A/N: It's been a long time. Thank you to those of you who messaged me to see if I was going to finish this story. I'm touched that you have stuck around this long or care to see this completed. There's only one chapter left, and I will try my hardest to not go so long in between updates this time. There's a summary below before the chapter. Huge thanks to Erikasbuddy for coming out of beta retirement to take care of this chapter for me.
When Bella sacrificed herself to Edward by making him drink her blood straight from her neck to wake him up to protect Charlie from an attack by Victoria, she fell into a coma even though Edward had desperately tried to change her into a vampire. Unfortunately, Charlie was awakened by the loud fighting between Mike and Victoria outside the Swan home and he entered Bella's bedroom, only to find Edward cradling his nearly dead daughter. This scene sent Charlie racing straight for La Push, where he was ambushed by Victoria and left bitten, her venom coursing through his body.
Jacob allowed Emmett and Jasper to take Charlie, giving the vampires permission to let the venom spread. While Charlie burned, his only daughter remained in a coma at the Cullen's house, with a seemingly catatonic Edward at her side. It became apparent that after prolonged exposure to Edward's venom in smaller doses, Bella had grown immune and was unable to be changed by anyone sired by Carlisle. After experimentation by the doctor, Kate's venom was used to initiate the conversion, and Bella finally showed signs of awakening from her coma and was beginning the transition to vampire just as Charlie opened his eyes to life as a newborn.
Victoria's whereabouts were unknown after Mike declined to leave the area with the unstable nomad, but the wolves continued to look for her while the Cullens stayed close to their home, awaiting Bella's transformation and Charlie's adjustment to his new circumstances and limitations.
Screams of agony and writhing spasms of pain ripped through Bella's fragile body as she made the change from mortal to vampire. It was such a distinct contrast from the corpse-like silence and stillness that she had displayed in the long hours after I'd nearly drained her dry. Her immune system tried to fight off Kate's invading venom as it scorched its way through her tissues with painfully slow success. Throughout the night, Carlisle had to administer additional doses of both venom and drugs to combat the resulting allergic reaction that bloomed its way across Bella's pale but scarred skin.
In an attempt to be more humane, Carlisle finally gave Bella a dose of a sedative, hoping to bring her some kind of comfort. When she appeared to be resting and comfortable, he brought up the topic of allowing Charlie to visit with Bella for a while, just long enough that I could finally get some nourishment for myself. He thought there would be no inherent danger for anyone now that she no longer smelled human. Guilt wracked my chest like hot daggers, poking and prodding, stoking the intense flames of hunger until I could only take so much more. I couldn't bear the thought of leaving her side, but I also didn't dare put animal blood into my system yet—not when I was finally staying awake again.
In the end, I acquiesced and gave Charlie a half hour to sit with his daughter, but I didn't hunt. I merely sat in the hallway outside of our bedroom, unable to move further away…just in case.
One of the lessons that had stuck with me from my human life was a verse from the Bible. I had a fuzzy memory of my mother repeating the words to me. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. But in Bella's case, Jasper said he'd never seen someone resist the change so fiercely. And as for her mind…well, I could only hope that hers was still as willing to become one of us as she had always seemed in the past.
Bella's time as a living, breathing being was almost over now. Her rapid and erratic heartbeat fought hard for each heavy, wet pump in her chest, but soon it would be its last.
Please God, don't let this have been a horrible mistake…
My skin crawled, but it was more than that. The feeling was bone deep, and the only way to scratch that itch would be to transform. To give in to my wolf would be to share my secrets with everyone, which was something I couldn't afford to do. The pack had to be suspicious because I hadn't shifted in days and I'd been patrolling alone the hard way—on two legs.
Already on my father's shit list, the inventory of my sins was too long in his eyes. I couldn't keep Bella Swan away from the leeches, Chief Swan was attacked by the crazy ginger blood sucker that was still on the loose (dear old Dad didn't know that Charlie was a vampire yet), and I failed to bring Bella back with me to the reservation when ordered to do so. That was just to name my latest failures…
Might as well add another one to the long list of fuck ups, I thought as I killed the engine to my father's pickup outside of the Cullen's house. The head of the family appeared at the door wearing a stupid white scarf draped around his neck in the middle of summer. Carlisle smiled and waved as he approached, but it didn't make me feel even a tiny bit more at ease.
