Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer still owns everything. I just thought a little more death would be funsies.
A/N: This is just a re-upload of the previously proclaimed "nasty ass alternate ending" I wrote for "Twilight". Inspired by the artsy-fartsy "Let Me Sign" montage at the end of the movie, obviously intense visuals make me geek out in an admittedly sick way. Still written for Maylin, even thought it guts me to mention her in an author's note. Also, hey ineedyoursway. Shout. Fucking. Out.
Reviews: Don't worry about them. I know. (Any complaints about this story, please complain via PM to penname "dihenydd")
JUST ONE MORE THING YOU WANT TO END
My life had a trajectory that was taken from me when she was.
Love and fear and desire and curiosity and meaning and hope and laughter.
Everything that had been my future became nothing.
Maybe dying was just something to do.
"Edward," she mumbled softly.
She was dreaming of me.
Could a dead, frozen heart beat again? It felt like mine was about to.
"Stay," she sighed. "Don't go. Please...don't go."
She was dreaming of me, and it wasn't even a nightmare. She wanted me to stay with her, there in her dream.
I struggled to find words to name the feelings that flooded through me, but I had no words strong enough to hold them. For a long moment, I drowned in them.
When I surfaced, I was not the same man I had been.
My life was an unending, unchanging midnight. It must, by necessity, always be midnight for me. So how was it possible that the sun was rising now, in the middle of my midnight?
At the time that I had become a vampire, trading my soul and my mortality for immortality in the searing pain of transformation, I had truly been frozen. My body had turned into something more like rock than flesh, enduring and unchanging. My self, also, had frozen as it was - my personality, my likes, my dislikes, my moods and my desires; all were fixed in place.
It was the same for the rest of them. We were all frozen. Living stone.
When change came for one of us, it was a rare and permanent thing. I had seen it happen with Carlisle, and then a decade later with Rosalie. Love had changed them in an eternal way, a way that never faded. More than eighty years had passed since Carlisle had found Esme, and yet he still looked at her with the incredulous eyes of first love. It would always be that way for them.
It would always be that way for me, too. I would always love this fragile human girl, for the rest of my limitless existence.
I gazed at her unconscious face, feeling this love for her settle into every portion of my stone body.
She slept more peacefully now, a slight smile on her lips.
Always watching her, I began to plot.
"Alice will know what you're doing by now," Jasper's voice was weary with pain.
I glanced over at him out of the corner of my eye.
I knew that he could feel everything I was feeling; I knew that it was killing him, driving him insane just as it was me. I knew it was the only reason he had agreed to help me: he could feel it and he wanted it to end just as badly as I did.
It was comforting.
"She won't be able to catch up to us in time," I replied. My voice was completely empty. For some reason, it shocked me to hear. "I'll be gone by the time she gets to you."
Jasper sighed and fixed his gaze on the road.
His knuckles tensed and released over and over as he gripped the steering wheel. I watched the strength in his fingers and involuntarily flexed my own.
It wasn't mine. I wished I didn't have it, wished I could give it all back; that strength.
I wanted to use it to tear my face off.
She won't forgive me for this, Edward.
He didn't say the words out loud. He probably couldn't bear to. But I heard them just as clearly as if he had. Always heard them clearly.
All of them except for Bella.
"She'll forgive you anything," I told him and it was the truth.
We both knew it. There was nothing that could tear them apart. Alice couldn't forget, but she could forgive unconditionally. And she would. She didn't really have a choice.
"This wasn't your fault."
My eyes snapped to his and he was already looking over at me. I could see the pity in his eyes right there alongside my agony.
I growled at him.
"Stop it," I told him, my voice harsh and icy. I turned away again and looked back out the window. I wouldn't have this conversation.
But he couldn't let it go; couldn't control his thoughts.
Please Edward, don't do this to us.
I continued to stare out the window at the scenery rushing by. I could see the bright lights of the runway approaching quickly. We were almost there.
"You know why I'm doing this," I told him in a low voice. "You can feel it. Tell me you don't want it, too."
He was silent. His thoughts were silent.
"I can't live like this," I continued, encouraged by his lack of response. "I can't live in a world where..." I trailed off.
Where she's not there, he finished.
I drew my eyes away from the road and looked at him. At the only one of them who would ever understand. The only one who could ever understand.
He felt the loss and it wasn't something he wished on me or himself.
"I understand." He nodded softly, his gold eyes locking with my red ones.
The car jerked to a stop in front of the airline entrance and I was out the door in less than a second. He was behind me, not bothering to find parking. He locked the car swiftly and we strode through the doors of the airport side by side.
I quickly scanned the thoughts of everyone around me, all the employees, and found what I was looking for. Direct flight to Italy.
It would make everything go much faster.
"This way," I murmured to Jasper as I headed in the direction of the thoughts. The ticket burned in my pocket, I had bought it earlier in the evening. I knew as soon as I decided to go to the airport, Alice would try to stop me.
The plane was leaving in ten minutes; already boarding.
I had to cut it close.
There was no hesitation in our movements, no doubt in our steps as Jasper walked me silently to the gate. I blocked his thoughts easily. He wasn't trying to force me to hear them. I was sure they would simply mirror my own.
When we arrived at the waiting area, Jasper stopped and turned to look me directly in the eye. I paused for a moment and looked back at him.
"Edward..." his voice was weak and sad and he said my name like he loved me.
I shook my head.
"I know," I said softly. "And I'm sorry."
Jasper sighed and ran his fingers through his hair, lightly. He looked at everything but me now.
Finally, he spoke. "Do you know, every single part of me is screaming to stop you."
He sounded defeated.
He wasn't going to fight me, despite his words. I could hear the resignation in his thoughts.
"Then why don't you?" I asked.
I would have felt curiosity in that moment if I could feel anything.
Jasper gave me a small smile and met my eyes again.
