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Nothing on Earth

Summary:
Alternate version of New Moon, chapter 3, "The End": Edward tells Bella he doesn't want her. What if Bella at least tries to fight for Edward? What if Edward isn't able to leave her? What if their love is stronger than their doubts?


Notes:


1. Bella

Rating 5/5   Word Count 4125   Review this Chapter

Nothing on Earth

Edward leaned against a tree and stared at me, his expression unreadable.

“Okay, let’s talk,” I said. It sounded braver than I felt.

He took a deep breath.

“Bella, we’re leaving.”

I took a deep breath, too. This was an acceptable option. I thought I was prepared. But I still had to ask.

“Why now? Another year-“

“Bella, it’s time. How much longer could we stay in Forks, after all? Carlisle can barely pass for thirty, and he’s claiming thirty-three now. We’d have to start over soon regardless.”

His answer confused me. I thought the point of leaving was to let his family live in peace. Why did we have to leave if they were going? I stared at him, trying to understand what he meant.

He stared back coldly.

With a roll of nausea, I realized I’d misunderstood.

“When you say we-,” I whispered.

“I mean my family and myself.” Each word seperate and distinct.

I shook my head back and forth mechanically, trying to clear it. He waited without any sign of impatience. It took a few minutes before I could speak.

“Okay,” I said. “I’ll come with you.”

“You can’t, Bella. Where we’re going... It’s not the right place for you.”

“Where you are is the right place for me.”

“I’m no good for you, Bella.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.” I wanted to sound angry, but just sounded like I was begging. “You’re the very best part of my life.”

“My world is not for you,” he said grimly.

“What happened with Jasper - that was nothing, Edward! Nothing!”

“You’re right,” he agreed. “It was exactly what was to be expected.”

“You promised! In Phoenix, you promised that you would stay-“

“As long as that was best for you,” he interrupted to correct me.

No! This is about my soul, isn’t it?” I shouted, furious, the words exploding out of me - somehow it still sounded like a plea. “Carlisle told me about that, and I don’t care, Edward. I don’t care! You can have my soul. I don’t want it without you - it’s yours already!”

He took a deep breath and stared, unseeingly, at the ground for a long moment. His mouth twisted the tiniest bit. When he finally looked up, his eyes were different, harder - like the liquid gold had frozen solid.

“Bella, I don’t want you to come with me.” He spoke the words slowly and precisely, his cold eyes on my face, watching as I absorbed what he was really saying.

There was a pause as I repeated the words in my head a few times, sifting through them for their real intent.

“You... don’t... want me?” I tried out the words, confused by the way they sounded, in that order.

“No.”

I stared, uncomprehending, into his eyes. He stared back without apology. His eyes were like topaz - hard and clear and very deep. I felt like I could see into them for miles and miles, yet nowhere in their bottomless depth could I see a contradiction to the words he’d spoken.

“Well, that changes things.” I was surprised by how calm and reasonable my voice sounded. It must be because I was so numb. I couldn’t realize what he was telling me. It still didn’t make any sense.

He looked away into the trees as he spoke again. “Of course, I’ll always love you... in a way. But what happened the other night made me realize that it’s time for a change. Because I’m... tired of pretending to be something I’m not, Bella. I’m not human.” He looked back, and the icy planes of his perfect face were not human. “I’ve let this go on much too long, and I’m sorry for that.”

“Don’t.” My voice was just a whisper now; awareness was beginning to seep through me, trickling like acid through my veins. “Don’t do this.”

He just stared at me, and I could see from his eyes that my words were far too late. He already had.

“You’re not good for me, Bella.” He turned his earlier words around, so that I had no argument. How well I knew that I wasn’t good enough for him.

I opened my mouth to say something, and then closed it again. He waited patiently, his face wiped clean of all emotion. I tried again.

“If... that’s what you want.”

He nodded once.

My whole body went numb. I couldn’t feel anything below the neck.

“I would like to ask one favor, though, if that’s not too much,” he said.

I wonder what he saw on my face, because something flickered across his own face in response. But, before I could identify it, he’d composed his features into the same serene mask.

“Anything,” I vowed, my voice faintly stronger.

As I watched, his frozen eyes melted. The gold became liquid again, molten, burning down into mine with an intensity that was overwhelming.

“Don’t do anything reckless or stupid,” he ordered, no longer detached. “Do you understand what I’m saying?”

I nodded helplessly.

His eyes cooled, the distance returned. “I’m thinking of Charlie, of course. He needs you. Take care of yourself - for him.”

I nooded again. “I will,” I whispered.

He seemed to relax just a little.

“And I’ll make you a promise in return,” he said. “I promise that this will be the last time you’ll see me. I won’t come back. I won’t put you through anything like this again. You can go on with your life without any more interference from me. It will be as if I’d never existed.”

