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Moving Forward

Summary:
A few weeks before the wedding Bella has a startling memory that could change everything. I dreamed of hall lights and unfamiliar faces, darkness and feeling small and helpless. I woke with a start. May contain triggers


Notes:


9. What Edward Gathered

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What Edward Gathered

EPOV

Two weeks later, Bella had heard all Renée could tell her and I was ready to say goodbye to my future mother-in-law. Unfortunately Renée was staying in Forks for another week. Apparently the yoga studio in Port Angeles was running a course in “Finding Your Spirit Guide” and, as Bella had said, it was ‘right up Renée’s alley’.

Renée sat in Charlie’s kitchen, babbling away about how ‘deep’ and ‘powerful’ the course was, and how Bella should go with her for the last few days to find her inner spirit guide as well. Bella nodded in all the right places as she listened, although she’d said she thought the whole thing was kind of silly.

I tried to keep from rolling my eyes as Renée described the stretching exercises they were doing. How did she expect Bella to manage that not two weeks after breaking her ribs? Never mind the cast on her hand. Bella was doing much better now, and didn’t need much help from Alice to get dress, but she was still moving a lot slower then usual.

“I’m sure that Zenna would be able to adapt the course for you!” Renée said enthusiastically. From the sound of it, Zenna the yoga instructor could do everything short of raising the dead.

“Mom,” said Bella, trying to be diplomatic, “yoga’s not really my thing.”

“I know it’s not usually Bella, but I thought it could be very healing, since you’ve decided not to go to therapy.”

Bella blushed deeply. “I just don’t think therapy will be helpful at this point,” she said, looking at me for help.

I wasn’t sure I agreed with Bella’s decision not to attend therapy, but she’d asked for my support and I would give it wholeheartedly. “That’s Bella’s choice,” I told Renée firmly.

“I know,” Renée shot back, and then added in a nicer tone, “I was just providing options.”

Renée had found it hard to talk to me since Bella had told her that I couldn’t have children. She felt very guilty about having brought it up, but was still angry about the wedding, though she’d decided to support Bella in what she felt was “her mistake”.

“Well, I had to tell her something,” Bella had said when I’d returned the next day, “or she was just going to keep going on and on about it. And I didn’t lie to her – you were sick, with the Spanish Influenza. And then Carlisle changed you and you can’t have children. Which doesn’t bother me. Renée’s enough of a child for anyone. And if she thinks you had cancer or something and the chemo made you infertile – which by the way could easily happy have been the case even if you were human – then so much the better.”

She assumed I was going to be angry, but the way she kept talking, speaking faster and faster was so adorable that I burst out laughing.

“So you’re not mad?” she asked. I kissed her and reassured her that I was not.

Renée continued her detailed play by play of the Spirit Guide class, and my thoughts wandered back to the day of my fight with Renée.

That morning, as I waited and watched while Bella slept, I started thinking about Steven; about how he was still out there somewhere. I almost wished, for a moment, that I was still killing humans with dirty minds like his. Maybe if I had – he wouldn’t have gotten to Bella. I shook my head to let it go. I’d been down this road of thought before, when Rosalie had joined our family. The guilt was one of many reasons I hadn’t said anything when Rosalie planned her revenge.

But Bella couldn’t plan her own revenge. She wouldn’t. And she would likely object if I wanted to do it for her. The rage burned inside me. Against my better judgment I began to plan a murder. To borrow Emmett’s phrase, Steven was a “sick fucker” and in my mind, he deserved to die.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Alice had seen what I was planning.

“Edward!” she scolded, “What are you doing?”

“Nothing, right now.”

“What are you thinking! Bella won’t like that one bit.”

“So I find him then?” The only problem I could see would be finding him again. I’d seen what he’d looked like 10 years ago in Renée’s memories but he could have changed. He could have moved – Renée seemed to think it was likely, but her conviction that he’d moved to the east coast could also have been wishful thinking.

“Yes,” Alice hissed, still disapproving, “but do you have any idea what this will do to Bella if you keep it from her?”

I was speaking low enough that I know Alice would have to strain to hear. “He needs to die Alice. He hurt her.”

