Guys, thank you all for alerting me to the problems with the story. Last night I had tried to update, review chapters and post a new one, but I ended up deleting the old ones and for some reason the site won't let me upload a new chapter. I e-mailed support and I'm hoping to have the problem fixed soon. In the mean time I have posted all 8 chapters as one chapter. If the problem doesn't get solved by the time for another update, I will do what I did now, post it under the first chapter. There's an A/N at the beginning of the 8th chapter that explains my prolonged absence. Also, if anyone knows how to solve my problem, please let me know. The sooner I fix it, the sooner I can go back to posting chapters normally. Thanks again everyone.

1. FIRST SIGHT

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: This story is my first attempt at writing fan fiction. I have been reading it for a very long time, and after thinking about it for awhile, I decided to try it out. I have worked hard on this story and I hope to improve it with each chapter. I'm also looking for a beta reader so if anyone is interested please let me know. The story will be told from Bella's, Jasper's and Edward's point of view mostly, with possible few others. I hope you will review and let me know what you think. It's rated M for a reason, keep it in mind. I hope to be able to update it every few days. I certainly have enough material. Enjoy!

***

When it's good, then it's good

It's so good 'till it goes bad

'Till you're trying to find the you that you once had

I have heard myself cry, never again!

Broken down in agony

***

I still hate this town. Don't get me wrong, I spent half my life here, and almost everything I loved about it was here, my family, my friends and the business. It was all I had.

I remember when I was younger, and first moved to Washington to live with my dad. My life had changed in just a few months. Who knew Forks held so much potential? I had a new life, new family to go along with my old one. Back then I knew I would have to give Charlie and Renee up eventually. But it was something I could live with as long as I had him with me.

My prince charming that came and swept me off my feet.

Right… Prince charming left when he realized I wasn't good enough and I was doomed to spend my life more along the lines of the ugly stepsister instead of the poor girl turned princess.

Some people would say I have nothing to complain about. I had more then the average person. I owned an exclusive nightclub and a restaurant everyone wanted to be seen in, and not to mention 1/5 of a beautiful house under the mountains. It was close enough to the city, but far enough to offer peace and quiet. And no neighbors to complain when things would get a bit out of hand…

I built the house along with my four best friends. Sonia and Lana were both renowned psychologists with their own private practices; Brian worked for a huge corporation as an IT engineer; Ian was a molecular biologist. I was the economist of the bunch.

All in all, we made a group of highly educated freaks.

Even though I've know Ian since we were 18 and 19 respectively, and he introduced me to Brian when I was 23, it took us meeting Sonia and Lana in front of a bookstore to really round out the group.

From the day we met we became inseparable. Weekly meetings, daily lengthy phone calls and two years later we all decided to move in together.

Sonia was the only one who was successful at having any kind of a lengthy relationship. I stopped trying after a few dates, because I couldn't convince myself to even try to trust someone. When Ed… when he went away he took everything and only left a few broken pieces behind.

It wouldn't be fair of me to offer that to anyone.

I had given up a long time ago on finding love ever again. I had mine and it was over. I would live out the rest of my life the best I could and hopefully find some peace in the afterlife.

None of my closest friends were even remotely ugly; in fact all of them were attractive, outgoing, normal people who just seemed to have the worst luck imaginable when it came to personal relationships.

I fit in with them quite well. No judging and pitying looks, no trying to set me up for blind dates… They understood. They understood because I still screamed for him in my sleep. This was one of the reasons I chose a nightclub as my business. It allowed me to sleep during the day, when no one was around to see me fall apart every time I closed my eyes.

When we graduated from college Ian and I moved in together and Brian joined us a year later. Charlie had freaked at first about me living with two guys, but these men were my brothers, my true knights in shining armor.

In the beginning, Ian would hold me most nights, crying right along side with me. He mourned the loss of love, but he could never understand. How could he? I had lost my heart and soul that day, and I never got them back.

I refused to live alone because I knew if I did, I would only get worse. Having company in form of two whacked out men that had a lot of the same interests as I did was comforting.

Sonia and Lana rounded out the group quite perfectly. They were professional psychologists and they knew I was suffering. But they knew me well enough to not push their help on me. Instead, they were sneaky about it. They knew the exact times of the year that were the worst for me. And I would usually find myself whisked away as far from Seattle as possible. Girl shopping trips, spa weekends, drinking in Cabo… You name it; we probably did it.

When we decided we all wanted to live together, we set down and formed a plan. No apartment we could rent was big enough and none of the houses available were appealing. So, we built our own. We could certainly afford it.

I had worked all night and I decided to walk around the property for a while, watch the sunrise. It was my favorite time of the day. It was so quiet and the ache in my heart lessened just a little bit.

It was easier for me to breathe.

The night was brutal; I had some seriously problematic football players harassing the staff, a jealous girlfriend bitch slapping one of the waitresses and to top it all off I had to deal with a self-righteous socialite who screeched at me when I came to check on things in the restaurant. The "do you know who I am" and "my father will hear about this" lines were seriously starting to get on my nerves. I just wanted to tell them all to go to hell.

Why didn't I pick an easier career? Sure, I'd make less money and I'd have to sit behind a desk all day, but it could be worse.

I tried it and it didn't work.

I wanted to be my own boss too much. And the sleepless nights took a toll on me after awhile. I worked well with others, it was true enough, but this was by far the best option.

I kept telling myself that as I slipped off my sandals and walked up the hill behind the house. The sun was just about to break over the horizon when I heard a low growl. It was more of a whimper to be honest, but It was somehow… animalistic I guess. Curious, I turned towards the noise flashing my cell out of my purse to shed some light on the dark bushes.

I wasn't really afraid; the scariest animal around here was a cranky squirrel that would throw leaves at us when we'd sunbathe every once in a blue moon.

I stumbled against one of the roots but I caught myself on a low branch. I was looking down in front of me the moment the sun rose and shed it's brilliant light on the vast forest. It was a rare thing in Seattle, but it was known to happen.

When I looked up next, my eyes landed on something my brain firmly told me was impossible. But before I could stop myself, I sucked in a breath and choked on it.

There, not three feet from me, covered by the bushes was an arm. Now this wouldn't be anything too alarming (we had the occasional drunk sleeping it off in the bushes), if it weren't for the fact that the arm was attached to the body half laying on the ground and… glittering in the sun.

I screamed. I couldn't help myself. It wasn't so much fear as it was the knowledge that I had clearly snapped and lost my ever loving, goddamned mind.

***

Two black eyes stared up at me under dirty blond locks. I could clearly hear the growls and his teeth snapping together but when I finally stopped screaming I could see things I would otherwise overlook. The blue and black bruises covered the area under his eyes and across his nose. His skin was completely white and still glittering against the green and brown of the surrounding woods.

I just stood there and stared. I didn't know what to do; I was frozen. To move would mean acknowledging that I was either ripe for the mental institution my best friends would settle me in or that I was in fact staring at a vampire. One I used to know. He was a part of my family once upon a time.

He was lying down and I could tell that he was weak. His movements were sluggish and I wondered how long he had been there. It was obvious he was thirsty.

Suddenly his head snapped up and he looked straight into my eyes. I swear, all those memories I had desperately been trying to suppress for the last seven years came rushing back.

And each one was like a stab from a blunt knife straight to my stomach.

The pain was so overwhelming my legs wouldn't hold me up anymore. I looked around wildly and grabbed the same branch for more support. I wanted to say something but I was afraid.

What if he wasn't… real?

I shook my fear off, squared my shoulders and took a small step towards him. He didn't disappear. Another three slow steps and I was standing right in front of him. I pulled my dress up and kneeled in the dirt next to him. Slowly lifting my hand I touched his arm gently.

Yep. He was real, alright.

I swallowed once again and went to stand up. His frigid fingers curled around my wrist and he mumbled, very quietly. Had I not been paying attention I would have missed his whispered words.

"Run. Please. I can't hold myself back much longer."

I blanched. I didn't want to die but the thought of just leaving him here like this, if he was in fact real, just seemed wrong.

In a matter of seconds I had decided that I wasn't insane and that I had to help him. Or at least try. I owed him that much.

"Jasper?!" I couldn't help the fact that my voice came out sounding slightly hysterical and unbelieving.

He looked sharply up at me and groaned. I swallowed and took a tiny step back. I needed to do something.

Suddenly I remembered that we could easily feed a vampire without any of us loosing our lives. He could hunt later but right now he needed to get his strength back.

But the question was, did I dare let my friends close to him when he was clearly about to lose it? And, how was I going to convince them to donate blood without a reasonable explanation? I couldn't, wouldn't endanger them like that. But speaking of explanations…

"What are you doing here? Where's Alice? Is… everyone alright?!" I threw the questions at him in my nervous state. I started pacing but I kept my eyes firmly on him. I still half believed he was going to disappear on me.

"Bella. I'm so sorry. I know I shouldn't be bothering you, but I didn't know where else to go. I saw you a few nights ago and followed you here. I… I need your help. My family is in danger. Please… Help me. I'm begging you." His eyes were pleading with me. His voice trembled and his hand shook as he lifted it in my direction. I was stunned speechless. And then came fear.

Awful, paralyzing fear.

***

I knew from previous experience I was about to faint. But, I couldn't afford the peace that loss of consciousness would bring right now. I haven't seen or heard anything from the Cullen family in so long and now one of them was here. Asking for my help. Begging.

