Hi, again. I forgot to mention in my last post that I wrote a bit more about Beni, Edward and Alice's sire, in A Dove's Cry outtake called Hidden. Link on my profile, if you're interested in learning a bit more about his creepiness ;)

Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight.


Chapter 34

So far gone I won't ever stop
For all that I am, for all that I'm not
So far gone the edge I'm on
I see it now, oblivion
"Ablivion" – UNKLE

Where am I?

I opened my eyes, struggling to get my bearings. Green all around ... trees and brush... snatches of light cutting through the gloom, everything flashing past in a blur. Somehow, I was moving fast, though my feet weren't on the ground. It felt like flying.

The chill hit me next and a sweet, familiar smell like fresh leaves and burnt sugar. I felt stone under and around me, icy cold where it touched my body. The stone cradled me.

"Edward?" The word tore across my throat, making me swallow hard and wince.

There was a low, musical hum beside me—above me, maybe—and a shockwave jolted through my body at the sound and the sudden realization that I was being held ... no, I was being carried. With effort, I forced my head to the left, changing my line of vision. Cold sweat broke over my skin as I looked into a beautiful, white face and scarlet eyes that seemed to bore right through me.

"No," I breathed.

For a long moment, the man holding me watched me with indifference—even boredom before he slowly faced forward again, his face expressionless. As if I was nothing.

Darkness curled at the edges of my vision, pressing down on me and stealing my breath. I gasped, unable to get enough air as my body shook with terror. I clenched my eyes shut, trying to escape the terrifying beauty of the red-eyed man, and I let out a strangled cry when he uttered a low curse.

I welcomed the darkness as it settled over me again.

aDc

"No!"

A hoarse scream cut through the air and pain seared my throat. I scrambled to sit up, every nerve in my body jangling with fear as I struggled to focus on my surroundings. Squinting, I made out walls and weak, grey light coming in through a dirty window. Outside of my ragged breaths it was quiet, and I quickly realized that the floating sensation and stone arms I'd felt before were absent. I moved my hands, shivering in the chilled air as I felt out the edges of some kind of hard bed, and my heart leapt when I spotted a lantern close to the ground only a few feet away.

The shadows to the right of the lantern seemed to move then, almost folding in on themselves. The subtle, unearthly movement made my eyes bulge and a wave of panic crashed through me. Thoughtlessly, I threw myself off the bed, desperate to get away. My limbs did not cooperate and my knees buckled, dumping me on the floor with a crash. I gasped when a sharp pain shot through my ankle, and then held my breath as a chuckle curled like smoke out of the shadows.

"Careful," the man said in a voice like a lovely, low purr as he stepped closer. His eyes glittered in the low light, sending heat flashing under my skin, even as my stomach clenched in fear. "Mustn't hurt yourself," he murmured.

A small smile graced his face as he took another step, making my body scream with alarm. My mind raced, trying to understand what was happening and how I had come to be there, but everything was jumbled.

"Who ... w-w-where am I?" I stuttered, swallowing hard when the man's smile became wolfish. "Wh-who are you?"

"I am Legion," he said mockingly, stepping forward again. "For we are only."

I opened my mouth, unsure of what words would come out, but let out a cry instead when the man in blurred and seemed to vanish. Before I could blink, he was in front of me, his teeth snapping an inch away from my right cheek and his burnt-sugar smell filling my nose and throat.

I closed my eyes, chasing the darkness while my scream echoed in my ears. This time, oblivion did not come. I curled in on myself, pulling my legs into my chest with my arms, and pressed my face to my knees.

Edward's voice came to me suddenly, murmuring words that shaped themselves around the images that were burned into my memory. I knew who the red-eyed man was.

aDc

I must have dozed, or maybe my brain shut down when the fear and stress became too much to bear. A violent jerking pulled me into awareness so abruptly that I cried out, and then cringed at the cold hand on my arm.

"On your feet, little thing," the man said, his low voice seductive and terrible. "It won't be long now, I think."

"What does that mean?" I rasped. "Where are you taking me?"

"We're not going anywhere," he replied, then moved so suddenly my brain swirled with confusion.

I blinked, my body shuddering when I realized we were standing outdoors. Shafts of moonlight fell through the trees overhead, and I stared disbelievingly at the outside of a house that I had been inside not a moment before. A low whine sounded in my throat as I struggled to process the change, and I would have sagged to the ground if not for the hard hands holding me up.

"Why are you doing this?" I mumbled, gritting my teeth to keep myself from falling apart.

"I don't need a reason to do anything." An awful smile played at the corners of the man's mouth, sending a sudden flare of temper through me.

