woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
There was a cold stillness in the air, hanging thick like fog in the silence that surrounded her. Alice Cullen took a deep breath, not that she needed to but because it helped her when she was about to focus. She was deep in the forest somewhere in the Midwest. Since the Cullen's departure from Forks back in September, the family had scattered. Alice and Jasper had stayed with Carlisle and Esme for a while, and then they ventured out on their own. But inevitably the loss of her closest brother began to take its toll on her. Frustrated and reluctant, Jasper finally allowed her to track Edward, only after she had promised to return as soon as she found that he was safe.
It didn't take Alice long to find her brother. He had been trying to track Victoria but after losing her trail multiple times he grew angry, defeated, and secluded himself to the scattered but numerous forests of the central US. Alice kept her distance once she found him but had trouble keeping her promise to Jasper. Physically Edward was surviving- he was feeding off deer and small animals in the preserves but he felt restless. And though she never got close enough to see it in his eyes, he was radiating an icy armor of anguish. If Alice's heart were still beating she was sure it would break. She had been tailing him for two days now, not quite sure how to approach him and begin to convince him to come stay with her and Jasper.
Now here she was, in a dark clearing in the snowy woods of Wisconsin, alone with her thoughts. How did we end up here? She wondered. Only a few months ago they had all been at peace and now they were hiding. Edward had been happy finally, finding his soul mate after so many years. And Bella- Alice felt a pang of regret and sadness when her human friends came into her thoughts. Sweet Bella, innocent and now tainted by the mere existence of Alice and the Cullens. Falling in love with Edward was not something Alice had immediately foreseen, but the bond between her brother and her friend had grown stronger in a way none of the family could have imagined. This all wouldn't have happened like this if they had just changed her when she wanted them to.
But Alice knew Edward would change her when he felt the time was right- she had seen it. That future was erased from her vision now. In fact, it had been a while since she had checked in on Bella's future. Being so far away, it was hard for her to focus her sight on Bella, but with enough effort she could catch glimpses perhaps. So she steadied herself in the clearing, took a deep breath, and let her eyes slide out of focus.
The sight in Alice's mind was murky and gray. After several seconds, dark shadows started rushing past her as though she were literally running through this fog in her mind. Suddenly the shadows began to slow and the scene froze all together. To her left was the closest figure, a dark shadow that lay curled up on the ground. It took all of her power to push her mind closer to this shadow- she felt certain this was Bella.
The closer she got, the clearer Bella's figure became. Slowly, the setting began to fill in around her. Bella's bed beneath her, the baby blue coloring of her bedroom walls, the window on the far side of the room- nothing seemed extraordinarily out of place. Alice pushed closer to the bed. Bella had her arms wrapped around her torso, her face was a startling shade of white, and tears were wet upon her cheeks. Her CD player was playing a mournful tune that Alice could not recognize. Was this a vision of Bella's future? It felt so strong and sad for Alice- surely this vision was not accurate. If anything, this was Bella's past. It had been months since the family had left- Bella could not still be in such pain. Could she?
A familiar presence fell over the clearing where Alice stood causing her to loose focus of her vision. Bella lying on her bed, clutching her stomach in pain, was quickly ripped from her mind. He had found her and she quickly needed to take her mind off the vision she had just seen- no reason to upset her brother even further.
Food. Alice filled her mind with thoughts of endless buffets and delicious dishes that she had caught at some point on TV.
"Hello Alice," Edward's low voice came from the west side of the clearing. Alice turned. With her mind nearly clear she could see him obviously now, leaning against the thick trunk of the nearest oak.
"Edward. Nice seeing you here in the lovely woods of Wisconsin." She grinned, hoping he would see the feasts forming in her mind and catching the light-heartedness in her voice.
He moved quickly from the shadows and suddenly he was in front of her, grimacing. "Please Alice … what are you doing here?"
"Well I was thinking about you this afternoon and I said to-"
"You've been following me for days," he interrupted. He began to circle her, his eyes full of annoyance and irritation. "Don't bother lying to me. I'd appreciate it if you just told me the truth and stopped hiding your mind by… why are you thinking about food?" He stopped his circling, almost smiling. "How dumb do you think I am?"
Alice sighed, folding her arms over her chest. She stopped thinking of food and let her mind feel empty for once. "You already know that answer so why bother asking?"
Edward snorted. "I'm sorry but I'm not ready to come back yet. You should probably just get back to Jasper. I'm sure you've kept him worrying for two days too long now." He mimicked her stance. They stood in silence for a moment, her defensive eyes staring into his dark, shielded gaze.
Abruptly, Alice broke the stare-down, admitting defeat. She allowed the memories of the past months without her family to fill her mind. Edward winced, dropping his stiff pose and immediately he felt guilty. The sense of pain and loneliness he saw in Alice's mind burned his consciousness. How could he be responsible for breaking the strong bonds that Carlisle and Esme had brought to their family?
"Alice, I am truly sorry for the hurt I've caused… am causing the family. I never intended for that, believe me." His confession was sincere.
"I know you didn't Edward but it's happened. I'm tired of us being broken. I'm tired of living like a nomad. And I miss my brother." They exchanged a glance. "Come back to us Edward." It was barely a whisper but the way she pleaded for him caused his face to contort as if he were in pain.
"Alice…" he hesitated, wanting to choose his next words carefully. "Even if I did, it wouldn't be the same. I'm never going to be the same."
Alice considered this. Things could be different though. He just made the wrong choice. If they went back to Forks, if he changed his mind, and went to see-
"That's not going to happen Alice." He gritted his teeth. "You know that can't happen."
"I know it seems hard Edward, and I understand your reasons for doing what you did, but you're a mess. This… choice you've made- it's killing you. Can't you see that?" Alice was begging now, something she was not accustomed too and it felt strange. Seeing her struggle like this caused the corners of his mouth to twitch. If this were any other time, about anything else, it would have been funny.
Edward didn't know what to say. Part of him knew that he owed it to his family, to Carlisle and Alice especially, to go back. It would be painful, yes, but certainly it couldn't get more painful than this lonely existence he was dooming himself to in these snowy woods. Pain… the sensation rang through him like electricity, sparking from Alice's mind to his own. An image of Bella and… pain.
His eyes flashed towards hers and just as soon as he glimpsed the vision she blocked it from her mind.
"Let me see that," he growled, his lip curling back.
Alice didn't feel threatened by his tone. She knew his reaction was simply out of concern but she could not fill his mind with this image of Bella. That wasn't why she had come. Now that she was aware of her mortal friend's condition, she resolved to make a trip to Forks… just as soon as she reached her goal here.
"You're trying to bribe me?" Edward asked, incredulous. "She looked hurt, Alice, now let me see what you saw." He snarled now, the growls building up in his chest.
"Only after you promise to come with me back to Carlisle and Esme." Alice prompted, hands on her hips.
Edward's anger did not cease. His frustration with Alice grew, ready to explode. But he took a moment to calm himself first. "You're positive that she's not in any immediate danger?" He asked, his voice quieter now that he let the outburst pass.
"Would I be standing here begging for you to come home if she were?" Alice questioned, her innocent eyes hiding her opinion. She wished she could tell Edward that he had broken Bella. That she'd been surviving (barely) yet broken and empty and was in constant danger of falling off the edge since that day he had left her in the woods. But Alice blocked this from her mind. The truth would not help anyone today.
He sighed, resigned and letting his lonely exhaustion fill his face. "Ok… I'll come back. But if it-"
"It won't be." Alice interrupted, grabbing her brother's arm in victory. "Now let's get started while it's still dark."