A/N: Thanks to my betas CellaCullen and my husband, Kayden Wojtek, for proofreading and making sure this is the best story possible! I'm really happy with how it turned out and I hope y'all enjoy!
Alice's vision showed the Volturi coming after my family when the snow fell on Christmas Eve. We didn't have much time. No matter what choices we made, Alice saw the same outcome. The Volturi would come and kill us all, starting with my little girl. I felt powerless to stop it! This is all my fault. I should've stayed away from Bella from the beginning. Fear was in the thoughts of everyone around me. I felt like I was suffocating under the pressure! Jacob blamed me the most. He blamed me more than I blamed myself. He was going to lose his imprint and his best friend, even his pack because of me.
Every wolf in the pack blamed me. More than half of them would have already killed Nessie themselves if it weren't for Jacob's imprint. At least one good thing came out of that whole mess.
Bella laid curled into my side as I mindlessly stroked her hair. "What's wrong?" She asked. No one could read me like she could.
"This is all my fault. Everyone would be better off without me. My selfishness is what brought us here," If vampires could cry…
"Don't you dare say that, Edward!" My wife sat up and glared at me. "That's not true at all! We still have time, we'll find a way to stop them, I promise. I won't let anything happen to us." She kissed me softly, but I didn't feel much better.
"I can read the thoughts of everyone around us and they all blame me. Even Carlisle and Esme, though not so explicitly as the rest." I stood and started pacing the floor just to have an outlet for my nervous energy.
"I'm sure that's not true. They love you, you're their son! What did they think that would ever make you say that?" Bella was incredulous.
"Carlisle traced the Volturi's interest in our way of life when he changed Rosalie and our family started growing. She's resented me ever since. She never wanted this life. And if Carlisle never changed me, Aro would leave everyone else alone." I knew Carlisle didn't regret changing me, but my point stood firm. I could tell Bella was trying to choose her next words carefully. Before she could start, I cut her off.
"Should I give you a list of everything that I've done wrong?" She tried to protest, but I kept going. "Let's start at the beginning. Rosalie is a vampire. That's my fault! She hates it and she's made it very known she resents me because of it. I've killed dozens of people. I almost slaughtered our entire biology class on the day I met you! And I was too selfish to stay away even after that. I could've killed you. I risked my family's exposure by falling in love with you.
"Jasper attacked you and we all have to live with my poor choices after that forever. I abandoned you! And right when you were finally starting to move on, I put the Volturi's spotlight right on us. They wouldn't know you exist if I wasn't being selfish and self-centered enough to approach them. Then for some crazy reason, you agreed to marry me and I almost killed you after that, too! And now, because I let my guard down and my resolve slip, we're all going to die. How is this not my fault? Look, I think I just need some time to think. You stay here with Nessie, I need to go hunt alone." She nodded, but I could tell she had more to say. I'd hear about it later.
I ran out of our cottage and into the woods. I focused on the trees whizzing by, the feel of my feet hitting the ground, counting the stars in the sky; anything to distract me from my family's impending doom. Without even thinking, I ended up in our Meadow.
Plopping down on the grass, everything was starting to overwhelm me. Every time I closed my eyes, all I saw was Bella's severed head falling into flames and Nessie's little body broken and bleeding next to her. What kind of man can't protect his family from that kind of horror?
I just couldn't take the pain anymore! A roar ripped from my chest, loud enough to scare the sleeping birds from their nests. My head fell into my hands and drowned in my despair. "I should just turn myself in. Maybe if I offer to serve them, the Volturi will leave them alone. Aro has been after me and my ability as long as I've been around anyway. Or maybe I should rip my own head off. Can I even do that? I have to turn myself in." Look at me, talking to myself like I was insane or something.
When a hand fell on my shoulder, I lashed out. It's not often someone can surprise me. An old man with bright white hair and blue eyes was standing in front of me, chuckling, dodging my blows with precision. His mind was curiously silent and I wondered if he was a shield like Bella.
"Dear Edward, stop swinging at me like a madman. I'm here to help you," He smiled warmly at me. I was wary but stopped trying to destroy him.
"Who are you?" I backed away a few steps, trying to put some distance between us.
"I'm your guardian angel," He shrugged. I burst out laughing, "Yeah, nice one! Fine, don't tell me. Are you a friend of Carlisle's?" I asked.