"I'll help in whatever way I can Jasper. I swear I will. Just, please, tell me they are all alright. Please… Oh, god, it's Alice, isn't it? Oh, God, please, no… "I trailed off moaning. I was sick. I kept imagining my sister in a ditch somewhere… or ripped apart and burned beyond recognition.

But I could think of no other explanation as to why Jasper of all people would come looking for me. I still had no idea how I could help.

Jasper looked horrified.

"No! No, Bella, please try to calm down!" It was a true indication of just how weak he was that the feelings of calm that swept over me had no effect whatsoever. But I tried to calm myself down anyway.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to go crazy on you. Now, please, will you tell me what's going on, before I truly lose my mind?" The hysteria was back in my voice.

Jasper looked down and took a deep breath. I could tell he was trying to figure out the best way to break the news to me gently. It only increased my fear. When he finally looked back up, I had the wind knocked out of me.

I have never seen so much devastation.

Ever. Not even in my own eyes when I was at my lowest.

"Alice left us. Left me. And Edward went after her…" His voice cracked. And so did my heart… or what was left of it.

2. BLAST FROM THE PAST

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: First, I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to review. I can't describe how I felt when I saw I actually had people read the first chapter. Also, thank you to everyone who put me on either author or story alert. I should probably mention that this story will have cannon couples, since some of you seem to be confused about that. It'll take a few chapters, but soon you'll know where I'm hoping to go with this story. . I'm still looking for a beta reader so if anyone is interested please let me know. The story will be told from Bella's, Jasper's and Edward's point of view mostly, with possible few others.

***

I was drifted in between
Like I was on the outside looking in
In my dreams you are still here
Like you've always been

***

Have you ever had that feeling, like everything that was happening to you at that moment was in fact happening to someone else? And you were watching from the sidelines?

That's exactly how I felt when Jasper told me that Alice had disappeared and that Edward had gone after her.

I didn't understand any of it, but I knew something was very wrong.

I could feel the panic clawing it's way up, but I promised Jasper. So I bit my lip, took a deep breath and tried to relax.

"Jasper? Please don't be offended, but I know you're thirsty and before we do anything else, I'd feel better if you had some blood in you. I know you don't usually do human, but you look too weak to me to be able to hunt. So, I was wondering, would my blood help? I'd donate it willingly. I could have Ian draw it…" I trailed off when I saw the horrified look on his face. I honestly didn't think he'd mind. I mean, it wasn't like I was offering to let him take a bite out of my neck or anything… I'd donated blood before; it was no big deal.

I kept quiet because he looked like he was going to be sick. And here I thought my blood was special. I wondered if anything Edward ever told me was true.

"Thank you for the offer Bella. I… admire your bravery and kindness after everything my family and I put you trough. I… I am amazed that you are even willing to hear me out after what happened the last time we saw each other." His voice was soft, sad; I could tell he hadn't expected me to treat him with any degree of civility.

I suppose, no one could blame me if I told him to go to hell. But how could I? They were still my family in my heart and his brother still owned my soul. Besides, what happened on my 18th birthday was hardly his fault. If anyone was to blame, it was me. Me and my clumsiness.

Before I could tell him exactly that, he stood up and looked back at the forest. He was agitated, I could tell because I had started to feel restless.

"I'm going to go hunting. You're right, I'm thirsty and if I intend to spend any more time with you I need to be prepared. Will your boyfriend mind if I come to the house after I'm finished?" I was contemplating to myself if I should just insist he take my blood when I realized what he was saying.

"What boyfriend?!" The last time I called anyone that, he was over 6 feet tall, had bronze hair and the sexiest crooked smile I had ever seen. I could tell Jasper knew there were other people living in the house with me, and he must have been confused. I smiled ruefully at him. "I don't have a boyfriend. I do live with some friends. But don't worry; they'll all be heading out to work in the next two hours. We'll have the house to ourselves." I could see a flash of relief over his face, but I shrugged it off. I was both too tired and too wired to even think about it.

Jasper nodded and shot off into the trees. I took a deep breath, scooped my things up of the ground and started the slow walk back to the house. The feeling of panic was still there and I could feel the anxiety settling itself over my chest. His broken words were chipping away at my composure.

I was just to the door when my cell rang. I looked down at it puzzled because I had no idea who would call at 6 am. The name on the ID caller made the panic grow until I felt like I was going to suffocate.

"Dad? What's wrong?" I answered the phone with a feeling of dread.

***

When I left Forks to go to college in Seattle I hoped the memories would stay behind as well. I was forced to avoid half the town; everywhere I looked there were reminders.

I knew Charlie had worried about me and since at that point I had no idea if I would resemble my old self ever again… I figured it would be easier to lie to him if I didn't have to do it to his face.

Renee had first asked, then begged, then whined and in the end threatened to get me to pick a college in Florida, and with each no I told her, I felt more and more free.

That's how I knew I made the right choice.

Seattle was great and it offered so many opportunities. After only a few months I decided I was going to fight, hard as I had to, to make a life for myself there. And I wanted that life to mean something.

So I spent most of my time either studying or working to pay for college. I was a junior, working at a local restaurant, when I realized it was what I wanted to do. By the time I was 23 I had my own restaurant up and running and my loans were paid off. Opening a club was a bit more risky but Brian convinced me I should go for it. He was my silent partner and I was going to be forever grateful to him.

I went back every once in a while, to see Charlie and Jacob but it had been more than a year since I saw them last. Working hard was a convenient excuse and it had worked for a time, but Charlie was getting suspicious. I knew I'd had to go back soon. I had talked to him yesterday and promised I'd see him at some point over the next two weeks.

When I answered the phone, I had expected him to tell me someone was either dead or hurt, so I was absolutely dumbstruck when he told me Rosalie Hale and Emmett Cullen of all people had came looking for me. Apparently they said it was an emergency and they asked for a way to contact me.

Since Charlie was still pissed beyond belief that they left as well as how they did it, he refused to tell them anything.

But when Rosalie pleaded he caved in and called.

Next thing I knew, I was exchanging pleasantries with her over the phone. I knew Charlie was hovering and she couldn't talk, so I bit the bullet and invited her to come and visit. She was genuinely surprised and I could hear gratitude in her voice. I decided I should probably mention Jasper was already here. The copious amounts of relief I could hear told me I'd hit a bull's eye.

They were looking for him.

She assured me they'd be here soon and I trudged up the stairs to my bedroom trying to clear my mind enough to be able to at least make some sense of what was going on.

***

In all the fuss I had completely forgotten that Lana was very much a morning person and that most days she would wait for me to come home from work with her cup of coffee. It was a ritual for us and I knew she used it to try to get me to open up more.

You see, while my best friends knew me very well and I gladly shared every aspect of my life as it was now, I never told them about Edward or any of the Cullens.

In fact, I liked to pretend my life began when I moved away from Forks.

Sometimes I'd slip and mention something about Alice, but that was it. The moment I'd say her name I'd freeze and change the subject. They had no idea what it was in my past that hurt so bad. I refused to even acknowledge that there was something. It drove Lana crazy but she had patience. And not to mention the fact that she was a professional.

"Morning sweets! How was work?" I just about jumped out of my skin, she startled me so bad. I clutched at my chest and mock frowned at her.

"What, are you trying to kill me? My heart is still in my throat!" I sat down beside her on my bed. The smell of the coffee was definitely helping me get more alert, but I wanted a shower first. Then coffee and breakfast. I only just realized how starved I was.

I leaned my head on her shoulder and told her a bit about my brutal night at work, which was laughable in the light of the day I was about to have. But it kept her from snooping closer and soon she left to get ready for work.

The shower relaxed me enough and the tears that slipped over my cheeks made me feel more in control. In the last few years I had found out exactly why they said that crying was healthy.

I was just fixing some eggs and bacon when I heard someone knocking at the front door. I hadn't realized that Sonia and Ian haven't left yet, so when I heard Rosalie's voice asking for me I sprinted to the hallway.

If I wasn't worried as hell I would have found the situation hilarious.

Both Ian and Sonia were staring at Rosalie and Emmett and looking quite suspicious.

I cleared my throat and suddenly I had four pairs of eyes staring at me. Two curious, one incredulous and one delighted. You could hear a pin drop, it was so silent. They were all waiting on me to say something.

"Rosalie, Emmett, welcome. Please come on in." I walked and stood beside Sonia, waiving them inside. I cringed at how weird I sounded. But I figured throwing myself into Emmett's arms wouldn't have exactly been appropriate. I swallowed a curse when I felt Ian step on my foot.

I knew they wanted an explanation and an introduction but I honestly had no idea what to say. I was just about to mumble something when I saw the worried look on Sonia's face. She had picked up on my anxiety. I bit my lip, squared my shoulders and smiled as genuinely as I could.

It turned out I was seriously happy to see them.

"Ian, Sonia, meet Rosalie and Emmett, my very good friends from back home." Ian flashed a smile at me and I could see that he was slowly recovering from Emmett's sheer size and Rose's blinding loveliness.

I had forgotten how beautiful she was. It was surreal to see it after so many years. My memories hadn't done either of them justice.

Sonia nudged Ian and they excused themselves to go to work after assuring our guests they were very happy to meet any friends of mine and that they were welcome to stay as long as they wanted. I could see the amused look Emmett was trying to hide. Rosalie still looked slightly incredulous.

Next thing I knew, the doors were slammed and I was left behind with two vampires I hadn't seen in years.

Make that three.

Jasper had chosen that exact moment to walk through the back door.

They stared at each other and me in silence while I waited for one of them to start explaining. The staring contest stretched for almost five minutes before I could take it no more.

