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Midnight Waltz

Summary:
AU: A year later and Bella is still living in Forks with Charlie, alternating her time between the Newton's store and spending time with her best friend, Jacob. She didn't jump from the cliff. Alice had no vision. Edward never returned. But now, tired of having to endure her family's suffering, Alice schemes to solve the one problem at the center of all the turmoil: the burning question of Bella's mortality; the ultimatum that's divided the entire Cullen household. Edward won't do it. Carlisle won't do it. Alice can't do it. So who does that leave...? But when things start to take a turn for the worst, Bella and Edward come to face a grueling decision. It's not easy to pick your battles when you're intent on winning them all...


Notes:


5. Family Discord

Rating 5/5   Word Count 7782   Review this Chapter

Midnight Waltz: Chapter 5

Family Discord

Warui-Usagi

‘Run your fingers through my soul.

For once, just once feel exactly how I feel,

Believe what I believe, perceive as I perceive,

Look, experience, examine, and for once; just once, understand.'

-- Anonymous

Longing: (noun)

Definition: To have an honest, heartfelt desire or craving - especially for something or someone out of reach.

x x x

Burning. Screeching. Agony.

‘I don't want this anymore...please. Just let me die. Let it be quiet.'

Certainly oblivion had to be a better alternative. If I didn't exist, I couldn't feel.

Three days. I'd dismissed it easily enough before, but time was lost to me in hell. Three days, three minutes, three seconds...it was all the same. It all meant an eternity in this place. The nothingness...it was everywhere...and I was alone.

The flames danced up in front of my eyes, scorching my sockets. I screamed, but no sound came out. My pulse thundered in my ears and with every beat of my heart, the fire roared and crackled, making the pain flare to a sickening degree. I was given only a millisecond of reprieve before my body heaved again...and again...and again...and again. I was trapped in a series of never-ending convulsions. There were no memories, no thoughts, no flashbacks of my life to distract me from the absolute...torture of it all. I jerked violently as the white-hot blaze crawled its way down my arms, but tight metal bindings held me fast in my position.

‘Stop it...put it out...just kill me now...I'll do anything. It isn't worth it.'

I felt the singeing burn of tears running down my cheeks, the salt only fueling the inferno behind my eyelids. "Someone helpme!" I screeched, only to have the wind knocked out of me when I felt the flames gradually begin to leak into my lungs, drop by drop by agonizing drop. I suddenly felt like I had tried to breathe in a tub of gasoline; my lungs were sizzling and I was coughing and spluttering and oh god oh god oh god...I can't breathe!

"Finally," a voice groaned from somewhere off in the distance. "It's about time she stopped screaming - she's been carrying on like that for god knows how long! Looks like the venom's already found its way into her chest cavity. Maybe now we'll get some peace."

It was so hot I felt like my skin was peeling from my very bones. I tried calling out for help but I only started again, my torso searing with the heat.

"Oh you'll be feeling better soon, chickadee!" another man's voice cheered, his voice sounding more like a far off echo. "Just as soon as you..." I felt something icy touch my forehead - a temporary relief - before it was snapped away, the fire howling back to life in my veins. I groaned. "...Disgusting, man! What is all of this stuff! She's covered in it..."

"Bodily fluids." It was a much deeper, authoritive tone this time. "Her body is expelling all unnecessary solutions as it shuts down. I've been sent to relieve you two of your duty. You may leave now."

"I'm not arguing with that," one of them said, laughing. "You know, it's hard to believe she'll look as dashing as me soon under all that crap." The other voice laughed along with him. "I bet she'll clean up better than you! With the way Master Aro's acting, she must be special. I don't think I've ever seen him look that starry-eyed about someone other than Jane...and that's saying something!"

"Yeah well I -"

"Would you two leave already!"

"Sorry sir," one of them said quickly. I didn't hear them leave, but as I heaved and rasped loudly for air - my chest blazing in protest - I heard a voice echoing loudly in my head...once I hadn't heard in a long time; soft, angelic and breathtakingly beautiful in all its anger. "Are you happy now?!" he roared, absolutely livid. "You wanted this. And now look what's happening to you! You're writhing on a table in utter agony, begging someone to kill you! Is all of this pain worth losing your mortality, Bella? Your soul!"

‘It is...for you. It's worth everything and more.'

He only snarled; the sound resonating loudly over all of the background noise. I smiled. For one blissful moment, the pain completely stopped. The fires suddenly disappeared.

And just as abruptly, his voice was filled with ancient grief. "Bella...what have you done?"

