Hello and welcome to IDBiV Outtakes, Oneshots! Here you'll find scenes that either just didn't quite fit into the flow of I Don't Believe in Vampires, or that fill in the little blanks or questions you may have had here and there. They will not necessarily be in chronological order, but I'll post pre-reading details/suggestions/spoiler alerts before each one. Got a suggestion/request for an outtake? Either leave me a comment or send me a PM! I can't promise I'll be able to write an outtake for all suggestions, but I DO promise to take them all into consideration!
Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight and its characters. No copyright infringement is intended.
All original characters, plots, and the storyline contained within this derivative work are the property of Lazykate. This story may not be reproduced or reposted without permission from the author.
This outtake encompasses Chapter 14-15 of I Don't Believe in Vampires. If you haven't read the main story yet, please stop now and go do so. This is EPOV, I hope you enjoy.
Thursday afternoon was the first day I was able to leave Port Angeles to go hunt. The memory of my terror from almost two weeks ago hadn't faded at all, but a scolding phone call from Alice reminded me that I still needed to feed on a semi-regular basis. I'd thought about leaving Bella with Carlisle for a few hours that evening while I slipped out for a longer hunt, but decided that I wouldn't leave her side again while we were in Forks. Not with Jacob and the Quileutes only a few miles away.
Bella had driven herself to school that morning, and reminded me that she'd be staying late for a study group. I swallowed back words that I knew were unnecessary, biting my tongue before I implored her again to be careful, to stay with others at all times, to keep her cell phone on. She smiled softly as she ran her hand over my face, and then gave me a warm sweet kiss just before whispering "Don't worry."
"I'll have dinner waiting."
My own dinner was, regretfully, nowhere near as convenient as my wife's. To maintain an appearance of normalcy, I had to drive out of the Port Angeles city limits, park on a long-abandoned trail just out of sight of the road, and run through the woods from there. Game was sparse so close to town, and I didn't dare leave the Volvo for too long, lest some well-meaning humans find it and call the police. It would be a relief once Bella and I were safely away in Alaska at the end of the year. And after her change, I could teach her how to hunt.
The thought brought a faint smile to my face as I scooped up my keys. I would hunt a little longer today...Bella had already commented on how dark my eyes were becoming...and be back well before she came home from school.
My phone hummed in my pocket just as I was leaving the apartment building, and a quick glance at the display told me that it was Carlisle calling. Most likely to inquire if Bella and I still intended on coming to Forks, but I'd spoken to him the day before. I frowned a little as I flipped it open.
"Hello Edward. Do you have a moment?"
His voice was calm, but I knew that he wouldn't call unless it was important, and I hastened my steps toward my car. "What is it?"
"I just received a phone call from Billy Black. The Quileute elders have requested a meeting with me later today, and I'd like for you to be there."
My frown deepened as I slid into the driver's seat of the Volvo. "What time did they want to meet?"
"In the morning?"
"No, less than three hours from now. I'm not sure of the reason for their haste. Billy was very vague on the phone, but I got the impression that they want to renegotiate the treaty."
I blew out a long breath, my suspicions already aroused. "Do you think it's a trap?"
"I don't think so, but obviously nothing is assured at this point. Can you come now?"
Now? A three o'clock meeting time...it would have to be an impossibly-short meeting for me to be able to make it back to Port Angeles before Bella arrived home, and I had absolutely no doubt that the dog might plan on taking advantage of my planned absence. "Carlisle...I can't. I can't leave Bella unprotected for that long."
He didn't argue, having witnessed my panic from two weeks ago when I'd found out that the mutt had approached my mate and tried to drag her to the reservation. "Is there a friend she could go stay with, after school?" he finally suggested.
"No, and even if there was, I wouldn't trust them to protect her. This whole thing seems like a trap to me...to get me away so he can get to her." I raked my hand through my hair. "I'm sorry, Carlisle, but I can't."
