Author's Note: Okay. I know, the cliffhanger was evil. But here you go, the new chapter. That wait wasn't too awful. A huge thank you to Allison, I couldn't have finished this tonight without her.
Disclaimer: I quote Eclipse. But it's used in context. You'll see. Nothing is mine. If it was, I wouldn't be writing fanfiction.
She was the very last person I expected to come rushing out of the castle. If I hadn't trusted my senses above almost all other things, I wouldn't have believed it. When Leah Clearwater crashed into me, I didn't just feel the emaciated body of a girl I'd thought dead. I was hit with a thousand pounds of guilt, anguish, and empathy. Guilt for assuming her dead and leaving her to rot. Anguish for the pain she and Seth had gone through. Empathy, because, like it or not, I was a mind reader. In her mind was darkness. It was all the despair I had felt without my Bella, plus torture at the hands of the most sadistic vampires on the globe.
Her eyes looked up into mine. I imagine that they were what a ghost's eyes would look like. She looked like a walking corpse, but that wasn't what inspired the thought. It was the lifeless stare beneath those sunken lids. It hurt and scared me, to feel the pain and darkness she had endured. She cried out my name, a helpless sound, a sigh of relief, and let go, succumbed to the blackness.
I had a fleeting thought that perhaps, it was better that way, as Carlisle had once said "She'll come around when she's ready. She's had too much to deal with today. Let her mind protect itself." For her own head might have been the very best place for her then.
I lifted her into my arms, cautiously, like I had done with Bella before she lost her humanity. Leah was as fragile now as Bella had ever been. Seth had appeared at my side instantly. I looked up. My entire family was there, with Bella and I. Bella was speechless, and perhaps whiter than usual, if it was possible.
"L..Leah?" Seth's voice trembled. There was no answer; she was unconscious. Breathing, and finally resting after all these years. I searched Seth's face for emotion before my mind even got a chance to read his.
Worry. Fear. Anxiety.
"She isn't dead." I whispered, immediately. "Don't worry. We have her now. Carlisle's the best doctor there is. We'll have her right in no time." I promised. Even though I knew Seth had done a lot of growing up in the last ten years, in that moment he was the runt of the pack, aching for reassurance. He did his best to look convinced.
I watched as Paige gathered his face between her hands, connecting their eyes together. "Your sister … she will be okay."
At her words, Seth managed a shaky nod, and a whispered "Alright."
Then he turned to face me.
"What happened? How could she have been here all this time, and we didn't know?"
"They kept her human." I responded as gently as I could, but honestly, for he needed the truth. After all the time that had passed, he deserved that much. "She…" I sighed, unsure of how to phrase my words "They wanted to know more about your species."
Behind me, Bella gasped, and Seth's face contorted with rage.
"She was their guinea pig?" he roared "A mother fucking science experiment?!"
Helplessly I nodded. "In a nutshell."
He bolted through the still open doors, into the castle. And most of my family, predictably, followed suit, and while they all could've out run him, they chose not to.
This was Seth's fight.
Even through the stone of the walls, my vampire senses allowed me to hear Seth scream. Hear him bellow and order at the Volturi guard as nobody had ever done before.
"Nobody leaves." He cried "Nobody fucking leaves until I find out why my sister was held here like she was."
I shivered subconsciously as another wave of guilt rushed through my body. How could we not have known? I thought bitterly. How could we not have prevented this?
I was certain we would all die tonight.
But I focused my efforts into reviving Leah. For in that moment, it was all I could do.
Bella remained at my side, but she wasn't focused on me or the sleeping girl in my arms. She had expended a huge amount of energy on shielding our family, and was concentrated fully on that. She seemed to sense my gaze, however, because she shot me a hard, blazing look... As if to say We will live through this, Edward Cullen. Don't you dare suggest otherwise. I nodded in understanding, but not in belief. With Seth's blind rage, and my entire family ready to sacrifice themselves for one another, how could we all escape death again? The morbid thoughts were creeping through my limbs, and I realized with a jolt...my daughter had run in, too.
It took all the considerable self control that I had to not drop Leah and run after Renesmee. She's with Jacob. I reminded myself. Who would sooner die than let her be hurt. On the other hand, if it came to that, Nessie would be hurt in a way that the Volturi could otherwise never inflict. What could I do? Not for the first time in my life, I was torn. I decided in a second that Leah would be safe with Bella, protected by the shield, protected by distance from the Volturi.
