AN ~ HELLO! Yes, I'm still alive! Hopefully my Stars readers know that – I haven't been quite so negligent with that. HOW AWESOME was BD2 btw?!

Anyway I'm SO SORRY I took so long with this update, I was stuck for time and for inspiration (as some of you may have noticed, by muse has been slightly preoccupied with Doctor Who) but the point is, it's here now! Thank you SO MUCH those of you who have stuck with me, I am so grateful for your support and your forgiveness, and I hope you have liked and continue to like this story! Extra long one today! It's approaching its end though – only one, maybe two chaps to go after this.

In my gratitude and apology, I will write a oneshot for anyone who asks on Twilight, Bones, Castle, NCIS, or of course Doctor Who. In less than a fortnight from the ask. I promise!

Ok, done sucking up now:

Previously...

The Volturi arrived, attacked everybody, and ended up killing Charlie before disappearing. Victoria met a grisly end at the hands (or rather, claws) of the amorous Jacob Black, but it was too late for Bella and she was changed. Following this, there was a frightful incident where she escaped the Cullens and attacked the hospital, only to (thankfully) prove her outstanding sense of self control by getting to the blood bank before anything too serious happened.

But a close call is a close call, and with vampire-werewolf relations becoming increasingly tense, it's time for the Cullens to leave Forks.

EDWARD POV

Chapter Twenty:

Though she was the least willing to leave, Bella was first in the car when the time at last came. Four days had passed since her rampage, and she had not come out of her sullen mood for more than a few minutes at a time. Thankfully, none of the others looked at her strangely for it, or acted overly kind. They all understood what she was going through on a level that Bella herself could not comprehend: all she knew was that as Rose and Emmett hurried to finish packing and drive off while Esme and Carlisle lingered, staring up at their house over the top of Carlisle's Mercedes, that they were saying goodbye just as much for her as for themselves.

Bella stared absently out the window, at a small crack in the porch step, as she felt the Volvo's engine bubble to life and the car begin to roll forward.

"I'm sorry," she murmured when at last the crack – and the house – was out of sight.

"We know, Bella," I assured her, trying to shut out the edges of resentment on the thoughts of some of my family; they did not mean to hold this against her, not even Rosalie, but they were deeply hurt, so it was inevitable. "We're sorry too. I'm sorry. It should not have been like this."

Bella almost laughed. "Like this? Edward, you would not have been happy if we had gotten married and you had changed me yourself."

"Hey," I could not stop myself growling, shocked and offended at her over simplistic judgement of my feelings. "Bella, I love you, okay? And yes, I would have liked to save your immortal soul but clearly Victoria – and maybe God, if you believe Carlisle – has other plans for you; for us. Whatever those are, I am glad you're alive...to whatever extent that applies to us. Don't you ever, for one moment, think that I am not happy with you, Ms Swan."

Bella smiled, comforted by this even though she still had plenty of doubts. Picking uncertainly at a loose thread on her jeans – a habit she had not been able to break though I was sure she knew she would likely destroy the pants before the journey was over – she took a deep breath and gushed out another proposal:

"IwannaseeJake."

"What?" I snorted. It was a ridiculous idea. My fingers tightened their grasp of the steering wheel, and I considered what words may convey how much trouble we would potentially put ourselves in to aquiesce her request. Having teamed up against Victoria might have purchased us some allowance, but none of us wanted to risk it. Jasper was already warning me, in fact.

"I want to see Jake," Bella repeated more slowly, as though I had misheard even though she knew that was impossible. "I have to see him, Edward. Please? He's my best friend and he's the only one from my old life who knows anything about all of this. He's...he's the only one from my old life left."

She turned her melancholy eyes to look at me, and I fixed his eyes straight ahead for a long, drawn-out moment. I could not look into those eyes; they were not quite her eyes. Not yet. They were still a fraction too wild, too bloodthirsty. Besides, she was asking me as Jacob's Bella, and the instant he saw those eyes, he would know everything. He would try to kill us – and through the simple exploitation of Carlisle's own pen and ink, be justified in his attempt.

