Thank so you very much for the support. I love you all and because I love you all, I must ask you to please, please trust me.
I don't own.
Thanks to Donna.
"What's with Edward these days?" Nessie asks as I drive her to school on her first day back from Christmas break.
"What do you mean?" I ask, knowing full well exactly what she means. "Didn't you like your Christmas present?"
This is a diversionary tactic on my part and I feel like a bad parent.
"It was awesome!" she squeaks. "Except it's too hard for me to play myself. Uncle Emmett is going to help me record Edward playing it and put it on my iPod and everything for when I go to sleep."
Vanessa's love for the lullaby Edward finally unveiled on Christmas brings me such endless joy. It even makes up for the fact that she still refers to him as Edward.
"That's a good idea," I comment.
"You should tell your father about that," I recommend. He'll like this, knowing just how much Nessie loves the song.
"Okay. Do you think that will pull him out of his funk?"
Damn, we're right back to the beginning, exactly what I was hoping to avoid.
Edward has indeed been in a post-murdering funk. Try as he might to keep it from our daughter he just can't manage the light heartedness he once displayed in those few glorious weeks between when they started with the piano lessons and Thanksgiving when everything went to shit.
For weeks he was in such a dark place I was hesitant to let him out of my sight. I feared he might just disappear, leaving us to live an unlife free from the guilt and pain that comes with his reemerging humanity.
Because of the animal blood and his new familial ties, he feels this one human death more acutely than all the thousands before. It's as if this one lost human life comes to represent every person Edward ever killed. My husband remembers every thought of every victim and it's all back in his head. Their final moments haunt him now.
While he once saw the killing as necessary and natural, now he regrets every life he took. The guilt is effectively crushing my husband.
Over the last few months he's taken to having long discussions on guilt and humanity and death with Esme, Jasper and Emmett. These three all struggle with control and the horror that comes with losing it more than the rest of us, and they leave for hours at a time to talk.
Rose dubbed the gatherings BLA, blood lust anonymous.
I feel so lost because I'm special. I'm lucky. I can't relate to Edward and I have no way to make it better for him.
I participate in the destruction of demons only and working for the guard brings enough guilt. I can't imagine what Edward is going through as he comes to accept that he's been responsible for all that death.
"Mom?" Nessie asks. "You listening?"
"Of course," I lie. "He's fine."
Vanessa just gives me a disbelieving look.
"This is a big adjustment for him too, Vanessa," I say, even if this only partially explains Edward's depression. "Just think about how much his unlife has changed in just a few months. He's not used to loving anything at all."
"Do you think he loves us?" she asks. I'm not sure how avoiding one heavy conversation has somehow led us to another.
"Yes," I answer immediately. "Very much, even if he doesn't know that love is the right word."
It's difficult to explain, especially to our daughter.
"He doesn't know what love means?" she asks, shocked.
"He knows that he would do anything for us, that he would die to keep us safe. He wants to be better for us and he can't bear the thought of being away from us. He just hasn't quite figured out a word to describe what he feels. He's spent the last century having no idea what love feels like but he'll figure it out soon enough," I say, a little surprised by my own impassioned speech.
Nessie sniffs and wipes away a tear. I take her hand, feeling guilty for bringing up such an intense topic right before school.
"He was probably really sad and lonely, huh?" she murmurs.
"I wish he found us sooner."
I pull into the drop off lane at the middle school. I lean over to kiss her cheek.
"I love you, Vanessa. More than the birds and the trees and the flowers."
"Love you back."
She pauses when she gets the door open.
"Something bad happened, huh?"
We just look at each other for a long moment. I keep my face blank, by my daughter finds an answer there anyway.
"Okay," she says, nodding. "I probably don't want to know anyway. I'm going to school now. Love you."
And then she's gone, leaving me feeling like we've reached some sort of understanding.
Another month passes and Edward gets happier. He forgives himself a little more, refocuses on the joy that is our family.