"Will somebody please tell me what the hell is going on here?!"

***

When Edward had left me that day in the woods, I had forbidden myself to think about what he might be doing. It was hard, but I was stubborn and I had trained myself to lock up those thoughts in the farthest back of my mind and to never visit it again.

I just wanted to forget.

Well, that's not entirely true. I did want to forget. I wanted to forget that he had left me. That he told me he didn't want me and that I was no good for him. What I didn't want to forget was the time when he might have loved me. Or at least cared.

After years of suppressing my memories I realized I was just digging myself in deeper. And while I had no intention of letting anyone else in the know, it didn't mean I couldn't try to deal with some things on my own.

And it hurt like hell, remembering every single moment we had together. Analyzing it, looking for clues that might have showed me at the time that he wasn't serious about me. That I should have somehow expected it.

Nothing. To this day, I had no clue how I was supposed to have known. And then I forgave myself. I forgave myself for not being enough, for not being able to keep him with me.

Because, living with both guilt and pain, knowing that as far as love was concerned I was done, wasn't easy.

And I had promised not to kill myself, after all.

It took me time, and tears, but I had decided I was going to take control of my life. I wasn't the same person I was when Edward left. That Bella had died. The new Bella still had a hole in her chest, but she looked at it differently.

And it was ok.

Having been able to fix my life, at least to a degree, I was scared shitless it was all going to go to hell when those three finally started talking.

But, I wasn't about to be a coward. Because, I might just get my answers. And with it, some peace of mind.

3. EXPLANATIONS

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: First, I'd like to thank everyone who took the time to review. It'll take a few chapters, but soon you'll know where I'm hoping to go with this story. I'm still looking for a beta reader so if anyone is interested please let me know. The story will be told from Bella's, Jasper's and Edward's point of view mostly, with possible few others. Again, I'd like to point out that the pairing will definitely be cannon, so there will be no Alice/Edward action. Thank you again to everyone who reviewed and pointed out parts of the story, constructive criticism makes me write better. I hope.

***

And now I'm glad I didn't know
The way it all would end the way it all would go
Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
But I'd have had to miss the dance

***

It felt strange to not have to pretend. These were the only people I could truly be myself with. No bullshit. Because they knew the me I was back then.

Granted, I was a different person now, but it was oddly liberating not to have to pretend. Even for just a little while.

Honestly, I had no delusions that this would last very long.

They came for my help, I'd do whatever I could and then they'll be on their way.

Again.

And I'll be left behind to deal with whatever consequences helping them would bring.

Again.

As I stood there in the hallway with Rosalie, Emmett and Jasper, I wondered just how badly the news would screw me up. Because there was no doubt that something serious was going on here.

And something was seriously wrong.

True, Jasper looked much better after he hunted, but the haunted look still hadn't left his eyes. Rosalie was as blank as I remembered and even Emmett hadn't managed to cover up the worry with big smiles.

I was still so glad to see them all. I mean, I never thought it would be possible. Though I had heard from some people that I used to go to school with that the Cullens were seen occasionally… I hadn't really believed it.

"Do you mind if we go to the sitting room? This is going to take some time to explain…" I was startled out of my thoughts when Rosalie's soft words broke through. I nodded, motioning with my hand for them to follow. I led them to the back of the house where the entertainment room was located. I knew they didn't care, and this was the room where I possibly felt the most comfortable in the whole house. Well, except for my bedroom.

I sat down in my favorite armchair and waited. I didn't know if I could control myself if I started asking questions. So I forced it all down and looked at Jasper. After all, he was the first one to show up in my life.

I was startled when it was Emmett that broke the silence.

"Listen Bella, I know it's been a long time. And, I know we probably scared you to death, what with all of us basically barging into your life, but… I have to ask you to be patient. Just a little bit longer. Because, a lot of things happened since we last saw each other and there is no other way to explain why we're here, but to start from the beginning." I was getting more and more nervous, because what he was trying to say was… I was going to get all the answers….

Even the ones I made myself not to want.

I looked at Emmett and tried to concentrate on the fact that they all kept saying that both Alice and Edward were alive.

There was obviously a problem, but… how bad could it really be?

***

JPOV

I kept looking at her, my little sister that I hadn't seen in years.

She had no idea how much all of us missed her, even Rose. Because, when Edward made us leave her behind; we all left pieces of us with her.

My brother left his everything.

I was so stunned when I first saw her, two nights ago. I knew she was in Seattle, we all knew that much, it was my starting point. While I was expecting to see her here… I wasn't expecting her to look so, so… grown up.

Bella had changed. Gone was the shy girl who tried to be as invisible as possible. She held herself differently; there was more confidence.

She didn't blush anymore. And that worried me. We all used to be able to read the emotions in her eyes; she used to be an open book. While Edward found himself unable to read her mind, it was real easy for me to read her feelings. I would have been able to do it even without using my gift. Bella wore her heart on her sleeve.

She had made it. I could tell her life here was in order, she must have been proud of herself. I have no idea how hard it had to have been for her to have to watch one future disappear all together and then to have to go and build another one from scratch.

It was all my fault.

I was mad when I saw Rosalie and Emmett had followed me, but now I wasn't so sure that it was such a bad idea. She sure seemed more comfortable that it wasn't just us.

I couldn't exactly blame her. I still felt horrible about what I did. To go at her like that, like an animal with no control whatsoever…

And she didn't blame me. Not even a little bit.

Hell, she had told Alice to tell me that, to tell me she understood that it wasn't my fault. And not only that, less than two hours ago, she had offered me her blood.

Just like that.

I was weak, because I was punishing myself. I wouldn't hunt until I had a solution. I still didn't exactly have a full plan, but I had found Bella. For a moment I thought her scent would tempt me too much, but then she offered me her life force.

And her help.

I wouldn't take her blood; I didn't dare. But her determination gave me strength and will. So I went to hunt. She was still as good as I remembered. Decent. Helpful. We didn't deserve her.

Not back then… and certainly not now.

When this whole thing started I was reluctant to bring her into it. But when Alice left, I had no choice. I couldn't believe how bad things had gotten. Then again… maybe I just didn't want to see it.

"Jasper, we need to start. Do you want me to…?" Emmett's voice was too quick and too quiet for Bella to catch, but I knew he was right.

This was going to be hard enough as it was.

***

I was wondering where to start. So much had happened over the years that it was difficult even for me to shift through my memories and find the source. I looked at her apologetically and decided to start with the day Edward left her. The moment I uttered my first word, she curled into a ball and held on for dear life.

I had gone away and Alice had came with me, of course. I knew it hurt her to have to leave Bella and she was so disappointed. Not with me though, never with me. She was disappointed with herself for not seeing it happen sooner. Disgusted with myself as I was, I was glad that they stopped me in time. If I had bitten her… I'd have never forgiven myself.

But who could have known that I was going to lose it? And with Bella? The guilt was only worsened by the fact that I knew she blamed herself. And for what? Being clumsy? I know it drove Edward mad. Because if she blamed herself, then how could HE take the blame?

I loved my brother. I really did. But sometimes he pissed me off so fucking bad. He had found his soul mate. Whether he was willing to admit it or not, Bella was his other half. But he was stubbornly insisting that he was no good for her; that she would be better off without us in her life.

And so he left her. Lied to her. Told her she was no good for him.

Man, when Alice saw what he was going to do, I swear I thought she was going to rip him apart. She adored Bella, and she knew how fragile her self-esteem was. And Edward just made it worse.

But he was raging about that too. He was mad that she believed him so quickly. Alice was honest, if a little cruel, when she snidely remarked that Bella saw herself as undeserving and that Edward had just about confirmed it to her. After all… didn't he tell her she wasn't good enough?

That was the first time I saw a vampire look dead. His eyes went out. Literally. Like he wasn't there. He was a walking corpse. It was seriously scary shit and it should have scared me more.

We had left first to Denali, but it didn't work. Tanya didn't understand about Bella and it became tedious after two days. Carlisle excused us and we decided to go to Canada for a few years.

It was going to mean high school again.

I knew it was going to be excruciating, having to do it, but I'd taken it like a deserved punishment. I figured that it might even make me feel better.

We settled into our new old home and tried to go on with our life as usual. The pretending worked for maybe a week. On our eight day the first fight broke out.

Alice was cussing Edward out in most imaginative ways, in her head of course. If Esme heard her… First, Edward didn't even acknowledge her presence, let alone her thoughts. He had been avoiding all of us. But then she started hitting below the belt, mentioning Bella. I knew what she was doing; she was trying to provoke him into having any kind of a reaction. It worked when she played out what she saw happen with Bella, after Edward left her in the woods.

He went fucking ballistic. Smashed half the house, broke dozens of trees and sank Esme's boat, her new pet project. It took Carlisle and Emmett together to stop him before he did any more damage. He calmed down and then he shut himself off once again.

We were right back where we started.

I was startled out of my recollection when I heard Bella sniffle. I looked at her and my dead heart broke. She looked like she was 18 again, small and defeated. Her eyes sparkled with tears and she turned them on me.

"I'm sorry Bella, I know this can't be easy for you, but like Emmett said, it's necessary for you to understand…" I trailed off when I saw her eyes blaze. She suddenly stood up and wiped her tears away. Holding her head up high she turned to me. "You actually expect me to believe he left me for my own good? Jasper, I already said I'd help, no matter what. There's no need for you to lie. In fact, it only makes matters worse. So, please, cut the crap."