I kissed my wife, and ran to protect our daughter.
I slid gracefully into the grand room that held so many vampires on edge. An eerie feeling of de ja vu crept upon me. I pushed those thoughts away from me, blocking out whoever they had come from. Now was no time to revisit my mistakes. I had time to analyze the situation accurately, enough time to focus on Seth, not enough time to help him or advise him. His mind was screaming. In wordless agony, desire for justice.
Aro's political, pacifying reply to Seth's outburst made the rage inside my head intensify; I could barely feel my own thoughts of anger and contempt, Seth's were so overpowering. My knees nearly gave out as I was emerged in something like a scream of lightning inside a funnel, begging to be seen, to be let out. Flashes of white trying to throw themselves outwards, only to be sucked back in.
It was sheer pressure, from top to bottom, and something within Seth, almost in me, broke.
The clothing ripped from his skin, tearing and flying in every direction. Seth's leap into the air was feral, propelled forward by pure rage. His body slammed into Aro's, and his teeth connected with the heartless leader's marble flesh.
Thoughts went wild. A common instinct engulfed the room.
Defend yourself, defend the ones you love.
I found my own thoughts melting with Seth's. The guilt of allowing his sister to suffer for so long had my image of rage, and his righteous anger blending into one.
In that moment, I saw as he saw, heard as he heard. I ran closer, footsteps pounding on the stone floor, heavy like thunder with each step.
Jane, Demetri, Rena, and Alec were all desperately focused, trying to force their powers to work. But like a blanket of cellophane, Bella's shield wrapped around us, ever protecting. Rosalie and Emmett raced towards them, physically restraining them in a matter of seconds. Powerless, they had no real fight in them.
My eyes were focused on Seth, and I saw the incoming danger before he ever would. My reflexes were sharper, and my vision better. I did all I could, and cried out to him.
"Seth! Behind you!"
He managed to pivot, duck, and avoid Preston, just barely.
"Leave my brother alone! You've done enough damage to my family! You won't have him too!" The room froze, spun slowly and watched as Leah Clearwater, still shaky on her feet morphed into the familiar thin grey wolf.
She crouched low, her eyes sharp, and pounced. Preston grabbed at her, his sharp fingernails sliced like claws through her skin. But her brain was focused, and using the momentum she still had from her jump and the pain of the fresh wound, she bit down and heard the satisfying crunch of cartilage.
Preston yanked her by the scruff of her neck, pulling her off of himself, and with every ounce of force he had in his body, he tossed her across the room, and into one of the many tinted windows that lined the wall.
Leah lay at the base of the wall, legs bent at an odd angle, her body vibrating with pain, her face slick with blood.
It has to end. She thought quietly. Here, now. Make them pay.
Even from across the room, I could tell the moment the life slipped from her body, the instant she was gone.
Someone screamed. But it was Arielle, not Seth, as I'd expected that raced forward in retaliation.
"You son of a bitch. You're going to pay for that."
It wasn't an exclamation, it was a statement of fact. She charged him, landed a kick square in his sternum, and visibly stole his breath.
He spun and swiped at her, missed her face by sheer inches. But he smiled. "Wanna play rough, a ghra?"
She thought about backing off. She thought about letting Carlisle do it. But she was sick of being weak, and she was sick of being Preston's victim. And there was that cold hard centere of her that wanted the fight, wanted vengeance for Leah. Wanted the blood.
Arielle feinted, and jabbed, ramming her fist into his grin. She took him down, and I watched the smile fade as they somersaulted sideways. When they rolled off the edge of the platform, the snapping sound was sickening. It churned even an undead stomach, because for just a moment, we weren't sure who's neck had snapped. But then Arielle moved, and began to meticulously tear him apart.
Marcus and Caius moved to defend Aro, but Alice and Jasper reached them first, and their youthful agilities got the better of the aged vampires.
Carlisle lit a match, tossed it into the dry cobweb filled curtains that surrounded the room. The fire simmered, then began to billow, the smoke rose in puffs filling the air. Jacob and Nessie both raced forward to help Arielle dismantle Preston.
The flames were getting out of control, spreading rapidly, consuming everything within their path. It smelled sickly, overly sweet. The stench of death. I watched Bella scoop up Leah's lifeless form and carry it to safety somewhere outside. At least this time, she'd have a proper funeral.
Paige had joined Seth; the two poured their souls into ending this. Because they believed it would end with his death.
I wondered if they'd be right.