"Think logically, though, Edward." There was no condemnation or impatience in his voice, and I forced myself to listen. "Unless they've been watching you in Port Angeles, and I'm sure you'd have picked up on that by now, they probably don't even know you're still here. And I very seriously doubt they know about you and Bella. You have no reason for being there at all, so why would they have a plan to lure you away?"
I sat silently, recognizing the truth in his statement. I hadn't caught any sight or scent of the wolves in Port Angeles, and I'd been canvassing the town obsessively while Bella was in school. They probably did believe I'd left for Alaska with the rest of my family, and I had no doubt that we would have seen some reaction from them if they'd known the extent of my relationship with Bella. For Carlisle to meet with the Quileutes alone was simply out of the question, and it was certainly a given that I should be there with him. But none of that changed the fact that I would not leave Bella unprotected.
"I'm sorry, Carlisle," I finally managed. "But I can't. I can't."
"What if Bella stayed here, at the house?" he offered quietly. "Rosalie is still here, she could stay with her."
I shook my head, frustrated. "Bella won't be done with school until five o'clock, and I don't want to drag her out of class to sit at the house with Rose."
"What if Rosalie came there, then?"
I hesitated. Bella far away from the Quileutes, in Port Angeles, and with a vampire bodyguard was a much more palatable option than anything else, but I'd sworn two weeks ago that I wouldn't leave her without my protection ever again. "I don't know."
"It's your decision, Edward, but keep in mind that what they want to discuss may very well be about their knowledge of Bella's friendship with us. The treaty has stood for decades, but just days after their discovery, they've asked for a renegotiation. It has to be because of Bella."
The desire to protect my mate battled with common sense. Bella would be safer in our apartment in Port Angeles than she would be in Forks, and Rosalie had already proven herself ably as a guardian. If the wolves' motivations for requesting the meeting involved Bella in any way, I needed to know about it, especially if the knowledge could only be gleaned from their minds instead of their words.
"Is Rosalie there?" I asked finally.
"Yes, she's standing right here."
"Put her on, please."
I heard Rosalie's exasperated sigh before she even spoke. "I was planning on leaving today, Edward. You know that."
I fought back my irritation at her selfishness; I was already testy enough at the idea of leaving Bella, and Rosalie's attitude didn't make it any easier. "Rose, will you please just come here and bring her to Forks after she gets home from school? The meeting with the Quileutes will be over by the time you arrive."
"You want me to play chauffeur?" Her tone was incredulous. "She's a big girl, Edward, give her some credit!"
"She's a big girl who just so happens to attract a lot of attention from our natural enemies!" I snapped. "Am I really asking you to do so much? Just when I thought you were starting to like Bella..."
"I do like Bella, this has nothing to do with it!" she shot back. "She managed to live on the reservation with them for almost six months, why are you so worried about this now?"
I saw again in my mind Rosalie's thoughts that day: the tense standoff between Jacob and my family, the purplish bruise that had only just faded from Bella's delicate wrist. "The difference, if I have to spell it out for you, is that her one-time best friend is a new werewolf. One that attempted to drag her to the reservation, requiring your intervention!"
There was an aggravated huff from Rosalie, and I continued. "Your friendship with Bella is already known to the Quileutes, in case they see you with her. I should already be back at the house by the time you get there, but I'll call you if anything changes. Please, Rosalie."
There was a brief silence before she spoke again. "Fine. But after this, if you're going to insist that she be treated like she's helpless, then you can do all the babysitting!"
An angry growl escaped from my throat, but then Carlisle was back on the line again. "Calm down, Edward. She'll do it and Bella will be fine."
"She could be a little less condescending about it," I ground out.
He sighed. "Yes, but...she's agreed. Are you able to come now?"
I turned the key and the Volvo's engine started with a roar. "I'll be there in half an hour."
Billy Black had asked that Carlisle meet them at an old abandoned general store, on the road to La Push, about a mile outside of the treaty line. As Carlisle drove us there in his Mercedes, I tapped my fingers nervously against the windowsill, my anxiety at being so far from Bella already escalating.