I saw Rosalie cock her eyebrow at Bella and I could swear there was respect in her eyes. Then they grew soft and she stood up and went to her. She put her arm gently on Bella's shoulder and turned her towards herself.

"You honestly have no idea, do you?"

***

BPOV

Rosalie was looking at me like I was about to break to pieces.

I suppose it wasn't that far from the truth. Jasper's words brought back memories, and even worse, feelings. I didn't know what the point was, giving me a history lesson. And I knew he must have been exaggerating. While I knew Edward wasn't exactly heartless and he probably did feel guilty for leaving me after all we'd been through, I seriously doubted it was anywhere near as bad as Jasper was describing.

He wanted me to believe that Edward loved me and left me for my own good?

I snorted. What good? I haven't been the same in years. I could pretend all I wanted, but I knew damn well that I wasn't even a whole person. I'd never be again. Not after losing what we had.

Well, what I thought we had.

I looked at Jasper and decided I wouldn't wait a minute longer. I wanted answers.

"Jasper, I understand the need for you to tell me everything. I really do. And I'll gladly listen to everything you want to tell me. But right now, I just want to know why you three are here? And how exactly do you expect me to help you?" I stared at him to show him I meant business. I had had enough.

The three of them looked at each other for a second and I saw Jasper nod at Rosalie. She looked at me and I was surprised by the look in her eyes.

She looked… beaten.

"Bella, 3 moths after we left Forks Edward left. He said he needed some time on his own, and we let him leave. Carlisle and Esme were worried sick, so they both felt that it might actually help. For a while, he kept in touch. He'd call us from time to time. And then, after he was away for 2 years, he stopped calling. We haven't heard or seen anything from him since." I looked at her surprised and confused. Hadn't they told me that Alice had left the Cullens and Edward went after her? I looked back at Jasper for an explanation.

"I don't understand." He bit his lip and then blew out a huge breath. Hanging his head down, he told the truth.

"Alice saw Edward coming after her. To protect the rest of us, she ran away."

I was even more confused at that point. I mean, I may have not known anything about Edward's true feelings for me, but he loved Alice. She was his favorite sibling. Emmett had been quiet for a while; letting the other two explain. His next words sent a shiver of despair down my spine.

"Edward's new family wants her. And he told them he would gladly bring her to them. No matter what it took."

My knees buckled and I sank to the plush carpet. I didn't know why on earth Edward would ever go to another family, let alone agree to hurt his old one. I had no idea how I could help and I promised myself I'd do everything I could not to disappoint them.

But one thing was clear. I was wrong. It was bad. Really, really bad.

4. MEMORIES

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: OK, I have to be honest and say I'm really excited because I see some of you are getting hooked to the story. It took me a while to develop the plot and I'm working on it constantly, and your reviews are really helping. Not to mention I get all hyper and end up posting a chapter every day. So, thank you to everyone who reviewed. Most of you are on a slightly right track with the guesses, but that's all I'm telling. You'll just have to read on to find out what happens. J

***

I couldn't turn on the TV
Without something that'd remind me
Was it all that easy
To just put aside your feelings

***

I hadn't moved from my spot on the floor. Rosalie sat down next to me, but she kept quiet. I was feeling completely lost. Jumbled up thoughts were moving through my mind at an alarming speed, but I could find no answers.

It just didn't make any sense.

I knew I was missing a huge part of the story, but even that couldn't explain the fact that Edward had apparently became a whole different person. I turned to Jasper to let him finish, when my stomach growled. I hadn't had breakfast, I had totally forgotten about it when they showed up at my door. I chewed on my bottom lip, bent on ignoring the hunger when Emmett cleared his throat. "Come on, breakfast time for the human. We can take this to the kitchen. You eat, we'll explain." He couldn't have known. I knew that. But still, his unintentional repeat of the almost exact words Edward once told me…

My head was starting to hurt. I stood up all the same and led them to the kitchen.

They seated themselves around the counter while I cleared off the mess I had left earlier. Cold eggs and bacon went into the trash and I pulled out some cereals and a fruit yogurt from the fridge. Drinking juice straight from the carton I sat down and looked at them. "Look, I'm feeling even more confused then before you started on your explanations. I know now you were right when you said I needed to hear the whole story. Please, continue. I promise I won't interrupt again." Jasper nodded once and I could see the worry in his eyes. I smiled slightly at him. "I can handle it Jasper. I won't fall apart on you. It's just very uncomfortable for me, to remember him. I do it only when necessary." He gave me a sad smile and stood up, walking to the huge glass doors, looking out into the woods.

There, he looked in the distance and told the tale of heartbreak, misery and betrayal.

***

JPOV

She was falling apart. She could deny it all she wanted, but I could still read her. Not as well as I was able to, all those years ago, but what I could feel was enough. She was confused and frightened, as we all were. We might be the undead, but I sure felt like someone had burned me from within when Alice had sneaked off that morning. I tried following but she covered her tracks.

I thought my wife well. Too well.

I shook my head slightly and reminded myself I was supposed to help Bella understand. My thoughts shifted to the day of the fight.

It had been the beginning. The beginning of the end.

After that day Edward hardly spent any time around us. He refused to go back to pretending to be a teenager and Carlisle let him.

What he did all day, every day while we were in school, I had no idea. We were all worried and we even considered trying to make him go back. More then once, Esme suggested that maybe we should just go to Forks and bring Bella here, with us. At the beginning, we were all against, afraid of what it would do to her if Edward persisted.

But as the days went by and Edward got progressively worse, I was afraid I'd lose my goddamned mind. I could feel everything he felt, his fear, his agony, and his loneliness. But nothing hurt as much as his feelings of regret. I was hoping he was going to cave in and just go back to Bella.

I should have known better.

About two months later, he had started spending more time with us. We all tried to act normal, scared we'd push him back if we said something wrong. Even Alice, still as mad as she was, was making an effort. She loved him no matter what.

It was the beginning of December and we had decided to all go hunting together once again. For the first time in almost three months I felt hopeful. Maybe it could work. We were all excited, well, with the exception of Emmett, because he knew there wasn't going to be any bears to wrestle with. He whined about it, and Edward teased him constantly.

Until he slipped.

We were joking around behind the house waiting on Carlisle to get back from the local hospital, when Edward smiled. A real, honest smile we hadn't seen in so long. "I remember when I was telling stories of our hunting trips to Bella, how you loved irritated grizzly bears. I swear, she looked so shocked, but she tried to be all cool about it when in fact it really scared her witless." His smile turned to stone when each one of us was overcome with memories of her. It was unintentional, completely spontaneous and it knocked down all of his walls.

He had spun on his heels and ran into the woods. There was no point even trying to follow him, he was the fastest of us all. Alice looked distressed and worried and she couldn't settle down.

The hunting trip was swiftly canceled.

He came back three days later and he looked different. I thought it was a more peaceful look at the time, but I was wrong. Edward was careful of his emotions around me and it was hard to pick anything up with any degree of certainty. He stared talking about taking some trips to "help him clear his head". Right, like he could run from his memories. But, both Carlisle and Esme promised to support his decisions, so he packed a bag, booked a flight and went to Europe.

December 16th, was the last time we ever saw him. Exactly three months after he had left Bella behind.

I turned around and saw her pacing the length of the kitchen. Her fists were clenched and she refused to look at any of us. She was feeling angry, betrayed and bitter… There were so many emotions running trough her it was hard to pick one from the other. But then, one feeling seemed to overshadow the rest. I was amazed, but there was no mistake about it.

She was overflowed with a feeling of hope.

I knew she was starting to realize that maybe, just maybe, Edward had lied to her in order to protect her when he told her he didn't want her anymore.

If it were only that easy.

When nobody said anything I turned back to the double doors and sank into my memories.

Over the next few years a lot had changed. Emmett and Rosalie had gone to Greenland for a while but Alice and I decided to stay with Carlisle and Esme. Alice couldn't bear to leave them, knowing how painful it was for them to not be able to see their son. Edward would call every few months, hell, he'd even send postcards, but he never once came back. We didn't even have the comfort of calling him when we wanted to; he constantly changed his cell phones.

But at least we knew where he was most of the time.

It was close to Christmas, two years later, when things started to get strange. It had been almost 6 moths since he'd called last and the feeling of anxiety was spreading like wildfire through my family. We were snapping at each other for reasons so ridiculous they were better left unmentioned.

Even Carlisle lost his temper once or twice. With Esme.

We were all back together, with that one exception and it was getting unbearable. Esme's sadness was killing me slowly and day by day I was becoming more depressed. As luck would have it, not all of us were feeling comfortable with just doing nothing and waiting for him to get back. But I was amazed that it was Rosalie that screamed the house down one night demanding we all sit down, stop pretending and make a plan to "drag our brother back by his ears, home, where he belonged, and fucking soon". I was dumbstruck at that first moment, and then joyful the next.

She was right. We needed to act. We had waited long enough.

We were in the middle of a planning session, with Alice trying to see the best way to go about it, when Carlisle's phone rang. It was Tanya, and she had some news. Of the worst kind.

As it turned out, we had waited too long.

***

BPOV

I stopped dead in my tracks. Jasper had leaned his head against the glass and kept his eyes closed. Rosalie and Emmett kept theirs fixed on me. I took a deep breath and went back to sit at the counter.

During the first part of Jasper's story, I had felt nothing but anger and bitterness. I couldn't understand why he'd be intentionally cruel, trying to get me to feel once again all that despair and uncertainty, because I couldn't understand why Edward had left me. And then, when he went on, I started to feel guilty. I was self-righteous in my feelings of anger and scorn. Hell hath no fury and all that. But, it sure started to feel like Edward really did leave because he though it was for the best.

