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The Inevitable

Summary:
-Eclipse in Edward's Point if View- ~*~"It's more Inevitable than the sun rising in the East." -Alice Cullen Midnight Sun~*~


Notes:


25. Self Preservation

Rating 5/5   Word Count 5395   Review this Chapter

Chapter 25

Self Preservation

”Hunger, love, pain, fear are some of those inner forces which rule the individual’s instinct for self preservation," - Albert Einstein

I watched quietly as Bella sat next to me at the table, placing two brightly colored pop-tarts in front of her. As she raised her left hand to take a bite the light shining through the window flashed on silver, catching my eye for what felt like the hundredth time.

Unable to take it any longer I lifted my hand towards the small charm dangling lightly from her wrist. “May I?” I asked softly.

She froze in the process of chewing, her eyes widening slightly as they went to her wrist and then back to me.

I waited, my hand still out stretched.

Finally she swallowed and gave a small nod, her eyes wary. “Um, sure.”

I gently lifted the wooded charm with my palm, letting it lay lightly against my hand instead of picking it up with my fingers. It was a delicate little thing, but I could see the details, the small carved lines that curved to form a very realistic head and shoulders, the shallow thin lines that made up thick fur. It was very impressive work for a human, and I was surprised the kid had the patience to sit down and create it.

But that wasn’t the point I was planning to make.

I slid my hand back down onto the table top, letting the small wolf swing back into its original position.

“Jacob Black can give you presents.” I was merely stating the truth. It wasn’t a question because the answer was very clear.

I finally moved my eyes away from the swinging charm and met Bella’s wary brown ones. She was examining my face, her forehead furrowed slightly. I wasn’t sure what she was looking for or what she was finding. I just waited for a response.

Finally she sat her food down and said lightly, “You’ve given me presents.” Her tone clearly said this justified the unfairness of the situation. However it did not. “You know I like the homemade kind.”

I thought about it. She really did enjoy the C.D I made for her, but homemade gifts had a limit. I wanted to give her something much more valuable and sentimental than that. Something she could wear that was from me…something special and priceless, just like she was.

I knew what I wanted to give her, what I wanted her to wear. However I knew she would not be accepting the ring still sitting in my nightstand anytime soon. So that left me only one other option. I knew exactly what charm I wanted to add to this bracelet, right across from the wooden wolf.

“How about hand-me-downs? Are those acceptable?” I asked, unable to push back thoughts of the diamond ring…that was also handed down.

“What do you mean?”

I lightly ran a finger across her wrist, just under the silver ringlets. “This bracelet,” I said. “You’ll be wearing it a lot?”

Her lip instantly went between her teeth as she gave a small shrug.

I could tell this conversation was making her uncomfortable, and though I wish I knew the reasons why I decided to eliminate her need to answer. “Because you wouldn’t want to hurt his feelings,” I added. Even if that wasn’t the true answer I knew it was at least the truth.

“Sure,” she said, her voice wary, “I guess so.”

I resisted the urge to sigh and looked down, away from her eyes. For some reason I found myself feeling slightly uncomfortable on top of the gnawing jealously that hadn’t left since I first saw the bracelet last night. This would all be so much easier if I could just read her mind.

Reaching over I gently took her hand into mine and flipped it over, the light clink of the silver ringlets registering in my ears at the movement. I ran my fingers lightly across the translucent skin against her wrist, feeling the strong pulse of blood beneath my sensitive finger tips.“Don’t you think it’s fair then…” I began slowly, still not looking up, “if I have a little representation?”

“Representation?”

I looked back up as I answered. “A charm—something to keep me on your mind.” I stared into her eyes, watching as the brown softened.

“You’re in every thought I have.” She said softly, “I don’t need reminders.”

I looked down again, away from the complete sincerity in her eyes, only to meet the wooden wolf resting against her wrist. I had to push back a sigh of frustration, whether at my irrational human feelings, or at her evasiveness I didn’t know. Probably a little of both. I took a breath and looked up. “If I gave you something, would you wear it?” I asked bluntly.

Her lip went between her teeth again before she said.“A hand-me-down?”

