Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns all of Twilight, though I seriously doubt she'd want to lay claim to any of the fanfic I've written. :D

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A Most Cruel Punishment

by

Edward A. Masen

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"Oh, have no doubt; you are about to be punished," Aro said, circling Edward like a vulture.

We watched in dread, unable to move. Carlisle and Alice were each restrained by a pair of Volturi guards- only one held onto me- and even if we broke free, there would still be Jane and Alec to deal with, not to mention Renata. It was hopeless.

"And although we will not kill you," the ancient vampire continued, "you will likely wish for death."

Carlisle let out a shaky breath, and the stark reality of the situation hit me. I'd never heard Carlisle come close to voicing desperation or fear. That's when I knew something horrific was really going to happen.

Alec, Felix and Heidi approached Edward, and he must have seen in their minds what they were planning. For the first time since I'd known Edward, I saw true terror in his eyes.

"No," he cried, falling to his knees. "Anything but that! Aro, please, some mercy. I'll join!"

"It's too late for that," Aro replied.

"Please don't," Alice begged in a whisper. Her gaze was faraway, caught up in some dreadful vision of what was about to happen.

"Sweet Alice, you of all creatures should know that there's no avoiding this," Aro answered chidingly.

Alice choked back a sob, hanging her head in defeat as the ebony-haired wraith turned back to Edward. "You've had innumerable chances to obey our laws, to join us," Aro hissed, "but time and again, you have chosen instead to thwart us, to turn your nose up in the air, only to come back and impose your silly suicide attempts and human companions on us. Your behavior has been tolerated for far too long, mostly out of respect for your sire, who is a dear friend to the Volturi. But no more. You have run out of reprieves."

Grief and despair burned on Edward's ethereally beautiful face... I didn't understand. Aro wasn't threatening anyone close to Edward, and he wasn't going to kill him. Any injury would heal. I couldn't imagine what they were going to do that would leave him so broken- he was reacting as though he, and everyone he cared about, was about to be tortured to death. I couldn't bear to see Edward so helpless and terrified. I closed my eyes tight, knowing that Felix and Heidi were about to descend upon him and do... whatever they were going to do. Alec was obviously ready to use his talent in case Edward struggled too much.

"No!" I cried out when I heard his first screams.

Edward's beautiful voice was marred by terror. Under his screams I could barely make out the sound of metallic slicing, and then the electric buzz of some device. What horrible things were they using on him? I didn't want to know! I sobbed quietly, listening as Edward's cries turned to groans of despair. I wished with all my heart that I could shut my ears as well as my eyes, but the female Volturi guard restraining me had my arms pinned fast to my sides.

Carlisle hadn't begged or cried out; he knew this coven better than anyone. He knew there was nothing he could do to stop them. But I heard him whispering under his breath, almost chanting. "He'll be alright. It'll be fine. He'll be fine. He'll recover. He has to recover." I knew he was trying to reassure himself more than me, though.

If there was at least one thing to be grateful for, it was that Edward's tormentors were quick. The buzzing stopped with a click.

"Perhaps you won't be quite so haughty now, young Cullen," Aro said.

When I heard those words, I knew that what they'd done to Edward was over with. I took deep, trembling breaths, willing myself to open my eyes. I was terrified of what I might see, but whatever it was, however they'd hurt him, he was going to need my help now. I had to face it. I cracked open my eyelids, peering cautiously through the mesh of my lashes.

Heidi and Felix backed away from Edward, who was lying on the stone floor curled up in fetal position, with his head buried in his arms. My eyes fluttered wide open- I saw no injuries at first, but didn't let hope creep in too much. In the company of these particular vampires, I knew it was all too possible to walk away with crippling wounds that didn't necessarily leave physical scars.

The vampire who had been clutching me let go; I barely noticed as she departed with the rest of the guard, leaving us without gloating or goodbyes. Their job was done; they floated off in regal fashion, diffident and self-satisfied. Only Aro remained, standing over Edward.

"You are an insufferable, spoiled brat," he hissed. Edward winced under his words. "I thought you might outgrow your precious temper, but it's clear that you'll forever remain childish and petulant. I wouldn't have you in our prestigious guard now if you begged me." Aro's expression once again became serene, and he sighed. He turned to Carlisle with an apologetic, yet pitying, smile. "Truly, my friend, I don't know how you put up with him."

With that, the decrepit vampire followed his guard, departing smoothly. I immediately rushed for Edward, my sight swimming from the tears in my eyes, but stopped just a few feet away from him when he cried out in anguish.

"Don't come near me, Bella! Please, I can't bear to have you see me this way."

Carlisle approached him slowly.

"It's alright, Edward. You're alive. That's what matters."

"I'll never look at my reflection again," Edward moaned piteously, letting his hands fall away from his head. There was such misery in his gaze. "Bella, will you ever be able to stand the sight of me?"

My jaw dropped in shock. He was bald. Completely, totally bald! Oh, my God! They'd shaved off his hair! And his eyebrows! That's when I noticed the piles and tufts of his once-glorious bronze mane lying on the floor.

I fell to my knees by his side, wailing. I picked up locks of his silky hair and, grief-stricken, let them fall from my fingers as I cried. His gorgeousness was forever ruined! Vampires couldn't re-grow their hair. How could those spiteful Volterrans do such a thing to him? It was beyond comprehension. Such unspeakable cruelty!

Alice joined us, kneeling down and reaching out to caress his bare scalp. Edward flinched away and covered it with his hands again, still sobbing without tears.

"It's not so bad," she chirped disingenuously. "We'll find the best eyebrow pencil the cosmetics world has to offer, and, you know... toupees are so much better these days than they used to be."

Edward wailed louder.

"No, really," she continued. "We can even find a dye to match your natural color. I've had a vision of what you look like in the future, and it's almost like nothing ever happened."

He shot her a glare full of distrust and irritation.

"Okay, okay," she conceded. "Maybe the first few toupees we try will come out a little on the orange side, but it'll get better..."

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The End

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A/N: This was just a little one-shot for fun, to indulge my dorky sense of humor. Hope you enjoyed it. And to those reading MLY- yes, more is coming soon. :)