He was an idiot. But an idiot with his heart in the right place.

I knew there had to be more to the story. His agony and longing might have made him leave both myself and then later his family behind, but nothing so far explained why on earth he'd turn on his family. What happened to all the love and loyalty? What on earth could have happened to make him cruel enough to have no qualms about hunting down Alice and destroying the rest of them in the process?

My answers came one at time. The first one in a form of question.

"Did Edward ever tell you about Volturi?"

***

I stared at Rosalie in disbelief.

It hurt to remember. It was my birthday, and I had been lying in his arms on the couch in Charlie's sitting room. Romeo and Juliet were on, and he was mocking Romeo. I remember being annoyed at him; after all I used to have a thing for the Shakespeare's hero. That was before Edward, of course.

He was my own personal fairytale.

And then he just had to go and piss me off with talk of suicide. How we humans had it so easy. I didn't now whether to be horrified or offended.

I was crushed when he said he had thought about it that last spring after the whole James business. I told him he was insane. He told me it was just the way it was.

And then he told me about Volturi.

The story of three brothers that were considered to be the vampires' royalty had piqued my interest. He described them as the upholders of the rules created so that all vampires would be safe while hiding in plain sight. Aro, Marcus and Caius were friends of Carlisle; I had seen a painting of them together. While they didn't understand the lifestyle the Cullens chose, they didn't seem to have any objections to it.

This was why I recounted what I knew to Rosalie and shrugged. I was still confused.

I turned to Jasper. "What the hell do they have to do with anything?!"

He sat down next to me and leaned his elbows on the counter. His head fell into his hands. When he looked back at me, I couldn't see anything in his eyes. His whole face was blank. And then he explained.

"The Volturi Edward told you about don't exist anymore. Marcus is dead, and Aro and Caius are at war, hell bent on destroying each other. And taking the rest of us with them."

5. TIES THAT BIND

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Once again, thank you to all the reviewers for taking the time. I'd like to also thank all those that have either put me on a story or author alert.

***

I cannot go to the ocean
I cannot drive the streets at night
I cannot wake up in the morning
Without you on my mind

***

Whoever it was that said time heals all wounds obviously never had one big enough to make you feel like you've been punched through like a Swiss cheese. And to have the pieces of your past staring you in your face was even worse. But I knew that any pain I had endured was probably going to look silly compared to what was to come.

Because if I understood Jasper correctly, the vampires were at war. And Edward was smack dab in the middle of it. Not to mention that he was looking for a way to drag Alice in.

But the strange thing was that when they had come for my help it was not just to bring Alice back, but Edward as well. I had a feeling this history lesson was going to take longer that I thought at first.

I was astonished that it was already the middle of the day.

I was exhausted, had very little to eat and to top it all off I had forgotten Brian was due home at any moment from a business trip to New York. So, when I heard the keys in the lock rattle the front doors I looked at my long lost family and bit the inside of my cheek.

I didn't know how they were going to take to him. Brian was playful and fun to flirt with and did what he always did.

"Honey, I'm home! Izzie, you awake yet? C'mon, lazy bones, I brought presents. Went to Saks even…" He was whistling as he came into the kitchen, not paying attention to anything. When he did look up, he saw me standing between two incredibly gorgeous guys who were obviously dangerous and a girl that could have stepped off any runway. Jasper and Rosalie kept their eyes on him, while Emmett cocked an eyebrow at me and smirked. "Izzie?!"

I blushed, really blushed, blazing cheeks and all for the first time in so long, it felt alien.

But I was a grown woman and hiding behind my hair was no longer acceptable. I smirked right back at him.

"He refuses to call me Bella. Said he had to be special, and since I don't even let my own mother call me Isabella, Izzie it was." I turned back to Brian and smiled. "Brian, meet my very good friends from back home." I pointed out each one of them and then told him they were passing by and dropped for a visit.

I loved how attuned the five of us were to each other. Brian knew bonding time and presents would have to wait. He excused himself after welcoming them to our home just as warmly as Ian and Sonia did.

I knew that sleep was going to have to wait for a little while longer and if I was going to stay alert and on my feet I couldn't be hungry as well. I quickly made a sandwich and led them back to the entertainment room. I looked up at Jasper. "So Tanya called and had some bad news. What happened next?"

***

JPOV

It was interesting to see her interact with her new friends. It was obvious they were all very close and I found myself feeling glad that she had done so well here.

I didn't know what was going to happen now, when we came back into her life, but it was comforting to me to know that she had a home to go back to.

That is, if she even decided to help us in the first place.

I knew she was adamant that she would, but somehow I had a feeling that it would be a lot harder for her to walk away from it all now then it would have been seven years ago.

As we settled back into the entertainment room, I tried to decide how to proceed with the story. It was getting more complicated.

The moment Carlisle had picked up the phone Alice had gone still. And then she let out this tiny whimper that was worse that if she had screamed.

It all happened so fast then. Next thing I knew, Carlisle was talking about going to Volterra to try and bring Edward back. Apparently, something strange was going on with the Volturi. Not to mention we didn't have any idea how Edward had ended up with them in the first place.

When Alice softly moaned the name Chelsea, I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. And Carlisle suddenly looked sick.

I looked at him for an explanation because I had no idea a name, any name could provoke such a reaction. Carlisle had asked Tanya if he could talk to Eleazar.

I had wondered who this girl was, to evoke such obvious fear.

I wished I had never found out.

Apparently, Chelsea was one of Aro's pets, vampires with "special talents". But hers was real special, alright. Chelsea had the ability to influence emotional ties between people. Not only could she break the bonds of friendship, what was even worse, she could do the exact opposite as well. She could forge friendships and allegiances, make you want to belong.

And you'd do just about anything she asked of you.

A shiver went down my back once again. I looked at Bella to see her staring at the rug. She was crying, and trying to hide the tears. I was wondering about her reaction until she looked up at me.

"Is she what happened to Edward, then?"

I bit my lip; I had no idea how to answer. To tell her that she was exactly what happened to Edward was out of the question.

And not just because Rose would have strangled me.

***

After Carlisle had gotten off the phone with the Denali coven, he sat down again and closed his eyes. It was impossible for a vampire to get tired, but at that moment Carlisle looked exhausted. He had explained about Chelsea and how Aro had probably made her persuade Edward that he wanted to join "their little family". He looked at Alice and said just one word. "Human?" Alice looked defeated.

It was answer enough.

We spent the rest of the night arguing. We all wanted him back, but, at what price? We didn't know if Aro would let him go willingly, especially since there was no way in hell he would ever admit to keeping Edward against his will.

Well, manipulating his will.

And we knew we had to thread carefully. These were The Volturi. They weren't the royalty for nothing.

No one could go against them and win. At least no one had managed so far.

If the freedom from the life he led now ended up costing Edward his live, was it worth it?

Esme was broken. She truly loved us all like she gave birth to each and every one of us. And she had already lost one child. Could she survive the loss of another?

So in the end, we decided to wait for a while, see how things were playing out. Carlisle would talk to the brothers and see what he could find out. None of us liked it, but at that moment, we had no other choice.

***

BPOV

I truly felt sick. It made me incredibly angry to think that they were keeping Edward against his will, because Aro the collector couldn't bare not to have him as a part of his coven.

Edward was special too, after all.

On the other side, I felt relief. He hadn't changed so much that he'd go after his own family. I can't believe that I had contemplated it, even for a second.

He deserved better.

But now I was starting to feel truly afraid.

This seemed to only be the beginning and it had obviously gotten worse over the years. I felt hope because I knew Edward was still alive. And while he was alive, there was still a chance that we could do something to get him back. He would hate himself for going back to killing humans for blood, but his family obviously still loved him. They would help. I would too, if he would let me.

But I didn't dare contemplate that now.

Because I didn't want to be angry. Not right now. Well, not with him at least. This Aro person, on the other hand…

Weren't the undead supposed to be so much wiser than us mere mortals? What with living so many lifetimes? Aro's mistake was a rookie one. But was it intentional? What was he trying to do?

I decided I needed a drink. I went to the cabinet and pulled out a couple of bottles. Mixing martinis gave me time to think more. And to sort out the questions. Because I wanted to ask so many.

But what I was most curious about was… how did they expect me to help?

It obviously had something to do with getting to Edward… but… how could I help? I was only human, after all.

Unless… unless, they planned to ask me to join them.

That thought made me stiffen because I wasn't sure what my answer would be. The old Bella would have jumped at the opportunity because she had so much to gain.

Now… I had too much to lose.

I turned to Emmett. He had been unusually quiet through all the explanations and it was making me edgy. I wasn't used to the patient Emmett.

"And where exactly do I fit into this plan of yours to rescue Alice and Edward and save the day? I'm assuming you guys have some kind of a plan?" He looked oddly uncomfortable. I knew that this was as hard on him as it was on the rest of us, probably harder because he was always so protective of his family that he loved.

"When I said Chelsea could manipulate the emotional ties between people, I forgot to mention that there were bonds that she couldn't break. That's where you come in." I nodded my head at Jasper, willing him to continue. "You see, no one is safe from her. No one but… true mates."

I wrinkled my forehead. I could see where he was going with this. But… "And I ask you again… how do I fit into this plan?"

Rosalie snorted. She actually snorted.

"Please, Bella. We all know very well that you are the only woman Edward ever loved. Ever will love. If that's not enough to make you his mate… I don't know what is."