"Hello, Jacob. Thank you for coming."
"Sure. I won't say it's no problem." I knew that Carlisle understood me perfectly because I heard everything he'd said through the closed door along with the blare of a Mariners game from a television inside of the house, but I felt like more of an asshole for staying inside of the truck. He'd invited me to his land to ask a favor and I'd been able to trust him before, but with hesitation, I opened the door.
Carlisle's stony face remained serious. "Charlie has awakened and is asking for some of his belongings."
"If I know Charlie, he's demanding to go home."
That got a reaction out of Carlisle and he actually smiled. "Yes. Well, he wants to be near his daughter. We all want to stay close to home and away from innocent civilians for a few more days to make sure Victoria doesn't return to the area."
"There's been no trace of her on our land," I added and stepped out of the cab.
"And that's troubling. We can't sit around with a newborn vampire, especially one that is such a respected pillar of the community—which she sired—and expect nothing to happen."
"You think she'll try to come for Charlie?"
Carlisle wasted no time producing a slip of paper from his pants pocket. "I think Charlie's comfort is our bigger concern right now. Here's a list of what he would like you to procure from his house, if possible."
I didn't bother to read the piece of cream colored paper before cramming it into the back pocket of my jeans. "I'll head over there now." Turning to jump back into the pickup truck, the house grew silent when a phone began to ring somewhere inside. A too fast and uneven heartbeat pounded within the walls behind Carlisle. I recognized that same frantic pattern in Charlie when he'd been bitten by the red-headed demon. Now that Charlie would have no pumping heart because he was dead and exactly like the rest of these cold things, that only left Bella as the source. But that would mean…how? Had Victoria also attacked Bella and the Cullens didn't want to tell the pack about it?
The Cullen mom poked her head out the front door. "Phone for you, Carlisle."
I played dumb—acted like I didn't even hear Bella's poor body fighting for life just beyond those fancy, fragile walls of wood and glass. I just climbed into the truck, turned the key, and drove off toward Forks without a rearwards glance in Carlisle's direction.
With this new knowledge, there was certainly no way I could shift into my wolf form any time soon. I was so screwed.
Charlie's house was a bit sinister looking because it had been sitting closed up and quiet for a few days, especially with a side yard that was more dirt than grass with a menacing gloomy overcast sky threatening to pour down rain at any time. I pulled into the driveway beside Bella's ancient red truck, surprised that they actually left a vehicle here instead of keeping it out at the Cullen's estate or just junking it all together. It wasn't like they couldn't buy her a much nicer car; they obviously had the money to do so.
As I opened the driver's side door, the wind kicked up, blowing a few newspapers and plastic bags across the lawn in front of me as I walked towards the front porch. Charlie never allowed his yard to look like this, and he would definitely be embarrassed to see it in such a state. Luckily for me, Dad had a set of keys to the front door on this key ring so I didn't have to find my own way into the chief's house. That would have been tricky while the neighbors across the street and to the left were both working outside at the moment.
Grabbing the overflowing pile of mail that was shoved in the mailbox as I walked past, I tried three keys before finding the right one for the deadbolt. When I swung the door open, the overwhelming stench of vampire smacked me in the face. It definitely wasn't any of the Cullens; I recognized the revolting odor belonging to the red-eyed one that we were actively hunting. While I stumbled backwards onto the porch towards fresh air to gain control of myself, a shape bolted down the stairs and out the back door.
I had a split second to decide whether to pursue or flee as I ran back into the now empty house, slamming the front door behind me.
The wolf inside me screamed to follow the vampire and tear her limb from limb. My conscience warned that everyone would know all of my secrets as soon as I gave into the animal instinct.
The wolf won.
Sprinting through the house and launching myself off the top back step, I landed on four paws and tore off into the forest. Her scent was strong and her path through the trees was clear. How stupid was I for going after this one all by myself after she'd taken down two of my pack a few days before? Even several of her own kind couldn't pin her down, but then again, the Cullens seemed neutered—weak as far as blood drinkers went.
