping, never fading from consciousness but fading in and out of the hollow void. His name, the memory of his face – they were blurry and it hurt, a sharp, devastating pain, to even try and conjure the memories. She figured that… perhaps that was a clue to stop trying to remember. Remembering caused such pain and when she allowed her mind to be silent, nothing hurt anymore. Now and then a voice would enter her mind, and she shied away from it, retreated from the velvet sound of it that caressed her like a physical thing.

Wake up, my love. They need you. Please, wake up.

She wanted too wake up, but as much as it hurt, she knew if she did, the terrible, painfully beautiful voice would leave her.

A little longer, please. I don’t want to loose you. Just stay with me a while.

She didn’t want to loose her velvet hallucination, not yet. Even when each word sliced into her with a white hot knife, she refused to allow herself to forget the voice. Yes, it hurt to remember, but forgetting wasn’t an option either. And in the black, with the voice, she could hold on to some part of the man she loved.

I am not strong enough to be without you, you know. You have always led this family, you have always been the rock. What am I without you?

You are Esme Cullen, mother of Edward, Emmett, Jasper, Rosalie and Alice and you will soon have another daughter, Bella. You were and are my beautiful wife, my light, my soul. You are stronger then you know and resourceful and there is no part of you I did not love. You will make it okay because when I needed someone, I turned to you. It is true I led the family, it is true they came to depend on me, but who did I depend on? You, my most treasured love. When there was no where for me to turn, there you were. You can do this, Esme. I believe in you and I will always love you. Not even death can take that away. You will make me proud.

This was a very realistic hallucination, she thought absently. Carlisle spoke to her that was often – reassuring, calm, adoring. She assumed, and clearly her thoughts manifested as such, that he would say that. Some part of her wished it was truly him but she knew it was impossible. Still, the thought was nice and the voice, as much as it caused her agony, it was something she welcomed.

* * * *

Bella bit her lip, chewing on it as she shifted her weight from her right foot to her left. Jacob growled behind her, but kept his stance against the frame of his Rabbit. Edward was late. He was never late. He wasn’t even picking up his phone and that made her stomach hurt. Palms sweating a little, she sighed through clenched teeth and brushed hair from her face.
“Is he coming or what?” Jacob grumbled, and Bella shot him a look over her shoulder. He rolled his eyes, throwing his hands up in surrender.
“Fine, just wondering!”
Me too, She thought silently. She sighed once more and looked back at Jacob who was still muttering under his breath. “Jake?”
“Huh?”
“Can you hear anything?”
“Nope, not since last time you asked.” She could have sworn he was smiling a little when he turned away from her. Stupid mutt. Of course he would be happy that Edward was late – it made him look better, didn’t it? Just then Jacob groaned, and took a step forward.
“Spoke to soon, here he comes.”
Bella frowned, and strained to hear. She couldn’t hear anything for a moment, but slowly the gentle hum of tires on gravel became clear. A wide smile spread across her lips and she turned back to Jake, throwing her arms around his neck. He shook his head and smiled despite himself, hugging her back –probably a moment too long, as Edward drove into view.
“Call you later, Jake, love you!” Bella sang over her shoulder as she jogged over to her favorite silver Volvo. The smile faded when she opened the door and slid in. Her smile faded, and as she buckled up and he shifted gears, taking off, her brow knit together.
“Edward? What’s wrong? Did something happen?” she swallowed hard, and swung her bag over the seat into the back. Leaning across, closer to him, she saw his jaw clench and his throat move as he swallowed. His knuckles looked as though the bone would break right through the skin from the grip he had on the steering wheel.
“Edward, you’re going to br-”
“You aren’t hurt in anyway?” he cut her off, his voice deadly soft and full of fury. She tensed and sat back instinctively. Frowning now, she shook her head.
“Of course not – are you honestly still worried about me being with the wolves because Jacob would-”
“I can’t loose you too.” He said, abruptly again, turning to look at her. She hated when he did that – stopped watching the road while he drove. She reached out and touched her hand to his, the coolness of his skin comforting.
“You won’t loose me. Why would you say that?” her voice was small, hurt, worried.
Silence. Then she let out a small, horrified gasp.
“Edward, what do you mean you can’t loose me too? Who did we loose? Did someone get hurt? Please, Edward, tell me!”
He threw the car into park and the car made an angry noise. Bella lurched forward painfully against the seat belt and flinched. Edward’s eyes flitted to the belt and she waved her hand in dismissal. “I’m fine.” She insisted. His eyes met hers again. Bella didn’t even look away to see where they had parked. Her eyes never left his, his angry, liquid eyes.
“Bella, I need you promise me something…”
“Anything, just please tell me what’s going on!”
“I will tell you but you have to promise me.”
She unbuckled, tired of the thing holding her back and she got as close to him as she could without being on top of him. “I promise, whatever it is, I promise.”
“You have to promise… that – that,” he leaned into her, cupping her face in his cold hands. Her hands moved to rest on his wrists and she searched his face for some clue. He swallowed hard.
“You have to promise that if I tell you we are leaving Forks, you will follow me.”
Another pause.
“L-leave Forks? What about Charlie?”
“We’ll come back if we can – if even have to leave. He can come too.”
“What’s happening? What about Angela and the Newton’s and-”
“Bella, we can’t save them all!” Edward’s voice broke, an odd hysterical edge to it. Her hands tightened on his wrists, tears welling in her eyes.
“Edward, I need to know.”
“Promise me, Bella.”
“Edward!”
“Bella, just… please.”
“Of course, I promise! I will follow you anywhere! Tell me what the heck is-”
“Carlisle is dead.”
She shoved his hands away – she pushed and he moved his hands. A million things ran through her head in a fraction of second – vampires can only be killed by vampires and wolves, Carlisle’s smile, playing baseball, a horrible fire, the ballet studio where they killed James, Esme, Alice, Dead?, Pain, pain, loss….
“That’s not funny, Edward Cullen.”
“Does it look to you, Bella, like I’m joking?”
Please be joking, please tell me this is all a big joke. His face didn’t change and she broke.
“No. No, no, no, Carlisle – he c-cant be… no, Edward, there must be some mistake, we can ask Alice!”
“We did. He has no future because he doesn’t exist.” She felt her shoulders start to heave as the panic set in. Tears pouring down her cheeks in hot streams, she scrambled for something to grab onto. Too small, too crowded in the damn car. She found the handle and pushed it open. She backed up, felt herself tumbling out and cold arms encircled her.
“Would you try to be more careful, Bella? Try getting out of the car the normal way, maybe?” his voice was tight and she looked up at him. Fear. Desperation. Cold lips crashed on hers, drinking her tears as her body shook with sobs. There is something in the kiss that scared her. Like if she let him go, he might have just shattered into a million little diamond pieces. It had always been the other way around and it scared her more then it should have.
“Edward, I’m s-so sorry, oh god, I am so sorry.” She moaned against his neck, clinging to him for support. He crushed her to his body and tried to sooth her, her hot tears falling onto his cold skin.
“I don’t understand. Who, Edward, who would want to k-kill – oh god.” She couldn’t even finish the sentence, and he lowered them to the ground where she collapsed into his arms, shaking and sobbing. There is silence, except her sobbing and his voice trying to make the pain stop. He picked her up and took her back to the car. They were just outside of town, the opposite side from where she lives, and he called Charlie. Of course, Alice had taken care of it – She is having a sleepover with Bella. Edward made up a lie, a reason for calling and then he drove them home. Home. Home was strangely empty now, Emmett outside in the back, crushing boulders and breaking things, Rose sitting silently in the living room where she had been since taking Esme upstairs to her bedroom and… still no Carlisle. Rose didn’t even glare at Bella as she tried to stop crying and Edward took her upstairs to Alice’s room to find some pjs. Bella didn’t care about pjs or sleeping or being tired – how could she? Edward insisted, like always. All Bella could do was cry. Carlisle was her father too, her other champion. Edward called Alice once Bella fell asleep.

