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What Music They Make

When an unexpected conflict with the Volturi brings Jacob back into her life, Bella finds that being a vampire only makes it even more complicated for her to be in love with two people.


8. VII: Blood Sport

Rating 5/5   Word Count 9816   Review this Chapter

chapter VII blood sport

On the final day they had to get ready, Bella and the rest of the Cullens all went hunting once more to make sure they would have as much strength as possible. She spent the rest of the day alone with Edward. They went to the meadow and stayed there for hours. It was as gloomy as usual outside and the ground was still a little soft from rain under the thick grass. Bella kept her eyes open and staring up at the gray sky while Edward made love to her. They said only little to each other.

At the beach in La Push, a small gathering of people from the pack sat around the circle of logs set up there for fires. Jacob lay across the ground with his head resting back on one of the logs and his legs bent so that his feet rested on the edge of the remains of black driftwood from the last fire someone had burned there.

Jared was dealing with it by talking about it, while Quil, Paul, and Embry sat staying very quiet by comparison. Just remember, he was saying. Just make sure none of them get a hold of you around your leg or anything. You have to pick somebody to stick close to and look out for. Especially because of the little one. Jane, Embry reminded him. Right.

Jacob just stared up at the sky that was already starting to tint to a darker gray, never saying anything. After a while he closed his eyes as if to shut out all of his surroundings and escape. But Jared never stopped talking, and no matter how much he tried to get lost in his own thoughts he could not ignore his words enough to let them all blur together into meaningless murmuring. Keep looking around you to be careful not to get your back to anybody. Make sure you always give Alice some space because if you do anything to directly affect what she's doing she won't be able to see it coming. It was like cramming for a really important test.

Without opening his eyes, Jacob suddenly muttered, “Shut up, Jared.”

They all looked toward him in some surprise, acknowledging him for the first time in a while as if they could have thought he was sleeping. For a few seconds they just stared like they could not be sure if they had really heard it come from him.

“What?” Jared said.

“Just shut up,” he sighed. “Or talk about something else.”

They were as prepared for this as they were ever going to be, and had been for a while. It was all they had been talking about around each other the whole week. A couple days ago he had already become tired of all the anticipation and worrying. This was happening. In a strange way he was impatient for the hour of tonight they had been looking toward to just finally be here. After just about going crazy thinking about it all the time for days, he was eager to just let the wolf take over all of it and release himself into the fight. What would happen would happen.

When the Cullens came to the clearing twenty minutes before midnight, there were already a few of the werewolves waiting there right in the center, standing in a group in their human forms. Hidden to everyone else, the other half of the pack was visible to them as approaching figures of wolves in the distant trees surrounding the clearing.

There was a full moon above them and it was not as dark as the first night they had met here. Bella could see clearly when she was still far away who the four people waiting and not yet phased were. If Brady realized how much a vampire would also be able to hear from so far away, he did not seem to care.

“Aw, damn. I should have made sure I phased back before the bloodsuckers showed up,” he said. “Makes me feel weird about having to get undressed again, even if I go way over there.” He motioned toward the trees, from which the six other wolves were now starting to emerge. “You know they see freaking everything.”

“They’ve got manners,” Jacob said in a half-serious tone, like he was almost close to laughing. “They’ll look the other way.”

Emmett quietly laughed.

Once they got very close and all slowed to a moderate walk, Bella started to wonder why some of them were just standing here like this not changed yet. Perhaps, even though they could more easily communicate with each other in their other forms, it made some sense that they would want to spend as many of these last moments before the fight as they could as themselves.

When all of the vampires were within a few strides of them, a few of the wolves turned. Some of them just nodded to them in greeting and looked back away. But one of them kept looking their way. Before she had seen him coming, it seemed, Jacob was suddenly closer to her than anyone else there and looking right at her. For once she was able to meet eyes with him with a strong, unhesitant gaze. He stayed five steps away from her, and for a moment she noticed him glancing in the direction of Edward with a slightly annoyed look, as if he had noticed him appearing concerned when he came this close. Just out of the corner of her eye, Bella saw Edward then quickly turn away to stop looking at them.

The moment for one of them to say hello or some kind of greeting to open the exchange came and then passed after hanging there a while, and with that a certain comfort settled in place between them, for they did not need to say anything only for the purpose of saying something now. That was how they had been. They had never needed words to understand one another or felt the need to fill silences with anything just to make them stop feeling awkward. It was the first time they would directly speak to each other face-to-face since meeting again, but suddenly it didn’t feel like the first of anything, just the same as it had always been.

Jacob finally said what he had to. “How far away from you do I need to make sure I stay?”

She shook her head a moment, shrugging. “Just stay as far away as you can,” she said. “Try to avoid my scent as much as possible the whole time.”

He nodded, but something about the answer seemed to make it difficult for him to accept it like that. Something was bothering him.

“What if I see you need help?” he asked after a long hesitation.

She was taken aback by the question; she had not thought about that kind of thing at all, of course. But she did not have to think about it very hard. “The best you can do to help me is not get too close,” she answered simply.

His face was carefully unchanging after he heard that, but then for a second she thought she saw a hint of defiance in his eyes, and even without seeing it she would know. He would never listen to her.