Jacob? Finally, man. You helping out with patrolling now instead of being a pansy? Paul's angry and sarcastic words were unwelcome and uncontrollable as they rattled around inside my head now that I'd transformed.
Found her inside Charlie's house. Chasing her now. I pushed onward, following the stench deeper into the woods. Only the sound of my paws digging into the dirt and claws scraping against stones and fallen tree limbs could be heard. Was the evil one that far ahead of me?
Paul invaded my thoughts again. On my way. We aren't too far from you. They don't need me here right now. Negotiations are too full of useless talk and no killing.
What negotiations? I had no idea what Paul was talking about. There was no time to worry about that now; I was gaining on her as the smell grew stronger, so I surged forward.
Leaving Esme, Rosalie, and Alice to deal with Charlie wasn't my first choice, but I certainly wasn't going to meet the Quileutes with anyone but Emmett and Jasper in tow. Edward was essentially useless until Bella woke up as a vampire, which should happen at any time now. There was no way that I would bring Charlie along; he was just too volatile and unpredictable. And one sure fire way to set Billy Black's extreme hatred into overdrive would be by seeing his old friend as a newly transformed vampire.
"You've called us here, now what do you want to discuss?" I found it very hard to remain civil anymore. It was especially absurd how the leader had called me and demanded an immediate meeting in the middle of the woods. Emmett had asked "How did they even get the crotchety old dude out here with his wheelchair?" as we approached from our territory. Now I found myself wondering the same thing as he sat in the chair on the rugged terrain.
I'd addressed Billy Black from twenty feet away. His hard eyes regarded me coldly from his position in the center of the clearing where he was flanked by two tanned, muscled teenaged boys trying hard to look intimidating. Two more were in wolf form several feet back towards the pines.
"You will leave the area immediately. Never come back. If even one of you steps foot back here, you will break the treaty."
Who did he think he was? I did not take orders from anyone, except for Esme on occasion. "My family has coexisted peacefully with your tribe for decades. We have done nothing to prompt these demands. We will not bow to them."
I turned to walk away, Emmett and Jasper remaining in position facing the Quileutes as I passed between my sons with my head held high. We'd be gone from this area in a few days anyway, but I wouldn't let this small-minded man think that he had any power over us.
"The treaty has essentially been broken already." Billy's poisonous words were spat at my back and aimed to hurt.
I'd made it fifteen steps before turning around to ask for clarification. Did he somehow know about Bella? Maybe he was referring to Charlie. "I'm unaware of any violations of our treaty." Too many secrets, too many lies…
Mr. Black's lip curled up in a sneer. "The moment that Newton boy was turned into one of you last year in Cullen territory? If I had my way and we could amend it, the second that your boy looked at Bella Swan would have violated the agreement too."
"Michael's transformation into vampire was none of our doing. It was a nomad who made that mistake." Relief flooded through me. They didn't know that Bella was becoming a vampire because Edward had been drinking from her for months, leaving us no choice but to turn her. It didn't seem like he knew about Charlie either. Did this man ever speak with his son? No wonder Jacob did not have a problem helping us when I called on him.
"Doesn't matter in the eyes of the tribe. If I had my way and we could amend it, and the second that your boy looked at Bella Swan would have violated the agreement."
I fought to hold on to my composure, to keep my expression neutral. "Bella and Edward's friendship is not even addressed in the treaty, so it is not up for discussion."
The tension rolling off of Emmett was palpable. "Why don't you get to the point and stop wasting our time. Give us the Cliff's Notes version of what's got your panties in a wad."
"There has been a never-ending stream of different vampires coming through this territory in the last few years. Do you think that we haven't noticed? Even today, this Michael Newton was spotted with two new females."
The urge to destroy something grew quickly inside of me, and I was never one for violence. Billy Black was the most infuriating man I'd ever encountered. "What you saw were three people leaving the area, trying to draw Victoria out with them."
