Summary: To love is to sacrifice, and Edward will give it all for Bella. "Where is she, Edward?" a familiar, cold voice asked. "She's gone," I spat. "And you'll never find her." O/S for the ADF "Pain, Tears, Angst" LD weekend contest. ExB/Post-Eclipse AU/canon

A/N: I've been wanting to dabble in AU again, and prompted o/s contests seem to be a great way to get me inspired to do it. LOL. And once again, I have a tortured, canon Edward… *Sigh* Why can't I write happy canon stuff?

Thanks to tiffanyanne3 for the beta and radar1230 for the pre-read.

Disclaimer: This is definitely not the ending that Stephenie Meyer envisioned for her favorite sparkly vamp and his beloved…


Sacrificial Love


Edward

The voices caught me by surprise.

I'd had no warning, and it was now far, far too late for us to run.

"Bella, love?" I called gently.

She appeared instantly, and she was smiling, unaware of the danger. Rushing to her side, I kissed her lightly on the forehead.

"What was that for?" She laughed.

Before I could answer, my phone chirped. I flipped it open.

"Edward…" It was a panicked whisper.

"It's too late, Alice."

"I'm sorry, Edward. So sorry. I didn't see until just now. Why couldn't I see?" she wailed.

"They didn't want us to see. "

"What do we do now?"

For ten years, everything had gone according to plan. The plan had changed a time or two, but life for Bella and me had been good. Better than I ever could have imagined.

During the honeymoon, Bella had decided to stay human for a while longer. We spent a year together at Dartmouth, experiencing college together before her change. Surprisingly, she'd been willing to remain human until we could graduate, but fate had interfered, forcing our hand. We'd been on the run ever since.

And now, it seemed, fate had finally caught up with us.

"Nothing," I finally answered my sister. "There's nothing we can do. It's too late."

I squeezed my eyes shut hoping to hide my panic. It wouldn't do for Bella to see how frightened I was at that moment. I flipped the phone shut and slipped it into my pocket. Squeezing her supple body to mine, I kissed her again.

"Edward? What's wrong? What's happening?" Bella asked, alarm evident in her tone.

Opening my eyes, I looked down at my mate with anguished eyes. "I'm sorry, love. I had no warning—"

My explanation was interrupted by a knock on the door. A firm and determined knock.

"Is it…" Her voice trailed off. She didn't need to finish her question for me to understand what she was asking.

"Yes."

"Let's go—"

"No," I interrupted. Now that their stealth was no longer necessary, my mind was inundated with voices. Too many voices. There would be no escape. Not this time. "It does us no good to run. Not now. They have us outnumbered, love, and they've brought their prized tracker. He's already honed in. He can sense my… disquiet."

She nodded, slipping her arms around my waist.

Early on, we hadn't realized the Volturi's true intentions when it came to Bella. I'd mistakenly thought they would leave us alone once she was turned. But for unchanging creatures such as ourselves, any new… anomaly… was an intrigue. Bella, as a mere human, had been immune to the mental powers of the most powerful of our kind. It had been a taunt, a challenge, a threat to the Volturi. One that they could not leave unattended. For ten years, Aro had been trying to claim her for his own. We hadn't been able to divine the true nature of his desire—did he just want her for his guard, or for more personal reasons—but either way, he was here for her now.

Unless I could stop him.

"It's okay, Edward. We'll deal with them. We'll go to Volterra, and we'll—"

I halted her words with my lips. It was a frantic kiss, yet at the same time the most deliberate that I had ever given her. I worshipped her with my mouth, attempting as best as possible to convey the infinity of my emotions with this one, simple, final gesture.

When I lifted my head, I was glad to find her eyes glazed with desire and love. I only hoped I had distracted her enough. Pulling her into a rough hug, I whispered as quietly as possible into her ear.

"Go, Bella."

She pulled back and looked at me in confusion. "You just said that we—"

Placing a finger against her lips, I once again halted her words. "It's too late for us, love."

Anxiety churned in her golden eyes, and even with the enormous comprehensive capacity of her vampire brain, she still didn't grasp my words. I smiled sadly at her. Ten years ago, I had vowed to love, cherish and protect her. That was what I would now do. It's what I had to do to ensure that she lived on. She had to exist.

Leaning in, I whispered, "But not for you."

Gripping her elbow firmly, I guided her towards the back of the room and opened the secret passageway that we had created just for this purpose, should it arise.

"No!" she cried, comprehension finally dawning.

"It's the only way."

I kissed her once more, then sprung the trap door. It slid silently shut, separating us. A pregnant hush fell, but only for a moment. That silence was brutally broken by another pounding knock. As I crossed the room, a barrage of dialog filled my head. Aro was communicating silently with the tracker, but they were still unaware of what had just happened inside the small cottage. I only hoped that my sacrifice would allow Bella the time she needed to escape.

With a deep—albeit unnecessary—breath, I opened the door.

Even though it was expected, the pain was immediate, and I dropped to my knees, screaming in agony.

"Where is she, Edward?" a familiar, cold voice asked.

I glanced up to find Aro staring at me pointedly. He nodded to the small dark-haired vampire at his side. The pain diminished slightly, enough for me to answer.

"She's gone, Aro," I spat. "And you'll never find her."

"You can't stop me," he cackled, stepping forward with outstretched hand.

I couldn't let him touch me.

Springing forward, I charged the tracker. Catching him off-guard, he reacted defensively, just as I'd anticipated. His hands closed around my neck and jerked reflexively. A smile touched my lips as darkness descended.

"I love you," I whispered, knowing she would hear.

The last thing I heard was Aro's frustrated scream.


A/N: I know, I know… It seems as if someone must die in all of my AU stuff. *sigh* Hopefully, Edward's sacrifice will help to save Bella in this case.

I know this short story probably left a few questions… My pre-reader asked a few that I'll answer here in case you guys are wondering the same thing.

Q: Wouldn't the Volturi be able to track Bella by scent. A: Maybe, if they could find her trail in an open area. But, since E/B live at the cottage, her scent would be completely saturating in/around the house, making it hard to find her.

Q: Won't they follow her in the passage? A: The hidden passage is just that, hidden. So if they could find a way in, yes, they could follow her scent. As constructed, they won't find it easily, if at all (which is the reason Edward had to sacrifice himself before Aro could touch him; if Aro could see into his mind, they'd know where and how to access the doorway to the passage).

Q Why didn't Edward just run for it with Bella? A: Demetri tracks by sensing the tenor of vampire minds. As Edward mentioned to Bella, he'd already locked onto Edward's mind, so it was too late for Edward to run; wherever Edward goes now, Demetri will be able to find him. Bella, on the other hand, is immune to the 'mind tricks' of other vamps, so she can traverse the passageway undetected by the tracker. By staying behind, Edward was planning to distract the Volturi, both with his mind and with his death, in the hope that it would give Bella some time to get away.

Q: Why can't Bella just shield Edward like she did in the book so that they can escape together? A: This story is a post-Eclipse alternate ending. In this world, the events of BD—beyond the wedding and honeymoon—didn't happen (and in fact, were not allowed to even be mentioned per rules of the contest). Instead, Bella, Edward and the rest of the Cullens have been on the run for ten years, constantly moving to stay ahead of the Volturi. Therefore, there has been no intense training for any sort of confrontation. As such, no one has pushed Bella to discover the true extent of her powers, and neither she nor Edward is aware that she can extend her shield to protect others.

Thanks for reading.

KL