He didn't give me the chance to answer before the flames started again. I gasped when I felt something force its way up my throat and I dry-wretched until I eventually choked it up, suffocating in the process. I tried desperately to sit up but found I was chained in position, unable to move at all. Everything around me suddenly began to implode and this time, I felt every single nerve in my body burst in agony.

Somewhere far off in the distance, I heard a devil laugh.

"Excellent. Two days down...and only one to go."

I screamed.

x x x

I was home.

A fact of which I knew wouldn't help elevate my mood, but I hoped that at least I could reassure Carlisle and Esme temporarily with my presence. I would check up with them to make sure everything was okay and then I would leave. I had other obligations elsewhere that required my attention. It did them no good for me to be around them when I was like this. I wasn't worth anything to anyone anymore. It all meant nothing to me now. I leant my forehead up against the door for a moment, wondering how much more of this I could take before I completely feel apart.

It had been just over a year now since my family and I left that cloudy little town of Forks...and my un-beating heart felt every second of it. I was miserable, but had Bella moved on? I winced - it hurt to even think her name. What was she doing? Did she hate me now? She would if she had any kind of common sense; if she wanted any kind of normal life. Yes. Bella would live out the rest of her life happily and die an old lady, warm in her bed. And when that time came, she would go to a place that would always be off limits to me, regardless of any redeeming qualities I might possess.

I would never see her again. I was doomed to spend an eternity without her.

That last thought was so overpowering...and so completely unbearable, that I literally threw myself into the house - anything that would provide me with a decent distraction. But like the persistent ache it was, I could feel it lingering behind the thin veil of my trivial thoughts, waiting to ambush me when I couldn't escape. I couldn't stop the shiver that bolted down my spine at the thought.

I'd created enough noise that my family would have known I was certainly here by now. If Alice had been watching, she would have seen my return...which was why I was surprised at how long it took for them all to appear. Rosalie and Emmett greeted me from the bottom of the staircase, smiling attentively at me. Alice and Jasper were no where to be found. They must have gone out-I could think of no other explanation. Perhaps Alice had grown tired of watching me waste away in that god-forsaken slum. I didn't blame her...

But then I felt the familiar tremor of Jasper's mind, and listened in to see what had him so distracted.

‘Where is she? What does that mean now that she's on her way home? What's happened to Bella...?'

My eyes widened in considerable shock and I visibly cringed at the pain that shot up through my chest as I heard her name. "What!"

My body reacted before my mind caught up with my actions. I was instantly furious at the thought of anything happening to Bella...and even more livid that my own siblings - particularly Alice - seemed to be the cause. They'd all promised to follow my lead in regards to Bella, no matter how much they disagreed with my decision. What did she hope to achieve by going back there? It would only make Bella unhappy...we would only ever haunt her. She didn't deserve that kind of life. No one did.

I was going to kill Alice.

I tore up the staircase and stormed into Jasper's room - all within a second - glaring at him with accusing eyes. "Start explaining. Now. You have three seconds," I told him through clenched teeth. I was struggling to keep my voice even...struggling with fighting the urge to throw him up against a wall and demand that he tell me where and/or what Alice had done with Bella. I would do that, if that's what it took.

"Edward, I think you need to calm down," Jasper soothed, sending a wave of tranquility through the room.

But my rage was making it extremely difficult to be civil about anything. "Damn it, Jasper! Where is she?" My voice was flat, dark.

"Alice is on her way home right now," he assured me, talking with exaggerated slowness. "I...I don't really know what's happened. She wasn't on the phone for very long." A flicker of panic flitted across his face - a rarity for Jasper - and then everything came out in a rush. "She...she just left in such a hurry, telling me that she'd had enough of everything and was going to fix it. I begged her not to go, but she was adamant about everything working out like she always is. I couldn't stop her leaving. It didn't matter how I pleaded with her, she never listened."

He slumped down onto his couch, throwing his head into his hands. "I just don't know what's gotten into her lately. She's been so quiet...so distant. Not herself at all."

‘And she won't be ever again. Not once I get my hands on her...' I thought bitterly. My fingers flexed and jerked, trying to work out the building tension. I suddenly had an insatiable urge to hit something. Hard.

"Oh, wow," a voice chimed from behind me, dripping with sarcasm. I only rolled my eyes. "Edward's actually talking to someone. To what do we owe this great honor?"

I strained my jaw shut tightly, biting back my retort. She wanted me to react and I was not going to give her the satisfaction of hearing my profanities.

"Don't play dumb, Rosalie," I hissed. "Where's Alice?"

Her expression was a trifle smug now, no doubt pleased that she knew something I didn't. "Alice is only trying to fix up your mistakes, Edward...and you have the nerve to call me superficial," she growled.