She sighed. “You should come home. We can talk about it.”

I knew better than to get close enough to let Alice manipulate me, never to mention what she could get Jasper to do. “Alice, Bella just got home from the hospital. I’m not leaving her.”

“She’s going to sleep all morning. She’ll be fine.”

“That’s not the point.” I knew Alice understood how guilty I felt about Bella’s accident, and hoped that she wouldn’t press the issue.

“Edward that’s...” she stopped talking, and I assumed she was concentrating on a vision.

“I’ll talk to you later,” she said in a threatening tone, and hung up.

When she’d arrived to help Bella through her morning routine, she’d been carefully reciting Edgar Allen Poe’s poems to keep her mind busy. Bella had been very tired, which made it harder for Alice to help her get out of her pyjamas and into the shower. Once Bella was in, Alice began yelling at me in her thoughts.

Edward, this is crazy. You have to talk to me. You’re going to be putting us all at risk. We all get a vote.

I sat at the bottom of the stairs, and spoke quietly, knowing she (and only she) could hear me. “No, you don’t. Do you think Jasper would wait for a vote if someone hurt you?”

That’s not the same thing at all Edward! This could expose us. He can’t hurt her anymore.

“No, but he could hurt someone else. Why am I the only one bothered by this?”

Alice tried to hide under her poetry, but failed. I got a glimpse of an argument between herself and Jasper. He agreed with me.

Jasper has...a different perspective on things Edward. This isn’t an area that he’s objective in.

“On the contrary. I think his perspective is perfect.”

I refused to talk to Alice after that and she left in a huff once she’d helped Bella dress.

When Jasper and Emmett arrived, I knew she’d sent them. They’d quietly tried to convince me to go home with them, though they didn’t understand why it was so important to Alice, but it wasn’t until Bella unwittingly got in on the act that I’d conceded. All things considered, I did need to hunt and it would be easier to tell Alice to back off at home, where it wouldn’t hurt Bella’s feelings.

When I arrived at the house, Alice met me in the doorway with a look of determination. Jasper and Emmett took off, following Alice’s instructions. “You can’t just do this without even talking to her. She’ll be furious!” she yelled.

“She doesn’t need to be involved Alice, it will only upset her.”

“It might but it’s going to upset her a lot more if you keep it from her.”

Together we watched a vision of Bella yelling at me. There was no sound, so I couldn’t tell what she was yelling about.

Alice was getting increasingly agitated and started to yell at me in her thoughts. “You can’t leave her out of this. This is her life.

I sighed. “I’ll think about it.”

You’ll do more than think. You will ask her. She’s had enough nasty surprises.

She was right. I knew it. I just couldn’t bear to think of putting any more pressure on Bella. She needed mental space to process what she’d learned from Renée.

“She needs time. She can’t deal with this now.”

Maybe you should realize that if Bella can’t deal with it, which I don’t believe by the way, then it shouldn’t be done now.

“Alice, I just want her to be happy.”

Alice hung her head in frustration, “I know, I do too.” Alice’s mind filled with visions and memories of Bella happy, including the vision of Bella as a newborn vampire.

I laid a hand on her thin shoulder, “I don’t think she’d be happy to know that this Steven is still walking around out there.”

“I know,” Alice sighed, “But it feels cruel to not just let her move on. She’s been through so much. Why can’t she just let it go if she wants to? I understand what you are thinking, but that doesn’t change the fact that if you are going to do anything to Steven it needs to be her decision.”

“I know.” I sighed again.

“It’ll be all right Edward. She’ll understand. That doesn’t mean she’ll say yes, but I think she’ll understand why you feel the way you do.”

I nodded. I wanted to talk to Bella about my plans, but I was also terrified at the thought of upsetting her. She didn’t need any more problems. I hoped that Alice was right and that she wouldn’t be too upset.

As I made my decision, Alice’s mind was flooded with a vision of me talking to Bella, asking for permission to kill Steven. She looked shocked, and I felt guilty for even thinking about talking to her.

Edward, she’s fine. Look.” As the vision skipped through time, Bella settled and we talked. I didn’t know what to think, but was relieved to see that my love would be all right.

