This story is an Alternate Universe New Moon fan fiction. The story picks up the March after Edward's departure before the cliff diving and Alice's return. Hope you enjoy!
Most of Bella's POV in this chapter closely mirrors and in some cases follows verbatim pages 232-242 of New Moon. No copyright infringement is intended. The segue from the original material was necessary in order to setup this alternate universe premise. Stephenie Meyer owns all Twilight characters and content.
I parked in the usual spot, spending a good fifteen minutes studying the little needle on my compass face and the markings on a worn map. I was trying to find somewhere where his presence still existed, somewhere other than inside me. There was one place above all others where that might hold true. I had seen his beautiful meadow only once in my life, lit by sunshine and the sparkle of his skin. I wanted, needed, to find it again.
Jacob Black was helping me. Well, he had helped me. Now he was mad at me, or ignoring me, or both. Maybe he was taking my advice and not wasting any more time on someone who couldn't return his feelings. But that left me with this completely empty Saturday. Charlie was fishing. And my former best friend was avoiding me. Idle time was not a good idea for me. So here I was trudging through the forest.
This was the first time I had traveled through these woods alone. The first time, he had patiently and quietly guided me through the forest. The second time, Jacob whistled and chatted as we hiked, making the forest feel friendly and vibrant. Alone, the forest seemed quiet and, I realized, a little creepy. The further I walked, the more aware I became of how loud my footsteps reverberated among the trees. Even my breathing sounded loud.
As I trudged on, I became aware of the hole in my chest and wrapped my arms tight around my torso. I tried to focus on the rhythm of my footsteps and my breathing to distract myself from the pain. This had been a bad idea. I wasn't sure how far I had gone, maybe four miles given the time. I almost turned around, but I hated to waste the effort I had already expended.
Just as I was debating, I stepped through a low arch made by two vine maples—pushing past the chest-high ferns—into the meadow.
I had found it. It was the same place, of that I was instantly sure. To the east, I could hear the stream bubbling quietly.
But it was different too. The sunlight was missing, as were the wildflowers. Without them, the meadow lost some of its splendor. The ground was thick with tall grass that swayed in the light breeze. And, mostly, it didn't hold what I had been searching for.
The disappointment was instantaneous and crushing. I sank down right where I was, kneeling there at the edge of the clearing, beginning to gasp. I was thankful that Jacob hadn't come with me after all. I couldn't imagine how I would explain the way I was fracturing into pieces or the fact that I wanted to leave immediately. I was struggling to force myself out of the ball so that I could escape. The pain in this empty place was too much to bear—I would crawl away if I had to.
How lucky that I was alone!
Alone. I repeated the word with grim satisfaction as I wrenched myself to my feet despite the pain. At precisely that moment, a figure stepped out from the trees to the north, some thirty paces away.
I was surprised—I was far from any trail here and didn't expect company. Then, as my eyes focused on the motionless figure, seeing the utter stillness and the pallid skin, a rush of piercing hope rocked through me. Finally, I became fearful—this face wasn't the one I wanted to see. And the figure's eyes connected with some primal fear center in my brain. They glowed dark red.
I recognized the vampire before me.
"Laurent?" My voice was tentative, but then I smiled. Maybe he knew…something…? I remembered that Laurent had been interested in their civilized lifestyle and had left their house in search of the Denalis' coven in Alaska the night James began pursuing me. God that seemed like a long time ago.
"Bella?" he asked, looking more astonished than I felt.
"You remember." I smiled. It was ridiculous that I should be so elated because a vampire knew my name. But his presence before me confirmed that I hadn't simply imagined it all.
He grinned. "I didn't expect to see you here." He strolled toward me.
"Isn't it the other way around? I live here. I thought you'd gone to Alaska."
He stopped about ten paces away, cocking his head to the side. "You're right," he agreed. "I did go to Alaska. Still, I didn't expect….When I found the Cullen place empty, I thought they'd moved on."