"Because I feel what you feel and that part of me belongs to you," he told me simply. "And to her."
I looked at him, slightly staggered. I had never thought of it in those terms, but he was right. I reached out slowly and put my hand on his shoulder.
Jasper jerked away from me.
Don't you fucking dare thank me, Edward.
I opened my mouth.
And don't apologize, either.
I gave him a slight nod and said nothing.
Behind me the hostess gave a final call for passengers.
With one final look at my brother, I turned on my heel and strode down the narrow corridor and onto the plane. It wasn't very full and I found my seat quickly.
It only took ten minutes and we were on the runway, preparing to take off, to bring me that one step closer to her again.
Just as the plane lurched forward and started moving I heard it.
Screams of agony coming from the airport. From the gate I had just left. I could hear them above the roar of the engines. No human would have been able to, but I heard them.
I focused in on Jasper's thoughts.
I could see him holding Alice back from sprinting out onto the runway after me. She was thrashing in his arms, crying tears that would never fall.
I focused in on Alice's thoughts.
I saw the last vision of the future I would ever get from her.
I was burning.
Her beautiful dark eyes sparked with curiosity and the smallest trace of confusion and hurt. Her brows furrowed, her forehead wrinkling adorably.
"I couldn't understand why. How you could hate me so quickly..." her voice was very small, baffled at the memory, still. It must have been torturing her for a long time.
I took a deep breath.
"To me, it was like you were some kind of demon, summoned straight from my own personal hell to ruin me. The fragrance coming off your skin...I thought it would make me deranged that first day. In that one hour, I thought of a hundred different ways to lure you from the room with me, to get you alone. And I fought them each back, thinking of my family, what I could do to them. I had to run out, to get away before I could speak the words that would make you follow..."
I met her eyes again when I paused. Her jaw was slack and her eyes were wide. She looked surprised, shocked even, but not afraid.
Something in her eyes made it look like she felt guilty for my struggle. I was sure I was imagining it.
Didn't she understand? I had to make her understand.
"You would have come," I said firmly, leaving no room for argument.
She looked back at me, her face oddly calm; giving away nothing. Her thoughts completely silent. Was she afraid yet? Was she getting ready to run away?
Her lips twitched and she almost smiled. Almost, but not quite.
"Without a doubt," she replied evenly, without missing a beat.
I looked down, away from her serene gaze, trying to control my shock. When she said she didn't care, she meant it. I didn't know how it was possible, but no matter what I had wanted to do before this moment, she trusted me now.
It was time to trust her.
So I told her everything. Everything that happened leading up to the second she had taken my hand in this meadow and told me she didn't want me to leave her.
I told her about how I had fled to Alaska, how I had come back because of my pride. I told her about my frustration at not being able to read her thoughts, and the insatiable curiosity her silence had caused to grow inside me. I told her why I had saved her from the van, how I had fought with my family to save her life. How through all this, her scent never, ever lost its appeal.
She listened to me in complete silence, as if she was unable to speak. Or maybe she just didn't want to interrupt. In her eyes was not the horror I expected, but an eager sort of attention. I could see that I was solving a puzzle for her. One that she never would have been able to work out on her own, and one that she never would have stopped trying to.
I felt suddenly warm at the thought.
I met her eyes and let my voice become gentle. "And for all that, I'd have fared better if I had exposed us all at the first moment, than if now, here - with no witnesses and nothing to stop me - I were to hurt you."
"Isabella," I said her full name with slight exasperation and on impulse I reached one hand up and ruffled her hair casually. She looked shocked, but didn't jerk away.
"Bella," I began again, more serious now. "I couldn't live with myself if I ever hurt you. You don't know how it's tortured me. The thought of you, still, white, cold...to never see you blush scarlet again, to never see that flash of intuition in your eyes when you see through my pretenses...it would be unendurable. You are the most important thing to me now."
Her eyes were locked on mine, her expression bewildered and melting.
"The most important thing to me ever," I finished with a whisper.
She said nothing for a long time.
I looked at her intensely, willing her to respond in some way. Needing to hear her voice say something, say anything. I needed to know what she was thinking. So I waited and I watched her eyes remain fixed pointedly on our interlaced hands for several moments.
Then, finally, she looked back up at me. Her cheeks burned a pleasant pink and she looked shy suddenly. Shy and fierce and sure.
"You already know how I feel, of course," she said airily. Please, say it. She smirked in self-disdain. "I'm here...which, roughly translated, means I would rather die than stay away from you."
I pushed the car faster. I could see the city of Volterra rising up out of the horizon in front of me. It would still take me nearly a half hour to reach it, but I was almost there.
I felt my phone buzzing. I took it out of my pocket and threw it on the seat beside me.
It was Carlisle again.
There was nothing he could say. I didn't want to listen to him tell me how much I was worth, how much I meant to them, how much I had to live for. I didn't want his sympathy or his worry or even his love.
Especially not his love.
It was several minutes before my phone rang again.
I glanced over at it and lifted from the seat to turn it off. I didn't want to listen to it anymore.
I looked down at the screen and my eyebrows raised slightly.
I hesitated for several seconds.
Maybe she was angry. Maybe she wanted to tell me how much she hated me, how much she had always hated me, how excited she was that I was going to die at long last.
I flipped open the phone and put it to my ear.
There was silence for a moment as she quickly processed the fact that my phone had stopped ringing; that I had answered.
Her voice was quiet, but she didn't sound sad or timid or concerned.
Exactly as I had hoped.
"Yes," I confirmed dully.
I didn't want to talk to her. I wanted her to tell me how disgusting I was and then hang up. That was all. I knew if anyone could, it was her.
"Where are you?" She almost sounded annoyed. I knew it was a cover up. She was worried.
"I'm where I need to be," I told her solemnly. She would get nothing from me.