But she tried to assure herself that it didn‘t matter. It was the wolves the Volturi were after. There was no reason to think it was at all likely she would ever end up in serious danger while he was available to come to her rescue, but no one else closer.

Jacob gave a small nod again, and then he said, “Well…I got to go.”

He turned and started heading for the edge of the clearing, and something pulled at her from inside, pulling her voice out of her throat, and she said, “Jacob” without quite knowing why.

He stopped and turned back, looking at her again and waiting. She opened her mouth to speak again, but nothing came out. He could see in her face how she was struggling to find the right words she felt the need to say at this moment. After a long moment of silence, he just smiled at her weakly. The look he gave her then, even though it was so empty and had no genuine hope or light in it, was somehow still a little relieving and encouraging to see.

“It’s okay,” he said. “I know.”

She smiled back at him a little, just barely. Then he turned away again and started to run far off, disappearing into the shadows of the confining forest to phase. The others quickly followed.

It seemed like everything suddenly became so silent. Bella stood completely still, frozen in so many overwhelming thoughts that she was not even thinking about what she was doing and paying attention to what was happening around her, with her hands gripped tightly together and held close against her under her chin. Edward’s presence surprised her in a strange way, pulling her out of the pitch black cave of her head, when he came in front of her and held her shoulders, leaning over to talk softly close to her ear.

“Don’t worry,“ he just said, lowering one of his hands and rubbing it up and down her back assuringly. “Don’t worry.”

It somehow felt to her like it had been ten minutes when a minute after leaving, Jacob and the other three came back into the clearing to join the other wolves with their only clothes they had worn attached to them with chords as usual. While some of the others kept talking to each other every once in a while in low voices, Bella and Edward only waited in complete silence.

No one said anything when she and the other vampires started to hear it, though some of them looked at each other in a way that probably gave it away to the wolves. The constant running of so many feet sounded like a very distant, soft rain, all of the light and graceful steps so fast that they were almost indiscernible as separate sounds.

“They’re here,” Carlisle said quietly.

The wolves all immediately began to move. Almost every one of them had already been standing near another who they were planning to stay close to during the fight, but now they became more clearly separated into pairs, each one standing right at the side of a partner. Jacob and Sam joined each other standing somewhat in the middle of the crowd of wolves, and when the Cullens all moved into a scattered line in front of them, they stood directly behind them and a little in front of all the other wolves.

The many dark running shapes all came out into the clearing in such an orderly, evenly spaced formation with three of them clearly in the lead that they reminded Bella of migrating birds flying together in an arrow shape. The perfect order seemed to fall apart a little, though, as some of them who may have not already noticed who the pack was accompanied by saw it now. She heard distant, confused murmurings between some of them before they got very close.

But when the Volturi slowed down and started coming closer to them, they immediately arranged themselves again; Aro, Caius, and Marcus walked in front together while the guard followed side-by-side in a perfect line with Alec and Jane the centerpoint, the shortest figures of them all in the middle. Every long step forward they took was rigidly synchronized, and they all stood with the same straight posture, looking straight forward and never anywhere else. There were a dozen of them in the back line that made up the guard. They were not immediately easy to differentiate with their long cloaks and hoods hiding so many of their features, but some of them were people Bella recognized from meeting in Volterra while there were others she had never seen before. A beautiful dark-skinned woman on the left end of the line seemed only vaguely familiar to her, and then with some momentary shock she recognized her as Gianna, the receptionist who had been human when she saw her before. Her eyes were just a slightly more severe red than those of most of the other members, making Bella assume she must have been turned almost a whole year ago. There was a male vampire who also appeared to be a newborn on the opposite end of the line; she guessed that the ones walking closer to the middle had some kind of higher ranking.

When they finally came to an abrupt stop before them, Carlisle came forward, putting himself right in between both groups. Aro was looking around at all of them with a completely confounded look on his face.

“What is this, Carlisle?” he asked, sounding like he was trying to make sense of the most outrageous spectacle he had ever seen.

“I’m afraid it is what it looks like,” Carlisle answered easily, his voice sounding a little restrained with regret even as he spoke so certainly.

Aro finally looked straight at Carlisle’s face, starting to appear a little bit pained. “Oh, come now…You would not have me release my guard on you and your dear family. Is this some sort of bluff to try to get me to change my mind?” He did not even wait for an answer before looking around at the wolves behind them as if the sight answered it for him, showing him just how ridiculous the idea was. “But how can this be so important to you? After the whole time you—”

“Aro.” Bella heard Marcus interrupt him with the soft murmur, and Aro turned to look at him as he said something then that was too quiet for anyone else to understand. After a pause of taking in his words, Aro laughed lightly as if he had just told him something a little amusing, but Bella knew how likely Marcus was to say something intentionally humorous.

“What?” he said quietly, not seeming to completely understand. “It can’t be…”

Marcus held up his hand. After Aro lightly touched his finger to one of his, a vague expression crossed over his face a moment, and then his eyes lit up with astonishment.

“Well, my word,” he sighed, looking back out at the strange gathering of allies in front of him. Then Bella was sure he was looking straight at her for a split second, though he seemed to avoid being obvious about it, and then right from her his gaze moved to a point behind her and settled on something much larger and taller that had him raising his eyes almost up to the sky.

