A/N: this one started as random typing on my mobile phone, and somehow made itself into a full oneshot. This is a missing scene, set parallel to the events in the ballet studio (chapter 22, Hide and Seek), when Edward gets Bella's letter and everything that's followed. I borrowed parts from chapter 23 - The Angel. Characters are - unfortunately - not mine. Reviews/feedback are awesome. Happy reading!

- editted with some tiny changes -


Stay with Me

"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be landing in Phoenix shortly, the weather is…" The captain's voice came vibrating over our heads, but I was hardly aware of it. Across the aisle, Carlisle was refastening his seatbelt – more out of habit than of true necessity – looking as carefree as any of the other passengers. Emmett – in the seat next to me – imitated Carlisle's actions. None of them was as on edge as I was. I had never felt the urgency to get someplace as I did at the moment. In spite of the voices that constantly resonated around me, my mind was surprisingly alert, set on one thing only – Bella. Every moment brought me closer to her. I couldn't bear the torture of being away from her; it was physically painful. I felt strangely anxious; I knew it wouldn't stop until I saw with my own eyes that she was safe.

I was trying to make sense of the recent events, and found myself at loss against them. Guilt washed over me, overpowering even the pain of our separation. I should never have exposed her to such danger. I should have thought it through. And now, if he got to her before we did, if we were too late to save her, if he… hurt her – I held back a growl at the thought – I would have no one but myself to blame. I hoped we weren't too late. I knew Alice had contacted us as soon as she could, but that was hours ago, and there was no way to make the plane go faster.

For the first time in decades, I felt defeated by frustration. It was frustration of a different sort, entirely unfamiliar to me, this inability to protect your loved one. Already I felt I had let her down, letting the hunter escape us. So now not only that we were back at where we had started, I was miles away from her as well. I remembered our hasty goodbye at the doorway; it felt like weeks had passed. I remembered her voice over the phone, sweet and teasing and yet unquestionably terrified, challenging me to come and get that missing part of my self.

I was coming to get it now.

He won't hurt her, dude, Emmett was thinking, throwing a reassuring look at me. Really, let him try, he added, making a small motion with his fists that slipped the other passengers. From his seat across the aisle, Carlisle murmured in protest.

I smiled ruefully and let them continue their murmured exchange. And now new images overtook me, more optimistic ones, of our upcoming reunion. I smiled to myself as I pictured her in the crowded airport, standing on tiptoes, waiting impatiently. I pictured myself, walking towards her as fast as I thought was appropriate for a human, somehow managing to keep our secret even then. But then nothing mattered anymore because she was there, closing the distance between us as she hurried into my waiting arms. I imagined how I would wrap my arms around her and just hold her close for a moment, breathing in her scent, letting it overpower me, before I'd let my lips touch hers.

I was abruptly shaken from my daydream when I realized that the constant humming of engine had stopped. We were there. Let's go, said Carlisle. Emmett was already in the aisle. We were the first to leave the plane.

The airport buzzed around us, a frenzy of people and thoughts, all mixed in one another. I closed my eyes and tried to block them out. All I could see were her eyes, anxious with anticipation, searching among the crowd. All I could think of was how desperately I loved her. Soon it would be over. We would be together again in no time.

As we were making our way out of the terminal, other voices, familiar ones, came through, settling more firmly in my mind.

Edward! Alice's voice was uncharacteristically urgent. Then, with her next thought, I realized with growing horror it was distress. I'm so sorry – I don't know how, she's just gone!

I didn't even realize I had stopped walking until I felt Carlisle's arm against my shoulder. "Edward? What's wrong?" his voice was as calm as his composure. But by the time I found the words to reply, Alice and Jasper were there already, looking as anxious as I had already suspected. Alice looked at me wide-eyed.

"How did this happen?" I couldn't help snarling at her; I didn't even feel guilty when she shrank slightly at the sound. I trusted her completely. She was the only one I would leave Bella with, and – although unwillingly – she had let me down.

"She said she was hungry – she wanted Jasper to – and then she didn't – "

Carlisle raised his hand, and her broken speech stopped at once. "Can you see where she is now, Alice?"

She didn't reply, and when she did, she was only glancing at me, as if she was afraid of my reaction. Well actually, I could read her mind. She was terrified of my reaction. "She's made up her mind. She went to him, to the room where the mirrors are."

"No."