In February Victoria calls my cell, apparently getting the number from the Denali's. I begrudgingly hand the phone over to my husband. She calls to check in, to see if he's "done with the brunette yet." I get grumpy even as Edward explains that this is the real deal. Apparently she's still nomading it up somewhere in eastern Canada with her creepy mate.
Edward doesn't tell her about Vanessa. She's our closely guarded secret and only trusted friends and the Volturi know of her.
Victoria doesn't mention James, and Edward doesn't ask, but she tells Edward she misses him. I don't like it, but it doesn't seem to matter at all to my husband, although he remains annoyingly fond of Victoria.
My daughter gets closer to her father everyday.
He takes her to school when I am unable to one morning. Nessie forgets to mention that she signed up to bring cupcakes to a school function until we are walking out the door.
Edward conquers his fear of driving and safely delivers our daughter to school while I brave the grocery store for desert.
Somehow it becomes part of the daily routine. Every morning Edward and I venture to the big house from the cabin in the morning before Nessie awakens. We converse with my siblings and parents. Edward becomes closer with them every day too, particularly his fellow members of BLA.
The only downside is Carlisle. My husband only speaks to my father when necessary or when addressed directly. I think on some level Edward blames Carlisle for my arrangement with the Volturi. In reality, my predicament would have been so much worse without Carlisle. Most of my time would be spent in Italy or I would be ash and they'd have Ness locked away in some basement, a curiosity. I desperately want to lecture Edward into bonding with my father, but Carlisle tells me not to.
But things with our daughter are so lovely it's easy to push all the bad from my mind for the most part. Nessie kisses my cheek and then Edward's every morning in greeting. It amazes me daily.
Edward also becomes part of the evening routine. We are back at the house by the time Nessie gets home. Most nights are quiet. There is homework and piano lessons and reading. Edward doesn't come upstairs for bedtime, but he gets a good night kiss on the cheek.
Weekends are the best. Since the best day of my existence Nessie has been spending Friday and Saturday nights with us in the cabin. More than anything sleeping (or fake sleeping) under the same roof makes me feel like we're really a family.
Things are so good and we are so happy I almost forget the darkness looming over us, but we are running out of time. It is a new year. I can be called to Italy at any moment.
Edward, Carlisle, and I take to slipping away during the night with no explanations. It's suspicious, but my family remains shockingly silent on the matter. Maybe after the turmoil of the last few months they are content to let us go in peace.
For hours we brainstorm. It is frustrating and heart breaking and we get no where.
"Have you considered conducting yourself more like Jane?" Carlisle suggests one night. I'm perched on a low hanging tree branch. My father leans up against the trunk, while Edward paces around in the clearing at my feet.
"You want me to act like sadistic bitch?" I ask, not even surprised that our idiotic ideas are getting this ridiculous.
"Well, no," Carlisle says, watching Edward stomp around. "You are not that talented of an actress. Maybe if you act all devoted and obsessed with Aro, he will lose interest."
Edward, predictably, growls and kicks down a nearby pine. These meetings leave him so angry and frustrated. I hate what it's doing to him, but have no way to make it any easier on him. We won't be able to come up with a solution without discussing my terrible arrangement.
When we first started sneaking away to have these little talks, I would try to soothe Edward, but it quickly became apparent that he needs an outlet for his anger. Better the trees receiving his physical abuse than me receiving the verbal.
Afterwards, when we crawl into our bed, that's when he'll let me sooth him.
"You want me to act like a clingy girlfriend?" I repeat. "You want me to smother the worlds most powerful vampire?"
"It's not a quick fix, but in the long run—"
Edward starts growling again. Understandably, he doesn't want me to go to Italy again without some sort of guarantee that I won't touch Aro, but it's just not realistic. To get out of this in a way that still ensures my daughters safety is gong to take finesse and subtlety, and regrettably, time.
"I could try that on top of something else, I guess," I say unenthusiastically. I don't think I have it in me to moon over Aro the way Jane does.
"This is such bullshit!" Edward hisses, dismantling the tree he kicked over. "You're not fucking going back to Italy."
I sigh, unwilling to put in the effort to bring him back to his senses.
"We really aren't getting anywhere, Bella," Carlisle agrees.