She did not realize who he had been staring right at for a while with his amazed and slightly disgusted look until she heard one of the wolves let out a sharp, angry growl that actually made Aro step back a little bit in surprise and she glanced behind her to see Jacob leaning forward in a threatening stance, baring his razor-sharp teeth with the fur on his back raised.

With a little timid hesitation, Bella looked to her side at Edward, wondering what he could tell was crossing through everyone’s minds at the moment. But his face was extremely passive and controlled now, showing nothing.

Even without him interpreting for anyone, however, Aro’s expression was now showing much more apparent disgust, and he was obviously able to tell that Jacob meant to quite rudely say something like “What are you staring at?”

He looked back at Carlisle and just shook his head in a resigned way. “Well, this is so unfortunate,” he said with heavy disappointment. “Will you reconsider this at all, Carlisle? I hate to senselessly have to harm any of you.”

“I am sorry, but in this situation it is only you who is in a position to reconsider,” Carlisle said. “And I already know you will not.”

Aro shook his head slowly again. “No…At least I am relieved that you do not expect as much from me. I see now you are serious, not simply…pretending you are willing to go this far.”

“Of course not. I know your way. And I would never count on any kind of bluff being able to intimidate your guard.”

“Indeed, no. It is only you anyone should be scared for now. Our numbers may be less, but I do not think I have to tell you of the advantages we have.”

“We are aware of the danger,” Carlisle said, his voice starting to sound a little tired, almost impatient.

“Yes, yes…A moment then,” Aro requested, turning to face his guard.

He started walking back and forth quickly, talking to them at a low, private volume. Carlisle took the opportunity to turn around and say something to the pack. “Can you see? There are two newborns. I know we weren’t expecting that.”

“I can’t believe how many they brought for this,” Jasper muttered. “That must be the entire guard.”

“I told you, werewolves are the only thing that ever makes Aro nervous.”

“I can only speak for one of you at a time,” Edward said quickly in an urgent tone, and after looking around at several of the wolves he glanced right at Jacob. “They will be better trained for working together than the other newborns we fought before, won’t they?”

“Definitely,” Jasper said. “I think the only major difference you will find in fighting them is that they are stronger. We cannot really take advantage of them.”

After Aro finished giving the members of the guard some brief direction, he turned back to face the others. His face was still full of so much disappointment, though not quite sadness, as if something he had been looking forward to had just had all of the fun of it completely spoiled for him. He raised his arm and gave a very quick, subtle gesture with his hand, and his fighters all responded in unison by pushing their hoods back from their heads and then taking off their cloaks. They let them fall from their shoulders to the ground and left them there to promptly start marching off, spreading out away from each other.

After a moment Bella saw that they were walking far out near the perimeter of the clearing and starting to form a circle around everyone else. All of them did this so naturally, already knowing which way to go. She shuddered a little just seeing the way they all moved in such an organized fashion like parts of the same body working together, as if they were governed by the same mind. As she was becoming so overtaken with fear that it was almost hard to imagine how she would be able to move again and start doing what she had to in only a few moments, the Volturi vampires all looked completely calm, almost bored.

She felt Edward take her hand firmly where he was standing right at her side. “Stay close to me,” he said quietly.

Aro, Marcus, and Caius were also moving out to the outer edge of the open area, stopping where they would stay and watch. The guard had now stopped and turned to face inward, now in a neat circle with equal distance between each of them.

Bella heard a faint, alarmingly delicate and soft voice speaking in a whisper, and looked to her left to see Alec looking away from Jane at his side, who he appeared to have just been quickly saying something to. Then he turned around and Bella only saw him lean his weight forward the slightest bit and dart toward the surrounding area in the start of a run before he turned into just a blur of fast movement and then just as soon had completely vanished from view, as if he had turned into nothing.

Then, before she could even prepare herself, there were other empty spots in the circle of vampires surrounding them that others had moved from. And with a sudden breakout of hostile noises coming from both sides, loud growls and shouting, all too soon it had begun.

The world around her had been turned into a bloody horror movie playing at a speed too fast to follow as all the creatures of the night imploded into each other with murderous, unstoppable determination. The air was filled thickly with an ugly, chaotic song of the wolves' howls of pain, the vampires’ shouts and panicked cries, and Jacob's blood calling and pulling at her from his open wounds. The smell of any other blood was so overwhelming everywhere around her it was all indiscernible, unclear where it was from a wolf and where it may be some human's blood that had been spilled from a vampire.

It was worse than any nightmare she ever could have conceived in her own head with her own most brutal fears. It was hell.

Bella tried to follow Jane, but it was almost no use at all. They had been ready for her to be a problem for her. Alec in particular seemed to be keeping a close eye on Bella to keep her from getting anywhere near his sister. But at least it was always easy to quickly notice where Jane was because her whereabouts would keep getting announced by the sudden cries from someone near her as she used her powers on them.

“Leah, turn - !” Edward was shouting to her just as Alec appeared out of nowhere right on her tail. Bella was dodging attacks from the male newborn next to him, but with quick glances at Leah she was able to see her turn quickly around right before Alec grabbed her around the leg. But in the blink of an eye he then had taken one of her front legs, and Edward lunged for him -

And fell down the moment he had touched him, cringing all over his body, his eyes wide and focused on nothing as if he was suddenly seeing something horrible in his head that was real to nobody else. Gasping, Bella risked a quick look around and saw where Jane was staring at Edward with a mild, pleased expression as she watched him suffer.