"Rose..." Emmett warned, but she cut him off with one swift wave of her hand.

"No! There's no reason the rest of us should have to suffer for his screw-ups, Emmett!" she screamed, eyes blazing as she directed her attention back to me. "It's not our fault that you didn't have the guts to change Bella. You obviously don't care about her that much if you chickened out..."

My fingers were balled into fists so tightly, I was sure I was going to puncture my granite skin. My jaw strained so much it hurt. I was absolutely seething with rage. "You don't know anything!" I snarled at her, inches away from her face. She didn't even flinch.

"Kids!" Carlisle and Esme joined us in Jasper's room an instant later, both looking extremely confused. Esme's eyes gleamed with happiness as she looked at me, but I could also see the grief behind it and was forced to look away quickly. I could feel my father's gentle gaze lingering on me in particular. ‘What's going on, Edward?'

But quite frankly, I didn't have time for his concern.

This definitely wasn't the reunion I'd hoped for.

With my fury dictating my every move, I threw myself at Jasper, ignoring the loud crack as our body's collided hard against the plaster walls, almost bringing the whole thing down in the process. But I didn't care. I realized now that he was the only one who was going to give me a straight answer; Rosalie and Emmett were being very careful with their thoughts. I was faintly aware of my family's protests in the background, but I paid them no mind.

"Where is she?" I demanded through gritted teeth. Jasper looked straight at me, his face defensive for a moment before it turned completely hopeless. When he didn't answer, I made a point of tightening my grip on his shirt. "Tell me!" I roared.

He sighed in defeat. "Alice...Alice took Bella to Volterra."

I blinked at him for a moment, waiting for the gravity of those words to settle in...and when they finally did, the unfamiliar feeling of nausea crashed over my head like a wave. I leaned against the wall for support, suddenly feeling extremely light-headed. "Oh God...Bella..."

I didn't have to read Jasper's mind to know what that meant.

I didn't think, I just ran. I heard Esme call after me but I didn't look back. I had to get out. I had to get away as fast as I possibly could. I flew down the staircase and threw the front door so hard against the frame that the glass shattered. I ignored the small shards that lodged themselves in my shirt as I broke out into a run across the front lawn.

What was I going to do now? I was helpless. There was nothing I could to stop anything. I had no doubt that Bella was already in Aro's slimy hands...and I also knew that there was absolutely no way he'd let her go now. I unconsciously snarled at the thought, my anger propelling me forward through the trees. How could Alice do that to her? How could she betray me like that? And Bella...what was she thinking? I had removed myself from her life to keep her safe...to get away from her before someone lost control and made biting her a necessity. I'd almost killed myself by leaving her...I'd certainly crushed her. All that pain and agony...I would have gladly subjected myself to it for the rest of my immortal existence if it meant that Bella was happy. But now...

It had all been for nothing.

It hit me abruptly like a ton of bricks; the scent was incredibly potent. I'd know it anywhere-that sweet, almost fruity flavor that was my sister. My rage suddenly came boiling to the surface, my entire body tensing, waiting for her to appear through the trees. I crouched, trying to control my trembling. As soon as she shows I told myself. As soon as I see her...I swear to God, I'll...

Several things happened simultaneously then.

A breeze whipped past and the threat hitched in my throat when Alice finally danced through the branches. The venom churned uncontrollably on my tongue, leaving me winded and absolutely ravenous. The beast in me roared out, violently shaking and shrieking in its cage. I'd stopped breathing, but the aroma was still swirling in my head, swiftly shutting down all rationality...all control. I wrenched my eyes shut and swallowed it with immense difficulty, locking it away with every ounce of will I had. I fell to my knees in the soft grass, breathing heavily...and groaned.

She was absolutely saturated in Bella's scent.

"Sorry," she said sharply, her usually smooth, melodic voice somehow rough. "But someone had to give you the wake-up call and as far as I'm concerned, it's a year overdue. I know you'll never believe me, but I did this for your own good."

"What?" I snapped, fighting back the urge to simply strangle her, useless gesture as it was. My fury was badly marred by my breathlessness. "Go back on your promise or damn Bella? Forgive me if I don't seem as grateful as you might have hoped. I guess I'm funny that way."

"Edward, Bella's not -"

"Shut it, Alice. I don't want to hear it." I rubbed my temples in extreme frustration, taking a deep breath...and almost choked. The lingering smell of Bella's scent was driving me insane after a year of absence...but then a thought crawled its way into my mind, unbidden. You don't have to worry about that anymore. You can go back...there's nothing to stop you now. There's no danger...

No. No. No.

What was wrong with me?

"Argh!"

