Author's Note: Ever have one of those fics that you write, but you're not entirely sure how it happened? This is that fic. Yeah, I don't even know.
I was a fool. A damn fool, to think that anything about being a vampire was romantic.
When James held me hostage in Phoenix, I still had hope that everything was going to be all right. I had faith that Edward and his family would come, that they would save me.
When James bit me, I still wasn't scared. This was what I'd wanted, after all. To be a vampire, to be strong, beautiful, immortal. I'd wanted Edward to be the one to change me, but he was dragging his feet, and maybe it would work out better for me if someone forced his hand.
I was such an idiot.
There's nothing romantic about being thrown into a mirror, glass slicing into me in a million places. Nothing romantic about James snapping my leg like a twig, about being crippled by the agony, alone.
And then he bit me.
I don't know what I'd imagined being turned would feel like. Back when I was human, I was so focused on the end result, it never occurred to me to think about the middle. The part where venom flowed through my veins, lighting me on fire from the inside out. Where I was in so much pain that I couldn't move, couldn't even think.
I don't remember much of being bitten. Carlisle told me later that Edward had tried to suck the venom out of the wound in my hand. I guess none of them thought about the fact that Edward's mouth was filled with the same venom that was slowly killing me, that they were only making the problem worse.
By the time they figured out that their miracle cure wasn't working, I was already half-gone. They had two choices: change me, or let me die. They chose to change me. In a rare moment of lucidity, I begged Edward to change me.
If I'd known then what I do now, I would have begged for death.
With a fresh dose of venom pumping through my veins, Edward and his family spirited me out of Phoenix, back to Forks. I came back to myself three days later, chained in the basement of their mansion like an animal. When I asked Edward about the chains, he told me that they were a precaution, that newborn vampires were dangerous and volatile, and they didn't want me to be able to kill anyone.
It was a good idea, actually, because the moments where I was in control of myself were few and far between. The majority of the time, I was little more than a feral dog, trying to kill anyone who came near me. Apparently, I ripped a huge gash in Alice's face when she tried to play dress-up with me, one day. She's got a scar she still won't forgive me for.
(I kind of feel bad about it, but she should have known better than to try and get a crazed newborn into a cocktail dress. Really, what the hell had she been thinking?)
I don't remember much about the early days, thankfully; just an insatiable craving for blood. It disgusted me how much I wanted to drink, and how good it tasted when I did. In the few moments that I was myself, I remembered Edward or Carlisle coming down into the basement with cups of blood for me to drink. They didn't trust me to hunt on my own, even with supervision.
I protested exactly once. I wanted out of the basement, wanted to see the sun, again. And I thought I could handle the thirst, since I hadn't lunged at Edward in a while when he brought me blood to drink. So, he tested me, late one night when everyone else was asleep. He came down the stairs with something in his arms, and it smelled so good, and I lost it when he got close enough. I lunged forward, the chains snapping me back when I hit the limit, and I crashed back to the floor. When the red haze cleared from my mind, I could see Edward standing back on the stairs, the bundle still in his arms.
Wordlessly, he tilted his arms until I could see the sleeping child he held. I don't know what scared me more: that I could have killed a child in my bloodlust, or that Edward was willing to let me do it to prove a point. I shrank back into the corner, hugging my knees to my chest as I watched him leave, taking the child back from wherever he'd taken it.
After that, I gained control of myself slowly, forcing the bloodlust under control. The sleeping child's face lingered in my mind, and I used that image every time my thirst threatened to take over. I may have been a vampire, but I wasn't going to let myself be a monster.
Besides, I'd been locked up in the basement for so long; all I wanted to do was see my family, again. I wanted to see the smile on Charlie's face, hear Renee's voice. I wanted it so badly that it hurt almost as much as the thirst.
Emmett came downstairs, once, after I started to get my mind back. He didn't visit me, much; I sometimes got the feeling that Edward was keeping the rest of his family away from me. We talked, just for about an hour, but certainly more than we ever had when I was still human. He told me about his turning, about his own struggles as a newborn. He told me that the thirst would get easier to manage, that he would teach me to hunt safely once I was allowed outside, again.
And then he answered the question that had plagued me since I'd first woken up in the basement. And I never could have imagined the answer.
"A year?" I stared at Emmett in disbelief. "No. No, it can't be – Edward said-" I broke off, trying to wrap my mind around Emmett's words. "He said just a couple of months," I protested, weakly. "He said that I've only been down here for a little while." It's not like I could have known for myself; I'd spent so much time lost in the newborn haze that I had no idea how much time had actually passed. I'd only started counting the days for the last month, or so.