My knees must have started to shake, because the trees were suddenly wobbling. I could hear the blood pounding faster than normal behind my ears. His voice sounded farther away.

He smiled gently. “Don’t worry. You’re human - your memory is no more than a sieve. Time heals all wounds for your kind.”

“And your memories?” I asked. I sounded like there was something stuck in my throat, like I was choking.

“Well” - he hesitated for a short second - “I won’t forget. But my kind... we’re very easily distracted.” He smiled; the smile was tranquil and it did not touch his eyes.

He took a step away from me. “That’s everything, I suppose. We won’t bother you again.”

The plural caught my attention. That surprised me; I would have thought I was beyond noticing anything.

“Alice isn’t coming back,” I realized. I don’t know how he heard me - the words made no sounds - but he seemed to understand.

He shook his head slowly, always watching my face.

“No. They’re all gone. I stayed behind to tell you goodbye.”

“Alice is gone?” My voice was blank with disbelief.

“She wanted to say goodbye, but I convinced her that a clean break would be better for you.”

I was dizzy; it was hard to concentrate. His words swirled around in my head, and I heard the doctor at the hospital in Phoenix, last spring, as he showed me the X-rays. You can see it’s a clean break, his fingers traced along the picture of my severed bone. That’s good. It will heal more easily, more quickly.

I tried to breathe normally. I needed to concentrate to find a way out of this nightmare.

“Goodbye, Bella,” he said in the same quite, peaceful voice.

“Wait!” I choked out the word, reaching for him, willing my deadened legs to carry me forward.

I thought he was reaching for me, too. But his cold hands locked around my wrists and pinned them to my sides. He leaned down, and pressed his lips very lightly to my forehead for the briefest instant. My eyes closed.

“Take care of yourself,” he breathed, cool against my skin.

I instinctively knew that these were intended to be his parting words; and it was in this moment that I knew I could not - would not - let him go. Something was not right.

I was torn between what I’d always felt - that I wasn’t good enough for him - and my acute awareness that every second, my life would be taken away from me - was taking itself away from me - Edward would be leaving.

I struggled to find my voice. “No!” I finally managed to get out. “Don’t do this!”

I felt his hands let go of my wrists and I opened my eyes, afraid I would find that he was already gone, but he was still there, standing before me.

“Bella-“ he started, his eyes still smooth as glass, void of emotions.

This was not the Edward I knew. Fleetingly, I wondered if I could have been wrong the entire time, if I didn’t know him as I thought I did after all; but I pushed these thoughts aside. I had to get a reaction out of him, some way, somehow. At last, the numbness was gone.

“So all of it was a lie?” I shouted angrily, surprised by the volume of my voice. “Every word, every look, every touch, every kiss? You now decide that you don’t want me - that I’m not good enough-“ my voice broke. The anger was gone as quickly as it had come; despair had taken its place. I fought to keep the first tears from falling.

Edward had closed his eyes.

“What did I do, Edward? What did I do wrong? Why didn’t you tell me this earlier? Why did you lead me on for so long? I would have understood - I always knew I wasn’t enough - that I wouldn’t be able to hold you-“ But once again, I couldn’t continue. A sob had forced its way up my throat, and I couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. They rolled down my face and I impatiently wiped them away. I had to be able to see clearly.

I watched Edward’s face closely. Pain was etched into every single one of his beautiful features. I was torn between feeling relieved that he was finally showing a reaction and feeling wretched because I was causing him pain - because I made doing what he wanted to do difficult for him. Doubt once again filled me, but I fought it down. I had to stand my ground.

Edward’s eyes slowly opened, and I stared into them - the swirling pools of gold, alive, once again filled with emotion, looked at me with an intensity that I should have been used to, but still made my heart beat ridiculously quickly.

“Bella-“ he started, and I was surprised to hear that his voice was raw, unstable. “Don’t cry.”

“’Don’t cry?’ You say that you don’t love me and you expect me to show no emotion?” I had intended my voice to be sharp and sarcastic, but I choked out the words rather than said them.

Edward’s face contorted as if he’d been stabbed and my heart lurched painfully.

“I never said I didn’t love you,” he finally said.

I laughed joylessly. “Why else would you leave me?”

“Bella, please don’t blame this on yourself. It is my fault, mine alone, but I have made my decision.”

I knew I was close to hysterics. “Not blame this on myself? How could I not? I’m the human here, the plain, boring human girl who is a walking - no, stumbling and falling - danger magnet.”

Edward was still looking at me with that look on his face which made my heart ache. He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and then he opened them again. He looked as if he’d made a decision.

“Bella, I’m leaving you so you can live the life you deserve. It’s me who is constantly putting you in danger when you should have a happy human life. You will go to college, you will work, you will have a ... husband,” he hesitated slightly before saying the word, “you will have children. You will find someone who will give you everything I couldn’t give you... Everything I will never be able to give you...” He trailed off, and I opened my mouth to say something, but apparently he hadn’t finished.