"I don't regret what I've done," she shot back, shrugging. "It was going to happen eventually."

"You had absolutelyno right!" I growled, making my way over to where I knew she was concealed in the trees. "I should never have trusted you to keep your word...can't you see what you've done, Alice? Bella's in even more danger now than she was before...and you put her there!" I swung around harshly and smashed my fist into the base of a tree. A massive crack cut through the thick, humid air, followed a few seconds later by a huge crash as the trunk collided with the ground.

I brushed the splinters from my skin, already seeking out something else to take my anger out on. Everything was glowing a bright, hot red, the impulse to simply attack overriding everything else. I spotted my sister standing only a few feet away from where the tree had fallen, a sullen expression on her face as her eyes looked up to meet mine.

"Aro promised Bella would be alright," Alice tried to tell me firmly, but the lack of conviction in her voice told me otherwise.

"And you believed him?! You better than anyone can understand the consequences of a wrong decision!" I told her indignantly, screaming as loudly as I possibly could at her in my head.

"I didn't have a choice!" she barked back, her voice echoing loudly through the dank atmosphere. Did she really think that to be a reasonable excuse? Pathetic.

"Like hell you didn't! She trusted you, Alice! And you handed her over to them!"

Apparently though, my anger only seemed to triple hers. "Are you completely stupid! You actually believed Aro when he said he wouldn't touch her? She would've been killed, Edward. And if Aro didn't get to finish her off, then Victoria or those feral mongrels would have!"

My train of thought flew off its rails when I saw the images flash through her mind. The tall, tanned boys from the La Push reservation...and in particular the one Bella had always liked; Jacob Black. I could smell them through Alice's memories - that bitter, musty scent that made every hair on the back on my neck stand up in defiance and the jealousy rise in my throat. So while Victoria had sent me on a wild goose-chase around South America, she'd been trying to reach Bella in Forks...and all she had to rely on were a pack of adolescent dogs who could kill her the instant they lost their temper...

Alice's eyes fluttered closed and she slowly shook her head. "I never saw Victoria...but she was always there, trying to break through the wolves' defense. It was only a matter of time before she finally got to Bella, Edward. Face it; leaving only made everything worse." So much more than you can possibly imagine. The pain on her face was evident and it made me wonder what else she had seen.

"You don't know that," I told her, but my voice sounded incredibly weak.

"Just accept it, Edward. This is what's happened and so now -"

"You don't understand!" I cried, jumping up and grabbing her by the shirt. "It wasn't supposed to be this way. She was supposed to forget about me and move on with her life! She was supposed to stay human. What in the world made you think that this was in any way a good idea?!"

"Because Bella wasn't moving on, Edward!" She snarled at me, eyes suddenly going dark. Alice bristled, tearing herself from my grasp easily. "Wake up, you idiot! She still loves you. She has always loved you!"

"Shut up!" I crouched, ready to launch myself at her...when Carlisle suddenly appeared between us, flanked by Esme, Jasper, and Emmett.

"That's enough, Edward," Carlisle said coolly, his eyes radiating with an eerie sort of calmness. I painfully gritted my teeth as I straightened. Esme look positively horrified and I instantly felt guilty. "We'll talk about this later. In the mean time, though, I suggest we get on our way. Alice-call the airlines and books some tickets..."

"No," I interrupted firmly. "I'm going alone."

"Edward...don't be difficult," Emmett scoffed. "Bella wants to see all of us."

"Yes, but I don't," I growled, sending a baleful glare in his direction. He only sighed.

"Alice," Carlisle repeated in a tense voice, his eyes still on me. She whipped a silver cell phone out from her pocket and swiftly dialed a number. "Edward, you can come with me. The rest of you can get ready. We leave in an hour. Understand?"

Nobody argued.

I followed my father silently up to his office, seething with disapproval. I closed the door quietly and made my way over to the middle of the room as he settled into his chair. I stiffened when he looked up at me, a thoughtful expression crossing his face.

"Edward..." he started and I knew instantly by his tone alone what he was going to say.

"I don't want to talk about it," I said, rushing through the words.

"Alright, alright," he soothed, rightly sensing how upset I was. "But we'll need a plan. You know they'll be watching our every move the minute we step inside...and Aro will be watching you especially closely."

I briefly entertained the idea of taking on the whole Volturi guard...and then dismissed the idea relatively quickly with a groan of impatience. "I don't have time to come up with one right now," I whispered anxiously, already turning towards the door. I only noticed then when my hand was on the handle how much I was shaking.

'Of course. I understand...but try not to do anything irrational.'