"Then why bring me here?" I demanded, my anger growing as his smile widened. "If you're going to bite me, then what the hell are you waiting for?"

My mouth fell open when the man's head fell back and he began to laugh. Like everything about him, the sound was beautiful and terrifying, and somehow worse than any word he could have said. I raised my hands to my ears to block him out, all the while fighting the urge to step closer.

Dear God, what is he?

Not once in all the times I had been close to Edward or his family had I felt as close to danger as I did in the presence of the man with the red eyes. Not even when Edward had nearly succumbed to his bloodlust or when Alice had attacked me.

"I know what you are!" I blurted without meaning to, swallowing hard when the man fell silent and licked his lips.

"And what is that?" he asked, his teeth shining even in the dim light.

I shook myself angrily, trying to fight off the terror I felt. "You're a vampire."

"I'm a killer," the man corrected, his smile becoming almost gentle. He raised a hand, letting one cold finger trail along the side of my neck, and sighed longingly when I shuddered. "Just as you are meat."

My fear exploded. Adrenaline slammed through me forcefully, jolting me in to a state of hyper-awareness. Everything seemed clearer, louder, and more intense, and I heard myself hyperventilating as my body struggled to get more oxygen.

The vampire at my side grew very still. His eyes fixed on the woods beyond the little house, growing wide and searching. "There," he breathed at last, his voice so soft I nearly missed it.

Turning my head, I followed the vampire's line of vision, straining to see through the gloom. Long moments later, my mouth fell open when several figures streaked out of the woods and into the little house, their steps far too fast and quiet to be human. Tears burned my eyes as I guessed who it could only be: Edward and the other Cullens.

Oh, God, no.

In a flash, I understood why the red-eyed man hadn't killed me yet: I was bait. I gasped, my breath hitching painfully in my chest when the man stepped in front of me, nearly blocking my view of the house. Before I could speak, the figures were on the porch again, and more movement at the edge of the woods caught my eye, the two groups joining together and stopping a short distance away.

The vampire in front of me stepped forward, waving me on with one hand. I forced myself to follow, wincing when the ache in my right ankle made me stumble. My eyes locked on the tall, slim figure in the center of the group, my heart pounding painfully when I heard a low snarl. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up as Edward's face twisted in the moonlight, his rage both beautiful and terrifying to see. The gentle man I loved was gone, leaving something fierce and hard behind.

"What do you want?" Edward's cold voice made my heart ache and tears sting my eyes.

"Everything," his sire replied in a deep crooning voice. "Nothing."

Edward's face went blank. His eyes widened as he stared at his sire, and his lips curled in grimace that spoke of devastating pain. My heart broke for the boy I loved as I stepped forward, wanting only to comfort him if I could.

In a flash, the red-eyed man's hands were on me, dragging me toward him with a force that made me gasp. I stumbled and slid in his grasp, crying out as he reached down to gather me up again, and the air exploded with snarls and growling screams. I thought I heard laughter. I know I heard my own screams.

I blinked when I hit the ground, and struggled to get free of the hard arms caging me. Something like fire brushed my neck, and I sucked in a deep breath, my body going rigid with an exquisite pleasure that exploded into pain. The heat touched my forearm. My hand. My shoulder. My cheek. A blaze raced under my skin and into my blood, drying my tears.

Burning.

As if from far away, I felt myself fall, and the touch of something cool on my face and neck.

"Oh, Bella," a lovely, sad voice said, the words fading against the roar in my ears.

Someone screamed.

Heat and fear tore through me, licking at my skin, inside my nose and eyes, burning my mouth and throat. My lungs, heart, head, soul, all charred. There was no sight, no taste, no smell, no breath. Only fire.

~aDc~

I watched Bella burn for three days.

She tossed and writhed on the cot in the little house, her throat too raw to scream though she continued to try. Her dark eyes stared sightlessly as she sobbed, and she gripped my hands with a fierceness that surprised me.

"What can I do?" I begged, knowing that no one had an answer. "I can't watch her like this—"

"Comfort her, just as you have been doing," Carlisle said gently. "Speak to her. Make sure she knows she's not alone."

"I don't know if she can she hear me." I turned to look at the girl on the cot, my stomach roiling when she shuddered and cried out. "Nothing I say to her seems to make a difference."

"It's possible she can't hear you," Carlisle admitted, his face falling when he saw my disappointment. "Everyone's change is different. Some of us are aware as we change, while others seem overwhelmed by the pain and fear. You were coherent, in a sense, Edward; you knew you were not alone, though you had no idea who we were. You asked us to help you. You had some awareness of who you were through the pain."