“Don’t you see, Bella?” he said urgently. “Don’t you see that I’m doing this for you?”

I looked at him, saw the pleading look in his eyes, and knew he really meant what he was saying, really thought he was doing me a favor by leaving me. Oh, God.

“How could you ever think you leaving me would do me any good? I don’t want an ordinary, human life. I wouldn’t marry and I wouldn’t have children because I would never find someone to love the way I love you. I don’t want anything that I can’t have with you.” And it was true. I hoped he could hear the certainty and conviction with which I spoke these words.

“Bella, you can’t know that. Your feelings may change.” Edward’s voice was full of emotion.

“My feelings won’t change, Edward. I’m yours, whether you want me or not.”

“You shouldn’t want me, Bella. Everything about me - my very existence - is putting you in danger.”

I scoffed. “Edward, you’re not the one putting me in danger, you’re the one saving me from it. If it weren’t for you, I’d have been flat as a pancake the day the van almost hit me!”

“Don’t joke about that,” he responded, his eyes tight.

“I’m not joking. I’m dead serious.”

He stood before me, motionless.

This was going nowhere. I was suddenly painfully aware of my exhaustion, both mental and physical. I couldn’t stand this anymore, the confusion, not knowing what it was he really meant, what he really wanted. I needed to know... so I could do everything to fulfil his wishes, for better or for worse. I had never been more afraid to ask a question.

“Edward... tell me what you want. Be honest with me. Tell me why you want to leave. If you don’t love me anymore - if you really don’t want me - if the danger thing is only an excuse - I promise I’ll let you go. I won’t argue anymore. I’ll let you go.” I felt as if it wasn’t me speaking the words.

I couldn’t look at Edward. I couldn’t bear to see the passive look he’d probably have on his face or his unemotional eyes. Tears were running from my eyes and down my face in rapid succession and I turned my head even farther away from him so he wouldn’t see them.

An immeasurable amount of time had passed before I realized that it wasn’t only me who was taking unsteady, ragged breaths.

“Bella,” I finally heard Edward’s perfect voice say. “Bella, look at me.”

I couldn’t resist his words. I turned my head and looked at him. I wondered briefly if that was a mistake, but then his eyes caught mine and I didn’t think anymore.

His eyes... I didn’t think they’d ever looked the way they did now. They were impossibly intense... Desperate, pained, doubtful... My heart ached. And yet there was one emotion I was familiar with... Maybe I was only imagining it, but I was stupid enough to let myself hope.

“Edward... if you don’t want me, tell me now.” I held my breath, acutely aware of my heart beating in my chest and my blood rushing in my veins. The moment of truth... it had come.

“I want you, I’ll always want you,” Edward breathed, and it took a moment until the words registered in my brain, until I understood that I had actually heard them. Finally, finally my heartbeat wasn’t fast because I was nervous anymore, but because his words affected me in a way that no one else’s ever would. But I still felt no relief.

“So does this mean you’ll stay?” I asked. The pressure on my heart made it impossible for me to breathe.

Edward looked torn, emotions flickering over his face, while I waited, still not breathing.

“Do you want me to?” he finally settled on asking.

My answer was immediate. “Yes,” I breathed, “yes. Edward, there’s nothing I want more. Stay with me. Forever.”

He still looked doubtful. He still wasn’t sure... What else would it take? Fear clouded my mind once again. Had I pressured him too much? Did he want to stay only because I asked him to, because I made him feel guilty? No matter how much it would hurt me, I couldn’t have that.

“Edward, as I said, you don’t have to stay with me if you really want to leave. If you don’t-”

To my surprise, he laughed. It wasn’t a very joyful laugh, but a laugh nonetheless. It sent pleasant shivers down my spine.

“Bella”, he chuckled, “oh, Bella. I already said I wanted you only a minute ago, didn’t I? I meant it.”

Oh. Right. Relief flooded me.

“And Bella...,” he said again, and his velvet voice was full of warmth and tenderness and made me feel like I was standing on a cloud. “As I said, I never wanted to leave because I didn’t love you. It’s quite the opposite, actually. I never could have even tried to leave you if I didn’t love you the way I do. Bella, I love you.”

Hearing him say these words had never felt as good as it did now. There he stood, before me, my Edward. And I couldn’t stand the distance between us for one more second.

I flung myself into his arms, which were already opened for me the moment I reached him. I rested my head against his chest, breathing in deeply, and he rested his head on mine, and I enjoyed the feeling of his hands on my back, his arms pulling me against him, close, so close. I was where I belonged.

I don’t know how long we stood there, holding each other. He whispered my name again and again, at times happily, at times melancholy, while his name left my lips in a relieved whisper.

I never wanted to let him go, but I knew there were things we had to talk about, questions I had to ask, no matter how painful it would be.

