Time for the last and the bestest chapter. Like seriously, I friggin love this one. It wasn't originally going to be so long, but it kinda got out of hand. Rosalie has many interesting thoughts, after all... I love the chance to get in her head! Thanks so, so much for reading - I'm glad you guys like it too. Thanks especially to my reviewers, who indulge my need for constructive criticism and the knowledge that people out there are interested!
And those of you who have been reading all along but haven't reviewed, please do! I want to know what ya'll think. :)
The expression Emmett gave me was thoughtful, but somehow sad and horrified too.
"At that price?" he asked softly.
I bit my lip.
"Don't make this more difficult than it is," I finally replied. "If Bella dies, we take care of her baby. It makes sense. Even humans make agreements like that."
"That's true, Rose, but our circumstances are completely different. Think about it: are you going to stop Edward and Carlisle from saving Bella's life?"
"I'm going to stop them from killing that baby!" I snapped back. He was trying to make a valid point, but if I gave in and listened, I would feel guilt. Guilt would dissolve my convictions, and I needed those badly.
"We don't know what kind of creature this baby is going to be," Emmett insisted, remaining calm as always. "It could be a monster, a weird half-breed that stays a baby forever. It could be an immortal child, Rosalie! Think of the implications of that! Is it right to risk Bella's life for some phenomenon we don't know anything about? Tell me honestly - does she deserve that?"
"But what if it's an innocent baby, Emmett?" I demanded. "What if it's a helpless infant that's going to die because it has a weakling mother? Does it deserve that?"
The silence in my room resumed, and the sounds of people moving around and talking in rushed, anxious tones floated up from the living room downstairs.
"This is too complicated," Emmett finally sighed.
"Any way you look at it, I promised Bella I'd protect her baby," I said conclusively. "I'm not breaking that promise, even if it means going against the rest of the coven in a legitimate fight. Would you side with me?"
"You know I'd have to, baby," Emmett replied. "I'm your husband. But that doesn't mean I feel like this is right."
Time for a new approach. He needed more help seeing this situation from my perspective. Our perspective. It was entirely understandable. As a man, he wouldn't see the desperate void in our lives as plainly as I did.
"Em," I whispered tenderly, putting my hand over his. "Don't think so much. It only makes it harder. We could be parents; have a little son or daughter. We could name it whatever you like, and take it to baseball games. We could have our own house and be almost a normal family. Tell me that isn't worth fighting for."
I saw the corners of a pained smile appearing on Emmett's face, and knew that if we were humans, we'd both be crying from the emotional intensity of this moment.
He nodded slowly, squeezing my hand.
"Okay Rose," he whispered in reply, sounding as though he was hating the way he felt but couldn't deny himself the possibility I had just described, under any circumstances. "I'm in."
Sitting in the back of Carlisle's car on the way to the airport, I took advantage of the last few minutes I had to spend privately with my thoughts. Once we got close enough, Edward would be able to read them, and if I wasn't careful, this whole scheme would be stopped in its tracks quite abruptly.
Was it really a scheme, though?
I wasn't sure if I thought so.
There was some kind of undeniably conniving element to what I was doing, although I was not in the wrong when one looked at the surface of the situation. I had made a promise to my sister-in-law to protect her child, and I planned to honor that promise to the last. There was nothing disreputable about that in the least. Hell, it made me sound like a saint.
So why did I feel so conflicted? Was it because I thought I was killing her for my own benefit?
I wasn't killing her, though!
I just wasn't protecting her from a fate she'd brought on herself. When I thought of how many times and how many ways I'd tried to warn her about what she was doing, all the guilt subsided and the anger and justification returned. She was getting what she wanted all along. How many times had I watched her listen longingly to stories about our family as newborns, with our incorrigible lusts for human blood and flashing red eyes? Even at the wedding, I watched her gaze jealously at the Denali girls, undoubtedly coveting their unnaturally pale skin and ice-cold flesh. Yes, Bella had ended up here by her own fault, the selfish little bitch. I had done all I could.
