As If I Never Existed

Summary: TheCanonTour New Moon entry. What if Bella didn't fall for Edward's lie in the woods? To what extremes will he go in order to ensure that that she truly forgets about him? "It will be as if I never existed." Canon/NM AU

Disclaimer: The Twilight Saga belongs to Stephenie Meyer. Some dialog has been taken directly from New Moon, as this story contains canon elements. No copyright infringement is intended.

A/N: The idea for this story has been tumbling around in my brain for quite some time now. Thankfully TheCanonTour gave me a reason to get it down on paper. I've always wondered about Edward's claims at the end of New Moon—he was surprised Bella believed him so easily when he lied about his feelings, and he expected her to put up a fight. So here, I decided to explore that a bit. What if Bella didn't believe his lie? What if she was more confident in their relationship than he realized? What if she saw right through his maudlin, noble gesture? To be honest, the "woe is me, I'm not good enough for you" easily-accepting-his-lie Bella of canon was a bit annoying, IMO. I really wanted to see her stronger and more confident. But… if that is the case, what measures would Edward be willing to resort to in order to protect her from himself, his family, and the vampire world in general?

Thanks to tiffanyanne3 for the beta and radar1230 for the pre-read, and thank you to all who read, reviewed and voted in TheCanonTour New Moon round.


September

Edward

Ever since your birthday party, I've been preparing for this moment.

At first, I was angry at Jasper and his lack of control. But once I started to think rationally about the entire evening, I became angry at myself. How could I have ever believed that this, whatever it is between us, could work? There are too many variables, too many… risks.

Ultimately, the one that posed the most immediate threat to you was one that I never even considered: my own family. The people who, outside of myself and your father, care the most for you.

Carlisle told me last year—the day that I met you—that we would all move if I needed them to. At the time, I was insulted by his offer and felt the need to master my own… temptations. I also had no desire to cause my family any discomfort. In retrospect, I wish that I had taken the easy way out when he offered. It would've been far less painful than this.

Then, although I honestly thought it was a matter of life and death for you, it was really just a matter of pride. My pride. Now, it truly is a matter of life and death; one of my kin attacked you. Now, I have no choice.

When I finally caught up to Jasper that night, he suggested that he should leave. I am not too proud to admit that I encouraged that idea. In fact, after I brought you home that night, I accepted Carlisle's previous offer and requested that all of us leave Forks, for your safety. I know that you will be hurt by their sudden and secret departure, but keeping you safe is my number one priority. I imagine that the break will be easier this way, anyway. Clean and final.

Alice informed me before she left with Jasper two days ago that she thought I was making a mistake. I can't afford to make any mistakes with you. So today, I made a decision. I just hope that I waited long enough to keep Alice from being able to stop me.

I need to do this.

For you.

Sliding my hand into my coat pocket, I pull out the small vial and frown slightly. The clear liquid looks innocuous, just like water. However, the shaman from the reservation assured me that it was very potent, the strongest magic that he possessed. He almost didn't give it to me. In fact, he didn't want to see me at all. Something concerning the treaty made him very leery about "making a deal with the devil." It had taken a phone call to Billy Black—and a very long-winded explanation of what I wanted, and exactly why I wanted it—before the appointment was set.

On the day of the meeting, I discarded my phone so that Alice couldn't talk me out of my decision or inform me of any potential consequences that might have changed my mind. I met you in the parking lot in the morning so that you'd be unaware of my plans. But after I walked you to class, same as always, I left the school. Once the agreement was finalized, I hurried to get everything ready and returned to school in time to meet you at the end of the day. I knew that this had to be done quickly, or else I would lose my nerve, so I asked you if I could come over to your house. I even offered to drop your letter in the mail to ensure that you'd get home more quickly.

Unfortunately, while I can move like the wind, your truck is as slow as molasses. So now, even though I left the schoolyard twenty minutes ago and stopped at the post office on the way, I'm waiting for you to arrive.

When you finally pull up to the curb in front of your father's house, I realize that I'll never be ready for this. I'll never be ready to tell you goodbye. But since I have to, I hope that you'll listen to me. I know that my words will hurt you, but I'd rather my actions cause you to turn from me than the mysterious potion in my pocket.

