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.
Just Gonna Stand There
Pyres of purple smoke can be seen as the five guards walk through the woods at the edge of Forks, Washington. The smell of burning vampires fills the air. They walk slowly but with purpose. There is no rush for what needs to be done.
Edward stops suddenly and brings a hand up to touch Jane's shoulder. She stiffens but turns her head. What? She asks the question silently and Edward suppresses a grin when he sees the image of their bodies twisted together lurking in the back of her mind.
"We should hurry and get there faster," he says simply.
"Why?" Alec asks sharply. "What do you hear?"
Edward pauses and listens closely. It's been a while since these particular voices have filled his mind but it's easy to find them and latch on to all of their thoughts.
"They have others," he says in a low voice. "They're trying to leave. Run. Now."
The five of them speed up, still keeping formation until they are close enough to smell a horrible stench that no one can place. Frantic voices sound loudly and Jane halts the four men with spread arms.
"They're here." Edward recognizes Alice's voice and shuts his eyes tightly for a brief moment. When he opens them again, Jane is staring at him, questions dancing in her crimson gaze. He gives her a curt nod and they walk from the woods to a field trodden down from what could only be a fight.
Edward steels himself as he sees his former family for the first time in months. He knows they once tried to return to Italy to "save" him but Aro put a stop to that quickly and warned Carlisle that their friendship and understanding wouldn't be enough to stop a war if they returned.
Esme stares at Edward and he's sure she would be crying if she could. Both Alice and Jasper stare at him in shock and anger. They know more than the others regarding the type of vampire he is now. Rosalie refuses to look at him and Emmett stands next to her though he tries to catch Edward's gaze.
Edward, my son.
What have you done?
He's different. He's changed.
You were my brother. Now, I don't know what you are.
Is this truly your life now?
Filthy bloodsucker's back.
Edward's head whips to the side and he sees Jacob Black lying on the ground, trembling in pain. Next to him, Bella is kneeling in the grass. Her hands are on Jacob but her eyes are focused on Edward. Her breath is coming out in gasps at the sight of him.
"Edward." Bella's voice saying his name causes a plethora of emotions to race through him.
Before he can assess his emotions, Jane calls his name. "Edward." He turns and notes the differences between her voice and Bella's. Jane nods toward a young teenager, a newborn with bright red eyes. "They saved one."
"What is your name?" Edward asks as he stares at her. When she doesn't answer immediately, Jane lets out a soft growl and then the girl is screaming as she falls onto her back. Her body writhes against the dirt and grass. After a few moments, Edward turns his head slightly. "Jane."
Her face turns to face Edward and the corners of her mouth pull up into a smirk. She turns to the girl. "Your name?" she asks.
As Jane interrogates the girl, Edward lets his gaze move from vampire to vampire. Their minds are carefully cloaked from him so he knows there is a secret being kept. He makes a motion with his hand behind his back and Demetri steps up toward him. In a low murmur, he asks, "They weren't alone."
Demetri steps back and surveys the area. There are unfamiliar tracks on the ground and the smell that permeates the air is slowly fading. Demetri's thoughts are loud as he tells Edward that he is uncertain of whom or what helped the Cullens but that there was something other than vampires present.
When there is a lull in the conversation, Edward speaks up. "Who helped you?"
Carlisle turns his head from Jane to Edward; his face is a careful mask of indifference. "No one," he says calmly. "The six of us split up to take everyone down."
Edward moves his head to stare at Bella and Jacob. "And these two just happened to walk by?" He walks slowly over to them and crouches down. Jacob stares up at him, a sneer on his mouth, but he stays silent. He brings a hand up to Bella's face and caresses her cheek. "Were you just unlucky today, Bella?" he asks in a smooth voice. "Or did the Cullens have help?"
It doesn't escape her notice that he says Cullens as though they are beneath him. "Please," she whispers. It's all she can say to him. "Don't."
The Pack shouldn't have left. We could have killed them.
Edward's gaze moves to Jacob then back to Bella. There is only one reason to mention a "pack" of any sort. Bella lifts a hand slowly, carefully, and places a palm on Edward's arm. The fabric of his jacket is rough but she holds on like her life depends on it.
"Please," she says again. "He's all I have left now."
He hears what she doesn't say aloud and argues with himself. There are wolves here, werewolves that the Volturi should know about, but Bella is looking at him with hurt and sadness in her eyes.
He stands up and walks back to his fellow guards. "Neither of them knows what happened," he says blandly.
Jane watches him carefully but Edward's face is stoic. She nods. "Take care of her, Edward," she commands, making a gesture towards the girl. "I'd like to go home."
Like a sleek panther, Edward walks toward Bree, ignoring the looks on his former family's faces. Bree stares up at him with bright red eyes that beg him not to do it. He stares down at her for a moment and wonders briefly how she would have fared had the Cullens hidden her away sooner.
He places his hands on either side of her face when he crouches down. He leans in and whispers into her ear so no one else can hear. "This is a better outcome than becoming a Cullen." He pulls back and twists her head off. A loud screech fills the air and then a heavy silence surrounds them. Picking up her headless body, Edward pulls her limbs away from her torso and piles them together. He undoes the top two buttons of his coat and reaches into the inner pocket to retrieve a lighter. He flicks it once and throws it atop the marble-like pieces that once made up Bree.
Without a second glance, he turns and walks back to the Volturi.
"Edward, wait." He pauses at the sound of Bella's voice again. She runs up to him even when the others shout at her to stop. She stares up at him, this vampire that she once loved, still loves, and tears gather in her eyes. "Thank you for saving me," she manages to say. Jane scoffs in the background. "I want you to know that." She takes a deep breath. "And I want you to know that I love you." Her voice cracks on the final three words.
Edward merely looks down at her. He doesn't say anything, can't say anything. Instead, he turns his back on Bella, on the other members of the Cullen family, and slides his palm against Jane's so that their hands are interlocked.
And Watch Me Burn
Thank you to 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.