I couldn’t stop the smile of victory that spread across my face. I could tell from her voice I had won, she would actually accept it. “Yes….something I’ve had for a while.” I assured her, my grin growing. It was ridiculous how happy this made me.

Bella nodded once, a small somewhat confused smile on her face as she watched my reaction. “Whatever makes you happy.”

I could feel the smile on my face falter as she went back to eating. She had spoken so nonchalantly. I didn’t understand. What made this time so much different than the others? She should still be arguing with me, throwing out more excuses. Because it was me that had offered to give her something.

I knew she hated receiving gifts, I’m not sure if it was because she felt unworthy of them somehow or because she felt guilty that she couldn’t return the gesture.

Even with that personality trait though, she still accepted Charlie’s camera last year, Renee’s scrapbook, Emmett and Rose’s radio, Carlisle and Esme’s airplane tickets….all of which cost money. And yet she was hesitant to accept my homemade music C.D. before she even knew what is was….but was all too willing to wear something given from the dog.

“Have you noticed the inequality?” I asked, unable to stop myself. “Because I certainly have.”

Bella looked back up from her breakfast, her brow furrowing, “What inequality?”

“Everyone else is able to get away with giving you things. Everyone but me. I would have loved to get you a graduation present, but I didn’t. I knew it would have upset you more than if anyone else did. That’s utterly unfair. How do you explain yourself?” Once I had it all out I waited, leaning back into my chair.

Bella stared at me for a few heartbeats and then shrugged again. “Easy,” she said, her tone implying that the answer to my question should be completely obvious. “You’re more important than everyone else. And you’ve given me you. That’s already more than I deserve, and anything else you give me just throws us more out of balance.”

She spoke in a matter-of-fact tone, utterly sure of herself….and completely wrong.

I rolled my eyes, for some reason the fact that her aversion to my gifts were a combination of my two suspicions didn’t surprise me.

“The way you regard me is ludicrous.” As if I were somehow on a higher level than her. There was no balancing between us…where I was concerned that notion didn’t even exist, and even if it did I wouldn’t stand a chance….no matter how much money I threw on the scales.

Bella went back to eating, completely unfazed by my last sentence and still set on her belief. Once again I found myself confused and mesmerized by the way her mind seemed to work.

Though I’d be lying to myself if I said her views –rather they were fact or not- didn’t soothe me. Because they did, oddly enough. Somehow I found myself happy that she accepted a gift from Jacob Black while I had to pry and accuse to get her to accept my simple hand-me-down.

I shook my head slightly, now becoming confused with myself. That was a hell of a thing to feel happy about.

The soft buzzing against me chest thankfully pulled me from my self-made confusion. A quick glance at the small screen told me who it was.

“What is it Alice?”

“Um…” There was a moment of hesitation before she spoke. “Nothing new… so to speak…” she said slowly before she paused. Then sighing she finally said. “It’s Bella.”

My eyes instantly shot up to Bella’s face.

“She’s determined to be in the clearing,” Alice went on quickly as if she didn’t want to say it but had to. “ It started last night during the party and got worse in the clearing, I told her I wouldn’t say anything unless her plans became more concrete.”

I sighed heavily, not moving my eyes from Bella’s. I had no doubt that Bella had a plan inside that head of hers. Especially after Jasper voiced his thoughts. I had heard plenty slip out of her mouth this morning. Bella may think she was good at hiding things but when it came to her subconscious there were no secrets.

Before I could ask Alice what it was she had seen exactly, she answered. “She’s trying to find the clearing on her own. Of course the only thing she accomplishes is getting herself thoroughly lost and in a complete panic. But she’s set on following us there.”

Another gust of air escaped my chest as my frustration grew. “I sort of guessed as much,” I murmured, keeping my glare on Bella as I raised an eyebrow. She knew exactly what we were talking about. I could see in her guilty, but set gaze. “She was talking in her sleep.”

At my words Bella’s eyes widened slightly as her pulse picked up and her cheeks flushed lightly. She definitely knew she was caught. What was she thinking? Just this once I wish she would listen to me.

Alice sighed into the phone with a soft chuckle that sounded amused and aggravated at the same time. “Just talk to her. I don’t like seeing her that way, she was completely freaked out and at one point she was just screaming for you. I really don’t want the next vision to be her voice drawing someone to her.”