"My brother is an idiot," Emmett said, bluntly. "He's been lying to you. Trying to protect you, I think." He shrugged. "I don't know. I don't know what he thinks, any more."
"Charlie," I demanded, lunging against the chains holding me to the floor. Emmett stopped me with a hand on my chest before I could snap them. "If I've been gone a year, then Charlie – my dad thinks-" I couldn't even finish the thought. It was too horrible to contemplate.
"I don't know how your dad's doing." There was an apologetic tone in Emmett's voice, and he wouldn't meet my eyes. "We've been laying low, keeping a low profile. Edward wanted to skip town in the middle of the night, but it was hard enough getting you here from Phoenix the first time. It would have been nearly impossible to move you out of Forks without something happening."
From his tone, it was pretty obvious what that something would have been, and as much as I hated feeling like a captive, I was grateful that they'd kept me from hurting anyone.
"Edward wanted to leave?" I asked, softly. "Wanted to take me away from Forks, without even a chance to say goodbye to my dad?"
Emmett's tone was patient, like he was talking to a small child. "Exactly what did you think was going to happen when you were nagging Edward to change you, all last year? You would have had to disappear even if Edward had changed you when you wanted."
"I – I hadn't thought about it," I confessed, in a small voice. "I just thought about being a vampire. I thought it would be glamorous, fun."
Emmett snorted. "Sorry to pull the wool off your eyes," he said, and he actually did sound apologetic, like he was sorry to have to be the one to break my heart like that.
I could feel tears in my eyes, but I didn't understand how I could cry when I was technically dead. Emmett brushed the tears away with a gentle hand, letting his hand linger on my cheek when I leaned into his touch.
"I want my dad," I whispered, getting a sympathetic look from Emmett.
"Carlisle doesn't think that's a good idea," he said, regret heavy in his voice. "Everyone thinks you're gone; he says that it's better for you to stay that way."
Emmett's words dashed my hopes, and I pulled away from his hand to stare down at the floor. "So, what?" I muttered, unable to keep the bitterness out of my voice. "I'm just going to stay chained up in this basement for the rest of my undead life?"
"Edward is going to let you out when he's sure you can control yourself," Emmett told me, but he was avoiding my gaze, again.
"When Edward thinks that I can control myself," I repeated, flatly. I wondered if Emmett knew about Edward's one and only test of my self-control. "Edward, who's been telling me that I'm still little more than a ravenous monster, every time he brings me dinner. I think he just likes keeping me all to himself."
Emmett's silence said more than words possibly could have. And before he could say anything, Edward's silhouette appeared at the top of the stairs. Emmett shot me a small, sad smile before he retreated.
To my surprise, Emmett came back after Edward had left, Rosalie with him. Emmett put a finger to his lips, signaling me to silence, and he and Rosalie each grabbed the chains holding me bound.
"We'll have to move fast," he warned me, quietly. "If Edward and Alice figure out what we're doing before we get you back to town-"
"Alice's visions are next to useless," Rosalie muttered, rolling her eyes. "And Edward won't be reading our minds, not if you're thinking about what I told you to think about."
"What did you tell him to think about?" I asked, curious despite myself, and Rosalie smirked.
"Porn," she said, a gleeful cackle slipping past her lips. "Eddie spazzes out when we start thinking about sex."
I couldn't help it; I started laughing at the image her words conjured up. Rosalie grinned, and then she and Emmett ripped the chains out of the floor.
"No time to get 'em off your wrists," Emmett said, hauling me to my feet. "Just grab 'em and run."
I couldn't support my own weight. The chains had never been long enough to allow me to properly stand, and the venom that changed me had set my leg in the same position it had been in when James broke it. Emmett and Rosalie had to drag me out of the house. I tried to stumble along between them, but my long-unused limbs simply refused to cooperate, and it was easier to let them hold me up.
Especially once we were outside.
My first step outside in a year should have been a joyous thing. I should have been overwhelmed by the beauty of everything that had been denied to me while I'd been chained up in the basement. Instead, I was simply overwhelmed.
My senses had gone into overdrive when I'd first been turned, but in the basement, locked away, it had been manageable. Outside, it was as if everything was pounding down on me, with no relief in sight. I could hear everything, down to the damn bugs crawling on the forest floor, and it felt like my head was going to explode. I could see so much, but I couldn't focus on anything, and I screwed my eyes shut with a whimper of pain.