I walked out of his office without another word. Leaning against the thick wood of the door frame, I took a deep breath, trying to control myself. I dreaded what was about to happen...but welcomed it all the same. I was going back. It was all I had wanted for this past year and odd months, and if it was possible I probably could have cried with the relief...but it didn't seem to have the relaxing factor I'd hoped for...I could still just as easily lose her. I'd been honestly trying to come up with a plan for what to do when we arrived but I never got passed seeing her...

I had to see Bella...and that was all. I just had to get there first. Yes...everything else would work itself out from there.

I just need to see her...I just need to see her...I just need to see her...I chanted the words over and over to myself in my head, trying to erase the incredibly amount of doubt building up behind my eyes...I had to get out of here.

"I'm going ahead," I said in a voice no higher than a whisper.

"Alright," came the barely audible reply from the other side of the door. "We'll follow soon."

I left without another word, running straight past Emmett as he called out after me. I didn't want to speak to him. I didn't want to speak to any of my brothers or sisters from now on unless it was absolutely necessary...especially Alice, I thought angrily. How does she expect me to ever trust her again?

I would run to the airport, I'd decided. It wasn't far and I needed to vent my anger so I didn't try and rip any of my sibling's throats out mid-flight. I walked to the edge of the thick, alpine forest just east of our house before I took off, forcing all of my energy into swiftly dodging the trees and flitting over the small creeks I came across in my path, rapidly gaining speed until everything around me was nothing but a silvery blur. Thunder roared in the distance, the dark grey clouds looming on the horizon flashing with the first signs of lightening.

A storm was coming. How morbidly appropriate.

I'm coming, Bella...I'm coming.

x x x

"Bella."

I squirmed at the sound; my eyes glued shut by some unseen force. I licked my chapped lips, unable to gather any moisture. I felt like the entirety of my insides had been badly sunburned and bruised - they stung and throbbed horribly with every breath I took. I moved again and winced at the pain, only to feel the now familiar brace of metal bindings holding me back. I wanted to cry out for some kind of help, but my throat still felt like it was on fire - the ache was almost overpowering.

"Are you awake?"

I slowly shifted my head up and down, biting down hard on my bottom lip to drown out my groaning. It was dark, hot, lonely...and I was completely and utterly miserable. I couldn't stop my whimpering when I tried to swallow - and almost screamed at the pain. I vaguely recognized the voice; the high pitched, enthusiastic tone of someone who was undoubtedly important, but not exactly trustworthy. What was even stranger to me was how incredibly loud it was; so much so in fact that my ear drums felt like they were going to burst.

"Open your mouth, dear. I have something that will make you feel much better."

Despite my mind's assurances that I shouldn't have trusted the voice, I complied anyway. I was too weak to fight him...and I knew I didn't have much else of a choice. The promise of relief was too good an offer to refuse.

Something soft brushed my lips, and the smell of it was absolutely mouthwatering. I felt the flames in my throat flare out into an all out blaze and I moaned in agony. My teeth instinctively sliced through a thin layer of plastic and the liquid inside began trickling down my throat, instantly putting out the fire and quelling the ache in my body. I drank deeply, suddenly ravenous...

...And then it was gone.

"Mo...more," I croaked, that one single world echoing off the walls with a surprising firmness that scared me. It felt odd in my ears. It didn't sound like me at all.

I almost smiled when another lot was pressed to my lips once again, and I drank it just as hungrily as I had the first lot. I heard a chuckle, but I didn't stop to listen to who it was.

"Ahhh what a delight! Newborns are always such enthusiastic feeders..." - the voice turned away from me then and spoke to someone else in the room. "...Keep feeding her until she's had enough and then get her cleaned up. We'll have guests arriving soon and I know they'll be very anxious to see her."

I stopped suddenly at hearing that...and almost cried in relief. This would all be over soon, I thought excitedly. Alice and the rest of her family were coming to see me...

Edward...

x x x

When I was finally able to open my eyes, I was in a dark room. I couldn't tell at first because I could see everything perfectly well; the blue china vase sitting on the old Venetian cabinet...or the thick, red curtains draped across the beautifully decorated four-poster bed. There were two large, leather chairs in the corner, both with painfully ornate carvings driven into the dark oak. I was incredibly stiff and when I stretched, it was then that I noticed the small slits in the ancient brick wall-it was night outside. When I looked up at the crystal chandelier above my head, it was turned off.

What was going on?