A high-pitched whine broke out of one dog's muzzle as he guarded the wheel chair bound man's right side, and all attention turned to the distressed shape shifter in that instant.
"Sam," Billy commanded. "Find out what's going on with Paul."
The oldest looking man turned away from the elder's side and approached the wolf, motioning for him to move behind a thick set of trees. But the air shimmered around muscled fur as the boy transformed back into a human on the spot, obviously not caring if his naked skin was in full view or not.
"Jacob found the rogue leech squatting in Charlie Swan's house." The boy practically vibrated with excitement as he spoke, and he made no effort to conceal the disdain he held for our kind. "There's more that you need to know, but Jake shouldn't try to catch her alone."
"Go," Sam said with a quick sweep of his arm, and the boy jumped into the air, landing on four furry legs and began running towards town.
"Your murderous little friend certainly hasn't followed anyone out of here," Billy said, his voice smug and sarcastic.
"Since Victoria has reappeared, we're going to get back to our home now—to protect our family." I turned to go, motioning for Emmett and Jasper to follow when heavy footsteps and breaking branches in the distance gave us pause.
"Sounds like the fight might be coming this way…" Jasper said.
I wasn't sure what was approaching us. As we waited with tense bodies prepared to attack, listening for any indication of what was coming, the footfalls grew closer and closer until it became clear by the cadence of steps that the pursuers were of the two-legged variety.
That information did nothing to relax everyone ready to coil in the defensive as we awaited the unknown in the forest straddling the treaty's borderline, no one daring to cross the invisible boundary line in this small clearing.
The familiar scents of our family members blew towards us with the wind, and Charlie burst out of the tree line with Esme, Rose, and Alice in hot pursuit.
Charlie was fast and I knew that he was one stubborn man before as a human. He hadn't changed much as an immortal so far.
When the chief skidded to a stop next to Emmett, Billy Black's eyes narrowed as his mouth tightened into a hard line. The women wisely stayed a distance behind us. My family outnumbered the Quileutes now.
"Sorry I'm late," Charlie said with a smile—one that showed too much teeth to be comfortable around people that weren't vampires. "The girls here didn't tell me about this meeting until it was already well under way."
And the "girls" were supposed to keep Charlie away from this meeting by taking him hunting. I briefly wondered which one had the loose lips.
While I looked to the women of my family—none of whom would make eye contact with me at the moment, the elder's incredulous voice caught my attention. "He's not a part of the original treaty. Neither are the other two males you brought with you for that matter."
"Let's be diplomatic here, Mr. Black," I said, looking at each of the members of his tribe that surrounded him. "None of the boys you brought with you were there for the signing of the treaty either." It wasn't hard to get technical with the details and play his games too.
"What's this all about, Carlisle? Billy?" Charlie's voice had dropped into the one he used as the police chief—commanding of respect. He wanted answers and he wanted them now.
The Quileute elder did not speak. Instead, he continued to stare at Charlie with distrust as if their years of friendship had ceased to exist because his old fishing buddy was now a vampire.
"He's demanding that we all leave the area immediately and never return."
Charlie's gaze scanned each member of the pack before settling on Billy. "Why? They're not hurting anyone."
"Not yet, you're not. You shouldn't be a vampire, Charlie. It's not right!"
"It was too late to do anything, Billy. Are you suggesting that these two should have murdered me instead of giving me a chance to keep on living?"
Mr. Black stared hard at his best friend, seeming to evaluate his new existence. "It ain't natural. The Charlie I knew is dead."
A deep growl burst forth from Charlie's throat, but he remained rooted in place. Jasper moved closer to Charlie and Emmett, no doubt positioning himself to help control the unpredictable newborn if necessary.
"I'm right here talking to you, old friend, so not dead obviously."
"You died the moment that leech sank her teeth into you. Now we are only enemies." Billy finally looked away from Charlie. "Everyone will mourn the loss of a great man when news of your untimely death spreads."
Charlie started forward, taking a few steps in the wolves' direction. He was met with vicious growls from the remaining wolf as it went to Billy Black's side. "The hell they will. I'm not dead and I better not catch anyone saying that I am."
