I looked at Bella across the field. I kept praying, waiting for a change. I knew we were doomed by this point, so my efforts were all focused on her. Nothing to lose, everything to gain. All of us had done the math. If Bella changed her mind to defend us, we had the advantage.
Zafrina would blind the Volturi and that would be the end of it. The destruction of the Volturi. We would finally be free.
Bella hadn't budged.
When I was focused, I could see her decisions twirling around. It made me dizzy. In one of them I actually saw her running away from the fight entirely. Avoiding choosing sides. That would be almost as good…except, maybe all of us would be blind. Zafrina's gift was much faster than Alec's, perhaps we would have the advantage…Kill Alec before his gift could affect us. Then again, maybe he would be unable to hold his gift if blinded. Victory would be ours.
The Volturi were crouching down, ready for attack. Carlisle had taken several paces back away from Aro. Esme, I knew from experience, would be quivering in fear that her husband was so near the danger.
"Please, Bella." I heard Edward whisper from beside me.
I tried to ignore all other thoughts and stayed focused on Bella. Her mind was abruptly leaning towards asking to keep Edward and me. I felt aghast that someone I cared so much about could choose which of us lived, which died. As if she didn't know what I would say. A life without Jasper was no life at all.
"Aro, please, may I make a request?" Bella spoke up hurriedly. I almost felt happiness at the sound of her voice, and then I squashed it down. This wasn't the Bella I loved. My dearest friend, sister. This was a true monster.
"Of course, pet." He held up a hand, warding off the attack for a few more precious moments.
"I thought we should give a couple of them a chance to join us. Spare them - my mate, if he would like. And Alice." Bella sounded careless. She was not that good of an actress, I remembered. Could she really not care if Renesmee died? Will? Jacob?
"Naturally, I am open to take in anyone who is feeling particularly repentant." Aro sounded just as careless as Bella – his new favorite, obviously.
Hisses, snarls, and growls erupted all around me. Edward was especially vicious in his contempt.
"No, thank you." I answered, looking at Jasper briefly. I could tell this upset him. He wanted me to take my chance at life. But how could I? I wasn't as heartless as Bella had become. With that thought, I gave up searching for her future. There was nothing there I wanted to see anymore. Destiny had arrived. I only hoped to give my loved ones a sporting chance.
The desensitizing mist from Alec drifted towards us.
"I'd rather die." Edward growled.
"Then that's your choice." Bella said. "Mine has already been made." Her words solidified her allegiance to Aro.
"Then, I have no other choice." Aro looked around to his guard. "Dear ones." An unseen signal and they were crouched down once more.
This was it.
We charged into the mist. All of us excluding Renesmee and Jacob, who stayed in place to protect their son.
The mist would envelop us into nothingness. We would be shredded and burned and feel absolutely nothing. My feet were inches from the mist when something miraculous happened.
The mist stopped in its tracks, then began to retreat.
I looked at the faces of the Volturi guard. They looked terrified. Many of them were shaking in fear, others violently and blindly attacking imaginary images. Confused, I heard Zafrina laugh. Joy racked through my stone body. Her mirages had stopped held off Alec's maneuver.
But how? Bella was supposed to be shielding the Volturi.
"BELLA!" Aro's frightened voice rang out, "The shield!"
My eyes found Bella who was caught up in the confusion that had begun. She would be unaffected by the Zafrina, yet she did not move to attack our family and allies that stormed around her. Most of our side had not paused to take into account their good luck; they had only attacked the Volturi with the speed of a locomotive. Only a few of us had stopped in bewilderment.
Edward was not one of them. He had run to Bella immediately.
I stayed still as the future warped into something else entirely
An empowering feeling rushed through me when I heard the once powerful Aro scream for my help. I knew I shouldn't feel pleasure at his pain, but I did. For all the pain he had caused me throughout my existence, I felt pleasure to have our roles reversed. I was in control. His fate was in my hands.
With a faint curve to the corners of my lips, I closed my eyes and waited for my death. To finally feel the end to the constant misery that had followed me since that night Alice first had her vision. I deserved to die after what I had done to my family, to Edward, to that poor human girl back in Volterra.
Everything I'd done…If the price for their lives was my own, then so be it.
I was confident that none of them would be quick enough to realize that I was the sole reason Zafrina's gift had worked before they destroyed me. Later, one of them would realize and feel a bit bad for destroying the vampire who had changed the outcome of the battle. A small bit of remorse at best was all they would manage. Who would feel remorse for a monster?
The sounds of tearing and burning filled my senses. And then…an angelic, yet livid voice.
"Don't touch her! DON'T TOUCH HER!" Edward was roaring. I opened my eyes in time to see him throwing himself in front of an angry Tanya; Tanya, who seemed intent on ending my life.
"DON'T TOUCH HER! Edward shouted, repeating himself again.
Tanya hissed furiously, before flouncing off and joining in on the attack against the other Volturi guard. The screams were hard to ignore as I examined the ongoing destruction.
The Romanians had fallen on Alec with a vengeance. It was disturbing how much the Romanians enjoyed themselves, their laughter an odd combination with the screams.
Kate had finished torturing Jane with her own medicine and was disassembling her body parts.
The last of the Quileute wolves were enjoying a last hurrah before retirement as they shredded Caius. I recognized Leah, Sam, and Collin. I'm surprised it wasn't Leah attempting to mangle my body.
I nearly smiled when I saw Alice.
Alice was skipping happily around the piles of shredded bodies with lighter fluid and matches.
It was then it finally sunk in for me. The Volturi were destroyed. The Cullens were the victors. And, I looked down at myself. I was still alive.