"Oh." Hearing their name ripped at the raw edges of my wound. I took a deep breath. "They did move on," I finally managed.
"Hmm," he murmured. "I'm surprised they left you behind. Weren't you sort of a pet of theirs?"
"Something like that." I looked down at my feet.
"Hmm," he said, thoughtful again. I looked back up, he had taken several steps towards me. I felt the hair rise on the back of my neck. Suddenly my heart was beating against my rib cage. I was sure he could hear it. I blushed. These were all the reactions a human was supposed to have to a vampire, ones I never had around them, because they were different. I took an involuntary step back, and his curious dark red eyes followed the movement.
"Do they visit often?" he asked, still casual, but his weight shifted toward me.
"Lie," the beautiful velvet voice whispered anxiously from my memory.
I started at the sound of his voice, but it should not have surprised me. I had first heard his voice in Port Angeles the night I approached the strange men in front of the bar, and even since I found I could coax it out of my brain by putting myself in danger. And, was I not now in the worst danger imaginable?
"Now and again. The time seems longer to me, I imagine. You know how they get distracted…." I tried to make my voice sound light.
"Hmm," he said again. "The house smelled like it had been vacant for a while…."
"You must lie better than that, Bella," the voice urged.
I tried. "I'll have to mention to Carlisle that you stopped by. He'll be sorry they missed your visit." I took a small step backward; his eyes caught the movement. "So, how are things working out in Denali?"
The question made him pause. "I like Tanya very much…and her sister Irina even more. But the restrictions are difficult. I'm surprised any of them can keep it up so long." He smiled at me conspiratorially. "Sometimes I cheat."
He cut me off. "Bella, I'm afraid I have to apologize." He took a step closer.
"Apologize?" My voice was too high.
"Yes, and Victoria won't be happy about this either."
The name shocked me. "About what?"
"About me killing you," he answered in a seductive purr.
I staggered back another step.
"Victoria really wanted you for herself, but I'm afraid you've caught me at a bad time. I was hunting. I'm quite thirsty, actually, and you do smell…simply mouthwatering."
"Threaten him," the beautiful delusion ordered, his voice distorted with dread.
"He'll know it was you," I whispered. "You won't get away with this."
"Yes, I will." My eyes didn't even catch his movement. He embraced me like a lover might, one arm firmly around my lower back, the other laced through my hair holding the back of my head. He ran his nose from my cheekbone down over my jaw and down my neck. I heard a low growl. And then I felt a searing pain.
Laurent's razor sharp teeth sliced into the skin of my neck. I felt myself starting to slump against him. He was supporting my weight entirely. I heard the velvet voice in my head shrieking for me to fight, to live. But all I wanted to do was sleep. Besides, the pain in my neck was wonderfully distracting. It was the first time in months I didn't feel the pain from the gaping hole in my chest. Had I enough energy to do so, I might have laughed. How ironic that I was going to be killed by a vampire after all.
Edward. It didn't matter if I thought of him now. I was going to die. Edward, I love you.
Then I fell to the ground. I was vaguely aware of the sound of snarls and the movement of dark shapes above me. I could just make out the ground vibrating around me. I loud keening caught my attention for a moment followed by a series of metallic ripping sounds.
But all of that was quickly drowned out by the fire. I screamed, at least I tried to, I couldn't tell if the noise actually came out. Had I gone to hell? That didn't seem right, but in my deliriousness I couldn't account for the conflagration within my veins any other way.
Make it stop!
Why didn't anyone hear me?
The burning made it difficult to breathe, to think. My neck, shoulders, arms, and chest were melting from the inside out. My heart was beating so fast I was sure I would have a heart attack. I couldn't control my movements. My arms and legs flailed, my back arched into the pain. Please, God, Edward. Help me.
And then everything went mercifully dark.
