AN: Please don't skip this chapter if you think it's going to be the same as the book. It's not! There are lots of similarities but it's not EXACTLY the same, cause I ain't SM. Chapter 24 is one of my favourite chapters in New Moon, and I've always wondered what Edward was thinking during it. Enjoy!

Chapter 26: Vote

Edward ran through the forest, letting the trees pass them in a blur. They had argued about how to get to his house, Bella had wanted to drive her truck, but he insisted on carrying her, reminding Bella that the noise of the truck's engine would wake Charlie. As the house came into view, Edward didn't slow down, running until they were almost at the stairs leading to the porch. He was angry and he glared at his family, who were gathered calmly in front of the open door, as he let Bella climb off his back. She walked, wobbly but confident, up the steps and greeted each vampire waiting there but he didn't notice. He was so mad, and he stood where he had stopped, not yet completely under control.

What is she thinking? He wanted to yell, but only continued to breathe heavily, as though the run had exhausted him. He didn't want to go into the house, didn't want to face the conversation that was about to occur. He already knew the way his family felt about Bella, had read their minds and known that they had accepted the Volturi's offer, had already wanted Bella to become one of them.

But he could not damn her, she who was so undeserving of such a life, or such a fate. She didn't need to be a monster as well.

He looked up, seeing them all waiting, watching him from the porch. Bella stood just in front of the door, as though she was about to walk inside but was waiting for him. Alice held one of her hands, Esme had an arm wrapped around her shoulders. Carlisle was holding Esme's other hand. Emmett was holding Rosalie's shoulders, just behind Carlisle and Jasper with his arms crossed looked on from behind Alice.

Edward froze, seeing what he didn't want to believe. Bella stood amongst his family, so natural, so fitting. It was as though she was always intended for their way of existance, had always been a missing part of their family, as though they had been returning to Forks time after time again waiting for her. Their meeting was not a coincidence but the point where their fates had intertwined- never to be distinct from each other again. He knew he would follow her any where, and she would do the same for him. He could see the future so clearly, at that point, a future with Bella as one of them, possibly the way Alice had been seeing things for months.

He had always been honest that it didn't matter to him how old Bella was, or how different she grew, as long as she loved him, wanted him, he would be happy to have her. But in that moment, he saw how happy he could be, with an eternally youthful Bella, with a partner who could stay up all night listening to music, who would sparkle in the sunlight more beautiful than a diamond, who he could hunt and run with, a part of his family and his life. An infinity of moments flashed through his mind, of a Bella who he could love without restraint, without fear for her safety

"Edward?" Carlisle asked softly, and Edward refocused on them, staring down at him. He wondered how long had passed as he stood, fantasising about a life he shouldn't be allowed to have. Now matter how happy that life could make him, Bella didn't deserve damnation. He would try to prevent that future if he could.

"Well, let's go." Edward said stiffly, walking up the stairs, and talking Bella's empty hand. He lead them into the little used dining room, and they all quickly took a seat. Edward noticed, trying not to grimace, that there were eight chairs, accommodating all of them naturally. Bella began explaining the meeting quietly, at Carlisle's guidance, her eyes flashing nervously around the room, briefly over Edward. But he knew that she noticed his tense posture, the way his hand gripped the heavy wooden dining table, starting to leave dents. He took her hand under the table and kept his mouth in a tight line, reminding himself that she deserved a chance to speak, that they all deserved this opportunity to voice their opinions before he revealed his plan. Edward already knew every ones opinions, was trying to ignore the little bounces that Alice made in excitement while Bella spoke. He didn't need to hear them aloud, but Bella did, so he kept quiet.

At least until they had all voted.

His vote was an easy and immediate negative and he ignored the spoken words of his family, concentrating instead on their thoughts and the look of hope and acceptance filling Bella's eyes with each positive vote.