"Let's just burn them," Edward yells. "Burn them all."
"It's a death sentence," Carlisle murmurs. "All of us will burn."
In my head, the vague outline of a plot forms in my head. It will still take time and finesse, but I'll start with Felix. Treading carefully, I will ask the right questions. Hopefully he's the one who comes to get me next.
"I refuse to believe that!"
"Well, just because you refuse to believe it doesn't mean it's any less true," Carlisle snaps. Normally, my father does a good job staying calm and weathering Edward's hatred, but it seems even his seemingly endless patience is coming to an end.
Edward growls and advances on my father.
"Enough!" I yell. Both men begrudgingly relax.
"Bella, I'm not doing this again. We are driving ourselves crazy and are getting nowhere. You have to tell the family," Carlisle says, turning to give me that stern father look of his.
"I know," I whisper, feeling my stomach turn at the thought.
Carlisle opens his mouth to argue further, but then deflates when my easy agreement takes him by surprise. "Oh," he mutters. "Right. Good."
"Look, I said I'd try anything and I will," I explain, sitting up and letting my legs swing below me. "That means bringing the rest into these brainstorming meetings, than I'll tell them everything, but the next time some one comes to collect me, I'm going to Italy, Edward."
Predictable he growls and starts beating up trees.
"If I don't go, they'll come here!" I yell over the sounds of his rage. "They can't come here!"
"So you'll tell them?" Carlisle says, ignoring my husband. "When?"
"Nessie is in La Push with Anne this weekend," I whisper, feeling sick.
"This weekend," Carlisle repeats, nodding.
I hop out of the tree to go hug Edward. He wraps himself around me, squeezing me so desperately it almost hurts. We walk home in silence.
"So how's the husband?" Sam Uley leans back in his chair and tilts a beer to his lips. I sit next to him in the sand, watching my daughter, Jake, and Anne bob on surfboards in the grey waves of La Push. "He was not too happy last time I saw you guys."
"He had good reason to be pissed," I mutter, thinking back to Thanksgiving. "I really should have told him about the Volturi thing long before that. I am a stupid, stupid, vampire."
I wiggle my bare toes in the cold, damp sand and lean back on my elbows. Nessie attempts to catch a wave and fails. I should really be getting home. Nessie is spending the night and I was supposed to just drop her off, but I haven't seen Sam in months and I still don't quite trust Jake and Nessie near water after the cliff-jumping incident.
But if I'm being truly honest with myself, I'm loitering to avoid the upcoming family discussion as long as possible. They are going to look at me different. They are gong to be so angry with me for lying.
"Bells, you are the least vampireish vampire I know. You even smell better. Slightly. Still gross though," Sam says.
I roll my eyes. "You aren't even a wolf anymore."
"Still got the nose." He taps the crooked appendage. He broke it as a wolf at some point, but it healed too quickly to straighten it out.
We go back to silently watching our children.
"We're the lucky ones, Bella," he says, suddenly serious. "To have found what we have in this crazy supernatural world."
I murmur my agreement as my phone goes off in my back pocket. I assume it is Edward hurrying me home, and I frown in confusion when my father's name illuminates the screen.
"Carlisle?" I answer.
"You need to come home," he says without preamble. "Right now."
He hangs up immediately. I'm on my feet, shoes in hand, racing back to my car a second later.
Although deep down I know what's happened, I don't even think about it as I walk into the tense scene in the living room. It's apparent that the members of my family were arguing, probably stopping at the sound of my approaching car.
Carlisle is worried, pacing around in the living room. Esme looks both confused and concerned while Emmett wears a similar expression. Rosalie looks pissed, as is the usual. Jasper sits on the couch, eyes closed, head in his hands. I can feel his feeble attempt to calm the room, but it's hard on him with this many vamps feeling so many things.
The look Alice gives me makes me shudder. It's disturbingly knowing and so full of pity. My gaze moves past them all to where Edward stands on the back porch, facing away from me as he stares into the forest. His shoulders are tense and his hands dig into the wooden railing.