I clenched my jaw. Understanding exactly what Alice was saying.

“I didn’t want to rat her out but she didn’t leave me a choice.” She added with a sigh.

“I’ll take care of it,” I promised.

I didn’t remove my glare from Bella’s face as I shut my phone. “Is there something you’d like to talk to me about?” I asked lightly.

We stared at one another. I stayed silent waiting for her to speak, to explain what was going on in that beautiful head of hers. Though I knew part of it already.

I watched as Bella straightened up slightly in her chair, watched how her face smoothed and her eyes set in that familiar determination. A small squirm of uneasiness began to settle on me.

“I like Jasper’s idea.”

A loud groan escaped my mouth. Jasper’s focused military mind just made the argument that was about to happened even more difficult.

“I want to help,” Bella said her voice growing desperate. “I have to do something.

“It wouldn’t help to have you in danger,” I said in a level voice.

“Jasper thinks it would,” she insisted at once. “This is his area of expertise.”

I scowled at her ability to turn my own words against me.

Her eyes hardened again. “You can’t keep me away, I’m not going to hide out in the forest while you all take risks for me.”

The fact that she actually thought her plan was going to work had me holding back a smile. “Alice doesn’t see you in the clearing, Bella.” I said quietly. “She sees you stumbling around lost in the woods. You won’t be able to find us; you’ll just make it more time consuming for me to find you afterward.”

Her chin rose slightly. “That’s because Alice didn’t factor in Seth Clearwater,” she said, copying my light tone. “If she had, of course, she wouldn’t have been able to see anything at all. But it sounds like Seth wants to be there as much as I do. It wouldn’t be too hard to persuade him to show me the way.”

The fact that what she had just said would probably have worked, if she hadn’t just told me, had my muscles tensing. I knew Seth was eager to prove himself and Bella was the most determined person I knew when she set her mind to something.

She would have actually made it to the clearing…..surprising not only Alice and myself but also the Newborns. It would take just one catching her scent and then one simple move that would be over before I could even…

I took a deep breath. There was no use thinking about what would have happened, it didn’t matter now. “That might have worked….” I said, forcing my words to stay calm. “….If you hadn’t told me. Now I’ll just ask Sam to give Seth certain orders. Much as he might want to, Seth won’t be able to ignore that kind of injunction.”

My statement seem to do nothing. The small smile stayed on Bella’s face. “But why would Sam give those orders?” she asked in the same tone as before. “If I tell him how it would help for me to be there? I bet Sam would rather do me a favor than you.”

That dog wouldn’t dare…..I’d…

Before my anger could fully surface I remembered something from last night. “Maybe he would,” I agreed tightly. “But I’m sure Jacob would be only too eager to give those same orders.”

Her face finally fell, but it wasn’t in defeat. It was confusion. “Jacob?”

So she didn’t know. “Jacob is second in command. Did he never tell you?” Then I smiled widely, “ His orders have to be followed, too.”

Her features faltered, she knew Jacob didn’t like Jasper’s idea anymore than I did. But the confusion was still there, it seemed to be overriding the fact that she had lost her argument.

I quickly grasped the opportunity while I still had it.

“I got a fascinating look into the packs mind last night. It was better than a Soap Opera. I had no idea how complex the dynamic is with such a large pack. The pull of the individual against the plural psyche…Absolutely fascinating.”

I was fighting another smile as I watched Bella’s face set. She knew me well enough to know I was trying to change the subject. But I knew her well enough to know it was only be a matter of time before she caved.

“Jacob’s been keeping a lot of secrets,” I commented, shamelessly waving the bait in her face. At her glare I lost my inner fight and grinned. “For instance,” I said quickly before she could speak. “Did you note the smaller gray wolf there last night?”

She gave a small nod, the disgruntled look still on her face. Seeing the two struggles so clearly in her features made me chuckle. She was thoroughly aggravated with me and trying desperately to fight off her never-ending curiosity.

“They take all of their legends so seriously.” I went on still smiling. “It turns out there are a lot of things that none of their stories prepared them for.” I added cryptically….and then waited.

I didn’t have to wait long before Bella sighed heavily. “Okay, I’ll bite. What are you talking about?”