"Only she doesn't know… it's a trap, and he…"

"We have to move, now." I hardly recognized my own voice. I didn't even look back to see if they followed. Nothing else mattered. He had Bella, and I had to get to him before –

"This way, Edward," said Jasper, and I had no choice but to collect my thoughts. My mind refused to calm down though, furiously building up dozens of possible scenarios. More than anything, I hoped it was not too late.

I didn't know how they got a car, or from where, or how we all got in there, but suddenly Carlisle was driving, and Alice was sitting next to him, giving him murmured directions. She was clearly avoiding my eyes, although mine were drilling holes in her back. I could sense her pain; it didn't soften my rage. Jasper was sitting next to me, obviously Carlisle's idea. He hoped Jasper's presence would calm me down, but there was faint chance that it would.

"She left this with me," Alice turned to face me all of a sudden, handing me a blank envelope. "She wanted me to give it to get mother – "

I snatched the envelope from her hands before she finished.

Emmett shook his head as I ripped the envelope open. "Ed, maybe you shouldn't – "

I glared at him, and he didn't say another word. Then, ignoring the rest of them, I pulled the paper out and straightened it. My bewildered eyes caught sight of my name first, scribbled hastily, as if she didn't have much time.

Edward,

I love you. I am so sorry. He has my mom, and I have to try. I know it may not work. I am so very, very sorry.

Don't be angry with Alice and Jasper. If I get away from them it will be a miracle. Tell them thank you for me. Alice especially, please.

And please, please don't come after him. That's what he wants, I think. I can't bear it if anyone has to be hurt because of me, especially you. Please, this is the only thing I can ask you now. For me.

I love you. Forgive me.

Bella.

For a moment, the world ceased to exist.

I sat there, staring blankly at her words, hardly aware of the presence of the others. They were all watching me, waiting, their thoughts pressing, but I couldn't speak. I couldn't do anything. Sudden hopelessness washed over me, paralyzing, making my otherwise alert senses go numb. It had just dawned on me that I might not get the reunion I was yearning for. I suddenly remembered something Alice had said earlier.

She had made up her mind.

And now she was saying her goodbyes.

"No."

I didn't realize I said it aloud until Carlisle spoke. "It's not far now, Edward. We'll be there in a few moments."

"If we're not too late," Alice murmured.

"It will be too late, for him," I growled. I saw her cower in her seat, for the second time today, but I didn't care. My mind was working furiously, now planning ahead. I had to consider the other option. If she didn't make it – it was painful to even consider it – then neither would I. That much was clear to me. I barely survived those few days we were apart; I could hardly imagine a world where she didn't exist. Now the only question remaining was how to do it. In the front seat, Alice whimpered, already guessing the train my thoughts had taken. My mind was already set up on the plan. Now all I had to figure out was the 'how'.

I didn't get that far ahead in planning, though, for this was when I saw the building, ahead of us. The wheels of the car screeched as Carlisle took the bend too fast. Luckily, the street was deserted. It was twilight. I was out of the car before he even killed the engine. I heard Emmett and Alice follow.

The studio was swimming with shadows, but my eyes got used to the darkness instantly. He was the first thing I saw, hovering over a small figure on the floor. It lay there crumpled, motionless, in defeated silence. I felt my eyes widen in horror. Too late, too late, my mind chanted. Bella… no… too late…

I didn't recognize the guttural growl as my own until he turned. I struggled to tear my gaze away from the silent figure on the floor and focus on him. His eyes were blazing red. His smile was sickening and vicious as he approached me slowly. He was enjoying himself. I could see it in the way his eyes glistened. "And so we meet again," he said pleasantly. "How nice of you to join us. Drinks are on the house," he added, throwing a glance at her. His smile grew an inch wider. I growled again, feeling the fury building within me, slowly and steadily, like wildfire. The hell with everything. There were cases in which Carlisle's theory didn't hold. I would not regret this act, no matter how monstrous. I would kill him for hurting her, no matter how –

Edward! Emmett's voice was close by. It took me a moment to realize he was still outside. James thought I was there on my own. Go. We'll take care of him.

And then she started screaming.

It seemed to startle him, for he tore his intent gaze from mine. Emmett and Jasper took advantage on his reckless shift of focus and leaped at him. He noticed them a second too late, and growled in protest as they took hold on him. More than anything I wanted to join them, to tear this vile creature to pieces. But she screamed again, and made the decision for me. I was by her side in a second.