I blinked carefully, taking the rest of my surroundings. There was an incredibly large steel door in the right-hand corner - the kind you see in secret agent movies. I had a very good idea of what that was for. Obviously, I wasn't leaving this room without them knowing...and it took me a moment to remember who ‘them' was. Everything came rushing back to me then with such burning clarity that I was suddenly overwhelmed; Alice saying goodbye and promising to bring her family back. Aro chaining me to a cold stone table with huge, metal vice grips. I flinched in horror when I remembered exactly where he had bitten me - once on my neck, twice on my wrists and twice on my thighs. My hands shook as I pulled up the long sleeves of my dress, dreading what I might find...

There was nothing - just normal, smooth skin. I checked everywhere else and the results were the same.

I relaxed, releasing a breath I didn't even know I was holding.

But what did that mean? Had all of it just been a dream? Where was I?

The fire...I thought it had killed me. It had been so painful...I felt like my body had exploded...and then...

I instantly tensed when I heard the door make a sound-a creaking, groaning noise that I thought would shatter my eardrums. I tried clamping my hands over my ears in a vain attempt to block the screeching out. A few agonizing seconds later it stopped, and when I finally made myself look up from where I had buried my head in the pillows of the bed to see who it was, I recognized the face instantly.

"Aro..." I said in a normal tone of voice and consequently hissed at the pain that shot through my head.

He smiled. "Yes, that will take a little getting used to," he whispered very gently...I was almost lip-reading his words. He chuckled lightly under his breath at my bewildered expression - the very faintest of murmurs...and yet, I heard every, single word and sound very distinctly. It was only now did I realize how crisp and precise his voice was. "You are very hyper-sensitive at the moment," he told me, obviously enjoying my apparent discomfort for some inexplicable reason of his own. "It's just because your body has just gone through a drastic change and needs to adjust. That's why we've put you in this soundproof room. I'm afraid that you'll have to remain here for a few more days until you can cope." He sounded genuinely disappointed by the prospect, too.

So that was what the big, chunky door was for.

He was quiet for a moment, watching me carefully. "Are you thirsty?"

The question completely caught me off guard and for a moment I thought he was offering me a drink of water...but then the realization sank in, along with the accompanying burning sensation in my throat and the vicious growling of my stomach. If I could hear it, I was positive he could...and the thought embarrassed me to an excruciating degree.

"Don't worry my dear," he cooed. "It's quite natural to be hungry all the time; especially for those who are just recently turned." The guard at his side threw something at me then, and I was surprised when I actually caught it. I looked down at it first with a mixture of confusion...and then absolute terror and apprehension when I realized what it was.

"Its blood," I mumbled under my breath, unable to tear my eyes away from the plastic bag full of the red liquid.

"Of course it is," Aro scoffed a tad impatiently. "What else would it be? I don't understand why you're looking at it like that, though. You drank it enthusiastically enough before..."

My eyes widened. "I did?" I winced when my voice rose too high and he rolled his eyes.

"Yes." He frowned. "Now hurry up and drink it down-you want to see your visitors, don't you?"

"They're here? - Ow!" My breathing quickened and although my heart wasn't working anymore, it felt like it was about to burst with the anxiety.

"Not yet," he deadpanned and my face visibly fell. "But they will be very soon," he assured me quickly, "and if you want to see them, I suggest you drink that packet down. We have to watch your hunger especially carefully whilst you're so young..."-he smiled a wicked smile-"...It would be a shame if anything terrible were to happen."

I had a distinct feeling that my hunger wasn't the only thing he was implying.

I looked down at the packet in my hands and made a face before I lifted it up slightly. I didn't remember drinking blood before...I dry-wretched at the thought. Just the smell alone was usually enough to make nauseous. "Just close your eyes," Aro encouraged. "Your instincts should do the rest."

I bit my lip, still undecided. ‘I have to do this...'

My arms still wouldn't move.

Aro sighed, clearly disappointed. "Demetri."

I watched as the guard at his side stepped forward, his flashing out to snatch the bag of blood from in-between my hands. He flipped open a small pouch on his belt and pulled out what looked like a very small, gold-bladed knife and cut through the top of the seal.

It all happened very quickly then.

As soon as I breathed in, the smell hit me and I almost choked on all of the venom churning in my throat. Everything else around me blurred and the only thing I could see was Demetri standing there with my food in his hands. I growled, and in some little corner of my mind, I realized how scared I was of myself when I sounded like that. It was such a...brutal noise. Not like me at all. Without even thinking, I threw myself at him, promptly smashing into him so hard that when we collided. The boom was so excruciatingly loud that I thought I would pass out from the pain. I wrenched my eyes shut, willing myself to wait it out. I was biting down on my lip so hard that I thought for sure I would puncture my skin...

And then everything went quiet.

