Sunday, July 2, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Even In Death Chapter 19

Chapter 19 – Darkness Can Show You the Light
An unforgivable tragedy
The answer isn't where you think you'd find it
Prepare yourself for the reckoning
For when your world seems to crumble again
Don't be afraid, don't turn away
You're the one who can redefine it
Don't let hope become a memory
Let the shadow permeate your mind and
Reveal the thoughts that were tucked away
So that the door can be opened again
Within your darkest memories
Lies the answer if you dare to find it
Don't let hope become a memory

When you think all is forsaken,
Listen to me now
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light
“The Light” by Disturbed
“C’mon, Steve,” I called to him, and he hopped down from the steps of the small cabin Bella and I shared on the Denali property.
I set the backpack down onto the ground, and his stubborn ass crawled into the open bag. Leaving it unzipped, I pulled the thing onto my back, immediately feeling Steve shift so that he was holding on to my shoulder. Shaking my head and rolling my eyes, I glanced over at him. His purr was loud, his eyes bright with thin, slivered pupils, even though the day was cloudy. He rubbed his face against my jaw, pushing that purr against my skin.
Bella’s giggle made me smile. “He might just be the most spoiled cat on the damn planet.”
“Hmm?” he hummed her way, clearly affronted at the insult.
“Spoiled, Steve. I’m not sure there’s a cat anywhere that gets to explore all of Alaska’s wilderness.”
Grinning, I shrugged a shoulder, which raised Steve up and down. “Because most cats would get themselves killed. This guy has the best bodyguards to protect him from bears and really big birds of prey.”

Bella laughed but took off into the woods, and I followed. We’d been in Alaska for about six months. Spring was giving way to summer in Denali, so the air was comfortable and everything was green and prospering. Hell, we were prospering. Steve had protested the move grumpily, though it didn’t take long for his curiosity to get the better of him, and he became clingy. We took him everywhere with us, except on the hunt. When we hunted, he stayed home.
However, today was a hike to Fairbanks, where we’d meet up with some of the others. This was a test run, of sorts, for me. It was also an excuse to get a few supplies and pick up our mail. And since Steve was with us, a trip to the pet supply store was most likely the highest on the agenda.
Bella was now a couple of months away from being a full year as an immortal. Her thirst, her talent, and her emotions were amazingly under control. She was all things beautiful and strong and happy. I’d like to think I had something to do with that last one. Learning together was just as incredible now as it was in the beginning. I was pushing eight months after my change, and things for me had gotten easier. From my mind reading, to my thirst, to my rollercoaster of emotions – none of it was as harsh as it was from the start. But I was damned certain I wouldn’t have survived it without her. She was my rock, my other half, and my reason for breathing – more now than ever.
That wasn’t to say it had all been a breeze. Not a chance in hell. There had been epic shows of tempers, huge fights when we’d stumbled upon a human hiking, and disagreements on the dumbest shit. Not one member of the Cullen or Denali families held grudges; they’d all been there, been through the same struggles, or had overcome the traditional vampire diet. And there wasn’t a single one of them who would allow us to fail, if they could help it, so they let our fits of anger roll right off them.
Bella slowed down as Fairbanks drew closer, and we carefully entered the town through a park, taking one of the trails like some of the visitors. The day was overcast and perfect for us.
As we drew closer to the main streets, I could hear more minds and heartbeats, and the scent of humans and blood were heavy in the air. But the stench of human life was stronger. Restaurants, garbage, exhaust, cleaners, decay – it was almost choking in its intensity. It was scents that I barely acknowledged as a human, but with my enhanced senses, it was overwhelming. It overrode the scent of blood.
Bella stopped at the park exit, looking back to us, her smile sweet as she ran a hand over Steve’s head. He was eyeing everything with fascination, but he was clinging to my sweatshirt with his claws.
“If the mental noise is too much, Edward, let me know,” she said sweetly.
I nodded, but I usually didn’t take her up on this particular offer whenever we were near humans, unless it was during the hunt. I never wanted to lose control, but the only way to acclimate myself and to learn how to control myself was to immerse myself in people.
“I’m okay,” I assured her, gazing around. “Where to first, sweetheart?”
“Alice and Jasper said they’d meet us at the post office. From there, we’d go together for supplies. Everyone is meeting up at the outfitters,” she explained, taking my hand and leading me down the sidewalk.
Bella had been into town a few times. I’d only been on the outskirts. I didn’t trust myself a few months ago, but I needed to do this. Bringing Steve was a way to give me something else to focus on aside from blood and humans and thirst, but I wasn’t as tempted as I thought I’d be.
