The pain was indescribable.
Sharp tendrils of fire licked his skin from inside, reaching every corner of his body. His lungs were still aching from the smoke he had inhaled, and he was sure that if at any point the fire would stop burning, the ache in his lungs would cause them to cease to function, and his life would end.
But it didn't.
The fire continued. The burning went on and on.
He screamed and thrashed, and one word echoed through his mind.
What would happen to her after he died? He had set up all of his accounts with her as the beneficiary, and her financial needs would be met. At least that was certain.
But the last thing Edward ever wanted to do was leave her. He had promised her that he never would.
She had already suffered huge losses in her life, and they had scarred and changed her. This loss could be too much. The end of her.
His mind circled the issue over and over as he was paralyzed by the pain. His heart seized with the fire, and with the knowledge of what this was going to do to the person he loved most in the world. Nothing else touched him through the all-encompassing fire.
'He's not relaxing. The venom should be nearly finished, but his body is still writhing, his screams haven't stopped. Maybe I did something wrong.'
'Who is Bella?'
'What did Alice see? Why did Carlisle do this to our family?'
"What?" Edward asked through clenched teeth, his eyes still closed against the fiery heat in his body, which was now centering in his chest.
"Edward," a male voice said, "It's okay. I'm here to help you."
But nothing was okay. His heart was stuttering in his chest. It beat and the flames roared again, stopping it for a few seconds.
His heart beat again. More fiery pain. A pause. Another beat. Crushing pain. Screams. Nothing moved in his chest for several seconds. A slow, painful beat and fire licking his chest. His fingers, clenching the bed beneath him, coming away with fabric and stuffing.
"It's almost over," a woman's voice said. "Where should we be?"
'Would he hurt them? He'll be strong.'
"Stay downstairs in case he panics. Jasper and Emmett can help me."
He could hear the sounds of feet moving, but he couldn't concentrate on the noise when the pain flared again, and his heart shuddered in his chest, and stopped.
He took a deep breath, waiting for the beat that would assure him that he was still living.
It didn't come.
A raw sob broke from his chest, and the one word that had carried him through the pain surfaced.
"Who's Bella?" a deep voice asked from near his head.
A scream escaped Edward's throat. This couldn't happen.
"I can't die. I need to get back to Bella," he shouted as his eyes opened.
He leapt off of the bed, finding his feet quickly, but stopped moving when he realized that everything looked different than before. The shadows in the room had sharper edges, the light a different quality.
The smells that had started to assault his senses as he woke caught him by surprise. The scents were far more pervasive than he could remember noticing before, and he was amazed that he could identify them. Wood and leather, fabric and carpet fibers, smoke and ash…and dried blood.
Edward gasped and grabbed at his throat as the familiar burn settled into it. A low growl escaped his body and worried voices filled his mind, the words overlapping as though all of the speakers were talking at once.
'He's dangerous like this. He needs to be calm.'
'I wish I could make this easier.'
'What is going on up there?'
'I can't keep up with his decisions.'
'Be careful, Carlisle.'
'Maybe I should get between him and the door.'
His fingers reached up and grabbed at the hair on his head, pulling wildly.
"What is wrong with me? Where am I? Where's Bella?"
He felt and heard the motion of a head nodding, and whipped around to see that a large man with dark, curly hair was nodding at someone on the other side of the room. His head moved to see who the recipient of the nod was before he was even conscious of the desire to do so.
'What the fuck is Jasper doing? He should be a lot calmer than this.'
'He's confused about something.'
'This is so different than with the others.'
'Something's wrong up there.'
A man with golden blond hair stood against the opposite wall, his hands in front of him, showing Edward that he was not a threat.
"Edward," the man said quietly. "We want to help you. Can you remember what happened?"
'I wonder if he can remember the fire.'
"What fire?" Edward asked.
A gasp escaped the man's lips.
'Why can't I control his emotions?'
Edward crouched into a defensive posture.
"What are you talking about? How would you control my emotions? Who are you people?"
Edward's eyes moved to the open door and he readied himself, meaning to run, when a feminine voice sounded above all of the others he was hearing. It was coming from downstairs.
"There's something more going on Carlisle. He's afraid and he's going to run."
'I can't let him get through that door.'
A picture invaded his mind – a man with shoulder length blond hair, his arms wrapped around another person from behind, his teeth moving to the neck, severing the head of his victim. Limbs being torn violently from the body followed the decapitation.
Edward panicked. His breathed hard as he tried to plan an escape route, but the voices were overwhelming.
'We've got to find a way to calm him down.'
