Author's Note:

This picks up with the second leg of the plane ride home from Volterra in New Moon, in Bella's POV. Everything up until that point remains unchanged.

This will eventually be Edward/Bella, but I'm going to make him work for it *cough like-Bella-should-have- cough*. Jacob will figure prominently as well, however...but I'm not giving away more than that.

Chapter 1 - The Plane

All of the caffeine didn't help. Eventually, at Edward and Alice's urging, my will lost the battle to my body. Somewhere between Atlanta and Seattle, I finally slumped against Edward's chest in exhausted sleep. Even as I succumbed, my mind screamed at me not to miss this last chance to see his face - because I had no doubt that shortly after landing at Sea-Tac, he would be gone. But it was a futile battle. It seemed that although the heart can clearly survive being repeatedly stomped into smithereens, as was certain to happen to mine again in the very near future when he left me again, the body was obviously more fragile. And apparently mine needed sleep more than my heart needed the reassurance of keeping Edward in sight.

Edward and Alice didn't wake me until the very last possible moment - time to leave the plane. At his cool fingers on my brow combined with his gentle voice - so perfectly tender that it was excruciatingly painful - I sat bolt upright, my eyes frantically searching for his face. He was there, in the seat right beside me, and Alice now stood leaning over him watching me wake up.

"Edward?" My voice was breathless, panicked; and even despite my firm belief that he could barely wait to deposit me in Charlie's care so that he could return to his distractions, I still couldn't miss the flash of guilt and pain that marred his gorgeous eyes when he saw my panic. My fingers shot out to grab at his shirt, holding on fiercely - ignoring the voice in my head that screamed this was only going to make things harder in the long run. I had to stop doing that, I realized, willing my traitorous fingers to let go.

His eyes were glued to my face with pure intensity, but Alice's were no longer glued on me. After a moment of gazing into nothingness, her eyes fixed directly on her brother, concern shining in their amber depths. Her hand landed softly on his shoulder in what I perceived to be a supporting gesture, but I couldn't understand why he needed support. I felt a stab of betrayal, although I shouldn't have. He was her brother, after all. But he wasn't the one with the hole ripped in his chest, and I was supposed to have been her best friend.

Edward's velvet voice interrupted my mutinous thoughts. "'s okay. I'm here. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere. You're safe." It must have been my imagination that his voice started shaking halfway through his reassurances. There was no imagining the almost painful grip of his hands on my shoulders, and the frantic way his eyes searched my face - as though he was just realizing something terrible. And considering the look on Alice's face and his mindreading capabilities, maybe he was...

Unfortunately, he had made the wrong choice of words if he meant to reassure me. Having slept just long enough to take the edge off my exhaustion, I was thinking more clearly than I had been in Italy. Reality hit me square in the chest like a ton of bricks.

With 100% certainty, I knew: Edward was lying to me about not going anywhere...just like he'd lied to me when he had said it'd be like he never existed. And I wasn't safe. How could I be? Because within just a few hours, he wouldn't be right here anymore. He would be gone. And in every way that mattered, so would I. The black hole in my chest would completely consume me and I would surely cease to exist. I wasn't sure even my own personal sun could light my way back this time - even if he was speaking to me, which considering the way I left he probably wasn't.

In any other circumstances, my sudden realization might have actually caused me to feel smug. Edward, Alice and Jacob were all three wrong - it turned out that I had some self-preservation instincts after all. Unfortunately, they chose that exact moment to kick in. Horror flooded me, and suddenly I couldn't get far enough away from the face I'd longed for for seven long months.


I yelled it near the top of my lungs, causing the few remaining passengers waiting in line to exit the plane to turn their heads in our direction. Edward gaped at me in frozen shock, while Alice simply sighed in frustration. I was more sure than ever that she must have seen this coming. A nearby flight attendant began moving in our direction.

"Is there a problem here?"

I ignored her completely, suddenly struggling in Edward's iron grip.

"Let me go, Edward." I had meant it to come out with all the force of the earlier 'No.' Instead, it began in my chest as a full-fledged shriek, but by the time it left my lips it was no more than a haunted, ragged whisper. Unbidden, the tears sprang to my eyes and I felt one immediately escape down my cheek. "Now," I added weakly.

He had to do as I said. It was my only hope. Because if I had any hope of retaining any shred of my own self, he had to leave now rather than later. I had already made it so much worse by clinging to him thus far.

"Bella..." I had been determined not to look at him again, but his tone of voice brought my eyes to his. He sounded as haunted as I had and he looked even worse. Shock and terror mingled in his eyes in equal measure, and his hands gripped me even tighter.

"Miss, is there anything I can do for you?" the flight attendant asked me, her eyes warily glued to Edward. "Do I need to call security?" she continued hesitantly, clearly uncomfortable.

"That won't be necessary," Alice jumped in with a reassuring smile. "Edward," she changed her focus, her voice firmer and all traces of that smile gone. "Let her go for now. It'll be all right. I'll help Bella."

"No!" His snarl at Alice was unexpected and ferocious, and I shuddered. What exactly did Alice see that could pull such a strong reaction from him that he didn't want to let me out of his grip? Was I in danger? Was Victoria waiting for me? But why would Edward even care about that? He had left me completely vulnerable to her before, and nothing had really changed.

