This is it, guys. Last chapter. I want to thank all of you who read this right to the end. Much love goes out to all those who reviewed. Enough blabber, on with the story...

Chapter 25: She-devils and Suffering

Contractions shook my body and blood spread through my jeans. I was bleeding and my baby was in danger. Victoria stood over me, a desperate agonized look crossed her face. She was thirsty. My hands clawed at the ground, the crushed fingers on my right hand twitching in agony. I screamed in pain and despair, terrified for my baby. He was in trouble and I couldn't help him. Cool drops of rain started to drip onto my face. The pain of my shoulder and my hand paled in comparison to the fear I felt for my child.

"Help me." I begged the open sky, for I knew that if I looked at my red-headed demon despair would crush me. "Please." I whispered.

A snort of derision reached me through my haze of terror and agony.

"Oh dear, my pet, what should I do? Although I love seeing you in pain, it almost disappoints me that it's not of my doing." Victoria appeared next to me, crouched by my head. Her icy hand tenderly tugged my sweaty hair out of my eyes and brushed it behind my ear. I tried to get away but even sitting up was impossible. I fell back to the ground with a moan. Victoria clucked her tongue as a million torturing possibilities ran through her head. I shifted my left hand around my stomach, ignoring the twinge of protest from my shattered shoulder. My bruised and fractured ribs meant that I couldn't get a full lungful of air, so I was panting like a dog and gulping mouthfuls of oxygen.

Victoria's hand came down on my stomach and she pushed, gently at first. I wailed in pain and tried to wiggle out of her reach.

"Don't." I whispered.

She pushed again, harder. I screamed.

"That baby seems to be bothering you, my love. Let's get it out." Nothing in my life had ever terrified me more than the angelic smile that graced her face now. It would haunt me for the rest of my life, however long that may be.

When James' teeth had sunk into my hand it had hurt, but it had been a small pain really compared with some of the other traumas of my traumatic accident prone life. Then when his venom had started to spread through my body, the fire, the pain had no words to describe it. But it had been a purely physical pain, a burning fire that would have rid me of my mortality.

This was worse.

My baby was in trouble. He was hurting. This was killing him. The physical pain coupled with this anxiety for my child was the worst thing that I would ever feel. I knew it. My voice was nearly gone from too much screaming. I could only moan and gasp and cry. The tears travelled down my cheeks and I could taste their salty bitterness on my lips. The fingernails that Alice had so carefully filed and painted a garish red only two days ago dug into my palms, the blood on my hands indiscernible from the polish. All I could do was focus on Victoria's head as she pushed on my stomach, forcing my baby to either come out or be flattened by her iron fists. I studied her profile, committing it to memory, and loathing every inch of her. She wasn't breathing, so desperate was she to control her bloodlust and prolong my torture.

"I don't know if this is working, pet." She mused. Her sickly sweet voice rebounded through my brain. "Perhaps I should try a more invasive technique." She lifted her brow suggestively while tugging back my shirt to expose the bare skin of my stomach. It was blue and purple all over. I was bleeding inside, under the skin.

She couldn't. She wouldn't....

Her fingers pressed into my skin, her nails tearing through the delicate fibres. She was clawing her way into my eyes widened in shock and pain. Then darkness swept over me taking me away. I almost prayed I would stay there.

Despite the comfort the darkness provided, a squalling cry dragged me from it. Although I had never heard it before I knew in my soul what it was. It was my baby and he needed me. I could feel the constant patter of rain on my face. That was what I felt first, then a fresh shock of pain fired through me as my body lay torn open, exposed the elements. I shuddered and started to sink into the darkness again when that sound pulled me back again. A cry of distress. That little voice that needed me. My pain was absolute yet I put it aside and opened my eyes. Victoria was crouched over a little bloody bundle in the grass. I couldn't move, I couldn't cry out. I grunted, blood trickling out of the corner of my mouth. Victoria shifted her weight to look at me.

"Still alive, my pet?"

Pale little limbs twitched in the grass and there was nothing I could do. My last tear trickled down my cheek, disappearing amongst the raindrops that kissed my face. Victoria licked her lips and then looked at me. I was going to die, here and now. And I would never know if my baby was alright, if it was a boy or girl, if it looked like Edward or like me.

"Goodbye." I mouthed to my baby, to Edward, to the world, for I had no strength, no voice, not even for a whisper. She leant over me, licking the trail of blood from my mouth with relish. Her fingers laced in my hair, roughly pulled my head back to expose more of my neck. I felt no fear, nor did I feel relief. I looked past my demon as her teeth sank in my neck to the spot where my baby lay. As the blood started to trickle out of me, a figure came into focus in the distance and suddenly the cool lips were torn from my neck. A roar of pain reached my fuzzy ears. The world was getting darker. I saw Edward one last time. He was crouched in front of me, agony crossing his beautiful face. I could do nothing. As he murmured unintelligible words to my dying ears, I saw Victoria stand up behind him. She reached out, her thin fingers wrapping around my baby's neck. The last thing I did on this earth was scream as that red-headed monster broke my baby's neck.