"Try to calm down, Edward," Carlisle said after a few minutes. "The Quileutes may not be mind-readers, but they'll sense your anxiety immediately. I know it's difficult to separate yourself from the world that you and Bella have created, but remember how it must appear to them. You and Rosalie are leaving for Alaska this evening. Our family only is and ever has been just friends with Isabella Swan. Any more interest in her on our part will arouse suspicion."
"I know," I said curtly, unable to still my fingers from their tapping. "But surely you can understand why I'm so on-edge."
"Of course I do. Just keep in mind how odd it will look to them. Concentrate on paying close attention to their thoughts, for any sign of duplicity. Rosalie will take care of Bella."
I nodded. Rose had departed for Port Angeles hissing like an angry cat when I insisted that she leave immediately. I'd realized too late that if Bella's study group was canceled, she might arrive home early. I'd been ready to turn around and head back, but with Carlisle's quiet intervention, Rose had snatched the apartment key out of my hand and left in a huff. I was trying not to let her attitude affect my own anxiety, but at some point I'd be having words with my blonde adopted sister.
The car slowed as we approached the old general store, both of us automatically assessing the situation we were walking into. I'd half-expected the entire tribe and wolfpack to be present, but there were only a few cars parked out front. By the quiet buzz of thoughts that immediately began peppering my mind, there were no more than six or seven Quileutes present. There were at least four phased wolves further back in the woods, though. I quickly informed Carlisle of their presence, and he nodded.
"Keep your mind and ears open, Edward. I would prefer to keep this as peaceful as possible, but let me know if there's any sign of deceit on their part."
We emerged from the car then, and at the sound of the doors slamming, a young man appeared on the dilapidated front porch. He wasn't familiar to me personally, but I recognized him immediately from Rose, Alice, and Esme's memories. This was Sam Uley, probably the so-called alpha of the current pack.
He gave us a cold look and the hatred in his thoughts immediately hit me. Filthy stinking bloodsuckers...Billy didn't say two would be coming...good thing I decided to make Jake stay at home...
A good thing indeed, the meeting probably would not go well if I ripped Jacob's arms out of their sockets for daring to touch my wife.
Sam turned without a word, disappearing into the building, and Carlisle and I followed him silently. I skimmed over the thoughts of those already inside, but found none that indicated we were in immediate danger.
The dusty interior of the building had been lit with battery-powered lamps, and sitting in a line facing the door was what I presumed to be the Quileute tribal council. I recognized Billy Black from the high school graduation months earlier, but the others were strangers to me. Sam went to stand just off to the side, next to another bare-chested youth.
Carlisle nodded politely to the line of elders, not in the least put off by their icy demeanor. "Good afternoon."
Billy Black was interested in no such pleasantries, and after giving me a suspicious look, spoke. "Dr. Cullen, the tribal council has requested this meeting to discuss the treaty that has stood for some time between your family and the Quileute people."
"You said so on the phone, yes."
"To be brief, we feel that the integrity of the treaty is compromised with your continued interaction with the humans of the area."
"The integrity of the treaty has been maintained for decades," Carlisle replied easily. "We've given you no cause to doubt that."
"Your presence is dangerous enough, but greater interaction poses a greater threat," disputed the sole woman on the council. "You should not befriend the humans."
Carlisle tilted his head to the side slightly, feigning ignorance. "Do you refer to all humans, or one human in particular?"
"Cease your games," snapped another elder. "Your friendship with Bella Swan has clearly demonstrated that interaction between humans and the Cold Ones is dangerous. It stands to reason that it would be the same for all humans."
"I was not present at the incident I'm sure you're referring to, but it is my understanding that one of your own posed the danger to Bella Swan." Carlisle's tone was still easy and light, but the meaning of his words was clear.
A wave of discord rippled across the minds of all present. They knew exactly what Carlisle meant, and Billy Black frowned.