At my shudder, his head snapped back around to look at me and he immediately released me. I belatedly realized that he had mistaken my shuddering reaction to indicate fear of him. He slowly leaned away, his hands held out like a character in an old Western movie showing his rival that he didn't have a weapon. Chagrin filled his features. "Bella..." he whispered, hurt confusion filling his beautiful face.

I tore my eyes away from that face, unable to bear the pain there. But somewhere deep inside, I felt the stirrings of a completely unexpected reaction to his pain - anger. He had got his way, hadn't he? He had wanted to be away from me, and that's exactly what he had got. I had already assuaged his guilt over having caused my 'suicide.' What else did he have to feel pain about?

"Come on, Bella," Alice soothed as she inserted herself into the new space between me and Edward and reached out for me. "You don't have to decide anything right now. You and Edward can talk later. I'll walk with you. It's going to be all right."

That same flash of betrayal was back. What did Alice care? She had left me too. In fact, all of the Cullens had. None of them could be trusted.

For months, I had believed that the hole in my chest could only be healed by their return. And when Alice had appeared in my house, I had immediately expected that gap to start filling in. But it hadn't. If anything, it was worse. Now that two of them were within reach of my fingers - including the one Cullen who had punched the hole in my chest to start with - I wasn't healed. In fact, the hole only seemed to grow with each moment in Edward's presence as I waited for him to inevitably leave me again.

"No, Alice," I heard come out of my mouth in a voice so flat and dead that I almost didn't recognize it as my own. I blocked her from lifting me out of the seat to my feet. "It's not."

She blinked, hurt filling her beautiful features at my dismissal of her. I guess she hadn't seen that coming, I thought to myself bitterly. 'Good.' I hadn't foreseen her abandoning me for months either, so that made us even.

Suddenly, I knew what I had to do. Edward wasn't going to get the chance to walk out on me again, and neither was Alice. I was going to beat them both to the punch. I was not going to be a helpless victim this time. I would be proactive and shape my own future, even if it was the last future I wanted. It didn't really matter how it came to be - my Edward-less future was already sealed either way. He would leave again if I did this or not. At least this way I wouldn't be blindsided and it would be, in some way, my choice.

Wrapping my arms around myself, I turned my eyes to the flight attendant who still stood by looking like she'd love to be anywhere else. She was still waiting to hear from me that I didn't need security to be though that would accomplish anything. "Everything's fine," I told her flatly, fairly certain that it was the least convincing performance of all time. "I just need to get off the plane now." I glared at Edward and Alice. "Alone."

The flight attendant blinked, and I knew I was being unfair. The idea of her stopping Edward or Alice from following me was completely laughable, but she didn't know that. Or maybe she did. "You're all free to debark immediately," she stammered rather noncommittally, and then couldn't get out of sight fast enough.

"I need to make a call," I announced flatly when she was gone, speaking more to myself than either of them. Alice helpfully produced her cell phone and I pointedly ignored it. Digging into my small carry-on bag, I retrieved my own cell phone, turned it on, and was gratified to discover I still had some battery left. Turning my phone off to keep Charlie from calling had been beneficial after all.

But instead of making a call yet, I stood woodenly and made my way into the line, clutching my phone tightly. I saw Edward step toward me to reach for my bag, and I turned my body to block him. "Don't," I hissed, and had the pleasure of watching a vampire recoil from me.

"Bella, please," Edward pleaded, and I heard the desperation in his voice. "You're exhausted. Just let me help you and we can talk in the car." My blood chilled at the thought of getting in a car with him and Alice, only for him to drop me off with Charlie and leave me again. Why even bother? Did he want a chance to apologize? It wasn't necessary. Every additional word I heard from his velvet voice scraped across my raw nerves like sandpaper. It would only make it worse. Childishly, I turned my back, biting my lip and walking faster. "Stop," I pleaded in return, knowing he would hear me. I sensed rather than saw him closing the gap, arm reaching out toward me to wrap around my waist and support me as I walked.

The instant he made contact, I reacted as though his cold skin had burned me. This I couldn't allow. If I grabbed hold of him again, I wouldn't be letting go. He'd end up having to pry me off of him to leave, and I wasn't sure I could survive that.

Crying out as though he had struck me, I wrenched my body away from his grasp, spinning around to face him, hands out in front of me defensively. I could feel how white my face had gone, how wide my eyes were. I couldn't bring myself to care.

"I said don't touch me," I rasped.

He froze like a statue. Those black eyes stared back at me, looking as hurt as if I had stabbed him in the chest - his cold, unfeeling chest. I couldn't face that look anymore, so I turned my back and caught up with the passengers in front of me, stepping off the plane into the terminal.

"Bella!" he thundered finally, at the edge of control, and I knew he had unfrozen and would be coming after me.

"Edward..." Alice's voice behind me held a note of warning, and I heard the sound of her grabbing his arm. "Not right now. She'll change her mind. Just let her be. She's in shock."

I almost snorted at that. Yeah, I was in shock. And whose fault was that?

I could feel the two of them behind me as I walked into the airport, Edward's eyes burning a hole in the back of my head. Never breaking step, I managed to dial Charlie's cell number. No way was I letting Edward or Alice get me into another Cullen vehicle anytime soon.