But Bella knew that, or at least she acknowledged that the bonds between vampire and wolf kind were forged from instinctive enmity that she could not hope to solve, and that according to them, she was their friend no longer. She was not even human; not even animal. She was a monster, to be forever abhorred if not killed. If she was willing to risk that, to face that, I could not bring myself to contradict her. Resigned, I sighed.

"This is a really stupid idea," I repeated.

"I know," Bella insisted. "Please?"

.o.o.o.

BELLA POV

Edward growled, cursing the universe but unable to back out on his decision. With a little more ferocity than necessary, he kicked the car back a gear and braked in time to whip around an approaching corner. Behind us, Carlisle's Mercedes skidded and fought his sudden change of instruction, but soon was following them once more as Edward's cell began to ring from the cup holder closest to him. He picked it up and I was reminded for a chilling moment of La Push. Briefly, I found a part of myself wishing he would watch the road a little more carefully, even though it no longer passed at such a dizzying speed as it had when I was human.

"Edward, what are you doing?" A tinny bastardisation of Carlisle's voice came through the cell's speaker. "We should not go over there. We MUST not. I know we have not broken any rules yet, but this is one! They need no more reason to attack us."

"Bella just wants to say goodbye," Edward explained, in a voice strangely calm considering how fast he was driving, and how strained his neck muscles were.

"You are putting everyone in danger," Carlisle warned. "Turn around NOW."

"I cannot."

Edward flipped the phone closed and tossed it into the back seat. I probably should have felt guilty, but as the Blacks' humble home came into sight – and approaching quickly – I became rather more absorbed in the joy and sorrow of seeing, and of farewelling, the final fragment of my human life. The constant, quiet presence in that life; the one who had always tried to protect me, I realised now, right from before I had known about Edward and his family. Jacob's attempts were in the most part misguided, sure, but a secret compartment of me somewhere deep down loved him for the fact that he had tried; loved him for having loved me. And for his graciousness regarding my total lack of acknowledgement of his affections this whole time: I'd had a lot of time to think about this moment in the last few days, and though I could not be sure of exactly how deeply his feelings for me ran, I had to be glad for Jacob's maturity, essentially, in giving me up.

Then again, I thought with a choked gulp as Edward's Volvo pulled up in front of the house, perhaps he did not have a choice. I was a vampire now after all; it's not as though we had a chance even if I wanted us to.

"Well?" Edward prodded. The engine was still clicking as it cooled. Both his hands were wrapped tightly around the steering wheel, his whole body tense. I heard the Mercedes pull in behind us, but I could not get out of the car. I glared at the door of Jacob's little house with such an intense gaze that I was almost surprised it didn't burst into flames; yet, there it sat, perfectly happy not to assist in any way in my attempt to work up enough courage – or guilt, or even rage – to face Jake.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, the door opened. Inside, Billy hurried out of the way as a raging Jacob flew down the hall and out onto the mud and grass, looking about ready to tear the Volvo to shreds with his bare hands.

"Jacob, stop!" Billy ordered in a deep voice, rolling out of the house after his son. Jacob obeyed immediately, though he was still staring Edward down and his heart still pumping fast enough to phase on the slightest trigger. I shot out of her seat and stood in a defensive crouch in front of the car, blocking Edward, Esme and Carlisle from Jacob's wrath.

"What are you doing here?" Jacob demanded in a snarl. His ferocity surprised me, though I should have been expecting it, but the predator in me told me to fight rather than flee: I strengthened my position.

"Jacob, calm down," I insisted, yelling to get through to him even though I was unavoidably acutely aware of our highly tense audience. "I came to say goodbye. We're leaving, okay?!"

This seemed to take some of the fire out of his blood. His shoulders lowered slightly, though they remained tense. His eyes flickered to Billy, whose expression was stony and harsh, but whose eyes were glistening as he internally fought over what to make of Bella Swan: Vampire. She was dangerous, she was no longer herself...and yet, she was. She was still so much like Bella. I could see the conflict in his eyes, and even moreso in Jake's, and I couldn't tell which one of us it hurt more.