"I make no excuses for my son's behavior, but in his defense, he genuinely believed he was protecting the one he thinks of as his sister from you. What use does one of your kind have for a human girl?"
"Bella Swan befriended my daughter Alice while they were in school together. You may think of us as demons, but we certainly are capable of forming friendships. We pose no threat to Bella."
The woman shook her head. "She knows what you are, and is still your friend?"
My temper flared at the dismissive way the woman referred to Bella, but I remained silent, letting Carlisle speak for us.
"Bella is a remarkable individual," Carlisle said mildly. "As well as very observant. She discerned the differences in us very quickly and put the pieces together on her own. Any time she spent with us was of her own free will, and my daughter was very disappointed to lose a friend in the course of this move."
The disbelief was plain in the minds and on the faces across from us.
"We have much to talk about," Billy Black finally said, before turning and gesturing at the young man who stood next to Sam Uley. "Get them chairs so that they can sit."
It was just over three hours later when Carlisle and I finally emerged from the building. The discussions with the Quileutes had not been friendly ones, especially after Carlisle flatly rejected their request that we abstain from interacting with any humans in any way. He'd pointed out the foolishness of their request, and that the more we alienated ourselves from society, the odder we'd look, thus piquing humans' curiosity even more.
The atmosphere in the room had been cold by the time Carlisle and Billy Black had agreed to leave the treaty as it stood in the face of our imminent departure. My own anxiety spiked exponentially as we climbed into Carlisle's car and I checked my watch: it was just after six o'clock and Bella would be arriving at our home any moment, if she wasn't there already. Technically our property was considered off-limits for the wolves, but that logic did nothing to calm me down. I wouldn't rest easy until my wife was safely in my arms.
I was pulling out my phone, intent on calling her even though we'd be at the house within minutes, when Carlisle spoke. "You and Bella will need to be very careful for the rest of your time here. I have no doubt the Quileutes would proactively break the treaty if they knew about the two of you."
"Billy Black in particular was very focused on her safety," I agreed, pressing the speed-dial button. For some reason, my anxiety was growing instead of easing as we passed through Forks, and I needed to hear Bella's voice.
"You'll need to be even more cautious about appearing in public now, even without her," Carlisle continued, but my attention was now completely on my phone as the call rang once, and then went directly to Bella's voicemail.
"What the hell?" I muttered, before trying again. This time it didn't ring at all before Bella's sweet voice chimed in my ear, asking me to leave a message.
"What is it?"
"She's not answering her phone...it's going straight to voicemail, like she turned it off."
Carlisle frowned. "Is that normal for her?"
I pressed the button for the third time, running my hand roughly through my hair. "No. She promised me she'd keep it turned on any time the two of us weren't together."
The moment we crossed out of town, Carlisle pushed the accelerator hard, and we were at our drive within two minutes. I was just about to try calling Rosalie when my phone rang, and I barely caught sight of Alice's name on the display before I snapped it up to my ear.
"Edward! Where's Bella?" The panic in her voice was the final spark that ignited the terror that had been building in my chest. Something was very wrong.
I was vaguely aware that Carlisle had slammed on the brakes and had yanked out his own cell phone, but my full attention was on Alice. "What's wrong, Alice?"
"I don't know! I saw her earlier in her apartment with Rosalie, and then the next thing I saw was her…oh God, Edward, you've got to find her!"
Every muscle in my body went rigid as dread poured through me. "Alice, tell me what you saw!"
"She's in the woods somewhere," Alice sobbed. "I don't know where, all I can see is her in the woods, and she's hurt and bleeding. Edward, please hurry, please!"
"Where in the woods?" I snarled into the phone, one hand flashing to the door handle.
"I don't know! All I see is trees and she's lying on the ground…"
"Keeping looking!" I barked, before snapping the phone shut, turning to meet Carlisle's eyes. "Where is Rosalie?"