Well… when you put it that way.

But then, a feeling of dread overcame me. I never used to be afraid of Edward. I knew that he could control himself around me. And he was used to drinking animal blood. But, he was back to human blood now.

So… the main question was… even if we did manage to get to him… would I be safe?

Was I willing to risk my life to try and save his?

6. SURPRISING DECISIONS

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Note: Guys, thank you so much to all who reviewed. It made my day, and made me want to get this chapter out as soon as possible. Just a reminder, I'm still looking for a beta… so if anyone's interested please let me know. I try to get to all the spelling and grammar mistakes, but a few always seem to slip through.

***

Where'd you go?
I miss you so,
Seems like it's been forever,
That you've been gone.

Please come back home...

***

I wanted to get drunk.

It was all too much. And here I was, so proud of the life I had made for myself. I was supposed to be a grown up, self-sufficient, successful woman that wasn't afraid of life anymore. I snorted into my martini.

I was a coward.

If it weren't for Edward and the rest of the Cullens I wouldn't even be here. I owed him my life. Actually, I owed him a lot more, but if he hadn't risked his life that day… I wouldn't be here now to tell the tale.

My life here… was it really worth all that much to me that I'd forsake the love of my existence to keep it? I felt miserable in that moment and I couldn't stop the tears that started gushing down my face. Ashamed, I turned away from them and tried to calm down enough to be able to face them. I needed to think. I just needed time.

I still wasn't sure if they had any kind of plan. And so far, they had just said they needed my help. I could feel exhaustion clouding my mind; I hadn't slept in over 24 hours. It was useless; I knew I'd never be able to fall asleep now. They were quiet, just sitting there, letting me absorb it all. I was grateful. Because, at that moment I knew, whichever decision I made, I would stick with it. No regrets.

As soon as I came to that conclusion I knew that my mind had already been made.

"Where do we start?" I was proud that my voice had come out strong. While my insides were twisted by terror my voice was confident. Hard.

The relief on Rosalie's face made me feel all the more better about my decision. The fear lessened slightly. And while that certainly made things easier on me, I still had a long way to go.

What on earth was I going to tell to my friends? And what was even more worrying… What was I going to do about my parents?

I knew that it would be complicated, I had a lot of loose ends to tie and I needed to make sure all my affairs were in order.

Because, there were three possible endings to the path I was on.

One, we were all going to die trying to save Edward. Two, we would save Edward, and go our separate ways. Three… We'd save Edward and… Best not to think about it just now. But I'd be prepared… Just in case.

Emmett looked as relieved as Rose did and that made me feel humble. He always used to make me feel so small, but safe at the same time. And now, here he was, in need of my help. But there was still a lot of thinks I needed to catch up on.

And the main question was… whose side was Edward on?

I hadn't realized that I had spoken out loud. So I was momentarily confused when I heard Jasper's response.

"Caius's. Edward's on Caius's side. After all… he's the one that's got Chelsea."

***

JPOV

She was really going to help us.

That shouldn't have surprised me because Bella was probably one of the most selfless people I had ever encountered. And in all my years, I had run across a lot of people. She would go all the way. I could see it in her face; her mind had been made up.

I felt genuinely happy and I knew it wasn't just me. I could both see the relief on Rose and Emmett's faces and feel it; they knew how much depended on Bella's help. But, I was cautious too; we were at the very beginning still.

We didn't even have a proper plan.

We needed Carlisle's help for that.

I could see the shock on her face when I told her it was Caius that had Edward. We all felt exactly the same. I don't know why, because how could anything truly surprise us after the fact that they were at war? I had no idea.

Carlisle had been absolutely sure that it was Aro that called the shots with Edward, and he said there was still hope, because Aro was never truly malicious.

Carlisle couldn't have been more wrong.

It had been almost four years since we had found out that Edward had gone over to the Volturi and we had all but given up. Over the years we had tried different ways of contacting him but nothing had worked.

It seemed like the Edward we all knew and loved was truly no more.

Carlisle and Esme hadn't been the same. We huddled around them, trying to offer the comfort, but none of us could replace the son they had lost. And it hadn't exactly been easy on us either. Rosalie probably took it the hardest but she suffered in silence. She was always the type. Alice blamed herself even though she knew better than anyone that it wasn't her fault.

It was what it was.

We had lost a brother, a friend. A part of us was gone forever.

And just when we taught things couldn't get any worse, they did.

Apparently there was a vampire world war going on. And it was nothing like the Southern wars of my past.

It was much worse.

Peter and Charlotte had come round bringing the news. They had found out from other nomads who had seen it with their own eyes, the violence that the Volturi were unleashing on Europe. And it had all started over power.

Just like it always did.

Carlisle was disbelieving, he had known these men for hundreds of years and they had been around for thousands. The ancients. They had seen it all, lived through it all, always brought peace.

This time they were bringing destruction.

Marcus was the first to go. And the war between two remaining brothers was getting worse by the day. I couldn't have cared less, I'd been happy to watch them destroy each other from the sidelines. If it weren't for the fact that MY brother was on the front lines.

And I was NEVER going to turn my back on him.

Bella seemed to be deep in thought and I wasn't completely sure she was listening to me. I knew it must be agonizing for her. She was risking so much. But then she looked at me and I knew her thoughts were right there with me.

"So, who killed Marcus? And who exactly started this power struggle in the first place?"

There were a lot of stories going around, most nomads didn't even have any idea that the war was on. So Carlisle did what he always did. He started calling around and asking for information. Maggie came through. The small vampire from the Irish coven had heard it from the one person who managed to escape the madness.

Heidi.

Caius had started to protest the existence of large covens. He felt threatened. At first, Aro and Marcus had been indulgent and listened to his rants and warmongering but before long he had started farming plans on how to start on disintegrating them.

Aro was firmly against.

He was no angel himself, but at least he had a greater purpose when he went about destroying his brethren. He expanded their "family". Caius was simply envious. And each day he became more and more obsessed with his vicious plans until one day he gave his brothers an ultimatum. Either they were going to join him, or he was going to put a stop to it immediately. By himself. Marcus and Aro were furious. He then lured Chelsea into his bed with promises of taking her as his wife. He meant to use her against them.

Marcus had snapped and gone after his brother. It had cost him his life.

I had just finished telling my story when two things happened at once. My phone rang and the door opened.

Bella's roommates were back.

And so was my wife.

***

BPOV

Fuck. Was it already 5 PM? I was so involved with Jasper's stories; the day had literally flown by me. I was nervous because my past and my present were about to get into a crash collision.

Lana and Sonia came in laughing, carrying beer and red wine. Damn. It was Thursday. In our house Thursday meant take out and board games until 10 pm when I had to go and get ready for work. Brian rushed down the stairs carrying "The Settlers of Catan" the moment he heard the girls. I had no idea what to do. My head was spinning, I could feel all their eyes on me and I was tired, so tired.

And… was Jasper on the phone to Alice??

Before I could really comprehend what was happening, Rosalie had grabbed my hand. "Bella, hurry. We need to get to Forks. And now."

Lana heard her and turned her confused eyes to me. I groaned.

"Guys, listen. I have to go back to Forks tonight; it's a family emergency of sorts. I don't have time to explain right now, but I will when I get back. I promise. Right now I need to go. As soon as I call Ivy and tell her I won't be in tonight…" I turned around searching for my cell phone when I felt Brian's hands on my shoulders. "I'll take care of it Izzie, don't stress. You go on ahead, just please call us when you get to Forks. Will you be staying with Charlie?" I looked at Jasper who stood right in front of me with a slightly bewildered look on his face. He shook his head slightly. I turned around and hugged Brian tight. "Thanks B., I'll call you later tonight. I'll be staying with Rose and Emmett over here, they have more room and I don't want to just barge in on Charlie."

My friends were looking at me all confused and worried and I knew I would have one hell of a time figuring out how to explain this day to them. But right now, I wanted explanations of my own.

Was Alice back? And what did it all mean?

And why in the hell were we going back to Forks??

7. GOING BACK

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: Guys, I'm real sorry that it took so long between updates. I had a crazy weekend and then some but it shouldn't happen often. Usually, you can expect updates every two days, sometimes even every day. Depends on the mood your reviews get me into. That said, thanks a bunch to everyone that reviewed. You have no idea how much it means to me.

***

I don't mind it, I still don't mind at all
It's like one of those bad dreams when you can't wake up
It looks like you've given up, you've had enough
But I want more, no I won't stop
Because I just know, you'll come around

***

Before I knew what was really going on, Jasper was gunning Rosalie's BMW towards Forks. I was damn tired and I knew this was probably my only opportunity to get even a little sleep. So I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. I must have fallen asleep because before I knew it I was being shaken awake.

Esme.

My heartbeat raced on ahead as I came face to face with the woman I once considered my second mother. Truth be told, I still viewed her in the same way. My feelings had never changed. About hers, I didn't know. But I got my answer the moment she picked me up out of the car and hugged me fiercely. I was a grown woman and it was embarrassing but she kept repeating, "you're back, you're back". She was obviously overjoyed at seeing me again and I didn't have the heart to take this from her.

She could do as she pleased. I loved her.

