A/N: YAYNESS!! Sorry about the cliffy, but ya know... these things happen =)
A big thanks to MotoDodo for all the love and support (and kick and the rear end) that i need to write this fanfic. (yes, of course that's what she told me to say, you don't think i'd willingly put that there, do you?)
Disclaimer: Let's list the things I don't own.
Twilight, Moonlight, Finding Nemo, Flowers for Algernon, Harry Potter, and many other aspects of the universe.
Chapter 19 (continued)
I was already only half conscious when I felt the fire start to spread. From the boundaries of my very being, the intense burning sensation enveloped me. I probably screamed; I couldn't tell anymore. The only thing my mind could concentrate on was the flame growing inside me.
But from the confines of my mind, I could make something out. At first it was just a wisp of a memory. Then, slowly, features arranged themselves in a pattern that made sense. Not just made sense, I realized, but made a masterpiece. A voice was fitted to the masterpiece, along with movement and life.
I took in my own personal masterpiece as the fire spread. Surely this was the best way to spend my last moments, thinking of the one I loved? It seemed irrational now to deny that fact to myself. Of course I loved him. I always had. I knew that I always would, even if 'always' was almost over.
But I didn't only love him; I was completely in love with him, too. He had been the most important part of my short life, and always would be. My only regret was that I would never have the chance to tell him.
As I started to slip more into unconsciousness, the voice I saw in my mind became clearer, more defined. It looked at me with the most pained expression. "Oh, Bella, love," I could faintly hear the voice say, "What have I done?"
I wasn't sure why my mental Edward would be so upset. I would have liked to spend my last moments with a happier, more care-free one. I tried to grasp his last words before I went under completely.
"We'll fix it. No matter what, we will make it better. I'll make it better. I promise."
He was slipping away like sand through my fingers, but finally I understood. He felt guilty. They all did. But I didn't blame them. I had known what might happen. And I decided that if I had to, I would do it all over again, exactly the same way. It wasn't anyone's fault. But oh, how it hurt.
And with that resolving, last thought, I gave up.
I channeled all my anger, frustration, and hatred into beating this accursed being. I hit him with all my might, and saw the faint look of astonishment on his face before he went sailing across the clearing.
Then, to my immense surprise, a sapling that I hadn't even know was pulled back snapped forward and hit him full on in the back of the head.
"OH YEAH! Right on the head! That's ten bucks, Jasper, pay up!"
"Emmett? Jasper?" I said to myself unbelievingly.
Hey, bro! It's about time you let us in on some of the action!
I smiled in spite of myself. Although there was an evil vampire putting everyone I cared about in peril, although I was miles from home in a seemingly hopeless situation, I had my family. They were always there for me, and they always would be.
"Go!" Jasper yelled at me, as he and Emmett continuously pulled the sapling back and let it loose on Vladgor's head again and again. "Find Bella! Carlisle's coming soon to help. We'll deal with this idiot." Emmett's maniacal grin told me they would be all right.
I inhaled deeply, and smelled her. But there was something different—a metallic smell that wasn't supposed to be there. Something was wrong.
I races to the source of the smell, all the while dreading what I would find. How long had I been fighting Vladgor? Five minutes? Ten? Was that long enough for his venom to creep its way into her veins, completing the process that seemed inevitable? I couldn't lose her now, not after everything we'd been through. I couldn't let that happen. I wouldn't.
But somehow, I was afraid that I had no choice.
I traced the smell into the woods, and it was then that I noticed them.
Cement holes, thousands upon thousands of them, were scattered throughout the forest. I cursed him, realizing that I would have more trouble than I thought, and less time than I needed. How in the world was I supposed to check every single one of them?
It seemed that for each tree in the forest there was a hole. Her smell could only take me so far—and with it growing less apparent, I could only trace it into an area of about fifty holes. I inhaled again, letting her sweet scent sing to me. It called my name, imploring me to take it, despite my internal warnings. But I knew I couldn't. No matter how strong the invitation was, I would resist.
And so my search began.
I ran from hole to hole, my speed almost rendered useless by the sheer number of holes, all in such close proximity to each other. And for an added obstacle, her smell was slowly deteriorating, making it harder for me to pick it up. I tried to deny to myself what that must mean—she wasn't gone yet. As long as there was a chance, I would keep trying.
But as I continued my seemingly hopeless search, I knew in the back of my mind that the clock was ticking. Time was running out.
As I reached the last group of holes, Carlisle's thoughts entered my mine. I'll help you look. In an instant he was by my side, searching with me.
