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Darkest Before the Dawn

Summary:
The door opened behind me, with a cold gust of wind suddenly sweeping through the room, rustling the papers on the desk and carrying that scent! I froze. Not again!...I sensed nothing...The fragrance was maddening. I slowly turned my head, following the scent, and there she was. Standing, back pressed against the back wall, waiting. She was haunting me. A reimagining of Twilight from Edward's perspective, starting from the very beginning...The First Time - and continuing on beyond where Midnight Sun ends. NOMINATED: 2009 Bellie's category Canon that's Better than Canon NOMINATED: 2009 Indie's Top 10 Best Canon Disclaimer: All characters, settings, and a great majority of the dialogue are the property of Stephanie Meyer.


Notes:
I wrote the first five or so chapters of Darkest Before the Dawn before I knew about/read SM’s Midnight Sun. I have since read it, but have tried to stay true to “my” version of Edward, as well as staying true to SM’s original dialogue and plot line.


22. Chapter 22 - Lost and Found

Rating 5/5   Word Count 3479   Review this Chapter

Chapter 22 – Lost and Found

The shiny blackness of the pre-dawn city turned to fuzzy darkness as we rose through the clouds. Carlisle had called Alice to let her know that our flight was scheduled for an on-time arrival at 9:45 am, and to arrange for Alice and Jasper to bring Bella to the airport to meet us. Alice's voice on the phone tinkled like a tinny bell down a long hallway...I barely noticed it until she said something about Bella holding up well. My heart lifted slightly at the news that she was still safe. A small flame of hope ignited in me—James had not found her, and I was on my way to get her. In a few short hours I would hold her in my arms, and then I would take her away, somewhere safe.

The plane seemed to hang motionless in the grey, formless sky, rather than speeding at hundreds of miles per hour towards Phoenix. The rising sun lit the clouds from below, giving them a rosy cotton candy hue straight out of child's fairy tale. I closed my eyes and leaned back into the seat, the surreal scene outside fanning the flame in my heart. If only Bella and I could escape this nightmare, go somewhere far away, where we could spend the rest of her days together. I pictured a remote town in Ireland where Carlisle and I had lived, long ago. I thought Bella would like it—with lush green scenery surrounding tiny stone buildings that had been around as long as Carlisle had, it was beautiful—and it had the necessary cloud cover. We could pose as the quirky young American couple who had run away from our families in the States to get married. We would rebuild a small country farm that had fallen on hard times, living reclusive lives filled with music and each other.

Wait—married?

My eyes snapped open, and I glanced back at Carlisle and Emmett several rows behind, glad for a moment we had been unable to get seats together. Their thoughts were focused on Forks and not me. Where had that idea come from? Bella and I...married? Of course, it would only be proper. If we were to hide and be safe, it would hardly do to travel as two teenage runaways—we would at least have to pretend to be married. My heart twinged, and I knew...I didn't want to pretend. I wanted everything, with her. Perhaps, in leaving together now, we would have it much sooner than I would have thought possible. I closed my eyes again and envisioned being married to Bella.

I would never have to leave her side again. I wondered idly if there would come a time when to do so would not cause that wrenching feeling, like some piece of me was temporarily missing. I would never have to worry if she was safe, because I would always be there to protect her. We would spend every day talking and reading and doing silly and unimportant things. I would compose for her, laugh with her, spend every night watching her sleep. I smiled without opening my eyes at the thought of sharing Bella's bed—I would no longer have to stand on the far side of the room, or hide in the closet. I would become so immune to the siren call of her blood that I could slide under the covers, gently resting my hand on her heart and feel the slow rise and fall of her chest as she lulled me into that delicious trance. My smile faltered as I thought of what she had said before...about being together, as a married couple, and how I had said I didn't think that was possible for us. But what if it was? What if, after acclimation and practice, we could be...intimate like that?

Years of living with, and reading the minds of, three amorous vampire couples had been a thorough-going education in the mechanics of lovemaking. Yet, somehow I still felt completely unprepared to even imagine what that would be like for Bella and me. I could scarcely kiss her without feeling overwhelmed with desire, and for us, desire meant danger. If we ran off and married, how could I spend night after night with her, without eventually succumbing to the desire to be with her? The fiend inside me had nearly killed a man just yesterday, and his blood sang a pale echo of Bella's song for me. And if I somehow was able to keep myself in check, what kind of marriage would we have? Did I have any right to even ask Bella to spend the rest of her days with a cold predator in her bed that could, at any moment, be overwhelmed with the desire to kill her?