Carlisle stood behind her and he was looking at me with this beautiful small smile on his face. I remembered how he used to remind me of the sun because he shines so bright. While we left a sunny day back in Seattle, Forks was wet and full of glum and he stood out. I forgot to be embarrassed for a second and leaned my head on Esme's shoulder breathing her in and squeezing her as tightly as I could. She chuckled. "Miss me?" I blushed fiery red and it still felt alien. But the smile that broke out on my face was even more astounding to me. I nodded vigorously and laughed. "You have no idea. This has been a very long day and I'm scared and confused and tired but I haven't been this happy in years. It's so good to see you all." The smile on her face was gentle, kind. She looked like she would be crying, if it were possible. "It's so good to see you, my dear Bella. I'm so glad we're together. Hopefully, soon, we'll all be together again. All of us." The last part was said quietly, like she was convincing herself rather than me.

And the smile on her face became so sad it was physically painful.

She missed Edward.

It was painfully obvious just how much. And suddenly, I was completely at ease with my decision. I would do this. We would do this. We'd make it right. We'd bring him back.

She released me and it was Carlisle next that hugged me to him and kissed my forehead gently with a whispered thank you. "Welcome back Bella. It's good to see you again. I hear you're a big business woman these days." It felt strange to be teased by him, but something told me he was trying to break the tension.

It worked. A little.

I turned to Jasper, but to my surprise he was nowhere to be found. Rosalie smirked. "He's busy kissing then killing Alice, I think. She's back." She jerked her head in the direction of their house. I squeezed my eyes shut. While I had missed all the Cullens, I had missed Alice almost as much as Edward. She was truly my sister. Seeing her… it would only be second best to seeing Edward. And I was afraid.

I didn't know how I was going to react.

Well there was going to be only one way to find out. I had to face her. But somehow I thought it was going to have to wait awhile. Jasper needed time. I hope he gives her hell. Emmett snickered like he had just read my mind. When even Esme coughed to hide her laughter I realized I had once again spoken aloud without meaning to.

Carlisle led us into the house. It was just like I remembered. Spotless, bright, familiar. Comforting. I was about to sit down when I felt someone staring at me. I turned around cautiously and there she was.

My sister. My best friend. Alice.

I just kept looking at her; I wasn't going to break the silence first.

The fact that I was mad happy to see her didn't mean I wasn't absolutely furious. If she though all was forgiven just because she came back… She had another thing coming. I had a few things to say to her…

She was looking down at her feet. I clasped my hands together and leaned against the back of the leather sofa. I could wait. I would wait. Suddenly she bit her lip and looked up. There was such shame on her face, I almost gave in and went to give her a hug.

But I held to all the hurt and pain and just kept looking at her.

"I'm so sorry, Bella, so, so sorry." She mumbled and it rang with sincerity. I was going to forgiver her… after I got some things of my chest.

"What exactly are you sorry for Alice? For leaving me behind? For not even saying goodbye? For abandoning me at the same time that he did? Or, how about for not even calling? Or, are you maybe sorry that you obviously lied to me? You left me all alone Alice. All alone. How could you?" With each word that had slipped out of my mouth my voice had gotten more and more quiet and cold. The last words were whispered, but she had heard them. Loud and clear. She opened her mouth to respond, but I beat her to it. "I'm not finished. Did you even fight him? Did you attempt to sway him? Why did you even listen to him? Or did you just not care? God Alice… It nearly killed me, you know, when he left. But the fact that I couldn't even see you one last time… It was like adding salt to an already burning wound. What the hell did I do to deserve that? What the fuck could I have possibly done?"

I was so caught up in getting it all out that I didn't notice them all staring at me in shock. I guess they weren't used to Bella that learned to stand up for herself.

I'd be damned if I ever let anyone make any kinds of decisions for me, ever again.

Alice had shrunk back from me slightly, in sadness and shame. I knew she felt bad, but if I was to come out of this with my sanity intact I had to make a few things clear.

I was no longer a child, and I wouldn't be treated like one.

She looked up at me and nodded. "I know Bella. What I did… I have no excuse. But, in my defense, he was very convincing when he said it was what was best for you. I shouldn't have listened to him. But, I did. And I can't change the past. But I'll never hurt you like that again. Never. I promise. I'm truly sorry." She looked miserable. I caved. I blew a breath I had unconsciously been holding and my shoulders sagged. I moved slowly until I was standing right in front of her.

"You ever pull a stunt like that again… and I swear…" I didn't finish my nonexistent threat; I just threw my arms around her. She closed her eyes and clutched me close. She kept repeating how sorry she was and suddenly she was shuddering against me. Dry sobs. She couldn't cry, but she could express her sadness all the same.

It was heartbreaking.

I stroked her hair and kissed her forehead gently trying to calm her down. She looked up at me even more amazed. And just a little proud when she saw what I was wearing. Armani washed out jeans and a white tank top. She raised her eyebrow at me. I ducked my head, rolled my eyes and smiled. "Comes with the territory. I have to keep to certain standards." She laughed at that and I was glad.

And I was thinking to myself… if we get out of this alive, I would make her take me shopping. I'd probably regret it but…

Esme come out of the kitchen carrying a plate with some fruit and a glass of water. We all sat down then and looked at Alice.

"So… where have you been?" Rosalie went first. Alice looked at Carlisle with a frown. "I'd been dodging Edward, Chelsea and Demetri ever since I left. I haven't been in a same city for more then a day. I was just about getting desperate because they are persistent, when Bella here decided to help us. I'm not fully sure what will happen next, but there is certainly hope. Only thing is… they know I'm back here. And they're coming." I sucked in a breath and they took it for fear. Esme leaned closer to me on one side and Emmett did the same on the other. But, I shook my head and looked up. "I'm not scared. I'm worried about what will happen. We have no idea how Edward will react to me. And… what if our bond has been lessened by time? We won't be able to go against Chelsea." Carlisle was nodding at everything I said and I could tell he was trying to form a plan. He looked back at Alice. "How much time do we have until they get here?"

I knew her answer couldn't be all that great when I saw the look on her face. But even that hadn't prepared me for her answer.

"48 hours tops. Probably less."

***

I had just hung up on Ivy who had called to ask about some things that needed to be done when another phone rang.

It was more bad news.

Not only were Edward, Chelsea and Demetri after us, Aro had sent Felix and Jane after the three of them. We had five dangerous vampires on the loose all getting closer to us by the minute.

Something needed to be done.

And I was starting to come up with a plan. I wondered if I was insane, even considering it, but I figured that the worst that could happen was he'd kill me.

At least the rest of them would have a fighting chance.

That is… if they won their own battle.

I stood up and went to Alice.

"Is there any way to separate Edward from the other two? Even for just a little while?" Jasper's head snapped up and he stood up so fast I would swear he hadn't even moved. "No, Bella. You can't face him on your own. It's too dangerous. One of us goes with you." I knew he was worried about me and he was right.

But… What other choice did we have?

Mine was the only mind he couldn't read so he wouldn't hear me coming until he could smell me… And then… I'd just pray that he had at least some feelings left for me.

I would hope that it was enough.

I looked down and took a deep breath. I made myself relax as much as it was possible. "You need to distract the other two. Do whatever you need to do but lure them away. And keep them away as long as you can. I will need all the time you can give me. If I fail… I hope you'll be able to deal with them and run. Just please… don't hurt him… no matter what happens to me."

My mind had been made up. I was going to do this. What this was… I wasn't really sure myself.

I hope I'd at least be able to give them a fighting chance.

I sat there and looked at all of them, wondering what it would have been like to be one of them. Truly be one of them. There was a time when I was sure that was what my future held. But at this point I would have been grateful to have any kind of future at all.

But as the thoughts ran through my mind, I found myself getting angry. I was sounding resigned already. This wasn't me. Not anymore. I was better then this.

And I was going to fight. For him, for myself. For all of us.

Because it was the right thing to do, but most importantly because it was what I wanted. And what I wanted was my very own happily ever after.

With Edward.

Either I was going to get it, or I was going to die trying. Either way, this would be over soon.

8. DREAMING OF TIMES PAST

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: Everyone, I know it's been months since I updated and I know most of you probably gave up on it by now. I don't blame you; I'd do the same. Have done the same on numerous occasions. I had a death in the family; it was sudden and completely unexpected. It took time for me to recover and be able to go back to my normal, everyday life and to things that I love. But, now I'm back. I'd gone over the chapters that I have written so far and I made small improvements, mostly grammar stuff. I am still looking for a beta so if you are interested or know someone who might be, please let me know. I go over all the chapters numerous times but mistakes just happen to slip through my radar. Unless something else unexpected happens, heaven forbid, you can expect weekly updates, sometimes two chapters a week, sometimes one, sometimes three. We're only just starting, this will be a long story and as it develops the chapters will be longer as well. If you are still with the story… thank you. Please leave your reviews, they mean so much to me.

***

Words are just another violence

Nothing rings as true as silence

***

It was past midnight by the time I managed to convince Jasper that my idea was the only one that made sense and we started working on an exact plan. It wasn't fail-safe by any means, but we had no other choice.

I had no other choice.

Carlisle and Esme were hesitant at first but in the end they agreed. I was doing it. And I was doing it my way.

It was strange how time used to drag by for me. I could remember days when minutes seemed more like hours. But that was not the case tonight.

We didn't get much further with the discussion when I got to the point where I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore. I was just thinking how I needed to lie down before I collapsed when Esme voiced my thoughts. Alice stood up taking my hand. "Let's get you something to change into. Then you can choose where you wanna sleep."

Trailing after her up the stairs I was hit by more memories. There were so many stories and I could remember clearly the awe I felt when Edward took me on my first tour of the house. I stopped by the closed door of his bedroom. Squeezing my eyes shut I willed myself to just walk by. But my body betrayed me and I cracked the door open craving even just a peek.