What I did notice were all the thoughts as we made our way through town.
Bella always said I’d been oblivious to how women saw me, how I’d been perceived when we’d met in college. Apparently, my wife was correct, because I heard things over the next few blocks that shocked me. Had I been human, I would’ve blushed in embarrassment.
However, I also heard how humans could overlook the obvious. Beautiful, hot, gorgeous – those were words used to describe both of us, and Steve won the hearts of many as he traveled on my back the whole way, seemingly content up there to watch the world go by. And that seemed to add to my attractiveness, which amused me to no end. Not one time did someone think we were something other than the humans we were pretending to be. If someone felt uneasy, they’d simply cross the street, go into a store, or shift away, but they had no idea they were doing it out of self-preservation.
“Wow, that’s interesting,” I muttered, and Bella glanced up at me. “I assumed we’d stand out more, but really, we don’t.” I kept my voice low just for her. “Thoughts about us are centered around our looks, but nothing more than surface shit. Steve is drawing more attention than the fact that we give off a dangerous vibe, for a lack of a better word.”
Bella huffed a laugh. “You aren’t wearing a neon sign that says, ‘dangerous predator.’”
Grinning, I shrugged a shoulder, which caused Steve to shift and adjust, but he was still happily observing the people around us. “I know that, but still… It’s interesting to watch. When we’re in the woods, animals scatter because they sense us. These people – some of them, anyway – are doing the same thing, just differently.”
Bella chuckled. “God, Edward, I love you. I love that you can hear some that, but I don’t know how you deal with it all. There must be fifty people surrounding us.”
Honestly, I was trying to use my new ability in every way. I’d had countless conversations with Alice, Carlisle, and Eleazar about reading minds, interpreting what thoughts were fleeting, what were simple curiosities, and what were considered dangerous thoughts concerning us. Alice depended on her talent to keep them safe, keep them secret. She almost used it as a crutch, and Eleazar had warned her not to be too dependent on it. He’d warned us both, actually. We needed to read humans and other vampires visually just as well as reading minds and futures. He’d repeatedly told us that our talents were useful, but they could make us lazy.
While I never wanted to take my mind reading for granted, I also never wanted to misjudge something or someone and put my wife and new family in danger, so I tried to use both. And today was the best day to try that, being smack in the middle of the small town.
Bella and I rounded a corner, the large pet store our first stop. Just before we went in, I chuckled, looking from Steve to Bella.
“Umm, you realize all the little furry, feathery creatures inside this store will freak the hell out. Not every pet is Steve,” I pointed out with a light laugh lacing my words. “Right, buddy?”
Bella grinned, saying, “That’s very true, baby. Let me have him. I’ll carry him while we’re in here.” Steve went to her willingly, and she tucked him safely under her arm like a football, her hand under his front paws. “If it gets too weird in there, you can take him out while I get the litter and cat food.”
His purr was ridiculously loud, his eyes wide as I nodded her way. Once we stepped inside, the animals in cages and displays did, indeed, quiet down a little. Some birds seemed to send out a distress call, but at least it wasn’t as if someone turned the volume on mute. A few employees smiled Steve’s way, as did some of the shoppers. We weren’t the first to bring a cat in, though most of the patrons brought dogs and a few would bring reptiles, but Steve’s mellow demeanor was endearing, apparently.
We grabbed his food, litter, and a new catnip toy. The cashier fell in love with him, noting his laidback personality in her mind.
“Just to let you guys know…” She smiled our way, despite the fact that we made her a little nervous, which she chalked up to how good-looking she thought we were. She pointed to Steve. “We’re having a cat adoption next week, if you ever want to get another one. We’re coordinating with the SPCA. They’ll all be fixed, with their shots, etcetera.”
I opened my mouth to decline, but Bella simply told her thank you, and I could see warmth and sweetness and something else in her expression. Once we stepped back out onto the sidewalk, I took off the backpack and put the litter, food, and toy inside, leaving it open again. I shouldered the bag, and Bella set Steve back up there. He was a little higher but still content to ride.
“You want another one?” I asked her.
Bella chuckled, shrugging a shoulder, but she linked our fingers together. “Yes, no…maybe?” She shook her head. “I doubt we’ll find one that’s as comfortable with us as he is.”
There was something else behind that answer, because I saw a touch of sadness on that beautiful face, and I broke down. “Bella… Sweetheart, let me hear you. What are you thinking?”
Bella’s brow furrowed a little as her shield descended around me. Her hand reached up to lovingly pet Steve. The reality of having Steve was hitting her hard, which was why she’d decided to start bringing him everywhere with us. We would live forever. Steve would not, and that was hard to come to terms with when our love for him was so damned big.