"Carlisle is a very nice young man, but I'm here for you. Edward, what good would turning yourself in do?" He asked, lecturing me. I threw my hands up in frustration, "I don't know! I just know that I have to protect my family! If I give myself to Aro in exchange for their lives, there's a chance he'll go away." It was my last hope. The strange man tutted. "He's after Renesmee because she's special. He doesn't know anything about her. If Aro sees her as a threat, he won't back down. Turning yourself in will only make you a pawn in your family's destruction."
He was right and I hated that. "I don't know what to do! And how do you know about my daughter?" I snapped. He laughed and waved me away like I had made a joke. "I already told you, Edward, I'm your guardian angel. I know everything about you," I rolled my eyes, too stressed to deal with his mind games. "I'm the reason my family and friends will suffer! This is all my fault! I've seen the vision. I know exactly what happens to my little girl and I am fully responsible. I wish I'd never been born! They're all better off without me!" I kicked a tree in my anger and it fell over.
"Your wish is my command," The man snapped his fingers like some deluded genie in a bottle. I was about to question him when all of the sudden, I felt movement in my chest. It didn't hurt, but it felt strange. My eyesight dimmed and the sounds of the insects moving on the ground halted. Staggering back, my hand flew to my chest, trying to get the movement to stop. My heart; it was beating?
"What have you done? What's happening to me?" Panic set in and I tried to run away from this strange man, but I was moving at a snail's pace. I couldn't pick up my speed! My legs met their limit at a normal human pace. I glanced down at my hands and they had taken on a pink hue at the tips of my fingers. Whirling around to face the man I marched up to him and got in his face. "Change me back! I have to get home to my family! I have to protect them!"
He smiled at me calmly again, "My dear boy, you don't have a family. After all, you wished you had never been born. I'm here to show you what a world without Edward Cullen looks like. For now, we start in the past. At the home of Edward Masen and his wife Elizabeth in 1918. Now, if you'll just foll-"
I cut off his speech, waving my hands wildly. "What do you mean I don't have a family! I have a wife and child and they need me! I can't be a human!" The old man's patience was making me angry. He spoke to me as if I were a child. "Edward, not only are you human, you don't exist at all. If you don't exist, Carlisle wouldn't have changed you. Come, let's get started on the past." He started walking out of the meadow. I had no choice but to follow him. This strange nomad vampire has strange powers and if I ever wanted to get out from under his spell, I had to play along.
When we emerged from the Meadow, we stepped onto a bustling main street. There were shiny new Model T's and other cars like them rolling along, though most people were walking around. Most of the men were wearing nice suits, the women wore simple yet elegant dresses, and I stood out like a sore thumb in my jeans and simple grey button-up. The old man turned to look at me and tutted. "No, this won't do at all," He muttered, before snapping his fingers again. I looked down and I was wearing a nice suit with a newsboy cap on my head. "There, much better!" He stated proudly, "The height of teenage fashion! Oh! My goodness, do forgive me, but I've failed to mention my name. You can call me Robert."
"Okay Robert," I started, "Where and when are we?" Robert looked annoyed for the first time since I saw him. "Pay attention, Edward! We're in Chicago 1918. The year the Spanish Influenza broke out and the year you died. Now come quickly, we haven't much time." He started walking briskly down the street and I followed after him, tripping on every small crack in the sidewalk. I really did take my unnatural gracefulness for granted. I made a mental note to stop teasing Bella for her human clumsiness. Not to mention, the lack of voices in my head was hard to process as well.
As we walked, I watched the people around us and marveled at the stores we passed by. I didn't remember much of my human life, but the sense of familiarity was unsettling. We passed a furniture store and there was an elegant mirror on display in the window, which stopped me in my tracks. As I raised my arm to catch Robert's attention, the boy in the mirror raised his too. I stared in wonder, reaching up to touch my hair. The red in it was vastly diminished and only shown through in direct light as a copper undertone. My cheeks filled out and had a youthful, boyish look to them, the cold making them flush pink. The most striking change was my eyes. Instead of the soft gold I had been used to seeing for a hundred years, they were a deep emerald green. A few small veins of red surrounded my irises.