The distraction cost her; the newborn ran toward her again and she tried to move an instant too late. He caught her by the arm and then bit right into it. She screamed out of shock as much as in response to how much it hurt; she was not used to physical pain anymore. But she thought fast, jumping right into her attacker’s head and imagining clearly the feeling of another vampire’s teeth biting into his back behind him. Thinking someone else was attacking from behind, the newborn released her right away and turned only to find nobody behind him, and just before she would have taken advantage of the moment by getting him he ran right away from her. She saw him going after Seth, who at the moment was fighting nobody, right before Seth himself noticed and ran to meet him. It definitely seemed that Aro must have ordered them not to waste their time trying to hurt any other vampires as long as they weren’t getting in the way of the wolves.

As soon as she was free to, she rushed back to join Edward, who Jane had left alone after Rosalie and Emmett stepped in to chase off her and Alec. Leah was limping around but seemed to be okay now, dragging Felix away from Jared with his foot in her teeth when Bella glanced her way. She and Edward grasped hands, him pulling her along with him to help Quil as soon as he knew he was the next wolf Alec was thinking about going after. But before they reached him, Edward once again was stopped when he fell helplessly to the ground, groaning through clenched teeth with the unbearable pain. Bella could not help but stop for a second, looking down at him in horror, and then quickly looked around to try to find Jane. She didn’t get the chance before Demetri came at her from the right and she gasped when he almost got his teeth in her side. Edward began to stand up, released from the torture for just a moment, but then collapsed all over again. Bella kept dodging Demetri’s advances, but it was so hard to focus on thinking of what to do to use her powers against him when she just wanted to get to Jane and stop her.

“Just don’t look at him, Bella!” Jasper shouted to her where he was fighting a woman with very long black hair about ten feet from her, having just noticed how she kept glancing toward Edward on the ground.

Of course. It was just what they wanted. She had to keep herself pulled together and focused.

But it wasn’t long before Demetri left her alone just as the newborn had, and just then she spotted Jane out of the corner of her eye. She ran for her, but Alice appeared right in front of her just in time to take Alec by surprise when his face was suddenly right by Bella’s, teeth bared to sink into her neck as he leaped up toward her. Alice grabbed him by the leg and pulled him onto the ground; Bella grabbed his arms and felt a brief thrill of hope - if they could just kill him together now it would make everything suddenly more even between both sides, if they just got him -

Ah!” Alice cried, suddenly dropping Alec and falling over, and Bella knew exactly what was happening already but did not get the chance to look around for Jane before Alec had gotten his teeth in her arm. Almost at the same time Edward was suddenly at her side, grabbing Alec right around the middle and biting into his neck to pull him off of her.

Bella was starting to be able to predict how Jane and Alec were working together, and she knew Edward was doing things he knew already would just get Jane to hurt him rather than be successful. She needed to think ahead, and she had already found where Jane had just stopped torturing Quil and was clearly about to turn her powers on somebody else before she did, and she started running toward her the moment the pain made Edward let go of Alec.

Some confusing flashes of movement that her eyes could not follow rushed around her, and then neither Jane or Alec were in sight.

Bella looked around frantically as Edward came back to her side, eyes wide. “Where’s Jane?” she said in a fast, worried voice. “How did I lose her?”

Edward looked a little shocked. “We won’t be able to see her,” he said with strong annoyance. “Alec is carrying her on his back.”

Many of the others heard this where they were fighting nearby, and Jasper looked over at them briefly with a stunned expression. “I’ve never known them to try that,” he said.

“Come on,” Edward said to her as he saw that Collin was taking on two vampires at the same time far away, and they went for him together. Felix came between them to stop them from getting to him, and before Bella could even move again Edward started fighting him and deliberately driving the fight many feet away from her. He kept doing this; he did not seem to want to put any of the killing into Bella’s hands and kept making sure he took all the fights he could instead of her. But she went on hurrying to Collin, assured at least by the fact that she knew exactly where Edward was and she wasn’t going far from him even though it made her feel almost sickeningly horrible leaving him behind facing somebody.

Collin was torn up all over his body and covered in blood, but as soon as Bella engaged one of the vampires attacking him he seemed strong enough to still face the remaining one. As she fought the other, she heard some of the Volturi far away shouting to each other in Italian, sounding frustrated but far from anxious or scared. Then even further away, she could make out some other things being shouted over all the other noise that were almost dangerously distracting to hear.

“No, Gianna, just help Nicholas! Get the Alpha! — No, he said it’s the red one! Take him down!

“Don’t just drive them further into the center! Try to get them away from the damn mind-reader!”

Not far away from where Bella, Collin, and Edward were, Alice was fighting the black-haired female. Bella was able to see enough of her while still concentrating on what she was doing to be able to tell that the female seemed to give up after a while after seeing how quickly Alice could react to every move. Then something happened that almost caught Bella’s eye too much for her to keep fighting; the female turned to try to run, and Alice completely missed an easy opportunity to stop her, suddenly going still and looking extremely confused and disoriented. Bella had known her long enough to tell that she must have momentarily stopped being able to see what was coming her way.

But Edward could tell something was going to happen before it did.

“Alice! Move!” he roared in warning. Too late.