'I wonder if I can keep up with him if he runs.'
'Are they going to be okay?'
"Can we stop him, Alice?" the man with the golden hair asked.
'I can stop him.'
Another picture invaded Edward's mind, this time it was the golden haired man, reaching into Edward's wallet to retrieve the picture of Bella and himself at the cliffs. He could see himself relaxing visibly as he looked at it.
Edward bent over, wrapping his hands around his head, struggling to shut out the noise and pictures in his mind.
"Carlisle, his wallet. Get the picture. He needs to see her."
The man – who must have been Carlisle – moved to the table near the bed, picked up the wallet and opened it to find the picture, just as Edward had seen in his mind moments before. He lifted the picture and handed it to Edward.
"Bella," Edward whispered, and the ache that still resided in his chest deepened.
Edward fell to the ground, sitting with his back against the bed. The picture in his fingers helped him to focus, and the voices quieted slightly.
Exactly four hours, five minutes, and thirty-two seconds later, the man called Carlisle spoke aloud again.
"Edward, are you ready to talk yet?"
Edward nodded. He'd been listening to this man's quiet voice since he slumped to the floor, and the concern he heard moved him. The other two men had left the room, but stood guard in the hallway. He could see them waiting, if he concentrated on one of their voices long enough.
Two of the women had left the house, running into the forest. The third, Alice, was waiting in the hall with Jasper, the other blond. She was petite, with dark hair that was sculpted into wild spikes.
"Do you have any questions for me?" Carlisle asked.
"What's going on here?" Edward asked, raising his eyes to meet Carlisle's golden ones.
"Well, Edward, you were dying, and in order to save you, I had to…"
Edward swatted at him. "I know that. I've been listening to you go over and over how to tell me. I know that you're vampires. That I'm…one. But, why won't you stop talking? It sounds like you're trying to be quiet, but nobody stops talking. Ever. It's making me crazy. I'm even seeing things that aren't here in this room. I think I'm losing my mind."
"Edward?" Carlisle said. 'Can you hear me?'
"How did you do that? You spoke, but your lips never moved."
'You can hear my thoughts? Incredible. A mind-reader. And without touching. Aro would be so interested.'
"I can what? And who is Aro?"
The woman named Alice made a motion to enter the room, and Edward watched as the blond grabbed her and restrained her motion.
"Jasper, let me go!"
Edward watched the struggle that followed, and heard her yelling profanities, but her mouth never moved.
He could also hear Jasper. 'It's not safe.'
"Jasper, honestly, he won't hurt me. I've seen it."
A scene played out in Edward's mind. Alice walking into the room, touching his hand. "You're a lot like me," she whispered. "It's a gift and a curse."
Jasper stood watching warily as Emmett paced in the hall.
"Let her go, Jasper," Edward said, looking at the door. "She wants to talk to me about this…gift. I need to know what that means."
Alice entered the room and did exactly as he'd seen. She touched his hand. Edward felt a wave of calm spread over him.
"That feeling is from Jasper. You'll get used to it." She looked into his eyes. "Mind reader, huh. It must be hard to have so many of us around you. Is it confusing?"
Edward nodded. "It's overwhelming. The things I'm seeing. The voices."
"I can see that it'll get easier. May take a little time. I think it'll be best if we aren't all here at once. Might help if you only have one or two of us to hear."
His posture eased as he watched the scene she showed him. He was sitting in a large living room, playing video games with Emmett. He could tell that the amount of 'noise' was not overwhelming.
"Thank you," he whispered, squeezing Alice's hand.
"Now, we need to deal with a few other things to make you more comfortable."
Edward's throat burned as he heard more than one voice in his mind saying, 'Time to eat.'
Edward dropped the eviscerated elk. He looked at his hands, sticky with blood and entrails, and could only imagine what his face looked like. Momentary disgust swept over him.
"You got a little carried away with that one, that's all," Alice said.
She had refused to leave his side, and although he could run much faster than she, Alice could anticipate his actions, following him through the woods. When Edward would get too far ahead, she would mentally yell at him to slow down, and he did. Jasper stayed near Alice.
Carlisle's voice was getting stronger in his mind, so Edward was sure he was catching up to them.
"Where's Emmett?" Jasper asked.
"He stayed at the house. We wanted to make this easier for Edward, and we figured if there were fewer of us, it would be."
Edward heard the snapping of a twig and a heavy heartbeat. The source of the noise was half a mile away, judging by the sound. He raised his head and sniffed.
Before he was conscious of it, his feet were flying through the forest again, hot on the trail of the deer.