"She said Bella convinced her to go on to Alaska, that she'd made the drive on her own so many times before…"
"Alice said she's in the woods somewhere, that she's hurt…" I shoved the door open, pausing only when Carlisle's hand gripped my arm.
"Edward…if she was driving herself, she may have been in an accident. You go up the 101, I'll follow you with the car. Keep your phone, I'll call you if Alice sees anything else."
I gave him a brief nod and then plunged into the forest, immediately pushing my legs to carry me faster. I kept to the treeline until I was well away from the more densely populated area, and then I leapt onto the pavement of the 101, running faster than ever.
The panic was still there, threatening to overwhelm my mind and my senses, but instinct had completely taken over my body now, and I was completely focused on my goal.
That faint heartbeat between us, the one we'd both fully recognized on our wedding night, was throbbing in my chest. It had been there consistently all day, throughout the meeting with the Quileutes, and it was what I was counting on to help me find her. I could search the air for her scent, train my ears to listen for her heartbeat, but I knew that that indefinable connection between us was what would lead me to her. She'd called it gravity, whatever it was that tied our souls together, and just as gravity could hold us to the earth, our gravity would pull me to her.
I ran steadily, letting that connection guide me. I'd almost reached Lake Crescent when suddenly a new scent faintly caught my attention and I jarred to an immediate stop.
Gasoline. Motor oil. The green tang of freshly broken trees and bushes.
"Bella…" I whispered, before breaking into a frantic run. The throb in my chest tugged at me urgently, and I knew I was close…just as a new scent, mixed with the others, hit me with the force of a wrecking ball.
"Bella!" I screamed, repeating her name incessantly as I cut back into the woods, knowing she was here…but the blood…
The scent of it grew stronger with every step I took, and the panic I'd kept at bay boiled up uncontrollably. So much blood, too much blood. There wasn't an ounce of thirst in my throat, only a sick tightness at the realization that I smelled too much blood mixed in with the other scents.
A few more panicked steps and I was there. A nightmare of a scene: Bella's truck, the sturdy front end smashed headlong into a heavy pine; the crushed brush and saplings marking her descent down an embankment from the road above…and a figure crumpled beside a tree, unmoving on the frozen ground.
The throb in my chest wrenched as I dropped to my knees, every iota of strength completely gone. The blood was everywhere, a thick trail of droplets from the truck to her body, a pool slowly soaking into the forest floor. Too much blood…
But it was fresh, still slowly draining from her body…and realization roared over me as one sound cut through the paralyzing terror.
Her heart. A slow, sluggish heartbeat, beckoning me onward. She was holding on, her broken body was holding on. Waiting for me.
There was no instinct coolly dictating my movement now, in a split second I was at her side, lifting her even as I cried out her name.
Her eyes didn't open and her painful shallow breaths were heavy with the scent of blood. A ghastly wound traversed the width of her forehead, splitting it open to the bone. I carefully sat her up against the tree, hearing the gurgle of fluid in her lungs, and my fingers quickly ran over her body, searching for any other injury even as I continued to call her name and beg her to stay with me.
"Bella," I pled, "Can you hear me?"
At that, she wheezed faintly and tried to speak, but a gush of blood poured up over her lips and down her chin, and panic seized me anew. "Carlisle is coming with the car now, love. We'll get you to the hospital. I promise you, you'll be okay."
Her eyelids barely flickered in response, but she found the strength to lift her hand to my arm, and I immediately grasped it in my own. There was no warmth under the soft skin I knew so well.
Carlisle, I needed Carlisle.
I somehow found my phone and pressed the right buttons, and he answered before it had a chance to ring.
"She's hurt, Carlisle, I need you here now, please."
"Where exactly are you?"
I gave him my best guess as to our location. "Roll down your window, you'll be able to smell it. Oh God, there's so much blood…"
"Stay calm, Edward, and keep her still. I'll be there within a minute at the most."