Sam was charging right in Alice’s direction, clearly intending to move past her to get to somebody else, but completely unseen by her as she stood facing the other way. All at once he let out a terrible howl of pain and his legs failed. Bella felt the great thump of his huge body landing on the ground under her feet, and the momentum of how fast he had been running sent him tumbling forward out of control. It happened so fast Alice was taken completely by surprise and screamed as he knocked right into her and she was buried for a second under his limp form that was still trembling from Jane‘s torture. In this second after he then rolled off of her that she was still disoriented and couldn’t see anything that would happen they were both completely vulnerable, and to Bella’s horror there were suddenly three vampires coming at them like dogs running to meat that had just been dropped on the ground for them to grab, including the one that had been fighting her a moment before.

It was this one that stopped Jasper from making it in between Alice and her attackers as he flew toward her, and Jasper fought back with such sudden ferocity that it seemed obvious to Bella who would win that fight. The second went right for Sam before Bella drove him away and took him on, and right before Alice could get back on her feet the third, a male with long brown hair, had pounced right onto her, pinning her down on the ground and immediately starting to pull at one of her arms.

Jasper?!” she called in a shrill voice with an edge of panic like nothing Bella had ever heard come out of her mouth before, and for a horrifying second Jasper could only let out a roar of rage as his opponent continued to be in his way and Bella was sure Alice was going to lose her arm. She did not notice the heavy pounding of running paws approaching before a huge mouth full of slick, glimmering teeth suddenly closed around the brown-haired vampire with a slight crunching sound. He yelped loudly and let go of Alice right away as Paul dragged him away from her, running off shaking him back and forth in the grip of his teeth.

Wherever Jane was, she had gotten bored with Sam and moved on to concentrate on something else, and with a somewhat relieved-sounding grunt he rolled quickly over onto his feet. Bella then heard from a little far in the distance the strange, unmistakable sound of a vampire’s body being destroyed, and she risked a glance over to the opposite side of the mob of monsters she was near, afraid of what she would see. But it was only Jacob with Gianna, holding her on the ground with one paw and starting to tear her apart by gnawing off a leg.

Before Sam could run off to join him again and help, Edward called something to him quickly without looking away from the fight he was in. “Sam, watch out — They’re trying to separate you two! Don’t leave him by himself again!”

He gave a slight nod with his head before charging off.

It went on and on for what felt like hours when not even half an hour had yet passed. It was impossible for Bella to be much use as the only one who would have no trouble trying to go after Jane when along with Alec she only let herself be seen briefly as they both appeared to strike briefly but hard like stinging bees, leaving some of the wolves with crippling injuries that would weaken them for a critical amount of time before they healed. But as long as nothing was going on to make it especially hard for her to keep her head clear enough to manipulate people’s minds she survived every fight, very nearly but never quite managing to seriously hurt any of her opponents before they escaped her, and was even able to help others around her miss some close calls with some subtle influence on the Volturi fighters’ thoughts.

Even as everyone tried to keep the fight contained to just the area of the clearing as Jasper had warned was so important, after a while more and more of the wolves ended up being driven out into the trees where it was not so easy for others to notice what was happening to them, or else needing to chase a vampire off in a certain direction too much to be able to help but stray a little far. Bella became the most worried about Alec and Jane waiting far off in the surrounding trees to corner wolves who ended up in small numbers or alone there, and whenever she could she kept glancing all around them to see if she could notice even the smallest hint of movement in the distant shadows.

At one point Bella had noticed Paul and Jared chasing the black-haired female away into the forest a minute ago and they still had not come back. She, Edward, and Quil were trying to gang up on a couple they had isolated from the others a little when she noticed a quick movement in the forest next to her and thought she saw Sam’s black-coated mass running somewhere for a second. It was only then she realized that Jacob was not in the clearing anymore either. But she kept herself from dwelling on thoughts about it, focusing on what she needed to be doing as she and the other two circled the couple. Quil went for one of them first, and then all five of them became a blurred mass of lunging and missing for almost a minute. Bella was about to use her powers to distract one of them by making them think the other had just called their name in warning, only hoping these things she was doing were still not too obvious to anyone…

Then, stealing her attention away, a high-pitched canine whimper echoed from far away in the forest to her right that was piercing to her acute ears. Somehow she thought she knew the sound, intuitively connecting an identity to it. She looked that way and froze, realizing in a rush of scared thoughts that when she had thought she saw Sam he was moving in the opposite direction that the sound had come from. And though Jared and Paul were still very far away, she had just been able to see exactly where they were a minute ago, still fighting in the forest off to the left of her. She looked quickly back toward the groups fighting, following all the unbelievably fast-moving figures with her eyes to take in who was there and still not there, and it only confirmed the worries darkening her head to murky, unfocused black.

Edward had stopped and looked toward the trees in alarm right after she had when she heard it, but it seemed he had for a different reason. Embry was now available to come help Quil take on the two vampires near them. As they were driven away Edward suddenly looked at Bella with great fear, not worrying or imagining the worst but knowing, as Jacob was still close enough that he could tell exactly what was happening to him. He was looking at her like he knew what this would mean and was already painfully struggling to let her go. He clearly did not want to have to tell her, but his face gave it away anyway.

She could tell from the look in his eyes that it was bad. She knew. Jacob was alone.

