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The Dorothy Factor

Summary:
An unusual storm descends upon Forks, and Bella and Edward are caught in the middle. When the dust settles, nothing is the same …
Chapter Twelve: Somewhere Over the Rainbow
(the last chapter)
The only thing that had changed was Edward himself. He had returned a different man – with a new understanding about the constant ache in his chest and the vacancy he’d always sensed there in the periphery of his life.


Notes:
Inspired by actual events; (see chapter one end notes). An incredibly huge, warm thank you to vnfan – an amazing author and an indispensable asset to me while writing this story. Not only did she help fix all my typos and “dumb blonde” moments (even though I’m a redhead, I still have dumb blonde moments) – but she also helped me get through a couple rough spots. Her response, as well, was encouragement to keep me going. To vnfan – thanks for being my first and most amazing beta ever; I don’t know how I ever lived without you and your help! I had so much fun writing this story. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it.


9. Chapter Nine -- Broomsticks

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3882   Review this Chapter



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Alice stared resolutely out one of the large arched windows as the last peal of thunder faded away. “Another storm is coming,” she said, and it was clear from the tone of her voice that she was not referring to the current squall that was finally dying down outside. The heavy rainfall had slackened to a steady patter; the lightning had ceased and the thunder was fading away. The wind had stopped howling. Alice stared out the glass a moment longer, seeing something beyond the view, before returning to the others and lithely lowering herself to the floor at Jasper’s feet.



“How far away are they?” Edward asked her.



Alice closed her eyes for only a second before replying. “About fifty miles. Maybe less. They just passed through Longview.”



“How did you all get down here so quickly?” Carlisle asked, his brow furrowed with concern. “I mean, why has it taken them so long to catch up to you? You got here more than 24 hours ago. I thought you barely escaped them in Denali.”



“We did,” Edward replied. He did not intend to elaborate, but it became apparent rather quickly that the others desired a more thorough account. Reluctantly, he explained. “The others held them up. Emmett and Rosalie and Esme … they fought them off. Confused them so we could get away. We needed time,” he shrugged. “They bought it for us.”



The others stared at him, awestruck. Jasper and Alice thought they had been crazy to tag along, when in fact the others who’d stayed behind had already proven to be more courageous. Carlisle seemed lost, but muttered a soft “Esme” under his breath.



Bella’s jaw fell open, lolling lax against her chin. She could not believe that the Cullens she’d met in Alaska would really go to all that effort for her; that they would put their lives at risk for anyone at all left her stunned. She remembered the anxiety in their eyes when she’d asked for their help before; the frantic tenor of Rosalie’s voice as she’d expressed her horror and trepidation. Bella also remembered her own disgust with their general attitude. She wondered what had changed their minds, then recalled Edward disappearing down the hall just before they’d left – he must have said something; that was the only explanation. She felt an odd swell of emotion – some combination of pride and gratitude and possibly something else. This, on top of her surprise.



“Well, it sounds like they’re catching up,” Jake said, breaking the silence. He was the only one who didn’t comprehend – or care about – what it truly meant that the other Cullens had helped them. “Maybe we should figure out what to do before the trackers get here.”



“He’s right,” Edward said, with only a hint of reluctance in his voice. “It seems to me we have only three choices – only one of which I find even remotely viable. First – we can stay here and wait for them to find us – probably not the best idea, however, to start a vampire fight in the middle of downtown Portland. Our second option – meet them before they get here. Also, not ideal – as it will give us less time to prepare.”



“Option three?” Bella asked.



“We choose the fighting ground and wait for them to come to us.”



“I vote three,” Bella said instantly, ignoring the grimace crossing Edward’s and Jake’s faces both. Option three made the most sense. It was along the lines of what she’d already been considering. It also reminded her of the planned battle in the clearing near her Forks – the battle they’d won.



Carlisle, Alice and Jasper quickly agreed with her and elected for the third option.



Only Jacob seemed reluctant. “It’s just … I don’t think she should come with us,” he said, jutting his chin towards Bella.