"Don't do this, okay?" she snapped. I had expected the anger and not the words it was fueling. She always had been so unpredictable. I shouldn't have picked up the phone.
I was silent.
"Where you need to be is home," she continued. Her voice was harsh and didn't at all match what she was saying. She spoke to me as if I was being a petulant child. That wasn't what I wanted from her. "Let us help you. Let us take care of you."
"There's nothing to take care of," I told her firmly. I was angry at myself for speaking to her. "Except this one last thing."
It was her turn to be silent.
"Why did you call?" I asked her finally.
I should have hung up.
"I'm your sister," she bit back, venom in her voice. As if she hated saying it.
I almost smiled.
"Why you?" I demanded. "Why not Alice? Or Esme?"
I heard her chuckle harshly. It was a bitter, frustrated sort of sound.
"If you didn't want to talk to Carlisle, you wouldn't have talked to them," she told me simply. It was the truth.
"You knew I'd talk to you?" I prodded.
"No," she admitted. "But I thought you might."
She was so incredibly self-absorbed.
But I knew that wasn't it entirely. She wasn't an idiot. She knew I would talk to her for the same reason that I was.
"Figure it out for yourself," she snapped. "You're the one that answered the goddamn phone."
I didn't want to talk to her. Didn't want to be having this conversation and she was too perceptive for her own good. She knew me too well.
"Wait!" she cried, her voice slightly panicked.
Something in the way she said the word made me want to hear what she was going to say. What was so important to tell me when she knew she couldn't change my mind.
Surely she wasn't going to tell me she loved me; express concern and remorse in some way.
"I'll do it," she said quickly.
The words were a jumble that no human would have been able to make out. And even though I knew it was impossible that I had misheard her, I thought that I may have.
I heard her take a deep, ragged, unnecessary breath on the other side of the phone.
"I'll do it for you," she repeated, slower this time. Calmer. She meant it. "Just...come back. I'll do it, I promise. You just...you shouldn't be alone when you die."
I flipped the phone shut abruptly.
My hands were suddenly shaking.
You shouldn't be alone.
I looked her over as she stepped back into the room, allowing my eyes to move over her body discreetly.
The grey sweatpants she was wearing clung to the skin of her legs tightly, leaving very little to imagination regarding the shape of her thighs.
My gaze trailed up to the baggy t-shirt she was wearing, which only hinted at the curves underneath. I would have been grateful for it except that it was speckled with small holes and tears and every once in a while my eyes would graze bare skin.
And her hair.
Wet and clinging to her back, her scent intensified by the saturation.
Kill me now.
"Nice," I said, trying to remain calm. All I really wanted to do was jump up and grab her. Bury my face in her skin. Attack her with my lips, my hands, my body.
Her mouth twisted into a grimace, as if she could hear the strain behind the compliment. Of course, she thought I was being ironic.
God, if she only knew.
"No, it looks good on you," I assured her. Understatement of my life.
She looked at me a moment more and then whispered, "Thanks." She walked over without hesitating and sat down next to me, crossing her legs on the bed beside me. Her scent ripped through my throat and I reveled in it.
"What was all that for?" I asked her at last. Do you just want to torture me? Or are you really trying your damndest to kill me? It wouldn't take much more.
"Charlie thinks I'm sneaking out," she told me with a wide grin.
"Oh." I could hear Charlie's thoughts from the kitchen. I almost laughed aloud, flattered. Elated that he thought so. I was doing this to her. Me. "Why?"
She smirked down at her hands, a subtle flush in her cheeks. "Apparently, I look a little overexcited."
Fighting back the grin that threatened to overtake my own face, I reached my fingers under her chin gently and lifted her face so I could see it clearly.
She looked so happy.
"You look very warm, actually."
Then, unable to resist my own words I leaned forward and pressed my cold stone cheek lightly against hers, feeling her blush against my skin for the first time.
She said nothing for a long moment.
When she finally spoke, her voice was a little breathless. "It seems to be...much easier for you, now, to be close to me." I could feel the hum of her words against me and decided there was no better feeling in the world.
"Does it seem that way to you?" I wondered, skimming my nose against her jaw, breathing her in.
The pain of being near her tortured my body, everything within me. But then I reached up and brushed her hair back, its cool, damp tendrils clinging maddeningly to my fingers, and pressed my lips behind her ear.
"Much, much easier," she gasped, her voice strained as if she couldn't breathe properly. "So I was wondering..."
As I listened to her staggered question, I lowered my fingers from her hair and let them dance along the smooth skin of her collarbone. I wondered what her skin would taste like there.
After a moment I realized she hadn't finished telling me what she was wondering. I felt the curiosity stirring slightly.
"Yes?" I prompted her.
"Why is that, do you think?" she finally got out, her voice shaking.
I couldn't stifle my laugh completely, and I let it ghost over her skin. "Mind over matter," I told her simply.
If only she knew.
Then, suddenly and violently, she jerked her body back, out of my grasp. I stopped breathing immediately at her unexpected movement and my jaw clenched painfully against the instincts that told me that she was trying to get away. That I needed to...stop her.
"Did I do something wrong?" I managed to ask, my jaw relaxing as I fought back the instinct enough so that I was puzzled by her rejection.
"No - the opposite," she explained, sounding slightly exasperated. "You're driving me crazy."
I paused for a long moment, allowing that to sink in.
Then I couldn't stop the smug grin that slowly spread itself across my face. "Really?"
She looked at me with disapproval. "Would you like a round of applause?" she snapped, not angry at all.
My smile softened at the seriousness of her tone.
"I'm just pleasantly surprised," I let her know, explaining so she would understand. "In the last hundred years or so I never imagined anything like this. I didn't believe I would ever find someone I wanted to be with...in another way than my brothers and sisters. And then to find, even though it's all new to me, that I'm good at it...at being with you..."
"You're good at everything," she cut me off. Her voice was teasing now, too.