Facing her, I cupped her face in my hands gently. “Sweetheart, he’s just now going on three years old. I…I…” I trailed off, sighing deeply. “If we keep him safe, keep him healthy, we should have him for at least ten or twelve years more. Though, I’ve heard of longer, but…” I kissed her frowning lips. “Bella, even as humans, we wouldn’t have kept him forever.”
“I know,” she mumbled. “I know! It’s gonna suck, Edward, no matter what. I just… I mean, do we keep him until the inevitable? And then…that’s it? No more pets? Because I can’t imagine that kind of loss every couple decades. I just…no.”
I leaned in, kissing her forehead. “I don’t know that answer, my Bella. I had this discussion with Rose while I was still human. She mentioned the heartbreak. But all pet owners understand that their pet’s lives are fleeting, whether the owner is human or immortal. I told her that Steve’s litter, with the exception of Steve and a sibling, were all taken to the pound. He may be a blink in our long lives ahead, but for him, for any other cat we may or may not take in, we’re all they’ve got. They can be spoiled and doted upon where not all the others get that. If you want another, we can get one. If you want to spoil Steve until he’s a cranky old man, we’ll do that, too.”
Bella cracked a small smile at the thought of an “old man” Steve, and she nodded a little. “Okay, sorry… I just… Maybe he’s the last tie to our old lives, and I just…” She trailed off, not knowing how to finish that thought.
My opinion was that we’d never find an animal that was comfortable with what we were. Steve had to be an exception to that, but I didn’t say it. My sweet wife was clearly coming to that conclusion as we made our way down the street. I merely wrapped an arm around her shoulders and kissed the side of her head.
I also wasn’t quite sure that Steve was the only thing tying us to our old lives. And I was correct when we finally pulled our mail out of our post office box. Along with the usual ads and bills, all in my name only, there was a heavy envelope hand-written to me. The postmark was from Forks.
Bella tucked the mail in the front pouch of the backpack, but I ripped open the letter. Only, it wasn’t a letter; it was an invitation.
Chuckling, I handed it over to my wife. “Your dad is getting married, baby.”
Her shock was adorable. Even better was the whispered, “Stop it!” She practically beamed at the news.
Her shield was still around me, which meant I could hear her beautiful mind. She was over-the-moon happy that Charlie had found someone. She knew her “death” had been almost too much for the man. She also knew that he’d grown attached to me, so moving away from him and taking me had plagued her. She didn’t want him alone, even though Jacob had vowed to watch over him.
“Wonder what he knows,” I muttered aloud as we stepped back out onto the sidewalk.
“He’s heard everything.”
I glanced up from Bella and the wedding invitation to see Alice and Jasper waiting for us.
“Never mind that package you sent him,” she added knowingly, laughing at my shameless grin. “You’re counting on Jake, aren’t you?”
“I was,” I said with a nod, still wearing a smile as I gazed at my Bella. “He broke all the rules to help me. Or he tried, anyway.”
Jasper broke into a laugh, gripping my shoulder. “So…you going?” he asked, pointing to the invitation.
“It’s like three months away,” Bella told me, handing over the heavy paper.
“I have no idea. I’ll have to talk to Jake to see exactly where Charlie stands…and where it is, because we’re not allowed in La Push.”
“It’s in Forks, not La Push, but we’ll call Jake when we’re done in town,” Bella stated. “Okay?”
I nodded, kissing her temple. “Okay.”
I sat down on the edge of the bed as Bella hung up the last of the clothes we’d bought. Jackets, boots, and sweaters were high on the list of supplies because some things didn’t always survive hunting…or each other, should we lose a little control when we were alone.
It was a trip the Denalis made at least once a month. The minds of the employees inside the outfitter store were accepting of them, and they accepted us, as well. They were used to our looks, though that didn’t stop the staring, and they assumed we all had money, because each purchase was big.
All in all, the trip to Fairbanks had been a real learning experience for me. Humans noticed differences, but they saw no further than our looks, the way we dressed, and how we spoke politely. I never heard a single mind that saw anything more than what we were pretending to be. We just…were. It was interesting to know that we could, in fact, step into the throngs of humans and not be outed for what we truly were. I’d been told these things, but I supposed I’d needed to experience it all for myself.
Bella had teased me that we weren’t wearing a sign that said, “dangerous predator,” but really, we had all the signs. Our looks, our scent, our ability to blend in, and our enhanced hearing – never mind those of us with extra abilities – drew people to us and pushed them away at the same time. There was a split second in the stores where I could see just how easy it could’ve been to just…take. A female cashier who was too oblivious, too flirty, could easily be drawn away from the public eye. A male tourist without any sense of self-preservation and a whole lot of testosterone wouldn’t have stood a chance against the Denali women or even Rose, Alice, or Bella.