She stared back at his begging face, feeling an agonizing pull, but already knew her feet were going to move. That was why it was so hard to look at him then.

"I love you," she said, and then she was off.

She knew he would understand that she meant Don't follow me, that he already knew he couldn’t because it was too important for him to stay with the others, and that it would kill him. But still she ran and the trees rustled past her in a dark green blur.

It felt more and more like her heart was being slowly torn out of her chest the further she ran from Edward, while at the same time something else rooted painfully deep inside her like a sharp hook was pulling her forward, rushing far ahead of her so that she could not keep up, could not possibly run fast enough. It was almost like having a living heartbeat pounding inside her again, the way the gripping fear now felt like a constant, rhythmic stabbing of pain in that place in the center of her chest, driving her feet to pound against the ground and propel her forward like it seemed they never had before. With every panging stab of fear her head was screaming a name over and over. JANE JANE JANE JANE JANE JANE—

His scent was so easy to follow. His blood was everywhere. It wasn't long before she could also hear the panicked, hammering beat of his heart. The scent brought her to a very small clearing where the moon suddenly appeared round and bright over her head again and where small white flowers grew all around. Many of the flowers were stained red with blood. As soon as she reached this place she gasped and covered her nose and mouth, trying to keep her breath held and her head clear and sharp. The blood-painted flowers made a path of prominently noticeable red spots on the ground leading off to the end of the clearing opposite from where she stood, eventually leading to flowers that were all red, glistening wetly with it. And then they ended, blocked by a massive, dark shape that could have been mistaken for something not living if not for its small, trembling movements and heavy breaths.

There he was, lying on the ground whimpering softly and shaking around a little as if he was trying to throw something small off of his back, his red-brown coat of fur shining slick with his blood in so many places. But a lot of this seemed to be left there just from wounds that were already healed. Although the smell of his blood was so strong here because it was spread all over the place, it was not as powerful as she thought it should be if he was still bleeding anywhere. Even if some of his bones were broken, she couldn't see what had him in so much pain that he was trembling so uncontrollably, making her cringe and feel like she herself was hurting just by seeing him this way. And why was he alone? What would have made Sam leave him and the vampire that had hurt him go without finishing him off?

The answer seared into her mind at the same moment that he finally became aware of someone standing there and turned his huge head toward her. And as their eyes met, the gigantic wolf's with her amber vampire's, an involuntary, denying moan came out of her throat.

He had been left still alive like this because he would not be able to fight again anyway and he was as good as dead. She could think of nothing else that would have made Sam abandon him here if he really needed to. He had been bitten.

She couldn't speak. She could barely move. So paralyzed by the immediate shock and despair that seized her all over, all she could do was look at him and shake her head frantically back and forth, refusing to believe it, swallow it, no no no no no.

And those large eyes, not animal eyes at all, so expressive and human and his, mirrored the look on her own face and seemed to become even more filled with agony at seeing her reaction. And before she knew what was happening, he was shrinking. His shape started lowering down to the ground, the fur shortening and then disappearing into smooth copper skin. It all seemed to happen without him meaning for it to, as natural as one's heartbeat eventually slowing down again or a slow exhale of breath, and once it started he could not reverse it and was soon just a shaking, naked figure on the ground, immediately curling up on his side.

She didn't think. She couldn't think enough to wrap her head around what it meant that he had changed back into himself. She couldn't think enough to give up yet. If it wasn't so bad yet that he could still move, maybe that was a good sign. She ran to him, dropping to his side on the ground and touching his shoulder.

He looked up at her with pleading eyes that pulled at her hopelessly, saying Please. Help me. Kill me. End it. I'm scared I don't care just stay with me.

That was when she noticed he was clutching one hand over his right shoulder. She took his wrist to pull it away and look: there it was, a deep single bite right above where his collar bone ended. It was so ridiculous that she should think of something like this at such a time, but strangely enough, it was exactly where she had been thinking about kissing him as he held her in the car the night she had just nearly died.

She didn't hesitate. She waited only long enough to prepare herself, her left hand digging into the ground with a kind of fierce determination, before she bent over and put her mouth to the wound. She heard Jacob gasp softly, and with his hand she had pulled away from the bite and was still touching he held hers against his chest and gripped it tightly there.

The immediate feeling of release was so powerful and overtaking. To her body, this taste meant finally giving in, but she had to grab on so tightly to herself and not let her rational thoughts get buried under it. Mixed with his blood was something else thicker and tasteless like water that was harder to draw out and seemed to never stop coming out. Soon it seemed she was getting almost all blood and hardly any of the venom in her mouth, and she just hoped as much as she could with a brain that could hardly focus on more than one thing right now that the other taste would pass.

Jacob's right arm circled around her as he gritted his teeth against the intensely burning pain and his other hand she wasn't holding found itself raked in her hair, grabbing a tight handful of it at the back of her head. She would have thought he was getting ready to try to pull her off of him if she wouldn't stop, only he was holding her even closer to him.

She was only vaguely aware of the sound of a set of paws running toward them and the smell of another wolf coming before Jacob gasped out, "No, Sam — Go back." She could imagine how this would appear to him as he approached: the predatory creature perched over her helpless victim, drawing life out of him. Devastatingly beautiful femme fatale and kiss of death. But she was giving life, not taking it away.