For the first time in a hundred years, I actually looked seventeen. I looked like a soft and fragile child, not at all like a husband and father on the brink of a war who ate mountain lions to survive. Thinking of the mountain lions made my stomach turn and rumble almost painfully. Was I hungry? Robert stood behind me, placing a hand on my shoulder again.
"We don't have much time, but I know your appearance is a shock to you. Let's get on with our adventure." He smiled kindly at me and I nodded, reluctantly leaving the mirror behind and following him once more. We made a brief stop at a bakery that had the most amazing smells coming from it. Robert handed me a slice of hot apple pie. I hesitantly took a bite, expecting it to taste like dirt. The flavor was so intense I almost lost my balance! The apple and cinnamon filling with a flaky crust exploded on my palate with a mix of sweet of tangy. I suddenly remembered why apple pie was my favorite food as a human and it didn't take long at all for me to finish the entire thing.
Soon, we were turning down a side street into a neighborhood. I instantly knew which house was mine. I haven't been here in three decades, but even when I last saw my childhood home, the paint was peeling and it desperately needed an upgrade. Not now though. Now, my house was standing proud and tall, fresh paint on the trellis, and a woman humming to herself as she rocked in her chair on the porch while she sewed. I gasped at the sight of her. She had the same color hair as me and my hazy memory didn't do her beauty justice.
"Mother," I breathed softly, about to run to her. Robert grabbed my arm and held me back. "Let go, I have to see her!" I struggled but my strength failed to return. "She doesn't know you, Edward. Elizabeth never had any children. Your happy home doesn't exist." We walked past the house before Robert turned around and snuck us into the backyard. Through the windows, I saw my father in his study smoking his pipe and reading the paper. My mother called him to dinner. She must have had food in the oven. The smell of roast coming from inside made my mouth water. I watched as my father sat without a word and started eating.
I remember him being kind yet stern, as most fathers were in my day. He loved my mother with all his heart. Now that I saw my mother more closely, she looked a bit pale. Her eyes were dull and she had a purple bruise peeking out of the collar on her dress. Father looked grumpy. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but something Mother said must have set him off. He started yelling at her. She tried to run away but he grabbed her harshly by the arm and smacked her across the face.
"I have to do something!" I made to jump through the window but that annoying hand on my shoulder was back.
"Elizabeth was never able to give Edward Sr. an heir. As a result, he resented her and made her life much harder than it should've been for such a kind woman." Robert sighed sadly. Father knocked Mother to the floor, but she didn't get up again. Sweat broke out on her brow. She was shaking. I was looking at strangers. This couple was nothing like the parents I remembered. I could do nothing but watch as Mother vomited on the floor. Father looked startled and worried. He ran to the phone hanging on the wall and called someone, then he left. My mother was laying alone and sick on the floor and he just left her there.
I felt drops of something fall down my cheeks as I stared at her with hazy vision. More drops slid down my face as I blinked and only then did I realize I was crying. I forgot I could even cry now. Luckily, she wasn't alone for long. Soon after Father left, someone ran into the room and knelt by Mother. His striking blond hair and golden eyes I would recognize anywhere.
Carlisle swept her sweaty hair from her brow and started to examine her. The scene faded and we reappeared in a hospital. Patients were lying, in cots all over the cramped room. The scent of sickness and death permeated the air. Sounds of people coughing and even vomiting happened every few seconds. It was a dark and horrible place to die. Carlisle was holding my mother's hand in his, comforting her as her labored breathing slowed, and eventually stopped.
"With no son to fight for," Robert began, "Elizabeth gave up on her life and succumbed to her illness two days after catching it. Since your Father refused to share a bed with her, he never fell ill. He survived the pandemic and married another young lady a year later who gave him three children of his own. Your mother died alone and without love. Carlisle felt helpless among all this death and felt powerless to stop it even with all his strength."
Tears fell down my face as Carlisle sighed and pulled the small blanket up over my mother's head. But as much as I loved my mother and as much as I grieved for her, I was still sure this was the right choice. "Bella and Nessie are still safe in this world. That's what matters. This is a sacrifice that has to be made. She would've died anyway." My voice broke as I said those harsh words. It was true, but not easy to admit.
Robert sighed. "Let us go three years into the future when Carlisle meets Esme again." He snapped his fingers and the hospital scene before us faded away, and we emerged outside a tiny and modest house.