It was frightening at just how simple it could be to slip up. It was humbling to know we carried that sort of strength and power yet opted not to use it. It was terrifying to know that should any of us put our mind to it, we could decimate the entire town.
Snorting at that, I shook my head and turned my phone over in my hands. We were lucky the Denalis’ property was just close enough to town to get a signal but still far enough away to be secluded.
Bella continued to putter around the cabin while Steve was sleeping soundly on his cat tower. He’d had a big day, so he was exhausted.
Finally, I turned on my phone, scrolled through my contacts, and dialed Jacob.
He answered immediately. “Yes, he’s really getting hitched.”
I laughed. “Hello to you, too.”
Jake chuckled. “How’s the land of the Eskimos?”
“You know, I haven’t seen that many. I don’t exactly go looking for Eskimos. Bears, on the other hand…” I teased him, which made Bella giggle from the hallway.
“Yeah? Well, leave the wolves alone, will ya?”
“We try.”
“Hey, Jake!” Bella called out as she stepped back into the room.
“Hey, Bells,” he replied loudly. “So, I’m assuming you’re calling because you got your invitation.”
“Yeah, but we wanted to check in anyway. How is Charlie?” I asked, not wanting to know about the wedding as much as the man himself.
I’d kept in touch with him like I’d promised, but I also knew that I needed to start pulling away. Charlie, however, held on fiercely. He called if he hadn’t heard from me, and he’d e-mail from his office, too. And it had been Alice to see me send the same books to Charlie that Bella had left for me. She said the outcome could go several ways, which I saw in her mind. The pack still made her visions blurry, but it really wasn’t them who messed her up. It was Charlie himself who tended to keep things quiet, not always reacting immediately.
I’d slipped them both in a manila envelope with a short note telling Charlie that Bella had left the two books for him. I marked them just like she had, with a bookmark at the poem and one for the legend of the Quileute tribe. He never mentioned it. Not one single word.
“Charlie is…well, Charlie,” Jake said cryptically. “He’s a stubborn man, for real. But he’s never been stupid.”
I chuckled. “No shit.”
“I think he knows, Ed.”
That statement caused Bella and me to freeze. “Seriously?” I asked, almost in a whisper.
“Yeah, but I’m not sure. Even Sue isn’t sure if he’s figured it out yet, but he did insist it be in Forks, not La Push, so I don’t know.” He huffed a laugh. “He looks at me differently, and he’s asked a question or two, but whatever conclusions he’s come to, I have no fucking idea.”
“But if I come to this wedding, Jake, he’ll see I’ve…I’m… He’ll see the differences. But if I don’t go…he’ll be hurt.”
“You’re seriously considering it? What’s the Cullens say about that?” he asked incredulously.
“I haven’t really discussed it. I imagine Carlisle and Esme would want to go. Bella, would… I mean… Sweetheart, you’d have to stay hidden.” I glanced over at my beautiful girl as she nodded.
“My boys will stay with her,” Jake offered. “I’m an usher, so I have to go.”
I grinned, letting a laugh escape. “Okay, well, I’ll talk to Carlisle about it.”
“Guys, listen,” he said through a weary sigh. “I know the whole creepy brothers run-in was a little tense, but if Charlie’s figured it out and he’s marrying into the tribe, then he’s seriously protected by my pack. The Volturi can go fuck themselves. He’s my responsibility at that point. Does that make sense?” His voice carried an authority he rarely used. “Charlie’s heard all the stories by now, including the ones the pale faces shouldn’t know – like treaties and golden eyes – so if you’re sure you’re ready to face that, then I’ll stand by you two. Fuck knows, he’ll be happy to know he hasn’t lost either of you. Okay?”
“Thanks, Jacob,” Bella and I both told him.
“Sure, sure,” he mumbled his usual reply. “Just give me a heads-up when you know what you’re doin’.”
We promised we would, and the call was ended. I looked up at Bella when she stepped between my legs. Setting my phone down on the bed, I opted to pull her closer by her hips instead.
“I guess we need a family meeting,” I muttered wryly, smirking up at her when she chuckled.
“We will, but not now,” she said, straddling my lap. “But first, tell me what you are thinking.”
Grinning, I brushed my lips over hers. “About today? Or about Charlie?”
“Anything. All of it. You’ve been very introspective today. You absorbed a lot in town without much comment. I’m very proud of you. You handled it all fantastically.”