But enough brooding. I had to walk through the logical aspects of my plan.
We would get to the airport grounds, and on the off-chance that they had landed, I would suspend all planning immediately. I had already come up with ways to occupy my mind. It would be a wise choice to think dirty thoughts about Emmett. Edward would tune those out quickly, so I would be safe if any baby-thoughts sneaked in despite my efforts. Besides, he would consider that train of thought normal for me. If I did something like recite a Cyrillic alphabet to keep my mind occupied, he would automatically assume something was going on.
We would wait around the terminal for hours – Alice had already informed us that their flight would be delayed – and there wouldn't even be any shopping at the duty-free store because I could already tell that Alice and Esme would rather sit around and nervously bite their fingernails, and I would be stuck doing it with them. I didn't want to look insensitive or give them any reason to question my motives.
Finally, around 3:30, Bella and Edward would get off the plane, and I would find some excuse to get close to the former. I had initially thought I might rush forward to take her bag, but she'll be with Edward, so there's no chance she'll be carrying her own luggage to begin with. Oh well. I had eventually decided just to insist that she looked faint and run forward to steady her. The family would be weirded out by the fact that I cared, of course, but by that point it wouldn't matter. I could let my thoughts flow freely again then, too.
Because I would have my prize.
From the moment I clasp her hand, nobody – not even her husband – will be able to get within five feet of her without my approval. Her fate will be mine – well, mine and hers, in theory – to decide. The battle will be half-won.
Finally, after all the tedium I had anticipated and more, the not-so-happy couple walked through the gate. I must admit, Edward looked ten times worse than any of us possibly could have pictured him – except Alice, I suppose, whose powers had given her the opportunity to brace herself. Edward's hair was a terrible mess, sticking up in all directions, and he was pale even on our standards. His jet-black eyes seemed deeply sunken in. He continually stared at the ground, but I had no desire to make eye contact anyway.
Bella didn't look too much better. Her hair wasn't wavy like usual – it was stringy and flat from travel, pulled out of her way in a careless side ponytail. Her skin was beginning to break out, and she looked skinner even than usual.
Except for the bump.
My first feeling one was of terrifyingly powerful envy, but as I continued to look at her, I felt a chill run down my spine. I couldn't deny that she looked sickeningly unnatural. Her stomach was round, but I could tell even from a distance that it was rock-hard. The blue cap-sleeve shirt she wore – one of the simpler tops Alice had picked out – hung off her skinny frame rather pathetically, except for the way it stretched over her midsection. The forlorn expression in her eyes reminded me of a five-year-old who had fallen on the playground and skinned her knee.
Needless to say, the proverbial pregnancy "glow" was not at all present.
I watched Bella place a hand over her belly and bite her lip nervously. Casting Edward a look of guilt – though he wasn't looking in her direction anyway – she suddenly closed her eyes and took off at a run towards where we stood. Before any of us could determine what was going to happen, she threw herself into my arms.
I recovered quickly from my shock and placed a hand behind her head. As I held her close, I could feel the bump, which was just as stony as I had imaged, bore into my own abdomen. Swallowing the jealousy that threatened to consume me, I tried to offer as motherly and innocent an expression as I could.
"Don't worry," I whispered, fully aware that my family could hear – and honestly wanting them to. "Your baby is safe with me."
After a well-acted few moments of stroking her hair, I looked up, knowing very well that the game was over. And I had come out on top. I tried to keep my expression from growing too smug, but probably failed. Bella had unknowingly played her part so perfectly that all conniving on my part had become unnecessary. How convenient.
In my haze of triumph, I allowed myself to look up at Edward. His eyebrows were narrowed in intense concentration and bewilderment. I could tell that he was shamelessly racing through my thoughts, but I let him. There was no stopping me now.
As I watched his expression of confusion turn into a mask of horror and rage, I almost felt a twinge of guilt.