I shrugged as if I couldn't argue with that and she laughed at me in whispers, her entire face breaking up into an expression of amusement. I laughed with her quietly, never taking my eyes from her.
I wanted to see her laugh every single day for the rest of eternity.
Her face sobered, slightly, but her smile was still there when she pressed on, "But how can it be so easy now? This afternoon..."
"It's not easy," I sighed when her voice trailed off. "But this afternoon I was still...undecided." My jaw clenched at the thought. "I am sorry about that, it was unforgivable for me to behave so."
"Not unforgivable," she stated immediately, calmly.
Yes, Bella. Unforgivable.
"Thank you," I smiled at her.
I looked down and continued, "You see, I wasn't sure if I was strong enough...And while there was still a possibility that I might be...overcome I was susceptible. Until I made up my mind that I was strong enough, that there was no possibility at all that I would...that I ever could..."
I couldn't say it. I couldn't say the words. Couldn't even imagine it happening in my head. The pain of it was excruciating. Something I would never recover from.
"So there's no possibility now?" She asked me, her voice quiet. She was looking at me with the most curious expression on her face. God, to know what she was thinking.
"Mind over matter," I smiled at her confidently.
No, there was no possibility now.
"Wow, that was easy."
"How much longer do I have to wait?" I asked.
There was no irritation in my voice. I was beyond feeling irritation. But I could feel a sense of urgency and excitement.
I wanted to see her.
"Someone's impatient," Felix smirked at me.
He was lounging in a chair to my left while I stood motionless near the entrance to the main hall.
He was a picture of ease and amusement.
"No one said you had to wait with me," I told him shortly.
I didn't care one way or the other. This was the first time we had spoken after several hours of waiting together.
"True," he shrugged. "But I've never seen one of our kind suicidal before. I was curious."
His eyes lit on me and he smirked.
I glared back at him.
He was studying me? Watching me? He couldn't read my thoughts or feel what I felt. He didn't know anything, so why the fuck should he care?
Calm down, his thoughts were laced with humor. He looked like he wanted to laugh at me.
"Why won't you just leave me alone?" I asked bitterly.
I wasn't sure I wanted to be alone, but I was beginning to think that I didn't want to be with Felix.
Can't leave you alone, he shrugged again.
I should have known someone would have to stay with me. Should have known it would be him.
"Please don't talk to me anymore then," I requested politely.
It was so strange that after everything I still bothered with manners. My voice was empty when it wasn't filled with rage, but the words were still uncontrollably courteous.
Felix raised his eyebrows at me and crossed his heavily muscled arms over his chest.
"I actually didn't say anything," he told me pointedly.
"Must be pretty frustrating, having to hear everything," he elaborated. His voice was suddenly cautious.
I felt his mind suddenly fill with questions, with curiosity about my ability.
"You have no idea," I allowed quietly.
He cocked his head to the side. "Just one more thing you want to end, is that it?"
I couldn't help the bitter smile that pulled at the corner of my mouth. It hurt to smile, hurt to move my face at all.
"It is now," I said with a shrug. As if it mattered.
"What does that mean?" Felix asked, looking at me like he found something desperately fascinating in my answer. I couldn't understand why.
I took a deep, unnecessary breath.
"I never minded before..." and I trailed off.
Don't fucking ask me to say it.
Felix waited for me to continue for several minutes. He was leaning forward now, his entire face rapt with attention. When he realized I wasn't going to continue, his brows furrowed.
Then a look of comprehension flitted across his face.
You miss hearing your girl? He wondered.
I looked down at the floor.
It hurt to even mention her. She consumed every single one of my thoughts...and yet it was painful to know that she was in anyone else's.
Finally I looked back at him.
"I couldn't hear her."
I don't know why I told him, but in the moment I wanted nothing more than for him to understand. I wanted this man that I knew nothing about, this man who didn't know me, to grasp the smallest fraction of the amount I had loved her.
What? He looked surprised.
"Her mind was closed to me," I told him, holding out my arms in helpless explanation. "I don't know why. We never knew why..."
Felix blinked back at me. He seemed to be considering this as if it meant something to him.
Finally, he spoke again with a small smile, "Well, that must have driven you crazy, not knowing what she was thinking."
I could clearly remember every single moment of frustration. Every time I had pushed my hearing out towards her, trying to breach the wall. Every time she said something ambiguous, every time she looked away from me, every time her cheeks flushed red, I had felt the nagging desire to simply listen to her.
"Sometimes," I nodded. "But mostly I just..."
I stopped again.
"Never mind," I shook my head.
He could never understand that part of it. He couldn't understand or I didn't want to explain it.
But I didn't need to explain it to him and he did understand.
"You didn't have to work to drown her out of your head," hearing the words spoken out loud, hearing them come from his mouth so simply, startled me. My eyes snapped to his and I saw him looking calmly back at me. "You liked not knowing."
It wasn't a question.
Slowly, always slowly, I nodded.
"I was always curious but I loved it." I confided in him. "I loved not knowing,"
"She was a mystery to you," Felix was nodding, too.
I felt the ache in my chest.
"Always," my voice was very quiet.
It must have been peaceful to be around her.
Felix stood up suddenly and walked over to me. I thought he was going to touch me, put his hand on my shoulder, and I braced myself. Instead he moved past me and grabbed the handle of the door.
He pulled it open and stepped to the side, motioning me into the main hall.
I looked back at him in shock.
He could have let me in at any time. There had been no reason to wait. He had wanted to talk to me. He had wanted to know.
I felt something that was neither affection nor rage but walked somewhere between the two.
Squaring my shoulders at him I stepped through the door.
As I passed him I felt his hand lash out and grip my arm tightly. I halted my steps and turned to look at him; waiting.
Was that all it was? There was something like pleading in the tone of his thoughts. You loved her because she was silent?