I had already known that she was a magnet for accidents, for trouble, for chaos, but I had never seen her so broken, and so small. Her screaming turned into heart-wrenching whimpers now. "Oh, no, Bella, no…" I murmured, over and over again, on the verge of hysteria. I wasn't even sure where to begin. She looked in so much pain. Her face was contorted in anguish. And those tears… Was she even conscious? "Bella, please! Bella, listen to me. Please, please, Bella, please!" I was afraid to touch her. If I did, I'd hurt her even more, and she was already so damaged, so broken, my beautiful, silly, selfless Bella. "Carlisle!" I cried impatiently. She was running out of time. And once the thought hit me, a new frenzy began. "Bella, Bella, no, oh please, no, no…"

Carlisle knelt by her side then. Oh, dear God, oh, poor child, this is… what did this animal… how could he… He was clearly horrified by what he had seen, but he kept his expression sealed and his motions professional as he examined her injuries. There was an arm against my shoulder, and I knew without looking back that it was Alice. There were struggling sounds from somewhere behind me, but I didn't look away. I couldn't look away. Not before I knew she was alright, that it was not too late for her… for us.

Then all of a sudden, she cried out.

I called her name again, but her only response was more screaming. I tried to block out the sound. Listening to her suffering was excruciating. I just wanted her to open her eyes and assure me that she was alive at least.

"She's lost some blood, but the head wound isn't deep," said Carlisle, and I forced myself to listen to him. "Watch out for her leg, it's broken." I snarled, all too tempted to go after him again. But I couldn't leave her. "Some ribs, too, I think."

"Edward," she moaned suddenly.

Her voice sounded strange, as if she was underwater, but it was enough for me. "Bella, you're going to be fine. Can you hear me, Bella? I love you."

I scorned myself. It didn't matter now! But she had to know…

"Edward," she said again, slightly more conscious now.

I longed to take her hand, to squeeze it reassuringly in mine, but I couldn't. I closed my eyes briefly, struggling to get myself together. For her sake. "Yes, I'm here."

"It hurts," she said, whimpering again.

There was nothing I wanted to do more than wrap my arms around her, take the pain away. Staying away from her was torture, but this… seeing her suffer… somehow, that was worse. "I know, Bella, I know…" I murmured. I needed to keep her there, I needed to keep her talking. I looked up at Carlisle. Beyond his usual composure, he looked panicked. I tried to block out his thoughts. I knew I wouldn't like to listen to them right now. "Can't you do anything?"

The question snapped him back into practical mode. He nodded once. "My bag, please," he asked. Then he looked above me, where Alice was still standing. I forgot she was still there. But now that I remembered, her thoughts swam in, too. Ugh, it smells so good… don't think about it, you have to be here for her now, try to focus on something else… look at Jasper… "Hold your breath, Alice, it will help."

"Alice?" Bella's eyebrows twitched with sudden recognition.

"She's here, she knew where to find you." I knew I was rambling; there was no way she could make sense of what I was saying to her, but it didn't even matter. I had to keep talking. Just stay with me

"My hand hurts."

I threw a glance at Carlisle, who was getting a syringe ready, and then brought my eyes back to her. I wanted to take that strand of hair off her sweaty forehead, to comfort her. There was so much blood, too much of it, and she was hurting… But words seemed safer than a touch at the moment. "I know, Bella. Carlisle will give you something, it will stop."

But to my surprise, it didn't calm her down. "My hand is burning!" She was screaming again, and it was impossibly more horrible than before. I didn't know what it meant, but even Carlisle froze.

"Bella?" I asked, hardly aware of the quiver in my voice.

It was as if she didn't know I was there. She twisted and turned, almost as if she was trying to get away from something, and her screaming didn't cease. "The fire! Someone stop the fire!"

Suspicion sneaked in, but I dismissed it. It sounded almost as if she was… But no. That was impossible. He wouldn't dare. Would he…? And then I remembered his last words before Emmett and Jasper had him. Drinks are on the house. A snarl escaped me as I forced my gaze away from her anguished eyes to her hand, the one she said hurt, but it was hard to be certain with her frenzied movements. "Carlisle! Her hand!"

Carlisle was looking at it more closely now. I didn't need to hear his thoughts. His expression alone affirmed my suspicions. I gasped as he uttered the words. "He bit her."