With a smile of victory I quickly grasped the opportunity and went into detail all I had learned the previous night, starting with the one I knew would intrigue Bella most: Leah.

I answered her questions, which of course came one after the other, and threw in as many details as possible. From there I moved on to the next interesting insight of the pack’s mind. Bella drank it all in, her eyes wide and eager for more.

However I should have known it wouldn’t last forever.

As soon as the conversation began to close I heard Bella’s soft sigh and knew it was coming.

“The pack is fascinating,” She said, agreeing with my last statement. “Almost as fascinating as you are when you’re trying to distract me.”

I let my features clear again, preparing myself for round two. Bella clearly saw the action and sighed again. “I have to be in that clearing, Edward.”

Enough was enough, it wasn’t going to happen….there wasn’t a reason out there she could throw at me that would change my mind.

“No.” It took everything inside me not to look away from her face as the hard word escaped my mouth.

I was expecting more stubbornness, more fight. Perhaps anger.

However I was not expecting her face to turn completely blank.

There was no emotion. Nothing. The uneasiness crashed back into me full force. My instincts were telling me this was what I had been unconsciously waiting for.

Bella’s head tilted downwards, her eyes seeming to latch themselves physically to the table top. Something told me reaching over to lift her chin would be pointless.

“Okay look Edward,” Her whispered words sounded as blank as her face. But they were not flat, there was an undertone to them, almost like a warning. “Here’s the thing…I’ve already gone crazy once. I know what my limits are. And I can’t stand it if you leave me again.

I flinched back from the invisible blow her words inflicted. And it wasn’t just the words, it was the pain laced into that last sentence.

Though there was no physical evidence I could feel the impact.

A fast gust of air filled my chest before I froze. It was more painful than I would have ever expected, hearing that fear voiced. I had read it more than once in her eyes, in quick flashes of panic and worry, always followed by a wave of unnecessary relief. However this was the first time she had spoken the words aloud directly to me.

I couldn’t speak, even if I could find the words, I’m not sure they would make it through my throat.

Bella seemed as frozen as I was. She still wasn’t looking at me but the little view I had of her downcast eyes was enough, it was too much.

The very familiar, all powering need to take the pain away from her…to wipe the fear from her eyes and features, to see her smile again, washed through me, suffocated me with its urgency.

‘I’ve already gone crazy once….I can’t stand it if you leave me again.’

The legs of my chair made a loud scraping noise as I covered the distance between us in one quick move. My arms wrapped around her, my hands rubbing her arms, her back, and then just like in the school parking lot when she learned of Victoria’s return my cold fingers stroked her pale cheeks, as if it would physically remove the pain and coax her eyes up to mine.

“You know it’s not like that Bella.” My voice was soft, but also pleading. The thought that she could possibly be looking at this situation as me leaving again was unbearable. “I won’t be far…” I promised, “….and it will be over quickly.”

“I can’t stand it,” she whispered fiercely, still not meeting my eyes. “Not knowing whether you’ll come back. How do I live through that, no matter how quickly it’s over.”

I sighed heavily. She was looking at this all wrong. She greatly underestimated my family’s strength. “It’s going to be easy, Bella.” I insisted. “There’s no reason for your fears.”

“None at all?” she questioned quietly, still looking down.

“None,” I answered immediately, reaching up to tuck a strand hair behind her ear.

“And everyone will be fine?”

“Everyone.” I felt my brow furrow. My reassurances to her questions only seemed to be making her more tense.

“So there’s no way at all that I need to be in that clearing?”

“Of course not,” I said, shocked at the oddly worded question. She should have known what my answer would be. “Alice just told me that they’re down to nineteen. We’ll be able to handle it easily.”

Bella’s head ducked further, completely shielding her eyes from me now. “That’s right…” she murmured. “You said it was so easy someone could sit out.”

I nodded slightly, though she couldn’t see it. I did say that, but the way she repeated it didn’t sound right. There was more.

“Did you really mean that?” she whispered, her heartbeat picking up slightly for some unknown reason.

“Yes,” I said simply through my confusion.

Then as her barley whispered words breathed out of her mouth all the confusion fell away.