I ripped my cloak off and threw it into a nearby fire. I considered throwing myself in, too, except suddenly warm arms were wrapped tightly around me. Kisses were being bestowed on me at a rate that was inhuman.
"Edward, please don't." I whispered. Was he deranged? Did he not think me a monster? Did he somehow not know what I had done in Volterra? All the lies, lies, lies I had been spouting since I left the Cullens…
"I can't, Bella, you have no idea how I feel at this moment." Edward gasped out, holding me to him tighter.
"You have no idea how I feel, either." I croaked. "I'm a monster, Edward." I felt even more monstrous as I was held in this angel's arms. He was everything good in my world. I was everything bad.
"No. You saved us, Bella." Edward contradicted me. "You did the impossible. I don't care what you did in Volterra. I don't care."
As the billows of smoke rose around us, I chanced a glance around me. The people I had nearly died to save were standing around, staring at us in shock. By the look on Rosalie's face, she did not agree with Edward forgiving me.
I couldn't agree with her more.
"It doesn't matter. In the end, you did the right thing. Whatever ill you wanted to do to us five minutes ago doesn't matter. At the last second, you changed your mind and saved everyone, Bella. We owe you our lives."
"Edward…do you think so poorly of me that you believe it was a last second decision?" I asked him at last.
"It doesn't matter," he repeated for the third time.
"Edward." I felt hysterical. Any minute I was going to explode from the pressure of the lies that surrounded me. "Edward," I tried again. "I had this planned from the beginning."
"What?" He stepped back, looking into my hideously bright crimson eyes. "I don't…understand."
"I love you." I whispered. "Don't feel obligated to forgive me for what I'm about to show you."
I released the protective band around my mind and let my memories tell Edward the truth.
That night in the forest with Edward, when we had first learned that the end was inevitable. The idea had occurred to me to do the opposite of what Alice's vision had shown. Namely, that the Volturi would want to kill me first. If there was some way I could change that, I thought, perhaps we had a chance.
I showed Edward my memories of the inner torture I went under that night as I came up with my plan to fool everyone into thinking that my life was more important to me than anything. The absurdity of it. To avoid Alice's detection, I was constantly revising and making other random decisions. An easy thing to do after years of practice.
Edward was allowed to see my private worry that the Volturi would not even hear me out before they executed me. Then my further plot for if they didn't.
I knew that doom was inevitable no matter what I said to the Volturi, so I told them every secret I knew. It broke my heart to pretend that my grandson, Will, was an abomination. He was more precious than my own life.
Yet, I knew that if I did tell them of Will, they would see my betrayal to my family as a sure thing. Not something I would back out on. They thought my story about immortality was perfectly logical, because that was what was most important to them. Aro ate up my lies gleefully.
I winced as I went on to my first taste of human blood. Oh, how Carlisle would be disappointed in me.
I needed Aro to trust me completely. I had had no intention of changing from my vegetarian diet when I went to Volterra. When the opportunity came, I jumped at my chance to prove myself to Aro. It worked better than I'd hoped.
The memories of the girl I'd murdered were painted with agony. I'd made it quick for her, snapping her neck before drinking from her. I chose her above all the other humans available, because she looked the most afraid. I wanted to make sure she had as painless a death as possible.
After that, I began to feel like the monster I was.
Edward would never love me anymore. My family would never want me again. My time in Volterra was spent entirely on praying that I died with the Volturi and that my plan would work.
Aro was so pleased with me, that when I suggested we leave the wives and a few select other members of the guard behind in Volterra, he agreed. What need did we have for them when I was on their side? He didn't doubt me for a second.
Lastly, I showed Edward my memory of asking for his and Alice's lives to be spared.
"I knew you would both say no." I admitted, speaking aloud finally. "I heard you say, 'Please, Bella' and I had to hear your voice, just one more time before I died. I added in Alice to make Aro believe I was doing it for the benefit of the guard." I paused, letting that sink in. "I waited to make the decision to not put my shield up until the last possible moment. I didn't want Alice to do anything to screw up my plan. The Volturi would have fled, making it harder to finish them off."
Edward was silent.
Alice wasn't. "Bella Marie Cullen! When did you get so good at acting!?"
I was baffled. "What?"
"I can already see us throwing you a hero party. What's done is done. So, I repeat, when did you get so good at acting?"
A wave of relief went through me. They were going to forgive me. And apparently continue to give me parties I didn't enjoy.
I grinned. "Let's just say I've been taking a lot of drama classes for the last decade."
Alice's musical laugh filled the air. A few chuckles joined her.
I looked around at my family and knew that everything was going to be fine. The vampires gathered around us would help keep away the need for another family like the Volturi to take power over our world. We would be at peace.
I saw my daughter bawling joyfully into Jake's chest, Will squashed in their arms, peeking out at me, glowing with glee.
We were safe.
"Even after 50 years," Edward said to me, "I do not understand the freaky way you think. I love you. Even if all those lies had been truth, I would still love you."
"You would love me…even if you thought I was a monster?" I wondered in amazement.
"Yes. Bella…I must confess. I stopped Tanya from attacking you before I had even realized your shield wasn't up." My mouth opened in awe. "Don't underestimate the torture it was, thinking that the woman I loved had betrayed me and everything I loved and stood for. And I loved you still."
"Idiot. I love you." I murmured, hugging him close. If this wasn't true love, I didn't know what was.
Emmett groaned in aggravation. "Can somebody PLEASE tell me what's going on?" Impatient as always.
"You're going to have to wait a few more minutes," Edward mumbled, tilting my face up for a long welcome back kiss.
Author's Note: So, that's all folks! This was my first attempt at a Twilight fic. I hope it wasn't too terrible. Review and tell me what you think – constructive criticism is welcome!
Thanks for reading!