The reality of the horrible things could go wrong in that marriage bed came crashing through into my fantasy escape with Bella. I opened my eyes again to pale blue skies out the window. The flight was only a few hours, but the sun seemed to race into the sky as we flew. It had climbed above the clouds, and they had dissipated, revealing empty stretches of desert below. I closed the window, trying to reduce the chance of direct sun.

I couldn't go out in the sun. I craved the taste of human blood. I was quite possibly the least suitable husband on the planet for Bella.

My fantasies firmly in check, I resolved to make a more realistic plan for our escape. Once I had Bella safe by my side again, we would leave Phoenix. Alice would have made arrangements at the airport for our next flight out, and knowing Alice it would be leaving quickly and to someplace unpredictable. That was a good start, and once we had made our safe escape from James, I would send my family home to Forks. Emmett would be torn, wanting to stay and hunt James, but he and Carlisle needed to go home. They could explain whatever cover story we concocted as to why Bella and I would be gone for a while, and Bella would call home to reassure her father that she was fine. Then we would head somewhere we could stay for a short while. England or Ireland suited my musings nicely, but were impractical in the short run, requiring false documents for Bella. Canada would be easier, and perhaps we could start there. We should probably plan to stay on the move for a while, keeping one step ahead of wherever James might think to look for us. I grimaced, thinking how much easier this would have been, had I just killed him in the forest when I had the chance.

The plane pitched slightly forward, and my hope rose as we started our descent. In only minutes, I would have Bella in my arms, safe, again. We would be gone in no time, off to somewhere, just the two of us. Even if James was still out there, searching, for the moment she would be safe, and it would be a relief from the relentless terror of the past few days. A kind of nervous giddiness slid down my back, and I wondered if I had lost my mind after all. I took a deep breath and cleared my thoughts as we taxied to the gate.

Emmett and Carlisle were eager to be off the plane as well. Jumping out of my seat, I waited impatiently for the airline attendant to unlock the door for arrival. Carlisle stood calmly behind me. Emmett seemed a little agitated, his thoughts running ahead to our plan for Bella.

"Alice said she would meet us outside security," Carlisle reminded me, saying it aloud for Emmett's benefit. Emmett watched me carefully. How are you holding up? he wondered. I nodded shortly. "This shouldn't take long," Carlisle continued. "I'm assuming you want to take Bella, alone, Edward?"

"It will be easier to move around that way," I reasoned, hoping my obvious desire to be alone with Bella didn't show through too strongly. He nodded, but wasn't fooled.

"We'll see if we can track James here in Phoenix, after you are safely away with Bella," he said. "We'll call you once we've found him." Even now, in his thoughts, Carlisle could not bring himself to give voice to their intent to kill James. A surge of guilt went through me, as I realized he would likely be involved in the final killing after all. Carlisle handed me the cell phone, which I slipped into my pocket. I wished there was a way I could spare him that, but at this point, the only thing I could care about was keeping Bella safe and away from James. The flight attendant was finally cleared to open the door, swinging it in and then outward until it was locked into place.

Emmett and Carlisle were right behind me as we walked unnaturally fast down the gangway. Halfway down, I searched the terminal ahead for Alice and immediately sensed her, waiting half a terminal away, just outside security, for us. I momentarily froze as I realized something was horribly, terribly wrong. Then I ran, not caring how fast, to reach her and Jasper. I looked wildly around to confirm what I had heard in her thoughts. They had lost Bella.

Her eyes were wide with fright and Jasper hovered near her, lightly touching her shoulder with one hand and grasping a large map in the other. I frantically searched Alice's thoughts to see what had gone wrong. Edward, I'm so sorry, Alice thought, desperate to apologize and terrified for Bella's safety. Her body was trembling, causing tiny quakes in her spiky black hair. I had no time for any of that. I glared at her, throwing a pointed look at Jasper, who held her shoulder a little firmer, flowing liquid calm through their touch. I had to know what had happened. She showed me...Jasper taking Bella to get something to eat and stopping at the restroom...he was waiting for her to come out, but she never did...Jasper realizing she had been gone too long, looking through the women's restroom and finding there was a second exit, that she must have left through...Jasper searching frantically around the airport, following her scent along the terminal walkways, losing it at the elevators and then stopping at every floor....finally finding her trail again at the bottom floor, only to lose it again at the taxi stand...

