Bella's always known about his speed—from day one, has been aware of the fact that he can move so much faster than a human.

But she'd never fully comprehended it till now, when he's there and gone in the space of a blink.

She can't believe it, at first—races aimlessly through the woods, sure if she just runs faster, screams louder, she'll find him.

(He can't have just left her—not after everything, not after the hell she's gone through to be with him, not after all the promises he's made of forever—)

Her eyes flutter, eventually; she's been out here for hours, and isn't the best at hydrating usually, so she's gone most of the day without water, and on top of the anxiety and the terror and disbelief.

(She has to find him—needs him, is sweating and shaking because she can't breathe, can't think with him gone—)

She catches herself against the trunk of a tree, pausing when she feels dizzy and faint; sees the sun much lower than it was when he disappeared.

That's when it hits her.

(He's gone.)

It sucks the breath out of her; she collapses with shock, not noticing the broken branches that dig into her hands and knees, leaves and dirt staining her jeans.

Everything hurts—physically, her muscles ache, and she's just curled into a ball wishing it would all go away, wishing he would come back.

(it's all consuming, the need for him—the ache, the pain of his absence that defies everything else.)

She doesn't know how long she's out there; it could be seconds, hours, days—she wouldn't know the difference.

(it's all a blur.)

Night falls, eventually.

Bella hears the animals begin to come out—should be scared, as she's clearly easy prey and she knows all too well the kind of predators that lurk in these woods.

But she can't find it in her to care, to defend against any potential danger.

(All she can think about is him—she needs him.)

Branches crack nearby, and a part of her that feels far away recognizes the sounds of a body moving towards her.

(Nonetheless, she doesn't move.)

Eyes closed, she doesn't see them—hears the snuffling of an animal, a bark that sounds like a howl.

(Is this the end?)

The footsteps grow softer even as they near her.

"Bella?" The voice is male, gruff, and unfamiliar, and she's trembling so hard and too tired to respond.

A hand touches her shoulder—

And for the first time in hours, she can feel something beyond the hole inside of her.

Can feel the heat of his skin through the fabric of her jacket, scalding enough that it breaks through her numbness.

(The burn of it is reassuring.)

"Bella, I'm going to pick you up now, okay?"

Arms slide beneath the back of her knees and her spine, the same warmth alighting where his skin touches. She instinctively curls against his chest as he lifts her, whimpering as the heat seeps into her.

(His warmth is the only thing that breaks through her haze, the only thing she can feel.)

(Something in her chest whispers that she's safe, now.)

"You're okay, bud." He whispers it near her ear as he walks.

She knows the route is uneven, no clear path, roots and brambles strewn between trees; they must be winding through the woods but his gait is smooth and steady.

She zones in and out, so she's not sure how long it takes—definitely less than the hours it took her to make her way out there.

Eventually there are other footsteps approaching—she tunes in enough to cower away from the sound.

"No," she whispers, curling further inward, pressing closer to the hard chest that's warm against her face.

"It's okay, bud," the voice promises again, skin rumbling beneath her as he speaks.

(anything he says, something inside her whispers to trust.)

"It's just a friend," he soothes, before turning his attention to the other person she can't see. "She's fine, Sam. You should take her the last leg home, though, the chief has seen me in too many fights to be happy if it's me carrying her in."

Something that sounds like a bark, and a moment later she's being transferred to different arms—they're hot, the same as her guy, but—not the same, somehow; the warmth doesn't carry the same comfort.

(doesn't carry the same sense of being safe.)

Bella sucks in a deep breath at the loss of sensation, teeth chattering with the loss of warmth as the one he'd called Sam secures his grip on her.

"You good?" Sam asks.

Her guy clears his throat. "Yeah, I just—I don't know. I'm glad she's okay."

Sam hesitates, like something about this is strange, but she can feel his body move as he nods.

There's some unspoken communication between them she doesn't see, eyes still squeezed tight.

And then they're moving, and she can hear noise, and there are lights against her eyelids, and she doesn't know why they're all so loud—

And people are saying her name, but all she can think about is that he's not walking with them anymore, why is he not with her where did he go why did he go

(is he leaving me too he can't leave—)

And she's still overpowered by the loss of Edward, the hurt and shaking and sweating she feels inside her, and yet—it's not that she misses him, it's that she needs him, and there's something off about it she can't quite think coherently to put a name to—

But she misses the warmth, the heat, all she can feel is cold, and where did he go why is she so cold why is Sam carrying her when he was so warm and in his arms she could feel

The lights grow brighter, and then a familiar voice is calling her name hoarsely.

She's switching hands again, and the new person holding her staggers for a moment, but the scent is familiar, and comforting, one that's always meant love and home and safety—

"Charlie," she whispers, moving shaky fingers to clutch at his flannel in relief. "Dad."

(he'll find out what she needs, make the hurt go away, find the warmth for her again.)

"I've got you, Bells," he promises in a croak, and she feels him carry her inside.

She's being set on the couch, and she curls into the fetal position instinctively, as if it'll push the trembling broken parts so close together they'll forget they're not connected anymore.

"Thank you for finding her, Sam," her father is saying. "I really appreciate it. If anything had happened to her…" he chokes on the words, and Bella can hear a sound that she'd guess is her father clapping him on the shoulder.

"We're always happy to help—although it's really Paul you should thank. He's the one that found her."

Her father is quiet for a beat, and then says something else quietly, but Bella can't hear anymore—

(Paul, her mind whispers.)

(Everything fades to black.)


title from bird set free by sia/chapter title from dying in la by p!atd

my brain is refusing to work on my dramione fic at the moment SO here we go!

thank you for reading-next chapter to come soon.

welcome to the party, loves.