"Hang on," Rosalie said, her hands tightening on my arms. "We're almost there."
'Almost where?' I wanted to ask, but I was afraid that if I opened my mouth, I would start screaming in pain and never stop. It was almost as bad as the day I'd first been changed.
We were stopping, a few seconds later, and I forced my eyes open in confusion, because we couldn't possibly be out of the forest, yet. And then I could have smacked myself, because I'd managed to forget just how fast vampires could move, and Emmett and Rosalie had probably poured on the speed to get me away from the mansion.
"We're here," Emmett said, softly, and I looked around. My mouth fell open when I recognized the house in front of us, the familiar truck beside us in the driveway.
"I'm home," I whispered, tears springing to my eyes, again, momentarily blinding me. "My dad-"
"You want to see him?" Rosalie interrupted me, and I blinked at her, sure that I'd just heard wrong.
"I thought it was too dangerous," I said, slowly. "Emmett – you said that I would have to disappear!" I couldn't keep the accusing tone out of my voice as I glared at him. He shrugged, not offended.
"If we'd done this on a regular schedule, yeah," he drawled. "But, things haven't exactly been normal for you for the last year."
"You've been showing good control, lately," Rosalie spoke up, silencing Emmett with a mild glare. "Except for that little incident with Alice, last week-"
"That was deliberate," I muttered, sheepishly. Alice apparently hadn't learned from the last time, and she'd come downstairs with more clothes, like I was her giant, freaking Barbie, and I'd gone temporarily "feral", just long enough to scare her away.
"We figured," Rosalie said, dryly. "You've got good control, Bella. You ate just before we broke you out, and if you start to slip, Emmett and I will be there to stop you. We'll keep you from hurting your father."
"This is your choice," Emmett said, picking up where Rosalie had left off. "If you don't want to see him-"
"I do!" I said, quickly, half-afraid that if I hesitated, they'd take me away. But, they wouldn't have brought me here just to tease me with a glimpse at my former life. "I want to see my dad," I finished, softer.
"Let's go, then," Emmett said, and he strode ahead of me, while Rosalie looped her arm through mine. She was going to hold me back if I lost control. We ventured a little closer to the house, and through the din that filled my ears, I could hear the sound of a slow, steady heartbeat. My father's heart.
On the porch, Emmett was knocking on the door, and I counted the seconds until it opened. Sixty-five, and then Charlie's face appeared in the doorway. He looked old, haggard, like he'd aged a hundred years since the last time I'd seen him. He was the most beautiful person I'd ever seen.
"Chief Swan," Emmett said.
"Emmett Cullen," Charlie returned, his voice rough with sleep. "Is there a reason you're darkening my doorstep at two in the morning?"
"Actually, sir," Emmett said, his tone quietly respectful, "there is. There's someone who wants to see you."
"You okay?" Rosalie asked, and I took the time to think about her question. I wasn't going to hurt my father with a rash decision.
I could still hear his heartbeat, could smell his blood now that he was closer. There was a part of me that wanted to taste his blood. But, I shoved the urge down, imagined locking it up in the same chains that had held me for the last year. I was not a monster. My thirst did not control me.
"I'm okay," I told Rosalie, and even though my voice shook, she took me at my word, leading me up to the house. I was glad for the support, limping on broken legs unused to working.
I could see Charlie peering through the darkness as we approached, confusion on his face. Then, as we stepped out of the shadows, into the weak moonlight spilling onto the driveway, confusion gave way to shock. I could hear the ragged breath he sucked in when he saw me, could see his hands start to shake. My name formed on his lips, but no sound came out. He didn't move, frozen where he was standing.
"Dad?" I ventured, uncertainly.
I couldn't decipher the expression on his face. I thought he'd be happy to see me, but what if he wasn't? Could he tell what I'd become? Was he afraid of me, afraid that I'd hurt him? I didn't know how to live if he feared me.
"Bells." He sobbed out my name, and then he was flying down the stairs to where Rosalie and I were standing. She stepped back as he wrapped his arms around me in a tight hug. "Bells, Bella-"
"Dad," I choked out, holding on as tight as I dared, Rosalie subtly stopping me from tightening my arms before I could hurt him. "Daddy. I missed you so much." I buried my face in his shoulder, shaking.
"I'm here," Charlie murmured, stroking a hand through my hair, and I relaxed into his arms. "I'm here, baby. You're safe, now. You're home."