My eyes widened. "No."
"But the silence, the peace is what you're here for. That's what you wanted before and that's what you want now." he insisted. "You want the end."
His eyes were burning with some indescribable emotion.
"No, Felix. I want her."
She looked at me with her eyes wide and excited and said, "I'd like to hear you play."
I allowed Esme to push me onto the piano bench without resisting.
I didn't say anything else in protest because she wanted to hear me play. She said she would like it. It would make her happy. And I couldn't resist the common thread. The thing that would make both of us smile.
I took her hand and gently pulled her over so that she was sitting on the bench next to me. I could feel the heat from her body beside me.
She was the sun.
I turned away from her reluctantly and placed my fingers in position on the keys. I paused for a moment, blocking out the thoughts of my family watching me. Watching me finally get the chance to do something I had waited over 100 years to do: play for her.
I took a deep breath and began.
My hands flowed over the keys quickly and with practiced ease as I started playing Esme's song. I felt the swell of emotion from her, magnified by Jasper, and I smiled slightly.
I heard Carlisle chuckle behind me and I looked over to Bella's face.
Her mouth was open in surprise, her eyebrows raised and her eyes wide. She was shocked and elated and awestruck. I felt a surge of happiness that I could make her feel that way.
"Do you like it?" I smiled at her, winking.
Her eyes lit with sudden understanding. "You wrote this?" she gasped.
I nodded, still smiling at her. "It's Esme's favorite."
She closed her eyes suddenly and shook her head. I cocked my head to the side but continued to play, fighting the urge to stop and reach my hand out to touch her face. Bid her eyes to open.
"What's wrong?" I asked her, gently.
She opened her eyes again and grinned at me ruefully. "I'm feeling extremely insignificant."
I wanted to laugh at her and kiss her forehead and her eyes and her jaw and her lips. It wasn't that she didn't see herself clearly, she simply could not see herself at all.
There was nothing about her that was insignificant.
I slowed the music, blending it effortlessly into her lullaby. Her eyes moved to my fingers quickly as she recognized the tune that I had hummed to her.
I leaned over so that my lips were brushing the skin in front of her ear. "You inspired this one," I whispered to her.
You are the most significant person in the world.
She didn't say anything.
She hadn't reacted to any of my vampiric abilities like this.
None of them had made her speechless.
When I stopped a van from crushing her, she was baffled. When I saved her in Port Angeles, she was grateful. When I told her I could read minds, she was curious. She had appreciated my speed and strength and beauty in the meadow.
But everything that made me inhuman, everything that made me different than she was, never caused her to react this way.
This was the part of me she loved.
We spoke for a few minutes. All the while I played her lullaby. It's melody weaving through our conversation about my family. About how much they loved her, just as I did.
When the song ended, so did our conversation.
My family had long since left the room to let us be alone.
I was surprised to find tears running down her cheeks when I turned to her. I lifted my hands gently from the keys and placed them in my lap, watching the tracks they left on her flawless skin. She was beautiful when she cried.
"Thank you," she murmured as she wiped them away. I could see her cheeks begin to flush and I knew she was embarrassed.
I smiled at her softly.
Then, unable to resist, I lifted my finger carefully to the corner of her eyes, trapping a tear on my finger that she had missed.
I lifted my finger slightly so that the light caught the moisture, making it dance and shimmer on my skin. A tiny bit of her. A tangible piece of her emotion.
What did it taste like? What did she taste like?
I brought my finger to my mouth quickly. So quick I hoped she wouldn't notice.
Of course she would notice.
She was looking at me. Confused and a little curious.
She tasted like hope.
Three pale faces looked at me solemnly as they absorbed my words. I stood, my chest out, my head held high, feeling nothing but weakness and an inescapable darkness clutching tightly to everything that used to be mine.
"You want...to die?" Marcus' voice was low and emotionless. In his thoughts I could hear only a very slight amount of surprise. This rarely happened but it did happen. Nothing shocked him.
"Yes," I responded, my voice was strong and determined.
I wanted nothing else. I never wanted anything but to be with her.
"Edward." It was Aro that spoke this time, his voice comforting, his eyebrows furrowed in confusion and pity. "Why?"
I looked at him, debating.
I knew exactly how to get what I wanted.
It was the same way I got Jasper to sneak me out, get me away from the rest of them. Convinced my own brother to let me seek my death.
I had to show him.
Slowly, I stepped forward, crossing the space separating me from the three of them in seconds. I heard the uneasy growls of the guard, but they were ignored.
Aro had invited me.
Caius and Marcus remained completely still as I reached out to touch their brother. They were statues of marble and ice. Aro smiled at me warmly.
Our hands touched and immediately I saw my own thoughts reflected in his. I saw every memory I possessed, every thought, every desire.
I saw her face over and over as it consumed me. I could taste her scent on my tongue, feel her warmth against my chest, hear her laughter echoing throughout my body as if she was standing there in the room by my side.
But that was almost bearable.
The worst of it was hearing Aro.
Hearing him love her as much as I did, hearing him long for her blood with the same fire, hearing the wrenching sadness when she was taken from him.
He understood with the clarity of one who feels through seeing. He was a voyeur and he was a participant. I gave him everything I had and I didn't care because, when it came right down to it, I had nothing left anyway.
After what seemed like an eternity, a thousand lifetimes of watching her in his thoughts, he pulled away from my hand with a ragged sigh.
Immediately I stepped back, clasping my hands together as if he had hurt me; as if I was capable of being hurt.
Aro took a deep breath. There was a hint of agony still in his eyes. It was distant mirror of my own. He was already recovering. Even though he now remembered meeting her, he was still aware that he never had. Still aware that she was nothing to him.
"There was nothing you could have done," he said at last, his voice was very subdued. Most of the pity was gone, though. He could see how much I hated it.
I stifled a growl.