Tired of my thoughts—and second thoughts—I exit my car and meet you at the truck. I take your bag and toss it back in the cab, then reach for your hand.

"Come for a walk with me," I state as calmly as possible.

Your fingers are cold and clammy with nerves. You know something is up—my car is parked in a location that tells you my visit is only temporary—but I cannot be deterred. I lead you into the woods, but not very far, only a hundred yards or so. Your house is still visible; I want your father close by when it all hits the fan. I want you to be safe. Because despite what I'm about to do, you are still everything.

My everything.

"Okay, let's talk," you say.

Your tone is brave, perhaps even confrontational, but I know it's just a front—I can hear the pitter-pat of your rapidly beating heart. It's chugging in your chest like a run-away train; it has been since you arrived home and saw my car parked in your driveway. Despite your best efforts, you can't hide from me. Even though I can't read your mind, I can still read the signs that your body provides. You know something is coming. Something bad. You're too intuitive. You also know me too well.

And now, for your sake, I have to fix that.

I take a deep breath in preparation for the act that I'm about to perform.

"Bella, we're leaving."

Your lungs fill slowly, deliberately. Your brow pinches momentarily, then smooths out quickly. You nod slightly, as if you expected this, which confuses me.

"Why now? Another year—"

I cut you off, trying to make my point a bit more clear.

"Bella, it's time. How much longer could we stay in Forks, after all? Carlisle can barely pass for thirty, and he's claiming thirty-three now. We'd have to start over soon regardless."

Your frown deepens as you stare at me. I feel as if you are looking into my soul, and if I had one, perhaps you would be. It's uncomfortable, hiding what I feel for you. I've never allowed you to see the full depth of my feelings before, but I've also never hidden the fact that I do in fact care. It hurts me to hurt you, and I don't like it. Not at all. I want to reach out and hold you. I want to tell you that everything will be alright, and that I'll take care of you forever.

But I can't.

So instead, I don a calm, uncaring façade. My jaw hardens as I stare back at you unflinchingly. The decision I've made is non-negotiable. I won't put you in danger, and I refuse to let my… damnation… affect your life anymore.

I can tell the moment that realization settles in. Your heart thuds to a stop, almost as if it's dropped out of your chest, before it resumes its wild pounding. You involuntarily clutch at your stomach.

"When you say we—"

I cut you off. I can't afford to lose my nerve now. I enunciate each word in an attempt to drive my point home.

"I mean my family and myself."

You shake your head as if in denial and look at me in absolute shock. Your mouth moves, but no sound emerges. Once again, I curse myself and this damned life. My hands clench into fists, not that you notice; you're too focused on my face, which is a good thing since I cannot afford to lose this game of psychological poker.

"Okay," you finally respond with another slight nod, as if you're bolstering yourself for a fight. "I'll come with you."

"You can't, Bella. Where we're going… It's not the right place for you."

"Where you are is the right place for me."

Your conviction pierces my still and silent heart; you are absolutely sure in your love for me. It will destroy me to say the words that I must, because they will push you away. They claw at my insides, leaving deep gashes in my chest and gut, the results a fate worse than death—after all, I cannot die. I will have to live with this agony for the rest of my existence. The pain of my own words supersedes anything that the demon who already resides deep inside me could ever inflict.

"I'm no good for you, Bella."

"Don't be ridiculous," you state. You're trying to be brave, strong, I can tell, but your voice wobbles and pleads. "You're the very best part of my life."

I want to plead with you myself. Oh, Bella… don't fight me! I'm doing this for you. Instead, I do my best to strike a callous, imperious tone.

"My world is not for you."

You don't listen to what I'm saying. Not that I expected you to… I knew this would be a fight. And predictably, you start to get mad. Unfortunately, with anger, your conviction grows.

"What happened with Jasper—that was nothing, Edward! Nothing."

I have to remain in control. Despite the desperation I hear in your voice, I can't give in. I can't sweep you up in my arms and make promises that I have no possibility of keeping. Nothing will ever be alright again. It can't be. Not as long as I am still here. Not with what I am. You once joked that you were a danger magnet, but you have no idea how much of a danger I am to you.