I forced myself to open my eyes, blinking blearily through the grey fog. It took me a few seconds to realize that the fog was dust, and as I clenched my fingers, I felt something soft. There, in my hand was the empty packet of blood Demetri had been holding only an instant ago. As I peered through the cloud of dust, I saw the indent of a body against the brick wall and swallowed hard, my eyes widening.

What had just happened?

"Haha, very nicely done, Bella," Aro cheered lightly. "What did I tell you? And to beat Demetri like that when you're so new...what tenacity! I just knew you'd be special." When I looked over at him, he smiled...and Demetri glared.

"She just caught me off guard, Master. And you know how strong newborns are..." he said in a voice that was polite on the surface, but I could hear the malice underneath. "Her strength will wane with time."

Aro only scoffed, shaking his head in disbelief. "Well, it looks like you'll need a new room then. There's a very nice one that's quite similar down the hall..." he kept talking, but his voice was lost to me as I watched Demetri's head tilt rather conspicuously towards the ceiling. He closed his eyes and sniffed once, the smallest trace of a smirk on his lips...and then his expression smoothed over, his eyes turning to his Master. "They're here."

I didn't have to ask who ‘they' was.

"Oh? And right on schedule, too. Alice sure didn't waste any time." He beamed. Their voices started to fade away and all I could hear was my hysterical breathing. They were here...Edward was here. What if he hated the way I looked? What if he still didn't want me? What would I do?

I had nowhere to go.

I felt incredibly dizzy and sat down quickly where I stood before I fell over.

"I'm afraid you'll have to stay here, Bella," Aro told me, sounding especially eager. He didn't seem to notice how anxious I was, and I didn't protest. My throat felt suddenly dry, and I couldn't stop shaking. I was a nervous wreck. I watched Aro and Demetri leave, unable to move. "I'll bring them down here to see you, don't worry." I heard the ghost of his words barely reach my ears before he disappeared completely from sight, the door painfully groaning closed behind him.

I tried to take a deep breath...without much success. I was almost choking with hysterics. I honestly didn't believe myself capable of handling the pain were Edward to hate me for what I'd done...and I had nowhere to go back to. Charlie, Renee and Jacob were now forever off limits...I winced at the thought and quickly dismissed the idea. ‘Deal with it later.' I told myself firmly, trying to swallow the sobs building in my throat. I supposed that if worse came to worse I could always stay with the Volturi. It certainly wouldn't be a great life...heck, I was positive that I'd be down right miserable...but it was better than wondering aimlessly around Europe.

I suddenly felt rather hot and when I tried to stand up to make my way over to a window, I found that I couldn't - my legs had turned to pools of jelly underneath my body. I almost screamed in frustration at how pathetic I felt, but stopped myself when I remembered how much it would hurt. My fingers brushed the dirty stone floor and I almost laughed - the dust tickled my skin. Damn my hyper-sensitiveness.

My mind soon began to wonder. What could be happening upstairs at the moment? What were they all saying? Were they all mad with me? I couldn't hear anything. The silence in this dark room was unnerving...

Something tapped on the door.

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end, my entire body tensing as my breath hitched in my throat. I stared, feeling absolutely terrified...and so ecstatic at the same time, it scared and confused me. Another, more noticeable clicking sound cut through the thin air...and then the door finally opened. I ignored the painful wringing in my ears as the metal screeched along the stone and focused solely on the person trying squeeze through the small crack.

As soon as his eyes found mine, his face crumpled in pain...and I almost fell apart. I wanted to avert my eyes, not wanting to see him leave...not wanting to hear him say anything...but I couldn't look away. It was only then I realized how insufficient my memories were of him...he was so beautiful-even more so now that I could really see him. He looked even more like an angel now then he ever did with his windblown bronze hair and marble skin...and it didn't matter if he never wanted me because I would never want anything but him as long as I lived.

"Bella..." he murmured in such a low voice I almost missed it. His intense coal black eyes bored into mine so intently that I only just realized that I'd stopped breathing. It took me a moment to realize that he wasn't breathing either. I tried to find my voice, but nothing would come out...this has to be a dream...this has to be a dream...

I yelped when he suddenly threw himself at me, crushing me almost painfully against his chest. I wheezed as the air was knocked clean from my lungs...I'd forgotten how hard he was - I felt like I'd just run head on into a brick wall. Despite how breathless I was, the instant he touched me...my misery instantly evaporated. I was well again. Whole...I felt so warm and giddy that it was impossible for me to even think straight.

"God, Bella..." he mumbled into the crook of my neck, voice breaking as he said my name. I felt his cold lips press against my collarbone and gasped.

"Ed...Edward..."