"We both know that's not true," my voice was harsh. He couldn't say that after he had witnessed it. Why didn't he loath me as I loathed myself? I didn't understand how he could know without feeling.
Aro contemplated me for several moments. I had never known him to be so pensive, so soft-spoken. He never took his eyes from my face.
"No one could have saved her if you couldn't," he nodded to me.
I felt something inside me twist at his words. I ignored it. Why couldn't he see that the reason and the blame, the why and the who, none of it mattered? All that mattered was that she was nowhere I could find her.
"Please," I begged him, my voice low and tortured. I could hear it breaking. "I want to die."
Aro's expression, so filled with remorse, suddenly hardened.
He glared at me.
"You think you will be with her in death?" His voice was surprisingly harsh.
I started at his words.
He had heard everything.
"No," I whispered, futility and defeat coloring my tone.
There was no need to explain what he already knew.
To the right of him, Caius made a small noise.
I glanced at him for a moment and he was looking back at me, his face unreadable. I looked into his mind and he was thinking of nothing relevant.
Then my eyes were back on Aro, who was considering me still.
"We can help you, Edward," he said after another long pause. "If you join us, we can help you to heal."
"I don't want to heal," I answered automatically. I didn't even have to consider it.
Aro sighed, pressing his fingers together and looking at them with something of a pained expression on his face.
"I know," he nodded solemnly.
I felt my body tense. "Will you do it?"
The three of them looked at me for a long time without moving. Their thoughts were moving too quickly for me to hear, changing and shifting rapidly and with deliberate intensity. It was fascinating and terrifying and all I could do was stand there and wait.
At long last Aro held out a hand to each of his brothers. Immediately, but with a controlled slowness, Marcus and Caius reached out and placed their palms facedown onto Aro's.
Aro closed his eyes for a moment, reading their decisions.
I knew what it was before he opened his eyes and said the words.
"No, Edward. We won't."
"Sorry, Bella, we have to go on foot from here." I said with a slight smile as I pulled the Jeep to a stop at the edge of the forest. Her eyes were wide and terrified when she looked at me. It took all my self control not to laugh at her expression.
"You know what? I'll just wait here," she told me shakily.
"What happened to all your courage," I was smiling wider now at the memory. "You were extraordinary this morning."
She always was.
"I haven't forgotten the last time, yet," she assured me. It had only been yesterday.
Shaking my head, I opened my door and slid out of the Jeep. I was around to her side of the car faster than her eyes could follow, and I was unbuckling her before she had said another word.
She looked down at my fingers dancing along the straps and said, "I'll get those, you go on ahead."
I didn't want to argue with her. I didn't want her to be uncomfortable. Never that.
Suddenly my eyes widened with an idea. There was one thing that seemed to distract Bella from, well, from pretty much everything. I hummed, tapping my finger thoughtfully against my lips.
"It seems I'm going to have to tamper with your memory," I said playfully.
I reached into the car and lifted her off the seat, setting her on her feet in front of me.
"Tamper with my memory?" Her voice was nervous, as if she was unsure that I was kidding.
I almost smiled at the thought.
"Something like that." I kept my face composed and intense, staring straight at her. Then, in an act of surprising forwardness, I pressed my hands against the car, trapping her between my arms and leaning towards her slightly.
It was worth it to see her face.
Her back hit the car door when she took a step backwards and she leaned almost heavily against it. A slight flush began to crawl up her cheeks as I let my breath wash over her face.
"Now," I said, as gently as I could. "What exactly are you worrying about?"
She gulped loudly and I could see her trying to form words. "Well, um, hitting a tree - and dying. And then getting sick."
I fought back the smile that threatened to crack my face and instead I leaned slowly forward and pressed my lips to the hollow at the base of her throat. The blood pounded against my lips, the heat rushed into my body with a burning intensity. It was so wonderful and painful and perfect.
"Are you still worried now?" I asked her, not moving my lips but instead murmuring gently against her neck.
"Yes." There was nothing in her voice that was resolved. Or frightened. She seemed a little...breathless. "About hitting trees and getting sick."
I slowly moved up her neck, inhaling every agonizing, miraculous inch of her skin as I went. I ghosted my lips lightly against the line of her jaw and I felt her body stiffen slightly. Her heartbeat was hammering loudly in her chest.
"And now?" I whispered.
"Trees. Motion Sickness." she gasped the staggered words. Apparently I rendered her incapable of forming complete sentences. Good to know.
I moved up again until my lips were touching the soft skin of her closed eyelids.
"Bella, you don't really think I would hit a tree, do you?" I asked in mock indignation.
She drew a shuddering breath.
"No, but I might." Her voice was wavering, knowing the argument was lost already.
I smiled slightly, but her eyes were still closed so I kissed every inch of skin from her eye, down her cheek, to the corner of her mouth. Her lips parted the tiniest fraction unconsciously and it took all my self-control not to ravage them.
"Would I let a tree hurt you?" I asked her, letting my mouth brush lightly against her full, lower lip. I would never let anything hurt you. It trembled slightly.
"No," she breathed without really know what she was saying.
"You see?" I said, my mouth moving over hers lightly as I spoke. "There's nothing to be afraid of, is there?"
"No," she conceded with a sigh, at last.
Unable to resist anymore, I grabbed her face lightly in my hands and I pulled her mouth against mine. I tried to be as gentle as possible, but I could feel my stone lips pressing into her soft, warm, delicate lips rougher than they ever had before.
For a moment all I could feel was pure, undiluted bliss.
Then I felt the blood rush into her face at the same time I heard it.
At the same time I smelled it.
It stunned me momentarily and I could feel the venom beginning to pool under my tongue.
In that moment Bella took the opportunity to fling her small, fragile arms upward to that they were wrapped around my neck, and fire and heat and soft. Her body pressed to mine and I could feel every inch of her. I could feel every ounce of blood pounding through her in her excitement.