“Where are you?”
“Just outside of Vancouver – we had to see Jenks. We will fly to Denali tomorrow.”
“Alice… will she…”
“Bella will be okay.”
“And Esme, Alice? What about her?”
“I can still see her. But sometimes, when she decides even for a moment she doesn’t want to wake up, she disappears. I don’t know, Edward.”
“Thank you, Alice. Be safe. We couldn’t survive anything else.”
“Somehow, we will survive. We always do.”

Survive. He knew that was really all they had to do, but it seemed so much harder now that Carlisle was gone.

* * * *

Jasper swallowed hard, and opened his eyes as he felt his loves tiny hand come to rest on the back of his own. “We’ll meet Tanya at the airport and go back with her to Denali. We have to wait for Kate and Irina to return from their hunting trip – Kate had a craving for something from the east coast. I haven’t told Tanya why we are coming yet, but they know it’s rather urgent.”
Jasper turned his head, his golden eyes meeting hers. He tried to smile, and failed. It made Alice’s heart ache a little to see her husband trying so hard to be okay. She lifted his hand and entwined their fingers as she leaned against him. She had been running around all day trying to find a quicker flight but she hadn’t had much success.
Good thing vampires didn’t get tired, she thought, or else I would be exhausted.
She reached up and raked her tiny fingers through his golden curls, smiling as she nuzzled his cheek. She had her legs folded to her chest, her feet up on the chair, and her body was turned more to him. He turned his body to face where she sat and inhaled deeply as she pressed her lips to the line of his jaw. “Jasper? It’s going to be okay. I can see it, and it’s going to be okay.” He nodded so slightly he hardly inclined his head and his eyes fluttered shut for a moment. Then he opened them again, and leaned back so he could hold her gaze.
“I’m sorry, Alice. I mean, for back home. You should be there with her and-”
Alice shook her head and caught his chin gently in her free hand.
“I am exactly where I need to be, Jasper, and Esme would want me to do what I need to do. And what I need to do, right now, darling, is to be with the man I love, trying to figure out how to go forward.” Her hand danced across her face and stroked his scarred cheek. He frowned and looked down, his gaze downcast.
“I just wish I could do something to help.”
“You are helping! You are making me calm and helping me to focus. And… you are keeping me sane, Jasper. I keep seeing all these different outcomes and some of them aren’t so good and I need you here because you are always constant, you are always reality.”
“I will always be here, always.” His eyes smoldered and his pressed his lips gently to hers. She seemed to melt into his arms and he pressed his forehead her to hers, holding her gaze. She smiled, a small smile just for him, so small a human wouldn’t have caught it.
“I know. We’ll make it out of this, Jasper, and we’ll make it out of this together.” She promised, kissing him once more. He believed her. For a moment, in an airport, time stopped. For a moment, a singular moment so fleeting that it shouldn’t have mattered, Carlisle wasn’t gone and the world wasn’t such a dark place to be. He could hold onto that moment for another time when he felt like he was being pulled under and he couldn’t fight the pain anymore. When he felt like he was drowning and being sucked into the void of nothing. Somehow, they would be okay because Alice promised. And if there was anything in this world he trusted beyond all doubt it was Alice’s word.