Suddenly I found myself surrounded by his scent. The one that used to make me feel cherished, loved and most of all, safe. Now, it was just a bitter reminder that I might never get to feel his touch again.

Shaking my head I wiped the treacherous tear that had slipped down my cheek and walked out closing the doors behind me.

***

I couldn't have been asleep for more that a few hours when I heard someone running up the stairs. The doors to Alice's bedroom slammed open. Leaning up on my elbows I squinted thru the darkness.

Charlie.

How in the hell did he found out I was back in Forks? I cursed silently remembering I had neglected to call Brian. He seemed to forget he could reach me on the cell, so instead, he panicked and called Charlie. Shit.

"Bella… What are you doing here? Why didn't you come home? Why are the Cullens back? Why the hell are you with them? And why…" I stared at him in shock for a few seconds before I recovered enough to stop his rant. "Dad! Dad, calm down, please. You're gonna give yourself a heart attack." I whispered in vain, getting up from the bed. He was going purple, which meant he was ready to blow.

I sighed, because frankly, it was getting old.

I loved my parents and while Renee was honest with both of us and freely admitted I was the mature one, Charlie still felt the need to protect me. What was worse, it was amplified by the fact that he could still remember the helplessness he felt when Edward left and I couldn't deal. But that was then. I wasn't that fragile little girl anymore. And he needed to accept that.

For both his sake and mine.

"Dad, listen, I came because Alice needs my help and Rosalie and Emmett came to get me. You know that, they came to you first. I stayed here both because Alice offered and because it was past midnight when we got here. I didn't just want to barge in on you and Sue."

I was deliriously happy when Charlie remarried; Sue was his lifelong friend and an amazing woman. She was just what he needed.

With both of them remarried, Charlie and Renee seemed to develop a strong friendship. I loved it and I felt truly blessed by the fact that my parents had finally found happiness. It was also giving me strength; I knew that they would be alright when I was no longer around, either for one reason… or another.

Charlie looked furious for another moment and then he blew out a huge breath and nodded. "Alright Bells, I won't butt in. If you're gonna sleep here, will you at least come down for dinner? Everyone would love to see you. Jake and Seth especially." I bit the inside of my cheek. Seth, I adored. He was Sue's youngest and a great guy. Four years younger then me and a true heartbreaker; the kid was gorgeous. I got along great with his sister Leah, too, though I didn't see her much. She had moved to the east coast a few years back.

Jake, on the other hand…

He was my first attempt at moving on after Edward. We had been friends since we were kids and he was there for me when I needed him the most. I had grown much attached to him. He became my best friend. And it was the most we could ever be. Best friends.

But he wanted more.

I honestly tried. I went out on dates with him, I let him hold my hand and hug me close.

I even let him kiss me.

And that was the end of it. My whole body rebelled against the unknown… He wasn't who I wanted… needed… craved. I tried to explain, let him down gently. It didn't work. In the end I was brutally honest and he… at one point he was downright cruel.

Soon after that I left Forks and over the past seven years I had only seen him a handful of times. Not one of them was very pleasant. I still felt guilty. But I wouldn't lie to either of us.

And he thought I was an idiot.

"Dad, I don't know what the plan for today is exactly, but I'll try to come to dinner tonight. If I don't make it, I'll definitely come around at some point. I'm not sure how long I'll be staying… " I trailed off, not wanting to get into details. Charlie looked suspicious and I just knew he wanted to ask about Edward, but I wouldn't let him. "So you go ahead, I know you need to get to work. I'm going to try to get a little bit more sleep and I'll talk to you later, ok?" I needed to get him out of there. Charlie nodded slowly, though the look in his eyes told me he knew there was something wrong. But he wouldn't butt in. He walked slowly toward me and hugged me tight. "I'll see you soon Bells. Say hi to Alice for me. I'd like to see her too…" It was his turn to trail off. I squeezed myself to him, kissed his cheek and forced a smile on my face. "Have a good day at work, dad. And I'll see you soon. I promise." I walked him down the stairs where Carlisle and Esme were waiting. He apologized for coming so early and left.

The moment the doors closed, all the color drained from my face.

What if the vampires attacked the town? We wouldn't be able to defend ourselves and everyone else at the same time.

All of as sudden, I wasn't so brave anymore.

***

I had gone back upstairs to get ready for the day. I was too restless to enjoy the shower much, but it relaxed me all the same. I was used to little sleep, so it didn't bother me. After I found the clothes Alice had left for me, I went to the kitchen in search for coffee.

I was going to need it.

They were all waiting for me. And they all looked worried. Carlisle and Jasper in particular. I zeroed in on the coffee machine but Esme intercepted me with a cup and directed me to the table. She had made a huge breakfast. I smiled and squeezed her hand.

"Thanks Esme, I'm starving."

After a minute or two we were all seated at the table trying to figure out how to both protect the town and ourselves and at the same time distract Chelsea and Demetri.

I knew I couldn't help and it made me feel agitated. Jasper noticed and suggested I go for a walk. After I finished breakfast I pulled on a sweater Alice provided and went out.

It was exactly the same as I remembered.

I looked at the trees and I remembered when he would run and how I didn't like it because I was afraid. I remembered how he would hold me and kiss my hands. How gentle he was with me.

And then I remembered the first time he kissed me.

How my heart would hammer in my chest, faster and faster every time he'd touch me. But most of all I remembered the first time he took me to the meadow.

I needed to see it once again.

Not thinking about what I was doing, I went into the garage and opened the drawer with the keys. Either I was truly masochistic or I just didn't realize it at the moment, but I was half way to the meadow when I noticed I was driving Edward's Volvo.

The tears had started slow and silent, but they were insistent.

Another few minutes and I was at the turnoff. I got out and started the track up. I made no more then 10 steps when I realized I was no longer alone. But I wasn't afraid either.

The moment of truth was there… And so was Edward.

***

JPOV

I was feeling anxious and I knew it wasn't all me. We were trying to deal with a situation that was going to be both agonizing and liberating. Finally, it was coming to an end. Either Edward would be back with us or we would all die trying.

I was terrified of losing Alice.

But it was a losing battle trying to convince her to just leave, to run and save herself. She would leave me no more that I would her.

Even though some could say that was debatable after the stunt she pulled.

I was still very upset and the fact that I could feel the remorse mixed with righteousness didn't help. She still didn't think she did anything wrong. But she did feel incredibly burdened and hopeless.

We all did.

And Bella… she was truly something. Before we left she wrote a quick letter and a last will and testament; Rosalie and Emmett were her witnesses. She left everything to her friends and parents. She was taking care of them the only way she could. With hurried hugs goodbye and only the clothes she had on her back she closed the doors to her stable, good life and went with us into the unknown.

And they knew her enough that they could feel it.

I felt each of her friends' heartbreak, fear and even longing. She was going to be missed.

Hopefully, she would have time for proper goodbyes…

When we sat down to plan I knew the exact moment when Alice saw them… She was off by 30 hours.

He was there already.

Knowing that Bella was more then likely to go their meadow I used her feelings of restlessness and suggested a walk.

With a dread in my stomach and a piercing pain in my heart I watched my sister walk out.

I just hoped it wasn't the last time I ever saw her.

***

BPOV

I took a deep breath and turned around slowly. Every time the air filled my lungs it felt more like burning fuel was trickling down.

Even though I had been waiting for this for years, I had no clue what I wanted to say. Actually, I had a lot to say, but in that moment when I lay my eyes on him for the first time in seven years only one thought came to my mind. And, as I forgot the control his eyes had over me, even as red and scary as they were, I blurted it right out. "You are still so beautiful."

Quiet. He just stood motionless, looking at me like I hadn't spoken a word. Like I wasn't even there. After a moment or two he started walking towards me, slowly, like a predator staking out his meal. It occurred to me that I ought to have felt afraid. Scared out of my mind, even. But the only thing I felt was incredible peace.

If I was to die, then his face being the last thing I saw made death an appealing sanctuary.

***

I stood stock still, surrounded by the dreariness of the Forks' woods, and yet I felt like I was at the sunniest place on the planet. Looking at his face caused a multitude of conflicting emotions; bone-deep sadness mixed with the kind of exhilarating happiness most people never get the chance to feel, numbing fear fought with the subconscious feelings of being protected, watched over.

Love stood out.

I loved him just as much as I did when he left. Maybe even more. I wondered if that kind of love was healthy, or sane. But I didn't much care. The peace and calm that radiated from me and I took a small step. Edward stopped like he'd been zapped but his eyes didn't leave my face. I bit my lip to stop the tears that threatened when I realized I could see no emotion in his eyes.

They looked dead.

Long overdue dread made my whole body tremble but I was not going to back away. Another few steps and I stood right in front of him. I tried to stop the trembling in my hand as I lifted it slowly but it didn't matter. Until I touched his face… I ran the tips of my fingers gently down his left cheek, smoothing the hard planes of his skin.

So cold, so hard… same, yet completely alien.

He snapped and caught my wrist in his hand bending it away from his face. It hurt and I knew it could break if he squeezed it but a little tighter. I didn't care. I lifted my left hand and stroked his lips.

Slight tightening was the only reaction.

I straightened up and shook my left arm until the sleeve of the sweater fell down to my elbow. Then I offered him my wrist. "Drink. I know you still desire my blood even if you never desired me. I'm tired of life. But I still love you. And I'm giving you the one thing you always wanted. Drink… Take everything I have."

And with one quick movement… he did.