"Alice got a vision. Felix will be here for you in a week. Edward completely lost it," Rosalie supplies, breaking the silence. It's exactly what I expected, but the information still makes my hands shake.
One week and I'll be back in Italy.
"He says he won't let you go," Esme continues, softer and nice than my sister. "We asked why and he said it was for you to explain."
My dead heart lurches in my cold chest, and I turn a panicked gaze on Carlisle. I've brought this on myself, refusing to tell them for so many months. But really, it won't change anything. The more I think about it, the more I come to realize there is only one way out and it's something that none of them can know about: None of them.
"It's time, Bella," he mutters. Alice nods.
Esme hisses something, angry as it becomes clear that Carlisle once again kept something from her at my request, but I don't listen. I'll take on the guilt of that later.
In a flash I'm outside next to Edward, prying his fingers out of the holes he dug into the railing. He doesn't look at me, but returns my fierce hug when he wraps his arms around me. I push my face into his chest, closing my eyes and attempting to soothe my head.
"You can't go, Bella," he whispers, tightening his grip as if he plans to physically keep me here.
"Edward," I say. "I promised we would come up with an alternative, but we have no plan. If I refuse to go with Felix the whole guard will descend upon us and we'll lose. Even if by some miracle we all survive, they will take our daughter. They'll probably walk away with Alice and me too, somehow. I know how they operate, Edward, and our number one priority needs to be keeping the guard on the other side of the world."
He stares at me for a long, painful moment before nodding almost imperceptibly.
"What do we do?" he whispers.
"I have to go," I say miserably.
"Please don't ask me to stay," I say with a groan. "This is hard enough and I don't think I can bear it when I have to say no. I know you hate it, but think about our daughter's safety."
"And what about your safety?" he yells, pulling away. He goes from heart-broken to livid so quickly it gives me whiplash. "What about my responsibility to keep you safe?"
He's screaming at me now and my head throbs.
"I should be able to protect you from this!"
What Edward is feeling is so much more complicated than simple jealousy. This reaction isn't Edward being possessive, but his overwhelming need to save me from my horrifying arrangement. I hurt, he hurts. That's the way it's always been.
"And you will," I reply, struggling to stay calm. "But not yet. Not today or next week, but soon. We'll figure it out with Carlisle, but right now you have to let me go."
We will do nothing of the sort. I got myself into this situation, and I will get myself out, one way or another, even if it means I end up ash in the wind.
"I'll go with you," he declares, his desperation growing.
I didn't think this situation could get much worse, but now I'm crippled with a whole new dose of fear.
Aro can't know about Edward.
The vampire lord is extremely possessive of his collection. That's how he sees the members of the guard, as belonging to him in totality. Above all, having an impressive and useful variety of gifted vampires under his direct control is Aro's mission.
Edward is impressive, very similar to what Aro does himself, but more convenient.
Aro already wants Nessie for her uniqueness, but he craves Alice and myself on a permanent basis for practical reasons. He cannot know about Edward who is not only a potential collectible, but also a potential threat. My husband pulls me further away from Aro's grasp and he won't be allowed to continue existing.
The guard will give him the choice.
"Absolutely not!" I scream, totally panicking. I lose all composure and rationality. "He can't know about you!"
His eyes narrow and for one moment I think he's going to say something horrible again. Last time he accused me of liking it. Maybe this time he'll just speak the truth and call me a whore.
"I'm going," he says, voice low and dangerous. I just want to scream in frustration and go fetal as this anger surges through me.
"You won't!" I shriek. "It's seven against one here. They'll restrain you. That's how serious this is."
Edward snorts. "They don't even understand why I'm upset. Rosalie called me unreasonable and controlling."
Stupid, bitchy sister.
"In this moment you are being unreasonable," I reply. "You absolutely cannot come with me. If there is any hope of me navigating out of this arrangement, Aro cannot know you exist. You'll just be one more thing Aro can used to control me, one more reason Aro has for wanting to destroy our family."
Edward looks like he's going to keep arguing when Carlisle speaks from inside the house.
"She's right, Edward."