They seemed like years, those couple of minutes before I laid eyes on her again. I knew that moment, both wonderful and heartbreaking, would be burned in my mind forever.
But finally, finally, I had found her.
Her blood was spilled everywhere, but I barely noticed. My senses seemed to be at a stand-still. Holding her in my arms, I gaped at her mangled body. She was almost white, and her eyes were half-closed and glazed over. Her mouth was forming unfamiliar words that I couldn't make out. Cradling her fragile frame, I whispered, "Oh, Bella, love…." My voice was contorted with dry sobs. "What have I done?"
How could I have brought her into my world? I knew the consequences. I promised I would never let anything happen to her. I had failed. "We'll fix it. No matter what, we will make it better. I'll make it better. I promise." This was one promise I had to keep.
"Carlisle!" I called out desperately through the woods. "Carlisle, come quick!"
In an instant he was beside me. As much as he tried to hide his thoughts from me, his assessment of Bella's shape was worse than grave.
"Edward," he said carefully, "There aren't many options here. Not only could the venom take her, but the amount of blood she's loosing or already lost… I don't know if it's possible to save her."
I locked eyes with him. "I love her, Carlisle. I won't let her die. Please understand that."
He evaluated me for a moment, and then nodded. "There's only one thing I can think to do. It will involve great strength and determination on your part, but I know you're up to the challenge."
Looking at Bella's face, the face I loved, I knew there wasn't really an option. "Okay, Carlisle. What do I have to do?"
He looked back and forth between Bella and me. Finally, he told me.
I was so taken aback, I let go of Bella's body and leapt a foot away. "Carlisle, are you insane?" I inquired honestly. Just the thought of sinking my teeth into her flesh was making the smell of her blood more than I could handle.
"Not to drain her, Edward. To suck the venom out. Then we'll have to get her to a hospital right away for an emergency blood transfusion. But the blood transfusion won't work if there's still venom in her veins—it will destroy the new blood, along with her body. This is the only way."
What he said made sense. Still, all I could think of was how appealing her blood would taste once I had taken that first step.
For a moment, I envisioned how it would feel to bite her. The taste would be brilliant. I wouldn't have to worry about resistance anymore, because there would be nothing to resist. Maybe letting the animal within me take control was the best way to handle the situation…
But then I saw Bella. Bella, full of life again. Her blush staining her cheeks, and her smile from under her lashes. Then in the blink of an eye, she was cold and lifeless, completely drained, and never to speak, listen, laugh or love again. The monster who had murdered her was beside her, cackling and smiling, while blood, her blood, dripped down his face. He winked at me, and I immediately recognized him. It wasn't Vladgor who had killed her—it was me.
With this realization, her smell hit me full on like a brick wall that even I couldn't break through.
"I can't do it, Carlisle," I gasped through clenched teeth. The intoxicating sensation was coaxing my senses, drawing me in in every way. It was all I could do to keep from accepting the invitation. The idea that I could resist the temptation when the opportunity was so close, so willing, so undeniable incapable of fending me off… that was insanity. It was inconceivable.
It was the only way.
"Listen to me, Edward," Carlisle said to me. "You can do this. You love her too much to let anything happen to her." His calm voice of reason started to penetrate the hard shell of doubt that now surrounded me. But I still didn't believe him.
"It's easy for you to say." My voice was almost unrecognizable as I tried to keep my dwindling senses intact. "You've had years. You've had practice."
"This isn't about me, Edward! This is about you, and only you. And I know you. This is possible. You have to try."
More cracks formed on the surface of the shell, but still not enough. He didn't understand. None of them did. The temptation it posed was more than I could endure. I wasn't strong enough.
"My God, Edward!" Carlisle said, the urgency in his voice making me look up and finally meet his eyes. "You're right. Maybe I don't understand what you're going through. Maybe it's harder than I think. Maybe I'm giving you too much credit."
He knew what he was doing. He was trying to get to me. I stared at him, our eyes locked, and he continued. "But there's one thing that I don't think you quite understand. It you don't try, Bella's going to die. She's going to die, or turn into what you hate the most. If you do something, at least there's a chance."
Pieces fell to the ground as the shell shattered. Although I was still unsure, unprepared and scared, I attempted to steady my shaking voice. "Tell me what to do." Whatever it takes, I told myself. Whatever it takes.
"I'll hold her down," he said, taking her arm, and motioning me forward. I didn't dare breath. Whatever it takes, I told myself again.