I snapped my phone shut and shoved it back into my pocket, wondering if I should try to carry her closer to the road. Even as the thought crossed my mind, Bella's head lolled forward like a broken doll, and there was no strength in her neck as I gently cupped her chin in my hand to tip it back up. "Love, please stay with me… Bella, please…"
Her blood-covered lips parted just slightly. "Edward…"
I seized desperately onto that faint whisper; as long as she was able to talk, the blood rushing into her lungs hadn't drowned her. "Yes, love, yes… talk to me, stay with me, oh God please just keep talking to me…"
The effort was too much, though, and her lips trembled once and then went slack. I squeezed her hand, almost too hard, but there was no reassuring pressure back. No…
I heard Carlisle's car over the roaring in my ears, his running footsteps that carried him to us. A quick clinical assessment confirmed what I already knew, but it was treatable, her heart was still beating, and we were close enough to Port Angeles that…
And then the thought from Carlisle's mind cut through me as no spoken words could. Edward, we can't save her. You must change her, now.
No. No. Bella was supposed to be spared all of the pain, the agony that would burn every last cell in her body before hardening it into stone. She wasn't supposed to feel the excruciating asphyxiation as her heart tried desperately to keep beating, trying to fight off the inexorable death of each of her internal organs, one after another.
She wasn't supposed to suffer because of me.
"Not here, not like this. Please Carlisle, isn't there…"
His golden eyes reflected the regret and pain I knew he felt, but the resolve in his mind was as firm as his words. "Edward, I know her wishes as well as you do. If you can't do it, I will, but I need you to decide now. I don't know how much longer she'll be able to hold on. She's been out here too long."
Her body is already shutting down, he added silently. Edward...I don't know if she'll survive the change. I can't promise you that she will. But she will be dead within a few minutes if you don't act now.
I could hear harsh sobs, and had the faint realization that they were mine. He was right, I knew he was right. I knew what Bella would want me to do, were she able to speak, and as if to confirm it she stirred faintly in my arms.
"We'll leave from here, immediately. Bella, can you hear me?"
There was a spastic twitch that resonated through her entire body, more blood that gushed from her mouth. From a part of my history long past, I recognized the signs and knew that she was slipping away, that it was the body's final desperate rebellion against the inevitable.
Carlisle said something else, but I was already completely fixated on her as I gently brushed my fingers over her face. "My love, my Bella, I'm so sorry… I never meant for it to be like this."
I hoped that she heard me.
Carlisle put a steady hand on my shoulder, but even as I pulled her into my lap and carefully drew her sticky hair away from her neck, even as I settled my lips and teeth against a pulse point that was now barely a flutter, even as the first taste of her blood-slick skin met my tongue…I felt no bloodlust.
I was giving my beloved life. She had asked me to make her mine, forever. Now it was time for me to give her that.
My teeth pressed into her with a gentleness I'd never exercised before, years and years ago. Her skin and flesh gave way easily, parting to allow me access to the artery that immediately sliced open just ahead of another rush of blood, this time directly into my mouth. Mindful that without the bloodlust, I'd be unable to produce enough venom to initiate the change, I took one careful pull from her. The sweet taste of Bella rippled over my tongue, and finally the venom began to flow in an instinctive response. Carlisle's hand tightened minutely on my shoulder, but I needed no reminder as I allowed my venom to seep into her, then carefully drew my tongue over the wound, sealing it up again. She moaned faintly.
Her wrists too, Edward…the more points at which the venom enters her bloodstream, the greater the chance she'll survive long enough for it to take effect.
Following Carlisle's silent urging, I picked up each of Bella's limp arms and kissed her wrist before repeating the process of biting, drinking, and closing. She was completely silent now, the sound of her heartbeat barely audible even to Carlisle and I.
Hold her still, she's so weak that even now she could die from her injuries. Once the venom reaches her heart, it will act as a stimulant and keep it beating long enough for the rest to spread throughout her body. Her lungs are what worry me, you must keep her breathing no matter what.