The sound of Sam’s running gradually faded after he heard Jacob’s command and had no choice but to obey right away.

Jacob's head was now resting over hers as her face was still buried in his shoulder. They had ended up with their bodies curled in toward each other and almost intertwined on the ground as he clung desperately to her, his only chance. The closeness was unbearable. Even as she had other things so much more vital to worry about and focus on in this moment, she was just a little aware of it. All of this, drinking his blood after swearing to herself she would never taste it, all of it, felt too easy and too right, her instincts trying to tell her something.

A small feeling of panic started to flame in her because there seemed to be no end to it. His blood that was coming out from the wound still didn't taste all clean. Without completely accepting the idea yet and what it meant she might have to do, she started to realize the venom might have already circulated through his body too much for her to be able to get all of it out with just some of his blood. If she would have to take it all...

Just then his breathing began to relax a little and she felt his hands both loosen their grip on her, and soon she realized that the pain must have been going away. Then his blood she tasted was finally clean, coming out completely thin and fluid. She slid her hand out of his and then tore herself away from him, groaning with the effort it took, and buried her face into her left arm on the ground beside him, her breaths coming out in quick panting. After recovering enough, calming down and returning completely to herself, she sat back up as he rolled onto his back. His eyes were glazed with tears, or so she thought she saw for a second before he blinked and his eyes rolled to the side to look at her.

"Are you alright?" Bella asked in a strained voice.

He managed a small nod. When he spoke, it sounded like it was hurting him and taking a lot of effort to talk. “Yeah. Just pretty banged up. She broke my ankle — and a few of my ribs — I think. It‘ll be a little while before I can go back in.”

“Jane? It was her?”

“Yeah. Shortie.” He laughed bitterly for a second and then groaned from the pain it made his ribs cause him.

She had to wonder if he could even go back into the fight at all. She’d had to drink a lot of blood. He must have felt more than a little faint, and she didn't know if that could actually weaken a werewolf.

She quickly reached for his jeans where they were lying close to his feet, placing them over him so he could reach them. “I really need to go back, Jacob,” she said nervously, listening for the faint sounds of the battle far away. “Will you…?”

“Yeah, go,” he said. “They think I’m done for; they won‘t come this way.”

She started to stand up, but first he grabbed hold of her arm to keep her there another moment; he pulled her down toward him so she would look back at him and before she knew it or either of them was sure how it happened their faces had ended up within an inch of each other. Her cool breath falling on him made the hairs on the back of his neck stand alertly, waking up his whole body as abruptly as ice water poured on somebody sleeping, and sent a shiver down his whole spine. He was so arrested by the sudden strong sensation for a second that he did not immediately talk.

Then he just whispered, "Be careful, honey."

He dropped his hand from her arm. She just looked down at his face for one more second and then stood up, turning to go.

She had only gone a few steps away from him and not started running off yet when she froze in her tracks, going completely still. Jacob kept his head held up to look around the forest in front of them, trying to figure out what had made her stop, but could only look back at her in confusion.

“Bella?” he asked.

After standing still like this for a long and unsettlingly silent moment, she started to slowly, unsurely step backwards, returning to his side, and then she kneeled on the ground beside him again. All the while her face stayed staring forward, her eyes focused on something far away he could not see.

He heard her take a long, deep breath. “Jacob,” she said in almost a whisper, sounding like she was struggling to keep her voice reasonably calm and level. “Stay right here. Don’t try to do anything.”

His eyes slowly grew wide as he started to understand. “Somebody’s coming,” he assumed.

“Yes,” she said. “…We’re being watched.”

Shit,“ he whispered, looking back in the direction she had been staring, not appearing to be at all eager to just stay in place and do nothing.

“Listen to me,” she said, still very quiet and trying to stay calm - to make him stay calm. “You can’t do anything to help me. You’re not going to be able to defend yourself again yet. You cannot phase. I might have to do something I can’t let the others see.”

He looked at her with terrified eyes and started shaking his head vigorously, a tiny and weak movement. His voice came out shaky and uncertain. "Bell..."

“Please,” she begged, her tone still controlled but now with an obvious note of desperate emotion. “Jacob. Trust me.”

The two who Bella had seen moving in the distance were getting close. She rose to her feet again and walked forward a little just before the short figure of Jane came into full view in the moonlight as she stepped out of the shadows. Then she was followed closely by Alec, walking up a few feet to the right of her. Jane was staring down at Jacob with a completely baffled expression.

“I thought you said you finished the Alpha,” Alec said to her, sounding confused.

“That can’t be him,” Jane said in disbelief, lips flying quickly. “It must be the other one you were after - the gray one.”

“No. Antonia and I just killed the gray one.”

Everything seemed to freeze. Bella could not believe for a moment she had heard him right. A gray wolf. Surely they would have called Leah the female or just the small one. Which left…

Paul. He and Jared had left the rest of the fight. She blinked her eyes slowly a moment, trying to handle the heavy, poisonous weight that was suddenly inside her. She impulsively wanted to steal a look behind her at Jacob to see his face, but didn’t dare look away from the two enemies she was facing.