"Take her wrist." I did, flinching only once at the cool temperature of her skin. We didn't have much time.
"Now suck the blood out. This is going to be the tainted blood with the venom. Be careful, this is the most dangerous part…."
He walked me through the process step by step, piece by piece, as thought I was working through a puzzle. But this puzzle's answer would mean more than just a finished problem—it could be the difference between life and death. Unlike any other puzzle I had ever worked on, the intricate details had to be precisely right. I couldn't afford to put the pieces in the wrong order. This was no time for mistakes or second-guesses. I couldn't trade in these cards or press the 'solve' button. The only way out of this horrific trick was to be right.
Wrong was no longer an option. There was too much at stake.
And never before had I been so tempted to forfeit, so willing to throw the game. There was an all-too-persistent part of my mind that kept telling me to give in. No one will ever have to know you didn't try your best, the voice said. No one would blame you. In fact, they would probably console you. What's the loss? Life would go on.
But life wouldn't go on. Not for Bella. Not for me. Not for the thousands of people whose lives she had touched. Life would cease to continue.
The ball was in my field now. My choice could either make or break the game.
So with all the strength my body could muster, with all my heart and all my soul, I summoned the power to do the impossible. I overcame the doubts and fears inside me, and completely dedicated and gave myself to the task at hand: saving Bella.
About halfway through the process, Alice showed up. I wasn't sure why she had come, but her encouraging words helped me keep my focus. Both she and Carlisle talked to me all the way through the process, for which I was grateful.
After what seemed like an eternity, Carlisle put his hand on my shoulder. "It's done, son. You're done."
I sat back and tried to steady myself. But before I could begin, Alice gave me a quick hug, grabbed Bella's body, and ran off into the distance.
"What's she doing?" my cracking voice asked. I started to get up. "Where's she taking her?"
"It's all right, Edward. Sit down." He pushed my back down. "She's taking Bella to a hospital. It's all over. You can rest now."
But I couldn't rest. I wouldn't rest. I needed to see Bella alive and well again before I contented myself with idle resting.
"Carlisle, I have to see her. Just to make sure… to make sure she's okay."
Carlisle studied my features, and slowly nodded. I smiled at him with gratification, and took off to see my love.
Even if I could have slept, I wouldn't have. I wanted to be there the very moment Bella woke up.
She had been there for hours. The IV had been inserted about three hours ago, and they'd been pumping blood into her ever since. My entire family was in the waiting room, but I had been allowed to stay with her. I was the only family she had, so far away from both her mother and father.
Her entire body seemed to be wrapped in bandages. A freak accident, they had called it—a twelve-car pile-up on the nearest interstate, caused by some deranged maniac who had gotten away.
Alice, Jasper and Emmett had taken on the task of creating the scene of the accident with flying colors. All the cars were stolen from a local junkyard, so they were pretty old and beat-up anyway. As for the bad guy… he hadn't gotten off the hook as much as the 'eyewitnesses' made it seem.
A bonfire had been lit not long after Bella was taken to the hospital. The Volturi, probably more out of guilt and pride than anything, had done away with the evil Vladgor. His smoke had burned a dark purple--almost black--as he left the world forever.
And now I sat in the white hospital room with Bella. The nurse would come in every so often to check on her, but for now we were alone. Dr. Bartowski had told me that I shouldn't expect Bella to wake up soon, and if she did that she probably wouldn't be very coherent. I told him I didn't care; I would stay as long as she needed me.
I walked up to the side of her bed, and carefully brushed her hair back from her bruised face. Her eyes were shut peacefully, and her breathing was even. She was going to be okay. My angel, my love, was going to be all right.
As I ran my fingers through her hair and stroked her face, I felt as though I was falling in love with her all over again. And this time, I would do it right. I would keep her safe. I knew I could, because I had done it before. The power was within me to control my own future.
Maybe it's the sum of a million coincidences we don't quite control that brings us to a particular place at a particular time, or maybe it's the choices we make, or the actions we take. If there's one thing I've learned in a hundred years, it's that what we want doesn't always matter…
But as Bella's eyes fluttered open, and I gazed into her beautiful face, she said my name. It was as soft as a leaf falling from a tree in autumn, but I still heard it.
What we want… it doesn't always matter…
…but then again, sometimes it's all that does.
A/N: WARNING! THIS IS NOT THE END! don't worry my fine feathered friends, there's an entire chapter of fluff to follow up that amazing display of heroism. ExB fans rejoice!
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