Blood and arousal and passion and love.
I had to have her.
I staggered back, breaking her hold on me with no small amount of effort.
"Damn it, Bella! You'll be the death of me, I swear you will."
I couldn't die.
I couldn't bleed to death; I had no blood that was my own.
I couldn't leap from a building; falling is the same as flying, only you can't control the direction.
I couldn't take pills or inhale fumes or stop breathing or stick a gun in my mouth and squeeze the trigger.
I was indestructible and all I wanted was to be destroyed.
I wanted to be torn apart. I wanted every piece of me burned and ash.
The rest of me was already in pieces. All I needed was the fire.
And they would give it to me.
When I took off my shirt I thought of her.
I couldn't kill a person because I still loved Carlisle. I couldn't destroy a building because it would never be enough. I couldn't parade my strength in front of the people on the streets of Volterra because I had none left.
Don't I scare you?
She had smiled at me. She thought I was beautiful.
No more than usual.
The sun was warm against my bare chest for mere seconds. Then I was being grabbed my two sets of strong hands and pulled backwards into the darkness.
All the heat was ripped from my skin and I was drenched, once again, in shadow.
I could hear Jane and Demetri's thoughts beside me. They were excited that I was going to die.
I was excited, too.
They dragged me back through the alley and into the tunnel entrance. We walked quickly, faster than any human could have walked. She would have had to cling to my back.
Or we would have walked slower.
It took no time at all before I was being flung before them again. My knees struck the cold marble floor with a loud crack. I felt no pain.
I looked up at the faces of Aro, Marcus, and Caius once again.
I almost smiled. They should have done it for me earlier.
When Aro looked at me there was no anger on his face. No rage that I had just violated their most precious rule. He looked concerned and confused and helpless. It was a strange expression.
"Edward?" my name was a question.
I heard all the unasked questions my name implied without even looking into his mind.
I knew what answer he wanted just as I knew what answer I would give.
"I won't stop."
"Edward, you don't have to..."
"No!" my voice was loud, suddenly. More powerful than it had been in days. I could sense the end drawing closer and it gave me strength.
I got to my feet and glared at the three of them, passing judgment on me.
"You heard every single thought I've ever had and you still don't understand," I snapped at him. "I have deserted my family, I have ignored the feelings of everyone around me, I have broken the only rule of my people. I put my own pain above all else, knowingly, selfishly, and I cannot fucking wait to do it again."
The three brothers, Jane and Alec, Felix and Demetri and Heidi, the entire guard and all the wives, stared back at me.
Their faces were impassive.
I closed my eyes and breathed, "My heart has claws and it's climbing in my chest like a tiger in a cage every moment I'm without her."
I waited in the silence for several seconds, blocking out everyone's thoughts around me.
When I opened my eyes at last they fixed immediately on Jane. She was tiny and lovely and stepping towards me quietly.
Give me your fire.
At her side, I saw Alec move forward as well.
Involuntarily, I shook my head.
I wanted to feel it. I wanted to feel all of it. I wanted to feel myself burn and writhe and scream and die. I wanted to feel everything I deserved.
Marcus' hand was on his shoulder, restraining him.
Had I spoken out loud?
I turned back to look at Jane. She was smiling at me so sweetly. Her eyes were red, just as mine were. Hers were joyful and excited and pleased.
And then I felt it.
I felt the fire and the burning and the agony and it was everything I had ever wanted because she had felt it, too. I let myself scream and scream and scream because she had. Because she had screamed and I hadn't heard her. I hadn't listened.
I prayed to the God I didn't believe in that she could hear me.
That wherever she was, she knew that I suffered.
That some part of her recognized that it was all for her.
The first thing I saw - the only thing I saw - was her.
My family was on him before I could even react, tearing him away from her. I didn't even look at him as they dragged him out the door. His frightened, murderous thoughts didn't register in my mind.
All I could see was her broken body. The blood pooling around her. Every broken bone and bruise screaming at me that I was too late to save her. That this was my fault.
"Oh no, Bella, no!" I begged and I was beside her then. I didn't know how I made my voice work, I couldn't feel my lips as they moved to form the words. Fear seized every part of me. Fear and agony. She was so still.
"Bella, please!" I begged her again and again. I could hear the steady, faint beating of her heart. It was weak and fluttering, but it was there. "Bella, listen to me, please, please, Bella, please!"
I cried out for my father. Fix this. Fix her. He saved everyone. He had saved me. He had to do this, he had to help her.
Carlisle was at my side in an instant. I didn't know how he was so calm. Couldn't he see her life slipping away from her, here on the ground? Didn't he care? Be calm, Edward. She's alright. I heard his thoughts directed at me soothingly.
He reached out his hand to touch the wound on her head and she cried out suddenly, the most heartbreaking noise I had ever heard. But it was a noise. She was in pain which meant she wasn't dead. She was fighting to survive. She would.
"Bella!" I yelled her name. She could hear me.
"She's lost some blood, but the head wound isn't deep," Carlisle said softly. I could hear his thoughts, so I knew he was saying it for her, too. So she would know. "Watch out for her leg, it's broken," he added.
I felt a pang shoot through me and I couldn't stifle the tearless cry that escaped my lips. My fault. All my fault.
My father continued to examine her broken body and I could feel myself start to calm, slightly. He wasn't worried. She was going to be alright. We had gotten here in time. I had saved her, just as I promised I would. He told me some of her ribs were broken, too, but I wasn't paying attention to him anymore.
My eyes were fixed on her lips, which were moving. Struggling to say something.
I felt warmth spread through every single inch of my body.
"Bella, you're going to be fine," I told her, my voice soft and confident. "Can you hear me, Bella? I love you." I felt like a bastard for saying it.
"Edward," she whispered my name again. A little stronger this time.