"Guys," Emmett said, his voice a bit louder than necessary. "Fight about this shit later. Victoria is out in the open and on the run right this second. You're going to let only two measly wolves go after her?"
"What? What the hell are we doing standing around in the woods? We have to get back to Bella. Only Edward is left to protect her." Charlie gave a last glance towards Billy, pointing towards him as he turned to go. "We'll continue this discussion later."
"No, we won't, Charlie." Billy shook his head sadly. "I'm human, you won't be able to be around me again."
"What are you implying? That I'll eat you? You smell too good to talk to? After everything I've just heard come out of your mouth, you only smell like asshole right now." Charlie's red eyes were hard and fierce.
Once Charlie had said his peace, he ran into the forest towards our home with Esme, Rosalie, and Alice by his side.
Needing to get back, I had a few things to say to Billy too. "If your pack is successful in eliminating Victoria, please let me know. We will extend the same courtesy to you."
Billy simply nodded his head, and we left them in the clearing as we sprinted for home, hoping that everyone was safe and sound.
The body before me was silent and still. Her final heartbeat was ten minutes ago, but Bella had yet to open her eyes. I'd sat by her side, caressing her smooth, hardened skin and marveling at how different it felt now that it was the same temperature as my own body. My eyes kept focusing on the scars left from my teeth when I'd injected her with my venom. So many wounds, now immortalized on her skin forever. And they didn't even turn her…
Worry buried itself deep in my stomach, tentacles digging in and anchoring to my being. The transformation was complete. I entwined my fingers with hers and pressed my lips to the back of her hand. "Bella, love. Please wake up." Fear gripped me as I waited for a response from her, rendering me immobile.
There was no rise and fall of her chest, no fluttering of her pale eyelids, no movements of her creamy limbs, no sweet scent of her human blood left anywhere. Oh God, what if the venom didn't heal her brain? Somehow my throat tightened and I gasped for air as I began to panic. I let go of her and stumbled away from the bed. She wasn't healed. I killed her. Bella wasn't coming back to me…to us.
A wolf howled in the distance as I punched through the sheet rock wall, needing to hurt something—to destroy everything.
One of the large bedroom windows shattered inward while I'd turned my sorrow and rage on ripping the bathroom door from its hinges. I spun around as the overwhelming scent of vampire permeated the room. I didn't even hear her coming.
"Well, well, well, Edward," Victoria said, keeping close to the gaping maw that used to be a nearly floor to ceiling window. Her beady red eyes were so calculating. "Am I too late to kill your mate?"
I chose to remain silent, instead trying to sift through the crazy thoughts in her mind to see what she might do next as I inched closer to Bella's body.
"What's the matter? Dog got your tongue?" She raised an eyebrow and waited for me to answer.
I didn't take her bait.
"The mongrels thought they could best me, but I took care of them. Their supposedly enhanced sense of smell really isn't their best trait when there's too many fresh trails to follow, especially when they all lead into the same spot." A small smile ghosted her lips, showing a bit of her sharp white teeth.
It shouldn't be possible for me to feel cold, but a shiver traveled down my spine as she looked over Bella's lifeless form. I stepped in front of the bed, blocking her from Victoria as best as I could.
"Some people just aren't meant to be like us, you know." She took two steps towards me, that fake concern upon her face sickening me further. "Some are meant to be nothing more than food."
The mere mention of Bella being only sustenance was the spark to ignite the powder keg inside me. I launched myself at Victoria; her smug, superior expression turning to one of shock right before my shoulders slammed into her stomach.
Victoria was quick to twist and slide out of my grasp when I tried to pin her to the floor. Spinning around on my knees, I reached out and grabbed her calves, pulling her back down as she tried to reach Bella. But she kicked me in the face, breaking my hold on her limbs.
I collapsed to the ground, my left cheek fractured from the force of her foot impacting my eye socket. If only I had the strength to fight to my fullest ability. It had been so long since I'd properly fed. Anger would only get me so far after I'd wasted so much energy busting up this room already.