Jane was now looking back and forth from her to Jacob, who looked quite weakened but was obviously in no grave state now. She was perhaps starting to piece it together, as unbelievable as it must have seemed. Her eyes settled on Bella’s face with such a contemptuous look that it seemed she should have been able to feel her eyes burning holes in her.

Impossible,” she said furiously. For a moment her eyes filled with even stronger anger and frustration, and Bella knew she was trying hopelessly just once again to use her powers on her. On Jane’s strangely innocent-looking face, the disappointment it caused her that her efforts obviously still had no effect reminded her a little of a spoiled child pouting and having a fit because she wasn’t getting her way.

“Do not be so distraught,” Alec said to Jane in a light tone and with a short laugh, his young voice sounding so deceptively harmless and pleasant. “It looks like he is all yours now.”

This did seem to cheer her up; she suddenly lowered her eyes back down to Jacob with a cruel smile starting to take the place of the hateful look on her face. Bella knew exactly what she was looking forward to doing to him and could tell as Jane started taking a first advancing step in his direction that in just a fraction of a second he would be writhing in pain…

A fierce growl ripped out from Bella’s throat as she leaned forward into a ready position, stepping a little to the side to put herself directly between Jacob and Jane. The threatening sound made Jane stop in her tracks, and both she and Alec looked at Bella with such alarmed looks it was like they had almost forgotten she was there.

“Mrs. Cullen,” Alec said to her with a small smile that almost looked sincerely friendly. The way he said her name somehow sounded condescending. “This is foolish. You can run. I would not take any pleasure in hurting you.”

I would,” Jane said with a look that somehow perfectly melded together sadistic joy and pure rage. She now seemed a little amused that Bella was actually going to try to stand in their way. They both thought they had her cornered.

But Bella could feel the dark, simple part of her mind taking over, the part that made all of her completely alert to every sensation around her. A hunter. A territorial and protective animal. A killing machine. She let herself go to it all, her easiest inclinations, knowing she could not afford to think any more than she had to, just act. As she prepared herself, her hands clenched into tight fists at her sides.

Someone was dead already. Only one that she knew of. Maybe more.

But they were not going to have him. They were not going to have him...

Jane had looked back behind Bella toward Jacob, and this time as she started to go toward him again she abruptly stopped on her own. Her look of excitement as she was eager to finally kill the werewolf pack’s leader became a little more mild and uncertain.

“Jane?” Alec asked, raising an eyebrow and looking to the side at her to try to see what was wrong.

Bella only stood still staring down at her, all throbbing fear and anticipation, starting to fill with something that burned so excrutiatingly it was as if she knew right now how it really felt to be under her power.

Jane's eyes were looking directly at nothing as her mood very visibly intensified, as if she was realizing something that excited her in a heated, volatile way. Suddenly she turned her head to her right to look at Alec, and her lovely young face had become contorted and ugly with a sudden raging determination and anger. Not her own.

He looked back at her with gradually widening, shocked eyes, knowing that look on her face very well but confused to see it directed at him. Then Bella could tell the moment he was suddenly gripped with an uncertain fear, and he just barely started to take a step back away from her. "Ja-?"

His speech was cut off as his whole body jerked forward and he fell right to the ground, yelling out in pain.

Bella let it last for just a couple seconds, and then as Jane really seemed to have forgotten her and Jacob and was still looking only at Alec, she threw herself at her and easily pinned her to the ground. The growls and snarls that erupted between them echoed against the night sky as loudly as rounds of bullets. Alec was then released from the pain, but he was too confused for a moment while he still lay on the ground, trying to understand if his sister had really betrayed him.

Jane was so much smaller than Bella. Once she had her, she had her. She struggled wildly to try to break free and get off the ground and snapped at Bella with her teeth but kept missing, and soon the child's face filled with a chilling, possessed fear as she continued to be unable to get away. As her voice was accompanied by the deafening sounds of her body being torn apart that were almost like separate shrieks, she screamed for Alec. She screamed for Aro. She started to just scream wordlessly, begging for it not to be real, her voice shrill and silver in the uncaring dark.

Alec finally got on his feet, but in an instant Bella had him helpless and writhing on the ground again; Jane did not have to be looking at him to hurt him. She was even easier to control now. She was not thinking, and she had become just as scared as Bella. The little girl was burning, dying, hating everyone and cursing the entire merciless world she was a part of, not caring where she directed her anger as long as someone else felt the flames. Her desperate screams continued until the end, suddenly cut off when there was a horrible grating sound as Bella tore her head away from what was left of the rest of her body.

When she stood up completely erect again and dropped Jane’s head to the ground, it made a heavy thud like a filled helmet. Alec was still on the ground, his face mangled with terror and anguish as he looked from the parts of Jane's destroyed body to her. She darted forward toward him as he started to get up on his feet, and then before she reached him he vanished.

All the sudden it was very quiet. Bella turned to look back at Jacob, totally still and calm now, and saw that he looked completely confounded by all he had just seen. His eyes looked vague and dead somehow, like he was feeling too much to express any one thing, but the way he was completely still sitting up on his elbows looking at her was enough to convey his shock. For the first time ever, she thought she might have some understanding of why Edward had been so nervous talking to her again after she had watched him kill Victoria.

She just kept staring right back at him. She wiped her tongue around the outside of her upper teeth and swallowed, tasting blood.

She had been turned into a complete monster. Only love could do this even to someone like her.