"Edward," Alice said aloud, her small voice shaking, "we just lost her. She hasn't been gone long, but she's alone. Jasper didn't find any vampire scents, besides our own. James doesn't have her," she paused, trembling. "I think she's gone to her mother's house..." she frowned.

"You think," I growled, full panic constricting my throat. Her dark eyes, filled with her own panic, implored me to forgive her, but I didn't care. Jasper's thoughts invaded mine, an icy edge to them, Don't blame her, Edward, it's my fault. We will find her. He waved the map at me, and said aloud, “We can go get her, Edward. Her mother's house isn't far." Carlisle and Emmett had just caught up to us, realized what was happening and that Bella was missing, but my attention was on Alice. Her eyes unfocussed, testing the future to see if something had changed, and I realized from her lack of surprise that she had already seen this future, had known it was coming, and had been unable to prevent it. Bella had gone to her mother's house, but was no longer there. What Alice saw next horrified us both—Bella and James, in the ballet studio, sun streaming in from the high windows, and Bella...covered in blood...

A shock went through me. This was no sick fantasy. This was going to happen—would happen, may already be happening—unless I stopped it. A blaze of white hot fury rose up in me. "Where!" I demanded.

Alice, dilated eyes wide, showed me a white door with a bright pink sign on it, around the corner from Bella's mother's house. I snatched the map from Jasper, ignoring his look of surprise and flew past the passengers in the airport. I ran inhumanly fast, a blur of wind that barely ruffled the hair of the travelers milling around the walkways. I didn't care who saw me. Nothing was going to keep me from preventing Alice's vision from coming true. The horror and panic of the last few days faded away, leaving a cold, singular determination to reach the ballet studio. All of my senses came into focus. A single glance at the airport sign sent me shooting down the terminal stairs to the passenger pick-up zone outside the airport. I appeared out of thin air, coming to a complete stop at the curb and startling an elderly lady sitting on a bench with her luggage. A silver BMW convertible sat in front of her, engine still running, keys in the ignition. The driver, a younger man probably related to her, came around the car to help the woman with her luggage. I didn't think, I simply acted. I leapt over the passenger door, landing smoothly in the front seat, wrenched the stick into drive and sped away before the man had time to speak.

I held the map to the seat beside me, weaving between slower traffic as I left the airport. I searched the map for the address I pulled out of Alice's head. I didn't know Jasper and Emmett had followed me until Jasper landed on my hand and the map in the passenger seat and Emmett fell in heavily behind us in the non-existent back seat of the roadster. You drive, I'll navigate, Jasper thought, pulling the map out from underneath him as Emmett somehow wedged his legs into the small space between our bucket seats, sitting on the back of the car. The sun blazed, the top was down and our collective sparkle would surely have caused an accident had we been going slowly enough for anyone to see. My foot pressed the accelerator to the floor and the needle continued to climb well past a hundred. Jasper gave me mental directions. The wind deafened us, but we had nothing to say. Alice had told them about her vision. We knew what we were racing to prevent.

Bella's mother's house was less than ten miles from the airport, and within minutes we had covered more than half of that. I scoured ahead for James' thoughts, terrified of what I might find there. He swam into my head, a sickly familiar voice. I concentrated, seeing the ballet studio through his eyes. Bella stood in front of him and he smirked at her, enjoying the look of dread on her face. She knows now, he thought, hungrily taking in her rigid stance. She knows I'm going to hurt her. Her fear smells so...James sucked in her scent through his nostrils, savoring the bitter sweetness laced in with Bella's normal perfume...innocent. He smiled, stepping towards her until he was just inches away, lifting a lock of her hair and sniffing it. Her fear oozed out of her skin and he enjoyed how she froze at his touch.