"You're right," I agree. You brought up Jasper as a point in your favor, but he is the exact reason why I now have to let you go; I can't even protect you from the danger that my own family poses to you! You, who are everything to me. Don't you get it? "It was exactly what was to be expected."

"You promised! In Phoenix, you promised you would stay—"

"As long as that was best for you."

"No! This is about my soul, isn't it?" you shout at me in frustration. "Carlisle told me about that, and I don't care, Edward. I don't care! You can have my soul. I don't want it without you—it's yours already!"

Your words hit their mark, although you'll never know. I won't allow you to give up your future salvation for me. I glance to the ground and take a deep, calming breath as I realize what I have to do. My frozen body chills even further. It will be a lie, the biggest one I've ever perpetrated, and I've told many over the past ninety years. And though it may damn me even further, for your sake, I hope that you believe it.

I have to make you believe it.

Pushing everything that I feel for you, every instinct for protection, out of the way, I turn my cold and now lifeless eyes to you.

"Bella, I don't want you to come with me."

You pause, and I watch as the coldness from my words seeps its way into your consciousness.

"You… don't… want me?"

My insides begin to crack and crumble at the broken sound of your voice, begging me to change my mind, but my resolution never falters. I can't let it.

"No."

You stare at me, once again searching in the depths of my being for the answers that you want. Unfortunately I can't—no, won't—give them to you. This is the only way that I can protect you. I love you too much to allow anything else negative to happen to you because of me. And as long as you believe that there is a chance for us, you'll never give up. I can't have that. You must believe the lie…

After a moment, your brow pinches and a frown tugs at the corner of your lips. "You're lying," you assert.

"No, Bella, I'm not," I state as coldly as possible, begging you to believe me but dying inside as I deny you yet again.

You cross your arms on your chest and scowl at me in disbelief.

"I know what you're doing, Edward, and it won't work. Not this time. I'm tired of your 'noble intentions' when it comes to me. I'm tired of you making unilateral decisions for our relationship; it's a two-way street, and I won't let you do this!" You pause for a moment and look me straight in the eye. "You're trying to protect me again, aren't you? "

Frustration seethes within me. I don't answer your question. Instead I try to divert you with more heartless words that I really don't mean.

"Of course, I'll always love you… in a way. But what happened the other night made me realize that it's time for a change. Because I'm… tired of pretending to be something I'm not, Bella. I am not human. I've let this go on much too long, and I'm sorry for that."

"Don't," you state angrily, pointing your finger at me. "Don't do this to me, to us. I love you, and I know you love me. Or were you lying all those times you told me so? If you didn't really love me, why did you save me when James bit me? You tested your own limits to save me from your 'cursed' existence."

I continue to stare coldly, trying my best to convince you that I don't care.

"You're not good for me, Bella."

You just laugh. "Maybe not, in some ways. My blood, after all, does call to you, and I know that will never change. But you overcame that temptation back in Phoenix. I heard you talking to Carlisle that night; I know how much of a challenge it was for you. I might not have vampire senses, but some things I do understand—I'm your match, Edward, your mate… just like Alice is to Jasper, Rosalie to Emmett and Esme to Carlisle. I may grow old and die, since you're still unwilling to change me, but my love for you never will. And I know, in the darkest depths of my soul, that you love me, too, despite what you're saying now."

You might not have vampire senses or any special abilities, but somehow you still know what I'm thinking and feeling. When you lay it on the line, I can no longer deny it. I have failed in this attempt to protect you. I look down, unable to meet your eyes anymore; your absolute conviction only damns me further—I cannot deny you. Not like this.

I surrender to defeat and nod, for little do you know that I have one last card to play.

"Yes," I admit softly. "I am trying to protect you."

I look up and spear you with an impassioned glance that reveals each and every one of the emotions I'm feeling at this moment: love, hope, fear, and above it all—though you don't appear to see it—sorrow. You smile triumphantly and launch yourself at me. For one moment, I give into my desire and wrap you in my arms, inhaling deeply and ingraining your intoxicating scent in my memory. Too soon, it will be gone forever.