"Yes, I'm here," I assured her quickly. She was looking for me. She still wanted me.
She whimpered, frustrated and in pain. My jaw clenched as I watched her fighting to say something. "It hurts."
"I know, Bella. I know."
She had to be strong. She had to get through the pain and stay with me. I still couldn't bear it. I turned to Carlisle and begged him to do something for her. Anything.
Carlisle nodded at me and asked Alice to hand him his bag. I hadn't even noticed she was standing over us, her thoughts completely silent. The future was flickering too quickly for me to see. I didn't try to decipher it. It would have taken my mind away from the girl lying before me. The only girl in the world.
Bella whispered Alice's name with confusion right before her jaw clenched shut tightly against the pain. I smoothed my hand over her forehead, trying to comfort her.
"My hand hurts," her voice was quiet and pained.
"I know, Bella. Carlisle will give you something. It will stop."
All of a sudden I was hit with one of Alice's visions, full force.
Bella's skin was pale and cold, her eyes wide and blood red.
Face flawless and terrible and beautiful.
"My hand is burning!" Bella screamed at the same time, jerking me away from the sight of her immortal body, her eyes snapping open wide.
And then I knew.
"Bella?" I said her name like a question.
I couldn't feel anything but terror.
"The fire! Someone stop the fire!" her voice was loud and frightened and screeching and agonized.
I remembered exactly how it felt. Every single moment of the transformation.
She could feel the fire just as I had.
"Carlisle! Her hand!" Alice yelled behind me, dropping to her knees by my side, the vision of Bella's immortal face still fresh in her mind. She was looking directly at the crescent wound my eyes had already locked on.
"He bit her," Carlisle's voice was horrified as he caught up to where Alice and I already were. The strange tone of his voice didn't comfort me.
No. Please, no.
I reached down and brushed my fingers over the tears that were gathering in the corners of Bella's eyes as she whimpered quietly.
Alice leaned over to me and whispered, "Edward, you have to do it."
Bella lying cold and dead.
Bella laughing and smiling.
Bella screaming in agony as she became what I was.
Alice's visions were moving too fast.
"No!" I yelled at her.
Bella murmured Alice's name again.
"There may be a chance," Carlisle whispered beside me, his eyebrows furrowed in concentration as his mind quickly thought through each scenario.
"What?" I begged him desperately. I would do anything.
"See if you can suck the venom back out. The wound is fairly clean," his voice was very quiet but he sounded confident. As if...it were possible.
"Will that work?" Alice asked.
Bella's heart beating rapidly against my chest as I leaned down to kiss her.
"I don't know. But we have to hurry."
"Carlisle," I nearly whimpered in agony at the thought of it. "I don't know if I can do that."
Carlisle looked over at me, solemnly. "It's you 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." He pressed the wound in her head gently.
She writhed against the pressure and screamed my name once again.
Then she opened her eyes.
I felt the breath I didn't need catch in my throat as her brown eyes met mine.
The pain in them, the torture. All my fault. And there was more. There was trust. She trusted me to save her, she needed me to stop the pain.
There was no one else who could.
I watched Carlisle and Alice moving to brace Bella's leg and then I heard my father call to me, "Edward, you must do it now or it will be too late."
I barely heard him. I was still staring into her eyes.
My jaw locked.
I would save her.
With fierce determination I gripped her arm tightly and locked it in place. Then I bent over quickly and pressed my lips to the blood, taking one small taste.
My determination crumbled in that instant.
The blood surged into me and every part of me lit up with the same incredible fire.
It was her.
Her scent and her touch and her love and everything in her; I could taste it.
I was taking it into me.
Her laugh and her blushes and her smile and her eyes. I could taste them all as the blood rushed. So much more than the flavor of it, was the love I felt for her. And I could feel it all.
Through the pleasure, the ecstasy, Alice's visions started to cloud my mind.
They only made her blood sweeter.
"Is that what you dream about? Being a monster?"
Holding Bella in my arms.
"I dream about being with you forever."
I took the first long pull of her blood, letting the fire wash down my throat. Soothing everything within me that had ever ached for her.
Bella in a white dress.
"Are you enjoying the party, Mrs. Cullen?"
"That might take a while to get used to."
"We have a while."
I took another, feeling the warmth build inside me.
"If you stay, I don't need heaven."
My hands on her face.
I could hear someone calling my name. Carlisle? I didn't know what he was saying. Couldn't understand what he wanted. I only wanted this. I wanted it to never end.
A handsome, dark-skinned boy.
"Jacob is family."
I pulled at the blood harder, rougher, trying to get it all.
I wanted all of her.
Bella's warm, strong, immortal body on top of mine in the forest.
"Oops. I didn't mean to tackle you like that. Are you okay?"
Feeling her weight pressed against me.
"Slightly better than okay."
I could feel someone's arms against me, trying to drag me away.
I threw them off easily.
Her blood...I was so strong now. Stronger than I had ever been.
This wasn't just blood, it was everything.
Bella looking up at me.
Every inch of her skin lit by moonlight.
"Don't be afraid. We belong together."
The blood slowly stopped flowing into my mouth. Gone. I could feel the nearing emptiness at the loss of it. I pressed my lips harder into her skin.
I ripped myself away violently, throwing myself halfway across the room. I could feel the blood cooling on my lips. Its taste still sweet and wonderful and Bella.
Strength coursed through me, pulsing into my muscles. Her strength, her fire had become mine.
I looked at Carlisle and Alice, leaning over her limp form.
They were staring back at me, their faces completely blank.
I was on my knees in front of her, holding my mother's ring.
"Isabella Swan? I promise to love you forever - every single day of forever. Will you marry me?"
She looked at me with fear and love and reluctance and passion.
In that moment, I heard the one heartbeat in the room stutter and silence.
She was gone.
Alec stepped forward and then there was nothing.