She huffed indignantly. “And what good will that do?”



“You should stay out of harm’s way,” Jake explained.



“Danger magnet, remember?” she said, pointing at herself – but the reference was lost on this crowd. She rolled her eyes and scoffed knowingly. “Look, you’re forgetting that I’m the one they want. They’re tracking my scent. They’ll go only where I lead them. I doubt they care particularly about fighting you, although I’m sure they’ll take some relish in tearing you to bits if you get in their way.”



Jake glowered at her, but thought better of saying anything in response. He felt very young and stupid around her.



“I don’t like this,” Edward said, pressing his fingers to Bella’s lips before she could protest. As it was, he caught her mouth partway open and her breath puffed on his cool skin as she sulked, annoyed. “But I think Bella’s right. They won’t follow us unless she’s with us. They’ll know if we try to fool them by confusing the scent. They’re trackers – they’re smarter than that.” He dropped his hand away from Bella’s mouth. “I still don’t like the idea of leading you into danger.” His voice echoed heavily with regret.



“I’ll try very hard to stay out of the way,” Bella replied softly. She raised her eyes shyly to meet Edward’s gaze. They stared at each other, only breaking contact when Carlisle coughed lightly – clearing his throat unnecessarily.



“Perhaps we should select our destination and get moving,” he said, glancing at Alice, “if they are, indeed, not far away.”



Edward suggested a meadow east of Portland in the Columbia River Gorge. “It’s just outside of Hood River. If things go badly and we need to regroup, we can run to Mount Hood.”



The others quickly agreed and they headed out, piling into Carlisle’s amply-sized Honda Pilot. Alice handed Bella a tan wool coat from one of the shopping bags on their way out. “It will be cold,” was all she said and Bella accepted the item gratefully.



As the car sped east on I-84 towards Hood River, Bella could not escape the overwhelming sense of déjà vu. She didn’t expect it would be snowing at the meadow, like it had been at the cliffs where her Edward had ultimately destroyed Victoria – back in that other world she called home. But she knew there would be snow on the mountain nearby and Alice’s warning about the cold and her offering of the coat were eerily familiar. Bella clutched the wool jacket to her chest, trying to quell her sudden anxiety. She looked out the window and tried very hard to focus on the raindrops skittering across the glass as Edward pressed down on the gas pedal, but her eyes wouldn’t focus. Outside, trees and hills and buildings blurred together as they sped past. Edward only eased up on the gas as he turned off the Interstate, but even then the slowing was minimal. By the time they stopped at the field, only fifteen minutes had elapsed since leaving Portland. The drive would have taken most people well over an hour.



The sound of the car doors slamming echoed in the air around them. Together, they walked as a group into the center of the clearing.



The meadow was tucked snugly beside Mount Hood – snow-capped and majestic as it towered over them – and was surrounded on other sides by less impressive hilltops. Bella shivered as they stepped outside and slipped gratefully into her new coat. It came down to her knees and a heavy hood flopped onto her back. She buttoned it up to her chin and shoved her hands deep into the soft, fleece-lined pockets.



“How long?” Edward asked significantly, carefully gauging Alice’s thoughts as well as her next words.



She closed her eyes only briefly before opening them again, her appearance instantly on edge. “They just passed Multnomah Falls – no, Cascade Locks. No, wait …” She exhaled, frustrated. “They’re going so fast now,” she continued, anxious. “I think they caught a particularly potent trail. They’re tired of chasing us.”



Edward nodded curtly, attempting and failing to mask his agitation. “Okay, fan out,” he said, instantly splaying his arms behind him like a cage around Bella’s body. He ignored the grimace that crossed her lips and pushed her behind him.



Jasper hesitated, staring critically at his brother.



“You heard me,” Edward said insistently, angry at the rebellious thoughts in Jasper’s head.