Bella's been like a daughter to me, almost from the beginning, Esme considered, next to Edward. He always knew that Esme would accept and love Bella, Esme was capable of loving a dung beetle.
Edward and Bella deserve each other as mates, in every sense of the word. This thought jolted him, slightly, though he maintained his composure. He had heard Esme and Carlisle use the word in reference to him and Bella, to each other, to other couplings before, but he had never heard the intonation behind such a normally savage word. Mate would imply animal urges and little respect in the relationship. But the way Esme used it, implied so much more. It was a union, deeper than marriage, more intimate than love- it was being made for each other and none other.

Edward knew that was how he felt about Bella, regardless whether she was human or vampire, but Esme's implication told him that their union would always be left wanting if Bella remained human for the rest of his existence.

Yes, yes, YES! Of course! It's always been the way things were meant to be! Alice was practically screaming in her mind, but he noticed she no longer bounced in her seat. She seemed calm, but her thoughts were buzzing with the idea of Bella living with them, of a new sister and forever a friend. Edward felt ashamed at the realisation that taking his family away from Forks had hurt his beloved sister, he hadn't want to notice the depth of camaraderie between Bella and Alice, yet it was there, in Alice's mind.

Jasper was trying to be completely analytical as he looked at Bella, his hand holding both of Alice's. Edward understood why Alice was no longer bouncing. Jasper quickly looked over a list of pros and cons in his mind about Bella joining the family. Edward realised from Jasper's memories that this list was compiled long ago, while Jasper, Alice and Bella had hidden in a hotel room in Arizona. The list of positive for Bella's transformation was much longer than the negative. Edward tried to brush away Jasper's many reasons, focusing on Emmett's mind.

Emmett, Edward had been sure, would vote negatively, for the purely selfish idea that Emmett was vastly entertained by Bella's human-ness. But his brother's thoughts were far deeper than Edward expected. Emmett, like Jasper and Alice, already considered Bella a sister, and felt a fierce sense of protection towards her. Emmett, like Jasper was trying to be practical, but rather than analysing the situation, he had concluded that Bella the danger-magnet would be best off as an indestructible vampire.

It was from Rosalie's mind that Edward only received a sense of satisfaction, though not for the reasons he expect. Rosalie voted no, but internally she seemed complacent whether or not Bella joined the family. Instead, Rosalie on a moral front hinted towards her own 'new birth', which Edward knew Bella had no knowledge of and though Rosalie had voted the way Edward had preferred, he did not appreciate her reasoning. Still from Rosalie's thoughts, Edward gathered a sense of acceptance from his sister towards Bella. Rosalie certainly didn't like Bella that much, but she didn't hate her the way she used to.

Finally Bella turned to Carlisle, who was looking at Edward. Maybe you should consider changing your vote, Edward.

There had only been a few occasions in their history where Edward and Carlisle had disagreed, one of those times was Rosalie's transformation, and another was when Alice and Jasper had appeared suddenly on their doorstep. Both times Edward had allowed Carlisle to win, and both times it had turned out for the best- Edward couldn't deny the happiness he gained from his family. But on this occasion, Edward wanted to win, he needed to win. Bella's life was something he had to protect, to cherish and love. Not something to be thrown away as easily had she wanted to. Rosalie had been right in that defence.

"Edward." Carlisle said softly but sternly. Please don't start world war three over this, you love Bella, she loves you and she accepts what we are. She wants this, can you really deny her what we all want?

"No," Edward growled, holding onto Bella's hand as though he was clasping her mortality.

"It's the only way that makes sense," Carlisle spoke out loud, looking from Bella to Edward. His words echo his thoughts so Edward felt overwhelmed by the insistence. "You've chosen not to live without her, and that doesn't leave me a choice." Not that I would want any other option.