Alice nodded in satisfaction, before freezing again. A quick vision of Bella the next day asking why I hadn’t hunted made me grimace.

Shall we?” Alice offered. And we both went running into the woods.

*************

It was a strange coincidence that the kind of information you’d use to find someone is the same kind of information a vampire least wants to leave behind. Luckily for me, Renée was not aware enough to notice the little prods I gave her to get these facts. Jobs, schooling, parents’ names... and of course a lot of it was gathered from her thoughts rather than words. Steven was on her mind a lot these days.

The internet, which I’d been cursing for years because it caused us so much trouble staying inconspicuous, was suddenly an ally in my hunt. Somewhere in “cyberspace”, there was information about Steven’s whereabouts. I’d begun my search, but without all the information, I hadn’t made any headway.

I’d kept track of every single kernel of information that Renée dropped. The only important piece left was his last name. Regardless of my hints, Renée didn’t think it, and Bella had never said it. I was going to have to ask directly.

Which brought me back to listening to Renée talk on and on about the sacredness of the Sanskrit language, and the profoundness of breathing. Maybe I was cynical because I didn’t HAVE to breathe anymore. Maybe I was raised far too Protestant to believe in the New Age religions that flourished among people like Renée. Or maybe the whole thing was just a ploy to part middle aged women from their money, and it was hard to take it seriously.

“And the whole thing uses a base of Vinyasa yoga, so we’re constantly flowing with the spirit and then, once your spirit has fully entered the space, you switch to a more Hatha style pace, holding each pose while you commune. It’s a great way to sort out problems in your head Bella.” Renée continued.

“Mom! For the last time, I will work out my own problems in my own way.” Bella snapped.

Tears welled up in Renée’s brown eyes. “I’m sorry Bella! It’s just; I’m finding it such a healing way to deal with my negative energy from what that man did. I want this kind of peace for you too, you know?”

Why won’t she even consider it?”

Bella nodded, “I know. I’ll get there. Not right away, and not at a yoga class though.”

Suddenly I realized that with Renée leaving tomorrow this could be my last opportunity to ask her.

“Renée, what was Steven’s last name?” I asked, trying to sound casual. Bella’s head snapped around and her eyes narrowed. She was very perceptive and it was usually very inconvenient. Heaven help me when she had vampire senses.

“His name was Steven Hunter,” said Renée. “Even his name was creepy. Why didn’t I notice earlier?”

I wondered whether Renée’s instincts to predators were as impaired as Bella’s seemed to be.

“Oh my Goddess! Look at the time! I’m going to be late!” A car pulled up to the front of Charlie’s little house and honked twice. “That’s Judy. I was supposed to call her when I was ready.” She ran quickly around the room gathering her scattered belongings.

She bent and kissed Bella’s cheek. “Bye sweet heart! I love you! Bye Edward!”

“Bye Mom!” Bella called.

“Goodbye Renée!” I added.

Once the door had shut behind Renée, Bella turned and gave me a look. “What are you up to?”

I opened my mouth to lie to her, protect her from what I was going to do, but I couldn’t. Alice’s words were ringing in my head, and I knew that I couldn’t keep this from her. Luckily I didn’t get a choice.

“You’re looking for... HIM aren’t you?” she asked, her voice betrayed, her tone furious.

I nodded. “I haven’t been able to find him yet, but when I do,” I leaned forward, eager, “Bella, I want to kill him for you.”

Her eyes went wide with shock and her heart rate picked up.

“What!?!” she gasped. “Why would you do that?”

“Bella, you heard what Renée said. They couldn’t press charges. He’s still out there somewhere!” I hated that Alice was right. She wasn’t going to accept that Steven needed to de without an argument.

She paled and for a minute I thought she was going to faint. She snapped back to attention, her eyes focusing on me as her face grew angry.

“You didn’t just decide to do this today?” she asked harshly.

I shook my head, feeling like a scolded schoolboy. “No. Longer than that.”

“How long Edward?” She was so angry. Alice had told me this was bad idea, but I hadn’t really understood how upset this would make Bella.

“Since the day I fought with Renée.” I admitted.

