I heard my name repeated, but I couldn't do anything about it. My body wasn't working. I wasn't working. I couldn't feel my heart beat, nor my pulse. I didn't have the energy to blink or breathe.
I felt a cold hand grasp my wrist.
This time I understood whose voice it was. How could I have forgotten? The dulcet, velvet tones were irreplaceable. I moaned a little bit, as if a warning I couldn't do anything else, and he picked me up and cradled me.
Somehow I managed to blink my eyes open, and I wondered how he was able to lift me. He was sick. He was dying. He shouldn't be able to hold me. Then another thought came into my head: we were both dead, Carlisle didn't save him. He was dead, and I was dead, and somehow, we were both here, in what looked like the Cullen living room…
Edward was carrying my lifeless body, his angelic face as white as marble. His eyes were amber, liquid. His skin felt cold.
"You - you -" I couldn't make out the words, so instead I just screeched, "vampire!"
"Have I finally succeeded in scaring you, love?" he asked, though I could tell there was a trace of concern in his tremor.
He placed me onto the Cullen couch and held my hand. My vision began to come back, a little fuzz after another, and I noticed Carlisle and Esme were in the room, too.
It didn't make sense! Unless it was a dream. But it couldn't have been; I was on the floor, and I definitely hurt… this wasn't sleeping. I began to hear a hum: my lullaby. Edward was humming, and Carlisle and Esme were snuggled to each other, their eyes closed.
I had a million questions. Where was I? How had I gotten here? And why, why were they vampires? In the end, I asked none. I simply said: "year."
It was Carlisle's chuckle I heard now.
"2005," he said.
There was a long, pregnant pause. Although my eyesight was still recuperating, I was able to see Edward's eyes flash from amber to onyx, the black piercing and hard. He seemed angry. Then he relaxed himself, glaring directly at Carlisle.
"I have questions, of course," he said. "You've been careful not thinking about that around me!" He sounded hurt. "You always said you didn't know why."
Carlisle sighed, and it seemed Esme, too, had no idea what was going on, but she ran her fingers lightly against her husband's arm.
"I think it would be best if I spoke to Bella alone right now, if that's alright," Carlisle said. "I'm sure she has questions, too."
Edward's jaw stiffened.
"Do you have questions for Carlisle, Bella?"
"Yes!" It was the first time talking didn't hurt. "But, Edward, you don't have to leave." On the contrary, I wanted to look at him, feel his cold, hard skin. He was my Edward again, but at the same time there was a part of me that missed the Edward I had met. He was much less careful with me, much less protective.
Edward kissed the top of my head.
"Carlisle wants to speak to you alone," he growled.
"You'll be listening, won't you?"
"Of course. It'll just make him more comfortable."
Before I could protest, Edward and Esme had already risen and exited the room. I was left alone, then, with Carlisle. Just the two of us.
"It wasn't a dream, Bella," Carlisle said. "I don't know how, or why, but when you slipped down the stairs a few minutes ago, you went back to 1912. That first time I met you, when Edward brought you to me a few months back, I gasped. It was so hard - so very hard not thinking about our last encounter near him, about how I'd met you before. Thankfully, Edward was too engrossed with other thoughts to be bothered with mine. I have been very careful lately. Him knowing the truth about your, let's call it 'time travel,' would have ruined everything.
"You telling Elizabeth Masen about my ability was necessary; I never would have changed Edward without it, and I wouldn't have had the family I do today. She died, of course, and we both know what happened to James and Victoria, and Johan and Alice. Somehow, that ripple you created in time made everything the way it is."
"Do you remember what I told you, when you told me that you knew I was a vampire?"
I shook my head. Stupid vampire memory, I thought.
"I said, 'I think that there's something that you need to do here. Something you need to accomplish- can you think of anything?' And of course, you said no. We had no idea you'd be the motive to create my family, no idea at all!"
Carlisle seemed finished, but I didn't understand; Edward appeared angry he didn't know about this ordeal. Even if Carlisle could control his thoughts, why couldn't Edward remember me?
"Medication," Carlisle explained, as if he could read my thoughts. "Medication and the change made him believe you never existed. Maybe that's another reason he was so drawn to you, but I don't know how you ended up there in the first place. All I can say is, thank you for giving me this family."
"Happy to be of time travel service," I said. I could hear Edward's laugh from the other room.
Carlisle smiled, too. Then he grabbed my hand, touching the bruise that was already sprawled across my arm.
"Always the danger magnet," I murmured.
I lay there for a while, letting Carlisle examine me and find out just how badly I'd hurt myself. Apparently I'd only been knocked out a second or two, even though I spent almost a year in the past. In a way, it was nice. I had never been to Chicago, after all.
I didn't know when Edward walked back into the room, but soon enough, I felt his cold lips brush against my cheek. It was a simple brush, not enough to be considered a kiss, yet tender in a way that a stroke could not do.
"I just have one question," I said.
"Would you - would you have loved me back then, if we had both been changed?"
Edward traced my lips with his finger, and then cupped my ear. I could hear his lips part as they moved, his lips open and close as he breathed. It was surreal. I felt him, close to him.
"Bella love, you are timeless to me," he said.
We kissed. And that was all it took - all it took to bring me home.
A/N: To my loving reviewers and readers alike: Thank you. This has truly been a journey, one that I realize should have been finished years ago, but nonetheless, thank each and every one of you. Writing this has impacted me in ways you can not imagine. Feedback truly is necessary in order to improve, and I wish I could get yellow Porsches for you all.
If there are still any unanswered questions, please ask.
Again, I appreciate you all so much. Thank you for dealing with my scattered brain, my hiatuses, and my 15-year-old awkward self (reading some of those old author's notes really makes me cringe!). Keep me posted about your lives. I've made friendships with many of you. I want to know how you're doing! If you ever need me, email me at . Thank you all; you are such a blessing.