We were close now. We had crossed the bloodsucker's trail fifteen minutes ago and the sickly sweet scent was getting stronger. It wasn't the one we had been tracking, but we would be happy to kill the leech just the same. I could see the trees thin out just in front of us. There—that's where it was. Sam directed us into formation and we picked up the pace. Just before we broke through the tree line I realized the bloodsucker wasn't alone.
Jacob, deal with the bloodsucker first! It's too late for her! As the alpha, I had no choice but to follow Sam's orders. I snarled ferociously and flew at the vile creature wrapped sinuously around Bella's small frame.
He was stunned by our interruption, and clearly terrified of us. He tried to run but my four brothers were on him quickly. I was torn between wanting to do the honors myself and needing to try to save her.
I could hear the others thinking about Bella. They were trying surreptitiously to ask Sam if she should be dismembered as well, just in case. I snarled ferociously and ran back over to her body.
She's still alive! She's not dead! Thank God. Live Bella! I put my nose to her face and immediately pulled back. She didn't smell right. And then the rivulet of blood that ran from the side of her neck down underneath the collar of her shirt caught my attention. I gently turned her head with my snout. Oh, no. No, no. Bella.
No! I spun around and crouched over her body, two paws on each side of her small frame.
Jacob, she has no options. You saw as well as we did. She will change. But we can't allow that.
Back up. All of you. I needed to think but couldn't. I growled as I warned Sam, Jared, Embry, and Paul from coming any nearer. I was the strongest and the fastest. They all knew it.
Jacob, I'm giving you an order. Step away from her and let us finish this.
No! This is Bella. Isn't it?
She is dead, Jacob. Sam took a step closer. I crouched defensively and snarled.
No. She's. Not. She can't be.
She should be. You know that, Jacob.
I was vibrating from my grief and from trying to resist Sam's order. It was impossible to do. But then I had a realization. Bella was important to me. She was one of the most important things to me. If I couldn't make them see that, I knew what I would have to do.
This is Bella, guys. This is Charlie's daughter. You know her.
Yeah, Jake, but she's not gonna be Bella anymore. I glared at Jared. Traitor.
No. I won't let you do this.
Jacob Black. Move away from her right now. Sam's tone was ferocious.
No. And you can't make me, Sam. I no longer recognize you.
What? He was furious. The others' anxiety was making my head start to hurt.
You know as well as I do that I was supposed to be the alpha. I didn't want it then. I do, now.
There can't be two alphas, can there? Jared and Embry looked at one another and then back at us.
No, Sam growled. You would choose one of them over us?
She's not one of them. She's one of us. She's…. But I knew I didn't have to say it. Our minds were connected. They already knew what Bella was to me, how I felt about her.
Sam, you're making me choose here. Don't make me choose.
He took another step towards me. DON'T MAKE ME CHOOSE, SAM!
All of a sudden, their voices were gone. It was quiet in my head. I couldn't hear any of them. Sam and I were standing eight feet from one another, a huge russet brown wolf and a large black wolf, squared off and snarling viciously at one another.
I saw the change rather than heard it this time, as I used to be able to do when I was connected to them. Jared had phased so that they could communicate with me. "Jake, what did you do, man?"
I kept my eyes on Sam, wary that this was a strategic distraction.
"We're not going to hurt you."
I barked a scoffing laugh at the idea that they could.
"Will you phase so we can talk? We can't hear you anymore."
I shook my head no.
Jared paused. He phased and then changed back. "Sam says we'll resolve this another day, that your actions are going to make this harder on everyone, especially Bella. He is going to consult the elders." The wolves all took tentative steps away from me as I stood defensively crouched over Bella's quivering form. "Bye, Jake." He looked at me for a long moment. Jared had been a friend for years. Then he phased, and joined the retreating group of wolves as they melded into the darkening woods.
With them gone and my head completely empty of their thoughts and voices, Bella's halting breaths and whimpers sounded particularly loud in the space. I stepped around her and looked back down. Where my muzzle touched her cheek it felt measurably cooler. This was really happening. I threw my head back and let out a mournful howl.