The strategy bothered Jasper – just as it bothered Bella. This wasn’t right, she knew. They had to stand together; that was the only way to defeat the trackers. But Edward was stubborn as always; perhaps more so in this reality where he was also heartless.



Jasper faltered only once more, before following orders and walking alone across the field like Alice and Carlisle already had.



Edward glared at Jake, who was still standing stubbornly nearby. “You too, dog.”



“This is wrong,” Jake said. “Haven’t you ever heard of divide and conquer? You’re doing the dividing for them! We have to stick together – at least in equal groups. There’s five of us – five that can fight, that is,” he said, staring pointedly at Bella – who’d been on the cusp of protesting from under Edward’s arm that there were six of them. “We should stick together in teams.”



Jasper and Alice moved slowly back to the center of the clearing, Carlisle following closely – waiting for Edward’s reaction. They weren’t used to people arguing with Edward, but the boy’s words closely mirrored their own feelings.



Edward’s jaw flexed; he continued glaring at Jake. He was contemplating his next action. Deciding between using the boy’s own thoughts against him to hurt him emotionally, or else lashing out physically. The boy wasn’t technically a werewolf yet, anyway. But he had not made his decision – didn’t even have an inclination one way or the other – when a small, warm hand tugged on his shoulder. Edward looked down at Bella, startled. He’d almost forgotten she was there and he felt suddenly embarrassed. She was the entire reason for being there, after all, and he’d lost track of her presence. He felt foolish.



“I’m not choosing sides,” she said diplomatically. “But I think Jacob’s right. We should stick together. Two teams. Alice and Jasper – they’re strong together. And you and Carlisle and Jake, since he’s the weakest link. Besides me, I mean. And that way they can’t divide us. We’ll divide them, instead.”



Edward’s eyes seared with an unbidden terror. He was supposed to be the strong one, and yet … and yet, here he was, reduced to silence in the presence of a human girl.



“And we’ll be a team of three,” Jake chimed in hesitantly, pointing to himself and Carlisle and Edward. “That way, you … you can keep an eye on Bella.”



“Of course!” Bella said brightly. “You’re brilliant, Jake!” Her eyes blazed as she looked up at Edward. “I’ll be your responsibility. You watch out for me and they’ll watch out for us.”



Edward continued staring down at her, still at a loss for words. He was struggling with a strange sensation somewhere in his chest. Unconsciously, his hand began clutching at the stone flesh over his ribcage. Something itched beneath his skin. It almost felt warm. He swallowed with some effort and found the action more difficult than he remembered. It was foolish, but he almost felt clammy – as if he were sweating. But that was impossible. He was a vampire; vampires didn’t sweat. They didn’t cry. They were never clammy. And they did not itch.



“Edward,” Alice said, facing away.



He did not falter; he could not tear his eyes away from Bella’s face, looking up at him so exuberantly.



“Edward, they’re here.”



Only those words could pull Edward out of his daze. It helped that Bella broke their eye contact first, turning to follow Alice’s gaze. She didn’t see anything at first but she sensed Edward and the others bristling around her. Once again, Edward’s arms encircled her like a cage, tucking her safely behind him, but this time she did not feel resentful. She felt safe. She’d seen the look in his eyes and, no matter how confusing, she felt certain he would protect her to the end. She heard a low growl rumbling in his throat. She wanted to look around her – to see how Jake was faring. Poor, innocent, still human Jake. She wanted to be sure Alice and Jasper were okay; wondered if Carlisle would look as civilized and business-like out here in the wilderness. But she could not tear her eyes away from the edge of the clearing and after a moment, she saw a copper-colored brightness reflected in the moonlight. As the creatures came closer, she recognized the unmistakable flame of Victoria’s hair. The fear she felt seeing her again was expected and manageable; but she could not withstand the overpowering dread that rushed at her full force upon seeing James striding confidently towards her once again.