I should have known….I should have seen it coming. It was obvious what her odd questions were leading to.

“So easy you could sit out?”

But I hadn’t seen it coming. Because I would have never expected Bella to ask this of me.

But she did.

And I was….stunned….completely caught off guard.

Part of me argued that Bella would never make me choose like this while the other replayed her words as proof.

Then finally….finally, she looked up.

Her eyes said it all before she even spoke.

She was asking.

“So it’s one way or the other,” she said taking a breath, her voice steady and almost businesslike. “Either there is more danger than you want me to know about, in which case it would be right for me to be there, to do what I can to help. Or…it’s going to be so easy that they’ll get by without you. Which way is it?”

I stared into her eyes, listening to her heart beat rapidly against her chest. This lasted for only a second before she cast her eyes down again.

For some reason I found myself processing and thinking over her words more than should have been necessary. It wasn’t that she wasn’t clear, in fact she had voiced her question quite plainly. It was just I was still having trouble wrapping my mind around the fact that Bella….my Bella, would ask this of me.

“You ask me to let them fight without my help?” I found myself murmuring.

Her answer was quick and steady. “Yes.” No hesitation. “Or to let me be there. Either way, so long as we’re together.”

My chest tightened as I actually let myself think about making a choice.

In reality there was no choice to be made. I knew where I would go….what I would choose. But with that realization came the faces of my family…. Carlisle’s standing out more than the rest. If there was one worry I had about this whole situation it was for him. I knew the newborns would be defeated with or without my help.

However there were two main reasons why I wanted to be in that clearing….

One: I wanted to have the chance to end things myself this time. Even now, over a year later, I still felt the anger and disappointment at having missed the chance to rip James apart myself. It was selfish, but even if I could rip apart only one of those monsters I would feel better. And if Bella was right…if there was even the slightest sliver of a chance that Victoria would for some reason show her face that was one opportunity I did not… could not miss.

And two: I needed to be there for Carlisle. I needed to make sure he wasn’t going to hesitate. Wasn’t going to freeze when he saw a child’s face coming at him. A child’s face hiding a monster that only needed that millisecond of doubt to wrap their powerful arms around him.

Could I truly trust the others to watch out for him? It sounded arrogant even in my own head, but the answer was no. Because not even Esme was as in-tuned with his mind as I was. She couldn’t be. I had decades of experience being inside his mind and I knew him. Knew him as well if not better than he knew me.

Hell, I knew each member of my family on a level none of the others did.

I had to be there. Not only to watch Carlisle, but to make sure Jasper and Rosalie didn’t get hurt trying to protect Alice and Emmett. Make sure Emmett didn’t get carried away to the point of recklessness. Make sure none of the monsters laid a hand on Esme. Keep Alice and the wolfs paths from crossing, because if they did she would be as tiny and defenseless as she looked.

The image the last thought brought on nearly made me flinch. My body had grown rigid in the chair and my fists were clenched at my sides.

Why was I just now thinking all this?

Why was I just now thinking about all the things that could go wrong?

Why did it feel like I was fearing this coming fight when mere hours ago I was eager for it?

Once I allowed my eyes to focus back on Bella I had my answer: Because I knew I wouldn’t be there with them.

I took in a deep breath and released it, preparing myself. Then unclenching my hands, I slowly reached forward to cup Bella’s fragile face, and gently tilted in back up.

Guilt.

I knew it would be there in her face, but never had I seen it so strong. Her brow was furrowed and I could see how difficult it was for her to look me in the eye. But she didn’t fight, she stared right back. Her eyes –on top of looking like they would tear up at any second- were practically screaming apology.

It couldn’t be clearer even if she spoke the words aloud. ‘I’m sorry’ ‘I’m sorry’.

This moment was extremely hard for me, but it hit me how very difficult this must be for her.

Never had Bella put her own feelings and needs above someone else’s. Whether it was with her mother, father, my family, Jacob, her friends…me. Anyone. The fact that she had been pushed to the point of asking something –that viewed from an outsider- would seem selfish proved more than anything how desperate she was right now.

But I knew better. I knew her better.

This was not an act of selfishness.