"Since your girl here…" Victoria said when she reached down and yanked my head up hard by my hair while she stepped on my back. Of course she would fight dirty. "…seems to be dead already. I guess I'll just have to kill you instead." At least we were closer to the door than the bed now where Bella lay, still lifeless.
I struggled to break free and pry her arms away from my neck before she could squeeze tighter. My only wish now as the pressure increased from Victoria's hold was that we were facing Bella so my beloved's face would be the last image I saw as I died. Not wanting to give up, I swept my hands along Victoria's sleeves, trying to find a place to pry her vise-like grip away from head.
Her arms were like pythons going in for the kill, coiling around and around to wait until there was no life left in me. "Stop struggling, Edward. You don't have anything to live for anymore, anyway."
Replying to her wasn't an option because she'd just crushed my larynx, leaving speech impossible. My reactions were sluggish and my body was knitting itself back together at an even slower pace since I was so starved of blood. Lightning bolts of pain raced through my neck as fractures breached the surface of my skin while Victoria continued to squeeze.
Inky darkness invaded the outside corner of my right eye, and soon it had overtaken my eyesight as I wondered where my family was, how I was left alone with no help. I waited for death to come swiftly, but the reaper was taking his time to collect me from this world.
Meanwhile, Victoria was enjoying my death. She found joy in the act of revenge. As she felt the fight drain away from my limbs, her maniacal laughter filled the room. Her jubilant cries decreased in volume when my hearing left just as my vision had deteriorated.
But her sounds were abruptly cut off, followed closely by a piercing metallic noise that marked the tearing of hard vampire skin and muscle, of sinew and bone ripping and shredding forcefully from a vampire's body. The grip of the arms around my neck relaxed a little, and I gasped for the breath I could finally take while my throat started to mend itself. Victoria's decapitated head fell onto the floor next to me with a heavy thud. Red lifeless eyes stared ahead, her mouth still open and turned upward as if laughing.
What the hell just happened?
The hair on the back of my neck stood on end when a small bare foot kicked the head away, embedding it in the wall across the room. I was instinctually scared of this vicious creature, and I didn't make any sudden movements to untangle myself from this headless body lest I meet the same fate as Victoria.
One of the arms still locked around my neck was savagely ripped away and dumped to the floor, followed by the other one. I still couldn't see who was freeing me, but I fled to the other side of the room as soon as I was let go.
I gasped at the sight before me, and I couldn't believe who had come to my aid.
She was awake…and fierce. Her crimson eyes were taking in everything around her, evaluating every little thing in her environment.
"Bella?" My voice was a little hoarse, but it would come back fast. "You saved me."
The hospital gown she wore billowed in the breeze through the open window as she surveyed me now. "For some reason I hate red heads. She needed to be put down."
Bella's voice was different, deeper and silkier, with an edge of steel now. She turned her attention to the forest beyond the gaping hole of a window, and I worried that she would bolt and disappear on me.
"Victoria did need to be killed, but we still have to burn her before she's truly destroyed."
Bella held her arms out in front of her and began to inspect the rest of her transformed body. At least she seemed distracted enough that she wouldn't run from the house. We didn't have much time alone because I could hear the thoughts of my family and her father growing closer. It was only a matter of time before Bella heard their sprinting footsteps. Would she panic or remain calm?
"Do you remember who I am?" I kept my face impassive, but doubt ate at my throat like a million moths trying to escape out my mouth.
She stopped picking at the hospital gown, cleared the quizzical expression off her face, only to stare at me with an intense look. "Of course I do. You smell like home and love...you're mine."
My dead heart swelled in my chest and I smiled then, but I still didn't approach her. Who knew what her unpredictable newborn self was capable of? The pieces of that volatility were scattered around this broken room and awaiting a bonfire.
But I had faith that everything would be all right. Bella stood calm and relaxed, not reacting outwardly hostile as our family and her father gathered on the lawn outside the window. She even smiled when her father waved and said, "Welcome back, Bells."
I thought that everything was going to be just fine, after all. She was one of us now. And she said that I was hers. All was right with the world—at least in my small world, right then.
Just one more chapter to go. In the meantime, I beta'd for