I’m not in a ballet studio, she told herself. I’m not alone. He will not kill me. He will not hurt me. Unconsciously, she began fingering the crescent-shaped scar along her hand – the place where her skin was cooler than anywhere else. Edward noticed as he glanced down at her from the corner of his eye and he plucked up her hand, holding it as if to comfort her. Instead, he noticed the cool spot and his brows furrowed. He turned away from the trackers just momentarily to look upon the scar critically. His eyes turned up to Bella’s face for an answer.



“Him,” she said. “James. He did it. Before – at home. In my world.”



Edward nodded resolutely. “Never again,” he promised, turning and focusing more determinedly on the approaching predators. He was guarding precious cargo and he intended to keep himself between her and them.



Bella realized as they came closer that Victoria and James were running. It was hard to hear anything with the thudding of her heart and the rush of her own blood flowing past her ears. She shook her head trying to clear it away, to no avail.



And then a noise louder than anything else made the blood rush seem insignificant. First, a ripping and a pop – then a pounding, like boulders crashing together. Metal tearing apart. An explosion. Ahead, in the clearing, two bodies collided. Neither was human – and one wasn’t even human-like. Bella’s eyes darted furiously around to the spot she’d last seen him, but in Jacob’s place were only a few tattered bits of fabric. The two bodies fought furiously, tumbling together on the grass – a tangle of marble limbs and fur. Victoria screamed wrathfully as a massive, red-brown wolf bit into her flesh and tore her right arm away from her torso as if she were a vicious, deadly rag doll.



If she hadn’t seen a vampire killed before – hadn’t already become so familiar with the werewolves – Bella might have screamed and run away in dread. Instead, she stayed securely within the circle of Edward’s arms – behind the shield of his body. Peeking under his elbow, her eyes frantically scanned the rest of the field for James.



Another explosion rang out as James and Jasper flung their bodies at each other, teeth snapping as they met in midair. Their bodies tumbled together on the ground and landed with James on top, sinking his teeth into Jasper’s arm. Jasper hissed as the venom made contact with his long-dead veins, but James’ victory was short lived – as Alice sprang up behind him and bit back … harder … in the vulnerable flesh along his shoulder. While he was distracted, Jasper righted himself and took another bite out of James, sinking his teeth into the flesh above his collarbone.



Across the field, Victoria’s screams reached a new level as Jacob made quick business disposing of her other arm, wrenching it apart from her body with his rows of canine teeth. Carlisle came to his aide and held on to her legs. Then, clutching her head in his mouth, Jacob ran full speed in the other direction. It made a popping sound when her body detached at the neck and the screaming – her mouth suddenly devoid of an air source – suddenly ceased. Her eyes rolled back. Carlisle tore apart the remains of her body and piled them together. Jacob gathered the last few bits and added them to the collection as Carlisle lit a match and flicked it onto the pile. It did not take long for the dark purple smoke to begin snaking skyward, an acrid smell filling the air.



James howled when he realized what was happening. But in his agony, he found a new strength. He turned his piercing, burgundy gaze on Alice and grinned – his white teeth gleaming in the moonlight. “I know who you are,” he said. “I know who made you.”



She shook her head, falling back a step. Her face grew more ashen in the moonlight. “No,” she gasped, denying it even as she stared at his face – even as the features grew more familiar to her. The click of his teeth brought flashes of long-forgotten memories to her mind’s eye. The low rumble of his depraved laughter was the same haunting echo that sometimes tormented her visions, like a distant nightmare. The recognition besieged her, shaking her very core even as her knees trembled. “No!”



“You’re still a little crazy, aren’t you?” he teased, grinning wickedly. “You were a lot crazy back then, too – all locked up. I was going to make such a nice little treat out of you … but then that stupid old man stole you away from the asylum and bit you himself. Couldn’t even finish the job. So I finished him. By then, I had no use for you.” He threw his head back and laughed, his cackles loud and loathsome in the night. A fresh peal of thunder echoed off the mountains. “Too bad,” he said, looking back at her menacingly. “You smelled so good … even better than this one.” He leered at Bella. “No matter … she’ll do.”