I gazed deeply into the familiar brown, looking past the guilt and apology, and saw it. There was a flash of something in her eyes I had never seen before. Something I had accused her of not having more than once. Something I wish I could have seen more before this moment. Self preservation.

Once again today I found myself reliving the past. After my return I’d asked Bella what her greatest problem was, and never –for however long I lived- would I forget her answer. That night the truth in her words had been agonizing, but I never fully understood their meaning until this second.

“You never did tell me…”

“What?” she asked.

“What your greatest problem is.”

“I’ll give you one guess.” She said softly, then reached up and touched the tip of my nose with her warm finger.

I felt my stomach drop and the pain that had been eating at me all night increased. But I accepted the truth for what it was and nodded. “I’m worse than the Volturi…I guess I’ve earned that.”

Bella rolled her eyes, a small but sad smile gracing her lips. “The worst the Volturi can do is kill me.” She said matter-of-factly.

I stared at her wondering what could possibly be worse. In my world that would be the darkest thing imaginable….had been the darkest thing imaginable.

“You can leave me,” she whispered, her features changing as she explained. “The Volturi, Victoria…they’re nothing compared to that.”

I quickly pushed back the pain of those words, knowing Bella would read it clearly on my face if I let it register. It would only make her feel worse than she already did. She had done nothing wrong. She gave me a choice and I had already chosen. I would never –no matter how short a time it was- make her experience even a sliver of the pain I had once put her through with my absence.

Suppressing a sigh I dropped my right hand, leaving the other on her face, and reached for my phone.

Best to get it over with, more than likely Alice was already on her way to the phone to call me.

Bella’s eyes grew questioning but she didn’t look away, and I kept my gaze locked on her as I waited.

The phone rang twice before Alice answered.

“Hi again.”

I sighed. I could tell from her voice Alice hadn’t seen my change of decision yet. “Alice could you come babysit Bella for bit?” I asked trying to keep the sickness I was feeling inside from showing in my voice.

“Um…Of course…but…”

“I need to speak with Jasper.” I needed to get this over with.

“Why?...” she began but then I heard a small intake of breath. Alice was seeing. Whether she was seeing the conversation I was planning on having or seeing the outcome of that conversation I didn’t know. Finally she murmured she was on her way. I flipped the phone closed before Alice fully realized what it was I was doing and started asking questions.

As I placed the phone back in my pocket Bella swallowed and whispered. “What are you going to say to Jasper?”

I ran my thumb gently across her cheekbone wishing the pain in her eyes would disappear. It was making this whole situation even harder. “I’m going to discuss….” I hesitated, a part of me desperately wanting to fight the words back, but knowing I wouldn’t, “…me sitting out.” As I said the words the sickness dug deeper. I was truly going to leave them….let them go without me.

There was no joy in Bella’s eyes at getting what she wanted, and the small flicker of relief that I did see was completely drowned out by an increase of guilt. Moisture filled her eyes and when the apology was finally voiced it was filled with regret. She wished it didn’t have to be this way.

I brought my other hand back up, cupping her face again. “Don’t apologize,” I murmured, trying to give her a smile. “Never be afraid to tell me how you feel, Bella. If this is what you need….” I shrugged then simply stated the truth, the only truth that was holding me on the path I had now chosen. “You are my first priority.”

Anguish filled Bella’s face at my words. Her moist eyes widened and I could feel the pressure as she tried to shake her head inside my hands. “I didn’t mean it that way,” she said quickly, her eyes and voice begging me to understand. “…like you have to choose me over your family.”

I squeezed her face gently. “I know that,” I reassured her. “Besides that’s not what you asked. You gave me two alternatives that you could live with, and I chose the one I could live with.”

She couldn’t bear for me to leave her and I couldn’t bear for her to be in danger. This was the only way.

“That’s how compromise is suppose to work,” I added.

I watched as Bella seemed to deflate in my hands, her shoulders slumping and eyes closing. She released a shaky breath and leaned towards me. I relaxed my hands and allowed my fingers to run through her hair as she moved forward and rested her head against my chest.

“Thank you,” she mumbled quietly, though the tone of her voice made it sound like another apology. I rubbed her back gently and pressed my lips to the top of her head.

“Anytime,” I said into her hair. “Anything.”