He lunged, grabbing the startled deer by the neck, listening to the snap of the bones as he crushed them. His teeth found the throbbing artery in the animal's neck. Clenching them, he bit through the fur and skin, gulping greedily.
The three other vampires stayed nearby, never getting too close as he ate. He could hear what they thought of his latest kill.
'A few more and he'll really have the hang of it.'
'I think we can use some of Jasper's clothes for him. Those are destroyed.'
'Calmer. More satisfied. Reasonable.'
When he dropped the carcass, he turned to face them.
"I've eaten. I feel much better now. I'd like to go see Bella."
Alice dropped her head and Jasper turned to embrace her. Carlisle walked slowly toward Edward.
'He doesn't understand.'
"I'm sorry, Edward. There's no way you can see Bella right now," Carlisle explained. "You're not able to control your strength or your bloodlust."
Carlisle pointed to the carcass at Edward's feet.
"You sensed food, and you attacked. Do you think that Bella's blood would be any less appealing?"
"I would never hurt her. I love her," he hissed through clenched teeth.
"You wouldn't mean to do it, but it would be inevitable."
Alice's shoulders stiffened against Jasper, and Edward's voice joined hers as she cried out.
Edward's mind filled with Alice's vision of him. He was in his home, the front door hanging on the hinges, the coffee table shattered, Bella's laptop in pieces on the floor. And Edward, his eyes a deep, dark red, holding the broken, bloodless body.
As he screamed, the vision dimmed.
"Good," Alice whispered. "You won't go to her. The vision is disappearing."
Edward turned to Carlisle.
"I've lost her? I'm…alive…but I can't see her?"
Carlisle nodded. 'I'm sorry.'
"There's a lot to tell you, Edward. Can we head back to our house? We can hunt again later, if you'd like. For now, you really need to learn about what you are."
Edward nodded reluctantly, and headed back in the direction he had come.
Edward found himself in the meadow. Their meadow.
Alice was running behind him when he stopped suddenly, and she barreled into his back, nearly knocking him over.
"What is it?" she asked, alarmed. 'I didn't see anything dangerous.'
Jasper entered the snowy meadow and took Alice's hand. "He's hurting over Bella again," he said.
"This was a special place for us," Edward explained.
After almost three months, he thought things like this should be easier.
But they weren't.
Bella was in everything he saw. All of his memories of being human were about her.
"You can't be close to her. You would hurt her," Jasper said, frowning.
"Show me, Ali. Please."
Alice sighed loudly before looking for Bella. It had gotten easier. Each time they ran an errand for Edward, doing some small thing for Bella – leaving a light on, changing the oil in her truck, turning off the sprinklers for the winter - Alice would watch the visions of Edward's first reunion with her.
She cringed as she saw the latest vision of Edward losing control.
"It's still too soon, Edward. It'll take a year, at least, before you could be near her. A lot could happen in a year."
Edward slumped to the ground, his head in his hands.
"She'll forget me. But maybe that's best. Maybe she's better off without me."
"I don't think so. Watch."
Alice played a vision for him that he hadn't seen before. Bella was lying on the couch in their home, her hand reaching across the chasm to the coffee table, stroking the urn.
"I miss you so much, Edward. I can't do this."
Tears streamed down her face, and Edward could feel the pain that radiated off of her. He could see the Christmas tree in the room, and could tell that she was avoiding it.
"We were supposed to be together for Christmas," she whispered.
"Stop!" he yelled, and Alice cut the vision short.
"She's not doing much better than you," she said.
Edward sat in the snow, wondering if there was anything he could do to help alleviate her pain.
After a while, Jasper ran into the trees to find some prey. Alice stayed with Edward, humming to help drown out the sound of her thoughts.
"Alice," Edward said. "I need your help."
She jumped up, clapping her hands.
"Let's get back to the house. I've got paper and envelopes."
Edward grabbed her hand and let her into the forest, speeding for home.
The solution was temporary, he knew. But maybe a letter about some happy memories would help carry Bella through the next little while.
Maybe she'd still need him when he was able to be near her.
Or maybe she'd heal enough to move on without him.
Either way, Alice's vision of Bella standing in the spot where they had met that fateful day, a smile on her face, carried him on.
This outtake was written for the Fandom for Texas. I hope that the efforts to help with the wildfire damage were helpful.
Many thanks to GinnyW and malianani for their help in beta'ing this outtake.
I am working on chapter 19, and hope to post it in the next few days. Sorry it's taken so long, but between NaNo, work, a little health issue, and drill team competition season, writing the chapter has been difficult. Thank you for your patience.