.o.o.o.

EDWARD POV

After a moment, Billy shifted his eyes to Carlisle, and though the vampire faced him off with an equally powerful expression, he knew the man was burning inside. Carlisle had proven himself to be more relatable, more human, than the werewolves would have liked. I almost smiled at that: along with their conflict over Bella's transformation, this made their stance towards us much less solid. No friendship was going to spring up any time soon, but it was looking increasingly likely that we would get out of here after all.

But Billy's next thought was of Charlie, and the harsh resolve of their engrained perception of reality set in. These people were not people. They had taken Isabella from her father, and then him from her, and from all of his friends. The Clearwaters were at his house, sorting through his things and...arranging a funeral.

"I'm sorry," I said quietly. Jacob growled under his breath.

"What?" Bella asked, glancing over her shoulder at me. "What's going on?"

"They're organising a funeral for Charlie. I don't think we picked a good time, Bella."

"Stay out of our heads," Jacob snarled.

"Jake," Billy warned, rolling forward so that he was closer to us than was his son. He was a brave man: he still honestly believed that one of us attacking him was a possibility. But he was certain it would not be Carlisle, and it was my father in no small part who inspired the Quileute's next words. "Give them the chance to leave. That's all they want to do."

There was a long moment of near-silence, filled only by the huff of Jacob's loaded breaths, and the thudding of hearts...and then, far off but rapidly approaching, the footsteps of more wolves.

"Esme, get in the car," Carlisle murmured. Esme frowned, unsure what purpose that would achieve since she would run faster without it, but followed instructions – only to realise a moment later, as though they were connected, that he intended this to be a peace offering. It was risky. The vehicle would impede Esme, if only for a moment – but if the wolves were allowed to get close enough, a moment was all they would need.

"Faster!" Jacob shouted into the air. The wolves heard him, and passed the message around, and surged forward.

"Jacob," Carlisle began, stepping forward – though he was still shielded and distanced from the Quileutes by the Volvo. "Jake, please. They'll kill us."

Jacob howled with rage and agony, and a russet-brown wolf taller than any of us replaced his form, snarling viciously, his eyes baring straight into mine, daring me to speak. He contemplated attacking Esme, and I bore my teeth – not out of fear, as he was outnumbered and would not risk such a thing, but out of rage that he dare pretend it.

Before I could speak proper, though, screeching brakes created an ear-piercing din and a moment later, Alice and Jasper's car careened into sight, only to pull up askew beside the Mercedes and leap out of their vehicle so fast the doors almost fell off. They were joined a tenth of a second later by Rose and Emmett, on foot.

"Esme, get out of the car," Jasper ordered, dashing up to Carlisle's side. Esme did not hesitate – not because she had questioned the rightfulness of her husband's original request, but because she wanted to be with her family in this trying time. Already, her mind was battling the concept that she would likely have to fight, and potentially kill, our attackers, who were but children in reality. Part of her detested the fact, but she could not wholly despise that she loved her own family more; that she was prepared to do this if necessary.

I felt Bella brush her hand against mine, and I quietly took it. She looked up at me forlornly, as though she simply could not understand what had happened to her old friends.

"Why won't they stop?" It was almost a whimper. She had not had time to learn about the treaty, the line, any of the history between our two species. She had no idea of the depth to which these hostilities ran, or what it meant that they had been thrown into question by her unique situation. She, like them, was only a child.

I scooped Bella towards myself, hugging her to my chest, and though I felt Jacob's rage grow, I could not repress the expression of my emotion. I might only have a few more seconds.

"Jacob," Billy growled.

And in the forest, all the shouting between the wolf minds softened to a dull murmur, and the racing footsteps and cracking vegetation turned into a soft and unrushed padding through undergrowth. And then two of them, the two closest, transformed into their human shapes and emerged from the trees.