Umm, whoops. Time seems to have gotten away from me a little bit...I'm rather hoping my lovely readers are still here for my year-overdue update, but here it is! I hope it's worth the wait!

Edward had his arm as tightly as he dared around Bella's waist. He needed to be able to move her out of harm's way as quickly as possible if things turned sour, at the very least he could buy her a few seconds, get her to Alice...

He ran through various worst-case-scenarios in his head, while simultaneously checking Alice's visions and reading Aro's thoughts. Aro knew to be careful around Edward now, so he didn't learn anything there, but perhaps if he listened carefully enough he might let something slip. Alice could see nothing. Nothing had been decided. Edward couldn't be sure that wasn't because they were playing with the holes in Alice's visions, but Alice was feeling confident. He tried to keep his face as impassive as possible, pretend for Bella that he thought everything was going to be alright, but he couldn't shake the feeling that they were not going to make it out of the chamber.

Aro finally acknowledged their arrival. "Jane, dear one, you've returned!" He went over to her and kissed her lips, as was his custom with his favourites.

"Yes, Master. I brought him back alive, just as you wished." What the...? What the hell did you do?Edward bit back a laugh as he heard Felix's outrage at Jane taking all the credit. Somehow, he couldn't help but agree with Felix, though he wasn't stupid enough to say it out loud.

"Ah, Jane. You are such a comfort to me." Felix fumed still further at this. Stupid little spoiled brat. 'Ooh, I can make people feel pain when they're not really hurt.' Big fucking whoop. Edward's control was going to leave him in a moment, so he skipped into Aro's head as best he could. Aro had defences Edward couldn't break, so he only heard what Aro allowed him to hear.

Annoying though this was, it didn't surprise him. Given enough time, he could probably learn defences to keep Aro out- time he wasn't sure he had. Aro continued, "And Alice and Bella, too! This isa happy surprise! Wonderful!"

Edward saw Bella look faintly surprised, then try to hide it. He resisted the urge to smirk. Had Carlisle not given him warning about Aro's nature, he would have been confused, too.

"Aro hears every thought you've ever had. He sees this as a useful tool- he knows your mind, your hopes, dreams, fears, experiences; and he can use all of that against you, if he so chooses. What also happens is he knows you, better than you know yourself. He feels genuine empathy with those whose thoughts he reads, and if he likes what he sees, he's more likely to spare you if he can. Normally this is if he can see you being useful to him in the future, but on occasion I'm not so sure. I think the centuries haven't entirely robbed him of his empathy- in fact, I'd say he was more empathic now than he was before. He'd deny this, of course, but I think it's not impossible." Carlisle paused, about to tell them something of the past, then decided it was better they didn't know, and thought of other things.

Aro's voice brought Edward back to reality. "Felix, be a dear and tell my brothers about our company. I'm sure they wouldn't want to miss this."
"Yes, Master." I really hope they don't kill the girl without me.

Edward was sincerely glad to be rid of Felix, though 'dear' was certainly not a word he would use to describe him. His thoughts were almost always vile, and frequently directed at Bella, and he didn't need that distraction right now. He needed to control his temper.

"You see, Edward? What did I tell you? Aren't you glad that I didn't give you what you wanted yesterday?"

"Yes, Aro, I am," he agreed truthfully, tightening his arm around Bella.

Aro sighed. "I love a happy ending; they are so rare." He was lost in his thoughts for a split second- probably entirely unnoticed by Bella- thinking of a girl Edward didn't recognise, a long time ago...then he snapped back to reality. "But I want the whole story! How did this happen? Alice?" He turned to look at her, his face not revealing the yearning he felt to have her power at his beck and call, "Your brother seemed to think you infallible," Moron.Alice shot the word at Edward, "but apparently there was some mistake."

"Oh, I'm far from infallible. As you can see today, I cause problems as often as I cure them." Edward would have begged to differ, but he knew how often they relied on her visions- and she had been wrong in the past. However, this time, it was not her fault.

"You're too modest- I've seen some of your more amazing exploits, and I must admit I've never observed anything like your talent. Wonderful!" Alice glanced at Edward, irritated. She thought that you could pick and choose what you showed Aro- he forgot that she'd never had his gift fully explained to her.

"I'm sorry, we haven't been introduced properly at all, have we? It's just that I feel like I know you already, and I tend to get ahead of myself. Your brother introduced us yesterday, in a peculiar way." If we get out of here, you're so fucking dead. Alice was getting more and more wound up with Edward as Aro explained. "You see, I share some of your brother's talent, only I am limited in a way that he is not." Alice stopped being annoyed and was just confused.
"And also exponentially more powerful." He turned to Alice, smugly satisfied that he could be the one to explain. "Aro needs physical contact to hear your thoughts, but he hears much more than I do. You know I can only hear what's passing through your head in the moment. Aro hears every thought your mind has ever had." Alice raised her eyebrows. You're shitting me? Really?Edward inclined his head, hoping it would be interpreted as a response to her eyebrow raise. It was not. Aro was positively salivating at the prospect of having the siblings join him.

"But to be able to hear from a distance-" he gestured at the two of them, and Alice's thoughts became a string of profanities, seeing a hazy version of the future- just a glimpse of herself and Edward in those dark cloaks, eyes red, and cold...the vision stopped short when the two of them simultaneously decided not to join the Volturi. Ever. Aro continued, "That would be so...convenient."

In a burst of an image of a naked Gianna that Edward really didn't need, Felix returned, Caius and Marcus in tow.

Caius' thoughts were entirely bent on the feed they were about to embark upon, and Marcus was thinking of that same girl from Aro's memories. Edward would have to ponder that later, if they ever got a 'later'.

"Marcus, Caius, look! Bella is alive after all, and Alice is here with her! Isn't that wonderful?"

Caius couldn't care less. The only way this could interest him would be if she were to be part of the feed- she certainly smelled sweet enough. Marcus, although appearing to maintain the same bored expression he always held, was genuinely happy. He'd seen that Edward truly loved this girl, had felt the same despair before when thinking the one he loved was dead- so for it to transpire that she was, in fact, alive and well made him glad that Edward could have time with her.

"Let us have the story!"