We turn to see my whole family lined up on the other side of the floor to ceiling windows. They stare with varying degrees of shock, confusion, anger, and sorrow. I refuse to feel guilty for lying to them. Until this moment when I'm looking for an alternative there was absolutely no reason for them to know.
"You don't know Aro, Edward, not like we do," Carlisle continues. "His whole existence is about manipulation and maintaining his power, not only over our kind but also over his own private collection of gifted immortals who he considers his property. Your presence will not help Bella. It will hurt us all."
Edward just glares, too stubborn and too angry to really agree to Carlisle's words. At least we have a week to calm him down.
"I am her mate," Edward whispers miserably before turning back to me. He cradles my face in his hands as my heart breaks again and again. "I'm your mate. It shouldn't be like this. It can't be like this."
"I know," I reply with equal misery. "But he doesn't operate that way, Edward. He is all demon. No part of him understands this connection and partnership. You being my mate will mean nothing to him, just another way to control me."
Edward stares at me for a long moment.
"Okay," Rose finally demands. He lets me go and we turn back to the family. "What the fuck is going on here?"
"Really," Esme says, more upset than I've ever seen her. She's hurt. We've hurt Esme. "What are you three keeping from us?"
"I believe it's four of them that know," Jasper says, staring at Alice who shifts guiltily under her mate's gaze.
"I don't know anything for sure," she murmurs. "Just glimpses. Have for a while now. Bella's tricky."
I look at my sister in shock. Alice is notorious for her inability to keep from meddling. For years I assumed that she didn't know because she simply didn't speak of it. I give her a nod of gratitude, blown away that she even kept this from her mate.
Alice must really love me, but her silence indicates that I've been right to keep this from them.
"Come inside," Carlisle says, sounding so world wary. "Let's sit down."
He places a hand on the small of Esme's back but she slaps him away. I wince, the guilt resurfacing. My father has lied to his wife for half a century and it's because of me.
We get settled in the living room with the exception of Edward who paces around behind my chair like a caged big cat. Fitting as mountain lion is his favorite meal.
"So there's a lot more to this thing with the Volturi, I take it," Rosalie says, scowling at me. I sigh heavily. This is a situation I hoped to never ever be in. I don't want them to see me as the whore I am and I'm terrified they'll run off to Italy, doing something that will turn them to ash.
I feel ill and my head threatens to split in two. All eyes are on me and I tried to mentally prepare for this since our last late night meeting, but the words don't come. I study my hands in my lap and my father takes over, explaining as delicately as possible. I feel like I'm shrinking, collapsing in on myself until I shrivel up into nothing.
Edward stops his frantic movements to sit next to me and hold my hand. His support immediately makes me feel like I'm still some version of myself.
Carlisle explains everything, how we were given three choices but how there never really was another option. Giving them Nessie was not going to happen, nor could I stay there forever. He talks about why this remained my secret for so long. He stops speaking and is met with a stunned silence. It takes all my courage to look up from my hands joined with Edward's.
They'll see me differently now, and I hate Aro a little more, something that didn't seem possible until this moment. The looks on their faces are expected: anger, horror, sadness, and pity.
I wonder if they'll still love me after this.
Emmett pounds the arm of the couch with a fist, destroying it completely. Esme covers her mouth with her hands, her shoulders shaking as if her body is capable of tears. The calculating look in Jasper's eye tells me he's already plotting some maneuver to make this right.
Rose's expression is unfathomable, fierce and stunned and so shockingly understanding. She's the first to move after her destructive husband. I watch her with wary eyes as she approaches and kneels in front of me. We watch each other for another moment before she wraps me up in a bone-crushing hug.
I shudder and shake against the sister who has been openly antagonistic for months. Her silent support gives me strength. Rosalie understands what it's like to be used and controlled by men.
It did lead to her death, after all.
For the first time I find the faith that we will find a solution, but for now I have to go.
We talk for a while. They throw out suggestions for how to get out of it during my upcoming trip, but they do not come up with anything new or usable. After hours it feels like my head has cracked in two. Edward holds me and strokes my temple, but I feel his despair.