I gripped the steering wheel, threatening to press the accelerator through the floor. "He has her," I yelled into the wind, glancing sharply at Jasper. We're only a couple miles away. Take the next exit, Jasper thought, the map whipping wildly around his hands as he concentrated on getting us there in time.

A growl escaped my throat as James patted her hair against her head, sliding his fingertips across the warm pulsing of Bella's throat. I will enjoy tasting you even more than that little one that got away. James reached up to stroke Bella's cheek once quickly with his thumb. Bella's eyes were wide, like a doe holding still and trembling at the snap of a branch in the forest. I wonder why he finds you so fascinating, Bambi, James smirked again. Is it those eyes? The fire hot skin? He looked her over, curiously, and she was frozen under his stare. What makes you so worth saving? You are weak...a wobbly little creature that will soon be gone anyway.

"No," James murmured to himself, as he dropped his hand away from her. "I don't understand." He sighed. "Well, I suppose we should get on with it. And then I can call your friends and tell them where to find you, and my little message." As he stepped back and started to circle Bella, he could see her start to tremble. Yes, that will do nicely, he thought. I need you to show your fear, delicate little Bella. For Edward.I want him to see your pain—to know that he failed, utterly. Too bad for you that your vampire lover was too weak to change you...James slumped down into a crouch, slowly baring his teeth at Bella, and waited for the panic to start. It didn't take long.

Bella tried to run. With an almost leisurely pace, and a precision of movement that wasted no effort, James sped into her path and knocked Bella in the chest, sending her flying back into the mirrors lining the room. He heard her head make a satisfying crunching sound against the glass, shattering some of it and spilling shards on the floor beside her.

"No!" I cried out, losing all vision of the road. I felt, rather than saw, Jasper's hands take the wheel, clasping over mine and sending an icy calmness that made no headway against the blast of fiery rage flying out of me.

James strolled across the wooden floor.

"That's a very nice effect," he said, examining the mess of glass surrounding Bella. "I thought this room would be visually dramatic for my little film. That's why I picked this place to meet you. It's perfect, isn't it?" A thrill of pleasure went through James as Bella scrambled on her hands and knees, crawling toward the door, trying to escape. He smiled as he casually walked up to Bella. She slinked pathetically along the floor. He coolly stepped down on her leg, creating another gratifying snapping sound as it broke. Bella screamed. Yes, Bella, show him how much it hurts.

Her scream rang in my ears and didn't stop until Jasper's hands moved from the steering wheel to my shoulder, and I realized that the scream came from my mouth. I stopped, abruptly, Jasper's influence threatening to send me into unconsciousness. I shook off the fog he was trying to impose on me. "He's hurting her, Jasper," I said, breathlessly, unnecessarily, but I couldn't stop the words from tumbling out. "We have to stop him. He's...he's...it's all coming true...Jasper, where is the goddamn place!" I shouted, finally turning to face him and throwing my fury at him. We're almost there, Edward, he said, as he turned the wheel sharply and we took a corner at a speed that briefly lifted two wheels into the air. The car dropped back down with a jolt. Emmett's hand replaced Jasper's on my shoulder, holding me firmly in place in the seat.

James stood over Bella. "Would you like to rethink your last request?" he asked. Bella said nothing, just holding her twisted leg to her body. No need to be impolite, he thought, as he nudged her broken leg, sending another piercing scream echoing through the studio. "Wouldn't you rather have Edward try to find me?" James suggested. Be a good girl and beg for revenge, little Bella. Edward won't be able to resist your last, sweet plea.

"No!" Bella croaked. "No, Edward, don't—" The agony that ripped through me, hearing Bella say my name in pain, was so searing and hot, I looked down at my chest to see if I had been impaled by something. My vision wrenched back to James as he struck her face and sent her flying back into the broken mirrors again. I whimpered, seeing her lying in a heap, hand to the back of her head. Then James saw the blood and smelled it as it spread across her, soaking the shoulder of her shirt and dripping onto the wooden floor below. That scent sent twin aches of burning through James' throat and mine as Bella's blood pooled rapidly on the floor. James wanted to draw his show out further, but the need to feast on the blood spreading before him was too much to resist.

The car hurtled to a stop. A white door with a pink sign stood before me, just as I had seen in Alice's vision. I leapt from the car, pulling the door off its hinges as I threw it wide.