And suddenly Alice was there, by her side, brushing away her tears. And she was speaking to me, her eyes urgent, imploring. "Edward, you have to do it."

"No!"

"Alice," she moaned.

I shut out the pleading in her voice. I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't end her life for her, turn her into a monster.

But what was the alternative? Watch her die? Sitting there, a witness, as she was slowly slipping away from me?

"There may be a chance."

A tiny spark of hope was ignited at the sound of Carlisle's words. "What?"

"See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean."

Alice asked something, and Carlisle replied, but I wasn't listening. I stared at Bella, who was laying there twitching in agony, as Carlisle's words stormed through my mind. It sounded so simple, easy, and yet… Sucking the venom out meant doing what I had managed to resist all this time… What if I wouldn't be able to stop? What if James didn't kill her, but I would? How would I be able to live with that?

"Carlisle, I…" I started, ashamed of the defeat my voice carried. I couldn't jeopardize her life that way. "I don't know if I can do that."

"It's your decision, Edward, either way. I can't help you. I have to get this bleeding stopped here if you're going to be taking blood from her hand."

Taking blood from her hand… tasting her… killing her… saving her… No. I couldn't. Not if I wasn't sure. But she was running out of time. It was nearly too late.

She was screaming my name now, and I twitched at the sound. The venom was spreading fast. I vaguely remembered the feeling, but one look at her was enough to realize the enormous pain she had to endure. And then, painfully slow, her eyelids fluttered and she opened her eyes. Her gaze was disoriented, searching, and then her eyes finally met mine, putting an end to my torturous indecision. I would be able to stop. I wouldn't kill her. I didn't resist her blood for so long just to end her life here now.

I brushed my fingers against the skin of her arm, hoping the touch would reassure her, before I grabbed her arm gently, but with enough force to hold it in place. And then, emptying my mind of everything but the mission ahead of me, I lowered my head towards her.

I held my breath at the sound of my teeth piercing her skin. She screamed on first contact; the sound made me freeze. For this mil-second, hesitation paralyzed me. She resisted, trying to pull her arm away, but my grip was stronger, determined. Once I was sure I had a decent hold on her, I closed my eyes, thinking it would make it easier. I didn't want to watch that part of myself, the monster in me.

For a moment, I was panicked. Her blood didn't taste as sweet as I suspected; it tasted better, warm and intoxicating, even with the venom in her system. A memory shot through me then, of that first lesson, when I thought of dozen ways of enticing her out of the class. I didn't mind killing her just so I could taste her blood. And the ironic thing was that it was all backwards now. I had tasted her blood… but in order to save her.

She kept on screaming, and the sound ripped through me, distracting me only briefly. I could somehow hear Alice's constant whispering, trying to comfort her. I won't hurt you, sweet Bella, I thought, and I hoped with all my heart that she knew that. Slowly, gradually, her screaming subsided, and another taste disrupted the sweetness. Morphine.

Mustering every bit of self-control, I pulled myself away from her. I let her arm fall against the wooden floor, trembling and pale. I hadn't noticed my ragged breath until my eyes focused on her again, now motionless. Her eyes were closed again, her eyelids drooping. "Edward," she murmured sleepily.

"He's right here, Bella," said Carlisle, his eyes on me. Well done, son, he thought.

"Stay, Edward, stay with me…"

"I will," I promised, my eyes still locked on her. If I could, I would have cried. Enormous relief washed through me. She was alright, she would be alright. We weren't too late.

Only now, I could smell the fire. I allowed myself a glance over my shoulder. Emmett and Jasper were no longer there – too much blood, I suspected – but the smell in the room was unmistakable. James was no longer.

Carlisle was questioning her again, like the doctor that he was, but I wasn't paying attention. I kept my eyes on her face, finally peaceful under the morphine's affect. Her last plea still hung there between us, echoing my own previous thoughts. Stay with me… and I knew I would. If I managed to stop, if I managed to save her, I knew that I would stay with her, forever, or for as long as she wanted me there. I already knew that I'd loved her, but now I was certain I loved her enough to keep her alive, and that was all I could ask for.

As we rushed to the nearest emergency room, sudden optimism overtook me, catching me off-guard, as she slowly drifted into frenzied slumber in my arms. I would be getting that reunion I was yearning for after all.