Jasper is obviously as pained as I am. He is so frustrated with his inability to come up with anything reasonable, it looks like he is on the verge of completely losing it.
Emmett suggests for the fifth time that the whole lot of them accompany me to Italy and beat the shit out of the vampire lord. I hiss at him.
"Emmett, shut the fuck up!" snaps Alice. "This is exactly why we didn't tell you! You change your mind right now because I'm really tried of watching a future where the Volturi decapitates you and the rest of the people I love!"
Emmett begrudgingly remains silent, but his knuckles turn white as he fists his hands to keep from destroying any more furniture.
"Okay, that's enough for one night," Carlisle murmurs, his tone leaving little room for argument. "Think on a solution and we'll talk about it tomorrow."
There is no hope to get me out of it this time. Carlisle knows it. I know it, but convincing Edward seems like an impossibility.
He can't come to Italy. We're all doomed, if he comes to Italy.
Edward pulls me to my feet, and I'm a little stunned to see each member of my family stand to embrace me. I've lied to them and my very flesh is tainted, but they all hug me anyway. Every single one of them.
"I'm going with you," Edward murmurs when he gets me into bed a few minutes later.
"No, you really are not," I reply, closing my eyes and snuggling into a pillow. "Can we please not fight about it now? Please."
Edward sighs heavily and then crawls in beside me.
In the morning, we fight about it. There is screaming and throwing things and the destruction of furniture.
"You are being stubborn!" I shriek, shoving him into a wall. The plaster cracks, but neither of us pays it any attention. "You aren't protecting me, Edward! You are dooming us all."
"I won't let you do this!" Edward bellows. "I won't!"
Our fight seems to go in circles as we yell and hiss and spit at each other. He is desperate and I'm panicked. Emotions run high, and somewhere along the line, we forget that we both want the same thing.
"It isn't up to you," I hiss, pacing around in front of him. I feel so dangerous in this moment. My fear transforms into a pent up need for violence that has my limbs actually shaking with the effort to keep from destroying everything, him and me included.
"Oh, as if you know what's best?" he asks, pushing away from the wall. We circle each other in our somewhat trashed living room, both crouched slightly and braced for violence. The demon has taken over both of us, and we regard each other with narrowed, angry eyes. "Look what you've been doing for the last sixty years."
"Like you could have done any different."
His steps falter and a little humanity flickers in his eyes for a moment, but I hiss at him, hating his goddamn human side in this moment. It is making it harder for me to go and I have to go.
"I'm going with you, Bella!" he shrieks.
He is crazed and something about his panic makes me stop abruptly. The human resurfaces and it becomes painfully apparent that he knows he's lost.
I approach him and he tenses, but apparently he reads my intentions on my face because he straightens and lets me cradle his jaw. I watch him crumble, his whole face falling in abject sorrow.
"Bella," he murmurs miserably.
"I know," I say. It's a harsh whisper. "I love you."
Edward kisses me and something about the touch is so sad, it makes my heart break. When he pulls away it feels like I'm crying.
"Bella—" he starts, but I cut him off, not willing to start fighting all over again.
"Edward," I say quietly. "I love you. I love our daughter, but I have to go. I don't want to and I know you don't want me to, but right now, this is how we keep our family safe."
He lets out a sound akin to that of a wounded animal and hugs me a little tighter.
"I'm coming with you," he murmurs. A little sob escapes my throat and I kiss his chest when I hear the fight leave his voice.
"Oh, sweetheart," I whisper. "No you're not."
"No, you are going to stay right here with our daughter. We both can't leave and she needs you here, Edward. If you come with me, she'll lose us both. You can't do that to her, Edward," I say, still talking quietly into his chest.
I feel him give in. The fight leaves his body, and I hate myself a little more for making him feel this way.
"I'm going to try," I say suddenly, pulling back to stare at him. "I… I'll figure it out somehow, but I'm going to really, really try not to do anything. Okay?"
Edward just pulls me back down, neither of us much comforted by my words.
Next chappie should be up real soon.