“Thanks,” I whispered, looking down at her hands rubbing up my chest. “I’m sure the more I do that, the easier it’ll get. No big surprises there.”
“And my dad?”
I was quiet for a moment, cupping her face, brushing her hair back, and kissing her lips. “Bella, I… When we lost you, the two of us fought so fucking hard to find answers, to find some sort of footing in the tidal wave of grief that hit us. Without Charlie constantly checking on me, pushing me to get out, to come over, I’m… I honestly don’t know if I would’ve made it.”
Bella nodded, slipping her shield over me so I could hear her thoughts. She knew these things already. She missed her father, she missed her mother too, but she knew there were some things she had to leave behind. Where she knew she could walk away from her parents, leaving me was never going to happen.
“Right,” I agreed with her thought processes. “And that…that part right there, sweetheart, is where I feel so very wrong and guilty and selfish. I got you back, and he still believes that he lost his little girl on his watch. You were visiting him, but he didn’t get to you quickly enough, and he’ll go the rest of his life carrying that heavy burden. And with all that he’s done for me, and as much as I love you, I simply want to give you both…each other. Does that make sense? I dunno. I doubt it, but I’m probably not saying it right.”
Bella’s smile was warm and loving and patient as she leaned in to kiss my lips.
“A part of me wants to go just to let him see the changes. My eyes will be the biggest factor, Bella. They’re gold now, not green. My skin is colder, harder. Hell, even my build is different.”
Bella grinned, trying not to tease me about how beautiful she saw me.
Chuckling, I tried to give her a stern look but failed completely, because her mind was traveling a train of thought that was distracting and alluring, and I wasn’t sure how long I could hold back from giving her what she wanted, but she pushed it away for a moment.
“I want to see my dad happy,” she stated in a whisper, almost as if wanting it was wrong.
“Me, too.”
“I want to see him get married, even if he never figures out the truth.”
“Me, too, sweetheart,” I soothed her, because she seemed to be emotional at the moment.
“I trust Jake to protect him, keep him safe.”
“Of course. I never doubted it.”
She nodded, cupping my face and kissing my lips. “So…you want to go? To the wedding, I mean?”
I knew what she meant, but I kissed her back before answering. “Yes, but I’ll have to be precautious. You know, hunt, hold my breath, avoid physical contact. My eyes, though… I could maybe play off contacts, but…”
Bella nodded. “So, we need to talk to Carlisle. We’ve got three months to practice. Today was a good start, Edward. You’ll be fine.”
“And if he hates us for this?” I asked her as I gestured between us, which was a fear I had deep down inside. I was terrified Charlie would hate what we’d become, even though some of it had been unavoidable, especially Bella.
“My dad’s not a hateful person, baby. He might get a tad…grumpy, but he’s never hated anyone.”
“Grumpy,” I said through a chuckle. “Truer words, Bella.”
“Do you want to talk to Carlisle now? Maybe Alice, too?” she asked, starting to get up off my lap.
“No.” I locked an arm around her waist, grinning when she giggled. Her head fell back, and I leaned in to press my lips to her throat. “No, not right now.”
Her arms wrapped around my head as she continued to laugh. Keeping my arm securely around her, I rolled us over, situating her in the middle of our bed. She laughed a bit harder, but when her eyes opened to meet mine, I kissed her.
“Show me what you want, Bella,” I requested, and she did.
Shirts were lifted off over heads, shoes and pants were kicked off the end of the bed, and underwear never stood a chance. Bella wanted slow, with kisses that curled her toes and skin touching everywhere. She wanted to hear my love for her whispered against her throat as I moved inside her. And I gave her all of it.
This was us as we’d always been. It was Edward and Bella Masen, who met at UW, who probably married too young but didn’t care, and who loved each other no matter what life or immortality threw at them. Mating was amazing, but this… This was us. It was safety and comfort. It was heat and love. It was what I lived for as a human and now would never be without as an immortal.
Night had fallen by the time the haze of our lovemaking had lifted. We were wrapped around each other in the sheets, and I smirked over at Steve, who had covered his eyes and face with both paws. He was still sleeping soundly on his back.
Bella glanced from me to him, laughing softly. “Apparently, things seen can’t be unseen.”
“Yeah, Steve? Imagine reading minds, buddy,” I muttered, smiling when Bella curled into me laughing.
I held her close, imagining how the wedding would go. My hope was that Carlisle would help us, because seeing Charlie was truly something I wanted, but what I wanted more than anything else was having him know that his daughter wasn’t really gone from this earth. I’d been blissful knowing that, and I hoped he would be, too.


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