Stephenie Meyer owns all TWILIGHT characters.
Thank you to WhatsMyNomdePlume who donated money to Alex's Lemonade Stand via The Fandom Gives Back for this story.
The More I Suffer
Edward twists and turns against the ground, his mouth open in a silent scream, while everyone stares at him in varying levels of shock and amusement. Bella runs toward him but is held back by Alice who knows better than to let a human attempt to save a vampire.
The petite brunette looks over to Aro, a serene smile playing on her lips, and Edward stops writhing against the floor. He is slow to sit up and, in that short span of time, Jane turns her head to face Bella with a wicked curl on her lips.
Red eyes blaze in fury. Bella glances at the other vampires in the room as she tries to understand what is happening. Edward springs to his feet suddenly, much quicker than his previous movements, and he stares at Bella in horror. The girl realizes she should be in pain like Edward just a few moments ago but there is nothing painful happening to her.
Silence sweeps across the room save for the single human's heavy breathing but then Aro claps his hands once in joy. Jane's angelic face morphs into one that shows her anger and she lets out a dangerous warning hiss. Her eyes focus on Bella, whose body stiffens at the realization that this girl hates her, wants to kill her.
Jane continues glaring at Bella though she listens as her Master tries to converse amicably with Edward. She respects Aro completely but, right now, she wants him to get on with the show, wants these intruders out of the city or dead. The preferable choice is the latter one, of course, but she doubts she will have the pleasure of watching a vampire torn apart and burned today.
"So what do we do with you now?" Aro says in a rhythmic lilt. Jane's head turns to him. She's been waiting for this moment. Next to her, Alec grabs her hand in an uncommon show of excitement. "I don't suppose there's any chance that you've changed your mind?"
Edward begins to shake his head but pauses. His eyes, black with hunger, turn to Bella. She reaches a hand up and places it over where his heart should beat and speaks to him with her eyes, with the flutter of her lashes, and a slight opening of her lips. A shudder runs through Edward's body and he closes his eyes, turns his head away from the girl he claims to love.
"No," Alice says suddenly, urgency in her tone. "Edward, no, please, not that, not now."
The smile crosses Aro's lips first. Slowly, the others in the room understand Alice's pleas to her brother, and even Jane is smiling a satisfied grin. Edward's talent is great, powerful, and everything the Volturi Guard needs.
"Swear to me that Bella will be safe," Edward demands. "Swear that she will leave this room unharmed and will remain unharmed for the remainder of her natural years."
"No," Bella whispers at his words. Her fingers curl in the fabric of the robe, tugging one side closer to her so that his chest is no longer showing. "Edward, what are you doing?"
His eyes blink open and he stares at Aro. Determination is present in his face, in the tension of his body. "Swear it."
Aro gives a curt nod, disliking the demand but willing to compromise for the time being. "Of course," he agrees. "Unless she reveals our secret, your Bella shall remain untouched by this guard for the rest of her life." He holds a hand out to Edward. "Is this a welcome, then?"
With a trembling but solid hand, Edward pries Bella's fingers from the robe he wears, and pushes her gently into Alice's arms. He can't look at either of them for fear that he will change his mind and ruin the one chance he has to keep Bella safe.
"Don't do this," Bella cries. "Don't do this, Edward, not after..."
"Yes," Edward says with a note of finality. "I will join you."
"No!" Bella pulls away from Alice and runs, slides to her knees before Aro. "Take me," she pleads. "Let him go. Change me, kill me, just... choose me."
Aro pauses and gazes down at the human before he lifts his head again to meet Edward's eyes. "This is different," he muses.
"No," Edward snaps. His hand is harsh when he grabs Bella's arm, his fingers leaving bruises on her pale skin, and he stares down at her. Her eyes are filled with the beginnings of tears. "Bella," he says her name softly, almost like a prayer, and she lets out a sob. "Bella, go back home."
Again, her hands curl into the open robe. "Edward, I love you," she cries. "I still love you and you're here, you're back. I know you don't love me but please, think about your family and," she cuts herself off and swallows deeply. "We don't have to be together if you don't want it but don't do this. Don't become one of them," she finishes in a whisper. She doesn't care that everyone heard her words. "Edward."
His eyes burn into hers and, after a moment's hesitation, he pulls her against his body and holds her tightly. "You silly girl," he says under his breath. "How could you ever think I didn't love you?"
At the center of attention of the Volturi is not the place to have this conversation but Edward doesn't have a choice.
"What?" Bella's voice is mumbled against his marble chest.
Cold fingers lift her face away and then up to look at him. "Lies, Bella; they were all lies to protect you." She gasps as his words permeate the haze in her mind. "I love you." He leans down to kiss her forehead and shuts his eyes. The significance of his actions is not lost on him, on either of them. It's the same thing he did before he left her in Forks. "And I will do everything in my power to protect you again, Bella, to protect you forever."
"This... Staying here won't protect me," she argues.
"It will," he murmurs. His eyes dart over to Alice, who won't look at him, and who keeps her mind as blank as possible if only so she doesn't see anyone's future. She doesn't want to break down in tearless sobs.
"It won't," she tries again.
The pain is evident in Edward's eyes. Behind the blackness, there is a deep desolation that lurks in his mind, in his entire body. He uncurls her fingers from the fabric for a second time, slowly, painfully.
He needs to do this.
He hands her back to Alice. As he lets go of Bella completely, he whispers, "Be safe."
Alice's arms are tight around Bella. She wants to comfort her friend but she knows that Edward will no longer change his mind. His future is completely changed. Her eyes flicker quickly to Jane, whose eyes practically sparkle in delight at Edward's announcement. For the first time since he stood from Jane's ministrations, Edward moves his gaze to Alice, finding the beginnings of a vision in her head unbelievable. The pictures change quickly until it returns to blackness.
"Felix, lead them back above ground," Aro commands. He beckons a few vampires to his side before he spreads his arms wide. "Let us welcome our newest guard."
Thank you to Sara and Jill for the beta work and buriedalive55 for pre-reading.
Chapter title is a lyric from "Love the Way You Lie" by Eminem featuring Rhianna.