Summary: The NM-AU you've never read before! Edward breaks up with Bella, but he doesn't leave town. Alice has seen that in order for Bella to move on, she must see him move on. Will they ever find their way back together?
Author's Note: Thanks to edward-bella-harry-ginny and Juliejuliejulie for their encouragement and to Stephenie for the always fascinating characters and some of the dialogue in this chapter.
"There must be an angel with a smile on her face
When she thought up that I should be with you
But it's time to face the truth
I will never be with you"
You're Beautiful by James Blunt
Edward is in hell, and Alice is making it clear he's going to stay there.
Believing she is with Jasper, he doesn't expect to see her. But she's been lying in wait for him. As soon as he walks through the door, she confronts him, eyes fierce and arms folded. "What you're planning will not work," she declares, emphasizing each word separately. He flinches at the visions she shows him.
While Bella slept, worn out from the stress of her disastrous party, he had been plotting how to flee. It was, after all, the family's modus operandi, their perpetual Plan B. So many times before, when things got sticky, they'd vanish without a trace, leaving their former neighbors and patients and classmates and teachers to their fading curiosity. Surely that was the right move, the way out of this nightmare. He could restore Bella's world to the status quo ante. Her life would return to what it would have been had he died properly, as he should have, in 1918.
Now Alice is mercilessly insisting that the damage he has done is irreversible. Bella's body will heal from the lacerations he'd inflicted, but her life has been indelibly tainted by his presence. Her precious innocence has been broken, and neither his strength nor his speed nor all the King's horses and all the King's men can put it back together again. It's unbearable.
"What, then?" he spits out.
As she speaks, he's already shaking his head in disbelief. "You have to stay. Emmett and Rosalie aren't supposed to be here anyway, and Jasper and I are going to take off for a while. You stay here with Esme and Carlisle until graduation."
"No," he whispers. Stay and yet stay away from her? He'd tried that before. His first mistake, not that there was any point in dissecting his errors.
"Yes," she says harshly. "It's best for her. It's what she needs. She won't really move on unless she sees you move on. See?"
He can't deny the vision he is sharing with her. Her initial images showed Bella essentially catatonic. Now that he is contemplating Alice's impossible demands, they can see Bella at school, talking and going through the motions. She is thinner, with dark circles under her eyes, but still more beautiful to him than every starry night and every sunrise he's ever witnessed.
"You can do it," Alice encourages him. "You drank her blood and didn't kill her. This can't be any harder than that." Could she be right? The problem is, he has no idea how he'd managed that. Suddenly they both grimace; Alice is receiving a vision of Jasper, alone and desperate. "I have to go," she says unnecessarily. While he remains motionless, she embraces him swiftly, and then she's out the door.
Carlisle wants to talk to him, but he has no use for his father's advice. Since the dawn of time, no vampire has faced what he is facing, he is certain. The most valuable thing in creation— Bella's future— is at stake, and there is only one place for him to go. The first time he brought her to the meadow their destinies had hung in the balance. It is the right place to make this decision. As he runs, he remembers the last time he carried her on his back. He hadn't known then that it would be the last time. He can replay the memory, but already, he is unable to recapture the carefree joy he felt at the time. Above him, the moon is just a sliver in the sky. Like him it is lifeless and cold, shining only due to the power of something that truly possesses heat and energy. There is really no choice. The only admirable, worthy desire he has ever felt in this existence is for Bella to have a happy life. He will do whatever it takes. In the faint moonlight, he carefully ponders how he is going to manage the deed.
When the time comes, he is ready. "Take a walk with me," he says. It's an order, not an invitation.
"OK, let's talk," she says warily. He turns to face her. Eyes, look your last! he thinks. How is it that Shakespeare has words for every occasion? Arms, take your last embrace! That is not going to happen. Physical contact is not part of his plan.
"Bella, it's over." She doesn't respond. Well, he didn't expect her to catch on right away. His behavior is so improbable. He continues with the phrases he has prepared to wear down her incredulity and resistance. He won't hit her with the standard "It's not you; it's me," but that is his message. "My world is not for you."
She frowns. He's been distant; he's been shutting her out. Is he saying he wants to make that permanent? But she knows when that strange mood began. "What happened with Jasper, that was nothing, Edward! Nothing!"
"You're right," he says evenly. "It was exactly what was to be expected."
"No!" she roars, startling them both with the force of her protest. She is ready to defend the only thing that matters to her. "This is about my soul, isn't it? Carlisle told me about that, and I don't care, Edward. I don't care! You can have my soul. I don't want it without you— it's yours already!"
As far as he's concerned, that outburst just proves how wrong he was to ever to indulge his feelings for her and how right he is to end it now. He also intends to defend what matters to him. "Bella, I don't want you anymore."
"You… don't… want me?" she says slowly. He's not arguing, not taking the bait. His voice is very patient. But he sounds so tired. Tired of the conversation already. Tired of her? Can it be?
"No." He's gotten through to her. He's swung the axe and made the first gash into the trunk of the doomed tree, and now a few more blows will finish the job. "What happened the other night made me realize it's time for a change. Because I'm… tired of pretending to be something I'm not, Bella. I am not human. I've let this go on much too long, and I'm sorry for that."
"Don't," she whispers. "Don't do this." It's sinking in. Even as she tries to stop his words, she knows it's futile. He's finished with her.
"You're not good for me, Bella." He's saying her name too often. But this is his last chance to use it. The most beautiful sound he ever heard. Say it loud and there's music playing. Say it soft and it's almost like praying.
"If… that's what you want." That is how it works with them. He always calls all the shots.
"Don't do anything stupid or reckless," he warns. "Do you understand what I'm saying? If I can, I will save you, but it won't change anything."
She is surprised by the anger that flares up in her. She had never put herself in danger to get his attention. She'd never done anything to get his attention. He'd pursued her. He'd showered her with love and praise. But apparently the adoration was finite. His interest in her is used up. He's come to his senses. With her whole heart, she had thrown herself into the unexpected paradise he offered her, but at some level, she had always known that this day would come. The clock has struck midnight. She is being exiled from Eden.
"I understand," she says quietly, ready for him to leave. He's made his point. She's on the verge of falling to pieces, and it would be far better to be alone.
He nods, turns and strides smoothly back to his car. He moves at a human pace, not for the sake of anyone watching, but because this is all the speed he can muster. To walk away from her like this proves to be extraordinarily difficult. He can force himself not to look back, but it takes a tremendous amount of energy to put one foot in front of the other. He has to break out of her gravitational pull; he has to reach escape velocity. He nearly crumples as he reaches the car.
She isn't watching. She has sunk to the ground, wrapped her arms around her knees and buried her head in her arms. But she can still hear the engine as he drives off.
Author's Note: The Shakespeare quotes are from Romeo and Juliet, and Edward also reflects on the lyrics of "Maria" from West Side Story. I'm nervous about putting this out there because I've only written canon and first person stories before. Please let me know what you think!