The repeat of Bella's words, from his father's thoughts was too much for Edward. He shoved the chair away from the table and strode into the living room. He could hear them talking quietly still, but tried to block out the words. Esme and Carlisle were both sending him admonishing thoughts for such a reaction, Alice was smug. He swore in every language he knew, the words coming out too fast to make any sense. This could not happen. Bella could not become a vampire. He kicked the coffee table on the side of the room and it flew towards the wall, breaking apart on impact and leaving a large mark in the white paint. It made a resounding crash which made Edward feel a little better, until he heard Esme's dismayed thoughts.

Damage to a minimum, please Edward.

"Well Alice," Bella said softly, " Where do you want to do this?" Alice's thoughts changed rapidly from smug to fearful and Edward charged back into the room, pulling Bella's chair away from the table and leaning over her. Alice's mind was filled with horrific situations of her trying to change Bella, and failing. The rest of the family's thoughts range from shock and disapproval of Edward's behaviour, to concern that he was about to hurt Bella in his rage.

That's it Edward, bite her now, get it over with! Emmett was the only one to offer cheerful encouragement. Edward worked hard to block out their thoughts, so they were only a dull buzz in the background of his mind, as he glared at Bella, trying to scare her back into reality.

"Are you INSANE? Have you utterly LOST your mind?" He shouted, but Bella cringed and glared at him as though he had lost his mind. Bella never did react the way he expected. He was fuming and could barely hear Alice trying to back out of her agreement.

"You promised," Bella said accusingly to Alice who was trying to delay, ignoring Edward. Alice now seemed to grasp the complexity of the situation, Edward noticed with approval, but Bella did not.

"You can do it," she encouraged. "I trust you." Those few words seemed to lift Alice's hopes slightly but Edward snarled, and his sister's thoughts changed. I could never do that to you, Edward. If I failed, I wouldn't forgive myself.

Bella however could not be discouraged, "Carlisle?" she asked from under Edward's arms. He had to try harder to make her understand. He clasped her face with one hand, as gently as he could managed with the rage filling him, forcing her to look into his eyes. He let all the pain and anxiety and frustration that she was causing leak through, hoping this would make her stop this ridiculous quest.

Don't hurt her, Edward. This will work out somehow, but your anger won't help. Carlisle thought soothingly, and Edward held his other hand out towards his father, a silent request for some slack on the speed these plans were being made. Carlisle ignored him.

"I'm able to do it. You would be in no danger of me losing control" I will do this, but Edward, I don't want to do it without your approval. And neither does she.

Bella agreed as though she was accepting a dinner invitation, rather than the plans for her own death.

"Hold on," Edward tried to say as calm as possible. He realised he was losing, that no matter what he said or did, Bella had already made her decision. "This doesn't have to happen right now. I can think of some reasons why we should wait before going ahead with this plan."

"Of course you can," Bella replied sourly, her eyes determined.

"Let's just say, for the sake of remaining inconspicuous, we wait. Do you really think you can disappear this morning, and Charlie won't notice or Renee?"

Bella grimaced, a look which contorted her face while Edward was still holding her jaw, he let go hoping her hadn't bruised her. The resolve in her eyes began to fade and Edward knew he had found a bargaining chip.

"I propose we put this conversation off, at the very least until Bella finished high school, and moves out of Charlie's house." He finished, hearing approval in his family's thoughts.

Compromise, that's the key to both of you getting what you want. Esme thought, and Edward began thinking of another way to delay Bella's change. Of course, he would only speak to her about it, once they had privacy.

Bella was looking at him with pursed lips and squinted eyes. "I'll consider it."

Edward relaxed, standing straight and offering her his hand. "I should probably take you home, don't want Charlie to start worrying too early." He tried to sound light-hearted and happy. Bella however, looked to Carlisle.

"After graduation?" She asked, her eyes seeking reassurance.

"You have my word."

She finally looked up at Edward, smiling. He pulled her onto his back and flew out the back doors, before the family could begin promising Bella anything more. Bella remained quiet as he ran, and he was lost in the plans he was forming, of ways to distract and delay Bella, of keeping her heart beating long after graduation.