“You would have done it, wouldn’t you? You had made your decision. You really wanted to leave me.”

I lifted my head off his chest and leaned back so I could look him in the face. He was struggling with himself, trying to decide on what to say, as he had done several times today.

But he looked me in the eyes, and I knew he’d be honest with me.

“Yes, I wanted to leave you. After what happened on your birthday... I thought it would be best... I couldn’t stand the thought of you being hurt because of me... Because I, being the selfish, egotistical creature I am, wasn’t able to stay away from you.”

“Edward,” I whispered, and lifted my hand to carress his smooth, cool cheek.

He closed his eyes, seeming to enjoy my touch.

“I don’t know how I could ever have thought I would be able to leave you and live without you,” he breathed. “That I’d be able to lie to you.”

“So you lied, didn’t you?”

“Yes, I did,” he said, frowning. “I would never have said the things I did say if I hadn’t been convinced I was doing what was best for you...only for you... And I should have been stronger... I’m a very good liar. I have to be. I was prepared to lie to you for hours. But you... your words... you are far too perceptive, you know me far too well... I can’t lie to you the way I lie to other humans. And the way you looked at me-“ He swallowed.

“You are a very good liar. You were very convincing. Absolutely emotionless. I believed everything when you said you didn’t want me,” I said honestly. Speaking about this hurt, but I could easily stand the pain now that I was in his arms.

“I saw that. In the beginning, you believed every word. You didn’t contradict me, you accepted my outrageous lies. Why, Bella? Why did you even believe one of my ridiculous, absurd words?”

This would be painful.

“Because you were so very right... I’m not good enough for you, I never will be.” My voice was not as steady as I had wanted it to be, speaking these words of undeniable truth. “I still wonder how I could have made you stay.” I shivered, remembering how close I had come to losing him.

“Bella...,” he sighed. “There is no way I could live without you. Even trying to leave you hurt more than I can stand... You can’t imagine how difficult it was for me, lying to you. No one has ever made me react the way I do when I’m around you. I thought I was prepared to see you cry and remain distant - I really am a fool, the biggest fool. I know now that I won’t be able to leave you as long as you don’t say you want me to.”

“I will never want you to,” I said. “I’m sorry, but you’ll have to continue saving me from danger.”

He chuckled. “I will. I won’t let anyone harm you,” he fiercely promised.

He laughed again, louder this time.

“What is it?” I asked curiously.

“Alice. I can hear her thoughts from miles away. She’s overjoyed. They’ll all be back before tonight.”

“I’ll see Alice again!” I exclaimed happily.

“Yes, you will,” he said. “She’s looking forward to seeing you. All of them are. None of them approved of my decision. They didn’t want to see what I’d be like without you. I was bad enough these last few days, trying to make up my mind.”

His hands left my back and he put them on both sides of my face. His thumbs lightly carressed my cheeks and I felt the oh-so-familiar rush of blood into my face. I didn't have time to be embarrassed, though, because he spoke again.

“I’m sorry... so very sorry... No words of apology will ever be enough for what I did,” he said, his voice strangled, his self-disgust evident in his eyes.

I couldn’t bear to see him like this. “Don’t be sad,” I pleaded him. “Don’t be angry with yourself. I understand what you wanted to do. It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not, and it never will be.” He sighed. “All I know is that I have to be where you are.”

I smiled. “That is a very good thing, because I love you.”

“I love you, too,” he replied, and it felt as good as it had done the very first time he’d said that. Possibly better.

Still holding my face in his hands, he lowered his head until is lips were inches from mine. His cool breath carressed my face and I closed my eyes in anticipation.

His lips touched mine and I was lost in the sensation. My hands touched his face and then ran through his hair. His thumbs stroked my cheeks and then my ears, and then trailed down to my neck.

His smooth, perfect, irresistible lips moved in tune with mine and I was soaring, flying, closer to the sun than I had ever been.

Too soon, I was back on earth. His lips left mine, though his face hovered barely inches from mine. “Breathe, Bella,” he whispered, and I took a huge, much needed breath while focusing on his eyes. Golden, sparkling, magnificent... I regretted that I could never closely look at every wonderful part of him at once.

There was once last thing I wanted to ask. “Edward... You won’t ever do something like this again, will you? Promise me.”

“I will stay by your side as long as you want me to. I promise.” The honesty and intensity of his voice let his words reverberate inside me pleasantly. He pulled me close to him again, one hand on my back, the other on the back of my head, pressing my head against his chest.

And I knew that it would probably hit me later on how close I had come to losing Edward, and that there were still problems left to solve, questions unanswered - but I would think about that some other day. We still had time.

Today, I would simply be happy that Edward was still here with me, that we would continue to fight for our love, no matter which obstacles we would have to overcome. We loved each other. Nothing on earth could change that.