* * *

I fell down into darkness, into a void. Pain and grief wracked my body, like vultures stripping my carcass. Pain kept me alive and the grief silenced me. I shuddered and trembled and died, yet lived. The fires of hell licked at my body, punishing me for not saving my child. A hundred cuts, a thousand broken bones did not compare to this. The agony of Edward leaving me was magnified a million times, my heart was gone and my body was on fire. I couldn't breathe, I couldn't think, I couldn't scream. I shook and burned and mourned my child. I shuddered and cried and wanted the cool comfort of my true love's arms. The empty eyes of a dead child plunged a thousand daggers into my heart.

The agony was endless. The punishment was deserved. Weak human that I was should never have had this immortal child. I couldn't protect it and I didn't deserve it.

Edward. Edward. Edward. This was my silent mantra, for grief had robbed me of my voice.

I burned for days, months, years. Each second was an agony beyond description. Each moment was an eternity. I just wanted an ending to this torture. Eventually a broken voice seeped through my suffering. The voice of an angel.

"Bella, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Please." Again and again that same phrase. I focused on that voice and found clarity returning to me. Through the smouldering flames, a melodious tone had held my soul captive pulled me back.

"I'm so sorry. I wasn't fast enough. I wasn't fast enough." That gentle, heart-rending voice sobbed.

Pain receded from my fingertips yet my heart was still leaden with despair. Each thump reverberated through my body, like a death knell. Thump, thump, thump. Each beat was faster and faster, an accusing tone.

You let your baby die. Thump.

You weren't good enough, strong enough. Thump.

You should have done something. Thump.

Faster and faster the terrible thoughts and the accusatory heartbeats raced. I shook at this terrible fever raging my body and my heart raced faster and faster; thump, thump, thump. Grief held my heart and tightened its grasp, the small organ pumping desperately; thump, thump, thump. Faster, faster, faster, thump, thump, thump...

Then no more.

The fire had gone. My heart had stopped. I opened my eyes and screamed in pain.

* * *

Death was my dearest desire, and it had been granted to me. When I first opened my eyes I could see only death, my own, my baby. I could only scream in pain and thrash my strong, hard limbs. It was later I realised that Edward had been beside me all along. I wasn't dead, but I no longer lived. Edward held me and I sobbed tearlessly into his arms.

Phoebe Cullen had been laid to rest in the meadow Edward and I had claimed as our own. I only visited that place once, to say goodbye, and then turned my crimson eyes away. I had survived the transformation physically. In fact, it had been remarkable that I still had such clear human memories. Of course, I cursed this. I wanted to forget. Instead I saw every second of the last hour of my human life with utter clarity.

Victoria was gone. Edward had seen to that. Such was my family's despair they tore apart her two friends with Carlisle leading the way with a white hot righteous fury. I pitied Jasper, for he was drowning in our misery and there was nothing we could do to give him any respite. We were too caught up in our own despair. Esme blamed herself for not seeing the shape-shifter for what he was. Alice had blamed herself for not seeing this possibility occurring. Emmett and Rosalie blamed themselves for not stopping Ethan and Jack when they had the chance. Carlisle blamed himself because he had been fooled by the enemy. And Edward blamed himself for not being fast enough, for not keeping me safe, for existing.

Ultimately, we were all to blame for being tricked and believing it. Yet we were all just victims of a vicious plot. Victoria was dead yet so was Phoebe. Phoebe, who had been my ray of sunshine in the darkest depths of my despair, was gone. I had never met her and I would never know how special she was.

We had all retreated to Alaska to mourn. After that first day when I had awoken to my new life, a shroud of silence had fallen over me. Not one word passed my lips, for my grief was beyond words. I sat with my sisters and was held by my new mother in silence. Edward was broken and so was I.

No longer was I the clumsy human girl, free of love or despair and the world of the supernatural. Instead I had loved more deeply than I ever believed possible. I had run with vampires and played around with werewolves. I had carried the child of a vampire and nearly brought it into this life. And now I was supernatural monster myself. My crimson eyes temporary phase until my true nature would prevail. Would I give it all up to return to being that ignorant, innocent, clumsy human? Free of the weight of responsibility, the terrible lows and dizzying highs I had experienced. Probably not. Every aspect of my life had changed the minute I had made the decision to come to Forks. This result was completely unexpected, some parts hated and reviled, but overall I had what I wanted: Edward forever.

Now all I had to do was to speak.

The End

Well... what can I say. At the risk of sounding lame, the way this story ended was really unexpected for me as well. The characters just jumped up and said 'we're going this way whether you like it or not' and I couldn't stop them. I'm still shocked myself and I had to write it.

A million thank yous and cookies to all those who reviewed, even just one chapter. Each one was a little lifeline, a little prod to keep writing.

Now I can get back to finishing my Rosalie fic... but having finished this one, I'm wondering if there's still more story to tell. If you want a sequel please tell me (and send ideas...)

Love,

Scarlet