He grabbed me firmly by the shoulders and pulled me away to look me straight in the face. "Honestly, what were you thinking? Are you insane?" He was angry with me. I wasn't surprised. He looked at me intently, obviously waiting for some kind of explanation. My mouth opened and closed multiple times, but no words came to mind. His cool breath brushed my face, making me woozy. "Well?" he pressed, his grip tightening exponentially on my forearms.

I completely fell apart then. I burst out into a fit of tearless sobs as I threw my arms around his neck, never wanting to let go. Edward sighed as he pulled me closer still, his stone arms wrapping themselves tightly around my waist. He chuckled half-heartedly, "What am I going to do with you, Bella?"

We stayed like that for an immeasurable moment, waiting for my weeping to slow. The silence was no longer uncomfortable. It was blissful. He soon began humming my lullaby and I felt myself gradually slipping away at the sound, the whole reality of the situation was only now just starting to sink in. "You're really here..." I muttered, my unbeating heart bursting at the words.

He pulled away slightly, only to lean his forehead against mine. "Yes..." he smiled, caressing my cheek softly with his fingers. I shivered. "I'm here...and now we have to get out of here."

"What?"

"We have to get out of here, Bella," he said more quietly this time, his voice barely audible even to me. "We...you can't stay here."

My eyes narrowed in disbelief. "But Edward, didn't Alice tell you that I -"

"I don't care," he said heatedly, his lips moving to the hollow of my ear. "They can't have you." Did I imagine the jealousy in his tone?

"You can't take on the Volturi!" I almost shouted at him...and instantly regretted it when I realized how much that hurt.

He didn't seem disturbed in the slightest by the prospect. "Watch me."

I was. The thought absolutely terrified me. "But -"

"Shhh..." he interrupted, firmly placing a finger against my lips. "Bella...you have to promise me something."

I was instantly skeptical. "What?"

"Whatever happens in the future, you have to promise me...promise me that you'll never let anyone take you away from me again, understand?" I felt his hands shaking as they rested lightly on the back of my neck. He sounded like he was about to break down. I reached around and took one of his hands in mine, squeezing it tightly, never taking my eyes from his. "Edward, what's going - ?"

"Just promise me," he begged. "I've already lost you to my own stupidity and carelessness...I'm never making that mistake again." I looked at him, bewildered by his behavior.

"Wha - ?"

"Promise me."

"O...Okay," I told him nervously. "I promise." His rigid position instantly relaxed, and he gave me a weary smile. He pulled me onto his lap then, drawing me as tightly as he possibly could against his chest like this was the last time he would ever see me. I'm not going to lie-he was really scaring me. Resting his head in the crook of my neck, I heard him breathe in deeply. "Everything will be alright..." he assured me, but it sounded like he was having a hard time believing his own words. "Bella...I - "

We both stiffened when the air stirred just outside the door - it was still open. When I looked up, the rest of Edward's family was standing there, smiling at me. Edward didn't relax. He stood up, taking me with him and while keeping his back to his family, he let go of me and stepped out of the way and made his way over to the other side of the room without a word, his expression unreadable.

I gulped. I knew this would happen...and it was all my fault.

"Hiya, Bella," Emmett said awkwardly, finally breaking the uncomfortable silence.

I turned to smile up at him timidly, happy to see them, and yet frustrated all the same-frustrated at them for interrupting whatever it was Edward was trying to tell me before they interrupted. "Hi, everyone."

Esme was the first to make her way over to me, engulfing me in a friendly embrace. "Hello, sweetie...it's great to see you."

"Same here," I said in earnest. And as everyone slowly came up to see me, Edward continued to stand away from everyone else, his face eerily blank, eyes cold. The whole time I couldn't help but wonder what he was thinking...what he was planning. But most of all I was confused; this whole time I'd thought that he never wanted me...that he was bored of having me around...Maybe I just hadn't bored him yet because we hadn't see each other in so long...but there was just something about the way he was acting...that made me hope otherwise...

‘Maybe Alice was right after all...'

The thought didn't have the comforting effect I'd hoped for.

I looked over at Edward once more. His stance hadn't changed in the slightest. A silver of panic rose in my throat as I suddenly realized what usually accompanied that expression...his cold, calculating face was just a façade.

‘What are you hiding, Edward?'

x x x

If only I'd known then what I knew now. I could have stopped him. I could have prevented this whole mess. If only I hadn't made that stupid promise...he might still be okay. By making me take that oath, he'd damned himself.

‘So many ‘If only's'... so much I regret...and at the same time, so much I wouldn't trade for the world.'

I couldn't help it, I started crying again.

"Don't you dare go back on your word, Bella. You promised..."

I'm sorry, Edward but...

I lied.