I nodded once to show I understood, and we waited silently for a few minutes which may as well have been years, even to the immortal. It wasn't until Bella flinched and then suddenly moaned that the faint thread of hope I was clinging to disappeared. "Carlisle?"
He stood quickly. "Carry her up to the car and get into the backseat. I'll call Alice and ask her to look ahead for us."
I'd never bitten a human for the purpose of changing, only to kill. I knew nothing of the initial process of the change. "Is she…"
"I don't know. I think you may have found her just in time; her heartbeat is faint but fairly steady. You'll have to monitor her condition, if you want me to drive." He was already striding away from us, the decision made, and I carefully gathered my wife into my arms. Her weight was nothing, of course, but now more than ever she felt like a fragile piece of ice or glass. I was afraid to hold her as tightly as I wanted to, focusing instead on the faint moans puffing from her lips with every ragged exhale.
Carlisle held the rear door of his car open for us, but I must have moved the wrong way as I stooped to seat us on the long leather seat. With strength she'd been lacking since I'd found her, Bella suddenly began struggling in my arms, her faint panting now only a sickening gurgle as she fought for air.
"Hold her sitting upright against you," Carlisle said quickly, already in the car with us, helping to arrange her in a sitting position: her back against my chest, legs tucked securely between mine. Her breath rattled as the fluid in her lungs shifted, but she began the faint panting again.
"Can't you give her something?" I demanded desperately. I knew there was nothing more I could do to hurry along her change, but I would give my life to spare her even a moment of this suffering.
Carlisle shook his head, quickly examining her head wound, listening to the heartbeat that was already quickening, the blood that continued to trickle into her lungs. "All I have is morphine, and with the respiratory distress it will do more harm than good. Bella, I know you probably can't talk right now, but can you hear me?"
A tiny movement of her head indicated that she'd heard him.
"You're safe now. I know you're frightened and in pain, and that it's hard to breathe, but I need you to remain as still as you possibly can. Edward will stay back here with you." His voice was the quiet calming one he used with patients, even those he knew he had no chance of saving. But this wasn't a patient, this was Bella's life…and mine. His eyes flashed to mine, and I heard him as he directed his thoughts to me again. Keep her upright and still. I'll concentrate on getting us across the border, but tell me immediately if you need me.
I nodded once, and within the next few seconds, the Mercedes was in motion. Bella's head fell to rest in the crook between my neck and shoulder, and I saw her eyes roll back, looking for me. With her next faint breath, she tried to say my name.
"I'm here, love." Please just keep breathing, please keep talking to me. Please please, don't let go of me.
A convulsive shudder shook her frame, but her voice was steady despite the lack of breath behind it. "Change…"
That was the moment I truly knew, I finally accepted that my Bella, my wife, would burn, suffer, and die in my arms. The heartbeat, the steady breathing I'd counted the seconds of our time together by… those would stop as I held her and watched her life end. A heartbeat was only a sound, breathing was only a motion…but the agony she suffered in the meantime was an unquantifiable infinite of pain that I couldn't measure, help, or sooth. From this point on, there was nothing I could do. "Yes love, you're changing. I'm so sorry Bella, I'm so sorry…"
I heard my voice shake, and immediately resolved to be the strength she'd need in the hours and days ahead of us. I clenched my jaw and took a long careful breath before my next words. "We're going straight to Alaska. Carlisle is talking to Alice right now, to make sure we aren't stopped for any reason on the way there." I pressed a kiss to her temple. "We'll get there as fast as we can, love. Just hold onto me, listen to my voice. I'm not letting you go."
I could see her eyelashes flickering, and she arched away from me, staring at the Mercedes' roof. Blood vessels in both of her eyes had burst, and blotches of crimson surrounded the deep brown I knew so very well, the window into her soul. "Alice…"
Many questions immediately flooded my mind, but I forced them all back to consider at another time. All my mental and physical energy had to be focused on Bella for as long as she needed it to draw on. "Yes, she saw you. She didn't see until afterwards, and then she couldn't see where you were. I'm sorry I didn't get to you faster."