"So much of what I remember is tied up in fire," I replied, staring hard into Carlisle's golden eyes. "I could see you and the others, and I knew you were reassuring me, telling me it would be all right ... I was hurting too much for it to matter what you were saying, but I knew you were there. "

"I think Bella knows your here," Alice murmured, drawing closer. "I'm sure she draws comfort from your touch, even if she can't tell you so." My sister's eyes were sad when I met her gaze. I knew she was thinking of her own change, burning and alone in a hole under the ground.

Jasper stepped forward, looking at the girl on the cot and then to me with sympathy before he laid a gentle hand on Alice's shoulder. "Try lying down with her, Edward. The pain of the burning is too intense to go away entirely, but your cold skin might give her some small relief or comfort, as Alice said."

A second passed as Jasper's words registered, and then I was on my feet. "Anything," I breathed. Alice stepped closer, helping me to gently tear Bella's parka apart and away from her body, exposing more of her slim frame.

"We could undress her," Alice thought, pursing her lips regretfully when I l frowned. "I'm sure the others won't mind waiting outside. Emmett and Jas are already out most of the time anyway, watching the woods for—"

"No," I said as I climbed onto the cot. Part of me knew that Alice was right; if my cold skin gave Bella any comfort, removing her clothes seemed sensible. The other part of me was very aware of how difficult it would be for Bella to be undressed in a room full of people ... the human Bella I had known, at any rate. "Let's see how it goes; we don't even know if she can feel me holding her."

After hesitating for a moment, I pulled my sweater and shirt over my head and Settled down, drawing Bella into my arms. I held my breath when she stiffened and gasped, and tried not to listen to the others' thoughts bouncing around in my head. Their worries and concerns for Bella were mirrored by my own.

Is she strong enough to get through this?

How will she bear losing her family?

What happens if she doesn't want to stay with us after the change?

What If she doesn't want me?

Breathing deeply, I closed my mind to the others, concentrating only on the girl beside me. It was obvious Bella was still in pain, senselessly burning along every inch of her body. My touch seemed to make her less frantic, though, and her rigid posture began slowly to relax. Her screams softened to moans and her flailing movements lessened. She seemed to murmur, and pain knifed through me when I thought I heard my name.

"I'm sorry." The ache spread through me as she trembled. "I never meant for this to happen, sweetheart. If I'd had any idea that he would follow us here, I swear that I would have done anything to protect you."

My throat tightened, making my voice croaky as I continued talking. The others in the room withdrew to give us what limited privacy there was, but I paid them no mind. My pride no longer mattered. The hopes I'd slowly been building for some sort of existence with a human girl called Bella Swan were gone. I felt empty. Stripped bare. Weak.

Bella's face burned against my chest as she twitched and groaned. "I never should have approached you in that music store, Bella, or looked into your life. I knew that I was being selfish by pursuing you and I'll never be able to tell you how sorry I am. Especially because I know that if I could go back and do it over, I don't think I'd be able to stop myself from doing it all over again."

Pressing my lips to Bella's forehead, I drew her a little closer. I knew what she would say if she could: that I had helped her. I had saved her from being traumatized in Seattle, and even given her a strange kind of justice against James Chase. I knew, too, that without Bella, I almost certainly would have never found Alice. And that together, Bella and I had found love.

"You deserve better than this, Bella." I sighed, fighting to keep myself from despairing altogether. "I'll find some way to make it up to you ... to give you more, I promise. Just ... please, come back to me, Bella. I love you."

We lay together, Bella and I, each of us more shattered than ever before as the hours passed and her body slowly died to be reborn. I thought that if a dead heart could break, mine surely had.

aDc

"Please don't make me call Bella's father," I whispered when Carlisle knelt by the side of the cot.

"You must," he replied quietly. "I understand how difficult it is for you to leave Bella, but it can be done in just a few minutes." Carlisle nodded when I turned to meet his eyes. "I had to go to the hospital for a shift last night. I went back to the house in Port Angeles this morning after work to get one of the satellite phones. Rosalie has also brought back some things for Bella."

"Things?"

"Changes of clothes." He shrugged with one shoulder. "Other things to make Bella comfortable when her change is complete."

Carlisle frowned, his expression becoming troubled. "Rose didn't dare to go to the Swan's house to find something of Bella's that might be more personal; we're afraid something like that would be missed by her family ..."

"Bella doesn't have anything with her." My forehead furrowed with the realization. "No bag or wallet with ID ... it must be back in La Push with her truck ... perhaps still in the water."

Carlisle sighed. "Yes. Bella has, for all intents and purposes, disappeared. Without the possibility of leaving fingerprints after her change, it will be as though she never existed from this point on."