****

Rosalie Hale wasn’t a cold, unfeeling creature and she had loved Carlisle like a father. Of course, she had had a father as a human but those memories were dull and thinking of them was like a cut with a blunt blade. She had come to love and respect him – he had saved her life and even if there were times when she wasn’t so sure how to felt about that Carlisle had given her life and he had given her Emmett. She owed a lot to him. He had saved her, protected her, given her an alternative to being a monster. And now, she felt as though another piece of the happiness she had constructed around her was being ripped apart. Rosalie had walls, a comfort zone and even if she didn’t always like the things her family did, she did love them and they were the closest to her. They weren’t blocked out, they weren’t kept outside the walls around her heart and so it hurt that much more when he died. Of course, she was glad, and not for the first time in her life, that she couldn’t see the future or read minds.

She didn’t have to see him die; she didn’t have to watch it happen again and again in front of her eyes like she was watching a terribly macabre movie. She was glad that she didn’t have to watch the man who had become her father after her transition into this life as he was killed. She had transitioned from grief to fury quickly – as quickly as Jasper and Alice had decided to leave. She understood and yet it made her so angry! How could they just leave? Couldn’t they see Esme needed them here, her family? Once they had left of course, the air had seemed lighter. It was no longer heavy, it not longer seemed to push down on her like a physical thing and she didn’t feel like her soul was being pulled in several different directions at once. Damn Jasper and his power. She knew he had to go and part of her was almost glad – she didn’t like feeling pain or suffering and Jasper would only make it worse for himself and the rest of them. She locked her jaw and forced herself to stare straight ahead as a blubbering Bella came in bawling her eyes out.

She didn’t dislike Bella – Bella might have been outside the walls of her heart but she had been slowly digging her way under and in. She simply didn’t want to deal with a crying human right now. That and, she was jealous. Bella could cry, Bella could find release in the sobbing and she could find peace in sleep that would come even if she tried to fight it off. Rosalie couldn’t cry and she couldn’t sleep – she was trapped for the entirety of the day, all twenty four hours with no rest from the terrible feeling of hollowness that filled her. Emmett was doing what Emmett did best – making a show of brute strength and breaking things to relieve his anger. She could hear Bella and Edward upstairs, as he got her ready to fall into bed, to sleep even as she insisted she wouldn’t be able too. Rosalie sighed and stood, casting a glance at the staircase and then to the backdoor. As she did, she sighed.

“Em?”

The sounds of breaking stone stopped and an instant later, Emmett was in front of her.

“Babe?”

“Are you done?”

“I can be.” He wrapped huge stone arms around her and she linked hers up and around his shoulders, pressing her body against his.

“What are we supposed to do?” she whispered, burying her face in the crook of his neck. He gave a slight shrug, and as he spoke his deep voice vibrated deep in his massive chest.

“I don’t know. I wish I did, but… I just want to go out and find them and show them what happens when you mess with us.” He finished finally, his voice a growl. She whimpered and nodded.

“I have never seen her like this.”

“None of us have, babe.”

“She just looks to broken. So hollow. She was always so happy and she always seemed so full of life. It’s not right – it’s not right for her to be this way. It’s just wrong.” Rosalie struggled to find the words to explain. She couldn’t imagine loosing Emmett that way, and then surviving. Surviving would have been the hardest part – knowing she was alive and he wasn’t. She wouldn’t have been able to do that, even if Emmett had asked it of her. Maybe that made her a coward. Maybe that made her weak. But, she needed Emmett more then she needed anything else, anyone else. Knowing how much Esme loved and adored Carlisle, knowing the devotion which they felt towards each other? Rosalie couldn’t fathom how Esme was managing. She wondered if they would ever have their mother back – if she would ever truly be whole without Carlisle. She wasn’t terribly optimistic but then, Rosalie Hale was a realist before anything else, and if she had been in Esme’s place she wouldn’t have been able to ever truly feel much of anything but pain and sorrow.