Her brow furrowed slightly at my words. The wound on her forehead prevented much movement, but there was frustration on her face. After a moment or two, she managed to pant out another word. "Wol…"
My first reaction was confusion. Had the wolves caused this? Had they set up the accident, preferring to see Bella dead than with us? Or was she worried about leaving them? No, surely not that. I drew back a little, so that her blood-speckled eyes could meet mine, and with that I heard just enough of her mind to truly understand what she meant. She was worried that the wolves would blame us for all of this.
I kissed her head, and then her temple again, holding onto the tenuous foothold into her mind that I'd gained by that eye contact. "You don't need to worry about the wolves, love. They don't know. Just be still and hold onto me."
From that moment on, I sank into our world, Bella's and mine, and allowed Carlisle to worry about the long drive to Alaska. With Alice's help, we left the United States via a barely-monitored side road, and flew through Canada until a necessary refueling stop. After some whispered words of encouragement, Bella managed to hold herself completely still, a faint tremor her only movement until we were on the road again.
Carlisle drove a few miles outside of town before he pulled over to check on her. I could feel the overwhelming sense of relief flood his mind before he spoke aloud, reassuring us both that Bella had passed the danger point, that the venom had healed her wounds enough to allow the change to continue. The venom was in complete control of her mind and destiny now, it was simply a matter of time. And time was something we had an eternity of.
After a while, Bella's body ceased to thrash in my arms. Were it not for the immediate reassurances from Carlisle's mind, I would have panicked again. A few more refueling stops, another circuitous but uninterrupted border crossing, and still she lay unmoving in my arms. I still had just the barest grasp on her mind, but all I felt there was pain. And because there was nothing else I could do to comfort her, I simply hummed to her. All the songs she knew and loved, and the ones I knew and loved. The ones she hadn't heard yet, the ones I'd written for her.
When we finally arrived at the home outside of Wasilla, I gathered her still form in my arms and flew past my concerned family, needing only to get her alone and do what she'd asked me to do…to talk to her non-stop, whether she could hear me or not.
I ran up the stairs to the room that had been mine many years ago, the last time we'd stayed in this area. The bed was already made, and I carefully laid my wife down on the soft sheets, noting how she jerked when the cradle of my arms left her body. Someone…Alice, of course…had left a basin of hot water and a sponge beside the bed, along with a simple white dress.
Silently thanking my sister's thoughtfulness, I carefully stripped Bella's clothes from her motionless body, then used the sponge and water to wipe the dried blood away from her pale skin. The water in the basin was bright crimson by the time I'd finished, but now I could see that the wound on her head was almost completely gone, along with all the smaller cuts and bruises I'd counted repeatedly during the endless drive.
I gently brushed the mats out of her hair and then finally eased her into the white dress Alice had left. She didn't flinch or respond to my actions in any way, and I wondered if she was even cognizant of them.
When I was finally finished, Bella lay like a silent pale angel on the bed, her mahogany hair providing a shocking contrast to the white of her face and surprising red of her lips. Were I not a vampire, I probably wouldn't have been able to note the changes in her face already: the slight difference in the arch of her eyebrows and angle of her cheekbones. The beginning of bruise-like shadows under her closed eyes and the bowed curving of her lips.
I sighed and lay down beside her, drawing her into my arms with more assurance than I'd felt in hours. Except for a slight movement of her body into mine, she gave no indication of understanding. I wondered how much she was aware of at the moment.
There was only one thing that I could truly do, and that was wait. But she had asked me to talk to her, promising that she'd hear me in whatever far-off place she might be cringing away from the pain. Whether or not she'd actually hear me, I didn't know, but the warm throb in my chest assured me of one thing…she'd know I was there.
I closed my eyes, laying my cheek against the silk of her hair. And then, measuring the seconds by the cadence of my words, I began to talk. And I waited. Waiting for my Bella to come back to me.