"Like Alice and me." I swallowed as I looked down at the girl tossing fitfully beside me.

"Like all of us," Carlisle agreed gently. "Ghosts."

aDc

The days and nights passed with excruciating slowness, each minute running into the next without end. I knew that some of the others came and went, checking in to work or school as they needed, while Jasper and Alice stayed behind, keeping vigil with me.

Bella's skin grew paled and hardened, the roses in her cheeks fading. Her hair seemed almost to lengthen, while her apparently unseeing eyes grew darker, becoming almost black before they clenched closed and stayed that way. She was painfully lovely as she died.

I held her, listening to her stubborn heart labor and talking quietly while she struggled. I told her about my time with the Cullens, and the histories of the family. Each day, I forced myself to call the Forks Police Department, and listened with pity to Charlie Swan describe the mystery of Bella's disappearance.

"I'm sorry, Chief Swan," I told him on the third evening. I was aware that I had interrupted his monologue, but I couldn't bear the sadness in his deep voice any longer. "I'm so sorry that this happened."

Charlie was silent for a long moment before he cleared his throat. "Thank you, Edward. I wish I could tell you what happened, or why we can't find her—"he paused when his voice wavered and he spoke more softly when he continued. "Witnesses saw the truck go into the water and the divers found her wallet and phone, and what looks like the strap from her bag. But ... she's just gone, Edward."

I closed my eyes, pressing the fingers of my free hand against my forehead. "Is there anything I can do, sir? For you or for Bella's mother?"

"No," Charlie said with a long sigh. "There's not much that can be done but try to understand what the hell happened. Renee and Phil flew up last night. They felt better being here, even if there's nothing they can do. It's too bad Bella can't see us together again, finally," he said bitterly.

"Bella loves you," I replied at once, biting my lip at the slip I knew Charlie would notice but forgive. "She did, I mean; you and her mom, and her step-dad."

"I know she did. As many mistakes Renee and I made with Bella, we loved her too." Exhaustion was clear in Charlie's voice, and I wondered if that was made his usual shyness drop away. "I hope ... I hope she knew that."

I'll make sure she knows, I promised him silently.

aDc

Esme's face was sympathetic when I walked back into the house. She took my hand in hers as I approached the bed where Carlisle and Alice were keeping watch.

"How is Bella's father, Edward?" Esme asked quietly.

"I think he's still in shock." I shook my head. "He's trying to grieve, but I can't help thinking he's holding out hope that Bella will be found alive and well somehow."

"That's to be expected." Carlisle gave me a meaningful look. "It will take time for Bella's family to accept that they lost her so suddenly. Not being able to lay her to rest slows the process too."

I nodded, remembering all too well how difficult it had been for me to accept Alice's disappearance. "Charlie and Renee are planning to hold a memorial service at some point. Probably in a month or two. That's their way of saying goodbye, I think. Charlie told me I am welcome to attend."

Esme reached out to brush her fingers against mine in comfort. "I think it would be lovely if you did, Edward."

My attempt to smile fell flat when Bella gasped loudly. I stiffened when the sound of her heartbeat changed, increasing in both speed and volume.

"It's time," Carlisle murmured, the words hardly out of his mouth before I heard the others gathering on the porch outside. I met Carlisle's eyes, my throat tightening with anxiety, and swallowed hard when he nodded. "The change is nearly complete."

We could do nothing but stand frozen as Bella's heartbeat grew faster and louder, thrumming like a bird's. Her gasping breaths echoed through the little house, and sadness pulsed through me as I realized that they would be her last.

I drew as close as I dared, kneeling by the cot just as Bella's heart screamed to a stop. She froze, her last breath and heartbeat melting into the air. A crushing silence followed, stretching on for what felt like far too long. My fingers twitched, reaching carefully toward the figure on the bed, and pausing when she stirred.

Bella's eyes snapped open, shining with ruby brightness as they moved over the room, and I inhaled sharply as they locked on mine.

"Bella." My voice was the barest whisper, pitched low for the sensitive ears of a newborn vampire, but still her eyes widened in surprise.

There was a blur of movement a second before I was thrown through the air. I hit the wall with a crunch, aware of the sound of glass shattering and other low voices calling out in warning. In a flash, I was on my feet and out the door, sprinting through the woods after Bella as she fled.


A/N

O.O

I'll be back soon, I promise. Next chapter should be the final regular chapter, and then there may be an epilogue-y thing.

Note:

Beni is misquoting The Gospel of Mark, 5:9, when he introduces himself to Bella: And He (Jesus) asked him (the man), "What is thy name?" And he answered, saying, "My name is Legion: for we are many."