"Against all odds, I found you," I croon as my lips ghost across your forehead. "I love you more than I ever imagined was possible. You are my mate. And because I love you, I have to protect you."

"You will. I know you will."

If vampires could cry, tears would be streaming down my cheeks. But we can't. So I cradle you tenderly to my chest and kiss you one last time with every ounce of passion that I think you can handle.

"Yes, I will," I state. Then I release you and take a step back, smiling sadly. "I'm sorry, love."

"Why are you sorry, Edward? We'll make this work somehow, I know."

I shake my head sadly and take another step back. "No, we won't."

"What? Why? E-Edward?" Your voice cracks in confusion.

I thought my words earlier were harsh, but I realize now the truth is far crueler than any lie ever could be.

"We can't make it work, Bella. You're human. I am not. I can't in my good conscience continue to subject you to the dangers of our world, and I won't damn you to hell by making you a part of it. I have to leave, for your own good. It's the only way."

You're shaking your head, a look of abject horror on your face. I know how you feel. I feel it, too.

"I will make you a promise, though. I promise that this will be the last time you'll ever see me. I won't come back. I won't put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without any more interference from me. It will be as if I never existed."

Your knees start to wobble. "Are you serious?"

I nod.

"How can you say that?" you cry. "Even if you're gone, I'll still love you. I'll always love you…"

I smile tenderly, reaching for your cheek and giving you one last glimpse of the crooked grin I know you love. "Don't worry, love. You're human—your memory is no more than a sieve. Time heals all wounds for your kind. It really will be as if I never existed," I repeat softly.

You don't notice me pull the small flask from the pocket of my jacket; your eyes aren't able to focus due to the tears that you are now doing your best to keep from falling.

"And your memories?" you ask bitterly, pushing my hand away.

"I'll never forget you, Bella," I whisper as I flick the vial onto the rock that I had set beside the path earlier in the day for just this purpose.

I hear the tinkling of breaking glass, and for a moment the entire area fills with a fog-like smoke. Despite the haze, I see you fall gracefully to the ground. It's a complete contrast to your usual clumsiness, so I know the magic must have worked.

I stand transfixed, staring at you, unable to move away, even though I know that time is of the essence now.

You are everything.

My everything.

You are the never-ending light to my eternal darkness, the never-fading heat to my infinite coldness.

For one short moment in time, I had it all. I had you.

Then I had to let you go.

You won't remember anything when you wake up. But even though you'll never know it, you will have me for all of eternity.

Squatting down next to you, I brush my hand across your cheek and lovingly tuck a strand of mahogany hair behind your ear one final time. Then I press the folded piece of paper that I had taken from your bag earlier into your hand.

"Goodbye, Bella. Please, take care of yourself," I implore.

Turning away, I run to your truck and grab your bag. I take it into the house and leave it on the counter in the kitchen, next to a hastily scrawled note for your father. Then I hurry back to my car.

I'd initially hoped that it would not have to come to this. However, my plan—if I did indeed have to resort to this sorcery—was to wait for you to wake up in order to make sure that there were no adverse effects. Now, I realize that if I do not leave immediately, I probably never will. Less than five minutes ago, I promised that you would never see me again, that I would not continue to interfere in your life. Yet here I am, once again considering doing just that; even here at the end that I insisted upon, I cannot suppress the desire to watch over you.

It's a habit I must now force myself to break.

The tires squeal when I punch the accelerator, and the engine growls in protest as I push the limits of the Volvo's performance in my haste to depart Forks. Unfortunately, this is one time when excessive speed does not soothe me. I'm not driving away from danger or in an attempt to control my emotions. Instead, I am driving away from the only thing that has ever truly mattered to me.

I am driving away from you.


A/N: When I originally conceived this idea, I envisioned a multi-chapter story because Edward is meddling with some pretty strong forces here, and his actions will undoubtedly have some unexpected repercussions. In fact, I already have the second chapter of this tale written. That said, this story is marked as complete for now, b/c, as a o/s it is complete. I do plan to come back at a later time and expand on it… AFTER I finish my current WIPs. So, if you're interested in seeing what happens when Edward fucks around with nature, stick this one on alert…

Thank you so much for reading!