DISCLAIMER: These characters are only on temporary loan to me from the fabulous Stephenie Meyer.
I'll love you endlessly
I'll give you everything
But I won't give you up
I won't let you down
And I won't leave you falling
But the moment never comes
“Endlessly” - Muse
She lay perfectly still, her dark hair fanned out beneath her, her skin pale, her hand cradled in his, just like so many nights before this.
No. Not like this.
No other night was like this.
* * *
He, Carlisle, Emmett, and Jasper had driven hours from Forks for a last hunt before the wedding. Two more days before the house would be full of humans and their warm, excited, inviting blood. Alice, Esme, and Rosalie were in Seattle attending to final wedding details.
Renee and Phil had arrived in Forks that morning. Although her doubts about the wedding remained, Bella was naturally delighted to have Renee in town. They planned to spend the day together, reconnecting. Bella was particularly conscious of making the most of her time with Renee, knowing the distance she would have to put between them after the wedding, after he kept his end of their bargain.
* * *
“Be safe. Try not to fall down.” How many times had he said this to her? A joke between them now, more than anything else. And, being a joke, he neglected to say it before he left for the hunt. Instead, his arms tight around her, he inhaled her freesia essence and whispered endearments to her as Emmett impatiently smacked the Jeep’s horn.
Would it have made a difference if he had said it?
Would she have been more careful about where she was walking? Paid attention to the sidewalk in front of her instead of looking back over her shoulder at Renee a step or two behind?
Would she have avoided tripping over the cracked concrete of the sidewalk? Not stumbled forward, trying desperately to regain her balance, arms flailing, not realizing until the moment she did recapture her balance and stood upright, turning back to laugh at Renee, that she had stumbled into the street as the SUV sped past?
Would the SUV’s side mirror not have smashed against her temple, driving her back ten yards through the air, the back of her head connecting with the pavement with a sound that made Renee’s knees buckle under her?
Would it have made a difference if his last words to her had been words of warning and not words of love breathed into her ear?
* * *
He and his brothers had been tracking a pair of black bears for a half hour, savoring the pursuit. They left Carlisle some way back following a herd of elk. Emmett and Jasper had decided to take down the larger of the two bears, leaving the other to him. His bear was shambling along, nosing through clumps of late summer berries. He was only yards away. He tensed, feeling the excitement, the bloodlust rise. Now was the time. Everything narrowed into this, the thump thump thump of the bear’s pulse, the smell of the blood obliterating all else. His throat ached. Venom filled his mouth. He growled, wanting the bear to see him, wanting the fight. The bear swung around towards him, its growl matching his own. He crouched. Sprang. The bear rose on its hind legs to meet him. The fur, the skin melted away under his teeth and the bear collapsed under him.
At that moment, he was conscious only of the torrents of hot blood spilling down his throat.
At that moment, the paramedic decided that nothing would be served by further chest compressions.
At that moment, Alice’s anguish ripped through him, tearing him inside out with a ferocity that Jane could only dream at. Slowly he slid down the flank of the bear, his limbs useless, the blood now geysering out of the bear’s carotid, running down the side of his face.
* * *
She was already in the morgue when they arrived at the hospital in Forks.
He had dared to hope she would be like Esme. Even as he passed Alice in the hospital admissions area, desolation etched in her face as she collapsed into Jasper’s arms. Even as he brushed by Renee being led out of the morgue by Phil, her head buried in his chest, barely able to stand. Even as he picked out of Renee’s mind every one of those horrifying last moments, preserved with exquisite HD clarity. He dared to hope. And then he saw her, lying on the gurney, perfectly still, her dark hair fanned out beneath her, her skin pale - save for the blossoms of violet and carnelian that whispered across her temple. He knew then. Hope was only cruelty. He lifted her hand, cradled it in his, stroked it gently. It was ice.
* * *
He kept vigil with her. Minutes stretched into hours but still he stayed with her, her ice hand cradled in his. Hours stretched into a day but no one dared disturb him. Certainly not the hospital staff. They would, out of respect for Dr. Cullen, let his son be. He was vaguely aware, for a moment, of Esme’s hand on his shoulder, of Charlie sobbing. He stayed with her, replaying Renee’s movie beyond the point of numbness. The laughter in his beloved’s chocolate eyes, the curve of her smile as she caught her balance vanishing as she saw the terror on Renee’s face. The ‘O’ her mouth made as her gaze flitted from Renee and focused on the truck in the moment before impact.
* * *
He wondered if she thought of him before she died.
How many times had she begged, cajoled, wheedled him to change her? How many times had he refused? Then bargained, trying to forestall what she wanted from him. He could have done it as soon as she asked. At prom. After the family vote. Or upon her graduation. But he delayed. He had to admit to himself that even after the wedding he would have delayed. Yes, she was breakable. But somehow it was inconceivable that none of his family would be there if needed. So he delayed. There was so much of her humanity that she would be giving up: her parents; the chance to live a normal life at college; the chance to have children. His mouth twisted bitterly. The chance to have her life leak away on the pavement of this inconsequential town. He hadn’t thought about that one.
Did she think of him as she died? Curse him for condemning her to this mundane death? Bile, if he had it, would have choked him.
No matter. He pressed his lips to her hand. Dawn was breaking. Aro and his guard had arrived in Seattle the night before on their way to what they had thought would be a wedding. He could be there before noon. The forecast was sun.