“So that’s what you were talking about with Jasper and Emmett.” It wasn’t a question. “You’ve been planning this... murder... all this time? And you’ll talk to your brothers about it, but you didn’t talk to me?”

This conversation wasn’t going at all the way I hoped.

“Bella, I didn’t want to tell you until I was sure I could find him. I didn’t want to promise something I couldn’t follow through on.”

“Why were you thinking about it at all?!”

I hated to hurt her, but she had to realize this. “Bella, he is still out there! He could be hurting someone else right now!”

“Bullshit!” I blinked. Bella had never sworn at me before. “You don’t care about that. You’re angry that he hurt me and you want revenge.”

I sputtered. “Well, yes, but, why, what...”

She interrupted me. “Revenge doesn’t solve anything Edward. Look at Rosalie. She got her revenge but did it do her any good?” I had access to Rosalie’s thoughts for almost 80 years. I knew it hadn’t. Bella continued. “She’s still angry all these years later. I will not let what HE did ruin my life and leave me bitter forever. I’ve got to deal with this on my own terms and find a way to move on.”

She had been getting quieter as she spoke. I wanted to reach out and hold her. She looked up at me again.

“And how is it that you’ll discuss things with your siblings before you talk about them with me! We’re supposed to be getting married Edward. How can we do that if you don’t trust me?” she yelled at me.

“Of course I trust you!” I said indignantly. “Trusting you has nothing to do with wanting to protect you from disappointment. I didn’t want you to get your hopes up.”

She sighed in frustration. “Part of trust is trusting me to be an adult and to be able to handle bad news. I can take it. I know it’s been rough lately and I haven’t really been myself, but I still need you to trust that I will do what’s best for me.”

I held in a snort, “Bella! That would be a lot easier if I thought you would!” My voice got louder and I began to yell, “Instead you are constantly pushing yourself past your limits, sacrificing your happiness for other people. It sounds admirable, but it’s so dangerous! I’m always afraid that you are going to go out of your way to put yourself in danger!” I saw the tears well up in her eyes, and felt terrible for yelling at her. “I’m sorry love,” I said in softer tones, “I shouldn’t yell at you.”

She shook her head. “Maybe not, but I’m glad that you are being honest with me. You’re right, and it’s something I’m trying to work on – I swear. It still doesn’t excuse you lying to me though.”

“I know love. I’m sorry.” I held out my arms and she hugged me as tight as she could with broken ribs. We stood there for moment while I enjoyed the feel of her in my arms.

She was quiet for a minute as we held each other, and then she looked up. “You’re sorry, but you’d do it again, wouldn’t you?”

I didn’t know what to say. She was right. I would always do whatever it took to keep her safe; even if that upset her.

She didn’t wait for an answer, her beautiful brown eyes filling with tears. “I can’t let this change everything Edward. I won’t let HIM change everything. I won’t let him make you into a murderer. You are not a monster, and HE can’t change that.”

She didn’t understand. “I’m already a murderer Bella.”

She smacked the palm of her good hand flat on my chest. “No, you aren’t. Maybe you were once, but you aren’t right now. And I’m not going let that go, not for me, and especially not for HIM. And it’s not like I would get any real satisfaction from it. It won’t make me feel better.” Her voice dropped. “It would make me feel guilty.”

She was right.

“Promise me you won’t go and kill him,” she said seriously.

“I promise.” I answered. There was no other answer. I could not be responsible for making her feel guilt. My own guilt for my past mistakes was almost more than I could bear. Her guilt would be too much.

All throughout that day, as we cleaned the kitchen, watched a movie and discussed Alice’s latest wedding plans, I thought about my desire to kill Steven versus Bella’s guilt if he died at my hand. While Bella was right and a large part of my urge to kill came from a desire for revenge, (she was still my mate and someone had hurt her!) the thing that made me reluctant to abandon the plan was the fact that Steven Hunter could have a current victim. I couldn’t let him continue to hurt other children. No one else should have to suffer.

By the end of the day, as Bella and I curled up on her bed so that she could go to sleep, I realized that the answer lay in the problem. I’d promised not to KILL Steven. I hadn’t promised not to do anything else.