By this time, Alice had already collapsed – fallen to her knees. She was shaking uncontrollably. Even in this other world, her past had remained a mystery to her … until this very moment. Until the predator that had taken her maker and left her alone in the darkness revealed himself with sadistic pleasure. And the realization left her reeling and utterly useless. Jasper was at her side instantly, the battle forgotten to him.



That’s when James turned on Bella and Edward. He crossed the span of several yards in the blink of an eye and was breathing in their faces before Jake and Carlisle could realize what was happening – they were still burning Victoria’s body.



Edward kept his arms out, using his body and his arms to shield Bella from the predator – even as James leaned past him and licked his lips at Bella. His teeth snapped at her and she gasped, startling. She shrank back, trying to disappear behind Edward’s back. James inched closer to her face, past Edward’s elbow, but another deafening roar filled the clearing. The sound was agony; it was fury.



It was vengeance.



James didn’t have time to react. In reaching across towards his prey, he had left his neck exposed and Edward seized the moment, sinking his teeth into the bare flesh. James screamed and jumped away, the venom an unexpected agony. Recovering quickly, James looked up at his prey with renewed bloodlust in his eyes. He grinned; in his haste to fight back, Edward had left her exposed. James pounced – leaping towards Bella’s body as she stared back with wide eyes.



Edward threw himself in between, wrapping his arms around Bella’s frame and tucking her securely against his chest even as James collided with him, knocking both of them to the ground – Bella beneath him. They fell with a loud thud, but Edward did not release his hold on Bella, cradling her head – even as James bit back, his teeth digging into Edward’s shoulder. Edward made sure his body stayed between Bella and the tracker. He howled with the fire, but did not let go.



“Please be okay, please be okay,” Edward muttered under his breath.



James bit again. Still, Edward did not let go.



James laughed again, the sound more wicked than Macbeth’s witches. He raised his head for a third bite, this time aiming beyond Edward at the exposed flesh of Bella’s very limp wrist.



His teeth did not get a chance to pierce her skin.



A small, fearsome creature had flung itself at him and tumbled with him away from Edward and Bella – grass and dirt flying up around them. The creature tore away his eyelids before he could blink. The creature screamed, howled, yawped – as it ripped James apart – bit by tiny bit. Fingertips and strings of muscles; toes and feet and hands, then arms and legs and kneecaps. Bits of flesh torn like scraps of paper – peeling them off like the wrapper of a worn water bottle. When all that remained was a scattered pile of flesh and bones and an assorted bloody pulp, the creature stood again – composed.



Alice, it seemed, had finally found her courage.



And she wasn’t alone.



As she stepped away, others moved forward to gather the remaining pieces of James and set them ablaze.



“That was really, really, cool,” Emmett said, grinning at his sister – as he plucked what looked like a tendon muscle from the ground.



“Scary,” Rosalie added. She picked daintily at the carcass.



“Yeah, but cool.”



Alice stared at them for only a moment – surprised by their sudden appearance – before flinging herself at them jubilantly, embracing them each in turn and then squeezing them both together with her tiny arms – and making even more room as Jasper joined them.



Across the meadow, Carlisle was distracted from the rising purple smoke by another figure walking towards him. He was mesmerized by her lithe frame and the soft, caramel-colored curls framing her face. “Oh,” he gasped, watching the smile spread across her warm, rounded features. When she was within reach, he brushed his fingers across her cheek, marveling at the softness of her skin. “I believe I’ve rather missed you,” he said.



Esme smiled back at him shyly. “I’ve missed you, too.”



They needed no other words; their lips touched and that was enough.



In another part of the meadow – one forgotten by the others in the moment of their victory and reunion – the mood was not as jubilant. Jake – still in wolf form – padded over somberly, panting as he looked down. Edward still held Bella within the circle of his arms but her eyes remained closed and it seemed he could not convince her to open them, despite his every effort. He was afraid that she couldn’t open them; was entirely incapable of doing so. Because only living creatures could open their eyes.



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